Tag Archives: Malaysia

Loving That Little Bit of Stink

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Petai sambal is best eaten with hot, steaming rice.

Petai sambal is best eaten with hot, steaming rice.

THERE are some types of food that people would put up with with. That others would never step within a 10 foot distance of. Like balut in the Philippines, stinky tofu in Hong Kong; petai (stinky bean) in Malaysia and several parts of Southeast Asia; stir-fried worms and a various assortment of six- to eight-legged critters in Thailand, to name a few.

One of my favourite dishes of all time is sambal petai.

Sambal petai, easily found in my home country of Malaysia, is most definitely an acquired dish. The beans, though not as offensive-smelling as the stinky tofu (which you can smell at least 100m away #truestory), still packs quite a powerful pong. The dish consists of petai (a kind of bean) and fresh medium-sized prawns cooked in a spicy paste consisting mainly of shallots, garlic, and dried and fresh chillies (I add bird’s eye chilli in it for more heat). It’s best served with hot, steaming rice, ad is certainly one of life’s many joys for me. Throw in a side of onion omelette or stir-fry brinjal and you’ve got yourself a complete meal.

Petai, a stinky bean that is commonly found in Malaysia and some countries in Southeast Asia.

Petai, a stinky bean that is commonly found in Malaysia and some countries in Southeast Asia.

While you can’t truly separate taste and smell when it comes to appreciating food, I personally find that the stink of the petai is mainly on the nose. The taste is a little milder and somewhat ‘green’ and pulpy. Petai can be eaten in many ways — raw with sambal belacan, stir-fried with other vegetables, or cooked in a sambal style. My preference is to eat it cooked in sambal or stir-fried in a mixed-veg dish.

I grew up eating Mum’s version of sambal petai, cooked with shrimps, onions and cili boh (ready made spicy paste which negates the need for tedious peeling, blending/grinding the ingredients). While I’ve enjoyed Mum’s sambai petai immensely, I’ve also grown to appreciate the flavours that come with making the dish from scratch. It’s not very difficult and, if you have time to spare, I would recommend it.

Once you've stirfried the spice blend in oil till fragrant, add the shrimps and tamarind juice. Season and add the petai and keep on the fire till shrimp and petai are cooked.

If you’d like to try the dish out, here’s the recipe. Beware, though: all that chilli will make your hands burn for an hour or so. Note: Petai attracts flies, so you might want to keep the beans covered at all times, or in the fridge until it’s ready for use.

INGREDIENTS

200g petai (halved and cleaned)
10 – 15 medium prawns
50g tamarind pulp (mixed with 1/2 cup water)
1/4 cup oil
1 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
1 tsp salt (or to taste)

Spice paste (blend the following)

20 shallots
10 fresh red chillies
8 – 10 dried red chillies
3 birds eye chillies
3 cloves garlic
8 candlenuts
8 – 10g belacan (toast before cooking)

METHOD

1. Heat oil in pan and stir-fry spice paste till fragrant.

2. Add in strained tamarind juice and shrimps. Bring to a quick boil. Note: tamarind juice can be adjusted to taste. Some like a little more sourness to the dish.

3. Add seasoning to taste.

4. Add petai. Keep on the lowered heat till the shrimps and petai are cooked.

5. Serve with rice 🙂

Enjoy!!

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Dancing with Dengue

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Dengue can kill. Image taken from http://galleryhip.com/dengue-fever.html

Dengue can kill. Image taken from http://galleryhip.com/dengue-fever.html

THREE days ago, I went for my last blood draw at the hospital, and was finally given a clean bill of health from the doctor.  I had finally recovered from dengue.

Dengue is a serious thing. A recent report in the Malay Mail showed that cases have continued to rise and that the number of fatalities had increased 163% from 63 deaths in the same period last year.

My dengue episode, although not critical, was nasty enough. It started when I woke up one morning with a terrible headache and pain behind my eyeballs, two Saturdays ago. Four Panadol tablets later, the headache and pain behind my eyes still did not dissipate. Feeling unusually tired, I went to bed in the afternoon, thinking that a nap would cure me. Unfortunately, I woke up with a burning fever that wouldn’t go away and chills I could not explain. Four more Panadol later, I still did not get any better. By the following day, my fever had exceeded 39 degrees. I went to the hospital and learnt that my blood pressure had dropped to 90/64. Surprisingly, I was not asked to take a blood test. Three days later, my fever subsided, but my appetite remained poor. My gums bled more than usual whenever I brushed my teeth, and I could not shake off the feeling that something was wrong. On a hunch, I decided to go to the hospital again to take a blood test.  This was Day 5 since my fever bout began. Two hours later, the doctor called me with the awful news that I had dengue. The better news was that it wasn’t critical enough for me to be warded, but there was every likelihood of my condition worsening over the subsequent days.

I struck a deal with the doctor. In exchange of staying home (instead of getting admitted), I promised I would stay hydrated (more than 2L of water a day) and indoors, and check myself in, if I started vomiting, getting dizzy spells and severe abdominal pains. The trade-off also was to go to the hospital for daily blood draws until I started to demonstrate an upward trend in my blood count. For someone as frightened of needles as I am, this was torture. Still, it beat having a drip needle perpetually wedged in my vein.

The bout of dengue has left me with a real sense of paranoia: I have woken up in the middle of the night, every night for the past week worrying about mosquitoes. Today, every mosquito bite scares the hell out of me. Because, while it is true that you may develop immunity from the strain of dengue that you suffered from, you are not immunised from other strains of dengue. Also, the road to recovery is a long one. A quick trip to the supermarket to shop for groceries leaves me terribly tired. And writing a blog is exhausting, too. I have yet to regain my full strength and I daresay it will take me at least a month to become my strong self again. Imagine if my condition were more critical!

I’ve learnt a thing or two during my illness, and I’d like to share them here:

  • Dengue can kill. If you suspect something is not right, or your fever does not go away, see the doctor immediately and get tested.
  • There is NO medication for dengue. Staying hydrated and lots of bed rest are key, alongside constant monitoring of your condition.
  • Papaya leaves DO NOT help with dengue. This was confirmed by the specialist doctor who attended to me. Most often, people administer blended raw papaya leaves as a last resort to dengue, when they no longer have any idea what else to do. This is normally close to the 7th or 8th day of dengue — when the body is, in fact, already starting to heal. Understandably, it would appear that raw, papaya leaf juice works when, actually, it is your body that is already naturally recovering. Trust me, I had my share of  papaya leaf juice, and despite downing the vile tasting liquid, my platelet count continued to plummet for several days. #TrueStory
  • Millennium cactus extract DOES NOT help with dengue either. It is also very expensive. I drank 1L of the extract over two days, which cost me RM560, and yet my platelet count continued to plunge steadily.
  • Your platelet and white blood cell count (WBC) will continue to drop for about 7 to 8 days. After which, it will start to rise. Once your WBC goes up, you can be sure that it won’t be too long before your platelet count follows suit.

Stay healthy, peeps.

Hope Springs Eternal: One Malaysian’s Dream

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Photo courtesy of Ng Seksan

OVER the last two weeks, an ‘installation’ of sorts has taken shape in various suburbs about town. Thousands of tiny colourful flags have sprouted from the grassy roadside slopes in Bangsar to Damansara Heights, Sri Hartamas and, last I saw, near the Section 16 intersection in Petaling Jaya.

This ever-growing citizen’s initiative, or ‘flowers’ as they are fondly known by the Malaysian Spring movement, were first planted at the Jalan Tempinis roundabout in Lucky Gardens, Bangsar.

I actually think they’re quite pretty. And, certainly striking in their simplicity, especially against the backdrop of the glossy, propaganda-laden posters and political flags that have blanketed the Malaysian landscape of late.

Credit goes to movement founder Ng Seksan and his team who have been hard at work planting the ‘flowers’ since April 14.

Sadly, though, sourpusses have poured cold water over their efforts. An article in an online media news portal reported that detractors had lodged police reports claiming the flags “disturb the eyes” and are an “obstruction of the road”.

Clearly, this flag phenomenon is fast becoming a pain in the EC’s behind. It’s certainly flagging up the growing resentment and restlessness amongst the Malaysian people.

According to Ng, an architect and art collector, the flags symbolise hope for Malaysia. But at the very least, they are a work of art – creative, aesthetically pleasing and hold significance to both creator and audience.

So I can’t help but feel disappointed at the narrow mindedness of those who have decried the Malaysian Spring effort. Surely, freedom of expression is not a crime? Surely, there is equality in visual campaigning. Surely, one can see that those flags are neither an eyesore nor an obstruction to traffic!

Truth be told, I do not profess to campaign for any political party in particular – and am not about to start.

There are days that I mull over the rampant corruption in the country, the glaring inconsistencies of the ruling government, the opacity of business transactions at so many different levels, and the injustice that lies within affirmative policies. I wonder if the deeply entrenched culture of patronage will ever be shattered. I wonder if BN will ever change.

Then there are days when I consider the issues within the Opposition: their inability to agree, the power struggles that drive their disunity. And find myself wondering whether, if given the mandate, they will be able to transform Malaysia into the country that I – and so many Malaysians – hope for it to be. I wonder if they can and will effectively stem the outflow of talent and funds, and reinstate integrity, equality and justice within our systems.

I suppose this effectively puts me in the category of fence sitters that now comprise some 48% of voters in the country.

Ultimately, who we choose to govern the country is our prerogative. But, the choice we make will have a far reaching effect. And come May 5, I know I will weigh my decision wisely. For my hope is for an open, fair and transparent government that will bring peace and prosperity to my country.

Which brings me back to the story of the flags. I hope the Malaysian Spring movement continues unimpeded till polling day. I hope to see more ‘flowers’ springing up in cities across the country. I hope this citizen’s initiative will not be in vain.

At the very least, and as Ng says, “What we’re planting for is hope and the betterment of Malaysia.”

I hope for a better Malaysia.

When Being Unhappy is A Fair Thing

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I WAS listening to BFM this morning, as is my usual ritual while getting ready for work everyday. I thoroughly enjoyed today’s Merdeka Series, featuring former Special Branch Deputy Director and intelligence unit head, Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng. While the entire interview was enlightening for me, he said one thing that I found particularly interesting: “Go back to the old Constitution; it was so fair that no one was really happy.”

Here’s a link to the interview:

The story according to Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng

Lotsa Work and Some Play

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IT’S been two days since we arrived in Penang. Both days have been slightly hectic , as we worked out the kinks and laid the final bits of foundation for what I’d call a working ‘holiday’ (read: work for us; holiday for those we work for).

But all work and no play makes Sarah and the Minx dull girls, so we made sure we had some minutes of fun to break from the tedium.

Following a recce session at the Penang Heritage Trust office and armed with my trusty little Olympus digital cam, we headed to the Pinang Peranakan Mansion just across the road.  It’s tough to resist poking about a building that looks like this:

The Pinang Peranakan mansion is an imposing structure of gilded louvres and lattices, frames and screens and pillars — an intricate architectural work of art set amid a row of nondescript shophouses on Church Street. (Above) This is the front of the ancestral temple which is an extension of the main building.

A closer look reveals the sombre yet intriguing facade of  the temple.

Getting acquainted with the gate (and checking out the garden within while at it).

The driveway behind the iron gates. (Background) Within the gloomy darkness of the temple, a single bonsai plant stands illuminated by a sliver of sunlight.

The barge that hangs suspended in the air above the temple doors.

No detail is spared from the temple roof.

The entrance into the main building of the Pinang Peranakan mansion. Entry fee is RM10.

Inside, the mansion is huge, each room opening to yet other equally ornate rooms. The mansion, also known as ‘Hai Kee Chan’ or Sea Remembrance Store was built at the end of the 19th century and was the residence and office of Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee (who had a road — where the famous chendol off Penang Road now stands — named after him). The main staircase features handrails with balusters of cast iron from Glasgow. The English floor tiles are a clear contrast to the distinctive Chinese  wood carved panels.

Nothing is spared from detail.

The rooms located on the floor above.

An elderly visitor sits amid the main courtyard. The mansion, now a museum showcasing the opulent lifestyle of the Peranakan as well as more than 1,000 antiques and artefacts, sank into disrepair after the death of the Kapitan. It was restored as close as possible to the original by Peranakan architect Peter Soon.

Detailed craftsmanship frames the entrance to the dining hall. One can almost imagine dinner time with the Kapitan at the head of the table surrounded by his family. Servants, almost invisible — as they are meant to be — dart around bringing food steaming from the kitchen for the family. Carved wooden screens (background) can be found in every Baba house and act as ‘walls’ which obstruct the path of evil spirits.

Mirror, miror on the wall. Who’s that chick in the middle of the hall? The quintessentially Baba rosewood/teak furniture inlaid with mother of pearl, and scores of huge mirrors can be found in every section of the house.

The bridal bed bathed in red from sunlight streaming through red window panes.

Closer view of the marriage bed. A bit too ornate for my liking, really.

Much emphasis is placed on the ancestors of the Baba clan.

Upstairs, the wide corridors lead to a balcony which overlooks the open yard below.

Cupboards and other furniture feature carvings and gold trimmings so typical of the Baba Nyonya.

A very oriental Chinese lamp hangs above the Scottish ironworked staircase.

A connecting pathway leading from the main mansion to the ancestral temple.

One more turn through the narrow doorway to the right leads you to the sepulchral stillness of the temple.

A Chinese tourist in the temple courtyard snaps endless shots of the alter.

The grand alter decorated with the proverbial ancestral tablets and prayer paraphernalia. There is an almost tangible solemnity that transcends time in this room. Perhaps, Father Time stands in deference to the powers of the ancestors.

The grand alter adorned with more of the same gilded carvings. I imagine many moments spent in ritualistic prayer as the low and sonorous hum of chanting and the acrid incense smoke pierce the silence of the temple.

The temple opens out into the street beyond.

Good job, girl. Now, to put aside the camera and head back to work.

If Reinhold Niebuhr were Malaysian…

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"I was misunderstood!"

I’m taking my own spin on Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the Serenity to accept…that our leadership is flawed, and the extent to which (and when) there can be change,

and that the mealy-mounthed Ibrahim Alis of the nation will always be around to mess up the already frayed nerves of the rakyat and that this is not likely to change;

“The courage…to all still-dithering Malaysians to change the things they can — even if it means having to vote in a ramshackle, porak-peranda Opposition party to prove a point (or at least, get the Ibrahim Alis of the nation off their home made pedestals);

“And the wisdom… to know whom to vote for no matter how dismal a future it may hold AND not to haul ass in spite of the rate things are going…

Shucks. Hope the Bersih rally doesn’t get too out of hand.

Losing Our Religion

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I PROMISED myself that I would not make any comment on the whole Bible row and the ‘Allah’ issue. After all, many bloggers have commented about it; some have even raised an almost academic point over the whole matter (read this post on LoyarBuruk). There are enough mouthpieces in that sense, so no point flogging a dead horse.  In fact, just last night, after drinks with Ivan Lam at Chilli’s, I was thinking it’s high time for another narrative on art (it’s been a while and I miss it).

But when I got to work this morning and got online to read the news, the reports on the whole Alkitab and Allah issue stifled whatever plans I had the night before. The politicising of the matter and the fact that it has gotten inadvertently tied up with the coming Sarawak elections — and very likely, considering our (political) track record, even the GE — really got me hot under the collar.

Let me first say that I am by no means a staunch Christian; I admit to being unable to live out the tenets of Christianity for the most part, but I try my best.  I believe that the Bible (or the Alkitab, in keeping with the current religious dissensions in the country) is true and that it is a source of inspiration to me as a believer; a reminder to live right and be good to others.

And I believe that calling God ‘Jesus’, ‘Lord’, ‘Yahweh’, ‘Tuhan’, ‘Elohim’ or ‘Allah’ is really within my rights as an individual and as a Christian, and is certainly neither wrong nor offensive to others. After all, the Indonesian Christians as well as our East Malaysian brethren have been using the word ‘Allah’ when calling on God from time immemorial. Many (both Muslims* and non-Muslims), have argued that ‘Allah’ is not exclusive to Islam. Frankly, I have no interest in going into the apologetics of the word because many others before me have done so, and it served no purpose. Why the whole debate sparked off in the first place remains incomprehensible to me.

The defacement of the 35,000 imported Bibles not too long ago is another senseless matter. I can’t understand how the Alkitab is a threat to national security. I have far greater faith in our Muslim citizens’ intelligence and ability to tell that the Bible/Alkitab is for Christians and that the use of the word ‘Allah’ therein is also within the Christian context, therefore there should be no cause for confusion. Does the government not have enough faith in the discernment of Malaysian Muslims? In any case, isn’t it the prerogative of Ali, Ah Seng, Arumugam and Alistair anak Batu to choose what they want to believe in? Or is there a new provision that certain religions should be crammed down one’s throat? All that has been debated before.

What really gets my goat is when wisecracks like Mr DPM start making claims that BN is not against Christianity. If that is true, then why bring it up in the first place, why the need to clarify? And why is the issue not resolved thus far? And then there is the Cabinet’s rather suspicious 10-point formula, not to mention Mr Long-Time Chief Minister’s (another Muhammed Yaacob, Wan Mokhtar, Samy Vellu wannabe) dialogue with the Christians.

What’s even more saddening is how this whole issue has gone so awry with SMSes circulating around that Christians should not vote for BN because voting against BN means a vote for Jesus. Call me an idealist, but in my book, politics is politics, and religion is religion and the twain shall ne’er meet.

Yes, I am worried that this issue never ends. That it could be a precedence to curb ALL non-Muslims of their freedom of religion. That this would spell darker days to come not just where religion is concerned.  But the fact that the politicising of my faith has invaded a realm that is as intimate as the SMS makes me shudder at the reality of the implications ahead. I urge non-Christians and Christians alike not to send out SMSes like this because, personally, (1) that is using Jesus’ name in vain and, (2) that is disrespectful and a low blow. I’d like to think that we do not need to stoop to such levels and bandy the supremacy of Christ with such flagrant disregard. It looks bad on us. If we have to resort to tying religious beliefs to politics, we certainly are losing our religion.

*If my memory serves me well, PAS strongman Nik Aziz has come right out and said that it’s OK for non-Muslims to use the word ‘Allah’ and if PAS is not the most Islamic political party in the country, then I don’t know who is.

App-ing 1Malaysia

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WAH. 1Malaysia is gonna be an app wor.

Wonder what app-addict Malaysians can look forward to! Maps? Info on culture? Proverbs of the day on unity? Hmm.

Looks like our PM is trying to make up for lost time and taking no chances, having learnt from the experiences of GE 2008. It also seems like he is really into Facebook and Twitter (quote from NST:   “I have more than 500,000 friends on Facebook and about 80,000 people following my Twitter account,” says the PM. Gosh that’s more than me, my brother, my mother and 10 of my friends put together. Wonder who these people are). Got time ka? I thought running a country is a tough job?

Oh, I forgot. That’s how he organised a super cool tea party attended by 600 friends! (This one confirm more than my friends on Facebook lah. Then again, I am not the PM)

Speaking of the tea party… I wonder if Alice was there. No prizes for guessing who the Queen of Hearts is, although there was no mention of her presence at the party in the NST today. Perhaps my mata sepet and I may have missed it out.

http://www.nst.com.my/articles/2putie/Article/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter