When it is more about control than faith

KUALA LUMPUR — If by now you have not realised how Islamic laws impact the lives of non-Muslims as well, you are blissfully ignorant, purposely keeping blind, or part of the Islamist lobby trying to sell the myth to the former two categories.

One area that inadvertently impacts non-Muslims is the halal certification that food and beverage companies and restaurants must go through if they wish to sell to Malay-Muslims.

Federal Islamic authority Jakim’s halal hub division was on everybody’s lips the last few weeks, after it was revealed by a local executive of US-based franchise Auntie Anne’s, that the halal certification for its central kitchen hit a snag.

The problem? Purportedly because one of the items on their menu was called “pretzel dog.”

For many of us, the name pretzel dog is obvious: “I have a pretzel, I have a hot dog… uh, pretzel dog!”

Not to literal Jakim.

Its halal division director Dr Sirajuddin Suhaimee has since blamed the media for the furore, despite his own words, “In Islam, dogs are considered unclean and the name cannot be related to halal certification.”

Meanwhile, Minister in charge of Religious Affairs Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom was so busy trying to put out the “fires” started by Jakim that he just straight up lied to the media in order for the controversy to die down.

“What matters for us is the ingredients, not the name,” Jamil told a press conference at Parliament on Oct 20.

“We do not intend to change the status of any food that is established and popular, like hotdogs,” he said.

What Jamil did not realise was that on the very same day, Jakim’s halal division contradicted him by adamantly stating on its Facebook page the Malaysian Halal Certification Procedure manual explicitly rejects food that uses name synonymous to non-halal products, such as ham, bak kut teh, bacon, beer, rum, and so on.

And presumably, dogs.

It is not as if this has never happened before. One just needs to take a look at another US-based fast food chain, A&W. The franchise was brought here from the USA in 1963. In 2001, the chain was bought over by local investors KUB Malaysia Bhd.

If you have not been there for some time and were wondering if they still serve the nostalgic coney dogs and root beer: no, they do not anymore. Now there are only “chicken and beef coney”, and merely “RB” on the menu.

Even A&W root beer sold in bottles in supermarkets are now called “sarsaparilla.”

Jamil’s deputy Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki has also pointed out “good” food name is part of the requirement, saying otherwise it would cause confusion (yes, that word again) and bring unpleasant connotations among Muslims.

“This takes into account the complaints of many including consumer associations because there are many food products confusing Muslims such as ‘non-alcoholic beer’, ‘no pork’,” Asyraf wrote on the same days as Jamil’s answer.

Or as Sirajuddin has told AFP, this move on hot dogs followed complaints by Muslim tourists from overseas.

I think we know who these tourists are. And English is not their first language. It is understandable they might not understand straight away.

What is disheartening is that Jakim worries more about appeasing these tourists than respecting the intelligence of its fellow citizens who understand “non-alcoholic” and “no pork” mean exactly that: there is no alcohol in that drink and there is no pork in that dish. No more and no less.

Jakim supporters argue the certification is voluntary. But it is only voluntary in the same way that getting a degree is voluntary in the job market — it is suicidal if you do not have one.

The certification was meant only as a guide for Muslims to make an informed decision. The lack of halal certificate in no way means something is not halal. When was the last time your nasi lemak vendor had a halal certificate?

Instead, it has turned into a necessity in order for a business to thrive, thanks to Jakim. For without a halal certificate, unscrupulous social media users would carry on smear campaigns as if the businesses themselves are just plain haram, forbidden.

What more, now Ikiam and Risda plan to develop a second logo to denote products made by Muslims. Essentially, what this does is close the market off to non-Muslim producers, no matter how halal their products are, and no matter if they have obtained Jakim’s halal certification.

In the end, the certification is nothing but a way for Islamic authorities to assert their control over an industry where they have a foothold. It gives a semblance of Islamic rule in certain areas, as an antidote to the free market which cares little about your religion.

Jakim supporter group on Facebook, Friends of Jakim, perhaps gave the best revelation into the mindset of Islamists who take halal certification as a way to assert the Muslim way on an unsuspecting population.

“In a world where most of the things are being dictated by non-Muslims, pioneered by non-Muslims, in a situation where Muslims are weak, thank God the halal market is among the bargaining chips Muslims still have,” the group said on its page about the hot dog furore.

It does not take much to see how true this is.

Just last week, Selangor and Negri Sembilan Islamic authorities took it upon themselves to investigate pork burger chain Ninja Joe and confiscate several things because of the latter’s P. Ramly burger, a homage to the local Ramly burger. (A cheeky pun to be honest, but perhaps too clever for this country.)

