Saturday, January 31, 2009

Local Malacca Food

Short note: Pardon me for the lack of updates. My finals is next week and I'm sort of struggling to cover all eleven papers in time. That explains why I will not be able to put together a proper entry within this couple of weeks. Here is a way back-dated post about my winter holiday back in Malaysia. And I guess I should resume with my studies now. Wish me luck, and to the rest who are sitting for their finals as well, all the best =)
Ask any Malaccans about what food is famous in Malacca and give them these options:
  1. Satay celup
  2. Chicken rice ball
  3. Durian cendol
  4. Pineapple tarts
Which one do you think most Malaccans will choose as their answer? The truth is, all four types of food above are synonym with this historical town, that I had all four of them again when I was in her hometown. Well, I already tried all of them during my previous visit to Malacca two years ago, but I just couldn't resist the temptations of good food, hence I forced her to take me to try on those food once again.
Zao Jiuu has a bigger sign board, but look at the number of customers at the restaurant on the left.
First up will be the famous Ban Lee Siang satay celup restaurant along Ong Khim Wee Road. I wonder why his parents named him like that, here is my guess: Mrs Ong gave birth to a baby, and their relatives gave them a lot of kim (gold necklace and bracelet, etc), so Mr Ong went "Wheeeee!!!!". That is how the name "Ong Khim Wee" was created.
I guess I shall stop from further making fun of people's name before someone started to poke fun on mine. Back to Ban Lee Siang's satay celup, they have two shops located next to each other, but on that night we went there, only one was opened because the customers were not that many as during peak seasons like school holidays. This restaurant is so famous that people from as far as Penang and Singapore come all the way just to try their satay celup. At times when there are too many people, customers even have to stand and wait before they get a seat. There is another satay celup restaurant just right beside them; although it looked like it offers better ambiance and comfort, it will never match the number of customers who frequent Ban Lee Siang's restaurant.
Nowadays, they serve the satay in trays instead to every table and customers no longer have to walk into the shop and choose their satay from the fridge, which I find more convenient.
Personally, I sometimes feel that this restaurant is over-rated. That is obvious when you get cold treatment from the people serving you. We ordered for two plates of buns and when we asked one girl aunty (Michelle suggested for us to call her aunty afterwards) about our orders, she just showing her hands to gesture us to wait without even looking at us. Then, when the bun was served, she didn't even say anything and just put that plate on our table in a rude manner. Got PMS also don't have to show to customers one, right?
But after a while, she came to asked us if we still want to add any extra sticks of satay. I guess her PMS was over by then.
Just in case you are still in the dark what satay celup is all about, it is something like lok lok, where small pieces of seafood and fried stuff is deep into boiling spicy groundnut sauce and after a while, you take out and eat. One stick is usually 50 cents, but for some with red mark on the stick, they cost 60 cents. Compared to KL standard, that is freaking cheap.
To fulfill the high demand, they use machine to make these rice balls.
Juicy steamed chicken.
Next will be Hainanese chicken rice ball. Looking by its name, you can roughly guess what is it all about. Chicken rice, which is made into rice balls and eaten together with the steamed white chicken. Again, there are so many chicken rice ball restaurant in the town that if you are a foreign tourist, you would have a big problem deciding which one is the best. Michelle prefer the one near to the Clock Tower - Hoe Kee Chicken Rice Ball Restaurant, because she said the chicken there is more tender and juicy.
The interior of the restaurant - always full with customers.

We executed our timing to perfection because roughly about ten minutes we entered this restaurant, we saw people began to queue-up outside due to the lack of seats. Just like the Ban Lee Siang satay celup restaurant, the customers going to this restaurant would just never stop.
She had two balls at once lol.
My way of eating is to cut the rice ball into half and eat them one by one.

