Thursday, June 10, 2010


Ambuyat and Fish

I'm back! After a four month suspension, the project is back in full swing. I have a couple of excuses for the break. First, I became full time again at my job starting in February. This not only made my hours at work longer, but increased the amount of take home grading and planning I had to do. Plus, I was just that much more exhausted. The other reason there was the interlude had to do with the Brunei recipe. I was intimidated by it not only because of its extremely obscure ingredients, but also because of its vague directions. Also, it just didn't sound like it would taste good. I'm too obsessive-compulsive to go out of alphabetical order, so I remained stalled until I dredged up the fortitude to cook the recipe. As it turns out, my trepidation was well-founded, as this meal was, without a doubt, one of the most vile, vomitous meals I have ever smelled or tasted.

According to wikipedia and other sites, the national dish of Brunei, a small Asian country, is ambuyat. Ambuyat is a mixture of a starch called sago and boiling water. Those from Brunei eat it at almost every meal. As it is extremely bland, they often mix it with spicy sauces to give it some flavor. Sago is hard to find in the US. I researched and learned that a close relative is tapioca starch, so that is what I used. My resulting ambuyat was a texture nightmare. It was the consistency of thick mucus. There was absolutely no flavor. I ate a half of a bite, gagged, and threw the rest away. I don't think that Andy, my mom or my dad even had the resolve to try it.

The recipe is used for ambuyat had two other components: some greens and fish. I ran into another ingredient issue with the greens. The recipe called for paku shoots. Not only could I not find these at an Asian market, but also could not find out what they even are from the internet. I decided to subsitute with Chinese broccoli. These greens are the single most revolting thing I have ever put in my mouth. From the moment I opened the shrimp paste that went into these, I was gagging. The directions in the recipe say to saute the shrimp paste in oil until fragrant; during this step, I had to stir the ingredients in the pan while I had my face turned away as I dry heaved into the sink. I hoped that the strong odor would be tempered by the large amounts of greens. Nope. I had one taste (it just touched my tongue; I couldn't even bring myself to bite into it) of the greens and had to stop. Andy had one bite and said that the shrimp paste flavor, which started out gross, just intensified to unbearable. He had one bite. My mom had one bite and couldn't taste it any more. My dad, who will eat ANYTHING, had a few pieces, but then decreed it as inedible and had to get the greens out of the house because he was so disgusted by them. They were SO GROSS!

The saving grace of this meal was the fish. While completely overpowered by other disgusting elements, it had a really nice, interesting, Asian flavor from the lemon grass, turmeric, ginger and tamarind that it simmered in. I would eat this component of the meal again.

In case you ever need to have a guaranteed vomit, make the following recipe:


-6 1/2 c. sago (tapioca starch)
-freshly boiled water
-4 c. water

1) Mix tapioca with 4 c. water. Soak for 10 minutes.
2) Drain water. Pour tapioca in a heatproof container.
3) Pour freshly boiled water over it. Mix well until tapioca is clearish and of a gummy consistency.

-1. 25 lb. white fish (I used cod because it's cheap)
-5 pips shallots
-2 pips garlic
-2 cm fresh turmeric
-2 cm fresh ginger
-5 Thai or serrano chiles (I used one because I'm afraid of too much spice)
-2 sticks lemon grass, crushed
-5 pieces dried tamarind
-1 1/2 tsp. salt
-2 1/2 c. water

1) Pound together shallots, garlic, turmeric, ginger and chiles. (I used a food processor; a mortar and pestle would work, as well)
2) Clean the fish and cut into five slices.
3) Place fish in a saucepan with all ingredients. Stir well.
4) Cook. (As this direction was a bit vague... I simmered it, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.)

Revolting Greens

- 60 stalks paku shoots (I used Chinese broccoli; perhaps this is where I went wrong?)
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 T. vegetable oil
-3 pips shallots
-2 pips garlic
-1 T. shrimp paste
-1/2 c. watre
-1 red chili, sliced for decoration

1) Pound together the shallots, garlic and shrimp paste.
2) Heat oil in a wok and stir fry the pounded ingredients until fragrant.
3) Stir in paku shoots. Add salt and water. Cook until soft.
4) To serve, decorate with red chili.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely just read this at work and was laughing out loud during the whole thing. That looks absolutely disgusting! But I'm proud of your OCDness and that alphabetical order was non-negotiable!