Pork Belly Braised with Red Fermented Beancurd

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

If you like strong flavours, you'd like the Hakka way of cooking pork belly.

The fatty cut is marinated with red fermented beancurd and Shaoxing wine, deep-fried, then braised in the marinade along with fried ginger, shallots and ginger and wood ear fungus.

Don't forget to cook more rice when you make this Hakka dish!

Chicken with Rice Wine Dregs

Thursday, 12 August 2010

I was wandering round my favourite hangout in the neighbourhood – aka supermart – when I noticed some cookbooks in the fruits and vegetables section. Instead of being tucked away in some obscure corner, they were occupying prime real estate, right under my nose.

If you want the customer to buy something, put it where he's bound to walk past, at eye-level. This is one of the oldest tricks of supermarkets.

True enough, I stood amidst the apples, oranges and Russet potatoes and started browsing the cookbooks.

Ginger Cake

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Imagine a soft, tender cake that's filled with the spiciness of fresh ginger, mixed with the slight bitterness of treacle.

The cake is not too sweet, so you can taste the trace of cinnamon, cloves and black pepper in the background.

The colour is a dark, gorgeous mahogany that looks rich but, when you take a bite, the cake is quite light.

Mmmmm . . . what could be better than a slice of ginger cake on a rainy day? Let me see . . . . A slice of ginger cake on a sunny day! Or cloudy day. Or any day  regardless of the weather!

The recipe I use is from David Lebovitz. It's a stir and mix cake that requires no beating or creaming at all. It's dead easy and done in a jiffy. Absolutely nothing can go wrong if you measure the ingredients correctly, set the timer, and a meteor doesn't hit your house.

Five-Spice Beancurd Skin – Best Ever Tau Kee

Thursday, 29 July 2010

'Go for it! It's free!' the HR manager said.

The word 'free' reverberated through my head. If I were a cartoon figure, my eyes would have popped out. The HR manager was giving me the ultimatum for the medical check-up under company expense: use it or lose it, by year-end. So I used it, the first ever medical exam in my life.

I did the check-up towards the end of the year, when I was home for the festive season whilst working overseas. Inbetween the endless rounds of eating, drinking and shopping, I managed to find time to see my doctor. The various tests took half a day or so, and I just gritted my teeth and went through all of them. Except the one which involved the doctor wearing gloves. Eww! No, thank you!

On Christmas eve, I woke up just before noon – exhausted from the eating, drinking, shopping plus jet lag – to find five missed calls from my doctor. I called the clinic and caught the doctor's assistant just before she went home for Christmas. 'There are shadows in your lung x-rays!' She sounded panic-stricken, which I thought was quite strange. Wasn't she used to delivering bad news since she was working in a clinic? Please don't scare me!

When I saw my doctor after Christmas, she calmly but gravely told me I had to consult a specialist. So I trotted off to the specialist she picked, who sent me trotting off to do a CT-scan. With the scan in hand on New Year's Eve, he said, 'You have only one kidney.'

Huh? What? I wasn't expecting anything wrong with my kidneys! 'What do you mean I have only one kidney? Where's the other one? You mean it's shrunken?' Obviously, 'one kidney' meant one kidney rather than one normal plus one shrunken kidney but I was, you know, in a state of shock, jet lagged and hung over from Christmas.

The doctor confirmed that 'one' meant one, then moved on to the more important stuff. The kidney I was born without was just a by-the-way digression. What worried him were the lungs, which had three possible diagnoses: sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, and lymphoma.

He explained that sarcoidosis, an infection of the lungs which usually had no symptoms and required no treatment, was unlikely because it mostly affected darker skinned people like Indians and Africans. He also ruled out tuberculosis.

I felt like someone had just kicked me in the stomach. 'How do you know it's not TB?' I asked after taking a deep breath.

'Experience. It doesn't look like TB,' said the expert in cardiothoracic stuff, who was also an associate professor. Of the three lovely possibilities, he reckoned I had lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes.

