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CNY Revisits

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I like this time of the year with CNY just around the corner. 

It is great that this year’s CNY is in February because the festive mood is prolonged for a slightly longer period of time than if CNY had been in January.  It is somewhat depressing to have Christmas in December and before you know it, CNY whisks past you in January and all you see is this long, plodding, sombrous stretch of the working year ahead. 

Sounding melodramatic, I know.  So what did I like about this time of the year?  And what do I still like?

Looking forward to decadent, artery-clogging meals.  Mom’s pig’s trotters in vinegar (I like the sweet-ish version, and I promise myself that I will learn how to cook this dish in 2010), braised sea cucumber with Chinese dried mushrooms and fa cai, pig’s stomach soup with fish maw and braised duck.  My mother-in-law’s home-made ngor hiang (I know I should offer to help her mince the pork belly someday – machine-grounded meat will not do, but….).  Steamboat after steamboat. 

Tossing yusheng.  Which genius invented this dish?

Stuffing myself with pineapple tarts and little spicy shrimp paste rolls.  I am generally not big on CNY goodies.  Love letters? Not really my thing.  Oh, I nearly forgot to mention kueh lapis!  I haven’t eaten this in a long while.  I had an ex-colleague who baked fabulous kueh lapis in several flavours such as strawberry, chocolate, chempedak and prunes.  I used to order the strawberry flavoured ones from her.  Maybe I should go and get a box from Bengawan Solo this year.

Wearing a new set of pyjamas.  Before I was married, my mom bought me new pyjamas for CNY every year – she has this weird idea that waking up on the first day of the lunar new year in a new pair of PJs is auspicious because it symbolises a fresh start – whatever.  What kind of PJs did she foist on me? Nothing sheer, sexy or feminine, but a long T-shirt with a huge Winnie the Pooh (or Hello Kitty, or some Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle look-a-like) cartoon on the front…..Now, I just wear a new T-shirt to bed on CNY eve.

Shopping for new clothes.  I stopped buying new clothes for CNY when I started University.  But before that, shopping for new clothes was one of the highlights of CNY.  I remember how my good friend and I dashed home from school on CNY eve, changed out of our uniforms and dashed to Orchard, shopped ourselves into oblivion hunting for new outfits before running home in time to eat reunion dinner.  It was practically a ritual with the two of us for a number of years. 

As I grew older, buying new clothes lost its shine.  But I know friends who still practise the tradition of wearing red on the first day of the lunar new year and/or wear new outfits everyday for the entire 14-day period because they believe it to be an auspicious thing to do.  Gosh, buying 14 new outfits..??  I couldn’t manage that although I like the ring of it.

Plant shopping at nurseries.  I visit the nurseries located at  Thomson Road and Hougang nearly every weekend to look at the blooming CNY plants in their vibrant and gorgeous colours.  My mom always had pussy willows at home.  As a kid, I loved removing the husks (is this the right word…??) from the buds despite my mom’s strict instructions that we should let them drop off on their own.  After I got married, I continued with Mom’s tradition of buying pussy willows for my own place.  I love camelias and I think I will buy a pot this year…

Sleeping on new bedsheets.  My Mom always ensured that I had a new set of bedsheets to sleep in on CNY eve.  The bedsheets were almost always printed with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Snow White with Seven Dwarf motifs.  She did not believe in spending money on bedsheets with a 3-digit threadcount.  Nowadays, buying bedsheets is TBH’s domain and I don’t remember ever sleeping on brand new bedsheets during CNY…!!

Watching a Jacky Chan movie.  Sadly, he no longer releases any CNY movie nowadays.

See? I said nothing about visiting relatives.  We usually have a family lunch with my extended maternal side of the family on the second day either at my Mom’s place or at my aunt’s home.  I like such family gatherings.  It is the meet-only-once-a-year relatives that I just don’t see any point in visiting…oh well.  

