Emily’s Coming to Penang

I was having a truly satisfying vegetarian lunch with Kat, the manager of Tropical Spice Garden two days ago and she told me about the play “Emily of Emerald Hill” that’s coming to Penang end of March, presented by Ombak Ombak Arts Studio.

I watched this delicious one-woman play (written by Stella Kon) many years ago and I can still remember the beauty of this 2-hour monologue, expertly played by Pearlly Chua.

I’m not even going to try to summarise what it’s about – lots of people have written about this Nyonya woman, her story, her life and how she had to do the things she did in order to keep her family in one piece, even if she did appear to be a domineering tyrant in the eyes of her son and husband. It is tragic but it is also a timeless piece that will leave you completely satisfied.

Anyway, if you want to catch this play, go get your tickets (RM30 or RM50) from Tropical Spicee Garden, one of the many arts supporters of this Peranakan play.

Touted as “everyone’s favourite Nyonya”, Emily of Emerald Hill is playing at Penang’s Wawasan Open University (this used to be the palatial home of Penang philanthropist Yeap Chor Ee) on 28 and 29 March 2009.

If you’re a true blue Nyonya, come dressed in your best Baba Nyonya attire too for a walk down the Peranakan lane! I was telling Kat, perhaps people who come dressed like Emily of Emerald Hill should be given a discount.

Contact Tropical Spice Garden at 04 881 1797 for your tickets.

Trumping Benjamin

I am glad that Danny Boyle came out of nowhere and trumped the would-be winners at the Oscars.

By now, you know that Slumdog Millionaire took 8 of the golden statuettes. And for a good reason I suppose. It’s the kind of movie you want to watch because it is about overcoming the odds to win in life.

Of course the story jars at some points but it could only be me. It could be that I think it’s highly insulting for the host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire to keep buggering the poor kid (Jamal) about his slum life. If that’s how the game is played in India, who the hell wants to be on that game show?

Slumdog Millionnaire is a feel-good Bollywood type of movie despite the hue and cry that the focus is on the slums and of course being upset that the slum dwellers are called slumdogs.

Well then people can’t be pleased all the time – if one did a film on the rich in Mumbai then the poor will cry,” But what about us?” And when one does a film about the poor in Mumbai, they start getting upset that they’re portrayed as such.

If you have not watched this movie, now is probably the right time to go do it. At least you can be quite satisfied that you did watch a film which garnered 8 Oscars.

Coincidentally I’d watched Millions, another film by Danny Boyle a few weeks before I watched Slumdog Millionaire.

If you have not caught Millions, I suggest you do. That film is a bit like Slumdog, only funnier and better in a whimsical way. As you can see by now, Danny Boyle is a man who makes movies about money and nothing less than a million!

Some similarities between Millions and Slumdog Millionaire:

– Both revolve around money. Millions is about finding a duffel bag of British pounds. Slumdog is about winning a million.
– Both involve siblings or 2 brothers. The brotherhood theme is one that makes the story heartwarming, funny and as real as this relationship goes.
– Both involve trains.
– Both involve a woman. In Millions, the woman in question is the boys’ father’s new love life. In Slumdog, it is Latika, Jamal’s love interest that gets between him and his brother.

Also both tell the story that it isn’t really about money at all (despite their titles). Money can give you heaven but it is most surely about hell and greed too. Money complicates lives and changes people. In Millions, the boys learn that money really doesn’t solve problems. In Slumdog, Jamal had no interest in really winning the money – he just wanted Latika!

Danny Boyle also directed Trainspotting but I have not watched that but I highly recommend Millions (it was loaned to me by Derek). Thanks buddy!

What Are You Feeding Your Skin?

Business is a great teacher – and because I am in the business where I get to talk to a variety of people, I learn a variety of stuff too.

For instance, what are you feeding your skin?

No, I don’t mean the food you eat, though that counts too.

