Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Morning, Taman Gelora, Part 2

But enough of politics.  I find Taman Gelora to be a delightful place to spend an early morning walk.  One must get going before the 10am heat hits, however.

The early bird gets to enjoy a near-vacant beach...

...with which you share with joggers and sand-castle-makers....

Taman Gelora beach, low tide

There are sea eagles flying above...

and assorted shells below...

Walking down the beach to the Kuantan River estuary, one can watch the fishing boats coming back from their early morning harvest.

Heading Up the Kuantan River Estuary
Peeking around the corner, you can see the new Zenith Hotel which brackets the Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Convention Centre, Kuantan's newest skyline icon.

Zenith Hotel, Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Convention Centre
As a scientist of sorts, I am also interested in "little things", like the black water that emits from Taman Gelora and its assortment of ponds and food stalls.

And the water flowing from high tide pools back to the ocean.  These streams are examples of braided rivers in miniature.

Braided river in miniature
The shallow, sandy soil of Taman Gelora releases water quickly following a rain...

Water being released from bank storage
...and requires the Casuarina trees to have buttress roots to stand up against the wind in such poor soil.

'Tis truly a bucolic setting, Taman Gelora...

Where one can have a glass of milo tarik...

And share it with new-found friends.

"Adik!  Nak milo tarik?"

Sunday Morning, Taman Gelora, Part 1

Living close to Kuantan's premier park, I rarely take the chance to take a morning walk there.  However, last night's rain and this morning's "thumping" from the park gave me impetus to enjoy the morning coolness and see what was thumping, errr, happening over yonder Taman Gelora way.

Thumping in the park usually means that some group has booked part of the park for a family day.  And thus it was that I discovered not only overcrowded parking lots (more so than normal) ...

Overcrowded Parking
but also lots of police, FRU (Federal Reserve Unit) and RELA.

Federal Reserve Unit trucks
There were police checkpoints on the roads leading to the park.

Police Checkpoint, They Let Teak Pass
Being able to speak Malay, I asked some police why the heavy presence this fine morning in the park.  Well, it seems that the local city council (Majlis Perbandaran Kuantan, aka MPK) was hosting an all-departments Family Day.  And sure enough, there were the usual Family Day activities: like aerobics...

MPK Family Day aerobics class

and net-ball...
Netball at Taman Gelora

and volleyball...

Volleyball at Taman Gelora (Green Team vs., Well, Another Green Team)

and a futsal court surrounded by food and beverage vendors...

Futsal court surrounded by vendors

...and food for those en-hungered by the aerobics....

Come and Get It!
I was interested in some of the exhibits displayed by the various MPK units.  Here, a fashion design group was neighbours to the coastal police, who showed off one of their outfits.

And the fire department.

Fire Ladder
And some government employees showed us how they most likely spend their work days.

Checkers In Large
And the stage where the rock-n-roll group produced the thumping that drew me into this party.

State Agency Recreation Program
Meanwhile, at the other end of the park there appeared to have been a different group meeting.  By the time that I got there, most people had dispersed, but there were still police and FRU members hanging around.  They were, apparently, more interested in this gathering than the one put on by MPK.

Police or FRU, enjoying the view be continued.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November Neighborhood Wedding

With school vacation beginning this weekend, it is time for the wedding kenduri season to heat up again.  Typically, wedding kenduris occur in June, September, and December, when schools let out for break.  The November/December season is notorious for clashing with the beginning of the monsoon season, and rain is not unknown during this most of festive family occasions.

Once again, a neighbour on our block hosted a kenduri for the wedding of his daughter.  This kenduri was unsual in that it contained some elements not common to other wedding kenduri.  To start with, rather than block just half of the street in front of his house, the canopy used in this kenduri was quite large and blocked the entire street.

Entire Street Blocked
As a result, those of us living on the other side in the photo had to use the alley behind the houses to the right side of the photo, since we are on a dead-end road.  This is no problem, however, for we were all invited to this neighbour's kenduri (for free food!).

Another oddity (or better yet, nicety) was free ice cream!!

