Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Teas

It's spring, and I'm going batty over the new teas from every tea-producing region. While I understand people's love for Hangzhou's pricey long jing (Dragonwell), I'm not a fan. I'm more curious about the economics behind it and what tea masters consider 'good'. A jaunt to the long jing plantations with learned tea masters opened my eyes to its production, definition of grades of leaves and all. I sipped nothing but long jing all day from different estates till the tongue was numb and still the tea masters made me drink to learn the different characteristics of each estate's treatment of the pre-Qingming longjing teas (明前龙井).

There're green teas due from Kyoto and Shizuoka, but the shipment will only arrive in the second week of May. Shincha. Excited. But just as well that this shipment will arrive later. Need a break between tasting so much green tea. I was so pumped up by caffeine from green tea in Hangzhou that my sleep was badly affected. ARRRRGH. In case you want to know, I'm not selling them. Pekoe & Imp doesn't sell teas either, which is why my partner and I don't have a problem paying, say for example, S$150 for 100 grams of spring tea thereabouts, and sharing it with other tea enthusiasts. Our other jobs sustain this serious tea hobby.

When I got home, I was thrilled to see a new batch of Darjeeling first flush waiting for me. The ones from Namring Estate were the first to arrive. Then from Turzum estate. Now waiting for the box from Orange Valley. WOOT. I LOVE DARJEELING FIRST FLUSH. Classified as a 'black' tea in non-Chinese terminology (it's red tea defined by Chinese terms), it's full of buds, the first pick of the season that's not even a quarter oxidized. Its tea liquor is light green and that signature fruity muscatel note makes me swoon with every sip.

A Darjeeling First Flush from Namring Estate nestles on a plate from
Democratic Society's 'Singapore Icons'.
This one is designed by Chang Shian Wei, titled 'HDB',
which stands for public housing built by Housing Development Board.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Assembled A Pot of Kushari

I completely forgot why it was called the 'Letter C Party'. There was a work project nicely wrapped up. Then there was something about the next alphabet. Anyway. A potluck lunch was scheduled. I volunteered to contribute C-arbs. Carbs. Grains would be good. Tasty, low GI and vegetarian. Meat could be separately grilled. Kushari. Also, the required ingredients are permitted in my kitchen during this week. Kushari is my to-go dish in those early years when I would cook a pot to freeze during desperate times. :D

Yeah, I cooked. Not difficult. Of course the helper sorted out stuff for me. The man hovered around wondering if I was going to slice off fingers or burn holes in pots. Tsk. He helped the boil up the kamut and lentils earlier in the morning. Kushari doesn't really require cooking. Choose whichever ingredient you want. Everything is separately sautéed quickly in the pan or roasted in the oven. Then all these were just mixed into a pot. No further cooking. It could be taken warm or cold.

There was a beautifully decorated home-baked orange-chiffon cake. Oddly, with frosting. I took photos of it. Didn't bother eating it. Speaking of which, everybody in the world is churning out chiffon cakes. Are chiffon cakes the next hipster bake in Singapore?

Did a version of kushari with kamut, lentils and penne wheat pasta, sautéed zucchini and roasted pumpkins. The spicy tomato sauce would give it loads of flavor. Added a ton of caramelized onions and anchovies. Topped it off with sautéed kale. I think it went down rather well. Heh. Had loads of fun at the girlfriend's house. She hosted and made us plenty of coffee to go along with the meal, what with the others who would be flying off in the night and for those who needed a caffeine boost after just landing in town that morning.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Passover!

The third activity of the Passover Seder. Karpas

Have a blessed Pesach.
This is the Passover sacrifice for the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt; when he struck down the Egyptians, he delivered our houses. ~ Exodus 12:27

Sunday, April 13, 2014

She's 36 Too

For the first time in many years, the bff is in town during her birthday. I don't have to hand her a belated gift or ship out a box to wherever she is. Best of all, I can give her a real-time tight hug right on her birthday. I'm very proud of her for all her achievements. She has solidly stood by me all these years, through happy sunshine and some very dark times. I hope I have been as much of a friend to her as she has been to me.

Here's to 30 years of mischief-making, beautiful girl. You know me like no one does. There's no one else quite like you in the way of setting the benchmark for bffs. You probably spoilt the market. There's something about childhood friends who stay good friends. I love how our friendship has panned out. To at least another 30 more blessed healthy years. Happy 36th, dearest D.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wiping Down the Table

At 3 pm, Zion Road Hawker Centre was empty and quiet. No crowds. Just a few occupied tables of happy people eating a late lunch. A light breeze stirred through and it was rather pleasant lingering over a meal.

A family sat at the next table. The parents, two girls and a young boy in the stroller. They ordered braised duck rice and all from that famous stall. The father looked after the young boy. The mother ate quickly. The two girls fed themselves fine. Then the adults swopped roles. Once the mother and girls were done, they took the boy and went to queue up again at the braised duck stall, probably to tapau, leaving the father to eat his meal quietly.  

