Friday, February 18, 2011

Farewell to my favourite Nyonya - A memorial

The versatile Bunga Biru or Bunga Telang - the flower is used to get the blue hue in the nasi kerabu, blue pulut etc.

Another year has gone by according to the Chinese lunar calendar. It was another CNY trip to Penang, a pilgrimage that I have made every year since 1987. I have always looked forward to these trips as I have great in-laws, great friends from my wife's side and Penang’s food to make my stay enjoyable.

This year's trip was very different as my wife and I missed a very good friend who passed away not too long ago at 49 of an heart attack. She was a rugged lady that enjoyed the outdoors. She has trekked various hills and went on exotic trips.

Now a familiar face is no longer with us. We have never failed to visit one another homes in Penang and I like food prepared by her. Simple kuih-muih (desserts) to sophisticated Penang Nyonya delicacies. She was also a great cook. Obviously the culinary skill was passed down from her grandmother.

I thought her passing away hurts my wife a lot as they were close. They went on holidays together with their families (many times 3 generations were in tow) to Cameron Highlands, East-West peninsula, Bangkok, North Thailand and U.K. I believed they could and intended to grow old together. I was an outsider 24 years ago when I visited my wife-to-be hometown. My favourite Nyonya came and checked me out. After all my wife and her were buddies from school. I was treated to one of Penang’s best lobster dish in Teluk Bahang aka “End of the World” (now no more in existence) and from there, was included into their closely knit friendship.

Through the years she had introduced me to some of the best Penang food. Seafood in Bukit Tambun, Teluk Bahang, Batu Maung, Teluk Tempoyak. Best Laksa in Balik Pulau and the list goes on. One evening she brought five huge grilled mud crabs from Batu Maung restaurant to my in-laws home. She knew I like these. It was the best of the crop as these crabs were packed to the brim with roes. No kidding, every nooks and corners were filled up. I had one and was totally satiated.

She was also instrumental in educating me especially on some of the great Nyonya kueh and dishes which she will personally cook. Who could forget the milky texture and melt in the mouth pineapple tart. The kuih kapik and numerous other kuih.

I visited Nyonya's mother 2 weeks ago. I took the opportunity and went across her house to an empty piece of land where I took some shots of the “bunga biru” she pointed out to me two CNY ago. It was upon my enquiry where the blue colour of the blue pulut (glutinous rice) came from. The shrubs were still there, very much alive, the flowers in brilliant blue. A reminder and a memorial of her zest for life, diligence, kindness, generousity and loyalty. Rest in peace.

The blue pulut (glutinous rice) and kaya (coconut milk jam) made by my favourite Nyonya. A beautiful and tasty combination.

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