sunday cooking 10

my entire family sans me were invited to a wedding lunch, so I decided to cook myself a feast in their absence. (havoc in the kitchen without anyone’s interference!)

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this is the first time I bought (half a) fresh chicken from the butcher – usually I’d only order the breast, thought I’d try something new. marinated in salt, pepper, italian herb mix and a splash of orange juice.

I oiled the pan with the chicken skin before sautéing the onions, followed by the peppers (I like my peppers very soft). next came the potatoes and the chicken, and a can of lager.

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chicken stew! the recipe asked for stout, but I substituted it with a strong brew in my possession that I didn’t enjoy. great way to use up unwanted alcohol.

my sister ate my leftovers for dinner and she liked it! hooray. but she prefers last week’s egg-tomato dish haha.

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on this last night of the seventh month

just thought i’d share this touching and poignant strip i saw on sgag. apparently truly overheard by the poster!

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*satay – a delectable dish of grilled/barbequed meat on bamboo skewers
*’burn’ – burnt offerings to the dead (candles, paper money, papier-mache houses/cars/clothes/mobile phones/all manner of material goods)

a translation from the singlish…
satay man: satay for you, auntie?
auntie: 10 chicken satay, brother! grill until it is burnt then you help me throw away!
satay man: throw away?
auntie: now seventh month, i want to ‘burn’ satay for my late husband la. last time he love to eat your satay! thank you, brother!

i appreciate the incident also because it demonstrates how love can transcend religious and cultural borders. the satay man here is malay, who tend to be muslim, while the practice of burning offerings to the dead is a taoist one. yours truly here is a christian – but i think it safe to say we are all touched by this little anecdote.

* * * * *
will blog about the singapore elections if i ever get down to organising my thoughts. meanwhile, thank you for checking on me. my mood swings and emotional downs have been quite unmanageable of late – i feel so angry all the time and i’ve been punching walls till my hands smart and i don’t understand why. not sure if there is even anything to understand…but thanks for keeping an eye.

What the living do during the Hungry Ghost Festival

I’m guessing some foreign readers had their interest piqued by my mention of the Seventh Month in the previous post – quite a number of clicks for the wikipedia link!

You may be interested to see how it is celebrated then. (I’ll admit, I don’t know much – a lot of it are just practices I observe year after year without understanding the symbolism behind.)

There’s usually entertainment put up for the visiting souls – the traditional one being Teochew street opera on make-shift stages.

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When there are seats laid out, the first row would be left empty for the ‘good brothers’. In this case, no seats were laid out, but there were decorated joss candles (sustenance for the spirits) and offerings being burnt.

There would be a big (again, make-shift) altar for deity worship –

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The gods depicted on the banner are FuLuShou – Prosperity, Status and Longevity. This particular ceremony was organised by the Redhill Market association. The evening would begin with prayer and invocation of the spirits for their blessing and continued support, thereafter the hawkers gather for dinner and a very noisy auction of auspicious objects.

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Those objects would have been blessed earlier at the altar and include things like deity statuettes made of gold and pots of blessed rice that you can choose to display or cook. The proceeds from the auction will go toward funding entertainment like the street opera and getai (lit. song stage) for next year’s seventh month.

While the living enjoy their food, nobody forgets about the invisible guests. Dinner is set aside for them too –

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Note the joss sticks sticking out of the rice bowls. This is why we Chinese, no matter what religion we may subscribe to, think it rude (some say inauspicious) to stick chopsticks into rice bowls. It is customary to lay them flat on the rim of the bowl.

Hope you enjoyed this slice of old Singapore, with rituals that have since died out in China under communist rule.

Eating in Xinjiang

One of the harder parts of travelling alone in China comes from finding good food. Asians, in general, pride communal meals, and the classic Chinese meal consists of several dishes shared around a table. Of course there are options for the solo eater, just that you’ve got less variety.

My favourite was the pilaf/zhua fan. I didn’t take pictures of it because it’s essentially a picture of fried rice. What’s unique about it is that it’s cooked w lots of raisins. What’s not so pleasant about it is that the rice glistens with oil, and you can feel your arteries clogging as you eat.

Another is the beef lamian (hand-pulled noodles). Again, no pictures because everyone knows what a bowl of noodles looks like. In China, they’ve got budget options. When you order a ‘niu rou la mian’, the default dish is plain noodles in beef soup. If you want your beef noodles to be served with slices of beef, you gotta specify ‘la mian jia niu rou’ (noodles, add beef).

You’ll see people eating (savoury) naan bread everywhere. Here’s the most popular chain, Abdullah’s Naan (see the red signboard on the right) –

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People eat this as the main meal or as a midday snack. I personally found it too dry (used to the Indian version in Singapore!) and I don’t like sesame seeds in my food so I had this only once. To be eaten on its own, or spread with cream cheese.

Hand-made ice cream!

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(note the pirated haagen-dazs design, which reads ‘wish you success in the examination’)
I was slightly disturbed that the ice cream was exposed to the air like in the photograph, but I decided to take a chance with my tummy. I was fine, but then of course my stomach has survived street food all over so that’s really up to the individual.

And finally, my favourite yang rou chuan/mutton kebabs!

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I ate this whenever I could! I wish I had more!

Today’s dinner: Camembert on Crackers!

Something I’ve been looking forward to! Just that every time I wanted this, we’d had too heavy a dinner to have this as dessert. Today, it was the meal proper.

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Australian camembert, pate de jamon, Meiji crackers and seedless grapes.

Accompanied by Mazzei wine (that which I lovingly brought back from Fonterutoli in Tuscany, Italy) and uh, orange juice for my teetotaller friend.