Thursday, May 3, 2007

It's truly porkelicious!*

I used to have this colleague called Chong who I always tried to avoid near lunch time. Around 12.30 p.m. he would say something annoying like, “I’d ask you to join me for lunch at my favourite restaurant but it’s not halal.” I would also always reply graciously, “Thanks for the thought.” He would then grin and add, “It’s such a shame because the pork dumplings are the best in town.”

He would also try to “tempt” me to join him for a bak kut teh breakfast and whenever we would have to arrive at a consensus for an eating place he would go into a mock sulk, making it clear that he was “disappointed” we couldn’t accommodate his nourishment of preference.

Actually, I was not offended. Chong was a great colleague otherwise and I guess he only cracked these non-halal jibes because he felt comfortable with me. In fact, I’m very tolerant when it comes to people eating pork around me, having spent many years abroad. But Chong’s ribbings were more of an annoyance than anything else due to his misunderstanding.

I could see that his attempt at humour was based on a misconceived line of reasoning. I suspect he had a few hard-drinking Muslim buddies who also didn’t have qualms about eating non-halal beef and chicken abroad. I could see him further contemplating on the haram ruling on certain vices. It was not hard for him to come to the flawed conclusion that the purpose of sharia principles was to take the fun out of life (“What’s wrong with having sex with your girlfriend?” he inquired one time) and if not for the prohibitions, Muslims would knock themselves out silly with all that is prohibited, including pork. Hence, to him, dangling porkelicious temptations in front of me must have been a right laugh.

I can’t blame him actually. Muslims who show poor restraint when it comes to staying away from forbidden food and drink only add to the confusion. But Muslims, or Malays at least, would draw a line when it comes to pork. From small we are brought up to think of pigs as absolutely filthy animals. I’m afraid I can’t quote from the Quran but I can safely quote Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules Winnfield character in Pulp Fiction: “Hey, sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I’d never know ’cause I wouldn’t eat the filthy mother . . . . Pigs sleep and root in shit. That’s a filthy animal. I ain’t eating nothin’ that ain’t got enough sense enough to disregard its own feces.” That’s how our parents inculcate our inbuilt aversion to eating pork in not so many words.

In fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), even touching swine carries a burden. One is required to wash himself seven times with water (including once with water mixed with soil) if he comes into contact with a pig (or its product). We don’t even have to do that when coming into contact with excrement. So you can understand why we can’t bring ourselves to eat something that is considered dirtier than shit.

However, I also observe that it is a Malay thing, distinguishing the sin of eating pork from other garden-variety transgressions. Whilst living in the UK I notice that less observant Muslims from other countries, including the Arab states, would happily dine on roast suckling piglet washed down with a glass of cold crisp Sauvignon Blanc without having to discriminate between the two. Perhaps children in other Muslim countries are spared the Samuel L. Jackson lecture as in their countries, there was little danger in accidentally ingesting pork, being mono-cultural societies.

So there you go, a Malay sinner may down 5 shots of tequila in one go but will pass up the chance of gobbling down a sumptuous piece of pork chop or its equivalent. But not when it comes to pork scratchings, it appears.

In the UK of the late 80s, it was still relatively difficult to dine out if one observed halal requirements. So one of the more popular dining establishments amongst Malay students was Pizza Hut. One could choose between the vegetarian or seafood supreme pizza and have a nice bowl of salad for starters. The salad was not too bad because the veggies were fresh and to add crunchiness and flavour, one could add croutons and some mysterious crispy orangey bits next to them.

This udang kering-like ginger-coloured substance was all the rage then because it added oomph! to what would be typical rabbit food. That was until one Ramadhan evening in 1989. A group of 4 Malay students chose to break their fast at the Marble Arch outlet and they were pleased to be served by a Jordanian waiter whose faith was revealed when he excused himself for his iftar. Upon the designated time the boys rushed headlong for the salad bar and scoffed some spoonfuls of the “udang kering” stuff while no one looked. That was when their new-found Jordanian friend cried out in horror, “What are you doing? That is fried pig skin!”

The reaction of each person was interestingly different. Two of them ran straight to the gents to wash the offensive matter out of their mouths while the other two just looked at each other and one expressed disappointedly, “Damn, that could have gone on a little bit longer.”