You read that right, Islamic enforcers of Shariah laws that should have just applied to Muslims, raided a company owned by non-Muslims, that made it obvious they sell pork burgers.

What was their pretext? Yes, halal again.

Citing the Trade Descriptions (Certification and Marking of Halal) Order 2011, Selangor’s Jais said Islamic enforcers are authorised to inspect non-Muslim outlets that misrepresent that a food or product shall be deemed halal or usable or consumable by followers of Islam.

Negri Sembilan’s JHEAINS insisted the enforcers are authorised by the Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry to act on their own when it comes to this matter.

In short, Ninja Joe was probed because their P. Ramly burger allegedly misled or confused Muslims into thinking it is halal. It looks like even explicitly stating “pork burger” is no longer enough to prevent Muslim confusion.

If by now, you too have become confused, then they have truly won. But if now you are craving for that hot dog or pork burger, then I guess part of my job here is done. — Malay Mail Online


Timeless secrets of Belgrade’s rivers

BARCELONA — A splash of water is always a positive addition to any view.

Whether it’s the rolling waves of the mighty ocean, the glistening waters of a placid lake, or even just the gentle trickle of a mountain stream, everything looks better with a few drops of blue.

There are competing psychological theories to explain why we are so attracted to water, ranging from the evolutionary (we remain subconsciously aware we evolved out of marine creatures), the political (waterways have always provided both a means of protection and escape) and the aesthetic (water just makes things look nicer).

Whatever the real reason, in my opinion, no patch of water is more evocative than a grand, wide river ploughing serenely through the centre of a large city.

Many cities, of course, have used their rivers as a starting point, with the integral role played by the Thames in the history of London an obvious prime example.

If the Thames could talk, it could tell the history of London better than anything else. The wars that have been waged, the deals that have been struck, the love that has been made … they have all taken place under the watchful gaze of the Thames, which is always there, quietly but relentlessly pursuing its inevitable course.

There is genuine and timeless truth in a river. Over centuries of development and change, containing all the dramas and tragedies that inevitably accompany the unfolding of history, the river provides one constant, one note of consistency in a volatile and unpredictable world.

Bing Crosby put it well in the famous song, Ol Man River, crooning the poetic lines: “What does he care if the world’s got troubles? What does he care if the land ain’t free? He must know something, but don’t say nothing. He just keeps rolling along.”

That song came into my mind this week when I made my first trip to the Serbian capital of Belgrade, which boasts not only one but two major rivers, with the Danube and the Sava meeting in the centre of the city.

Belgrade, even its greatest admirers would admit, is not a particularly attractive city. Much of the architecture is dreary and dirty, with the sprawling urban development sufficiently spread out to prevent a sense of cohesion but packed closely together enough to deny notions of space and tranquillity.

Yet those rivers greatly enhance the city’s aesthetical appeal, providing a natural escape from the noise and bustle. And the strategic importance of the city’s location, due to the confluence of the Danube and the Sava, have also played a fundamental role in Belgrade’s turbulent history.

In the Middle Ages, Belgrade grew rapidly into a thriving city under King Stephen of Serbia. But then it was overrun by the expanding Ottoman Empire, starting a prolonged cycle of subjugation which contained the Austro-Ottoman wars, two World Wars and, just 17 years ago, bombing from Nato forces as Yugoslavia’s tragic implosion drew to its sad conclusion.

Now, though, Belgrade is moving boldly into the 21st century, best seen to the south of the Danube and the west of the Sava, where “New Belgrade” has seen rapid growth, with glass-fronted office and residential skyscrapers starkly contrasting the drab concrete of the monotonous Yugoslavia-era apartment blocks.

The old centre is also being smartened up, with central sites such as Terazije Square and Knez Mihailova Street getting a fresh coat of paint in the hope of attracting lucrative and identity-defining international tourist and business trade.

Belgrade is changing, as all cities must, and the Danube and the Sava, of course, will play a vital role in the city’s transformation — stretches of the riverbank are being upgraded with the intention of creating an attractive leisure district.

As a symbol of change, nothing can be more fitting than those rivers, with their dual ability to convey a sense of both timelessness and change. Timeless, because the Danube and the Sava have experienced everything in Belgrade’s story. And change because, despite initial appearances to the contrary, even the rivers are changing too.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus made that explicit point when he observed it is impossible to step into the same river twice: even though the river may look the same, actually you are wading in different water, with banks and surfaces which are undergoing imperceptible but continual change.

