Saturday, May 31, 2008

Re-Post of Kaamatan Celebration

Also a re-post, just in case you missed it last year:

Its been years since I checked out the Kaamatan celebrations. The daunting thing here is the heat. If you want to participate in any outdoor activities, be ready to melt.

Well, we passed by the celebration venue yesterday and it was cloudy so I asked Hubby to drop me there. There was no chance he could get to park; the place was very packed. I only had the little cam with me, and just when the I saw the ultimate photo opportunity, a group of boys playing contemporary songs on the gongs, it ran out of battery. But anyway, here are some pics:

New Imagekaamatan girls 2
Before: kadazan/Dusun/Rungus Girls

I'm not sure which tribe they are from, but the Kadazan/Dusun girls are known for their fair skin and beauty. The highlight of the festival is the crowning of the Unduk Ngadau or the harvest queen. Unfortunately that was done the day before.

After: older, but still lovely
One of the tribal huts.
Each hut was manned by a different tribe, exhibiting their own crafts or customs.
Gong Players
Tapai drinking

After an hour, I concluded that the Kaamatan Festival centers on tapai! As I went from house to house, almost all the males were half-stoned, including the teens.

Tapai is a home-made brew made from rice. It is stored in jars. In this hut, the guys were lining up to sip tapai from the communal jar (using same bamboo straw...) for RM2.00 per sip. Each sip is what you can take in one breath. I saw a guy who could reduce the tapai level in the jar by about 3 cm in one breath! Everybody was telling him to stop. I think he cheated.

Bamboo trampoline
I went under the house to shoot pics of these people as they jumped on the bamboo trampoline. I guess the reason why everybody at the celebration was grinning was they couldn't help it, after some tapai and brain-shaking jumps.

Re-post Of Hinava

Every end of May, rice harvest time is celebrated here. Called Kaamatan, the celebration lasts several days, in rural places, several weeks. I did a post on the celebrations last year and another on the best-known dish of the Kadazans, the largest indigeneous group in Sabah, and am reposting them here. It is a long weekend for us (not in other Malaysian state though) and my kitchen's closed because Hub and Wey have gone to Karambunai Resort for church camp while I'm holed up here with Ming who's still in the middle of his A Levels exam.

Hinava is a delicious, tangy, appetite-provoking raw fish salad. I've over-cooked the fish. It should just be blanched outside, either by boiling water or by lime juice, and still raw inside.

This is a probably the most famous dish of the Kadazans, the largest indigeneous group in Sabah. I've never made it until tonight and it turned out great! It's so easy to make too. Years ago when I was working in a bank, a hinava competition was held during the Kaamatan Festival (rice harvest festival) and I can't remember whether Dolly or Francesca's entry won but I took down both recipes so one of them mustn't been the winning entry, the other my pick. I've combined the two and given the credit to both.

Dolly and Francesca's Hinava
1 kilo king mackerel fillet, skin on & cut into strips or small cubes
juice from 10 limes
3 to 4 small red shallots, sliced or chopped finely
1 T finely julienned ginger
2 large chilies, cut into fine strips
4 to 6 small chilies, cut finely
1 small bittergourd, cut into very thin short slices & mixed with salt 15 minutes
dried and grated 'bambangan' seed (get it at Donggongon market)

1. There are 3 ways to prepare the fish:
a) Pour boiling water over fish in a bowl and drain well. Probably the best way but not the traditional way.
b) Put fish into a pot of boiling water for a few seconds and drain well. I did this tonight and the fish turned out a little coarse because it was cooked through and it broke up easily. Some people serve hinava mashed up. Yuks.
c) This is probably the most authentic way: steep the fish in the lime juice for 10 minutes. However, you'll need lots of lime juice. The citric acid will 'cook' the fish on the outside but leave the inside raw, giving it a smoother texture and a slightly chewier bite. I like this but will only attempt this with an absolutely fresh fish. Hubby will have to go fishing...
2. Wash the salted bittergourd twice with plenty of water to remove the bitterness and some of the salt. It should still taste slightly bitter and saltish.
3. Mix the fish with the lime juice and leave 10 minutes.
4. Mix everything together (using hands so the fish doesn't flake too much) and add more salt and lime juice to your liking. If you run out of lime juice by now, use rice or sushi vinegar.
5. Chill in fridge till ready to eat.

Note:This may be an acquired-taste dish. Ming loves it but Wey wouldn't touch it.This is like a raw fish salad so it goes with something stronger, like a curry or something deep-fried. You'll find this dish even in 5-stars hotels here this time of the year because the Kaamatan is celebrated end of May. You won't be able to get the bambangan (a brown-colored fruit that looks like the mango inside but is very fibrous and pungent) anywhere but here and omitting it is okay too for people who won't taste the difference (like me). I find that traditionally hinava is always made in a fish:bittergourd ratio of 90:10. However, we like it about 70:30 so its really up to you. In the pic above, I took away some of the veg to make it more authentic-looking.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Run Everyone!

