Housewife Sohanah Mohamed Eusoff, 58, knows that the way to the hearts of her two sons is through their stomachs.
It takes one text message - that she is cooking their favourite dish of sardines and pineapple in tangy and spicy coconut sauce - to whet their appetite and entice them to rush home for dinner.
Mr Muhammad Sharizzat, 29, a search engine optimisation specialist with e-commerce platform ShopBack, says: "When my mother cooks this dish, she will text me to say that she's cooked something that I like."
Mr Sharizzat shares his mother's recipe as part of ShopBack's free online cookbook For Mum, With Love. It was launched last month, in conjunction with Mother's Day, and features 18 recipes contributed by employees.
Other recipes include beetroot-cured salmon, braised pork ribs mee sua soup, prawn noodles and ondeh ondeh.
Ms Sohanah created the homely dish for her sons because they do not usually like eating fish.
"Fish usually has a lot of bones, which they do not like to handle. But when I cook with sardines, along with the spicy and sour flavours, they will eat it," says the soft-spoken mother, who cooks every day.
Indeed, the sauce packs quite a fiery punch and is also versatile. Ms Sohanah recommends using it as a base for cooking other types of fish as well as prawns. One can also use it with chicken, she says, but without adding the pineapple as the fruit goes better with seafood.
It is also important, she stresses, for the pineapple to be cooked with the rempah, as its juices add to the flavour of the sauce.
For those who prefer a less spicy gravy, use red chillies instead of chilli padi and the seeds can be removed as well.
Ms Sohanah chuckles when The Sunday Times starts counting the number of chilli padi - 11 in the recipe - she has used and says that she typically uses at least 15.
"In our house, you have to eat spicy," adds Mr Sharizzat, a bachelor, whose 32-year-old brother is a safety coordinator.
There is also minimal fuss to this one-pot dish, says Ms Sohanah. "The dish is simple and you don't need to fry the rempah first, so the kitchen remains clean. You also don't need too much salt because the sardines are already salty."
The creative cook has many dishes up her sleeve, although she is humble about it. Mr Sharizzat shares that some of her homemade specialities include soup tulang with a tomato sauce base, curry powder and chilli; yellow egg noodles with tomato sauce; and fried chicken made with a mix of dark soya sauce, light soya sauce, oyster sauce, chilli and garlic.
While he sheepishly admits that he cannot cook, it is clear that he is mum's biggest fan and is eagerly awaiting for Hari Raya Puasa to arrive so that she will whip up her special sambal.
He says: "My mum does a premium version of sambal with cockles or squid. I love chilli, so I look forward to that the most."
• Download For Mum, With Love online at http://bit.ly/shopback-cookbook.
SARDINES AND PINEAPPLE IN TANGY AND SPICY COCONUT SAUCE
For the rempah
- 3 to 5 whole garlic cloves, skin removed
- 1 large onion, skin removed and chopped into wedges
- 1 5cm-long fresh turmeric, skin removed and sliced
- 3 red chilli (seeds optional)
- 11 red chilli padi (seeds optional)
- 300ml water
- 1 lemongrass, sliced into 5cm-long pieces and crushed with a pestle or the back of a knife
- 150ml coconut milk
- 1 pineapple, skin and core removed, sliced into quarters
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cans (425g each) of sardines
- Soak the dried tamarind slices in a small bowl of warm water. Partially cover the bowl (about half-way) and leave the tamarind to soak for about 30 minutes.
- Place the garlic, onion, turmeric and chillies in a blender. Add water and blend until you get a smooth texture for the rempah.
- Pour the rempah into a wok, then add the lemongrass and tamarind along with its soaking liquid. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk, pineapple and salt. Stir and let it simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Finally, add the sardines. Cook for another eight to 10 minutes. Serve hot with rice.
Serves four to six
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.