The Malay Identity, or lack thereof?

July 31, 2007

I recently attended a dialogue session with Mr Hawazi Daipi, a Member of Parliament, and Mr Nawab, who was the Vice-President of Young AMP, entitled, “What is the role of the Malay/Muslim Youth in the Globalised World?”. What struck me as most surprising was the lack of pride in being identified as a Malay in the Singapore Society, and the general emotional vacillation between an absolute sense of helplessness or an almost apathetic dismissal of the Malay Community as only having progressed infinitessimally vis-a-vis the other races. When Mr Hawazi Daipi asked the audience of undergraduates to vote on which they identified first as who they are: a Malay, a Muslim or a Singaporean, less than five voted for being a Malay or Singaporean, whereas an overwhelming majority voted as being a Muslim first.

I am here not to discuss about the rising Islamisation of our youth or the increased awareness among youths of the need to counter Islamic Terrorists who abuse the religion to suit their own ends. Assuming that there were only a handful of Indian/Chinese Muslims in the audience and the fact that Singapore’s brand of National Education has a long way to go into inculcating a deep sense of patriotism among the youth, what struck me was the fact that many of whom were Malays did not raise their hands to identify as being Malays. One even suggested to drop the Malay out of the Malay/Muslim label, in an effort to be more inclusive, since being is Muslim is much more important (in the afterlife) than being a Malay.

Why is there a total lack of faith amongst the educated Malay elite in identifying themselves as Malays first? Is it because of the sense of alientation, as identified by Dr Lily Zubaidah Rahim of the professional middle class Malays from their community, having pulled themselves out of the cycle of poverty? Or is it the overwhelming sense of frustration over the snail pace speed of progress of our community, measured primarily through high divorce rates, teen pregnancies and juvenile delinquencies?

The sense of alienation arises once the educated Malay elite measures his socioeconomic standing based solely on his educational qualifications and economic success with the community at large. Once he affirms this, his first question would be to ask the rest of the community why can’t you? This narrow mentality absolutely disregards the socioeconomic and structural problems faced by the Malay families of the lower income groups and underestimates the level of difficulty in earning a sustainable source of income in Singapore. As most sociologists and social anthropologists would attest to, such socioeconomic changes within a community takes generations at least, as the community matures and takes stock of past mistakes. Rather than to ask why, the educated Malay elite should appreciate the immense difficulties faced by the government, as well as numerous Malay and Muslim self help groups, in trying to nip such problems in the bud, by either directly going to the children of broken families, or dealing with the consequences, through counselling and fiscal education with the parents themselves.

The assessment of progress through the breakdown of statistics among the races should not only include divorces, pregnancies and juvenile delinquencies, but also education attainment, from passes in PSLE to the increasing number of undergraduates, and economic achievements in all sectors, with many Malays entering new professions, professions not explored by Malays once before. Granted that the pace of progress is not as high as we can hope, the existence of progress is undeniable, and the changes can be seen through the Malay educated elites themselves, having achieved what many Malays could only hope to achieve 10 years before.

I was once a cynic. I think I still am in some aspects. At times, I also felt alienated and frustrated. But, I do know that we must not loose hope in our community in its ability to reinvent itself.

Being a Muslim is important to me, but that is not what I am only. I am also a Malay, and always will be.

(If anyone is curious to know, I saw myself first as a Singaporean. I guess National Education did work for me at least! :D)


Cavana Lemon Chicken Rice @ Marina Square

June 3, 2007

This was what I had for dinner today, Cavana Lemon Chicken Rice @ Marina Square. In my personal opinion, this was a tad bit overpriced, looking at the quantity of rice that was given as well as the chicken. And there wasn’t any soup that came along with the chicken rice. The fact that it was served in a big circular green plate simply emphasizes the lack of food thereof. The chicken was thoroughly drenched with the lemon sauce, which I thought was good, and was also quite tasty but I was not thoroughly pleased with the overall meal.

This was my first time trying though. My friends who bought the hotplates thought that their dishes were quite good and worth the money. Maybe one day I can try them too.

Cavana Pte Ltd
Marina Square
6 Raffles Boulevard
#02-205 Marina Square
Singapore 039594

Emicakes Premium D24 Cake

May 31, 2007

Happy 24th Birthday Kakak!

After such a wonderful orgasmic experience during Mother’s Day 2006, my dad made a special request to have this cake for my sister’s birthday! I had nearly forgotten the taste of a deliciously crafted durian cake after one long hard year of absence. But the sweet creamy taste of the durian, nestled between small slices of cake sponge never ceases to titilate my senses to a new level of sweetness! Other than a Chocolate Etoile from Temptations Cakes Pte Ltd, or a Chocolate Fudge Cake from Royal Cakes and Puffs Pte Ltd, the Premium D24 cake is sinful as all calories-fearing extremists would testify against! This is a cake that all durian lovers should try once in their lifetime. I’m definitely sure that my whole family truly enjoyed eating the cake.

