The Humble Nasi Lemak

What are the components of a balanced, nutritious meal? According to health experts, a healthy meal would have the following items:

Proteins:

Proteins are the building blocks for healthy muscles, skin and hair.  They also contribute to normal chemical reactions within your body. Meats are complete sources of protein, containing the nine essential amino acids required for human health. No one vegetable provides all of the required essential amino acids; so you should eat a combination of vegetables in order to obtain them.

Carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates are a primary source of energy. They are divided in two categories: simple carbohydrates, which digest quickly; and complex carbohydrates, which digest slowly. Sources of simple carbohydrates include fruits, sugars, white rice and flour. Complex carbohydrates are found in green or starchy vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils. Dietary fiber is another form of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Though most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber cannot be broken down and instead passes through the body undigested. Fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check.

Fats:

Fats have a double-edge reputation. Despite the general belief that fats are bad for you, a fat-free diet would kill you! Your body requires fats to synthesize fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D. Fats are divided into saturated and unsaturated (include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats. Nuts, olives and avocados are sources of monounsaturated fats. Fish and seafood are primary sources of polyunsaturated fats. Too much saturated fats, found in butter, cheese, and red meat, can be bad for your health. Intake of saturated fats should be limited to no more than 16 grams daily, while Trans-fats are to be avoided completely.

Vitamins and minerals:

Many vitamins are essential for health and examples include vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E, K and folate. Vitamin deficiency can cause osteoporosis, scurvy, a weakened immune system, premature aging and even certain cancers. Consuming too much of a vitamin can also result in serious toxicity, such as vitamin B-6 or vitamin A. Many fruits and vegetables have high vitamin content. Minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, iodine and chromium are essential for human health. Deficiencies can result in serious health conditions such as brittle bones and poor blood oxygenation. Like vitamins, overdosing on minerals can result in life threatening conditions; a potassium overdose can cause improper kidney function. Minerals are found in a variety of foods including dairy and meat products.

Water:

The most underrated item in a healthy diet. The human body is composed of between 60 percent to 70 percent water. As such, water, is fundamental in maintaining proper bodily functions.

nasi-lemak

Nasi lemak, with all its unhealthy connotations, surprisingly provides the essential components of a balanced meal. Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals are all found in the humble Nasi Lemak.

The original version of a Nasi Lemak would typically have the following items: rice cooked in coconut milk, a sambal (cooked blended chili and onions), fried anchovies (Ikan Bilis), hard-boiled egg, and sliced cucumbers.

While it’s true that egg yolks have a lot of cholesterol, eggs also contain nutrients that may help lower the risk for heart disease, including protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin, and folate. Recent research has shown that moderate egg consumption—up to one a day—does not increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals and can be part of a healthy diet (1. Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB, et al. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA. 1999; 281:1387-94. 2. Fernandez ML. Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006; 9:8-12.) Anchovies (Ikan Bilis) are also a source of protein, calcium and iron.

Rice is a good source of carbohydrates, and to a lesser extent, proteins. White rice is highly refined, polished, and stripped of its bran(seed coat) and germ(embryo). This is done to increase its cooking quality, shelf life, and taste, but unfortunately, it comes at the cost of reduced nutritional value. Brown rice is an intact whole grain, containing both the bran and the germ. For this reason, brown rice contains more fiber than white rice. Being the most nutritious parts of the grain, the bran and germ are rich in fiber and several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  White rice may cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar, making them unsuitable for diabetics. Therefore, for a healthier alternative, choose brown rice.

The use of coconut milk (Santan) has been the main item of contention when it comes to Nasi Lemak. Coconuts contain saturated fat, but the fat that they provide is mostly in the form of medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs) in particular, one called lauric acid. It is converted in the body into a highly beneficial compound called monolaurin, an antiviral and antibacterial that destroys a wide variety of disease causing organisms. It is therefore now thought that consumption of coconut milk may help protect the body from infections and viruses.

Cucumbers are a good source of insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, and can help food move through your digestive system, promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation. It is a good source of potassium and has high amounts of vitamin K.

