Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chinatown 2010 - A feast for the eyes.

WARNING - Bumper post.

Let me take you on a walk through Chinatown with me on a learning journey planned for my princess. I wanted her to experience firsthand the colours, sights, sounds and smells of the most significant festival in Singapore... Chinese New Year. She took along with her a notebook and a pen to jot down things she saw and new words which she came across. However, that notebook only saw light once during the entire trip as there was too much going on, and on top of that the heat, not to mention the crowd, which was making both hubby and her irritable. Overall, though, it was a fun outing. I had planned to take her there from a week back, but each day the sun was getting hotter and hotter, so I kept shelving it. However, we had the opportunity yesterday afternoon when we returned from dance class and I seized the day and got everyone out of the house in double quick time, as the weather was really lovely and cloudy. A perfect day for an outing.

As we got off the bus, we were greeted by this sweets stall which had all the sugar laden preserved fruits with auspicious names to them. Chinese New Year is all about auspiciousness

A very popular stall with 900 years of history selling preserved meats.

Right beside the preserved meat stall is CK departmental store which was packed to the brim with shoppers hunting down bargains on decorations for the home.

I love the bright cheery colours of Chinese New Year, and it is a MUST to visit it each year. Previously I went with my mum and sis as my girl was too young to take along. We usually went in the night, when the streets were all lit up, and the crowd was thicker. I'm glad that she is old enough now and I do hope to make it an annual tradition with her.

As we hadn't yet had our lunch, our first stop naturally, was for food, and I've been wanting to try out this guy's stall... the famous German guy, donning a Chinese outfit, selling sausages which his country is famous for, right in the middle of Chinatown.

Choice of sausages which were pretty limited.

More food choices.

Lovely choice of breads.

The star himself.

Hubby and I had cheese sausages with hard rolls while the girl opted for the frankfurter. She requested to not have hers cut up, and ketchup on the side. I did not try it but the ketchup looked like homemade, although I doubt it.

Right after our (yummy) sausage lunch, the girl spied a sign with the word 'Takoyaki', and knowing that this mummy loves them, she pointed out the stall to me. I didn't want any but she went for the steamed corn niblets and hubby had a waffle dog.

Patiently waiting for my cup of corn.

Beautiful gourds on display as well as for sale.

Some lovely windmills. We got one of these.

We came across our neighbour's family store during our walkabout. The store is famous for their egg tarts.

The nian gao which I wanted to show princess, as she learned it during Chinese class.

This is one of my favourite stalls along the street. I love anything personalised.

It was very crowded on a Saturday afternoon.

Lovely flowers to brighten up the home.

Lots of chopsticks for sale.

I even found them in my family name! These make great gifts at $1 a pair.

More auspicious-naming sweets along the way.

Cute little tigers.

The girl wanted to see some chun lian, so here they are, red papers with auspicious words written in calligraphy.

A Chinese medical hall selling herbal drinks.

Chinese New Year is not complete without yummy biscuits. The prices of these will be slashed down later, on the eve of the actual day on the 14th Feb this year.

Thirst-quenching goodness for a hot day out. Hubby had one of these and said it was very nice. And you need to look around as there were a few stalls selling them for $1 each.

Piping hot roasted chestnuts.

I love these sweet mini oranges. Very cheap too.

My sister loves these, and I love the colours.

Do try to pay a visit to Chinatown this year. We didn't manage to take photos of the main road decorations as my two companions were tired out. We searched for a shop selling Chinese New Year outfits but I got disorientated and couldn't find it. We came across another popular one and found her an outfit. I wasn't too keen on it as it was too red, but both hubby and she liked it so we bought it anyway.

Remember to bring an empty tummy along on your visit and try as many things along the way. It'll be a fun experience.

Tong Heng Confectionery (South Bridge Road)
285 South Bridge Road
Tel: 62230398

My first (cheater's) Tiger bento

Tiger bentos have been appearing on bento blogs since a few weeks' ago. I'm a little slow in that aspect, as I have been lazy. My bento preparation is now limited to the weekend only.

