Thursday, 28 May 2009

A good makan spot in Setapak, KL

I was first introduced to Penang char kuetiaw when I was handling a project in Butterworth some years back. I had asked my secretary of a good place to have dinner one evening and she recommended that I try this popular char kuetiaw stall in Bukit Mertajam. I have never been to Bukit Mertajam before but I'm the sort of guy who's game enough to go exploring wherever there is good food to be found.

So armed with simple directions on how to get there, I took a drive to BM in search of the place. After a few tawafs of BM town, I found the stall. And yes, the char kuetiaw tasted good. When I got back to Kuala Lumpur, I found a few stalls around the Melawati area that sold similar tasting char kuetiaw but not as delicious as the one I had in Bukit Mertajam.

Recently, on Astro's Warung Kita programme, they showed a makan place at Taman Bunga Raya near TAR College that sells Penang char kuetiaw. It is called Mali's Corner. On one of my trips to KL last month, I tried to look for this place. I found it... but good lord, the queue to get your plate of the dish was so long! I was terribly hungry and could not afford to wait, so I had something else at another stall.

When we were in KL again last Sunday, my sister-in-law informed us that Mali's Corner has opened a new branch in Setapak Indah. We decided to give it a try.

The new Mali's Corner is a decent-looking restaurant within a row of newly-built shops at an area called Platinum Walk. There are a number of other restaurants on the same row, so you actually have a good choice if you fancy eating something else.

This new restaurant is more upmarket than the original establishment, which is really just a roadside stall. But they still practice the same system of self-service. You go up to the counter to place your order, wait for a few minutes for the kitchen to sizzle-up your char kuetiaw, collect and it bring it to your table. The price of a plate is understandably a bit higher now but not by much. A small plate costs RM4, the large plate costs RM5 while the special plate is priced at RM6.50.

We had the large plate. It tasted not bad at all... on par with what I had at Bukit Mertajam. Certainly worth the RM5.

Mali's Corner also sells nasi lemak with ayam goreng panas. I am told this dish tastes delicious too. I'll be certainly trying this out on our next trip to Setapak.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

One less member in the house

The signs of me entering the veteran phase of my life is becoming clearer by the day. On Saturday, we sent our second son for registration at UiTM in Shah Alam. He is doing Kursus Asasi Sains and if he does well, hopes to continue to study Medicine.

Another of our offspring has flown the roost, so to speak. Our household has one less member, and since we are not a big family to begin with, the relative quietness of the house is becoming more pronounced.

Registration day at UiTM Shah Alam for Asasi Sains students

Two brothers having fun before one is left behind to stay at the hostel

We have only three children, all boys. The eldest flew away to study at an overseas university. With the second one now in college, it leaves only the youngest son at home. My third boy is 14-years old... so I guess we have another three years at least, for us to bermanja-manja with our anak bongsu. After that, it will be just the missus and me... two elderly folks growing old together. Hopefully, we would not be getting on each other's nerves too often.

When I was dating my wife many, many years ago, this issue of how many children we would like to have was discussed once... but it was more of in jest. She asked me how many kids I wanted. Hmm... let's see, I said. My parents have five children and you have thirteen siblings... so why not we meet half way, say nine kids. She let out a loud laugh.... hahaha! No way, she said.

Over the years, I would meet with old friends or long-lost relatives whose questions would include the standard `Anak dah berapa sekarang?'. My response would always be : `Anak baru tiga' instead of the expected `Anak dah tiga', the former implying that we have three kids for now but hope for more to come. If my wife is around when the question is being asked, she would correct the answer to the latter.

This wish of having more children has crossed my mind a number of times, especially since we have no daughters. It concerns me that my wife would not have a daughter to help take care of her in old age. Having seen the ailments that my late mother-in-law suffered, I know that there are certain things only a daughter can do.

But I have never been the one to pressure my wife on this subject. The choice of stopping at three was entirely hers. When I mentioned about who is to take care of her when she's old, she simply replied, `Let's hope that we get very good and kind-hearted daughter-in-laws.'

At times like these, the common adage of `It's the quality and not the quantity that counts' becomes a appropriate, even though it is just a small measure of self-comfort. In Malay we say, `Sekadar untuk menyedapkan hati.'

