98 of 100 Happy Days: Potong Ice Cream

Potong Ice Cream, or ‘Aiskrim Potong’, is a traditional local snack. ‘Potong’ means ‘cut’ in Malay, so they are literally blocks of cut ice cream. They usually come in flavours such as red bean, sweet corn, durian, yam and cendol, with a creamy texture from coconut milk.

Potong Ice Cream is one of my parents’ more popular childhood snacks, but my generation love them too. My cousins and I used to have them when we wanted inexpensive, yummy ice cream.

Not everywhere sells these anymore, so it’s always a joy to have find them and slurp on some sweet, icy nostalgia.

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46 of 100 Happy Days: Malaysian Style Artisan Ice Cream

I love ice cream. It sends me into a state of exceptional bliss, earning me the namesake ‘Ice Cream Monster’ in college (derived from a Sesame Street character’s name).

When I come across artisan ice cream, I’m all for funky ones that go all the way out to space and back. And recently I’ve tried some with Malaysian flavours and wow. Just WOW.

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Credits: Wei Fen

This evening, my friends and I went to The Bee @ Publika for dessert. There were unique ones on the menu, all by The Last Polka, including the ones you see above. Pandan Kaya, Teh Tarik and Salted Gula Melaka are obviously familiar local flavours. There was also French Toast, which I contemplated trying but changed my mind.

They tasted lovely. Salted Gula Melaka was a lot sweeter then the rest, though I really enjoyed the Pandan Kaya.

Speaking of locally distinct ice cream flavours,  there’s also Cielo Dolci @ Paradigm Mall. Tau Fu Far and Pineapple Tart were two fascinating flavours on the list and they captured each beautifully.

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How they do that is beyond my comprehension. I learnt that they occasionally have Nasi Lemak flavour, and while I cannot imagine how you can taste an entire meal consisting of coconut milk rice, cucumbers, peanuts, anchovies and sambal in a relatively straightforward dessert, people have praises for it.

That’s my next venture, hopefully. In the meantime, go have ice cream. It’ll cheer you up for the day. And don’t be afraid to get adventurous. You’d be pleasantly surprised.

45 of 100 Happy Days: Lin Chee Kang

Lin Chee Kang (Lotus Seed Drink) is a refreshing traditional dessert common in Malaysia, consisting of Lotus Seeds, Gingko Nuts, Basil seeds (that’s the ones that look like little frog eggs), rock sugar, longan and jelly cubes, amongst others. If you’ve not tried this, don’t be put off by the list of ingredients; they go together like symphony.

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You can have it hot or cold, though in this extreme heat, a bowl of chilly sweetness trickling down your throat is just what you need.

I’m now craving for more local thirst-quenching delights such as Ice Kacang or Cendol. I think it’s time to pay a Pasar Malam (Night Market) a visit.

Or some rain to cool everyone down would be good.

That ‘unusual’ English Literature degree (according to home)

I know I am not the first and certainly not the only one to step away from my home country to pursue an English Literature degree. And this is no life-changing tale, no big fancy drama. But I know that I am lucky to have gotten this far in three fleeting years, especially given my previously more ‘science-y’ background in high school. So if I may – this is my journey.

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Safety first, so they say

Like many countries, opportunities for art and humanities students are limited in Malaysia. In public schools there is already a huge divide. Being a developing country, the government figured that it would be more beneficial to focus on producing graduates who were experts in science and technology, at the cost of paying less attention to the latter. In Fourth Form, students are asked to choose between the Science Stream or the Arts Stream. For certain schools there might be the Sub-Science Stream, which is similar to Science but offers Accounting in place of Biology. Odds were partial to Science students; you’d never hear the end of things like:

“The Science Stream is for academically good students and the studious/hard workers etc. The Arts Stream is for those who are weak/lazy/ slow-learners etc.” (Which is not true – I know many who perform tremendously well in commerce, although I feel sorry for those who lose their self-esteem because of this conception.)

“If you go for the Science Stream, you have the option to change to commerce if you want to, but not the other way.”

“Science Stream classes get the ‘better’ teachers/ treatment/ class environment.” (Sadly at times not far from the truth.)

In other words, to pick the Science stream (in public schools, at least) is to escape the social stigma. Not having a clue about I wanted to do at that point, I picked what I thought would be ‘safer’.

Taking the Leap

When it was finally decided sometime between then and my first year of uni that English Literature was what I wanted to do, finding information about it was not so straightforward.  It was easy to find out about courses like Accounting/Finance, Law, Medicine/Pharmacy and Engineering, whereas things like Literature, Designing and Performing Arts were not impossible but very unconventional. I remember asking a local uni representative at a career fair in my Fifth Form about this.

“But you are in the Science Stream. You get good grades. Why do you want to take English?” she replied.

Then she started shoving me brochures about some unrelated stuff. I had to excuse myself and walked away.

Honestly I could not have done it without the support of my parents. I know many people are pressured into taking courses with ‘better returns’, either by personal conviction or by their folks. Sometimes I wonder if I would have buckled under the pressure but thank goodness I was told to steer my own life. With all the help I needed I managed to get into university to study English Literature. (To my parents: if you are reading this, thank you.)

People stared at me with bewildered eyes whenever I told them what my plans were. I was also often asked, “So what are you going to do after you graduate? Teach English?”

Which is probably why I have no intention of becoming a teacher.

Doing something you enjoy

For most of my three years at the University of East Anglia, I was perhaps the only international, non-EU undergraduate in my course (I say ‘most of my three years’ to take into account transfer students). Being in the UK, studying English Literature and being around like-minded students – it did a lot of good.  I was shocked by the sheer number of students who had no qualms about going down the humanities route. I have seen the career paths an arts degree can lead to and I am telling you, it is abundant. Who cares about whether it was tough or not: there is nothing to regret, nothing to change if time can be rewritten.

So yes, I know I am not the first nor am I the only one to have gone through something similar. I salute those who have done it in the past because it must have been so much harder then. I hope you’d understand that the conception of “Science is good and Arts is bad” is merely a stereotype. And I hope that no matter which path you choose when pursuing your education, where it is you start from or how you get there, it is something you are passionate about. I hope you are happy.