Taste of tradition at Qing Palace

The Lunar New Year is just around the corner and Qing Palace, the award-winning Chinese restaurant at Pulai Springs Resort, is one of the preferred destinations to celebrate with authentic Cantonese-Szechuan cuisine by Master Chef Lim Ming Chong.

Check out the Awards [on the wall]
at the entrance to Qing Palace in
Pulai Springs Resort
At the preview of the Chinese New Year festive menu, a few dishes have been selected from the various sets for us to sample and remind us why the Qing Palace remains popular with diners over the years.

Chef Lim has planned menus that are suitable for family reunions and gatherings with friends with traditional dishes designed with symbolic Chinese expressions of good fortune, prosperity, happiness, wealth and abundance for the Chinese New Year!

This of course, includes the serving of traditional Qing Palace Special Yee Sang with Royal Abalone Slices.  

I am pleased that the serving staff is conversant with the Chinese tradition of uttering positive wishes as she adds the various toppings onto the platter for us to toss for greater prosperity in the lo hei tradition.

Qing Palace, renowned for their Camphor and Tea Smoked Duck, serves the boneless version with a side of fried mantou buns complemented by a drizzle of delicious sweet sauce.

When I sink my teeth into the tasty, tender meat, I nod my head with approval because it tastes as good as it always did!

She utters positive phrases as she
adds the various topping on the
platter of Qing Palace Yee Sang
The skill of the chef is proven in the dish of Hong Kong style Steamed Dragon Garoupa where the steamed fish is timed to perfection and is paired with tasty superior sauce.

Szechuan Chilli Sauce flavours on the Fried Prawns is simply lip-smacking and this is followed by the traditional Chinese New Year dish of Braised Sea Cucumber with Black Mushrooms and Greens.

Steamed Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaf is another popular dish on the menu and the preview ends with dessert of deep-fried traditional Chinese New Year Cake, nian gow or kueh bakul.

I like how this traditional favourite is sandwiched between a slice of sweet potato and yam, and the triple layered cake is dipped in batter before being deep-fried to crispy golden-brown.

While we savour this delectable dessert, our chat is on the traditional Chinese legend of how nian gow was fed to the Kitchen God so that his lips will be sealed when he returned to heaven to make his annual report on the family…

On Feb 4, the Qing Palace offers two options for the Chinese New Year Eve Reunion Dinner:

Tasty and tender Camphor and Tea Smoked Duck
Set Menu A is priced at RM880+ for table of 10 and RM528+ for table of 6 persons.
Set Menu B is priced at RM1,300+ for table of 10 and RM780+ for table of 6 persons.

To accommodate the modern trend of enjoying a restaurant Reunion Dinner, Qing Palace offers three dining sessions scheduled at 5.30pm, 7pm and 8pm on the eve of Lunar New Year, Feb 4 to usher in the coming Year of the Boar.

Feasting on high-value ingredients and dishes with auspicious names is a must this festive season and Qing Palace offers three Chinese New Year Set Menus, A, B and C for tables of 10 or 6 diners, served from Feb 5 to 19, for both lunch and dinner.

Braised Sea Cucumber with Black Mushrooms and Greens
Set A is priced at RM818+ for table of 10.
Set B is priced at RM938+ for table of 10 and RM558+ for table of 6 persons.
Set B is priced at RM1,388+ for table of 10 and RM828+ for table of 6 persons.

Diners may choose from Yee Sang options in two sizes that feature salmon: RM68+ (small) RM128+ (large), Royal Abalone Slices: RM68+ (small) RM128+ (large), dried seafood: RM78+ (small) RM138+ (large) or smoked duck: RM78+ (small) RM138+ (large).

On Feb 4, the all-day dining Cinta Terrace Restaurant will have a Chinese New Year Prosperity Reunion Barbecue Nite Buffet. This is priced at RM88+ per adult and RM44+ per child.

Bookings before Jan 31 will save RM15 per adult from the original price. Bookings for groups of 10 guests or more will enjoy RM18 savings per adult.

Delectable dessert of triple layered cake made with
traditional nian gow sandwiched between a slice of
sweet potato and yam 
On Feb 5, there is a Day One, Chinese New Year Day Special High Tea from 12pm to 2.30pm at RM58+ per adult and RM29+ per child.

On Feb 6, there is a Day Two, Chinese New Year Day Special High Tea at RM48+ per adult and RM24+ per child. For every four paying adults, one child dines for Free.

