Tag Archives: Indonesia

War Dance

It all started a week ago when Rais Yatim, the Malaysian Minister of Information, Communications and Culture, made a statement that the Tor-Tor dance and Gordang Sambilan drums would be added to the Malaysian National Heritage Law.  This created a furore in Indonesia and with passions high and anger stoked, a riot ensued in Jakarta which led to the burning of the Malaysian flag and damage to the Malaysia Hall from missiles of rocks and pieces of wood thrown by the rioters.  The Indonesians are upset by what they perceive as a Malaysian attempt to claim Indonesian culture as their own.

The problem lies in that many South East Asian countries share cultural elements that pre-date existing national boundaries.  The Tor-Tor dance for example, is a dance of the Mandailing people of North Sumatra.  Although their cultural heartland lies within Indonesia, from very early on, the Mandailing were seafaring and the Mandailing people have planted themselves throughout the region and with that, many of their culture has contributed to that of their host countries.  Some Malaysian Mandailing have  supported the move of the Minister of Information, arguing that the Minister’s statement that the Tor-Tor and Gordang Sambilan  would be added to the 2005 National Heritage Law was only meant to be a recognition of the heritage of the Mandailing peoples of North Sumatra that have lived in Malaysia for many years.  However the Indonesians are concerned that the wording of the law seems to imply a claim of ownership.

This “cultural dispute” is not the first of it’s kind between Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Star Newspaper reported;

“Irate Indonesians took to Twittershpere to vent their anger over the Mandailing Tor-tor dance issue, calling Malaysia a country that is “deprived of culture”.

Twitter hashtags like “#tortorpunyaindonesia (Tor-tor belongs to Indonesia)” and “#MalaysiaMiskinBudaya (Malaysia is poor in culture)” were trending among Indonesian users of the micro-blogging site ever since the controversial issue came to light over the past week.

“Semiskin itukah Malaysia sampai mengklaim kebudayaan kita?? #TorTorPunyaIndonesia (Is Malaysia that poor that they have to claim our culture?)” read a tweet by @Anak_Twitter.

User @ranyaani said: “Tor tor has been indonesia’s for centuries, so dont you just claim that its yours.. #taritortormilikindonesia”.

A tweet by @Shafwan_MZIFC read: “Banyaknya Budaya & Makanan yg diKlaim Negara malaysia menunjukan betapa Kayanya Indonesia (Malaysia has claimed so many of our culture and food, it shows how rich Indonesia is)”.

Some extreme comments include a tweet by @ANTI_MALAYSIA4 which read “ayo kita bersatu ganyang malaysia (Let’s unite and crush Malaysia)”.

Angry users established a hashtag called “#HapusMalaysiadariASEAN”which literally means “kick Malaysia out of Asean”.”


Wow! Such Aggro!!!  Well, to be honest, most Malaysians have no idea why our Minister has gotten us into this mess.  Over here it is a storm in a tea cup.  I am not ridiculing the Indonesian concerns but frankly the Tor Tor dance is not really something that is all that well known amongst Malaysians and most of us could care less.  I think my position is shared by Malaysian Twitter users who rushed to the defence of Malaysia over the issue ……… well, kind of……

“Malaysian Twitter users were not too defensive over the issue, with many claiming they were not even aware of the existence of the dance.

“What on earth is TorTor?” tweeted @TheRealAzrul while @pretty_chanteq wrote: “Who ever wants that tortor dance, please take it.”

Other Malaysian users meanwhile used the haze issue as a bargain chip.

“Keep your dances and your culture. While you’re at it, keep your haze to yourself too. Thanks,” said @mediha_m.”

So, what do you say?  Wanna dance?



Rolled Pig

Vegetarians may want to skip this post.  It is also very, very non-kosher and non-halal.  Dieters should also avoid reading this.  There! That should take care of all disclaimers.

