Perth is my home. It’s felt like home ever since my family emigrated to Australia, possibly even before the plane landed.
But there’s another place I call home, even though I don’t live there and haven’t lived there for most of my life. Is it enough to call it my childhood home, even though I felt somewhat alien growing up there? Would it be right to say it’s my ancestral home, because I have grands and great-grands who lived and died there? If that’s the case, I have at least three other ancestral homes I’ve never visited and may never get to see. So what is, “home”, really?
Well, for the sake of this blog post, we’re talking about my childhood home of Southeast Asia, the mish-mash culture I grew up in. Lately, I’ve been craving the flavours from this particular motherland. Let me show you some of them…
(Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of my own to share, but if you hit most of these links, you’ll find not just delicious looking photos but recipes too!)
Nyonya chicken curry
Everyone talks up a butter chicken, but Nyonya chicken curry (aka. kari ayam) is, to me, the best curry in the world. In my family, it’s served mildly spicy (not even spicy by traditional standards) and with the chicken skin on.
Adobo (the same dish mentioned in the “family dinner” scene of The Guy from the Internet) is a Filipino meat & potatoes dish, but my mum often made it for us along with Chinese and Malay foods. Southeast Asia is a bit of cultural melting pot from many centuries of international trade, and it really shows in the everyday things we eat.
Char siew (BBQ pork)
Char siew pork is barbecued pork marinated in a Cantonese style sauce and spice mix. I don’t mind pork personally, but I prefer how the flavours come together using chicken instead. That said, I’d love to try char siew style tofu or fake meat, as the light and spongy texture of vegan proteins are very pleasant.
Kaya butter toast (ie. coconut jam & butter on toast) really gets my nostalgia going. I suppose being a breakfast food, it represents the quiet, still half-asleep meal, where grandma would potter around the house, Mum and Dad would bustle to get ready for work, and the day was still nice and cool. Even though kaya toast is a sweet sandwich, it’s best eaten dipped in half-boiled egg and accompanied by a Kopi O.
Apparently, this little dessert is considered a heritage food. Kuih serimuka is a two-layer steamed cake made with coconut milk sticky rice on the bottom and a green pandan-flavoured custard on top. I suppose it’s similar to an American cheesecake in that respect, with a carb base and a sweet, fatty protein top. Serimuka is a dangerous snack — very hard to stop at one.
Would you try cooking any of these? I’d love to hear about it if you do!