Friday, 18 December 2015

SA Garden Catalogue: Pineapple

Scientific name: Ananas comosus
Common name: Pineapple
Malay name: Nenas
Family: Bromeliaceae
Origin: South America

The pineapple, of which there are about 2,000 species, is a herbaceous perennial and seem easy enough to grow (from the crown cuttings) in containers in the urban garden. But flowering and fruiting does take time - two years and more.

It is more than two years but I have yet to see any flowers on the two plants I have, grown from crown cuttings of pineapples I bought in Johor and a local supermarket. I guess my source of pineapples will remain the markets, both farmers' and super (markets).

Of course the pineapple has many uses as a fruit that may be consumed fresh, cooked, juiced or preserved (jams, compote, etc). This fruit has many health benefits including the enzyme Bromelain which has anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting and anti-cancer properties.

In the Philippines the leaves are made into textile fibre or pina, the material for the men's Barong Tagalog and women's Baro't saya, also shawls.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015


                                          The South China Sea at Paka, Trengganu

I have been away from this blog for five months already (since my last entry on Trengganu, 06/06/15), distracted by Instagram. But I will try to get back and do backdates as best as I can with notes from my diary/journal.

Monday, 23 November 2015

SA Garden Catalogue: Velvet Bean

Scientific name: Mucuna pruriens
Common name: Velvet bean, Cowhage, Picapica, Cowitch
Malay name:
Origin: Africa/India

The Velvet bean is a climbing flowering plant with flowers the colour of white, light purple or dark purple. There are loose hairs covering the young leaves and seed pods (hence the name Velvet bean) of the flowers and these can caused severe irritation of the skin when contacted.

I was given four beans to grow but only three thrived. The plants grow rather quickly and there were flowers which I did not have the opportunity to capture with my camera. Hopefully the beans can be documented.

Actually it was only out of curiosity that I grew this legume plant, whose major use is as manure and animal feed. As a minor food rich in protein, the beans can be a garnish, condiment or vegetable (not unlike soyabean, cowpea and groundnut). But the beans must be cooked to get rid of some toxic chemicals that they contain. The beans also contains serotonin and nicotine that can be mind altering substances.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

SA Garden Catalogue: Bunga Telang

Scientific name: Clitoria ternatea
Common name: Butterfly pea, Blue pea, Cordofan pea, Asian pigeonwings
Malay name: Bunga Telang
Family: Fabaceae
Origin: Tropical, equatorial Asia

This is a perennial herbaceous plant which grows as a vine usually. The flowers are a beautiful vivid blue with light yellow markings. (There are varieties that produce white flowers.) The fruits are flat pods that are edible when tender.

Throughout Southeast Asia, the blue flowers are used to colour food. Like the blue in our Nasi kerabu from Kelantan and the blue in our Nyonya kuihs. (In Thailand they make a blue drink and fry the flowers in batter too.)

I grew my plants (above) from seeds given to me by B's teacher friend Santhi. There are four plants growing together, though you cannot really tell from the picture. But they are not doing too well because I tend to over-water (and sometimes the rains aggravate the problem). But I do hope they do well enough to produce some blue flowers for me in the near future.

The weather in early October was rather wet and there have been thunderstorms. But then the 'burning forests' in Indonesia still make for unhealthy air pollution indices. Like today, the API is an unhealthy 339 at 4.00 pm (299 at 5.00 pm). So the smog is still very much upon us!
(2 Dec 15)

Monday, 19 October 2015

Tenggelamnya Kapal Van Der Wijk

We went to see the Tenggelamnya Kapal Van Der Wijk theatre at the Istana Budaya on the night of October 17th and liked it tremendously. The cast of popular actors of our Malaysian small screen was a good move of the producer/director to reinvigorate the theatre scene. We hear it was nearly full house most nights.

Amar Bahrin and Nabila Huda played the romantic tragic couple well enough to have some in the audience reach for their tissues. Was I affected in the same way? You bet!

4 Dec 2015

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

SA Garden Catalogue: Portulaca Oleracea

Scientific name: Portulaca oleracea
Common name: Purslane, Moss rose
Malay name: Ros Jepun
Family: Portulacaceae
Origin: South America (?)

The Purslane in my little urban garden is of the Portulaca oleraceae, a small semi-perennial fleshy herb bearing showy flowers in many colour variants, ranging from yellow to orange to pinks and reds. The two containers I have bear yellow flowers only.

The plants are free-flowering throughout the year, but get moribund (near dying!) rather quickly and need to be renewed by cuttings. I have done this and so multiplied the single container of these plants my good neighbour gave me to two.

The bright pretty flowers are radially symmetrical with four to six petals. They open in the morning (at about 9 o'clock) and close in the afternoon (at about 5 o'clock from my observation). Flowers that go to work 9 to 5! They grow well in full sun on well-drained soil, and are easy to propagate by cuttings.

