NaPoWriMo Poem #4: Ice Lollies

At the edge of the line, a table so small,
Standing among the bigger stalls,
There were two ladies with a tub of ice,
Selling ice lollies for a small price.

Five cartons of drink, each a different flavour,
Poured into small cylindrical containers,
Pop a stick in (for eating with ease),
And they’ll stand in the tub until they freeze.

I mused at the simple ingenuity,
There’s not a need for electricity,
Then my turn came and I said to the lady,
“Chocolate for my sister and strawberry for me.”

photo0576

Note: I came across this photo as I was uploading the media files from my phone and thought that it would be a rather interesting subject for a poem. It was taken a few months back, when my father was invited to some program at a carnival and he brought all of us along. My mother found this ice lolly stand by accident while she was hunting for her beloved ‘keropok lekor’ (she insisted that keropok lekors are a ‘must-eat’ at carnivals just like how popcorns are to movies). The tub really fascinated me since I had never seen anything like it before.

My First Try At Baking

Cooking, especially baking had been on my dream list when I was a little girl. In fact, I’ve always wanted to bake a cake since I was as young as I could ever remember. When I was eight, I helped my mother and my aunt to bake some cookies for Eid or ‘biskut raya’ as we call them in Malaysia but my mother forbade me from baking cakes.

“It is not that easy to bake cakes and it’s very easy for something to go wrong,” she had told me. “Surely it can’t be too hard to bake a cake, isn’t it? The mixing was done by a machine. Why, even I could push the button of the mixer. How could anything go wrong?” I had thought then. I tried to ‘lend a hand’ but I only managed to give the cake a sharp poke before I was dragged away by my aunt. I dare say that the eight years old me felt quite hurt at being mistrusted.

My mother loved to bake when she was younger but she stopped using the oven when I was old enough to crawl into the kitchen, fearing that I might ‘burn’ my little fingers touching the oven. Now that Ali, the youngest of us, will be ten next year, mom trusts us enough to be careful near the oven. Suddenly we are having a delightful breakfast of Irish bread, soft and buttery cinnamon rolls for tea and tasty enchiladas for dinner.

I pleaded for my mother to let me try baking my first cake entirely on my own. At first, she was very reluctant to give her consent; quite rightly too for not just that I never had any experience in baking anything, I also tend to do everything in such a muddled haste or  ‘solo bolo’ in Trengganuspeak which could be disastrous in baking a cake. However, she later relented after I promised to bake under her supervision.

I was absolutely thrilled and I immediately flipped through her baking recipe book which she had used when she learned to bake herself. I decided on going through the book methodically, starting from the first recipe which reads ‘first sponge cake for a beginner to bake’. My mom didn’t quite agree. She suggested the pound cake “which is almost the same but is far tastier and easier to make”. She laughed when I pointed out that the title of the sponge cake says that it is the first cake that a beginner like me must bake before trying anything else.

The first tinge of fear hit me as soon as the previous excitement died down. I finally realised that I had not the least idea of how to ‘beat the eggs until foamy’, let alone folding flour into my batter! But since I really wanted to try out everything on my own, I decided to not ask my mom but to look up for some tutorial videos on the Internet. It seemed much more difficult and tedious than how I imagined and from my memories of watching my mother baking ‘kek raya’ but I was determined on going to do it all by myself.

I baked the sponge cake the next day and quite surprisingly, the cake turned out ‘very good for a beginner’, as what my mom said. Although it didn’t taste as good as how a pound cake would have tasted, I think the excitement and satisfaction of baking for the first time was enough to make me ate two big slices of the sponge cakes! At last I had finally been able to bake my first cake!

A week after, I baked a pound cake for my sister, Anisah’s birthday (much to my mother’s joy). Unfortunately this time, I forgot to preheat the oven until I had folded in the flour. I also spilled some hot water while melting my butter (to which my mother had stared at me with profound astonishment and asked, “How in the world could that ever happen, Aiman? This is the first time I’ve heard of such thing!”). However, it survived my little mistakes and the cake turned out beautifully well and delicious too.

