30 August 2013

Unique chee cheong fun (and other food) in Teluk Intan

We were in Teluk Intan recently for an uncle's grand 80th birthday celebration.

The dinner was held at Tai Chong restaurant, which served up traditional Chinese dishes that tasted great.

As it fell on a Saturday night, we decided to stay the night in TI rather than drive home after the dinner. After consulting some friends, we decided on Grand Court Hotel, the newest one in TI.

It was a clean decent hotel. Just don't expect too much. We booked a family room with 2 double beds. The room was sizeable, but under-furnished. The bathroom was adequate. The wi-fi was not working, much to my boy's dismay!

Most of my friends asked me to try the Teluk Intan chee cheong fun, which is very unique. It has dried shrimps and some form of preserved vegetable embedded into the chee cheong fun. The chee cheong fun is also flat and folded into a square. Lastly, it is not served with any sauce. The preserved vege and dried shrimps lend enough flavour to the chee cheong fun.  I thought my kids wouldn't like it but I was wrong. They loved it.

We bought the chee cheong fun from Liew Kee, famous in TI. They start business from about 530pm through the night until early in the morning. I had read on blogs that you can't eat there but would have to take away. But I was surprised that Liew Kee operates from behind locked gates and grills! Such is the state of security in Malaysia! Really sad.

We also had time for a lunch of nasi kandar from Nasi Kandar Changkat Jong. It's really easy to find this place. It's on the main Jalan Changkat Jong that brings you into Teluk Intan - zinc roofs opposite Dunlop Tyre. Very popular and very delicious. My girl cleaned up her plate with 2 large pieces of fried chicken and lots of papadam!

But a cousin said there is a better nasi kandar in town located at Speedy Road Padang, opposite the Telekom Tower. We will have to try that next time.

The same cousin also informed us about the best Iced Chendol in Teluk Intan which can be found at the corner of Jalan Sitabharam Pillay and Jalan Pasir Bedamar. The mobile stall is next to the TOTO shop. Yummmmyyy, lots more to try out the next time we go to TI.

Tin Chun and Kong Heng - into a new era

Anybody who loves Ipoh food will know of these 2 great coffee shops, next to each other. One of them is also known as the House of Mirrors.

They are both famous for the trademark Ipoh kai see hor fun (flat rice noodles in flavourful chicken broth) as well as the sweet and cold egg custard. Other must-haves are the chee cheong fun, sotong kangkung, satay, popiah, asam laksa and fruit rojak.

The quality of the food remains good, 4 years after my family moved to Ipoh. But most tourists I dare say, would be disappointed with the food during the peak holiday season. Having to cope with the surge in demand from droves of holiday-makers as well as Ipoh-ites who have balik kampung, it is inevitable that the quality and taste of the food suffer. We stay away from these sought-after eateries during the holiday season.

Kong Heng has just undergone a paint job and a management take-over (it happens to coffee shops too). The BIG Group has arrived in Ipoh with Plan B opening up just next door to Kong Heng. (we have yet to try Plan B in Ipoh - I was frightened by all the bad reviews I read online)

Kong Heng was closed for 2-3 weeks and just reopened on 29 August 2013 with the same anchor tenants and some new faces. Kong Heng will also now operate in 2 shifts, one for the breakfast and lunch crowd, the other for the dinner and supper group. The night operations I believe, are in line to liven up this part of Ipoh Old Town at night.

Hibiscus and lily

It's Merdeka Day tomorrow, so it was lovely to see my plant bearing 3 pretty bunga raya blooms. Happy 56th Hari Merdeka Malaysia!

I was further rewarded with first blooms from my lily which I purchased from the nursery a month or so ago.

07 August 2013

Your maid and you - a Malaysian experience

My current maid has been with me for 8 years and 4 months. 

Do you think that's a long time? I think so. Heck, most people can't even stick that long in one job.

I've had my share of troubles with maids. My current maid is my 4th maid in the 12.5 years since I started employing a maid to help run my household.

Of the previous 3 maids, 1 went home on account of her pre-existing medical condition (not due to me, to be clear), another went home due to personal family problems after extending her contract with me.

It was only the third maid who drove me nuts, and I cut short her contract. My husband said I was turning into someone else altogether when I got into a rage with that maid. So, it was for her safety and my sanity.

The general complaints about foreign domestic helpers in Malaysia might include:
  • dishonest
  • rude
  • stubborn and unwilling to learn
  • incapable of learning 
  • language barrier
  • lazy
  • her work is not at an acceptable level
  • her cooking is terrible
  • always hungry and over-eats
  • steals food
  • perpetually home-sick
  • unhygienic

What makes a workable working relationship between a maid and her lady employer and the family she works for?

I think, with this current maid, I have mellowed a lot and become more accepting and understanding. I treat her like a younger sister. I talk to her like a friend. I provide emotional support when she needs it. I guide and teach her lots of stuff like English, reading, basic hygiene and science, morals and how to manage her finances. She in turn teaches me folk and traditional medicine from her village, interesting dishes, the way of life and the mentality of people from her village and the other girls who leave their homeland to work as maids abroad.

I am happy to say that after working for me for so long, she has lifted her family out of their poverty trap. She put 2 brothers through school, provided the funds for another brother to work abroad, renovated their family home, bought farming land for her parents, and has learned to put away money in her own name back home.

She has been trustworthy, honest and hard working. Undoubtedly, her salary is quite good compared to other maids. She also has her moods, which I tolerate. Who doesn't have black days? But she knows all this, and willingly and diligently does her work. She learns to cook new dishes all the time. She cooks better than me. And before she goes back to her village for her holiday break, she pre-cooks meals for me to freeze, to ease my load. I didn't ask her to do this. She wanted to do it.

At the same time, I don't behave like some "tai-tai" who won't/ can't do anything in the home. I don't tell her, "Please make me a cup of tea." I know of some people who call for their maids to bring the soya sauce or chilly sauce or some special oil to the dining table when they are midway through their dinner. Consecutively. Not even all at one go. So the poor maid, darts in and out of the kitchen to the dining table (perhaps the fabulously rich or royal families do this, but can't a normal person get off their chair and get these additional condiments themselves?).

I do my fair share of housework. I tend my garden. I tidy up the children's books and toys and their rooms. I tidy up both my husband's and my own study areas. If there is some part of the house that I notice hasn't been cleaned or wiped for sometime, I either mention it to my maid or I clean it myself. If I do the latter, my maid immediately gets the hint, too. That's better than scolding your maid, I think. 

I believe these are the things that an employer should NOT do to their maid:

  • limit their food intake (unless they are eating excessively)
  • continually criticize them on their cooking, and in front of the whole family
  • make them work late into the night
  • insist they wake up at 5:30am. It's ok if they sleep in some days.
  • only instruct them on their work, otherwise ignore them
  • scream at them in displeasure
  • think that maids have no feelings
  • keep calling the maid to attend to your smallest needs

There was an interesting movie about the lives of African-American maids in the USA in the 1960s called the Help . I really enjoyed that movie.

I don't know when my maid will stop working for me. That day will come I am sure, and when it does, I will miss her.

(image from https://twitter.com/AmazingMaids)