For the A TO Z CHALLENGE, I’m blogging for 26 days in April (except Sundays) based on the alphabet, and my theme is #foodiefiction, inspired mostly by the foods of Singapore.
R is for Rojak
They sat together at the round table. The stools were bolted to the floor so there was a small gap between them. But they leaned towards each other to bridge that distance, their heads close, a large mug of green sugarcane juice on the table. She gave it a stir, the ice rattling in the silence between them.
The hawker centre by the sea was abuzz. It was the evening rush on a Friday. Friends chattered, colleagues clinked mugs of beer to wash down the day’s hard work. Kids laughed, parents chided. Hawkers called out, plonking plates down on tables, slippers flip-flopping around. The smell of burning charcoal from the satay stalls and the aroma of different types of cooked food wafted around, stirred up by some overhead fans that did little to assuage the relentless heat and humidity.
He looked around, then glanced at her, watching her sip the cold green liquid. She was not convinced of her beauty, but he thought she was the most exquisite person. He couldn’t believe that they had dating for six months. He loved being with her, taking her out on dates to different places across the island. He loved watching her eat – she was always willing to try new places, different cuisines, and would never hesitate to take a bite out of even the strangest of new foods. He loved her honesty, her thoughtfulness, the way she twirled her hair around her finger while she was thinking about something. Oh hell, he loved her. He really did. And he was going to tell her that. Tonight. Yes. Tonight would be the night. It was six months after all, it was high time he did.
She saw him watching her and smiled, straw between her lips. Her fingers tapped against the straw. She seemed a little different tonight.
“Hope you don’t mind, I ordered some food before you arrived. Some of your favourites, like satay and rojak!” he said brightly, carefully warming up the conversation before he jumped in with a big emotional “I love you” speech. He thought that starting with one of her favourite topics, food, would put her in a better mood.
“Oh sure, that’s great, thanks,” was her reply.
“Should be coming soon. You must be hungry.”
She put down the straw, took a breath, and turned to face him, her head tilted slightly to the right, the light shining off the beads of sweat gathered at her temples.
Oh, no no no. She was going to say it, but no, he anted to say it first. He wanted to be the one who told her ‘I love you’ first.
“I don’t think this…”
Wait what? What was she trying to say? She didn’t say ‘love’ she said ‘I don’t’. But she had stopped, which meant she had heard him.
They sat there in such awkward silence for a minute as the rest of the hawker centre buzzed around them. No one knowing what to say, no one daring to utter a sound.
A plate clattered in front of them.
A plate of mixed fruits and vegetables, chunks of mango, pineapple, cucumber, beansprouts, tofu, jicama, dough fritters, peanuts tossed with a dark, sweet salty spicy sauce.
“Rojak. Four dollars.”
The voice repeated, an outstretched hand waiting for money,
“Hello. Four dollars. Rojak.”
One of my Mum’s favourite things to eat! It took me a long time to appreciate that unusual taste of the black rojak sauce, which has shrimp paste, tamarind paste, sugar, chili, lime and ginger flower. Rojak is actually a decently healthy hawker centre choice. It’s got lots of fruits and vegetables providing lots of crunch, there is protein in the beancurd and peanuts. If you go for the more premium version, grilled cuttlefish is added. It may not look pretty or photograph well, but it sure is tasty.