No coincidence…

There is this superstition among the Malay and ethnic communities that if you are offered something to eat or drink and you would not want it, you would have to touch it, at least, outside on the glass or cup or plate, or you can just take a teeny-weeny bit of it or else some untoward incident would befall upon you. The Malays call it keempunan and the Melanaus call it poonek. In fact, if you can get hold of a copy of 22 Malaysian Short Stories, an anthology of literary works compiled and edited by Lloyd Fernando (1963), you will find a story on this.

When I was very much younger, probably around 1970 or somewhere then, I went to Kuching and my friends took me to this restaurant, Ang Lee, at Carpenter Street for lunch…or maybe it was dinner, I can’t exactly remember now. I did not want a drink other than the plain water that I asked for but my friends kept asking me – three times to be exact…and it probably was a  coincidence that as we were leaving the place, I slipped on the first step of the wooden staircase, got up, slipped again, got up yet again and slipped the third time. By then, I was already on the ground floor – I did not sustain any serious injury but I can clearly remember that it was very painful for me to sit for at least a week.

A more recent and definitely a lot more serious incident would be when we went to KL that time when Melissa was very small. We had just checked into the hotel and my missus was making coffee for herself. She asked me if I wanted some and I said no…and soon after, we left for the theme park in the city. It was drizzling that afternoon. I had just bought the tickets and we had just entered when I saw somebody slipping on the slippery tiled floor, so I told Melissa and the mum to walk slowly and carefully. As I approached the stairs going down to the park, I felt myself sliding even though I was just standing still – it was that slippery. I slipped over the edge of the first step on the stairs and sat down. I guess it was sheer bad luck that my elbow hit the upper step and the bone broke into two.

There followed months and months of hospitals and eventually, surgery (to join the bone with a piece of metal and six screws as it failed to heal and reconnect by itself) and physiotherapy and I had to go to a Chinese sinseh for treatment before I could get my arm back to ALMOST normal again. I did write to the theme park and they replied paying me around RM200, the initial money spent at the hospital in KL, enclosing 10 complimentary tickets to the park – of course, I just threw them away and to this day, I would not go anywhere near that place again.

So was it sheer coincidence, fact or fiction? I wouldn’t know but I would take that bit about touching the glass, cup or whatever on the outside when someone offers you a drink or something to eat as good manners, a gesture of appreciation – thank you, but no, thank you.  However, personally, I would feel that if you had drunk or eaten a bit, you might as well drink or eat it all as nobody would want it anymore after that and it would such a waste to throw it all away…and whatever it might or might not be, it wasn’t because of this, that we were here…

Zen

…at Jalan Chew Geok Lin (formerly Old street) near the Chinese temple in town last Saturday for lunch.

We had not had Japanese for a while now, not since early December when Melissa’s friend from Sg Petani, Kedah came to town. I think she was craving for it for when she came back the day before, she dropped by the place for a very late lunch at around 3 something but it was already closed and would only reopen much later for dinner. In the end, she had no choice but to have something else…and that was why the following day, I took her there again so she could enjoy what she was hoping for.

I noticed that they had a nice new menu now…

Zen - menu

…though they could have done a better job with the binding – the middle page was already coming off.

We had this fried salmon dish (RM14.90)…

Zen - fried salmon

…which everyone liked. I would say that I prefer it done this way instead of the usual grilling on a pan as the strong smell of the fish which I do not really fancy seemed to have been toned down by the coating and the deep frying.

The soft shell crab sushi with meat floss (RM15.90)…

Zen - soft shell crab with meat floss

…was very nice too and they certainly seemed very generous with the floss and virtually buried everything else with it.

The inari kizami (RM6.90 for two)…

Zen - inari kizami

…was good as well but there was a bit too much of the roe on the ebiko sushi (RM3.90 for two)…

ebiko sushi

…and that made them a bit too salty.

We also had the tempura mortawase (RM13.90)…

Zen - tempura mortawase

…and the tempura don (RM15.90)…

Tempura don

…which came with a bowl of miso soup and a couple of watermelon slices. Both were ok, pretty mild tasting – quite typical of Japanese cuisine and one would be able to savour the original flavours of whatever one is eating…though I did wish they had fried rice instead of plain rice in that don thingy.

The bill came up to slightly over RM70.00 for the food and of course, Melissa enjoyed herself a lot and was very happy and needless to say, when she’s happy, the father would be happy too… Wink! Wink!

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21 thoughts on “No coincidence…

  1. Oh..oh….in that case, anything drinkable and edible, we must accept with a word of thanks…not nice to refuse then….

    I guess that’s good manners…and this was the old folks’ way to make sure the young ones behaved the way they wanted. Kids these days will do anything…or say some nastily rude things even…if they are given anything they do not want and will simply refuse to eat.

  2. Not really too pricey for that amount of food you guys had…. worth trying.

    Yes, quite affordable and the best part is that most everything taste great.

  3. Owh, “poonek” is a Melanau word and all this while, I thought is a Malay word. Coming to the food, all looks so good and the price is quite reasonable.

