Sunday, 30 October 2011

Day 8: Ka-chow!

We'd spent every evening differently but not through active choice. It's just how things were turning out, and it was very relaxing to be so carefree. The grounds of our accommodation were glorious in the daytime, but at night they came alive in a pristine way that was very much the stuff of romance novels. Balmy night air... palm trees swaying slightly in the breeze straight off the ocean... perfect island silhouettes and blazing sunsets... It's a wonder we haven't all returned home citing babies due in 8 months time.

But honestly? Nighttime changes the place and it's beautiful. Even if you'd just broken up with your first love I think this place would forever manage to hold seriously cherishable memories. Breaking up may or may not be easier over dinner, because dinner in Borneo always turns out to be very distracting. Since everyone on the trip was and is very much quite well-glued together, dinners proved to bring some degree of excitement, the least of which was by no means the amazing hotel fare. It was here and not out on the street that we discovered the national pastime of Kacang.

I don't quite understand the love-affair with sweet corn, but this place adores it. In the same way some American friends of mine found eating pumpkin with dinner a bit of a head-tilt, eating sweet corn as dessert or a snack was one for me. Iced Kacang contains huge helpings of sweet corn among other things and after the dish is brought to the table, the instruction is to mix the whole thing up into a slushie.

It came to our table for dessert as a huge mountain of shaved ice swathed in grenadine which gave it a glorious berried hue. On the top of the mountain peak was a generous scoop of Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream topped with crushed nuts. Hiding under the ice mountain was a curious mixture of berry jelly cubes as firm as jubes, deep purple jelly cubes of caramelised wheatgrass, more chopped nuts, sweetcorn, sago beads known as 'pearls', and I think there were some bean bits in there somewhere.

This things seriously goes from bad to good. It looks like something yummy gone wrong. You stir it all up, serve it into your own bowl (in our case), then eat it. Truly, the proof is in the pudding - and they do call it a pudding!!

Let's step back. Where I come from, dessert has many identities and most of them are formulaic and neat. They are presentable and very much French influenced, not to mention puddings are firm and somewhat cake-like, and eaten with cream or custard. This dessert looked like afterthought leftovers but the taste was amazing. Let's now analyse, and again with photos that are not mine because we negelcted to take any.

Ours started a little something like this, only with a scoop of ice cream on top:

...and by the time we were scooping it out of our bowls, looked more soupy like this:

It just looked... wrong. But the taste was confusingly right! The dominant flavours were the sweet corn and the nuts combined with the sweetness of the grenadine. The sago pearls and wheatgrass jelly were subtle flavours neither here nor there and I concluded were more for a "mouthfeel", and I could see why the chef had presented this dessert in the most western way possible. Were it brought to the table looking more traditional...

...I think the chef would be faced with returned plates.

Ice Kacang was a dessert to be experienced and I'd make it here at home for sure, because in summer it'd be more refreshing than ice cream on its own. The shaved ice provides a crunchiness and the various textures make it a real mystery in the mouth. It's Agatha Christie meets Nigella Lawson on a diet because there's nothing in this to add to waistlines or hips at all. That sole scoop of ice cream on top doesn't do a thing.

Decide: If you are what you eat, how would you describe yourself? Do you need a little more adventure or will you grow old in a boring but tried and true way?

"Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
      Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
   I will strengthen you and help you.
      I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." Isaiah 41v10 sois pas effrayé,
      car je suis avec toi;
      ne sois pas angoissé,
      car moi je suis ton Dieu.
      Je t'affermis,
      je viens à ton secours,
      pour sûr, je te soutiens de mon bras droit qui fait justice.

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