If you are in the resort on Feb 7, the third day of the first lunar month, don’t miss the Lion Dance performance at the hotel lobby, scheduled for 10.30am.

Pulai Springs Resort is at 20km Jalan Pontian Lama, 81110 Pulai, Johor. Qing Palace serves food which is pork-free and without alcohol.

Cinta Terrace Restaurant is Halal certified.

Visit website: www.pulaisprings.com for full details of menus and special promotions at the resort hotel and restaurants.

For reservations, Tel: 607 – 521 2121, Email: enquiry@pulaisprings.com

It's been three whole years...

Hey Di,

I’m not counting but it’s been three whole years since you left us and I still miss you dearly.

I have two books; My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People,
Rich Heritage [Left] and My Johor Stories 2: Interesting
Places and Inspirational People [Right]
A great deal has happened since the success of, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, my book which was launched on 15 July 2017.  

Following its success, I was encouraged by Think City to work on its sequel and I remember how Dr Neil Khor suggested to expand the contents to include stories from other districts.

This made me think about the many places that I discovered while I went “travelling” with you to destinations that were once obscure but are now more connected and well developed with residential and industrial areas.

I recalled places like Kong Kong and kampung Kong Kong Laut, Telok Jawa and Telok Sengat and how Kenny and I, used to explore the rubber estates and fishing jetties while you dispensed medicine to the villagers.

My books displayed in the window of
MPH bookstore, Johor Baru City Square
We were fearless – unperturbed by the sights and sounds of rustic village life – and where bright sunshine, drizzles or encounters with small creatures and insects did nothing to dampen our outdoor fun.

Working on Book 2 was challenging in its own way and I’m grateful for the support of Think City and MPH Publishing, and a host of friends who helped me through this project.

To meet with people for their stories, I had to travel to various parts of Johor. These drives were comfortable through the Plus North-South Highway and now we have the convenience of satellite maps which can be accessed through the smartphone.

I remember how you used to drive us from Johor Baru to Ipoh and Cameron Highlands for year-end holidays via the scenic route. Back then, the drive was from dawn to dusk!

But now the drives are just a breeze even off the Highway because the maps can lead me right to the doorstep of the address in my destination!

Mum, holding her walking stick, with
Aunty Polly, going to my book launch
You were close in my thoughts as I prepared the manuscript for the sequel because – just as in the first book – book two is a tribute to you.

While I was happy to work on the continuing family stories under Memories, the fun of sharing the tales was tinged with sadness because you are not here.

A lot is different in your absence but I’m sure you will be pleased that mum and all of us are coping with the changes.

Mum feels weakness in her legs so when we take her to the mall, she would be wheeled about comfortably on the wheelchair.

On regular outings to church and grocery shopping at the regular market shop, I will drive here and she will use the walking stick for support.

I bought her a light-weight stick because the cane that you used, is too long for her height and she said it feels too heavy.

I have reasoned with her, not to be shy about using the walking stick because it is for her own comfort and support.

A precious old document that has
your hand-writing on it!
I explained in the unfortunate event of a fall, she will just suffer pain and discomfort, so she finally accepted the fact that the use of a walking stick is the best option for her.

For the launch event for My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, Aunty Polly and Uncle Steven joined us in Johor Baru to enjoy my community-centered celebration.

Dad, you would have enjoyed the Mee Rebus Haji Wahid that was served from a live cooking station, very much like the way you arranged for them to serve at our home parties.

It tasted of pure nostalgia and Aunty Polly confessed that she had two bowls of the tasty mee rebus!

I think you would also have enjoyed the Lucky Draw where my guests won for themselves, vouchers and gifts that were generously contributed by the subjects featured in my book.

The top two prizes – in my opinion – were the traditional cotton-stuffed pillow and bolster, contributed by Sin Keng Wah Kedai Tilam.

From family album: Ruby, Kenny, Pearly and I [L to R];
Your daughters playing dress-up with mum's cheong sam
while your son intruded upon us!
In my story, I referred to an old receipt from Fei Leong that we discovered among your collection of ancient documents.

This is so precious because I read your handwriting written on this receipt that it was dated 1988 and the note-to-self read: “Cotton mattress for Peggy’s bed.”

Fei Leong no longer exists but this old receipt inspired me to seek out Sin Keng Wah because they are the only one left in JB who are still in this business here!

