Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Roti Man

There were a couple of of Roti Man in my life but one in particular remains in my memory - the one from Lorong Dua, Eng Ann Estate Klang. He would come by around 5-6 pm in the evening, pedaling his bicycle and a big rattan basket with a domed metal top, behind. Loaves of breads, encased in plastic bags, will hang around the perimeter of the basket. He would press the horn on his handle bar and hoot his arrival, simultaneously shouting "Roti, roti", meaning bread.

Oh, how I am always lamenting that we as a family really did not take many pictures, if at all. I have no picture of my Roti Man. My Roti Man was younger than the man in this picture but his set up was very similar. A favorite treat of the family - but never mine - was the coconut buns. Freshly grated coconut cooked in gula melaka encased in a bun. He has Hainanese Bread - soft white bread, fabulous lightly toasted and smeared with Kaya (coconut jam). Roti Man in picture looks like he is doing just that! Hard rolls, soft rolls, buns with all kinds of fillings and monkey bread....... See how he uses the dome cover as working surface.

Talking about monkey bread - that is what makes this particular Roti Man special to me. Not the bread - the Monkey. Let me explain. Around this time, dad had bought me a pet monkey - a pig tailed monkey. Kiki. I would take Kiki out for a walk in the evening, just like you would a dog. Roti Man loved Kiki. He was always trying to get me to sell him Kiki. He offered me a lifetime supply of all the bread our family could eat if I gave him Kiki. I never ever took him up on the offer.

Roti Man would save stale bread for Kiki. Of course, he continued bribing me with extra or free bread every so often. Our street became his rest stop. He would take time off and walk Kiki while I tended to his bread. Ha,ha. I know - how simple life was then. I collected money from the neighbors for the breads purchased while he walked Kiki, all within my sight of course.

Roti Man said he wanted Kiki to pluck coconuts for him. That is what they train pig tailed monkeys to do in Malaysia. I could never give up my buddy and he knew it but Kiki was what linked us together. Sadly, I do not have a picture of the Roti Man or Kiki......

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The First Man in my Life

The first man in my life was my father. I am remembering you this day, your birthday and missing you very much. I love you Daddy. You would have been 72 today......

It is hard because you and I had a unspoken truce / memory lapse for many years. I love you and you me. There was a time in our lives when our relationship was strained. You were an exacting father and I was headstrong (still am) and as opinionated as you were. Fiercely independent, I wanted all achievements to be mine alone. You were so proud of me but thought I would not have made it without you.... Somewhere between the two lies the truth. You should have given me more credit and I you. Hind sight. We never spoke of those times but create new happier times together although I lived across the ocean from you.

I miss you each day. I see you in myself and in my children who adore you till this day. You are still very much part of their lives. Daughter L wrote you a letter as part of her college application - a person who influence her life. How you thought her to observe the small things from the Touch Me Not plant at the bottom of the steps of the train station to the Tailor Birds nests swinging in the wind. How she ran through the house singing loudly and out of tune because her grandpa did just that!( the singing not the running) You taught her it was okay to sing even if she was not good. We often laugh at how she and her brother will mix up songs like you did. How proud you would be this day to see her go to UC Berkeley.

In Son A I see the mischievousness that comes from you. He is the clown of his class, which I suspect you were. I often laugh when I think of what your reaction would be to his adventures with the ladies! He takes after his grandpa......I can picture him regaling you with stories of his conquests and heartbreaks. You with your `pearls of wisdom'. I am sure I would have something to say about the double standards you have for sons and daughters. The proud grandpa with Son A and to my daughter L, you will probably tell her what you told me. Don't let a guy lay claim on you that you don't want, watch that he does not oust the others by always being close all the time. And of course the other "Gem -Close Proximity" - be careful who you hang out with - the have a strange way of becoming attractive. Ha, ha... I miss you daddy.

