Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thai Green Curry Laksa (Taman Free School)

        I passed by this stall many times wanted to order something from it but always got disappointed because it's not open.

        It's a beautiful Sunday today and while we were discussing where to have our breakfast, I decided to visit here for breakfast (but never have any specific thought about this stall).

        So to my surprise, it's open today!

        We ordered thai green curry and this is how it looks...

        First of all, before really digging into the taste of spiciness, we're impressed by:-
        (1) The portion
        (2) The very nice serving dishes, and
        (3) The friendliness of the seller

        Oh come on every now and then we tend to see the lousiest manners hawker or ones always reflecting how hard to earn a living being a hawker by serving lesser portion but higher price. But this one is totally different!

        And the seller would come by to give us extra soup, sat down to chat with us about Kathina in different places, and offer us nice desert without extra charge (of course we were receiving these offerings with gratefulness and not here to spread the idea so people can go there with an expectation to get free stuff).

         He serves other Thai food too, such as Maeng-Kam, Thai Fried Rice and so on. He highlighted all the spices and fresh ingredients are imported from Thailand (supposing he's serving with a group of people who help to provide him the supply).

         I told him about my experience that always found his stall not open and he told me that was because he went to places for charity work. And the receiving of selling these food will go to charity.

         One thing I must highlight - the taste of the food very not local. With all the spices and chillies (ah, it's hot-and-spicy from tongue to tummy, mind you), I could almost feel like I am in Thailand.

         Wanna know where is the location? Here's the pointer:

       If you come from Green Lane McD:
       (1) Take your 12 o'clock when you come to the round-a-bout.
       (2) Immediately turn left and then right after you passed a small car park.
       (3) Go straight until you come to a junction on your left where there's a no entry sign.
       (4) Walk in and it's the first stall on your right.

       What's better when you enjoy good food, great manner and the proceeding goes to charity?

       I am very grateful for this wonderful morning, to have eaten such filling meal both body, mind and soul, and to have met such inspiring person.

       Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu! (*with Wai - palms pressed together in a prayer-like gesture)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Michael Fassbender in SHAME

        It's a real world. If you are in the train and someone is looking at you. It very much depends on the look of the person who stares at you, for you to decide whether it is a treat or a threat.

        It applies to both men and women.

        Well I would love to see more of Brandon's (Michael Fassbender) story than only his connection, interaction or behavior only although it is intense looking and feeling his loneliness and distance from people around him. But I like his acting. He kept me wondering what's running in his head when he sat/lied there alone.

I like movie that takes in not only the emotion but also the real side of life. And a good film can have nudity and sex scene yet still make no porno feel.

       Carey Mulligan sings well. But I still like better how Michael actually shed that drop of tear when looking at his sister singing.

       Loneliness is like a big shadow.

       It consumes people.

And it is sad to know that more and more people succumb to this monster. Perhaps that is why this movie became the 2nd highest grossing (17 million) by the end of its theatrical run.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Embrace the Spiciness of Penang (pt 3)

          Ok, it's the middle of the day. And the bus that's supposed to pick us up was late so our time to visit the nature that nests quite some spices' plant got pushed further so we reached Botanic Gadens around noon. AROUND NOON!!!!! Oh for those of you not too familiar with Penang's climate, it's located at a mere 5 degree N from the Equator.

          Even the big old trees can't save us from sun shining vertically straight downward!

          But (there's always but), because we have a nice(looking) gentleman, who is a historian residing in Penang committed to researching East India Co., to be our guide explaining how Penang was once the center of attention of the world because of spices thus it became less uncomfortable (well, it worked for me though *blush*). He's Tengku Idaura's friend - Mr. Marcus Langdon (some information Mr Langdon shared can be found here).

        Honestly, Penangite especially the younger generations need to hear what Mr. Langdon say. I mean if someone can traveled the world and decided to stay here, we've got to know it better than knowing only "FOOD HAVEN"!

        Oh, speaking of food...., anyway (please don't blame me, Penangite are blessed with good tongue), our lunch awaits at D'dapur.

        Do I need to explain more than "savor the mouth watering dishes"?

        Ok, overall my trail mates said the food are too spicy but I think it's still ok. However, honestly, the dishes did disappoint me.

        I mean I have had a very interesting learning the whole morning so I was expecting something more spicy - not spicy hot but the kind that I can let my tongue and nose practically experience the awesomeness of spices such as clove, cinnamon, star anise, cumin etc. Instead, I had mostly spicy food that can only be classified into "super hot", "hot" or "not hot", and sweet at the same time. The manager did come by to ask about what we think of the food. When I tell him they are relatively sweet, he said "oh ya, because people tend to prefer sweet" (oh really? then why's your red bean in Chendol not sweet at all?).

       Anyway, after such heavy lunch we headed to another big library of spices - Tropical Spice Garden.

        This 4.5acre of award winning landscaped design garden within a secondary forest sanctuary is a total awesome place. It's home to over 500 species of tropical flora and fauna with a special emphasis on spices and herbs is definitely a great place to learn as a tourist or researcher. Besides, they have very nice little museum, a gift shop sells types of spices, a restaurant serves cold beer, and gazebo area that is able to host a small-and-close-group wedding or family functions.

        The guided tour is definitely an interesting thing because beautiful knowledge about mother nature and how these common looking plants can be so insightful will not be known without indication and proper explanation.

        And after a long day of walking and sweating, we're treated with a spice-inspired massage to wrap up our fruitful journey.

        It's a tiring but enjoying trail and gratitude is gratefully expressed to Ministry of Tourism Penang Office for such inspiring day, to Project Penang that always strive to promote the beauty of Penang in every possible way, and to our lovely guide Joann for being such a wonderful company in making the whole trip full of joy and enriched with wisdom.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Embrace the Spiciness of Penang (pt 2)

       Word of the day - spice.
                                    Pronunciation: /spʌɪs/                                    noun
1. an aromatic or pungent vegetable substance used to flavor food.

        Or, as Wikipedia say, a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or vegetative substance (except the leaf, which is known as "herb") primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food (oh that's what the guide said too!).

        To know spice better, in terms of variety and it's use, we should always go to the expert. Academically a scholar is a good reference. But if you are looking at "less book but more practical" way, you should go to someone who almost live, eat, sleep and even breath spices.

        I call it "the making of a wonderful world (of spices)" - machine running non-stop processing the main player of a thousand interesting dishes (ahh.............. *Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" playing in background).

        Anyway, if the last thing you want to experience when you walk into a shop wishing to know more about something is to get shooed away with a cold-I am too busy for your questions unless you are buying-face, I suggest you come to this one here because the owner is nice enough to explain their merchandise patiently.

        Look, I have proof!

(p/s: isn't the straw hat something? Look at that flower! Geez, sorry Jaime, I just can't help it but keep on noticing your "topi"!)

       Penang got her name after the malay name of betel nut - Pinang. Penang's "full name" is Pulau Pinang, where Pulau means "island". Thus Pulau Pinang means "the island of betel nut". Today, many part of the world still maintain the habit of chewing wrapped betel nut but you hardly see people practice this locally (except some older generations). A typical betel nut wrap is less common these days. Instead, they come in "flavors" now. Yes, some smart merchants make it fancy by adding in chocolate or cherry to make it.....well, let's just say, "taste trendier".

        I was told betel nut wrap played a medical role, like antiseptic to kill the germs that cause bad breath (ewwww!!!) in the olden days. So how does it taste like? Err, sorry folks, I brush and gargle Listerine. :P

        Another specialty is Nutmeg. The fruit can be made pickle, or dried and grated then rind with sugar then eaten like titbits or the latter can be used as garnishing for local desert - ice-kacang. Or made drinks, white in color if it is juiced raw and red with it's cooked. When processed, it's oil and balm, being used as medicine; and made powdered to be widely used as seasoning for food.

        One interesting fact that I learned from this trail is: nutmeg has sex! I mean there are male and female nutmeg. Now I don't know whether it is related to something/anything in our world, it is said that every tree that produces nutmeg fruits has (much) less male than female.

        The difference between two? Well, I am not into writing a thesis about nutmeg so I am going to make it short here - one has 2 sections and another has 4.

(to be continued)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Embrace the Spiciness of Penang (pt 1)

        Just when we thought we have seen it all how beautiful Penang is, something that once being widely spoken of has returned - Hot and Spicy!

