Here In My Home - Malaysian Artistes For Unity

Monday, 31 March 2008

This Is Old Style Nasi Kandar

The modern nasi kandar experience even in its original home Penang nowadays would be eating in one of the South Indian restaurants chains that serve mass produced nasi kandar food. However these are still usually lapped up by the customers who nowadays come to such places mainly for the experience, as the modern nasi kandar restaurants have now mostly transformed themselves to become Mamak Bistros, although they may not even be Indian Moslem Mamaks in the first place. Thus it is a pleasure to find that there remains old style Nasi Kandar establishments holding out where the main attraction is still the food, and doubly blessed you are if in Kuala Lumpur these are authentic Penang style nasi kandar. One such place is the Restoran Medina Baru at the roof top food court at Sungai Wang Plaza. Another would be Restoran Kudu Bin Abdul located at No.335, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, named after the original proprietor that is still surviving in the fringes of a fast modernising neighbourhood.

Having been featured many times in the mainstream press and blogs, I guess this place is no stranger for serious nasi kandar kakis, some even coming to the restaurant for generations. I personally have been here for the last fifteen years after my company’s driver introduced the place to me. He had an anecdote about the place where this is supposed to be the place where the late great National Icon P. Ramlee would come to get his nasi kandar fix. And since at one time a theatre named after him was located at the back of the shop, the older generation gave it the nickname of Nasi Kandar P. Ramlee. Well I will not be surprised if the late P. Ramlee himself found the place authentic, as even the fresh green chillies, coconut sambal and jelatah that usually accompany the real nasi kandar meal is still presently offered to those in the know. My favourite dish here is the daging masak hitam and the liver masak hitam that is being put into my plate that you can see. This is only some of the Penang mamak style dishes that you can have here as the counter holds many treasures from Penang, even curry crabs and tenggiri(Spanish mackerel) fish heads. And to finish off, as normal “taruh semua” curry or the northern style habit of mixing all the different curries into the rice to give it a distinctive mixed rice flavour where all the richness of the curries are blended into something superlative.

Now run by the original proprietor’s daughters, it is also refreshing to be served by locals instead of foreigners who may not even understand the local language. And this personal touch maintained by Mr Kudu’s daughter ensures that the family’s age old recipes are still retained for their customers’ pleasure. Here’s hoping that the restaurant will remain a family run heirloom so that the little of what old-style Penang Nasi Kandar eating establishments still remains. One caveat though, to get a parking space here is a horrible experience so I usually tapau myself after double parking at my own peril. So it is better to get public transport to come here if you are not from around Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Putting A Spring Back Into My Steps

I have had a hectic few weeks of travelling for the past three weeks, so much so my body had cried out in protest. So on Wednesday after a meeting I hung out at the Mall wondering where I could get a good massage because nowadays those that are available at hotels are either “chicken coops” or “tourist wallet traps’. So as I walked around after eating lunch at Medan Hang Tuah, this incidentally is still my most favoured hawker centre for splendid and economical local fare, I saw outside a Chinese reflexology centre offering needle less acupuncture treatment and massage. I have had a massage session before at such a Chinese style centre but without such acupuncture or reflexology treatment but this time looking at the goings-on from outside unnerved me a bit and I abandoned the idea.

So I went around and on the way down the escalator I saw a banner for Thai reflexogy massage centre on the floor I just passed. So I went up again and had a peek at the centre and it looked the same as those prevalent in Bangkok but which I did not have time to patronise before. So I went in and had to wait for around twenty minutes before a masseur became available, and since this was no hanky panky place it was male. The session started with foot reflexogy before proceeding with a full body massage where you only needed to take off your shirt. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised as the impression I had of any reflexology treatment before is that it would be a torturous affair, or at least a ticklish affair, but the one offered here was actually quite comfortable and agreeable. And I must say the masseur was quite an expert, as he managed to locate all the problem veins and areas and proceeded to do his best to heal them with his magic hands. I totally surrendered to his manipulations and was rewarded with a refreshed body that to this day still retains the light feeling.

