Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dumbo: Gourmet Extraordinaire - #11: The Most Worthwhile Pot of Bah Kut Teh in Penang

I don't know if this is the best pot of Bah Kut Teh in Penang, but I know it is the most WORTHWHILE - worth the drive there, and worth every cent you have to pay for it.

The soup base is nice - if not the best (but how do you define "best"?) - and you get lots and LOTS of porky thingy: not just a few chunks of meat swimming in a vast ocean, like what some other stalls are dishing out; no, the pot here is practically jam packed with goodies! It's like a Japanese public swimming pool in the summer: flesh here, flesh there, and fleshes everywhere! :-D (a meat-person will love this)

And how much does this cost? A mere RM 6 for a one-pax serving (as shown in the picture above; not including the rice, which is 70 cents per bowl), at the time of writing. Now, don't get me wrong: RM 6 is perhaps not the lowest price-tag in Penang for a one-pax serving of Bah Kut Teh. But substance-wise, this RM 6 is surely worth at least RM 10 elsewhere. Some laborers who regularly have this Bah Kut Teh for lunch usually share a one-pax serving between two persons. Now, if a one-pax serving can satisfy two persons with labor-intensive jobs, that surely says something about its substance.

And where can you find this nice pot of Bah Kut Teh? At a coffee shop called "Big Bend Cafe" (大湾茶餐室). From Balik Pulau, head toward Teluk Bahang. The coffee shop is only a few hundred meters from the town center, by the roadside, on your left.

Dumbo in the Kitchen - #6: The Virtues of a Good Pot of Soup

I have previously discussed briefly why it is imperative that a bachelor learn to prepare a good pot of soup. Here, I would like to share a couple of more tips on how that good pot of soup can be put to good use.


The soup here is a simple one: pork ribs, shitake mushroom, yam (the true yam, not taro), and carrots. Naturally, there is a good deal of garlic in there as well. And you only need to season it with salt. Perhaps a little bit of white pepper, if you like.

Prepare the soup, keep it in a thermos pot, and you'll have a whole day worth of meals taken care of.


First, the breakfast.

Reheat the soup if necessary, pour onto a bowl of Quaker instant oat (5 tablespoons of oatmeal for a small bowl as shown here, or 10 tablespoons for a big bowl), let it sit for a few minutes, and you have a healthy bowl of delicious oat porridge, with pork ribs, mushrooms, yam chunks, and carrot to boost. Trust me, you'll learn to love oatmeal after a few bowls of this.

Then there is lunch.

Boil some instant noodles, boil some greens (no, make that LOTS OF greens), pour the steaming hot soup onto the noodles and greens, and you have a healthy bowl of noodle soup. The only thing unhealthy is probably the instant noodle, but you have no choice unless you know how to make your own noodles (actually, it's quite simply; all you need is some high-protein flour, water, a bit of salt, and lots of muscle kneading that dough).

If you are like me, who thinks it unthinkable not to have tea, then it's time to make another bowl of yummy oatmeal. For indulgence, get a cup of instant cup noodle, throw away the MSG-laden seasoning, and pour in your steaming hot soup (re-boiled if necessary). The only thing in the picture below that does not involve the soup is that mug of milk.

Now, for a semi-romantic dinner with your girlfriend (in my case, my wife), it's time to prepare some delicious spaghetti.

To do that, I will enlist the help of a pack (or two) of Campbell's Instant Soup Powder. The one I used here is the "Cream of Mushroom Soup with Cheese and Croutons" variety.

First, cook the spaghetti (any variety, up to your preference) in plenty of water. It's customary to add salt and oil to the water, though I'm not quite sure why...

Drain the water when the spaghetti is about half-cooked. Then add in the pork-rib soup and continue cooking.

Let the spaghetti soak up the soup. When the spaghetti is el dente, make sure that the soup remaining in the pot/pan still amounts to about half a small bowl (roughly 120 ml) for every pack of Campbell's instant soup powder you want to add, not more, not less. Pour in the instant soup powder, and stir thoroughly.

The instant soup powder will thicken the gravy (not to mention making it sinfully delicious), and there you have it: a very tempting East-meets-West spaghetti dish, that does not need a professional chef to prepare.

