Di Bawoh Rang Ikang Kering
Random Ramblings of A Retired Retainer


Thursday, January 06, 2005

The sambal in my nasi lemak that I had for breakfast today was horribly sweet. Was there a special sale on sugar somewhere lately? Do not get me wrong. Generally, I am not against anything sweet. Whenever I am in Kota Bharu, I would be the first to make a beeline for the stall selling jala mas and buah tanjung. Both are manih leting (sweet until you jump out of your skin). But when it comes to lauk (dishes eaten with rice), sweet is out. I don't even like the satay peanut sauce to be sweet. That's why I prefer Pantai Timor satay over Kajang satay. I heard that they sweetened the peanut sauce to cater for the growing number of non-Malay customers. They preferred it sweet?

For lunch, I decided to try the Chicken Rice at the "restaurant" at the foot of the hill where Language Institute is. When I was studying there, we used to frequent this restaurant when it was just a stall and enjoyed a plate of fried noodle every now and then. Obviously the cook has changed. The rice has no hint of chicken at all and the soup is oily and very briny. I know I am spoiled by chicken rice from Cameron's Coffee Shop (Singapore), the Pulau Kambing shop (Kuala Terengganu) and by the shop in Bukit Bintang (KL).

Lest you think I am complaining too much about my food, the subject today is far more serious. That's not saying that food should be taken lightly. It is about taking pride in your work, be it cooking nasi lemak, nasi ayam or cooking up taglines. Are you proud of your work? Do you do your best every time, all the time? I know of some people who do. A few of them are the boat-builders in Duyong, Terengganu. They build boats without using a single nail and most of the time without any blueprint whatsoever. They never compromised on quality. The boat they built today is as good as the boats they built last month. So will the boats they build next month. You don't hurry them. They won't build your boat faster even if you give them more money. They won't cut corners. Money won't buy their pride. Money won't let them surrender their responsibility. They are responsible people and it is a matter of pride that the boats that they built like the big bedo or the small sekuchi can brave the choppy sea without springing a leak. The bedo and the perahu beso they or their fathers built for local clients made countless voyages to places as far away as Thailand. They also built yachts for foreign clients that went much further.

I am sure there are other people like them in all fields. That would be their fellow professionals who take pride in what they do. Mok Nik, who fried the best kerepok lekor in Kuala Terengganu, tasted the sauce herself after every mix. If she can't produce the right sauce, she would throw that batch away and make another one. She has her pride and a reputation to protect. Today's nasi lemak and nasi ayam sellers would do well to emulate Mok Nik. Have some professional pride.

Sweet nasi lemak sambal and very salty chicken rice soup. I wonder what's for dinner tonight. Bitter gourd perhaps?