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Life and Why I Can’t Sleep

Over these past few days I have been obsessing over a new-found hobby (me and my shenanigans). The lockdown in my country has been lifted and I was glad to see a lot of my friends. But we had either one-on-one or small group dates. 🙂 One of my best friends had a baby 8 months ago and I have seen her baby only twice in those 8 months because we were just busy trying to stay alive during the circuit breaker, and she no longer lives near me. I even carried baby around town on Saturday using a carrier. She fell asleep! I take that as a compliment! She is so precious. At one point while we were out we were trying to secure the milk bottle but not sure what happened but the bottle leaked and we had to deal with one wet baby. I don’t want children, it doesn’t mean I don’t like children, but I can’t really entertain the idea so to borrow baby times from friends is quite nice sometimes.

The following day I met J, my friend from work. We were colleagues for a short while but she was furloughed, and reminds me so much of me and my mom. I think I really enjoy her company, hearing her thoughts, and I find it fun and funny when we’re trying to prevent each other from spending a lot of money. But she brought me to two stationery shops so of course I bought a lot of stationery. I think I’m out 200 dollars.

My new-found hobby is DJ-ing. I would like to buy decks. Went to recce (reconnaissance) DJ decks at a shop in an area I used to hang out a lot, and while I had zero clue where to start aside from whatever resources my brother could find, I wasn’t really that keen to purchase anything just yet. Then I started thinking about costumes to wear and what to do and what to play for my debut! I won’t be able to link the stream here (for the sake of my privacy) but if you find my DJ stream just say Hi. DJ equipment is expensive (all hobbies I like are expensive) so I don’t want to overspend because I am not sure I can sustain the interest, but at the same time I don’t want crappy equipment. I generally enjoy music and I believe with some direction I am able to come up with entertaining sets. I actually don’t care if my streams get any views; my goal is just to put myself out there and entertaining myself.

I am suddenly hungry. So that is my update. Since the time I discovered I could DJ myself I have been collecting songs I felt were good to play during my debut. I’m thinking a 2-hour set. When my brother called two days ago I gave him a short rundown of what’s happening in my life and he can be a wet blanket but this was the first time he was supportive of my 5-minute endeavour.

Every time I blog I get extremely sleepy so I will rest now.

Talk to you soon.

Circuit Breaker is Over

I haven’t seen P since the start of circuit breaker. So I was very happy to see him.

A typical question he asks me is ‘Do you want [insert food]?’ I usually say no twice and when he is eating what he offered initially I will ask ‘Can I have some?’ Am still not sure why I am not dumped yet.

Bliss

Soto Day

Today was a lazy day for me. Usually on the weekend I would be busy volunteering, but this week they gave us a break, so I spent some time at the bank, and a lot of time just resting. I try to use my weekends to read and write (not blogging, I don’t qualify my blogging as ‘writing’) but nothing too serious and I don’t mathematisize those activities.

In Singapore last week, a lot of Malays were upset when a Peranakan restaurant used the term ‘Nyonya’ in front of the words Nasi Ambeng because nasi ambeng (food, look it up) is not Peranakan at all. It is in fact, Javanese. The backlash pressured the restaurant rename it to ‘Family Trays’ and issue an apology across all its social media accounts.

The episode made me think about my heritage; after all I am half-Javanese. I am not exactly a proud half (I used to be annoyed when my grandma would teach me to speak the language), not even a practising half, but when I spoke to my Javanese cousins (in Malay haha) we too thought it was cultural appropriation, although we’d never join the discussion with a pitchfork on social media (we love our non-Malay, non-Javanese friends enough to not incite hate/divide).

While I’m not a very cultural person (it’s something I am extremely self-conscious about as I get older), I truly enjoy Indonesian food because it is my staple. I grew up eating food prepared that way. I wouldn’t say I ate Indonesian food, I think the more proper way to explain it is: because my mom was second generation Singaporean Javanese, a lot of the food she prepared were contemporaries of Indonesian food, and those were usually a mix of Malay and Javanese food.

Because I am diabetic I try not to eat a lot of rice (it is a big deal because we love rice!). I totally stopped drinking sweetened drinks, and I don’t eat desserts most days. I do want to speak to a nutritionist soon, but I think my appointment for diabetes is all the way in August.

