Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Hello Kitty Detangler

Stared at the detangler comb and grimaced. Yes, that's definitely a Hello Kitty print on it. At least it's in black and white. The BFF has it in Hello Kitty pink and white. The hair salon had included them in the welcome gift pack for us when they shifted to a new location. The hairstylist took pains to point out that these Tangle Teezers are the hottest detanglers in the market now. Okaaay. Not that I care, but I suppose she wanted us to know that these combs hold some sort of value.

Up to two weeks ago, I didn't have a travel comb. Had a super sturdy foldable one that lasted for years. When it finally broke in January, I replaced it with a disposable, thinking to hunt for a sturdier one at leisure. Clearly procrastination took over, and a new replacement was never bought. Now that I'm hitting the gym often and showering there, I do need a comb. The disposable is unable to smooth out knots without breaking many strands of hair. A detangler is great because I don't use conditioner.

I was more concerned about whether this Tangle Teezer works on wet hair. So far, it seems to be doing its job. It's nifty. I quite like it, so I try to ignore the print. Hehehe. I don't exactly own many things in Hello Kitty. Whatever I had, they've all been thrown out. It seems as though the cat-with-no-mouth is coming back into my drawers and wardrobe. 🙄

This Tangle Teezer 'Compact Styler' works great; the cover protects the bristles, making it super convenient to carry around. But it's a tad bulky! These £11/£12.50 detangler combs are supposedly designed, manufactured and made in Great Britain. Frankly, I wouldn't pay S$35 for it at the local Sephora. BUT, looking at how it's done, I don't doubt that Taobao retailers have already gotten into action to manufacture cheaper knock-offs which in all likelihood will work just as well.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

CURATE at RWS for $100Gourmet

The man has cleverly scored a number of meals via the Citibank credit card where we dine at a restaurant with a fixed four to six-course menu at S$100++ for two persons. These $100Gourmet dinners are usually set at S$100 per person. The only drawback, we have to pay upfront, so that's dicey. We'd just have to assume we could make it, and try to block out the date in our calendars.

It's a creative way to get me out to restaurants that I would otherwise not bother with. Whenever the term 'Michelin stars' is mentioned, I'm completely unenthusiastic. I think it's a dumb system. Anyway, at this price point, it's also a great way to shut me up rather promptly about the food because so far, while the service and logistics at the various restaurants are pretty decent, and its food interesting, they don't all appeal to my tastebuds.

We recently went for a four-course lunch at CURATE at Resorts World Sentosa. (It's located next to Candylicious, opposite Din Tai Fung, at the Forum somewhere around the Universal Studios ball and very weird Lake of Dreams.) For this menu, Elizabeth Allen of Shibui (Kaizen House) in London partnered CURATE's Chef de Cuisine, Benjamin HalatCURATE also hosts an 'Art at CURATE' series of partnerships with Michelin-starred chefs.

The amuse bouche was fun! I loved the bread and butter. Those were superbly satisfying. The glass of champagne was a nice touch. The first course of buttermilk chicken with tare sauce and spinach was hilarious. Very edible, but seriously salty. The man loved it. I didn't mind the salt punch, but yeah, it's just fried chicken, and I don't care about fried chicken or chicken. I didn't enjoy the soufflated farm egg as much as I thought I would. It was topped with spinach and truffle caviar that was so overpowering that it just didn't seem to go with the bouncy egg white. The egg white whipped into soufflé did nothing for me. After I ate the cheerful runny yolk, I was done with the dish.

I didn't request for a separate main, so today's main was beef. Although I saw other tables with scallops. The little piece of Black Angus sirloin had been apparently aged in kombu. It came with horseradish that looked like marshmallow. I quite liked the horseradish here, but it wasn't mash, so there was no way to finish it. It's just like a dip, and when I'm not a fan of wasabi or mustard, I took only a teeny bit of that. Dessert came as a surprisingly delicious coconut espuma with calamansi and rambutan honey. The flavors went well together. But because it's an espuma, and I really don't like foam-anything, so I left it alone after three small mouthfuls.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Most Angsty Ties

Hesitated starting on Suchen Christine Lim's 'The Lies That Build A Marriage' (2007) because it's not exactly a genre I appreciate. The book sat on the shelves till it yellowed. :P The title of the book kinda sucks and the cover illustration is so tacky. I was a little embarrassed to be seen reading it in public.

