Dessert Recipes / Nyonya Recipes

Thumbs up from the most remarkable woman

Being home for three and a half months seems like a long break but time flies when you’re around people you love, who also annoy you at times. That is part of the fun, is it not?!

Seastack at Bako National Park

Proboscis Monkey

Now that I’m back in London, I miss my sister popping into my room, her nagging me, my little niece who loves playing with my stuff, her waking me up before 7am cause she had too much sleep, having breakfast with my parents and his group of friends, exercising at Botanical Garden, brother-in-law buying me Aki’s pancake for supper, deciding what’s for dinner and all that. That was practically all that I have done the last months of 2011. Although there was a long list of activities and travel destination on my list that I prepared to do when I was back, most of that did not happen. That includes learning to scuba dive and get a PADI license so I can see the underwater world of Pulau Perhentian and Pulau Sipadan, see the endangered proboscis monkey and seastacks at Bako National Park, visit Cambodia and Bali, hike up Penang Hill again and kayaking. At least I went on the longest canopy walk.

The longest canopy walk at Sungai Sedim

It is not that I have been lazing around doing nothing. A choice was made! I prefer to spend as much time with mum and to take good care of her, making sure she was happy and comfortable for as long as I was there. Knowing that she did not have much time with us and secretly hoping for a miracle was heartbreaking. It was one of the most mentally challenging moments of my life.

This is the hand that give me comfort and warmth all these years

She is the strongest person I know, the most sincere and caring, with the biggest heart. She’s a fighter!! She made it through 13 years since she was diagnosed a stage 4 lung cancer. She was there with me through high school, saw me graduate, supported my decision to stay in London, held me through my ups and downs, saw my brother and sister got married and saw the birth of  her grandchildren. She even made it through her first relapse. The second was her limit.

That’s what helped her breathe more comfortably

One day, I decided to make some kaya (coconut jam) for my family and our kindest neighbours. It was a totally different experience cooking at home and cooking in my eastend kitchen. Mum’s kitchen had everything you need. I could also get fresh coconut milk from the market and not a canned version from Chinatown. Did I mention mum’s such a lovable person, she had many friends who would visit her whenever. So yes, you guessed it!

I was getting comfortable in the kitchen, stirring the mixture in the double boiler and making caramelised sugar at the same time. Everything would have gone perfectly if it wasn’t for the doorbell. Mum’s got a visitor and I had to get the door! Auntie J came with food for everyone. Assam Laksa for tea!! No decent Penangites will refuse laksa, especially when it’s right under your nose with it’s complex spicy, sour and fish aroma that fills the whole space with that delicious smell. It seemed I got caught up in the moment and forgot all about my sugar! Yup it’s burnt. I was so upset about it, but I got on with the laksa and chat to Auntie J. Will worry about that sugar later.

While Auntie J was spending time with mum, I got on with my kaya making. The caramelised sugar was the secret to making the ultimate kaya so that step could not be omitted. Everything got on smoothly but then, the doorbell rang again! By that time, I was lucky enough to have finished that very important step. This time, it was my lovely neighbour. She let me carry on with what I was doing so I could save this supposedly yummy coconut jam.

By the time I was done making the jam, I was wary of what it might taste like. I knew the colour was not right but I had to try it! A good cook tastes their food before anyone else does. It tasted good, although was not perfect. Later when I wheeled mum to the kitchen, she put a spoonful of that kaya in her mouth, looked at me, smiled and gave a THUMBS UP!! That made my day. A kaya thumbs up from mum!!

This is it! It was not perfect, texture and colour-wise but it tasted good enough for a thumbs up!

These are some pictures to remember her by. 

“I love you, and I miss you.” xx

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