Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Miniature Rafflesia

If you go to Sarawak. it is worthwhile to head to Gunong Gading. Gading is the home to numerous rare plants including the world's largest flower, the Rafflesia tuan-mudae (bunga pakma) At full bloom this giant flower streches nearly one meter in width. Unfortunately when I went to Lundu, it wasn't the flowering season. The flowers look and smell like rotting flesh, hence its local names which translate to "corpse flower" or "meat flower"

My friend in Singapore grew this miniature rafflesia. She says it has a distinct odor but not overpowering as the real Rafflesia.

Rafflesia is a genus of parasitic flowering plants. It was discovered in the Indonesian rain forest by an Indonesian guide working for Dr. Joseph Arnold in 1818, and named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A-Z Food Fun: W for waxed ducks

For more A-Z Food fun, visit Jen @
A-Z on Monday~~Letter W

Welcome to A-Z on Monday
where the alphabet gets tastier
every week!

When I was little, Dad and Mum used to buy this preserved ducks called waxed ducks. They were not really waxed but wind and sun dried. In order to dry them well, they are flatten like a disc.

It is very salty and you cut them into little pieces. The savoury oil drizzled in white rice makes the plain steamed white a very delicious flavoured rice. A little piece of duck meat goes a long way.

In Borneo, it is available only during Chinese New Year. They also sell these in Singapore, and in any where there are Chinese. There are also waxed Chinese sausages and belly of pork.

We do not buy them in my household. The water engineer doesn't like preservatives.

Macro Flowers: Hibiscus

Thank you Maia.

I am joining this meme for the first time. First I love flowers. Second, the badge for this meme is the North Borneo Orchid. My Dad's favourite flower. It gives me warm fuzzy feeling everytime I see this flower.

Join Macro Flowers Saturday, a photo meme for macro photos and close-ups of flowers, garden flowers, wildflowers, blossoms, flowers with insects and butterflies (no insects without flowers), flowers with raindrops and whatever beautiful plants, plant seeds or berries you have, in close-up.

First time visitors, please read the rules. They are simple but I do ask that you, please, use a MFS badge or link back to MFS in some way. Thank you.

Macro Flower Saturday

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Causa: Food from Peru

At the end of every term, in our adult ESOL school at Mt Albert Baptist School, we encourage our students to bring something of their home for a shared lunch.

My student Felicitas from Peru brought Causa. I asked her to explain to the other students. She made a potatoes mash filled with tuna and avocado. The potatoes were layered like a giant sandwich.

1kg potatoes (yellow, if available)
½ cup vegetable oil
1 lemon juice
1 can of tuna-fish
½ onion, finely chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 avocado
parsley and chopped hard boiled eggs for decoration
This is a very beautiful and delicious dish to take to a pot luck aka bring a plate. It is economical, and you can have your own version of minced beef, lamb or chicken.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Saga seeds,

Adenanthera pavonina Family : Leguminosae Common name : Coral Tree, Red Sandalwood, These little red seeds have heart shapes, so here they are for you, Cheryl.

We call them love seeds, and in Chinese, it is Hsaing Si Dou or lovesick bean. Children collect them and they look very pretty in a glass jar.

Among teenagers, if a boy gives you a saga seed, it means he loves you. If you don't want to reciprocate, you better not accept it. Alas for me, nobody had ever given me any, so I make my kids help me pick them.

If you are wondering where I found them, they were at Sentosa Islands, and also near to the hippos area of the Singapore Zoo.

They grow in pods, and disperse the seeds and leave behind this dry pod.

If you still can't find them, head to Terminal three of the Changi airport. They have a giant seed there. When I was in Singapore, the Singapore Science centre was asking visitors to donate seeds. I think they were aiming to collect one million seeds.

