Recipe: Bak Stik (Minced Pork Balls Stew)

It’s been many months since I’ve posted anything on my blog.

Since my last post, several rather significant things have happened.

For those who keep a watch on international goings-on, one of the major things that occurred in May this year was that Malaysia had an election. Ever since this smallish South-East Asian country got its independence from the British in 1957, it has only ever been ruled by one government, a coalition of many, many race-based political parties. If you’re counting, that’s 61 years under the same government.

Although there have been several opposition parties, none have been big enough or strong enough to make a dent in the government’s two-thirds majority. About ten years ago, all these small but persistent parties decided to band together and form an Opposition Party that was something to reckon with. It still wasn’t strong enough to win the election, but it was beginning to make some headway.

For the past several decades, many Malaysians had become increasingly frustrated with the political and religious situation. The (now former) Prime Minister and his cronies were corrupt, but how to vote them out? The opposition coalition party were deemed inexperienced and ignorant.

Then, former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir decided to come out of retirement and help the opposition coalition. With him at the helm, things started to look a bit more hopeful.

The May 2018 election was unlike any other. Postal voting was allowed and large numbers of the Malaysian diaspora made the effort to register (if they had not already done so) and requested to vote by post. There were some anxious moments with voters receiving their ballot papers quite late with worries they would not be able to get their votes in by the stipulated deadline. Many Malaysians flew back just to vote and were willing couriers for the postal ballot papers. [I did not vote as I did not fulfil the minimum-time-spent-in-Malaysia requirement.]

The result of the election was totally unexpected.  When even political analysts expressed surprise, that’s saying something. Yes, those who were fervently hoping for a change in government felt that the most optimistic outcome would be that the opposition would win more seats, but to win the majority convincingly (not just by a small margin) was more than anyone dreamed possible.

The overseas Malaysians on Facebook were so ecstatic by this outcome that they formed a Facebook group: Global Malaysians Network (GMN). It grew to over 25,000 members within a few days.

A GMN member posted a picture of a “comfort food” dish she made called Bak Stik (pronounced /bahk steek/). When I saw it, I was immediately transported back to my early pre-teen years. At that time, my family had a live-in maid (very common in Malaysia) and she often made Bak Stik for us. It consisted of minced meat patties, long strips of potatoes, and peas, all cooked in a gravy. I had never seen this dish before she came to work for us, nor did I see it ever since (until that Facebook post), so I assumed that it was a dish that she made up.

Well, I looked up Bak Stik and interestingly, there are not that many hits for this dish.

As with many home-cooked comfort foods, there is a lot of leeway when it comes to ingredient amounts. Let your palate be your guide.

Here is my version.

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Lunar New Year 2018



Lunar New Year Eve Dinner 2018

Everything is homemade except the Roast Duck.

Centre: Steamed Fish with Cheong Cheng sauce.

Clockwise from top: Fried Noodles, Char Siew (Chinese BBQ Pork), Roast Duck, Siew Yoke (Chinese Roast Pork), Chinese Broccoli with oyster sauce, Cabbage with Carrots and Glass Noodles.

Orange Chiffon Cake


Red and Gold Fruit Salad

Happy Lunar New Year!

Movie Review: Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

I watched this movie while I was in Tokyo. My sister, who lives there, wanted me to have a Japanese cinema experience.

According to this website, the general admission ticket price is Y1800, which is about AUD20, which is comparable to Australian movie ticket prices. According to this blog site, TOHO cinemas have discount prices on certain days:

Ticket prices start at 1,800 yen, but there are opportunities each month to watch movies at a discounted rate! The public can watch movies for 1,100 yen every first and fourteenth of each month. Women have additional benefits; every Wednesday is Lady’s Day for 1,100 yen.

We went on a Wednesday, so my sister paid the discounted price for the tickets.

The cinema itself was spacious, steep, and comfortable. Each row was wonderfully graded such that even vertically challenged people like me could have an absolutely clear view of the screen no matter who sat in front of them! Awesome!

