Category Archives: utensils

A Chop Off The Whole Log

Hope am not putting my head on the chopping block by travestying the old saying. **

In the old days, every home used a round wooden chopping “board” that was made from a cross-cut section of a good-size log.  Thickness varied from about 1” to 3”, depending on the diameter of the board.

On these boards, we cut everything in the kitchen, from vegetables to meat. One could deliver heavy blows with a chopper or cleaver, to cut through thick animal bones that were laid on the them – no problem.

These “old school” style chopping blocks (as I call them) are still much favoured by professional butchers in markets, as they are tough and hardy.

But for home use, they are getting scarce – replaced mostly by those made from plastics, or from pieces of wood, laminated together.

** “a chip off the old block”

Happy Ending To An Unhappy Call

It must have been like 10 years ago (as of 2018) when a Korean-made product “Happycall” made its debut onto the local kitchenware scene.  Widely touted as the wonder non-stick pan, it promised to keep all flavours in, and cook everything to perfection.

I quickly tried out every Flip and Flop – from antiquity to modernity – to make it happen. Sadly, nothing worked out. (The fish that I was trying to fry turned out half-cooked and looked more like an aircrash victim). Or that I was a culinary catastrophe.

My old faithful old Wok-horse was still the best.  Disappointed, I decided to go for Amicable Separation after the Un-Happy Call.

It took one yank from a small screw driver to unhinge everything – and then, voila, I had two non-stick pans, and all parties were a lot happier afterwards.

Enamelled Enamour Or Enamoured Enamel ?

Whichever way you call it, these fashionable utensils of the first 7 or 8 decades of the previous century are getting less popular by the day.

They were favoured for their relatively light weight, though the base material was ordinary steel sheetmetal. The enamel coating imparted a decent degree of resistance to wear, and corrosion. And it came in all sorts of colours, and often with flowery decorations too.

However, the coating was vulnerable to knocks, which caused chipping and flaking, leaving ugly spots and patches, which led to corrosion. After prolonged use, the insides of the utensils could get stained too.

The photo shows 3 of the 5 or so pieces that are still left in my home, Over the years, we had discarded at least 6 other items, in favour of stainless steel or porcelain or glass ones.

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.

Kopi Cup Kaw-Kaw

In the good old times before coffeeshops became coffeehouses, we could get real good kopi, kaw-kaw or otherwise, without having to demolish our bank accounts. 

Best of all, while paying only 10 sen or so, our daily perk-up came in dignified porcelain cups, each graced elegantly with a matching saucer.  And those cups were also very kaw (meaning thick).  I was told that the thick cups was to minimize heat loss from the drink. 

These days, at the so-called upmarket coffee outlets, one has to pay a fistful of dollars to get some coffee-looking/smelling liquid with some out-of-this-world unpronounceable names that is served in crass paper cups, or worse, in uncouth health-destroying polyfoam ones.  Sadly, there is no lack of eager victims.  What to do? 

Squeeze Me Baby With All Your Might

Rummaging through my kitchen cabinet one day, I found this piece of magnificent ancient glassware. I guess it must have been with us for the last 4 decades or so – I might as well call it an artefact instead.

I am not sure what its correct name is – shall I call it Manual Juicer?

That same day I got hold of a couple of oranges, slit them in halves and then revived my hand muscles to get the juice flowing.  Man, it was hard work – I really had to squeeze the fruit halves with all my might, while simultaneously rotating them around.

I remember it was a rather easy job 40 years ago.  But this time round, my hand joints felt sore, and I had to rub in some analgesic balm afterwards for relief.  

Thick & Thin

Her name is Stone, Whet Stone.   I just realized that abrasive gal at the corner of the kitchen sink has been with us for the past 32 years, having followed us in our migration from Penang to Singapore.

A faithful companion I would say, having not only stuck by us through Thick and Thin,but also gone from Thick to Thin over the past 3 decades.  Well she is more curvy now for sure.

I wonder how the modern folks sharpen their knives these days ?  I know of several contraptions that came and went, but as for me, I am still stone-age.

I might have to get a replacement soon before the old faithful breaks into two; perhaps should send her by Poslaju to Easter Island as her final resting place.

Empty Vessels Made Most Sound

Obviously, these vessels could make a huge din – a lot of sound when struck empty. More remarkably, because they had been made most sound – strong, durable and even water-tight — by skillful craftsmen of old.

In small towns and even kampongs throughout the country, one could find at least a couple of tinsmiths – whose imaginative minds and deft hands could fashion anything out of sheet metal. They made bath tubs, pails, coffee pots, scoops, funnels, etc.

Sheets of galvanized iron, aluminium, copper and brass were cut into shapes for ‘development’ followed by folding, bending and rolling, plus rivetting and soldering.

Alas, the advent of cheap plastics and big factories has practically silenced this time-honoured industry.  And with that, all the heritage craftsmanship is largely lost.

Brush From The Past

Those were the days before plastics invaded planet Earth. Remember these brushes ? Let me share a blast from the past.

They were used by practically every household for scrubbing laundry, kitchen sinks, floors, dishes, shoes, etc. The brown ones were softer than the black ones.   The latter were used mainly to tackle stubborn stains and deeply-entrenched hardcore grime from all kinds of surfaces.

I learned that the brown ones were made from coconut tree fibres – can anyone verify that ? Am not so sure what the black ones were made of. 

For some years these organic, environment-friendly brushes became scarce as cheap plastic ones flooded the market.  But lately, I notice they are making a comeback.  Not only in brown and black, but even with stripes.

The Pan Is Mightier Than The Wok

So goes the saying (or something like that — my memory not so good now).

Say what you like, I strongly Disagree. The Wok — the heavy cast iron type — ruled and, still rules, in my family’s kitchens for generations. Stir-fry, deep-fry, steam, even panggang, anything dead or alive from the surface of the earth, the air above, or under the sea…..and, the results have always been and will always be delicious.  No arguments !

My first encounter with the Pan was only a couple of years back. But it had not been a happy affair for me (I will leave that story to a later time).

It amazes me no end how the western imitation with many limitations is able to capture the imagination of the modern generation.

Meanwhile, will I set off a kitchen war ? Kling Klang.