Tuesday, 24 December 2013


This Christmas, a beautiful homemade foie gras from Maman de Michel’s pantry graced my dining table. Doesn't it look ravishing, sitting in its bath of shimmering gold?

My co-worker, Michel, hails from the southwest of France, where I'm quite sure every household and restaurant boasts of its very own recipe for homemade foie gras or rillettes. For isn't the southwest region of France is the largest producer of foie gras in the world?

Michel’s mother preserves her own foie gras every year.  Her traditional recipe comprises a whole liver (foie gras entier) that has been de-veined, cleaned, seasoned and cooked in its own fat. This is foie gras in its purest form.

She uses duck liver because its more flavourful than the goose.  Not only does she make the foie gras, she also does the canning herself.  How cool is that?

Merci beaucoup, Michel!  Joyeux Noel et bonne année! 

Saturday, 14 December 2013


I don't know about you but I'm one of those people who receives a present and can't bear to part with the gift wrap.  I hoard those bits of  bows and ribbon and pieces of gift paper.  And every time someone in the office attempts to dump a Starbucks paper bag into the bin I'd shout, "Hey you!  Give me that!"

And so I've built up quite a collection over the years.  This festive season I'm putting some of it to good use.  First, I placed a ton of Starbucks paper bags into recycling bins provided by the Salvation Army.   Then, I used some for gift-wrapping.

Starbucks paper bags make great brown paper packaging.

Christmas theme paper bag from Starbucks is suitable for festive recycling.  Simply add finishing touches with gold or silver markers,  or printed tapes.

A little creativity goes a long way in helping the environment.  Make very bit count.

Friday, 13 December 2013


Christmas celebration started at 5:30PM today.  Music, games, booze, simple food and a whole bunch of crazy people.

Is it a reindeer, or a moose?
Maybe its just the booze
Well, it doesn't matter anymore
Merry Christmas one and all!

The party ended on a good note ...

Sunday, 17 November 2013


It was a quiet week at work. My co-workers have inexplicably turned into mice - scurrying about the office, conversing in hushed voices. It was as if some impending doom is going to befall us and I'm the last to know.

It's hard to believe that it's been over a month since Ken Hsu brought the book back from Taipei! It’s really a book about breads but the first recipe which caught my eye is one for Matcha Pound Cake. I had unabashedly asked Maki whether she could buy me some matcha powder from Japan. She did so, picking a matcha that was meant specially for baking. I'm holding the cup next to the window so you can check out its intense color.

The recipe makes three 8 x 15.5cm cakes.  The smallest tins I own measure 8.5 x 17cm.  As a result my cakes didn't achieve the height I was expecting.  In fact, they didn’t look appealing at all!  The tops were a dull and I felt that the emerald hardly came through. 

I gingerly cut into one and was glad to find that it was velvety. My father bit into a still-warm slice, grinned and said the texture was light and that he loves the crust. My mother pointed out that the insides has many tiny holes.  I wonder if holes are a good thing?

THE MORNING AFTER:  I'm happy to announce that the two mini Matcha Pound Cakes that I brought to the office were very well received.  Those GPs who tried them said they were actually very good!  Lesson learnt: do not judge a cake by its colour.  :)

Sunday, 3 November 2013


Yesterday, my parents and I had lunch at  Tim Ho Wan (添好运).  I won't write about the food as you would've, no doubt, already heard or read about the restaurant at one time or another since it opened its first restaurant in Plaza Singapura in April this year. 

Instead, I have something nice to say about its staff.

We arrived at 11:25AM at the Tim Ho Wan Toa Payoh branch and found a long queue ahead of us. Having had to stand in the queue for a long time would take a toll on my elderly parents so I approached a restaurant staff and voiced my concern, and she promptly allocated them chairs and a space to sit outside of the restaurant while I stood in line -- for 70 minutes.  It didn't seem like a long wait as the queue was orderly.

We were finally given a table!  The restaurant layout was simple, with rectangular tables parked next to one another.  Customers were seated on wooden stools.   I was making sure that Mum was seated properly when I heard a small commotion.  I looked up and found my 84-year old father seated on the restaurant floor!  He must have tried sitting on the stool and fallen backwards.  My heart went into my mouth!  But even before my heart had stopped pounding, at least one customer and four restaurant staff had rallied around Dad.  They managed to get him on his feet, a male staff came over with a proper chair with a back and helped Dad into it.  A waitress handed Dad a glass of warm water and whispered something in his ear.  The restaurant was noisy so I couldn't hear her speak but from her hand gesture I guessed she meant, "a little something to help calm your nerves."