If those stories run like Chinese soaps, then it's not my cup of tea. 10 stories and a postscript. Took a deep breath and plunged through it. Damn, they are soaps. But I suppose I rather read them as short stories than watch them as episodes on tv.

Read the first story 'The Morning After', which dealt with an overprotective mother with an unmarried 41-year-old son who now has found a woman he wants to marry, and said mother's daughter, who's son just came out to her as gay. Then read about Pearl Kwai Chee, the adopted daughter of two amah jieh (who might be lesbian partners) in 'My Two Mothers'Okay, these stories are exactly like soaps. I was less enthusiastic, but nevertheless finished them. Teenage pregnancy, abortions in an era of the government campaign to 'Stop At Two', family feuds, lousy men, strong women, et cetera. It does offer a realistic glimpse into others' lives, tensions and stories from a different era. I'm just not very keen on the genre.

Eponymous title story 'The Lies That Build A Marriage' talks about a young girl's growing up years in the 1960s with parents who struggled to maintain businesses that finally failed, and her acquaintance with Miss Pak Mei, a nightclub hostess who was their tenant, and could finally marry into the Wong family when she got pregnant, in spite of her mother-in-law's disapproval. The story moves into the 1980s when the father has failed in each and every venture and became a bus driver, then a taxi driver, and the mother became a hardened woman who has to keep the family afloat. The protagonist learnt later, Pak Mei's full story, and a possible half-sibling in Ming Li, Mei's daughter whom everyone initially thought was fathered by her eventual husband Mr Wong.

A part of me clung to the status quo. The other part sought knowledge and justice. I smelt the faint odour of exploitation somewhere. The truth was I was curious. But curiosity was not reason enough to destroy the truce that my parents had so painfully built between them. And so I dithered that whole year, and did nothing in the end. 
'To be fair to your father, he left his family for me. I never forgot that. his family was rich. Mine was dirt poor. But he left his family to marry me. And we stayed married. To the end.' 
I heard the note of pride in her voice, a woman's pride—he had loved her first and last. By venting her anger at last, she was getting rid of the bitterness in between. I took my mother's hand and squeezed it hard.  
'That is love, Ma.' 
Her thin frame shook in my arms. I held my seventy-six-year-old mother. I held her tight. She's all I have. Pa's gone. Did she love him? Did he love her? Does it matter now? What is love? Is it fidelity? The act of staying together till death do us part? In the end, everything must end in death and forgiveness. If not, how do we live?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Linguine con le Vongole & A Grilled Crimson Sea Bream

Finally had some time to think about cooking and actually get down to it. Tonight, the man wanted to do linguine con le vongole. I wanted to lightly grill a fish. At some point, we didn't want to eat pasta or have a whole fish at a restaurant when we can do it equally well, if not better.

Popped out to Emporium Shokuhin to get the seafood. It carries good quality stuff that we can't fault, so we shop there rather often. They usually have fresh littleneck clams in stock. There was a full tank of it when we turned up that morning at 10.45am. Lugged home a good 2kg of clams. Stared at the fish counter. The crimson sea bream (チダイ) looked so good, so I took one home. #ImpieCooks2017

The man and I separately went about prepping our chosen dish. Soaking the clams in salt water and cornmeal (in the fridge) works best for us. The combination persuade the clams to give up all remnant sand and grit. All that is needed to be done, is to brush and rinse them out before they go into the steamer. The man steams his clams before giving it a final toss with the pasta.

The fish was perfect. Didn't need to do much. Lightly seasoned it with olive oil, salt and pepper, rosemary, thyme and lemon. Grilled it in the oven on high heat for 18 minutes, and it was all gorgeously done. With fish this fresh, the stomach was expectedly the tastiest part. Dinner was immensely satisfying. Just two items very well cooked. There's something therapeutic about using the afternoon to leisurely prepare dinner. If only we could do this more often.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Keep With The Cardio

This is me flat out after each cardio-boxing class where about 150 push-ups and 1000 punches are grunted through and thrown, along with some crazy amount of kicks, squats and jumps. Then I do it all over again the next week. Madness.

