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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Honeydew Sago Dessert Recipe: A Refreshing Summer Treat!

Updated 29 August 2009

Originally posted 1 August 2008

Honeydew Sago Dessert

honeydew sago

In Malaysia, we have many soupy desserts. Some of them are served hot, like the Chinese “tong sui” (sweet drinks) and others cold (like cendol, ice kacang and es teler). The honeydew sago dessert falls into the cold category and it really is refreshing.

During Summer, melons are abundant in the grocery stores and the farmer’s market. One Saturday, we bought three melons at the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market—a bambino watermelon, an orange-fleshed watermelon and a honeydew melon (read about our encounter with a gross "Asian-girl fetish" man). The watermelons we planned to just enjoy on its own but I had plans for the honeydew melon.

Sago = Tapioca pearls

sago tapioca pearls uncooked

Sago or tapioca pearls can be found in all your Asian grocery stores and probably in some of the regular stores as well. They look like little tiny white beads. I love these things and will put them into any “soupy” Asian desserts abundantly (be careful though as they are also a thickener and too much can turn your “soup” into “pudding”). There’s another dessert that is made entirely of them and I will blog about that later.

Working it out

So anyway, we had brought back lots of stuff from the farmer’s market, right? And Nate had told you that he was working on the grilled pork tenderloin dinner with all the other ingredients. (By the way, I did not agree with his post—we had a little argument about it after it was published, yeah, our first blog fight *lol*. What I think he meant to say was that I also do look at what I have before deciding on what to cook BUT once I decide, I settle on a recipe (or adapt it) and go from there. He, on the other hand, starts chopping the stuff on hand and then continues searching for how to make use of it and what else to make with it…not very efficient…tsk…tsk…).

I love him anyway and sometimes it works out remarkably well. I just have to stay away so as not to get impatient. So while he was putting together this wonderful meal, I took a nap. I woke up feeling refreshed and came into the kitchen to work on my dessert dish. The whole meal came out really great and because pork tenderloin and grilled halibut are pretty light foods, there was room for my honeydew sago dessert which was a delightful way to end dinner and the weekend.

Honeydew Sago Recipe

Ingredients:
½ honeydew melon (save the other half for enjoying plain)
1 cup sago (tapioca pearls)
½-1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet your honeydew is)
½ cup water
1 cup coconut milk shake the can before measuring out the one cup otherwise you will have really thick coconut milk only)
½ tsp salt

Method:

Make a simple syrup: Put water and sugar into a small pot and boil till sugar dissolves to make a syrup. Cool.

Boil the sago: Put a big pot of water to boil (to hold about 7 cups or more of water). When water comes to a boil, add sago to water and cook on med-high heat. Stir occasionally. Sago is done cooking when it looks translucent, about 8-10 mins. Caution: Don’t overcook the sago as it can become a sticky mess. Better to have a few pearls that have not turned translucent than to have a glop of melting sago.

Cut and blend the melon: While sago is cooking, cut half of the half melon into chunks

honeydew chunks in blender

and buzz in your blender till smooth.

honeydew being blended for honeydew sago dessert

Dice the remaining quarter of the melon into small ½ inch cubes (or if you want to be really pretty, you could use a melon baller).

diced honeydew melon

Rinse the sago: As soon as sago is done, pour it out into a fine-mesh colander and rinse with cold water.

Assemble the dish: Put the melon cubes and the melon juice together in a large bowl.

blended and diced honeydew melon

Add the coconut milk.

drizzling coconut milk to sago honeydew dessert

Followed by the cooled sago.

adding tapioca to honeydew for sago honeydew dessert

Pour in the sugar syrup little by little, to adjust the sweetness.

Salt trick

The trick to getting your dessert to taste better is to add a little salt. Salt enhances the sweetness of any dessert!. Stir it all together and chill.

Enjoy!

honeydew sago

Cheers, Annie

This post was entered in the “Merdeka Open House 2009: My Sweet Malaysia” roundup, hosted by Babe in the City – KL

If you like this recipe, then won’t you subscribe to receive all our recipes to your RSS reader or your Inbox!

Hungry for more Asian desserts? Click below!

