Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wat Tan Hor Yaki Udon

This is what you get from a fusion between Malaysian wat tan hor with Japanese yaki udon.
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Tempting, eh?
Literally, wat tan hor means "smooth egg flat rice noodle" (koey teow) in Cantonese. Koey teow are not sold in Japan, so I substituted it with the thick Japanese noodle called udon instead. Previously, I only used the normal yee mee which I brought over from Malaysia. However, I thought of trying to use udon and see how would it turn out and I can say that it was not bad. Here is the recipe for anyone who feel like trying it.
Noodle
  • 400gm udon
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 3/4 tablespoon light soy sauce (醤油)
  1. Heat oil in wok and saute minced garlic.
  2. Toss in the udon and stir for a while.
  3. When it is a little warm and slightly sticky, add in dark soy sauce and light soy sauce.
  4. Add a pinch of salt for taste and stir a little while more.
  5. Put cooked noodles on a plate and leave aside.
Gravy
  • 150 gm chicken fillet
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon corn flour
  • 3/4 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 sticks of chikuwa (to replace fishcake)
  • 4 stalks of mustard greens (sawi)
  • 4 cups water
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Oil
  1. Heat oil in wok and saute minced garlic until fragant.
  2. Add in the chicken and continue stirring the chicken until it turns white.
  3. Add in water and let it boil a while.
  4. Put in dark soy sauce and light soy sauce and continue stirring.
  5. After a while, put in chikuwa, add salt and sugar according to own preference.
  6. While stirring the boiling gravy, add in corn flour to thicken the gravy and bring it to boil again.
  7. Toss in the mustard greens and do a quick stir.
  8. Turn of the heat and pour in the lightly beaten egg and continue stirring it for a while.
  9. Ladle the gravy over the previously cooked noodles. Serve hot.
Thank you for reading.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My First Homestay Experience

The opportunity to join a homestay program came just at the right time. As it was only open for five people from my college, we had to draw lots because eight of us applied for it. I got lucky to be picked and I was joined by three other Malaysians and one Mongolian to Mitsuke city. After the ice-breaking and introduction session, each of us followed our respective family back to their home. I was not alone because I shared a foster dad with Yan Kuang.
So, guess who we got as our foster dad?
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Mr Suzuki Akira, the chairman of the association.
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We were served with a cup of green tea and a piece of marshmallow thingy when we reached his house.
First thing he did to us was to interview us. Really, I am not bluffing you. He took out a pen and paper, and started asking about our family background, how many siblings we have, are we still single or married and do we have any children. Yes, you guess it correctly. I was only making up the last two question.
We continued chatting and the topic changed from about-ourself to about-our-country. So, he took a map book and flipped to the South East Asia page and we told him where our hometown is located. At first, he pointed to the forest region in Sarawak and asked me if I come from that area. Haha, my dad can be really funny also. He might as well point to the middle of the South China Sea and pick one tiny island and ask me if I originated from that island.
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Making a point to Mr Suzuki about our country.
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His factory, which is just opposite his house.
Apparently, he owns a company that deals with recycling industry. His company will collect the middle hard part of all kinds of tape from various source within the prefecture and bring them back to the factory. At the factory, they will process those parts and reuse them when making new tapes. I am not very sure of the details, but that was the brief explanation of what his company does. He keep on talking for hours that there were times I almost fell asleep, but I tried my best not to doze off because that is just not the right thing to do as a guest.
We were supposed to have a dinner with his son and daughter-in-law with their two children later that night. Soon enough, they arrived and we saw his two little grand-daughters, Nana and Momo. Later from our conversation with his son, we were told that he was an ex-classmate with my current Maths lecturer in my college. The world just doesn't get any smaller than this, does it?
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The two of us with Mr Suzuki's son.
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His little granddaughter, Nana.
Just when we were going to start our dinner, came an emergency phone call. Apparently, Mr Suzuki's mum had fallen ill for sudden and was rushed to the hospital. We later found out that the blood vessel in her brain had burst and need an operation immediately. Sound so much like a drama, isn't it? So, he had to rush to the hospital to see his mum and of course he felt bad about it because we were just going to have a dinner together.
The life of his mum certainly comes first and we told him it's perfectly alright and we understood the situation. Despite so, he even spared a couple of minutes to kampai-ed before he left for the hospital with his wife.
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One picture together before he left.
So, we were left to have our dinner with his son and his family. From their face, I know they were worried for their grandmum as well, but they had a guest there so they just couldn't just leave us there by ourselves. At the same time, we also felt bad because our presence was like stopping them from going to see their grandmum. Anyway, we put that away for a while and started our dinner.
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I don't think my mum will kill me if she sees me drinking lol.
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Nana and me just couldn't wait for the soup to boil.
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Talking to the little girl while we waited for the soup.
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At last, she began to talk to me because she was very shy at first.


