19_changing_colours_AM

Autumn’s changing colours in Nikko

NIKKO — If spring in Japan is the season for renewal, then autumn is surely one for reflection and remembrance. Nowhere else in the Land of the Rising Sun is this more relevant than in Nikko, located 125 kilometres from Tokyo and famed for its holy shrines and autumnal foliage.

When folks visit Nikko, it’s usually to the Nikko National Park. This national park in the Kanto region includes both the UNESCO World Heritage site of “the Shrines and Temples of Nikko”, near the town of Nikko, as well as the natural splendour of scenic Okunikko, the mountainous region of Nikko to the west. Here you will find lakes, waterfalls, streams, marshlands and endless trails for lovers of hiking.

The season for viewing autumn leaves or momijigari in Nikko stretches up to three months, from late September to late November. Therefore, Nikko is a far more forgiving destination for “hunting” autumn leaves — momijigari is a combination of momiji (“maple leaves”) and gari (hunting”) — as the landscape of riotous colours travels slowly from the mountain peaks down to the valley.

If you’re arriving earlier in the season, start in Okunikko. The highest point here would be Mount Nantai, a 2,486-metre high volcano often covered with mysterious mists. The adventurous hiker can attempt tracing the trail to its peak; expect to climb for about four hours and cover four kilometres before you reach its summit.

Those who are less athletic may prefer to wander the flatter, more forgiving marshes of the Senjogahara Plateau. At an elevation of 1,400 metres above sea level, Senjogahara is one of the largest marshlands in Japan. Whilst flowers cover the marshes during summer, during autumn it becomes a field of gold. There are sturdy wooden walkways for visitors to explore the marshes, alive with the songs of wild birds and the gentle trickling of streams.

Further down Mount Nantai is Lake Chuzenji, which was supposedly formed by an eruption of the volcano 20,000 years ago. At 1,269 metres above sea level, Lake Chuzenji is one of the highest lakes in Japan. Expect serenity mixed with a healthy dose of kitsch; you can often find kawaii (Japanese for “cute” or “adorable”) swan-shaped boats upon its placid waters.

Fans of waterfalls shouldn’t miss two stellar specimens at Okunikko. The Kegon Falls is considered to be one of the three great falls of Japan. Its 97-metre drop is jaw-dropping. The Ryuzu Falls, on the other hand, is distinguished by how its thunderous stream diverges into two smaller ones by a large rock. Both waterfalls are dramatic reminders of the powerful forces of Nature.

Visitors to Nikko later in the momijigari season may opt to focus on the Nikko World Heritage Temples and Shrines area near the town centre. The line between town and temples is clearly delineated by the iconic Shinkyo Bridge over the Daiya River. This sacred bridge leads pilgrims into Nikko, considered by many to have been founded by the Heian-era Buddhist monk Shodo Shonin. According to ancient records, he crossed the Daiya River in the year 766 and built the Shihonryuji Temple (later renamed Rinno-ji Temple).

Shodo Shonin was also the first person to climb Mount Nantai and explore the Lake Chuzenji. At the great lake, he was said to have carved a thousand-armed statue of Kannon (the bodhisattva of mercy in Japan, known in Chinese-speaking countries as Guanyin) from a single gigantic katsura tree.

Truth or myth, there’s no doubt that without Shodo Shonin, who passed away in the year 817, there would be no Nikko as we know it today — a pilgrimage site of temples and shrines. Today his visage watches over devotees and tourists alike; everyone enters the Nikko World Heritage Temples and Shrines site passing by his statue, erected in recognition of his contributions to Buddhism in Japan.

Take your time to explore the Shinto shrines (Toshogu and Futarasan-jinja), Buddhist temple (Rinno-ji) and mausoleum (Taiyuinbyo). The juxtaposition of religious architecture with autumnal foliage is sublime. All over, different trees such as maple (kaeda), ginkgo (icho), larch (karamatsu), beech (buna) and zelkova (keyaki) are stunning with their fiery branches of red and orange, copper and gold.

Taiyuinbyo is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Here you will find the Nitenmon, the largest gate in Nikko. “Niten” means “two gods”, a reference to the deities Jikokuten and Koumokuten who stand guard at the gate. Next door, at the Futarasan-jinja shrine, an enormous torii gate catches the eye of all those who enter.

