Sunday, September 30, 2007

FOOCHOW NOODLE @ SOON FATT CAFÉ, JALAN ANG CHENG HO, KUCHINGs


Initially was going to try out the wonton noodle a reader (from Marudi via Kuching) gave me the heads-up.... it was closed for on Sunday, so I drove around looking for an eatery I haven't tried in the vicinity. This was the only two along the left stretch (across the road from Verinice) that was opened. I haven't tried this one yet; I wasn't sure what I was in for.

Upon stepping in, the place was packed to the brim, I glazed at the big hanging sign of its menu; mostly Foochow fare with a few fried and vegetable rice (for the weekdays lunch crowd). The lady of the house immediately asked me in Foochow what I wanted (I suspect the majority of the customers are Foochows); I tried my very worst in Foochow to order the Chow Chai Houng Nam (Lees preserved veg. with thick Beehoon) and the Pian Nik Mien (Wonton noodle); Both of them were not bad, but on a Sunday you have to put up with the long waiting period.

See the mom and pop team (above) sweating it out in the mini kitchen, while the son had it easy; sitting at the counter barking orders at the Indonesian helpers.

Friday, September 28, 2007

LAU-YA KHENG'S PORK SATAY & MEATBALLS REVISITED




Brought Ah Lee for a bit of Kuching's porky's delight: the venerable pork satay and meatball taukua, available only in the afternoon.

The very spot that sells Bak Muay in the morning has a different Teochew family doing both of these items.


NIGHTCAP @ TAO LIFESTYLE CAFÉ & GALLERY, JLN. PADUNGAN, KUCHING


After the Filipino dinner, we hopped a few shops down the road to Tao for our nightcap; Ah Lee's a teetotaler. So here's something that will keep him up the whole night.

If you're into those 'Inner Peace' mumble jumble, this might be the ticket for you. The decor reflects a Buddhist sanctuary complete with iconic statues and other Thai paraphernalia. What do you expect from an owner, whose furniture shop sells all these stuff?

There were this Ang Moh and his Chinese partner sitting opposite us giving us some queer eyes. I think we were in the wrong joint! Like most chill out places you're paying through your nose to be at the in place.

Chai Latte • Café Latte

Mocha Latte • Super Fuel


What the Modern Woman Wants
By Amanda Chong Wei-Zhen
(A 15 year-old Singaporean from Raffles Girls' School)


The old woman sat in the backseat of the magenta convertible as it careened down the highway, clutching tightly to the plastic bag on her lap, afraid it may be kidnapped by the wind. She was not used to such speed, with trembling hands she pulled the seatbelt tighter but was careful not to touch the patent leather seats with her callused fingers, her daughter had warned her not to dirty it, 'Fingerprints show very clearly on white, Ma.'
Her daughter, Bee Choo, was driving and talking on her sleek silver mobile phone using big words the old woman could barely understand. 'Finance' 'Liquidation' 'Assets' 'Investments'... Her voice was crisp and important and had an unfamiliar lilt to it. Her Bee Choo sounded like one of those foreign girls on television. She was speaking in an American accent.
The old lady clucked her tongue in disapproval.

'I absolutely cannot have this. We have to sell!' Her daughter exclaimed agitatedly as she stepped on the accelerator; her perfectly manicured fingernails gripping onto the steering wheel in irritation. 'I can't DEAL with this anymore!' she yelled as she clicked the phone shut and hurled it angrily toward the backseat. The mobile phone hit the old woman on the forehead and nestled soundlessly into her lap. She calmly picked it up and handed it to her daughter.

'Sorry, Ma,' she said, losing the American pretence and switching to Mandarin. 'I have a big client in America . There have been a lot of problems.'

The old lady nodded knowingly. Her daughter was big and important. Bee Choo stared at her mother from the rear view window, wondering what she was thinking. Her mother's wrinkled countenance always carried the same cryptic look. The phone began to ring again, an artificially cheerful digital tune, which broke the awkward silence.

'Hello, Beatrice! Yes, this is Elaine.'

Elaine. The old woman cringed. I didn't name her Elaine. She remembered her daughter telling her, how an English name was very important for 'networking', Chinese ones being easily forgotten.

