Saturday, May 18, 2019

Dal Tadka & Chicken Masala

Dal tadka.

The man enjoys spices and his favorite cuisine is Indian, so I thought I’d attempt cooking that at some point. The man does superb Indian food, but the point is for me to do it instead of having him cook it all the time. Getting butter chicken right isn’t an issue for me; the usual simple dal is always stocked in our fridge. I wanted to try variations of that. I was certain that I could churn out decent- dal tadka and chicken masala.

Had a look at the recipes online, and tweaked the portions to two servings and reviewed the larder for available spices. Of course the shelves had all requisite spices for cooking basic Indian food! They’re always in use and replenished regularly. I even have a go-to shop in Little India where I could get all the spices, especially for Kerala dishes. Okaaaaay. Dinner at home on a rainy evening was settled.

Too bad there couldn’t be charcoal fire to smoke the dal tadka, and I didn’t have poppy seeds for the chicken masala, but I made do. When I tasted both dishes, I knew they were winners. YES. Authentic. I’m quite sure this would garner a passing grade by any not-overly stringent Indian grandmother. I’m very picky about Indian food too. Hurhurhurhur. There’re distinct differences in regional flavors and our local style dishes. #ImpieCooks2019 

It was a busy week for the man and he was glad to sit down to dinner at home. When he took his first few bites of the food, his facial expressions were priceless. It ranged from a slight frown to quizzical and eyes widening before he grudgingly uttered a “Wow.” He cleaned up every piece of meat and every last drop of masala.

He was stunned that I could produce these foods at these standards. Well, I do like these foods, and chances are, if I like the foods, I can re-create them. I probably had this smug smirk on the face all night. Competitive much? 😆🤣 He was like, “Damn, we could set up an Indian takeout.” Well, nooooo. But we could make dal and such and deliver them to the friends who would enjoy these spices. 

Chicken masala.

Friday, May 17, 2019

《粽邪》:: 因果報應

It has been a while since I binge-watched horror and supernatural films. Many are about demons, ghosts and possession, and the others are about vampires, werewolves and zombies. (Magicians and fantasy are in a different category.) Most are ermmm B-grade. Hahahah. One stood out for its decent storyline- a Taiwanese film titled《粽邪》(2018, 'The Rope Curse') directed by Liao Shih Han (廖士涵).

Set in Taiwan's Changhua County (彰化縣), the title alludes to soothing and sending away aggrieved spirits (referred to as 'meat dumplings') who died by suicide (from hanging) on their journey. ‘送肉粽’ is a an age-old religious ritual done by the local priests. The ominous hanging rope and the surrounding items are put in a sack, tied up and thrown into the sea, signifying that all resentment and hate from the spirits are packed up and sent away, ensuring peace for the living.

Engaged couple Jiawei and Shuyi's lives were thrown upside down when they revisited Shuyi's old home to film this religious ritual after a death happened in the town. They realized that Shuyi's old classmates were being targeted and methodically killed. The filming is fine, and the acting isn't too bad. It utilizes lots of flashbacks. I suppose this is how it's supposed to unfold since audiences have no idea what's going on, and why this spirit seemed to be picking off these specific targets one by one, and killing whoever stood in the way. Then we learnt that Shuyi's old classmate and good friend Li Yan hung herself in the school hall because she was picked on by a group of girls and was continuously bullied, and the last straw was when she thought her only friend had betrayed her, by dating a boy she had a crush on.

I thought it wouldn't be such a happy ending. A seemingly successful exorcism doesn't seem possible. The priest was no match for the vengeful spirit who had plenty of time to gather its grievances into an evil manifestation. Li Yan wasn't about to forgive anyone, not even her former friend, especially when the pain caused went beyond a physical pain. It was a hurt that cut so deep that a death couldn't assuage the vengeful spirit.

The ending was chilling. When the injured Shuyi was finally discharged from hospital and Jiawei picked her up to head home together, the wing mirror image reflected Li Yan instead, indicating that the Shuyi's soul was no longer there. Shuyi's apology clearly wasn't accepted, and her punishment was to have her life taken over, and Li Yan considers that as rightful compensation. That entire concept is rather frightening. Of wrongs done and not righted; of a guilty conscience and a heavy heart, and a lifetime of grievances and pain.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Lots of Protein

When a craving for fish strikes, it hits hard. Toddled off to Hakumai for a rather late lunch. We wanted to have its chirashi-don. This hearty bowl is the easiest sort of casual lunch to ingest on a work day. I requested for some tweaks to it. No tuna, no prawns, no sakura ebi, less rice. But I wanted an additional piece of cooked abalone. Oof. My very Singaporean tastebuds always want a non-traditional and robust chirashi-don.

