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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.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Snoopy

My younger son Rodney volunteered at an animal shelter recently with a group of his former high school classmates.

Together, they bathed 200 + dogs!

Meet Snoopy, one of the dogs at the shelter.


Isn't he adorable!

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Hungry Ghosts

Oh, oh, it's that time of the year again when the gates of hell are open and  ravenous ghosts are released to wander the earth!

In case you are wondering what the heck I am talking about, you can read about the festival here.

During this period, offerings of candles, joss sticks, food and drinks to fete the wandering spirits are seen on roadsides.

Throughout the entire Ghost Month, several superstitions and beliefs are observed and wandering out after dark (more so when you are alone) is totally taboo, lest you bump into one of  'them' !

Interestingly, I noticed that starving stray dogs do not go near these food offerings in the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival —  they would rather scavenge the trash bins nearby!

You reckon they see something we humans can't see??

Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Writing On The Wall

Patience is certainly a virtue my son, Josh, sadly lacks.

Growing up, Josh had quite a temper and his raging outbursts when things didn't go his way used to cause me great alarm.

I recall a funny (not so funny then) incident that happened when he was little.

Josh was attempting to fly his kite together with his younger brother and cousin when all three kites became entangled.

The boys tried to unravel their strings. While the other two patiently worked on the tangled mess, Josh gave up and threw a hissy fit. He started to shout and stamp about, impatient to get his kite flying again.

We were in my uncle's village and there were chickens running around.

Suddenly, a cockerel that was perching on a fence near Josh started to crow loudly.

"You! Shut up!" Josh yelled angrily at the cockerel!

Several villagers who witnessed the whole incident burst out laughing!

*"Ayam pun kena marah!"  One of the villagers remarked amusedly in Malay.

*Loosely translates as "even the chicken gets scolded"

I was more angry at his bad behavior than amused but looking back, it was pretty hilarious!

You should have seen the look on the cockerel's face!

After the chicken episode, I stuck this wall decal in Josh's room as a daily reminder of his short fuse.
I am happy to say that over the years, he has learnt to tame his temper.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Haw-Hee

I love the puzzled look on my city friends' faces whenever I offer to treat them to a bowl of Haw Hee when they visit my hometown. Donkey is the first thing that comes to their minds!

Nope, no donkey is involved!  Haw Hee is merely the name of a noodle dish though I am not certain why it was so named  probably a translation fail from Chinese to English.  But it does have a nice ring to it, don't you agree?

 I think it is uniquely Malaysian.

So far, save for one coffee shop in my neck of the woods, I have never seen any Haw Hee vendors in other parts of Malaysia besides my hometown.

Haw Hee always brings back fond memories of a certain noodle dish from my childhood in the 60s where I grew up. I can't really recall what exactly it was but it tasted very HawHee-ish!

Folks back then called it the "tok-tok" noodle because the hawker would announce his presence by knocking on a bamboo slab with a stick. Tok, tok, tok...

Interestingly, you could tell the different types of noodles sold by the hawkers by their distinct tok-tok rhythms — wanton noodle, fishball noodle, prawn noodle, fried noodle, etc.

Back in those days, people rarely ate out and itinerant hawkers pedaled tricycle food carts and roved in neighborhoods, usually around dinner time.

BYOB

I still recall the sense of anticipation while my sisters and I waited impatiently at dusk  for the hawker to make his rounds. We would strain our ears to listen for the tok-tok sound. And as soon as he approached our street, we would dash out of the house with our empty bowls, lying in wait for him!

And yes, you were required to bring your own bowl!

To order, you would hand your bowl over to the tok-tok man and state your choice of noodle (glass vermicelli, rice vermicelli, egg noodle, flat-rice noodle, etc)

He would then drop the noodle in a wire-mesh basket and blanch it in a pot of boiling water.

Next, the cooked noodle would be placed into your bowl and topped with a fish dumpling, slices of fishcake  and several types of fishballs. The tok-tok man would snip the larger fishballs into bite-size pieces with a pair of scissors.

Lastly, he would fill up the bowl with steaming fish broth, a sprinkling of scallion slices and a dash of pepper.

And we would gingerly carry our piping hot bowls of tok-tok noodle back into the house!

Not an easy feat for a child, mind you!

And usually, by the time we reached the dining table, much of the broth would have been spilled!

I was ecstatic when I stumbled upon the following video on YouTube!

Nostalgia!


Sunday, August 16, 2020

You Die, I Die

Malaysia imposes a fine of RM1000 for not wearing masks in public.

This notice outside a grocery shop made me smile!

Literal translation from Malay

                                               IF YOU DON'T WEAR

                                                         YOU DIE

                                                            I DIE

                                                EVERYBODY DIE

*Before DIE fined. Gotta pay RM1,000

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Weird Sky

The sky has never quite looked like this before.

