Monday, April 28, 2008

eatin in the mornin

I love breakfast food. And I like eating breakfast.

And I also love poking my nose into what other people eat for breakfast. Such as this series by Jon Huck, and a blog of breakfasts, Simply Breakfast.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

At the recent Film Festival, director Wayne Wang (he of the Joy Luck Club film adaptation) was in town with two of his movies and I caught 'A Thousand Years of Good Prayers'. It was well, somewhat stereotypical. The film, revolving around a Chinese man's visit to his divorced daughter in America, is based on a short story by Li Yuyun. Li had arrived in the US to do a postgraduate degree in immunology, and according to Wayne Wang, had taken some writing courses at the university and ended up winning the 2005 Frank O' Connor International Short Story Award for one of the short stories in her collection.

I was wandering around the library at work the other day - one of the perks of the job, besides being able to occasionally work from home is that I have this great library at my disposal, as well as the ability to borrow forty books - when I came across the Li Yuyun collection. Despite some reservations from the movie screening, I picked it up. And I've so far read three of the stories and I must say that it's hooked me.

I expected most of the stories to be similar to A Thousand Years, that is, of Chinese immigrants in the US. But so far, the rest of the stories have been about life in China. I read of an old woman who is recently retrenched from a government factory and encouraged by a friend to marry an old man. His sons interviewed her and a week later, she moves into the house, only to find out that the old man has Alzheimer's.

I couldn't help but quickly turn to A Thousand Years, located towards the end of the collection. I read it through quickly. And as I finished it, I recalled what an audience member had asked at the Q&A session with Wayne Wang. Something along the lines of, the Russian dolls were not a feature in the book, so why was it included in the film? Wang insisted that it's in the book. But I just looked - it isn't. He should've left it out of the movie, along with the Russian music. They made for rather jarring, too obvious clues placed in the movie. It was as if he wanted to make doubly sure the audience would know that the daughter's friend was Russian.

The short story, while not as interesting as the others in the collection, was more subtle. It explained the "Thousand Years of Prayers" better, such as in this paragraph:

"We're the only family for each other now," Mr Shi says, almost pleading, but his daughter closes her bedroom door before he says more. Mr Shi looks at the dishes that are barely touched by his daughter, the fried tofu cubes stuffed with chopped mushrooms, shrimps and ginger, the collage of bamboo shoots, red peppers and snow peas. Even though his daughter admires his cooking every evening, he senses the halfheartedness in her praise; she does not know the cooking has become his praying, and she leaves the prayers unanswered.

That one part of the story spoke volumes, but it was entirely missing from the movie. Sure, it's a little bit 'Eat Drink Man Woman', a movie which I could watch over and over again (and er, kinda have). If I remember correctly, Wayne Wang said that the movie script was written by Li herself. So it makes me wonder if these details were something she put in, or was it the director?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Places I've eaten at recently

Brotzeit - It's got a lovely view, that is if you can ignore the massive construction hole on Sentosa where the casino (sorry, Integrated Resort) is supposed to be. The Kasespatzle, a Bavarian speciality, isn't much to look at but is surprisingly tasty. Spatzle is a type of egg pasta, and the Kasespatzle comes with a pretty yummy cheesy creamy sauce and topped with some slivers of onion rings. It's a dish to be shared, as it can get quite heavy. I was less impressed with the pork and veal sausage, which seemed a little bland. The pork knuckle on the other hand, was a crunchy delight, and served all chopped up on a bed of salad - pretty useful when sharing the dish. Wasn't terribly impressed with the beer - there's Paulaner on tap and a variety of bottled beers are available.