My first class ended with me utterly winded. I was shell-shocked by how much effort goes into burning something like 700 calories in 45 minutes. It took me six weeks to catch up with the rest of the class. It's never a competition, but I don't want to struggle in class. Yet I don't want to go to all out because I want to stay injury-free and not stress the heart and drop dead. I do stop for water breaks and in a friendly gym environment, no one will pressure anyone to continue. Still I refuse to do push-ups on my knees. It's not about pride. If I want to get stronger, I will do push-ups exactly how they're meant to be done.

I'm not hot about cardio, but it has to be included in the week. I've learnt to embrace the utter SWEATFEST that sees beads of perspiration running down my eyelids, into my eyes or dripping off my chin. At least I've found enjoyable classes to sweat it out at. I dislike running, so that's not a preferred option unless the friends obstinately drag me out shrieking and kicking.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Soup Spoon's 'Soul-Good Mullet Soup Teochew Style'

For the month of August, The Soup Spoon has a special trio of soups in 'Soul-Good Mullet Soup Teochew Style', 'Chicken Soup for the SG Soul' and 'Watercress with Roasted Pears and Red Dates'. I was definitely curious about its fish soup. The table also chose to have soups as mains, and ordered sides of quinoa with dukkah and Thai-style vermicelli with mushroom. They opted for the restaurant's signature soups which were great, as usual- 'tangy tomato with basil', 'velvety mushroom stroganoff', 'beef goulash' and 'roasted pumpkin'. I asked for red rice to go along with my mullet soup. Shared the carbs with the friends.

The soup was chockfull of ingredients, and slightly less on the volume of soup. I ermm daresay while it's influenced by Teochew fish soup, it's totally NOT Teochew fish soup. Don't go looking for the delicate flavors, you're not going to find it. For the lack of vocabulary, this is the type of 'fish soup' that will never be churned out by a Cantonese or Teochew restaurant or a Teochew fish soup stall at the hawker center.

It's very brave of The Soup Spoon to use mullet as the base fish, along with grey mullet stock. The restaurant is known for its good Western soups, not Asian soups. The problem with commercial soup pots and servers who don't really care about scooping out soup and the ingredients, you end up with muddy soup, broken pieces of fish and an unappetizing presentation. This bowl could have done better with more coriander... Hurhurhur. But it tasted all right lah. Glad that the restaurant tries to refresh its menu with monthly specials. I'm not going to whine so loudly. 🙃

Fish soup is best when you do it at home on your own, and I am very finicky about soups, and especially fish soups. I don't just grumble okay, I also happen to be able to do a superb version of fish soup. To be honest, this isn't the best iteration of Asian fish soup from The Soup Spoon, but when it's commercially done with little salt, no MSG, no strange ingredients that could trigger allergies, then this is fine. It's an honest healthy soup. When we eat out so often, this makes one decent meal.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Singapore Is 52

Hey Singapore, you turn 52 years old, and I'm perplexed and occasionally, mystified. Not so much from what's happening in the world, but from our internal politics and such. It has been an eventful year so far where we can't stop blinking at the local news headlines.

Consider us warned that private social media postings aren't exactly private when they question the integrity of the system. Looking at the many Ministers' carefully crafted speeches and words to these various brow-raising headlines and developments this year, I feel like I'm being told off to accept whatever that's been handed out and I'm not allowed to criticize or question. Also, I'm not the sort of obedient ideal citizen the government keeps insinuating they prefer in all the lalala brochures and speeches. But what do I know?

Our country is so small, but we shouldn't have to fear being viewed as a province or an outpost to a bigger country. I definitely appreciate us holding our ground. While I facepalm at some horrible thoughts, unkind words and deplorable behavior of fellow Singaporeans, there are many others whom I admire for many different reasons. If we can have healthy discussions among ourselves, and be civil about calling people out on whatever, then why not. We all need this discourse in order to grow up.

Dear Singapore, like any other country, you have a lot to improve on. Beneath the shiny successes, we need a lot more conversations about race, diversity and inclusion that aren't dictated or blinded by majority race privileges. If you want first world status, you gotta deal with first world problems, and justify your actions and decisions to whiny xennials and millennials.