Es Teler - A Cool Indonesian Dessert

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Continue Reading: "Honeydew Sago Dessert Recipe: A Refreshing Summer Treat!"...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Welcome to Kuching

Paku Fern

paku fern

The (eating) adventure in Kuching begins…

Packing Heavy

When we originally arrived in KL from America, we came with about 400 lbs (180 kilos) of baggage plus carry-ons. Today, we flew from KL to Kuching, taking Air Asia. If you know anything about Air Asia, they are a budget airline that charges you in 5 kg increments for baggage exceeding 15 kg. We purchased the max amount, 30 kg per person, which meant we could take up to 120 kg total with us - a 60 kg difference.

We spent most of the last day and night in KL packing our suitcases and carry-ons. We had to leave behind some clothes and a lot of books, but eventually managed to stuff the remainder into 5 suitcases and 4 carry-ons! It took two cars to get us and the suitcases to the airport.

Another thing about Air Asia is, they fly out of the “Low Cost Carrier Terminal” of KL International Airport. No fancy check-in stations, baggage handling systems, or jetways. In order to get on the plane, you have to walk out on the tarmac and climb the stairs to the plane. Now, imagine trying to do that with one heavy carry-on in each hand. (Not easy, considering I seem to have a bum shoulder at the moment).

Annie has a friend, Paul, living in Kuching. She contacted him through Facebook, and he offered to come pick us up at the airport. I thought there was no way he was going to be able to fit all our luggage, plus the four of us, in his car. I thought for sure I was going to have to purchase a taxi coupon and take two cars to our hotel.

Daniel with our baggage at the Kuching Airport

daniel at Kuching airport

Fitting In

Well, Paul arrived, surveyed the situation, and declared, “I think we can fit it all in.” We were incredulous. But, one by one, all the bags somehow fit into his Camry. And there was room enough for us to also get in as well! (I wish I had taken a picture, it was incredible.)

First thing Paul asked us when we got going was, “Are you hungry? I can take you someplace to eat.” Well, we barely had anything to eat for breakfast or lunch so we agreed. He took us to a coffee shop on the road from the airport, and treated us to a meal of Suan chicken rice.

Suan Chicken Rice, Expert Food Court, Kuching

Suan Chicken Rice, Expert Food Court, Kuching

He said that he hangs out here a lot because the food is good. The rice has a slight curry flavoring to it, a local touch. The also serve it with soy sauce eggs and a sweetish, tomato-based broth. We finished every bite.

Feeling at Home

Paul brought us to our hotel so we could drop our bags off. Then he stuck around, giving us the low-down on this and that. I seriously wish I had a voice recorder or something, because there is so much that both Annie and I have to learn about living in this city. I am really grateful that Paul was so helpful and forthcoming.

After a while, Paul told us that, since his brother was in town, there was going to be a large family dinner at his house. We were invited as well! Wow, first day in Kuching and already invited to a home-cooked meal. How could we refuse?

When we arrived, their maid was in the wet kitchen in the back of the house, preparing dinner. One of the dishes caught our eye. “Is that paku?” asked Annie.

Paku Fern

paku fern

Paku is a Malay word for a type of fiddlehead fern that is found and eaten here in Sarawak. North Americans like to eat fiddleheads either boiled or in salads, depending on the type. Here in Sarawak, they like to stir-fry the ferns with belacan (shrimp paste).

The maid used a stone mortar and pestle to grind together some shallots, garlic, and belacan into a paste. She then heated up some oil in the wok, added in the belacan paste and fried it until fragrant, then tossed in the ferns.

Stir-frying Paku

stir-frying paku

After a few minutes of frying, she plated it up.

Paku stir-fried with belacan

paku stir-fried with belacan

Besides this dish, the maid also cooked up some chicken curry, sweet-sour fried fish, and a couple other stir-fried veggie dishes. Paul’s mom came over with a big pot of homemade chicken soup. We were treated like honored guests, being served first. Everything was so delicious!

Simply Amazing

Dessert after dinner was longan, freshly picked from the mom’s tree. “No pesticides!” she declared. Ah, it was so refreshing to eat fresh longan. They were so sweet and juicy! It’s been so long since I had longan this good.

