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Fauzah knows what I like and since I never complain she is always delighted to make
me her guinea pig whenever she tries a new recipe. To me she is an accoladed chef
and she deals deftly with a difficult "customer" - our older son, Adhha,
who does not eat sea food except fried ikan bilis and grilled tuna and a limited
number of vegetables.
Talking about fish, somehow, Westerners do not like fish head. The fishmongers told
me if I want free salmon head or any fish head, I should arrive early before they
throw them away. Some heads are sold, however, ridiculously cheap. In England, it
seems, each fish head costs only 5 pence or four for one pound (RM6.7).
In New York a certain fish head costs one dollar (US$1=RM3.8) each. But once it reaches
Malaysian restaurants a fish head curry asam can cost anything between US$15
to US$20 (RM57 to RM76) depending on the size and which Malaysian restaurant you
go to. Grilled Japanese fish head or Hamachi Kama also costs between US$15
to US$20 each.
I ask the fishmongers what to look for in a fish. I mean, how does one determine
if it is fresh. They say the easiest is smell - it should be pleasant, not acrid,
and look for the eyes and gills; eyes should be bright, the gills bright red and
full of blood and not brown and oxidized. The other simple test is, of course, if
it is slimy it guarantees the quality.
In hot and humid New York, people's enthusiasm for special food rises with the temperature
(varying between 900 and 1000 plus F). For the Japanese and Japanese-Americans, and
people like me, it is eel because according to friends, eels are very nutritious
and have plenty of vitamins.
Many people tend to eat cooling foods during musim panas. Try eel, Scottadito
- baby -lamb chop, Argentinean steak, ribs or chops, grilled baby summer squash and
egg plant or ikan terubuk and kepala ikan asam. I know some people
are put off by eel or belut because of the name which conjures the imagination
of snakes. In that case just call it unagi! (Japanese for eels).
In the Big Apple, if you have money everything is possible. Even ikan keli, gulai
tempoyak, tempe, ikan terubuk (or something like that) are available.
It is all the question of money We can get durian from Thailand in Chinatown
and something akin to chenchaluk from the Philippines.
As for drinks, I suggest that Malaysians visiting the city stick to fresh or canned
juices or Avian or other spring water. The wines are good, I am told, but they can
be over-hyped and overpriced. Then, there are certain drinks which have thoroughly
predictable effects on the collective esprit de corps, so be careful unless you want
to tear down New York to pieces! The desserts are supremely heavenly which are served
as rapidly as the expansion of your waist line.
Fauzah has always been in charge of the Abdullah household. I never interfere with
the routine she is used to and she refrains from interfering with mine. As we grow
older we are spending more time together even then it is the quality of time (together)
not the quantity. Although she is retired, she still has things to do but her biggest
job is to look after me; then food shopping, going to the bank and doing other chores.
Come to think about it, Fauzah doesn't really retire.
Good for her.
The other day I offered Fauzah to help with a mutually agreeable domestic role for
myself. You know, to share chores. She told me politely and pointblank that my greatest
contribution would be to simply get out of her way when she is cooking or doing other
Now you know why I am completely dependent on my wife.
Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations
(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )