His Majesty the Sultan’s Bday!

Another belated post.

For those who don’t know, just days prior to his birthday on 15 July, our beloved Sultan, amongst other things, called for the postponement of all celebrations that would involve huge congregations of people to minimize the spread of the Swine Flu.

Nightly stage performances at the padang in all four districts have now been put on hold, together with the dreams of little-town performers who’ve been practicing and waiting for months for their break to global stardom. I suppose they can wait a couple more months.

In Tutong, the plan was to have the foodstalls in the under-utilised multi-million dollar Tutong Pasarneka Complex (the Tutong tamu). I’m sure I’ve mentioned the place before, if not, that’s another post coming. More specifically the the “gerai jualan” have been located below the huge canvas structure that looks like a well-formed meringue. In principle this plan is excellent, making use of a beautiful complex that’s been used twice a week only hitherto, and providing excellent protection from the elements day or night. But the traffic and parking would be a nightmare!

Anyway, a couple of us went there tadi patang to hunt for “padang” staples.

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The famous Sotong Tutok stall

The famous Sotong Tutok stall

This Sotong Tutok stall is manned literally by the men of one big happy family. The dried squid is grilled over hot coal and then beaten to a pulp, and then poured over with spicy chili sauce (a family secret). The body part of the sotong costs you $1, while the more popular janggut (tentacles) $2. [Maurina, this was the one I was telling you about]

Bags of sotong tutok

Bags of sotong tutok

Another staple during perayaan is the Kacang Kuda (steamed/boiled chick peas). As with the Talur Kuda in my earlier post, I’ve never quite understood the association of the humble chick peas with horses. (But why are they called “chick” peas??) But perhaps because ignorance is bliss, or simply because I just couldn’t care less, I buy them anyway.

Kacang Kuda

Kacang Kuda

The perfect Kacang Kuda needs to be soft and should melt in your mouth, with a perfect balance of sweet and salty.

Due to the aforementioned postponement of “acara padang”, there’s a noticeable lacklustre feeling in the “gerai jualan”. What would normally be a collection of over a hundred foodstalls have dwindled this year to 15-20 only. And I’ve been told that crowds aren’t exactly thronging to the stalls during the “festivities” either. I sensed the vendors were only too pleased to see us five this evening – if with an equal amount of fear we might just
walk past them, which we did. I could almost hear groans of disappointment as we did.

Inside the meringue

Inside the meringue

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Permanent foodstalls

Permanent foodstalls

It seems to me that not even opening the permanent foodstalls till late (they normally close around 5pm), although a welcome move, could pull in the crowds.

Needless to say, I wasn’t too impressed. In fact, kesian the high-spirited vendors coz I really don’t think they can make money at all. The venue’s great, but the atmosphere and the crowd are missing, unfortunately. At least the complex is getting used more often now.

Mystery Fruit II: “Mengkua”

About 2 months ago someone left around five little mysterious fruit on the dining table for my mum. Being me, I popped one into my mouth anyway and was pleasantly surprised at how sweet and tasty the fruit was.

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I took these photos then, intending to write about them, but of course that never happened. Well, as it turned out, I was browsing through the Tutong tamu this morning, and I found three bags of the fruit. Naturally I asked the Bu Hajah what the fruit was actually called, and she muttered “Mengkua”… give and take a little for her possible speech impediment (asked her 3 or 4 times) and my occasional hard of hearing ~ a lethal combination. But finally, mystery solved!

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About the size a large grape, the Mengkua, according to the Bu Hajah, apparently comes from the Longan family. The pit or seed does look similar to that of the Longan, and so does the flesh of the fruit. I took her last comment that the fruit originated from Mexico with a pinch of salt, but of course it could be true after all.

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The shell’s exterior is similar to that of the Avocado in appearance as well as in its thickness. However, the Mengkua has a silkier texture, and a more aromatic flavour, than the Longan. A bit pricy at $5per half kg, by tamu standards, yet well worth a try.

Roti Pisang

I never would’ve thought your regular roti canai could become extraordinarily tasty if you added bananas, and drizzled chocolate sauce over it. Well this was one thing i learned on the streets of Bangkok some two years back. Fast forward a few months to February this year roundabouts, a roti outfit was established at our usual Waterfront haunt in downtown Tutong. I asked the roti guy if he had Roti Pisang and he looked at me as if I had three heads! He obviously didn’t know what I was talking about, and he even asked me if people would really like it, with an annoying smirk. Fast forward again to June, and I saw the same guy this time making roti at the Tutong Hua Ho foodcourt. And guess what? He now had Roti Pisang on his regular menu!! I guess I was a little miffed, but not really- secretly I was rather pleased I could now have my Roti Pisang. But don’t tell him it shouldn’t just be bananas in the roti…

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I smuggled in some chocolate sauce for my roti ~ exactly how they make ’em in Bangkok!

I predict…

It’s July, and we begin the Ramadan fast in the third week of August. As is normally the case, you can count on the creativity of Bruneians to come up with a variety of cakes and kuihs for raya. I mean, I have seen Kek Saddam Hussein, Kek Osama, and Kek Roll Siti Nurhaliza. And I predict this year we’ll witness the birth of “Kek Michael Jackson”, and perhaps even “Kek Farah Fawcett”…