“Babi Guling” literally means “Rolled or turned pig” in Bahasa Indonesia but it actually refers to “suckling pig”, a famous Balinese dish.   The suckling pig is stuffed with herbs and shoots and then roasted on a spit until cooked and with its skin crackly and crispy.  And if you were in Bali, everyone would tell you that one of the best places to try this local delicacy is at a small stall or warung caled “Ibu Oka”.

Ibu Ora's the place to go for the best Babi Guling

Ibu Oka is located in Ubud which is a town in the foothills of central Bali.  Ubud is well known as a centre for culture and the arts.  The local temples are full of artistic carvings and are often the sites for cultural dances and performances.  Beautiful pastoral scenes of green paddy fields surround the town and are often the settings where some of the best restaurants and warungs are found.

The Crowd Gathers Early for Lunch


The crowd gathers early for lunch and seating is limited so it would be wise to go early.  There are some tables and seating in the garden area.  Inside, everyone sits on the floor and eats from a low table.


You're lucky to get seating on the floor.

Once you have found a seat, then all that you can do is wait for the pig to arrive.  Watching them prepare the pig can be quite entertaining.


The Pig is Roasted with Herb Stuffing
Yum Yum Yum


With so many hungry customers to serve, the wait at Ibu Oka can be long but if some of your group holds on to the seats, you can wander off to the nearby temple and admire the carvings.

Cultural Distractions Nearby

But the connoisseur generally prefer to wait patiently and try to reach a zen state while waiting to have their  senses blown away by the taste of sweet roasted meat, crackling skin and herbs.

Or You Can Wait and Beg

Isn’t Nature Entertaining?

“Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,

And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.”

Have you hear this rhyme before.  Apparently it is part of a nursery rhyme called “The Siphonaptera“.  I actually learned this at University. Honestly.   My Professor introduced the rhyme to us to make the point that all creatures harbour parasites….even parasites have parasites.
Now it seems the same principle holds true for mimics.  In 1998, scientists studying the shallow seas off the coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia found a strange species of octopus which has a talent of mimicking other sea-creatures.  The Indonesian Mimic Octopus, Thaumoctopus mimicus is the first known species capable of mimicking multiple species.   One would think that ol’ T. mimicus might be pretty smug about his talents.  But it seems, what goes around, comes around.  Just recently, scientists discovered a small jawfish that turns the tables on the octopus by mimicking it.  Now isn’t nature entertaining?

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This has inspired this poet squirrel to mimic a famous rhyme………

“Some creatures are plagued by mimics that mimic them,

But these mimics have their own pesky mimics and so ad infinitum.


A Hammock With a View

You can’t escape from your roots.  We can’t escape from the strong influences of our childhood experiences.

I like traveling and if you were to ask me what my travel or holiday preference is; I would naturally say that I enjoy being near rivers and lakes and in the mountains.  I do not think of myself as a beach person.

But here’s the thing.  When I was growing up. about the only holiday that we had as a family was a beach holiday in a place called Port Dickson in Malaysia, which in its heyday could rival the best beaches in the world (today it has been ruined by excessive and irresponsible development).  So I grew up with a great love of the beach and sea.

I am not sure, why I drifted away from this early passion but I spent most of my adult traveling away from the beach.  However, in the last five years, I have had the opportunity to visit Bali, Indonesia on three occasions.   Now Bali is much more than just the beach.  It has culture, arts, crafts, history, festivals, music, rice fields, temples, volcanoes, a unique way of life, charming people and much, much more.

But especially this last trip, I re-connected with the sea and the beach.  This trip I made it a point not to travel all over the island in pursuit of culture and sight seeing.  This trip was all about relaxing on the beach; enjoying a dip in the sea, playing with the exciting surf and beach-combing during low tide.  And for most of the time, just lying in the shade of beach side trees, catching the cool sea breeze, snoozing or enjoying the view.  And though I was enjoying the experience in the “now”, it also re-awoken the child in me and the childhood memories of Port Dickson.

