Monday, July 18, 2016

the thrill of doing things impromptu

Within 30 days, I made 2 decisions impromptu. Flew to Penang to see my brother from another mother, Acap, and I tagged along with Murni to Kelantan for food hunt. I guess the past 30 days had been all about reminiscing my good old undergrad days.

Having my pisang brother by my side, I didn't expect fancy things. Roaming aimlessly while listening to metal and a few ridiculous (i.e Ayda Jebat) songs on his radio, trying on a pair of RM3000-worth earphones and experience a few seconds of eargasm, eating food similar to those we had during those days, spending hours at a guitar shop, drooling over guitars priced RM10000 and above - those were enough to put a smile on my face.

And more of reminiscing my undergrad days - I tagged along with Murni to Kelantan and we hunted for good food for a couple of days. While we're at that, I got to meet a few former colleagues, lecturers, and a staff nurse who used to nag at me affectionately all the time. These people - they had never given up on me although I screwed up again and again.

Murni, me, Yana, and Ajih 

Met Helmy, Prof Azizah, Dr Sarliza, and Che Mi

We enjoyed our super short trip to Kelantan a lot despite having to end it with a pretty severe episode of food poisoning. So severe I almost fell asleep in a toilet cubicle!

Although my former matrics-mate, Nik Ahmad Fadhil, and I intended to meet up in Kelantan, he coincidentally flew here for a marathon a day before my trip, so we hung out that night instead.


Who would've thought that Nik, the very person who was pretty reserved and passive five years ago, would chit chat over coffee till midnight passed? He wasn't even a coffee-person back then! I guess people change with time. We eventually learn to enjoy the ups and downs of life and explore new things, because hey! Life is short.

As I look back at these moments, I can't help but to think how good being free feels like. I lost my freedom for three years. Not gonna lose it ever again. I now know well enough - if a person truly loves you, he won't let you feel caged and trapped.

Maybe I am a true free spirit. As free as a bird.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

the forgotten joy

As expected, being an officer at the Oral Maxillofacial Surgery dept of Hospital Tuanku Jaafar Seremban isn't easy. I have a lot of unlearning and relearning to do. I guess serving at a general dental clinic for almost two years desensitised me to certain things - things I shouldn't have missed in the first place. There, quantity is our pressure point, rather than quality; but at my current workplace, it's the other way round.

Being just another human, I'd reach my limit now and then - stress-wise. I learned from experience that the first step is to acknowledge my stress and understand that at times, to withdraw myself from the stressor is wiser rather than just clinging on. Of course, I learn from my mistakes, but I also know that pushing forward non-stop would only mean putting myself at breaking point - which would be a grave mistake.

Thanks to my colleague who came over and officiated my humongous mixer, once again, I tasted the joy of cooking - or in this case, in the form of baking. I took a day of leave just to bake cupcakes. Whenever I get extremely stressed, my escapism would be food. A little stress would require just enjoying good coffee. Extreme stress would require cooking food instead. I often try my hands on elaborate recipes under such circumstance.

I remember feeling so lonely and stressed when my parents were away for two years and there I was, during eid, recalling recipes my late aunt left me. And I cooked Johorean laksa. We, Malaysians, have so many varieties of laksa. I have cooked almost all of them, except for Sarawakian Laksa. And hands down, Johorean laksa is the toughest one to cook if you're a rigid person like me and happen to be born into a large Johorean family. Preparation alone consumed an hour while cooking it to perfection took me three hours in total.

Once, I had a bad fight, so I started searching on the net and there I was. I made nasi kerabu with ayam percik, ikan kembung celup tepung, kerabu, sambal budu, and sambal kelapa.

So a few days ago, I gathered enough courage to try baking hazelnut sponge cupcake with custard topping, chocolate ganache, and almond croqan. I had this mindset of  'I can't bake' because my mother doesn't bake much because she's not good at it. She's amazing when it comes to Asian cuisine, no kidding, though. I baked once during highschool, and what supposed to be a butter cake turned out like a brick of vanilla-flavoured shortcake. This time, it turned out fine! My sponge cake was so fluffy and not too sweet, even my parents ate them happily. Still, I guess I screwed up on the chocolate ganache. Should've cut on its sugar because that, was on the sweeter side.

