Monday, 30 August 2010

Well, it is called SWEETcorn!

Not long after we arrived here I started spotting something strange on restaurant menus...

Yum, milkshakes!  Mango - sounds delicious; strawberry, chocolate, vanilla - so far, so normal; banana - OK; sweetcorn..?!  Eh?!

Then we noticed the freezer section in the supermarket.  In amongst the usual flavours was...

Really not sure about this...

But today we were in a shop, laughing about the whole concept of sweetcorn as a dessert flavour and somehow egged eachother on into buying these:

Um, and these:

The Corn Candy is, as you might expect, rather odd.  But yes, it does taste of sweetcorn!  Not entirely unpleasant, but perhaps not something I'll buy again.

Potong appears to be a traditional ice-lolly-style snack.  Last week we bought some more 'traditionally' flavoured Potong - Black Glutinous Rice and Coconut Cream flavour!  You can't say we're not adventurous...  and this gamble paid off; they are gorgeous.  So we thought a mixed pack of Red Bean, Sweetcorn and Durian flavours might be worth the risk too.  (And might be the closest we get to eating actual Durian!).

Mealtimes are never dull here!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Noodles for Supper

As I mentioned in my previous post, most of our evening meals here in Brunei consist of rice or noodles.  This is one of our favourites - and ridiculously quick and easy... and cheap too!

In the UK these packets of noodles are only a step up from the naffness of Pot Noodles...  but here they LOVE them!  Every supermarket has an entire aisle devoted to noodles in general, about half of which will be these pre-packed ones.

This is a brand we particularly like.  A pack of 5 packets costs $1.40.

We can't read the instructions, but the pictures are helpful!

What seems to make these particularly nice are the 5 sachets that come in the pack, to be stirred into the cooked drained noodles:

Seasoned oil, chili sauce and thick syrupy soy sauce...

Plus crispy fried onions and seasoning (probably full of monosodium glutamate, but very tasty!)

Just a bowl of these noodles with no accompaniments is a satisfying lunch or light supper, but last night we topped them with a fried egg, and served them with some garlicky, gingery beans and baby corn, and it was a really delicious meal.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


We love Asian food - quite fortunate really as we now find ourselves living in Asia...  and we've been really enjoying sampling various dishes since we arrived (over 3 weeks ago now - how time flies).  Eating out is cheap and easy, and Brunei is a real melting-pot of culinary cultures -  Malay, Chinese, Indian and Thai food are all easily available. 

We do occasionally hit somewhat of a food-wall...  most meals consist of noodles or rice, usually with chicken, and soy sauce.  It's lovely, but it does make you crave chips after a while!  (Which lead to the almost shameful sight of us gorging ourselves at the Yacht Club earlier this week with Rob ordering burger and chips, and me having steak 'n' kidney pie and chips!!)

However, inspired both by a dish that Paula had at a local restaurant and a cooking programme we caught on TV recently, we have discovered a Malaysian dish that contains neither noodles nor rice, but does contain loads of amazing fruit and vegetables, combined with a fantastically flavourful peanutty sauce - it's called Rojak.

Searching for Rojak recipes online I soon realised that everyone has their own recipe for it, and they're all slightly different, varying from country to country and doubtless from family to family too.  The basis of the dish though is the same - a sort of savoury fruit and vegetable salad.  It might not sounds appetising, but believe me it is, and it's also infinitely adaptable according to what fruit and veg you have.

We enjoyed a happy half hour together in the kitchen creating our own version of Rojak, which I attempted to document photographically...

We started by making the sauce.  This basically contains shrimp paste, tamarind paste (gorgeous!), chili paste (which we didn't have - we used a chopped birdseye chili instead), oyster sauce, palm sugar and lime juice - a tablespoon of each.  Blend together with about half a cup of water, and add a handful of crushed peanuts (or peanut butter apparently!)  Next time I'll add a splash of soy sauce too.

It all looks a bit brown and sinister at this point...

We'd never used palm sugar before - it comes in hard blocks which you grate.  It's delicious, with a real toffee-like sweetness.

Next came the heap of fruit and veg to chop...

We used green beans, baby corn, cucumber, apple and guava - but I found recipes that included pineapple and green (unripe) mango - which I'd like to try - too.   We also bought some beancurd to add, as we had seen this on the cooking programme and fancied trying it.

If you've never seen a guava cut open (which I hadn't!) here's one.  I peeled it and scooped out the seeds in the middle, then chopped it along with the rest of the fruit and veg.

Depending on the veg used you might blanch or cook it before adding to the Rojak, but we chose to keep it all raw as we love baby corn and beans as they are.  It gave the dish a great crunch.

Rob chopped and deep-fried the beancurd.  It went lovely and crispy - although when we do it again we'll coat it in seasoned flour before frying as it's rather bland.

Phew!  All that mixing, chopping and frying calls for a G&T...

The final step is simply to mix the fruit and veg into the sauce, stirring well to coat eat piece.  We topped it with the beancurd and some more chopped peanuts.

OK, it wouldn't win any beauty contests, but it really was delicious - healthy, fresh, crunchy, zingy and fiery (those chillies are HOT!)  Definitely a success, and one we'll certainly be making again.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

I'm back - and in Brunei

It's been 8 weeks since my last blog post.  8 weeks... and about 7000 miles. 

We're now living in Brunei - and it still feels a little strange to be writing that!   Until we heard we might be moving here, I'm not sure I had heard of Brunei, and I certainly didn't know where it was.  But now we find ourselves living and working in the Far East, on the north coast of the island of Borneo, looking out over the South China Sea.

So how is it? 'Overwhelming' has been the word that I've used most.  But overwhelming in (usually) the nicest way.  It's just that everything is new and different, it's pretty hard to take in all at once. 

New house...

New critters...

New school...

New wildlife...  (I was going to say 'new neighbours' there but thought that might be misconstrued!)

New climate...  (Hot and humid with epic rainstorms).

New sights to see...

New food to try...  (This is ambuyat, a Bruneian speciality, which due to its close similarity to wallpaper paste,  I will not be sampling again!)

A beach within 5 minutes' walk of the house...

And walks in the jungle...

All that, along with some fabulous new friends and neighbours.  I think we're going to be very happy here for the next 2 years.