Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My Raya’s 'Best Moment'

A friend asked me what was the best moment I had during raya.

I think it was when I waved to my eldest son as he walked away with his father to go and pray at the mosque that raya morning.

He looked so proud and happy to be going with his dad – to be 'a man', so to speak. And it was wonderful to wake him up early that morning and look into his face when he asked me, ‘Is it Raya, mom?’ and then later, after he has showered and was already wearing his ‘new’ shirt to go for prayers, he asked me brightly, ‘Do I look smart?’.


It is amazing how he has grown from the little chubby baby he was 5 years ago.

I will always remember that look he gave me as he walked away with his dad, to go for sembahyang raya, this Raya in 2006.

The Syawal Event

Raya (Eid) has been tiring but good.

My menu for the first day of raya was the normal compulsory raya food: nasi himpit, pulut, rendang, kuah kacang and kuah kelia. No surprises there. But my husband wanted one dish that is different, so, as recently I made Wantan Mee (however is the correct spelling) for iftar and we thought it was quite good; we decided that it was good enough to serve for raya.

I wanted to make my own wantans but my husband was kind enough to dig deeper into his not so deep pockets to buy some frozen seafood ones for me (Made in Malaysia and complete with the Jakim ‘Halal’ sign, pic below) in a nearby Chinese supermarket which we recently discovered. So I did not need to prepare the wantan fillings that raya morning nor was I forced to roll the wantan skins and shape them into something becoming and appetizing, for all I had to do was take the big box of frozen wantans out of the fridge, thaw them for awhile and deep fry them, to be eaten hot with the noodles in hot wantan soup, along with cooked vege (sawi) and some shredded chicken – all of which was very, very easy indeed to prepare.

I will definitely do a repeat performance of this dish sometime in the future because of its simplicity and taste. Fortunately for us, our guests loved them too, at the very least because it was a little different.

For dessert, I made a batch of cream puffs, dark cherry cheesecake, peach pudding and some fresh cinnamon rolls. I know, I know. I overdid it a little but we were expecting quite a few people and I added the peach pudding at the last minute, plus, we intended to give away some of the food anyway. Saying that, the cream puffs (just the shell – still not filled with the cream filling) ended up in a large container in my kitchen cabinet because my table was already overflowing with plates of food – I ended up giving the puffs away later (with the filling, of course) and slices of this and that later to a few friends who mentioned that they loved my desserts. That was the initial intention anyway.

Therefore, I am pleased to announce that nothing much was wasted, except perhaps for the final piece of pulut and last piece of roll which I discovered last night, already mouldy in my cake container. I’m not sure about the food that I gave away though, my friends may in turn throw them away in their bins because there were obviously so much food in everyone’s house during raya – I can’t say I am surprised if that happened, although I would have to say that it would be a real waste indeed because the food I prepared was bloody damn good, people!

Permit me to say so myself since my dear readers could not taste my raya fare and therefore will have to depend on my esteemed judgement about the matter.

He he he he.

With all that food I prepared, I actually had breakfast on Hari Raya morning at the neighbours’. My Bangladeshi neighbours invited us to come first thing in the morning because the husband of the house had some things to do at his uni (he is a PhD student, you see,) so he asked us to visit early in the morning. And my husband agreed to go there at 9, BEFORE I finished my own chores at home. After tasting each one of the delicious delicacies they served me on the floor of their kitchen, I rushed back home, just only remembering that I have left my bread dough for too long and unfortunately when I reached home, I found that it has tripled in size. The dough has not been very cooperative from the start so why would it cooperate with me at that point, I had thought. Needless to say, I forced it into submission and it turned into the cinnamon roll I wanted anyway.

Our guests only started coming in the afternoon and then they didn’t stop coming until it was time for the Maghrib prayers, albeit one family at a time (luckily for me), except for a friend who brought 3 other families with him, that is. After that, it was time for us to visit our friends. In truth, I was too tired to go out but it was RAYA after all and we had to visit other people too or else it wouldn’t be raya now, would it?

