Friday, July 25, 2008

Tom Yum Goong

It is so good to come back to rice and soup in Kuching after 10 days of foreign food. I considered myself a very asianised person even though I had Malay/English education. My mandarin and cantonese are limited to TVB series but definitely better than Greg's which is close to zero.

Towards the last two days in London, I was many times tempted to eat at a Chinese restaurant there. I understand that London's chinese food is actually quite good if you know where to go. But French and British food was or main priority there. So ya, it's really good to be back to our normal staple of rice and home cooked dishes.

Not long ago, I did this all time favourite Thai soup and the results is actually very good. I can really sip this bowl of tom yum dry. No bought paste is used. This is pure tom yum from fresh ingredients.

Serve 4-6

1.2- 1.5 litre of chicken stock
2 piece of thumb size galangal, pounded
1 piece of thumb size ginger, pounded
8-10 pieces of medium to big kaffir leaves (daun pulut), torn up
3 stalk of lemom grass, sliced thinly diagonally
8 no of thai chillis/chilli padi, chopped
2 medium tomatos, slice wedges
1 can of straw mushroom
400gm of nice fresh prawns, fresh water prawns, big-head prawns#, deveined and cleaned
4-5 no of medium kaffir lime (limau pulut)*
Seasoning to taste ~ salt, fish sauce, sugar
1 1/2 tbsp of chilli oil (heat up 1/4 cup of oil, add 4-5 tbsp of dried chilli flakes and simmer at very low fire till chilli oil is released)
1 tbsp of ideal milk (optional to enhance the colour)

1) Boil water, blanch and cook chicken bones. Simmer for an hour or so. Or simply use chicken stock.

# I added the prawn heads for extra tastiness. But you can choose to keep the prawn heads attached if your prawns are really big especially the big-head prawns. They look really nice served whole. I could not get any big prawns at this time of the year and I finished my Chinese New Year stock last month. So I had to use the small types from the wet market.

2) Add kaffir leaves, chillis, galangal, ginger and lemon grass and simmer for 45 min to 1 hour. Strain for soup.

3) Add straw mushrooms, tomatos, chill oil, extra 4-5 whole pieces of kaffir leaves and one slice up one stalk of lemon grass for garnishing. Add the prawns.

4) Add seasoning. Suggested seasoning here are 2 tbsp of fish sauce, 1 tbsp of salt, 1 tbsp of sugar and the juice from kaffir lime.

* Kaffir lime looks very ugly as they are very lumpy all around. I squeezed all my lime and forgot to take picture. Sometimes, they can be very dry inside. My recipe suggested 4-5 medium size ones if they are some juices. If they are dryd, try squeezing them to get the pulp and add extra 1-2 juicy local lime to bring out the sourness factor. It is very difficult to give the exact measurement for seasoning and lime juice as it is very dependent on taste. But remember as with Thai food ~ salty, sweet and sour must be present. Tom Yum must have the Oomph...

5) Bring the whole pot to a boil. Dish out and serve.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

London: The Arrival of the Malaysian Bloggers

We almost didn't make it to London.

Our plane couldn't land in KLIA from Kuching as there was a thunderstorm, & we were low on fuel. So MAS rerouted south to Johor Bahru.

When we landed at KLIA, the ground crew brought us quickly to the connecting flight to London. We got onto the plane at 10am. It flew at 10.

The flight took about 13 hours, 4 movies, 2 meals, 2 glasses of wine to make us sleep, peanuts & a snack meal. We touched down at Heathrow at about 3.35pm London time.

As soon as we did that, we bought a topup pay-as-you-go tube card. It's called an Oyster card. In Hong Kong, they have a similar one called the Octopus card. Beats me why they like naming them after seafood.

Anyway, the tube ride took the both of us, 1 luggage, 1 duffle bag & 1 carry-on about an hour to reach King's Cross Station at Bloomsburry, Central London.

You see, Central London is divided into a few neighbourhoods.

