web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: October 2004
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Adam has recently taken to watching The Apprentice, and he has been rooting for the women. He missed last week's episode, though, so I told him that The Donald has mixed the team up.

"Oh, thank God for the men!", he heaved.
"Really? Why?", I asked
"Well", he said, as if stating the obvious, " women are always better at everything!"
"It's hard to say no to a woman", he grinned, "except when it's your mother".
I gave him a look.
"Whaaat?", Adam said, exasperated, "it's easy to say no to your mother"

I guess you win some, you lose some.


Chocolate Fudge and Banana Trifle

Last night, I made peach trifle about 7 minutes before berbuka time. My daughters loved it, and Adam eventually admitted that he liked it, too even though he sniffed at its appearance, moments earlier.

"You know what would be good with this, Mummy?", he said between mouthfuls, " Bananas! And Fudge! Ooooo.. yummmmeeeh"

So today, we will try out Adam's recipe, and if you would like to try it as well, here it is :

Ingredients :
One medium sized chocolate swiss roll ( just buy this at the bakery, lah)
One small carton chocolate milk; or a cup of strong unsweetened coffee if you're serving adults
7 small bananas (pisang emas) or about 3-4 regular bananas - sliced
One can condensed milk
One can evaporated milk
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp margarine or butter
2 tbsp custard powder
3 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

Slice swiss roll into rings about 1 inch thick. Arrange in a flat bottomed serving dish, like your mom's Pyrex. Pour chocolate milk or coffee over the rolls, enough to cover them. Set aside to soak. ( If you don't like chocolate milk or coffee, you can also use orange juice)

Pour entire content of condensed milk and into a saucepan; add butter or margarine and heat over slow fire. Gradually drizzle spoonfuls of cocoa powder into the milk, and stir well until the milk bubbles, and the cocoa blended in. If the mix gets too thick to manouvre, add a small amount of plain milk or water, but keep in mind it has to be the consistency of fudge and not too runny. You must keep stirring because the confection burns easily ( hangit!) . Allow to cool.

Pour about 5-6 tbsp of evaporated milk into a small bowl, and add custard powder and sugar. Mix, using a small whisk or the back of a spoon to ensure there are no lumps. Pour the rest of the evaporated milk into another saucepan (banyak basuh periuk, this recipe!) add a pinch of salt, and heat over medium fire. Once the milk starts to boil, lower the heat and immediately add the custard mix. Do not wait until the milk boils because it might froth over. Continuously stir the mixture until custard thickens. Allow to cool.

Spoon fudge over the swiss rolls and arrange sliced bananas over the layer of fudge. Next, pour custard over the entire thing. I guarantee it will look awful, but what the hell, it will taste absolutely sinful. If you're having cold weather, you can serve this warm, or else you might want to pop it in the fridge until berbuka time.

By the way, we haven't tried it ourselves -- but what's life without risks? Afterall, if it does go all wrong, you're only fudging fudge.


Thursday, October 28, 2004
How To Get Money Out of a Stone?

My husband is saddled with a brilliant predicament : one client has given him diamonds, in lieu of payment. If he can sell or pawn off the gems, the money can be used to capitalize this venture that they're working on, plus the outstanding sums he owes my husband. The diamonds are 4C certified and all that, but who would part with 250 thousand ringgit for a piece of pretty rock? Just like that? It's not going to be easy.

Now if there is anybody reading this who might know how one can liquidate an asset like diamonds, we would be forever indebted to you. Not in cash, we hope.


Of Queries and Curries

Question :
Chili ni chili basah ke chili kering?
And if in desperate situations, would chili powder be an ok substitute, at least for taste if not rupa?

Answer :
I guess chili basah, as in fresh chillies.
In desperate situations when you have to use chilli powder, make sure you dry roast the powder first, i.e put a few spoonfuls in a teflon pan and heat until it changes colour. The smell will melt the insides of your nostrils, though.

Question :
How big is a pip??

A pip, Mr Dictionary, is seulas.

Would the fish dish taste nice if replaced with chicken?

