Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The year of the Dragon - 2012

It has been quite a Chinese New Year for me this year. Realised that I haven't taken any pictures at all and that's probably because I spent so much time socialising or catching up that I kind of neglected my blog. So the only picture that I have for CNY is a beautiful set of ang pows with gorgeous blossoms and the most fabulous colours other than red - fushia, purple, mandarin orange, pink and turquoise.

5 memorable colourful moments for me this Chinese New Year include

1. Getting invited to the beautiful home of a fellow blogger Nong Jia Niu. http://nongjianu.blogspot.com/. She is the first friend I've made online in a serendipity moment. She hails from my favourite family vacation town of Malacca and is one of those rare people who pays attention to the small but beautiful things in life.

2. Making authentic nonya laksa Katong style for the first time, from a receipe that I've kept for years  but never got around to trying. It brought back the taste of the laksa I had when I was a little girl ( many many years ago ) from a little Katong shophouse.The only taste missing was fresh cockles which would have made it perfect. Lazy old me only got around to cooking it as my husband's sisters were visiting me for the first time this Chinese New Year. As they were good cooks, I had to find something different, risky as it was to try a new receipe.

3. Being visited by my daughter's school friends, all 9 of them for the first time. They were such a lovely lively bunch !

4. Getting to know the mum of my daughter's friend who introduce me to the Tibetan snow lotus and how a home made version of the drink can enhance the immunity of the body.

5. Having a delicious Chinese New Year lunch with my team mates and screaming Huat Ah ! as we toss for good fortune, health and happiness !

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chinese love letters made the traditional way

I was snacking on some Chinese love letters while flipping through some old cookbooks in my collection and it was such a coincidence to come across this picture in the 1984 Female magazine receipe compilation. This was how old love letters were written, I mean made, over a hot charcoal stove in the backyard using a special mould while sitting on a stool. Burnt fingers were common as the cooked batter had to be rolled quickly before it hardened. Also made with its own traditional mould over a charcoal stove were little kueh buloh, sponge cakes that were soft and fragrant. Nowadays, these are made with electric moulds, less painstaking and convenient but charcoal does make a difference in terms of the taste. I just love the moulds of traditional cakes and treats and they form such an important part of our heritage. Such moulds include that for making ang koo kuehs, Chinese mooncakes, Kembang Goyang (rose shaped fritters), Peranakan apom Berkuah and more. A shopkeeper in Joo Chiat told me that traditional handmade moulds such as the stainless steel Roti Jala maker were getting harder to find as the people who made them were getting older. The beautiful thing about traditional moulds - it gets better with age after years of seasoning. An Indian friend of mine has a family modified Morokoo maker that makes the most wonderful Morookoo, thin and crispy. Isn't it great to start your own traditional family cooking heritage this way ? I 've heard of sisters who look forward to festive times to cook traditional kuehs as it is a special time for bonding. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Vintage toy baby pianos

Bought a vintage baby piano today at the flea market. Though it wasn't in tip top condition, I love its bright red colour and logo with roses. Even though the keys were faded, they still played reasonably well. This baby toy piano has been around for at least 40 years, considering that it was very popular as toys for kids in the 60s and 70s. I had one too while I was growing up though I can't remember whatever happened to mine. Shanghai, the place where it was made was also the first city in China to set up a piano factory in 1895 called the Shanghai Piano Company.For a city with a strong Western influence back then, it is not surprising that the piano first gained its popularity in China in the city of Shanghai.

Famous piano brands in the West are of course the Steinway and Baldwin but in the 60s and 70s, Japan and China began mass producing the piano as well. Kawai and Yamaha were the earliest piano brands to emerge from Japan . Similarly for the Pearl River brand in China. Today, the Pearl River piano factory in Kwangzhou is the largest piano manufacturer in the world. It is sad that many businesses in the West had to move their factories to China due to high labour costs including some very established piano names. There is a level of pride for a country to have its products made in the place of origin but competitively, well that's another story.  

Flower windmills in Tiong Bahru

Flower windmills give off such a happy vibe. Twirling in the wind in all their glorious colours. Don't know why but my heart lightens up whenever I see one and down at the Tiong Bahru area, there seems to be such a  happy windmill culture going on. Spotted a number of them at the balconies of the beautiful Art Deco houses here. There were even a number of flower windmills just outside a children's education centre at Yong Siak Street in stunning colours. My favourite is the one in fushia pink.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012 !

I spent my New Year's Eve completely decluttering everything from my closet to the battle field in my daughters' rooms As I am an avid vintage flea market collector, I find it totally necessary to edit, recycle as well as to rotate the things that I have collected over the years, creating and displaying little vignettes at different corners of the house. No bungee jumping for me, just a clean slate to start the year and think of the upcoming projects I want to do.

Here's wishing one and all a very Happy 2012 ahead !