I know I am big on makeup and cosmetics. I mean, which girl or woman isn’t? I started out with Avon cosmetics because my bestie’s mom was selling this when I was a 10 year old girl. We used to try on Avon lipsticks and lip balms at her home. Then of course came other brands such as Maybelline and ZA because as teenage girls, we couldn’t afford the high-end stuff like Estee Lauder or Shiseido.

Now that I am 35, I suddenly am worried that all those years, I didn’t know what I was feeding my skin with!

You see, working with an organic skincare company means that I get to educate myself more and what I learnt is frightening! (I help guide them to blog and teach them all I know. This is a great learning experience for me too as the more I teach, the more I know what I didn’t know before!)

Frightening because all these years, I have been feeding my skin utter rubbish.

For instance, did you know that most companies touting certified organic does not mean what you think it means? Certified organic does not mean it is natural. I know this sounds mind-boggling but it is true. It is a marketing ploy as more people are concerned over their health. So if I see ‘certified organic’, it must be all natural and all organic and all safe right?

Wrong!

As excerpted from February’s monthly newsletter from Paul Penders Company, here is what ‘certified organic’ really means:

The “certified organic” ingredients in such products are more often than not simply coal tar-derived or anilines – poisonous substances that have been linked to cancer. In the U.S., in fact, some “certified organic” colors may not be used around the eyes because the FDA believes that they are dangerous to the skin. Other “certified organic” ingredients have been linked to cancer.

So what’s the alternative? What you should be looking out for is inorganic colors in cosmetics. Again, I am no expert in this area so I quote the newsletter: Inorganic colours are derived from natural sources (e.g. clay, carbon deposits, mica and silica) or are simply synthesized. Inorganic colors do not have health risks as “certified organic” colors and therefore do not require certification.

Also did you know that you have harmful chemicals in your shampoos? Dubai has banned some 17 shampoos which contain Dioxane 1.4 which is a carcinogenic agent. Worse, Himalaya Herbal – one of my fave shampoos – is one of those banned shampoo brands! Yikes. I always thought the Himalaya Herbal range was pretty good.

So these days if you see me without lipstick, you know why. Coz I am freaking scared of ingesting cancer-causing agents!

How about you? Are you worried about what’s inside your cosmetics and skincare?

Jackfruit Celery Salad

I got this recipe from my aunt who told me that she hated celery until she learnt of this recipe. After that, there was no stopping her. She’s a celery fan now.

Jackfruit, celery and Japanese mayo salad

Jackfruit, celery and Japanese mayo salad

This nangka/jackfruit celery salad is a great salad to bring for potluck dinners or lunches. It’s so easy to make.

All you need are 3 ingredients:
1. ripe nangka
2. some celery
3. Japanese mayonnaise

Dice celery and nangka. Then mix well with Japanese mayonnaise. Chill for 2 hours before serving.

Japanese mayonnaise is more tangy than Krafts though you can try Krafts mayonnaise if you want.

Did I not tell you it’s simple?

The weirdest thing is, it actually tastes pretty good.

Albert’s 90/10 Rule

We just got home from another (yes, aren’t you tired of hearing me say this…) trip to Langkawi.

Of course, as I said this to a friend over dinner, we usually go for business-related reasons.

And it’s true.

Until I dined with another friend, Albert, who says he packs in 2 types of activities when he is travelling the world – work and pleasure.

And he taught me a useful 90/10 rule.

Albert says, when he is travelling, he tries to indulge in 90% travelling/pleasure-seeking activities and 10% business. Of course this is very distinct from the Pareto principle. It’s funny but come to think of it, we tend to do the opposite, we go to Langkawi for 90% business and 10% leisure.

So this trip, we lived by Albert’s pleasure principle. And we had a blast.

Our trip coincided with the last day of the Chinese New Year, so a Chap Goh Meh dinner was hosted by good friend and client, Paul of Paul Penders Company. That was a really good evening of Chinese food and lots of booze and meeting lots of Paul’s friends and business associates! (On the island, a can of beer is only RM1.30. You will drink yourself silly. It’s cheaper to drink beer than to drink cola.)

