22 June 2011
The perfect 'tapai'
My mom was becoming very restless. She's been here about a week, with the intent of helping me out with the kids' breakfast and lunch boxes while I recuperate from my operation just over a week ago. So I asked her to make some tapai (rice-wine), since I have some beras pulut (glutinous rice) and sasad (yeast,) leftover from my last effort (that would be months ago). (Being me, I can't help but feel that tradition should be carried out by those who can, no matter that I don't drink alcoholic drinks myself).
The tapai-making session turned out to be an eye-opener for me. Strange, I thought I knew all there was to know about making tapai. Turned out that like any other type of learning, it's a continuous process.
The first comment I got from Mom was "you need a proper cooling-mat" (which would ideally be a recycled sugar or rice sack, the white woven type that normally holds 50kg of rice). Mom said that if you don't cool the cooked rice properly, there's a chance that the tapai would turn sour instead of bitter or bitter-sweet. Because I don't have one of those, she had to be contented with using my rilibu (winnowing basket).
Her second comment was that I was not supposed to store my yeast in the fridge, even though they are in an air-tight container. "The best tapai can only be produced by using properly-dried yeast", said Mom. She took the bunch of yeast out and dried them under the sun-thankfully the sun shone gloriously yesterday.
She cooked 5kg of beras pulut in my giant rice-cooker (and complained that the fragrance of the rice would have been much nicer cooked in a large pot on a hearth over suduon (firewood)). After, she let the rice cool on the winnowing basket, and hours later, after the bunch of yeast were crisp from the sun, she put them in a zipped bag, and crush them with a rolling-pin. (In her own place, she would have used a custom-made pestle for that purpose). She mixed the yeast with the rice well, and stored them in two of my empty jars.
A month from now, the tapai would be good to consume, either as siopon (to be taken straight from the tajau using a straw) or lihing (rice-wine.
Mom's tapai has always been perfect, while mine varies from bitter to sourish. Good thing the lesson she gave had made me aware of the reason for the sourish taste now.