Happy Lunar New Year!

Even though I started 2017 wanting to write more, this has obviously not translated into real, tangible action to do so. A month has passed, and this is my second post in as many months. That said, January has been quite a whirlwind, even as usual, nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary transpired. I could not remember what took place in the intervening days, other than the Lunar New Year that came and went just a few days ago. Lunar, because someone on Facebook mentioned how it should not be called ‘Chinese New Year’ as the festival is observed by not just Chinese. The Koreans, Vietnamese too? and several other nationalities celebrate it as well so let us just call it Lunar New Year.

This year, the office held a department lunch the day before the eve, since eve fell on a Friday and it’s traditionally a half-day off for us. For the first time, the lo-hei was an official one. In the past years, I recalled that we had a lo-hei at one of the bosses’ home when we held a BBQ at her place. Then in another year, we got lunch catered in the office and the lo-hei was either provided as part of the catered package, or we got it from outside. Either ways, I guess it’s a new practice that comes with a new boss.

Lunch at the Silk Road was a pretty pricey affair since it’s a special set menu that we were ordering. I won’t comment on the food since I do not count myself a connoisseur of food to say if it is good or bad, but the service definitely was not up to par. The restaurant was crowded, which is understandable since everyone was having their office lunar new year lunches, but they should have already expected it based on the bookings made, yet they made no (does not seem like they did anyway) plans to ramp up their staff to handle what needed to be done. We were one of the first tables there but ended up receiving tardy service; the interval time between dishes were inconsistently timed and they actually missed out one dish entirely until we had to remind them of it. Perhaps it was due to the fact that the set we picked was the lowest as compared to the other tables who seemingly ordered the premium sets?

So anyway it is a ‘free’ lunch for me, and it kicked off with the prosperity yu-sheng, which used smoked salmon instead of the usual raw fish. Not too sure if this was due to the raw fish scare that took place last year. I am not a big fan of smoked salmon but this one was still ok since I only had a slice. I was more interested in the 黄金, the crispy crackers that were so fragrant while munching.

On the eve of Lunar New Year, it’s the usual steamboat reunion dinner. Same as last year, we had it at my brother’s place and the food seems to be much less than before. We just cannot eat as much as we used to because most of us, with the exception of my nephew, are well past the age where our metabolisms can support massive eating.
Just before the Lunar New Year, I was down with a bout of flu and was / am still recovering from having phlegm stuck in my throat. But that did not stop me from feasting and enjoying the new year goodies. Though I do not binge on pineapple tarts, loveletters, bak kwa and the lot, I can actually count the number of pieces I have so far, I really let go in indulging in roasted cashews, green pea cookies and arrowhead chips. These are my kryptonite during this festive season, and they are no less heaty and unhealthy as compared to the others. Oh well, it’s once a year so I should not be so hard on myself right? The 初三 popiah party that was held, kind of like an annual tradition of my family too, again had me indulging in so much unhealthy food. Instead of eating the star dish of popiah, I was snacking non-stop on what my brother cooked with his air-fryer, a housewarming gift he received last year. Haha. So we had things like fries, chicken karaage, and prawn roll!

To balance out all that fried food, our lo-hei was a healthier version though. Put together by my aunt, it’s mainly a ginormous plate of sliced fruits, topped with the sinful sweet sauce though, and of course the 黄金, which my brother added on a copious amount with Lay’s Potato Chips – talk about innovation.

So that is 2 rounds of 捞鱼生 so far. Time to start reining in the eating!

Starbucks Pumpkin Seed & Kumquat Cookies

When it comes to buying foodstuff, I confess that I am quite the hoarder. Oh wait, I think I hoard way too many things, not just food, but clothes, bags, shoes, what-have-yous. It is something that I am trying to correct but notice that the key word here is on “trying”. Well, I think I have cut down on buying foodstuff because I don’t travel anymore and therefore there is less of a need to stock up on groceries to bring with me on those trips. Also, when I think of the items that are sitting in the cupboards and nearing their expiry dates, I can’t help but pull myself away from the well-stocked shelves of Marks & Spencer or any other supermarkets. One of these days, I often tell my friends, if I were to suffer from food poisoning of some sort, you will most likely be able to guess the reason. Expired food or chocolates.

