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Monday, January 14, 2013

A box of memories

A box of memories
by CS Wan

Through the dim glass of the wooden cabinet, I see  it, sandwiched between dusty files. It is just a plain rectangular cardboard box with discoloured yellow lid, its edges partially tattered. The words Kodak photographic paper’  printed on the cover, suggest it is from a bygone era. 
However, not a single photographic paper is inside, instead  slides, postcards and photographs fill the box. At the very top  are six slides, now stained and mouldy.  I remember they were taken on a motoring trip round southern England with my Kirkby friend,  the late Nadarajah and  three lady Kirkbyites. After all these years I wonder if any of them can still remember that trip: the climb up the grassy slope at Land's End to take in the breathtaking views of the sea ; the walk along  the pebbled beach of Bristol; the visit to  Anne Hathaway's thatched-roof cottage with its  English garden and an apple tree laden with luscious, red apples.

8,000 miles away from home

Below the slides are some moth -eaten postcards of  countries we visited during our college breaks.

A postcard with the words 'North Wales' on it bring back memories of the time my friend, Jak and I went hitch-hiking in Wales and Scotland.
A postcard from North Wales

 I remember, one spring morning we went trekking through a pine forest in Wales with a few teachers and a group of school girls from Manchester. Suddenly we came upon a bluebell wood: a carpet of blue that stretched between tall pine trees.

A bluebell wood
Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil

 That magic moment still remains vivid in my mind.

I pick a photo which has paled with age and show it to my wife.
"That's a photo of me and my friends at the  Nurses' Hostel," she explains.
" Lost track of them. Wonder where they are?" she says, musing about her nursing days.  

Siew Leng(2nd from left) with her nursing colleagues

A photo of young smiling faces catches my eyes. It is a group photograph taken with my brother, cousins and friends. I remember in the early sixties, during the long December holidays, when I came back from Kelantan we would organise  a get-together dinner at one of the restaurants in Melaka town and after that we would adjourn to Happy Studio for a group photograph. The get-together came to an end when some of us got transferred to other states while others left the  country

Our Batu Berendam gang

Happy Studio along Jalan Kee Ann  as it is today.

Six small black-and-wide photographs with serrated, white borders, at the bottom of the pile, catch my attention. Most probably, they were from a long-forgotten pen pal. I remember  those days,  newspapers and most magazines like the Radio Weekly usually had a column for pen friends and we would exchange photos, postcards and stamps with our pen friends.
   The buildings and other landmarks in the photographs are not familiar to me, but fortunately on the reverse side of each photo is a handwritten caption and immediately below it I can just make out the word: Anthony, 8.10.1959. 

The photographs with serrated, white borders

As I study the photos and read the captions on the photos, I somehow feel  I have to post them on my blog. Maybe,  the photos  may help rekindle memories for those who lived through the fifties and sixties. 

Buildings in Ipoh town

Ipoh clock tower

Taken somewhere in Ipoh

Bridge to Kuala Kangsar

Fire at Tiong Bahru, Singapore
The kind of road we traversed from Singapore to Penang

The last photo with the caption 'The kind of road we traversed from Singapore to Penang' strikes a chord with me, as I remember driving on the same kind of road in the late sixties and early seventies when we visited my wife's hometown in Penang. Although the journey was long and tedious, we enjoyed watching the changing landscapes and the panoramic  views along the way. We would pass cluster of Malay huts that nestled cozily among coconut groves and surrounded by a sea of verdant paddy; Chinese farmers in broad-brimmed bamboo hats busily engaged in  watering and tending  vegetable plots and Indian rubber tappers tapping rubber trees in the shadowed wood. 

One of the scenes along the way, as I remember it.
( Oil painting, 1995)

At intervals we would pass through small towns, many with pre-war shops. I remember, except for the large towns of Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh, our journey would take us through many small towns:  Bidor, Tapah, Kampar, Sungei Siput, Taiping, Parit Buntar, Nibong Tebal and Simpang Empat. We would stop at Bidor for lunch, buy some fruits and biscuits, before proceeding to Ipoh where we would put up the night at our friend, Tjien Tho's place. Early the next morning we would continue on our journey to Penang. 
" This is Tham Leong's hometown, that's where Chow lives, " I would tell my wife as we passed through Kampar and Sungei Siput, remembering my friends from USM. 