We ended up coming home after midnight that night. My youngest was already nodding off in the car, my poor baby had to sleep in his baju raya that night because we didn’t want to disturb his sleep, plus I would be lying if I didn’t say I was too tired to change him anyway.

All in all it was a pretty festive and cheery raya. I'm sorry that I can't elaborate any more at the moment because really, even thinking of Raya makes me feel tired, so, all that I can say is; here's hoping that you also had a wonderful raya like I did.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bread and Butter Pudding

Made this bread and butter pudding for my husband and a friend a few days ago. Just thought I would share it since it turned out quite nice. I had to divide the recipe into two portions because I couldn't fit it into my 8" baking tin. Used my oval serving bowl instead.

Best served hot with delicious cold custard.

Here's the recipe:

6 slices day-old bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup raisins
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.
Cut bread into triangles and arrange in an 8 inch square baking pan. Drizzle melted butter or margarine over bread. Sprinkle with raisins, lifting the slices here and there to get some of it inside.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.

Very easy and tastes good too. Try it!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ramadan Ramblings

Yes, I am blogging about food again.

There are other (fairly) interesting things to write about but those require more effort in my part and I don’t think I can muster any – my whole household is recuperating from a prolonged cold - the transition from the hot summer to the cooler weather now that it’s autumn, has taken its toll on my kids and then us parents got the bug too and just when I was beginning to feel a little bit better, I had to go an eat an expired cheese cake – because it still looked good and I hate the thought of throwing it away.

This Ramadhan has been very trying and draining indeed.

But in spite of it all, I still managed to cook a few things. After all, what better time to cook Malaysian food when one is fasting and hungry and missing home and thinking of all those food in the Ramadan Bazaars back home where one used to buy food for berbuka.


Saying that, there are still some food that I would like to eat this Ramadhan that I doubt I will ever be able to make, for example, those scrumptious Putu Mayam and ‘Ayam Percik Bangsar’that I always buy in the Pasar Minggu in Duyong in my hometown. Of course, I could try to make that ayam percik, but I doubt if it’ll taste as good. There are other delicacies that I would like to eat, amongst others; Lompat Tikam, Ketupat Palas and the sweet kelantanese kuih, Akok, but what’s the use of listing them all down here in this blog when I can do nothing whatsoever about my craving and my readers back in Malaysia has all the luxury of reading this and going out to the bazaar and bringing these delicacies home.

Now, I’m feeling bitter.

But you know what? If I weren’t here right now, so far away from home, I would never have known that I am capable of cooking all the recipes that I have tried. You know the other day, I made some karipap, with the twisty bits at the side and all (I have never really passed that part of making the karipap, but somehow I managed) but I wasn’t really confident about the pastry – it felt a little hard to the inexperienced me – so when a new friend from Karachi called to inform that she’s coming later to send some pakoras to me, I quickly made some muffins for her so that I have something in exchange to give her. It then occurred to me that I have already prepared two types of food and I haven’t even started cooking the main meal yet.

How cool was this little housewife? To be able to make 1 of the above was a feat in itself to the old me back in Malaysia.

And yesterday, at the last minute I decided to make some food for a pregnant friend who lives nearby – what with her first baby and all, she must be missing home and feeling a little lost. My husband suggested bread and butter pudding just like the one they used to serve in our old alma mater – he was craving for that, I suppose. And so to satisfy him, I made that and then went on straight to making some wan tan mee for berbuka.

And so, I have come to the conclusion that I have indeed turned into quite a nifty little housewife. I’m sorry if I sound like a little braggart but I am still quite amazed at myself. Allow me some time to recuperate from my shock.