Baking the cakes did give me a pleasant time and I enjoyed every moment of it. In some ways, it’s easier than baking bread, which I tried a few weeks after. Mom does not agree with me, well, she even let my little brother baked a whole wheat bread since the bread does not need much kneading. And with a little help from mom, my little brother’s first bread turned out beautiful and tasty too.

Well, it may be easy to bake breads but it tries my patience as I waited for the dough to rise. Then I need to punch it down and after shaping it, I need to wait for it to rise again. Such a long process of waiting… and if the bread is a loaf, I have to wait for again before I could slice it. It is really hard not to be able to taste the wonderful bread right away as it comes out steamingly hot from the oven. Starring at the golden bread while sniffing the sweet and ‘tasty’ aroma made me feel as how Cookie Monster feels when looking at a plate of cookies that should not be immediately eaten.

So now that I had tried my hands at baking cakes and breads, I’m wondering what should I bake next?

Bubur Lambuk from Kampung Baru

Ramadhan Mubarak to all Muslims worldwide. Alhamdulillah, the holy month of Ramadhan is back and once again, we would have our much awaited trips to Kampung Baru for the tastiest and the most delicious iftar food you could ever find in Malaysia, Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru! Bubur Lambuk is available throughout KL of course and most parts of Malaysia but yet, years after years, people from all over Selangor and Kuala Lumpur would stop by at the Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru or also known as Masjid Kampung Baru for the original version of the bubur lambuk Kampung Baru which is extremely hard to find elsewhere.

Ali and Aeshah watches as Aunty Sham prepared the bubur lambuk for her to sell.

I remember when I was younger and once my mother was admitted to the Kampung Baru Medical Center, which stands just across the road from the mosque, during Ramadhan, I stood by the window watching the queue grew and grew until there were probably fifty people lining up at one time for the bubur lambuk from the mosque. The place wasn’t packed with vendors at it is now. If you live nearby or regularly visit the area during Ramadhan, you would know how crowded the area is; sometimes it feels like you’re driving through a marketplace.

Of course, simply anyone could set up a stall and sell their own version of bubur lambuk Kampung Baru, so if you do not wish to wait in the mosque’s long queue, you have to be very selective in choosing which vendor to buy your bubur lambuk from. The taste can differ drastically, so it’s wise to ask advice from a person who regularly buys their bubur lambuk from the area. And I have to say, the best bubur lambuk Kampung Baru I could find would be Aunty Sham’s. The secret is, Aunty Sham cooks her bubur lambuk using the original recipe as those from the famous Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru’s. So now you can have your original Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru without waiting in the long queue! And at RM2 per pack (a very generous pack, I may add) it’s more than worth the long trip… after all, bubur lambuk isn’t available throughout the year.

Rows of bubur lambuk packed and ready to be sold

Oh, and there are a few things to keep in mind when buying bubur lambuk. One thing is that you’ll have to come and buy yours early. Once, my father arrived at the stall at around 2:30pm but came back empty-handed as Aunty Sham had sold out her bubur lambuk although the other vendors were still selling their wares. So it’s important to be there early if you do not want to be disappointed. Also, we have heard that some of the vendors would claim to be anyone, including Kak Sham so you’ll have to be careful. Use the picture below as a guide to Aunty Sham’s stall and look for the banner, ‘Bubur Lambuk Warisan Kampung Baru Kak Sham’.

Bubur Lambuk Warisan Kampung Baru Kak Sham. Her stall is on the second from right from the Jalan Raja Alang – Jalan Raja Abdullah crossroad. It’s right in front of the carpark of Al-Islam Hospital and is on the opposite side of the road from the Kampung Baru Mosque. Please click for a bigger and better image.

