“Kembayau-mole”

“Mole” as in “guacamole” (avocado sauce), not “mole” as in “taie lalat”.

I’ve a few friends who inexplicably have never tried Kembayau.

In my effort to propagate the goodness of Kembayau (Canarium odontophyllum) I always tell these misfits that they taste similar to avocado – creamy, lamak, and just simply beautiful.

So today I walked into the kitchen and saw a couple of leftover kembayau on the table. And feeling suitably peckish, I also began to feel dangerously creative.

Now, if indeed Kembayau is like Avocado, then an equivalent of guacamole should be possible with the stripey ones. So I came up with this.

Here’s what you need:

The ingredients

The ingredients: Chilli, garlic, tomato, limau kapas lime, salt. I would have used some Corriander but I didn’t have any at the time

And here’s what you do:

Get the flesh of the Kembayau by squishing using thumb and fingers until the seed slides out.

Get the flesh of the Kembayau by squishing using thumb and fingers until the seed slides out.

You'll end up with this. I only had about 11 biji kembayau that were leftover, and they were a bit oxidised already, hence brownish in colour.

You’ll end up with this. I only had about 11 biji kembayau that were leftover, and they were a bit oxidised already, hence brownish in colour.

Chuck in the chopped tomato, chilli, garlic, onion and lime juice.

Chuck in the chopped tomato, chilli, garlic, onion and lime juice.

Use a wooden pestle (or any kind) to squash the ingredients.

Use a wooden pestle (or any kind) to squash the ingredients.

Et voila! Kembayau-mole.

Et voila! Kembayau-mole.

Have it with rice and veg, and Durian- why not?

Have it with rice and veg, and Durian- why not?

Now, I do realise that guacamole should be used as a dip. It goes without saying that the Kembayau-mole looks slightly less appealing visually than the emerald guacamole. But ocassionally guacamole reminds me of a pureed Shrek, so I’m not too sure that’s an appetising thought either. The black skin of the Kembayau lends to a purplish hue in the final product. Perhaps you could remove the entire skin if you wanted to avoid the purple tinge; I’m not too bothered, personally. Thoough I would have liked some Corriander in this mix, except I didn’t have any at hand at the time.

But our cook made her own “tumis” version later on, which was nice too, but that then makes it technically a Sambal.

But I say: Be adventurous!
Give it a go!

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The Dungeon

So I come home from my travels late one night. Straight off a plane, and right into the kitchen. As I washed my hands at the kitchen sink, a stench crept up. I turned around expecting to see grandma behind me, but no, it wasn’t her letting one out again. But this smell was annoyingly too familiar. So I followed my nose and found myself di belakang rumah. Unfamiliar territory. But I saw this locked door, and I got curious. I’d never entered this part of the house.

Pintu Misteri

Pintu Misteri

I tried menyubuk through the chicken wire.

Apakah seperti yang kufikirkan??

Apakah seperti yang kufikirkan??

Sekali dibuka pintu ani, laaahhh….. It’s durian dungeon rupanya!

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I couldn’t believe it! No, not the fact that the place was full of durian, but rather that I did not know there was this secret hideout all this while!!

They used to keep durian and other fruit in the cabinet under the sink, and I’d walk into the kitchen late at night and plunder them.

But I guess this much durian would just make the kitchen smell like a hundred gaseous grandmothers. So, baik jua ada tampat menaruh di luar ani. You could create a mess, and leave it there, and keep the kitchen and whole house stench-free. Unless of course some members of my family are members of a secret cult who torture people through creative use of the thorny fruit. It does make me wonder sometimes.

Membuka durian - not my forte!

Membuka durian – not my forte!

Mess. Not by me.

Mess. Not by me.

So thorny and prickly and pungently smelly stuff may not be the usual kind of reception you’d expect when you get home from your time away. But tonight’s welcome was one exception I was more than happy to make.

Pau si Assim

A few friends have been raving about this steamed Pau at this “Restoran si Assim” in Tutong Town. I don’t know the restaurant’s proper name. In fact I don’t even have the slightest clue who “Si Assim” is. So I simply call the restaurant “Promart” cos that’s the big shop right next to it. You see, my mates have been having their late breakfasts there while I’ve been in Bandar most of the time, especially during that time of the day.
And they just wouldn’t stop yakking about the pau, nyaman berabis apparently. The first time I went to try the Pau, it had sold out. Apparently it’s so laku. But ngam tekana cuti recently, I finally managed to try it.

And my mates weren’t wrong. It was really good. Normally sweet Paus have one type of filling only, usually Kacang hitam, Kacang, or Kaya. But this is the first Pau I’ve had with Kacang hitam and Kacang together.

And the result is a delicious ooze of red bean paste with the contrasting crunchy bites. Really nice while it’s hot. And whilst there, inquisitive little David will entertain you with his collection of Ultraman and action figures. Just make sure he doesn’t dip them in your tea while you’re not looking… or even while you are.

Anyway, if you’re interested, the restaurant is by Promart, across from Tutong Chung Hwa school, masuk arah simpang dapan Balai Polis Tutong. But be prepared to be disappointed (as I have been a few times) – the paus are that popular.

Madwomen & Walnuts: Lakau-Lakau KB

Three months ago that madwoman Maurina raved on Instagram about a wonderful Chinese dessert in KB. She said it was Walnut puree, and I was fascinated. I was equally enthralled by her story about being a pole-dancer in Baclaran. Maurina’s borderline-illegal moonlighting aside, I decided that I must one day drive down to KB and try the dessert. The opportunity came only a few weeks ago on my final day off work. You see, when I say I want a particular something, food especially, I will get it, sooner or later. Unfortunately this one took 3 months and some; though I have waited longer. (I have been looking for Smarties for the past 3 months. And you say I’m impatient! tsk!)

So, determined, I drove all the way down to KB on the pretext of meeting up an old friend to pass some old computer stuff yang batah bejaruk. Now, there must be something in the KB water cos all the people I contacted to meet up all suggested the KB Kuey Tiaw at Tudung Saji. I have said before that I was not a big fan of Kuey Tiaw (broad noodles or pasta) but since I was a “guest” in town, I gave in, somewhat.

The Famous Kolo Mee KB

Tapi I had Kolomee Ayam, which was good, while Izzat and Hirman (you guessed it, KB residents) had Kuey Tiaw.

I tried some of theirs and took their word for it, but what was interesting, and a first for me, was Izzat’s Kuey Tiaw Urat.

Kuey Tiaw Urat

Now, I’ve never quite figured out exactly which part of the animal the urat is – maybe ignorance is bliss- but this combination with the noodle was just “interesting” to me. And by the looks of it Izzat quite enjoyed his food. I, on the other hand, didn’t finish my Kolo mee. It was OK, but I was leaving space for the thing I came down to KB for.

So we quickly made our way to the restaurant which happened to be just next door to Tudung Saji, and I thought it was a rather nice little boutique, very nicely-appointed.

Quickly flipping through the menu, we ordered the cold Walnut and the Almond dessert, with hot and cold Rose tea with honey.

The rather literally-named “Walnut Dessert”

… and its equally uncreatively-named cousin “Almond Dessert”.

The Walnut dessert was actually quite nice, as Maurina had remarked. To me it was just the right sweetness and very silky. But sorry, I probably would have liked a bit of crunch in there somewhere from chopped walnut, just to give it a bit of a texture. But I don’t think it tasted like “lipas” at all, as suggested by one of Maurina’s colourful friends. Two things: How does she know what cockroaches taste like? Secondly, lipas do not taste nutty, but just slightly hapak. I once found half a coackroach in my bag of Chickadees. It appeared freshly bit into. Anyway, this Walnut dessert tasted nutty, earthy even, and reminded me of the famous French love-it-or-hate-it “Bonne Maman”, the Chestnut spread, just kurang manis. I happen to love it, so unsurprisingly I liked the Walnut dessert.

