CHUTNEY’S SNACK BAR

Piped in music.. sort of.  Hindi of course. Sounds romantic, though I don’t understand the language. But it is so soothing. The ambience is quite quaint. A little shop or restaurant that is called a “snack bar”. “CHUTNEYS SNACK BAR”, Artisanal Indian Café.

It all started when Jeannie smartphone-d (telephoned) me last evening, asking me if I wanted “puttu mayam” (not sure if I got the spelling correct) for dinner. She was at the Empire Gallery Shopping centre and had just bought me 1, yes 1 vadai; not the usual 3 that she buys; if and when she buys vadai for me.  She said the vadai was bigger than the usual size we would get at the “ordinary” Indian restaurants that can be easily spotted in most  towns. And it cost much more, too.

So, she bought a packet of putting mayam.

I was hungry by the time she got back. I went for the vadai first. It was about 1 and a half times the size of a regular vadai. The taste was somewhat different from the regular ones. I think the ingredients in it were maybe a bit different, fresh.

The vadai is deep fried in very hot oil. But this was not burnt as most others are. Maybe, the oil was fresh, not over-used. I have grown accustomed and even like eating the deep fried, dark-brown vadai. But this… this was certainly amongst the best I’ve eaten, that’s for sure.

Then, I started eating the puttu mayam.

The packet came with 5 pieces of these string hoppers, with a more than ample serving of coconut and actual gula melaka, not brown sugar. The gula melaka makes this puttu mayam so authentic. It brings back fond memories like how this was usually served years ago. The whole meal was delicious. I was so hungry that I didn’t think of taking photos of the meal and vadai. This means only one thing – we have to buy this again for sure, for me to do a full write-up and take pictures, too.

The experience I had with the vadai and puttu mayam, and the way Jeannie described this little restaurant and how the owner was pleasant and gracious, made me want to come to this restaurant and see for myself if all that Jeannie had described is as it is.

After picking Jeannie up from work, then heading home to Subang Jaya; the usual question – one that is extremely more difficult than it sounds, “What shall we have for dinner?” Usually, I would, say, “I don’t know. I leave it to you”. Jeannie then comes up with a whole list of suggestions – all of which my response is “no” (so much for leaving it to Jeannie to decide) until something I like, clicks.

But today, I knew I wanted to try out this Indian cuisine. I was curious to find out how a little Indian restaurant would “click” with the crowds of people visiting Empire Gallery, daily. When Jeannie mentioned this place for dinner, I did not say anything. I just drove – destination: Empire Gallery.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Back to us being at Chutneys Snack Bar today. We chose to sit at a corner of the room to get a panoramic view of the whole place and watch it go through its motions.

Our drinks were served soon after.

Jeannie had the saffron chai tea, and I; the mango lassi (a cool drink).

The owner was very gracious and had great rapport with his customers…existing and new. While waiting for the food to come, he served us a plate of what looked delicious..pakkora. It didn’t just look delicious, it tasted delicious, too! Jeannie found it very spicy. It was spicy, yes.

Pakkora
Already begun putting this article together. What a way to do it…while munching on a serving of pakkora.

My onion tosai

Jeannie order an onion tosai for me. It had an egg fried in it. The three chutneys (Now we know why “Chutneys Snack Bar”) that came with it were really good. The orange-y coloured chutney was very spicy, the coconut chutney which is white in colour was less spicy and the third side dish which was dal, was non-spicy.

Jeannie order – “Uthappam” – stunning presentation.

Jeannie’s Uthappam meal came with the same three side dishes.

While waiting for our dinner to be served, I saw a genuine pleasure, not only from the owner and his wife, but also from their employees. There were several employees who busied themselves by preparing and carefully serving the meals.

We tried a little bit of each other’s meal. We came to the same conclusion: yah bhojan bahut achchha tha (excellent!).

When we finished our meal and were leaving; we spoke with the owner, Isaac and his wife, Sarita; about what we saw in our short experience in Chutneys. The inviting, yet very simple decor of this restaurant, with a nice sort of chandelier, the soothing music and their genuine care to reach out to their customers, is an invitation to come back again, and again and again. Isaac said it is their passion that is infused in them that genuinely want to serve their customers.

I would recommend that when you are in the area of Empire Gallery Shopping Centre in Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia; dine at Chutneys Snack Bar, an Indian Artisanal Café.

DID ANY GOOD COME OUT OF THE “BRITISH COMMONWEALTH”?

