Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Reading is a town in the south-west of England. Travelling west from London, it takes about 50 minutes to reach by car. Kinna like travelling from KL to Seremban. It is famous for its university, music festivals and lately, its football team that is doing really well.

It has also been my home for a little more than a year now, and I'd like to bring you on a little tour around my turf :)

We start off at the main train station. This is a major hub for train services to London and also the south of England. I usually take the fast train to London from here and it takes just half an hour to reach the city. I also pass through its gates almost everyday since I take the train to and from work. The best thing about the station is that its only 5 minutes' walk from the town center and less than 15 minutes away from my house.

Walking into town from the station, two rows of red-brick shops greet you. There are a variety of businesses lining the street, from Starbucks to travel agencies to restaurants to camera specialist shops.

My first impression when I arrived here was that this town might as well be called RED-ding. So red!

A short stroll and we are in the heart of the town, the High Street. Almost every town/city in England has a High Street, which is the main commercial and retail artery running through the town. Here you will find most of the clothing boutiques, bookstores, sports accesories, pharmacies, home furnishing stores, banks, recruitment agencies, supermarkets, street stalls and many more different outlets.

It is usually very bustling on weekends, but I was up early and there wasn't many people on the streets yet. There are usually buskers as well, singing their songs and trying to get people to buy their CDs. There is a particular group of Red Indians in full costumes and paint that have been playing their instruments every week and they seem to have become permanent fixture of the weekend activities. Sometimes you get preachers, anti-obesity movements, etc. And during Christmas, there is a band from the Salvation Army playing festive tunes with their trumpets, trombones and flutes.

What I like about Reading is that everything I need is within walking distance. That includes the shopping mall! Its called the The Oracle and is right smack in the middle of town. Takes me less than 10 minutes to get there on foot. The Oracle is a nice mall with the usual retail outlets and I can pretty much get everything I need here. But what I like about the place is that most of the restaurants and cafes are located along the river that divides the complex in two.

When the weather is fine, it is very enjoyable to do some people watching by the river bank while enjoying some coffee. Once in a while there will be people kayaking or rowing along the river and everyone will look at them. Free show, I guess. Hehe.

The riverside looks very nice at night too when the lights come on. Also, it is also the place where all the festive celebrations take place, such as Christmas and New Year fireworks, promotions and summer events. The curved mini-amphitheatre are got turned into a beach during the summer and a skating rink during winter.

This is one of my favourite restaurants in Reading. :) Mostly because its one of the few places I can get really spicy food and it's healthier than Mcds. And also because most of the time the waitresses look quite pretty, hehe. :P

This is Vue cinema where I catch the movies and the Starbucks where I sometimes get coffee. I love going to the cinema here because I can get tickets 5 minutes before the show and I'll have a seat. No kiasu idiots fully booking movies 3 days before! It is also on a free seating basis, so as long as I go in early enough I am always guaranteed a good seat. But the best reason for going to the cinemas here is that there is no censorship. I can actually follow the movie through till the end without being forced to read the lines and joining the dots between cut scenes. Such bliss I tell you.
So that's a brief snapshot of Reading. Its an enjoyable place to live and I find it very cosy. I can escape the noise, congestion and crowds in London and yet I'm close enough to be able to go to the city anytime I want. Kinna like living in Subang Jaya where I grew up. Maybe that's why I like it here.
By the way, its pronounced 'Red-ding'. :)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Pork Chops

Sometimes when I buy pork chops I like to pre-marinade them and leave the lot sitting comfy in the freezer. It saves me the trouble of scratching my head for what to cook on nights when I feel a bit tired or lazy and can't be bothered to experiment.

A good marinade I learned from Saturday Cooks (ITV1, 11.30am, Saturdays...duh) is an oriental style flavouring that is really easy to prepare. Get some ginger, coriander (or cilantro as the Americans call it), basil and chop them up very finely, almost into a paste. Get a blender to do the job if you have one lying around screaming for attention. Then get a slosh of fish sauce, soy sauce, tsiao tsing wine (or any chinese cooking rice wine), sesame oil and some sugar. Mix everything in a bowl to blend all the flavours together. Add more herbs if you like, or some chopped chillies if you feel like you lack fire in your soul. Cover the pork chops with the marinade and you're ready to go after leaving it for about 10 minutes. It will taste better if you leave it overnight though.

An even simpler marinade I frequently use is simply powdered 'char siew' flavouring. Its available in most oriental supermarkets and tastes quite good. Just sprinkle the red powder generously over the meat and let the two have some quality bonding time together.