So, the Lone Grey Squirrel went away on a mission to be a beach bum………mission accomplished!  I just wanted to share with you the view that I had from my spot under the shade trees which I lazily took with my camera while still in a reclining position.

The View Above Me - Blue Skies
The View In Front - Blue Seas
The View to the Side - Blue Bikini

Ah, a feast for eyes and senses.

Say No to Intolerance

Regular readers will know that apart from my Chicken Little – the sky is falling approach to the topic of climate change and the very rare, occasional rant,   I try to keep this blog a bright and happy place.  But there has been too much happening in the news to keep the dark clouds away.

The situation in Egypt and Tunisia is one of great tragedy.  It starting in Tunisia when a poor street vendor,  Mohamed Bouazizi, was prevented from trading and earning an income in a place with 30% unemployment as a result of petty corruption and bureaucratic indifference.  The young man, left with no options or hope, set himself alight in front of the governor’s office and died of his wounds.  His cry for a chance to live with dignity and freedom resonated with the Tunisian people and was the spark that led to the protests that brought down the government of President Ben Ali.  And the vision of a chance for a better life spread to Egypt where the protests have claimed more than 300 lives already.  However, there have been uplifting moments too.   I cannot feel but inspired when I heard about how Christians and Muslims in Egypt are uniting for the common good.  Specifically, it has been encouraging to hear of both Christian and Muslim services conducted to pay respect for the dead or when the Christian protesters stood on guard by providing a cordon of protection for their Muslim brothers while the latter performed their Friday prayers in Tahrir Square – the epicenter of the protests in Cairo.  While we hope for a good outcome to all this for the people of Egypt in the future, it is already a blessing to see this kind of mutual inter-faith cooperation and respect.

Unfortunately, religious intolerance is still all to real and prevalent in the world.  Now atrocities committed in the name of religion has occurred throughout history.  So much so that atheists like Richard Dawkins point to such atrocities as proof that religion is a subversive delusion and he claims that atheists would never commit the same atrocities.  I don’t happen to agree with Richard Dawkins on a lot of things (after all did not atheist Stalin create the Gulags?  or atheist Chairman Mao oversee the Cultural Revolution in China that killed millions?  or how about the Khmer Rogue?) but religious intolerance really reflects badly on religions and give atheists a lot of ammunition.

I am sure most of us are glad that things like the Spanish Inquisition or the Holocaust has been relegated to history and hopefully with vigilance, never to return.  However, I have been disturbed by recent news from Indonesia and Afghanistan which are the anti-thesis to the religious cooperation shown by the Christian and Muslim protesters in Egypt.

First, I refer to the attacks on religious minorities in Indonesia.  In the video below, an inflamed mob attacks a small community of a minority Islamic sect, the Ahmadiyya.  Buildings and property was destroyed but worse of all, three men were stripped naked and beaten and stoned to death.  Several others are hospitalised in serious condition and two are missing.  The police are seen in the video doing little to stop the violence and to protect the victims.  The government reiteration that they will protect the minority groups ring hollow when the President seems to imply that the sect brought the violence on themselves by not agreeing to stop their activities as per their “agreement”.

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Christians are another religious minority  in Indonesia that have suffered from some form of religious discrimination for many years.  There have been civil unrest that have resulted in loss of life.  Last year, there were 45 officially recognised cases of attacks on Christians or their churches in Indonesia; ranging from vandalism and desecration to church closures to stabbings and bombs.  Like in the case of the Ahmadiyya attack, many civil society and human rights group wish that the authorities take more concrete and practical steps to protect minorities.

