Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Background: The same family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries
Location: Southeastern Asia
Area: Under 6,000 sq km; 172nd largest in the world
         Slightly smaller than Delaware
Borders: Malaysia
Population: Just over 400,000; 174th largest in the world
Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan
Per Capita GDP: Over $50,000; 9th largest in the world
Unemployment: 3.7%; 32nd smallest in the world
Drugs: Some drug crimes are serious offenses and carry a mandatory death penalty
Source: CIA World Factbook

Ambuyat is the national dish of Brunei.  The main ingredient is sago rumbia, which is something that returns foreign language sites on Google.  Not very easy to find.  Strike one.  Additionally, eating glue is not my idea of a good time.  Strike two.  And I didn't want to make it.  Strike three.  More searching!

I didn't have to look much farther than this site, and one thing quickly caught my eye.  Murtabak, or meat crepes.  According to Wikipedia, they are popular in Saudi Arabia, but Brunei is also mentioned.  A reasonable belief that they are authentic (because Wikipedia is never wrong), is good enough for me.  Let's move forward.

The focus of Murtabak is ground mutton, which we know from previous comments is not lamb.  It's "adult lamb."  However, I figured that baby mutton would have to be a good enough substitute.  As part of the adventure mentioned in Brazil, I went to the Afghan market.  There wasn't any ground lamb anywhere, but Kevin forced me to be social and ask.  The butcher made some fresh for me right on the spot!  We got to see it get ground...yum.  At least it wasn't like at the previous store where I saw some guy buy a goat.  Or maybe it was a lamb.  Not sure.  The skin was gone.  The eyes were not.

I had to start this recipe the night before, which made things interesting.  I forgot and started watching Lawrence of Arabia.  Late night for me!

The dough is very simple, although I was confused as to why salt and pepper were listed in the ingredients but not the instructions.  Ambiguity, flour, baking powder, water.  A lot of water.
Kevin wanted to make sure I had a picture of him helping.
That ratio does not seem right.
It got super-sticky.
Like whoa.

And with that it sat overnight and we got to get some sleep.  We were up bright and early the next day to run a 5k and then get some massages.  We don't so much do "relaxing" around here very well.  At least the dough got to sit for a long time.
Except that it is basically soup.
Yeah, that's not gonna work.
I added some more flour.  And then more.  And then a bit more for good measure.  Then it sat for another 30 minutes or so, because otherwise it was unusable.
Looking much better.
Since we had been gone a lot that weekend, the cats were particularly cuddly.  At least that's what I like to tell myself, not that they're just bored or cold.
I know it is dark, but I have to show you my two boys cuddling.
They were even being particularly nice to each other.  Getting better all of the time.
Curie wouldn't pose, but finally stopped moving.  And our painting is crooked.
After the additional flour and sitting the dough worked much better.

It reminded me a lot of making pizzas.
The mess I was making.  Everywhere.  The cleanup was not fun.
The dough resting safely under the damp cloth.
Most importantly in this recipe, there are spices!  Not only that, but I do new things with them.  Oh joy of joys.
How beautiful to have everyone together again.
Cardamom shells.  Don't eat this part.
I could not find coriander seeds, just ground coriander.  I have looked before, too.
Now to the new things.  Personally, I have never had to fry turmeric before.  Anyone else?

All of our other dishes were either in the wash or full of leftovers, so I had to use the wok.  Brunei is in Asia, it works.  Right?
After it was all over.  Not sure what that did, but c'est la vie.
 For the rest of the filling, you just cook it like you would any ground meat with seasonings.  Murtabak = Brunei tacos?  Except it takes longer because of the wok.
So many onions.  EVERY.  TIME.
Finally done.  This is why Kevin never trusts my recipe time estimates.
Filling the dough should have been fairly similar to the empanadas.  Roll the dough, spoon some filling.  Here you also added some beaten egg.  Rather than baking them, though, you deep fry.  I had some leftover peanut and vegetable oil, so I used a combination of those two.  No reason other than frugality.
The first one seemed to be going so well.
But I made it too thin and put in too much filling.
It left a mess behind.
It was pretty ridiculous frying it.
Luckily I improved after that.
On the left you will find my first attempt.  On the right my second.  No one can say that I am not learning.
Now, I had heard of Top Gear before.  In fact, some episodes have been explained to me in great detail.  But I had never actually seen it.  While I was cooking, Kevin found the American version on TV.  So when I say that I got distracted, you will understand why.  And why we ate dinner on the coffee table.
Do NOT walk away to see something on TV while your plastic utensil is in the deep frying liquid.
See that top one?  Yeah, that might have been in a bit too long.  Dang Kevin and your distractions.
 This recipe has all of the right ingredients.  Meat and some veggies, with a lot of spices.  Not only that, but it is deep fried in some dough.  What more could you want?

A lot, apparently.  This one was definitely lacking.  It was hard to nail down exactly what was wrong.  The dough didn't fit very well with the filling on the inside.  They seemed like two separate entities.  And the filling itself wasn't as great as it should have been either.  I'm honestly not sure how to describe it to you.  Maybe all of that extra flour caused some problems.  Maybe mutton vs lamb really makes a big difference, or roasted coriander seeds make the dish.  Oh perhaps we just didn't like it.  It certainly wasn't repulsive or offensive.  Just disappointing.

I would really like one of these recipes to be so good I want to make it again.  That hasn't happened in a while.  While some have been very good (like Brazil) it wasn't something that made me want to add it to the regular rotation.  At least not lately.  I will continue my quest.

Katie, I will not be practicing sutures on the pigs feet.  Unless the zombie apocalypse is coming, because then it might be a useful skill to have on the run.  You can have them, though.

Next time: Bulgaria

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