Shan's going to kill me. She had asked that I help pitch the upcoming Borneo International Marathon but I've remembered and forgotten, remembered and forgotten...and it is almost the deadline for early bird registration!

Okay, this is KK's BIG sport event this year. Let's get off our butts and do something for this beloved city. Even Malaysia's most popular blogger and events big shot Kenny Sia will be here too (but will he run, can he run??), so brush the dust off those shoes and sign up right after you read this. Who knows who you might meet on the run. Kenny for the girls, Amber for the guys? Pick up the forms at all CoffeeBean outlets and other places listed on Shan's blog. See you there!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Yu Kee Bak Kut Teh

Feigning fatique, blaming the low water supply in the taps, and wearing my best 'weary and stressed housewife' look, I told Hub that we have to eat out tonight (he prefers home-cooked meals). Men are so gullible. He didn't know that I was at City Mall the whole day, having a great time with a friend at Starbucks and (window) shopping while Wey was sent into some cyber cafe. Of course I came home just before he did and there was nothing on the table.

Syarikat (yes, syarikat) Yu Kee, located in front of Jesselton Hotel on Gaya St., is one of the oldest and most popular bak kut teh (pork ribs in herbal soup) restaurants in KK. There is another good BKT restaurant one block up, called Restaurant Kim Min which was quite good but I wasn't sure if they served veg with their BKT, which is what I wanted. I think we went to the wrong shop. Although Yu Kee was packed onto the sidewalk, I found their BKT hardly tasting of any herbs and the soup was warm instead of piping hot. BKT lovers will tell you that BKT must be served boiling hot. The main reason for the lukewarm soup is because they do not serve the BKT in claypots, which Kim Min does. And the reason Yu Kee doesn't serve their BKT in claypots is when you have customers spilling out onto the streets and standing behind seated customers preying on their tables, there's just no time to heat up those claypots. I think BKT tastes so much better in claypots but it looks like most KK people eating at Yu Kee don't think so.

If the following photos look pale and boring, it's because Yu Kee has these bright warehouse flourescent lights and also Wey and Hub attacked the food so quickly I had to use auto mode to take the pics.
Pork ribs in herbal soup, about RM5 per tiny bowl which is the standard price for most of their BKT dishes.

Belly pork in herbal soup.

Pork liver and kidney in rice wine-herbal soup. Yums.

Pork-dried cuttlefish balls in herbal soup.

Tofu 'boks' .

At last, a plate of greens.

My hub mentioned that West Malaysians disdain Sabah BKT for reasons he can't comprehend. I wondered about that too. After tonight's dinner, I know the reasons. We have grown up eating watered-down BKT. We are used to that standard and can't complain if we can't compare. We also don't get all the trimmings like beancurd sticks, enoki mushrooms and seafood BKT. We can only get BKT for dinner while in West Malaysia, BKT is available even for breakfast (which seems really odd to me), which shows how seriously they take their BKT. I'm not a BKT aficionado so I'm okay with Yu Kee's BKT even though I know a true BKT lover will not approve. Does anyone know of a better place than Yu Kee for BKT in KK??

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Purple Cauliflower

This is a cauliflower, a fuchsia-purple one. I picked it up at the organic veg shop in Lintas today. The lady assured me that it isn't injected with a dye or anything like that.

Beautiful fuchsia-purple cauliflower. Maybe now I can get to like cauli.

Another shot, less bokeh and more light

When boiled, the cauli turned the water purple and became a dull blue-purple, like this:


The taste was like...cauliflower of course. Anyone eaten purple cauli before?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mango Cheesecake (Unbaked)


MIL gave us some 'apple mangoes' yesterday, those beautiful mangoes the shape of peaches and size of large oranges. Apple mangoes are Hub's favorite because they are very juicy and sweet but I have not eaten any other mangoes that can compare to Luzon mangoes in terms of sweetness and, especially, flavor. I will forever love Luzon mangoes more than any other.

I was happily eating my mangoes when MIL called to say we are to join them for dinner because it was my BIL's birthday ("Supertanker, okay?" "Er...I guess if that's what you want," I replied, wishing she'd change her mind or I'll fall sick in 5 hours. She didn't and I didn't.)

I was in no mood to bake a cake since Vero's not back, but I wasn't about to eat that airy fake stuff from our local bakeries either. So off to the shops to get a swissroll (they only had mocha rolls) and some cream cheese (Philly cream cheese has gone from about RM8 to RM11/US$2.50 to 3.40 per 250g block!) In 3 hours the cake was ready, not bad at all. The best thing was, my other BIL, our Simon Cowell, rated this cake 99/100. That coming from him, I am so boosted that I'm sitting here at midnight typing out the recipe before I forget. Although I referred to Alex Goh's 'Fantastic Cheesecakes'--the guy has my utmost respect for giving recipes that really really work--I compromised by using whatever was in my fridge to make the cake because this is KK, and not all ingredients such as mango yogurt are readily available.

