Saturday, October 10, 2009

Currently Reading: Mitch Albom's Latest

I made a online pre-booking almost two months back for this. In fact I ordered it because of the author Mitch Albom, without giving much thought to the title. I believe all book lovers know and most likely read Tuesdays With Morrie and The Five People You Meet In Heaven, well even if you have never read the books, you might have caught the film interpretation on Hallmark some years back.
Yup, so anyway, Mitch Albom is now in the position where I will buy his books without thinking twice or looking at the synopsis. When I actually received the actual package in the office, I was a tad surprised at the title. Faith. Wow, faith is an issue I have personally, clandestinely, ashamedly struggled with on many many levels which are too deep to expound here. I might probably get into that another time.

The cover: inspired an old prayer book.

The first paragraph from the first page.

Readers, this book is not about any religion in particular, although note that the author and his muse here are Jewish, so there are many Jewish based references, which I find very interesting. It's really warm, fuzzy, easy reading and nothing deeply, overly theological, but true accounts on mankind's struggle with live and faith in general. It has deep and poignant moments, but I think anyone of any faith can benefit from this well-written book. So far I'm finding great insights from it and enjoying every bit of it.

Happy weekend to all.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Rockstar French Pedicure

About two weeks ago I had a very interesting pedi job done, it's what I call the 'Rockstar French Pedicure' ... fiery red, black and a hint of glittery silver, bold and glam. I'm totally loving it! Kudos to the newly opened Lacquer Couture at Bangsar Shopping Centre. Well, it's almost fading now, next round maybe I'll try fuschsia and deep purple ....

Rockstar toes!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Mid-Autumn Festival

On October the third (15th day of the eight month in the Chinese calendar) we celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival, the second most revered and commercialized Chinese festivals, right after Chinese Lunar New Year. Two key elements marks this celebration; mooncakes and lanterns.

When we were kids we used to get together at grandma's house and 'play' lanterns with our cousins. Note that in my childhood, there were no 'battery-operated' lanterns, only real 'candle-operated' paper types. By 'play' what we actually do is light up the lanterns , walk around the neighbourhood and then set fire to all of them and dance around the bonfire in glee. Why set fire to the lanterns? Well, keep it in good minty condition and you can dash any hopes of getting a bigger and better one next year. Of course, before the 'lantern walkathon', we cousins engage in the customary 'who has the nicest biggest lantern' routine. We also arrange lit candles on just about every surface we can find, potted plants, fence, curb of the streets.

The next morning there will be ear-pulling and long sermons about leaving stale candle wax stumps all over the potted plants and driveway. But we do it again, year after year after year. The adults are way too busy watching Hong Kong serials while sipping tea and eating mooncakes indoors to bother much about we do anyway.

Now that I'm in my thirties, we've done away with lanterns. I don't think the younger children get to roam around the streets much as well, in view of the deterioration of public safety over the years. I suppose parents just get them battery-operated lanterns in shapes of Disney Princesses or Ben 10 and they play within their condo or gated community compound. Or maybe now kids send virtual lanterns on facebook, who knows right?

What I find most interesting about the evolution of this festival is the mooncake, we will get to that in a while after this introduction. Mooncakes are sweet baked delicacies made from lotus paste, sunflower seeds and occasionally with a salted egg yolk for that savory flavor. The roundness signifies the moon and I guess the sweetness and stickiness symbolizes family unity. For more on the history and myhtical stories behind the Mid Autumn Festival, Wiki here.

I make it a point to buy a box of mooncake for mum every year as the festival approaches. She loves those sickeningly sweet cakes. I don't find them particularly healthy and the cloying sweetness can really get to you so I usually avoid them , or worse, I'll dig out the precious salted egg yolk from the centre and secretly dispose of the rest. Anyway, I was One Utama two weeks back and they had a 'mooncake fair' where just about every bakery in town were displaying their flair with mooncakes in elaborately decorated booths. I was amazed at the effort and creativity put into this. Flavors like coffee, green tea, red bean and sesame are an acceptable development probably since the last five years or so. Bakeries have moved with the times to launch 'fat-free', 'less sweet', 'vegetarian', healthier options for a while now. Plain lotus paste and double yolk are almost passe; a thing of the past!

So, even non-mooncake-eating me succumbed and got myself some really unique mooncakes .... brace yourself, I got me 2 mooncakes from a bakery I've never heard of; Yong Sheng (and this is not a sponsored post!I just thought these guys really deserve the credit for these yummy stuff). These are what I got; Scallop Mooncake and Message of Love. What are they exactly?

Message of Love
Dragon fruit lotus paste with mochi, lychee pudding & cranberry. Seriously, I was like "are these guys for real?"
My verdict: acceptable sweetness with a fruity tang and distinctive lychee taste.

Scallop Mooncake
Lotus paste mooncake filled with mushroom scallops paste. The savory paste is enveloped in a thin bubble of white mochi in the centre of the lotus paste. I was skeptical as anything until they let you 'test' it on the spot. I did and was sold.
My verdict: I love the slightly fishy dried scallop taste, the savory centre balances the sweet lotus paste unbelievably well.

I liked the scallop one so much, a week later I got myself their Nonya Sambal mooncake. It's so fabulous; sweet, spicy, savory with a hint of shrimp and 'belacan' ... totally exceptional!

Well, I wonder what kind of 'innovative' mooncakes we will have next year. Culture and lifestyle has evolved so much that I can't begin to imagine how we will celebrate this festival in ten years to come. All I know for sure is, I will faithfully cart a box of mooncakes to mum, traditions do and always will keep people together, and that is what I really like about this festival. Plus the excuse to pig out on interesting mooncakes of course.

Have a sweet Mid Autumn celebration everyone!