Laksa Johor and Mr. Darcy

For nearly two weeks now my life has been defined by waking up early in the morning, writing, doing housework, heating up Laksa Johor to eat while watching Pride and Prejudice.  It is the 2005 version directed by Joe Wright, starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfayden, Judi Dench, Donald Sutherland, Penelope Wilton, and Tom Hollander. The Janeites, literary critics etc do not like this movie but I love it more than the much-loved BBC miniseries for many reasons. The music, the cinematography, the chemistry between Knightley and Macfayden — and the breath of fresh air it lends to an old classic.

So it’s been really comforting to dip into my plate of Laksa Johor while watching 15-20 minutes of this every morning. It became my private, happy place. So when I finished watching the movie, I started watching it again! Who cares about the critics, right?

Today I finished my last 418 calorie serving of my Laksa Johor and feel bereft.


It was my first time making Laksa Johor. I used this recipe nearly faithfully (I used ikan kembung — wolf mackerel instead of ikan parang — wolf herring, because I couldn’t be bothered with the bones. Also, I used lemon instead of calamansi limes!) and was beyond thrilled with the results. I made it a bit thick which means a little bit of gravy could go a long way and so it was the consistency it should be, like a Malaysian spaghetti bolognese you eat with your hands.

However, the conversation around Wickham had me cause to explore issues to do with class that’s really part and parcel of the text. The movie of course exaggerates the class distinctions by having the Bennetts be even more vulgar and that made me think about my own families (paternal, maternal) and how the class divide can alienate even within the same bloodline.  In this time of grieving, perhaps I may have made errors of judgement in reverting to being too trusting.

For now, going within, reaching within myself to bring out as much work as I can while healing my mind, body and soul is my main priority. I won’t have any publications for the next few months so I’m taking the opportunity to have a holiday from twitter and Instagram. I’ve disabled my Facebook for the same reason as most — privacy concerns. I’ll be back on other social media between August-November and will bow out again from November to mid-March 2019. I intend to spend the time fruitfully finishing my monograph, chapters and articles due, and Rosemirror. Bowing out from social media in November will better facilitate the work I intend to do on Masks of the Apothecary then. I promised myself that if I don’t have an agent for Watermyth by end of this year, I’m querying Masks of the Apothecary next year. To refresh your memory, this is the first novel in The Yrole Triptych, that Sesen trilogy I started writing so long ago, and then put on hold for the Cantata of the Fourfold Realms sometime in 2010.

I think I’ll be making more Laksa Johor while I’m at it! It’s actually easier for me to stay away from social media these days because the time I used to spend on twitter I’m now spending counting calories on my calorie tracker. 8)

(Although I still have batches of my rather amazing curry laksa so there’s that! Ask me how much I love all versions of laksa!)

Nin’s Super-Indulgent Chicken Curry

I’m on a curry-making kick, and this one came about mostly because I wanted to finish up some ingredients in my fridge, but also because I wanted to use the kat pura valli leaves in my balcony garden.

The result? Magic!

Inspiration for this includes: The butter-onion-chilli recipe that’s part of the paternal family arsenal, previous experience cooking curry with kat pura valli leaves, and also I thought pandanus leaves would be lovely in curries (a mild suspicion that this is what makes some of the curries I’ve enjoyed in Penang that magical). Also the lovely keto butter chicken dish Heidi Shamsuddin made for me a couple of weekends back reminded me what a lovely thing a chicken curry is (Also how easy it is to make. Dudes, I’ve been making chicken curry since I was a kid, I could probably make it while sleepwalking). I’ve already made chicken curry twice in the past two weeks and suspect I will be making some more once this batch finishes.


