by Maganjeet Kaur
We learned to eat sireh like a lady, we learned about French cheese and wine, we learned to tie the yukata, we learned how to walk elegantly in Dutch clogs and we learned the correct way to drink Japanese tea – all in a convivial atmosphere with good food, music and company.
After last year’s resounding success with Bollywood night, this year’s annual dinner organisers were challenged to match this and last Saturday (16 Nov), Cze Yan, together with Karen and Erina, gave us a night to remember at Simply Mel’s.
Simply Mel’s is a family owned restaurant at Bangsar South serving Kristang food and we were treated to an array from the Portuguese-Melakan heritage; with the Cincalok and the Portuguese Devil Curry being my personal favourites. After the meal, the owner, Melba Nunis Victor known simply as Mel, gave us an insight to Kristang food including some of the traditions handed down from mother to daughter. For example, pineapple tarts used to be cut using a round thingummy and the flowery sides were hand-crafted into shape – a laborious task made easier today with the use of plastic (I think) moulds.
The meal was accompanied with lovely music. We were fortunate to be entertained by a group of very accomplished koto players. The koto is a string instrument and it is the national instrument of Japan.
An experience of Japanese culture would not be complete without sampling tea and Erina hosted a session where the volunteers were taught the correct way to drink tea.
We like our wine and we like our cheese. But do we know where the different wines and cheeses come from? Dany challenged us to find out and we learned a lot about French wines and cheeses in the process – pity there were none for sampling. Anyway, it was a contest whereby Dany had prepared a list of regions in France and volunteers had to figure out which wines or cheeses were associated with these regions and with a prize for the volunteer who got them all. It turned out that six volunteers got all the answers correct! But Dany was only giving out one prize and so she made them sing for the prize – they had to sing a song by Edith Piaf. Ingrid and Susan took up the challenge and sang together leaving Dany with no choice but to present prizes to both.
This was not the only contest – we also had a slogan writing contest. The MV committee wanted a slogan to go with our logo and volunteers were asked to submit entries. Volunteers rose to the task and 26 entries were submitted. After dinner, we voted on the best three. The slogan ‘take the mystery out of history‘ was the front runner; easily beating the next highest entry, which was ‘take today to know the past‘ by a comfortable margin. There was a tie for third place – ‘making history interesting‘ and ‘2kang cerita‘. These four slogans will be submitted to Dato’ Ibrahim for his final choice which will then become our official slogan.
On hand to showcase Dutch culture was Mique who was prettily attired in Dutch costume together with tulips and clogs. Ashok, then, paraded for us in the clogs that Kokkie had kindly lent for the demonstration.
The sireh tradition is the quintessential Malay custom and using the tepak sireh received during her wedding, Zahara explained the cultural significance behind each ingredient in the quid as well as how to correctly roll a quid. A quid for anyone? Chewing betel is supposed to prevent tooth decay and mindful of my upcoming dental appointment, I put my hands up for the first quid rolled out. The quid was kept in place with a clove and this was a bit too sharp for me but, apart from this, it had an interesting flavour. The powers that be say that although betel chewing is not addictive, it gives a sense of well-being. Although it was a short chew, I can attest to this and I am ready for my next quid.
Enjoy the photos below (you can click on them to get the full view) and if you do have some good photos, please do post these onto Facebook.