Ten years ago, he was having dinner with his grandmother. In an attap house with stilts, somewhere in Ijok. The only source of light available were from the kerosene lanterns hung by the pillars of the wooden house. The moon was too shy to show its face during that April night. He was in his mid 20s, just got back from Boston. He was in the land of the free because he was kidnapped by his own parents, held in captivity for 10 years from his own countryland, in pursue of wealth. He escaped detention and came back.

What’s that red paste?” he asked his grandmother.
Sambal belacan
Oooh, ok. Is yours any good?” he asked again as he tried to remember the taste.
It’s hot, and spicy. That, I can assure you. And it has this smell. The rest varies from taste buds. When was the last time you had sambal belacan?” it was his grandmother’s turn to ask questions.
10 years ago
Did you like it back then?” his grandmother continued.
Nope. But I’m a different person now.

They smiled.

*****

Ten years had passed. He’s now in his mid 30s with blonde hair and a protruding belly. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon as he walked with his two Caucasian friends through Suria KLCC and into Kelantan Delights.

As lunch was served, the waitress said, “This, sirs, is sambal belacan. It’s hot, it’s spicy and it smells. The taste varies from taste buds.

He felt the déjà vu. His mind quickly reminisced to his grandmother who passed away in her sleep six years ago. His facial expression revealed the Malay-ness in him. Or what’s left of it.

The waitress continued cheekily as her eyes met his, “When was the last time you had sambal belacan?” Deep, dark sarcasm.

He smiled.

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