The wider point being made by Heraclitus is that everything, always, is changing. Nothing, literally nothing at all, stays the same from one nanosecond to the next, with the physical forces which rule our universe ensuring constant and relentless destruction and renewal.

Few European cities have undergone enforced change as much as Belgrade. Under the watchful gaze of its two rivers, the city has lived through centuries of violence.

Now, it is attempting to move apace with optimism towards a better and more stable future, and let us only hope those ambitions are indeed be realised.

But whatever does transpire, the city’s rivers will still be there, keeping guard and adding their sense of perspective, as only they can and as they always do.


Don’t joke at another’s expense

SINGAPORE — Things have lit up in Singapore and the heat is coming from more than just the Deepavali oil lamps associated with the Hindu Festival of Lights.

Local media site The Smart Local produced a video entitled Singaporeans Try: Indian Snacks.

Having missed the window to see the video before a ferocious backlash had the site scrambling to delete it, I can only assume it was inspired by the vapid yet addictive content produced by viral kings BuzzFeed and their likes where you take one group of people, introduce them to the food, ways, customs, music of another people — a foreign “other” and film their responses which will probably vary from amused, confused, disgusted or tickled.

A pathetic concept perhaps but for my purpose, we need only note the premise is based on encountering an “other.”

So the site uploaded the video, pleased with their on-trend topical take on a public holiday only to meet a revelation which seems so obvious it hurts.

In multiracial, multicultural Singapore we are told Indians are a key part of the tapestry so the notion of exploring the “foreign and exotic” ways of my people serves as a painful reminder on how crap a job our state has done with integration.

The video purportedly showed Singaporeans meeting questions about the meaning of Deepavali with blank stares, comparing the Indian sweet of ladoos with diarrhoea (to which I ask, where have they been buying their ladoos man?)

And the criticism was swift and damning.

It didn’t help the case when a few days earlier, online video streaming service Toggle (which belongs to Mediacorp) did an episode of their Chinese-language series I Want To Be A Star where a Chinese actor dressed up as a black actor by putting on black make-up and an Afro wig and some part of the gag was that Africans and Indians are interchangeable.

People got mad about that too.

So here’s my perspective as a Singaporean of Indian descent with dark skin. I did not want the video (either of them) to be deleted because neither of these outcomes address the fundamental problem: the Singaporean identity is fragmented, we remain deeply divided and a knee-jerk reaction of pulling the content off doesn’t make this problem go away.

In fact, it only exacerbates it because we are forcing these painfully ignorant conversations, which are obviously happening, to happen behind closed doors.

Local poet Pooja Nansi summed it up best: “When you say ‘Singaporeans’ are trying Indian snacks, what you are really saying is that Indians aren’t Singaporeans and our snacks aren’t really ‘Singaporean’ either.”

I can’t see how deleting the video helps move this conversation along.

I don’t think we should prohibit jokes at our expense but we should instead foster a community where these jokes are done with good taste, affection and appreciation that can come from an integrated community. Is that idealistic?

I know it is possible because I have seen the late Yasmin Ahmad’s work and my absolute favourite is the Petronas Deepavali commercial featuring a patti (grandmother) turning up as some young Indian boys set off for a party in full hip-hop swag. The embarrassed encounter captures the kind of nuanced understanding we need if we want to be multiracial.


Smoother than Mentega: What barber and pomade-maker Kevin Cottie Tan is baking in his ‘Oven’

PETALING JAYA — When is butter not just butter? When it’s Mentega (Malay for “butter”), a handmade and hand-poured hair pomade.

The creation of Kevin Cottie Tan, a barber by day and musician by night, Mentega is thus named because cocoa butter is used and the end result both looks and spreads like — you guess it — butter.

The slim, fresh-faced and friendly 26-year-old calls his pomade “your hair’s daily dairy,” which is everything you need to know about his wry and whimsical sense of humour. His taste in décor, on the other hand, is more subtle: Oven Cuttery, his barbershop and pomade-making factory, is all cool minimalism.

A prominent white neon sign announces that you have entered “The Oven” where white-speckled walls, blond wooden tiles in a zig-zag pattern, chic black cabinets and plenty of mirrors dominate.

Utensils such as clippers are arranged carefully. A solitary shave brush in a wooden bowl gives off a Zen-like aura. At the rear, a couple of big pots and an electric stove top are the only clues to the whereabouts of his pomade “kitchen.”

Dressed in a white shirt, skinny jeans and a denim apron neatly appended with rows of hair clips and combs, Tan looks pretty minimalist himself. Part of that look is a clean haircut and skilful application of hair pomade, something he admits to being obsessed about.

