Monday, December 8, 2008

Of Pening, Pushcarts & Perfection - the Penang Food Hunt, 2008

"Fork and spoon?" - check.
"Ladle and scoop?" - check.
"Chopstick and knife?" - check.
"Wok-Chan and sieve?" - check.
"Apron, placard and .... camera?" - check.

Then we are set!

For what? Has treasure hunting got extended into the kitchen domain? We love food, but has Hunters R Us ventured into cooking contests too? Were we hunting for ingredients?

Not quite but those were the winning ingredients of a picture posing challenge in which HRU took runners-up position in theThe winner was Team 20. They posed for all 4 picture challenges, we only did one. For their consistency in their theme - forming the numbers 2-0 in different poses at all 4 sites - they deserved the top prize.

HRU planned this some 48 hours before the hunt and we spent almost a third of our pre-dawn journey from Subang Jaya to Penang, just discussing this. We stopped at Ipoh to have dim-sum, at the famous and very popular Foh Sun Restaurant. One of the best dim sum we ever had - we must agree! We had arrived at 7 and we left at 8. When we reached our car, an unusual thing happened right at the car park lot.

We had hardly stepped into our car, when almost simultaneously, two of us suggested that we "rehearse" our conceptual idea right there and then. "Right here in the parking lot? " Caught by the contagious enthusiasm, nobody objected! I believe something in the ingredients of the dim sum got us into this unusually spirited mood.

We took out our stuff and we experimented with a few poses, all in the open and within sight of passer-bys, passing cars and nearby shop owners. We just didn't care what others thought of these overgrown - too early to be drunk - adults dressed in red, waving utensils and cutlery in their hands!

After a few trials, we selected our final pose. We felt contented, confident and prepared. We got into our car and begun our journey to the Pearly destination. I lost count, but I think we talked about the finer points and why we think we will win this one, no less than 5 times! Some of us could imagine ourselves rubbing our hands in glee - receiving the Kodak camera prizes on the podium already! Well, as it turned out - we were amongst the winners but no Kodak cameras - just vouchers from Cititel Hotel and DanaiSpa. Think we deserved it?

Many Hands Make Light Wok ... Of Good Food!
Producer: VW
Director : VK
Props: 5050 & MS
Camera : a competitor!
(Want to play "Spot the Differences?")

We joined the rest of the participants at the hall of Paradise Sandy Beach Resort about 10:45 a.m. There were some 95 teams in this hunt. It was nice to be able to meet some familiar faces - amongst them friends from outside Penang and also a few fellow hunters from Penang. Although, deep inside, we had to remind ourselves - they are also our most formidable competitors! I met a couple of former colleagues too. I was very pleasantly surprised to see them in the hunt! They were just "holidaying hunters".

Hmmm! Shall I speak through this or that?
Psst! Use the one closer to your heart!

The COC begins his briefing. Introducing as appetizers, a few entertaining word rebuses, which I am sure got mixed reception. Those who could solve them - their confidence boosted, those who did not, but understood how they were solved - took solace; while those who were completely blurred out - must have felt intimidated. Nevertheless, the COC continues to encourage everyone and gives out more tips and information, as he covers in full detail all that the participants needed to understand clearly for all the tasks lined up for the day - a very long day.

The briefing took almost an hour to complete and the noon to dusk hunt was planned for 7 hours - that's a lot for a single city hunt. But it turned out to be just enough - considering the number of tasks to do:

- get the local names of 5 kuihs (picture list)
- visit 4 food places to get stamps, photo-pose at one of them
- visit 3 historical sites and photo-pose there too,
- print all the photos to show the COC
- solve 4 treasures,
- tackle 5 MKJRs,
- do a 10Q walk-hunt at a foodcourt,
- make a donation to Hospis,
- do a Shell sponsored "cooking" challenge,
- do a regular 20Q route hunt

All of the above while navigating through the infamous Penang traffic on a Saturday afternoon!

The first challenge of the day was to get the local names of 5 kuihs pictured in black & white. 5050 was assigned the task and our strategy was straight-forward. Drop her in the market area to interview the local kuih sellers!

She was surprised that she could not find any kuih vendors at Chowrasta. "Don't they do any business on a Saturday afternoon?" But that did not deter her. She mustered her courage and just asked whoever she thought looked like a local. Two men and two ladies were her final targets. They then worked with her on the pictures, separately. While for most of the kuihs, they all gave the same answers, there were two that did not get full consensus.

Was it to be buah melaka or ondeh-ondeh? Two said buah melaka, two said ondeh-ondeh. So better to ask a 5th person - and she said - both also can! Pening lah, macam tu! We decided to rely on our in-house knowledge and went for ondeh-ondeh.

