Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Trip to Kuantan

       Friday the 13th, what does it make you feel? For a long time it signified nothing, I used to laugh at those who spoke about the bad luck that it brings. Not any more

       Don’t worry, nothing drastic. I messed up a French exam. All that gurgling and choking on my ‘Rs’ (Say ‘EKH’, ‘Ekh’. No listen to me, ‘EKH’, ‘Yuck’…so on and so forth till both the teacher and I collapse) was finally just for a horrible 2 hr showdown at the exam-room which had me wondering whether I could ever really even dream of mastering French. Fat chance.

        Even after messing up the exam, I wasn’t really totally heart-broken. I had something to cheer me up- A weekend trip to Kuantan!!  Kuantan is a coastal town about 3 hrs from KL (and 5 from the jungle I live in). My friends Mumtaz and Muaddibah had invited me and my classmates for their brother Muhammad’s wedding reception. So after the exam got over, instead of moping over my failed attempts at conjugating deceptive verbs, I dashed to my room which is at one corner of the fourth floor of a hall at the end of the campus. I had to pack and get back in time for the 12.15 bus to the railway station, and it was already 11.45. I stuffed my bag with whatever clothes I could get my hands on and ran back to the bus stop. After my marathon run I come back to find Mumtaz and Muaddibah (M’n’M) waiting for me, no sign of Chalani and Samantha( My other classmates accompanying me). The bus was already there, so Muaddibah gets into it.  Suddenly the bus starts and leaves with Muaddibah in it and with us standing outside with open mouths as it rolled away. Panic. By then Chalani comes and we decide to take a taxi to the station and meet Muaddibah there.
At the station we re-unite and it’s all happy again. We bear the 45 mins train journey and finally reach the bus station only to find out that we had missed out 2 o’ clock bus by 5 mins. Frustration. Sweat. And more frustration and sweat. It’s ok, we thought, we’ll get another bus in half an hour. Oh yes we did, only it was after 2.5 hrs. To kill time we decided to take the monorail and get down at the next stop and go to ‘The Mall’ (It’s a mall. Like, Duh.) After an hour of bingeing on chocolate pastries and chocolate cakes and more chocolate we made our way back. Monorail back to the station and then, Muaddibah’s ticket get’s stuck in the slot. We informed the security guard who went about retrieving the ticket, only at such slow pace that he would make even a snail look like Usain Bolt. While we are jumping like our pants were on fire, this guy laughed and joked with his colleagues and probably discussed about the weather and his neighbour’s wife’s brothers’ girlfriend’s uncle’s new cat. It was frustrating. We finally got the ticket out and ran to the station. We didn’t want to miss this bus also!
Finally we did make it 5 mins before time. It was the first time that getting into a bus made me glow with pride. The bus ride was beautiful, is something I would have liked to say, but I wouldn’t know as I slept like a log through the journey. (Oh, you don’t want to see me sleep, I exude such peace and grace that it will blind you)
So there we were at 8 pm, five exhausted  yet excited girls.  My friend’s brothers took us to our hotel room. It was a very average room but we were fine with it, but M n’ Ms mom had us move into another hotel the moment she came to know about it. So 2 hotels in 2 hrs. Not bad!
The place we checked is a homestay, Ah, it was luxury! We are eternally indebted to Aunty for making us move there. 

Dinner was at the wedding house.Three of us (Samantha, chalani and me) were greeted by aunts, uncles, cousins and friends of the family. A large group sat around the table laughing and talking, packing give-aways for the guests. It reminded me so much of weddings back home. The atmosphere was one of celebration and they were generous in letting us also celebrate with them. For dinner we had some traditional Malay snacks- Chicken satay and Ketupat. Satay is skewered chicken eaten with a sweet groundnut dip and ketupat is rice cakes cooked in small packets made of woven palm leaf. We jumped right into it.

