It was 4.30pm in the evening with the sun bound to set soon. Lying there on a net supported by two coconut tree, wishing and daydreaming on what next fantasy adventure to come by is Ahmad. Ahmad, a 24 years old village boy with a mere SPM level education. He decided that furthering his studies wasn’t his thing and was prepared to face the wild adventure of adulthood that may come in the future.
Unbeknownst to him, he’s would end up spending his ‘Nike years’ lazing around the farm helping around the house with no way of earning a living. “Boom!” just then a coconut fell onto his head, waking him up from his deep slumber. As he agonized in pain he can hear his mother calling out to him “Ahmad! Come back home I need you to pick up something for dinner later”. With a bump on his head he rushed back home while bringing the coconut that fell onto him with a revenge plan to cut up that coconut for all its flesh.
His mother, Siti, a widow at 44 after her husband died of heart complication few years back, is the sole breadwinner of the family by selling vegetables and fruits at the nearby market. She sighed at the sight of Ahmad rushing back with his worned out clothes and ambitionless eyes.
‘Ahmad, what are u ever going to do with your life” She exclaimed.
Ahmad still in pain and anger was too busy muttering to himself his revenge on what to do with the coconut he had brought home. Siti with a worried expression then gave him a list of groceries to buy for dinner later but before sending him off with a smack him with her specialty “slipper makcik kick” to snap him back to reality. Ahmad then went on his merry way to the nearby market by foot with a simple outfit of filled with holes singlet, a simple shorts and slippers. Ahmad couldn’t care less, he was at that point where all his other friends by now have moved on from his small village to bigger cities, so the chances of meeting anyone familiar is slim.
As he was on the way he happened to come across a TV shop where it was playing a very popular Chinese cooking show called ‘Iron Chef”. He stopped in his tracked and centered his focus to it. Iron Chef is a long running Chinese cooking TV show where master chef will compete with any other qualified chef In a cooking competition. Ahmad was waiting for the main attraction of the show where they would showcase the main ingredients the two chef’s will battle with. You see, Ahmad like many other didn’t have many interest or dreams to pursue but one thing he always had a passion for is cooking which one of the reason so is from watching this TV show itself.
He was always amazed at the amazing concoction these creative chefs’ on TV would come up with, their incredible technique when cooking as well as their earnestly ways to serve up the best food they can to their customers or judge tasters. In subtitles it read “and the secret main ingredient today is….. Coconut!”. Ahmad stood till for a second in awe of the coincidence of what life had presented him today. His face cracked a little smirk as he watch the ongoing battle between the chefs with a sudden thought that maybe he too can compete while simultaneously thinking of what to do with coconut if he was there.
Halfway through the show he snapped and remembered on the real reason for his reason of being there. He glanced at the clock in the store and noticed that the market will be closed in 10 minutes. He then rushed to the markets bumping by other vendors that were already packing to go home. But with few minutes to spare and some vendors luckily left he arrived at the market and bought on what was on that grocery list. As he finished buying all of the items in the list he had a few change to spare with the thought of that iron chef show and coconut to spare at home. He quickly proceeded to buy the necessary items to cook what he needed with the coconut. It was a fast and smart decision that needs to be made just like with the competing chefs on the TV show.
As the sky turns gloomy Ahmad knew to hurry back home. It hadn’t rain in a while so it was bound to rain soon and when it did he knew it will be a heavy rain. Just as Ahmad, reached home the rain started pouring. Luckily he reached home safe and dry. As he reached home he noticed that his mom was taking a nap, so Ahmad decided to go ahead and started cooking. With the ingredients set and a passion a ignited from watching Iron Chef this now, he was ready to COOK.
With knives a blazing and wok a stirring suddenly he hears a ruckus coming from the front door of his home. Ahmad went to check and saw his mom helping an old gentleman up the stairs of his home. Puzzled and slightly worried on who this stranger that his mum is picking up was, he asked with a slightly sterner than usual manufactured tone on who he was. Before the mom could answer the old guy intercepted and stated that he was merely passing by when the heavy rain poured down and that the only shelter in sight was this house.
‘Well, lucky for you’ exclaimed Ahmad snarkily, not too pleased at the sight of an old stranger in the presence of his house. Siti, his mum annoyed at his son insolence told Ahmad to prepare some tea for the guest as they both moved and made comfortable at the living room area. His mum was actually happy to invite this man from the rain as she hadn’t had any company in her house in a while. As they were both chatting away, Ahmad while preparing tea took a few glances at the man from the kitchen room.