This year will be the first time in my life spending the first few days of the lunar new year away from home.  I wonder if I will miss it all when I am away…

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CF #004: Rain, SK Telecom

Commercial break.


Credits: MsMerra
 
This is another really cute and breezy CF.  Too bad the clip is rather old and the quality quite poor, but one can just make out what it is all about.

Rain looks hilarious in those clownish-looking polka-dotted pants! I wonder if the woman in the CF is the actress Lee Yo-won. Looks like her but I’m not so sure.
 
I found another two NG clips of this CF which are also cute. 

Credits: MsMerra

Credits: MsMerra

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Gone Longgang Fishing

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Mainland Tropical Fish Farm, Pasir Ris Farmway 1

After squatting down and stabbing furiously at the water with the (very small) fishing net for 15 mins, I caught nothing.

While it was alot of fun, I am not anatomically built for this sort of thing because I cannot squat properly. The odds of me losing my balance and falling into the pond are so much higher than me catching one fish.

Next to me was a 10 y.o. who looked like a longgang fishing veteran – evident from our respective buckets. It got pretty embarrassing when she kept looking at my empty bucket and asked thrice if I wanted some of her fishes.

We chatted a bit and she told me that she goes longgang fishing and prawning quite often at such farms in several places and keeps her spoils in a tank at home.

Eventually, I passed the net over to TBH who managed to score several guppies in gorgeous colours before our 30 mins were up. The 10 y.o. offered to exchange some of her fishes for our guppies – we gave her all our fishes.

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Making Pineapple Tarts – Part III

Finally. It is finished. The first round, I mean.

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I wanted to give up after botching the dough the first time. I put it all down to my Mom’s cryptic instructions.

What does “6 eggs, want 5 egg yolks, 1/2 egg white” mean? If only 5 egg yolks are required, why did she specify 6 eggs….??

It has been too long since I last made the tarts and cannot remember the details of her instructions (and of course, I didn’t jot down notes previously). Plus she was nowhere to be found when I needed to speak to her to clarify this.

I figured she meant 5 egg yolks and the 6th egg is for the egg wash. So I tried again.

Halfway through, I realised that a rolling pin no longer resides in this household and had to substitute with an empty Dr Loosen for rolling the dough. I also have to get a watercolour paintbrush for applying egg wash.

Pineapple Tarts

Verdict of tarts? Okay, except that the jam is too sweet and tastes a bit cloying. The quantity of rock sugar has to be reduced by some arbitrary amount – maybe 50g – in the next batch of pineapple that I cook.

I also know that Mom will complain about the inconsistency in the sizes of the pineapple balls and the thickness of the crusts. As I have always said to her: “I am human, not a machine…”

And please excuse me, I am going to cam-whore a little here.

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Making Pineapple Tarts – Part I

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I said it. There is no turning back now.

In my entire life, I have not bought pineapple tarts from the stores before. Having grown up on my mother’s pineapple tarts, I did not have any strong desire to buy the ones sold outside.

Back then, the pineapple tart production line at home starts a month before Chinese New Year and did not usually stop till Chinese New Year’s Eve.

Grating the pineapple, cooking the pineapple to make jam, kneading and rolling the dough, cutting out the dough using the dough cutters for the crust, arranging the cut-out crusts in rows on the baking tray, rolling pineapple jam into little balls, placing the little balls onto the cut-out crusts, applying egg wash on the crusts, putting the tarts into the oven to bake, cooling the tarts and arranging the tarts in a container.

So many steps. Back-breaking work. But it was a lot of fun. Especially when Mom’s friends pop by to join the production line.

Growing up, my mom allowed me to roll the pineapple jam into little balls, apply egg wash and do nothing else. I have always liked rolling the dough and cutting out the dough with the dough cutters but she insisted on doing this herself. She wanted consistency in the thickness of the dough and being consistent in this respect wasn’t my forte.

My mom has stopped making pineapple tarts for the family several years ago and passed on the baton to me. As I said, being consistent is not my forte so family and friends get homemade pineapple tarts, at best, in alternate years. I emphasize – at best.

