Thursday, November 29, 2007

Odorless durian raises a stink

Odorless durians at a research center in eastern Thailand, near Cambodia.

TUNG PHAEN, Thailand: You can take the sugar out of soft drinks and the fat from junk food. But eliminate the pungent odor from the world's smelliest fruit and brace for a major international controversy.

After three decades of research, a Thai government scientist working at an orchard here near the Cambodian border says he has managed to take the stink out of durian.

The spiky Southeast Asian fruit, variously described by its detractors as smelling like garbage, moldy cheese or rotting fish, is banned from many hotels, airlines and the Singapore subway. But durian lovers, and there are many in Asia, are convinced that, like fine French cheeses, the worse the smell, the better the taste.

Songpol Somsri, one of the world's leading experts on the fruit, crossed more than 90 varieties, many of them found only in the wild, and came up with what he calls Chantaburi No. 1, after his home province and the location of the research center.

The specially bred durian smells as inoffensive as a banana, Songpol says. It will please Thai consumers, he believes, and might also help broaden the acceptability of the durian, unlocking the door to American and European customers who, like an increasing number of Thais, would reject a fruit that smells like last season's unwashed gym socks.

"Most Thais don't like too strong a smell, except some old people," Songpol said in an interview at his office cluttered with reports on durian DNA structure (he has not yet pinpointed the malodorous gene).

Durian lovers are horrified by the prospect of a no-smell durian. They complain that the fruit, which is green or sometimes yellowish and shaped like a rugby ball, is being homogenized just like the insipid tomatoes bred to look pretty behind cellophane on supermarket shelves.

"Oh, no, this is the beginning of the end," said Bob Halliday, a Bangkok-based food writer, when told about the odorless durian.

The fruit has not yet been officially unveiled by Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture but will obtain final approval in the coming weeks, officials say.

"Making a non-smelly durian is like a thornless rose," Halliday said. "It's really cutting out the soul."

The no-smell durian is even more mystifying to those who live in Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia, where durians are prized for their odor and priced accordingly.

"The smell must come out from the durian," said Chang Peik Seng, owner of the Bao Sheng durian farm on the Malaysian island of Penang, as he emphasized the "must."

"You cannot hide the smell."

It took several minutes to explain the concept to Chang, who ultimately concluded that an odorless durian would flop in his country. "If the durian doesn't have a strong smell the customer only pays one-third the price," he said.

(Songpol says he has developed a separate durian that might please Malaysians and Indonesians: Chantaburi No. 3 is pungent, but the fruit only begins to smell three days after being picked, allowing for odorless transport.)

There is probably no other fruit that elicits such passion - and revulsion.

The litany of legends and myths surrounding what Malaysians call the "king of fruits" is long and colorful. Durians are said to be an aphrodisiac: When the durians fall, the sarongs fly up, goes a Malay saying.

But woe to those who overindulge. Rarely does durian season - which in central Thailand begins in April and continues till June - pass without newspapers somewhere in Southeast Asia reporting a durian death.

The fruit, which is rich in carbohydrates, protein, fat and sulfurous compounds (thus the smell), is said here to be "heaty," and can therefore be deadly for those with high blood pressure, according to Wilailak Srisura, a nutritionist at Thailand's Department of Health.

Tradition also dictates that mixing alcohol with durian should be avoided at all costs.

"Durian makes you hot and alcohol makes you hot, so it's double heat," said Somchai Tadchang, the owner of a durian orchard on Kret, an island on the Chao Phraya river north of Bangkok, where special Gan Yao (long stem) durians sell for upwards of $40 a fruit, the equivalent of several days' wages for a laborer here.

Songpol says he has not found a scientific reason why durian and alcohol are incompatible, but would not dare consume both at the same time.

He claims to have recently cut back on his personal durian consumption for health reasons ("Fat!" his secretary exclaims), but his work requires him to taste 1,000 durians each season at the research orchard here.

Born and reared in a durian orchard, Songpol started studying the fruit in 1977 as a graduate student in horticulture. Worried that some durian varieties were disappearing as cultivation was becoming increasingly commercialized, Songpol collected dozens of varieties from around Thailand and planted them at the Chantaburi Horticultural Research Center, which now serves as sort of a Thai durian seed bank.

