“It’s fierce.” Those are the words of a seasoned traveler. And it doesn’t wait for you to touch down. It just keeps coming until your email quota bursts.
Speaking right is important because it shows your beliefs and your stand on matters arising. Furthermore, the odds of you saying the wrong things are also lowered.
So what happens when you have to mix with people who have different values or beliefs from you? Well, there is such a thing as non-conforming, and keeping to a standard.
So if my friends swear, I would usually not participate. Why not you might say? Why yes is what I would say. Simple reason is I have very little compulsion to swear.
The fact is, I use my mouth to praise Jesus. And I use it to speak good things. So to use it to swear, is not very smart in my opinion. Anyway, your choice.
When you’re sick, it messes with you. My mind loses reality and all that self-condemnation and fear gets intermingled with the fake reality that messes up our confidence in Jesus.
Yet, the reality is, our standing in Jesus has not changed, but our perception of reality has become somewhat warped due to the emotional imbalance of being sick. Our mind loses control of our bodies. We become enslaved to the running nose and itchy skin and woozy feeling of drowsiness. The meds meant to help you are partly causing you to hallucinate and messes up your thoughts.
I know when I get well, my thoughts will be calibrated and my mind in its right place – with Jesus. The beauty of not being in the right state of emotional wellness, Jesus is there with us all the way. Keeping us safe and sound, like now, in my state of semi consciousness I am conscious of my standing in Christ.
Here’s a snapshot of our Kyoto-Osaka itinerary for those who are keen to follow our trip. The details as they say, is just noise against the backdrop of beauty that is Japan.
Planned to do:
Day 1; arrive osaka in the morning, (that means sleep in plane) and take Japan Rail (JR) to Kyoto to enjoy their many traditional (read: lok kok) Ryokan (hot spring hotels). dump luggage, visit the Kyoto City Zoo next door and then return back to hotel for a hot spring bath and omakase luxurious dinner.
What really happened:
Day 1; arrive osaka in the morning, and we were slightly tired from the lack of proper rest. We went to Tak-Q-Bin to get our luggage sent to our airbnb in osaka, while we repacked a smaller luggage for Kyoto. Then we went to the JR office to buy the “Haruka Ltd Express Ticket” to Kyoto and also bought a ticket to sit the romantic train (Sagano Scenic Railway)..
They tell you to buy the scenic train ticket early because it is firstly a small train and everyone wants a piece of the action. So demand is always greater than supply. Don’t ask me how we can get that supply online, but I guess it does make sense if you compare it to buying on the spot at the station. Likely there is not going to be many tickets leftover.
I will explain more when I have time. Check back later!
One Day JB Itinerary
JB or Johor Bahru is one of Singaporeans more favourite activity during holidays or long weekends. It seems everyone is going to JB for shopping, eating, etc. There just doesn’t seem to be a lack of activities in JB. Of course if you’re a tourist in Singapore and would like to venture north for a little bit of old school flavours and shopping, then hesitate no more and go JB.
Here are some things to do if you’re planning to go JB for the very first time and you have heard plenty of horror stories of robbers in JB and terrible experiences. I don’t know which blog you read, but my experience in JB has so far been quite positive. Here are some tips to make your journey is a little more efficient and fun.
Most people with cars will drive there, while others will opt for the coach, or public bus or event private hire cars (which are in a sense illegal in the eyes of Malaysia). I would strongly suggest taking the train there and back to Singapore. The train ride across is a mere 5 minutes, and all the tedious part is done at Singapore customs. Which is by far one of the most efficient way to get across to JB.
Book a train online and purchase your tickets from Singapore Woodlands Checkpoint to JB Sentral City Square. Here’s a quick link to the train e-ticketing website https://intranet.ktmb.com.my/e-ticket/login.aspx
The best times to go JB is of course during the weekdays and early morning and then late evening.
There are many cheap local eats in JB, some of which you would already know by now. The curry fish head along Jalan Wong Ah Fook is a timeless testimony of how fresh seafoods will never go stale in the hearts and minds of hungry gourmands. Even as I write this post, my savoury tastebuds are activated and salivary glands are reacting. The combination of the curry and the freshness of the fish heads is just delicious, the dried tofu sticks once soaked into the spicy sauce just heightens the flavour. I usually order a large and we would chow down happily.
After fish head curry, we would usually go upwards to have our favourite herbal duck, sometimes charcoal boiled soup and queue up for the banana cake baked traditionally using firewood.
These three letters have become synonymous with great value for ladies for their numerous beauty parlour either for hair, nails, or just general foot hand pampering. It is also a paradise for cheap handphone accessories and gadgets galore. There is something for everyone, something for every demand and need. KSL is also a hotel and at the same time a private residential property. Hotel rates are reasonable and it is a preferred venue for conferences and group hotel stays.
That’s it in a nutshell, a one day JB itinerary. More to come, but do check back later.
Sometimes I purposely get off the footpath to walk on the grass to get a semblance of walking off the beaten pavement. It’s to help me reframe and rethink my priorities in life and also to feel the earth beneath me. While it is fine for me to walk on solid ground, sometimes the definition of ground can vary quite a bit.
So I would wear my mountain hiking boots and instead of walking on the cement pavement which everyone walks out of convenience. I would opt to walk the undulating grassy knolls of life. Navigating through its contours and hidden potholes created by fantastic beasts and where to find them. I would stare down at the lime green grass and the sometimes deep dark greens of fallen leaves and the browns of broken twigs.
It’s with these brief moments that I take 30 seconds to ponder and reflect on the actions for the moment, and recalibrate my bearings. It is not an exercise for the weak footed traveller. I highly discourage anyone ill-equipped for the journey to venture even the thought.
But if you are ready, and you have your deeply held values girded in your breastplate and you have the requisite weapons to aid your journey, then perhaps you are ready for the warfare ahead. Speak and declare as you stand on different ground. Confident in the victory that has already been won.
Spit on Red Clogs
We have a situation here. The pair of red clogs outside our place for the longest time have been receiving much attention. But in the form of spit. Someone has been spitting regularly on our red clogs which we received on our wedding day. It’s been placed strategically outside for a special reason I guess.
I tried searching online for some significant reason as to the tradition of placing wooden red clogs outside the main door, but alas, I found nothing. So I guess we will have to make it up as we go along. To me it means “home” and “family bliss”. It means a home filled with happiness and wonderful memories. It means a home complete with laughter and joyous feasting. It represents everything wholesome that a family should and would have.
Now that someone has been spitting on it regularly, I can only conclude that this is a case for the PJ Masks! On closer inspection it looked like spit. My woman smelt it (brave) and concluded that it was spit. But the pertinent question was. Whose spit it was. And more importantly why spit on the red clogs only and no where else?
I think they are envious of our family life. We are a household of song and laughter, tears and cries, but everything that we do at home we enjoy doing it very much. So whoever that’s been spitting on our red clogs must probably be feeling bitter, upset, jealous, denial, anger and probably a whole slew of negative emotions that is apart from what a normal functioning family would experience.
My woman wants to install a cctv to catch the culprit. I was more interested in plotting a graph to see the trend and then sharing the findings via info graphics at the door. I think whoever that is doing what they have been doing should be mindfully aware that we are aware and that if we were to find out who it was that has been doing this heinous deed, they would know how powerful a gust of wind can be or how insistent simple droplets of rainwater can erode away rock.
So my woman did the next most pragmatic thing. She removed the red clogs and now there is nothing in front of my main door. Hmmmmm..
Noodles on Prada
It’s definitely one of the great mysteries of life when everything comes together, literally, in a haphazard whirlwind of localised flavours and foreign brands. Yes, the combination is not good, not even in a Warhol fantasy. Andy would turn over in his grave knowing that such sacrilegious acts were happening in sunny island set in the sea Singapore.
Alright maybe you would disagree. Maybe if he knew about it, he might turn a blind eye to it in the name of art. But I bet he would pity the lady who wore the Prada privately under his breath. Some believe he was a closet bad art sympathiser.
So was the noodles even tasty or nice? Hmm.. I honestly don’t know. I was too busy whacking the satay and maybe four sambal prawns. A cup of cold Cheng tng later, I am off to the last station which was the Momolato salted caramel – very nice. Yes, I totally had no capacity left for noodles.
So here I was chit-chatting with some old buddies and we were just deep in conversation, talking about how pervasive social media has become and how one wrong message shared unintentionally could become viral wildfire the next hour. And then this happened.
It was all about hurt feelings at the end of the day, how we hurt each other with the words we say (sounds like a line from George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”). So we just have to muster up courage and say sorry and hopefully we can all move on.
And just as we agreed and nodded our heads at that statement, a girl holding a plate of the lovely noodles walked past us and before we knew it, the oscillating blades of the mobile air cooler swivelled and turned in our direction and let out a blast of cold air, flipped her noodles ala fireworks style (it was very powerful) and all the strands fell sluggishly and unglamorously on some other lady’s turquoise Prada sling shoulder bag.
I could almost hear the girl gasp as she screamed with her inner voice. She must have known the price of the limited edition Prada. The lady was needless to say mortified beyond belief. She gawked at the noodle strands hanging precariously on her bag and stood helplessly, as if immobilised. And I muttered silently under my breath, “quick say sorry..” I could almost hear Bruno screaming Versace on the floor albeit this was Noodles on Prada. It was a crick crick moment.
So was the noodles nice? I think it was.
These days I haven’t had the inspiration to cook, partly because by the time I get back, it is already that kind of timing. Fighting rush hour, fighting time, fighting other rush hour commuters fighting you.
By the time I am back I have no time to ponder and consider what I need or want to cook for the night. No time for Creative inspired ideas. It’s straight into the OR (operating room) and start washing, chopping, cutting and drying the ingredients.
So I thought I should plan my menu way ahead, separate the Creative process and give it the space that it needs. Plan simple; cook simple and maybe in the process save some money.
Dishes: abc soup, tua cai & snapper
Ingredients: 1 x corn, 1 x carrot, 2 medium tomatoes, 250 grams ribs, 1 x tua cai, garlic, dried shrimps, 1 x snapper, ginger, chicken stock, leeks, onions, chinese sausages, hakka wine
Dishes: kiam chye duck soup, minced pork with sichuan veg, fried egg with scallops
Ingredients: half a duck, tomatoes, preserved plums, kiam chye, 3 x tomatoes, ginger, garlic, minced pork, sichuan veg, eggs, chinese scallops
Dishes: stir fry frogs, sautéed mushrooms, celery & minced pork, prawns in tomato sauce
Ingredients: 2 x frogs, spring onions, ginger, oyster sauce, sesame seed oil, cornstarch, button mushrooms, minced pork, Australian celery, large prawns, tomato ketchup, garlic
1 x corn
1 x carrot
5 x tomatoes
250 grams pork ribs
Half a duck
500 grams kiam chye
500 grams ginger
500 grams garlic
$5 minced pork
6 x large prawns
2 x frogs
Punnet of button mushrooms
Hakka rice wine
1 x snapper
Light soya sauce
Ah forget it lah. Eat Out Better.
This is the story of the little boy and his power ranger toy and the other toy which I can’t be bothered to remember. So anyway, he was playing with this other toy so much that he neglected the power ranger toy that was in his hands.
The question was what was so fascinating about the power ranger toy that he needed it and why did he needed the other toy?
No one knows.
Julie Julia and Me
I hesitated too much, way too much for my own good. And when it is time to act, the opportunity is often over and the moment has passed. One of the reasons why I started this food blog was the movie Julie Julia featuring Amy and Meryl. I totally loved the story, and it resonated well with my passion of cooking.
And then I thought, “why not write a food blog”, and chronicle my experiences as a servant-less home cook, trying out recipes and venturing to make them my own. It will be all about my journey in the kitchen, preparing and cooking wonderful dishes.
Each time I watch re-runs of the movie Julie Julia, I am instantly inspired, happy, and at peace with myself. And I am reminded of why I often end my recipes with the classic “Bon Appetit!” – as Julia would say. Looking back in retrospect, I am indeed deeply inspired by the movie more than the book.
Met a market Aunty aka fellow home cook.. And she was so excited to see this fish.. Immediately she asked the fishmonger uncle for a bigger one..
It was already huge as anything about a kilo each.. And she asked for it to be gutted but to have the scales remained..
I being the curious home cook, asked her how she would eat it.. “plenty of bones, very oily fish, but I love it.” exclaimed the lady in Teochew.. “steam with pandan leaves, lemon grass.. Or cook in assam.. Must dip in lime and blacan chilli or cut chilli and black soy sauce..”
It was as if she had the entire road map for the fish painted out already.. I could see the conviction in her eyes and saliva glands reacting..
Must be damn nice..
Weekly Grocery Budget (Musing)
Just in case you are wondering how the photo above is related to the topic. Well let me say that it has no relevance. Just that the toddler is damn cute.
$80 a week. 7 days.
Yup, that is how much I intend to only spend a week for groceries. I have been spending too much lately, buying up what I see and overspending each time.
So no fear. Budget is here. You can choose to move your life differently of course. I get a kick out of budgeting.
Here’s the template/breakdown of what I usually would spend on without any budget. But I decided to place a number to what is most important for my family in terms of what we eat. I may not be able to fit what I usually buy into this new budget, but let’s try. I might even have to use my advanced haggling skills.
$30 – seafood
$15 – meat
$10 – poultry
$15 – vegetables
$10 – fruits
Okay, sounds like fun. I am going to the Ang Mo Kio St 61 market today. It’s quite a pricey market but you will not be disappointed. Plenty of choice.
Update after I went to that market:
So far I have got the following items:
Vegetables – $14
– chye sim (1 portion)
– lotus (for soup, 1 portion)
– bitter gourd (for stir fry, 1 portion)
– tua cai (1 portion)
– 5 tomatoes (1 for soup, 2 for steaming, 2 for frying with vegetables)
– corn (for soup, 1 portion)
– carrot (for soup, 1 portion)
– ginger (large piece)
– parsley (bunch)
– local celery (bunch)
– spring onions (bunch)
– 2 leeks (for fish dishes)
– “yeow” (2 portions)
– minced (2 portions)
Poultry – $8
– 2 chicken bones (2 portions)
– 2 drums, 4 wings (chopped, 2 portions)
– 5 threadfin steaks $10 (5 portions, cooked different style)
– 4 fried tau kee $2.70 (2 portions)
– 2 tau kua $0.70 (2 portions)
– 3 frog $10 (1 portion)
– 3 chempedak $20 (since I had additional budget, so I decided to bless my in-laws with the fruits)
Whew! That’s about it. Happy budgeting!
