A special post – Smashing Lung Leavin’ Day

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Cam_Lil_HVSJ Family (1)(Heather and her husband, Cameron, and daughter, Lily)

A week ago, I was checking my email when I noticed I had a message from someone I haven’t heard of, and her name was Heather. After reading Heather’s message, I realised that she had reached out to me through my blog. And out of the millions of other blogs out there, she had particularly chosen mines, amongst a few selected others, to help raise an important and personal awareness.

Heather Von St. James is a 9 year cancer survivor. She had mesothelioma, and she was given only 15 months to live. She also had to undergo a life changing procedure. And to make matters worse, at the time when she was diagnosed, she also happened to be a new mother. She was filled with fear.

There are two types of mesothelioma. One is pleural mesothelioma, where the cancer grows inside the tissue and covers the lungs. The other is peritoneal mesothelioma, where the cancer grows in the lining of the abdomen. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma includes pain in the chest or lower back, a high feverish temperature, persistent cough, and unexplained weight loss. And Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma includes pain or swelling of the abdomen, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhoea or constipation, and unexplained weight loss. What causes mesothelioma is asbestos, which is an insulating material that is heat and fire resistant. Asbestos was widely used in the building industry back in the 1950s to 1990s until it was banned in 1999 due to risk of health. The changes of getting asbestos is greater if one is exposed to it at an early age. Heather had pleural mesothelioma. As a little girl, she used to inhale asbestos from her father’s jacket which she used to wear around the house.

http://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma/types/

Then on February 2nd, 9 years ago, Heather managed to have her lung removed. That was the day her sister declared it Lung Leavin’ Day. From then onwards, every year, on Lung Leavin’ Day, Heather, her friends, family, and other supporters, would celebrate the day by writing their biggest fears on a plate and then smashing it into the fire.

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After having corresponded with Heather, she felt like no stranger to me. In fact, I felt touched that she had reached out to me and told me this personal story. I even mentioned to her that my father had throat cancer. He died 14 years ago when I was late in my teens. The sad thing is that I didn’t know about the cancer until after he had died. My then-boyfriend and his father were helping me pack up his things when they found some medical files. They looked through it and learned that my father had been battling throat cancer for several years, and I had no idea about it. Cancer never crossed my mind. There were times when I noticed my father looking tired and losing weight. He said he was under a lot of stress at work and that his blood pressure was high. After learning my father had cancer, which I did not know about, made me angry and helpless. Sometimes I still blame myself for his death. If only I had known. But there were no clues as to why he never told me. No letter. Nothing. Nobody knew. Only the doctor knew. 20150221_205846

If I had known about my father’s cancer, I would have helped him battle it. I would have done and given up anything for him. I would have given up my studies to fight with him. Meeting Heather really brought back memories. But it also makes me want to help her raise and spread the awareness of Lung Leavin’ Day. If anyone out there is or have been affected by cancer in any way, don’t hide. Come out. Speak out. Don’t fear it. Instead, let it fear you. Write those fears and toss it into the fire. And don’t shut loved ones away. Let them help.

So here is my contribution to Lung Leavin’ Day. Just so you know, I couldn’t throw my plate into the fire. I live in a community where it’s impossible to have a ‘fire’. I am not trying to break or change Heather’s tradition. However, I still wanted to show my support, except that it had to be done in my kitchen. Heather, I don’t just want to write this post to help raise and spread the awareness. I want to show that I do care. So if it means that I can’t have fire, doesn’t mean I can’t smash a plate in the honour of Lung Leavin’ Day.20150221_205057

Sure, I have accidentally broken plates before, but this time was different. There was a purpose. I know it sounds silly, but I actually felt kind of nervous before smashing the plate. Instead of writing down the fears (due to personal reasons to be shown here), I shouted out the fears in my kitchen. Here’s to the fears, and to you, Father, and Heather.20150221_20511820150221_205226

It felt good afterwards. Really good. Not fun, because this is not a game, but good. There’s a difference. For me, breaking the plate was symbolic. It was a way of smashing those fears and saying ‘yes, I can smash you into pieces’. Same thing goes for smashing it into the fire. In fact, I think that would have been much more powerful.

