Friday, 21 July 2017

Witnessing "Muhibbah"

       Both my dad and my hubby frequent the same Indian barber, who operates from half a shoplot. Rajen's shop does not have the eye-catching revolving red and white helical stripes of the barber's pole. But he embraces patronage with colourful words of welcome in Bahasa Melayu, Mandarin, Tamil and English...an excellent embodiment of the 1Malaysia spirit. Interestingly, the name of his shop is Muhibah (misspelt with one b less), which means goodwill, friendship and affection.
     Whilst waiting for hubby to have his haircut today, I witnessed a truly muhibbah scene. A feeble old Chinese uncle was tottering towards the barber shop. Upon seeing that, a young Indian man rushed out to render assistance. After being seated, the Chinese uncle grasped his Good Samaritan's hand in gratitude. The Indian man's simple act of kindness was spontaneous and was not to put on a show. But it spoke volumes of one's goodwill for another man, with nary a thought for race.
     I have always felt that Rajen's shop is rather cramped and cluttered, with hardly any room to swing a cat around. I usually pray that the haircut can be completed as soon as possible, before more customers crowd in. But as hubby and I left the barber shop today, the thought of "thank goodness it's done" was not in my mind. It was the sight of the Chinese uncle still smiling at the young Indian man (and at me, perhaps for holding the door open for him) and the reciprocal slightly shy smile of the young Indian man that filled my mind and warmed my heart today.
At Rajen's shop

     

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Catching Up With Two Brothers

              It is immensely heart-warming when your ex-students remember you, for the right reasons, and yearn to meet up with you. Students come and go in teachers’ lives, and only some take the trouble to keep in contact. Needless to say, the advent of social media like Facebook and WhatsApp have made this much easier. But when ex-students make it a point to pay us a visit in school or arrange for a meet-up, it transcends catching up to a different level, a much more personal one.
     I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with two brothers, Julian and Kevin Looi. Julian was from my first batch of Sam Tet students and I had not seen him for more than ten years. I remember him as a reserved, shy and lanky boy. He has now blossomed into a charming, affable and handsome 28-year-old, who has girls swooning over him. Although I did not teach Kevin, he was a student in my Young Christian Students Movement.  I remember him very well as he was a quiet but adorable boy. And today, I’m pleased to see that he is just as endearing, but is so much more vocal and humorous. As he is 5 years younger than Julian, I did not know they were brothers back then. The connection came to light only when their mother, Pn. Chuan, was transferred to Sam Tet as the Senior Assistant later. This was after both boys had left school.
     I was touched to learn from Pn. Chuan that I had left some positive impression on both her sons. This is one of the greatest compliments a teacher can get, as we often fear that we do not give enough, that we may have overlooked some as there are always so many in our care, that we may have been impatient or insensitive at times, or that we may have been careless with callous words that leave a scar.
     Interestingly, both boys (or should I say, young men?) are so similar in many aspects. How could I not have made the connection back then? They both enjoy cooking and baking, and now often take over the kitchen (but leave the cleaning up to their mum). Julian showed me some photos of the food and cakes that they have made, and just from the looks, I would say the brothers could give many eateries and bakeries a good run for their money. Both Julian and Kevin are so united in teasing their mum mercilessly. It was incredibly refreshing listening to their good-natured banter. The bond between the brothers is solid, and it’s easy to see that they share a camaraderie that can be the envy of many siblings.

     Inevitably, all good things must come to an end. We had to reluctantly leave the cafe, but with promises to meet up again another day. I took a look at my watch and was surprised to see that we had been chatting for one and a half hours! Had it been that long? Time flies, when you are having a good time. This has definitely been an afternoon that will long be remembered and treasured.
A very enjoyable afternoon with Pn. Chuan, Julian and Kevin

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Indulging In Crabs

Admittedly, having a meal of crabs does not come cheap. 

