My Family’s Food Heritage – Part 1: Kong Ba and Ayam Buah Keluak

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Mastering my Dad’s fantastic Kong Ba & Ayam Buah Keluak has always been a life-goal for the simple reason of wanting to pass these recipes down to my own children. I believe in this one simple equation, that Heritage = Food = Togetherness.

In a bid to learn, I thought I’d start with the simplest way – observation. Last Christmas, dad cooked Kong Ba and Ayam Buah Keluak for us and he encouraged me to do a pictorial and record videos. So I did. Here’s a basic step-by-step photo book of how Kong Ba and Ayam Buah Keluak is made. Do note that I do not have metric measurements as yet. My dad does not measure his ingredients. He’s that good. 🙂  This Lunar New Year, we had the usual suspects – tantalizing kong ba, ayam buah keluak, udang belado and pork bone soup. As you can tell, we love our pork.

To all of you who celebrate this festive season, I would like to wish you a very very happy lunar new year! May this year of the water dragon bring you plenty of blessings, good health and prosperity.

And now, here’s a wee little exclusive peek into our kitchen.

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Kong Ba

Step 1: Buy ‘gor huay ba’ (pork shoulder) from your market. About 1kg+ is fine. Make sure that it has enough fat on it. Lean pork leads to tougher bite. Marinate in Soy Sauce for a few hours before you begin cooking.

Kong Ba. Step 1: Buy 'gor huay ba' (pork shoulder) from your market. About 1kg+ is fine. Make sure that it has enough fat on it. Lean pork leads to tougher bite.Step 2: Marinate in Soy Sauce for a few hours before you begin cooking.

Step 2: Heat oil and throw in star anise, leng kuas (blue ginger), and chopped shallots. Sauteed till golden brown.

Step 3: Heat oil and throw in star anise, leng kuas (blue ginger), and chopped shallots. Sauteed till golden brown.

Step 3: Once the aromatics are ready, add in your beautiful piece of pork shoulder. Let it cook on one side for a while. When that side is seared properly, turn it over.

Step 4: Once the aromatics are ready, add in your beautiful piece of pork shoulder. Let it cook on one side for a while.

That is the seared side. Looks good, yes? :)

Step 4: Drizzle a good amount of dark thick soy sauce. I think my dad uses Tai Hua. I think any brand works.

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Step 6: Add some honey.Honey adds a tinge of sweetness to the Kong Ba.

Step 6: Add some honey.

Step 7: Let the pork braise in the pan for approximately 1 hour. (note that this really depends on how big your piece of pork shoulder is)

Step 7: Let the pork braise in the pan for approximately 1 hour. (note that this really depends on how big your piece of pork shoulder is)

The dark soya sauce aroma that engulfs the kitchen, the first few seconds that Dad removes the lid off the pot that holds the glorious braised pork shoulder – that’s one of my favourite smells.

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But nothing beats the moment it is time to devour those fatty slices of pork 🙂

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Ayam Buah Keluak –

Step 1: Fry your rempah (spice paste). It is made of just 5 ingredients: dried chillies, onions, lemon grass, blue ginger and candle nuts. *Note: My dad prepares his rempah in big batches and keeps in in the freezer for convenient usage.

Ayam Buah Keluak -Step 1: Fry your rempah (spice paste). It is made of just 5 ingredients: dried chillies, onions, lemon grass, blue ginger and candle nuts. *Note: My dad prepares his rempah in big batches and keeps in in the freezer for convenient usage.

Step 2: Prepare your chicken. Clean it, and chop it just the way you like it. Prepare your assam juice (tamarind juice) in a bowl. Set aside.

Step 2: Prepare your chicken. Clean it, and chop it just the way you like it. Prepare your assam juice (tamarind juice) in a bowl. Set aside.

Step 3: Prepare your buah keluak. This is an Indonesian nut, known for its earthy texture and taste. Those who hate it, feel like it tastes like soil (not that they have ever tasted soil. probably their guess of what soil would taste like).
Step 3: Prepare your buah keluak. This is an Indonesian nut, known for its earthy texture and taste. Those who hate it, feel like it tastes like soil (not that they have ever tasted soil. probably their guess of what soil would taste like).

Dad prepared these before hand so I did not capture the process of cleaning the shell, cooking the filling and restuffing it. Note that the best way to have buah keluak is NOT adding any pork or additional ingredients. I like mine pure & unadulterated.

