Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Durians and Dumplings.

One of the best things I love about eating durians is the sweet lingering smell it leaves your finger with. It's so fragrant that I sometimes feel like licking the thumb again to see if I can still taste the sweet taste of durian from the night's before devouring of delicious durians. Seriously, I tell you, it can be a life saver at times - when there's a need of a serious wake-up call in the early hours of Mathematics or History class at school. A whiff of the strong smell from tmy fingertips (even if I accidentally brushed my face with it) is all it takes to get me awake, albeit with the sudden hunger pangs and craving for those deadly fruits in class. Amazingly though, there are still people who recognizes durians as the fowl-smelling fruit that only cause nauseousness! Really, I don't know what the fuss is all about to a certain few who squirms in uneasiness at the mere thought of the yellow flesh found under the thorny, green exterior of the fruit. I can quaintly recall someone old and wise (in the knowleldge of durian) saying that the art of eating durian requires passion and I'm beginning to think it might be true after all.

Want one?

I mean, the "stench" is one thing (that's fine by me!) but being afraid of the consequences of indulging in such pleasures of life (almost sinful!) served by Mother Nature herself is another thing that's almost intolerable by me in my little black book of Rules of Eating Durians. Oh, I've heard people saying that they're afraid to indulge because they're afraid of getting fat at the end of the day and I'll just roll my eyes in disapproval. Personally, I think it's bullcrap. I do admit, that consuming such delicacies in large quanitities might just result in undesirable body proportions but judging by the intake of a durian lover, I don't think it can hardly bring any affect to the average consumer, what else, be detrimental to your health. Let's be honest, when it comes to durians, either you love it or hate it. Period. No buts or conditions in between. Which is why I shot Grace a look of contempt when she hesitantly (and miserably) picked up the poor fruit with her finger tips, complaining about not wanting to get her fingers dirty and about her weight while trying her best to oblige mum. As I said, love it or hate it, it still requires passion to enjoy such sinful saccharine substance!

Hey, I'm all for the smell it leaves my fingertips in for tomorrow morning's class!

Coinciding with the durian season (anniversary of the blog?), the bak chang (glutinous rice dumpling) festival is here. Well, not exactly the festival by itself.
More like the Dragon Boat Festival celebrated with the traditional bak chang - steamed glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves along with ingredients like duck eggs' yolk, assorted beans and nuts and pork. Growing up, I've seen both my grandmothers making bak changs when the time arrives despite the fact that one of them is a Catholic who makes them for pleasure while the other makes them for deity worships and such. Well, that was before amah moved from her old pre-war houses to the current 2 bedroom economical flat where space constrains and old age seems to be catching up real quick with her. Used to love the smell of bak changs steaming greeting my nostrils when I was younger and when amah made them in huge amounts for eating and praying. Poh poh on the other hand, paid more attention to kee changs (another type of chang) - yellow colored glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves too minus the fillings and only eaten when dipped in homemade black syrup. Poh poh does make bak changs also but not as many as amah's.

Plenty of 'em!

Well, one thing that's peculiar about me which shows when it comes to bak changs is that I only eat the ones that are made especially for me. I'm sure I have other peculiar habits but let's save those for another day. As written in my profile, I don't take greens, any forms of greens, beans included and considering that bak changs come with a lot o
f beans, I've almost taken an oathe to swear off bak changs completely in my consumption list when I was a kid. Still not wanting to part with the texture of glutinous rice, I suggested that amah only inserted pork in the bak changs, one day while I was squatting by her side watching her insert the fillings and later wrapping the bak changs with the bamboo leaves and securing them with strings (aquired from dried fibre of banana shoots) with such ease and speed before hanging them in bunches over a long horizontal stick to be steamed. She took my suggestion and made 10 bak changs for me the following year. 10 was a large amount then, seeing that I could only manage at least one at a given time since glutinous rice can be rather filling.

Bundled in a bunch!

Ever since then, I'll get 10 bak changs made especially for me, only filled with pork, from amah. Sometimes, even with extra pork.

At least that was the way it was before she was incapable of anything more than making back and forth trips from the living room to the kitchen. It's been so long since. Now, poh poh has taken the honours of making those annual 10 pork-only bak changs for me. In a way, I do feel special, considering that poh poh only cutom makes those changs for me out of the 14 grandhcildren she has. Amah was different as Grace and I were her only paternal grandchildren then (before Edmund showed up) and Grace was a non-fussy eater. Poh poh even has ming tied in different coloured strings and hung in a different place of the kitchen, afraid that someone else might accidentally take mine. Pity the person who has to eat a pork-only chang, that's for one, but me getting angry that my precious chang was stolen, now that's another thing! I guess I was a spoilt brat in this matter, aren't I? Still, after one incident of stolen chang (I think there were tears involved!), poh poh was forever careful with mine ever since. But things have definitely changed for the better. I do occasionally take the "real" bak changs, only picking up the pork and passing the other filling to someone else and now it takes at least more than a good 3 bak changs to get me full.

Which pretty much explains my size if you put the durians and the dumplings together.

I can already see the needle in the weighing machine tilting more to the right now.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Superb Sweet Seventeen.

