Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Chicken Curry All The Way

It's so easy for us to do chicken curry at home as a brainless meal. There'll always be two pieces of frozen chicken thighs and boneless breast fillets stocked; the spices and condiments are sitting in the larder, along with BABA's meat curry powder. (No way I'm pounding or assembling anything to make meat curry powder.) This kitchen usually does it the dhansak style or as murgh kari and a fuss-free prate-stall type of chicken curry. All our iterations are spicy. The closest to this that isn't too spicy is the tomato version as murgh makhani. All curries are good to freeze and be kept for two weeks, making for two good meals. If you don't have potatoes in there, it could be kept for a month.

I can do chicken curry as well as the man could, so he can't complain about it. JUST EAT. Hahaha. I cooked up a small pot of chicken curry that night. But good gawwwd, CHICKEN. I avoid the meat, and just take the curry and potatoes. This is why if I cook this dish, there'll always be sides because I eat them. And for total randomness, I threw in lightly stir-fried greens, and seared a herb-crusted barramundi. The Kühlbarra barramundi had sat in the freezer for too long (maybe eight months) and I wanted to use it up. Okay, a mish-mash Singapore-home-style dinner done. #ImpieCooks2020 

Everyone who bothers to cook something in their kitchen, will eventually wander around to boiling up a pot of chicken curry, and will have their own iteration of it. While you could experiment with flavors and spices, you can't go very wrong with this dish. (Although I've tasted really lame versions.) If there's always chicken curry catered at Chinese funerals, then it stands to reason that besides gyoza cooked in ten ways, this is also a brainless lockdown 'circuit breaker' dish for many of us too. 😂

Monday, May 25, 2020

Cooking Daily For Many People

The BFF sent me Stanley Tucci's article published in The Atlantic on May 15, 2020 titled 'Cooking Your Way Through The Pandemic', described as 'An hour by hour account—with recipes'. I don't scan The Atlantic often, so it was nice to have stuff sent my way.

Stanley Tucci is holed up in London with his current wife Felicity Blunt and their two young kids, and three older teenagers (one is a friend of the daughter) for six weeks and counting. Imagine cooking dinner for eight people every night. OMG. I don't particularly care about the recipes. I enjoy reading about the decisions taken to cook what they need to cook, and what drives them to the final dinner menu.

The Tuccis's typical day at home won't be anything like mine. I don't need to relate to his life, although I'm glad that I have fewer responsibilities than he has; I don't need to think about feeding a whole troop of fussy kids besides the persnickety dog. But I kinda like Stanley Tucci's work (never mind his personal life and marriages), so I didn't mind reading what he had to say in lockdown. The humor of this article is in its details, completely personal, private, yet a necessary touch when written for public reading.

9:45 A.M. 
When the session ends, Felicity and I go over what food items need to be restocked. With four people ages 18 to 20, the amount of food, beer, and wine consumed is staggering. If there is a shortage of avocados at the local stores, it’s because we’ve eaten them all. If there is no Kerrygold butter left in the United Kingdom, it’s because it’s either in our freezer or we ate it. All of it. Just fucking ate it. Probably without even spreading it on anything. I saw a neighbor hungrily eyeing our cat yesterday and it occurred to me that the woman probably hadn’t eaten meat in a week, because my gluttonous family had devoured all of the fucking beef, lamb, veal, chicken, oxtail, pork, rabbit, and game in Southwest London. Still gasping for breath from an unnecessarily grueling workout, I rummage through the fridge. 
Given our short supplies, I decide to make something simple tonight: pasta alla Norma and sautéed lamb chops. I reckon that these two dishes should satisfy everyone’s palate and nutritional needs. However, I know that my middle daughter will eat only the pasta dish, as she is now a vegetarian. What timing. 
12:15 P.M. 
The older generation of children awakens. They enter the kitchen and make quick work of an entire loaf of bread, two pints of cherry tomatoes, four avocados, six eggs, two pints of blueberries, four bananas, 20 rashers of bacon, one liter of almond milk, six Nespresso pods, and a liter of orange juice before retreating to the TV room or their bedrooms, where they tell me they are doing their schoolwork. I believe them, even if I don’t. Felicity comes down and serves the little ones lunch after I have changed their waterlogged clothes. I am off to clean a bathroom or two, do some more laundry, or vacuum something that I just vacuumed three hours before.

