With the straightforward and unpretentious title of Malaysian Favorite Recipes, this is a two-in-one pack written by archivist Zakiah Hanum who was the first Director General of the National Archives of Malaysia
With the straightforward and unpretentious title of Malaysian Favorite Recipes, this is a two-in-one pack written by archivist Zakiah Hanum who was the first Director General of the National Archives of Malaysia. She started writing when she got her own column in a local newspaper back in the 80’s and proceeded to publish several books about Malaysian culture and history. Zakiah Hanum does not claim to be a cook but rather a collector of recipes who so happens to also enjoy the end product that the recipes create. In 2008, publisher Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd decided to merge her two best cookbooks (previously published separately) together to spawn a two-way concept cookbook. Malaysian Favorite Recipes is a double delight for her fans and those in pursuit of the go-to recipes to well-loved Malaysian dishes.
One half of Malaysian Favorite Recipes is entitled The Great Local Breakfast and when you literally flip the book vertically to its backside (or is it the front side?) it’s Family Delights of The North. Let’s start with the side that speaks to us about the most important meal of the day – breakfast. The Great Local Breakfast opens up with a preface from the original print first published in 1995. Malaysians have a rather encouraging appetite in the morning. Perhaps it’s all that night time dreaming that sets us up to begin the day with a lot of room in our bellies. While people today are often on the go, they may not always get a complete breakfast. But with this book, they can prepare something easy and simple for the weekdays and more elaborate meals on a lazy Sunday for the family. Nothing can go wrong when you start the day with a great and big breakfast and on this side of the book you’ll find unique recipes for breakfast food you may have never even known to be considered as breakfast food. There is a two page introduction on breakfast in Malaysia that enlightens the readers followed by a sizable list of recipes.
"Nothing can go wrong when you start the day with a great and big breakfast and on this side of the book you’ll find unique recipes for breakfast food you may have never even known to be considered as breakfast food."
The author provides not only traditional Malay recipes but also includes Chinese and Indian breakfast favorites. The ‘wake up to’ food of Malaysians that can be found ranges from energizing morning meals like Nasi Berlauk and Mee Goreng to small finger-sized munchies for those who prefer a light start with the likes of kuih or cakes such as the fluffy Apom. Other noted recipes such as the Roti Nyior or Coconut Pancake should be interesting and not too wild if your palate is not used to adventures. The Pulut Pisang and Steamed Sekaya/Serikaya also look promising and can be a sweet way to start the day. Other heavier dishes like the uniquely Indian, Uthir Puttu, something we have never heard of before ourselves, seems doable for occasional cooks and for those looking for a change.
Zakiah Hanum has also included the Malaysian breakfast staples in her book. You can’t call the book an accurate representation of Malaysian favorites if it doesn’t have Nasi Lemak. It can be made in a handful of ways and the author has included the standard Nasi Lemak recipe and the northern-style Nasi Lemak Utara for a switch-up when the ordinary gets a little boring. A more complicated morning dish is the Nasi Tumpang where steamed rice is compressed into a cone made of banana leaves and packed with a few types of lauk or side dishes. If you prefer to try a kuih recipe, we’d recommend the Lopes for its relatively easy-to-follow recipe and glorious taste when eaten with Palm Sugar syrup. If that’s not to your liking there are over 80 other recipes for you to benefit a good breakfast from.
Now to the other cookbook within the cookbook, Family Delights of the North which was first published 8 years ago. Zakiah Hanum is from the Northern state of Kedah so it is no wonder that she has compiled and penned down nearly 100 recipes from her hometown with the help of her family and friends. This part of the book is cut into 10 sections starting with appetizers, soups, beef, chicken, seafood, vegetables, noodles, rice, accompaniments and desserts.
Even though you have the usual parts of a recipe along with pictures of selected dishes, you’ll also find a sidebar section with each given recipe as an added personal touch from the author (this is the same for both sides of the cookbook). The simple stories related to the recipes are both informative and insightful breathing a little more life to an ordinary cookbook. Zakiah Hanum also takes the opportunity to pepper in some history, serving suggestions and tips for the reader’s periphery as well. A handful of recipes have comic illustrations too to further perk things up. Recipes are mostly of Malay food ranging from easy everyday cook-ups like White Fried Rice and Black Fried Rice to lesser know dishes such as Cabbage in Coconut Milk and more tedious recipes like that for Otak-Otak and the author’s family recipe for Itik Golek passed down from her grandmother and said to be the favorite Northern dish for the people of Kedah.
Separating the two books is a useful glossary for reference which may come in handy when going through all these recipes. This two-in-one turnaround book is a considerably efficient book to have around for both beginners and advance cooks as it is informative and easy to follow not to mention full of variety. The glossy paper is also a plus because we spilled water on our copy and yet there’s no trace of it at all. Although this book is not hot off the shelf but the recipes in it has withstood the test of time and these recipes are still preferred and loved today. After all, these are the favorite recipes of Malaysians.