Saturday, 31 January 2015

My Taste of Johor

During our recent road trip to Johor Bahru (JB) our first food stop was the Pagoh R&R. Since it was lunch we were after, A had a nasi campur while I rooted out the quintessential Johor Jawa meal of Nasi Ambang/Ambeng. Actually I like mee goreng, so it is the bonus in the Nasi Ambeng set combination (composition?) of white rice, fried salted fish, fried chicken, stir fried vegetables, kerisek (fried coconut shreds), tempeh (soya bean cake) and tofu, topped with spicy sauce/sambal gravy. This 4-ringgit packet that I had was quite tasty, though there was no tempeh or tofu.

                                            Nasi Ambang at Pagoh R&R

Our breakfasts in JB were the usual hotel coffeehouse buffet fare, but for late lunches we sought out kopitiams downtown. We found the Hua Mui Coffee Shop in Jalan Trus. This kopitiam is reputedly the first and therefore oldest kopitiam in JB, run by the Chiang family since 1946. It still retains some colonial era decor and an antiquated pulley system dumbwaiter to transport food to the top floor of the two-storey building. The serving staff here are most friendly and some are very long-serving (30 years!)

Despite having had breakfast earlier, we couldn't help ordering the charcoal grilled kaya and butter toast with Hainanese coffee (kau! - strong in Hokkien). Think of this as dessert before the main meal! We of course, tried their famous signature dish of the Hainanese Chicken Chop. A loved it so much that when we revisited the next day, she had the same thing. I varied between a so-so Mee Hailam and very generous Hainanese Fried Rice. Icing on the cake here for us once, were musicians busking outside. Good food, good music and old-world ambience... bliss!

                            Hua Mui downstairs and the antiquated pulley system dumbwaiter

                                 Hua Mui's Hainanese Chicken Chop                        Kopi kau!

                              Mee Hailam                                                         Hainanese Fried rice

One dinner we had was at the Berjaya Waterfront area, at a Restoran Sayam. Other than the main dish of tomyam, there was otak-otak as well. Another dinner was at the home of my niece in Skudai, where we had some delicious home-cooked bihun with seafood and vegetable soup. Dessert was a bread and butter pudding. Sedap. Sedap. Terima kasih!

We also went to Banafee Village (at Jalan Dato' Abdullah Tahir) one evening to meet up with B and her colleagues. They had come down to JB for a business meeting. Since they had eaten earlier at the Banafee Restaurant nearby and we'd had our dinner at my niece's, so we just had drinks and enjoyed the live golden oldies evergreen music being played there. No taste of Johor here because no food was had, hahaha! Maybe next time.

The late morning before we left JB, we went downtown again, this time to seek out another (Malay) kopitiam in Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, the Dapur Jendela. Unfortunately it was closed or rather not yet open, because, as we later found out, they operate between 6 pm till 2 am! So we walked around the area admiring the old shophouses, some of which had been nicely renovated to house coffee hangouts, even an art gallery (with coffee). To quench our thirst, we conveniently spotted a unique cafe, Johor-born.

The first container cafe, Chaiwalla & Co. started business in JB at the beginning of 2013. (Their branch opened at the end of the same year at The Curve, and became Klang Valley's first container cafe). We were quite attracted to the set-up of the container 'building'. The real attraction was of course all the chai (tea) that you can choose from. You customise your own drinks, choosing your preferred flavour and toppings for the bases of tea, milk tea, or coffee.

If the best Nasi kandar is to be enjoyed in Pulau Pinang, then the best Johor foods must be enjoyed in the state of Johor (simplistic logic? or is it the water? huh??). Foods like the unique Laksa Johor, and Telur pindang, we have had before. Johor Asam pedas too, at Anisofea Restaurant at Mount Austin JB, We have yet to try the supposedly best Mee bandung (in Muar), and Nasi briyani gam (in Batu Pahat). Then there are other dishes; Lontong, Pecal, Soto, Halwa maskat, Arisa, Kacang pool, etc., etc. So much food to savour, so little time...