Lymphoma – gulp! Wasn't that what Lee Hsien Loong had? CANCER?! Oh sh¡t! Sh¡t!! Sh¡t!!!

The next step was to confirm the diagnosis with a biopsy. So I trotted off to the appointments counter, which told me the first working day in the new year was available. Wow, 2 January! The whole thing was hurtling along way too fast! Between Christmas and New Year, I saw my GP, did a CT scan, got the results, consulted a specialist, who said he was damn sure I had cancer . . . . Followed by a biopsy on 2 January, the eve of my birthday? Do I really want to do a biopsy the day before my birthday? Well, it was either that, my birthday or 7 January.

'Ok, I'll take 2 January.' I wanted to know, asap. It was good I took the first date available because after I walked out of the hospital, my entire world ground to a halt. I was in a daze whilst I waited for the surgeon's knife. I went to all the year-end get-togethers but they were meaningless. It would have been easier if I had told everyone I was having a biopsy after the holidays but I didn't want to spoil the party mood.

On 2 January, I checked into the hospital for my first ever surgery, all by my little self. Just before I passed out in the operating theatre, the surgeon popped round and said, 'Happy New Year!' Great sense of humour, eh? What could be happier than starting the new year with an operation? And if anything happened to me on the operating table, at least I was in the hands of a surgeon who was funny!

After the surgery, I was crying as I came out of the anaesthesia. It was a funny feeling, crying before I was fully conscious. I didn't even know that was possible. I guess I was more scared than I was willing to admit. The rest of the day was spent resting, begging the nurse for a cream cracker, and rehearsing how I was going to drop the bombshell on everyone. I fell asleep that night practising 'I have cancer/lymphoma!' in various tones, from downcast to upbeat, matter-of-fact, businesslike and various combinations of these possibilities. I thought 50% upbeat, 40% matter-of-fact and 10% downcast was a good, realistic balance.

The morning after – D-day! I got up bright and early to wait for the doctor, who came around half past seven. As he flipped through some papers which presumably contained the biopsy results, I almost stopped breathing. Out of the three possible diagnoses, he said, I had – drumroll please! – sarcoidosis! Phew! I was gunning for the consolation prize, TB, but I got the jackpot instead! I wish it was more dramatic but that was it. After all the hand wringing, it was over in two seconds. I didn't have cancer. I had an infection in the lungs which, if I hadn't gone for a medical check-up because it was free, would have been undetected.

Needless to say, after the emotional 10-day roller-coaster ride, I had the mother of all birthday celebrations. After that, I went on a massive shopping spree and maxed out two credit cards, the first and only time ever. I had a great time looking for necklaces to cover the surgery scar between my collar bones. I still have the necklaces but the scar is barely visible now, even when I look for it.

A couple of years after the cancer fiasco, I asked the specialist for a medical report because I was buying medical insurance. He sent me something that roughly said, 'Blah blah blah sarcoidosis was suspected, and confirmed after a biopsy.' What the hell! There was no mention at all of lymphoma, and the torment he had put me through! I know the details were irrelevant for the purpose of the report but still!

And where did the dish of beancurd skin or tau kee come in? That was what the hospital served for lunch while I waited for the check-out. It was the best meal in my whole life, bar none!

One last thing: Mom, Dad, if you're somehow reading this from up there (or down there, whatever the case might be) . . . .

YOU LEFT OUT ONE KIDNEY! HOW COULD YOU?!

Hakka Yong Tau Foo

Sunday, 11 July 2010

What makes Hakka yong tau foo Hakka?

It's the pork. Hakka yong tau foo is always made with minced pork, not fish.

It's also the salted fish, added to give the minced pork a salty fragrance.

Yong tau foo may be cooked in the broth, or deep-fried or pan-fried.

YTF may be served in a broth, or drizzled with chilli sauce and sweet sauce. A gravy made with oyster sauce and a good, strong stock is a good option too.

Eaten with rice or noodles, YTF can be a complete meal. Of course, it can still be a complete meal sans carb.

