Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Pancakes Have a Day

Durian crepes (CNB 2013)
Do you know that pancakes have a day? This year Pancake Day was on February 12th. Actually it is a Christian celebration on the Tuesday before Lent (the festival leading up to Easter Sunday) whereby it is traditional on this day to eat pancakes.

But in my book, any day can be pancake day - every body loves pancakes (or crepes, flapjacks, griddle cake whatever you call it). Basically pancakes are thin flat cakes made of batter  (usually flour, eggs, milk and butter) that is poured onto a hot greased surface and cooked, usually on both sides.

Pancakes are traditionally eaten sprinkled with castor sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice. But now all sorts of toppings and fillings make for ... a very (ful)filling meal. These can include chocolate, banana, berries, jams, golden syrup, ice cream, whipped cream, coconut shavings, nuts, sweet corn, even durian!

Durian crepes seems to be the new food fad, but I still prefer the retro apam balik (with the very rich filling of sweet corn, chopped nuts, sesame seeds, sugar & butter), kuih ketayap/dadar (pity though, now the coconut filling used are not so 'lemak' anymore, its mostly sweetened 'hampas') and akok (the batter is made with ducks' eggs, no need for any topping or filling, simply delicious on its own!).

Then there are the pancakes of South Indian origin - chapattis, roti canai/prata, tosei (or dosa) to enjoy with lots of savoury cicah - curries, chutneys, sambals, etc. All make for yummylicious breakfasts! Or even lunches and dinners! The versatile roti canai can of course be eaten with sugar or even condensed milk. I once read somewhere (must be in the New Straits Times) that one European backpacker who toured around Malaysia, ate roti canai for all his meals. Very ingenious indeed.

Kuih ketayap at Pekan Rabu, Alor Star (CNB 2013)

Akok  at Pasar Tani Mega Shah Alam (CNB 2011)

There are just so many types of pancakes and most countries have pancakes in their food culture. Our Malaysian pancakes range from the sweet apam balik, apam telur, and kuih ketayap, etc. to the savoury chapattis, tosei/tosai, etc. Then there is roti jala - lacey crepes that constitute a beautiful full meal when eaten with meat/chicken and potato curry. I also enjoy roti jala with kuah durian ... yum! There is also murtabak ... our list of pancakes seem endless. Although we may claim these pancakes/crepes/flat breads our own, their origins may be from elsewhere.

I guess the most famous of crepes/pancakes must be the classic Crepes Suzette originating in Monte Carlo. This was created in 1895 by mistake, by a 14 year old assistant waiter (Henri Charpentier) serving the Prince of Wales, future King Edward VII of England. He (the waiter not the prince) had accidently ignited the 'cordials' and produced 'the most delicious melody of sweet flavours' in the royal dessert.

Crepes sold in creperies (stall/restaurant/cafe) are not only common in France but also in other countries including Japan. Japanese creperies (e.g. Shimino, Mazazu, ...) have also come into the food scene here. Both okonomiyaki (savoury/assorted/cabbage stuffed crepes) and doriyaki (sweet pancake-sandwich) are sold here.If you need more pancakes to savour, then there is the Paddington House of Pancakes in the Curve. (I ate here once eons ago ...)

A happy B and doriyaki at Plaza Shah Alam (CNB 2013)

Note: Translations as found in cyber space: kuih ketayap - coconut pancake; apam balik - peanut pancake, also turnover pancake; murtabak - stuffed meat pancake.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Books I Love: The Middle Ground

My Penguin copy of The Middle Ground (CNB 2013)

The Middle Ground by Margaret Drabble was first published in 1980. Her ninth novel is the story of middle aged Kate Armstrong and her relationships - with her children, her parents, and other characters - friends, women and men, facing mid life crises.

The author Margaret Drabble was born in Sheffield, England in 1939. She read English at Cambridge and received a double first. She has written several novels (A Summer Bird-Cage 1963, The Garrick Year 1964, The Millstone 1965, The Radiant Way 1987, A Natural Curiosity 1989, The Sea Lady 2006, etc.), articles, plays, biographies, and edited The Oxford Companion to English Literature.

Note: When Margaret Drabble was visiting Universiti Sains Malaysia in the 1990s I had the opportunity to meet her during a session at the School of Humanities. I confess that at the time, I was not familiar with her work except for The Oxford Companion to English Literature which she edited in 1985.