The Almond puree that Izzat ordered was actually quite nice too, although the sweet almond flavour reminded me of Ubat Batuk Cap Ibu dan Anak. It didn’t help that the menu actually had a description stating warding off coughs was one of the health benefits of Almonds. But as a dessert, I really didn’t mind it, but perhaps again with some roasted almond thrown in to jazz it up a little.

There was a Sesame Dessert (no prizes for guessing what it’s made of) which we didn’t try, but maybe next time.

To wash these down we ordered Rose tea. The Rose tea with honey came in two versions, hot and iced.

Iced Rose Tea with Honey

Hot Rose Tea with Honey

I tried both, and decided I liked them both equally. The first time I had Rose tea, I thought the aroma was a bit overwhelming and I could only manage a few sips. But perhaps this restaurant prepared it the right way and it tasted fine this time.

No doubt I will be making a return trip for a bit more of the dessert, or other literally-named foodstuff. Let’s see what Maurina suggests next time.

Meet… umm… Lady Gaga..?

 

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Early this year I decided to chop off this Mango tree because it was half-dead anyway from termite infestation (Tree-huggers, relax).  But I thought I’d be more creative than to simply lob off the trunks, and give the tree a post-humous function.  I recall my school-leaver primary school Science teacher saying if you peel off the bark around the main trunk of a tree, its water and food supply would be cut off and it would die eventually.  So this I did with this mango tree, as I’d decided to fix it canopy over the dead trunk and turn it into a useful hut.  Everything seemed to work the way I imagined they would… Until I visited the beach house again this week after 2 months’ absence … only to be confronted by this monstrosity.  To my horror, the bloody tree had continued to grow beneath the canopy!  Never have I felt utter failure before! When I first set my eyes on it, I thought Lady Gaga had descended upon me!

So my science education obviously didn’t work. And this was not my finest hour.  And for this to be witnessed by a few friends I’d been hoping to impress was not what I had had in mind. 

 

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Lady Gaga undressed.

 

 

 

Food Revolution Day, 19th May

On 19 May 2012, my food idol, Jamie Oliver O.B.E. lauched the first ever Food Revolution Day (@Foodrev #Foodrevolution) with the aim of highlighting the world’s food issues to make a difference and “to promote the mission for better food and education for everyone”.

Of course I thought this was a noble cause, as with many others initiated by Jamie, and of course I was ready to support this. I make no secret of being a big fan of Jamie’s.

So, come the day (remember Brunei is 8hrs ahead of London), I had breakfast with a diehard fan of Muse, Wan Bellamy, at the oft-featured Puteh restaurant in Tutong.

I had this for breakfast, the original Kampung-style nasi with sambal pusu, wrapped in Nyirek leaf.

Breakfast bites.

So for a laugh, I took a photo of it and posted it on Instagram and tagged @Jamieoliver, @Foodrev and #Foodrevolution, and thought nothing more of it.

Until about an hour later, when the pic got “Liked” and featured by none other than the official Food Revolution people. Now, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I’d like to think it was Jamie himself who tagged me. (It might of course not have been him, but indulge me.)

And if you looked carefully, you’ll see that my pic was in fact the FIRST FAVOURITE of the Day!!

Now, any sane person would blog about this immediately. I wanted to, but given that I have the attention span of a fly, I got distracted and never got round to doing it.

I remember when I first met Jamie in Canary Wharf in London at a book signing. I decided that standing in line after 300 people simply wasn’t a guarantee to see him. I did not pay 40 quid for the taxi idiot to send me to the wrong building and for me to get chased by security sprint across town macam urang gila to find the right location, just to queue up but NOT see Jays. At this point I was like an obsessed fan, and I think the lady at the wrong Waterstones was ready to press the Panic alarm under her desk upon seeing my reaction at being told I was at the wrong place.

So when I finally ambled to the right location, I just stood at the head of the queue where Jamie was and waited, and waited … and waited more. And finally when the book-signing session was over, I screamed so loudly at Jamie, grabbed to shake his hand, and probably scared the life out of him. Jamie was nice enough to ask “You alright, mate?” – at which point, I think I rather un-coolly passed out cos I simply have no recollection whatsoever about what happened next. I just hope I didn’t wet myself in the process. I don’t think Jamie was impressed either, and you could see him thinking in his head “Urang gila mana lagi ni..??”

