21 July 2006

How Do I Love Thee?

Let me count the ways…. I love the….


This is obviously not working.

*new sheet of paper*


Dear Perfect Lover,

I had wished for a better, more private time to tell you this but well-meaning friends – well, one well-meaning friend – thought it might be funny to, you know, ask about these things.
It’s probably safe to say that you already know what I like about you and the things that you do. But what about the things that you don’t do?

You don’t SMS me in the dead of the night unless you need to. I appreciate the thought, I really do.

You don’t snore. I lied, you do. But a gentle dig in the ribs is all you need to stop. Strangely enough, blowing over your eyes and nose works too. Would you care to tell us why?

You don’t decide everything, by which I mean you are artfully indecisive. You know what I want. I know you know what I want. You know that I know, but your trying to stop me knowing that you know I know that you know is great fun. Don’t stop.

You are not obsessed enough with the bodily sounds that other people find so amusing. You don’t belch, pass wind or make silly noises with your armpits. So I don't get to roll my eyes. Fair?

You don’t mine your nose and ears, then examine the ‘ore,’ afterwards.

You don’t watch ‘enough,’ football. Thank the heavens for that.

You don’t dance enough, certainly not when I’m around.

You don’t make children cry. How do you (not) do it?

That should be enough for the time being. Eight things that you don’t do enough of, or at all. Keep (not) doing them, please.


15 July 2006

Delapan Kasih, Delapan Kisah, Bahagian KeDelapan

Culinary nostalgia is not limited just to pMom's kitchen. There is plenty to get fed (up) with in Malaysia. Eight of the best are right here....

Eight of Malaysia's best

Char koay teow. Nothing says ‘Gua si hokkien lang’ like sitting down to a plate of char koay teow. Flat rice noodle (the koay teow) pan-fried with garlic, shallots, ku chai /kow choy, shrimp and egg. Deliciously bad for you (and me). And if you go up north, you might be served char koay teow on a banana leaf! Hands up people from Taiping. The Restoran Air Kacang is home to one of your best char koay teow.

Gu leng peng. The bane of my life. Rose syrup into a glass of milk. Called Air Bandung when flavoured with pandan (you can leave the leaf in for extra flavour). The resulting pink drink is curiously compelling, so much so that it is why I am the shape I am today.

Kuaci. Melon seeds. Just like Polly The Parrot likes to nibble on sunflower seeds, Malaysians gnaw on kuaci. Anywhere Americans eat popcorn, a Malaysian will have kuaci. Movies, sporting events, parties. But unlike popcorn eaters, kuaci eaters tend to leave a mess. *sigh, goes for brush and dustpan*

Otak-otak. A wonderful, baked spicy fishcake with a difference: there is actually a slice of fish in it. While there you can get otak-otak without the fish fillet, the best kind usually has a nicely-done piece of piscine heaven hidden inside.

Ark tui misua. 'Duck thigh vermicelli', though the name does not do it justice. Gently coddled for several hours in duck stock with various chinese herbs, the duck thigh is so tender, it falls from the bone to touch.
Misua is a light vermicelli made from rice flour, that has the unusual quality of soaking up flavours. When the soup is good to the last drop and when the company is just as good, ark tui misua is not just a dish, it is a complete meal.

Aiskrim potong. Invariably sold from an iced box on the back of a motorcycle, aiskrim potong is just that. I have not tried it for several years now, so would not know if it is still sold but it certainly did feature in many a Malaysian childhood, from the city to little villages. The name comes from the ice cream itself, which came in blocks the same size as a box of colour pencils. On retrieving the desired flavour of ice cream, the vendor would cut the required amount out of the block of ice cream and hand it over to us. Messy, but heavenly. Modern ice cream is just not as nice for some reason….

Tok-tok mee. It took some time before we Asians got used to the idea of self-service and it was because of this sort of thing. The name came from a noodle stall on wheels, pedalled around while the vendor announced his business by knocking on a hollow, bell-like thing (the name will come to me in a second…).