The chirashi-don comes as a set meal with a bowl of lovely thick clam soup, and chawanmushi, both of which I donated to my other three lunch companions, along with extra pieces of anago. I needed to make space for the steamed fish. Heh. I was greedy. For someone who hasn't put in much HIIT hours, I was very hungry. There, we wouldn't need additional capsules of fish oil supplements for the week.

The steamed fish came in the form of an onigochi (オニゴチ、鬼鯒、a variety of sand borer). It wasn't a very big fish, and very easily snacked on by four people. However, it was mainly polished off by me and G since the other two were stuffed and couldn't take more than a few bites. Since none of us have to check in at the office, we went off for a hot cup of coffee and more conversation.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Getting Used To The Leica Q2

So I lost my Leica Q in Hong Kong, but now I have a Q2. 🙃 Admittedly, the Q2 is much better than the predecessor because of its slightly better weather-proofing (not weather-sealed ah). A few cosmetic tweaks, app and software upgrades and such, but otherwise the lens remain identical.

I'm sooo glad that I had 3.5 years of thoroughly putting the Q through its paces. It didn't sit in a dark cabinet. It came out with me all the time. On most trips it braved mild winter, crazy heat, rains and water. It was in danger of being dropped all the time, and I almost did that, from a galloping horse. Luckily the strap held. The Q2 will do the same. That said, I'm not ignoring my other Leica cameras. They each have a purpose to fulfill, and that depends on what I'm shooting for the day. If you want ONE light and easy brainless all-rounder, I'd tell you to buy a Sony RX100-VI. Any Leica will just be heavy and often disappointing when used as a point-and-shoot. Unless you insist on a Leica, then I suppose the D-Lux can do.

Over the years, I find that it's such a pleasure to tot a camera along with me. Sure, the phone camera works, but it's just barely functional. I prefer an actual camera that I can toggle its settings and such. I will allocate space and weight to cameras, but not other things. Hahaha. Often, I'll prioritize the camera, the rest of the items in the bag will be just a credit card and some cash, and a lip balm.

It was fun to sit down for a Leica Akademie Q2 workshop led by Francisco Marin. He's an architectural photographer by trade, and obviously has a great eye for lines. While I wouldn't be shooting those buildings, rooms and interiors, it's always good to hear some tips, and understand what he uses the Q2 for. By the time I attended this four-hour workshop, I've more or less understood the Q2; I've had almost two months with it. I bought it on launch day. It didn't take much to convince me! Hahahaha. *shrug

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Majestic Restaurant

Took the man's parents to Majestic Restaurant (大華) for a Mother's Day lunch. The restaurant is so conveniently located in town at Marina One, but since it re-opened in January 2018, we haven't had a chance to pop in for lunch till last weekend. I like Chef Yong's food and his slight twist on traditional Cantonese flavors.

Majestic Restaurant offered a dim sum menu at lunch. The MIL likes char siew pau, and wouldn't mind a good one occasionally. She enjoyed the ones here- light and fluffy. I didn't want the rice roll with char siew because there's egg in it. I would come back to try the organic brown rice roll with prawns, Hakka style (擂茶糙米鲜虾肠粉). Generally, I like my rice rolls simple. Since the restaurant didn't have plain ones, I opted for rice rolls with prawns (鮮蝦腸粉). It was satisfying! Ordered in moderation, and reserved the poultry in advance- half a Peking duck and half a chicken.

The smoked French corn-fed chicken with salt and hickory (inspired by Hakka salted chicken) was quite delicious, considering that it has been marinated with herbs and was smoked overnight. The Peking duck (crispy skin) that came served with the usual strips of scallion and cucumbers, and slightly-thicker-than usual rose pancakes in the cutest pink. The man packed home quite a fair chunk of duck because the table couldn't finish it. He asked me if I could shred them and do a fried rice. Whut. Fine. It goes into the freezer and I'll fry them up later in the week. ðŸ¤¨ðŸ™„

The table inhaled three pieces of small Portuguese egg tarts, but still ordered dessert. It came in the form of two portions of Tianjin pear with gum tragacanth and honey citrus pomelo. It was pretty decent! Not too sweet at all.

