Category Archives: Ingredients

Good Mornings for a Wednesday (January 22, 2014)

I have four “unclaimed” hours between classes this afternoon, and I intend to spend them holed up, catching up on all of your blog posts from the past 10 days.  In the meantime, what better way to slide myself back into blog-land than with a Good Mornings post?

Lake Effect Shirt

USA, I’m with you in spirit!

We’re having a cold front in Singapore, too.
It’s hardly broken 85°F this week…

Lasagna in a Loaf Pan

Which of course makes for….perfect lasagna weather!

My new trick: Use a loaf pan to make lasagna for two.
I resurrected my Mom’s spinach-mushroom lasagna recipe.
A year apart from that deliciousness was far too long…

Basik!It’s…basik!  basik855, that is…

Socially responsible bags made from traditional Cambodian ikat fabric.
I helped fund a Kickstarter campaign for some new prints,
And my backer reward arrived in the mail last week!
[This is the first ‘clutch’ that I’ve ever owned, folks.]

Odd Bean OutI found a stowaway in my can of garbanzos!

Caption contest winner, Jenny T:
“It’s living its dream of being turned into hummus.
‘They said I could be anything, so I became a garbanzo bean…’ ”
[And she gets bonus points for a double-correct usage of it’s/its.]

Spinning with CompressionCoach Holly: Bringing compression to indoor cycling.

I’ve been subbing to cover a lot of RPM classes.
Add them to my running,
and the result is some very knotty calves.
This look is odd enough that folks can’t take their eyes off me during class.
^Every instructor’s dream.

Libby's Pumpkin PricingThat’s $6 USD for the big can of pureed pumpkin.

And that, my friends, is why I microwave & puree local pumpkins to make pie.
Yes, Thanksgiving was two months ago.
But we’re having friends over to celebrate again this weekend.
I love cooking Thanksgiving food, so why the heck not?

This post has two Drew University references in it.  Anyone?

Do you puree your own pumpkin?  Or eat pumpkin pie after December?

Continuing the “random” theme: What made you laugh today?

A Post That Needs A Fish Pun (but I can’t think of one)

After all the preparation, then the race, then reliving the whole thing to write the race report (Part 1 and Part 2), I’m ready to talk about something besides “The 50K“.  [Cue all my readers breathing a sigh of relief.]

Since The New Blog Plan has designated Wednesdays as “Singapore Stories” day (or some other recurring feature), let’s try a short story for today yesterday (I actually wrote most of this on Wednesday, I swear).  And I promise, this post will be less than 600 words.

I should preface this story by noting that the standard for customer service in Singapore sometimes feels….somewhat low to someone who was born and raised in the United States.  This is not to say that I haven’t had any good customer service experiences here, because I certainly have.  [Although admittedly, unlike in the US, the fastest and most polite service often comes from government agencies, as opposed to private businesses.  But I digress.]  Regardless, a number of my “Singapore Stories” will be rooted in customer service experiences, as they are often the ones that leave me scratching my head.  So without further ado, let’s go to the supermarket.

Scene: The fish counter at the local supermarket.  This is similar to the fish counter at a US supermarket, except that instead of fillets, whole fish are sitting on ice: head, scales, guts, etc.  You choose the fish you want, then ask one of the staff behind the counter to gut it and remove the scales.  [Incidentally, you do still get the whole fish: head, fins, etc.]

I select a small pomfret (it only needs to feed KMN and I) and hand it to the auntie behind the counter.  A small bit of some organ is protruding through the kill-cut (I think), but I don’t think twice about that, since I’m going to ask for it to be gutted anyway.

[Don’t mind the approximate Singlish.]

