We had a hectic weekend.
A group of us from 42 countries were tasked to cook for some 2000 people last Saturday.
It was an event that the internationals host annually.
The objective: to provide a glimpse of our culture and heritage through food.
It took me some time to finally decide to cook Nasi Lemak, and it did worry me that my Nasi Lemak would be laughable to my friends from Indonesia and Malaysia. The fact is, I don’t even speak Malay but I thought having our national anthem in Malay did suggest that the Malay culture was inextricably linked to our heritage.
I have admit that the deciding factor for the choice of food largely depended on how well I could churn out enough food to cater to the crowd.
The preparation started a few weeks ago when I attempted to cook Nasi Lemak for the very first time. It turned out decent. I had slices of cucumber, ikan bilis, peanuts, eggs, chicken drumsticks and the toughest part, the chilli.
This is my sink on a Sunday morning. It took me 3 days to finally turned my 10 month old dried chilli to paste that tastes somewhat similar to what I wanted.
Luckily the chilli could withstand cooking and grinding and recooking and regrinding. It was not until the third try and multiple phone calls to my mom did I get what I wanted.
On the day itself, I started cooking at 5.30am. The baked chicken drumlets took longer than expected to cook. By 11 am, I had cooked 20 cups of rice, 2 big pots of chicken curry, 200 chicken drumlets, 120 slices of hard boiled eggs, ikan bilis, peanuts, cucumbers and my precious chilli paste. It was quite a feat and I swear I have newfound respect for hawkers and people who do this everyday for a living.
The Swedes made 500 meat balls over the week and made Ikea’s meatballs taste mediocre. My French girlfriend made the biggest pot of ratatouille over a couple of days and had her grandma’s century old Victorian dress flown over, so that she could put it on for the event.
The Norwegians dressed up as Vikings and fed us cured lamb that was really too exotic for my tastebud. And there was my Scottish girlfriend who baked 3 sponge cakes and batches of sausage rolls despite having to take care of 3 kids, big house, no help and a husband who works most of the time. She brought amazing to a whole new level.
It was fun and quite an experience but I totally crashed that evening. For dinner, I just fed the kids left over Nasi Lemak and Swedish meatballs.