No Frill Cooking: Japanese Curry, using Vermont Curry Bricks

If I had to name two cuisines that are not home to Singapore, yet have taken Singapore by storm, it would have to be Japanese and Korean. Between the two, I would say that Japanese cuisine has been popular here for a longer time – we are no strangers to sushi, tempura, katsu curry and other popular Japanese dishes. But Korean cuisine has been picking up in terms of popularity here, too, especially with the hit of the Hallyu wave in most Asian countries these few years. Korean BBQ, bibimbap (a mixed rice dish), bingsu (a Korean shaved ice dessert) – these are just a few names of the most popular dishes. The more adventurous have ventured further, to dishes perhaps popular among Koreans, but as known to foreigners, such as naengmyun (buckwheat noodles in a cold tangy broth), and dwenjangchigae (fermented bean paste stew).

As diverse as the cuisine is here in Singapore – we really can’t complain about the variety we have here, so readily at hand, too – I cannot say that it comes cheap. Specialty cuisines like this are rather pricey if you’re looking for those with good quality, or are at least somewhat authentic. I once ate a $5.50 bowl of ‘noodles in Kimchi stew’ at a food court, and boy was it disappointing.  The broth tasted nothing like kimchi, and resembled the soup base of a Chinese hotpot. You pay for what you get. is a lesson I learnt. I had similar experiences with Jap curry as well, although not as bad. At most places, they do taste decent. But the price per portion comes close to $10 every time, and is not really a cost-effective meal if the whole family goes (my dad eats a lot). My mum’s frugal personality also doesn’t like the idea of spending so much money eating out, especially on food she doesn’t think is worth the price. So my solution? Try it outside myself, and if I like it, I learn to cook it at home! #filial

jap curry

—This is the part where I actually start to talk about the recipe.–

I can’t remember why I decided to cook Japanese curry on Sunday, but I did. I found the Vermont Curry Bricks (230g) in Medium Hot at FairPrice Finest in JCube. For this recipe, I used half the box (the equivalent of 6 bricks). It turned out great – a delicious, thick sauce with meat and potato chunks. A huge portion too, perfect for my family.

Disclaimer: This is not Katsu curry (the one with the fried pork cutlet) . I’d try to make that, but my sister’s taking her O Levels right now, and I wouldn’t be the brightest bulb if I decided that it would be a good idea to feed her friend cutlet a few days before her Oral exam. This is one is made with chunks of pork shoulder. Less oil, and less dishes to wash!

Japanese Curry with Pork Chunks

Feeds 4 very hungry people, or 6 normal people

Ingredients

  • 800g pork shoulder or chicken thighs, chopped into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 large carrots, finely diced
  • 3 medium potatoes, roughly chopped into large pieces
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 6 bricks of Vermont Curry, chopped into small pieces
  • 850ml water
  • Cooking oil

Instructions

  1. Put a pan on medium heat. Add 1 tbsp oil. Brown the meat cubes on all sides, no need to cook through.
  2. Remove browned meat and set aside.
  3. Using the same pan, add 1 tbsp more of oil. Allow the oil to become warm, then add in onions. Sautee for 5 minutes.
  4. Add in finely diced carrot, minced garlic, and ginger. Sautee for 3 minutes.
  5. Pour in 850ml of water to de-glaze the pan. Allow it to come to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, with the lid on.
  6. Add in the roughly chopped potatoes, and 1 grated apple. Cover to simmer for anoter 10 minutes.
  7. At this point, dump in the meat. Simmer for 10 more minutes with the lid on.
  8. Turn off the burner. Add in your chopped up curry bricks. Stir to dissolve.
  9. When fully dissolved, turn the burner back on. With the lid on, let the sauce boil and thicken for a final 10 minutes.
  10. Serve with hot rice, and get fat!
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an open letter to human trash

Hello guys, I present to you – human trash.
human trash

To put things into context, I am back to the long and arduous journey of job searching. The previous job I landed was a fail, so after a month, I went back to twiddling my thumbs at home. (And spending hours a day on the computer sending out resumes to companies/recruitment agencies.)

