Warna-Warni Ramadan at Mutiara JB

“So colourful!” this is my recurring thought when I spot the eye-catching food display set up at the entrance to Seri Mutiara Restaurant.

A colouful centerpiece greets diners at the entrance to
Seri Mutiara Restaurant for Warna-Warni Ramadan
The centerpiece is a wooden tray designed in the shape of the hotel logo – branches of an outspread palm tree – with each limb filled with a variety of coloured preserved fruits and clusters of dried dates.

In the lobby in front of the restaurant entrance, a wooden platform reminiscent of a kampong house is created for a serving staff to sit on the floor to prepare freshly-fried local snacks and kueh or traditional cakes from a (portable gas!) stove.

The staff is (of course) dressed in traditional Malay costume and looking very at home as she personifies how mothers would lovingly prepare dishes for the family’s breaking-of-fast meal during Ramadan.

A banquet of local desserts is served form a wooden
platform reminiscent of a traditional kampung house
But here, the platform is a banquet table to serve desserts in an array of local sweets, puddings and kueh, spread on a traditional woven with mengkuang leaves.

Nearby a chef is skillfully carving a roasted whole lamb for diners to savour with fragrant baked Beriani rice.

At the drinks counter, another set of skills catches my attention. A young man is pulling-tea the traditional way to thoroughly mix chilled milk tea.

He skillfully pours the milk tea from one receptacle he holds high above his head, into another receptacle (held on his other hand) in front of him to create a good head of froth which he serves on each tumbler of chilled Teh Tarik.

Chilled Teh Tarik, anyone?
I take a walk around the restaurant to check out the buffet spread and watch the excitement from live-cooking stations, the served station – like adding a scoop of ice-cream onto your cones – as well as self-serve stations where diners create their own shaved-ice concoction for Air Batu Campur or cendol.

I’m familiar with the hotel and observe how the buffet menu comprises a wide range of local favourites and a selection of Western dishes and I even recognise contributions from their award-winning Meisan Szechuan Restaurant.

There are popular items like Roasted Chicken in Mongolian sauce, deep-fried Sea Bass in tom-yam sauce and Beef with ginger and spring onion, among other favourites.

I spy soups, salads as well as a section for sushi.

I like how the chefs have prepared a range of appetizing local sambal dips for diners to enjoy with a selection of ulam-ulam local greens, and these sauces are served in charming stone mortars (traditionally used with pestles!)

Self-serve station where diners can assemble your
own choice of ingredients for Air Batu Campur
Then I spot an extra-large platter. Curious about it, I approach for a closer look and I see assorted seafood on it. Then I realise that it’s a serving of Seafood Paella!

In the range of local cooked food, I find a number of familiar mouth-watering delicacies including Kambing Assam Pedas Johor, Rendang Tok Ekor, Ikan Merah Masak Lemak Cili Api, Kentang Tempe & Madu and Sayur Goreng Jawa.

While the Seri Mutiara Restaurant may have earned an enviable reputation for good food, they are not willing to rest on their laurels. They have, in fact, tweaked the recipes of popular items like Murtabak and Roti John and added them into the five rotating menus served this Ramadan.

The chef is carving roasted lamb for
diners to savour with baked Beriani rice
This year, diners can look forward to tasting their Murtabak Ikan Tenggiri (stuffed with fish instead of meat!) and Roti John Black Pepper Ayam (chicken).

Diners can also taste folds of Taco stuffed with choices of chicken, beef or shrimp fillings.

Another new item to savour is their seafood shell-out item where diners can pick between black pepper and tom-yam sauces for the chef to prepare a seafood and vegetable platter, served to your table.

Other popular items in a typically Malaysian menu include freshly grilled assorted satay with condiments, Laksa Johor, Mee Rebus, Chicken Rice and freshly made spring rolls, among other favourite items.

Speaking about satay, I must say that the satay here still tastes good. Grilled, tender morsels of lean meat paired with warm peanut sauce that’s neither sweet nor diluted but in a rich, viscous consistency that properly matches my taste for good satay!

Warna-Warni Ramadan is served at Seri Mutiara Restaurant from May 17 to June 14, daily from 6.30pm to 10pm.

A range of ulam-ulam local greens to enjoy with a choice
of sambal sauces served in charming stone mortars!
Price at RM125 nett for adult and RM65 nett for children aged between four to 12 years.

