Electrical bizarreness

When I say that Switzerland is in a class of their own, I don’t mean it in a negative way! I have yet to fully understand the macro and micro workings of this little country and today, I have one more thing to add to my “bizarre happenings” list – not that I really have one to begin with. HAHA!

Anyway, this morning I woke up to the thought of making some Malaysian-styled pancakes as you probably have seen in earlier posts. Nil had already asked for some pancakes yesterday night – yes, we have pancakes on weekends quite often – so okay, off I went to the kitchen. I open the fridge and hmm, something doesn’t look quite right. There is no light. Strange. Looked around, and the radio-clock isn’t working. Tried the exhaust light and fan. Nope, not working either. Tried the kitchen light and it works just fine. Turned on the oven light and oven and it’s working as well.

So maybe it’s just the extension cord linking the fridge and radio-clock to the power socket. Okay, time to waddle around the apartment to look for a new extension cord. Found on, pulled out everything and replaced the old one with this one. Tried plugging it in. Nope, that didn’t work. Tried another plug – there are only two in my kitchen (I know, I know). Didn’t work either.

Time to call out the big guns – in other words, the hubby. He walks out, checks and comes to the conclusion that we probably blew out a fuse. Okay, so we go hunting around for another extension cord because the fridge can go without electricity for too long. It took us three extension cords to link the fridge to the nearest non-kitchen power plug. Geh. Then he heads off to bed to relax since it’s a Sunday and no one is open, not even for emergencies.

I start up the electrical plated stove (since the Swiss don’t really fancy using gas) – thankgawd the oven is still working, I tell myself. And just as I finish uttering those words, the light indication starts doing the 70s retro club dance (read: blinking before passing out for a number of seconds before blinking again). I call Nil again and he starts cursing as I related the whole thing while heading back to the kitchen. He comes in, takes one look and then, the light dies. I mean kaput, no light, no nothing. For a moment we wondered if the stove was turned out. I had to find out with some basic common sense – water on hot plate and such. Okay, it’s still working but still…I don’t quite relish the idea of not being able to cook, especially with bowls of batter lying around.

Our fuse box...yes, Swiss styled!

After breakfast and coffee, Nil decides to really take a look at the whole problem. The two power sockets, lights above the power socket, exhaust fan and light all don’t work. The stove, oven and ceiling light (on the opposite wall) are all okay. So he assumes that it’s the fuse. I go hunting online for some idea as to what exactly is going on while preparing lunch as well. Just as I start cooking, Nil starts removing the fuses on our fuse box.

Now, our fuse box (pic above) is unlike anything I or him have ever seen. His cousin who is an electrician told us (jokingly of course) to move out of the country! Later on, he remarked that it was a pretty old system. In fact, the entire wiring for the apartment is old and inappropriate for modern living.

Just to give you an idea, we have one power plug in the master bedroom and it’s right in the middle of the room. In the guest room, the only power plug is below the light switch next to the door. In the hall, we have one near the balcony and another next to the outlet for the TV and phone. The other plug is right next to the entrance from the hallway. After that, the only other plugs are in the kitchen – one next to the window and the other next to the dish drying area. Lets not get to things like lighting or fixtures (eg these discount lighting fixtures).

Nightmarish really…

Back to our little problem in the kitchen, Nil removes the first fuse (from the right) and nothing works in the kitchen, not even the stove while everywhere else in the entire house is okay. Alright…he puts that in and removes the second one. It’s the same – nothing in the kitchen but everywhere else is fine. He puts that back and removes the third fuse, the smallest and everything in the house stops working.

Here’s the kicker.

When he puts the third fuse back in, EVERYTHING in the kitchen went back to normal. The exhaust fan and light, the stove top and oven, the power plugs, the light above the plug…all of it started up as if it never broke down to begin with. Even the darn oven indicator lights have stopped dancing and are back to their usual self.

So really, what just happened??? Hm…I think I’ll just chalk it down to some good old-fashioned bizarreness. Geh.

