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Soft Boiled Eggs: A Malaysian Breakfast Staple

Walk into any kopitiam in Malaysia for breakfast, and chances are you’ll see at least one table with a plate of soft-boiled eggs, kaya and butter with toast, and a ceramic cup of teh tarik/kopi o. It’s such a ubiquitous thing for Malaysians that some might not even think of it as special (when foreigners ask what we eat for breakfast, most would probably say “nasi lemak”).

It wasn’t until I brought Hubs to a kopitiam in Melaka and he berated me for not introducing it to him sooner that I realised that this combo is actually quite a unique one.

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Homemade soft boiled eggs with garlic toast

But how did Malaysians start eating soft boiled eggs with toast for breakfast? Well, you might be surprised to find out that it’s a remnant from Malaysia’s colonial days.

Dating back to the 1800s, Eggs and Soldiers is a classic British breakfast dish, featuring – you guessed it – boiled eggs (with shell intact but the top removed) and thin strips of toast. The shape of the bread makes it easy to dip them into the runny eggs. Somehow, this dish must have been brought over to Malaya during the British occupation, but locals tweaked it by adding condiments like soy sauce and pepper. Instead of cutting the bread into strips, locals paired them with butter and kaya (coconut jam), creating a wonderful marriage of sweet and salty flavours.

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There’s an art to making soft boiled eggs, and kopitiams seem to have perfected them. While they’re easy enough to make at home, it’s difficult to get the exact same taste as the ones you find in restos.

Sometimes, when I’m not able to head to my local kopitiam, I make my own. The trick is to use medium-sized eggs and not cook them straight out of the fridge. Instead, run them under water until they’re close to room temperature, then bring a pot to boil. Place the eggs in a container (I use a stainless steel one for soups), pour the boiling water until it they’re completely submerged, then set the timer to six minutes. I find six minutes works best based on the eggs I usually buy, so when I crack them open the eggs are perfect : creamy yolk, runny whites.Then add soy sauce and pepper to your liking, and voila! Give me this over a fancy breakfast buffet any day.

What are some of your favourite breakfast dishes? Share them with me in the comments below!

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Spices – Indian Claypot Rice (Sattisoru) @ Restoran Try To Eat, Rawang

Claypots have been used in traditional cooking for centuries and across many different cultures. It is said that the porous quality of clay helps to retain the food’s nutritional value, whilst also giving the dish an earthy aroma and deeper flavours.

Here in Malaysia, claypot chicken rice is very popular among the Chinese diaspora. It usually contains chopped pieces of chicken, salted fish, chives and Chinese sausage, drizzled over with dark soy sauce. The dish was traditionally eaten in Southern China as a dinner dish, and it was later brought over to Southeast Asia (Malaysia/Singapore) by Hokkien immigrants.

Indian-style claypot rice (sattisoru), however, is new to me. Perhaps it’s because I don’t eat Indian food often (blame it on my canto palate!), but I’ve been ignorant about its existence until recently, when I had to interview and write about a street chef in Rawang who sells sattisoru.

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You can find Spices Claypot Rice tucked within Restoran Try to Eat, a no-frills food court by the side of the road. Despite being the only Indian stall here, it attracts customers of all races. There’s a wide variety of dishes on offer, including their signature Claypot Mutton Masala (RM12), Chicken Masala, Prawn Masala and Chilli Chicken Masala. Less common ingredients like salted fish and sardine are also available, and there are vegetarian options for non-meat eaters.

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Spices is run by Janagaraju Arumugam, a young chef with a huge passion for food. Prior to opening Spices two years ago together with his wife, Jana worked as an engineer and had no F&B experience – so it was a big leap of faith.

“We started this as a part-time venture. My wife was a pharmacist and I was still working as an engineer. We’d only open our stall after we finished our day jobs, at 6pm,” he quips. Juggling two jobs was exhausting, but Jana keenly pushed forward. Eventually, he quit his job to run the stall full-time, and has since hired more people to help out at his stalls, of which there are four in the Klang Valley (aside from Rawang, he also has branches in Kota Kemuning, Selayang and Klang).

Why give up a cushy shop to be a chef-cum-businessman? Jana explains that as a boy, he used to help his mother out in the kitchen, and he recalls fondly how his mother’s love for her family shone through the dishes she made – something he is keen on preserving ever since she passed away. The dishes he serves at Spices are all based on recipes and techniques that were handed down by his late mother – and it truly shows in his cooking.

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Food photographer behind-the-scenes. It’s not easy taking shots especially when the chef is moving around – we had to retake some shots several times. Thank you Jana for your patience!