Ordering is based of the number of people, and if you feel that you balls are not enough (pun unintended), additional balls can be ordered (again, pun unintended).
Bibik House, which also sells other kinds of Nyonya food like local biscuits and spices.
Durian cendol is another food that Malaccans are proud of. The difference of this kind of cendol is that they add a few scoops of durian flesh as the topping and also, gula Melaka is used to replace the usual brown sugar. We had our durian cendol at Bibik House, and I find that the coconut milk that they use was thicker and tasted much better.
My bowl of durian cendol.
Besides, they allow us to add extra gula Melaka according to our own taste bud. They cost RM3.50 per bowl, and although it is quite pricey, I guess it is due to the fact that they add durian into the cendol.
Bibik House sells pineapple tarts as well, but I was brought to another place which has better pineapple tarts. Better still, it is homemade and fresh-from-oven ones. This lady who makes the tarts do not sell them to any shops as she only takes orders from people. Just in case you are a Malaccan and wish to get some pineapple tart from this place, it is located along Jalan Parameswara.
It's Bee Bee, not Bibik.
You can count yourself lucky if you get to but directly from her when you are there, because sometimes, she doesn't sell in small quantities, especially when there is a high demand for her tarts. There was another lady there who was making orders for Chinese New Year when I was there to get my tarts, when Chinese New Year was still more than one month to go then.
One worker busy putting on the jam onto the pastry.
While another worker was doing the same thing at another corner.
There are two types of pineapple tarts, one is the flat one, and another one would be the rolled one. I prefer the flat one as I get to taste more pineapple jam on the pastry. Michelle prefers the tart made by this aunty because the pastry is more crunchy and it breaks into small pieces when you take a bite on them, unlike the usual ones where they are sticky and soft.
Hot-from-oven pineapple tarts.
The pineapple tarts were just taken out from the oven when I bought them and we couldn't resist ourself to eat them straight away, that we almost finish the whole box when we reached home. One container has 18 pieces inside and it cost RM 12 per container.
One last delicacy before I end this entry is the homemade traditional Nyonya zhang, which was made by Michelle's mum. Nyonya zhang is rather different from the normal zhang because partial section of the glutinous rice is blue, and it taste sweeter than normal ones. I told Michelle jokingly and asked her to tie herself specially for me, and she did that. I wasn't back until a week after she made the zhang, so they were kept in the fridge until I was back last December. That was among few of the stuff she made, that I managed to get to taste.
She did a double knot on hers, to distinguish those tied by her from her mum's one.
How the zhang looks like inside.
When it is made by somebody special, its taste is usually so much better.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CNY Reunion Dinner

It reads, "Happy Niu (Ox) Year".
The reunion dinner we had was so much better than my initial thought.
Rewinding the time to one year ago, we had a simple and low-key celebration because CNY was in the middle of our finals. Hence, everybody except the two 5th year senpais, William and Fong Zyin wasn't really in the mood to celebrate the New Year. This year however, it got a little bit better because our finals will only start one-and-a-half week later.
The honey cornflakes I made when I got too bored with my books.
The last two pieces of pineapple tarts I got from Malacca.
Well, those are the only New Year cookies for me this year.
My mom used to boiled us thong sui (sweet dessert soup) on the first day of CNY every single year. She learned that from my grandma and it has somewhat become a tradition for us to drink longan water with some other traditional herbs like red dates and kee chi. As I brought some of them over to Japan, I made this water on the eve, just like what I did last year. Besides the longan dessert, mee sua is something very common to the Chinese community. It is like an automatic meal for our breakfast on the first day of CNY for my family.
Mee sua and longan water with red dates.
Okay, I guess this post is slowly turning away from the main topic, which is the reunion dinner. Back to the dinner, we went out and shopped for the ingredients in the afternoon that in the end, it took us more than three hours. Can't blame us because it was snowing and hence it made our movement slower. We straight went to the kitchen and prepare the food for the steamboat we were having that night. To save time, we just used the chicken stock cubes to prepare the soup. The irony is, we had two types of soup although it was getting late and our stomach was calling already.
The preparations didn't took us long because we have five of us here. Since we do not have a proper steamboat set, we just used the pot usually used for cooking soup. We used not one, but two pots, for two kind of soups, chicken and tom yam.
We got chicken, pork, fish, mushrooms, tofu, siew kao, meatball and of course eggs.
Miss Jo making sure the tom yam soup doesn't taste weird.
Two couples? (inside joke)
Here's the tom yam soup with the poor tomato.
There is a story behind the poor tomato. Ming Jing bought one tomato, and she planned to used it for the tom yam soup. When Joann came in and saw that tomato inside the plastic bag, she began to laugh at it saying that that tomato is so lonely because we only bought one. So, we cut it into four and by doing that, that tomato was not lonely anymore because he had three extra friends already. Too bad, we ate all of them in the end.
After everything was ready, we started feasting on the food. While eating, we took pictures.
The timer was too fast that I didn't get to grab a chair.

We eat and eat and eat for more than an hour, that one by one started to fell full already. But we only finished half of the food on the table. So, we decided to do a second round on the following night. We went up to our rooms first to take some rest before we got to the kitchen again for the countdown. The rest went there much earlier than me, because I was chatting online with my family and Mich. Of course not both at the same time, I let them take turns to chat with me; like say, ten minutes for each of them. If they wish to extend the time allocated for them, then they have to give me extra ang pao money. See, I still can claim ang pao money despite being separated thousand of miles away from home haha.
The rest who were there earlier started the party first. Ming Jing baked a cheese cake for all of us. It is always nice to have juniors who are good in baking. Lucky Wei Shen.
Rich cheese cake with raisins as toppings.

