Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Introducing Duck to Choya's Diet


I'm obviously a sucker for punishment. I'm experimenting a little with the dog's diet again. Her poop diary's last entry was on 10 December, 2020. I'm ready to clean up poop at home again, provided the poop patch isn't on the carpet. Hahaha. 

Choya's a champ with raw food. She loves it, and thank gawwd her digestive system could handle it. Venison and beef remain her favorite meats. She likes chicken feet and offal, but she isn't so fond of chicken breast. The meat I wanted her gut to get used to, is duck. She's had freeze-dried duck breast and offal, and loves it! But she hasn't had duck in the fresh form. It's a novel protein to her. 

So I ordered a batch of duck breast meat, testicles, feet and hearts from BOM BOM BASIC. That's like a grocery store with top grade meats and cuts. I love how they seal the frozen meats and such. I only have an issue with their delivery days and timings which are completely unfriendly to my schedule. I had to make a special effort to stay in one night to take delivery of the frozen items. If you prefer their help to customize meals for your pets, then BOM BOM is the way to go. However, not all pets' digestive systems can deal with a raw diet. It might also not suit your lifestyle. Don't be swayed by raw feeders who could be super aggressive. Do your own extensive and thorough research, speak to your vet, observe your pet, and then make your decision and stand your ground. After that, keep reading up and doing research as your pets' gut flora shifts throughout their lives.

I was extremely cautious with the portions of organ meats and feet when prepping Choya's meals these few weeks. Introducing a new protein to her gut is a slow process that could take four weeks or more. I also don't feed her fully on one protein. There hasn't been a need to do any food elimination trials. Her meals are pretty mixed and balanced. For now, I only do duck for two non-consecutive days (two consecutive meals separated by two days in between) in a week. Also, I mix in other regular food to line the stomach, so to speak. This time, I made sure to feed her on the days that I'm at home and could catch her cues to go out for a poop run.  

That day, I bravely did two consecutive meals of duck. Foot, breast meat and heart. The first meal was dinner, and she was fine through the night. The second meal was lunch at 1pm. At 4.30pm, she asked to go poop. She had minor low-volume diarrhea; nothing that I was worried about. It was just a one-off. I fed her exactly the same things that same night for dinner, but added psyllium husk and slippery elm. So I guess she shouldn't have two hearts in a row. Oops. It ought to be one heart over two meals. Her gut is intolerant of tripe, liver and such organ meats. 

Whatever it is, three weeks into having duck in her digestive system, coupled with daily probiotics, and fibre blend that includes slippery elm and psyllium husky, Choya's gut flora is pretty much balanced. Duck is in her food roster now! The one-off poop and such isn't much to worry about, considering that she rolls around outdoors. As long as she isn't poisoned. To see my picky-about-food small-eater dog enjoying her meals is such a relief. On days she's had loads of exercise and activities, she comes to ask me for more food. I'm happy about that. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Meatsmith Little India

Finally stopped by Meatsmith at Little India for dinner. The man was rather upset that the Bombay butter and fresh herb naan came without dhal or curry, and no add-on options. I laughed so hard when it arrived at the table. It looked like..., never mind. The only curry currently on the menu is a soft shell crab curry. Naaah. I had to remind the man that this isn't an Indian restaurant anyway, so maybe we were supposed to eat this naan like a rosemary focaccia. Hahaha.

The suckling pig biryani was delicious. Portions aren't too big, and while it was enough to share when the table has other dishes. The rice and spices were on point. I'm no expert on suckling pig, and I don't particularly take such of it. It seems okay. The biryani on the previous menu was crab biryani, and I wouldn't be able to taste that at all. This biryani still exists in a smaller sharing plate version for $14 as crab and tobiko biryani

I ate most of the biryani (minus the meat) with the smoked cauliflower and tomato relish. This was superb. I loved it!!! It came as a whole chunk nicely grilled with just that bit of char. The tomato relish was so well done. We gleefully wiped up most of the relish with naan. Frankly, naan without curry is just weird, regardless of what fusion version it comes in. 

