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Archive for the ‘Kampung Memories’ Category

Kitkat Japan

I’ve seen pictures of the Maccha Green Tea Kitkat, popular in Japan, and I’ve always wanted to try it. Well, I almost jumped for joy when I saw it at an Asian supermarket.

And what made it even more convenient, the American distributor has stuck a small label listing the ingredients and nutritional value in English. Some of the ingredients listed included green tea powder, cocoa and vegetable oil.

Now for the sampling, to see how the matching of chocolate and green tea turns out.

I think it tastes more like a creamy dessert with a subtle fragrance, reminiscent of the green tea ice cream that I have had the chance to try on several occasions.

And rather strangely, the flavor and fragrance of the Green Tea Kitkat reminds me of pandan flavoring. Pandan is an extract from the pandanus leaf, and is used extensively in Malay and Indonesian desserts.

I do like this interesting Kitkat flavor. And best of all, these bars still have that famous, addictive Kitkat crunch.

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tropical breeze singapore

A view of a small island in Singapore across from another small island.

I was sitting behind this bush, enjoying the breeze. There is something distinctive about tropical sea breeze: its “fullness”, lulling with relaxation. And I feel that this image somewhat captures it.

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tanjomg pagar railway station designMural at Tanjong Pagar Station

The motif, and the mural of people planting rice are details from the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in Singapore. The station was completed in 1932, and for a long time it was the main transportation for people travelling between Singapore and Malaysia.

My father and I were frequent passengers on the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route, thus the station held lots of memories for me.

The building ceased operating as a train station in 2011, and was gazetted as a national monument.

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kacang botol winged bean

Ulam, raw vegetables and herbs is integral to Malay cuisine. On the right is winged bean/kacang botol, and part of the dipping sauce shown (at bottom right).

In this post, I would like to highlight an aspect of Malay cuisine – ulam, which is a version of Malay salad.

Ulam consists of a platter of raw vegetables and herbs, and may also include some that have been blanched. It is eaten with a sambal, a spicy chilli-based dipping sauce. Ulam is usually served as part of a rice based meal.

Kacang botol, the green bean shown above is one of my favorites. It has a lovely combination of a crunchy texture and a mildly creamy taste.

Kacang means bean in Malay, and botol means bottle. I’m not sure why it is so named; must be an interesting anecdote somewhere. Incidentally, it is known as winged bean in English, perhaps named after its uniquely shaped edges. Well, it seems like the bean encouraged people to be quite poetic in naming it.

The bean plant grows as a vine, and it is said to be a good source of vitamin A.

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Royston Tan directing actress J.Rosmini in his film which was inspired by the sounds of his childhood.

Sound is a one of our most powerful senses. A small tinkle, a laugh can bring forth memories, associations and expectations.

Recently, Singapore’s filmmaker Royston Tan was in California to talk about his films and his career. One of the projects that he was involved in was 7 letters, an anthology of short films by Singaporean fimmakers. He shared with the audience his film in the anthology titled “Bunga Sayang”.

“Bunga Sayang” means “Flower of Love, or Flower of the Heart” in Malay. It refers to the title of a song that has a central role in the film.

Royston explained that the film was inspired by the sounds of his childhood.

One of them was the sounds of the traditional Chinese opera. The opera was often staged in a public area where everyone could come and see. (It was also a part of my childhood. Like most children, I was drawn to it when it was staged in my neighborhood. For me, what was most fascinating were the shiny, colorful costumes, especially those with the long, flowing sleeves.)

Another inspiration for the film was the sounds of a song.

The main protagonist in Royston’s film is a young boy, around 10 or so. A normal day, after school, brought a small crisis. The tap in his flat suddenly stopped when he was taking a shower.

The boy called his mother, who was away working, who then instructed him to go to his neighbour’s house and to request if he could finish his bath there. The neighbor, an older Malay woman, couldn’t speak English, and the boy spoke broken Malay, but somehow they communicated.

After the shower, he found himself drawn to the kitchen where the woman was preparing food, while her radio filled the flat with the song “Bunga Sayang”. The sounds and notes of that song formed a strong memory of that day for him. And soon a friendship developed between the two of them.

“Bunga Sayang” is a heartfelt film because, I believe, it was made from the heart. Watching it made me think of the sounds of my childhood. And what comes to my mind, without hesitation, is the sound of fish frying in my childhood home.

Our big extended family was run by my grandmother and grandaunt. They would start cooking around 10 or 11 am in the morning. I would often hang around in the kitchen, being in their company, or enjoying doing some coloring.

One dish that was often served in our home was deep-fried chunks of tongkol fish, which is a type of tuna fish. Oil was heated in the kuali, a deep frying pan. And when the first chunk of fish hit the hot oil, it created a pristine sizzle and hiss. So clear that one could visualize the hiss rising up, winding up, from the pan.

That sound, together with the fragrance of the turmeric spice coating the fish, leads me back to my young days, in our sunny, warm kitchen in the tropics.

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book Hamzah Hussin

My father’s passion was reading. Our favorite weekend activity as a family was to visit the newsstand to buy magazines.

 

hamzah hussin book

My father’s short stories will be republished soon by Fixi Retro.

I’m lucky to come from a family that loved books and writing.

My grandfather loved poetry and owned a small second hand bookshop in Singapore. My late father Hamzah Hussin, helped him in the shop as a young boy, and he grew up to become a figure in the Malay literary world.

My father became a journalist and writer, penning and publishing short stories and novels.  He then joined Cathay Keris Organisation, one of the pioneer studios that produced Malay films, as a scriptwriter/ public relations officer. He later went to live in Malaysia to continue to contribute to the film industry and also to teach at FINAS Film Academy.

He was always generous with his knowledge, and I knew that he cherished the opportunity to teach, and the interaction with the students and their ideas.

Most of the Malay films of his era are still widely viewed, and thus my father’s screenplays are still intact. However, some of his literary works are not so readily available.

The good news is that Amir Muhammad, Malaysia’s well-known author, filmmaker and publisher, has located three of my father’s published short stories and has compiled them into a book. Amir and his company Fixi Retro will launch the book on November 21 at Ilham’s Gallery in Kuala Lumpur.

I feel very grateful and pleased to share my father’s work with more people, and I’m sure he would be too.

If you’re in Malaysia or Singapore, I would like to invite you to the launch. Amir will also talk about Malay movies in the 60s at the event. More details on the event and the venue are at this page.

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Ramadan bazaar Geylang

Carpets galore…for every room in the house.

hari raya baju kurung

Dressed up….a stall selling baju kurung, the traditional Malay costume for women.

The Ramadan bazaar in Geylang Serai, the Malay district in Singapore, has made its yearly appearance again. In time for shoppers preparing for the coming Eid festival, or Hari Raya as it is known in Malay.

One can find a variety of goods including traditional Malay costumes and festive cookies. Malays are said to be houseproud, and household goods such as carpets and silk flowers take centrestage, ready to spruce up the house and to welcome the visitors.

Selamat Hari Raya; Eid Greetings.

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