I scream, you scream, we all scream, for ICE CREAM!!
Malays typically don't seem to go after ice cream, but this stop on the kenduri tour was popular especially with the children.  Of course, the servings were Malaysian size, not the humongous scoops that I remember from my (skinny) youth.

Another nice touch was the colour photo announcing whose kenduri we were attending.  I scrambled the words of the address so that Teak's fans will not know where he lives.  Anonymity is nice, but I am sure that I will be uncovered someday.

Where is it?
There was also, of course, the usual entourages of the groom's family marching in to meet the bride's family to the beat of the kompang (drum) group.  I caught the tail end of the lineup as they marched through the eating area under the canopy.  At the end of the line was a man who was, basically, giving a running commentary like a futbol match.  My neighbour told me that he wanted a traditional Malay wedding, so I guess that a commentator is needed.

Commentator Follows the Kompang Group

Additionally, there was a Lady-in-White who appeared to be directing the proceedings, running back and forth and motioning with her hands.

Lady-in-White Giving Directions

After meeting, marching in, and getting seated, the bride and groom were entertained by first a silat group, three sets of boys.  I caught the youngest pair in their faux sparring.

Youngest Silat Pair

And then, the bride and groom (along with the crowd) were entertained by a group of young ladies doing the Zapin dance.

Zapin dance

The young couple seemed quite pleased with the kenduri, as was I and the rest of the crowd.  After attending multitudes of kenduri in my years in Malaysia, this one has to be near the top of the list for most entertaining.

Happy Couple

And, it was especially nice for the fantastic ayam berempah, prepared by Asa Caterers, reknown for their wedding meals, and for the fact that the kenduri was right in front of my house, entailing a walk of, oh, 3-5 seconds!

Unfortunately, this being November and on the verge of monsoon season, the kenduri was visited by a team of Cumulonimbus, which piled up and then broke forth.  As I type this now, the kenduri is breaking up under a steady rainfall.

Here comes the rain!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The October Post

Teak has taken on a research project which consumes his time and pushes this blog to the back-burner.  Still trying to find interesting topics upon which to expound, but ....

Classes are over; carry-marks are turned in; final exams begin next week; so, taking a break from the research, here are a few photos of some of the more interesting things seen this month.

The baju kabaya is probably my favorite Malaysian outfit that women wear here.  It flatters nearly every figure and allows for nice embroidery and interesting designs.  A colleague wore a pretty outfit today and obliged Teak's request for a photo.  What do you think?  Nice, eh?

Baju Kebaya on Colleague
I have also highlighted cute shoes, before, worn by students of mine.  Here is the latest, cutest, pair aptly titled "Shoe of the Semester".

Shoe of the Semester

This week was the Hindu holiday of Diwali (Festival of Lights), called Deepavali in Malaysia.  Some of our Tamil students prepared a kolam at the entrance to the main building, which is a design from colored rice.

Diwali Kolam at School Entrance
The students even included a sign to inform about their work.

Diwali Information

Walking to and from work allows me to see other things of beauty, such as this rainbow...

Rainbow Over the Kampung

... and a pair of Enggan (Hornbills).

Hornbills Looking for Breakfast

But, not everything is an item of beauty.  Have you seen what they do with French fries in this country?  Mayonnaise?  Yuck!!

Yuck!!  How to ruin French fries.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Bee Swarms, No Hives

Several weeks (months?) ago, a bee swarm showed up in some bushes along the side of my house.  As can be seen in the photo, it is the shape of an upside down tear-drop and is simply a mass of bees with no hive.  If one watches for a few minutes, a shiver will pass through the bees as they fan their queen who must be in the centre.

Come On Guys, Build a Hive!
According to online sources, bee swarms usually only stay in a location for a few days before moving on.  But, this swarm has stayed put and now I have noticed another new swarm forming high in the branches of one of our Tapak Kuda (Bauhinia) trees.  What is going on here?  Bee-keepers, advice please.

Something Old, Something New

I thought about running a contest to see which photo could best represent Malaysia in one snap.  Here would be one of my entries, which I have entitled "Something Old, Something New".

