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January 13, 2018 § Leave a comment

IMG_1615It is funny how after some time, it isn’t about the pose, it’s about the breath you take in and how you release it. It is the way you show up on the mat everyday that inherently, dedicating an hour to reconnect the mind/body/soul. It is how the pose is formed and transits to another.

It is funny how after a while, it isn’t how the dish is served but the freshness of the ingredients and how they arrived at your table. The sincerity of the purveyors, honest cooks and warm servers.

It is funny how it isn’t the type of clothes we wear but how it softly fits onto our skin and makes us feel naturally comfortable . It isn’t about dress sense but the sincerity of our smile we put on every time we greet someone.

It is funny how it isn’t about the amount of friends you have but the depth of friendships. How far you are willing to stretch for one another and how often they appear in your daily thoughts. The moments you shared laughing at one another’s stupidity, putting up with the idiosyncrasies and still want to share a meal together.

It is funny how it isn’t about the places you have been but how you get there. As cliche as this sounds, it is amusing that there are still tourist spots and selfie sticks.

It is funny how as a plant based eater (some call me rabbit, goat or bird), I know how to eight way a chicken, gut and scale a fish or touch raw meat; yet find meat eaters who squinch into a ball when they see a pig’s head or bone in meal. It is also rather peculiar that they do not know the shape of an oyster in poultry or where the vein of the prawns are.

IMG_1616It is strange and awesome at the same time. We are all looking for the same sense of belonging and meaning on this earth but our paths are far from near.

It is remarkable that you can feel so much for someone and yet so little in an instance. It isn’t the words we say but the promises we keep to ourselves for others, which makes the relationship genuine. The call you were supposed to make, the letter you were going to sent, the cup of coffee you meant to share and the little projects we set out to do.

It is peculiar that we meet at the same spot again and again. We are drawn to the likeness of sensibility and charm in the space. In time, our encounters are brief but special. Yet there is all there is.

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We took a trip to the Great Ocean Road today. It was pouring very heavily and the little fella felt scared. So he rested his chin on my lap the whole way until we got home. I sneaked into McGran’s Cafe to take away a lovely slice of tahini cake. The rain has a way of showing up when it is least needed but beneath the thick dark clouds there is warmth in being good company and a sincere slice of cake.

 

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the year will end..

December 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

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It’s been a very reflective year. More so than the year before because of the events that have unfolded. For many, it is perhaps sedentary, a cruise mode to pass through the motions and performed what is needed or should. I for one have never been the sort who operates on cruise mode, if anything it has always been manual. I bought a bike and put it together (with a little help from my friends), moved into an empty apartment and found furniture on the local community sites, found recipes for kombucha/sauerkraut/soy yogurt and now have a little fermentation corner; perhaps Bunnings would be my next favourite DIY store. As it should, as I feel our lives should be simplified to lessen the carbon footprints by making it of our own and deliberately making a conscious effort to refine attitudes, broaden perspectives, and foster cohesiveness amongst ourselves.

There hasn’t been any new recipes here despite being a food blog. I have not been cooking with recipes for a while. Baking is quite intuitive and so is cooking. But here is a simple put together for days like these are far than a few. This morning at the local asian market, I found laksa leaves and danced around the spot while hoping the cctv above me didn’t notice. Then head down to the local Coles, treat myself to some locally grown blood orange and a big tub of soy yogurt. I turned our Cave playlist on, assembled a spread of crackers with vegemite, dolloped a couple of tablespoons of soy yogurt into a vintage teacup, sliced oranges & banana and tossed a few laksa leaves. IMG_1249

So this is how 2017 will end, with no guidance to how life should be but simply a genuine joyful act of come what may. As one of my uncles will sing in my ear when I was a little girl, que sara sara . You know the next line…

Updated, and a new title. I just watched an inspiring film, Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent. It is perhaps the best movie I have seen this year.

Let the flesh grow old and crumble. What are my expectations and what have I done?

How can one not sit on the thoughts and reflect on those questions? For Jeremiah Tower, cooking and dining is a soiree. More than not, he has meticulous anticipations with lighthearted vim and vigour. I had thought I would be rather insane to think that menus are as readable as books. Hence having a big collection of menus from restaurants/cafes through travelling. The name of the dish should highlight the main ingredient, not whimsical or how it’s processed but what it entails. It has never quite stuck with me how sous-vide is so welcomed on a menu or putting an accurate number for cooking temperature. We might as well put UNOX oven-baked apricot cake or Iseya sliced tuna belly. Our equipment has taken over how food is appreciated, where it should simply be rejoiced by its origins. The source of how they are formed has been diminished. A pinch of salt in a dense brownie is forgotten because salted caramel is drenched all over it.

