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

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

SINGING IN THE RAIN, THE NEAR PERFECT WEATHER. AND LANGSAT

1.19pm in the autumn afternoon. As I turn my head to my left and look outside past the semi-opaque curtains, through the glass sliding door, then, past the grill-gate, the autumn weather has thrown a gloomy shadow over the area.

I thought I’d go out for my 10 kilometer walk. The “gloomy shadow over the area” is a bit of a frown, bringing the rain with it. If I go for my walk now, people will mistake me with my umbrella for Gene Kelly. That guy can almost sing and dance like me. Ask my wife, Jeannie. She knows. “Jeannie? Jeannie? Where are you?” Ok ok. My head must be up in the clouds – indication of the rain clouds being quite low? Just foolin’ (speaking and spellin’ the “American” way, after watching a “Dry Bar Comedy clip) around.

On a quiet (very quiet) Sunday afternoon, I thought I’d give my computer keyboard and fingers a short rest, and go for that “thought-about”, talked-about walk. As I started my brisk walk, the raindrops had shrunk to tiny, fine drops. The rain stopped after half a kilometer into my walk.

By this time, the weather was beautiful. The sun was tucked away somewhere, it could not be see though the sky was clear from any clouds. The air was so clean and refreshing. There was a cool, gentle breeze blowing, throughout the walk, so much so, my walk was very pleasant.

As I walked around our neighbourhood, I could not help but notice that most of my neighbours were indoors, not outside; to enjoy the near perfect weather we were having.

While on my brisk walk to keep up with a certain basic health routine I set for myself; I thought about the current trending topic: as inflation has hit a high of 4.4% (the last time I checked) in Malaysia; Bank Negara, the Central Bank of Malaysia has raised the overnight policy rate (OPR) 3 times in quick succession. In layman’s terms, it just means your cost of borrowing loans has gone up three times.

This move is supposed to bring inflation down. Really? I mean really?

Sure it is supposed to make sense. Too much of cash chasing too few items. Then again, who is spending what money?

So, one would think we should be worried about this, right? Wrong. At least it sure seems the people aren’t worried. At the crowded shopping mall that I was at yesterday, I saw sales was brisk. People were buying like there was no tomorrow.

Recently, a news report stated that motor vehicles sales had surpassed the record of pre-pandemic times.

All this shopping economics seem good for the economy. 15 years ago, a very intelligent young 5-year old girl once told me, “Daddy, now that man is rich”, when I paid him cash for the new phone I bought from the store. I asked her what she meant. She said, “You gave him your money”. I said, “Yes, but I bought this new phone from him”. She replied, “Yes, but he’s got your money”.

As I seemed to be thinking deeper into this inflation, interest rates, spending money; suddenly dukong langsat crossed my mind.

It is past mid-September. I have yet to have had any langsat for this year. Known as langsat, duku langsat, dukong or dokong langsat; this local fruit is a “must-have”.

This fruit is soft, looks like jelly, but firmer; slightly juicy, sweet and slightly sour, but mostly sweet. Put one in your mouth, and you will be reaching out for the next one and the next and the next. To get the best out of it, it has to be put in the fridge for a couple of hours before eating it. Cold is nice. At least that is the way I like it.

Sinaharian.

Sells at an average price of US$2.20 (RM10) for 3kg; it is usually available in plentiful at the fruit-shops or sold by road-side vendors, langsat won’t disappoint. I am sure like everything else, the price would have surely gone up.

Oh yeah…For those people who are easily prone to flu; I don’t recommend walking in the rain, let alone singing and dancing in it.

NOTES:
Lansium parasiticum, commonly known as langsat, lanzones or longkong in English; duku in Indonesian or dokong in Terengganu Malay, is a species of tree in the Mahogany family with commercially cultivated edible fruits. The species is native to Southeast Asia. Wikipedia

The tortoise or the Hare?

There is no such thing as “maintain” when you are working on improving yourself. Everyone else, too are working on improving themselves.

In life’s race against the clock, you either are improving or declining. I was involved in competitive swimming as a parent of an athlete swimmer. I used to hear competitive swimmers say after a race, “they maintained their times”. If taken rightly, they use that as a “dig their heels in there for a moment”, as a new minimum standard and move forward from there. Then, good.

But, many of the swimmers use their “times maintained” to be construed as they did well, at least they did not drop in times. The danger of becoming complacent, too relaxed or make excuses; can set in. Now, if they are racing only against their personal time clock, they may be able to give themselves some takeaway from there.

In competition there are two races that really go on in each race. One, you race against your personal best time clock, always. This competitor – the clock; will always race you.

The second is you race against other athlete competitors.

So, the moment you “feel comfortable” about having “maintained your time” in a race; your competitors are working hard at beating their times and beating you, their competitor. The goal for most real competitors is to race at the Olympics and World Championships.

They have to have “Kaizen” in them. Kaizen is a Japanese word for continuous improvement.

