Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Date with a Kungfu Master

Wei Joo has taken up Shaolin Kung Fu for some time now, from the redoubtable Master Sifu (meaning the teacher -father, literally in Cantonese) Wong Kiew Kit. He has made several trips to Sg. Petani, Kedah, where Sifu is based, to learn under his comprehensive tutelage. When we first met one of his Sihengs (brother in learning in Cantonese), Anthony, in Gainesville, we knew of Sifu’s plan to be in Gainesville in September.

Wei Joo was very enthusiastic of us meeting his Sifu, our very first encounter, at such a faraway place from home, and has been tracking the date, Sep 22, ever since. With the help of Anthony, he has arranged for a lunch date with Sifu and his students on Sep 22, which is today. So there’s where we drove to this morning, just before 10.00am.

We first stopped by Wei Teck’s dorm at UF to see how he was doing, having sent him there for his Fall term about a month ago. As expected, he would not be joining us for lunch as the Gators was squaring off with Ole Miss at 12.30pm, but as an away game. That’s Gators football for the uninitiated, the first away game for the season. And there were doubts whether a string of starters featuring as yet untested freshmen could hold their own in hostile territory in their very first year of playing college football. And so the excitement level was bound to be high, and being a Gator football fan that he is, Wei Teck was not about to miss the game, even a televised one.

We were the first to arrive at the lunch venue, The Chutnees, offering a Fusion of Flavors from India. Located just off I-75 at Exit 386, the restaurant sits within an idyllic setting amidst the lush greenery. With the breezy wind, we felt comfortable sitting in the chairs on the front porch, despite the sunny weather.

There was a boutique featuring Indian wardrobe just after the entrance. Wify did a bit of rummaging, but apparently did not find anything to take home with, ostensibly because we stay with Chinese and western apparel.

Soon Sifu and his entourage arrived, and we filed into the Restaurant to partake of the buffet offerings. Admittedly the food offering was limited, but its tri-food (color, aroma, and taste) value was not diminished in any way. I liked the two rice dishes, very fine-grained and just the right touch of spiciness and rich color. The chicken drumsticks were exquisitely cooked, soft, tender, and delicious. I especially liked the spinach with taufoo, everything meshed into a greenish paste, which may put some people off. In fact, wify did just that, missing the dish in the process.

Sifu, in yellow silk traditional Chinese dress flanked by Siheng Anthony (Sifu's left) and Anthony's dad, with Sifu's son next to him. In fact, according to Anthony, Sifu was in a similar garb in Toronto right when others were thickly clad and feeling the freeze.
Sifu and the participants digging in already in the central dining area.

As for the company, I could only say fabulous. Sifu was loquacious, rattling off his experience with US travel. He took a month to criss-cross the country on the road. I wanted to ask him the best city that he has visited, but could not find an approproate time to interject. Perhaps next time.

I find him to be very approachable, cutting a kind fatherly figure to all his students. He is not protocol conscious, getting by with just the basic decorum, with sincerity and humaneness.

We are glad that Wei Joo has found such a great teacher, and we left Gainesville ever more assured that he has made the right choice.

The Lees and the ever-smiling Sifu.

But before that, we dropped by Mdm. Huang’s place and sampled some roast pork buns her husband brought back from Washington DC. Then we stayed on to watch about one and half quarters of the live telecast game between the Gators and Ole Miss. At the end of 3rd quarters with the Gators hanging by a thread (the score read 27 - 24), we could not sit at the edge of our seats anymore (the mounting tension was too much), and decided to leave the game at that to do some grocery shopping at CVS. And we did check with Wei Teck before we left for home that Gators held the Ole Mass vaulted offence to a scoreless final quarter and prevailed 30-24. A close call indeed.

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