Kaya kueh. Kaya is our name for egg jam, though the description is not exactly right. Kaya is a sweet, golden brown spread that wipes lightly over a slice of bread at breakfast. Or on to kaya kueh….
The kueh itself is a bite-size square of sticky, blue-veined cake made from zhu bee (lormai or glutinous rice). No light wiping of kaya here.
Today’s kaya kueh is not the dangerous confection of my childhood. All those years ago, kaya kueh was sold as squares as big as my little palm. I spent as much time enjoying it as I did trying not to drip kaya over myself, the furniture or anyone who happened to come within arm’s reach.
I’m sure finishing schools could use kaya kueh to teach… what do they call it? Comportment? Deportment? Balance a slice of kaya kueh on the head while walking. The heavens help you if anything spills….

And that's it, the eighth meme of eights. Thanks, angel!

09 July 2006

Delapan Kasih, Delapan Kisah, Bahagian Ketujuh

And coming back to the original form of the meme....

Eight new things I would love to try out or do at least once

Watching the aurorae, either in the far north or south. Some people say if you are completely silent, you can hear them as well as see them. That would really be something.

The Hermitage Museum at St. Petersburg. Once upon a time, the winter palace of the Tsars. Now it is an art museum within the four walls of a truly spectacular building. The sense of history, the sense of occasion, must be almost overwhelming.

Write The Great Malaysian Novel. Wouldn’t that be fun? The story could be about food and food and… food….

Crater Lake National Park in Oregon is supposed to be wonderfully relaxing. I hear the views are stunning and that the photos are only a pale imitation. Swimming in the summer, playing in the snow in wintertime.

A beach holiday in The Maldives, or more realistically, Sipadan. A friend once told me that the diving off Sipadan is excellent. I nodded of course: I don’t know how to scuba-dive.

Cruise the fjords in New Zealand. I would really like to see a fjord, especially how fog, water and fjord come together. I have seen it on film, I want to see it for real.

Swimming with dolphins. The dolphins will eventually figure us people out and run away from the biggest polluters on earth. Before that happens, I want some quality time with a porpoise. Porpoise, geddit? Geddit?

I would like to be an anime or manga character. Not cosplay. I mean actually made into an anime character, with my own series. My life already reads like the script of a K-drama or the fifty-episodes-plus serials so beloved of Hong Kong. Why not draw and animate it all? Might even save me the embarrassment of seeing who is going to be cast to play me….

06 July 2006

Delapan Kasih, Delapan Kisah, Bahagian Keenam

As luck would have it, I was preparing this little Delapan Kasih when ka..t tagged me. I suppose posting it now would be menyelam sambil minum air (two birds, one stone), wouldn’t it? Let’s start.

Eight foods from pMom’s kitchen (plus two)

Popiah. Light soft pastry around a vegetable stew (?) cooked to a secret recipe. Every popiah chef has her own recipe, and pMom is no different. As a side note, I heard popiah in Penang is sometimes flavoured with shrimp paste (heir ko), which gives it an interesting flavour. At home, our popiah is stiffened with a leaf of lettuce before rolling. I like the crisp, fresh flavour that comes with lettuce: it goes well with the chilli sauce, for some reason.

Pai Tee. This is finger food at most parties. Crispy pastry thimbles filled with that vegetable stew again. Aitelyu nyonyas are so fond of their overcooked vegetable stew…. Take a thimble in one hand, line it with half a leaf of lettuce then spoon in the veggies. Again, every chef has her own secret recipe.
The thimbles are difficult to make. It is not simply a matter of finding the mold, mixing up a bucket of batter and then persuading some silly little plink to make thimbles. Dipping the mold into batter, then into hot oil is an art.
The thimble just boils up out of nowhere from this thin layer of batter around the mold and you have to quickly get it out before it starts to burn (chau huay tar), preferably without breaking the brittle thing. Until I had mastered that little ballet, pai tee in our house had a distinctly smoky flavour to it.

Pandan Chicken. If I needed any more proof that we are nyonyas and babas, this is it. I simply can’t get enough of Pandan Chicken. I have no idea what goes into the marinade nor if the leaf-wrapped chicken meat is barbecued or deep-fried. This (and the huge amount of work that goes into it) is probably why pMom only makes it for family meals and not for parties. I would quite happily ignore everyone else at the table and be best friends with whoever is nearest to the Pandan Chicken. Nothing comes between me and my Pandan Chicken….