Me: *hands fish over counter* Can clean for me, please?
Fish Auntie: Don’t want this one.  *points to protruding innards*
Me: Ahh…it’s OK.  Will clean anyway, yah?
Fish Auntie: *shaking head* No, no – don’t want. *takes fish from me, buries back in display ice*
Me (assuming she knows something about fresh fish selection that I don’t): Ooook.
Fish Auntie: *digging around for another pomfret*
Me: Small one, please.  Small.  Just for two people.
Fish Auntie: *holds up somewhat larger pomfret*
Me: Errrr…smaller one can?  That one a bit big.
Fish Auntie: *puts fish on scale* 400 (grams).
Me: *shakes head* Mmmm…a bit big.  Smaller one can?
Fish Auntie: *nods, prints pricing label, takes fish back to cleaning counter*
Me: Sigh….

I have no idea.

Language barrier?  Possibly, but her English seemed pretty good to me.
Upselling?  Perhaps, but it’s not like she’s working on commission.
Overall misunderstanding?  Maybe.
An Auntie just being an Auntie?  Most likely…
[KMN’s Peranakan family has taught me to respect the matriarchy!]

There was a time (not too long ago) when this would have left me huffing and puffing and peevish.  Instead, I just laughed.  A few more grams of fish wasn’t going to break the bank.  So I came home that day with some extra fish, and a story.  And when I recounted the story to KMN, he didn’t seem the least bit surprised.

The only major disadvantage of the extra fish?  Microwaving fishy leftovers the next day really did stink up the apartment…

*Fish Commission = Fishmission?  Fission?

Would you laugh it off or try to insist on the smaller fish?

Ever cooked a whole fish?
[We usually poach ours, but I’m open to other suggestions!]

Last Week in Review: Workouts, Jackfruit, Cheap Food, Laksa, Shopping, Running Friends

On Easter Sunday, KMN and I ran (as a training run) the 2XU Compression Run.  And there’s a race report on that coming.  But first, we should catch up on last week’s training and bits (and bites) of goodness.  So let’s do it!

12 miles? Bring it!

12 miles? Bring it! KMN doesn’t so much like early morning running…

With my plantar fascia feeling good, and a solid week of training the previous week, I decided it was time to test a long(er) run. So two Saturdays ago (March 23), we laced up our sneakers, filled up our bottles, grabbed some Sports Beans, and headed out the door.  The plan was for 10-12 miles, slow and easy, along the Park Connector Network (Singapore’s attempt to string together many small local parks into one long, connected path).

We ran through Bishan, Ang Moh Kio, and into Toa Payoh.  This route contains a very limited number of road crossings (2 or 3), and a few overhead bridges.  We ran through parks, residential areas, and industrial areas and got to see a pretty cool cross-section of Singapore, all in six miles.  The biggest disadvantage of this route is the absence of fountains to refill our water bottles (and restrooms, but we were OK with that on Saturday).  But, at the half-way point, we stopped at a kopitiam and bought two ice-cold bottles of water.  Best $2 SGD spent that day!  Cold water = lovely!

We turned back after 6 miles.  My PF and IT bands felt good, although my legs were starting to get tired.  Pre-PF, I was pretty comfortable at this distance, but it had been a few weeks since I’d seen double-digits on my Garmin.  We knocked out miles 6-9 pretty handily, then clicked off mile 10.  But I was getting tired – and I definitely got through the last 2 miles with my eyes glued to KMN’s back, just following his lead.

Between the heat and distance, I was spent by the end – but only in a “running tired” way, not an “injured ouchie” way.  So that was awesome.  Eschewing the heat, we spent the afternoon camped out in the air conditioning at Dome Cafe, working and refueling.  I was responsible, and ordered something with carbs and protein (and some chips, but who’s counting?):

In retrospect, though, after coincidentally reading Shoe's blog post on the cheesy mushroom sandwich (my second choice), I think i picked the wrong thing.

In retrospect, though, after reading Shoe’s blog post on Dome’s cheesy mushroom sandwich (my second choice), I think I picked the wrong sandwich.  Also, I totally should’ve gotten the coffee/ice cream thing she got.

Jackfruit flesh.