With Zaharah, Margaret Drabble, & Dr Wong at USM
Ex Libris CNB 0584
**Update: "The Sea Lady" borrowed from the Raja Tun Uda Library and read in June 2013.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Movies I like: The Legend of Suriyothai

The Legend of Suriyothai is a Thai movie by Chatri Chalerm Yukol and presented by Francis Ford Coppola.  It is a lavish production based on the true story of Princess Suriyothai who lived in 16th century Siam. The intrigue and clash between the most powerful families and also the wars with neighbouring Burma make for an incredible spectacle of Thai history.

Princess Suriyothai made many sacrifices for her country - she married a man she did not love to keep the peace between families, she took on traitors plotting against the King, and she laid down her life in the front-lines of a fierce frontier battle.

This period movie showcases the elegance, pomp and ceremony of Thai royalty, the might of war elephants and the beauty of the country.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

SA Garden Catalogue: Crown of Thorns

The month of February seems 'less hot' than usual. In previous years, the run up to Chinese New Year has always been hot and dry. But this year is different. It still rains, though not so heavily, every so often. Mostly in the evening. There is a bit of 'Spring in the air' and most of the perennials are flowering, although not so profusely, except for the Plumbago, Gardenia, Frangipani and Melati. The Crown of thorns exhibit a few florets.

Fuchsia pink Crown of thorns (CNB)

Common name: Crown of thorns
Scientific name: Euphorbia milii/Euphobia splendens
Family: Euphorbia
Origin: Madagascar

The Crown of thorns comes in various colours but I only have the fuchsia pink and the light pink, yellow-green. The petal-like showy and colourful bracts encircle the tiny flowers, usually yellow or red. The flowers and colourful bracts are indeed the 'crown' of this shrub which has very thorny stems. Propagation is by cuttings (be careful and watch out for the thorns and milky drips) and the plant does not really need too much care.

Light pink, yellow-green Crown of thorns (CNB)

Note: After a long absence, the torch ginger has yielded two flowers this month. Frangipani grown in containers seem to flower better that the ones planted in the ground, at least in my garden. The white-yellow now has six bunches of flowers and their lemony fragrance fill the air in the mornings.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Tribute to Love

A Happy Valentine's Day to all who celebrate this day of Lurrve ..., but then everyday is a day of Love. We all thrive on love ... of all kinds.

One of the Seven Wonders of the World is synonymous with love and romance. In fact the whole world knows that the Taj Mahal in Agra is the epitome of love. Of one man, Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. This monument of exquisite beauty and grandeur is their final resting place.

Note: Today is also Seri Aryan's 5th Anniversary.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Kuala Lumpur Bird Park

So ... we have the world's largest free-flight walk-in aviary that is the KL Bird Park, since 1991. (But  I wonder if this has been surpassed as superlatives go.)

Anyway, we decided to spend Chinese New Year's Day with the birds at the Park. Also with many other humans, local and foreign, young and old. So one not only sees the antics of birds, but of humans as well. Jolly interesting!

Green bands for Malaysians (CNB 2013)

The World of Parrots (CNB)
Some of the most adorable and colourful birds are the Lovebirds, which greet you in their Love Aviary as you enter the Park.

The parrots are just as colourful. At the World of Parrots, the rare ones are in their own cages. We noticed a couple of tortoises which the staff there explained, ate the birds' leftovers so keeping away rodents. But as you will see later, the rodents cannot be kept away!

A parrot pecks an apple for lunch (CNB 2013)

Then there are the pigeons and doves. Although most are grey and plain, one type is particularly beautiful and elegant. An interesting bluish grey pigeon with red iris and wispy lace like crest. The Merpati Mahkota or Victorian Crowned Pigeons seem very jinak (tame) and walk around pecking the ground for food, regardless of people milling about. They are ground pigeons and do not really fly much.

Aptly named Merpati Mahkota (CNB 2013)

Papayas for the birds (CNB 2013)
These are the papayas ready and waiting to be fed to the birds. The pigeons flock to the feeding stations and feast on half cut papayas strung on a 'tree'.

Pigeons feeding at a 'papaya station' (CNB 2013)

A very handsome peacock (CNB 2013)
The very handsome Indian Blue Peacocks seem to be all over the place. In fact we were greeted with the loud haunting* call of a single peacock perched on the roof of the 'Love Aviary' just as we were about to enter the Park. Interestingly we came across many peacocks but not so many of the duller peahens. Although some peacocks seem to be 'shedding', many strutted around in a splendid show of courtship by displaying their beautiful elongated tail feathers with the colourful eyespots. Of course they become instant 'models' for many, many camera shoots.