  • 23 oz chicken breasts (deskinned, deboned, chopped into chunks)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 red shallots, chopped
  • ginger (3-4 slices) and garlic (3 cloves) minced together to make a paste
  • 2 green chillis, chopped up slant-wise.
  • Spices: spice mix (fenugreek, jeera/cumin, black mustard), 1/2 teaspoon coriander, 1 cinnamon stick, 6 cloves, 1 1/2 star anise, 5-6 cardamom pods, 2 dried chillis broken into chunks.
  • McCormick’s garlic flakes, chilli flakes and sea salt grinder (a few dashes to taste)
  • Pepper to taste.
  • Kat pura valli leaves (Karpuravalli/borage), about 1 tablespoon, chopped. (fresh oregano a good substitute)
  • Curry leaves, about 15 leaves stripped from stem.
  • 1 large-ish potato chopped into chunks.
  • Emborg whipping cream. (About 1/3 a carton — those small square cartons!)
  • Extra light olive oil 1.5 tablespoons.
  • Alagappa meat curry powder to taste. (I used about 2 tablespoons or so, I think)
  • Salt.
  • Maggi seasoning. (1-2 dashes, optional)
  • Amchur. (mango powder,  a couple of pinches)
  • The juice of 2-3 wedges of key lime.
  • Tomatoes. (I used 18 cherry tomatoes because my students gave me two cartons)
  • Pandanus leaf. (take 2, shred from the base and tie into a bundle)
  • Water


  1. Wash and chop the chicken, marinade with the juice of two key lime wedges, salt, pepper (I used McCormick’s garlic flakes, chilli flakes and sea salt grinder), kat pura valli leaves, about a tablespoon of curry powder, and the whipping cream. Mix it with your hands, you’ve got to get down and dirty with the marinade to make sure it’s awesome.
  2. Prep the other ingredients while the chicken is happily marinating for an hour.
  3. Heat the wok or pan with the olive oil. Gently add the spices. When they start to “pop”, add the onions and gently caramelize them. Once they’re approaching the stage of caramelizing, add the ginger garlic paste and half of the curry leaves.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon of curry powder. Stir everything gently till it reaches a nice paste-like consistency. Add some water and scrape the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add the chicken and stir it around so the curry powder on the chicken mixes with the paste in the pan. Add green chillis and tomatoes at this point, stirring gently.
  6. Add water, potatoes and the pandanus leaf.
  7. Let it simmer for awhile before adding the amchur, maggi seasoning, and the rest of the seasonings. Don’t be afraid to taste to ensure it’s where you want it to be!
  8. Simmer gently for about an hour, stirring at intervals. You can let the gravy reduce down or add water if you want more gravy. This curry is beautiful once the oil “breaks” or what is known in Malay as “pecah minyak”, and the fragrance fills the entire kitchen.
  9. Towards the end, add the rest of the curry leaves and squeeze one more wedge of lime if you think it needs more sourness (if not necessary, omit. The lime in the marinade and in the amchur may be enough).

This was extremely yummy, and I ate it with jasmine rice and stir-fried cabbage. It would be great with pilau rice and a light vegetable salad as well. Makes 4 servings of about 355 calories each, but since I didn’t grind the spices, I didn’t count them in. Do your own calculations to be safe 😉

Rosemirror and Other Tales

Been awhile since I posted here. It’s been quite a year what with my father’s illness that ended up in his death, and my fracturing of my toe which led to a long medical leave (although I am still working remotely from home so it’s not quite a holiday!)

Does the one have to do with the other?

Hard to say. I am in the mourning period still. My Dad’s one month anniversary of death happened on the 22nd of April. I was bewildered for a few weeks but seem to be slowly regaining emotional balance though it’ll take awhile. It is a terrible thing to lose one’s parent.

Anyway, I’ve also been kept busy with all manner of things. I also have the tendency of burying myself in work to help myself process things emotionally. So that’s been going on along with putting myself on a restricted calorie diet which has had some positive health benefits. Blessings in disguise, they happen.


Writing Notes:

So far in 2018, I received two acceptances, had three stories published, and received two requests for full manuscripts from agents. I’ve also queried 11 agents today and am now up to 30 queries for Watermyth. Positive response has given me the focus I need to continue work on Rosemirror, which is the sequel to Watermyth.

I’m hoping to have a full draft done by November, although I have to divide my time between that and academic writing/duties.

So here’s where I’m at right now:

26161 / 120000 words. 22% done!

Here’s to getting more done soon!

Masak Singgang Ikan Tenggiri

  • 2-3 slices mackerel
  • 1 lemongrass lightly pounded or punctured at the root
  • 3-4 slices galanggal root
  • turmeric root or powder (I like my broth very turmeric-y so I use about a tablespoon but YMMV. Try 2cm if fresh turmeric root, which is what most recipes recommend)
  • 2-3 slices young ginger
  • 6-7 red shallots, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1-2 pinches sugar (I used demerara sugar as usual)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon belachan paste.
    3-5 green bird’s eye chillis, lightly pounded. (or 1 red green chilli sliced, if you can’t stand heat)
  • 2-3 small pieces asam gelugur/keping


Place everything except for the fish in a pot with enough water to make a gently fragrant broth. When the broth is bubbling and flavoursome, add the fish so it will poach. Season with some grated black pepper.

