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Sunday, December 27, 2020

Tang Yuan

You probably have seen photos of bowls of colorful rice balls (tang yuan) on social media and especially on December 21st/22nd every year when  the Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese the world over celebrate the Dongzhi festival. 


Tang yuan is a Chinese dessert that consists of sticky rice balls in a pandan and ginger infused syrup.

Tang yuan means "soup ball".

The dessert is traditionally enjoyed during Dongzhi, the Lantern Festival, at weddings and essentially any family reunion dinners.

These days, you can have tang yuan any time you want.  I always have a packet of those store-bought ones in my freezer.

But half the fun of eating tang yuan is in the rolling of those colorful balls! And especially back then  for boomer kids like us when play dough wasn't around!

Tastewise, I personally don't find the starchy and chewy balls amazing but I like eating them because they always evoke fond memories of my childhood with every bite.

Even as I'm writing this, I can almost smell the aroma of pandan and ginger wafting from the pot of bubbling syrup in my late grandma's kitchen where we all gathered to make tang yuan.

While Grandma and the aunts worked on the dough, me, my sisters and the cousins would be seated around a huge marble table and tasked with shaping the balls.

Every now and then, one of the aunts would inspect our handiwork to ensure that the tang yuan were roughly of the same size and most importantly, perfectly round as Grandma was a stickler of tradition. The spherical shape of the tang yuan  and the bowls in which they were served symbolized family togetherness and completeness.

Ha! I think my purist grandma would roll in her grave if she were to see the spin people put on tang yuan these days!

Great balls of fires! Square tang yuan??!!  I see Grandma spinning in her grave!
image credit - Pinterest

image credit - crave4sweet

image credit - crave4sweet

image credit - simi.huang

image credit - osemhomecook

Many hands make light work.
image source - The Star

Sunday, December 20, 2020

XLB

My first encounter with an XLB was painful (literally) and embarrassing!


It  happened during a business luncheon with my boss and a couple of clients.

Back then, these soup dumplings had just recently debuted in Malaysia and I was totally uninitiated.

Long story short, I ended up with a scalded mouth, a wet chin and blouse and guffawing co-workers!  

I had no idea there was piping hot soup inside the dumpling!

Now that I've wised up after that mortifying experience, here's a 101 on soup dumplings for the clueless!

First, a little fun trivia!

So, what are XLBs?

Xiao Long Bao (XLB) aka soup dumplings are tiny, delicate, pleated pouches that encase a pork filling and a rich, savoury broth.

Xiao Long Bao literally translates as "little basket buns", so named after the bamboo baskets in which they are steamed.

How to get an XLB from the bamboo steamer basket and into your mouth

Place your Chinese soup spoon close to the dumpling and gently lift it up from the steamer onto your spoon. Haha! The first time I tried to pick one up with my chopsticks, I inadvertently punctured the skin and the leaking dumpling conspicuously left a wet trail on the red table cloth all the way from the center of the table to my plate!

 I didn't know you had to use a spoon!

Once the dumpling is safe in your spoon, resist the temptation to pop it into your mouth immediately lest you suffer first-degree burns from the blistering soup. 

Nibble the top of the dumpling to let some steam out. Give it a moment to cool and slowly slurp out the soup.  Once this "dangerous" step is over, you can now devour the rest of the dumpling any way you please!

I like my XLB plain but you could gingerly (don't mind the pun) dunk it in the dipping sauce of vinegar and julienned ginger while waiting for your dumpling to cool.

A video to share.

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

My son took these photos at a mall where his client's office is located. 



I am glad that our local malls are keeping the Christmas spirit alive despite the  lack of shoppers and many a shuttered store.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Buffet, anyone?

I've just had an amazing pasta meal cooked by a 5-star hotel chef and at a very affordable price in the safety and comfort of my own dining room.

 I am doing my bit in keeping local businesses alive as best as I can. 

Amid these crazy times, people are avoiding buffets like the plague (pardon the pun) and hotels are the hardest hit as the pandemic drags on.

Swanky hotels with extravagant all-you-can-eat buffets now seem like petri dishes than a nice place to dine in.

Think communal salad tongs!  Shudder!

Pre-Covid-19, I would drool at the mere thought of the rainbow swirl of desserts, pastas, curries, satay...

In an effort to keep their staff, a local award-winning 5-star hotel has taken the initiative to repurpose their buffet cooking stations into take-away counters, offering meals at modest prices.

Now, with all the trappings of a luxury hotel gone, the restaurant looks more like a canteen.





Pre-Covid-19


Their seafood bar was to die for

Notice the sad chocolate fountain

In its glory days

Do you think hotel buffets may be a thing of the past post covid-19?

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Bamboozled!?

A friend has been raving about an artisan milk teahouse that has opened in her neck of the woods for some time.

Curious, I decided to give the high-end tea a try and ordered via a food delivery service.

