Last week, my Babi and/or Ayam Buah Keluak recipe was interrupted abruptly by my tea break.
That and the fact that I roughly have the attention span of a goldfish.
Anyway, where were we…
Dish best not prepared in a rush.
- 20-25 buah keluak — for preparation instructions, click here.
- FOR BABI BUAH KELUAK: 1 kg of pork. The bonier and bloodier, the better.
FOR AYAM BUAH KELUAK: 1 whole chicken (comes up to about 1-2 kg). Innards, ass, and feet not needed. Just the bones will do.
FOR BABI + AYAM: Amount of meat used depends on which you like better.
- I like having a mixture of 500-700 g of bony pork for the sweetness, and the remainder in not so bony chicken.
You will realise after time that the real star of the show is the buah keluak, and the meat usually ends up wasted.
- 1 de-shelled and de-veined prawn for every nut you successfully crack and use
This is optional because true Peranakan are not sissies with the taste of buah keluak. They want it unadulterated in all its glory.
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 3 turns of your pepper grinder
- 1 stalk of serai (lemongrass), white end only, smashed
- Golf ball-sized asam jawa (tamarind), extracted and strained into 2 drinking cups of water
- 1 tablespoon of butter / 1 swirl of olive oil — pick your poison.
Spices to Blend
The finer you blend it, the better for the resulting kuah (gravy).
- 15 red onions
- 1/2 bulb of garlic
- 3″ of lengkuas (galangal)
- 3″ of young ginger
- 1 thumb of kunyit hidup (fresh turmeric)
- 4-5 tablespoons of cili boh, increase if you prefer a spicier version
Don’t ask me to convert this to fresh / dried cili values. I never tried.
All you cili purists can suck it; I hate working with cili seeds.
- Postage stamp size of belacan (dried shrimp paste) bakar
- Pound your prawns together with your buah keluak innards.
True Peranakans can skip this step.
- Once you’re satisfied with all that mixing, proceed to stuff your keluak-prawn mixture gently into the empty shells.
This step is best achieved with a really tiny spoon — I had the good fortune of having one in my room @ The Banyan Tree Phuket, and it has served me well in the kitchen ever since.
They gave me permission lar, they were very amused when I asked for it…
A substitute that works fairly well is the back of a teaspoon — but you will have spooning problems
- Set buah keluak aside.
- In a (reasonably) large pot / Dutch oven, heat up your oil.
- Add in the onions and fry till fragrant.
Follow with the garlic and do the same.
Proceed to add the lengkuas, turmeric, and ginger, all the time mixing well.
- Once a uniformed paste has formed, add the belacan into the mixture.
Now, there is a certain art to frying the belacan: the mixing, the heat, as well as the fragrance it should achieve — not unlike the art of roasting Indian spices — a process best watched than explained, so I am making a mental note to do one in the future.
- After that’s done, you can dump in all the cili boh.
Don’t forget to keep mixing to prevent burning the spices!
- Add your tamarind and serai in and let it simmer a lil’.
- Now for the fun part…
- Dump it all in — oh yeah…
- Now, allow the concoction to bubble happily on a low flame for 10-15 mins, remembering always to stir constantly.
This step allows the porky flavour from the meat — and most importantly — the bones to infuse into the stew.
- Next, tip the buah keluak gently into the bubbling stew.
- You should by now, get something that vaguely resembles this…
- Now comes the tricky part: if you timed your dish well, you can well afford to let the stew bubble along merrily for another half hour or so — both to allow maximum extraction of the meaty / musky flavours.
If you haven’t well — I’ve had reasonable results with just 10 minutes.
Some Peranakans will actually prepare this a day before and allow it to sit in the fridge / freezer swearing better results. The Baba agrees.
- Add batches of water if necessary.
- And always stir constantly.
- Dish out and serve to an appreciative Baba.
Prep time: Anywhere from 1-2.5 hours, depending on your buah keluak preparation skills.
Cooking time: Optimally 1 hour and above for better flavours.
Serves: 3 Babas, 7-8 regular human beings