Today I made chicken soto/soto ayam (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soto_(food)) and I cheated a bit using ready made paste. My cousin recommended these two brands:

TamamMuz Soto Paste

Soto Paste

I used Wahyu because it was the only thing available in the shop downstairs and I didn’t feel like taking a taxi to other places.

When we eat soto with compressed rice (lontong) it is just called soto, but when you eat it with bee hoon or yellow noodles they’re called mee/bee hoon soto or mee soto respectively.

I don’t like potatoes usually so I never add bergedil, but that’s what people usually add to complete the dish. Garnish is usually fried shallots, and there is a sweet and spicy sauce to accompany it, too (which I could not be arsed to make).

I sprinkled bottled parsley 😛😛 but I am sure you can chop up coriander as well.

This makes it to my comfort food list, but I generally don’t eat it outside if they serve it with shredded chicken. 😛😛😛

Steps to make it (my way):

1) If you already have lontong (compressed rice) ready you can just prepare the soto (soup)

2) I boil my chicken (mid-joint wings) for about 20 minutes on medium heat

3) Take the chicken and most of the water out, leaving only about half of the water in

4) Dump your sliced shallots/onions in with a bit of garlic, two chilis, and lemon grass and about five lime leaves

5) Season with salt and pepper. Do not over-salt because the paste usually has MSG and a lot of salt

6) After about 10 minutes dump the paste in

7) Add about 2-3 litres of water

8) Taste. If it’s bland add more salt

9) Add the chicken from earlier and close the lid

10) When it comes to a boil about 10 – 15 minutes later stir the pot

11) Add some tamarind juice (I just dumped bits of tamarind)

12) Switch off the stove after about 10 minutes

13) Serve it with the compressed rice and garnish

My ancestors are all rolling in their graves right now because I don’t use oil when I cook and when I do I use too little but I just don’t like oily food!!

Bon Appétit! ♥️

Oven-baked Beef Chunks and Mashed Potatoes

I don’t have fancy kitchenware but I need to look into getting a hand-held mixer. I went to the supermarket the other day (they sell everything from local bread to imported cheese to Pyrex. I once went on a hunt for a lock at midnight with my friend, and we were successful) but I couldn’t find a hand-held mixer I liked. I think I would prefer something that looked like this:

But anyway I haven’t figured it out and experience taught me to not overthink it or under-research so when I am free this week I will browse.

We had some leftover beef from Eid and at home it’s just my dad and me, so we don’t eat a lot, and I didn’t want to waste food, so I decided to whip something simple up. I seasoned and marinated the beef with some oyster sauce and abalone sauce (something my neighbour taught me), put bell peppers, some lime and baked it in the oven. Then I blanched some broccoli, made creamy mashed potato (butter, milk, potatoes) and served it with the beef.

My dad enjoyed this dinner; he ate twice. I wish the beef was a bit more tender. The texture was OK. Not difficult to chew, the taste was OK. I don’t have any recipe for this, but maybe next time I will (not a big recipe person, when I cook I taste throughout (habit from kitchen life) so recipes for cooking are merely guides, recipes for baking are of course a different story).

I am also trying to cut down on eating a lot of meat, but I will see how that goes!

Marshmallow Experiment + Why It is Important to My Lasagna Story

A while back I drafted an article about developing concentration skills in young children. This exercise made me fall deep down the rabbit hole, and I read a study on children being experimented on. Each child in the study was given a marshmallow. The adult would leave the room and the instructions were explicit: the child should not eat the marshmallow during the adult’s absence from the room, and if the child complied, he would be rewarded with another marshmallow on top of the one presented to him earlier. Research (and I’m on my phone, so once I get on my computer I will share the link) shows that children who are able to delay gratification become more successful adults.

I laughed at the research because now that explains everything and why I am unable to succeed in adulthood. I am just not able to delay gratification! Of course there are other factors that affect my chances of success, my gender is one, the fact that I am a minority is another. We lot can succeed, but the chances are reduced and to attain something a member of the majority race could easily do, we have to jump through all these arbitrary hoops and then you’d find that in the end, it wouldn’t even matter.

