Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mixed Rice and Examination Days

This post could have gone either direction – a lament of failing yet another examination or a dedication to an exhilarating end to a course of study that was, in the beginning, as remote to me as Kyrgyz cuisine. It all began in January when I came home from Cairo to find that I’d failed one of the papers from the last round of examinations. The thought of seeing an “F” on the result slip again haunted me throughout the next semester. I registered for the supplementary paper in July and was all motivated to better my previous grade. Alas, as time went by, work started piling to the roof. I had no choice but to rush through deadlines and subsequently isolated myself from the world to study for a few days prior to the examination. Preparation is not just about immersing oneself in the notes but also taking care of one’s health by eating well and working out. All too dramatic, perhaps. Some may even argue that I should have adopted a more relaxed approach. Yes, I would…if I was still 21.

Anyway, yes, eating well. There’s nothing more balanced than a polystyrene box of mixed rice. It does get oily and MSG-ed most of the time but I believe it’s all about choosing the dishes wisely. Kindly decline that extra scoop of shiny, happy gravy and you’ll keep your heart beating for another minute. And maybe keep that strand of hair intact for a couple more years too. So, for the next few days leading to the examination, it was solely chye png (mixed rice) and lots of hot green tea.

Stir-fried pork with black pepper, long beans, bok choy, sardine.

Sweet and sour pork, sambal brinjal and okra, stir-fried bittergourd with fermented bean paste.

Honeyed pork ribs, stewed pork belly, sambal kangkung, lettuce.

Sweet and sour pork, Kong Po chicken (with lots of onion), mustard green leaves, celery.

The night before the examination - mustard green leaves, bok choy, Kong Po chicken and braised pork slices.

Mixed rice is something that I had enjoyed growing up with. I like the sight of having a colourful spread right in front of me and to be able to choose whichever dish that pleases my appetite du jour. I must admit that in the past few years, I had started seeking other, usually more expensive, options. Of course, I do enjoy each experience but I guess, in a way, I've turned into this person that is obsessed with discoveries than to really enjoy the food itself. I had succumbed to all celebrations and overhyping of the latest, the best and whatever superlative that is within my limited vocabulary. Now, I find them creepy. The way I see it, simple pleasures like eating have been overly commercialised and dramatized on the web. I am cynical that way. As much as I like photography, I'm starting to realise that sometimes, the camera is not the best company to a dinner, especially when it should be about the conversation and food. Whatever lah. As this tak apa, laissez faire blog celebrates its third (belated) anniversary, I hope to eat well, spend more time with my friends, travel further and stay healthy.

The supplementary examination result slip was sitting on my desk when I returned home a few days ago. A "P" is visually not very much different from an "F" and so, I had to magnify the print to confirm. It was a "P". I haven't made myself a totem but I believe that it's not a dream. So, yay.  


minchow said...

I got nothing bad to say about mixed rice in a box, not a word! No other economical options offer this much range - from colour to level of fibre and carb inclinations. Congrats on passing the exam! :-D

UnkaLeong said...

Ah...Mixed Rice or "Charp Farn"...a busy working persons best friend. Comfort Food in a box :) Congrats on passing the paper bro!

Paranoid Android said...

Firstly, congratulations for passing your exams. Well, one of the habits of dining alone has me picking up photographing the delightful morsels than cheers me up.

I do agree with the ritual of eating being over-dramatized and sometimes even to the extent of bring ridiculous. What is supposed to be fun has become a tedium and a competition for popularity and accolades.

Lunch boxes, can't imagine life without them. Practical and the perfect quickie. I just wished that they could make it a bit more "premium". Not as pretty as Bento Boxes, but just separate out the dishes. Otherwise my only option nowadays is to bring my own thermos lunch box and ask them to fill it up for me. Being older has made me a fusspot.

Lyrical Lemongrass said...

So many causes for celebration! You passed your exam. Yay! Your blog has turned 3. Yay! You like chap farn. Yay! I wish I could celebrate with you, but for now, let's just enjoy this virtual celebration. (I wanna belanja you chap farn when you come back to KL!)
I totally empathise with you. I try so hard not to get caught up with commercialisation and being too obsessed about the blog. In many cases, I intentionally leave the camera behind so that I can concentrate on what's important - the company in front of me. So come back soon, Hairy, so that we can continue doing what we enjoyed doing before you embarked on your exams! I miss my old friend.

J said...

Congratulations!! :)
This calls for a celebration! :)

Xiu Long Bao said...

Congrats loads. My nightmare is finally over too. Lolz.

Chaokar said...

oh i miss those examination days of having chap fun.

fast, filling, cheap

ice said...

Congrats Nic!

"simple pleasures like eating have been overly commercialised and dramatized on the web"

I totally agree with you on this. Food should be enjoyed & savored, not to be judged or worse still, commercialized.

gfad said...

Next year if we meet, we'll definitely go for chap farn ok? And hurrah for passing your paper! :D

Good idea of PAndroid - using the Thermos lunch box. There are times where I like the different veges to retain their individual tastes and their sauces to be separate from the rice. Unlike say if I were having a banana leaf rice where by all means, drench my rice with as much fish curry as possible! :) Oh, we should have a banana leaf rice meal together too.

Simon Seow said...

Congrats on ur exam. It's been awhile since I see such good looking chap fan.

HairyBerry said...

minchow, thanks! :D you've said it all - fibre, carb, colour. this and banana leaf rice reign! :D

unkaleong, thanks, bro! I agree on the comforting part. When all else fail, there's always a box of charp fan to make it better. :)

paranoid android, thanks you! actually, you have a point about photographing while dining alone. i do that all the time too! in fact, that's when i can quietly contemplate on improving my shots.

the premium box is a good idea because some dishes just aren't meant to be mixed. like sweet/sour pork and bittergourd. the thermos is great too for the environment. you da bomb!

lyrical lemongrass, thank you X 3! cos got 3 yays mah...hehe. you are an inspiration when it comes to not commercialising and be obsessed with the blog. yeah, i miss those days of makans too! looks like october may just be the return...and the beginning of another round of makan madness! haha.

j, thanks J! hope you are having lotsa fun in ozzy now! :D

xlb, thanks! hahaha, aren't u glad that the result was sent to me instead? it might have just prevented a heart attack..hehe

chaokar, and not forgetting the endless choice of dishes too, right? :D

ice, thank you! ya know, it was partially the theme of mixed rice that made me realised how much i focused on the food above everything else back in the days. i must have that back! ;D

gfad, thank you! yeah, next time, we'll go for chap farn AND banana leaf rice! it's been a long time since i had a carb-high (if there's such a thing la..haha!). maybe ending the day with nasi lemak also. that sounds perfect, if you ask me...hehe.

simon, thanks! come have some Singaporean style chap farn on your next visit! :D pssst, i just had it for dinner...hehe

choi yen said...

I love to choose gu lou yok :P

HairyBerry said...

choi yen, me too, me too!! :)

CUMI & CIKI said...

hahahah! i love this post. u write it so well and so frankly. As one of us in the C&C household is undergoing serious examinations of late, i totally FEEL ur pain.

This line i like.. There’s nothing more balanced than a polystyrene box of mixed rice.. BADLY balanced, you mean.. haha! NASTY nasty nasty. but YUMMIE!

Congrats babe! ur a war hero:P !!!


HairyBerry said...

cumi & ciki, thanks so much! send my regards to cumi. he'll do great, i'm sure. ;D get him some good food and lotsa herbal tea too. ;D