"Awak tak nak try buat marble cake ke, Ira? Umi suka marble cake", my mother said to me. 24 hours later...
Right after tarawih, a freshly-baked marble cake was ready for her. She ate a lot of it, smiling all the way. 

"So, Umi, I can bake, can't I?"

"Boleh sangat. Haha, senang aku tak payah order kuih raya dah", she answered.

This Ramadhan, apart from my usual missions, I have a new one - which is to bake one type of eid cookies each weekend. My sister, Wani, requested for corn flake cookies. There's a story behind it:

During our time in Subang, we had a neighbour who we fondly call Aunty Dillah. She used to bake corn flake cookies and the best curry puff (with home-made puff pastry) I have ever tasted till this very second. I used to go to her house a lot, playing with her cat, reading her son's comic books, and growing fatter eating things she cooked and baked. If there's any neighbour I would remember till I die, it'd be her. Since my parents were always busy working, she sort of became my second mum. To whom I told whatever that had happened at home and at school. 

So this afternoon, I read through about 12 recipes of corn flake cookies I found online (may God bless all these generous people for sharing their knowledge at zero cost). If you're used to cooking, you'd acquire another skill which is you can pretty much guess the taste of food from their recipes. So of all 12, one caught my eyes, although it didn't convince me a hundred percent. I did a little tweaking with it here and there and...


Flour explosion - first time using a paddle attachment


And my mother's verdict on it:

I'm a happy daughter.

.............................................................................................................

Edited on 14th June 2016 (as requested by Farah):

Here's the recipe:

Crunchy Corn Flake Cookies (Tweaked)
Originally by: Azie Kitchen (I tweaked here and there and omitted a few ingredients here)

Ingredients:
250g unsalter butter (I increased it to 270-280g)
180g castor sugar (You may adjust this during the creaming process to suit your taste)
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 egg yolks
180g Kellogs Cornflakes - crushed lightly

Ingredients to be sieved:
210g corn flour (I reduced this to 190g)
150g general purpose wheat flour (I reduced this to 130g)
1/2 tsp baking powder

Methods:
1. Cream butter and castor sugar well
2. Chuck in egg yolks and vanilla essence and continue creaming for awhile just to mix them well
3. Chuck in sieved ingredients and fold it over with the mixture above
4. Chuck in lightly crushed cornflakes and fold it along with the mixture
5. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius
6. Bake the cookies on a baking pan lined with baking paper for 20-25 minutes till they are light brown in colour
7. Once freshly-baked, they'd feel quite soft. So let them cool down. They'd crisp up in about 10minutes



Tips:
1. During step 3 and 4, do not overwork your dough. Fold it over just for the mixture to blend well. The more you work on the dough, the denser and harder your cookies will be which we do not want
2. Unsalted butter is ideal for this recipe, but you may use salted butter too, but that'd result in having to add more castor sugar to achieve ideal sweetness
3. To cream butter and sugar means mixing them both with a mixer until mixture fluffs up, you don't really feel those sugar grains, and the colour of the butter becomes pale yellow
4. If you don't have a baking paper, you may opt for a greased pan. Just thinly grease your pan with butter
5. Egg yolk is the yellow part of the egg

Sunday, June 5, 2016

first cafe latte with cappuccino foam (VCR Coffee Bukit Bintang)

Yet another episode of coffee hunt came to pass.

So a barista suggested for me to visit VCR Cafe (located on Jalan Galloway, Bukit Bintang) if I'd like to experience coffee made by the very barista who holds the title of Malaysian Best Barista 2016.

Typical of me. After a tiring day, a cup of coffee and a dose of Murniyati would usually make my day. Right after I had discharged all my warded patients, I sped off to KL, kidnapped Murni, and brought her to the cafe.

First impression was - "Damn, such a small cafe. Where am I supposed to sit?". Little did I know that it is double-storied.

As I entered the cafe, I was greeted warmly by its barista. Have no idea what's his name though.