Something Old, Something New
A female colleague was eating breakfast at her desk one morning, enjoying Malaysia's national fare nasi lemak.  Nasi lemak is certainly something old in Malaysia.  In front of her was her notebook computer, which of course, represents the new.  When I first started at this particular school several years ago, I was the only one with a notebook computer.  Now everyone has one of their desk and it shows how quickly Malaysians will embrace new technology.  But, Malaysians are not so quick to adopt new foods as can be seen by the number of people eating nasi lemak every morning for breakfast.  And the same types of food are made for each and every wedding function, Hari Raya celebration meal and so forth.  Why so adventurous with technology, but not with culinary fare?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mackerel with Pistachio Pesto

I love Spanish Mackerel (Ikan Tenggiri in Malay).  It is probably my favorite Malaysian fish for grilling and frying.  Here on the east coast of the peninsula, it appears that we get the Narrow-barred version of Spanish Mackerel, or Scomberomorus commerson in taxonomic nomenclature.  I have the fish-seller cut the fish cross-wise into 1-2 centimeter thick steaks.  The bones can be left in or removed fairly easily.  I can also quarter the steaks into smaller pieces for frying, leaving the skin on.

Spanish mackerel steaks (see the narrow black bars on the flank?)
While perusing the Wall Street Journal one day, I came across a recipe for Mackerel with Pistachio Pesto.  Since I live close to a fish market and my DW has frozen home-made pesto from when she grew TONS of basil, I decided that it was the perfect recipe to try one Saturday evening.

So, here is my version of the recipe.

1/2 cup pistachio nuts, shelled
Thawed packet of your favorite pesto sauce.  My DW makes pesto in a large freezer bag, which she then squashes flat before freezing.  Chunks can be broken off as the need arises.  Rather than try to estimate portion size, take a look at the photo.  It is, perhaps, 1/2 cup of each., or 1/2 cup pistachios and 2/3 cup pesto.

Thawed pesto from storage (1/2 cup) and pistachios (1/2 cup)
Zest of one lime
Juice of that lime (recipe calls for 2 TBS; I use it all.)
One clove garlic, grated

In a food processor pulse the pistachios until fine.  Add the pesto sauce, lime zest and juice, and anything else you might like to zest it up (say, one or two Jalapeno slices).  Pulse once, and then add 5 TBS olive oil before pulsing again.  The goal is a smooth sauce.

Six oz of hung yoghurt.  I have detailed elsewhere how to hang yoghurt, which is a way of removing the acidic whey and producing a nice, creamy mild yoghurt.  This has to be made ahead of time, of course, by at least 4-6 hours.

Season the fish with salt.  Set a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add 1-2 TBS olive oil.  When hot, lay the fish in, skin side down.  Cook 3-4 minutes or until skin is crips.  Turn gently on each side and cook 1-2 minutes more.  Do not overcook (change the color = protein denaturation).

Frying the mackerel, start with skin-side down
While the fish cooks (one could broil or grill the fish, also), arrange four pitas on a baking sheet and broil in the oven 1-2 minutes, flipping once or until warmed through.  You also use roti naan, instead of pitas, whose baking I have detailed elsewhere.

In a separate bowl, mix the hung yoghurt with the grated garlic and add a pinch of salt.

To serve, spread 2 TBS of pesto over each pita and a dollop (1-2 TBS) of hung yoghurt in the center of each pita.  Top with a mackerel chunk or two, and finish with a dollop of pesto and drizzle of olive oil.  Eat.  Enjoy.  Subscribe to the Wall Street Journal (or this blog) for more great recipes!

Finished product; serve on top of warmed/baked pita bread slices

Another I-Love-Clouds Post

I love clouds.  Big ones, building up over the tropical South China Sea.  Lots of evaporation going on and then they move inland to dump on the mountains to the west of us.  Orographic uplift is the term used to describe what happens.  Cool air cannot hold as much water as hot air, so when the mountains force the clouds to go uphill, they cool and have to dump some of their load.  Rain.  Runoff.  Back to the ocean.  Complete the cycle.  Hydrology.

Cumulous being built by evaporation off the South China Sea