Early Bird vouchers may be purchased at RM108 nett per adult, while stocks lasts.

On the first day of Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, June 15, Seri Mutiara Restaurant serves a festive buffet High Tea [RM75 nett per adult and RM45 nett per child aged four to 12 years] and festive buffet Dinner [RM95 nett per adult and RM65 nett per child aged four to 12 years].

For enquiries and reservations, Tel: +607 330 0300 or send email to: fbjb@mutiarahotels.com

Seri Mutiara Restaurant is located on the lobby level of Hotel Mutiara Johor Baru, at Jalan Dato Sulaiman, Taman Century, 80250 Johor Baru. Website: www.mutiarahotels.com

Fiesta at The Puteri Pacific this Ramadan

The Puteri Pacific Johor Baru invites you to share the spirit of Ramadan with a veritable feast at their Fiesta Ramadan spread in The Puteri Café.

A range of juicy fresh fruits is part of Fiesta Ramadan
at The Puteri Cafe in The Puteri Pacific Johor Baru
Located on the lobby level of the hotel, The Puteri Café looks familiar even though the view through its floor-to-ceiling glass walls has new buildings in a new and different city landscape.

I’m at the hotel for a media preview of the Fiesta Ramadan at the invitation of Director of Sales, Joyce Yap.

I recently met Joyce again at an event held at the adjacent Persada Johor International Convention Centre and it’s good to renew my acquaintance with Johor Baru’s most central business hotel.

I join a large group of corporate guests who are also here for the preview and am delighted to be seated close to the buffet where I can watch guests helping themselves to their favourite dishes.

Carving the Lamb Kuzi to serve
As she shows me around the various sections of the buffet, Joyce tells me that this is the last time we will be dining in The Puteri Café in its current setting.

That’s because the hotel will be embarking on a major refurbishment project, not only to equip it with new facilities but also to upgrade it with modern elegance and luxury.

This is indeed a timely project and I cannot wait to experience the all-new Puteri Pacific Johor Baru in the near future!

Meanwhile, my nostrils are assailed by the enticing aroma of freshly cooked food from the live cooking stations.

I make a beeline for the Lamb Kuzi, a whole lamb roasted with the finest herbs and spices and stuffed with fragrant basmati rice. I watch as the chef is happily carving and serving delectable portions to diners.

I remind myself to take only two spoons of rice with the Lamb Kuzi and drizzle it with the Kuzi gravy, from a separate dish nearby.

Adding a duck's egg to the Char Kuay Teow makes
all the difference to its tempting taste
[I’m limiting myself to a little rice so as to save space to sample other items in the wide buffet spread!]

Executive Chef Azamuddin Ahmad and his culinary team has prepared a menu of more than 100 items for the Fiesta Ramadan, ranging from appetizers, soups, main course items and desserts in the best of Malaysian favourites with a blend of cuisines from around the world.

Nearby, the Chinese chef is stir-frying flat rice noodles, better known as Char Kuay Teow. I watch as he skillfully cracks two fresh eggs onto the pan – followed by an additional egg (which I recognize from its lighter coloured eggshell!) – a duck’s egg!

Freshly-made steamed dim sum in the buffet spread
As all connoisseurs of Char Kuay Teow know, it’s the duck’s egg in these stir-fried noodles that makes all the difference to its tempting taste!

Selections of Halal dim sum served at Kai Xuan Chinese Restaurant, is also presented in the Fiesta Ramadan menu. Savour the dim sum with a choice of dip sauces like chillie sauce to a mild sweet sauce.

More guests are arriving and while Joyce leaves me to welcome them into the café, I wander off to the barbecue section. 

Here the chefs are grilling meat and seafood at a work station which is separated by an opaque glass wall.

Chefs preparing grilled meat and seafood behind an
opaque wall to reduce the sizzle and smoke from diners
There is an opening for diners to pass their selections to the chefs but it’s wise to have this wall which helps to reduce the sizzle and smoke from the dining hall.

Nearby at the Pasta section, diners can pick their choice of pasta, ingredients and sauces for the chef to prepare, fresh for their enjoyment.

In the cooked food spread, there are choices of local Malay and Chinese favourites as well as Western items. 

Seated so close, I cannot help but notice how diners are helping themselves to the Lamb dish but by the time I reach it, I only manage to pick just a few tender morsels left on that stewed leg of lamb…

[Note to self: Check out the Lamb early to avoid disappointment.]