Note: The Portulaca oleracea differs from the other common Purslane Portulaca grandiflora in having broad instead of narrow leaves and the flowers are multi-layered. Once upon a time in Pulau Pinang we grew P. grandiflora in many colours on our lawn. Maybe I should try growing it again. Anyone with cuttings for me?

The weather in September saw some rains but the air pollution index in Shah Alam was sometimes above 200.
5 Dec 2015

Thursday, 27 August 2015

SA Garden Catalogue: Tabebuia rosea

Scientific name: Tabebuia rosea  Syn: Tabebuia pentaphylla
Common name: Trumpet tree
Malay name:
Origin: Mexico to Venezuela

The Tabebuia rosea tree bears fairly big bell-shaped flowers, white to purple in colour. The flowers are produced intermittently sometimes coinciding with the shedding of leaves. The tree grows well in full sun, preferably in parks or the roadside. Propagation is by seeds.

I did not grow this tree in my little urban garden knowing that it is a fast-growing potentially large tree, up to 30 m tall. But a seed must somehow have taken growth, so I had a tall tree on my tiny piece of front yard. I let it and it grew very fast but when it started scraping against the gutter during windy days, I had to do something drastic. I pruned it down to only my waist height (on July 9). Now there are a lot of branches sprouting up and I will monitor the growth so it does not overwhelm the garden.

Monday, 27 July 2015

SA Garden Catalogue: Caladium Humboldtii

Scientific name: Caladium humboldtii
Common name: Angel wings, Elephant ear
Malay name: Keladi ?
Family: Araceae (Genus: Caladium Species: Humoldtii)
Origin: Brazil

The Caladium humboldtii is one of the smallest Caladium species, a small rosette herb 2 to 5 inches tall with delicately patterned foliage that are white with green veins. Usually there are no flowers. Grow in partial or full shade or even indoors because they make pretty ornamental plants. Propagation is by division of the tubers.

The plant tends to die down and rest periodically. When the leaves die down, I always think the plant is gone. But then the tubers sprout leaves again, and the plant thrives well another time.

Note: Caladiums may not be ingested as all parts of the plant are poisonous. So it is not a good idea to have them around if there are children involved.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Floria Putrajaya

It was my first Floria Putrajaya and one important thing I will remember from this experience is that I should not really leave visiting a flower show to the very last day (7 June 2015) to make it there. Because flowers and plants will not be at their best after a week. Of course the cut flower exhibits were the most 'disastrous' but the garden landscape competition were still good to look at. Overall I would say that this is an event beautiful enough that I hope to put on my calendar annually. Please enjoy just a small fraction of the Floria Putrajaya 2015.

4 Dec 2015

Saturday, 6 June 2015

My Taste of Trengganu

Food tastes best when savoured at the place of origin, no doubt about it. During our four-day stay in Trengganu we had the best, whether cooked by our gracious hosts, bought, or eaten out.

Our hosts, Datuk Nazli and Datin Badariah, spoilt us no end while we were staying at their Villa Casuarina in Paka, Trengganu. The lunch that greeted us when we arrived was a sumptuous spread of Nasi beriani Arab with chicken, and accompaniments of dalca, kerabu, sambal, etc. All cooked with the Trengganu touch. Really delicious! I even tried eating watermelon 'Geganu style with the rice, not as the usual dessert. For dessert, it was the man of the house's specialty - tapai with ice-cream. Truly, really delish!

                                                                     Our first sumptuous lunch spread

                                                        This tapai with ice cream was just divine!

                                         My lunch plateful of nasi campur on our second day

If our lunches were sumptuous spreads, our late afternoon teas and dinners were served alfresco. With the soft sea breeze around us and later at night, under the moon and stars, food and friends were a heady mix. Euphoric, even.

There was keropok lekor (the best I have tasted), cucur udang (also the best), ketupat sotong* (my first time trying this and I like it). Then there was a night barbecue of the freshest meat, especially seafood (including the sotong of course).

One teatime we had the pleasure of being guests of DB's mother in Kuala Trengganu. Our very elegant host prepared a whole table-full of goodies including a very delectable creme brulee. Another good friend in KT added laksang to completely satiate us.

*Ketupat sotong is the highlight of our visit here because it is squid season and the time for the International Squid Jigging Festival in Kuala Trengganu. At least three of us have expressed an interest to go squid jigging next year. We were not prepared (or scared?) for this year.

                                          The best cucur udang and keropok lekor for tea

                                          My plateful of ketupat sotong

                                         Dinner of mee goreng +, under the moon and stars

Our last dinner was even more special, because not only were we joined by our friend DR and husband, but the chicken chop was specially prepared by our host DN and served with a secret sauce. It was indeed very, very good. (So DN, when do we get the secret recipe? Just kidding!)

                                                       DN's specially prepared chicken chop with secret sauce. Yummy!

And what is a Trengganu visit without a breakfast of the ubiquitous Nasi dagang? Of course our hosts ensured we had the best in Paka during our first breakfast at their Villa Casuarina. Other breakfasts included pulut with kelapa, nasi lemak, nasi goreng, etc.