The extravagantly decorated Toshogu Shrine — all covered with ornate carvings and gold leaf — is not a single structure but a complex of over a dozen different shrines and buildings. Fret not; its sprawling effect is subdued by the beauty of its surrounds. Nowhere else in the world has a nation better captured the idyll of sacred spaces nestled away inside fairytale forests.

Finally drop by the Rinno-ji Temple, the heart of Nikko given its history. Wandering around its Japanese-style Shoyoen Garden, one can’t help but wonder if the venerable Shodo Shonin once walked here too. Whether he enjoyed the view of the small pond framed by maple trees. What thoughts he had as he observed the drifting leaves of momiji floating on the pond’s surface. Autumn is a season for reflection, as we’ve said, and Nikko is a wonderful place for it.

CM20161008KefirH19_AM

Keep your gut happy with kefir drinks and lacto-fermented vegetables

PETALING JAYA — Do you feel bloated soon after eating, suffer from frequent bouts of indigestion and even “food poisoning”? Experts claim these issues occur when there is an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in our gut.

With this in mind, people are turning towards brewing cultured drinks like kefir and making lacto-fermented food to treat their own stomach issues caused by bad bacteria. This has given rise to classes like the gut wellness one taught by Mandy Leong that covers kefir and lacto-fermentation.

For much of her life, Mandy suffered from a sensitive stomach — an ailment she nicknamed the “princess stomach.” While her friends enjoy street food, she would be nibbling on a bun that was considered safe for her stomach.

She was also lactose intolerant and suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. The jolt to start leading a healthier lifestyle was when her husband died suddenly in 2012.

This sudden loss led to more health issues that included depression. An aversion to taking pills to remedy her illnesses also meant she preferred a more natural solution.

Long before it was hip and happening, Mandy’s mother, Lana Lee, was already dabbling with natural healing. The gutsy lady who is also a qigong instructor is always game to experiment. This included a grueling gallbladder cleanse diet that meant consuming epsom salt (or magnesium sulfate) which is often prescribed for foot soaks!

In the early stages, Mandy admits she wasn’t enthusiastic about her mother’s homemade cultured brews. Case in point: her homemade fruit enzyme will reek of vinegar making it unpleasant to drink.

When her mother started making water kefir, she was fascinated with the lava lamp effect of the kefir grains… floating up and down in the jars. Even though her mother swore that it was good for digestion and will slim her down, she didn’t believe her.

It was only when one of her sisters tried out the kefir drink and proclaimed that it tasted pretty good that Mandy sampled it herself. Once she started, she was hooked and in September 2014, she ventured into making water kefir drinks.

As the months rolled by, Mandy cultivated many bottles of the water kefir — feeding them every day after work like babies. As her grains multiplied from 3 tablespoons to 50 tablespoons, she decided to start her own side business and sell the water kefir.

Sparked by a growing interest in natural healing, she made a trip down to Singapore to attend a class by Ajuntha Anwari who teaches plant nutrition. Soon she learnt that her craving for chocolate was a signal from her brain that her gut was off balance and full of bad bacteria.

In December 2014, after much research that saw her using some elements she learnt from making jamu and ulam to be paired with kefir drinks, she started to teach how to make the fermented brews in one-to-one sessions.

One month later, she converted it into group classes. Initially it was a part-time effort but nowadays she teaches on a full-time basis. Usually, the classes are held at PJ Palms Sports Centre and she is also available for private sessions. Every month, she also teaches at One Heart in Joo Chiat, Singapore.

The classes are kept intimate with a minimum of four participants. Some participants are looking to brew these drinks at home since you pay a pretty penny for off-the-shell options. Currently milk kefir drinks are sold for around RM45 per bottle while the kefir grains are being sold for as much as RM120 to RM150 for 2-3 tablespoons.

Some of Mandy’s students have also started their own small home-based businesses selling their own fermented brews.

Each participant has their own reasons for attending the class. For Miklos Scheibehoffer, he is looking for a solution for his IBS. Others like Irene Fong had tried milk kefir and found out it works well for her — shifting the stubborn weight (about 2 kilograms) in 10 days that she had gained after she gave birth. Moreover, she was also curious about kefir since she recalls that her mother used to make these drinks but called it “yoghurt.”