Jackfruit flesh.

Sunday was a rest day (except church, errands, visiting, and dinner with KMN’s family), and I had my first real experience with jackfruit.  This was actually a sanitized experience, since someone else did the hard work, of freeing the small fruits from the bit spiny pod (Wikipedia will now answer any ancillary jackfruit questions you may have).  All I had to do was eat.  Letting someone else do the prep is definitely the best way to eat stubborn fruits!  [Interesting linguistic side note: In Singapore, people often use the plural of fruit in a way we don’t in the US.  For example, after dinner, someone will often say, “I’ll bring the fruits out now.” or “We prepared the fruits earlier, so we can just enjoy eating now.”]

Each one of those small pieces has a great big seed inside.  The flesh can be torn away from the seed, kind of in strings (although the mouth texture isn't stringy at all).

Each one of those small pieces has a great big seed inside. The flesh can be torn away from the seed, kind of in strings (although the mouth texture isn’t stringy at all).

My verdict?  The taste is quite sweet, and has something about it that’s reminiscent of mango – but it doesn’t really taste like mango.  The texture is very odd – soft and a little rubbery, maybe?  Overall…I’d have a piece or two, but won’t be going out of my way to buy a personal jackfruit stash.

Getting ready for my first bite!

Getting ready for my first bite!

On Monday, I went to the gym for a BodyPump-Yin Yoga double-header.  I was sporting an awesome hair-do:

I couldn't get that pesky little cowlick if I tried, folks.

I couldn’t get that pesky little cowlick if I tried, folks.

Noodles here are served as "soup" or "dry".  I ordered soup - sometimes, the soup comes on the side.

Noodles here are served as “soup” or “dry”. I ordered soup – sometimes, the soup comes on the side.

Mondays are pretty crazy days for me, so after working all day + gymming at night, I hadn’t done the grocery shopping.  Plus, KMN was developing a bit of a cough and wanted some soup.  So we popped down the street for some noodley, soupy goodness.

My noodles came with a bit of sauce and mushrooms, and the soup was served on the side.  You can’t quite see it, but that silver pot in the back has a flame in the bottom, keeping my soup warm.  The clear broth contained an egg, some pork bits, chicken, fish cake, tofu, and fish balls.  You move the food from the silver pot into the bowl, a bit at a time, and take spoonfuls of broth to sip from there, as well.

KMN had a similar dish.  Total cost of two noodle dishes and one herbal tea drink (for him – I stuck with water)?  $10 SGD/$8 USD.  I know I often complain about how expensive some things are here – local food stall food isn’t one of those things!

On Tuesday, I did the grocery shopping.  Continuing on the theme of “things that are cheap in Singapore”, all of these items cost less than $2 SGD/$1.60 USD.

Clockwise from noon: 3 starfruits, soft tofu, tofu puffs, bean sprouts, and long skinny Japanese cucumbers

Clockwise from noon: 3 starfruits, silken tofu, tofu puffs, bean sprouts, and long skinny Japanese cucumbers

In the evening, I tried to go for a swim, but was foiled by a surprisingly full pool.  I really like our gym, but the pool lacks lane lines and lines on the bottom, which makes circle swimming nearly impossible.  I kept waiting for a free spot, but more people kept arriving and jumping in.  They were easily accommodated, since most people were swimming like this: one length – 5 minute break – one length – 5 minute break.  I, however, needed a full length, all to myself, for non-stop swimming.  After waiting for half an hour, I lost patience, abandoned the swim, and got right to my run.  Four miles on the treadmill was just what I needed.  What I didn’t need?  Forgetting (and thus losing) my goggles at the pool.  Double-Swim-Fail.

Laksa!

Laksa!

On Wednesday, I made myself some laksa for lunch.  Laksa is one of my favorite Singaporean dishes: noodles, tofu, hard boiled egg, and fish cakes in a spicy, coconut-milk based broth.  I bought a laksa spice blend, and boiled the broth and prepared the add-ins all by myself.  It came out pretty good – but not as good as the auntie’s down the road.  I guess there’s something to be said for experience!

