Entomophagy

Will you consider eating this?

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In my life up to now, I have tried two types of insect larvae. One is this stir-fried grub in the above pic. It is a larvae of a hornet. It is a real delicacy from where I’m from. When I tried it, I hated the taste. I can’t even describe that sensation other than it was like a membrane capsule with smoky tasting pus inside. Bleh.

This second one, back when I visited Sarawak earlier this year, I like.

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Sago worm (the larvae of a type of palm weevil). Roasted, then mixed with stir-fried onions and chilli. These were like bean curd with roasted sago flavour. Nice.

To be honest, both dishes took me ages to try out because of the yuck factor that comes with creepy crawlies. But it is definitely worth a taste.

My main concern about eating insects though is the source. I hope when harvesting these insects they were very low or free of pesticides.

What do you think? Can this be your alternative protein source?

-M.

Sarawakian fruits

I was back in Sibu again recently. Though it is end of the year, I’ve learnt that the fruiting season is almost the opposite from that on the Peninsula.

SibumarketGone to Sibu market in the early morning to see what I can find. I found that the local durian was in season. My, some of the kampung varieties are so small and looked like a green sea urchin!

Duriansibu

Oh yes, when there is durian, there is also duku/langsat/dokong. The tangy and sweet flesh of that small round yellow-skinned fruit is just so contrasting to the creamy durian. Perfect, right?

Oh, there is of course the all year round banana, but take a look at the price.

pisang

During my trip, I’ve been introduced to a very particular fruit seasonal around November/December.

dabais

Apparently this fruit ripens at the same time on one tree. Dabai, as it is called, is also known as “Black Olive” here.

DabaicookedDabai doesn’t keep well so you will need to eat it within a few days of purchasing. I am told not to buy any wrinkly ones. I’m not sure if you can have it raw, as I was also instructed to “cook” it – buy exposing them to hot sun for a while or soaking them in warm (not boiling) water for about 30 mins or until soften. Then, douse the dabai with soya sauce and sprinkle some sugar to taste.

DabaiSeed

I really don’t know how to describe the taste… a little bit sweet, and… oily? Anyway, it is definitely an acquired taste. The large seed in the centre is like an American football. How odd.

Matakuching

I’ve also spotted some Sarawakian variant of the mata kuching (longan). It’s got green skin with sharp bumps, something like a lychee but tougher. The inside is very much like a longan, though the seed is a paler brown and the flesh more clear. The flavour was intense and so sweet. Much better than any of the commercial longan I have tried.

-M.

The humble half-boiled eggs and kaya toast

 

Ah, this seems to be my default breakfast menu while I am traveling for work and doing work in the field this past two months. If you  are in Malaysia, chances are you had this as breakfast in a kopitiam somewhere: Half-boiled eggs (crack into a saucer and add soya sauce and pepper to your taste) and some butter & kaya toast. This gets me going up to lunchtime.

Oh and it’s mid-autumn festival today, hope y’all having some lantern fun. Team budu have been stuffing themselves with mooncake goodness as always… then Pinkydoodles found out that a mooncake can have about 1000 kcal per cake! err…. once a year, right?

– M.

Ramadhan Special: Ayam Perchik Wakaf Bharu

The fasting month means the abundance of food and never seen before coloured drinks around the country for breaking fast. One special stall in Wakaf Bharu will be opened during this month: The Best Ayam Perchik Stall. Yes, I gave it a name since I have no idea what’s the real name (if any).

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My mother just refer this as the “Ayam Perchik Stall near the Wakaf Bharu Train Station”. Well, that’ll give you some idea as to where to find it.

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MMMMmmmm, ayam perchik being freshly grilled and sold. You get to pick your stick. It sells out really fast. It is so well spiced and balanced out with the coconut.

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You may find ayam perchik in a few places in Kelantan and they are sold all year round. But not this special stall.

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Don’t like chicken? There is also fish. But my favourite is the chicken, really.

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Nearby stalls will also sell other foods such as soups and traditional sweets. I found the smallest onde-onde there!

Happy Raya/Eid to those celebrating!

-M.

Sarawak Laksa

Hi all,

Been to Sarawak for work recently.

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Such a beautiful place.

I got to meet up with a cousin of mine that I haven’t seen for many years. He took me to lunch of Sarawak Laksa.

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So good. The noodles look like vermicelli but it is slightly thicker and chewier. Love it.

– M.

 

p.s.: btw, what’s with the new wordpress drop down box to add a new post thing??? don’t like it at all.

Akok

Wow, it’s been a while… sorry!

We had relatives from overseas visiting, so Pinkydoodles and I got to go back to Kelantan for a while to meet up with them.

