Monday, 10 August 2015

Grandma's Killer Kerabu


Today is exactly one month since I lost my grandma. When I received the call from my mum informing me that "Mah-Mah has just passed away", I was stunned. I mean, grandma was well into her late nineties, it was just a matter of time but I did not expect it to happen so soon.

I just saw her in early June when I was in Kuala Terengganu. She appeared to be strong and healthy for a lady her age. She was eating well and climbing up and down the stairs, albeit slowly and gripping the banister. She could sit and get up unaided. I guess grandma's engine simply came to a stop because her batteries ran out.

We will all die one day and we have to accept the passing of those we love. Though I am still sad, I am comforted by the thought that grandma is now in eternal peace, freed from the confines of her frail body and mind.

My uncle and my mum, who were her primary caregivers, are relieved of their duties, and can now rest and focus on their own lives again. Mum and uncle are getting on in age and for many years it had been tough going for the both of them caring for grandma.

I am glad that I made that short trip to Kuala Terengganu and managed to see my grandma and spend some short time with her. Though I am doubtful if she recognized me (grandma had Alzheimers) it did not matter at all.

In remembrance of my Mah-Mah, I am revisiting her dishes which are very much enjoyed by our family.



Mah-Mah has a wicked kerabu called "Too Thau Bak Kerabu" which roughly translates as Pig Head Meat Kerabu. ***Silence*** Doesn't sound poetic at all does it?

Well, any member of our family who has eaten Mah-Mah's iconic kerabu will attest to fact that this kerabu can evoke only one feeling - ECSTASY. Yes, it's that bad hah...hah... hah... Grandma's kerabu has the potential of reaching cult status. Maybe it already has. Within the family of course.

The meat from the pig head is mostly from the ears and whatever flesh that can be salvaged, like the cheeks. The meat when cooked is kind of chewy and bouncy and adds to the texture of the kerabu.

I recreated grandma's recipe sans pig head. I went to Tesco and bought me a pig ear.


Oh, Mr Pig! What big ears you have! All the better for me to make kerabu with!
Eeekkkss!!! I admit I was rather squeamish when I unpacked this thing. It smelled. Ugh! So I rinsed the ear and rubbed it with salt and left it alone for 5 minutes or so. Then I rinsed and boiled it for 30 minutes, until a fork could penetrate the ear. I rinsed it again and left it to cool.


All nicely sliced. It doesn't look so scary anymore.
Once it was cool enough to handle, I sliced the ear into thin slices and placed the whole lot in the fridge. In the meatime, I prepared the sambal for the the kerabu. I used the mortar and pestle, just like Mah-Mah did, to pound shallots, belacan, chillies and dried prawns. 


The sambal. There is no need to pound it too fine. Grandma made it like this.
The vegetables for the kerabu are cucumbers, carrots and pineapples. You also have to add mint, local basil and daun kesom. To make the dressing, the sambal is mixed with lime juice, sugar and a secret ingredient. This.



If you don't have access to this smelly potion, just use regular fish sauce.


Just toss the whole lot and then have a taste. It must be sweet, sour and salty. If any of these components is lacking, just adjust by adding more. And there you have it. Heaven in a bowl.



This kerabu is so good, I tell you. It is even better if you eat this with keropok. It is sheer pleasure but I know you don't believe me. Never mind, if you don't want, I will be more than happy to take your share. Thank you.



Mah-Mah is fondly remembered and dearly missed, more so when I cook and eat her dishes. Especially this one. But please, don't miss out on this kerabu just because of the pig ear. You can substitute with chicken, squid or make it an all vegetable kerabu. It will still wow you, that I promise.















Pig Ear Kerabu
Recipe source : Phong Hong

Sambal ingredients :
- 6 red chillies
- 6 shallots
- 2 tbsp dried shrimps, soaked and drained
- 1 tbsp belacan, toasted till aromatic
Note : This amount of ingredients makes enough for about 4 servings

Dressing ingredients :
- Juice from 2 limes or more (limau nipis, not calamansi lime)
- 2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
- 2 tsp budu (optional, or to taste)
Note : This amount of dressing makes for 1 serving

Kerabu ingredients :
- 1 pig ear cleaned, boiled and sliced
- cucumbers, sliced
- carrots, grated
- pineapple, cut into small chunks
- mint, basil and daun kesum (basil and kesum finely sliced)
Note : Amount of ingredients is up to you

Method :

For the Sambal :
- Pound all the ingredients until fine.

For the Dressing :
- To make one serving, mix all the dressing ingredients with 2 tablespoons of Sambal.
- Adjust to taste.

To assemble the Kerabu :
- Put all the kerabu ingredients into a mixing bowl and toss with the dressing.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning. It must be sweet, sour and salty.
- Serve immediately. Goes very well with keropok.