But the sight of two crab aficionados gleefully feasting on the crustaceans is worth the price to pay. 
Very focused on the task


Crab House Seafood Restaurant seems to be our annual dinner venue to celebrate Papa's birthday.
Located at Laluan Perajurit 1, Ipoh Garden East


Derrick loves crabs and insists that the process of tearing apart the shell to dig into the flesh is an integral part of enjoying crabs.
Cleaned out dish, empty shells, full stomach



Ever so pampered, I prefer to have the flesh ripped out for me, without having to get my hands dirty.

Fresh, plump and juicy were the crabs, which were imported from Batam, Indonesia, and are currently priced at RM123 per kg.
Tempting me with some


Get here early or reserve your table to avoid disappointment as the restaurant is usually packed, especially on weekends.

Happy Birthday, my dearest Papa!
My handsome Papa enjoys his crabs

A family photo before the meal begins

Homemade tofu smothered in pumpkin sauce

Crispy roasted chicken stuffed with fish paste

Stir-fried broccoli with garlic

And the piece de resistance : sweet and sour crabs

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Feting Joshua

     When a dedicated teacher's 36 years of service draws to its end, it's definitely a cause for celebration. Our suave colleague, Joshua Ong, will soon join the ranks of the honorific retirees. So we chanced upon the Hari Raya Aidil Fitri break to give him a celebratory lunch.
     Upon learning that Morganfield's, the Home of Sticky Bones, started business in Greentown, Ipoh at the end of April, we decided to pick that as our lunch venue. Morganfield's has moved into the lot vacated by Moven Peak, diagonally across Berlin's Bier Houz. It has also taken over the shop lot next door, which used to be an optical shop.
Located at 21, Persiaran Greentown 4, and opens from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

     Amidst tons of banter, laughter, sound financial advice, discussion of future plans and interesting tales of an ex-colleague's working experience as a nanny in the United Kingdom, we shared the food. Instead of individual portions, we opted for one of their Sharing Platters - the Ocean Madness, which consisted of a full slab of their famed Hickory BBQ spare ribs, 3 beer battered fish fillets, 6 beer battered prawns, a grilled Spicy Devil sausage, a grilled Herby Hog sausage, garden salad, corn on the cob, corn bread and french fries. We also added a Fruity Garden Salad and a portion of Red Skin Mashed Potato to share.
His and Hers piggy mugs


Hungry faces before the arrival of the food

If only we have more chances to meet up for lunch like this!

Our delicious Ocean Madness Sharing Platter

     Food always tastes better when shared or eaten with great friends. So what's my verdict on Morganfield's food? I think it's tasty, but I may not be very accurate. My judgement of today's spread could be clouded by my enjoyment of today's company. I guess this warrants a return visit for a more unbiased assessment.

P.S. Blessed Retirement, dear Mr. Ong! Do remember to visit us in school from time to time with pisang goreng for our afternoon tea!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Honouring The Queen Of My Heart