“I’ve always been into buying and using pomade. But I’d finish them so quickly — an entire jar would be gone in three weeks! — that I started wondering if there was a more affordable way to use them. That’s when I began exploring making my own pomade,” he says.

After scouring the Internet for more information, he got a pomade recipe from a forum user and started experimenting immediately. He recalls, “Many of the pomade home brewers are based in the US and Australia. Everyone was very open and willing to share their knowledge. I wanted to make a pomade that contains nothing detrimental to the hair and scalp, but also works well in our tropical climate.”

The result is the Mentega Classic Firm Hold, an oil and wax-based pomade made in small batches, with medium- to strong-hold and medium shine. Besides the standard six-ounce jar, Mentega is also available as a travel-sized one-ounce jar called Mentega Classic Jr.

“I use nourishing ingredients such as cocoa butter and essential oils so the pomade is easier to wash off than your traditional product. The standard six-ounce jar is about 50 per cent more than your regular pomade because I didn’t want my clients to feel the frustration of running out of pomade in three weeks the way I felt!”

Tan started making pomade two years ago, before he knew how to cut hair. Barbering wasn’t even something he considered doing until his friend Lex Low of Amplitude Barbershop encouraged him to try it.

“Lex was a great teacher, very casual and relaxed. Unfortunately I’m a slow learner — I took almost a year to pick it up! One day, I visited a kedai runcit to look for straight razors, the ones Indian barbers would use. Suddenly it clicked: I realised I was a professional barber now, too.”

A musician since his college days, Tan has always been into the music scene which, he feels, shares the same vibes with modern-day barbering. He say, “I was the bassist in a now defunct post-hardcore band called AZUREFORJANNE. My bandmates and I all had full-time jobs — I was a journalist before I became a barber — and so we had to play music at nights and on weekends. In fact, we were on tour in Borneo and checking into a hotel when one of my bandmates suggested I go commercial with my pomade.”

Initially, Tan was hesitant due to a self-professed lack of confidence. Thanks to popular demand (“One friend after another asked for the pomade,” he says), however, he took the plunge and started Mentega in June last year.

Incidentally, his nickname “Cottie” comes from him joining a band where there was already a member named Kevin. “As the newbie, I had to find a different way for the rest of the band to call me. Most of my friends in the music industry already knew me as ‘Cottie’, which comes from ‘cotton candy’, my favourite childhood sweet, and so that name stuck.”

Today the multi-talented young man still records music in his home studio whenever he’s free. He says, “It’s more of a solo endeavour. I’ve learned that the music we make doesn’t necessarily have the biggest market but I also realised that we don’t have to reach out to everyone. It’s enough that there are those who enjoy what we do.”

Tan has certainly transformed this sense of serenity to his barbering. Regulars often come back, not because they are in urgent need of a rescue haircut, but for a trim and to chat. He explains, “It’s like ‘talk therapy’ and it’s a two-way street, really. I enjoy asking questions that I wasn’t able to when I was a journalist because my editor told me those questions didn’t contribute directly to a story.”

These days Tan gets to be as curious as he likes. “I find that my questions help me communicate with my clients. That way I get a clearer idea of what sort of haircut they want, and they know what to expect. It’s customer satisfaction, basically.”

This is more than a service rendered robotically, after all, but a ritual for men to shoot the wind, relax and feel comfortable in their own skin. At Oven Cuttery, there are two barber chairs for Tan and a second barber (he is joined by a couple of freelancers).

The barbershop is located within Damansara Utama’s Battery Acid Club café so customers can ostensibly enjoy coffee and a slice of cake while they wait. However, there is no real waiting since most make use of Oven Cuttery’s online booking system to reserve a slot.

The Oven differs from other barbershops as a hot towel treatment is provided after haircuts. While a damp towel is being heated in an oven, Tan massages his client’s temples. Once the towel is ready, he flips it to cool it, then covers his client’s face and continues the massage. The experience is completed with a cold towel, infused with a few drops of peppermint oil to help one relax further.

Indeed, it’s so relaxing you’d be forgiven for falling asleep — not an uncommon occurrence! Tan’s finishing touch, after brushing off any stray hairs, is to apply his Mentega pomade to give his client that sleek, handsome look.

Due to feedback from his clients, Tan will soon release a matte pomade called Mentega Creamy Hand Clay and other products such as beard oil and a moustache wax. He observes, “Everything I do now has made me realise how we impact and connect with others. In the process, I guess, we discover more of ourselves.”

