5 Peranakan Cooking Tips You Need To Learn
We all know how meticulous Peranakan cooking is and you probably need to source for the freshest ingredients and spend a longer time conjuring a meal in your kitchen. We might not be gifted with the Nonyas’ super taste buds but do not be daunted! Here are 5 useful Peranakan cooking tips for you.
1. How To Extract Coconut Milk
Basically, you need to extract coconut milk from freshly grated coconut. This way you will be able to harvest both thick and thin extracts. As a rule, the thicker coconut milk is used for pastes, kuehs and desserts while the thinner coconut milk is used for the base for gravys and curries. The thicker coconut milk is also added to curries for thickening during cooking.
Thick Coconut Milk
For every 500g of freshly grated coconut, you can get around 250ml of thick coconut milk. Simply put a handful of grated coconut in a cheesecloth and squeeze hard.
Thin Coconut Milk
Do not discard the grated coconut after the first squeeze! Give it a second squeeze after pouring 2 cups of water. You will yield another 2 cups of coconut milk.
2. How To Extract Pandan Juice
In Peranakan cooking, pandan leaves are commonly used. Sometimes it is tied into a knot and used as flavouring, sometimes its juice is extracted. Gather 15 pieces of pandan leaves, cut them into small pieces (approximately 1cm) and blend them into a paste. Traditionally, Nonyas pound these leaves insteaed of blending them. Place the pandan paste in a seive or cheesecloth and slowly pour in 120ml of water. Use a spoon to press on the mixture to extract the juice.
3. How To Pound Your Rempah
Always pound the dry ingredients first, such as candlenuts, corriander seeds, fennel, followed by fresh spices such as ginger, lemon grass and chilli. Dried ingredients which require soaking will go in last, together with toasted belachan.
4. How To Fry The Perfect Rempah
Frying the rempah is all about temperature control. When the wok is heated up, add enough oil (skimping on the oil might burn your rempah!) and pour in your rempah just before it smokes. If your oil starts smoking, turn off the fire and let it cool down. As you fry your rempah on small to medium fire, the colour will darken. When the oil starts to surface above the rempah, the rempah is ready.
5. Season Your Cookware
It may sound absurd but seasoning any new cookware is actually crucial to your cooking. Peranakan cooking calls for an iron wok (kuali) and a pestle and mortar, so this seasoning process is important!
Seasoning A Wok
Use soap and water to wash your new wok. Wipe it dry and heat it up on high fire to blacken it. Turn off the fire and let it cool down. Dip a kitchen towel into some cooking oil and wipe a thin layer of oil onto the wok. Heat up the wok now on medium heat and wait for the colour of the wok to turn a slightly bronzey colour and you are done! Then wash it with hot water.
Seasoning A Pestle And Mortar
Pick those that are made of granite and grind some fine salt for about 15 minutes or until it feels smooth. Rinse the salt away.