I love YTF very much whether it's made with pork or fish. I don't mind if it sits in a broth, sauce or gravy. I like it best with bee hoon but don't mind rice or other types of noodle. Anything would do so long as the YTF isn't factory made.

Teriyaki Ribs

Thursday, 1 July 2010


A man and woman got into a lift together. She greeted him by saying, "T-G-I-F."

He smiled at her and replied, "S-H-I-T."

She looked at him, puzzled, and said again, "T-G-I-F."

He acknowledged her remark again by answering, "S-H-I-T."

The woman was trying to be friendly, so she smiled her biggest smile and repeated, as sweetly as possible, "T-G-I-F."

The man smiled back at her and once again replied with a quizzical expression, "S-H-I-T."

The woman finally said, 'T-G-I-F – thank God it's Friday, get it?"

Chocolate Tarts

Friday, 25 June 2010

If you've been making shortcrust pastry with cold butter, you need to read this post.

Or if you've been struggling with pastry that keeps melting and tearing as you roll it, you also need to read this post.

Would you like to make the dough and line a tart mould in 10 minutes, without having to rest or chill the dough? Find out how here.

Sesame Chicken

Thursday, 20 May 2010


According to my mother, my Sesame Chicken was better than hers. Which was a bit strange since, as far as I could see, we cooked the dish in exactly the same way. 'No! There's something different. Yours is much nicer,' she said.

Caramel Popcorn

Friday, 9 April 2010


A tub of popcorn costs $6-7.

Richard B. McKenzie, in a book titled Why Popcorn Costs So at the Movies, estimates there's a 1,300% profit margin on movie popcorn in the US.

In Israel, it was recently proposed to outlaw overpriced popcorn (link here). Will the Israeli parliament pass the law and set a precedent? Well, I'm not holding my breath.

For me, it's not how much I pay for the popcorn but the hordes of people at the cinema. I like movies during weekends but I don't like the weekend crowds. Easy solution: DVDs and DIY popcorn.

Weekend + movie + popcorn – crowds = happiness.

Garlic Butter Prawns

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Cold Storage sells ready-made garlic butter made with these ingredients:
... vegetable oil
... butter (13%)
... water
... garlic (9%)
... parsley
... salt
... emulsifiers (492, 471 & B22)
... flavours
... vitamins (A & D3)
... colour (160a)
... antioxidants (306 & 320)

Salmon Teriyaki

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

I'm sure there're lots of important things happening around the world, like . . . Ricky Martin coming out.  

Sigh . . . what a waste. 

But they're things I can't do anything about, mostly. So let's talk about things I can, like making a good salmon teriyaki.

Some people don't eat salmon skin but I love it. To me, that's the best part of the fish, whether it's grilled and charred or steamed and slimy.  

Sob! How could Ricky Martin be gay?

Silkie Chicken Super Soup – Black is Beautiful

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

After totally discrediting my mother's stir fried liver in a previous post, I thought I should salvage her reputation by featuring something else from her repertoire. Something that has curative powers instead of making someone sick or dead.

The immediate dish that came to mind was a soup made with black chicken, aka Silkie chicken or 乌鸡. My mother, like millions of other Chinese mothers, made it with ginseng when it was exam time, or dang gui (当归) when it was 'that time of the month' for girls.

Before I post a recipe, I usually read up about the dish and ingredients used. So, I googled 'black chicken' . . . and . . . wow, it looks like there's some scientific basis for Silkie's curative powers. It might not be just an old wives' tale that black is better than white after all. In fact, good old Silkie is a superfood like blueberries and pomegranates!

My mother didn't know what superfood was. To her, black chicken was just '补'. Long before the word 'superfood' became popular, the Chinese knew that some foods were better than others or 补. These foods with superpowers have been used, for thousands of years, to improve energy levels . . . and whatever else that need improving. You know, important things like virility, fertility, intelligence, hair colour, hair quantity, complexion, wound healing, hormonal balance, stamina, eyesight and ultimately, life expectancy! Whoa, life expectancy? Surely that's stretching it a bit too far? Well, maybe not, if you read the research on carnosine, the antioxidant found in abundance in black chicken.

