Friday, April 30, 2010

Malaysians make masterful meals

I must profess to rather enjoying the cooking competition series Masterchef, which is now back on TV, though I can only catch half an episode at most as the scheduling clashes with Alex's bath time.

The other night they had a challenge to recreate their fondest childhood food memories. Gosh, that would have been a challenge for me. Mum and dad cooked some okay food, but I cook and eat a whole lot better these days. Unsurprisingly, the challenge was won by Alvin, a Malaysian born contestant.

I say unsurprisingly because I contrast my childhood food experiences with that of my Malaysian wife. Food is possibly the single most important aspect of their culture. It's more than just laksas and curries. There are influences from India, Thailand, the West and the many provinces of China and the Arabs. The fusion of the Chinese and Malays with the Nyonya cuisine is an example. There are sweets and flatbreads, fruits and spices, noodles and soups. When we visit Malaysia it is mainly to eat!

Not only did B's parents own a restaurant and catering business, but eating out both at restaurants and the very cheap hawker stalls is very normal in Malaysia. And when they do cook  themselves it is often a feast of many dishes.

Last year's winner of Masterchef was Julie Goodwin. B bought her recently released recipe book and soon regretted it. You can see why she writes for Women's Weekly as her dishes are old fashioned Australia. Simple, heavy flavours that do not challenge the palate. Easy to cook comfort food. There is a place for that, but the recipe book was redundant.

The runner up, Poh Ling Yeow, also a Malaysian, is the exact opposite. She loves to experiment, while still exploring her culinary heritage. Plus her recipes and video are available for free on the ABC website.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to eat the wonderful meals dished up by my masterchef Malaysian wife (and try to contribute where I can!).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The ABC of BBC Comedy and TV

I'm excited to see that the ABC will be screening Psychoville from May 5. It's a black comedy from the creators of The League of Gentlemen, a very weird comedy of which I own all the DVD's. I watched the first episode of Psychoville on its very first screening last year while in London and couldn't wait to see more. 

Right now I'm enjoying the repeats of The Young Ones on Tuesdays on ABC2. It's utterly insane and absurdist comedy, so unlike the self-serious nature of most else on TV. Naturally, I can't watch it live, but fortunately the Playstation3 PlayTV recorded size is only about 1 gig so I can copy the files off the PS3 and on to a flash drive and watch it on my laptop in bed after everyone else is asleep.

PlayTV is set for the "other" region thanks to those stupid Australian Freeview restrictions that don't allow copying of programs out of PlayTV. It means that I can't record or view SBS using the PS3, but I have other recorders that can cope with that.

I also required the free VLC media player to watch the recordings on my PC's. I used to be able to use Windows Media Player, but something changed.

I recorded an episode of the new Doctor Who series on my laptop using my DVICO FusionTV usb dongle. The streamed file was over 10 gig in size! The included converter software fails on attempts to convert the software, but maybe that's just the small amount of free space left on my hard drive.

I'm really enjoying the new Doctor and the episodes, though you can tell that the producers were fans of the Tom Baker era. I do wish that the composer Murray Gold would reinstate "the middle 8th" in the main theme as it is my favourite bit of the music. We ended up watching the first episode on iView. We had it on the big television, then Alex decided to race around with his noisy toy lawnmower, then the mother-in-law arrived to interrupt us. We tried to play it later but Alex was woken up and started crying. ABC's iView is a pretty cool application and the quality was quite decent.

Little Li's Pig's Blood Cakes

We are considering visiting Taiwan just so we can eat this popular and fragrantly chewy and soft snack available at the Gongguan Night Market. Or maybe for other reasons instead.

Check out other interesting food, like Frog Hits Milk, in Taiwan Tourism's North Area Street Eats guide.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Toddler temper tantrums

Alex has learned to say "No!". The last week's train ride have been very difficult at times. Our 16 month old has been off colour (so many bugs since starting childcare!) and has been throwing tantrums in packed trains. I can't blame him. He's tired, a bit unwell, and it's no fun in such a crowded train.

But tantrums are only a tiny part of his day. He can also say "Yes" (actually "yeah"), everything seems to be a star or a shark, except Kita who says "woof!" He has a powerful voice that can project quite far. One amazing thing is his sense of balance. He can walk around a moving train only rarely falling over.

My days are very long. Alex usually wakes at around 5:20am. Sometimes I am still settling him at 9pm, so that doesn't leave much free time, if any at all, to do things like update blogs or plan holidays. Sometimes I fall asleep next to him when settling him on the futon in his room. But he is such a snuggly kid that I forgive him!

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