Many of us live in fear everyday, or there are fears that surrounds/consumes us. Remember that we only live once. We’ll never know what will happen to us in the next second, the next hour, or the next day. But we can just live and appreciate the life we are in. Don’t allow fear to live our life.

I hope there will be many others who will support Lung Leavin’ Day. As of now, apart from myself, my blog is an official supporter of Lung Leavin’ Day with its image (below) on the side of the blog, which will direct you to Heather’s blog once you click on it. I did not become a supporter for any other reasons apart from the fact that we cannot give up and let cancer, or any fear (cancer-related or not), beat us and bring us down. It brought me down 14 years ago and almost emotionally destroyed me. But I wanted to make my father proud. So I pursed something that I knew my father would be proud of (and something that I love to do). Heather thought she only had 15 months to live. Now look at her. Let us ‘smash’ Lung Leavin’ Day and keep on fighting.

If you want to know more about mesothelioma, just click on the links below.

http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/lungleavinday/#.VOzKLfmsV8E

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/mesothelioma/about/mesothelioma-risks-and-causes

http://www.mesothelioma.uk.com/

http://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma/

Thank you, Heather, for being an inspiration. You are a true fighter.

LLD-TalkingPlate-2015

Happy Chinese New Year – The story of Nian

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Happy Chinese New Year 2015 to all. cny12cny157As many know, Chinese New Year is a time where majority of those of Chinese descendants, come together with their family and friends to celebrate. It is a festive period involving lots of good company, food, money giving, traditional entertainments, and lots of laughter.cny158And of course, we cannot forget about the Chinese rice balls, which is eaten during festive seasons like Chinese New Year, New Year, and for some, during the Christmas season as well. cny153cny154cny152cny155cny156cyn15110996581_10152697485545662_7816092254273855384_nThe colour red have always been a symbolic colour for Chinese New Year. According to an old Chinese myth that I know, there was once a beast with the body of a bull and the head of a lion called, Nian. Every beginning of the year, Nian would come out from the mountains where it was living and terrorize a village. It would eat their crops, and if there were any villagers in the way, it would eat them too. One day, a strange man came to visit the village and told the villagers that the beast can be defeated by loud noises, bright firelights, and the colour red. So the villagers would hang and display bright red lanterns and fire crackers everywhere. In the end, Nian was terrified that it returned to the mountains and was never seen or heard of again. That is why Chinese New Year is filled with loud noises and firecrackers. And in memory of Nian, there is the symbolic and well known lion dance.

There are several versions of the Nian myth, but they are all similar in a way with how it ends.   cny150cny15

Photo credits to Suzanne Yeang and Irene Soo. Thank you, Ladies, for the wonderful photos, as usual. And special thanks to Irene for always taking mouth-watering photos of the rice balls. I know nobody who can make rice balls as perfect as she can. Looking forward for more to come.

Gong Hie Fatt Choi to everybody.

Other posts on past Chinese New Year and rice balls:

https://puiyinlab.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/happy-new-year-first-post-of-2013/

https://puiyinlab.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/chinese-new-year-2014/

https://puiyinlab.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/how-to-make-chinese-rice-balls/

 

 

A half tradition, half Filipino style Christmas turkey 2014

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Merry Christmas to the year 2014 everybody.

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This year (2014) has been a turbulence year for me and my family. But in the end, we got to where we wanted to be. So joy to the world :) xmas

Also, this year marks the very first time me and my family made turkey dinner all on our own. In the past, we would have turkey made by my in-laws, a whole roast chicken, or in my case, lamb chops.

When my parents were around, we would always have lamb chops instead of turkey during Christmas. I don’t know why, exactly. We were the kind of family who loves lamb chops. But we don’t often have it, because we don’t want to get tired of eating it. During ‘normal’ days, my mom would cook the usual minted grilled lamb chops. But every Christmas, she would cook a giant lamb leg. For only the three of us, it was a lot to eat, and we enjoyed it. It was our family tradition. Then when my mom got sick and had to stay one Christmas in hospital, my dad would keep the tradition going. So he would cook the lamb chops instead. But he wasn’t a very good cook. In fact, he wasn’t a cook at all. However, it was his hard work and attempts that was counted for. Although he did burn the lamb a little, I still enjoyed it. Sadly, the tradition stopped when my parents passed away. That was a long time ago.

