Thursday, December 25, 2008

Fruits of Borneo Island: Asam Embang

Asam Embang or Mangifera PanjangAhhh...I am puckering my lips right now while writing this. Asam Embang, is what we call this almost prehistoric looking fruit, one of the mango family, with its scientific name, Mangifera Panjang. It is found almost everywhere in Borneo and in Kuching, Sarawak, you can find this at the market. The brown almost scaly skin is almost half an inch thick and the only way to get those juicy fibrous flesh is by scoring the skin about quarter to half an inch with a knife in sections. Just be careful with the sap that comes out of its skin, as it will burn your skin a bit. (click on image for a bigger view) The skin of this fruit is edible. The yellow flesh is sweet and sometimes a bit on the tart side when not completely ripe, and can be eaten either raw as is, into mango relish or added in your dish to add the sweet sour flavor of the fruit. Either way you have it, is good.

My favorite is like how my mother and grandmother did it to keep us quiet. Chopped the flesh of the fruit and add water and a bit of sugar and pour it cold into a glass especially when its so hot outside! Yeah, that will keep us quiet and content when we were kids, chewing the fibrous sweet fruit and drinking at the same time.

Then, when we are able to stand the heat in food, the relish is served. Made by, again, chopping the fruit small, add it into the sambal that is of shrimp paste, chili, a bit of anchovies pound together. This is eaten with warm rice. Ahhhh..divine!

Adding this to a fish dish made of a mix of crushed lemon grass, dried chili, a bit of turmeric, half of an onion, cut in wedges, crushed garlic, fish of your choice, I prefer white flesh fish, or better yet, dried smoked fish and sliced Asam Embang. All these ingredients into a pot with water just enough or a bit more covering all the ingredients makes all the difference. Simmer away. yummmm...

The Sambal Asam or Mango Relish with the Sweet Sour Fish and Hot White Rice, a sunny day, a soft breeze and coconut trees rustling in the background is a beautiful imagination in my head when the truth is, its cold and white outside my window right now.

A Merry Christmas, everyone!

As of now, I am still in a quest of finding another mango which most called the Asam Binjei or Binjai. White Flesh Mango! An opposite texture to this Asam Embang, white and silky smooth, but oh so good!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Feastication V. The Ultimate Rice Salad: Nasi Kerabu

Nasi Kerabu or Nasi Ulam
Nasi Kerabu or Nasi Ulam to some. One of the many rice dish offered by multi-cuisine Malaysia and is one of the food on a must have list when I got back home during my last vacation. The first time I had this was in college during Ramadhan and I have not stop any chance I can get on these interesting, colorful multi-textured and flavored, delicious dish. The blue rice, the fried fish, the Solok Lada, the never ending list of vegetables julienne, the gravy and sauces that goes with this dish just entice your taste buds with all the texture and flavor it has to offer. And the Keropok.

This dish is originally from Kelantan, Northeast of Peninsula Malaysia. Before I get into details, if you are ever in Malaysia, especially Kelantan and Trengganu, go to where the lines are long, that's where you get the best Nasi Kerabu. Then again, you can always get them anywhere in Kuala Lumpur and I still go to smaller food stalls or restaurants for the best. I would stay away for the commercially flashy, contemporary restaurants, just because the food don't taste as good as it is suppose to. Sad.

I will be breaking this down. Drool at your own expense:) Here goes.

The Blue Rice - the version I like. This captured my attention ever since. It seems that they have different version, blue, black, red and or simply white. The tinted rice are done by using different herbs that produces the color. The blue rice is tinted with dried Bunga Telang, in English, the Blue Pea or Clitoria flower.

The Ulam or the Salad. Raw vegetables like cabbage, long beans, Kangkong (water spinach) and herbs such as Bunga Kantan ( Torch Ginger Bud,) Daun Kunyit (Turmeric leave,) Daun Kesom ( Vietnamese Mint,) Daun Selasih ( Basil) among many herbs were jullienne with added bean sprout for more added crunch!

The Sambal Kelapa. Coconut Sambal, a condiment. Pan fry with finely chopped black pepper, onion and fresh ginger which is then ground for another time after all have been toasted.

The Sambal Ikan. Fish Sambal. Another condiment that made this dish. It is made of grilled Ikan Kembung (Indian Mackerel,) finely ground onion and ginger. These ingredients are mixed together and pan fry till toasted.

Solok Lada. Stuffed chilli. This was made with again, Indian mackerel, ginger and onion, ground finely and added to grated coconut, stuffed into the chillie and boiled in rich creamy coconut milk till the coconut milk dries.

Writing this makes me drool. I don't have the patience to do this, but I love, love, love, this dish.

Then, the ingredients to this did not end there.

There's more fish. Deep fried and coated with turmeric powder, rice flour , a bit of salt and lime water.

Last but still not the end of condiment's list, Sambal Budu. Fish sauce sambal. This is another must, to me, in this dish. Made with dried chilli, red onion, garlic, ginger, all finely ground, with crush lemongrass, sugar, coconut milk and tamarind juice. the coconut milk is first boiled then added with rest of the ingredient and boiled again till thick.

What did I say about enticing of the taste bud. This alone has created one group of flavor that dances around those teenee taste buds. Its salty, sour, spicy and sweet. All in just this one condiment.

Oh how could I forget, the Keropok! The Fish Cracker. The magic cracker, as I call it! Crunchy, slightly salty goodness made of Fish, flour, salt and some added spices, mixed into a dough, boiled, thinly sliced, sun-dried and packed for us to use. Most keropok would be packed in plastics and all you have to do is fry them like you do chips but, this frying only takes seconds as the small dry compact slices blooms into a huge dessert plate size crackers. That's why I call it the magic cracker!:) You may want to try with one small chip first and see the magic transforms! I play with my food:)

The above picture was taken when I had my lunch in Section 18, Shah Alam, Selangor with my two lovely couple, Nizam & Ziela, my very long time friends from college whom I have not seen for more than 13 years together with their 2 lovely daughters and my sister & my nephew, Mumble:). It is so good. Added to it is sliced grilled beef. I cannot say more but one word. Yummmmy!

Good company and good food.