        Spices not necessarily to be hotty spicy but they sure give a "kick" in our flavors if used right. That is why Ministry of Tourism Penang Office decided to awake the classic image of Penang - so that people know why she was once a hot chick to many continents and countries.

        This trail, just like the one I had before (the coffee trail), allowed me to experience the subject in every possible way - see, know, touch, and taste. Ever better, we have a guide this time to make the whole trip even more interesting by learning the juicy stories of streets, places, buildings along the way.

        It's called The Spice Trail, ladies and gentlemen (here is the newspaper reporting).

        When you come to Penang. Don't just come and go. Don't just eat and leave. Don't just take pictures and post on FB (*ha!).

        Both you and Penang deserve a real deal in seeing and showing the true beauty regardless you are on a luxury breakaway such as staying in boutique hotel down town, resort style beach hotel by the coast line or spending on budget backpack trip.

         Look for a good guide who can bring you into the core of it if you are not into "find out yourself" type, or dig deep if you are the kind that love to appreciate the city you visit with your own style.

        First of all, look up.

        The buildings built during the time of British Colonial have some "signatures"  - name, logo, numbers and even symbolic decorative. Below are some of the many spotted beautiful buildings along the way of this trail.

(Left: the old logo for OCBC; Top: George Town Dispensary;
Bottom: Coins, Bamboos, Bats (means fortune, endless, joy); Right: year of completion)
        Secondly, look for small blue board like this. There are plenty of boards like this in the city, usually located at the either end of a street. Because Penang is a multiracial city and this culture has been around for decades thus you will find different names (in different language) for the same street and the come-about of such names.

        We were walking down the road towards little india and our guide said, "let's cross the street. I want to show you all something".  

        For example, if the street is known as "chicken sale street" to the local Chinese then you can't go wrong with there were plenty of chicken sellers here long ago.

        As we passed the houses in this little street, we reach............... 

BREAKFAST! (*yay!!)

        Malaysian food is so flavorful. Almost all types of food you can find in Malaysia contain spices ("die die" also have got to have spice in one way or another even it is not found in that food itself). For instance, the gravies for ROTI. Spices not only make food tastier, they also make food prettier. Look at the buckets - yellow, red, orange. Don't you just love and enjoy your food better? Don't get scared away, not all red equals to hotty-spicy (just like Jalapeno can be firey even it's green).  

(to be continued)


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It's Penang World Dance Day, peeps

    It gave me a heartache when I heard from a friend that this year's Penang World Dance Day receives no monetary support from any of the YB (Yang Berhormat, people's representatives in Malaysian politic).

    While standing at the crossroad not knowing how to make thing happen without having the right supports, Aida finally decided to continue such wonderful event out of her own pocket.

    Unlike the United States (and probably many other countries that take arts seriously), Malaysian tend to look at arts differently. Like they are so impractical (unless they make you good money), and irrelevant to our daily lives (because they are just hobby).

    So when Aida made up that decision to carry on with her plan, she'd prepared to accept the worst - spending money to receive very very little respond. She contacted different instructors from various dance genre and received their kind support to provide workshop without charge. And thank goodness the results were total opposite.

    Instead of worrying not enough participants to join the classes, they have got overwhelming signup until they have to close registration one day prior to the event.

    The event was a big success and everybody went home that day with happy smile on their face.

    Now what if this event is being supported by our government? With more funding to conduct such event, more participation can be expected, and the media will be much much more interested in reporting.

    Don't you think it is something that helps society to build arts awareness, forms a platform for teenagers to get involve in healthy and positive self exploration, and most of all, we show other states in Malaysia - Penang, once again, sees higher and further than the rest?

    With my own eyes, I see joy and happiness through different languages spoken with movement happening without barriers and obstacles. And I don't know how much discount have penangpac given but that little box of donation was filled with heavy gratitude.

    Do you think arts is nothing? See So You Think You Can Dance in the United States. It has successfully bring together people throughout the country (and the whole world) to the awareness of how dance can be a good market.

    Care or care not the growth and future of youth and children via different path than being doctor or engineer and architect, it is all up to your own wisdom.

(photo courtesy of Allspire Photography)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What else can you do in Penang?