The Singapore Science Centre has probably the largest collection of saga seed in the world. It is displayed as an exhibit in the MATHEMAGIC Exhibition. The aim of this particular exhibit is to illustrate the magnitude of "one million" to the visitors. To date, some 300,000 saga seeds had been collected. More seeds are needed to fill the container. Help from the public is required to complete the collection of 1,00,000 saga seeds. Please sent your collection of saga seeds (irrespective of large or small number) to:

Saga Seeds Collection
Singapore Science Centre
Science Centre Road
Singapore 609081

Monday, June 21, 2010

cacti flower

My daughter's little cacti plant has a lovely flower. The cacti is the size of a hen's egg, and the flower is less than 1/3 inch in diameter.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cooking in a simulated volcano.

Ben showed the American version of cooking with a volcano.

In New Zealand, our natives, the Maoris have adapted thei version of volcano cooking called the Hangi.

I was teaching my ESOL adult students what a Hangi is.

I was pleasantly surprised that In South America, they also cook food in a similar way. In Peru, Felecites tells me they call it Pachamanca, and in Chile, Monica says they call it Curanto. My Samoa students call it Umu.

In my other blog,, I wrote about Hangis and my book, Mail order Bride., and short story, Nadine in various posts, but I didn't have a closeup photo. Here I am fortunate that Ngarimu's cousin invited me to take as many photos as I wanted.

Here are pix of the hot pit.

Cooking for a storm, chicken, pork, mutton, potato, kumara, pumpkin, cabbage, wholesome food cooked on site. Food wrapped in paper and alumnium foil placed in a basket and steamed in the ground for hours from hot stones.

The Maoris got this idea of a hangi from the hot thermal volcanic grounds where eggs can be boiled by lowering into thermal pools. In a Hangi, a big pit or more than one square yard is dug in the ground. Timber is burned, and stones are heated. The baskets of food are put into the pit and covered with jute sacks. Dirt is dug on top of the pit. The food takes a few hours to cook. It looks like a smoking volcano.

For more A-Z Food fun,
A-Z on Monday~~Letter For more A-Z Food fun, visit Jen @
A-Z on Monday~~Letter V ">
A-Z on Monday~~Letter U

Sibu aka Sibau fruit

Common Name: Pulasan,Sibau fruit.
Botanical Name: Nephelium natubile
Specimens From: Malaysia
I was born in Sibu, in Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

Sibu was named after the local Sibau fruit. This fruit is similar to the hairy rambutan fruit that people cultivate. The Sibau fruit is a wild tree that grows in the jungle.

The natives pick them and sell them at the road side stalls. My grand dad did a lot of trade with the natives in upper Rejang river and we exchanged the Sibau fruits with Grand dad's grocery and other items like fish hooks and sinkers. It looks like an egg size hedge hog. The skin is thick and you open the fruit with a twist.

One day when I was living in Singapore, I saw the fruits in the market. I was full of nostalgia and bought some and shared my joy with my neighbours. They have never seen a fruit like this.

Ten years later, it has become a fashionable fruit tree. In West Malaysia, people were growing them in their back yard, and the markets in Singapore were selling a lot of them. Most people didn't however know what its name is. Of course, it is a grafted type, and the fruits are much bigger than the jungle ones.

In West Malaysia, they call it the Pulasan which in Malay means twist.

The grafted ones were sweet with a tangy taste but not as nice as the rambutan. When I saw them last July, I bought them for nostalgic reasons. They were also very difficult to twist to open. Full of sap, so I put my hand in a plastic bag, and used a knife to cut it open.

My West Malaysian friend teased me that my Sibu fruit was of inferior quality.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bamboo leaves and Zhung Zhi

The one used for ba zhang should be the big leaf bamboo called Indocalamus tessellatus
This is a post of Tradition and nostalgia. The Zhungzi or zhung in my Cantonese dialect or commonly known in Singapore and Malaysia as Bak Zhang is a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. Through the years in South East Asia, it has morphed into the Nyonya Zhung where the fragrant pandan leaf has been used to impart it's fragrance.

We ate this every year on the Lunar fifth of May, and we helped Mum wrap this difficult dumpling. I can make it but I am a lazy person, so I have not made it as an adult.

The History behind this dumpling and the Dragon boat festival associated with is Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu jumped to the sea when he was frustrated that the king did not listen to his advice. After his death, the people realized that the king had made a great error by not listening to him. By then it was too late, they threw rice into the sea so that the fish would not eat his body. The banging of drums on the dragon boats was to scare the fish away.