If you would like to use chicken, perhaps you can add some shallots into the recipe. Just blend it together with the chillies and ginger.

ikan kembung, orang putih panggil ape ek? big tummy fish ka?

Ikan kembung is horse mackerel. If mackerel is not available you can use fresh sardines. Or you can use tinned sardines.. oooo that sounds good too! Big tummy fish is the guy who sells the ikan at the market.

Yes, Terenggganu people sometimes eat rice with watermelons -- and I tell ya, Br. Aleeem, it's probably more nutritious than your hundred-year-old curry *wink*. And Shad, in Terengganu, we do have a type of curry perhaps peculiar to the East Coast; called "gulai darat", the best example of which can be found at a ramshackle shop in Chabang Tiga. Perhaps you can persuade my dad to tell you more!


Monday, October 25, 2004
Lauk 101

AnuarFariz, in his blog, asked for fool-proof recipes. So I give recipes, yes?

(This may also benefit others, like my sister in cold Washington State, if she bothers to wake up before noon)

These are not culinary marvels, just simple dishes to remind you of home, using ingredients that you can find abroad.

Okay, ready?
Before you do anything else : run a few handfuls of anchovies through the blender. Because you will need ground anchovies in all the recipes below.

and BTW, tsp = tea spoon; tbsp = table spoon

Ikan Kembung Masak Bercili. (Fish in Chilli and Ginger Sauce)

2 ikan kembung ( or any other fish - 2 medium slices of tuna or salmon can also do)
about 5-6 red chillies -- seeded
thumb-sized portion of ginger or one tsp ginger jelly
3 pips of garlic
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground anchovies
cooking oil.
spring onion - finely chopped

Lightly salt the fish. Deep-fry and set aside.
Run the chillies, ginger and garlic through the blender or food processor -- result should be coarse, not fine. In a medium sized wok, heat some oil, and saute the chilli mixture for about 6 minutes or until chilli flakes become slightly darker. Mixture should be slightly oily. Add the anchovies, sugar and vinegar, and some salt only if necessary. Simmer for another 3-4 minutes, add sliced spring onions, then pour sauce over the fish. warning : de-activate smoke alarms first.

Masak Lemak Kobis (Cabbage and Coconut Cream Soup)

Ingredients :
Quarter head of cabbage, cut into bite sized pieces
1 Carrot, sliced
a handful of shrimp ( optional)
1 onion, or 5-6 shallots if available -- blended/processed or pounded
1 1/2 tsp ground anchovies
1 chilli -- seeded and sliced into 2, lengthwise
1 onion -- quartered
1 cup coconut cream, diluted with half cup water

In medium size pot, just bung in pounded shallots, ground anchovies, shrimp and half of coconut cream. Once mixture starts to boil, add carrots. Simmer until carrots begin to soften, then add cabbage, chilli and quartered onions. Pour in the rest of the coconut cream. Kacau. When the kuah boils again, let simmer for 1-2 minutes and immediately remove from heat.

Simple kan? These two recipes complement each other and should prove to be reasonable lauk for your rice. Selamat mencuba.


Friday, October 22, 2004
Signs You're an Absentee Parent

Last night, Aliya and I were in my bed for her nightly bedtime cuddle. She had her arms around my neck and her small cheeks pressed against mine, going I love you Mummy, I love you Mummy.

"You smell nice, Aliya", I said, breathing in her freshly-washed tresses.
'Yes, my mother shampoo my hair", she explained.
"Your mother?", I wondered, "Who's your mother?"
"Kak Ti!", came the reply.

So, today right after Friday prayers my husband and I will go home straight away. We promise.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

When my husband and I sought the advice of my mother regarding the difficulties we were facing, she counseled us to perform the Duha or Forenoon Prayers. Naturally, one of the surahs that you have to recite is Surah 93, Ad-Duha, which means The Bright Morning Hours. The verses are so comforting, I beg your indulgence to reproduce them here, as translated by Muhammad Asad, with the commentaries in red.


