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This Aidilfitri

We are moved in, cat and all. Our local taqueria place sells incredibly good quesadillas, so crisp and thin, and they have a breaded fish version that is almost overwhelming cheese-slathered after about five bites. Within days of being here, I got back in the habit of cooking. I tried out my incredibly fancy new oven for broiling salmon in the cast iron skillet I almost never use, but intend to at this place. The salmon came out perfect, as did the scalloped potatoes I browned them with. With the skillet's help, and my new stove's high-speed burner -- wok hei FTW - I finally made okonomiyaki that looked like those photos you see on people's blogs over the Internet. Crisp and darkly browned on the outside and creamy on the inside. I don't know how it'll turn out, but I really want to fry up noodles on that stove, and experiment with tofu no miso-zuke (tofu cheese), which I'm told has a most verdant and fermented nosefeel while pickling.

Then, it was Aidilfitri. I haven't entirely paid attention to the requisite holidays in many years. Family gatherings aren't my cup of tea, and never particularly have been. They're overwhelming affairs, and there's hardly anywhere to hide. But, having a new home made me miss some of the color of the season. Ramadan markets, with dozens of stalls selling every kind of cooked meal, and people just hovering everywhere, their chatter over the drone of generators for the mechanized sugar cane presses at the requisite juice stall. I miss roti jala, keropok lekor, laksam and the rich, gelatinous shapes of local kuih laid out in massive plastic trays, because Malaysians traditionally fatten themselves up during Ramadan rather than humbler.

I really missed Indonesian layer cake, which isn't part of the traditional Ramadan retinue (at least in my country). However, as patient as a cook as I can be, lacking an egg beater or an electric mixer, I was absolutely not going to whip up meringue for this by hand. Instead, I made another variation of pepperkakor, to bring in something from my husband's culture into the celebration and still have that darkly spicy flavour. On Aidilfitri, you must have cookies. There are no Malaysian festivals without cookies. Traditionally, pineapple tarts feature in Hari Raya, but that involves making pineapple jam, and you can't really make small batches of pineapple jam, and then you end up freezing pineapple jam for next year, and you get the picture. My mother, who is a baking genius, used to make these huge cookie jars full of pineapple tarts, chocoloate chip cookies and macaroons (the British, not French kind) for Aidilfitri. Because we often had plenty of guests, I had to carefully ration how many cookies I could eat three times a day. I do not normally enjoy sweet foods, but I like cookies (and the occasional cake...) There's only two of us in this house. If I make cookies, I'm bloody well allowed to type up blog posts with one hand in the jar.

Because it was Aidilfitri, I also got it into my head we should have roti jala and chicken curry. I don't have a roti jala mould, and didn't use evaporated milk in this recipe, so couldn't nail some holes into the leftover tin as a replacement. We wound up with a slightly heavy crepe and chicken curry for Aidilfitri dinner. I still have an abundance of chicken curry, which is another one of those things you can't make in small batches.

On September 12, it is the mooncake festival. I tried to mail order mooncakes from what I am told is the oldest and most reputable Asian bakery in town, but I never got a reply. I am carefully considering whether I also really want bak kwa, which hasn't ever been a dish I even really liked, but sweet turkey jerky suddenly sounds nostalgic and great as a side dish with rice. Really though, mooncakes here are about dollar for dollar what I'd pay for back home, which means that being seasonal items, they certainly aren't thrifty. The part that truly makes me sad aren't even the mooncakes, which I usually only need a small nibble of. It's the Moon Piggies (no pig involved)! Or Moon Fishies (no fish involved)! I have many happy memories of munching these soft, crumbly animal-shaped biscuits as a kid. You cannot believe how I miss them every year.

Maybe if I hang out enough at the Chinese bakeries in the Mission, I might be able to score Moon Fishies and Moon Piggies. They're surprisingly rare though. People always seem to remember the mooncakes, but not the Moon Piggies.

I'm also certain the Mid-Autumn Festival is when people chow down on crabs. The Mission is a crab-happy place, and we live 4 blocks away from a really nice fish monger with a take-out counter. One of the things I've always wanted to do, now that I have a dining table and a deck, is to munch on whole crabs. My next investment might be a shell cracker.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 2nd, 2011 06:04 am (UTC)

*nibbles moon cake*
Sep. 2nd, 2011 06:04 am (UTC)
Did you at all see my response to meeting up in SF?
Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:06 am (UTC)
eeep! I replied to the comment via e-mail, not via LJ!

