Christopher Smith for The New York Times
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Christopher Smith for The New York Times
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Duck thigh noodles (ngap tui mee) at Overseas Restaurant, Manhattan by Steven
Living in New York City, there are no shortages of Malaysian restaurants. Nyonya, Penang, Jaya, Sanur and even Singapore Cafe (yeah, even THAT is Malaysian) comes to mind. They serve the average fare: Nasi lemak, assam laksa, poh piah, roti canai and the lot. They are all standard but in search of kuih, a friend introduced me to Overseas on Canal and Ludlow. There, I was brought back to my childhood with their duck thigh noodles and kuih!
As the child of foodies, my parents' idea of a fun Saturday excursion was to drive 4 hours North to the town of Bidor for duck thigh noodles ("ngap tui" mee). Bidor is a former tin-mining town tucked in between Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. There was only one establishment that you'd want to go to, and I cannot remember the name of it, though it is still there today if you were to venture to this sleepy town. It is on the corner lot of a row of colonial townhouses, with cement washed floors and plastic stools. You'd order the cold, barley lemon drink and a bowl of steaming "ngap tui" mee. While waiting for your food to be delivered, you'll peruse the "snacks" aisle, as a portion of the restaurant also doubles as a convenience store of sorts for local snacks like dried cuttlefish, "kai jai peng" (chicken biscuits) and flakey sweet pastries flavored by burnt coconut husks used to flame the fire.
Kuih by Steven
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
“M, you going with Diego today. Twists!”
Carlos was not the supervisor on duty today, Mr. Smiley was. The guys jostled each other and I had a nagging suspicion I was being “set up” for something. More importantly, if I wasn’t working in front of Carlos, he can’t assess my progress which also meant I would be taking a time out from the point system.
Diego and I prepped for twists. He showed me how to distinguish between the different types of dough which required different types of pans and set ups. We worked in the mixing room amongst the giant Hobart mixers with racks and racks of chilled dough.
“So….are you single?” Diego asked.
Ah. So THAT was the million dollar question. I was actually relieved there wasn’t a weird hazing ritual at X that all interns were subjected to. I concentrate heavily on my pan and laughed the question off. Who had time to date?
“Why do you work so much?”
Why, indeed, Diego. Million dollar question.
The conversation turned to family. He hasn’t seen his parents in 12 years. His 6 year old son has never spent time with grandma or grandpa. We talked about religion. Diego was spiritual but not religious. But tomorrow was the celebration for Our Virgin of Guadalupe, he said. He was contemplating going to church.
"Heeeeey...baby!" We were interrupted by Paco, who confirmed my “set up” theory by singing the refrain, “Mi Corazon” over and over for the next 2 hours. Paco was the kind of guy I steered clear of. He liked saying, "Heeeeey..baby!" to me. He did offer to make me a cup of coffee which I accepted in a peace gesture.
I was taught how to shape the twist dough, filling them with raisins and olives, before using a special dough cutter that resembled discs of steel mounted on a rolling pin to cut neat rolls of dough to be twisted by hand.
The day ended uneventfully. As I entered the locker room, the man they called the Don (in a nod to his age seniority, he appeared in his late 60s), started the whole, "Heeeey,...baby!" thing. But how could you take him seriously? Or short, short Paco for that matter? They are the kind of people that you just want to hand a balloon and a candy bar to and send them on their merry way.
I zipped up my coat, gave a wave to the baguette night shift that was starting their day, and stepped out the back door, the screen door slamming behind me.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
"Cuppie Loves to Bake" via Cakespy
I earned my 3rd point early that morning.
Back on the line with Jesus. I practised on my rolling technique for baguettes. The dough always looked like a snake that had eaten a large hamster. I couldn't get the bulge in the middle to go away. I cursed the lack of Play Doh in my early developmental years.
Unofficial break time came several hours in. It would've been like any other break, where I'd gulp down a steaming hot cup of coffee, run to the bathroom and back to the shaping table. But today was different. Jesus motioned me to come with him. He grabs two rolls hot from a tray, fresh from the oven. He tossed me one and we sat down together with Carlos at the picnic table that doubled as our break room. We ate in silence.
I broke a piece off the roll with my fingers, the flakey crust crumbled onto my lap. I washed it down with a cup of coffee. And we sat, comtemplative, focusing on every bite, every minute we had that we didn't have to work.
I had a momentary flashback to the basement of a church in Vladivostok, where we'd sat on long, hard benches, slurping down bowls of hot borscht. A lifetime ago. Our hunks of bread rested directly on the table top.
I broke the silence to ask Carlos if he was celebrating Christmas. He wasn't. Apparently, his mother was a Buddhist.
Back to the line.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
via The Fresh Loaf
"Esta muerto," Carlos shook his head and prodded my limp dough. Everyone laughed. I had succeeded in murdering my French roll. Again. And thus, ended Day 2 of my internship at X.
I spent my day with my stomach in knots. I am the only intern who wasn't a culinary school grad and without professional kitchen experience. Everything I did wrong, from improperly flouring a banneton, those woooden baskets that help sourdough proof, to my inability to shape dough, meant that everyone else on my team had to pick up the slack.
The day consisted of an 8 hour shift with a 45 minute break. After the bannetons are floured, we go straight into shaping dough for the remainder of the day.
"Bolas!" Carlos barked. "Watch!" He deftly maneuvred the dough into a large ball and rolled it a few times to give it shape and tossed it onto the wooden board. Bola, known by its proper French term, boule, was for me, the bane of my short kitchen existence.
80's rock blared through the kitchen. I struggled with the dough as it stuck to my fingers at every opportunity. Carlos and Jesus slung dough from both hands, like they were slinging guns in a spaghetti Western.
