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Monday, April 18, 2011

Nasi Ambeng ('Ambeng' Rice)

     'Nasi Ambeng' and chicken rice, two delicacies which are quite popular among Malaysians, are brought into the lives of Malaysians by Javanese and chinese respectively.  Nasi ambeng [^m beng] consists of white rice prepared with chicken currv or chicken cooked in soy sauce, vegetables, fried noodles, some salted fish, fried coconut flesh, and so on.  Everything is put on a round tray which has been laid with fresh banana leaves, and served to guests, four people to a  tray.  Although only four people are assigned to one tray of nasi ambeng, it can be eaten by more than that number.  Therefore, guests are given plastic bags in which they can put the 'berkat' (food from the pan that they have secured in plastic bags) to bring home for their wives and children.  During the good old days, plastic bags were not issued as they were not produced yet.  Instead, hosts prepared old newspaper and banana leaves so that guests could use them to wrap and pack the food.  After that, they used strings made from banana bark to tie the pack since plastic string were not invented.

    Usually guests are invited to feast at dinner time.  In those difficult olden days, most of the villagers in my area only had a bicycle each with which they used as a form of transportation. Therefore, they put the packed 'nasi ambeng' on the handlebars of their bicycles, or sometimes tied it on the carriers of their bicycles using a bicycle tube. 
Their houses were quite far apart from each other, their roads were bicycle paths under rubber trees.  Going back to their homes, they cycled their bicycles on the gloomy paths under the rubber trees, sometimes using their bicycle lamps to show the way, but most of the time, using their instincts.  Sometimes they ran over rubber tree roots that protruded on the ground, causing them to fall and the 'berkat' scattered on the ground.  Pity to their children and wives!

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