So once you know what's there in those area worth seeing, you kinda know how to plan your stay there. The neighbourhoods which were worthwhile for us were very much the touristy areas like The West End (musicals, shopping, restaurants), Southbank (The London Eye, London Bridge), Westminister (Buckingham Palace & the royal family) & finally, the last but not Nee's least, Knightsbridge (Harrod's, Burburry).

Oh, aside from almost missing our plane, we also almost didn't have a place to stay on our first night. There was a big glitch in my internet booking & we had to rope in Nee's cousin in London to help find a place, which she did. And all that was done the night before we flew. WHEW, Thank you Sophia!

And we were glad that she did, cos she got us a really nice place just a stone's throw away from King's Cross Station. It's called The European Hotel. £68 per night with breakfast.

You might want to jot this down cos we realised that Argyle St. & Argyle Square had a lot of similar B&B hotels, and all of them were not in our travel guide.

B&B hotel rates in London range between £66-105 from the ones with/without sinks, toilets, or shower, & to the ones with everything. So if you're particular about having your very own private shower AND bathroom AND sink, get the ones with ENSUITE. Otherwise you might have to pee out the window & bath in the sink. Sorry, I'm still a bit imbalanced from the jet lag.

So, when you know which ones to book, everything will turn out quite beautifully. The shower & sink were there, albeit basic.

The toilet was ensuite alright, but somehow the toilet seat wasn't.

By the time we were checked in, we were dead tired. But the Fish & Chips were calling out to us, & we succumbed.

This was London after all.

If you don't try the Fish & Chips, then you'd better stay at home, in Malaysia.

It was about 15-16 hours after we left our homeland.

And now we're feeling very British, having British Fish & Chips on British soil.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More Jacky Cheung: The Juicy Details

We've been getting a lot of Jacky Cheung fans here so we thought of sharing the whole story of how we met Jacky (We call him Jacky now) in super microscopic detail.

Nee & I were at the London Eye on the 2nd last day of our stay in London.

You're probably not interested in this photo but we've got a story to tell.

And you're probably also not interested in this next piece of information, but for the benefit of the Jacky Cheung groupie-stalkers, the date was July 16, on a Wednesday, late morning, to be exact.
This is the exact spot where I first noticed Jacky. He was standing somewhere directly beneath the black lamp post.

Sorry I didn't take a picture of the ground where he was standing on. I could have sold that to the tabloids & make lots of money.

I didn't really know it was him in the first place. I just thought that he looked familiarly like an architect or some kind of a professional artist (not of the singing & acting kind) as he spoke excellent English to a Caucasian next to him (of whom I suspect to be his friend). His two daughters were there with a nanny. The wife appeared later.

As I analysed his features, he stole a few glances at me. I wasn't sure what his glance meant, & after discussing it with Nee much later on, we thought that he was probably thinking:
1) You kinda look familiar too. Do I know you?
2) Does this Ah Beng actually know who I am? Has my superstar popularity reached as far as London?
3) Oh Sh*t. This guy got camera. Paparazzi!

We concluded that it couldn't be No. 1 cos I wasn't famous. And we had to rule No. 3 out cos my camera was peanuts. His was huge-r. So that left us with the possible No. 2.

Anyway, back to the story, so I went over to Nee.
Greg: Hey, look at that guy there. Don't you think he looks like Jacky Cheung?
Nee: Ya, I think so. Look at his nose. It's huge.
Greg: Maybe I should ask him or something but there is a limitation to the thickness of my skin.

At that moment, his wife appeared & they walked up the ramp to the river boat cruise to buy tickets. We were still debating on his identity. Nee was still assessing his nose. Then as quick as he appeared, he disappeared into the boat cruise stand. And at that point we really thought our luck ran out. It was like striking Jackpot Toto & then losing your tickets.

But heaven was with us that fateful day, cos the Heavenly King came back out, & confirming that it was him, I walked up to him in full stride & confidence.