Happy 52nd. Majulah Singapura. 🇸🇬 

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Otah and Har Cheong Gai Burgers

For B and G's farewell meals, they declared they wanted all-things local, and to bring on the spices. They're doing intimate chats over many meals with the various small groups of friends. They've become quite enamored with sambal belachan, and could cook it. But they're homebound to a city where they might not get ingredients easily to fry up a decent version. They've extracted promises from all of us to send them bottles of sambal belachan regularly. Hahahaha.

We've taken them out to a good Peranakan dinner where we ate so much that we dropped straight into a food coma, scrapping earlier plans to adjourn for alcohol after. Today, we headed to redpan for a casual brunch, and to our credit, didn't over-order.

Ordered its signature 220g ribeye chinchalok steak to share. It came done medium rather than medium-rare as requested. But that's how it is in Singapore. I control the done-ness by asking for medium-rare because very few restaurants can do it. It always arrives at best, medium with a good-enough pink center. Imagine if I asked for medium, and it comes done medium-well. I'd be rather miffed.

We swung in to redpan for its burgers, mainly. It's the patties we were curious about- Singaporean versions. For August, redpan offers a crispy otah fish burger (fish and prawn paste) and har cheong gai burger (chicken deep fried in a batter of fermented prawn or shrimp paste). The buns were house-made and toasted nicely. Each came with a side of decent slaw and fries. No sharing. Heh. Since we were still in a local restaurant, there was chilli sauce available to go with the burgers. I really liked my crispy otah fish patty with spicy mayonnaise. Delicious! Apparently, these burgers will remain on the menu after this month.

redpan's 'crispy otah fish burger'.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Of Slightly Otherworldly Stories

An unread hard copy book on the shelves is hardly surprisingly, but I was stunned to discover that I had no recollection of buying it. It's Nicholas Yong's second book, a collection of 10 short stories in 'Track Faults And Other Glitches: Stories of the Impossible in Singapore' (2016).

Days later, I was mortified to learn that this book was on loan from the friend. He had passed it to the man, and the man chucked it into the unread pile without informing me. Had to apologize profusely and offered to buy a new copy because I had taped up the edges of the book. (I tape up all my books to prevent the edges from fraying.) Luckily the friend didn't mind. He's quite tickled. He's going to lend us another book and told me I'm welcome to tape those edges too. Hurhurhur.

Giggled as I read the title. (In the light of train breakdowns today and the Transport Minister more or less telling us to stop being dramatic because such inconvenience is unnecessary. He might even have insinuated that we're being ungrateful.) Set in Singapore, the book gives alternative realities and made the supernatural the norm. Hmm. Speculative fiction. This could go either way.

The first story 'The Ministry of Zombie Advancement' is rather hilarious. Don't bother reading into the metaphors of the big boss Permanent Zombie Secretary (PZS) and Higher Zombie Committee (HZC) within the Ministry. Protagonist Zee is a notetaker in the Ministry, and a zombie. Singapore is made up of all zombies. And this might just be about to change as Singapore is hit by a fast-spreading virus that turns zombies into humans, the greatest fear of the zombies.

"We are calling it the Revert Virus," said the Permanent Zombie Secretary.  
"Why is that?" asked one director. "Is it spread by email?" 
The PZS frowned. "No. Because it changes zombies from one state to another." 
"I don't understand. Is it...okay, never mind." The director had taken in the dirty look the PZS was giving him and wisely decided to shut up.

I like how the stories have been put together, and how 'Haru' links with 'Hui Ling'. 'Haru' mentions a cute Shiba Inu named Haru in the that story and how it summoned the Dog God Masanori via rituals in order to understand its human owners more. We were left with a cryptic line from the Dog God who issued a warning, "Don't let her go near the child." We'd know what this line meant in following related story 'Hui Ling'. We learn more of the lives of Haru's owners, husband and wife- Jeremy and Hui Ling. It describes Hui Ling's depression and despondent feelings in managing miscarriage. And a little ghost.

The one story that touches on our trains 'Track Fault', is just mind-boggling. Yes, it talks about a track fault and mentions the thoughts of the unlucky commuters on that one train that stopped right in the tunnel at peak hour, and then never came out of the tunnel again. You could read all the metaphors you think there are, but at the end of it, it's simply a train that went missing, like into twilight zone, into the Bermuda Triangle. The writing is easy, and the plots aren't so out of this world. The endings are nicely done, some with a firm conclusion, some left ambiguous but not till it's hair-pulling.