Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Weird Combo Pizza

Most of the time, the local cuisine of a far flung place can be an acquired taste to say the least. But once in a while we put something seemingly weird and foreign in our mouth while squeezing our nose and squirming our face and tensing our body, just to end up with the amazing burst of flavors and textures rocking our numbed, dormant hibernated tastebuds. And we would be going back for second in a heart beat.

This is a pizza, very popular in Khartoum. The pizza dough in a shape of a boat filled with mozzarella cheese and baked till the dough is crusty golden and the cheese is bubbly melted. Then generous amount of honey is splashed on to the pizza until spillage occurs. Or the intended effect was to have the boat is floating on a sea of honey? Anyway, it's then return into the oven for a quick heat up and voila, the aptly name mozzarella honey pizza is ready. 

"Honey on a pizza?! Are you crazy?!" 

Yup, I hear ya. Yes it's basically a sweet and savory pizza, more sweet actually. But trust me, it tastes so so so good! The gooey savory mozzarella with a tinge of cheesy sourness adds another depth of flavor. Strangely, it complements the sweetness of the honey just wonderfully. The scent of the honey is intoxicating. The sweetness of the natural honey is subtle and not overpowering. One just can't stop at just a slice of this crazily yumminess. Well it's hard to resist something sweet even if you have not got a sweet tooth, right?

Mozzarella honey pizza, oh suddenly I miss Khartoum! I think I'd take a crack at it making it at home one day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mom's Orchid

Mom used to say she never lifted a finger for any sort of work when she was a girl, house work, school work or even work work. She had always had it easy and breezy, having a time of her life. But all changed when she married dad. 

She cooked and cleaned for a household of 11 (My grandparents, 4 uncles and 3 aunts). When we the kids came along, she took care of us. She also worked selling cookwares and Tupperware products. Then grandpa fell ill, she took care of him. When dad was frail, she took care of him. 

Last October dad passed on. Now mom is living on her own back home. She is taking care of the house and herself. And she is taking care of the plants in the front, and backyard. There are more and more plants now. Papaya tree, sugar cane plants, sour sop trees, lemongrass bush and a whole front porch of flowers like hibiscus, lily and orchid. 

On my recent trip home, I saw the orchid blossoming beautifully. There wasn't a whole stalk of them, just 2 lovely saturated purple flowers, bright and crisp. Well, mom has been spending a lot of time and effort gardening and it shows. They were very pretty and I was thrilled looking at the flowers. Orchid is one of those plants that is resilient and strong, surviving with the bare minimum. 

Looking at the flowers in the morning on my return to KL, I just thought that that's my mom, resilient and strong, and making wonderful thing happens in the challenging conditions. It also a comforting sign of hope, that mom is walking out of the gloomy gray of dad's passing and welcoming wonderful splash of colors back into her days.

Slowly but surely.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I met her at CED/Little Hearts orphanage in Phnom Penh, while I was volunteering there a few years ago. Her name is Pech Sopheap. I called her Madam Sopheap. She lives at the orphanage with her deaf and mute daughter. Madam Sopheap works as the cook there for a measly wage every month.

Day in day out, she cooks for the 40 odd kids, preparing them 3 meals every day, simple fare but warm and hearty. Madam Sopheap would ensure the little ones get fed properly and the older kids clean their plates. Like a broken record, she always yells at the big boys and girls to eat before they head out for their part time jobs in town. Madam Sopheap doesn't speak a word of English. Me, I don't speak a word of Khmer. Sometimes she would yell at me too, in Khmer, for not eating enough! Of course, sheepishly I smiled at her, and then piled up my plate, ate more, as ordered.

Yes, she yells! Thundering loud! Sometimes she even pulls out her rattan whip to ensure the little ones wipe their plates spotless.  That's the way she knows how to show her love for the kids, and for me, a very orientally mother.

