Thursday, 9 December 2010

Car Ownership Conundrum

About a little over a year ago, I finally got myself a brand new car, which replaced the ageing Proton Wira my family had since 1997. Now, it isn’t a particularly big car or one that could even remotely be considered luxurious, or flashy (I am not one of those who dream of Porsche-ing around town; a two-seater car is so ludicrously impractical). It is a simple Proton Persona, an economical and easy to drive sedan with a slightly sporty look.

I chose this car mainly because it was a good drive and most Persona owners were very (if not extremely) satisfied with the design, engineering and technology that went into it. You could say it was a logical choice, added to the fact that it was sitting squarely in what I could afford.

Proton has several classes or standards for this model, starting with the basic Baseline, onwards to Medium line, then upwards to the High line and a final notch up, the High line Special Edition or S.E. In all honestly, the Baseline version would have sufficed, but such is the story of my life, I lusted for the SE.

I postulated that I could afford the monthly bank installments with some cut backs on my current lifestyle and habits. The first day the car was delivered to me was a special day. It a strange mix of pride, for finally owning my own shiny new ride and ahem, I am driving an SE! (I guess this is the same feeling Ferraris would give to its buyers).
My baby! All clean and polished to a gleam.
I have been everywhere in it as far as Penang and Johor, to work, for short gallivanting jaunts and run-arounds. Truth be told, I am satisfied with the build quality and reliability of my car, despite what Proton naysayers are spouting.

However, I have failed to take into consideration the actual cost of owning a ride isn’t so much the monthly installments, but the actual running costs – road tax, yearly insurance, fuel, parts replacement, servicing and all other maintenance related money-sinkers like washing, polish and waxes and those assorted bits we not necessarily need but want nonetheless for the car.
Some say the 'snow-wash' type of cleaning is bad for the paint job. Is this so?
A friend recently told me of his plans to also get a car for himself and I found myself cautioning him the realities of car ownership. I certainly wasn’t trying to scare him against getting one, but I may have come across rather strongly in my advising.

I wish someone had taken the time to guide me on what I need to really look at. Obviously, having an ‘SE’ labeled car automatically makes you feel like one is part of an elite few (yes, never mind the fact that it is only a Proton), but there is much I should have known in hind sight.

Roughly two weeks ago, I sent my car in for a major servicing as it had already clocked 40,000 kms. The car was of course equipped with maintenance schedule and it urged to get certain things done, lest the car warranty kaput. Drove to my usual car service guys and got them to do what is needed.

And these little things made the owner go ouch ouch ouch!
Treatment time! Removing the gungy transmission and engine oils.
Thus my bill came out like this:

RM 18  : Air Filter                                                
RM 12  : Oil Filter                                                 
RM 18  : Engine Treatment                                    
RM 97  : Engine Oil 4 Liters                                   
RM 18  : Engine Cleaner                                        
RM 175: Automatic Transmission Fluid 5 Liters       
RM 3.5 : Windshield Cleaner                                  
RM 12  : Radiator Coolant                                    
RM 60  : Major Service Charges                            

TOTAL = RM 498.50.

I ended up gasping for air a few moments thereafter. The service mechanic also recommended that I change the front wheel brake pads (estimated at RM75 a piece!), the brake fluid (good for a few more weeks) and maybe consider doing a proper car detailing (which is an estimated RM 1500 layered combination of washing, claying, polishing, waxing, buffing and re-waxing to restore the body paint quality) at a good detailing center.

Eeep! Uhm, next month please!

Most of my days are spent working how much I actually need to set aside for my car. Now I know why some consider owning vehicles as a liability instead of it being an asset.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Coke Light Addiction!

There I have said it, I have an addiction to Coke Light!

I used to drink plain ole Coke, attempted to like Cherry Coke (Ugh. What was I thinking!), then sidled towards the other flavour permutations Coke came up with such as Black Cherry, Zero ( with absolutely no nutritional value, yayy!), Lime, Lemon et al. I then migrated on to Coke Light.

And what a relationship I have with it. I really really love this stuff. I drink it early in the day for Brekky, I drink it while at work, with loads of ice and lime juice, I drink it at night before going to bed and all other times in between or when the mood strikes.

My personal favourite was when Coca Cola Malaysia used to offer Coke Light Lemon. I would buy it by the cartons! Alas, this flavour was discontinued, probably due to the low sales figures, or the fact that it smelled faintly of some cheap toilet cleaning bleach, least-ways that was what they were saying.
In my duty travels abroad, my drink of choice would invariably be some unique Coke Light or Diet flavours.

At one point, I was downing like 9 cans in a day! Rather strangely I have never experienced the discomforts others were saying when one has too much soda drinks. Nowadays, it is a more modest 4 to 5 cans a day (which isn't modest at all some would argue).
With Vitamins! Healthier alternative even!
The thing is, I don't enjoy it so much for the so called dieting reasons (for which plain ole water works wonders to assist in flushing the bodily systems, which I do have lots of between hits of coke light), but rather for the immediate sweet hit it gives. The primary sweetening agent in Coke Light is Aspartame and this bonded amino acid based sugar substitute is seriously sweeter pound for pound when compared to boring, plain sugar.

Then I stumbled upon these Internet articles, bandying the dangers of Aspartame and other synthetic sweeteners-, Egads! Now what?

