Thursday, 29 December 2011

End of year musings, and food, mostly food

I thought I was 30. But no, I'm already 31, and only a few days shy of 32.

I realise that time doesn't care about anyone, much less me. I could be very busy like around 2008, and time flies. I could have done nothing like this year, and time flies too.

原来我们是如此渺小、如此微不足道。

The only significance of what I've done can only be felt by those close to me. And I suppose that's enough - enough for me to feel happy with my n decades of life despite the indifferent passage of time...

Yada yada... So the above is the obligatory reflections for 2011.. Which I've kind of done this whole year through mf-ism right? :) I'm in a happy mood so, moving on!

Here's a recap of recent activities.. All about food :)

We had a potluck dinner on Christmas eve - a gathering of nine from five different countries!



Our dinner, sans soup and cake :) That's my baked pasta right there between the bread!



Now going about a week back.. I was craving for some Singaporean noodles right.. But we didn't have kway teow and couldn't use the Prime Taste char kway teow pack. So I made my version of mee goreng! Using egg noodles :)



Then one day, Sito was out with a friend so I had an idea to make okonomiyaki! The original recipe is a lot more complicated but well, as the name suggests, it's anything I like right? :p (Btw, this was taken on the frying pan - not fully cooked yet!)



And after a trip to the Korean supermarket, I realised that my freezer couldn't take everything... So I must get rid of a packet of noodles.. Solution? Mee rubus :) Using Prima Taste la.. And red chillis instead of green chillis :p



And on Tuesday, we decided to go to Chinatown for dim sum - it wasn't fantastic, but it was something familiar.. But the best part of the trip was getting our hands on a pack of chee cheong fun! The next day, we steamed the rolls, cut them up and tossed them in some oil, soy sauce and hoisin sauce! Sito's idea :) And we conveniently have a huge bottle of sesame seeds and frozen spring onions :) It was VERY good :)



And yesterday, I decided that I was getting dehydrated (more on that later) and so I must have porridge. But Sito doesn't like porridge so I call it "the humour-mf congee" :p It was good ok!



And tonight, we just had char kway teow :) Besides the chee cheong fun, we also found kway teow :) But it got mashed up pretty bad in the dish :p We even bought 220g of bean sprouts on the way home this afternoon - for US$1.50!!



Not sure what we're doing for new year. Maybe just nua at home. Maybe we'll hang out with friends. See how. I'm all for nua-ing though hoho! Anyway, I'm in the mood to cook so I'll probably be back with more food pictures :)

Have a good start to 2012 everyone! :)

Thursday, 22 December 2011

mf's teh challenge

I lived right above a coffee shop for more than 20 years. Yet it wasn't until 2006 that I learnt about the different ways to order coffee and tea at a coffee shop. See this post and item 3 at the end of this post.

In the past two or three weeks, I was thinking about milk tea. Here are my past attempts before today..

Teh
Steep a Lipton tea bag in just-boiled water. Add sugar and milk.
Verdict: 3/10 = fail!

Teh halia 1
Boil grated ginger in a cup of water for 10 min. Steep a Lipton tea bag in the ginger water. Add sugar and milk.
Verdict: 1/10 = fail!

Teh halia 1
Steep a Lipton tea bag in just-boiled water. Add milk and instant ginger and honey mix.
Verdict: 4/10 = still fail!

I think it's because those teh's I made were all angmoh teh - I used breakfast milk instead of condensed milk! I need to get condensed milk!!

So fast forward to today... This afternoon, a few of us went to the Korean supermarket to buy food for the party this Saturday. Besides groceries, I also bought some Korean fried chicken and decided to make nasi lemak for dinner.

(Wait, I'll get to the teh..)

Very yummy - garlic chicken and sweet and spicy chicken! $18.77 for 14 pieces!



And the resulting dish :) Got little charred bits in the rice :) And got curry vege leh! Made using tikka masala paste though, haha! And wonbok instead of cabbage :p



So, it occurred to me that I should have some teh to go with the nasi lemak! *brilliant*

But! I have also brilliantly forgot to buy condensed milk!! Argh!! So I googled and found ways to make condensed milk! :) But! Most recipes require milk powder which I don't have. The one recipe that uses breakfast milk takes too long to boil it down.