(Pant. Pant. Deep breathe. Blow through mouth……)

But I honestly believe that this is the only way to be when you’re so far away from home with so little friends around. It’s the only way to make a housewife like me feel that she belong and is connected to the community and that she is doing something worth her while – besides bringing up her children and managing her home, of course. Cooking is therapy, definitely. But it can also be escapism for some of us housewives. I know someone who cooks and cooks and cooks to run away from her stress and office problems. And she had to throw 'dinner parties' so that people can finish all the food she's decided to cook. Me, I cook to prove to myself that I can be very good at what I do. I was never 100% confident of my own capabilities but now, I think, there is a chance that I can do this.

I CAN be a very, very good housewife.

Still, I've resigned myself to the fact that I won't be eating any Akok this Ramadhan. I doubt I'll ever be THAT good.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I craved for this traditional Malay delicacy and decided to try and make some for iftar a few days ago. Got this recipe from a friend (thank you!) and decided to try it even though I had no pandan leaves nor a reliable steamer in my kitchen.

And so here's the recipe:

For bottom layer;

1 cup glutinous rice, some coconut milk, salt to taste

For top layer;

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup of eggs (4-5 eggs depending on size)

3/4 to 1 cup of sugar

2-3 leaves pandan (screwpine) leaves, blended with a little water and sieved to get the coloured and fragrant essence

3 Tbs plain flour


Wash rice and leave submerged in clean water for 2-3 hours. Line a loose bottom cake tin (8")with some aluminium foil. Drain rice and pour into cake tin and spread evenly. Add some salt to the coconut milk and pour into the pan - just up to the level of the rice. Steam for 15 to 20 minutes.

Wrap your hand with a towel (because the rice is hot!) before inserting hand into a clean sandwhich bag/ plastic bag. Press hard with palm on the glutinous rice, all around the pan until rice is flat and level. Drizzle a little plain flour on top of surface and spread evenly with hand (still wrapped in bag).

Mix all ingredients for the top layer and sieve twice to get a smooth and thick mixture. Heat briefly on a low fire just until you can see a little steam coming from it and the mixture gets thicker, stirring constantly.

Pour mixture onto cooked and flattened rice. Steam for 30-45 minutes. Cool before cutting and serving.

It turned out nice – although a little too soft at the top and slightly eggy (because I had no pandan but even after I used lots of vanilla essence to try and lessen the egg taste). I may tweak the recipe next time with some custard powder instead of plain flour and some evaporated milk included in the coconut milk measurement – want to try to increase its creaminess and perhaps harden it just a little bit. Do u think that will work? Please do contact me if you have a better recipe for me to try.

Just Like Home

I made some more cream puffs during the weekend and decided to give some to our Muslim neighbours who are undoubtedly fasting just like us. I couldn’t be bothered to go up to their front door because that will mean putting on my head scarf and wearing something a little more decent – the family next door seems to be of the ‘Tabligh’ group (a group of people who dedicate their lives to spreading the word of God (I think)), the master of the house grows a long white beard and wears white all the time and his wife is covered in black except for the narrow slit she allows for her eyes.

I didn’t want them to faint at the sight of me in my jeans and short sleeves at their door step, so I just climb onto a chair leaning against the fence in our backyard and called out my ‘salam’ over the fence to their open kitchen door. The mistress of the house promptly appeared and she received my offerings with a smile and jazakallah (thanks) and I saw her for the first time without her face covered with her burkha. She invited me to come over and I said something or other (I have forgotten what) and a few seconds later, we both went back to our respective kitchens to resume cooking for our iftar (the breaking of fast), which was half an hour later. My husband surprised me with a hug as soon as I stepped into our kitchen, saying that he’s 'proud' that I am such a ‘good cook’ and that I’m such a 'kind hearted' and 'thoughtful' person to have thought of giving some food for the neighbours’ iftar. He was probably being sarcastic or just being silly, but it was a welcomed hug and compliment nonetheless.

I felt good immediately after that, as I always do after doing something nice and of course, after being so generously complimented, honestly or not!