'Oh no, I can't see you for lunch today. I have to take the ancient relic to the temple for her weird daily prayer ritual.'

Ancient Relic. The old woman understood perfectly it was referring to her. Her daughter always assumed that her mother's silence meant she did not comprehend.

'Yes, I know! My car seats will be reeking of joss sticks!'

The old woman pursed her lips tightly, her hands gripping her plastic bag in defence. The car curved smoothly into the temple courtyard. It looked almost garish next to the dull sheen of the ageing temple's roof. The old woman got out of the back seat, and made her unhurried way to the main hall. Her daughter stepped out of the car in her business suit and stilettos and reapplied her lipstick as she made her brisk way to her mother's side.

'Ma, I'll wait outside. I have an important phone call to make,' she said, not bothering to hide her disgust at the pungent fumes of incense.

The old lady hobbled into the temple hall and lit a joss stick, she knelt down solemnly and whispered her now familiar daily prayer to the Gods.

Thank you God of the Sky, you have given my daughter luck all these years. Everything I prayed for, you have given her. She has everything a young woman in this world could possibly want. She has a big house with a swimming pool, a maid to help her, as she is too clumsy to sew or cook. Her love life has been blessed; she is engaged to a rich and handsome angmoh man. Her company is now the top financial firm and even men listen to what she says. She lives the perfect life. You have given her everything except happiness. I ask that the gods be merciful to her even if she has lost her roots while reaping the harvest of success. What you see is not true - she is a filial daughter to me. She gives me a room in her big house and provides well for me. She is rude to me only because I affect her happiness. A young woman does not want to be hindered by her old mother. It is my fault.

The old lady prayed so hard that tears welled up in her eyes. Finally, with her head bowed in reverence she planted the half-burnt joss stick into an urn of smouldering ashes. She bowed once more.

The old woman had been praying for her daughter for thirty-two years. When her stomach was round like a melon, she came to the temple and prayed that it was a son. Then the time was ripe and the baby slipped out of her womb, bawling and adorable with fat thighs and pink cheeks, but unmistakably, a girl. Her husband had kicked and punched her for producing a useless baby who could not work or carry the family name. Still, the woman returned to the temple with her new-born girl tied to her waist in a sarong and prayed that her daughter would grow up and have everything she ever wanted. Her husband left her and she prayed that her daughter would never have to depend on a man. She prayed every day that her daughter would be a great woman, the woman that she, meek and uneducated, could never become. A woman with nengkan; the ability to do anything she set her mind to A woman who commanded respect in the hearts of men. When she opened her mouth to speak, precious pearls would fall out and men would listen.She will not be like me, the woman prayed as she watched her daughter grow up and drift away from her, speaking a language she scarcely understood. She watched her daughter transform from a quiet girl, to one who openly defied her, calling her laotu; old-fashioned. She wanted her mother to be 'modern', a word so new there was no Chinese word for it.

Now her daughter was too clever for her and the old woman wondered why she had prayed like that. The gods had been faithful to her persistent prayer, but the wealth and success that poured forth so richly had buried the girl's roots and now she stood, faceless, with no identity, bound to the soil of her ancestors by only a string of origami banknotes. Her daughter had forgotten her mother's values. Her wants were so ephemeral; that of a modern woman.Power, Wealth, access to the best fashion boutiques, and yet her daughter had not found true happiness. The old woman knew that you could find happiness with much less. When her daughter left the earth everything. She had would count for nothing. People would look to her legacy and say that she was a great woman, but she would be forgotten once the wind blows over, like the ashes of burnt paper convertibles and mansions. The old woman wished she could go back and erase all her big hopes and prayers for her daughter; now she had only one want: That her daughter be happy. She looked out of the temple gate. She saw her daughter speaking on the phone, her brow furrowed with anger and worry. Being at the top is not good, the woman thought, there is only one way to go from there - down.

The old woman carefully unfolded the plastic bag and spread out a packet of bee hoon in front of the altar. Her daughter often mocked her for worshipping porcelain Gods. How could she pray to them so faithfully and expect pieces of ceramic to fly to her aid? But her daughter had her own gods too, idols of wealth, success and power that she was enslaved to and worshipped every day of her life. Every day was a quest for the idols, and the idols she worshipped counted for nothing in eternity. All the wants her daughter had would slowly suck the life out of her and leave her, an empty soulless shell at the altar.The old lady watched her joss tick. The dull heat had left a teetering grey stem that was on the danger of collapsing.

