Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sirap Selasih!


Hari Raya is upon us. We didn't do much visiting this year, just to the house of a good friend on Friday. Growing up, my mother brought us to the house of her Malay colleague every Raya and all of us kids (my siblings and cousins) would devour the rendang, pulut panggang and satay Miss Hadiah and her family prepared. As we grew older and moved away from home, Raya is usually spent in KL, unless it happened to coincide with our trips back home. If we happen to be home, we look forward to the pot of rendang that my neighbour would hand over the fence to my mother, without fail every year.

The weather is ALWAYS scorching hot during Raya (and also Chinese New Year). It's weather mystery; everyone has to bake in the sun in their best festive garb or else it's not legit. This year, surprisingly, the clouds and rain early in the morning tempered the weather somewhat, making it at least comfortable to be outdoors, without the coolness of the air-conditioning.

I am not up to baking anything fancy this year, but I did search high and low for the ultimate recipe for sirap selasih, my all-time favourite beverage. During normal times, this drink can be ordered from everywhere, from mamak stalls to family restaurants. But it is during Raya that family recipes make a grand appearance and the drink becomes even more delicious with all kinds of secret ingredients.

I thought I'd Google it but didn't realise how hard it was be to find a recipe. Most of the offerings online used store-bought rose syrup, but I wanted to make it from scratch. The general version is to mix rose syrup with water and add biji selasih (basil seeds). For sirap bandung, just add condensed or evaporated milk. No way was I going to trivialise my favourite drink in the whole world with such a non-recipe! It's like serving the family Maggi Mi for the Chinese New Year reunion dinner! Shock, horror, faint!

After searching for hours, I found three decent recipes, and combined them! So here is MY secret formula to the perfect sirap, which I shall share with you!

Add 3 cups sugar to 3 cups water in a pot. Add in 4 pandan leaves and bring to boil. Once all the sugar is dissolved, add 1 cinnamon stick, 5 cardamon pods and 8 cloves. Right about now, you will smell the fragrance of the pandan leaves and the spices. Add 1 egg white into the mixture. This clarifies the syrup and gives it that rich taste the store-bought variety is devoid of. It looks like a big old mess while cooking, but don't worry. We'll strain everything once done. Let simmer for 20 minutes, or until syrup thickens. Strain and let cool. Once cool, add 3 drops of rose pink colouring and 5 drops of rose essence. In a separate bowl, soak 1 tablespoon of biji selasih. In a few minutes, the little seeds would expand and begin to look like frog eggs. Keep aside.

To make the drink, add 1 part syrup, 4 parts water and 1 part soda water. Omit the soda water and replace with water if you don't want your sirap sparkling. Add 2 tablespoons of evaporated milk and 1 tablespoon biji selasih per glass. Add ice cubes and serve! You can also omit the evaporated milk if you prefer. Either way, it's delicious!

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