Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A change would do you good

In the past month or so, my blogging activity has been somewhat reduced compared to previous months. The amount of time I spend online nowadays is more to check/answer emails relating to stuff about work. Both blog-posting and blog-hopping are temporarily taking a back seat.

There is a particular reason for this.

Since the beginning of February, I have transferred to work at our head office in Kuala Lumpur. I am no longer based in Johor Bahru. With the said transfer comes added responsibilities and workload. While I previously oversee things at a regional level (Johor), I now have to handle projects at other locations in the country. That is why you see me sneaking in posts about Penang and Perak.

My preferred time to log on to is usually late evenings. I like to read the stories posted by other blogger-friends and then dropping a comment or two. It is a nice way to relax the mind after a hard day's work and before turning in to bed. However, the place that I'm now renting in KL does not have Streamyx broadband and so I am deprived of my nightly dose of online reading and writing. I am thinking of getting one of those wireless broadband service from the mobile telcos but feedback from friends who have subscribed to the various packages are somewhat mixed.

Until then, please excuse my sporadic posts and visits. It was actually quite tough for me to decide on the move... but a voice within me said that the change would do me good. More about it, soon...

Saturday, 20 March 2010

A town called Aubergine

I have always been interested in place-names, especially the strange ones. I always wonder about the history behind the names of such places. The state of Perak has its fair share of places with odd-sounding names. Places such as Parit (drain), Dinding (wall) and Lumut (moss). Even the state itself is named after `silver’ although it is more famous in producing a different mineral (tin).

Along the Taiping to Lumut road (Federal Route 60), there is a small town called Terong. Now... terong or spelled in modern Malay as terung, is the vegetable we know as aubergine or eggplant or brinjal. I am not actually sure if my translation is entirely accurate because the place is also spelled as `Trong’, without the `e’.

So what’s interesting about this town called Terong? Well… nothing much really. In fact, Terong can hardly be called a town. It is just a row of old timber shops lining either side of the road at a T-junction. But what caught my eye was the town’s post office that makes use of an old wooden building which was most likely an old government staff quarters. Very quaint and classic.

By the way, the aubergine is one of my favourite vegetables. Tastes lovely when cooked together in fish or mince-meat curry, or in gulai dalca

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The 8th photo tag

I've actually been mulling about posting my 4th makan-makan story in a row. The day after I had that beriani peha kambing, friends took me for lunch at Din Ikan Bakar in Kepala Batas... and for those of you who've been to the place, you'd know that it is something worth writing about.

But rather than upset blog readers with unending posts about food, I've decided to do this tag by blogger Wan Lili of Suddenly, Heta! So here goes...

The tag calls for me to browse through my photo files, select the 8th folder and pick the 8th photo in that folder to post in a blog entry together with the story behind it. Then tag eight other persons. Whoever thought of this meme must have made many assumptions... that the tagged person has photo files in at least eight folders and that each folder has at least eight pics.

Well... I actually cheated a bit in doing this task. I have plenty of photo folders for sure, but the 8th folder in the My Pictures directory was originally the download folder for my Canon digicam shots. The 8th sub-folder contained photos taken of my project site, and selecting the 8th pic would not have revealed anything interesting at all. I deleted an empty folder above the Canon download folder, causing another folder to move up to eighth place. This folder is also something related to work but contains only six files... so what to do? I decided to select the last one.

From L to R : Dr. Marwan, Oldstock, Ir. Noor Suzinee

The above is a photo taken in May last year during an engineering seminar held in Kuala Lumpur. The seminar was presented by a close associate of ours, Dr. Marwan Jabakhanji from Dubai. Yours truly chaired one of the sessions.

Dr. Marwan is a specialist in structural engineering. He is a very kind and soft-spoken person who is not selfish in sharing his knowledge and experience with other engineers. I remember him well because he was gracious enough to invite me share iftar (the breaking of fast) with his family during one Ramadhan evening when I was in Dubai a few years ago. I'm sure lucky to have met his acquaintance.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Beriani Peha Kambing

If a thing is worth doing, then it's worth overdoing. I am going for three strikes in a row in posting about food...

I'm in Penang at the moment with a colleague. We left KL yesterday after lunch and after a leisurely drive on the NSE, arrived at Butterworth slightly past 6pm. It has been quite a while since I was last here having previously been a regular visitor while handling a project around five years back.

One of the things that I love about Penang is the variety of really delicious food that can be found. I know I've mentioned this previously but it is something that is worth overstating.

