Tasting Taiwan’s Night Market – Part 2

Sorry for the inexplicable long silence.

Krista Goon
Adele and me when I spoke at the Penang Women Chamber of Commerce CNY lunch

It gets harder and harder to blog when my time is so consumed by a zillion other things – mentoring, for instance (although I have officially completed my 6-month mentoring sessions with Adele and Janice).

gratitude note
A note from my mentee, Adele.

Also, business projects. When I say business projects, most people think it’s doing stuff for clients. Errr. Not exactly. I’m doing stuff for myself. Nic is tweaking his game for entrepreneurs while I’m creating some courses and follow-up products that can help our clients more. We still maintain and manage websites for clients but these days, we’re also focusing on creating more training materials for people who want to learn how to do it on their own.

I’m also working on a book with two other friends along the theme of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and that’s practically driving me up the wall – you wouldn’t believe the rounds of readings and edits and going back and forth with the women we’ve interviewed.

cathedral of holy spirit penang

Plus in between, I get pitched to speak. Nic and I did one for 200 Catholic students at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on 24 June, sharing about a community project Nic and I initiated called TSN Book Adoption Centre.

cathedral of holy spirit penang catholic mission day
The 200 uni students from Sabah and Sarawak.

Before that, I did one for my WomenBizSENSE meeting on 23 June where I taught the 40 ladies how to use time-saving apps and software for business.

catholic students mission day 2017 penang
I call this interfaith. I’m a Buddhist and I get to talk to Catholic students about what it means to serve your community. Start with a small, do-able project. Don’t try to conquer the world.

 

I’ve one coming up on 19 July – it’s one I’ve agreed to do for a new co-working space called Scoopoint along Weld Quay regarding women entrepreneurship. But speaking is something that I like to do as part of my repertoire as each speaking engagement allows me to find new ways to present and improve my ability to present.

Yeah, so those things take up my time. And in between, I want to read my fiction and business books. I want to go home to Banting and see my dad and sister and niece and nephew more.

OK, but today, I decided to make good on my promise. More on my Taiwan travels! (If you missed Part 1, here it is.)

taiwan night market game machine

So the evening we checked into our small but clean boutique hotel, we had a quick shower and went in search of the night market! The famed night markets of Taipei.

The nearest one to us was the Ningxia night market. I was excited because I was thinking of all the tasty snacks and street food awaiting us. It was 20 minutes of walking.

When you’re travelling, every kerb and corner shop looks interesting. We passed a women’s only gym which looked really hip (all that see-through glass makes the gals exercise with more effort as passers-by can see what they’re doing).

Taiwanese night markets often are a combination of entertainment (street magicians), gambling (games of chance for adults and kids!), snacks (grilled beef/squid/chicken, deep-fried everything from stinky tofu to chicken, pastries, fruits, sausages etc.), electronic gadgets and fashion.

taiwan night market game stall
Kitschy 80s game stall that attracts people to try their luck at winning.

 

In a seedier section of another night market that we passed by near Lung Shan Temple, it had shops where you could eat snake (cobra anyone?), drink snake bile, buy lingerie and drink alcohol. All businesses related to the supposed virility circle. I find it strange that we still need to kill hapless snakes just to satisfy some strange tradition (yes, that Chinese tradition that I do not agree with!).

Anyway, Ningxia was an introduction to the Taipei night market scene. Kids were seated in front of stalls playing games of chance. Mostly the machines were China-made. If there were no machine, it was a simple stall set-up with balloons that you had to burst in order to win a prize. Similar to our tikam-tikam. When we were browsing about, a few people were engaged in trying to get themselves a prize (which could be some soft toy). I think humans just like to win. The feeling of success is what we want, not so much the prize (which is why so many ‘Toyland’ shops are popping up in Queensbay Mall – sometimes these toys are so cheap and ugly and yet people still buy lots of tokens to get a chance to win one!).