21-23 January 2015

Sunday, 25 January 2015

A Road Trip to Johor Bahru

We are just back from a road trip to Johor Bahru (JB), capital city of Johor, doing our part in promoting local travel by 'staycationing' in our southernmost state of Malaysia. At first we planned to stop by Tangkak (in the district of Ledang) to visit friends and spend a night in nearby Muar. But then we drove straight on to JB, only stopping by the Pagoh R&R for our lunch and bio-break. The drive along the North-South highway was pleasant as the weather was fine and the vehicular traffic light in most places.

In JB we checked into the Berjaya Waterfront Hotel in Stulang Laut for a 3 day/2 night-stay there. From our window, we see Singapore just across the Selat Johor/Tebrau (Tebrau Straits) and spot the causeway to the island, also the ferry terminal for Batam Island, Indonesia. So near and enticing, but then we are reminded that we are really on a 'cuti-cuti Malaysia' trip, so no foreign countries to be involved, please.

                                           Sunrise over the Straits of Tebrau (from Room 1308)

I have been in JB only twice before on rather very short stints, so this time its more of a familiarisation visit. We have family in JB so we (A actually) 'Waze-d' our way to Skudai to visit my niece and her young family. There we also met up with my nephew Iman (the one who lives in Kota Tinggi).

We went into downtown JB to check out the Chinatown and Little India areas. The former although small, is most interesting (especially Jalan Tan Hiok Nee) because we came across some street art there, a 'red house' and a wedding party, also an art gallery cum cafe and 'old school'/colonial era kopitiams including the rather famous Hua Mui (where we went twice for late lunch, once because the other famous Dapur Jendela was closed/not yet open).

Any travel, even if locally, will surely involve new foods to savour or to try. I will save 'my taste of Johor' for the next post.

21-23 January 2015     

Saturday, 24 January 2015

MUD; Our Story of Kuala Lumpur

The venue is the 110 year-old theatre Panggung Bandaraya, in Jalan Raja, at the Dataran Merdeka . The musical production MUD, tells the story about our very own capital city, Kuala Lumpur. Combining fact and fiction, the story comes alive depicting the trials and tribulations of the beginning of KL as a frontier town in 1857. Then the great fire of KL happened in 1881, followed by the destructive floods at the end of the same year.  This story of KL is also the story of friendship and multiracial unity among the people, resolute in rebuilding the city. The main characters are Mamat (played by Anding Indrawani of AF fame), Meng and Muthiah.

MUD the musical is interactive theatre, with the involvement of members of the audience. I myself was involved twice, once getting quite carried away on stage! How? I'm too embarrassed to tell, heheh! But I'm sure you too will really enjoy being involved because the cast's enthusiasm is very infectious.

This musical production is by Enfiniti Vision Media, and presented by KL City Hall. A one hour-long musical, it is set to run for three years (it started in July 2014), with daily shows, and 86 cast and crew members.

Best of all, after the show, you will be invited on stage to take photos with the cast. A beautiful end to a wonderful show.

18 January 2015

Monday, 19 January 2015

Butter Dreaming

I felt I was in cake heaven when I stepped into the 'Butter Dreaming pop up party' in Pandan Indah recently. All around the room were delightful crystal cake stands holding scrumptious looking baked goodies. Pardon me as I gush about what there were then.

There was the regal Strawberry Rose Cake topped with real edible rose petals, oh la la! Most delicious! The petals... and the cake of course. Next to it, Caramel Apple Crumble Pie and Pretzel Brownies. Delectable, each one of them.

As I savoured the heavenly Raspberry Maple Cheese Cake, each spoonful was just pure melt in the mouth goodness. The Orange Tea Cake was warm and soft, truly light and fresh, truly comfort food for tea or any time really.

Then there's the Mini Lavender Lemon Pound Cake. Marvelous, and ambrosial me thinks, with the lavender sprinkled on top. For a while, the flavour transported me to the lavender fields of the French countryside. Oh la la (again)!

The Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Glazed Pecan looked decadent and tasted divine. The Mushroom Quiche was pure sunshine and really lip-smacking good. While the Cheddar Scallion Scone was beautifully buttery rich.