So anyway, sometime before Chinese New Year, many F&B places were launching their own versions of festive goodies to snap up a share of the festive shopping dollar, and Starbucks was also one of those to jump on the bandwagon. Being quite an avid supporter of them, I was quite keen to get the cookies that they came out with although I hesitated and procrastinated because I thought a box (of about 10 pieces) would be too much for myself to finish, taking into account all the other biscuits/cookies that I have. But I just didn’t give up and each time I went to Starbucks, I’d mull over them. Until one day, I thought I should just heck it and buy a box. And so I did.

20140212-221018.jpgThey had three flavours, Sesame Pineapple Cookies, Kumquat Cookies and Pumpkin Seed & Kumquat Cookies. I hadn’t tried any of them, so when I made up my mind to buy them, I asked for a sample to try and the nice people of Starbucks were so generous that they offered me a full-sized sample of each flavour. I took a bite of the two that contained Kumquat (since I knew i wasn’t going to get the Sesame Pineapple but they gave a piece to me anyway) and chose the Pumpkin Seed & Kumquat because of the added bite of the seeds.

I liked that the cookies come in a very festive-appropriate red box that I am using to store some cookies and chocolates at my work desk.

20140212-221023.jpgAnd this is how the cookie looks like! It has a fragrant buttery aroma when you sink your teeth into the cookie, with very tangible pumpkin seeds and kumquat bits mixed well into it.

20140212-221028.jpgIt does remind of those Danish cookies that come in a round blue tin which were very popular back in those days when I was still young. I think they are still around as I’ve seen them in the supermarkets but amidst all the new products that have hit the markets, I think these have lost some of the popularity of the past. At S$15.80 for a box of 10, it isn’t really cheap but I think it’s still quite well worth its price because the cookies are pretty delicious!

Happy Lunar New Year!

Today is the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, and with all big festive occasions in Singapore, or rather, similar to Christmas, it is always the build up to it that I enjoy. Christmas is something that you can’t beat, especially when the weather then was just fabulous if not a little too wet. Although this year the climate in Singapore has been a little strange and unusually cold, it is pretty evident and obvious that the rain has kind of taken a backseat for now. The sun is out in its glory all the time although I am still thankful for the strong winds that help to make everything a little cooler, and during the nights and mornings it can still feel somewhat cold sometimes.

When tonight is over, all the excitement would have been gone. I don’t generally enjoy the Chinese New Year itself and of recent years I have stopped going visiting with the parents because I’d rather just spend the holidays either travelling or just chilling out in Singapore, doing stuff at my own pace.

Popped by Chinatown the other night and yes I still abhor crowds, because I got easily irritated by all the jostling and the people shoving me around, blocking my way, etc. But the atmosphere was one of mirth and joy, and after an hour or so of shuffling along with the crowd, we went to P.S. Cafe at Ann Siang Hill, where a different crowd was gathered on a weekday night.

Today being the eve, it’s actually pretty quiet in town. Maybe everyone is back at home preparing for the reunion dinner, out of town already, or all stuck in the supermarkets queuing with their last minute grocery run. The shops weren’t empty and the fitting room queues weren’t non-existent, but definitely less than the weekends. Even the CNY market at the atrium square of Takashimaya was already cleared, probably yesterday and dashed my hopes of snaring some last minute New Year goodies at discounted prices. Maybe that’s a sign and a good one, nonetheless I still bought something eventually, from Bengawan Solo. Haha.

Oh well. So far, this CNY eve had been a good one, starting from the morning. Let’s hope this heralds well for the whole year ahead! 除旧迎新。所谓,旧的不去,新的就不会来吧。

reunion dinner revisited!

So to end off the CNY festivities, most Chinese, at least where my family is concerned, will have a second (or maybe this is already the nth time) reunion dinner on the 15th day, also known as 元宵. In fact on this day, as I just found out through Instagram, there is also this tradition of eating tang yuan, but I always thought that is something we eat only during the winter solstice. So now I know something new. My friend, when I told her that I was having steamboat reunion dinner with my family, mentioned how it seemed like I have lots of reunion dinners this year. Probably it’s because I have missed on either of the reunion dinners in the past years due to travel, being present for both is something quite rare?