It was a  little past 10.00 pm when I took these photos.





Sunday, July 26, 2020

Chow Chow

The hubs and I were passing a parking lot when we spotted this friendly chow chow in a pickup truck.

The owner was nowhere to be seen.
We hopped into a pharmacy nearby to pick up some meds and according to the pharmacist who was attending to us, the dog in the truck is a familiar sight in this part of the neighbourhood.

Apparently, the owner stops by regularly to run an errand while the dog waits patiently in the truck!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Taiwanese Braised Pork

Turns out, many of us were channelizing our inner master chefs during the lockdown and I must say my recipe repertoire has certainly expanded, thanks to the myriad Youtube videos that kept popping up in my feed.

It took a pandemic to help me rediscover the joys of home cooking!

I found my zen garden in the kitchen.
Taiwanese Braised Pork Belly

A recipe to share


There you go  an amazing rice bowl that is topped with aromatic, toothsome, caramelized, melt-in-your-mouth pork morsels and a braised hard-boiled egg!

Enjoy!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Moonbow

Last night, I was over the moon when I had the amazing opportunity to witness a moonbow for the first time in my 58 years of life!

There are some things you just can't capture in a photo. This shot on my phone  couldn't possibly do justice to what I had witnessed.

I was bewitched by the spectral sighting.

Never had I ever seen a rainbow haloing a moon!

Ghostly and alluring, it was like gazing at a portal into another realm!
Several conditions have to be just right for a moonbow to occur

Upon googling, I learned that a moonbow also known as a lunar halo or lunar rainbow, is a rare natural atmospheric phenomenon that occurs when the moon's light is reflected and refracted off water droplets in the air.

In other words, it is a rainbow produced by moonlight rather than sunlight.

It is believed that a moonbow brings good luck to the localized area it is viewed in.

In these strange and uncertain times, I have been looking up at the heavens a lot lately for signs of good things to come.

Perhaps this is a harbinger of something great on its way?

linking up with Creative in retirement

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Rice Dumpling Day

Last Thursday, 25th June, was Rice Dumpling Day aka Dragon Boat Festival.

More info about the festival here.

Pre Covid-19, we would be practising the tradition of dumpling exchange with our neighbours, friends and relatives. All the cousins would gather at my elderly aunt's house for a dumpling feast to savour the different versions of our fruits of labour.

For the first time this year, we decided to give the custom a miss. Instead, we stayed home to enjoy our store-bought dumplings.
The tradition of making these dumplings dates back more than 2000 years!

I can never get used to the element of surprise in uncovering these bamboo leaf-wrapped treats. You never know what 'gems' are buried in each parcel as the fillings vary from cook to cook.
Sweet, savoury, spicy, pillow-shaped or triangular, cream-colored and yes, blue(!), the dumplings are made of glutinous rice and packed with an assortment of fillings, from oysters to abalones to durians!

The *Peranakan blue ones are tinted with a natural dye that comes from the butterfly pea flower.

*Peranakan - A sub-ethnic community of Malay-Chinese ancestry.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The New Normal

Finally, after being holed up in my own house for 90 days, I stepped outside and into our car for the first time!

At last, we were able to make that long awaited road trip back to my hometown to visit my parents whom I hadn't seen since lockdown.

Thankfully, my parents are fine. Angels had been looking out for them during the curfew. Strangers left food and essentials on their doorstep. A neighbour who fell out with them years ago even sent food over!

I guess you can say it took a pandemic to mend their feud of more than 10 years and over some silly tree if my memory serves me correctly!

The pandemic is not only healing the earth but it is also patching up broken relationships.

It has brought out the worst and best in people.

Navigating this new normal was initially awkward but I am adapting.

Masking in public is the law.

A masked society is somewhat freaky.

It's like living in a world without smiles.

Dining out and shopping are no longer what they used to be. At the entrance of every business premise, temperatures are taken and customers are required to leave their names, contact numbers and temperature readings either by scanning the QR code on their phones or by filling up a log book. Those who don't abide by the rules are denied entry.

I accept that these procedures are necessary for contact tracing but I am not at ease with the privacy trade-off.  I dread the thought of a security breach.

Dining out and indulging in the foods we had been craving since lockdown
Hubby's favourite meal of Ayam Goreng Berempah

Sambal Stuffed Fish

Hakka Noodles


Celebrating Father's Day in our favourite restaurant that has just reopened for dine-ins
X marks the spot where you can't sit



Yes, it was a bit strange walking into my favourite noodle shop  half of the tables in the shop had disappeared!

And it felt odd and absurd sitting with my family with empty chairs between us at a table marked with red Xs. When a fellow diner glanced in our direction, I flashed a smile at her. It was kinda sad that she couldn't read my facial expressions behind the mask 'cos a smile always makes two. And I'm accustomed to smiling at folks most of the time.