Nope! This is not going to be a post about Prince William’s royal consort-to-be…but a woman that we used to know a number of years ago.
When I was young, there would be little Malay boys with a basket and the things in it covered with a Good Morning towel and they would walk around the neighbourhood calling out, “Pulut panggang! Pulut panggang!” From that, we came out with this little ditty: “Pulut panggang…kayu api (firewood)…orang bujang (bachelor)…cari bini (looking for a wife).”
More recently, however, there was a woman named Kate who would cycle around the kampung (village) and other parts of town selling what everyone would declare to be the best pulut panggang in the world! Eventually, she disappeared from the scene and we did not know exactly where she got those pulut panggang from. What we knew was that she did not make them herself. As a result, these past few years, we had to make do with whatever reasonably good ones that we could find around town.
Now, what exactly is pulut panggang?
It is simply pulut (glutinous rice) in rich, thick santan (coconut milk) and wrapped with banana leaves and cooked over an open fire (which, I guess, explains the kayu api in the rhyme).
What makes a good pulut panggang is it must be lemak enough…
…meaning that the maker must be generous and not scrimp on the coconut milk. One that is “tak cukup lemak (not rich enough)” would fail the acid test…and there would be no second time – nobody would buy it ever again.
Besides, it must be cooked to perfection…
– just enough to taste the panggang fragrance but not too much to the extent that there is a hard overcooked outer layer all around.
Many would eat it as it is but usually, I would eat mine with a bit of sugar or condensed milk or kaya (coconut jam)…and true pulut panggang connoisseurs would scornfully scoff at those 2nd class ones with sambal inside that can be found in Kuching and elsewhere.
All this while,I would get my pulut panggang from a stall at Rejang Park here in Sibu at 50 sen each…and then, it went up to 60 sen…and eventually 70 sen. The last time I bought some, it was still 70 sen each but it had shrunk to half the size. The ones sold at the coffee shop at the Sibu Medical Centre probably came from the same supplier for they were quite similar in quality and taste. They would do fine if you do not eat them together as you would not feel the vast difference between them and Kate’s pulut panggang.
Imagine my delight when I found them being sold at my regular Bandong Malay kuih stall! They’re RM1.00 each but never mind because they’re very long! As you can see from the first photograph, one is as long as a fork…and most importantly, they taste as good as ever. I quickly bought some and my mother whose appetite had not been so good lately, finished one all by herself in one sitting.
If you love pulut panggang, I must say that you do not know pulut panggang until you have eaten Kate’s pulut panggang. It’s second to none…