Cooking the claypot rice is an art in itself. Each order starts with a base of onion, potatoes, dried chili and masala paste, which is constantly stirred in the clay pot to bring out a mouthwatering aroma. Rice is
added last, after the liquid has simmered down, so it does not become soggy. Controlling the fire is also important, and because they are cooking it with a slow fire, it allows for a more even cooking process and the natural flavours of the ingredients to permeate through. Since everything is cooked to order, expect a wait of between 15 to 20 minutes.

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I tried two clay pot dishes – the mutton masala and the prawn masala. Between the two, I enjoyed the mutton masala more as the meat was tender and flavourful, having absorbed the flavours of the curry. The heat wasn’t obvious at first bite, but hits gradually and had me chugging down my sugarcane juice lol. Portions are hearty and can be shared between two people. You also get a whole boiled egg in each pot.

The masala paste is what makes the dish, as it contains over 20 spices such as cinnamon, pepper, coriander, cumin seeds and mace. The paste is ground in a central kitchen and distributed to the different stalls, so customers get a consistent quality and taste. It’s also free from additives, making it a healthier alternative to commercial mixes.

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More BTS. Photogs have it rough; they’re often the last to sit down (even after the journalist is done with the interview) because they have to take that perfect shot.

As for future plans, Jana is hoping to open five more stalls across Peninsular Malaysia, as well as a proper restaurant. All the best, Jana! Keep the passion alive. 🙂

SPICES CLAYPOT RICE

Restoran Try to Eat, 48, Jalan 1D, Taman Jati, 48000 Rawang, Selangor
Opening hours: 11AM – 11PM (daily)

facebook.com/spicesclaypotrice

Note: I interviewed Jana for the November issue of Fireflyz, the inflight magazine for Firefly Airlines. This article features a few tweaks and some additional info I wasn’t able to fit in to the story.

Help a Girl Out ! 

If you enjoyed reading this, please consider supporting my website. Contrary to popular belief, I do not make big moolah from writing – and this will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content for your reading pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!

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Hong Kong-style Desserts @ Lou Gai Fong, Bandar Puchong Jaya

Hey guys! I hope you’re all keeping safe. After a lull of sorts, coronavirus cases have spiked again in Malaysia to over 400 cases at the time of this writing. Most of them are from the election which was held in Sabah recently. For some unfortunate reason, our government did not impose a mandatory quarantine for returnees to West Malaysia, and since people can’t be trusted to home quarantine themselves, it resulted in several clusters. It doesn’t help that we have reckless and irresponsible politicians abusing their privileges and power, getting slaps on the wrist for breaking the rules. If you can’t lead by example, how can you expect the rakyat to follow?

I think another quarantine is unlikely. The country’s economy is simply unable to bear the cost of such a move. That being said, I’m going to be staying at home more and eating out less: so that’s a plus for my pocket, I guess?

But I digress.

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A couple of weeks ago, the fam and I went to Chinatown (cases were still in the double digits then so we felt it was okay to go out), and on the way back home we stopped for a tea time break at Lou Gai Fong in Bandar Puchong Jaya. The Cantonese name literally translates to ‘old timer’ or ‘those who have lived in a neighbourhood /community for a long time. The shop specialises in Hong Kong-style char chaan teng (kinda like HK version of kopitiams) items as well as traditional Chinese desserts (tong shui).

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The exterior has an open kitchen, designed to look like street stalls. Air- conditioned seating is available on the inside.

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The interior is inspired by Hong Kong-themed deco, and features a scene of the island’s famous Cheung Po Chai (a traditional Chinese junk), amidst a backdrop of the Victoria Harbour and its towering skyscrapers. The other wall boasts an almost floor-to-ceiling scene of HK’s night scene and iconic neon signages. Bird cages hang from the ceiling – a tribute to HK’s bird gardens, where elderly folk often bring their songbirds out to the park for display / contests (although sadly, this culture is slowly disappearing).

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Thirst quenchers
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In HK, Char chaan tengs are the common man’s go-to, offering reasonably priced food in a casual setting. As such, they dish out fast, tasty and affordable meals for office workers, labourers and everyday salarymen, where they can pop in quickly for a filling lunch. At Lou Gai Fong, they serve typical char chaan teng dishes like tomato egg fried rice, luncheon meat and egg rice, stewed pork rice, noodles, waxed meat with rice, and more

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Since it was tea time, we decided to order some traditional desserts instead. Moo had the white fungus dessert with longan. It came with three boiled quail eggs.