Stanley Tucci is a neat freak and is cleaning house a lot more during this lockdown. Me too, buddy, me too. Toilets gotta be washed daily now, because we don't have the benefit using toilets at the office and at the gym. Haha. I've got dog hair all over everything, a dog who's entering a mild coat blowout, and vacuuming twice a day seems to have become the norm. The writer didn't neglect to acknowledge the privileges of his situation. Many of us in similar circumstances should. The frontline workers bearing the full brunt of COVID-19 risks, deaths and mental anguish. They're literally fighting this war for the rest of us sequestered at home.

But no matter how frustrated we all are with the situation, I know we can’t help but think how lucky we are to have one another, a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and no symptoms of illness. Only a couple of miles away in any direction there are hospitals chock-full of ill and dying patients who are being attended to by overworked and overwhelmed National Health Service doctors, nurses, and support staff. Other than sending checks and raising money for charities and the NHS by making videos at home, we are helpless to do anything for fear of infection. As we eat in silence, we are all hoping this will end soon without too much more suffering, that our leaders will get at least one thing right along the way, and that the next time we are all sequestered together it is by choice.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Ikan Goreng Belado

In yet another installation of online meal dates, J and I both had noodles for lunch. Hers was a linguine with blue swimmer crab, and mine was mee kia in soup with minced pork, an egg and a fishball. Teheeheheh.

We had dinner too. Her DIY pasta kit (from Bar Cicheti) of casarecce with basil pesto could feed her for two meals. So she pan-seared a fillet of salmon to go with it. A most convenient and nutritious one-dish meal of sorts. I declined her offer of lunch and shamelessly asked to swop it to dinner because I was newly recovered from indigestion and would like continue with light lunches. For my dinner, she sent me a whole meal from Pagi Sore. Wheeeeee!

Had to restrain J from ordering the whole menu. Banned her from ordering chicken since I've had quite enough of poultry. So she kindly considered my delicate stomach, and put in a prudent order of fish and two other items, in which there would be no leftovers. I had to stop her from even ordering rice. The restaurant offers only white rice, so I might as well cook my own basmati rice at home.

Delivery was efficient. I was a little stunned to open the thermal bag to see a whole fish. A filleted seabass. I had expected a small piece of fillet. Wow! Too generous, you are, J. There were ikan goreng beladotahu telur and sambal okra. Ahhhhh, lovely. The dishes hit every spot. We gobbled it all up. The man was a tad embarrassed to sit down to dinner. He was most perturbed that J overspent in order to feed us both. Hurhurhur. Never mind, food had been sent. We shut up, eat and appreciate it. We'll be sending her many more lunches. Oof! We'll be doing lunch like this for a few more weeks yet.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Love-handles & Muffin-tops

After being shellshocked by the absence of gym visits during this lockdown 'circuit breaker', the man sucked it up and found an app to work out with at home — Aaptiv (which syncs with Strava). The man didn't want to invest in fancy weights with a carrier case and all that. But he got a pair of 10-kg dumbbells and a 5-kg medicine ball from Decathlon(Gyms likely won't reopen so soon either.) Without a wide variety weights and bench presses to utilize, he has to learn how to leverage on his body weight to get optimal results out of his workouts.

He works out daily, which is good to channel those angst from a hectic work schedule. What worries me is his twice-a-week runs. A light run is 3 to 5km and a long run is close to 10km. His knee will deteriorate over the years, and with the number of runs during these few months, the mileage clocked is detrimental to his cartilage. He's pretty much got knee arthritis. He was considering stem cell therapy for his knees when clinics closed for non-essential medical services.