IT IS SAID that after surah 89(Al-Fajr) was revealed, some time elapsed during which the Prophet did not receive any revelation, and that his opponents in Mecca taunted him on this score, saying, "Thy God has forsaken and scorned thee!" - whereupon the present surah was revealed. Whether or not we accept this somewhat doubtful story, there is every reason to assume that the surah as such, although in the first instance addressed to the Prophet, has a far wider purport: it concerns - and is meant to console - every faithful man and woman suffering from the sorrows and bitter hardships which so often afflict the good and the innocent, and which sometimes cause even the righteous to question God's transcendental justice.


(1) CONSIDER the bright morning hours,

(2) and the night when it grows still and dark.

The expression "bright morning hours" apparently symbolizes the few and widely-spaced periods of happiness in human life, as contrasted with the much greater length of "the night when it grows still and dark", i.e., the extended periods of sorrow or suffering that, as a rule, overshadow man's existence in this world (cf. 90 :4 ). The further implication is that, as sure as morning follows night, God's mercy is bound to lighten every suffering, either in this world or in the life to come - for God has "willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy" (6: 12and54 ).

(3) Thy Sustainer has not forsaken thee, nor does He scorn thee:

Sc., ''as the thoughtless might conclude in view of the suffering that He has willed thee to bear".

(4) for, indeed, the life to come will be better for thee than this earlier part [of thy life]!

(5) And, indeed, in time will thy Sustainer grant thee [what thy heart desires], and thou shalt be well-pleased.

(6) Has He not found thee an orphan, and given thee shelter?

Possibly an allusion to the fact that Muhammad was born a few months after his father's death, and that his mother died when he was only six years old. Apart from this, however, every human being is an "orphan" in one sense or another, inasmuch as everyone is "created in a lonely state" (cf.6 :94), and "will appear before Him on Resurrection Day in a lonely state" (19:95).

(7) And found thee lost on thy way, and guided thee?

(8) And found thee in want, and given thee sufficiency?

(9) Therefore, the orphan shalt thou never wrong,

(10) and him that seeks [thy] help shalt thou never chide,

The term sa'il denotes" literally, "one who asks", which signifies not only a "beggar" but anyone who asks for help in a difficult situation, whether physical or moral, or even for enlightenment.

(11) and of thy Sustainer's blessings shalt thou [ever] speak.

Sc., "rather than of thy suffering".

*Readers who are not of Muslim faith : please forgive me -- I wasn't trying to shove things down your throat. Nevertheless, I hope, in some way, this piece could help you understand Islam a little better.


On A Very Very Positive Note..

Mid-morning prayers really work. We feel calmer and definitely optimistic. And doors we never knew existed, seem to open and beckon us in.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Oh, I will Broil in Hell

It's such a bummer to come back to real life after a holiday, especially when you have to deal with post-vacation finances. (Or the lack of it)

When you're on your own, you'll find that the hardest thing to do is not pinning down jobs, but to collect payment. Because to many companies in Malaysia, good cash-flow management means delaying payment to your subcontractor, in the hope that the said subcontractor will forget; or more likely, give up. In many instances, the client treats the subcontractor or consultant as if the former is already doing the latter a favour, and so no disbursement is necessary. I am ashamed to note that Malay companies are notorious for this robbery of services, and the likelihood is almost certain when it is a small, badly managed, politically linked Malay company.

And so it is with my husband. Before our trip, two clients who had been delaying payment for months promised they will pay as soon as we return. It's a done deal, they assured him. It turned out to be a done-in. We've been back for almost a week, and still no show of money.

Naturally, I am agitated. There's guilt for taking the trip at such a bad time, but we had little choice because we bought tickets during the MAS sale early in the year, and not going meant forfeiting 3 thousand ringgit. There's the worry, -- the what if--, I won't be able to rely on my own clients, to see us through Hari Raya. Default on our loans have backed up since the last two months, and the banks are getting impatient.

I apologise, it's boring to talk about money. I'm just trying to explain my state of mind because over the weekend I did something I should'nt have.

It was Sunday, and my husband and I were buying groceries at a huge hypermart, trying very hard to keep to our scrawny budget. We felt really poor, and my husband was cursing his clients with every breath that he took. I tried to be philosophical about it, telling him it's a test of your iman (faith) and that in due time God will reward you and your clients with what's due. There's no point in both of us being mad, and I thought myself the designated stoic.

