My husband remembered eating these prickles put up by a neighbor and shared with his family when he was a boy. Calabria (the toe of the Italian boot) is the home of this condiment according to Waverly Root in his classic “The Food of Italy.” My husband found many recipes online, or more accurate to write, he found many mentions of the exact same recipe. It seems to be a common practice to copy and paste recipes word for word from one site to another site or food blog without crediting the source.
Eggplant is cut into cubes or strips or disks, then boiled for a few minutes in water and white wine vinegar. After drying, the eggplant is placed in a jar along with dried red chili, sliced garlic, and bay leaves, over all of which olive oil (we use extra virgin) is poured. (The recipe in Root’s book mentions garlic, pimento, and basil.) The result is a light, tasty condiment for summer. My husband also made some eggplant chutney with we can eat after 12-14 days. My father has provided us with too many eggplants to eat all at once this month, as all the plants ripen around the same time.
Today I cooked golden pomfret for the first time, one of four species of this fish found in the waters off Malaysia. (There are also silver, black, and Chinese pomfret available here.) I steamed the whole fish with black-ear mushrooms and garnished with coriander. I found the flesh soft, and mild flavored despite being a bit oily, and the fish was easy to debone. Usually swimming in deep waters, pomfret near the surface at night, perhaps to feed, but are themselves preyed upon by tuna. We have little time left in Malaysia and want to try as many new things as we can before moving on.
My husband has been obsessed with charts of pork cuts lately and wants to try to make soup with neck bones, a cut we have not used before. He found a couple recipes for soup online: one uses daikon; the other, renkon, or lotus root. The Chinese eat this cut of pork at New Year’s, slowly simmered for hours. We want buy some before Chinese New Year, beginning February 19.
On one of his almost daily trips to the local wet market, this morning my husband bought four “aji” (horse mackerel) about one kilo, for the equivalent of 240 yen. The fish are fresh, and my son loves to eat aji.
He also bought home some winged beans (angle beans) shown in the accompanying photo, some freshly grated coconut and freshly squeezed coconut milk. I made a cold salad partly with these ingredients, and the results were good for a first attempt, I think. These beans are rich in protein as well as a wonderful source of dietary fiber. The Thais have their own style of this salad.
As we move from next year to neighboring Thailand, the things we will miss most about living in this part of Penang are the local wet market, southern Indian food, and being within walking distance of almost everything we need on a day-to-day basis.
We have become comfortable here, perhaps too comfortable, and to us this signals that it is time to move on to the next place, to the next set of challenges. Emil Nolde, the Expressionist painter/printmaker, explained this better than I can when he wrote: “Clever people master life; the wise create fresh difficulties.” We think it is time again for us to create “fresh difficulties.”
I tried my hand at making “laksa,” a Malaysian noodle dish, a couple times recently. I used Japanese kombu to make a broth to which I added freshly squeezed coconut milk, and finely chopped shallots, lemon grass, and galangal. Afterward, I added small shrimp, thin slices of sautéed chicken breast, mung bean sprouts, and as a garnish and for added flavor, Vietnamese mint called “duan laksa” (laksa leaf) here. Not a true mint, this herb is used throughout SE Asia, and has a heavy, peppery taste. At the table we added some sambal sauce, which I prepared from a base sauce homemade by a local grocer, basically chili and garlic blended together, which I sautéed with some brown sugar and salt. We added “naam plaa” and lime juice at the table to taste. Locally produced noodles for laksa were used. These rice noodles are thick and must be well boiled. (In true Penang laksa, tamarind juice is added during cooking, instead of lime juice, to add sourness.)
Lately, I have been making good use of an iron “tava” or “tawa” (griddle) we bought in Penang’s Little India. For breakfast, my son likes rice flour pancakes to which I add whole wheat flour. My husband intended to use the tava to make chapati, and we bought a second one and took it back to Japan for that purpose. Here, we enjoy fresh chapati excellently made in the many local and inexpensive Indian eateries in Penang. So, instead of chapati, my husband has been using the tava to make whole wheat pita, and bazlama, piadina, and other flatbreads. Since we do not have an oven in our apartment, we cannot bake our own bread here as we do in Japan.
While Penang experiences seasonal changes, located only six degrees north of the Equator, these changes are more subtle than those in more temperate climes. My husband tells me that in the US, one can buy “fresh” grapes shipped by air from Chile in the middle of the northern winter. Aside from the unwise and obvious negative environmental impact of such commerce, the market is there, and will for profit always be exploited, until people learn again to live within seasons. People used to “put up” summer fruits and vegetables and in that way enjoy them throughout the winter. This custom has long since passed for almost everyone, though. The starfruit pictured here is now in season. It has a taste somewhere between a grape and an apple, if that comparison is helpful. The flesh is not too soft, and the skin is eaten with the flesh.
This is the first English-language entry to my Japanese blog. We will gradually work back through earlier entries and provide synopses for English-speaking customers. A separate English-language web site will be made available soon.
I returned with my family to Malaysia on October 29 to spend the next few months in SE Asia, after a whirlwind two months in Nagano. More about that two months, what we are doing now, and our plans going forward in future entries, so please check this page from time to time.
豆腐とテンペだけでは貧血になりそうなので、たまには魚を。この魚は長さ30センチくらい、二匹で330円くらいでした。ウロコと内蔵を取ってもらう時に魚屋のお姉さんに名前を聞いても「しらないわ、ハハハ」と言われ、なんだかよく分からないまま、ベトナムの”Cá chép om dưa”（魚の高菜とトマト煮）に。油で魚（本当は鯉）を丸ごと揚げてからトマトと高菜で煮ますが、ディルがたっぷり入って非常に良い香りです。