Some may wonder at the phenomenon of male millennials opting for so-called hipster barbers these days, perhaps due to old-school Indian barbers disappearing in our neighbourhoods or the impersonal services offered by quick-cut kiosks in shopping malls.

One thing’s for sure: barbers and pomade makers such as Tan are part of a new wave of young entrepreneurs carving their own way in uncertain times. Indeed, they ought to be lauded as much as the founders of a new tech start-up or a specialty coffee purveyor. In fact, the next time you spot a technopreneur or barista with a great haircut, chances are they got it at Oven Cuttery…


‘Fall’ in love with this pumpkin spiced smoothie

KUALA LUMPUR — It’s the monsoon season again, with almost-daily
rainfall on the East Coast. Some days, it feels the rainy season has stretched to envelop the West Coast as well. It’s hard not to fall into a slump on a wet, dreary day.

While chatting with my friends in the United States, I realise they feel the same way too, though in their case it’s due to autumn rains; a different sort of “fall”, if you will. They have a ready remedy for the end-of-year (but not-quite-Christmas-holidays-yet) blues: copious amounts of pumpkin spiced caffè lattes.

Truly, pumpkins are synonymous with American celebrations of Halloween and Thanksgiving during the fall holidays. The Native Americans had been eating pumpkin long before the European pilgrims arrived; in fact the pumpkin was one of the foods served at early Thanksgiving feasts. Jack-o’-lanterns are also carved from these bright orange squashes during Halloween.

For the rest of the world? Pumpkin is the flavour of autumn, or at least in the form of pumpkin spiced caffè lattes. Me, I prefer to leave the espresso out of the equation, if only to better fully appreciate sweet flavours of the pumpkin.

Really, there’s nothing quite like a warm mug of spiced pumpkin in smoothie form on a cold, rainy day. Yes, a warm smoothie — why not? Try it: it’s perfect for cuddling up with a thick book on one of those rainy days…


In Malaysia, pumpkins and other members of the squash family are available all year round so it’s not truly something seasonal. The spice mix, therefore, is what elevates it to something that’s quintessentially autumn-flavoured (though this may be largely due to widespread marketing in recent years).

Naturally if you use fresh spices and grind right before mixing them, the spice mix will be far more aromatic. They lose much of their heady fragrance in prepared ground form. However, for ease of use, the pre-ground spices are fine. If you want to revive some of the spices’ aroma, you can always heat the spice mix briefly in a non-stick pan prior to usage.

(Note: I’ve left out nutmeg from the spice mix as I find it more redolent of Christmas and wintertime than autumn. However, if you miss its piquant yet sweet flavour, adding a teaspoon into the mix wouldn’t hurt.)

I’ve used soy milk here — and there are many weekend morning food trucks that offer freshly-made organic soy milk in most neighbourhoods, so you needn’t even drop by a supermarket if you have the other ingredients at hand. Cow’s milk is fine too, but many Asians are lactose intolerant so soy milk is often preferable.

You may also make this autumn beverage more caffeinated by adding a shot of espresso (for those who own capsule-based espresso machines) or a reduced cup of filter coffee (just cut the amount of water by half or more when you brew using your French press or home brewer of choice).

A pumpkin spiced caffè latte, after a fashion. One that is made with love, for those weekend afternoons when a coffee chain cuppa just wouldn’t do.

Smoothie ingredients

Half a medium-sized pumpkin, cubed

2 teaspoons homemade pumpkin spice (see below)

250ml warm soy milk

1 tablespoon honey

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Sea salt to taste (optional)

Cinnamon powder (for garnishing)

Dark chocolate, shaved (for garnishing)

Spice mix ingredients

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground star anise

2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground cloves


Preheat oven to 200°C. Remove seeds and pulp from the pumpkin. (Discard the pulp; the seeds can be dried and toasted separately, with some sea salt, for snacking.) Cut the pumpkin flesh into cubes, roughly 1-inch thick. Bake in oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, until tender.

While the pumpkin is baking, mix the ground spices together in a bowl. Set aside for use later. Remove the baked pumpkin cubes from the oven and purée in a blender with pumpkin spice, soy milk, honey and vanilla extract. The heat from the baked pumpkin will heat up the rest of the ingredients.

Taste and season with a bit of sea salt, if desired. Pour into warmed mugs. Garnish with cinnamon powder and shaved dark chocolate. Serve immediately.

Yield: Makes about 4 mugs.