     It may be my birthday today, but I feel my mother should be honoured. Without this remarkable woman, there would not have been me.
     It was not an easy pregnancy, but my mother valiantly carried me in her womb. She clung on resolutely, even when the obstetrician woefully announced that there was no heartbeat anymore.  She pleaded with him to hold off the dilation and curettage till after the weekend, and prayed fervently throughout the weekend. To the obstetrician's amazement, a faint heartbeat was detected. Needless to say, the abortion was called off and my mother successfully carried me to full term.
     My childhood years were spent with frequent visits to the family doctor as I was quite a sickly child. In fact, my parents used to joke that as a result of the monthly visits, the doctor had become somewhat like a godfather to me! I do not remember much about those visits but I do recall an aversion to the tongue depressor, which I would wildly wave off. But what I most vividly remember are those nights and days when my mother tirelessly sat with me, comforted me and nursed me back to health. There were times when the fever raged on, despite the medication, and my mother soothed me gently, trying hard to hide her worry. Then there were the days when the invalid was better but still not permitted to be up and about. To quell the restless child, my mother played games with me in bed, and taught me card games like "Angkat Turun" and "Fishing". I clearly remember waking up one afternoon, rather hazy from the sleep-induced fever, to be greeted with a rag doll that my mother had slipped out to buy as a surprise.
     Despite being a nurse by profession, my mother was my first teacher and continued to be my mentor throughout my years in school. She inculcated in me a love for reading, and spent a huge portion of her salary providing a library of books for me. In my primary years, she made me slave over arithmetic exercises, drilled me in ejaan (Malay spelling) and doled out English grammar exercises. By the time I entered secondary school, I was more independent as a learner, but my mother steadfastly sat with me to support me as I studied (and to nudge me awake whenever the head drooped towards the table).
     My mother was never stingy with her money but she was excellent in saving up. She feared that I would not be able to secure the course of my choice in a local university, and she had put away enough to send me to Australia. Fortunately, I was offered a government scholarship to do a twinning programme in KL and in the United Kingdom, and the rest is history.
     I consider myself immensely blessed to have this incredible woman as my mother. She is my pillar of strength, standing by me through thick and thin. She is my world of wisdom, imparting knowledge on everything from the ABCs up to cooking tips. She is my beacon of light, who gives me bountiful sound advice. She is my most devoted friend, whom I can depend on and who shares my darkest secrets. She is the loving sister that I have never had, who journeyed faithfully with me from Day 1 till forty two years on. She is my wonderful mother, the Queen of my Heart, whom I love with every fibre of my being.
     Mummy dearest, thank you for everything that you have done for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything that you are. I love you, Mummy.
Celebrating my birthday at Big Bad Wolf

Haagen Dazs for dessert

Friday, 31 March 2017

Getting Hooked On Penang Food

        Good food beckons in Penang and so, during our 4-day stay at the Pearl of the Orient, we went on a food trail. As we were staying in a homestay between Jalan Burma (a 3.7km long major thoroughfare) and Gurney Drive, our food trail was focused around that area.
     Upon the recommendation of our homestay host, we walked to the nearby Chang Senr coffee shop for lunch. Hubby could not resist the lure of the chicken rice, which he said was good but still could not beat his favourite chicken rice in Ipoh. I, on the other hand, opted for assam laksa. Mmm...this Penang Road assam laksa with its generous serving of "bunga kantan" sure does beat those in Ipoh. The soup has the right degree of spiciness but if the tangy level could be kicked up a notch, it would have been perfect.
Colourful bowl of "assam laksa"

RM4.50 for a small bowl of tantalising "assam laksa"

This corner coffee shop is located at 304, Jalan Burma, opposite Maybank and Domino's Pizza

     On our first evening in Penang, we decided to have an early dinner so that hubby could pursue his sunset photography. We were delighted to find that Restoran 77 Curry Fish Head, located between Gurney Paragon and Evergreen Laurel Hotel, opens from 11a.m. up to 10 p.m., with no break in between. Perfect for an early dinner! It is a small and simple restaurant, but their signature curry fish is incredibly yummy. It is cooked with lots of onions, lady's fingers, mint leaves, lemongrass and torch ginger flower ("bunga kantan"). In addition to the curry grouper slices, we also ordered their famous fried "belacan" chicken and stir-fried "siew pak choy". All in, the meal came up to RM86.60, which we thought was fairly reasonble.
Restoran 77 Famous Curry Fish Head is located at the intersection of Lorong Burma and Persiaran Gurney.


Come closer and venture in for a truly tasty meal.

This pot of curry grouper slices was immensely sumptuous.
Tempting grouper slices peek out from the pot



Fried "belacan" chicken

Stir-fried "siew pak choy"

     After hubby's sunset photography and some fruitful shopping for me, we headed to the Gurney Drive Hawker Centre for supper. This hugely popular open-air food paradise is the icon of the seafront promenade. I threw caution to the wind and gobbled down an entire plate of duck egg oyster omelette, while hubby went for a bowl of "koay teow thng", which he said was excellent. Although my "or chien" was tasty, I still hankered for the one sold at Macalister Road. 
Fresh succulent oysters tossed in a gooey mixture of eggs and starch 