I seek finesse in feeding the finesse food and drinks. Perhaps it’s not everyday I work in one but hope to find a place where people are on their toes and captivate themselves into something more than just as it is. After all, what is greatness if we settle? IMG_E1257

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November 27, 2017 § Leave a comment

IMG_E0803There are a few moments in life that you unconsciously remember. Perhaps a fruitful dessert you made during the first summer day, when the heat was so strong, turning the oven on would just be against the grain. It might be a stranger you locked eyes with on the train and had a heartfelt connection. It could even be a ratatouille moment ~ a certain dish that sent you back to your childhood dining memories.

Today is a momentous day. One I would never have imagined happening for as long as I remembered. While other girls chase white dresses and shiny rings, I longed for a space I call my own. Exactly two years ago, mum and I decided to visit her university in Switzerland. She had graduated in the year when bell bottom pants were as trendy as dim sim or Lune croissant in Fitzroy. But instead, we had traditional apple strudels with dark roasted coffee in our thick parka jackets. We hiked through a snow blizzard and made it to the cafe she interned at. It was somewhere there that I decided to steer the wheel and take a different course on this journey.

Two years later, I am in a different country, studying my second degree and reading up on road bikes. Perhaps going to celebrate Christmas in hot summer ( not that it really matters since we are from the tropics) and try not to get too tan.

I moved into my new apartment today. For the first time, in years I am living on my own once again. I bought the double mattress from a furniture store which had an incredibly kind salesman who squeezed it into my friend’s car. He also gave me two extra pillows to keep myself warm. I bought a dining table set and second-hand refrigerator from a buy/swap/sale online group, which had given incredibly sublime experiences. Everyone has so warmly offered help and extended an extra pair of hands if in need. My neighbours have already introduced themselves, gave me their numbers in case of emergency and welcomed me to the area. It’s barely even day one, yet it feels like I have lived here for a long time. This is the feeling of being at home.

IMG_0810As a Malaysian, I would call this the kampung spirit. The sense of belonging one feels in a community where everyone looks out for one another and share the same backyard but still respecting privacy. I moved here with 2X30kg suitcases, and am starting from scratch. A new drying rack, a new knife board, a new set of detergents, vacuum cleaner and even blender, which my boyfriend so kindly hand-carried from Mustafa (Singapore).

It is surreal but only natural. As I sit beside the window this late evening, staring at the brightly lit half moon and sipping on the Nadurra, I can only count my blessings and be grateful for the generosity and graciousness.

Here is to many first loves to come. I have yet to bake in the oven, do a full asana, sleep on that mattress and make my first breakfast. IMG_0801

yoga is painless, when you practice awareness
asana brings transformation, when you let the breath flow
life is painless, when you practice mindfulness
the journey offers beauty, 
when you surrender to the flow

heritage

August 29, 2017 § Leave a comment

IMG_9344.jpgIt has been barely 24 hours since I touched down, my head is still lingering in a heritage sphere. One would wonder how deep an impression a city would make after a couple of days. How my feet remembers the little lanes between a main street, or how my heart allows the scent of cumin spices to pursue the next dining destination, exploring the preserved local architecture, or simply just letting the island’s indecisive weather depict our routines.

Penang has always had a special place in my heart. As a younger family, we would visit relatives and friends over the holidays or special occasions. All other random visits would either be a result of serious food cravings or missing good company.

This trip emerged slowly. We had no plans for anything but to spend quality time together. We spent the days mostly sleeping in till unlikely hours and waking up to local food on the table. An array of char kway teow(fried wok-hei filled noodles), steamed local sweet corn, nyonya kuehs (sweet treats), freshly sliced pineapples and homemade kopi. Then we would head to Hin Bus Depot, an old bus depot turned art exhibition centre, for yoga, a photography event/workshop or a walk around the flea market.

The flea is filled with artistic vendors, recreating traditional prints, clothing, food with new materials or homegrown products. A nasi ulam stand calls for own grown ulam (herbs), freshly folded into turmeric rice and sprinkled with tempeh crumbles. A bookshop decorated with old tiles painted with images of historical sites and calligraphy stationary sets. At this point of the day, I am already feeling spoiled with an abundance amount of good food and great company in an immensely enriching environment.

