PETALING JAYA, Aug 26 — Malaysian home cook Noor Azah Johari has launched a YouTube channel named Senduk Kayu to promote authentic Malay food with a wider audience.

Born into a family of passionate home cooks in Kedah, Azah, 60, began honing her skills in the kitchen from the age of seven and learned how to prepare signature dishes from her hometown.

With her charming northern accent and maternal warmth, the Sungai Petani native is now making videos to share these recipes and encourage the younger generation to prepare classic local dishes with fresh ingredients and no artificial additives.

“My director and I wanted to work on something that focused on Kedahan food.

“I wanted to show forgotten recipes using the freshest possible ingredients at a minimum cost.

“That was our main aim. I like to use natural ingredients because we live in Asia and we have access to things like natural food colouring and fresh coconut milk.

“I want to promote this kind of attitude towards food and encourage young people to cook,” Azah told Malay Mail.

Azah began working on her YouTube channel with her husband Shah Shariff and director Iqmal Mustaffa at the end of 2019 and they began filming videos in February this year.

They put production on hold temporarily when the movement control order kicked in but Azah managed to post her first Senduk Kayu video in June, just in time for the Hari Raya celebrations.

She shared her tips and tricks for making the perfect gulai tulang ikan talang masin (salted queenfish fishbone curry) in an easy-to-follow manner while explaining the role of each ingredient and its importance to the dish.

Azah said she usually rings up her family members for opinions when deciding what recipes to showcase next on her channel.

“My recipe development involves calling up my sisters and my grandaunts and asking them for their advice on what I should make for the channel.

“After that, I write down the recipe and test it before we start shooting the videos.”

She also has recipes for other mouthwatering northern Malay dishes like bihun sup utara with sambal merah (northern vermicelli soup with red sambal) and nasi lemuni with sambal nyiok (lemuni rice with coconut sambal) on her channel.

The mother-of-four has lived all over the world and spent 20 years in countries like India, Thailand, Libya, Australia, Newfoundland, and Saudi Arabia before she returned home to Malaysia nine years ago.

During that time, Azah embarked on a quest to learn about international cuisines and attended classes to learn how to cook dishes like the Moroccan tagine and pastries like French croissants.

Even as she expanded her culinary repertoire, Azah continued to prepare Malaysian food for her daughters so that they would always have a connection to their roots.

“It’s important for my kids to know Malaysian culture and our local celebrations, like Chinese New Year, Deepavali, and Hari Raya,” she said.

Azah (right) with her husband Shah Shariff, who helps caption her videos in addition to being assistant director, assistant photographer and producer. — Picture courtesy of Noor Azah Johari
Azah (right) with her husband Shah Shariff, who helps caption her videos in addition to being assistant director, assistant photographer and producer. — Picture courtesy of Noor Azah Johari

Azah’s friends from abroad have also suggested that she make dishes from their countries on her YouTube channel so she can introduce international cuisines to a Malaysian audience.

For now, she’s content with continuing to promote classic Kedahan cuisine in her videos.

“For me, I don’t think I can show a recipe from Johor for example because I do not know the history, ingredients, and the story behind the dish.

“It’s my social responsibility and if I want to put something online, I have to do the research and give the right information.

“I take that very seriously. When it comes to my home state of Kedah, I know the recipes well because I grew up eating it, making it, and talking to people about it.”

Senduk Kayu now has over 520 subscribers and Azah enjoys engaging with her viewers and replying to their comments on her videos.

The best part is getting positive feedback from someone who gave her recipe a try and achieved delicious results.

“I’ve had positive feedback from viewers who said my recipes are easy and simple to follow.

“When they tell me they made it for their family and everyone loved it, that’s the best reward.”

You can check out more of Azah’s videos on her YouTube channel here.