From Afghanistan, a video has emerged which graphically shows the stoning to death of a young couple sometime in August last year.  According to one report, the young couple eloped and fled to Pakistan.  However, they were enticed to return to their village by promises that the families were willing to reconcile and to give them a proper wedding.  Instead, on their return, they were sentenced by the Taliban to death by stoning for having a love affair.  The video of the merciless and brutal stoning of first the woman and then the man is so horrific that I do not want to have it on this blog.  Yet more people should see it and speak out against it.  If you want to see it, follow this link

Meanwhile, an estimated 5,000 “honour killings” are carried out every year where girls (and sometimes guys) are killed by family members for shaming the family.  In a recently highlighted case in Italy, a young woman, Hina Saleem, had shamed her family by refusing to an arranged marriage, smoking and living with her Italian boyfriend.  In an interview, the father claimed to be a good father and that he loved his daughter.  He slit her throat 27 times and then with the help of others buried the body.

If these things upset you or if you agree they must be stopped than please take action.  I appeal to people and religious leaders everywhere and of all creeds and religion to speak out against religious intolerance and the lack of respect for human life and dignity.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

P.S. Please do not think I am singling out Islam (although I do wish the Ulamas and Islamic intellectuals take a much stronger stand against these acts) but these have been the recent examples of intolerance in the news.  The truth is no religion has been free of intolerance which I hold as a problem of  human beings rather than  the tenets of any religion.

Bali 2010 – Pura Taman Ayun

I have posted on Bali before as I was first blessed with an opportunity to visit the island in 2006. I had earlier written about its Beaches, the handicraft centre and peaceful paddy fields of Ubud and on Balinese Culture.  Do visit the links to enjoy even more photos and info.

As early as the 9th Century AD, it was already recorded that Buddhism and Hinduism had become major influences in what is today, Indonesia.  The height of Hinduism’s influence was during the reign of the Hindu Empire of Majapahit (circa 1290-1500).  Bali fell to the power of the Majapahit empire in 1343.  Later, as the Majapahit Empire began to crumble under pressure from the rise of many small Islamic Kingdoms in Java and finally falling in 1515, many dedicated Hindu believers including priests, craftsmen, artisans and nobles fled to the sanctuary of Bali.  This exodus of talent into Bali helped create Bali’s golden age and its current rich religious, cultural and artistic heritage.

However, Bali’s Hinduism is quite different from other forms of Hinduism.  It has developed its own unique form as it blended Hinduism, Buddhism, animism and local beliefs in spirits and demons.  In their belief system, good and evil (or positive and negative) is always at odds but neither will triumph over the other, instead what is sought after is a balance or equilibrium point between the two forces.  So they seek this balance in their elaborate rituals and in their many temples or puras.

For today’s post, I would like to share with you, my experience of visiting Pura Taman Ayun in the foothills of Western Bali.  It is located about 18 km north-west of  Denpasar and about 8km south-west of Ubud.  Pura Taman Ayun was built in 1634 by the Raja of Mengwi, I Gusti Agung Putu and is known as a ‘Pura Kawiten’ or family temple.  This is a special temple where the deified ancestors of the Raja Dynasty of Mengwi and important gods of other temples are honored.

It also has the reputation of being one of Bali’s prettiest temples and is known as the “Garden Temple”.  In fact, “Taman Ayun” actually means “beautiful garden”.

Key features of the Temple is that it is surrounded by an outer moat.  There is also an inner moat and a low wall which surrounds the inner temple complex.  Tourists are not permitted into the inner complex but the low wall is not an obstacle to good views of the inner complex and there are also a couple of vantage points.  To the front of the temple are some well kept open grass fields and to the rear are some more natural forest and gardens.  Very picturesque with the water filled moat on either side.  It was one of the more peaceful temple sites.  Few tourist venture to the garden and forest at the back which makes it quite a serene experience.