As compared to the previous dinner on CNY eve, this picture probably comes out looking quite the same. Our tradition is always to have the steamboat because we really like it a lot. This time round, we have much lesser food because we had so much leftovers then. But precisely because of that, as the food seemed more manageable, everyone was tasked to finish everything on the table, and by the time dinner was over, I was seriously stuffed to the brim and ready to implode.

20130225-101545.jpgSteamboat dinner for us is pretty simple, as you can see from the picture: the soup being the centrepiece, and fish/meat balls, abalone, prawns, pork, mushrooms and vegetables, cooked or raw. On the eve itself, there will be more stuff like ngoh hiang that mum makes, liver, more varieties of mushrooms, fish slices, etc. From this year, we shifted the location of the steamboat dinner to my brother’s place. In the past, we’d always have it at our tiny little home in the tiny little kitchen, with all of us eating up a sweat in most years (because CNY in the past have always been a very humid period), but the steamboat that we used for that is cooked above a burning pot of charcoal so that is really awesome! But at the end of the day, it’s who we are eating with and the food, the method and the place are just secondary factors.

Even though I was stuffed and thought I couldn’t stomach anything else, I felt bad turning down my sister-in-law’s offer of a tiramisu that she got from an Italian restaurant near their home. It is laced lightly with alcohol (that of course I couldn’t tell if she hadn’t told us), and this was quite a good option for us who were overloaded with food because the cake was not as dense and moist like the usual tiramisu I have had, and best of all, not sweet! Of course, after all the food and topping it off with this nice dessert, I felt so guilty thereafter. But oh well, since it’s CNY (and there is still a lot of CNY cookies and snacks at home) and it’s already the tail-end of it, let’s worry about losing the calories from this point onwards!

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Lou Hei (捞鱼生)

Each year during Chinese New Year, there is a tradition to “lou hei”, which is actually a Cantonese term for 捞起, which literally translates to picking/scooping/fishing up. According to wikipedia, this is called Prosperity Toss, and as much as the term commonly-associated with it is Cantonese, yusheng is a Teochew-style raw fish salad. I don’t always have yusheng during Chinese New Year, since it is not really something you would go to a Chinese restaurant to on “lou” your own, besides my family do not have this tradition of eating yusheng within our own nucleus, rather it is something that we will have if we are having dinner with the relatives during this festive period. Steamboat is more common or popular with us.

So before CNY began, I had my first lou hei of the year with my colleagues during lunch at a Japanese restaurant. It was a little weird because it is a Japanese restaurant after all, but then that means we had all the raw fish we wanted in it, though we had to go through the process of adding the condiments ourselves, together with speaking the auspicious phrases that go with each item added. I don’t think we did it right, except of course the last part, which I’m sure everyone is well aware of, 满地黄金.        20130222-091138.jpg

This is a picture of the yusheng that we had yesterday, with a different group of colleagues, at Crystal Jade Kitchen. It’s a rather big portion (costs S$68) and comes with 16 slices of raw salmon, which I only managed to get a paltry measly slice. Yusheng dishes are not always nice because sometimes there is too much of the sauces that are added that makes everything soggy and sweet but in this case, it was just nice and there was this item in the dish, fried yam sticks I think, which is something different. It added to the variety in terms of taste and texture so on the whole it wasn’t boring to eat it. Well, supposedly yusheng is a dish that is eaten more for its significance rather than its taste but it does help that it is palatable and generally healthy (as long as we are mindful of the amount of sauce thrown into the mix and also the number of pieces of 黄金 that you take)!

Robert Timms, Orchard Shopping Centre

Back from the week-long enforced break and I think I have been gorging on CNY snacks this time round. I don’t recall eating so much of these “goodies” over the last years because I was not in town much, so probably the way to cut down and cut back on eating them is to go on holiday during this time! 

Ok, so one week basically just flew by really quickly, and it was indeed a really great one week break I had. This new year, I skipped the visiting even though I was around because I just didn’t feel like it so I spent most of the time doing what I wanted to do.

