No, and no. It’s never been easy along the way. On the bus, on the train, on the street. There goes another horror movie every time. The further the bus drives, the dizzier I get. The longer I walk, the stronger my heart stomps. The more crowded it gets, the more insecure I feel. The less crowded it gets, the odder I feel. It seems like there may be another episode of heart attack anywhere at any time. It’s paranoia. It’s cynicism. I know.
Just as everyone thought that all the advances are a gift to our fast-paced lives — a gift that would raise the quality of life and our happiness. People abuse it. The living and non-living have become a nightmare. A nightmare I’d choose not to live with if I could, honestly.
Buses brimmed with humans, just like cans of sardines — to bring food onto their tables and to the corrupted. “Precious” and “lives” never seem to make it to their vocabulary. Cold-blooded drivers and motorcyclists have their adrenaline pumped up through joy rides, fleeing beyond the forbidden zone — in the face of the police officers and terrified pedestrians. Pickpockets, robbers and rapists are somewhere out there desperately seeking their next victims? Me? Who knows!
Most of the people of this country are made bipolar. They are utterly brutal creatures on the road. You’re lucky if you get by without some sort of rage — be it constant honking, cursing and swearing against you and your loved ones, or the deployment of the “F-bomb.”
Whatever that happens behind closed doors, it’s dark, it’s a secret. I’ve got no choice. I can’t stand. I’ve got to let out my frustration. The truth is I risk losing my own freedom by saying these. No freedom to say as wished. Luck is shining upon me if you happen to see me here over the next few days. I hope I won’t be the next detainee behind bars. It’s lifeless. It’s cold in there.
It’s a dilemma — one that I have to bear till I die. I love Her, but She doesn’t love me. One day, I may leave Her for good, in search of refuge, in search of humanity. It’s not my intention to be part of the Brain Drain. It’s such a pain. But I have to, eventually.
And when I’m miles away from my Motherland once again, I’ll be missing this dearly. In 1856, British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace had the ultimate taste test of his lifetime when he said:
“The five cells are silky-white within, and are filled with a mass of firm, cream-coloured pulp, containing about three seeds each. This pulp is the edible part, and its consistence and flavour are indescribable. A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop. In fact, to eat Durians is a new sensation worth a voyage to the East to experience. ... as producing a food of the most exquisite flavour it is unsurpassed.”
For some, durian spells h-e-a-r-t-t-h-r-o-b; for some, durian spells o-r-d-e-a-l. Just as everyone is buried in the pineapple tart craze this coming Chinese New Year, my cookie jars will also be filled with the “cheesy onion sherry-like” scent of durian. Once is never enough. Very typical of a Malaysian indeed.
These durian tarts crumble and melt in your mouth, with a luscious, gooey caramelized durian filling at its very heart — with which we Malaysians would familiarly identify with as “dodol.” The sweet floral coconut taste from gula melaka, or palm sugar or jaggery, finally stands itself up against the dominating durian as the finishing touch.
Gula melaka, or palm sugar or jaggery
For some, these cookies equate torture; for some, these cookies equate indulgence. They’re the pinnacle of perfection — a treat shared by our neighbors from Indonesia. What a unique treat for this Chinese New Year, especially when durians are abundant during this time of the year!
Durian Tarts (Kuih Tat Durian)
[Adapted from Periplus Mini Cookbooks: Indonesian Cakes & Desserts, by William Wongso & Hayatinufus A. L. Tobing]
For the filling:
300 g durian flesh, pitted
75 g gula melaka (palm sugar), finely chopped
2 Tbsp caster sugar
* I used 1 Tbsp caster sugar. Please adjust the quantity of caster sugar according to the sweetness of the durian pulps used and your preference.
- To make the filling, place (A) together in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook them over low heat — stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from burning at the base. Keep stirring to cook them till they've become thick and sticky, which should take around 15 minutes.
- Transfer the filling into a shallow plate and set aside to let cool completely. Then, send to the fridge to chill until it's firmed up before use. This helps a lot with handling this gooey, sticky filling later on.
For the pastry:
200 g butter, softened
3 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp salt
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
300 g all-purpose flour, sifted once
1 Tbsp water, or adjust the quantity as necessary
1 egg yolk, slightly beaten for glazing
- Cream (B) together till pale and creamy, then gradually mix in the egg yolks — beating well after each addition — beating them till light and fluffy
- Using a spoon or plastic spatula, fold in the sifted flour to the creamed mixture by hand till just incorporated — don't overwork the dough as the cookies may get a tough texture as a result. Adding a few drops of water if the dough is somewhat thick to work with; however, the dough shouldn't be too sticky -- it should be just right to work with without having to flour your hands too much.
** Whenever you're not working with it, keep the dough covered e.g. with cling wrap to prevent it from drying out. This may look minor, but it's crucial as it affects the texture of the cookies later on.
- Flour your hands real well first, then divide the chilled filling up by 1 tsp (around 5 g or a little more than that), quickly roll each portion roughly into a ball, and place them on a well-floured plate; set aside
*** The chilled filling is still slightly sticky to work with; therefore, floured hands are required here.
- Next, divide the dough up by 1 Tbsp (15 g or slightly less than that) and roll each of them into a ball. If it sticks a bit, lightly flour your hands.
Then to each, form a well in the center and place one portion of the filling inside. Carefully pinch the pastry dough to enclose the filling; shape the filled pastry into an oval/olive-like shape. Repeat the same to the remainder till all has been used up.
- Place the filled cookies onto lined baking tray(s), spacing 1~2 cm apart in between.
- If desired, you may jazz up the look of the cookies! Snip with a pair of "long, slender-type" of scissors around each cookie to make shallow cuts so that the cookies resemble a durian.
**** I skipped this step when I made the tarts back in Lunar New Year. I didn't have this type of scissors. So, I just drew some pattern over each of the cookies. Well, sort of like making pineapple tarts, eh! For my second attempt, I gave the tarts a "spiky" look. I bought a pair of the scissors a few months back just for my kitchen escapades.
- Glaze the surface of the cookies with slightly beaten egg yolk
- Bake them at 180C / 350F for 15~17 minutes or till the cookies look crisp and golden brown
- Remove the cookies from the oven. Let them sit on the trays for 1~2 minutes to set their underside and transfer onto the cooling racks to let cool thoroughly before storing in an airtight container.
***** The crack on the cookies are more dramatic after baking and on the first day. It sort of "shrink up" the following days. So, don't fret over this!