A Trip to the National Zoo

Two days ago my family and I went to the ‘Zoo Negara’ or the National Zoo. We were so excited especially my little brother, Ahmad Ali and my little sister, Anisah Afifah as it was their first visit to the zoo.

We arrived there at about 9:40 a.m. and headed straight for the ticket counter. The tickets cost RM15 for adults and RM6 for children. As we were crossing the bridge near the main entrance we saw tall giraffes – my siblings and I screamed with excitement. We rushed there and were welcome by a flock of milky storks.  What an awesome sight it was to see the beautiful birds flocking all around the lake. Next we were welcomed by elephants, Pademelons kangaroos and ostriches.

At the bird aviary we saw birds of all sizes and colours. I just love the colourful ‘burung nuri’ or alouette in French and we started to sing our favourite song- Alouette. Next we saw deers, lions, tigers, buffaloes, camels and many more.  It was nice to see the orangutans clinging to the pillars while sleeping in their ‘tree house’. Anyway some parts of the zoo were closed for repairs.

At the Savannah Walk, we saw another group of giraffes eating their food, zebras, antelopes and rhinos. We also saw a gigantic turtle that could be around two hundred years old. Next, we saw mousedeers, goats and a tapir. At the end of the Savannah Walk is the bear complex. There are Brown Bears, Malaysian Sun Bears, Asiatic Black Bears and Sloth Bears. Most of them are sleeping. Now I know why Winnie The Pooh is so lazy!

On the way to the  Multi-Animal Show, we saw monkeys and lessers in big cages swinging from branch to branch, fishes and humboldt penguins.  The show started four minutes late and the performers were three colourful macaws and two sea lions.

After the show, we headed towards the Children’s World which is something like a Petting Zoo. Among others there are birds, ponies, scorpions, chickens and porcupines. At the reptile and amphibian house we saw snakes, crocodiles, frog, terrapins, turtle and tortoise. We saw leopards and pumas but there was no jaguar- my little brother Ahmad Ali wanted to see a baby jaguar as in his favourite TV show ‘Go Diego Go’. Before heading home mum bought us delicious creamy ice-cream; I guess ice-cream to zoo is just like pop-corn to movies.

We had a wonderful time at the zoo and learn a lot of things too. Anyway I feel very sad to see run down buildings in the zoo complex. The government is proud of KLIA, the Petronas Twin Towers, The Sepang Curcuit etc  but look at our National Zoo- what a shame. I hope our government will see  the importance of getting the zoo in good shape for it is a very educational place to visit especially for kids like me. Not everybody can afford to pay the entrance fees to places like the KLCC Aquaria and other expensive places to learn about animals so the government has to take actions towards saving and upgrading the National Zoo for it is one of a few affordable places for family outing in KL. Furthermore the place is so beautiful especially the grand old trees, the lake and the streams.

My New Header

Dear visitors,

As you can see I have changed my header. My new header shows a landscape of the Batu Buruk Beach, a beautiful beach near my nenek’s house. The photo was taken in December during the monsoon season in the East Coast of West Malaysia. Each year the monsoon brings heavy rain, very strong wind and big waves as shown in photo. Anyway, because of the strong under current it is not advisable to swim at this beach.

Eating out – Thai Food

2020 UPDATE: After hearing about the Black Canyon Halal controversy, I’ve looked up Black Canyon Coffee on JAKIM’s halal directory and it appears that the restaurant is no longer on the list. I would strongly caution all Muslims against eating at the restaurant since it is no longer confirmed to be halal. I considered taking this post down but I think this needs to be noted. If the situation change in the future, I shall update this section of the post again to reflect it.

We love Thai food. Even though there are a lot of restaurants and stalls that serves Thai food in KL, it is not easy to find one that serves a really tasty original Thai cuisine.

Early this week, we had our lunch at our favourite restaurant in Subang Jaya (USJ actually). We do not live on that side of the city but the restaurant serves such an authentic and delicious Thai cuisine plus tasty drinks that makes it worth for us to drive all the way to Subang Jaya for a nice Thai meal.

[prawn tomyam]

Their tomyam is marvelous, I prefer the chicken tomyam while my parents prefer the prawn tomyam so we always have both. Mum love their fresh and tasty seafood; her favourite dish is the seafood salad that come in a generous portion of seafood and cashew nuts. We also love their chicken dishes such as cashew nut chicken and sweet and sour chicken.

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[seafood salad

&

cashew nut chicken] ->

I really enjoy their lovely drinks; they serves tasty yogurt drinks plus a lot of very delicious specialty coffee. Their ice-cream are nice too but I’m usually too full for any ice-cream after a nice meal over there!

Well, as people says – only Terengganu folks can cook an authentic ikang singgang; so only Thais can prepare an authentic tomyam!

Moringa Curry and Terengganu Duku

Yesterday mum cooked us a very delicious moringa curry (refer to ‘Moringa Oleifera – A Miracle Tree’). I really enjoyed the soft and tasty moringa that I eat nothing else but the moringa curry and rice! Wish that I can share them with other moringa lovers.

After enjoying the delicious and spicy curry, we had some really sweet duku brought from Terengganu by Pak Cik Hisham (refer to ‘Lakse Kuoh Masok’). Terengganu folks are really proud of their duku and my dear nenek would always try her best to make sure that we have enough supply of Trengganu duku every duku season.

This exotic fruit tastes best when plucked after it had ripe. Anyway since ripe duku can only last for a few days;  only the unripe duku are sent to KL while the ripe fruit are sold locally in Terengganu. So to get the real sweet and tasty duku one has to buy them in Terengganu especially the duku that comes from the orchards in Pulau Manis and Telemong.

Anyway, eating duku can be quite tricky for young kids because it’s tiny seeds are really bitter when bitten.So mum has to take out the seeds before my little brother Ahmad Ali can enjoy them. As duku can only last for a few days, I guess I better eat them before they turn bad and can’t be eaten anymore.

Mangosteen

Wow! The fruit season is back! I just love this time of the year when I can enjoy all kinds of fruits; some of which are not available through out the year. And what an awesome sight it is to see fruits of different shapes and colours being sold all around Kuala Lumpur – mangosteen, durian, rambutan, duku, dokong … just name it!

I really love the mangosteen! Although its name is MANGOsteen, it has no relation to mango. This exotic fruit is also known as ‘The Queen of Tropical Fruits’. It was believed that mangosteen was originated from the Sunda Island and the Moluccas and later on was brought to Thailand and Burma before being planted in other parts of the world.

The exocarp (the outermost layer of the fruit) of juvenile mangosteen first appear very pale green or almost white before its colour changes to a darker shade of green and upon ripening the colour changes to reddish purple and finally to dark purple. One can tell precisely the number of segments of the white edible endocarp (the part that wraps the seed) inside the mangosteen even before opening the fruit. At the bottom end of the fruit, there is a type of flower shaped scar which number of petals is similar to the number of segments (of the white flesh) inside the mangosteen.

The white flesh of mangosteen is very tasty and can be described as sweet, tasty and citrusy with peach flavour and texture. Mangosteen is not only tasty but is also full of vitamins and minerals. Mangosteen is very rich in anti-oxidant which can lower the risk of human diseases. It is also rich in vitamin C, B1, B2, B6, potassium, iron and calcium. Test tube studies proved that mangosteen contains xonthones (anti-cancer effects), anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial and antiseptic. The rind of mangosteen can help to stop diarrhea, bladder infections, gonorrhea, skin rashes and cooling effects.

This exotic fruit is very expensive when available outside its tropics. Nowadays we can have mangosteen juice, mangosteen jam, frozen mangosteen and canned mangosteen apart from the fresh fruit. I’ve never heard of  mangosteen juice until Sept 2006 when we saw a huge billboard advertising the juice in Kalamazoo. And when mum pointed at the billboard I was speechless… What? Mangosteen juice? In America?

Anyway I just realised that I’ve never tried mangosteen picking… Mum said that atuk has some mangosteen trees in his orchard but I’ve never been there yet. May be one day I should make a visit to the orchard and try mangosteen picking.

Moringa Oleifera – The Miracle Tree

Update (16th May 2020): I know I’ve said in the comments that I don’t sell moringa trees  but now I do (only trees, not seeds–subject to availability)! Before I set up a proper page for it, feel free to contact me about it through the comments.

I always love moringa curry; but I never imagine that the tree is so ‘special’ until highlighted by Dr. Azahar. According to Dr. Azahar moringa, murunggai, merunggai, kelo, or ‘mmungga’ (in Trengganuspeak) is rich in anti-oxidant and contains 7 times the vitamin C in orange, 4 times the calcium in milk, 4 times the vitamin A in carrots, 2 times the protein in milk and 3 times the potassium in bananas.

Moringa – compared with other foods

Impressed by the information, I did some reading on moringa. Moringa is a miracle tree and is one of the world most nutritious crops. It grows throughout the tropics and thrive in impossible places; even in bad soil. Not only it is a great source of nutrition for both human and animals, it can also be used for medicine (such as in fighting HIV and diabetes), dye water purification and biofuel.

The leaves contain complete protein which is rare for a plant. The growing tips and young leaves are tasty and very rich in iron. It is also good for sanctuary animal feed and livestock forage . The flowers are said to be effective in fighting cold and can be cooked as well as for making tea. They are also good for bee keepers. The pods and roots are edible too. The seeds can used to purify water by settling out sediment and organisms. Unlike Jatropha oil, the oil from moringa seeds is beneficial not only for making biofuel but also for human. The seeds are also effective against skin infection as they contain antibiotic.