There you have it. Nasi Lemak’s contentious reputation is unfounded. On top of its nutritional values, Nasi lemak’s liberal use of chili in its Sambal also has other benefits. According to an article published on Aug 4, 2015 by Harvard School Of Public Health, “People who eat spicy foods nearly every day have a 14% chance of living longer than those who consume spicy foods less than once a week, according to a new study. Regular spicy food eaters also are less likely to die from cancer and heart and respiratory diseases than those who eat spicy foods infrequently.” Raguan®’s ready-to-eat Sambal Goreng Cili with its piquant, sweet and savory notes is ideally suited for Nasi lemak.

Forget about those fancy named diets that may not be effective and expensive to maintain. I give you the Muslim’s diet which is simple and guaranteed to be work:

Allah (swt) says:

“O ye people! Eat of what is on earth, lawful and good; and do not follow the
footsteps of the Evil One, for he is to you an avowed enemy.” (Al Qur’an 2: 168)

and Allah (swt) also says:

“Eat of the good things we have provided for your sustenance, but commit no
excess therein, lest my wrath should justly descend on you, and those on whom descends my wrath do perish indeed” (Al Qur’an 20:81).

Rendang – King Of Malay Cuisine

Rendang
Rendang

What would Hari Raya (Eid festivals), kenduris and other Malay family gatherings be without Rendang? The Rendang takes centre stage and is meticulously prepared and presented during these festivals. Festivals without Rendang would be like burgers without fries or fish without chips.

What is Rendang? It is generally a spicy, meat dish slow cooked in Santan (coconut milk). Rendang is said to have originated from the Minangkabau ethnic group of Sumatra, Indonesia. One of the earliest written records of Rendang is from the early 16th century Hikayat Amir Hamzah. Hikayat Amir Hamzah is a Malay literary work that chronicles the heroics of Amir Hamzah, one of the two Hikayats mentioned in Sejarah Melayu. Sejarah Melayu or The Malay Annals, originally titled Sulalatus Salatin (Genealogy of Kings), is a literary work that gives a romanticized history of the origin, evolution and demise of the great Malay maritime empire, the Melaka Sultanate. Composed sometime between 15th and 16th centuries, it is considered to be one of the finest literary and historical works in the Malay language. We can safely assume that Rendang has been around much earlier than the 15th century.

How would you describe the taste of Rendang? The generous use of herbs, spices, and Santan, would probably give you a hint of the complexity and uniqueness of its taste. Commonly, ginger, galangal, turmeric leaves, lemongrass, shallots and chilli are the herbs that are commonly used. Spices found in Rendang can vary from Cumin, Cinnamon, Star Anise, with Coriander seeds being most generously used spice for making the very dry, delicious, Rendang Serunding. Rendang texture can be wet, semi-dry or very dry depending on the creator’s intention. It can also be cooked with spices or none, but herbs described above are a must. Another crucial ingredient is Kerisik, which is grated coconut toasted until golden brown and pounded to form an oily paste.

Rendang is normally eaten with Nasi Minyak (the Malay version of Indian Beryani) or normal rice, pulut (sticky rice), ketupat (rice packed and cooked in coconut leaves) or even bread. Rendang with Nasi Lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk) is a favorite among Malaysians. The Rendang’s popularity has even inspired a well-known American pizza restaurant to create its version of pizza with Rendang sauce.

According to a respected food writer and critique from Australia, “It is the one dish I believe is worth its weight in gold. If it was me cooking it, I would serve what may be a few Ringgit worth of ingredients on an expensive platter because that is where it belongs.”

Raguan™ currently produces Rendang Ayam (chicken), Rendang Daging (beef), and Rendang Panggang (Roast Beef cooked in a low temperature oven), blast frozen and vacuum packed for freshness. We also place the utmost importance on the use of quality ingredients blending our own chilli paste and using Halal Australian/New Zealand beef for our Rendang Daging. Bon apetit!

Rendang Ayam

MeSTI

MeSTI

September 9, 2015. Can’t really remember how the day began. The weather was not good as thick haze enveloped most of Malaysia. It has been about two months since personnel from Pejabat Kesihatan Daerah Gombak had conducted an audit of Apa Cava Sdn Bhd’s premises and standard operating procedures in relation to its application for MeSTI certification.

MeSti stands for Makanan Selamat Tanggungjawab Industri (Good Food Industry Responsibility), which is a food safety assurance program under the purview of the Ministry Of Health Malaysia (MOH), to ensure that SMEs (small and medium enterprises) fulfill the requirements stipulated under Malaysia’s Food Hygiene Regulations 2009 (Food Act 1983).

