As I sifted through recipes, there were a lot of recipes that used seafood, which makes sense seeing how it’s on an island. They also use a lot of spices in their cooking, but if you’re in the middle of the spice route, I think it’s to be expected. However, it was harder to find recipes that didn’t have a lot of hard-to-find ingredients.
|Yu choy sum, since they apparently didn't have choy sum. This is my substitution for rape.|
For the main dish, I went with a recipe for Brunei cutlets. It’s actually flake tuna, onion, green chilies, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, cardamom, and potatoes all mixed together in a skillet. It called for curry leaves, and I was pretty sure I could find some at the international grocery store, but I didn’t feel like driving all the way there. (This crazy weather is taking a slight toll on my energy levels.) But I did find that some substitutions for it would be either bay leaves or basil, both of which I have readily available, but forgot to put it in. (Argh!) However, after it’s cooled a bit, form it into a patty and dip it into a beaten egg mix and again in bread crumbs and fry it until it’s a golden brown color. It turned out so good, that even my finicky 4-year-old son ate it! (High-five for me!)
|Brunei cutlets. And my kids thought they hated tuna.|
The next dish I made was called Noodles & Tofu. Even though I had studied Japanese for nearly 20 years, and have eaten a lot of Japanese food, I had never actually bought tofu before. This dish called for both firm tofu and dried tofu. I never did find dried tofu, but I did find what was called a fried tofu cutlet. And fried and dried rhyme, so that should count for something. It called to take both kinds of tofu and fry them in sesame oil anyway, so… it was ok in my book. I mixed some ginger, my substitute for asadoetida powder (heaping ½ tsp onion powder and level ½ tsp of garlic powder), choy sum (Meijer had a sign for choy sum, but had yu choy sum in its place – it’s a leafy green that I think is similar to chard, but has a flavor more like spinach. It’s good that they called it choy sum at the store; another name for it is rape, as in rapeseed, and I’m pretty sure a Google search for “substitution for rape” wouldn’t help me here), cooked Chinese noodles, soy sauce, lemon juice, the fried tofu, and bean sprouts. I stir-fried it for several minutes until it was all mixed thoroughly and everything was warm. I really liked it, and so did the kids. My son also ate a few pieces of tofu (not sure if it was unknowingly or purposely, but he ate it.) The recipe called to mix in a little sambal oelek, a spicy sauce made from red chilies and salt that I left out. Unfortunately, my husband and kids are wimps.
|This was so good, but the best part is that I could add a variety of other vegetables and meats as well.|
As far as bread recipes go, I only found a couple. One was for these brightly colored cupcakes, but I wasn’t sure if I could’ve found fermented cassava, so I went with custard tarts. You make the dough, and then you roll it out until it’s fairly thin and cut a circle out of it. Then you take these circles and spread it out inside of a muffin cup. I pinched the tops to make it look more tart-like. The custard part goes in the middle: a mix of eggs, sugar, a little salt, and some milk. After it goes in the oven for 30-35 minutes, it should be ready to take out. Of course the custard was bubbled up, but after it cooled down a bit, it all collapsed. I did (at the request of my husband), add a little cinnamon and allspice to the custard, which made it taste a little better. Next time, I’ll use a ½ cup of sugar instead of 1/3 cup of sugar (also at the request of my husband).
|Really surprisingly good. Better when it's completely cool, as I found out .|
For a country that I knew very little about, I found its diversity fascinating. In doing research, I came across a lot of mentions on how tolerant they were about their diversity, from ethnic diversity to religious diversity. I came across an article regarding how Christians weren’t treated fairly in Brunei, and it caught my attention because it seemed anathema to what I had been reading. So, I read it to find out if there was possibly another side of a story; however, the comments section was filled with Bruneians denouncing that fact. They truly try to live up to their official name: Brunei, Abode of Peace. They have found a way to live among each other and share in each other’s differences, and that their country recognizes that if there’s something they cannot provide, then they will help you find it elsewhere. It’s too bad that idea has trouble establishing itself in other places. And the best part of being in a diverse area is the impact on its music, its art, its literature, and of course, its food.
|The finished product.|
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