So what can I try for that immediate sweet impact I so crave? Honey is too cloying and its own flavours doesn't agree with some others, Demerara doesn't keep very well and cost twice that of Honey, White sugar attracts ants, Palm sugar is just, well, not my cup of tea. Sigh....

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Coolest Furniture! I Want One!

 Take a look at this cool multifunction transforming furniture! Nice! I want!

You can view more cool furnitures from here -

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Nice To Know Someone Values Your Work

I have been having spates of what I would call 'Sour' moments here at work (which I honestly try my damnedest  best to not let affect my work). Being in the service industry isn't easy (let me tell up front), so it does help us feel better to come across really satisfied customers who really appreciate the gestures we do for them.

I was taught that we should always attempt to see things from another perspective, and putting on another's shoes so to speak, so that we can be fully informed of what our action (or in-action) could mean to the other person. As it were, I have never had a problem of empathising and seeing both sides of a coin (people who know me might add I see both sides of a coin to a fault!). So being with customers in operational shift work constantly allows me to test this skill!

It is a wonderful feeling to know that what one should consider simple courtesy could end up meaning so much to the recipient, be it a steaming cup of tea, a bowl of comforting noodles or a warming blanket, or that mildest of smiles. Sometimes, individuals in this industry can be so bogged by the machinations and processes of work (in all its myriad of dos and don'ts) we forget to be human and most importantly, that our customers are also human.

Thus it was a very pleasant surprise when I was approached by a long time service provider partner (whom I have not met in months) seeking my participation in coordinating and arranging for some rehash of their well received but somewhat dated offerings in my place of work.

Now, I have always felt that my pointed (and often terse) complaints I sent out due to quality control lapses would affect how I would be perceived. I have always (and hopefully always will) been very quick to praise when a job is well done and reprimand only after I have enough investigated details warranting such response. I guess in real life, when it matters, people will cut through all the drama and see that at the end of the day, it is always about doing our level best for the customers, and they know we are doing it because it needed doing, without malice or ill-will.

So I am all smiles tonight....

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Out & About: Iftar at Under One Roof Restaurant

A bunch of us buddies decided that it would be fun to meet up and have a 'Berbuka Puasa' session together considering most of us have not been able to meet up for while now. After some manner of deliberation it was decided that we should all go and dine at a former work-mate's new restaurant. This was quickly agreed upon and and when the day finally arrived we found ourselves driving over to Pekan Salak, Sepang, to Under One Roof Restaurant.
The restaurant is at: 2, Jalan Gembira 1, Taman Desa Gembira, Pekan Salak, 43900, Sepang, Selangor
After picking me up from work, my girlfriend and I, with another former colleague Puteri Yuzaina in tow drove to the restaurant. With Yuzaina's GPS-like memory we quickly found the place. An end lot restaurant in a new block of shop houses in the older part of Pekan Salak (Interestingly it is actually barely 5 minutes' drive from Sepang International Circuit! Trust KLIA to have the jumbled mix of old and new buildings). Upon arrival, we noted Nomie and Shahrul has already preceded us (that's their ride in the picture above!).

That here is our friend Nomie attacking the menu, this woman can eat I tell you! Nomie attacking her plate of seafood called Fisherman's Platter! Assortment of Gratinated Green Shell Mussels in cream, Breaded Fish Steak and Shrimp with Chunky Fries!
Quick few hugs, kisses and handshakes later, we were all happily chatting up reminiscing on the good old days when we were all part of a same department. The Owner Ben, later also welcomed us (he used to be an active member of the groupie too) and presented the menu. He informed us that his eatery was launched relatively recently, about a few months back. When asked about why did he chose to open a restaurant (it is NOT easy to run a restaurant ya!), he honestly said that he missed cooking and wanted to run a business and operation that he could call his own. So kudos to him then, as I don't think I would had enough gumption to actually do what he did!

As a classically trained chef, the Ben had devised a menu that had a large selection and was rather impressive (I dare say it was downright bountiful!), comprising of elements from Western and Eastern flavours with some closer to home favourites. The menu boasted of things like Grilled Steaks, Fisherman's Platter, Tex Mex influences like Nachos (with Salsa or topped with thick gloopy meat sauce and cheese, yum!), alongside Garlic Stir Fried Vegetables, Tom Yum Soup and your bevy of Nasi Gorengs,  all of which were looking all the more attractive the more we perused. Being so close to Iftar, we sought for the recommendations of the Chef and he directed our attention to his bestsellers. 

The gang then ordered Grilled Strip loin, Grilled Salmon Steak (this was mine, good choice too), Nachos and Salsa, more Nachos (this time topped with sauteed chicken and smothered with gooey melted cheese!), a Fisherman's Platter, Mixed Tom Yum Soup and Plain Rice to go with the Tom Yum. Another friend, Azrul Hisham (aka Adik, Po-yo, or more recently Chekgu!) then also joined us, completing the quorum. And thus began another round of stories and laughter.

A short while later our first courses arrived and we tucked in with Gusto.

Oven Crisped Nacho Chips with Salsa. His version was delightfully spiked with red hot chillies, giving the accompanying Salsa a good kick in the flavour department. Quickly brightening up in one's mouth

And this would be the Nachos A-la Gloop! Loads of Nachos piled high, slopped with sauce-grilled chicken meat and  topped with plenty of grated cheese. Throw it all under a hot grill and heaven is a place on earth
Mid appetizer, our individual main courses arrived in succession.
That giant hand belongs to Chekgu! and no, the steak isn't that tiny, just bad camera angles! The Steak was perfectly medium rare, displaying hints of red and pink when cut, upon a mound of garden sauteed vegetables and potato chunks.