I wasn't hot about his body shape when he was pumping weights with his trainers at the old and defunct California Fitness. I also disapproved of his daily intake of protein pills and shakes. He said it was for recovery and I rolled eyes at it. You're not an athlete or an amateur bodybuilder. It was too much bulking up in the upper body, and his stomach was becoming a paunch. I didn't think his trainers were of any good. He had a terribly weak core. While he bulked up and had strength to lift weights, he couldn't climb a wall at the speed I could. He could do pull-ups and press-ups, but didn't have the strength to haul his body up and scamper over footholds. He had problems finding shirts that fit! The buttons never snap shut! Customized/tailored shirts simply look ridiculous on him too.

When he made the shift to Virgin Active, he enjoyed the classes so much that he wasn't just focusing on weights. It was good cross-training. When he discovered LES MILLS GRIT classes, he never looked back. Hahaha. It was much better for his body overall. He laid off on the convenient protein shakes and pills. He ate better. His body became more streamlined and it stopped bulking up. His muscles reshaped and the paunch receded. He isn't going to get a solid six-pack because that requires some crazy Hollywood-level of working out.

I shouldn't be judge-y about the husband's physical shape. HAHAHA. BUT, hey, he discusses fitness stuff with me. So...... He included a truckload of planks into his exercise regime because he's miffed that I still beat him flat at holding planks. Well, I did notice that this 'working out at home' seems to be giving him some vague definition of abs. He's gotta be careful about acquiring a muffin-top or love-handles though. He is on the receiving end of my non-stop jibes about having dessert EVERY NIGHT since Singapore went into lockdown on April 7. He's rather frightened now. 😏 My fitness goals have always been to maintain strength in order to pick him up from the floor and heave him across my shoulders in a fireman's lift. This means he can't weigh beyond 80 kg. He's still at 85 kg. Grrrrrrrr.

Friday, May 22, 2020

'Deli Dinner' from Artichoke

We were quite taken by Artichoke's 'Deli Dinner' for two, which showcased Bjorn Shen's take on Vietnamese food. The restaurant is open to do delivery or takeaways only from Thursdays to Sundays; ordering in advance is a must. Had to plan a couple of meals in advance too in order to have stomach space to fit this meal.

There were lots of food. The appetizers of tofu slaw and potato salad were delicious. That fish sauce caramel was simply amazing. I slathered it over both slaw and potato salad. Mmm-mm-mmmmm. Then again, I love fish sauce. There was banh mi or in Artichoke's terms, 'hoagie'— two loaves of 300g each. Quite filling! We kept one for lunch the next day. I didn’t take to it because it was a coriander bomb! Wtf. Leaves and stalks in a thick slab within the hoagie. Eioowwwww. The xate sauce was supposed to go with the hoagieThe man enjoyed it thoroughly.

Desserts came in the form of a huge pineapple and jackfruit donut, and a chocolate pudding with banana, coconut and peanuts. I’m not sure what Vietnamese dessert the donut is adapted from, but pineapple and jackfruit are commonly used in Southeast Asian sweets. The pudding is adapted from chè chuối methinks. I refused to even try the desserts. Cannot lah, the sugar! The man was thrilled with them. There were even drinks, non-alcoholic, which I liked — lychee and lemongrass cooler. It came sealed in a packet so that we didn’t need to have it with dinner. (Beer was preferred.) It was nicer to have it the next afternoon. I diluted it to an acceptable level of sugar.

There was also a tub of chicken broth. I giggled at that. They gave toppings/garnish of vegetables and herbs too. I think many diners would keep the broth, and cook udon or noodles to go with that for lunch the next day. Like it’s phở. We used udon and did just that! The man didn't finish the two desserts in a night. He kept the pineapple and jackfruit donut to go with the lunch of soup noodles.