A kefir soda maker and her daughter who manages the art space behind; a graphic designer turned bartender/cook who runs the retail shop, The Swagger Salon; local beer brewers, Red Door ; Wholey Wonder, vegan/yoga studio; and the resident cat, Eugene.

Where was I when all these home-grown talents were transpiring?

Somewhere at the other side of the world, searching for answers to questions I yearned to understand.

How do we make ourselves relevant to society? How do we preserve what we have and still change what is needed? What is needed?

All things are relevant. All these are subjective to its own usage. Money. Materials. Time. Distance. Food. Clothing. Art. Car. A house. They all mean something to us fundamentally but conjured up different interpretations.

I used to think that having three meals a day was a necessity. But realised we could make our own eating choices without looking at our watches but simply by asking ourselves, are we hungry?

I used to believe that growth is tearing things apart and letting new materials take over. But learnt that growth can start from understanding what the past gave us and using new materials to help preserve its authenticity, without damaging or hindering what the original maker had intent for it to be. Now that’s, craft.

 

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Some evenings were spent dining out but when circumstances allowed, I could feed the family. One of my favourite family meals dishes comes from Nigel Slater’s first Kitchen Diaries. I initially made this as a psychology student in Leeds. We had a big house party with young college students, which called for simple finger food and cheap beers or cider. This time, Lemon Peppercorn Roasted Chicken Wings were paired with sautéed seafood, fried rice and pork rip soup. A rather intimate and slow affair compared to the youthful days. We also took the chance to bake cakes for tea. A staple Grapefruit Yogurt loaf and vegan Chocolate Banana Walnut brownie. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them its dairy & egg-free. I couldn’t bring myself to understand how rich and moist that loaf was. It was perhaps the best vegan chocolate cake I’ve ever concurred. They say, wisdom comes with age. Perhaps, baking experiences are the similar, so to speak.

On a sleepy Sunday, I woke up early and followed his mum to the local ban san (a hokkien slang for wet markets). We walked around the busy street with vendors trying to get our attentions, buyers grabbing  fresh produce, ingredients, snacks, and so forth. I stumbled upon an old bakery, where they still use their barehands to fold wet cake batters, proof breads and use margarine for nostalgia.

I stood at the counter too long to their likings and observed them manoeuvre from counter to counter. Their quick punching on proof doughs, prudence in tipping breads out from hot pans and carefully wrapping cooled pastries were so well orchestrated. I wonder how long they have been doing this. I wonder how many times the lady had asked me what I want when I lost all awareness while in the baker’s trance. She finally grew impatient, and left me alone. I continued staring gleefully at the perfectly season deck ovens, stainless steel trays and arrays of pastries. How long have we been doing this in our own backyard and yet search for greener pastures to create trends? Have we grown impatient or bored of ourselves? How does creativity prevail while we have little appreciation for authenticity or simple craftsmanship?

The food we eat these days has heritage. It is nostalgic for the flavours, textures and environment. But the food we ate, sometimes have little nutritional values. We were cultured to adapt to this because we were at war or perhaps not so well informed. While I go on commenting about how we should take care of our own well-being, I sometimes wonder if I should stop caring. For people don’t care what they put in their bodies and when I say too much, it isn’t well-received.

A little sadness sank in that evening. Sitting outside staring on the quiet streets, asking myself how can we continue to educate or bring awareness when people don’t want to? Because being ignorance is blissful and we could continue living in a egomania society, breading excessiveness and immorality.

I always say, how you do one thing is how you do everything. Pour enough sauce for your salad or chee chong fun; buy one not take advance of buy two get one free (there is no need); take what you need and leave what you don’t. Our heritage is narrowing, because our education is advancing without teaching ethics or mindful-living. I feel grateful for meeting passional collective individuals on this trip. A little light to capture essence of hopes for a better community.

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August 13, 2017 § Leave a comment

Baking this lovely cake is a ritual at our space. I remember meeting her family for the first time. They rolled up to our shop and was delightfully surprised that we had a gluten free option sweet for her son. Week after week, we became a weekend treat after their long family walks. Five years later, she is one of my closest friend and most inspiring woman I know.

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When this came out from the oven yesterday, I knew it wasn’t my best. I had lost touch of the whisk, spatula, melting time, temperature and essentially, the kitchen. I haven’t been doing this for a long time and also felt so at home. How can one feel so lost at home? It takes a while to get myself familiarised with Gerard, Sam and Blu. I remember their particular manoeuvres. Holding onto the off/on button while reducing the speed; pressing one side of the mixing bowl down so that the whisk can ease into the egg whites better; never preset the temperature because he is always faster than you think.

