Friday, March 21, 2008

Tondong Mee Kolok: Stuck in Time

Every morning without fail, I would pick up the paper on the porch like any other normal man, looking forward to the latest headlines. But on Friday morning, it was different.

On the Friday, I didn't give a hoot about what was happening in the political arena. That morning was a PUBLIC HOLIDAY. And that in turn translated into a road trip to somewhere in Sarawak.

It a very liberating feeling, cruising down the winding roads of Sarawak, with no worries & nothing else except for the wind blowing into our faces... from the car aircond.

For a moment, I almost believed I was an Easy Rider cruising down the highway.

I was almost Arnold Swarzeneggar riding the big bike in Terminator 2. B-B-B-Bad.

But hey, I said almost.

In reality, we were more like a pair of Beng & Lien, in a normal car, with cheap & ridiculous looking sunnies, & would die if there was no air-conditioning. And if nature called, at any point in the trip, Nee would have wanted to go home to her golden toilet.

It's very strange, to drive all the way out of Kuching, to get away from it all, & when you get far enough, you realise that there are some things which you can't get away from.

Hey everybody, look! It's Uncle Ting Pek Khing's

Fruit Orchard - Ming Khiong Garden!

I've always said that Ting Pek Khing is everywhere in Kuching. There's Wisma Ting Pek Khing, Ting Pek Khing's flyover, Tong Pek Khing's hotel coming up soon, Ting Pek Khing's airport, Ting Pek Khing's Terminal 2 & of course, his orchard. I had a feeling that if we drove up to Sabah's border, it would have been Ming Khiong's Garden all the way.

But we were not going there. We were heading to a small town called Tondong for breakfast, which was in the vicinity of Bau (about an hour's drive from Kuching).

When we finally got there, it felt like we just drove back through a time warp to Smallville. The town basically consisted of a Town Hall...

And the whole place can be summed up as two rows of shophouses on the right...

And another two rows of shophouses on the left...

We basically did the whole town tour in two seconds - look left & then look right. Done. The place looked suspiciously like a ghost town straight out from a cowboy movie.

When the lone gunman arrives on his horse, rolling with the dust into this small cowboy town, it's apparent that a gunfight will ensue, here in the empty streets.

The town people, or what's left of it, have already gone inside, hiding away & minding their own business, peeking from the balcony windows upstairs.

Sorry for being carried away. I'm currently watching 3:10 To Yuma. The influence is obvious.

Well, a lot of things weren't happening that morning, cos it was a public holiday. This was the only kopitiam opened, & it was supposedly to have one of the best mee kolok around, according to our tour leader CK.

It's rare to find shops like this nowadays, where the whole gamut of operations centred around one thing only - the only stall with only one product to sell - mee kolok.

It's a joy to be in a place like Tondong. It certainly brought back memories of long ago when we were still kids, & we'd go for breakfast every Sunday with our family in shops like this in Kuching.

I think time stopped in the 80s here. I could still remember that time when every household had that giant wristwatch hanging on their walls of their living room.

It was a wierd feeling being there in that small little shop, in that small little town. We felt like we were a part of it, & reciprocally, it being a part of our lives from a long time ago, and yet now, we felt like outside folks, strangers from the big city. Whatever it was, one thing's for sure, we stuck out like sore toes.

Maybe it's the way we carried our cameras around, shooting everything in sight. Blogging has certainly help added thick, bullet-proof layers of skin cells onto our face.

Oh, here's how the traditional stuck-in-time mee kolok looked like.

The original dry version.

And the fried version with soya sauce.

Being in a place like this is no longer just about the food. It's about taking in the whole experience of realising how fast the environment that we are living in has changed & is still changing, & how much we have lost & in turn, how much we have also gained. It's a bittersweet feeling.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Ms Read Quiche Project

Ms Read is opening a new outlet tomorrow at The Spring. For it's opening ceremony at noon, they're serving Nee's Quiches, Mixed Cocktail Fruit Jelly & a few of her cakes.

Naturally when something like this happens, Nee is on the go in the kitchen. So today I came home to find my wife barely alive, slogging it out, and she didn't look like my wife. So I thought I should offer to help, & I did, since I wanted my wife back.

The Game Plan was simple. I was supposed to turn this...

into these CD-like shapes...

So what I had to do was to flatten the dough & roll it out into a very wide & very evenly flat piece, so that I can get more circular pieces out of it each time.

(Sorry I have to explain something simple like this. For a lot of women out there, this is common knowledge. It'd be something intuitive that you're all born with. But unfortunately for me, & maybe for a lot of other men out there who actually take the trouble to read this blog, it's cooking & baking 101)

Then I had to cut it into as many circular pieces as I can for Nee to form them into cup shapes.

Easy right? Well, that's what I thought, until I found out that I was supossed to make 150 pieces.

That's when I realised it was too late to pull out. I could still remember my wedding vows, "For good times & bad".

But it wasn't so badlah, cos my part ended here. It was quite an experience for me, baking for the first time ever. I felt empowered. I felt like Chef Wan.

Ok, abang-adik, uncle-uncle semua, sekarang kita masukkan isi ye?

Ok, hah macam tu. Masukkan isi. Masuk. hah. Ish ish, sedapnya.

This is the liao, Nee's concoction of stew/gravy or whatever you call it...

which went into the little cups....

which went into the oven.

which came out like this in the end.

And all this will be served tomorrow at Ms Read. So if you happen to be at The Spring around noon, drop by & sample Nee's quiches. There's also Nee's jelly & cakes (I think they're blueberry cheese cakes).

Oh, & while you're at it, don't forget, Ms Read is also launching its new outlet. heheh.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Chris Patten's Egg Tarts

Chris Patten was Hong Kong's last British Governor before the handover. He had this thing for egg tarts.
Look at him. He practically ate his way thru the handover.

And for him, it wasn't just any Ah Fook, Ah Keong or Ah Hwa egg tarts mind you. This Governor had to have the Tai Cheong Bakery egg tarts.
It's in this bakery that the best egg tarts in the whole of Hong Kong are made.

Just look at this photo. The egg tarts must be d*mn good for the governor to become such good friends with the owner. One bite & friends forever. So brader brader.

The shop also sells other types of pastries but it doesn't seem like anybody's touching them.

When we got there, there was already a small line of people. Obviously we were not the only tourists there. There were a few Koreans who also managed to find their way to this little egg tart heaven.
In fact, the place was quite easy to find. It's located at 35, Lyndhurst Terrace, Central.
Tel: 852-2544-3475
OpeningHours: 7.30am-8.30pm
Directions: Central MTR Station, exit D1 & D2

Look at all those boxes. The owner must be making millions. If I'd known that earlier, I'd have considered taking up baking lessons a long time ago. Then you'd also see me buddy buddy with Chris Patten.

And naturally, one's head would grow to this size if we're buddy-buddy-ing along with a Governor.

Ironically, the best egg tarts in Hong Kong doesn't look they're coming from the best kitchen in the world. But I'm sure these kitchen hands are well paid despite their appearance.

The difference with the egg tarts here is that the pastry uses almond meal instead of regular flour.

HKD3.50 (RM1.50) for a piece of heavenly bliss.

This is the mother of all egg tarts. "I gave birth to all you tarts out there! Pay your respects!"

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