Friday, August 19, 2011

Buah Melaka DIY

It has been two weeks of fasting and I can proudly say that I have succeeded to some extent, to avoid TEMPTATION.  What temptation you say?  Yes, it has got to do with FOOD but has less to do with eating.  Rather, it is related to splurging on food.

It's really ironic.  During Ramadhan, we Muslims do not really need much food (as we fast during the day), yet we often find ourselves tempted by large amounts of food, more than in other months.  In Malaysia, Pasar Ramadhans (food fairs) would sprout almost everywhere.  Not to be outdone, hotels would be offering exorbitantly-priced buka puasa (break of fast) buffets.  It really goes against the spirit of fasting itself which is to practise RESTRAIN.

How do I do it?  Thanks to my one year of fasting di perantauan @ Bristol, I am quite comfortable preparing some simple berbuka meals rather than buy food at the various PARAMs (Pasar Ramadhan).  Yeah, maybe I do have a simple appetite.  At the same time, now that I'm back in Malaysia, I do indulge in the occasional Air Tebu, Putu Piring and Taufu Fah which are non-existent in Bristol.  But so far, that's about it :).

My favourite kuih during berbuka is the Buah Melaka a.k.a Onde-onde and Kelopong to some people. My daughter called em "snowballs" when I made some in Bristol :).  It's actually very easy to make.  You just need some glutinous flour (tepung pulut), palm sugar (gula melaka) or gula enau (well-known among Negeri Sembilan folks), screwpine leaves (pandan) and grated coconut.  In Bristol, you can find these ingredients at Wai Yee Hong Chinese Supermarket  ,Teoh's Oriental Store or the grocery shops around Easton.  Heck, even Sainsbury's and Tesco sell coconuts! :)

What is the precise amount of ingredient, you say?  Well, most Malaysians don't go by the book.  Don't believe me?  Go ask Gordon Ramsay :).  It's a matter of "agak-agak" (play by ear??) - a term made famous by "Aunty Aini" in Gordon's Great Escape (Malaysia chapter).  It's all about texture and taste. Portion tu, pandai-pandailah adjust :P. So... here goes:

1) Chop the gula melaka or gula enau into bite pieces.  How big you ask?  Up to you.  The bigger it is, the bigger the finished size of the kuih.  I like to make it just right so that I can pop the whole kuih into my mouth :).  How many pieces you ask?  Up to you also la...

2.  Next, prepare the dessicated coconut.  In Malaysia, you can buy freshly-grated coconut.  In Bristol, you'll have to do it yourself.  First of all, you'd have to pierce the top of the coconut shell and drain the water inside.    Don't throw the water away.  It's a refreshing drink on a hot summer's day.  Next, crack open the coconut shell.  In Malaysia, you can hack the shell with a parang (machete?).  In Bristol, you'll just have to do it Thaipusam style:  throw it onto the floor until it smashes... Hehehe!  Wash the inner part of the coconut which has white flesh.  Then, take a grater and start grating.  Choose the finest blade.  It's one long tedious process compared to the motorised mesin kukur kelapa that we have in Malaysia.  So it's good if you have 'little helpers' in the kitchen :).  Once you have finished this, sprinkle a little bit of salt onto the grated coconut to flavour 'em.

3.  Next, cut 5 strips of pandan leaves into small pieces.  Blend them with a little bit of water in the blender/food processor.  How much water you ask?  Enough to make the mixture mix and spin.  Filter the mixture to get the pandan leave extract. You can also use green food colouring if you don't have pandan leaves.  The kuih tastes and smells better with pandan extract, though.  Plus, it's natural.

3)  Next mix some glutinous flour with the pandan extract to form a dough.  Make just enough dough for the chopped gula Melaka.  The dough should not be too sticky or too stiff.  Like what Goldilocks lurves to say: just right!  How to know whether you've got the right texture?  Use your eyes and hands to determine that.  The dough should not stick on your hands when you roll em.  Agak-agak, ok?

The dough should be green in colour but not so obvious
here, ain't it?? :P
4)  Next, take a knob of the dough, flatten it, put the gula Melaka in it and roll it into a ball.  Sorry folks, no picture :)!  While doing this, boil a pot  of water.  Add half teaspoon of salt into the water so that it gives a salty tinge to the kuih when it's cooked.

