Chinese Steamed Pumpkin Cake

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OH. SO. YUMMY.

After resting the pumpkin cake (with heaps of Chinese mushrooms and pork) in the fridge for one night, I took it out this morning, sliced a wedge and pan-fried the slices in a sizzling hot pan till the sides are all crispy and brown.

Eaten with loads of cold chilli sauce. Damn, forgot to get Lingham’s so had to make do with Maggi’s.

Good thing that the husband doesn’t like this stuff so I have all of it to myself. I love pumpkin-anything, except when it is in its raw form.

I’m glad my mom learnt how to make this from my late paternal grandmother. This is about the only food that I really like which has been passed down from the Hokkien side of my bloodline.

Culinary Pick-up #001

Mom came over to my place today to hand down some of her recipes – Chinese steamed pumpkin cake and rempah.

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The problem is that she doesn’t have exact measurements of the ingredients, but arbitrary estimates that she pulls out of her ear.

“Four bowls of water”. What sort of bowls – big, medium or small?

“One spoonful of starch”. Erm.

“Half an Australian pumpkin”.  Half of a BIG pumpkin is very different from half of a small pumpkin, or even a medium-sized pumpkin.

“$5 of fatty pork” or “an amount that is the size of your fist”. Okay. Is it $5 of fatty pork for half a pumpkin or what…?? And am I supposed to tell the butcher to sell me some pork that is equivalent to the size of my fist? Will he throw the cleaver at me?

“Why do you need exact measurements..? No-one gave me exact measurements. After you make this a few times, you’ll know how much ingredients are needed.” Yeah, that’s just brilliant.

That’s one of the reasons why we have shouting matches whenever we are together. Not just because we have Hainanese blood in our veins, but because we operate very differently in the kitchen.  I like very dangerous objects such as KNIVES to be laid flat on the table or in the sink when not in use; Mom likes to wave them at me when she talks to me.  I think she might just POKE me in the chest with a knife one of these days.  She thinks my kitchen is an utter mess – she is the ‘keep your workstation clean all the time’ sort of person and I am clearly, not.

That was for the steamed pumpkin cake. It was the same arbitrary measurements for her rempah.

I am still none the wiser after spending the entire day with her in the kitchen. It was quite fun though.

Food Blog: Smitten Kitchen

I came across this food blog recently, Smitten Kitchen, run by a husband-and-wife team living in NYC. 

I like the look of the blog. 

It has a simple uncluttered layout (and to me, that means there are little of those migraine-inducing photo galleries plug-ins and OTT number of widgets), monochromatic colour scheme, easy navigation, well-taken photos and clear concise writing in a conversational style.

I haven’t tried any of the recipes posted on this blog (most of which seem to be adapted from cookbooks) but I will very soon.

Ah Hor Kway Teow Mee

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Drove out for lunch with a friend to Syed Alwi for Teochew kway teow mee and a bowl of fish dumplings.

As usual, I got lost and went here, there and all over before I found the place (I can picture my husband’s contorted face had he been in the car). I checked the street directory before I drove off, I swear! I think I should add a GPS system to my 2011 wish list.

Flavour of the noodles is nowhere as good as our favourite haunt in Simpang Bedok but the chilli is quite yummy. Not the fiery spicy sort but has a texture like heybi hiam. Wouldn’t mind buying a bottle to eat with plain rice, if only they sold it on its own.

Then we went to Mirabelle to buy charcoal buns, chocolate croissants, scones and tuilles.

Happy. Happy.

Murakami Reading Project

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I read my first Murakami book, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, way back in 2004 and I thought it was a rather odd novel. I couldn’t quite connect with what I was reading. Firstly, the numerous characters were all so wacky strange, they appear to be living on a different planet. Secondly, the book didn’t seem to have a coherent plot and comes across as a compilation of random, yet related, stories about the strange characters. Normally, I would have given up after two chapters but I found the novel sufficiently compelling for me to to finish reading it. And rather, enjoyed it.

Then I went and purchased two of his other books – A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance. These two books killed off my budding interest in Murakami’s works. The surrealistic plots in these two books, especially A Wild Sheep Chase, were too much for me and I wrote them off as nonsense. Seriously, a book about people hunting for a strange sheep which inhabits and controls a man’s mind…??

Maybe it’s age that makes me want to revisit stuff which I didn’t like when I was younger.  Recently, I decided to dip into Murakami again.  Yeah, can’t find a logical reason for anything, just blame it on AGE.

I read Kafka On The Shore and Norwegian Wood and liked both novels alot. Because the plots were not that outrageous and characters were very well-developed. So I’ve decided to read the rest of Murakami’s novels as a mini reading project for myself.  There seems to have one thing which I have in common with Murakami.  We like cats.  Black cats.

