Friday, February 23, 2018

Cutting Back On Alcohol


I enjoy my single malts, porters and stouts. I savored a lovely dram of this gorgeous 40-year-old in sherry cask from Tomintoul specially bottled for Quaich Bar. Distilled in 1977 and bottled in 2017, this bottle is at cask strength. One dram was enough.

I've consciously cut down on alcohol for a whole year and three months. My favorite bar definitely misses me. Haha. Well, I ain't giving it up, but alcohol is certainly not ingested in the way it used to be done. Has my social life suffered? Honestly? No. Friends who love me, will accept that. Acquaintances or friends whom I don't care about, won't be drinking loads with me either. There used to be this joke because I only see some people in the night when alcohol is present, and I've never met them in the day! Now, I see them at the gym or wherever else for coffee. Oof.

Sure, the spending on alcohol has drastically reduced and my bank account's pretty happy with that. I gotta admit that those numbers (spent at bars) that used to appear on my credit card statements were rather shocking. The greatest difference felt, is to my body. Pilates and gym classes effectively keep the desire for alcohol in check. Alcohol intake is limited to one pint of beer or one dram of whisky the night before a class. On many occasions, I opt for non-alcoholic options.

Putting aside food in this discussion only because I eat fairly clean, and the diet hasn't changed very much. Carbs are not avoided, just not eaten in huge quantities. With the huge decrease in alcohol consumption, and hence, unnecessary sugar, the body feels so much better. I feel stronger, cleaner and generally less sluggish.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Three Versions of Penang Assam Laksa

It was a strange week where meals on three consecutive days included Penang assam laksa commercially sold at the stalls. Assam laksa, Penang style or otherwise, isn't not my favorite thing, although I don’t mind it if it comes with ikan kembong or ikan pelata and low on the assam and hae ko (prawn paste).

Do you recall the assam laksa that the old GRUB Noodle Bar had? I loved that very much. It was a less pungent and rather elegant version. I haven't been able to find it replicated anywhere else since. Don't bother comparing with those cooked in home kitchens. Those are obviously the best, and possibly the most pungent. While I can recognize its fabulousity, there's a likelihood that I don't take to it because it's 'authentic'. Heh, preferences.

Bowl Number 1 at Centrepoint Mall.

Bowl Number 1

It began with a bowl at the little food court of Centrepoint mall. They branded the food court as ‘Let’s Eat!’. It’s in the area of the underpass to Orchard Central, across from Toastbox. There isn’t a stall name, beyond a sign stating ‘Penang Assam Laksa’ and ‘Penang Prawn Mee’. I didn’t know about it till the friends mentioned it, and said other friends told them about this stall.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the broth, in spite of the sardines used. Piquant enough. Those noodles were good! Even added half an egg to it. For S$5, the bowl was tiny, with even tinier bits of sardines, but it was an oddly delicious bowl for what seems to be a cookie-cutter stall in a foodcourt.

Bowl Number 2

Then I had a muddling vegetarian bowl from a shop in Fortune Center. It wasn’t horrible; it was sort of edible, but the cook didn’t know how to flavor it beyond using chilli and pineapples. The galangal and bunga kantan were missing. There were little onions and almost zero assam. The flavors were flat. The thick beehoon was probably the best part of it. It was extremely forgettable.

It must be very tough to create a vegetarian version of assam laksa. There's something about the fish that vegetables can't replace. Even if I could thicken the gravy, the insufficient flavors tend to make it taste one-dimensional. Didn’t know what I was thinking when I ordered it.

Bowl Number 2 at Fortune Center.

Bowl Number 3

Finally ordered the assam laksa from Jason Penang Cuisine (檳城小吃, #01-113) at ABC Brickworks Food Center. The stall has been around like... almost a decade and I never eaten there till this year. I didn't have the capacity to try its Penang char kway teow, which is said to be good. Next time. I'm picky about that too. It's not easy to re-create it.

Sardines were used in this bowl instead of mackerel. The gravy was pretty legit. Tangy and full flavored. The assam was heavy...it leaned towards the sour side. They put very little of the hae ko (prawn paste), which is fine for me, but others might want to pile it on.

