29 March, 2010

Salleh sells the 4 C's

Haji Salleh Yap, always feeling young and energetic in front of the wok.

I am fascinated by how Salleh Yap makes his business last. When I was a young student in the early 70's, I used to drop by at Mr. Yap's stall situated next to the Rex cinema in Kuching. Sounds familiar? Those were the days of the cinema and films, and he was in his twenties joining force with his father to conduct a simple yet unique business of selling fritters at the back lot of the Rex cinema. When I met him today at his stall nearby the Kuching divisional mosque, I found that he is just one year my senior. He has been in the business of selling fritters for the last forty five (45) years. The name "Rex Fritters", or in the local Malay lingo - cucur campur rex, was proudly displayed on a one-page menu at the table where I sat. It was all light- heartedness, friendly atmosphere and laughs when I intervened in short conversations his busy movements while he completed an unending list of orders from customers and many who lined up to buy some as take-aways. At RM 5.00 I had a plateful of fritters served hot according to my choice. The choices are many. There are fritters of fish ball, prawns, yam, sweet potatoes, sausages and bean curds. The beauty of eating the fritters at the stall is that it is served hot out of the frying pan. With a magical sauce that has remained consistent over more than four decades, he remains the N0. 1 fritter seller in Kuching. And was I surprised? He how runs courses on making fritters, the Rex style. Now I can understand why the 4 Cs he sells has kept him forever busy and wealthy- Convenience (location), Class (quality), Cheap and Culture (common cuisine). All mixed the 4 Cs has been a winning menu for people from all walks of life who have like me associated Rex fritters as an original Kuching brand over many decades.

Fritters - Rex style.

25 March, 2010

Kuching's new Orchid Garden

A section of the open area housing some ground or terrestrial orchids.

I have been busy for the last two weeks researching and writing for my assignments which I've completed a few days ago. Therefore today I took time to free my mind out of heavy reading and let it wander amidst nature's scenery, fragrance and beauty. Oh, how grateful I was for having made a short visit to the newly completed DBKU Orchid Garden nearby the Kuching Waterfront area. The garden is owned and managed by the Kuching City North which in Malay means Dewan Bandaraya Kuching Utara - thus the abbreviation DBKU. DBKU is a government agency tasked with the administration of Kuching City North. I need to explain further. Kuching City has two mayors, one for the northern area and another for the southern region. I guess not many cities in the world have two mayors. Well, that's something for the record. The garden sprawling over a 15 acres site, is open to the public from 9.30 am till 6.00 pm from Tuesday to Sunday and on public holidays. Admission is free and photo taking is allowed. Naturally I had a field day taking the images home . But I feel I need to come back here again in the future to see more orchids in bloom especially to peek at those that failed to show their true colours today. I will try to cover more on the subject of orchids later now that excellent samples are easily seen at the garden. For now I would like to share a few of the wonderful species that caught my nokia n93i camera phone lens for the sharing. I hope you too will enjoy the slide show below. Just click on the 'Normah Orchid' image below to see the garden via youtube. Have fun and need I remind " A thing of beauty is a joy forever".
Sarawak State Flower ~ 'Normah Orchid' ( Phalaenopsis bellina)

20 March, 2010

Images of Kuching Today

Wild fruits sold at Satok Sunday Market

Belimbing Hutan ( Baccaurea angulata)

Asam Paya ( Eleodora conferta )

Keranji ( Dialium indum)

Rambai ( Baccaurea motleyana )

[Note: All the vernacular names are in Malay]

03 March, 2010

Going wild over illipe nuts

A fruiting " Engkabang" tree ( Shorea macrophylla) showing reddish brown winged fruits.
Let the illipe butter melts its flavour and enriches your rice with its highly regarded oil. Rice is never the same again.

I have a ravenous liking for illipe-buttered rice. How does it taste? For those not familiar I'll just like to describe the illipe nut taste as near to the cashew nuts. The rarity and speciality of the illipe nut tree (Shorea macrophylla) has been described in my earlier post here.
I have read recently that the illipe oil that is derived from the nuts is used as base for cosmetics (lipstick), skin moisturizing products and a substitute for cocoa butter in the making of chocolates. Whenever there is chance I'll try my best to keep stock of the illipe butter cake. They have a reputation of lasting for years at room temperature without losing its unique taste or flavour. My love for them was acquired from my grandmothers ( from both my father and mother's side) and that's as far as I could remember. Back then it was easily available but today I think it's a miracle if you can stumble upon one cake in town. Like any other indigenous trees in Sarawak , those with exportable value have seen their last hours under the unstoppable blades of bulldozers that carve new homogeneous oil palm plantations across the length and breadth of Sarawak. The fate of the engkabang tree is the saddest story of Sarawak's "development" story. Thus whenever I see an engkabang tree or its fruits I'll jump to joy and try to enjoy it in the two ways described here, that is as a salad and butter for rice.
Remove the thick skin and then soak them in water for 2-3 days.

After soaking, the fruits are boiled and reboiled repeatedly for about 4 times to remove its bitterness. After the last boiling, take a bite and if it tastes like cashew nuts, Yep! that's just right.

The boiled nuts are soft to eat. Take them with a pinch of fermented durian called "tempoyak" locally. For me, I'll can devour any amount of the sliced nuts. Well, it's part of the family tradition!!

The illipe butter in cake form standing tall on a plate of boiled illipe nuts and "tempoyak".

The above is the last step towards happiness. Having the illipe salad next to the fermented durian (Tempoyak) is indeed mouth watering. Add some slices of red chilli and a tiny pinch of sugar to the tempoyak and Oh, life is worth living. Have a joyful meal of illipe -buttered rice with
your favourite fish and that's how marvellous simple living is.

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