What Mandy emphasises to them is everyone’s reaction to these fermented drinks is different. Rather than leaving you cold turkey after the class, she runs a support group via WhatsApp, with around 100 active participants who share their own experiences. She is also always on hand to troubleshoot any issues that crop up during her students’ journey into kefir drinks.

You will learn that there are two types of kefir grains; water and milk. The water kefir grains ferment fructose and sucrose to produce slightly fizzy drinks that have 15 to 20 probiotic strains.

For the milk kefir grains, they eat lactose to convert it into a drink that tastes similar to lassi with 20 to 40 probiotic strains. Initially, Mandy only taught how to make water kefir. As she was lactose intolerant, she avoided the milk kefir grains.

Urged by her students, she decided to try it out in October 2015. After the milk kefir cleansed her gut from all the bad bacteria, she could once again enjoy dairy products.

There’s endless possibilities once you start your kefir journey. The water kefir can be flavoured with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and even dried flowers. Mandy uses dried French rosebuds and lychees to create a delicate floral infusion that is pleasant to drink.

It is also advised that the fermentation is kept shorter, say up to eight to 12 hours. If it is fermented too long, it will be more sour tasting, alcoholic and lower in probiotics. Some prefer to ferment their water kefir grains in fresh young coconut water, as it’s believed to be good for critically ill and diabetic patients.

For milk kefir, you can use the thick slightly sour tasting drink to make smoothies and ice cream. The milk kefir can also be strained to remove its whey to create thick Greek-styled yoghurt and soft “cheese.”

Mandy has also made her own cultured butter from the milk kefir. In Indonesia, milk kefir is also popular as a beauty mask since it is rich with minerals and proteins. This is something that Mandy is currently exploring as she is keen to introduce it for beauty purposes.

The class concludes with the most fun part… when the participants receive their grains. As the grains are in fact living organisms, they react to their surroundings to grow. This could be just voices or even music.

If you are living alone, place them near the television when you are watching your latest K-drama serials. From Mandy’s students’ observations, the grains will also become more active when it’s a Chinese martial arts drama.

Mandy relates that one of her students would hold the jar every day and say a prayer of gratitude to the kefir grains that caused them to spurt from three tablespoons to 40 tablespoons!

You can also hibernate the grains by chilling them in the refrigerator but it is not recommended to be done for a long period of time. That is why, some people even have “kefir sitters” who help look after and feed the grains when they are away. Some even cart their kefir grains with them when they travel to keep their tummies happy.

For one of the participants, Ko Woan Chyi, it’s like adopting two more children to look after. “This is like no pain but fun,” she adds. She plans to rope in her two young daughters to help look after the kefir grains since their happy chatter will definitely be a boost to their growth and they also get to learn some biology.

The second part of the class touches on lacto-fermentation as this topic goes hand-in-hand with the kefir grains. “Lacto-fermentation contains prebiotics that is food for the probiotics from the kefir,” she explains.

From the early days, lacto-fermentation has been practised as a form of preserving food where pits are dug and filled with crocks that have vegetables and fish. In the anaerobic conditions (when the containers are covered and not exposed to air), the lactobacillus bacteria inside the food will break down the sugars to produce lactic acid that prevents the food from rotting.

Hence you have sauerkraut, kimchi and all sorts of pickles and relish that use this method. This type of fermentation also increases the vitamin and enzyme levels that boost your digestion and contribute to your general health.

Mandy teaches the participants to use a brine solution to lacto-ferment the vegetables. Pop it into a jar with the vegetables of your choice and after six weeks to three months, you will have delicious lacto-fermented vegetables to dine on that is good for your gut.

IMG_4017_AM_0001

Counting down to calmness with Moolamala’s meditation beads

KUALA LUMPUR — There are round beads, small flat stones, crystals in
varying shapes and pendants of multiple designs. They come in all colours; some have marbling effects, some are textured.

“I mainly source them from Bali, Indonesia and the United States. Honestly, I don’t know how many types I have altogether but there’s probably more than 120 varieties,” says Loo Jia Wen, founder of Moolamala, a home-based outfit that sells mala in the form of necklaces and bracelets.

Mala are prayer beads that are used in meditation to help keep count of mantras. They have been used by Hindus, Buddhists and Zen devotees across Asia for centuries. In Christianity, they are known as rosary beads and in Islam, tasbih or misbaha.

