Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dew-cloth, dream drapery

The mist swirled in today.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

sunday morning

So I'm a few days late, but here's my pancakes! Pancake Day ie Shrove Tuesday marks the eve of Lent. I'm not religious but hey, it's a good excuse to make pancakes!

The truth though, is that I was wanting to use up my overripe banana. And decided that banana pancakes were a good start to a Sunday morning.

Friday, February 23, 2007

fiction attack

Just a quick one today to point out this great post on The Millions which has links to The New Yorker's fiction over the past year (as well as comments).

And in the most recent issue, David Sedaris!
So this boyfriend,” she said. “Let me ask, which one of you is the woman?”

“Well, neither of us,” I told her. “That’s what makes us a homosexual couple. We’re both guys.”

“But no,” she said. “I mean, like, in prison or whatnot. One of you has to be in for murder and the other for child molesting or something like that, right? I mean, one is more like a normal man.”

Monday, February 19, 2007

London loves

First, Saturday lunch at Yauatcha, with some fusion-y dim sum (spinach wrapped prawn and water chestnut dumplings, the crispy 'box dumpling' which had prawn and date within and deep fried beancurd strips on the outside and served with plum sauce, some regular siu mai and a crispy duck roll), expensive tea which they don't refill (they can't really as they don't leave the er.. leaves in the pot) and some non-Chinese desserts (I had a coconut brioche burger with pistachio cream and cherry coulis as the filling). It's noisy and very blue, and they pack the tables together such that you can listen in on conversations and spy on their blueprints (we possibly sat next to the owner who was talking shop about opening Hakkasan in China). It has a minimalist concept, lots of whites and blues and a fishtank out front full of inedible fish.

15-17 Broadwick Street, W1

And what is reunion dinner without steamboat! It was quite an adventure...

Buying veg and fishballs in Chinatown
Trying desperately to find sliced pork at the Japanese store - only to have the last 3 trays swiped under our noses.
Making our way to my cousin's friend's place in Kingston only to learn that the trains were not running all the way there and getting on a replacement bus service from Wimbledon which takes some 40 minutes.
Buying more stuff from Sainsbury's and finally getting to our destination where we start rinsing and chopping and boiling water only to wait
and wait
and wait
because it's a slow cooker.
(I've never done steamboat in anything but a steamboat so this definitely was a first.)
Then giving up on the slow cooker and transferring stuff to the rice cooker, which did work.

It was a ton of food including: mussels, prawns, two kinds of fishballs, enoki mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, finely sliced fillet steak, salmon pieces, tunghoon, egg noodles, Chinese cabbage. And brownie after.

Sunday breakfast (CNY Day 1) was the ever popular nian gao (it's a sticky cake made from glutinous rice)!

The best way to eat nian gao - sliced up and fried in egg.

After a late breakfast, we made our way to the very grand British Museum

It has a fancy new roof.

Glorious ancient stuff.

And behold! Their reading room.

Lunch was some simple French food at Paul, which included some 20 minutes of queuing to get in.

Was it worth the wait?

Their bread sure was. It was crusty and to die for.

I ordered the Paillasson Campagnard (grated potatoes topped with mushrooms and dry cured ham)

Ching had the La Berrichonne (wholemeal bread, goat's cheese, ham, olive cream, tomato)

Covent Garden
29 Bedford Street
London WC2E 9ED

How was your new year?

No roads lead to Chinatown - coming soon!

Friday, February 16, 2007

brownie 101

Once again, the brownie recipe that has never failed me didn't fail me. Thank you Bill Granger!
So here it is, this time in pictures:

(pls note that I halved the recipe as I wasn't sure if the whole thing could fit on my rather small pan. If you'd like the whole recipe and in case you detest show-and-tell, here it is)

This is everything you need. Get your oven preheated to 160deg C and butter/oil your baking pan.

Combine 185g brown sugar, 40g cocoa powder, 30g plain flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder.

Melt 125g butter in the microwave and add 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Beat two eggs.

Combine the wet ingredients (eggs, vanilla and butter) with the dry and mix well.

Roughly chop up 100g of good dark chocolate. Granger's calls for chocolate buttons, but who needs equally shaped blah chocolate bits, when you get to bang up a chocolate bar and get these great uneven chocolatey surprises instead? When it's chopped up (not too fine), mix in with the rest.

Then grab your buttered pan, scrape all the good stuff in, even it out with your spoon, and put it in your preheated 160deg oven! The recipe says 40-45 minutes but I took it out after slightly less than 40.

Easy and always good.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


This term's courses, like last year's but even more so, have made me reflect and made me ponder and made me go away from the seminars wanting to explore and uncover and discover and rediscover. I sometimes wonder what it would be like taking an MA back home - horrifyingly they actually have exams for one of the MAs I had a look at on the NUS site, although I fail to see the logic behind that. I wonder what it would've been like taking a course in Sydney, although I suppose there I would've eventually met some Singaporeans (I haven't in Brighton, just a couple of Malaysians).

So I am glad to be here, and not just because of the view out of my window. I am glad I handed in that resignation letter and took a step into the unknown - to a place I only knew of from brief descriptions on travel websites ("London-by-the-sea") and some blogs I managed to dig up. I had emailed an alumni whose name I had found on the university website and he had only positive things to say - of course he did, his name was the contact for Singaporean students after all. I emailed the course convenor, who would later go on to teach me but only for a couple of weeks as she had to lay everything down and fly to Australia where her husband had been in an accident. I'm also very glad for having cousins just a couple of hours away in London and where I'm headed this weekend for CNY eve dinner. It's nice to have some family around.

