Sramat Onu Gawea

Good Thumb's Claypot Special KacangMa

Kicking Kacangma

Sramat onu Gawea to everyone celebrating Gawai. Gayu guru gerai nyamai. Yes, I know I am mixing my Bidayuh with my Iban but hey this is 1Malaysia. Gawai is our own Harvest Festival, a celebration of a good year’s bounty. What would a celebration be without a spread of delicious yummy things and of course a festive drink or two dozen.  The traditional drink to be had would be the local rice wine called Tuak. The strength of this moonshine can be adjusted by the brewer. Sweet, sour, strong, mild .. it’s like there is a tuak for everybody’s preference.

This led me to think of all the strong alcoholic beverages that I had consumed before. Strong being anything above 50% ABV or 100 proof. Let’s start with the first two. Chartreuse and Bacardi 151 . The Chartreuse I had was the Green Chartreuse which is about 55% ABV and the Bacardi 151 is 151 proof (hence the name) or about 75.5% ABV.

I lumped them both together because they both have the same taste. I drank them both neat with an ice cube chaser and I can tell you they both tasted like liquid fire (the ice cube chaser is to help douse the flame). If you ever  wondered what minyak kapak taste like, wonder no more, just drink either of them straight. You will regret it.

Then there is Absinthe, otherwise known as the Green Fairy (la fée verte in French). Here is a spirit that was considered to be a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug. It was the marijuana of the late 1800s early 1900s. It was thought to make you into a crazy and criminal, turning you into a ferocious beast.

Countries where it was popular started banning it, namely Belgium, Brazil (both 1906), Switzerland  (1910), Holland (1909), USA (1912) and France (1914).

Would you like to be seduced by the Green Fairy?

I had it at a wedding dinner because I was helping out the groom who had a few already.  Even though it is 85% ABV, it tasted sweet since the traditional way of serving it includes the addition of sugar. So I can understand how it can be so addictive. However I was not visited by the Green Fairy. No pixies whispering sweet nothings. No tulips growing on my feet.  But then again I didn’t have that many and I won’t have a chance to try it anymore as procuring a bottle of Absinthe in Kuching is hard.

Fear not as there is a solution. Instead of the green fairy we can pay a visit to the Green Bunian, the kacangma. Kacangma is a herbal dish usually served during confinement and as with most things served during confinement it is normal to find a nice dose of alcohol being added to the dish. The alcohol most used for this purpose is either the Chinese rice wine or tuak but I have tasted those that had other spirits like cognac and chivas in various home cooked versions.

So is there a decent version you can get at a Hawker stall? Yes a few but one in particular does not skimp on the ‘extra’ ingredient. The stall itself is one that specializes in various claypot dishes, which frankly are mostly forgettable except for its kacangma.

Let me start by pointing out that it is not the best kacangma I’ve ever had. I have always preferred kacangma with a lot of the kacangma herb in it. This particular one hasn’t got that much in it so it is a little bit too soupy for me. The chicken itself does take up the taste well enough and is not overcooked.

What makes this dish special is that the two different things that the owner does. One, he adds in a lot of Chinese rice wine. And two, he adds it in after the dish is cooked. Alcohol will evaporate when it is cooked decreasing the alcohol content of the dish. But by adding it after the cooking process, he keeps all the lovely alcohol in the dish. Needless to say this is not a dish for the young or those that work with heavy machinery or those that are going to drive. After a whole claypot of this dish, you would feel a nice buzz and depending on your alcohol tolerance maybe a fairy will be guiding you to the happy place deep in your head. If you need an even harder kick, ask the owner to add in that little bit extra.

So remember, the next time you want to feel tulips on your feet, don’t seek out a bottle of Absinthe, just head to Good Thumb café (see map below) and if you need to hail a taxi back home.

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