In those days, all our mattresses were cotton-stuffed and I remember how comfortable your three daughters did sleep, even in our shared, non-air conditioned room.

Speaking about your other two daughters, they are both grandmothers now – one in the UK and the other in Australia. This would make you a proud great-grandfather of three and counting (the next should arrive in mid-2019!)

Your son and favourite (and only!) daughter-in-law are also doing well, especially with their adventurous hill-climbing hobby.

After they had conquered the peaks in East Malaysia, they reached the summit of live volcanoes in Indonesia and just completed their recent climb in Hong Kong!
. . .

Soo Kok Wah presenting a book to me
while Soo Kok Tai looks on
Last year, I embarked on a project to write the English version of a Chinese publication of a book on the heritage of the Soo Peng Hang Press, one of the early family-run print businesses in JB.

When I was approached to do this by Yap Leong of the Eh He team, one of the reasons I happily accepted the challenge was because your first job was as a typesetter with a printing company in Ipoh!

I vividly recalled how you described Mr Wilson and his strict ways. He did not like older boys to be idle and soon after you completed your school years, you went out and found yourself a job with this printing company.

The Soo brothers, Soo Kok Wah and Soo Kok Tai, shared briefly about the early history of their father, Soo Peng Hang, and it was uncanny that the elder Soo once worked with a printing company in Ipoh too!

He was much senior to you but I guess it was possible that you both worked with the same printing company in Ipoh but only that you joined the team in later years …

A photo of the screen with my portrait and quote on it!
It was indeed my honour and privilege to work on this book that recorded the heritage of Soo Peng Hang Press, so that Chinese who do not read Chinese, can read about it in the English language.

At the recent book launch event, the organizer introduced the key people involved with the project with a portrait photo and a brief quote in Chinese, posted on the backdrop screen for guests to read.

I was also privileged to write a Foreword in this book, from which this quote was taken.

I chose to use my brand identity for My Johor Stories with my name, Peggy Loh, and when it was flashed on the screen, my quote (in English!) read like this: “As I looked at the photos, I felt a strange connection as my thoughts raced to my dad. My dad told me that his first job was as a typesetter with a printing press in Ipoh.”

It felt surreal to read these words on the screen and there seated in the front row (unknown to every one), I was momentarily overcome by a sudden rush of emotion.
. . .

Once again we marked the third anniversary of your departure with a meal at Niniq Javanese Cuisine in Taman Molek.

Grilled chicken sandwich and mushroom
soup at Niniq Javanese Cuisine, in your
loving memory
Upon my request, the café has added to their Indonesian cuisine menu, your favourite mushroom soup and grilled chicken sandwich made with focaccia bread!

So mum and I, along with Soke Har, had lunch at Niniq Javanese Cuisine with a taste of mushroom soup and grilled chicken sandwich, in your loving memory.
. . .

The Lunar New Year season is upon us again and while the mall windows are dressed in Red and the festive music sings, “Kongxi-Kongxi Kongxi Ni!” it’s just not the same without you.

Just as it was for Christmas, in spite of the happy reunion when all come together to celebrate with gatherings and feasts, it will never be the same again.

So each year for each festive season, we try to do things a bit differently to make new traditions and memories.

You will be delighted to know that Aaron and his wife will be coming to join us from Perth and Pearly will be here from the UK. And yes, Amanda is back here already!

We love and miss you so much, Di.
Your daughter No. 3, P.

Feast on Prosperity meals at Amari JB

It’s always a pleasure to be a guest at the Amari Johor Baru, especially when I have Area General Manager, Dean Rossilli, for company in the pre-Lunar New Year preview of the Prosperity Set Menus to usher in the coming Spring Festival.

Amari Prosperity Yee Sang with
a side of Norwegian Smoked Salmon [Left]
In the Amaya Food Gallery, a section is set up with Chinese banquet tables for our sit-down meal with the décor designed in Red colours to match the mood for this festive season.

In the Lunar New Year tradition, the meal kicks off with the appetizing Amari Prosperity Yee Sang or raw fish salad topped with Norwegian Smoked Salmon.

For a change, the raw fish is replaced by Smoked Salmon and I must say that it tastes rather agreeable.

The Chef’s Signature Hot & Cold Five Combination is a colourful and eye-catching platter of five items for the appetizer.