Japanese cinema-goers observe strict etiquette of No Talking, No Noisy Eating, and No Kicking. And, the vast majority stay until all the end credits have finished rolling.

Anyway, on to the movie. The movie we watched was in English with Japanese subtitles. (Some films get dubbed into Japanese.)

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) is based on the 1934 Agatha Christie novel of the same name. Over the 80 years plus since the book’s publication, there have been four movie adaptations (including this one). So, really, we have to ask, “Why? Was this necessary?”

First of all, I would highly recommend reading the book. It is indeed a classic and it should be on everyone’s Must Read list. The book is memorable for its startling and one-of-a-kind conclusion.

Whenever a movie is based on a book, especially a well-known one, there will always be the temptation to make notes and compare the two, and evaluate the adherence of the film’s script to the written word.

In case you couldn’t guess from the movie title, a passenger on the Orient Express has been murdered. The train is stopped by a snowdrift. And so, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot must use his little grey cells to solve this case and present his findings to the police upon arriving at their destination.

The bulk of the book involves  Poirot interviewing and interrogating each of the other passengers. The reader at home will naturally play along and try to solve the case.

While the film also has the detective questioning the passengers, there are also a couple of high-drama action scenes involving guns and chasing (Come on! You’re stuck in a snowdrift. Do you really think you can get away??) that are definitely not in the book. Perhaps the filmmakers felt that only having people sitting and talking didn’t make for very good entertainment? In any case, audiences who are not familiar with the book (like my sister!) can also play along and try to solve the case. Film-goers who have read the book (or have seen a previous movie version), already know the outcome, so their motivation is not to find out who committed the crime, but to see how good this adaptation is compared to the ones before.

Other than the guns and chasing, the movie is quite faithful to the book, and one should not expect otherwise. A film adaptation of such a classic novel is asking for trouble if it veers too far away from the original text.

In the book, Poirot arrives at his conclusion methodically, systematically and with complete professional detachment. This is the Poirot that staunch readers know and love. In the movie, Poirot struggles mightily between doing what the law — and his conscience — demands, and what grace, charity, and ultimately justice, demands. I think this is a nice touch because it casts a light on the deeply human and Catholic side to the otherwise cold and logical detective.

Recommended, but you don’t have to splash out big bucks to see it. See it at the budget theatre, or wait for it to come on TV.

Book Review: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

I bought this book for myself while shopping for a birthday present for my younger daughter back in November 2017.  I heard that Tom Hanks — yes, that Tom Hanks — had written a book; news of it appeared on my Facebook news feed. I had not planned on buying this book when I ventured out that day, but when I saw it stacked up in the Books section of KMart, I decided to buy it.

I am not normally given to impulse purchases, so when my older daughter saw it in the plastic bag along with the books I had bought for her sister, she picked it out and asked, “Who’s this for?”

“It’s for me,” I replied.

“That’s not like you to buy books on a whim.”

“I thought it looked interesting.” As if I need to give a reason.

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Bible Reading Plan

It looks like my youngest is having a longer-than-usual school holiday. Normally, I would have gotten my act together and start school on the first Monday in January. I have almost always done that, even if that means starting on New Year’s Day, a public holiday.

It’s now the second day of the year and I haven’t started yet.

This year, we’re going to try to read through the Bible again. However, I’ve made a few changes.

I’ve always liked the idea of having four readings day, two from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament. Of the OT readings, one is from the Poetry books, and one is from the non-Poetry books (History, Prophets). Of the NT readings, one is from the Gospels, and one is not.

This Bible Reading Plan attempts to have each of the readings arranged in chronological order.

Also, the plan is meant to be used in a 36-week school year, Monday to Friday. That’s 180 days of reading altogether.

Bible Reading Plan v.1
Bible Reading Plan v.2
Bible Reading Plan v.3


It appears in three different versions.


Happy New Year 2018!