However the masseur complained that I should have taken the two hour session to completely relax my body as he had to condense his treatment methods to fit the one hour session. I told him that I was just taking a break from work so I could not spend much time, but don’t worry as I would be coming again over the weekend and this time with my wife to further the treatment. Anyway I had another pleasant treatment when I went to pay after cooling down with the complimentary jasmine tea, as the whole thing only cost me RM32 as they had a Happy Hour period in the afternoon during week-days that I had overlooked. Anyway their promotional price is already far cheaper than any other similar centres and this will continue indefinitely as I guess they have a problem attracting clientele as the Mall is not actually a good place for people looking for such things. But for an experience that has put in again a spring to my footsteps, I am sure to return soon.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Aiyaa So Lukewarm One!

Well last Saturday night was the first Akademi Fantasia concert not helmed by Aznil Nawawi after five seasons at the forefront. I must say that although the new compere AC Mizal said that the students of season six were running on diesel engines and were slow to warm-up, the fact is that his style of compering contributed greatly to the lukewarm start of the new AF season. The way AC handled the show was no different than that of hosts of other music talent reality shows where there exists a wall between the host(s) and participants, where usually the host merely plays the role of introducing the participants to the audience and even if they interact it is only at a superficial level.

This is where the magic of Aznil lies, as we audience feels the care he genuinely feels for the students, where he is not only treated as a big brother but respected as such. You can feel his personal touch when he veers off script, as he can personally pick on the foibles or things that has happened to a student, especially in manipulating the feelings of not only the audience but the students themselves. Thus he is able to motivate a student that may be feeling down or nervous, especially in the first concert of each season where naturally everyone have butterflies in ther stomach. Compare this to the comments made of this season's students, where virtually everyone received comments that nervousness affected their performance. Thus in this aspect at the very least, AC has failed in emulating the previous host.

I believe the difference brought by Aznil is because he was really passionate about AF, as testified by his professionalism in putting his other compering jobs on hold when the AF season comes on. Thus he could concentrate fully on the show, even helming the daily diary programme which gives him the inside look on the going-ons inside the academy. This would definitely give him the advantage in helming the show with care and concern as nuggets that audience may not have been exposed to before the concert can be used to surprise the audience, as the shock value is not only limited to the number of students that actually leaves the academy at the end of each concert but to actual experiences of the students, thus the audience has the chance to share and feel a stake in the students life.

Thus my wife and I believe that Astro made a mistake in splitting the hosting duties between AC and Sarimah. They should have been so bold and selected Sarimah to wholly helm the show on her own as she would have had the same advantage of the inside look into the daily going-ons inside the academy from her diary program to make her hosting of the concert more real. AC may react by saying he too can do the same, but without giving up his other shows during the season I doubt that he has the time and the wherewithal to gain the insights that would make the show more passionate. And the first thing he should realise if he intends to do a better job as a AF concert host is to understand and emulate Aznil's mantra, the show is all about the academy, i.e., the students and not the host, as he came across as trying too hard to project himself more than the students during the show, especially when he failed to prepare the students to face the critiques in their inaugural concert. So let's see if the diesel engine malady is truly the students' affliction, or is it the host that needs the overhaul over the coming weeks concerts.

The Story of A Political Leprechaun

This is not a story of a political animal as to call it one would demean animal kind. However a leprechaun has no such moral qualms so it is most suitable to call the political creature as such. So this is why this story is a story about a political leprechaun. This story is set in the land of grace where the leprechaun made a deal with the nation’s supremo to temporarily lay his pot of gold at the end of a rainbow in the hinterlands of peaceful valley for a single term, to be returned to their rightful owners at the time the valley people makes their next choice. This is because the leprechaun leads a tiny group that has no strong base, thus he needs such a charitable gesture to gain a threshold to plant his flag and lay down his pot of gold. However when the time the next choice making arrives, lo and behold the leprechaun pulled a fast one and refused to vacate his end of the rainbow. This caused a crisis as the state chieftain was reminded by the peaceful valley’s rightful owners of the deal and that they wanted the land back. So it passed that this treachery caused the chieftain much headache and grief as the leprechaun turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the spirit of his collective collectiveness, ironically something the leprechaun’s own group supposedly champions. In order to calm the stormy winds blowing through peaceful valley, the chieftain made the ultimate sacrifice, putting the peaceful valley’s rightful owner to run in the chieftain’s peoples’ valley instead at the time of choice making, which caused the spirit of the chieftain’s people who were natives of the land of grace to break .