There is nothing more irritating than getting a bad cough. Thank goodness for us we have these herbal remedies that seem to be the miracle cure for all coughs.
The first cough drop is called Golden Throat Lozenges, which is kind of a strange but literal name for cough drop. But I guess the name works. It’s a soothing sweet and that numbs the throat. Take a few of these golden drops, and your cough comes under control. Until it is time to take the medicine.
The next one looks like a small packet of detergent or washing powder that I usually take when I go travelling. It’s some kind of herbal mint and interestingly the brand of the sweet is also called Herbalmint Lozenges.
This one is almost sugar free and ultra minty. It works the same way as the golden throat lozenges and I guess the manufacturers of these two super strong minty sweets generally waste no time in telling cough sufferers that this sweet is the next best thing to a medicinal cure.
I tried both. My cough unfortunately is still there. But at least I can hold the cough until medicine time.
Jabra Rox Wireless (Review)
I have been looking for a good pair of wireless in-ear phones for a while now, not because I do a lot of sports, but more like I like the feeling of having no wires to hold you back. So I got the Sony Bluetooth Earphones earlier on in the year and ever since I got it, I have had nothing but bad audio. You may have a better experience with it, but this is mine was wrought with intermittent connection issues.
So, I decided to check out some other wireless bluetooth earphones, and initially I was considering the Plantronics Backbeat GO 2 wireless earbuds because of the chio-ness of the design, there was none of the cumbersome extra piece of plastic like the Sony. The downside of the Plantronics model was the short battery life and I thought that I would need more than 2.5 hours of playback.
And then while tinkering on the website, I found the Jabra Rox Wireless. It was almost double the price on some e-stores, and therefore I had to think about it for a longer time before buying it. Eventually desire got the better of me, and I bought it off the Apple Store for a much higher retail price than if I had gotten it off Amazon. Oh well.
The standard items in the box were displayed nicely so that you can ignore them if you don’t need to know all these and get straight to using the earphones for their sound quality. But from the picture above, it tells you the basic function of the earphones. And what it comes with. The Rox Wireless has a unique on/off feature which allows users to “turn off” the earphones and allow it to save power by attaching it together. There are these unique power magnets that allow the two ear-buds to come together and by doing so, activate power-saving mode. Quite nice I thought.
The good part for me was the chio-ness of the design plus the fact that the ear-buds had this rubbery thing called “ear-wings” which basically helps fit the earphones in the ears while users do heavy-duty sports. This feature I like very much. The sound quality is amazingly clear (dolby sound), and it handles bluetooth calls quite well. So that’s very good for me.
The ear-wings fit nicely into my ears, and with three different sizes, I thought it would fit into anyone’s ears. The items that came along with it also made sense to me. A small earphone pouch, almost weight-less. The usual micro USB cable, a nice fit-clip to hold the wires together. The wires are short anyway, so I doubt you would really need the fit-clip. The wires fit around the neck quite nicely and didn’t get in the way of anything, plus the power magnets feature allow it to be worn around the neck like an accessory, very intuitive design. Each package comes with three sets of ear-wings and there are three extra sizes for the in-ear molds in addition to the one already attached.
When unattached, it actually looks very cool. I can see myself wearing this when I rock climb.
The ear-wings needs to be attached onto the earphones. At first they look quite big and bulky, but actually it fits nicely into the grooves in our ears, so it is actually quite snug. And you can shake your head violently and the earphones won’t fall out. This feature I like very much. In fact when I saw the promotional video by the Jabra guy, I thought it was gimmicky, but I really tried it out and it really didn’t drop out.
The backs of each earphone has the magnetic connection and clips together nicely and the earphone enters into power saving mode. Nice feature.
The controls are very discreet and almost “invisible” to the eye, but it’s meant for “feeling” rather than “seeing”, so it works for me. The middle control buttons turns on the bluetooth “seeking” mode, and once it is detected, it pairs with the phone or the bluetooth function on your notebook computer. I use it to listen to YouTube playlists on my computer and radio when I am on the move. The dolby quality sound of the earphones makes MP3 playback a breeze.
This is by far one of the best purchases, really love the fact that it is very discreet and easy to use. Once you detach the earphones from the power magnets, there is a voice that says, “connected” and you can use it immediately. Totally worth whatever price I paid for it. But of course if you can get it cheaper, why not right?
Farewell MM Lee
You can see the amount of respect Mr Lee Kuan Yew has from the people. The picture above just shows how much of his own life that he has given up to rise up to the calling of nation building. Without his foresight, I wouldn’t enjoy what I have today.
I remember fondly in particular when I was still in secondary school, enjoying the frequent debates on the television of seeing him fight it out with opposition MPs and winning the debates. His quick wit and choice of language was sharp like a blade, with no words wasted. At that age, he was already well into his 60s. I also want to have that sharpness too.
MM Lee has passed away this morning according to our national newspapers.
Farewell sir, thank you sir.
Didgeridoo Morning (Musing)
The humming of the electric toothbrush against hard calcified structures that is teeth with the modulating movements of the lips, creating a low hollow sound like the didgeridoo as that sound resonates out of the mouth. It sounds as if I am back to the land of kangaroos, crocodile meat and Aboriginal boomerangs. The inescapable visual imagery of the dry arid parched sandy desert that is the Outback seem to beckon, drawing me into its windy cloudy shades of moving grey, alluding to the hope that there is an oasis within that desert. Wait a minute, is that a well? Or is that merely a mirage.
And the interesting thing was that I am still standing in front of the bathroom mirror looking blankly into the face that was half-looking back at me. What will this face do today? Will it change the world? My eyes half-closed, face unshaven, voice gruff and growly, I am so not ready to meet the day; much less change the world. The sticky mucus between my eyelids seem to be telling me something. As if speaking words that I could not understand, they look like words, but with each flutter of the eyelids, the words seem to lose its meaning and I lose the ability to enunciate my thoughts.
A gargle of the mouth, and we are on to another adventure. There is something about the weekend that drives you to madness, a creative genius that is both unwavering and unyielding, it drives you and it doesn’t stop abruptly like most events. And like the thumping beats of a techno rhythm, it drives you inch by step by yard towards that mysterious alluring light. The song appears in your mind, and you’re ready to move.
Kopi and Soft Boiled Eggs (Musing)
There is something quite whimsical about sitting at a coffee shop and eating soft boiled eggs with a cup of kopi. It’s almost as if time had come to a standstill and we were all still speaking dialects and stirring guttural sounds out of our throats, aiming and spitting and missing the spittoon. Ah, the good old days of acting like a gangster and flicking the singlet rapidly with finger and thumb in the sweltering heat of the afternoon sun. These days that same experience is now diluted with air-conditioning and perfectly boiled huge omega-infused eggs the size of buffalo testicles. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating, but you sort of get the idea. Eggs today are perfect; too perfect.
Even the old familiar smells of melted butter in the coffee seems to be missing as some coffee places have opted for fine arabica beans over local coffee powder suppliers. There are very few places that reminds me of the old-school charm of a coffee shop. Good thing I found a coffee place near my office that still offered some semblance of a by-gone era. Nothing like getting your fingers burnt while cracking open the soft-boiled eggs. Nothing like getting the timing correct for the eggs and seeing perfectly congealed egg whites and runny egg yolks. Or even getting them wrong is not such a bad thing. I usually start the timer function on my smart-phone and make sure that the buzzer goes off after 5 minutes. That is usually how much time it takes for eggs to form perfectly cloudy rounds of golden yellow goodness.
Some things are worth missing; some moments worth reminiscing.
Fish for the Week
We love fish as a family, and so it is natural that I would buy as much fish that I can get at the wet market for the weekly menu. From left to right in order of appearance.
A beautiful angoli which is not ang (red colour in hokkien) at all. It is a beautiful hue of gold streaks across its body. I bet it is delicious and I have plans to cook it in thai style. Can’t wait.
Next we have the family favourite, the white pomfret. We love it steamed teochew style with Kiam Chye, salted plums, dried shitake mushrooms and tomatoes. These are the main characters in the teochew style of cooking the fish. Ginger is a must and Chinese Parsley as garnishing is totally optional.
Third in line is the black pomfret, a mysterious fish of dark origins. Somehow I feel that since the fish is already somewhat dark, it should be cooked in a dark style. I propose a dark soy sauce with shredded ginger and rice wine to send off this mysterious fish.
Interestingly our next friend is the golden pomfret, a fish with a strong oily flavour and very meaty. Most people fry it until it is crispy but my plan is to do this fish in Hong Kong style with leeks and ginger. That I think would be delicious.
Next to it is the silver trevally, a very nice fish to steam the teochew style. In fact a lot of teochew porridge stalls have this fish. So happy to be able to find this one this morning.
Then comes the red snapper, a fish that works very well in a coconut flavored curry sauce with white cabbage and tau kee. Can’t wait to prepare this fish.
The last remaining two friends are the Selar and Kembong. They both belong to the mackerel family and are best if cooked with Chilli stuffed in its side. Read my Sambal fried fish recipe.
That’s all for introductions. Now the games begin.
Wet Market Reflections (Musing)
The day started for me going to the wet market to buy a fresh and lovely sea bass for $6. This is for the Thai style steam fish recipe that I recently learnt from “Hot Thai Kitchen” via YouTube. The Thai sauce completely complements the flesh of the sea bass. The one that I bought today was just perfect. Its eyes were clear and not cloudy, and the scales slimy and moist. Fresh and lovely.
I also got half a loaf of Chinese cabbage for a potential dish that I wanted to re-create tomorrow. Chinese cabbage with black fungus and tang hoon (flour vermicelli) is really nice, and I love eating it. I think my wife will love it also. More importantly, I think
Now all that is left is for me to buy 1 kg of fresh pork belly to prepare the meat stock for the dish. That in and of itself is a recipe. The meat flavour is the real key to the success of vegetable dishes. It is the difference between nice vegetable dish and great vegetable dish. From now onwards, I will employ the use of the meat stock extensively for the cooking of my vegetable dish. The best part is that the stewed pork belly can be used in the same vegetable dish or it can be eaten on its own. It is very versatile.
Year of Greater Glory (Musing)
This Monday in the year of greater glory, I woke up especially early. I wasn’t sure if I had even slept properly the night before which seemed more like a mere couple of hours before. Yet my usual tiredness is not with me or perhaps it is hidden; latent, waiting for its opportune time to strike.
I have been unwell since Thursday, it was perhaps due to foolishness and the hazy weather and I fell sick with fever. High fever at that. There were moments that I could only depend on Jesus as my body spun out of control. Most of the times I laid in bed, shivering. The meds that the clinic prescribed proved useless, yet I took it religiously and suffered. And when the meds ran out, I had no choice to take what the pharmacy offered, and it worked. Ironically I could have lessened my suffering with generic meds from a retail pharmacy.
I am better today than I was yesterday, or so I think, but it seems my year of greater glory may have come to past. Praise the Lord.
The old has passed away. This is a new chapter. Amen.
Investing in REITs – The Ho Sim Lang Way
Some of my friends have been asking me how to invest in REITs, and as much as I know next to nothing about investments in REITs, I also realised that what was hindering me was my lack of knowledge about them. Essentially I was stuck at the “I don’t know what I don’t know” stage. The challenge was really to move from that to the “I don’t know” stage. And everyone knows that if you say you don’t know something, you can actually go read up about it and find out. So that was what I did, and oh, how it unravelled from there.
I decided to ask around, read newspapers, read online blogs, read the astrological signs in the darkened night sky (it helps you know) and guess what I found out? It is interesting to say the least.
So since I know, I thought, why not share. Ho Sim Lang mah. But I say first ah, this is not advice on what to buy hor. You read and make your own decisions. If make money, donate to charity, if lose money, blame yourself for not reading up more.
I would first read up on the following indicators before embarking on anything to invest in.
1. Area of business – The REIT could be managing shopping malls, service apartments, or industrial estates, etc. You should also notice that some give higher yield while others give lower returns. You must first understand why. Those in areas where demand is inelastic, like in your heartland malls or healthcare tend to pay lesser. Recession or not, people still need to eat and shop. If you need to rest in hospital, you will lie there whether you like it or not.
In a factory or industrial plot scenario, they are usually the first to be hit by recession. When that happens, they either tahan or they call it a day. Industrial assets are also on very short lease. That is the reason why Mall Reits are typically giving out lower yields while Industrial Reits are giving a higher yield. You must also know when this will change and be aware of the changing conditions. Keep your eyes peeled opened.
2. NAV against the share price. NAV means Net Asset Value (not Norton Antivirus). Avoid paying way above NAV. People who pay above NAV tend to say there is potential for the NAV to appreciate in value. You must be aware that Singapore REITs have to pay out at least 90% of their income. There is hardly any capital left for growth. So if that is the case, is there any reason to buy REITs for appreciation in value? If anything, price increases in REITs could be due to speculation. True bo?
Or any appreciation in the NAV might be due to inflation, which is more likely the case. People buy REITs for passive income, so you would really want to buy at a price lower than its NAV. Pay way below book value if possible, as the assets will go at a huge discount when a REIT has to do the unfortunate thing of liquidating its assets. Think property fire-sales and you would understand what I mean, everything is often let go at a discount.
3. Gearing – and I am not talking about mechanical gears. Gearing refers to the percentage of borrowing. The REIT manager will want to keep expanding the REIT so that he gets more commissions and a higher pay. I would do the same if I was a REIT manager. He is paid more managing a $100 million dollar REIT than a $10 million REIT. He will naturally want to expand the REIT through borrowing more money in order to buy more buildings and assets.
Guess who bears the risk of his actions? You.
It’s risky when a REIT manager is in Godzilla-mode because when there is a credit crunch, eg. like the last financial crisis, banks will usually refuse to refinance the assets as the prices of these assets would plunge, sometimes below sea level. Many REITs got themselves into trouble and needed to dispose of their assets at dirt cheap prices. The REIT holders will see the market price of their share holding drop like a stone from a multi-storey carpark. But guess what, the REIT manager still gets his pay. So REIT manager on Godzilla-mode is bad. That said, on average, a gearing of 30%-40% is about the limit. I personally like anything that has less than 35%. If possible, less than 30% gearing.
4. DPU – This is the juicy part. This is what will set you free to fly like a bird. When you invest, you would want to get a decent return. Compare it to Bonds, FD, PPS (google it!), you would want a higher return when you invest in REITs, otherwise better to invest in those other instruments. Next, you would also want to assess if there is a potential for the yield to increase or drop. What is the percentage of payment and what percent of the total revenue and profit make up the DPU. Part of the income must be kept for maintenance or else your DPU will drop in years to come. It is the yield that you need to watch. DPU refer to Dividend Per Unit by the way.
