Jungle Jim

"Malaysia stole Sabah from our country", our Filipina friend told us during a lunch in China City restaurant.

"I know", Mom agreed. "We share your grief"

While Mom is referring to the classic age-old spat between neighbouring Asian countries of Indonesia and Malaysia over Batik, Reog dance, or any traditional songs, as an American I could as well refer to the Malaysian flag...which curiously looks a tad too similar to the flag of my country.

Earlier versions of this US flag was adopted in 1777.

Malaysian flag, adopted almost 200 years later in 1963.
Readers may decide for themselves who copied whom.

Speaking of Asian countries, every person I know in Northern Kentucky have told me at one time or the other about how the Jungle Jim have a section entirely dedicated to Indonesian groceries, so we decided to check it out. Jungle Jim is an "internationalized" version of Wal-Mart, in which is carried food from the whole globe.

Since it is (inconveniently) located 35 miles away to the north taking the Interstate I-75, I declined to drive. I wanted Mom to drive there instead.

If there are two conditions in which I am unable to drive the car, it's going thru the interstate or under heavy snow. Trucks in America are always intimidatingly huge and the interstate itself has three to four different lanes for each way that driving in it is always more of a drudgery.

After learning the hard lesson of almost getting lost as far as Grant County after the drive back from the last New Year's countdown in Cincinnati, I decided to print a full, detailed driving directions off Google Map from our apartment toward Fairfield. A bit excessive, I know, but for us, anything north of Cincinnati, Ohio is uncharted territory. Especially if you don't own a GPS.

So when we got there, it turned out that JJ did not actually have an Indonesian section. JJ did have a Taiwanese, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, and Malaysian grocery section dedicated to themselves.

Frustrated, I looked at the Malaysian section anyway. And there were they, Indonesian spices and paraphernalia such as the Relaxa candy or Astor wafer or Bango soy sauce nestled in the very edge of the Malaysian shelf.

Kerupuk Udang (Shrimp crackers) are somehow priced a bit steep $9.00 for a bag of raw, uncooked crackers; so we decided not to purchase that.

But the Indonesian soy sauce? Mmm hmmm, I miss that!

If there is one part of Indonesian cuisine that I could never find the closest equivalent to, it is the Indonesian sweet soy sauce.

To substitute sambal kacang, you could always mix ground peanuts and a bit of hot sauce.

To substitute Martabak, you could always opt for the local City Barbeque's corn bread (though I have to admit that Indonesian Martabak tastes a million times better).

To substitute most Indonesian crackers, there are a vast variety of Tortilla chips, starting from super hot habanero-spiced ones to the regular ranch or cheese-flavoured (the medium spicy tortilla tastes oddly similar to Keripik singkong pedas, by the way).

But Americans, Japanese, Europeans, or the rest of the world thereof do not have any close equivalent to...Kecap.


Shoyu, Worcestershire, oyster, or any Kikkomans do not even add up in terms of getting half as close to the mollases-thick, sweet, and creamy dark Indonesian soy sauce of Kecap manis.

Hence we purchased quite a large quantity of it, thinking that our venture up north the interstate would not be an oft-made travel, citing reasons of saving the car fuel.

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