Friday, 22 February 2008

Fifteenth Day of Chinese New Year - Chap Goh Mei

The fifteenth day of Chinese New Year is more popularly known in Malaysia as Chap Goh Mei. The celebrations of the fifteenth day is no less splendid; on the night we would make sweet glutinous rice balls (tang yuan) served in a ginger syrup soup as a symbol of unity (round) and the good things in life (sweetness). Chap Goh Mei is also the Chinese version of St. Valentine's day, with unmarried girls throwing mandarin oranges for the man of their dreams to pick up.

I worked on Chap Goh Mei, of course. This Chap Goh Mei turned out to be the most eventful one of my life so far. The pharmacy I worked at was robbed and I was held up by a man holding a sharp knife. Thankfully no one was hurt. I left the pharmacy feeling angry, angry that there are people who feel that they have the right to rob and steal from others just because they feel themselves to be underprivileged. This man is neither physically impaired, and certainly not mentally impaired, considering that he is clever enough to orchestrate a hold-up on two defenceless ladies. Indeed.

I left the scene feeling detached and wary, too. I can't stop these things from happening. One of the things in life. It's a valuable lesson for me to be always vigilant no matter where I am. My rose-tinted glasses have faded now.

To that man: You may escape without being caught this time, count yourself lucky. I do believe in karma. What goes around comes around. It's a valuable lesson for you, too, not just for me.

I saw the full moon on Chap Goh Mei night. I wished that I was carrying a Chinese lattern as when I was young, playing beneath the moonlight, blissfully unaware of the ugly reality of the world.

Sadly, I no longer live in a beautiful world.


Monday, 11 February 2008

Fifth Day of Chinese New Year in Sydney

I arrived in Sydney this morning to very nice cool weather, a far cry from the blistering heat back home in Petaling Jaya.

Chinese New Year cannot be any quieter than in Sydney, with most of the celebrations concentrated in Chinatown, only 15 minutes' away from where I stay. Whereas I had the sound of Chinese drums and cymbals accompanying the lion dance back home, back at college, I have the banging and clanging of heavy machinery at the construction site right next to the college. Still, I fancy the sounds to be those of Chinese New Year celebrations, to keep my Chinese New Year spirits up. After all, the festive season does not end until after the 15th.

KT bought a nian gao at Chinatown. Tonight, I'll be frying battered nian gao with sweet potato slices, a little treat for us. Can't wait... yum yum... :)


Thursday, 7 February 2008

First Day of Chinese New Year

The first day of Chinese New Year has always been celebrated pretty much the same way from year to year at our household. By the time the three of us kids (not so young anymore, but we're still kids in our parents' eyes) wake up, my mother would be busy frying the "nian gao". My mother cuts the nian gao into thin pieces, coats them in egg batter, and / or fries them together with sweet potato pieces. Yummy stuff!!! I love the sticky, chewy, crispy texture of fried nian gao.

Fireworks (although banned in Malaysia) and lion dance are a must during Chinese New Year. Some families in the neighbourhood pay for dance troupes to perform the lion dance to welcome in the new year, bringing the families good fortune. Fireworks and the sounds of the lion dance liven up the atmosphere.

We would have the TV on whilst eating fried nian gao. Almost every channel would air programmes relating to the Chinese New Year, so my sisters would channel surf until they see an interesting programme (it used to be just three channels, now with Channel 7, 8, and 9, and Astro, the possibilities are endless!).

Then comes tradition. The night before we would set up a table as a makeshift altar to pray to the gods and my late grandfather on New Year's Eve. The next morning, after breakfast, we would light some incense to put at the altar, and then we would have the tea ceremony. After pouring tea to the elders (in my case, my grandmother and my parents), they would give us a red packet "ang pow" as a symbol of good luck.

We would then set up the tea table laden with Chinese New Year titbits - some bought, some home-made, and wait for relatives and friends to call on us. That usually means more "ang pows" for us "kids". :P It's during Chinese New Year that we get to see relatives and friends whom we have not seen in a while, sit down and have a chat about the past year.

That's pretty much the first day... not very eventful, but for me, just perfect the way the day goes by, as long as I am at home, I am very happy. :)


Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Berry Nice Ice-cream Cheesecake

KT has nicknamed the pharmacy I work in "The Laidback Chemist" for a good reason; it hardly gets busy during the day when I work , so I spend most of the time at the back watching cooking shows on TV. One of my favourite shows is Huey's Cooking Adventures (3:30pm, Mondays - Fridays, Channel Ten). The half an hour cooking slot is jam-packed with interesting recipes (certainly adventurous; have you ever heard of WATERMELON CURRY with seared swordfish?) and useful cooking tips. I have tried some of Huey's recipes, but it's this particular recipe from which I have had some good reviews (KT said that even a friend who's a chef at this super-posh restaurant - The Wharf - deigned to try it!), so here it is, with some variations to the recipe:

I call it Berry Nice Ice-cream Cheesecake:


For the cake base:

2 cups crushed sweet biscuits (I usually use digestive biscuits because they're less sweet; this time around I used Cole's "Nice biscuits" because I wondered how biscuits could not taste nice - the result was a very nice base indeed!)

175 melted butter

For the cake:

1/2 cup unrefined sugar (Huey's recipe: 3/4 cup castor sugar; I didn't have castor sugar, castor sugar would have made the cake much smoother I suppose, and I didn't want the cake to be too sweet!)

500 g Philadelphia cream cheese (softened) (Huey's recipe 375 g; my cake would have been much cheesier then!)

200 g frozen raspberries

1 L vanilla ice-cream (softened)

For the topping:

Fresh berries (I used fresh strawberries and blueberries)

Frozen raspberries

Marsala wine (Huey's recipe called for Orange Liquor - Curaçao - but I didn't want to buy a whole bottle; I had some Marsala left over from my tiramisu adventure, so I used Marsala instead, turned out to be nice and mellow as opposed to the tartness of orange liquor I suppose?)


Prepare the cake base:

1. Mix the crushed biscuits with the melted butter.

2. Flatten the mixture into a springform tin.

3. Put the tin into the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the base to set.

Meanwhile, prepare the cake mixture:

1. Blend cream cheese and sugar in a food processor until smooth.

2. Pour mixture into a bowl.

3. Purée the frozen raspberries in the food processor.

4. Add the puréed raspberries to the cream cheese and sugar mixture. Mix with a

spatula until well-combined.

5. Gradually add the vanilla ice-cream to the mixture.

6. Pour mixture into the springform tin (with the set cake base).

7. I put some of the fresh blueberries into the cake mixture - not according to

recipe, but just to try out.

8. Put the tin into the freezer to set the cake.

To prepare the pièce de résistance - the berry topping:

1. Quarter the strawberries.

2. Soak the berries into the liquor - this process is called maceration - to soften

the berries and allow the flavour to develop in the liquor.

Prior to serving, thaw the cake slightly by leaving it in the fridge for a while. Cut into slices and top with the berry topping. Enjoy! I know I did!


Tuesday, 5 February 2008

I Love You

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