A particular book blog that I frequent is organising a Murakami Reading Challenge where participants (or rather, like-minded  bookworms) are supposed to read all of his books over the course of 2011 and thereafter, put up personal reviews about the books.   While I am not going to participate in the challenge, I thought it would be fun for me to read all the books at my own pace, then read these reviews and see if I agree or disagree with the points made in these reviews. 

I was searching online for a list of books and noticed that his book covers are very whimsical and quirky. Apart from price, two things I consider when buying a book are: book art AND the typeface of the font.  Which is why I never buy Penguin books unless absolutely necessary – the fonts are tiny and the covers almost always look terribly outdated. Sometimes, I sniff at the pages of the book to see if they smell nice.

Happy reading.

Zion Road Kway Chap

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^Boon Tong Kee Kway Chap at Zion Road Food Centre.

I really overdid it today. Kickass nonya laksa for lunch and artery-clogging kway chap for dinner. All on the same day.

Eversince I came back from Korea, I lost my appetite for hawker food for quite a while. Even the food served at my usual favourite hawker places didn’t whet my appetite.

Nothing tasted nice. Or right.

Today might be the day my appetite has finally come to terms with the fact that it is stuck in Singapore and won’t be seeing Korea-Korean food in a long, long while.

An Excuse For Ginger Soup

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It’s Winter Solstice. Tangyuan time.

I love tangyuan, especially the ones with peanut and sesame filling. But what I love even better than tangyuan is the ginger soup that the tangyuan is usually served with.

Ginger soup – I made it myself with young ginger and rock sugar.  Tangyuan, I got the packaged ones from Di Yi Jia. 

But I miss my mom’s home-made tangyuan.  She prefers tangyuans without any filling and serves it with a sweet, pandan-flavoured soup.

Books: Norwegian Wood

First, the Beatles song. Then the novel by Haruki Murakami. And now, a movie directed by Tran Anh Hung.  All known as ‘Norwegian Wood‘.

I have just read the novel and loved every bit of it.  It is rather different from Murakami’s other books, in the sense that this novel is a simple love story centred on a young man on the cusp of adulthood, and is devoid of any surrealistic plot devices that are common in Murakami’s works.  No talking cats, vanishing elephants, strange sheep, etc.  But like most of the male protagonists in his books, the main character here is an apathetic hero who reads widely and loves to listen to music.  This is another thing that I like about Murakami’s books – the numerous references to books and music.

I am looking forward to watching the movie when it screens in Singapore.  I read that it took the director 4 years to convince Murakami to turn the novel into a movie.  While I doubt the movie will be as good as the book itself, I can see from the trailer that the cinematography is gorgeous.  And because the story is set in the late 1960s, the movie set has a retro feel to it.

It would be interesting to see how closely the movie follows the novel and how the director interprets and fleshes out the story and emotions of the characters.

A Replica Of Granny

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“I turn ONE on the 22nd which is next Wednesday….!”

We had a gathering at my in-law’s place for an advance celebration of our niece’s birthday next week.  It was a low key event because my in-laws didn’t think that it was necessary to invite the entire family clan for a party.  Thank goodness.

It was a nightmare trying to get her to take a photo with the cake because she kept pulling the dolly underneath the cake towards her, which nearly sent the cake flying in her face.  I was glad that my mother-in-law bought a normal sponge cake with a fruit topping from the neighbourhood bakery instead of the colourful, fondant-heavy, cartoon-themed cakes that are so popular at birthday parties for kids these days.

The little imp can sit up but for some reason, can’t yet crawl.  So she moves around on her butt.  The two words that she can say are “mum-mum” and  “ball”.  She likes to eat and is fed all sorts of food, including laksa, just to keep her quiet.

She looks so much like her maternal grandmother (my mother-in-law) in this photo.

Binggrae Banana Milk

*moans….* I miss drinking this brand of banana-flavoured milk from Korea. I didn’t realise the Koreans were big on banana milk.

If I find this milk in Singapore, I’m going to stock my fridge with many, many, many bottles…!

I have loved drinking banana milk since I was a kid in primary school when we had to drink a carton of milk everyday. We got a different flavour everyday – chocolate, strawberry, plain, vanilla. I remember looking forward to Friday because that was the day we were given banana-flavored milk. (Anyway, I love all things banana….)

So every week, I traded my chocolate milk, strawberry milk and vanilla milk for my classmates’ banana-flavoured milk. I couldn’t understand why no-one seemed to like the delicious banana-flavoured milk.

It has a been a long while since I drank banana-flavoured milk.  Except for HL, I don’t see any banana-flavoured milk in the supermarket.  I guess it isn’t popular because Singaporeans seem to favour strawberry and chocolate milk.  Some time back, I tried HL’s banana-flavoured milk but I didn’t like it. Too bad. It just didn’t taste right. There wasn’t enough banana flavour in the milk.

