Thursday, June 04, 2009

Nasi Kerabu – When Eating is Art

HBW: Nasi Kerabu – When Eating is Art
“Nasi Kerabu” literally means assorted vegetable rice or rather “Salad Rice”. Gastronomically speaking, it is rice served with special coconut-based gravy called “tumis” together with local herbs, leaves and vegetables. Apart from that, it is also served with fried fish, “keropok” (fish crackers), salted egg, "solok lada" (fish fillet and coconut-stuffed chillis) and pickled garlic. Of all you know the beautiful flower in the picture is the key to the real aroma and taste of nasi kerabu.

Nasi Kerabu is one of the classic specialties originated from Kelantan, a multicolored state of Thailand border in the northeastern coast of the Malaysian Peninsular with multi-faceted and interesting people as her denizens. The only not-so-cool thing about them is the potential of running amok and start burning things when their darling state team loses in the football match (soccer to the Americans), but as a counterbalance, I can assure you this is the land that produces the most beautiful girls in the country.

If one is adventurous in trying out different taste of victuals and gamed for gourmet foods, the right place to be at is no other than Kelantan state, located some 450 km from Kuala Lumpur. If you ever planned for a visit to this country, I’d advise you to take connecting flight right away upon your landing at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

One of those that ought to be tasted is “Nasi Kerabu”. No, no, no…. it’s not like the one you tasted from the stalls in Kg Baru, Keramat and Pantai Dalam in Kuala Lumpur, different from the one selling over in Permas Jaya, Johore, dissimilar to the one offered in Geylang, Singapore, and far off from the taste that selling in Ipoh and Penang for that matter. I even ate nasi kerabu in Bloomington, Indiana in the USA those days, but my taste benchmark is rather of a higher bar.

The real taste of “Nasi Kerabu” is not easily found as the recipe is a well-kept secret, closely guarded that being passed down from one generation to another among the Kelantanese people, as much as pizza is eaten the world over, and yet the real taste can only be found in Italy, perhaps the pride of the Sicilian folks. Just like sushi can be found in New York, Paris, London and Kuala Pilah but the real thing can only be enjoyed in certain districts in Japan, and tell me about Cajun cuisine and beignets (pronounced like "ben-yays"), the unique specialties to the descendants of Acadian exiles in Louisiana or maybe some parts of Mississippi, USA. Oh, it reminds me of the best Burrito, Taco de Harina and Tortilla I have ever tasted just a few miles crossed the border from El Paso, Texas, in the Mexican territory. But, the paradox of them all, I couldn’t find “Mee Bandung” when I was in Bandung, Indonesia, same goes to “Nasi Pattaya” when I was in the coastal resort township of Pattaya, Thailand. (LOL! Errr…. we have foodstuff named after foreign places, thus, understandably, they don’t exist in the actual locality)

One of the myriad secrets in preparing "goooood" nasi kerabu is the use of the flower in the picture above as coloring for the rice to be served (although some sellers in the city use artificial equivalents). Beats me on the name of the flower because I only know it called as “Bunga Nasi Kerabu” (“Bunga” is flower). Handful of these flowers need to be grinded and squashed to yield its juice with little water add. The precious extract of it is then mixed with water the time rice is cooked. And voila, it will result with blue-colored rice when it is ready.

Blue-colored rice for Nasi Kerabu is no fun and game as it is always served like that for centuries in this colorful state of Kelantan.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

An Old Lady in “Smuta”

An Old Lady in “Smuta”

“Mok Cik, ambo puko gamba sbutir deh?” (Ma’am, do you mind me taking a picture?)
“Hok aloh…. puko wat ggapo nyo?!!” (Goodness…. what’s this for?!!)

That’s the exchange of words between me and this old lady. Despite of her reply sounds like a hint of protest; she paused and looked into my lens and I took it as consent. Before she had time to think on what’s next to say, I already had done capturing her. I gave her silly grin in return and walked past her with slight bow without thanking her. Least spoken about the verity of the local culture, particularly in this state – in certain conditions, the word “thank you” is not necessarily uttered out when the gesture is more than sufficient displaying the gratitude and appreciation. And the other party would understandably take it as thanks.

This is happened in Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Kota Bharu is the capital town for the state of Kelantan, located some 450 km away to the northeast of Kuala Lumpur, not far from Thailand border.

