the start

March 25, 2017 § Leave a comment

There is

no name
no tune
no thoughts
no destination
no space
no second clock
no colour
no taste

– beginning

The start wears the purest form of Mother’s Nature beauty. The air is crisp and clear. The breath carries an innocent whiff and exhale itself into the atmosphere. Bringing truth to a better light.

The prelude bears clarity and serenity. It is simple to feel. It resonates a silence smile a new born carries. It grows like a seed nurture into a tree.  It brings waves to the ocean. It becomes.

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A few weeks ago, I started a new journey. And like all new beginnings, it came with a closure. I ended my short stay in Yangon. The departure was inevitable. The differences seem to match like puzzles pieces, forming an unforeseen picture. Coming back to the island was only natural, and it seems like another new start after another, yet this time, everything seems to be aligned.

But before returning, the yoga community in Yangon invited us for a retreat at a beach town 6/7 hours away from the city. It took no hesitation for me to say yes. So off I went to another short excursion.

Ngwe Saung lies on the west side of Myanmar and has the front row seat to the Bay of Bengal. Since it is the best view, it would almost be a dishonour to hold our practice anywhere else but.

 
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Every morning, I arrived sheepishly at the open hallway. We start our day with a short meditation and an hour of vinyasa flow. As we meditate in the quiet, flashes of past memories come flooding their way through. Some were hurtful, some were very joyful and between the both, there were collisions of your own thoughts trying to play tug of war. Where should I fall? Where should you place your emotions? What is the outcome of falling into it? Can i get something out of this?

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 “A man’s power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth, and his desire to communicate it without loss.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My perception of truth lies in the depths of how honest I am with myself. It wasn’t so difficult to be at peace with myself anymore. Unlike previous struggles, this was different, it was genuinely rediscovering my own strength and knowing where my limitations lie. With that said, the practise has became somewhat easier with a clearer head space. It’s as if I have decluttered my own brain and made way for some physical strength and serious alignments.The lighter one feels the lighter the body is.

“The body is smarter than your brain.” We often outwit ourselves with pushing the limits. Can we stretch the calves an inch further during a downward dog? Can we hold in a three legged dog half a minute longer? Let’s try to extend the arms a little higher but soften the shoulders deeper on a lunge.

There wasn’t a moment where I didn’t want to just ease into a pose. I want to engage each reflexes with poise yet gain the resilience and flow with my heartbeat. The mat has become a place for comforts and challenges simultaneously. The union is like two friends meeting one another, the twilight moon meeting the sun right before it reaches the horizon. An occurrence we fail to witness yet happens everyday.

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The best part about rediscovering yourself is finding same kindled spirits who share the same perception. While we came from all walks of life, no culture, religion, race and gender differentiate us, one way or another, we meet at the mat and breathe the same air. Evenings were spent at cocktail bars laughing over Yangon life. The little inglorious daily activities that make the city unique to its own. Bad traffic, unhygienic manoeuvres, discrepancies and so on. One that seems so foreign to a life I live this moment.

I’m back in the +65 region again, with a new job, but still hanging out with my crazy kitchen crew and exploring a deeper relationship. Somehow everything seems to work out the way it ought to be just as it should, with time.

My current new boss is quite obsessed with fried shallots(eu chang,葱头油) . An asian delicacy and staple to any meal. Fried shallots on steamed fish, nasi lemak, fried shallots on plain rice, shallot oil is also used very frequently in garnishing any salads or finishing off a simple stew to enhance the flavours and brings a crisp texture. It’s something little but goes a long way.

After this morning’s workout, I bought some kale on my way home and immediately thought of tossing some in for a quick lunch salad.

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Kale, cashew cheese, cherry tomatoes, quinoa and fried shallots. Happy weekend folks

 

 

 

 

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stewed daikon

January 14, 2016 § 1 Comment

Like any other folks out there who have been in this industry for donkey years, we all meet people from various backgrounds. And by various, I mean a heterogeneous collection of eccentric or nonconformist individuals from all across the globe. They cross paths with you not simply because they wanted to be exactly where you met them, but due to grand leap of faith they took, to be where they were/are.

