Thursday, August 25, 2005


The past two days were hectic. First Mak was not well and then I have to drive down to Johor for a kenduri tahlil. Mak insisted that we go. It is her elder sister kenduri and we should not miss it. It must be day trip and we must be back home in Malacca that night.

She also insisted that we took the trunk road and not waste money on tolls. Agreed. God! It was a tiring journey.

It was a two and a half hour drive down to Benut, but time passed by quickly as I always enjoy driving on the trunk road. I do enjoy the view of the wooden rumah kampung and the winding road. At least it would prevent me from falling asleep while driving. Mak, as usual would ask for "ketap kuku" to cut her nails and when I say I did not kept one in the car, she just lentok her kepala. She was already heading to the dreamland when we left the Malacca's border. So, I drove enjoying the view and the loud rock music from my basket full of rock tapes. Yeah! Rock!

Mak's sleep was disturbed by Mael rambled loudly about not taking a bath. (Taken from the best of Mael and XPDC).

"Lagu apa ni? Bising je." She said. She shifted, getting more comfortable in confined seat.

Biasa aaa.... Rock kapak!

"Dah sampai mana ni?"

"Dah lepas Muar, hala ke Batu Pahat." Mael has not stop "melalak" yet. "Tidur la Mak, jauh lagi ni."

My youngest niece, Dib, was entertaining herself at the back seat. Talking and playing with my stuffed "lembu". Nice lembu. Wanna play, lembu? Look! I have lembu, do you have lembu? Dib was busy showing off the lembu to the driver behind me. Pity him.

"Tak boleh tidur dah. Matikan jer la radio tu," instruction was given. At this time Mael has stopped singing about stinking body odour.

"Tak pe, kang ngantuk plak nanti. Tak de orang nak layan borak." Me.

It was five minutes ago. Mael has been "sedated" and now singing about L.O.V.E. Mak's lentok not for layan rock but layan ngantuk. Off to dreamland again. Dib, still layan the driver at the back and me.. just layan the drive.

We reached Wo Sal's house around 2pm. We are very close with her family so it was straight to the kitchen. After hugging each other and updating the latest, we went straight to work. Then it was makan tengahari time and gossip time. Who is married who is divorced. Who is doing what or go where.

I love kampung lifestyle. Just mention kenduri, all the neighbours would come and help. So, most of my aunt's neighbours were there helping cutting and washing the vegetables and chickens since morning. When we came, we are the second shift cooks. I helped fried the kuih like karipaps and Mak's "new product" samosa. Mak on the other hand busy cooking the dishes for the kenduri.

Here, the kenduri is held after Isya' prayer. And kenduri is specifically for tahlil or doa selamat. When its wedding reception, we dont call it kenduri, its undangan. And here we still hold on to the tradition of makan dalam talam or nasi ambeng. Rice piled up in big tray covered with a few dishes and eat at least four to five people. The tray would be covered with banana leaves to give more aroma to the rice.

Unfortunately, I left my camera at home and only realised it when we already reached Jasin. Darn!

Besides the rice and the normal ayam masak merah dish, ikan kering or dry salted fish is a must for nasi ambeng which is very popular among the Javanese community. Then there is the dish called sambal goreng. Fried anchovies, ground nuts and tempe cooked in chili paste. Some call it sambal lonteng. This sambal if stored properly, can last for days. Most importantly, the sambal must be hot AND sweet. Its like just mention sambal goreng and you immediately associate with Javanese. Another new dish that I learned that day is gareng asam.

This is the first time I heard Gareng Asam. It is actually long beans stir fried with curry powder and ginger, onions, garlic and tumeric. Of course it should be hot as well. Other dishes include the normal stir fried vegetables.

A nasi ambeng would not be completed without fried mee hoon. So, once completed, a nasi ambeng is a setalam nasi dengan mee hoon goreng, topped with several vegetable dishes including Gareng Asam and sprinkled with salted fishes. The treasure of Nasi Ambeng is the chicken chunks masak merah and sambal goreng. Fuh! Berpeluh makan tuh!

Nasi Ambeng is normally served to the men after the tahlil. While the men recited the tahlil and doas, the ladies would prepare the food in the kitchen. A few men normally relatives of the host would bring the trays laden with delicious food from the kitchen to the hall. In Javanese community, there is no direct interaction between the ladies of the house with their male guests. Their JD (job discription) during the kenduri were to cook and prepare the food on the trays. All the serving would be done by their male relatives be it brothers, sons or cousins.

Of course, the men were involved during the "rewang" or gotong-royong to prepare the food in the afternoon. The men were doing heavy stuff such as cooking the rice in big pot, plucking the coconuts and take the milk, slaughtering the chickens and do the cleaning as well. (I need to learn to slaughter chicken too *sigh*). Once the birds were cleaned, they would be handed over to the women to do the cooking.

The rewang here is also unique. The women would come armed with a knife each. Those who could not attend would give packets of flour or sugar to the host as an act of apology for not being able to attend the rewang and kenduri. Rewang was loud affair. They would joke, laugh and tease each other while their hands were busy peeling the onions or stiring the chilli paste in the big wok.

Besides the main dishes, it is important to have dessert or pemanis mulut to wash down all the spicy food. The normal kuih would be curry puff (another spicy food), agar-agar (jelly) and the traditional kuih bahulu. The drink, normally the cheap red sirap. (ada orang kata cicah baulu dengan sirap, sedap. Tapi aku tak minum sirap, camner?)

The Nasi Ambeng tradition is a spirit to bring people together. Everybody regardless position would sit together around the tray and use their fingers to eat the rice. It is a symbol of one. Unity. Togetherness. That we are all the same in the eyes of Allah.

Besides, it is the most practical tradition. You eat together in a tray. So, besides the best time to gossip (bercakap buruk mengenai orang lain itu berdosa), it taught us to be patience and respect one another. Although I want that chunky chicken for myself, I have to learn to share. Darn! Anyway, the host would also have less dirty dishes to wash because the rice were served in trays. At the same time it is environmental friendly as no paper plates were used during the kenduri. Only banana leaves.

But, kenduri for Javanese community would not be completed without berkat. A plastic bag full of rice and dishes along with some kuih or cakes to bring back home for the family. The portion - hm.. must be xtra large that sometimes enough to feed a battalion (Im exaggerating!)

Nevertheless it is a normal practice to set aside the rice (yang agak memang tak abis makan) to be cooked as nasi goreng (fried rice) for next morning breakfast.

Am so tired...

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