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It was hard to get the girl smile.

I have to say I am not really into drinking, and I never get myself drunk even once. Although I don't drink much, but my alcohol tolerance level is quite good I guess. At least my face still stayed the same after two cans of beer.
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Different case for Yan Kuang after he finished his one can lol.
After our dinner, we rested in the living hall while watching the television and continued our conversation with his son. However, I spent more time playing around with the kids.
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The two of them during the dinner.
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I wonder why she made this funny expression.
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Trying to figure out what are the shapes of chocolates inside the packet was.

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There was one section of the house where there is this hole on the ceiling and I carried them as high as I could and they enjoyed it.

Mr Suzuki and his wife came back later that night and told us his mum is in a stable condition, much to our relieve. We continued chatting and he told us about his vacation experiences to various places like Phuket and Saipan. He is interested in snorkeling and most of the places he went were mainly to snorkel. From the pictures he showed us, we found out that he is just a typical older Japanese generation who spend much of their time travelling around. By the way, he loves durian a lot, much to my surprise.
The next morning, he knocked our door at eight sharp to have our breakfast. During this time, he told us that he had to go to the hospital again because the condition of his mum is not getting any better and they weren't even sure if she could last until noon. Before that, we have our breakfast first and that was when my worst fear came. One big piece of natto was served with a raw egg. Others were okay to me, but not natto. The last and only time I had natto was when I first came to Japan at my dormitory canteen and that was like almost two years ago. Nevertheless, I managed to finished the whole bowl.

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Japanese breakfast is so colourful.
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This is Mrs Suzuki after our late supper on the first night, which consisted of onigiri, rice crackers and soft drinks.
I was hoping my experience would be much better than what I had experienced during that two short days, as it didn't turn out like what I had expected. Nevertheless, what happened was something nobody had predicted and I truly understand it. I am also impressed with the way both of them handle the situation because they still remained calm as ever although they know that their mum is in critical condition. The most we could do is to pray that his mum will get well and recover quickly.
Just for the record, their mum is already 95-year-old.
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Just before we left, we had another picture at his garden.
We didn't leave empty handed because he gave each of us a box of rice biscuit. A couple of days later, he sent me a CD containing the pictures taken throughout our stay there, with a short message that says, "Sorry for what that had happened, but I wish to meet you guys again soon."
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The souvenir and the CD he sent to me.
By that time, I hope we would get the chance to meet his mum as well.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

One Simple Way To Get A Datukship

Short note: This is going to be one hell of a long post. Give yourself a clap if you managed to go through the details.
I am not kidding here; you just need a white paper, a few colourful markers and ability to draw at least a sweet potato. Details later on.
A couple of weekends ago, I was away for the "Autumn Homestay Program 2008", organised by the local community from the cultural exchange center of Mitsuke city, a small town located about ten-minute train ride from Nagaoka. As the places for this program were limited, they only took five international students from my college, to join ten other international students from Nagaoka University of Technology (NUT) and International University of Japan (IUJ) in Urasa.
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That cute little blue bus is the one that picked us up from Mitsuke station to take us to the local community center.
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International Cultural Exchange
Association of Mitsuke City.
One of the first thing that I realised upon reaching the train station and coming face to face with other international students is that we still stick to our people, and we find it difficult to start a conversation with the students from other countries. Well, the same thing happened to the Thai, Bangladeshi and Venezuelans group as well. I guess we the Malaysian students from my college have got used to the huge number of Malaysians in our college that we only mingle among ourselves most of the time. In the process, we hardly get the chance to practise our Japanese with other international students. Inside the small bus, there were so many languages heard that I bet the poor driver must have gotten totally blur.
It was from then that I came to realise that it would be a different experience if we get to mix with other international students more often because there are so many things that we can learn from people from the other side of the world. The rich and diverse culture and lifestyle, the great food, the beautiful language and of course, learning vulgar words in other foreign languages so that the person you will say those words to will have no idea whatsoever lol.
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The name tag I received upon reaching the reception desk.
There were fifteen international students from seven countries in total; in which five were from Malaysia, three from Thailand, two each from Bangladesh and Venezuela, while Indonesia, Mongolia and Mexico had one representative each. Before we followed our foster family to their respective home, we had some ice breaking ceremony, where we were joined by a group of primary school students from Kamikitadani Primary School.
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The kids who joined us.
The event started off with the MC welcoming all the participant of the homestay program and followed by the chairman of the association, Mr Suzuki Akira who express his hope that we would enjoy our two days with our foster family. It was my first time to join a homestay in Japan, and I must say I had butterflies and grasshoppers plus earth worms in my stomach because I wonder if I will do something silly which is against the norm of the Japanese lifestyle when I reach their house.
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The MC of the day.