This is a cheesecake that doesn't need to be baked (the types that were popular before the baked ones pushed them off the shelf). You also don't need any eggs, so it really is a quickie cake. There's minimal utensils used too because you just add one ingredient after another. I don't generally like mousse because they taste so weird, like cream and sugar suspended in foam. This recipe however will give a mousse that's not too dense or foamy.


Mango Cheesecake (Unbaked)
250 g Philadelphia cream cheese, softened*
50g sugar (5 T)

*this will give a light cheesecake but you can add another 200g (increase the sugar proportionately too) for more cheese flavor n taste without increasing other ingredients

1. Whip this in your machine (use the butter paddle for a minute to break up the cheese, then switch to the balloon whisk to get a smooth cream) until light and fluffy.

200 ml mango puree (from cake ingredients shop)
150 ml heavy cream (or mango yogurt)
2. Mix about 170 ml mango puree (keep 3 T or 30 ml for glaze) and 150 ml heavy cream with a metal spoon until well-blended and fold into (1).

1 1/2 T gelatine powder
60 ml water
3. Mix powder and water in a small metal cup and set this over a pot of boiling water (double boil it) until the gelatine dissolves. Let it cool and mix it well into above mango mixture. Leave this mixture in the fridge while you do the next step. This will help set the mousse later.

150 ml heavy cream or whipping cream
4. Whip the cream until stiff and fold it into the mango mixture until well-blended. Finally, whisk the mango mixture and the gelatine syrup quickly into a mousse.

5. You can bake your own plain sponge or buy one and use it to line the bottom of a 22 cm/8 1/2" round springform pan (I had used a 25/10" pan and the cheesecake layer was too thin). The sponge need only be 1 cm thick. When you have done that, pour the mango mousse onto the sponge, level the top by tipping the pan and cover it with a cake board and let it set in the fridge. If, like me, you are in a hurry, put the cake into your icebox for an hour.

Other Ingredients:
mango slices for garnishing
2 t gelatine powder
2 T water
3 T (~30 ml) mango puree
toasted almond slivers

6. Slice some mangoes for garnishing. Make a glaze by mixing gelatine powder with 2 T water and double-boil it until gelatine dissolves. Add the mango puree and mix well. Pour glaze (keep 1 T for the sliced mangoes) onto the top of the set cake, decorate the cake with the mango slices and spoon retained mango glaze over them. Put cake back into fridge to chill.

7. Run a palette knife around the pan and remove the cake onto a cake board or serving plate. Press some toasted almond slivers around the side of the cake. Keep cake chilled until ready to serve. That's it.


Friday, May 23, 2008

The Real Bullies

After an incident with the discipline teacher when she was in Form 3 (Grade 9), my daughter begged me to transfer her to another school. She said she's had enough of Chinese-type schools where students had no say and teachers get into a rage over small things like the color of your hairband. I did transfer her because I was confident she'd do well in any school (she was an all-rounder good academically and athletically), and she told me years later, when she was in university, that that was the best thing I did for her, because those two years in 'A '(an 'English' school) were her happiest school years. To me, 'A' was a little too liberal. Teachers and students were truly like friends.

The incident with the discipline teacher was really a small thing. The school's rule was that students are to be in their uniforms at all times except for sports. One day after sports, they asked the art teacher's permission to keep their T shirts on until after art class, to which their teacher agreed. Some of them went to the water fountain and were 'caught' by the discipline master who then lined them up and started shouting at them. Yi stepped out of the line and informed the teacher that they had the art teacher's permission. Typical of an authoritarian with a super ego, the discipline teacher declared that Yi had challenged his authority by speaking up, and imposed demerit points for all the students. If this is not a clear case of intimidation I don't know what else to call it. Long story short, I didn't step in and Yi made her own arrangements to leave school. It was October, a month from the end of the school year. When she got into my car after meeting with the principal, Mr T, to get her school-leaving certificate, she burst into frustrated tears. The principal was insulted that she dared leave the 'top' school for a school like 'A', and warned her that if she goes to 'A' she'll never be a person of anything because only students from his school will excel in life! This, from a principal of what most people think is a top school! I was upset but I had never been the type to barge into the principal's office about everything although looking back I should have. Two years later, we got our sweet revenge when Yi was one of the top 3 scorers in 'A', mentioned in the local papers for scoring 10As in her SPM (at that time nobody here knew about sitting for 16 subjects).

So you see, I was not exactly the type of parent who wagged a finger at the teachers all the time. Recently, my friend F told me that when her daughter was hit on the head by a teacher, she had gone to the principal and told him that 'if the teacher ever ever touch my daughter again, I will slap her in front of the class!" I thought "Wow, cat woman, a real fighter!" But you know what, recent happenings at Wey's school has made me resolved that that's what I'll do too if they ever hit my child. (Not slap the teacher, but I'd threaten to do so.)

At SF where my boys spent their primary years, I have heard of many cases where parents made trouble for the teachers over disciplining of their kids. The main reason for the parents' bigger presence (than other schools) was that SF was a private school and parents were usually more educated and thus more vocal. Contrary to what most people think, kids at SF are very polite and well-mannered. When I went to the school, I would always be greeted by the students and the teachers but when I went to the government Chinese-type schools (which erroneously are famed for raising well-mannered kids who in reality are being raised as a bunch of suppressed rebels because they aren't allowed to speak up), the students never greeted me, and worse, the teachers too. Yet most people have the opinion that the non-English type of schools are doing a better job disciplining the kids. To me, those schools are not disciplining, they are controlling the kids. Discipline involves teaching and correcting. Point again? Oh yes, my point was I tried my best to let the schools do their job and not meddle in anything, not even when Ming was made to kneel in the corridor with his schoolbag on his head in Form 4 (Grade 10) and even punched by a teacher at one point (correction: he was caned instead, in Form 3, for failing his Chinese. The teacher apologized when he found out that Ming came from a non-Chinese school). I felt that schools are having a hard time with kids and parents should be supportive of the schools. The old me used to think that parents like F are trouble-makers who are too defensive of their precious kids. That was me then.

Me right this minute is very troubled. There have been two clear cases of bullying by a certain teacher in my son's class. In last Wednesday's incident, a boy (Form 2, 13 years old) was talking to his friend when the teacher was teaching. She flew into a big rage, went over to the boy and struck at him but he held out his arm against his face to defend himself. Since she didn't manage to slap him, she grabbed his hair and banged his head on his desk, then slammed his head against the wall. And we wonder why kids are getting more violent! Later, some of the boy's classmates encouraged him to tell his parents but the boy said (listen, parents!) his parents aren't the type who'd come to his defense. Come on parents, talk to your kids! The real bullies are the teachers, especially in this country where the Education Dept is never on the parents' side. Take the case of the kid who collapsed last month and was left unattended for an hour until his parents came, and it was too late when they took him to the hospital. The education people actually defended the school by saying it did right because no one knew if it was safe to apply first aid. Excuse me, he passed out. He wasn't bleeding. For one hour he was on the floor, totally unattended to.

Two days ago, the same teacher again flew into a rage. She was upset that another boy didn't do his work and was walking around/talking (I need to confirm this) so she went to him and pinched him hard, then scolded him while wagging a finger at his mouth, screaming at him and calling him "Kurang ajar!" over and over again because he had replied that he didn't know he was to do that much work. Suddenly, the boy, like her, lost it and slammed his fist on the table. Long story short, the discipline master and form teacher were called in, the boy hauled into the office for some interrogation (and confession I suppose) and yesterday the parents were called in and told the son had been given a 'black mark' (3 black marks and you are expelled). Wey said some of them spoke up in defence of their classmate but their form teacher not only was biased, she said it was good that the teacher pinched the boy because he deserved it. And when they told her about last Wed's incident, she said so what, that was last week. As Wey vented his frustrations, these things came to my mind: that these aren't dumb kids, they knew their rights, so they were angry and frustrated with unfair treatment by the powers in charge who use humiliation, intimidation, condemnation and finally, dismissal from school to keep them under control instead of kindness, understanding and mutual respect. Students can't respect teachers who don't deserve it.

So the teacher can loose control but not a kid who's 30 odd years younger? And she can lie that she didn't touch the boy when the whole class of 50 saw it?(Another teacher also blatantly lied about another incident, and my son wondered to me how a teacher can so unashamedly lie to the whole class). Is that the example to the kids, that teachers can lie and get away with it? What kind of kids are they raising who aren't allowed to speak up? What is the message to these kids? That teachers can be violent and out of control but not the students, that teachers can lie to save their asses, that teachers can preach but not lead by example? If anything, the kids now totally do not respect this teacher. All she has is tyrannic control, not respect. If I was the teacher, I would earn respect by apologising for loosing my temper and ask that the black mark be deleted. We all know teachers are human and it isn't easy to teach a large class of unruly kids. But kids will be kids and they will make more mistakes than adults (ideally) and if it isn't really life-threatening and treacherous (you know what I mean), there's no need to take these incidents to such limits. My Hub, when I told him about this, remember being pinched by a 'Teacher Wong'. But Hub said he has deep respect for this teacher because while he pinched, he never did it out of anger. It was his method for reprimanding students who didn't do their homework, and he did it in half-jest. Hub's opinion is sometimes teachers can cane the primary-level kids lightly, not as a punishment, but to correct, and never to be done in anger. This was Teacher Wong's way, firm yet loving, and that's why the students never took his punishment negatively. I however think that teachers are not to punish kids physically, because many of them are just half-crazed egotistical tyrants who can't and won't control themselves.