The day of the people’s choice finally dawned and by dusk the leprechaun’s pot of gold was proven to be filled with fool’s gold, as he was chased away by the people of peaceful valley. Yet the surprise was not the leprechaun’s defeat and demise, as the valley people had shown their displeasure openly about the treachery even before the day dawned, but what fate had in store for the land of grace’s chieftain and his leadership. Though the tsunami that arrived throughout the nation also claimed the usual suspects in the land of grace led by the upheaval in peaceful valley, the surprise was the chieftain and his people also could not withstand the waves. Alas the rejection of the peaceful valley people also claimed the chieftain and his people, so much so that he lost his chieftaincy by the narrowest of margins. And to add salt to his wound, the valley’s rightful owner won the people’s trust in the chieftain’s village, and thus was elevated to the nation’s council of chieftains.

But this is the story of the political leprechaun, and he showed his true colours when he claimed that the people had actually rejected the rainbow collective and not he. He further showed his audacity by unsheepishly saying that it was the rainbow that was rejected by the people, not his pot of fool’s gold. Worse still with no shame he claimed he and his pot of fool’s gold was being courted by the victors, though why they want such a loser and for what means beats the logic of reality. Now the leprechaun is left holding the pot of fool’s gold, resorting to sniping to convince his gullible flock that still remains that he is still relevant and the pot at the end of the rainbow is full of real gold, and not fool’s gold. But the advice to this leprechaun should be this, do a lemming and jump off the cliff, and you will be doing the rainbow a great favour.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Travel Fatigue

Well I mentioned that I have been travelling the past two weeks and I am still weary from the journey. Nonetheless I just would like to show the differences in atmosphere when you are travelling for leisure and for business.

This is what you see when you are on business travel.

And this is what you see when you travel on leisure.

Although some may say the view while on leisure travelling would be better, but I must say that for me both are interesting, as I find that most times I learn something new in my business travels that most people would not have the opportunity to experience. So it is true for me at least, that travels widen your mind.

Monday, 17 March 2008

A Flood Of Prawn Noodles

It has been a hectic week of travelling for me since last week, so much so that I have not had the time to update my blog. Nonetheless in terms of eating, the weekend before has been a week of good tidings where I have had the pleasure to compare three Malay stalls that serve the quiessential prawn noodle dishes, that most Chinese of noodle dish known as mee yoke for the wet version and sang har meen for the dry version, that has been given the Malay touch with the addition of large prawns to make it a dish fit for kings. However the experience has been limited to two northern localities in the peninsular mainland, and a taste of the other prawn noodles on Penang Island has to wait awhile longer not withstanding the ones I already tried at Padang Kota Lama.

Yet it is in the northern state of Penang where this meal journey begins, when in the course of business travelling by car to the north I suggested to my travelling companion that we should try out the famous Sungei Dua prawn noodles for dinner. Thus we went in search of the famous Seri Tambang Mee Udang, supposedly the original keeper of the prawn noodles prepared the Malay way. After making a wrong turning requiring a u-turn back to Sungai Dua town, we finally found the shop beside the river. Unfortunately since I took a long time to relieve myself after long drive in the rain due to the long queue for limited toilet facilities available, my travelling companions already ordered the dry prawn noodles with large sea prawns instead of the large river king prawns that would have made a better sauce since they were with roe. Nonetheless the noodles that are basically fried noodles mamak style were still delicious, as the sweet prawns lent their sweetness to the dish. And these prawns are definitely no shrimps, as the pictures will attest. I like this dish better than the wet style prawn noodle, as to me this wet style noodle dish is just basically mee rebus like my mother makes but enhanced by the addition of large prawns that again lent their sweetness to the dish. My travel companions lapped them up nonetheless and they said they have never tasted such a delicious dish, but I told them that to me the prawn noodles in Matang or Kuala Sepetang near Taiping was much better in my books. Also I feel that the prawn noodles here are expensive, as they were charging RM8 for 100 grams of sea prawn and RM7 for the river prawns. Thus we ended up paying a good amount of money just for 600 grams or a catty of prawns used in both dishes, which comes up to about a dozen of prawns to be shared by four people. This is much more than what you pay in Taiping, and definitely you cannot get an affordable overflowing prawn noodle bowl in this case.