* I say 'haunting' because the first time I ever heard the call of peacocks was in the film of the 1859 novel by Charles Dickens, "A Tale of Two Cities", some light years ago. I thought the call forebode the death of the protagonist Charles Darnay Sydney Carton. 

A beautiful display despite the 'shedding' (CNB 2013)

I love flamingos but there are not very many in the Park. At the Flamingo Pond, there are some in the water and some around it. Many other birds share the 'watering hole'. There are a few ducks, at least two pelicans, also cattle egrets, storks and other waders.

By the Flamingo Pond (CNB 2013)

Cattle egrets near the Flamingo Pond (CNB 2013)
Like the peacocks which seem to have the run of the Park, the Cattle Egrets also are all over the place. They appear nonchalant about humans taking their photos at close range. Mostly white, some also sport  the breeding bluff plumage. I have always been fascinated by these Cattle Egrets, usually spotting them from afar in our padi fields. Here in the Park, such close proximity with them is just fantastic.

The most unique colour in the Park must be the very scarlet feathers of  another wader, the Scarlet Ibis. We spot only two of these birds although there are more black and white Sacred Ibis, mostly at the Flamingo Kiosk, trying to 'share' the food of people seated there.

The Scarlet Ibis (CNB 2013)

Other birds in the Park include the hornbills, more herons, storks and other waders at the Waterfall Aviary, the flightless birds (ostrich and emu), eagles at Brahminy Land and the bulbuls. We missed the Park's event highlight - the scheduled Bird Shows (12.30 pm & 3.30 pm). But there was no lack of 'unscheduled shows' by the birds around the Park, especially the peacocks. Unprecedented 'shows' was a mouse sharing the bird food at the pheasant enclosure and macaques doing rope walks.

10 February 2013

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Celebrating Chinese New Year at the KL Bird Park

Happy Chinese New Year 2013. Welcome to the water snake!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Landmarks of Selangor: Shah Alam Stadium & Melawati Stadium

The Stadium Shah Alam and Stadium Melawati (or Malawati) are two stadia of the Selangor State Sports Council, built between 1994-1997 in Shah Alam. 'Designed (by Hijjas Kasturi Associates) for large scale sporting and entertainment events, these structures combine traditional features with some spectacular modern innovations'.

Stadium Shah Alam
This is a partially covered stadium that seats 80,000. The roof structure is rather dramatic and it seems that 'from the air, the stadium looks like a partially open giant eye, without the eyeball'.

Every time I pass by this rather dramatic structure, I think of the 'giant eye' and the spectators moving along the vomitoria* of it to get to their seats and watch a great game/concert, hopefully. I have never been into this stadium for any sports/concert, so I do not have any 'inside' photos of it. But I hope to do so to get a feel of its grandeur. Anyone got free tickets for the next great game/concert there?

Stadium Shah Alam (CNB 2013)

One half of Stadium Shah Alam (CNB 2013)

* Not the place to vomit (eeuw!), but the architectural term for 'Passageways connecting an outside entrance to a tier of seats'.

*Update 29/09/2014*
Last night I got to enter the Shah Alam Stadium to watch The Sultan of Selangor's Cup 2014 match between Selangor and Singapore. Check out my blog post "My first football game: TSSC 2014" dated 29 September 2014. Below are two pictures of the stadium interior taken during the event.

Stadium Melawati
This stadium seats 12,000 on four sides of a central space and is air-conditioned. The roof is covered in copper sheets so the indoor arena is totally enclosed.

I have been into this stadium a couple of times, once to see the RTM Hits 1 finals concert which A was co-hosting. But I do not have any pictures of the inside of this stadium, nor do I have good pictures of the outside!

The copper roof of Stadium Melawati (CNB 2013)

Ref: Landmarks of Selangor. Jugra Publications, 2003

(In progress - I hope to take better pictures)

Monday, 4 February 2013

Landmarks of Selangor: Sultan Alam Shah Museum

Muzium Sultan Alam Shah is the state museum of Selangor and is located in the Shah Alam city centre, Section 14. The architect/designer is Dato' Dr Hj Baharuddin bin Abu Kassim and construction was in 1988.

The Museum building is part of the Civic Centre of this state capital of Selangor, and is linked to the Theatrette with its very distinctive traditional Bugis style roof.

Exhibits in the galleries are of artifacts related to the history of the Selangor, the Sultanate, replicas of royal regalia and significant events. There is a Natural History section as well.

Entrance Forecourt into the Museum (CNB 2013)

I have visited the Museum a few times, getting 'lost' in the three gallery floors. The exit is at the back of the building, so you do have to go around it to get back to the entrance forecourt. But it is rather worth it because you will be rewarded with the sight of a lake and the magnificent Blue Mosque.

Note: The State Library (Raja Tun Uda Library) was moved from being next door to this Museum to a new site. I wrote a post about the State Library on 12.12.12.

Ref: Landmarks of Selangor. Jugra Publications, 2003.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Landmarks of Selangor: Cash Centre, Bank Negara Malaysia

The Cash Centre Bank Negara M'sia in Shah Alam. The tall
building at the back is a hotel (CNB 2013)

One Sunday recently, B drove us to the Shah Alam city centre to have a rather late lunch at the Teapot Deli, SACC Mall. After lunch I told her that I would like to check out some Selangor landmarks in the vicinity. One of the buildings we stopped at to photograph was the Currency Processing and Distribution Centre or Cash Centre of the Bank Negara Malaysia.

This building, constructed in 1988, was designed as symbolic of  "old
world banking - a 'key' for security and a 'treasure chest' for safeguarding
Back of the building (CNB 2013)
money. The 'treasure chest' is represented by the barrel-vault form of the central spine that serves as a continuous roof light along the top of the building." The 'key' can only be observed from overhead. Since I am neither bat nor bird I cannot confirm this myself. The architect of this rather unique building is Dato' Hj Zainal Abidin.

The location of this Cash Centre is right smack in the city centre with roads running all around it. In fact many do not even realise it is there. I used to pass by it many times but never noticed the building until I found it listed in the book "Landmarks of Selangor".

Ref: Landmarks of Selangor. Jugra Publications, 2003.

Landmarks of Selangor: Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque

I have written about the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque (aka the Blue Mosque) before in my blog post of 30 June 2012. But as a very significant landmark of Selangor, I am posting a second entry on it in my continuing series of the 'Landmarks of Selangor' as I visit/revisit them (focusing on their history and architecture)*.

Ornate fencing around the Blue Mosque (CNB 2012)

This magnificent building in Shah Alam (SA) was built in 1988, at the behest of Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, when SA became the new capital of Selangor. He requested of the designer/architect (Dato' Dr Hj Baharuddin bin Abu Kassim) for the design to be traditional and able to accommodate 20,000. The mosque is set in 14 hectares of landscaped grounds on the north bank of the eastern lake** of SA.

The tall minarets lend a fairy tale look (CNB 2013)

Malaysia's Blue Mosque has one of the largest domes of a religious building in the world; 51 metres in diameter and 54 metres in height from the hollow box ring beam that supports it. The ring beam, both outside and inside, is decorated with beautiful Quranic calligraphy. The four minarets soar into the sky at a height of 138 (or 142?) metres.

The Blue Mosque seen from the state museum (CNB 2013)

* Ref: Landmarks of Selangor. Jugra Publications, 2003
**Shah Alam has at least six man-made lakes.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

The Federal Territories

What did I do yesterday, Friday 1st February? Nothing, really. Just 'celebrating' Hari Wilayah Persekutuan (Federal Territories Day) very quietly at home - looking up some facts about these Federal Territories - a history lesson of sorts.

On 1 February 1974, Kuala Lumpur became a Federal Territory (FT) after having been the capital for the state of Selangor since 1880, also capital for the Federated Malay States since 1896 and capital of Malaya, later Malaysia since Independence in 1957.

Labuan became the second FT ten years later in 1984, followed by Putrajaya which became the third FT on 1 February 2001. Hence FT Day is celebrated on 1 February.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Pantun Melayu: Budi

                        ... oleh Abdul Rahim 'R'

Pokok sena di tanah bohor,
   Daunnya rimbun hala ke tebat,
     Terasa nyaman di tengah rembang;
Hidup sempurna berbudi luhur,
   Bagai pohon berbuah lebat,
     Umpama taman bunga berkembang.

Sungguh subur bunga melati,
   Cantik dipandang boleh digetu,
      Apabila berkembang tidak berjeda;
Budi ditabur seikhlas hati, 
    Usah berudang sebalik batu,
      Harus bertimbang neraca minda.

Dipetik dari: Setaman Pantun Kenangan. Penerbit USM, 2006
Ex Libris CNB 1540