What I love about being back in Asia is the wonderful warmth that clings to you when you step out into the night air. There is no need to fuss about bringing a cardigan or worry about the threat of rain. Rain is a welcome relief. It makes me think about my childhood in Rangoon. It was a treat to stroll around a bustling market after supper for a late-night snack; an indulgent dessert of faluda (paluda) or a bowl of noodles in slippery garlic oil and soy sauce (si chet khaut swe).
I am delighted to hear there is a pasar malam (night market in Malay) most nights and we head off to Bangsar this evening. It is not a huge market as I have hoped for but there are several fruit and vegetable stores that interest us. It is tantalising to see the ’exotic’ fruits that make me stop and ponder their names in Burmese. I buy a few guavas, a handful of rambutans and a pink dragon fruit.
The next stall along has many types of greens I do not recognise. Then one of these piles of greens begin to look familiar. I remember the deep burgundy stems and pointy leaves when I grew a batch of roselle leaves in London on the window sill. It soon became a hedge as they grew to about 2-3 feet. I was reasonably proud of the small harvest of leaves, which I made into roselle leaves with bamboo shoots (chin baung kyaw). It’s worth remembering they shrink down considerably when cooked.
I pick a bunch of roselle leaves, choosing the most sprightliest looking. I wait behind a couple to pay and notice they also have roselle leaves in their basket. I cannot help but be curious and ask them, ‘how do you cook these leaves?’ The woman turns to her husband for a response. He speaks good English and instructs me to wilt the leaves in a pan, add mustard seeds, a little oil and spices (he did not specify) until the leaves are soft. In return I tell them about the spicy salty sour concoction I make with roselle leaves. It’s always good fun swapping recipes with complete strangers.