Nevertheless, there are far and few who know very precisely what they are doing and where the path they walk leads to.

If you happen to follow them, the road less taken is certainly more exciting than promising & rewarding than reassuring. These individuals, have ideologies and philosophical values that translate into food. Food that speaks their language despite if those were their first few words they spoke growing up. Cooking that gave them life because they experienced the emotions that went through making a meal/dish. Meals that gave them intimacy yet acceptance with everyone around them because where everyone comes from does not really matter as long as you enjoy the conversations at the dinner table during a staff meal and pull through service together.

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The last three days in a new kitchen was interesting. New faces, different menu, fun techniques, and quirky conversations. Yet it felt like home. The daily run to the wet market but at a fair distance away from the restaurant. New fresh seafood and greener produce to play around with. Larger. Dynamic. Yet, also familiar.

As Chef M said:” if there is one thing you need to learn in Hong Kong market is that they will always say that everything is good for soup. This, soup. That, soup!”

The Cantonese love their soups until their hearts bend. So that’s what we have had for every staff meals, soup. Cabbage pork soup. Spicy chicken soup. Fish tofu soup. Curry soup.

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It certainly brought me back to a spring Tokyo. When the air is still crisp and cool, perfect for a warm broth under the sunny daylight. But when night falls, and with the full moon up, we often found ourselves sniggering into eateries with scent of dashi stock perfuming from the entrance. A force of attraction with a deep iron or aluminum pot that comes up to my waist, seems to stew up the best umami slurping soup. It is filled with hours of patience and wisdom. Subtle to the taste but unforgettably heartwarming.

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My last trip to Hong Kong was short and very sweet. Not only did it allowed me to reconnect the dots with the previous Japan trip, but also open a whole new opportunity to learning a different cuisine and (crazy) crew. Coming back to Singapore, I could not stop thinking about the fresh ingredients at the wet markets. Despite falling ill upon arrival, I insisted on grocery shopping and picked out a large white radish (daikon) to continue my little culinary experiment in the kitchen.

This perhaps isn’t the most authentic way to do so but if you are trying out for the very first time, I assure you that it will promise a decent side dish to your soba or udon bowl.

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Stewed daikon

1 large daikon, skinned, sliced 8-10 cm long
a handful of white rice
bowl full of ice cold water

5 cm kombu (kelp)
3 cups of water

marinating sauce
3 tbsp of usukuchi (light soy sauce)
1 tbsp of sesame oil
pinch of shichimi or a light crack of black pepper

1. Blanched the daikon in pot of boiling hot water with white rice. After 4-5 minutes, dip into ice cold water.

2. In a deeper pot, place kombu and water, add in the daikon. Let it come to a roaring boil, then simmer it for at least 1 1/2 hours or until a pairing knife tips goes through the daikon effortlessly.

3. Let it cool completely in the stock. This might take the whole day or best let it sit overnight at the cool place on the kitchen top.

4. Once the daikon ready, transfer them on a kitchen towel or cheese cloth. Pat them dry.

5. In a medium small mixing bowl, whisk usukuchi, sesame oil and shichimi. Gently place daikon, spoon the sauce over them evenly and over it with a cling wrap for at least 30 minutes.

5. Serve it is or add a little bit more usukuchi, or chili oil/sesame seeds/grated horseradish to your pleasure.

a beetroot in a chocolate cake

August 3, 2013 § 2 Comments

is as soulful as having a garden in the kitchen. Any root vegetables would give the same humble earthiness, but this passionate red plant gives plenty of warmth and moisture. I had the kids fooled. They ate the entire cake before even realizing there was some added zinc goodness.  There is no “once bitten twice shy” value in this, just go for it!

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Prior to this, I had made some chocolate beetroot muffin. This cake is a little more decadent and luxurious. I am testing out a vegan version so more soon!

Adapted from Nigel Slater, with some adjustments.

225g self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
180ml sunflower oil
225g light muscovado sugar,
3 eggs
150g raw beetroot
juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup of chopped dark chocolates

Set the oven at 170C. Lightly butter a 9″ rectangular loaf.

Grate the beetroot coarsely, set aside.

Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cocoa powder and cinnamon. Beat the oil and half of the sugar in a food mixer until well creamed then introduce the beaten egg yolks one by one, reserving the whites for later.

Fold yolks and flour together, then gently fold in the beets.

Beat the egg whites till light and almost stiff. Fold gently everything together but thoroughly into the mixture (He suggested using a large metal spoon, a wooden one will knock the air out). Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes. Once it is done, allow it to cool for 20 minutes before indulging.

It’s been a trying week. The exhaustion from many personal events collided into one and I find myself detaching again. I’m catching up with the workload at the cafe as well as rest. It’s already August. Last year this time, I found Henry. Sure is a ride, but I shall save that post for another time.

there is no real secret to an amazing meal, just simple & fresh ingredients.
there is no real secret to an amazing life, just simple things & good company.

why all the fancy schmancy?

happy birthday to the lady

May 22, 2013 § 6 Comments

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She loves antiques. She loves junk. She loves anything she does not need but gets them nevertheless. She loves the idea of a hand me down, a good thrift store, a good bargain, a good steal and even more so, a fantastic car boot sale.

We would be forced to wake up at dawn, whist the moon barely set and dreams are just beginning to climax. Lifted from an innate zeal, she will get dressed eagerly and be at the door without haste. Layered in three/four winter clothing, she manages to look divine under the dim bedroom light. As we drive down the country side with beaming car lights shining along the hedges leading the way, I wonder if my stomach had completely digested the buttery apple pie from last night.

The cars lined up in a row and their things are laid unkempt with much order. It’s as disheveled as a lovely afternoon tea with the Royalties. You can get anything least likely to imagine. A box of jewelry from a recently deceased old lady, century old stamps, to a barely used camera. It’s a shopaholic haven. For mum, it is her nirvana.

I have fears of her stepping onto the wet field. Her heavy purse will be emptied and her grocery bags filled with unnecessaries.

For her birthday this year, I got her three brass bowls from an antique store. For what need, I do not know. The stubborn elderly man who runs the shop, could not have a better pair of eyes for collectable items. If anything, it would be his cranky personality that helps his memory. I ponder for a moment whether my mum should open her own antique store. The house is one itself.

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Her all time favourite dessert is a simple apple pie. This year, I had decided to make a gluten free version as she has gotten slightly unfriendly with wheat.

Thank you for being the best mother and friend. Happy birthday mum!

recipe
pie dough
300g Bob’s Mill all purpose gluten free flour
1/2 tsp salt
130g vegetable oil
20g non-dairy milk
1/2 cup ice water, perhaps less depending on the weather

apple pie filling
3 green apples, sliced thinly
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

crumble
130g Bob’s Mill all purpose gluten free flour
30g sorghum flour
30g walnuts, chopped
15g brown sugar
30g vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 200C, coat 8 inch pie tin with a light layer of oil.

2. Slice apples and combine brown sugar until well mixed, set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, mix pie dough ingredients except for ice water. With your hands kneed the dough until it comes together, add the ice water slowly until it forms a ball. If the weather is humid, add a little more ice in the water. Set the dough aside.

4. For the crumble, add all the ingredients together with a fork or get messy with your fingers. I like the later better.

5. Place the pie dough on the pie tin and spread it with your fingers, make sure to get an even layer on the sides. Lay apples evenly and sprinkle the crumble on the top.

6. Bake for 20 minutes at 200C and then, 25-30 minutes at 180C.

brownie

May 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Finally a recipe post! This should be a regular go-to recipe as it is so simple to make. I have been approached by a few vegan/gluten-free home bakers on what to use for substitutions. While I have no fix gluten-free flour mix nor foolproof methods, I had managed to bring this lovely chocolate delight to the table just in time for tea.

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Baking with gluten free flour is not as challenging as you think it is. I have failed and succeed; threw and sold many gluten free vegan cupcakes/brownies/cookies/shortbread. One thing, I have learnt is to never stop baking/cooking until you find the right fit. It is a journey for you to discover your own tastebuds and explore the wonders of different ingredients.

recipe
1 cup 70-80% dark chocolate, melted
1/2 cup fruit puree (apple, papaya, pear or any fruit you enjoy)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
50g rice flour
50g sorghum flour
30g tapioca flour
30g brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp guar gum/xanthan gum
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/4 vanilla pod

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and lined an 8-inch baking pan with a layer of oil.