Through MeSTI certification, food producers will be guided to develop and implement a food safety assurance program before certification is granted.  Among the key elements in this food safety assurance program is an effective control of the premises, operational controls and traceability (the ability to retrace the source of any food contamination).

After two months of sweating, MOH has officially awarded Apa Cava Sdn Bhd, under the Raguan™ brand, MeSTI certification. This is just part of Raguan’s commitment to producing delicious, premium quality food products. There’s more to come.

Yeah, I can’t really remember how the day began, but I sure do know how it ended.

MeSTI

The Fat And The Coconut

Raguan’s Rendang, Nasi Lemak, Cendol, Ayam Percik. What do they have in common? Coconut milk or in Malay, santan. Without santan, none of the dishes mentioned would taste as delicious as they should be. You could use substitutes such as evaporated milk or even yogurt, but those who have tried this will attest to the disappointingly huge difference in taste.

Santan and other coconut derivatives have not enjoyed a healthy relationship with consumers especially those from the West. One of the main reasons for this is due to the coconut’s fat composition. Think of fat and the first thing that comes to your mind is an image of an overweight person. If you’re asked about food fat, you still think of something which is not so healthy. For comparison purposes, butter has 62% saturated fatty acids (not-so-good fat), while coconut oil has 86%. With so much negativity attached to it, it’s now extremely difficult to find coconut cooking oil even in sunny, coconut friendly Malaysia. But recent studies have revealed some interesting revelations about coconut oil.

First, we need to understand what fats are. This may get a bit technical, but bear with me; you’ll have a better understanding of what fats are and what they do:

1. Before we talk about fats per se, we need to look at fatty acids and how they combine to become fats. A fatty acid is a long hydrocarbon chain capped by a carboxyl group (COOH). Very simply, they are chains of carbon attached to each other with hydrogen elements tied to many of them.

Courtesy of departments.jordandistrict.org
Courtesy of departments.jordandistrict.org

2. To make a normal fat, you take three fatty acids and bond them together with glycerol to form a triglyceride.

Courtesy of Wikipedia
Courtesy of Wikipedia

The picture becomes clearer, right? During digestion, it’s the other way around; the body breaks down fats into fatty acids, before they can be absorbed into the blood. God builds things, humans break them apart!

3. What are the types of fats? There are basically three types:

a. Unsaturated fats:

Liquid at room temperature, they are considered “good” fats because they can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and play a number of other beneficial roles. Unsaturated fats are mainly found in foods from plants, such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. They can then be divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

b. Saturated fats:

Saturated fat is mainly found in animal foods, but a few plant foods are also high in saturated fats, such as coconut, coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. They are solid at room temperature.

Meaning of saturation:

A saturated fat is where every carbon chain has hydrogen atoms (one carbon to two hydrogen atoms). An unsaturated fat has one (monounsaturated) or more (polyunsaturated) carbon chains that are bonded to another carbon instead of a hydrogen atom.

Courtesy of wallpaper222.com
Courtesy of wallpaper222.com

c. Trans fats:

Trans fats are unsaturated fats made to look like saturated fats. Why on earth would you want to do that? Humans are trying to make a healthier version of saturated fat. Does it work? Unfortunately, no. You also incorporate the bad stuff associated with saturated fats into it. You can never have your cake and eat it.

4. Why do we need fat? Too much fat in our diet is not good for you, but a totally fat-free diet would kill you! Bet you didn’t know that. Fats have a number of critical functions:

a. Fat stores energy and helps to regulate our body temperature.

b. Fat is found around our vital organs. They help support and protect them.

c. Fat are part of our cell membrane structure.

d. Our body uses fat to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K.

e. Fat helps in regulating hormones and controls basic processes such as metabolism.

Sort of a love-hate relationship, don’t you think so?

Coconut oil is higher in saturated fat than other plant oils. However, it is less harmful than partially hydrogenated oil, which is high in trans fats. Here are some other very interesting information about coconut oil:

a. It is cholesterol free. And it helps raise HDL (the good) cholesterol (we would need another topic solely on cholesterol to discuss this).

b. Coconut oil doesn’t contain saturated fats like you would find in cheese or steaks. No, they contain Medium Chain Triglycerides, which are fatty acids of, of course; medium length. They act like carbohydrates rather than fat, going straight to the liver where they are used as a quick source energy.

c. Lauric acid, which can kill harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi, forms 50% of fatty acids found in coconut oil.

