Tuesday, July 22

My New Career

When I was in Kuala Lumpur earlier in July, my old friend and die-hard foodie KC Toh took me to the Petaling Jaya home of a local chef for an impromptu cooking lesson. Ah Pan, pictured here teaching me to fry noodles, is a hawker. I'm not sure what his specialties are. I can be forgiven for not learning this since he and I didn't share a mutually comprehensible language. He doesn't speak much Mandarin or English and I speak even less Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew or Hakka.

He had what I'd call a "kitchen suite". His home is an ordinary two-story "link" (attached) house, including a small conventional kitchen with an unused sink & stove that he uses to entertain (read: feed people) in. An attached utility room is used to wash dishes, another attached room is used for several freezers and refrigerators. An outside room, called the "wet kitchen", is used for food preparation. This kitchen's concrete floor was very wet indeed (he gave me rubber sandals, he had wooden clogs), there were plastic buckets on the floor, some with vegetables soaking in water, others with unidentified grey liquids. Also on the floor, squatting, was his unskilled Indonesian assistant who was chopping shallots in a very desultory way.

The most interesting part of the wet kitchen are the two inverted rocket engines. Well, they probably aren't really rocket engines, but they each have their own propane tank and have three nested perforated rings that throw blue flame eighteen inches. These are what the woks go on and they can heat a wok quite fast.

No recipes here (I was sworn to secrecy) but I'll tell you that I now can make:
  1. Teochew-style steamed fish
  2. Kueh-teow tung (Ipoh-style rice noodle soup)
  3. Chow kueh-teow (Penang-style fried rice noodles)
  4. Rice Fritters
I plan to practice for a few years and then open my own stall in Tahoe.

Saturday, July 19

Touch Move

thought this was a friendly game
nothing can be taken back
there's a clock
why didn't you tell me sooner

Tuesday, July 8

Your first lesson in Hokkien

I'm in Sydney (actually in suburban St. Ives) but only last week I was in Malaysia. I saw Eric and Jane Toh's new baby boy, Keith. Eric is the son of my old friend and well-known raconteur KC Toh.

Eric, a native speaker of both English and Hokkien, asked me if his son should be taught to address me as Ah Chek or alternatively, Ah Kong. Without telling him that this is the first time I've been asked that question, I told him I preferred the first (Uncle) to the second (Grandfather). Sigh.

Hokkien, of course, is the native dialect for many of the Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore.

Given that we've already learned the word for grandfather above, I've chosen an important sentence using the word for recondite readers to learn. I can't find the tone marks for transliterating the dialect. Still, let's try it. The sentence is:
Grandfather says: the tin can hit grandfather.
This is pronounced in Hokkien, roughly, as:
Kong-kong kong: kong-kong kong kong-kong.
So ends the first lesson.