Thursday, 13 October 2011

Food for thought...

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.

I had always thought the English name for sengkuang was turnip. Apparently I am wrong. You learn something new every day. Seems like some westerners like to have sengkuang in their salads too...

Note : Pic on the left borrowed from TryMasak Online.

14 comments:

VersedAnggerik said...

Kalo tengok Anthony Bourdain punya adventurous kind of eating, I pun kadang2 nak ter-puke! Maybe sbb kita ni ni conservative sikit lah when it comes to food, kannnn?

Zendra-Maria said...

Dear Oldstock, I belief we too have borrowed the name of sengkuang from the chinese... it sounds dreadfully so anyway, so unlike keledek or keladi or lobak... :)

Nurie said...

..and I thought I was among the few who doesnt like the smell of cheese ;-)

I guess the older we get and the more we travel open our minds and tastebuds to all those wonderful and 'weird' food out there. However being a simple eater, I will always stick to ordering nasi goreng! hahaha

Oldstock said...

Verse, Bourdain tu memang adventurous gila. I used to think that I'm quite adventurous when it comes to food... tapi bila I pikir balik, banyak jugak local stuff yg I tak makan, e.g. petai, jering....

Oldstock said...

Kak Zen, memang sengkuang tu bunyi dtg dari bahasa cina... tapi boleh kira local juagak la tu :-)

Lagipun kita banyak adopt each other's words kan? Tapau, kawtim, ngam...

Oldstock said...

Noorsham, nasi goreng aje? Tak mencabar langsung, hehehe...

Before I went overseas, I was only familiar with the smell of cheddar cheese. Sampai sana, tak tahu pulak ada bermacam-macam jenis cheese.... pastu baru tahu banyak juga bau-bauan yg tak ter describe... hehe..

Pat said...

Yes, I too found out by accident that it was called jicama - which, I believe, is Spanish/Mexican.

I have friends who call it a 'yam bean' - but I don't know where they got this from.

In my family, we've always called it bangkuang - which, after I married my husband, I found out is the Hokkien name for it. Nice! Hahahahah!

Wan Sharif said...

I was taught by my favorite (late) headmaster not to talk bad about food of other people.. if offered not to say 'I do not eat this thing!'.. Alhamdulillah I can eat all 'weird' Malaysian halal foods.. but I still can not stand the 'nice smell of some French cheese' ;)

Oldstock said...

Pat,

Yes, I've also heard it called bangkuang. In fact, when I was a small boy, I remember my mom buying veges from the market by calling them in their chinese names because she speaks fluent hokkien.

Oldstock said...

Ayoh Wang,

Good advice that. It is actually quite difficult to decline in a polite way, the food offered to you. As I get older, I believe I am more adventurous than before... I will always try to taste something new before I form my opinion about it. The important thing is not to think ill of other people who may like to eat something that you don't.

JohorMali said...

En Oldstock,
In the seventies there were many fish and chip shops on the HIgh Streets of London and one particular thing is that for takeaways it will be wrapped with newsprints. Those days the choice of fish were cod and plaice, but these days dory fish is common. As usual, cod and plaice are dwindling commodites now and more expensive, and only served at expansive restaurants. Have you tried kippers for breakfast. It's an acquired taste really, just like any ikan salai. On another note, have you observed that the French simply tuck their baguette under the armpits unwrapped!

Oldstock said...

JohorMali,

Yes, I still remember the takeaways wrapped in old newspaper. Plus the cod and plaice... I loved both type of fish and would alternate among the two. Didn't know about dory at all until fairly recently.

Did not try them kippers, my friend. Breakfast for me those days is simply cornflakes in milk.

Al-Manar said...

Browsing around I finally landed here. I have seen 'Oldstock' every now and then but was too busy to pay you a visit ; or did but the posting might not be of much interest then.This time round I noticed 'Are you a keeper or a thrower', an interesting subject to ponder upon. It sounds like me as well, keeping and keeping things, thinking that they mmight be useful one day.

Then I moved down to this posting, another interesting one. At one point I thought of dropping you an email, but my computer cannot 'read' your contact address! So I have to be contented with an open comment.

You joined a bording school in the east coast, my part of the world. You mentioned budu and Kelantan. I guess you joined MRSM P Chepa. Your trip to England, backpacking, fish-and-chips etc brought my memory back to those years, some fifty years ago. Being a super warga mas, in my twilight hours, memories are precious. They are the things that I keep, being a keeper.

Call yourself Oldstock but I bit you hollow, I am sure.

Allow me to email you some time if you lease; mine almanar@pd.jaring.my

Oldstock said...

Salam Pakcik Al-manar,

You have dropped by to comment in this blog of mine before, in one of my earlier posts. Thank you again for dropping by.

I was at MRSM Kuantan, the last MCE batch of 1979. I gained the Oldstock nickname from that time but as you rightly said, I'm way behind you in terms of life experience. I saw the pics of your personal notes in your blog and I thought... whoa, this is cool! It is history being shown in present day. Precious.

I am honoured if you wish to correspond via email. The contact in my blogger profile is a yahoo account. Alternatively, you can reach me at fadhil.isma@gmail.com.