Jia Wen shows me some tiny textured beads in light brown. Known as rudraksha or Tears of Shiva, these are actually the dried berries of the Elaeocarpus ganitrus roxburghii tree that, when seen from the top, have five distinct “mouths” that resemble five petals. Traditional mala garlands are made of rudraksha, usually held together using red string.

Moolamala’s offerings, on the other hand, are contemporary styles that feature a mixture of beads, crystals, stones and pendants. There are no rules as to the combination or sequence, but the beads always total 108, a number that’s considered sacred in many Eastern religions.

Among the significance is the symbolism behind the three digits, which represent the universe as one thing (1), nothing (0) and everything (8, or infinity). There is a 109th bead, a larger one that is called the guru bead, that symbolises gratitude and connection to the divine. You can also complete your mala with a tassel, which represents enlightenment.

Besides ready-made mala, which Jia Wen sells online and at the occasional arts market, she also takes customised orders. “The first step is the consultation, which is the lengthiest process. I find out what the customer wants, then choose the beads and show the design to them before I proceed to make the mala,” Jia Wen explains. “As much as possible, I prefer to meet with them in person but I’ve also done it via WhatsApp — there would be a lot of messages flying back and forth!”

The making of the mala itself is what Jia Wen really enjoys, describing it as her “natural instinct” to just sit at home alone and string the beads. She first learned to make mala while living in Ubud, Bali about two years ago.

“I was interning at a ceramic art studio there and also practising yoga regularly. I noticed that a lot of people wore mala, and I wanted one for myself.” Although easily available in Bali, finding the right mala proved to be daunting. “I did buy one in the end but it still didn’t feel right; till today, it’s just sitting in my drawer!”

Jia Wen chanced upon a mala-making workshop and immediately signed up for it. It became her “new reason for being” and very quickly turned into an obsession. She stocked up on a variety of beads and would make mala every day, for herself and her friends. Then she began receiving requests to make custom designs and realised that it could be turned into a business.

It was a dream come true for Jia Wen. Trained as a graphic designer, she had always nurtured a passion for art and working with her hands, and have had her artworks sold at Valentine Willie Fine Art in Kuala Lumpur.

She quit her full-time job and turned to freelancing eight years ago while pursuing her artistic interests. “I enjoyed the freedom, I could be where I wanted to be. But still, I was providing a dedicated service for other people. I wanted something for myself… to be an artist, make what I like and sell them,” says Jia Wen.

She also produces yoga-inspired pen drawings that are sold at Bali Spirit and Radiantly Alive, both yoga studios in Ubud, besides her online Etsy store, Inky Pots. But it is Moolamala that is her main calling now. “It has been very rewarding, even though I have to do everything myself — from design to promotions, social media to photography!”

Moola is named after the first chakra, which is the basis of everything. There’s also the moola mantra that is chanted for peace of mind, blessings, and to call on the divine to bring grace into your life regardless of faith, belief, culture, and tradition.

Jia Wen also conducts mala-making workshops that are conducted in the same vein. Held once a month, each class accommodates a maximum of eight people and can last up to seven hours for a garland. A short meditation precedes each workshop, and every participant is given a piece of illustration that they can colour and fill in with their intention, something they wish to manifest to make the entire process more meaningful.

“The more you embody what you want to manifest, the quicker it will happen,” she explains.

It also helps guide the participants in selecting the beads and colour of silk thread, which Jia Wen brings in from Germany, that they want for their mala. “It can be quite overwhelming for the first-timer when they see the array of options available! That is why it’s important to set your intention first.”

Every participant is provided with a special cushion that Jia Wen made herself, and is embroidered with either a spiral or heart-shaped pattern onto which they can place the beads in the sequence they want. Once they’re satisfied with the design, they can start stringing. After each bead, they have to knot the string so as to hold every bead in its place.

It’s not difficult to execute but it is quite a labourious process that employs one’s concentration. “I provide lunch at my workshops but very often, they remain untouched as most people are so into the zone making their mala that they don’t want to break the momentum.”

It’s something Jia Wen understands all too well. Mala-making, she says, keeps her calm and contented. “Often when I start making, I would have a lot of things on my mind but as I continue to string, the problems fade away and my mood lifts,” she explains. “I used to practise Vipassana meditation when I was doing yoga. Now, this is my meditation.”

n Vivian Chong is learning to achieve calm and contentment, one bead at a time. Find more of her stories at http://thisbunnyhops.com/

05_three_tier_kueh_AM

A Straits Affair to remember

MALACCA — The Straits Chinese of Malacca have a new “unofficial” cultural ambassador in the form of Isaac Tan, eighth-generation Baba and founder of Straits Affair, a Peranakan café located in the historical heart of Malacca.

