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GEORGE TOWN – Despite being in their 80s, the famous Lim sisters who sell curry mee in Air Itam are not showing any signs of slowing down, let alone retiring.

In their little shed, tucked away from the main street of the Air Itam market, the two octogenarians are still working tirelessly, as they have been since 1946!

A visit on Wednesday found Kooi Lye, 83, seated on a plastic stool busily churning out bowls of curry mee, with the ingredients all within arm’s length, while her elder sister Kooi Heang, 85, sat on a rattan chair as she took orders.

Asked about retiring, the elder sister smiled and shook her head, saying without hesitation that “as long as we can do it, we will continue”.

The sisters, who never married, have made a name for themselves as “living heritage” who still serve curry mee cooked over a charcoal stove.

Diners still use the low wooden stools and eat facing them, with their hands cradling their ceramic bowls.

The sisters said they started out by helping their mum with the business when they were young.

“We only went to school for a few years. Then the Japanese arrived, and our schooling was stopped, so we helped our mum.

“We were very young then, and our curry mee was just 20 sen a bowl, and customers sat on our stools just like today,” she said with a twinkle in her eye as she reminisced about an era gone by.

Their stall opens at 7.30am, and their curry mee usually sells out by 1pm.

She said they would wake up at 4.30am to prepare the ingredients, and sleep late at night as they have to do cleaning up, as well as prepare the chilli paste and curried cuttlefish for next day’s sales.

This has been their routine for almost all their lives, with Tuesday being their only day of rest.

Despite weathering hardship for decades, the humble sisters are still a cheery pair, warmly greeting every customer as they serve them.

Their grandniece Ong May May, 27, said she has been gradually picking up the skills to prepare the curry mee to ensure the culinary tradition survives. – The Star Online

One of the most traditional gastronomic experiences in Japan is the omakase, the equivalent of a Western tasting menu, in which diners surrender their meal choices to the creativity and whim of the chef. But in Japan, where few chefs speak fluent English, the concept can be an intimidating and confusing one for foreigners, who are unsure of what they’re eating and even less sure of how to eat it.

Enter “Sushi University”, a newly launched tour outfit led by interpreters who can school guests on the dos and don’ts of omakase dining, and serve as liaisons between diners and sushi chefs.

The meal is a door-to-door experience, with guides accompanying guests from the hotel to the restaurant in a shuttle bus.

At the restaurant – normally a small, intimate affair – the chef provides a short lecture on their culinary philosophy and the menu for the day and answers guest questions which are interpreted by the guide.

Also on the syllabus, students learn the dos and don’ts of omakase and sushi etiquette.

For instance, guests are taught it’s considered bad manners to engage the sushi chef in conversation or ask questions while they are slicing the fish or molding the sushi rice.

Likewise, students are advised to skip perfume or cologne when dining at a sushi restaurant, or risk offending the chef and masking the subtle aromas for fellow diners. That also goes for smoking mid-meal.

Temperature plays an important role in omakase dining and sushi as well, which means that plates should be consumed within 10 seconds of being presented and not left languishing on the counter.

In addition to offering an authentic dining experience, the tour is also meant to help travellers who have specific dietary requirements like allergies and aversions, as special requests can be made in advance.

The programme is divided into three levels, basic, intermediate and senior, and prices range between US$88 and US$265 (RM392-RM1,182).

Other languages in the works for the programme include German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, simplified Chinese, Korean and Thai.

 

LONDON: If you are vomiting and suffering from diarrhoea, tweet about it.

Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) is asking Britons to do so as a means of charting the spread of norovirus, the BBC reported on Tuesday (Dec 13).

Since 2013, the FSA has been sieving Twitter data to identify norovirus outbreaks.

Norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug,is a highly contagious illness with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea and muscle pains.

It spreads through food and from contact with other people.

Dr Sian Thomas told the BBC that social media was a better source of data than Google searches, as “it’s more about the immediacy… what’s happening in their lives right now”.

