Monday, July 30, 2012
Monday, July 23, 2012
LAST week, a remark by a community leader in Bukit Bintang caught my attention. In welcoming the new KL mayor, Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib, the community leader identified three critical issues that he claimed needed the prompt attention of City Hall.
Monday, July 16, 2012
I LIKE Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail's recipe for retirement. In an interview with this paper last Friday, the outgoing Kuala Lumpur mayor said his most immediate plan was to cook for his family for Ramadan. He will later open a restaurant or cafe, or perhaps write a recipe book.
Monday, July 9, 2012
A FRIEND who had been grappling with constipation was bursting with joy when we met up for dinner recently. He was all smiles the minute he stepped into the Chinese restaurant at Sentul Raya. He even suggested that we order the Szechuan steamed stingray, a dish he used to avoid because the black pepper would worsen his constipation.
When I asked him what had relieved him from his chronic ill, he said it was probiotics. He found out about the friendly gut bacteria at a health fair in Singapore recently.
Not only is his bowel movement now regular, even his eczema was gone, he said.
Now a probiotics evangelist, my friend actively encourages his family to go on probiotics-rich diet. That evening, he did not only explained the benefits of probiotics to me, he even gave me a list of brands to check out.
I told him that I had been taking probiotics for many years but mine did not come with fancy names nor were they imported. Mine is commonly known by it Indian name -- tairu, the plain yogurt even non-Indians can learn to make in their kitchen.
I learnt how to make yogurt years ago after Indian friends told me that tairu (creamy yogurt) or moru (the liquid counterpart) taken with a dash of salt, was not only good for the gut but also fantastic for dispelling heatiness.
I was also told that yogurt was frequently added to Indian dishes.
However, I learnt about the health benefits of lactobacillus, the good bacteria present in yogurt, way back in the early 1980s. Now I make a kilo every few days for my youngest daughter. She started taking it six months ago when I told her it would help heal mouth ulcers. I had learnt that from a book by Adele Davis, a nutritionist who pioneered the concept of eating right to keep fit.
Four decades ago, who had heard of probiotics? Or used it to keep constipation at bay? Those days, if one is constipated, doctors usually recommended laxatives, one of which is Brooklax. It looks like a small piece of Cadbury chocolate. Take it at bedtime and you will find fast relief in the morning.
Even the commercially-available cultured milk drink had yet to make its appearance back then. I remember how much trouble the salesmen had trying to explain why the lactobacillus bacteria was good for the gut to the less-educated shopper.
Those days, however, most people were already eating healthy traditional foods that contained generous amounts of good bacteria. If you recall, the Chinese have their lum yee (fermented beancurd), hak tau see (fermented black beans), phei tan (century egg) and preserved ginger.
The Malays made tapai (fermented tapioca or glutinous rice) and tempe (fermented soyabean cakes), in addition to pekasam (fermented fish).
Most Indian families made their own yogurt long before commercial ones appeared on the shelves.
Today taking probiotics have become a fad. Those who swear by it, like my friend, tell me that good probiotics should contain live cultures. The capsules have to be kept refrigerated and taken on the long-term before the effects are seen or felt. They also don't come cheap.
The way I see it, if we could just look back at what our forefathers ate and put those "peasant foods" on our table, we certainly don't need to stomach the marketing hype or be constipated paying through our noses for commercial probiotics.
Monday, July 2, 2012
HAVE you ever had steamed tapioca (or ubi kayu) for breakfast? It was common fare back in the old days. It was seldom sold at the stalls because it was not as popular as breakfast staples nasi lemak, nasi dagang and kuih , but it was often served at home.
Folk ate it with grated young coconut or dipped in sugar. As a kid, I ate it, too, but with ikan kering (salted fish), usually selar kuning (yellow-tailed scad).
Steamed tapioca was regarded as humble fare for the poor. It was very cheap, at only 10 cents a kati (or 600 grammes). Two katis were enough to provide an ample meal for a family of five.
Tapioca plants grow quite easily, too, and most homes would have a few planted in their backyards to provide shade for the ducks and chicken.
To grow a tapioca plant, you only need to stick a cut stem into the soil. Even with minimal care, it would mature in about 10 months to provide you with three to five tubers, each the size of a corncob. If you regularly feed the plant cow or chicken manure, it would reward you with tubers as big as a man's thigh.
Harvested tubers can keep for a long time if stored in a cool, dry place, away from the rats.
Apart from being steamed, the tubers can also be grated and baked into tapioca cakes. People also made tapioca flour at a time when cornstarch was a luxury.
Recently, at a coffee shop in Hulu Kelang, I saw plastic packets of steamed tapioca sold at RM1.50 each. Curious, I asked a friend, a regular there, if steamed tapioca was making a comeback.
The chap told me that the steamed tapioca there had found a loyal following, especially among foreign workers. A packet of steamed tapioca was more filling than regular breakfast items and much cheaper, too.
Another poor man's fare, sweet potatoes, are enjoying a revival with city folk, especially the health-conscious.
Rebranded as "wholesome, healthy snacks", roasted potatoes are selling like hot cakes at kiosks in shopping malls, especially at the one near my home. Last Thursday, curiosity and hunger got the better of me after a round of marketing there.
The growling in my stomach turned into piteous pleading at the scent of roasted sweet potatoes.
I headed for the stall, picked a yellow-skinned sweet potato slightly bigger than my fist and asked the foreigner manning the stall for the price. After putting the tuber on the electronic scale, he said, "RM7.50."
When I complained that it was expensive, he told me his sweet potatoes cost RM1.80 per 100g, the reason being they were imported from Japan. My appetite left me, and I, apologising, left the stall.
While roasted sweet potato may be a more salubrious snack than burger and fries, the indulgence would not be healthy for my wallet.
I would be literally paying through the nose if I had succumbed to the scent of nostalgia that evening. On top of that, I would be a "han choo thow" (or potatohead in Hokkien).