Nov 28, 2013

What Does it Mean to be Singaporean?

A colleague asked: "What is a Singaporean identity? You eat, shop, drink."

ST-Luis Mistades-Defining S'poreImage source: If Only Singaporeans Stopped to Think

I couldn't answer immediately. On reflection -- and listening to Grace Fu on the news -- I thought back to when I left Singapore.  

The Singaporean is someone who speaks with a staccato inflection; who knows bashas, leopard crawling, CSMs, M-16s, and walking around with a shaven head; who knows that having a bit of everything -- prata, lontong, chicken rice, bak kut teh -- is better than just one type of food available to most people; who lives, drinks and chats with Tamles, Mats, and Mungens. 
The Singaporean is a varied bunch. Some hound kids to the tuition centers; some are big losers with big hearts; others guzzle beer while five-tenning another; while many of us slave in florescent-lit offices and catch up with other cubicle mates now and then.  
The Singaporean has played on big stone slides in the heartlands; who cusses, lim chius and sits with a leg up at the hawker centre. Their favourite pastime being the many complaints about cabbies, rain, MRTs and the government; and what is a Singaporean without the lah, leh and hors...correct or not

That's the Singaporean Identity

It isn't about race. It's about the things that are meaningful to us -- part experiences, part people, mostly memory. 

My parent's conception of a Singaporean identity is quite different from mine, and my grandparent's view is vastly alien from mine too. Regardless we will have shared experiences that binds us together (like reservists bitching about their in-camp training or ah-lians in the latest Lao-beng joint), and these are experiences that we discuss and bitch about fondly and sometimes otherwise. 

I am Singaporean because of them. Not because of a government, or this piece of land, or a vague notion of Singaporeaness.

“What is essential to the growth of a nation is a common history -- common sufferings, common memories, and, it may be added, common aspirations." - H.A.L Fisher

In fact, we can go further.  

It's Disheartening

woman-airportThere are so many people coming in at once. So much so that they overwhelm. They bring their own foods, experiences, lingo and ways of thought here. In Chinatown I see a multitude of Mainland Chinese restaurants springing up to cater to new immigrants from China (apparently there's 1 million Chinese Nationals now), and Chinatown has quite literally become China-town.

That was similar to Lucky Plaza in the beginning of the maid era. But it was a drop in the ocean as compared to the the influx of China nationals. 
Change is inevitable. The old will give way to the newly accepted -- like Chinese opera, colour television, and now mobile internet streaming.  

It's OK... no, not really.

All I can do is say: To the many who will arrive in Singapore to work, study, turn a quick buck, or perhaps nest, please fit in. Please share. Please receive. Be good.

But do not expect us to bow to your sensibilities…like this ex-colleague of mine.

Nov 27, 2013

Eating My Way Through KL & Penang (Part 2b: Everything Else)

Penang’s a Chinese-ified city with lots of Chinesey food that I can get in Singapore. As with regional differences, dishes with the same name might not be cooked in the same way – like Char Kway Teow or Lor Mee.

Regardless, food is food. When in Penang (or anywhere else), eat like siao*.

Nasi Kandar


The Indian version of the Nasi Padang, Nasi Campur or Economic Rice. Pick from whatever meats and vegetables – sometimes stir-fried, often curried or sizzled – and chuck them onto your plate of rice. Douse with slaps of mutton curry, licks of beef something, drizzles of some dark gravy with mussels in it. That’s Nasi Kandar.

Sounds better than it tastes. But I find it too heavy for my liking

Nasi Kandar Line Clear
177 Jalan Penang

Bak Chang (Meat Rice Dumpling)


Apparently these stuffed rice dumplings are da bomb in Penang. They serve Hokkien, Cantonese and some “Golden” rice dumpling that suspiciously resembles a Hokkien dumpling on steroids. Soft, savoury, not too oily, and the accompanying sweet dark sauce was surprisingly apt for this dumpling. Not my kind of dumplings but I much prefer the Cantonese versions.

Cintra Food Corner
Lebuh Cintra

Char Kway Teow


Penang’s pride and joy. Flat rice noodles fried with lots of bean sprouts, cockles, oil and wrapped in an egg. Salty, not sweet. Not enough wok hei (smoky taste), but worth a wolf-down snack.

Some Coffeeshop that also sells solid Penang Coffee
Lebuh Kimberly

Beef Satay


This is good. Facing the sea, pieces of charcoal-fired beef and drippy which I dip into peanut sauce. Best.