Greg: Excuse me, I may be mistaken, but are you Jacky Cheung?
Jacky: Uhhh.......Yes, I AM!
Greg: Very nice to meet you. Can I take a picture with you?
Jacky: Uhhh........But I'm very busy, with my family.
Greg: Oh, I see. I'm sorry, but my wife's a big fan. She's there.
Jacky: Uhhh.........Okay. It's alright.
At this point, Nee was running, I mean almost flying, towards him.
Nee: We were at your concert in KL last year. I'm a big fan. We're sorry to bother you.
Jacky: It's ok.

Nee was ecstatic when I took her photo with him.

The only time that she can be so ecstatic-al is if she's in a superb European bakery shop, or if she's learning baking in Paris, or if she's just completed a major masterpiece in the kitchen.

Our conclusion was that Jacky was an excellent gentleman. He was very obliging & friendly although we have intruded into his private family outing. That was the reason why we did not push for ten more pictures with him. We apologised profusely, but he took it very calmly & politely with a smile all the time.

Thinking back, we were glad that we acted in a civil manner, and did not unleash our sua koo-ness (mountain auntie). We gave him the respect that he deserved, & we hope that he will see us as respectful Malaysian fans.

There, that's as detailed as we can get. Any more detailed & you'll fall into a deep coma.

NEE: Well since I was the STAR in that really ugly photo, I thought I should share some of my thoughts. And I was still thinking today how could I possibly look so aunty ~ unkempt and downright country bumpkin. Am still beating myself up about it. Not that I expect Jacky would find me attractive or anything remotely along that line, but to only have one photo of this starry encounter and probably will never have it again, how could I ever show my future grandkids and not expecting them to wonder why grandma ever looked so bad. But on the good side, Jacky's fans are probably so jealous that if I actually look good, I will be torn to pieces.

Anyway, like Greg says, I am glad to find that the person I listened to since my teenage years is actually a gentlemen ~courteous and obliging. None of those prima donna air or artic air coldness or rude abruptness. Based on the circumstances of our encounter, we would totally understand if he refused a picture. Many of us would not like work (entertaining fans would be be work for him) to be interfering with our holidays. I mean I would get really irritated if my workplace starts calling me up during my trip. Under such circumstances, he was warm albeit looking a little careful about the whole thing. Not wary but definitely careful as he has his family with him. Let's just say, he handled it really well. Hats off to him!

Another wonderful thing is I am really happy to see my 'idol' as a family man who would put them first. And I believe many Jacky's fans would love to know that. As we do respect the guy and his family, we would not want to describe his family or anything else besides the encounter itself here, and we did not take any secret paparazzi shots at any of them. So that photo is the one and only that we have and would be purely for a memorable keepsake.

Finally thanks to my dear hubby for having the guts to go up to him and ask. In fact, I actually told him not to bother. Thoughts of two university lecturers who tells students to be professional and calm in all circumstances acting like silly star-strucked fans is just so totally uncool. What would my students think! But I am glad Greg did it. Being almost a banana (Chinese who can't speak mandarin) like him (he has never listened to canto pop) and I am glad after the Jacky's concert last year (which i have to bribe, persuade, beg whatever you call it for him to go), he actually said after the concert in these exact words "I finally understand what canto-pop is now. It is Jacky Cheung." And I am glad-er that Jacky gave him an even better impression in person!

Thank you!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Jacky Cheung in London

We paid quite a lot of money just to be able to sit a few hundred feet away from Jacky Cheung during his concert in KL last year.

This was as close as we could get to him then.

He came, he sang, Nee screamed, & then it was over. This was all we could see.

But we would never have imagined, or even dared to dream, that 10 months later, in a place as faraway as London, we'd be meeting up with him again. This time, it was close up & live in person.

It is very rare for Nee to look like this. She only shows her silly bunny smile only when she's acting silly, or when she's star strucked silly. And unfortunately, this is the only photo we took with Jacky Cheung.

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