Bowl Number 3 at ABC Brickworks Food Center.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Thinking About...Cats

I'm beginning to understand just how detached I need to be with regard to material items if I am to acquire a cat. Not that I don't know. I know that in theory; I grew up with cats and dogs in the house, but I haven't kept a pet in adulthood simply because I can’t commit to it. Interacting with the friends' cats are just that, fun, and nothing further. Helping to trap and sterilize community cats by keeping them for a few nights don't actually count. Now, I'm thinking about it, and seeing it through new perspectives in relation to my living environment.

When one thinks about adopting a cat (or two) in earnest, suddenly, one starts to see how unfriendly home fixtures and windows could be to cats, or how the cuties could scratch the heck out of a favorite leather or fabric chair. And to my mild amusement, I realized I could, happily compromise on furniture and furnishings in order to have a cat. My pet's safety and comfort will be paramount, not my sense of aesthetics. Well, I’ll still get to choose monochrome colors, but I don't get much say in terms of textures and structures. Since I won't be able to keep my ideal types of dogs in Singapore, cats would be an alternative. I might also just like cats over dogs that little bit more. 😄

Then there's the issue of commitment to older cats and those with disabilities. 12 and 14-year old cats require more care, and understanding. They get sick, incontinent and perhaps blind. You can't just euthanize them. I can deal with death and sickness, but I don't think I can deal with the decision of putting down an animal unless there're grievous injuries and the vet actually recommends it due to the gravity of the illness or debilitating extent of suffering. So I’m still stuck at this stage, pondering if my lifestyle could fit in a commitment of having a cat.

The friends' cat was so judging me.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Such Tasty Vegetarian Burgers!


The friends mentioned about hans im glück for its decent burgers, its convenient location in town, and importantly, its generous range of vegetarian and vegan burgers, and a thorough list of allergens. It's soooo rare to get decent vegetarian patties at the eateries in town. There're currently 11 vegetarian and vegan burgers on the menu. The restaurant takes reservations and has air-conditioned indoor seating, and provides cutlery with the meal. Perfect.

I persuaded some people to have lunch there instead of our original venue of &Made. They were so taken by the menu that all of us ordered the vegetarian and vegan burgers. None of us tried the actual beef and chicken options. Hahahah. Those looked pretty all right. We think that the only items that translate to anything in German here are the names of the sauces in bottles, and the beer. Hahaha. The names of the burgers, are just that, random names that don't really mean anything. Oof. I didn't even attempt to pronounce them!

One could choose how you would like the buns- sourdough, multigrain or naked. The patties all sounded good, and there’re spicy patties too. S$15 or S$16 for this burger, fine by me. I ordered a vegan 'Juglans' on multigrain that held wheat patty with cranberries, sprouts and walnuts. It came with sweet potato fries. When I sank my teeth into the burger, I was blown away. It was soooo good. There's even vegan mayonnaise that's legit, and get this, CHILLI SAUCE that's somewhat spicy. This is so wonderful. I'M SOOOO HAPPY TO FINALLY GET SOME PROPERLY DELICIOUS VEGETARIAN BURGERS IN SINGAPORE. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

These School Shootings


Grimly read the news of the gunman, his legally procured weapon, and his victims at the South Florida high school. And the ensuing debate, the reaction of the country's leaders, and the continued obtuseness of Congress. Nothing much to talk about here except that same-old line of 'thoughts and prayers', since nothing has changed, and school shootings become a way of life.

How is gun violence not a problem in this first world nation? 'Thoughts and prayers' would be fairly useless when the Second Amendment is so steadfast, and the pro-gun lobby and the entire industry behind it are so vocal, connected and wealthy. The Washington Post ploughs through statistics to present us with what is presumably not fake news on the number of shootings. Yes, that number of '18 school shootings in 2018' needs a re-look.

The figures matter because gun-control activists use them as evidence in their fight for bans on assault weapons, stricter background checks and other legislation. Gun rights groups seize on the faults in the data to undermine those arguments and, similarly, present skewed figures of their own. 
~ 'No, there haven't been 18 school shootings in 2018. That number is flat wrong.' By John Woodrow Cox and Steven Rich, published in WaPo on February 15, 2018.