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Ban Jian Kuih

Ban Jian Kuih (Apam Balik) with hazelnuts

There is an old man near the market in the area where I live back in Malaysia who makes these and have been making these chewy, peanut Malaysian styled pancakes for the last twenty years. Known as apam balik by the Malays and as ban jian kuih by the Chinese Hokkien, this pancake comes in two different styles – the thicker, peanut-only filled slices and the thinner, crispy, corn & peanut whole pieces.

While Mum prefers the thinner, crispy ones, I actually like the dense and peanut-filled one just because it’s oh-so fragrant and perfect for a fulfilling breakfast. Yes, you’re supposed to eat like a king for breakfast because it provides the energy you’ll need for the long day ahead!

Anyway, I have been toying with the idea of making ban jian kuih for a while and finally decided to take the plunge today with some modifications with the recipe I found. No lye water (potassium carbonate & sodium bi-carbonate solution) available here at first glance – I am also too lazy to go hunt it down – and I ran out of unsalted peanuts plus I don’t really fancy margarine. So the substitute came in the form of vinegar, brown sugar, butter and chopped hazelnuts.

The result is…well, while the taste is very much the same with the crunch of the nuts, the texture leaves much to be desired. I was aiming for the airy, honeycomb structure within the pancake and even though it was bubbly and frothy, still, it is much too dense for my liking. I’ll definitely try this again with some adjustments – namely the thickness and such but otherwise, it’s all good for a first try!

Ban Jian Kuih
Adapted from Lily’s Ban Jian Kuih recipe

Ingredients

(A) Pancake

100 gms flour
25 gms rice flour
50 gms brown sugar
1/2 tsp vinegar
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
100 ml water
65 ml milk

(B) Filling

Hazelnuts
Caster sugar
Butter – small chunks

Method

  1. Mix (A) well and place aside to rest/proof for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Using a non-stick pan over medium-low heat, pour in the batter (how much depends on the size of the pan and the desired thickness of the pancake) and spread out using the ladle.
  3. Allow to cook uncovered. When bubbles are seen on the surface, sprinkle hazelnuts followed by sugar and toss in the chunks of butter.
  4. Allow to cook for a few seconds (until the butter melts) before using a spatula to release the sides and bottom.
  5. Fold into half and remove. Cool before cutting and serve as is or with a cup of hot coffee.
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Cervical cancer vaccine woes.

I’m not considering taking this vaccine (above the age limit and all) but I know a number of Malaysian women who are intend on taking it or have started. The CDC says that this vaccine will help prevent cervical cancer – with a few requirements naturally – and recommends it for women under 26 and such.

I first saw the poster and all promoting this vaccine in clinics back in Malaysia but never really gave it a thought because I didn’t feel all that comfortable with the idea of taking a vaccine for something such as a cancer. I had the impression that some doctors were promoting this as a “prevent-all” and that those who have taken it will never have to worry about cervical cancer while “blanketing” other important issues like having unprotected sex, not going for pap smears and etc. But that’s just MY impression, ya?

Today, while surfing some old links that I haven’t visited in a while, I came across an entry pointing to several videos on reported cases of severe side effects (including) death to be allegedly a result of taking this vaccine in the United States, where it was launched 2.5 years ago (as of 2008). As such, I feel the need to share this with everyone else who is thinking of taking their child for this vaccine or considering taking it themselves…

These are from CNN and CBS, and have been uploaded sometime early this year to end of last year. A must watch, if you ask me! At least it will give you another perspective on the whole “take the vaccine because it’s the next best thing” bandwagon.

More videos on the blog entry here.

Also, refer to the following news reports:

  • New worries about Gardasil safety – CBS
  • Following A Girl’s Death, the CDC is Finally Looking at Gardasil Links – newsinferno.com
  • CDC Takes Closer Look at Gardasil and Paralysis – usnews.com
  • Should parents worry about HPV vaccine? – CNN.com

UPDATE: I found a link (courtesy of the ladies at the knitting Ravelry) pointing to another perspective of the whole “adverse reaction” thing adopted by the media. Worth a look for those who are interested!

