Happy Chinese New Year – The story of Nian

Happy Chinese New Year 2015 to all. cny12cny157As many know, Chinese New Year is a time where majority of those of Chinese descendants, come together with their family and friends to celebrate. It is a festive period involving lots of good company, food, money giving, traditional entertainments, and lots of laughter.cny158And of course, we cannot forget about the Chinese rice balls, which is eaten during festive seasons like Chinese New Year, New Year, and for some, during the Christmas season as well. cny153cny154cny152cny155cny156cyn15110996581_10152697485545662_7816092254273855384_nThe colour red have always been a symbolic colour for Chinese New Year. According to an old Chinese myth that I know, there was once a beast with the body of a bull and the head of a lion called, Nian. Every beginning of the year, Nian would come out from the mountains where it was living and terrorize a village. It would eat their crops, and if there were any villagers in the way, it would eat them too. One day, a strange man came to visit the village and told the villagers that the beast can be defeated by loud noises, bright firelights, and the colour red. So the villagers would hang and display bright red lanterns and fire crackers everywhere. In the end, Nian was terrified that it returned to the mountains and was never seen or heard of again. That is why Chinese New Year is filled with loud noises and firecrackers. And in memory of Nian, there is the symbolic and well known lion dance.

There are several versions of the Nian myth, but they are all similar in a way with how it ends.   cny150cny15

Photo credits to Suzanne Yeang and Irene Soo. Thank you, Ladies, for the wonderful photos, as usual. And special thanks to Irene for always taking mouth-watering photos of the rice balls. I know nobody who can make rice balls as perfect as she can. Looking forward for more to come.

Gong Hie Fatt Choi to everybody.

Other posts on past Chinese New Year and rice balls:

https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/happy-new-year-first-post-of-2013/

https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/chinese-new-year-2014/

https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/how-to-make-chinese-rice-balls/

 

 

A Penang Story – Part 1

So it all began with this photo I saw posted by a friend on Facebook.

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To most of you, this might seem like an ordinary photo. But for me, it’s so much more. It reminds me of my other home, Penang, in Malaysia. The photo is recent, and the location of where it was taken was at a famous shopping mall nearby where I used to live when I was residing in Penang. It was where I used to go almost everyday to have my meals, meet up with friends, and do my shopping. It’s been 11 years since I was last there. When I saw this photo, I immediately became homesick. It sure hit me hard.

There are 13 states and 3 federal territories in Malaysia. But out of them, Penang is the most different state. The people, the community, the lifestyle, the environment, is somehow different from the other states/territories. If you live in one state and then move to Penang, you will automatically feel the difference. A good difference. After being magnetized by the photo, I decided that I wanted to share with you my tour of Penang via my personal thoughts, views, knowledge, and experience, with also the help of some of my Penang friends with the visuals. Instead of presenting everything in one post, I am going to divide them into categories. My tour will include some of my favourite local food where you can’t find ANYWHERE else in the world, famous streets, art, stories and gossips (both local and personal), a haunted hill and war museum, and a history of an Englishman.

Enough said. Let the tour begin.

Malaysia is a multicultural country. There is Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sikh, and Eurasian. Therefore, the food in Malaysia is also multicultural. Some have a combination of Malay and Chinese, while others may have a combination of Chinese and Portuguese. But in the end, no matter how many cultures there are, in food and people, it all comes together as one, Malaysia.

msia24The Penang flag.

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I lived in one of those tall condominiums by the seafront back when I was residing in Penang from the beginning of 2003 till end of that year.

msia6msia20komtar Penang’s iconic tall building.

What I miss the most is the food. Sure, there are Malaysian restaurants around the world. But it is never the same as home. I’ve tried many Malaysian dishes in London (where I am living), and the food never tastes the same. The food isn’t bad either, but it just doesn’t taste like home. It’s not as authentic, even though they say it is. In some restaurants, they even have the names of the food wrong. I don’t know how I’ve survived 11 years of no home food. I’ve even tried cooking some of the dishes, but they just don’t taste the same. I guess I just have to wait for some of my Malaysian friends to come and visit so that they can teach me the authentic way. Below are some of the food that are so authentic that it’s hard to find anywhere else in the world except for home.

msia12Char Kuey Teow, a noodle dish cooked in light and dark soy sauce, with egg and seafood.

msia11Noodle dish with meat or seafood dumplings. Most Malaysians like to have their dishes with iced/hot tea or coffee with milk.

msia22msia8Noodle dish in soup. This is an extremely rare dish to find in any western countries. The closest I’ll ever get to tasting the real deal is a pot noodle version from London Chinatown 😦msia14A typical noodle cafe. msia15A noodle stand.

msia7Not just is this dish rare to find in western countries, but so is the fish. I call this fish the white fish.

msia13When I saw this photo while looking through a friend’s Facebook album, I almost cried. This is my all time favourite Malaysian dessert. It is made out of rice flour and thick coconut milk. It is layered, and I have a way of eating it. I don’t like eating it as it is, or taking a bite off it. There has only been ONE way I would eat it, and that is by layers. I would gently peel off each layer and eat it. I don’t know why. It’s the only way I will eat it. There’s no other way. Every time I see this dessert, I would immediately think of my childhood. msia17Another all time favourite. Biscuit with dried coloured icing on top.

msia16Of course, how can I forget about the rice balls.

My other posts on rice balls:

https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/tag/how-to-make-chinese-rice-balls/

https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/happy-new-year-first-post-of-2013/

https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/chinese-rice-balls/

msia1A typical Malaysian breakfast. It is a very simple dish. Bread with butter and sugar spread on top. Bread can be toasted or not, up to you. I prefer it toasted.

msia3Roti Canai, flat bread with spicy sauce.

msia21Traditional prawn curry in deliciously thick sauce. My goodness.

msia23A typical stall selling traditional desserts.

msia10Durians, also known as the smelly fruit to some. Like marmite, either you like it or you don’t. msia5Inside the durian. It does leave a strong odor on your hands afterwards. They are very expensive here in London Chinatown. Crazy expensive.

msia9Chinese buns. It is usually used for celebrations or prayers.

That’s it for the first part. To be continued.

A huge thank you to Irene Soo and Suzanne Yeang for the wonderful photos.

Mooncake Festival

It is Mooncake festival month!!!!

Mooncake festival, also known as Mid-Autumn Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival that takes place in September where everyone gives mooncakes to friends and families. The date varies depending on the Chinese calender. The mooncakes are sweet, with a duck egg in the middle. Every mooncake has a duck egg inside the middle to symbolize the moon. There are also many other types of fillings in the mooncakes. The ones I am familiar with has lotus seed paste, sweet bean paste, jujube paste, sesame seeds and peanuts. As for me, I only like to eat the duck egg. When I was little, my parents’ friends would come over to our house with lots of mooncakes. We would then eat it together. I remember digging, yes, proper messy digging, into the mooncake and taking out the egg from inside the middle. My mother would always glare at me and tell me off.
“Why do you always have to eat the mooncake like that. It’s not nice. You should eat it properly with grace.”

I was also the only one who ate the mooncake the way that I did. Nowadays, I hardly eat mooncakes. I only like to look at the designs on them.

Happy Mooncake festival!!!!
Thank you to my dear friend, Wern, who took the pictures for me.