No oven? No problem. A hot frying pan or a barbecue pit will do the job nicely. However, I do love my oven. :)

Pre-heated to about 220 Celcius, I just pop the meat in for about 30 minutes before switching to grill mode for a further 10 minutes to get a nice crispy outside and juicy, tender flesh inside. Sometimes I cut the skin away, sprinkle on some salt, dry it on some paper towels and pop it in too to make crackling.

To balance the meal I usually just clobber something together from whatever veggies I have in the fridge at that moment. A simple stir fry with garlic and onions and my meal is complete.

Simple and delicious. :)

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I got another free bottle of alchy today :) The God Of Alcohol must really like me nowadays. Thanks goodness I didn't have to get injured to get this!

The trilogy is now complete. Three bottles. 1st bottle when I learned a new skill. 2nd one when I went to war. 3rd one is a happy ending, I'm happy to say. Ahh....

Glenmorangie single malt Scottish whisky. Aged 10 years in Bourbon oak barrels. Full-bodied, aromatic, smooth...and making me very, very red right now. *hic*

In the harsh coldness of winter, I think whisky is a damn fine tonic to warm one up. You can feel the warmth flowing right down the moment you take a sip, and it spreads very comfortably all over. Very nice.

The Five Steps To Appreciating Scotch Whisky (from my whisky glass box)

Is your whisky light gold, bright copper or rich amber in colour?

Does your whisky have a light, medium or full body?

What aromas do you recognize when you nose your whisky - is it malty, smoky, fruity, chocolatey?

What characteristics do you notice on the palate - is it softly sweet, rich and fruity, or peppery and spicy?

Does the flavour remain for a long time or doest it disappear quickly?

My verdict on Glenmorangie - light gold, full bodied, fruity and slightly chocolatey, peppery and spicy with a long finish.

Now, time for another sip. I'm gonna sleep really well tonight, hehe.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Go Go Go! Ha Ha Ha!

I seem to be developing a knack for getting injured and then receiving free bubbly to enjoy the pain with. Just last month I blistered my legs and won champagne for it. This month, to be fair to my body, I got nice scars of war etched on my arm and ribs. And I got a bottle of even better champagne!

This is kind of unsettling.

I was paintballing in London during the weekend, at this pretty cool place near Liverpool St tube station. It was five arches under a bridge converted into indoor paintball pitches. What a novel idea! Not only can you have fun shooting your mates right smack in the city, but it also beats getting frostbite on your trigger finger when playing in winter.

As the type of scenarios to play with goes, it was pretty much the usual. Capture the flag, last man standing, VIP. If you've played any first-person-shooter PC games (Counter Strike comes to mind), you'll be very familiar with the games.

Speaking of Counter Strike, I got two very nice bullet bruises from this dude who must have played wwaaayyy too many games. I'll bet all the rain in England that he's one of those fanatics who spend many, many nights perfecting his shots and jumps with the mouse and keyboard, only stopping for the necessary johnny breaks and coffee. Heck, I'll even bet that he Himself practises all those moves. I'm serious about this. England has a lot of rain, so my stakes are high.

So there I was all crouched down, in the perfect hidden position flanking the right while my trusty team mate (who turned out to be not very reliable) was holding the left. We were at that point in the middle of the battlefield, holding off incoming enemies from taking our women, children and cattle. Damned if we were going down without a fight. For country! For freedom!

And then this bad-ass dude actually jumped from nowhere on my left and fired with abandon at near-point blank! He even had his knees tucked up in mid-air and gun aiming at the ready, an exact carbon copy of the Counter Terrorist in CS! It seriously looked like a scene from the game I tell you. Pow!Pow! I was shocked to say the least. I felt only sharp pains and bewilderment. I looked pretty retarded, looking around wondering what just happened. When the hell did the ground open up and swallow my team mate?? And're not supposed to fire when you're so close to me!! Bugger.

Now I've got two nice tattoo-like circles on my arm. It actually looks worse now as the bruise has spread wider. I've also got a nice patch of red, purple and discoloured circle on the right side of my ribs, and a nice pinkish blot on the left. Sigh.

At least I have a nice bottle of bubbly to ease the pain. Won it at the comedy club we went to at night. It was the first time I've been to a comedy club and I must say I really enjoyed it. The stand-up comedians were hilarious and had everyone in stitches :) I was laughing my head off the whole night hehe. Definitely a type of entertainment to be enjoyed more often!