The father finished his food. The mother and children were still in the queue. He continued to sit at the table. Then he began stacking the plates. I watched him intently. He poured in leftover food into one bowl, tried to drain the gravy from the big plate. Then he collected all the chopsticks and spoons to stack them together in a neat pile. He wasn't done. He took whatever used tissue paper left and wiped the table. Like, really, wiped it down. As he placed all used tissue paper into the pile, his family was ready with the packets of food. The family left.

The cleaners came by and one smiled widely. He said in Hokkien (and I made a rough translation), "Wah, some people are really considerate. Hard to find nowadays." I agree! I was completely fascinated by the whole process. I don't know what the father was thinking, but it certainly didn't seem like something he's done for the first time. Dunno. Had three seconds to snap a photo before the cleaners cleared the pile. Here's the ridiculously tidy mound. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Another Batch of Granola Bars

Sometimes, I don't mind a bit of sugar. From fruits, and from the home-baked goodness of the girlfriends' kitchens. I'm absolutely lucky to have girlfriends who cook and bake so well, and are happy to pamper me with all the goodness that comes out of their kitchens.

The girlfriend presented me with a precious box of granola bars- a batch that she stayed up late the night before to put together. She knows I can't stomach heavy or too oily meals in the day and would appreciate something light especially if I've got a full morning.

I think this is like, her specialty. Granola bars. She has been my darling constant supplier. I love granola or muesli best with figs and pears. Otherwise, sour berries, green apples or tart tomatoes will do. This time she used high-protein mixed nuts with dark chocolate chips, binding them lightly with honey and flour. No additional sugar, no SPI and very little inulin. 400 calories of goodness that take me through to often, dinner. Yoghurt optional. Absolutely heartwarming.

Breakfast sat on a plate from Democratic Society's 'Singapore Icons'.
Designed by Quiet Studio, it's from the series named 'The Dancing Joaquim'.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Age of Social Media

My camera's too heavy for Lil'Missy to wield steady. Familiar with her parents' iPhones, she doesn't quite know what to do with my Nokia. Plus I have a very heavy protector case for it. The iPhone is much faster than the Nokia when taking photos. She knows that we usually take photos of food and uhhh, in her words, "pretty things".

Which brings me to, in an ideal world, ALL friends will use ONE social media platform. #firstworldproblems I pretty much stopped using Facebook to post anything personal. Too many #friendswhoarenotfriends are on it. I prefer my Twitter community. It provides the best information, smiles and engaging constructive confrontations too. Then there's this blog. It sits quietly, and doesn't bombard you unless you choose to add it to your feeds. I'm not a visual person; blurred photos and too many hashtags on IG are just annoying, never mind spontaneity and instant insta-gramming. The children today grow up with social media, but they will face the same problems we now do. It takes more than common sense to navigate the pitfalls. I won't say no to social media either; it's pretty much integrated into my life. However, there are lines drawn. Online interaction is one thing, and that loses to IRL relationships and bonds built.

At Ronin, when the fresh-out-of-the-oven granola arrived at the table with a cute jar of cold milk, Lil'Missy got to work. Took her mom's phone, swiped it a few times and aimed. The screen opened on her mom's IG. Win. She didn't want any help from us framing the shot. She probably has seen her mom do it a gazillion times and figured out what kind of shot would be considered 'okay'. Only six years old. You're growing up too fast, sweetie. We peeked at her screen. My my, it was a pretty decent shot!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Another Round At Teppei

Another year, another dinner for the birthday boy who's a huge fan of the eatery. Teppei stood empty for 15 minutes as they turned around the eatery for the second seating and awaited all of us to fill up its seats. It's a great venue for meals with a large group, provided you can arm-twist your way into a reservation. I don't frequent Teppei largely due to its insane queues, and partly because of its poor ventilation, not to mention the heat and stale smell of oil that lingers in the clothes and hair. Not a bad thing if I don't have anything pencilled in for the rest of the night. Had two pretty decent dinners earlier in the year.

Teppei's logistics are impressive in turning over two seatings at lunches and dinners. Aside from the food prep, part of its efficiency also lies in how fast Aunty Latha washes the dishes. The eatery's repertoire has varied slightly and kept some of its fish and seafood dishes interesting. As usual and as expected, the sashimi wasn't impressive. Teppei does its cooked dishes way better. The beauty of wagyu is lost on me. Not fond of marbled beef and its soft fats. Another part of the table swooned over it. The winner of the night for me, was the grilled hirame. It came introduced as "flatfish". I was like...what on earth is that. Stared harder and realized it was probably an olive flounder. Grilled, it couldn't be from a shitabirame which should be better as sashimi. Many love Teppei's barachirashi, but you know where my loyalties lie. I passed it over for a delicious inaniwa udon.

Its choices of sake on the menu are pretty all right. I've no idea what the rest of the humans were drinking. But on this side of the table for four of us, there was no way we could share the sake offered because it wasn't enough, and neither should we impose on the kind host for more. We bought our own 1.8-litre bottle that was merrily polished off. Burrrrp.