Mom and siblings - do you remember daddy's Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility? It struck a chord this year as daughter L studied Economics. I remember how we threw that statement around in the house - of course, more often that not in relation to food!

Often I am in the garden and I think of dad. Of how I hated gardening because he would have us out there in the garden pulling out those dreaded Tea-leave hedge plant seedlings. How I cursed those plants. How he got so angry when I threw away some of the gazillion Monstra and Goosefeet Plants ! Really,we did not need that many. How through all this, my love of gardening had blossomed and is what gives me peace. I certainly did not think so then!! Ha, ha I remember a A+++ in English composition that came out of a particularly "hard day" of gardening with dad. No, I did not write a nasty, quite the opposite - I painted such a idealistic pictures of us - I remember to this day, the teacher said it was genuine,heartwarming with remarkable insights into human nature. Hey, I was channeling anger and frustration . Of course, playing on a teacher homesickness for her out of state family was also a great insight into human nature.

Daddy I love you. Papa I love you and miss you.

The Man of the Hour

The Man of the Hour is my dear husband BH. Yesterday we celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary. We were married when we were both 25 years old. We got engaged on my 25th birthday. That has been how it has been since - we celebrate my birthday in April, our wedding anniversary on June 8 and then his birthday is July. Come July each year, he is a year older. Dear husband will be 50 this year!!! I am a young 49 :)
The in between when we are both the same age -that how we chose our wedding day. Ha, ha that and a European vacation inspired it. We decided to go on this 3 week back packing trip through Europe so we decided we might as well get married and make it a Honeymoon.Announced our plans to the family, rush the dressmaker to make my wedding dress and we got married in 2 weeks. How is that possible you ask? Well, dressmaker is friend's sister. Wedding reception at the local pub- friend of husband's sister. I think everyone thought it was a shot gun marriage!! Our parents saw us off on the trip. My mother rented us a house we had never seen, while we were on Honeymoon- picked us up from the airport and drove us to our first married home. Yep, that is how we did it.

This year he will be climbing Mount Kinabalu, again (he climbed it last year). Mount Kinabalu (13435 feets above sea level), the highest mountain in South East Asia is located in Sabah, Malaysia. He will be climbing with his schoolmates from elementary school who are all turning 50 this year. I guess they have to prove that they still have it!! Then there is the descending down the mountain Via Ferrata (literally translate to `iron road' in Italian) style- along the face of the mountain. Check it out at

The adventure continues with white water rafting and God knows whatever else boys gets into when they get together, what ever their age. Some of the spouses and significant other will be there though all but one will be doing the climb. Hats off to Daisy!! Son A was suppose to go on this Boys trip until his school calender got changed to a year round schedule beginning July 17. Bummer!! Your truly is staying behind to get son off to high school and daughter off to college

What I was saying is because of him I have done things I would not otherwise have - the Hike to Macchu Pichu for one. He makes me try ridiculous physical activities that while I could do would not volunterally embark on when I could put off to later (or never)!! I grumble during it but at the end of it I feel I have achieved something meaningful and guess what - I really enjoyed it in the process.

At the same time, he lets me be Me. He encourages my too many creative interests from scrapbooking, photography, cooking, beading to gardening. Even my blogging even though I do not think he knows my blog!! He just asks me to cook dishes and blog about them. Mutually satisfying activity.

We are a couple but still very much our own person. What more can a woman ask for in a life partner. Love you my husband.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Great Legs

Blogging about 10 Lorong Palas brought back memories. Great Legs!!! Remember her anyone??? Our dear friends Joe and Indra were living with us at that time. Joe and my husband were childhood friends and get into mischief the way childhood friends do. These young men apparently had been ogling Great Legs. Ha, ha - Indra and I should have been appaled, particularly since both couples were only recently married but somehow it became our thing too!

One day, Joe and hubby call us wives over excitedly."Come quickly and look at Great Legs." In the house diagonally across from our house was this Japanese couple. You guessed it! Great Legs was the wife. Indra and I had to admit she had amazing legs - shapely, slim and seem to go on forever. She had a okay body but an amazingly plain face that did not match those great legs!