All these familiaritires spoke closely to my heart. Afterall, 4 years of long hours in the same space, how could it possibly not?

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I love being able to tell the story of a simple cake and how it brought us customers who became very close friends. I love being friends, forging bonds over simple meals and being their daily bread/coffee. Beyond these, I am also a home cook who is obsessed with tinkering ingredients, temperature, methods and re-adjusting recipes. “A little more salt for this today”,”a little more of that than that”, “that didn’t look like that before, why is it this way today?” There is a certain expectation we live up to. More often that not, we are our worst critic by putting ourselves down and then comparing to others. But truly we know that comparing ourselves isn’t as bad or good, until we are better than the last meal we cooked. The goal as a cook is to always be better than your last cake or dish.

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A couple of days ago, I caught up with a friend where we spoke closely about being authentic and drawing positive energies. It is so easy to get sucked by naysayers or the rat race. While we are obsessed with what the media portrays and how we should live our lives vicariously through theirs, we also unwillingly blend into the social norm. So what if we are a no reservation place or do not believe your gossips about this other person you are talking about? Perhaps if we all have an open mind or heart about the next thing we hear of something new or old, we could all be better for ourselves and others too.

Here is to “not living to the status quo, giving unconditional love and having the courage to be your authentic self”.

I am leaving this country, again. Yes this time its full throttle, no visa drama and just left with packing. It feels a little bit like how Nancy Silverton left Canpanile. A year ago, that relationship didn’t work and someone had to go; so I left, even when I wasn’t ready to leave emotionally. It was the lost of the space that made me a little hollow. I had no idea what to do, so I travelled, did odd jobs and found home ground somewhere else. I’m still on this journey. One thing I learnt this week about being yourself, be daring enough to pissed people off.

Want a beer?

*oh yes, we named our equipments*

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May 3, 2017 § Leave a comment

When we look up at the sky, we are trying to find the way to ourselves.
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What is a community? A few individuals coming together and striving for a united goal? Or collective personalities wired to generate something better? Both scenarios sound similar to one another but none of them truly understand the beauty of a community. To understand the collective, we need to question the individuals. How they view themselves and what their roles are. The beauty that sync us lies beneath our heartbeats. It is in the way we devote ourselves, and commit in being inclusive.

I have yearned to be part of a community. I have wanted to integrate people’s lives with each other. A space for one another to be themselves through honesty, selflessness and trust. A bond of reliance for us to feel loved or inclusive.

There is a certain level of commitment when we dedicate ourselves, forming interdependence. One that takes time and effort to sow and nurture into a beautiful wheat field. A seed is carefully rooted into the ground for natural growth, then germinating into stems/leaves, eventually sprouting to a tall confident plant. A plant is nothing beyond itself, but a few of them forms something special. That something special transcends differences.

Last two weeks were rather challenging. We were setting up the space and have been pulling long shifts to misc, prep, clean, organise, plan and so on. There were too many of us, yet there wasn’t enough collectiveness. The irony in forming a space where miscommunications and ego override transparency.

It reminded me of how we set up the previous spot. How we cemented the floors, cleaned the equipments, test recipes and gradually gain confidence with time. How the community around us were patient, yet curious and grew with us. Somehow it felt right. Somehow it really thrived. For a long period of time, we gather a good amount of love and trust. Somehow, we lost this essence overtime.

Perhaps it is just for me.

A friend and I have been discuss the meaning of friendship for a while now. How we make the effort to reach out but the other party doesn’t. How we continuously want to involve ourselves with their lives and only to be turned away with a cold reply (or even better, silence). We understand moving on with life or getting busy but it is a two way street, with every step comes a closer bond. Free spirited hearts carrying heartfelt banters of care and concerns. While we can grow apart, we can also grow inclusively with humility.

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I have watched various spaces filled with people who come and go. Many that stay beyond their “time” and many who couldn’t stay still because of something more. I have rooted myself in places where I thought people would grow together with time. But only to be disappointed, with time itself.

Looking up to the sky last evening,I have decided again to slowly let go of the strings I attached myself to. That this little big island, cannot be a place for a fish out of water like me. After five years, there is something better than forming a better relationship with a piece of device than the person living next door. If this is living, then the living is rather nonchalent. We are too afraid to bring the walls down; yet the only thing that brings us together is by lowering them.

