November 30, 2010

Blue Rice versus Purple Rice

This is the bunga telang growing in my back yard fence....

My son has come up with purple rice - made from crushing purple cabbage and cooking it with rice...while adding some other Japanese touches.
The blue juice from rehydrating dried bunga telang is used to make this beautiful dish called Nasi Kerabu (or Salad Rice) which is an original recipe from Kelantan - one of the states of Malaysia. Unknown to a lot of people this rice dish is now getting very popular every where in Malaysia and even Singapore. Nasi Kerabu is very tasty because tasty ingredients like fried Ikan Bilis and hot chili sambal are added. Salted eggs enhance its indigenous taste. And the seven raw vegetables which can be used to mix with the blue rice makes this fantastic salad rice very healthy and refreshing.
fresh raw salads cucumber- long beans- pineapple/bunga kechala or kentang-beansprouts- angle beans-jicama- lettuce (all finely sliced)A spoonful of budu or fish sauce adds to its great taste too. And do prepare some salted fish to go with the wonderful one dish meal......The dressing at the top of the rice is kerisik or fried grated coconut.

Another bloom.....

I often buy items in blue colour. So I have blue cups and glasses at home. I have blue basins and I have blue blankets too. Now I have blue flowers drying in my blue basin.....The dried flowers can be kept in a large bottle. To use...soak enough flowers in hot water  for a few minutes and use the blue water. So if we have blue bunga telang we do not have to use the blue colouring which comes in a bottle. Now I can go make pulut inti....or even kuih tai tai.

More notes on Bunga Telang

Bunga Telang is Blue Pea Flower [ Clitoria Flower ] is a common ingredient used as natural food dye for making nonya kuehs such as the Pulut Inti, Pulut Tai Tai and Nasi Kerabu.  The Blue Pea Flower that grows from a creeper plant blooms in only 6 weeks from seed and it blooms all year long. 

It likes a rich, moist soil and intermediate temperatures, but it can stands up well in our hot Asia temperatures. I have my creepers growing in my backyard which provides an ideal sun condition: full sun to partial shade, it likes to be shaded from the hot afternoon sun. I have to remember to pinch the ends all the time to keep it bushy.(I have already sent some seeds to Sibu and I hope my friends will soon be cooking up a storm!!)

I hope Yi Fang (See Hua Daily) will help spread this flower and plant in Sibu through her good friends. I would be delighted if Payung in Sibu will also make Nasi Kerabu in the future.

So now you get the idea of colouring your rice - blue Nyonya style or purple Perth style.

Hope you would experiment with colours in your kitchen.

November 29, 2010

A Fine Dining Experience with a Good Student

It is not often that a visiting former student make an appointment to see an old teacher. Sometimes I do feel like an old newspaper waiting to be recycled or to be turned in papier mache!! Now I have to put that joke aside and lift my spirit and your spirit as well....

Since she had gone overseas for a Japanese meal (3 hours from Miri is Brunei which is a foreign country!) I thought we should go to India for our lunch.

As we have a good fine restaurant called Zaika I brought her there.

Christmas music welcomed us to the nicely decorated restaurant. And a Filipino captain sat us down at a window table to our delight.

pompadoms. I like the one with cumin.

Three types of sauces to go with the pompadoms.

Well laid table at the corner for six people.

Nice napkins which are colour coordinated.

My pretty lassi (with a little touch of spices)...excellent in taste and price too.
Chicken tikka

paneer - a must have because the cottaage cheese is nice.

special roti (not the usual roti canai you get in the mamak shops)

Briyani rice (there are several styles to choose from) enough for four actually

\\an the decor of the season....

This is a nice place where the waiter can catch your eye and you get served almost immediately if they are not otherwise occupied.

The atmosphere is classy with soft music and people talking in low voices. You can even hear the rumbling of the cars below this first floor restaurant.

So paying slightly more than the normal fare you actully get good value for money. And conversation with a nice person of course enhances your afternoon "foreign meal".

In life we often need thse small touches...and life is more meaningful and richer!!

I hope to see more of my student in the future.

November 27, 2010

Nodding Donkeys of Seria

Whenever I travel along the road to Bandar Seri Begawan I must always have a look at the pretty nodding donkeys in Seria. Somehow they seem to be speaking to me....and asking me to bow my head in agreement and also in submission to the great God Above. I just don't understand why they give me that message.

No one before the First World World could imagine that the swamps of Seria (which was then nipah swamp and peat soil wilderness with some kampongs sprinkled here and there) would become one of the richest oil producing areas in the world. Oil was discovered in Miri in 1910 and soon some exploration was undertaken in Brunei and it was only in 1929 that oil was first drawn from Brunei soil at Seria and commercial production began  in 1932.Today there are still some of these (working) nodding donkeys left to remind passersby that there is oil under the soil

A pumpjack (also known as nodding donkey, pumping unit, horsehead pump, beam pump, sucker rod pump (SRP), grasshopper pump, thirsty bird and jack pump) is the overground drive for a reciprocating piston pump installed in an oil well.