December is Here! December is Here!

Phew, I had quite a November. As of right now, I have presented two conference papers (wrote one from scratch, got it solicited for a journal issue, still waiting to hear back), written 20k words in Rosemirror, and have 13 stories out on submission. Plus work on academic writing.

In December, I fully intend to continue working on Rosemirror, bringing it up to between 50k-60k words which is a sweet spot for the ending of a narrative arc. Then I can revise and add more words in 2018, with an estimated finish of 120k words, same as Watermyth.

So, to help keep me motivated, I’m going to be posting my Rosemirror-drafting progress here. It would be really nice to end the year with this because then I’d feel like less of an abject failure 🙂

Write along with me if you’re also trying to catch up on your wordcount! <3

20083 / 50000 words. 40% done!

Word progress meter available here.

November Updates

2017 is almost drawing to a close and for many it means holiday-time. I too am looking forward to the winding down of the year, although for me it means staying at home and healing/writing.

I’ve honestly lost track of the things I’ve done in October but I do know I submitted three stories then, and have submitted three stories in November. All up, I’ve submitted short stories 46 times this year, with three acceptances: Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and The Dark. I also had two poetry acceptances: Strange Horizons, and Uncanny.

So far, things I have had published this year: three poems, two short stories, a book review, an academic book chapter, a blog post on the Strange Horizons blog, an academic article.

It’s very little compared to last year but it’s been a very challenging year. Doesn’t seem to be very sensible or constructive to beat myself up about it.

As for the agent hunt, I’m taking a break from it to be kind to myself. Also, I’m drafting Rosemirror (the second book of the Cantata of the Fourfold Realms right now) and am quite excited at how the entire Cantata is shaping up. It seems a good idea to wait till I’ve finished drafting it, have a bigger picture, revisit Watermyth and then send out a batch of queries next year. I made a beginner’s mistake of querying my top ten agents first so now I have to start from scratch again but eh, I am not particularly well-researched when it comes to agents so maybe better things are around the corner.

I’ll probably get one of those marketplace books this time, do things properly next year. I have a suspicion I’m utterly shit when it comes to crafting queries.

Other things I am writing/editing:

  • 2 academic articles I am co-writing/editing with my supervisees and my co-supervisors.
  •  An EcoGothic chapter for a collection to be sent to a pretty cool publishing house.
  • A monograph I’d really like to get published at said cool publishing house.
  • An epic space opera time-travel romp of a novelette featuring Admiral Zhen-Juan as a mildly bemused mentor.
  • Sequel to Reversion, Vashti’s story.
  • A historical zombie dark fantasy (more fantasy than horror).
  • Another mosaic and byzantine Lusini short story based on the aftermath of Butter-Daughters.
  • A Venetian historical romance fantasy short story.
  • A naval planetary romance set in Sesen (I actually finished  writing this in 2014, decided it was rubbish and then disemboweled it and rewrote from scratch).
  • I also wrote the first Episode of a new eco-domestic fairytale retelling serial (The Loathly Lady and the Cabbage Farmer) that I’m posting over at The Mythogenetic Grove for free. Sometimes it’s just nice to write things you don’t have to submit anywhere.
  • Three academic articles I am still dithering over because of self-doubt and woe.

More urgently, I am presenting two conference papers in the coming week and this is what I will be working on this weekend.

Reading notes: I have read 99 books in 2017 — this is my best reading statistic since the (not so) new millennium. I still want to reach 120 books by year’s end, however but this month has run away from me. Unsettled by too many things happening at once.

Listening to: Fickle Sun (II) The Hour is Thin — Brian Eno


Mango and Passionfruit Chutney

Hello! This recipe came about because I had two over-ripe mangoes in the fridge plus a bottle of passionfruit pulp I’d forgotten about! I didn’t dare make my usual spicy (and sooo tasty) mango chutney so I opted for a mild and fragrant chutney gently flavoured with makrut leaves.