These days you can buy the tetrahedral shaped zhungzi throughout the year. My traditional Cantonese ones are rectangular shape like a pillow. My two older sisters Rose and Elizabeth can make them. Alas for me, too many decades away from home and combined with laziness, this tradition has died with me. I think I can make the tetrahedral shape of my mother in law, if I tried. They use a special kind of bamboo leaf which my mum grew in her garden. Most people buy from imported from China. The Vietnamese call this Elephant bamboo.

On Wednesday, just as I was about to start my Adult ESOL class, the ESOL administrator, my friend C gave me a pack and she had made some Zhungzi. I have forgotten it was the festival again. During the class, I was discussing with the class about lunch, and they talked about rice. We talked about the different ways of eating rice. A student brought up the dumpling made of sticky rice. My friend's Zhungzi came handy. I took them out and showed it to my students from Algeria and Peru.. What is more true than one picture is worthed a thousand words. I only had 4 of them, so I didn't want to let the students sample them.

When Sam saw them, he was very excited. He had not have Zhungzi for 4 years. No prize for guessing who ate most of them. May be I should try to make them.

I took the photo of the bamboo clump when I arrived on the Gold Coast. It was the same one Mum had grown in Borneo. Here where her body lay, they also grown the bamboo which we used to make Zhungzi. We used with without having to boil them as you would have to with the imported ones. The leaves were soft and subtle.

My friend and ex school mate has written about this festival. You may like to read about it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

chamomile tea

When I was growing up in Borneo, Grand dad and mum used to brew up big pots of herbal tea. They were bitter and dark looking concoction. We were told the hot tropical Borneo can make one sick. I didn't like it, but I listened a drank them by the bowlful. There were other brew like flu brew, duck feet cha, and we even went round the neighbourhood collecting herbs.

Gone were those days, I have become my own mum. Some times I go to the Chinese grocery store and brew some Buddha's fruit when my cough won't go away.

Now, I make cups of chamomile tea. It is supposed to be soothing and calming and helps you go to sleep. I just drink the mild bitter tea and think of my Mum and Grand dad.

Monday, June 14, 2010

U for unpolished red rice

I have a relatively new blogger friend Mildred, we share similar interests in food and flowers and good songs. On her Saturday post, she had on U-tube the beautiful voice of Alan Jackson. I was feeling a bit down with a long nagging flu that won't go away and the gloomy weather. Jackson's songs uplifted me with his "In the Garden." Thank you Mildred.

In Mildred's post today, she had and ABC of food meme. I thought this is just up my alley. I have just started this new blog of food and flowers. It is great to have blogger friends with the same interests.
For more A-Z Food fun, visit Jen @
A-Z on Monday~~Letter U

Welcome to A-Z on Monday
where the alphabet gets tastier
every week!

As an Ethnic Chinese I grew up eating rice, rice and more rice. People say eating rice won't make you fat, but this is not true. It depends on what you eta with the rice. I have never been match stick thin, and in Asia, I am considered fat. But here in New Zealand, it feels good when there are more people who tilt the scale more than you.

Rice and whole grains are healthful sources of carbohydrates, providing you choose the right ones. Try adding the following varieties to your holiday table - each provides nutritional benefits as well as flavor and texture.

For rice dishes: Experiment with brown, basmati, jasmine and wild rice, all healthier options than traditional white rice. My brother in law Kallang comes from the Bario Highlands, they grow a very good Bario rice, and people who have tasted this rice swear by it.

Look for organic varieties, and keep them stored in tightly sealed jars on the pantry shelf. During very hot, humid weather you might want to refrigerate the grains.

When I was in Singapore, I used to entertain quite a bit or have pot luck meals with my friends. I made this at one of the lunches with our friends in Nanyang technological University where I lived for 16 years. It was WOWed and they wanted the recipe and it is such a healthy dish.


