The Come Back Post: Da’un Kelemek

Hi, everyone! 

I’ve been pleasantly surprised that despite my hibernation over the last few months (a year and a half in fact), this foodblog has been getting upwards of 250 hits per day… and mainly from the USA, for some unfathomable reason.  Could it have been the “explosive tempoyak” post that might have garnered some American interest – perhaps out of a misguided belief that it could be about “biological” WMD in the making? Perhaps. Or not. I don’t know.

I must thank a certain friend, Jeremy, who has motivated –  no, challenged me – to post something before midnight tonight (12th August 2014).  Truth be told, I have logged-in occasionally over the last few months, drafted something, only to lose interest halfway…  

Essentially my last post was in December 2012.  In January 2013, I unexpectedly lost my dear mum.  She had been my main reference for local Bruneian and Tutong food items that I blogged about – sort of a “mummypedia” of food.  Regular readers will know how she became my fountain of knowledge, and occasionally my “lab rat” for odd finds in the local tamu or any other market.  The look on her face when I presented her with a plate of disgusting-looking snails – as I stared daggers at her into reluctantly putting one into her mouth – awaiting her verdict on its edibility – or indeed, its toxicity.  (Although in hindsight, she might have spat it out sideways in the millisecond that I probably blinked. I can’t be sure).  

She was after all the person who forced me to create my own food: “Kalau kan mian kek coklet, ngumu’ dai ju’ sendiri”. (In Anglo-saxon: “If you want chocolate cake, you go make it yourself.”).  Bear in mind this was in a sleepy Kampung in Tutong in the 80s. In all honesty, mum herself had probably never had Chocolate cake!  I hope this episode doesn’t misrepresent her as a mum who was malevolent or uncaring of her superincumbent boy with an achingly sweet tooth.  On the contrary, it was her way of teaching me to be independent, ambitious, creative and experimental from such an early age. And Chocolate cake I did indeed make! And so began my love affair with food. (that can really be interpreted at so many levels. *sigh*).  So as you can imagine, losing your mum can knock the wind out of your sails. I didn’t exactly go into a depression; rather, all your priorities in life suddenly become… re-ordered. And blogging, and maintaining an online presence suddenly became secondary, or peripheral even. A real presence with family in real time became primary. Hence, the hiatus. 

But Jeremy’s challenge, the modest number of hits, and the numerous emails I’ve received directly have got me thinking… Am I going to waste all this support from everyone?  No, that would be rather disingenuous of me.

So, in tribute to my mum,  I’m back tonight with perhaps one of the last things she educated me on: the Kelemek leaf.  I can’t remember all the details, but I’m sure she told me it came from the… Kelemek tree.

In this instance, the Da’un Kelemek was used as a wrap for the fermented rice Tapai.  

Tapai in Kelemek leaf

Tapai in Kelemek leaf

In photo above, the Tapai in Kelemek leaf in the centre is put side by side with Tapai in Jengeng or Simpur leaf.  Simpur is more commonly used in Tutong, whereas in Bandar area, Tapai is usually wrapped in the yellow Apong leaf. Occasionally we wrap Tapai in Da’un Upa’ (Daun Keladi, in Malay; Yam leaf, in English).  But this was the first time I came across the Kelemek leaf being used as a tapai wrap. And mum seemed rather pleased at passing on this gem of information to me. 

Tapai in Da'un Jengang

Tapai in Da’un Jengang

Those unfamiliar with my humour might find it irreverent to speak buoyantly of my mum’s passing – in the same breath as the Tapai, no less. But I write for love. For a strong woman whose love and knowledge of food were both inspiring, I think this post is rather a fitting celebration of all things she embodied.  I take comfort in the knowledge that she passed being surrounded by her beloved cats- rather than being eaten by them.  But I take greater comfort in that she left in me a legacy of love and pride of food, which I hope to share with others.   I hope this will be the first of many more posts. Thanks, Jeremy.  I’ve got nine minutes left before midnight 🙂

Al-Fatihah.