Make no mistake; if next time you see old woman with pastel-colored headgear made out of a sheet of speckled floral-motif fabric like the woman in the picture is wearing, she must be from this place. Locally, the traditional headgear she is wearing is known as “smuta” and the said thin floral-motif fabric used is called “kain lepas”.

There are no specific rules on how to wear it but the motive is to have the whole length of the 2-foot x 5-foot “kain lepas” to be wrapped around the head to form as “hat”. The headgear of “smuta” is actually prevalent to be worn by men but the women of old would do such as well. More often than not, those days, women would use this as a buffer to cushion up loads carried on top of their heads while men would rather wear it as part of fashion and also as a practical mean just like bandana is worn in the west.

Such a pity, we even hardly found men walk around in “smuta” in Kota Bharu these days. And it never happened in Kuala Lumpur. I am sure it’ll be a head turner with a barrage of wolf-whistles to be accrued if one is wearing it here in Kuala Lumpur.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Luring Snakeheads In Puncak Alam

Luring Snakeheads In Puncak Alam

It doesn’t take much money to make me happy. Spending my morning on weekends at places like this to me is a luxury thing to do. And with such elements right before my eyes, it never fails to entice that precious little feeling in me.

This place is located in my backyard, known as Puncak Alam, which takes less than 10 minutes drive from my house. The place, more of a pond than a lake, is far cry from the bustling of livelihood, quiet it seems. Only once a while you’d be stirred by the foolhardy sounds coming from big but cheap exhaust pipe of a car running down the almost deserted road tens of meters away from the water’s edge. I hate it when it disrupts the thoughts I was harboring, feel like giving the driver a real sports car as a present.

There are a lot of snakehead fish (we call it “ikan haruan” locally) in this pond. I came a few times already checking on the activities of the snakeheads in it. Pretty soon I’ll bring over my kids to fish here.

I doubt I am in position to give you helpful tips on how to capture beautiful landscapes but if you ask me tips on how to catch snakehead fish, I think I can be very accommodating.

Catching snakeheads requires special skills unlike catching some other types of silly fish. If you’re gamed for this, I would start by advising you on the type of lures to be chosen at the fishing shop apart from the types and sizes of hooks and strings needed. Snakeheads would likely to snatch on moving lures as compared to using worms or palette as baits. Yeah, you may use crickets as baits but often time your rhythm will be sporadic with downtime to replace the baits. On top of it, crickets do not give those sexy dances when it is hooked and drowned. Anything flashy and sparkly with nice little dance when it is pulled in the water would surely look appetizing to the snakeheads that make them lose their minds.

I will also share with you on the habits of snakeheads and teach you how to make studied guesses on their possible party time and places for resting, feeding and breeding by looking at the conditions and activities in the pond.

With the right knowledge, right tools and right skills, I’ll make sure you won’t be fishing like silly but put the snakeheads on the silly side instead. Or else it makes me a silly advisor.

Note: Strongly advised to view the image above On Black

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Story of a Cup of Tea

The Story of a Cup of Tea

Has it ever occurred to you a stranger offers you drink from a cup that exclusively served for him? If that’s already peculiar to your norm, so then what’s the odd like for you to accept it if it does?

The odds were against me.

Firstly, upon seated right in front of him, there was a cup of tea readily served for him. He offered me to have it. Reasonably, I refused the offer as I thought it was out of mind to drink from the cup that served for someone else. The offer then turned insist when he was adamant to have me drink it. The reason being, it was freshly delivered and he could always order for another cup and perhaps as an honor to me as his guest.

I conceded defeat upon his obstinacy and kindness. I had to take it as a kind gesture from him and started drinking moments after. I could see him happy watching me sipping it amidst of my struggle controlling my composure when the tea was a little too hot pattering on my tongue. Little did I know he had to go without his morning tea when he later said he didn’t feel like it to have a drink, and left me feel sorry with slight mixture of silly.

That is the incident when I first met him. He prefers me to call him Pak Ngah Ya. In my short conversation with him at the mosque, I learned that he was a commando in the Armed Forces before he retired in 1990. Now he devotes his time for some religious work at Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque, Shah Alam.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When Lady Luck Decided To Take Side

When Lady Luck Decided To Take Side

It had been a nerve-wrecking ball game on the other part of the globe over in London, England when the Reds, the Anfield club Liverpool edged over Hull City with 3-1 win. The Reds kept up the pressure on the Devils, the Old Trafford club Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table. While here in Malaysia, almost at the same time last Saturday April 25th, 2009 at the National Stadium, Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, we were dealing with reds of our own. Our reds, The Red Warriors of Kelantan and The Red Giants of Selangor, red & white and red & yellow respectively were facing one another in the mother of all football matches – in the Malaysian FA Cup final.

