When I was a young boy, I loved eating durians. It used to puzzle me back then, why westerners find the smell of the fruit so disgusting. I used to believe that the king of fruits has the best aroma in the world... so how can anyone describe the smell as being stinky?
As I grow older, I slowly come to realise that different people have different tastes and perceptions. One man's meat is another man's poison. And we don't even have to look at a foreign culture to understand this. Even within our own country, the type of food commonly found in one particular region may not necessarily find favour at another.
My exposure to the varying regional flavours began when I entered boarding school. The school is located on the east coast but students come from all over the country. Indeed, the first boy whom I met when checking into the hostel was this guy from Kedah. He spoke in a thick northern accent which I initially thought sounded weird. Later when I met boys from Kelantan, I thought they sounded even weirder. It was from one of these Kelantan friends that I learned about budu. After returning back to school from one of the term breaks, he brought along some of the stuff to show me and sample the taste. My first thought.... Good lord! How can anyone like this?
Till today, I still have not acquired the taste for budu although now I do like to eat nasi kerabu, which in itself gave me a somewhat apprehensive first impression. I mean... purple-coloured rice? Bizzare.
When I got the chance to study in England, the experience of foreign food culture became more interesting. The English love their fish and chips. They liberally spray their chips with salt and vinegar. When I buy this item from the takeaway chip shop, I always say, `Just salt, no vinegar please.' Vinegar, to me, is the stuff my mum use to soak kaffir limes to make her delicious acar limau.
While on a backpacking trip to Europe during one of the summer holidays, I came upon a shop in Switzerland selling all kinds of cheese. The view from outside the shop window was quite lovely... there were cheese of different shapes and sizes in varying colours of white, yellow and even shades of red. I decided to enter and have a better look. The moment I opened the door and took my first step inside, the pong hit me like a blast. I made a quick u-turn for the fresh air outside. I thought the cheese smelt terrible!
It then dawned on me... this must be exactly the same feeling when Mat Sallehs get a whiff of our durians for their first time. Strangely nowadays, I don't consider the durian as my favourite fruit anymore. I still eat it... but I won't go crazy if I don't get it.
So why am I writing about food today after not posting for such a long time? Well, a few days ago I was watching this overseas cooking show on satellite TV and saw a familiar looking vegetable being used as one of the ingredients, but the Mat Salleh called it in a name I've never heard of before. The vegetable (or more correctly, tuber root) is called jicama, pronounced in the Spanish style as hi-ka-ma. Locally, we all know it as sengkuang, a favoured ingredient in our rojak. Also a compulsory item when my mum cooks her kuah lodeh for lontong.
Note : Pic on the left borrowed from TryMasak Online.