What started off as a “Peranakan Preservation Project” to preserve Peranakan delicacies that have become increasingly rare has now transformed into what he calls “a Peranakan Pâtisserie, ‘Kueh-kery’ and Tea Room.”

Tan comes from a long line of Straits Chinese. His ancestor, Tan Hay Kwan, first arrived in Dutch-colonised Malacca in the year 1771. He adds, “Hailing from the Fujian province of China, Tan Hay Kwan married a Nyonya and started our family line in Malacca. Today, he has numerous descendants including prominent Babas such as Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Tun Tan Siew Sin (the former Malaysia Finance Minister) and Goh Keng Swee (the former Singapore Deputy Prime Minister).”

While Tan grew up surrounded by Peranakan culture, he confessed to not recognising that it was “Peranakan” until he was older. He recalls, “Studying at a Chinese primary school, I always wondered why I was so different from my friends: Why was my entire family speaking Baba Malay while my friend’s family spoke Mandarin? Why did I live in a house full of European and Oriental antiques while my friends lived in modern dwellings?”

One question that was always on top of the young Baba’s mind was how food served at his home differed significantly from the typical Chinese food.

Today we understand that Peranakan culture and cuisine evolved through the centuries by absorbing Malay, Indian, Chinese, European and Eurasian influences.

“This natural assimilation and openness to other cultures set us apart from the mainstream Chinese culture that did not go through the same process,” says Tan who started Straits Affair to create awareness for the “hidden” Baba Nyonya delicacies that Peranakan families make only at home.

Such treats include Fried Kueh Ku (fried ang koo kueh) and Apom Berkuah (Peranakan crêpes with gula Melaka and banana sauce).

Tan was also alarmed with how certain attributes of Jonker Street, where many Peranakans — including his family — used to live, have been distorted and commercialised.

He explains, “What alerted me was the sale of ‘Nyonya Almond Cookies’ — there is no such thing. These were regular Chinese almond cookies. The Nyonya label was misused as Peranakans do not have almond cookies in their cuisine.”

This was the turning point that inspired Tan to showcase Peranakan heritage through his Straits Affair project that aims to make authentic Peranakan kueh and desserts — that are still traditionally made by hand and from scratch — available to the public.

“Well-known Peranakan kueh and food are appropriately preserved by the Peranakan Association and various authentic Peranakan restaurants. However, often overlooked are the unique delicacies that are in danger of extinction.

“For example, Pang Su Sie, an original Malaccan bun originating from the Portuguese-Eurasian culture. If no effort was made on our part, there will be no awareness about the bun and it might be lost forever after the next generation.”

According to Tan, Pang Su Sie — made from flour and mashed sweet potatoes, and filled with caramelised minced meat, potatoes and spices — is to Malacca what siew bao is to Seremban.

He says, “Pang Su Sie has been eaten here for at least 500 years by the Portuguese and the Peranakans! The word ‘Pang’ is the Kristang word for bread, while I suspect Susie is a person’s name. Due to the inter-relations between the Peranakans and the Eurasians, we have adopted this bun as well.”

The “Peranakan Pâtisserie” itself is a carefully curated homage to the past. The illustrious members of Tan’s family over the course of eight generations and almost two-and-a-half centuries are highlighted in a wall display.

The British influence on Peranakan culture is captured in their afternoon tea set, using English three-tier plates instead of bakul siah or tingkat.

“This is because bakul siah has historically been used for hantaran (gifts) for weddings instead of afternoon tea while tingkat has historically been used to pack cheap workday midday meals.

“As a living museum, Straits Affair also displays lesser known antique collections typically found in Peranakan homes, such as German clocks and Swedish enamel coffee holders, instead of the usual kasut manek or kebaya.”

While researching Peranakan kueh, Tan realised that there were a lot similarities and overlap between the cuisines of the Peranakans, Eurasians, Chitty Peranakans and the Malays.

He shares, “There were even some delicacies that could be found across all four cultures. This inspired me to share with my guests the history behind the different historical ethnic groups in Malacca and how they have lived side by side for over 500 years.”