I cannot thank the staff enough.  What a bunch of warm, efficient people!  Will I go back? Yes, of course.  Only next time, I'd be there at 9:45AM to wait in line! :)

Saturday, 26 October 2013


Got out of bed at 8:17 this morning and found my parents all dressed up and ready to go out.  I drifted to the living room couch and started to flip the newspapers. Mum, who cannot resist any opportunity to offer me a snide remark, pounced on me immediately, “How can you read the newspapers without first washing up?” To which I retorted, “Is there a rule that says one has to wash up before reading?” Of course she had to have the last say, “Yes there is and you must be the only person who doesn’t follow it!”

After my parents had left the house, I took the time to make myself breakfast and spent a quiet morning listening to Joan Baez’s Diamonds & Rust. I cleared the kitchen cabinet of expired baking ingredients, and cleaned out some old clothing to put in a recycling bag for the Salvation Army. If my mother was home she’d complain, “吵耳到死!” to the music. Then she’d shake out everything from the recycle bag and scrutinize every item with comments like, “What’s this?! When did you buy this? How come I wasn't aware that you bought this? I’m quite sure you wore this only once! This looks new, I want to keep it.”

This morning?  Rare peace.

Had lunch with my aunt then accompanied her to Park Mall to shop for chic furniture pieces for her living room.

Returned home to find that, alas, peace does not reign forever.

Mum served dinner at 5:25pm instead of the usual 5:15pm. Dad threw a tantrum and refused to eat. He now sits in a darkened living room, sulking. He accused Mum and I of making him angry to shorten his life when in reality, he's the one driving us to the brink of suicide.

Saturday, 19 October 2013


Here's a rundown of my week.

Monday Oct 14, 2013:
Took the day off to do nothing because I felt like it. "You pig!" squealed my unkind mother.

Tuesday Oct 15, 2013:
Hari Raya Haji and a bank holiday. My co-worker, Ravleen, came over to my place and we baked cookies!  Here, am sharing two photos from Ravleen's camera.

The cookie dough.  Looks like ice-cream, does it not?

The finished product - chocolate chip cookies with pecan and walnut.

Wednesday Oct 16, 2013:
Stephane is back in the office after travelling for exactly one month. He brought several goodies from France.  I like the Salted Butter Caramels best!  At first Stephane said he does not like caramel but I made him try one and he agreed they were good.  I overheard him telling Michel, "I normally don't like caramel but just because of the salt they become amazing!"

It's Stephane's first day back at work after a month so there was lots to catch up on.  Tons of calls to organize, meetings to set up.  He needs a new China visa.

Dad threw a tantrum over a dish that Mum cooked for dinner. The dish was minced pork steamed with preserved mustard (梅菜猪肉).  Dad complained that the ratio of preserved veggie to pork was out of proportion.  Dad accused Mum of mistreating him, refused to eat dinner and went about the house destroying stuff. Such violent anger bouts are frequent. Two weeks ago, he saw red because he kitchen door wouldn’t shut properly.  Then there was the time he became flew into a white rage because Mum went to the wet market in the morning and didn’t get home within his stipulated time.  We live with a time bomb everyday.

Friday Oct 18, 2013:
I love Fridays.  Friday is when Rheena goes to the Indian temple and returns to the office with breakfast for all of us!  She used to bring only vada and sambar (vegetable stew) but recently the menu has expanded to dosa (crepe), chutney, pongal (rice) and Puliyodharai (tamarind rice).  I ❤️Indian food!

vada (some call it vah-day)

chutney & sambar


pongal rice

Saturday Oct 19, 2013:
Stuck at home all morning, waiting for HDB contractors to come fix our bathroom wall.


Thursday, 10 October 2013

Weekend in Penang (Part 2)

Sun, sand and sea

That’s Elaine up there. What can I say? She’s up for anything!

About 6 kilometres from the city centre of Georgetown is Penang Hill. You need to take a 10-minute train to get to the top of the hill. A return ticket on the Swiss-made funicular train is MYR30 for tourists. MYR8 for locals. It was raining hard so we didn’t explore. Apparently there is much to see – a bird sanctuary, canopy walk (suspension bridge over the tree tops) and guided nature trails. Maybe next time!

If your idea of a good holiday is fine dining, and being stuck in air-conditioned malls then Penang may not be the place for you.  Penang is where street food rules.  It'll be pointless to go to Penang and not dine al fresco.  I'm glad I have like-minded travel companions.