Batika by Hudaa: Bringing back the elegance of batik

KUALA LUMPUR — In recent years, batik has slowly faded from our daily wear
as there are more modern choices easily available. But Noorul-Hudaa Abdul- Rahman (or Hudaa) hopes to revive that love for
batik through her own label, Batika by Hudaa.

It all started when Hudaa spotted a black-and-white photo of her Indonesian mother Siti Maemunah Kamal Warso in the 1970s where she is elegantly attired in a kain kipas, or the Javanese way of wearing their kain batik. “At that time they didn’t sew it, it was wrapped like a sari. They used it in the istana (palace) and the amount of pleats have a meaning with regards to your rank as well, “ explained Hudaa.

She had not seen that particular pleated skirt worn anywhere else except for the uniforms of airline attendants. Determined to try to bring it back, she asked her tailor to sew the pleats in the skirt, using a flattering A-line cut.

It took her several attempts before Hudaa was satisfied with the look. Unlike the original kain kipas which was folded in pleats and not cut at all to preserve the batik, her version is a modern take. It’s cut to fit the body with no excess fabric to spoil the line of the pencil long skirt.

Soon she was proudly wearing the kain kipas when she attended weddings. This caught the eye of her friends as they had never seen the kain kipas before. They encouraged her to start selling the kain kipas since it was new to the market. At that time, Hudaa who was a primary school teacher for four years had just taken a sabbatical after giving birth to her daughter.

With just 30 pieces of the kain kipas that was in one size, she launched it on Instagram to test the waters. It was a sold-out success. “It was very well received as at that time it was unique. Moreover people were not aware of the variety of batik that was out there,” explained Hudaa.

Inspired by the demand, she decided to convert her hobby into a business in 2012 to bring back traditional wear. “I was trying to bring back a tradition that I felt was gone and make it kind of trendy again among people my age.” The name Batika is an amalgamation of batik and “anika” that means variety in Malay since Hudaa believes there are many possibilities for batik.

What Hudaa found most surprising was her kain kipas also appealed to the older generation who were in their 50s as it reminded them of their younger days. As she adds, “usually they would choose colours that were less vibrant but they wanted to try on this skirt.”

Most of her customers would wear the kain kipas for special occasions but the more fashion forward ones even wear it to work or whenever they went out. Rather than the traditional kebaya top, they would pair it with a simple top or even a T-shirt… making it a trendy outfit for all.

After four years in the business, Hudaa believes that the kain kipas has become a trend. “I see a lot of other brands who are also doing it as well and there is a demand for it.” She plans to continue making the kain kipas as it’s her signature look.

What you will find is each design available on Batika by Hudaa is limited. “I do not want each design to be mass made hence each design is limited,” she explains.

This also means there’s a rare chance you will experience a fashion faux pas of wearing that same design as someone else at the same party when you buy a piece from Batika by Hudaa.

For this year’s Raya celebrations, Batika by Hudaa collaborated with actress Lisa Surihani, a close friend of Hudaa’s, to unveil their first modern collection, Surihani for Batika. “We both wanted something new and as I was always into traditional wear, I wanted to try something a little bit modern to see the response.”

As most people see Lisa as Malaysia’s sweetheart, they chose to use the Pantone colours of the year — rose quartz and serenity — for a more feminine and sweet look. Both of them designed six pieces to suit her personality using their own print, a hibiscus motif to highlight the Malaysian element that was hand stamped to create the batik.

Her latest collection features one that uses cotton songket or embroidered cotton that comes in single shades that makes pairing them with tops easier. Batika by Hudaa also offers a custom design service where you can request for anything to be made using your choice of batik whether it is a modern piece, household item or even just a touch of batik on an existing blouse or dress.

If there’s an exclusive one-off piece of batik you’re looking for, Hudaa will also help you source it. The label also offers a specially curated selection of handmade Nyonya kebaya tops using the old fashioned teknik goyang that will pair beautifully with your kain kipas.

Going far beyond just curating batik, Hudaa also hopes to re-educate others about batik and revive the batik industry hence their tagline is “batik semarak kembali” or batik is making a comeback. Hudaa also hopes to initiate a revival of the batik industry especially for the hand stamped version.

As it is more labourious and people are price sensitive when choosing batik, this method has been slowly phased out. In the future, she hopes to open her own factory to produce this type of batik.

For Hudaa, batik is much more than a piece of cloth. “Each stroke and design has a meaning so when you wear the batik, you can feel it. That is what I love about batik… the meaning and the soul.” 

Batik types

According to Hudaa, there are four types of batik:

1) Hand stamped where a copper or brass stamp is used to apply a pattern.