So back to this picture, I do strongly believe it was Jamie himself who “liked” my Instagram post and made it the First Favourite. But I don’t think he’d own up now cos that Canary Wharf encounter scarred him for life.

I really must try to act more elegantly in the presence of celebrities.

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).

Lenggang

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…

Psychedelic Treat

Too often, I buy foodstuff because they’re just so attractive and eye-catching rather than because of their flavour, like this one:

I bought these colourful cupcakes simply because I was mesmerized by the psychedelic colours. They were also only a dollar. And I was also a bit late for work, so I thought I should buy some “pemanis” to bribe my colleagues with and avert death stares as I walked into the office. Works like a charm.

I look at these pics and can’t stop thinking “hippopotamus” – for some inexplicable reason – maybe it’s the pink spots, and I associate pink with hippos. Entah.

But I didn’t actually eat any of these cupcakes because at one point they looked like diseased mushroom heads and rather toxic. So I gladly offered them to my workmates for coffee, as I sat and watched them gobble the cakes down – half-anticipating one or a few of them to keel over backwards, legs akimbo and up in the air, and blue in the face from something like food-poisoning. That didn’t happen, unfortunately, but I still felt queasy from the saturated colours.

And am I the only one who thinks that these garish and gaudy cakes are a bit “poklen”? Again, I won’t even attempt to explain it.

Laksa dan Alkisahnya

So, here we are, on my last night of freedom. I’ve been on an extended leave from torturous enslavement work, and I start again tomorrow, at an ungodly time of 7.45am on a Thursday morning. Ooh I can’t wait. In fact I feel like skipping dinner and running straight to the office malam ani jua! ;p (What was I thinking start keraja on Thursday??)

So as I laid in bed, wide awake at high morning today, but wishing pretending to be dead, an unexpected SMS invitation to lunch from my cousin was music to my ears.

Only one way to celebrate my last taste of emancipation. A large bowl of Laksa ~ Lee Loi Fat style!

My noodle of choice, Mee kuning, drowned in a heavenly lemak pedas laksa sauce, rich with the coconut milk with that unmistakeable savoury taste of Bunga kantan or Ginger torch.

I found exactly three perfectly cooked prawns in the bowl, with strips of talur dadar, cucumber julienne, and slices of sotong. (The cucumber slice you see in the pic below was additional; I stole it from my cousin’s plate). But the portion is more than enough to satisfy your hunger pangs.

But many of you would be surprised to know this was technically only my second laksa ever. Honest.

The first I heard of laksa was circa 1993 in our cold kitchen in Tewkesbury St, Cardiff, when my ‘housemate’ Irma mentioned it and explained to me you used fish meat to make the laksa sauce, although there were many versions. Chef Wan’s and Bobby Chin’s shows on the food channel all showed the same technique, and true enough they all used fish. So- I never went near it. But friends have been raving about laksa, and I was feeling left out slightly. Curiosity got the best of me, and I wanted to taste laksa, and knew the only way to go was to create my own version of laksa without fish and make it. So I did. And that was the first time I tasted laksa, which I shared with friends, who attested it was delicious and ‘different’. But because I’d never had laksa prior to that, I didn’t really have a point of reference. I took my mates’ word for it, but unfortunately I found making laksa from scratch just too cumbersome. Banyak keraja lai… at least my no-ikan rabus version was! And this was two years ago.

But this Tuesday just gone I went out for minum, and just out of the blue I blurted laksa! I needed something spicy, creamy, hot and quick- and without fish. After assurances from the waitress they didn’t use fish, I made up my mind. And today I came back for my second laksa, this week, and ever.

Life is difficult as a fish-hater. Sigh. But if you asked me which I’d rather have between fish and work, I think I’d swallow my pride and go it with stinky fish than… Maybe fish isn’t so bad after all?