To all our Indian friends and family, Happy Diwali! May the light of Diwali bring you peace, joy and prosperity in the new year!
Side note, Xander’s school celebrated Diwali/Deepavali last week with everyone in either Indian costumes or party clothes, some henna painting and they also got to eat some traditional snacks. A simple party no less but at least this very Chinese school made the effort to teach the young ones a little more about the festival.
One of my friends had texted me a few weeks ago to ask if we were interested to visit the Singapore Garden Festival because they had a couple of tickets to spare and thought of us. How sweet right? I thought since I haven’t seen this friend in a long time, we arranged to go to the festival together on the 1st day.
We saw all sorts of flowers that day. Rare flowers, common flowers, big flowers, teeny tiny flowers and even Old Flower Eyes (老花眼. Chinese translation of Presbyopia). I was told many of the exotic flowers were specially flown in just for the event and designers from top garden shows around the world were invited to create special themed displays during the festival as well.
Visitors were especially attracted to the Orchid Extravaganza which housed several award winning orchids in the Flower Dome. Everybody wanted to get closer to the orchids and take multiple macros of the same bloom in the same position. They were also waiting to get into the10-metre column which I heard had a nice surprise inside. The line into the special area was so long that we had to give it a miss. I mean, we can still see it from the perimeter. Just not close enough to take nice macro shots of the gorgeous blooms. All of these special blooms were on loan from private collectors and external vendors. There were even medals and plaques displayed quite prominently next to the flowers. Next to these medals and plaques, you will see Do Not Touch signs. In fact, these signs can be seen all over the Flower Dome. Even the hardy succulent zones had signs to remind visitors not to pelt the poor plants with the stones that were scattered around them. People don’t understand these cactuses can DIE one. I saw a kid threw some small stones at the plants for fun and his parents did nothing. So irritating.
You would think at the Orchid Extravaganza area with so many ‘caretakers’ and signs people will understand right? Nope. I saw a guy trying to pull some orchids closer to his wife so she could use her puny iPhone to take shots of it. Come on. Don’t act blur when told you are not supposed to touch the flowers ok? A simple Sorry or Ok is good enough. Don’t pretend and say “Oh I nair say the sign” or “I was just taking photos” or worse “No, I nair touch!” You so big size, how not to see your big burly hand tugging on the delicate flower leh? Look! It was still swinging from side to side when you suddenly let go of it lor. *rolleyes* Luckily, the ‘caretakers’ were very polite and friendly, unlike me, so there was no drama after minor confrontation.
We were wandering around the tents in The Meadow and came across some students showcasing their works made from recycled materials. One in particular caught our eye and we went closer to take a look. While we were watching the student demonstrate how she used a plastic bag to make into a flower, a lady decided she NEEDED to record the entire process on video with her camera. She shoved Xan (who was standing right next to me) aside saying “I want to take a video of this.” HARLOW? I told her “Hey! He was here first, don’t shove him around!” It was as though I was invisible because she didn’t seem to care at all. I wanted to tell this auntie her camera has this thing called the Zoom Lens and that if she looked down she will realize she has feet and can use them to move around my child to take her video. Why must be at that particular spot leh? Wah lau. *grumblegrumble*
I wished I was able to spend more time to see all the flowers properly especially the 10-metre column. It would’ve been nice to take a picture of the inside. Oh well. Kids and babies are not made for long walks in crowded spaces. Maybe next time I should go on my own. It is impossible to take clear photos with a wriggly baby strapped in front of you.
Today is the last day of the festival and in case you decide to go take a look (I highly recommend you should), here are some tips I want to share with you:
Try not to bring your strollers. It will be very crowded and trying to manoeuvre your tank through the sea of people will be tricky. If you simply have to bring it, bring lor. Don’t say I never tell you ah.
There are very few resting spots at the festival so if you are bringing your elderly parents (such fillial chewren you are! *clap clap*), go slow and seek refuge inside the air-conditioned tents frequently.
Bring a hat and sunglasses because it might get really hot and sunny.
Just so we are clear, I am not a foodie. I make disastrous food. I don’t enjoy seeking new food experiences as a hobby simply because as a parent of 2 young children, I don’t have the time or energy to hunt down obscure places with food that may or may not be to my kid’s liking. This kind of gamble I don’t dare take because a hungry child = angry mum. We often stick to tried and tested places and only occasionally venture elsewhere. In fact, I depend on my friends to tell me what is good and new in town because I am also a mountain turtle 🙁
Among the places they have mentioned, one name kept popping up. Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家). Who? It’s a homey Chinese restaurant situated along Tai Thong Crescent which was voted one of the top 10 favourite restaurant by SPH CATS Classified Food Fest Award 2013.
Do not let the restaurant’s simple layout fool you. The food is fresh, scrumptious and sincere. Gu Ma, the founder, is very much like my mother because they both prefer to buy their ingredients and seafood from the market daily. This is to guarantee freshness and taste. My mother used to say better to buy today, cook today. Why buy fresh, then put into the fridge and wait until not fresh already then serve your family leh? It simply did not make any sense to my mother. Gu Ma agrees too.