2) Canting where a pen-like tool applies liquid hot wax to form a pattern that is known as batik tulis.

3) Combination type involves a mix of the canting and hand stamped techniques.

4) Printed i.e. machine made.

Usually they are made from different grades of cotton and silk.

How to choose a piece of batik?

Tip 1: Ask what type of cotton the batik is made with. Primissima cotton is preferred as it is the highest grade of cotton that absorbs the dye better so the colour will not run and stays longer.

Tip 2: If you want an exclusive piece of batik, look for hand stamped or batik tulis that is made with the canting or the combination type.

Tip 3: If you go to a batik shop, go with a mindset to appreciate the art rather than just buying a two-metre piece of kain. It’s more than just a piece of cloth but the process of making it.


Our 5 favourite places for kaya toast and coffee in KL, PJ, Klang & Batu Caves

KUALA LUMPUR — Eggs Benedict
and French toast may be trendy but
sometimes we crave for a traditional local breakfast of
kaya toast accompanied with wobbly half-boiled eggs. Wash it down with a cup of freshly-brewed local coffee and you have a perfect start to the day.

Usually, the coffee shops will use traditional brown-topped loaves that boast of a fine crumb with a pillow soft texture. Some also opt for soft buns or even the healthier wholemeal version.

Nowadays, the messy charcoal fire used to toast bread has been replaced with modern appliances like the toaster oven. The toast will be spread with kaya with slivers of cold butter placed between the toast that will melt when you munch on it.

Accompanying that slightly dry kaya toast is your creamy soft-boiled eggs. Most times, the eggs are served in a makeshift hot water bath — stainless steel mug filled with hot water and covered with a plate. Some places prefer to use a more modern contraption that slowly drains the hot water which doubles up as the timer. Fish the eggs out and crack them to get wobbly whites with a soft golden yolk.

Add a dash of soy sauce plus a sprinkle of ground white pepper and you have your dip with a hint of savouriness that pairs so well with the sweet kaya toast. Rounding up your simple treat is a cup of hot coffee made by “filtering” with the traditional muslin sock.

Kedai Kopi Eng Ann

No. 1, Jalan Kasawari 5

Taman Eng Ann, Klang

Open: 7am to 3pm. Closed on Tuesdays.

Worthy of a drive down to Klang, this corner coffee shop serves aromatic coffee with a smooth taste and a hint of smokiness thanks to an unusual double roasting of its coffee beans with butter. That old fashioned style is a legacy of the second generation owners since their father started this business in 1963 under the name of Heng Lee Coffee Shop.

Pair your cuppa with a toasted bun or steamed bread with kaya and butter. Ask for half boiled kampung eggs with their distinct white eggshells and brighter orange yolks. The coffee shop also does brisk business for its chicken rice and nasi lemak.

Ah Weng Koh Hainan Tea

ICC, Jalan 1/77C, Pudu, KL

Open: 5.30am to 2pm. Closed on Mondays.

Relocated from its previous premises in Imbi, this place has been serving breakfast to KL-lites since 1964. The Hainanese family serves a rich Hainanese brew of tea and coffee or cham that goes perfectly with their toasted bread or buns slathered with kaya and cold butter. Your eggs come in a stainless steel jug of hot water so fish them out yourself and crack them for wobbly half-boiled eggs to accompany your breakfast.

Chong Kok Kopitiam

5, Jalan Stesen, Kawasan 1, Klang

Open: 7am to 6pm. On Sundays, it closes at 2pm.

This is the grand dame of coffee shops in Klang where a muhibbah crowd gathers for their morning cuppa. In existence for 76 years, their bread and buns are still lightly toasted on a charcoal fire. It is served with a slice of cold butter and dollop of kaya. They also make a steamed fluffy version. The coffee served here is strong and smooth. Another must-eat is their nasi lemak. Come here for afternoon tea and you can pair that cup of aromatic coffee with their homemade baked cheesecakes.

Kedai Kopi Hiap Hing,

28, Jalan Sri Selayang,

Taman Sri Selayang,

Batu Caves

Open: 6.30am to 5pm. Closed on Sundays and public holidays.

This coffee shop traces its origins back to 1930 where it was started next to the Penang jetty. Later it moved to Air Hitam where the shop and its second branch are still in business. In the 1970s, the son of the original owner relocated to KL to start his own business. He opened this coffee shop that relocated here in 1994.

You will find that their coffee has an unusual fragrance as they use sesame in their recipe. It also has a smoother taste as they use a special order of condensed milk. Pair it with half-boiled eggs and their kaya toast that is not too sweet. There are also other choices as there are stalls selling chicken rice, chee cheong fun, wantan mee and char kway teow here.