Area General Manager, Dean Rossilli [4th from Left] tossing
for greater prosperity with guests at the set menu preview
Individual portions of Steamed Siew Mai, Crispy Money Bags, Pickled Baby Squid and Young Papaya Salad with Prawn Mayo in the center, are all sitting in a sea of Blue.

With my appetite whet by these tasty morsels, I’m ready for the rich taste of the Four-Treasure Broth, a soup filled with crabmeat and chunks of prawns and shreds of scallops.

The chicken dish is a Double-boiled Whole Chicken in Lotus Leaf, a comfort food which is tender and tasty with the aroma of Chinese herbs.

Prawns are an auspicious food item for the Lunar New Year and the next dish of whole prawns – without shells – are wok-tossed King Prawns with Macadamia Nuts.

Appetizer of the Chef's Signature Hot & Cold
Five Combination - all sitting in a sea of Blue!
I like the taste of the contrasting textures of crunchy Macadamia Nuts against the firm flesh of the prawns.

The braised vegetable dish is made with auspicious ingredients like broccoli florets, whole Chinese mushrooms and topped with Baby Abalone.

A whole fish augurs well for the Lunar New Year and this serving comes in the form of Steamed Whole Seabass with Red Dates and Wolfberries.

The rice dish is a traditional Chinese recipe for Egg Fried Rice with bits of barbecued chicken, topped with Dried Scallop Crisps.

This set meal ends sweetly with a delicious warm dessert of Double-boiled Snow Pear with White Fungus and Dates.

Serving portions of the Four-Treasure Broth
Cluster Executive Chef Andy Oh with Chinese cuisine Chef Keh Zun and their culinary team, have created a range of traditional menus to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

From now to Feb 19, diners may pick from three menu choices for 10 persons dubbed The Great Prosperity with Wealth menu (7-course at RM988 nett), The Great Prosperity with Huge Wealth menu (9-course at RM1288 nett) and The Great Prosperity with Enormous Wealth menu (10-course at RM2388 nett).

Note: These set menus are NOT available from Feb 2 to 9.

The busy chefs will need three (3) days advance notice to prepare the dishes for the auspicious set menus. Set menu reservations with full payment before Jan 20 will enjoy a 20% Early Bird discount.

All the goodness in the Four-Treasure Broth
Meanwhile, diners who enjoy buffets may dine on the Chinese New Year Reunion Buffet Dinner from Feb 4 to 6 served at the Amaya Food Gallery from 6.30pm to 10.30pm.

This spread features South East Asian favourites and popular International dishes.

To celebrate this festive season, there are Boston Lobsters prepared Cantonese style with tasty, rich and creamy flavours in the split lobsters filled with chunks of lobster and shrimps, fragrant with garlic butter and Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese.

In line with the season for auspicious dishes, the spread offers Prosperity Yee Sang salad, Steamed Fish Fillet in Superior Sauce, Braised Seafood Hotpot with Fatt Choy, Crispy Chicken Money Bag, Braised Chinese Cabbage with Dried Oysters, Lotus Leaf Rice with barbecued chicken as well as Cantonese Roast Duck and Roast Chicken.

Braised vegetable dish made with broccoli florets,
whole Chinese mushrooms and topped with Baby Abalone
Renowned for its Thai specialties by Thai Executive Sou Chef, Gina Kanokwan, and her culinary team, here’s where you can taste authentic Thai dishes.

The spread includes Thai Steamed Fish Fillet with Garlic & Lime, Thai Beef Red Curry with Eggplant and Sweet Basil, Phad Thai, Thai-style Barbecued Squid, Thai Laksa and the all-time favourite, Tom Yum Goong.

Among the items to enjoy from the International section are Sashimi, a range of fresh salads, barbecued meats like lamb and beef steaks, chicken and cheese sausages, Seafood Lasagne, Seafood Paella and Seafood-on-Ice.

For a taste of local cuisine, there are favourites like Ayam Percik, Malay-style Oxtail Soup and skewers of freshly grilled Chicken and Beef Satay.

A taste of Boston Lobsters prepared Cantonese style
The desserts and drinks in the buffet spread include Sago Gula Melaka, Chinese New Year cookies, local kuih, pastries and fresh fruits, along with signature pulled-drinks like Teh Tarik and Coffee Tarik.

Rates are RM148 nett per person and 50% discount for children aged six to 12 and senior citizens aged 60 and above.

