By Tan Wan Shing
My hometown, Bidor, is a small and simple town in Perak. Growing up in a town without cinemas, bookshops and shopping malls for nearly 20 years, I feel a deep sense of happiness for being able to spend quality time with my family and friends.
I left Bidor at 18 years old to join the national service program, followed by my studies at a local university and continued on to kickstart my career. Every time I go back to my hometown, I always cycle to my grandma’s house and accompany her for lunch and a chat. Grandma’s house is located at a corner shop lot in town and it is only a 10-minute ride from my house.
Every time I see her, she would surely feed me, as she worries that I might be too busy to have good, healthy food. I feel the luckiest when grandma treats me to steamed sweet potatoes. I love the warm colour and creamy texture of sweet potatoes.
While I give her a massage, my grandma would tell her past stories although she has repeatedly told every single one of them. Each time we finish a topic, she would remind me of her sad stories, and wipes her tears away. To avoid her getting too upset, I would ask about her daily routine.
At home, I always enjoy my mom’s home cooked food with family members, as my hectic working lifestyle means that I have to eat out most meals. From soya sauce chicken and yong tau hu to hakka pork belly with yam, my mum’s excellent cooking skills has caused me to put on weight every time I go home for a visit.
After lunch, we would watch television together in the living room and my mother would prepare sweet and juicy papayas bought from her friends. My parents’ fridge is always filled with fresh fruits such as oranges, kiwis and homegrown bananas. Not only do they encourage us to eat more fruits, they also blend fruit and vegetable juice in the morning.
A dessert shop next to the basketball court is our gathering spot to meet old friends. Our all time favourite choice is a bowl of ais kacang which consists of home cooked red bean and fried peanuts, grass jelly, sweet corn, smooth cendol, gula Melaka and a scoop of ice cream. During hot afternoons, we would even order a plate of rojak, while chatting and sharing stories up to a few hours.
Some of the all-time favourites in Bidor are the famous wonton mee, curry mee, prawn mee and chee cheong fun. However, as a local Bidorian, I would recommend a bakery located right next to the market, known as La Filapino Bakery. It sells different types of fresh bread at affordable prices.
Stepping into the shop, customers are greeted by the smiley shop owner, and she is always pleased to recommend the different varieties of breads and cakes in the shop. Her Filipino husband, who is a humble baker, would talk with customers while enjoying his coffee. One of the main attractions of this bakery is the 50 per cent discount on certain items, which are normally snapped up within half an hour.
Despite Bidor being a small town, it is filled with warmth and humanity, memories of family and friends, and most importantly, my haven.