Parents, please talk to your kids and assure them that you will always be on their side (provided they are right), and that they are to tell you if their teachers ever are mean to them. (I have deleted part of this article bc I don't want to attract any legal action, not by the school but by the parents against the school. Case closed) I want to urge parents to know their rights and not let teachers get away with such crimes. If we continue to accept these practices, these teachers will never change. The whole system works against kids whose parents aren't well-informed or assertive about their rights. However, I must tell you that there are good teachers in the school too. I was driving out of the school compound one day last month when I saw, away in a corner near the teacher's car park, a female student crying on her teacher's shoulder and the teacher hugging and comforting her. It moved me to tears, especially since a suicide had just taken place a week or so before that, and I really want to uphold that teacher, Teacher M.Yap. If I was a teacher, I'd want to be the type whom the troubled kids want to run to.

I chose this school for Wey and Ming because I find the principal a very approachable, encouraging and humble person. Unfortunately many of his teachers are not like him. The fact that this is the same school where a boy jumped to his death last month because he was accused of cheating in his exams makes these incidents even more troubling. Some of you may have read my post on the suicide before I took it off, because I felt it was too tragic and out of respect for the family, I felt I shouldn't write about it. But today I'm writing this post because as I had pointed out in that deleted post, while I do not blame the school for the suicide, I had asked that the school be kinder to students (I talked to someone 'higher up' in the school) and adopt a better discipline system so that this boy's death will not be in vain. It looks like the school's not learnt anything from that tragedy.

p.s. I would love to hear from you, parents, students and teachers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Scallions & Pork Mince Pancakes

Scallions-pork mince pancakes

These are scallion and pork pancakes and some restaurants call them 'Chinese pizzas'. Not as common as plain scallions pancakes (chung you bing meaning scallions/spring onions oil pancake), but very tasty too. I prefer the plain scallions pancakes and if that's what you like too, just leave the meat out.

Btw, scallions are the thicker green onions with white stems whereas spring onions are the more delicate ones with a purplish stem, grown from the purplish-red onions. Spring onions are favored over scallions in Chinese cooking because they are more delicate and have better flavor. But since 'scallions pancakes' is the more widely used term, that's what I'll use too.

The first scallions pancakes I ate were my Shanghainese MIL's. Her scallions pancakes were the old-fashioned type, flat and pan-fried instead of the puffed and deep-fried ones which seem more popular these days. Again, because of that first impression thing, I prefer my scallions pancakes the traditional way which gives a crispy outside, slightly soft inside whereas the deep-fried pancakes are very crisp and 'short'/crumbly. Delicious but extremely oily. MIL thinks that the restaurants make better scallions pancakes because they use lard which gives a heavenly flavor and taste besides making the pancake 'short'. Restaurants also use a generous sprinkle of msg. The key to a flaky and 'short' pancake is to add shortening (preferably lard) to the dough, smear a layer of oil on the pancake and--this ingenuous Chinese way of making flaky pastry--roll the pancake up swiss roll-style, then coil it. This method results in many layers of pastry separated by a thin layer of oil, much like how you make puff pastry, except this method is easier.


Scallions/Pork Mince Pancakes
250g plain flour (about 1 3/4 cups)
100 ml boiling water plus more
2 T lard or shortening (Crisco)*
1 cup thinly sliced spring onions/scallions or chinese chives
1 cup chopped pork, seasoned with salt n pepper (optional)
sesame oil

* You can omit this if you are health-conscious. The resulting pancake will not have a 'short' or crumbly texture. Instead it will be slightly chewy so you'd have to roll it out into real thin pancakes.

1. Sift the flour into a bowl and add all the boiling water at once. Use a fork to mix quickly. You may need to add 2 or more tablespoons of boiling water. The flour will form 'bouncy' lumps that look slightly traslucent. , Mix in the lard or shortening. Take the dough out and knead until a smooth and very soft dough is formed. Cover dough with a cloth and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Plain scallions pancake. Here I've put too much onions on; the pancake'll burst when it is flattened.

Chinese chives-pork mince pancake

2. Divide the dough into 4. Take 1 piece, cover the 3 other pieces with a teacloth. Slightly flour the working surface and a rolling pin and your hands. Roll the dough into a very thin circle. Splash some sesame oil on the circle of dough and smear evenly. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of scallions all over evenly, then sprinkle with a good pinch of salt (and msg if like). Now roll up like a swiss roll, then coil it into a tight circle, pressing the end into the side of the circle.

The coiled pancake (bottom right) can be deep-fried or, more traditionally, flattened into a very thin pancake and pan-fried in a little bit of oil.