Bubur Lambuk with a drizzle of spicy dark sauce
An entire section is dedicated to serving dates and a range of preserved fruits.

Several jars with air-tight lids are filled with a variety of crisps. I just hope diners will be considerate to keep the lids fastened for the crisps to remain crispy!

Keeping to the tradition of breaking-of-fast with family at home, there is also a section that serves a range of appetizing sambal sauces to go with a selection of ulam-ulam or fresh kampung greens as well as a choice of tossed kerabu or Malaysian salads.

Then I discover another staple for the breaking-of-fast - Bubur Lambuk – and this comes with toppings like chopped spring onions and croutons as well as spicy dark sauce, like the type used for soto or chicken soup.

A section of the delectable desserts
I cannot resist drizzling my portion with a little spicy sauce. And when I taste it, I like how this rice porridge warms my belly, so tasty and chockful of cubes of tender beef.

It’s so deliciously comforting that I make a mental note to have a second helping. [Later, after I leave the hotel, I realize that I failed to do so!]

That’s because I’m distracted by the desserts… There is a range of local kueh, bubur and pengat or local sweet broths, plus cakes, pastries, jellies and puddings!

This year, diners can look forward to enjoying a ‘Daily Must-Try’ item in the buffet so keep an eye out for this special addition every day.

Diners at The Puteri Café also stand to win attractive prizes including return flight tickets to holiday destinations like Australia, Bali, Vietnam, Surabaya and Bangkok, in special lucky draws.

A section of the diners in The Puteri Cafe
Fiesta Ramadan is served at The Puteri Café from May 17 to June 14, daily from 6.30pm to 10pm.

Price at RM98+ for adult and RM55+ for children aged between six to 12 years.

Early Bird reservations made before May 6 will enjoy 15% discount while reservations made from May 6 to May 15 will still enjoy 10% discount.

The hotel also offers a special package price for those who wish to organise private group buka puasa events under their Corporate Social Responsibility Programmes.

For enquiries and reservations, Tel: +607 219 9999, Ext: 9399 or send email to: sales@puteripacific.com

The Puteri Pacific Johor Baru is linked to the Persada Johor International Convention Centre at Jalan Abdullah Ibrahim and also enjoys parking access from Jalan Trus. Website: www.puteripacific.com

Woman wins #LongLoafChallenge 2018

The timer clocks click off at the start of the #LongLoaf Challenge for nine contestants who accepted the dare to eat their way through a Long Loaf Set of a 16-inch sandwich with half a kg of tasty Golden Fries within 16 minutes.

A keen audience capturing a photo memento of the
#LongLoafChallenge contestants at SDS Cafe, Paradigm Mall
It’s a contest of wills where each contestant is determined to polish off all the food from their platters served in the SDS #LongLoafChallenge 2018, in the shortest possible time.

Eight men and one woman bravely chomp their way through a 16-inch sandwich stuffed with slices of ham, chicken, smoked duck and fresh vegetables, and a side of half kg tasty Golden Fries coated with salted egg – all to the cheers of supporters and onlookers.

In a speed-eating contest like this, contestants are eating under pressure, chewing and swallowing with the help of gulps of water and where every bite takes them closer to winning the bragging rights as the SDS Champion Long Loaf Eater.

Rainbow Kumi [Left] with Iranian, Reza Dash
[2nd from Left] and other contestants at the event
All eyes are on the sole female contestant, Tng Mei Fong, better known as Rainbow Kumi, who earned the reputation as a gifted Female Champion Eater since 2016.

Rainbow, 27, who drove to Johor Baru with her husband and 3-year old son from Malacca this morning, is no stranger to eating competitions.

In 2016 she discovered her skills in speed-eating when she downed more than 30 hot dogs in a Hot Dog eating contest in Kuala Lumpur. That same year, she emerged as the Female Champion at the Muar Big-Eater Contest.

In 2017, Rainbow was crowned Champion in the Food League SG Spice Contest, holding the record for finishing 4.2kg of Chicken Rice in 30 minutes and 41 pieces of Seremban Siew Pau in 30 minutes!

Long Loaves with a side of Golden Fries, ready to be served
Led by Michelle the event Master of Ceremony (MC), the crowd is roaring – with cheers of utter surprise – as they witness how Rainbow is making rapid progress, eating her way through the 16-inch sandwich in less than four (4) minutes into the contest.