For those who know where Penang is and what Penang is all about, this question will sound more intriguing. Because Penang is generally known as "Food Haven" and also a World Heritage Site (the capital city, George Town), thus besides filling your tummy and enjoying the heritage mood, you may want to ask, "what else?"

Unlike busy like a bee big cities Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia's capital city) or Singapore, Penang is unique in such a way that her pace is always focusing on "enjoyment". It doesn't mean Penang isn't as well developed rather she has the personality of "busy when you should, but never forget to enjoy life".

So I spent my Sunday, waking up early just to explore this experience - know, learn, understand, taste (including drink and eat), and feel coffee.

The trail is a carefully planned thing. Every stop is carefully arranged so we get to walk the trail like walking a path - from traditional to modern, starting with a cup of coffee that will bring you go down memory lane.

This is the typical local breakfast, especially for the Chinese (since the olden days). A cup of local black coffee (or you may choose the one with condensed milk) + 2 slices of toast (with butter and sugar/coconut milk jam) + 2 half-boiled eggs.
Most of the traditional coffee shops in Penang do serve this breakfast but my secret to you is, "find ones that serve Hainanese Bread because it is thicker, fluffier, and smells perfectly right after toasted with charcoal". Add a touch of pepper powder and some light soya sauce to the eggs and finish it while still warm (because it will taste bad when got cold), and sip the coffee to let the aroma quietly slipped down your throat.

It is always the best time to learn something after a fresh and energetic start.

According to Victor, coffee drinking is a culture.

Well of course. From types and nature of different beans, the roasting knowledge, brewing technique and sharing the passion with customers is definitely no easy job.

Knowing more about what you eat and drink helps a lot in appreciating food, especially the good ones. Although my weak stomach was feeling a little upset after sipping the syphon prepared coffee (Ethiopia & Sumatra Mandehling), I did feel good knowing there is a place in Penang where the focus of setting up such a place is more on cultivating a culture than solely making money.

Besides, it is a Car-Free day in the vicinity on Sunday so strolling on the street enjoying the historical buildings is another enjoyment.

Next stop, we visited (to me) a very strange but interesting place - a cafe named "Satorini" but serves nothing related to the original place neither decorated like one, for aspecially catered lunch - Chicken Chop in Coffee Sauce/Fried Rice with Coffee Chicken Bites and Ice-Cream in Coffee Syrup.

Our journey continued to spa at Danai Spa in G-Hotel. Yes of course, the spa is definitely related to coffee. I can't explain about this part because our group was too big and so I agreed to come back another day with a voucher. Anyway, it is a Coffee Body Scrub and Coffee Back Massage treatment. Imagine yourself soaked in the goodness of coffee and got your cellulite smoothen as well dead skin removed. How good is that?

Just when I thought I've seen enough and know all about coffee, our last stop was to get indulged in the sea of coffee souvenir - flavors and flavors of coffee powder individually packed in sachets for the convenience of giving to friends or for yourself in the office. To name a few (that I still remember) they have ginger coffee, durian coffee, power root coffee, local Penang white coffee and many more.

The place is called Coffee Tree. If you are a coffee lover and would love to challenge the versatility of coffee, do come here and enjoy the varieties of free coffee tasting!


My heartiest gratitude to Ministry of Tourism (Penang office) and Project Penang for such wonderful experience (burp!). Of course, I (keenly) look forward to more interesting exploration in near future!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A time to count the blessings

On this day two years ago, we tied the knot and started our journey together.

We are grateful that every step of the way has enriched our lives in all possible ways. And too our gratitude goes to all the available support given to our growth.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Pausing for The Awakening

The definition of things has become, well at least it is from my perspective, bigger. I have always been fascinated by things that can really get into my vein. You know, not physically but the, I'd say sometimes it's, creepy kind of feeling that penetrates the whole mind and body. And watching this movie by BBC Film actually gives me the pleasure of not only appreciating a good work but also seeing "ghost" from a more, I'd say, interesting angle.

I never fancy horror's horror. You know, the type that merely aims to scare the hell out of you so you feel all the excitement and none of the joy into following the story.

This movie gives not only the thrilling impact but also (something I always like so much about British movie) the sense of humour in defining values, customs, beliefs etc.