Of course, it took Indra and I quite awhile before we had a good look at Great Legs properly. She never was out in the front of the house. We had to catch our glimpses of her when she was either coming or going out of the house. OMG, the number of times, the guys would shout out Great Legs alert and we would come out running to the front of our house. I remember once we were jostling one another to get out of the front door, making such a ruckus and the husband became suspicious and stared at us. We pretended to be looking at our plants in front!!

From that day onwards, we learn the art of having a cup of coffee and casually leaning on the doorway while subtly observing Great Legs. The husband would often glance over at our house suspiciously but I don't think he knew what was actually going on. We began rating how the legs look each day in shorts, skirts or pants - we hated pants. The things we did when we were young! Joe and Indra moved to their own home. Great Legs and husband moved away and we moved down to Jalan Ampang in Kuala Lumpur, next to the French Embassy.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Putu Mayam Man and the Monster

My Putu Mayam man did not have a fixed schedule. You never knew when he would come so I had a standing order with my grandmother, if the Putu Mayam man came while I was away, please get me two Putu Mayam with fresh grated coconut and extra Gula Melaka - a most delicious deep caramel flavored sugar made from the sap of the coconut flower- there is no real substitute for it. I admit I use dark brown sugar as a substitute these days but I am far from Malaysia and it is near impossible to get the traditional Gula Melaka wrapped in coconut palm. I digress......The Putu Mayam is a vermicelli like rice flour noodle, made by pressing the dough through a mold with tiny holes. The strings are swirled in a circular motion to form a nest. These nest are then steamed. The combination of the hot Putu Mayam, sweet freshly grated coconut and gula melaka is out of this world! Love it. I think I am going to have to try to make it one day - Lily to the rescue.

I spy a picture of Putu Mayam man - not mine!! Mine did not have a dapper tartan cap. However, he did come on a bicycle with his metal treasure chest of delicious treat. Take a look at him at

Pictures taken from

These pictures here shows a Putu Mayam man
pressing the dough out of the mould unto an upturned rattan basket. These Putu Mayam nests will then be steamed. He is serving the Putu Mayam topped with grated coconut - the green one is probably flavored and scented with Pandan leaves (screwpine), and gula melaka. Who remembers these delicious packets?

As I was driving back from dropping my son A at school today and thinking about the Putu Mayam man, I remember another Putu Mayam significant person. The Monster!! Were we just cruel when when we were younger??? The person my husband and I fondly call the "Monster" was the cleaning lady we had when we first got married and living in 10 Lorong Palas in Southern Park. "Monster" came to us via my mother-in-law, for whom she had been working. She came on Saturdays to wash our clothes and clean the house. I cannot remember why we started calling her the "Monster" but I can still picture in my mind, walking through the doors on Saturday, after grocery shopping and asking my husband, "is Monster here yet?" I think it was because Monster did whatever she wanted no matter what and how many times you told her the way you like things done. But she was trustworthy. We could leave her to the work (done her style) and just go out on our Saturday jaunts. What did we call her? Oh, how I wished I remember.... it will come to me. Come on, now people. We DID NOT call her Monster to her face. Besides, what is Monster in Malay? I can only think out names like hantu (ghost) and shiatan (devil). Help me out here, family. Ha, ha.... I do however see a picture in my mind of my mother-in-law scolding "Monster" ! There is no literal translation for that!!!! Love my mother-in-law.

