Sambal Hitam, The Official Sambal Of Pahang

Well, well…look at that… finally this humble sambal called Sambal Hitam is now the official sambal of Pahang, as declared by the HM Tengku Puan Pahang, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah. The black sambal is due to the use of belimbing buluh/Averrhoa bilimbi. This fruit is essential to the making of this spicy sambal. There is no water involved at all when “cooking” the belimbing buluh. The fruit is washed, placed in a pot on top of small fire and left to dehydrate from its own juice for  at least 6 to 7 hours. A kilo of belimbing buluh will only yield about a cup of the dehydrated version. It is indeed a long process and it is not even halfway yet!

The other essential ingredients are dried anchovies, bird’s eye chilis, onions and some oil for frying.

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For me the sambal hitam serves as a base for several kampung dishes that I cook. For instance, the sambal kulat sisir has the sambal hitam used as the base sambal. The add-ons are the kulat sisir and petai (stinky beans). Kulat sisir, by the way is a variety of mushroom/fungus which thrives well on dead rubber tree trunks. Before cooking, you need to wash it thoroughly to get rid of the grit that got trapped in between the “combs”. The effective way I have used is to soak the mushroom in a bowl of salted water for about 15-20 minutes.

Photo0378(Top)The uncooked kulat sisir, ready for the pot!

Photo0380(Top)Sambal kulat sisir and petai.

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So, Sister, You Want To Marry A Foreigner? A Guide To Making That Right Decision.

I don’t claim to be an expert in this but I feel compelled enough to write a simple guide for all the Malay Sisters out there who happen to be “sangkut hati” (attracted) to a foreigner. To be specific here: an expatriate – aka a White Guy.

George and I have been married for the past 3 years and yet I feel that I have been with him for the longest time (in a good way that is). He enhances my life and together we started charting our own stories, history, path, experience – whatever you want to call it and learn together. Together with him, I have re-discovered my beautiful religion and this time I am not alone in my quest to be a better person.

There is a check list that you may want to think through before taking the plunge because remember, most likely, this marriage is the second half of your life for both of you. So, do it right.

First things first.

These may mean nothing to you for now but trust me, they WILL:

1) Marital status – Is he single/divorced/separated, or are you not sure? The answer may be gotten just by asking. But wait. Don’t just stop there. If he is a divorcé, and if the relationship is “at a higher level”, go ahead and ask to see the copy of the divorce paper. Get it verified at his embassy. If he is separated, make sure he divorces his wife properly then marries you accordingly. Like I said, this may not mean anything to you or maybe to him for now, but it will haunt the both of you when the wife comes back and demands alimony. Divorce in western countries is expensive so many couples decide that separation would be the best exit strategy. For now. Sometimes the wife gets bitter and threatens to take the husband to the laundry, just simply because she feels that no one else deserves him. Does not matter that they have been separated for the last 10 years and they live 10,000 miles away from each other. Remember that there are many countries which have mutual extradition agreements and mutual agreements to enforce alimony orders.

If he avoids to address this issue, that’s a red flag.

2) Religion – is he already a convert? Soon to be convert? To a guy, getting his Yahoo to be P1-ed (“potonged”) is a big deal especially, when he has the original thing since day one. In addition, based on our experience of talking to other converts, there are two other main things that bother them a lot: food and alcohol. To be specific: oink! oink! products and beer. Is he willing to change his lifestyle to reflect a Muslim lifestyle and, the more important question: are YOU willing to guide him as well and make the necessary adjustments in your life so that both of you can benefit from this life transition?

Or, perhaps religion is not on the radar at all cause the sex is so fantastic that you think he is a great keeper? Think again. Cause when your family is busy doing a khenduri at home and he doesn’t want to come because he doesn’t know how to perform solat jemaah, trust me, you will run out of excuses for him one day.

3) Money issues – talk to each other about money issues. Who gets what and how much goes to where so that each decision is an informed one. Malays being Malays, we tend to beat about the bush on certain things. Or worse still, we do not talk about them. The last thing we want are surprises. Alimony and child support are expensive stuff.

If, by any chance you have never met this dude yet in real life (meaning you have only ever “met” him on FB/other online mode), and he wants to send you money. Not just any money, but a heck of a lot of money – that’s a red flag. The word that should spring right away in your mind is MONEY LAUNDERING. Or better still: LOVE SCAM.