Michael Schumacher, 7 times Formula 1 World Champion, is arguably the best of all times. At his peak, he accomplished many records – having won 7 world championship titles, winning 91 races (the most number of races at that time), getting the most number of pole starts, amassing the most number of points, amongst many others. When asked at a press conference what it felt like having chalked up so many firsts, Schumacher said, “Records are meant to be broken”.

These two races can basically be applied to anyone – one, is we continue to improve ourselves. The second is we race against others in our workplace, our profession, etc. This is good as it continues to raise the bar or the new record to break. I think mankind has always been competitive by nature.

When you break that record, don’t forget to spend some time celebrating the achievement. This is “living in the present”. Don’t spend too much of time there. Otherwise, it may turn out to be “The tortise and the Hare”.

Then, back on the racetrack to start a new race to beat the latest record. We should always ask, “How can we make the best, better?”

In order for your life to be great, you must first learn to appreciate it. Don’t forget to add “having fun” in all you do. Fun helps people to relax. It is sometimes regarded as a “social lubricant”, important in adding “to one’s pleasure in life”. Fun can help reduce stress. . For children, fun is strongly related to play. Somehow, they have spontaneity and an inventive way in extracting fun from it.

Are you the tortoise or the hare?

JP

In the meantime, I am going to have Tou Foo Fah (Chinese for soymilk custard) with liquid brown sugar. A little while later…Oops! forgot to take a picture of it. “Walloped it one shot” (local way of saying, “whacked it” or “start eating and finished straight away”).

Tou Foo Fah – yummy!


Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Life never said it was going to be easy. We can’t let tough times define us.

Every moment in our lives that has not yet arrived, is our future. No one has lived it for us. No one can live it for us.

We get to choose how we live. Because we are inexperienced living our future now, we are bound to make a mistake or two or three. That’s o.k.. Just pick ourselves up, and keep moving forward.

Remember, there is no such thing as “no choice”. And, there is no time to kill or be bored. We don’t have enough of it – time..

We can’t always choose the music life plays us, but we sure can choose how we dance to it. Put on your dancing shoes and dance…

~ ALAN IAN ATKINSON
Writer, Author, Storyteller

Paso de Feugo

Kachang Hijau dessert, anyone?

Rather cool for a Thursday afternoon. There was a bit of a shower or heavy downpour that lasted 10 minutes top.

As noon was approaching earlier on, I was still trying to figure out what to write. My ideaSketchpad 💡 had essays at various stages of completion (some with 3 or 4 words in them and that’s completion?). Here’s the thing: I’ve got to get into the grove of things, the feel for words, sentences, paragraphs, stories to flow from my thoughts to my fingers, tapping the keypad and showing up on the computer screen.

So, whatever was on my ideaSketchpad 💡was not a “Thursday or a now article” to work on. Have you ever got into a feeling like that? Opened your wardrobe, full of clothes yet don’t have anything to wear? Yeah, yeah… I know I used this line in the last article I wrote yesterday. It does drive home a point. The same goes with an artist – his studio could have lots of unfinished pieces, yet he does not know what to work on for that day.

While trying to figure out what to write; I served myself a bowl of green beans desert or as it is more commonly known as bubur kacang hijau, which Jeannie boiled yesterday. “Bubur” is the Malay word for porridge.

This is a thick gravy version, the way my mum used to make it when we were kids.

A very simple dish. It is boiled in water for er…awhile. Added in is brown sugar (healthier than white sugar), not too much though. We don’t want it to be too sweet. Coconut milk, commonly known as “santan” in Malaysia; is a main ingredient. It is added in to bring out the richness of this desert. Then, a bit of salt is added in, too. That’s it.

The way we like it is thick. Unlike the type you find as a desert in Chinese dinners, where it is very watery with hardly any coconut milk.

Other varieties include boiling sago seeds with it to add a different flavour. Some people add slices of banana or sweet potato – all this to create a different variant to the original.

As you scoop a serving of bubur kacang hijau and bring it towards your mouth; its beautiful aroma brings a smile to your face. When you eat it, the beans, together with the coconut milk and brown sugar melted in it, takes its simplicity to a whole new level – divine. 😋I’m a simpleton – easy to please.😉

In the family of this type of desert, there are also “Pulut Hitam” (Malay for glutinous rice) and “bubur kacang merah” (Malay for red bean porridge) varieties. Equally delicious.

For those who are weight watchers, it would be advisable to work it off with exercise. I will go out for my 10km brisk walk and weigh myself when I get back after my walk, everyday. I think my weighing scales aren’t exactly truthful to me. It does not want to go down to my “within normal range” or lower. It showed that I am 2kg overweight today.

We’ve also got these green peas biscuits, too:

This is greener than normal because it is pandan flavoured. Simply delicious.

These green beans / peas biscuit is more commonly linked to the state of Penang. Also, if you were to make a visit to Jonker Street, Malacca; you will find several bakeries making these biscuits, in a variety of choice, too. You can buy them as they come straight out of the oven.