We wheeled our trolley to the check out counter, and typical of this particular supermarket, the lanes are really narrow, just wide enough for the trolley and one other person. Under no circumstances should you enter through the check-out lanes, unless it is to perform a Heimlich on a choking child on the other side. Afterall, they have a huge entrance, just a few steps away.

Nevertheless, as the cashier punched in our purchases, this tall, dark, idiot came through, brusquely pushing aside our trolley, which was, naturally, in his way, and growled :

"Kalau nak keluar tu, keluar je lah" ( If you want to get out, just get out)

Ms Stoic? Maybe next time. I saw his back disappear among the crowd and felt my head swell with anger. Then I saw him, and his meek wife, turn round to look at a promotion stall. I wasted no time marching straight up to the man.

"Hey, itu bukan pintu masuk!" (Hey, that is not the entrance) I exclaimed, pointing to the check-out lane.

He didn't get me at first, and when it dawned that I was the one he chided earlier, he screwed up his face and brushed me off.

"Suka hati aku la. Aku kira apa!" (I can do whatever I like. I don't care)

I thought : oh, what a boorish ignoramus peasant you are. So I left him with this remark :

"Babi!" (Pig!)

I have to say this : even though I still think the epithet was thoroughly justifiable, calling him a pig was not a civilised thing to do.

He came after me, as I went back to my husband at the cashiers.

"Hei, apa panggil panggil orang babi?" ( Why did you call me pig?).

He was quite large, and I should have been quite afraid. But I was in the threshold of a major blow-out, which I have to admit, was only partly due to him -- so I had no qualms squaring myself up to the goon, and stared him in the eye. With one arched brow, of course.

"Nasib baik kau perempuan, tau tak?", he shook his finger in my face, " Kalau tidak dah lama aku tumbuk kau. Kau, dengan laki kau sekali"

( It's a good thing you're a woman, or else I would have punched you. You and your husband)

He mumbled something about this being the fasting month as he walked away, but I wasn't about to let him have the last word. So I employed the age-old, standard finisher :

"Eh, awak yang mula dulu!" ( You started it first)

I turned round to see my husband grinning, and other people just-about looking away.

"Well done, Mummy!", he beamed. I started thinking about how bad an influence my husband really is.

Less than half an hour later, violent regret spread within me : one, I shouldn't have called anyone, not even a boorish ignoramus peasant, any names; and two, I should've thought of a better parting shot. In the meantime, I could almost see the angel on my left shoulder furiously writing everything down and the angel on my right deducting my puasa points.

But you know, in the heat of the moment? It felt really, really good.


Friday, October 15, 2004
Forgive a Mother this Indulgence

My six year old, Aiysha completed one whole day of fasting today, and she is so proud of herself. I am too! Bad mummy that I am, I was still at work by iftar time, so I called her just to see if she's okay.

"Kak Ti asked if I wanted lunch, and I said no!", she reported. "I'm a big girl now, mummy".

Indeed you are, darling.


The Perfect Couple

In an attempt to make learning Bahasa Melayu fun, my kids and I have been singing along to this very old song. I hope there are others, apart from my Dad, who would remember the tune :

Hassan budak jaga lembu
Hari-hari churi jambu
kalau nampak to' penghulu
nanti engkau kena palu

Hasnah juga budak jahat
suka churi ikan sepat
kalau emak engkau lihat
tentu engkau kena sebat

Jangan suka kata orang
engkau juga apa kurang
aku beli ikan parang
engkau makan tinggal tulang

Gadis tidak tahu malu
suka jalan hilir hulu
masak nasi pun 'tak tahu
nanti siapa yang mahu

Hassan tidak suka mandi
badan dia penuh daki
kalau masok ke perigi
ikan habis-lah mati

Hassan 'tak suka mandi
badan-nya penuh daki
kawan-kawan semuaaaa lari

Hasnah anak to' penghulu
rupa dia macham hantu
rambut dia menggerutu
tentu banyak simpan kutu

Hassan simpan rambut panjang
pergi gunting dia segan
nanti orang silap pandang
sangka dia rambutan

Hassan be-rambut panjang
Ber-gunting dia segan
Seperti juga oraaaaaang hutan

Engkau bodoh macham lembu
Suroh belajar tak mahu
Nanti engkau juga malu
Alif sangka batang kayu

Kita dua sama saja
Tidak ada apa beza
Tingkah orang tidak suka
Kita ubah sampai jaya.

