Monday, March 28, 2011

Baking Again... Not So Soon

Since I got back to Khartoum back in mid February, I've been meaning to bake. There's an oven in the kitchen. It's something I enjoy very much and been doing it back in KL. Most importantly, there'll be some sweet to feast on in the end.

Particularly, I would like to bake carrot cake, my forte in baking. My carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, there are people out there think it's almost as good as one of the top bakeries back home and some even willing to pay for it. So I brought along a measuring cup, a grater, a whisk, a spatula and a 8-in square baking tin.

Until now, I have not bake anything.

First of all, those baking utensils I brought along got my squashed in the luggage. The grater frame was broken and the whisk was scrunched up. Well with a little of fixing they are good to go (and they are fixed). But the baking tin, it was bent out of shape. No tin, no baking.

Anyway I started to go through the supplies in the kitchen. While I had successfully located cinnamon powder, I also found out that we are running low on sugar. No sugar, no baking.
Then I realized there is no sieve in the kitchen. No sieve, no baking.

A few weekends ago a score a good deal on some baking wares. I picked up a sieve and a pack of sugar. I also have been buying carrots during my weekend grocery runs. In fact I've been collecting carrots in the fridge. The reason being I found out that I have got no baking soda. No baking soda, no baking.

I actually got some from my neighbors, 2 of them. I was all happy and all ready to get cracking. However, they were actually giving me baking powder. Still no baking soda, still no baking.

Last weekend, I finally found baking soda in the shop and I happily scooped a jar. I also found cream cheese for the frosting too. As I about to put the cream cheese in my shopping cart, I noticed I have not seen icing sugar available. Well I convinced myself that it's ok, I would start with just a simple carrot cake sans frosting. It'd be a treat still.

As I was unpacking my grocery at home, getting ready to bake, a sense of uneasiness creeping in. Damn, I forgot the walnut. I love the nutty flavor and crunch in the cake. Not walnuts, no baking.

Well, I'll get some walnut this weekend. By then, everything would be checked and carrot cake this weekend. I'm salivating now.

Oh wait, this weekend I might be out of town visiting pyramids and temples ruins. No in town, no baking.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just Wondering

More than 30000 copies of the Holy Bible in the Malay language were seized by the authority in Port Klang and Kuching Port because the word 'Allah' was use in the publication to refer to God.

Since when did the word Allah proprietary to Muslim? And where is this insecurity about one's faith coming from?

On the flip side, why can't the Christian quarters use the word Tuhan in reference to God.

I wonder what Allah thinks about that.

P/S: I believe in God, just no one in particular. I doubt religions, all of them.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Getting Some?

Another sex tape hits the country, headlining front pages, occupying prime time news, rocking radio air waves, blasting the cyber-sphere.

Damn, we are one hell of a sex-crazed nation.

Are we really that desperate?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Carpe Diem

I was chatting with my friend BB back at home, online. We were talking about the massively devastating earthquake and tsunami and the nuclear aftermath in Japan. How powerful Mother Nature is, while how small and how insignificant are we. How life is so uncertain, so unpredictable, so fragile and so vulnerable. In a split second, everything is gone. We might not have as much time as we think to do whatever we plan to do tomorrow. Whatever you want to do, the best time to do it is now. There's no time like the present. Procrastination is the devil within us, cooing us into complacency, tricking us into taking things for granted, drifting us from those we love and blinding us from what's matter the most, our dreams.

"What are your dreams?" BB asked me, point blank.

"What are my dreams?" I asked myself, silently.

Spending time with family. Completing a marathon. Going back to school. Publishing a cookbook. Running a patisserie. Traveling. Volunteering. Farming organically.

These are more of a personal fulfillment, my own goal. I must admit they are somewhat selfish. But i think we must first make ourselves happy before we are able to spread our joy to the others.

What's your dream?

Seize the day, make it happen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Simple Makes Tasty

This is perhaps the simplest and quickest sandwich I made, whenever I can get hold of the main filling, bak kua. Bak kua is actually barbecued sweet pork slices, pretty similar to jerky. I brought along 2 big packets of these sweet meat to Khartoum coming back from my holiday at home.

Actually, a friend made me this simple sandwich almost a good 12 years ago. Since then I've been tweaking it, perfecting it, by adding cheese and mayo and lettuce and this and that. But I still find the original version the best, simple a piece of bak kua with a thin spread of chili sauce and sliced cucumbers, in between 2 pieces of whole wheat bread. The meat sweetness and smokey-ness balance well with the spicy-ness from the chili sauce, and the sliced cucumbers add a refreshing crunch to every bite.