It’s amazing how speedily and systematically she manages to eat while the contestants seated to her left and right are chewing steadily and still have a large portion of their sandwich and fries left on their platters!

Held at the SDS Bakery & Café at Paradigm Mall, Johor Baru, the event is attracting passers-by and shoppers who are happily distracted by the excitement happening among the contestants.

All smiles and ready to start the speed-eating contest!
The MC draws our attention to Rainbow who has already eaten her sandwich and is feeding on the fries with the help of her bare hands, counting down the seconds in which her food is fast disappearing!

In just four minutes and seven seconds (4.7 minutes!), Rainbow polished off all the food and emerged Champion of the SDS #LongLoafChallenge event!

While Rainbow receives her Champion’s award of a Drape and Certificate from SDS Marketing Manager, Alice Loh, the other contestants plough on, undeterred and ever determined to become the first runner-up.

As the men eat their way through the sandwich and fries I cannot help but notice how they seem to have a somewhat gentlemanly way of competing…

Eating their way through the contest!
The time limit of 16 minutes for this contest is almost up when the MC spots the contestant seated at the far right of the long table, who is finishing his pile of fries…

As the timer clock ticks its 16th minute, 22-year old Kua Zhi Jian from Skudai, polished off all the food on his platter to become runner-up of the SDS #LongLoafChallenge.

The time is up and while the other contestants do not win any titles, they can give themselves a big pat on the back for giving this difficult challenge a try.

For taking part in the contest, they each enjoyed a complimentary meal and are presented with a complimentary Voucher to savour a cappuccino brew at SDS Cafés.

We are the champions - Rainbow Kumi
[Right] with Kua Zhi Jian
It’s truly astounding to witness how Rainbow beat eight other contestants in such a short time! And to understand her better, I sit her down along with her husband, Tan Wei Yong, for a chat.

Speaking in a mix of Mandarin and English, she tells me that this morning when they arrived from Melaka at about 9am, they enjoyed a local breakfast.

Rainbow, who has a naturally large capacity for food, said she enjoyed two packets of nasi lemak and two packets of mee siam with her teh tarik or traditional pulled milk tea.

Having just completed this speed-eating challenge, Rainbow tells me that her stomach feels only 10% full and she is ready to have a spot of lunch!

She and her husband were married in 2012 and they have two children, a 6-year old daughter and a 3-year old son. She said Tan encourages her to eat and over the years, she soon discovered her ability to eat a lot of food.

Tan chips in with a laugh, saying that when she was expecting, she could eat even more!

From her experience in various eating contests, Rainbow has gained much confidence to take on various eating challenges. In fact, next Sunday she will be joining a hot dog eating contest in Malacca.

Think you can do better? Then take up the challenge!
Rainbow confessed that she was feeling unwell today. At the start, when she assessed the food on the platter, she thought that it should take her about five minutes to finish it.

But she emerged the Champion when she accomplished it in only 4.7 minutes!

Other champion eaters from the SDS #LongLoafChallenges held at various participating SDS café outlets from now till end June 2018 and Rainbow, will join the Grand Finale Championship in July, where the ultimate winner will enjoy 1-year’s supply of complimentary SDS Dining Vouchers!

The SDS #LongLoafChallenge is organized in collaboration with McCain Food Inc, one of the world’s largest producers of frozen potato French Fries and potato specialties.

Think you can do better? 

Then take up the #LongLoafChallenge at participating SDS café outlets at AEON Tebrau City, AEON Bukit Indah, AEON Kulaijaya, AEON Bandar Dato Onn, KSL City, Taman Johor Jaya, JB City Square, Taman Universiti, Taman Perling and Kota Tinggi.

A winners’ chart will be updated regularly on the SDS Official Facebook fan page.

Follow the SDS #LongLoafChallenge 2018 on http://bit.ly/sdslongloafchallenge18

Children enjoy charity movie treat

Cahaya Surya Bakti (CSB), the volunteer society which manages and runs three schools for Rohingya refugee children in Tampoi, Kluang and Pekan Nanas, recently hosted a charity screening of Disney/Pixar’s animated movie, Coco.

Cahaya Suria Bakti students, teachers and volunteers
at Level Six lobby of mmCineplex in JB City Square
Since 2013, these Rohingya Learning Centers have been facing an increasing need to expand and accommodate the growing student population.

Run by expatriate and local volunteers, the schools are guiding students aged between six and 16 in education centers based in Tampoi (2013), Pekan Nanas and Kluang (both in 2017) to speak, read and write in proper English and Malay.