The center is a horticultural Eden with flower beds and streams rimming the rows of experimental durian trees that are shadowed by nearby low-lying, jungle-covered mountains. Songpol experimented with hundreds of different combinations before discovering Chantaburi No. 1, a cross between the Montong and Chanee varieties, the most common found in Thailand today.

It's difficult to believe that any durian would be completely without odor, especially after being cracked open. This year's harvest is not yet ripe, but those who have smelled and tasted last year's say the fruit had a very faint odor.

Saowanee Srisuma, the caretaker of the durian orchard here, says it is the least-smelling durian she has encountered in her 10 years of work on the farm. Suchart Vichitrananda, the director of Horticulture Research Institute where Songpol works, says Chantaburi No. 1 does not smell but he hesitates when describing the taste. "I can't say it's better than the original durian, but it'll do."

Songpol's plan is to replace the Chanee, which farmers have a difficult time selling because of its stronger smell, and plant one million seedlings of the no-smell durian over the next five years, covering about 6,400 hectares, or 15,810 acres, an area slightly larger than Manhattan. Exporters are enthusiastic.

"It's a very good idea," said Kiattisak Tangchareonsutthichai, owner of Thai Hong, a company that exports about 2.5 million kilograms, or 2,755 tons, of durian a year to China. "It's an opportunity for us to export more to new markets that don't like the strong smell."

But the fear of many durian lovers is that the odorless variety is just another step toward the erosion of durian culture.

Durians are a social fruit, traditionally sold on the roadside and eaten by groups of friends sitting on cheap plastic stools, the ubiquitous furniture of Southeast Asian outdoor food stalls. Each fruit is analyzed in the same way that wine is sniffed and discussed at a Parisian dinner party. Also like wine, durian culture dictates that if the customer tastes it and does not like it, he can send it back.

As the region modernizes, durian culture, too, is changing. Durians are increasingly sold cut up under plastic wrap in supermarkets.

In Thailand, which has aggressively commercialized the fruit, farmers specialize in Montong, a sweet, almost saccharine, and easy-to-eat variety. Thai farmers use chemicals to coax durian trees to bear fruit in the off-season, so Montong are available year-round and are sold around the world. Thailand last year sold about 50 million durians abroad, worth about 3.2 billion baht, or $90 million.

Durian traditions are perhaps strongest in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Malay durians, many of them known only as "kampung," or country village varieties, are typically more wild, unpredictable, sometimes bitter and almost always pungent.

"To anyone who doesn't like durian, it smells like a bunch of dead cats," said Halliday, the food writer. "But as you get to appreciate durian, the smell is not offensive at all. It's attractive. It makes you drool like a mastiff."

Thailand's Montong, by contrast, has a largely uniform, bubble gum-like flavor.

The growing rift between Thailand and its southern neighbors is probably best summed up by the way the fruit is harvested: In Thailand's more efficient, standardized and productive system, durians are cut from trees and sometimes frozen for export. Malaysian and Indonesian farmers wait until the durians fall, often setting up nets to catch the fruit to avoid its cracking on impact.

The nets also ensure that the durians, which grow on tall trees, do not fall on someone's head, a painful prospect given the fruit's extremely sharp spikes.

Songpol says he is also trying to breed a thornless durian by crossing varieties from the southern Philippines. "I hope in the next two to three years we will get a flower," Songpol said.

For lovers of durian - which gets its name from "duri," the Malay word for thorn - this is too much to bear.

"You might as well be eating watermelon," Halliday said.

Pornnapa Wongakanit contributed reporting from Bangkok.

(Source: IHT News)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stowaway piglet survives toilet roll ordeal

LONDON (Reuters) - A piglet nicknamed Andrex is recovering after being found in the back of a truck full of toilet paper at a supermarket.

The animal, thought to be two or three weeks old, was discovered in a delivery at a Tesco store in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

Staff wrapped the piglet in a duvet and called the RSPCA, a Tesco spokesman said Tuesday.

He was taken to an animal shelter in Radcliffe-on-Trent, outside Nottingham, suffering from cuts and bruises to his snout.

"We will now care for him until he is fit enough to be found a permanent home," said Ella Herring, the shelter's deputy manager.

Tesco said store workers were unsure of how the piglet came to be on the truck, but thought it may have been a prank.