FSA social media manager James Baker wrote in a blog post in 2013 that the agency hunts for spikes in key words such as symptoms and related terms, and compares them with the number of lab-confirmed norovirus cases for the same periods.

He said the FSA uses the data to test Twitter’s potential for early alerts to outbreaks.

The BBC quoted the FSA as saying that “there’s a really good correlation between the number of mentions on Twitter of ‘sick’ and a range of search terms, with the incidents of illness as defined by laboratory reports”.

“Our current estimate is that between 70 to 80 per cent of the time, we are able to accurately predict an increase the next week,” added the FSA. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network

ISKANDAR PUTERI: Johor will gazette two signature dishes – asam pedas and laksa Johor – as heritage dishes.

State Youth, Sports, Culture and Heritage committee chairman Datuk Zulkurnain Kamisan said the state government had agreed to gazette the two dishes.

He said gazetting asam pedas was like patenting the hot and spicy gravy as other states also have their own version.

“Johor’s asam pedas is different from Malacca’s but every one knows the basic ingredients which go into the dish,” he said after attending the Johor Future 2016 meeting on youth volunteerism at Bangunan Sultan Ismail in Kota Iskandar here yesterday.

As for laksa Johor, Zulkurnain said the dish used only spaghetti instead of laksa noodles.

He believed that it began being used after the late Sultan Abu Bakar visited Italy and introduced it to the Johor royal household.

“Try replacing spaghetti with yellow noodles or other types of noodles for laksa Johor, it does not taste the same as the original laksa Johor,” he said.

Apart from asam pedas and laksa Johor, he said that zapin – a traditional dance – and baju Melayu Teluk Belanga – a traditional men’s attire, would also be gazetted as Johor heritage.

Zapin, which originated from the Middle East, was brought in to the Malay Archipelago by Arab traders and missionaries.

Although both baju Melayu Teluk Belanga and baju melayu Cekak Musang originated from Johor in the 1800s, the former is more popular among Johor Malays.

“The style is synonymous with Johor.

“That is what sets us apart from other states,” said Zulkurnain.

JAKARTA: Former England footballer Rio Ferdinand has unwittingly sparked a cross-border food fight after suggesting that a rice dish was Singaporean, to the horror of Indonesians who claim it as their own.

Ferdinand made the food faux pas during a weekend trip to watch the Singapore Grand Prix, when he tweeted a picture of himself holding a plate of the dish next to the comment: “Nasi goreng lunch.. Keeping it local in #Singapore”.

“Nasi goreng”, which literally translates as “fried rice” in Indonesian, generally consists of rice mixed with a sweet sauce and other ingredients such as chilli, vegetables and chicken, and often topped with a fried egg.

But the suggestion that the dish was not Indonesian caused horror in the archipelago, which is one of Singapore’s neighbours, and sparked a flood of angry tweets.

“M8, its Indonesian food, actually. There’s no ‘nasi’ and ‘goreng’ in Singapore,” Agung Prasetyo tweeted at Ferdinand, while others invited the former Manchester United player to their homes to try a dish of real, Indonesian nasi goreng.

This angry reaction was met with irritation in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia, with netizens claiming that fried rice is found in many countries in the region, not solely Indonesia.

There was particular annoyance in Singapore, with some suggesting that Indonesians’ defiant defence of a rice dish was a stark contrast to its refusal to accept the blame for forest fires on its territory that blanket the city-state with haze every year.

“Ohhhh nasi goreng can claim but haze cannot,” said Twitter user @HarisBRosli.

On Monday, Ferdinand attempted to calm the bickering unleashed by his remark, commenting on Twitter: “Was there really uproar with my Nasi goreng tweet??!! Relax guys…’local’ in SE Asia”.

It was just the latest battle over culinary and cultural heritage between the neighbours, whose long shared history does not stop the regular flare-up of petty rows.

In 2009 protests erupted outside the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta after Kuala Lumpur was accused of plundering the archipelago’s culture when a traditional dance from the Indonesian island of Bali allegedly appeared in adverts promoting tourism in Malaysia.

