About orionstar

Easily amused, easily interested, easily bored. Always looking out for new experiences..The world is so vast...

Happy 9th Wedding Anniversary to Us!

It seems like just yesterday that we got married. It’s 9 years now and next year, it will be the 10th. A decade of marriage is quite a feat eh. Not to mention having to accommodate my whims and fancies, and nonsensical requests (a good example coming up).

Our exact anniversary is coming Wed but I’d decided to give the hubby an early gift. It’s a lot easier to get gifts for him than him for me. No thanks to my general finicky nature. Comparatively, Gary’s taste are generally simpler. He doesn’t care much for brands or even designs. Clothes are just clothes. As long as they fit him and don’t look too outrageous, they are good enough. Best if it’s got something to do with his favourite EPL team, Liverpool. Having said that, I decided not to be predictable this year and get him (yet) another Liverpool or sports jersey.

Hence, I was thinking hard of what can I get him this year that he needs. Was just window shopping around until I come across this huge poster of popular Korean celebrity, Lee Min Ho, holding onto a dark blue laptop bag for the “Samsonite Red” label.

Ah yes!! A new laptop bag would be perfect. His current bag, a Samsonite replica, was given by a friend years ago and is looking a little worn down. The PVC parts are also fast stripping away. Contrary to his current rather bulky looking bag, this blue bag (which Lee Min Ho is holding) looks reasonably stylish and also functional from the numerous pockets and roomy interior.

So I got this bag and decided to “coerce” the hubby into THIS pose… LOL!!

For a laugh, I had posted in Facebook. Some of the comments were hilarious, including highlighting the similarities (“OMG, cannot see the differences!”, “Actually looks pretty close”). Hahaha… so funny…

In the evening, we had checked out “Torikin” (鸡金) at “Crown Centre” (557 Bukit Timah Road #01-14/16). Relatively a new kid on the block since it had just opened last Oct, but they have several branches in Japan. This area brings nostalgic memories for Gary as his secondary school and JC are nearby.

Last week, we had picked up the free “Oishi” magazine at Mediya supermarket. There were 3 nabemono (Japanese hotpot) restaurants featured in this issue. “Torikin” caught my eye just by the nature of their hotpot- “Mitzutaki”, i.e. a hotpot of fresh chicken and vegetables.

Oh yes, I love a hearty wholesome chicken soup that warms the stomach and the soul. Having tried and enjoyed “Tsukada Nojo” (love the soup but hate the crazy queues) and “Beauty in the Pot” (by the Paradise Group), “Torikin” had definitely piqued our interest.

Naturally, we will make some comparison with “Tsukada Nojo”. Price-wise, “Torikin” hotpot at $70 for 2 pax is more pricey than Tsukada’s $25 per pax. There are also more variety of other dishes including sashimi, sushi and others.

We had ordered the Hakata Tonpei-yaki, which is similar to Okonomiyaki, which is a mix of sliced pork and mainly shredded cabbage encased in an omelette topped with mayo and spring onions, and cooked as well as served on a sizzling hotplate. This tonpei-yaki is unlike the typical okonomiyakis that we had tried. For one, the cabbage was shredded very finely and the sauce (or spice?) used in the mixture is more savoury.

As we’re pretty famished, the tonpei-yaki was wiped out quite quickly.

Then came their signature fried chicken. The chicken is well-fried, except I don’t particularly like crispy fried chicken that is drenched in sauce. This makes the crispy bits a little soggy despite the delicious sauce.

Now comes their signature!

There is a process in consuming the “Mizutaki”. Oh, the wait staff will assist in this process and adding the ingredients in. Unlike “Tsukada” where a pot of pale yellow curds of collagen would simmer and “melt” into a state of thick broth, the “Torikin” soup is served as it is, and is milky in colour and less thick in consistency. According to their Facebook page, this collagen-rich soup is cooked for 7 hours using traditional cooking methods.

According to the menu:

1) Start with tasting the soup that is served in a small soba cup.

2) Next, eat the cooked chicken with their homemade ponzu sauce. Can also dip the chicken in the special Yuzu Pepper (looks like sambal but it’s actually a paste made from yuzu zest and chilli peppers).

3) While eating the chicken, the wait staff will add in the other ingredients- minced chicken (to be shaped into little balls) and the vegetables.

4) After everything had been consumed, the last stage involves adding in rice, egg and seaweed for a simple and yet flavourful pot of porridge.

