Life took me for one hell of a ride in the past few months, forcing me to face mortality in the face and also forcing me to question everything that I didn’t use to question in my life. I wasn’t even a hedonistic person to begin with but I sure didn’t pay any attention to what I put or didn’t put in my body when it comes to food. I mean, that’s why this blog is about food.
In any case, with my whole family slowly emerging out of the Big C ordeal (actually all credit goes to my sister, she’s the survivor), I’ve finally been able to take some time out and gain some perspective on what happened (or more like, WTH just happened??). When the news first broke, I immediately kicked into action by going online to do endless research, and for some reason I found myself googling ‘natural treatments’ and ‘diet’. I think a part of me has always been drawn to that, I’m always a little skeptical of doctors and conventional treatments. And of course I was confronted with so much advocacy from around the world on diet changes or rather transformation to treat, prevent, or at least minimise the risk of cancer. The more you read, the less you can run away from it. Yes I was afraid of what I was reading and thinking about what I need to give up (fried chicken, fried everything, glorious red meat, desserts), I wanted to run away.
But every one copes with traumatic situations differently. Some people decide that since life is going to be so short anyway, why not enjoy life’s pleasures while you can? I’ve spoken to friends who have declared that it isn’t their wish to live till they are 80, and constantly live in the fear of dying. They rather die young, and happy. I completely respect that.
I admit that at first I’d taken drastic steps to change my diet out of sheer fear. I bought vitamin supplements, any and every vegetable that’s supposed to be anti-cancer, replaced refined flour products with brown rice and wholemeal, bought a juicer, ate quinoa and chia seeds for the first time. iHerb found another health-crazed customer. Mortality suddenly became very real to me and I was terrified for my sibling, for my family, and for myself. Researching and buying health and “c-treatment” foods for my sister and family was the only way I knew how to deal with the situation. I couldn’t just sit back and wait for the docs to do their thing. I was obsessed, compulsive, paranoid.
Then one evening in April, I tried to get every one at home to eat raw garlic with honey and was rejected, violently. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I realised I was taking it too far, too soon.
A few months later, I’m glad to say I’ve found peace and am no longer pointing the gun at every one to eat their kale. I’m still committed to a healthier diet today, but it isn’t because I’m afraid of dying. It’s out of love for myself and my loved ones. I’ve also become more moderate, occasionally giving myself a treat of ‘forbidden foods’. I’ve slowly started explaining to close friends why I’ve lost weight, why I’m being a health freak, why I’m willing to spend a bit more on organic products. It is hard to be social when you’ve almost cut out alcohol (almost being the definitive word) and don’t really care for any dish that screams meat and preservatives all over it. I can’t visit another fast food chain, not with the knowledge I’ve gained. But I guess I don’t want to see that as an excuse to give up what I’ve embarked on. I also want to be a positive influence, and encourage my sister and the rest of my family to stay committed to a healthier diet and lifestyle.
And it’s not just about food, it’s about re-prioritising, figure out what’s really important in life, not sweating the small things anymore, and not only deciding what you need to do in life but also what you don’t need to do in life. Do I really need to stress out over a challenge at work? No, I’ll try to fix it but not stress out. Do I really need to get upset at a rude taxi driver? No, I’ll make my stand but I’ll get over it immediately. It’s easier said than done, and I’m still not completely detached from worldly worries yet but it makes such a huge difference even if I’m 5% less negative about things.
And that, my friends, is my fresh start. Here’s to eating well, travelling well, and living well.
I recently had the good fortune of attending a mini dessert class conducted by a renowned Singaporean chef and owner of 2am Dessert Bar, Janice Wong.
Janice is arguably one of the top dessert chefs in Singapore, gaining recognition by participating in culinary events all over the world. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never been to her dessert bar yet despite all the rave reviews, but thanks to a brilliant company event planned by the boss, I got to visit the 2am lab and took part in a dessert class. Janice says she and her team of chefs use this ‘research facility’ to experiment with ingredients and cooking techniques. For now, they run private dining events and classes, do collaborations from time to time, as well as provide consultancy on projects they take an interest in. Very cool idea, and I hope they manage to keep this running for a long time.
At the class, I got to learn how to make chocolate h20 (or chocolate water), and salted caramel. I will not be sharing the recipes here especially since chocolate h20 is Janice’s very own creation. But they are available in her cookbook ‘Perfection’, which can be purchased here. I got a copy myself, hoping that I’ll get down to trying them out one by one once I get the keys to my own place and have my own kitchen. Ugh counting down to 2016.
Here are some pictures though:
This is the chocolate h20 we made, an incredibly light chocolate dessert created for those craving chocolate but still want something light. I think they look like fossils! The most important ingredient is of course the chocolate (we used Michel Cluizel). We also used a siphon injector (what!?!) and liquid nitrogen which was so cool and is essentially what helped to create this avant-garde looking chocolate. Obviously liquid nitrogen is not something you can get hold of from your friendly neighbourhood stores, but I’m sure it will taste equally great frozen in the fridge.
