MRE: Botok and Pulut Udang

Mengkudu, Morinda citrafolia

As Ramadan winds down, I race to give credit to local foods that got me through the month. These MREs, Malaysia Ramadan Essentials, are practically complete meals in one package. Add rice as needed.

Pulut Panggang Udang

Pulut Udang
Pulut Udang

 

Wrapped in banana leaves held in place by bamboo pins, pulut panggang udang is beras pulut, sticky or glutinous rice, cooked with a bit of santan, stuffed with a spicy shredded coconut filling cooked with tiny dried shrimp.  The whole package is grilled on a skillet to impart the banana leaf flavor to the rice.  The size of a large cigar and selling for a ringgit a piece, one unit is equivalent to a light meal.

 

Botok

 

Botok tenggiri
Botok tenggiri

 

Botok is a huge favorite of the adults of the household.  It is a Sarawakian favorite not well known in other parts of the country, and it is basically unavailable outside of bulan puasa, the month of fasting. The package looks fairly unappealing: a moist black leafy lump of organic matter.

 

Botok dissected
Botok dissected

 

Open it up though, and you find a piece of tenggiri fish surrounded by a shredded coconut preparation.  It is said the best botok is made with fish past their expiration date.  The fish has absorbed the nutty oils, the coconut is pungent and fishy and the whole shebang is given a fresh, bitter taste by the leaf it is wrapped in, something akin to mustard greens or collards.

 

Mengkudu, Morinda citrafolia
The botok wrapper: Mengkudu, Morinda citrafolia

 

That leaf comes from the Mengkudu tree, Morinda citrafolia.  Westerners may recall it as the source for Tahitian Noni Juice, an MLM miracle food craze big around the turn of the century.  Mengkudu is a weedy tree in the mulberry family, popping up in cracks in the pavement just like mulberries do back home.  The fruit gives a hint of the relationship, but mengkudu fruit tastes utterly vile and smells nearly as bad as it rots on the ground.  The juice is strictly for medicinal purposes, whatever those may be.  Consult your bomoh.  But in our house, we eat the leaf wrapper along with the fish, just the sort of veggie dish to keep you regular through the fasting month.

[two_first]
Morinda growing beside the river
Fruits ruined by a fox in hunger
Wait til I collapse in death my lover
Fallen into the hands of another
[/two_first][two_second]
Batang mengkudu di tepi sungai
Putiknya musnah dimakan musang
Abang menunggu mati terkulai
Adik lah pindah ke tangan orang
[/two_second]

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Malay pantun sourced from Malay Civilization.  Translation mine.

Lemang Kukuih

Lemang Kukuih

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[dropcap background=”yes”]H[/dropcap]ari Raya Eidil Fitri without lemang is like thanksgiving without a turkey.  Like so much of traditional village life, lemang is made from just four components: coconut, rice, bananas and bamboo.  Sticky rice mixed with coconut milk is poured into the hollow bamboo shaft lined with banana leaf, and then roasted over an open fire of [tooltip text=”Coconut shells” trigger=”hover”]tempurung[/tooltip]. That’s fine if you live in the villages, but what is the modern Malaysian city-dweller to do?  The fire pit and especially the thick smoke don’t mix well with rowhouse living.

Introducing Hajjah Maznah’s Steamed Lemang: Perfect for Your Urban Lifestyle.

Hajjah Maznah, my mother-in-law, is a self-reliant entrepreneur of the first order.  Unwilling to do without fresh homemade lemang despite living in a cramped and crowded housing estate, and sensing an unmet need in the market, she commissioned an aluminum kettle to her specification, propped it up on blocks on her front patio and fired up her propane tank.  This holiday season, I tagged along on the day before Raya as she made a batch of superb steamed lemang from scratch. By the end of the day, half of the batch was ready to feed her 24 grandchildren in the morning, and the other half was sold among the neighbors at a tidy profit.  Click on the coconuts to launch a fully annotated slide show of the process.

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