Kak Nah and Kak Dah are not locals to the district of Setiu in Terengganu, a state in the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia.
But being married to local men there, the two women had to learn the culinary art of making fermented fish, the pekasam.
Unlike the salted fish that are available in many other parts of the country, the pekasam is not salted and dried. Small Scad fish is clean, belly cut away, and placed in layers, alternating with layers of salt, inside an urn.
Then it is covered tightly with a cloth tied over the top to prevent flies. It is usually left to ferment for at least a month but Kak Dah, who couldn’t resist, would dig out the fish after a few weeks. “I can just eat fried minced pekasam with only hot rice,” she said.
This fermented fish is prepared months before the monsoon season starts when fishermen would pull up their boats to sit out the rainy weather for three months. The urn of pekasam will then sit prominently in most kitchens, adding flavours to meals served.
The fermented flesh of the fish is usually minced and added into beaten eggs to fry into omelettes or used to stir fry with vegetables. For generations the pekasam has served to whet the appetite and warms the tummy during the Monsoon season.
Sometimes the women would make bottles of these pekasam and give it away as gifts for relatives and friends in other parts of the state, especially those who stay in the hills.
Siks Mikah travels frequently & believes that humility opens doors inward and outward.