Modern woman nowadays, the old lady sighed in resignation, as she bowed to the east one final time to end her ritual. Modern woman nowadays want so much that they lose their souls and wonder why they cannot find it.

Her joss stick disintegrated into a soft grey powder. She met her daughter outside the temple, the same look of worry and frustration was etched on her daughter's face. An empty expression, as if she was ploughing through the soil of her wants looking for the one thing that would sow the seeds of happiness. They climbed into the convertible in silence and her daughter drove along the highway, this time not as fast as she had done before.

'Ma,' Bee Choo finally said. 'I don't know how to put this. Mark and I have been talking about it and we plan to move out of the big house. The property market is good now, and we managed to get a buyer willing to pay seven million for it. We decided we'd prefer a cosier penthouse apartment instead. We found a perfect one in Orchard Road . Once we move in to our apartment we plan to get rid of the maid, so we can have more space to ourselves...'

The old woman nodded knowingly.

Bee Choo swallowed hard. 'We'd get someone to come in to do the housework and we can eat out-but once the maid is gone, there won't be anyone to look after you. You will be awfully lonely at home and, besides that, the apartment is rather small. There won't be space. We thought about it for a long time, and we decided the best thing for you is if you moved to a Home. There's one near Hougang-it's a Christian home, a very nice one.'

The old woman did not raise an eyebrow. 'I've been there, the matron is willing to take you in. It's beautiful with gardens and lots of old people to keep you company! I hardly have time for you, you'd be happier there.'

'You'd be happier there, really.' Her daughter repeated as if to affirm herself.

This time the old woman had no plastic bag of food offerings to cling tightly to; she bit her lip and fastened her seat belt, as if it would protect her from a daughter who did not want her anymore. She sunk deep into the leather seat, letting her shoulders sag, and her fingers trace the white seat.

'Ma?' her daughter asked, searching the rear view window for her mother. 'Is everything okay?'
What had to be done, had to be done. 'Yes,' she said firmly, louder than she intended, 'if it will make you happy,' she added more quietly.

'It's for you, Ma! You'll be happier there. You can move there tomorrow, I already got the maid to pack your things.' Elaine said triumphantly, mentally ticking yet another item off her agenda.
'I knew everything would be fine.' Elaine smiled widely; she felt liberated. Perhaps getting rid of her mother would make her happier. She had thought about it. It seemed the only hindrance in her pursuit of happiness. She was happy now. She had everything a modern woman ever wanted; Money, Status, Career, Love, Power and now, Freedom, without her mother and her old-fashioned ways to weigh her down...

Yes, she was free. Her phone buzzed urgently, she picked it up and read the message, still beaming from ear to ear. 'Stocks 10% increase!'

Yes, things were definitely beginning to look up for her...

And while searching for the meaning of life in the luminance of her hand phone screen, the old woman in the backseat became invisible, and she did not see the tears.


Winner of Commonwealth Essay Competition (16-18 Yrs. Category)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

RABBIT STEW



I'm game for anything as long as it's not smelly Tofu. So when I heard there's rabbit to be had, I requested for a couple. After all, it's only RM18 per kg., I was told. My 2.2 kg. rabbit turned out to be 1.2 kg. after being slaughtered and gutted, and I ended up paying RM40 for it. At that price, you won't be seeing me cooking another rabbit anytime soon.

I wasn't in my element; not my kitchen, therefore, had to make do with whatever was at my disposal. Thus, the change of pots/casserole dish midway through.


INGREDIENTS


1.2 Kg. Rabbit (Chopped to manageable size)

1 Tbsp. Salt (Meat Rub)

1 Tbsp. Thyme (Meat Rub)

2 Onions (Slices)

1 Stalk Leek(Slices)

187 Ml. White Wine

2 Tbsp. Chicken Stock + 2 Cups Water

1 Kg.Potatoes (Chunks)

2 Large Carrots (Chunks)

Salt



METHOD



Heat up a pan, and put in 6 tbsp. of cooking oil. When the oil is hot, throw in the onions and fry for 5 minutes.


