Aunty Anne True Penang Cuisine,
67 Macalister Lane,
George Town, Penang.

Only the good old way of preparing ingredients by hand will do for Nyonya cuisine chef

TASTE is not the only distinction of good food.

The satisfaction of the bite matters just as much. There has to be a crunch — a crispy resistance — that gives diners a satisfying meal.

For Nyonya cuisine chef Anne Khaw, the suggestion of using a food processor to grind her nasi ulam (herbs and rice) ingredients brings an empathetic frown.

Seventeen herbs and spices go into her nasi ulam, and every one of them is either cut by hand or pounded with the traditional pestle and mortar.

“A food processor will be fast, but it will not make good nasi ulam,” said the 70-year-old Nyonya.

To demonstrate how fast she is with the knife, Khaw brought out some of her ingredients.

“These are no secrets. You can learn to make nasi ulam from the Internet. But to make it delicious, we have to cut the ingredients finely by hand,” she said, adding that even a food slicer would not give the right cuts.

Clockwise from right: Nasi Ulam, Otak-Otak and Acar from Aunty Anne True Penang Cuisine.

Clockwise from right: Nasi Ulam, Otak-Otak and Acar from Aunty Anne True Penang Cuisine.

Khaw’s skill with the knife bespeaks her mastery over cooking. With quick, tight movements of her knife, she transforms turmeric, lemongrass, wild ginger flowers, lime leaves, onions and leaves of polygonum (kesum), basil, lime and many more into uniformly thin strips.

Spoon her nasi ulam into your mouth and you will see what she means.

The complex flavours of the finely rendered ingredients are slowly introduced to your taste buds as you grind them up between your molars.

Each bite brings a unique burst of relish, depending on which ingredient you randomly chew first.

The bonuses are the chewy bits like the fresh tamarind or the fibrous lemongrass. Tougher than the others and the way their tang is cushioned by the mild-tasting rice further brings a satisfaction that might close your eyes for you as you eat.

Laksa Lemak.

Laksa Lemak.

Khaw is not your modern-day food and beverage expert. She has, instead, been cooking at home for over 30 years and has most recently started her restaurant for the first time.

Known as Aunty Anne True Penang Cuisine in Macalister Lane, the place serves lunch to only an average of 30 people a day. It opens from 11.30am to 3pm.

Knowing that she only cooks for limited numbers, most of the regulars would call up and make reservations a day ahead.

“It’s tiring work, but I truly enjoy cooking for my guests,” she said.

Khaw also serves scrumptious assam laksa, laksa lemak, otak-otak, acar, Ju Hu Char,Pie Tee and several other classic Nyonya food.

To top it off, she donates the proceeds to the Dream Zephyr Foundation, which supports orphanages, old folks homes and the hardcore poor.

For reservations, call 016-4890024 or 012-4228666.

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