Cooking through generations - Malaysia's Culinary Heritage

FOOD has always been a common topic of conversation for generations. It is a normal thing for Malaysians to associate food with friends and family and there is no better reason to get together than over a meal.

Being a multi-cultural society, there are a variety of recipes, and fusion dishes adapted from various cultures.

If you are as passionate about food, then you will appreciate the effort of three women who have compiled recipes and produced a cookbook to preserve traditional recipes before they are lost forever.

This cookbook, Food From the Heart: Malaysia's Culinary Heritage contains recipes contributed by renowned local men and women with snippets about the history of a specific recipe and the story or the person behind it.

These stories make the book a lively and entertaining read. This 200-page glossy cookbook offers 86 recipes, divided into starters right up to desserts.

The idea for a heritage cookery book was thought up during a birthday lunch in 2003, when Tunku Soraya Dakhlah, Joan Foo Mahony and Jacqui Chan were munching on some delicious popiahs.

"It got us thinking about all those traditional dishes handed down from generation to generation that have been taken for granted. We then decided to preserve it in a heritage cookbook," says Chan.

They eventually became editorial directors for the book. Except for Mahony, who is a retired lawyer, established author and publisher, the others did not have any publishing experience. However, this didn't curb their enthusiasm for this project.

Tunku Soraya has worked as a producer and director for various international companies and now owns an investment company, Melewar Apex Sdn Bhd. Her company and Mahony's JF Publishing Sdn Bhd have jointly formed Cross Time Matrix Sdn Bhd, which is publishing this cookbook.

Chan, a retired proprietary trader, is actively involved with fundraising projects for various charity organisations.

The amazing thing is that all three women are not trained chefs but rather food lovers who are trying to compile their favourite recipes remembered from childhood.

This cookbook explores the interconnections of Malaysian food, its people and a multicultural country that plays a major part in culinary influences, each voicing its signature dish or unique preparation methods and style.

The primary purpose is to rediscover and rewrite heritage recipes back into history.

Mahony explains, "This book is comparatively different than other cookbooks, due to the fact that it has additional interesting quotations from the people who contributed the recipes."

Among the recipes and their contributors include the Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Fauziah Binti Al Marhum Tengku Abdul Rashid (Ikan Singgang), Geeta Jayabalan (Spicy Fish Briyani) and Brinjal & Prawn Salad by Datuk Tunku Mizan (in memory of his grandmother, the first Queen of Malaysia), and Chef Wan's Kerabu Meehoon, just to name a few.

The proceeds of this cookbook will be channelled to noted charities, which are The Budiman Charitable Foundation, The Salvation Army, Sri Agathiar Sanmarka Sanggam, Spastic Children's Association of Penang, Rumah Charis, House of Peace and Women's Aid Organisation.