Don’t say I never take you to dine at fancy places

It has been such a tiring week but I still managed to go out do a coupla things to unwind.

I went and helped car selling, then I went and helped car shopping. Great help I was. I sat and watched while my friend, emboldened by my very presence, extracted free fog lamps (it’s been hazy lately), leather upholstery and MP3 CD-R Disc Changer from the car dealer.

Then dinner was taken at that very swanky establishment on River Valley Road, Boon Tong Kee Little Gourmet, where al-fresco dining is available on the five-foot way, on dressed tables and chairs covered with black faux leather. As if the additional ambience provided by the stifling heat and lingering smell of bushfires isn’t enough, there are candles in big square jars with rooster motifs.

After you’ve contemplated the menu (chicken rice for two, breast meat please), the waitress with the perpetually quizzical expression and Johorean Mandarin brings you your cutlery wrapped in pandan-leaf green A4 paper folded and pleated to look like pandan leaves. Or very raw otak. For it is traditional way to eating Hainanese Chicken Rice with fork and spoon sticky with raw otak.

And because there’s the stifling heat and the lingering smell of bushfires, you need a drink. And the de rigeuer fixer upper at such an establishment would be the house pour barley water, served from a mini sized jug into shot glasses. Die, die, must try.

There isn’t much time to chew the fat and shoot the breeze, because your waitress brings serves your order pretty quickly. You are overwhelmed by the results of their culinary dexterity when you see your dinner. The chicken breast, chopped Boon Tong Kee style, isn’t very much out of the ordinary, but the rice. The rice! It comes on a square plate! It’s piled into a pyramid.

A Pyramid! Egypt! Ramses! Chicken Rice! Tutankhamen! Ramses II!

We had to mummify our laughter, I tell you. Until the bill came. Nabeh, not cheap.

Don't say I never take you to fancy places to eat
For to wet your whistle with

Don't say I never take you to fancy places to eat
Year of the Cock commemorative candle

Don't say I never take you to fancy places to eat

Surf stop: SMLXL
iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: Hallelujah – k.d. lang – Hymns Of The 49th Parallel, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.

Sure they serve beef, they invited a cow

Last Saturday I attended a wedding banquet I enjoyed for the most part. The only part I only sort of enjoyed was putting freshly withdrawn banknotes into an ang pow just before I got to the banquet. It was only later on that I felt parting with my money was worth it, because it was a pleasant wedding banquet. Unpretentious, short speeches, shorter (2 song) singing performances and decent food that was served quickly. Two spoonfuls of sharks’ fin soup, and the fifth course was already on the table. On hindsight, I should’ve known it wasn’t going to be unbearable, because any event involving Lat and his lot is almost always enjoyable.

A few days before the wedding, I met up with the groom and bride and they told me a funny story about the wedding preparations.

The bride was in charge of the invites, and the groom the banquet seating arrangements. They didn’t take leave from their jobs, so as you can imagine, they were very busy and very flustered. The bride looked up the names and addresses of friends and relatives of both families and hand wrote each card and envelope. Then, as is the way with modern living, you know some friends but don’t know their full names or addresses, only their handphone number and/or email address.

So, the bride goes, ‘Darling, you inviting your friend Carl?’

‘Yes’, replies the groom, poring over details of the banquet, and telling the banquet manager on the phone that there was no way he wants suckling pig on the menu because suckling pigs suck.

‘OK.’, and she starts to write out the invitation, and all is well.

‘Darling, how to spell ‘Carl’?’, she asks a few minutes later, while he is still busy on the phone.

Now, maybe she mumbled, maybe she mispronounced, maybe he was hard of hearing or maybe, and most probably, he wasn’t paying attention.

But he replies, ‘C-O-W’.

‘Are you sure it’s ‘C-O-W’?

‘Yes, C-O-W, C-O-W! Why you ask me this kind of thing?!’

A few days after the invites were written and sent out, the groom and bride were again doing some more preparations for the wedding. The bride handling the RSVPs, and the groom finalising the seating arrangments.

Looking at the list of confirmed guests, he scrolled down alphabetically till he came to ‘C’, and saw ‘Cow’.

‘Oh my God. Darling, why you call my friend Cow?’

‘I asked you how to spell, you said C-O-W’.

‘Since when? Where got people named Cow one?’

‘How I know? You and your Ah Beng friends, maybe got one called Ah Gu, so English name Cow lah!’

Put me at the right table, I give more ang pow, can?

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: Shting Shtang – Joe Clay – Labour Of Love – The Music of Nick Lowe, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.