Carnosine is a protein found in animal products such as chicken, pork, beef, milk and eggs. It's a powerful antioxidant which prolongs cell life span by slowing down the damage that cellular proteins suffer over time. As a result of this effect, which has been demonstrated in rats and cultured cells, health supplement peddlers claim that carnosine is good for anything from cataracts to Alzheimer's disease, autism, diabetes, wrinkles, building muscles, etc. Heheh, they would, wouldn't they?

Some doctors are using carnosine for cataract patients. As for treating other ailments, the research isn't conclusive yet. However, we do know that black chicken has twice as much carnosine as regular chicken. Animal brains are also packed with carnosine. Does double-boiled pork brain soup with ginseng – which my mother also made me drink! – really help get good exam grades because it's loaded with carnosine? Maybe the Chinese are right about brains being a superfood?

I have more faith in Silkie's curative powers now that I know it has lots of antioxidants. Hah! I'm sure my mother would be most happy to hear that. I have one last question though: is black chicken white or red meat?

Check these out:
Photobucket Photobucket
Drunken Chicken
and Soft-Boiled
Eggs
Pork and Garlic
Chives Dumplings
Roasted Peppers
and Mushrooms
Stir Fried Crocodile

Garlic Bread

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

I've finally found a rustic baguette, or baguette à l'ancienne, in Singapore. Compared to the regular loaf, the rustic, traditional version is given a much longer fermentation. This gives the crust a darker colour and a rich, nutty aroma. It also makes the crumb – the white part of the bread – soft, chewy and really flavourful

When I was living in Paris, I used to stroll to Champs-Elysées most Sundays – took me all of five minutes – and grab a baguette a l'ancienne for breakfast. Most bakeries in central Paris were closed on Sundays but the really touristy areas had the odd one open.

Suan Pan Zi (算盘子)

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Sometimes, calculators just can't compare with abaci. Calculators aren't edible, nor do they bring you wealth and good luck . . . .

Of course, you can't eat an abacus either but you can make abacus beads, aka suan pan zi (算盘子). These little discs which look like their namesake are a delicious Hakka noodle that's served stir-fried or in a soup.

SPZ come with a feature that no calculator could ever have. If you eat suan pan zi during Chinese New Year, your abacus will be click-clacking non-stop in the new year, counting the amount of money you will have! Yup, hand on heart, that's absolutely true.

OCBC, Delight Me!

Saturday, 9 January 2010



The above message is OCBC's response to my email of 6 January, sent by Ms Daisy Er. Since the assuring message is from the Head of Customer Assurance, I'm sure I'm assured assuringly . . . but . . . I'm not sure what I'm assuringly assured of. Sure? Sure! Why not sure? Well, what's the most important part of the email? That Mr Lee isn't poorer by $1.25? Nope. Of course, I'm very relieved I haven't reduced his monthly budget for groceries by the cost of a small pack of sugar but there's something more important. The CEO read my email? Nope. Although that's very nice because he's a very important man. Can't see the most important part of the short message comprising six sentences? Heheh, it's in the middle: ". . . we have identified opportunities when we can delight our customers in their course of banking with us" (emphasis mine). Bloody hell! I don't know what these opportunities are! Why doesn't OCBC tell me what they are after identifying them? They should be listed on OCBC's web site! Then I wouldn't have to crack my little brain, inferring from a TV commercial that the bank gives surprise birthday cakes.

I love the word 'delight'. It's so suggestive, isn't it? Maybe OCBC should change its slogan to "OCBC deee . . . lights you!' (in a sexy, husky voice). Or their branch employees should greet customers with 'OCBC deee . . . lights you!' (in a sexy, husky voice, with eyes half closed). "Delight' . . . conjures up . . . visions of . . . . This is where I'm unsure despite assurance from the Head of Customer Assurance. A keychain? A pen? Oooh, more surprises! I like! I must give OCBC lots of 'opportunities' to 'deee . . . light' me. I will visit them every week. Good thing they're opened late and opened everyday. I've been OCBC's customer for donkey's years and I've never been 'deee . . . lighted'. My birthday last Sunday doesn't count, ok, because I didn't like the cake. I appreciated it but I didn't like it, if you see the difference. Daisy has conveniently and completely side stepped the issue on how the birthday commercial should be interpreted but who cares! My next birthday is 356 days away. There are other 'opportunities'. OCBC, deee . . . light me!

