February 2009


a bomb went off outside Egypt’s historic Hussein mosque, next to the famous, touristy souq (market) at Khan Al-Khalili at around 630pm this evening killing one French tourist (to date) and injuring more than 19 tourists (mainly Europeans) …

wat was surreal was that i was suppose to be there with a friend to shop for some stuff at that time but she had to postponed it due to a last-minute engagement … we were communicating a while ago and was just pondering about how a simple change of mind may change one’s life forever … talk about divine intervention …

on a lighter note, guess no one’s coming to visit me in a while eh? …

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“Homecooked” Food – as i may have mentioned before, there is only so much koshary, shawarma, tammiyah that i can take before crying out for food that is more familiar with my palette.  and since there is a dearth of reasonable authentic Asian food here, i have to rely on my common sense, cooking genes (this is true – some people just cant fry an egg or cook rice to save their lives) and visualization of what my mother would do in the kitchen to whip up a meal in my kitchen.  the pic above is an example of what i can do competently (i.e. edible) – my “seafood” fried rice.  notice the crispy golden-brown ikan bilis and nice plump succulent prawns.  [note: chong, looks as good as your mum-in-law’s version?].  only drawback of cooking myself? the washing up and having to still eat my cooking even if it turns out to be a “disaster” (on several occasions already) …

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Prima Taste Ready-to-Cook Meal Kits – on the topic of food, i often told myself that my predeccessors must have really suffered “withdrawal symptoms” from not being able to have a taste of home here in Egypt in the pre-packaged food days.  thank God for the 21st century (and the internet of coz).  now, the above range of Prima Taste  easy-to-cook asian dishes was both mind-boggling and relatively authentic.  they were also easy to cook – as long as you follow instructions and not too clutzy, you should be able to whip out something like the picture on the box.  i brought with me about 8 different types and the verdicts of those i tried are as follows (with ratings on sedap-ness and ease of preparation; scroll below for explanation of the sedap scale):

(a) Hainanese Chicken Rice

the one with the most sachets!  but i was most impressed with its completeness – not only chilli and dark soya sauce was included, it even has ginger mix.  the rice turned out a tad oily, but the sauce for the chicken and the ginger mix was very nice and identical to the real deal.  [sedap: ****,  effort: ****1/2] 

(b) Mee Siam

again, Prima Taste amazed me with their attention to detail – they provide even the sambal chilli for those who want extra kick to the sauce, as well as lime juice.  the final product was competent except that it lacked a certain ‘kick’ which i just cannot explain.  [sedap: *** , effort: **1/2] 

(c) Curry Chicken

Prima Taste’s version was more the chinese ‘not-so-spicy’ curry that one can find in any chap chai peng (mixed rice vegetables) stall.  in any case, they provide more curry powder for those looking to make it spicier.  i thought that it was a bit too ‘lemak’ for my liking and also very oily.  i had to skim off the oil quite a bit.  perhaps they forgot the chicken oozes out oil during the cooking process?  with all bias-ness, i have to say that i still like my mother’s version better.  [sedap: *** , effort: ***1/2]    

(d) Laksa

the attention to detail here was the laksa leaves that was provided and the sambal chilli.  i thought this was a reasonably good laksa (cannot compete with katong one of course) but unfortunately i do not have the thick bee hoon nor fish cake which marred my eating experience.  one tip on the box was that this could be cooked with spaghetti ala the high class version found at “Wild Rocket” in Singapore (i think) and several other haute coutre restaurants.  [sedap: ***1/2 , effort: **] 

(e) Rendang

the rendang was too sweet for my liking.  is rendang suppose to taste like that?  and while i was cooking it, i thought the gravy looked like the chicken curry!  perhaps ive done it the wrong way, hmm … anyway, i got a big shock when i was halfway-thru and saw on the instructions that the rendang must be simmered for 3 hours!  as it was 10 o’clock and ive not eaten dinner, i was glad when i saw further down that i could do a “fast-track” version if one did not have time.  and the fact that i substituted beef with chicken also helped since the meat need not ‘melt’ in the mouth.  [sedap: **1/2 , effort: ***** (if you do it the proper 3 hr way)] 

in conclusion, these packs were life-savers as i get to taste home.  although all the packs came pre-packed, looking at the different stuff that went into each dish made me realised the effort put in for all our hawker food and grateful that food back home is still “cheap” if you consider that one save all that break-backing preparation work.

my sedap ratings guide:

* – i might as well go eat a kebab

** – taste like something those FTs would cook at our foodcourts

*** – mai hiam buay pai (Hokkien for “if not picky, not too bad”)

**** – shiok-a-licious

***** – it’s my mum’s recipe!

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SPAM – 100% great tasting pork luncheon.  In a country where swines are relatively scarce and even Carrefour supermarket do not carry pork products, this can is a great pick-me-up when sliced thinly and fried to a crisp before being sandwiched by fluffy soft white bread.  and in case you are wondering, Maling pork luncheon would have won any battle of the best luncheon meat hands down (i grew up on that brand after all) but for the food scares in China – do we all even know if it is really pork in that particular can now?!  anyway, this can of SPAM was sent to me by my family.

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SONY Bravia flat screen television – best for playing my Winning Eleven on the Playstation 2.  when my landlords had to get a tv for me, they actually wanted to get me a miserable CRT one (cheaper albeit same size).  then for some strange reason (could be my Bambi eyes), the landlady told the landlord (her husband) at the tv shop that they should get me a better tv since i stayed alone.  and i quote her (speaking to her husband), “… but he is staying along dear,  the tv is his only friend, so get him a better one alright?”.  and the husband gave in of course!