Final Writing: Kitchen Story: Beef Curry and Roti Jala (Fiction)

Haura Nabila Rinaldi / 180410150051

Kitchen is the most important part of our family. We share our stories, recipes, and jokes there. Other than dinner table and tv room, kitchen is the place where we talk about everything – days at work, school, and so on. Our kitchen isn’t that big – like those on IKEA with island and lamps hanging from the celling – but it is actually quite small and simple. Once you enter this square-shaped kitchen, the first thing you’ll notice is the kitchen door. It was from some kind of black metal net with some black metal ornaments. On the front door, you can hang (kain lap) and there is a small “Home Sweet Home” sign from clay hanging next to it. On the right side of the kitchen, there is a big spice cabinet from wood. It’s not full with bottle of spices, though. Across it, there’s a sink and drawers with spices, different kinds of flour, and cooking utensils. It’s a small but neat kitchen, though mom wanted the big ones.

Nana and I are the most kitchen users in the house. Mom uses the kitchen more on weekends rather on weekdays, but sometimes she cooks instant noodle or heating some leftovers at night on weekdays after she arrived from her workplace. Dad uses the kitchen more than mom, though, as he mostly do his work at home. He would made us lunch on weekends such as barbeques on the table which is my favorite. But the most favorite dishes of all time were the Sumatran dishes, which was nana’s hometown’s dish. She loves to make curries, daun ubi tumbuk, roti jala, that tauco thingy, and noodles. Not all of us can make those dishes. Those foods are only served when we asked for it or because there is some gathering, usually families or mom’s old schoolmates. But sometimes we like to request the food on non-special occasions.

The most favourite dishes that always served on gatherings were curries and roti jala. On family gatherings or special occasions like Eid Fitr day, people would like that more than any other dishes. It’s very unique, I could say; you can’t find it on any other house. Funny fact is we do know who do what. I guess it was part of our habits. Nana would be stationed in the kitchen as she made the curry. I usually helped her too by making roti jala. I would make it on the different side of the kitchen and using portable stove, so I would not distracted nana from her cooking. If I were not available, my sister would do. But she usually do it half ways only and suddenly disappear by claiming “I am done, I did lots of it and now I’m tired” and mom or nana would continue her work. Such irritating.

Nana made her curries special, I could say. She rarely used those instant ways and more prefer to the traditional ways. She preferred to use fresh spices and herbs such as chili pepper, lemongrass, coconut milk, curry leaves, coriander, cumin, red onion, garlic, cardamom, ground white pepper, turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. Dad, on the other hand, tried to make nana’s curry, once. He preferred to use curry paste or powder from Malaysia, which he usually brought it there. It was fish curry paste. The result was way different. Nana’s curry was still the best.

Later that night, mom sat with me and nana in front of the television. Nana was knitting when mom just arrived from her work. She talked about the usual traffic jam between Pondok Indah and Lebak Bulus. There was a MRT construction along the road that disturbed people who passed by. Traffic was always bad, especially today on Friday. She went with her friend but she dropped her before she arrived home. And there is a long pause after she finished her story. Then she continued.

“Nan, I think my friend will come to the house,” She said.

“Your friends? When?”, asked Nana.

“About two weeks later my friends from my elementary school will come. You know some of them, right? They want to have the gathering here at the house. Is it okay?” she said while scrolling down her phone looking for her used to be best pal at her old elementary school.

“It’s alright. But you know, your sister asked me to visit her to Australia to help them move to another house, again” She explained. Mom’s sister is currently living in Australia with her husband and five kids. They moved a lot because her husband seems to have interest of their houses and sell it quite often. One of their children, Kate, once counted how many times they ever moved from houses to houses “because dad sold it to another person”, like she said – and it was around 13 times.

“They moved again?” “Yeah, I need to help her”

“But they want your curry and roti jala, I can’t make one”

Nan sighed.

“You want me to teach you?”, she asked. “Yeah but tomorrow would do, ‘kay?”, mom said. Then she stands and walked to her room, leaving a small click sound on her door. Nana continued her knitting while watching the television. I asked nana what did mom said before and she began to explain to me about her gathering. She adds some information about mom’s elementary school best friend and so on. Though, I didn’t really care about it.

The next morning, mom, nana, and I were in the kitchen. Nana already gathered some materials for her to cook curry and roti jala. Before, she went on her garden to pluck out some curry leaves, chilies, and kaffir lime leaves. She had lots of herbs and spices on her garden. It was next to the television room on the back. Still, I rarely went there even though nana or dad asked me to gather something because sometimes if you’re lucky there is a huge lizard passing by and once mom thought it was a komodo dragon – which shocked dad for a second.

Mom prepared the roti jala batter for me to cook. It was easy actually, the batter was the same as pancake batter – flour, eggs, water, milk or coconut milk, a dash of oil and a tiny pinch of salt – but it was more liquid. Usually if there is a gathering which has more than twenty guests, we use only a kilogram of flour. But if there are more than twenty guests, we use two kilos or even more.

The kitchen was busy. I love the atmosphere when the kitchen is active. Sounds of hot bubbles on the edge of the pot, whirling from hand mixer mixing the batter and the exhaust fan on the celling adds on my favorite list. While mom mixing the batter, nana put the cooked beef onto the boiling water and let it sit there. After a while, she adds the potatoes and some herbs to the boiling water. Then on the other stove, she heated the pan for frying the curry seasoning.

