My friend Russel brought me to visit the amazing Malaysian artist Ahmad Zakii Anwar and his family. We drank tea and chatted in his tranquil front yard surrounded by tropical plants and next to a goldfish pond. I felt close to him right away because I grew up with a painter brother, whose love and skill for figurative painting Zakii seemed to share. Zakii’s are mostly charcoal and acrylic, while my brother Chase’s are mostly oil.
We toured his gallery and his studio, and then we moved to his movie room where the screen is a perfectly white canvas that reminds one of infinite possibilities. I thought it was a brilliant idea for an artist to show movies on a large blank canvas where images from his favorite films stimulated his painterly imagination. We sat under the screen and talked about his art, his inspiration and life in general. A gentle and mellow family man, Zakii appeared to have dispensed with all his tension in his art. There is something very absolute and pure in his paintings that I appreciate very much. We went on talking until it was dinner time and he took all of us to eat at a wonderful Peranakan restaurant called EPL near his house. This was one of the most special evenings I have spent in Johor.
For lunch today, I made a myself a black rice salad with mango, prawn and macadamia nuts. And I mixed a sweet, tangy and spicy soy dressing that was absolutely yummy.
Tropical Black Rice Salad with Mangos and Prawns
Ingredients for the salad:
1 cup of black rice (raw, cooked with 1 1/2 cup of water and a pinch of salt)
1 Japanese cucumber or 1/2 of a long English cucumber, seeded and cubed
1 large mango, (1 1/2 cup diced)
12 large prawns (peeled, deveined, poached)
1 large red chili pepper, sliced
1 or 2 stock spring onion
1/2 cup macadamia nuts (I chopped half of them and left the rest whole)
Ingredients for the dressing:
4 small limes, juice of (about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon 100% pure dark sesame oil
1 small Thai red onion or 1 small shallot, minced
1 bird eye red chili pepper, minced
Cook black rice according to package direction. Cool to room temperature.
Mix all ingredients for dressing.
Toss together all ingredients for salad.
Pour first 1/2 of the dressing and try the salad. Add more to suit your own taste.