Based on the premise that coconut oil is loaded with saturated fats, it doesn’t look good for the ever versatile coconut. But if you dig deeper into the facts of fats, coconuts may not be as harmful as touted and can even be beneficial to you. More scientific evidence is needed before we can conclusively say that coconut fat, which comprises mainly saturated fat, is definitively going to give you heart disease. And yes, you can’t beat the flavor of coconuts.

Finally, God commands us to eat what is allowed but in moderation as the key to good health.

Allah (swt) says:

“O ye people! Eat of what is on earth, lawful and good; and do not follow the
footsteps of the Evil One, for he is to you an avowed enemy.” (Al Qur’an 2: 168)

and Allah (swt) also says:

“Eat of the good things we have provided for your sustenance, but commit no
excess therein, lest my wrath should justly descend on you, and those on whom descends my wrath do perish indeed” (Al Qur’an 20:81).

This is confirmed by scientists and doctors as the healthiest diet for humankind.

Does eating spicy food lead to longer life?

An intriguing question, don’t you think so? According to an article published on Aug 4, 2015 by Harvard School Of Public Health, “People who eat spicy foods nearly every day have a 14% chance of living longer than those who consume spicy foods less than once a week, according to a new study. Regular spicy food eaters also are less likely to die from cancer and heart and respiratory diseases than those who eat spicy foods infrequently.” The large-scale study found that people who had more spicy food – generally in the form of chili peppers – more than once a week had a reduced overall risk of death over the seven-year study period.

Chili peppers, healthimpactnews.com
Chili peppers, healthimpactnews.com

Fresh chili peppers are high in vitamins C, A, K, B6, and potassium. The active ingredient in chili peppers, capsaicin, has been linked to a number of biological benefits in earlier studies. Capsaicin and other bio-active ingredients in chili peppers have been found in previous studies to have anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation, and anticancer properties.

Malay cuisine uses a lot of chili peppers (fresh and dried) in dishes such as Rendang, Assam Pedas and fresh and cooked sambals. The Minangkabau people of Sumatra, Indonesia, take this affinity one step higher; raw bird chili peppers are eaten daily with meals!

Bird chili, www.capitalfm.co.ke
Bird chili, http://www.capitalfm.co.ke

There you have it. Chili peppers are good for you and Raguan™ is happy to provide you with six delicious items: Sos Pedas Bijan/Hot Sesame Sauce,  Sambal Goreng Cili/Fried Chili Sambal, Rendang Daging/Beef Rendang, Rendang Panggang/Roast Beef Rendang, Rendang Ayam/Chicken Rendang and Sambal Goreng Cili Daging/Fried Chili Sambal With Beef for your indulgence. Long live chili!

Raguan™'s Sos Pedas Bijan/Hot Sesame Sauce
Raguan™’s Sos Pedas Bijan/Hot Sesame Sauce
Raguan™’s Sambal Goreng Cili/Fried Chili Sambal
Raguan™’s Sambal Goreng Cili/Fried Chili Sambal

Eat your veggies!

spots the snail 1
Artwork by Nisyah Raguan

“Look at all those lovely red tomatoes. Why don’t you give it a little bite?” I said to my daughter. “Yuck, I don’t like tomatoes cause they taste funny,” she replied. I’m sure a lot of you have experienced difficulty in getting small children to eat their veggies. Well, this is a story about a snail named Spots and how I finally managed to get my youngest daughter to try some vegetables.

Spots the snail grew up in a vegetable farm way up in Cameron Highlands. He was different from other snails because he had spots all over his shell. You see, Spots has a sweet tooth. He loves candy.

Spots’ taste for sweets started when he was a baby. Kids would visit the farm and drop bits and pieces of candy at the farm. Spots had spots because of all the sugar he eats. And because of Spots’ sweet tooth, he doesn’t eat his veggies.

His parents tried everything to get Spots to eat his veggies but without success. One day his parents were surprised to see Spots eating some lettuce. They were amazed and couldn’t figure out what happened. Apparently, some candy was dropped on the lettuce and because of unusually hot weather had melted and coated the lettuce leaves. Spots was actually eating the lettuce leaves without realizing it was vegetables.