Mix in the leek and fry until soft. Scoop out onto a casserole dish, spread throughout the dish.

Sprinkle the thyme and salt evenly over the chopped meat on all sides.

Dredge the meat over flour (about a cup).

Using the same pan (onion & leek), fry the flour dredged meat. Brown all sides, and transfer to the casserole dish, on top of the leek and onion.

The browned rabbit meat.

Deglazed the pan with white wine.

Pour the chicken stock into the pan and bring to a boil.

Pour the cooked stock into the casserole dish. Add water if necessary, so that the liquid tops the meat. Transfer the dish to a pre-heated oven of 175°C for 1½ hr.

Then lay potatoes and carrots into the dish, submerging into the liquid. Return to the oven for another ½ hr.

Add salt to taste and thicken with the flour (used for coating).

As in my case I had to transfer to a bigger pot for thickening of the sauce.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

MOONCAKE FESTIVAL @ CARPENTER STREET, KUCHING


Happy zhong qiu jie! Whether you celebrate it or not, it's an gluttonous excuse to fatten your booty! The Carpenter Street's Mid-Autumn activity is an annual affair, which helps liven an otherwise sleepy night street.

This trip was more of a photographic stroll, as I had just berbuka puasa. These are few samplings of the food and activities on the whole stretch of the street. Had it not been for the Muslim's fasting month, there is usually a strong Malay presence in terms of food and cultural performance at this all Chinese affair. Who needs a unity band here? If you don't have it in your heart, no amount of super glue will hold it together.

Kantong Making

Frying Sarawak Oh-Chien

Customary Lion Dance

Lamb Pancake

Grilled Vegetables

Chinese Musical Ensemble

Taiwan Sausages

Cheese Hot Dog With Ham

Malay Percussion Group

Ex-Comrade-In-Legs' Deep-Fried Sesame Buns

Seafood Wrap

Calligraphy In Progress

Non-Freeze Icicles

Deep Fried Battered Shrimps

Fried Fish • Lok-Lok • Steamed Peanuts

Street Dancers

Monday, September 24, 2007

FILIPINO DINNER @ PINOY FIESTA IHAW-IHAW GRILL & CAFÉ, JALAN PADUNGAN, KUCHING

Relyeno Bangus

This restaurant, operated a Filipina who's married to a local, has been around for quite sometime. All the staff are Filipinos, so all pinoy will feel at home at this place; and there's no second guessing whether the food is authentic or not, but whether it's good or not is a matter of opinion. One thing for sure, it's a favorite watering hole; and if things get out of hand, you can always check yourself in at the police lockup a few shops down.

The best part of all the dishes for the evening was the stuffed Milk Fish (above). All the meat was scraped out, deboned, and then the remixed minced fish meat get stuffed back into the fish's skin. Great stuff. The side order of garlic rice was just dandy. The Sinagang soup is the same as Assam soup - clear broth and sour, but not the heat of Tom Yum. Next up was the winged beans fried with shrimp paste. Then it was the Filipino version of our Tau-Eu Kay (Soy Sauce Chicken). If you think Kare-Kare is curry, you'd be wrong. It's a bland peanut sauce spare ribs dish, with an anchovies type of dip that lends it the taste. The lady of the house said she wouldn't recommend it to the locals, as it's something getting used to.


Sinagang Na Hipon

Binagoongan Sigarilyas

Adobo Chicken

Pork Ribs Kare Kare

Inihaw Na Pusit

The stuffed calamari looked great, however, it preparation is something less desirable to some - it insides were sort of left in tact saved for its spine, thus making it slimy. Lastly the Pata was a disappointment - more like a failed attempt at making Sui Yuk (Crispy Pork Belly); looked crispy on the outside but a tough babe to crack - no crackle here.

Crispy Pata

Overall it wasn't a bad evening out. The price was reasonable, and the lady of the house very accommodating.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

As the name implies, it's all about nothing! Kongkaying is like grasping in the air - more like hot air with occasional fartulence. Hopefully, something aromatic will come out of it! If not...

May the Farce be With You!

BAG OF TRICKS

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