But :) I also realised something - if condensed milk can be made from boiling down milk, and we add that back to a cup of teh, then I could just steep tea in milk la! *BRILLIANT!*

So I poured a cup of milk into a pot and when it got hot, I dumped the Lipton tea bag inside. I thought to steep it longer since I couldn't and shouldn't bring the milk to a rolling boil. And here's the wonderful result :)



Verdict: 8/10 = pass!! :)

Well, it's more 茶奶 than 奶茶 :p But after a while, the colour got darker and the taste got stronger. Then I realised that it wasn't teh. No, it was teh-C! :)

Ok, to be honest, I've not had teh-C at a coffee shop so I don't know if it tastes exactly like teh-C but I think it's like the Lipton tea with evaporated milk and sugar that Mother used to make every time we had fried rice! (And sidetrack - we also had fried rice and tea on National Day cos we wanted to watch the parade and the usual dinner would take too much time to prepare and clean up!)

So now I've found a teh I can make here. Will experiment and see if I can make teh halia :) But I think I'll use 2/3 milk and 1/3 water the next time - it was such a filling drink!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

I don't stress over gifts

I'm feeling slightly guilty about lying in bed on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when I'm feeling well and alive. So I decided to move away from googling Sg food to reading WSJ. And an article caught my attention - Is it irrational to give holiday gifts?

Think I wrote about giving gifts before. Anyway with Christmas coming up soon, I'm seeing a lot of sales in town and online, people carrying bags of presents, and hearing of people getting stressed over holiday gifting.

This last part, I really don't understand. Stressed over buying presents? Should giving be a joy?? This really defies the purpose of gifting. I never know what to buy so I shan't even begin to think about buying presents! Naturally I don't expect presents too.

But I must say sometimes I feel guilty for not bothering with presents. Or even cards. Like today we got a really lovely card from our friends and neighbours. It's so sweet of them! I sent them a note on Facebook to thank them and set up a date for tea.

Another thing in the mail was a parcel containing my double order of Sophie the Giraffe! (And a computer game for Sito..) I really like this baby toy and apparently babies like it too so I got them for two friends who will probably have their baby showers soon. I had earlier bought two for two other friends. I guess this is partly practical and partly paternalistic gifting? It's quite expensive in Sg so I think I'll buy more to bring back to Sg for friends who give birth in the next two years hoho! Oh, and standby one for ourselves!

Friday, 16 December 2011

I'm very free

I'm quite sick of seeing foreign newspapers calling Singapore a "tightly controlled city state".

All these years of living in Sg, I've only felt "tightly controlled" by Mother when I was younger. By country? No! I'm free to do whatever I want!

(Please don't give me nonsense like we cannot have protests or strikes etc. I appreciate a peaceful life.)

There is a concept in Montessori education - freedom within limits. Simply put, a child is free to do anything as long as he's not hurting/disrespecting/disturbing etc himself or others. It's believed that left on his own among good people and a conducive environment, a child will naturally be constructive and happy to learn and help others etc. If there's a disturbance in his environment, he can also (learn to) help himself and others.

Unfortunately, all I can see in our society, from online at least, is that people only know how to complain and point fingers instead of giving constructive feedback.

Anyway, this stems from reading various reports on the north-south line MRT breakdown on Thursday. Public transport is close to my heart cos I don't drive. It's such a terrible incident, exposing plenty of shortcomings in the system - contingency planning, communications and even basic safety. Everyone was scolding the authorities and calling for the resignation of the top guy. Woman in this case.

But the most important thing is to find out the cause and fix things to prevent future incidents instead of assigning blame! I always find it ridiculous for the top guy to quit upon disasters because hey, shouldn't he take responsibility and fix things? Letting him quit is like relieving him of the difficult job and throwing the job to the next poor guy! Sometimes, 解铃还需系铃人! Fix it, then you may quit, because Singaporeans aren't a very forgiving people.

Actually I like taking trains compared to buses, not just in Sg but everywhere, especially in unfamiliar places because train stations are usually marked so I know exactly where to alight. But it's so hard to understand what the driver is talking about. It is usually very muffled and has to fight with the din in the train. In fact sometimes at the station when there's some announcement, it also takes some effort to make out what the chap is saying.

