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 πŸ˜›πŸ˜› 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. πŸ˜›πŸ˜›πŸ˜›

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 AppΓ©tit! β™₯️

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?

I Made Food

This evening for dinner I made beef noodle soup and baked some sweet Thai chili chicken.

The beef noodle soup turned out better than expected. The beef is really tender! I was a bit anxious because the Knorr beef cubes were out of stock. At home I only have Ikan Bilis (anchovies) and Tom Yam stock cubes but I was not desperate enough to use any of the two. I boiled my beef for two hours. Used some of that stock (I don’t like it just like that), put chopped lemongrass, a bit of vinegar, blended a huge onion, sauteed all those things, seasoned it throughout cooking, added water, threw some fish balls in, added chye sim, threw my boiled beef in, brought it to a boil and served it with noodles. The garnish was coriander and some fried shallots. I like eating beef noodle soup with cili jeruk (simple, cut up red and green cili, you can pour hot water over it, then add vinegar until the chili bits ‘drown’ in them, you can of course season it with a bit of salt, a tiny sprinkle of fine sugar).

Voila. Try it! 😊😊

Christmas Spirit

I don’t celebrate Christmas in a religious sense, although over the years I did go to parties and exchange gifts with friends.

My job before this could qualify as multi-national, with the bulk being Singaporeans, and the headquarters in the US did not celebrate religious holidays so days leading up to Christmas were never festive at the office. No decorations. No gingerbread cookies or cakes or panettone or Mariah Carey whistlesinging all she wanted for Christmas was me from the radio. It worked out fine. Nobody cried or bitched or moaned.

At my current workplace (my division at least), there was a Christmas game played on the eve of, and it was something like Secret Santa, but I can’t tell you the actual name in case someone Googled and landed on my blog. I do not wish to be dooced, no matter how much I bitch about my job (the bitching itself is a second job haha).

Each person had to bring a gift of minimum 10 dollar value, and we had to pick a number which let us know the order we could pick out a random gift. And the chosen gift would be unwrapped, and the next person could either steal the previous gift, or pick another unopened gift. Popular gifts would naturally be “stolen”, and each popular gift could only be stolen a maximum of three times.

I am lazy by nature and I didn’t want to think about whether a gift was perfect or useful, or waste a lot of time running to and fro a few stores, so I bought a 20 dollar voucher as a contribution to the game. Ten dollars sounded cheap, anything above 20 would be ass-kissing or telling how badly you wanted to be liked at the workplace, so 20 it was (it was the sweet spot!). The thing about me is while I don’t like any of my colleagues, I am not generally a stingy person, I will die one day and can’t instruct my living relatives to bury my money with me, but my morals also didn’t want anyone feeling like butt when they ended up with my gift.

Like I’ve mentioned more than once here, this job teaches me a lot about people, and I learn a lot about being an average (or ‘quintessentially’) Singaporean employee.

I have worked with a lot of Singaporeans. I have made some good friends from those jobs and I am extremely lucky to beat the odds (in any country!), but I find it hard to get along with most of my colleagues (in all workplaces but one). This is my experience, and I’m not saying this is the ONLY experience that matters or is true or correct, and if I could say so myself, I am still hopeful that I will eventually end up at a job I like and treasure and find rewarding. Working on it!

My experiences were also half my fault because I have this thing called a personality and I somehow appear as if I don’t give a shit about anything. Either that or that I am boring with boring hobbies. Or they think I am aloof and super action (Singaporean slang for show-off)!

Most Singaporeans I meet at a workplace are people I don’t wish to hang out with after 6pm. The following descriptions of people could be universal, I frankly don’t care:

There always is the depressed colleague who likes to bitch and moan without doing anything different to ameliorate their situations, so it gets tough to hold a conversation after a month because you just want them to shut their pie holes, then there’s the dumb person, who is actually not dumb, very careful not to be offensive or draw attention to themselves, he or she does okay not excellent but okay, but seems to know what it takes to rise up the ranks (they’re not brilliant at all, but their ability to get the promotion regularly maybe shows that hey they are brilliant after all!), then you have a bunch of gossips (these people lie on a spectrum; some just like to talk a lot about harmless things such as ‘Mandy is not good at housework but her husband still loves her despite this flaw’, then you have the types who go around telling other people what other people said and just standing back to watch the whole world burn (I don’t like this type or want to be associated with them so I usually pretend I don’t hear what they say) and then anything in between).

Most Singaporeans I work with don’t really read, and they always look lost when there is uncomfortable silence and I offer to talk about current affairs or pop culture and they’re the ones inviting me for lunch. Reading maybe isn’t crucial at work, I don’t know, you just read emails, right? What sort of intelligence do you need beyond that? You just do your work and go home.