Dad suddenly showed up.

“What are you making?”, he asked.

“Beef curry and roti jala,” mom answered. The batter she mixed then strained to another bowl so there was no crumpling flour on the batter.

“What’s the occasion?” “Practicing for the upcoming gathering” “Isn’t it supposed to be nana who makes the curry?” “She can’t, she have to go to Australia”

Dad nods and asked why. Then he observed what nana and mom did. I started to prepare my space for making the roti jala.

“You should be the one who tried to make this”, Mom added.

“Ah, but I have the curry paste and it’s easy to make! It will take less time too!” Dad went to the fridge hurriedly and grabbed a medium-sized bag which says “Fish Curry” on English and Bahasa. It was blue and there was a picture of a red fish on the front.

She rolled her eyes. “But you never tried it! Might taste different because it’s a fish curry”, She gave me the batter that has been strained and I turned on my portable stove on the other side of the kitchen.

“Alright” and he asked nana how to.

“How long do the beef need to be cooked?” he asked, opening the lid that reveals the hot bubbly curry.

“Half an hour is enough. Or if you want for hours long, it would be better. The longer the beef is cooked, the tender it will be” Nana answered.

“Yeah, as long as he remembers it” I added. Mom giggled and dad gave us his usual sigh and glare. Yeah, last time he burned the pot that contains hard-boiled egg and his water kettle to make coffee. Long story short, it’s ugly.

He continued by helping nana fried the seasoning for the curry. She put a little oil, chopped onion, chopped garlic, spoonful of curry powder, half glass of water, some cumin, and galangal all in order. The sizzle sound excites me from afar. After it is done, he poured the seasoning mixture to the beef pot and stirred it. The smell of curry filled the air and made us hungry. Dad tried to taste it a bit but instead he filled up his bowl and eats up. Mom laughed.

I, on the other side of the kitchen, prepared the roti jala on the portable stove. I learned to make it since I was on junior high. Nana gave me the wide pan that we usually use for making roti jala. I spread some butter on the pan so the batter won’t stick to the pan. To make the web, nana gave me the funny looking funnel to do it. The mold was shaped like a cup made of aluminum, had three small funnel on the side and a handle on the other side. When the pan is hot, pour the mixture from the mold by moving it in circular shape and make it like a spider web. There’s no need to cook both sides because it’s thin. Once one of the edges was curled up, removed from the pan and put it on the plate. Nana taught me to roll it like a spring rolls – fold the sides and roll.

Making roti jala took a lot of time to do it. After a whole two hours, the roti jala was finally done. Nana gathered all of us to eat on the dining table. Mom then asked dad. “Did you still remember the steps? I might be busy for other stuff so you might do it yourself,” she said. Dad let a small cough and said “perhaps”.

It’s the night before mom’s old elementary school gathering and she already prepared anything. Nana was already at Australia couple of days before. Dad was just arrived from Batam, as he was quite often gone there for having a business trip.

“Tomorrow, the gathering will be start at ten and I want you to help me preparing foods, plates, cutlery, and so on. So wake up early. Dad will unroll some of the carpets and vacuum it” Mom explained throughout her dinner. She looked at my sister and said that she needed her help too.

“So you need to wake up early, too” she continued.

“Ahh… but I don’t want to. I’m so laaaaazy to wake up in the morning. It’s weekend,” she complained. Mom just gave her a glare and continued her dinner.

In the kitchen, she already boiled the beef for an hour or two and then the turn the stove off. She closed the pot with a lid and left it there. “Tomorrow, dad will just cook the seasoning and add it here”, she said. She looked at me and continued “we need to prepare the plates and cutlery, Bia” and then I followed her to the cabinet to prepare all the serving plates, cutleries, bowls for eating roti jala, and so on. Then, we went to our rooms to have a rest.

At six in the morning, we did what mom ordered yesterday. Everyone was busy except, well, my sister. Mom did the roti jala batter for me too cook it. Dad was still vacuuming the last carpet. After he’s done, he went to the kitchen with me. He took out his Malaysian fish curry and read the instructions.

“Shouldn’t you use nana’s curry recipe?”, I asked.

“Yeah but I’m so curious about this powder. It’s curry, too. I really want to try it”, he said.

“What about-“

“I did tell mom and she said it’s okay”, he opened the bag and added the powder to the cooked seasoning and when it’s done, he added to the beef pot. Just like nana did.

Mom popped up and tasted the curry. “It’s… different. Fishy.”

“I hope they like it, though”, he said.

Finally, it was around ten. The beef curry and roti jala was served at the table. Mom’s guests tried the curry and roti jala. It was the star of the day, I could say, because it’s finished for just couple of hours. Even though it tasted different, I guess they liked it. One of mom’s friend commented on the curry by asking me why it was different than she used to eat. I explained to her that it was dad’s curry and not nana’s and nana went abroad. Dad used different curry powder. Mom continued chat with her.

Her guests finally went home around three. We cleaned up the plates and all. It was a tiring day. Dad asked mom and I about their comments to the curry. Mom told dad “one of my friend realized it was different. She preferred nana’s than yours”. Dad let a sigh and said “it was just an experiment, though.”

I laughed and continued “yeah, nana’s better”.

“Next time, we’re using nana’s curry rather than dad’s”, mom said giggling.

He never used that fish curry anymore until today, even though the bag is still on the fridge.

Word count: 2342