Grilled Salmon on Garlic Potato Mash (which delightfully turned out more like potato smash than smooth mash which is great for textural contrasts!) and Garden Vegetables.
A moo-ving experience!
Spicy Sweet Mixed Tom Yum Soup. This was chosen by Shahrul to go with his plate of Chinese styled Stir Fried Veges.
The meal was a good one, everyone present clearly loved what they got on their plates. Sneaking glances at other tables around us, I could tell the clientele were enjoying their nosh as much as we were! There were about 4 tables other than ours and I couldn't imagine how the lone Chef cum Owner could prepare all those orders without taking too much time.
Happy campers with full bellies! L-R: Meesa, Me, Ben the Restaurateur, Chekgu!, Puteri, Nomie and Shahrul's back!
Chekgu and Ben the Restaurateur!
They say time flies when one is having fun and in good company. The adage rang true for us, for we found that it was almost 1030 PM and had to say our goodbyes. Guys, lets do this again ya!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Koko the Kitty

Heya, this browned out picture would be of our kitteh, Koko. She is of mixed parentage, mostly mongrel kitteh with some Burmese breed blood thrown in. 

Me is your Empress, stroke me now!
She is spoiled rotten, and always demands attention, although only if and when she desires attention. She loves to take rides in the Laundry Basket from the room to the washing machine, she loves to scratch our rattan furniture (she loves a particular one at home which is now hers alone, along with another she uses to nap on), loves Kiss Kiss Nose Rubs, loves squishing Geckos, swatting bugs and trampling on spiders.
Trying to coax me to pick her up for Kiss Kiss Nose Rub
She also loves chasing and grabbing kid's heels (must be the pitter patter of tiny feet!) or the occasional careless adult's! She hates walking on grass (guess it feels weird on her feet), hates being sprinkled with water and abso-fricking-lutely hates getting her claws clipped!

Note the scratched banister, nothing in our home is completely free of cat scratches
She is house-trained but woe betide any exposed folded bedlinen (yes, only fresh clean folded bedlinen)! She fears the vacuum cleaner and our 'penyapu lidi' and the idea of being given a wet bath (so we compromised by giving her dry shampooing instead, either with rolled oats or a commercially prepared dry cat shampoo powder). 

She hates being in my room alone (must be the emanating reptilian smells!) but loves looking at my fishes if I carry her into my room. 

Me nice, pick me up please!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

I'd Do It All Again By Corinne Bailey Rae

I can't tell you just how many times I have watched this clip. I find her beauty captivating, her voice beguiling and her moves comforting. Then there is also the matter of her lyrics, which constantly reveal new things about her.

Oh, you're searching for something I know, wont make you happy
Oh, you're thirsting for something I know, wont make you happy
Oh, you did it all again, you broke another skein
Its hard to believe this time, hard to believe
That my heart, my heart's an open door...

You got all you came for, baby
So weary, someone to love is bigger than your pride's worth
It's bigger than the pain you got for it hurts
And out runs all of the sadness
It's terrifying, life, through the darkness
And I'd do it all again, I'd do it all again
I'd do it all again, I'd do it all again
You try sometimes but it won't stop
You got my heart and my head's lost, ohhh 
I've been burning down these candles for love, for love

So weary, someone to love is bigger than your pride
Ooh, someone to love, mm, someone to love
Someone to love
Ooh, you're searching for something I know, won't make you happy

I am not too sure what actually inspired this song, but it could be the fact that her husband died shortly after the launch of her first album, due to an accidental drug overdose. So, I imagine this song may be about her resolve, on how despite her terrible loss, she wouldn't have had it any other way. The repeating nature of the video clip suggests to me the weight of her burden, on how she struggles daily with it. And the part where she is in the street playing in traffic suggest her precariously sensitive heart and at the same instance signifies her continuing love for him.

Says volumes about her characters, me thinks.


It feels slightly weird to come back here. I have not blogged for quite a while due to some work related drama, which I really wish I could put up in here, but I most probably will not as I also have readers from work (and I wouldn't want to be let go because of some Internet indiscretion -deserved or otherwise).

Lets just say I experienced a whole range emotions, a-la-roller coaster with its up and downs. On some days, my days were like this:
 Get them, kill them, slay them!

On some others, it was like this:

 Clap clap clap clap!

Some days were like, "Yeayyy! Razee has done us proud!", and I would go like "Yay! (my team acknowledges my contributions!)";

On special days, I felt like I was being used as a Human Skateboard, like this;
Ouch ouch ouch! Watch the face!

And on some others, I was just constantly bombarded with stupidity resulting in me being like this;

Of course, on really special days, they are calm and placid, like so;
Love me tender, love me true!

So, I must take everything with a pinch of salt, life is not always a bed of roses, yet everything we go through, good or bad, is an experience just the same. :)

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Joys of Babies!

I have been meaning to write this but have not been able to find the drive to do so, a combination of sloth and writer's block.

Tale 1: Incoming!

A friend from work was recently blessed with a new addition of another baby girl to his family. All the while he was careful to ensure that his wife is taken care of, with scheduled trips to the Gynae and health enriching food for his wife. As the due day crept closer he was asking his colleagues as to whether he should be applying for paternity leave before or on the expected birthing date. The lot of us gave him our opinion and ideas and left him to decide on which would be best.

