April 16, 2017 § Leave a comment
This week has been a long ride. There were undeniably questions of how long can one trust the process, how honest are we to ourselves and etc. Well, it shouldn’t be that doubtful but the energiser bunny’s battery level was depleting.
I had spent an insatiable amount of time with food (more than the average joe). I eat it, I write about it, I research it, I plan other people’s meals, I cook/bake/alter etc. I could go on until the cows come home. After a while I start viewing it not as a mean but either a form of art or business/passion. One could have a bad relationship, just like spending too much time with one person and you could end up wanting space. The roles are mixed up and somehow along the way, the respect or trust can be lost.
There was a time where I wasn’t very proud of myself and the relationship with food turned sour. I lost all interest with eating/cooking. I was frail, insecure about my decisions and was pretty low. Tired of feeling so exhausted all the time, I took the step to take responsibly of my own well-being. It started with preparing meals at home, buying groceries, salads, making sandwiches, changing white rice to brown rice and eating less processed/refined junk. I brought food wherever I went. There was really no excuse of “oh I can’t find healthy food”,because I was prepared. It was then I realised that if you could take ownership of your own health then why can’t you do the same with the other aspects of your life? We often victimise ourselves into bad situations but don’t we all fall short to see that the situation is negative, because we allow ourselves to let it be.
So my friends can have a bowl of deep-fried tofu/fishballs in chicken stock curry egg noodles while I have mixed rice, sautéed vegetable with fresh salad leaves. They can make fun of the diet, they can decide not to hang out, they have chosen to order more vegetables, they have taken notice of their own diets and some have even wrote to me how I’ve changed theirs. Somehow I am thankful for those that have been more aware of themselves. As much I would love to say, you are what you eat, you truly are, how you eat. If you are the sort that eat chicken breast and can’t run a mile, you are that piece of meat as it is. If you are the sort that takes time to enjoy marinating the piece of meat and have it with brown rice sautéed in garlic or oriental greens, perhaps you would learn to appreciate a different side of life. After all, people who love to eat are always the best people.
Soba noodles with ceylon spinach: Veggie Stack, replicated from an original tofu veg stack made by a best friend from Canada who loves his bacon way too much for his own good
With the people who loves food, comes with different sort. Eating is an intimate activity. Perhaps this is why there are people we constantly declined to be on the same table with and those who are always there when we have our daily staples.
I came home late last evening after hours in the kitchen, just in time for dinner and enough time to bake for the next morning. I reflected on these thoughts of how food has altered my way of lives and those around me. I thought of how small I am in making a change and how much more I want to be. More change soon to come but for now, here is a vegan, gluten-free banana bread made with chia seeds, walnut powder, sorghum flour and coconut oil. I am leaving out the recipe for another day.
April 8, 2017 § Leave a comment
perhaps this was lunch or breakfast, whatever the time was, a bowl of oatmeal with coconut flesh, mango, fresh berries and ground cinnamon chia seeds
There are many reasons why I put up with the long hours, the kitchen bullshit, the shenanigans crew and irregular produce or perhaps nature. There are many reasons why day after day I go back to the station, lay a wet towel, a chopping board, and sharpen the knife before cooking. There are many reasons to stay in this spot, but with different cooking styles and a change of crew; yet feeling the familiarity of creating something together. Watching all the little actions, discipline attitudes, loud laughters with tired eyes and knowing somehow when everything comes to one, we are doing something good. There are no reasons to why I will ever stop doing this because deep down, it’s to feed people honest food and simply see the smiles on their faces.
I want to be honest in everywhere.
I had Indian vegetarian dinner with a chef friend sometime last week. While we decide over what dishes to share, I took a chance to question his hospitality experiences. We had worked in mutual establishments but at different times and with different crew. Nevertheless, we had gained a somewhat passionate drive and indebted deed for these places for we were young and were just starting out our service journeys. There is something we couldn’t point out that drawn us here, but we realised that at some moments, the chefs/owners had made us feel like “nothing”.
Yes, nothing. Nada. Empty.
They made us feel like we didn’t belong there or simply didn’t care to be there even when we put in 60-80 hours a week/dedicated our hearts to the space. Why? Well perhaps it was their egos that we didn’t feed or they couldn’t accept that we challenged their mottos. I often hear stories of crew saying they “fit in” or “left out”. How come we always want to be part of something when we couldn’t even accept ourselves or even discover ourselves yet? Why are we always seeking from approval from others while we couldn’t even approve of our own doings/feelings? More so allow others to do so?
While exploring this topic, we walked around the bustling Little India’s vegetable vendors. The produce seems to be more vibrant and energetic, much like the people and vibes they portrayed. After almost a decade in this industry, we realised that we had to be honest with ourselves. That came with courage and vulnerability, like oil and vinegar whisk together to form a beautiful gentle vinaigrette.
