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Ever Heard of Alcohol-Free Beer?

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These beers seem to keep eluding me. The first time I saw it at the supermarket, I though, "Hmm, interesting, maybe I'll try it sometime". The second time I saw it, I had too much groceries on my hand so I literally couldn't carry anything more to bring back on my long journey home via train and foot. I did a mental note therefore, to keep this on my rain check list of the thousands of food items I wish to try one day. The next time I saw it though, I was a bit short on cash that month so I had to postpone the purchase yet again.

As for the fourth time around, now this one was a bit bizarre. I literally had it in my hand along with a couple of other items, and was proceeding to the check-out counter when I remembered the ONE thing that I went into the supermarket to buy in the first place (yes, even I am susceptible to binge buying when it comes to food). It was some Gula Melaka I needed for a project I was working on, and it was inconveniently positioned on a shelf …

Chinese herbs and a midnight errant

I came home past midnight one day planning to boil that pack of Ba Zhen Chinese herbs I bought that day which was (according to the shopkeeper) supposed to be good for blood circulation and energy. I have recently been feeling lethargic and tired, mostly because it's been a busy month at work and the customers never seemed to cease filling up the waiting list from the start to the end of my shift.

Only when I got home and started opening up the pack of herbs did I suddenly realize that I forgot to buy sugar for making a herbal drink and thought, "How am I going to drink this without sugar? It's going to be so bitter!"

So in the quest in search of sugar, I went out at 1:30am to the convenience store, got queried by three patrol police officers on motorbikes as to where I was going in the middle of the night (although I was somewhat relieved to know that the police were doing their job in keeping the neighbourhood safe), then cycled my bike over a newly paved tar road,…

That place beside the big names

It’s interesting how Penang has so many corners, and equally as many hidden surprises just waiting to be discovered. Take the famed street art collection scattered throughout Georgetown for instance. While some are big and obvious, located strategically at a busy intersection or a shop front, others need to be searched out, appearing in the most unlikely places. Corners, alleys, behind a towering building.
As with many things, there will always be that one big name of a place that has crowds shoving in day and night. That place that is in all the tourist magazines and guidebooks advertised as a “Must See” or “Must Do” when in Penang, and is therefore crawling with visitors from all over the world. But, have you ever looked beyond, away from the crowds and the famous names of restaurants, museums and attractions that are sung from one end of the island to the other? Let me tell you a secret, which may not be that much of one but is certainly less widely understood. You would be surprise…

Fan or no fan

Installing 7 fans in a tiny restaurant area with tables back-to-back. Logical? Necessary? Or ingenious?
It may have a reputation of being one of the most delicious noodle places in town, having a line that never ceases to exist, a place that always seems crowded with the locals (university students, mostly, but also office workers from the surrounding area as well as families with small children), and makes you inevitably sweat in the heat every second that you are there, but I wondered why they couldn’t be bothered to install even a single air-conditioning unit like the other restaurants in the area.
Then when I thought about it, I realized the genius behind this concept. Well, to be fair, it’s more in a totally business-minded and an “I don’t care about the customer experience” attitude kind of way but hey, a genius is a genius.
In the sweltering heat and humidity of the constantly 27 to 30 degree Celcius Malaysian climate (but honestly, you would be really lucky if you get to enjoy a …

Father and son, a good meal and a grateful heart

It’s true, I think, what they say about old people, that “those who have a will to live, as well as those who have a reason to keep living, have a higher probability of living a longer life”.

While I was unfortunate to lose my previously ever-active and lively grandmother to cancer, here is a story of how the love of a son enables a man to go on far into his old life, despite the difficulties of a decreasing mobility that confines us human beings to what is called, “mortality”.
Here I was, sitting at a big and spacious food court with several large fans blasting furiously and producing such a loud noise that you can barely hear the voices of those around you. Overhead, a blaring speaker sends out a somewhat out-of-place instrumental rendition of the kind of music you hear at posh hotels or high-class Chinese restaurants. Can’t blame them for trying, though.
It was a quiet lunchtime, there were not many people. I was nonchalantly sipping my second glass of iced tea, which was unfortunatel…

Quirks in Food and People: The Lure of the "Today's Special" Signboard

I went into the cafe, aiming to get either a cup of tea or a slice of cake. What I really wanted, thought, was a place for me to study Japanese for the upcoming exam, but hey, you've got to order something if you're in a cafe, right? That's why I love libraries. Quiet, relaxing, "conducive" for study, as they call it. Then again, libraries can sometimes be a bit too quiet, causing one to eventually fall asleep without intending to.

I eventually settled on their pavlova (a crispy, slow baked cloud of egg white and sugar topped with fresh berries and fresh whipped cream), which was scrumptious by the way, but not the point of today's "Quirks in Food and People" story. This happened a couple months ago, but it’s still fresh in my mind.
The waiter introduced their special dish for the day, “Shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli”, as he handed me the menu and pointed at the creatively written item on the chalkboard behind the bar.
Go…

Durian Chocolate: A popular Malaysian Souvenir

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If you have been to Malaysia before, you may have been told that durian chocolate is the must-buy souvenir of the country. But what is this product? And why is it sold at basically every souvenir shop as well as several major supermarkets in Kuala Lumpur.


First of all, what is durian?
Durian is a fruit. Some may even call it the "King of Fruits", although I personally still don't understand why we need a "king" for fruits anyway. Native to the Southeast Asian region, this is a fruit that you will either absolutely love or downright loathe. It comes in many varieties, the D24, musang king, and even one called "red prawn"(most durians have a yellow flesh, but this one has a particularly red tinge to it); but they are all from the genus Durio. Spiky and green (some being more brown than green) on the outside and with a flesh as soft as custard, this fruit also has a strong and pungent smell which may drive some people away but leave others drooling for mo…

Quirks in Food and People: Random free nougat

I just finished work one day on an oddly busy Sunday night, and while heading towards the door to the outside world (finally!), I was stopped by a staff that I technically never spoke to. I gave her an acknowledging smile and thought that I was just going to be on my way when she stopped me again. Holding some cloths bound for washing on one hand, and something that looked like little packets of sweets on the other, she said, "take it."
At first, I wasn't sure how to react, because it was so random and unexpected, especially because it came from someone I've seen around my workplace but never really talked to.

"Take it", she said again, and so, out of courtesy towards her kindness, I took one of the four plastic wrapped pieces. Looking at it briefly, I realized that it was nougat. Nougat! One of my favourite sweet treats. I have no idea why I love these things, but I just do.

"Take it all," she said yet again, "we don't eat these things&q…