Food Court Facing the Sea
Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakah

Grilled Fish with Sambal


When facing the sea, must eat something from it, Like fish, or mermaids. Tangy, powerful chilli slathered on grilled fish. Very much like the seafood stuff that comes out from Newton Circus, but much cheaper.

Food Court Facing the Sea
Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakah

Everything Else Verdict

I think I went to all the wrong places in Penang. Regardless, that’s a snapshot of Penang food. The only real difference between that and Singapore lies in a few tweaks here and there.

Next time, I’m heading up along the East Coast of Malaysia.

* siao = mad

Nov 26, 2013

Banana Salad (Issan, Thailand)

A first for me.

This Banana Salad uses young tart bananas and fermented field crabs. It’s an acquired taste that isn’t for everyone but it works wonders with sticky rice.


Watch out for rumblings in the stomach – the little chilli padis in the mix are billowing fireballs in their own right.

Where to eat

Golden Mile Shopping Complex

Some Issan restaurant on the middle of the first floor

Nov 25, 2013

Slow Roast Beef

Decided to break out the oven to do some roasting for the heck of it. Since I’m a beef person, I thought I’d make a slow roast beef (3 hours of roasting on low heat) just to see how it turned out.

Find Out How to Do It

Google rocks big time. I used this 3-hour roast beef recipe from and modified it on the cut of beef that I was getting.

Buy & Marinate the Beef

No beef. No roast. I bought a 1.6kg slab of sirloin with fat on the top. So I could leave it to cook without basting it every hour or so.

Pat it dry. Massage salt and Szechuan peppers into the roast, and stick slices of garlic into the roast.


Cook the Roast!

Easy. Turn up the temperature to 180C and let it sizzle for 20min. Then slowly cook it for 180min at 100C. Just leave it alone. Seriously. Don’t touch that dial! The below picture is the end product, I had to turn up the temperature to 250C for 3min to brown the fat.


Rest, Cut, Serve, Eat

Extract and rest the roast for 20min. Then slice it up for dinner chomping! Feeds up to 5 moderate eaters.


Next Cooking Experiment

This little experiment is turning me onto cooking again.

I’m doing another roast over the next weekend. I’m thinking Moroccan Lamb with Laotian Tomato-Chilli Dip, Creamed Spinach and flavoured baked rice.

Rock on.

Nov 20, 2013

Eating My Way Through KL & Penang (Part 2a: Breakfast)

Two days in Kuala Lumpur and I’m antsy. Hop on a night train and I’m in Penang by 7am, 30 minutes after the ferry sailed across the channel from Butterworth to Georgetown.

Why Penang? Why not? I once passed by Penang a few years back, liked the little place, and thought it was quaint, quiet and kind of crumbly.

Still do actually.

But I do think that Penang food is somewhat better than Kuala Lumpur. And here’s the breakfast edition as per the morning step off the boat.

Kopi-O Ais


This rocks. Thick, syrupy, rich and buttery. I’d swap any Starbucks for this awesome cuppa coffee any day.

Any self-respecting Penang coffeeshop should have it.

Fried Carrot Cake, Dim Sum, Chee Cheong Fun


The dim sum’s forgettable. Fried Carrot Cake is extremely thirst-inducing. The Chee Cheong Fun was pretty good quality actually. Freshly made with a serving of shallots and chilli on the top.

Open Space at Chowrasta Market
Somewhere on Jalan Chowrasta

Dim Sum


One of the better dim sums that I’ve had in Malaysia. I’m rather disappointed that the food came in steel steamers instead of bamboo steamers. Somehow it detracts from the taste, and screws up the dim sum skin. Big draw – drinking pot after pot of Chinese tea for cheap.

Restoran Tho Yuen
92 Jalan Campbell

Curry Mee


Curry laden with Coconut milk and a whole bunch of stuff that I’ve not had in Singapore since forever – Pig’s Blood! Not too spicy, plenty lemak, and bloody greasy. A friggin small bowl but it filled me up for Breakfast.

A tip: Get some You Tiao to mop up the curry gravy.

Coffee shop at Chowrasta Market
Somewhere on Jalan Chowrasta

Breakfast Verdict

OK only, lah. But when hungry, eat lor.

Nov 13, 2013

Eating My Way Through KL & Penang (Part 1)

One fine night in October, I packed my bags and took the night train up to KL & Penang. Why? Because I needed to get out of Singapore to see another country. Some place that’s not as spit-clean-polished as the Little Red Dot.