As we had spent the whole day travelling (our flying schedule had started at 6am that morning but we had been at the Penang airport since 2am and the airport chairs aren’t the best for sleeping!), we took it easy. I was more eager to try some food than gamble to get a soft toy that is (poorly) made in China.

grilled wild boar sausage taiwan night market
Anything grilled is good. Taiwan’s grilled meats are top of the list.

The grilled wild boar sausage was good as it was piping hot and you could slather a few different sauces. The next place we stopped by was a “zhu zhar” stall with typical hawker style seating. They were frying up lots of stuff – beef koay teow, beef slices and soupy mee sua. The Taiwanese love their beefy dishes. We sat down on tiny stools at a metal table and ordered a soup. It was a dismal bowl of beef slices in ginger soup. The beef slices were tender but too miserly. The soup tasted good but maybe I was hungry. We shared the soup and decided we’d call for another dish.

Just then a local couple plopped themselves down in front of us. The table-sharing concept is common in Asian countries since space is limited and personal space isn’t quite as important, unlike Western countries.

They ordered stir fried beef slices. When their dish came, the guy was disgruntled. He started to mumble about how small the portion was. He started grumbling louder and even called the stall owner over to ask “Is this stir fried beef? So few beef slices! We’re not tourists you know. We’re local people.” He was getting pissed as the minutes ticked on. This was uncomfortable as we were like a foot away from him and his girlfriend (she too was mumbling away).

I was so glad to get away once we finished our food and decided to go away in search of other more filling snacks!

famous rice ball stall in taipei

As we strolled along, we saw this long line of people. Whenever you see a long line, you know the food’s good. And the long line of people were mostly locals. Patiently, they stood in line edging themselves nearer to a guy who was packing rice ball snacks. He should be famous going by the various newspaper clippings he had stuck onto his other stall (strangely he operated from a push cart on the road). I didn’t want to wait in line – I wasn’t that desperately hungry then.

famous rice ball stall ning xia night market
Apparently, “ku zhao wei” or tradtional taste is a big thing in Taiwan.

We walked along the shops and realized Taipei is very much Japanese-influenced. Historically, the Japanese came to Taiwan and stayed for 50 years until 1945. But unlike Malaya that was conquered and under Japanese rule, the Taiwanese generally like the Japanese. They are surprisingly positive and fondly open about the Japanese and their memories of Japanese in Taiwan. Hence, we saw lots of local sushi and sashimi shops (though I’m a bit wary of their fish and how fresh the fish is!) where locals would just sit and eat and down some beer.

rice ball snack vendor taipei taiwan
This is the rice ball snack guy. Nonstop business on a week day night.

When we had enough of walking, we headed back to City Suites Beimen. I never really have a fixed itinerary when we travel. We do what we feel like doing which is often the reason for many interesting surprises.

The interesting part is coming up – I didn’t know I had booked us into an artsy enclave and one that was walking distance to the wharf!

traditional chinese herbal tea taiwan
A herbal tea stall at the night market. The seller wasn’t friendly at all. Talk about brusque!

My Favourite Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Recipe

chocolate-chip-cheesecake
Two of my fave things in a cake – cheese and chocolate!

Once in a while, I get this sweet tooth craving. Which is weird because I usually prefer salty snacks to desserts. Think murukku, salted peanuts, roasted cashews and the like.

But when I get into that mood, I go into the kitchen and whip up a cake or sometimes two. I figure that if I am firing up the oven, I might as well batch bake some yummies.

Since it’s only me and Nic and eating an entire cake is out of the question, I usually freeze half the baked cake. Cakes freeze well without any loss in taste or texture. I learnt this from some American blogs I read. They freeze everything – raw cookie dough to stews and more.

Anyway, last night I got into this cheese mood. I dug around my fridge and realised I had some mascarpone and some cream cheese. It was either tiramisu or a cheesecake.

I decided to make a cheesecake since I was dying for some creamy dessert. I usually bake after dinner so it was by 10pm or so that I started pulling out my springform pan.

