Roses are sweet and so are you!

Coincidentally, I got a chance to spend the morning at home last Wednesday for some errands. On the way after for my post-valentine’s coffee, I stopped by to see from afar how my niece was coping in play school. Like many other three-year-olds, this was her first month here, away from the comfort of familiar faces.  She is one of the few I know who so dislikes going to school and beams with relief when classes are over. She is totally the opposite of her mother and me. Perhaps it was just the chocolates that got me hooked, but the irony is, I loved school. To me it was like a Neverland so full of Peter Pans. I could have stood watching her a little longer, but I didn’t want to give passers by the impression I was stalking pre-schoolers.

Watching her there made me think about my own friends and how much each means to me. We meet many, who hop on and hop off our path at different stages. They influence and shape some aspects of our lives or decisions and without any announcement or expectation be just there when you need them. Some stay longer in our lives. Sometimes, we feel their angelic presence even when they are not close.  And there would be times when the words just don’t flow through as they should and silence over rules. We don’t tell them how much their presence means. 

Rose Vendor in Hanoi, perfect for the occasion

My coffee for the week is Kopi Kota Bahru, a local coffee famous in Kelantan. This is in the northeast state of Peninsular Malaysia. I have tried this coffee on several occasions, and each time, I found the taste to be a little sweeter than my acceptance level. If my valentine is also as sugary as this every day, I will puke, thankfully it is just the right flare. The coffee is a dark roast – a Hainanese styled one instead, with a robust-bodied flavour and bitter tasting.  I liked mine hot and learnt so do most Kelantanese. Just on taste alone, for me, it gets a three.

Bitter, yet sweet, Kelantan's Coffee

Hallmark is not going to be too thrilled with me, nor the local joint where I have this coffee. Fact is fact! Ah well, what the heck, as for valentines, someday in the future when one is wiser or due to economic pressure, the roses and RM30-greeting-cards may get replaced with coffee and WhatsApp messages. Then we would realise that every day is actually Valentine’s Day and every friend is a valentine in some way. So, Hallmark, make your money while you can before we all go broke and realise this. And as for the coffee joint, you need to do something about the service. The street vendors bravely walked in to sell their products. I'd like to help, but today I am here because I want my space.

Pick One, its yours

I hope my niece will accept school a little better tomorrow than she did yesterday. Hopefully, she too finds those little Peter Pans I promise I saw. Still, she is such a sweetheart, against the odds, she picks up her school bag and goes there anyway. I just love her courage for being so brave.

To all my friends, whether you are my college/school-mate colleague, ex-boss, a friend from work or volunteer projects, someone dear I met during travel or family thank you! You are in some way been a part of me, and I hope I am the same to you. Happy Valentine’s week!

Turn ‘em on Loud.

When you see; red decorations in shopping malls, carton loads of mandarin oranges in stores, lion dances, drums, colourful cheongsams, red angpows (money packets) and firecrackers in the Asia Pacific or South East Asia regions, you are probably witnessing one of the most widely celebrated festivals in this region. The Lunar New Year.

Oh those colours.
The Lunar New Year or the Chinese New Year (CNY) is a 15-day celebration, celebrated by the people of Chinese origin. The Chinese zodiac is an interesting belief, there are 12 animals in total, each year is dedicated to a specific animal – starting with the Rat and ends with the Pig on the 12th. The cycle repeats annually.  Others waiting for their turn are the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster and the Dog.

On 28 January 2017, we bade farewell & thanked the Monkey for a blessed year and welcomed the Fire Rooster into our lives. The saying goes that a person inherits a bit of the characteristic of their birth year animal. I like my birth-year animal very much. I always wanted it as a pet but I would get arrested if seen with one in my apartment. Keep guessing, I am not giving any hints. 

Do search the web for your zodiac animal too when you have time. It’s a fun way to learn about yourself.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

I have my own way to show respect for the season. In the past I have worn red outfits, had dinner with friends who celebrated the occasion and indulged in peanut cookies that melt in the mouth. These are just a few festival related traditions to name. This year I did the same. Angpows (small red packets containing money) are usually given by those who celebrate the event to single people or to their close relatives. I do not qualify for any. But I do say, I collect the empty red packets distributed by local banks and supermarkets because they just look too pretty not to.