Over the past two days I really wanted to eat lasagna, and I could already taste the meat, the generous amount of mozzarella, and the overall saucy, gooey goodness. So I was a woman on a mission, and that mission was to find pasta sheets. If I could wait for the local supermarket chain to deliver me a box, I might be able to eat by this weekend. Alternatives included buying store-bought lasagna from one of the pizza places, or a frozen one (which was insanely cheap) but I was determined to make something with ingredients I bought and my own two hands. So I didn’t want to wait for pasta sheet delivery, and I went to two supermarkets to get them. Both supermarkets did not have them, and I am not sure if it’s because it’s just not common in my country, or people just buy online.

So. I made my own pasta sheets. It was such a workout, one I would remember for a longggg time, and I laughed thinking this was why I could never be successful, but hey if you think about it, because I didn’t want to delay gratification, I made pasta sheet from scratch, because I am a determined person.

I don’t have a pasta machine and I wasn’t going to buy it just for one project. I don’t actually own any fancy or expensive kitchenware. I am interested in making delicious food, and I feel the true test of skills is when you only have the ingredients, your hands, a good knife, and your mother’s old but reliable equipment. I am pretty sure if I were bathing in cash I would not sing the same tune. I am not broke, but I would not want to spend a lot on fancy stuff I don’t always use.

Unfortunately I was not able to make a uniform size, because it was extremely difficult to handle thin sheets of pasta
Sorry for the blur picture but my casserole dish looked like this
What went into the oven
What came out of the oven

As a special treat I made bechamel sauce and poured it over my lasagna. I should hold the mozzarella, although it lent some flavour to my lasagna.

Bon Appétit!

Cooking in a Restaurant

This is something you probably didn’t know about me: I used to cook in a French restaurant in Singapore. I was in my early 20s, and I had gotten fired from my office job. I used to always think I’d grow up to be some kind of a designer, but my mom (RIP) wasn’t keen on that idea, because such jobs paid little unless you had a degree, (then it paid okay), and unfortunately we were not rich, so taking risks wasn’t an option, and office jobs paid the most (at least for people like me; I went to business school).

I was the worst cook, of course, it’s me, but I lasted almost a year. I took instructions in Mandarin. I don’t even speak that language. I didn’t work Saturdays because I had part-time school (which made my colleagues hate me) and the only reason I had gotten the job in the first place was because I was cute. True story.

I like cooking. Your first mentor in the kitchen world is one of the most important people in the ecosystem, because the habits, approach and techniques he imparts to you can either set you up for success or failure. For example, my first mentor was extremely neat, almost OCD in the kitchen. He took mise en place, and hygiene, well, basically the whole food hygiene thing, seriously, and even though in the beginning I struggled to make sense to make sure preparation was done (and in the kitchen world everything is never-ending), adhere to common sense and basic food hygiene, and know whom to approach for what, and basically what to do in a day, I was on autopilot mode once I grasped the system. Your first mentor is very important. I had another mentor who basically was not up to scratch but because I had already learnt from a developed system it was easy to avoid bad practice in the kitchen.

Before the kitchen job, I worked somewhere I didn’t have passion for. My supervisor then hated me a lot, and always looked for little ways to sabotage me. Little eventually added up to a lot, and while I was proficient in my job I lacked the necessary skills to prevent sabotage from happening to me, and I’d always allowed my work to speak for itself, so I never ‘promoted’ myself. Most people in higher positions in that job knew me by name and face, but it was a lot for 19-year-old me, and because I kept getting sabotaged for little things, I eventually committed career suicide by asking for a transfer, and in my new role I hated it more than my previous role, which made it impossible for me to succeed. I think my main goal then was to just get away from my old supervisor. Eventually I had gotten fired. They called my mother! This was before privacy laws came into place.

The kitchen world is not without its problems. They pay very little. It is considered menial work. It is male-dominated, so it was common for females (non-gay females especially) to be made fun of, sexually harassed (in some form) or generally treated poorly, but when you’re thrusted in this environment you do whatever it takes to survive and protect yourself. Eventually you learn to be confident and have faith in yourself, tenacious, understand what it means to work hard, work smart, and find joy in your vocation.

