In Primary 4 science, I first heard the word “Shorea”, together with “angsana”, as an example of how certain trees reproduce, some by dropping fruit that flew like “helicopters” in the air. A prodigal skeptic, I didn’t believe what Ms Daisy said then. And I didn’t believe she was a real teacher either. Ms Daisy, you see, came into class in a very short miniskirt and a tank tube, bare shoulders and enough make-up for the entire RBA crew, making her look more akin to someone in the oldest profession in the world than to an educator. A right old slapper, if I’m honest! But who was I to judge? Though I did anyway. But that was light years ago.
Recently though my sister brought home the Shorea fruit she obtained from her school trip to Labi. It was the first time I saw this thing we talked about in primary school. Mum says it’s called “Abang” in Tutong, and “Kawang” in Brunei Malay.
The Buah Abang seed is then separated and collected, and roasted and then crushed to extract the oil.
This article from Utusan Malaysia recently explains this process more eloquently than I ever can.
Suffice to say the result of this lengthy process (48 hrs of smoking ++, according to the article) is the following sticks of solid Abang oil, or Anyu Abang.
Due the complicated process, and more significantly, due to its scarcity (the article also says it fruits only once every 7 years), Anyu Abang is sold at quite a steep price, sometimes going for $20 for a 5-inch stick.
As a kid my parents introduced me to this delicacy. The stick is rubbed onto a plate of steaming hot rice, and it melts into it, add a bit of salt, and the rice becomes instantly flavoured.
How to describe its taste? It’s rich, and creates a smooth silky coating like butter over the rice, except a bit more intense and aromatic. In fact my parents used to refer to it as ‘mentega’ – which led me to confuse facts and to thinking it’s made from Buah Mentega or Avocado- which I now know was not the case.
So there you go. So I eat my shorts and apologize to dear Ms Daisy for thinking she didn’t know what she was talking about – Shorea fruit do have wings, and they do rotate and float in the air as they fall off the tree – and I did learn something from her. But that still doesn’t explain why she couldn’t say the word “xylophone” in reading class, despite four attempts- guided by us, her primary four students. May she live in peace in her old persons’ home in Labuan somewhere, or simply in Labuan somewhere. Bless her soul.