Hari Raya Delectables: Part 4

October 31, 2005

I am proud to say that this kuih is a totally new creation of my mum’s. Adding her own infusion of Ghirardelli chocolate powder bought from California into the cookie mix, she has produced a cookie with a soothing chocolate aroma that will simply titilate your senses! (I know it did for me!) Using the ingredients from Kuih Dahlia (translation unknown. Its main ingredient is Bird’s Tepung Custard or Bird’s Custard flour. Also made using vanilla essence), she produced this kuih, improvising as she went along. We were quite surprised when after placing the first batch into the oven, the cookies started to expand rapidly, utterly destroying the flower image she wanted to portray, becoming totally flat and circular (as seen in the photo above). But aren’t these simply beautiful flat circular cookies? In fact anything with chocolate in it would taste great! But that’s just the chocoholic in me talking. Sigh. The aroma is simply tantalising. Wish you were here to smell it too! And yes, I think I shall call it Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookies!

Next in the kuih Hari Raya line up we have cashew nuts! A perennial regular among my family’s kuih raya, this is one of the many little traditions of my family, directly influenced by my father, who loves eating cashew nuts (Also known as gajus in Malay)! Deep fried in oil, the cashew nuts are then lightly sprinkled with salt to give that added taste to the whole nut. Besides cashew nuts, one other little tradition of my family is cooking delicious curry chicken on Hari Raya! (This is again introduced by my father) Traditionally, who would even think of eating kari ayam on Hari Raya? But after eating it for many years now, it has become an indispensible ingredient of a scrumptious Hari Raya feast at my Grandma’s house. Can’t wait to eat it once again. Sigh!

Hope I can find more delicious kuih to sample! 😀

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Hari Raya Delectables: Part 3

October 30, 2005

This is my aunt’s version of the Chocolate Chip Cookie. Though having the same name, my aunt’s version of this popular cookie is way different in terms of taste and texture. And that’s the beauty of Hari Raya! There’s simply no homogeneity in Hari Raya goodies and each visit to a relative’s home is a mouth watering gastronomical adventure! And I’m only showcasing kuih-muih and not the plethora of Malay cuisine like Satay, Lontong, Ketupat and rendang (though I promise I will once I get back on the first day of Hari Raya)! My aunt’s version of the cookie is much more crispier in texture and has a very subtle taste of caramel and honey (though I’m not exactly sure whether caramel and honey are the exact ingredients of the cookies). But its so delicious and fantastic once you take a bite of these marvellous creations. And according to my mum, her cookies are in high demand! Great job Makcik (that’s what we all call her!)!

This is another one of the many creations of my aunt. Though I’m not certain what its called, I must say it was quite a surprise eating one of these purple cupcake cookies. Don’t be taken in by the hard and cold exterior. When you take a bite off these kuih, you discover that its hollow and what’s inside are a few pieces of chocolate chip, totally unharmed and unadulterated! Its amazing how its able to withstand the heat of the oven and remain totally cool and fresh underneath the hard pale veneer. It was quite crunchy too. Though wasn’t as great as her Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Hopefully my mum will bake more kuih in the coming days…


Hari Raya Delectables: Part 2

October 29, 2005

Continuing on with this mini-series we have the most traditional of all Kuih Hari Raya which is Kuih Tart or as most of us know it as Pineapple Tart. My mum’s recipe is extra special because of the softness of the dough used to make these special tarts. The meticulous intricate clipings framing the pineapple centre of the tart is a labour of love of my mother who learnt it from my grandmother. Sadly its a skill that is slowly fading from the traditional Malay kuih scene. It took us a whole four hours to do everything to make these Kuih Tart a reality. A must try for visitors to my house later during Hari Raya!

Next we have a very unique Kuih named after one of the Great Malay celebrities of the past, or rather her bolster that is. Its called Kuih Bantal Peluk Saloma or in English, “Saloma’s bolster” tart. Okay I know it sounds weird. I immediately laughed out loud when my mum told me the actual name! Made using the same dough used for the Kuih Tart, the dough now covers a thin piece of date or Kurma. Many would guess the reason behind the existence of this tart in the line up is partly because of the large amount of dates leftover from Ramadhan itself! But its still an original recipe. It was terribly difficult making these because of the stickyness of the dates itself! (And yes I made these! Judge me however you want. My mum needed the help and being the filial son that I am, I decided to help :)) These simply melt in your mouth! Literally.