Blk 264 Tampines St 21
Singapore 520264

Qiji @ Century Square

May 29, 2007

I bought the my father’s favourite Qiji Popiah today after work. I must confess that I was not a popiah lover. BUT after tasting this heavenly blend of vegetables, sweet sauce and thin moist popiah skin, I am now a Qiji Popiah convert through and through! An almost translucent homemade popiah skin, laced with sweet sauce and chilli, lovingly envelopes the small pieces turnip, bean sprouts, lettuce, parsley, crispy bits, eggs and garlic! Taking a slice of the popiah using your chopsticks and putting it into you mouth, you will experience a symphony of tastes, from the crispyness of the turnip and beansprouts, to the soft tenderness of the lettuce and eggs, from the spiciness of the chilli and the sweetness of the sweet sauce. A whole slice is just enough to fill your mouth with the utmost pleasures as you savour the Qiji Popiah. Though a self-confessed omnivore through and through, eating this purely vegetarian dish (not including the eggs!) is enough to make me not miss the taste of meat (well except maybe Komalas but that is another future post!)! A definite must try for all, Popiah or Non-Popiah lovers out there.

I am definitely going to try the other dishes there like the Nasi Lemak or the Laksa. Anyone wishes to join me?

Qiji Pte Ltd
2 Tampines Central 5
#01-36B Century Square Shopping Centre
Singapore 529509

Padi & Nooch @ Far East Square

May 26, 2007

My sister, cousin and I finally managed to go to Padi & Nooch on Friday 250507 and it was finally opened! The dish that I ordered, called the Chicken Ramen consisted of grilled chicken, seaweed and ramen, soaked in a creamy savoury broth that is simply divine! The broth, reminiscent of the Campbell’s cream of mushroom, is heavenly light and savoury and it captures the essence of the chicken. I thought it was a welcome surprise, unlike the more spicy ramen soups which I had usually tasted before in other restaurants. Though I would be definitely happier if they had given me more chicken! A must try for those eating @ Padi & Nooch!

My cousing ordered the Chicken Teriyaki Don which was a honey sweet dish only for those who have a sweet tooth! From the sweet teriyaki sauce that coats the roasted chicken to the rice / don cooked with eggs and onions – the sweetness ranges from the utterly fragrant and strong Teriyaki to the subtle heat of the onions and eggs. What makes this dish different is the fact that the rice is not plain but served with eggs and onions. My cousin aka “too much onion!” had to meticulously pick out all the onions in the dish because she was anti-onion. But she definitely liked the sweetness of the rice and eggs and the genereous serving of chicken.

This may seem like an innocuous unassuming dish, but the peppery hot gravy is unlike any other! Served with a generous serving of spaghetti and seafood, what I thought was most startling was the fact that the gravy was surprisingly peppery hot! It adds a new dimension to the whole plethora of spaghetti dishes, from the creamy carbonara to the tomato puree sauce. The lightness of the gravy, coupled with the pepper hot spices and spaghetti, creates a very different texture to the dish – an almost fluid blend of spaghetti and sauce. My sister had to sip lots of water during her meal as she savoured every peppery spice of the dish. The only gripe she had was the fact that she wanted more seafood, which echoed my own sentiments for my dish!

All three of us concurred that the food was fantastic! And there was a choice of a set meal which you can top up 3 dollars and get a drink, mini salad and a single scoop of ice cream, which I thought was worth it. Anyone who wishes to go there must take note that it is Alfresco dining, meaning that there is no airconditioning. As luck would had it, when we were there, a rock concert was being held right in front of the restaurant at The Pavilion! So though the ambience was terrible, the food was fantastic! The service was also superb as the manager served us our food promptly and tried to make our meal as comfortable as he could. What I liked was the fact that when my cousin called in to make sure that it was opened (we had learnt our lesson!) they informed us that there was a rock concert going on and that it would be very noisy, and even suggested that we come on Saturday. To me, this is a true mark of honesty and sincerity since he priorities our needs above his own desire for money. So please come and try this place.

But not on Sundays please, as we have learnt the hard way previously.

Padi & Nooch
26 China Street
#01-02 Far East Square
Singapore 049568

Magic Wok Restaurant

May 21, 2007

I went to eat at Magic Wok Restaurant yesterday, after a rather “bubble bursting” experience the whole of Sunday, which I will soon delineate after I talk about all the food that I had eaten! I ordered the Thai Beef Kuay Teow because I was yearning for something with noodles and with a whole lot of soup. The soup (or should I say broth?) was quite savoury and delicious because it really soaked up the essence of the beef. A definite plus was the fact that there was a generous serving of beef in the dish! I also simply love the light texture of the Thai noodles which were extremey soft and delicate to the mouth! Its not oily, and neither is it thin and sometimes hard like beehoon. A definite must try for those beef eaters out there!