Last night, friends from Butterworth took us to a place we have not been to before, to taste fresh locally-reared mutton. The place is called Puncak Mutiara Cafe and it forms part of an agro-tourism enterprise located in Kg. Pelet in Permatang Pauh. The place is actually a goat farm and fruit orchard with a restaurant built within the compounds.

Putting our cholesterol worries aside for the moment, my colleague and I tried the Beriani Peha Kambing while our local friends had the so-called lighter meal of Grilled Kambing. The `peha kambing' in the name refers to a shank of leg bone with a huge chunk of meat on it. The taste was simply exquisite... soft, fresh and tender cooked to perfection. I'm not saying anymore except that I'll be coming to this place again for sure.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Nasi Ambang

It's back-to-back posting about food this week.

On my travel from KL to JB on the North-South Expressway, I would normally make a rest stop at Pagoh RnR. Apart from being located at about halfway of the total distance, the other main reason for stopping here is to taste the nasi ambang sold at one of the foodstalls. In all my travels up and down the NSE, there is only this one stall that sells it.

Nasi ambang is a speciality of Malay kampung folk of Javanese ethnic origin. It is basically plain rice with portions of beef rendang or chicken, sambal goreng tempe (a mix of vegetables and soybean cake), serunding kelapa (fried grated coconut), salted fish and sambal belacan (pounded chilli and prawn paste), all served on a piece of banana leaf. Sometimes a small portion of mee goreng is also added.

I have fond childhood memories of nasi ambang (sometimes spelled as nasi ambeng, because of the specific way to pronounce it). We lived in a neighbourhood of mixed communities but with a fairly large number of orang Jawa. Almost every month, there would be khenduri or thanksgiving feasts, and the ones held by my Javanese neighbours were those I most look forward to... because the nasi ambang they served were simply delicious.

After recital of the surah Yasin and prayers, the meal would be served in large round trays (dulang or talam, in Malay). Plain rice would be packed on the tray and layered with a piece of banana leaf, cut to a round shape slightly smaller than the tray. The other delicacies (meat, chicken, vegetables etc.) are then placed on the leaf. Four persons would share to eat from one tray but we were not supposed to finish it because the balance is meant to be packed and taken home. The task of splitting the stuff on the tray into four equal portions, so that no one party feel deprived, is actually quite enviable. The person who does it has to make sure that one guy doesn't get more meat or chicken from another. In the end, it is the spirit of cooperation and semangat bertimbang rasa that wins the day. That's why the relationships among neighbours were so close in those days.

I had a craving to eat nasi ambang again today... and so for lunch, we headed out to Bandar Baru Uda in Tampoi, JB where the best nasi ambang stall is located. The stall is called Mat Corner and a normal plate of nasi ambang daging or ayam costs RM4. The special plate which has both beef and chicken, costs RM5.50. My wife had the normal plate while my son and I both went for the special, of course. Selagi selera masih ada...

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Kueyteow Doli dan Mee Kicap

In May last year, I posted about a makan place called Mali's Corner in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur. That place is famous for its Penang Char Kuetiaw. Blogger friend Ladymarko then suggested that I should try the famous Kuey Teow Doli in Taiping, Perak.

I was in Taiping with a colleague on Monday, for the first time. I remembered Ladymarko's comment and decided to look for the place. We had to stop to ask for directions. An elderly gentleman manning a provision shop gave me vague directions but we found the restaurant soon enough.

Doli Kuey Teow Goreng, Taiping

The bill shows standard plate RM4 and large plate RM6

I had the big plate kuetiaw while my colleague had the standard sized one. The taste was okay la.... tapi saya lebih suka yang Mali's Corner.

Driving back to KL later that afternoon, I stopped at Tapah Rest Area for a break. Although I had just eaten a large plate of kuetiaw a few hours earlier, I couldn't resist buying myself a plate of mee kicap from the Chinese-owned Express Stall. This place was a regular stopping point during my frequent trips up north a few years ago.

Mee kicap at RSA Tapah, southbound

There's actually nothing much to shout about this mee kicap. It is an exceedingly simple dish of yellow noodles with beansprouts blanched in hot water, splashed with some soy sauce and topped with slices of fishcake and fishballs. I ordered an additional portion of chicken meat (the one meant for nasi ayam) to give the dish extra flavour. Complete the meal with a glass of apple asam boi from the stall next door and I'm one satisfied customer...