The man is old probably in his 50s, was wearing spectacles and oh probably the most noticeable features was that he was Chinese, which made the whole interaction more suspicious as this was a Malay village with visitors of other races rarely passing by. As he was serving the tea to the guest and his mom while they were still chatting away, his mom laughing and the guy telling some stories about some competition of sorts, he suddenly remembered the his food that was boiling and quickly rushed back to the kitchen. Knocking down the older gentleman teacup to which his mom exclaimed to Ahmad on his clumsiness. The guy didn’t mind but instead asked her why was he such in a hurry?
The mom then went on to explaining that he was cooking in the midst of him coming here and that he had a flare for cooking ever since young. The old guy seemingly intrigued, asked if he could come over to the kitchen to see what he was cooking to which the mum hesitantly agreed worried that what he mat see might put him off.
There in the kitchen Ahmad was too busy finishing up on what he was cooking too noticed the pair to walk in on him. The old guy stopped in his tracked, stood still for a moment to take in all on what he was witnessing in the kitchen as this young man was cooking in the kitchen. He noticed the focused expression on his face and his carefulness as he keep on testing his dishes while adding what was lacking. But what was more important that taken him back a little was what he saw cooking. A coconut shell cooking on top of a firewood pot with smoke coming up from the lid as he saw on another wok as coconut flesh battered and fried with some herbs together. In that instances, he muttered up the only words that could leave his mouth after resting in his mind “are… is that coconut al pav’e”.
Ahmad just noticed that his mom and the guy who just walked in the room responded with “Coconut what now?”. He dismissing the man question and took out the coconut from the pot with smokes rising and continues to put some finishing touches on his dishes. Just as Ahmad had finished up plating her mum quickly interjects that the man should stay a little while longer since the rain hasn’t stop and to have dinner with them as well but not before Ahmad added his two cents on maybe his dish might not suit his tastes. “Nonsense!” she exclaimed and insisted the man to stay for dinner to which the man agreed masking his excitement behind his curios poker face. All of them sat on the humble wood floor as they eat from the plastic worn out plates. The man exclaimed with joy as he finishes up his plate. As he looked up from devouring his food, Ahmad and his mom was looking at him with a strange expression that maybe he was enjoying it too much, as like a stray cat that hadn’t eaten for days.
The old man with a huge smile on his face and stood up suddenly and bowed. Ahmad startled a bit was taken back, his mom gave an awkward smile at this old man action. She said there isn’t any reason for him to thank him in that way when it’s just a meal. The man exclaimed that it was one of the most heartiest food he had eaten and that he had to sincerely thanked Ahmad for the food.
Low and behold this guy wasn’t just any old Chinese guy passing by the village as he eventually reveal his name and true identity, His name Liu Chau Fen one of the elites chef in Hong Kong and that his true intention of visiting here is to search for the inspiration that would help him to win in an upcoming competition called non-other than Iron Chef. Ahmad stunned. Ahmad trying to wrap his whole head in this sudden revelation while also for him to believe that this seemingly frail old man is going to compete in the most intense cooking show against the world most renounced and skilled chef.
Chef Liu then rushed to reassure Ahmad by furthering his explanation due to the looks of Ahmad questioning expression. He further explained that he’s restaurant of 100yrs plus is going to shut down had he not applied to join this competition but due to his lack of cooking skills had planned a retreat hoping to sought out inspiration for his upcoming battle. ‘This!…. This is what I needed.’ Chef Liu thought to himself. As if the cooking gods were smiling upon him, Chef Liu felt ecstatic at this young man talent discovery. Ahmad still suspicious, told the chef that there was nothing special about the dish at all. Little does this young man knew, he was wrong for he had many wrong in his life time but this is one wrong assumption he made about himself that would be turning point in his life.
Chef Liu, after taking a long exhale then sat down with a knowing expression then goes on about his cooking technique and cooking that resemble that of the famous cooking style of the French revolutionary chefs’ that was used to serve the king and queen of the French revolutionary army. It was inconceivable for Chef Liu that a mere village boy like him can even cook like this, he explained that he’s skill and his extensive palette to deliver such a complex tasting dish was that of a Michelin-star restaurant chef would serve. The two course dish served was impeccable, the first of was the silky smoked chicken in coconut shell with smooth coconut herbal soup was magnificent. It was the perfect balance of smooth tasting soup and smoky chicken.
His next dish of young coconut flesh stir fried with a mix of sugar and plum was a harmonious flavor that opens up another taste palate that you didn’t even knew existed. Both dish transports you to a peaceful place, as if you were at a high tidal beach with the sea breeze whisk through your face while a campfire was lit to keep your body warm as well. It was spectacular!” the old wise chef exclaimed. He wanted to seem composed and professional but his grin was giving it all away too much. He had actually planned…