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Pop’s had the curry fishballs. Curry fishballs are a staple of food culture in Hong Kong, originally sold from wooden pushcarts as an inexpensive street snack. They are first boiled, then deep fried, giving them a golden brown coating and extra crispness. Although the portion at Lou Gai Fong is small, the flavour is great, especially the curry which has been tweaked to suit local tastebuds (more spice).

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It’s rare for us to see places selling tong yuen outside of the Winters Solstice Festival, so the Bro and I both had tong yuen. They came in a spicy ginger soup that warmed the belly immediately. I enjoyed the chewy texture of the glutinous rice balls too.

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Bro had a slightly different version; ie bigger balls lol.
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Verdict: The tong shui is decent. Prices are average for a resto of this setting. Service is quite slow. It took awhile for our orders to come to the table, despite the shop being empty.

LOU GAI FONG

25, Jalan Kenari 4, Bandar Puchong Jaya, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 7AM – 1AM (daily)

MUSASHI: Music From The East – A One Night Only Performance In Kuala Lumpur

Curious about the sounds of traditional Japanese music? Four master musicians will be in town on February 11 for MUSASHI: Music From The East – a one-night only performance at Rex KL.

MUSASHI_ Music From The East Poster

Here exclusively on invitation by The Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur, the four are Nobuto Yamanaka on the tsugaru-shamisen (a three-stringed instrument with a distinctive lilt, inspired by the Chinese sanxian), Satoshi Katano on the shinobue (bamboo flute), and Taka and Junya Tsukamoto on the Wadaiko (Japanese drums). The show will feature a wide range of Japanese songs, from traditional to the contemporary.

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Nobuto Yamanaka (tsugaru-shamisen)

After graduating from intermediate school at the age of 15, Yamanaka became a live-in apprentice to the late Tsugaru-shamisen master Yamada Chisato for four years, before becoming a master of the tsugaru-shamisen.

In 2018, he was inducted into the hall of fame after becoming a three-time winner in the A-class division of the Tsugaru Shamisen World Tournament, as well as three time champion of the Tsugaru Shamisen’s National Competition. His powerful style of playing and well emoted sounds has earned him a reputation that transcends the shamisen, and he is frequently involved in performances of different genres. To date he has performed in over 38 countries.

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Satoshi Katano (Shinobue – Bamboo Flute)

Born in Chiba, Katano began playing music when he was just nine, influenced by his father. He started a solo career as a shinobue player in 2008 and won the National Yokobue (Cross Flute) contest in 2013, and the All-Japan Yokobue Contest in 2017 and 2019, among other accolades. Currently based in Fukuoka, he continues playing the Shinobue while working as a boatman.

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TAKA (Wadaiko – Japanese drum)

TAKA is an award-winning Wadaiko player and Japanese calligrapher. He started playing Wadaiko since he was seven years old. After graduation, he started to work as a solo Wadaiko player in earnest, and opened a Wadaiko class “DAGAKU” in 2009. In 2013, he formed a performance group “Wadaiko Akatsuki”.TAKA won the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Award as the best Otaiko (large drum) player at the “World Wadaiko Uchikurabe Contest” in Okaya Taiko Festa in 2015. In 2017, he won the same prize in the ensemble taiko drumming section. In 2019, TAKA was awarded the Prefectural Governor Award as the best drummer in a single drumming contest in “OTAIKO HIBIKI Festival”. He is currently studying tsugaru-shamisen under master Yamanaka Nobuto.

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Junya Tsukamoto (Wadaiko – Japanese Drum)

Tsukamoto started playing the Wadaiko when he was just five.  In 2012, he performed with Kanjani Eight (a famous Japanese boy band group) on Kohaku Uta Gassen, a famous Japanese TV show. He then joined
“Wadaiko Akatsuki” in 2013 and won an Excellence Prize in the soloist division of “Fujisan Otaiko Uchikurabe Contest” the following year. In 2018, he toured three countries in Central and South America and has performed in over nine countries to date. Not one to rest on his laurels, Tsukamoto is studying both the tsugaru-shamisen and shinobue instruments.

MUSASHI: MUSIC FROM THE EAST 

Date/Time: 11 February (Tuesday), *8:30 PM
*Time subject to change

Venue: REXKL, 80, Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur

Admission: RM45 (General), RM25 (Students, Senior, Disabled, JFKL members) via peatix.com

For more information, visit jfkl.org.my/events/musashi-music-from-the-east/ or fb.com/theJapanFoundationKL/

 

Being The Bridesmaid @ A Traditional Malaysian Chinese Wedding

Hey guys! Hope you had a great Lunar New Year! 