To live in a city where children are taught to stand on toilet bowls in locked cubicles to avoid shooters, or to yell and distract shooters because they're going to die anyway, and therefore should try to find ten extra seconds so that their other schoolmates could run further or give first responders that extra time to get on scene to disarm the shooter.

Shootings are horrific. Mass shootings chill the bone, but there seems to be nothing done beyond lots of talk, anger, angst, sadness, and fairly much nothing else as lawmakers cluck in sympathy. The killing of innocent children and teenagers moved no hearts, it seems. Gun control laws are so difficult to pass and enact in the various states. The Second Amendment is sacrosanct.

To live in a country where the average (and untrained in combat or emergency response) citizen carries guns. It's one thing to learn how to use firearms. I'm all for that. (Let's not talk about hunting here, that's another thread.) But it's quite another to be toting an assault rifle around every day like it's a phone or a watch. I recognize that most people who own and carry guns are fairly sane and controlled. But all you need is a few to snap and some bad eggs. How can the rights of the majority overlook the pain these exact rights are causing? Guns cause far more damage than fists or knives. It's absolutely tempting to use guns to solve arguments, innit? I'm very clear where my sentiments lie.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

年初三 :: 戌日耀吉瑞、狗年臻福祥


農曆年初三我沒那麼過分,只是去了三戶人家拜年。下午吃了人家幾包蝦餅,喝了兩杯咖啡和無限量的冰水。 黃昏才抵達程家拜年,順便吃晚餐。呵呵!別又說我臉皮厚哦、是有邀畢赴。先撈起再吃飯。我蠻喜歡吃魚生的。不就是一種挺豐富的salad嘛。程家為客人預備了現烤的美味satay, 又辣又濃的lontong (別提那很欠扁的‘七個隆咚’笑話) 和自家超級棒的清湯糖水。

這家沙嗲店現烤的雞肉牛肉沙嗲串燒又脆又可口。師傅在烤爐前兩個小時內考了幾百串。光吃那沙嗲花生醬和馬來粽就很滿足了。外賣沙嗲遠遠輸於現烤的。今天所謂的 ‘lontong’ 應該準確稱為 'lontong sayur lodeh' 、就是‘蔬菜咖喱米糕’。哇,咖喱味道十足。豆腐熟蛋黃加咖喱是絕配。我經不起誘惑,吞了兩大碗。

肚子飽得不太願意走來走去,也不想找個椅子坐下,勉強滾到了擺甜品的桌子。整桌都是清湯的材料!那六味清湯是程Aunty用了兩天的時間親手去殼煮軟熬湯準備的。她說大家一定要喝完。結果我們每個一人慢慢喝兩碗。嘻嘻。清湯濃中帶清,不甜也不淡,調味熬湯恰好、外邊可買不到的!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

拜年 :: 戍歲祝福萬事順、狗年兆豐五穀香


農曆年初二是解放日咯!沒人會在乎我的行蹤,也無人要求我在某某地方按時出現,甚至夠膽吩咐我一定要笑盈盈與他人打交道。初二那種自由的滋味真爽。就是去我想去的地方,見我想見的人。今年一口氣高高興興去了五戶人家拜年。

是,家家都有本難念的經。朋友與父母親之間從小到大的故事糾紛我也略懂。就是因為他們終究不是和我一起住,摩擦根本不存在,所以我以外人身分,一年見幾十次,一點兒難度都沒有。幾時讓我上門拜年,當然由朋友決定、友誼是我們之間的信任。二十多年的友誼了,自然懂得什麼不該和他方父母透露。你我很清楚這種複雜懊惱巧妙的子女關係。🙃