This bento was prepared for yesterday's lunch. I usually pack her lunch to ballet class and right after it, she will eat it there before we make our way home. Class usually ends around 2.30, so Sat lunches are very late. In the bento, I cut up some kyuri and dragonfruit and used some picks to secure them. I made an onigiri with a filling of teriyaki minced pork & shredded carrots. Those onigiri were wrapped within the animal wrappers. Aren't they cute? The two extra ones were for her friends. In her bento, I also packed a lotus paste bun but was in too much of a rush to decorate it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dark Sauce Chicken

I seem to have found my blogging mojo again. Maybe, I am more settled now in my routine as it has been 3 weeks since school started. I am now used to waking at 6am although I wished I could sleep in longer. I still cannot go to bed early and the earliest is at 11pm and even then, you will more often than not, find me tossing and turning in bed. Each time I drag myself out of bed in the mornings, I plan to go back to it once the princess leaves for school. Unfortunately, that plan has not materialised. I can't fall back to sleep again once I am awake!

I usually spend some time online reading on (FB)wall updates, catching up on playing with my games such as feeding my pets, tending to my farm, cafe etc. ;)

For the past 2 days, I have diligently tried to keep my house clean, cook healthy meals for the family, etc. I think the reason for my motivation in the kitchen department is my acquisition of a slow cooker. :) I cooked winter melon soup in it yesterday, and today, I decided to cook a braised dish. I love that I do not have to keep watching over it boiling on the stove top.

I am very thankful that my girl appreciates the food I cook for her. She tells me that she only eats mummy's food, because they are yummy! I don't think it's so much that it is yummy, more because it is the taste that she grew up with. Just like last Friday when I needed to go for my routine check up at the hospital, my uncle and aunt took care of her. They picked her up after school, gave her lunch and wanted to know what to cook for her dinner. I wasn't sure she'd be used to their taste, so in the end I made her a simple dinner when I went over to their place. You see, it's very difficult to say she likes fish, or chicken, or beef, as she likes neither. But if I cook it in a way she likes, she will eat them. So at the end of the day, it's the cooking method that's important. She doesn't like meat very much as they can be a bit tough and she doesn't like chewing on them. She once described chicken breast as giving her 'goose pimples' each time she ate them in her chicken rice. She knows it herself that she might not like everything I give her for her meals, but yet she told me this, that 'if I don't eat Mummy will force me to', so at the end of the day, she still needs to finish up what I put on her plate. Well, at least, I am able to 'force' her. Any parents with picky kids will identify with the frustration of trying to change their child's eating habits. I have been blessed with one who is not particularly fussy with her food, and most of the time she eats what she is given, although her favourite foods of all time are Japanese and Italian. If in doubt, just give her pasta or sushi any day and she'd be over the moon!

This dish I cooked today wasn't following any recipe. I based this on the memory of how my grandma used to cook her dao you bak. In this case, I substituted chicken for pork. I had meant to add in some eggs to the stew, but I decided to fry a side dish of fishmeat omelette instead, thus the hardboiled eggs were omitted.

Ingredients -

6 pieces chicken wings
1 chicken breast (for hubby who only likes breast meat)
6 dried shittake mushrooms, soaked till soft and cut in half

Seasoning -

1 dsp brown sugar
1 lengkuas (galangal) 4cm, sliced thickly
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp thick black sauce
1 tsp light soya sauce
sesame oil
white pepper
star anise - I forgot to add these

Method -

1. Fry ginger till fragrant, add brown sugar and stir till melted.
2. Add garlic cloves and chicken.
3. Add sufficient water to cover the ingredients.
4. Transfer to pot and simmer till cooked and meats turn soft. In my case, the dish was transferred to the slow cooker and left to cook for 2hrs.

hAPpY Australia DAy, dear sis, family and friends!

A Bake Date

Inspiration struck this morning when I visited dear Peony's blog. As it was pretty early and I hadn't had breakfast, the beautiful and moist chocolate chip muffins were calling out to me. Logging onto gmail, I 'saw' my dear friend C. I guess we were both captivated by said muffins and she had this idea for us to bake together, although 'together' didn't mean literally. She is across the far end of the Causeway, so we baked in our own homes and made variations to the original recipe. I decided to add some banana and walnuts to mine, while she was making hers a nutty version, with the addition of some cranberries.

