Tag Archive | Kuala Lumpur

Yusheng & Chinese New Year

Just who created the yusheng dish which has become synonymous with Chinese New Year in Singapore? Almost everyone says it’s the Sin Leong chef. Not me. Though I base my belief on no more than sheer memory –which may not be reliable.

As far as I’m concerned, the first time I ever tasted yusheng was in Kuala Lumpur hosted by my BFF ES on one of my visits there. At a Petaling Street eatery.

It was some time after the 1969 racial riots but before I took on real working responsibilities. Till then, I’d never tasted yusheng, perhaps due to the fact that I come from a family of hill turtles ;)

Anyway, I distinctly remember ES telling me that the garnshings of white radish strips, cucumber strips, etc were known as “lap sap” or rubbish. And that the dish was only eaten during the 7th day of the Chinese New Year or Yun-Yat, day of the human being or day of everyman.

Another pointer that yusheng might have originated from KL rather than SG is that when participants toss the largely raw ingredients (save for the crackers) they chant “Lo hei”, a distinctly Cantonese phrase. KL is better known for speaking Cantonese, while SG’s major Chinese dialect is Hokein.

Since my first encounter with yusheng, however, it has become so popular that even typically western-oriented establishments like the Tanglin Club and Singapore Cricket Club start offering it well be4 the dawn of Chinese New Year Day and don’t stop serving the dish till Chap Go Mei or the 15th Day of the Chinese New Year.

With the official end of Chinese New Year celebrations tonight — Yuan Xiao Jie 元宵节– I would like to share my memories of the various yusheng encounters I have had since Feb 1 :lol: :lol:

First taste was had at Jumbo Restaurant@ Dempsey where the Lunch Party had our monthly lunch. It was a luscious offering with plenty of sliced salmon waiting to be tossed.

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A Jumbo catch!

The next tasting came when AI dropped in from one of her globe-trotting trips and treated some friends and me to a meal at the Tanglin Club. As an absent member, she was raring to do some spending!

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AI’s Tanglin Club treat

Another yusheng was had at my sister n BIL’s home. Mum n I have been going there for kai nian fan for as long as my sister has been married. Their newly minted DIL rushed out to Jelita Cold Storage to get a portion as we are all addicted to the dish. She even splashed out on an extra portion of fish :roll:

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New daughter-in-law’s yusheng contribution

Not to be out done, I rushed out on the 7th Day of the New Year and bought a serving from GWC Cold Storage for lunch. The $29 serving was loaded on veggies but the sliced salmon was so little I could have eaten it all by myself in one mouthful. But I didn’t add fish, as there were only five of us for lunch that day, the rest of the immediate family having gone to Malaysia to visit far-flung relatives.

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My turn for the fish rush!

The next yusheng I had was courtesy of old school mate JLS who treated us to the dish at our quarterly get together. A generous portion large enough to cater to 14 hungry — and growing– women ;)

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Ex classmate JLS’s treat for “old” CHIJ girls

Then came Feb 21 when I went into yusheng overdrive. For lunch, I was at the ritualistic annual CNY lunch hosted by the Association of Banks in Singapore. This time, the event was at the Ritz Carlton and as to be expected, there was no stinting on the fish!

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Bank association’s lux fish treat @ Ritz C

That night, it was dinner with the regular Thursday night yoga kakis at the Kampung Glam Community Club. Our instructors hosted and provided a veritable feast, especially their mum’s signature vegetarian yusheng which was as much a treat for the eye as for the stomach. In place of fish, young fresh coconute flesh was used. Healthy and utterly delicious!

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Yoga teachers’ super lux vegetarian yu-version

The final yusheng dish for the Year of the Black Water Snake was eaten at another extended family dinner (hosted by younger brother SY and wife) at Xin Fut Kai, a vegetarian restaurant with a huge following at 282 Jalan Besar.

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extended family fish dish on Yuan Xiao nite

Am I tired of yusheng after this binge? The answer is a resounding “no”.

Frankly, I don’t understand why it isn’t available all the year round, especially when the providers’ profit margin must be wide enough to drive a bendy bus through!

Perhaps I shall go into the yusheng business?

Doggone it, am I getting old?

Earlier this month, I was up in Kuala Lumpur, once again visiting TES — my old friend and partner in youthful crime.

This time, there was a distinct difference: the usual pack of dogs she keeps came and went in the sitting and dining rooms as well as TES’ super large back kitchen — something unusual! Because whenever I visited in the past, the whole pack would be banished to to the backyard or the garden to keep them away from me, as recorded here.