Met up with friends when I could and on one of the CNY days, we went to Robert Timms for an afternoon coffee. I can’t remember where I read it from or heard it from, but is it true you have to specifically request for latte art (other than the norm of the heart-shaped ones we have here), the likes of the bear or otherwise? The coffee at Robert Timms is pretty good based on all the times I have visited so far, but mostly I have dropped in at the outlet in Orchard Shopping Centre and only once at the Wheelock branch, because the latter seems to be busier. Have never tried their proper meals since each time I visit, it is for a mid-day coffee and normally, the thing that will go best with coffee would be pastries and cakes, or so I think.      20130218-100928.jpg

And this time, we ordered a Red Velvet cupcake! Actually we had planned to order a slice of cake, and we thought something that we saw in the cake display upfront was Red Velvet, but maybe that is just the normal carrot cake, and when we placed our order for Red Velvet, the cupcake turned up instead. Have not had enough red velvet to know what is nice or not, but this was generally moist and not too sweet, though the cream and icing probably wasn’t such a great idea for me because they elevated the sweetness index.

Good times are always too short but that’s why they are good because this is what sets them apart from bad times, no? Passage of time is a relativity concept, and in this case hours spent with friends catching up just flit by so fast, as are the hours spent enjoying my CNY break here in Singapore.

Happy Lunar New Year!

Happy new year to everyone! This has apparently become the year of the water snake, as many have touted it, due to the daily rain that we are getting these days. I always do not enjoy Chinese New Year much because all I can remember of such periods each year is the humid weather that leaves me feeling uncomfortable while I spend many restless hours at my relatives’ homes. I have not been in Singapore much over the last few years since I have always travelled to Japan for holidays during this time, but this year, since I have just returned from Tokyo, I thought perhaps I should just stay in Singapore. As much as I love Japan, I think it’s extravagant, to say the least, to go there for a vacation so soon after returning.

So anyway, I have been missing in action for the last few days, not because I was busy soaking in the festivities that is Chinese New Year, but honestly, I was just tired and most nights I couldn’t really be bothered to switch on the computer. Even if I do, I’d be playing games online without using my brain much. So what’s happened in this space, if you actually do wonder about it in the first place. Haha. Last Friday, the company let us off a little early, and it was pouring cats and dogs during lunch when we had our CNY luncheon at this Japanese place. By the time I got around to leaving the office, the rain has thankfully stopped and I could go on to meet my friend for some drinks.

Saturday was a fairly busy day, starting with Korean class and followed by the whole afternoon at the yoga studio. Fortunately, I got home in time to catch my dad’s ride to my brother’s place where this year’s reunion dinner was held. This was the spread that we had, which we couldn’t polish off even with 6 adults.20130213-165403.jpgProbably steamboat with the family is something that I enjoy the most, because I really like the ngoh hiang that my mum makes even if it tends to be a little oily. I don’t like that sometimes people force me to eat things I do not want to eat, and my family knows to not force me if say I do not eat prawns or liver, etc. Just eat what you want and if you don’t want it, others may not want it too!

20130213-165414.jpgI was so stuffed by the end of the dinner that I was in a state of food coma. It was a nice, cool night, but my collar bone became the object of play for my nephew whom I was carrying and I realised afterwards that he scratched me so badly it stings when I showered. Ouch.

This new year, I have not joined my family in visiting because I didn’t feel like it and also because I have not been visiting in the last few years. I prefer to control my own time and I don’t like that when we go visiting I have to sit idly for countless hours watching reruns of HK movies on TV, coupled with the endless snacking of CNY goodies due to the TV-watching. So this holiday period has just come and gone like that. It is a longer holiday for me this year because my company made us take forced leave (again); I could have used this period to go on vacation, like many people did, but destinations are pretty limited for me since Japan is out and the other nearby countries, either I am not interested in going, or air tickets have already been fully redeemed long ago. Besides, although I am going green seeing everyone heading somewhere for holiday, I already decided that this year I will take it slow and spend my week at a more leisurely pace, and of course yoga features as the main part of this leisure week, and meeting up with some friends.

Time always zips by so quickly when you are enjoying yourself, but then time is just passing so fast now. It’s already mid-week and we are already at the halfway point of February!