I no longer feel the need to impress customers but to make them happy. I had always been the plain Jane who bakes everyday cake loaves and imagine serving a community that makes my family. I want to be the butter to their breads and cup of daily joe. Following trends and moving forward may seem appealing but there is so much more about history of food and authentic cooking/baking techniques I have yet to master. Hence, ordering the classic aloo gobi masala and paneer with an all-time-favourite soft chapati.
Somewhere down the line, I found happiness in being presently focus on making this philosophy count.
Somewhere through that night, I realised my personal life was taking a shift. I no longer feel the need to change for someone. I no longer feel so upset when they don’t feed themselves well or be responsible of their own health (well I try to). If they can’t help themselves, you can’t help them. The realisations have to come from within. That being said, I am thankful to be surrounded by motivated crossfit ladies/long-distance runners or smoothie nazis/cleaner eating buddies. One step at a time, one step at a time.
Much like this morning’s surprised breakfast (after a too early 8km run) at Woodlands Sourdough. An old regular who got his & his wife’s hands dirty and opened a heartwarming bakery. Long fermented bread dough with patience, homemade almond butter with sea salt/honey and honest coffee. I can only hope for more like-minded people for a good change.
September 6, 2016 § Leave a comment
To say that MADFEED was an amazing experience would be an understatement. Rewind almost a year ago, I stopped working full time at the local restaurant. I have always been associated with the job I had and somehow it had integrated so much into my life that I lost my own soul. What is my soul? Was it a food writer/vegan avocate/coffee snob/yoga lover/traveler?
Through the years, I persisted on doing what sings to the tune of my heart. A cup of handmade brewed coffee, an hour long session of ashtanga yoga five times a week, 13 hours work day, juggling writing a cookbook, and so on. The list continues as I pile more things on in search for something meaningful to satiate this large appetite.
I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t full either. I just wasn’t satisfied. I had always thought that in order to make the best chocolate cake, it needed the best cocoa powder. I had always thought of using local produce but there wasnt anything local farmers that would entertain our daily consumptions. I also used to think there needed to be more local yoga studios that didn’t cost a hole in my wallet. Generally, I needed to be part of a community with a more holistic & environmentally friendly appraoch lifestyle. A SoCal lifestyle I had just left and couldn’t find in sunny Singapore.
Unwinding the clock, 4 years later. I am finally settling in. My mindset has shifted to intergrating my own lifestyle and creating a space for a better tomorrow.
What is the better tomorrow? What is Tomorrow’s Kitchen? At the event, we questioned ourselves what could we do better for the next generation or even ourselves. Business, community, creativity, leadership, sustainability etc. But before we moved on to building a better tomorrow, we needed to know our history. I was so grateful when slow food founder Carlo Petrini spoke:
“Cooking has to be, first and foremost, the act of love.”
The basic fundamentals of giving unconditionally, being patient and trusting the process. Remember the very essentials of making a good loaf of bread? Good flour, salt, fresh yeast, clean water and an enormous serving of patience.
Jacques Pepin, opened the event by impressing us with his effortless skills in deboning a chicken for a galantine.
“You have to know your trade. You have to repeat things long enough that you can afford to forget them”
and he did it, quite very much like brushing his teeth.
Jason Hammel, from Lula cafe, giving a talk about Change isn’t Cheap: the sustainbility of food industry.
The idea of slogging for hours in the kitchen and repeating the same techniques until you are bored out of your wits scare new cooks away. The new comers are so impatient with old school cooking, most of them just stand around getting distracted with their phones or taking a smoke outside. Owning a skill takes years, understanding the trade, perhaps will take a lifetime but that is not a destination, it is a journey.
During one of the ad hoc sessions, Aisha Ibrahim started a topic: Millenial chefs. Our idea of millenials in any trade is often a negative connotation(lazy, spoiled). But we spoke openly of the difficulties seasoned chefs faced teaching millenials; in hopes that we can learn from one another, so we can pass on a similar act of love to the next generation. Afterall, aren’t we here to make a point?
Team bonding, dynamics, repetition, discpline and crafting.
The more I sit on these words, the more I believe in the process more than the end product. Of course, we are here to entice our palates and senses with a beautiful dish, (which by the way, Michel Troisgros spoke at MAD5, his family invented plating!) To what avail do we stretch the process until there is no soul in the meal?
I have since stopped searching for a perfect this or that; or worry about not making ends meet. My perception had taken a momentous shift. If we look too far ahead, or too far behind, we cannot enjoy the moment. We start losing the soul of the journey, taking short cuts, going too fast, losing steam and eventually, burning out (which was also another topic at MAD5, Kat Kinsman started a group @chefswithissues)
I did reach that point, after being in this industry for 10 years. I stopped functioning. I took a break and travelled. One day, MADFEED opening came up and I applied. The evening I found out about the acceptance was after a 13 hours shift (one can never fully take a break from the kitchen #dontkidyourself ) I laid in bed with aching feet and opened my inbox. Sadly, I was too tired to feel excited and it only hit me the next morning that a few months later I would be here. Here, penning down this experience in a Scandinavian Airbnb apartment with the sunsetting at 7 in the evening.