5. The REIT Manager – Hopefully they are honest and skillful. Is the manager only interested in self-interest or overall interest? Are they skillful enough to extract the most out of the property. Simply compare with others in the same sector and you can tell, i.e. rental, vacancy and the yield. Some REIT Managers are all out to acquire more properties (think: Godzilla-mode) and increase their professional fees for managing more properties. But the yield on some seemingly good REITs are surprisingly lower than others in the same class. The property manager is very important in your consideration for a good investment.
6. Financial Ratios – Once you are familiar with the above 5 indicators, then it is time to start to compare their financial ratios of the different REITs and you will start to know more. Financial Ratios don’t lie, and will offer more insights into the investments, in fact for any investments that you may be thinking of putting your money in.
So you’re ready, where do you go from here?
Go open a Securities account at CDP (which is now located at Metropolis, Bouna Vista), then you link a bank account to your CDP account and all dividends will be credited automatically to your account. You will not miss any payout. If you did not link an account, you will get your dividend payout via cheque.
To learn more about REITs, just go to the REIT’s website and read about the REITs. Pretty much a no-brainer. For example, if you want to know more about ABC Kiam Chye Char Loti REIT, just simply go to their website and read all about them. They are public listed, therefore all information must be made public. The other website to visit is SGX website. All their announcements must be published on the SGX website. There are no misinformation or lies in these official sites. It is pure reports and facts. Sometimes those unofficial blogs or REITs focus blogs tend to offer their personal opinions about the performance of the REITs, etc. That at the end of the day is someone’s opinion and in a way could be speculative. True?
So if you ask me where to go to sieve out and scour information on REITs, I would say the best thing to do is to read up on what they do and read the official news. Blogs are best to offer some advice, but these are not very accurate. Forums are probably the worst because the comments and opinions there are really unsubstantiated rumours sometimes. I typically won’t encourage reading up any blogs or discussion sites as these are full of misinformation. Read them for a feel of what is going on. But rely on them at your own risk. It is a free for all kind of environment. Serious investors go to paid-forums.
Happy learning and investing peeps.
No Happy Ending (Musing)
The Spa at Tubkaak Krabi Boutique Resort is really quite nice. I say this because I am usually quite wary of these types of Spa places where they offer just about everything that a customer wishes to have. No offer of Happy endings here. For that I am truly happy. Otherwise that would have tainted the perfect image of this beach resort that I have so far.
An offering of lightly scented tea and I am led to a bottle-like hut perfumed with fragrant oils and it is air-conditioned. Very nice. They can take two persons at the same time so it is very nice for husband and wife to have massages together.
I chose the lightest package as I am always afraid of pain when it comes to traditional Thai massage. Plus I was also about to break a fart when the massage began, so I didn’t want to embarrass anyone. Thankfully I managed to keep it all bottled up.
Here are a few more photos of the spa itself. I would say the experience is very nice.
Nothing Beats Ink and Paper (Musing)
That’s right. To be able to write words with ugly handwriting is a forgotten pleasure. To write wrong words and crossing cancelling striking them out, a rare luxury.
No spell check typos. Just plain ugly handwriting. No backspace delete or spacebar tabs. Just printed ink on parchment. Truly a delight. Nothing beats ink and paper.
Old Friends, New Friends (Musing)
My wife and I have a lot of friends, and between the both of us, our friend-lists combined could populate a small island. The only thing that has remained constant is time, and we found that as it goes by, it was harder to stay connected with friends that we got to know years ago. Our time now is spent with new friends, and old friends have taken their place in the archives of our phone-books, tucked away in the corner of the store room (read: HDB Bomb Shelter). So Facebook is really a good thing albeit all the privacy and security issues.
So instead of calling up these old friends and throwing a huge bash (think: wedding reception), the softer alternative would be to secretly invite some friends to come over for dinner. We do that because I love cooking (and she loves washing up!), and nothing beats dining in a home environment with wholesome home-cooked foods and heavy duty after-dinner desserts and drinks. There is no need to leave early because the restaurant is closing, or order more food because there would be more than enough to stuff our faces and drinks are free-flowing like the Singapore River.
The world has gotten bigger by the day, or should I say, our world. We have added more and more new friends into our listing as we stuff more and more old friends into the bomb shelter. Staying connected with everyone is a challenge, and if you’re our friend and you’re reading this, don’t be dishearten, we will get round to inviting you one day, once we clear our store room.
For those that we invited, come just as you are, no need to bring anything (although it would be nice if you did!). Come with an open heart for great conversations, an empty stomach for a happy meal (not that happy meal) and enough space in your brains for one more memory. See you.
Rotimatic c bo (Musing)
This is the invention that I have been waiting for all my life and it is finally here. The Rotimatic. The name in and of itself already conjures images of freshly baked unleavened breads in the comforts of your igloo. Yes, it is possible to use the Rotimatic in an igloo, that’s if you have a power-socket built in. Power-sockets aside, this is one mean unleavened bread machine. The prata man would be proud. So the machine does exactly what it says it would do, and that’s to make roti (unleavened bread).
I can’t imagine why would anyone want to create a machine like this, unless they are catering to the second most eaten food in the world next to rice. Of course the market potential in India alone would be phenomenal and more than reason enough to market and produce for. But these guys are probably eyeing a worldwide market takeover of epic proportions. They want to overtake the rice cooker. And from the looks of it, they just might be able to take up some market share and pinch the rice cooker manufacturers where it hurts.
Here’s a rather sexy video of the Rotimatic in action. Try not to drool.
If you stayed all the way to the end of the video, good for you. I gave up when the lady came on to give the pep talk. If you know where I can get my hands on one, please let me know.
Being Brief (Musing)
As a wannabe writer, I don’t like being edited. I mean who does? Would you want editors to rummage through your content and make cuts and change the essence of your writing? I bet not. But the problem comes when writers write without being edited. Or worse, they practice a semblance of self-editing, which basically means no editing. You know, I know.
My problem as a wannabe writer is, trying to be brief. And since I am also playing the role of editor, I often fall into the trap of skimming through my article before posting. At best I will correct my spelling and some grammatical mistakes, but that’s just about as much as I would do. But that said, I also think good writers should write briefly. Be clear, simple to understand, concise.
But sometimes in the course of writing, I kena lulled into thinking that the more words I use, the more power my article will be, and people would be somewhat impressed with my verbose and ability to rant.
Nothing can be further from the truth. Conversely the reverse is true, the more I yabber on, the more I reveal my inability to convince. It also shows my lack of mastery of the subject. In fact, if I can say the same thing with less words, it shows my knowledge on the topic. So more is less and less is more. Ironic isn’t it?
So in order to say more, I shall now say less and end here.
When Soups Get Complicated (Musing)
There comes a time in the extended new dawn that there isn’t much to be afraid of anymore, where vampires and werewolves are just a figment of ingenious creative writing and gnomes and goblins become neighbours. There was no prodding or shoving of any kind this morning and I naturally got up and decided that there could be a greater purpose today than what it was originally intended for.
Time to make my soup, and perhaps a little more.
Today’s complicated soup of the day (just to prove that I am capable of complicated soups that still taste decent and nice), is none other than my easy as ABC soup, but with a little more pizzazz. So a complicated soup like this, would mean something like an ABCDEFG soup. I personally think that this soup has got great potential. It carries with it all the ingredients that came from near and far, and their masters’ blessings, hopes and understanding. These ingredients would typically hold its own weight, and be staple where they may come from. Carrots from Australia, Scallops from the sea of Japan, snowflakes from the top of the Himalayan ranges near the border. Yes, very exotic.
Ingredients that have no known origins, (actually I know where most of them came from) but where exactly, that is immaterial. What’s most important is that everyone is represented here in this huge pot, all ready to blend together and become one soup. So is it really a complicated soup then? Or is it really just a collation of many varied ingredients with distinct characteristics that would wow even the richest sheik or the wealthiest tycoon? Perhaps.
200-250 grams of Pork Ribs *frozen or thawed – it doesn’t matter*
2 Carrots *cubed*
1 Sweet Corn *chopped*
1 Medium Yello Onion *sliced*
5 Dried Scallops (Japanese)
5 Dried Red Dates
1 handful of Wolfberries
1. Par boil the pork ribs and then discard the water. Boil a fresh pot of water, add all the ingredients and bring to an intense boil.
2. Once boiled for 15 minutes. The soup is ready for the thermal cooker.
3. Come back home and drink the soup.
Mrs Nair’s Fish Curry
My romance with Indian food is like an endless bollywood dance. One day, when I have my own food travel show, I will visit India. Maybe my first stop in India would be Kerala. I heard that it is the place for all kinds of spices, kind of like a spice garden. It is like spice capital of India where traders from all around would gather and peddle their wares. I can imagine the marketplace to be perfumed with the scent of exotic spices.
But for now, I will just have to be content with what I smell at the Mama store, or the supermarket.
Anyway, I said all that to say that I love fish curry. The best fish curry in my humble opinion is the one that my friend Mdm Nair taught me. I still remember that Saturday morning in a crowded room with neighbourhood aunties and maids, she revealed her recipe for greatness. The fish curry was fabulous. Since those early days, I have been making Mdm Nair’s Fish Curry much to the delight of my Indian friends who tasted it. They say that it has a very Indian taste, whatever that means.
Where to shop?
The Mama’s Store has everything. The spices, the vegetables, everything is there except for the fish. As for the fish, you can get it at the wet market, or supermarket.
Whole Fish (Angoli) 1 pc, 1 kg – (or you can use stingray, I prefer that.)
Red Chilli Paste 3 tbsp
Fish Masala Powder (Baba’s Brand) 6 tbsp
Mixed Spices (Brarath Brand) 2 tbsp
Ladies Fingers 10 pcs
Beef Tomatoes 4 pcs
Onions (sliced) 2 bulbs
Garlic (sliced) 4 bulbs
Fresh Green Chilli (sliced, seeds out) 1 pc
Tomato Puree (Gilda Brand) 1 can
Tamarind (Assam) 1 packet – (you can now get a smaller packet size, in which case it will be the whole portion.)
Carnation Milk 1 can – (I don’t really use that, so that’s optional.)
Curry Leaves 1 sprig
1. Salt the fish for at least half an hour. Then wash and cut the fish into pieces. Mixed 03 tablespoons (tbsp) red chilli paste and 02 tbsp fish masala powder. Add a bit of salt and mixed with fish.
2. Take half packet of the tamarind and soak in half a bowl (5 cups) of water for half an hour.
3. Strain the tamarind and throw away the seeds. Put the tamarind water in a bowl and add 04 tbsp of fish masala powder, 03 garlic and 01 fresh green chilli and a bit of salt and stir.
1. Heat up the pan with oil. Fry ladies fingers till light brown and keep aside. Add mixed spices (02 tbsp), onions (chopped), 1 garlic (sliced), curry leaves till light brown and add tomatoes and fry till tomatoes are soft. Add the tamarind water with masala together with the earlier ingredients and stir. Close the lid until it boils.
2. Add ladies fingers, 1 tbsp of tomato puree and fish. Then add carnation milk (to thicken the curry). Leave for 5 minutes. Serve with white rice or Korean Instant Noodles.
Simple Black Chicken Soup
The wifey broke my sleep and woke me up to the new dawn. She mumbled some words to which I had to say a “har?”. Maybe my brain is slow at processing slur words. So I asked her again, and it was then that I realized that she wanted me to cook one of my fabulous soups *shines fingernails*.
Alright, that shouldn’t be a problem, I thought to myself, making soups in the wee hours of the morning has now become my specialty. The only hurdle between me and making soup these days is probably the waking up part. It has been been a challenge since I got rid of that ridiculous cock-crowing ringtone which apparently irritated the entire population in my cluster; it also irritated my wife as well. So the ringtone had to go. Now in its place is this very zen and space-like ringtone named neon.
It’s not the John Mayer kind of neon with his signature slap and pluck style of guitar playing. But it was more like a vibrating double-stringed instrument sounding more like a cricket’s mating call. Very alien. Unfortunately it was also quite soft and good for if you wanted to continue to sleep.
“I already placed the black chicken in the sink.” came the voice in my semi-state of galactical subconsciousness. It was as if the voice transcended space and time to speak to me. “wake up lah.” My wife slapped my shoulder. Just as quickly my subconscious mind returned to full consciousness albeit my eyes still glued-closed due to excessive secretion of the tear duct (heaty?).
I peered into my mobile phone and it was just nice, one minute before neon; one minute before the new dawn. Now my quest can begin.
So to make black chicken soup the quick and dirty way, you really need a packet of dun ji tang herbs from the supermarket. This is the proven method of making the delicious soup. But the problem now is I am all out of the herbs! Jialat!
I really need to quickly summon my creative culinary powers in order to make sense of this newfound dilemma. Thankfully I always keep a stash of my favorite generic condiments somewhere, always ready to be deployed in any crisis of a lack of dun ji tang herbs.
2 bottles of Brand’s Essence of Chicken
5 pieces of Japanese dried scallops
5 pieces of dried red dates
25 pieces of wolfberry seeds
1. Par boil the chicken pieces to get rid of the scum.
2. Add in new water (not newater) and begin boiling. Add the chicken essence. Dump the condiments into the pot and close the lid.
3. After boiling for 10 minutes, place the pot into the thermal cooker and walk away. Serve at night when you return from work.
Four Sauces (Musing)
I have always thought that there are only three types of sauces for pastas and never really bothered to explore beyond these three types. To me, that’s it, there is no need for another type, or possibly could be another type, everything is sort of encapsulated in these three sauce base types.
First up, Olive Oil based sauces. These are really simple, healthy (debatable, it’s oil after all) and easy to prepare. Except that you can’t really drizzle knife brand cooking oil (you could actually) all over your pasta, I can guarantee you that it doesn’t and shouldn’t taste all that great. But if you’re sort of choices and you only have knife brand cooking oil to drizzle over your pasta, well then I would strongly encourage you to skip the meal for the day. Nothing is more sacrilegious than to drizzle cooking oil over pasta. I can’t bring myself to do that.
With Olive Oil based sauces, you can literally allow your mind to run freely as far as the rings of Saturn or the diminutive Pluto. You can whip up a mean and green pesto herb sauce, or you could infuse your olive oil (extra virgin is best!) with items like chilli, garlic or fresh garden herbs. These will definitely create a wicked flavour for your pasta. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is best drizzled and not cooked. So please don’t cook your olive oil and then wonder why the oil doesn’t taste as nice as when you had it at some respectable Italian Pasta place.