The latest visit saw us — ie the doggies and moi – sharing the same space all the time I was there — except for my bedroom, which remained a strong no-no to the four-legged ones!

Sure, the doggies have gone down in number to just four. In longer times past, there used to be seven or eight. And further back, there were two large German sheperds as well. But that was when TES’ hubby was still alive.

He has gone for 12 years, TES said which caused me to say the usual trite but true thing: how time flies :roll:

And the oldest Yorkshire terrier, Fiji, surviving from the brood he gave her in 1994 is 18 this year. Another from the same brood, Radar, is 16! Doggone it, in human terms they would be 126 and 122 years old respectively!

They are blind and tired and not in the mood to bother visitors! That explains why I was largely ignored.

As for the two larger dogs, they too are past their prime, with Molly at 10 and Tammy at around 6.

Hence I was able to tolerate their presence — even to the extent that I shared one piece of a plump pastry filled with lotus paste and salted egg yolk with Tammy when she looked at me hungrily. Not the healthiest tidbit to give a dog but since she’s already middle-age, it won’t harm to indulge a little.

In the tranquility of my own home back in SG, I’ve been wondering: if the pets that my best friend owns are already in their dotage, what does that say about our chronological age, no matter how doggedly we try to avoid thinking about the subject!

Still, i won’t boo hoo.

A huge balance in years isn’t the destiny of everyone. Those of us blessed with such a stockpile must gratefully say bow wow :-D :lol:

Which is worse?

I first took notice of the name Richard Teo in the Straits Times obituary page because one of my many cousins has a son by the same name. Still, the similarity ends there. The late RT was a doctor whereas my cousin’s son makes his living as a “sourcer” for antiques and other decor bric a brac for the rich and famous.

Then the name of the late Dr RT came into view again. This time Face Book link of an ex-cousin’s husband gave me a glimpse of what the late doctor spoke about a la the last lecture of Randy Pausch.

As i was relaxing then in Kuala Lumpur, I didn’t really read thru the transcript.

But believe it or not, an email from a KL friend hit my inbox today with the full transcript and i couldn’t help but read it more closely since I am back in SG and have better access to the Internet.

Also, i can’t help noticing that the lament of the late Dr RT has gone viral, at least as reported by Yahoo.

I can understand why it’s so traumatic that someone in his prime should look askance at death. Even my mother at 87 going on 88 — with a host of health problems, sorry lah, I mean health challenges – doesn’t look on death as a welcome exit.

Indeed, I daresay no one, not even those who believe in Heaven, are wholly or even “half in love with easeful death” (as John Keats the Romantic poet once put it!) Otherwise, there would be no need for Lourdes and other miracles.

And i am familiar with the lament — now growing most common and loud in SG — that money and success don’t buy one happiness. This was the thrust of Dr RT’s lecture given near the end of his life. In fact, it’s the same message that I was raised on when as a kid in CHIJ I had chosen Scripture as one of my O level subjects.

That familiar “What doth it profit a man to own the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” has been put into many new packagings in today’s SG, especially by the young clamouring for better life balance.

While I feel it is sad, very sad, for anyone to leave this wonderful life prematurely, I wonder whether it won’t be a lot sadder to leave it prematurely but penniless and an abject failure?

Or put another way: What doth it profit a man who owns not a grain of sand and yet suffers the loss of his own soul? :cry: :cry: :cry:

Horror that was Helen Gurley Brown

I was introduced to Helen Gurley Brown and Sex and the Single Girl when I started work in Kuala Lumpur in another life-time. Till then, I had never heard of her. I wasn’t terribly impressed. nor with all the other OTT stuff that’s her signature tune! Give me Nora Ephron any day. She was the queen of wry where I’m concerned and two of her books I re-read all the time are I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing.

Reproduced below is a recollection about Helen Gurley Brown from the New York Times. Double-confirming why Goo-goo ain’t my cup of tea or coffee. :roll:

August 14, 2012

Googoo and the Pussycat

By JAMIE BRICKHOUSE

I CALLED her Googoo. She called me Pussycat.

She called everyone Pussycat — pronouncing it “pushycat” — but when she said to me at our first lunch, “I made Hearst millions of dollars, Pussycat — millions,” she made me feel as if I was the only pussycat in her life. I can still hear her voice with its italicized inflections and underlined emphases, which sounded just like the letters she dashed off daily on Cosmopolitan International letterhead in place of the ephemeral e-mails she never sent.