We had space for a portion of Madras fish kathi. It was quite cute. Like tacos. Hahahaha. Okay lah, it worked. The gravy was delicious, although they could have gone heavier on the spices. We had to remind ourselves that we weren't here for Indian food; if we were, we would have gone to other eateries in the area. Tehehehehe. Oddly we didn't go big on the smoked meats, which are the stars here. Skipped all the pork ribs, lamb and beef skewers, pork and beef cheeks, and even the brisket chapati. We were most interested in the Kerala beef short rib, but we had to shelf that for the next visit.

The man got to dessert. I took a spoonful. His choice of jackfruit pudding and coconut was rather lovely. It came topped with meringue. LOL My gripe- they flambé the meringue at the table, and also torched the husk at the same time, resulting in the bits smoking throughout dessert and after we called for the bill. Man, that smoke smelt like sickeningly sweet incense and made my eyes water.  

Monday, February 22, 2021

Who Killed Olof Palme in 1986 Stockholm?


Began this non-fiction biopic on a skeptical note. Swedish journalist and former diplomat and self-proclaimed armchair detective Jan Stocklassa wrote about Stieg Larsson and his politics and journalistic research and summarized it in a book titled, 'The Man Who Played with Fire: Stieg Larsson's Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin' (2019), translated by Tara F. Chace.

Stieg Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004. Prior to finding posthumous fame as the author of the Millennium trilogy, he was an investigative journalist and was looking for clues to shield light on the unsolved February 1986 assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme who was gunned down in Stockholm while out walking with his wife. Jan Stocklassa was given access to Larsson's archives and files to the unsolved political assassination. He then tried to find more clues and establish connections to Larsson's theories to further progress the investigative efforts. (Reviews here, here and here.) 

In Stieg Larsson's story about Olof Palme's assassination  the antagonist had not been the murderer. Instead, Stieg was fighting something much more abstract, which I believed was the incompetence of the Swedish police. Stieg submitted multiple tips, and through a number of mistakes and bad decisions, they were never actually investigated. I did my best to move forward with Stieg's theory and also submitted concrete tips to the police, but more than three decades had elapsed since the assassination, and it seemed as if even a confession wasn't going to be enough to wrap up this investigation. 

Piece by pice, I mentally reviewed what I now knew about Palme's assassination, based on Stieg's research and my own investigations, I was able to fill in holes with facts from other published materials, and for the gaps where there was nothing concrete, I added the guesses I personally considered most likely. A possible pictured emerged of how the assassination took place. If, that is, Stieg's theory was right. 

I couldn't be less interested in Swedish politics. But I was keen on knowing about the Swedish far-right, and to take a look at police investigations, theories and what research has yielded. The extreme far-right movement in any country or city interests and horrifies me. It's not just the idea of white-supremacy. It's the whole movement of beliefs and notions so alien to my own that is fascinating. 

The theories read like a Stieg Larsson thriller — Iranian arms deals, American intelligence, South African apartheid supporters and disrupters, middlemen agents, etc. Everything is murky, complete with a wrong conviction that identified the wrong assassin, and a lot was hinted about the incompetence of the Swedish police and its security forces for not being tenacious enough to solve the murder because of its political consequences. Olof Palme's wife Lisbeth Palme was injured in the episode, but not severely, seemed to have identified the wrong assassin that night. A trained child psychologist, she then went on to champion children's charities and causes, led the Swedish committee for UNICEF, until her death in 2018 at 87 years old. asklfjasl kjfaslf jaslfjaslfkjasf 

This is by no means a fun book to read. It’s interesting only to readers who has an interest in these cases. The author believed that the mystery will be solved within two years of the publication of this book, perhaps by early 2021. In June 2020, he suggested that police had received new evidence and the new prosecutor will release those findings soon.

In the book's Epilogue dated 'Stockholm, 2019', Jan Stocklassa wrote,

More than a year has passed since the concert in Prague. I turned in my tip to the Palme investigation team. They have learned that the revolver might be in Jakob Thedelin's possession. The police also know that they have free access to everything in Stieg's archive and in my own research whenever they want it.