     For breakfast on the following morning, we decided to try another coffee shop recommended by our homestay host. Apparently, this New Cathay Coffee Shop has a famous "char koay kak" (fried rice cakes) but sadly, the stall was closed on the day of our visit. I settled for "char koay teow" while hubby went for Hokkien prawn mee. Having spotted the equally famous Mr. & Mrs. Ravi's "apom manis" (pancake with soft spongy middle and crisp edges), I couldn't resist ordering 5 pieces (RM4) to share with hubby. 
Trio of delights for a late breakfast

     Before setting out to survey prospective photography sites, hubby and I braved the congested clan jetties along Weld Quay to feast on our favourite "hae chee" (prawn fritters) and "lor bak" (five spice pork rolls) at Tan Jetty. This stall is a hidden gem, tucked away behind the main road. According to a blogger, this stall is also the wholesale supplier to food stalls around Penang.
Head to 90-A, Tan Jetty, Pengkalan Weld for these awesome prawn fritters


Who would have thought an unassuming stall can yield such delights?

The "lor bak" is bursting with well-marinated meat


     Wishing for something lighter and less greasy following the afternoon's oil overdose, "assam laksa" at the Gurney Drive Hawker Centre (Stall no. 11) was my best option for dinner. It turned out to be a prudent decision as it was one of the best I've ever tasted. I like my "assam laksa" really tangy and this one hit all the right notes. The robust soup was so flavoursome that I almost slurped it all up. Hubby was so impressed with the previous night's "koay teow thng", with a smorgasbord of pig's innards thrown in, that he had the same thing again, this time ordering a portion fit for two.
Presentation wise, this "assam laksa" may not  be as attractive as the one at Chang Senr coffee shop, but in terms of taste, this one wins hands down!


Hubby's "koay teow thng" is filled to the brim with additional goodies.

Innards swimming in the pot to entice a pork lover like hubby

     Our homestay host had strongly recommended the "wan ton" noodles at Chang Senr coffee shop but the stall was not open on our first visit. So on the third day of our stay in Penang, I decided to try my luck again. Boy, I was blown away by this superb Hong Kong shrimp noodles. The  noodles were extremely springy, the shrimp roe scattered liberally over the noodles lent a delightful seafood taste to the noodles and the three larger-than-usual "wan tons" hiding beneath the noodles were packed with flavourful meat. I was informed that the secret to their springy noodles lies in the kneading of the dough. A man straddles a long bamboo pole to press down the dough repeatedly...hence the name "bamboo wan ton noodles".
The focus is on the springy noodles with shrimp roe dusting, perhaps that's why the "wan tons" are hiding beneath the noodles
This is a branch of the famous Hong Kee Bamboo Noodles at Lebuh Campbell.



     Back in 2014, hubby and I were wowed by the "koay teow thng" at a roadside stall along Chulia Street so we ventured there for dinner on our third night. Most of the stalls were busy in operation by the time we arrived at a quarter past seven, but the "koay teow thng" stall was nowhere to be seen. Swallowing our disappointment, we proceeded to give other stalls a try. Hubby's curry mee was mediocre but my "char koay teow" from the stall just outside Mugshot Cafe was fairly impressive with its sidekicks of "lor bak" pieces and additional fried egg.
Succumbed to the allure of the sinfully greasy "char koay teow"
As we were leaving the area, we saw the "koay teow thng" uncle setting up his stall. I suppose we would have to return on another occasion and remember to make it a late dinner. Click on this link to read my previous post on Penang and a mention of the "koay teow thng" stall : 
http://irenechanal.blogspot.my/2014/12/re-discovering-penang.html     
Look out for this stall, which I believe is the only "koay teow thng" stall there.