5)  When the water starts to boil, drop the tiny balls into the pot.  Wait until the balls start to float.  This normally takes about 1 to 2 minutes.

* If the balls do not float at all, chances are you have used the WRONG flour. Only use glutinous flour (tepung pulut), not rice flour (tepung beras) or wheat flour (tepung gandum).  Been there, done that!  Kikiki!

6)  Scoop the balls with a mini colander and rolled them into the desiccated coconut.  Arrange the kuihs nicely in a plate.  The kuihs are ready to be served for buka puasa.

Buah Melaka @ Onde-onde @ Kelopong @ Snowballs :)
Try it.  I can assure you 99% success eventhough you're a hopeless cook :).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nikon D5000 Service Advisory

Yep, it's been months since my beloved D5000 suddenly went dead.  The last time I took photos with it was on our family trip to North Cornwall in May 2011.  Tengah syok2 ambik gambar, suddenly it just shut down.  At first, I thought the battery was drained. But after charging the battery and still couldn't switch it on, I knew something was amiss.

I remembered a friend telling me how her D5000 acted up, only after a few months of use.  I felt sorry for her then and had hoped that mine would not suffer the same fate.  Well, hard luck.  After almost two years of productive use, **** happened :(.

My precious... :)

The first thing that I did was to google for  information.  Well, what do you know... Nikon had - in July 2009 -  issued a service advisory regarding the D5000.  It seemed that "a certain electronic component related to power control in some Nikon D5000 cameras is of substandard quality and may, in rare cases, prevent the camera from powering on".  Nikon had therefore asked D5000 owners to verify (through a simple online procedure) if their cameras were affected by this issue.  If you are a D5000 owner, verify yours here now.

Well, I verified mine and yup, it was one of the affected ones.  The bad news was, I had to send my Nikon to the Malaysia service centre (bad news coz I was in the UK, then).  The good news, however, was my camera was entitled for a FREE repair :D.

The camera was practically in cold storage for about 3 months before I had the opportunity to send it to Nikon (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd in Menara PKNS, Jln Yong Shook Lin, Petaling Jaya.  Yeah, before I went there, I googled to find out about the after sales/customer service.  I was quite worried because the reviews on Nikon (M) customer service were pretty BAD.  I read that Canon (M) customer service was much better (in terms of speed of repair and public relations).  At one point I was even thinking of buying a new camera (and defecting to Canon... Hehehe!).  Anyway, memandangkan keadaan kewangan yang tidak mengizinkan, I decided to take the camera for repair and see how it goes.

The place was pretty easy to find and there was ample parking.  I was well attended by the frontliners and my queries were dealt with, most professionally.  I guess Nikon (M) must have cleaned up their act, following the numerous complaints regarding their poor customer service.  So far so good, I thought.  But then, before I left, I just had to ask them one LAST question:

Me           :  How long does it take to repair the camera?
Frontliner :  Normally about two weeks....bla... bla... bla...

Ha!  Gotcha!  This was the standard answer which I had anticipated based on the comments I read on the internet.  Canonites (or Canonese/Canonians??) claimed that Canon (M) offers speedier service.  Anyway, at this point, maybe it's too early to tell how good or bad Nikon (M)'s customer service is.  I'll give them the benefit of a doubt and hope that things will turn to my (and their) advantage.  Will be reporting back in 2 weeks time.  Taa! :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Perbadanan Perpustakaan Awam Selangor - New library in Sec. 13 Shah Alam

I was so excited when I learnt from a friend (thanks, Mim :)) that there's a new state-of-the-art public library in the city of Shah Alam.  You must be wondering why someone would get so worked up over a library. Well folks, there are 2 main reasons.

Firstly, I've always been a "Minah Library". During my secondary school years, I spent most of my time at the library as I was a pengawas perpustakaan.  Likewise, during my undergraduate years, I also spent most of my time at the library;  not because I wanted a quiet place to study, but more to get away from my inviting bed!  My postgrad years in UM saw me going to the library almost everyday, heeding the advice of a professor to treat study leave as work.  Now in Bristol, the library is still my favourite place compared to the study room because it is not too quiet.  Yeah, you heard me right.  Students whispering, the printer whirring, the automatic door opening and closing, etc - are not distractions at all.  They helped my mind stay focus rather than wander away.  Yeah, apart from shopping complexes, the place that I frequented the most is probably the library :).