Happy Mother's Day to my MIL, who has been supplying me tons of Vitamin C supplements, strawberries and blueberries this year!

Monday, May 13, 2019


Activated my Storytel free trial to check out its offerings. It's got e-books and audiobooks. Which means it's competing with Amazon (Kindle and Audible). How do you compete with a tech giant's cloud computing power and endless library? Importantly, in Singapore, how will Storytel (S$9.90 per month) compete with the National Library Board (NLB), which provides an amazing range of books more or less for FREE?

I don't use Audible (at US$15 per month) because I don't fancy 'listening' to books. I'm not an auditory learner at all. The biggest reason why I don't listen to new music with lyrics when I run or do things that require concentration, is because it's very distracting. While I cooked and listened to a few pages in a Storytel audiobook, my garlic and onions were scorched black in the pan. Grrrrrrr. At least the book was about cats, so it was worth it.

Providing competition is all good, but Storytel needs to up its game with its streaming servers and libraries. At this point, it's not even about the quality of the content, narrators or sound. That's a given, the easiest to fulfill when you hire good content people to populate the library. As an end user, I'm also looking for a swanky, savvy app, and I think Storytel's got some way to go. Navigation is simple, but the app is unstable. When I open up an audiobook at the same time as an e-book, it will likely crash. It crashed like five times when I first did that.

Listened to 'The Travelling Cat Chronicles' (first published in 2012) by Hiro Arikawa, translated by Philip Gabriel in 2017. 有川浩「旅猫リポート」Narrated in third person through the eyes of Nana the cat, we explore whether cats belong to humans or is it really vice versa. (Reviews here, here, and here.)

Protagonist Nana the cat was a stray adopted by human Satoru. Five years on, Satoru and Nana went to visit the human's old friends from childhood and high school- Kosuke, Yoshimine, and Sugi and Chikako. Through the eyes and thoughts of Nana, we learnt of Satoru's painful loss of his parents, and a few key memories from his childhood, and how his friends stood by him, and soothed his soul.

Satoru wanted to rehome Nana, but didn't explain why, seeking and discarding his options of humans who could properly care for Nana... till he took a ferry to reach Aunt Noriko in Hokkaido. There, Satoru and Nana stayed. Having a cat narrate this story, is simply fun! It eases us into a story that is more than about what cats think. I don't think I need to reveal the reason (SPOILER) why Satoru wanted to re-home Nana. It's a rather sad sort of reason, and it's precisely because Satoru loved his cat, that's why he had to do it. The last 45 minutes of the audiobook made my heart ache quite badly, and I had tears in my eyes. The tears didn't fall though. It's a story of death, dying, loss and love, of friendship and loyalty.

See, didn't I tell you I would stay with you till the end? 
I am Satoru's one and only cat. And Satoru is my one and only pal. And a proud cat like me wasn't about to abandon his pal. If living as a stray was what it took to be Satoru's cat till the very end, then bring it on.

The thing about audiobooks, I can't simply bookmark the portion I want to extract and quote. I can't just flip it back to those pages. Arrrrgh. So I'll have to settle for a quote from a book review. In Laura Mary Philpott's review for The Washington Post in December 2018, she wrote,

While Arikawa did the imaginative work of translating from cat to human, Philip Gabriel, who has also worked with such authors as Haruki Murakami, translated the whole thing from Japanese to English. That’s a lot of translation, but only rarely does it get a little clunky. (During a scene when a cat gets into a disagreement with a dog, I felt a little like I was watching Sassy and Chance squabble in “Homeward Bound.”) 
Are you unlucky if you’ve experienced a lot of loss in your lifetime? Or are you lucky because you had people — and animals — to get you through it? This book comes down on the side of gratitude, a testament to the good fortune we all have in choosing how to honor those who matter to us most. And it does so with a fablelike charm, without turning too sweetly sentimental or gimmicky. 
It may make you cry, just a little, but it will also make you take stock of your friendships and ask yourself: If you could take a road trip to be reunited with just a few people from your past, whom would you visit?

Saturday, May 11, 2019

More Than Thoughts & Prayers

'Mary's Song' by Australian artist Dianne Minnaar.

I've had so much time to read. It's not as if I don't mark out pockets of quietude with the Bible. I do. This week, I read even more, and whispered extra prayers for the faeriefolk. Life is too fragile. We all want loved ones to be well and happy.

I remind myself, as much as we pray, I do my best to keep the faeriefolk near too. They've been a better friend to me, than I to them. It's not about keeping score. It's about being there. My friends have definitely been here for me. I'm just not sure if I have been there for them. I need to do better!

