KUANTAN: When it comes to the favourite foods of the newly-installed King and Queen, one must ask none other than Hasnah Koming.
The 65-year-old Hasnah is the cook at Istana Abdulaziz here.
So, what food tingles the taste buds of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, and the Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah?
Ordinary kampung food, said Hasnah without hesitation during an interview with Bernama.
Their Majesties are not fussy about their meals and among the dishes that they usually eat is the local opor.
The opor, whether it comes with chicken or any other bird or beef, is Sultan Abdullah’s favourite food besides ikan patin masak tempoyak, fish curry and ikan masak taucu.
“Tunku Azizah likes to eat masak kicap and asam pedas dishes as well as beef stew. As for vegetables, both of them like petola tumis air, mixed fried vegetables, sawi masak sos tiram and kobis masak lemak.
“Many find it hard to believe that Their Majesties like simple food. They think the menu here (at Istana Abdulaziz) is special every day,” she said.
Hasnah joked that she does not know how to cook complicated dishes and that she developed her skills only after being recruited as a kitchen assistant in 1980 at Istana Abu Bakar in Pekan, Pahang.
She picked up tips from the previous cook and she has also passed them on to the younger kitchen assistants.
Interestingly, Hasnah, who is called Mak (mother) by most of the palace staff, actually retired in 2015 but was recalled because Their Majesties like her cooking.
“When I cook for Sultan Abdullah, the dish is mildly spicy but Tunku Azizah loves it to be very spicy. So we have to know how to balance the dishes so that both of them can enjoy the same food,” she said.
Hasnah said Tunku Azizah, who is a good cook herself, never gets angry if the dish of the day is not up to the mark but she will gently point out how it can be improved.
She said Her Majesty has given her tips on cooking Johor food and is an expert in the kitchen who can cook food in large quantities for palace banquets.
Sultan Abdullah loves home-cooked food so much that he will eat before leaving for any official function or, if he is short on time, he will eat after returning to the palace, she said.
“He does not like wasting food. If I had cooked curry for dinner, it will be reheated the next day for him to eat with roti canai or capati,” she said.
Hasnah said the palace kitchen will normally open with preparations for lunch as His Majesty’s breakfast will be food that has been bought, such as nasi lemak, roti canai or capati. For tea, the items bought will be delicacies like curry puff, jemput pisang and kuih talam.
Describing their personalities, Hasnah said both Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah are caring when it comes to their employees and will instruct the palace kitchen to provide lunch even when they are not home.
“They are also very concerned about guests. For instance, Tunku Azizah often reminds that meals must always be provided for all guests. If they arrive unexpectedly, they should be served with whatever is in the kitchen.
“At the very least, guests at Istana Abdulaziz must be given a drink. She always says that whoever comes is a guest and those who work here must know what needs to be done,” she said.
Hasnah said Sultan Abdullah will often take along food like sambal bilis kacang and rendang dendeng whenever he goes overseas while Tunku Azizah will take along acar buah.
She said she will never forget Tunku Azizah’s sambal belacan which Her Majesty will often give as gifts to close friends and local and foreign dignitaries.
“Those who know about her sambal belacan will look for it whenever they go to Istana Abdulaziz. We usually keep a stock of it in small bottles in our fridge.
“Here, we call it sambal belacan dunia as it has gone all over the globe. In fact, some of Tunku Azizah’s friends will ask for it when their stock runs out,” she said.