Sunday, 28 March 2010

Slice of Malaysiana: Night Markets!

Somebody once asked me how many night markets we actually have in Malaysia and I was stumped. Who knows really? What I do know is that we Malaysian love our pasars-malam, give us a quiet evening and it becomes a reason as good as any to schedule a night market!

Where I live we hold 3 night markets a week; on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. We also have them on other days , a few kilometers away (under 5 kms). There's one every Monday at Bandar Baru Sg. Buloh, one on Wednesdays at the Sg. Plong area and Kampung Subang and one every Friday at Subang Mahsing industrial area. So that leaves us our Sundays totally pasar malam free (and I don't get why this is so though, Sundays are perfect for lazing in and keeping one's kitchen 'tak berasap').

Being a Saturday, Mom felt compelled to hit our Saturday pasar malam to stock up on fresh fruits. This place is often packed on Saturdays, causing a massive traffic jam from 5.30 to at least 9 o'clock at night everytime as Malaysians get to combine two of our most cherished habits - snacking and double parking! I must admit I was a tad hesitant, as getting a parking spot would be next to impossible, and the muggy weather was sure to elicit profuse sweating on my part. But alas, with Mak wanting to go, it was tally-ho onwards. We were strangely lucky today, I found a spot to plonk the car after only having to circuit twice.

The fruit stand was the order of the day and we were warmly greeted by the now familiar vendor. We have been buying from him since we first moved here, back when his stall was a modest 2 table stall. Now it stretches long and, well.. long. He seems to still sell the same kind and range of fruits though: mix of orange, apples, pears and some mangoes. I guess it is always better to stick to what one is really good at rather than attempt being a jack-of-all-trades.

As he feted and cajoled my mum (part of the reason we keep coming back, he is a really nice and voluble sort of fellow, a heady mix for equally chatterboxy types), I took some photos of his wares (much to the surprise of most present, I did after all just suddenly swung out a not exactly discreet DSLR).
Rows and rows of good fresh fruits, different varieties offering different sensations and tastes.

More fruits, with mangoes in the distant end of his lot. Note the bossman
behind the hanging bunches of grapes, being painfully camera shy.

Mak was out for some Lai Madu, or sometimes known as Nashi Pears. These come from China.

Quarry in hand, we then browsed for some snacks. Led by our noses, we found Arbak Roti Goreng. These people are masterful peddlers of Roti Kebab and Roti Goreng, which if translated doesn't really describe what they really are. They have been here longer than the Fruitgang, and I have seen them grow up, with me. Eating their food gives me such pure pleasure that somehow transports me to my youth.

Shawarma styled chicken thighs-flame grilled, sliced and slathered liberally with sweet spicy chilli sauce, soon to be stuffed in healthy (ahem) Pita bread pocket and topped with shredded cabbage and carrots in mayonnaise!

These lil' puppies are stars in the making.

Drumroll please! A Star is born, production line style.
Soft yielding hotdog buns stuffed with curry spiced minced beef (or chicken, if that is your poison), lashed with chilli sauce, wrapped in springroll skin, dunked in thin wheat batter and deep-fried to heavenly gorgeousness!
All in we bought almost nothing, just 3 types of fruits and a piece each of Arbak's stuffed pita and deepfried bun, but we did while away a good hour just taking in the sights and smells of the night market. Oh I also inhaled both them goodies under a minute, did I tell you I was hungry? Pity I bought only a piece each.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Hot Can: Self Heating Hot Chocolate!

This looks really fun I thought when I first saw the product a week ago, but circumstances really didnt allow for experimenting. I finally bought it today, at RM6.90 a can, to partner my lunch of crispy BBQ Chicken wrap.
Looks innocent enough I guess.