Today, my family have our own tradition. Since marrying my Filipino husband, we’ve always had roast chicken or turkey cooked by my in-laws during Christmas. But this year, we moved into our new home, therefore, we have our very own turkey tradition. Our turkey is made half tradition (like the usual tradition) and half Filipino style. What I mean by Filipino style, I mean the way Filipinos grill/cook a whole chicken. And my husband, who is a qualified chef by the way, so don’t worry, is using that technique to cook the turkey. This might be confusing to some, but any Filipinos reading this would know what I mean. And the key to a successful Filipino chicken, or turkey in our case, is lemongrass.

In the end, I loved the tradition-Filipino turkey. But my husband was disappointed, because we didn’t have lemongrass. We spent most of our time shopping for pressies that we left the turkey shopping till last. Big mistake. My husband did try his best, but I could see the disappointment. However, I told him that it is only our first tradition-Filipino turkey. There will be plenty more Christmases to come. So next year, we will be prepared. Sorry I didn’t capture a photo. I will do so next year. And hopefully, my chef will succeed in his new-found turkey recipe. xmas3xmasteddy

Merry Christmas and looking forward to a busy new year.

Paralyzed (Halloween special 2)

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(Photo credit – The Grudge)

One time, I dreamed I was being dragged along the ground. I didn’t know who was dragging me. All I know was that I was being dragged by the arms. I tried to move my body, but I felt paralyzed. The only think I could do was speak. Everything around me was pitch black. I couldn’t see a single thing.

“Who’s there? What’s happening? Let me go,” I cried out.

But there was no answer. I was terrified. I didn’t know what else to do. And then all of a sudden, the dragging stopped. I fell on my back. I looked up, but I still couldn’t see anything. There was total silence. Even though I couldn’t see or hear anything, I had a strange feeling that I wasn’t alone. I felt a ghostly presence. I tried to move, but I still couldn’t.

“Hello? Somebody help me. Hello?” I cried out again.

There was still no answer. Nothing was happening. I began to feel paranoid. What’s going to happen to me? Am I going to be like this forever? Is somebody going to save me? After what seemed like a long time, I blinked, and woke up with a jump.

I looked around my room. It was still night. My heart was beating and thumping hard and fast. I felt relieved and scared at the same time. The nightmare, or whatever it was, it had felt extremely real. It didn’t feel like a dream, or a nightmare. I’ve had scary dreams/nightmares in the past, and the effect it had on me was nothing compared to the one I had. There were no comparisons.

Introducing Oudvin Cassell and Renee

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I have a good friend, Oudvin Cassell, whom I had written a short post about in the past. He is an amazing artist/illustrator. There is nothing he cannot do when it comes to art and design. I am here to continuously help spread the word of his works and talent. Below is a message from his teacher/manager, Renee.

“Introducing the works of Illustrator Oudvin Cassell, and also some of my work too. Oudvin and I have known each other since he was a high school student artist, who was part of my short-lived NGO in Liberia called the Art House (disbanded due to the war). Oudvin then went on to get his art degree in the US and has been freelancing ever since. We have partnered to create comics and I am also managing him. He has completed two assignments, one making art for Liberian school books and another to story board a short film in the US. We will also put other work we create from time to time. I hope you enjoy our comics. More to come. If anyone is interested in hiring Oudvin for graphics work or to do commission work for you personally, please inbox me.”

Here are the following links to the website/page of Oudvin and Renee, and their contact details:

http://cassellandirene.tumblr.com

https://www.facebook.com/oudvincassellofficialpage

https://puiyinlab.wordpress.com/tag/oudvin-cassell

More works by Oudvin Cassell.

(All photos are subject to copyright)68966_10152728135873614_6841533678399275429_n10520662_10152507070598614_5154193540454126716_o1930939_29071243613_7595_n1597995_10152169606658614_43155109_o10398887_62309113613_7349680_n1618290_10152720257068614_9006141792794815593_o

My most favourite of all. Oudvin designed this shirt with a friend to create an awareness to fight Ebola. 10553942_10152529167663614_3492427114805603264_o

A Penang Story – Part 2 Haunted home (Halloween special 1)

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rigor_mortis_1(Photo credit – Rigor Mortis)

*Actual names have been changed.

