Monday, 11 October 2010

The no. 1 breakfast

Without doubt, the most favourite meal to start the day for most Malaysians is a plate of roti canai. Pair that with a glass of teh tarik (or in my case, nescafe tarik) and we have the quintessential Malaysian breakfast.

Roti canai is a simple flat bread that originated from India. I first knew of this bread by its original name of paratha.There are a few theories on how the Malay name of canai came to be... Wikipedia offers three possibilities.

What started off as a simple plain dough-only bread has now evolved into a few versions. We now can order roti telur (an egg beaten into the folds of the bread), roti telur bawang (the previous version plus chopped onions), roti planta (with a knob of margarine), roti sardin (with some sardines) and even roti pisang (with sliced bananas). Another popular variety, at least here in JB, is roti tampal. I had breakfast with a friend from Penang recently and when he heard me ordering roti tampal, he was a bit puzzled. Roti tampal is made by frying an egg (bull's eye style) and placing an already fried plain roti on top of it so the egg sticks to the bread... hence the `tampal' name. The skill in doing this is to make sure the egg sticks and the yolk remains round and not fully cooked. This way, you will have the nice gooey yolk smearing over the bread pieces as you tuck in.... yummy.

Even the way roti canai is served has different variants. While the standard sauce or gravy accompanying the bread is plain curry, most mamak shops offer dhal-curry or fish-curry. Most Malay stalls also offer a dollop of sambal tumis on the side. Some patrons prefer the gravy spread over the bread and soaking it... the term being used here is `kuah banjir'. Others prefer the bread to be shredded to pieces first before serving (roti koyak). And then there are others who like their roti canai served with sugar or even condensed milk.

When I worked in the UAE a few years ago, it was easy for me to have paratha for breakfast because there are many Indian restaurants. A standard order of paratha comes in two pieces... it seems that the Indian workers over there have large appetites. But that's just about it... no roti tampal or roti telur or roti bawang or whatever else have you. So when it comes to variety, there is no place like home.

Ok then... enough of writing. Time to get my morning dose of roti tampal and nescafe tarik...

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Someone watching over me (Part 2)

To read the preceding part click here -> Part 1

He first saw her in the university library. She was sitting alone at a table with a few thick books around her, intently reading one and occasionally writing down notes. She was dressed in a simple beige-coloured blouse and denim jeans… it surprised him that he had not noticed her earlier. He had started to help out at the library since the start of the term after completing his degree in Library Science the previous academic year. She must have been coming to the library before that day but somehow managed to remain inconspicuous, to him at least.

But it was only three weeks later that he managed to work up the nerve to say something. He had been observing her the past weeks and noted that she mostly spent time in the library in the afternoons. Sometimes she would study with some friends but most of the time she was alone. None of the friends who have accompanied her so far, are men. That afternoon, she was again alone and was tidying up the table to go home. She brought a thick book to the checkout counter where he was on duty.

It is now or never, he thought.

As he scanned her library card and stamped the due date on the book, he noted the book’s title. `An Introduction To Fortran Programming’ by some overseas professor with a weird-sounding name. Whoever thought to call a 2-inch thick book `Introduction…’ must have got his bearings wrong.

As he handed the book back to her, he said, `That’s heavy stuff you're reading.’

She smiled and replied, `Yes, literally.’ He can’t help but smile back. The ice has been broken.

The polite greetings the following days became easy… but it was not until another three weeks that he found the guts to ask her out for a date. Well, you can’t really call it a date because it was just a drink at the cafeteria located opposite the library.

Their friendship blossomed and he continued courting her throughout the three years she took to complete her degree. They married the month after she graduated.

It was a happy first few years for the young couple. She easily got a job at a multi-national computer chip manufacturer while he had secured a permanent posting at the university’s library a few years earlier. There were no signs of the stork arriving yet but they were not unduly worried.

And then in their third year of marriage, the bad news came to the surface. She had been complaining of sore throat on a number of occasions which were treated by the standard prescription of antibiotics and lozenges. The illness came and went. But when her voice became hoarse and breathing became difficult, they decided to seek specialist advice. After a few tests, the diagnosis was heartbreaking.

She has thyroid cancer…