A few months ago, Jakob Thedelin was once again taken in for questioning by the police, more than three decades since the last time he was interrogated. The police continue to map his whereabouts and actions that late night of February 28, 1986. They are intensively investigating the possible involvement of South African security services and its agent Bertil Wedin. Unlike on Ölvebro and Danielsson's infamous trip to South Africa in 1996, their interest is real this time.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Burlamacco Ristorante

Happiness is when the girlfriend already saw my face during the birthday week, and still wanted to buy me lunch after. Hurhurhur. I greedily accepted, of course! Love this girlfriend's wit and insights; her words always keeps me sane, helping me keep my temper in check. Her company is always such a pleasure to soak up. 

Stopped by a quiet Burlamacco Ristorante for a late lunch, and a super decent meal. Didn't want to think very hard — simply chose items from their set lunch offerings. A lunch of mushroom soup and torchetti pasta with smoked pancetta in tomato sauce filled me up nicely. Since this restaurant never offers tap water and makes you pay S$9++ for a 750ml of still or sparkling water, I decided to go with a glass of prosecco, and a cute San Pellegrino sparkling blood orange. I couldn't resist having the latter, especially with loads of ice cubes.

To be honest, having either soup and bread or a pasta would suffice. To have both together was rather filling. Luckily I had two workouts before that- krav maga and pilates, and no big dinner planned, so I arrived at lunch rather hungry. I merrily ate up most of the food. Yayyyyy. It was ideal that the set lunch option of dessert permitted a choice of coffee or tea. That was much appreciated. I don't particularly fancy dessert since I've already gotten plenty of sugar from food and drinks. A shot of decent caffeine was more soothing than another sugar bomb.

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Giving of Ang Pows

The giving of ang pows is both an art and the most irritating practice in all of the Chinese traditions. I honestly don't care about it very much. Social norms and etiquette dictate that I fulfill something if my finances allow for this indulgence. Sometimes, people are 'nice' and I feel like I ought to do something during one of the major festivals in Singapore and put that 'Chinese privilege' to some use. 

I find it a conspiracy to dictate married couples having to give ang pows to people who aren't. Even if they're relatives and it's 'family tradition' to do so. It's just social pressure for you to have kids so you 'earn' back the ang pows from those who also have an equally big brood. Ang pow amounts are also calculated like this, for fairness and so as 'not to lose out'. It's damn silly, stupid and awkward. It's an utter waste of money too. I've never done this deed to embarrass any of my unmarried friends because the state of marriage or otherwise in any of their relationships doesn't bother me.

So I usually give ang pows (containing recycled notes deemed 'new-enough') to:

  • The delivery crew (food and parcels) I meet if I'm at home to receive the packages. The home estate's administrative, maintenance and cleaning crew, plus security team, those whom I'm familiar with, and those rostered to my block. 
  • My hairdresser, nail technicians, skin clinic nurses, personal care therapists, et cetera. Choya's school handlers, veterinary clinic's staff, my Pilates and Gyrotonic instructors, and such.
  • Friends' children whom I'm close to, and see regularly; I know minor details and milestones in their lives, and whom I will see during the lunar new year period, all of which would usually be a grand total of FOUR younglings. Hahahaha. It was only two this year though. I also sent digital ang pows to four other teenagers whom I'm rather fond of.
  • No choice but to allocate budget to still-in-school or fresh-out-of-school younger nieces and nephews. Technically they're first and second cousins once removed. Of which I have thankfully very few. If I see them, I see them this once a year. I have no interest in getting to know them and I don't care about their lives. I don't even know their names. If I happen to see them, I might give them an ang pow. Or not. I don't do the thing of asking someone to help me hand the ang pows over. 'Please help me pass it to XYZ and ABC.' Nope.