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Another short speech.
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Mr Suzuki with his welcoming address.
Subsequently, we were required to go forward to give a brief introduction about ourselves. While the five of us from my college being an exception, the rest of the international students are doing their post-graduate course in their respective university and their command in Japanese is just barely enough for them to survive in Japan. That is why they took so long time to think of a word at times. Anyway, they managed go through that session pretty good and the five of us were the last to introduce ourselves to the people present. Besides our name and our country of origin, we were also asked to say the word "konnichiwa" in our own language. Me being the last one among the five Malaysian, there is certainly nothing left for me to say, after all my four friends before me had said them all
So, I taught them how to say "aishiteru" in Malay.
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One of the Thai girl trying her best during the introduction session.
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"Saya cinta padamu..."
The event followed by a rendition of chorus by the kids. They performed two songs as their teacher was playing the piano at the same time.
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The performance by the kids.
It was almost noon by then and everyone was treated to a light lunch. It came at the perfect time because I just had a few piece of biscuits early that morning and my stomach was calling already.
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It's lunch time!
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Imagine how much calories in these food.
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Who would not want to eat these delicious fresh sushi?
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The kids were the one who were the most excited during this time as they enjoyed every kinds of food served on the table.

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There was one time when I asked for a piece of onigiri from them. I asked if there was still any sake (salmon) onigiri left, but they immediately responded to me by flapping both of their hands like salmon fins to tell me that it is sake (salmon), not sake (Japanese wine).
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It was during this time we got to talk to our foster family for the first time.

I tried to approach the kids and start a conversation with them while we had our lunch. To my surprise, they were far more friendlier than what I expected and they talked to me as if they have known me for years. While talking to a group of kids, came three little girls in which one of them came to me and told me something that made me laughing my ass off. She walked to me and with her sheepish smile, she said to me, "You got a nice body." You tell me, how can I control myself from laughing that time. I tried asking her back, whether she was sure what she just said to me moments ago, and she nodded. I am not trying to be vain here, but people always say kids don't lie, do they?
While we were enjoying the food, we took some time to camwhore as well.
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Some of the kids with their piano teacher who accompanied them.
By the way, the three girl in the middle are the ones who told me that I got a nice body lol.

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Gerard Caballero from Mexico and Stephanie Noguera from Venezuela with their foster mother.
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Several other international students from Thailand and Bangladesh.
The session took a short break after lunch and we took the opportunity to have some look at the ikebana (flower arrangement) exhibition just next to the place where the event was held. I once tried my hand on this Japanese art a year before this and I have to say it is not as simple as it looks like. From what I still remember from the workshop I attend last year, there is a certain shape and determined angle for each stalk of the flowers.
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Some of the exhibits of ikebana.

