Soon Lok : Roast meats for Mid-Autumn Fest

Happy Mid Autumn Festival, guys! Did you spend the night gazing at the full moon?

I didn’t, because the haze in Malaysia was too thick. .___.”

For those who don’t know, the Mid Autumn Festival (or Mooncake Fest as we like to call it here!) is a traditional celebration by Chinese and Vietnamese communities all around the world to mark the autumn harvest and to celebrate family unity and togetherness. The festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese lunar calendar – meaning that the moon is always full on that day.

In Malaysia, Malaysian-Chinese like myself observe it by having a meal with the family (mooncakes is a must), tote paper lanterns around the neighbourhood and play with leftover candles on the sidewalk or in front of our homes (As a kid, I liked to melt cheap wax candles into a puddle and scrape them off when they were slightly hardened.. weird child that I was.)

We had a mini ‘pre-celebration’ before the actual fest… with what else but good food?

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For lunch, we had three kinds of roasted meat from my favourite roast meat shop – Soon Lok in Bandar Puteri, Puchong. I’ve been eating here for years and their roast duck is simply divine, especially when it’s fresh from the oven: crispy on the outside with a melty layer of fat underneath, and juicy meat devoid of that gamey smell duck is infamous for. The roast pork was a bit too fatty but the skin was crunchy and salty.

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Roast chicken was decent, pretty tasty but a little dry. Spice it up with some takeaway garlic chilli sauce or soy/sweet sauce. You don’t even know how many bowls of rice I can eat with these to go with them. 😀

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The place also dishes out ‘dun tong‘ or double-boiled (?) soup. My dad’s fave is the preserved vegetable duck soup because my grandma used to make it when she was still alive. The soup has a sour, tangy flavour that whets the appetite.

Restoran Soon Lok (Bandar Puteri)
32G, Jalan Puteri 5/2,
Bandar Puteri,
47100 Puchong, Selangor

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No Mooncake Fest would be complete without the mooncakes! Mum bought these homemade ones from a restaurant.

I realise that a lot of people overseas outside of the Chinese community do not know what these are. Mooncakes are round (because it symbolises unity and togetherness), baked pastries with various fillings, from red bean and black bean paste to more modern variants like chocolate and green tea. There are a few legends surrounding the origin of the mooncake, one being that they were offered by a merchant to the Chinese emperor Taizong, who liked the ‘cakes’ which became a popular snack. Another spoke of how Han Chinese used the mooncakes to relay messages, helping them to overthrow Mongol rule.

Whatever the case, the pastries are a sweet, yummy treat for everyone 🙂

Happy MidAutumn Fest!

 

 

A Tale of Two Countries: Watercolour Works of Singapore and Malaysia

Malaysia and Singapore are like two sides of the same coin – sharing culture, cuisines, language and a diverse ethnic makeup. This was documented in ‘A Tale of Two Countries – Singapore and Malaysia’ by Singaporean artist Seah Kang Chui at a week long art exhibition, which ran at Soka Gakkai Malaysia in KL. The show featured over 50 watercolour artworks by the veteran painter.

*All artworks are copyrighted to Seah Kang Chui

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Seah has 40 years of experience under his belt, and it shows through his colourful paintings. A central theme to all his artworks is the depiction of rural scenery in Sg and Malaysia, from villages to old, heritage buildings. Some, like Lau Pa Sat Market (left) convey a deeper message. Seah said he deliberately painted the high-rise buildings in the background using a blurred style, to signify the ‘faceless’ modernity compared to the old market’s rich culture and history.

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Singapore River

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An old bridge in Singapore, with the ultra modern Marina Bay Sands building in the background.

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If you grew up in Malaysia and Singapore, many of these village and jetty scenes would be familiar. Seah captures the simplicity and essence of kampung living, so much so that looking at his paintings transports the viewer to childhood memories of running around barefeet in the yard, chasing chickens while coconut trees swayed in the breeze amidst a backdrop of traditional wooden houses on stilts – or climbing into long wooden boats and watching fishermen docking at rickety jetties in the evening.

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New Sarawak state assembly building’ next to the river.

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Paddy field in Sekinchan transports the viewers to this agricultural town, famed for its endless yellowing fields of ripe paddy and blue skies.

Seah’s fondness for rural scenes came from his own childhood, as he grew up in a village.

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“I often paint on the spot. If I can’t finish it, I take photographs to be continued at home,” he said. Sometimes a painting may take several tries.