On the drive back to the hotel, Paul’s wife arranged for us to see a second-hand car that we might potentially buy. Her father will drive it over to their house, and Paul will drive it over to us to have a look. How awesome is that? I mean, who are we but an old acquaintance who just reconnected a few days ago over Facebook, for goodness’ sake?

Annie and I are just blown away by the hospitality we’ve received here in Kuching. It somehow almost feels too easy, like settling in should be harder. Of course, I expect there will be bumps and curves along the way. But the ones we were so worried about before didn’t turn out to be as bad as we thought, thank God! I really hope the rest of our adventure can be as smooth.

Aloha, Nate

We’re just beginning our adventure in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. Stick with us as we explore our new home. Subscribe to receive all our latest posts to your RSS reader or to your Inbox!

This post was submitted to the August 30 edition of Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by The Crispy Cook and administered by Haalo.

Hungry for more Malaysian recipes? Click below:

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Continue Reading: "Welcome to Kuching"...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bistro Moulin (Monterey)

We took a little time at the beginning of July to have a family vacation in Carmel and Monterey with our good friends. It was to be our last relaxing fling before the craziness of packing up and moving to Malaysia started in earnest. Knowing that our friends love French food, I started asking around for good French restaurants in the area.

Prior to the trip, Food Gal Carolyn Jung had invited us to dinner to meet with Ben the Single Guy Cook and Andrea Nguyen of Viet World Kitchen. Andrea recommended Bistro Moulin in Monterey as her favorite French restaurant. On the day we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we took lunch at Bistro Moulin.

Bistro Moulin, Monterey

Bistro Moulin, Monterey

The restaurant is just one block uphill from the aquarium, a short walk. It was surprisingly quiet in the restaurant that day, so we had the full attention of the wait staff. They were very helpful and accommodating with our needs.

When we walked in the restaurant, we found that half of it opened up into a wine boutique. Wines from all regions of France were represented here, at decent prices. Our wine loving friend, impressed with the selection, was enticed to pick up a couple of bottles.

Wine Boutique inside Bistro Moulin

Wine Boutique inside Bistro Moulin

Their menu selection was equally as enticing. It was a hard decision, but I opted for one of the specials of the day, the Salad Niçoise. It came with a large mound of tuna atop salad greens, tomatoes, eggs, two types of olives, and capers for a delightfully salty bite. It was dressed with a light vinaigrette.

Salad Niçoise from Bistro Moulin

Salad Nicoise from Bistro Moulin

Annie got the Moules Frites, Steamed Mussels with shallots and leeks in a Sauvignon-herb broth. These mussels were perfectly cooked. So tender the melted in your mouth. The broth was simply amazing.

Steamed Mussels from Bistro Moulin

Steamed Mussels from Bistro Moulin

The other half of the order was the pommes frites (frenched fried potatoes). Not only were these fries done just right, but they came with a heavenly aioli. The aioli's garlicky goodness was so addictive!

Pommes Frites from Bistro Moulin

Pommes Frites from Bistro Moulin

As an appetizer, our friends ordered this Spinach Gnocchi au Gratin. These gnocchi were unlike any I had ever experienced - these pillows of potato were so light, they were like clouds in my mouth. I would have to say that these gnocchi are the standard by which I will measure any other gnocchi hereafter.

Spinach Gnocchi au Gratin from Bistro Moulin

Spinach Gnocchi au Gratin from Bistro Moulin

Our friends ordered this Roasted Chicken Breast with peas and carrots in a wonderful red wine sauce. Nice, light, and very well executed.

Roasted Chicken Breast from Bistro Moulin

roasted chicken from Bistro Moulin

They also ordered this Osso Buco Milanese with mushrooms and polenta. The husband cleaned the plate, including the marrow inside the bones.

Osso Buco Milanese from Bistro Moulin

Osso Bucco from Bistro Moulin

We were quite stuffed by the end of the meal, but the staff managed to convince us to get a couple of the desserts. Boy, were we glad we did! This chocolate mousse was so simple yet so profound in its lightness and chocolatey-ness

Chocolate Mousse from Bistro Moulin

Chocolate Mousse from Bistro Moulin

The best dessert, though was the crème brûlée. Delicious burnt caramel crust gave way to smooth vanilla bean custard. Not cloyingly sweet like some crème brûlée I've had in the past. A great way to end a great meal.

