The Satai vendor

October 3, 2009

The notes on the reverse side of this postcard from pre-1942 Singapore are as follows:

Meat previously boiled in fat & left to harden. Then 5 pieces strung on stick & kept in box.  Over box is cinder fire with wires over.  Stick with meat then roasted over.  When done each stick sold at 1 cent.  May be dipped once in one of 3 pots containing (1) chilli sauce (sweetened) (2) chilli sauce (unsweetened) (3) chilli sauce mixed with vinegar.

By side of box is matting (?) containing boiled rice & beans – cut up.  May be dipped into chilli sauce.  Only beef used.  Pork forbidden.  Mutton expensive.

The Satai Vendor.  S’pore.

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These recipes appear in a section on Indian food  The recipe for Ding ding is worth repeating in full given its complexity and the fact that it took several days to prepare, depending on the weather.  It was eaten (providing it hadn’t been forgotten about) with rice to which a little mulgatannie (pepper water), or sour milk had been added.

The recipe for pepper water follows on the next page of his notebook and was made from a tablespoon of black pepper, “1/2 tennis ball full of tamberind” (sic), 2 teaspoons of salt and a pint of water.  My father would have been unfamiliar with most of the spices, of course, and his spellings varied accordingly, especially in the early months.

Presumably one full tennis ball could only be measured by two halves.

Ding ding

This is made out of  4 lbs of beef or mutton.  Slice 1/2  inch thick say 4″ x 6″ without the bone.  Do not touch water (don’t wash it).  Then powder finely a tea cup full (1/4 lb) of pepper (black Indian pepper).  Buy 2 cents worth (1 tablespoonfull) of loose cloves and cinnamon & powder finely.  Also buy 2 cents (1 tablespoonfull) tumeric (or saffron) & powder finely with 1 tablepoonfull of  coriender & a teaspoonfull of mustard.  All the above to be finely powdered & mixed together.

Now you take each piece of meat & chop finely with a blunt knife to smash the pieces up without cutting up the slices completely.  Mix the meat with salt at the same time, rubbing the salt well in.  Place the meat cutlets in a bowl one on top of the other, reversing the heap after the first half hour.

After that hour take each slice of meat & rub it well with the above powder which has previously been mixed with 1 pint of English vinegar & place it on an iron sheet or cement in the sun.  Reverse the pieces occasionally as drying takes place.  Do this for a week (the slices become small & hard with drying) or less in really fine weather.

When dry, place the slices in a gunny (jute bag) or earthen pot and place same near a warm place such as close to an oven.

When required for use, take a few pieces of meat, wash them in equal parts vinegar & water (just a little), & fry it in ghee or butter or olive oil..

Beef usually gives a better taste, the best parts being the rump & loins.

On the second day of drying if it is found that the slices look too bare (lack of dark colour) it is possible to powder some more pepper with a little cloves, then mixing the latter with salt & vinegar.  Then rub the meat & dry as usual.

The recipe for coconut curry strikes me as somewhat misnamed given that the main ingredient was sardines or herring, the ratio of coconut to sardines being 1/2 coconut to 50 sardines.  The principal spices were temeric, cummin (sic) and green chillies.  My father put a question mark after cumin as he wondered whether it really meant caraway.

Book C (pp. 234-237)