Related links:
Click here for links to media reports.
http://kitchentigress.blogspot.com/2010/01/ocbcs-birthday-cake.html
http://kitchentigress.blogspot.com/2010/01/ocbc-part-2.html

Check these out:
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
Prawn Tom
Yum Soup
Claypot Fish Head Kou Shui Ji
(口水鸡)
Cold Spinach
with Bonito Flakes
.

Don't Ask OCBC for Cakes!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010



Many thanks to those who wish me a happy birthday. Thanks as well to those who support the previous post. As for those who say kudos to the staff at OCBC, I agree with you. The staff reacted well enough, I think. Two of the ladies seemed quite amused. The third one just seemed disinterested after performing her banking duties. I think the gentleman also saw the funny side of the incident. Our conversation basically revolved around whether there was a sufficient basis for the ad to be reenacted. As I said, if he had insisted I had a super cute daughter with me to get a cake, he would have won.

I don't know if the OCBC gentleman paid for the cake out of his own pocket but I've asked David Conner and Andrew Lee, respectively OCBC's group CEO and Senior EVP of Global Consumer Financial Services, to make sure he's reimbursed.



I'd like to point out that I didn't insist on getting a cake from OCBC, technically, at any point in time. I asked if I could get a cake. I was told no, I couldn't. Which was fine. I then asked why I couldn't get a cake. I was told it was because the commercial was just a commercial. Which was also fine. I then asked why OCBC had a commercial about giving away birthday cakes when it didn't have any birthday cakes to give away. If the staff had given me an acceptable explanation, I'd have walked away. Or if they hadn't given me an acceptable explanation (nor a cake), I would then ask OCBC's senior management for one. But I couldn't complain to the CEO without giving the frontline staff a chance to show whether OCBC really gave their customers birthday cakes, right?

Some people say I got a cake from OCBC's employees, not OCBC, and that I shouldn't have tormented the staff when my target was the corporation. I'm sorry, this argument cuts no ice with me. The incident was during OCBC's business hours, the staff were wearing OCBC's uniforms, serving OCBC's customers on OCBC's banking premises. They were representing OCBC whether they like it or not. It's a tough job working in a banking hall but hey, whose job is easy, eh? Other than the President of Singapore? Sure, the frontline staff aren't responsible for the ad. They don't make as much as David Conner. But they know they're getting paid for being the conduit between customers and the bank, which they're a part of. Should they perform only mechanical tasks because they make only $x per month? Any unexpected incidents not listed in the training manual is none of their business? Come on! If they do that, they're no better than machines. And if they're no better than machines, they should be replaced by machines. And bank tellers have been, to some extent. The next wave of workers to be replaced will be those cashiers who mechanically scan, pack and collect the money. Cold Storage Great World City has a lane for those who prefer to scan, pack and swipe a bank card themselves. Such facilities are already quite common in the US.

I think it's a bit over dramatic to say I 'tormented' or 'maimed' (emotionally, I presume) the staff at OCBC, or spoilt their day or weekend. As for those who use the word 'misery', oh please! Misery is when you have a terminal illness. Misery is when your country's at war. Misery is when there's no rice in the house. Misery is when your dog's run over by a car. Misery is when you're homeless in a -10°C winter. A crazy customer making a crazy request? That's a nice distraction from the tedium of being a bank teller. Or a slight irritant at worst. Nevertheless, if I really caused anyone at OCBC any distress, in any minor or major way, I apologise, unreservedly and sincerely. And I suggest they get out of the service industry. If they can't handle crazy customers, they shouldn't handle customers for a living. Or they would have to face many more crazy ones, and cause themselves much 'misery'.