Crème Brûlée from Bistro Moulin

Creme Brulee from Bistro Moulin

The final bill was decent for the high quality of food and service that we got. We were quite happy by the time we left. So much so that our friends went back the next day!

Thanks, Andrea, for this wonderful recommendation!

Aloha, Nate


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We had a lot of California posts queued up because we were so busy with preparing to move. In this transition period of moving from California and settling in to Malaysia, we will be posting our eating experiences from both places. Subscribe to receive all our latest posts, either to your RSS reader or to your Inbox!

Hungry for more eating out? Click Below:

Sensational Sushi at Sakae Sushi (Burlingame), Part 1

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Exploring the Myth of Chez Panisse

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Continue Reading: "Bistro Moulin (Monterey)"...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Foodie Excursion to Ijok for Beggar's Delights

We arrived in Malaysia a few days ago from California and are currently staying in PJ (Petaling Jaya, a suburb of KL), Annie's hometown. We have slowly been getting over the jet lag as well as getting used to the humidity. We've also been getting reacquainted with her family and friends.

One of those friends is Annie's mentor Dr G, who had a big hand in helping Annie get to Hawaii for her graduate studies. Dr G is a big foodie. She introduced Annie to French food as well as sushi, and always has recommendations for any type of food you'd want to eat in Malaysia. On our last trip to Malaysia, Dr G took us for a huge seafood meal out in Kuala Selangor. This time, she wanted to take us on an excursion to a restaurant in Ijok which was famous for beggar's delights.

What Are Beggar's Delights Anyway?

beggar's chicken, duck, pork

Basically speaking, beggar's delights are different meats that have been wrapped and sealed in a clay vessel, then baked in an oven. Chinese legend has it that a beggar stole a chicken but before he could eat it, he hid it from some passing guards in some mud. Not having any cooking utensils, he tossed the whole thing in the fire he had built.

When he pulled the chicken out of the fire, he found that the mud had formed a hard clay crust. After breaking open the crust, he discovered that the feathers came off along with the clay, and what he was left with was a deliciously cooked chicken. Thus originated this classic Chinese cooking technique called Beggar's Chicken.

Get Out of Town

Ijok ("EE-joke") is a small town about 35 km northwest of PJ. It was quite refreshing to get out of the concrete jungle and crowded roads. As we drove out of the city, condominiums, malls and shoplots gave way to acres and acres of palm plantations, as far as the eye can see. Just before hitting Ijok town proper, we made a left turn at the sign at the intersection of Jalan Harmoni 2 and the main road.

Sign for Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, Ijok

Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, Ijok, Selangor

Jalan Harmoni 2 is a lonely road, but after hanging a right, we came upon this restaurant compound:

Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, Ijok

Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, Ijok, Selangor

Under the corrugated tin roof, the layout is like a typical Malaysian open air restaurant: many round tables surrounded by red plastic chairs, fluorescent shop lights, and ceiling fans turned up high to provide a breeze. Sparse and utilitarian, with not much attention to decor besides red Chinese lanterns and hanging weaver swallow nests. Your focus is on your food and friends at the table.

Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, Ijok

Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, Ijok, Selangor

We had arrived at 12:30, a bit earlier than the normal 1 pm restaurant opening. The restaurant opens so late because the beggar's delights don't finish cooking until then.

Can we eat it all?

Our party was only 7 adults and 2 kids. A normal set meal is for 10 people. The waitress was concerned that we didn't have enough people to eat all the food that was coming. She suggested we just order less dishes ala carte, but that would have come out to roughly the same price. "Give us the set," we said, "and whatever we don't finish we'll ta pau (box up to take home)."

Being a nosy American, I asked if we could see the ovens where the food was cooking. At first, the waitress said there was nothing to see. But we prevailed upon her and so three young boys (presumably the owner's sons) led us past the kitchen and behind the restaurant.

The first things you see are stacks and stacks of rubber tree logs, which they use as fuel for their ovens.