Enjoy an Early Bird deal of 20% discount with full payment before Jan 20.

On Feb 5 and 6, the Amaya Food Gallery will serve Chinese New Year High-Tea from 12.30pm to 3.30pm. Rates are RM88 nett per person with 50% discount for children aged six to 12 and senior citizens aged 60 and above.

The Amaya Food Gallery is located on Level 6 of Amari Johor Baru, at No. 82-C Jalan Trus, 80000 Johor Baru.

For reservations, Tel: 607 – 266 8888 or email: amaya.johorbahru@amari.com. 

Visit website: www.amari.com for full details of menus and special promotions at the hotel and restaurant.

Blooming Abundance at DoubleTree Hilton JB

The Chinese Kitchen within the Makan Kitchen in DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru, comes into focus this Chinese New Year season with a range of Blooming Abundance menus that feature auspicious festive dishes among popular favourites here.

The Chinese Kitchen within Makan Kitchen in
the DoubleTree Hilton Johor Baru
Regulars at the Makan Kitchen (like me!) are familiar with the various sections that serve Chinese, Malay, Indian and International cuisine, to enjoy a full menu from soups, appetizers, main course items to drinks and desserts.

To welcome the coming Year of the Boar, Chef Phung Theam Kee and his culinary team in the Chinese kitchen have prepared a menu of auspicious dishes that augurs well for this festive season.

I know the Chinese kitchen has earned a proud reputation for serving the goodness of delicious double-boiled soup in the Cantonese tradition of rich and fortifying soups.

Steaming hot double-boiled soups!
And for this festive season, diners can look forward to a choice of Fish Head Clear Soup and their ever popular Emperor Chicken Soup brewed with Dried Scallops and Black Mushrooms. I also spot Crab Meat and Roe Soup in the buffet spread.

In the Dim Sum section, there is a selection of steamed and deep-fried dim sum dumplings to choose from.

For a peek of what’s steaming, I ask the culinary team member here to help lift the heavy cover from the traditional bamboo steamer.

When the cloud of steam clears, I can identify a few choices like Har Gow (shrimp dumpling), Siew Mai (seafood dumpling) and Loh Mai Kai (Glutinous Rice with Chicken) among others like Shanghai dumpling, Chive dumpling, Jade dumpling, Cheese Prawn dumpling and Crab claw dumpling.

The Roast and Barbecue section is presented like a typical chicken-rice stall where diners pick their choice of freshly Roasted Duck and/or Barbecue Roasted Sesame Chicken and it will be served with fragrant steamed rice, clear soup and sides of slices of tomato and cucumber.

Chef Phung Kheam Tee presents
Wok-fried Lamb in Coffee Sauce
This serving will not be complete without a drizzle of soya sauce, chilli sauce, hoisin sauce, plum sauce and ginger sauce for an authentic taste!

In the buffet, the traditional festive dishes to look forward to include Steamed Garoupa in Superior Sauce, Chilli Flower Crabs, Stir-fried Butter Prawns, Braised Mushrooms, Broccoli and Pacific Clams, Salt-Baked free-range Herbal Chicken.

Chef Phung then reminds me not to miss the dish of Wok-fried Lamb in Coffee Sauce.

I’m a bit concerned that the coffee may keep me awake but the chef assures me that unless I’m overly sensitive, then this dish should be enjoyed with steamed rice.

However, Chef Phung has prepared fragrant fried rice in the buffet and it’s Seafood Treasure Fried Rice, filled with bits of seafood and sliced asparagus.

To kick-off the meal, Chef Phung prepares the Prosperity Smoked Salmon Yee Sang for our prosperity toss.

Chef Phung utters in Cantonese,
traditional auspicious phrases as he
adds ingredients to the Yee Sang platter
He tops the Yee Sang platter of julienne of fresh vegetables with five-spice powder, a drizzle of plum sauce, rice vinegar, kumquat paste and sesame oil, chopped peanuts, toasted sesame seeds and Chinese flour crisps and finally, slices of Smoked Salmon.

To complete the Yee Sang tradition, he utters the traditional auspicious phrases and good wishes in Cantonese, as he adds each ingredient to the platter.

Then armed with chopsticks, everyone steps forward to toss the Yee Sang in the traditional lo hei (Cantonese) with wishes for a Year of Blooming Abundance.