We have three healthy, intelligent and well-behaved sons. We know some friends and relatives who have only one child... and some friends and relatives who have none. We should count our blessings.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Interlude - Man vs Woman Process Flow

Here's an interlude for this month of May. It comes from my forwarded emails category. Click on the graphics for a larger view. Better still, right-click on the images and then `Save Image As' to your own PCs so you can forward them at your own pleasure.

Thanks to my pal Amir who gets such humourous snippets from God knows where :-)

Apasal complicated sangat ?

Monday, 18 May 2009

The weekend in Singapore

It has been quite a while since I visited my parents. The last time I was there was in early March. In fact, my old folks come over to our place more often than we go to theirs. I am surely not a good example of filial duty.

The trip to Singapore also saw us taking the opportunity to do some shopping at Mustafa Centre in Serangoon Road. Our second son is due to enrol at UiTM next week and we need to get him a suitcase. We managed to find a 28" Camel Active bag made of tough polyester at S$79. A similar suitcase in Malaysia costs nearly RM300.

It is common misconception that all things in Singapore are more expensive compared to Malaysia because of the high currency exchange rate (presently around RM2.38 to the Sing dollar). Generally, this is true of course but sometimes you can find some items that cost significantly less, even after you have factored in the exchange rate. As I have mentioned above, luggage is one example. Another is wristwatches.

We love to do our shopping at Mustafa Centre because the store carries a wide variety of goods. In the case of luggage, for example, Mustafa sells the whole range from budget no-name brands to the quality ones such as Delsey and Samsonite. There is everything for everybody.

After getting the bag, we drove to the Beach Road Hawker Centre to have dinner. The missus and I had Mee Kuah while the two boys had some Bonesteak or in Malay known as Sup Tulang Merah. My kids are mutton-lovers and they eat anything to do with kambing with much vigour. Since the second son is entering college in Shah Alam, it would be some time before he can get to eat this dish again.

I know of a few stalls in JB that sells Sup Tulang Merah but none come close to the taste of those sold at Beach Road in Singapore. You can ask my sons... the best Sup Tulang Merah they have ever tasted... ever.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Let's have a beer

This phrase may soon be spoken by local Muslim men (or women, for that matter) without much apprehension, in the same league of that other popular sentence, `Jom kita pekena teh tarik.'

Alcohol-free beer from Iran is now available in Malaysia. The beer is called Istak and is brewed from the same grains (barley and malt) as normal beer except that there is no alcohol content because of no fermentation, or so it seems.

Yesterday's Harian Metro carried a report quoting En. Azizi Ahmad, the Executive Director of Malaysia Iran Corporation (the sole importer), that Muslims need not doubt the `halal-ness' of the drink. Apparently, some quarters of the general public have reservations on the legality of the drink from the Islamic standpoint because of the word `beer'. The controversy boils down to whether `no alcohol content' equates to `halal'. Read the full newspaper report -> here.

Looks like En. Azizi is facing his biggest challenge in marketing his product here in Malaysia... and that is the problem of perception. To many people, beer is an alcoholic product. It is part of a group of beverages that Muslims are prohibited from drinking. Even though it is alcohol-free, Istak is sold in bottles that look like any other normal beer bottle. Even the liquid looks like ordinary beer. So you cannot fault the average Muslim citizen to be a bit skeptical. The fact that it is manufactured in Iran, a very conservative Muslim country, does not help allay this doubt.

Alcohol-free beer has been around for a long time. I still remember a TV advertisement of such a drink when I was studying in the UK in the early eighties. Barbican - the alcohol-free lager, was the drink's name. But having doubts about Barbican is understandable. It is brewed in a normal brewery in England. And it is not targetted at the Muslim consumer anyway. Similarly, Guinness produces a malt drink with zero-alcohol content called Malta. It is not a popular drink among Muslims because it still carries the Guinness mark.

My next encounter with alcohol-free beer was in Cairo some years ago. Our Egyptian host took us out for dinner in one of those lovely floating restaurants that sail along the Nile River. For his drink, our host ordered something that came in a can that looked strikingly like beer. When he popped the can and poured the contents in a glass, it sure looked like beer, complete with froth. I was a bit surprised at first but later found out that it is a no-alcohol beer that is very popular in Egypt.