CM20160226ironH18_AM_001

5 under-the-radar places for Hainanese chicken chop in KL, Klang & PJ

KUALA LUMPUR — In some old school Hainanese coffee shops like Yut Kee or
Sin Kok Thye (also known as New Cathay), the Hainanese chicken chop is a must. It is believed that the dish probably originated from the British kitchen but was adapted by the Hainanese cooks to suit our tastes and availability of ingredients.

Essentially it is a variation of an English dish of meat (usually pork chops) that is served with fried potatoes, gravy and boiled vegetables.

The version served in Malaysia would have a deboned piece of chicken leg that was renamed the chicken chop. It would be battered with beaten egg and flour, and deep fried till golden brown.

When it is served, the piece of chicken chop with be drowned in a brown sauce made from onions. An important ingredient is Worcestershire sauce that is either used to marinate the chicken or a dash is added to the sauce to give it a more rounded umami flavour.

Some chefs would add tomato ketchup to the sauce to give it a slightly sweet taste. It was usually accompanied with boiled peas and hand cut potato wedges that were fried. Nowadays, modern tastes have taken over and commercial crinkle cut French fries, boiled mixed vegetables, fried egg and canned baked beans are the accompaniments.

For the old school style, you can visit Yut Kee behind Jalan Dang Wangi where it is served with a thin brown onion gravy with a hint of Worcestershire sauce. Those who prefer a slightly sweetish sauce thanks to tomato ketchup may visit Sin Kok Thye in Port Klang for their version.

Another good spot is Sin Kee at Brickfields that serves chicken chop with a thick brown sauce, potato wedges, baked beans, soft cooked sliced onions and boiled peas. This place also offers a version with pork chops.

If you prefer newer interpretations of this old dish, try these places:

Iron House Kopitiam

Lot 65639, Jalan BS3/1

Section 1, Taman Bukit Serdang

Seri Kembangan, Selangor

Open: 6pm to 12.30am

In this unpretentious cafe with a zinc roof, the Hainanese chicken chop is reinterpreted as a piece of deep fried deboned chicken doused with a homemade brown sauce fashioned from fresh tomatoes rather than the bottled tomato ketchup. The sauce is accompanied with homemade potato wedges, sliced onions and mixed vegetables.

Swee Hainanese Western Grill

Block BD-01-15,

Jalan Angsana 8,

Taman Bukit Angsana,

Cheras, KL

Open: 5pm to 11pm.

Tel: 012-3855683

This six month-old eatery located in Cheras is run by chefs who hail from the iconic The Ship restaurant. They take your typical kopitiam Western dining up a notch here with their well executed dishes usually found in restaurants, like their escargots slathered with a creamy garlic sauce.

Here they use a piece of deboned chicken leg that is covered with a luscious deep amber sauce with a tangy sweet taste. A topping of diced pineapples, cucumber and onions gives it a texture contrast while the pineapples add a tangy bite.

The pork chop version features two pieces of pan grilled pork chops that are not tough with nary any gristle or fat bits.

Ruby Restaurant

No. 3, Jalan Sungai Bertek, Klang

Open: 7am to 5pm. Closed on Sundays.

Originally run by a Hainanese woman known as Aunty Ruby for 38 years, this coffee shop was taken over recently by a group of enthusiastic Malay guys. One of them is a chef who cut his teeth working on a Miami cruise ship and a cafe in Shah Alam.

Their Hainanese chicken chop (available from 10am onwards) is a superb rendition with a golden brown deep fried chicken chop slathered with a luscious smooth brown sauce. It’s topped with soft cooked onions and boiled peas that are slightly split. On the side you have homemade potato wedges to mop up the deliciousness.

Other goodies they serve here include fried noodles, chicken rice and rice with chicken curry cooked over a charcoal fire. On Fridays, there is a lamb curry.

ARCH Cafe

Lot No. G.01 and G.03A, Ground Floor,

Pacific Express Hotel,

Jalan Hang Kasturi, KL

Open daily: 7am to 7pm.

Opened by the people behind the ARCH art pieces, this cafe serves a set menu (labelled as lunch) that stretches from 10am to 6pm daily. Pick from main items like nasi lemak, chicken rice and add RM3 for free flow drinks and a slice of cake from the counter.