Udon was added to said chicken broth. With an egg.
No additional meat. Not quite the usual phở.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Pills & Coffee Beans

I was absolutely tickled to receive pills in the mail — a strip of over-the-counter simethicone (anti-gas). D was horrified to learnt that I had no antacids or anti-gas meds at home, considering that I do get indigestion rather often. Well, now I have simethicone! It will alleviate the bloat in two doses for the next round. My biggest problem with it- it's a chewable tablet. Yucks. 😱

D also sent me two packs of coffee beans from Cowpresso Coffee Roasters. I've never had any beans or coffee from them. I'm tickled by their Nanyang Kopi Roast, a blend of dark roast that's described as "strong and intense". I haven't had a kopi-O-siu-dai from Toastbox for weeks. Perhaps I shall order it and see if this version is good. Heh.

I've long finished my last packet of beans roasted by Onibus, courtesy of J. I could order more but I don't know how long it would take for the parcel to get from Tokyo to Singapore. I have one small pack of beans from Nylon left. So these two 250-gram packs are very welcomed and are absolutely manageable — a Rich Stout Blend roasted medium dark, and an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe roasted medium. My go-to is the Ethiopian Yirgacheff. So I saved that pack for another week. A 250-gram pack should last me for two weeks, give or take. I do alternate with store-bought coffee and the Nespresso capsules. 

Opened up the Rich Stout Blend first since I was super curious about it. As beans do, the smell is divine. Put it through a slightly finer grind although I use a French Press. I wanted a thicker brew with shorter steeper time and lower temperature without over-extracting the beans. It was indeed nutty and buttery! We were out for a long morning walk with the dog. Once we were home and showered, it was time for coffee. What a lovely brew to slowly sip and savor. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Assam Pedas Belimbing Fish Curry

When the tingkat menu for Bollywood Veggies promised assam pedas belimbing fish curry and sambal prawns, we were sold. Since we rarely cook prawns at home, the man could indulge in sambal prawns for this meal! Couldn't resist the achar and the seasonal veggie lemak that came along with it too. It came neatly packed in this three-tiered tingkat. I'll return it to the restaurant since the two-tiered one is more often in use when we go tapau food. #SupportLocal

The man merrily peeled all the prawns and saved half of it for the next meal. The sambal rempah was more flavorful than spicy. Nice! As tasty as the rempah was, I dare not eat more than a prawn. Heh. The veggie lemak featured jackfruit. That was good because we don’t cook jackfruit curry at home. I wished they had put more tau kwa into the veggie lemak. That would have really upped the game.

The assam pedas belimbing fish currry was everything I expected of it. It could have been more spicy, but the balance of flavors was beautiful. The buah belimbing lends so more much depth to the assam. It held four decent pieces of ikan tenggiri. Had to keep two pieces for another meal. We declined the steamed white rice that came along with this menu. Cooked our own basmati at home. The tamarind curry on rice was soooo appetizing that I ate slightly more rice than usual. It was another fabulous dinner.

I was extremely pleased because there was NO CHICKEN in this week's menu. Like, finally. Hahaha. My stomach finally felt hungry after days of putting up with the discomfort of indigestion. I just have to make sure that I don’t over-eat again. That means I can neither have two heavy consecutive meals or two rich dinners in a row, since I tend to have a heavier evening meal.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


This ‘circuit breaker’ is truly seeing an emergence of home cooks producing rather decent foods, especially of friends who wouldn’t have bothered stepping into the kitchen otherwise. J is one such example. She has been merrily feeding herself with plenty of garlic fried rice and such.

I was floored when J said she ordered Hokkaido potatoes to make Japanese potato salad, and would send me some. Wow! She surprised me when she suddenly texted to show me her Work-in-Progess photo of boiled potatoes and its accompanying vegetables in a mixing bowl. Her courier arrived so fast and efficiently left the paper bag with its precious contents by the front door (contactless delivery rocks).

Eagerly opened it up. The box was still warm. Mmmm. Into the fridge it went. A beautiful card came along with it. Took out a fat chunk. It wouldn’t be as cold as I would have liked. But it was freshly made and I didn’t want to wait till the next day to taste it. The rest would be eaten cold anyway. It was a huge tub, and I wanted to keep it chilled for at least two days to savor it. I was deeply appreciative of J’s effort.