The funny thing is this: I have always eaten great cheesecakes but never baked any until the last 2 years. No, I am not kidding. My aunt bakes a mean cheesecake with canned peaches. My sis bakes delicious blueberry cheese tarts.

My springform pan sat in my cabinet for a long time before I decided one day to just test out some cheesecake recipes. I guess I was inspired by a good friend’s cheesecake which she brought to a potluck party some time ago. I loved the creamy goodness of it all and gobbled a good many slices!

I love this recipe because I just need my measuring cups and my good old electric mixer (I still have my Elba handheld mixer – I want to get a stand mixer but I simply have no space in my kitchen for yet another kitchen appliance).

choc-chip-cheesecake
best choc chip cheese cake recipe

Actually a cheesecake is easy and quick to make. Let your cream cheese sit at room temperature for 1 hour before you start so the cheese is soft. I’d adjust the sugar and condensed milk quantities if you prefer it to be less sweet.

I used my own homemade vanilla extract (just slice up 2 vanilla pods, stick them in a glass bottle and pour in enough good quality vodka to cover the pods and let this sit in some dark cabinet for 4 weeks or so. You’ve just made your own vanilla extract. You’d NEVER buy the commercial stuff ever again, I swear). As you can see, I like homemade stuff (yogurt, for instance).

OK, enough blabbering.

Here’s the recipe. For the baking part, pre-heat your oven at 150C as you prepare the cake.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Recipe

Cheesecake Base: 

1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tbsp white sugar (use brown sugar if you prefer less sweet)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Van Houten brand)
1/3 cup melted butter

Mix all the above and press into a 9 inch diameter springform pan. Leave aside.

Cheesecake Filling:

250 gm cream cheese, at room temperature
400 ml condensed milk
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp flour

1. Beat cream cheese with mixer until smooth. Gradually add condensed milk.
2. Add vanilla extract and eggs. Beat on medium speed till smooth.
3. Toss 1/3 of chocolate chips with flour. Pour this into cheese mix.
4. Pour mix into the cheesecake base. Sprinkle the rest of the chocolate chips on top.
5. Bake at 150C for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave cake to cool in oven for another hour.

 

Have a go at this recipe and let me know how it goes.

(But if you’re simply too buggered to bake a cheesecake, get some darn delicious slices from Moody Cow if you’re in Penang. Their salted egg yolk cheesecake is to die for. Parking is a terrible thing on Transfer Road so it’s best to go with a friend and you can hop into the shop and get your cheesecake fix.)

Next round, I’ll share my tiramisu recipe.

best-choc-chip-cheesecake
Bon appetit!

Childhood Food

I wanted to post up stuff about my trip with my parents to Hong Kong but honestly I got a little lazy since I had to resize the bunch of photos.

Anyway.

That will have to wait until I am in a less lazy mood. Actually it’s not that I have nothing to say. The problem is, I have plenty of things I want to write about. But the thoughts and ideas fly by like mozzies.

I was a facilitator at a Lean In Forum in early July (and yes, that begs for a post of its own) at Hard Rock Hotel. Don’t ask me why it was at Hard Rock. It just was. Apart from the godawful long drive from my place in Bayan Baru all the way to Batu Feringghi, I just think it would have been a lot less of a hassle if it were held in say, E&O Hotel or Eastin Hotel.

But more of that later.

Today I had an interesting conversation with Nic at dinner. It’s kind of strange saying that as I am my husband’s business partner and if I am not out and about meeting potential clients, I am mostly with him. For breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner.

Read moreChildhood Food

The Curry Mee Tragedy

I never knew how much I loved my Penang curry mee until my favourite hawker died.

Yes, she died.

Not while cooking curry mee, of course.

 

Penang curry mee in Georgetown Penang Malaysia
Yummiest Penang curry mee with some teh C on the side

You see, Nic and I have a ritual on Sundays. We potter into town and have a totally “ah pek” breakfast. I call it “ah pek” breakfast because it involves an old corner coffeeshop with loud patrons speaking Cantonese, hawker fare which are deemed typical of Penang and yes, it also involves some old-style kopi and tea.