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A sickly sweet yet chewy dessert…

Sago pearls with sea coconut

…in the form of sago pearls with sea coconut in palm sugar and coconut cream!

It can be overwhelming sweet so care needs to be taken as to the amount of palm sugar syrup you decide to heap upon this. The coconut cream though gives it a rich and fragrant not to mention creamy texture. It’s a pity that I am never patient enough to let the sago pearls boil until it’s fully cooked (as you can see, mine still have uncooked white centers – a no-no!)…

You can serve this with pretty much anything you wish – I chose sea coconut because melons are not in season at the moment (and neither is honeydew) plus mangoes and other tropical fruits are too expensive in this part of the world…not to mention completely unripe. *sobs*

Still, this dessert is fulfilling…but I’m not about to gorge myself on it every day! 8)

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Bak kut teh (Pork bone tea soup)

Bak Kut Teh (Pork Bone Tea) with a bowl of rice mixed with fried shallots!

Bak kut teh, literally translated as “meat bone tea”, is a rich Chinese herbal brew made with (traditionally) the cheapest cuts of meat rich in gelatin & collagen plus copious amounts of fat such as the trotters, stomach and even intestines topped off with mushrooms and deep fried tofu pieces. Its fragrance and taste come from herbs like

  • Rehmannia glutinosa ??
  • Angelicae sinensis (dong qui) ??
  • Codonopsis pilosula (dang shen) ??
  • Ligusticum wallichii ??
  • Glycorrhiza uralensis (licorice root) ??
  • Polygonati odorati (solomon’s seal)
  • Frustus anisi stellati (Chinese star anise)
  • Fructus lycii (wolfberry)
  • Citri exocarpium

This dish comes in several varieties depending on which clan (Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew) is preparing it – the Hokkien variety is herbally and dark compared to the other variation salty & peppery. Back at home, bak kut teh is served with fresh lettuce, button mushrooms, Chinese mushrooms, stomach, pork ribs, trotter, innards as well as deep fried tofu all in a rich herbally broth topped off with side dishes of blanched vegetables, Chinese crullers (yew char kuey), rice mixed with fried shallots and a dish of bird’s eye chilli plus garlic in soy sauce.

Since we don’t exactly have access to everything, I decided to stick to pork trotters plus some pork belly as well as button mushrooms and fishball (!) with just the rice and fried shallots as a side dish. No bird’s eye chilli and garlic for me, I’m afraid.

Despite using a pre-packed concoction to make this broth, it turned out just as good as the one back home, with naturally some slight adjustments. I used salt pork trotters and had to soak them in water overnight to get rid of the salt. Now, it would have been great to boil them but I didn’t exactly relish chopping up 1.8 kg of pork trotters (although Nil did it since I’m preggers and paranoid about chopping off a finger or two) and boiling it together with the draining and all.

So I just threw everything in. Surprisingly, the broth cleared up just great and the result? Lovely, clear broth fit for…well, a cold cold COLD early spring day! Yes, it had been foggy and raining the entire day…and going out – I had to for classes and shopping (just groceries and nothing like sexy lingerie) – was definitely a bad idea…

Bak kut teh (Pork bone tea soup)

Ingredients
1 packet of pre-packed herbs
1 to 2 liters water
1.8 kg pork (any cut will do) – cut into chunks
10 pieces dried Chinese mushrooms
1/2 can button mushrooms
Half a bulb of garlic
3 tsp dark soya sauce
2 tsp light soya sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp salt
Other condiments (fishball, tofu pieces, etc)

Method

  1. In a pot, boil the water and once ready, add in all the ingredients above.
  2. Boil for at least an hour or as per instructions for the pre-packed herbs. The longer it takes, the more flavourful the broth will be and naturally, the softer the meat.
  3. Once ready, serve hot with rice, fried onions as well as other side dishes like Chinese crullers and so forth.
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