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Tham Jiak: Of How I Became Tham Jiak
Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Of How I Became Tham Jiak

Nearing to a year of the inception of Tham Jiak, I think it is about time to introduce the girl behind it all, ME. I find this the really probable time to start depicting my life here, as I have just started a new phase in my life. If you have the time, let me rant right from the beginning.

I was a really chubby little girl when I was young, and that is not due to my tham jiak-ness, in fact I was once a picky little eater. I was always unable to finish my food, and my poor nanny or her daughters would have to persuade and entice me to take a few more bites, usually the most common household method is the promise of no more eating after 3 spoons. At that point, they would be hoping that I lose my attention and eat more than that, but the cheeky me would be counting with my fingers, poking each out with every mouthful. But the really amazing part was I was able to stay chubby or grow even rounder, and they would always joke that I have all the air inside me.

At 5, I no longer go to my nanny’s and was back at home, starting to go to school. I continue to stay chubby till nearly 10, and that time everyone, including all my relatives, would call me ‘fei po’ (fat girl) and being young and oblivious, it was not really a matter at that time. During those times too I get to enjoy my grandma’s cooking (we stay right next door to each other) and learnt to be less picky, though still a bit of a pain, but I was starting to try things out. Come to think back, I am really sorry to all those who tried to make me try some new food, knowing that it’s tasty or it’s good for me. Then nearing to 10 years old, my grandma migrated to Australia, which she only manage to stay a few years where she then came back, missing her life in Malaysia. Since her return, her children insist that she enjoy life and not do any household work at all, including cooking. Thus, since then I was subjected to catered food everyday, which sometimes, ok most of the time, were not too appetizing. So you can guess, including with my growing age, I managed to become quite slim by the time I hit my teens.

The time I discovered the joy of cooking and that I had it in me is quite an accident. That time my mum was working over time for two weeks, and so I would be waiting for her for dinner every night. Those were the time of our catering days, and I pitied my mum for working late, so I thought of the idea of coming home to hot and yummy food would be a comfort to her. So nearing the time of her return I would fire up the rarely-touched stove and heat up the catered food. You must be thinking you call that cooking? Well, not yet but I am getting there. Then when my mum comes home to those piping hot food and eat, I am happy that she is at least enjoying the not-so-appetizing catered food. Then after a while, I started to do some tinkering. I remembered they use to give us this sardine dish right out of the can, which is, let’s just say not so delectable. During heating up I decided to do some modification and added chilli sauce, sugar and some other things that I can find in my scant kitchen and voila, it started to smell nice, in fact, delicious! When my mum came home, I eagerly waited for her to try the sardine, and when she moan in pleasure and commented that the sardine was good, I was more than happy, I was ecstatic. Oh yes, you cooks out there would understand what I meant, the joy of someone appreciating and reveling in your food is just so, so good. From then on I never look back, I knew it that I would learn to make good food, I would cook for myself and all my loved ones. I would never ever subject my family to second grade food in the future.

Anyway, teens breeze pass in a blink and then I was suddenly thrown to live in KL on my own. That time I ate out most of the time, living in a food haven (Wangsa Maju) and inevitably put on quite some weight, since when weight is a matter? Since we are no longer in our sweet 16 I guess. Sigh. At that time I did some cooking, not really serious but some dinners once a while and have dreaming of grander feasts all the time. My kitchen that time was really small and congested, shared by 7 girls, so you can imagine how little cooking can be done there. When we finally moved to PJ, Y and I, we have been living with each other since we ever live in KL, finally got the kitchen to ourselves, mini it is but I can start stocking up on my utensils and all.

Finally, after few years of cooking here and there, some hard-rock muffins and burn pots, I finally went full blast in cooking after I discovered food-blogosphere, which had been a real source of encouragement. I read so many people’s trials and errors, rejoicing with their success and empathizing with their food flops, while learning from their mistakes along the way. That is when I know, I, as an ordinary girl can also make extraordinary food. The exchange of recipes and vast information in the blogosphere is simply amazing. Thank you all, wherever you are, you had changed a life of a girl.

Now, I have shifted to a new home, with a larger kitchen, but lesser time to cook as I had just graduated and started my full time job. Coupled with my tham-jiakness, I would still venture out to try some good food when I was too busy while still learning to cook up some good fare for myself, J and also my friends; and not to forget continuing to write and surf the food-blogosphere!

Till then, happy eating!


Unknown said...

This was absolutely touching Rokh! Your childhood stories and heating up food for mom-very very touching indeed. You've done a very honest and heartfelt write up here

rokh said...

nandita, thank you :D you made my day!