Next we have Tomato based sauces. So these are your Marinara sauces, your tomato based sauce in a convenient glass bottle that you can easily find in the supermarket. It doesn’t matter if they call it some fanciful name, if it is tomato based, then it is a bona-fide tomato based sauce. All the Italian names are saying the same things as you are, which basically means, tomato based sauce (Ok, I am generalising. But you get my point right?).
Again, with tomato based sauces, you can literally examine and study the varied concoctions that have been developed in the R&D labs of the food laboratory to capture your discerning palate. You can add garlic, chilli, mushrooms, whatever it is that you so desire. The best thing is, it just might work. I like my tomato based sauces in a particular way, so I usually don’t do the take out from the supermarket shelf and strongly discourage anyone that is intending to cook their own pasta to do that. It’s a total cop out to just buy the sauce off the shelf. You have to make it like the guys in Italy do, from scratch, if not, then semi-scratch.
Thirdly, the cream based sauce. This is such a lovely and easy sauce to prepare. Double or heavy cream, intermixed with full cream milk, and you have a very nice creamy liquid texture for the sauce. You can then go on to make the best and more delicious carbonara sauce in the whole world. That’s it. There is no mystery to it. And of course if you like your sauce with all those varied condiments added, infused or mixed into it. There is sure to be a flavour that you would love to pick off the shelves.
However, as an avid cooker of foods. I would strongly discourage you from the supermarket cop out. Try to make the sauce yourself, it would be trial and error but for the most part of it and especially when you have developed your own special blend of cream based sauce, you can literally create magic in the kitchen just like the professionals at the three michelin star restaurant.
Last but not least, and this is a sauce that I recently found out that could be used as a sauce. I basically use the sauce in my chicken stew (Coq Au Vin) to be my sauce for my pasta. I found that Penne works really well with the chicken stew. It’s odd really, but it worked and everyone I know loved it. It is a little unorthodox but heck it, if my son loves it, then I guess it can be done. If you want to try this, you can check out my Coq Au Vin recipe and basically throw pasta into the sauce and you have a very lovely sauce.
O’nya Sayang (review)
This is my second time eating at this nonya food establishment, if I can call it that. My first impression of it was that they were more like fast food, quick nonya peranakan eats for the modern gourmand in a hurry. Perhaps that’s the niche that they set themselves to serve.
Their meals are cooked communally in the pot with the sides cooked at the sides (pun intended). It’s actually a very open and simple set up. The eatery whips up traditional peranakan favourites in a matter of minutes. In fact they have managed to piecemeal the entire preparation process to the critical five minutes. That’s about as much time anybody on a tight lunch hour would give any one eatery. It’s like make it in five minutes if you want me to patronize your stall again. Ironically peranakan cuisine is not known to be associated with quickness or smart culinary short cuts.
Most of their foods are typically cooked and stewed over long periods. So to have it prepared in five minutes, something’s gotta give.
In this case, I suspect it’s the quality. But even more interestingly they have somehow managed to ensure that that was not compromised. So it is nice to know that they care about their foods as much as they cared about their bottom-line.
I had their Ayam Buak Keluak which is a traditional favourite that is synonymous with peranakan cuisine. Do this right and you can assume that everything else in the shop will carry that old familiar flavour. The chicken is of course well cooked but not to my liking which kind of shows the level of skill of the cook. The Buak Keluak was excellent. I don’t remember the taste so vividly with the other peranakan restaurants but O’nya has set the standard for me. Everything else is forgivable. Ha! All in, they have managed to retain the flavour of peranakan cuisine, and that is a good thing.
There’s one outlet at Tampines Mall that I went with colleagues. I think I might go there again to try something else. Maybe the rendang.
Heartland Dim Sum (review)
Probably one of the best Dim Sum (Cantonese styled light meals) places – suddenly realized I have no proper expression for Dim Sum in English – in Tampines. Personally I think better than some famous Dim Sum restaurants in town. Speaking of which there was one terrible one that I do not care to mention the name, fwah 侠 level 9 terrible.
I had a tough time reconciling myself to the fact that they were once a leader in dim sum, with people queuing up to satisfy their cravings. Maybe that was also one of the reasons why they closed down in town and relocated themselves on top of a hill (which I don’t care to mention either) and then subsequently disappeared to I don’t know where. Very sad.
This dim sum place however, is located at a heartland coffee shop at Tampines Street 41 -Blk 419. The style of the dim sum reminds me of old Hong Kong. Yes, it’s that good. Their variety is limited, but they do well for their dim sum standards.
Siew mai, har gao, pai kuat are a must order. Glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves – must order two (pun intended). Chee cheong fun with char siew and char siew bao are also a must order. The rest I shall leave you to explore.
I don’t remember the stall name, but it’s unmistakable. You have got to be a topoking to not be able to find the place. I appended a map just in case.
Go try it. You won’t regret it. And oh, did I mention that it is also very affordable (read: cheap)?
Easy as ABC
Day three of the new dawn. I am tired. My lifeforce seems to have been zapped by some mysterious incubus. Either that or I am still riling over the fact that baby didn’t like my black bean porridge that I made yesterday.
Maybe he wasn’t accustomed to the taste as yet; maybe it was his first time trying it. I have come to realize that kids take a while to like something. It was the same experience with ice cream. At first he didn’t like it. Now he does.
So maybe one day he will develop a penchant for my black bean soup. I spent quite a bit of time cooking his porridge last night, and used quite a bit of the soup to cook it as well. *Grr* I think he kind of humored me a little and ate some at the beginning but I guess the taste was too foreign for his liking.
So today, I decided that I would make ABC soup again. Actually I wanted to make chicken soup, but since I already started defrosting the ribs last night by mistake – I decided to heck it. Chicken soup can be for tomorrow. Or maybe tomorrow can be lotus root, peanut and pork ribs soup. Hmmm..
I also realize by now that I may have overbought my ingredients for the week’s cooking rituals. There is no way that I can finish cooking all that I bought for the week, by the end of the week. I need to buy less. I also realize that it is near impossible to cook for baby without eventually cooking the same stuff for myself. Ok, I admit I have been lazy.
If you want my recipe for my ABC soup. You can check my post soup for three. Baby loves ABC soup.
Black Bean, Radish and Pork Ribs Soup
Day two of the new dawn. Still no twilight vampires or werewolves. I got up early to make my soup of the day. The very Chinese Black Bean, Radish and Pork Ribs Soup. This should be good. I can already imagine how it would and should taste like by tonight. The tenderising effect of the thermal cooker is not to be discounted. I mean what goes on within the pot is just simply amazing. The pork ribs will be tender, the vegetables soft and everyone just so delicious.
I usually don’t salt my soup when cooking them, just so as not to complicate the natural flavours of the ingredients. There must always be clarity in whatever soup we do. So when the soup is ready to be consumed, I must be able to tell the ingredients apart upon tasting, most importantly I must be able to enjoy my soup. Salt tends to confuse our tastebuds. That said, I usually add a pinch of sea salt just before serving for that little bit of taste. Like her friend garlic, salt can only be servant to the dish, but never a master – that’s only if you aren’t making salt-baked chicken.
So I decided that I would try out my own rendition of this classic soup. I tried searching for a video on YouTube using the keywords “black beans and pork ribs” – but to no avail. It seems that Asian cooks aren’t so keen on taking videos of their cooking as compared to some really awful videos of cooking processes. Those are not cooking demonstrations IMHO – they are more like sanctifying rituals of epic proportions. One moment is do this, set apart that, next is remove this, reserve that. I mean, how is anyone going to learn how to cook anything if the ingredient list is so technical and most of them sound as if we have to climb a mountain to pluck it.
Practicality and simplicity should be what cooking is all about. Soups should be simple three to four ingredients – that’s it!
Anyway, before I get carried away, my version of the black bean soup is nothing short of simple. Try it!
250 grams Black Beans
250 grams Pork Ribs
1 large White Radish
4 Dried Scallops
1. Par boil the pork ribs to remove scum. Slice radish into quarts and dump them into the pot. Then dump all the black beans into the pot as well. Drop 3-4 dried scallops to flavour the soup.
2. Fill the pot with water until all ingredients are covered. Turn on high heat for about 15 minutes. Once the soup is boiling and bubbling, turn off the fire and place the pot in the thermal cooker.
If you are unsure of how the thermal cooker looks like, I have a photo appended.
Eat Bak Chor Mee (review)
Today my colleagues and I went to EAT to eat Bak Chor Mee. We really love eating it at EAT. However, it was not to be so at EAT today when we ate it at EAT. There seemed to be something quite wrong with the EAT BCM noodle master’s powers of estimation.
I asked for BCM but I also wanted to add fish cake, thinking that it was going to be the deep fried fish cake that they sell on the side. I love the EAT deep fried fish cakes by the way, they are excellent, even on their own. The stall lady asked me how much fish cakes I wanted to add and suggested a top up of a dollar. I thought it was fine to add a dollar’s worth of deep fried fish cake.
To my dismay and much disappointment, the fish cake that the noodle master gave me was a mere four slices of the delicacy. I had a shocked when he presented the completed product to me and I could only let out a futile yelp of despair.
I had to portray exactly what $1 of fish cake was worth at EAT or else you might think I was joking and trying to pull a fast one. What you see in the picture above is one dollar’s worth of fish cake. Wow.
Either inflation has swept through Singapore right under my nose or the noodle master had something against customers who liked adding fish cakes to their BCM. Maybe it was against internationally acceptable BCM standards to not have fish cakes added into BCM. Maybe his strict adherence to this rule might have had some manner of impact on his sense of duty in the guild of international noodle masters that caused his deft fingers to show great restraint when scooping the fish cakes into my bowl.
Four miserable slices of fish cakes.
I hope that your $1 was worth more than mine.
I have always loved Tiramisu, and I like making it even more. The problem is, I rarely get a chance to do it these days, other things have become more subtly more important and I also always tend to forget how to make it. Even for this recipe, I was struggling to recall the proportions right up to the minute before I actually remembered how to make this Italian “Pick Me Up” cake.
This beautiful no-bake recipe is da bomb. Once you know how I make it, you can also do likewise. If you don’t like it the way I do it, then please feel free to mutate the recipe to whatever configuration you like. Ultimately it must make sense to you and the taste must be absolutely fantastic.
I took up a class on how to make Tiramisu recently, and the trainer said that due to the presence of unsavoury hygiene habits of some bakers, they have decided to stop using eggs in this no-bake version of the Tiramisu. I thought it could be more like an industry-wide conspiracy to boycott the use of eggs. But then I discarded that thought as there were many other recipes that still called for the use of eggs.
Anyhoo, I think eggs are perfectly fine for Tiramisu and in fact they make the taste uber yummy. But suffice to say, if you’re a parent, you might want to stop your children, especially toddlers from eating this delicious Tiramisu as the eggs are uncooked. But again, your children, you decide. But if they suffer massive LS, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Don’t know what is LS? Ask your Singaporean friends.
Some bakers will opt to whisk the eggs over a boiling pot of water when combining with the Mascarpone. Well, you can do that if you like. I personally think it is kind of silly. But again, it’s a baking technique, and I am not here to change the status quo, if it makes you happy, then do it. I am not doing it that way. In fact if you know what I do for my recipe, you might exclaim in a loud voice “Wah SO EASY ah?”
Yes, it is that easy to make Tiramisu.
Okay, just in case you think I am bragging, take a look above at the rather nondescript photo of my Tiramisu. It’s perfect don’t you think so?
For those of us that cannot visualise my instructions, I found a video on how to make Tiramisu for you to follow. There are plenty of videos with all different concoction of ingredients, but trust me, mine is the best. No alcohol, and no added flavouring. And just in case you think I sound like that on video, well I don’t. I chose the video because the video quality looks quite good. Just imagine that it is me teaching you. Disregard his ingredients and follow mine.
500 grams Mascarpone Cheese (can buy from NTUC finest or Cold Storage, any brand also can)
100 grams Castor Sugar
1 and half packets of Ladies Fingers (not the vegetable, but they are also known as sponge fingers biscuits with sugar)
Very Strong Coffee (I use Nescafe Gold Blend)
1. Firstly separate the egg whites from the yolks of the 4 eggs. Make sure the egg yolks don’t drip into the whites otherwise the egg whites won’t be able to achieve the stiff peaks. But I had some egg yolks dripped into my egg whites. Of course, if you ask me what did I do next? I continued to whip it using my super-duper KitchenAid machine. It whacked the egg whites into submission and they all stood stiff at the end of it. So don’t believe what people tell you. Take it from me.
2. Oh, you have to add the 100 grams castor sugar into the egg whites before whipping them. I know some recipes say that you are supposed to add the sugar into the egg yolks and not the egg whites. I think it is the same, so if you want to follow other people’s way of doing it, you can. Whipped it until it it stiff peaks. Then you taste the mixture. It should taste something like candy floss.
3. Next up whip the egg yolks with the Mascarpone cheese until pale yellow and creamy in texture. You generally want to incorporate as much air into your mixture as possible. Once you have done these two steps, you can combine the two together and fold them until they are one.
4. Using a large dish, you are now ready to make your Tiramisu. Make a large cup of extra strong coffee. I use Nescafe Gold Blend and I make it extra strong by adding more coffee grinds and less water. I dip the sugar coated end of the ladies fingers into the strong coffee and quickly take them out and flip them on the reverse side and then place the biscuits into the tray. Basically by doing so the biscuits don’t become soggy too quickly and you still have the basic taste of the biscuits.
5. You want to line the dish with the coffee infused ladies fingers so that it forms a bedding for the whipped Tiramisu batter. Once you have arranged a layer of the ladies fingers, you can now dump the batter into the dish and form a layer. After you have done that, you can powder a thin layer of cocoa powder. Repeat the ladies fingers dipping action and form another layer of bedding. After that, dump the remainder of the batter into the dish.
6. Once you have done all that, seal it with cling wrap and throw it into the fridge to set. Some recipes call for overnight freezing for it to set. I think if you have a good fridge, it should set in 2 hours tops. After all, it should be eaten in a soft mushy manner.
7. Once it is set, and sufficiently chilled. Dust it with cocoa powder and you can serve.
New Dawn (Musing)
It’s a new dawn. Not the twilight sexy good looking kind of new dawn with werewolves running around in their skin tight furs. My parents are moving house, and that presents a couple of issues for us that we have taken for granted till now. If there is someone that says “you are taking your parents for granted” – then let me be the first to admit it. You don’t have to say it. I have always knew from day one that the current arrangement while being perfect for us, was really not a solution in the long run.
