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Sunday, February 28, 2016

For Dog Lovers - Cry your eyes out!

If you suffer from Dry Eye Syndrome like me, watch this heart wrenching Thai commercial that has gone viral and get those tears rolling down your cheeks.

It's a sad, sad story about the relationship between a girl and her canine friend.

You don’t find the purpose of this tear jerker until its final seconds. At the end of the video, you will see the words, "One of the students receiving scholarships under Krungthai University Graduates Project" flash underneath a photo of the vet at college.  The bank is reaffirming its commitment to helping Thai children reach their educational goals.

That dog should get an Oscar!

This week's cookies

Friday, February 19, 2016

You say shrimp, I say prawn!

So who's correct? Besides knowing they are yummy edible 10-legged critters that end up in your curries and salad, do you know the difference between a prawn and a shrimp? C'mon, 'fess up!
 Like most Malaysians, I had always thought that shrimps were small prawns until I shared a prawn curry recipe in a previous post and noticed the confusion when my American pallies referred to them as shrimps in their comments. I had specifically listed 'large prawns' as the main ingredient!  I googled for an explanation.Turned out I wasn't exactly wrong 'cos culinarily, many people distinguish between shrimps and prawns on the basis of size. Prawns are considered to be larger, while shrimps are smaller.  But then again, there are those who argue that prawns can be small and shrimps can be big. Confused? Hmm...maybe these decapods are just interchangeably used depending on which part of the world you live? Wrong again!  Believe it or not, there is in fact, a very BIG difference between the two!
Image credit - Ya Da Chef
So what makes a shrimp a prawn or vice versa? The difference is in their gill structure.
Prawns and shrimps are both decapods and crustaceans, and all that this means is they both have exoskeletons and ten legs. Once cooked and on a plate they are nearly impossible to discern because their main difference is the construction of their gills (or a part usually removed in the preparation and cooking process). They are classified in suborders based on gill structure. The prawn’s is branching (named dendrobranchia), but is lamellar (flat or plate like, pleocyemata) in shrimp. Also, prawns usually have claws on three pairs of their legs, while shrimp only have claws on two; and finally unlike almost all other decapods, prawns do not brood their eggs on the pleopods (legs along their tails) but release the eggs into the water after fertilization.

Source -

Remember the OCD Jacques (Finding Nemo)? He is a Pacific cleaner shrimp.
Australians, however, invariably use the word prawn rather than shrimp.
If you say "put another shrimp on the barbie," Aussies will just roll their eyes because they NEVER say that!  No Aussie except Paul Hogan has ever said it! It all  started back in the '80s by Paul Hogan as part of an American advertising campaign for Australian travel. Australians say "prawns." Apparently Hogan changed the phrase to "shrimp" because the commercial was commissioned for broadcast in the United States and the change was made to limit audience confusion.

A shrimp/prawn recipe to share.....

Love the subtle, lemony taste (from the lemongrass) of the sauce that's bursting with zing!

1 pound prawns, shelled (leave tails intact) and deveined
2 stalks lemongrass (chopped)
1 chili,chopped
1 green chili, chopped (optional)
3 pips garlic, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon chili sauce
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar or to taste
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
cooking oil

1. Scald prawns in hot oil until the prawns turn opaque. Do not overcook. Remove the prawns and keep aside leaving about 1 tablespoon of oil in pan.
2. Saute chopped shallots and garlic until fragant. Add the chopped chilies and lemongrass and stir-fry for another minute.
3. Add water, ketchup, chilli sauce, fish sauce and sugar and bring to a boil.
4. Lower heat and let the sauce simmer for another minute.
5. Turn off heat and mix in the scalded prawns.
6. Serve with rice

This week's cookies

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Crane Stories

Crane Cookies for Chinese New Year
Cranes are an auspicious motif in Chinese arts and favoured as decorations during the Chinese New Year. Throughout Asia, the crane is revered as it is symbolic of peace, health, prosperity and mythical wisdom. Referred to as "bird of happiness" by the Japanese and "heavenly bird" by the Chinese, the crane stands for good fortune and longevity because of its fabled life span of a thousand years. The powerful wings of the crane were believed to be able to convey souls up to paradise and to elevate people to higher levels of spiritual enlightenment.

An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane. Some stories believe you are granted eternal good luck, instead of just one wish, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury. This makes them popular gifts for special friends and family.

Many enchanting legends and stories that have survived generations have been bestowed upon our feathered friends. When the boys were little, I would regale them with stories of the mystical birds while they folded origami cranes out of ang pows (red envelopes) that I would hang on my pussy willow stalks as decorations for the Chinese New Year.

Sharing two of our favourite crane stories.

TSURU NO ONGAESHI (Crane Returns A Favour)

A long, long time ago, there lived a poor woodcutter and his wife.  One day, the woodcutter found a crane caught in a hunter's trap. It was snowing heavily and the woodcutter felt sorry for the helpless creature. He freed the bird and it flew off in a great hurry. That very same night, a beautiful girl dressed in white appeared at the old couple's doorstep in the raging snow storm. The young girl begged them to shelter her for the night as she was lost while on her way to visit some relatives. The childless couple warmly welcomed the stranger into their humble home. The snow had not quite stopped the next day, and the day after that, and the girl remained in the house of the elderly couple.  She took great care of them and her gentle and kind ways endeared her to the old man and his wife. The girl then asked if she could stay and live with them as their daughter  They were delighted and consented without hesitation.

One day, the lovely girl requested for a loom to be set up in her room so she could help with the household income. But her request came with a condition and she said,“When I am weaving in the room, none of you can come to look at me working." She then hid in the room, and wove for three days and nights without a break. Finally, she emerged from her room and in her hand she held the most beautiful cloth the couple had ever seen. The old couple sold the cloth for a fair price. The girl continued to churn out cloths that were so exquisite, they became the talk of the town. People from far and near came to buy her cloths. Soon the couple became very rich.

