Monday, 19 June 2017

The fragrant aroma of clarified butter

My mother is an expert in cooking Indian-style briyani. Her skills have been passed down to my better half who has now become the go-to person when her siblings crave for tasty mutton briyani. For Aidilfitri, it is normal for our house to serve briyani when the normal Malay raya dishes would be ketupat and rendang.

There are many different recipes to cooking briyani, depending on the region or version. Pakistani style, Hyderabad style, Batu Pahat style, just to name a few. The ingredients in my mother's version are quite extensive. One of the most important is ghee. It gives the briyani rice a unique fragrant aroma. Recipes that make use of other fat substitutes would simply pale in comparison.

Ghee or clarified butter (commonly known as minyak sapi in Malay), is an expensive component. Even among the many manufacturers of this product, there are varying qualities. We have tried cooking briyani using different brands of ghee and conclude that the one from QBB is still the best. Not surprisingly, it is also the most expensive.

So expensive that the Mydin Supermarket chain has to attach security caps on the cans of QBB ghee to deter shoplifting.

Compare the prices of the 2 brands on this shelf

Anti-shoplifting bands on the QBB cans. Proof of its popularity

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Spread a little cheer...

No matter how bad your situation is, there would always be others far worse off than you. So be thankful, don't despair and never give up hope. Something I subscribe to for a very long time.

At every large city in the world, there is the problem of the homeless and destitute. Johor Bahru is no exception. These unfortunate souls gather around the old central train station where they lay down for the night on used cardboard boxes as their mattress. Men and women of various races and ages.

Last night, I joined the team from Free Market Johor and Friends & Strangers, to spread some cheer. We distributed food packs and some basic toiletries (small towel, toothbrush and toothpaste). As a special occasion to celebrate the coming hari raya, the FMJ team collected a large number of pre-loved baju melayu to give away for free. The fast food chain Macdonald's also contributed to the event by giving burgers and drinks.

The distribution was held at the KTM cargo bay at JB Sentral train station. Around 100 persons came and collected the food and clothes. It was a small effort by the team but I'm pretty sure well-appreciated by the recipients.

Volunteers helping to prepare the food packs

KTM Sentral Cargo Bay became the distribution point for the night

Pre-loved men's and women's clothing for some raya cheer

With fellow MRSM Kuantan alumnus, Amin Shade and his lovely daughters

More pics can be seen at this Facebook page -> Friends and Strangers

Monday, 12 June 2017

Iftar @ Chill

I can't quite remember when I first went to a ramadhan buka puasa buffet. Probably around 20 years ago. In those days, upmarket hotel restaurants would hold these `all you can eat' buffet spreads where you pay a single price to eat and drink as much as you like at the time of breaking of fast. Those days it cost around RM30 to RM40 per head, still quite a princely sum if you are to consider the average take-home pay of the time. If you can't quite afford the meal, the next best thing you can hope for is to get invited to one.

During my early career days, being invited to such events was quite exciting. Sub-contractors and suppliers would rush to get your confirmation of attendance to their invitations. The junior staff would always look forward to such events. We would then compare which hotel or restaurant had the best spread of food at what price (not that we would be actually paying, of course). It then became a somewhat a tricky decision among subcontractors on which hotel to choose because they would not want to be seen as being sub-standard. This is one of the unsavoury aspects of this practice.

The other negative aspect is unnecessary waste. While the spread of so many delicious food can be very alluring, there is really only so much that one person can eat. Buffet food layouts fuel human greed. More so when one is selecting food on an empty stomach.

Nowadays, the price of ramadhan buffet at certain 5-star hotels has reached three figures. Melampau. Over the years, I have declined attending such buka puasa meals, to the extent of needing to apologise to those who have invited. It is becoming too excessive. Last year I went to only one and even that was as a treat to my small team of 3 staff.

So far this fasting month, I have been to one iftar buffet. It was at Chill Cafe of KFCH International College where my third son is currently pursuing his diploma in Culinary Arts. The college holds this buffet event as a way to expose and train their students on the skills of running a restaurant. The buffet is open to the public.

We went there in the first week of fasting when the promotional price was at RM35 per pax. The choice of menu was reasonably good with offerings such as roasted lamb, various Malay kampung-style dishes and even pasta. Taste-wise was not too bad too. My son was part of the kitchen crew that day. He made the pulut mangga dessert which sadly I did not manage to try.

Since the opening week, the price has gone up to RM58.90 per pax, which is way too much for me, no matter what dish you serve.

Chill Cafe @ KFCH International College is located at Bandar Dato' Onn, Johor Bahru.

Chill is cool...

Roasted lamb. The most popular dish, of course

Mix of a few things for my 1st round

Sup utara and toast for my 2nd round