Now this was the first time ever that I've won anything at a lucky draw. I must thank Christine who wasn't there when her name was called out. I wouldn't have been called otherwise.

Yeng Zee Yeong? Do we have a Yeng Zee Yeong in the house?

Aih. Don't know if the bruises or having your name slurred out like that in front of a hundred plus crowd is more painful. =P

January Babies

Happy Birthday to:

Ming Yi
Wai Sen
Zi Xiang

If I forgot anyone's big day this month let me know! Don't quietly go emo on me ok? :)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Porkie Paradise

Last weekend, I was over at Shawn's place for some cooking and beer. It turned out to be a good one and I've actually posted a guest entry in his blog. There's some recipes there so check it out.

There are a couple more simple recipes from that day that I'll mention here. But before that, here's what we had for the main course:

Bak kut teh! Yummsss!

We also made a side dish of brinjals/aubergines with minced pork and a sexy chilli dipping sauce, hehe.

This brinjal dish for two is really simple, easy and quick to prepare. All you need is:

2 brinjals, sliced
Minced pork
1 onion, quartered
Garlic (if you wish)
Lee Kum Kee Spicy Garlic Egg Plant sauce packet (or any other substitute you feel like)

Boil or fry the brinjals until soft then put them aside. I'd recommend boiling for the health conscious, as brinjals are notorious for sucking up oil like a sponge. Heat up some oil in a wok or pan and saute the onions and/or garlic until fragrant before tossing in the minced meat. Keep stirring to separate the meat and avoid it clumping into a big chunk as it cooks. After maybe 3 minutes or once the meat is almost cooked, pour in the sauce from the packet. Once the sauce heats up, put in the brinjals and stir fry, coating everything with the sauce. Let it simmer for a few minutes and it is done.

Plate it and add a few sprigs of coriander or spring onions for garnish.

The chilli dip is an experimental take on something traditional. Trust me it tastes damn good! :)

Lots of ginger, very finely minced
Garlic and shallots or onions, finely chopped
Bird's eye chillies (lots of them!)
Spring onions and coriander, finely chopped (you can add more herbs, e.g. parsley, basil)
Fish sauce
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Dark soy sauce

If you have a pestle and mortar, you can pound the ginger into a paste first (or just use a blender). Put all the ingredients into a bowl and stir to mix all the flavours together. Put as much or as little of each ingredient to your taste. The sauces can be omitted altogether too, and it will still taste great with some garlic/onion oil. Let the sauce sit for a while to let all the flavours get jiggy with it. It will taste really groovy soon after.

Sexy, no? And fiery too!


I've just reached home, to the warm and dry comfort of my room. Outside, the wind is blowing in every direction possible. Left, right, up, down, in your face. I really feel for the thousands of commuters still stranded at the train stations, braving the chills.

I'm gonna start this section about living in the UK with a bit of a rant. I was waiting for the train to get back from work and it was 14 minutes late. That was 14 minutes of enduring the cold gushes that seem to penetrate right into the bone. And when the train did come it was so packed (think Metrobus in KL) I couldn't even stick my foot into the carriage. I had to wait another 30-odd minutes for the next train. By the time I got home I was actually shivering. Bugger.

Man I can really use a nice bowl of hot soup now.

Not that it was anyone's fault. The country's been on alert for gale winds for a while now, but in recent days it has really manifested itself into a real devil. In fact, it was so bad tonight that a train actually crashed into a tree. How strong must the wind be to do that to a train?? At 80 mph, I'd say pretty damn strong. Even lorries get blown down on their sides.

Sometimes I can't even walk properly, swaying from side to side while trying not to get blown onto the road and the moving cars. Sometimes, I literally have to be on my feet, as I'd be fighting a strong flow from the left and it would suddenly change direction to hit me from the front or back. It really is a game of wit and endurance just to walk straight sometimes.

And the howl. Remember the sound of wind rushing by your ears when you were riding that awesome rollercoaster and you can't hear anything else? I can experience that just standing anywhere on the street. At night, I can hear the wind wailing outside my window. And as if my slit-eyes aren't small enough, I have to squint and make them even smaller to avoid irritation.

What a funny sight I must be to someone looking, hehe. But I guess everyone else is too determined to get indoors to notice anything else. Not only is there the wind to deal with, there is also the rain most of the time. Combined, both these forces can really cause some serious depression. Good thing I always have chocolate in my room. :)

I'm a bit warmer now, but not warm enough. Time to cook up a good hot dinner. I hope everyone out there will reach home safely soon and be able to have a warm dinner too.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Munch Munch

I'd like to think of myself as a foodie. I love food, and I really enjoy eating and the whole gathering, camaraderie and laughter that comes with enjoying good grub.