The Hainanese chicken chop offers an incredibly satisfying meal with its crispy deep fried chicken slathered with a slightly sweet tasting sauce tinged with tomato ketchup. It ticks all the right boxes with the potato wedges, mixed vegetables and soft cooked onions. You also have a half slice toasted bread to soak in the sauce.

The cafe also serves a Durian Imperial cake, a mild tasting durian cake decorated with piped thorns made with cream and cheese tarts that are popular for takeaways.

Kwong Sang Yuen Coffee Shop

G021 & G023, Block J,

The School

Jaya One, Jalan University, PJ

Open: 10am to 10pm.

The coffee shop shares the same space as Lameeya and Xiao Lao Wang hotpot as they are under the same owner. Order the Hainanese chicken chop that is available side-by-side with their famous dishes like lam mee.

Their rendition has a homemade taste… just like what your mother would whip up in her own kitchen. Here it’s a pan fried piece of deboned chicken chop that is slathered with a brownish onion gravy with a creamy texture and paired with mashed potatoes. It’s topped with sliced onions and dainty diced carrots that offer a crunchy texture contrast.

MM14AFP11

Germany’s cricket boom poised for silver screen

BERLIN — A boom of interest in cricket in Germany, fuelled by the influx of asylum seekers from Pakistan and Afghanistan, is a tale poised to hit the silver screen.

The season has just finished, but as Brian Mantle, chief executive of the German Cricket Federation (DCB), explained, 2016 has seen clubs shoot up all over the country.

“The summer has been unbelievable, we’ve had success on and off the field and we’ve attracted sponsors,” Mantle told AFP.

“If you name an area anywhere in Germany, chances are there is now a cricket club there or one about to be set up.

“It’s been quite incredible. We could even be soon watching a feature film about German cricket and its impact on Afghan refugees.”

Last year Germany took in 890,000 asylum seekers, among them just over 40,000 Afghans and Pakistanis. Many of them asked: “Where can I play cricket?”

Before refugees began arriving in large numbers last year, there were only around 1,500 active cricketers playing in 70 teams across football-mad Germany.

Mantle says there are now 5,000 cricketers, playing in around 250 teams for 108 clubs — and the numbers keep growing.

The German cricket team, many of whose members have roots in cricket-mad India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, have just won promotion from the International Cricket Council’s European Division Two.

“The goal for next year is to win promotion again in division one, which would put us in the world cricket league,” said Mantle.

“We wouldn’t be at the elite level, but we would have arrived.”

The cricket craze has generated huge publicity, both at home and abroad, and then came a phone call from a London-based film company, Life & Soul Pictures, which is interested in bringing the story of German cricket to the cinema.

The project is in its early stages, but has the working title: Rites of Passage.

The script is being penned by the Berlin-based writer O’neil Sharma, who worked on Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 blockbuster Inglourious Basterds and the 2008 Tom Cruise film Valkyrie.

“The story caught my imagination as I am the son of immigrants — my parents came from India and I was brought up in London,” said Sharma.

“I was sick of reading negative stories about refugees, fears of terrorism, and this is a story about how sport can bring cultures together.”

Kabul-born Hamid Wardak was not even aware cricket was played in Germany when he arrived in 2011. Now he is playing for the national team.

“It means a lot, because I am getting to play cricket in a land where I never thought cricket existed,” said Wardak.

“I left my country and came to Germany with the thought I will go to Holland or England after some time and play there.

“But being able to play cricket — good-quality cricket — here is wonderful. It’s an honour for me to represent this land on an international level.”

Wardak is an example of the integration through sport that German Chancellor Angela Merkel perhaps thought she could only dream of.

The 28-year-old speaks fluent German, lives in the northern city of Bremerhaven and works for the local authority as a translator to help refugees.

His passion is cricket, but he came to Germany for love, to marry an Afghan woman based here.

“The love of the game made me find cricket in Germany,” he said.

Wardak regularly makes a 140km round trip to play for his club SG Findorff, who are German champions this season, in the suburbs of Bremen.

“I played my first game here in 2012 and was eventually picked for a couple of national team camps,” he said.

His cricket team is as multicultural as the national football squad, which is often held up as an example of integration in German society.

“We have guys from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Australia,” he said. “And last but not least Knoxy (Steven Knox), our coach, is from Scotland.