One exception is this particular driver on the CTA red line who speaks loud AND clear. While other drivers are muffled, he knows how to speak properly into the mike. And the bonus is that he's always greeting passengers with a cheerful "good evening good evening good evening!" and once, "may the force be with you" at the final stop! For regular reminders like not leaving anything behind, he jazzes things up with examples of things passengers leve behind, like wallet, phone, burgers and children!

Anyway, specifically for the MRT, I think the ground staff are the most important people in emergencies. First of all, they need to be trained to speak properly. No need for all four official languages - just focus on good and clear English. And while they're at it, upgrade the sound system too. Training the ground staff is just one aspect. Sometimes, waiting for the central authority to tell them what's wrong takes too long. Passengers need immediate reassurance so it's really up to the staff to do something but that depends on the amount of autonomy given to them and ultimately individual initiative.

Ok, vented. Going to do some reading while waiting for Sito to return from golf. With my Jamba Juice :)

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The noodles of my childhood..

Oops, more on food...

Well, in the past few days while I was lying on the sofa unable to do much except browsing with the iPad, I have been reading a lot about food. Singapore food in particular. All because I have a copy of The End of Char Kway Teow in my hands.

The author, the blogger at http://ieatishootipost.sg, was in town in October for Sg Buzz and of course Sito and I went to support. My colleague, actually ex-colleague, asked me to pass the book to someone in Chicago but I haven't got his/her contact yet so I ended up reading the book from cover to cover. And that being not enough, I went to the blog too.

It's actually very torturous - can see, can drool, cannot eat!!

Which leaves me only one activity - write about it lor :)

As I went through the pages of the book and the blog, I couldn't help but remember a few things from my childhood. And coincidentally, they are all noodles..

1) Char kway teow

So we went to find Grams every other Sunday right. After the provision shop closed at lunch, we would go back to the flat. And sometimes the adults would give us money to go buy some afternoon snack. And this was no candy or ice cream ok. Our favourite snack was the char kway teow from the coffeeshop!

The uncle's stall was at the edge of the coffeeshop. The bunch of us kids would hang out on the sidewalk in front of his stall while waiting for the char kway teow. He had this large metal sheet in the shape of 凸 in front of his big wok. I couldn't see or remember very well now but I think he used to break his eggs into the noodles and throw the shells towards the middle of the metal sheet!

I still remember that when playing cooking as a kid, I used this tiny chair with a backing as my wok because it resembled the metal sheet haha!

Anyway, the uncle was very nice to us. I think he must have known us from the provision shop. We used to order some four packets, without clams. I remember this because once he asked us, like that how much? And of course I had to geh kiang and answered first..

mf: $6.30!
Uncle: Wrong!

*.*

The char kway teow was soooo good! Each pack was packed very flat in one of those beige wax paper, stacked on top of one another and tied together with red raffia string. I remember holding it too close to my leg and suffer a little burn!

I was still a kid when one day, we found the uncle sitting in the coffeeshop, drinking kopi and not cooking anymore. Cos his son told him to retire. Good for him, not so good for us. And after the coffeeshop underwent renovation or the precinct underwent upgrading, I didn't see him around anymore.

Until today, I still remember his char kway teow - not the exact taste of course, but that it was very very good. Cos of this particular char kway teow, I always have a soft spot for this sinful dish. But I can count on one hand the number of times I had char kway teow in the past 10 years - vain, what to do? Control la!

2) Wantan mee with tiny wantans

When I was very young, in kindergarten or early primary, my paternal grandmother used to buy this wantan mee with tiny wantans when she came to visit. I really liked that! Sticky noodles drenched in tomato sauce in a plastic bag, many mini wantans dancing in the soup in a separate container.

I forgot all about it until one day in my early 20s when I was at a friend's place in the east. We bought some Fei Fei from nearby and the familiar taste whacked me in the face. My grandmother used to stay in that area so maybe that was what I had as a kid!

Haven't had that for some 10 years now. I've been having the Hong Kong style wantan mee or Pontian type in recent years. I just like wantan mee so all these are yummy. And it's easy to make - see! But somehow, I just cannot forget the childhood taste..