The milk tea was delivered in this beautiful paper bag...


and in a tall, elegant, 9 inch cup. 

It cost me almost twice the price I would pay for my regular bubble tea but I thought it was well worth the money, judging by the height of the cup.

I had the White Peach Oolong Milk Tea and it really was amazing!

Funny, but when I savoured the last drop, it didn't feel like there was a lot of tea in such a tall cup.

My curiosity piqued, I tore up the back of the cup and here's what was revealed!

Haha! This explains the very short thin straw that came with it!

So was I duped?

Not really. I was told that when the milk tea shop first opened, they launched their "Tear Cup" campaign where mystery gifts like discount vouchers, lipsticks, mini bottles of hand sanitizers and perfumes, etc were hidden in their signature cups.

A rather clever marketing gimmick, don't you agree?

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Of Squid and Calamari

Your probably know that the rule of thumb for cooking tender squid is to flash fry under 2 minutes or  you would end up with a texture that is tough and rubbery.

Today, I learned something new that is game changing!

I was stir-frying squid when suddenly, I had to answer nature's call!

Dang! I knew I should have gone easy on the hot chili oil in my ramen yesterday!

So back to what I was saying ......by the time I returned to my squid, it had been cooking for more than 2 minutes and no surprise, it tasted like rubber band!

What a waste of good squid!

Surely, there must be a way of salvaging the lunch blunder?

Upon googling, I learned that the secret to cooking tender squid is either to cook it under 2 mins or at least 45 minutes! Anything in between turns it tough and chewy.

I never knew about the second option.

Armed with the new knowledge, I dumped the lunch mishap into my claypot, added coconut milk and curry powder and braised it for 45 minutes.

The result?

Fork-tender squid in a rich and flavorsome curry!

I learned that slow cooking breaks down the squid's collagen so you're left with a soft texture and a stew that's infused with a robust, briny flavour.

From lunch mishap to winner dinner

Interestingly, while I was googling for an answer to my squid conundrum, I also discovered that squid and calamari are not the same! 

image credit - http://www.ralphobenauf.com/blog/?p=427

I used to think that calamari was the Italian name for squid!  Although they are both cephalopods, squid and calamari are two different species. They also differ in price — the more tender calamari costs more than its tougher cousin.

An easy way to distinguish them is by the fins. On a squid, the fins form an arrow shape and these run only for a short distance on the sides of the body. A calamari's fins extend much longer than a squid's, almost all the way down the hood. 

An amazing squid recipe to share.

I am interested to know do you use the fast or slow method when you cook squid?

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Bathing A Newborn

My son Josh was born 2 weeks earlier than his due date.

It was an induced labour as my doctor established that Josh was safer outside my body than inside my womb as I had complications during the pregnancy and because of my history of miscarriages. 

Story of my miracle baby here.

When Josh was delivered, he was no bigger than our family cat! 

He looked so tiny and frail!

And I would burst into tears each time I looked at him!

I had a bad case of post-partum blues and I just couldn't bring myself to bathe my precious baby. 

I was terrified of hurting my little bubbaleh — he looked so fragile!

The hubs would bathe him every morning before he left for his office.

I only started to bathe Josh when I got over my fear and anxiety after the 4th month of his birth.

This video of a Vietnamese soon-to-be grandpa teaching his son and  daughter-in-law how to bathe a newborn made me smile!

Haha! He couldn't have picked a cuter prop!

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Kolam 2020

Around this time for the past few years, I would be hopping from mall to mall to photograph kolams for the upcoming Deepawali/Diwali festival.

This year, Covid-19 has stolen the fun from me.

Here, you might instead enjoy these photos I snagged from a local newspaper!

Kolam 2020

image credit - S.S Kanesan, Art Chen & Sia Hong Kiau


You can see photos of kolams I've captured over the years here - 2019, 2018, 2014.

Wishing all my Hindu pallies a very Happy *Deepavali in advance!

For those who are new to my blog, below is an excerpt from a previous post explaining what Deepavali/Diwali and kolam/rangoli are.

* Deepavali/Diwali also known as the Festival of Lights is celebrated by the Hindu Community to symbolize the triumph of good over evil; the victory of light over dark.

The entrances to Hindu homes are decorated with fresh mango leaves and kolams. It is believed that Lakshmi, The Goddess of Wealth, will only enter a home that is adorned with a *kolam. 

* Kolam is an ancient Indian art of drawing using colored rice grains or powdered rice to form symmetrical geometric patterns on the floor. The Hindus believe that a kolam at the entrance of a house will usher prosperity and harmony to the home. It is also believed that a kolam wards off evil spirits and diseases.

Another purpose of the kolam is to invite birds and small insects like ants to a home to symbolize man’s co-existence with and consideration for other living things.

Traditionally, the ritual is performed daily by the women of a household early in the morning.