The recent passing of an icon of monarchies, if I may put it that way; has left a void in the “system”. Queen Elizabeth II was ruler over Great Britain, the British Empire / the British Commonwealth for 70 years. Most (all) of the countries that were a part of the British Empire are self-rule now and are members of the British Commonwealth. She was also “Head of State” for some of the countries in the Commonwealth like Australia and New Zealand, for example.

Why do I say “icon”? When you talk “king”, “queen”, “royalty”; more often than not, Queen Elizabeth and the British royal family come to mind. No way does this downplay the importance or stature of royalty of other kingdoms. It is just that the British royal family is more in the news in this part of the world.

Why do I say “system”? Maybe, establishment is a better word to describe monarchies / kingdoms, so on and so forth. King Charles III, has a huge role to play in order to come out of the shadow of Queen E II, his mother; and perhaps, surpass it.

Coming back to the passing of Queen E II. Her funeral was on September 19th, with thousands of people paying their last respects to her.

There were also groups of anti-royals, anti-monarchies, etc, that chose this time to vent their anti-ismness. They have their reasons to vent against colonialization. I am not going to debate their reasons or give my views here, in this article.

It made me think: Did any good come out of this “British Commonwealth?”

I think people moved about and travelled to countries more freely, maybe with a feeling of being “safer” or accustomed to “being within the same umbrella of nations called The British Commonwealth”. If not, my siblings and I will not be here.

My grandfather on my father’s side (my father’s father) came from then known Ceylon to Malaya somewhere in the late 1920s or early 1930s. I am not sure whether he was in the British army at that time. My father’s father married my father’s mother and they had my father and his 5 siblings. That’s only half of the equation.

Charles & Julia Atkinson – Their wedding.

The Atkinsons in the 1970s

The other half of the equation is my mother. My grandfather and grandmother on my mother’s side, i.e. my mother’s parents, were also “imports”. They were both from Goa, which is on the central eastern part of India.

My mother’s parents first came to then Malaya, in the early 1900s. My mother’s father first brought orchestral music to silent theaters at that time.

The Gomes family – 1970s

The result of my father’s father and my mother’s parents coming to Malaya: My siblings and me…My uncles, aunts and their children, too. We are just a couple of families that are here as living proof, amongst the millions of others who share the same journey path as mine.

The Atkinson and Gomes families

So, yes, I believe there was a lot of good that came about the collaboration of countries within the British Commonwealth.

If groups of people want to propagate and champion ill-will and division among men; there are plenty of excuses (reasons?) to churn up. That’s the easy part.

I am all for propelling goodness, equality to all men, peace and kindness. Now, that’s a challenge. Anyone game for it?

“We Are Family”: Sister Sledge and Chic

As for my weight-watching, what is that?

Working, working, working at reducing weight…to bring it down to the accepted weight range according to fitness or health “experts”. Not sure if they have a life but…just kidding. We have to anchor our belief system in all we do to get to that “order” or “common ground” which the majority agrees as common ground.

Then, this has to happen. Why? Delicious meehoon siam with sambal and potato cutlet.

Jeannie, my wife; went out with her mother (my mother-in-law, for the uninitiated😉) to this famous, super popular Makchik and Pakchik nasi lemak stall in SS18, Subang Jaya. Aunty Maryjane Atkinson, who introduced this place to us; speaks so highly about the nasi lemak from this food vendor.

I love rice, even until today though I have stopped eating rice for nearly 15 years. If nasi lemak was served to me, I will eat everything but the rice. Strong💪 will power.

This same stall also sells meehoon siam. Since Jeannie and her mother were buying packets of nasi lemak for themselves, they decided to buy meehoon siam for me.

Though this meehoon siam is not same as the legendary famous meehoon siam of the hawker who had his 3-wheeler bicycle parked in front of La Salle School, Klang; every school day in the late 1960s to the early 1970s; it is still unabashedly tasty. To top it, Jeannie asked to add in a side order – potato cutlet!

What made it difficult for me was I on most days, do not have breakfast or lunch. I have been on this regime for the last couple of months. So, yeah.. I am putting in the effort to keep my weight down.

No way was this meehoon siam going to make it through dinner. Jeannie had her fill from the nasi lemak she had before coming home. That is why I cannot provide pictures here of this awesome nasi lemak. Though I have not seen this nasi lemak myself, just the thought itself, makes me drool over it.

The meehoon siam, with its sweetish, not too spicy sambal and the potato cutlet. Yum!