The same thing happened to my youngest daughter. She doesn’t particularly enjoy veggies and I had cooked them in many different ways to try and get her to eat them, but to no avail. One day we prepared some Malay Rojak (salad) together with our family salad dressing, Raguan’s Sos Pedas Bijan. I coaxed my daughter to try the Rojak and to our surprise, ate all of it and asked for more. My other children also tried the Rojak and liked it. My only problem now is to have enough Sos Pedas Bijan to serve with Rojak. And oh yes, Spots still has his spots and now loves his veggies!

Malay salad or also called Rojak
Malay salad or also called Rojak

Here are some nutritional benefits of Malay Rojak:

Lettuce
Lettuce. Photo courtesy of worldcommunitycookbook.org.

Low in calories but high in water volume. Lettuce are a good source of Vitamin A with lots of dietary fiber.

Tomato.
Tomato. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Is actually a fruit. Tomatoes provide sweetness together with bitter and acidic qualities to the taste of our Rojak. It is rich in Vitamin C and has been widely studied for its antioxidant and cancer-preventing properties.

800px-Cucumber_and_cross_section
Cucumber. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Provides a moist and cooling taste (its more than 90% water) nicely complimenting our Sos Pedas Bijan‘s hotness. A rich natural source of fibre, Silica, and hydrates the skin.

Sengkuang. Photo courtesy of www.trymasak.com
Sengkuang. Photo courtesy of http://www.trymasak.com

Jicama or Yam Bean in English. Provides excellent crunch and moisture for the Rojak. It is high in Vitamin C, low in Sodium and has no fat.

Tauhu/Tofu. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Tauhu/Tofu. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Provides the “meat” for the Rojak. Made by coagulating soybean milk. Rich in proteins and iron and is a good source of Omega – 3 fatty acids. Regular intake of soy protein also helps to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.

Egg. Photo courtesy of authoritynutrition.com
Egg. Photo courtesy of authoritynutrition.com

Eggs are a good source of protein and contains selenium, vitamins D, B6, B12, A, E, and K, and lecithin.

Eat healthy!

Raguan™’s Sambal Goreng Cili/Fried Chilli Sambal

According to Wikipedia, a “sambal is sauce typically made from a variety of chili peppers and secondary ingredients such as shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, sugar, lime juice, and rice vinegar or other vinegars.” There are two different versions, raw and cooked.

Raw sambal is typically used as a condiment but cooked sambals are usually served mixed with meat, chicken,  dried/salted fish and other food items.

Raw sambal (janetdeneefe.com)
Raw sambal (janetdeneefe.com)

Raguan’s Sambal Goreng Cili/Fried Chilli Sambal is a cooked sambal. It is a ready-to-eat version for ease of consumption. Don’t have time to cook a meal; Raguan’s Sambal Goreng Cili is the answer to your problems. It goes deliciously well with fried beef, chicken, fish, and eggs. Dried/salted fish with Sambal Goreng Cili and rice would even qualify as a main meal.

Raguan™’s Sambal Goreng Cili/Fried Chilli Sambal
Raguan™’s Sambal Goreng Cili/Fried Chilli Sambal

Are you too lazy to make a sambal for the evergreen Nasi Lemak? Just use our Sambal Goreng Cili. What about those funny tasting Mamak restaurant sambals served with Roti Canai? Chuck those away and try it with our sambal.

Oh yes, you may have noticed that our sambal’s name is a bit unusual; the name describes an action instead of being a noun. Based on good grammar, our sambal should be called “Sambal Cili Goreng,” which correctly translated into English would then be “Fried Chilli Sambal.” “Sambal Goreng Cili,” literally translated, would be “Frying Chilli Sambal,’ as “goreng” here describes an action done to the chilli instead of its end state.

How did this come about? My grandmother would frequently be cooking sambal as our residence back in the 60’s was a stopover for friends and relatives, including at really odd hours. Our sambal was an ever-ready meal for someone who is hungry. Being inquisitive children, we asked our grandmother what she was doing. Her reply was, “Mak Tok tengah goreng cili.” Translated, ”Grandma is frying chilli.” The description was ingrained in our minds and has remained as our sambal’s name till now!