Monthly Archives: November 2017

Same Same But Different

The Ketupat of my youth has always been that scalene-triangular shaped piece of delicious pulut (glutinous rice), embedded with some beans and coyly wrapped in a kind of pale-yellowish leaf that was tightly-knotted at the tip (to prevent any untimely wardrobe malfunction, I suppose).

It was one of several kinds of favorite breakfast fare in those days, costing only 5 sen a piece. We usually ate them with a sprinkling of fine sugar.

Then, in later years some squarish pieces of stuff, wrapped even more conservatively, came into my knowledge as being a “staple’ during Hari Raya Puasa.  But inside, they were just plain nasi and bland.  And they called it Ketupat also.  “Mana boleh?” I thought.

Thanks to gentle education by kind folks around me, yes, they are also ketupat but of another variety.  I was ignorant.

Royal Soap Opera

My first encounter with this rather “upmarket” soap was probably in the 1970s.  I vaguely remember that it had a unique fragrance that was unlike those from the other contemporary plebeian types like Lux or Palmolive.

Looking at the name, my initial reaction was “Hah!, someone spelled ‘Lather’ wrongly”.  This was soap, wasn’t it?  And “soap = bubbles = lather”.  How can it be leather?  Perhaps the maker was some thick-skinned member of aristocratic descent who did not know his spelling.

Quirky thoughts aside, I have not used this sabun for a long time. I hardly see any modern specimen on the shelves of supermarkets or kedai-kedai runcit or convenient stores.

Maybe the name is plainly too out of touch with modern aspirations, or other more attractive soapy enticements have lured away present day consumers.

Flight Of The Winged Horse

Before the days of Petronas, there were 4 oil companies peddling their oil (not snake oil) in Malaysia, namely Shell, Esso, Caltex and Mobil.

I remember Mobil best, because it had the most number of top-up stations in Butterworth. Later when our family moved to Penang Island, there was one station just two streets away from the location where we put up – I became a regular customer.

But since some years ago, Mobil became absorbed by Exxon, and one-by-one, the familiar winged horse, Pegasus, took flight and disappeared. This Minyak Kuda ‘dah terbang and lesap! 

The youngsters of today would not know what Mobil is.  Well, Indonesians will think you are talking about the car.

These days, I think Esso and Shell are also walking on slippery slopes … maybe they have already been pumped out of Malaysia.

Earth, Water, Air, Fire & Durians

Haha, am not about to demolish the ancient Greek postulate about the 4 elements of nature.

Recall that carbide lamp of olden days?  Lumps of smelly calcium carbide – we called it “chao thor” (臭土,stinky earth) – was put into that galvanized iron can, and water was then added onto it. (I cannot remember the detailed internal construction of that can now). In  a short while we had acetylene gas coming out from the tip of the slender vertical pipe.

A lit match touching the tip would cause the gas to burn with a bright flame.

What about the durians?  Well, my best memories of this lamp are associated with the durian sellers who plied their trade by night in my kampong.  For its time, this lamp was indispensable in helping to put their “king of fruits” in the proper limelight.

A Thing Of Beauty Is A Joy Forever

The Citroën DS was unlike any other 4-wheel beast that roamed the highways and byways.  A paradigm of French chic, it was at once beautifully aerodynamic, romantically elegant and technologically ahead of its time.

My first encounter with a DS (I think it was a DS23) was sometime in 1980 – a rich colleague of mine owned one.  Its ride was superb, thanks to the hydro-pneumatic suspension. The inner pair of headlamps would turn in sync with the single-spoke (more like a fat bar) steering wheel. 

However, there were a couple of quirky features, like a rear-view mirror that was mounted on top of the dashboard, and a spare wheel that was housed under the bonnet.

It is a pity that auto manufacturers do not make distinctively beautiful cars like the DS anymore.  Contemporary offerings all look alike, with character sorely lacking.

Ciku Taruh Di Atas Beras

What do you do when the nice ciku you brought home are not quite ripe to be eaten yet? 

Folk wisdom in the kampong days taught us to put them on to the uncooked rice in the kitchen store – better still if fully covered with the beras.  After a couple of days or so, the fruit would ripen nicely, ready to be savoured in full flavour.

Well, we have tried out with mangoes too – seemed to work also.

Did the beras provide a chemical catalytic reaction to hasten the ripening?  Perhaps some biochemist can advise. 

Meanwhile, I try not to be too cerebral about the inter-molecular workings; rather, focus on relishing the results and enjoy lah!

Irresistible Tantrumic Temptations

This traditional delectable delicacy is known by various names in different parts of Malaysia, but Penang folks call it “Ban Chian Kueh”. However, even that had undergone some mutation – resulting it being known as “Man Chang Kueh”  (‘man chang’ means getting into mood swings and ready to throw tantrums).

In my youth days, this very sweet “pancake” was made in large pans (with diameters of approximately 2 to 3 feet), with thickness up to an inch. After the baking, two layers were flipped onto each other, and cut into smaller pieces for sale.

Nowadays, individual pieces are made in smaller pans (of about 10 inches diameter) and baked pieces are folded up for serving.

Never mind big or small – they are sweet, fragrant and altogether delicious and irresistable.  Don’t worry about diabetes, eat first lah!

A Cock-and-Bowl Story

Once upon a time, when I was not so old yet, I remember that bowls with a picture of a cockerel imprinted on the outside were immensely popular.  There were a number of varieties of that rooster, nevertheless it was unmistakeably an ayam jantan.

These rooster-decorated bowls could be found at almost every food stall in coffeeshops, markets, mobile carts, etc.  I recall there were also a number of these in my old kampong home in Butterworth.

Why was this design so popular?  I do not know.  On the same note, why has its popularity waned in more modern times?

Perhaps, it is simply too old-school, or maybe it was a victim of some kind of anti-sexual-discrimination movement.  Some plausible explanatory stories would be much welcomed.

‘Twas So Good — Back Then

In 2011, Kentucky Fried Chicken introduced a new slogan “sogood” in an attempt to upgrade its fowl image.

In reality, it was really So Good many years ago, when going to KFC was kinda classy thing, where one was served in genteel fashion, big and yummy pieces of chicken on elegant crockery and with stainless steel cutlery, at reasonable prices.

These days, one has to queue up in crowded outlets, and be served refugee-camp-like manner – with paper boxes, plastic disposable forks, paper cups, etc.  That is, after one has handed over an arm and a leg in exchange for a chicken wing and a drumstick.

BTW, I had my first taste of KFC only in 1983, some where in Petaling Jaya, in a location called “State”.  I have no idea where that place is now.

“Wood” That Is Good For Food

Be assured that I am not some kind of termite that relishes on eating cellulose – but in my younger days this Ubi Kayu featured prominently in my diet, or should I say topped my list of delicacies.

My late mum used to make our favorite Ubi Bingka, and some other types of traditional kuih. Perhaps it was cheap and stuffed up growling tummies quickly.  Of course in those days, “carbo-phobia” was not in the English vocabulary yet.

My dad used to tell us that in the days of the Japanese Occupation, many people would have been starved to death had it not been for this “Good Wood That Was Food”.   But too much of it caused swelling of the legs and feet.

Ubi kayu is also known as tapioca or cassava (not Casanova, lolx)