As usual, I digressed. Putu Mayam man at 10 Lorong Palas had a habit of coming through the lane at the back of the house. We lived in what would be termed as town houses in this country. We call them terraced houses in Malaysia. Anyway, the back of these terrace houses rows faced each other. I guess he figured correctly, that housewives will be in the back of the house, cooking, cleaning or hanging out laundry and he would have better luck getting their attention coming though the back. I would tell her to hail down the Putu Mayam man if he comes by and get me some Putu Mayam. She took over from my grandmother on the standing order in my own household. I guessed after awhile, she noticed how much I liked them. One day, she surprised me. When I asked her if the Putu Mayam man had come, she said no but that she had made me some Putu Mayam. They were delicious!!! From that day onwards, she would treat me to Putu Mayam and other indian treats every now and then. Yes, my Putu Mayam Lady is also Indian.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Kacang Putih Man and Putu Mayam Man

I was just over on Lily's Wai Sek Hong blog and it brought back memories...... She talked about hawkers that came to her doorsteps - the Kacang Putih man ( literally translated as the White Nut Man) and the Putu Mayam man (the String Hopper man). Indeed, I thought they were my friends too! They came by when I most craved the delicious delights. And yes, my Kacang Putih man and my Putu Mayam man were Indian too.

I remember them most from the days we lived in the rented Semi-Detached house in Lorong Dua in Eng Ang Estate in Klang.
I was 9 or 10 years old then. Kacang Putih man would come by with his green wooden table balanced on top of white turbaned head, his hands holding unto the legs of the table. Ha, ha.... I remember asking him from which school did he get the table from? He would shout "Kacang Putih! kacang putih!" Kids would pour out of houses on both sides of the street and hail him down. He would set his table down, flip over the plastic cover over and tempt us with those delicious nuts. Little did he know that he was way ahead of his time - these days we know the benefits of incorporating nuts into our diet. The top of the table would be partitioned into numerous sections, each filled with a different type of nut or similar nuts but prepared differently. Among the many delights were peanuts- boiled, deep fried or frosted with sugar, Broad or Fava Beans deep fried, toasty little lentils, crispy peas and my favorite steamed gabanzo beans with curry leaves and chillies. He also sold Muruku and different savory mixes that Chex Mix could only dream it could be. Yum! My mouth waters thinking about it.
He would roll up pieces of newspaper making little paper cones, fill them with our nut of choice. " Lebih sedikit, lah" you would often hear, meaning just a little more - we would beg. He would smile and shake his head, side to side and pop in a nut or two more. I do not know about the others, but I think I was his favorite. He would wait until the crowd disperse and turn to me smiling and shaking his head and say, "lebih sedikit" and give me a few more nuts. Sometimes, I would give him a glass of water and he would make me a paper airplane or a paper boat. Sadly, I do not see these wonderful Kacang Putih man traveling through residential neighborhood bringing treats to children.

Picture taken from
These days, if you are lucky you will have in your life a Kacang Putih man like in this picture, who parks his cart at a same spot. I do not know why but more often then not he is in front of a bank! So is the fresh fruit seller and possibly the Nasi Lemak lady. That is a subject for another posting. Check out the blog above and read about the life of the Kacang Putih man in the picture. He lives in Singapore a neighboring country to Malaysia.

In the past 20 years of my yearly visit back to Klang, Malaysia, I saw mainly
in the Pasar Malam (night market) the new breed of Kacang Putih Man, more often than not, a Chinese man, very often wearing a white singlet, highlighting his pot bellied stature, selling his Kacang out of back of his parked van, housed in plastic jars and ladled into plastic bags. It is not quite the same. I hope somewhere in the small kampung-kampung (this is the plural for the benefit and delight of my daughter L) a Kacang Putih man or two continues to delight the young and the old.

My Putu Mayam man........ this posting is already too long as I reminisce about the Kacang Putih man. My Putu Mayam man deserves his own posting. Ha, ha.... when I first started down memory lane because of Lily Ng's blog, I was just setting the stage for the main Man Food man in my life then. It is taking longer to get there because I am having a food sensory memory overload!!! Can you guess which one of these Men I am thinking about. Sisters and my brother or Mom- any guesses??????? What about you, CS in New Zealand ??? Hint- it is not the Putu Mayam Man