Hibiscus and Rambutan Sorbet
Malaysia’s National Day happens this Friday! It’s my motherland’s 61st birthday, and man I can’t believe how far we’ve come, especially in the past year.
If you haven’t heard, just three months ago, Malaysia had her first change in government since we gained independence from British colonial rule over 60 years ago. What went down in the most recent elections is a bit complicated, but let me try summarising it with a Star Wars metaphor. Imagine the people of Malaysia as padawans training under a young Anakin Skywalker (the Barisan Nasional party), the beacon of hope in the Jedi Order (South East Asia). Over time, you watch helplessly as he turns to the dark side, turning evil and corrupt, abusing his powers, morphing into Darth Vader and doing all that silly Sith stuff. Then, just when it seems like all hope was lost, along came Obi-Wan (Dr. Mahathir IRL), Anakin's past mentor, who led an insurrection and ousted Darth Vader and the whole Imperial Army. Yup, that's essentially what happened in Malaysia, only with about three times the drama. (Confused? See here for a non-metaphorical explanation of the recent Malaysian elections. 😋)
Understandably then, the latest election results have quite literally thrown the whole country into a state of euphoria, and it's given us what feels like a new lease on life, making this National Day possibly the most important one since our independence.
So in celebration of this very special day, I made a celebratory sorbet with ingredients native to Malaysia. I started off with a rambutan sorbet that's inspired by Zoë François rose-rambutan sorbet. (Rambutans are hairy, red fruits native to Malaysia. They have a honeyed, jello-like flesh on the inside.) But to give the sorbet a stronger sense of Malaysian nationalism, I coloured it pink with Malaysia's national flower - hibiscus! And finally, I also blended in the pulpy, gelatinous flesh of a custard apple (also known as nona or sweetsop) which brought some depth and texture to the sorbet. All in all, the sorbet tastes of summer and hope and sweet ambition, symbolic of a new era in Malaysia!
But I think I speak for most Malaysians when I say that this year's election has had a deep, personal impact on my life. It's changed my perspective and outlook on Malaysia's future (and my own too). Not gonna lie, prior to the elections, I had little hope for my country. After 60 years of increasing corruption and kleptocracy, you start to get desensitised and lose all pride and dignity as a Malaysian. I always felt embarrassed to call myself a Malaysian outside of my country, as we were only ever linked to bad press – think missing planes, tourist kidnappings, and a parliament that functions more like a comedy club. The only vaguely positive thing ever attributed to us was the somewhat catchy “Malaysia, Truly Asia” tourism ads. So upon coming home from the US last year, I had planned on leaving the country as soon as possible, in search of greener pastures elsewhere in the world. Anywhere else would be better than struggling through the corrupt, wayward waters Malaysia was in, I thought to myself.
But since the elections, I’ve had no less than a 180° shift in perspective, and I couldn’t be happier to be back home! There's so much hope and ambition in the “new” Malaysia, with the promise of cleaner, more responsible governance and a sense of togetherness that Malaysians haven't seen in decades. I never thought I'd ever feel this way, but I now feel a great sense of duty and desire to contribute to what will certainly be the formative years of my motherland. I want to see her grow and prosper and inspire us all like Luke and Rey, with a little Han Solo daringness and Yoda wisdom thrown in for good measure.
So happy birthday, Malaysia! I honestly can’t wait to grow better and stronger with you in the coming months and years and decades to come!!! 🇲🇾
- - -
Hibiscus and Rambutan Sorbet
Makes ~1 litre of sorbet
120g caster sugar
5 hibiscus flowers, fresh or dried
25-30 rambutans, skin and seeds removed
1 custard apple/sweetsop, skin and seeds removed
Put the sugar, water, and hibiscus flowers in a saucepan. Bringing it to a boil, stirring to make sure all the sugar has dissolved, and then take it off the heat. Strain out the hibiscus flowers and let the pink syrup cool.
Blend the rambutan flesh in a blender or food processor until smooth, and then strain out the pulp using a fine sieve or through muslin cloth to get the rambutan juice. Make sure to press/squeeze the pulp so you get as much juice as you can!
Separately, blend the custard apple in a blender or food processor until smooth. There’s no need to strain it.
Combine the syrup, rambutan juice and blended custard apple, give it a stir, and churn it in an ice cream machine until semi-frozen, then transfer it to the freezer. Alternatively, (and this was what I did), transfer it into a container and put it in the freezer immediately. Give the sorbet mix a stir every hour or so, for 6-8 hours, until fully frozen. The stirring and mixing will give you smaller ice crystals resulting in a finer texture that’s more sorbet than granita. Or if you don’t mind it having a granita texture, just freeze it fully and scrape it using a fork to get a rough granita.