Fun Kolam Facts 

1. The lines in a kolam must be continuous and unbroken so that evil cannot enter the house via the gaps.

2. The patterns are traditionally passed on from mothers to their daughters.

3. Kolam in the Tamil language means form and beauty.

4. As the kolam erases during the course of the day by birds and insects feeding on the rice, people's foot steps and the natural elements, a new kolam is drawn again the next morning, thus repeating the cycle. It imparts the idea that life is renewed daily.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Indy

This is Indy, one of the dogs my son bathed at the animal shelter he volunteered at.

She is now in a forever home.



Sunday, October 25, 2020

Suicide

Yesterday, my sister from Singapore texted me and shared the tragic news that the daughter of a mutual friend of ours had taken her own life.

She was 23.

My sister and I were both shaken by the heartbreaking news.

My first thought was for the mom of the deceased.

I wept for her. 

No mother should ever have to go through this. 

Suicide never really steals the life of just one person and no parent should ever bury their child.

No one suspected our friend's daughter was struggling with depression or maybe we just didn't recognize the signs.

She always seemed so chirpy and full of zest for life.

We are still grappling with the news of her sudden demise.

I feel compelled to share this video my sister sent and hope to bring awareness to those in need.

WARNING
This video contains themes some viewers may find distressing

Doreen and Elaine helped to set up the PleaseStay movement in Singapore, addressing youth mental health and suicide.  

If you ever find yourself in a dark place in your life, PLEASE let that one spark of light in.

Hold on to it.

Please, please, I beg of you, please STAY!

Talk to someone, anyone — a family member, a friend, your parish priest, counsellor or even a perfect stranger.

No matter how hopeless the situation, always remember where there is life, there is hope.

If you or someone you know have been affected by mental heath issues , please visit samaritans.org or befrienders,org

There is always someone there for anyone who needs someone.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Here We Go Again!

 Noooooooo! 

Dang!

Unfortunately, we find ourselves at the start of another partial lockdown again due to a sudden resurgence of Covid-19 cases in my country. 

Our government enforced the Targeted Enhanced Movement Control Order (TEMCO) in high-risk areas and my suburb is one of the hot spots.


This really sucks! 

When will this nightmare ever end?

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Phat Phong, Kaddu, Labu

The monsoon season has started and the cooler temps almost feel like fall over here in my corner of the world.

And fall screams PUMPKINS to me!

There's nothing like a hot and spicy pumpkin curry to warm hungry tummies on a cold day.

Here are my favourite pumpkin curry recipes to share.

ENJOY!


THAI STYLE

Gaeng Paed Phat Phong  (Red Curry Pumpkin)



INDIAN STYLE

Kaddu Ki Sabji (Pumpkin Masala)


MALAY STYLE

Masak Kuning Bayam & Labu (Spinach and Pumpkin Yellow Curry)



Happy fall y’all !

Sunday, October 4, 2020

A Dinner Treat

My younger son Rodney treated the hubs and me to dinner to celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary.

Rodney is in his final semester of university and the money came from the voice-over gigs he has been doing part time. 

We are so proud of this young man that we have raised and truly appreciate his sweet and thoughtful gesture.









 

Thank you, son!

Ah, the rollercoaster ride that is parenting!

During those teen years, he and his elder brother were a constant challenge to my patience and a full-on attack on my sanity!

 YES, parenting is the toughest and most rewarding job you'll ever have.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Balloon Girl

 This mural grabbed my attention when I was ambling around the Straits Quay promenade. 

I thought the artist's style was vaguely familiar. 

Turned out, I was right. The artist is Lithuanian Ernest Zacharevic of international fame.

I find the artist's signature style of involving real props in his street art fascinating.



From the archives (2013)

More photos here.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

How to order Kopi 101

Me : Kopi-O *satu, Kopi-Ping satu, Kopi-Cham satu, Kopi-Si satu.

Waiter: Okay, boss!

 *satu in Malay means one.
A typical kopitiam 


Yep, that was coffee lingo and I had just ordered black coffee for myself, iced coffee with condensed milk for hubby, coffee+tea for Josh and coffee with evaporated milk for Rodney in a Malaysian kopitiam (coffee shop).

Suffixes to the word 'Kopi' are codes to indicate to the waiter how you like your coffee.

O = black with sugar

Si = with sugar and evaporated milk

Cham = with tea  Yes, coffee mixed with tea for those who can't make up their mind and want both!

Ping  = with ice

Kosong = without sugar

Kaw = extra strong

These codes can be interchangeably used for 'Teh' (tea in  Malay). 

So if you want a cup of black coffee with ice, you would say Kopi-O-Ping!

And if you don't want sugar in it, say  Kopi-O-Ping-Kosong!


Now you can order your coffee or tea like a boss in a local kopitiam!



Interestingly, kopi or tea without ice is always served in this standard ceramic cup and saucer set with the traditional Chinese green floral design in all old-school kopitiams wherever you are in Malaysia.