Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hikarimono :: 光り物

Any Edo-mae restaurant worth its salt would serve up a group of fish known as 'hikarimono' (光り物), or literally shiny things, i.e. shiny fish (光物の魚), fish with shimmery scales. Silvery, I suppose. Think iwashi (sardine)kohada (gizzard shard) and all species of mackerel (aji, saba, etc). These types of fish are incredibly sensitive and are prone to rapid deterioration without proper curing and storage. Needless to say, how they've been uhh killed and immediately frozen play a part too.

And I love this group of fish more than any others, especially as sashimi or sushi. Thrilled that my favorite sushi restaurants in Singapore could do them well. On that note, I also like kembong, over kurau. There was a heavy craving for hikarimono at dinner at Sushi Hashida. Didn't bother with tuna. Honestly, akami, torootoro or chutoro have lost their shine. When I can't discern if they're Atlantic, Southern or Pacific bluefin, I'd rather not eat any sort of maguro.

A quiet evening at Sushi Hashida was absolutely conducive for wonderful conversations catching up with people we love. Accompanied by a gorgeously complex and mellow (giant!) bottle of Dassai 23 (Junmai Daiginjo), tonight, my sushi plate was filled full with shiny things.

One shiny thing- a Japanese halfbeak, or sayori sushi (さより寿司).

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More Black Gold

We're very blessed to have friends (and once in a while, very special neighbors) whose kitchens churn out fabulous dishes and are generous to a fault in sharing their spoils with us. Beautiful treats from so many different types of cuisines. Late Sunday night, it was an unexpected invitation to a merry Easter supper.

The friends made a pot of ayam dan babi buah keluak with complex spices and loads of chillies. The aroma was so enticing. BIG LOVE. I went straight for the nuts. There were so many nuts. There was a generous dollop of bitter black gold solidly packed within each nut. Deliriously happy.

This is a dish that takes a ridiculous amount of effort to prepare. Each time we get to eat buah keluak, we savor each bite like we're never gonna taste it again. Totally touched that the friends thought of us to part-take in the delights of a dish that's worth its weight in gold. Probably more.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Poverty of Nations

'The Poverty of Nations - A Sustainable Solution' by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus is a difficult read for me. I'm not a trained economist. Whatever I understand of economics stopped at A'levels, and whatever else learnt is via the necessity of writing work papers and other types of research. It took ages to read this book. Couldn't complete it in one sitting. As the pages were turned, often, I find my objective analysis clouded by a social perspective.

The book examines poverty and inequalities, economic successes and political frameworks of the countries. It's strongly tied to theological ideals and mindset. While I didn't mind that, I found that the voices in the book possess a rather narrow engagement with its professed brand of free-market capitalism. As it is with all economists who hold bias of economic theories, this book also pushes for their believed direction and pushes out the rest of alternative theories and frameworks. I.e, contrast this book with Jeff Sachs' 'The End of Poverty', a line that the authors Grudem and Asmus clearly disagree with. Also, take some time to read David Landes' macroeconomic view in 'The Wealth and Poverty of Nations'.

It's certainly an interesting manner how the authors link the biblical passages to economic theories. But for every one they used, they conveniently missed out other passages. The Gospels are hardly mentioned; almost nothing said about the Old Testament. I wouldn't have realized this but for the recent zealous bible reading during Lent, and hence, referencing the book's quotes. I don't presume to know the Bible well. It's a lifelong study. But at this age, there're certain opinions I can hold without prejudice.

The issue of poverty is real, painful and urgent. Every solution is welcomed. It's not just a Christian issue. It's every nation's responsibility and thought to take care of it, and to a great extent, it's expected of every citizen in a first-world economy to remember the existence of poverty and to do something about it. It's just a matter of which model we choose to adopt. Sounds familiar? The one chapter that intrigued me is the almost controversial Chapter 9- 'The Values of the System - Cultural Beliefs that will Encourage Economic Growth'. Grudem and Asmus propose,

The most effective way to do this, and the only way that will bring long-term change to a nation, is to persuade people to change any cultural and traditions that are hindering economic development. If these beliefs and traditions can be replaced with new ones that promote economic growth, the nation will change. 
These cultural values are therefore the most strategic matters that we discuss in this book, because they will ultimately determine all the other factors. The cultural values of a nation determine what kind of economic system it adopts, what kinds of laws and policies the government enacts, whether corruption is tolerated, whether freedoms are protected, and what kinds of goals individuals set for their personal lives. It is important, therefore, to understand exactly what kinds of cultural values lead a nation to support the kinds of economic and governmental systems we described in earlier chapters.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  
~ Corinthians 5:8

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

Made a promise to play nice during Lent. Well, I tried. Really. Bit my tongue so many times to stifle retorts and comments. Also resisted urges to troll the heck out of annoying status updates or bigoted opinions. Tongue is full of ulcers now. Boo.

Even limited my presence online. That was incredibly hard to do. When a bar that has consistently pissed me off with shoddy service since 2005 for each (!!!) visit, amazingly misplaced my credit card (which was needed for a flight out in two hours), I was not pleased. They categorically denied receiving it from my hands. After insidiously accusing me of delirium, minutes later, the bar had to grudgingly admit that they found it sheepishly stashed between bill holders. I lost it right there and then, and on social media. Sigh. 

As I went through the Stations with a heart full of dread, there was an odd sense of relief to realize that failure is okay (to a certain extent, imho). There will be resurrection, and there is hope, and I will continue to try to be a better person.
Walk then as children of the light: for the fruit of the light is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.  
~ Ephesians 5:1-9

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 mandarin orange chiffon cake. Oddly, with frosting and candied citrus peel decorations. I took photos of it. So much effort went into shaping the decorations. Didn't bother eating it. You know me and sweets. Speaking of which, everybody seems to be 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