In the orphanage, Madam Sopheap is indeed the mother to all the kids. She works from sun up to sun down putting food on the table, ensures them kids a full stomach everyday. Working tirelessly and selflessly for the kids, loving them unconditionally, isn't that what all the mothers do?

Madam Sopheap, hope you had a lovely Mothers' Day. May your day be filled with love. And the kids are not giving you too much trouble.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fish Balls Soup

On the lunch buffet at the hotel restaurant today, there was chicken stew, some African style chicken stew. Chunky white meat with vegetable in a clear white broth. I took some to go with my rice. 

A closer look at the stew when I was seated revealed that it was actually a fish stew. My first bite into the chunky fillet, it was flaky and tender. And then the taste and scent was unmistakeable, fishy and salty. That instantly triggered my longing for the fish balls soup from home. Big round fish balls, smelling just as fishy and salty floating in a bowl of piping hot clear white broth. 

I remember mom used to bring us kids all out in town on weekends for shopping and fun. At the end of the day, we'd packed onto a rickshaw with our shopping bags and exhausted bodies heading to the hawker stalls under the giant big trees in town center for dinner. The simple yet delicious fish ball soup was a staple on the table. That was one of the highlights of my day. Maybe my week!

And suddenly I was 5 again, squatting at the front of the rickshaw carriage, looking forward to the fish balls soup dinner at the end of the day out in town with mom. 

Oh ma, happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Gosh, 36! With the new crew cut 'do, I look no more than 25! Hahahaha... Well today it's my day, so humor me.

At 36, I'm blessed. Physically I'm blessed with this youthful good look (the jury is still out there on good look, but youthful is definitely a popular opinion.) and good health and (most of the time) a sound mind. I'm grateful to have my family's support in (most of) the decisions I make no matter how stupid or crazy they are, and (most of) my family still love me! How cool is that!? I have (a small circle of) friends. They are real, not the FB kind. It's the quality, not quantity. They would smack (literally) some good sense into me when I'm being an giant jack ass, hurry over to my rescue with a simple phone call, stab me only at the front (usually in the face) and drive across the city late in the night just for a beer with me (and they are the one buying). Workwise I have a somewhat enjoyable (or is it tolerable?) job in some far flung corner of Africa. Paychecks are fat enough (of course it could be fatter) for a 30 something. I have my own pad in the city and i just bought a car too! Life is good (most of the time). I cannot and should not bitch about it, really.

But there are something amiss. 

Life is bigger than me. There should be, no, there must be a greater purpose in life for everyone, not just personal achievement and fulfillment. I believe we are here to serve a greater good. It's time to give back. Living in Juba has its challenges and it's frustrating sometimes. OK, most of the time. But the poverty surrounding me also reminds me to be grateful and humble. I want to get involved with some NGOs here and volunteer my time and/or energy, preferably something to do with education, for I believe education is the best cure for everything. I have this crazy idea. It's super duper ambitious but I'm actually looking at building a school here. With my supposedly big fat paycheck I hope I can work out something or collaborate with some organizations to make this happen. It'd be a long arduous climb not nothing in life comes easy isn't it? 

There are plans for doing good work on the education front back home in Malaysia. I got ideas from my big boss on helping in some small scale educational sponsorship like sponsoring flight tickets for some poor oversea students or supplies for schools in the rural areas. In addition, I definitely would do my bit for the Chinese primary schools, like contributing towards the utilities bills. Hopefully I have enough dollars to stretch as far as possible. Oh one more, Little Hearts in Phnom Penh will always have a special place in my heart. So, it's also on my wish list to continue volunteer there and visit the kids whenever I can. Miss them kids loads. 

In the end, if I can't do it myself, I'll get help, get help from most of the family who still love me and the small circle of friends I keep. Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho said it well:"If you want something really hard, the universe would actually conspire to help you." Let alone friends and family, the whole universe!

Still, there are something amiss. 

Well, more like someone, someone to share this life with. This one I really need the help from the whole universe.

Anyway, happy birthday to me!