Some Singaporeans aren’t able to string a proper sentence. Some don’t understand tone or basic courtesy and always need to be right even though their arguments aren’t cogent at all. Then somehow I am the douchebag because I ask ‘What was that again?’ when they put on that impatient tone and write aggressive-aggressive emails.

Most that I met or still meet weren’t or aren’t open-minded (I don’t mean about life stuff, I mean even at work). Things have always been done this way, so the only times policies or processes are questioned would be during the promotion exercise where everyone suddenly wants to prove that YES THEY CAN THINK. YES THEY CAN IMPROVE. YES THEY DESERVE THIS PROMOTION SO YES NOW THEY ARE QUESTIONING POLICIES WHATCHU GONNA DO ABOUT THAT HUH, CRYSTAL?

In the first place most of the policies were created because of an urgent need (duh, also, some people just wanted to give themselves work sometimes to appear educated and fanschy pantschy or cover their buttholes before they get fucked), and while at that point those policies or processes satisfied that particular need in some form, things evolved, these people and their bosses usually didn’t think about how logical, airtight, or useful the policies were, and due to lack of experience, had no foresight whatsoever, and never realised that oops, these policies couldn’t remain relevant or worse, that they had a lot of holes.

I got carried away.

My gift was apparently popular. It got stolen three times. There were other good gifts too, but other gifts were useless knick knacks such as towels or tea bags or a snow globe or bags. I was inclined to think these were stuff already lying around in their homes and what better way to get rid of these stuff than contribute them to a Christmas game?

I think if I’m still at this job next Christmas I will still purchase a similar gift but will opt out of participating to receive a gift. Not being a snob or pedantic or OMG CHRISTMAS GIFTS MUST BE LIKE THIS AND THAT (with hand gestures and all), but I really don’t like hoarding things I don’t want or need. I actually deposited the Christmas gifts I received from colleagues this year into the trash can at the mall after picking out the okay or cool ones (which I gave away). I kept two.

Nevertheless, Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year! ❀

My Thoughts on Marriage and Children

I think the decision to get married and have children is something personal. It is not the same for everyone, and while we can learn a few things vicariously, what other people go through or have done is just irrelevant. What works for others may just not work for you.

Culture also plays a part in how we view marriage and children. While single people are becoming more common these days, the norm is to get married in our twenties, pop out a couple of children, and when you’re reaching retirement it’s OK if you hadn’t saved any money because your kids are your retirement plan. Haha. I wish I were joking. I once knew a man (same race as me) who told me he would like about five children because at least one or two of those children would be able to take care of him in future. I do not see children as retirement plans, please get a proper retirement plan, and if I had my own children I would want them to live their own lives and not feel obliged they’d have to demonstrate filial piety by supporting me in my old age.

I think around 26 I really wanted to marry some dude who was so wrong for me in so many ways but I had known him for years, glad that didn’t work out, but since then I had been more discerning about who I date (no broke dudes! Haha! But he wasn’t broke, he actually was heir apparent to a business empire but we had nothing in common so conversations were never good and always ended with petty squabbles that didn’t make any sense. The sex was terrible too, he was not a giver, and I remember I cheated on him a lot with other men and one woman haha, and he once confessed he cheated on me and I burst out laughing because I thought I had to confess, too. I didn’t, because I had my head screwed on tight), and I now have a soft spot for people whose values align with mine (which should have been the case in the first place).

This is a bit personal but if you have this URL you probably already know me in real life and I probably had already told you the story, but when I was 11 my dad married another woman, while still married to my mother. This incident, while having little to do with me, changed my perspective on things, especially marriage and men, because I am very similar to my mother. We look the same. We talk the same way. We share some common interests. I also started developing mixed feelings about religion (I was raised in a Muslim household, among other things we do not eat pork, and we always talk about Hell like we have a clue) and have considered on a few occasions to not practise religion.

There’s something about coming home from school to find your mom sobbing loudly in the bathroom that forces you to grow up overnight. I remember cradling her and telling her to stop crying. Again, I was well aware her marriage had nothing to do with me, but I just hardly spoke to my father after that. I did joke a few times, when I was on the cusp of adolescence, about sex with my mom and told her if she had been willing to put a cock in her mouth maybe he wouldn’t have gotten a second wife?

I joke. We don’t make people do things. Yeah we might influence them a bit, but we all have agency and we do things we want or feel is right, and most of the time those things are done without anybody else’s input.