For me, it's not just about eating for the sake of sustenance. Meals have always been more that. It's always been about the socializing, the company of loved ones and good friends, the merriment and laughter, the tears and heartaches, and the enjoyment of everything that is good about living. Whether its celebrating something with a lavish dinner, gathering and catching up at the mamak, or pouring the heart's deepest feelings out on the table with a cup of coffee/ hot chocolate, food has a powerful influence in my life.

I also like to cook. I'm not a great cook, but I find the act of cooking very fulfiling and satisfying. It allows me to get my creative juices flowing, it's fun, and it has a calming effect. I can happily spend the whole day planning and executing dishes for a dinner set. There's just something very satisfying about using great meat, vegetables, raw ingredients and putting in your best effort to tranform them into delicious, heart-warming food for people.

Not surprisingly, I'm also a huge fan of cooking shows and foodie programs. :)

What I've found out is that cooking is not hard. You don't have to rip your hair out trying to make coq au vin or spend hours roasting bones and bent over the stove boiling down demi glace for that special oven roasted pigeon dish. Nor do you have to toil with hundred of herbs, braising, steaming, frying and baking that 10-course feast fit for chinese emperors.

Any dish, prepared with genuine heart and soul, is a beautiful thing. It is the culmination of all your warmth, respect and care for the person that will be enjoying the meal. It expresses the want of giving the best to that person. That, I feel, is the most important thing. Not the dish. Even a simple fried egg can feel like a giant hug sometimes.

Of course, good food tastes better when shared (eating alone is never fun), and cooking is more fun when ideas are exchanged and tips are discussed.

Hence, I'm setting up this section for my foodie adventures, cooking experiments and recipes. I'm always on the lookout for new places and new cuisine, so hopefully this will lead me to exciting munchies. And if I am able to help just one person cook and eat better along the way, then I'll be very happy. :)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Call me Midas

My superpower is cuddles and I have gold fingers. What are you?

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Skiing in Andorra

I went skiing for the first time some two weeks before Xmas.

When Matt and Yuens asked if I was interested, I agreed on the spot. It was the last winter season before I head home man. Die die also must go skiing!

We agreed on Andorra for several irresistable reasons:
1. It had very good slopes for beginners.
2. It had one of the best ski schools in Europe.
3. We didn't have much money.

Going to postcard places like Switzerland or Austria would mean resculpting our fragile bank accounts with huge ugly dents, and we do like to keep the figures pretty.

Andorra is a small country. By small I mean tiny. Like a small pea so tightly wedged between two big pork chops that you wouldn't know it's there if I didn't tell you. By the way that was what I had for dinner tonight, hehe. Andorra is on the border of southern France and northern Spain, about 3 hours from Toulouse or Barcelona.
We managed to get a good deal. 500 pounds for a 3-star resort with half board, skiing lessons, ski gear, ski passes, return flights and coach transfers to the resort for 7 days. Not bad huh?
Only problem was, there wasn't much snow because it was early season and winter was late.

Fortunately, there was just enough for us beginners to get some ski coaching :)

The first day I was all eager and ready. I figured that if I can rollerblade, skiing shouldn't be that hard to pick up right? So with my boots strapped in and my skis gleaming in the sun, I couldn't wait to start.

So macho hor?

We started off learning how to lock in the skis to the bottom of our boots and how take it off. This I learned to be very useful when you plant your bum or face on snow and can't get up.

Then we learned the 'plough'. This is basically spreading your legs and pointing your toes inwards. No, not in ecstasy boys and girls. Fear is the more accurate feeling when you're going down the slope and you can't stop. What the 'plough' is is an inverted 'V' to help you stop. I don't know about you, but I thought that was single most important lesson in the entire trip. I want to stop when I want to stop, with my eyes watching the beautiful mountains instead of straight up into the sky :P

Skiing is damn tough work man. I woke up on the second with my whole body aching. Shoulders, torso, legs...oh man how the legs ached. And I got my shins all blistered on the first day because I wrongly tucked part of my ski pants into the boots, and they really hurt like hell. But darn it I was there to ski, and I soldiered on through the pain like a great trooper. My sargeant would have been proud.