Day 2, the day of the reception.  The reception was a really new experience to me. At the hall we were greeted with pretty young girls who gifted us Dodol ( A traditional sweet which tastes a lot like the kerala banana halwa), Bahulu (traditional malay cakes) and strawberry preserves. The décor inside was done by the family, and it was just wonderful. Elegant is the word of the day. The grooms family dressed in beige while the Bride’s family wore red. Men wore the traditional attire and women wore abhaya (full-length gown) or Baju-Kurung ( A patterned  long shirt worn over a skirt). When the newlyweds made their entry the generated quite a few ‘ooohs’ and ‘aahs’. The Bride looked lovely in her Pink dress and the groom dashing in his Baju Malayu. The maid of honour (Bride’s sister) and the Best Man ( Groom’s brother) accompanied them to the stage and stood their fanning them. 

 (At the reception organised by the Bride's family)

The hall had a small group playing some instruments which didn’t look anything like the instruments I had seen so far. It is called Gamelan, the music it produced was soothing.
The food was again traditional Malay fare. There was meat cooked in fruits, Opor (A special preparation of beef which is available only in Pekan region of Pahang), Ayam Masak ( Red chilly chicken) and of course Nasi Minyak and Nasi.(Rice). The dessert section had agar agar, a kind of jelly, fruits, cake.
After the reception they celebrated the 3rd birthday of their youngest sibling- Aqil. Little Aqil was the man wearing an Indian/ Pakistani Kurta Pajama. He was excited seeing that they hadn’t forgotten about him in all this rush. And even more when he saw his play school friends there.
(Aquil and his friends after the surprise)

After the reception we dropped Samantha and Chalani at the bus stop. They had to return to Kl as they had work to finish (Nerds I say. Don’t kill me Chalani). Then it was back to room and then to La Plage! Oh yeah! The beach! Oh I just fell in love with it! It was directly out of a postcard. White sand, glittering blue water and swaying trees…..

As it was the weekend the place was packed but even then, the weather was lovely and after an hour walking around there I felt rejuvenated.  
The rest of the day was spent relaxing and eating. And eating.

Day 3
Morning breakfast at M n M’s house and then shopping! I needed inners for my hijab and they found me and ideal place where I could buy this wonderful invention of man. After Double Cheese Burst Pizza, that is. After melting under the sun we went to ‘Mustafa’s Place’ to have ‘Cendol’. Cendol is a refreshing drink/sweet consisting of cendol (coloured flour in the form of string like jelly) in coconut milk with shaved ice and brown sugar syrup. One bowl had me recharged and ready to party (Not literally, Mom).
We headed to an estuary in the evening with hopes of seeing the sunset. Clouds played spoilt sport. 

But I did get to see a mosque which I found very different from the ones back home. Sweet and simple. 
As it was Sunday, there was a weekend market on. They had set up tents and were selling clothes, shoes, gadgets, fish, vegetables anything you could think of! One section of the market was exclusively reserved for food. They had spring potatoes, Roti John (Chicken submarine), Nasi Lemak ( Rice cooked in coconut milk, eaten with chicken or fish curry), Mee Goreng (Fried noodles), Murtaba (a Malaysian version of pizza)…Ok I am going to stop there. Makes me want to back and binge.

Dinner was with their family at a Malay restaurant. We had tom yam, peppered beef and buttered chicken.
(Aunty serving Tom Yam for everyone)

(Aqil critically analysing the food...'hmm, there is a tad too much of vinegar')

Delish! It was nice having dinner with them, made me a bit home-sick though as I remembered outings back home. Just can’t wait for September to go back!

Next day we set off early morning back to KL. Mumtaz's dad drove us back to KL. Which was very sweet of him.

After three days of fun and food I find it difficult to get back to my studies, especially French. EKH!...But as they say, all good things must come to an end….

Till next time then! 