Last year, I made the jam but could not find it in me to continue. So this year, I am determined to get my act together and produce something!

For a start, I grated half-a-dozen pineapples and drained the juice this evening. I need some brilliant but idiot-proof ideas as to what I can do with the pineapple juice.

I am starting to smell like pineapple too.

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Humour, Where Are You

A girlfriend said to me the other day that a sense of humour in a man is sexy.  Very sexy.   I couldn’t agree further.  But.  Men like that are in short supply here.

Being able to tell jokes, recognize and appreciate them, being able to laugh frequently, remain optimistic, don’t take himself or life too seriously, being able to be the butt of a joke without feeling a huge stab to their fragile egos, is terribly appealing in a man.  Heck, in any person – male or female.

Having a sense of humour is not the same as being funny.  I make that distinction because men with a sense of humour always make me laugh but grown men who are funny, more often than not, make me wince, roll my eyes, slap my forehead and wish that they will just wake up.  Also, I tend to use the word ‘funny’ to describe 5 y.o. boys (not grown men) who make me laugh.  In short, a grown man who is funny, to me, is plain silly.

We both think that Adrian Pang has truckloads of charm and is obscenely humorous. We laughed very hard at this recent interview that we found on Channel News Asia.

SINGAPORE : If other people have the proverbial seven-year-itch, Adrian Pang has an eight-year one.

For the past eight years, the actor and local television have been virtually inseparable – first with the now-defunct MediaWorks and later, with his current home since 2005, MediaCorp.

Next April, however, he’ll be going on a “trial separation” from his long-time employer.

The 43-year-old MediaCorp artiste told TODAY that he will not be renewing his current three-year contract, which ends on March 31.

But that doesn’t mean he’s hanging up his acting shoes. Instead, Adrian will be channelling all his energies towards theatre, courtesy of a new company he has recently set up with his wife, Tracie, called Pangdemonium!.

Their first production will be the Broadway musical version of the hit film “The Full Monty”, which opens on June 18 at the Drama Centre.
It will be an amicable parting of ways. Both Adrian and MediaCorp have stated they’re both open to working together in the future.

“MediaCorp Artiste Adrian Pang has been working on both Channel 5 and 8 productions in the past five years with us. We have always been supportive of his love for theatre and had encouraged him to explore his own creative space for the theatre.

“We wish him all the best in his new set up with wife Tracie Pang in Pangdemonium!, and welcome the opportunity to work with him again,” said Andrew Cheng, MediaCorp’s senior vice-president, production resource and artistes management, in a statement.

But couch potatoes don’t have to bid farewell to Adrian just yet. You can still catch him on the telly with “Polo Boys” (the last episode airs Thursday) and “The Pupil” on Channel 5 and “New City Beat” on Channel 8.

Plus, he’s in the midst of shooting a new 20-episode Chinese drama with Rui En called “I’m With You”.

“Like a James Blunt song,” he quipped.

But lest you think the theatre thesp is disdainful of his time spent on the small screen, allow Adrian to clear the air one final time.

“One analogy I came up with is that I work for a chocolate factory and we make chocolates. Who doesn’t like chocolates? There’s nothing wrong with being the purveyor of chocolate,” said Adrian.

“But I’ve come out to cook a meal in my little bistro or tze char restaurant.”

Will you be totally leaving TV behind?

The TV thing and me have been in an arranged marriage of convenience. Which I entered into with consent. We did sign a pre-nup that at such point, we could agree to have a trial separation – which is what it is now. I need to go out and sow my residual wild oats. We’ve parted on amicable terms for a trial separation but we shall remain f*** buddies. That’s a bad analogy.

Well, the metaphor is consistent.