Ever since Queensbay Mall opened in Penang, the already mall-crowded island, back in December, I've been dying to try out the latest Thank God It's Friday (T.G.I.F) outlet that was opened along with the mall, located at the right wing entrance of the mall. Of course, the red-bricked wall and the red and white awnings (signature colors of T.G.I.F), plus the huge sign which decorated the exterior of the restaurant sparked my interest on my first visit to the mall. It even got Grace and I occasionally ooh-ing and aah-ing at the mere mention of T.G.I.F. Plenty of times we've tried entering the restaurant but it was usually fully occupied or that we were broke after a day long of tiring shopping. That usually leaves us relentlessly walking away to look for McD instead, after flipping through the menu depicting scrumptious food on the stand at the restaurant entrance.

Considering that it's been so long since I wanted to try T.G.I.F and the simple fact that it has been a while since the last time the family had a fancy dine at a fancy restaurant, I jumped at the opportunity and made reservations for eight all by myself, which included me looking for a number online and in the telephone directories (a.k.a Yellow Pages) which proved futile when I had to call the mall up and asked for a number. It's 04-6413363, by the way. Trust me, you'll need it, seeing the fact that one can barely get a seat on weekends without prior reservations. After all, it was my birthday on Monday (11/6) and being in this family, your birthday treat, your choice - a tradition of some sort. Nothing to extravagant though. For me, it's usually restaurant visits like this. Hey, birthdays and Christmas seem to be the only logical reasons for mom and dad to fork out extra cash from their daily budget.

I decided I have to try T.G.I.F out no matter what. To be honest, I was more eager to check the condition out for myself rather than believing in what others say cause I've read a few unfavorable critiques towards the restaurant in various blogs where I'd go, it couldn't be that bad! Oh, I was quite unsure myself when I suggested the place but upon entering and checking the menu out, it was everything I imagined it to be - even more. The setting was cozy, warm, inviting and delightful, not to mention with the little vintage look thrown in, like the big black and white picture of Elvis Presley and a very old Superman comic cover hung over the walls while figurines of Batman and some other old thingamajigs decorated the shelves. The music was soothing, which suited the setting and the lighting were a soft glow, inviting peers from outsiders through the glass windows. Typically western, I thought to myself. And then I spotted the huge KITCHEN sign lighted in bulbs when being led to our seats, giving the entire 60's look a complete touch, making me hum the tune of Christina Aguilera's Candyman to myself.

Flipping through the menu was already tempting enough to get me drooling while the waiter introduced his humble self to dad, sitting at the opposite end of the table. Everything looked so delicious and it was hard for a fickle minded person like me who, if it was possible, to try everything on the menu (greedy, I know!). We waited for ah jiu and jiu mu (notice the new title for ah jiu's wife) whom we invited earlier when making reservations while taking a relatively long time to make up our minds, flipping the menu over and over again, going through the description for multiple times. It was almost 9p.m. when ah jiu and jiu mu arrived and all the dishes were served. I ordered the Texas Ribs while Grace had Friday's Burger, Edmund with the Spaghetti from the Kiddies' Menu, dad with the Jack Daniel's Shrimp and Ribs, mom with Half Roast Chicken, aka with Chicken Fingers, ah jiu with a Whole Rib which looked beastly with the rib bones jutting out and jiu mu with Grilled Salmon.

To Grace's surprise, the portion served by T.G.I.F was way huger than she feared it might be. The picture above pretty much speaks for itself. That was even managed with the other side of the burger hidden in her palm! The food looked so fabulously delectable that it was a great feat for me to keep my saliva from escaping the corners of my mouth everytime I spoke. My hands were shaking, probably due to the hunger, (or should I say, desire to devour the food!) hence, the blurred photos and from the shaky hands and the over-pumped ISO, explaining the noise.My pictures don't do any justice to the real thing, really. Forgive me but food photography is undoubtedly an area which I'm weak at. Thankfully, given the size of the servings, no food was wasted at the end of the dinner - everyone took a fair bite out of Grace's burger to help the poor girl finish while jiu mu cleverly divided her salmon to everyone at the beginning of dinner. Speaking of the new member of the family, she surprisingly bought a cake for the occasion - a green jelly cake, that is, bringing memories of the past when I once had this cake. Truly and old time favorite cake of mine.

And who else is there better to celebrate your birthday with if not with the family? Or at least, that's what I think. Obviously not the gregarious sort who fancies night clubs and mindless drinking with friends. At least, not yet, I hope. Akak was there, so was the newlywed couple. Mom decided to give them a break with a hearty meal after all that wedding massacre that took place over the weekend, so mom invited them. I realize, there's still a lot more gaps to fill up (oh, the explanation I owe!) but at the moment, I'm putting this first as I've promised to the T.G.I.F crew there in the little note I've left them with. What I didn't mention was that the crew did an amazing job in throwing a little celebration for me when the cake was brought out - there were the songs and other paraphernalia - that made the whole day a memorable one. That definitely was the cherry on the icing for me. Just check it out in the video below. In short, the service was excellent, the food great and the ambiance lovely. Definitely defied the not-so-good feedback that I've read so far.

Now, doesn't that make you wanna have your birthday there? Another satisfied customer, I'd say!