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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


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.


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?