Another year has passed.

I didn’t post much on my blog in 2017 compared to other years. Every year I aim to write more, post more, but know better than to publicise such lofty resolutions. Maybe I should set down my goals for all to see as a way to keep me accountable. To whom, though?

I’ve read books and watched movies which I couldn’t be bothered writing a review because I just don’t have much to say about the experience.

Jeremy is going to continue with his studies. He is doing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Modern History. He is also working as a School Crossing Supervisor. He ‘only’ has to work Monday to Friday during school term, 40 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the afternoon. He has his weekends and evenings free. He is also very active with church activities: Kidz’ Church (yes, that’s how it’s spelt), Boys’ Brigade, Youth Group, Young Adults’ cell group, and Sunday evening service.

Susannah is going into her second year of a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Linguistics with a minor in Chinese. She volunteers as a mentor to a primary school student and helps out at Girls’ Brigade.

Benjamin is embarking on a new journey with regards to his education. This year, he will be attending the alternative school his older siblings attended. He will be in Year 10.

Elizabeth will still be home schooled. She will be in Grade 6 and doing World History In-Depth (Part 1). She is still very involved with her dancing and will be doing more than ten hours of dancing per week.

Husband and I marked 22 years of marriage on July 1, which means that today, January 1, is our half-anniversary. Twenty-two-and-a-half years.

The whole family went to Malaysia in September to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday. We stayed at a holiday house and had a great time.

Last month, I went to Tokyo for a week and spent some time with my sister and nieces.

We hosted Christmas this year. The weather was a very comfortable 21C; the company was great (six guests, so twelve people in all), we had a Kris Kringle and enough food for seconds and gleanings. And, there wasn’t a ridiculous amount of leftovers!

Last night, New Year’s Eve, my girls and I pulled out a DVD and watched My Fair Lady. It is a Simovie I thoroughly enjoy watching even if I have watched it many times before. With a running time of 170 minutes, it is LONG by today’s standards. There is something to be gained from multiple viewings, I feel. Alfred P Doolittle used to be my least favourite character; I tolerated his scenes and songs. Last night, I found myself having some sympathy for this common dustman suddenly thrown into middle class.

Happy New Year, dear readers! Wishing you good health, love, joy, peace, and comfort this coming year. And whether you are thrown into unfamiliar territory like Alfred P Doolittle, or striving to overcome your present circumstances and determined to conquer like Eliza Doolittle, may you have much success along the way.

Japan Trip — Day 7

Friday, 22 December, 2017

Final day!

My sister wanted to take us to her favourite cafe for breakfast, but they didn’t have any sandwiches available because the bread didn’t get delivered (!!), so we went to another place.

For lunch, my sister took us to a Korean BBQ place near her work.

Tendan is a highly popular place that does not take bookings. So you have to turn up and hope for the best. We had to wait half an hour for a table and then when one was available were told that we had one hour to eat. Okay, boss.

Unlimited rice, salads, soup and stew. I could have filled up on this alone. The star of the show, however, is the grill in the middle. Each person got her own plate of meat which she grills until perfection.

My sister, the wonderful and gracious hostess with the mostest.


After lunch, it was time to head back to my sister’s place, get our bags and go to the airport. My sister got us a cab to Mita station and from there it was a direct line to Narita airport.

Some stations have this sign.

Other stations have this sign!


Not all of Japan is high buildings. Some fields along the way to the airport.


It’s been a short but activity-filled trip.

Many thanks to Rachel for hosting us and suggesting places to visit! Looking forward to doing it again!


Japan Trip — Days 1 and 2

Japan Trip — Day 3

Japan Trip — Day 4

Japan Trip — Day 5

Japan Trip — Day 6

Japan Trip — Day 7

Japan Trip — Day 6

Thursday, 21 December, 2017

Mt Fuji Tour

Took the train to Shinjuku station and walked to the Keio Plaza Hotel for the meeting point. The directions said it was either a one-minute walk from the Shinjuku station or a five-minute walk from another station.