Okay, to those very observant people out there, you may realise that these cookies look vaguely familiar. If you guessed Corn Flakes, you’re right! Upon discovering that the previous batch of Corn Flakes Cookies were quite rock hard after buka, my mum decided to make a whole new batch again, this time with less cornflakes and it worked! Now its much much more softer and easier on the teeth. I told my mum to make it look more rocky and natural, rather than the previously sanitised version. It looks great does it? Taste great too!

More to come tomorrow, or in the coming days! Stay tuned! (While I get to enjoy the fruits of my labour. :D)


Hari Raya Delectables: Part 1

October 28, 2005

Today is the first day of making Kuih Hari Raya (Hari Raya cookies and delicacies!)! The next few scrumptious posts will be parts of a new mini-series purely dedicated to HARI RAYA FOOD! Yum Yum Yum! The tray of cookies you see above is the delicious Chocolate Chip cookies which is famous throughout Singapore (and maybe Malaysia)! It has become an essential staple (besides Kuih Tart or Pineapple Tart) of our Hari Raya festivities! As you can see, the two main ingredients of the cookie are Hersey’s chocolate chips and roughly chopped almonds. A sure favourite among all the little kids and Makciks of all ages! I love this version of the cookie, but I think my auntie’s one is better! I’ll try to take a picture of it later. Maybe Andee can help? 😀

Next we have a new face among all the Hari Raya cookies out there (or according to my mum, a reincarnated one since she once made this a very long time ago till she even forgot how it looks or tastes like!): the Corn Flakes Cookie! Looks may be deceiving but these little pockets of crunch is a delicious morsel of memories and times past. The verdict is still yet to be announced on how well it would be received by the public (aka visitors to my house which includes all my relatives and friends). Hopefully this new face will make an reappearance in next year’s line up!

Stay tuned for more delicious cookie updates tomorrow!


Thoughts..

October 27, 2005

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The only place I have been so far this year was Taiwan, and that was because of the army. I was supposed to go for a family holiday overseas but due to unforseen circumstances, it may not materialise. Sigh. Really loved the beautiful picturesque scenery at some parts of Taiwan, even though the winds were bellowing past you due to the typhoon. Believe me, this picture was taken right after the stormy winds started blowing, nearly blowing me off the slope!


Days off for maids a must from next year

October 25, 2005

Those who don’t get monthly rest day can claim breach of contract
By Arlina Arshad

EMPLOYERS will be required to give their maids one day off a month, or compensate them in cash, starting next year. And any employer who fails to do so can be reported for breach of contract.

From January, it will be compulsory for the 500-plus maid agencies here accredited by CaseTrust and the Association of Employment Agencies Singapore (AEAS) to include a clause in their employment contracts stipulating time off for maids. The Straits Times understands that both accreditation bodies have submitted a sample of the new employment agreement to the Manpower Ministry and that a standard contract will be issued soon. The plan is to put the new clause into effect from January, AEAS president Angland Seah said yesterday.

Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore, said maid agencies that do not honour the clause may not be accredited the next time round. There are between 140,000 and 150,000 maids here, mainly from Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and India.

A Sunday Times poll of 284 maids in November and December 2003 found that only half of them got days off. Of these, two-thirds had one day off a month while 23 per cent had two days off. Only about one in 10 had a day off every week. The figures were not surprising, according to maid agencies.

Mr David Haw, director of employment agency Newway Holdings, said: ‘Employers tell us that they are busy, that’s why they can’t give their maids a day off. It’s a shame that we are from a developed country and yet we treat our maids like slaves.’

The issue of compulsory days off for maids has been raised in the media and public forums for several years. At least four MPs have called for laws specifying a minimum number of rest days a month.

Jurong GRC MP Halimah Yacob told The Straits Times yesterday that the latest development is an improvement, but implementing and enforcing it will be a challenge. While maids will be able to claim breach of contract if employers do not comply, she noted that because ‘it doesn’t have the force of the law, it really depends on individual employers to honour their side of the bargain’. There is also the possibility that some maids could be too scared to report their employers for breaches. She said: ‘Maid agencies, the Ministry of Manpower and everyone concerned should monitor and assess that it is working. If not, in the long term, one must think in terms of making it into a legal obligation.’

Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, head of NTUC’s Migrant Workers’ Forum, welcomed the move as a ‘big step forward’, but noted that it fell short of basic labour standards, which stipulate that all workers should get one day off per week.