"I came all the way from Seremban, please tell me that your cappuccino is made with double shot espresso". Yeah, I am blunt like that, most of the time; but according to him, theirs is made using single shots instead since that's how their machine is calibrated for. "But I can prepare you cafe latte with cappuccino foam instead if you want that kind of topping. It's good, trust me". I took his words and didn't regret it at all. And I had a swan drawn into my froth! Its staff were friendly - which is surprising considering negative feedbacks on Foursquare regarding that; but then, hey, I didn't go there during peak hour.

This place is the perfect one to spend a quiet morning/night, enjoying your coffee. What more if you're a sucker for vintage stuff. Every single deco in this cafe screams vintage. Very cozy.

Murni had squash toast with sausage while mine was smoked duck quiche. If there's one word that I can use to describe the cafe on the whole, it'd be 'fresh'. My salad was lightly dressed and along with bits of pomegranate, it balanced out the saltiness of the quiche. Bear in mind though, that quiche there didn't have the classic tart shell. Its crust had a bread-ish texture. Their sausage isn't the typical factory-made sausage. Expect a huge arse homemade-looking sausage which was super delish! I will order that next time.

Before going back, I ordered yet another cup of coffee. Long black this time. I'm a pretty old school person. I prefer my coffee bitter, but I guess they're into third wave coffee - which means they serve sour long blacks. Not much of a fan of that, though.

Would return, definitely. For another cup of cafe latte and sausages!

...................................

This is Murni, my ex-roommate during matriculation days. A very easy-going and fun lady to spend my day with. I remember the first thing that I noticed about her on day one at the college - hazel eyes. Frankly, I have never met any Malay with a pair of beautifully hazel-coloured iris like hers. And she nagged a lot during that time too. That used to annoy me, but I guess I learnt to embrace that part of her. I would feel awkward if she suddenly becomes quiet instead. She stands up for you (yes, do not underestimate her petite physique).

The best part of her is she's a no-nonsense, mature lady and enjoys food as much as I do, while most of the time, I am quite an airhead (the serious me would show herself only in clinic). Our once weekly cheat day would comprise of one or two slices of dessert (we'd usually ask the waiter, "What's your best dessert here?"), two main courses (at different places), and we'd usually end our day at a quiet cafe (I am so grateful that she tolerates this part of me despite not being a caffeinated-beverage-consumer herself).

................................................

By the way, eh heyyy! My childhood friend, Azizi, has gotten married to the love of his life, Nad. Congratulations. lovebirds. Have a blessed marriage!

Reuniting with Subang-mates in Malacca

Sunday, May 22, 2016

of good cappuccino (Engineers Coffee Bar Putra Nilai)

I have been on calory restriction for about eight months now, but once in awhile, when I have extra free time, I'd make a detour here and there, make space for something out of my daily healthy menu. Therefore, I usually make a mental note whenever I find a good place to eat - so at least my calory and money expenditures are well justified.

This time, I shall leave a review on a cafe which had been around for a year or so, but it's only recently that I started becoming a regular customer there. Reason? Good cappuccino. Good service. Good food. 

Cafe: Engineers Coffee Bar Putra Nilai
Operating Hours: Daily, 3.00PM - 11.30PM (closed on Mondays)


So I guess my coffee addiction is back, thanks to that my recent vacation. So there I was, roaming around, exhausted mentally and physically, ransacking my brain for a cafe with a visible espresso machine. Do note that I live in Nilai - not exactly a place you can bump into one easily. This place popped up in my mind. "They'd better have a good cup of cappuccino", I said to myself.

Walked in, surprised to see its price - which is cheaper than most cafes in Kuala Lumpur. RM9 for a cup of cappuccino. "Darn, cheap coffee. Might be a bad coffee too", pardon my prejudice for the one I received proved me wrong. In fact, it was so good (bonus point - cappuccino here is made with double shot espresso. Triple shot espresso is upon request), I finished it within 2km of drive. I returned the very next day for another dose. And the day after. It came to the point of opening the door to its barista smiling and asked, "Sugarless cappuccino, right?". Trust me. I know my coffee. I have been a coffee drinker since I was four years old and hooked on it ever since, thanks to my late grandpa. 