After yesterday’s experience of missing out on the miniature railway museum, I decided we better set out early so as to make it on time. Meeting time was 7.50am (for a 8am departure) and we made it to the place at 7.45am.

Susannah and I got seats right at the back of the bus.

Our tour guide was a lady called Yasue Ito. (I learned that “yasui” means “cheap” in Japanese and that she is “not pleased with that mispronunciation.”)

We saw snow on the way up.

Mount Fuji


Oshino Hakkai

A village with eight ponds, traditional houses, waterwheels, souvenir shops and restaurants. It is a tourist venue and many tourists were there taking photos. I’m not sure I would be happy living there with so many tourists poking around every day.


Shiraito Falls

Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine

Prayers written on wooden tablets and hung up here by visitors to the shrine. Visitors from other countries have put their prayers here.




At every stop, Yasue told us how long we had and impressed upon us the importance of being punctual. “If you are not back within ten minutes, we will assume you are finding your own way back to Tokyo,” she said at the beginning of the tour. I’m happy to report that we were all mindful of the time and no one was left behind.

Made it back to Tokyo Shinjuku station by 6.30pm and looked for something to eat.

Set Dinner with Tonkatsu (Breaded Pork Fillet) for me.

Set Dinner with Chicken for Susannah


Train back to Hiro-o and the uphill walk back to my sister’s place.


Japan Trip — Days 1 and 2

Japan Trip — Day 3

Japan Trip — Day 4

Japan Trip — Day 5

Japan Trip — Day 6

Japan Trip — Day 7


Japan Trip — Day 5

Wednesday, 20 December, 2017


Cup Noodles Museum

My sister insisted that we visit the Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama.


There’s a museum for cup noodles? Yes. Yes, there is.

Some history:



There was also a display of all the different instant noodles from around the world.

Guests had the opportunity to make their own cup noodles.

Decorate the cup before taking it to the factory where you choose what soup flavour and (up to four) ingredients you want.

The cup is then vacuumed sealed, which makes it permissible to take in to other countries that have strict laws about such things, like Australia.

The International Food Court on the 4th Floor is definitely worth a visit! The set-up is like an Asian night market with street food stalls. We were there for lunch and it definitely looked like night time.

Lagman from Kazakhstan

Laksa from Malaysia

Lanzhou Beef Ramen from China

Cold Ramen from Korea

Spaghetti from Italy

Mi Goreng (Fried Noodles) from Indonesia

Pho from Vietnam

Tom Yum Goong from Thailand

Ramen from Japan

At Y500 a bowl of noodles plus drink (with free refills), this was a good deal. Each bowl is only half-size because they want to encourage visitors to try more than one dish.

Susannah had the Beef Ramen from China…

…and I had the Tom Yum Goong from Thailand. Spicy and yummy!

Cosmo World

Not too far from the Cup Noodles Museum is an amusement park. Entry is free and you pay to go on the rides.

We decided to go on the Cosmo Clock 21, a giant ferris wheel. It takes 15 minutes to do one revolution and is a wonderful way to get a great view of Yokohama. You can also play a recording in the carriage (available in both English and Japanese) that gives information about the sights below.

The ferris wheel is slow and gentle and not a thrill-seeker ride.

Some of the other rides at Cosmo World


Although we could have taken a train (or something) to Chinatown, we decided to walk the 1.6km there.

Yokohama Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in Asia.


Lots of places selling food, especially dumplings, but we didn’t buy any.

We knew we couldn’t see everything, so after looking through the Yokohama Tourist Guide Map, we thought it might be cool to check out the Hara Model Railway Museum.  On the train back to the Yokohama station from Chinatown, we realised that the last entry into the museum is at 4.30pm for a 5pm closing time. It was going to be tight but we were hopeful in making it.