Vulnerability in community snowballs. Once its members become vulnerable and find themselves being valued and appreciated, they become more and more vulnerable. The walls come tumbling down. And as they tumble, as the love and acceptance escalates, as the mutual intimacy multi-plies, true healing and converting begins. Old wounds are healed, old resentments forgiven, old resistances overcome. Fear is replaced by hope. – M.Scott Peck

If letting go looks like the beautiful sunset, then let the light in.

A little tip of enhancing beetroot hummus with laksa flowers leaves and sambal. Oh what would I do without a little kick of spiciness in my food?

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the start

March 25, 2017 § Leave a comment

There is

no name
no tune
no thoughts
no destination
no space
no second clock
no colour
no taste

– beginning

The start wears the purest form of Mother’s Nature beauty. The air is crisp and clear. The breath carries an innocent whiff and exhale itself into the atmosphere. Bringing truth to a better light.

The prelude bears clarity and serenity. It is simple to feel. It resonates a silence smile a new born carries. It grows like a seed nurture into a tree.  It brings waves to the ocean. It becomes.

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A few weeks ago, I started a new journey. And like all new beginnings, it came with a closure. I ended my short stay in Yangon. The departure was inevitable. The differences seem to match like puzzles pieces, forming an unforeseen picture. Coming back to the island was only natural, and it seems like another new start after another, yet this time, everything seems to be aligned.

But before returning, the yoga community in Yangon invited us for a retreat at a beach town 6/7 hours away from the city. It took no hesitation for me to say yes. So off I went to another short excursion.

Ngwe Saung lies on the west side of Myanmar and has the front row seat to the Bay of Bengal. Since it is the best view, it would almost be a dishonour to hold our practice anywhere else but.

 
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Every morning, I arrived sheepishly at the open hallway. We start our day with a short meditation and an hour of vinyasa flow. As we meditate in the quiet, flashes of past memories come flooding their way through. Some were hurtful, some were very joyful and between the both, there were collisions of your own thoughts trying to play tug of war. Where should I fall? Where should you place your emotions? What is the outcome of falling into it? Can i get something out of this?

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 “A man’s power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth, and his desire to communicate it without loss.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My perception of truth lies in the depths of how honest I am with myself. It wasn’t so difficult to be at peace with myself anymore. Unlike previous struggles, this was different, it was genuinely rediscovering my own strength and knowing where my limitations lie. With that said, the practise has became somewhat easier with a clearer head space. It’s as if I have decluttered my own brain and made way for some physical strength and serious alignments.The lighter one feels the lighter the body is.

“The body is smarter than your brain.” We often outwit ourselves with pushing the limits. Can we stretch the calves an inch further during a downward dog? Can we hold in a three legged dog half a minute longer? Let’s try to extend the arms a little higher but soften the shoulders deeper on a lunge.

There wasn’t a moment where I didn’t want to just ease into a pose. I want to engage each reflexes with poise yet gain the resilience and flow with my heartbeat. The mat has become a place for comforts and challenges simultaneously. The union is like two friends meeting one another, the twilight moon meeting the sun right before it reaches the horizon. An occurrence we fail to witness yet happens everyday.

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The best part about rediscovering yourself is finding same kindled spirits who share the same perception. While we came from all walks of life, no culture, religion, race and gender differentiate us, one way or another, we meet at the mat and breathe the same air. Evenings were spent at cocktail bars laughing over Yangon life. The little inglorious daily activities that make the city unique to its own. Bad traffic, unhygienic manoeuvres, discrepancies and so on. One that seems so foreign to a life I live this moment.

I’m back in the +65 region again, with a new job, but still hanging out with my crazy kitchen crew and exploring a deeper relationship. Somehow everything seems to work out the way it ought to be just as it should, with time.

My current new boss is quite obsessed with fried shallots(eu chang,葱头油) . An asian delicacy and staple to any meal. Fried shallots on steamed fish, nasi lemak, fried shallots on plain rice, shallot oil is also used very frequently in garnishing any salads or finishing off a simple stew to enhance the flavours and brings a crisp texture. It’s something little but goes a long way.

After this morning’s workout, I bought some kale on my way home and immediately thought of tossing some in for a quick lunch salad.

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Kale, cashew cheese, cherry tomatoes, quinoa and fried shallots. Happy weekend folks

 

 

 

 

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