I don't care about what they think of me if I don't give out any. The one time I prepped a $250 birthday pack of presents for a first cousin once removed (a toddler), and I was primly told that presents weren’t enough, and I should give an ang pow on top of those because 'they threw a party and would have incurred expenses and we should cover their cost since we were invited'. HELLO, DID I ASK TO BE INVITED? I've never given any presents to said child ever since or attended any more of this party nonsense. It's not about holding grudges, it's about using these incidents for future reference. And remind myself that YOUR VALUES AREN'T MINE, AND THAT'S OKAY. I DON’T EXIST TO FULFIL YOUR EXPECTATIONS. I DON’T NEED TO MAKE MYSELF UNHAPPY TO MAKE YOU HAPPY.  I DON'T NEED TO REACH YOUR HIGH STANDARDS OF BEING LABELED AS 'THOUGHTFUL' AND 'GENEROUS'. AND I’M STILL A WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING.

Of course this year, on the first day of Lunar New Year, some willful hosts were deliberately evasive to our direct questions on number of visitors and intended time of gatherings, and sabo-ed us. Thanks, family. With that stunt pulled, I obviously wasn't prepped to give anyone an ang pow. I certainly don't carry extras around, not even on Day 1. What am I? The God of Fortune? TOO BAD. NO ANG POWS FOR Y'ALL. It's unorthodox, but it works for my mental well-being. Yeah, I'm still peeved, even after Ash Wednesday's reflections.

All helpful articles suggested 'hierarchy' as the guide to the amount to give. And the articles almost always mention giving out new notes, going digital and prepping extra unexpected ang pows. I know how much money I want to pack into each red packet, and their intended recipients. But I still take a look at what the 'recommended rates' are, and have a laugh, and gauge my decisions accordingly. On a personal note, I really cannot give out $2 ang pows. I might as well don't give! (Haha I really don't- I don't give for the sake of giving.)

Source: DBS's 'Your Essential Ang Bao Guide for Chinese New Year 2021',
published on 19 January 2021.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

焼き鳥ハツとご飯


I had the strangest craving for grilled chicken hearts, to eat each bite with a mouthful of steamed Japanese rice. Satisfied my craving at Orihara Shoten. They share the kitchen with Toritama. I always prefer to sit outdoors because it's less stinky that way. Cool enough too.

To be honest, the quality of the meat is fabulous. But the grilling and marinade would be entirely dependent on who's your chef that night. You wouldn't know. I've had yakitori that were way too salty or drowned (literally dripping with sauce). On other nights, it's as dependable as I expected. Tonight was a good night. LOL

Since I already popped an antihistamine, I also took a few pieces of chicken thigh. Just for a bit of meat, in case the stomach protested at too much offal. The man does like chicken when it's done right. So he went to town with the yakitori. Gizzards, liver, breast, cockscomb, et cetera. He also went for broke and ordered a bowl of oden and a oyakudon. Okay lor. I don't mind the soup in the oden. The man really loves a good oyakudon, and it isn't easy to find one that offers a decent dashi and doesn't turn out too sweet. 

I love chicken hearts. I love them whole or half (as maruhatsu, or hatsu on the menu). The man was bemused. He knew that a giant batch of chicken and duck hearts were delivered for Choya, but those were of excellent quality for her to eat raw. That meant we could eat it too. Hahahha. No. I'm not stealing the dog's food, and I don't want to grill hearts at home. Lazy lah. I savored every bite of the meat off the skewer. What a treat! 焼き鳥の心とご飯が美味しい!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Valentine's Day at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve


When M and D suggested visiting Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve for a morning walk, I was all for it. I hadn't visited since they renovated and added more wooden barricades in 2020. For these few weeks, the weather is favorable for outdoor activities in the mornings, and a breeze still stirs, and it's relatively cool in the shade. Took the dog for a long walk early in the morning and fed her. So she was happy to snooze at home while the man and I took a jaunt up northwest of the island.

We usually either catch the low tide or high tide when we go. Or we turn up at 7am when the park opens. This time, we wanted to catch the high tide that was scheduled to roll in at 11.30am. Decided to park at Kranji Way entrance since that carpark was bigger. Neo Tiew Crescent's small carpark was full and nothing moved. Parking at Kranji Way entrance was easy because when we got there, the morning crowd was leaving, and many carpark lots opened up. 