Carlos is a diminutive man in his 40s with dark hair and olive eyes. I report directly to him. While he does not yell at me, he is firm and expects me to react quickly. Merely a raise of his eyebrow or a "Hmmph!" would send me scurrying off with telepathic orders to scrape down the work table or grab more pans.
The conversation started with Shakira's latest concert in NY. Carlos and Jesus were obvious fans from the way they eagerly discussed her repertoire and lamented the lack of Spanish songs in it.
The hours passed quickly and was matched by the frenetic pace of the kitchen. We worked with different doughs with different shapes to tackle and no shortage of herbs, olives, raisins and chocolate. Carlos and Jesus would patiently reshape my doughs and each taught me their techniques.
"Tranquila..." Jesus said, grinning from ear to ear. "It's your first time. Keep practising!"
And there it was, the holy grail. Practise. Get in there. Don't be afraid to dive right in and get your hands dirty, work with confidence and where you have to, be firm.
It must have been well into Hour 6, and averaging 1 boule per 1.5 minutes, Carlos finally muttered, "Coffee break!"
He turned to me and with a quick nod said, "You made 2 good bolas."
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
photo: Jui Shih
I was covering an impeccable sake seminar and tasting at Matsuri, the beautiful subterranean Japanese restaurant at the Maritime the other evening. I have had many a fond meals there....ah, but I digress. The sake! Organized by Joto Sake (the founder and his staff were ever so gracious), the event was just...perfect. Artisanal brewers pouring their masterpieces and ever so humbly accepting our compliments....what a difference from the typical pour and score events.
Two days after, my tongue still comforted by the soft and silky smooth taste...I will now turn to one of my favorite haiku writers (a total modernist on the subject) and fellow sake imbiber, Santoka:
Sunday, October 18, 2009
via Delivery Week
Delivery Week has now reduced my 1 block walk to 10 paces as I let my fingers do the dialing. The brainchild of Seamless Web, it runs October 19th-31st. 3 course lunches are $12.09 + tax and dinners will set you back $20.90 + tax. They are awarding freebies on Twitter so what are you waiting for?!
Sunday, October 11, 2009
via The NY Times
I understand. I've been a phone girl, focus groupie, convention booth hottie and (my favorite) a beer marketer: studying the drinkability of America’s premium draft light beer. Real jobs? They were real to me. They all paid an average of $20.00 an hour but they were all gigs. What my parents would call a “real” job, is a 9-5er, Mondays to Fridays where you're on an actual payroll and they took sweet, sweet taxes out of your paycheck every fortnight.
My first proper job out of college was as a Client Care Coordinator for a now defunct health and wellness company that specialized in hypnotherapy. Yup. It was one of “those” new agey things. Basically a glorified office assistant, I greeted clients and ensured they were comfortably tucked beneath a warm blankey on leather recliners while receiving light and audio therapy. Dealing with subliminal messages of relaxation followed by piercing red strobing lights on your eyelids was not my idea of fun and I decided to resign from the place after witnessing some unsavory business practices.
That evening, I dined with friends at Don Quixote and cried into my lobster, thinking that it was the end of the world and I will never find a job again in this bad economy. The “bad economy” I was referring to, was the post 9-11 job market. I wanted to write but there were no jobs to be had anywhere.
It was just a stroke of luck that one of my friends suggested I joined her as a Real Estate Agent. I registered for the mandatory classes, passed the state exam, joined a brokerage and did my first deal 2 weeks into December, smack in the middle of the holidays.
George Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn't about finding yourself; it's about creating yourself” and on that note, a word of advice to the lovely Barry twins: Keep at it. Step outside the box. There is tremendous opportunity on this island...
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
via Go Antiques
Thursday, March 19, 2009
As I sashayed up to the entrance of Arader Galleries in my Nanette Lepore cocktail dress and black Manolos, I had a Sex in the City moment. Here was another night about town with my girlfriends but with a philantrophic slant.
Christopher Ong's soiree which benefited the National Stroke Association was backed by who's who of Upper East Side society. The launch of his limited edition“Madame Butterfly” scented candle was an evening of fine wine, art and the trendiest Malaysian expats in the Big Apple.
Arader Galleries is situated in a multimillion dollar Beaux Arts townhouse on Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Featuring American and English artwork, maps and furniture, the gallery is a sight to behold.
One may ask, how did this humble, small town boy from Kelantan end up here? The road from rubber plantation to the concrete jungle of the Big Apple started with a vision for excellence.
"One must keep believing in oneself," said Christopher.
Daniel Perry, NY Cool and Yeweng Wong
Photograph by Bartomeu Amengual
A charming bon vivant, Christopher exuded grace without pretension. In a former life, he designed interiors of the best hotels in South Beach and the Caribbean. Currently, he embraces the entrepreneurial spirit in his role as an interior and lifestyle designer with an impressive client list and products for the home.
His hand poured French candles and silk pillow collection are purveyed at Takashimaya.
Datin Amy, Chris Ong, Mabel Cheah
Photograph by Bartomeu Amengual
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Please meet Betty, a 1950's Royal Quiet deLuxe. She weighs 11 lbs.
But there was something special about Betty. Perhaps it was the way her smooth, cold, pink metallic body felt on my fingers, stamped with the word, "ROYAL." Perhaps it was the fact that she hailed from the 50's, a time in history that I feel very connected to (the fashion! the music!) I was thrilled when I found out Heather sourced for 8 of my closest friends to bring Betty home.
My love affair started when I was 8 years old. I learnt how to type by recreating recipes on my mother's typewriter. I can't recall the model nor the make. However, I retain a vivid recollection of keys striking paper and the decisive clacking sound punctuating the air. I stained my fingers on the dual black and red ribbon trying to change the spool.
The ability to type for pleasure is not lost on me. I am extremely grateful for the gift of prose and the love for the written word.