[Moringa tree & fruit – courtesy of the respective sites]

This extremely fast growing tree can be planted from direct seeding, transplanting or using hard stem cutting. Anyway there are claims that moringa ‘attracts’ certain caterpillars that can cause allergic reaction to skin; if come in contact.

So now I have more good reasons to enjoy mum’s moringa curry. Imagine, eating the soft and tasty seeds and chewing on the skin at the end of the meal… plus all the vitamins, minerals and much more. Anyway sad to say that mum was down with flu last weekend, so no moringa curry for me this week! How I wish that I could give mum some moringa tea. I have not tried the moringa leaves but nenek(my grandma) used to fry them with eggs for omelets. And the Indians cook them in so many ways. The Sri Lankan love them too.

Note: I can’t recall if my Sri Lankan friend Aishah Salihue has a moringa tree among many other trees in her beautiful backyard in California. Her mum cooks wonderful vegetable dishes and I’m sure that her moringa dishes are delicious too!

Halal labeling

Muslims should make sure that they only consume halal food. In Food Facts, I had voiced out my concern regarding the free use of illegal halal labels on food products in Malaysia. The worst is, some of those products are actually questionable in their halal status.

Living in a multiracial country, Muslim consumers must be knowledgeable and well informed on this matter. Since the halal labeling is considered only as a ‘ticket’ for a big and profitable business by some, consumers must be smart as not to fall in their ‘traps’. The government and the islamic authorities must be more serious in handling this matter for halal food is actually a basic need for Muslim.

I guess honesty and responsibility are the keys in solving this problem. If those in halal food business are honest and responsible, we won’t be facing all these problems at all. But since some people are driven only by making money, we as the consumers have to fight for our rights.

I’m happy to say that not everybody are greedy, dishonest and irresponsible. There are people who took pride in being honest even though they are non-muslim. See’s Candies of California (whose candies and chocolates are truly delicious) only took a couple of days to respond to dad’s e-mail regarding the (very) detail of their chocolate making process and the nature the ingredients used. And an owner of a slaughter house in Australia  fired one of his Muslim staff after the guy was caught drunk on his night off. The reason given was – since the company slaughter halal meat, a person who do not follow the true teachings of Islam is no good for the job.

If only everybody are honest and responsible the world will be a better place for all of us; regardless our religions. But since cheating and taking advantages of others are the ways of lives for those who only value power and money – life is hard. Is it really important to have the halal label on food product? I guess the labei is important for Muslim as well as other labeling on food product; as long as halal label means the food is halal for Muslims.

Lakse Kuoh Masok

On Sunday, we had a very delicious ‘lakse kuoh masok’ (laksa kuah masak) for dinner at nenek’s place. ‘Lakse kuoh masok’ is a type of rice noodle (lakse) dish served with a spicy fish curry sauce (kuoh masok) and fresh raw vegetables called ‘ulang’ (ulam in standard speak). In Terengganu, we have two types of laksa dishes – ‘lakse kuoh masok’ (rice noodle in cooked fish curry sauce) and ‘lakse kuoh metoh’ (rice noodle in uncooked fish curry sauce. ‘Lakse kuoh masok’ is also known as ‘lakse kuoh meroh’ while ‘lakse kuoh metoh’ is also known as ‘lakse kuoh puteh’ due to the colours of their fish curry sauces.

The delicious ‘lakse kuoh masok’ that we enjoyed that evening was specially brought by Pak Cik Hisham who works in nenek’s bookstore, Alam Akademik in Kuala Terengganu. The ‘kuoh’ (fish curry sauce) was cooked by Pak Cik Hisham’s mother. She must be a very good cook for the ‘kuoh’ is very tasty. According to nenek, it is not easy to prepare a very tasty ‘kuoh masok’ for in cooking Terengganu traditional dishes, the amount of ingredients used for a recipe is just ‘agok-agok’ or about ‘a certain amount’- so one needs a lot of practice to master the recipe.

Even the laksa (rice noodle) is brought from Terengganu. In KL, mum uses the dried laksa because the kind of fresh laksa sold in KL tastes very differently from the ones sold in Terengganu. Of course the fresh laksa or ‘lakse kebok’ is much tastier than the dried laksa especially the one that Pak Cik Hisham brought to KL. Nenek said that Pak Cik Hisham’s ‘lakse’ was of high quality and stayed soft and fresh even after two days outside the refrigerator.