When I was younger, I used to like to make simple recipes complex by adding different ingredients to tweak with taste profiles. But in my fairly advanced years, I’ve recently really enjoyed very simple recipes — subtracting, rather than adding ingredients. My favourite recipes tend to happen because of necessity and because I need to clear out my modestly sized fridge. So yay to cooking the practical home cook way!

Note: Being a practical non-pro home-cook, I tend to eyeball everything first before I figure out measurements so adjust your seasonings accordingly.

Second Note: This recipe has no vinegar. The passionfruit has its own acidity that’s more than enough. Still! Don’t store this forever — should be consumed within a week or so.


  • Flesh of two ripe mangoes
  • 1 1/2 cups or so of passionfruit pulp
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, diced
  • 2 red shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium slices ginger, minced.
  • 2 makrut leaves, very thinly sliced.
  • 1/2 a green chilli, very thinly sliced.
  • a teaspoon of mixed fennel, fenugreek and black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin powder
  • oil (I use corn oil because it’s one of the least carcinogenic oils out there)
  • salt to taste
  • soft brown sugar to taste (about 2-3 teaspoons for me as I don’t like it overpoweringly sweet)


  1. Heat oil in wok.
  2. When it is lightly simmering, add the mixed spice mixture (fennel, fenugreek, mustard).
  3. When this pops, add onions, garlic, shallot, ginger, green chillis and makrut leaves (yes, all at once).
  4. Stir gently until fragrant.
  5. Drop in the mango flesh and then the passionfruit pulp. Stir so that it is nicely incorporated with the aromatics.
  6. Season with salt, soft brown sugar and cumin powder.
  7. Let it bubble until it reaches chutney consistency. Keep stirring.
  8. When it is cooked, let it cool, and then store in a jar.

I ate this with basmati rice, leftover thakkali pal curry, long beans curry, eggplant curry (all very mild, made the way my beloved late granny used to make `em. Yummy!), and freshly made fish cutlets flavoured with makrut leaves. Heaven!

Problematizing My Problematizing and Other Tales

Today’s title brought to you by the fact that this Helen Oyeyemi article that I was supposed to submit to a bucket list academic publication two weeks ago is still being revised. Because I reread some of the core texts and my research/thoughts have so far evolved since I submitted my PhD dissertation.

I *was* going to turn that dissertation into two monographs, *was* going to take a sabbatical this year so this could happen. Alas, life dealt me with more than one curve ball. My sabbatical was “postponed” unless I could jump into a time machine to prove I had 5 ISI/SCOPUS publications. So far to date I have 1 ERA/EBSCO etc indexed publication, 3 scopus publications and that’s not enough. I *may* have 4 Scopus publications, I’m not sure.

So I sadly declined to jump into a time machine, and decided not to go on sabbatical. Maybe I’ll try again in ten year’s time, if I’m still alive.

Anyway, with my current health scare, I had to streamline a lot of my impossible projections and expectations for myself this year. So it would have been a wasted sabbatical. Life truly works in mysterious ways. Still, it’s been a very bitter pill for me to swallow. Because I promised myself my 42nd year of life had to be extraordinary — since I was destined to spend the rest of my life alone. I don’t want to grow up an old, embittered spinster with nothing to live for.

I was going to go to Venice, or Helsinki, or New York, or Paris. I *was* going to go to Helsinki and Queensland this year.

What happened? Health scare which led to a six month course of antibiotics, plus steroid inhalers which fucked me up to the extent that I now have palpitations and irregular heart rhythms. So far September has been a month of going to two hospitals more than once, multiple tests and we’re still not getting to the bottom of why my heart won’t behave itself. Oh, and all of my hard work losing weight? Down the drain. Within the course of six months I put on 8kg and now don’t even have my usual physical mobility so I can swim off the kgs. I’ve had to learn what my body can do and what it can’t do so I can remain moderately fit. I still have a good resting heart rate of between 60-71bpm (it goes down to 58bpm when I sleep), but I have also lost my ability to swim breaststrokes like a swimming pool monster. Now I’m more a timid and frail old lady doing timid laps. Well, I was. I’ve decided to stop swimming until they figure out what is wrong with me. So I just walk laps in corridors now. Faithfully, dedicatedly. Every day.