I was the publicist for Helen Gurley Brown’s book “I’m Wild Again: Snippets From My Life and a Few Brazen Thoughts,” which was published in 2000, a few years after she and her Ferragamo heels stepped down as editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Hearst hadn’t completely let her go. (Or was it the other way around?) It made her the face of Cosmopolitan’s international editions to enlighten orgasmically impoverished women across the globe. She began foreign editions of the magazine in places like Serbia, Uganda and Vietnam. As she said in one of her many mash notes to me, “Off to Korea tomorrow to start Cosmo there — why not?”

At 78, she was even more famous for her obsession with youth and maintaining a perfectly flat tummy than for helping women “have it all” — the career, the man and orgasmic Nirvana. After she picked at her salad with her hands, we talked about the publicity campaign for the Post-it-stuffed book that lay on the table, and the words of wisdom she might impart about aging.

“Pussycat, when people ask me what I like about aging, I say ‘Nothing! There ain’t nothing good about it!’ ”

Work was the only answer for her, a career girl to the end.

“People have told me to get a house in the Hamptons, take a vacation, but it’s too late. I like working too much. To stop working would be to die!”

Googoo was thoroughly modern, but not contemporary when it came to e-mail. Letters — typed or handwritten — were her preferred way of communicating. I used to salivate when my assistant placed a Cosmopolitan International letter on my desk. I’d drop any poorly worded e-mail to savor one of her letters.

“Isn’t that wild … we were both in London about the same week.”

“Thanks for calling in from Out There… I’m fascinated with your professional chores and want you to tell me some time how you go about teaching what you do … I think it’s in the genes.”

“The birthday flowers are simply lovely … big white lilies, lush red tulips — some of them not yet open so they can go on being frisky and pleasing for lots of days to come.”

Imagine a two-page review in the New York Times… wow, wow, WOW! I miss you but no way you aren’t still in my life.”

Along with “love,” she’d often sign off, “bestest,” or “bestest always.”

Her style of communicating oozed goo, so when I stumbled on the Gurley in her name and “Googoo” came out instead, the moniker stuck. A fan of made-up words and adjectives, she didn’t seem to mind the name. I hijacked her style, “Googoo-ese,” when writing to friends in the know. I even sent her a thank-you note in Googoo-ese, which she loved.

Occasionally, we met in her office on the ground floor of the then-towerless Hearst Building. I drank in every tiny little detail of her office, which was wrapped in pink silk walls: the leopard-print rug, a floral chintz sofa, some throw pillows with bumper-sticker advice in needlepoint (“Women are like wine. They get better with age”; “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.”) and an olive green typewriter.

During those “Wild Again” days Googoo and I got intimate — not frisky, just close. One day began with an early morning drive to a breakfast event as I sat next to her while she removed her curlers, which she placed in her quilted Chanel purse. One curler had left a hole in the back of her wispy hair.

“Googoo, you missed a spot back there.” She slowly turned and offered me her brush with a reptilian gaze. I stared at the brush and then her.

“Pussycat, do you mind?” I covered the hole.

The day ended 14 hours later at an Upper East Side book party. Her follow-up note thanking me for the photo of us at the party recapped the day.

“That was a busy day that day but I think you held up super well. Maybe I will start drinking gimlets … is that a gimlet?”

No one seemed to care that Googoo was “wild again.” The book didn’t sell. I moved on to other books and other jobs and Googoo remained at Hearst, but we kept in touch. I lived a block from the apartment that she shared with her husband, David, and she gave me a ride to work in her Hearst Mercedes when the subway was shut down during those post-9/11 anthrax scares.

She sent a thank-you note for my thank-you note:

You can hit us for a ride any time … keeps me from being bored beyond reason … plus you are spiffy-looking so it’s nice to have people see you in the car. Quite seriously, you can do this anytime. … This is a bona fide offer… Nice to have you in our life … We’ll look forward to the next “hitch-hike.”

I never hitched another ride. When David died two years ago, I sent her a condolence letter — sincere — but written in Googoo-ese.

I was disappointed when I received her note thanking me for my letter. It was handwritten, but the message was generic, devoid of her signature underlines and exclamation points. It did move me to make what would be our last lunch date. Despite the rumor that her mind was slipping, she kept going to her office in the Hearst Tower, now a gleaming new skyscraper. It was perhaps the most exclusive assisted living facility in Manhattan.

Tucked away in a corner on the 37th floor was the office I remembered from below — the chintz sofa, the needlepoint pillows, the typewriter, the leopard-print rug — reinstalled as if it were a period room in a museum. Only three pink walls remained. The fourth wall was a sheet of glass, exposing Googoo like a figurine in a dollhouse.