The following accounts are real.

First account:

During my time in Penang, which was 11 years ago, I lived in a condominium with two other female flatmates, *Renee and Kate. Renee was also the landlord of our unit. The condominium consisted of two huge blocks. The buildings were very tall, and each floor had about eight units (hope that makes sense). The size of each unit wasn’t big, and it consisted of three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a small kitchen and living room area, and a balcony. Although every unit had a main front door, there was also a main gate to each of the unit, which was good for extra protection. Overall, the condominium was ‘alright’ looking. It wasn’t glamorous either, nor did it have a welcoming look, if I have to be honest. There were times when I didn’t feel safe. Each floor was eerily quiet. Not many neighbours would talk to each other. And the lifts can be creepy, especially when you are alone. Renee and Kate would work all day during the weekdays, and every Friday, after work, they would often go back to their home town, which left me to be by myself until Sunday or Monday, when they would return. At that time, I didn’t go out much during the weekends, except for going out to dinner with my uncle and his family, and I would always be back before 10 at night. After then, I would drown myself in homework. Strangely enough, at exactly midnight every Saturday, I could hear the doorbell ringing, followed by two women’s voices calling out. They sounded polite, too polite in fact.

“Excuse me, good evening.” (Really??? Midnight is not exactly evening)

“Is anybody home? Do you have any newspapers?” (???????)

And then a couple more ringing of the doorbell.

“Hello, is anybody home?”

I never answered the door. Renee had warned me a number of times to never open the door when I was home alone, especially if I wasn’t expecting anyone. So I listened to her. After a short while, there was no more ringing of the doorbell or the voices of the women, nor could I hear them calling out to my neighbours and asking them for newspapers. I then ignored it and went back to doing my work. In the beginning, I didn’t think much about the two women. But as it started occurring every Saturday midnight (yes, seriously, every single Saturday) with the women asking the same exact questions about newspapers, I began to get a ‘funny’ feeling. I was confused, and yet, curious about the women. Why were they asking for newspapers? If so, why did they have to come every Saturday midnight? Why not at other times? And why don’t I hear them calling out to the other units. It was creepy and strange. One night, I was tempted to look through the peephole, but was afraid the women might see the shadow of my feet (there was a tiny gap space between the bottom of the door and the floor). So I covered the entire gap with a shirt. Just before midnight approached, I turned off all the lights, except for the one near the balcony (didn’t want to freak myself out in the dark). I then looked through the peephole and waited. Midnight arrived. The women were nowhere in sight, nor could I hear their voices. Five minutes past twelve, I was about to give up waiting, thinking that they weren’t going to come. I looked away from the peephole, and just when I was about to walk away from the door, I heard the doorbell, followed by them calling out whether I had newspapers. I suddenly felt scared. I wanted to look through the peephole, but I couldn’t. I was scared. I had a bad feeling about looking through the peephole. My instinct told me not to look. So I stepped away from the door and remained quiet. After a short while, the doorbell ringing and calling out stopped. I didn’t hear them anymore. But I didn’t look through the peephole to find out.

Throughout my time at the condominium, I never found out who those women were, nor did I ever see them with my own eyes.

 

Second account coming shortly…………

 

 

On my mind – a personal post on autism

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Autism-Awareness-Month-Logo

(Photo credit – Autism Awareness)

Every year, around this time in the UK, it is the season for charity and special needs awareness, such as breast cancer and Children In Need. So for this post, I would like to take the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences with autism, a cause I strongly support.

As mentioned before, I like to make this blog personal. Whatever is on my mind, I write. Don’t care about spellings or grammars. I have never written such a personal post before, but I’m about to. Please bear in mind that I do not mean to offend anyone (if) with this post, nor cause any problem. It is all about my personal reflection and experience with autism. I don’t expect some to understand or agree with me. After all, not everyone would understand autism. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my son and autism. I love my son, and when it comes to him and autism, I wouldn’t change him for the world. I know the past is the past, but sometimes I cannot help but look back at some of the experiences.

One afternoon, I was taking my son home from school. We were catching the tube (train in London for those who don’t know the term). While waiting for the train, my son was sitting down on one of those ‘waiting seats’. Another young boy went straight up to him, up close, face close, like 2 inches apart, and asked my son,

“Why don’t you have front teeth?”