The next day, at 6pm sharp, again 30 minutes before iftar, there was a loud knock at the front door. When my husband opened the door, he was surprised to see the sweet little girl, Safiyya, from next door, wearing her usual white hijab, standing with a tray. The neighbours were returning the favour, with a tray filled with food! It was definitely more than what I gave them – I only gave them 10 little cream puffs and in return they gave us a large container of (very nice) fried rice, a half loaf of cake, some traditional dessert (my neighbours are originally from Bangladesh) which tasted similar to our very own kuih lidah buaya only it wasn’t as crispy, some samosas and some fried bread rolls which were curiously filled with some noodles and a layer of pancake! They were all undoubtedly home made and tasted wonderful!

The weekend brought a lot of happiness for me because somehow, that tray of food made me feel like we somehow belonged in this community and have some sort of a connection with the people around us.

Somehow, the incident made me feel that I am home.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


In my 'younger' years, I had a Malay friend who was very beautiful. On top of that she was also rich, had perfect composure, was very confident, friendly and to add salt to all the above, she was also nice and had some impressive grey matter in between her ears – she was very intelligent.

And so as the nature of human beings goes – the Malay boys (or should I say, the Malay ‘men’ although they hardly qualified or looked like men at that age) fawned over that beautiful face (for that was probably the only thing they could see - THAT, and a a few inches below), vied for her attention, tried to get her into long conversations and when they did manage to do that, tried hard to be charming and make her laugh. Not all of them were engaged in this activity though – just a few brave ones and some (over-)confident ones. The rest just looked from afar and pretended not to see her beautiful face when she passed them by, but if by some miracle she noticed them and said hi, equally miraculously they will suddenly become the paragon of friendliness.

And the girls – they could not help but detest and be critical of her. Many in fact, despised her. They bitched and talked disapprovingly of her behind her back and sneer at the things she did - branding her flirtatious and attention seeking. Most of them were courteous enough of course, to treat her in a civil manner whenever she is in attendance but a few just completely ignored her. I think these were the ones who felt threatened by her – because they saw her as a competitor for the attention of the boys, perhaps, or they were just jealous of her beautiful face and her generous curves and everything else that she had that was generous. To her credit, she didn’t give a rat’s arse about these people. She was confident enough (and not to mention rich and beautiful enough) to go her own way, not requiring anyone of the Malay girls as friends or companions even though we were all living abroad together, near each other.

To my credit, I myself didn’t give a rat’s arse about her beauty or riches or her other activities – all I knew was that she was a nice person – to me at least, she was nice. Although perhaps, that was because she needed my roughly scrawled notes from attending the lectures. But that's not being really fair, because I was the one who offered her my notes, I think, because I pitied her (she was always away you see, so when it was time for the exams, she was always a little clueless). And anyway, she sometimes let me use and take care of her car in return – a sporty Mercedes convertible, no less - when she’s off gallivanting with her beau. So, I think it was a fair trade, even if she WAS using me...

Such was the nature of the male and female of the species at that very young age – when we were neither girls nor boys anymore but have yet to really step into the world of men and women. We were simply ‘students’ at that point. For most of us, there was not much responsibility except to study, study and study. But let’s not get into that because I have a different point to make in this entry.

You see, even though I was young and still ‘fresh from the cradle’ so to speak - someone who spent 5 years in an all girls boarding school and prior to that lead quite a protected life in the bosom of my own family, I have always been interested in the human nature. I observe and like to make conclusions as to the reasons why - the cause and effect of human actions and nature. And in this I don’t go straight from A to B for somehow, I figured that an effect does not necessarily have one cause for it although if it did, it may also be the case that the cause may not be the most obvious one – thus, I refrain from making conclusions as to why a person is like so and so, because one thing that I am very sure of (and I am not sure of many things,) is that the human mind and emotions that control these actions are very complex things.

Oh, I'm not a saint - I do talk about other people even when I do understand that they may have their reasons for doing things. Only, (I would like to think) I do it because I want to discuss someone’s actions and understand the reasons why or because I am curious and very interested to hear other people’s understanding of a situation (at least, MOST of the time it is for these reasons). But because of these tendencies to observe and understand, I saw some interesting things.