She sat waiting for me at her desk, wearing a pink sweater set and leopard-print Ferragamo pumps, a copy of her 10-year-old, Post-it-filled copy of “I’m Wild Again” sitting on the desk. I brought her a gift, a book of condolence letters written to Jacqueline Kennedy after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

“I thought you might appreciate this since you’re such a marvelous letter writer. You know, the art of letter writing is almost dead, now that everyone communicates by e-mail.”

“What’s e-mail?”

For the rest of our lunch date she moved in and out of the shadows of lucidity. Did she even know who I was? When it was time for me to leave, she opened her Chanel bag, pulled out a letter and asked me to write my name and number on it.

“Googoo, this is the condolence letter I sent you.”

“I know, Pussycat. And it’s such a beautiful letter. I keep it with me.”

Dear Helen:

My heart goes out to you for your deep loss … Some of my fondest memories of my career are working with you and publicizing “I’m Wild Again.” I miss the daily calls and your promise (when you couldn’t talk) to call me back in “two and one-half minutes.” You always kept your word.

Kiss, kiss, Jamie

Jamie Brickhouse is at work on a memoir and recently founded RedBrick Agency, a speakers’ bureau.

I ran into Prof Lim Chong Yah…

… today….

I was about to get into a lift to go to the Novena Square carpark and he was coming out.

He was carrying a Fairprice plastic bag which suggested he must have gone to shop at Square 2 (where there’s a Fairprice outlet) but parked somewhere else… perhaps like me, he is a frequent visitor to this Golden Triangle of Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Novena Square and Square 2.

No matter.

I greeted him. He looked very pleased and we shook hands. He asked for my name.

I told him gladly but it didn’t register so I said I last met him many, many years ago in Kuala Lumpur when he was with University of Malaya.

He remarked on my good memory. I said no, it’s just that I follow the news and could recognise him from the newspapers and TV appearances over the years.

I didn’t dare refer to his Shock Therapy to raise the wages of the lower paid in Singapore as our short encounter is no place for me to knock what he has suggested nor would there be time for him to defend his “solution”, assuming he was so inclined.

We said good bye; he went on his way and me into the lift.

We managed that two-minute exchange because there was no one inside the lift and none were behind me waiting to get in!

After I left him, I couldn’t help thinking how tiny and bent he had become. I somehow felt I towered over him, which probably wasn’t true, as I was wearing flatties today, due to the rain, not my normal stilts. :roll:

After I left him I couldn’t stop those terrible lines from Yeats from coming unbidden to mind! (I’ve bold the crucial words!)

THAT is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Destination Disappointment

Sometimes, it’s best not to try to go down the road that we missed on the first try. No, this isn’t something philosphical but factual, as was my experience recently.

In September last year, when I was in Kual Lumpur, staying as usual with TES, we went searching for a restaurant that she was taken to a couple of times and she wanted me to try its food.

From her description — a purpose built kampung house and authentic Malay food — I conjured up visions of similar places I had visited in KL in another life-time when I was living in that city.

Then came the disappointment and the frustration. Tried as we might that Friday in Sep 2010, we couldn’t find the place. TES drove up and down the highways and byways where she vaguely remembered the place was located. She even had a landmark to help locate the place.

“There’s a huge used car lot surrounding the restaurant,” TES said, more and more stressed with her inability to pinpoint the place. She tried calling the friends who had taken her previously for help but as luck would have it, one didn;t respond; the other was in a meeting.

By then, we were really hungry as it was way past lunch time and if we carried on like that, we won’t have space for the dinner scheduled that evening.

So we gave up and went to a tried and trusted place, where the food was good but predictable because we had been there be4, again, again and again.

An earlier visit to KL this year was too packed for any attempt to try to eat at the “authentic kampung house”.

The opportunity arose however during my latest visit last month. Because a nice time slot had opened up…

Normally, each time I go to KL, we would invariably eat vegetarian once, in deference to SF’s vow to stay vegetarian in return for the health of her oldest sister — a vow made more than a decade ago.

And in recent visits, that veggie meal was taken at Chef Low’s.

Not on my last visit however. SF couldn’t join us because she had to give extra lessons to her ballet students ahead of their exams.

So yours truly got adventurous and asked TES to make sure that we ate at the place we couldn’t find. She made sure by having her Girl Friday call the restaurant in advance and, armed with a nice google map showing how to get from Damansara Plaza to Puteri, we set off, full of high anticipation and gastric juices churning.

Despite the map and verbal instructions from Girl Friday who came along, we almost missed the turning — again!

So it was like Columbus finding Newfoundland when we finally arrived at Puteri atop a hill and surrounded by dozens upon dozens of used cars!