Okay I will stop now lest you, kind reader, drool too much. Thank you Dina and mum for having us there to partake of the lovely and tasty baked offerings and more. (Thank you Sarah for introducing us to Dina and her mum).

Note: You can enjoy these and more by checking out Butterdream Project on Facebook and #butterdreamproject on Instagram.

17 January 2015

Saturday, 17 January 2015

PickNik Revisited

Recently we revisited PickNik to have a late lunch there. By happy coincidence, Chef Nik Michael Imran was 'in the house'. So it was a great combination of good food, friendly conversation and a relaxed ambience all round.

I started with a mocktail of Strawberry Daiquiri; a most delicious blended mixture of strawberries, grenadine and sweet & sour lemon lime. My Seafood Risotto was just the right combination of soft and smooth saffron risotto with prawn, calamari and mussels in tomato sauce.

A had a Prawn Olio Spaghetti; aglio olio paired with succulent prawns and chilli flakes. (Of course I 'dipped' into her pasta dish! Yum yum!)

My dessert was the prettiest Bread and Butter Pudding I have ever seen. It was most deeelicious. So also A's Pandan Creme Brulee - gula melaka bruleed on top and served with Bounty coconut ice-cream.

PickNik's take on the traditional creme brulee is a definite winner. (No wonder a Frenchman was horrified, as told to us by Chef Nik Michael. He cannot accept that a pandan creme brulee, which he must think is desecrate of the original, can be so, so delicious!)

PickNik Comfort Food Cafe is at A4-UG1-05, Publika Solaris Dutamas, Jalan Dutamas 1, Kuala Lumpur.

May be slightly difficult to find at first in the Publika maze, but find it you will. And it will be well worth it.

13 January 2015

Friday, 16 January 2015

Salam Maulidul Rasul 1436

Yesterday we celebrated the Prophet's birthday at a home in Bukit Petaling. The early morning ceremony began with doa/prayers; Yasin and doa selamat by a maahad tahfiz Nurul Iman (religious school) led by their Ustaz.

There followed a tazkirah by Ustaz Dato' Haji Mohd Najmuddin bin Elias Al Hafiz. He extolled the virtues of the Prophet and the five ways we may emulate him. This older brother of the more famous Ustaz Kazim Elias (UKE) is actually his replacement speaker because UKE is down with an ailment. We all hope he recovers soon. UKE is my favourite ustaz to listen to because he is witty and makes religion and religious issues interesting and enlightening.

Then a younger Ustaz Dr Fathul Bari expounded on the global scenario of Islam today. There were also nasyid songs in praise of the Prophet rendered by a few groups.

The occasion ended in the early afternoon with a sumptuous lunch for all guests.

Note: Last year the tazkirah was delivered by Ustaz Ravi Abdullah.
(In progress)

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Bears Galore;1600 in All

A whole army of 1600 black and white bears has invaded the Publika, Solaris Dutamas. They came on the 13th January and will only leave on the 25th. But not to worry because they are really cute little pandas made of papier-mache. They are currently in Malaysia on their world tour program begun in 2008 with the cooperation of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Since 21 December 2014, they have already 'visited' some 14 iconic locations including Dataran Merdeka, Taiping Lake Gardens, Red Square Melaka, Cheong Fatt Tze Pulau Pinang, Dataran Menara Condong Teluk Intan, etc. They are travelling the world to remind you and me about animal welfare and environmental conservation.

Note: The panda sculptures are by Frenchman Paulo Grangeon, who reportedly used recycled paper to create the 1600 pandas, this number being the symbolic representation of pandas left in the wild.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Snapshots: Sunrise over Shah Alam

Sunrise and sunset are magical times especially when a myriad of colours abound in the sky. I have always found dawn and dusk fascinating. Here is what I captured of a beautiful sunrise over Shah Alam recently.

                                               @7.22 am

                              @7.32 am                                           @7.41 am

                                           @7.42 am
13 January 2015

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

A Librarians' Reunion

Thirteen former Librarians of Universiti Sains Malaysia had a reunion in Petaling Jaya recently. It was great to be able to catch up with ex-colleagues to find out what they were up to now and to especially reminisce about 'the good old days' working in the Library of USM.