Pura Taman Ayun
Entrance to Pura Taman Ayun (Photo by LGS)
Pura Taman Ayun
Candi or Gate to Inner Temple Courtyard (Photo by LGS)
Pura Taman Ayun
The Front Gardens (Photo by LGS)
Pura Taman Ayun
Inner Temple Court (Photo by LGS)
Inner Moat (Photo by LGS)
Pura Taman Ayun
Outer Moat and Gardens (Photo by LGS)
Pura Taman Ayun
A Balinese Bale in the Temple Gardens (Photo by LGS)

Do You Know Where Your Coffee Has Been?

Do you know where your food comes from? In these times of modern transportation, we can enjoy food that comes from around the world. For example, a visit to your supermarket may avail you of bananas from South America, grapes from Australia, cheese from France, olives from Spain, oranges from South Africa and rice from India.

But let’s put food aside. I want to talk to you about your coffee because, let’s face it, without that cup of java in the morning many of us will not be conscious enough to eat (which is my exciting new theory of how the dinosaurs died out. First the weather grew cold and the dinosaurs gew sleepy but there just was not enough coffee to go around and so they fell asleep and starved to death.)

Do you know where your coffee comes from? If you aren’t sure, go ahead and go to the kitchen and check. I’ll wait.

Dum diddle do diddle dum diddle dee. Yabba dabba doo skiddooo. Ying tong iddle i po.

Oh, are you back? So, was your coffee from Columbia, Ethiopia, Zambia, Philippines or perhaps even good old Malaysia? Suckers! You are settling for second best.

After lengthy investigations and travel around the world sticking his nose where it did not belong, the Lone Grey Squirrel has found the source of the world’s best and costliest coffee. This coffee is so exotic and exclusive that only about 450 kg (1000 pounds) is processed a year and it sells at up to USD 600 per pound.

Where is this coffee from? Well, it comes primarily from Indonesia, Philippines and to some extent from Vietnam. More importantly the beans that make up the coffee is excreted out of the bum of civet cats. I refer to the Kopi Luwak.

Why is this coffee the king of coffees? Well, to start with, the Asian Palm Civet is highly skilled at picking the best and ripest coffee berries which it then ingests. Then something about the enzymes in the gut of the civet cat reacts with the beans of the coffee which effectively reduces the coffee’s bitterness and makes for a smoother coffee. So just to re-cap, the skill-fully picked coffee berries go in one end, the enzymes work on the beans and finally they pop out at the other end. Fortunately, these skilled workers work for next to nothing and have never unionised or else the price of this coffee could be even higher.

The Lone Grey Squirrel is then told that the poop is then collected, the semi-digested beans are taken out, washed and then lightly roasted and wallah …………the world’s costliest coffee. I am told that the human workers who have to collect and wash the poop do demand a higher salary and are unionised.

Weasel Coffeee (Photo by LGS)

Now, I can practically hear some of you protesting that coffee isn’t …… well, isn’t your cup of tea, so to speak. Don’t worry, for the discerning tea drinker, we have found for you, “Monkey picked tea”. In this case, there is no eating of the leaves and passing through the digestive system and any of that nonsense. No, this tea is special cause the monkeys are skilled at picking the youngest and tenderest leaves. Why do they do that? Well, let’s just say that in the middle of the jungle, there just isn’t any toilet paper. What is a civilised monkey supposed to use?
Monkey Tea (Photo by LGS)

Skilled Third World Coffee Picker and Processor

Picture has been licensed under a GFDL

LGS admits to telling the truth here and there and making up everything else. Ooops! Time for my coffee break.

A Different Kind of Memorial

I know that our American friends have just celebrated their Memorial Day during which they honor their servicemen and those who have fought for their country. During a visit to Kerta Gosa, Bali, I came across a very different kind of memorial monument. It was not to honor their heroes and victorious warriors but to remember their honorable defeat and annihilation.

Kerta Gosa was built on 1686 by the First King of Klungkung, Ida I Dewa Agung Jambe as part of his palace in Klungkung that was called Semara Pura which means ‘A holy place for love and beauty’. Kerta Gosa consists of two buildings (Bale akerta gosa and Bale Kambang) set within a garden and lake complex called Taman Gili. The former functioned as a Court of Justice and the latter which was beautifully positioned in the centre of the gardens, functioned as a meeting place or an audience hall for the King. It is also called the Floating Hall as it is surrounded by a lake.