Some other resourceful students made more inquiries and found out that the crispy stuff was the popular pub snack, pork scratchings. Wikipedia describes it as:
“…. typically heavy, hard and have a crispy layer of fat under the skin, some still retain the hair of the pig, and are flavored only with salt. The pig hair is usually removed by quickly burning the skin of the pig before it is cut into pieces and cooked in hot fat. Hair removal is not 100% effective which is why some retain a few hairs. The hairs are what usually makes people question the desirability of these pub snacks, but to some, these can also be highly desirable.”
What an appropriate and effective addendum that would be to the Samuel L. Jackson sermon in case one was still tempted.

Back to the question of Chong, I did toy with the idea of getting my own back on him. I thought of bringing some really evil smelling tempoyak and waving it under his nose to put him off his lunch. But I had second thoughts in case he said, “Can I have a bit? That goes nicely with sweet and sour char siew you know.” It’s just not fair.

* tagline of El Cerdo restaurant
43 & 45 Changkat Bukit Bintang,
50200 Kuala Lumpur


izso said...

This Chong character is one sonnuvabitch if you ask me. My friend being a Muslim with his converted wife tends to not care as much when dining with me, as long as he isn't eating something non-halal, he doesn't care. But I don't make it a point to go to these places all the time with him out of respect. As for getting back at a chinese bloke, it's hard to say. I can't take beef, maybe he can't either?

And the way you described pork was unecessarily vulgar. Now you have put me off pork and I don't usually care what goes in my mouth as long as it's edible and not beef. But there goes pork out the window.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you submit a story here :; if you don't know about it already.

Anonymous said...

Try tempoyak campoq budu campoq cencalok...hahahaha

But you are head on on the pork prohibition becoming more of a Malay thing rather than an Islamic requirement - hence we have tons of Malays having premarital sex, gulping the bear, watch porno and what have you, but to makan babi tidak sekali. Reeks of Islam had hari. Hahahhaha. Another good example is the tudung issue, previous post referred. :D

The Pisces Man said...

Fooh, a porky topic... but u r spot on with regard to the reactions of how some Muslim students overseas reacted when they discover they have eaten pork-related foods. Some shrieked with 'geli', while others bragged to others (especially when they come back to Malaysia) over how tasty those foods were and laugh about it (even tho' they may not do other transgressions). Little do they realise that the food is part of their flesh and blood now and laughing about it would give the indication that they are not sorry about it..

A Babe Of Very Little Brain said...

wonder why we, muslims, don't seem to respect the hindus' avoidance of beef and would gladly eat beef in front of them. because the animal is sacred and not considered filth?

Mr Hobo said...

Leviticus 11:7 states, "And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you."

So ... the Abrahamic religions semua tak boleh makan babi ..

Mr Incognito said...

izso >>> sorry i put you off dinner (which was not my intention). was just trying to explain the Malay aversion. but as my bangladeshi friend pointed out to me while gobbling down a ham sandwhich, "it used to be that pork was dirty but now with modern farming and cooking method, they are as clean as chicken and beef." I don't even want to find out.

Anonymous >>> it's not the 1st time somebody suggested. let's see if Dina accepts anonymous submissions.

Anonymous >>> try this experiment. go to any bangsar pub any saturday night and offer the malays there a ham sandwich and see whether they would decline saying "tak boleh, haram" while holding a mug of beer in their hands

Mr Incognito said...

The Pisces Man >>> apparently bacon flavoured crisps are totally artificial. kalau u really want to rasa for purely academic research

Babe >>> not only eat in front of them but serve lagi (I wonder what the mckambing burger tastes like in INdia)

Father Hobo >>> still waiting for the Quranic source. (u should have taken Pengetahuan Agama Kristian masa SRP dulu)

Blabarella said...

Such a paradox huh, Muslims? :) But this is a brilliant post because of how much truth it reeks - and yes, you should x3 submit it to Dina for IAM2 .. you can still conceal your identity for the post, only Dina needs to know who you really are. ;)

But "Babe" the Hollywood piglet is pretty cute (to watch), hehehe.

NinJaMoo said...

I don't think being insensitive of another's religion is pegged only on a single race. That goes for doing 'haram' stuff as well.

Theta said...

Great piece of blog again, Mr Incognito.
I have a friend who's quite, to put it bluntly, anal retentive about anything pig, almost to the point of OCD. He'd be the first to ask "Is that coat she's wearing amde of (pig) suede?" "Have you read the ingredients if they have babi?" and the list goes on.