As luck would have it, he didn't get a chance at all. Early morning a day later, his wife elbowed him out of their sleep as she was feeling some major contractions. Feeling the urgency, he packed up his family into the car to zoom to the nearest hospital.

It was a cold and rainy pre-dawn and there were loads of lorries on the road necessitating a slower cruising speed. Suddenly, his wife grabbed him and told him that the baby is coming, shortly accompanied by the sound of gushing water! As he stole a glance, horror of horrors, he noticed the baby's head and it certainly wasn't about to wait anymore. Quickly he stole to the road-shoulder to attempt to park the car by the road so that he could to assist his wife, who was by now screaming in pain, further terrifying his two very young daughters in the back.

A few seconds later, he urged his wife to give it all she got and moments later they were gifted with a beautiful and (most importantly) healthy baby girl. His second daughter, who along with her elder sister had been blanched silent minutes ago, no thanks to their screaming mother, the sound of rushing water and the unfamiliar smells in the car, suddenly exclaimed 'Kawan!' welcoming the baby.

And they then drove to the hospital to get his wife and newborn child looked after. Momentarily leaving him and his seriously soiled car, wondering how on earth he is going to clean up all that amniotic fluid, blood and all those other gunge and bits off the insides of his car!

Tale 2: What, now?

Friend 2's wife was due to deliver in about 2 weeks and he was carefully making plans for the birthing and applying for some leave so that he could take care of business so to speaks. Thanks to Friend #1, who was on leave, Friend #2 volunteered to perform overtime duty to cover the manpower shortage.

A few hours later, he received a distress call from home. He immediately drove home to pick her up to rush to a hospital. Hours later, the lot of his office mates received a short message that he is now a proud father to his first gorgeous baby girl, nearly a whole 2 weeks ahead of the due date their doctor had advised.

Tale 3: I'm A Mom!

Another friend who had been unsuccessfully trying to conceive for years had opted to adopt one. After many many tries, a combination of luck, blessing (if you want to call it that) and timing led her to an expectant mother without the means to take proper care of the baby.

Plans were made and a host of procedural papers later, she was on the way to babyhood. This woman is made of stern stuff and level-headedness, but I couldn't help but notice she was on tenterhooks throughout the entire time. Some advised her to keep her high hope but to also remain pragmatic that it could turn out contrary to her well made plans. Secretly, I too was giddy for her.

A week and a half later, after many false alarms, a bouncing baby boy was born, after what some would call a dramatic and tense birthing. She is suddenly a mother, and many who know her find it difficult to accept what this fully means to her. I believe the baby will grow up in a loving home and yes, she will spoil him rotten with the gifts and care he is bound to receive.

So three babies in 1 month. I am still not sure whether babydom is for me, never mind the fact that I have some suitable baby names planned for my own family for when it actually happens. Getting married and having kids is a tremendous and momentous decision to have to make and I hope to be able to be ready to make them, sooner hopefully, than later.

Update: 9/12/2010
Baby 3 was shortly after diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. The heart specialist found that his small heart had a small (almost 1cm) hole. A treatment road-map was quickly drawn up and dates were set for the heart surgery. Baby Riddle has successfully undergone the corrective surgery and is recovering in Institut Jantung Negara to be discharged within 2 weeks or so.

Update: 1/9/2012
Baby 3 is now perfectly fine and being absolutely spoiled by his loving mom and doing all sorts of toddler mischief!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Driving & the Average Malaysian: Parking Habits

We Malaysians have a knack of pissing off others when we are behind the wheel. We sure do have an ability to do whatever we want, both on the road and when we are not.

I note with dismay some of our bad habits:

1) We love to Double Park (and on occasions, Triple Park).

2) We love to drop people off at road shoulders, without signaling others on the road of our intention to make a stop.

3) We love to park our cars in lots not meant for us – i.e. commandeering the lots meant for disabled or less able and/or for families with baby strollers, or even the registered lots.

4) We take more than one lot for our vehicles, just because we are too preoccupied with parking our cars right in the middle of the designated box.

And the owner of this car proves my argument in points number 3 & 4!
He or She is most probably mentally 'cacat' to park in this spot in this manner! 

5) We park at roadsides with the single solid white or yellow lines on the road shoulders

6) We park at roadsides near our favourite haunts (fill in your choice of club, shopping mall, building, etc) despite the existence of a voluminous covered or non-covered charged parking lot nearby.

7) We stop at road shoulders in the highway/expressway without any real emergency to do so.

8) We stop at areas despite the no parking sign.

9) We receive such joy when we quickly zoom in an empty lot, never mind the fact that somebody may have already been waiting patiently for the exact spot to clear.

And of course there would be more parking offenses to be found! Drat!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Ode To Love

It all started some years ago, with those deep caring eyes. Bereft of the ability and will to live, she found me and took me into her arms. It was a strange sensation, feeling her warmth against me, for a moment it felt it wrong, somehow that I was undeserved of such kindness. If there ever was a need to prove the existence of God, that moment, and the comfort I felt then, would be good for a thousand sureties…

I peeked from under sleepy lids, her languorous movement getting off the bed, in her almost playful mix of sloth and sunshine. As always, her measured gait will slowly blossom to her usual bounce, so full of joy.