We sit about this coffeeshop, enjoying its ambience – the sights and sounds of a regular coffeeshop can be quite comforting.

Read moreThe Curry Mee Tragedy

My Indian Roots

Chicken paretel that tastes as good as it looks
Chicken paretel that tastes as good as it looks

I tell people I have Indian roots. And if you know me, you probably know it’s true even though I look 100 per cent Chinese.

My Indian roots aren’t due to some inter-marriage or something.

My Indian roots come from growing up in a small town like Banting, where we had Indian neighbours on both sides.

My two best pals are Indian – one is a Ceylonese Christian (who hated to be called “Lain-lain” on her IC) and the other is Hindu. Many of my school friends were Indian. That is what real unity is about.

But that is what growing up in the 80s was all about.

Read moreMy Indian Roots

Turning Pizza Ingredients Into Bread

After a long hiatus, I am back to using my bread machine. It’s been staring at me long enough anyway on the kitchen counter.

Freshly baked tomato bread from my bread machine
Freshly baked tomato bread from my bread machine

Of course the other reason is, I ran out of bread flour. Can’t make bread without bread flour. So I had to wait until I went downtown (meaning go into George Town) before I could bake some bread.

The place I normally go to is Sim Company on Carnavon Street. This shop is an institution for baking supplies – you name it, they probably have it. They are the old school type of baking supplies store and if you look at their “staff”, you will know why. They’re all in their 60s. Some can be grouchy as hell. But if you know what you want, you just go and grab what you want and pay.

Read moreTurning Pizza Ingredients Into Bread

A Second Life For Carrots

I don’t like to throw away stuff, especially stuff that’s still usable.

This goes for food. And this reminds me of Mary, a good friend who refuses to discard chocolates from her fridge. I can be like Mary too.

I can feel extremely guilty about throwing away edible food. Must be all those years of my dad admonishing me to finish up food on my plate as a child because “the kids in Africa are starving”. Mentally I have that picture of a starving African kid each time I throw food out.

The one with the bloated tummy and huge, limpid eyes.

Now it’s better because the food goes into my compost pots in the garden. At least they’re turned into fertilizer. That’s a second life for food.

Ever since I got myself a juicer, I’ve been churning out fresh carrot juices about twice a week (when I am not too lazy to wash the machine!).

I never knew having carrot pulp could be such a guilt trip. It does when you have pulp from 5 Australian carrots staring you in the face, daring, simply daring you to chuck them into the compost bin.

So I refrain. I pack the pulp up into plastic containers and freeze them.

In the end, I realized that I could do something with the carrot pulp. I could make carrot cake!

You see, back in the days when I didn’t have a juicer, I would grate carrots by hand. Terrible job, that. Hated that but loved chomping on freshly baked carrot cake.

So now I solved my carrot cake woe. I had plenty of carrot pulp to make carrot cake with. (I am not a big fan of cheese frosting so I omit that plus storing cake with frosting is one mean, messy job.)

So here’s the carrot cake recipe which I fall back on because it’s simple and tastes great. I actually stumbled on  a secret tip that makes carrot cake moist….the addition of green apple. That’s also because I juice carrots and green apples together in one go (yes, to make a healthier juice than say, just carrots).

A moist and yummy carrot cake made from carrot pulp
A moist and yummy carrot cake made from carrot pulp

The sweetness level is just right because I can’t stand overly sweet cakes. That’s why I make cakes with brown sugar.

I love this quick cake because it is easy to mix up and easy to eat. What’s not to love about a cake like this? And it contains carrot pulp and green apple pulp which means extra fibre and health-inducing qualities.

All you need to do for this carrot cake is to mix all the ingredients
All you need to do for this carrot cake is to mix all the ingredients

(And I add beetroot pulp to chocolate cakes but that’s totally another story for another blog post.)