I saw that that beautiful and intelligent girl always ‘survived’ and overcame the obstacles thrown at her door. I saw that the more people were condescending and bitching about her behind her back, the more she was able to scrape through tests and exams – even with her not going to most of the classes. No doubt of course, she was intelligent but I cannot really classify the other people who were bitching and then diligently going to lectures and sitting quietly in their rooms and studying and yet not passing as 'stupid'. But this is exactly what happened - other people who were not as much talked about as her - who appeared 'normal' and did not cause as much 'stir' as she did, were not fairing as well as her - even when she did not even try very hard to do well. (Obviously, I am not going to go through the series of 'ups' experienced by the girl and the 'downs' experienced by anyone else because one of them may be reading this so I think, for the safety of my own hide, I will not to go through the details.)

But to put it simply, her luck increased with each sneer laced with envy and each condescending statement sprouted by jealousy that was uttered behind her back. And furthermore, to my amazing realisation, one thing I noticed that was very interesting about her was that she NEVER bitched about anyone. Well, she did give comments here and there - perhaps a one liner type of thing about another person but she never actually bitched - never a prolonged discussion spewing with negativity about other people.
And I mean NEVER.

And I respect her for that.

Somehow, I think she realised that many did not think too kindly of her but she didn’t care – she took everything in her stride and never looked back. And she was honest as to who she was and what she was – she was not a hypocrite. Not like some other people back then who were all soft and smiles and toothaching sweetness in your face but behind you…

I learnt from her. I learnt to stop myself from thinking of the negative things about other people because it never helps to do so - even when it makes you feel better about yourself for a while.
And I also made some conclusions from what I saw. And these may seem a little stretched because can one actually deduce these from just the above, you may ask. Still, yours truly did, and this is basically it:

One must always accept one’s lot in life and that’s not saying one should acquire a defeatist attitude in life. One may not be as pretty or as good or as intelligent or as rich or as well endowed or even as happy as that other person and one can wallow about it in private if one wants (although I honestly do not recommend this either for it will only result in further sadness and depression) but one must never be bitter about it. NEVER. One must be happy for what one has or strive for something better but never ever be bitter and start wishing that that someone is in such a state as oneself. Don't do that.

Always Be Happy For The Success of Others – that, as I learned from my experience, is the secret for one’s own happiness and an invitation for better things to happen to oneself in the future. Learn to say ‘Good For Her!’ and ‘I’m Glad’ and ‘She Deserves It!’. Because from what I saw and understand, it is only when one starts to accept one’s ‘lot in life’ and be happy for others that one can feel happier and more contented with one’s life and somehow, from somewhere, as if by magic, better things will appear.

I suppose if you want to explain it – its purely psychological because when one starts to be happy for others and be content with what one has, then, one starts to see the many blessings that he/ she receives everyday and start to be thankful. There! Isn't that simple logic? Although, I really cannot explain why that beautiful girl became somehow prettier and luckier the more people talked about her. I suppose that’s just how the Almighty wanted to show the rest of us that we should be thankful and accept whatever, with an open heart.

In malay (or Arabic, is it?), the word is REDHA. But as I said, that doesn’t mean we must take the defeatist attitude and let things rest. If you want to achieve something, then by all (legal) means..

OK..did all this sound too far fetched a deduction from the initial story? But honestly, this was what I garnered from my observations at the time. It may be what people write in self-help-books and it certainly seems to be just plain good advice but I never did like to read those types of books and to me, seeing is believing. Therefore, I hope we can all take the things that are or has happened in our lives, whether it be good or bad in our stride and strive for the best. Envy and jealousy and spite and jaki and dengki and khianat (it's amazing that the malay language has so many words to describe it) will never do anything but harm, to that other person who's 'winning the lottery' but most importantly, to ourselves… and we don't want THAT, do we?

Ah well. Here’s hoping that I’ve done my bit of good deed for this day in Ramadan by sharing this.