Wednesday, September 26, 2007


P: On Saturday, Sandy and I joined a loooong queue of fellow immigrants looking to apply for, or in our case renew, Singapore permanent residency. We've been here for five years now and our PR is about to expire. After three hours of sodukoing, pulling funny faces at unsuspecting babies and counting just how many hairclips a mainland Chinese girl can employ to pull her hair back, our number finally flashed on the screen and we presented ourselves to the immigration official. Not five minutes later we had a stamp for another 10 years each! It pains me think back to those post-university days working in Malaysia without an employment pass or any form of security and making endless visa runs to Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. Now we're here for another 10 years! Jeez, I'll be 31 and Sandy 28 when we next need pay immigration a visit. Not.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sichuan hot & sour soup

P: Sandy was complaining she hadn't eaten Chinese for a week and felt like eating something sour so I thought I'd try cooking Sichuan hot and sour soup. I decided against a seafood or meat version and opted for vegetarian instead. Monkey head mushrooms are pretty meaty and to these I added regular Chinese dried mushrooms, wood ear fungus and bamboo shoots. The actual soup is really just stock (turkey stock in my case; made from leftover turkeys from Sandy's Christmas catalogue shoot), black vinegar, soy, sugar, salt, white pepper, chilli oil and Sichuan pepper. And some spring onions and sesame oil added at the end of cooking. It took a lot of tweaking to get the right balance of ingredients but the end result wasn't too bad. Not quite up to Min Jiang restaurant standard but OK for a first attempt. We ate the soup with stirfried chilli chicken and stirfried baby kailan.

Our fridge is full to exploding. Sandy's been shooting Christmas catalogues for a local supermarket chain so we have turkeys, turkey steaks, roast chickens, whole hams, cheeses and fruit cakes coming out of our ears. Luckily downstairs has taken some turkey, ham, chicken and cheese. Sandy's other colleagues have also taken food back, as have the supermarket staff. They obviously can't resell this produce so at least it is being eaten and not chucked as often happens. I'm going to be taking ham or roast chicken sandwiches to the office for another month.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Chilli crab

S: While Phil was in Manila on business, my two sisters came to visit and we pigged out as usual. Here we are eating chilli crab in Geylang ...


S: my nephew's the one on the left, husband on the right ...

DIY man

S: Phil is getting better at DIY! Putting up the curtains he only chopped off one finger. Amazingly the curtains are still up after two weeks; his shelves lasted ten days before falling down.

Food @ Baxter Farm

P: I love eating at Baxter Farm! Delicious food, perfect setting, service can be a bit slack. Roast lamb (from the village) with homemade redcurrant chilli jelly and roasted beetroot for dinner in the conservatory ...

Pork pie for lunch under the pear tree ...

It's back inside with Great Great Great Uncle Amos for beouf Bourgignon and bread dumplings smuggled in from Prague ...

And when there are sixty for lunch, it's into the barn with the ducks ...

Mutton soup

P: To the untrained eye, this looks like a bowl of vomit. It is in fact the best mutton soup (sup kambing) in Singapore. Rich, hot and full of spices such as star anise and cinnamon, it's the perfect broth to dip chunks of baguette into. Full of mutton, crispy shallots and chopped Chinese parsley. Look out for it at Seah Inn Food Centre opposite HarbourFront. Sandy and I had a couple of bowls for breakfast this morning. Delicious.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fear Factor food in the Philippines

P: I'm just back from a business trip to Manila ... with food poisoning. Note to self: don't try eating street food on business trips, stick to boring but safe restaurant food. Luckily I fell ill after my last meeting ... in fact I was eating to celebrate a new deal to get Monsoon Books' titles into the Philippines. Note to self: celebrate with alcohol, not "balut" (fertilized duck eggs with a nearly developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell). Anyway, from September, we'll be carried by the two main chains, National Bookstore and Powerbooks, which together account for over 100 stores in the Metro Manila area and environs. I visited a couple of the stores in Manila and I was really impressed. They are well stocked and full of customers ... I think Filipinos read a lot more than Singaporeans and Malaysians. All the books were in English ... and far less conservative a selection than in Singapore. All the shops had a gay and lesbian section; in fact, the retail buyers asked me if I had anything on transvestites ... I don't, and for the first time ever I felt as though Monsoon was the conservative publisher! One of my authors, Suchen Christine Lim (winner of the Singapore Literature Prize), is currently teaching creative writing at Anteneo Uni in Manila so we'll launch her latest book there next month.

I didn't get to see anything of Manila apart from the hotel bathroom, the World Trade Centre, the Mall of Asia and the duck-embryo stall but I'm sure I'll be back again soon. I did go out one night with two publishers and we had a great meal of sizzling sisig (leftover parts of a pig’s head, such as the ears, roasted then minced and seasoned with lime and chili); inihaw na pusit (grilled squid); tadyang (crispy beef ribs); and bagoong (fermented shrimp paste)-flavoured rice. Delicious! And with ten mugs of beer and a pitcher of frozen margarita, the bill came to 45 Singapore dollars (15 quid / 30 US). I couldn't have even got the jug of margarita for that price in Singapore! (I do enjoy drinking beer for S$1, or 30 pence, a mug!) Other food I ate included pork and chicken adobo; and a flavourless hotel dish of flattened eggplant with minced beed and egg on top.

I didn't get a chance to ride in a jeepney so I'll have to go back.