I left the city on my birthday. It was perhaps the best birthday gift to myself. A fulfiling trip and pivitol event in a chefing career. Perserverance, resilience, push boundaries and follow your actions throughly. You know the feeling of waiting for a breakthrough? All your eggs in the basket, the right time, the right place. Yes, that moment came. I met the best chefs in the world and dug their brains. The best personal encounter was meeting Dalia Jurgenson, writer of Spiced. I read her personal memoir in culinary school and never imagined to meet her in reality. So when she introduced herself in the boat on the way to Refshalebassin, I kept my excitement until we got off.
“Are you really Dalia from Spiced?”
She smiled quietly and acknowledged. She, along with the Jenny from Institute of Culinary Education and I spent the next two days having meals and sharing notes. She had inspired me to follow a somewhat similar journey, cooking in ktichens and eventually writing a book.
Of course. It was also fantastic getting acquinted with the folks from Koppi, Tim Wendelboe, JP from Aniar, Max from Momofuku, and to name a few… It came full circle, but this is just the begining.
The real work starts when we get back to our daily routines. How are we suppose to intergrate all talks into our walks?
As René said, “Why dont we take a couple of minutes to stop, to listen and to meet?“.
But after we meet, what are we to do? I took a long walk at a farmers’ market, bought some fresh local ingredients and retreated back to my own kitchen. I turned the gas oven on, and starting to chop up some long red beetroot, oval heirloom tomatoes and fresh chives.Sliced a few sourdough from Mirabelle and drizzle extra virgin olive oil, threw it in the oven along side with the beetroots and left them inside until they were done. Is this my version of tomorrow’s kitchen at home? Simple local ingredients put together to create a meal for one in a foreign land. There is no need to go out to dine as often but get inspired from the local farmers market, observing the different cultures and talk to people.
I noticed people stay in Airbnbs more often these days. Most of them equipped with a basic kitchen. I baked my host a loaf of chocolate avocado cake. So when she got back from Berlin the next evening, she would have something to welcome her home.
At my stay in Oslo, I visited a family friend and we spent most of our evenings, cooking. After I left, she was inspired to get better acquinted with her kitchen and local produce. Did you know warming up potatoes encourage sprouting? When the baby potatoes are done growing, they are picked before they grow into odd shapes because the Norwegian lands are mostly rocky? How does one stay in one place for decades and choose to ignore the surroundings, of farmers, of growers or food purveyors? Yet to have a foreigner come into your home and learn the unnoticed.
René also said, “It starts with one person”. It sure did in my case.
I have yet to return back to the sunny island. But for now, making a change with the way people eat starts with the right next to me.
Found fresh redcurrents in Helsinki Sunday market and spent the evening making jam. Now I can share it with my family!
Next post will be about the places I visited, well mostly ate around Copenhagen, Oslo, and Helsinki .
March 14, 2016 § 2 Comments
Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. – Vincent Van Gogh
It’s mid-morning Monday, I am still thinking of the inspiring words and creative stories from Saturday’s U Symposium discussion panel. The community of speakers from various well-established magazines gave so many enriching advices for us to challenge ourselves and look at the bigger picture.
In this day and age, Independent Magazine is a new-found territory. Not that there hasn’t been any independently published magazines before, but the competition is much more prevailing and people are gradually changing their perspectives. To start, Kai from Offscreen mentioned we have the internet; a big open community filled with information for us to immerse ourselves. It’s fast, easily available and so effective (especially when it comes to hot-gossips). We evolved into having high-speed internet and absorbing quick data that we have forgotten how it feels like to pick up a book/magazine/newspaper.
Hard copies have soft copies edition. Newspapers turned digitalized. People have online profiles. Our identities are constructed onto websites with personal information that everyone else needs to know. We connect so much faster than before, but yet there is a deep sense of regression.
Did we forget how to interact offline? Text over calling? Do we not realize that print is going out of business because we don’t read from hard copies anymore? Instead of telling ourselves that we are saving the earth by going paperless, we are contributing to a bigger carbon footprint movement by draining our batteries so quickly that we constantly need to charge it, even when it is not half-full?
So where/when do we draw the line? Where do we start? How do we pace ourselves to find balance between staying updated and slowing it down?
I find it most difficult to be constantly chasing the bright spotlight. To be at the top or follow trends. The next rainbow bagel or latte art pen. Un-necessities. If we could do without them before, why do we need it now? Certainly down the road we got bored with what we had and soon, tried to compete with the other. So we add something extra to be better. What if we didn’t need that something extra to be better, but to work on what we have and stay authentic. Perhaps then we will have a larger chance to be sustainable in the long run instead of feeding a temporary hunger. Then only to realized it was a hasty decision after it is said and done?
We are going backwards, that is for sure. Embracing crafted handmade goods, taking pride in artisanal products and spending more time in nature. But it does not mean we are degenerating. Taking it slower, embracing time and space or the present moment, allows us to accept life wholeheartedly.
Grab a piece of good read, embrace the contents fully and connect the dots with how we are seemingly interconnected in many ways. Whether it is an offline interview, recipe from female cooks, a long passage about a far away land or just beautiful landscape images of a place set in a particular time; it brought everyone to a room on Saturday/Sunday afternoon. A community, which redefines the way we indulge in literature by being transparent and sincere with their voices.
Later that evening, I had the pleasure of watching NOMA and got intimately acquainted with René Redzepi’s journey (along with a hundred over viewers). He feels strongly about capturing time and space. The current moment, seasons; the wide space, nature (ingredients). He focuses on foraging for fresh produce, meeting local farmers, staying fiercely loyal to his family and taking care of his crew. How does one have time or the capacity to find such equilibrium in life?
It is not a bed of roses. It is hard work. It is also important to know that you can’t figure everything out at once. It just comes and goes, like tide. The best waves are those you decide which one to ride on.
What I love about René Redzepi is that NOMA isn’t his, it is also his crew. They took pride and ownership in the work they do. They got hurt and had fun. He made mistakes, he is human, like we all are ; and at the very least it’s honest. The cinematography is enthralling. Pierre Deschamps, did a beautiful job in capturing the whole essence of the chef’s life. Allowing us to feel the sensations of his every action or thought through slow motion and fine music, brought together a certain closeness/understanding.
Perhaps Claudia Wu, the editor of Cherry Bombe, described us is true: “when we were all living on the plains of Serengeti, it was better to hunt and gather in groups- it’s basically the same now”.
We really should learn to live by creating a sense of community with our five senses; whether its magazines, pottery, music or food; it should bring warmth and a sense of belonging. After all, we all look at the same sky.
Our boss decided to spoil us with a big pot of eggplant, homemade tomato sauce pasta with mozzarella and fresh basil. Staff lunches can’t get any better than this!
January 25, 2014 § 4 Comments
Our dinner celebrated the pre-launch of Nourish. After months of contemplation, we finally have a name for it! We had prepared food using recipes from the cookbook, shared how we met, our inspirations and how we got to this point. The book entails food stories and mood recipes. It illustrates an interconnected relationship between food/mood every human being should understand and appreciate.
We cannot be more thankful for all the help we’ve got to make the evening so memorable. A big gratitude to Hjgher, the ladies from Ate, Triceratops for the gorgeous flower arrangements, Books Actually, Siew & Yang, Todd Belz, Kitt Santos & your amigas, the journalists, our beloved guests and loved ones.
This is just the beginning of something remarkably beautiful and we are so happy that you are part of it.
The images here are taken from the tags and friends. Do send us more pictures or tag #jovialgathering!
December 2, 2013 § 1 Comment
Good things come in bunches. I hope this month brings much of those delightful feelings.
Our demo yesterday went surprisingly well. Apart from me burning an entire pot of hot chocolate to not even cooking because of a malfunction induction, I had a splendid time. All that effort of cooking/baking at 5am and preparing the bread dough the night before, were well paid off. It was the first time presenting ourselves to the public and bringing the cookbook to its presence. Our cookbook is going to be one of a kind. Why you may ask? It entails daily recipes influenced from our mood and emotions. How we feel and how we cook/bake is essentially the way we are. Naturally, like seasons changing it is easy to alter our meals with how we feel in this moment.
Yesterday was fun because, my parents were there, Elodie’s family was there, we made mistakes and laughed about them, food was splendid, people were receptive and so ever supportive. Thank you so much for everyone who made it !
Spontaneous flatbread: flatbread, hummus, smoked aubergines and pomegranate; vegetable rosti (beetroot, carrots and potatoes) with yogurt and cherry tomato chutney.
November 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
It’s a delightful morning in the sunny island. One of my fondest memory growing up here is having chwee kueh for breakfast. A local delicacy made with rice flour, sauté radishes and chili. It’s so simple yet each step is tender and essential. In U Press N°4 issue, I wrote about Mr Lee’s passion in making our breakfast count. Decades of hard work, fatherly love in raising his children and their filial piety. Thank you Underscore for publishing it! Pick up your copy at any local cafes/museums.
This Sunday (1st December, 11AM), my lovely co-writer Elodie and I will be feeding everyone at Gillman Barracks for the Singapore Art Book Fair. We will be cooking up some recipes from our cookbook. Drop by and say hi!