My sister ordered Phad Thai which is basically noodles fried with prawns, eggs, tofu, peanuts and bean sprouts. It was rather sweet in my personal opinion, and if you must know, I have a very low tolerance for overly sweet food, (unless its like chocolate!) due to my my health-concious mak who tries as far as possible to use less oil, sugar and MSG. My sis didn’t enjoy it that much too (due to the sweetness) and according to her, she had tasted better Phad Thai elsewhere.

My cousin ordered the Thai Pineapple Rice which was Fried pineapple rice with prawn chicken eggs and onion. Quite nice actually though eating from a pineapple bowl proved to be a difficult exercise in my opinion. But not as savoury as I hoped it would be. One interesting aspect of the dish was the sharp taste of the shrimp floss on top which added a more memorable taste to the whole dish.

And last but not the least, we have my all time fabvorite Thai Fried Baby Squid! Taking a bite into this tiny crunchy pieces of squid, tasting the honey-sweet glazed skins, slowly as it melts into your mouth… Sigh! I want to eat it again! A definite recommendation to all fried baby squid lovers out there!

As I had mentioned earlier, it was rather a bubble bursting Sunday. The original plan was trying the food at Padi & Nooch which is a halal restaurant serving Japanese and Western cuisine. It was located somewhere along a secluded part of China Street near the heart of Chinatown. At first we could not find it and when we did, it was closed! Then we tried looking for a Indonesian restaurant called Bumbu which, according to my sister, was worth trying. Again we could not find it, and when we did it was closed! Though Pagi Sore Indonesian Restaurant was open, we were not keen on buying numerous dishes (makan hidang) for us to share because we did not want to spend too much money. After much consideration, Magic Wok was our last resort.

We have still not given up on Padi & Nooch and Bumbu also. A word of caution – Never venture into Raffles Place area on a weekend. Everything is closed. I guess my sister, cousin and I learnt the hard way. 😀

Magic Wok Restaurant
Halal Thai Chinese Cuisine

City Hall MRT Branch
#01-20 Capitol Building

ZingDo Korean Restaurant

May 4, 2007

I have finally revived my seemingly lost food obsessions and will now wax lyrical of all the halal food I can find around Singapore! First up we have the Bulgogi Chicken Kimchi Myon, which was what I ate at ZingDo! At first, I thought that the spicyness of the soup was simply overpowering all other flavours in the dish, like the bulgogi and the kimchi (which I presumed to have different tastes since my cousin ordered the Bulgogi Chicken Hotplate which had the Bulgogi chicken and Kimchi soup in two separate entities). I have yet to figure out whether the spicyness came from the Kimchi, the Bulgogi or some other unknown ingredient that was supposed to be part of the dish. I still liked it though. The myon noodles were soft and well cooked, similar to that of the ramen (are they the one and the same?) and the chicken were sweet and delicious. I totally finished the whole bowl actually! 🙂

The next dish is the one that my sister ordered which was the Bulgogi Beef Kimchi Myon. This was totally similar to my dish, except it was beef instead of chicken. According to my sister, the beef was quite juicy and tender, and the myon noodles were springy and slightly of a harder texture as compared to the ramen. I must add though that one gripe I have of this dish and mine is the fact that the only vegetable in the dish was a sad solitary piece of cabbage leaf. I would have prefered if they added bean sprouts or any other crunchy vegetables to add an alternative texture to the dish.

A more mild version as compared to the noodles, the Bulgogi chickcen was served raw on the hot plate to our tables. My cousin had to slowly cook the chicken seoul-garden-style before eating the dish! The Bulgogi Chicken was quite sweet actually, reminiscent of the seasoned meats at Seoul Garden. The Kimchi soup that came in the set was quite mild and very different from the Kimchi soup from my dish. A plus point was the fact that the dish came with garden vegetables! But some became a little burnt after being in the hotplate for too long. My cousin thought the dish to be quite good actually, being the first time she was eating at ZingDo.

These are the Crispy Fried Mushrooms! I simply love these flour coated mushrooms, fried to a nice crisp as a starter to the whole meal. It almost had a meat-like texture, not having the same bitterness as most mushrooms I have eaten once before! I strongly recommend anyone who goes here to try this, costing only $4.00!

My sister heard about this halal Korean restaurant and asked me to try it out. My cousin, after much persuasion also decided to join us for dinner. I must apologise for the somewhat bad colour contrast in the photos. This is simply because that the whole restaurant is bright orange in colour so my camera had difficulty auto-adjusting the colour contrast between the food and the table! So the pictures actually look more red than it seems. A must try for those who like spicy noodle soups (like me!) One problem for me is that it was only located in Jurong! Hopefully they have more central outlets in the future!

Zingdo Korean Restaurant
Jurong East Entertainment Centre
2 Jurong East Central 1
Singapore 609 731