Monday, January 18, 2010

jollof rice and nigerian indomie

I was recently accused of being ‘eastern’ (whatever that means, I suppose eastern as opposed to being white and western). it seemed a strange label – being called ‘eastern’ and I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. perhaps I naively think of myself not firstly in terms of skin colour, race, culture or background – I’m just me. and perhaps I just never thought that any of my friends who knew me well would think of me in primarily in those terms. if anything, I am sometimes accused of not being Singaporean enough (also, whatever that means).

that is not to say that I have an aversion to my skin colour (I quite like my tan), race, culture or background. all those factors contribute to who I am as a person. I embrace the fact that I grew up in singapore, that I am chinese, that my default comfort food is rice. but I also embrace the fact that I’ve lived away from singapore for a third of my life, that london is now home, and that spaghetti is also my default comfort food (particularly in spaghetti pie).

anyway, I love rice. I love rice in almost all of its forms. I say almost, because I hate rice pudding. I absolutely detest that stuff. but rather than start a diatribe against rice pudding, I shall sing my soliloquy of love to rice: I love it white and plain. I love it all fragrant and chockfull of turmeric in briyani. I love it vinegared and nestled beneath raw fish in sushi. I love it deeply yellow (or squid inky) with squid rings and prawns in paella. I adore risotto. I love my parent’s fried rice. and as I’ve recently found out: I love jollof rice.

i first had jollof rice when the long suffering O (anyone who’s a real friend of mine is by definition long-suffering to put up with my idiosyncrasies) made it for me. Jollof rice, for the uninitiated, is a west African rice dish made essentially from rice cooked in a paste of tomatoes, peppers, onions and palm oil, which lends to its luscious red colour. O invited me and the DC to her aunt’s over Christmas last year, and there again, was a big pot of Nigerian jollof rice. it was great. I ate nothing but jollof rice (and the fried rice that O insisted I try, I just couldn’t face any meat). it was so good I emptied the contents of the pot into a turkey sized Ziploc bag and took it home and ate it for days after. O’s aunt was mortified that I scraped the bottom of the pan to dislodge all the gooey caramelized bits into my Ziploc bag.

O tried to teach me how to make it, but her instructions were along the lines of: blitz the tomatoes and peppers and onions, fry the rice in palm oil and cook it all together till done. O - I think I need a demonstration (with samples). I wanted to cook it for ages but procrastination got the better of me. I bought two pointy red peppers over the weekend (to be honest, I bought them also because reminded me of Spock’s ears, though that in itself probably isn’t the best reason to buy vegetables of any sort).

anyway, here’s pictoral proof of my efforts. nowhere as good as O’s or her aunts. I ate it with roast chicken which had a liberal dose of paprika.

on a completely unrelated tangent, O and I found ourselves talking about Nigerian indomie on one of our (almost) weekly saturday brunches. for everyone who’s eastern like me and grew up in singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia – you’d be very familiar with indomie, makers of millions of packets of mi goreng asli, eaten with fried eggs and ABC kecap manis by us easterners by the tonne, which undoubtedly has been the saving grace of homesick Singaporean/Malaysian/Indonesian students in the western nations. well, did you know, Nigeria has their own indomie – it’s made by a Nigerian company and they have flavours catered for the Nigerian palate. they have jollof flavoured indomie. DC and I are trying to get our hands on some and do a taste test. Get in touch if you’ve ever had both iterations – we’re curious.


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