Siti Kulthum is all the way from Greece, Penelope from Sabah, Noor Ida from Johor, Rashidah and Ramli from Pulau Pinang. Sook Jean, Siw Lai, Mary, Sakinah, Nurin, Habsah, Pang and I now reside in Selangor. Of course we all agreed to start a whatsapp group immediately to enhance our camaraderie. We look forward to more joining the group, and to more reunions of course.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

SA Garden Catalogue: Umbrella Plant

Scientific name: Cyperus involucratus
Syn: Cyperus alternifolius
Common name: Umbrella plant
Family: Cyperaceae/Sedge family
Origin: Uncertain, probably Africa

This Umbrella plant has been in my little garden since I became a permanent Shah Alam resident nearly seven years ago. My good new neighbour gave me a clump from her own plant and it has thrived well in a container. In fact this hardy plant can thrive in marshy places as well as on dry land. It likes to be grown in full sun although the partial sunshine it gets in my garden has posed no problem. Propagation is really easy - by division (like the 'clump' I started with).

Cyperaceae are a family of herbs that look like grasses. The best known species commercially is the rather delicious and crunchy Water chestnut (Eleocharis tuberosa) and then there is the historically famous Papyrus plant (Cyperus papyrus), made into writing paper as far back as 2000 BC in Egypt.

The weather this January is of rather hot spells with thunderstorms every so often in the late afternoons.

Ref:Tropical Horticulture and Gardening/Francis S P Ng. (Ex Libris CNB 1866)

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Refreshing Rituals for the Body at the aVi Spa, Avillion

"Steam. Water. Scent. Touch. The essential elements of a spa experience have been the same since people flocked to public steam baths in ancient Sparta. The benefits of spa have remained constant, too. While bathing and pampering help to care for the body, the rituals of spa treatments also help to unify mind, body and spirit for overall well-being" - Leslie Wolski.

We need spa therapies for our active lifestyles, to restore our bodies, revive our minds and energise our spirits. Treatments may range from simple chair massages (in our homes, shopping outlets, even airports, etc.), to public steam baths, to full-day pampering at luxury spas.

The aVi Spa in Avillion Port Dickson offers the best of a luxury spa. Housed in a beautiful white floating building, we couldn't help checking it out when we stayed at a (Avillion) water chalet on New Year Eve recently. We wanted to 'experience their healing philosophy through the serene environment and the selection of rejuvenating and soothing treatments.'

The next day before leaving, we opted for their aVi Signature Rub and Malay Healer massages. After the hour-long session we came away quite refreshed and rejuvenated. We would definitely make return visits.

Ref: Spa/Leslie Wolski. The Body Shop, 2003. Ex Libris CNB 1653

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Ushering in the New Year at Port Dickson

We wanted to capture the last sunset of 2014 and greet the first sunrise of 2015 by the sea. To breathe the fresh sea breezes and feel the sand under our feet. And Port Dickson seemed the best location because it is near enough to Kuala Lumpur/Shah Alam. So it was a pleasant drive to the Avillion Port Dickson (at the 3rd Mile Jalan Pantai) on the 31st December, for a night's stay there.

Unfortunately, when dusk came, there was no sunset. The sky had been downcast for most of the afternoon although it did not rain. Ces't la vie!

We had dinner at The Verte, and joined in the countdown to the new year with other guests there. There were no fireworks and a minute's silence was observed for victims of our recent disasters. It was altogether a very low-key celebration, appropriate in these difficult times for the nation.

On New Year's day the weather was most pleasant and we spent our time walking barefoot on the beach, strolling around the resort's beautifully landscaped environment (complete with herb garden and roaming peacocks) and enjoying some of the facilities available.

There are two beaches, although the smaller one, Tumasek Beach, being the historic landing place of the Avillion founder Lord Avery (?) was closed. I will have to verify this (piece of local history) later. The three swimming pools cater for family, adults and children. A pet farm/mini zoo seems quite an attraction for kids (and the kid in us all).

We ended our pleasant stay at Avillion Port Dickson with a visit to their award-winning  aVi Spa. (More on this later).

31/12/14-01/01/15        P.S. Thank you B for the New Year treat.