Sneak peek at one of the pages in the cookbook I bought, just to illustrate how innovative her dessert creations are. Initially I justified the purchase with the intention to gift this to a friend but I’ve decided to keep it for myself, which is of course still totally justifiable.
I had such a great time at the class that I neglected to take any pictures of the salted caramel! I’m still hating myself for it. The salted caramel was AMAZING and I know how hard it is to make a good one. Can’t wait to visit the 2am dessert bar soon.
For those who don’t speak Thai (like me), that translates to ‘very delicious’ and hopefully you’ll be saying that after reading this blog post 🙂
I’ve always been fond of Thailand – its islands, cities, people, culture, art…and FOOD! For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been craving for some good Thai grub – when you got an itch, you have to scratch it! There is an excellent, authentic and affordable Thai restaurant located just by my place (called Jai Thai) but I thought I’d take a stab at making it at home.
Fortunately, ingredients for Thai cuisine are not very hard to find in Singapore (as compared to Indian). In fact, most recipes are simple and easy-to-cook. Today, I tried two classic Thai dishes – Tom Yum Goong and Grapow Gai (Chicken Basil). Let’s start with the ingredients:
Tom Yum Goong
3-4 bird’s eye chilies (also known as chili padi)
Handful of cilantro
2 tablespoons fish sauce
6 kaffir lime leaves
3 stalks lemongrass
2 big limes
Handful of mushrooms
1 cup shrimp
5 cups water
3-4 bird’s eye chilies
3-4 pods of garlic
2 tablespoons fish sauce
Big handful of sweet basil
250 grams ground chicken
Sauce 1: 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce mixed with 1 teaspoon of sugar
Sauce 2: 1-2 tablespoons oyster sauce
And the most important part, the directions:
Tom Yum Goong
- Peel and de-vein the shrimp and set them aside
- Cut lemongrass into smaller pieces, 5-6 inches long. Use the back of your knife to pound the lemongrass, just to bruise it and release the flavor
- Boil water and add lemongrass. Let it continue to boil for another five minutes
- Add in the fish sauce and crushed chilies
- Remove the stems from the kaffir lime leaves and add the leaves to the boiling soup
- Clean and halve the mushrooms and add them to the mixture as well
- Add the shrimp and turn off the heat. Shrimp gets tough very quickly, and will cook even when it is just sitting in the warm broth
- Squeeze some lime juice into serving bowls and add the soup
- Finally, garnish with a generous amount of cilantro and there you have it!
Tip: For those who like their soup spicy, feel free to add some thai chili paste (also known as Nam Prig Pow) as well.
- Fry crushed garlic and chilies in oil over high heat
- When garlic starts to turn brown, drop the ground chicken in and stir constantly till juice dries up
- Add in fish sauce and sweet basil
- Stir in sauce 1 and 2
- Mix thoroughly and serve with steamed white rice
Even as a noob, I thought these were two of the simplest recipes I’ve tried in a while. Plus it is aroy mak mak, what’s there not to love?
Enjoy / B
Diwali – also known as the ‘festival of lights’ – is considered one of the most important festivals (there are hundreds, possibly thousands) amongst Hindus. Many fill their homes with oil lamps during this period to signify the triumph of good over evil.
For me, Diwali’s abit like Thanksgiving where families simply get together and be thankful for one another. Not forgetting the traditional wear, delightful sweets, colourful decorations and fire crackers. So really, it’s tonnes of eating, drinking and being merry!
This year also marks the first Diwali with my husband-to-be and to celebrate the special occasion, I decided to make a special Indian sweet called Kheer (directly translates to ‘milk’)! It is an essential dish made during Hindu celebrations and I thought it’d be the perfect way to kick things off this year.
Knowing how tedious the process of making these sweets can be, I was a bit nervous from the get-go. Little did I know, the actual cooking would be the least of my worries. The hardest part was getting all the right ingredients! If you ask any Indian in Singapore (or anyone for that matter), Mustafa Shopping Centre always comes up when inquiring about local produce. Unfortunately, I did not plan ahead and make a trip in advance so I tried my neighbourhood supermarket Fairprice instead. I did manage to get a couple of things but a few essential ingredients were missing – like ghee and broken vermicelli. Thankfully, there is a small little shop along Tanjong Katong – called Katong News Agency – that sells many Indian items. I remember this store from 20 years ago during my childhood days – it started out as a stationery and bookstore but today, it strangely offers a lot more! (Tip: for those looking for old school stationery, this is your place.)
Anyway, with all my ingredients in hand, here goes. First up, these are all the items you’ll need for the recipe:
And then comes the directions:
- Dry roast broken vermicelli with a touch of ghee. Once golden brown, turn off heat and set aside
- Boil milk in a deep pan. Slowly add the vermicelli to the milk while stirring constantly for 5 minutes
- Add condensed milk and cardamom pods to the mixture and stir well until the mixture starts boiling. Add sugar to taste
- In a separate frying pan, heat ghee. Lightly roast some cashew nuts and raisins for 3 minutes. Transfer it to the vermicelli dessert once done and voila!
- Serve hot or chilled – if you’re cooking this for the first time like me, try abit of both 🙂
Diwali may be over now but this sugar-coated memory still remains.
love / B