Persimmon - The Link Hotel is a bit of a walk from the MRT station, and can be a bit hard to find, unless you're familiar with the area. But once you spot those orange lights out front, there's Persimmon. Run by the people at Epicurious, it offers up some pretty good fusion food like a chicken salad that uses the flavours and sauces of Hainanese chicken rice. The spaghetti with porchetta and pinenuts was pretty good, although the porchetta on my plate was hardly crispy. And the fisherman's pie was a pretty large bowl of a lontong-like seafood stew with a rather massive slab of puff pastry on top. It was rather spicy and I was quite glad that I didn't order it, as I doubt I would've been able to eat more than half. Desserts were ho-hum, the pandan creme brulee winning over the very odd fruit crumble, which seemed to have all kinds of fruits in it, from grapes to strawberries to bananas. The white wine was quite a standout, although I can't remember where it was from now, Australia I think. But it was made from Japanese Kyoho grapes and had a nice sweet summery taste.

Da Mario Pizzeria - Of all the Places I've Eaten At Recently, this one was probably the best. It's a small joint tucked away at one corner of The Quayside at the Robertson Quay area. The Italian sausage and mushroom pizza was well, really pretty good. It had an awesome crisp crust - not too crisp and not too doughy! The canelloni was really tasty, stuffed with ricotta and spinach, covered with cheese and baked. And their puttanesca had a really good tomato sauce that was just right, not too tart, or too sweet. Plus it was chockful of olives, of the black and green varieties. I am definitely coming here again.

Ichiban-Tei - As I was walking around the Robertson area the other day, came across Ichiban-Tei, which had a pretty promising ramen menu. A quick google threw up some pretty decent reviews, so there I was on a Sunday evening, feeling a little guilty after watching the many joggers give their leg muscles (and heart and lungs) a good workout, while I was only exercising my jaw and stomach by wolfing down some chasiu ramen. The stock was a little too salty, so I gratefully reached for the jug of ice water at the table. But the chasiu had just the right amount of fat and was very very tasty, said I as I gulped down more water and left most of the soup in the bowl.

I hope you had some good eats over the past week.

Tel: 6272 8815

#01-07 The Link Hotel
50 Tiong Bahru Road

Da Mario Pizzeria
60 Robertson Quay
#01-10 The Quayside
Tel: 623 57 623

60 Robertson Quay, #01-13,
Tel: 6733-3923

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Choc Muesli Cookie, adapted (accidentally)

Making Bill Granger's Choc Oatmeal cookies is a snap. That is, if you were smart enough to check for all your ingredients beforehand. I wasn't.

It's simple enough. You start off preheating the oven at 180 degrees.

You get your butter, softened, and cream it with the brown sugar.
- Here's where I messed up and only brought out one stick of butter to soften, totally forgetting I wanted to make a double batch, which calls for 300g of butter, and not the 227g that the one stick provided.
Solution: Use margarine. Yeah, people will say, but margarine's not butter! Yes, I know that too. But what to do.

So I creamed my butter/margarine and brown sugar, beat my eggs and vanilla essence.
Then sifted flour (I had foreseen the need to actually buy plain flour, although in the end I didn't use the new packet I bought, and finished the remainder of an open packet), baking powder and salt together.

Then, dang! I forget to check if there were enough rolled oats. I poured it out onto the kitchen scales, realising already when I picked it up that it wouldn't be enough. It was short, by about half. I had oatmeal, but I didn't want Choc Oatmeal Porridge. B
Solution: I used the lovely Swiss muesli i'd picked up a few weeks ago. It has oats (and barley and raisins and apple bits and cornflakes). So in it went, along with a whole bag of chocolate chips.

Spoon the dough out onto a greased tray. Although Granger's recipe calls for the mound of dough to be pressed down with a fork, I skipped that and left it as a little mound, figuring the heat would flatten out anyway. And popped it into the oven. The recipe also calls for about 20 minutes, but by about 18 minutes, it had turned a lovely colour and was ready to be taken out of the oven.