"Staff are used to dealing with the unexpected, but little Andrex's arrival was a shock," a Tesco spokesman said. "They took it in their stride, wrapping him up straightaway in a duvet in the manager's office and calling the RSPCA for advice and help."

Buddhist Thai food delights Malaysia's Muslim palate

At the upscale restaurants, spotlights filtered by a bamboo screens throw a soft glow over tables covered in crisp white cloth. Metallic green silk curtains hang from a high ceiling and the food is served by Malaysian staff in Thai-style dress.

The average price for a three-course dinner is about 40 ringgit ($11.70) per person.

The signature tom yum dish is made from lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galanga, shallots, lime juice, fish sauce, tamarind and crushed chilies. In Thailand, it is eaten at any time of day, in restaurants or from street stalls.

"Most Thai dishes are fused from Chinese, Malay and Indian. That's why it's easy to satisfy people here," Thanee said.

Thanks largely to Malaysia's tom yum lovers, about 80 Thai restaurants, excluding food stalls, are spread throughout the country, where 60 percent of the population is Muslim.

Thanee, who opened his first eatery with an initial investment of $235,000 in 1999, now has 13 outlets, mostly in Kuala Lumpur. He expanded to Singapore, where he has one diner and plans to open two more next year.

"I explored many countries, but Malaysia offers the lowest cost in this region, even lower than my hometown," said the Bangkok-born Thanee.

"I am an architect, so I can put image and culture into my restaurants. I can't cook, but I can tell what is good taste."

($1= 3.425 Malaysian ringgit)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Golden Temple Near Vellore

One of the biggest Hindu shrines in southern India, the Sri Puram Golden Temple a grand golden temple built by a spiritual organization in Tamil Nadu at an approximate cost of Rs 600 crore, the consecration (kumbhabhishekam) was performed on August 24, 2007, presence of over 30,000 devotees.

The Mahalakshmi temple, located on a sprawling 100 acres of land at Sripuram, near Vellore, about 125 km from Chennai, has been constructed by Vellore-based Sri Narayani Peetam, headed by spiritual leader Sri Sakthi Amma.

"The Taj Mahal was built as an expression of love for a single person but the Sri Puram Golden Temple stands for unconditional love for the entire humanity," says Amma, 31, who also goes by the name of Shakti Siddha.

"We know it is also the sign of the universal goddess - Lakshmi," says William, who gives only one name and says he is of Canadian origin.

The steps that lead to the innermost section are laid with polished black and grey granite from the neighbouring South Arcot and Dharmapuri districts. A cubic metre of black granite is priced at 0. So is the grey stone called "Paradiso" because of its wavy patterns of violet with the colour of iron. And this too has been used in large quantities.

"If we had built a hospital, factory, educational institution or a business, it would have ended up serving a small community. But now, Amma's temple will sow the seeds of goodness in the hearts of everyone who visits here," Amma, clad in ochre robes, says in Tamil.

The temple, covering 55,000 sq ft area, has intricate carvings and sculptures in gold. Except the walking path, the entire structure has been made of gold and copper. This would be more grandeur than the Golden Temple in Amritsar , mutt sources said.

About 400 goldsmiths and coppersmiths, including craftsmen from Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanams, have completed the architectural marvel in gold in six years..

More than one and half tone of pure gold was glitter and gleam under the sun, Devotees hail the temple as 'one of the wonders of the world' and say that it is the only temple covered fully with gold.

According to official sources, the gold bars were purchased through RBI in "a transparent manner." First the coppersmiths set to work creating a copper base on the temple structure with engravings and etchings before the gold, beaten into nine layers of foils, was draped around it.

The sanctum sanctorum will hold the deity of Mahalakshmi made of stone granite, but covered with gold kavacham (adornments).

"The Sripuram or Spiritual Park is Amma's dedication to the world and mankind," said P Murali, a trustee of the Peetam.

The temple has been designed in such a way that visitors can reach the golden temple only after going through a star-shaped pathway, which has the quotes from Gita, Bible and Quran displayed on either side.

Surrounded by mountains and lush and scenic beauty, the temple, entirely conceived and designed by 'Amma', would be open to people of all religions. "The temple is Amma's gift to mankind," the sources said.