Nah, nah! This is the famous Assam Fish Head! Sorry my photo does not do it justice. It had the right amount of tanginess. Not so sour until your toe can curl kind. This is a really appetizing dish but I still prefer the one from a kopitiam near where we stay. The little stall has since closed and my dream assam fish head is nowhere to be found. Sigh…
I don’t know how anyone can look at the spongy brinjal and think “HA! This one can make crispy!” Apparently Gu Ma can and she did it beautifully. This is a weird and wonderful dish I will definitely order again in future.
The Claypot Chicken with Ginger and Sesame Oil reminded me of my confinement food. In a good way of course. Perfect dish for a cold rainy day.
This ain’t no ordinary tofu. This bean curd was made by the restaurant, not the store bought variety. Somehow even Xander who normally runs away from any kind of bean curd, gobbled it all up with the mushrooms. If the kid eats it without any protest, it is a winner in my books.
Oh the Kyoto Pork Ribs! It was so tender and juicy! Unlike the typical Ku Lo Yuk, these pork ribs were not drowned in batter and smothered in sickeningly sweet ketchup and pineapple sauce. What’s a Chinese restaurant without a yam ring right? Everything goes well with yam ring me thinks 🙂
I called this The Veg with the ‘Fro. The Husband said the mark of a good restaurant lies with how they cook kailan. Gu Ma took it to another level altogether. The Yuan Yang Kailan is cooked in two styles, blanched and fried. You can’t recreate this with your normal stove because the heat is not high enough. Forget it. Just go eat it at Gu Ma Jia lah. I wanted to ask Gu Ma what inspired her to invent this dish but Yvie was fussing and I left The Husband in charge of helping me do the asking. Sekali when I turned around, I heard him say “Auntie ah, you designed this dish to look like your hair izit?” OMG! Never. Ever. Compare a woman’s hair to vegetables, ok folks? Luckily Gu Ma was too stunned to realize what was happening so I fasterly changed the question. Phew.
Gu Ma said, the stems are usually stringy and to solve that, she just had to peel it and to jazz it up, she tried to fry the leaves just to see how it ends up. Voila! Yuan Yang Kailan was born! So clever ah this auntie?
The inevitable happened. I forgot to take a picture of a dish and boy was it a good dish! I strongly believe that anything fried with salted egg yolk is oh so delicious. Forget about cereal prawns! Prawns with Salted Egg Yolk is to die for! Even Yvie couldn’t take her eyes of them. Of course lah! The prawns were enormous!
Don’t forget to try the Fruity Jelly Enzyme with longans and wolfberries. *whispers* Good for losing weight!
Overall, this is the place I will bring my parents because I know they will enjoy the fresh home cooked food and the non pretentious setting.
Oh yes! They have catering serviceand bento box delivery too! Do pay them a visit the next time you are in the area.
Tip: Parking spaces are very limited so be prepared to make a few rounds in the neighbourhood or just take the public transport. A little bit of walking exercise after dinner is also good!
What’s a Chinese New Year celebration without a trip (or two) to Chinatown? We don’t necessarily go to buy new year goodies but mostly to join the hustle and bustle of the activities and ok, maybe buy some unnecessary fattening snacks and knick knacks we don’t need. Please lah, it is impossible not to get sucked into the pointless consumerism when you are in Chinatown.
There is chinese new year music blasting from everywhere, hawkers shouting and clapping to get shoppers to stop at their stalls, seductive smell of barbecued bak kwa, squid, giant prawns and chestnuts in the air, dripping cold Taiwan jelly being distributed by overly enthusiastic dudes on stools and getting jabbed in the belly by excited aunties rushing to get free taste of butter roasted peanuts. Welcome to Chinatown!
I usually avoid going anywhere near Chinatown during festive periods because of the crowd and the noise. I wasn’t like this in the past though. You would never find me at home and I would always be at some crowded hotspot with my friends having fun. Now that I’m a mummy and in my 30s, I no longer find joy in mosh pits and (butt)cheek to (butt)cheek dances (aka being in crowded trains or places).
The Husband’s office is pretty close to Chinatown and Xander knows it. Whenever he and I go pick Daddy up at the end of the day or when Daddy needs to work late at the office, Xan will always beg me to bring him to Chinatown for a walk. This boy has the ‘I am so å¯æ€œand cute’ face pat down so of course we simply had to make a quick trip to the night market lor.
After a quick dinner, I told Xan to look out for small decorative stuff we could buy to dress up the pussy willows he and Daddy bought from Ikea a few days prior. Give the boy a mission and he was kept busy the whole night.
We ended up going back a second time with Daddy over the weekend. He was very fascinated with the preserved leg of ham with the hoof. Xan kept mimicking the hoof with his hand, “Mummy! See! Same ah?”