Though I had expected the pre-owned car scenario, I hadn’t quite expected that many vehicles. The restaurant itself tho a truly built-to-order kampung house looked exactly like the run-of-the-mill kampung house, nothing architecturally worth the effort.

So, the first impression wasn’t good. The restaurant itself was again ordinary. I had expected a la carte but found it was buffet, which was a plus for me initially, because I like buffets as they take the hassle out of ordering or worse, wrong ordering when at a restaurant I knew nothing about.

But what proved truly off-putting was the presence of a pesky fly or two or three! Which affected me more than my two lunch companions, probably because being Malaysians they have a healthier attititude to nature’s critters.

So tho the buffet spread was generous as were the portions per dish, I really didn’t feel like having anything as my eyes saw the flies flit all over and occasionally even sat nonchantly on some morsel of food here and a utensil there, probably rubbing their hairy legs!

Yet eat there I must since I daren’t ask for a change of venue, after all the trouble hostess mine had gone to to fulfill my desire to find the “lost” restaurant.

Some dishes I don’t eat anyway, even if there had been no flies –siput sedut (a kind of snail), grilled beef in a coconut chilli paid sauce, and a duck dish.

I would love to have had the fried chicken and fish — which looked enticing — but no dice because they were cold and fly-acquainted. Ditto the dessert of kueh kueh etc

I had some fish ball soup and Johor laksa — because both had temperature hot soup or gravy, though for my good health I wished both had been boiling hot, not tepid. For dessert, I settled for pengat pisang which alas having had the durian pengat at our Merchant Court hotel’s splendid nyonya spread, spoilt me for anything less rich!

So in all a truly unsatisfactory lunch. So thank goodness for our dinner that nite followed by Rokaro. :-D

The moral of this episode: when you first don’t find it, just move on.. wipe it from your memory. Because the destination won’t be worth the trouble of a 2nd attempt!

Incidentally, in fairness to Puteri where it didn’t meet my expectations in terms of food and ambience, its accommodating service was remarkable.

My lunch companions went for cold drinks with lots of ice. For me, however, even in the best of places, I opt for warm water or other drinks– can chill but no ice. At Puteri, its ubiquitous flies made me trebly wary and I asked, quite unreasonably for a hot fruit juice! :oops:

But guess what? The restaurant obliged, as can be seen in the shockingly green drink on the extreme right in the pix below, which despite its appearance was delicious!

Slow coach over fast flying

When I arrived in Kuala Lumpur on late afternoon of Sep 22 after a 5 hr ride by First Coach from Singapore, I called home and was told by mum’s Picky Siti that a Big Name in business had sent me a box Girl Guide cookies.

So, naturally, I texted my thanks to Big Name in business to proffer my suitable thanks for remembering that I’m partial to Girl Guide cookies. That I was i KL etc and would savour them on my return home.

Big Name in business replied: “My pleasure. I m in KL too and at the airport lounge. Have a good flight back.”

Big Name in business had assumed I would fly back.

I wasn’t. In fact, I’ve already stopped flying in and out of KLIA for years, once I discovered First Coach which departs from Novena Square — a short hop and jump from where I live — and arrives at my destination in Bangsar, again a short hop and jump away from PJ Section 5 where I always stay.

The reason? Cost effectiveness.

My return tix to KL on First Coach was $57. It’s risen from $54 but still a lot less than what I would have to pay had I opted to fly, even by the cheapest budget airline and even if I opted for one that goes to Subang instead of KLIA. First Coach return tix is about the cost of a return taxi trip from Changi airport!

Sure it’s about 5 hours on the road, including 5 minutes per stopover on either side of the Second Link and another 20 minutes for a rest stop. Add the time I need to get between coach stations and my starting and ending destinations and it should make a grand 6-hour journey.

Would it be quicker by air?

Flying time is about 1 hour including check-in and immigration clearance. Then add the minimum of 1.5 hours on the road to get from and to airports in Singapore and KL. Add also the 45 minutes to 1 hour one allows one self for the check in at the airport, cos if one arrives too late one may not be allowed to board –(that’s why even Big Name in business was waiting at the airport lounge!)

So the total journey by air including ground transport is 3.5 hours. A grand saving of 2.5 hours. And meaningful enough for many, especially those who besides time-savings want to be able to say they flew rather than go for the obviously cheaper (for which read less classy :lol: ) option of going by road.

I’ve no hang ups myself and not a lot of time constraints, in most instances. Going to KL and back by air isn’t so much faster that I would pay a premium for reducing the travel time. Especially when the premium could add up to the cost of at least two trips by First Coach!