Somehow, an agent from Recruitment Agency X (we will call her Agent A), got in touch with me, and we proceeded from there, trying to find the right job match for me. In hindsight, I think I regretted this decision the most. I shouldn’t have approached new agents just because of their job postings. The previous agent that helped me get my job at StarHub was so nice and efficient, and I should’ve gone through her.

So after a day or two, she had two interviews scheduled for me the very next day. I was already not feeling very well at this point, let me tell you that. I could practically smell the flu coming my way when I sneezed. It was also around this time that I realised that I probably couldn’t commit to a 5 weekday job with office hours, due to other commitments that I had. I managed to get an offer for a part time job somewhere else, and I let my agent know about this – although I did mention that I would still attend the interviews the next day as it was too last-minute to cancel now. She acknowledged that, and said that I can attend the interviews and see which job I like best later.

Fast forward to today morning, the day of the interviews. I woke up with a splitting headache and a high fever of 38.5 degrees celsius – I was in no condition to attend the interview. Dropped Agent A a WhatsApp message, and bam. You guys can read her reply yourselves. Delusional bitch seems to think that I’m faking an illness just to back out from the interviews – which, to be fair, is a logical assumption. But a few major problems with this:-

1.LACK OF BASIC HUMAN RESPECT. Yeap. Nothing much to say about this.

2.UNPROFESSIONAL AS FUCK.
Hello? I would think that by this point in your career, you would know that whatever suspicions you might have about your client, you do not say this to them in such a manner. I am nineteen, and I know that this is not the way. You could’ve phrased in in another way – “Get well soon! Since I know that this job might not be what you are looking for, would you like me to reschedule or cancel the interview appointment completely?” Polite, to the point, like how a working professional should be.

3.IS THIS BITCH DUMB OR WHAT.
Admittedly, Agent A had every reason to suspect that I was pretending to be sick to skip out on the interview. After all, I did tell her that the job matches were wrong – I couldn’t commit to weekday office hours full time. I also told her that I got an offer for a part time job. Logical conclusion would be that this whole falling-ill act is to avoid responsibility, right? WRONG. I had no obligation to tell her that I got a job offer – I was telling her this out of common courtesy (a concept that she’s probably very unfamiliar with, in hindsight), so that she wouldn’t have to continue this arduous job matching process for me, with the false hope that I would take on the job offer. Does she really think I’m dumb? If I wanted to bail from the beginning, why would I tell her all this to give her reasons to suspect me? Or does she think her Ms Holmes skills are so spot on, and that she saw all these clues, that led her to this geeeeenius deduction that has to be absolutely correct? Girl, if people were so straightforward, and if all clues led to an absolute truth, and if detective work was really so easy… then you would be working for the police and not hear poisoning the world with your toxic customer service.

I hope that, for your sake, you get your shit together.

from SG to Bukit Indah pt. 1

There are two ways to travel to JB from Singapore – either via the Woodlands Checkpoint, or the one at Tuas. For nineteen years of my life I’ve been going to the one at Woodlands. Never have I stepped foot into the Tuas Checkpoint since it’s opening, which, ironically, was in 1998, the year I was born. Heh, talk about coincidence.

Since my family doesn’t own a car, we always take the bus to JB. Previously when we went to City Square Mall taking the Woodlands Checkpoint route, it was bus #170 from the bus stop opposite Kranji MRT Station. Things went a little differently this time, though, as we were going via the Tuas Checkpoint. Picking us up from the Jurong East Bus Interchange was the bus CW3, in all its bright yellow and blue glory. Unlike bus #170, which is a local bus, the CW3 is run by a private Malaysian bus company. Not that it makes much of a difference, except we can’t use our ez-link cards, and need to pay for our ticket in cash instead. The price was SGD $4 per person.