Eating to death in Macau

There are few things for a tourist to do in Macau. These are gambling, whoring, eating and walking around looking at Portuguese colonial ruins. There wasn’t much time in my day trip from Hongkers, so I ate and walked around looking at Portuguese colonial ruins.

And they are really old ruins too, seeing as the Portuguese had already set up a trading colony on this little outcrop of the Pearl River Delta by the 16th century. By the 1840s however, the Portuguese were waning as a colonial power, and focus shifted east to Hong Kong, where your first ferry services already operated on a daily basis, with fast multi-oared craft known as centipedes plying the route between British Hong Kong and Portuguese Macao. Apparently, gambling, whoring, eating and walking around looking at Portuguese colonial ruins were the things to do then as well.

Today, I took the Turbojet operated by the Shun Tak China Travel Ship Management Limited from Chinese Hong Kong to Chinese Macao. Upon landing at the ferry terminal, I was not so much accosted by touts and peddlers offering all sorts of tourist activities on all forms of transportation – trishaws, buses, taxis and pirate taxis – than whispered at. The Macanese authorities must have clamped down on such things. I whispered back at the touts and jumped into a taxi and asked to be taken to St. Paul’s, you know, that Portuguese colonial ruin that everyone poses in front of to take a picture with?

St Paul’s facade (which is the only thing left of St Paul’s) looks over the city of Macau from the top of Rua de Santo Paolo, which really is a bunch of steps they recently re-paved. It was a little too sunny for my liking, so I didn’t stay long after taking a few shots and trying to listen to a tour guide explaining things in Mandarin to a bunch of Chinese tourists. I managed to comprehend something about a fire and many people die and fire and only the front is left, something something. My handy map (you can get this from the ferry terminal) did tell me to select Hutchison Mobile on my mobile so I could #83 SEND and REPLY #8324 and wait for a recorded message to tell me how St Paul’s was left with only its facade. I only managed a #83 SEND, then ERROR dunnowhat, before I made my way up some more steps to the Forteleza Monte (where I could also have #83 SENT). The fort is home to an artillery battery that used to protect Macau by firing its big cannons over the city and into the harbour, hopefully hitting some Dutch and Spanish ships wanting to have a piece of Macanese action.

Then I remembered I hadn’t had breakfast, so I traipsed down the Rua de Santo Paolo to eat some Macanese food in town. Before I got to the town centre proper, I passed by a whole row of confectioners, all touting themselves as the original purveyors of Macanese confectionery such as egg rolls, egg rolls with seaweed, egg rolls with pork floss, egg rolls with peanuts and those delightfully shiny and translucent tiles they call pork lard candy. I accepted samples of the egg rolls from every shop along the way, declining only the pork lard candies. Some of the quieter shops were quite aggressive in shoving samples into your hand, sometimes grabbing your hand and putting an egg roll or two in it, and then looking at you quizzically when you don’t go, ‘mmmm’, and ask ‘gei dor cheen yat hup’ and buy three boxes for your mother-in-law.

I was quite full by the time I got to what I thought was the centre of town. It wasn’t the centre of town, and there weren’t that many restaurants around, and I was beat. So I settled for one of those ubiquitous cafes and had a distinctly non-Macanese brunch of Beef Innard Noodles in Soup (Ngau Chaap Tong Meen), after which, I looked at the map and decided to walk around looking for more Portuguese colonial ruins.

I ran through another array of confectioners down another Rua. But this time, they were peddling bean-flour cookies, bean-flour cookies with seaweed, bean-flour cookies with pork floss, bean-flour cookies with almonds and peanuts and plain egg rolls. I ate one sample of each and was sufficiently weighed down to want to stop for a much needed coffee, and I was much pleased when I found I was on Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, which in Chinese, is simply called ‘Xin Ma Lu’, or New Road. This avenida leads to the harbour, where the kitsch-looking Casino Lisboa sits. So there’d be many cafes and restaurants along the way, so I thought. Nup. Just the one cafe, and many, many more confectioners.

This thoroughfare is quaint, though, with its two crowded lanes carrying the type of buses I haven’t seen in Singapore since the 70s. So cute. So I took many photos. After my coffee break at the cafe (which also sold egg rolls and bean-flour cookies), I made my way down towards the harbour, and passed Senado Square, where there were more tourists milling around an ordinary looking fountain, taking turns to pose for photographs. By the time I got to the Casino Lisboa, I was tired enough not to want to even venture inside the gambling hall. Instead, I waited in the taxi queue for a cab, which there were many, but they seemed to keep dropping off very ‘glamourous’ looking young Chinese women, and then pick up other ‘glamourous’ looking young Chinese women who had no qualms about jumping queue.