It is used to mechanically lift liquid out of the well if there is not enough bottom hole pressure for the liquid to flow all the way to the surface. The arrangement is commonly used for onshore wells producing relatively little oil. Pumpjacks are common in many oil-rich areas, dotting the countryside and occasionally serving as local landmarks.

Depending on the size of the pump, it generally produces 5 to 40 litres of liquid at each stroke. Often this is an emulsion of crude oil and water. The size of the pump is also determined by the depth and weight of the oil to be removed, with deeper extraction requiring more power to move the heavier lengths of sucker rods (see diagram at right).

A pumpjack converts the rotary mechanism of the motor to a vertical reciprocating motion to drive the pump shaft, and is exhibited in the characteristic nodding motion. The engineering term for this type of mechanism is a walking beam. It was often employed in stationary and marine steam engine designs in the 18th and 19th centuries.

10 Things you must know about Seira:
1. Seria is a town in the Belait District of Brunei Darussalam. Its full name is Pekan Seria in full (Pekan is the Malay word for "Town"). Seria was originally known as Padang Berawa which is Wild Pigeon's Field in Malay. The name "Seria" comes from the river located very near where oil was first discovered in the area in 1929. Official correspondence by the people that made the oil discovery stated that it was found in "Seria", and thus the name of the area became known as "Seria".

2. The famous Penaga School and the Shell Headoffice are found in the Penaga area to the west of Seria town
3. A very interesting episode in the history of Seria is related to the first landing of the Japanese invasion force during WW2 in Borneo. It was not Jesselton which attracted the Japanese but Seira.The Left Flank of the "Kawaguchi Brigade" came ashore about 04.40 on the 16th December 1941, nine days after Pearl Harbor. They were faced with a scene of devastation of the oilfields due to "Operation Denial" carried out by employees of the British Malayan Petroleum Company (now Brunei Shell Petroleum) and the 2nd Battalion, 15th Punjab Regiment, and British Army Royal Engineers. The invasion force continued oil drilling units and restoration of the oilfields began immediately under Sato, Chief Engineer. Over the next three years the Japanese restored production to nearly pre-war levels, the activity being hectic as other sources of supply to the Japanese war machine were closed off, so much so that most of the oil fuelling the Japanese in the last 6 months of the war came from Seria. Operation "Ha-Go 2", the Japanese denial exercise commenced on 10th June 1945, the day of the Australian liberation forces landing at Muara. The fires could be seen 100 km out to sea. When the Australian 9th Division eventually entered Seria on the 29th June, the situation was chaotic, with 38 oil well fires, demolished buildings and wrecked installations. By the 17th August, when American Fire fighting teams (Patton and son) arrived, 26 of the fires had been put out by oilfield staff assisted by a Detachment of the Australian Royal Engineers. By November, production was restored, albeit stored in temporary tanks, and oil export to Lutong recommenced on the 11th December 1945.

5. Another event also placed Seria in the historical and political chronology. Seria was also one of the centres of a small rebellion against the monarchy on December 8, 1962, which was suppressed by the British Army. This event became known as the Brunei Revolt.

6. A special mention should be made about the Canadian Houses area along Jalan Tengah. This area consists of Shell housing facilities built in the style of Canadian log houses. The timber used to construct these houses were imported from Canada.

7. There is also a Gurkha Garrison in Seria.

8. Kampong Baru is located to the east of Seria on the left banks of Sungai Bera. This is a mainly Chinese and Iban area. The old wooden railway, built by the Japanese to Badas, runs through Kampong Baru.

9. Birds and Hornbills in Sungai Bera. Sungei Bera  is an industrial area to the north of Kampong Baru and the north-east of Seria municipal area. It contains the only oil refinery in Brunei.

The Sungei Seria estuary is one of the finest areas in Brunei for observing migrating birds.

and it is delightful to know something rather amazing. If you are interested in sighting hornbills in Borneo...Seria is the place to go to. The Panaga area has a resident population of Hornbills, the only area in the world where Hornbills live in proximity to humans.

10. The route and remnants of a wooden railway from Seria to Badas that was built by the British Malayan Oil Company (now Brunei Shell Petroleum) before the war to service the water supply to Seria from the Badas pumping station on the Sungai Belait are still visible. BMP staff hid essential components of the railway from the Japanese during WW2 who therefore were unable to restore it so it fell into disrepair. When the liberation forces of the Australian 9th Division arrived, these components miraculously re-appeared and the railway was quickly restored to action to carry two 25 pounder guns and ammunition to Badas, to harry a Japanese contingent that was still in the area.

Hope you like this write up about Seria...and come and see the only working Nodding Donkeys in Borneo!!

November 26, 2010

Iban Women Selling Asam Paya Shoots in Lutong

It was a brilliant sunny morning as we drove towards Lutong to catch the cheapest take away Kampua Mee at the Lutong Bazaar. The bazaar is at the moment renovating its western wing and hopefully soon it will be a nicer wet market.

And sure enough people were queuing up to buy Ah Tak's newspaper wrapped noddles and eating them like a square cake....yummy and nostalgic. The ladies preparing the noodles did not want to have their photos taken as usual.

