Saturday, June 17, 2006

budu, caviar and sepat pekasam

I admit, I watch Akademi Fantasia too. I can’t be sure why. Maybe I just love seeing the misery of the students kicked-out. Never mind their off-key vocal, after all they are just students. I didn’t catch the recent one but was quite disappointed when Atin told me Karen, the ‘amoi’ from Kota Baru was dismissed. That ‘mek’ has quite a good voice (I watched the first concert rerun). They say the boyfriend giving her budu on stage sealed her fate. Was it the ‘boyfriend’ or the ‘budu’?

Budu is the special treat of the East Coast – both Kelantan and Terengganu and wherever their diaspora can be found. Those from the west coast that jokes about it are simply those that have not tasted it. Once you do, you could end up a ‘convert’. When teased, a lady at Pasar Siti Khadijah in Kota Baru had this to say, ‘Abe-abe jange gura bak budu ning, kene sekali ke, nikoh mek Kelate.’ (You guys don’t joke about this budu , once hooked you’ll be courting Kelantan girl to marry). But that, that hooks the guys - was it the budu or ‘mek Kelate’?

For us Terengganuan, budu is taken sparingly as a ‘cicah’ for ‘ikang panggang’ or ‘daging bakar’ – sometimes with a dash of tempoyak and ‘lada jarum’ (cili padi for you orang luar). The convert (my other half - Yati, included) use it as ‘kuah’ (gravy). A friend of mine, a chef-lecturer in UiTM had it in sandwich, mind you, while in England.

Budu is simply preserved anchovies in salt. My father use to make it for our own consumption. In the good ‘bilis’ season, he would buy a basketful of bilis, clean it thoroughly, mix it with salt, place in jar and store. After about a month, the anchovies meat break down to liquid and budu is made. The ‘hampas’ – heads, bones etc settles at bottom of jar. We Terengganuan don’t eat the hampas but the converts do, even as sandwich spread like my good friend. The secret to better budu is the modification; add some ‘menisang’, and ‘asam gelugor’. Can’t reveal too much though.

I believe with proper marketing, say like product placing in James Bond movies, the budu can rub shoulder with caviar one day. After all, you see the caviar factory in Bond’s 1999 The World Is Not Enough and still you yearn for its ‘class’ness. Alan wanted to try caviar so much (pengaruh wayang le tu) he belched at it the first time at the sushi bar.

My father makes ‘ikan jeruk’ too, in the good season preparing for the ‘musing hujang’ or the monsoon when nobody goes out to fish. In the seventies, the only lauk you can get during monsoon was ikan masin, ikan jeruk or the rare ikan sardin. Making it is much simpler , just plenty of salt and a ‘tempayan’ required. Place 3 inches thick salt at the bottom of the tempayan, place the fish, top up another 3 inches of salt. Repeat until the tempayan is full.

The better of the preserved fish must be the sepat pekasam. My mother in law, made them from sepat caught in the ‘bendang’ when it dries up. Unlike ikan jeruk that is preserved in salt, sepat pekasam is preserved in fermented rice. I don’t know the technicality but the sepat pekasam fried with sliced onion and bawang surely up your ‘selera’ several notches. ‘Mak T’tua lalu depang pun dok sedor weh…’

Of Kelantanese market girls - I’ll pen it next time.

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