A ‘Space-Friendly’ And Easy-To-Grow Vegetable: Beansprout

My homegrown beansprout

Like many others who live in the city, we only have a small garden. Actually, it never did cross my mind of how small our garden is, until we decided to plant our own organic vegetables three years ago. Is there any herb or vegetable that can be grown without taking too much space for the city folk?

Last week, Mom soaked a bowl of green beans overnight for her ‘bubur kacang’. Anyway she was so busy the next day that she forgot all about them after straining the beans into a colander. The next day she found that her bowlful of green beans had grown tiny roots. So, instead of cooking them, she gave me the beans for my “experiments’.

And I decided to grow beansprout. I found out that growing green beans into beansprouts is certainly very easy. All I did was running tap water over the colanders (with the beans) every 4-6 hours or so. Don’t try to move the beans/seedlings around with your hands (you may feel tempted to do so, but you may pull out their roots). Put a plate under the colander to collect the water dripping from the colander.

The green beans had grown tiny roots! 😀

In a few days, the roots will be long enough to reach out of the colander into the plate of water below it. Even at this stage, I still ‘water’ the sprouts but I suppose you could leave it on its own. Another thing to remember is not to put too much beans in one colander. When that happens, the beans on the top couldn’t get enough water while the beans at the bottom may rot.

Roots growing out of the colander

Another good point in growing beansprouts is that you can plan when to start growing them so that the beansprout will be really fresh when needed. Soak the beans overnight about 5 days ahead and they should be ready to be harvested on time. And trust me, fresh home grown beansprouts are so tasty, crunchy and without that ‘commercial beansprout smell’ that even I who never like beansprouts before ate loads of them.

Fresh, homegrown, organic beansprout in mum's delicious fried noodle.

So with the price of vegetables rising up and the concern of the high level of chemical contamination in our vegetables, it will be a very good idea to grow our own vegetables. And if space is a problem, try growing beansprouts; you can even grow them in your apartment balcony, kitchen or even in your dining room! It is really cheap and easy while the result is absolutely wonderful. Maybe I should start a business selling tasty, fresh, home-grown, organic  beansprouts … after all fresh, organic vegetables can fetch a good price in today’s market!

Ready-for-harvest beansprouts (shoots)

Ready-for-harvest beansprouts (roots)

The return of Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru

Aromatic smell of spices rose up with the mist

From pots of porridge that you can never resist

Everyday hundreds lined up patiently in the queue

For their share of the well-known Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru

Ramadhan Mubarak to all Muslims worldwide. Starting from today, we can once again enjoy the Malaysia’s best iftar – the ‘bubur lambuk’. Although this wonderful porridge can be found all over Malaysia, ‘Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru’ from the famous Masjid Jamek stole the show.

Everyday, hundreds of people from all parts of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor could be seen lining up for some of this mouth-watering delicacy. But for those who are willing to pay RM 2.00 (for a pack of bubur lambuk) to skip the extremely long queue, I suggest that you should buy the ‘Bubur Lambuk Kak Sham’ sold by Aunty Sham who is a good friend of mum’s. As far as I know, Aunty Sham’s bubur lambuk is the best compared to the many other bubuk lambuk stalls around the mosque, with the taste as authentic as the famous Kampung Baru’s Masjid Jamek’s bubur lambuk.

(please click here to read more about ‘Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru‘)

Today, my dad came home from the mosque with a gigantic bag of bubur lambuk. The aromatic scent immediately spread throughout the house. My little brother (who is trying to fast for a full day for the first time)  was walking down the stairs when he stopped in his tracks. The familiar appetizing smell floated into his tiny nose and forced him to run back fearing of breaking his fast. He announced that he is going to stay upstairs until Maghrib approaches. I once had an experience like his when I was a year older than him. Only that in the end, I had to break my fast after struggling really hard to hold back my hunger. But how could I not when I was in the car sitting right beside packs of aromatic bubur lambuk throughout the whole journey back home from Kampung Baru?