We also joined Paul and his company for a day of boating out to the Langkawi islands, with private beach stopovers at Pulau Dayang Bunting and Pulau Bras Basah. This trip was put together for Jim and Susan, two of his Chinese counterparts from Paul Penders China International Co. Ltd (Hangzhou China) and to demonstrate to them what pristine Langkawi is famous for!

We swam in the cool and clear waters and had a private lunch onboard the Syndhu, a boat belonging to a friend of Paul’s. To cart us to the beach, we had to climb into Paul’s speedboat as the Syndhu could not berth in shallow water.

At the private beach at Pulau Dayang Bunting, we even saw a tent set up by Four Seasons for its resort guests to sunbathe and read. At Pulau Bras Basah, the water was good for a cool dip but the corals did cut my feet in a few places. I even saw shoals of tiny fish which I thought were ikan bilis (my friend later said they were not). But the sad fact remains that unscrupulous fishermen use drag nets and destroyed the corals, the very place where fish breed!

While there is a jetty on Pulau Bras Basah (an island which belongs to two private individuals), many speedboats stop on the shore. You can have a picnic and a swim here in the clear aquamarine sea water though a friend says the place was much better in its early years. That’s the problem with being a famous island. Every tourist would like to come and visit and that ruins the ecosystem.

(Just like you should NOT go to the Langkawi mangroves and feed the eagles. By feeding the eagles, you are basically ruining the delicate ecosystem. Most people don’t realize they are helping bring Mother Nature to her knees with such acts of random stupidity.)

We were terribly sunburnt when the day ended – thank God I had coconut oil to help ease the redness. I found out that coconut oil is great as an after sun skincare. If you see me now, my face is peeling and I actually have a tan! (Yvonne told me I looked healthy!) I now know what a snake feels like as it is growing out of old skin.

Catch more photos from my Facebook link.

Dutch Food 101

This post is long overdue. Ack….I even forgot to email the photos to the chef himself. (Slaps wrist)

I met Hans and Yvonne, a fun Dutch couple when Paul came over to Penang with them last year. Over our dinner at the Indian restaurant in Queensbay, Hans told me he was a chef so I bombarded him with questions about Dutch food.

Little did I know he took me seriously!

Nic and Hans relaxing on Paul's verandah as the sun sets

Nic and Hans relaxing on Paul's verandah as the sun sets

So serious that when Nic and I were in Langkawi last month, Hans and Yvonne borrowed Paul’s kitchen to cook us some authentic Dutch food – bitterballen, kartofelsouffle, meatloaf, kerbau stew complete with red cabbage, brussel sprouts and potatoes. This type of food, says Hans, is typical of a Sunday lunch for most Dutch people.

Now Hans is semi-retired and lives on Langkawi with his wife, Yvonne. His real work is dealing with stuff that’s nothing to do with food. But talk to this man about food and he lights up like a Christmas tree. He even taught me how to laminate bread if I didn’t like kneading bread too long! Talk about a very knowledgeable cook/chef.

Hans and Yvonne busy preparing a traditional Dutch dinner

Hans and Yvonne busy preparing a traditional Dutch dinner

Anyway, over glasses of red and white wines and whisky and lots of sinful chocolates (yup, this is Langkawi we are talking about), we had a grand dinner starting with bitterballen and meatloaf as appetizers! Bitterballen is basically breaded and deepfried balls of stewed beef wrapped in mashed potato, usually taken as a snack. (But it’s so hearty! How could anyone eat dinner after that?)

Appetizers - bitterballen & meatloaf with dijon mustard

Appetizers - bitterballen & meatloaf with dijon mustard

Hans the chef frying up bitterballen

Hans the chef frying up bitterballen

Hans specially made me some kartofelsouffle (I hope it’s spelt right) – actually, 4 pieces of it. Think of a flour-like wantan skin wrapped with cheese. Deepfry this and eat it hot, with melting cheese all over. I tell you, it’s so damn good that I wanted more but there was only 1 each, for sampling.