The other one was kuih kosui. None on our "panel" called it that. They all called it kuih lompang. One of our own "chefs'" called it kuih kochi - and immediately drew protests from all. But on hind sight, we could not have risked getting it wrong if the COC had extended the same kindness he showed to all those who wrote all the variations of bahlus, lulus and hulus for kuih bahulu!

It was learned later, that one of the most crucial tasks was a very remote treasure. This treasure could only be obtained from a shop located some 15km away from the city, where everything else was happening. "Pening" for some teams - even for those from the local isle.

This "pening kepala" treasure was a packet of herbs - there were two to choose from - "Garam Masala" a.k.a "salty problem" and "Mum's De-stressing tea!". It had to be gotten only from the Tropical Spice Garden located at Jalan Sutera, in the Feringghi area. A phone call to the shop revealed that the place would be closed by 5:30 p.m. or thereabout.

To get there, it would take some 40 to 45 minutes and another 45 minutes to get back. Even the locals could not figure a short-cut to the location - there just did not seem to be one! The only strategy that a team could deploy to save time, would be to get there early.

One of the teams, from Penang with 3 reputable COCs, one of whom was "imported"from KL, did not realise any of these factors and made a crucial mistake in leaving to attend to this treasure only at the end of the route hunt. By the time they fathomed the actual logistics, rushed there - the shop had closed. This cost them the 2nd prize!

They later shared with us that they were misled by a remark on the tulip, "Do Not Forget Treasure 3!!!", placed mischievously towards the end of the last page after the last question sectors, which gave them the impression that the location of the treasure would be in that sector! Did the COC pull on a bluff? Or did the team bluff themselves?

The walk hunt at the New World Park took its peril on the participants too. Many said they struggled in this crowded place and spent the most time here, partly because they had to wait, on an average 20 to 30 minutes, for their turn to do the "Apam balik" challenge. We were not spared too. Meanwhile, take a look at our heroine's creation! She scored "A+" for it. The judge was a famous maker of Apam Balik's in Penang.

Picture courtesy of Joey ...

MS scored full points with an A+ given by an authentic "guru" for her sweet masterpiece!

At the foodcourt, the question that stumped everyone the most was a seemingly simple question. Competitive teams refused to give up on it. They knew that in a hunt of this nature, every point counted! The 3+1 COC team told us later, that they took turns to eat just to try to find the answer for this one. They did not find it.

Q. Shoppers urge to lug it around for convenience.
A. Pushcart on floor directory

A definition statement, "to lug it around for convenience" for "cart" and a clarifying clue ,"urge" to emphasise "push". "Shoppers" was an extra word to help give it a specific context - or narrowing effect.

We spent a good 40 minutes hunting this. Everyone in the team gave up and was prepared to drop it -all ready to "tembak" "pushcart" without stating where we found it (calling the bluff).

But I persisted. I had earlier saw another sign "Interested in this cart?" hanging underneath a few empty "carts" for rent. This inspired to me to think that if the word "cart" was used, then it was very highly possible that the word "pushcart" might be used somewhere.

Maybe it was a word printed on the mobile trolleys the cleaners "lug around" to collect soiled plates, cutlery, etc? We trailed every one of them - discreetly scanning every part of the equipment, avoiding to attract the attention of the helpers and hunters. We also checked those parked near the toilets. One of the "regulars" saw me walk in and out of toilets - he got curios too, and did likewise! Wise move but fruitless for both.

I then suspected the directory. I thought I would see something that would say "To rent a pushcart, contact so-and-so". So, I hunted for directories. I spotted a couple of low easel type directories. I scanned it, but did not see any "pushcarts". I was on the verge of giving up, and the final push to discard it came, when my partners signaled to me very firmly that we had to go.

Very reluctantly, I walked towards the "Apam Balik" area to join my team, but as I was about to climb the last few steps to walk away completely from the hunting sector, I noticed another easel advertising board just at the edge of the sector.

There was nothing in the plane facing me, but when I moved around it to view the other side of the easel, I saw the same version of the floor directory that I had scanned earlier. And there it was ...!

I quickly reached for my Bluetooth. Called my partner. And before I could even shout the first words, I saw him. I just ran towards him, forgetting to turn off the phone. And frantically asked him "Have you submitted the answer sheet?" Deep inside of me was going "Oh! God, please let it be "no"!"

What a relief, when the response from him was "No! Why?". "I found it!!!"

See for yourself! Did it land on your blind spot too? Why else would everyone miss it?

Double-click to blow up this picture and try to find it - pushcart!

We left New World at 4:10 p.m and we noticed there were still many hunters who have not. On the road, besides weaving through the crawling traffic, only two questions were, by average standards, really difficult. The rest, with reasonable effort and persistence, were solvable. - also the opinion of the other "regulars". There were quite a few that just needed to be spotted (small signs). Here are the two:

Q. You'll never walk alone, these supporters cry.
A. Liverpool FC
(Sorry, no pix for this one).

Every English Premier League follower would know that - even if you are not a die-hard Liverpool fan, like I am. The challenge was in spotting it. It was one of those "tiny" sign-within-signs located on the "less worked side" - the driver's side. It was not a shop, but on an ad-pillar along the kerb of the road.

