The Return of a Foodie from a Journey to Asia – Part I

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Hello, readers! (If I have got any…) I am back to cooking and the routine of a 9 to 5 job. If there’s anything I’ve learnt this week, it is to not attempt a Julia Child’s recipe unless it’s the weekend. Nonetheless, it was well worth it! I tried her Ratatouille recipe; drying the eggplant and zucchini with paper towels seemed a little silly at first, but it definitely helps with the browning process. There are, however, many ways to prepare this dish. Click here for variations. I didn’t have fresh tomatoes, so I used canned tomatoes. I was a little skeptical at first, but a friend later assured me that stews do taste better with canned tomatoes since it is smokier and much riper.

Brunei was amazing and serene! The only dish I couldn’t fit in my vacation schedule was a bowl of laksa. I’ve compensated this by buying a packet of laksa sauce; a bit nervous since I have never made it myself. It’s so easy to overcook your noodles and ingredients. It is also a lot of prep-work; much more than it would with ratatouille. My boyfriend was brave enough to try this spicy noodle soup dish; he loved it:With the new acquisition of a granite mortar and pestle, I am going to have fun making my own ‘sambal belacan’. It is often served on the side for extra flavour, if desired.

I love the food in Brunei; so many comfort food I grew up with: fresh, affordable and made from scratch. I love the fact that most people are concerned about where their food comes from; locally grown fruits and vegetables are so affordable! Fresh fish, affordable free-range chicken. It’s hard to go hungry in Brunei when you can grow your own easily or find wild vegetables in the jungle or fish for food. I almost died in banana heaven for less than $1.50; none of this yucky bland chemical taste that is found in Ecuadorian bananas. If only people (here in North America) paid more attention to where their food comes from. For a good start, you could read “Veggie Revolution” by Sally Kneidel, Ph.D. and Sara Kate Kneidel.

The best bowl of Kolo Mee in Seria, Brunei for BND$1.80

The art of making noodles stays with local family businesses. Seria is the town famous for its noodles, more popularly known as “kolo mee”. There are other variations: “kolo kueh tiaw” (flat rice noodles) and “kolo lau shu fen”. My own version of “kolo mee” is nothing comparable to the picture above; well, I am no noodle-maker. However, the best way to prepare it at home is to season it with sesame oil and a bit of soy sauce. In an attempt to reproduce it back in Edmonton, my boyfriend pointed to peanut sauce while we were grocery shopping. Perhaps, too hasty in saying NO, I explained that fried shallots, soy sauce, chicken broth (optional), and sesame oil are the basics. Peanut sauce is for fusion-style dip for Satay. (Meat on skewers) Now, satay meat is best dipped in this curried sauce. If only it was not gluttonous and unhealthy to eat chicken satay every day. (BND$5.00 can buy you A LOT of satay!! The satay at Tropika is not even comparable to what we had from WYWY in Kuala Belait.)Noodles is the most versatile dish; it can be consumed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. My boyfriend challenged me to make a bowl of kolo lau shu fen. In the midst of panic, I asked around for a recipe. Please do stay tuned to find out if I am indeed successful in making “kolo lau shu fen”. An old schoolmate was kind enough to give me her recipe.

There is an old-fashioned noodle shop in Sungai Liang, in the Belait District. It has been around since the early 50’s. It was so good that Mike took too many bites before taking this picture:Noodle dishes are affordable and easy to prepare. The trick is to find your favourite kind of noodles from a chinese grocery store. My dad could never dream of leaving Brunei; he loves his kolo mee.

Part I is noodles. Part II is fish. My boyfriend would love me cook a curried trout some time soon. I hope he would have a lot of Tums or antacid on hand; I’m going to have a lot of fun with my granite mortar and pestle. Otherwise, there’s always pre-packaged fish curry sauce.