When I was posted in the United Arab Emirates, similar alcohol-free beer is sold widely in the supermarkets. It even occurred to me that if I could bring some of these drinks into Malaysia, I could probably make a fortune. That is, if I can surmount this perception problem. If you can recall, A & W had this same problem when they first introduced root beer.

The next question that comes to mind is probably, `How does it taste?'

Personally, I wouldn't know. I have not drank any beer, whether pseudo or the real thing. But according to some friends who have, the pseudo beer tastes nothing like the real one.

Who are the people who would want to buy and drink alcohol-free beer anyway? Muslims who have the hidden desire to drink beer but dare not cross the line by taking the real thing?

In the end, it all comes down to personal choice. We'll soon see if Istak becomes a popular drink in Malaysia.

Right... I'm knocking off from work now and would be meeting some friends for a drink. Perhaps I'll have a beer. Cheers!

Monday, 11 May 2009

How to behave in a committee

For those of us who work in big organisations, it is quite inevitable that we find ourselves to be a member of a committee. Committees are meant as a way for people from different sections to meet and work towards a common interest. It helps to bring out different ideas and opinions to be heard and shared. Committees also serve as an avenue to distribute workload.

The flip side to this is when the committee is made up of hard-headed individuals, decisions don't get made and work gets bogged down. It is even worse if the committee is led by an ineffective chairman. But the ineffective chairman is not as bad as the irresponsible one... the one that takes the credit when the committee does something good. When there's a cock-up, the members of the committee share the blame.

I've had my share of sitting in committees and sub-committees during the early years of my career. Nowadays I prefer to work as a lone ranger. Tough sometimes... but quick and efficient.

Here's a light-hearted look on this subject that I came across from one of my old files:

How to behave in a committee

Having served on various committees, I have drawn up a list of rules :-

1. Never arrive on time; this stamps you as a beginner.
2. Don’t say anything until the meeting is half over; this stamps you as wise.
3. Be as vague as possible; this avoids irritating the others.
4. When in doubt, suggest a sub-committee be appointed.
5. Be the first to move for adjournment; this will make you popular. It’s what everyone is waiting for.

Work hard and stay cool. Have a good week guys.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Hoax emails that continue to live on

If you are a citizen of cyberspace, you would surely have an email address. And when you have one, there is no escaping the situation of receiving chain and hoax emails that are forwarded from your friends or acquaintances.

Forwarded emails are not spam; they are messages from well-meaning friends who feel that the item being forwarded would be of use to you. These messages can be humourous, inspirational or informative in nature. They arrive at the sender's inbox as a forwarded message from somewhere else. Most of these types of messages have been forwarded so many times that their origin is no longer known. Among such messages are hoax emails that have been propagated for such a long time as to reach urban legend status.

I have touched on this subject of forwarded emails before in an earlier post -> here. I do not mind receiving forwarded emails from friends because they generally contain jokes, motivational articles and other informative stuff. In fact, I continue to forward some of the good ones too. But I am quite dismayed when friends forward me hoax emails (especially relating to get-rich-quick schemes) without thinking twice about the content they are passing on.

Today I received an email that falls into the hoax category. It is the one that claims that Ericsson would give free laptops to anyone who would forward the promotional email to 8 other persons that they know. This hoax has been circulating for about two years now. While the original email was text-based, this latest one is a jpeg graphic that includes a picture of a sleek laptop.

Click on it to read the full text. Just make sure you are not one who continue the forwarding, okay?

It is easy to see that the mail is not genuine. Firstly, Ericsson does not make laptops. Secondly, the T18 model mentioned is actually a mobile phone. An obsolete model at that. Furthermore, Ericsson no longer manufactures phones on their own; they do it together with Sony. Hence we have Sony-Ericsson. A simple google check reveals a number of websites that confirm the hoax.

I've sent a message back to my friend saying that he's been duped. I included a link to a website ->, just in case he needs further convincing. I also suggested he send a similar response to the guy who forwarded the mail to him in the first place (as it happens, another mutual friend).

These friends are educated and professional people. And yet, they can be influenced into doing something so absurd because of the temptation of easy money, or in this case, a free laptop. No wonder hoax emails will continue to circulate cyberspace...