One of my good friends had her wedding ceremony recently – and I was honoured to be one of her bridesmaids! It was my first time, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only was it a happy occasion, but I also learned a lot of fascinating things about Malaysian Chinese wedding culture.

Hold up, you ask. Am I not Malaysian Chinese?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is that I am a third culture kid, so I’m quite out of touch with my own roots. (My Indian ex-colleague, who was also there as a bridesmaid, said she felt like she was attending it with a non-Chinese friend lmao.)

But I digress. 

If you’ve always wondered how a Malaysian Chinese wedding is like, read on!

MORNING – THE TEA CEREMONY 

Weddings are usually a whole-day affair, starting with a tea ceremony in the morning. Chinese society is patriarchal, so a woman ‘belongs’ to the husband’s family once she is married – the reason why sons are more prized than daughters. (It’s BS but we shall not get into an argument about the patriarchy here, lol). As such, the groom goes to the bride’s house to take her home with him.

Prior to the wedding date, the couple would have consulted a monk / master at the temple to determine the most auspicious day / time for this to happen. In Helen’s case, we had to be there early as Hong had to leave the house by 8AM.

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The bride looking resplendent in a traditional ‘kua‘.

Unlike the cheongsam, which is form fitting, the kua is modest, and is often elaborately embroidered with motifs such as flowers, dragons and clouds in gold and white.

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Aside from my ex-colleague and I, Helen’s best friend Mui, her cousin and 2nd sister (not in the picture) acted as bridesmaids. The shirt says ‘Jie Mei’, literally, ‘sisters’.

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Helen had arranged for a dai kum (chaperone) to help manage proceedings. A Dai Kum’s role is akin to an emcee – she will ensure that rituals are done accordingly, all the while announcing good tidings and wishes to the new bride and groom.

The dai kum arrived ahead of Hong’s entourage with a basket of gifts for the bride’s family – 10 mandarin oranges (to represent completeness; from the saying “10 chuen 10 mei” meaning perfection), cakes, sticky niangao (wishing for the couple to stay sweet and ‘sticky’) and peanuts.

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Veiling of the bride by her elders. The veil may not be removed by anyone other than the husband-to-be, after which they are considered man and bride.

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So what were we doing as the bridesmaids? Well, the groom had an entourage of ‘brothers’ – our job was to rag them with door games, of course! Traditionally, the bridesmaids act as doorkeepers, because no way the groom is able to waltz in so easily and claim the bride. The door games involved the brothers doing silly tasks, and the groom had to fork out red packets filled with money to demonstrate his sincerity. It was all in good fun though!

Some of the games we played:

  • asking them to apply makeup on one of their members until the sisters were satisfied.
  • having them fill up a cardboard heart with lipstick marks
  • eating bitter-gourds and chasing them down with Coke
  • the groom had to read a love declaration outside the bride’s door (eg: I promise to feed the baby, clean, cook and provide for the household expenses on time)

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When the groom was finally ‘allowed’ into the room, the bride was there waiting for him. She looked very demure in her dress and veil. Hong got down on one knee with a bouquet of flowers, and asked Helen to receive him. After she accepted the flowers, he lifted the veil, kissed her and slipped on new red shoes for her. Shoes are a homonym for ‘harmony’, hence auspicious tidings.

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Helen and Hong, with Helen’s sister and brother-in-law.

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After all the shouting and screaming from the games, things finally settled down for the tea ceremony. The bride and groom first served tea to the elders according to rank, whereby they received red packets and jewellery for the bride. The younger cousins then served tea to the newlyweds, and received red packets in return.

Around 10.30AM, it was time to bring the bride to the groom’s place. From the time they left to the time they arrived at the groom’s house, the couple had to be shielded by a red umbrella for good luck.

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The couple’s vehicle door can only be opened by a younger, unmarried male relative, in exchange for a red packet. The groom and bride cannot open the door on their own.

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Prayer paraphernalia at Hong’s house. The tea ceremony was essentially the same as the one at Helen’s place, minus the ragging.

Some parts of the ceremony were changed to fit modern times. For example, the visit to Hong’s house was ‘symbolic’ – it was actually his parents’ house, since Helen and Hong already have their own house. We drove to their house for a buffet lunch, and also to visit the bridal chamber.

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The bridal bed should be new and have new bedsheets; preferably red.

WEDDING DINNER

In the evening, the couple hosted a Chinese-style banquet at Hee Lai Ton in Pudu, Kuala Lumpur. The concept is more akin to Western-style wedding ceremonies, with a sit-down dinner and different courses of dishes being served throughout the night. There were print outs of the couple’s wedding photos, which guests could take back as souvenirs, as well as a banner that they could sign.

