The Reunion Dinner 2018

”Twas the night before…”

Chinese New Year, and not only was there a squeak, there were many squeaks, and chatter, and laughs, and “huat ah!” happening in many Chinese Singaporeans households.

Well, it is, after all, the Reunion Dinner at the end of the Lunar Rooster Year. In 40 minutes’ time, the Rooster has to fly off and vacate its watch to the Dog. Reunion dinners traditionally brings the family together, and normally, the married sons and his family will join his parents for dinner. The married daughters and her family are encouraged to have their reunion dinners with their own parents on another day or earlier time.

This post is not supposed to be about the ancient story of how the 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals came to form up the Calendar, (you can actually find it on Wikipedia), but it is about what was on the table at my family’s dinner. Lol!

Yes, food, glorious food! We Singaporeans love to eat, and we live to eat. So, what better way to a good reunion than to have good food?

For just four of us, we had:

1. åę ·ę±¤ or Jap Hwa Teng šŸ² (Ten Items Soup) [pardon my *Minnanese],

2. Stir-fried Arrow Root with Prawns, sliced lean mean, and *Fat Choy (å‘čœ ‘Hair Vegetable’),

3. fried fish (we had Sea Bass) with stir fried *leek,

4. Stir fried Puay Leng (Chinese Sharp Spinach) with scallops, white Shimeji mushrooms, and black dried Chinese mushrooms,

5. Quarter of a roasted duck, and

6. Sliced canned *Abalone.

That actually is a lot of food! And yes, we have leftovers, which is good, as it signifies we will have extras for the new year.

In my opinion, there are a lot of Chinese practices that are more related to history than any other significances. Example, cooking more food, and rice, on the last dinner of the year so that there will be extras, or leftovers, for the new year. Like I mentioned, it’s supposed to mean that there will be (in hope of) extras in the new year, eg. extra wealth, extra good health, extra good fortune, etc. And these practices were pretty much made up by the common folk in each area of China. I’m quite sure S that some practices in the South can hardly be found being practiced by the folk in the North, and vice versa. It’s also the same as how over here in Singapore, I can have friends from the other Chinese groups eating different dishes as compared to mine. (By the way, I’m part Hokkien, Teochew, and Peranakan, so what food I have on my table is a little representation of these cultures.)

On the table, there are food mostly from Southern China, particularly from Hokkien and Teochew cultures. There are also some borrowed dishes from the Cantonese. (The Teochews are actually just next door to the Cantonese.) Peranakan culture borrowed cooking styles from the various Chinese groups, especially the Hokkiens, so there we have another cuisine borne of such cultural mixtures, which I am really quite happy for.

I’ll be at my Eldest Uncle’s home tomorrow for the great Lee family reunion. That will be another round of Food-spectacular for each of my mother’s siblings will be bringing a dish, from the spicy to non-spicy, from the complex to the simple. I can’t wait for the banquet!

6 more minutes till midnight…

*Minnanese, or Minnan language 闽南čÆ­: Southen Chinese languages evolved from lost Tang Dynasty language. Now includes Hokkien and Teochew languages.

*Fat Choy, or Hair Vegetable : a type of photosynthetic bacteria that is used as a vegetable in Chinese cuisine. When dried, the product has the appearance of black hair. For that reason, its name in Chinese means “hair vegetable.” And due to the sound of its name sounding like å‘č“¢, “grow rich”, it is cooked in dishes to signify abundant prosperity.

Happy Chinese New Year!!! ę–°å¹“åæ«ä¹šŸŽŠšŸŽ‰šŸŽ†

*Leek: that long thick vegetable that looks like a Jedi light-saber to a child. Leek, 蒜, has the same sound as ē®—, /suan/ ‘counting’, so it is auspicious for the eater to always have money to count.

*Abalone 鲍鱼 /Bao yu/: has the same sound as äæä½™ ‘assurance of abundance in wealth’.

Yes, we Chinese eat lots of prosperous-sounding food.

Alright. I’m turning in now.

To you who are celebrating the Chinese New Year, wishing you good health, good wealth, and good life! To those who are not, it’s ok; I wish you the same. Huat ah!!!šŸŽŠ


For more information about Chinese New Year foods: click here.


Bangkok, Thailand: 15-18 March 2017

Update: a/o 21 May 2017. Bangkok will be cleaning up its streets, including its street vendors. There goes my street food!!! Only certain tourist spots, like Yaowarat, will be retained. Read it here: Bangkok Clean up

Trying out a new format to my headings. I get confused over my own headings so I best try out a more effective one. LOL 

Okay. So…

It was the March school term break here in Singapore. For the other parts of the world, this is something like your Easter holidays except that we all know that Easter is in April this year. We work on a 10-week term for the primary and secondary schools. Junior Colleges are slightly different and Polytechnics are totally on their own.

Anyway, with my colleagues-friends, J and T, we were off to the Land of a Thousand Smiles for a short stay of only four days. 