If you are a fan of bubur lambuk and have not yet tried the Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru, please make a trip to Kampung Baru before the end of Ramadhan. Try the famous Masjid Jamek’s or those from Aunty Sham’s stall and you’ll be back for more! And for the Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru’s lovers, well, I don’t think that I need to remind you of this incredibly tasty dish. Ramadhan will remind us of the delicious smell of spices and will send us all the way to Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru for this lovely savoury porridge!

MORE photos:

Karipap

Curry puff or ‘karipap’ is a traditional Malay food usually served during teatime. Pastry is used for the skin and the filling is curry with meat and/or potatoes. Karipap may also comes in  different ‘version’ such as sardine puff, meat puff and fish puff and you can always explore using your imagination to create new fillings of your own invention…

Last month, my mother decided to make some beef and sardine puffs for tea. Mum is an expert in folding the edges of a karipap (the trickiest part). She does them in supreme quickness without any difficulties at all, thus alluring Aeshah, Ali and I to join her. She told us that it isn’t as easy as it looks but let us join in anyway. We excitedly washed our hands, took our place and mum gave us a stuffed karipap each. What we had to do is to fold the edges so that the fillings won’t spill out.

My first badge of karipaps (note: my first karipap was the one in the middle with two little openings where you can see the fillings).

Mine turned out really funny. I folded them the wrong way, the sizes were inconsistent and the shape of each fold is very silly. Ali’s first one came out pretty nice; infact I think his were better than Aeshah’s and mine (if compared to our age difference).

Ali's badge of karipaps. Aren't they nice?

Aeshah’s karipap turned out into a ball of mixed fillings and pastry 😆 . Gone were the shape of the karipap! There wasn’t any folds at all… just a ball.

Aeshah's first badge of karipaps (Note: her first karipap is the one in the bottom-middle ~ a ball of pastry and fillings).

But she made a huge improvement in her second attempt. Mine also came out better by practice. Later, we asked mum if we could make karipaps with fillings of our choice. Mum approves.  Aeshah and Ali quickly rushed to the fridge and took out a packet of shredded mozarella cheese. I took a jar of ‘chunky’ peanut butter and a jar of anchovies and made peanut butter puff and peanut butter and anchovies puff 😀 .

Now, Aeshah, Ali and I are getting better at ‘karipap-folding’ and we are discussing on new fillings for our next project. Ali wants us to prepare some karipaps for a ‘special person’ by Wednesday… can you guess who?

‘Kenduri’

Now is the mid-year school holidays in Malaysia and it means a ‘wedding season’ for us – Malaysians in Malaysia. We received wedding invitations here and there from both relatives and friends; sometimes we  attended a few wedding receptions  in a day!

Today we attended two wedding celebrations, first in Keramat and after that at the Dewan Merak Kayangan in Jalan Semarak. And after sending us home, dad attended another wedding reception close to our house.

We arrived at Uncle Anuar Ibrahim’s house at about 12 o’ clock. Uncle Anuar and his wife, Aunty Salamah are  close friends of my parents. In fact Uncle Anuar’s father and my mum’s father are close friends too!

As usual, everything is always beautiful at Uncle Anuar’s and Aunty Sal’s party. And the food are always good too. Aunty Sal is a great cook and she bakes the nicest cookies and cakes. And for today’s wedding reception, she baked delicious cupcakes and decorated them with beautiful pink butter cream roses. They are just so beautiful that I wish to take each of them. My little brother Ahmad Ali ate lots of them!