Ultimately we have to manage on our own how we are going to do this.
So I have decided that I would do the cooking from now on. I know I have been doing most of the cooking anyway. But going forward, it is now a matter of survival. I won’t be cooking for leisure or pleasure, this is the gritty stuff. I have to be determined to cook my way through. So the next thing is to embark on a plan. Yes, we are going cold turkey from next week onwards and how we balance it will show.
I woke up this morning and I had a severe case of heart burn. Possibly it could be reflux from the ginormous amounts of rainier cherries (I should do a post on that) my wife and I had consume the night before. And in between then and now, I had massive LS and multi-fartilosis. It was bad. You won’t want to be within range.
Anyway, so the heart burn made me really uncomfortable, and I knew the reason why, so I wasn’t so disturbed by it. I went to the wet market as it is my usual practice and this time around, I knew I had to refresh my kitchen condiments and stock up for the week. I wanted to stay within budget so the strategy for the wet market on saturday morning was to really buy the basics and then buy the rest of the items throughout the week. That way I can pace myself with what I want to cook. At the moment, my mind draws a complete blank. It is hard to think when you have heart burn.
I purchased my four best friends – sea salt, olive oil, thai fish sauce and light soy sauce. They have been with me for so many years, and I knew that I could always depend and count on them for flavour. My wife’s a picky eater, so I have to be very careful when I prepare my dinners. But really, food is to be eaten.
So my total marketing for the following groups today is $57.60. I got chicken, pork, fish and vegetables. Not bad for starters.
Now the problem is thinking what to cook and to do it efficiently so that it fits into my time schedules.
Mao Shan Wang 猫山王
There is something about this Mao Shan Wang, that literally drives Durian Lovers to the end of their wits. The colour, flavour, pungent smells of the durian simply overpowers the senses, and even if the box is tightly wounded up with cling wrap, it wasn’t too long before the cat is let out of the bag.
I too have fallen in love with this particular type of Durian, notably not only the king of all fruits, but I feel, it is the king of all durian types. It is worth every dollar that the durian seller tries to hack you for. That’s if they give you the best quality type of Mao Shan Wang or “Cat Mountain King” as so many who cannot speak a word of Chinese have come to use.
The name seems to be synonymous with quality, flavour and its ability to turn any heathen to become so totally devoted to its lovely hue of bright yellow. It is almost like how the baguette is like to the French. The romance between Durian lovers and their craving for bitter (bitter-sweet) Mao Shan Wang is unlikely to pass, not likely in any future. Demand is likely to increase, and this is a good sign for Durian sellers and lovers alike. More demand equals more supply, more supply equal lower prices without compromising quality.
My wife and I have become ardent fans of that elusive flavour; that bitterness. We usually get our Mao Shan Wang from this guy named “Ah Kok” and he ensures that we get what we pay for. There is no tomfoolery or smart conversations with this guy. He is no nonsense Durian seller – the type that we like to transact with. We don’t bargain, and he doesn’t take us for a ride. He delivers what he promises – which is good quality Mao Shan Wang albeit in a transparent tupperware container without the husks. We have been ordering from this guy for quite a while and for the quality, we are happy to pay the price and forgo the enjoyment of prying open the fruits with our bare hands.
Promptly he arrives at the said timing. We pay. He hands over the goods and leaves. And then for us, the ritual begins.
We would firstly gush as we open the lid (pretending that the lid was the husk of the durian) and savour the pungent flavour of that wonderful flesh. We would examine the durians to see if it was exactly what he said it would be; what we know it should be. True enough, the flesh peels over the oily-shiny surface of the seeds which is a good sign and characteristic of this type of durian. And each bite into its lovely flesh leaves us with an indescribable feeling of “Wah Lau Eh” (can’t find the right words). The bitterness is so overwhelming that you just want to yelp out an expression of satisfaction, dance around the room or do some ridiculous breakdance moves.
So far, and sadly, we have also come to love this process of buying durian. As much as I would have preferred the mystery of hacking open the thick thorny husks of the durians with my karate moves and hoping in my heart like a little child that it would be the perfect Mao Shan Wang. I have also come to accept that life is not perfect, and that the uncertainty of getting a lesser than what you expected durian has worn down my perseverance in wanting to be a puritan durian lover.
At the end of the day I concluded that Durian sellers have to sell durians. Good or bad, they have to make sure that they strike the balance between giving all the good stuff to their favourite customers and pushing off the not so good ones to the undiscerning newbie. Some durian sellers have become quite good at the art of selling/pushing durians. They seem to have a phrase to deconflict every objection that the prospective buyer may have.
Where to find good Mao Shan Wang in Singapore?
So the next question that most people would ask would be, where to find good quality Mao Shan Wang then? Good question, I honestly don’t know. But I have come across some durian sellers who have sold us durians that we thought was not too bad, and they have also assured us a sense of their trustworthiness and professionalism. Well, maybe not. Again, the term Durian sellers sell durians rings true. They don’t just sell one type of durian. They sell every type to every type of customer.
There is a stall at National Library at Toa Payoh Central that is quite good. Their guys tend to shout “Yellow!” every time they open a durian. I mean of course it is yellow right? What other colour would they be expecting their durians to have? Apparently they like to say it that way and customers seem to like the novelty of seeing these guys shout “Yellow!”.
Besides that place, we also like going to Geylang and buying from Chin Yong Fruits. The guys over there are very savvy and for their regulars, they are pretty good at delivering what their customers want, of course, price is immaterial – getting the right durian is most important.
Lastly, my all time favourite place, 717 along Yio Chu Kang Road. They open and you choose, and if you don’t like, they will open another one. Which is a rare thing these days as most Durian Sellers sell durians. They don’t just sell one type.
If these guys aren’t available, and we want to get our durian fix, we will always call “Ah Kok”, and he always delivers.
Lotus Root Drink (sweet)
My wife taught me this recipe one day and I thought it to be one of the best recipes ever. I love drinking lotus root soup but I never heard of a sweetened version of this delicious root. It’s really simple to prepare. The recipe is so simple that you would be shock to learn it.
In her words, “just dump the lotus root in water, boil and add sugar.”
For the sake of our puritan traditionalist readers, I will make the recipe a little more complicated so that it looks and sound legit. I understand how you guys think.
So to make it easy (or complicated) for you guys, I managed to find an awesome YouTube video on how to boil this delicious Lotus Root drink. The only problem is, there is no such recipe online for a sweetened version of the Lotus Root!
I fired up YouTube and searched the following keywords “sweet lotus root drink recipe” and it yielded a whole slew of salty versions of the Lotus Root Soup with other condiments. I thought, perfect right? Since I needed to make this recipe complicated. So here goes, just for you guys..
I think the above video on how to prepare Lotus Root Soup totally rocks.
Now how does that video relate with what I am trying to teach my readers. Well it is simple, let me teach you how to use the video to achieve what I want to share with you. Firstly disregard everything that the video tells you to prepare and only remember the Lotus Root. Slice it like the way the person do it. That’s the most important part. Everything else that the person does in the video you can disregard since my wife’s recipe doesn’t require them.
Now imagine there are pandan leaves in the video. You can replace the carrots with images of pandan leaves. If you can’t imagine, just google “pandan leaves” – then take a long hard look at the leaves and quickly switch over to the video and imagine the carrots to look like the pandan leaves. I tried it, and it works.
So my little addition to the recipe is to add pandan leaves into the lotus root drink and basically that’s it!
Where I shop?
The best place for Lotus Root is really the wet market where you can find the freshest of groceries in the entire housing estate. The softer alternative is to go get it at the supermarket. I often choose NTUC because it is the nearest to my place. So you can choose whichever resource you like, as long as you get the right item. Then probably a few baskets away, you will also find the pandan leaves. Easy.
A few tubes of Lotus Roots
1 bunch of Pandan Leaves
1. Wash the mud off the Lotus Root, scrub the root and then shave off the skin of the root. Then slice it into half a centimetre slices.
2. Put the sliced Lotus Roots into a pot of water and turn on to high heat. Add the pandan leaves in knotted bunches into the pot. Boil until you smell the fragrance of the pandan leaves. Taste test the broth, and see if you are able to taste the faint flavour of the Lotus Root. If so, it should taste like Lotus Root.
3. Add the rock sugar. This is when the magic happens. Sweetened it until it is almost just right sweetness. If just right sweetness is 100%, then you should sweeten it until it is about 80% sweetness.
4. Taste test the Lotus Root Broth now, and you will experience hints of Sugar Cane and Water Chestnuts as well. Interesting right? I knew you would love this recipe.
Red Bean Soup
Is it really a soup? Or is it really a dessert? But why do people call it Red Bean Soup and not Red Bean Dessert? I guess people probably do, just that I have also heard some folks say Red Bean Soup. I never questioned the intention behind calling it, but I guess I will call it Red Bean Broth. Just for fun. I mean who cares right?
Anyway, I have been cooking quite a couple of desserts lately, and this is something that I thought would really rock as an inclusion into my pseudo recipe e-book that I intend to release at a future date. A blogger’s got to make some money somewhere down the road right?
Anyhoo, so I decided that I would cook Red Bean Broth *wide grin* and I would do it the traditional “kick-ass” way that would rock the socks off any old-school grandmother dessert expert. So here goes..
Oh before I start, incidentally I found a pretty good (and short) video recipe of Red Bean Soup that I thought was pretty decent – I think most of us have trouble reading recipes, so a video presentation is needed to help us who are more attuned to visual learning – learn. Good thing is, there are a gazillion videos on YouTube that helps us understand different things easily. This video on Red Bean Soup really helped me, and I am sure it will also help you as well.
When you watch the video, read my blog post and just pretend that it is me showing you how Red Bean Soup is cooked.
Where I shop?
I do all my shopping at NTUC Fairprice usually, but on this occasion I went to NTUC Finest, and I realised that they have some things that the regular ones don’t and at the same time, the regular ones have the things that they don’t carry as well. Say like never say right?
250 grams Organic Red Adzuki Bean (I heard that these beans are better than the regular sized ones)
1 Bunch of Pandan Leaves
3 bulbs Fresh Lily Bulb
2 packets Fresh Gingko Nut
100 grams China Barley
1. I know the video tells you to soak the Red Beans overnight. You can follow the video if you like, or you can follow what I did. I just dump the 250 grams of organic red adzuki beans into a pot of water as well as dumped the bunch of pandan leaves into the pot. Turn the heat up and start boiling. Red Beans for some strange reason takes a longer than usual time to break down or become nuah (soften) so if you think that this is going to be a walk in the park – think again. Or maybe take a walk in the park while it boils. <– not a good idea by the way.
2. Boil until the red beans starts to look as if they are soften and the broth becomes a dark murky reddish colour. This is perfectly okay by Red Bean Broth standard. Red Bean is supposedly heaty (is there another way to say heaty?) so with the addition of the China Barley, which actually has a cooling effect on the body, helps to neutralise the heatiness (is there another way to say heatiness?) So in a sense after you add this and that, it kinds of helps maintain-the-balance.
3. So while the Red Beans and Barley are getting to know each other a little better in the now very hot pot. We should also be smelling the sweet fragrant aroma of the pandan leaves (screwpine) screwing with your nasal cavities and arousing a sense of bewilderment that only an Eskimo would understand. Like I said, boiling Red Beans takes a while, especially if you didn’t follow the video to soak the beans overnight, so you got to entertain yourself while the beans dance the cha-cha.
4. Once the beans are almost softened, take out the pandan leaves and discard. Add the fresh gingko nuts and fresh lily bulb to cook. As the latter ingredients are fresh, you don’t need to cook them for very long, especially the lily bulbs. They tend to melt under extreme heat, so you don’t want to have no lily bulbs when you do serve the broth.
5. Add rock sugar lastly until you feel that it is of the right sweetness, and then you can call all your hungry friends to chow down.
Nasi Lemak (Toast Box)
Today was one of those “I need to eat Nasi Lemak” days.. We went to our usual Coffee and Toast place but the lady said their supply “not here yet”..
Frantically we went to Ya Kun and the lady over there shook her head as well. Then we finally came to Toast Box and they had one of the best Nasi Lemak money can buy at that point in time. Sometimes when we are wrought for choice we tend to accept whatever sub-standard derivative of the product that we can find to satisfy the cravings.
Thankfully not today. We were greeted with delicious hot steaming coconut infused rice and crispy ikan bilis, sunny side up and delicious chicken wings.
This compared to the usual cold dry Nasi Lemak that we usually get. It was a welcome change. A little pricey though but for the difference it is just right.
Superhero Complex (Musing)
I think I suffer from Superhero Complex. Maybe it kind of stemmed from the entrepreneur mentality that I developed during those dark years of trying to do everything myself. Somehow I deceived myself into thinking that I can and should do everything on my own from fixing the lights to the designing of posters. It’s not because I don’t value or cherish the value of teamwork or outsourcing, but perhaps the quality of work generated is not what I have in mind and it literally cuts me up big time because often times, I ended up reworking the entire job. But not to knock down Superhero Complex, I find that I can accomplish and complete so much more when I do it myself.
That approach to life is great if you have nothing else better or more important to do. The problem comes when you start getting successful at what it is that you’re doing and your business grows, then what happens after that? More often than not, it is time that you got to consider outsourcing to people who can do it faster or better than you (not to those that cannot do it), that you have to trust and to emplace these people into your management team. You got to start delegating and hoping that they will be able to perform those same tasks that you have been doing. Of course to entirely outsource what it is that you’re doing to one person would be quite mad and foolish. You need to ensure that should that person leave your business would still have the vibrancy to continue and support your customers.
One way is to design and piecemeal that work process so that it can be accomplished by a string of people working for you. That might seem complicated at first but it is far better than loading all that work onto one person. In which case it is no different from you doing the entire job. You want to outsource to different people so that you have the ability to bounce back up should that one resource be not available for you.
I totally understand that it may be quite difficult for some people to outsource entirely what it is that they have been doing on their own. Like I said, a good strategy would be to break up the work processes into different parts and getting different people to help you complete the work, while you perform that role as project manager, finishing up the high level touches or putting the project together.
I think Superhero Complex occurs mainly due to the mechanism of entrepreneurship which in essence is a person who has found a niche and is capitalising on that niche. The unique selling point of that niche in effect caused that Superhero Complex. Because of that uniqueness it is often times a requirement of that entrepreneur to complete and perform all those tasks.