We took the Airport MRT to the city from the airport. It was quite convenient. Got to thank J who helped us get the transport card, Rabbit (yeah, the animal šŸ°) Card, by standing in line (it was quite a line!). (After traveling by the local metro system, I realised that it’s about a dollar odd for each trip. Not too bad except for the crowdedness. You might get squashed in the process.) 

From the metro station, we walked about 10+mins to our hotel in Pratunam in the hot midday sun ā˜€ļø . Centre Point Pratunam is centrally located, near the clothing and shopping areas of Pratunam itself. It’s about a stone’s throw away from Baiyoke. Our room for two can easily fit us three, and with space to spare. 

It’s easy to get food all around the area. There’s even a 7-11 Convenience Store just outside the side door of the hotel, along the main road. If you don’t mind street food, then you will find many street food carts along the way, especially in the smaller lanes.

Hot hot day!

Our room for 3! 2 double beds to roll on. 

Skewered barbecued pork at 10 Baht (approx. 50cents SGD) freshly made and cooked.

We took a walk around the area. J wanted to do some clothes shopping so we went to Platinum Mall, which is down and across the road from the hotel. There is a food court on the TOP floor. Get a cash card from the main counter, buy your food from the stalls, and if there is any balance, you can get your refund.

Mango sticky rice!!! Our main snack of the day.

With the sun down and being hungry, we managed to find a Halal Thai Restaurant just on the other corner from the hotel. Total bill, including two bowls of plain rice šŸš and a bottle of water, it came to about 300baht (approx. SGD12). Happy tummies, happy pockets, happy people! šŸ˜Š 

Green curry with chicken and round brinjal, plain omelette, fried kangkong (water-spinach/ē©ŗåæƒčœ).

After dinner, we went to take a look at the night markets. There are quite a few in Pratunam and Baiyoke area. In fact, there are quite a number of these night markets in Bangkok itself. The famous one, ArtBox, had already packed up in preparation for the temporary move to Singapore. Singaporeans couldn’t wait for the favourite night market to arrive. 

The second day. 

We made a trip into crazy Yaowarat or also known as Chinatown. Looking at those signboards suddenly reminded me of Hongkong. Street food is plentiful, so don’t worry too much if you’re going to starve. From our hotel to Chinatown, it cost us 80baht by metered taxi. 

Our Friend, C, told us about a wholesale market there in Chinatown, called Sampeng Market. We finally found it in the midst of lanes and alleyways, and packed home loads of stationary for our students. Haha!!! That’s what Teachers buy when you bring them to a wholesale stationary place. Just make sure to find out about the wholesale prices in the shops you go to. 

The trip back to Pratunam was difficult as many taxi drivers refused to take us unless we fork out 200baht instead. Their reluctance was mainly because it was the evening peak period. We finally got one but the road back was on the side of being hair raising. We paid him 100baht for the trip. 

J and I had dinner together because T went for a massage appointment at upmarket Novotel Hotel. There are many little restaurants in the Baiyoke area. These places are housed indoors and not on the streets, but if you want to have an outdoor experience, it is always available.

What really marvels me is that the Drivers in Bangkok are really patient. They don’t sound their horns when there are pedestrians on the road, instead, they will slowly inch their way through, and hope that pedestrians will be more road-aware.

Oh yes! Try their local milk tea from the street vendors. Also, do take note of the cute packing for the takeaway packets.

Third day involves a trip to the supermarket, again. We found a link ridge from Pratunam to Big C supermarket. It also links to Central World, where we got our Shibuya Toast fix at After You Cafe. Thank God for smartphone maps! Or else we would had walked all the way to Siam Paragon, which is really far from where we were.

In the evening, we took the MRT and headed for JJ Green, another night market. It is located where Chatuchak market is, just next door only, but opened in the evenings. Quite crowded, so for the claustrophobic ones, avoid this area. There are many stalls selling vintage items, clothes, handicrafts, food and drinks, and there is even a stage with a live band. After a whole day out in the hot sun, I was ready to call it a day, or night. Whichever.

Last day in Bangkok and we went back to the same area as last night, but this time, we went to the one and only Chatuchak Weekend Market, where hundreds of stalls operate, where tourists flocked to but locals shunned. šŸ˜‚ 

PETA and other Wildlife agencies will be up in arms with what is being sold at this market. But first, food. 

Lots of food to feed the masses, and I found the best crispy pork   (Siew yok/ē‡’肉) ever. And paired it with homemade sour chili sauce, it was just awesome! Writing about it now makes me salivate. šŸ˜† It is a little on the expensive price for street food, 150 baht (S$6) for 100g, but it was worth it, and I relished every single bite.

Alright then. Time to head back to the hotel, get our luggage, do some last minute packing, and get on the taxi for the airport. I initially wanted to have a foot massage but due to the time constraint, I’ll have to postpone it to the next trip to BKK. We three were quite sure our feet were tanner than when we left. Haha! 

