It Takes Two

The more I want to sit down and post my thoughts, the more stuff lands on my plate and the more they drag me away from blogging.

Such is life, sometimes!

I had a great Chinese New Year break – despite the fact I didn’t get to visit Bangkok with my parents, no thanks to the political unrest in Thailand. My sister and I were quite adamant that we go, protest or not but the thing with travelling with parents is that they INSIST everyone stay home and quit moaning about not going shopping in Bangkok.

I was so looking forward to a change in my Chinese New Year routine so we got our Air Asia tickets cancelled (and got the credit shell from them in exchange – they weren’t giving us back our money but credit shell was all right).

Read more

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 more

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 more

Leaning In, Leaning Out

I would have never read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book if it were not for YB Chong Eng. Honestly. Even though I am a big fan of books, I always have too much to read, too little time and too much planning.

Sheryl Sandberg Lean In Book

Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Book

As it is, I am always reading at least 3 books at any given time. A lot of people say they don’t have time to read. I say, you DON’T make time to read. Not having time is just a stupid excuse. And I hear this from educated people.

Can you stop watching so much of TV? (Anyway these days Astro keeps playing re-runs so I’d rather turn off the TV than watch another episode of some travel programme that’s spliced from previous programmes. Yes Astro, this is a hint. And stop bloody segmenting your channels. Soon, there’d be nothing left to watch. And that RM2 hike in subscription is magnificent. Simply magnificent. Since I have terminated my subscription to The Star and Flavours, perhaps one day Astro’s going to go too.)

Read more

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 more

Of Russian Spies & Kenching

I’ve just finished reading a few books and by books I mean, fiction. In any given week, I’ll be plowing through a bunch of books (online and offline) but these days I read a lot of business and marketing and social psychology books.

To me, fiction is a respite from the business stuff, though I must say these days, some business books can be hilariously good.

I’ve been reading 2 books – one was loaned to me by Lerks and the other I dug up from god knows where.

The first book – my introduction to Anthony Burgess – is called The Malayan Trilogy. I have never read Burgess. I had no idea what sort of writer he was.

The only thing I knew was he wrote that magnificently famous Clockwork Orange which was turned into a movie (which I have not watched) and he used to live in Malaya.

Some googling brought me to this a local blog which said that Burgess’ book was supposedly banned in Malaysia.

Ah!

Read more

Language Chops

There’s language and then there’s language.

Some people still live in the past, with their eye on the proper way of speaking and writing English.

Sure you need to have a good grasp of your tenses and you need to stop making silly mistakes in English. But having knowledge of the language doesn’t mean you can make it in the everyday world.

Many folks still think they need to write like their English teachers of yore to be able to stand proud in the world today.

Sorry to burst your bubble but if you write like that, no one will ever read your work.

Read more

Oh My Country!

One of the reasons I have a blog is that it allows me to write what often bogs or bugs me. All my life writing has been a therapy. I find that I am happiest when I get to write, and it can be in a journal or in a blog.

Getting home after a few days in Singapore can be a study of extreme contrasts. I have many friends in the island republic – most of them are Malaysians with a sprinkling of Singaporeans.

I don’t indulge in much retail therapy over there. Mostly I am there to meet friends and try to uncover hidden gems which could be food, people or places. In most cases, it is the company that matters, not so much the gastronomy.

Each time I land in Changi, I feel even more morose. Neil Humphreys, a Brit who wrote a series of books about Singapore, says that upon landing in Changi International Airport, if you fail to be impressed, you are either a liar or Helen Keller.

I am apt to agree.

Read more

The Queer, The Exotic & The Melancholy

I wrote this when I was in Phuket about 3 weeks ago when I was on holiday. We were at Patong, the most popular tourist beach area in Phuket. It’s akin to Batu Feringghi but with lots more flavour.

We’d stayed at the southern and quieter stretch of Patong but from our hotel, it was only a 10-minute walk to the infamous Bang La Road. During the day, this stretch of road is harmless but after 9pm, the road becomes a throbbing night life full of people and gawkers. I wrote this piece as a means to figure out the conundrum that is Phuket, Thailand.

Read more

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!