Moist Carrot Cake

130 gm self raising flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp ground cloves

130 gm brown sugar

2 cups grated carrot (or carrot pulp from 5 medium size carrots + pulp from 1 green apple, if you like extra moistness)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup golden raisins

2 eggs, beaten

150 ml vegetable oil or melted butter

1/4 tsp salt (omit salt if you’re using salted butter)

1. Preheat oven to 180C . Grease and line your pan. Or if you’re like me and can’t be bugged with greasing and lining, just grease your pan and sprinkle flour all over the greased pan. Shake off excess flour but ensure flour coats the bottom of the entire pan.

2. Sift flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground cloves.

3. Mix in sugar, carrot pulp, walnut and raisins. Pour in eggs and oil (or melted butter).

4. Plug in your electric mixer. On medium speed, beat this mixture until well-combined about 3 minutes.

5. Pour mixture into your pan and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until your cake is done.

Frosting option:

Once your cake is cool and removed from the pan, you can make your frosting. In a mixer on high speed, whip 60 gm cream cheese with 30gm butter and 1 tsp lemon juice. Add 2-3 tbsp icing sugar and whip till smooth. Smooth over your cooled cake.

Pour into a pan and bake for 20-25 minutes and that's it!
Pour into a pan and bake for 20-25 minutes and that's it!

Chicken Poo Leaf & A Sassy Penang Nyonya

The thing about Penang is, I don’t know how I know the people I know but I can tell you it can be quite discomforting to know that people know me!

Convoluted? Not really.

Not when these people tell me that “Oh, I’ve been reading your blog for ages and now I know you’re the blogger!”

I don’t know if that’s good or not.

Because you know and I know that I write for myself mainly. I write because it keeps my writing chops lean and mean. It keeps me sane in the insane world of marketing and business and new projects and my women’s entrepreneur group and all that.

Read moreChicken Poo Leaf & A Sassy Penang Nyonya

A Matriarch’s Cuisine of Love

It’s only when guests or friends come to Penang that I make that mad effort to find new places to dine. Most times, we’re lazy and eat around our area which to me is rather sad and boring. I mean, how many times can you eat “chee cheong fun” for breakfast before you kind of roll your eyes and wish this dish was never invented?

Little Kitchen, Noordin Street, George Town
Little Kitchen, 179, Noordin Street, George Town, Penang

My area, Taman Sri Nibong, isn’t exactly crawling with lots of eateries.

So it gets fun when guests arrive. A few days ago, Nic and his Mensa Penang friends hosted Patrick, a fellow Mensan from Hong Kong.

It was Patrick’s first time in Penang. We thought it would be fun to take him to a Nyonya restaurant in George Town. But where? Nic’s favourite Nyonya restaurant, Hot Wok, had closed down about 2 years ago so there went the first choice on our list. Nyonya Breeze in Straits Quay was a little too modern for my taste, at least for this round.

I quickly scanned CK Lam’s food blog and found an interesting one. “Let’s take him there,” I enthused to Nic.

That’s how we ended circling Noordin Street three times before we finally found a parking spot near Hotel Grand Continental. The hotel was just one street after the Nyonya restaurant called Little Kitchen @ Nyonya. Don’t ask why it’s so oddly named.

Conceptually the restaurant was interesting. It is a Straits Chinese shop house some 135 feet long which belonged to a 4th generation Straits Chinese family. They still reside on the first floor. This family runs the Nyonya restaurant with the matriarch as the head chef! (She was this smiley Auntie in her 70s.)

Ulam appetizer with two types of sambal belacan
Ulam appetizer with two types of sambal belacan

So what’s unique about this place? Plenty of character I can tell you.

The main business (yes, the Nyonya food isn’t the main business and I will tell you why in a bit) is their birds’ nest business.

This family trades birds’ nests – the kind that most Chinese elders will give an arm and a leg and two best jade bangles for. So you can actually buy the birds’ nests in dried form from them or pre-order and have them double-boil the birds’ nest dessert for you (available for dine-in or take-away).

So the Nyonya food is more like a hobby for this family.

Nic and our Hong Kong Mensa friend, Patrick
Nic and our Hong Kong Mensa friend, Patrick

This we found out from the Auntie’s son – a chatty guy in his 50s. He must be recounting the history of the 7 year old restaurant to so many customers that the stories simply flowed out easily. And he is a veritable trove of birds’ nest facts, trivia and how the Chinese grew so mad over drinking and eating birds’ nest. The other way to locate this restaurant is to look for “Birds Nest Heaven” – the alternate name of the shop.

An array of Nyonya kuih to whet the appetite
An array of Nyonya kuih to whet the appetite

Anyway, he said that his family really didn’t need to run a Nyonya cuisine restaurant. His grandfather and father had done well for themselves back in those days of trading that the family was well set for life.

The only thing was, with his father’s demise some 10 years ago, his mother felt an inexplicable sense of loss. You see, in those days, his mother cooked every day for his family. Specifically his father never had to eat out. He had breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared lovingly by his wife.

Plus as her children had grown up, they ate out more than they ate in. Hence, the matriarch felt abandoned – no one appreciated her cooking any more.

So the children got together and hatched a plan to keep dear old Mum happy and cooking up all her favourite Nyonya dishes.

That was how Little Kitchen was born or at least that’s how Mr Loh, the son, tells it.

The second hall where we dined
The second hall where we dined

When you step into the restaurant, it does feel like you’re dining in someone’s home. We were ushered to the second hall which had an air well.

What I liked was that we were served tiny slices of Nyonya kuih as well as raw sliced cucumber, baby brinjal and four-angled beans with sambal belacan as appetizers.

The other unique feature is that all drinks were free flow – nutmeg, ginger, Chinese tea and plain water. These were in traditional hot water flasks and you could drink all you wanted for RM4 per person. Funny how free flow of drinks could make me so delirious!

Free flow of nutmeg, ginger, Chinese tea and plain water in Chinese flasks
Free flow of nutmeg, ginger, Chinese tea and plain water in Chinese flasks

The food portions weren’t exactly large although they were tasty and had a true home-cooked feel. We ordered pig stomach soup with gingko nuts (although it had Szechuan vegetable too which is a first time tasting this vegetable in a pig stomach soup), fried paku or fern shoots in sambal hae-bee, sliced pork with cincalok, mixed vegetables, acar fish and asam prawns.

Mother-of-pearl day bed, one of the antiques in the restaurant
Mother-of-pearl day bed, one of the antiques in the restaurant

Later the affable owner came around to explain why his dishes were small in portion and a tad more pricey than most. Then again, he did say he was “rather choosy with his clientele” preferring those who could appreciate the food and not just bus-loads of tourists who eat and leave.  Not that his place could accommodate bus-loads. At most there were 6 to 7 tables.

Mixed vegetable stir-fry and pork cincalok
Mixed vegetable stir-fry and pork cincalok

As someone who goes to the wet market (yes, I do cook), I know how pricey fish, pork, chicken and vegetables cost these days.

Anyway he justified it by saying that his mom insists on the best cincalok, the freshest ingredients and all so these add up. Plus he served us on true-blue possibly heirloom/antique porcelain plates – perhaps harking back to the days when his grandfather used to run a restaurant on No.7, Leith Street!  (Upon looking under the plates, Patrick says that they were from Jingdezhen, a city in China famous for its fine quality chinaware!)

Look at the original floor tiles so telling of a Penang Nyonya shophouse
Look at the original floor tiles so telling of a Penang Nyonya shophouse

Dining at Little Kitchen was an experience that wasn’t just about the Nyonya cuisine and food tales.

Sure the food’s on the pricey side (the bill came up to RM208 for the five of us, plus drinks and 2 bowls of black glutinous rice dessert) and it wasn’t classy like some of the newer establishments. (This is Ji Tiao Lor after all.)

Labelled herbs in pots to show you what's used in Nyonya cooking
Labelled herbs in pots to show you what's used in Nyonya cooking

Yet in its homely way it was charmingly Chinese – much like dining at your favourite aunt’s home.

Whatever it was, I left feeling satisfied and perhaps made a mental note to revisit, if only for the unique tale it has to tell.

Colourful pickles in jars
Colourful pickles in jars

Nothing Beats A Harvest

Did I tell you I have a pomegranate tree in my backyard?

pomegranate fruits
Ruby red pomegranate arils, fresh off the tree

It’s about 5 years old – a tree that I grew from some leftover pomegranate seeds from a huge pomegranate I bought at one of the fruit stalls at Lorong Kulit.

In the initial years, it was a spindly thing.

At that time, I was still living in my old apartment. Where the balcony was the only space for plants.

pomegranate fruits
They don't look very ripe but they are. How do you know when it's time to pluck the fruit? Look at its bottom. If it's brownish black, it's time to harvest.

But the sun never reached into the innermost corners of my balcony so the poor spindly thing was trying hard to grow.

I brought it over when I came to this new apartment, located on the ground floor.

I had a backyard. Hallelujah! (And I’m not even Christian).

So I planted the spindly thing in a larger pot, put heaps on compost on its roots, and left it in the open. With plenty of rain and sunshine.

And that thing grew and grew.

Pretty much like the beanstalk in Jack and the beanstalk fairy tale.

And the ugly duckling turned into a marvellous looking thing, with crimson flowers that eventually became pomegranates.

So there’s the story of why you should never give up on your plants.

pomegranate
Do you know how you can get the arils out nicely? Peel them in a basin of water.

It bore (and still bears) rose-coloured fruits about the size of a small apple.

Now I know why everyone wants to be a farmer on FarmVille. I don’t like playing the game or playing pretend farmer.

I like doing the real stuff – getting my hands dirty, get sad if my plants start wilting, getting triumphant when my plants flower and fruit.

Best of all, I love tasting and reaping the fruits of my labour.

pomegranate tree
My pomegranate tree is about 5 feet tall

I love it that my pomegranates (as well as my pandan, mint, curry leaves, serai, basil) are all organically grown. Safe for consumption.

I have this indescribable pleasure when I can go to my backyard and pluck a fruit off a tree and eat it!

That’s as natural as it gets.

No carbon footprint issues. No worries about fruit contaminated with chemicals. No worries about eating fake fruits (with China being such good copycats, it’s probably a matter of time when they do make fake fruits!).

No pesticide, no chemicals. Just good old soil, plenty of self-made compost, rain (or water) and sun. Nature supplies the bees, insects and butterflies to help with pollination.

I am now trying my hand at growing a few papaya trees and a tomato plant.

I think when I grow old, I shall buy a plot of land or at least get a house with a huge garden and plant all the fruit trees that I love. I often keep the seeds of fruits and vegetables that I eat, just in case one day I decide to sow the seeds.

close up of the pomegranate tree and fruit
A close up of the pomegranate tree and fruit

I think we all need a connection to the food we eat. Through gardening and planting, we somehow get that gratification. When I tuck into my pomegranate arils, I give thanks because I am so amazed that from just a few components (soil, water, etc.) we are able to enjoy a magnificent array of fruits. The very same ingredients that makes a durian makes a pomegranate.

I find that amazing.

But gardening also teaches me patience and that I am not a master of the universe.

Gardening teaches me that plants grow in their own time and with the seasons. You just can’t control or rush them. They flower in good time. They are unhurried.

Unlike us humans.

We want everything fast. (Isn’t that one reason why we complain about ugly holes in our sawi and then proceed to say, oh wow, why do farmers spray pesticides on vegetables?)

So what fruit trees have you grown? Or trying to grow? Do you grow or eat pomegranates? Would love to hear your gardening escapades too!