Today my family and I had our lunch there. They had pastas while I had roast beef sandwich. The portion of my sandwich was humongous. Two sandwiches (yep, two of the one in the picture above) packed with sliced roast beef and cheddar cheese along with about a cup of lightly-spiced french fries presented in rustic style. I'd let those basic store-bought white bread slices slide since I had a lot else on the plate! And only RM8 for all of that? "Are they making any profit out of this? It's too cheap tapi sedap", I asked my father.

RM10 per plate of pasta, which is a huge cut down compared to previously. Expectation wasn't high. I expected much smaller portion, but nope. I think they retained about 80% of the original portion and they still tasted as good as they were before. I highly recommend their lemak cili padi and carbonara pastas. 

I had been eyeing their cylindrical-shaped cheesecakes. Guilty as charged, I have a sweet tooth. Since I had people to share it with today, I ordered for Oreo cheesecake (the above is blueberry cheesecake though). Its base was somewhat thicker than normal cheesecakes and somewhat hard, but I gave it some time and once it had softened, it tasted quite nice. Not the best cheesecake I have had, but decent enough.

If you'd like to have your food packed, they have eco-friendly paper boxes too. 

I will be honest. I lived in Subang for more than two decades. I visited so many cafes in Malaysia already. This one is worth going to especially if you expect a place with quiet and cozy ambience. It certainly isn't one of those overpriced and overrated hipster cafes with Instagrammable but tasteless food.

In case you're wondering if I'm being paid to write this entry - nope. It's a good cafe. Period.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

mental reboot

I am currently under acute post-vacation spell, so severe to the point of randomly driving around, despite feeling exhausted that I am unable to converse properly, just for a cup of cappuccino - which I, thank God, found at Engineers Coffee Bar Putra Nilai.

If there's one thing in Melbourne that I sorely miss, that's its abundant cafes with good coffee! I wouldn't call myself a caffeine addict. I'm more of a coffee junkie. Unlike most people, coffee does not keep me awake. Its scent calms me down and when I have difficulty in falling asleep, a good cup of long black coffee usually would do the trick. I remember my former colleague pointing it out a few months ago. "Z, is it just me or do you just fall asleep right after you get your cup of coffee every single day?", she said.

The very first day in Melbourne, I went straight to Hudsons Cafe and got myself a cup of cappuccino. It was so good that I made a promise to myself to get two doses of coffee daily during my stay in Australia. I went to more than fifteen cafes within eight days! Since I had visited the country a few times before, seeing kangaroos and koalas wasn't included in my itinerary.



I spent most of my time strolling along the streets of Melbourne. I would take trams only when I got too exhausted. Enjoyed the city life from early in the morning till night which of course did not involve clubs and that sort. After all, I am no longer that person who enjoys being in crowded places.


I only went out of town for a couple of days for penguins and chocolate - the latter had me caught in a temporary trance and I ended up spending hundreds of dollars on that - not for myself, though. For my staff and colleagues.

This might sound funny, but however developed and civilised that country seemed, I still longed for my country while I was there. I'm not sure why. I have a pretty vague idea - perhaps the warmth we, Malaysians, have. Culturally and weather-wise. It's just that the current unimpressive economical and political situations along with globalisation are slowly making us forget our roots and values. I haven't given up on Malaysia. I might not be able to change the world, but at least I can still serve the society in manners I deem appropriate and best within my limited capability... and just hope for the best that at least a few people would be reminded of kindness and sincerity from me just as I do from those who do so. The world might feel crueler and more merciless day by day, but we don't have to join the pack... or so I think...

Thursday, May 5, 2016

eat to live


There aren't many people that I am willing to travel hundreds of kilometers for. Fiza is undoubtedly one of the few people I cherish so much. Throughout my six months of struggling to escape major depressive disorder (MDD) about six years ago, this amazing person stayed by my side. I can't recall most of the moments during that period except for four of them:

1. The ceiling of my hostel room
2. My psychiatrist's face
3. My mother's facial expression as she welcomed me home three months after I was diagnosed with MDD
4. The food Fiza bought me thrice daily although I could barely eat a spoonful of them. Most of the time, they'd go wasted, but she still constantly bought food for me every single day without failing and just held my hands as I said to her, tearfully, "Fiza, I am hungry. I am so hungry, but I can't eat this without vomiting. I haven't eaten for days...". At times, she'd cry along with me

Even as I type this entry, I still drop thankful tears. Thankful to Allah for lending me such a caring and loving person. The day I received a text from her informing me about her father being critically ill, I rushed to Johor Bahru (JB) to visit them. The day I broke off my engagement, she flew all the way from JB and kept me company for three days. I fell asleep while holding her hands. Along with my family's support, I heard myself saying, "You are lucky to have all these people. You'll be alright".