From February 3 to 7, the Makan Kitchen offers a Chinese New Year Fortune Feast Buffet Dinner from 6.30pm to 10.30pm, at RM168 nett per adult and RM84 nett per child.

From February 5 to 6, the Makan Kitchen hosts a Prosperity High Tea Buffet from 12.30pm to 4pm, at RM108 nett per adult and RM54 per child.

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

For enquiries and reservations: Tel: 607 – 268 6868 or email: JohorBaru.Info@hilton.com.  Website: JohorBahru.DoubleTree.com

They've got my books!

The launch of my book sequel, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People in Johor Baru with a community-centered celebration was such a meaningful and memorable event that many are still talking about it.

Got my signing pen ready to autograph a stack of books!
I was so glad that all the people who should be at the event were present but some guests replied with apologies because they were not able attend due to various valid reasons.

It would have been much better if my Aunty Sylvia and her husband, Uncle Mok, were able to join us because she is featured in my book along with other family members under the Memories section – and it would have been a thrill for guests to meet her.

Ahead of the event, she called to inform me that on the same date of my book launch, the Mok family would be celebrating their grand-daughter’s birthday in Kuala Lumpur.

Presenting my book to Aunty Sylvia and Uncle Mok
I understand that grand-daughters would come before a niece (me!), so after my launch event, I made it a point to go to KL to present a copy of my book to Aunty and Uncle.

Meanwhile in conjunction with my book launch and for a limited time only, MPH Publishing offered a promo price for my two-book set with a best deal for two hardcover books at RM88 only and two softcover books at only RM58.

One day while Aunty and Uncle were browsing in one of the malls in KL, they popped into MPH bookstore and got a kick out of looking at the display of My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People and could not resist sharing a photo with me!

Uncle Mok, looking at my books
displayed in a MPH bookstore in KL
Likewise my friends, who deliberately made their way to the MPH bookstore in JB City Square to get their own copy of my book, also could not resist sharing photo mementoes of their visit there!

Among them was Ahmad Fadli Syed Hassan, who’s passionate about the history of the Johor royal family and is also the author of the recently launched UTM publication on the late Sultan Ismail (1894 – 1981).

Chong Jin Foong, who moved to Johor with his family on a work contract, told me that on a visit with his father back in KL, his father showed him an old newspaper cutting that featured Johor’s Teochew culture and heritage.

When Jin Foong looked closer at that article and read the byline, he was pleasantly surprised that it was written by me! So we shared a laugh when he told me about it.

He was away for a work assignment and could not attend my launch event. But when he was able to go to the nearest MPH bookstore, he brought his family along to shop for my book.

Ahmad Fadli Syed Hassan has got my book
At the bookstore, he made his three kids look for me on the book cover and they had fun tracking down my image designed in my brand logo which is at the top left corner of the book cover design!

On another day, two shoppers at MPH bookstore in JB City Square – Harish and his wife, Tikah – phoned me while they were there and asked where I was because they wanted to track me down to autograph their books.

It happened that I was also in JB City Square, having coffee with my family at the café right next door to the MPH bookstore. So Harish and his dear wife popped by to get their books autographed, quite conveniently!

Meanwhile, my nephew, Aaron and his wife, Even, who popped up in JB for the weekend to attend my event, hand-carried my books back to Perth to present to my nieces and nephews there.

Chong Jin Foong also has my book!
In the same way, Melanie, my niece who came to JB to spend some time with her grandmother, also hand-carried my books home to the UK – so heavy on her backpack –to present to her mother, her brother and his wife.

Next I arranged to pack my books, all autographed to send by post to family members in KL, Singapore and JB, who could not attend my launch event in JB.

To do this, I chose to use bubble-pack lined envelopes to protect the books from damage. And to buy this particular size of envelope, I went from one stationery store to another but failed to find it.

I even had photographs of the envelope’s dimensions on my phone but when I showed them to the shop assistants, their reply was a disappointing, “Out of stock.”

Finally, I went to a stationery store which has a chain of outlets in the city – with fingers crossed, hopeful to find this size of envelope – and they have it! But there were only two pieces left.

Harish and his wife tracked me down at the cafe!
I then asked the shop assistant to call their nearest outlet to ask if they had any stock of the same and I would head over there immediately. Once again, I kept my fingers crossed while the young lady was on the telephone with her colleague.

“Ada!” was the word I needed to hear and I asked that they keep it aside for me. After paying for the two envelopes from this outlet, I hopped into my car and drove directly to the said outlet for the number of envelopes they were keeping  aside for me!

