Here In My Home - Malaysian Artistes For Unity

Monday, 1 October 2007

Indon Dishes That Fail Me

Lest I am accused of only remembering the good stuff of my Indonesian cuisine heritage, I must admit that there are some foods that are unsavoury to my palate. These are foodstuff that no matter how hard my mother in particular push me to favour and hopefully savour, till now if served I will not pick to put into my mouth. The first of the food fare would be keropok jangek, crisps made of buffalo or cattle legs’ rind, tendons and all. The taste? The nearest description I can provide is a globule of rubber covered in fat that has expanded into air pocked bags may give some justice to the taste that definitely has to be acquired, though not for these taste buds. Oh yeah the odd smell of the keropok itself does not do it any favours in the taste department.

Continuing into the form and taste theme of the unsavoury would definitely be the dodol garut, peculiar to a district in Java but seems to be well-liked nationwide in Indonesia. Dodol as it usually presented is basically a caramelised mix of coconut milk, rice flour and palm molasses stirred into tasty black liquorice. That gooey texture is what gives this concoction its kick, and if you are lucky you may get bite into some burnt sugar bits that will double your pleasure. Now what makes me unable to swallow dodol garut is not only its uncommon taste that is irritable to my tastes, the texture does not endear itself to me. Instead of slick shimmering gooey good stuff, you get a pasty block of domino that can be as dry. Nothing about it charms me and why it has become a popular food item to be even featured in an episode of Anthony Bourdain show defeats me, and yes, he hated it too and that is one scene that you could find me nodding in agreement.

Moving on into actual dishes, one that has failed to captivate me is called asam pedas daging, a hot soury beef soup type dish tangier than Thai tom yam. Normally Malay asam pedas is more a gravy or curry type of cooking with the sourness coming from asam keping (dried sour slices from the garcinia atroviridis fruit) or tamarinds with the beef briskets type a personal favourite, but this Sumatran style of asam pedas really defeats me. A piquant vinegary soup usually cooked in a pressure cooker to soften the briskets and added with peanuts(picture bottom right shows kidney beans) to absorb the flavours while also imparting its own flavour to the mix, the tart rainbow of tastes so sharp actually overcomes my sensors resulting in my rejecting it. I guess my taste buds cannot take this sort of vinegary dishes as other vinegar based dishes like asam pindang or masak bercuka (literally vinegar cooked) also does not meet my approval. If left without a choice in my home, I will commit the epicurean sin of adding soy sauce to the dish to make it palatable.

The next item is actually a half and a half, meaning that I actually like the basic taste but rebuffed with a particular ingredient in it. It is beef rendang in two versions but both cooked with kidney beans, a definite Padang dish, the gravy of which is utterly delicious but the addition of the dehydrated kidney beans gives it a different taste dimension that negates my enjoyment. Unexpectedly biting into a bean explodes a shocking flavour sensation that is so alien, I guess much like biting into a coffee bean while eating a chilli dog. So much so that that when I was young that if the rendang was being cooked, a portion must be separately cooked without the beans or I will not eat it. Sorry mum. Anyway I gradually learnt to eat the rendang as it is but the beans still got pushed to a side, much like peas I guess for most people, which is actually funny, as I like to eat nuts and beans including peas. Actually this rendang was a rare affair since we could only got hold some of the beans if someone came back from Medan, so I guess I did not get a chance to actually get a taste of it.

And finally for dessert, a particular fruit that will not make it to my eat list is buah salak or snakeskin fruit. Popularly eaten raw or preserved, this fruit repulse me as it is usually so ‘rubbery’ sour though some are said to be sweet. It is not only the taste, the texture and smell also does not do it for me. I have eaten some off jungle fruits in my life, but salak rebuffs me like nobody’s business. Another sweet offering from Indonesia is pisang sale(salai) or smoked bananas. This black cigarillos of smoked sweetness is another odd tasting food originating from Indonesia that does not mesh with my throat that I will choke if I try to swallow it. Its caramelly pungent smoky smell already puts me off. The crumbly rubber like texture again disenchants me though pisang salai does have its following in Malaysia despite my personal misgivings. So yes, this is another grub of Indonesian origins that does agree with me though I am thankful that the list is a short one, rather than long.

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