The next house on our visit held special memories for some of the individuals in the convoy. There are certain cousins in the family (who were absent this time round), who were the more adventurous, hyperactive and somewhat mischievous types. Their bursts of energy eventually led them to trouble and a few of them ended up accidentally falling into a deep ditch near the house, much to the dismay of their mothers. Fortunately, they were not seriously hurt and survived to tell the tale. Now all grown up, these cousins tend to blush and wear a somewhat uncomfortable smirk whenever the topic is raised.
This said ditch, stretches about a hundred meters alongside a gravel-laced path which leads down to the lone household at the end of the road. We were first greeted by the sight of four large pieces of cowhide being air-dried on our right, which came from cows that were slaughtered earlier in the day as part of the Aidiladha rites. On our left, seated on a makeshift bench with his brother-in-law was Mr Yahya, who looked similar to his uncle Mr Shukri – albeit with longer hair and missing a number of teeth. They, too, welcomed us earnestly and eagerly. A few steps ahead, were the other family members of the household, most of whom were female. Mr Yahya apologized profusely with regards to the house not being in the best of conditions, as it was in the midst of some upgrading works. Wooden scaffolding and a number of holes in the ceiling only made for a more rustic atmosphere, paired with the reminiscent wooden kampung house tucked away at the side of the grounds.
As we made ourselves comfortable, Mr Yahya mentioned about a beef stew that he had been simmering all morning made with the carcass of one of the cows that was slaughtered earlier. Near the bench where he sat when we pulled up, a huge metal pot rested atop a fire; its contents spiked with the potent goodness of spices such as cardamom, star anise and cumin paired with the rich flavours of the beef.
This, along with other toothsome dishes were laid upon us as we gathered round the floor for a feast. Our eyes were set on a metal platter holding several plates of comfort food which were dear to our hearts. The urap (a warm vegetable salad comprising of quick-blanched water spinach, bean sprouts and spicy desiccated coconut) sang a very familiar tune in my mouth, which made me crack a little smile to myself. Also on offer were a rich and wholesome portion of sauteed tripe, boiled tapioca shoot leaves (similar to that at Mr Shukri’s place) and perfectly seasoned fried chicken. A sambal – made from fiery bird’s-eye chilies – completed the meal which left us bloated but immensely satisfied.
After letting the older folks have a chance to update each other about their lives and the giving a chance to let the younger ones soak up the atmosphere of the kampung lifestyle, it was time to bid farewell. Hugs and tears were seen once again and we left with wide smiles and full stomachs.