Good bye, Bangkok! See you the next time!

5 Dec. 2016 – Day 2: Williamstown & Melbourne

Met up with an old family friend who brought us out to lunch in Williamstown which isn’t that far from Melbourne city, via West Gate bridge.

Lovely little town near the waters, with many sailing boats moored. We are at the Anchorage Restaurant. One of the waiters, George, really friendly and helpful, and have a great sense of humour, informed us that they now have a new executive chef, hence a new menu. He highly recommended the Fried broccoli. I say, don’t be deceived by its name. It’s battered lightly and air-fried, acompanying it is a slightly spicy tangy sauce. Really lovely! We also had a smoked and cured salmon canapĆ©s, and a dish of scallop and chicken dumplings. All of these were just the sharing platters. 

For the mains, we had Seafood Pasta and a vegetarian pasta (I ordered it but can’t remember the name). Both were delicious! 

Lovely little dining spot right next to the water, and with such good weather, we could even see Melbourne in a distance. 

After that, our friend dropped us off at Queen Victoria Market (QVM) as he had to return home for another function in the evening. Even though the QVM was closed (they close on Mondays and Wednesdays), we took the free city tram and got off just a stop later at Melbourne Central, spending the 4-5 hours getting acquainted with the area. We took the tram back the way we came, finally getting in at 7:30pm.
The sun finally sets at around 8pm. 

I’m so tired now… Goodnight!

Day 6: 9th Sept. 2016, Sydney

After days of hiking, walking, and climbing hills, I think I deserve a day of plain old shopping and staying indoors, right? šŸ˜†

So, we visited the Queen Victoria Building to soak in the architecture and feel the period. I heard a piano playing but just can’t locate it. Do you know where it is?

Saw this on the top floor. A letter from HRM Elizabeth II, to be opened in 2085. I’ll be an old woman in her 90s by then, that’s if I’m still alive.
After that, it was dinner at Jemie’s Italian on Pitt Street. I managed to secure a booking through Food was good and atmosphere was nice. Only 2 points: it was quite dark inside and the music was too loud, which caused everyone around us to talk loudly too.

That’s about sums up a really relaxing day. šŸ˜Š

Kyoto: I want to Visit you again.

Where shall I begin to write about this ancient capital of Japan?

13-18 June 2014, 6 days 5 nights.

Kyoto is most certainly a place for every one; there are activities every person can enjoy. History, geography, culture, food, arts, shopping, you name it, they got it. It is a mix of the traditional with the new, the old and the modern. You can find a shrine in the midst of a shopping street, or a traditional shop selling traditional sweets next door to a modern high rise. Old and new co-exist so peacefully such that it is weaved into the fabric of society.

We spent 5 days in Kyoto, staying at the Santiago Guesthouse near Gion district. The accommodation was more like a hostel, with bunk beds and shared common space and shower. However, it is new, very clean and the atmosphere and staff, friendly. It was an enjoyable stay. However, do take note that bath towels and toiletries (shampoo and shower gel) are not provided. A microwave, an electric kettle, and a water dispenser make up the little pantry. Those were the only down side, but thankfully, there are at least 3 convenience stores on one side of the road, and a 24-hour supermarket on the other corner. Nearest subway station is Kiyomizu-dera.

So, what did we do? We went walking (a lot!) around Gion, saw maikos, tourists dressed up as maikos, local ladies and tourists dressed in yutaka, went up Kiyomizu-dera (temple) itself, visited a few other shrines here and there, bought Kyoto souvenirs for family and friends, went to Nishiki Food Market and Street, went into 3 top-name departmental stores i.e. Takashimaya, Isetan, and Daimaru, went to Kyoto Central, found our way to church for Sunday Mass, and visited the castles, particularly inside Nijo Castle. The only places we did not see were the temples near Kyoto Station and the Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama. I shall leave those places for another trip. šŸ˜‰

We also had different dining experiences, at the restaurants having soba and udon, along the Kamo River picnic-style with bento bought from the departmental store’s food hall, or bento bought from the supermarket and brought back to the lodging.

The food halls of those said departmental stores are a real treat. Normally located on the basement levels, you can get almost any Japanese food that you want to eat, from appetizers to mains and on to desserts. The stall keepers even hand out samples! You can easily be full from just eating the samples, and if you are not buying from them but have tasted their ware, just smile very nicely with a shake of the head.

When it comes to ordering food, especially if you are like me whose Japanese is close to zero, point at the food item and indicate with your fingers how many you want. Normally, the waiter or the stall keeper will repeat your order by pointing the items you want or take out a calculator to tell you the price. Anyhow, the overall experience is quite easy. The locals understand some English as most youngsters learnt English in school and is now able to put that to use, and even the older generation willingly help you out even if they do not speak English. They are a really helpful people. šŸ™‚

I shall just let you see those photos.