With the advent of cheap air fares, migration and globalization around the world, I am guessing that most people know what satay is or you’ve most definitely eaten some variation of satay and maybe just didn’t know it.
If you still haven’t discovered satay then I guess it’s safe to assume that you have been living under a rock and really need to get out more!
Satay in it’s simplest form is meat marinated in SE Asian spices which is skewered on a stick and grilled. It is traditionally served with a peanut sauce.
Most people will have tasted satay in Thai restaurants but Malaysians and Indonesians claim it for their own and there is a hot debate on whether it is even Thai. This is not to say that we’re not grateful to the Thais for promoting it, we just wish they hadn’t claimed it.
Why all this chatter about satay? Because I want to write about satay’s best and not so famous side kick the humble nasi impit. In Malaysia, a dish of satay is always accompanied by nasi impit which is also sometimes known as ketupat.
Nasi impit is rice which is traditionally stuffed in packets of pandan leaves and steamed. Nasi impit is also sometimes served with rendang (Malaysian curry).
Nasi impit which is bland makes a perfect base for dipping in rich peanut sauces and spicy curries. Nowadays, you can buy boil at home packets which will make almost instant nasi impit so that you don’t have to slave away at the traditional laborious process.
Of course it doesn’t really taste the same, just as instant ramen doesn’t really taste like real noodle soup. The best part of opening a pandan leaf packet of nasi impit was always the wonderful fragrance and flavor of the pandan leaves emitting from the hot rice.
Convenience in cooking may save time but we sometimes sacrifice flavor and tradition. Making nasi impit was a generational family activity where people gathered to learn from their elders and help pass the tradition.
So we may have gained free time but we lost a pretty good memory making tradition and skill.