Both these buildings have elaborately decorated ceilings consisting of panels painted in the two-dimensional “wayang” or puppet style and have been called Bali’s Sistine Chapel. The paintings centre round the journey of Bima Swarga through heaven and hell to try to rescue and redeem his parent’s soul. In turn though, it reminded convicts awaiting trial the kind of suffering and punishments that await them in hell. Some of these are quite grotesque.

(video & photos by LGS)

Just across the road from Kerta Gosa is another all together different monument. It is called the Puputan monument and it and the painting below remembers the tragic end of the kingdom. Puputan refers to the suicidal last stand of the local defenders in the face of overwhelming odds.
Those that could would die fighting but others including women would ritually commit suicide rather than be subject to rule by foreign conquerors. A number of notable puputans occured in Bali between 1906-1908. Such a disaster happened at Klungkung Palace on 18th April 1908 when faced with invading Dutch soldiers equipped with modern firepower. The battle was completely one-sided and several thousands were killed.

This is the ugly side of colonialisation and imperialism and its human costs to the practically defenceless local populations and this too should never be forgotten.

Faces and Places

Norwegian Guide, Bergen

I just got back from a week in Indonesia. Although I enjoyed the experience and meeting up with both new and old colleagues on this trip, I missed my family badly and couldn’t wait to be back home. This wasn’t always the case, of course. In my younger days, before I got married, I was quite excited about traveling.

In fact, when I turned 21, I went backpacking through Europe for a month and never felt anything but the thrill of the open road. That trip was and will forever be a defining moment in my life. In a way, it was an important rite of passage to adulthood and a declaration that I could go out into the wide world and take care of myself. In those few, precious, glorious autumn days of my youth, I left the coast of England and made my landfall in Belgium; crossed through the Ardennes into Luxembourg; went through Germany on the way to Denmark; took a long train and ferry ride to Norway; retraced my path and went to Austria; thought of heading to Greece but bailed out into the then Republic of Yugoslavia; finally returning to Belgium.

The earth has circled the sun many times since then but as I reflect on that trip, I realise as much as I had enjoyed the scenery, the architecture, history and culture, the fondest of memories are the people I met along the way.

