Kampungkayell

Food, life, and fun in my "kampung,"(village), KL (Kuala Lumpur). Did I mention "food?"

Mum's Eulogy

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Was debating whether or not to post this. But since I delivered it to an unexpectedly large crowd at the church today, it's pretty much public anyway. So here it is...

'Mum was an uncommon woman. I hear this sentiment from many. It’s still hard to believe she’s gone. Even though we’ve had months to prepare for it. I also know I didn’t want to come up and do the usual thing of, well, messages of love, and to remember her as someone as just being kind, generous, giving, loving, and big hearted. She was all that. But she was much more than that.

Perhaps a little history.

Mum was born to a middle class family in Singapore. She had 2 brothers and 1 sister. Uncle Steve, who has passed away, Aunty S.K., and Uncle Richard. Not too rich. Not too poor. Of her parents, Poh Poh, my grandmother, and her mother, was an extraordinary woman who I believe, in many ways, made Mum into who she was. From all the stories I hear, I think Mum took after her.

Mum grew up during the second world war, an independent, strong willed, young lady with equally spirited friends in Convent Bukit Nenas. Some of whom, like Aunty Pek and Aunty Balbir are sitting here today. I can only imagine that she must have driven Poh Poh somewhat to distraction as she displeased the Sisters of Convent Bukit Nenas. A Sister Teofen I believe, who, I was given to understand was as stern as she was beautiful. She snatched away Mum’s autograph book because someone had written in it the lyrics of that popular song of the period, “Smoke Get’s In Your Eyes.” The strict sister scolded her with “No wonder you can’t study. Smoke Got In Your Eyes.”

From riding her Father’s Triumph Motorcycle to work in her samfu to standing in the middle of a Cambridge street quaffing a pint of beer on a bet, she wasn’t exactly what you would call run of the mill. You could already see the mother she would become when to all intents and purposes she was thrust into the role at an early age by looking after her elder brother’s children Ron, Yvonne, and Christine while he was away studying; who to all intents and purposes became my elder siblings. Taking them on trips up to Cameron Highlands or to PD in Poh Poh’s Wolsely with Aunty Pek for company through the trunk roads of the day. Not something for the faint hearted.

She demanded a reciprocity that was sometimes difficult to keep up with. But she gave with all her heart and then some. She was somewhat blinkered by habits which led her to be a bit of a worrywort over things that perhaps weren’t quite worth worrying about.

And yet, when it came time to marry and start a family, she was as blinkeredly, fiercely, protective as they come. Her pride in me knew no bounds. But her disappointment in some of the things I did also crushed her. And she showed it. She drove Dad to distraction with her need for a certain order. And she, from her actions AND words, loved him as intensely. Only someone who loves someone else that intensely can be as bothered by them. ;-)

My Mum was very much given to a measure of dramatics. She scaled the heights and plumbed some depths of emotion. And the attendant range would have been familiar to any Oscar Winner. On the subject of marriage, I can only say that she was crushed when I answered her truthfully on the matter. Only to work through her own feelings on the matter and then accept and embrace with all her heart, Allan, who to all intents and purposes became the second son she never had.

Someone asked me on the day she passed away if we’d said everything we wanted to say to her. Thinking about it then and now, I believe we had. I can’t imagine there’s anything that I’ve left unsaid; about how grateful I was. Or how much I loved her.

I think I’ve painted a picture of a person who is in my mind a very complex character. On the one hand fun-loving, loving, gregarious, spirited, generous, kind, fiercely loyal to those she loved. But also someone rooted in tradition, but not mired in it, someone who lived life to the fullest, sometimes dramatic, sometimes searching; in a word, human.

Above it all, My Mother taught me 3 things. One, that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, you need to be answerable to your own conscience and therefore to God. Her favourite saying was “you need to be able to wake up in the morning and look yourself in the mirror.” Two, be considerate of others. She was also fond of saying “try and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” And three, was something that she showed me in later life. Something which I feel is even more profound. She showed me, us, that it’s never too late to strive for perfection. To strive to be the person God meant you to be; and in that striving to be a better person she was perfect.'

What a difference a few hours can make

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

"Nigel, come here now!" The urgency with which Aunty Pek summoned me pulled me into the room. I had been preparing to come home and make dinner. Just a few hours earlier we had been preparing to say goodbye to Mum. I never realised it would be so soon. I had thought that it would be a few days, maybe next week. Instead we were thrown into a maelstrom of fast moving events with the death of my Mum at 8pm on 8 Sept 08.

