The last month has been busy in the Engineer household. What with two sets of Couchsurfers, medical appointments every few days that are a one-and-a-half hour drive away, a visit from The Engineer’s parents, and a holiday to Kuching, we haven’t had much time to sit back and think. And we haven’t put our usual effort into our weekly challenges. We’re still trying plenty of weird and wonderful things (coconutty donuts from the market, Sarawak Laksa, red bean paste buns, char siu pau, rojak, mee jawa), but the actual challenges have been a little slap dash.
It started a couple of weeks ago with my challenge. My challenge was to buy and cook a live crab. But the first three times we went to the market to buy them, there were no crabs available. Then, when our visitors were here, we were seeing the sights of Kuala Belait and wandering around the market and I spotted the crab salesman with two cages full of crabs. I chose the biggest ones. But I wasn’t really thinking straight. So when he asked me if I wanted them cleaned and cut, I said yes. Which of course meant that rather than taking home two crawling nipping crabs, I took home a neat bag of six crab halves (the third crab was free – I love market bonuses!)
(Side note: how do you take crabs home still alive? Would I have to bring a box? Those crabs were pretty lively, and I’m not keen on the idea of them in a plastic bag so close to my hand!)
The crabs may not have been too scary in their plastic bag, but the size of those nippers still impressed me. And I still had no idea how to cook them. Thankfully, my mother-in-law is a bit of a crustacean cooking pro after years of my father-in-law diving for crayfish. So they got me on track. And 10 minutes later, we had a board of freshly cooked crab. None of us had really been in the mood for a starter, but once we dug in, our moods changed. That crab was delicious! And those giant nippers meant there was plenty of meat. A fantastic starter for only $5.
I think to do this challenge justice, I need to try again, and actually do the killing myself (I’ve heard that having a crab race first is kinda fun too). But I’m not sure that I’ll actually be able to refuse when he offers to clean and cut them for me. They were so easy, and so tasty. And those nippers…!
The next week when it came to challenge time, we were in Kuching. And we were so busy trekking around the national park, and being excited about the Rainforest World Music Festival, that the challenge slipped our mind. But thankfully, we remembered just as we were about to sit down for dinner at a Steamboat restaurant. So the dinner became our challenge. This is (clearly) something we would have done, challenge or no challenge. But it was also a little challenging. When we arrived, the waiter turned on our grill plate, topped up our water, brought us drinks, and said ‘Help yourselves’. This was great, but we didn’t really know HOW to help ourselves. We had a look around us to see what everyone else was doing, scanned the buffet, and then just went nuts. We weren’t sure we were doing the “right” thing most of the time, but we had delicious boiled prawns, tasty chicken, okra and greens, noodles, boiled eggs, broccoli, seaweed, mushrooms, and many many more. So we thought we did pretty well.
The true challenge came when we saw the vast array of fish balls. The Engineer and I are fans of fish balls. But at home, we pretty much just get the plain standard ones. Here, there were different colours, different shapes, and so many things we just had no idea about. So of course, we grabbed a big plate of them, and got stuck in. We waited until the end, because we didn’t want to wreck the broth for the others (who were not so keen on the idea of fish balls). And then we gave them a go. We still have no idea what most of them were, but there were pink ones and orange ones, flat ones and tube shaped ones, yummy fishy ones and ones that tasted like glue. It was a fun finish to an interesting meal.
So there you have it, two very different, and ultimately not very challenging, seafood challenges. It’s been nice having some challenges that we actually enjoyed. And even better is that we didn’t have to waste any food from either of these (I’ve been feeling quite bad about our challenge food wasting). But this week (we’re at challenge day again already), I’m planning to go back to our roots, and find something really weird for The Engineer. I saw a section of dried seafood snacks at the local shop that I think might have some golden opportunities and would continue our seafood theme… *insert evil laugh*