    Actually, in my maternal side of the family, with my late grandma being Melanau, we always say poonik – I don’t know if that is Sibu Melanau or what. The language varies from region to region – different from Dalat, Mukan, Oya, Matu and all those towns. Then when we touch to indicate that we do not want to eat or drink, we would say dakek, whatever that means. Maybe poonek is local Sarawak Malay, I wouldn’t know – I only heard the word keempunan used when I heard people the other side like Mamakucing saying it…

  4. Your first incident sounds painful.. Slipped 3x.. Usually if people offer me food (or drinks) which I don’t feel like having, I will still sip or touch a bit, but won’t finish it..
    OMG the fried salmon looks good! I like fried food.. Looks like Taiwan famous fried chicken..

    We have a few places selling those Taiwanese fried chicken here but I have never gone to try – to me, it is just…fried chicken, nothing more, nothing less. :( Aiyor…you’ve sipped or eaten a bit, they would have to throw the rest away already lah! Very wasteful, sayang…

  5. I noticed that name ‘Runway Hair Saloon.’ That seems to rhyme nicely with ‘Sunway Lagoon.’ No coincidence there? That compilation by Lloyd Fernando is a classic. Read it years ago and still remember most of the stories.

    Yes, and needless to say, my favourite is the short story entitled “Poonek” with the places downriver as the setting. Ummm…I think there is only one theme park around there unless you go up the highlands. ;)

  6. What an interesting (but scary) story! Imagine slipping 3 times and eventually ending up on the ground floor. And breaking your elbow next, now that is no joke! I have politely declined offers of food or drinks and thank goodness nothing like that happened. When it comes to Japanese, Korean or any foods, I always prefer to original version. Not too fond of this fusion thingy. But that’s just me.

    I don’t know why it’s called fusion as to me, it’s all Japanese here…though I did see kim chi beef don and kim chi is Korean, right? I saw on Facebook somebody having kim chi fried rice but when we went that day, I wanted to try that but it was not on the menu. :(

  7. waaa. would really want to try the salmon fried that way. that kind of story scary weh. no wonder hor when i go to my melanau friend’s house they insist me touch because said will kempunan. i thot kempunan mean feel want to eat it.

    Hahahahaha!!!! Now you know! :D

  8. this post was quite enlightening … i’ve never heard of keempunan before (sounds scary!) and i’ve never seen soft-shell crab served with meat floss before (looks strange!!!) :D

    Yes, I did think it was a strange combination but we just ordered for the soft shell crab sushi underneath, buried under all the floss, and we wanted to try. It was nice but I don’t think there was any need for so much floss, a sprinkling would do – still a lot left after the sushi was gone.

  9. There really should be a list of “correct” behaviours handed out to foreigners on arrival to Malaysia to help them not commit too many errors when meeting locals. The superstitions are hard to keep up with!

    I think they are quite obsolete already or are long gone – most young people these days do not know of these…or they just don’t bother. Sometimes, ignorance is truly bliss! :D

  10. Oh gosh that’s pretty creepy… I’ve never heard of this before. I must rmbr not to turn down ppl’s offer to give me food next tme. :P

    Happy Easter.

    Same to you. Ya…I never do that too…and maybe that explains my shape and size. :D

  11. I know the word kempunan but to us it means ‘craving’ esp when one is pregnant. My mom always say if you kempunan to eat something when you are pregnant you MUST by hook or by crook try to get that craving fixed. Or I dunno what would happen. I’m sorry your trip to that theme park ended that way. I heard your story before but it still hurts each time I hear it again. I can’t imagine your pain and suffering. It is such a scary thought!

    Yes, one good thing came out of it though. That put my girl off theme parks since, otherwise we would have to go to one or even two every school holiday. Not cheap. :( Oh? So there is a difference between the two words? Dunno what the word of the pre-natal craving is here.

  12. I remember following you to the sinseh once too! :)

    Sorry to hear it’s still troubling you, remember you telling me the story about the injury at the theme park. I lost my camera there too, strangely.

    Zen, we’ve seen it but didn’t go in coz I wanted to go to Cafe Cafe instead of Japanese – would try it next time we’re back!

    Nice, can give it a go. Ya…that was the sinseh who saved my arm – it was like dead already, physio did not help much.

  13. Yes, it is good manners to accept offer of drinks from your friends even though you do not like the drink! 😜But like you said, once you took a sip, might as well finish it and not let it go to waste as nobody else would want it after that..
    Ouch! Sad to hear your unfortunate incident at the theme park :(

    Yes, will never forget – a lesson learned.

  14. Runway hair salon, is a salon? Is this the place near cafe cafe?.

    I would like my salmon pan grill or eat it raw, sashimi way instead of fried. :)

    I am not crazy about that – I did ask Melissa but she did not want it either. Yup, all in the same block.

  15. Ukks ..I thought kempunan means wanna eat but tak dapat eat. Hence just drool only

    No idea. I checked – sounded like craving…as in during pregnancy.

  16. Japanese Fusion is getting more popular in the states. They are doing a lot of mix and match type fusion restaurants lately, too! I find this very interesting and can’t wait to hear what they come up with next! Not too long ago I hear of a Chinese/Mexican Fusion place!

    Yes, they’re everywhere now. CONfusion, I call them. Given the choice, I would prefer those more specialised places.

  17. Pingback: Across the river… | ...Still crazy after all these years!

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