"When one enters the Sripuram, their focus is just on the magnificent temple. But when they leave, they cannot do so without taking some messages and gaining some wisdom," according to a booklet detailing the 'services' rendered by the Peetam. "In this quagmire of materialism, Sripuram rises as an inspiration to man to find the divinity within him," adds a brochure

Murali said arrangements were being made to hire personnel to throw a security cover around the temple. "But the gold sheets have been laid out in such a manner that it would cost more to rip it off than purchase the gold," said a top Vellore district official.


Saturday, November 17, 2007


Especially ladies drivers beware,

Alert all car owners, especially those who drive to Malaysia, this is the
new trick of car jacking !!!


Heads up everyone. Please, keep this circulating...

You walk! across the parking lot, unlock your car and get inside.

You start the engine and shift into Reverse. When you look into the
rearview mirror to back out of your parking space, you notice a piece of
paper stuck to the middle of the rear window. So, you shift into Park,
unlock your doors, and jump out of yourcar to remove that paper (or
whatever it is) that is obstructingyour view.

When you reach the back of your car, that is when thecar hacker's) appear
out of nowhere, jump into your car and take off. They practically mow you
down as they speed off in your car.

And guess what, ladies? I bet your purse is still in the car.

So now the carjacker has your car, your home address, yourmoney, and your
keys. Your home and your whole identity is now compromised!


If you see a piece of paper stuck to your back window, just drive away.

Remove the paper later.

Msia's 80s baby

If you are Msia's 80s baby,read through
this, we grew up watching Transformers,
Thundercats, Woody Woodpecker,
Chipmunks, Mickey Mouse, Jem, Mask,
Ninja Turtles, Voltron, Baja Hitam,
Ultraman n not forgettin POWER RANGERS
n BUGS BUNNY!!!and anderra yippa mice?
:), McGyver ?

had to brush our teeths during recess
at primary school? had to hold plastic
cups, line up with your classmates side
by side and start brushing our teeths
at some open area... or maybe near some

do you still remember that we had
'dentist' rooms where we had to have
our teeths check?

not to forget our 'program minum susu'
in primary school.. everybody is
suppose to buy like cartons of milk that costed
30 cents.. and you would see everyone
drinking it everyday...its d UHT

the teachers who would want to punish
us must use yellow rulers to hit us on
our palms?? 1 metre length..

that a bowl of mihun soup or some soup
only costed 50 cents at the school

went to some sundry shop near the
school or to the 'roti' man waiting outside
our schools so that we can buy junk food
like chickedees, mamee, ding dang with
some toys in it, 'Ti Kam', ice-cream
and we would play games like monopoly, uno,
old maid, and all other card games like

another fun time would be during
Pendidikan Jasmani. the boys would
play football while the girls would
play netball... and it would be like we
were playing in the world cup...

but of course. the best would be main
guli, batu seremban, bottlecaps, ice-
cream sticks, 'Pepsi Cola one-two-three',
Cops and Robbers, main
kejar-kejar duduk,getah... and for the
not so active, those kind of 'book
games' where we would use buku latihan
to draw and ask our friends to play...

do you remember the ice-cream tubes
which are actually ice and colouring
that are sold for 10 to 20 cents.. the
colourful ones.. where you usually bite
off the top to glup it
tastes b best..(pop-ice)

what about days when we felt like doing
naughty things such as folding papers
so small to make 'lastik' amd shoot
each other... how about throwing

back then, micheal jackson was just
turning white.. and still had albums
coming out.. compared to CD's, we were
listening to tapes that sold for RM9.90

in computer class, we were still using
black and white computer moniters..
played 'Atari'... maybe SEGA or

well, are we all getting older or what?

1) if you understand what you have read
and you are smiling...

2) we have friends from school that are
already married...

3) we shake our heads everytime we
see high school students fussing about
their handphones in school..

4) we don't hang on phone with our
friends for hours a day talking about

5) when we meet back with our friends
from time to time, we feel excited and
happy talking about old times, the
funny 'adventures' or stories that we
experienced as a kid..

6) last but not least, that when you
read this, you would think of all the
happy & sad memories that you have
experienced when you were still a kid
and would think of forwarding this to
your old friends that you have known
since forever... i'm sure they would
have a huge smile on their face after
reading this.....

p.s: if u feel u're one of them who
experinced this, repost this to share
wif ur frens... ;)