I like potatoes, but as a salad, it’s gotta be a Japanese version. Love it with loads of onions, cucumbers, and eggs. Bacon is optional. J made hers without butter and went easy on the salt. She was generous with the ingredients, and she knows how much I love onions and garlic. Hahaha. I was sooo happy to have it for dinner. This potato salad was a superb iteration!

ありがとうございました! あなたのポテトサラダはとても美味しいですほっぺが落ちる!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Sharing An Equal Burden of the Home

The headline caught my attention because it isn't a social construct I fully understand. The heterosexual relationship between husband and wife, and the division of labor in their family unit in Japanese society is something rather frightening, to me. I’m glad I made the choice of not having children. I made that call at at 10 years old, or was it 12? Whatever it was, I never looked back. These two months made me seriously thankful for that decision. Every facet of my life doesn’t involve any desire to include children in this equation. I’m not one of those strong women who could care for children or have a big heart to put their needs above mine. If I’m in a lockdown managing children, it would likely drive me suicidal.

Motoko Rich wrote 'Stuck at Home, Men in Japan Learn to Help. Will It Last?', published in The New York Times on May 16, 2020. She wrote three examples of what three families are dealing with, and how they're coping during these two crucial months of staying at home and the prefectures in varying states of emergency. The writer doesn't go deep into analyzing the government policies or what it isn't doing to help families get by for the duration COVID-19 is raising red flags globally. She keeps it focused on the humans, and these three families, who are a typical representation of the average Japanese family in Tokyo.

For working couples, Japan’s efforts to combat the spread of the virus — encouraging teleworking and asking residents to stay inside — have highlighted disparities in the division of domestic work that shape households across the globe but are especially pronounced in Japanese society.

Angles of articles, even when written by journalists, could always fit the intended angle of a story. The writer isn't exactly generalizing about Japanese society and its chauvinism. She doesn't look at it through rose-tinted glasses either. People seem to truly believe in gender-divided work, and should the males help with any tasks at home non-related to the electricals, plumbings and mortagage, it’s viewed as ‘extra’ and deserving of praise. Well.

What about our Singapore society? That’s not for me to comment on publicly. It doesn’t matter to me anyway since I don’t have children to bother about; and I most certainly do not make it my business to care about what happens in the friends' families if they have children, unless there's physical or mental abuse going on. I can only offer my beliefs that child-rearing is a two-way street, equally shouldered by both partners, and helpers and grandparents should stay out of it. (Helpers help with chores and errands, and grandparents ought to visit and play.) The logistics of cooking and cleaning, and the changing of lightbulbs are gender-neutral lifeskills. Chauvinism can be partially blamed on mothers who didn’t raise their sons ‘right’ and mollycoddle them.

Remember the old advice some women used to sagely dispense to newly married women? 'Give and take.' Which translates into women giving it all, and the men taking/accepting all, and some men give thanks, and then nothing else changes. It's not about women's rights. It's about fairness. The head of the household is not necessarily the breadwinner, neither is it always be a man. I don't subscribe to that.

Sure, the dynamics and work of the family unit is a personal matter to be decided between long-term heterosexual and homosexual or non-binary couples, but fairness and appreciation should underline these decisions, not gender. The article asked, 'Will it last?' For the sake of Japanese women, I hope so. Laying it out onto a spreadsheet certainly does. I hope the men open their eyes to the value of work within the home.

Susumu Kataoka was just looking for a diversion from long days sheltering at home with his family during the coronavirus outbreak. He grabbed his drone and took it for a spin around their Tokyo house, snapping some pictures and posting them on Facebook. 
His wife, Aki, was not amused. If he had time to play around like that — revealing their household clutter, no less — shouldn’t he have time to take on more domestic chores and child care? 
Mr. Kataoka, a marketing web consultant, believed he was already doing his share. He gave his wife a list of tasks he regularly performs: bathing their two pre-school-age children, washing dishes, overseeing tooth brushing. 
How little he knew. In a meticulous spreadsheet, Ms. Kataoka, a nursing student, enumerated her 210 tasks to his 21.