However it turned out to have stemmed from a misunderstanding — the ad was not a government-sponsored promotion for tourism, but rather a trailer for a television documentary about Malaysia. – AFP

SINGAPORE: The recipe for one of Singapore’s Michelin-starred hawker stalls is up for sale for at least $2mil (RM6.1mil), Shin Min Daily News reported on Monday.

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, which won a star in the inaugural Singapore Michelin Guide, has been lauded as the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world.

Several corporations in China, Taiwan and Vietnam have reached out to him, owner and chef Chan Hon Meng told the Chinese evening daily.

Until recently, the 51-year-old had little interest as those who approached him were not in the food industry.

“They said they will provide the finances, and me the expertise, but it is not so easy. They are willing to open factories, but how will they be run?” he said.

Now, he is in talks with a global food and beverage company which has been expanding rapidly lately, he said. They have the relevant experience and are offering generous conditions, including share options, he told Shin Min.

“Manpower is a longstanding problem in Singapore, so I want to spend some time studying the details and work out a win-win deal for both parties,” he told the evening daily.

He also said that he is considering the offer because he is getting older and does not know how long he can continue running the stall at Chinatown Food Complex.

Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint’s premises and recipe was sold for $4mil (RM12.1mil) to Aztech Group in 2014.

Based on that deal, the recipe alone should be worth at least $2mil (RM6.1mil), said Chan. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network

SEOUL (Reuters) – Bae Su-Hyeon’s lunch of sweet potato soup and funghi pasta has bugs in it. They’re part of the recipe.

“It didn’t feel like eating insects,” says Bae, an 18-year-old student having lunch with a friend at Papillon’s Kitchen, a Seoul restaurant specializing in insects.

That’s because the mealworms in her dishes were hydrolised into powder to make the pasta and soup.

Insect-eating, or entomophagy, has long been common in much of the world, including South Korea, where boiled silky worm pupae, or beondegi, are a popular snack.

Now, South Korea is looking to expand its insect industry as a source of agricultural income by promoting more consumption, joining a global trend that has seen rising interest in insects as a nutritious and environmentally friendly food.

To do that, the government is trying to make people more comfortable with the idea of eating crickets and mealworms that are ground into powder or hydrolysed to extract oils and protein and turned into food, from ice cream to sausages.

Kim Young Wook, chief executive of the private-sector Korean Edible Insect Laboratory and owner of Papillon’s Kitchen, said key to winning over sceptical customers was presentation.

“If people taste foods after having a good first impression, and find they are delicious, that’s everything, because taste speaks for itself,” he said this week at a tasting event staged by the Agriculture Ministry.

South Korea’s insect industry was worth 304 billion won ($278 million) last year, nearly double from 2011, although food for humans accounted for just 6 billion won of that with the rest coming from uses like animal feed.

The government wants to expand the industry to 530 billion won by 2020, with food making up nearly a fifth.

The number of farms producing insects rose to 724 last year, from 265 in 2011.

Insects can be a rich source of fat, protein, vitamins, fibre and minerals, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The composition of unsaturated omega-3 and six fatty acids in mealworms is comparable to that in fish and higher than in beef and pork, it says.

Globally, at least 2 billion people eat insects and more than 1,900 species have been used for food, according to the FAO, which said entomophagy could play a key role in food security and environmental protection. Insects need less land and water than cattle.

Kim Jong Hee, who has been raising insects since 2000 for animal feed, began farming mealworms and crickets for people in 2013.

“In the past, people used to shake their heads when they thought of bugs, but now more people believe insects are edible,” he said.

(Editing by Tony Munroe)

Could cockroach milk be a superfood of the future? It could be, once we’ve gone past the yuck factor.

Could we one day be eating cookies and ice cream made with cockroach milk? Researchers in India have discovered that a viviparous cockroach (one that gives birth to live young rather than laying eggs) produces a substance three times more calorific than buffalo milk.