The fact is, I’d be silly to decide not to do any more TV. I have enjoyed one or two things so why would I say goodbye to all that? Hopefully, there’ll be opportunities for me to work again and hopefully they will keep that door open. I don’t want to burn any bridges. Hopefully, the door will stay open for me. It’s probable that it’ll come to a point in the near future when I’ll be knocking on that door and saying: “Helloooo … ”

I guess in an ideal world, this new corner that I’m turning will mean that, because I’m focusing my energies on nurturing this new child that is Pangdemonium!, I’ll be able to do something that I want to do and choose to do. I just want to do work that I feel for, lah. Put a gun to my head now and I will have to say theatre is still the thing that makes me feel most (alive).

Don’t you think it’s such a risky thing to do – from your secure job to setting up a fledgling theatre company with Tracie?

Ever since I came back to Singapore to embrace this whole being an employee for a corporation thing, it’s easy to just get lulled into this comfort zone. It’s easy to get comfortable and used to and to an extent, to take it for granted as well. I’ve done it for eight years in Singapore.

Before that, I was working for eight years as a freelance actor in the United Kingdom. It’s an eight-year itch. It’s risky, it’s a gamble – but I’m always in a nervous and anxious disposition anyway, which is very bad for my blood pressure. But it’s incredibly liberating as well. Ever since we made the decision, I’ve really felt a whole new lease on life.

Whenever we’ve interviewed you, you’ve never failed to take funny potshots at acting on Chinese language TV. Where did this whole love-hate relationship come from?

It started in MediaWorks … Against the odds, we were living hand to mouth. And it came to a point where (it was) ‘Oh, what do we do with this guy?’ So just to make sure I was earning my keep, they tried me out on the Chinese channel (Channel U) on a food programme with Michelle Chia, thank goodness.

I was very lucky to be paired up with her. She kinda held my hand through the whole thing and by the grace of God and by the open-heartedness and generosity of the viewers, they accepted my shortcomings in the language.

I was The Chinese Experiment, lah. After that, I started doing Chinese dramas and I was like: ‘What’s going on? I’ve created a monster here!’ The ‘Pangdora’s Box’ of Chinese (TV) was opened! (Laughs)

Well, reluctant Chinese television actor or not, the viewers seem to like you right?

Objectively, I’m grateful that the experiment kinda worked – some mutation came out of it and it was accepted. It could have been a lot worse! They could have decided to reject me. I have to be honestly gracious about it.

After the merger, the first show MediaCorp put me in, ironically, was a Chinese 100-episode drama. Before Channel 5 could rope me in, Channel 8 (did). They got me for a whole year for a show called “Portrait Of Home”.

After that, I kinda ducked and dived for a few years – just doing English shows – before they nabbed me again. As Michael Corleone in “The Godfather III” said: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back again!”


And I would candidly confess the only reason I was in “Polo Boys” was because I heard that Channel  8 was gonna put me in a ping pong drama. I was like: ‘Chinese! … Ping pong! … Chinese ping pong drama!’ So I just had to knock on Channel 5’s doors and go “Help!” And they said: “Oh, we’ve got … water polo.”


Do you use your ‘I’m Adrian Pang’ card?


It’s work. It’s all good. I’ve been a freelance actor before and work is hard to come by, and the way I’ve looked at it actually is it’s no different from being a freelance actor. In as much as, when you’re freelance actor, you’re just auditioning furiously hoping for a job to come along. And a job comes along, you thankfully grab it. And how it turns out is completely out of your hands. You’re just an actor for hire.


Working as an employee on a payroll? No different! You pick the work that is thrown at you, gratefully and graciously accepting it, do the best that you can. The ultimate product is out of your control. You’re just a little cog in the whole machinery, lah.

Out with it, drama or comedy?

I prefer drama, lah. I mean, one of the first things I had told myself when I came back to Singapore was I didn’t wanna do any sitcoms. That worked out. I’ve always wanted to avoid it. But what to do? You just kind of go with it, really.

So what’s on your calendar after March 31?