Stacks of Rubber Tree Logs

stacks of rubber tree logs

In between these two great piles of wood are the brick ovens. They are loosely built structures. The logs are burned to coals in the spaces between the low walls. A thick metal plate rests atop the walls. The beggar's delights are laid on top of the metal plate, more bricks are stacked up like a dam, and old ashes and coal are poured over the beggar's delights to bury them. At Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, the delights cook in the hot ashes for six hours, starting from 7 in the morning all the way to 1 pm.

Brick Ovens at Restoran New Beggar's Delicious

brick pits

One of the boys took a long-handled shovel and began pulling down the brick dams.

knocking down the bricks

He then sunk his shovel into the pile of hot ash...

scooping out the ashes

And lifted out one of the clay packages.

bringing out the beggar's chicken

He repeated this two more times until we had three packages laying on the ground. Apparently, each packet is shaped slightly differently so they can tell what meat is in what packet. Can you see any differences?

beggar's chicken, duck, pork

The boy loaded the packages onto a wheelbarrow and brought them back around to the front of the restaurant...

wheeling the beggar's delights off

Where he deftly lifted them onto a wooden table and began the indelicate work of breaking through the clay shell and tearing through the paper wrapping.

cracking open the beggar's delight

Inside each package is a foil pouch containing the braised delight. The delight goes onto a serving tray and then is brought to the table.

lifting out the foil pouch

From the Beggar's Oven

The first packet we opened was a pork shoulder and chunks of chinese taro (yam), whole garlic cloves, and shiitake mushroom halves. The meat fell clean off the bones. This isn't like Southern-style pulled pork barbecue, though. Being sealed inside foil, paper and clay, no smoke flavoring is allowed to penetrate. But it is still good eats!

Beggar's Pork, Yam, Garlic and Mushrooms

beggar's pork, yam, mushrooms and garlic

The beggar's chicken was stuffed with Chinese herbs and swimming in a delicious broth. The chicken was lean and flavorful.

Beggar's Chicken

beggar's chicken

My favorite of the three was the beggar's duck. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender, with a rich taste. Besides the herbs, there were also some abalone mushrooms cooked with it that was silky smooth and complementary to the duck.

Beggar's Duck

beggar's duck

They also dropped off a packet of Loh Mai Fan, glutinous rice that has been cooked with oyster sauce, salted duck egg yolks, shiitake mushrooms, and pork. Dr G warned, "don't fill up on the glutinous rice! You won't have room for all the other dishes."

Loh Mai Fan

loh mai fan

From the Restaurant's Kitchen

We had just finished cleaning our plates of all the braised meats, when they started bringing out the other dishes that were part of the set meal. Here is a beautiful steamed fish, covered in fried garlic, shallot slices that had been marinated in lime juice, slivers of ginger and green onion. This was actually my favorite dish of the meal. The lime-marinated shallots had me craving for more. And the fish was very fresh--delicate and flaky with no hint of fishiness.

Steamed Fish with Sliced Shallots

steamed fish

Next came this dish of fried whole prawns, covered in a sweet, sticky sauce. I'm guessing that the sauce is Marmite-based, but I can't tell for sure. The weird thing about this dish is, I found bits of fried lard among the prawns. I love fried pork bits, but Dr G is allergic to pork, so she was concerned that she couldn't eat this dish.

Fried Marmite (?) Prawns

marmite prawns

Next, they brought out a platter of mud crabs, fried with chillies, curry leaves, and lard bits again. What's up with the lard bits and seafood? I didn't quite care for this dish, as I much prefer eating Dungeness crab.

Fried Chilli Mud Crab

chili mud crab

They also brought out a platter of stir-fried baby choy sum. One plate of veggies to go with all that preceding meat. I wish we had more veggies.

The final dish was this pork intestine soup. Normally, this soup is flavored with white pepper to mask the smell of the innards. But when I tasted the soup, I was struck by how overwhelming the white pepper taste was. I commented to Annie, "watch out. There's a lot of white pepper in this soup."

"This soup is supposed to have lots of white pepper in it."

"I know, but not this much."

She tasted it. "Whoa! You're right! I can't taste anything else."

The soup was undrinkable to me. Sorry to say, this dish was ruined by the heavy pepper taste.

White Pepper and Pork Intestine Soup

white pepper and pork intestine soup

Our final dish was a plate of ice-cold jackfruit. These fruit were ripe, sweet, crunchy, and a fitting end to the feast.