Founder and executive director of CSB, Soraya Alkaff-Gilmour is pleased that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has selected CSB to be their Eighth Implemented Partner in January 2018.

Soraya [Right] sharing a light moment with the children
Soraya explained that under CSB, education is a social service that requires long-term planning for the Rohingya students to help them achieve their ambitions and to provide them with secondary school education in Johor.

At the moment, students aged 13 and above cannot continue with secondary school education here. As such, some young girls will stop school and be married while the teenage boys must do manual work to help to support the family financially.

Burdened with this responsibility, CSB is working hard to raise funds to go towards fitting out their new school premises which has the capacity for 200 students at Jalan Sutera Merah 3 in Taman Sutera.

Cahaya Surya Bakti teachers and volunteers at the event
Meanwhile, the charity screening of this animated movie at mmCineplex, Johor Baru City Square was attended by some 100 Rohingya children and their teachers from the learning centers in Tampoi, Pekan Nanas and Kluang.

Care-givers from the Berkat Children’s Home, Cerebral Palsy Association and Home for Special Children escorted 65 children to enjoy the movie with their Rohingya friends.

Tickets at RM60 were sponsored by generous donors and well-wishers and all proceeds goes towards the expansion of their school buildings and the children’s school fees, uniforms and transport fees.

Goodie bags handed out to each child before the movie
It was a fun Saturday morning for the youngsters to assemble on the Level Six lobby of mmCineplex, eagerly anticipating the start of the movie.

For most of these children who may have never been to JB City Square, let alone inside a cinema hall, this outing to Johor Baru was an exciting and memorable excursion.

The teachers and volunteers had arranged goodie bags filled with a bottled drink, buns and cake for the children to nibble on during the show. These were handed to each child as they took the escalator up to Hall 8 of the Cineplex.

CSB and mmCineplex ensured that all were
comfortably seated in Hall 8 of the cineplex
Packed into each goodie bag was a refreshing bottles of Minute Maid Orange Juice, kindly contributed by Coca-Cola Refreshment Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

Meanwhile, the wheelchair-bound children and their carers conveniently reached the cinema hall with a ride up on the nearby elevator.

CSB had also thoughtfully arranged packed lunches, generously sponsored by a donor for the children from Pekan Nanas and Kluang, because they had a longer return journey after the show.

Poster for Disney/Pixar
animated movie, Coco
The team at mmCineplex did their part to make the young and special viewers comfortable in the cinema hall, like providing booster seats for smaller children and keeping the house lights on even during the screening.

With some sponsors, well-wishers and guests joining the event, the seating capacity in the hall was almost full when the lights dimmed and the movie trailers and commercials started.

Then it was time to sit back and enjoy, Coco. Everyone was transported to Mexico to join young Miguel, a boy who dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. [By the way, Coco is the name of his aged grandmother!]

Enquiries for support and partnerships with Pertubuhan Kebajikan Cahaya Surya Bakti (CSB) can be sent to Email: cahayasuryabakti@gmail.com

Donations, sponsorship and contributions may be banked-in directly to Pertubuhan Kebajikan Cahaya Surya Bakti at RHB Account No. 251076-0000-5037, Taman Pelangi branch.

Join the Silk Road this Ramadan at DTH JB

At the entrance to Makan Kitchen, I spot a wooden rickshaw in the display along with traditional kitchen items common among local race groups: tudung saji, a food cover woven from mengkuang leaves, stone mortars and pestles, aluminum tiffin carrier and hot water flask, enamel double-boiling pots and a Peranakan woven lacquer basket.

A welcome entrance to the Makan Kitchen to join
the Silk Road journey this Ramadan at DoubleTree
by Hilton Johor Baru
This collection of traditional items gives me reason to pause and guess: What is the theme for the Ramadan spread in DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru this year?

Inside the restaurant, a camel is crouched down among the attractive buffet spread on display for the Jom Makan Ramadan breaking-of-fast meals.

This, I soon discover, is the center-piece of their featured range of Mediterranean and Arabic cuisine. [No, the camel is not to be eaten – it’s just for display!]

As I walk around to have a closer look at the creatively curated menu, I learn that the buffet spread at Makan Kitchen this Ramadan is inspired by the ancient Silk Road.

