Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Malaysia Water Company: Sains

This is the second time the Malaysia water company known as Sains has dug a big hole in front of the house. And they have dug holes a number of times in our neighborhood and in the immediate area since we have lived in the house. There seems to be constant water pipe bursts and leaks. I have read about it and heard from others this is a common problem in Malaysia.
So in this case, like the time before, they dig a big hole which looks ominous. Then they look inside the hole for a long time. Not sure what they are doing. Then they fill it back up and a few days later the asphalt team comes and covers it with fresh asphalt. There are tons of fresh asphalt patches all over Malaysia's roads too.

We shouldn't complain because water in Malaysia is cheap. Our bill for a generous amount of water each month including some gardening watering comes to 5 RM (about $1.70 USD) per month. Sometimes a couple RMs more.

I should say that this does not include drinking water because we do not drink the tap water here. We drink bottled water which is a sizable expense of about $30 USD a month.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Entryway on the main floor and upstairs near the stairs have two empty spaces. I guess you could put closets here and close the space off, but there were spotlights in the ceilings of these spaces when we moved in.

Upstairs empty space

At first we were thinking of adding glass shelves in the spaces similar to these photos.

But after the kitchen was done, we felt like we had so many shelves that we thought we should do something else.

So we have decided to add some sculpture bases to the space to add sculptures or vases. Something like the photo above only in white.

Here is another version. B is going to make them for us. He is very busy, so I don't know when they will be finished.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

On Jalan Tok Ungku July 24, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Porcelain Blue Disaster

We finally chose Nippon's Porcelain Blue 241A for the 2nd Guest Bedroom on the Main Floor. We picked it over the darker colors because we wanted it to be radiant and rich. But, the painted samples show it is way too bright in a bad Liberty Blue kind of way. Hideous. R and I thought maybe we shouldn't go with Blue at all, but finally decided to give Seclusion Blue 201A (one of our original choices) a try. It is darker and has more of a grey base it won't look like the Blue Mansion in my post here but that's okay. We brought the big 5 liter can so there is no going back now!!!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Malaysian Dwarf Peacock Tree

My favorite tree in the neighborhood is a few streets over. Every time I drive by I always love looking at this orange flowering tree. It is always in bloom (the photo I took doesn't do it justice, it is usually more in bloom).

Since we planned to have orange as the predominate color in our garden, when I first moved here I thought I should look out for the this plant in the nursery. But, never saw it.

Recently I was driving by and saw the seed pods dangling from it and thought I'd try and get some seeds to sprout. I took a sample flower to a nursery and the woman said it is a Peacock Tree. I did some research online and think that this tree is the dwarf version (let's hope so because the regular trees get much larger). I found out that while it's called Peacock here its botanical name is Caesalpinia Pulcherrima. In other regions throughout the world it is also known as Poinciana, Dwarf Flamboyan, Pride of Barbados, Barbados Pride, Barbados Flower-fence, Peacock Flower, Paradise Poinciana or Red Bird-of-Paradise.

On my first attempt, I followed some directions online. It said soak the seeds for a day or a few days then peel the seeds out of their skins and plant them. I soaked eight seeds for two days, then peeled them and planted them. I had two small seeds that I wasn't able to peel so I planted them in their skins. I marked them and waited. Surprisingly, it was the unpeeled seeds that sprouted, none of the others did! So I went back and got some more seeds and soaked them and planted them directly, no fussy peeling. I now have twelve plants growing. Apparently from what I read online they are easy to grow, and this seems to be true. I will keep growing them and the strongest few I will most likely plant in my front yard along the hedges.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Making Pizza in Malaysia

As I mentioned briefly before, I transplanted some Thai Basil that I bought from Tesco. I put a number of stems in water and they rooted quite quickly with lots of healthy roots. So I planted them in the empty planter at the back of the house. In order to try and promote some basil growth, I picked some of the tops of the stems that were about to - or already - flowering and brought the basil inside. I didn't know what to make with it, and then I remembered I had one last frozen pizza dough bag in the freezer and decided to make pizza!

I should start by saying, I do love pizza. When I grew up in Minneapolis every Friday night my family would have pizza night where we would make pizza and then watch tv together (back in the 70s) we used a rectangular baking sheet because they didn't sell round pizza pans in Minneapolis at the time. I remember we had one specific baking sheet used only for pizza, it was black with higher sides. While we made flat crust pizza at home, we often went to My Pie pizza a well known thick crust pizza place in Minneapoils (the company is from Chicago but had a location in Mpls. Checking their website here it looks like it must still be well known for they ship pizzas throughout the US! While we preferred My Pie (sausage and mushroom deep dish) as our favorite, there's always something about making your own pizza once you get the ingredients right that can make you crave the homemade even more than eating out.

Living in New York City for eighteen years, I eventually shifted from deep dish to NY style and the thin crusts. If I had to pick, I suppose Two Boots pizza in NYC would be my favorite (specifically the Bayou Beast - bbq shrimp, crawfish, andouille, jalapenos and mozzarella).

The Middle East also had its styles of pizza... the shark pizza in Tehran was great, until the place closed. But the best pizza was R's mom's homemade individual size pizzas with mushrooms or white truffles (which were available in abundance in the spring in Fars Province if the weather conditions were right... yes I have consumed more truffles in my lifetime then possibly all the citizens of a small US town combined... truffle omelets, truffle pizzas, truffles and Kebabs, truffles with just about anything, I digress sorry).