Monetizing Your Blog (Musing)
I am sure everyone who is a would be blogger would be asking this very question the day that they decided to start their own blog. It doesn’t matter which step that you take. If you consistently produce good or great content, you will one day find it very easy to monetise your blog and potentially make a lot of money. Of course it takes hard work, and sometimes hard work alone might not even cut it for you.
I guess monetising your blog from an overseas site context would be a lot easier than if we were to do it locally. The variety of keywords that would make your blog rank high are often times quite limited. Most blogs arising from Singapore are really personal blogs with one or two blogs that have international appeal. Otherwise the content is largely localised in flavour and prose. It’s not easy to say the least.
Most bloggers go the route where when their blog has significant traffic, they are likely to take on blog assignments and blog on products. I am thinking if this is where I want to go as well. I think my problem is, if I don’t know the product, I find it a little difficult to write about it. I think it is the same with anyone. I tried, but I think I fail miserably at it. I am better at blogging about stuff or products that I have used before and if the product is a great product then I think it would add value to my readers.
So after saying so much, it sounds like I have said nothing? You are right. It’s hard to monetise your own blog, if you want to do it the way that I am thinking of doing it. I tried using Adsense before, but I realised that I don’t know Adsense well enough to continue to keep it on my blog. Plus I don’t have enough traffic to get Adsense. So if Adsense is out of the picture, then I will only have affiliates that makes sense to me, and that’s Blue Host web hosting company. I have a leaderboard banner smack right centre of every page. That is my monetisation strategy. It’s not much, but I like it that way.
So if people were to be inspired by my blog and would want to start their own blog someday, they can, and they can sign on via Blue Host through my affiliate link. Of course they can also opt to go directly to Blue Host to start their web hosting and thereby discrediting any affiliate commissions to me, but that’s fine. It would be nice of course, but if people are not comfortable with that, it is fine with me as well.
The whole monetisation of blog strategy in a Singapore context is much tougher than we all think. It’s like digging for gold (my favourite illustration) and the fact is, the gold rush is already pretty much over, and only the passionate will eventually find anything beneath all that dirt.
Ghim Moh Therapy & Other Remedies (Musing)
“Take soursop.” Rumour said. “It is much better than taking that Ghim Moh Therapy.” Rumour was speaking from years of experience of hearing other people tell her about the benefits of taking soursop. “Some other people say take organic foods, it really helps as well. Organic foods don’t have the usual pesticides that non-organic foods have.”
“But what if I can’t find organic foods where I live? The supermarket just closed for renovations!” Fear said. Fear has been worried about her impending unknown unconfirmed condition for weeks now and she had become restless and fidgety, anxious, and edgy about everything. Fear spoke to Rumour about her unknown unconfirmed condition, and confided that she has been having restless nights, thinking and worrying about her condition and wondering if anything would eventually happen to her.
Rumour said, “Don’t worry, just take less sugar. I heard that whatever disease thrives on sugar and sugar makes them stronger and hardier.”
“Is that true?” Fear started another thread of worry.
Fear is afraid to go Ghim Moh Therapy, she has long heard rumours about the effects that Ghim Moh have on people. She is worried. She would rather not go Ghim Moh and do that potentially scary Therapy that she had heard so much about.
The Moth (Musing)
The solitary moth sits pert on the side of the wall. Sometimes I wonder if it was sitting or resting or is it really stuck to the side of the wall. Of course to say that it is perched on the side of the wall kind of sounds weird as well. Either way, it is there, for some miraculous reason it is able to maintain its stoic position, unwavering, and amidst all that disquiet, it is like a symbol of mystery.
Some grandmother (grandfathers are usually used for naming roads) story say that these moths are representative of relatives that may have passed on and are back to visit you. The problem is, the moth can’t talk, and therefore you are left guessing which relative is really here to visit you. So it is reasonable that most people would say it is a grandmother’s story, because I vaguely remember someone’s grandmother telling me that exact same story.
The disturbing thing about all this talk about moths is that it still didn’t explain where did this moth appear from and where it flew from. Did it birth out of a cocoon from some corner, or did it really come from afar and brings with it a hidden message of “whatever”. To spiritualise it would be the easy way to rationalise it. In fact it is an easy way to rationalise anything. Just say, “it’s one of your relatives here to visit. Don’t ask so many questions.” That probably settles further queries from the children, but I really wonder what do the adults think. Or are they really grown up children telling and passing down stories that their grandmothers’ told them. Who knows.
Anyway the moth is still there.
Highfaluting Experts (Musing)
I have met many experts in my lifetime, and most of the time they are kind of pretentious. Suffice to say that may not be true for all, and the ones that disclaim that they are, are ironically the ones that have a thing or two to share and their knowledge simply wows the daylights out of most people. So the question then is, why do some people like to make false claims or boast about their small achievements? Perhaps to bulldoze their points across, and maybe that makes them feel better.
I met this guy once and he likes to say something, and as soon as he detects any disbelief from his audience, he would punctuate his sentence with an “I know because I am blah blah..” Like for some reasons he seems to be afraid that people around him do not know that he has been putting in all the effort.
It seems like a holier than thou attitude towards debate of any sort, and these people don’t take no for an answer or any form of resistance. Interestingly, it might be easy to sell a lemon to people like that. All you need to do as a sales person is to approach them and then as soon as you encounter an obstacle in the conversation, you would promptly say, “I understand that you can’t make a decision now, but that is fine, you can check back with your supervisor and let me know. This is my card.”
Saying that sentence alone could cause bush fires in winter. That sentence would literally cause flumes to emit from the ears of these pompous experts. This is because their pseudo position is insecure, and now somewhat threatened by clever presentation. Actually there is no real threat or destabilising force present. It is merely a play on words, and this time these highfaluting experts will get a taste of their own medicine.
The World of Cubicles (Musing)
We all live in the world of cubicles. I used to wonder upon returning to Singapore a while back from my years of studying overseas and wondered to myself as to where did all the Singaporeans disappeared to. I soon realised that answer to my poorly thought out question that they were all around in reality, just that they only existed during rush hours to work and from work.
We have all “disappeared”, albeit into cubicles island-wide.
That seems to be the lifestyle design that we have chosen for ourselves the moment that we enter into the workforce. At least for the majority of us that is. It seems that this is the choice that we have all somehow decided was the best route to take while we decide what we want to do with the rest of our working careers.
Soon after taking on the cubicle life, we start our emailing campaigns to the world and to each other. I can almost imagine going to work in a cubicle and writing an email to another person in another cubicle. That seems to be the lifestyle that we design for ourselves. I am just wondering if this is what work should be like. I am not complaining though, just thinking about what we would do if we weren’t bound by our cubicles.
Would our lives be a lot more interesting or would it be the same? Just that we are bound somewhere else in another cubicle like location. If we were to consider working from a remote location, would that mean we would have a better quality of life? Would we get to enjoy the Singapore that our forefathers built for us to enjoy, or will we mostly see it in the wee hours of the morning (to avoid the rush hour crunch) and the twilight of sundown (to also avoid the rush hour crunch).
The Business of Blogging (Musing)
I want to write about the business of blogging and how we should approach it in this information age that we live in. These are indeed exciting times I should say. With social medias complementing our efforts, blogging in today’s context has never been easier. We are no longer like a fast food outlet opened in the middle of the desert anymore, everyone can see our posts virally through Twitter, Facebook or Google+ in a matter of seconds as soon as we publish our posts.
In fact, blogging is no longer just about personal anecdotes or quirky quotes as most bloggers would tell you today. It used to be just an online diary of our daily musings but these days blogging is a business. People have taken on blogging assignments and have in one way or another promoted products openly or subtly via affiliate marketing. Blogging in fact has developed into a very serious business that commercial entities with products to introduce to the masses have adopted the social media approach as a significant equal to print media.
Business today see social media almost on par as mainstream media, and that significance is unlikely to go away anytime soon. So are you ready to jump on the bandwagon of blogging hoping to strike it rich? Well, the truth is, blogging is hard work. In fact there is a saying, the harder I work, the luckier I get. I think that applies to anything that we do, especially blogging.
These days a blog is created in a matter of seconds around the world, each breathing air and fresh ideas into its online existence. Each trying to scrap off a little of that online gold rush. If you had started your blog early, and if you had timed yourself right, you would be an authority today, garnering traffic that is comfortable for your business. But for the rest of us newbie bloggers, there is still some fine grains of gold left over amidst the dirt, and if you sift through enough dirt, you will eventually find your niche, and find your fine grains of gold nuggets, and build yourself a suitable authority site in the topic that you have chosen.
If you’re exploring or thinking of starting a blog, then perhaps you might want to consider the cheap web-hosting that I am with, and that is Blue Host. You can literally start a blog in a matter of minutes, faster than you think.
Providing Good Content (Musing)
That is the challenge of any newbie blogger, and I say that because naturally everyone wants to eventually become a blogger with authority and become someone that is an expert. That is however, easier said than done. Providing quality content means you need to do your research and you basically need to know what it is that people out there needs to know and would want to know.
But first, if you’re contemplating of going into the business of blogging, you would really need to consider how to ensure that the information that you put out will eventually find its way into the eyeballs of those that you’re intending to target. It might be a little bit easier these days with social media. All you really need to do is to write a blog and then share it with your Facebook friends for example, and then hope that they will read and find some semblance of meaning in your ramblings.
Or they may read and then have no basic inkling as to what you’re on about and subsequently dismisses your every sharing on your Facebook timeline. That would be tragic especially if you have something of value to share with them. So what key strategies would newbie bloggers need to know when they post material online or write a blog.
I think it is important to go back to first principles. Detail what it is that you’re hoping to achieve in your blog and state the reason why you started this blog and brought it into existence. That is important to both yourself as well as your readers because it sets the compass for the journey that you’re about to embark upon. Knowing why you started this blog will somewhat ensure that you will always have something to blog about and that you won’t run dry of content.
That said, content is king. Providing good content and content that is of value to your readers will go the furthest distance and will eventually set your site to become an authority site. You want to eventually become the subject expert of your niche and I can’t emphasise this point enough. You the blogger, need to rethink your mission and objective. For me, my purpose is clearly because I need a proper place to store all my recipes that I have tried and tested. For me, posting the recipes on Facebook just makes it difficult for me to track or refer. So having all my content published and located in one place helps me call out the recipes that I need to use really fast.
Of course besides being a storage place for my home cooked recipes, I would also want to provide content that is somewhat meaningful for my readers. Maybe some fun facts or little known facts or just generally on topics that interests me. So this blog is basically all abut what I want to do and what I would like to say.
It is like my own personal journal, and a chronicle of my thoughts and expression. One of the things that I really hope to do is also find out some ways where I can make an income online. That has always been a mystery to me, but I think it might not be that impossible coming to think of it. I mean I have seen friends who successfully earn an income online, and at the same time, passively. I think that is a powerful model to emulate and to think about since I am taking this step forward.
I used to write a blog way back in 1995 back at university. Back then the term blog wasn’t all that popular as it is now. It was more like a bunch of people writing content and then placing them up on the Internet. So much has changed since those early days of blogging, but essentially, the genre of blogging and the intent remains the same.
It is about the sharing of good content. I hope that I can also share good content, and become my own authority through my thoughts and writings.
Not Feeling Well (Musing)
I wasn’t feeling well over the weekend, and that sucks. Not only I wasn’t able to complete the tasks that I had plan to complete, I was subjected to a whole slew of lethargic feelings that I guess nobody really wants. It’s terrible to say the least, but I am feeling so much better. Suffice to say it is generally a bad idea to mix sashimi with wine and beer all at the same time. Someone told me that mixing beer and wine is actually toxic for the system. It does something like sending the body into a state of shock.
I guess there might be some truth in that because I realised that every time I mixed wine and beer together, something disastrous tend to happen. But this time around it seems to be the worse of the lot of bad experiences. I had a mini-nuclear explosion within my tummy and all that was inside became marsh. I could not consume anything solid for an entire day and all I could do was drink lots of water and get lots of rest. So what the doctors usually tell you when your body is not feeling well is basically true. The body usually has a way of correcting itself and it heals itself in a way. The challenge was to ride out the cycle. Sometimes it is a short cycle, sometimes it is a longer cycle to recovery, but usually if you drink plenty of fluids with lots of rest, you come into alignment with God’s design for your body and your system gets a reboot and resets itself.
I feel so much better now today then I was yesterday, and I am thankful that I did not get more sick. Potentially there was a chance that I could have got a fever, and that would have complicated matters. Thank God that healing came and I guess the rest was history. It is resurrection Sunday today, and I am glad that Jesus came to die on the cross for my sins. Without Him there would be no real purpose in life. Some people found Jesus today, and I am happy for them. I got the chance to serve today, and also spent time with family, and I am really thankful for that too.
Dig and Flick (Musing)
This seems to be the national pastime of many in Singapore. But not only in this sunny isle, but possibly it could be a worldwide social phenomenon as well. I am almost quite sure of it because it’s what we do as humankind.
In fact, I am also quite sure superheroes do the dig and flick routine, albeit privately and away from the public’s sight. Batman must have done it as well, maybe while hanging upside down, Superman could have done it also while flying from one destination to the next. We only hear of their great exploits because that’s what people are mostly interested to know, but wouldn’t it be nice to know that our superheroes are also human, and that they also like doing the dig and flick routine?
It is as what someone said, this is what makes us human. My son here definitely have that ability as he is already showing competency in this area. He seems to enjoy digging and flicking the clothes in the luggage, out of the bag. Like a tiny explorer in search of hidden treasures. His actions are not as refined or accurate, but I am sure he will get there one day.
I was on my way to work one time and I was in the subway train and there in front of me was this lady deep in thought albeit in her own world. I say she was in her own world because she was enjoying every moment that she was digging her nostrils, her eyes glazed and hollow as she rolled the debris into a rounded mass before she flicked it. The flicking off part is perhaps the most scary bit as the ball-shaped object would be hurled haphazardly like a scud missile with an unknown trajectory into the air. All the best to whoever that is its intended beneficiary.
Then I got off the train, and got on the bus as I had to transit. While sitting by the window and peering out into the myriad of vehicles stopped at the traffic junction. I happened to chance upon another guy looking back at me from his van. Interestingly he was also picking his nose while waiting for the traffic lights to turn green. The man smiled when he saw my disapproving looks and turned away, but continued digging now even more vigorously as the lights suddenly turned green. Clearly need was above propriety.
