Friday, 25 July 2008

The turtle state

The state of Terengganu has been in hot news for the past week or so with its Menteri Besar deciding to buy Kompressor Mercs for the State Exco to replace the existing 4-year old `expensive to maintain' Proton Perdanas. Even the Deputy Prime Minister, whose official car is the locally-produced Perdana, is cheesed off and wants to discuss the matter in a Cabinet meeting. Sheesh! As if there's no other important things to discuss...

Anyway, my post today is not about this issue. I've said my piece on this thing (a rather skewed one at that) as comments on other blogs. Today's post is about events that happened during my years working in Terengganu in 2000 and 2001. Actually, there are two stories that I wish to tell...

1. Breakfast in Dungun

The most popular breakfast food in the whole of Malaysia would probably be roti canai. Of course, each state and sometimes even each town has its own local special delicacy. Terengganu is famous for its nasi dagang. In addition to nasi dagang, I found that there are some other dishes served during breakfast time in Terengganu that I've not seen elsewhere in Malaysia. Among these are nasi minyak and nasi kunyit.

Now in Johor, nasi minyak is normally found at wedding receptions only. I've never come across any foodstall or restaurant in Johor that actually sells the dish, at any time, let alone for breakfast.

Nasi kunyit is also known as pulut kuning. It is glutinous rice cooked with tumeric to give it a bright yellow colour. It is normally eaten together with either a beef or chicken curry or with beef rendang. In Johor, pulut kuning is also normally served on special occasions. If you come to JB and ask me to take you to a breakfast of pulut kuning or nasi minyak, I'd be at a loss.

But not in Terengganu, or at least in Dungun where I was once posted to. Every morning, my colleague Steve Wong and I would go for breakfast before heading out to the project site. One of our favourite makan place was a stall run by this chubby lady with a friendly smile and a sweet-looking young assistant. Come to think of it, all the makan places that I went to in Dungun are run by ladies... Anyway, we liked this stall because she sold nasi dagang, nasi lemak, nasi minyak, nasi kunyit plus a whole lot of other side dishes. In short, she had variety (and did I mention a sweet-looking young assistant?).

I would normally go for nasi dagang or nasi lemak but my friend Steve had this strange preference for nasi kunyit, everytime. Steve was a big guy with an equally big appetite. The first time we ate there, Steve asked the stall-assistant to add more rice because the standard portion was too little for him.

`Nasi lebih, nasi lebih', Steve gestured to the girl. She had a confused look on her face so I ventured, `Mu tamboh agi nasik tu, Mek.'

So she scooped up the extra rice but still with the surprised look. A Chinese guy eating double portions of nasi kunyit with mildly hot beef curry early morning at a stall somewhere in the small town of Dungun in Terengganu?

The surprised looks later turned to smiles of appreciation when Steve finished his plate and announced, `Sedap...' A good burp would've rounded the scene nicely but luckily that didn't happen.

On subsequent visits, Steve would get his extra portions with no questions asked. (Nasi kunyit photo credit to

I loved eating out with Steve. His healthy appetite meant that I ate well too. I could never really match his capacity but most times, I was close. He never hesitated at sharing. When the two of us ate at this delicious chicken rice shop in Dungun old town, Steve would order portions for 3 persons plus additional cuts of chicken liver. I would finish the meal with him on equal basis, 50/50.

Steve and I parted ways when our company completed the project. Steve works in Singapore now and we are still in touch.

2. Oh, you're so vain

So now on to the second story... but before that, I have this question to ask you. Do you remember the first time that someone called you Makcik/Pakcik (Auntie/Uncle)? This `someone' is not your real nephew or niece and he/she would probably be working in a service industry such as a cashier at the supermarket checkout, a waitress at a restaurant or a teller at a bank counter. Remember? Sure you do!

When I first set foot in Dungun in 2000, I was quite surprised to see that Terengganu girls are generally fair and beautiful. I arrived at this assessment after meeting so many pretty `Mek Ganu' at shops, foodstalls, cashier's counters and at government offices too.

The first time I drove to a Petronas petrol station in Dungun, sure enough the pump attendant was a pretty young lass. As I got out of the car to open the tank cap, she flashed a sweet smile and asked, `Nak isi berapa ringgit, Pakcik?'

Whoa! Time out.... I was like, what? Did she just called me Pakcik? Hey, what happened to Abang, I thought. Do I look that old? The vanity in me suffered the knockout punch that very moment.

I was dumbstruck for a while, before I slowly realised that it had to happen sooner or later. I have grown old. From that day on, I have officially entered the group called the `older generation'. Tak boleh lagi nak perasan muda.