1 cup cooked brown or red (from NTUC or Liberty)rice
1/4 cup chopped spring onions
1/4 cup of red onion, diced (optional for colour)
1 red or yellow pepper, diced
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 cup. cashew nuts
2 tbsp. sunflower seeds

1/4 c. soy sauce dressing

Toss thoroughly.

Optional: sweet corn kernels
diced green pepper
diced celery
pine nuts
for a non vegetarian salad, boiled eggs, chicken, ham may be added.


3/4 c. oil (sunflower or soy)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
4 tbsp. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper for taste

Put all ingredients in jar; shake well. Makes 1 cup.
Serves 6 to 8.

I couldn't find a photo of this rice salad. The photo shows the boiled red rice we ate in Singapore. My son and I made the cake one year for the man in the house birthday.


Camellia, the camellias, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Theaceae. They are native to eastern and southern Asia, from the Himalaya east to Korea and Indonesia.

It grows in Auckland, and blooms in late autumn. There are white, pink and red ones. They don't seem to bloom every year, as the plant in my garden failed to produce a single bloom.

This was taken when there was heavy rain, and the groun was covered by camellia confetti.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Purple Lissianthus Flowers

The Wonderous series is an early flowering Lissianthus with a unique flower shape and texture from Sakata Seed. This new variety produces very hard, durable flower petals for exceptional tolerance in shipping, and has an exceptionally long vase life. Colors include Purple and Light Brown.

I made a pact with my older daughter. When I die, I would like some wild Cala lilies for my casket. We were in our garden looking for flowers to put on my late son Andrew's casket. She knows Cala holds a special place in my heart. The wild ones, not the florist's perfect calas.

Recently, my second daughter has been giving me a purple flower she likes very much. I emailed my florist friend and she told me that it is Lissianthus. It is a very beautiful flower, and I have a change of heart. I would like Lissianthus too.

I have two more surviving children. Perhaps some day, they will give me a special flower to sit on top of my casket.

When my Dad died, my Sister Margaret requested the florist for his favourite flower, The North Borneo Orchid. Dad didn't get it, but we all have something sweet to remember him by. We are a sentimental lot.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Festival at Pt Chevalier School

The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch [Paperback]
Ronda Armitage (Author)
David Armitage (Illustrator)

During our book parade, our librarian was the lighthouse keeper's wife. She had a picnic basket lunch and some mustard sandwich for the sea gulls.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Controller Cake

A lucky Michael gets a controller cake from his mum Grace. I wonder if he was happy to cut it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Some where in Europe, a mum's arm is empty.
Some where in the USA, a mum's arm is empty twice.
Their babies have been plucked from their bossom.
People tell them Heaven has gained two angels.
But to these mums, they don't want their babies to be angels.
They want the babies right here with them.
Cry my dear M in Europe,
Cry my dear E in the USA.
Cry until your tears have run out.
I understand, because I was that mum too. To those of my new readers, my baby son died almost twenty years ago from Campomelic syndrome. I am still with the group to encourage mums and share their grief.

Chrysanthemums are among my favourite flowers. I felt in love with them when I saw them in Auckland New Zealand.

The Buddhist and Chinese ancestor worshippers use this flower to worship their Gods. On the first and fifteen of the Lunar month, they would buy bunches to do their obeisance or "Bai Sin". They are also funeral flowers. They take them to the graveyard. I didn't know this because I grew up in a Roman catholic family and we didn't "Bai Sin".

When I buy them in Singapore, the florist asked why I buy them when it wasn't the first or the fifteenth. They asked if I have lost a loved one. I tell them, I just love the Chrysanthemums, I don't "Bai Sin."

Coincidentally, when my baby Andrew died, a very good friend gave me a pot of Chrysanthemums. G said she didn't want to give me a bunch of flowers since I had requested," No flowers." Later, when the flowers were gone, she told me that I could grow it in the garden. It thrived and flowered well. It gave me a mixed feeling of my thoughtful friend G, and it also gave me feelings of how much I missed Andrew.

These photos are from the Winter Garden in Auckland Domain. Now you know why it is one of my favourite places.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


In the town Sarikei, in Sarawak Borneo, where my Dad worked for some years as the Divisional Education Officer, the pineapple is the mascot. This tall statue stands at the waterfront.