For four dollars, this bus ride sure covered quite a distance. The journey from Jurong East to the Tuas Checkpoint was longer than I would’ve liked, but I wouldn’t say that the ride was unpleasant. Although I am aware that this is not always the case (from anecdotes my mum would describe to me oh-so animatedly), the air conditioning was turned on at full blast, keeping us cool and comfortable. The view was also pretty good (by good, I mean as good as the views in Singapore get), and we were essentially travelling on a highway that was built across the sea. These waters might not have been the best I’ve seen, but they were expansive and danced brilliantly nonetheless, making it a sight to remember. Bottom line is, I could do this again.

My destination was Aeon at Bukit Indah. A departmental store spanning three levels, many Singaporeans will remember it as their favourite place to stock up on cheap groceries. Eateries in the vicinity here are very affordable too, more so than the ones you will find at City Square Mall (in JB Sentral, which you will find after Woodland Checkpoint), or in the city centre of Kualar Lumpar. Of course, this is speaking from a Singaporean’s perspective, with the Ringgit to SGD conversion making most things cheaper here than back in Singapore. Also, after all this talk about Aeon, you would think that we actually went in… but nope! Lunch is always of utmost priority – it even trumps shopping. For noon nomnoms, we stopped by a humble hole-in-the-wall restaurant called 面对面.

At first sight, this place would barely catch anyone’s attention. Peering through the glass doors, lighting in the restaurant looked quite dim, almost unlit. And in my book, unlit restaurants = closed restaurants… So frankly speaking, if not for the “open” sign hanging at the door, I wouldn’t know it was. But Ma who came here before only had good things to say about the place, so I leaned my weight on the glass door, and with fingers crossed, entered the restaurant.

Bestest. Decision. Ever!!! I credit my excitement more to the prices, than the actual food served. That said, the food itself holds its own too. Not life changing, but still good. We ordered more than enough for two – it was Penang Char Kway Teow for Ma, and Nasi Lemak with Fried Chicken for me. Then my cravings for fried food pushed me to try their deep fried dumplings too – Fried Dumplings (Original), and Fried Dumplings with Chives. After we finished all that food, we even got dessert, Chendol!

receipt

And only then, with filled bellies, did we finally walk through the automated doors of Aeon mall…

[Part 2 coming soon!]

muruku ended my healthy phase

Like every other person born in the internet era, YouTube plays a huge part in my life. It’s my go-to for video recipes, comedy skits. cute animal videos, and most recently, lifestyle videos.

For those familiar with the term, a ‘health guru’ on YouTube is usually someone that uploads videos about their life – with extra attention paid on fitness and diet. No thanks to them, I found myself being influenced and the before I knew it, I was stocking my fridge with frozen bananas, strawberries, and whatever other frozen fruit I could lay my hands on.

It was then that I began my daily routine. Every night after dinner, I would make a fruit smoothie (sometimes thicker, if we wanted something with more of an ice-cream like consistency). We always use homemade yoghurt that my mum makes. The bananas give it a delicious sweetness, and the berries the beautiful tinge of pastel pink or purple. On days where we want a fibre boost, chia seeds are also added – they give the smoothie a nice nutty flavour. And I always make sure to use frozen fruit so that my smoothie is icy cold without needing to add the additional ice – no one likes a diluted smoothie!

Oat balls seemed to be a trendy healthy snack, and relatively easy to make. It was simply a combination of old-fashioned oats, cashews, cocoa powder, and a sweetener of your choice. Because it was Ramadan at that time, I had jewel dates on hand, and that’s what I used. They are the the perfect binder too – sticky and sweet, great for keeping your chocolate ball snack firm and in shape.

I wish I could say that this phase lasted forever, but it clearly didn’t – otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it here. You see, I shop for all my whole foods in the NTUC Warehoue in Joo Koon. They sell 1kg or 2kg bags of frozen fruit there at affordable prices (compared to Cold Storage), and you can find other things like granola and oats there too. One day, I was there doing my grocery shopping… and I chanced upon a huge back of muruku (the thick kind). I decided to give it a try and bought a packet, and little did I know that that was the worst decision I could ever make.

