Showing posts from November, 2007

Food, Politics and Change

I was in the electorate of Bennelong, Sydney when the news came through - a Federal Government which had been in power for around 138 months had been voted out in a sheer process of democracy. Over the delicious Indian rojak salad that cousin Susan and her hubby Boo Ann had prepared, the people in this gathering contemplated the experience of change. A sitting Prime Minister, who perhaps had stayed on for too long, was almost on the verge of being replaced by a fresh newcomer in Bennelong. Political history was being made over the night.

The evening before, in another suburb, I had tried Swiss pizza for the first time, with thinner crusts and more meat. I was not convinced that my group of colleagues were not eating Italian pizza, for how can one separate the two definitions? It was a warm night outside, but we were sitting in air-conditioned comfort. I watched, with intense interest, the goings-on of an open kitchen preparing the food, with the woodfire oven in full view and a fatigu…

At Home

I love chicken curry, South Indian style – smooth aromatic gravy over juicy meats marinated in the flavours of several spices, chillies and seductive coconut milk. A sister of a Portuguese mate living in Wollongong remarked that she could not understand why I put potatoes in the curry mix and then serve them with rice – a double whammy of carbohydrates that bewildered her logic.

The curry I learnt to cook comes from Mum, who experienced a forerunner of current Australian multiculturalism by sharing and exchanging recipes with her cosmopolitan neighbours in the tropical heat of Malaysian afternoons. It took me perhaps a quiet weekend in summery New South Wales to realize why she and I – plus the multitude of others stirring up Tamil-styled chicken curry in the former Malayan peninsular – had put both potatoes and rice in the same meal.

The British had ruled Malaya in colonial days, and it dawned on me that they had been raised on potatoes and bread. Savoury, well-textured potatoes mu…

A Traveller's Life

The only three essential things to have, when travelling, are having sufficient money, authorised passports if you cross different countries and the right tickets at the required time. Beyond those basics, what is really important is a sense of adventure, humour and friendship.

I was in Rome when I thought I was being ripped off for a transaction. A well dressed lady approached me and the vendor and helped settle the misunderstanding. In Shanghai, I knew I did not have sufficient speaking grasp of standard Mandarin and went to a MacDonalds outlet along Nanjing North Road to get some change in currency -as they spoke English there. In the darkening forests near a lake in New Zealand's South Island, I temporarily got lost on the walking trail but got back to the known, through some benign force.

At Kobe in Japan, I befriended a local motor bike rider who was coming on the same overnight ship to Oita on the southern isle of Shikoku. In Koh Samui,life was so easy going no battered an…

Life In A Pond

Below Mount Keira
Twice at mid-day they scurried across the grass and footpath from one pond to the next. In two separate groups,they represented two different generations of the protected species dwelling in the reserve where my office is located. At dawn, I can see them lying on the slopes surrounding the pond, in couples or in family groups. I think these ducks live in a world of their own, but they are not oblivious to the on-goings of other denizens who share their environment.

There are many different types of ponds on Earth, the biggest being the planet itself. However, most of us have carved out niches and perspectives according to the requirements and pleasures of the specific ponds we choose for ourselves. Some of these ponds need not be side by side, but they have to be connected, whether in belief, physical facility or cyberspace. Some ponds remain in a corner of a part of the world. There are systems and ways of behaviour in each pond - they can involve rituals, laws or a…

The News

Why is that the free-to-air TV news bulletins are all presented around the same hour? And why are all pay TV news bulletins repetitive, trying to be more like magazine formats instead of finding their own niche.

Most news stories thrive and aim for the spectacular and the sensational. Is that the only reason why viewers tune in and stay tuned in? Around the world, there is this presumption that the market wants to know about national and local news first, followed by international stories in the middle and then topped up by sports before a filler on arts just when the bulletin ends. News of local interest in Australia aim for those events that find individuals in distress, being treated unfairly or with a surprise element. There are seasonal flavours, those revolving around an impending national or festive holiday, or the monthly timing of political or economic triggers.

The use of live telecasts can get to ridiculous dimensions, as a camera fixated on nothing but waiting for someone …

Return to Thai Pothong

Fifteen years ago, this restaurant was already a highlight, operating on the southern side of King Street, Newtown's main strip in Sydney's inner west.

A weekend ago I had the opportunity of re-visiting Thai Pothong. It has significantly expanded its floor space and street frontage. There was a healthy hustle and bustle about the ambiance on a Saturday night. My group had initially wanted to re-visit another of King Street's continuing and consistent performers, a Vietnamese restaurant called Than Bin, but we had not booked earlier and obviously expected a full house. We had sauntered along King Street and then remembered this Thai place.

The same sanuk (love for life) feelings from way back when were accentuated by the waiting staff members, as they clasped both hands in traditional greeting to customers. The menu however is totally revamped, with packages labelled as Chiangmai, Bangkok or Phuket settings - what a terrific idea. We ordered ala carte ca rte, and I noted th…

Deja Vu

I hardly watch tv anymore, but just for the memories, here are my best delights:
- Slumped down on the sofa with the family watching Cantonese-language soap operas;
- Getting entranced and absorbed with Discovery Channel documentaries, especially those with eye-captivating graphics and well portrayed historical re-enactments;
- Enjoying the Red and White New Year musical stage performances from Japan's NHK or the suave and smooth live shows from Hong Kong's TVB;
- following intently with Mum on the exact recipe measures given out on Malaysian television cooking shows;
- Literally double-tasking with both the images and subtitles on Euro movies screened late night on Australia's SBS channel;
- Sitting through three hours of Hindi-language movies that cover the whole plethora of issues under a life, from dancing around trees to having sumptuous feasts; and
- Soaking in my first cosmopolitan arts programme on the telly box from Singapore's Channel 5.

New Supply Chains

Five years ago, the Wollongong area's concept of Asian food and ingredients was seen to be caught in a time warp, with anything labelled short and long soups, sweet and sour or satay sauced expounded as the representatives of something Oriental. East Asian or South-east Asian parents of overseas graduands at the nearby University did not stay around after the ceremonies to partake in Wollongong cuisine - they rushed off north to Hurstville, Cabramatta or Sydney's Chinatown, to have their seven to ten dishes in celebratory banquets, which may reflect their unfounded fears of non-Asian food or just reinforces their gusto for food from back home.

The so-called Chinatown Street in Wollongong Central - Keira Street - has several outlets of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai and Malay origin - but they do supplement these offerings with a sampling of southern Chinese dishes. Asian food is accepted in Wollongong as noodles, peanut butter laden sauces and small mouth bite pieces of meat or v…

On City Pavements

He looked fluffed,carrying in a lazy manner, a shoulder grab bag. What made me notice him was his continuing munching of a burger, and an obviously fatty rich fast meal at that, the chomps going furiously as his walking gait and manner. Maybe he dealt with customers front line, or through the phone, and his growing moustache was ruffled, with the eyes having a bleary, glazed look. He must not been more than in his mid-twenties, but he did somehow look older. Whilst waiting at the set of pedestrian lights, I sneaked a look at his open bag - and there was more of that greasy fast food in one big brown paper bag.

I thought to myself - obviously a single person with no structured meals and maybe no tender loving girlfriend, or that girlfriend was also chasing the rat race herself to actually insist on a home meal together!

I was also pounding on the city pavement - rushing back to Sydney's Central Station to be on time to jump (literally!)on to the fast train back to North Wollongong…