Cheki 25


Source: http://photojojo.com/store/awesomeness/instax-camera/

A cute new Polaroid camera that I bought in Seoul. The Instax Mini 25 (also known as Cheki 25 in Japanese).

There is an even cuter Hello Kitty version that comes with a Hello-Kitty-shade-of-red strap that is being sold in Japan now. You can also purchase the special film pack which prints photos in Hello Kitty frames!

Yeah, I am not shy to say that I am a fan of both the Hello Kitty and Keropi cartoon characters.

I love watching the image appear gradually on the film before my eyes.

Gwangju: Boseong Tea Plantation

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I have managed to tear myself away from watching Marry Me, Mary to put up a picture of the tea plantation known as Daehan Dawon in Boseong, Jeollanam-do (somewhere in the south-western part of Korea) which I visited as a day-trip while staying in Gwangju. Boseong is a 90min bus ride from Gwangju. And from the Boseong bus terminal, it takes another 20mins to reach Daehan Dawon by a local bus (which departs Boseong in approximately 30-minute intervals; I think the intervals could be shorter during spring and summer but I lack the linguistic ability to make such inquiries with the folks manning the ticket counter.)

I lugged my computer to Korea just so that I could keep myself entertained at night in my room watching dramas, posting photos on Facebook and on the blog. I’m doing a lot of watching dramas and posting photos on Facebook but very little on the blog ‘cos this requires me to apply more of my brain cells and I am kind of low on brain-juice right now.

What I need is a super light MacBook Air. The camera bag and Acer computer together weigh a ton. I have already given up bringing the camera bag everywhere, relying mostly on my 18-200mm zoom lens unless I’m pretty sure that I’m going to a place which definitely requires the use of my other lens.

I’m going to keep this short. Will have to put up backdated posts and fill in the blanks on the trip when I get home.

Jeju: Jeonbang Waterfalls

We’re heading back to Seoul today and will spend the rest of tonight and tomorrow morning going on a mad shopping spree in Skin Food, Faceshop, Nature Republic (and hopefully, nothing else) so that TBH can cart all the loot home. When he goes home tomorrow afternoon, I will make my way down to Jeonju by train and thereafter, by cab to the guesthouse.

I haven’t had major problems getting around in Gangneung and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will remain this way for the rest of the trip to the provinces down south. I have learnt that I must write down the names and addresses of the places that I want to visit in Korean characters and show them to the taxi drivers. I cannot assume that they would recognize the name of the hotel or destinations that I want to visit simply because my intonation in pronouncing Korean words is completely off and they have no idea what I am saying to them.

I should post some more pictures of Jeju-do before I go back to Seoul where hooking my computer to the Internet in the hotel room is a pain.  Staying in Hotel Sun-Bee in Insadong was an incredibly BAD choice on my part – not so much the quality of the room but where the hotel is situated.

I thought the location of Sun-Bee sounded good because it is gobsmack in Insadong, but navigating the human traffic in Insadong with our lugguage in order to get to the hotel from the airport limousine stop is an utter nightmare. Even the taxis can’t seem to find their way through Insadong to the hotel lobby and they would ask you to alight at wherever is most convenient for them, and you go figure your own way to the hotel.  Also, Sun-Bee is located in a back alley of Insadong so it is not quite safe walking back to the hotel from the subway stations station after 10pm.  Especially when you are alone.

Okay, back to photos.

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^Jeonbang Waterfalls

After lunch at MINT, we visited the Jeonbang Waterfalls – one of three famous waterfalls in Jeju – on our way back to the resort.  There is a pathway lined with camelia trees leading to the rocks and one can get pretty close to the waterfall.  It was very picturesque and save for the sound of the water crashing onto the rocks, the spot was delightfully quiet and peaceful.  I was half afraid of having to rub shoulders with busloads of tourists that we saw heading along the same way as us.

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We saw a couple of ahjummas squatting under a tent that was pitched on the rocks.  Ah, this was a makeshift stall selling raw oysters and shellfish – exactly something which I have wanted to try.  I pointed to a basin filled with shellfish (some sort of clam) and oysters and asked for one of each.

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^ This is what we got from the ahjummas.  Not cheap – this plate costs us slightly over S$20.

We plonked ourselves on a dry rock and proceeded to have a taste of the sea!  Even though I love sashimi, I must honestly say that this was a rather squeamish experience for me.

Obviously, we left behind the “most delicious bits” because when we returned the tray to the ahjumma, she gave us a dirty look, muttered something under her breath and ate the leftovers on our plate.

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