Indeed, none of this nutritious soup will go to waste.

Overall, I find “Torikin” soup less salty. While I do enjoy the thick rich broth of Tsukada, I’d find myself gulping more water after that. The soup at “Beauty in the Pot” is somewhat in between.

After a very satisfying meal, we’d still have room for desserts at “2am: dessertbar” in Holland Village. I had truly screwed away my recent strict diet this weekend. But it’s alright cos it’s our 9th wedding anniversary!!

May we have many more years to come. That means, the hubby would have many more years to tahan my nonsense!! Yippee!! :)

初二 at the “River Hongbao 2015″

Happy Lunar New Year! This year is great. 4 back-to back days of a long weekend. CNY to me is a rather sedated affair. Other than visiting the temple and the mother-in-law on the first day, the rest of the days are just rest-and-relax days. I can only wish it could be longer. Yeah, wishful thinking.. As I am typing this, it’s already Sun afternoon. Reality is increasingly kicking in as the hour passes. I don’t want to think about tomorrow. Argh..

Had a lunch of plain oats today. Think I had put on 2 kg from the deviation from our salad lunch plus a little over indulgence over the past few days. I think some of that could be water retention lah. Any excuse just to make myself feel that this excess weight is only temporary.. haha… Thankfully, I don’t like those CNY tarts and bak kwa, otherwise that’s another 5kg more. Aiya, CNY is a time of feasting so it’s ok to let loose during this period and then watch the diet again after that lor…

2015 is the year of the sheep, goat or whatever of similar breed, judging from the different images in the CNY decor. Not forgetting the creative play of the names in the CNY greetings like “Meh ewe have a goat year” or something like that. Next year would be the year of the monkey. Wonder how creative one can get with words like “monkey” or erm, “chimp”, “ape”, “orangutan”…

Like many others who probably after a day of visiting or just hanging around, we visited the “River Hongbao 2015″ at The Float @ Marina Bay on Fri. Think it has been some years since we last visited the river hongbao, which I have very vague memories of so it must have been quite a while. Maybe even before MBS was built.

2015 is also a year which the nation celebrates 50 years of independence, hence the numerous “SG50″ logo around. Hence, this year’s river hongbao had also featured snapshots of how CNY was celebrated in past 50 years through a photo exhibition “Reliving the Past, Welcoming the New Year”. There is also a huge backdrop of iconic infrastructure such as the Merlion, MBS, Changi Airport, the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles (a British statesman known for the founding of Singapore in 1819) and so on.

Other iconic highlights include Singa the Courtesy Lion, F&N orange soda bottle, and the dragon and pelican structures from the playgrounds of the 70s and 80s. Most of these structures were gone now except for a rare few but I guess would soon be gone in time too.

We found our zodiac animals!

Let’s check out the “Singapore Favourite Food Street”…

It’s quite disappointing actually. There are a couple of repeated stalls and quite a few are selling commonly seen food sold in pasar malams like ginormous deep-fried chicken drumsticks, fried fishballs, sausages and other deep-fried junk, Ramly burgers, kebab etc. Even the so-call local food stalls selling fish slice soup, wanton noodles and chicken rice don’t look very impressive. Or it could be the large crowd, lots of jostling among sweaty bodies and long queues, had negatively distracted me away from the food.

We didn’t stay to watch any performances. There are just too many people around and I don’t like to stay in crowded places for too long. So we headed back to Marina Square for dinner and call it a day.

And now it’s the last day of the long weekend… sob sob… Anyway, CNY is 15 days so I guess more huat-ing for many others next weekend then! :)

Old School

Was hanging out at H’s home last weekend, enjoying a very satisfying meal of steamed king crab legs and sake. Am still thinking about those damn juicy and meaty crab legs… Had remembered that H mentioned she had kept our school year books. Mine are probably recycled into somebody else’s yearbooks. Dunno if it’s the crabs or sake but a wave of nostalgia led me to request for H to dig out these year books.

She has books from our secondary school years and a couple from our primary school era. The oldest dated back to 1982! I am still in kindergarten then. I flipped the 1992 one. That’s the year of our graduation. My hair was short then. So were majority of my school mates. A look which must not be repeated again…The school rules did not allow long hair but that had long been removed. Lucky kids today.