We wanted an easy stroll and to spot some birds. At 10.30am, the nature reserve wasn't as crowded as I had feared. There was sufficient space for us. Most people kept their distance and kept to their groups, as we did. And thankfully, we didn't have loud people yelling or playing crazy music over speakers.

There were plenty of signs warning visitors about crocodiles. I was tickled by just how many signs were put up. Crocodiles don't get as good PR as otters. I doubt visitors would clamor to see them. But yeah, some people might topple over into the crocodiles' domain, and it's all over for the humans. Well, we didn't see any crocodile. It wouldn't be easy to catch a crocodile unless we get lucky. Or we get a float of them swimming over from the Strait of Johor.

I laughed when a few sites used 'trek' to describe Sungei Buloh's boardwalk and paths. Please, it's such a sanitized walk that you might not even need to wear track shoes if you prefer a pair of sturdy sandals instead. The trails are short and easy. I also didn't put on mozzie repellent. LOL At this time today, Sungei Buloh didn't even have mozzies bothering us. There were more than enough humans to feed off of, and it was too hot for them at the time we were there. Hurhurhur.

Didn't see them cute mudskippers. Saw plenty of mud lobster mounds, but no sign of the critters. No mangrove crabs scuttling around either. They were all hiding. Bah.

Spotted plenty of redshanks and greenshanks, egrets, and a big heron I really wanted to see. Although at that distance, it took me a long time to discern if it was a heron or a milk stork. There were other birds flying around, all of which I couldn't make out or identify. Hahahah. D's gift of the binoculars helped in spotting birds and such. But I couldn't link them with her gift of the book of migratory birds at the wetland reserve (the 2nd edition published by the National Parks Board). Obviously I need more practice at bird-spotting.

Since this is a migratory stop for many birds, the water levels three brackish ponds in the wetland reserve are managed between July to April so that it acts as a high tide roost site for shore birds. These three ponds are conducive for the birds since they're not left submerged or exposed for more than four consecutive days. There're five other ponds in the reserve that are left to natural tidal pulls, rains and sun.

The wonderful news is, the government is taking steps to protect this area. They'll be creating a Sungei Buloh Nature Park Network. The current 202-hectare Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve will be joined to the Kranji Marshes, the Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat Nature Park, and the Lim Chu Kang Nature Park (where Cashin House is, and will be restored as a visitor center and exhibition space) by the first quarter of 2022. This brings us to a new area total of 400 hectares of gorgeous nature to experience. I'm excited about it!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

お誕生日夕食!

When the man asked me what I would like for my birthday meal (which doesn't have to be celebrated on the 9th itself), I picked Kamoshita (カモシタ、三好シェフそして貝山シェフの店). The food that appeals most is comfort food at a casual restaurant. Of course I would have to stop by Kamoshita for a cup of good sake and to get my fix of sea bream claypot rice! The restaurant offers boutique and really good sake. Picked a bottle from Saiya Shuzoten (齋彌酒造店). This sake brewery in Ishiwaki, Akita Prefecture is likely my all-time favorite. I love all their expressions.

We ordered in moderation this time. Over-eating is just not ideal for our stomachs! I just wanted the restaurant's homemade cold tofu with nori no tsukudani (海苔の佃煮), and a sweet cold Momotaro tomato. Stayed away from oden except for a slice of daikon that the man really loves. He went for the karaage too. He excitedly talked about food in the episodes he watched of 'Izakaya Bottakuri' 『居酒屋ぼったくり』. Hahaha. I haven't watched it on Netflix, but I've read the manga. 

I gave all stomach space to the carbs in the sea bream claypot rice (tai-meshi, 鯛めし). And we still had leftovers in a box to take home. Oof. The iteration of this rice was still gorgeous, but a tad saltier, and the kitchen neatened up the presentation with finely chopped spring onions and coriander. Hurhurhur. The rice grains and fish were still fine and perfectly cooked. Savored every bit, and poured in dashi at the end to turn it into chazuke. No dessert was needed. We still had sake left to finish up as a lovely end to the meal. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Documenting Stockholm’s Chinese Restaurants

For a while now, I have been following Swedish artist Lap-See Lam’s work. She explores the Cantonese diaspora in Sweden through multimedia, using 3D scanning, VR and animation to capture pieces of disappearing Chinese restaurants in Stockholm. She questions the relationship we have with time and space, and memories of physical venues. 