However, we continue our camwhoring sessions at the exhibition area with the kids.
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The girl in blue top at the far left is from Thailand.
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I was w
rapping my arms around the shoulder of one of them while walking and talking to him, when we suddenly stopped and the rest line-up in a straight row to make a staircase-like formation to have our photo taken.
The event later continued with another song performance by the kids.
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This time, having talked to them for some time already, some of them made eye contact with me while singing.
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They were just giving chance for the house flies to make their big business with the widely opened mouth.
Next, one of the member of the association introduced a book, which is a collection of poems written by a boy who was diagnosed with some diseases and passed away at the tender age of twenty-one. The book has two version - the original in Japanese and the translated English version as well. He used English throughout his speech and I must say I am impressed with his proficiency, that even beats my English lecturer in my college. However, I later realised that what he said was almost exactly the same as the introduction part of that book.
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That pink book is the one which contains the collection of poems.
The next session was one of the session everybody was looking forward to. We have been told to prepare a short presentation to introduce our country a few days before we attend this homestay program. A night before that, we brainstormed with others and tried to figure out the best way to make a presentation. In the end, we divided it into three main parts - geography and general facts about Malaysia, the multi-cultural race in the country and traditional games and sports synonym with our country.
We went there with a white paper with a map of Malaysia drawn on it and a takraw ball.
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Here are the five Malaysians who will introduce Malaysia to the Japanese, while I was figuring out what I should talk later on.
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A map of Malaysia, which I am sure it looks just like a sweet potato to the Japanese.
When I was having a chat with the kids earlier, I asked them whether they know anything about Malaysia. One of them said she heard of it, but didn't know the location of our country. Next, I asked her if she knows where Singapore and Thailand is, and she nodded her head. I don't know whether I should be pissed off, angry, sad, or what when I heard such reply.Whatever it is, it's already a well-known fact that people know the tiny island more than our fat and long sweet potato.
But it is a bitter and pain fact.
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I know nobody will bother much if I read out the history of our country, but what written on that paper was just a few points I wanted to let the Japanese know.
It was during my turn to speak that I tried my best to let them know about Malaysia. Initially, I wanted to explain about the Jalur Gemilang but we forgot to bring it along with us that day. I tried looking at more than thirty flags hung at the ceiling but unfortunately, I couldn't locate our flag. I actually mentioned that to the organiser and they seemed to feel bad about it.You invite a group of students from a country, yet you hang the flags from other countries. That is just not very right, isn't it?
During one part when I talked about the races and ethnics in our country, when I mentioned that we have aborigines living in the forest. But I stresses a few times that they live in a proper wooden house, and not on top of trees, and the crowd just laughed off when they heard that. I'm not kidding you, some Japanese still think we live on trees.
Sad story, huh?
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At least I managed to make the kids to concentrate on what I was speaking.
If you follow the news, recently there was this story about the Malaccan government which decided to award a Datukship to one Bollywood star because that star apparently attracted a huge number of tourists to the city from one of the movie in which he starred in. It is something like he has promoted Malaysia to the world and by dong that, he was awarded a Datukship. Now, here is one question. The five of us here is also doing the same thing, few thousands of miles at home and it makes sense that we will be awarded the same thing when we are back home, right?
Anyway, the session later continued with the groups from Thailand, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Venezuela, Mexico and Mongolia. The Indonesian girl asked for a translator because her vocabulary is still very limited and one of us volunteered and went in front to help her out.
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Team Thailand.
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Team Bangladesh.
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Team Indonesia.
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Team Venezuela.

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Team Mexico.
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Team Mongolia.

During the question and answer session after the Thai finished presenting about their country, I raised my hands when it seemed like nobody was going to ask any questions. My question was, "How do you say aishiteru in Thai?". Instantly, everyone looked to my direction as if I just shot the Japanese Emperor.
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Chan rak khun.
So, that girl taught us how to say "I love you" in Thai. I thought of trying to be funny by saying the same thing to her, but that is just too much and I decided against doing that silly act. Anyway, after that Thai group, one of my friend did the same thing to the rest of the groups, and every time he finished asking the group members, he will say the question was from me and I was too shy to ask so many times. When it got to the forth or fifth group, even before he started asking the group members, the kids already turned their head behind to my directions automatically and I was like what-the-fish-I'm-innocent lah.
After the introduction session ended, it was the time for the kids to leave and we had a group picture together before we followed our foster parents back to their home.
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Our group photo.
I realised there is one interesting thing about this group photo when I saw the people who took it for us.
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Golden generations taking pictures using various types of cameras.
Who said grandpas and grandmas cannot be technology savvy?