Lots of memories from my secondary school years. Made great friends, including H who was my class partner in secondary 4, whom we had still kept in touch today. Remembered the simple days of just hanging around at the Macs next to Hougang interchange or wherever we could get our asses on. No smart phones, laptops, internet. Just good old chats and laughs. Great times. Not so great would be the stress and cramming for exams especially the crucial “O” Levels. Having consistently shitty grades for Science and Maths, even up till 2 months before the prelim exams, jolt me into seriously get my act together and buck up.

Then I flipped the 1984 yearbook. Was in primary 2 then. What really got me excited was these pictures of the old school building at Boundary Road before we moved to the new buildings (one for primary and the other for secondary) at Lorong Ah Soo where they’d still stand today.

The image below shows the main school building which housed the staff room, admin office, science lab, some class rooms and the school hall at the second floor. Think the home econs room was at the second floor too, at the corner of the school hall. Yup, my memory for such details is that good. Haha… Maybe with some variation lah.

As far as my memory can stretch, I was reminded of this silly game during primary 3. It was right after our exams, 2 or 3 of my classmates and myself were so bored out of our minds that we’d actually devised an exploration game of sorts. We had convinced ourselves that there was some “mystery” behind the stage at the hall and we should “investigate” what that was. Crazy much?

Here’s a run-down of our insane plan…

Classes were in the afternoon session so shortly before assembly, we would gather at the back of the school hall, near the stage area. At that time, think the sec 4 students were having their “O” Levels. Had recalled there were rows of students, heads down and furiously scribbling. Ooh, that makes the game more exciting! Cos we had to dodge the eyes of the invigilators and the students, which I doubt they would look up as they were battling against time and avoiding a black-out while the answers were still fresh in their heads, to run from one end of the stage to the other. The strategy was to make sure no one was looking, dashed to the centre of the stage and hide behind the lectern, checked again and run to the other side.

The back of the stage was just dusty and filled with old props and shit. There was no mystery. We were just bored and needed some excitement. If we were caught running across the stage, I suspect we would just be reprimanded and probably sent to detention. No biggie. After about 3 or 4 such nonsensical dashes across the stage, we realised that this “game” wasn’t fun anymore and the “exploration” was officially over, and we never revived it. Might as well cos the school term was ending anyway, and we had moved to the new building the next year.

More pictures of the old school below. The book store was literally a hole in the wall but super packed during recess time where kids would check out cute stationery.

On to my “favourite” topic… the toilets… No, they were definitely NOT my favourite part of the school. Cos the standard of toilets in those days were more or less similar, that is, dank, stinky and mainly squat toilet bowls, I had somehow put up with them. In current times, I would rather torture my poor bladder and search for a cleaner toilet unless I had absolutely no choice.

The toilet cubicles in the old school building were tiny and often dark and very wet. I don’t recall the floor as ever been dry. The wood of most, if not all, of the cubicle doors were rotten either by termites or the structure had simply disintegrated from the dampness… Essentially, the toilets were just eeewww…

There are other memories of school days but think I shall stop here… The recollection to be continued another day…Cos I need to start cooking our reunion dinner now….

Happy Chinese New Year to all!!!

1.5kg

2015 seems to be the turning point in my life where I am determined to achieve certain goals that I had procrastinated for a while. Will talk more about that some other time. So, one of these goals is to lead a healthy lifestyle, i.e. exercise more, eat healthy etc. Sad to say, I am not very consistent in this area. But I had decided to do something about it, starting with the diet.

Earlier this year, I started making salad lunches for ourselves almost everyday except on days where we have appointments or what not. My salads are usually on the savoury side, cos I am not too fond of fruits and sweet stuff in them. Even so, I would boil the meat rather than pan-fry or grill. And because I boil everything, except for the greens, the preparation time is no more than 15, at max, 20 mins. Hence, the process of salad-making every night hasn’t turned into a tedious chore (yet).

Indeed, halving (or I would like to think so) my calories at lunch helps. I am surprised quite a number of seemingly healthy food like fish bee-hoon soup is quite high in calories. Well, unless it’s just fish and vegs in a non-milk soup, but not forgetting the amount of salt and oil. So I would think my non-fried, all-boiled salad lunches are  definitely healthier.

Guess what!

I’d weighed myself recently and found that I had lost around 1.5kg since the end of last year!! The healthy eating must have paid off. Ok, plus the increasing stress at work too. When I m stressed-out, food is the last thing on my mind.

Just to be sure that this is not just a once-off anomaly, I’d weighed myself daily for the past week and it shows the same (with some slight variance +/- few grams) weight!