But he did drink back in college and recently, much to my disappointment, relapsed into drinking due mostly to peer pressure at work. I did question him "Aren't both drinking and pig in the same category?" "Why can't you liken/visualise drinking to pork?" I suggested.

Alas, as you wrote, Malays nowadays dare to try anything short of eating pork.

Mr Incognito said...

Blabarella >>> ok then. I'll get my "agents" to have a word with Dina

NinJaMoo >>> there's no monopoly on being religion-insensitive. Malays are just as bad or even worse (see Babe's comments)

Theta >>> he should have said "if beer spills on me I don't have to samak," just to keep the debate going

UglyButAdorable said...

sooo true.. from what I know, people of the book are allowed to eat meat that's slaughtered by people of the book. Therefore it's not only kosher meat. I used that principle when I was in UK but to use it here and not to mention if I dare try explaining it to others, I will be visibly spit .. dah terror la sgt tu...diri sendiri tak betul nak cakap pasal agama...

so baiklah senyap shj..

and yes that's the different between malay islam and islam from other's ok to do lots other forbidden things but not eating porkelicious food..

UglyButAdorable said...

btw, tks for the visit..hhmm..i have not seen this keppler in action yet..but he looks like my kind of csi....but pleeeesss dun be too cool as H...

trueblue said...

Good post you have here. And its so true. Why do some of us feel eating pork is a big NO-NO but tend to take it lightly when it comes to drinking, have pre-marital sex, tinggal sembahyang etc..? Kind of scary if you think about it.

Maybe you should explain things better to your friend. We don't want him to become more confused and come up with all the unnecessary jokes

bunny said...

Looks like its fate that u found my blog and I visited yours. Nice to meet you Mr. Incognito..=)..Me likey ur blog. Share some similarities with mine... Condraticting (ref to your profile). Thanks for dropping a comment on mine. Keep up the splendid work!

Mr Incognito said...

UglyButAdorable >>> i don't even want to go into the "people of the book" argument and reveal my own ignorance. who sembelih your ayam in UK? Mr Sainsbury? lol (p.s. try to catch the repeat of CSI this sunday)

trueblue >>> i better ask him to read this post then (and hopefully put him off breakfast tomorrow too)

bunny >>> yeah. we should keep on contradicting ourselves. it makes life more interesting

ms sorrento said...

I must say that duck at bay*water is soo yummy....for obvious reason ;) I had a taste of that "udang kering" in HK thinking it was pure dried wonder the food tasted good until we found out... :P

Mr Incognito said...

ms sorrento >>> what is the obvious reason? they used a secret plum sauce
recipe maybe? maybe it was really udang kering in HK, just to create drama. jangan frust pulak.

Anonymous said...

Mr Incognito ,

Where is this famous duck place I have been hearing about in bay*water? Bukan nak makan, sahaja nak tengok; whether it's halal or not, is probably de-ducktable.


*fizzy* said...

Dear Mr Incognito,
This is so, so true.
When it comes to khinzir, they know it's HARAM and we have to samak etc.
But drinking tu kan is RAJA segala kejahatan.
That, they can't even see.

Unlike Chong, I have a Chinese friend who doesn't eat pork at all.
Maybe she sticks to Samuel L.J's principle kot.

eff1gy said...

i guess it's changing malay friends here, they drink, AND eat whatever they want....

i know someone who used to be quite religious, cant eat this, cant drink that, but after years of working abroad, he is now a different person.

that's why i dont intend to continue working here after i graduate. i am afraid if i'll be allocated in a rural area where it is very hard to find halal meat, a mosque and muslim friends.

izso said...

Actually, I'm with Effigy. You work to suite your environment, not make your environment to suite you. I'm a non-beef eater, irregardless of its form. However if I were to go to Texas or Rome where I have no choice, I'd just go ahead and eat it just so I don't starve.

Incidentally I had accidentally ingested a bigmac without knowing it was beef (I was quite ignorant about MCD when I was younger). It was the most interesting sensation, the beef and all. But I had diarrhea for a week after that. Mainly because my body had never processed beef before.

Anyway, my point is you have to go with the flow. Unless it's extreme like if everyone is doing drugs, doesn't mean you have to as well. I'm just referring to the choice of food here.

It's hard finding non-beef related food in Texas believe you me.

Mr Incognito said...

Fran >>> i was not a Londoner so i don't know anything about that famous duck place. but you can bet your bottom dollar it's tak sembelih.