It becomes really hard to keep your weight down and in check when we are spoilt for choice of food. Safe to say, the choice is unlimited. Different parts of Malaysia will prepare the same dish like the bubur kacang hijau with a twist in preparation for example.

Hey, it looks like I have penned down / Logitech MX-Keys (brand) typed an article here. When it comes to food, there is plenty to talk about.

Let us know how you like your green beans, red beans, pulut hitam in the comments section and it may come up in a future article.

Wishing all Malaysians, “Happy Malaysia Day”!

A more watery version. Lisa’s Lemony Kitchen

NOTES:

  1. Penang and Malacca are two states in Malaysia.

What If?

Thomas Alva Eddison once said in response to a question about his missteps, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

Edison perfected the incandescent electric light bulb after 10,000 “tries”. Arguably America’s greatest inventor, Thomas Edison had an extraordinarily positive perception of life that greatly enhanced his ability as an inventor.

Don’t worry if you fail once or twice or three times or even more. The ability to pick yourself up and say, “Ok, that didn’t work. I will do it again but differently, this time.”

Your attitude is the ability to pick yourself up. Your altitude is to keep on going, advancing forward!

Can you imagine not even trying and for the love of life, wonder what it would have been like if you did? For the rest of your life wonder, “what if?”

~ ALAN IAN ATKINSON
Writer, author, storyteller

THE TAJ EXPERIENCE

Taj Curry House, SS12, Subang Jaya (1)

The time is 5.40pm, this wonderful Tuesday evening. The weather is quite hot but fine. Over the radio, the newscaster was saying KL (Kuala Lumpur) which is about 20 minutes away; is experiencing flash floods in Cat Road (Jalan Kuching) and certain other areas. Definitely not going to KL. We (Jeannie and I), want to avoid getting caught in flood, no matter how light or severe it is. The thought of chugging along for hours in traffic jams is a put-off.

So, as we head back home towards Subang Jaya, we will go though one of the most severe tests ever known to mankind – “What do you want for dinner?

Subang Jaya is inundated with a choice of types of food, restaurants and food joints. It’s like a snazzy woman who opens a wardrobe with hundreds or thousands(?) of dresses and cries in despair, “I have nothing to wear!”

So, while on the highway, traffic movement was fairly good – slow but moving. Jeannie and I try to have our dinner early, at around 6.00pm – 6.30pm, everyday. As we turn left and get onto the ramp into Subang Jaya; the traffic begins to build to a crawl.

Our (more like my) immediate choice is to go to the Taj Curry House, which is just ahead of us, along our route. Jeannie suggested popiah in USJ Taipan (must mention which “Taipan” as more and more townships are coming up with their own Taipan.) but that would mean flowing with the jam for another half and hour or more.

Taj Curry House it was. For good, simple Indian cuisine. Warning: Parking in that area is near horrendous! One has to be really patient and drive around the area like a headless chicken (Not that headless chickens drive😉) until you find a space.

One of the first thing that greets you as you enter the restaurant, is the wide choice of dishes. For example, they serve curry chicken, fried chicken, chicken varuval and chicken tandoori.

Jeannie and I both went for the simplest of food – roti canai. Made from flour (I think), there is an art of kneading the dough, than turning it round and round while it stretches wide. then, it is fold into four and placed on a hot plate. Roti canai is one of Laura’s (our daughter) favourite food. I like my roti canai made garing – real crisp but not to the point of it becoming flaky.

Roti canai. You can actually eat it with anything. Laura at times eats it with a bit of sugar. All sorts of choices, too – roti planta, roti, sardine, roti telur, roti pisang – the list seems almost endless.
The yellow gravy is dharl.
This is molten lava without the cinders and smoke. But guranteed to bring tears of pain…er I mean joy – it a delicious spicy, spicy hot chili sambal.
Fish curry.
The meal platter.

I decided to have a couple of vaadai for starters. Made of beans mainly.
Fried chicken, as an additional dish.

Our dinner. And limau ais (iced lime water) to go with the meal.

The roti canai is of a decent size. Most other restaurants have shrunk the size of each piece, and at the same time; increase its price. The three side dishes that come with the roti canai are delicious (yes, including the hot chili sambal).

The large onions that comes with the fried chicken, is juicy and gives a balance flavour to the fried chicken. The fried chicken is marinated and prepared well, ensuring customer satisfaction.

This is a simple meal. It was delicious, as usual. Taj Curry House has maintained has always been consistent with its standard of good food. The service has also been good. We usually sit in the air-conditioned section. This has been our “go-to” for dinner over the last few months on our way back from PJ. How much for our dinner today? US$4.45.

Should you visit Taj Curry House? You should. I am sure that you will dine there again and again to try out their whole cuisine range.

By time we were done with dinner, the Subang Jaya traffic jam had eased off quite a bit. Now, that we are back home, we bought a packet of Bombay Mix to snack on.