Fried chicken from the Indian stall at the corner of the street?  On!

Wait 25 minutes for a plate of fried kway teow?   No problem.

Eat lor mee in a rundown coffee shop?   Love the retro feel.

No tables at the famous chendol stall?   Do what the local does – slurp from bowls while standing by the road.

Raining cats and dogs while dining al fresco?   Open up three large umbrellas and place them in strategic positions.  Continue eating.

Oh, how we enjoyed the street food!  It's no surprise that Penang was ranked by CNN Travel as one of the top ten street food cities in Asia

Hokkien Mee (Prawn Mee)
This Prawn Noodle is very popular and usually sold out by midday. We were fortunate to have met Stanley and hired him as our driver. He went to the stall early to place our orders before picking us up at our hotel.

Stewart Lane: Lor Mee
Located just beside the century old Goddess of Mercy temple, the stall has been operating from the current location since 1957 until the present. This Hai Beng Lor Mee is currently being run by its 2nd and 3rd generation direct descendants. This Lor Mee brings back some good childhood memories of my grandmother and I, slurping lor mee while seated on low wooden stools outside the wet market on 
Sunday mornings. 

Lorong Selamat: Char Kuay Teow
We had to wait for about 25 minutes for this one.

Lebuh Keng Kwee: famous Teochew Chendul and Jooi Hooi Café Char Kway Teow
Sorry, I slurped up the chendul real quickly so I can only show you a photo of the char kway teow -- LOL!  Stanley informed us that this stall uses duck egg.  Frankly, I couldn't tell if it tastes any different from hen egg.

How much does a 3 day 2 night trip to Penang work out to? Well, my share came up to:

Airfare: SGD124
Hotel: SGD160
Food + Driver: MYR200 (SGD80)
Train (Penang Hill): MYR30 (SGD12)

Worth every ringgit.

Read Part One

Weekend in Penang (Part 1)

Spent last weekend in Penang with Hwee Mian, Elaine and Clarise.  We covered a lot of ground in 2.5 days! We pranced from flea market to vintage shops, leapt from beach to hill, enjoyed street art and hawker foods, explored historical landmarks. 

We had such a great time, we never want to leave.

Some facts about Penang: The name “Penang Island” (槟榔屿 or “Island of the Betel Nut”) first appeared in the nautical charts of Zheng He during his expedition to the South Sea in the 15th century. Its capital, George Town was inscribed on the UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage list in 2007. Even though the town isn’t large, its population is diverse in ethnicity, culture, language and religion. I love it that the architecture is alive, with the most amazing heritage buildings in a variety of styles, including Chinese clan houses, mosques, Peranakan terraces, distinguished colonial buildings, all in varying stages of restoration.

We stayed in a hotel located on Muntri Street, which has one of the best preserved row of 19th century Straits Eclectic style houses.  These grand terraces had mews, or private stables for horse carriages, with staff quarters upstairs.  Muntri Mews is beautifully restored, infused with Malay, Chinese and European influences.

Muntri Mews
77 Lebuh Muntri
10050 Georgetown
Penang, Malaysia
+60 4 263 5125

Muntri Mews has only 9 rooms. We occupied twin rooms downstairs. The larger guest rooms are located upstairs. The cafe serves a decent selection of breakfast that includes scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, roti prata, nasi lemak, cinnamon French toast and fresh fruits.


“Nine Houses” on Kek Chuan Road


We visited a Clan Jetty. What’s a Clan Jetty, you ask? A clan jetty is a Chinese settlement on the waterfront built by immigrants the mid-19th century. Being fishermen or coolies who worked at the port, they preferred to live near the water so they built their houses on stilts over the water. 

People who came from the same village back home in China ban together as a Clan and built their own jetty. The one we visited was the Chew Clan Jetty.  It is the longest and best preserved Clan Jetties along Weld Quay.

Of the places we visited in Penang, this is my favourite. Once inside I was transported back to a time when children played with glass marbles and indulged in ice popsicles.  And granny sat on her front porch and struck up conversations with neighbours who passed by.


Street art dot the landscape.

“Reaching Up” by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic

"Little Children on Bicycle” by Ernest Zacharevic

“Children on the Swing” by Penang’s deaf and mute artist Louis Gan. The road sign “Step by Step Lane” is installed as part of the art work and is not an actual road sign.

“Children Playing Basketball” by Louis Gan. This piece of art work is perceived as sloppy by critics and general comments are “The girl seems to be levitating, like she's on helium, while the boy is way out of proportion”.

Read Part Two


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