So arriving in Malaysia we found that there aren't that many pizza places with good pizza. Dominos and Pizza Hut chains are all over the place. I can't complain about Dominos, because even though I don't love their pizza, they actually deliver to our house - the only food delivery co. we know of that does. While we lived here when the kitchen was being constructed, we were happy to get those pizzas. But, about specialty pizzas in Malaysia, I have to say I have not had a good pizza in Kuala Lumpur. Our friends who live there say places exist, but I haven't been to any. Actually, the best pizza we found in Malaysia (to date) is a pizza place in Seremban owned by an Italian who lives here called Pizza Italia (480, Jalan Haruan 4/4. Oakland Commercial Centre, near Columbia Asia Hospital ). There is another blog post about this place here (note that the blogger mentions Dominos and Pizza Hut and also note the price for the meal, by Seremban standards, it is high).

Our pizza

Soooo since I found the yeast (see my earlier post here), I have been experimenting with making pizza here in Seremban. OK, we haven't made too many pizzas yet, but we finally got one with the ingredients and the testy oven to work. In fact, the pizza was sublime. Absolutely fantastic. Tasted kind of like a Pizza Margarita only we didn't use fresh tomatoes. The Thai basil (opposed to regular basil) gave the pizza a really rich taste.

So what ingredients available in Malaysia give you this kind of pizza? Here is what we used....

I made the pizza crust following this recipe. I doubled the recipe which made enough pizza for four pizzas. I froze three doughs as the instructions mentioned with olive oil in a plastic bag. The pizza dough was made with Saf Instant Yeast and the popular Malaysia Flour "Blue Key".

I took out the pizza dough from the freezer and let it thaw. Then rubbed some olive oil on the round pizza pan with holes in it (available at Carrefour or Jusco) and spread the pizza out on the pan. Turned the oven on to around 220 C and let the pizza crust bake until it was nearly light brown about 10 minutes.

Then I added the toppings.

Tesco Tomato Puree
Hot Pepper Flakes
Ground Pepper
Arla "Finello" Mozzarella Cheese
Grozerte Formaggio Cheese Powder
Fresh Thai Basil

I used Tesco Tomato Puree (produced in Italy) for the base. It is much richer than Malaysian tomato sauces or pastes. I also squirted some Heinz Ketchup on to top of that (not too much about 3/4 Tesco Tomato Puree to 1/4 Ketchup). I know, I know, this sounds gross... Ketchup on Pizza? But, we learned it from R's mom. One night she baked us the best pizzas ever and we asked what she did differently. She broke down and told us that she had run out of tomato sauce so she improvised and added ketchup to the base of the pizza instead. So we now follow her lead and add a bit to our pizzas. It has to be Heinz, because the Malaysian Ketchups are too vinegary.

Added the Hot Pepper Flakes, salt and pepper on top of the base. I haven't found Hot Pepper Flakes like they sell in the US here at all. Any hot pepper spices have a different consistency and more usable for Asian/Indian cooking. So I collect the hot pepper packets that Dominos delivers with their pizza and use those.

Then I added Arla "Finello" Mozzarella Cheese (imported from Poland?!?) bought at Jusco. We used about 3/4 of a 200g chunk and grated it because that is all we had in the kitchen. Maybe the whole 200g next time, then again maybe not. This Mozzarella seems to have better taste than the more popular green bag shredded cheese sold in the stores around here. I should mention cheese selections are grim in Malaysia, I will write a post on it sometime. But enough to say, Family Store doesn't even sell fresh cheese and no one seems to complain.

Next sprinkles of the Grozerte Formaggio Cheese Powder. This 'fake' Parmesan cheese imported from Hungary doesn't taste fantastic. But, it's available in Seremban and good enough for the pizza.

Then I added the Thai Basil on top and returned the pan to the oven for 5-10 minutes more. The only thing I might do differently is not add the Basil at first. Wait until a minute or two before the pizza is fully baked and then put the basil on. Because you can see from our pizza photo the basil is pretty baked (although not burnt). But, this is another step and requires taking the pizza out of the oven, and around here every time you open the hot oven the kitchen gets hotter! Plus I think that if the basil isn't added upfront, it might not get to mix in with the cheese and it might not taste as good.

So that's our current homemade pizza we are making in Malaysia!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Guest Bedroom and Bathroom Ceilings Repaired

In preparation to have the second Guest Bedroom on the main floor repainted, we had the ceilings touched up and the holes from the hot water installation plastered up.

One of these days I'm going to go pick out a blue color and pick up a sample to test, then we can get going on the last room in the house to paint!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

White Stones Under the Stairway

We Recently bought 11 bags of these medium size white pebbles for the space under the Stairway in the entryway (we had tested smaller grey asian pebbles shown here).

I like the larger size pebbles and the white looks pretty nice and neutral. I was planning to make (or have B make) a piece of wood to paint white that could be inserted at the front to 'hold back' the pebbles and make them look enclosed. But R likes the way they are loose on the floor. He thinks they are more stylish this way. I'm not sure, but will leave it as is for now and see over time.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Famous Seremban Beef Noodles

Recently we went to Yee Kee Seremban Beef Noodles the famous shop that sells the signature dish Seremban Beef Noodles. Owner Yee Kee is the originator of this dish that started way back before the Japanese occupation. This is the same company selling beef noodles on the second floor of the Seremban Wet Market, but here it is a sit down restaurant in one of the old pre-war shop houses in Seremban.

There were a few beef noodle options I think we got the 'dry' ones. We also ordered some wontons on the side.

Basically, we didn't love the beef noodles. The taste was ok, but the meat was a bit chunky, or it's hard to explain, you'll have to try yourself. The wontons were great though.

Location: Across the street from the main Public Bank Branch in Seremban town. The restaurant is open 8am till 8pm everyday except Monday.