I hear the pitter patter of the shower shortly after and soon she was already getting dressed. She threw on her black pantsuit, with her new slightly lacy white top and I get the feeling today is going to be a wonderful day again for her. She always seems to come back home all abuzz and gleeful when she puts on this persona of hers.

Of course by now, I am finally awake, albeit still stretched out on the bed. She finally slung her oversized black crocodile leather tote and floated off to the kitchen. Comforted by her lingering scent, I rolled back and decided a few more Zzzzs wouldn’t really hurt.

I can hear her in the kitchen, taking her glass of juice, crunching her cereals and of course of her washing her dry cereals down with a half glass of milk, one of her adorable quirks. Then, as sure as she has done hundreds of time, she will lovingly set my breakfast on the table for me.

A few moments later, she would be calling out her goodbye for the day and I would be left all alone again. Parting, even for only half a day is hard, but I take refuge in the fact she will be home by dinner and we would be able to just bask in each others presence.

In the mean time, I do whatever needs be done, starting with my breakfast that she has set for me. There are moments when I still wonder what exactly it was that I did in my life to be blessed with such kindness and luck. I guess God does have a plan for me and I am thankful for this blessing.

It is true what they say, time flies when you are tied up with tasks. I almost hadn’t notice the click at the door signaling her return if it wasn’t for her intoxicating perfume. Oh how I love this Venus of mine. I rushed to meet her at the door, where we cuddled a bit and I stole the opportunity to plant wet sloppy kisses on her cheek.

Soon after a luxuriously indulgent bath, she rejoined me in the hall for our favourite show. Tonight’s episode was particularly good, where our belligerent child of a doctor managed to solve yet another medical conundrum and at the same time learns a humbling lesson on how he carelessly hurts those who love him. I have no wonder at all in me as to why the show has garnered such rave reviews. We both love the show to pieces.

We ate a late dinner together, quietly this time, as she had to finish up some work on her laptop. People would say that working on your computer while at dinner is rude, but this woman can do no wrong in my eyes, not since she also surprises me with occasional toe tickles.

And soon the magic of the Sandman was starting to take hold of us. We adjourned to the bed room for slumber to celebrate a wonderfully ordinary day. We said our prayers and lay on white crisp linens next to each other, a mixture of contentment and comfort, as we waited for the fog of sleep to drift over us.

She stroked my cheeks, my supine form and even my belly as a goodnight gesture. Oh how I desperately love this woman. Breathing ever so gently, I purred my goodnight to her before sleep took us both.

Inspired by old memories and current tails from feline friends and animal lovers everywhere.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Good Eating: Mussels

Let me first get these off my chest: I LOVE FOOD and I LOVE EATING FOOD!

I love the flavours, the sensations, the textures; be they luscious, smooth, chewy, or yielding, and I even love the monster headaches some give me after (I have a yo-yoing diagnosis as a borderline hypertensive, mainly due to my reduced capacity to let things go, teehee!).

Thus I feel I should write about specific kinds of food that I love even though I may not necessarily be able to enjoy them as frequent as I would love to, due to you know- work commitments, time, budgetary limitations (constraints more like it), and yes, health reasons (this is a particular sticking point!)

Let me introduce you to one of my favourite things - Mussels! There are several subspecies to begin with i.e. but to commoners we know them as the large Green Shell Mussels which are often misleadingly called Green-lip, it is their shells that has the green colour, not the meat itself. New Zealand exports serious amounts of these everywhere in both fresh and cooked forms. Then there is the Blue Mussel (sometimes appearing black) of which their shells tends to be rounder and the much smaller Black Mussel, also locally found in our inter-tidal brackish water zones. I have had the pleasure of sampling them in several ways.

To start, the French classique
Moules Mariniere- Juicy plump mussels in butter, cream, lashings of garlic and a little astringency
 (in the form of either wine or a careful balance of good quality vinegar, sugar and salt). Pictured above is a thick creamy  version from a quaint restaurant in London called Cafe Rouge. London's  Chef Gary Rhodes' restaurant Rhodes W1 in the Cumberland Hotel offers a slightly soupier and the more richly perfumed version.

Moules Mariniere! Now, few things in life can compare to a plate piled high with mussels in smooth garlicky cream sauce. Especially if you have some crusty baguette lying around to sop up the gravy. It is always a challenge for me to go slow with this dish. I have to consciously control the urge to jam my maw with as much garlic-cream sopped bread and plump squishy mussels as I can and savour every little bit. This dish would be my idea of the penultimate posh comfort food.

I have also had mussels stir fried, done in a brilliant Chinese style that incorporated garlic and fermented black beans. This is off the wall good! Somehow the tang of sea is amplified by the saltiness of the black beans. And the modified proteins present due to the fermentation of the beans add such depth of richness and satiety. Some Malays love to use the word 'Lemak' to describe it, not your fatty kind of richness, more of a full bodied taste that envelops your palate repeatedly. The Japanese call it 'Umami' the so called fifth taste sensation picked by our tongues after sweet, sour, bitter and salty, that is not commonly found in non-fermented goods.

I love them topped with Cream and Cheese and put under a searing hot grill to bubbling perfection. Never mind the cheap versions I find are mostly using boiled frozen half shell mussels. But you know what they say, slap anything with cheese and give it a good whack of heat will turn even shoe leather into culinary bliss!