54 comments:

  1. Morning Phong Hong, sorry to hear about your grandma, and yes, glad that you made that trip back in June and got to see her... Clever girl, you know how to make grandma's killer kerabu, so you can always make it and remember her.. I don't really know how to cook my mum's or mil's "trademark" dishes, sigh.. I am not a fan of kerabu, becoz of the veggies in it, but I do like one type of Thai kerabu - the chicken feet cold kerabu with onions and lime and those stuffs in it.. That one I like.. Talking about pig head (and I see pig ears here), I had "lou mei" at mil's last week, nice, made my mouth sticky after that, but I like that dish..Full of intestines, ears and stuffs like that.. Doesn't sound very nice, if you say "lei lou mei", then it's something vulgar..hehe..

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    1. Thank you, Louiz. This "lou mei" sounds like something that I would enjoy eating. But I don't understand that vulgar word leh. Better don't tell me or else I will pengsan hah..hah...

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  2. Sorry to hear about your loss.... it's really fantastic though that you are recreating all the dishes that she made for u .... the dish sounds delicious!

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    1. Thank you, Yen. I have a few more of grandma's dishes that I want to showcase.

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  3. Hi Phong Hong,
    My condolences. ... sorry about the loss of your grandma.
    Agree with you that some of the yummy dishes that our loved ones made will be fondly remembered and dearly missed. I've never eaten pig ear ... don't think I'm game enough to try though. Perhaps will substitute with chicken.

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    1. Thank you, Karen. There are many of grandma's dishes I enjoyed during my childhood. I am hoping to cook them to enjoy and share here.

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  4. Hello dear...sorry to hear about your grandma but revel in the knowledge that she lead a good long life....plus you got to see her one last time in your recent trip.

    As soon as I saw the first pic and the white cartilage, I knew instinctively that it was pig ears. Eww, I don't eat pig ears....or nose or mouth or tail! But it's great that your grandma's recipes will live on in you! From the budu, mint, basil and daun kesom, I can see that this is a really authentic kerabu recipe.

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    1. Thank you, Kris. I love pig ears hah..hah... the chap fan stall has a braised pig ear dish that I love. But there were times when they did not clean it well enough and there is an unpleasant smell.

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  5. OMG Phong Hong. Thanks for the recipe. I am so going to make this. I eat pig ears quite often as I believe the jelly-like substance is good for us...or am I kidding myself?

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    1. You mean the collagen? Yes, it's good for us hah..hah...

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  6. I'm glad to know that you are coping well. You Mah-Mah lived a long life, and she will be glad to know that she lives on in your heart.

    I'm not a big fan of kerabu of any kind, so I'll give this one a miss. You can have mine! :D

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    1. Thank you, RG. Yup, I know you prefer meat salad hah..hah...

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  7. Me sad that i am not your neighbour or colleagues....

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    1. You want some pig ear kerabu? hee..hee...

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  8. I'm hungry!!! Oooo...the sambal looks so good! Air budu? Hmmm...I've run out already - no sure if we can buy that here. :(

    God bless your grandma's soul, may she rest in peace.

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    1. Thank you, Arthur. I don't suppose it is safe to send a bottle of budu by Pos Laju? hee..hee...

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  9. Sorry to hear about your Grandma. The kerabu looks good but I also don't eat pig ear..haha

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    1. Thank you, Chris. Pig ears is nice lah hee..hee...

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  10. sorry to hear about the loss of your grandma, my deepest condolences to your family.. glad that you are coping well and cooking something to remember her.. she must be joyous at the eternal afterworld and probably knew you were cooking her best dish.. :)

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    1. Thank you, SK. Well, I grew up enjoying grandma's cooking and now I will have to recreate those dishes so that I can enjoy them now.

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  11. hey, I actually understand the "thoo tau bak".. that should be some hokkien or teochew, and I am actually a teochew.. but one thing I always heard about TTB is not something good.. for example, people complain about some dimsum for using TTB, some sausages using TTB, some steam meat mixed with TTB, it's like it's ever so notorious.. so it's surprising your late grandma could actually use it to make a delicious kerabu.. and how close was the one you cooked to hers?? hehe..

    pig's ear?? that doesn't look yucky to me because I have eaten those braised ones before on those steamboat van, though I rarely eat those nowadays.. but then true enough, the whole piece of a raw ear is indeed a little scary, haha!! and it stinks too?? ooopss, then that's a wonder how people can make it into delicious delicacies..

    so there's some special abs secret ingredients added in to give the kerabu a kick huh?? smelly portion you mentioned?? but is it really smelly?? Budu Ketereh, something totally new to me, it's the juice from the cashew fruits?? but why smelly, and it's the potion to the secret behind the kerabu, hahaha!! getting more and more confused here.. :p

    okay, I admit maybe the pig's ear may not be my like.. but probably the pig's neck meat, grilled and tossed with the kerabu.. I've tried those grilled pig's neck meat ala Thai, they are delicious!! :)

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    1. Oh, I thought you are Hokkien! I guess TTB has low status compared to other parts of the pig. But I love it hah..hah... Well, I hope that the kerabu I recreated is just as good as grandma's. I'll have to get my mum or my auntie to taste and judge hee..hee...

      I also enjoy those braised pig ears at chap fan stall but sometimes they don't clean it well and it has an unpleasant smell. Hey, that budu is not cashew juice lah. That's just the brand hah..hah... Budu is fish sauce.