Pardon me for not displaying the picture of the football game (as I don't have any), only a ticket in my son Edrin’s hand, taken prior to the time my three kids and I left for the stadium, 50km away from home. My children left their mom behind whilst I left not only wife behind but my camera as well as I didn’t want it to intervene with my sole purpose to enjoy good ball game and to really feel the ambience and dynamics of the place, as much as I didn’t want to intervene with my wife’s sense of fun with my shouts and screams right into her ears during the height of the match.

The stadium was bursting at the seams with its full capacity of 90,000 spectators – perhaps yet another record of full-house for this state-of-the-art stadium. The sights and sounds were just magnificent. You have to be there to feel the gravity of it with spectacular sight of Kelantan supporters decked in red & white while the Selangor came in red & yellow, occupying half of the circle each on the packed 3-tier terraces of the stadium. And the very sounds of thundering roars of fans from both sides have made an excellent atmosphere that even stood up the least excitable geeks and morons.

The match went into extra-time as the score tied at nil-nil after the official 90-minute playtime was over. In the second minute of the extra-time, Kelantan opened scoring that sent the fans into frenzy, and I too shouted my lungs out, and was amazed seeing my girl Fara got excited just as much. Let alone my boys Sam and Edrin, I saw them jumped as high as the stadium. Again, you should have witnessed the way Kelantan fans rocked the stadium and observed the looks in the faces of Selangor fans – the most pathetic look I have ever seen in the so-called “Red and Yellow Giants”. Kelantan fans were celebrating thinking that it will be their day. However, their celebrative moods were short-lived when Selangor came strongly for the equalizer in the late hour to make the score tied at 1-1 and thus sent the match into penalty shoot-out.

Prior to the game, the “psychic” in me was telling that the score would be 4-1 or 4-2. But I refused to believe what rings in my head as I felt it was ridiculous for either team to garner big goal margin since on paper, both teams stands 50-50 chance of winning, with only minimal score. What more, I didn’t want to entertain the idea of Selangor was winning. Goodness, I never thought the score I was toying around with on my mind would actually be the results of the penalty shoot-out, instead.

The final results of the penalty shoot-out: Selangor 4, Kelantan 1

It was a tight game, not too pretty or spectacular, though, I personally think Kelantan played better but Selangor had the better luck.

Lady luck somehow smiled on Selangor side.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My morning in Ijok

A Funky Dude
This tiny sucker is elusive. He flies in random order and only come to rest, perched on the foliage merely for seconds. After a cup of sweat and dirty pants, I still couldn’t get a decent shot on him. This is the best I could get that I need to crop heavily for my image – less than satisfactory.

Ijok is a constituency in the state of Selangor, some 65km from Kuala Lumpur. From my house to this tiny dreary township of Ijok, it is only some 15km on a straight line, no big deal for me to get there. But it’s a big deal to go there if I don’t really have any apparent purpose.

Of all the places on earth, I went there looking for butterflies to capture. As if butterflies are that scarce that cannot be found elsewhere but Ijok. When I got back home, I saw similar butterfly was happily roaming in my yard.

A Splendor of Ijok
This is my catch of the day – a splendor. What good is Ijok without her?!!

View Large

Stateliness in Her Spread
This beautiful girl in the picture gave me a nice spread of her wings for my shot.

I have a feeling that it is less fun to go capture butterflies in the Butterfly Park where there are actually plenty of beautiful butterflies with wide varieties of sub-species to shoot at.

The thrill of locating them in the wild and chasing after them is perhaps to me reckoned to be called fun as compared to getting just pictures as pictures of beautiful subjects. I don’t know, maybe I am befuddled between my infatuation and my preference here – just like my ambiguity over blogging or just simply upload image in the flickr. Cool!

All I know, I had so much fun hunting them down next to the nippy cemetery in an isolated part of Ijok, Selangor.

The Grandeur
This image is my personal favorite. I favor this based on the merit of photography (that I perceived as one)

I’d suggest you to view LARGE to appreciate it better, or LARGER

You’ll see fine details on her upper body with lucid tresses until the head part and the antennas that make significant contributions to the image character. Blurry upshot at the tips of the wings is to illustrate the proximity of the subject being captured as in a way to suggest a sense of depth. And, please don’t be overlooked; the exquisite adornment on the wings with the electrifying color is no less than interesting either – apart from the smooth bokeh that to me is something to be valued at.