Only for die-hard cheese fan... kartofelsouffle!

Only for die-hard cheese fan... kartofelsouffle!

The Dutch style meatloaf is made days before and sliced super thin and eaten dipped into splendid Dijon mustard. It’s a cold dish. This is different from the super-thick slices of Malaysian meatloaf I used to eat as a kid at my best friend’s house. Her sister’s meatloaf was warm, thick and tomato-ish and eaten with dollops of mashed potato.

Meatloaf, sliced super thin, Dutch style

Meatloaf, sliced super thin, Dutch style

Of course, the king of the table that night was the stewed kerbau Dutch style. Now I have never eaten kerbau so Hans explained that kerbau meat actually isn’t very different from regular beef. The best part is, it’s a cheaper cut of meat. Using the stewing process, the kerbau meat actually is tender and peels away in strips! Of course, kerbau meat is also a heaty meat so eat with caution. OK, maybe down more beer? Chinese consider beer as the ‘gwei loh liong char’ or the Westerner’s herbal tea. This means beer is cooling.

The way to eat this stew is to have it with a side accompaniment of steamed brussels sprouts, tangy red cabbage (Apfel Rotkohl) and of course with boiled baby potatoes. This combination was drizzled with some apple sauce which gave the meal a good mix of tastes and flavours. Tangy, sweet, salty.

Apple red cabbage from the supermarket

Apple red cabbage from the supermarket

Post-dinner, we lingered over cups of coffee and Turkish delight but even so, Hans was adamant I try some whisky so I could understand the subtle differences in whisky. After sampling Laphroaig single malt, I know why whisky is a man’s drink! It’s truly a taste that grows on you but it certainly did not grow on me. It’s not called the world’s most richly flavoured whisky for nothing.

Thanks Hans and Yvonne for your wonderful cooking and introduction to Dutch cuisine.

Hartelijk bedankt!

Are You A Gila Treasure Hunter? This Is For You!

I almost forgot to blog about this. Tsk tsk.

Yeah, I know.

I’ve been back at work since Friday but you know this thing about emails and work plus we were apartment-hunting (well actually we have been looking at apartments to buy on this side of Penang island for the longest time) and such, so I almost forgot to tell you this. (My apartment-hunting adventure merits its own post!)

Especially if you are a bad, mad treasure hunting fan.

I thought I was until I met more mad people whose lifeblood is about joining treasure hunts.

Anyway, I shall stop being a tease and direct you to The Webmazers, a cool new initiative (hmm, if I may masuk bakul and angkat sendiri lah) by ta-daaaa, us at Redbox Studio and The Roadrunners, the maestros of setting treasure hunting clues or ‘tulips’ as they’re called.

I’ve blogged about it on the other blog (and to date, I’ve seen that more blogs in the blogosphere have picked up on this too) so go read.

Anticipation and excitement is building up (particularly among the treasure hunt kaki’s online) because if I know Jayaram correctly, his cryptic puzzles and tulips are damn damn hard. Gives your brain cells a thorough workout too.

And once you get hooked on this, man, there is no turning back. You’re going to want to solve more cryptic puzzles.

Did I also mention it’s FREE to join? No fees involved unlike your offline motoring treasure hunt.

(As part of the organising team, I won’t be able to join so I encourage you to haul up your friends, chee mui, colleagues, father, mother, siblings, godparents etc to enter this online treasure hunt.)

Yes, it’s starting on 10 February which is like what….6 days from today.

The prizes? How does a romantic sunset cruise in Langkawi sound to you? 3 main prizes are up for grabs with some shopping vouchers for those scoring above 50% of the marks.

Go and sign up before you completely miss out on this inaugural online hunt!