3. If you like, you can deep-fry the unflattened coiled circle which is what most restaurants are doing these days. If you want to pan-fry instead of deep-fry, then you should flatten your pancakes so that they can cook readily in little oil. Just flour the top of the coiled circle of dough and flatten it out with your rolling pin into a big thin circle without breaking the skin. Put about 2 T oil into a flat frying pan and fry the pancake on one side in medium heat until it is brown (about 3 min), then turn over and fry the other side. Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Pancakes are served hot, cut into wedges. You can serve them with a black vinegar-soy sauce dip if like.

note: the thinner the pancakes, the crispier they will be.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Shanghainese Big Sprouts N Tomatoes Soup


This blog has been rather quiet recently, yes? Let's see what excuses I shall give. How about my replacement maid has gone to Tawau with her regular employer and I am too hassled with the housework to cook anything special? Here's another: Big son Ming's A-Level exams just started Monday and I'm too busy catering to him? The true reason? I am just to lazy to wash up without help. (Btw, I hate ironing! I have 4 days of clothes waiting to be ironed, and I am nearly reaching out for Prozac. Why doesn't someone come up with an ironing machine??) I will be posting simple everyday home dishes that require minimum preparation so bear with me until Vero comes back 'habis bulan'.

Ming is a soup person. If he comes to dinner and there's no soup, he gets very disappointed and it is terrible for me as a mother who wants to please and feed her brood especially when they are having their exams. He suffers from a dry throat, he tells me. So his potential wife just needs to cook soup soup soup. It doesn't have to be a fancy soup. He is happy with plain miso and seaweed soup. Today he wants his Shanghainese grandma's tomato and big bean sprouts soup with pork bones, boiled for hours until the meat falls off. Ha, what I really did was use a pressure cooker, that wonder pot. This is a tangy soup that is very refreshing especially if you have over-eaten recently. Try it.

Big Bean Sprouts N Tomatoes Soup
1 kg pork bones, cut into 5 cm pieces
400g ripe tomatoes, deseeded if like
3 bunches (about 400g) big bean sprouts*
1 piece thumb-sized fresh ginger, smashed
salt to taste

* These are soy bean sprouts, not the usual beans sprouts which are sprouted from mung beans. They are usually tied in bunches and soaked in water.

1. Blanch the pork bones with boiling water to remove smell and dirt; drain away the water. Cut tomatoes into large wedges. Tail and wash the sprouts.

2. Boil about 4 liters of water in a heavy pot and put all the ingredients in (except salt) and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. If using a pressure cooker, this only takes 30 to 40 minutes from the time the pot hisses. Season lightly with salt.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Yi's McD-Nuffnang Clip

Alright, here's a chance for you to indirectly get some $ back from Nuffnang, those guys who've been getting (mostly) free ad space on our websites! Please help my girl and her friends win this Mc Donalds-Nuffnang contest by voting as many times as you possibly can. She's a poor student doing her practical training in an architect firm, and her parents haven't sent her $ this year so she's struggling to make ends meet...

To vote, you go to and then register (if you are not a member) and then vote. Her clip is currently on page 3 (go to Most Voted on the top bar of the Nuffnang page), but moving up quickly because of support from all of you. Thanks!

Dong Fung Restaurant

I asked B and her family out for lunch yesterday and since her mom was visiting from KL, I wanted to take them some place they have not been to. I'd only eaten at Dong Fung (name to be confirmed) once before. The Inanam/Kolombong area is not my usual haunt and I find the roads there pretty complicated. Because I had the impression that Dong Fung is near a Shell station, I spent 45 minutes going round and round (with B and family in the car following me) until I gave up and called a friend. It turned out that Dong Fung is opposite from Boon Siew, the Honda dealer, and just before the Shell station which is before Chiu Thai Seng's store. You turn in just before the Shell station and directly in front of you in the distance is Dong Fung, a corner shop. It is NOT before the Shell station near the 2 1/2 Mile traffic lights, remember that.

Many people complain that Dong Fung is expensive for a coffeeshop. Yes, it is, but it also isn't if you compare it to coffeeshops that serve similar seafood noodles and dishes. My only complain is that as in most coffeeshops here, the place was littered with used tissues, something that kills my appetite. I have to learn to be blind to the floor conditions. My vote for the best coffeeshop in terms of cleanliness would have to be Apiwon in Luyang. Every coffeshop should strive to be like Apiwon. If I was the health authorities, I would close down 95% of the coffeeshops here. Used tissues, dirty wet floors, dirty black mops in plain view, waitresses who wipe the leftovers onto the floor (woe to the waitress who does that because I would tell her off), customers and operators who spit right outside the shops, urgh!! (is this an invitation for anon to tell me to migrate?? Well, I want to see him/her defend KK's dirty restaurants. This is 2008 and we are dirtier than in 1978.)

Right, let's get on with the food. I think this is one of the better seafood noodles restaurant. I can't call it the best because I still need to check out the one behind King's Hotel in Bandaran Berjaya. Until then, this place is worth the drive.

