An Old Lady Who Teaches Love With Food

Introducing Mdm Habsah Binte Ismail: doting grandmother, stern mother, patient mother-in-law, generous employer, sister and friend to the people around her.

20121231-161327.jpg This is the lady who demonstrated to the DGW what being the perfect hostess and loving matriarch mean 11 years ago. Food at home is always delicious and aplenty round the clock so that nobody, including guests who sometimes arrive unannounced, goes hungry. Guests are served with well-preserved crockery and utensils for the way food is presented is as important as its taste. The DGW also remembers being gently reminded to always serve drinks in cups with saucers.

The DGW, as much as she found these ways strange and excessive back then, came to understand that the old lady’s high standards reflect pride in her culinary skills and love for her family and friends. Inspired, the DGW aspired to provide her loved ones with healthy, wholesome and tasty food they favoured. That meant learning how to cook certain dishes.

Of all the recipes she learnt, Sambal Tumis is the most important and useful one. It is a sautéed chilli-based sauce-paste used in many Malay dishes, one of which is Sambal Tumis Terung, eggplant (terung) simmered in the sauce-paste. A favourite of both the DGW and her husband, the dish is comfort food served with steaming hot rice and fried fish in dark sweet sauce and lime. The eggplant also tastes super good the next day heated up and tossed into freshly boiled wholemeal spaghetti.

20121231-190950.jpg For the Sambal Tumis:
Set A (To be blended)

@ 2 large red onions or 15 bulbs of shallots
@ 5 large cloves of garlic
@ A fist full of dried chillies (for a less fiery sambal, use the wrinkly instead of the smooth-skinned variety)
@ A 1-inch (diameter) piece of belachan (dried shrimps made into cake form)
@ Water (sufficient to cover all ingredients to be blended
Set B
@ 1 cup of olive oil (some use vegetable oil but olive oil ups the health quotient)
@ A 1-inch ball of tamarind dissolved in one cup of water
@ Sugar
@ Salt
For the Sambal Tumis Terung:
Set C
@ 2 terung (This is the long version of the eggplant, also known as brinjal. You can also use any other varieties you fancy.)
@ 1 to 2 tbsps of olive oil
@ Salt
@ 1 egg
For the Spaghetti Sambal Tumis Terung:
Set D
@ Wholewheat spaghetti (You can again substitute any favoured pasta for it.)
@ Water
@ A pinch of salt
@ Half tsp of olive oil

Method: Sambal Tumis
1) Rinse the dried chillies and soak them in boiling water until soft.
2) Cut the chillies into smaller pieces and remove the seeds.
3) Place all ingredients in Set A in the blender and blend till smooth.
4) Heat a wok/pot before pouring the olive oil into it.
5) When the oil is hot, slowly pour the blended mixture into the wok/pot. Be careful of splatters!
6) Stir the mixture a few times before covering the wok/pot and simmering it. Keep an eye on the simmering mixture and stir it every now and then. This is where a glass cover is useful.
7) When oil has risen to the top, add the tamarind water into the mixture while stirring it all the time.
8) Add sugar(a lot of it) and salt to taste. The more sugar is added the darker the sambal will look and the less spicy it will taste.
9) Simmer the mixture over low fire for at least 45 minutes to an hour. Continue to keep an eye on it to prevent burning.
10) Turn off the fire and set sambal aside.
Method: Sambal Tumis Terung
11) Wash and cut the terung width-wise into 1-inch pieces.
12) Lay the pieces on a tray, sprinkle salt on them and leave them for about 30 minutes to “sweat” them. You can do this when waiting for the sambal to be cooked.
13) Once “sweated“, blot and squeeze all excess water from the terung pieces.
14) Coat the terung pieces with olive oil.
15) Heat the non-stick pan on medium fire and cook the terung pieces for about 2-3 minutes per side or till slightly tender. You do not want to over-cook them.
16) Add about 5-10 tablespoons of sambal to the terung in the pan and continue cooking until the sambal is bubbling slightly. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water to prevent the sambal from drying out.
15) Optional step: For a more flavourful dish, crack an egg into the pan and scramble it at the end of the cooking process.
Method: Spaghetti Sambal Tumis Terung
16) Boil the spaghetti in the water. Add salt and olive oil to the liquid to add flavour to the spaghetti and prevent them from sticking.
17) Once the spaghetti is done al dente (The time needed differs from brand to brand so do read the packaging before boiling.), drain it well.
18) Heat the leftover Sambal Tumis Terung and toss the spaghetti into it.
19) Plate it and serve.

Disclaimer: The DGW does not profess to be as excellent a cook as her mother-in-law. The recipe works for her after several attempts. You probably have to try it out to find the quantities that work for you.

Happy spreading the love around and an early 2013 of Peace, Joy and Fulfilment to one and all!

The DGW would love to hear from you with regard to the first recipe posted on this blog. Leave a comment below or drop her an email at:


One thought on “An Old Lady Who Teaches Love With Food

  1. Pingback: Welcoming 2013 With Food And … (You Guessed It!) Love « Colours Of The Domestic Goddess

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