My son didn’t look at him. He started to slowly spit. Mind you, he wasn’t spitting directly in the boy’s face. It was like he was spitting slow bubbles if that makes sense. And by the way, my son doesn’t spit directly AT PEOPLE (not defending my son on this matter. It’s the truth). The reason why he was spitting was because the boy was up close in his face. My son doesn’t like that. It makes him uncomfortable, especially if he’s a total stranger. Meanwhile, the boy’s mother looked at me and rolled her eyes. I told her politely,

“Sorry, please mind my son.”

She smugged and said rudely,

“Huh, well, spitting is just disgusting.” (Her exact words)

I said angrily, and yet calmly,

“Actually, he’s autistic. And the spitting is part of his condition.”

She immediately became shock. She said,

“Oh, ok.”

I said again,

“I apologise for the spitting, but he’s autistic, OK?”

She said,

“Ok.”

She looked nervously around her and ignored me.

 

I know sometimes with autism, and some other disabilities, people can’t tell if one actually has a disability. The mother had the right to be angry, I’m sure. Spitting is unhygienic and disgusting. But she could have just ‘asked’ if my son could stop spitting rather then give me the attitude.

Another experience…..

Those with autism can have eccentric behaviours. That goes for my son. He especially likes to run or sing when he’s really happy. We used to live with our landlord. She knew about my son being autistic and said she was fine with it. One morning, she barged into the kitchen and asked loudly and rudely,

“WHO THE HELL SLAMMED THE DOOR?”

I was confused. It wasn’t me, nor my son. I said,

“I don’t know. Not me.” (It was the truth. No idea who slammed what door)

“You know what. You should control that child of yours. He makes so much noise in the morning. Learn to shut him up.” (Her exact words)

I immediately became angry.

“NO, I cannot shut my son up because he is autistic. He makes those noises because he is happy to go to school.”

“I don’t care what he is. Stop making excuses and start taking responsibility.”

Hmmmm, what responsibility??????? The fight ended with her storming out the kitchen and not listening to what else I had to say.

 

Another time my son and I were in a takeaway chicken shop. We were in line. My son started making noises because he was getting impatient. A group of teenagers sitting nearby started making fun of him. I turned to them and said in a normal tone of voice,

“My son is making those noises because he is autistic.”

They ignored me and laughed. I said no more, although I wanted to punch them all in the faces.

 

My son has even been called a retard or asked,

“When are you going to learn? You don’t know anything. Speak!”

I know parents from my son’s school who pushes their special needs children, who are older looking, in children push chairs. They get ‘funny’ looks when they are out in the public. But it’s ok for grown ups to push another grown up in a push chair, because we would automatically assume they are disabled.

During the Paralympics, especially during the London 2012, many say how inspirational those paralympians were. Many say it’s inspirational because we get to see those with needs, not just those with physical needs, do incredible sports. And amongst the cheering crowds, we see support. No one in the crowd would make fun of the paralympians. No one would shout out ‘RETARD’ to them or make fun if they made funny noises for no reason. No one would look at them differently. Instead, we saw them as heroes and inspirational figures. But outside of the Paralympics, it seems ok to make fun of those who make the same funny noises, or to be looked at differently if someone awkward looking was in a push chair.

I am writing this post to share my thoughts and experiences. I am not looking to start a debate or an argument. I am not saying I am in the right. All I am asking is, for those who don’t understand autism and special needs, then please be patient and understanding. If you see a child, or someone, spitting or behaving differently from others, don’t immediately assume the worse, because sometimes, they are the way they are and not because they want to be naughty or want to cause a scene.

I am so proud to say that my autistic son is already in training to one day represent Team Great Britain swimming in the Paralympics, maybe Japan 2020.

Never judge.

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(Photo credit – Facebook (Autism and other ramblings)

 

 

 

 

A Penang Story – Part 1

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So it all began with this photo I saw posted by a friend on Facebook.