     Crepes have always been one of my favourite desserts and upon learning that a modest creperie along Gurney Drive has been garnering great reviews, I could not resist the temptation. Hubby and I first shared a Mango Crepe (RM13). It was incredibly scrumptious, and I just had to have more. We next shared an Espresso Crepe (RM11), which I loved even more because the coffee-based crepe rendered it less sweet. I can now understand why this no-frills eatery ranks high on places to eat in Georgetown.
Crepe Cottage (77-A, Gurney Drive) is situated two doors away from Restoran 77 Famous Curry Fish Head


Very eager to start eating my Mango Crepe

Nicely fanned out, decorated with mango slices and topped with a scoop of mango ice cream

The very mouth-watering Espresso Crepe (coffee ice cream on a bed of coffee-based crepe)

     I was not going to leave Penang without having my fill of "koay teow thng" so on our last morning, we tried the one sold at another coffee shop along Jalan Burma. We enjoyed it too but should we return to Seng Lee coffee shop, I will undoubtedly give the Indian "mi goreng" a try. Throughout our breakfast there, the Indian uncle was frying non-stop and the aroma of his fried noodles permeated the air.
Seng Lee Coffee Shop is located at 270, Jalan Burma (intersection of Bangkok Lane and Jalan Burma).


Even in looks, Penang "koay teow thng" is more attractive than Ipoh's version.

     After we checked out of our homestay, we met up with Jason, hubby's cousin. Having a nose for good food, Jason took us to the Super Tanker food court at Lip Sin Garden. He had taken us there on a previous visit and I remember it was another food paradise. Again, I ordered the fried "mi sua" and was pleased that it was as good as I remembered it to be.
This Super Tanker food court is located in Lengkok Nipah 2, Bayan Lepas.


Fried "mi sua" with a dash of "sambal"

     With that plate of fried vermicelli, our March 2017 Penang food trip drew to its conclusion. Now it's time to burn off the calories. And the first workout was lots of walking at the newly-opened Design Village, Malaysia's biggest outlet mall.


Saturday, 25 March 2017

Gorging On Crabs In Hokkaido

     Unlike the two men in my life, I do not have a penchant for crabs. But when I visited Hokkaido, the juicy, succulent and plump crabs were a delight to partake. Famous for its high quality and fresh seafood, Hokkaido especially excels in crabs. It would be a sacrilege not to feast on the specialty of the place that you are visiting.
     On my second night in Hokkaido, I was staying at Mombetsu Prince Hotel, which is fairly near Abashiri. This is on the northeastern coast of Hokkaido and touted to be the best place to eat the Red King Crab. A Deluxe Crab Meal was served at the hotel and I literally stuffed myself with the crustacean fellas. There were crab tofus, sashimi from Okhotsk Sea, Zuwai Crab shabu-shabu (raw crabs to be cooked in a pot of boiling soup), steamed crab meat dumpling, crab tempura, Japanese rice cooked with crabs and the piece de resistance of the meal had to be the steamed Snow Crabs! The crabs were so meaty, sweet and luscious. 
Our Deluxe Crab Meal, with all its different courses, was beautifully laid out  for us.


Cooked and ready to be devoured

Poised to begin the arduous task of digging in

Simple pot of rice but it was so sweet because of the crab meat

Crabs in sauna
     Crab-san and I met again on the penultimate day of my Hokkaido trip. At the Kitanogurume wholesale market in Sapporo, there were crabs galore for photo-taking, shopping and feasting. As part of the Gala Seafood Lunch, which included abalone, scallops and salmon, the enormous Red King Crab was also served. He eyed me from his station on the table, taunting to say that a crab novice like me would have a tough time prising open his thick shell and scooping out his tender flesh. How wrong Crab-san was! In addition to the crab cracker, scissors and long-stemmed fork that had been provided, the attentive waiter took pity on me and helped to rip apart Crab-san, exposing his wondrous flesh in its full glory! Oishii!
Catching my 3.5kg crab worth RM800!


Tempting array of crabs to be bought

Can't wait to gorge on this gigantic King Crab

     In addition to these two main crab meals, I encountered them at the buffet spread and BBQ dinner on other occasions during that Hokkaido trip. Had my dad and my hubby been with me in Hokkaido, they would have been over the moon gorging on the crabs.