早上我喝了瓶牛奶當早點就出門了。臉皮還真厚 — 午餐、下午茶、晚餐和宵夜都在朋友家吃了。華人傳統籍貫和娘惹東南亞風味的美食全吞進肚子。忙著吃,都忘了一一拍照。咖啡和紅酒也喝了人家幾瓶。嘻嘻。晚餐最過分,吃飽了還很不客氣地接受Aunty S 的好意,把好吃的都打包回家。😬 當然不是空手去拜年的啦、因為有些莫名其妙淘氣的長輩還是會塞紅包給我。我臉皮是厚,但不至於厚到離譜、有帶菊花茶葉,大紅棗,燕窩之類的小禮物孝敬長輩。能到朋友家向他們的父母拜年是福。祝可愛的父母們生心安康,家和萬事興。

Friday, February 16, 2018

年初一 :: 金雞獻瑞欽郅治、玉犬呈祥展宏猷

早上舞獅采青留下的......福。

其實每年農曆初一就是一個字,‘忍’,再‘忍’。😞 一年被逼見一次的親戚能有多親?往往都是老一輩念舊,其實大大與我無關。我對 ‘親情’ 的社會定義看得很淡很輕。我對這個節日沒好感也沒興趣。我對農曆新年多半習俗毫無認同。到了四十歲還是這樣子、做的每一件事都是儘量滿足上一輩罷了。

我從小就不是很喜歡熱鬧,也不善於和人相處。過了這麼多年,和我有接觸的他們也終於明白逼我敷衍了事是沒什麼安樂感的。我從來不會刻意去討好任何人,也不做那種無聊的巴結。他們已經領教過我是多麼不喜歡人潮,清楚我是極端不善於寒暄,也知道我最多做點門面功夫了事。誰有精力追究,就等於和我撕破臉,因為我會當眾回答交代。說起難堪,他們死要面子,不會和我鬥嘴的。平時生活裡都沒有他們的存在,所以他們也深知肚明。到了今天井水不犯河水,簡直是十分和氣。這樣不就很好咯!今年農曆新年可能是我最愉快的。✌🏻

今天只開口說了“hello”和“byeeee”,加幾句“Happy New Year”之類的祝賀了事,已經算是表現特佳了。六點正立刻閃人,跑去Manhattan Bar喝杯超級棒的金湯力。真舒服。好笑的是,我不是一個人,而是早約了六位志同道合的朋友。至少今晚有好友陪伴,我靜靜坐著不說話也無人會指責我。

Thursday, February 15, 2018

年夜飯 :: 雞去瑤池傳喜訊、犬來大地報春意

I was so glad that the gym was open today. Needed to work off aggression. 😉 (Need to think about Lent too. Oops.) Went for my first kettlebell class bravely using an 8-kg, then a HIIT class. Was a tad winded after. Nice! The muscles might probably ache soon since it was the first time I did both classes. What was even better- The Daily Cut was still open! Gobbled a happy bowl of savory salad. They’re forever out of lingonberry sauce though, tsk.

The festive season is always a time where I over-eat. But that's not too bad because these calories will be burnt off. I like food, not snacks. I never have a problem saying no to the various snacks or whatever because I don't totally fancy these Lunar New Year snacks. Not pineapple tarts, definitely not the sugary sweet items, and I'm picky even over the savory snacks.

The man's mom's side of the family always rustles up a reunion dinner. I'm glad that this dinner is usually hosted at a hotel restaurant, because I'm so fussy about food that I don't eat half the items on the menu. It's rather awkward to reject food if some aunt or uncle cooked it. Tonight's dinner was seafood-based. Perfect. No giant plates of meats. There were grilled jumbo prawns which I ignored. There was a strange fried rice dish of silky fowl with wolf-berries. Half the table went yucks when they realized the black bits in the fried rice weren't olives but silky fowl. Hurhurhur. I avoid chicken wherever possible. Anyway, for me, eating rice at 11pm would be incoherent. So I skipped the dish. Just a bowl of bird’s nest soup with fish maw, and braised abalone with spinach sufficed.

This reunion dinner is done at the second seating at the restaurants, and never begins earlier than 9pm and often ends at 11.30pm. Zzzzzz. So I've learnt to schedule other dinners before that. Those would begin at 5.30pm or 6pm, and it'd be necessary to fill my growling tummy before sitting down to a second meal again at 9pm when I shouldn’t be eating, and therefore wouldn't take very much food.