I've enjoyed reading the comments, even those that are are downright rude. I'm perverse, I know. (Hey! No one's used that word on me yet!) There's a diversity of views, which is not a bad thing. But there's one thing we all agree on: the cake's bloody awful!

Ok, over to you, guys. Fire away.

Related links:
Click here for media reports.
http://kitchentigress.blogspot.com/2010/01/ocbcs-birthday-cake.html
http://kitchentigress.blogspot.com/2010/01/ocbc-delight-me.html

Check these out:
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
Ginger
Milk Custard
(薑汁撞奶)
Gingerbread Men Cream Scones Pear and Snow
Fungus Sweet Soup
(银耳雪梨糖水)
.

Prying a Cake from OCBC's Cold, Hard Fingers

Monday, 4 January 2010

Photobucket

Yesterday, I went to OCBC Bank, the one at Marine Parade, and asked for a birthday cake. According to the bank's advertisement, their customers get a cake on their birthday, complete with burning candles and a birthday song. And yes, it was my birthday yesterday. If you haven't already seen the TV ad, here it is:


(17 January 2010 – Commercial is now in Chinese because the English version has been deleted from Youtube. English subtitles added on 21 January 2010.)

There were five ladies wo-manning the counter at OCBC. The one who got the short straw was xx Ming. Young, quite cute and quite sweet. Unfortunately, she was wearing a red and white polo shirt with four different coloured buttons, in thick polyester. Hmm, OCBC probably paid a lot of money for some consultant to come up with the hideous design. I gave xx Ming my IC – that's identity card to those not familiar with the Big Brother state – which has my DOB on the front. She went about quietly processing my cash deposit. Was she alerting her colleagues it was my birthday with a secret 'birthday button' underneath the counter? The one beside the panic button for bank robbers? Please don't press the wrong button! I was sure someone was lighting the candles on my cake as I waited, and all the staff were getting ready to shout, 'SURPRISE!' Something like this:
Photobucket
xx Ming looked up and asked me if I wanted to update my address. 'No, thank you.' I had deliberately given OCBC a non-existent address because it's the only way to stop the bank from sending me bits of paper every month. I can't opt out of hard copy statements but if they're returned to the bank three months in a row, they're suspended. A roundabout way to outwit the system and the tree murderers who run it.

After making sure I didn't want my address updated, xx Ming handed me my receipt and IC. I glanced to the left . . . . No one jumped out with a cake topped with burning candles. I glanced to the right . . . . No one started singing 'Happy Birthday to yooou . . . !' xx Ming gave me a weak smile and a is-there-anything-else look. 'Er, it's my birthday today. Do I get a birthday cake?' Since the subtle way wasn't working, I had to be explicit about my real purpose for visiting the bank. xx Ming blinked, then blinked again. She turned to her colleague on her right and said, 'It's her birthday. She wants a birthday cake.' Then, she turned to her colleague on her left and said, 'It's her birthday. She wants a birthday cake.' The three ladies smiled and looked at one another, probably thinking I was joking. And probably hoping their smiles would make me go away. Wrong! 'OCBC has an ad that says customers get birthday cakes. You know the ad?' 'But it's just an advertisement,' xx Ming said. 'Yes, it's an ad, which I take very seriously.' 'But it's just an advertisement . . . .'