Well in Matang Taiping there are two prawn noodle stalls that are recommendable, one of which is the more famous Warong Mak Teh with the overflowing prawns that floods the noodles and the other shop recommended by my sister that is less well known publicly but to me the better of the two. This shop was in fact the first shop we dined in when we were in Taiping, and it is located at the junction in front of the football field just before Kuala Sepetang town. It has no sign, just a simple banner advertising they sell prawn noodle and their menu is just pasted on the side wall. But they cook a mean dish of prawn noodles Penang har mee style, and their dry version is also Penang style mamak fried noodles. However this time we tried their fried rice prawn, wet “har mee” style prawn noodles and fried prawn with white rice. Each dish starts from RM9, and increases in price to 12 and 15 ringgit each with more prawns. Here the prawns are uniformly sized, and you get about eight large prawns for the nine ringgit serving that we had. These are soft shelled white sea prawns, what we call as udang kertas in Malay. Their meat are sweeter than the harder shelled sea prawn or udang kelong, although these have firmer flesh. With three prawn dishes on the table, it actually became a chore to finish them, but finish them we did leaving prawn shells on the table. Since I still wanted their fried prawn noodle, we took back one to the hotel since the room had a microwave unit, but we didn’t actually need it since the noodles was still warm when the kids had it for supper. When packed in a styrofoam pack the size of prawns is really shown off, so it was no wonder that the kids even polished of the heads of the prawns, since frying them turned the ‘brain’ into a palatable solid piece of roe like mouthful pleasure. Again a mount of prawn shells was what was left behind as evidence that the meal was happily devoured by all of us.

The next day we had another fix of prawn noodles, as I wanted to compare the no name stall with the reputed Mak Teh offerings. Here the stall is more commercial, with satellite stalls selling fruit juices, burgers and such. This means that Mak Teh concentrates on preparing their prawn noodles, although they do offer other dishes like chicken rice which my elder daughter wanted to try. Here the prawn noodle is prepared Malay style, in a chilly based soup that I think uses prawn shell as the stock base. The dry style fried noodle is also Malay style, that depends much on soy sauce for the taste but again using prawn stock as a base as it was fried wet style. True to their reputation, the dishes were flooded with prawns where the size determines the price that starts at eight ringgit. At this price a dish would have about 15 pieces of their smallest sized prawns and the size would increase incrementally with the price. Accordingly you really needed to push aside the prawns to get at the noodles. However as I mentioned before, these were the hard shelled types that although the flesh was firmer, was not so sweet tasting. Thus it did not surprised me that there was many types of condiments put on the table, as the dishes really could not stand on its own with just the sweet taste of prawns to enhance the dish. But we could not bear to adulterate the taste of the noodles with the condiments, so we soldiered on though my younger daughter actually had to dip her prawns in some soy sauce to make it more palatable for her. We again tapau-ed a pack of fried prawn noodles for breakfast the next day, but even after being microwaved the no-name version fared much better, since the noodles had absorbed the sauce and expanded, and the prawns being the smaller version had not much head juice to savour.

Thus we could make a conclusion that day, that the next time we are in Kuala Sepetang the no-name stall would be our choice as it serves a far better prawn noodles than the more famous Mak Teh. Yet to be fair it would boil down to personal taste, as we as a family really favour the Penang style prawn preparations therefore we prefer the no-name stall, although we believe more Malay palates would prefer Mak Teh’s version. But be forewarned, these stalls only opened from around three o’clock onwards after getting their fresh supplies of prawns, and you must content with flies that hover on the tables despite many cleaning attempts, as the leftover prawn juices that are from the prawn shells usually piled high on the table will still remain to attract the flies. But this is a small price to pay for a flood of prawns in your bowl, where you can actually eat like a king for a price that is definitely a fraction of the prices in Kuala Lumpur, or even Sungai Dua in Penang.