Check out a camel crouched among the buffet spread!
The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that connected the East and West by road and sea between Asia with the Middle East and southern Europe.

Its name was derived from the lucrative trade in silk that started in China during the Han dynasty.

Besides being the trade route of textiles and spices, the Silk Road was also the route for the exchange and spread of religions including Islam.

The Silk Road played a significant role in the development of civilizations and opened long-distance political, social and economic relations between China, Korea, Japan, India, Iran/Persia, Arabia, Europe and even the horn of Africa.

The Lamb Moussaka is the most eye-catching of the main
course items among Mediterranean and Arabic specialties
As the Makan Kitchen is popular for its Chinese, Malay and Indian kitchens, that the Silk Road theme is rather apt to describe the freshly prepared items from Marche-style Asian live-cooking stations as well as an array of International items in the buffet spread here.

Dubbed Marche @ Makan Kitchen, the menu of Chinese, Malay, Indian and International items features Mediterranean and Arabic specialties that include a range of appetizers, main course to dessert items.

Among the appetizers like Kibbeh, Tabbouleh, Hummus Bi Tahini, Baba Ganoush, Fattoush Salad, Batata Hara, Zaatar Olive Salad and Foul Meddamas. I find the Falafel rather pleasing – and even went back to the buffet for another helping.

Pick from a range of sweet temptations...
The Lamb Moussaka is evidently the most eye-catching of the main course items, along with Shikh Tauok, Morrocan Vegetable Tagine, Grilled Kebab Parisian style, Grilled Cilantro Shrimp and Morrocan Grilled Lamb Shoulder.

Typically Middle-Eastern sweets like assorted Baklava, Um Ali, Barbossa, Balah El Sham and Muhallabiyeh are also presented to satisfy sweet-toothed diners.

Marche @ Makan Kitchen is served from May 17 to June 14, from 6.30pm to 10pm. Prices at RM168 nett/adult and RM84 nett/child.

Jom Makan Ramadan breaking-of-fast meals are also presented in Feast @ 11, an Asian Buffet hosted at the Ballroom on Level 11 from May 21 to June 7, from 6.30pm to 10pm. Prices at RM138 nett/adult and RM69 nett/child.

Enjoy the comfort of double-boiled Chinese soups!
The buffet spread here is a veritable feast of Asian delights plus popular International favourites like Seafood-on-Ice and a live-station that serves Roasted Lamb.

While the buffet menu may vary daily, there are still staples in the range of delicious appetizers, salads, desserts and main course items.

Some of the exciting live-cooking stations include Hainanese Beef Noodles, Chicken Rice served with Pipa Duck and Barbecued Emperor Chicken, Seabass steamed in superior sauce, Malay delicacies like grilled Satay, Chicken Soto soup, Lontong, Rendang and Burasak (a Bugis rice specialty) served with Assam Pedas Fish.

A delicious must-have at Ramadan!
Speaking about live-stations in Feast @ 11, the ever popular serving of fresh durians – split opened and served to diners – will be back again to please fans of this thorny fruit!

Makan Kitchen is also a popular venue for festive meals during Hari Raya Aidil Fitri.

Choose from Hari Raya Dinner on June 15 & 16 (RM168 nett/adult and RM84 nett/child) and Hari Raya High Tea on 15, 16, & 17 June (RM108 nett/adult and RM54 nett/child).

DoubleTree by Hilton JB is at 12 Jalan Ngee Heng, 80000 Johor Baru, Johor. The Makan Kitchen is on the lobby level while the Ballroom is on Level 11.

To purchase your Jom Makan vouchers, Tel: +6012 – 7841842 or email: Nurulatiqah.Irwan@hilton.com. 

For enquiries and reservations, Tel: 607 – 268 6868. Website: JohorBahru.DoubleTree.com

Book Talk with student leaders

“A leader who reads widely expresses opinions clearly,” said Teacher-in-charge of Book Talk in SMK Dato Jaafar Johor Baru, as she shared with me, how it aims to inculcate the reading habit among student leaders.

The author [Seated Center] flanked by teacher Navinder
Kaur and Pengetua En Mohd Hanafi Samad with teachers
and student leaders at the Book Talk, SMK Dato Jaafar, JB
Teacher Navinder Kaur d/o Dhiraj Singh said that students from Forms Two to Six, who are keen to develop leadership skills, may opt to join the student leader group.

I met Navinder several years ago at her previous school, in a student leaders’ event and am familiar with how she is actively involved in encouraging and shaping her students through extra-curricular activities.