It is worth my while to spend my morning in Ijok with these great captures.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

In Memories of Raffie Hussain

In memories of Raffi Hussain (#1)
This picture is my last photo of Raffie Hussain. I took this in the office during an interview with a local publishing house, 2 weeks before Aidilfitri last year.

He had already becoming an artist when I was still in high school. He was one time dubbed as Elvis Presley of Kelantan for his singing style. During my absence for studies in overseas, I learned that he was also making name in acting ─ he played in a popular local movie, Azura.

Little did I know in my later years, Raffi Hussain would be my business partner of which it abruptly ended in October 2008 when he collapsed and passed away at his parents' home in Gombak due to heart attack. He was supposed to celebrate his 49th birthday the next day, 15th October.

I was in the middle of Hari Raya Celebration at my wife's work place when I received the news. I took my whole family, rushed to the Selayang Hospital, only to wait for his remain at the mortuary. He was pronounced dead on the arrival.

His movie project on "The Chini: Awaken" came to a halt and had practically die off as well..

May Allah Bless His Soul!

The offsprings of Raffi Hussain
These are Raffie's kids out of five (The youngest was not born yet the time he passed away). It is taken during the family "majlis buka puasa" at our office. I'll do what I can to see these kids grow up.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Istana Jahar, Kota Bharu, Kelantan

Istana Jahar, Kota Bharu, Kelantan

Istana Jahar is a remainder of the great Kelantan Monarchy in the bygone eon. As I learned, this palace was built in 1887 by Sultan Mahmud II for his grandson, Long Kundur. (Note: We hardly have this primeval name around for a person now).

This palace is finely carved out of wood with complex patterns; a conspicuous testimony of fine craftsmanship employed by the people in the state.

It's now been transformed into a museum showcasing Kelantan’s culture. If you have the opportunity to be in this part of the planet, please do visit the place. They also have things on display include photographs, artifacts and other exhibits.

Looking at this magnificent edifice, I couldn’t help but fantasizing me as a king living in it. I could imagine I’d be at the balcony enjoying my tea brewed from the finest tea leaves while watching a cock-fight in the compound, cheering for my favorite rooster to beat the hell out of the opponent rooster.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Gunung Senyum.... Here we come!!!

Welcome to Gunung Senyum (#1)
You can see big smiles on my children’s faces in the photo (Sam – left, Fara – middle and Edrin – right) They had better, as to live up to the name of the place, Gunung Senyum.

The place is located some 160 km from Kuala Lumpur in the state of Pahang. It’ll take you to a sleepy township of Temerloh after a smooth ride on the Karak Highway. From Temerloh to the mountain proper, you’ll enjoy the ride on the trunk roads with the staple view of oil palm plantations all the way. Travelling time from KL is about 2½ hours (2 hours if you’re driving Porsche)

If you care to scale a mountain as an adventure for the whole family members, Gunung Senyum is the right place to be at. It comprises a fairly less challenge climb as the track to go up is readily available. With little boost in stamina, even an elderly grandmother can make it to the peak.

It’s a pity if you’re overweight that could even barely enjoy a climb on a stairway of a 2-storey building. If that’s the case, better off stay in the comfort of your living room.


Welcome to Gunung Senyum (#2)
Fara and her little brother Edrin are impishly making faces for my shot. This is taken at the entrance at the foot of Gunung Senyum.

The mountain does keep her secrets that only meant to be disclosed to the nature lovers who are keen to make realize a rendezvous. If you are one, you’d be delighted to explore the place. Apart from her natural beauty with lush greeneries of the virgin forest, the place embraces many interesting caverns and handsome rock formations.

Later in the day, you’ll head home leaving the grandiose of the mountain behind with respect.

Oh yeah, don’t forget to bring along your smile to the mountain.

Welcome to Gunung Senyum (#3)
Do you have 6 hours 45 minutes of your life to see what the place has got in store for you? That is what reads in the notice prepared by the state authority the approximate time taken to summit and back.

These images, as in any other images of my kids, they will serve as a record of a good time we have had. As it is valuable and precious now, it would be even more in years to come.

One fine day when the kids are no longer under my arms, I’d wake up in the morning; flipping through prints of the images of the past just to feel exactly what I was feeling many years before.