[46] And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. [47] And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. [48] Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. [49] Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. [50] And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him. 
~ Luke 1:46-50, Douay-Rheims

Friday, May 10, 2019

No More Samgyetang Ever!

After binge-watching the latest Season 3 of 'Kim's Convenience' and the episode on Korea in 'Street Food', the man had a sudden craving for Korean food for dinner. Okaaaaay. Off we went to Kim's on Lorong Kilat where it would be emptier at 8.30pm and I wouldn't feel too frazzled. I'm not the biggest fan of Korean food or kimchi, and I hate gochuchang. But I can find something to eat. I'm fine with the flavors of food at Kim's; not too keen on the ones in Telok Ayer Street or even trusty Todamgol which is damn noisy. AND I DO NOT LIKE KOREAN FRIED CHICKEN DAMMIT.

The banchan and bibimbap were tangible representations of happiness that arrived in many bowls. Those made up a fairly nutritious meal. Yes, I'm well aware that we're not in South Korea, and these items comprising banchan come in jars and cans. It's just the man and I, so we can't order that much food. There was a beef bulgogi for him, of which he had a few bites, and packed the rest for the next day's lunchbox.

I was extremely suspicious of the samgyetang. It's Korean, but it's also the standard Chinese herbal soups I avoid! Eeeeps. I took a few sips before chicken was broken up (it was stuffed with ginseng, cordyceps, glutinous rice and whatever else); didn't eat the meat either. Ginseng chicken soup is supposed to be so nourishing and such, right? Riiiiiight. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. Predictably my eyes swelled within the hour, and the neck broke out in hives. Antihistamine pill to the rescue. Those took a full day to subside. 🤬

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Soul Foods

I do not subscribe to any list of ‘forbidden’ food and drinks. In my world, my allergies reign supreme over all health trends and notions, I’ll be damned if I ignore them. I abhor being told what to eat and drink because you don't know what my body can take or how the food allergies flare. I especially want to smack people who tell me not take egg yolks. Oh sod off. I've only mainly taken yolks all my life. Egg white omelette? No, thank you. Till today, my cholesterol is perfectly fine. My HDL is through the roof and my LDL is kept low. It's a genetic trait, morons. That's also because I don't binge on other cholesterol-rich food.

I've been very well fed, and have had loads of fabulous double-boiled Chinese soups from my two usual restaurants whose servers and chefs know my preferences and are able to do fish and fish maw, and vegetables with pork bones, wolfberries and red dates, and no additional funny herbs. (They specially delivered to me.) I've had a few bowls of the sliced fish beehoon soup from the Arcade, and many rolls of my all-time favorite popiah from Maxwell Market. Brownie points to the man who queued up to get takeouts, Hahaha. In addition, I've also tanked up on dhal and Kerala fish curry! Wooohoo.

Enforced rest at home meant that I got super restless. *pun fully intended* But I couldn't go out gallivanting. I was also grimy because I couldn't wash my hair for the first three days. The moment I could pop into a hair salon for a wash, and not be too smeowlly, I gingerly rolled out of the house and into J and L's kitchen, and shamelessly asked to be fed. L offered grilled prawns topped with garlic and pasta, and a random salad with good locally-made burrata. OH YES PLEASE.

As much as I love prawns, intake has to be restricted. I ate two delicious prawns, and loads of garlic. The man was thrilled because we don't cook prawns at home. He loves grilled prawns done this way too, with plenty of minced garlic. He ate so many! Heheheh. I can't clean raw prawns without breaking out into hives or having the fingers swell. If those raw enzymes get onto other stuff, and I missed a spot while cleaning, I'm going to have a huge problem.

L whipped up spaghetti carbonara. The proper type! When they went to buy the locally-made burrata, the kitchen had just made fresh pasta. While the restaurant doesn't sell pasta, they managed to buy a few portions anyway. Hehehehe. YAYYYY! I had two servings of the pasta. It was delicious. Ate quite a bit of the salad too. Good burrata on salad is always a winner.

Since I wasn't on painkillers at all, I could have a glass of wine. No guilt. Eh, I didn't persist with no painkillers because I wanted a glass of red okay. THERE IS A FINE DIFFERENCE. Tonight's food didn't make any allergies flare. Hmmmmpf. I was so appreciative of the chance to get out, but into comfortable surroundings without much stress, and in company that I'm fully at ease with.