I soon did what the instructions said I should do and giddily awaited the end result while I nibbled on my lunch.
I got instantaneous results! The can started to immediately heat up, no doubt thanks to the exothermic chemical reaction of the heating element. Steam vapours were venting out of the can bottom! Woohoo!
After a 3 minute wait, I opened the can and then poured into mug to give it a try. The can's lid attachment thingy (I imagine it was designed so that one could sip the hot beverage without scalding one's lips on the now seriously hot can) really isn't properly designed for good pouring. My hot chocolate was like sloshing everywhere because of the tiny opening.
And now the Hot Chocolate, yes, hot it was, but there was something wrong when strong acid aromas permeated the air. Chocolate should smell dark, deep, mysterious and with a slightly bitter alkaline undertones, hallmarks of good quality chocolate. The taste test was altogether a disaster. Now close your eyes, imagine drinking sour milk with really really bad, cheap chocolate powder diluted in it. Uh huh, it was exactly that cringe worthy! Hell, even those automatic vending machine hot chocolate drinks taste better than this poor excuse of a drink (proudly made in Malaysia, nothing less!)

Hot Can? More like Hot Can-NOT! Try this at your peril.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Brief Lives

Dedicated to all who have been touched by grief,

You are mortal: it is the mortal way.
You attend the funeral, you bid the dead farewell.

You grieve. Then you continue with your life.

And at times the fact of his absence will hit you like a blow to the chest, and you will weep. But this will happen less and less as time goes on.

He is dead.

You are alive.

So live.
Lifted from the pages of Sandman.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Movie Magic: Wonderful Women 1!

As a departure from my usual wordy self, I present to you some of the bits and pieces that sum up, to me, the perfect strong woman!  God, I love these movies!

Strong willed and brave. Just listen to the venom in her voice!

Makes me think she doesn't need a man! Nasty!

Soft, feminine, and deadly!

And how could I not love a woman who can cheer me up?

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Looky Here!

Found this beauty in my garden today. Still wondering what species it is. As soon as I positioned the camera to take the shot, it froze in its tracks. Good thing eh?

I love how it has these colourful tufts of bristles in clumps here and there on its body. If you look carefully you can see minute drops of moisture on the ends of the hairs. These sparkled in the evening sun.

After a few minutes ogling, I let it resume its business of defoliating the plant. See you tomorrow little guy!

Chacole Roast Coffee?

As soon as I saw it, I was already intrigued, what's with the weird spelling and all?

Then it dawned on me, it was one of of those malapropisms Japanese do unwittingly and along the way, adopting words from other languages directly into their interesting language structure. The owners had dressed up the entrance  to look like those hole-in-the-wall type of eateries so prevalent in Japan.

Passing through their main door, one is immediately calmed by the placid interiors of warm and muted colours, with the faint aroma of japanese styled bread and pastries, mingling with the occasional tinkle of glassware and clinking of tableware. In the background, soft japanese jazz was playing, adding to the vibe.

The place was strangely bigger from the inside, fitting nearly 12 tables as well as a long bar table wrapping along the barmans' court, where he whipped up drinks lickety split. 

As soon as we were seated, a tall and beautiful waif approached us and offered us a look at their menu, which I doubt not she had lovingly made herself. 

Leafing the menu, I couldnt help but laugh a little as their entire menu was chock full of interesting bits.

Obviously the result of a direct translation, but I love it. I felt that it added to the atmosphere and feel of the place, allowing us a view of what Cafes like this must be like in Japan.



Omu-Spa? Sounds like a place for relaxation rather than a meal!

It was a very hot afternoon, so I ordered my self some Orange Juice to help me cool off.

My lunch mate ordered himself a cup of Charcoal Roast Coffee, a specialty of the cafe. I loved how the coffee was presented in a cup of whitest fine porcelain and accompanied by brown sugar in a japanese pottery and a tiny cuplet of fresh cream. There is something quite special about Japanese styled fresh cream. Go try for yourself and you will really be surprised by how different it is from what we expect milk to taste like.
I ordered my self the Miso Tori Katsu dish, essentially a dish of deep fried chicken sloshed generously with black miso sauce, topped with a sunny-side-up on a bed of cabbage chiffonade and steamed rice. A deceptively simple dish, the only hit of seasoning coming from the Miso sauce, it served as a perfect foil to the rich taste of runny egg yolk and the crunchy contrasting textures of the raw vegetables.

Our dishes came with a small cup of soup. This was really simple, but really really good. Very light and clean tasting broth, almost a consomme, with the faintest hit of the salty tang of white miso. My friends' meal also came with a small cup of fresh garden salad on the side.
And here we have the Omu-Spa! Blanched spaghetti on a pool of red sauce liberally speckled with black pepper and coloured peppers, topped with a fluffy 2-egg ommelette. The classical chef in me was already doing back-flips by now, due to the apparent incongruity of the dish, but by golly it was intriguing!