“I lived almost all of my life as a refugee in Pakistan, but never felt as welcomed as here in Germany.” — AFP

MOTO-PRIX-JPN-20161014-083749

Rossi on a mission

MOTEGI, (Japan) — Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi stormed to pole position for today’s Grand Prix of Japan after clocking the fastest time in qualifying yesterday, resuming his campaign to overtake championship leader Marc Marquez.

The Yamaha man timed 1:43.954sec at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, as he attempts to close a 52-point gap against Honda’s Marquez, who will start from second on the grid after finishing 0.180sec behind the Italian, his closest championship rival.

Defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo overcame a spectacular crash early yesterday and earned the third fastest lap in qualifying to claim a spot on the front row, clocking 0.267sec after his Yamaha teammate.

The second row will be occupied by Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow and Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro.

Rossi said his team had struggled to find the right setting for their machine throughout the week, while he himself felt weak.

“I am not at 100 per cent. I am a little bit sick and not fantastic physically,” the Italian said.

“ It will be important to start from pole and this is my third pole position of the season.”

His Yamaha teammate Lorenzo was also content with his performance after having a scare from the crash, though he has been declared fit to race.

“Honestly, I was scared,” Lorenzo said. “I still have a little bit of pain.”

However an adrenaline rush allowed him to push past the pain during the qualifying session, Lorenzo said.

Lorenzo’s crash came a day after a nasty fall during Friday’s practice by Dani Pedrosa, who broke his collarbone and flew back to Spain for an operation.

Marquez also voiced his satisfaction, claiming that he is doing better than he had expected on the circuit where he had never won in the premier race category.

“I feel really good this weekend. Much better than what I expected before the start,” Marquez said. — AFP

Johnston’s ‘Beef Mania’ hits British Masters

WATFORD — ‘Beef Mania’ looks set to rule the British Masters over the weekend after spectator support helped carry England’s Andrew Johnston into a share of second place at The Grove, north of London, on Friday.

Johnston, or better known to his ever-increasing fan base as ‘Beef’, managed eight birdies in a second round score of a six-under 65 as he matched the same score and 10-under total of playing partner Alex Noren.

England’s Richard Bland birdied his closing two holes in a round of 64 to move to 11-under as the 43-year-old continues to strive for a maiden Tour win after posting three top-10s in his past five events.

Johnston’s effort included three birdies in succession near the end of his round while Sweden’s Noren, already a two-time winner this season, also birdied three holes in a row mid-round before denying himself a two-shot lead when he played a poor drive and eventually three-putted the last.

Johnston, 27, was virtually unknown before capturing April’s Spanish Open, but since then he’s gained enormous fame among golf fans of all ages, with calls of “Beef, Beef, Beef” wherever he goes.

His fan base has also extended to the United States as was evident from the reaction of fans when he took part in this year’s US Open, WGC–Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship tournaments.

The support has shown no sign of stopping this week as Johnson targets a second European Tour victory.

“Make some noise and what I want to hear is ‘Beef!’”, he said. “I’m loving it, the fans have been amazing. So just keep it up.”

Johnston acquired his nickname as a schoolboy when a friend said his then curly hair made him look like a ‘Beef Head’.

Tournament host Luke Donald will be outside the ropes over the weekend after missing the cut with scores of 77 and 70 for a five-over tally.

“This was the first event I’ve played in over a month and I was just very rusty,” he said.” — AFP

Djokovic 
crashes out

SHANGHAI — Novak Djokovic smashed his racquet, tore his shirt and raged at the chair umpire as he was stunned in the Shanghai Masters semifinals by Roberto Bautista yesterday.

The defending champion and 12-time Grand Slam winner was broken once in the first set and three times in the second as he lost 6-4, 6-4 in his first defeat to the Spaniard.

Djokovic has been out of sorts since he won his first French Open title in June, losing early at Wimbledon and the Olympics and complaining he had lost motivation.

The 29-year-old Serb, whose top ranking is under threat from Andy Murray, hummed to keep up his spirits during his quarterfinal escape against German qualifier Mischa Zverev.

But the three-time champion failed to keep his cool in a stormy appearance at Shanghai’s Qi Zhong Tennis Centre as he suffered a rare defeat in China..

“I’m so happy,” said Bautista, after beating Djokovic at the sixth attempt to reach his first Masters final. — AFP

E-Paper Article View