4) Legal stuff – same as money issues. You need to address this. Doesn’t mean that because he is away from his home country that he gets away from legal stuff there. This often means taxes, alimony and child support. Their legal system may give them the right to pull back his passport or to seize his assets abroad. You do not want this to happen.

5) Skeletons in the closet (other than money and legal) – hmmm…this is not easy, as it involves morals, culture, and lifestyle, . Ask questions. Share your skeletons with him in return. Ask yourself whether you can live knowing “stuff” about him. See whether you are comfortable. Examples of skeletons in the closet: ex-girlfriends, sexual experiences, serious illnesses such as HIV, STDs, AIDS, cancer. Any life-changing illnesses that require you to make an informed decision over lifestyle. Not just for him, but in the family medical history. How about issues with abuse, addiction, or depression? Stuff like that.

Do a self-reflection

  • An expatriate is not a Malay and will never be a Malay. Understand that from the start. So when he says that he cannot stand the smell of durian, or cannot appreciate the taste of your masak assam pedas, and prefers his roast beef better, he means it! However, this does not mean that you must stop eating your favourite foods. You may eventually like his roast beef and he, your sambal belacan, so do not give up.
  • Malay culture is different from western culture. Ok, so the basics are the same: be respectful to elders, do unto others…yadda, yadda, yadda. But I can tell you there are at least a gadzillion other things that can be soooooooo different that if you do not discuss about them before you get hitched, there will be trouble. Simple example: pointing/touching with feet is forbidden in Asian culture but this may mean nothing to him. Remember, it works both ways. You are marrying into his culture too. Be open and flexible in your approach.
  • Sex – ahem! Another sensitive issue. I have been asked by a religious officer how to address the incompatible sexual expectations between the two people. The husband, because of the way his environment has been set up, has more exposure in this department. He may have more experience in ways other than plain man-on-top-woman-on-her-back sex. And you might feel…like a sex object. I cannot emphasize more that you should celebrate this union by exploring more than just plain vanilla sex – as long as it stays within what is allowable within the faith. Try new things, be sexy, feel sexy. Allow yourself to be wanted and the returns, my Sisters, are highly…..rewarding! But don’t do anything stupid,  such as asking how where he learnt all those sexy moves, or who is sexier: you or the last girlfriend/wife? It doesn’t help you. At all. Trust me.

So, give a thought about all these. The most important thing is to celebrate the differences between both of you. After all, those differences are what attracted both of you to each other.

Brown skin against pale white/pink skin. Your dark hair against his salt and pepper. Western guys, they say, make better gentlemen than many of their Asian counterparts. I know there are great Asian guys out there but I can only vouch for my own guy as he is the ultimate perfect soul partner, friend, lover and husband.

Busana Bridal

I have been thinking lately of putting up another blog on Malay bridal and all the various ceremonies that go into the whole entire wedding process. In my mind, the Malay bridal attire is so unique and beautiful. Each attire and each piece of cloth worn reflects the deep tradition that the Malays have.

I still have no idea how I will put all these into writings or how I will segmentize it but I have thought of the blog title – Busana Bridal, or the bridal attire. The framework will cover the types of bridal attire found in Malaysia, the kind of materials used, the significance of each piece of cloth and so forth.

I would also like to put together the concept that go into the wedding ceremony – garden wedding, traditional, modern including themes etc.

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So, stay tuned!

A Place To Unwind

I dont usually advertise places, services or company names unless its really worth mentioning. On this rare occassions, I am going to write a little bit of this place called Amanrimba (literally translated to peaceful forest) where I had the chance of being hosted by the wonderful caretaker, Intan.

I was with the HR Director of a reputable 5 star chain of hotels to recce places for their upcoming Executive Management retreat. Through some contacts, we were invited to savour a full afternoon of Amanrimba’s hospitality, and that was exactly what we received!

Reaching Janda Baik after a good few minutes drive away from Berjaya Golf and Country Resort Bukit Tinggi, we were picked by Intan at a point somewhere in Bukit Tinggi. We drove through what seems to be an endless narrow roads, passing through small kampung villages, greeneries, fruit orchards, small rivers and the occassional water buffalows and monkeys.

