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Ayam Buah Keluak


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It is an ongoing sorrow of mine that my Peranakan (Nonya) grandmother succumbed to senility well before I was of an age to learn of my culinary heritage. I never got to find out how she made her various delectables, as the stress on recipe secrecy was just a little heavy. :sad:

I remember her Ayam Buah Keluak most fondly, however. A richly spiced dark-golden-russet chicken curry with floating coins of red chilli oil, containing these angular, golfball-sized black shells that were the keluak nuts. Part of the fun was digging the pounded nutmeats out of the shells and mixing the sticky black spiciness with steaming rice. The delicate would use a chopstick, and the greedy their fingers. Like me. :rolleyes: The flavour was admittedly a taste to be acquired, but once acquired frequently craved - smokily rich, with a nutty mellowness and a darkly bitter edge. Some cooks mixed the nutmeats with minced pork or prawn for cohesion, but my grandmother never did; she believed it detracted from the texture.

I miss her a lot since she passed away a few years ago. I would dearly love to recreate this dish, and have found several recipes online I want to play with.

The only problem with this dish is the long and intensive preparation. The raw nuts contain cardiac glycosides, and are quite toxic. I remember being told that lengthy soaking and washing was needed to make them edible. The shells must be breached with a cleaver and the nutmeats removed, further soaked and washed (I think), then pounded, replaced, and added to the curry.

This was all a moot point as I live in Australia and had always believed that our stringent quarantine laws kept out the essential keluak nut. But today I found a pile of keluak nuts in plastic, in a dusty corner of my local Asian provedore. I am tempted; very tempted. But I cannot find any information on actually preparing the nuts for eating and I really, really, really don't want to kill anyone with kitchen experiments.

Can anyone out there help? Any Peranakan grandmothers on eGullet? :wink:

" ..Is simplicity the best

Or simply the easiest

The narrowest path

Is always the holiest.. "

--Depeche Mode - Judas

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I have a Peranakan mother-in-law and Ayam Buah Keluak is one of her specialities. I'd be happy to get my spouse to ask her about the keluak nuts the next time they talk, but I can't promise that it will be soon, since she doesn't do email!

regards,

trillium

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Check out yunnermeier's blog from last week (14 May to 20 May) on the pinned Index of EG Food Blogs. Post #57 has a picture and description that fascinated me and sounds like what you want. I too laement the fact that my great-grandmother passed away before I was old enough to think about recording some of her techniques and recipes.

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I did see that post, but I was hoping someone out there would be able to give me more exact instructions. I mean, I can soak the nuts for at least a week, but how long exactly? And how do you choose the 'good ones' that are not bitter?

I guess I have no clue, and am trying to be very careful about the whole poison thing. :rolleyes:

But oh my, have I been craving it for so long.... :laugh:

" ..Is simplicity the best

Or simply the easiest

The narrowest path

Is always the holiest.. "

--Depeche Mode - Judas

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I have a Peranakan mother-in-law and Ayam Buah Keluak is one of her specialities. I'd be happy to get my spouse to ask her about the keluak nuts the next time they talk, but I can't promise that it will be soon, since she doesn't do email!

regards,

trillium

Oh, Trillium, that would be wonderful! I'd really appreciate that, thank you.:> :biggrin:

" ..Is simplicity the best

Or simply the easiest

The narrowest path

Is always the holiest.. "

--Depeche Mode - Judas

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Ondine - I recently posted on buah keluak, with a link to a Singaporean recipe for ayam buah keluak at the bottom.

Buah keluak

My understanding is that any exported from Indonesia have already been soaked/boiled. Some folks do an extra soaking overnight, just to be sure. I would just scrub your shells and proceed accordingly.

Interesting, your memories of the shells being cooked with the dish. I've never heard of that, usually the meat is scraped out and pounded to a paste and the shells discarded.

Good luck!

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The dish I know has the pounded paste stuffed back into the shells. I think most nonya recipes for ayam buah kelauk do that? The nonya recipe you link to in your post is the same, you restuff the shells and cook them in the dish.

regards,

trillium

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ondine,

In our home, we wash and scrub the nuts before soaking them for 5-7 days with a change of water every day. These are then boiled for about 10-15 minutes in boiling water before we break the 'eye' to dig out the flesh.

The bad ones have a nasty smell, and I smell each one before I dig the flesh out. The flesh is pounded, and then mixed with some of the rempah, sugar, ground prawns and pork before stuffing them back into the nuts.

There are many variations of this - whether to just put the pounded flesh in, or mix it like my family does with ground pork and shrimp, or just pork alone. Some recipes do not even stuff the meat back, but instead mix it like we do and fry the flesh to be used later to mix with rice for eating.

The rempah has tumeric, galangal, garlic, serai, buah keras, shallots, fresh and dried chillies and belacan. I cook the chicken (and pork ribs) with tamarind and a little coconut milk at the end. You can omit the coconut milk if you want, but it's a nice finish.

Choose nuts that are heavy to the touch, and they shouldn't rattle when you shake them.

Good luck.

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