So Kuala Lumpur first.

Ultimately the trip was an exercise in futility. I spent too little time in each city and too much time within the confines to truly appreciate the place.

But there’s always food to try within the city. Much of which are lauded by Malaysians and Singaporeans for some reason.

So tastebuds at attention, Ringgit in hand, game on.

Roti Bawang Telur


Exactly like Roti Prata in Singapore. Only that they’ve chopped it up for easy face-shovelling. Plenty of sweet bawang. But the dhal was watery and insipid. Good for a quick breakfast, but I think there are better spots elsewhere.

Restoran Yusoof dan Zakhi
42,44,46 Jalan Hang Kasturi
Central Market Area, Kuala Lumpur 50050, Malaysia

Bak Kut Teh


Bloody salty. The dark Hokkien versions along Beach Road, Singapore, were herbal and fragrant. The pork pieces were tough and bland. Odd, because they should be sweet.  

Some Chinese Restaurant
Jalan Alor, Bukit Bintang 

Claypot Lao Shu Fen


Settled on this when I couldn’t find the claypot rice stall. Lao Shu Fen topped with minced meat sauce and a raw egg, mix and slurp. The noodles are silky and the meat gave it crunch. Best eaten by spooning it from the claypot, the noodles will just slip through chopsticks. Oily, but worth the calories.

Seng Kee
52, Jalan Sultan, 50000 Kuala Lumpur

Fried Hakka Yong Tau Fu


The other signature dish from Seng Kee. Done up perfectly, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and slathered with a sweet sauce. Good beer food. Again, damn oily.

Seng Kee
52, Jalan Sultan, 50000 Kuala Lumpur


KL supposedly has some of the best foods, according to my friends. I think they’re wrong.

My munching through the city – this post is just a subset – left me unsatisfied. But then, I’ve not been there long enough by any standard. Also, it’s not particularly easy to search for food. In most cases, restaurants are hidden away and are almost destination locations where you’ll need some kind of transportation.


I’ve showed the post to several friends (particularly folks who live in KL or frequent the place) and here’s what they have to say…

“…That claypot lao shu fen is too watery. The good one is darker and dryer (less oil)….And that Bak Kut Teh looks mediocre, best at Kajang, I heard. Same goes for Yong Tau Fu, mediocre looking.” – Melvin Ho

“…Jalan Alor feels like Newton Circus now. But I still swear by the curry mee. (Breakfast and Lunch)” – Orange

“Jalan Imbi has some good food also. There is a good Bak Kut Teh there, the more herbal version.” – Eunice Lua

The Lesson in this? Do your research and bring along a map!

Nov 12, 2013

Design: Trillion Dollars & Universal Studio

I oversee advertising projects from conception to execution. Like most managers, I’m always looking for good people to work with (the dearth of talent is surprising and the amount of money that hacks are asking for is astonishing!). 

It’s with great pleasure that I found Thomas Koh. A graphic designer by trade, we met while working on a project. He’s quite unlike other designers whom I’ve worked with.

Thomas has an incredible attention for detail coupled by an amazing breadth of knowledge of engineering, latest tech and trends, and an almost-scientific process towards analysing and implementing his designs.

Do you know how many designers know how to implement their work in real life??!! Almost zilch.

Anyways if anyone needs a polymath designer, hit me up and I’ll pass on his contact to you.

universal studios



Nov 11, 2013

Power/Hang Clean: Explosion, Power & Strength (Damn Tiring Though)

I’m on a fitness regime that’s chockfull of compound exercises – squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, push-ups, pull-ups etc. It saves time, uses the whole body (or most of it) and it’s as functional as it can get -- push and pull.

I’m seeing some results – better strength and stamina – but I want more. More power, more strength, the usual shebang.


Hence I’m mucking around with Olympic lifts. In particular, the Power Clean.

The Power Clean is an “explosive jump shrug, upright row and front squat all rolled up into one fully loaded movement.” (src: Muscle And Fitness).

Reads great, sounds great. It’s much harder doing it.

I just did it for the first time yesterday and only managed to clean 25kg dumbbells for 4 sets of 5 reps. In contrast, I can squat the same weights for 5 sets of 10 reps.

But if the effect on my body any indication -- heart pounding like I’ve just sprinted up and down the court – then this exercise rocks!

Next steps: Start off with Hang Cleans just above the knee with lighter weights then work my way up.

How to perform Power Cleans


Image source: Google Images

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