15 minutes passed and we started to slow down a little bit with the driving. I could see a small river running parallel now to the small road we were passing. The water was so clear, thick forests lining up the other side of it. What greeted us after the drive was this Asian inspired entry gate that led up to inviting looking wooden chalets, fruit trees, various garden herbs, a small fishing pond complete with geese, ducks, various birds including peacocks and parrots.

I immediately fell in love with this place. I want to get married here. I want to be with someone here. (later I was told that a garden wedding was held in the resort not too long ago where the father of the bride gave her away from a decorated lanai )

Aptly named Amanrimba, this place offers a hideaway from everything else, it seemed to me, but not too far from the modern trappings. It boasts of free wifi all throughout the property, laptops in the suites,  comfortable beds with linen, the most gorgeous looking open air bathroom (complete with jacuzzi), a small pool and for those who wish to fish, the pond comes with a myriad of fresh water fishes for you to tackle with your rod. I was told that once a year, the Resort would call the villagers to come over and an impromtu fishing fiesta will be held. You can see them catching the fish with fishnets and the proceeds to be distributed to the village folks.

The parrots kept on squawking, “How are you?” each time we passed them.

We were taken to visit all of the wooden chalets (suites). One of the structures was actually the first house the owners built in the property. A typical Malay kampung house but with modern trappings. Airy, inviting, cosy that make you feel you just want to lay down by the long open windows, and sleep.

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Late lunch was served. We could not have asked for a better meal. As the open air seminar cum dining room was occupied by a group from a local university, we were invited to lunch inside their kitchen. The kitchen resembled a small chalet with all sides opened up to allow fresh air to come in. The stainless steel kitchen was spotlessly clean. I was impressed.

Meal was simple kampung styled cooking – steamed white rice, fried fish in soya sauce and chillies, sambal paru (beef lungs), gulai rebung (young bamboo shoots cooked in chilli paste and coconut milk), the obligatory ulam and sambal. Intan had also asked the cook to fry us some bullseye eggs.

The fresh air make my tummy rumbled. The host was hospitable. My HR Director client, her friend Kak Z and I tucked in to the hearty simple meals. Exciting conversations flowed freely. More seconds to the food stations unashamedly. We completed the meals with some coffee.

Satiated, Intan walked us to the nearby small river which happens to be a part of their 3-acre property. The water was cooling and inviting. The river banks were devoid of any garbage or plastic bags. Just trees and more trees that provided cooling shades. The already excited two ladies eagerly plunged in the river. I sat on the rocks and took in the moment.

Later part of the day was spent at one of the suites’ anjung (verandah) that overlooked the fishing pond. The peacocks were making their roundings with their colourful tails well spread boasting their colours. I heard birds chirping. Gentle breeze on my face. We were engaged with conversations again on the planned trip next month. More coffee and pisang goreng (banana fritters) to cap the afternoon session.

We truly didnt want to leave this small heaven.

Alas, 6.30pm, we had to go back to the city and praying that the traffic would be good. Intan generously prepared a few take-away bags for us containing buah bacang (a local breed of mango) that came from the garden.

A perfect day indeed.

Post note: Amanrimba (www.amanrimba.com) is accessible through the Karak Highway via the vibrant small town of Janda Baik  and is about 45 minutes from Kuala Lumpur city. And no..I was not paid to write all these, just love sharing a beautiful experience with those who need to get away from the hustle and bustle of life.

Malay Mentality, Or What?

I chose “what”. Not quite sure about the Malay mentality though.

I am talking about all the dimwitted advisors that seems to surround you when you and your ex are trying to make some coherent, sane, balanced, informed and mutual decisions in a divorce.

Either way, most of them seems to be some stupid stuff:

  1. most likely to come from either side or both sides of the families (MIL, SIL, mother, sister, uncles, aunties and the entire village including the chicken and goats)
  2. highly charged emotional outbursts accompanying some unwarranted choiced words
  3. more choiced words with historical backgrounds from the day each partner being conceived in the womb
  4. that the divorcing couple should be squabbling and cat fighting over every single sen, cats, furniture, kids, stocks, bonds, shares, cars, bedsheets and toothbrushes in the marital home
  5. and that none of them are actually helping but was merely contributing to the noise pollution….

 What the fuck is wrong with you people?

From my observation, usually this kind of stupid mentality only happens in the Malay family. PLEASE correct me if I am wrong. 

Pleih!