Hari Raya Aidilfitri @ Eid

1 Syawal 1430 Hijriah has arrived finally.

Walking into the kitchen tonight, the sight of the following three things screams “Selamat Hari Raya!” to me.

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Kelupis (rice sticks in Nyirik leaf) that’s just been freshly boiled. The quintessential celebration food of Brunei. The Kelupis are traditionally weaved together as in the picture for ease of lowering and lifting them in and out of the boiling water.

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Fresh Ketupat or Rice cubes, another traditional food for celebrations. The fat and compact cousin of the long and slender Kelupis. Much like me and my relatives.

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And finally, the Kuih Mor. Nothing like the powdered sugar-coated butter balls to signal the arrival of Syawal. These used to be available only during Raya, although you’ll easily find them in supermarkets all year round now. But somehow it doesn’t “taste” the same when consumed at any other time than during Raya.

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Of course Raya being Raya, there are other foods that complete the picture. But to me, these three things are essential elements of my Raya. So we bid farewell to the blessed month of Ramadan for now, and welcome the month of forgiveness.

Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir & Batin.

Durian lagi…

A couple of days ago, Dad said he’d brought home some durian monthong from our fruit orchard whose location I’ve yet to set foot on, or know of even. Apparently this is the first time the durian trees he planted years ago has borne fruit. Of course, the very mention of ‘durian’ was music to my ears!

So like a moth to a flame I floated gracefully to the kitchen, suddenly finding space in my already bloated stomach for some durian-ey dessert despite having just declared I was stuffed from a rather generous sungkai.

Someone told me thorns were the latest trend in footwear fashion. Fitting for Raya, no?

Someone told me thorns were the latest trend in footwear fashion. Fitting for Raya, no?

Here’s what I found – A ginormous chunk of thorny goodness!! Not one, not two, but 7 of them!

Wow, basar biginya!!

Wow, basar biginya!!

For the ignorant amongst you, the weapon of choice when battling the King of Fruit is a giant cleaver as in pic. (This is what they use in the Hua Ho fruit section as well as in most other durian stalls).

Now, I’ve always considered myself to be a connoisseur of durian of sorts, and also an expert in ‘opening’ the fruit. The trick is this- the durian has natural seams between its (usually) five sections that converges at the bottom of the fruit. All you need to do is pierce into the seam, and prise the two ‘satars’ apart. A ripe durian would easily give way along the natural partition. Easy, right??

Compare Dad’s efforts:

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to mine:

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Dad was speechless. I couldn’t quite tell if it was from sheer amazement and fatherly pride at my skillful cleaver-handling exercise, or from utter horror and shame at the destruction that had just unfolded right before his now teary eyes. Although I suspect it’s the latter, I’d err on optimism that he was rather mightily impressed with my achievement.

I may have disembowelled the durian in a manner that would put the Yorkshire Ripper to shame, but at least I got these little buggers out…

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Oh the joy!!!

But sometimes I do wonder if the directions to the orchard that dad gave me were deliberately cryptic and hard to read. Can’t imagine why he’d do it though…

Subliminal Green

As I sat down and waited for the baduk for sungkai today, humming “We are the world” (of all things) in my head, my eyes were transfixed on the sublime colour emanating from the Wheatgrass drink I was going to break my fast with.

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It’s amazing how little things like that can have a profound effect on you, even if for a few seconds.

Strangely, this was the first time I actually ever had Wheatgrass juice on its own. I’ve often had it with milk, producing a milky green concoction that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror flick. But taste-wise, it isn’t too bad at all in fact. But here’s something not many people know – Wheatgrass is that secret ingredient in the very popular Teh Tarik Special. One of the secret ingredients, at least.

Tarindak d’Seni

I don’t normally write to promote restaurants, but sometimes there exceptions to the rule; in this case Tarindak champions local cuisine and serves traditional Bruneian dishes. Located in the Arts & Handicraft Centre building in Subok, the restaurant overlooks a splendid view of Kg Ayer and Sungai Brunei.

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Word has it that this restaurant is Hyatt-run, so you can expect a certain level of quality to the dishes and the service. When we visited there, Tarindak had just been open for about a month, and we went there to celebrate some colleagues who were leaving us. There’s a real Bruneian ‘feel’ to the place you get from the very friendly waitresses who wear a Kain Tanunan sash elegantly, to even the menu that sports the Bunga Beputar motif.

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The buffet was an amazing range of grilled sotong, prawn, chicken and lamb, amongst others, with the quintessentially Bruneian Ambuyat and several choices of cacah, and soto.

Starters: Kerabu pakis and Sambal mangga

Starters: Kerabu pakis and Sambal mangga

Nasi minyak, Sotong masak kunyit, Ayam masak merah, Pakis masak air, and Daging kicap

Nasi minyak, Sotong masak kunyit, Ayam masak merah, Pakis masak air, and Daging kicap

My drink of choice was Ruby manisan with Selasih (Basil seeds).

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And the dessert spread wasn’t too bad either.

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With its modestly priced yet tasty food, good service and a very nice ambience, Tarindak is sure to do very well. Friends who have gone there since our visit have all given the thumbs up. And in fact, throughout the month of Ramadan, an impressive sungkai buffet awaits you.

Seattle to Menglait and secawan kopi

Just before the fasting month, I picked up my best mate from the airport. He’d just come back from The Emerald City, Seattle, USA and he was telling me about his trip there – visiting the Boeing factory, drinking at the first Starbucks ever, “meeting” Bruce Lee and his son…Watttaaaa!!!! Fascinating stuff that needed to be washed down with a good Kopi O and Teh Tarek. So we decided to go to Jian Chu in Old Menglait, an outfit that’s probably as legendary as Starbucks, but with an even longer history.

We ordered the famous Jian Chu Kolo Mee with the Mata lembu.

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But the must-have here is the famous Roti Kuning – hot toasted yellow bun, with a dollop of Kaya and a thick slice of cold butter – an odd but beautiful marriage of hot and cold sensations on your taste buds.

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Mouth-watering stories of Seattle bagels, fresh seafood and other gastronomic delights accompanied our breakfast that morning. The closest I’ve ever been to Seattle myself was Vancouver some years ago, so we were comparing notes. And as I sipped my Kopi O, I quietly wondered how an unlikely Seattle, with an average temperature of 7-15C, managed to spawn probably the most successful coffee chain in the world ever. Coffee that could easily have come from my own backyard.

Of signs and things fungal…

There’s this eating place we frequent for lunch in the Liang Toon building we’ve nicknamed “Mumbles” that had this on their glass door…

Shrooms?

Shrooms?

A few days later I noticed the spelling error had been corrected. I guess the waitresses saw me taking a photo of the sign and realized the mistake. I didn’t mean to embarrass them into changing the sign, but a thought flickered in my mind: Why “Chicken Masroom”? or even Why “Chicken Mushroom”? Why have I never seen “Ayam Kulat”? “Fungi Chicken”, anyone..? Hmm, but if your mind, like mine, is too capable of a weird and wild imagination of death by having large snails jumping onto your face and sucking your brains out as you were casually walking past them at the tamu, then perhaps “Chicken Masroom” wouldn’t sound too bad to you and you’d be more forgiving of the spelling mistake. Chicken with fungus or kulat after all doesn’t quite paint an appetizing picture in the mind.