That leaves us here, today. That bag of muruku has long been polished off, and I am nursing a new packet. I have to physically restrain myself to resist the temptation of muruku, but then again I’m not trying very hard at all. I just hope that this packet will last me for at least another week.

Until then…

 

No Frill Baking: Cheesecake Brownies

Today my bestie OWS stopped by my house, and together we made some fantastic cheesecake brownies.

As we speak, the brownies are now chilling in the fridge (they are supposed to be chilled overnight before serving), but when we had a sneak taste just now, they were pretty darn good. So I guess it’s safe to say that it was a success, although I’ll still be updating you guys tomorrow with the final verdict!

Recipe was adapted from the baking master Joy of Baking. She has both a YouTube channel and her own website, that you can check out here! I adjusted the recipe to use more convenient ingredients/quantities, so that there I’m not left with an awkward half-empty container of cream cheese or butter that will probably be left forgotten.

Cheesecake Brownies 
Original recipe can be found here.

This is my adapted version.

Brownie Layer:
113g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
115g bittersweet chocolate chips
125g granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
65g all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Cheesecake Layer:
250g cream cheese
50g granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
Extra chocolate chips

To make brownie layer:

  1. Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips and butter.
  2. Once melted, take the bowl off the boiler. Add in the granulated sugar, salt and vanilla. Mix well.
  3. Leave the mixture to cool until lukewarm. (Stick a finger in to gauge the temperature). Then, add in the eggs, one at a time.
  4. At this point, sift the flour and pour it in. Mix well and ensure that there are no lumps.
  5. Deposit the brownie mixture into your baking pan, and make sure to spread it well so that it forms an even layer.

To make cheesecake layer:

  1. Beat your cream cheese with a whisk, until creamy. (Tip: If your cream cheese is too hard, use a fork to smash it down and soften it first, then switch to a whisk.)
  2. Incorporate the granulated sugar well. Make sure not to over mix – your cream cheese mixture should not be too runny.
  3. Now, add in your egg. Mix well.
  4. Pour the cream cheese mixture over your brownie layer. Then, carefully spread it out with the back of a spoon so that it covers the top layer completely.
  5. Decorate the top of your cheesecake layer with the extra chocolate chips!
  6. Put your baking pan into a preheated oven at 160C, for 25-30 minutes. You know that it’s done when the cheesecake layer turns slightly golden.
  7. Chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight for best results!

***Tip for Singaporeans***:
We all know that cream cheese is really expensive here. If you want to make this without breaking the bank, there is a decently priced cream cheese sold in NTUC FairPrice at $5.80 for 250g. What’s even better, is that it’s on offer now, at $5.15. (Offer ends 30 June). It’s called Kraft Light Phila Cream Cheese (250g round tub). Click here for the link to the listed product on the FairPrice online store.

That said, because this is a light cream cheese, do note that it might not taste as rich as desired because the original recipe by Joy Of Baking specifically asked for full fat cream cheese. I personally think this lighter cream cheese tastes perfectly alright, and will be more suitable especially if you have older Asian parents at home who might be not accustomed to a heavier palette.

Happy baking!

Edit: Tried it today, a little too sweet for my liking. I cut down the sugar in the recipe above.

No Frill Cooking: Thai Basil Chicken (a spin-off)

For those of you that don’t know, I really enjoy cooking.

It’s one of those longstanding hobbies that has a very real reward at the end – a great dish or dessert that I can stuff my face with. No need for a four-month wait to see my scarf finally taking shape, or maybe an even less tangible reward in the form of a ‘revitalized spirit’ (or whatever that is supposed to mean).

Last week, I wanted to try making Thai Basil Chicken. Too bad I had neither the basil nor the chicken. So I made Thai Basil Chicken Without The Chicken and The Basil. It came out pretty damn good the first time, if I say so myself. Yesterday I made it again, tweaking the recipe – cranking up spice level, making the sauce less salty, and adding vegetables to make this a more balanced one-pot meal for the family.