Busy sending and replying New Year's messages and gambling.
One of the funniest moment that sent all of us bursting into laughter was when we called one of our junior in Wakayama Kosen, Gane - an Indian, who speaks fluent Mandarin. So, we tried to tease him and asked what he did on that night. So he explained to us that he joined the rest for their own reunion dinner at their kitchen on the same night. We then questioned him, asking him why he joined them because he is not a Chinese but he retaliated and kept saying that he's accepted in the community already. Next, we asked him if he received any New Year wishes on his phone.
  • Nagaoka: So, who are the other blur people who sent you CNY messages?
  • Gane: No lor, besides you, I only got from Wan Ying and Bik Yee.
  • Nagaoka: HAHAHA, of course la! What do you expect? You think you're a Chinese isit? Super perasan can! It's not Deepavali lah. Somemore dunno paiseh and wanna wait for people to wish you Happy CNY... *tsk tsk tsk*
(the conversation above was taken lightly as silly jokes and absolutely has no racism sentiment in it, so please do not comment that we are trying to evoke racism sentiment here)
And we laughed for so long - more than one minute I think and left that poor boy waiting on the phone, before continue crapping with him again. That Gane is super funny I tell you. But he is sporting enough to take our jokes and that made everything so much fun.
Sadly, there wasn't any fireworks nor firecrackers when the clock stroked midnight. But here comes the interesting part. Japan is one hour ahead of Malaysia. So, when it's midnight in Japan, it's only eleven in Malaysia. So, is that considered past midnight already or not? Same thing happen whenever I celebrate other days like birthdays and anniversaries. To make that simple, we did the countdown twice. Once at twelve, and another time when it is one in the morning.
This was at twelve midnight.
We waited for another hour and shouted again for the second time at one in the morning.
Just in case you wonder why both of the pictures were taken so accurately that even the second-hand is positioned at twelve sharp, Yan Kuang actually took out the battery. So, that explains everything.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chinese New Year

Short note: The reunion dinner and countdown we had last night was great. Will blog on it soon.
Happy Chinese New Year everyone.
But here I am, typing this from my room in a cool winter night, thousand of miles away from family, relatives and friends. It has been two year; two straight years that I couldn't get to celebrate CNY at home. And it will continue for the next three more year, at least. Not getting the chance to welcome the New Year back home, the feeling is slowly fading away.
I miss the time when I went to my grandparents house to collect ang pow from my grandma, aunts and uncles.
I miss the time when we had steamboat using a charcoal stove on the New Year's Day.
I miss the time when we will clean the house until the last minute, while my mom is busy cooking at the kitchen, but the hard work is worth it because we would have the reunion dinner later that evening.
I miss the time when we celebrate the birthday of the Jade Emperor of Heaven on the ninth day, considered the actual New Year for Hokkiens. Just ask my mom how excited I will be come this night that even until today, I still love it very much.
I miss the time when my sisters and I will race and see who would be the first to light the huge josstick.
I miss the time when we will stay up until three or four in the morning to enjoy the food after the prayers are done. When I was much younger, my grandma used to stay up the whole night to chop the roasted pork to be distributed to everyone, while the kids will play with firecrackers till non-stop.
I miss the time when we gather on our grandma's house and it was during these times that I get to see my cousins who stay at outstations.
I miss the time when I will do silly stuff with my mostly young cousins. Here's Kilian proudly posing with his Power Puffs ang pao. Just in case you are wondering why he looks like an ang moh, his dad is a German.
I miss the times when I got to play bunga api with my little cousins although most of the time, I will end up being the babysitter.
I miss the time when my friends and I would go out for a gathering and makan together.
But most importantly, I miss the time when I get to be by the side of my loved ones.

But hey, today is suppose to be a happy day. So what if I don't get to be at home now? I know I am not alone. Everyone studying or working in oversea surely share the same sentiment. Three years will be over in no time. I hope so. I'll make my wish simple. May the Year of Ox will bring good health, good fortune, and good luck to all.
Gong Xi Fa Cai.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Simple Message On The Eve

"This story is based on two things:
The actor's real life regrets about his late father; and a Japanese poem by Shuntaro Tanikawa, written for the poet's late father."
Yasmin Ahmad

Try to spend a couple of minutes to watch this one. Trust me, the wait for the video to load is certainly worth it.