Deep-fried fish roe & fishpaste in beancurd sheets--yummy but Ming said fishpaste in beancurd sheets was very salty and not as good as Lee Wong Kee's and he prefers fish roe smaller and fried whole so that the outside is crispy and inside moist.

Fish head and belly fried in soy sauce is one of the top orders here, so don't miss this.

Mifen soup with mixture of fish things which you chose: fish maw, fishballs, fish paste etc. The fish slices on my previous visit were very smooth, fresh and tasty but this time around, the fish slices were hard and coarse. I wonder if we have to specify what fish we want.

You can also have your fish soup separate from the noodles. The gonlao/soysauce-tossed noodles were simple and not oily as they usually are in most places. However, they were more sugar-sweet than what I'm used to.

Baby oysters omelette. This is a dish I equate with West Malaysian hawker stalls and it is not easy to find it here. There were lots of oysters but although I liked this, I felt the oysters could be umami-sweeter.

I like bittergourd any which way, esp. if they are very green & bitter & not overcooked which is how they did this dish. However, I found this dish rather oily although I'm not very sure if it was oil or sauce, so well-blended was it.

The total cost of this meal, including drinks, was about RM94/US$29 for 5 grown-ups which is pretty reasonable these days.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bigger Not Better

I know it was more than 4 months ago that we were in Melbourne, but I want to show you some of the dimsum we ate in Melbourne. One of our CDs doesn't read so I'll just have to go with what I have. Somebody promised to upload the missing photos for me but never got around to it.

New Royal Garden (NRG) at High Rd and Blackburn St, about half an hour out of Melbourne city impressed me 4 years ago when I had a 9-course banquet dinner fit for a queen (thanks to Simon and Margaret), and the most yumtious dimsum lunch (thanks, Serena!) there. The dim sum was excellent in NRG, far better than any dim sum in KK and I always told anyone who was going to Melbourne to not miss NRG . When Thomas and Betty invited us to spend the whole day with them at their house near Dandenong, I was thrilled when they took us to NRG for dim sum (thanks Thomas & Betty, who were wonderful hosts, taking us to lunch, made us excellent ais kacang, then to the veg n flowers farm and the mall and most of all opening their home to us).

NRG was fully packed as usual so the dim sum trolleys were slow and there wasn't much variety. Although still very good, I thought that it wasn't as good as the first time (that first time thing?) I ate there. I think Hong Kong's to blame. I kept comparing it to Hong Kong. I am now of the opinion that despite what people say about all the best HK chefs having left HK and gone to England, US, Canada and Oz, the very best dim sum is still found in HK. Even Guangzhou's dim sum didn't impress me, but then again maybe I didn't go to the right place.

As far as taste is concerned, many dim sum items were very good and some were as good as HK's. I ate dim sum 3 times on this Oz trip and we lived next door to Dragon Boat in Docklands (famous dim sum place which I also was very impressed with years ago), and yet not once did I yearn to go next door to eat. Okay, frankly it was because we usually got up late. But still, on this trip, I realised my love for dim sum in western countries is over. However, just in case anyone wants to treat me to dimsum when I'm in Oz, I would jump at that offer because I don't eat KK dim sum.

The thing about dim sum in western countries is that not only is the portion huge (which I don't mind), the individual items are big (which I do mind). A ha gow or siu mai is easily 2 times bigger than those in Asian countries, beef tripes are so big it can choke you, and chicken feet is not just the four digits but the digits and the whole length of the foot. I suppose the cheaper prices of meat and availability of stuff that westerners don't eat like pig stomach and tripe and the fact that western mouths (and stomachs) being bigger on the average mean dim sum have to be proportionately bigger (McD now offers an even bigger burger, Mega Mac. Btw, I did the McD Chant at Centrepoint yesterday and was clocked at 2.5 secs. Got my free Big Mac!) But that's not how dim sum should be. Dim sum (meaning "point at the heart") are small delicate snacks to be enjoyed slowly with a good Chinese tea while reading a stack of newspapers or chatting with friends. For a lot of Hong Kongers, it is eaten everyday, usually for breakfast and extending until lunch, and they don't tire of it because there are so many to choose from. Because of their daintiness, you can eat many different HK dim sum varieties without feeling full. Dim sum in western countries though tasty, are chunky, coarse and very filling. The Japanese know that very well that too much of a good thing will cheapen it so they always give you a dainty portion that makes you want more. Hub thinks I have nothing else to complain about. I guess for a lot of guys "the bigger the better" applies to food too. Am I the only old-fashioned dim sum eater here? Or do you think dim sum should go the Mega Mac way, the bigger the better?

The following photos were taken at NRG and Fu Long (942 Whitehourse Rd, Boxhill), another popular dim sum restaurant in Melbourne which I found was better in terms of taste and variety. Thanks to L & V (LV!) and their 3 wonderful kids for the best barbie ever, plus the dim sum lunch at Fu Long. Will return your treat in December!