I have come to the conclusion that I am not into cakes without butter. I have tried a few recipes which use oil, but at the end of the day, it's back to butter. Muffin recipes, on the other hand, works best with oil, just gently mixed in. I believe the difference in texture is that butter = more flaky, soft cake, whereas oil = more starchy? It's just my observation as I am no pro at baking.

Muffins are super easy to do: you do not need to sift the flour (phew), as what you do not want in a muffin is soft, flaky cupcake-like texture. Sifting flour incorporates air (I still remember what I learned in Home Econs class yonks ago!). You do not overmix it, and as Peony says in her recipe, you want lumps in muffins. And best of all, it's done in a very short time. If you are 'hardworking' enough, you can make muffins for breakfast in an instant, but that's not me. :)

I added 2 mashed bananas to the original recipe and it made the muffins more moist. Instead of chocolate chips, I spied a bottle of chocolate rice so I thought to use that, just for a change.

The recipe yielded 22 small cups of 3.3cm each, and the remainder I put them into pretty cups as I had run out of the former. Basing on the same 3.3cm cup measurement, I would have gotten 28 muffins. These are easy, pop in the mouth cups and very adorable. I think I got them from Penang on my last trip there.

It has been a very fun experience baking with a friend. I look forward to more of these. However, lots of hiccups as we kept missing each other but we still managed to finish it off at pretty much the same time.

These muffins are yummy. Try them, I-M, if you are reading this. It's super duper easy and you need not use any apparatus except a mixing bowl and a measuring cup. I simply used a rice spoon to mix all of it together.

Thanks for sharing the recipe, Peony. These are delicious! Check out C's version here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Golden Ingots

With the Chinese New Year just round the corner, I tried out a new dish today, and would like to introduce it to my readers. As an avid fan of cooking shows as well as food-related ones, I pick up ideas now and then. My favourite channel, but of course, is the Asian Food Channel, but then again, it’s the one and only food channel on our local cable station.

While watching a certain programme in which they visited coffee shops where they suss out the best zhi char eats, this particular dish caught my eye, reason being it’s so simple to do! Who would have thought that just by turning a tau pok inside out, the tau pok would have a different texture altogether. If well-fried, the skin would be a lovely crisp. Great with a dip or on its own. I didn’t prepare a dip here.

Princess loved them and I am so glad. Here's what they looked like pre-cooked.

Ingredients -

Tau Pok or dried beancurd skin (small)

Minced Pork


Water chestnuts

Spring Onions

Seasoning -

Soya Sauce

White pepper

sesame oil

corn starch

Method -

1. Cut water chestnuts into cubes, likewise cut prawns into same size as chestnuts.

2. Season meat with the above ingredients and add in prawns, chestnuts and spring onions.

3. Cut a slit on one side of the tau pok and turn it inside out gently.

4. Stuff it with filling & fry till golden brown.

Note : Sorry I do not have exact measurements for the above. I just went by the usual estimation method. The skin was a lovely crisp and it stayed that way for an hour at least, but they didn’t last long enough for us to find out if they went soggy. They were gone in minutes!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sushi making session at Aunt's

My aunt called me up on Wednesday and requested for a sushi session at her house. My initial plan was to do it next week but when Princess heard about it, she wanted it right away the next day. So, after my morning at Mustafa's, we headed off to aunt's place after Princess got home from school, and prepared the ingredients we needed. There was an abundance of fillings and toppings for the rice, so much so that there wasn't enough rice for them.

The rice didn't turn out great yesterday as it's my first time trying that certain brand. I didn't know if I needed to add more water, or less. Thus, it resulted in a not too well-cooked rice. It was cooked alright, but not fluffy enough.

We prepared thinly-sliced carrots, crabsticks, cheese sausages, Japanese cucumber sticks, tuna mayo, Unagi (eel), avocado, tamago (egg), otah (by the request of uncle), tuna flakes, sauteed mushrooms, ebiko (prawn roe) and Doraemon fishcakes.

Princess made her own bear sushi and the roll was done by me. She didn't want it to be cut up so I didn't manage to take a photo of the interior.

These were made using the sushi moulds from Daiso. I didn't think I liked them so much. I prefer the rolled ones.

For the very first time ever, I made California Rolls. I don't think I did it very well but these were yummy.

There were nicer rolls after this lot of photos but as it was very cumbersome and messy I didn't bother to take more photos.