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Everything Is More Beautiful

I love to write when I am inspired. The story simply…flows. The process of stringing words together becomes so effortless, and the by-product, a memory that evokes and stirs. I may not be a wordsmith and I may not have a flawless command of the English language, but being able to pen my thoughts delights me to no end.

These days, inspiration plays hide-and-seek with me. Too busy, too tired, I often find myself psyched for that moment, only to be distracted or rudely snapped out of it. But yesterday evening, I was all alone. M was hard at work on a night shift, and little Faith was fast asleep. I didn’t realise how much I miss being by myself, until the quietude consumed me. I didn’t realise how much I miss being able to revel in nothing but my memories. I didn’t realise how much I miss being able to think. It was nice, being alone.

I found myself reaching out for my laptop and leafing through the tens of thousands of photos I have taken over the past three years. You see, I first fell in love with photography back in London and have been quite the shutterbug since, albeit a very amateurish one. Every photo brings me right back to the moment that I captured. There isn’t a single image that I couldn’t put my finger to. In a mere few hours, I took an epic tour of my life and it was, for the lack of a better phrase, pretty freakin’ awesome.

Some moments were better than others, of course. Some were good AND bad, such as the ones during our first family vacation in Perth. The three of us were just grasping the concept of FAMILY, and learning how to live with one another. Faith was barely three months old then and fell rather ill during the trip (think at least eight watery, colourless poopy diapers a day). We were worried sick and comforted her as much as we could, but we were also pissing mad whenever she screamed in the car seat. And she screamed EVERY SINGLE TIME. M and I tried to relax, but there was so much going on that we couldn’t. When the nights fell, we shuddered as we braced ourselves for hourly wakings that a sleep regression had brought upon us. Yet, there were the moments, when we felt so much love from our lovely hosts (the McLeans, who have never met us in person but generously offered to put us up and even welcomed us with our first Australian barbie), tilted our heads back with our eyes closed so the warm and inviting rays hit our faces, and held hands as we silently strolled through the campus of my father’s alma mater with his granddaughter nicely tucked into the carrier.

To others, this may just be another holiday, with a wee bit more drama, pitstops, and a bigass diaper bag, but to me, our first family vacation taught me love, patience, endurance, strength, generosity, friendship and the faith that we can get through anything as long as we are together.

Everything was more beautiful. Even the skies were bluer.

It was lovely, being alone.

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My Curry Puff Can Sing

M really, REALLY loves his curry puffs. That was the first thing I learnt about him when we were dating. Actually, maybe it’s one of two things that I first knew about M. The other is chicken curry, but since chicken curry is inside a curry puff, I suppose I could call it The First One-Big-Thing I knew about M. Now, M loves a good curry puff so much, that sometimes, I’m not sure which or who he would save in a fire – a puff or me. I’m not offended, because I mean let’s face it – a curry puff looks good and tastes good blistered and flaky – I can’t possible pull that off.

For his birthday last year, M asked me if I could make curry puffs for him. Well, I procrastinated, for a year, but thank goodness, my in-laws bought some Mr. Ting curry puffs and asked my parents to bring them over when they visited us in London. It was a sweet surprise for M. Almost a year later, I decided it was time to honour the request of my dearest husband. M decided to take part too, as he’s personally vested in this, so he made the chicken curry (a very thick version so we can pack it into the puff, you don’t want the curry to be making the pastry soggy…) with LOTS of tender, loving care. I’ve never seen him so focussed on getting the curry perfect for puffs. As for me, I used some of the pastry that was left over from making Portuguese egg tarts, and made more fresh puff pastry to accommodate the big pot of curry.

The result? Suffice to say that we were excellent partners-in-crime. The curry puff was perfectly flaky and fragrant, and yes, I would even go as far as bonkers-land to tell you that my curry puff ‘sings’! If you don’t believe me, watch this video. Yet, no frying was needed! This is definitely one of the best kitchen collaborations between us. We wolfed down two immediately, and exercised some self-restraint by popping the rest in the freezer. These kept well for a few weeks, all you have to do is to thaw the puffs out for a few minutes, and bake them as and when your craving hits.

The recipe for the puff pastry is the same as the one for my Portuguese egg tarts, except that I scaled the proportions of the ingredients up to match 200g of strong white bread flour. This should make about 10 large curry puffs. At Step 7 of the recipe, after cutting the pastry roll into 30g portions, with the cut side facing up (the orientation is very important because you want the flakes to appear like scales of a fish on the puff), press down each portion with the heel of your palm and roll out till you a circular pastry dough that is 12-15cm in diameter. Arrange the curry (preferably with a thick potato base i.e. add lots of potatoes in while cooking the curry, then mash the curry to create a thick luscious and dry-ish gravy) on one-half of the pastry circle, leaving a space round the edges for sealing. Bring the two halves of the circle together and seal by making indentations with the tines of a fork. Bake at 210 degrees Celsius for 18 minutes. If you want to keep them, freeze them before baking and let thaw for a few minutes (not too long though because you don’t want the butter in the pastry to melt – if that happens, the pastry wouldn’t puff up nicely and that means your puffs won’t sing like mine do, no Grammies!), then bake as per instructions.

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Dim Sum, Right In Your Own Home!

Dim sum. It’s something we have on weekends, when work doesn’t get in the way of nibbling exquisitely made Chinese hors d’œuvres and bosses don’t breathe down your neck as you sip Chinese tea. It’s leisurely, it’s relaxing and let’s face it, it’s one incredibly tasty lifestyle.

I don’t know about you but whilst dim sum is very accessible now, it wasn’t always so when I was a kid. Dim sum lunches were a real treat and rarity when I was growing up. It was expensive in those days, and if Dad took us out for dim sum lunch, we put on our Sunday’s best, as we would do if we were going to Jack’s Place for a candlelight dinner on its green-and-white checkered tables. Yes, these two food outings were like Disneyland trips to me.

We used to head to C & West club (not sure if that is how we spelt the name, I wasn’t very literate then…anyway the club is now defunct as the shareholders ran away with people’s money, I think). I was a chicken in the water but I’d get to have that rare ride on my dad’s or brother’s back as they swam in the pool. All that with my bright orange fake Superman arm floats, and my garish green-and-yellow swimsuit. Mum would watch us play in the water, take me to the showers and then we would head to the restaurant for dim sum.

I don’t remember much about the restaurant, except the dim sum trolleys that would swing by with everything anyone could promise you with in the world. Oh, that and the incredibly high table that practically reached my chin when I sat down; I was a little vertically challenged then. I recall feasting on my favourite dim sum dishes – glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf  (荷叶饭), fried radish cake (萝菠糕) and honeydew sago (西米露). I was particularly enamoured with the honeydew sago then, the little chewy bubbles were quite fascinating, and it was the only version that I would have then. I still like the dessert now, but what I really love about dim sum is the fried radish cake. It’s a savoury sweet pan-fried piece of heaven that is packed full of flavour, thanks to the ingredients that weren’t quite obvious to a primary school kiddo, other than Chinese sausage (lap cheong). Even as I cross into adulthood, I still love fried radish cake, I must and will have it at every dim sum lunch I go to and no one could stop me. But, I could never quite fathom how vegetables (daikon radish) could turn into something so delicious. That is, until curiosity hit me in January this year (yes, this is a super backdated entry, as with another 22 recipes that are still waiting to be told to you). I did my research and landed on some answers.

It turns out that the fried radish cake is made of the simplest of ingredients that are commonly found in Chinese cooking. Lap cheong is a must to impart that distinctive sweet savoury taste. Dried mushrooms are added to give an earthy fragrance to the dish, and dried scallops and shrimps are needed for deep, deep flavours.

It is also ridiculously easy to put together, so to the dim sum lovers who live overseas and can’t quite have ready access to dim sum, I hope this satisfies your craving. Even though I can get dim sum easily in London, making this was a real good thing for me; it was nice to have it homemade and even better to take a trip down memory lane.

Here’s the recipe:

Pan-Fried Radish Cake (Lor Bak Gou)
(adapted from Taste Hongkong)

825g shredded white radish
200g rice flour (those you get from Asian stores, these are different from the ones in Western supermarkets)
60g tapioca flour
660ml water
1/3 teaspoon salt
80g lap cheong (Chinese sausage), diced
20g dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water to soften, stems removed and diced
20g dried scallops, soaked in hot water to soften, roughly chopped
10g dried shrimps, soaked in hot water to soften, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fried shallots
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 and 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon light soy sauce

1. Mix the flours, water and 1/3 teaspoon salt to form a batter.
2. In a non-stick frying pan, heat up oil and fry fried shallots for 1/2 minutes. Turn up the heat, add in scallops and shrimps and fry for another minute.
3. Add the mushrooms and lap cheong to the pan, and fry till fragrant.
4. Add the radish and fry till liquid oozes out of the radish and that radish is wilted. Add sugar, salt and soy sauce. At this point, turn off the stove.
5. Stir up the batter from Step 1 to reconstitute it and add the batter to the radish in the pan. Stir till combined.
6. Place the thick gooey batter in a steaming dish and steam for 1 hour on high heat, cool and then keep refrigerated. Do note that it’s easier to handle the radish cake when it’s cold and a lot less sticky.
7. Cut the cake up into rectangular pieces, and pan fry one side on a really hot non-stick pan with some really hot oil. When that side crisps up, turn the cake over and fry it on each edge. Repeat this process until all edges are golden-brown and crispy.


Check out what’s cooking in my kitchen!

Also check out my other food adventures.