Published in Rambutan Literary: Issue One (Branches)
In Australia, Kuala Lumpur is often symbolic for the entirety of Malaysia – the Petronas Towers, endless lines of traffic, a city metropolis. But this is not the Malaysia I know. I know the reddy-brown water of the Rajang River, the back streets of Bintangor, which I always thought amusing because it sounded like bing tang guo, ‘frozen sweets’, the quaint wooden house in Sarikei where an old lady charged my mother an extra ringgit to cut my hair because it was so long and thick. My Malaysia is dirt roads, free roaming chickens, the clearest of clear night skies, and perhaps most importantly, a unique cacophony of food.
It is this food I carry around with me today, in my apartment in inner city Brisbane. My freezer is stuffed full of kong biang, though they taste best when fetched straight from the oven. We’re that weird family that buys several kilograms of it to take home, mainly because we don’t trust my sister not to have eaten most of it before we even get on a plane back to Australia. Kaya toast is almost a staple in my diet, and I prefer peanut butter and kaya on bread rather than peanut butter and jam. Pek tin yok, or eight herb soup, was a staple during the colder winter months, when my sister and I still lived at home. My love for food from Sarawak is possibly my only true connection to my parents’ homes.
If you like what you’ve read, click here for the rest of the piece.