Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Traveling with teens: Part 2

The night everyone arrived, the Grams brought us (all 12 guests!) to dinner at an ikan bakar* place along Lebuhraya Lim Chong Eu nearer to Bayan Lepas. There are at least 2 ikan bakar eateries, and we went to the one farther in, i.e. Nurul Ikan Bakar.

I'm told that ambra/ambarella (seriously) juice is a must-have in Penang**, which is what we ordered. The pitchers came filled with crushed ice and ambra juice, and a buttload of sugar. The ice is supposed to melt while you chat and eat, and at the end of the meal you have an invigorating tasty beverage. Except everyone was parched, so we resorted to diluting the stuff with cold water. It was still too sweet even after that.

I forgot what fish we had (I mean, we were there in March!), but it came on a banana leaf and was topped with fiery red chili sauce. There was also sambal on the side, and I think it disagreed with me...

Another Penang must-try is sotong kangkung, which is boiled (?) cuttlefish and water convolvulus served with rojak sauce***. It's meant to be a starter and has an interesting crunchy texture, but comprises my 3 least favorite flavors.

*Grilled fish
**Depending on who you ask, there are any number of must-haves.
***I think you're supposed have a salty-sweet-spicy sauce, and I suppose rojak sauce ticks all those boxes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Maybe it would be more popular if it were called "essentialism". "Minimalism" I think makes people think of what they can't have, whereas "essentialism" brings to mind only the things you need. There would be less focus on getting rid of things, and more emphasis on the things you can't do without.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Traveling with teens: Part 1

On impulse, Enfant Terrible and I went to Penang during the school holidays with my aunts and their families. We stayed at Aunt Debra's parents' (the Grams) place in Island Glades, which is a quiet old suburb on the island.

Obviously, they don't call Penang a food paradise for nothing. The afternoon we arrived, Enfant Terrible and I made straight for a nondescript Indian restaurant canteen on Lebuh Acheh. It's just a few lots down from the very nice Armenian Street Hotel; it's supposed to be called Muthu's Restaurant but it doesn't have a signboard. In fact, you'd miss it entirely if you weren't looking for it.

ET and I looked inside first before entering. The half-dozen or so patrons, all Indian men of the mien that would make you cross the road to avoid if you encountered them at night, peered right back. Then we stepped in and got ourselves 2 banana leaf rice meals and everyone went back to eating.

By contrast, the staff looked more clean-cut and the food was excellent. They serve parboiled rice by default, it seems, and a marvellous mutton soup in place of the de rigueur rassam, which had run out. You can forget about bone broth once you've had this miraculously meaty-tasting mix, which actually contained no meat (or bones).

Brows sweaty and noses runny from the unbelievably thick and rich crab curry (other options are fish, chicken, dal), we stepped out once more into the unforgiving heat, determined to traipse around the Georgetown Heritage Zone as much as we could before the rest of my family finally made it to Penang.

Like, we'd left at 830 AM, the same time as Aunt Andrea did, only Uncle Andrea is a more cautious driver than ET and probably subsequently racks up fewer speeding summonses. Our indirect host, i.e., Aunt Debra, and her family left Kuala Lumpur about 3 hours later (!).

FYI, it takes 3-4 hours to drive from Kuala Lumpur to Penang Island, excluding the heavy vehicle traffic you encounter as you go through Ipoh. As in, you're merrily humming along at 80-100 kph and exiting a tunnel when you have to lean really hard on the brakes because about 200 m ahead is a lorry laden with god knows what chugging uphill so slowly it's practically at a standstill. And that's what you keep encountering for the next 40 km or so.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Old age things

I'm in my mid-30s now (?!) and that means I have to give some thought to things I would otherwise not have thought about 10 years ago.

Specifically: what I have for breakfast. Unlike the years in which I spent slogging at my master's degree,* I can't just toss back a coffee and a breakfast bar and call it good till lunch because my metabolism won't let me anymore.

(It's weird because aren't you supposed to slow down as you age? Yet here I am suffering hunger pangs and on the verge of blacking out/brain death 1 hour after having breakfast.)

I've tried all the breads and spreads, and whatever grain the flour is made from, how many types of seeds they strew into the dough, or whether it's coconut or peanut spread or even lovely ol' butter, it's not enough. Adding protein (eggs) only goes so far (about 30 minutes more). For a privileged suburbanite like me, it's just sad.

You know what works though? Oatmeal. Instant is okay, but now I really enjoy overnight quick-cooking oats. Overnight oats are amazing because no one wants to have a hot breakfast in El Niño weather, no? So you stir water (or milk, if you're not lactose intolerant like me) into some oats the night before and then add the trimmings the next day (dried/fresh fruit, honey, brown sugar [not white because it causes breakouts**], milk powder, bacon). It looks like baby food but it doesn't stick to the pot but it sticks to your ribs, holding me till lunch, and I'm happy with that.

*Another sign of aging is thinking of things you did 10 years ago.
**Your mileage may vary.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Planning your own wedding? Think again!

A friend is getting married later this year. Of course I told him that as it's his wedding, all decisions should lie with him and his fiancée. Alas, it was too late, as his future in laws had already staked their claim on almost two-thirds of the guest list and had expanded it by three times the original length.

And said friend and his parents are the ones footing the bill.

As an amateur wedding advisor, I am lost for words. It's too late to even suggest they pick a differnt venue because that's been decided on already too!

(It will be at a Chinese restaurant and you know how the costs for that will go. And I'm 100% certain the in laws will expect the good stuff, i.e., old old whiskey, etc.)

The shellshocked couple is currently shopping for a wedding dress. I hope they'll rent one instead of buying it outright. I also hope that they engage a makeup artist and photographer(s) (and videographers?) that are worth the rate charged.

I wonder if the relatives will insist on a luxe retro rental car too.

Maybe the fiancée's parents will make it all worthwhile with a big fat dowry.

He's adamant about not taking a loan though, so good on him.

Modern romance, eh?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Real-life heroes

(Today's success story: I remembered the password for this account!)

There's this girl I know. She's the busiest girl I've ever known. She works long hours and she volunteers almost every day of the week, even weekends! She blogs too, more regularly than "typical" working stiffs do. And she'll be up for a late night kopi o at whichever mamak stall you suggest (if you're friends, of course; she's not an idiot).

She's not a hustler, by the way, she just does the thing. She doesn't ask you or herself why she does it or should do it, as long as an underprivileged person or animal out there benefits from it somehow. She's the living embodiment of the saying "if you want something done, give it to a busy person".

I think she's the only person of her kind in the Klang Valley (some say Malaysia), and that's a pity. Being the person she is though, she'd laugh and tell you there are just as many people out there like her, only you haven't met them yet.

Some might say she needs a good person to love her, and then she'll calm down, but that's not what she's about. People who think that need to look at things differently. Why should you define yourself based on your relationships?

She makes me want to do more, and not just for myself (there's only so much you need to do for yourself if you're a relatively privileged middle class female from the suburbs anyway).

Don't worry; my friend is alive and healthy. She has no life-threatening conditions. She wears her helmet when she careens about happily on her bike when she has the time for it. Like I said, she's not an idiot.

I only got to know her late last year and feel like I have a lifetime of good deeds to catch up on. I just wanted to pay a little tribute to one of the best people I know, and it's nice to do that when the person is still alive.

(She doesn't know about this blog; if she did, she'd blush to the roots of her hair and start looking in a hundred directions at once while adamantly declaring she's not doing anything special. That just shows you how special she really is.)