Siu mai, King of dim sum, is an all-time favorite for most people. Me, I prefer ha gow, the queen. All siu mai used to be topped with crab roe but these days carrots or prawn roe or even colored sago pearls are used.

Prawn paste wrapped in bean curd sheets.

Battered and deep-fried white baits.

Roasted suckling pig.

Cold cuts of cuttlefish and jellyfish which are fun to eat if you, like me, love chewy and crunchy food.

Battered and deep-fried squid tentacles. Too oily.

Another oil absorber, deep-fried prawn paste nori rolls. In the past, most dim sum were steamed but now for convenience many are deep-fried.

Crullers wrapped in cheong fun.

Pipis in bean paste. The pipis were fresh, sweet and chewy and the beans sauce absolutely delicious.


Ma lai go. Good but not as good as Tai Wing Wah Village Restaurant in Hong Kong. In fact, nobody does it like Tai Wing Wah Village Res.

Mango pudding and jellies.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


What in the world does 'upperstar' * mean? Please somebody put me out of my lexicon misery.


Every time we pass by Upperstar at Damai, the place is packed, from the ground floor to the second floor, to the sidewalk. It looked so hip and happening it made me feel that if I don't check it out, I must be missing out big time. So last Thursday, when the replacement help got a flu, I declared the kitchen closed. We got there 7:30 but the place was already packed so we were seated upstairs. It was cool to be in a happening place with so many young people around. I thought aloud that we should come to these places more often. Hub started calling a friend to arrange lunch for the next day.

The laminated menu came and we oohhed and aahhed over it. So many sides and mains and drinks, all in pictures and best of all, the prices were very reasonable. Spaghetti bolognese for RM6.90/US$2.10, lamb chops for RM12.90/US$4, nasi lemak RM4.90/US$, we better eat there everynight I suggested. On top of the hip surrounding (which is a copy of American chains like TGIF, complete with guitars on walls), there were free computers at the side tables. Free! Another bonus was that the waiters spoke good English. They really had everything covered.

And then the food came. First was the mushroom soup with a pastry top, like a soup pie. The lighting was very dim (in line with the hipness) and most of my pics didn't make it. Before Ming could dig in, I warned them not to eat the pastry because I smelt pastry margarine, that wax-like industrial shortening which doesn't melt in the Sahara and so makes pastry-making a cinch. The boys went straight for the pastry, declaring it "super yummy!" I told you defiance is a family trait. I couldn't try Ming's soup because he was having a sore throat.


Next came the Upperstar special pizza, thick crust for a change. The boys gobbled, then stopped and looked at me and said "No way comparable to your pizzas, mom." Hub took a bite and shook his head. Now that's rare for Hub who eats anything we leave behind. Then it was my turn as they all waited for my verdict. I sputtered and shook my head as I chewed on it, then turned it upside down, and saw that the bottom was white. White! Sign of a pizza baked in a small home-type oven. Fail, fail, fail! Besides the soft crust, the tomato passata was distinctly sweet-ketchupy, a no-no. We were beyond despair as the carbonara fettucine, Wey's favorite order anywhere, came. By the looks of it (with peas, horrors), I knew it would taste worse than any pasta carbonara we have eaten this year and sure enough it was. I can't even tell you how bad it was. Let's just say it was like the cook had no idea what he was cooking, like a white guy cooking chicken rice or something.



Then came Hub's nasi lemak, causing him to shake his head again and that's pretty serious.

Upperstar's nasi lemak, although bad, was still better than AirAsia's.

Next was Ming's sirloin, Wey's lamb chops and my salmon. All fit for the dogs, so I guess we were dogs that night. But some dogs learn fast, and we scrambled out agreeing that it was one of the worst meals ever. It is still a mystery why the place is packed. Are they serving something we don't know of? Or are we the only ones who can't eat Malaysian Italian food? I truly don't know what to make of KKlites' taste. If they love Little Italy, which is one of the better Italian restaurants, then how can they love Upperstar?? Then again, there are people who love Pizza Hut. The wonders of tastebuds diversity. The only thing that was palatable, according to Wey, was the mushroom soup. And I bet it was Campbell's. I am rating this place 4/10, all the 4 points for the setup, ambience and friendly waiters.

I asked for rice in place of the fries. What can I say about this? It was hard to swallow. I imagined this being my last meal, and that did the trick.

Wey said the fries were the worst he has ever ever tasted, and named 3 things wrong with them: soft, 'meatless' and stale oil flavor. I tried one, and was so pleased the boy is good enough to take over my food reviews. The lamb chops? Thin, bland, bland, thin..

Sirloin. What a disgrace. The meat was tasteless, the sauce just salt and pepper.
* Wey asked recently "What does Starbucks mean anyway??" Okay...
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