Anonymous said...

are you married ?????

if not...........

Anonymous said...

nice one. im hokkien too, n hokkien are glutton suckers. do u join penanghokkien forum?

Anonymous said...

it's so true....the only motivation that makes u cook it's always bcos all ur hard work and the pleasure of cook its mainly devoted to ur love ones.

I used to cook, though prolly not as frequent as u. I learn how to cook by my ownself resulting my both busy parents during my childhood. Starting from a simple maggi soup with egg, to fly-lice (lol), to simple dish of 番薯苗炒辣椒仔,and later by the time u noticed....u starting cook to impress sumone.

Litterally....i had stopped cooking for a long time. Not even my favorite Konnyaku Jellies. I can't find the reason for me to cook anymore. Life has been different since. My brother use to lived with me, but now he started a relationship, I can hardly see him in a month.

There's one time, I use to anticipate each and every coming weekend. Always think of what I'm gonna cook this time for her when she coming over to have dinner. I make sure there's are no repeating dishes :) I spent alot time on cookbooks, surfing the net for easy-yet-delicious recipes....sigh

Sorry for being so bubbly....it's the first time I been here, gonna bookmark ur blogsite later ^^.

Till lathars....ciao

Anonymous said...

you are wrong in your introduction by saying "tham chiak" means loves to eat.

The word "tham" means greedy. And in this case, "tham chiak" means a person who greedily wants to eat.

Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed. Tham Jiak is a person who really love food... but that's the beauty of it. Hugs.

rokh said...

thank you everyone who left sweet comments :) let's all cook, bake and eat more!!! :D

Unknown said...

gosh i am tham jiak too then hehe (really really greedy). how have u been?...hope u re happily busy :)

rokh said...

rita, hehe yea we are all tham jiak :D i'm great here and as you said, happily busy

Extremist said...

I accidently came across your pages as i was digging for bak chang recipes on line, it's been a long long time before i feel this "heart warming and feel at home" feelings again after i read your articles. I am a Malaysian Chinese working in Philippines, working as a Malaysian Chef in a Resto named Sutra. I guess i ll visit your blog frequently from now on, it makes me feel good reading stuffs in it and recharged my weaken soul. Thank you for putting up such a good blog.

rokh said...

extremist, i am so glad you can warm your Malaysian Chinese hear here in this blog. you made my day by knowing my blog reaches to people :) do come back more often

Extremist said...

I am pretty much the same with ya on how i got into cooking, ma mom is a great cook, she makes superb dishes, she is a perfectionist, she made her dishes to the maximum top quality as much as possible, she paid attentions to small details, she ll tell me what were the differences between 'em and she s got lotta lil cooking tricks. she likes to play mahjong at friend's house near by in the afternoon, so when me and ma brother got home from school, we normally make our own snacks at tea time. started with sardines and omellete sandwiches, ice cold Milo and stuffs, we put lotta bird's eye chili in our sandwich, then later we started making sambal because we both like to eat hot stuffs. we used the sambal to cook lot of things like: mee goreng, nasi goreng, sambal prawns, sambal chicken etc. and when mom came back from her game, she ll taste what we made, then she ll tell me that she proud of me, i normally just smile back and look at her.
I think she saw my path of becoming someone who really knows what good food is, she told me one thing, she said: the most dillicious dish is the dish that is custom-made to your taste bud, thus makes a perfect dishes for an individual. I was too young to understand that and didn't really paid attention to that very important point. she started teaching my cooking basics like cutting, preps, and later on i learn pan fry, deep fry, steam, poach, double boil, simmer, broil, and so on....even baking. i became a cook of our house experiments and explore the cooking world until one day....there's a kenduri at our neighbour Cik Bakar's house, he gave us some beef rendang and lemang, that was the first time i tasted beef rendang because mom doesn't cook beef at home and Bang! i was stuck right there and then trying to figure out what i was eating....so sophisticated, so outstanding, nothing i knew before,
i started diggin thru the toasted coconuts and spices trying to find out what made the rendang tasted so good,.....experiments....try and error....
and this cooking passion of mine hasn't stop till now and i became a chef because of it and cooking is getting more fun then ever since i can use all the utensils and equipments in a pro kitchen in hotels, it was fun, som much fun, you cookheads out there knows what I mean. :)

rokh said...

extremist, your story touched me. I am happy you are enjoying as your work is your passion ;)

Elena's said...

cool.... hehehehe.

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