With Tham Leong, Chow and other USM friends

Except, for Tham Leong who visited us on a few occasions, I have not seen or heard from  the others. 
Along the way my wife would point out the small towns where she used to stay and visit when she was doing her midwifery course. 
Then as we caught sight of  mangrove trees and irrigation canals with dark, brackish water we knew we were approaching Butterworth. On board the ferry to Penang island we would stand on the deck to enjoy  the cool sea breeze and  look out for a familiar face. Then as  the shoreline of the mainland receded from our view and  the island of Penang loomed  ahead of us, I could see the joy in my wife's eyes as she waited  for that moment when she would be reunited with sisters and friends. 
Chinese New Year is just around the corner and my wife is busy clearing the drawer: throwing away letters, envelopes and magazines that have accumulated through the years.
I look at the faded photographs and moth-eaten postcards in my hand. I am tempted to throw some into the garbage bag, but somehow find myself  returning  them to the same old box. And maybe, there is still  space for another photo  _ a photo to hold and rekindle another memory.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Pineapple tarts recipe: The nyonya way

Pineapple tarts recipe: The nyonya way

The  older generation of traditional nyonyas can be  fastidious when it comes to cooking and making nyonya kuih
They take meticulous care to ensure that their nyonya dishes and kuih meet their exacting standard.    
Their kuih must not only suit their taste buds, but must look appealing and have that dainty flair.
Making pineapple tarts the traditional way, using the fluted cutter, 
was a slow and tedious process. With their hectic lifestyle, the younger generation of nyonyas usually make use of the pineapple tart mould which is an easier and faster method. Nevertheless, they try to maintain the exacting standard sets by their mothers or aunts.   

Pineapple tarts recipe
Contributed by Catherine Wan

Ingredients for pineapple jam

1 kg pineapple
200g castor sugar
1tsp lemon or lemon skin
500g all-purpose flour
300g margarine
2 eggs
2 tbs cold water
A pinch of salt


1. Slice skin of pineapples

2. Grate pineapple. Chop until fine. Using a muslin cloth, squeeze out the juice until partially dry. Add castor sugar to the grated pineapple.

Cook in aluminium pot over medium heat
Lower to low heat and stir frequently


Things you may require

1. Fluted pastry cutter

2. Pastry brush

3. Pineapple tart mould


1. In a large bowl or container, combine all purpose flour, pinch of salt and margarine.
Slowly add cold water and using the rub-in method, work the dough until it resembles bread crumbs.

2. Make well in centre of mixture
Pour two  eggs in well
Knead lightly

3. Wrap in plastic
Refrigerate for two to three hours

4. Roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness

5.Cut dough using pineapple tart mould

6.Put pineapple jam in centre

7.Decorate with criss-cross strips

8.Brush top of pastry with beaten egg

9. Preheat oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in preheated oven

The pineapple tarts made by nyonya Catherine

10. Time to sink your teeth into the crunchy, yummy tarts.
       Inilah, kuih te'eh nyonya.

Notes: Photos courtesy of Siew Leng
You may also like
Ayam pongteh: From a nyonya kitchen

Click above link and scroll down

Thursday, January 3, 2013

How to make decorative mushrooms for the garden

How to make decorative mushrooms for the garden
By C S Wan

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make your own and unique
mushrooms for your garden.

Mushrooms among the flowers

Things you may require
1. A roll of plastic coated clothesline wire
2. White cement
3. A roll of thin wire
4. A small piece of chicken wire
5. A small piece of mesh wire
6. A pair of wire cutter
7. A pair of pliers
8. A piece of cardboard
9. Acrylic paint

Please refer to above diagrams

1. Cut four pieces of wire about 30 cm long from a plastic- coated
     clothesline wire.
2.  Tie together the middle of the four pieces of wire with thin  
      wire, leaving about 6 cm at each end untied. 
3. Bend outward one end of the loose wires to form an umbrella 
    shape that will fit into the plate.
4. Place the bent end on a piece of chicken wire and secure it 
    with a thin wire.
5. Get a plastic plate/bowl, preferably one that resembles the cap  
    of a mushroom.
6. Place the end which is secured with chicken wire in the plate.
7. Pour in the wet white cement. Ensure it has the right 
    consistency. Leave it to dry. 
8. Get a fairly hard cardboard ( about 18 cm in height  ) and roll it 
    into a cylinder.  
 9. Insert the cylinder into the tied wires.
10. Carefully pour in the wet white cement into the cylinder.
11. When it is completely dry, bend the loose ends outward.
      Remove the mushroom from the plastic plate.
12. Place the bent ends  on a rectangular piece of wire mesh and 
      secure them with thin wire.
13. Place the secured wire mesh  in a shallow cardboard box (eg. 
      cover of shoe-box). Pour in the wet cement. This will form the
       base for the mushroom. 
 14. When the base is partially dry you can score it with a plastic 
      fork to make it look like the bark of a tree. 
 15. Suggestions: You can make mushrooms with different sizes  
                           and shapes  and attach them to
                           the same base.You can also make or buy 
                            decorative items and attach/glue them to the 
                           Choose the preferred colour / colours  for the
                           mushrooms and paint them with acrylic

A man-made frog on a big mushroom

Two small 'frogs' on mushrooms.
                   Wish you every success in your effort and  
                    happy gardening.