When I finally got into a cab by uncharacteristically jumping queue, I was zipped across the skinny bridge spanning the strait between the Macanese peninsula and Taipa Island. All I said to the cab driver was ‘I want to eat water crab porridge because my friend says I should eat water crab porridge in Macau’.

The cabbie dropped me off at the entrance to a pretty little enclave in Taipa, and told me to look for the water crab porridge place inside. So I went and looked. There were more confectioners and more egg rolls and cookies to be had until I finally came to a brightly lit restaurant with pictures of Andy Lau, Leslie Cheung and a slew of other Hongkie celebrities, dead and alive, all smiling over their porridges. This had to be it.

I asked for three of their signature dishes, and was told these were the Water Crab Porridge, the Steamed Eel with Black Bean Paste, and the Deep Fried Fish Balls. Within a minute, a large basin of orange congee with a crab’s shell and bits of claw peeking from under was placed on my table. The Eel and Fish Balls came soon after. I was about to eat myself to death.

The porridge is sinfully tasty, if you like the taste of crab and crab roe, that is. A large amount of roe is mixed into the rice porridge, which gives the congee its colour. The Fish Balls weren’t too bad either, and they had bits of fish meat sticking out of it. (Think of really good otak, only rounder, and you get the picture). The Eel dish wasn’t too pleasant, but mostly because there were too many bones to pick out from between my teeth. Still I managed to down most of the stuff on the table, thinking that if I really ate till I burst, they’d probably take a picture and put it next to Leslie Cheung’s.

The rest of the evening was quite a blur as I stumbled back to the main avenido, eating more confectionery samples along the way, and was convinced by one of the spruikers to buy two tubs of bean-paste cookies to eat on the boat back to Hong Kong, no matter if I was burping crab roe the whole Turbojet ride.

Estabelecimento de Comidas Seng Cheong
Rua do Cunha, Taipa, Macau SAR
$$ (HKD 200 for three dishes like above)
Food: Not Bad.
Chill factor: N/A

Other foods to try and buy in Macau:
Macanese version of Cincalok and Belacan (Macau, Malacca, same, same);
Oyster sauce;
Pork Chop Sandwich.

The goose is cooked

iTunes is playing: The Thrill Is Gone – Nina Simone – Tomato Collection

I can’t taste anything. I have a rather bad flu. No M.C. to get off work though. Life’s like that when you run your own bidness.

It was a particularly harrowing work day, but only so after I had a think about it. Otherwise, I’d have been pretty alright with how things were. Pays not to dwell on things.

No, no, PANDAN cake, not PONDAN cake! It's GREEN, not PINK!Speaking of which, I’ve been thinking a lot about my ex’s wedding in Hong Kong in October. I’ve another wedding to attend that month, but it’s in Lisbon, and it’s not of an ex. So Hong Kong takes priority. I ‘ve been thinking because I still haven’t made sense of how I’m feeling about it. The ex wants a pandan cake from Bengawan Solo when I next see her, which will probably be at her wedding.

It is this series of non-sequitur things which infuriatingly derails any coherent stream of thought. So, bugger it.

Speaking of Hong Kong, and I know I have for a fair bit lately, my mother informs me that the famous Yung Kei Restaurant has closed its shutters for the last time. Kinda sad. I was looking forward to going there on my last day in Hong Kong (on any Hong Kong trip) and buying one of their prepared roast geese, packed nicely into a box with a handle, for to take on board (or checked-in) flying home. Apparently it’s a pretty popular thing to do. Go to Yung Kei on your last day in Hong Kong, buy a goose, cross the road and take the train to the airport.

Apparently quite popular also among the Cantonese is this delicacy: chicken testes. The Cantonese like their food. They like to make everything their food, really. If it moves, steam it, fry it, deep fry it, boil it, double boil it, wrap it in flour, fry it again and then eat it.

On a business trip to Guangzhou two years ago, my business associates and I were being driven around town looking for lunch. One of my associates pointed at a shop packed chockers with caged animals, and she exclaimed, eh, so cute, the pet shop is squashed between so many restaurants, of course, inevitably to be told something to the effect of, ‘That ain’t a pet shop, that’s one of our most famous restaurants. The ingredients are really fresh’.

Not that I feel queasy about it, of course. I eat most anyfink. ‘Cept maybe tasty chicken testes.

Lastly, I was tickled to note one of my pet peeves is shared:

From someone’s Friendster profile.

P.S. For some reason, my Funky Hongky Names entry has disappeared off the index page. You can still go directly to that entry’s own page, but not from the Recent Posts links or Archives. Funny leh. Maybe Blogger is getting back at my blotting out the ad banner.