Investment Psychology (Musing)
The psychology of investment as many a guru will tell you is very much like the price action mock chart above. This is how retail investors (myself included) get caught out from time to time. More often than not, it happens even to the best of us. It is what I like to call a level 10 out of 10 mind game. People get caught unawares that there are forces greater than the foreseeable economic forces and price indicators.
I like to refer to the Wall St. Cheat Sheet or as they say, the Psychology of Market Cycle. The cheat sheet shows how most investors get sucked into the cycle and most of them get washed out. The thing is, most of us know the key to investment and that is to buy low and sell high. It’s pretty much a no-brainer. However, when it comes to putting money down, we are swayed from course and if unchecked, can enter into decisions that most will regret later.
So how does anyone invest then? The key is really to educate yourself with as much financial education as possible. Lower your risk by knowing more about what it is that you’re putting your money in. Know your investments is the key to doing well in any kinds of investments.
The 4-Hour Workweek (Review)
Someone introduced me to this book, and I thought that I would have a read and see what all the fuss was about. It seems there is an online version in PDF format (for those of us that is keen to read it digitally) otherwise a hard copy version of the book can be easily found at the National Library Board.
So what’s the book about? I don’t really know except that the title suggests a reworking or re-look at the way we view work and how to make work the same but putting in the same amount of effort and time into it. The best part about the book is that it challenges you to make what you do now much better so that you can still have time to spend doing the things that mean the most for you. Like for myself, I have been thinking about spending more time with family and spending more time at home. Alas the nature of my work requires me to spend time at work. So the challenge here for me is to manage my time in such a way that I still achieve the things that I set out to do, as well as have more time to do the things that I want to do.
I also found out that there is the audio version of the book on YouTube. Isn’t YouTube awesome? So now I can listen to is and read it at the same time. Hopefully I will understand what Tim is trying to get across, and hopefully I will also be able to get towards that ideal in my mind.
If you haven’t got a book to read, maybe you should consider reading this book.
Sometimes the words from the people closest to you hurts you the most. But you are expected to develop an impervious armour about you and take it like you’re invincible. The words come at you like you’re invisible. That’s the expectation, and you are expected to shoulder the blame, regardless of whether you’re at fault or not. But some arrows strike deep, especially sharp and poisonous arrows.
Words spoken in anger? Perhaps. But were they spoken in fairness? It’s hard to say. Spoken in truth? Spoken in love? The first casualty in any conflict is often the truth. But harsh words are conveniently spoken, and harsh words hurt.
Sometimes we say things to hurt the superheroes in our lives, just because we fall into the belief that they are really superheroes and that they can take the abuse. The right thing to do though, is really to take it in, and pray for a resolution. Take it in and really be that superhero for them. God will surely vindicate these superheroes.
Think Different (Musing)
I was at a coffee shop and I chanced upon a meeting with some elderly friends and one of them introduced me to this old uncle that had a different thinking altogether towards life.
At first he sounded boastful and almost to the point of bragging, but I got to admit that he does speak a lot of common sense and natural wisdom. For example he was boasting confidently that he can teach anyone to learn how to swim in just three easy steps.
I thought to myself “wow”. Here’s my chance to know that secret. So I asked him.
He simply said “Hold the bar at the side of the pool. Then dip your head into the water. And when your head is underwater, make sure you open your eyes. Look around.”
He then explained saying that most people when they start out learning swimming typically gag at lesson one. If they are unable to overcome their fear of the water, if they were unable to overcome their fear, then learning anything else about swimming was going to be very difficult.
So by opening your eyes while you dip your head into the water, it builds the necessary confidence.
Wow. That makes sense.
Lesson two was about floating. Learning how to float face down as well as learn how to float on your back. Once that is achieved, you can talk about swimming. Thereafter, it is just about moving forward.
I am inspired.
Then the full of ideas elderly went on to show me the MP5 player he had bought for $80 at a shop in town. He said the shop owner had a tough time selling the product to foreigners who did not understand the mandarin words on the device. It was the cheapest and best item for its value, yet customers were mostly browsing and mostly stumbled at the foreign words printed on the unit.
The innovator instinctively saw the problem and deciphered the words, then printed them in English on a used phone card and displayed it next to the device. The shop owner needless to say caught on the idea and printed the labels and start leveraging on that simple translation and eventually sold out all his units at the store.
The uncle proudly said “think different.” Essentially that was the gist of our entire chit chat. He then went on to share his life story and how he help this person and that group, how he joined the UN as a volunteer and helped rural communities build necessary irrigation and helped them gain access to clean water which was necessary for sustenance of life in villages deep in the recesses of the hilly regions.
He truly exemplifies the values of “Ho Sim Lang”. If I were to have an annual Ho Sim Lang awards, I would definitely put him up as a nominee for Ho Sim Lang of the Year 2014.
After a brief hiatus since my last post, I thought it is about time to share some new recipes that I have been working on.
Here’s my favourite laksa recipe of all time. Tedious to make, but guaranteed satisfaction for all of you Laksa lovers.
The ingredients are commonly found in NTUC or Cold Storage, so ingredient list building shouldn’t be a problem. Perhaps some of you experts out there might question “why no belachan?”, well I decided not to use belachan because good quality dried shrimp is good enough, but you may consider that if you like.
Vermicelli aka Laksa Bee Hoon – 500 grams
Medium Grey Prawns – 250 grams
Fish Cake – 1 large piece
Bean Sprouts – 1 handful
Dried Tau Pok – 10 pieces
Blood Cockles – 200 grams
Laksa Leaves – 1 sprig
Dried Shrimps – 1 cup
Cooking Oil – 100 ml
Water – 750ml
Coconut Milk – 250 ml
Pound into Paste:
Shallots (or Onions) – 2/3 Bulbs
Garlic – 4 pieces
Turmeric (Yellow Ginger) – 1 inch
Galangal (Blue Ginger) – 1 inch
Young Ginger – 1 inch
Candlenuts – 4 pieces
Dried Chillis – 10 pieces (soak in water first)
1. Blanch prawns in 750 ml of water till 90% cooked. I gauge this cooking process by looking at the prawns and if they curl into a “C” shape. “C” means cooked, but if however, the prawns turn into an “O” shape, then that means the prawns is now over-cooked. Just a little tip for all of us servant-less cooks.
2. Once prawns are cooked, set them aside.
3. Add Laksa leaves into the broth, and bring to a boil. You can also shred the Laksa leaves to sprinkle over your noodles for that extra flavour.
4. Then turn the fire to a low simmer for about 15 minutes.
5. Heat 100 ml of oil in a wok.
6. Add in dried shrimp (pounded) into pounded condiments (paste) and fry for 5-7 minutes over a big fire until fragrant.
7. Pour the cooked ingredients into the pot of prawn stock. Again, bring to a boil.
8. Add in the coconut milk to thicken the broth. Add salt and sugar to taste.
9. Add in the Tau Pok (sliced diagonally) to cook until soft if you like, before serving.
1. Present cockles, bean sprouts, fish cakes (sliced) and tau pok (cooked) in a bowl of Bee Hoon Noodles before ladling the Laksa broth over the ingredients.
2. Sprinkle Shredded Laksa leaves for extra flavour.
Cricket in City Hall (Musing)
It was kind of surreal hearing the cricket making its signature song levels underground at City Hall MRT. I was at the East Bound section when I heard the little fiddler playing its tune.
Contrary to popular belief the cricket actually makes its signature sound from the brushing of its wings against the serrated teeth on its legs. It is the males that does it more often than females but the loud sounds it makes is more likely a calling sound as opposed to a mating call as what most people would suggest. This cricket seem to be lost, the loudness of the chirp seem to ask for help more than to ensnare females.
Maybe it is frantically trying to send out a signal to clueless communters. Or it could be thinking that it is still night even though it’s clearly morning. How did it get there deep within the abyss that is the bizarre network of tunnels, its up to our imagination I suppose.
Well it was interesting to hear its cries for help, and even more interestingly, now I know a little bit more about the cricket. I actually did a wiki search on what makes the cricket chirp like it did. Imagine that.
Ever been on a train and be suddenly imbued with an awful scent of stench as if you just walked into a crap-filled toilet?
And I would peer through either ends of my peripheral vision and literally roll my eyes around my eye-sockets wondering where that amonious fragrance came from. After eyeballing the burly guy in the Armani suit for a while, no prizes for guessing who. Let’s put it this way, let’s just say the smell was emanating from that direction.
It’s not the usual pungent cheesy smells of unwashed hair or salty-pickled-in-sweat nasal-haired droppings lingering around the doorway to the cavaity. No. This was much worse. And I suspect it came from further south around the rolypoly-ness of his curvy tummy.
He doesnt look like he had dirty habits, nor dyfunctional issues. But then again, who really knows. And I dont really care. My only concern was my enjoyment of the train ride that I paid good money for. And I intend to make sure my enjoyment of the air-conditioning was well worth the money and hopefully not flavoured.
The only conclusion I could think of was that he must suffer from uncontrollableflickalytis. I cant think of anything else that could have such onimous impact.
Somersby Peary (Musing)
So after a brief hiatus, this drink that made its debut appearance some years back has now decided to come back and flush our quest for thirst quenchers with a little bit of punch. The Somersby Pear Cider, an alcoholic (kids don’t try this drink) drink is now readily available island wide. So what is this drink actually? Honestly, to me it is just another drink. More importantly from the video, it seems to be targeting youths who can drink legally. So ok, it looks like a cool drink. Maybe I will give it a try.
Also, there seems to be some kind of competition or promotional contest to win some money (I like!) and it seems not a very difficult thing to do. Anyway, I checked out the video for more clues and guess what? I found absolutely nothing. In conclusion, I might not be very smart.
Oh well. Maybe I will find more clues if I bought a bottle. You know how sometimes these contests usually hide their contest entry forms in the packaging. Who knows I might win something.
老 auntie make kopi (Musing)
Starbucks have begun hiring elderly persons for their outlets. That to me is a heartening move. The elderly is a largely untapped human resource that could be harnessed for local businesses that require much needed manpower.
The elderly lady who took my order, knew exactly what it was that I wanted and she gave me the best starbucks service that was on par with any starbucks crew.
Wow. I am impressed. Kudos to the management for taking on the silver move. Employers who are able to, should consider training and investing in this resource. Elderly persons who are looking for part time or full time employment should also consider different positions like these. It is not so much about the work that one does, it is more about the meaning that the work gives to the person doing it.
Try it. Be like the 老 auntie barista. She can do it. Anyone can.
Take Taxi (Musing)
At times when taking the taxi, the uncle instead takes you for a ride. That happens to me more often then I would like to be honest.
I have motion sickness, and that doesn’t help me very much when I take public transport. Especially with the taxi cab. It can be equivalent to a roller coaster ride sometimes.
Besides that I would typically snooze off into a relatively deep sleep.
So in this instance, I too fell asleep and when I opened my eyes again, I was near johor baru. I asked the uncle why he brought me all the way out to the north when in reality he could have exited much earlier.
He conveniently said “I asked you just now and you said go further north.”
Of course I said no such thing. Then I told the uncle to go back to where he should be going. Which he did and when I finally got home it was $30+ just for a journey that would have cost much less.
Oh well lesson learnt.
Toast Box Teh C Kopi C (Review)
I can’t remember the last time I had a toast box coffee (kopi) or tea (teh), but I was quite taken aback that it was so cheap.
The lady at the Chinatown point outlet punched in my order and I took a quick glance at the cash register and it said $1.80 (SGD). Naturally I was happy-like-bird and gave her two dollars.
I looked at the cash register again and this time around it said $3.60 (SGD). To my embarrassment, I realized that each cup of Kopi C and Teh C was $1.80 each. Oh my. When did it become so expensive?
Of course this is still way cheaper than Starbucks, but then again this was not Starbucks but Toast Box, so it took me by surprise. If we put things into perspective, it would suggest that the drinks here are almost twice as expensive as any regular coffee shop.
I can afford the price increase, just wondering if there was a need to increase the price though. Oh well.
He>i Daddy (Musing)
It’s a special title and an even more special place of honor. Not everyone can enjoy that title and it takes a certain passage of time and much uncertainty before someone is entrusted with that title of “daddy”.
Firstly the child needs to speak the words, but more importantly know the words. That day seems near as he knows who “papa” is already and fatherhood is certainly much more fulfilling in ways I could never have imagined.
Living life now is living life for him, to care for him and take care of him. He came as a tiny infant helpless and could only express cries or silence. His range of emotions simple and uncomplicated. Raw and immediate. There is hardly time and space that I am unaware of his existence. Our lives are forever intertwined. He is a part of me as I am a part of him.
It is a different way of life today than it was yesterday. A life with a child. A dependent, dependent on you. Your time of living your life and doing the things that you used to do has come to a good end. Now it is a season of routines, schedules and timeliness.
After being daddy, you assume responsibility and suddenly time becomes finite and I can almost see time in compartments and how I can and must manage it. It is a journey that I would encourage all to take. Never mind if you are unsure at this moment, but I guarantee you that it is a good transition, a good change.
OTS: How To Chop Chicken
I am also starting OTS aka “one take sessions” on anything that might be remotely useful for people that stumble upon this blog. Also, it is more for me because I really really want to know how to chop chickens properly.
I got to admit it, I am bad at chopping chickens. I don’t know where to pull or where to chop. Sometimes the simplest of cuts can become a massacre of epic proportions. I wish I have the wisdom of the chicken butcher when it comes to cuts and then a brilliant idea popped into my mind.
Ask the chicken butcher at the market to do a demonstration. It’s not the most exciting of videos, but it’s a great “how-to” video. A fantastic OTS. Enjoy.
Celebrate Family Togetherness with Tangyuan
Tāngyuán is a kind of Chinese dessert made from glutinous rice flour and is mixed with a small amount of water to form balls and is then cooked and served in boiling water spiced with old ginger and castor sugar. It typically comes in one plain white colour, but some families have chosen to add a little food colouring to make the dessert a little prettier.
Culturally for many families in China and also migrant families overseas, it is a meal eaten together. The round shape of the balls served in round bowls symbolises family togetherness. Tāngyuán translated means “Round Dumplings in Soup”.
I got this recipe from my mother-in-law, and this is how it works.
Recipe – serving for a family
1) Add 400g glutinous flour with 350ml water. Add the water slowly so that the dough mixture will not be too moist. If you accidentally added too much water, just simply balance it out with more glutinous flour.
2) Knead the mixture into dough. Then pinch a little and roll it in between your fingers. If the dough were to crack, it just means that it is too dry. If the dough ball does not hold its shape, then there is too much moisture in the pastry.