Here I present to you the recipe. If you haven’t noticed, it is in no way authentic, and nor do I claim to know anything about cooking, or even Thai cuisine for that matter. If I offended anyone, I’m sorry. Now, without further ado…

Thai Basil Chicken (ish) – Without The Basil and The Chicken

To serve 4 people, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 800g pork shoulder, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3-4 capsicums, chopped roughly
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy suace
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 5 dried chillis
  • 3-4 shallots
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  1. Finely mince the garlic, dried chillies and shallots. (A food processor will make the job easier, but a pestal and mortar will work fine as well.)
  2. In a wok, heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Add in the minced mixture and stir fry until aromatic, or when garlic turns golden.
  3. At this point, add in your chopped up pork, and brown the meat. This should take around 5 minutes.
  4. Dump in your chopped veges. Stir fry for 2 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine these ingredients to make your sauce: light soy, dark soy, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar and water. Pour the sauce into the wok.
  6. Coat the pork and veges evenly with the sauce, then put the lid on. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. (Make sure to check on it occasionally so that it doesn’t burn!)
  7. After which, check if the sauce is of the correct consistency. The sauce should be just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If the sauce is still too runny, cook for a bit longer to let the excess water evaporate.
  8. Once done, serve immediately with piping hot white rice.

Viola, you’re done!

if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: The New MRT Map Display Panel

It seems that SMRT has been hard at work lately.

The East-West Line extension will be open to the public on June 18, signal testing is in the works for the North South Line, and it looks like a system update has been implemented for the MRT display of some trains.

While I’m not sure if this new system will be put in place for all new trains, I believe that this will  be the case at least for the North-South Line (or more affectionately referred to as the ‘Red Line’) for now. I had my first encounter with the new system on Sunday night, when I boarded the train towards Marina Bay from Jurong East Station.

To summarise the change simply, the usual physical MRT map pasted above the doors of the cabins have been replaced. In its place is a new electronic screen divided into two segments. The one of the left has has this has a zoomed-in map of the current, and next four stations. The one on the right displays a good-for-nothing island map, with an outline of the island MRT routes running through. After doors open at every stop, the display changes to show a countdown timer until the doors close.

I didn’t manage to take any pictures or videos on that day, but if you need a visual reference, do watch this clip uploaded by Mothership.sg.

Anyway, back to the story. I was horrified by the update – I didn’t see what purpose this change served at all. A summary of the problems below:

Removing the physical MRT Map –
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about making everything electronic – I do belong to the digital age, after all. But there’s really some major problems that haven’t been considered before this change was implemented.

SMRT couldn’t even get their shit together in the past, when all they had to do was switch on the correct lighting indicators on the physical map to show the train journey. Stations were indicated wrongly, people got on the train and got off – thinking they boarded the wrong train because the lighting indicators showed that the train was going in the opposite direction. You had one job back then, and you couldn’t do it. What makes you think you can do it now?

Another problem – what’s your back-up plan if the screens burn?

Only displaying the current and next four stops
What if I want to switch lines? Where is the next interchange? How will I know that?

That fancy island map display with the MRT route running through –
Someone please explain this one to me. WHAT IS THE POINT? The only purpose I can come up with is for aesthetic reasons – and even that leaves a lot to be desired.

The countdown to train doors closing –
I’m not so angry about this one – it is a thoughtful addition – just not well thought out enough. These displays are inside the train…the people concerned about the countdown are outside, those rushing to get into the train. The commuters that are safely inside are already tapping on their phones – they could care less about the countdown and when the train doors close.

— end of rant —

Well, that felt good.

I did some research, and realised that this new electronic system DID have a purpose to serve (shocker, I know). It’s so that the MRT staff won’t have to physically amend the MRT map of every train and every cabin in future, whenever there is a new line/station/interchange. I can appreciate that, but I don’t think this is the way to go about it. There are ways to make a system electronic and more efficient, without making it dumb. MacDonald’s managed to do it with their ordering kiosks. Shopping malls managed to do it with their directories. I believe you can do it too, MRT gods. But until you can come up with something that works, please just focus on making your trains run. That’s all we’re asking for and it’s the least you could do.