Friday, January 30, 2009

My stopover along the KL - Putrajaya Highway

KL - Putrajaya Highway, Kuala Lumpur (#2)

I stopped and parked my car at the truck parking lot at the Rest & Recreational area along the KL - Putrajaya Highway for this capture.

The trains of traffics with the headlights beaming and the street lights looked amazing when I was on the top of the hill tolerating the undulating slopes with smooth roller coaster ride minutes before. I thought I would have captured it nicely but what can I say, the view point at the place I stopped at was not as good as what I saw before.

I bet many KLites have not even used this highway yet. It only opened in recent months.

It offers road users a shorter and more direct route to the federal administrative capital Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and the KL International Airport (KLIA), cuts short by 30 minutes to get to the airport from Kuala Lumpur. It is accessible from KL starting at Kg Pandan Interchange.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Of an old man in a sorry state

Staring point blank

The old man of 80-plus in this picture is actually no other than my own flesh and blood. He’s my mom’s cousin. He’s been down with hemiplegic for the past 6 years, helpless and confined to a wheelchair. I knew him as a well-built and strong man when I was little but now he is in a sorry state.

I visited him during my last holidays in the hometown. While talking, he seems lost in his own thought. He spent much of his time pondering – staring point blank moments after anything he rests his eyes upon.

It made me sad. I could almost feel what he was feeling especially when I asked about whether his grown-up children in KL visited him or not. He scrambled for words amidst his grumble and I knowingly nod without a definite answer given.

Often time when I have image of an old man in hand, I would want to have it treated in Black & White. The image of this old man is no exception. It must be something to do with what entrenched in the back of my mind. Perhaps, I’d automatically associate old man with the past era when the technology of the day had yet to see the arrival of color printing.

Maybe the scars of experience crafted in the face make good exercise for my experimentation with tones. Or maybe black & white finish would give better mood due to his suffering.

Be as it may with the underlying principle, I think it’s cool to have this image treated in such a manner.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

God of Prosperity and the winning photo

God of Prosperity and the winning photo

This is a picture of a man in God of Prosperity costume showing thumbs up for the photo hanging on the wall. “Ichiban” he said, means, “Very good!” in Chinese.

That photo is actually one of the selected photos exhibited at the Annexe Gallery in Central Market Avenue, Kuala Lumpur (Jan 18th - Feb 1st, 2009). The exhibition is organized by with the theme “OUR VANISHING HERITAGE”.

I am proud to tell you that, the photo on the wall is a work of my own personal friend and neighbor, Dr. Zul, here. He deserves to be recognized for this great street photography shot. The photo complements the exhibition theme and it satisfies the panels’ stringent criterion for quality photo to be exhibited.

I went there this morning for the exhibition. I didn’t know they were having function in the area in conjunction with the coming Chinese New Year Celebrations. The Minister of Arts, Culture & Heritage, Dato' Seri Shafei Apdal was the guest of honor. They have lion dance, musics played using traditional musical instruments, a parade of men and women in traditional costumes with photographers from local media on the tail and the God of Prosperity as a mascot.

I just blend in with the photographers and even met my old friend Bazuki, shooting for Reuters.

When the entourage reached the gallery, I looked for the opportunity to have the God of Prosperity to pose for me with Dr. Zul’s picture. He sportingly did what I asked with both his thumbs pointed up.

The God of Prosperity is very often associated with Chinese New Year, as in the new coming year, the Chinese will pray that they can prosper and become richer.

Gong Xi Fa Chai to all my Chinese friends.

Have a nice weekend and HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!!!

Finally... they tamed the lion

The Tamed Lion

Seen here is the lion head of the costume for the lion dance lying on the pavement. In a moment, a trained chap will be behind it with help from his buddy ducked behind him to form the lion's body and the hind legs. The lion will then dance to the unassailable yet rhythmic pounding of a drum and cymbals with the agile moves and finesse that would mesmerize the spectators.

I was once standing next to the cymbals player watching the dance, only to have me ringing in the ears for the whole day.

This year, the Chinese celebrate the Year of the Ox in their lunar calendar. In Malaysia, people at all levels would “celebrate” the occasion as much as everyone would also “celebrate" Eid Al-Fitr for Muslims, Deepavali for Hindus and Christmas for Christians. Well, even if it isn’t essentially everyone’s festivity, to the very least everybody here in the country is enjoying the long public holidays.



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