PhotobucketWhen it was clear I was dead serious about getting a cake, one of the teller ladies got up to consult her supervisor. Of course, such an important person wasn't sitting at the counter. He was hidden from customers' view by a door with a high-tech digital lock. Tick, tock, tick, tock . . . . ' Have other customers asked for birthday cakes before?' 'No, you're the first one!' Tick, tock, tick, tock . . . . 'A "Happy Birthday" would be nice, you know?' All I got was a blank look, and 'But it's just an advertisement.' xx Ming was starting to sound like a broken record ipod. Tick, tock, tick, tock . . . . 'Er, I have a birthday dinner to go to. I hope I can get the cake quickly?' 'I can't guarantee that.' 'You can't guarantee I would get a cake, or you can't guarantee I would get a cake quickly?' 'Both.' 'Then why do you advertise that you give customers birthday cakes?' 'But it's just an advertisement.' Tick, tock, tick, tock . . . . I was thinking no one was ever going to say 'Happy Birthday' but the lady on the right finally did. She got off her butt, walked over and wished me 'Happy Birthday'. It took her, like, 10 minutes but hey, it was better than nothing. Did Miss Cutey xx Ming who was sitting right in front of me join in and wish me 'Happy Birthday'. Hell, no! Maybe she wasn't in a good mood 'cause she was working on a Sunday? Well, I wasn't feeling jubilant either, unlike Mrs Tan, the one in the TV ad, who got a birthday cake without asking:
PhotobucketPhotobucket
After an eternity, the bank teller lady who went off to consult her supervisor emerged from the internal bowels of the bank. 'We don't have any cake . . . . It's just an advertisement . . . .' 'If you don't give customers birthday cakes, why do you advertise that you do?' She went back to her supervisor. Tick, tock, tick, tock . . . . After another eternity, she came back, this time with a bright yellow shopping bag. Would I like the shopping bag instead? 'That's not a cake,' I said. NO CAKE! NO CANDLE! NO GOOD! She disappeared behind the door again.

After yet another eternity, the supervisor, xx Keong, joined me on my side of the counter. Would I like to discuss the matter with him in a separate room? 'Why? Is there a birthday cake with a candle in the room? No? Then we can discuss here. Your advertisement says customers get birthday cakes, so I'm here to collect my birthday cake.' 'Yes, but in the advertisement, the bank surprises the customer, not the other way round! You're not supposed to surprise us!' Heheh, he had a point there. 'If there's any sincerity in the advertisement, you wouldn't be surprised,' I retorted. 'The point in the ad is that the bank gives the customer a surprise. If I give you a cake now, you wouldn't be surprised,' he returned. I almost burst out laughing. 'If you give me a cake now, I promise I'll be very surprised.' For the next few minutes, he tried to wriggle his way out of giving me a cake. 'It's just an advertisement blah blah blah. . . .' I can't remember everything he said but there wasn't anything that convinced me I should leave without a cake. After all, the ad didn't have conditions like 'while stocks last' or 'offer expires whenever'. I thought I had to lie down on the floor and kick my legs in the air. Boy, that would be fun, wouldn't it? But before I could do that, he caved in and said, 'Ok, I don't have a cake now but I can go and buy you a cake.' Of course, when he said 'I', he meant one of his female underlings. It took another eternity for a bank teller to get the cake from a bakery round the corner.

PhotobucketIn total, it took me five eternities to get the miserable three-inch cake from OCBC. It was topped with a heap of artificial cream, the kind that doesn't melt in Singapore's tropical heat and I never eat. Frankly, my homemade cakes are way better. (Click here for recipes.) The plastic tree and plastic Hello Kitty? Tacky tacky tacky! Not to mention the danger of a child choking on them, especially when the 'leaves' can be detached from the 'trunk'!

Getting OCBC to cough up the cake was like prying something from a dead man's cold, hard fingers. Or squeezing blood from a stone. But advertisements are so often deliberately misleading, I couldn't resist the temptation to show an advertiser that misleading ads can sometimes backfire. A taste of its own medicine, perhaps? I allowed myself to be misled into thinking that OCBC was giving customers birthday cakes. And you can do the same, too. I asked xx Keong if I could tell all my friends that they can get birthday cakes from OCBC. He said it might not be a cake but it would be 'something' if it's their customer's birthday. Well, if you're not happy with that 'something', just insist that it was a cake in the TV ad. And you can do your part for consumer rights any day of the week, except public holidays. OCBC branches are everywhere and 18 of them (click here for a list) are opened 11am-7pm, including Saturdays and Sundays.