In the evening, I went to Alan’s spin class.  I’m definitely liking the new RPM release, but also very much ready to start mixing up the tracks!

On Thursday, I went out to Queensway Mall on a hunt for a few sports-related item (including new goggles).  Queensway has a high concentration of sportswear/sports gear stores (and print shops, apparently – weird), and it’s definitely an “old-school” Singapore mall: complicated floor plan, tiny stores, narrow aisles, makeshift dressing rooms, and some shops that still only accept cash.  Ultimately, I came out with two items:

A pair of capris (a few of mine have bitten the dust lately), and a Nathan running belt.

A pair of capris (a few of mine have bitten the dust lately), and a Nathan running belt.

I’d been in the market for such a belt for some time, and this was the best one I could find.  Review forthcoming.  Ultimately, these errands took considerably longer than intended, so I only had time to catch a yoga class at the gym.  This was a good zen-end to a complicated a slightly stressful afternoon of shopping (I don’t like to shop, folks).

Friday (Good Friday) was a public holiday here, and I met a new friend at MacRitchie for one nice easy loop.

Who doesn't love some 6AM pre-run foam rolling?

Who doesn’t love some 6AM pre-run foam rolling?

I enjoyed meeting another local runner – in fact, the company and chatter were so good (and distracting) that we were, quite literally, back at the starting point before I knew it.  I’d been intending to turn off the trail a bit early for a shortcut back home, but ended up finishing the loop out, since we were in the midst of some intense discussion about…something running-related, I’m sure!  Total for the morning was 7.6 miles.  I neglected to take a photo of us together – but thanks, Charlene!  [Who was super-sweet, and even brought me some post-run chocolate milk and a banana!]

Overall, the plantar fascia was pretty well behaved this week.  It was a little tweaky again on Wednesday and Thursday, but apparently it just likes long runs, because it had pretty much sorted itself out again by the weekend.  *whew*

Stay tuned, because upcoming posts include Sunday’s race report, Nathan belt review, and foam rolling the calves.  Also, I’m making pesto for dinner tonight.  Using lemon basil.  Fingers crossed that comes out all right.

And with that, I’m off for some yoga.  My hips need it!

Which part of your body needs some yoga love tonight??

Club sandwich / jackfruit / noodle soup / laksa: Which one do you want to try??

Chinese New Year, Days 8-15 and Cooking A Whole Fish

“The Jade Emperor is like the big poobah of Heaven.  The Kitchen God is like the snitch.”  -KMN

That pretty much sums it up, folks.  In traditional Chinese religions, the Jade Emperor is the ruler of Heaven, and the Kitchen God…well, the Kitchen God sits in the kitchen (surprise!) and watches over the daily activities of the family.  Each year, he reports to the Jade Emperor, who then decides whether the family should be rewarded or punished in the coming year.

The eighth day of the Chinese New Year is the eve of the Jade Emperor’s birthday.  At midnight  on this day (going into the ninth day), many people celebrate by burning incense and offerings to the Jade Emperor.  KMN and I live across the street from a large housing estate, and on this particular night, we saw at least 10 different groups of people in the small parking lot outside, lighting fires and burning incense and offerings.  Celebrations of the Jade Emperor’s birthday continue through the ninth and tenth days (details depend on heritage and religion), but in Singapore, they pass without much public recognition.

Apparently, on the thirteenth day of the new year, people eat vegetarian food, to cleanse their stomachs after nearly two weeks of eating and celebrating.  However, this isn’t a practice that I know from experience – it’s one that I read about during my CNY research, and I don’t think we actually ate vegetarian that day.  Ooops?

