Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cooking Club: October: Memories

This month’s challenge:
… a recipe handed down through voice, handwritten notes or inspired by your memories. The point of this month’s challenge is to step away from the internet and remember the meals cooked by our elders, family and friends. 
My late grandmother was a great cook, so when she passed on, my mother had big shoes to fill whenever my dad, or we all, wanted to savour one of Ah-ma's signature dishes again. Luckily, my mother always did well.

For this month's challenge, I got to thinking about dishes that made me nostalgic, turning to the digital photo album of the feast storm my mother whipped up when my parents visited us in Switzerland in Nov'08. (We moved over in May'08.)

22.10.12 Sour spicy Ikan Bilis dish experiment

Dare I say, I have not seen this anywhere else. It is sour and spicy, involving lardy pork, anchovies (ikan bilis, we call them), fresh green chillis, and many calamansi (small and green limes).

As a child, come dinner prep time, I used to idle away in the kitchen, just to be in the company of my grandmother and/or mother and/or visiting aunts. One of the tasks I remember doing was squeezing the halved little limes into a bowl. I never used the cleaver, though. Those giant chopping knives are scary.

Before I go farther off tangent, this was what I did to recreate this unique dish, with the curious assistance of certain furry beings.
22.10.12 Sour spicy Ikan Bilis dish experiment

I replaced pork with chicken, and to veggie-fy it, I added carrots.
With no calamansi, I used bottled lemon juice.
22.10.12 Sour spicy Ikan Bilis dish experiment
Just winging, I assumed it involved the usual stir fry suspects of garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

22.10.12 Sour spicy Ikan Bilis dish experiment
Feeling confident, I cooked it in 3 steps, creating a stew, almost, with lots and lots of lemon juice.

22.10.12 Sour spicy Ikan Bilis dish experiment
Come taste time, it was wrong. So very, very wrong.
Visually, it looked wrong too.
It still was edible, but just not the way I remembered it to be:
the chillies need to be crunchy and spicy, the sauce was sour and salty, 
ikan bilis were smaller and less imposing to the taste...
And each ingredient should hold their own taste. Hmm.

Let's re-examine the photo of my mother's cooking again:

22.10.12 Sour spicy Ikan Bilis dish experiment
I realise now, I need the right kind of anchovy, and each ingredient should be fried separately, only bringing them together at the end with a stir-in of lime juice and preserved soy beans...

Rest assured I will remember this key ingredient for the next time.

These cooks must have had better luck than I did:
Lucent Imagery (cooking club founder) ¦ From River's Edge ¦ Bakery Bookery ¦ Down by the Sea ¦ Explody Full ¦ Under Lock & Key ¦ Christa to the Max ¦ Juanita Tortilla

11 comments:

  1. I loved learning more about you, your childhood and your family through this. I think you're awesome for trying to recreate it. Try try try again! Hugs.

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  2. I like how you just winged it, and, in the end, realised how it could have been better for next time. I hope by 'edible' you meant that your dish was still tasty, if, however, no where near as good as you remembered it to be. I'll bet the cats were dying to try it!

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  3. I wouldn't have the confidence to recreate a dish from a photo. What a shame it didn't match up to your memory. It looks so tasty.
    Sarah x

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  4. This does sound like an unusual combination of ingredients! Do try again with the preserved soy beans next time.

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  5. As I read through your post I had an array of reactions. I have never tried anchovies, in fact it was a key phrase when ordering pizza "Everything but the anchovies". However, as I get older foods that are different seem to be more appealing. Those dishes (yours and your moms) look pretty darn tasty! It is too bad that it didn't turn out the way you wanted it to. :/ Sometimes things just don't work out. We usually learn a lot in those times! Great post!

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  6. Wow, that looks like a complicated recipe! I'm impressed, even if it didn't turn out quite as you wanted. I really enjoyed the photos documenting the process, and you have gorgeous cats!

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  7. Your dish sound really original - I've only ever seen calamansi used in asian food and have never seen anchovies used in asian food! Sounds so exciting! I hope you do try this again and it turns out fabulous next time!

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  8. Also Christa you should give anchovies ago - maybe in a nice Spanish tapas place, they are delicious and completely different from the jar stuff...of course it's still very fishy so if that's the part that puts you off maybe not!!

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  9. Explody Full, I am not sure what put me off in the past. Now I'm just curious! I think it was most likely because I was young and just going with the flow of others around me who harshly judged the little fishies.

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  10. I love hand me down receipes, so special! My nan was such a good cook but she had a stroke before I could get her to teach me all her secrets, she made the best sponge cake I have ever eaten. Goodluck with your next go, I am sure you will get it.

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  11. Well keep trying! I am the same as you with a dish that we used to serve in a restaurant I worked at in Nottingham...I keep guessing at it and haven't quite got it right yet...!

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