Ice Cold Jackfruit

ice cold jackfruit

When it was all said and done, we had finished off everything except the undrinkable soup, half the loh mai fan and half the beggar's chicken.

If you do go to Restoran New Beggar's Delicious in Ijok, do go with a large group of people, and do call ahead to make a reservation. They only cook a certain number of beggar's delights each day, and once they're allocated, that's it.

Aloha, Nate

Restoran New Beggar's Delicious
Ijok, Selangor
Tel: 03-32791936

Follow all our foodie adventures in Malaysia! Subscribe to receive our new posts to your RSS reader or to your Inbox.

Hungry for more Malaysian food? Click below:

7 Tips for Making Mouth-Watering Char Koay Teow

Honeydew Sago Dessert: A Refreshing Summer Treat!

Beggar's Chicken

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Continue Reading: "Foodie Excursion to Ijok for Beggar's Delights"...

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Almost Gone, Almost Home

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...

All our bags are packed 

I can't believe it's been a whole month since I last posted that the House of Annie is moving to Malaysia.  Since then, our house has been a frenzy of activity, with running multiple garage sales, re-sodding the backyard, selling off almost all of our furniture, and seemingly endless trips to drop off donations at Goodwill.  I have had no time or energy to blog at all!

Well, the movers have come and gone.  All our kitchen supplies and other stuff are in a big box heading to Malaysia.  We've turned our keys back to the landlord and now we're actually living out of our suitcases, staying at our Pastor's house in these final few days before we fly off as well.

Since we don't have our kitchen to cook in and our pots, pans and ingredients to cook with, this week has been a whirlwind of eating out with many of our friends. While it has been very nice to spend time with them over a meal without having to fuss over a stove, eating out is taking a toll.  We've found ourselves longing for some good, home-cooked food.

The Last Supper

Fortunately, we still had a few things we had left over from our kitchen, including a couple of pork tenderloins, some soy sauce, a few lemons, a head of garlic, and a box of fettuccine. Combined with a few more ingredients from our Pastor's kitchen, and we had the makings of an easy House of Annie (almost) home-cooked meal.

I marinated the pork tenderloins in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, sugar, lemon zest and lemon slices from one lemon. They all went together in a ziplock bag and sat in the fridge for about 6 hours.  Annie roasted them in the oven at 425*F for 20 minutes.  After resting for a few minutes, I sliced them on the bias.

While the tenderloins were roasting, Annie cooked the fettuccine in salted water until they were al dente.  In the meantime, she sliced half a head's worth of garlic cloves.  She heated a half cup of vegetable oil in a saucepan then added the garlic slices to the oil.  After adding the garlic slices, she turned the heat down low and gently cooked the garlic until golden brown (careful not to burn them!).

One of our friends kindly gave us a few beefsteak tomatoes from her garden. Annie diced them up and added them to the saucepan. She seasoned with some soy sauce, salt and pepper, and a pinch of chili pepper flakes and simmered the whole sauce till the tomatoes had melded with the garlic oil, about 7-10 minutes.  Finally, she tossed in the drained fettucine and stirred to combine.

Pork Tenderloin with Fettuccine

Pork Tenderloin and Fettucine

This meal was seriously easy and seriously good.  Some fresh herbs would have made it perfect, but you can't always have perfection.

Since we used someone's homegrown tomatoes in this dinner, I am entering this post in the next Grow Your Own roundup, hosted by MomGateway

This meal was probably the last Annie-cooked meal we'll have for a while.  We fly out for Kuala Lumpur next week. Then it'll be another whirlwind of meeting (and eating!) with the family there.  Then sometime after that, we fly out to the city of Kuching in Sarawak, East Malaysia, to settle in before I start my new job there.

What's this about Kuching?  This is a new development!  Read more about it on my Xanga blog.

Aloha,  Nate

This will probably be the last House of Annie post for a while, until we figure out our broadband issues. We definitely are not going away for good! To make sure you don't miss our next post from Malaysia, be sure to subscribe to receive our posts in your RSS reader or your Inbox.

Continue Reading: "Almost Gone, Almost Home"...