  1. Belgium. There was an English father with his teenage son who were spending two weeks cycling through Europe. We met quite a few times as we chose a similar travel route. It culminated with a quiet but beautiful evening on the verandah of a small Youth Hostel in the Ardennes sharing stories and several rounds of beer with other fellow travelers. It was great. There was also that Youth Hostel in Namur with its hippie American staff and their wonderfully bohemian barbeque party.
  2. Luxembourg. I met up with the son of a famous cartoonist. Together we had some wild adventures in this ancient kingdom which would have made the authorities frown with disapproval but which make the memories all the more precious. You can read more about it here.
  3. Germany. It was a long train ride so my traveling companion and I decided to practice a few choice phrases in Hebrew on a couple of unsuspecting Isreali youths. In fact, we only knew about three phrases but it was enough to have one of them enquire if there was a large Chinese Jewish community. We enjoyed playing with their minds!
  4. Norway. I will always remember that very sweet and friendly guide at the cultural village in Bergen. It was pouring with rain and the two of us were the only ones mad enough to show up but she still graciously took us around. A fun interaction and a very fond memory.
  5. Germany. The visit to Herrenchiemsee was interesting but spending a rainy afternoon doing laundry with two Southern Belles from America was special. One was a nurse and the other a student of politics. Somehow, we got talking about the Kennedy era and the American Camelot.
  6. Austria. Arriving late in Salzburg, I teamed up with an American student to find a beer garden for food and drinks. We had a wonderful time under the stars talking about politics and life in general. We also had a great meal and liberal amounts of beer which resulted in a mad adventure trying to find our way through the maze of streets to our Hostel. It did not help that neither of us could walk straight but bouncing off the walls of the narrow cobvled streets was fun in its own way.
  7. Yugoslavia. This was a nation of colourful characters. Starting with the bus conductor that insisted in speaking to me even though I did not understand a word he was saying. At Plitvice Lakes, I enjoyed the company and the stories of my B&B host who was an elderly Dutch lady who had lived in Indonesia and had now found her heaven in Yugoslavia ( I often what happened to her during the war). Then I actually ran into a group of dissidents that printed an underground newspaper. They actually kept me company for a couple of hours while I waited for a train. On the train, I then met an attractive and vivacious Aussie girl (Kate) and the Yugoslavian soldier who commandeered my phrase book so that he could hit on the former.
  8. Austria. Back in Vienna, I spent my time in the company of two Aussie girls, Kate and Gai. We made a good team. One girl could be counted on to find great shopping, the other was an expert at finding coffee and cakes and I was the one who could actually read a map and navigate. We all had a very interesting but scary encounter with an elderly man with wild eyes who kept prodding us with his walking stick while asking, “Hitler gud, ya?” We did the culture vulture thing for a few days and promised to keep in touch, buddies for life and look each other up…….but never did.
  9. Belgium. My second time back in Belgium and I was caught by a nationwide transport strike. I celebrated my 21st birthday with a Canadian student, a Welsh Parole officer and an Irish Artist. I wandered the streets of Brussels with a Moroccan student even though we communicated only by sign language. Finally, I made a run for the ports and back to U.K. by hitching a ride with an American pastor (the driver), an American couple and a British student.

Finally though, I should not forget my friend, partner in crime and occasional travel companion (although we started the trip together, we split up a couple of times before finally separating as he went on into Greece and I stopped at Yugoslavia). Now he, is a great character indeed but I think I will elaborate in my next post.

World Food Spot 7: Satay

This is Pakcik. That is a name of endearment meaning “uncle”. I have known him and his wife for more than 30 years. They run a satay stall near my home and my family and I must have consumed and enjoyed thousands of sticks of satay over those years. He can actually remember me as a small kid, watched me grow up, remember when I first started work, remember when I got married and he has seen me grow sideways too.

I write this post with a tinge of sadness because he and his wife retired last month. He has definately earned his retirement but I will miss him as he has been practically a timeless institution in my life. Of course, I will also miss his delicious satay. Nevertheless, I wish Pakcik and his wife many happy years in retirement.

Satay consists basically of three flattened, marinated pieces of meat which are skewered and then grilled over a charcoal or wood fire. A key characteristic of the dish is the prominant use of tumeric and ginger in the meat marinade. The meat used in predominantly Islamic Malaysia is commonly that of chicken or beef. Non-muslims, especially Chinese in Penang and Melaka have a variant which uses pork as a meat and pineapple in the marinade and sauce.

Once cooked, the satay is served with a peanut based spicy dipping sauce. Also common accompaniments include rice steamed in pandanus leaves (called ketupat) and sliced cucumber and onions.

As with all barbequed meats, it has a powerfully pleasing aroma. Well cooked, its meat is tender and both sweet and savory to the taste. The spicy peanut sauce is also heady with spices and some people like the sauce so much they will eat it with rice.

The origin of satay is hotly disputed and shrouded in the mists of time. Most likely, the original concept could have come from Chinese or Arabian merchants as early as the 14th Century. The modern form of satay is likely to have originated in Indonesia but it has become a common sight in many Southeast Asian countries.

If you get a chance, try this dish. The tumeric and ginger marinade will seduce you. The smoky barbeque flavour will evoke a sense of mystery and for a squirrel, nothing beats a peanut based spicy dipping sauce.

(All pictures by LGS)