Despite being 300km+ away from her, she's still the closest friend I have. Even in silence, we'd read each other's thoughts. A fortnight ago, when she told me that she's getting engaged, my heart skipped a beat. I know how well Fiza takes care of those precious to her and that her happiness means the world to me. I sent prayers to God, hoping that this man is a truly good person. That this man will take care of her as well as she takes care of all of us. That this man will be a loyal partner.

Last Sunday, when I saw that nervous but blissful smile on her face, I couldn't help but to to have tears welling up. After all struggles she had gone through, she deserves a good man by her side till afterlife. May God take care of her. May this lead to a blissful marriage, inshaaAllah...

Well, on a different note, I am currently struggling to keep my weight from dropping drastically. Work has been pretty stressful. Three weeks in a row being in-charge of operation theater, and I am just a junior permanent officer there. Barely one and a half month had passed, and I lost 2.5kg already. I envy stress-eaters. At least they can eat when they're stressed. My body works in the exact opposite way. Despite reaching my minimum calory requirement, perhaps due to the increase in physical tasks, my weight is still dropping fast. I eat thrice daily, but most of the time, I'd push myself to my limits, and force myself to eat only when my hands start to tremble from low blood sugar. I have to learn fast. At my current pace, I don't think I am learning fast enough. Accio strength!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

stabilised

Thanks to a jackass for invading my personal space for real plus my already tough new workplace, my stress level spiked sky high that finally last Friday my focus was totally out. I couldn't even recall which ward my patients were in. I voiced my troubles to my boss. She smiled at me warmly and said that I should address that.

So after almost a year not donating my blood, that very evening, I randomly...


And I urge you to do the same. Blood donation can be done every three months. Here are a few criteria to fulfill before considering to become a blood donor:

- Aged between 18 and 60 years old (for those less than 18, written consent from parents or legal guardian is required)
- Body weight of at least 45 kg.
- In good physical and mental health with no chronic medical illness.
- Not on long term medications and has not been intoxicated by alcohol within 24 hours prior to donation.
- Should not be fasting and have had enough sleep (more than 5 hours) the night before donating.
- Has been staying in Malaysia for at least 1 year (for non-citizen).

So many friends got married this particular month. May all of you be blessed with a happy marriage!
 Ain and Nazrul (also a mini reunion for former matrics and uni mates!)

Nad and Daniel

Hazimah and Mujib (thanks Nep for allowing me to drag you along)

Darn I really need to pay Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman a visit and buy a few pairs of baju kurung since my old ones are all over-sized already. Hundreds of ringgit to be spent. 

Speaking of which, my baby, Alexander Jr, finally had gotten its brand new under tray cover. See, when it comes to clothes, I am pretty calculative but if it's something to do with my car, anything that it takes! Just take my money as long as Alexander Jr is A-okay. At times I wonder if I am actually a man trapped in a woman's body.



I hit yet another milestone this week. The last time I had ever took blood sample before this was uh... four years ago, maybe? During our emergency posting at USM. My super-kind and supportive colleague, Gerald, offered himself for me to set intravenous line and take venous blood sample. Nazirul, the most senior officer among us offered himself too, but I failed. I was so frustrated, my appetite was gone during lunch break. As previously mentioned, my mind wasn't in its optimum state on Friday, but I guess Gerald is my lucky charm, because I succeeded at both under his guidance, on his limbs haha! Thanks, mate, really, thanks. 

No matter how tough my workplace is, as long as I know that I have a strong support system, I guess I can cope with everything, inshaaAllah. Optimism!