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  12. Hi PH, my condolence to you and your family... Your grandma has a Blessed life.. 90s is not an easy age to achieve nowadays.. How I wish my mom could reach her 80s... I still miss her very much!! And what we have now is their hand-down recipes... that will certainly make her proud! :)

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    1. Thank you, Claire. We will always miss them won't we? I will cook more of the dishes I loved as a child.

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  13. Hmmm!!! Now I know the secrets to longevity like Mah-Mah! I must start eating pig ears so that all my tendons would be soft and lasting till 90s. What else did your Mah-Mah eat? Please share share yeah.
    My best buddy used to eat fried pig ears from the Lor Bak Stalls. He told me those with its ear wax inside was so yummy. Ewwww! Bluek!

    I am sorry to hear about your grandma's passing. She has lived a good life till the end with caring children. She knew she had to see you before she went to the land of eternity.

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    1. Thank you, TM. Well, Mah Mah drank lots of tea and she was given supplements to keep her strong. I must follow suit!

      Eekks!! Pig ear wax!! ***Pengsan***

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  14. Gone but not forgotten...your mah mah has the most beautiful garden of bougainvillaeas ... so pretty even in her old age! her henna red hair... i could spot her from far! RIP por-por!

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    1. Thank you, cousin LC. You remember her well :)

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  15. Your mah mah would be very pleased to know that you chose to remember her this way by sharing her recipe. I like kerabu but cannot take too spicy ones. I didn't know that Tesco sells pig's ears.

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    1. Mun, the pork shop at Tesco sells pig ears. Glad to know you like kerabu but less spicy ones :)

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  16. Sorry to hear that but you still have beatiful memories!
    Your Grandma's kerabu looks very exotic to me due to the type of meat used:) but when I thought about it we also use here pig ears to make one kind of sausages

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    1. Thank you, Ola. Oh, pig ears to make sausage? That's interesting!

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  17. Hi Phong Hong,
    My condolences to your family. Making her killer kerabu is such a lovely tribute to memories of her. I can see that the kerabu is a killer alright..especially with the pig's ear. Though I have never tried cooking with pig's ear before, but I really love it, especially when braised. The kerabu looks really good!

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    1. Thank you, Joyce. There are many more of grandma's dishes that I would like to share here. It's kind of bittersweet cooking and enjoying grandma's dishes.

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  18. So sorry to hear about your grandma's passing. But you are blessed with good memories of your grandma and also you can reproduce your grandma's killer kerabu recipe. Phong Hong, I want my share of the kerabu but minus the pig's ear...hehe.. You are getting me interested in trying to make my own kerabu, I will substitute with other meat. I think I will be dreaming about your kerabu tonight...hehee...

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    1. Thank you, Nancy. Dreaming of kerabu is no good - you must make it a reality! hah..hah...

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  19. i love how the meats and veggies blend in this dish.. pig ears are not new to me.. we got a local dish here that we called "bopis" and "Sisig" which both uses pig ears as main ingredients

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    1. I would love to taste bopis and sisig!

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  20. What a great recipe to remember your grandmother with! I think I too would be a little squeamish around that pigs ear!

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    1. Cathleen, grandma is a lot bolder than I am hah..hah...

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  21. Hi Phong Hong, my condolences to you and family members. I know how the feeling in on loss of a loved one irrespective of their age. Memories are good. You are doing a great job to revisit her recipes.

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    1. Thank you, Kimmy. Yes, that feeling of loss will never go away and since it is quite recent, I feel sad and teary eyed when I think of her. But I know grandma is in a better place now.

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  22. Hi Phong Hong, Sorry to hear about your grandma.
    Oh pig ears! I've never eaten a pig ear before... so mountain tortoise... hahaa but yours looks good and appetizing!

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    1. Thank you, Ann. Never mind, one day you might be lucky enough to taste a pig ear dish hah..hah...

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  23. Hi Phong Hong,
    Sorry to hear about your Mah Mah! Your fond memories of her will keep her forever in your heart. This grandma's killer Kerabu is part of that memories and we your blogger friends are so blessed because you share your memories of your Mah Mah with us.

    I brought 2 Mocha HCC to exchange some of your Kerabu. My hubby will love this Kerabu very much :D
    mui

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    1. Thank you, mui mui. Oh, how nice! HCC for kerabu is a good deal :D

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  24. Hi Phong Hong,

    I'm so sorry to hear your loss. Although your mah mah had left this world, I believe that she is still living in your heart and good that we can remember her with her delicious kerabu.

    Zoe

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    1. Thank you, Zoe. There are many more dishes to remember her by. I hope to cook those well loved dishes soon.

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  25. My condolence to you. Was there but only got to know about it one Sunday.

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    1. Thank you, Meow. Don't worry, not many people knew.

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  26. sorry to hear about your loss...all her recipes will be treasured forever, i'm sure grandma will be very proud of you, Phong Hong!

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    1. Thank you, Lena. I will cook many more of grandma's dishes :)

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