Mum’s Greetings from Malaysia – Foodie Excerpts No.3

More from Mum, emailed Sunday arvo 5th December 2005…

We’ve had so much food (and such a lot of variety) since my last email it is unbelievable! I was telling Aunt T about how you, tfp, take photos of whatever food we eat at our get-togethers, etc and she said it was a pity we had no digi camera to take shots of all the food we have consumed thus far.

Yesterday morning Aunt T and Uncle S brought us for brunch at a special place in Kuala Lumpur town where we had v special wonton mee – we opted for roast pork, bbq pork and steamed chicken (yours truly picked the chook, of course -we have been assured there is absolutely no fear eating chook here*) to go with the noodles plus swee kow (extra large semicircular wantans with added prawns in the mince meat filling) in soup, and braised Chinese black mushrooms and chicken feet (the latter thoroughly enjoyed by Aunt T and Dad).

Last nite Auntie A came to pick us up to go to Kepong (should have been a 45 min drive but AA got lost and it took us an added 1/2 hr) for crabs – cooked in three ways – sweet and sour, in hairbee and chilli, and lastly in a coating of salt egg – yes salted egg that we normally eat with chinese watery porridge. This latter style turned out to be very unusual and very tasty – the best of the three. Fried rice accompanied the crab dishes, plus very delicious piping hot, smallish sweet bread loaves sliced and eaten dipped in the sweet and sour crab sauce – also very delicious. For dessert AA had plucked rambutans and nangka (both absolutely fresh and fleshy and v sweet) from her garden…Really nothing like the real thing!

Auntie S-L (my old workmate) and her husband CS brought us to a nonya restaurant in PJ for lunch today where we had really authentic otak-otak, petai and prawn sambal, inci cabin (can’t spell it – it is deep fried chicken pieces marinated with 5-spice, and perhaps oyster sauce, I dont know but was crispy and tasty), jew hoo char (shredded dried cuttlefish fried with shredded bangkuang (chinese turnip) and carrots, and something I have not eaten since my mother died – purut ikan (which literally means fish stomach). This is a curry with a real mixed load of shredded, highly fragrant vegetables (some 6 to 7 varieties) cooked in assam with its secret ingredient – preserved, cleaned fish stomach). This is an acquired taste, though I must say I acquired it fairly early in my lifetime. This was never reproducible in Perth sans all the fragrant vegies that mostly grow in swamps/drains in tropical climes and of course the salted preserved purut ikan. It was a real treat eating this today, especially for me, and for Dad too. The nonya food was very authentic, the otak-otak was exactly the way my mom used to make it, and it was so good to eat fresh petai – very flavoursome (or should I say smelly – literally, as some of you would know) and extremely crunchy compared to the preserved version we can get in Perth.

So, you guys can see the course our trip is taking – it’s just food galore! We go out with Auntie WM tonite and Auntie K (my good old Indian friend who taught me to cook the dry mutton curry) has invited her to her place on 9/12 for genuine Indian cooking.

We will finally visit one of the HUGE shopping complexes between PJ and KL (Citisel or Citidel, I am not sure, in Mid Valley – all names new and strange to us) on Sat next for a buffet meal – apparently the amount of varieties (both savouries and sweeties) they offer are unbelievable…

Today is extremely humid (and the hottest of the days since we arrived) – I think I must get off the computer and wipe off some of the perspiration that is running down my forehead and my spine!

…Till next we speak – probably after we return from Kota Kinabalu…
Love Mom

*Going to Malaysia, Mum was a little concerned about bird flu, but she wrote in this latest email “There’s definitely no fear of bird flu amongst the locals here”. I hope the locals’ lack of fear is indeed because there is nothing to fear. Mum and Dad have brought bird flu medication with them, which they will take if they feel they may have been exposed or infected along their travels.

Hairbee is dried shrimps.

Rambutan and nangka are fruits native to Malaysia. Read about rambutan here, and about nangka (also known as jackfruit) here. I like both of those fruits. You can buy them in syrup in tins in Asian supermarkets, but of course that is nowhere as good as the fresh, real thing.

I’m too lazy to explain what nonya means. Read about it here.

Otak-otak, which literally means brains, is made from seasoned fish in paste form, wrapped in banana or pandan leaves, and then steamed or grilled. There are usually no brains at all in the dish (heh). Read more about it here.

Petai are a kind of bean, sometimes known as “stink bean”. They are most definitely an acquired taste (I myself have not acquired the taste!). I found a few bloggers who have written about the petai smell, here, here and here. Just do a Google search for “petai” or “petai smell” (as I did) to find more personal accounts of the effects of petai. I always associated petai with adults; as a child I used to wrinkle up my nose as my parents and grandmother tucked into some petai dish – I thought it was stinky and never ever wanted to try it myself.

And PJ refers to Petaling Jaya, which is where we lived before migrating to Australia. Locals call Petaling Jaya “PJ”. And of course, KL is Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia.

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