Dad prepared these before hand so I did not capture the process of cleaning the shell, cooking the filling and restuffing it. Note that the best way to have buah keluak is NOT adding any pork or additional ingredients. I like mine pure & unadulterated.

Step 4: Add the chicken to the cooked rempah. Saute it for a few minutes.

Step 4: Add the chicken to the cooked rempah.

Now add in the assam juice. Assam is one of my favourite ingredient. Adds a tangy kick to every peranakan dish. Assam Pedas! My fav!

Now add in the assam juice.

Cook it for a few minutes.

Step 5: Now add in water, so it is not so thick. Add in however much you want. My dad doesn’t like his Ayam Buah Keluak too diluted so he adds only a fair amount of water.

Step 5: Now add in water, so it is not so thick. Add in however much you want. My dad doesn't like his Ayam Buah Keluak too diluted so he adds only a fair amount of water.

Now let it simmer till it cooks. My dad boils the potatoes last and adds them in, so they stay firm.

Now let it simmer till it cooks. My dad boils the potatoes last and adds them in, so they stay firm.

To me, Dad’s ayam buah keluak is H-E-A-V-E-N. I want this to be the last dish I eat before I die 🙂

There are so many other dishes I want to learn from my dad. But that’s for another time.

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Me with darling papa and youngest sis.

In the meantime, happy feasting this lunar new year!

With love,
Cheryl & Family

Posted on 24th Jan 2012 in ayam buah keluak, Chinese New Year, Peranakan Food  |  14 comments

The Importance of Family & Food

Chia family's reunion dinner

“Cheryl, I’m really amazed at your food reflexes,” a colleague of mine commented recently.

According to him, I’m the first person he’s met who is a walking, talking food dictionary.

No matter the conversation, I tend to divert to food topics sub-consciously, much to the amusement of the company I keep. But they’ve learnt to embrace this side of me.

And today, as I celebrate the Lunar New Year with the maternal side of my family, I was reminded of my colleague’s comment.

What ignited this passion of mine?

The answer was right in front of me.

Family.

My extended family constantly gathers at each other’s homes for family meals.

On New Year’s eve, at Christmas, Chinese New Year and birthdays. At each gathering, we would have a feast. And mind you, everything was homemade.  A curious and greedy kid at heart, I ate everything and inquired what was in each dish and asked my aunts how they made them.

The rest is one part history and many parts curiousity. If you love to eat, you got to learn how to cook your favourite dishes don’t you?

This post is really to pay tribute to my family and their passion for food. Without them, I might not ever be who I am today. Below is a Lunar New Year pictorial. I am happy to be part of this large family. I love them to bits.

Freshly made yu sheng

My favourite yusheng. My aunts make this auspicious dish from scratch every Lunar New Year. Everything from the shredded carrots, candied orange peel, the sweet and sour sauce, and pok choy are homemade. It’s hard to beat something that’s made with love.

Pouring sweet sauce over yu sheng

5th Aunt pouring the sauce.

Messy messy

I like taking photos of lo-hei.

Lo hei

Oh, the mess!

4th_5th_2nd_7th_Aunt

My aunts posing with the mixed yusheng.

Homemade Yusheng

Delicious.

8 Daughters_Po

My maternal grannie with her 8 daughters.

Grandchildren2

Me and my 11 cousins. We’re missing one who’s studying in London. Ziliang, we miss you!

The extended Hong Family

My entire extended family. I love big families. Alot of love and alot of food.

6th Aunt_Po_candid

I managed to capture this lovely shot of my grannie. She’s looking at my 6th aunt. I think her expression says alot.

Screen shot 2011-02-03 at PM 06.08.31

Laugh 🙂

My maternal grannie & I

Me with my dearest grannie. Did I mention how good a cook she is? She’s Hainanese and makes amazing chicken rice & garlic chilli sauce.

Chia Sisters with Xiaoyi & Po

Me and my baby sis Christine with my youngest aunt and my grannie.

Papa Chia with 2 daughters

Me, my sis with my dearest father. He is a terrific cook. His ayam buah keluak and kong ba, and sambal prawns and… (okay the list is very long. I will not list everything) … is very very good. I hope to master all his Peranakan recipes one day.

Posted on 3rd Feb 2011 in Chinese New Year, family, Uncategorized  |  5 comments

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