In my early adulthood I always wondered if the second marriage didn’t happen, or if I didn’t know about it, or if I didn’t stumble upon my mother crying in the bathroom after school (I was prepubescent and hadn’t even gotten my period so I didn’t understand anything sexual or relationship-related), would I have been a different woman? Would I have respected marriage and whatever it entailed? Would I think that hey, marriage is not sooo bad? Would I have gotten married?

I think while this somewhat influenced my thoughts on marriage and my reluctance to be in one I have come to accept that that happened to my mother, and it wouldn’t necessarily happen to me.

Most people (not men I date, people who actually are irrelevant to my decision making) think I like to only have fun and sex, am selfish, they think I am scared to do housework (hahaa, the feeling is not ‘fear’, it’s more like why don’t you buy enough clothes to last you for a couple of months? :p I kid, I kid) and that I am just scared to take the good, the bad, and the ugly of marriage.

One, I think it is just unnatural for anyone to be stuck in an arrangement where you (I mean, me) vow to fuck one person the rest of your (I mean, my) life. Two, I don’t know enough about what I want or aspire to be, and had never had a roommate so I need to learn to be a good partner and I don’t want my first marriage to teach me that (with that being said, if you’re not a piece of shit maybe you won’t need a roommate as a test run!). Three, anything that hints at being permanent makes me uncomfortable because mortality is real to me, so for someone who doesn’t leave things to chance or fate, it’s a lot to think about. Four, for me marriage has nothing to do with just love or feelings or that I don’t have feelings. Love must definitely exist. We somehow do things we don’t normally do, for people we genuinely love (I have lots of examples, but shan’t go there) and over the years I have come to learn that as much as you need or want to be accepted, you have to accept the person, too. Don’t be a dick. Other aspects of marriage include good communication skills and a willingness to work hard at it. I have a lot of love to give someone (or some twos haha) so no, it’s not about fear or that I am so robotic I can’t love.

And about children. People have children for a variety of reasons. It’s a lot of work. It’s resource intensive. I don’t hate children at all, but I just don’t think everyone should have children no matter how cute the idea is (actually, whoever thinks having a baby is cute should not have children).

I probably would have diabetes by the time I reached 40 if I didn’t die already, the same manner my mom inherited it from my grandmother, and I have my mental illness to think about and manage, too, so to impart that to a child I supposedly will naturally love or outlive me is a bit of a contradiction for me. I also get cranky when I don’t have enough sleep, so I am not too eager to experience lack of sleep. I know the consequences, and they’re really severe, and while I think about God sometimes I don’t think I’m supposed to rely on prayer that I can get through this.

My mom used to say I was selfish and I told her she could call me selfish if I already had children and just not care for them properly. The fact is because I am aware, I choose to remain childless. However if you see me with child/ren in future it most likely means either the father of the child has a lot of money, or that I changed my mind because I love him so much (I’m allowed to! Haha).

I’m also on Team Have Children Because You Want Children and Can Be a Great Parent and not on Team Have Children to Guilt Your Man to Stay With You.

In my culture having children is a sign of God bestowing all sorts of blessings but I personally know people whose children have decaying teeth and they (parents) have no money to send their kids to a proper dentist (same people who see their children as blessings) and their children are just not doing well in school nor have basic manners (ooh they’re just being kids, let them be pieces of shit!) because they themselves have no clue how to raise them or be less shitty. Of course if I had children of my own I wouldn’t be angry if they did badly in school. It’s not a death sentence. We all have strengths and weaknesses. I’m not gonna yell at my child for something that could be addressed. Before the child did badly you probably already would have noticed, monitored and anticipated. What? You don’t check your child’s progress? There is no one way to raise a child. I would be concerned, though. I wouldn’t take it lightly, and would pull out all the stops to make sure they’re cared for and loved (through providing a conducive environment and a lot of cuddles) and that they just enjoy learning. And that they wouldn’t be robbed of a childhood. But I can be selfish and say that because I’m not poor nor uneducated. Some people are just not interested to learn how to love their own child/ren (serious, what the fuck), and or how to educate their child/ren. Activities for enrichment and play cost money, and with the bills to pay and food to put on the table, these often are neglected. If you’re really intelligent and resourceful and have time (at this point, pick two out of three) you can make flashcards from practically anything and whatever little money you have left you could send your child to those indoor playgrounds or a class once in a while. One thing I learnt this year, though, is you can’t teach someone to give a fuck.

Then there’s the thing about poverty, which I shall not go into. Perhaps another time.

I also think there are other interesting things to think about besides having children.

For those who already have children, cherish them because they won’t be children forever. What have you done to make their lives better?