Do you remember that scene in one of the short movies in the first ANYK festival last month, where people from the different cities of Indonesia argued which cities are the best, and that their argument was cut short by the smell of Indomee? The scene, perhaps ambiguous to some of us, actually represents that no matter how different our ideas, values or perspective are, food always brings us together.
Indeed food, like love or music, is a universal language.
And humans, whether we are hungry or not, will always have that an extra room for dessert (an imaginary dessert stomach, as dessert lovers justified it to be). Living in Korea at the moment we are not short of delicious desserts, plated creatively and eaten in romantic atmosphere that makes us feel like we went into some Korean drama scene. But sometimes, we all just want that simple dessert that we often eat during afternoon tea in our home country, or even the food found in every corners of the street of our hometown, to which we never fail to stop at even for a few minutes. In this second event, the ASEAN dessert making workshop hosted by the ASEAN-Korea Centre and organized by the ANYK on 20th of November, 2015, we get to know and try the taste of home of some of the ASEAN countries.
Let me start with Pisang goreng as this food is commonly found in Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. Interestingly, each country prefers to call it differently. In Brunei, for instance, instead of Pisang goreng we prefer to call it Cucur pisang. If we have to describe this to our Korean friends, it would probably be Banana Twigim as Pisang means Banana and goreng means fried in Bahasa Melayu/Indonesia. But this is no ordinary twigim for us Malays. Just like scones is the perfect harmony to English tea, Pisang goreng has the perfect marriage with Teh Tarik (milk tea), and prompts an afternoon break full of meaningful conversations. Moreover, it is quite simple to make as all it takes is to dip the banana in flour mix and deep fry them until it turns golden and crisp. The best pisang goreng would be the ones with the many extended extra crust on the outer layer and many of us would pluck off the crust first before actually eating them. Then, as you bite through the golden crisp and into the savory sweet warmed banana inside, in no time you will be wanting for more! Nowadays, to cater to the taste buds of youngsters, there are varieties like dipping them in condensed milk, sprinkling them with cheese or chocolate, or all. But, of course none of these varieties beats the simple one that made by our own mothers.
The Rujak is also a common food in the three countries (Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia), but perhaps even more common in Indonesia as it is not rare to find wheeled carts selling rujak along the streets of Indonesia. Basically, rujak buah is a mix of tropical fruits which has been cut into eatable size, and each fruit has its own taste that contributes to the overall harmony in the mouth. For instance, the pineapple gives a zing of sweet and sour, the cucumber gives a refreshing aftertaste and the tofu puts a little richness into the texture. But what makes rujak special is the peanut sauce poured onto the fruits, which gives a sweet nutty flavor with some hint of spiciness. Despite the variety in the taste, only when you mix these different taste together, does it creates the perfect flavor that dances on the tip of your tongue. This, I think, is a good representation of Indonesia, where each of the different ethnics pours their diverse culture onto the plate of Indonesia, creating a harmony.
A favorite of mine during the event and if could describe it in my own words- I took a bite of happiness and it was festival on my palate. Despite the absence of pretty autumns or beautiful pure white blanket of snows in many of the South East Asian Countries, one of the thing we are most proud of in our warm weather is the abundance of cheap tropical fruits especially Mango and so we share the same sadness of seeing 6000won price tags on mangos here. Thus, listening or seeing anything “mango”, instigates excitement to us. That was exactly what happened during the festival as attendees throng towards the Filipino booth enjoyed every bite of the dessert. As we bite into the sweet creamy layers, there is a tinge of freshness that makes us go back into that line again, and pretended that we hadn’t had any before. Of course, the people manning the booth was too busy to notice that we went twice or more times.
Pudding Cha Thai (Thailand)
Who doesn’t love milk tea? And if you love milk tea, you would love the Thai Tea leaves pudding. The pudding has a rich taste with hints of tea flavor, and yet not too sweet that, under the South East Asian sun or summer in Korea, would be the perfect thirst quenching dessert.
If you travel to Vietnam, one of the common sights would be street vendors selling Ché. Their tables are packed with bowls having different colored fillings, such as red beans, lentils or fruits, which makes it seemed as if he is selling gemstones. But the dessert Ché itself is a gem along the bustling street side of many Vietnamese cities. Customers can choose which fillings they would like in their dessert and enjoy them as they sit plastic stools while watching the liveliness of the city
I learnt that Lapov means pumpkin in Khmer language. At first look, this dessert has a grand and exquisite feel as the whole pumpkin sits on the plate, with a lid on top. Beneath those lids are creamy custard inner filling, which you could already imagine how it would melt in your mouth, even by looking. When the Cambodia representative describes that durian can be added to the fillings, it was even better.
Finally, Kek Batik is something almost everyone love in common, especially during festivities such as the Eid (Hari Raya Aidil Fitri) festive season in Brunei or Malaysia. No Eid is complete without Kek Batik sitting in their glass containers ready to be eaten. The chewy chocolate layer compliments the crunchy biscuits that beautifully sits within the chewy layer, forming a sort of mosaic or batik patterned art. Hence, its name. Moreover, nowadays there are many flavors of Kek Batik ranging from Lychee batik cake, or cheese batik cake and can even be bought in the Brunei International Airport for passengers to bring out as souvenirs.
In the words of Deborah Cater, a travel writer, “You have to taste a culture to understand it”. In just one night and one place, I think we had travelled far and experienced eating like the locals in South East Asia. I bet everyone now will be looking forward for the next event.
By Nur Atiqah Raduan, ASEAN Correspondent from Brunei Darussalam