Preparing a traditional ‘lakse kuoh masok’ is rather tedious especially when the types of fish suitable for the fish curry sauce are quite bony. First we have to boil the fish and debone them. The process is tricky as we have to look out for fine fish bones. Then mash the fish using a mortar and pestle until smooth. Cook the fish in coconut milk together with shrimp paste, chili paste, asam, shallots, garlic, ginger and other spices and herbs on slow fire for at least four hours for a tasty ‘kuoh masok’.

For the vegetables, traditionally we use brinjals, cucumbers, bean sprouts, fresh basil leaves, cashew shoots, long beans and kesomleaves or polygonum. Slice (very fine) all the vegetables except brinjals and cucumbers that should be cut into fine cubes. Anyway for the modern version of ‘lakse kuoh masok’, any ulam (salad) such as pegaga, ulam raja, etc can be used instead of the vegetables mentioned above but the basil and kesom (polygonum) leaves are a must. If using the dried laksa, boil the laksa until soft, then rinse them in cold water. Please do not use the KL version of fresh laksa for it does not taste like the Terengganu ‘lakse at all. Serve the ‘lakse’ (lakse kebok’ if possible) with ‘kuoh‘, vegetables, slices of hard boiled eggs, lime and some shrimp paste and chili paste for an extra delicious ‘lakse kuoh masok‘. ‘Pok Cik Shang‘, thank you very much for the delicious lakse – we really enjoyed the ‘akok’ and egg tarts too.’Sedak sunggoh kuoh lakse mok Pok Cik Shang. Rase macang nok lagi je’.

Food Facts

I always take for granted that all the halal signs used in Malaysia are legal until the Islamic authorities highlighted this issue on TV. Only then, we really take our time to read the signs so that we won’t be cheated by fake halal signs.

So it seems that we have to be really careful in choosing what to eat even in Malaysia and never take things for granted. Remember the raid on a mee hoon and laksa (mee hoon [or bihun] and laksa are two types of Malaysian noodles) factory that was shown on TV? I never thought that mee hoon and laksa (that was made mainly from rice flour) can be non halal; but I was wrong. We do not only take into account of the ingredients to make sure whether the food is halal and toyyibah but also at the surrounding area and how the food is processed.

Mum showed me a type of vinegar that was commonly used in Kuala Terengganu at one time (in fact not only in Terengganu but also in other states in Malaysia) that actually contains rice wine. And the vinegar is still widely sold in KL stores in their vinegar section. And so are certain sauce, ketchup, chocolate, candy, cake and others that contains alcohol, or flavoured with liquor.

It is nice to see that Carrefour has taken the step to label foods containing alchohol but that is not the end of the problem. We still have to be sure of the halal status for food containing animal extract and of animal products such as capsule, ice-creams, cheese, marshmallows, chocolates, candy and a lot more. And as highlighted in TV about the cases of smuggled chicken and meat from other countries, we have to be more careful as we have no idea of where those smuggled items were sent to.

Then comes the issue of toyyibah – hygiene in storing and preparing food, the issue of over using pesticides, preservatives, colourings and other chemicals that makes food not safe to be consumed. There was a study showing that some fruits and vegetables were contaminated by over using the pesticides and other chemicals. And so are the uses of dangerous artificial food colouring and flavouring to make food looks good and appetising.

Next, we have to avoid too much salt, sugar and trans fat in our food. Since a lot of food in our market contains trans fat, grocery shopping is becoming more and more complicated. When I read that California is going to ban the use of trans fat in food shortly; I wish Malaysia can do the same for I’m tired of reading the food labels written in letters that were much too small for reading.

So, what can be done to ensure healthy eating when even fresh fruits and vegetables are not that safe to be eaten? We should turn to organic farming and since the organic vegetables are very expensive, we should plant our own vegetables. And that was what we did since last year. We may not be able to plant all the vegetables that we need but at least most of the green lefty vegetables (and some ulam/local salad) come fresh from our own garden.

[The potted bayam (spinach) and also kangkung (back)]

[The overcrowded sawi]

‘We buy more tube vegetables and beans; and as best as we could, we avoid buying agricultural products from China. The problem is, in most supermarkets and markets, traders do not label the country of origin for fruits and vegetables except for some like carrots and celery that come in their original packaging or certain fruits like apples, pears and oranges that have trademark stickers on them.

My grandma said that in the old days things were simpler when one just had to go out of their house to pick most of their vegetables and salads. Especially in Terengganu when we are blessed with lots of fresh fish; a meal of ikang singgang, ikang panggang, budu and lots of fresh organic ulang (Terengganu salad) is low in fat, nutritious and free of trans fat, preservatives, artificial colourings and pesticides. And so is our khepok leko ( a fish based food from Terengganu) especially khepok leko rebuh (the boiled version). Even the fried khepok only contains oil but no trans fat; so we have to go back to our traditional home cooked food for healthier eating. But since the Terengganu kue (traditional cakes) are sweet, please remember to cut down the amount of sugar in them.