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Heritage buildings are also a favourite subject – like the Christchurch Melaka (left).

It was amazing to see how skillful the artist was with his brush strokes.  I can’t claim to be a high culture person, but I enjoy looking at art I can understand and which connects emotionally with me on a deeper level, instead of random swishes and abstract notions.

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35 Years of Love

Marriages are a lifelong commitment – you vow to be with your significant other through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, in both good and bad times. To do that for 35 years needs something more than just the initial passion. A strong, lasting relationship needs patience, understanding and tolerance. So I applaud my aunt and uncle (Kao Fu and Kao Mo) for their perseverance and unwavering devotion to each other. Happy 35th anniversary!

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To celebrate this milestone, my cousin organised a banquet at Moon Palace in Bandar Puteri, Puchong with close to 200 guests comprising relatives and friends. Since my mum and dad were ‘VIP guests’, my bro and I were relegated to a random table full of old strangers. It made for awkward conversation and lots of smartphone playing (on our end, of course.)

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I can get the whole ‘festive’ idea of having banquets, because one wants to celebrate and be happy. I guess my aunt and uncle were pretty happy because they were walking from table to table, toasting guests in increasingly loud voices. I was surprised my uncle didn’t just topple over after a bit because he was lugging this huge ass bottle of whiskey around and drinking at every table. It’s also a Chinese thing because we take the phrase ‘the more the merrier’ literally. Loud and over-the-top = good. Quiet? Bad. That’s also why we invented firecrackers and fireworks, see?

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If I’m getting married next time, I just want a quiet affair at home with good food, a couple of friends and close relatives, and cake. Cake is a must. I don’t need abalones or sea cucumbers like those Chinese ten-course dinners, but Cake is a must.

I guess my wedding next time will be a very quiet affair with homemade food, a couple of friends and close relatives, and cake. CAKE IS A MUST. I don’t need abalone or sea cucumber or oat-fried shrimp but CAKE IS A MUST

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Bro and I with Kau foo and Kau Mo. The former looked quite dapper because he doesn’t normally wear coats, while the latter looked nearly 10 years younger – not from the makeup, but a general glow of happiness. I was happy for the both of them.

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Chow time! Like most Chinese dinner banquets, food was served close to an hour after guest arrivals, because we are never on time lol. The dishes come according to course – which means that each dish is served and finished before the next one arrives.

For appetisers, we had a mixed platter of assorted stuff, including cold lobster salad, deep fried spring rolls stuffed with fish paste, salted egg yolk and seaweed; deep fried vegetable balls, octopus and mango salad (not pictured above) + deep fried pork ribs. The ribs were tender, juicy and well-flavoured, while the spring rolls were crunchy and well-cooked. Vege balls were disappointingly mushy, while the salad was okay (they could have put more lobster in it!)

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Second dish was shark’s fin soup. Killing sharks for their fins is considered a cruel practice because many hunters just leave the sharks to sink to the bottom of the ocean to die, but it is highly in demand especially at traditional Chinese banquets. The fins themselves are tasteless, and can be easily substituted by dong fun (a type of transparent vermicilli made from flour). Since this is supposed to be a happy post, I won’t complain about it but I think people (especially the younger generation) should be aware that consumption is a choice. Many people still eat it because it is expensive and regarded as a ‘prestigious’ or ‘prosperous’ dish.

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Suckling pig, which is basically a baby pig that has not reached a month old.😦

Okay this is going to sound really evil, but if done well, suckling pig tastes 10x better than bacon. It has a very crispy skin when roasted, lots of fat and soft, savoury meat just beneath. The textures just melt in your mouth when you eat it. The version here was not done well though – it felt like eating large blobs of fat drenched in oil. The squiggly stuff on the side is cold jellyfish. #itstruethatChinesepeopleeateverything

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Moving on to normal-er things, here is a large, steamed garoupa in soy sauce.

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And sweet and sour shrimp. I prefer my shrimp done with oats and buttermilk, but these weren’t too bad. There was also sea cucumber and baby abalone and lotus-leaf wrapped glutinous rice along with cold dessert to end the meal. Unfortunately by then I was too full and couldn’t eat much, nor was I taking pictures because I was too busy snapping away at the stage where my family members were. My cousin also gave a nice little speech and slideshow on his parents, from the day they met til where they are today.

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Once again, Happy 35th, Kau foo and Kau Mo! Here’s to many more years ahead. Stay sweet always