I eventually left the kitchen world because it was unsustainable to continue working for very little pay. Passion is passion, but realistically speaking not many of us can monetise that. However, the lessons I learnt in the kitchen world helped me become the person I am at work today.

Quaran-TV

Ever since the circuit breaker (aka ‘lockdown’) measures were implemented in my country, I have been watching a lot of Netflix and TV series, and I have to say I have fallen into some kind of routine where I just wanna watch and keep watching. I have not been reading much apart from anything related to my business. So if you have book recommendations, please send them my way. I think it has been a while since I read a novel.

I have caught up on Monk (it’s this show that ran in the early aughts) and I am on Season 5. I don’t think when it originally aired I got past Season 4. I didn’t watch Seasons 5 – 8 mainly because I was reaching my 20s, and I was hardly home. It is still one of my favourite things to watch. I think one of the reasons I go back to watching it is because my mom used to buy me the DVDs when I was young and I always feel close to her when I watch it.

This is from one of my favourite episodes (Season 2 Episode 1: Mr. Monk Goes Back to School). The killer in this episode was played by Andrew McCarthy

Speaking of Andrew McCarthy, I am now watching his son (Sam McCarthy) on the Netflix TV show ‘Dead to Me’. My ex-colleague and friend introduced it to me. After a bit of resistance I decided to give it a try. I was immediately hooked. I am taking a break from it now though, because it gets a bit dark, (no spoilers I promise!) and I don’t want to pop a Xanax before I watch TV.

Hahaha

I like the show a lot, but I have watched Linda Cardellini since I was young (and so was she) so every time I see her nasolabial folds I am reminded that I too am old. Also watch it if you’re OK with the F word flying around (I am OK because that’s basically how I talk in real life, but for the record I am the ‘oh, fuck!’ instead of ‘fuck youuuuu!!!’ kind of person) because it’s quite adult language.

Good Girls

I also have watched three entire seasons of Good Girls. I enjoyed the first two seasons. Season 3 is a bit slow-paced for me. Can’t quite put a finger on why I don’t really like it aside from the pacing. No spoilers I promise.

James Spader in The Blacklist

Of course, nothing beats The Blacklist (except maybe Breaking Bad!) and I just finished watching the season finale. I mostly watch The Blacklist because of Raymond Reddington (James Spader’s character) because I seriously cannot stand the Elizabeth Keen character (I don’t find her resourceful, I think Red spoon feeds her a lot!) because a lot of other characters are way better! Tell me what you think about that season finale (if you’ve watched).

Dang. I watch a lot of TV. I like clever TV writing. When I was a teenager I really wanted to be a TV writer but I’m not sure if local TV is any good.

What TV shows do you watch?

Sugee Cookies

I was a bit bored in the early evening so I made a batch of sugee cookies. I didn’t put too much sugar because I am diabetic but the texture turned out great.

Ingredients:

250g Plain Flour
6g Baking Soda
140g Clarified Butter (#Ghee)
126g Sugar (But adjust to your preference)
6 tablespoons of Ground #Almond

Steps/Notes

You don’t need a hand-held mixer/mixer for this.

I mixed the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, sugar) first and slowly incorporated the ghee.

I then put the ground almond into the mix, and roll them into small balls (tried to make them as uniform as possible)

Pre-heat the oven at 170 degrees Celsius and then bake it for 22 minutes.

Please let your sugee cookies cool first before transferring onto a cooling rack. (I burnt my index finger)

I hope you enjoy making them because this is a simple recipe, and it doesn’t take an hour to produce cookies for you and your family to enjoy. ♥️

I’d have shown you the results but my finger is still in a bit of pain so maybe next time!

Happy Eid and Some Things I Made

Muslims all around the world celebrated the end of the holy month, Ramadan, yesterday. Ramadan is the month where Muslims fast for an average of 14 hours a day (depending on when the sun sets) and aside from abstaining from food and drink (and sex hehe), for most, it is the period to reflect, to be closer to God, to be more charitable, and to strengthen ties/relationships.

I am not going into how irreligious I am in this post (oops, but I am).