Distracting the participants from looking in the right (literally too) places, was a more prominent sign nearby, "Restoran The Red Chopstick". This was the dreaded COC "red herring" bluff! Many fell for or compromised on this one.

Another point to note is, no true-Red-blooded Liverpool fan will call themselves The Red! We are "The REDS". Luckily for us, a couple of us had put our foot down on this one!

Q. Sweet recollection it gives you with golden endings.
A. Dimiliki olih BERT Link Trading @ Restoran Seasons

The key answer was "BERT" - the rest was not relevant.

A "recollected" BERT would give you "TREB" and if you added "OR", the colour of gold to the end, you would get TREBOR - a brand of sweets. Anyone of my vintage would know the confectionery TREBOR. They are not as popular nowadays, but nevertheless, a very recognisable brand name.

Ever heard of a safe BET? One where even if you lost, you still win? One such bet took place over this question. One of us did not quite like the answer and wagered on it over a can of 100+. with another. The rest of us remained neutral. The result? The proposer gladly lost a can of 100+ but was more than happy that we won with a perfect score!

Those were the 3 key "spacers" in the final standings.

Here are the results:6-7 Dec, 2008: Penang Food Hunt (Full score 170 pts)

1st: Vincent Woo, Margaret Sha, Lily Loh, Chong Voon Kiat(170)
2nd: D. Aravindan Nair, Danial Aliff Chan, Aznita Mohd, S. Kumaresan(161)
3rd: Chin Kar Ping, Jayaram Menon, Liong Chian Min, Sam Rahman(158)
4th: Claire Chin, Lim Sha-Lin, Julie Tan, Goh Teck Koon(158)
5th: Cheok Wye Leong, Elaine Cheong, Khor Pee Lynn, Sin Yoong Leong(155)
6th: Chong Lai Kuan, Julian & team(152)
7th: Audrey & team(151)
8th: Goh Leep Sean, Stephen Chin, Edward Yeap, Subashini(151)
9th: Tan Kok Cheeng, Anwar Jeffry, Chan Kah Sing, Rudy (150)
10th: Shankar & team (148)

Hunters R Us specially thank the main prize sponsors, SHELL and DIGI for their generous cash rewards. Also to CITITEL and DANAISPA for their kind prizes. We are also grateful to the other sponsors (NEW WORLD PARK, BBQ CHICKEN, theSUN, BERNAMA, JOBSTREEET.COM) for supporting Rasa Rasa FoodSense, Malaysia and Time Out Solutions, in making this event possible for a 2nd year running, and for supporting Treasure Hunting in general. Bravo everyone!


Anonymous said...

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2 Romans 1 Impostor said...

Joshua or Sharon, welcome to our humble kitchen. Feel free to raid our fridge, but do leave a foot print like what you did.

Ngadiman said...


Newbie here. Interesting "tale" of the makan hunt.

Can you, for the sake of the newbies, explain how is colour of gold transpired to OR? I thought gold is AU.

Ngadiman said...

BTW, we are also of the same vintage. TREBOR sweets - used to be of my favourites.


2 Romans 1 Impostor said...

Ngadiman, check a reputable dictionary and you will discover that while AU (Aurum) is Latin for Gold, OR is Middle English to represent the colour of Gold (Golden).

Quah, Seng-Sun said...

Jolly good!

Cornelius Koh said...

Wow! That "pushcart" Q is really cruel! 40 minutes hunting for it! Amazing hunting stamina!

No, obviously small signs can no longer beat crazy hunters like you.

Maybe there is a better chance that something in the order of "DEFEND" or "WORM" can eat up more of your time, huh?

Congratulations to you all. And I'm getting a bit tired of congratulating you people all the time too! I'm sure there will come a time when I will scold you if you failed to win!

joeyeo said...

hey, u r the Champion! i have few pictures shot on stage. i can email to u if u want :P drop me a msg at my email will do.

Food Promotions said...

First of all, Congratulation !!!
I am able to spot the different on the pictures. haha..there is different colour of watch strip on the top right hand.

Came across your blog while googling.

Do pay a visit to my blog and link us too :

Hope to see you there :)

2 Romans 1 Impostor said...

Corny & FoodPromotions,

On behalf of Hunters R Us, thank you for your kind messages.


Love your blog. Being part-time food promoters ourselves, you bet we will come back to visit your site now and again. Thank you for the invite!

BlogCe5nT said...

Hi, Joey

Thanks for the photos and sharing your album! Love 'em all!

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