This is a variant with herbs,  fresh tomato marinara, cream and topped with loads of grated cheese
(one should mix several varieties for impact - aged Cheddar for oomph, Mozzarella for
the string factor and some Emmenthal or Gouda to round it off).

My mom used to make us a spicy Sambal Tumis Kupang (the Malay word for Mussel). Funny that as a child I didn't quite enjoy this treat as I didn't quite get the unique taste of the mussels. I only started paying mussels more respect after being properly taught to utilise them in Chef school and my industrial attachments (read practical training or what I swore was indentured servitude in far flung hotel kitchens!). Alas, Mak doesn't cook it at home anymore as my elder brother somehow developed an allergic reaction to them. Since then, I have been pining for it.

I steamboat place we frequent also offers mussels (yes, the dead boiled frozen on the half shell kind) to be dip-cooked  in your choice of chicken soup or spicy tom yam broth. In this case though, due to the fact that the mussels are dead on arrival, it is more for texture than anything else, although some flavour remains. Care has to be taken though so as not to dunk it in the soup for too long lest it transmogrifies into vulcanized rubber! By then, no amount of dipping sauce will help!

Did you know Mussels are sexually dimorphic? I was told that Boy mussels are the pale ones (as pictured above)
and the Girls are bigger, more plump and have this gorgeous coral/orange hue to them.
I know for a fact that girl mussels stain and perfume its cream gravy with a very mild roe scent, a gastronomic lesson experienced  in Gary Rhodes' W1 restaurant.
Some Chefs actually prefer girl mussels for this character it imparts on their dishes. Brilliant eh?

Visit any good buffets in town and chances are you will find the boiled versions on their buffet ice beds. Perfect with a drop of lemon and the tiniest lash of Tabasco and L&P sauce. I always end up piling my plate with a small mound of these every chance I get. These of course will invariably be partnered with shucked oysters and/or boiled shrimp. Unless the oysters are exceedingly fresh, I would attack the mussels first.

I also love them raw, but it is really really hard to find them in a superbly fresh (as in still alive and kicking), living in a city and all that. Mussels get toxic very quickly once they die and can cause a host of stomach ailments, explosive diarrhoea being the least inconvenient one.

Oh, and they also can accumulate a dangerous amount of 'Red Tide' microorganisms (dinoflagellates) that they are immune to but curiously badly affects our neurological system. So be careful when you do get mussels. I gotta get me some too.

Friday, 28 May 2010

My Room Is Finally Clean(ish!)

 After months (yes months!) of delaying, I finally found the courage and tenacity to actually clean up my room. The last time I cleaned it, by the loosest sense of the word clean, was easily 4 months ago.
Junk was everywhere, dust bunnies by the farm loads and dead roaches under the bed. Add to this wonderful jolly mix some coconut husk shredding (I use them as cage bedding for my snakes: they are very very absorptive of malodourous compounds such as snake eject), 2 dried up swordtails (now I know where them lil' buggers went - out of their tanks!), and 3 rainforests of old newspapers, letters and credit card related stuff. And lets not forget the occasional coins and used cotton buds (Ewwww! these look funky after a while!).

I can’t believe I have been living and sleeping in all this filth. Praise be to HIM I didn't acquire any nasty bug from breathing all that pollutants.

First started out cleaning and refreshing the snake tanks (this I do without fail the recommended once a month). This of course entailed extracting my nippy snakes out of their tanks and rooming them temporarily in a separate holding tank or a snake-bag (which is honestly nothing more than a turned-out pillow case). This was a LOT easier when they were like 12 inches long. Now my Boiga is easily pressing 6 feet. All that sinewy muscle is difficult to manage when all they want to do is writhe and grasp your hands and arms. Followed by of course scooping out everything, giving the insides of the tank a nice water & vinegar (or dilute bleach solution) spray down and wiping up to squeaky clean dryness with clean newspapers (good that I have these lying about in the room, eh?). A layer of bedding and a new filled water dish later, them snakes are returned to their clean homes. Yeay! 40 minutes down.
This is my darling Boiga dendrophila dendrophila. Relaxed and Chill.
All 6 feet 2 inches of sleek black and yellow (but not kill-a-fellow type of machismo!).
This is a Red Tail Racer and it isn't happy with me bothering it.
A naturally twitchy species, prone to face-butting intruders into her cage.
Then was the turn of my fishies. 3 separate tanks of assorted decorative fishies - baby koi, orange swordtails, neon tetras and red eye tetras and the requisite cleaner crew of - pleco, albino fox and zebra snail eaters. This was a whole lot more work on account of the wetness involved and carting all said wetness around. Phewh! Next 30 minute down.