Another thought-provoking Petronas ads from Yasmin Ahmad for the Chinese New Year celebration this year. Just like me, being separated thousand of miles away from home, you may not be able to spend time with your parents and loved ones, but a simple phone call once in a while will definitely brings a lot of happiness and delight to them. At the end of the day, you won't live with regrets anymore because you know you'd done your part. That's what my mom always tells my siblings and I about the things she'd done for our late grandpa when he was still alive. The ads itself is enough to bring across the message, which never fails to make me shed tears everytime I watch them.
Touching and meaningful.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My First Igloo

It is my childhood dream to get a chance to build an igloo. I mean a real-sized igloo, not a mini one. As if we haven't had enough of snow a day earlier, my Japanese classmates and I, together with Yan Kuang went to the exact site where we built our snowman a day earlier, on a different mission. Earlier, I came back from my lunch and received a message on my cellphone from my Japanese tutor.
今ヒマ?テニスコートで一緒にかまくら作ろうよ! (Are you free now? How about building a "kamakura" at the tennis court?)
At first, I didn't know what "kamakura" is; all I know is "kura-kura". Despite not knowing what that supposed to be, I ignored my blurriness and went straight to the tennis court to see what they planned to do. When I reached there, I saw six of my Japanese classmates plus Yan Kuang were working tirelessly accumulating the snow to one spot. I knew for instant what they had in their minds. They planned to build an igloo.
The mount of snow was already that high when I arrived. That is the snowman we built in the background.
Initially, I thought of just going there to have a look, because I was still tired from building the snowman a day before. But I couldn't resist the temptation of getting the opportunity to join them and build an igloo, because chances like this don't come often. Not every part of Japan snows, and it would be impossible for me to do it in Malaysia.
Without having any knowledge of the basics and principles of building an igloo, the two of us just followed whatever the Japanese kids did. When they collected the snow from the tennis court, we did the same thing. When they compacted the snow to make it hard, we did that as well. However, we soon realised that the distance we have to carry the scooped snow to the main site was slowly becoming further and further away. So, my tutor Tanaka came out with an idea of making snowballs and rolling them to the main site of our igloo to save our energy.
First step was to make a small snowball and making sure that the snowball is as compact as possible.
Next, put the snowball on the bed of snow and slowly roll them as the size of the snowball would begin to get bigger and bigger.
However, if we continued doing it alone continuously and didn't pay much attention to the size of the snowball, it would get pretty huge until it became impossible for one person to roll it anymore. Take this as an example.
"Can somebody lend me a hand?"
Mind you, the snowball might look not that big but trust me, it is quite heavy. There was one time when I rolled a snowball so big that I needed two extra persons to roll it over to the igloo site. That snowball was easily more than 100kg, by my rough estimation. Another way of delivering the snowball would be by using a trolley.
But at times, some of them hopped onto it and asked another friend to push the trolley so that he could glide on the snow.
"Here comes another snowball!"
Subsequently, we piled the snowball onto the mount of snow to make it wider and higher, until it reached a satisfying size. More often than not, the snowballs we rolled were too huge and heavy that it was impossible for us to lift and stack them on the mount of snow. So, we had to break them into smaller parts before stacking them. To make sure the structure was strong enough, Yan Kuang climbed onto the mount of snow and used his legs and shovel to further compact the snow.
Instead of the conventional way of the construction of an igloo, in which they stack snowbricks from the base to the top, we used a different method. We made a huge compact dome first, before we dig out the snow to make a hole inside the dome.
Compacting the snow to make sure the igloo would be strong enough and won't collapse easily.
Digging the hole of the dome from the front.
The digging task took longer than the time we used to accumulate the snow. We took turns to go inside the igloo and dug out the excessive snow. At the same time, we made sure the wall of the igloo was thick enough to support the whole structure. There were a few times when some of us over-dug it and created a hole on the wall. Every time that happened, we quickly get some snow and paste those holes. As for the rest, they slowly clear the area around the igloo and some even make some snow carvings along the entrance to the igloo. When I went and took a closer look, it was a head of a creature, more like a monster with its tongue sticking out.
Finally, after more than two hours of continuous effort, our igloo was completed. I have to say that we did it much faster than what I'd expected because we took more almost three hours to build the snowman a day before. Perhaps the numbers we had made the job finished much faster. But the most important thing, we had great fun!
To make our igloo more interesting, we built two long ears to it as well.
This is the creature, who guards our igloo.
The sense of accomplishment was much felt as soon as our igloo were completed. So, we took some time to camwhore at our creation.
Ohh, hi!
Matsuya (class monitor lol), Tanaka (my tutor) and me, while having hot coffee
inside the igloo.
One group photo before we headed back to finish our undone assignments lol.

It was indeed a great experience, and my childhood dream has come true.