It takes no time to make it and it take no time to chow it down too.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One Pot Wonder

On my weekly grocery run last week, I scored a great deal (I think) on some bake-ware: a 9-in square glass baking dish and a 4-in diameter casserole dish with cover for 35 Sudanese Pound. Quickly I put them into action, by making this one pot wonder chicken pie.

Everything diced: button mushrooms, carrot, onion and chicken breast. Then vegetable sauteed for a couple of minutes before chicken and frozen peas added. A couple spoonful of canned white-sauce (I cheated) for pasta and milk stirred in and brought to a simmer. Here I also mixed in some homemade croutons from my stale bread to pump up the volume of the filling then put it in my brand new casserole dish. Cheese grated generously on top. Finally covered the dish with a piece of rolled out store bought pastry (I cheated again) and baked in the oven until the pastry puffed up voluptuously and turned beautifully golden brown.

Get ready to tuck in.
I think I rolled out too hard on my pastry it got compressed too much. Hence it did not puffed up. Oh well, yummy nonetheless.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Prayers for Japan

I was just visiting the 2004 tsunami ravaged Phuket island and Phi Phi island in January this year. It was such an amazing feeling seeing the islanders back on their feet and smiles curling back on their faces.

And now Japan.

My prayers go out to you. I pray for you strength and resilience.

This too shall pass.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Morning Madness

I went to the field last weekend, the oil field. The field was located in the south, an hour flight away. I was anticipating a challenging field trip, as the condition and environment in the south and out in the field is extremely basic and rough, harsh even.

But the most challenging part of the whole trip, was getting through the airport security. Now who would've guessed that? When I got to the domestic terminal at the airport, the entrance was already packed full to the brim. In fact people were spilling outside. Needless to say, there was no queue, just a lot of pushing and shoveling, as well as a lot of yelling, and possibly swearing, in Arabic. Everyone was trying to get through. I stood in a line, or what I thought was the line for a good 10 minutes. It was not moving at all, just more shuffling and cutting queue, complete chaos. What a commotion!

It turned out to be the luggage security scanner.

Why can't everyone just line up, put their luggage on the conveyor belt and leave it to the officer to do the checking , then walk through the metal detector and pick up their luggage and get the fucking on with it?

"In Sudan, nothing is impossible." My colleague, Z said to me. I've only been here a little over 4 months. There are so much more to discover, learn, adapt and adjust.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Bus Trip to Kep

The sun was up high and blasting. It was hot outside and it was getting hotter inside the bus. The AC wasn't working too well, or not working at all. The heat was seeping into the bus. Stuffy and sweaty, it was going to be a dreadfully long 5-hour ride from Phnom Penh to Kep. So, I was trying to sleep it off, hopefully when I woke up then I'd be in Kep.

In the rickety bus along the bumpy road, I managed to doze off, drifting in and out of the la-la land. It reminded me of my ablation procedure to treat my SVT some years ago, semi-sedated, except the procedure was carried out on a stuffy traveling oven.

The next moment I opened my eyes again, the bus stopped by the road. There were a bit of a commotion outside the bus and a lot of fidgeting inside the bus. Then passengers started to go down to find out what the heck was going on. More followed suit. As it turned out, it was a punctured tyre.

Right, the 5-hour ride will be longer now. I went down to take a leak, smoke a fag, snap a few photos, killing time.

What is a bus ride without a breakdown in the middle of nowhere. No fun!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

A Place of My Own

I've got my own place! FINALLY!

Since I'm now in Sudan, arrangement was made for my lawyer to deliver to keys to my condo, no, my bachelor pad, to my sister over the weekend. So yesterday I called her and she confirmed that the transaction had taken place and she successfully secure the merchandise. Such an covert operation indeed. I then call her again when she get to my bachelor pad to check that everything was in place. Well, almost everything, 2 table lamps were missing and the AC unit in the living room did not seem to be working. Small matter. I can always get my own table lamps and had the AC fix in no time when I get home.

After years of being a commitment-phobe (financially), I decided to buy. Then after years house hunting, viewing, price negotiating, wheeling and dealing, considering location, amenities, appreciation value, feng-shui, cool-factor and all, I had my eyes locked on this one. But just after I signed the sales and purchase agreement, I was relocated to Sudan for work. What followed were months of back and forth Khartoum-KL calls and emails and text messages with the vendor and the lawyer and the bank and my sister on the paperwork and the documents and the loan agreements and the balance payment and the handover date and the keys.

Now, done deal. I got my bachelor pad!


Now, the bank own my ass.

But still, yay!