The next few days were spent practising and learning how to turn. Not easy man. The stronger leg will be very prominent, and I found that I could shoop-shoop to the left gracefully but sucked big time turning right. Right leg stronger mah, what to do. So, there was some hiccups la.

On the final day of ski school, we had a slalom time trial race! It was just a nice fun end to the lessons, but for I was feeling very competitive. You see, we were broken into groups during the week. Groups for the more advanced, the good ones, the beginners, and the ones that needed more help. I was in the beginners, and damn I wanted to beat some advanced students! Hehe...sometimes its fun to be kiasu.

Everyone had a trial run before the race. I pushed off the starting gate....and fell flat. Less than a meter from the start. Three instructors came to help me up. Aiyoh damn malu! #$&%$!#&!!

Shaken and a bit stirred, I steadied my nerves for the actual run. Everyone seemed to be doing well and I got my hopes up. My turn came eventually, and with a good push I was off. Bending my knees nicely and shoop-shooing around the flags, it felt great being cheered on by the rest. A few big pushes near the end and I crossed the finish line. Shiok man :)

The whole event was filmed and shown at the local pub later in the day, providing good laughs and a nice close to the ski lessons. But before that, everyone was already pretty chuffed that we graduated!! So, in true Malaysian style...take photo!

I met some new friends too, of which was a couple from Malaysia! What a small world eh? Kelvin and Muan Hong who are staying in Southampton. Very nice and friendly folks :)

me, yuens, matt, muan hong, kelvin

At the pub, certificates were given to everyone, with the recorded time from the race noted in. And with every name being called out, I got more nervous...because I wanted to get into the top ten time sheets. 13, 12, 11...wah damn tension.

Finally, No.10...the only one from the beginners group...Ying! Fuuuhhhh! Malaysia boleh!! I got a top ten time!! So proud! But tah ma de...the gwailo got my name wrong. Ying. Ying??? Nevermind. I beat quite a number of more advanced skiiers man. Hehe.

But my true moment of glory was to come after that. The MC announced the competition for best bruise. I couldn't have felt more confident then. Yeah sure, some of them showed some light bruises, and a girl even had a bandaged wrist. Then, I showed them my shins.

I won a medal and a bottle of champagne for that. Power. Best feeling in the world. :)

remember boys and girls, wear both layers of your ski pants outside your boots...

The last day of skiing we went on an actual beginners route around the mountain. Our instructors were so kind to bring us around the route once with us. Kudos to them, they've been so helpful, friendly and fun to have. We bought them some wine as a thank you.

The views along the route were beautiful and you get really good views. No wonder so many people like skiing. It's worth the hard work just to enjoy the scenery.

The best view was at the top of the mountain. From there you can view the mountain ranges from France, Andorra and Spain. It was simply breathtaking. I stood there for a fair bit taking it all in.

Towards left: France Center: Andorra Towards Right: Spain

This ski trip was really fun and adventurous. It was tough work and I took a week after the trip recover from the aches and exhaustion, but I did something new and exciting. I visited a new place and met new friends. I enjoyed the mountains and learned a new skill.

I'm no longer a ski virgin. I've been broken and bruised.

And I loved every minute of it.

Friday, January 5, 2007

So this is blogging...

*drum roll*

Hey hey my first attempt at blogging! *clap clap*

I've decided to start a blog. Not that it's a spur of the moment thing. I've actually been thinking about doing this for quite a while now, but I can be King Procrastinator sometimes. What got me jump started was an idea with a few buddies to start blogging about our experiments with cooking and food.

So I thought, what better time to start my own blog as well? It's the new year, a time for new beginnings and doing new things. :)

Hello. I'm Yeng Yee. More known to my friends as Yengs. I get recognized as YY, Y-cube, or triple-Y too. you see, that's my initials - YYY.

This is me, a long long time ago. Hehe.

This is me now :)

I'm currently based in Reading, UK. For almost two years I've been on the Working Holidaymaker Programme, trying to survive, travel and get a taste of independent life here in Britain. For anyone thinking about this programme, I absolutely recommend it. From meeting new people, seeing new places, visiting different countries, or just getting to grips with daily life in a foreign country, this experience will open your eyes and provide you with countless unforgettable memories.

But I'll be heading home to Malaysia soon. Very soon. I really should have blogged all my experiences in the UK for the past two years, to record my thoughts, my growth and as a time capsule of my memories here. But going home will be another new experience and a new start, and I suppose the transition will be worth mentioning too.

Hopefully this will be the start of good times and lots of laughs. Happy new year everybody, and may this year be an amazing one!