P.S- Muaddibah is standing with a knife at my throat right now , insisting that I include her role in this wonderful trip. She was our official chauffeur. She drove us around everywhere. But I think Mumtaz is a better driver (Ouch! That hurts! Fine! You are better)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Khaana khazaana

Apart from travelling one of my major passions is-any guesses?- FOOD! I am an absolute foodie. I like food so much that it loves me back (oh yes, I collect flabs like nobody’s business).I think this love for food was passed down to me from my parents. My Dad can never resist the deadly combo of soft fluffy appams and spicy beef varuthadu, and he’ll eat puttu at any time of the day. My mom on the other hand loves experimenting with new cuisines. So growing up in a household where food plays such a significant role, It was but natural that I follow suit.

My father’s job had us moving from place to place every three years. So apart from making a lot of friends, and seeing a lot of places, I also got to experience a wide range of culinary delights. One of the earliest food stuff I remember slurping over is- Momo

I first tasted these delectable Indian ‘dim-sums’ in Bagdogra (West Bengal). Spicy hot momos on a cold day with the special sauce that they give-Ah,an ideal snack! Another memorable dish that West Bengal gave me was ‘Mishti Doi’. A favourite among Bengalis and non-bengalis alike, Mishti Doi is a yogurt based sweet. Ideal on a hot summer day.

After Bagdogra came Pune. The Maharshtrian snacks had me fall in love all over again. Vada Pav was a favourite in our family. We used to have trips to eat these yummy Batata(potato) stuffed pavs(Bread) almost every week.

 It was also in Pune that I developed my love for Chaat- pani puri, masala puri you name it, and I’ve had it.

 Another weekend soul-food was Pav-Bhaaji. I can’t even begin to describe the joy that I feel while dipping a crisp golden brown pav into the delicious bhaaji with butter melting on it. *sigh*

 Bangalore offered to me Bissi Bele Baath(roughly translated as hot lentil Rice)- have it when you have the flu, I guarantee you nothing will make you feel better, not even chicken soup. 

It was here (at New Sree Krishna Sagar fast food hotel ) that I began to enjoy Idlis(steamed rice cake) and Dosas(A thinner and crispier version of pancakes). Till then I had ‘experienced’ just what my mother made at home (Umma, I am joking...Seriously)
 I remember those ‘dosa and hot filter coffee’ breakfasts after our long weekend family walks( the length of which we kids spend grumbling and whining. Bilal: ‘I am going back now’. Me: ‘I am tired! How much more are we gonna walk now?’ and shereef: ‘Uppa, can we stop at the next restaurant please? They have really good food there I heard.’

Growing up in a Muslim household I’ve got to taste quite a lot of Muslim delicacies. Especially during Eids and trips to grandma’s place. I know the first thing that would have popped into your mouth..oops..Head would be ‘Biriyani’. But, funnily, I never really like it much. I think the biriyani-craze is clichéd. Unless you are talking about Hyderbadi-biriyani which is just fabulous. 

My favourite ‘grandma’s recipe’ dish would be Pathiri and Koyi curry with thenga pal. Didn’t get a word did you? Well it is flattened bread made of rice dough, chicken curry and coconut milk, In that order. This combo is just too good. The coconut milk takes the dish to whole new high. Ah my taste buds are going to revolt if I describe it more without any supply. 
I have had such good times having pathiri-eating races with my brothers. Shereef always the wins, obviously. That guy has a pit for a stomach. And a body which refuses to convert it into flabs. *Sniff* Life is not fair.

Then there also some dishes which my mom learnt by virtue of being a defence-wife. One of the best things she could have learnt is Aloo Parantha. 
I could kiss the feet of whoever invented this dish. My family loves it so much that when mom’s cooking this we argue over the order in which we are going to eat. So the parantha lands straight from the tawa into our salivating mouths. Breaking the order is a serious offence and could result in fights which may get physical. (Umm..I don’t..um…fight…I am not lying!)

There are many more dishes that I crave, now that I am away from home, but if I write another word about it my brain will go into overdrive and my taste buds will fuse.

My stomach is grumbling now, I guess all this talk about food has made it (ok me) hungry.

So good bye for now!

Oh, forgot to mention, the most authentic Indian food is what you get at Dhaabas and thattukadas. Seriously, nothing can beat their food!