It's already mid-Feb and I'm halfway through the spring term and my last month of classes. Lecturers have already started dropping those horrendous two words in class - "term paper" and on Wednesday the professor made us all talk about what topics we're interested in and in two weeks we have to give an outline and a bibliography. The other lecturer even dropped the word 'dissertation' when I went to see her on Tuesday to borrow a book. 20,000 words. Horrors.

Then again since I've already done two term papers of 5,000 each (and ended up writing about 5,500 instead) I suppose 20,000 wouldn't be too painful. You can remind me about this post when I'm screaming in pain later in the year.

Oh and xin nian kuai le!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Saturday, February 10, 2007

weekend of eating

It starts with Friday night and a simply delicious dinner of chirashi sushi and miso soup prepared by one of my Japanese flatmates.

Saturday lunch is a failed attempt to eat at Malay House on Preston Street. The "closed" sign mocks us but it looks like it's closed for good as there's a pile of mail on the doorstep. Instead we cross the street and give China China a try. It looks promising as the price is decent and it's packed with Chinese students, mostly gorging on large plates of rice and noodles. But the dim sum menu catches my eye, although of course it's not a purely dim sum restaurant and the quality won't be perfect. So I order the usual - siew mai, char siew bao, zha leung, pai guat, nuo mai gai, xiaolongbao and some hot and sour soup (yeah this place is one of those mishmesh types). And it was actually not too bad. Of course not as nice as the dim sum place in London but pretty decent.

Sunday dinner I decide to cook in return for my Japanese flatmate.

Starting with a simple clear vegetable soup of corn, carrots, onions and celery.

Then the main dish of spare ribs marinated in a oyster-soy-chilli-honey-ginger marinade, accompanied with roast sweet potatoes.

Followed by a chocolate souffle (from the supermarket!)

Sometimes though, when reading blog posts by umami and chez pim in Paris, I regret being on the wrong side of the channel. I often wander the generic supermarkets' produce section in despair - it's always the same boring items. Thank goodness for Taj and their non-plastic wrapped vegetables.


I saw this at Taj (the 'ethnic' foods grocer) and thought of my sister, although later I realised she might not like it that much cos it was more vanilla yoghurt than chestnut cream. Heh.

the fries that never die

(via onefoodguy)

Friday, February 09, 2007

one bookstore, two bookstore

In case you haven't realised yet, I read. A lot. I read for school, I read for well, everything else.
So it's about time I write about the thing I really like about the location of my flat. It's a few minutes away from a secondhand and antique bookstore, another couple of minutes from that is Borders and Waterstones. And in the North Laine area (about five minutes walk), there are at least 5 secondhand bookstores, as well as the library.

But wait there's more!

On certain Tuesdays, some secondhand retailers set up a small fair at one of the university's open courtyards. As you can imagine, walking through that courtyard requires a will of steel. I faltered last week and picked up a pretty new copy of Maxine Hong Kingston's China Men for 1.50.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

said it before, will say it again - love Bourdain!

I find myself riveted by its awfulness, like watching a multi-car accident in slow motion.
Bourdain on the Food Network (via the Morning News)

young sea

I highly recommend living by the coast. The sea never fails to fascinate. One evening it is a iridescent jewel of sapphire blues and lapis lazuli (I just love that word!). Another afternoon, sun and sea blend in a blank grey canvas. One day it is calm and gentle, the next a raging rolling nightmare.

YOUNG SEA (Carl Sandburg)

THE sea is never still.
It pounds on the shore
Restless as a young heart,

The sea speaks
And only the stormy hearts
Know what it says:
It is the face
of a rough mother speaking.

The sea is young.
One storm cleans all the hoar
And loosens the age of it.
I hear it laughing, reckless.

They love the sea,
Men who ride on it
And know they will die
Under the salt of it

Let only the young come,
Says the sea.

Let them kiss my face
And hear me.
I am the last word
And I tell
Where storms and stars come from.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


How useless I feel without the Internet. It's like my arm and leg are missing and that all I can do is lie limp in bed staring at the wall, counting the blu tack.

Ok so I exaggerate a little. But 24 hours without on-demand Internet access is a killer. I had to drag my laptop to school to send off my presentation notes for tomorrow's class. I had to go without my morning blog/newspaper reads. I couldn't even check what the temperature would be like for the day (and had to guess by watching people down in the street - which can be terribly misleading as some strange hardcore types walk around in just a longsleeved top while others more sensibly pull on their full gear of winter coats, scarves and gloves). I couldnt check my email or get on MSN. My connection to the world was lost. I was cut off, isolated, lost.

And now I'm back.

Friday, February 02, 2007

bits of stone and pretty rock

The house gives signs of enjoying the emptiness. It is rearranging itself after the night, clearing its pipes and cracking its joints. This dignified and seasoned creature, with its coppery veins and wooden feet nestled in a bed of clay, has endured much: balls bounced against its garden flanks, doors slammed in rage, headstands attempted along its corridors, the weight and sighs of electrical equipment and the probings of inexperienced plumbers into its innards. A family of four shelters in it, joined by a colony of ants around the foundations and, in spring time, by broods of robins in the chimney stack. It also lends a shoulder to a frail (or just indolent) sweet-pea which leans against the garden wall, indulging the peripatetic courtship of a circle of bees.

Alain de Botton - The Architecture of Happiness.
(Read an excerpt here)