THE PASSIONS OF TUNKU AZIZAH SULTAN ISKANDAR

First Lady and Queen of Malaysia helps childless couples through her cookbooks
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A Cause Close To Her Majesty’s Heart

Four of Tunku Azizah’s children have been born to her via IVF. Photo from the Instagram account of Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan.

As someone who had tried very hard to bear a child during her early years of marriage, going through no less than 16 tries via IVF, with at least 6 miscarriages, Tunku Azizah would know first hand the pains of yearning for a child and the disappointment when it wasn’t time yet. Thus, it’s no wonder that this cause is very close to her heart. However, instead of simply asking for funding or throwing charity balls, Tunku has managed to combine two of her passions into one all-around venture in assisting childless couples seeking fertility treatments – securing the funds via sales of her cookbooks to help out the cause.

“I had published my cookbook first, then decided to set up the fertility centre to channel the proceeds to and help other parents,” shared Tunku Azizah with the media, before she was due to fly to Mongolia that very night, sometime in September 2018. “It was a way for me to give back after what God had blessed me with,” she explained.

However, the fertility foundation’s operations had been on hiatus for a few years due to lack of funds. Tunku Azizah then wanted to re-start getting funding for treatments again, and thus the updated version of Masakan Tradisional Pahang was launched. The book now contains 300 recipes compared to the 150 recipes in the previous book. It had taken Tunku Azizah about 9 months of travelling around the eleven districts of the state of Pahang, coaxing the elder village women – known to be possessive of their secret recipes – to share how their traditional meals are made.

“The book was written because I love cooking and I love learning about how dishes are prepared,” said the Queen. “I’m very traditional in cooking. I like my sambal and my belacan.” The Queen also divulged how her father encouraged her to learn how to cook when she was a young girl so that she would know if any dish was not prepared the right way by the palace cooks.

Meanwhile, her cookbook on traditional Pahang desserts, Air Tangan Tengku Puan Pahang – Manisan Tradisional Pahang, saw her again travelling around Pahang, this time for 6 months. However, the Tunku said she was ashamed to say that it took her almost 10 years to complete the book.

Tunku Azizah with both her books, Air Tangan Tengku Puan Pahang – Masakan Tradisional Pahang and Air Tangan Tengku Puan Pahang – Manisan Tradisional Pahang.

Of course, there is no shame in giving your best to ensure good results, no matter how long it may take. This is especially so when the production of the book is funded by the Tunku herself, with all proceeds going to the Tunku Azizah Fertility Foundation. Let’s not forget the physical labour from travelling around Pahang, visiting the villages, cooking with the aunties, and even replicating the dishes for photography for the books. Each photo you see in the books are of dishes that were prepared by the Tengku herself, each recipe also written by her.

One of the dishes prepared by Tunku Azizah – Fried Quail in Spicy Sauce. Photo from cheminahsayang.com.

Meanwhile, it is totally understandable that a Crown Princess (as she was during the production of the book) with official duties could not be expected to focus 100 percent of her time towards just one project. In between trips to New York, London, Milan and other global cities on official United Nations-related activities, Tunku tried to squeeze in as much time as possible working on her books.

“The editing took 6-7 times. The manuscript travelled with me around the world,” shared Tunku. “It followed me on my duties at the UN in New York, London and other cities, and I would work on it on flights, with 13 hours on my own.”

To ensure that all the effort has been worth the while, the Tunku has published 10,000 copies of Masakan and 10,000 copies of Manisan, with the proceeds projected to be able to fund fertility treatments for up to 200 couples. 

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