3) Divide into the dough into two (02) portions and with one portion, add a few droplets of food colouring – Cherry Red is good – and then knead the food colouring into the dough. The whole dough should now be pink in colour.
4) Put each portion of dough into a plastic bag and place them in the freezer for 30 minutes.
5) Remove from the freezer and begin to roll. (if however, after freezing the dough is too dry, just simply dap it with a little water.
6) Put the balls in boiling water, until they all start to float. Then off the fire and allow the dough balls to sit in the broth for about 5 minutes.
7) Scoop out the dough balls with a ladle and put them inside a bowl of cool tap water.
8) Prepare 300g castor sugar and put into the broth to boil a little, after which place slices of old ginger and pandan leaves into the soup and bring the soup to a boil.
9) Ladle the dough balls into the broth and allow them to sit in the fragrant mixture until the flavour has infused into the dough balls.
10) Allow the dessert to sit in the broth overnight, and when ready to eat, just heat up the soup and serve.
Heartland Nasi Lemak (Review)
I thought that it wouldn’t be fair to do a review of the Qiji interpretation of the humble nasi lemak (I think they glorified it) but not do the heartland version.
So here goes. This is well and truly a more humbled version. It is so no frills I had no trouble identifying everything within the packet in a nano-glance. All I did was blink and that was the end of my meal. I saw in my mind’s eye exactly how I would chow down this plate and it was unglamorous.
My wife saw my somewhat bewildered expression and immediately offered some Belinjo crackers that she had bought earlier, just to make up the color. It sort of looked slightly better after that. But there was just too much white (rice) and not much of anything else.
This is truly the cookie cutter version with just the ikan bilis and kacang goreng all sealed in individual packets. This nasi lemak reeks of industrial kitchen-ness. Everything seems to be commoditized, right down to the chilli. All sealed ready to be assembled in a production factory-like style.
I had to top up 50 cents for a piece of otah-otah which kind of made it a little better. The only other thing that was not from the industrial kitchen was probably the kuning fish. Interestingly this fella was even smaller than the previous one.
I was so tempted to make my own masterpiece that I assembled the kuning fish as if like jumping out of a sea of nasi. Kids, don’t do this at home.
I guess you could say I was reasonably bored with my unflattering breakfast. Alright, to be fair what would one be expecting for $1.60 (SGD), by far it was the cheapest nasi lemak I have eaten in a long while. And it was just as delicious as the glorified version.
He screamed a loud screeching cry as air filled his lungs and he tasted unclean air for once in his life. His father stood by the side and smiled as the doctors pulled him from the gaping wound with umbilical cord still attached. His mother still in a state of semi-disarray, unaware of the happenings shielded from her eyes by the cloth. All she could hear was the sound of metal clanging and shuffling of feet and the words of the doctor telling the nurses to act and execute procedures.
Doctor: “Come come, Papa, come cut the cord!”
The doctor motioned the new father to cut the umbilical cord and for once in his entire life, he was VIP to the most significant moment in the life of another person. The feeling was indescribable. It was a good feeling. Like facing the sunrise on the edge of a cliff and just simply being awed by the brightness of the sun as it embraced him. He remembered that beautiful moment, and again felt it now albeit under different circumstances. The cold operating theatre is now filled with happiness, tears, and much joy.
The nurse wrapped the baby in shiny foil and tagged the infant after showing the father the baby for any distinguishing marks. He was perfect and without blemish. His father was pleased. Very pleased.
“He is a handsome boy!” He said to his wife. She smiled a faint gesture as she saw him for the first time, and felt all that she felt when she carried him for those days on weeks on months.
The three bears embarked on their strange journey once again into the deep unknown. This time around there is an interesting Chinese lady singing “hallelujah” and thanksgiving to Jesus. Strange indeed, this has never happened before. And that set the tone for their strange journey.
Ironically, they weren’t very conversant in mandarin either. They only knew bear talk and that takes up most of their lives and time together. They used to take journeys together but not strange ones. They were usually trips to honey hideouts and beautiful scenaries. So to have a Chinese lady accompany them and singing Chinese Christian songs, it was indeed a comforting change.
The glistening sun beaming through the window of their borrowed caravan spoke of certain hope. But they all thought little of it except for one of them. The journey was necessary and one that had an unknown outcome. So every little ounce of perceived hope was important.
That fact about the deep unknown was unsettling for them, but they were determined to find out the truth.
Qiji Nasi Lemak (Review)
It’s really a 奇迹 how they managed to open their doors one day and became an instant hit with everyone. With simple staples like nasi lemak, mee rebus and mee siam, Qiji as their name in mandarin suggests has indeed become a household name and an FNB miracle.
I just had a nasi lemak, a local favorite amongst many. Steamy coconut milk infused white rice with an array of ingredients strategically positioned to maximize your dining experience. Unfortunately, their ingredients have been looking a tad tiny lately though.
Take the kuning fish for example, I couldn’t believe that it could be so small! I mean by Australian standards, a fish of this size would never pass through the fishery authorities and onto our dinner plates. That said, perhaps it was a midget kuning fish and it had stunted growth. Hey, it’s quite possible you know.
I am just wondering if perhaps this little fellow could have had a much greater potential to co-create even more kuning for their mercenary masters. Instead here it is, on my green mock-banana leaf plate. All shriveled and parched.
The rest of the ingredients were suffering from a severe lack of color. Honestly they looked tired. It was as if they weren’t dressed up properly before they left the food counter. The paper-thin pale yellow egg was like two pieces of highly compressed cheesecakes sitting neatly on top of my nasi (rice).
The otah-otah was also a pale orangey hue of a puddle of *** amidst a setting sunset. Ok, nuff said, after all, I am still going to eat this. I am famished.
I was fairly disappointed at the quantity of ikan bilis (tiny anchovy) and kacang goreng (fried peanuts) though. Typically the macik (aunty) at the food counter would heap a full scoop. But the dude behind the counter today must have used a teaspoon to scoop the ingredients.
And to top it off, there was this nugget looking item that I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. It tasted like fish and chicken all at the same time with a pillow full of batter coating. Except that it was equally flat and off colored as its other buddies on the plate. Very mysterious nuggety item. It vaguely resembled an ingot of gold.
The chilli, perhaps the only item that steers everyone back on the same course was sweet and spicy and just right. Very nicely done.
It was a perfect nasi lemak meal to say the least. The taste was just superb. The brains behind the business have got their hearts in the right place. The looks of the ingredients could do with a little bit more color. That said I should qualify, that I don’t just go for looks but I like good quality food – I don’t eat for color’s sake. But it is liken to buying fish at the market, color denotes freshness.
Qiji is indeed doing the basic things well. They have morphed into a somewhat conveyor belt like production house of local common foods but yet maintaining a consistent level of quality and taste in all their outlets. This just means they have a tight control on quality. I like that.
Incidentally the nasi lemak above could have been neatly arranged by an artist of Bugis origins, it reminds me of a tiny sailboat awashed against the tides of changing times, fishing amidst the setting of a crimson sunset and perhaps scouring the seas for hidden treasure.
You can have this same experience at Qiji. Just order set number two.
Train Fault Day (Musing)
It’s the dreaded “train fault day”. Well the good thing is they aren’t saying that it is their trains’ fault today. Instead the messaging has been somewhat watered down to the usual automated voice message.
Voice: “if you are unable to board the train, please board the next train.”
Sounds like what most people would say 废话. But I can totally empathize with their unwillingness to say those two toxic words “train fault”. If well proven to be the case and if they were again unable to handle it, it would prove to be another costly episode.
Well we just have to suck our thumbs and wait.
Honestly, a 6 minute interval at rush hour is kind of unacceptable don’t you think? They could have at least display the 3 minutes train interval display and drag out those 3 minutes to 6 minutes and no one would have noticed.
These days with almost everyone glued to their mobile phones, it’s hardly a wonder if anyone bothers or care about the travel impasse. The bickering about whose fault is it seems to be a matter that is best left to the people who should be in the know of what is happening.
That said, it still doesn’t alleviate my problem. I still can’t get into crowded trains.
By crowded I mean everyone is reasonably comfortable with space enough to view their Korean drama on their phones. That’s our definition of crowded. We can’t compare with economies like Japan where crowded trains have a different meaning altogether.
Someone commented once saying, “if you can see the bus coming in India, it is probably not very crowded.” It might sound like a joke but the reality of crowded public transportation hasn’t arrived home for us.
Of course that’s no excuse for our transport operators to take us for granted.
Train Strategy (Musing)
There is a strategy unbeknownst to mankind, but only woman-kind or perhaps it is privy to a kind of woman to notice these things.
I am glad that I married such a kind of woman. She has the ability to make me look good without me trying too hard. For that matter I usually don’t try to impress. She takes care of all my needs. All I need is to take care of her.
So we got on the train today and she immediately assessed the situation and said..
She: “stand here.”
I usually would challenge or query any decision but my lightning quick mind instructed me to implicitly trust and obey. I immediately took her cue and shifted an inch nearer to the macik that sat in an edgy sort of way (sat on the edge of her seat).
True enough the seat became available not only for my wife, but for me as well as we both were strategically positioned and ready to take action and take the opportunity.
This is also true with life and the decisions that we make. If you have a dream or aspiration (I know this is going off tangent from my train muse), not only is it important to keep dreaming, but it is equally important to open your eyes, important to position yourself, and when the opportunity comes, albeit a small window of opportunity, to take action and take it without hesitation.
Sometimes it helps if you have a discerning partner to help you leverage your positioning. But most times if you keep yourself prepared there are always opportunities for you to take action on.
Stand ready on the foundation you have built yesterday, and reach out to tomorrow with your feet firmly grounded in today.
David Crowder – How He Loves (Music Video)
Chris Tomlin, David Crowder & the Passion Worship Band came by to church today and led worship. Awesome worship. But what was most awesome for me was this heavily bearded guy that was playing the guitar who sang the next song, and honestly, that song rocked. I have no idea who David Crowder was, but I think he truly has a heart of worship.
The lyrics of the song How He Loves just resonates with me. I hope you enjoy the song as much as I did.
Balik Kampung – Ground Up Initiative
One of the last surviving eco-icons in Singapore. The ground up initiative (pun intended) have been operating in the Bottle Tree Park for the last 5 years and counting. Hopefully they will be given a new lease of life and perhaps go on for another 5 years or even longer.
Today is technically their last day of operation. And perhaps after today, their doors might be closed forever and their voice for environmental consciousness for Singapore might also be forever muted as well.
It all depends on the SLA and hopefully this initiative can continue to engage unique groups from near and far and make this their own Kampung. In a sense, Balik Kampung is a public programme to bring the quintessential village lifestyle of sustainable living back to modern metropolis conditioned Singapore.
Their programme offers a semblance, albeit naive, perspective on the importance of eco-consciousness and the protection of the environment that we so depend upon. The public are encouraged to create and craft their own work spaces. Since those early days of putting heart and minds together, they have managed to come out with relevant products like the iBam iPhone speaker (Google it) and therein continued to sustain their project.
Their dream? An eco kampung campus. A university of eco learning for students wanting to expand their horizons without leaving Singapore. It’s right here in our own backyard.
Display piece #cbo?
The Battlestar Galactica Ride – still close as at to date 27 March 2014.
Not that I am complaining or anything like that. For the record, I have motion sickness.
But for a structure so big that barely has much, if any, airtime, it seems like it is just waiting for the paintwork to tarnish or the parts to rust.
I am sure everyone including those who have motion sickness or other inconveniences would love to stand at the bottom of the structure and wow in awe or shiver or tremble. But too bad there is none of that.
In fact, I heard someone said that some tourists said that it is part of a display set.
Anyhoo. I hope they will get it up and running soon.
Just bumped into one of the most inspiring trainers I know – Thaddeus Lawrence. The man’s an awesome motivational speaker and very inspirational.
I remember taking one of his modules on motivation once (yes i needed motivation) and he spoke with such clarity yet without referring too much to the slides. Only taking glances to reference where he was at.
Content-wise it is the same as anybody else’s slides but the delivery of that content was crisp, sharp and superbly enhanced through his words chosen.
I thought then that every speaker should be as good as Thaddeus.
He engaged and challenged mindsets and at some moments he showed that while he was superman, he was human and vulnerable. The amazing thing was he did all this through the medium of voice and intangible imagination.
One thing he said and I remembered, he said that he was going to run the four deserts of the world. That to me was one of the most awesome call to action of any speaker.
For more information on Thaddeus, you can check out his business.
I guess this is a subject of much national debate for many years now. Perhaps the term family planning might conjure imagery of a bygone era where young couples were cajoled into accepting the notion that two was indeed enough.
Perhaps at that time and place, it was indeed enough but social engineering against the course of human behavior might have some repercussions. Are we seeing those effects today? Maybe. Is there a work around to the declining birthrate?
That answer is not quickly found I suspect. Thus our continued quest for answers through many platforms of questions and conversations.
So are we now on a subtle campaign for more babies?
It seems to be so. Just the other day I was at MBS (Google it) with the family and there was a night water display with faint images painted across a spraying fountain and flashing lights.
I was just admiring the sounds and display with baby when the initial images of little toddlers playing and laughing started the show.
Incidentally there was an AngMoLang (Google it) and his Asian looking female friend having a somewhat interesting conversation.
AngMoLang: “ah.. you see this water display? The babies, children.. ?”
Asian Friend: “yes.. ?”
AngMoLang: “you see, the national birthrate is on the decline so the government is putting up all these subtle messaging to help increase the birthrate and get people interested in family planning all over again.”
Asian Friend: “wow..”
Clearly the social engineering of the day is working. Even the AngMoLang knows there is a problem. I am not so sure if there was that much subtle messaging in the water display though. Or perhaps he was trying to suggest something to his unsuspecting female friend.
Whichever the case, perception is reality.
Just got a haircut at Audrey’s workplace, Glitz Hairworkz at Triple One Somerset. She’s good!
And she can do the amazing scalp massage that reminds me of those old Indian Barbers when I was younger but mixed with a modern haircut.
She says “tell your friends your aunty cut for you one!”
Well, the truth is she is not my aunty, but my church friend. Amazing talent. My wife likes it, so I guess I will go there again.
Update: 27 December 2017
Audrey is now cutting hair at NUS for an even cheaper and out of this world rate! But NUS is admittedly too ulu for me.
There is nothing more satisfying than the ability to be random. That being said and done, of course it takes certain genius and much effort to be consistently random. Plus, you would need to have the all sensitive element of time as well. That is well and truly challenging.