Showing posts from January, 2012

Somewhere Along The Way

A much dissatisfied looking passenger, obviously engrossed with himself, unpleasantly dismisses the prepacked salad served to him by the cabin crew,as part of his passenger entitlement on the upper deck of the Airbus A380. I had noticed that this passenger was introverted, non-communicative on most things and had an obsessive look at his computer. Was he on a work or leisurely trip? There was so much tension about him that it seemed sad. Was this his natural self, or was he contemplating a serious problem? One wanted to half break the ice with him, or just avoid him all together.

The third month of the current summer in the Wollongong area does not seem to break out of its cloudy stance and rainy episodes. As we roll into the completion of the proverbial one hundred days, I can count on less than the fingers of both hands the number of stifling hot temperature days and nights. The breezes come in as clock work latest by 3am even after the most dehydrating hours before.

Emerging evident…

Aoba Ramen, ION Orchard Road, Singapore

I ventured into Aoba, which specialises in Hokkaido ramen, by chance. I had targeted the Orchard Road shopping precinct in Singapore for two main purposes - to check out the much hyped flagship store of Abercrombie & Fitch in the island republic, and to view the Buddha on display at Ngee Ann City complex, carved out of a solid and sizable piece of jade unearthed in Canada in the year 2000. In between was hunger and the ION Shopping centre, a recent addition to the plethora of shopping havens in Singapore. Aoba has outlets in VivoCity, the stepping stone to Sentosa Island and the Universal Studios theme park in Singapore; Manpuku, the Japanese Gourmet Town in Tampines, to the north-east; and also in the IMM Buidling in Jurong East. Above, the delectable adegashi tofu which serves as a good accompaniment to the ramen bowls.
I did find the taste and quality of soup a bit lacking from my expectations, even if I requested my fav seafood version. (picture above - with prawns, squid sli…

The Melba Cafe, Auckland CBD

Tucked away along Vulcan Lane in mid downtown Auckland is a small and unassuming cafe that has won the hearts of its clients - the Melba. The blend is Arabica, the emphasis of the flavour is thick and rich Latin American and the baristas friendly and cheerful. Vulcan Lane lies next to the High Street precinct but easily accessible from the main strip of Queen Street. I have not had the opportunity of visiting their other branches in Hurstmere Road, Ellerslie and Hardinge Street, but I was captivated by the atmosphere of the Vulcan Lane site. The blend is unique, the relaxation natural and the regulars are seen like family.

Teas, juices, beers and wines are also available if you are not a coffee drinker. Porridge, granola, bagels, pancakes, fritters, hash and omelettes are also served in most of the Melba outlets.

The Cassette Number Nine Bar & Restaurant, Auckland CBD

Wandering around central Auckland, we chanced upon a retro themed bar, with the rather 70s name of Cassette. Apparently the business is new, but the furnishings and feel hark back to rock. We did not see any live gig that afternoon, but just had a kind of pub lunch there, and this was heavily skewed towards Italian pasta and pizzas. Outside is Vulcan Lane (picture above) , with its rather small but unique range of retail outlets, with hints of Melbournish charm and English roots.

Image credits to S. K. Teoh.

Penang Chinese Food

Steamed egg squares, topped up by finely cut spring onions or chives, remind me of childhood meals - I still look forward to them, with a custard-like silken smooth surface. I anticipate the bite into one of such warm slices, or the texture when consumed with steamed jasmine rice. It gives a light and appetising sensation and is not too difficult to prepare, even when rushed at dinnertime after coming home from work on a weekday evening. You can also add small bits of cut shitake mushrooms, ham, prawns or minced pork. Place the mixture preferably in a round dish to steam and garnish with sesame oil for taste.

A classic soup (above) with the positive nutrients of red dates, peanuts and chicken feet on the bone slow simmered in rich stock. Flavourful, enhancing and aromatic. Do not try to focus on the chicken feet, they are there for a purpose to add to the richness of the dish and there is no need to eat them. Interesting enough, chicken feet are also utilised as food in Mexico,…

Penang Buddhist Association, Georgetown

Located in a bustling corner of downtown Georgetown, Penang Island, Malaysia, is a haven of tranquility, reflection and prayer. The building is European, the gardens are immaculately maintained and the theme is Buddhist. Around the sizable shrine hall, which is paved with well mopped English styled tiles and graced by furniture inlaid with mother of pearl, are walkways, flora of various sorts and the feeling of space. Across the road is an open ground named after a colonial, Brown Gardens. I had the occasion of visiting this Penang Buddhist Association recently for the Lunar New Year. This venue is a childhood favourite of mine and always holds dear memories.

I always take my time to look in amazement at the Bodhi tree on the outer grounds of this association. (picture above) This banyan fig giant was planted here to commemorate the Enlightenment of the Buddha over 25 centuries ago. The tree is also sacred to religious followers of Janaism and Hinduism, which share roots with …

Penang Malay Food

The term "Malay" can be a hotch-potch of several influences and cultures in South-east Asia and its definition can vary, depending on context, purpose and academic intent. It can encompass Javanese backgrounds from the days of the Majapahit Empire, the Bugis from Sulawesi, the Minangkabaus from Sumatra, Siamese connotations, Arab trading connections and the intermarriages with Indians and Chinese during the days of the Malacca Sultanate. These groups of people living in south-east Asia were largely Hinduised or had animistic beliefs before the advent of Islam on the sea routes across the Indian Ocean and on to the Straits of Malacca. Such a rich background has also resulted perhaps in one of the world's strongest blends of fusion food, which in contemporary times has been categorised as Malay food. Above image, the crunchy deep fried squid.

Eggs, whether as fried omelettes or as hard boiled wholes, are popularly immersed in a light chili based curry to accompany with …

Dome Coffee Cafe, Penang

Living on the eastern seaboard of Australia, I have never visited a Dome Coffee cafe on this continental island, and the fact that Perth, home to Dome Coffee, is as far away from me as New York is to L.A., does not help. However , I have never been disappointed in any of my limited forays into one of their cafes, whether in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Recently, whilst waiting for mates to arrive, I could not resist checking out the DomeCoffee cafe in Queensbay Mall, Penang island. I ordered the afternoon tea set (picture bove) which cost me less than AUD7. Clockwise, from nine o'clock in the image, are curry puffs, Australian styled scones, with the accompanying raspberry preserves and cream, with a slice of brownie cookie in the centre. The scones were perfect, not hard, but breaks up so nicely when you bite into them.

The Queensbay Mall outlet of Dome Coffee (picture above) has laminated marble top tables for guests, is spaciously laid out and evokes of a colonial atmosphe…

The Sun Yat Sen Memorial, Georgetown, Penang

Dr Sun Yat Sen was the man ascribed to have founded a modern day republic for China in 1911, following a number of rebellions, massive fund raising efforts from private citizens and the sacrifice of various individuals. Dr Sun's connections with Penang is encapsulated in his visit to the Sio Lang Teng, a club for ethnic Chinese merchants, where he first met with his ultimately fervent supporters in Malaya for the Revolutionary cause - Goh Say Eng and Ooi Kim Kheng. Many a common folk led an oppressive life under the yoke of the Qing Dynasty - and the Qing Dynasty itself was faced with the challenges of internal rebellions, colonisation in various parts of coastal China by several Western powers and a reluctance to meet effectively with the opportunities of modernism. Goh Say Eng was my maternal grand uncle, and he is depicted (above ) in front of the Sun Yat Sen Memorial in Georgetown, Penang, as one of three statues in united and coordinated effort to fight for the end of feudal…