We’re already planning stuff for Pangdemonium! and “The Full Monty” for the next couple of months leading up to that. I don’t want to anticipate some sense of: ‘Oh, he’s free’ … ‘Cos I’m not! I’m just under a new management! (Laughs) It’s not that I’m leaving TV to do something completely different, which a lot of people have done, and you know, respect to them. Live long and prosper.

Any regrets?

My mullet in 1987. We’re going too far back already. (Laughs) I kinda regret not putting in more effort in studying Chinese in school. I’d have more of a TV career now if I wasn’t so terrified of it.

Adrian’s top five

Mr Pang wracks his brains for his most memorable moments on the small screen (for now).

1. Michelle Chia

I’ve worked with her on several different things. We used to be paired up a lot to do external hosting gigs as well. And we have worked together this very easy, unspoken chemistry thing which you can’t manufacture. We’re just lucky to have that. She’s a lovely girl. And she puts up with my nonsense. And working with her once again on “Polo Boys”… I wish I could work with her more.

2. Parental Guidance

I really enjoyed working with Jessica Hsuan. Really nice girl and great fun to work with. I did really enjoy doing “Parental Guidance”. It was such a light comedy rather than a broad camp-type of thing. You had real characters and it was intelligently written and directed, and there was a lot of care and love put into creating this little world.

3. Kym Ng

I acted with her in “Durian King” and again now on “New City Beat”. She’s always a scream, and always a pro, and the one person who is genuinely warm and “up” all the bloody time.

4. Six Weeks It was the last MediaWorks Channel i production that we did. It’s special to me because the idea for the six-episode mini-series was a story that I had brought to my boss. It was a real labour of love for me. And the most gratifying thing was that many, many people have told me how much that story spoke to them … It’s just gratifying that you do something and hope it lands somewhere good. Otherwise it’s just indulgence.

5. 2009

The whole of last year. I had great fun doing “Red Thread” – it was five months of pretty hard, intensive stuff. And “Polo Boys” was a scream. That was a riot to do.

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Wait. Don’t Eat. Yet.

Dinner
The vegetables look sadly wilted as they had been sitting around for a while – after I was done with cooking, I realised that I had forgotten to turn on the rice cooker……

Just like how I don’t understand why there are some people who enjoy taking macro shots of creepy-crawlies, there are also people who have no clue as to why I am crazy about taking food photos (yeah, even a mug of frothy teh tarik also must take).

Guess it is mostly because I love food (who doesn’t?) and I enjoy photography (yeah, right) and what better than to marry the two (which annoys the heck out of my husband but well, it might be good for his blood pressure to be annoyed from time to time). 

Also, I think the gastronomic experience starts with the eye so I like to capture how a dish looks when it is served – whether it has been meticulously plated according to the rules of fine-dining establishments or not (think char kway teow or hokkien prawn noodles) does not really matter.  Yes, even my own modest ‘everything-pile-on-the-plate’ meals, I like to take photos of.  Practice (at every opportunity) makes perfect!

Does this make any sense? Even if it does not, never mind – this isn’t a Financial Times column. 

So, eating with me can be quite a tiresome affair (and more often than not, embarrassing) because I like to snap photos of the food before I let anyone at the table dig into it.  In whichever possible angle – aerial, side, 60 degrees or at various apertures, lighting and set up.  And I balance the camera on anything on the table – wine glasses, plates, bowls, vases…

I guess my regular dining companions have gotten so used to such antics that whenever their food arrives at the table, they will automatically say “Go on, do whatever you have to do…and HURRY UP. I am frickin’ hungry.”  But I always take my time with TBH’s food because it raises his heckles immediately.

Know what happens whenever I dine out and forget my camera? I start twitching.

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CF #003: SJS, Sony

I like this commercial, filmed in Cuba for the Sony Alpha 350. 

Love the scenery, the retro cars, the gorgeous colour palette, the dreamy Cubana music, the camera. 

Especially the camera.