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Barat is not East, my friend

The photograph shown on the left is a floor directory signage at the new government office block located within the Johor State New Administrative Centre (JSNAC) in Nusajaya. The signmaker obviously has got his compass directions confused, or at least, doesn't know that Barat means West.

While we are at it, the second photograph is a signage at the lift lobby. The jawi spelling has a missing dot on the last letter. They also have not yet pasted the relevant numerals.

JSNAC maintenance crew should make a thorough inspection of all the signages before the general public spot more bloopers.

All the pics shown here were taken earlier today at my first visit to the new government offices. The whole JSNAC complex is basically still a work in progress although I can see that 4 main buildings have been completed. This include the State Assembly and the Menteri Besar's office.

One wing of the Government office building as viewed from the central courtyard. The other wing is a mirror-image

East wing viewed from the side

West wing viewed from the side

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Unfortunate but lucky

The title of this post sounds a bit like a paradox but I’m the sort of guy who will always try to look for a positive thread when unfortunate things happen unexpectedly. An example of such a situation is when my car broke down while I was on my way to Kuantan last year (click here for the story). Yesterday, an incident happened that illustrates a similar situation.

Last night I took an express bus from Kuala Lumpur back to Johor Bahru. The bus left Puduraya Terminal promptly at 9.00 pm. Traffic was not heavy and we got out of the city and entered the highway smoothly.

We were about half an hour into the journey, just before Sg. Besi toll, when we heard a loud exploding sound. The bus began to shudder but the driver managed to control the situation and slowly brought the bus to a stop on the road shoulder.
He got off and investigated. The front left tyre had exploded.

I went down to have a look. Brand new tyre, the driver says. Just replaced three days ago. He wasn’t sure what caused the burst. Good thing he was driving around 70 km/h at the time.

And so we had to wait by the roadside, opposite Technology Park Malaysia, for the replacement bus (the 10.00pm from Puduraya) to come.

This mishap caused me to reach home much later than expected but at least I reached home. If the burst had occurred while the bus was traveling at high speed at a later stretch of the highway, things may have turned out even worse. This is what I mean about being unfortunate but lucky at the same time.

For the 4-D punters among you, the license plate of the bus is JJG 9507. But you buy it at your own risk, okay :-)

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Local Indian curry beats American hamburger

The Star Online yesterday published a report about a legal battle between US fast food giant McDonald's and local restaurant McCurry. The Court of Appeal has ruled that McDonald's does not have exclusive rights to the `Mc' prefix and that no reasonable person would confuse the McCurry outlet with one run by the hamburger franchise.

Apparently in 2001, Golden Arches Restaurants Sdn Bhd, the local McD franchise holder, had sued McCurry Restaurant for trademark infringement. In 2006, the High Court ruled in favour of McDonald's and instructed McCurry to dropped the prefix. P. Suppiah, the owner of the Indian restaurant, duly complied by removing the `c' . But he did not give up and filed an appeal. This latest ruling means that Suppiah has won Round 2 and can reinsert the `c' on his restaurant signboard. Photo and full report from The Star Online -> here.

I am quite surprised that McDonald's went ahead with the suit in the first place. For a huge corporation that runs 185 restaurants in Malaysia, they feel threatened by a single shop that serves Indian cuisine. I am even more perplexed that the first round of judgement came out in McDonald's favour. The High Court judge is reported to have ruled that the `McCurry' name and the similar colours of the signboard would cause the general public to confuse the Indian restaurant with the fast-food joint. Wow... amazing.

McCurry Restaurant has its own website -> here. A background story of this legal battle and news of this latest win can be found there. Understandably, no such story is included in McDonald's Malaysia website.

I am happy for Mr. Suppiah for his win and applaud him for his fighting spirit. But this may not be the end of the story yet. The newspaper report closes with a line saying that McDonald's still have the right to appeal to the Federal Court.

I do hope that McDonald's decide to call it a day. If they still want to continue the fight, then I'll probably create online support for Mr. Suppiah. Not that I have any vested interest in McCurry Restaurant. I've never eaten there... heck, I've never even heard of the place before yesterday. But whenever I see an unfair fight, I'll always pitch in for the underdog.