*fizzy* >>> orang yang mabuk sampai pengsan macam mana nak buat jahat? (but they'll cause a lot of mess in the bathroom). anyway, i think hitler, stalin, saddam and bush were stone cold sober when they decided to kill millions of people. can't blame everything on the booze.

eff1gy >>> you should have more faith in yourself. duduk KL tak lama pun boleh jadi setan

izso >>> u should read Fast Food Nation. That would put everybody off burgers forever

NinJaMoo said...

Yup yup, read what babe with lotsa brains said and think that she hit the jackpot! & if you see what they do to animals on one of Pugly's previous postings, that would probably put you off meat for awhile.

izso: I don't know abt the whole Texas thing - if there's a choice between eating beef and being vegetarian, I'd probably become vegetarian.

Najah said...

It's one thing to be very vigilant about eating pork, but remember the whole brouhaha over Babe? And what's with relabelling babi as khinzir?

Madcap Machinist said...

I was told a story once about how a government agency bought a very expensive piece of equipment and then never used it. It was a lighting console called a Wholehog from Flying Pig Systems. Apparently someone took issue with the name and said that it's haram to use it. I've never been able to confirm it though.

GemmaJames said...

I had a Malay colleague who boasted of eating pork during the day during Ramadhan. Yucks.

There was this story once that Tok Guru of PAS was dining with MGG Pilai (sp) and he refused to have beef served out of respect for MGG's belief. *Respect.*

Dina Zaman said...

we accept anonymous submissions :D you can draw, write, make music etc etc...

ms sorrento said...

hey..being vegetarian is not bad at all....lagi kosher like that ;)

Mr Incognito said...

NinJaMoo >>> you have a vested interest in putting people off beef, don't u?

Najah >>> just think of those poor fellows who named Khinzir by their ignorant fathers who in pre-enlightenment times thought it was a cool Arabic name

Madcap Machinist >>> it's surprising that somebody understood enough English in a government agency to spot that

Mr Incognito said...

GemmaJames >>> boast lah pasal benda yang mendatangkan nikmat sikit. And u don't have to be MB of Kelantan to be sensitive about other religions

Dina Zaman >>> too bad I can't draw, Dina. I'll work on the article (can't have Mr A Letter From America be one up on me). Thanks

ms sorrento >>> i heard vegetarians taste better

Mr Hobo said...

hahaha ... apasal can't have him one up you ... sesia lah jadi fav student Mr. LD eh?

izso said...

moo - yeah well.. they put beef bacon bits in almost all their salads. It's annoying.

Edroos said...

Gee I must say this is a good post. Worthy of all the discussions, thoughts and views here. However let me be honest.

At times we have to reflect and simply bear the brunt of the misdeeds of the other Muslims amongst us. The brothers and sisters among us, as described by yourself, who indulges in the many evil habits yet amazingly choose to avoid pork at all costs. Why you may ask? Doesn't it make a difference? What less haram is pork as to alcohol, drugs or the freedom of copulating?

From an acute angle, as much as I am throughly annoyed with your 'not so funny' friend, I seem to see where he's coming from. It was probably a thrill for him to take a jibe at our beliefs. But don't go too hard on him everyone, anyone. Isn't he like all the other millions around him? Haven't we been made fun of enough already to be all immuned? All muslims are rebels of terror, our prophet (pbuh) are featured in comic strips and now this pork humour. Yet who should we blame? Them? The anti-Islam? Or us? What have we done to further give others cause to take a jibe at us?

Don't hang me for this. I was one of those wayward ones and alhamdullillah I've mended my ways . And it is really true, most 'drinking' muslims will never touch pork much less eat it! I know I WAS one of them. May He lead us all to the right path.

Mr Incognito said...

Mr Hobo >>> LD's favourite is that retired blogger we know. I was ms VL's.

Edroos >>> that's deep. thanks for being very candid. glad i raised some issues for discussion although i'm i don't reveal too much about my own true convictions

dah pencen said...

Oi. apa mengumpat nih.
I'm reading, u know.

Mr Incognito said...

dah pencen >>> pencen lama sangat. i think dah ada orang hijack your URL.

Mr Hobo said...

I thought you were Mr. HS favorite lover. Sure ka Ms. VL :P

Dah Pencen: It's time for you to come back! We can steamroll over those Bloggers United Losers!

NinJaMoo said...

hehehe. Eat more chicken ;p