I'm amazed I can write this so calmly.

Mum had been sick for months. Almost 7 months. In a way, I could only think that it was a blessing for her. And for Dad. Poor bloke has been her main caregiver with the nurses and Kak Kris for the entire 7 months now. And his life had really been on hold.

Only thing I do know is that for 44 years I've had the pleasure, privilege of having my one and only Mum around. For the love that she gave me, Dad, and later Allan, and the blessing she was to us, I can only be grateful and give thanks.

Thanks Mum for life, love, and her unconditional support. In short, thank you for everything you gave all of us.

Viroth's

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

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Keith pokes at his Ipod Touch as we sit in the alfresco section of Le Papier Du Tigre on Pub Street wondering where to go for dinner.

An armless man passes us on the street and comes up to our table and holds out his hand, begging. 2 children come by offering trinkets for the ubiquitous “one dol-lah.” It clawed at me to put on a dead pan face and shut them out.

“There’s this one called ‘Viroth’s.’ It really looks good.” Keith offers.

I guiltily but gladly pull myself out of my reverie and don’t mention how I feel to Allan or Keith. We decide on Viroth’s for our first dinner in Siem Reap.

Coming back from the temples to the hotel for a bit of a rest before the evening, it struck me how alike Siem Reap is to some of our towns in Malaysia. The grassy tree-lined river, the alleyways and roadways bordered with colonial style shophouses, the asian faces running around making ends meet and trying to scrape up a living. The only difference is that this is a country that had just come out of a civil war about a decade ago and was just now reclaiming it's rightful position in the community of nations. Truly, there but for the Grace of God...

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That night, Dara, our trusty moto driver from our "sunset" jaunt to the temples meets us at the entrance and in the light night drizzle, wends his way confidently to Viroth's. Obviously a destination he was familiar with.

As we step up to the main entrance of Viroth's, attractive Cambodian guys greet us in that amazingly hospitable manner that is obviously a cultural trait and show us to our table.

That was the first time we noticed Fabien sitting behind the reception area. We later learned that he owned the place with his Cambodian partner.

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The ambience was contemporary, chic, simply but effectively decorated and easygoing.

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I ordered a beer (An Angkor; not to be confused with An-chor ;-) ) and Keith and Allan ordered the food. I find it's easier to let them decide as I'm not very particular about what I eat and will generally eat most anything that's put in front of me.

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Allan was starving so we started off with Beef Salad. Gorgeous. Cool. Crunchy. Tart, sweet, and notes of lemons and herb from the lemongrass and coriander leaf. It didn't have the bite of a traditional Thai salad and it's flavours were nicely balanced rather than the overt herbaciousness of Vietnamese food.

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As part of our culinary adventure, we started with Vietnamese style fresh spring rolls. Lovely. The cool, crunchy vegetables, the sweet prawniness combined with the salty hit of the fish sauce. I have no idea what they call nuoc mam in Khmer but the fish sauce was yummylicious.

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It was a really cool night, and the breeze was very like a daytime in Fraser's Hill; cool, crisp and a little damp. So, we decided on a soup. A Chicken Lemon soup with julienned basil. Warming, green, savoury; absolutely delicious. Very soon, I was looking regretfully at the bottom of my bowl and wondering if I should be a pig and order more.

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The other dishes were just as yummy. Beef done like Thai Basil Beef but milder and more flavourful. And chicken with bamboo segments as well as onions and kangkung.

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We also had a Vegetarian Amok. Much like our Sayur Lemak. Rich, coconuty, earthy vegetables with that light lemony lemongrass. And they certainly were generous with the coconut milk; the sweet, creaminess shone through. If dishes like this are too lean on coconut milk, they're flat!

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For dessert, we had flambed bananas with coconut ice cream and a splash of rum. Sweet bananas paired with the evaporating feeling of alcohol up your nose and the light creaminess of coconut.

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Blue Pumpkin is one of the premiere cake and dessert suppliers in Siem Reap and we eventually came to recognise this mousse cake as one of their creations. It's called Le Louvre. A pun on Louvred windows and the museum. Very nice. Think creme brulee with a moist chocolate base! That heady chocolateyness and creamy custard is something that should be tried.

All in all a fantastic experience and one I would have no hesitation in recommending to anyone making a trip to Siem Reap. AND from what I can see on the website, his hotel is also a must try!

Viroth's Restaurant (Cambodian)
242 Wat Bo St, 016-951-800