For Malay Muslims (in Singapore at least, and I’m pretty sure in Malaysia, too!), the first day of the Eid celebrations always includes a lot of food and sweet goodies to serve guests. As most countries are on some form of lockdown right now, most families who don’t live in the same household have opted to go on Zoom to celebrate. As a child I’d always hated Eid. Hated it! It’s the day people flex how well they’re doing in life (new big TV, new furniture (every year, how do you afford it??), new expensive tailor-made clothes, new husband (just kidding)). Which I felt (still do!) defeated the purpose of fasting and practising self-control. The part I have always liked though, is getting to see my cousins. We’re not that friendly, but my cousins are mostly nice folks who turn up for everything.

Food is always elaborate. We’re very communal people, so families would get together on the final day of Ramadan to cook several dishes together. In the past if you catered it’s frowned upon (aka you’re useless af), but now it’s more like the norm. Some common savoury food to serve include beef rendang (not my favourite thing to eat but I occasionally do), ayam masak merah (instead of cooking it in sambal, I think the difference is tomatoes are involved), ayam lemak or sayur lodeh, sambal goreng pengantin (which is a bitch to make, first you boil the heck out of beef, beef lungs, another type of meaty things you can choose liver or fat, and then you dice all that in almost the same size, then you fry, and then you cook all that in a spicy paste with a bit of coconut milk), and you eat all these heavy dishes with some rice cake (either ketupat or the lontong).

I don’t like all these food eaten at once because I’d feel unhealthy. I have stopped drinking anything sweet. I just drink water and some hot tea now.

Anyway for Eid my dad made rendang and I made chicken cooked in turmeric and some coconut milk. Sent some to my sister.

Then for today’s lunch I accelerated the whole Eid celebration by making something brothy hahah (it’s usually not for another two or three days)

Udon in spicy beef broth

Love it. I now just cannot wait for a bit of normality to kick in. I am bored staying home, and work can be a bit of a bore (even in covid best believe your colleagues can be stupid and try to blindside you). Speaking of work I think it’s best I try to learn how to make money myself because obviously working in an office just isn’t working out for me anymore. If you have any work tips just leave a comment because I’ve tried everything and I am just feeling like an absolute failure.

How was your weekend?

Croque Madame

When I was in my early twenties I got fired from my office job. I used to think it’s because the job didn’t fit my personality (and vice versa) and after about a month at home (I was fired, so I probably wouldn’t have gotten good, or any, references!) I applied to be a cook. I had zero cooking experience but I really wanted to try something other than administrative work. A sous chef in one of the French restaurants in Singapore hired me. It’s not exactly a restaurant (they wouldn’t call themselves that) but it’s not exactly a tea salon, either. They sold desserts (which I decorated), too, and I picked up some cooking. I was hired because I was cute (true story).

On my first day at the job I was chopping celery or potatoes, and I cried. I turned to my boss and told her I probably made a mistake taking the job, because I’d never teared so much in my life.

She laughed a little and told me “Nooo. I’m kind of heating up a batch of onions!”

One of the things I enjoyed making at home then (this was circa 2010, when I was still doing part-time university, and my brother was in full-time uni) was the croque madame. It’s not so much about how good it tasted or how easy it was to make, but I still look back at this episode in my life nostalgically. I always made it for my brother. Never mind I got fired. Never mind I took a job that paid half of what I previously earned.

It’s basically a grilled cheese sandwich, with a béchamel sauce (but I never make this at home!), topped with a runny sunny side up.

I made it today, and I was mildly upset with how the egg turned out, it was a bit burnt on the sides, but here you go:

In place of béchamel I opted to just put some cream sauce from a can.
Sprinkled some pepper and bits of coriander (the stem?) which actually gave it a bit of a crunch and some ‘herb-al’ flavour
Look at how my egg runs!

To make it just assemble a ham sandwich, you can choose to remove the crust, I don’t, and you put the sauce either on all layers or pour it over the sandwich. I added some cheese (don’t wanna spend money so I used block cheddar :p) and stuck it in the oven for around 8-10 minutes 150 degrees Celsius. Toward the end of the toasting you can fry your egg.

Voila! ♥️♥️

Like a true Singaporean who likes east meets west (haha) I ruined it by eating it with bottled chili sauce. Haha

Give it a try! If you’d like the béchamel recipe, let me know and I’ll give it in my next post.