3) Fishball noodles

On occasions, we would have lunch at the hawker centre near the AMK library. It must have been after a trip to the library and before we discovered Macs :p

I don't quite remember what it was but it was always mee pok for me and mee kia for the rest. I figure it should be fishball noodles! It was nothing memorable except that that was always a treat cos we didn't get to eat out a lot in those days.

In more recent years, I prefer to have yellow noodles with my fishballs. Somehow it's tastier. Especially with cut chillis!

4) Laksa

Now there was a very good laksa stall at the hawker centre near the market. It was just so good! But later they moved to the other hawker centre near the other market, I think, and I seldom had it again.

When I was in secondary, there was a period of time when I loved to have this laksa yong tau foo at the hawker centre near the library. Must have been after Japanese class or something, cos otherwise I would have had lunch at home.

I still like laksa, but I think I can also count on one hand the number of times I had laksa in the past 10 years... Sinful...

5) Kway chap

Ok, this isn't something I'm craving now. But as a kid, I used to eat a lot of the kway from the kway chap. It wasn't until my mid 20s that I realised that kway chap actually had a lot of ingredients *.* I don't like pork innards but I don't mind having the kway with the soup again :p

6) Maggi mee

Last on the list - maggi mee! We used to have that for lunch quite often. That or yucky macaroni soup. Or worse, fried mee tai mak! Hate that! Anyway, I was just telling Sito that I used to add ketchup to the soup noodles :p Sounds quite gross now but I loved it! Sometimes I added chilli sauce too :p

But I gave up maggi for Myojo after a while. Somehow I prefer Myojo. Later at work, I always had a stock of Nissin cup noodles in my drawer for emergencies. Now we have lots of Sapporo and Nong Shim!

But no more ketchup or chilli sauce in the soup please!

Good day!

I haven’t felt this good for more than a week! And it’s so good that we went out for lunch :)

Sito had a sesame chicken (ABC Chinese food!) lunch special while I had 炸酱面 with what looked like fettucini but wasn’t. His came with 酸辣汤 and I had most of it – yum! We both couldn’t finish so guess what’s for dinner tonight? :)

Just last night I was daydreaming about going to Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao in Holland Village. Seriously, I can’t wait to go back to Singapore!

And yesterday evening, all I could think of was glutinous rice. You know the type sold at hawker centres? White sticky rice with steamed peanuts, mushroom bits, fried shallots, and sometimes Chinese sausage bits. I spent a long time ogling at pictures and googling for recipes, and then just now at Whole Foods, I found no glutinous rice, sighs...

But we got another cantaloupe! I just cut one up earlier this week – my very first whole cantaloupe! Like so sua ku :p – and it was so juicy and sweet! I have four pieces of that left in the fridge. Will have them after posting this. Ok, they’re gone! I hope this second one is as sweet and juicy, if not more so! *greedy*

On another note, I’m quite behind in my blogging. Too many unfinished drafts. Maybe later... In the meantime, check out the super long page on Oxford – did that up a couple of weeks ago but I totally forgot to mention it!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

December

This is usually my favourite month - off-peak at work, relatively quiet office, pretty Xmas lights, festive feelings!

But so far, I've only had one happy day this month - yesterday. It was a really happy afternoon! We walked in the cold for 30 min and chatted about happy things. So happy that I didn't do anything else besides feeling happy for the rest of the day =D (He had to study, bleah!)

Other than yesterday, I'm just ill, especially the weekend. Oh, the weekend was bad! And there was a terrible backache that kept me up almost the entire Saturday night!

I've been having the same lunch since Monday - chicken/pork burrito with hot sauce and vege from Chipotle. I find that it makes me feel better, combined with (forced!) feedings every three hours all the way until I go to bed.

But this evening, I felt sick again, and dozed off on the sofa until Sito came home with dinner. Poor guy, he's been cooking or eating out cos I haven't been able to cook much... And it's exams week!

Ah well, enough complaining, enough venting.. Actually I just wanted to say that we had a very happy afternoon yesterday :) I hope the rest of the month will be happy too!

PS: Give me a white Christmas!!
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