Many years ago, I was intrigued by Lap-See Lam’s creative project titled ‘Mother Tongue’ (2017). It began life as an interactive smartphone app modeled after those virtual/digital tours. Visitors to the show could sit around a Chinese dining table, part of the set, put on VR goggles to take a tour. Viewers are transported into Chinese restaurants which have fantastical hyperrealistic interiors. The Chinese restaurant itself is the narrator, a female. There're subtitles, but the voice uses vocabulary and phrases from a mixture of Swedish and Cantonese. I love it! To me, it's hilarious, because I understand Cantonese, and I could vaguely make out the Swedish since it is rather similar to Norwegian which I haven't entirely lost. 

It’s fascinating to read about what Chinese restaurants mean to the diaspora, and how many of these restaurants were owned by Cantonese-speaking folks churning out familiar-to-me foods. It is no longer like this now. A new generation of Chinese migrants opening up restaurants and cooking have redefined ‘Chinese’ menus in cities outside of China. Every continent’s Chinese restaurants trot out different foods. Hotpot is ubiquitous. However, American Chinese food (died laughing when I realized what the heck ‘moo goo gai pan’ is. 蘑菇雞片 in a pan lah) isn’t anything like Swedish Chinese food. Care for a Swedish smoked salmon wrapped in a Chinese bun (mantou)? Anyone?

Eva Heisler’s interview of Lap-See Lam for Asymptote noted that,

Mother’s Tongue has several iterations, and the same 3D scans of Chinese restaurants used as a source for Mother’s Tongue have been reworked in other creative projects. The recent 2020 exhibition Phantom Banquet at Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm, included an immersive virtual reality work as well as sculptural objects. The objects—archeological, speculative—are ghostly fragments of Chinese restaurant décor assembled from 3D scans using a process similar to archeological and forensic reconstructions.

In this Asymptote interview titled ‘Lap-See Lam, The Chinese Restaurant as Portal’, the writer asked the artist to share more about “her interest in documenting Stockholm’s Chinese restaurants, her fascination with the immateriality and negative space of 3D laser scanning, and her creative exploitation of the vulnerabilities of the scanner to errors and glitches.” 

The artist explained how the sale of her 36-year-old family restaurant in 2014 pushed her to document the space she was so familiar with, only to have the new proprietor decline. So she was inspired to find other similar restaurants in the city to document. She began this project with fellow artist and friend Wingyee Wu. 

Mother’s Tongue is not only a fantastical hyper-real journey through Chinese restaurant spaces, but it is also a fictional narrative told in the voice of the Chinese restaurant. Where did this voice come from? Is it at all autobiographical, based on your family? Or did you conduct interviews with restaurant owners?  

The story is divided into three chapters set in the past, present, and future through fictional monologues led by three generations of women. All three women reflect on someone who’s in some way “foreign” to them. In “Peach Tongue” (set in 1978), a daughter reflects on the relationship with her mother; in “Miss China” (set in 2018), a former Cantonese restaurant proprietor talks about the restaurant’s new proprietor, a mainland Chinese woman; and in “Cyborg World” (set in 2058), a grandmother records a voice message to her possible future grandchild. These stories are not only about the history of Chinese restaurants in Sweden, but also stories about human relations, community, language, othering, and mortality. We created these characters so, no, they’re not autobiographical nor based entirely on my family. The idea of using the restaurant’s own voice came from a need to problematize ideas of representation.

The artist had a solo exhibition at Galerie Nordenhake in Stockholm last June themed and titled ‘Phantom Banquet’ (2020). She has a major solo upcoming exhibition in mid-January 2022 at contemporary art museum Bonniers Konsthall in Stockholm. With all these global lockdowns, may that open as scheduled. Sweden is still holding out with no official lockdowns, although they’ve finally passed an emergency lockdown law last month. It’s a pity that I’m likely not going to be able to travel and see this show IRL.