I grew up in Borneo and we lived in Sibu town. My Grandpa had a rubber small holding where he grew almost everything. It was like a paradise farmlet. We loved visiting him in the holidays, we swam in the Rejang river, climbed all sorts of fruit trees. He had patches of pineapple clumps.

We used to steal his green pineapples. We didn't unterstand why he was so protective of his pineapples as there were heaps of fruits. It was only as adults, when my siblings reminsced about Grandpa's pineappes did we realise why he was so protective. He was actually protecting us.

The green pineapple hurts our throats and tongues after we ate them. It made our tongues and throats so itchy and nothing could help. We also had to run to his outhouse. We sheepishly went to Grandpa and confess we stole his green pineapples.

Sarawak is famous for her "Sarawak Pineapple." When I went to live in Singapore, they started selling them for S$12 each. The Singaporean say this is such a good pineapple, they didn't mind paying a fortune for it. Whenever I visited sarawa, they would ask me to take some for them. I said," I wasn't going to lug the pineapples back when they could buy them there. All good things must come to an end, some smart alec smuggled some seedlings and grew them in Thailand. The Thai Sarawak pineapples sold for a friction of the price of the real McCoy.

This Sarawak pineapple is one foot long. There are different types and I still regard my Grandpa's as the best. It is not soft and soggly but is crunchy. Grandpa's property was reclaimed by the Government and the days of our youth remain in our heads.

The pineapple skin is usually discarded. They are useless. In the Philippines, they now use them for making paper. My sister in law believes in organic and health food. She makes a brew with fruit skins especially citrus and pineapple skins with some sugar. The resulting brew is added to her floor cleaning detergent. This brew serves dual purposes, it removes the artificial harmful chemicals in the detergent and gives a fruity fragrance to your floor and room.

Arriving from a cold winter to a scorching 32 degrees in Singapore, these slices of Sarawak pineapple are very refreshing and thirst quenching.

Pineapple is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Its nutrients include calcium, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. We knew from Grandpa's days that if you are constipated, or in our lingo, heaty, the pineapple will help you move your bowels. It is low in fat and cholesterol. As pineapple is rich in manganese, a trace mineral that is needed for your body to build bone and connective tissues, health practitioners say it is good for your bones.

Finally, I am letting the cat out of the bag, something the girls knew long ago. If you ate too much pineapples when you are pregnant, you will get an abortion.

This cut pineapple is from Philipines. I brought this to my school when it was my turn to bring the "Munchies" on Friday morning. The difference between a Philippines pineapple is the skin is very thin. The New Zealanders serve them in the skin. I am still not used to that, and I peel the skin off. Old habits die hard, and Grandpa used to say, it the skin touches your mouth, that's when the sap cause the itchiness in your throat.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Stewed Beef tendon

When I was living in Singapore, beef tendon noodle soup was quite popular. My friends told me with all my training for my marathon running, it was good to have this soup to build up my legs. I bought a bowl once with noodles, but I could hardly find any tendon. The vendor had ripped me off by selling me beef noodle soup. You see beef is very expensive over there, and tendon is even more expensive.

Yesterday, I was at my Asian supermarket, and they were selling some very good quality beef tendons. I have never cooked any before, but I was game. After buying a kilo, I scoured the spices rake and found this pack which says,"for meat soup". It has pepper, star anise, cinnamon, WA JIAO, a kind of tree pepper, and others I couldn't identified.

I google for recipe and one says it needs 4 hours to stew. I almost wish I didn't buy it, as the water engineer doesn't like beef, the daughter has turned vegetarian and chances are the son won't eat it as well. It took about 3 hours, and it was ready.

The verdict? Those of you who eat pork trotters, the beef tendon is similar except it is not so fatty. Would I cook it again? No, because no one else eats it , and besides I don't run marathons anymore. LOL

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


My second girl gave me these lovely flowers. Last night she came home and said she wanted to hug her Dad and I. We are not a huggy or kissy family, so it is so precious to have a grown daughter wanting to hug me and her Dad.