Related links:
Click here for links to media reports.
http://kitchentigress.blogspot.com/2010/01/ocbc-part-2.html
http://kitchentigress.blogspot.com/2010/01/ocbc-delight-me.html

Check these out:
Not LKY's
Babi Pongteh
Pandan Chiffon Cake
As Good As
Bengawan Solo's
Mrs Wee Kim Wee's
Very Famous
Mee Siam
My Mother's
XO Cognac
Chicken Wings

Sesame Duck

Friday, 1 January 2010

2009's gone. Just like that, phffft!

Time for some new year resolutions?

Heheh, resolutions are not for me. I never keep them, so there's no point in making any. Actually, I don't even remember what they are by February!

I prefer new year wishes, which are much better than resolutions. Just wish, no resolve needed.

What do I wish for?

Oh, you know, the usual stuff. Lots of money, the more the better, so that I can buy everything that can be bought.

And, because money can't buy everything, I also wish for love and good health.

PhotobucketCan I have all the money, love and health I want and still be unhappy?

OK, just in case that's possible, I wish for happiness as well – an unlimited amount. (Obviously, I've read all the stories about people making wrong wishes after they find a lamp, bottle, or monkey's paw.)

And since it's no fun being rich, loved, healthy and happy alone, I wish you all the money, love, health and happiness that you would ever want.

Happy New Year, everyone!

The first recipe I'm sharing in 2010 is sesame duck. It's like chicken stir-fried with sesame oil (recipe here) but tastes very different. Nicer and more sophisticated, I would say, because duck has a richer, more complex flavour, and we don't eat it very often.

Duck can be quite dry in a stew but this recipe gets round that by chopping up the duck into small pieces. This allows the stewing sauce to get right into the meat, keeping it moist and tender.

There's plenty of galangal added, which makes a fantastic complement to the duck's gamey flavour. sesame duck is one of my favourite duck recipes and, you know, we Teochews know a thing or two about cooking and eating ducks.

SESAME DUCK (麻油鴨)
(Recipe for 4 persons)

½ duck (about 1 kg)
80 g ginger, washed and julienned (I never peel ginger but you can if you want to)
80 g galangal, washed and sliced 2-3 mm thick
4 big cloves peeled garlic, washed and thinly sliced
1½ tbsp sesame oil (plus a few more drops when serving)
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 tbsp dark soya sauce
3 tbsp light soya sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp sugar
200 ml water

Rinse duck and remove skin and fat around the bottom. Chop into small pieces about 2 x 1 inches (5 x 2½ cm). (If you go to the market, you can get the duck chopped up when you buy it.) Heat a wok till very hot. Add 1 tbsp sesame oil and ginger. Stir-fry over medium heat till ginger is lightly golden. Add garlic and the remaining ½ tbsp sesame oil. Continue stir-frying till mixture is golden brown. Increase heat to high. Add duck and stir-fry till it changes colour and wok is very hot again. Add wine, dark soya sauce, light soya sauce and oyster sauce. Stir till well mixed and sauces are absorbed. Add 100 ml water and stir to deglaze the side of the wok. Tuck galagal slices around the duck. Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low.

Put sugar in a small pot (don't use non-stick) and cook over medium heat. Swirl melted sugar around the pot and continue heating till it bubbles and looks like dark honey, when it's no longer sweet and before it turns bitter. Next, stand back from the pot and add 100 ml water. If some of the caramel solidifies, continue heating till it melts again. Add caramel liquid to the duck stew. There should be enough liquid to almost cover the duck.

Check that the stew doesn't get too dry and stir once every 20 minutes or so. Add a bit more water if any duck pieces are not in contact with the stewing sauce. Taste after 1 hour and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Duck's ready after 1¼ hours of gentle simmering, a big longer if you like it really soft. The sauce should be reduced but still watery, covering 60-70% of the duck. To serve, remove duck pieces to a serving bowl, skim off oil from the sauce, then add the sauce and a few drops of sesame oil to the duck. Or you could keep the stew in the fridge, covered, and remove the hardened fat the next day. Reheat thoroughly with a little bit of water added, and you have a better tasting stew than the previous day.