But outside under the Sea Almond tree I caught sight of a family from the Adong River who had come by boat. As it is already school holidays the mother and relatives have brought their young children along ....Their product? Natural shoots from Asam food gatherers who have not enjoyed the rapid development of Malaysia they are still encapsulated in an old time frame of boat rowing and selling stuff extracted from the jungle. All three ladies had not gone to school and in fact one of them is severely malnourished as you can see her ultra thin arm in the first photo...the children are delighted by the chopsticks and their early morning noodles.from Ah Tak's stall @ 1.30 ringgit per packet.

Assam paya tubers for sale - 3 for 2 ringgit. It has taken these ladies one whole day to cut the tubers at the ground level and then transported them by boat to Lutong from Upper Adong River . The boat ride was about 2 hours.

These ladies wear the basic clothings and one of them still wears the traditional sarong. A homemade rattan basket indicates their humble origins. A child has just fallen asleep behind the mum. Often in Sarawak the public can catch indigenous women folk wear their children's school sports shirts and thus you can immediately tell where they are from. .

It is good to see women folks attempting to make a living and scrounging for some cash so that their children can buy uniforms and school bags in the new year....These ladies have no complaints at all and they seem to accept their fate rather fatalistically. Being able to speak Iban I often win their confidence and get them to joke with me. Yes...they do get to sell their products and earn a little to make their trip to the town worthwhile.  Are their men working as hard?

Wishing these ladies blessings from the society.

(Recipes for Asam Paya Shoots...or upa Asam Payua - blanch the sliced shoots. Prepare some ikan bilis and aromatics and stir fry them. Add some toasted belacan and sliced chillies and finally add the sliced shoots Sitr fry until cooked...Another method...prepare a pot and add two bowls of water. Add aromatics and ikan bilis and some pepper and oil. Bring to the boil. When the water is boiling add the sliced shoots. The soup is excellent and that's the way I like my asam paya..which might be a bit bitter for some people...but it is truly organic....)

November 25, 2010

Sibu Friends - Orientation Morning in Miri

My friends from Sibu arrived on Wed 17th Nov and the six of us had to work in close proximity for six days manning a book stall and a cultural exhibition at the World Foochow Congress (19th -21st Nov).

After they had checked into the Mega Hotel it was time for a kind of orientation for them before we set up shop or started our work..see a bit of a few of the local specialties..the works...etc. Siaw Teck Chai (the President of the Miri Photographic Society) suggested excellent choice.

Sibu is not Miri and Miri is not the saying goes. WZT gave them a new experience or rather several new experiences....

Sitting under angsana trees....and enjoying the morning breeze.
Tuna on Toast
Thick thick (kow kow) Hainanese coffee only WZT can make
Multi racial customers sitting happily in a large open yard behind a shoplot.
And two dishes of fried noodles (Miri Style) and kuay tiaw (Miri style)
Meeting the President of the Miri Photographic Society in person.....

A very large mug of real Hainanese coffee .REAL! (Mug is from Ikea)

Meng Lei can't be happier with the thick slices of special bread and the gooey and delicious homemade Hainanese Kaya only from WZT.  ML is our famous Bao eater.....His simple life requires T and B (Tea and Bao) only. But sometimes he does order iced lemon when it is very hot.

Madam Ting from the World Foochow Association Office of Sibu is very pleased by the large serving....

Steve Ling from the United Daily News of Sibu : His Journalist mind is working as he chews the bread...he did not have his breakfast in Sibu and it was then almost 11 o'clock in the morning! We must not  make a reporter wait too long and get too hungry!

This is peanut butter on thick hot charcoal grilled toast!!

Tuna on toast.
Yi Fang and her camera.Yi Fang is a brilliant feature writer from See Hua Daily News....I forgot to take a photo of her under the nice angsana trees so this is a replacement...(on the banks of the Belait River)

We developed a great esprit de corp as each day unfolded. The spirit was very high indeed spiced with good food and interesting experiences.....

November 24, 2010

More about Bing Xin

Here is one woman writer from Fujian Province a Foochow role model who has placed her name amongst the great writers like Rudyard Kipling and Allan Edgar Poe. She was some one whose works inspired many young students to read and write well. She was a renown translator who translated the works of Tagore into Chinese. She taught in Japan and other universities the world over. Bing Xin was a real heroine in the eyes of many.

Today in Changle Fujian she has a full museum in her honour. No many Chinese women have reached her stature.

As an overseas Literature student in Wellesley USA
Statue of Bing Xin and her husband Wu Wenzoo in Beijing.
One of her last photos before she passed away in 1999
Photo taken by Meng Lei in 2004
Statues of Bing Xin teaching young children......

The royalties received from her books are all contributed to the running of the Skills TRaining Centre of Rural Women now headed by her daughter.

Love is indeed Marvellous!

Post script.....This is an interesting facebook link.....!/pages/Bing-Xin-Literature-Museum-bing-xin-wen-xue-guan/121520354566771

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The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...