Insects are increasingly looking like the food of the future. In years to come, man may make the leap from grasshopper snacks to cockroach milk as a source of energy.

A study undertaken in India has analysed this substance. The research showed that the secretions produced by a particular species of roach are three times more calorific than buffalo milk (which is rich in fat and protein and four times more calorific than cow’s milk).

Protein, sugar and fat

The female Diploptera punctata secretes liquid food after having given birth to her young. They feed and thrive on this substance produced in their mother’s intestine. This cockroach milk, which does not resemble cow’s milk, is rich in protein, sugar and fat.

The next step for the researchers is to find out how to produce this roach milk on a large scale. The study’s biochemist says that these milk protein crystals do not taste bad, and could be one day used for human consumption. One solution could be a yeast-based production process. But anyone who is scared of insects need not worry too much; it will take years to complete the project and evaluate whether this substance is toxic to humans. – AFP Relaxnews

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry said it has found no evidence of plastic being used as an ingredient in Hup Seng’s crackers.

The Ministry’s director general Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham bin Abdullah said that Hup Seng has implemented the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) food safety assurance programme.

“The Ministry of Health has verified the food safety assurance programme implemented by Hup Seng and found no evidence of plastic being used as an ingredient in making biscuits,” he told the Star Online in an emailed statement.

He added that dry foods such as biscuits that contain high amount of carbohydrate and fat naturally can burn easily.

Last week, a video claiming that Hup Seng’s Ping Pong Special Cream Crackers were coated with a layer of plastic was widely shared on social media networks.

The video shows the cracker being burnt easily with a lighter, with the maker of the video claiming that the melting cracker could contain synthetic material and that it was not safe for consumption.

Hup Seng said the video clip was intended to tarnish the company’s product image and reputation.

It also said that a lab test last week showed that plasticizer content was not detected in their Ping Pong Special Cream Crackers and Special Cream Crackers.

At Dim Sum Icon in Hong Kong, diners are encouraged to play with their food.

Squeeze the lactating and defecating steamed dim sum bun with coconut cream inside, made to resemble one of the popular Japanese “Kobitos” characters, and you’re in for a “hilarious” experience, customers say.

But far from grossing people out, Ray Kuo, assistant manager at the restaurant, said it’s one of the most popular items on the menu.

“Actually we got a lot of good reviews from them,” Kuo said. “That is the main one they post on Facebook and Instagram.”

Another crowd-pleaser is a pooping Gudetama, the lazy yellow egg character from Japan’s Sanrio, and a cartoon turd made out of cake.

The restaurant uses Japanese animations, such as the Kobitos by Toshitaka Nabata and Gudetama, but switches the main theme up every few months in addition to alternating menu items.

Deep-fried oat buns are displayed for the photographer at Dim Sum Icon restaurant in Hong Kong, China July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Deep-fried oat buns are displayed for the photographer at Dim Sum Icon restaurant in Hong Kong, China July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

“We don’t want the old traditional Chinese style of dim sum, so we want make it more fashionable, Kuo said, emphasizing the restaurant’s appeal to teenagers and a “younger crowd”.

Dutch exchange student, Lineke Schrigver, said she knew about the restaurants from social media before even setting foot in the city and happened to walk by it.

“I have seen it on Facebook and on Instagram already before I came to Hong Kong, but I didn’t know this was like a famous thing or anything,” Schrigver said. “I was like I want to go there.”

Schrigver said the food was “hilarious” but “really tasty.”

Taiwanese tourist, Miss Su, who had just arrived in Hong Kong said her family had first eaten at a traditional dim sum restaurant but were disappointed.

“I think it is a novelty and special so I wanted to have a try,” Su said. “And it does taste really good, cute and tasty.”

Kuo explained that everything has been cleared with the copyrights holder, with a percentage of the profits going to the animation companies.

Dim Sum Icon opened their first restaurant two years ago and their second at the end of December. They are already in negotiations to open stores in mainland China and Macau. – Reuters/Stefanie McIntyre