The first two days of festival holiday fell over the weekend, giving us an extended weekend. Due to this, it was also a good  time to travel. But travelling during this season can be tricky. - you may end up paying for high-priced-cheap-seat airline ticket like I did. Well, I took advantage of this long weekend to visit a dear aunt (mom’s older sister) in India who was not feeling well. She took care of me when I was young and still looks out for me from where ever she is. She is much better now. To me, family is important, I wouldn’t put a price tag to that.

After only two hours of sleep, on a red-eye flight with the most uncomfortable seats of the plane, I now start my work week. To keep me energised, I start the CNY week with a local white coffee and Kaya (coconut jam spread) toast. The coffee’s origins would remain stateless until the workers here figure out where it’s from themselves.   And on the second attempt, I finally got served.  If you are in no hurry, willing to wait and enjoy the ambiance, it is worth a try. Premium coffee grade - 4.


Happy Chinese New Year friends, enjoy the season.

City lights so bright, Coffees so right

A visit to Malaysia is not complete without having a glass of the famous Mamak Coffee Tarik. It is a typical backyard-instant-coffee prepared by the mamaks. It is sold at tea stalls and restaurants and served in glasses. This coffee is usually enjoyed with a Roti Canai (a type of flatbread). The mamaks are just regular friendly Malaysians of Tamil Muslim origin.

If you still can’t find a stall, ask any local. He may even take you there himself and join you for a cup of coffee or tea. 

Mamak Stall

The taste of this coffee, in my opinion, depends on how fast & how much coffee is scooped out. Also, important, is the quality & amount of condensed milk poured into the mix and the water temperature.  In other words, it is a skill that's acquired. Most established mamaks have perfected the art of preparing this to a similar consistency each time.  The word Tarik means ‘pull.’ It occurs where steaming hot coffee is poured from one stainless steel container to another. This is done to cool the coffee temperature and to form a layer of foam. The Tarik is an age-old tradition that originated from the Indian sub-continent.

I particularly like the coffee served at outdoor stalls, and yes, the tropical heat adds other natural and unique ingredients too!   

My first ever outdoor-night mamak coffee experience brings back sweet unforgettable memories of Maybank. This was where I had once worked. I have fond memories of my colleagues and the ‘camping at work days’. Shift B was on duty that night. Knowing how naive I was, during their break, these Shift Taiko’s or brothers decided to show me a bit of Kuala Lumpur during the wee hours. I must admit at this point, that my sisters and I had a somewhat conservative upbringing so going out at night without my parents was non-negotiable. But work was different, and it was a responsibility to fulfil. 

He is fixing me a glass of coffee.
Now back to that night. I had no idea what to expect but seeing these fantastic neon city lights blinking in my eyes and seeing so many cheerful people from all walks of life sipping coffee at the Puduraya stalls simply got me exhilarated. The city at 3 am was different and it was alive!  After that night, I don’t recall ever saying no to batch support duty. Later, over the years I had worked for several other banks, and I continued providing integration support at night. I did this during project cut-overs and made many more close and trusted friends from all races and age. This coffee-experience united us then and continues to do so today.

The mamaks, like the taikos, are generous and affectionate people but in different ways.  Their kindness is often displayed in abundance through their hospitality and food.  They also like to make sure the coffee is sweet! So, if your personal goal is to keep sugar levels under control, take this coffee in moderation, common sense will tell you what is best.

Because coffee is affordable and tasty, it is also popular. More importantly, for me, it is unpretentious.  You can try preparing it at home, but after several attempts, you'd probably be back to the stalls. Some days you’d even get a chance to meet a celebrity or two there.

Today, just for you, I decided to have some mamak coffee tarik and roti canai.

Have good week friends.

 Mamak Coffee Tarik & Roti Canai