An expectant mother’s story of traveling to Malaysia for organic recipes passed through generations, honoring Malaysian heritage, and the art of cooking organic food.
I am expecting my first child and desire only the healthiest food for my family. Join me as I journey to Malaysia to learn the art of organic cooking.
Last year I married an amazing Chinese Malaysian artist named Chow Meng Leong originally from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After our wedding, my new husband hinted to me about his traditional Chinese mothers delicious organic recipes. I pushed his comment to the back of my mind and thought, “Organic? Really? Homegrown? What is the difference?” Soon we were expecting our first child and my entire perspective changed. I wasn’t just eating healthy for myself; I needed to eat healthy for our baby. I began creating new wellness recipes, yet knew I had a lot to learn. What could I do? My only option was to travel to Malaysia and learn from the best!
My mother-in-law, Angeline Chow, was raised in Subang Jaya, Malaysia, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. Her mother, whom the family calls “Poh Poh,” survived World War II in 1941 when Japan invaded Malaysia.
Mrs. Chow, a petite woman with a jovial smile, has the work ethic and survival instincts of her mother. She grows her own herbs like her mother did, shops at local fish markets for the freshest poultry, and collects homegrown fruit from her sister-in-law’s fertile trees. “Living off the land,” she says.
Authentic Chinese Malaysian dishes with fish, green veggies, and fruit were commonly served in the Chow household during my husband’s childhood. “I think a person is healthier and has a long life,” Mrs. Chow says about eating green and organic foods, “It’s very exciting to grow your own food. You have confidence in what you are eating.” I was eager for her recipes made from organic and homegrown ingredients. Not just for me but for our future healthy children.
We scheduled our trip for an entire month. I assumed by one month’s time I would be fully equipped with a lifetime of new culinary delights, imagining well documented recipes and upcoming cooking lessons. When we arrived I asked my new mother-in-law, “Will you give me the recipes and teach me how to make your traditional Malaysian dishes?”
“I never write anything down,” she says.
“Uh oh. This will be trickier than I thought,” I told my husband.
So every evening for dinner, I examined my plate and attempted to guess the ingredients inside. “Was this marinated with soy sauce and sesame oil?” I ask.
“Some coriander and a little bit of honey,” she responds, “Maybe some fresh lemon and garlic.”
I began to bring my notebook and pen to the kitchen table every evening. I didn’t want to miss a beat. “If you grow on your own, you eat everything,” says Mrs. Chow, “You will not waste food.”
One evening, after many meals served and one aching wrist from hours of recipe writing, I noticed my plate was different from my in-laws plates. “Why is mine different?” I ask.
“I made you something special tonight,” says Mrs. Chow.
Before my eyes was a gorgeous display of salmon seasoned with fresh spring onions accompanied by a multihued orange salad and drizzled with a sweet dressing. “This is Mommy’s specialty,” says my brother-in-law, Ming Sheng. I had to have the recipe!
“May I have the recipe for your salmon?” I asked.
“I didn’t write it down. Let me remember what goes inside,” Mommy Chow said while clearly in thought, “Hmmm. One salmon fillet is marinated with lemon, rosemary, soy sauce, I think. I am not sure. Come back in 30 minutes.”
After 30 minutes of patience, Mrs. Chow’s memory was restored, I wrote down as much as she was able to give me. I am impressed that she cooks all her dishes from memory, no recipes needed. She definitely has control over the kitchen domain too. “It is her kitchen,” says Ming Sheng, “When my brothers and I try to help cook, she tells us no and to do the dishes after.”
Ming Sheng is right. It is “her kitchen.” I am glad I had an opportunity to learn from her and actually participate in some of the cooking process. Now, I can confidently return home with Mommy Chow’s specialty recipes in hand. I am positive my husbands belly will be satisfied with the notebook full of organic Malaysian recipes I lovingly received from his mother. Thank you Mommy Chow!