Ghost, while have always being known as "spirit"or "dead", has bigger meaning in this movie. And the way it's put through to audience lands just right on the spot we need.

I don't want to spoil any mood of yours by saying anything about this movie.

Please watch.

I mean it.

Let's talk later.

If anyone of you watched "Game of Thrones", the cripple son of Eddard Stark, Bran is here in this one.

P/s: sorry for missing in action for almost 2 months.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Penang, a Tropical Island of Heritage

Never have I really done any visit to the places of interest of my own hometown taking public transport. Everyone is so used to taking their own vehicle. It's called "convenient" because one has the freedom to follow own schedule and pace. Most of all, I guess it is all about avoiding the hassle of squeezing with others.

However, thanks to the courtesy of Ministry of Tourism (MOTOUR) and Project Penang, a trip on a very comfortable Rapid Penang Coach to one of the many specially designed routes has given me an opportunity to experience my lovely little Penang in a very special way.

It is Route number 101 where the journey starts from Jetty Penang and ends at Teluk Bahang (and return). We started the trip at 9am, given 45min to make visit respectively, enjoyed a one hour very delicious lunch and reached Jetty around 6pm. Along the way we stopped by KwanYin Temple, Penang State Museum, and the bus terminal at KOMTAR.

KwanYin Temple is one of the renown temple in town. It's located along Pitt Street, next to Penang Chinese Town Hall. Being the oldest temple in Penang, it attracts many people throughout the year.Every 1st and 15th day of Chinese Lunar Month, people (mostly Taoist) will come for prayers and make their wishes. During then, all of the architecture including stone crafting and wall painting were done by masters from China. They are still well-kept until today (after more than two hundred years). I am always fascinated by the look of the sincere faces as they hold up high the jossticks in their hands when praying. It is as if I could see/hear their whispers wishing for good health, luck and abundance in their life endeavors.

Penang State Museum stores the stories of how this almost invisible land on world map was notice and how it has prospered since Sir Francis Light back in 1886. This old premise that host artifacts and witnesses of development is reaching it's limit and will soon be extended to another building in Macalister Road.

For those who wishes to jump on different buses to their target destinations, you can either look for what you need at the Jetty or KOMTAR because these are the only places where all the buses meet.

Next stop, the 33-meter Reclining Buddha (at Wat Chayamangalaram) and Standing Budda (at the Burmist Temple) in Pulau Tikus. I don't want to tell you how incredible it is to see such a big statue lying there peacefully listening to visitors. What I do want to tell is this temple is open daily from 6am-5pm and it is free entrance. And another thing I do want to tell you is drop a 50cents into the box and ask your question in your heart. You will be amazed how Buddha can actually answer you without miss.

After some serious thoughts seeing the power that faith could possibly provide, it's time for some fun - The Toy Museum. Situated in Tanjung Bunga, it comprises countless number of toys under one roof. Too bad the limited space that houses so many innocent dreams was less organized and the ventilation was not very pleasant otherwise it would be the best place for parents and kids to hangout together sharing one common language - TOY!

Before our journey ends, we came to the floating mosque as well as Tropical Spice Garden.

This place of worship were built not very long ago. Watching this solemn building standing high over the water, a tranquil and peaceful feeling arouse. It is important that people of different belief have the compassion and tolerance when it comes to the topic of human race and mankind. No division should come in between because the fundamental of a prosperous world is love and respect.

Everyone knows at least one thing for sure: Penang is popular for its existence since centuries ago, being the platform for east and west to meet for barter system in exchanging what they want with what they have. And the most popular of trade during then was SPICES! Today, some of the wonderful aroma ingredients for cooking as well as herbs for medicine can be found here. Tropical Spice Garden has become the place of study for scholars and this very common looking garden actually contains endless discoveries waiting to be realized! Under these shades, I can really feel how unselfishly the humility and generosity of mother earth providing us the ground to learn and grow!

Penang is a beautiful place.

I have always tell my friends, "if there is one reason I cannot leave this place it would be it's beauty". It has greens, sea, sunshine, rain, and most of all, a lot of mouth watering food.

Feel it with your heart when you set your foot on this island. You will agree with me and many foreigners who finally decided to spend their lives here after visiting.

Many thanks to the invitation to this trip. It has been a very valuable journey.