I booked space in a hostel at 680 Sacramento Street, so I'll be able to walk over to the restaurant at whatever time is convenient for you.
Let me know when is good for you two!

See you there at 6 PM local time, maybe? Do you have a phone number I can reach you at? How will I recognize you? I will be the fat, baldish Canadian with a backpack and a weird hat.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:04 pm (UTC)
Weird, I never got that email. Just sent you a message via LJ's internal system about contacts.

Dojima-Ann seems a bit far from where you're at. That's some 8 blocks away. But, you're right downtown, so there's literally lots of great food outside your doorstep. We'll think of something!

I am short, Malaysian and wear a mid-length black leather jacket, matching black boots. Tendency for jeans.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:08 pm (UTC)
Forgot to mention, closer to 6:30PM is my best bet. It's Friday, so many places might be crowded. Will try to get reservations if possible. What's your preferred cuisine?
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:20 pm (UTC)
I usually alternate between Persian, Thai, Afghan, and Cantonese food as those are the best restaurants near me, but I'll eat anything except liver. Name a place you like, and I'll see you there at 6:30.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC)
Persian and Afghan, you say? Oooh! I would like to try that.

I was actually going to suggest the Comstock Saloon: http://www.comstocksaloon.com/menu.php It's a little pricy, but par for the course out here. And it's nearer to your hostel.

Alternatively, there is still Japanese, though again, 8 blocks from you.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:47 pm (UTC)
The Comstock menu does indeed seem interesting - shall we meet there, then? My treat, of course!
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:52 pm (UTC)
Can you please make the reservations? Their web-based reservation system has a local telephone number as a mandatory field.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
Glad we decided on somewhere! Just got reservations for 3. Seth may or may not be available - his work is crazy right now.

Also, as a guest to the city, I absolutely insist that either I pay my way, or treat you.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
You are far too kind!

I can't wait to see you at 6:30!
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:18 pm (UTC)
I made an error, and sent an e-mail to the LJ server rather than replying to your comment.

This city is very walkable, so I have no problem with just eight blocks. Name a place with food you like, and I'll be there!
Sep. 2nd, 2011 12:58 pm (UTC)
crud! I meant to order mooncakes! The ones I like best are from SF and the market here I used to buy them from has closed.
I guess I'll order them now.

I know not of Moon Fishies and Moon Piggies, but I suspect it's because the Boston Chinese community is a small community compared to CA or NY.

Also, you're making me hungry. ;)
Sep. 2nd, 2011 01:00 pm (UTC)
oh. Eastern Bakery has fish and pig listed. You should probably stop by.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
I actually sent an email to Eastern Bakery 2 days ago. That's the place I hoped got my order, but I never heard back. Dismay! :(

They apparently make mooncakes with absolutely no preservatives. Chinatown is such a tourist trap, I barely have any desire to head there, but it might be The Only Way. Or I could call them. Phones are evil.

Seriously, I think the only reason I know of Moon Piggies and Moon Fishies is because I lived in a large southern Chinese community when I was little. They were increasingly hard to find as I grew up and moved around. Basically, these are soft biscuits made from just the leftover mooncake dough. :)
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:21 pm (UTC)
I should have brought you some moon cakes from Toronto! Although they might not have let me bring them through Customs.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
Yeah, customs would have been unhappy, I think. They've been tolerant of some dried fish products, but mooncakes are all grains and such.
Sep. 6th, 2011 01:30 pm (UTC)
ooh! I got an email reply yesterday! I need to send a check to them for my order though.

Sep. 6th, 2011 03:34 pm (UTC)
No reply for me yet. Out of curiosity, did you just send them a text email, or were you able to figure out their PDF form and send that in?
Sep. 6th, 2011 04:34 pm (UTC)
I sent them a text email with my exact order and mailing address, and asked them if credit card was possible. They replied back and said check only and gave me an invoice number for my order.
Sep. 6th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC)
That's the exact same thing I sent them, even with the "is credit card possible". Man, I have no idea what happened. Glad your order went through though!
Sep. 7th, 2011 12:47 pm (UTC)
Maybe they felt bad for me since I'm on the East Coast. XD
Sep. 7th, 2011 11:21 pm (UTC)
Or maybe they're trying to get all East Coast orders in early, just in case there are delays. I know a major online grocery store for Malaysian food was sending out notices on account of Irene.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC)
Apparently my cell phone doesn't work in the US. I will try to find a local phone to call you.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )