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The Gula Melaka Trail…

It seems like people just LOVE thematic things; things with a specific subject; or that which corresponds to a trending idea. The same goes with Gula Melaka, especially when you are in Malacca. After all, the name was derived from the name of the city, with Melaka being the Malay word for Malacca. Since gula means sugar, I suppose you get the idea of what this is. Still unsure? Gula Melaka is a type of palm sugar made from the coconut palm that is boiled down and placed into bamboo containers to harden, hence most Gula Melaka would be cylindrical in shape.

Here’s something I learnt on my adventures down Jonker Street. To know if a Gula Melaka you intend to buy is genuine (one without added sugar), try to give it a light press. If it starts to spread and disintegrate like icing sugar, then that’s what you are looking for. A true Gula Melaka would have a deeply scented coconut smell with a faint hint of toast, honey and toffee whereas Gula Melaka with sugar added would have a subdued ar…

Quirks in Food and People: Three Two or Thirty-two

I went to the market to get some meat, because I felt like I wasn't getting enough meat to eat these days. It was a hot and sunny day when I went to the big, wet market near where I live, and as usual, it was bustling with activity on an early Sunday morning.

I approached the beef stall, which was complete with well-dented wooden chopping blocks, rows of hanging meat parts and busy butchers behind the counter just chopping away like there's no tomorrow while chatting happily with their patrons and co-workers alike.

"I'd like some meat for...", I said, pausing slightly to remember what it was that I wanted to cook the meat with, "making curry".

I thought it would be pretty close to the type of meat I needed since they probably wouldn't understand it if I said I needed the meat for nikujaga (a type of Japanese stew made of beef or pork meat, potatoes and onions). Of course the recipe calls for sliced meat, but oh well, you get what you can at a wet ma…

Quirks in Food and People: Of Corn and Creativity

One vendor opens a store selling corn at one end of a street. Another opens a store, also selling corn, at the other end of the same street. Both are strategically located along a street bustling with activity from office workers going in and out of work, as well as for lunch.

One sells corn by the whole cob, steamed, for 3 ringgit. The other sells the exact same thing for the exact same price. However, this second vendor also sells his corn by the cup for an additional 1 ringgit.

Now, if you were a busy office worker with no time and no energy to give any thoughts to eating (except knowing that you only need food to continue living), wouldn't you prefer a conveniently packed, easy to eat option for your daily dose of vegetables without the hassle of peeling the husk of the corn, using your mighty teeth to dig into the flesh and pull out the kernels bit by bit?

Innovation and creativity plays important roles in our lives. It makes our lives much more interesting. In fact, it might…

Quirks in Food and People: Does it come with custard?

After completing his meal and drinking the last sips of his third pint of beer, a guest, red in the face, chats happily with his group of five at a round table.

Upon asking if he wanted any desserts or another round of beer, he said, "sure, have you got any spotted dick, with custard on the side?"

"Sorry sir, we do not. How about I bring you the dessert menu?"

"Sure", he replied.

Returning with the dessert menu and presenting it to the red-faced guest, I asked, "what would you like to have?"

As if not even reading the descriptions on the menu, he simply points to the first thing on the top left corner of the two-page menu.

"What's this?" he asked, "does it come with custard?"

"No sir, it does not. But how about some ice cream?"

"But it's not the same," he replied.

After several minutes, he points to another random item and asked again, "does THIS come with custard?"

After answering yet ag…

Quirks in Food and People: Hi Mr. Cockroach, Meet Mr Blowtorch!

As I sat at a Japanese restaurant waiting for my food, I saw a speck on the wall. Cockroach!

Approximately one centimeter in length, just a tiny one (no, I did not intentionally went and measured it. It is only a rough guess). Since I'm not the type to be squeamish about these things, I didn't scream, although I WAS a bit disgusted at the sight.

I called a waiter over and simply pointed at the thing without saying a word. Understanding what I meant, he walked back over to the kitchen and came back with something that looked like an aerosol can. To my surprise, he fired at the thing so quickly I didn't realize that what he was holding was actually a blowtorch. A BLOWTORCH! You know, the kind they use to make crème brulée.

It took me a second to realize what had happened before I was able to make any sense of the situation. So, after he fired at the cockroach on the surface of the table (which unfortunately didn't make the meal afterwards quite as appetizing), the poor c…

The Price of Presentation

Ever wondered why the exact same product has a higher price tag when it is packaged in a pretty box for the Christmas season, decorated with lots of hearts and kisses for a Valentine's Day gift, or simply because it is served in a high-end restaurant that presents it on an artfully arranged plate?

Well guess what? You are paying for the presentation!

I recently went to a mall which had both Sushi Zanmai and Pasta Zanmai outlets in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For those who know it, and to those who don't, these two seemingly different restaurants are owned by the same company. Sneaky but smart business strategy, if you ask me.

As I was searching for lunch at that moment, I walked around the mall and found Pasta Zanmai on the fourth floor of the mall. Taking a look at their menu, right at bottom right corner of their January promotion was a dessert they called "lavender parfait", priced at RM 13.

"Ooh, lavender ice cream! That would be interesting," I thought, &q…

Quirks in Food and People: Big or small

A 10-year-old girl with a tiny figure walks in with her dad who has a frame that was clearly five times her own - and a rounded belly to match. The little girl orders a LARGE milkshake topped to the brim with whipped cream and a plate of burger with fries, American-sized. On the contrary, the dad orders a modest can of ginger beer and a plate of three mini burgers, only a mere 2-inch diameter each.

I was curious as to why the father even allowed the little girl to order such huge portions, knowing full well that it would be too much for her to handle. He even warned her that she may not be able to finish it all. Nonetheless, he did nothing to stop her and my curiosity only grew deeper.

So when the order was keyed into the system and the food brought out, the inevitable was put into plain sunlight. Sure, she may have finished the milkshake (of which she seemed to love very much), but the burger and fries proved too much for her. Sitting with a smirk on his face to the left of her, the …