Bill Granger's recipe for Choc Oatmeal Cookies

And I must say, despite the addition of margarine and muesli, it was a pretty yummy cookie. I might even add that having some bits of raisins and apple in it actually added to the cookie. So this is instead a Choc Muesli Cookie, adapted (accidentally) from Bill Granger's fantastic Bills Food. The book is chockful of great simple recipes that I not only salivate over but once I read it go, hey that sounds easy enough, and actually go out and do it. So in addition to the best brownie recipe ever, I now have a best chocolate chip oatmeal cookie recipe ever.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Happiness in a cup of tomato soup

I liked Saybons. I didn’t like that it was takeaway only with not even a counter or standing tables to slurp soup at. Because they do some gorgeous tomato soup. It was the first tomato soup in a long time to make my tastebuds go, woohoo. I think the last time that happened with tomato soup was at St Pierre. But that was damn expensive soup. This one was about $2.90 for a pretty decent cup. MT and I tried all four of their soups: broccoli and cheese, mushroom, seafood bisque, and the tomato. The mushroom was the most lacking, but it was still a pretty decent mushroomy broth. The seafood bisque was very prawny and got a bit tastier as the cup emptied - I suppose the contents needed a good stirring. The broccoli was a surprising hit – bursting with flavour. The soups start from $2.90 and they also have crepes, both sweet and savoury - just be prepared to stand around and slurp, or sit outside.

Plaza Singapura
68 Orchard Road #B2-32 ( near Carls' Junior)
Singapore 238839
Tel: 68849018
Open 11am to 10pm daily

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The one who takes you home, Always the cold grey sky

The Ipod got it right today when 'shuffle songs' threw up Richard Julian's Cold Grey Sky, although it followed it up with Nirvana's Lake of Fire

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Random things on the Internet

I have caterer envy

Wedding invitation wording that won’t make you barf

"I don't believe you can have a great restaurant if you don't have great bread"

I've mentioned this to a couple of people, so here's the Observer article on Delia Smith's recipes, in which Giles Coren describes her risotto as:
"like having a pig piss in your throat. It tastes of freezer and plastic. I don't understand. If you can't cook and you can't afford to go out, eat a cheese sandwich."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

break fast

I'm always amazed when people start their day without breakfast. Take my colleague for example, she comes to work having had a cup of coffee. And that's it.

I, on the other hand, have to have breakfast. I get up, stomach growling already, just before 7am. While the water boils, I make my sandwich for lunch. The filling varies, sometimes it's tuna salad or egg salad, or just ham and cheese, or luncheon meat even. Always piled high with salad leaves. A more elaborate lunch of pasta or couscous is usually prepared the night before. And then it's time for breakfast.

I've been starting with a steaming mug of English Breakfast Tea. It's something I started drinking only when I got back to Singapore. And yes, I do drink it with milk. It's the one of two teas I drink with milk (the other being chai). And today, it was a bowl of cereal, eaten dry. I head to the living room and scan the headlines of the world, Asia, home and money sections of the papers before finally settling onto eating and reading from Life! and Urban (that's why the cereal is dry, because it'd be completely soggy once I get down to eating it). It's been some cereal from Post I think, these few days. But I'm quite appalled by the price of cereals these days - $8 for a box? That's steep. Instead, the other day I found at my local NTUC a Swiss muesli going for about the same price as the Raisin Bran. Haven't opened it yet, but sounds more fun than Raisin Bran, with its promise of sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds and apple pieces. My favourite muesli is still Dorset, but here it's really expensive, and I'd have to go to supermarkets in town to get it (at least that's where I've found it so far).

Unfortunately, my breakfast of cereal and tea does not last me till lunch. I get hungry around 1030-11. And at this time, I usually crack out my snack of a peanut butter sandwich (topped with a fabulous Pinot Noir grape jelly from Sonoma) or cheese sandwich or just plain crackers. Today though, I was in the mood for something else - plus there was a lack of bread - so I headed to the Olio at the canteen to get a scone and a skinny latte. There is a Coffee Club Xpress just downstairs, but for some reason their version of a scone is one that is served dry, ie, with nothing. A scone. With nothing. That is not a scone. Plus their scone is this rather cake-like version. Not a good scone at all. So I hike up the many flights of stairs instead to Olio. Where they give you a choice of butter or jam. That's better than nothing. Plus their coffee is slightly better. Hell it smells better. It's no Spinellis, but it will do.

Listening: Beth Orton - Feral (from Comfort of Strangers)