Every night, a sense of terror that I won’t wake up if I fall asleep. Every night, my heart feels strange, like it’s not mine. Like I’m not in this body that is not mine.

I must have faith, I tell myself. It might be nothing. I’ve stopped the steroid inhalers. The antibiotics end in October. My lungs are clear, kidneys slightly battered from years of diabetes but still okay and functional, liver’s on the borderline but still okay, and at least one hospital has declared my thyroid function is okay.

That’s all well and good but mystery heart is still being mysterious and I could write a story about how my heart is really a garuda wanting to take wing and bring me up to a magical empire or kingdom where I can be a badass superhero, but the truth is every night I am whispering into my pillow, please be okay, please be okay, please be normal. Please let me wake up tomorrow, I have too many stories to write, too many articles to finish, too much inside me I want to share. Please don’t let it end here.

Tell me, when you contain all of these emotions and thoughts, how can one ever have ordinary conversation?

So I suppose this is a letter, in lieu of a conversation.

I am okay because I am determined to be okay.

I am not okay because I do not know the future and that’s terrifying.

All I know is what I have had in lieu of an extraordinary year:

I’ve written some extraordinary things that I am rather proud of. I cleared myself of accumulated debt which means that for the first time since I returned from Australia, I’m feeling comfortable — but still not flush enough to be able to move out of my apartment. Sigh.

In lieu of finding a better place to live in, I’ve stayed in some pretty awesome hotels that I really enjoyed. Some, like the E&O and Lone Pine, I’ve been “pining” after since I was a kid growing up in Penang. It was magical despite the health fears. No regrets. I needed those time outs. Oh, I also flew business for the first time in my life. It was a local trip and I booked two months in advance so it did not wind up costing too much.

Not quite Paris but it may be better because I’ll always love Penang more than I love any other place on the planet.

Oh, and I finished Watermyth. Finally! I queried Watermyth! Finally! But now I’m still improving it because I’m problematizing my problematizing of certain tropes through the novel. And new perspectives keep happening. But, it’s done. (If only I was able to stop tweaking! Argh!). I’m hoping to send more queries this weekend.

..and I supposed one may say all of those publications were rather extraordinary. But I barely filled a thimble. My entire publishing output since 2007 is less than some people publish in a year. Oh well. At least I do have people who seem to like what I write. That’s awfully nice.

And now, I need to get back to that blasted Helen Oyeyemi article where I am still problematizing my problematizing of her texts. It’s got to be good because goddamn it I’ll conquer bucket list publication somehow. *shakes belligerent fists at the world*

This wasn’t exactly what I was planning on writing but *shrug* …hasn’t exactly been a planned year. But I’m resilient and not willing to give up without a fight. So heart, if you’re a garuda, you’d better fight along with me. We’ve got some more awesomeness we need to achieve. Goddamnit we’re owed some awesomeness.


August 2017 Writing Roundup

I won’t have much to report for September since I haven’t really been submitting short stories this month. Been focused on the novel, teaching/academia, academic writing and my health. However, August was a pretty busy month for me. So let’s see what got done!

  1. Submitted three short stories.
  2. Got back 2-3 rejections (lost count, could be more).
  3. Got an acceptance for The Dark! Remember the postcolonial Gothic MURDER PONTIANAK PLAY? Yep! It’ll be out later this year!
  4. Did a substantial amount of work on Watermyth during my 1 week Penang writing retreat/vacation. (Still working on it, tbh. I’ve taken to revising the novel in cafes like a stereotypical author. Mostly because a change of scene was needed.)
  5. Brought two academic articles to the “close to submission” point. But then I wanted to send them to higher tier/indexed academic journals so now I am still perfecting them and changing formatting/style to suit journal house styles.
  6. Worked on my Millennial Malaysian monograph.
  7. Oh and it was a helluva month for publications. I had a short story in Clarkesworld (Reversion), a reprint in Lackington’s (Auto-Rejection: An Outro), a poem in Strange Horizons (Tinwoman’s Phantom Heart), also a microblog post for Strange Horizon’s fundraiser. Putting the other months of the year to shame! It was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster so I’m glad things are quiet enough in September that I can take some time off from social media to concentrate on myself and my health/goals.

Well, that’s it for August. September seems to be a “no short story submission” month so my September roundup will likely focus on the novel and my academic writing.