Bubur pedas is the most difficult dish to make. It was not that hard actually, but to make this dish, you need to spare a lot of time. For most people, they need to prepare the powder mixture before cooking the real porridge. You can buy the powder mixture, but for my family, we will dedicate a day just to make the powder, since it will be for six families. This is one of the annual family gathering that we cannot miss. Plus, you will need all the help you can get if you need to prepare 15kg of bubur pedas powder.
We were supposed to meet up at my Udak’s home in Semariang at 10:00am. By the way, we Sarawakians called our aunts and uncles with names such as Wa for the eldest, Anjang, Ngah, Mok, Udak, Achik, Yak and Usu for the youngest. I believe there are others and in Peninsula Malaysia, they have different titles. I still did not manage to figure out how they arrange these titles according to their ranks, because one of my aunts is called Aunty, maybe because they ran out of titles, and since that aunt is an English teacher.
Anyway, at 10:30am my aunt started calling people up because nobody shows up at the allocated time. We were still at home, preparing to leave the house, so we arrived there at 11:00am. They already started the preparation process.
When we arrived, there were big plastic bowls on the table and people around the table were busy with slicing the ginger, onions, lemongrass and shallots while some others were peeling the lengkuas (galangal). Since I wanted to avoid dealing with the turmeric at all cost, I rushed to the only empty chair to slice the ginger. Everybody knows that turmeric equals disaster. In the end, my mother and sister were forced to peel them.
“What’s wrong with the ginger? Can’t it be bigger?” my Aunty pointed out sarcastically when we were almost done with the slicing. Only then did I look at the humongous slices of ginger filling the big bowl. It was not my fault, is it? Since I am not the only one slicing the ginger, I cannot take all the blame.
So, when I was forced to slice the turmeric and risking four days of orange colour on my fingers, we decided to mince them to avoid my aunt’s sarcasm.
We stopped for lunch. While we were busy with slicing and mincing, my Udak was at the kitchen preparing lunch for us. This is one of the reasons I love about family gathering. All of my aunts are great cooks, including my mother. Even if they were not, I still love the atmosphere at these occasions.
We sat on the floor with the spread of food in front of us. There were plates of Ayam Pansoh (cooked in pot, not bamboo), cencaluk (fermented small shrimps), umbut masak lemak (coconut shoot cooked with coconut milk), ulam mangga and umai. The umai was made from ikan yu (small shark?) so it was less popular among my aunts and cousins but since umai is one of my favourite foods; I gobbled it down in no time.
After lunch, we resumed working. The grated coconuts, spices and dried chillies were fried without oil separately. Two big woks were put on the portable stoves, and all the sliced ingredients were mixed together with uncooked rice. Then, a smaller portion of the mixture was fried without oil in the big woks. This was the most tiring stage in the whole process, because you need to stir the mixture continuously and endure the heat from the wok. This needed to be repeated until all the mixture was fried.
All of the mixture needs to be mixed with the fried grated coconut. Then, a small accident happened when my Achik wanted to put the grated coconut into the giant pot. She sprained her leg while attempting to stand up from a crouch resulting in spilling quite a lot of the grated coconut.
Apart from that, the process went smoothly. We just need to put the mixture into the food processor. However, since there was only one blender, the process took about one hour to complete.
While saying our goodbyes, I looked at the big containers of bubur pedas powder and secretly feeling relieved as the trouble of making bubur pedas had ended for this year.