Pets done, it was time to attack the entire room with gusto. Summoning and channelling all my rage and energies I threw myself into it like a pack of hungry wolves upon a kill. I:

  • Sweep away junk
  • Clean & scrub floors
  • Mop scrubbed floors (with my new mop head)
  • Move furniture around to get to those never-bothered-with-'em areas
  • Stash loose things in IKEA paper boxes by categories - Books, DVDs, CDs, Snake magazines and whatever else.
  • Re-organise room furniture placement to maximise on fan-wind reach and accommodate 2 new tall multipurpose racks
  • Lay out new bamboo mat (bought like oh god, 5 months ago?) to replace my now worn Sarawakian split-rattan mat
  • Place new (yes new!) bathmat at the washroom entrance, bedside and fish tank (helps to absorb the occasional spill while maintaining them lil' swimming buggers' tanks)
  • Establish new workstation for my laptop for a home office-ish look
  • Strategically place and cable-tie Electric power extension cords so I am only like 4 inches from any power point.
  • Re-mop the floors (all that fiddling generates dust you see!)
  • Lay fresh bedding linens (whoever invented fitted sheets was a Saint I tell you!) to a bounce-a-coin-off tautness
  • Mop everything again because I noticed I was walking around in my room with dirty feet!
  • Lay down in exhaustion
All this took like 5 long torturous blood & sweat hours, on top of a 30 minute meal break and a Dead Poet's Society showing on Astro (I can't begin to tell you how great and meaningful this show is to me). As I unwind on my perfectly tight bed, I realised I still haven't done my clothes cabinet(s), my sock and innerwear drawers and my collection of detritus known to some as toiletries and preening paraphernalia. Oh god, I so hate cleaning....

Werkstazione! Lappie cooling pad, requisite cheap 2.1 desktop amp set and my woven box of IT knick knacks.
Okay, it isn't as taut as I said it was! Sheesh! And apologies for the kitschy IKEA snake.
Couldn't help it, it was on sale I tell you!
My trio of long suffering plants - hydroponic (but still suffering nonetheless) White Peace Lily,
that spiky guy is a Raven's Claw Ferocactus and the other is a specie from the Mammilaria complex (if memory serves me correctly). There used to be a third cactus (a wonderful Notocactus leninghausii) that was happily living on my desktop at work but has since gone to heaven a week after I brought it home.
But I cant deny the satisfaction derived from a nice and clean (and hopefully hygienic) room. Woohoo!

Thursday, 13 May 2010


Good golly, it has been yonks since I last had anything worth while be said in my blog. Been sort of having a block of sorts (only writers get writer's block right?). Anything I write seem either incoherent or written in a different voice.

Have tried deep meditation (Doa to some), eating lots (I have regained some of the weight I recently shed, bloody hell!) and generally dissing everyone off. It has been bad me thinks, I got to find the old Razee hidden under all that drama.

I so need to clean out my head right now as I have been stuck with looking up peoples' arses.

Thankfully, work has been great, being on shift work serving our guests has been a salve, but the comfortable feeling dissipates when I do leave work. Seeing significant other half has also been great (she bought a new car!) because we managed to squeeze in some quality time in between the eats and movie and me test driving her car (Woohoo!).

I think I can see Razee in the distance, patiently waiting under a cool shady tree in the soft light. Must go catch up with him.


Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Out & About: Meals In Plaza Angsana

We found ourselves in Johor Bahru a few weeks ago and of course it was par for course that we looked for the defining eats that has popularized Johor. We drove to Plaza Angsana, to the outdoor food court located next to a sizeable parking lot. Fitting that such a large lot has been made as apparently the crowds throng this place like moths to a flame.
Mad crowd all eating and enjoying their eats! Move over! Me Hungryyyy!

We even had to wait for a table to open up as there was already a crowd there demolishing their piled high plates. Thankfully, one cleared up and it was perfect for our group of 6.

We set about ordering our food from the myriad of stalls there. There was of course the all important Mee Rebus Haji Wahid (the reason we came to Angsana). 4 plates were ordered, one each for mum, sis, brother-in-law and aunt.
Mee Rebus Haji Wahid: A gorgeous plate of blanched yellow noodles bathed in a rich, thick beef and dried shrimp based gravy and topped with boiled egg, sliced green chillies, fried tofu slices and calamansi lime halves. Some prefer to spike it with white vinegar and sweet soy sauce (kicap manis Tamin usually).

My cousin and I each ordered a plateful of Rojak Mamak (or Pasembur some would call it) that was interestingly enough not made by a mamak nor was it anything like the Penang styled Pasembur.
Rojak! Fried goodies galore (all fried foods taste better what). Mini hill of fried tofu, boiled egg, fishcake, beef lights (peparu or lungs), sambal sotong, cucur udang, chinese style lucky-roll all cut up and haphazardly strewn onto julienned yam bean (sengkuang), cucumber and topped with carelessly ribboned lettuce. The sweet chilli peanut sauce is supplied on the side to dip at leisure. The gravy and the style of the fried stuff characterises the Johor variant  from the versions
found in say, Penang or KL.

Mum, thinking we hadn’t enough goodies to munch on decided she would order a bowl of Yong Tau Fu which turned out to be a malaynised version of the Chinese namesake. Oh well…
The Plaza Angsana version has a richer, but slightly coarse broth, reminiscent of a very light malay beef soup. The chinese version offers a clean tasting strained broth of anchovies and sengkuang.

And of course, the ubiquitous Otak Otak! We ordered a small basket, also to share.
Brain Brain? Where do they get these names from?
Minced fish with spices (commonly chillies, lemongrass, turmeric leaves, garlic and shallots and some may add bit of ginger or galangal to amp up the aroma) spread and sandwiched between two coconut leaf stalks before being grilled over a bed of glowing hot charcoal.

A few good slurps and chewing later, we left our battle scene like all other customers before us.
Carnage and Tragedy! What happens when a gaggle of hungry people are set upon food!

It was good fun eating in the open with family members. I guess I should drive down to Johor more often.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

When Life Hands You Lemons...