The generous serving of meehoon siam came wrapped in a sort of waxed paper. Open the packet, the food is on a banana leaf. It is said that the banana leaf has healthy nutrients that enhance the food that is on it. I am not going to get into those details or question the validity of the healthy nutrients that are said to come with it. To me, the banana leaf sort of added on to the presentation of this meal.

This meehoon siam was delicious. Your first forkful enters your mouth and it sets the mood. The meehoon by itself was a little plain or bland. The generous serving of sambal complemented the noodles well. The sambal was not too spicy It was on the sweet side. Malay cuisine generally tend to be on the sweet side. This whole meal was wolfed down in no time at all. My compliments to the chef.

Guys n gals, if you are in Subang Jaya, head over to SS18 to get yourselves packets of nasi lemak and meehoon siam from this Makchik and Pakchik stall. No need for addresses or maps – the wonderful smells (aroma) from this food fills the whole area and will be able to attract you to their stall.

As for my weight-watching, what is that? Damage control – Actually, I took to the street for my 10 kilometer walk shortly after lunch. No, not due to guilt that I ate lunch. It is just that I had to compensate for eating lunch. Also, it was my routine daily walk.

Words from a 96-year old, two times Prime Minister, the second Premiership stint was at his age of 95; “If you love the food, eat a little bit, not too much”. This was in response to a question as to how he managed to stay slim. Wise words from him, who is also a medical doctor by profession.

NOTES:
1. Subang Jaya is a city in the state of Selangor, Malaysia.
2. “Makchik” is a Malay word which means “aunty”.
3. “Pakchik” is a Malay word which means “uncle”.
4. Nasi lemak and meehoon siam are favourite Malaysian local meals.

When To Let Go

Signs, messages, writings on the wall…all leading to the same…

It is important to know when to let go. Sometimes things, situations or people don’t serve any meaningful purpose anymore. What does not lift you up, pulls you down.

It is time for a new beginning, the next phase. Read the signs and move on.

~ ALAN IAN ATKINSON
Writer, Author, Storyteller

scmp

AM I MELLOWING?

It feels great after the nice warm shower I just had. I don’t usually take a warm shower unless I get caught in the rain.

Caught in the rain, I was. It looked its usual as it has been doing so in the last few days. In fact “it”, the rain, that is; tapered to a few drops here and there – is sort of saying, “ok, you can come out of your house now. Don’t worry, these tiny drops that I am sprinkling in the air, these drops that are lighter than the flakes of powder that come out of a talcum powder container, they ain’t gonna hurt you (guess which English this is). So, come out, come out, wherever you are.

Out I went, to do my 10 kilometer walk. Though it was shortly after noon; the sun was blazing hot. Technically speaking, the sun is not directly overhead in Subang Jaya, at least in USJ 4 until 1.00pm Malaysia time (+8hrs GMT). This has been proven as a fact.

I walk a 1.56km distance each lap (loop), around my neighbourhood. Part of each lap involves walking between the side lanes between houses. The houses have been built in the direction that while the sun is rising in the east, it casts a shadow of that end (intermediate) house in the opposite direction in the west. When the sun begins to set in the west; it will cast a shadow of the opposite end (intermediate) house, in the opposite direction.

What we learnt in school is that when the sun is directly overhead us, we won’t have a shadow. But that does not seem to apply here. The shadow only disappears when the sun is at 1.00pm. This goes to prove the fact that the sun is directly overhead us at 12.00pm if we are on the equator. Which Malaysia is not. Malaysia, being near the equator does not count. I found it interesting because from school days, I always thought the sun was directly overhead us at noon. Now, I know it isn’t. Can we say the sun begins to set after 1.00pm?

We are so caught up in the big picture or looking for the big picture in life that we seem to miss out on nature which paints a new picture on it’s “canvass of the day” or a “photo snapshot of the day”, everyday.

My wife, Jeannie; will always comment on the beauty of the sunset. She is always thrilled, always in awe about it’s presentation each day. She says the sunset is different at the beach, up in Cameron Highlands when we sit on a garden bench at the Arcadia residence, different in Vasenello, Italy… My reply usually is, “it’s the same sun, any part of the world we are in” and will hardly glance at the sunset, taking it for granted. It is not.

The Sun is the same, yes. When you come to think of it, every sunset presents a different piece of art. The patterns, the hues and shades of the different colours in the skies at a sunset can be breathtaking.

