I’m in London this week, and being here has swept up a flurry of memories and emotions in me that I didn’t know existed. Most of it stems from this duality I have with calling Malaysia home, whilst having spent the better part of the past decade living abroad, mostly in the UK. So, odd as it is, this trip has at times felt like a homecoming.
I met old friends, popped by restaurants and cafes I used to frequent—Timberyard, Black Axe Mangal, Kanada-Ya; I’m basic like that—and found the fifth floor of Foyle’s to be still as conducive a place as ever to work, (or just lounge with a book). And while I had more steak and chips than any sensible human being should’ve had in one night, and wolfed down scones and English pastries like I haven’t had them in years (because really I haven’t), I still ended up making a trip to Roti King, one of the few Malaysian restaurant in the city.
So maybe I’m like these cempedak popper—crispy and bronzed on the outside, with the appearance of some prosaic, Westernised deep-fried junk. But where you’d expect mozzarella or mince, out surges the floral, funky, fruity flavour of cempedak—the proudly tropical fruit of my homeland. Because really, as much as I’ve been influenced by Western culture and seem to fit right at home in the UK, inside, I’m all Malaysian.
½ a cempedak (15-20 seeds)
750ml sunflower oil, or any other neutral oil for deep-frying
150g all-purpose flour
100g panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons icing sugar
Peel the cempedak, and remove the seeds from the individual sacs, leaving the sacs whole if possible. (The sap of the cempedak can be quite sticky, so it’s useful to wear a glove when dealing with the fruit.) When done, lay the cempedak sacs on a tray, with a gap in between each sac, and freeze it for 1-2 hours, until firm.
Heat up the oil to 180°C. Prepare the flour, eggs, and panko in three separate bowls. Dredge the cempedak in the flour, tap it a little to get rid of the excess flour, then dip it in the eggs to coat. Finally, toss it in the panko until it’s coated all around. Then, place it on a tray, ready for frying. Repeat until all the cempedak are coated.
Deep fry the cempedak for approximately 2 minutes, until golden brown. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan or deep-fryer. (I deep-fried 5-6 pieces each round.) When done, transfer the fried cempedak onto wire rack or paper towels.
Serve hot, with a liberal dusting of icing sugar.