The old couple persevered in keeping their promise but as the days went by, they noticed that their daughter was getting frailer by the day. Overcome with curiosity, the old lady sneaked into her room to peek. Where there should have been a girl was a crane. The crane plucked its own feathers to weave between the threads to produce a glittering cloth. Large portions of the wing had already been plucked out, leaving the crane in a pitiful state. In front of the shocked elderly couple, the daughter who finished weaving approached them, confessing that she was the crane that was saved. She had intended to remain their daughter, but now that they had seen her true form, she had to leave.  Suddenly, a flock of a thousand cranes appeared,  flying from the western sky. Carrying the  naked crane, the great flock flew towards the setting sun as the woodcutter and his wife sorrowfully watched,shedding tears of regret.


The origami crane has become an international symbol of peace, a Peace Crane, through the sad but inspiring story of a young Japanese girl named Sadako Sasaki

Born in 1943 in Hiroshima, Japan, Sadako was two years old when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, on 6th August 1945. Growing up, Sadako appeared healthy but at the age of 12, she was diagnosed with leukemia. While in the hospital, a friend showed her colourful paper cranes and told her an old Japanese legend, which said that anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes would be granted a wish. In the hope that she would recover soon, Sadako began making origami cranes with
the goal of making one thousand as inspired by the senbazuru legend. Sadly, she could only make about 600 cranes before she passed on after an eight-month battle with the disease.

After her death, Sadako's friends and schoolmates published a collection of letters in order to raise funds to build a memorial to her and all of the children who had died from the effects of the atomic bomb. In 1958, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. At the foot of the statue is a plaque that reads:

"This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world."

A statue of Sadako holding a golden crane
“I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world.”
(Sadako Sasaki)

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Euphemisms and Idioms

Your squid just got fried!.

Conversing entirely in Cantonese is a struggle for me with my limited vocabulary of the Chinese language. And having a dialogue with my mom-in-law is the biggest challenge as she does not speak English.

Me: How's Grand Aunt?

Mom-in-law : Gone to sell salted eggs.

Me: I didn't know she was in the salted egg business.

My mom-in-law burst into laughter, shaking her head at me. OOPS! Caught again! Dang those euphemisms! The Chinese language is full of them.

''Sell salted eggs" is the Cantonese euphemism for croaked, bite the dust, six feet under, kicked the bucket or pushing up daisies. You get the picture.

I didn't know what a camel-toe and the phrase "Aunt Flo is in town" were until I started blogging!

Here's a list for the verbally -challenged

1. Bat in the cave
Booger stuck in the nose

2. Step on a frog
To pass gas loudly

3. I’ve got the flags out
Having your period (Australia)

4.Burp the baby
Male masturbation

5. Up the duff
Unplanned pregnancy ( UK and Australia)

6. Pinch a loaf

7. Driving the porcelain bus
Puking (Australia)

9. Fried squid (Chinese)
Getting fired

Funnily, the Malays seem to have something against the chicken as you can see from the following idioms. Poor bird! Ayam is chicken in Malay.
1. Chicken scratch ( cakar ayam)
Bad handwriting

2. As warm as chicken poop ( hangat-hangat tahi ayam)
A short-lived interest (chicken poop cools as soon as it reaches the ground)

3. Mother hen (ibu ayam)

4. Like a chicken pooping chalk (seperti ayam berak kapur)
Looking pale when one is unwell.

And what's with the Yiddish and onions!!

1. He should grow like an onion with his head in the ground
Go take a hike

2. Onions should grow from your navel
An insult

3. Onion tears
Crocodile tears

Do you have an interesting idiom/euphemism to share?
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

This week's cookies

Friday, February 12, 2016

Yu Shang 2016

I am back from my Chinese New Year break, pallies! Fatter and poorer though - fatter from all that feasting and poorer because of the Ang Pow distribution! My boys say they raked in more of the red packets this year than last year! And today is only the 7th day of the Chinese Lunar Year. The festivities last for 15 days!

For me, the best part of the Chinese New Year is the reunion dinner, which is kinda like the Thanksgiving Dinner in the west but instead of turkey, we have dishes that are symbolic and homophonous with auspiciousness.

We always start off with "Yee Sang" as the first course. The fun begins with the communal tossing of the ingredients into the air with chopsticks while wishes are expressed out loud to mark the start of a prosperous new year and it's customary that the higher you toss, the greater your fortunes! Invariably, the tossing ends in raucous laughter and food all over the table!
Each ingredient has an auspicious meaning as explained in the video below.

Getting ready with our chopsticks...
The tossing begins! Toss high to achieve great heights!

An example of an auspicious and symbolic Chinese New Year dish -  lychee for close family ties and duck for fertility. Several members of our clan have just gotten married! This should explain the increase in Ang Pows. According to Chinese tradition, Ang Pows are generally given by married couples to single people.
At the centre is a sugar sculpture of Shou, one of the three wise men, Fu, Lu and Shou, used in Chinese culture to denote the three attributes of the ultimate good life. Fu for prosperity, Lu for ambition/career and Shou for longevity. According to legend, Shou was carried in his mother's womb for ten years before he was born, and already an old man when delivered. He is recognized by his high, domed forehead and the peach which he carries as a symbol of immortality. He is usually depicted as smiling and friendly, and may sometimes be carrying a gourd filled with the elixir of life.
Fu, Lu, Shou

A video to explain how "Yu Sheng" (Yee Sang in Cantonese) is eaten.

Cookies I made for Valentine's Day

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