What to do when life throws you lemons:

1) Make lemonade (the old standby),
2) Peel the lemon and wrap the rind around a cinnamon stick for a good cupboard freshener,

3) Carefully segment remainder and eat dipped in salt,

4) Squeeze juice into minor wounds to check if one is still alive after a bicycle tumble (and Scream),

5) Squeeze juice onto oysters on the half-shell to check if it is still alive (and watch oyster Screaaaam!),

5) Zest and add to your best Sugee Cake recipe,

6) Clean your toilet floors,

7) Hand them to somebody else,

8) Work into damp hair to be rid of  pesky dandruff,

9) Cut into chunks and toss into your bottle of olive oil,

10) Juice and use it to scrub limescale off stainless steel bathroom fixtures,

11) Slice open and stuff liberally with salt before bottling it for pickled lemons for Tagines,

12) Bonk your buddy's head with the excess,

13) Stud with cloves and jam in rear of roast whole chicken,

14) With salt and warm water, turn it into a sore throat gargle,

15) Donate them to your favourite charity,

16) Pile high into a large bowl to place on your dining table as decoration,

17) Combine juice with sugar and eggs and a whole lot of stirring over a stove for Lemon curd,

18) Pass some to your friends, to share,

19) Make ginger lemon syrup, yummmm,

20) Use slices in the shower as soap replacement (the acidity and astringency is great for exfoliating),

21) Make food acid clocks (you know, as rudimentary batteries),

I guess one can do quite a bit when life hands you lemons. It all takes the correct frame of mind. Now where is that bottle of lemon curd again?

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Out & About: Eating Adventures

It all started with a request by mum to drive her to IJN to pick up a new batch of her medications. Rather unfortunately (or fortunate if you are one of those glass half-full types!), we were done as soon as we arrived. Man, those IJN staffers are brilliant and speedy too. And so, we did the only thing we could, rush to Taman Desa and kidnap my sister for an afternoon of culinary pursuits.

My sis suggested we hit Midvalley for a quick brekky and some gallivanting. God must have pitied our hungry selves because we quickly found a parking spot (after losing one to an arse-wipe of a woman who suddenly gunned past my car into the very slot I was driving towards). Minutes later, our hungry bellies were happily digesting the offerings we threw at it (which were - A large bowl of Yong Tau Foo for Mum and Sis, a bowl of Oyster Mee Suah for me and the stuff pictured below).
Glazed Hazelnut Danish. Sticky, Sweet and oh so good.

Chocolate Eclair isnt exactly B'fast food, but what the heck.

We window shopped and traipsed and perused. Jusco, Metro, MPH, GSC (I attempted rather unsuccessfully to get tickets to Clash of The Titans, there was boatload of people already in a queue) and even managed to squeeze in a jaunt to Ace Hardware for some good ole DIY fun (in my head of course, I am absolutely rubbish with tools).

Of course all this walking around quickly resulted in another case of the munchies. We walked over to the Gardens for lunch at Alexis. It has been yonks since I last ate at Alexis and my interest was piqued. Sis ordered the Laksa Sarawak and mum took the signature Alexis Rice Platter.

A small crowd had already formed there, suggesting this outlet is just as good as the one in Bangsar.
Monster plate of herbed plain rice with side dish of Fiddlehead Fern Kerabu, crispy Fish Crackers, Brinjals in Sweet Chilli, Beef Rendang and the oh-so-homely Ikan Jeket Sambal!
I love little touches like this - notice the Calamansi lime has No blemish whatsoever? Now that is attention to detail!
A friggin huge bowl of Laksa Sarawak. Oodles of noodles in spicy chilli seafood broth, with blanched jumbo prawns, shreds of chicken breast and fish fillets, as well as lots of cilantro and sliced chilli.
Oddly, I didn’t order anything as at the very last moment, I suddenly had the hankering for plain cold soba, which Alexis did not have (they did have a modern soba dish though, but it wasn’t my thing). Darn. Besides, my mood also had shifted due to the fact that I bought some reads from Borders upstairs and was like raring to read it.

A few chapters of my new graphic novel later, they were done and they accompanied me to Jusco's supermarket. My fickle belly was by now demanding for some sacrifice and I reckoned some sushi would be great. I bought some Salmon Handrolls and 4 sticks of Teriyaki Cuttlefish Heads. Simple, clean flavours. 

It is amazing what fresh ingredients actually taste like. Salmon is best eaten raw to sample the sweet, yielding mouthfeel and that hint of oiliness of the flesh. The Japanese are masters at interplaying the texture and the flavour of their ingredients and this humble handroll to me is the posterboy of how great their cuisine is.
Teriyaki Cuttlefish Heads! Wonderful this!
Of course a good meal is not complete without dessert! We rushed over to this Cafe called Sweet Chat (don't ask!) at the other end of Midvalley and ordered some goodies with a pot of Earl Grey to share.

Mum had this, warm Bubur Cha Cha, with a slight twist where sago pearls are pressed into a cake! The result is an additional bite to the dessert. Nice!
Tong Yuen magic. Spheres of Glutinous Rice dough stuffed with Black Sesame paste in mildly sweet almond soup

And I had the Thai dessert of Jackfruit and Water Chestnut Jewels on Shaved Ice and Coconut Milk. Yum yum yum

Looking back, we certainly feasted today, and to soothe our now overworked tummies, we skipped dinner that night. One has got to keep healthy right? Hehe!