She was also at my book launch event for, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage last year.

And when Navinder discovered that school principal, Mohd Hanafi Samad, was a regular reader of my blog and had also bought my book, they wanted to invite me to speak at their Book Talk.

The monthly Book Talk that features invited speakers, aims to create more learning opportunities to mould active student leaders.

I had the privilege to introduce my book, My Johor Stories:
True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage
, to an attentive audience
Other objectives of the group are to develop soft skills where students are trained to lead confidently, speak effectively and work together as a team.

Navinder said part of the teaching-learning approach in the 21st century is learning beyond the four walls of the classroom and working together with the community.

When I received the invitation to speak at the Book Talk, Navinder briefed me about the audience of 30 student leaders and that I should introduce my book in an interactive way to help them gain more confidence to speak in English.

Since my book launch, I’ve had the privilege to present my book to various groups including members of Johor’s oldest Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Johor Baru, and the expatriate ladies of the International Women’s Association here.

I have also presented my book with a public reading of selected portions of my book in Meet-the-Readers events organized by MPH Publishing in their bookstores, first in Johor Baru and later in Kuala Lumpur.

Each of the previous presentations was skewered towards the target audience and for the student leaders, I planned to present it differently because they are from a younger generation and may not be familiar with a lot more of my book’s contents.

Old photographs such as these, help readers
to better appreciate my collection of non-
fiction stories; This story is, Where champions
were born
, on our grandfather's house at
No. 154 Jalan Ngee Heng, JB
Aware that SMK Dato Jaafar Johor Baru is an all-boys school, I designed my talk with elements to stir their imagination and capture the interest of teenage boys.

But when I arrived at the school, I was pleasantly surprised to see female students. Several were in the audience at the Book Talk and I discovered that they are Form Six students.

I opened the talk with a brief introduction of myself: an ordinary Johor-born girl who grew up in Johor Baru and studied in secondary school, very much like them. But unlike them, I used to walk to school because back then, it was safe to walk on public roads.

I went on to share the key points in the amazing journey of my book project and the privilege of achieving a bestselling non-fiction book with the support of readers who have a taste for local stories.

Some students were holding pen and paper, poised to take notes and ask questions later during the Question & Answer time.

By using old photos to highlight selected stories from my book, I introduced the culture and heritage, and the lifestyle in a bygone era, as chronicled in My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.

It was an informal and interactive session where the students responded to me quite spontaneously and I could tell from their expressions, that they were captivated by the new things they were hearing!

As I watched the students, I recalled that Navinder mentioned about learning beyond the four walls of the classroom in the teaching-learning approach in the 21st century!

My favourite part of the event must be the Q & A time when students volunteered queries that were both relevant and intelligent.

Some interesting questions were, “What are the most important qualities for a writer/author to have?”

“What should a writer do if he encounters writer’s block?”

“How have you changed since your book was published?”

“What are the problems you faced in your book project?”

It was both fun and challenging to respond to these refreshingly honest questions.

Without going into too much detail, I provided personal, practical and tangible answers including tips and ideas that not only satisfied the students’ curiosity, but also encouraged them to explore and discover their own creativity.

I’m sure the teachers and principal present, were also pleased with my replies.

Then a boy raised his hand but instead of asking a question, he reminded me to share about my father – the topic in my presentation that I deferred to speak about – when I introduced my story, My mentor, my dad.

Autographing my books presented to students to
borrow from their school library, with the best
compliments of Member of Parliament for JB,
Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad
I was glad to elaborate on this because this proved that he was listening attentively and prompted me when I delayed in returning to the topic I mentioned earlier!

So I told them about my dad’s role in my life, his support for my hobby in writing, our special relationship and how he would write notes to me even though we lived in the same house.

As a tribute to him, my dad’s handwritten lines are featured on my blog’s masthead design and are also used in the background (wallpaper!) on my book cover design.

I had arranged with MPH Publishing for a special deal and was pleased to announce that for a limited period, MPH will offer a 20% discount on my book at their bookstore in Johor Baru City Square, exclusively to SMK Dato Jaafar student leaders who wanted to have their own copies.

After the event, Navinder sent me this encouraging message: “Thank you very much for a very inspiring, warm-hearted session.”

Later, when she shared her students’ comments with me, I felt deeply humbled and grateful for the privilege to be a positive influence on young minds.