                                          The best Nasi dagang in Paka 

                                        Breakfast pulut + kelapa to eat with ikan masin or serunding

Then there was the pre-lunch snack of more sotong during our day trip to Kuala Trengganu. This time sotong bakar at the Pantai Batu Burok. Although this is not my snack of choice, some of my friends really love this.

                                                       Julia is ever smiling and ever ready to serve you from her truck

Are you drooling already? Then get up and go holiday makan-makan in Trengganu!

29 May - 1 June 2015

Friday, 5 June 2015

Charmed by the people of Kuala Trengganu

Kuala Trengganu was a day trip for us from Paka. We did the very necessary - visiting Pasar Payang (officially Pasar Besar Kedai Payang) to buy 'made in Trengganu'. The market was busy as ever, and with the start of the school holidays, even more so. I love markets, and the more chaotic the better!

Pantai Batu Burok, sotong bakar, nasi ayam lunch

An elegant host to a sumptuous tea

Again, very much in progress, what can I say?

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Paka by the South China Sea

Just posting some photos here before I retrace my post later and write a proper account of our fabulous stay in Paka.

Very much in progress!
29 May-1 June 2015

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

A Trengganu Road Trip

It was a most interesting road trip to Trengganu and I can only try to do justice to the venture at a later date. So my posts will only be very brief introductions before I try to beef them up later. First an overall look at our Trengganu trip in late May-early June.

1. We were most graciously hosted at the Villa Casuarina in Paka; our hosts thoroughly spoilt us with very kind hospitality, including cooking up the most delectable dishes!

2. We made a road trip up to Dungun for the market, the views and a sweet surprise!

3. On another day, we went to Kuala Trengganu. Again to be received with the utmost gracious hospitality and lunch and tea treats. Also a foray into the Pasar Besar Kedai Payang.

29 May - 1 June 2015

Sunday, 24 May 2015

A Rendezvous with Colonial History at Kellie's Castle

Yesterday we went to a wedding kenduri (feast) in Batu Gajah, Perak. Just before reaching the venue, we spotted what looked like a 'tourist stop' along the way. Serendipity! It turned out to be Kellie's Castle, a must-see spot of history in the state of Perak.

A building of Moorish architecture, this castle, also deemed 'Kellie's folly' was abandoned when its owner died.

(In progress - will be more substantial about the research and writing later. Soon I hope!)

Sunday, 17 May 2015

SA Garden Catalogue: Draceana Marginata

The Draceana marginata is a slender treelet that can grow up to 4 metres long. The leaves are restricted to apical tufts. The leaves are stiff and colourful, hence its common name as Rainbow plant. Actually it is a tricolour cultivar.

Scientific name: Draceana marginata
Common name: Dragon tree, Rainbow plant
Origin: Madagascar

The Draceana grows well in full or partial sun. In fact it makes a good houseplant because it is very low maintenance. Propagation is by cuttings. Pruning (for cuttings) will produce new tufts of leaves. In my tiny urban garden, I only have a couple of treelets that I have allowed to grow tall. A couple more I prune to keep them short.

The weather in this month of May has been rather wet but temperatures remain high.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Another "Golden Girls" Get Together

Recently eighteen 'girls' of the 64-70 batch of TKC enjoyed a scrumptious lunch hosted by the one and only (astrophysicist extraordinaire) Mazlan Othman. Venue: Royal Lake Club.

13th May 2015

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A Happy Mother's Day

Thank you B for a wonderful Mother's Day treat. Sorry you had to work A, but thank you for the gift.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

To Market, to Market at Pulau Tikus

The Pulau Tikus Market

(Very much in progress! More pictures and description later. After 'technical problems' sorted out. Please bear with me...)

Friday, 8 May 2015

Tunneling through Time at the History Museum

The History Museum is a recently (2013) opened Museum in George Town, Pulau Pinang. For me this year is a year marked for museums, so I am trying to visit as many as possible. So when in Pulau Pinang recently, this venue fits the bill!

The 'story' in this museum begins with early history before 1786 when Pulau Pinang was a territory owned by the Kedah Sultanate, and continues through till the present day.

There are many life size models of people that figure in the history and development of this state, making it all the more interesting to 'pose' alongside them.

It is interesting also to be able to see old artifacts in the many exhibits, also old photos of people and places long gone mostly.

Some exhibits bring back old memories of my childhood in the 50s. Like 'main tikam'.  An early form of 'gambling', heheh!

The exhibits on the history of transport on the island of Pulau Pinang shows that vehicular traffic has been interesting. We did use to have trams or trolley buses on the streets back then. The Penang Hill funicular railway has also undergone many changes, but remains attractive for tourists. I remember the beca to be known as 'kings of the road' back then. But not anymore. Though hopefully they will remain as tourist attraction.

Other than history, there are three other sections; one on 3D mural art, a 'fluorescent room' and a 3D inverted room. They all make for very interesting photo opportunities.

I will end this post with a quotation from Hegel, the gist of it being that we never learn anything from history. Ces't la vie.

1 May 2015