Though 1.5kg isn’t physically obvious but I do feel a little lighter, and that my clothes fit better. Again, it is not a lot but it does make one feel better. And this is no crash diet. I cheat during the weekends otherwise life is no fun. I just stop snacking during the day. Well, I don’t do that usually. Only sometimes when the sugar craving hits, and I’ll just nibble a little of my biggest weakness- chocolate. But now, even the chocolate nibbling needs to be reduced.

Hope to keep up with the healthy eating and keep DOWN the weight! :)

A Teochew Feast at Chao Shan Cuisine

As mentioned previously, Friday nights and weekends are “cheat days” where I will allow rich and sinful food into my diet. Haha…

B had returned home for a short visit and before she leaves, she had asked for another meet-up (aka feasting session). Including me, her and 3 others, that’s a reasonable size to share a couple of dishes at a decent restaurant. Well, I have this personal rule about dining at zichar or similar eateries, anything less than 3 people is not worth it. Having more people is indeed the case of “the more the merrier” or rather, “the more the variety of dishes one can sample”. Hee…

For our weekend meet-up, we had settled for “Chao Shan Cuisine) (85 Beach Road) which specialises in Teochew cuisine. In our gathering of 5, 3 are Teochews. The only typical Teochew dishes I know are steamed fish, pork jelly and yam paste (“orh ni“).

“Chao Shan” is very popular so reservations are a must. Looking at the very small and cramped interior, no way one’s gonna get a table during the weekends without reservation. This also highlights another thing. The acoustic, of chatter, laughter, waitresses squeezing through the narrow spaces between each table with plates of hot food hovering over your heads, within this small restaurant, is magnified. B said she couldn’t even hear herself. Definitely not a place to, you know, chill and have a nice chat. It’s literally an “eat-and-go” kind of place.

Looking at the image above, we had ordered (from top left clockwise) braised goose, oyster omelette, liver roll, pork jelly and not in the picture, a large steamed pomfret that’s freaking expensive and sautéed spinach.

Dishes like braised goose and the pork jelly are uncommon here. Maybe I haven’t been checking out a lot of restaurants/eateries but I hardly see these 2 dishes around. My friend said that very good pork jelly are a rare gem here. It seems like a very time-consuming dish to make so guess that’s a reason why not many places serve this dish.

Actually, this is my first time trying this dish. Like another friend P, I have this thing against gelatinous savoury dishes. It’s just… weird… It didn’t look that gross so I’d put aside my “thing” and tried a piece. It wasn’t that bad but it takes some getting used to, especially the texture. It’s the jelly lah.

The braised goose was good with the taste and texture reminiscent of braised duck. H had actually seek confirmation from the waitress if this is really goose. Obviously, the waitress responded an affirmative. I am wondering, what if, she answered otherwise. That would be, erm, shocking? LOL… The meat isn’t too dry so that’s good. What I like is the flavourful braised sauce which all of us had liberally drenched our plain rice with. I think I would be satisfied just eating a bowl of rice with this sauce.

Frankly, I don’t really like oyster omelette other than the faint memory of it being one of my late granny’s favourite food. She would often get a pack from the hawker centre (now closed, I think?) next to the Bedok interchange. But I won’t say no if my friends wanna order oyster omelette. I would nip mainly at the egg and flour and leave the vile (yes, that’s how I feel about the taste) oysters aside. A few had tried to convince me that really fresh oysters are not that pungent and icky.. It’s ok…All those wonderful adjectives won’t change my mind. Haha…

Back to Chao Shan’s oyster omelette, it’s actually damn oily and laden with flour. I know those are the main ingredients of such an omelette but this one seems to have too much of that. We had ordered the large version. Maybe a smaller size won’t be that bad?

Other than oysters, I am also not too fond of innards such as intestines and liver. So when my friends were deliberating over order the liver roll, I was apprehensive as well. But I shall not be a spoil spot lah. Anyway, the liver roll looked like a piece of ngoh hiang. It was the first to arrive and I was quite famished so had succumbed to try a piece. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as gamey as I’d thought it would taste. The liver is probably masked by the five-spice powder or something. It was pretty good.

I shall not go into details on the steamed pomfret. I like pomfret but this fish is just so pricey.

After dinner, we headed to the Intercon hotel for some wine and to unwind. Hey, that kinda rhymes!

The next day, I had cycled around Bedok Reservoir to burn off the calories of these indulgences….

Just like that, the weekend is over… Sigh……………

Salad days

Had been whining about wanting to lose weight for the longest time. That goal had started since 10 over years ago actually. There’s some progress now and then, depending on which point over the past decade which I had gained some and then lose some and the cycle goes on… Like a yoyo.

By now, I should wake up to the reality that I won’t get back to the weight and figure, and metabolism of my university days. Won’t say it’s impossible, hence I am still wishing, but definitely not in denial cos I am fully aware that the journey to losing the flab and being toned requires lots of hard work, discipline and patience in both exercise and diet. There’s no quick fix.

Okaayyy… exercise… Hmm… Other than the occasional cycling, whch I am getting a little lazy on that (shit!), I am not very active in this department. Oops… Again, in the past decade, I had been to the gym on/off, tried exercise classes briefly, even yoga which I don’t really like and our stationary bike at home if I am not in the mood to go for a ride outside. In short, I am not very consistent and disciplined when it comes to exercise.

For someone who enjoys food, diet is surprisingly something I can control. Yes, I do indulge in junk food once in a while and I don’t watch my diet that stringently during the weekends. That’s why I tend to be more picky and strict for the rest of the week.

Now I am inspired by some colleagues to even pack lunch from home. Something which I’ve never done in my entire working life. Instead of the conventional stereotype that women would cook and pack such lunches, it is the reverse for my division. It’s the males who would prepare (except for one, whose wife does it for him) their food – and it’s all healthy stuff like salad and sandwiches – to work.

We all know food from hawker centres and food courts are usually oily, salty, has MSG and what not. So it’s good to eat more home-cooked food, provided you go easy or avoid all these unhealthy stuff in the process of cooking.

I’d grown to appreciate salads over the years. Who says greens can be boring or bland, and yet remained a healthy balanced meal? As compared to a cooked meal of rice or noodles + 2 dishes, salads are actually less of a hassle to prepare and I’d usually prepared my ingredients by boiling or grilling so the washing up is pretty minimal.

For example, last night, I had put together some lettuces (bought the pre-mixed ones), boiled some mushrooms and shrimps for protein and added some herb roasted potatoes (did those in the afternoon) for carbo. For the dressing, I had used non-creamy types like yuzu sesame with just a teeny dash of truffle oil for that lovely aroma. Had packed the same for Gary. That’s our lunch for today.

So far, I had included ingredients such as Israeli couscous, boiled chicken, hard-boiled eggs. For Gary, I would add in some walnuts and raisins, which I had omitted from mine cos I don’t really like sweet stuff in my salad.

Surprised that Gary had enjoyed them. Thought he would prefer something more substantial but he is asking for more of such salad lunches. So that is a good thing. Personally, I like that I am not eating too full and end up feeling lethargic and sleepy in the afternoon.

Well, you may wonder, how long can I continue preparing such lunches. I hope, as long as possible. In a way, that’s considered a form of discipline right? Hehe…

Truffle Garlic Herb Bread (By bread machine)

Had to rouse our bread machine, from its long break of some 2 months or so, into work today. Apart from the traditional plain bread, I am inspired to go for something more savoury and different.

The source of the inspiration: This wonderful loaf of truffle-infused porcini mushrooms with rosemary from “Dolcetto” (by Basilico at Regent Hotel), compliments from the Liu sisters cos they love it so much and decided to share that joy with me too. I recalled relishing every bite of the soft and aromatic bread and hoping I have the skills to make a similar loaf too. Could have wolf down more if not for the high carbo which would have zipped straight to my tummy and hips, knowing that I won’t burn that off fast enough.

Anyway, the bread machine does all the work. I’ll just need to add in the right ingredients in the right quantity. Had followed the usual while bread recipe from the bread machine manual: 1 tbsp vegetable oil, 300ml milk, 1 egg, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp sugar, 450g bread flour, 1 dash of mixed herbs and 1.5 tsp instant yeast.

I did not add the truffle oil in because the high heat, in the process of baking, would affect the flavour. Towards the last 15 mins of the baking time, I had quickly opened the lid of the bread machine and spread a handful of minced garlic and some more mixed herbs on the surface of the bread. Almost instantly, the fragrant aroma of herbs, garlic and dough had permeated the living room.

After the baking time is up, I had removed the bread tin from the machine and drizzle about 1 tbsp of truffle oil on the surface. Next, the freshly baked bread is removed from the tin and left to cool on a piece of wire rack. Smells wonderful! :)