I want the flip Quick live view screen. The flip function makes taking photos at certain angles so much easier.  If I had seen this commercial before Rain’s Nikon one……maybe not.  Stick with Nikon, you can’t go wrong.

I read that the cafe shown at the beginning of the commercial is famous in Havana because Ernest Hemmingway visited it regularly (so why is knowing this piece of trivia useful? Beats me. Just fun I guess.)

Oh, and did I forget to say that I find the actor’s hands so so so sexy…especially in the way he holds the camera.

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Seafood Pancake

Haemul Pajeon
Haemul Pajeon (‘haemul’ – seafood; ‘pajeon’ – pancake)

The haemul pajeon served by Red Pig, a Korean eatery at Amoy St run by two Korean ahjummas, is by far the tastiest that I’ve eaten in Singapore.

The pajeon is very crispy on the outside and the insides filled with generous portions of scallions and squid.  Quite a number of other places which I have tried are too generous with the batter and too stingy with ingredients, so I end up feeling as though I am eating half-cooked batter and hardly anything else.

I also like Red Pig’s kimchi jigae which is more sour than what we are used to.

Apart from the pajeon and kimchi jigae, I think I keep going back to Red Pig because the eatery’s atmosphere is reminiscent of eating in Seoul.

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Bad Girl, You

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I spent the better half of today fending off the rhetorical “When is it your turn?” question from relatives at our niece’s one-month old party. 

I say ‘rhetorical’ because I don’t think many of them expect any meaningful response from me. 

I recognise that this is a standard ice-breaker question at family functions with relatives whom you rarely see.  Still, it used to irritate the heck out of me that I started dreaming up inflammatory and politically incorrect replies (too bad, I didn’t have the guts to test out any of these). 

But these days, I just shrug the question off.

After issuing the standard “When is it your turn” question, relatives inevitably follow up with “You should have one because it will make both sets of parents very happy.”

I get it – what you’re actually saying is that I am unfillial (for not making their life more complete by contributing grandchildren whom they can bounce on their laps).  Why don’t you just spit that out in my face? I can handle it.  

Last night, I was checking my Facebook account and an ex-colleague sent me a message via the online chat function on Facebook.  She is someone whom I have not kept in touch with except through Facebook very occasionally.  I heard from mutual friends that she had recently become a mother after being married for several years. 

I was not very keen to make small talk but since she initiated the conversation, I felt the need to be polite and respond. 

Her: How are you?

Me: I am well.  How are you?
…….
…….
Her: Do you have kids now? Ok, at this question, I started to hear alarm bells ringing.

Me: No, I don’t.

Her: Would you be having any soon? Alarm bells were definitely ringing louder now and I really should have listened to my instincts to end the conversation.

Me: Erm, not in the forseeable future.

Her: Oh ok, then you can ENJOY THE LUXURIES OF LIFE. I don’t know if she had accidentally pressed the caps lock key on her keyboard …..

Me: Erm, I guess it is a lifestyle choice. Honestly, I have no idea if that is the right answer. I am not even sure if the reason why I don’t have kids is entirely about lifestyle. But I couldn’t think of anything else to say but this.

Her: YES. IT IS.  At this point, I logged out of Facebook.  I could literally hear her voice dripping with scorn “Bad girl, you.”

I really have no idea what I did or didn’t do to deserve this “….so you can enjoy the luxuries of life” dig from her.  Ok, I know what I didn’t do.

Personally, I think asking people about whether they are having kids and why they are not having any are very intrusive questions which shows a lack of sensitivity towards people and their individual circumstances.

For example, this person automatically assumed that not having kids is my personal choice and tagged on the very insensitive “to enjoy the luxuries of life” comment.  But what if the reason behind my answer is that I can’t have kids due to a medical condition?  I can’t be expected to announce that to the entire world right? Then, it would have been absolutely evil to say what she said to me.

While you’re at it about why I don’t have kids, why don’t you also ask me how much I make a year?  Or how much I have in my bank account?

Gee.

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