Late in the evening, when you feel like having a supper/snack, well, have another bowl of oatmeal, if you still have some soup left. :-)

No wonder my waist is 48-inch++ in circumference.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Grapes. We eat them. We drink them. We ferment them and then drink them. Ah. That wonderful fruit. That brilliant, brilliant creation of the LORD.


I'm posting this rather as a reminder for myself, that I can prepare something like this again, in the future, if we wish to have a sort of Holy Communion at home (maybe we'll do just that this coming Christmas and next Easter):

Grapes, grape juice, and unleavened breads (with grape residue).


I don't have a juicer, so I blend the grapes with a blender to get the juice. And the way I strained out the residue actually left a considerable amount of juice in the residue, so I decided to use the residue to make some grape-flavored unleavened breads.

It's very easy to make: just add flour (and some instant oats, if you like to make it somewhat "wholemeal") and a pinch of salt to the still-juicy residue. How much flour? Well, just enough to soak up all the juice that is still inside the residue, to form a lump of dough. Then just flatten the dough (you can make one big piece, or a few small pieces) and fry on a pan with a bit of olive oil.


Luke 22:14 And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.
Luke 22:15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:
Luke 22:16 For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
Luke 22:17 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves:
Luke 22:18 For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.
Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
Luke 22:20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Rock -- literally

It had been an over-long spell of rain and landslides in Penang the past couple of months.

And it was another case of making the headlines for the wrong reason. We even had friends in KL calling to ask whether we were OK (I wish to express here my sincere thanks to these very caring friends; you know who you are, ;-)), after the first bout of landslides along Jalan Tun Sardon made headlines nationwide.

But I'm sure the following scene did not make headlines. After all, it happened in a very remote corner of the Penang Island, namely, just outside the small fishing village of Pantai Acheh (near Teluk Bahang) where my wife and I now reside.

Yep. A HUGE boulder decided to dislodge itself from its previous resting place high up there on a slope beside the road - the only road accessible by car - in and out of our little fishing village.

To quote Wedge Antilles: "Look at the SIZE of that thing!"

For several weeks, traffic from both directions have to share the only unobstructed lane, and it posed a particular hazard because it was at a corner. They couldn't move it. A few days ago - finally - someone brought a huge excavator with hammer (the alternative was to use dynamite, but I think everyone would prefer that to be the last resort) to try to break it down into smaller chunks. Even then, it took a good two days of hammering in earnest to break down this bad boy.

(According to another account, the excavator FAILED to break the bad boy even after two days of hammering; so, a dynamiter was finally called to blow the thing apart. An eyewitness claims to have seen someone standing atop the boulder drilling a hole, very possibly to stuff in the explosive.)


It was a scary sight, to see such humongous boulder sitting smack across the road that one travels through almost on a daily basis. But we are nevertheless very grateful to the LORD that most of the landslide incidents had happened well after midnight, when traffic was at the minimum. The possibility of how many lives might have been lost if those landslides had occured during the day when traffic was busy is simply unthinkable.

Dumbo On The Go - #3: Public Amenities

I love travel, but I also hate travel.

One of the biggest hassle about traveling - going to strange new places - is that you are going to strange new places, where you do not know the *geography* of the place.

You know, when a man has to go see a man about a dog, or when a lady needs to put powder on her nose.


We recently had a tour of the northern half of the Penang Island, for the benefit of a cousin of my wife, who was organizing a trip to Penang for his juniors in UTAR. But before writing about that, I should like to share here a couple of older photos of places where I have used the "public amenities". ;-p

First up, the Metropolitan Park in Relau. If you happen to be in Relau, and you need to go, consider going to this very scenic and well-built park. Nice place. Just don't trust the signs. They point you to the wrong direction. Just use your nose to guide you.

We still have an apartment in Relau, and we had lived there for no less than 5 years, I think. But while we were still living there, I had never once really set foot in this park (I drove past the entrance once, I think).

The other day, after dropping off my wife at the airport (who was going back to her hometown to visit her father, who was at that time down with a rather worrying illness) very early in the morning, I thought I would go shop for some daily necessities (milk powder - that was before the melamine scare - olive oil, some nuts, etc.) at one of the hypermarkets in the Bayan Lepas area. Unfortunately, Giant has changed its opening time from 8:30am to 9:30am, and Jusco only opens at 10am. And sure enough, I suddenly felt that I needed to go.

It was 8am. I could of course go to a 24-hour Nasi Kandar shop or something, but I hate to take advantage of the proprietor without giving him some business (I wasn't planning to have a second breakfast; after all, I was supposed to watch my diet). So I thought of giving up shopping, and see if I could dash home - all the way to Pantai Acheh, which would take at best 40 minutes - in time before the problem got out of hand.

When I was nearing Relau, it suddenly struck me that I would surely find what I need in the Metropolitan Park! What kind of public park is without the you-know-what?

So I went there.

My problem was eventually solved, but, not before I spent a good five minutes searching in vain, thanks to the aforementioned misleading signs. Really, if you are ever there and needed to go, just follow your nose.


At the summit point of Jalan Tun Sardon is a nice little place with a breath-taking view of the Balik Pulau municipality. There are some stalls there selling food and beverages, and a very nice-looking hut as pictured below:

Well, yes, I have made "deposits" there, too.

It was another attempt - on another occasion even earlier than the abovementioned incident - to rush home for the "business". But it couldn't wait that long. So I stopped at the summit point rest-stop, and let go of my problem there.

It is comforting to know that such public amenities exist. :-p


On the above two occasions, I was in familiar territory. I shudder to think what mess I would have made of myself if I were in unfamiliar territory, while on a trip or something. I can't imagine.

So, when planning a trip, make sure you get a map that shows you where you may relieve yourself. :-D

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dumbo in the Kitchen - #5: Wonton

Dear all bachelors out there,

If you have mastered at least one type of clear soup, next, you should probably learn to make wontons (wantans? 云吞) so you don't always eat noodle soup. Or vermicelli soup. Get some variety going with wontons!!! :-)


For the soup, on this occasion, what I cooked was pork rib soup with yam (true yam, see the previous post) and shitake mushroom.

It is very easy to make wontons. Just buy some wonton skins (in the local wet market, look for it at any stall that sells a myriad of fish balls, tofu, bean sprouts, yong-tau-foo stuffs, etc.), some minced pork (I can't imagine what beef wontons or chicken wontons taste like, to be honest), season the minced pork, wrap in wonton skins, done.

I usually add some (not too much, though!) tapioca starch to the minced pork so it is sticky enough to hold the folded wonton skins in place.

On this particular occasion, I also chopped up some of the shitake mushroom to mix into the minced pork, and before I laid on the minced pork in the wonton skin, I put in a leaf of cilantro (coriander) for that extra kick in taste and also in presentation (you can see from the picture below that the cilantro leaves rendered jade-like appearance to the wontons).

Pour in some soup (with pork rib, yam chunks and mushroom slices), and you have a really satisfying bowl of wontons. Yum! :-)


As a side dish for lunch that day, I put aside some slices of yam and mushroom and a bit of the minced pork for a simple pasta dish.

First, I boiled some fusillis to just before it gets el dente. I strained them and set them aside for later.

Then I fried those yam slices, mushroom slices and minced pork, seasoned according to a Chinese fried dish (you know, a bit of salt, soy sauce, a bit of sugar, a bit of cooking rice wine - go for Shaoxing Huadiao, 绍兴花雕 - a bit of white pepper, a bit of red chili if available). I also used the pork rib soup as stock (the purpose of the stock, for this "fried" dish, is for the fusillis to soak up the soup for added flavor).

The last step was to add in the fusillis to soak up the soup. But don't overcook it. Remember, pastas should be "el dente". Soggy pastas are unbearable.

Just before serving, I garnished the dish with some fresh cilantro leaves.

However, you (my dear bachelor friends out there) do not have to prepare this side dish. The wonton soup by itself is sufficient as a satisfying meal. I only made this pasta dish out of curiosity: what would yam taste like when made as a fried dish?


For dinner that night, we had basically the same thing, with more greens as accompaniment. The small bowl on the left contains chopped cilantro, spring onion, red chili and garlic as sort of a "dip" (well, the word "dip" is only applicable if you pour soy sauce into the mixture; but on this occasion, I decided not to add soy sauce; so, it's like a "dry dip", if you know what I mean).

The chopped spring onion in the fancy butterfly dish is for sprinkling onto the hot soup.

The verdict? A very delicious and satisfying dinner that was also nutritionally balanced, with the emphasis on protein (minced pork) and vegetables. Carbohydrate intake is minimized, in comparison to a bowl of noodle soup with the same soup base.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Yam, Taro and Sweet Potato

In one of the documents I translated recently, there was a prescription drug claimed to be made from natural extract of "dioscorea spp". I looked up the term, and found it to be the scientific name of yam. True yam, that is. But the picture in the document looks like sweet potato to me, no matter how many times I blinked my eyes or applied Eye-Mo.


Dioscorea is commonly known as "yam", or "true yam". The Chinese name is "山药". The Chinese variety is thin and long, with thin brown skin and snow-white flesh. It grows to be very long (what I can find in the local market are all over three feet long). What you see in the picture below is only half of the thing.

Yam (山药)

But what a Malaysian Chinese (or a Malaysian in general) calls "yam", is actually "taro" (芋头). The scientific name is "Colocasia esculenta".

And if you mention "yam" to a clueless American, he/she will think you are talking about "sweet potato" (番薯/甘薯, Ipomoea batatas).

Talk about confused identity. =.=

Dumbo in the Kitchen - #4: Anytime Pasta

My wife is not big on eating her three daily meals on-time. On the contrary, I must have my regular meals at my regular time. When I do cook, I sometimes have to FORCE her to come to the table (on certain particularly exhausting days for her, she would come home from school and aim her head straight for the pillow; I would then drag her up for lunch).

The other day, knowing that she had a lot of things to do, I decided not to impose my meal time on her, so I prepared something that I call "Anytime Pasta".


I bought a piece of chicken breast, two types of mushrooms, and lots of tomatoes to cook up a pot of... uh... what do you call this? Some soupy thingy (can't really call it sauce... it's consistency is more like chicken soup).

By the way, the chicken breast is shredded after it is cooked.

It is cooked and kept in a thermal pot to keep it warm the whole day through.

Cook a huge bowl of fusilli (a type of spiral pasta). Add in some oil (preferably olive oil) to make sure they don't stick (after all, they have to sit there a good part of the day).

Whenever you are hungry, just take a small bowl, fill it half full with the cooked fusilli, then add it the hot tomato-y mushroom-y soupy thingy.

Eat it at any time you feel hungry. Hence the name "Anytime Pasta". :-)

Dumbo in the Kitchen - #3: Meatloaf

Meatloaf. Some love it, some loathe it.

I'm not saying that I totally love it (I'll explain later), but I do think it is a good thing for bachelors to learn to make.


What you'll need:
About 600g or minced meat (I used pork, of course; but I guess beef or mutton or chicken would do, too)
16 pieces of Jacob's High Fibre crakers
5 to 6 eggs
Soy sauce and/or salt to taste (I used about a quarter cup of soy sauce)
Pepper (white and/or black, up to personal preference)

Mix all ingredients (can't get any simpler than that).

For the mixture above, I usually make small patties from it (see my earlier post on "pita with homemade pork patties") and fry them in a pan. But the downside is the time spent standing beside the stove turning the patties a la Spongebob Squarepants.

Therefore, on this occasion, I decided to turn it into a meatloaf (besides, I didn't have any pita bread this time, only plain old sandwich bread).

You can of course make meatloaf of any shape, but I decided to make it into a "brick", for a reason that will soon be apparent.

I took care to make sure the "meat brick" is as wide as the bread, but half in height.

Wrap it up in aluminum foil (what it the world are we thinking using ALUMINUM foil? Isn't it proven to be linked to Alzheimer's? No wonder I keep forgetting where I left things...).

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.


It looks like a loaf of wholemeal bread. Or cake. When I told my wife we were having "meat cake" for dinner, she was flabbergasted.

Cut thin slices from the meatloaf/meat-cake/whatever-you-like-to-call-it. When sliced, it looks like luncheon meat. But trust me, this is nicer than canned luncheon meat (which I absolutely loathe).

Layout the sandwich bread. Don't forget your greens. With all them meat that's going into your stomach, you had better make sure you eat as much vege as you can.

Two slices of the meatloaf thingy fit nicely on a piece of sandwich bread (this is the reason why I formed the "meat brick" according to the width and half the height of the bread; you can't make the height equal to the bread loaf, because it may not cook properly in the center).

Add more vege.


Well, to be truthful, it tastes better when fried as patties. :-)

To make it nicer, you could further bake the slices for about 5 minutes, or give them a quick fry in the pan.


The next morning, having run out of bread, I simply fried the remaining slices and pretended they were pork chops. Nice when eaten like this, too.

For a bachelor, this would take care of three to four meals. :-)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dumbo: Lost in the Woods - #1: A Table to Free Another Table

For a very long time, the demand and the supply had been there, but there was no worker to work on it.

The demand: our kitchen (well, the kitchen of the house we are renting in Pantai Acheh) could use an extra table, to house some of the electrical appliances (oven, electric kettle, etc.) and also the clutter of things that was occupying more than half the space atop the dining table. My wife had always wanted the dining table to be relatively free of stuffs, so it can be used for all sorts of things during non-meal time, such as tutoring her pupils (for free; she doesn't give tuition, in line with the education department's current policy), doing her homework, etc.

The supply: a couple of ex-pat former colleagues of my wife had left for us some polished timbers (Andy was into woodcraft) that they couldn't bring home with them to their country, and I had reckoned that these should be just enough to make a medium-sized table (the legs will be a bit short; but with casters added, it should be just about the right height).

The worker: I, procrastinator.


One fine day, with no work at hand, I decided to give it a go. Finally.

(Actually, a couple of week before that, I had been raring to go at it, but at that time I found - to my horror - that my miter-saw - a manual one - had broken. Argh!!!)

First of all, I prepared the legs:

The table requires four legs (just in case you have never counted the legs of your tables, or throughout your life, all your tables had been the avant-garde types with weird-shape funny-number legs). Without the miter saw, it was quite a challenge cutting them square (right-angled, I mean). At least, they can stand on their own, so it wasn't so bad:

Then, the short horizontal "thingy" (I'm not a real carpenter, I don't know what they are called):

And the long horizontal "thingy" (you will understand what these "thingies" are for later):

The short "thingies" are for holding the legs together. This is for one side of the table:

Notice from the above photo that I was using a third leg to help ensure the squareness of the assembly.

Then for the other side of the table (I used the first frame to help square out the second):

I don't pound nails. I find that erratic and somewhat "irrecoverable" (it's far more easy to remove a screw if you made a mistake). I drill, and I screw. No pun intended. :-)

The next picture is not part of the assembly process. I was just putting the legs on the table top (upside down) to get a picture of how it will end up:

Now, the long horizontal "thingies":

And then put on the table top:

I did not have enough polished timber to make another two "long horizontal thingies", so I used unpolished ones I bought at a local hardware store. These are for providing additional support to the table top, which, althogh quite thick and strong, is nonetheless just plywood:

Add a caster (don't ever call it a wheel; it is not a wheel) to each leg:

And voilà! Almost done:

The last thing was to cut the corners (so it will not poke a child's eye or the vital part of a grown man with the right height) and to give it a rough polish (we decided not to paint it; maybe we will coat it with shellac later):

It looks real snug in that corner. Plus, there's a wall socket nearby for the intended electrical appliances:

There is an upgrade coming up - we want to make an additional rack out of those two horizontal "beams":

But that is for another day. Right now, we are just happy (my wife especially) that we finally have an additional table for free up the dining table. :-)


I suspect that one of my friends (you know who you are) is going to think of this saying when he first sees the title to this post: "A war to end all wars".

Don't say you didn't. ;-p

For me, I know of a death that ended all deaths... I shall forever love that man.