Mumakil made dinner for all of the guests one night: Khaw Jham (more on that in another post maybe). For dessert, Papa Salvatore drove to this stall somewhere in Pasir Mas where it is said to be the best and authentic Akok made and sold. Of course, Pinkydoodles and I (and our uncle) tagged along.

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Man, I wished I had tagged this on a GPS or something so that I can locate this place again! Papa Salvatore bought all that there was at the stall!

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Mmmm… akok is best when it is freshly off the grill. Akok is kind of a ‘kuih’ popular in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It is made of eggs, flour, coconut milk and sugar. There is a lot of egg yolks in Akok, thus it is somewhat like a fusion of custard and pastry… cooked in a metal grill mold  (something like a  takoyaki pan).

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So the end result is a sweet caramelised skin on the outside, and custard-pudding-like texture on the inside. So good!

-M.

Yee sang for the year of the dragon

It’s the second day of Chinese New Year. How has the Dragon year been so far?

It’s becoming a custom now in Malaysia and Singapore to “Lo Sang” for the new year. Having been so many years abroad, I realised that this Yee Sang business is quite unique to these two countries. Yep, we kinda invented this tradition… or rather, re-invented it.

The ingredients of a yee sang is basically that of a colourful salad. Each ingredient signifies something. For example, the pepper is put into the red packets and sprinkled onto the salad, to attract luck and wealth. Green for youth, carrot for (more) luck.

Here’s the yee sang ready to be tossed. Raw fish added to signify abundance in the new year. The fried crackers signify gold.

Then, we toss. The higher, the better. It was a noisy occasion as each of us would say out the wishes that we want for the new year. Us nerdy ones would go “lolololol” as in lo sang (toss), but really we just wanted to make a pun.

Lo sang aftermath. Yes, so messy, but so yums.

Wishing everyone a happy Chinese new year. May you get to spend it with your loved ones. Have a good year ahead.

-M.

Anthocyanins: Butterfly Pea Flower and extraction

I mentioned in my previous post about using a natural blue food colour for my cake decoration. You may be familiar with this pea flower plant. Not only is this a source of natural food colour, there may be health benefits in taking this flower as it is a rich source of antioxidants. It is used as a food ingredient especially in South East Asia. The juice of the flower is famous for making the Nyonya kuih called pulut tai tai in Malaysia. It is also used in making kerabu rice. This was recently featured in Gordon Ramsay’s programme where he travelled to Malaysia. I had such a laugh as the Malay lady in the programme non-chalantly called this vine ‘clitorial bush’, to much of Ramsay’s ‘surprise’. Well, the taxonomist is to blame really! Anyway, unlike the rice featured in that programme, Kelantan’s nasi kerabu is very blue. Here’s my mum’s version of kerabu.

 Yums! Nasi Kerabu with dry beef rendang, fish crackers and a whole lot of condiments. Goes well with some beer, and of course, a bit of budu (not pictured, sorry).

The Mumakil has several vines growing in the garden, but for us living in a KL apartment, having our own ‘clitorial bush’ is not an easy one. So when I went back to Kelantan, I picked some of the flowers and tried to make an extraction. First, I did some studying on how best to extract the colour and keep it. Anthocyanins are the pigments in plants and are the reason that give this flower its distinctive blue colouration.  They are also water-soluble, which meant they can be easily extracted from the plant cells with a solvent such as ethanol (this part is removed because of error, see below for explanation). Here’s how I made my extraction:

  1. After rinsing and letting the petals dry a little, sterilise a small jar/bottle by heating it in hot water (I used a chicken essence bottle).
  2. Stuff all the flowers collected into the bottle and add a little alcohol such as vodka (You can use water if you don’t want alcohol, but you will have a little less pigment) (same error, see below).
  3. Using the handle of a clean spoon, squish the flowers until they are bruised and submerged in the liquid.
  4. (Optional step) Cover the bottle with some cling film and leave it in the fridge for a week to maximise extraction.
  5. Strain out the flower using a fine sieve (tea strainer is good).
To make a syrup, just add a whole lot of sugar to the extract. In Thailand, the flower is used to make a drink. Inspired by this, I made a cocktail out of it.
Butterfly Pea Blue Vodka Fizz
Add blue flower extract and two shots of flavoured vodka to a tall glass with ice. Add soda water or tonic. Stir. Simple.
I used a flavoured vodka because the butterly pea flower doesn’t really have much taste to it.
Now to play with the colours…
 As anthocyanin is pH sensitive. Not only pH plays a part in the colouration, it can also degrade the colour a little. You can read more about it in this paper or on wiki if you are biochemistry inclined. So to keep the blue colour, the liquid of the extract must be on the alkaline side. I decided to play around to see the range of colours I can make.
Erm, Pinkydoodles has a few (by a few, I meant 10) test tubes in the apartment. Perfect for my little experiment. The middle test tube in the picture above shows the colour after extraction. On the left is what happened when I added lemon juice to the extract to make it acidic. A nice reddish-purple colour.  The right test tube shows what happened when I added sodium bicarbonate to make it neutral (I think? tell me if I’m wrong). It turned a greenish blue. I don’t have anything very alkaline in the house unfortunately, but the colour should still be blue. Heh, talk about your very own litmus test.
Here’s another look. You can see that it is purple at the zone between alkaline and acidic.
So, if you are looking for a substitute for blue food colouring that is not artificial, you could try this. Won’t work obviously if your food is going to be sour, that is the disadvantage of natural food colours sometimes.
-M.
p.s: Today’s post is made to coincide with the anniversary of the formation of our country. Happy Malaysia Day!
An error: Thanks to a reader, who pointed out a flaw in my statement “They are also water-soluble, which meant they can be easily extracted from the plant cells with a solvent such as ethanol”. Much thanks and my apologies for the error. Ethanol IS NOT water so does not equate to water soluble. That means the solvent one should use here IS water. My bad.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

It is the time of year where we give and receive mooncakes to celebrate the mid-autumn festival. We used to play with lots of lanterns as children… ah, the good ol’ days. We did however still love our basic mooncakes and animal shapes. None of this ping bei business, please (those are usually given as gifts, but really they can’t beat the traditional crust with red bean filling).

Our selection of red bean paste mooncakes in animal shapes and traditional moon shape (top right). Nice to look at, nice to eat! These were bought from the SS2 Sunday market, except for the piggy with the ribbon… Pinkydoodles bought that one from somewhere else.

Happy mid-autumn!

-teambudu

P for Pulasan!

Pulasan, ripe

Pulasan

What is this red, thick-skinned and slightly spiky tropical fruit?

Is a rambutan? Is it a lychee? Or some bizarre mini red durian?

No… it’s Pulasan!

*cricket chirps*

If you don’t know what a pulasan is, I don’t blame you. Heck, this fruit is indigenious to Malaysia and South-East Asia in general, but most locals don’t even know that it exists either, much less what it tastes like.

Anyway, if I were writing some expat-explores-Malaysia blog, I’d probably start talking about the scientific name and whats not, but hey, the link to Wikipedia is already up there. I’m not in the mood to repeat stuff I don’t need to repeat.

I’d run into pulasan a few times before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it for a long while, so I bought some. But I am starting a story in the middle… let start from the beginning.

So yeah I went for a hike up Broga Hill and after hiking me and the biking group I was with decided to whip out our folding bikes and go explore Pekan Broga on bike.

Shame it was so hot, but we did run into an interesting stall:

I love poky little stalls like these, especially when they sell local produce. So after we caught our breath from trying to bike up the evil hill slope we toddled over to spend some money.

Most of the produce is local, so we have, from top left to bottom right: Papaya, Wild Durian, Sweet Potato and our topic of today, Pulasan, which was promptly mistaken for rambutans by most of my group.

Anyway, I decided to buy some home, along with those wild durians, but fortunately (or unfortunately) I was spared having to figure out how to carry durians and one kilo of pulasan on my non-carrier fitted bike down the hill and all along the route back to where we had left our cars. The calvary showed up, and the appearance of our backup vehicle meant my purchases could hitch a ride.

Cycling with a durian dangling from each handlebar would have made for a great picture though.

Back home, I opened up the pulasan for a try. The technique is identical to the rambutan opening technique: make a little break in the thick skin with a thumb or forefinger, (the pulasan skin is thicker than the rambutan’s), then twist the skin with your wrists turning in opposite directions. The weakness you introduced in the break should let the skin break off like so:

As you can see this thing does look heck a lot like rambutan, down the inside fruit. I prefer it to rambutan though, the flesh is sweeter, thicker and doesn’t have the annoying peeling skin thing. Also, the lack of hair is definitely a plus. Not as messy.

For bonus points, the seed of the pulasan is edible!

It tastes quite nice, kind of like a green, raw almond nut. I wonder if I can collect enough pulasan seeds next time? I could roast them and try and make pulasan butter or something…

Incidentally,I just noticed the local naming scheme for tropical fruits. Duri-an (Malay: duri = thorn), Rambutan (Malay: rambut = hair) and Pulasan (Malay: pulas = twist). So logical.

I wish we kept our naming scheme more consistent across more fruits. Imagine the possibilities…

-Pinkydoodles