EMPING NOSTALGIA – Part 2
I remember that emping is available only or mostly after padi harvesting time. And so this traditional emping "dish" is not usually part of the dishes and traditional offerings served during Malay festivals of Hari Raya Puasa (or Aidil Fitri) and Aidil Adha unlike the ketupat or lemang.
This is probably because the two festivals follow the Islamic calendar, and during certain years they do not occur during those padi harvests time. Otherwise I could just wait until the next festival to taste it.
I remember also when I was still a small child in the 1950s, my aunties or uncles from Temerloh, Pahang, when making day-visits or longer to my home, would bring along with them fruits or traditional cakes (kuih) like dodol, wajik, or bahulu, and of course after padi harvest time, a small pack of rice and emping.
Usually, the emping dish would be made straightaway by my mother, helped by my elder sisters, and served before my aunties and uncles leave. And we will all have a good eat on the mengkuang mat on the floor, with light banters usually and small good-hearted gossips about other close relatives sometimes, before they bade farewell.
In the old days, relatives and friends freely share their bountiful harvests from the padi fields, fruit trees or orchards with other close relatives and friends.
It helped to tighten family ties and invariably strengthen the bonds of kinship and friendship among relatives and friends.
That’s the old Malay way that I remember.
Everyone was joyous and kind. Fruits that are in abundance or in season, like rambutans, durians, mangosteens, langsat and chiku., are freely given away in big gunny sacks to other relatives, neighbours and friends.
And so are padi and rice after harvest, and sometimes even chickens, ducks and goats. There were no economic or financial constraints or consideration. Bounty harvests are meant to be shared around.
Alas, now, in these modern times of technology, rocket science, and commercialism, everything must be paid for. Nothing is gotten for free. Whether fruits or … emping.
But that is understandable because the fruit trees and padi fields, planted and cultivated by my relatives in Temerloh, Pahang have all, in a sense, been 'destroyed', having to make way for modern housing and commercial, industrial and business development.
So there are no more God’s gifts that can be shared with others freely.
My Favorite Emping Recipe
The way I like to eat emping, my favorite style (or my dear mom’s method), is to mix them with grated coconut flesh and gula melaka (brown sugar). The traditional, round-wheel-shaped gula melaka that my mom usually kept in the kitchen, must first be cut and sliced into tiny pieces.
The three ingredients (emping, grated coconut flesh and gula melaka) are then mixed in a bowl, with a little salt added, and then served. With the right mixture of coconut and gula melaka, the final result or "concoction" tastes really yummy and delicious.
Why? Because this emping dish will present a delightful range and array of tastes.
It will taste a little sweet because of the gula melaka, but also fibrous and chewy because of the coconut flesh, and a bit salty with the pinch of salt, while the crunchy, dry and hard emping will sort of harmonise the whole taste!
Aww, please, I cannot describe further this tasty emping snack without wishing for a real taste of it again.
So, off I shall go now to the hypermarkets... but ... sigh... I don’t ever remember seeing them sold anywhere in those modern "facilities"...
Well then, I'll just have to remember to get them at some other rural kampung shops where padi is still planted, like in Kedah or Kelantan, whenever I pass through the villages.
And maybe then and only then, can I get to introduce the emping delicacy of my childhood days to my already grown up children.
But it’s better late than never.