*Note: Please click on the photos

Dad met lots of his old schoolmate at the reception. One of them is Uncle Apo or Uncle Abdul Ghaffar Mohd Nor who has been reading my blog… Thank you for visiting my blog, Uncle Apo. Please drop a line or two in my blog if Uncle Apo can find a free time; its is always nice to receive comments… something like receiving a letter. 😀

A photo of dad and his old schoolmates. From left to right: Uncle Apo, Ami Ma (my uncle - dads elder brother), Uncle Bukhori, Uncle Anuar and A Karim Omar (dad). Photo taken from http://sulaimanian.wordpress.com . Photo snapped by... ME! :D

A photo of dad and his old schoolmates. From left to right: Uncle Apo, Ami Ma (my uncle - dad's elder brother), Uncle Bukhori, Uncle Anuar and A Karim Omar (dad). Photo taken from http://sulaimanian.wordpress.com . Photo snapped by... ME! 😀

Anyway I’m sad to hear that Uncle Anuar’s father is not in good health. Insya Allah we’ll be visiting him together with my grandmother in Kuala Terengganu this weekend. And before we left, Uncle Anuar’s sister in-law took us to Kak Norjie’s room. Kak Norjie, the beautiful and charming bride was dressed in  red and she looked so marvellous in her wedding attire…

Ketupat Nasi

These are some of the kelongsong ketupat nasi that mum and me weaved yesterday

These are some of the kelongsong ketupat nasi that mum and me weaved yesterday

In Malaysia, ‘ketupat nasi’ or traditional rice cakes are very popular during Eid celebrations. It is one of the most popular foods served in homes and hotels during the Eid celebrations. A greeting card with a picture of ‘ketupat nasi’ would be understood as an Eid greeting card even without any word written on the cover. By the way, I have never seen a birthday card with a picture of ‘ ketupat nasi’!

Neon lights in the shape of ‘ketupat nasi’ decorated houses, shops and buildings. Replicas of ‘ ketupat nasi’ in all sizes and colours are hanged in houses, shops, shopping complexes, offices, road side and other public places to mark the Eid season. Even shopping bags are decorated with pictures of ‘ketupat nasi’.

Even though in my hometown (Kuala Terengganu) ‘ketupat nasi’ is not as popular as ‘ketupat pulut’ as a special delicacy served during Eid, the significant of ‘ketupat nasi’ to Eid is still the same as in other parts of Malaysia. In fact, I’ve never seen of any decorative item in the shape of ‘ketupat pulut’ used in my hometown.

Since ‘ketupat nasi’ is not so popular in Terengganu, the Terengganu folks are not so familiar with the art of weaving the ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’ (ketupat nasi cover). Mum was lucky to master the art – learnt the skill from their Indonesian helper when mum was about my age. And yesterday my sister and I had the chance to learn the art of weaving ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’ from mum.

Learning to weave the ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’ was not as hard as i thought. But I really need to pay attention, concentrate and be patient. Mum weaved slowly so that we can follow and after 5 minutes, I managed to weave my first ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’! After a while I understand the ‘trick’ and be able to master the weaving process.

Since we were out of young coconut leaves, mum used ribbons instead of the leaves. Actually for cooking the rice cakes, we need to weave young coconut leaves into ‘kelongsong’ as moulds  to cook the rice cakes. The ‘kelongsong’ made from ribbons are used as Eid decorations.

Nowadays the city folks normally do not weave the ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’ for Eid anymore. They either buy the ready made ‘ketupat nasi’ or the ready made ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’ sold in farmer’s markets all around KL. In fact the easier and faster way of cooking ‘ketupat nasi’ is by using heat proof plastic covers as moulds instead of the traditional young coconut leaves ‘kelongsong’. There are even prepacked ‘ketupat nasi’ in plastic packets that only needed to be boiled in water.

No wonder nowadays the skill of weaving ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’ is almost a forgotten art especially among city girls like me. What a pity when we prefer using plastics instead of leaves. Not only do the young coconut leaves give a nice aroma to the ‘ketupat nasi’; the leaves are also environmental friendly. And there is also the  question about which type of plastic that is safe to be used as the boiling process can take over an hour. So, using certain plastic to cook ‘ketupat’ could harm our health as well as our environment.

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!

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.