One more step towards appreciating life – something that is often taken for granted.

I am beginning to understand that finding little things in life can make life interesting. Am I mellowing? I don’t know. What I do know is I am looking forward to how this evening will be displaying its sunset. Anyone game for sunset gazing?

USJ 4/4, Sunset Strip.

Decisions, Decisions

You are going through a major life challenge. The situation seems bleak. You have two choices: stay in that situation or overcome it.

Nothing is permanent. You’re not stuck.

You can rise up from anything. Believe.

You can think new thoughts. You can learn something new. Create new habits.

What matters most is that you decide today and never look back.

~ ALAN IAN ATKINSON
Writer, Author, Storyteller

Canciello

Uncle Gerald – Member of The Gomes Kids of Lorong Hicks Road.

How can you give when you’ve given all you’ve got?

You’re giving is not a bottomless pit, or an overflowing endless waterfall, though it may seem like that it is one.

During that time of giving, you did not spend much time in replenishing your giving, all that was out.

Uncle Geraldo – 87 years old.

It was Uncle Gerald’s (mum’s brother) birthday yesterday, September 19th. Jeannie and I paid him a visit. As we got near the home, we actually overshot it by a few doors. I think it was because the familiar sign “No visitors allowed” was not up any longer.

We were told by one of the caregiver’s to go in straight to his room. This is a fairly new term to me – “caregiver”. I was first introduced to this term when dad came out of hospital after the accident he had over a year and a half ago, where he slipped, fell and injured his leg. The hospital had a metal plate bolted on him with screws, I think.

Sorry, I took a short ice-cream break – I had a Magnum “Belgian Chocolate Luxe” – Magnum’s best ice-cream with rich, dark chocolate ice-cream inside. The outside is Magnum’s signature chocolate body. This one is dotted with crisp rice pops. I love it! The dark chocolate ice-cream is supposed to be the consoling part – dark chocolate…healthier than normal chocolate. Whatever…! It was madnessly sweet.

It just so happened that I passed by a mirror after finishing the Magnum “Belgian Chocolate Luxe”. Deng! Deng! Deng! For a few what seemed like very long milliseconds, I could only see my stomach. Like an after thought, the rest of me followed. I am trying not to feel too guilty here. Like most days. I skipped breakfast and lunch, went for my brisk 10km walk (clocked a favourable time), weighed in at 72kg (1.5kg overweight), picked Jeannie up from work and had two roti canai with some fried chicken at The Taj Curry House. So, it should be good, right?

Uncle Gerald was so happy to see us. He told us that my brother Malcolm, our cousin’s son, William; and a few others had visited him. He also had many calls come in, even while we were there.

At 87, he had resigned himself to a small room with his bed, a 2-door wardrobe for his clothes, and a small sort of cupboard for his valuable and other belongings. He had a small Samsung Tablet and his smartphone to keep him in touch with the world; just like his father, Oli Papa, my grandfather on my mother’s side.

Oli Papa had been blind for about 50 years. Everyday, he would sit by his PIE radio and tune in to the radio stations around the world to keep him abreast with the latest that was going on in the world.

I remember seeing a radio that was Oli Papa’s everyday companion; quite similar to this PYE radio. Oli Papa also smoked a cigar a day and had a glass of neat brandy. He knew how to live life.

Uncle Gerald donated his big house to the church, sold whatever he could sell and donated that money away. Now, confined to his room, he spends time on his tablet. I wonder if he stays in his room because there are quite a few eligible ladies staying in that house with him. I am sure they may want to share more than a few bible verses with him. Uncle Gerald never married. So, here’s his chance to go dating.

A teacher before, he still applies that method of explanation for most things. He throws in a few metaphors here and there. His diction of the English language, the Queen’s English, i.e.; is at its best, as usual.

Uncle Gerald longs for all his nephews, nieces, other family members and friends to visit him. He welcomes all visitors and will scratch off all his scheduled plans for the day, just to spend time with those who visit him. His mind and memory are still sharp so he will know you are when you visit him.

Should he have gone to stay in a home? I don’t think he should have thrown in the towel just yet. He probably did not explore all avenues before he did so. This is only my view. I may not have delved deeply into the underlying factors as to why the old folks home. There may be a fair maiden there, we never know. He may just pull a rabbit out of the hat.

NOTES:
Founding Member of “The Gomes Kids Of Lorong Hicks Road” – 1930s, Japanese Occupation of Malaya: WW2, 1950s