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!

photo 33

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.

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?

Nasi Ayam Sri Meradun

Busy month! Where do people get the time to blog everyday?? Honestly!

So, after a long silence, I’m back, thanks much to my 5 days off work- not much- but nonetheless a most welcome intervention in my progressive mental disintegration.

Appropriate to this theme of ‘hiatus’ and ‘return’ is this meal I had a couple of weeks ago in Gadong Central.

The last time I visited Sri Meradun was maybe in 1996 or 1997, since when most of my time has been pretty much spent on the coast where I’m enslaved. That and my time overseas. In the 1990s there weren’t too many ‘posh’ restaurants around, and Sri Meradun was one of the handful. It was well-known for tasty Thai food, and was particularly for its Chicken Rice – as well as for being the place untuk bescandal (restoran ‘class’ la tu).

I had honestly completely forgotten about this place, and was only reminded of it by a friend who’d said he’d just been from there, to which I blurted perhaps rather a bit too uncoolly, “Lakat ada kan??” – with a tinge of overexcited shrill.

Indeed it’s still around, as I discovered soon enough. Apparently where it used to be has been razed by fire, so they moved to the adjacent building, behind the Mercedes showroom. The new venue seems a bit more dressed down than I remember the old place to be, with lots of space. Nothing pretentious about it all.

We didn’t need the menu. We knew what we wanted from memory.

This dish stands out from any other Chicken Rice for a few reasons: the rice is light and not greasy, the chicken pieces (all 10) are sliced from the breast and arranged atop the rice, and the special chili dip that’s unmistakeably Sri Meradun’s own. This was what people came for in the 90s, and it’s the same now. The food tasted exactly as I remembered it from my last visit. That says a lot about the dish, and the restaurant – which is why I’ve featured it here, as I only tend to mention deserving establishments of distinct repute.

But you can’t come to Sri Meradun without having their famous ABC as dessert. (I had mine before my meal, and another after. Burp!)

Even the ABC tasted the same, complete with its unique Keladi or Taro pieces! And I’m not just referring to the ABCs I had pre- and post- the Chicken Rice that day!

In a country where the favourite pasttime is eating out, with hundreds of restaurant popping up every minute – yet failing to impress – some win effortlessly simply by sticking to what they do and know best. This is one of them.