Sambal Belacan. Urat Kunyit. Candas. Tahai. Tempoyak.Ikan Goreng. Binjai. I know you’re making a word association now. Yes,these meals complete the set of your Ambuyat!
For a Filipino who is used to soup-based food like Sinigang or Tinola and sauce-based food like Adobo or Menudo, the Ambuyat tastes bland. Really. The first time I tried it, I found it weird because it does not have any prominent smell, taste or color.
According to my students, the said dish is made from a special sago starch and it is cooked by pouring hot water. This combination is mixed until it becomes sticky and a bit slimy.
Ambuyat could be offered in package sets or in buffet style. I prefer the buffet style because I get to choose the meals that I can eat with it. One can choose from chicken dish, fish, vegetable dish, soup, shrimp. You can take a piece of each and eat it with it.
But, the best combination of all for me is Ambuyat and Urat Kunyit! My favorite!
Aside from these dishes, what makes this bland meal exciting are the dips that come with it: Sembal Belacan, Tempoyak, and Binjai.
Just mix all three dips and you’re good to go!
So, when all these dishes and Ambuyat are served, how do we eat this sticky substanc? This was my question during my first time eating it. There’s a special set of chopsticks that you have to use! It’s called candas.
It’s a bit challenging in the beginning. Seriously. You have to pinch your candas to get a gob of the sticky substance. It takes skill to actually get a piece of the ambuyat. Once you successfully get a gob of it, just dip it in your mixture of sambal belacan, tempoyak and binjai. Then, take any part of your other dishes. Well, that’s how I eat it!
One might find it odd to discover that despite the flavorless taste and appearance of the ambuyat, many people actually come back for it. I have eaten ambuyat several times already. One at the Ambuyat House in Melabau and thrice in Full Houze in Kiulap.
Surprisingly, on my fourth attempt at eating ambuyat, a significant realization came to me. This 4th experience reinforced my philosophy about simplicity and humility. Nowadays, I’m more inclined to admire people who live an unhurried life, who take time to enhance their interests, and who live a low-maintenance life. Nowadays, I try to embody a minimalist mentality. It’s a challenge, I must admit. I try to purchase and keep only what meets my needs.Time to time, I indulge and spend on experiences that encourage my creativity and free spirit. I wake up early in the morning to listen to chants, to acknowledge my thoughts and revel in stillness. Unexpectedly, all the more I try to be simple, all the more confident I become.
Just like the Ambuyat. It spells effortlessness. It is so straightforward: a plain sago starch cooked with hot water. Remarkably though, after eating it, you will come to know that it is quite a heavy and beneficial meal. It’s so simple, and yet, so substantial. Moreover, when you get to know how this sago starch is produced, you will be appreciative of the process to get it prepared. It’s an irony how great we benefit from something so simple. It’s indeed a beautiful irony!
It’s quite bizarre how food sometimes make you ponder on important things in life.
Let’s all be like the AMBUYAT!