By the time we got back to Yokohama station, it was 4.25pm. Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out which exit to take — it is a HUGE station — and by the time we got out of the station, we still couldn’t get our bearings.  We started walking in the right direction only to discover the museum was on the other side of the REALLY BIG HIGHWAY with no clear way of how to cross it!!

We missed the 4.30pm deadline.

Oh well.

Conclusion: Estimated walking time mentioned in maps and stuff refers to the correct station exit and NOT from the platforms inside. If you are travelling from another place, you need to allow for time to get from the platform to the station exit. This may very well add another five minutes to your travelling time.

Back to Tokyo then.


Met my sister and her daughters at the Toho Cinema and we watched Murder on the Orient Express (2017).

The movie was in English with Japanese subtitles.

Japanese cinemas are clean and quiet (no noisy patrons). I especially like how steep the different rows are. Even a short person like me (I’m 150cm/5ft tall) won’t have her vision blocked at all by anyone sitting in front of her. Clear view of the screen!

Good movie. Some scenes were not in the book and were probably done to make the movie more big-screen-worthy, but overall quite faithful to the book. I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

Walked around Roppongi after the movie before heading home.

Went to a Family Mart and bought some rice with beef for dinner, and sandwiches and sushi for our breakfast tomorrow.


Japan Trip — Days 1 and 2

Japan Trip — Day 3

Japan Trip — Day 4

Japan Trip — Day 5

Japan Trip — Day 6

Japan Trip — Day 7


Japan Trip — Day 4

Tuesday, 19 December, 2017

Tokyo Disney Sea

Tokyo has two Disney parks: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. The former is the first Disney theme park outside of the United States and is very much modeled after the one in Anaheim. Since, we went to the one in Anaheim last year, we decided to check out Disney Sea. (Unlike the parks in the US, tickets are sold separately in Tokyo.)

We aimed and succeeded in getting there by opening time, 8am. The plan was to stay until closing time, 10pm. Yeah, ‘cos we’re like that. Why go all the way there only to not stay the whole time?

My sister told us one of the MUST RIDES is the Toy Story Mania ride. So, after going through the gate, we made a beeline for the Fast Pass tickets for the Toy Story Mania ride. The line for the Fast Pass itself was really long and it was half an hour before we finally got our Fast Pass tickets! Our allocated time for the ride was 15:10-16:10!

Sorry, not a good pic.

A hamburger and fries from Cape Cod Cook-Off in America Waterfront. It’s what’s for breakfast.





Lunch: Rice with three types of curry — chicken, beef and prawn — and naan bread. Casbah Food Court in the Arabian Coast. Nice!



It was a Tuesday, not holidays yet, so the park was not very crowded. Yet, some things did involve a long wait.

A couple of rides weren’t operating — Raging Spirits and Scuttle’s Scooters — and there were some we gave a miss because we had done it in Anaheim. We also did not ride ones which were geared more for young children.

Susannah got a Fast Pass ticket for this ride at around 11am which was valid for 7-8pm! She went at around 6pm, stood in line like a peasant for 80 minutes, rode it, and then immediately went through the Fast Pass lane and rode it again. I declined to ride this because roller coasters and I don’t get along.

We wanted to try some Japanese food for dinner, but by the time we got to the one we wanted, they were already closed for the night!

So, we lined up for an hour for the gondolas, our last ride for the day.

By the time we got back to our home station, it was late and many places were closing. When all else fails, there’s always McDonalds, so that’s what we did. Pathetic, I know.

(Note: McDonalds in Japan does not sell Quarter Pounders. It was discontinued in April 2017. The closest thing is the Double Cheeseburger.)

10.45pm order at a place that was going to close its doors at 11pm. Asked for a Eat In and promised we would eat quickly. At 11pm, we gathered up our still uneaten french fries and bolted out of there.

Japan Trip — Days 1 and 2

Japan Trip — Day 3

Japan Trip — Day 4

Japan Trip — Day 5

Japan Trip — Day 6

Japan Trip — Day 7

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