So there you have it, my friends. My answer to the question that started off this story. I was first called a Pakcik by a pump station attendant girl in Dungun, about 8 years ago.

My nickname of Oldstock, given to me during college days, finally became appropriate. No turning back now.


razifembi said...

hey "pokcik" . . hihi..I am might be the first person who called you pokcik in your own blog ...

Thanks for your comment ... more to learn and to gain ....

You have wrote a good article. Nice English too ... must learn from you ... are you a journalist ?

I was in Terengganu too in 2004. Studied. I'm prefer to have nasi lemak or rotcai on my table rather than nasi dagang .... hihii...

U.Lee said...

Hi Oldstock...I am wayyyy older than you...and I sometimes take the bus kalu malas nak drive downtown...and the day a SYT (sweet young thing) stands up for me giving me her seat is the day I know I am old, arhaaa ha ha.
That pic of me taken last month using my Apple Imac thermal imaging.

My isteri tells her friends, 'the day Lee stops teasing, flirting, admiring women...thats the day I get worried', ha ha.
She told me long ago, 'I married you as you were and do not expect you to change, then you won't be the man I fell in love with and married'.
Wa, ada logic tu? Ha ha.

Re your Trengganu....there are two states I love all my life in Malaysia, Penang and Trengganu.
Used to stay at Tanjong Jara very often back in the 80's as well Hotel Primula in Trengganu.

And nasi dagang, ikan percik, ayam percik...alamak Old stock....even Sophia Loren call me, I'l go for the nasi dagang in Trengganu.

Ahhh, but I also love Kota Bahru's Pantai Cinta Berahi....dated three lovely KB maidens and used to go to the beach makan at a restaurant, seafood...then walk in the moonlight...

I don't know about now, but in the late 70's, 80's...things or life was abit different, if you know what I mean...apart from some glances at a tall Chinese guy walking with a lovely Malay problemos.

But regret, it was in 1983 when things changed...and itu la dia...ha ha. Habis cherita. was fun enjoying the lovely Trengganu dishes...and I have always love Malay food too...

When much younger my Malay SYT's will invite me home to eat their mom's cooking...terperanjat dia semua saya polish off three plates of rice...bila ada sambal belachan, I lepas handbrake, arhaaa ha ha.
You have a good weekend, Oldstock, Lee.

Oldstock said...

-> Razif, hahaha... you can call me pokcik anytime. Nope, I'm not a journalist. Setakat nak tolong baiki English tu, insyaallah boleh dibantu dimana yang terdaya.

-> Lee, did not someone say that age is nothing but a number? Heheheh...

Obviously, the guy who said that what goes up, must come down, was not thinking of growing old!

You take care, my friend. Don't let any SYT's give up their seat for you!

Emila Yusof said...

Lol, if that is the case, I'm the mokcik! Love your stories. In my hometown, Raub, you can find all the mentioned dishes (inlcluding Laksam!) during Pekan Sehari which falls on Sunday. It was like a food fiesta there.

Chahya said...

Oldstock,...errr(uncle??) oldstock,
thanks for yr prayers for my friend.
I love Tganu for having beautiful beaches and islands. Love Perhentian island!! And nasi dagang..*drooling*

Patricia said...

Great one Oldstock! LOL!

I remember Dungun well. Beautiful, tranquil place. When my sister was teaching there, sometime in the late 80s, we visited and she took us to a stall called Butter Boys (don't think that was their name, but that's what people called the place). Anyways, it was a breakfast place and only sold roti bakar with kaya, and kopi and teh! OMG yummy-licious!

And the first time someone called me auntie? That was when I was preggers for the first time. I felt like a cow, looked like an elephant, and this cute bank teller in the then-MBf calls me 'auntie'! Sigh. Went home and cried. Hormones, lah ;)

Thanks for the memories you made me remember.


Oldstock said...

-> Emila, sorry lambat respond. Just got back from 2 days work at my KL office. So, do you remember when you were first called `mokcik'? Or this has yet to happen? If so, kira awet muda lah ye... :-)

-> Chahya, except for the distance back to my hometown, I quite like Terengganu too. Those days, I was part-time bachelor (famili ditinggalkan di JB).

-> Pat, so did you think the bank teller was cruel or kind? Hehehe... luckily your first-born turned out beautiful.

The Ancient Mariner said...

Perhaps we should just stick to the Malay term "orang lama" instead..

After all we are only as old as we feel..heheh

Oldstock said...

Hi there Capt,

You're the ancient mariner while I'm an oldstock. Confirm dua-dua memang orang lama... heheheh..

We age like good wine. Now if only there is a good equivalent in Malay... ;-)