Just as I autographed and tied up my books with ribbons to present to specific people at my launch event, I did likewise for these books and sealed them in the envelopes and addressed them to their destinations for Mr Postman to present them on my behalf.

I followed up with phone messages to tell the recipients to look out for Abang Pos and to let me know once they have safely received my book.

My sister, Pearly, and her son, Jamie,
with my books in the UK
I was hopeful that the books should be delivered on time for Christmas but to my regret, the postal system did not meet my expectation. The first message to acknowledge safe receipt of my book in KL was on Dec 27.

“I’m so glad Mr Postman did his job. Happy Reading!” I replied, thankful that my book was safely received by recipients in JB, KL and Singapore.

It was weird that when Swee Gim and Wye Choon came to visit us on Christmas Day, I had to tell them that my book for them was in fact, en route by post to them in KL.

On Jan 6, 2019, Swee Gim snapped a photo of my book to show me that it had finally reached them!

My book reached Swee Gim and Wye Choon
It was important to me that Swee Gim and Wye Choon received my Book 2 because they were the people who connected me with MPH Publishing Kuala Lumpur during my book project for Book 1.

On Jan 7, I received a photo from Delia Goh to let me know that she received it last evening (Jan 6). And her postal address was in JB.

I remember meeting Delia (as an adult) when I was at a hotel for a Ramadan food review and when she told me that she used to visit our home when she was a child, I was baffled.

It was strange that she seemed to know me. I should know who the visitors are to our home but I could not recall meeting Delia.

Then she explained that he uncle used to bring her along with his children to visit our grandmother (who lived with us) during the lunar new year season.

Delia Goh has received my book safely
Suddenly I had a vision of Uncle See Hong with three kids in tow, and could even hear his affectionate greeting to my grandmother, “Piew Yee!” when they met in our home…

So this was how I discovered that Delia and I are related!

It turned out that her grandmother, the late Mrs Goh nee Wong Lin Tai, the sister of Wong Peng Soon, and my grandmother were cousins. So rank-wise in the family, Delia and I were also ‘cousins.’

I remember her grandmother, whom we addressed as Sam Yee Poh, and sending my grandmother over to their house for the two old ladies to chit-chat and reminisce about their good old days.

Her grandmother had passed on much earlier while my grandmother, whom I had dubbed, The Real Champion, passed when she was at the ripe old age of 103.

Delia was all ready to come to my book launch event with her dad but due to a medical emergency, they could not come. So my book was put in the post to her.

Ee Lyn has also received my book in Singapore!
And then on Jan 8, Kok Ee Lyn sent a photo from Singapore with her message: “I received the wonderful My Johor Stories 2 at noon today. I’m reading it now!”

I had autographed this book with a message to Ee Lyn, with an instruction to turn to Page 51 and have a closer look at the photograph featured with my Portraits story on Madam Sweet Potato, a midwife in Batu Pahat.

While I was working on this story, I asked for old photographs from her family and a few were sent by email for my review.

In one photo taken at the Batu Pahat Health Clinic in the 1950s, Madam Sweet Potato or the legendary Han Cher Soh (Hokkien dialect) posed with a group of nurses.

It was an exciting connection when I recognized the younger version of a close friend of my parents, Kok How Chai – who was Ee Lyn’s mother – then a Nursing Sister with the Family Planning Unit.

Signing my books for Dr Ong Chong Yau
After their retirement, my parents and her parents used to visit with each other and we maintained a close relationship until both her parents passed away after long illnesses.

I was more than pleased that she had safely received my book because I thought this old photo of her mother in my book is such a special memento for Ee Lyn and her family.

Finally, I must share this snippet about Dr Ong Chong Yau, a church member who attended my book launch event and he bought both Book 1 and Book 2. But when he saw the queue lined up for their books to be autographed, he decided not to join the queue.

One evening after our church meeting, he approached me to ask me to autograph my books and I happily obliged.

Then with a smug smile, the good doctor told me about his bright idea: he thought it would be much better to meet me in church to sign my books because here, there was no queue!

My January 2019 kicked off nicely with an interview with Malay Mail online. This feature, Growing up in Little Swatow: Stories by a true-blue ‘anak Johor’ was published online on Jan 3.

My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, is now available from MPH bookstores nationwide and online via www.mphonline.com