Mr John Gee, vice-president of civil society group Transient Workers Count Too, said: ‘This helps to put the issue of ‘time off’ before the public and allows employers to get into the habit of accepting and giving ‘time off’ to their maids.’ But he said safeguards must be in place to ensure maids are not forced to give up their days off for money.

Lily Artika Sari is one maid who knows the value of a rest. The 23-year-old Indonesian is hoping to work for another employer after her previous one made her work for 19 hours a day without a break.

‘I’d worked non-stop and felt so tired I fainted. Two rest days a month will be good.’

arlina@sph.com.sg

I laud the government, the Association of Employment Agencies Singapore (AEAS) and CASE for giving some of the basic rights of maids as workers earning a living in Singapore. But I doubt the success of having maids reporting such “breaches in contract” simply because it does not address the problem in the first place – why are Singaporean employers so inhumane in their treatment of maids in Singapore? Do you actually think the maid, in wanting to earn as much as possible to send back home, would want to jeopardise her career temporary job by reporting their employers who “breach such contracts”?

There seems to be a prevailing mentality among most Singaporean maid employers who feel that it is right to treat maids as mere objects of servitude. After all, we pay them to do ALL the household chores, to take care of every single need of our grandparents and children and be on call 24/7, living in the comforts of our own home. They’re after all maids, right? They’re supposed to and that’s that.

“Its very difficult to take care of maids. If we give them days off, they will go to Lucky Plaza to find their Bangladeshi, Indonesian, Filippino boyfriends or do other things which may affect their job performance! Sometimes, they so lazy such that we have to keep a watchful eye over their every move just in case they decide to take a rest on our new sofa chairs. They might even steal our money and seduce our husbands! And look at all the news – Employers abusing maids, maids killing employers, maids killing themselves, even maids killing one another! That’s why we must keep them on a tight leash, so that they behave and remain safe (and that we don’t loose our down payment).”

I’m of course giving my own generic example of the utterly deluded mindset of Singaporean maid employer who rationalises his or her own inhumane treatment of maids. They are afraid of the psychological and emotional baggage they bring with them, or the lack of trust they have in their maids in living within their private space, or the fear that the maids would misbehave in a number of ways and bring more problems to them, rather than make their lives better (or wasting all their money!).

I have never been taken care by a maid, neither have I employed one myself. So what do I know about handling maids?

I know that its very sad to see the news every few months about maids being abused by their employers, or that some are driven to suicide because they are unable to adapt living in a totally new environment in Singapore. It scares me that they do have a lot of emotional baggage, but isn’t that what makes them human after all? You might have paid for their service but this does not mean it erases their own sense of self and identity, in only being a maid and not anything else.

Bringing in an analogy of the army (I know! Stop sniggering. I guess there are useful learning points being in the army) – the men you are working with would also have their own personal problems. You can’t deny them and only see them as mere soldiers under your command because its impossible! You risk loosing them along the way. After all, like the soldiers, the maids are only here temporarily to work, being forced to due to extenuating circumstances. Its not their life.

Even a full time National Serviceman gets 14 days leave and numerous offs in between. What about the maids?

[Mr Lucky Tan postulates some solutions to the fear that maids will get pregnant if given one day off:1. Allow male maids.

2. Get maids that are past child bearing age.

3. Test the maid for moral values.

4. Chastity belts?

ROTFLOL!]

[Update: I guess I am not alone about the perception of maids as mere objects of use. In today’s Straits Times (28/10), Ms Lydia Lim shares the same concerns as I am, that there are more deep rooted problems in our mindsets rather than just solving the problem by simply giving one day off each month. She brought up the “utilitarian perception” of Singaporeans towards people of lower economic use which I find to be very very true of Singaporeans. She also brought up an interesting point, which is the absence of an “opposite point of view as a counterweight” which is the “value societies place on the rights of each individual”. And low behold, we have a column by Ms Chua Mui Hoong on how we should take “a hard look at bad press on freedom” and among other things, “democratic freedom, human rights and civil liberties”. I find it hard to take a “nuanced” response or the “third way” as what she proposes because the situation speaks for itself. There’s no other view other than to reflect on why the maids in Singapore so badly protected under the law. There’s a serious flaw in the government’s aim of emphasizing so much of economic development – we become mere automatons, or treat others as such. Singaporeans need to be aware of such an issue before we can think of progressing as a civilised society.]

[ Bosses use cameras to spy on maids: How can we accept this? Argh. Its times like these when I’m not proud of being a Singaporean. ]


Geylang Light up and Buka!

October 23, 2005

Some pictures I took since Ramadhan started.