2. Melt dark chocolate over the bain-marie or one minute medium heat in the microwave. Do not worry if the chocolate bits are not completely melted. Some bites are always welcomed. Puree fruit in the processor and set aside.

3. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Once chocolate is melted, add in fruit puree, oil, milk and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients and mix until very well incorporated.

4. Pour it into the pan and even the top with a spatula. Bake it for 25-30 minutes. It will come out soft and very moist. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before indulging.

And more to say, this is not available at the bakery/cafe I work in, but I am more than happy to share it with anyone.

*After leaving it for a day or two, it tends to get very dense. So best consume within the day of.

beets

November 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Did November just pass without a trace? It’s hard to miss with all the beards and mustaches around. Along with Movember, I try my best to take it all in at once since the cafe has been very busy. Sporadical quiet moments, were either to catch a deep breath outside or read a short article.

At home, I have been rather blasé with stepping into the kitchen. At the very least, I will make pancakes on my days off. But, yesterday, for the very first time in 6 months, I turned the oven on.

My heart grows with excitement as the oven heat rises. Slicing two crimson beetroots into quarters, lightly rubbing some sea salt with my pink hands, laying them out on a cast iron pan, drizzling olive oil and cracking black pepper. The whole gesture made me fell in love with baking again.

I forgot how salt can be magically transform bitterness to sweetness. I forgot the sound of the ticking oven timer. I forgot how hot the kitchen can get. I forgot the loveliness of seeing the sides of a vegetable go from glaring smooth to golden brown crisp.

All of these were irreplaceable, despite baking everyday at work. I held on to the time as it stood still, with me staring into the oven glass watching them baked and day dreaming of light-hearted banters with customers. When it was time to indulge, I joyfully put some garnish on and tossed a few more fresh greens with roasted beets. Relishing the moments of getting my fingers dirty, appreciating wholesome vegetable and sharing it with the family.

recipe
beets, halved or quartered
salt, a pinch or two
black pepper, cracked
a whole garlic, broken into pieces

Preheat oven at 220C. Season the beets. Pop into the oven for 20 minutes, take them out, shake it, pop it back in for another 10-15. Yes it is that simple.

chocolate beetroot muffin

May 17, 2012 § 6 Comments

perhaps, the combination might throw one away, but it is much similar to carrots in a wholesome carrot cake with thick cream cheese frosting. I’d always been fond of beets for their juicy sweetness, earthy flavours, smooth texture and vibrant red colour. Their lovely colours, in particular, add a certain peppiness to a regular pan of roasted vegetables or bowl of green salad.

These muffins are more moist, less sugary and packed with magnesium. It calls for cocoa powder but feel free to melt a decent bar of dark chocolate instead. I got too greedy one evening and cleared the dark chocolate stash. An additional robust touch of hot coffee is added, as it goes so lovingly with chocolate, I always believe that at some point (well,centuries ago), coffee and cacao shared the same bean.

recipe adapted from Zizi’s

makes about 6-8 muffins

1 cup beets, steamed, skinned, cubed & pureed
1 cup whole meal flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy milk
100g dark chocolate or 45g cocoa powder
1/3 cup of freshly brewed coffee
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp mixed cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 170C. Prepare muffin pans by lightly greasing paper cups with oil spray.

2. In a food processor, puree soft beetroots. Gradually add soy milk and vanilla extract until it looks like baby food, and set it aside.

3. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in a dry bowl.

4. In a mixing bowl, add melted chocolate or cocoa powder with hot coffee and whisk well, until there are no lumps. Add in the oil, vinegar and beet puree, continue evenly mixed.

5. Add dry ingredients into the wet mixture, until there are no more white mixture to be seen. The batter is now smooth and silky,and ready to be scooped.

6. In greased & lined muffin pan, fill cups until 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when inserted. Allow them to cool, don’t fret when it sinks, and sprinkle with some icing sugar, if desire.

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