Restoran Thong Kee Aman Suria

32A-1, Jalan PJU 1/3D

Sunway Mas Commercial Center, PJ

Open: 7am to 4pm. Closed on Mondays.

Hailing from Bentong, this coffee shop is popular for its 1+1, their own version of cham — a mix of tea and coffee with a frothy top. Unlike other spots, this version has a stronger tea aroma. Even their coffee tends to be milder than other places.

Pair it with their fluffy light-as-air kaya toast that is sandwiched with sticks of cold butter. You can also order the healthier wholemeal version or buns. The place also does a toasted croissant sandwich with a choice of ham and egg or cheese. They serve smaller kampung eggs in a hot water bath. Within the same premises, you can also order nasi lemak, fried beehoon, curry mee and pan mee from the other stalls. They also have a branch in Pandan Indah. 

Fraser Forster

Forster ready for 
England’s No 1 jersey

SOUTHAMPTON — Fraser Forster is the hardest worker in football, claims Stoke goalkeeper Shay Given, but the Southampton shot stopper may have to bide his time before usurping Joe Hart with England.

The 28-year-old recovered from a serious knee injury but is back to top form for Claude Puel’s side.

Given worked with Forster during their time at Newcastle and the former Ireland No 1 admits his development slightly surprised the staff on Tyneside.

“I worked with him for a few years at and he was nearly too big,” Given told BBC 5 live.

“He was 6’5” at 16 and we looked at him like, ‘is he too big?’

“He was a bit clumsy with his feet and was heavy-footed.

“I don’t know anybody who works harder than Forster every day in training and in the gym.”

Given believes Forster’s reputation sky rocketed after an incredible display at Nou Camp against Barcelona whilst playing for Celtic, and tips him to push Hart all the way to be the country’s No 1.

“He’s proved to so many people how good a goalkeeper he really is,” claimed Given.

“He played against Barcelona a few years ago for Celtic and the Barcelona media were calling him the human wall.

“He’s a fantastic goalkeeper and he’s pushing for the national No 1 jersey really hard.

“You’re only as good as your last game for your country and to be fair to Hart, he was Man-of-the-Match in his last game, so Forster might just be waiting a bit longer.”
— Daily Mirror

Short Passes:

Rooney return welcomed

LIVERPOOL — Everton manager Ronald Koeman has said he would be interested in bringing Wayne Rooney back to Goodison Park from Manchester United. The striker’s future has been uncertain since he was dropped by United manager Jose Mourinho last month, with possible moves to the United States and China being touted. A return to his boyhood club which he left for United for £27 million (RM138 million) in 2004 would offer the 31-year-old Rooney a way to stay in the Premier League without even moving from his Cheshire home. Asked if he would like to sign Rooney, Koeman said: “He is a great player and he still hasn’t finished his career. I don’t know what his situation is, I need to respect that. But if there is a possibility Rooney were an option for Everton, I would be very pleased.” — Reuters

Enrique confident
of Pep

BARCELONA — Pep Guardiola will win trophies with Manchester City while playing impressive football, said Barcelona coach Luis Enrique. Former Barca and Bayern Munich coach Guardiola was without a win in six games before yesterday’s match against West Brom. “To the critics of Guardiola I will say this: don’t worry, he’s going to win trophies this season,” Enrique told reporters. “Critics will appear because people don’t like it when the same people win all the time, but I’m sure Pep is going to win, and he’s going to win while playing the same spectacular football we saw at the start of the season. If you have to have a philosophy and an idea you have to die by it.” — Reuters

No real issue here

LONDON — Hooliganism is not a problem in English football, according to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, despite a week in which disturbances at West Ham United’s League Cup tie against Chelsea tarnished the game’s image. West Ham are threatening to ban 200 fans after studying video of the ugly scenes which marred their victory at their new London Stadium home on Wednesday. “I don’t believe there is a hooligan problem in England. You cannot say 200 people are a general problem in the country,” Wenger told reporters. West Ham’s move out of their Upton Park ground to the London 2012 Olympic Stadium has been plagued by problems, with crowd trouble at most of their home games so far. Despite the problems on Wednesday which eventually saw riot police move in to quell the trouble, the operation involving 900 stewards was deemed effective. “The response of our safety and security teams was measured, fast and effective and we commend the stewarding,” a spokesman for West Ham’s stadium partners, E20 Stadium LLP and London Stadium 185, said. — Reuters

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