Lam Cho’. Take six eggs, tamarind, cili padi, onions and dried shrimp (hairbee). Soak the tamarind in water, then strain the resulting juice and throw away the hampas (the yucky stuff that remains). Chop everything else into small pieces, then mix and season to taste. The resulting egg salad is a deliciously eye-watering treat. Eating Lam Cho’ is how I acquired a taste for cili padi.

Tu tor thng. Pork maw, boiled up with rock salt, peppercorns, gingko (optional) and more cloves of garlic than you (or I) can count. Waste not, want not. Everything that goes into the pot can be, and often is, eaten.

Liver. This probably doesn’t qualify as cooking, but it is something I do remember. Finely chopped liver goes into a small bowl. Boiling water follows. After a suitable pause, it gets fed to plink. The theory is that it makes plinks grow up healthy. It tasted better than it sounds, I promise….

Tau Mio, fried with garlic. Tau mio is a wonderful little green vegetable, looking like a cute cross between clover and beansprouts with the inconveniences of neither (I personally wouldn’t eat clover). It has a delicate, cress-like flavour that is surprisingly helped by the garlic.

Tau Iu Kei. A little like ka..t’s Tau Yew Bak, only with chicken and garlic and TungKu…. Winn, did you hear me? TungKu-TungKu-TungKu-TungKu-TungKu-TungKu-TungKu-TungKu....

Fish fried with tau chneoh. Tau chneoh is a versatile fermented bean paste. It smells and tastes better than it sounds, really! If I remember correctly, you start by lightly pan-frying a fish then put it to one side. The fishy oil in the wok receives crushed garlic to brown. When that is done, a large amount of tau chneoh goes into the mixture and the cook gets out of the kitchen: there is a lot of fizzing and crackling from the tau chneoh as it joins the hot oil. When it’s safe to go back in, the sauce should actually be nice and loose. Stir until bubbling evenly, then ladle over pan-fried fish.

Perut ikan. Just like it says on the label, the main ingredient is fish maw. Using a secret recipe handed down from pGrandma to pMom, this strange, wonderfully tart dish gives absolutely no clue as to how it got its name. All the unsuspecting diner ever sees is an inviting island of vegables sitting in a mysterious, fragrant soup. Eat with rice. Amboi, best-nyer!

Go visit ka..t and tag yourselves. Go on, you know you want to….

01 July 2006

Delapan Kasih, Delapan Kisah, Bahagian Kelima

This next part of my meme of eights is a little different than most....

Eight times of my life to revisit, just for fun

My swimming lessons. For a round-shaped plink, I was very surprised to find that I sank like a stone. I did not enjoy it at first, but when I made up my mind to have fun I started to get better at it. I’m sure there is a lesson in there somewhere.

Graduation day. It was bright, it was sunny and the ceremony was stupendous.

In the middle of SPM, I went out after one exam paper to hang out with some friends. pMom and pDad grilled me afterwards though….

The first time I went out clubbing. In Malaysia, we have the expression, ‘Bagai rusa masuk kampung,’ (Like the deer entering a village) which was an accurate description of my first ‘proper’ night out. I was gawking at everything: the people, the fashions, the bright lights. All this, before I had anything to drink....

I once went to a ballroom dancing class. What was I thinking?! Obviously, thinking was the one thing that I had not been doing. It would have been better had I two left feet. Fully half the conversation that night was me saying, ‘Oops,’ ‘sorry,’ or words to that effect. I had never been so embarrassed. So why on earth did I go for salsa lessons later that year?

Earlier this year, some people I worked with staged a play.
It was a team-building exercise. It was hard work.
iRranted, iRaved.
iThreatened, iBegged and iMuttered darkly in equal measure.
i... Would do it again next year, given the chance.
iWonder why? *wry smile*

My last day at school, if only to remember what ‘anticlimax,’ means.

The end of Form One, Sains Paduan (Integrated Science) class. Thirty of us were sat in a lab with our amali (practical) exercise books in front of us. Only one page remained between us and the next year. Looking slightly nervous, our teacher said, ‘Open your books to the last page, please.’
It was the chapter on the birds and the bees….

I wonder if anyone has past times to share or to revisit?