If you can't understand Bahasa Melayu, I'm really sorry because I won't do a fair job translating this.

My kids just crack up when they hear this song- they think it's hilarious. Aiysha thinks it's silly though, that at one time girls can't roam wherever they like, and that nobody will marry you if you can't cook rice.

"That's so stupid", said she, "just buy an electric cooker!"


Thursday, October 14, 2004
294 Essex Street

It's futile to relive your salad days, that's what we found out in Melbourne.

In 1987, when I was nineteen, I spent weekends and summer at Saiffuddin's house, which I suppose is okay to admit, now that I'm actually married to him and all that. (Papa, if you're reading this rest assured that the visits did not include carnal knowledge, although I have to say I am defining this in its strict legal sense)

294 Essex Street was de facto, our first matrimonial home. It was a wasabe-green clapboard single-storey, probably built in the late 50's, with a porch over the entrance, a fireplace in the living room, a steel bathtub and dunny at the back. Saiffuddin and I lived in the master bedroom up front, which had huge casement windows and no curtains. I once woke up to find my husband's Vietnamese friend peering in, and apparently he liked what he saw.

I don't care if Monday's blue
Tuesday's grey and Wednesday too
Thursday I don't care about you
It's Friday, I'm in love..

My official address is Preston, a suburb close to my university. Every Friday, after my last tutorial, I would travel from Preston to Essex Street, which meant a tram ride to Flinders Street Station, and then a train to Footscray, and then a bus bound for Sunshine. It took nearly two hours and none of the routes are scenic -- mostly you would see old warehouses and delapidated homes by the railway tracks--but I would be beaming through-out, with The Cure playing the score to my journey.

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine in my mind

Once school is out, 294 Essex Street lives like a frat house. People who don't want to keep paying rent over the summer months camped in our living room, sleeping by day and playing gin rummy by night. Summer is always unbearably hot, birds would drop dead in mid-flight and old people would drop dead in their front yard. The squatter-students, I suppose, had only wanted to preserve themselves. They formed a band around my husband's second hand drum kit -- at two o'clock in the morning we would hear their attempts at Knopfler or Clapton or Brian May, and I'm sure the neighbours did too. They would sleep wherever they would fall asleep, and stirred to life only late in the afternoon, when they would reach out for the TV switch to watch cricket and dog-races until someone figured out dinner.

Fortunately, Saiffuddin and I worked so there was always food on the table and milk in the fridge. He had a part-time job at a canning factory while I waited on tables at Selamat Datang, a Malay restaurant in Fitzroy. It was rehearsal for the marriage we eventually had - although at that time it seemed there was romance in everything - even in grocery shopping and laundry. On Sundays we would drive to the beach -- St Kilda or Brighton or Williamstown. We would sit on the sand with a gelati in hand and watch the crowd go by -- boyfriends and girlfriends, fathers and sons hoisting kites, Italian grandmothers swaddled in black despite the heat, keeping an eye on their bikini clad grandaughters.

We were horribly poor, but we thought we led a charmed life. The house at 294 Essex Street was the anchor, the venue, the stage on which I lived this dreamy existence -- dreamy really, because real adulthood, when life shows its patina of age, is a lot more complicated and decidedly less charming.

Last week, after seventeen years, we walked down Essex Street once more. I had the crazy idea of introducing ourselves to the current tenants, just so I could see the inside of the home we once lived in. I almost ran as I counted down the addresses : 242. 264, 290 ... and then 298 -- which looked like our house but was painted white. Where was 294? Did we get our address wrong? We retraced our steps -- and found the lot on which 294 Essex Street once stood was now a block of four self-contained units. They've torn our house down.