To be called ubi török is to be consigned to the bottom of the heap
because ubi török
is Trengganu rhyming slang for cörök
, bottom of the class, a dunce with a double 'd'. Of the things that are taken into account, cörök
is the last of all.
This is a good time to be talking about ubi
, in this piang böh
, the season of the floods. Piang
is an almost forgotten Trengganu word (and perhaps Kelantanese too; piyæ
?). It began most certainly from piantan
, which Winstedt in his unabridged Malay-English defines as 'auspicious', but it is also used euphemistically to mean 'usual time'. So piantang böh
, the usual time for floods, would have come to Trengganu in a very convoluted way, from piangtang
, and so on to piang buöh, piang duku
and piang piala muséng jo'ong...
the fruit season, the duku season, and the Monsoon Cup and a heigh nonnie-no.
And there's something there that we may have forgotten too. The fruit season wasn't just known as piang buöh
but as piang buöh kayu
, season of the fruit of the trees. Rainy day women with rainy day fruits, in baskets that are carried from boats to markets on the river-banks or at the intersection of roads in Chabang Tiga, or in the bay area in Tanjong in Kuala Trengganu.
Although the ubi
is not, strictly speaking a fruit, it comes with the monsoon crop from the forest trees, and it holds a special place in wet weather. There is something comforting about the tapioca arriving steaming hot on a plate while the day rages with the monsoonal shower, or the large tubers that rise from beneath the earth and sitting oven-ready on the newsprint laid out in the pasar
. One theory about the ubi
's rise with the downpour is that in this season of wind and floods, the ubi
have to be dug out before they are damaged by the water.
Chuck a tapioca into the fire, roll a sweet potato in there too - ubi kayu
and ubi setela
- but some of the bigger ubi
are meant to stew in the water, muttering incessantly and spitting in the air as the liquid boils and pushes the salt through the ubi's
pores. There was the ubi ppayang
that got its name probably from its girth, bulging beneath its skin like the earthen jar or the ppayang
as we call it in Trengganu. Tenderised by the heat and moistened in the boil, a slice of this ubi
takes the look and feel of your nasi kapit
or compressed rice that travels well into the peanut sauce with the satay
. I'm not sure if this is the same ubi
that some folk call the ubi nasi
The are many more ubi
than rise above the soil, little dark ones like ubi kemili
whose name in the local lingo is too rude to mention now. Then there's the hefty ubi gajah
, the elephant in the room of the ubi
world. The keladi
is an ubi
too, mushier in its outer layer when taken fresh from the boil and fuller in taste on a gloomy day when cats drop and dogs hurl from the sky. Ubi
is the primordial food, a basic comforter, and a crop always in deep storage whenever the hunter gatherer goes out on the prowl.
That probably explains the ubi's
lure. What better to embrace on a cold day than the steaming carbohydrate, dipped in sugar. For the mellower taste, the preferred dip is nyiur
, the pristine coconut, shredded and salted. But there are others who prefer to dip it into nnisang
, our coconut sugar. Ubi
and its accompaniment, on the selasör
, the rain can pour for weeks on end and the wind may blow, but the yam and the sweet potato, the tapioca and those myriad others, this is seasonal food, much like turkey on Christmas day.
Photo credit: I have stolen the picture of keladi (yam) [above] from Pak Zawi's
wonderful blog. Thank you Pak Zawi!
Labels: böh, cörök, keladi, piang, piantan, tapioca, Ubi from Pak Zawi, ubi gajah, ubi kayu, ubi kemili, ubi török