The holiday draws to a close with the celebration of Chap Goh Mei (literally, “the fifteen night”) on – you guessed it – the fifteenth day of Chinese New Year.  So maybe I lied when I said it was a two week holiday….it’s actually two weeks + 1 day.  Chap Goh Mei is also called a Lantern Festival (there is a different Lantern Festival in the fall), when people parade with lanterns, and hang them outside their homes to help guide wayward spirits home.

I'm married, though - so no phone number on this one...

I’m married, though – so no phone number on this one…

In some places -particularly Malaysia and Singapore, Chap Goh Mei is considered a kind of Chinese Valentine’s Day.  Apparently, long ago, this was the one time that young maidens were permitted to dress up and walk outside their homes (with chaperones).  Today, (supposedly) single women write their phone number on mandarin oranges, and throw them in a river or lake, while single men fish them out and eat them.  I don’t know what they do with the number.  I haven’t actually seen this happen in Singapore – and I somehow think that people would get arrested for littering, if they were caught throwing oranges into the Singapore River – but heck, Singaporeans, correct me if I’m wrong!

Sometimes, one branch of KMN’s family celebrates Chap Goh Mei with a big family dinner, but that didn’t happen this year.  Instead, KMN and I participated in URun 2013 in the early morning, did church/errands in the late morning, then relaxed and worked in the afternoon.   Then, KMN prepared us a two-person Chap Goh Mei dinner (not really, it was just regular dinner).

The smallest pomfret we could find.

The smallest pomfret we could find. You wouldn’t even know this guy is missing his innards (but he is). Just remember that the fish on display at the Fairprice fish counter aren’t gutted – but ask, and they’ll do it for you.

For weeks now, KMN has been talking about cooking a fish.  Like, not a pretty little fillet, but a genuine whole fish.  Now, I have no problem eating a whole steamed fish – this is a common preparation/serving style here.  I’ll discuss how to tackle that in another post one day.  But I’ll admit that I was feeling a bit leery of actually cooking a whole fish.  Growing up, my Mom cooked fillets.  But KMN’s Mom cooked a whole fish.  So I let him take charge – with a little help from Irene Kuo’s The Key to Chinese Cooking (which I’ve written about before, here).

In a pan large enough to fit the fish – good thing we got a small fish (Note to self: Buy bigger pan!) – he brought some water to a boil, and added fresh ginger and a chopped onion.  Once the water reached a solid boil, he slid the fish in:

The pan and pomfret are the same color, so not too much interesting to see, except the pomfret fit popped up as soon as it hit the water.  Do you see it?!?  The biologist was intrigued by this phenomenon.  More research will be required!

The pan and pomfret are the same color, so there’s not too much interesting to see, except the way that the pomfret’s fin popped up as soon as it hit the water. Do you see it?!? The biologist was intrigued by this phenomenon. More research will be required!

He immediately turned the flame as low as it would go and covered the pan.  We let the fish cook for about 15-20 minutes (Kuo suggests cooking until a knife “goes in easily and no pinkish liquid seeps out”), then slid it onto a serving plate.  KMN served the fish with rice and blanched greens, and a selection of dipping sauces: soy sauce, chili sauce, and vinegar.

The fish came out really, really well – very soft and tender.  Pomfret isn’t a very fishy-tasting fish, and admittedly – most of the flavoring came from the sauces.  But this was an incredibly simple and nutritious way to prepare fish – I’m glad KMN headed the effort to try it.  I’ll definitely be preparing fish for us this way again soon!

And that, my friends, is the end of the Chinese New Year series of posts.  If you missed the earlier ones, click to read about Chinese New Year PreparationsReunion Dinner, Visiting Days 1 and 2, Chinese New Year Treats, and Chinese New Year Days 3-7.  And with that, we’ll return to non-CNY posting.  But don’t worry, I have plenty to share.  [I know you were really nervous about that, right?]

Have you ever thrown a mandarin orange into a body of water on Chap Goh Mei?

Have you ever cooked a whole fish?  How?