It was a nice leisurely lunch, whiling away the afternoon.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Sabar Due To Saba!

I was having a really bad day and my head was full of negative energies and it was such a welcome distraction when my GF asked me to pick her up from work so we could have dinner. I have recently started skipping dinners, in an effort to manage my weight and burgeoning belly (it actually does help by not eating dinner, not so much starvation as a gentle fast of solids, because I do take a light snack during tea time to tide me over until brekky the next day), so it was kind of struggle to convince myself to actually have dinner with her. But, could I actually turn down food?

Obviously not! I found myself barrelling down the highway to Cyberjaya to pick her up where she then directed us to a restaurant nearby. She has been here twice within the last 30 days and wanted me to try something from this place. The place honestly doesn't look like much, devoid of a unique identity. If it weren't for the throngs of multinational customers this night, one could have mistaken this corner lot for a busy night at a Mamak stall.

Now that's somebody raring for honest to goodness food! She knows her way around the menu quite well now, considering she has already eaten here before. She took the Chicken Hanith and I was suggested the Lamb Hanith. To help it all go down better we ordered a side of Arabic Salad with mineral water and lemon juice to wash it all down.

Not being particularly savvy on Arabic food, I later found out that Hanith is a method of cooking using moist heat, where meat is marinated in spices (usually the classical finely ground concoction of black pepper, cloves, cardamom seeds, cinnamon, and coriander mixed into a paste using tomatoes or lemon juice) and wrapped in cloth (or nowadays, aluminium foil, as was the case with this restaurant) and steamed for hours until everything is full cooked and falling-off-the-bone tender.

I must say that my Lamb Hanith was suprisingly good, albeit its unimpressive looks. The fragrant oils of the spices seeeping deep into the meat, saturating it with that Briyani spice headiness. The texture, whoa, the texture was something altogether. Fork tender and yielding to the slightest pressure. Even the bones were rendered tender, allowing me to really munch out the sweetness. I suspect a pressure cooker must have been employed somewhere in the long cooking process.

However, the true star of the night (apart from my GF) was the rice. I dub these Super Basmathi! Extremely long grains of rice, longer than any basmathi I have seen, was superbly cooked, each grain of rice remaining separate despite the rich ingredients used to flavour it. It wafted the wonderful aromas of saffron, meat stock, and mayhaps, spiked with a bit of rose water.

The Arabic Salad was a hastily chopped bowl of fresh tomatoes, iceberg lettuce and onions drenched in oil and tart lemon juice.

As we were about to leave, we saw a runaway watermelon! Trying to escape the juicer, me thinks.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Malaysians & Reading: The Story Continues

Picked up a free evening paper her in KLIA on my way back to the office after my duty rounds, and was pleasantly entertained by this small article written by Shahrim Tamrin of Malay Mail on the fact - "Book reading is a big hit among Malaysia" (Do click here for the full article ).

I must say my immediate reaction was to smile as I inwardly thought, maybe I was wrong to assume that M'sians aren't a reading lot, but then the logical mind came to fore and I started analysing the article in greater detail.

One of the interesting bit posited by the Information, Communication & Culture Ministry of the fact that ahem, a whopping 38 Million people were recorded visiting libraries in the country, not limited to public libraries. While this figure is indeed staggering especially since there were more recorded visitors as compared to the number of Malaysians. This is indeed good news if it actually means people are reading more books and printed media more these days.

However, as I said earlier, statistics are often nothing more than a tabulated record of incidences. In this respect, the 38 Million people who visited the libraries may not necessarily have read anything. I do hope that a good portion (say 60%) actually read something while in those bibliotheques (this seem possible, considering there are loads of knowledge hungry students here in their pursuit of good CGPAs).

I am very glad though when it was said that we are reading on average 8 to 12 books per year, as compared to our previous country average of only 7 pages per year! So maybe, all those new bookstores, popping up here and there like grass after rain, is indicative of our increasing love for books and the developing hunger for a more low-key form of entertainment.

Good Golly Malaysia. Keep it up!

Now where do E-books fit in all this? Hmm.