Secondly, I was looking for a place to "chill out" from the hot Malaysian weather.  There was the option of doing so in my institution's library, but somehow I didn't feel like it.  Then, I learnt about this new library on Facebook, and within minutes I was on my way to check out the place.

The huge library complex

The flagship of Perbadanan Perpustakaan Awam Selangor (PPAS), the library nestled amongst the greens of the Kelab Golf Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah (KGSAAS), in Section 13, Shah Alam.  The library complex itself was humongous and had a splendid view :).

Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque aka The Blue Mosque
as seen from the library complex

The library had only been opened for about 2 weeks (22 July 2011) and judging from the few visitors that day, I presumed that not many locals were aware of its existence.  Then again, most people were probably working ... :P

The frontliners were friendly.  As the the staff have yet to come-up with the library brochure, they asked me to take my time to explore the place.  I was given a small uncang (drawstring bag) to put in my shoes as the library zones were fully-carpeted.  Then, off I went doing what I do best - exploring every nook and corner  a la reporter Majalah 3... Hehehe!

There were 6 levels altogether.  Each level was designated for a particular age-group or function.

View of the levels from the ground floor

View of the levels from the 4th floor

I had the chance to pray at the surau on the lower ground floor.  Pretty standard for a surau, though I did wish that the women's praying area was not too open.  There were separate ablution areas for both men and women and the toilets were just outside the surau.  Other facilities as stated on the notice board were still under renovations.

The ground floor's main attractions were the Mini 3D and 6D Theaters.   I was told by the staff that they were having a 6D simulation at around 2.00 - 2.30 pm, the day I was there.  However, I missed it.  I will definitely not miss it the next time I come :).  Never experienced 6D in my life!  Can't imagine being in a theatre that stimulates all your 6 senses!  Must be loads of fun!  Even the 4D shows that I paid to see in Madame Tussaud and the London Eye Theatre were pretty unforgetable .... and PPAS is having a 6D one!  How awesome is that?? :)

Another attraction was the reading garden. - a sure hit for kids and adults alike.  Look at the pictures below and you'll know why... :)

Fancy reading a book under a tree??
Just like what you use to do in your kampung...
pix credit:  Mimma Sayuti

Kids nowadays are so lucky! :)
Pix credit:  Mimma Sayuti

What you can find on the 1st Floor :) ...

2nd Floor ...

3rd Floor ...

4th Floor ...

All the levels have some standard features such as TV lounge, IT station, book collection, reading / working area, sitting area, discussion rooms and service counter.

TV lounge

Reading / working area next to the
discussion rooms

The main reading / working area with sofas for
visitors to unwind

The open collection of books

Soothing view of the greens from this side of the  IT section

The IT section has a horse-shoe layout.  It has several Macs and probably PCs, too.  One has to pay to use the services.  I would say that the pricing was pretty reasonable, considering that the hardware were all brand new.

What I liked about this library was that it has lots of sitting areas with seats of various designs to suit all age-groups.

The sitting area on the ground floor.  Suitable for a group of people
or family to lepak while reading or working on their laptops :)

My sons would probably love this!
Their own private cocoon :)

Another sitting area on the first floor
with a nice view of the lake and the blue mosque 

There were 2 mini gyms in the library.  The women's gym was on the third floor while the men's, on the fourth.   My kind of place :).  Only 3 exercise machines, you say?  That cross-trainer is good enough for me, and hubs would be happy to jump on that treadmill anytime :D.   Not so sure whether you have to pay to use this facility.  But even if you have to, I bet it won't be as expensive as those commercial gyms in Subang Jaya.

In case you were wondering whether you can buy some snacks here, the cafe will probably be opened after Ramadhan.  Looking forward for the other facilities to start operating as well, in a few months time! :D.

Plus points aside, I feel that the library needs to stock-up on books.  The existing collection is quite limited but hey, there's always room for improvement :)

Well Shah Alam city dwellers, go check this cool place.  The library is open from 9.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., daily this Ramadhan.  It is closed on public holidays.  If you ask me, not your typical, boring library :).

* * * * * * * * *

When I told hubs via skype, he cheekily queried:  "Ini projek kerajaan mana ni??"
Tak kisahlah... janji rakyat didahulukan ... kan? kan? kan? :P