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Happy couple!

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The couple was busy throughout the night entertaining the many guests, so we didn’t see them much. Good thing we managed to squeeze in a few photos!

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The food at Hee Lai Ton was surprisingly good – we started off with a cold platter of appetisers comprising marinated baby octopus, fried fish cakes with salted egg, and there was also steamed fish and a bomb Iberico pork ribs platter.

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The three-tiered wedding cake and champagne tower.

Halfway through the dinner, after the bride had a change of gowns, the couple was invited onto the stage for the cake-cutting ceremony and popping of champagne. Everyone then stood up for a toast (or three) – led by one rep from the groom’s side, one rep from the bride’s side, and finally the groom himself. You might have heard of the classic call ‘Yam Seng‘ – which is Cantonese for Cheers.

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Three cheers for the newlyweds!

We didn’t stay for dessert as I had a 7AM flight to catch the next day – but even though it was a tiring day jam packed with activities, it was all in good fun.

Here’s a simple video: 

 

DIY Batik For Just RM10! @ Batik Canting, Fahrenheit 88 Kuala Lumpur

Originally from Indonesia, batik is an ancient textile art that involves dyeing cloth with a wax-resist technique. It also refers to the textile itself, which often features beautiful patterns and motifs which differ from region to region.

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Malaysian batik is markedly different from its Indonesian counterpart; with larger, simpler patterns and a preference for floral motifs as opposed to the Javanese love for geometry. Malaysian batik is also brighter and more vibrant in colour than the deep, earthy hues of Javanese batik.

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N and I were wandering around Fahrenheit 88 when we stumbled across a shop called Batik Canting, which sells batik clothing, souvenirs, paintings and other paraphernalia. They also had DIY batik for just RM10 – where you can paint your own batik and bring it home. Thinking it would be much more fun than just window shopping, we signed up for the session. By session I mean it was just the two of us at a small table in the corner.

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Choices were limited (we weren’t expecting much since it was only RM10). N ended up picking a flower, while I went with my favourite – cats. The materials were provided: painting palette, brushes, and dyes in the three primary colours.

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For professionals and hobbyists, I think you can also buy (?) the dyes at the shop.

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Now, I think I’m a decent artist – I used to draw manga to sell in high school (and yes, people actually bought them, lol). But when it comes to colour, I am terrible. Many a time have I created a nice portrait/drawing and what not and completely ruined it after attempting to add colour. This was evident when I tried to mix the primary dyes to create certain shades – everything turned out blue or red, lmfao.

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N, however, exhibited a talent for shading and colouring. His flower boasted a vibrant violet and pink hue which was not by luck but careful mixing.

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Topping it off with a teal background. Notice the ‘shading’ in the petals?

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And voila. Mine looks like it was done by a 6-year-old. But hey, we had fun.

PS: I showed these to my mom asking her to guess who did which. She immediately knew the cat one was mine. Why? “You suck at colouring.” Mom knows best.

BATIK CANTING 

2nd floor, Fahrenheit 88, 179, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur

 

Home-Cooked Food /Mid Autumn Fest

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The Mid-Autumn Festival is an important celebration for Chinese and Vietnamese folk all over the world. Celebrating unity, ties and togetherness, family members (and sometimes friends!) will gather at night for a dinner and to play with lanterns, eat mooncakes and chat while gazing at the full moon.

 

As I mentioned before in my previous post, the only gazing we were doing in Malaysia was at the food on the dinner table, because the haze from the fires in neighbouring Indonesia was so bad, we couldn’t go outside. ._.

The fam and I went over to my aunt’s place for a simple but yummy home-cooked dinner. With everyone’s busy schedules, it’s not always that we get to sit down together like this. 🙂

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Curry leaf shrimp. Aromatic taste and smell from curry leaves all coated around springy shrimp, minus the spiciness 🙂

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Chicken with shiitake mushrooms, garlic and dried oysters (hou si). Hou si is often used in dishes, especially during special occasions, because it sounds like ‘good things’ or ‘good happenings’ in Cantonese 🙂

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Traditional snacks eaten during the Mooncake fest – mooncakes! The brown things are small yams, while the black, devil-looking nuts are water caltrop, or ‘devil’s pod’. This was the first time I had them and they tasted terrible ._.

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With the fam. I took the liberty of editing their faces coz I’m not sure if they’d be comfortable having their faces plastered on a public blog. 😀

Once again, Happy Mid Autumn Fest, guys!