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To most of you, this might seem like an ordinary photo. But for me, it’s so much more. It reminds me of my other home, Penang, in Malaysia. The photo is recent, and the location of where it was taken was at a famous shopping mall nearby where I used to live when I was residing in Penang. It was where I used to go almost everyday to have my meals, meet up with friends, and do my shopping. It’s been 11 years since I was last there. When I saw this photo, I immediately became homesick. It sure hit me hard.

There are 13 states and 3 federal territories in Malaysia. But out of them, Penang is the most different state. The people, the community, the lifestyle, the environment, is somehow different from the other states/territories. If you live in one state and then move to Penang, you will automatically feel the difference. A good difference. After being magnetized by the photo, I decided that I wanted to share with you my tour of Penang via my personal thoughts, views, knowledge, and experience, with also the help of some of my Penang friends with the visuals. Instead of presenting everything in one post, I am going to divide them into categories. My tour will include some of my favourite local food where you can’t find ANYWHERE else in the world, famous streets, art, stories and gossips (both local and personal), a haunted hill and war museum, and a history of an Englishman.

Enough said. Let the tour begin.

Malaysia is a multicultural country. There is Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sikh, and Eurasian. Therefore, the food in Malaysia is also multicultural. Some have a combination of Malay and Chinese, while others may have a combination of Chinese and Portuguese. But in the end, no matter how many cultures there are, in food and people, it all comes together as one, Malaysia.

msia24The Penang flag.

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I lived in one of those tall condominiums by the seafront back when I was residing in Penang from the beginning of 2003 till end of that year.

msia6msia20komtar Penang’s iconic tall building.

What I miss the most is the food. Sure, there are Malaysian restaurants around the world. But it is never the same as home. I’ve tried many Malaysian dishes in London (where I am living), and the food never tastes the same. The food isn’t bad either, but it just doesn’t taste like home. It’s not as authentic, even though they say it is. In some restaurants, they even have the names of the food wrong. I don’t know how I’ve survived 11 years of no home food. I’ve even tried cooking some of the dishes, but they just don’t taste the same. I guess I just have to wait for some of my Malaysian friends to come and visit so that they can teach me the authentic way. Below are some of the food that are so authentic that it’s hard to find anywhere else in the world except for home.

msia12Char Kuey Teow, a noodle dish cooked in light and dark soy sauce, with egg and seafood.

msia11Noodle dish with meat or seafood dumplings. Most Malaysians like to have their dishes with iced/hot tea or coffee with milk.

msia22msia8Noodle dish in soup. This is an extremely rare dish to find in any western countries. The closest I’ll ever get to tasting the real deal is a pot noodle version from London Chinatown :(msia14A typical noodle cafe. msia15A noodle stand.

msia7Not just is this dish rare to find in western countries, but so is the fish. I call this fish the white fish.

msia13When I saw this photo while looking through a friend’s Facebook album, I almost cried. This is my all time favourite Malaysian dessert. It is made out of rice flour and thick coconut milk. It is layered, and I have a way of eating it. I don’t like eating it as it is, or taking a bite off it. There has only been ONE way I would eat it, and that is by layers. I would gently peel off each layer and eat it. I don’t know why. It’s the only way I will eat it. There’s no other way. Every time I see this dessert, I would immediately think of my childhood. msia17Another all time favourite. Biscuit with dried coloured icing on top.

msia16Of course, how can I forget about the rice balls.

My other posts on rice balls:

https://puiyinlab.wordpress.com/tag/how-to-make-chinese-rice-balls/

https://puiyinlab.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/happy-new-year-first-post-of-2013/

https://puiyinlab.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/chinese-rice-balls/

msia1A typical Malaysian breakfast. It is a very simple dish. Bread with butter and sugar spread on top. Bread can be toasted or not, up to you. I prefer it toasted.

msia3Roti Canai, flat bread with spicy sauce.

msia21Traditional prawn curry in deliciously thick sauce. My goodness.

msia23A typical stall selling traditional desserts.

msia10Durians, also known as the smelly fruit to some. Like marmite, either you like it or you don’t. msia5Inside the durian. It does leave a strong odor on your hands afterwards. They are very expensive here in London Chinatown. Crazy expensive.

msia9Chinese buns. It is usually used for celebrations or prayers.

That’s it for the first part. To be continued.

A huge thank you to Irene Soo and Suzanne Yeang for the wonderful photos.

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