Buah Rokam

I was on my way out to work that Thursday morning (Tamu day in Tutong) when our amah came running at a speed I’d never seen her do before, told by my mum to hand me this, Buah Rokam, that they’d just bought from the tamu.

I was mesmerised. At first I thought “Where in hell did these cherries come from?”, and then I thought, “Wait, Why the hell are you wearing my Volcom t-shirt?” as I shot arrow gazes at the amah who was now limping back into the house, seemingly out of breath.

Anyway, I’d never seen these Rokam fruit before. They look so similar to fresh Red Cherries, except these come in a bunch on a vine, rather than separately like cherries do. But come to think of it, I’ve never actually seen Cherries that have come straight of the trees. So I could be wrong here.

Later on I asked dad what they were, and if they’re local. He said they were indeed local Rokam fruit. But I’d just never seen known them before until that day.

The flesh of the fruit isn’t like that of cherries though; it’s more fibrous, less juicy, and the skin was perhaps slightly thicker and it has a slight bitter taste. The pit too is lighter in colour than the Cherry’s. But nevermind the taste, I was more fixated on the simple beauty of the fruit.

So, there you go, proof that I’ve not eaten everything tolak batu in Brunei, hard as that may be to believe.


Pisang Goreng and Farting Fishes

So I was in my favourite winter place, London, again this last Christmas, and during my extended stay there I was indulging in all things that would send my dietitian mad (although secretly I’ve always believed she was mad anyway, what, telling me to have teh tarik with low fat milk?? Honestly, I’d never been so defensive with anyone ever before until I saw my this dietitian who seemed permanently stuck to her swivel chair.)

Ok back to London. You see, during my year-end vacations like this, I normally just want to wind down, chill, relax… and this I absolutely did over Christmas, sleeping as much as I wanted, waking up late (or not at all), and eat pretty much what I wanted. In trendy speak then, I lived pretty much “like a baws”… Well, that’s just how I “roll” I guess…

But which insane person would choose Winter in London over hot sunny Brunei, you might ask. Well, me.

But here’s the thing about me when I go away over extended periods – being a kampung boy, you can take me out of Brunei, but not quite the Brunei out of me, and there were occasions during my visit when I got the sudden craving for Malay food. But that’s really not a problem at all in London. When I first arrived in the UK in 1991 there were already three Malay restaurants that catered to the fancies of Bruneians, Malaysians and Indonesians alike.

I was particularly fond of one basement restaurant called Nahar, which served a real treat like this one.

Cucur Pisang & Ice Cream

This was the first time ever I’d eaten the humble Cucur Pisang (“Pisang goreng” according to Malaysians, “Banana Fritters” nya uang putih) WITH Ice cream AND Caramel sauce – I mean, whodda thunk that something we took for granted at home could be sold in a restaurant for 4.50 quid! (In 1991, this was about B$11).

I remember thinking how I really just wished I was the one who had first thought of this brilliant idea! But as I was at the time more preoccupied with more important life-questions like “Do fish fart?”, to give one example, I guess there was little chance of that brilliant dessert to ever have been my brainchild.

But flatulent fishes and blue bananas (don’t ask) apart, my most recent trip then involved two trips to Malay restaurants in London (of which there are at least six in Central London itself now). And for old times’ sake, I just had to have the Pisang Goreng.

We also ordered Kuih Lenggang (they call it differently in that restaurant, I forget).


Now, a single Kuih Lenggang would normally set me back 50 cents in Brunei now, but on this occasion it cost me also 4.50 quid… perhaps because of that sprinkling of icing sugar over it is so difficult to do… or perhaps it was the oversized dessert plate and spoon… or perhaps because it was just the simple fact we were indeed in London. Whatever the costing breakdown though, I can’t help but be amazed at how much money can be made from these simple desserts!

I didn’t really have to order the Cucur pisang with ice cream, or the rolled up green crepe with coconut filling, but being away from home somewhat makes you do crazy things, like convincing yourself you’d fit into that size XS shirt that’s on sale at Zara, nevermind the seams bursting on the sides. So in trying to purge my cravings for some Malay sweets, I actually paid B$20 for one Kuih Lenggang and one Cucur pisang with a bit of ice cream… yikes.

At the end of the day though, you’ve gotta admire the creative and entrepreneurial minds behind this idea to sell these simple foods as exotic, and their ability to make them desirable for Londoners who’ve never been to Brunei or Malaysia – as well as for foolish visitors like me who tesliur tia jua kan makan cucur pisang di London. Paloi kan. And the frustrating thing is, I still don’t know if fishes pass wind…