July, 2007

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Ah di => Uncle => Ah Pek

It’s funny to think of it sometimes, how as one grows older, one’s label changes. Specifically, over here in Singapore at least, when you’re young (sort of), people around you call you “Ah di”, or little brother. When you’re older, younger folk may refer call you “Uncle”, which is a sort of respectful term the Chinese here use in reference to elders. When you’re old and decrepit, you get promoted to “Ah Pek”.

Personally, I should be used to the “uncle” label. Ever since Danyel came into the picture, he calls me “er shu”, or second uncle in Mandarin. However, just on Saturday, a 16 year old secondary school girl selling flags at Hougang Mall said to me “Uncle, would you like to make a donation?”

Me, Uncle???!! Hey, I’m 35 – only.:(

All watery

Vegetable rice @ Hougang Mall Kopitiam

Most of the fourth level of Hougang Mall seemed to have been undergoing renovation like forever. The area had been pretty much partitioned off for several months, which left the both of us guessing what new store was going to appear eventually.

dining-176.jpgThe both of us were quite surprised when the partitions finally came down a week ago; it was a new Kopitiam foodcourt. Of all things! For those of us familiar with Hougang Mall, there are food outlets at the basement (Pepper Lunch Express, Ya Kun Toast), level 1 (e.g. KFC, Mcdonald’s, Delifrance), level 2 (fine dining restaurants), and a foodcourt on level 5. Heck, with the new Kopitiam outlet, the only remaining level without an eatery of some kind is level 3. I mean, Singaporeans love food but we thought the mall had quite overdone it now. There’re more eating than shopping places in the mall.:)

Thing is, this new food court now comes in direct competition with its older and established cousin upstairs on level 5. On their side, the decor makes the food court look really like those old 1950-1960s coffee shops, and Ling thought the ambiance looked really nifty. I’ll have to put a picture of the area now soon. I thought the whole thing looked real claustrophobic on the other hand. On the down side too were the prices: many of the items were more expensive than other food Courts by 50 cents to a dollar, with some set meals costing in the $7 and $8 range now.

I chose a vegetable rice set that really looked better on the menu than in reality; it was rice drenched with soup stock and ingredients, including mushrooms, carrot sticks, lettuce and other condiments. Tasted like Mui Fan. On the upside, the portion was large enough to make finishing the meal a real challenge, even for someone with as hearty an appetite like me. On the downside, the fare was pretty bland for my taste buds, but this I imagine is more a problem with the nature of the dish – Mui Fans all taste bland.

  • Food: 5 / 10
  • Value: 3.5 / 5
  • Overall: 2.8 / 5. Not something I’ll want to try again for sure. Next time, we’ll go upstairs for lunch, even if it’s more dreary looking.

Black Pepper Goodies

Black Pepper (Beef) Rice @ Pepper Lunch Express

Ling was remarking the other evening the absence of food-related entries into the blog. Truth to tell, we’ve been either eating at the same places or cooking at home-our dining experiences have been rather plain of late. In fact, I’ve been having a binge on sweet potato porridge for several weeks now, but who among us would be actually interested to read my recipe write-up on that? :)

dining-175.jpgStill, we were at Hougang Mall a few evenings ago to pick up my new pair of glasses. There’s a Pepper Lunch Express outlet on the basement floor, and we’ve been seeing this restaurant chain at a few other spots around too, so popped in for a dinner. We’ve normally been giving the place a miss as the prominently displayed prices on the outside aren’t actually low – set meals go for around $8 to a whopping $16, which is pretty much out of the fast food price range.

Both of us had the same thing: black pepper rice, pretty much nearly the cheapest set meals on the menu since everything else looked really dear. Basically, you get what the picture shows, and on a hot plate. Rice, nicely seasoned beef on the outskirts, corn and a mixture of other condiments in the centre. Upon serving, you mix up the entire lot, let the hot plate do its thing, then add sauces to taste.

How was the taste then? Pretty interesting: the quality of rice grains used was high – we could really taste the difference compared to the cheapo NTUC rice we use for cooking at home. The rice sans sauce was already pretty tasty with a strong black pepper-ish taste, and adding either the garlic or honey brown sauce adds even more flavor. The plate was about ok in portions; definitely adequate for Ling and myself, but hungry eaters could find the serving just a tad small.

  • Food: 8 / 10
  • Value: 2.5 / 5
  • Overall: 3.5 / 5. All in all, a pretty mixed bag. It’s pretty good and tasty food, but the asking price of $8.80 (even with a drink thrown in) is well out of the fast food range.

A Story of Love and Money

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

blog-pride-prejudice.JPGAh, the famous opening line in Jane Austen’s novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Yang surprised me by buying a DVD movie adaptation of this well-loved novel recently since I enjoyed the story so much. It took him quite a while to find this DVD as many shops here do not carry it. (Thank you, darling!)

As I was to learn later, this adaptation is a 1995 BBC production instead of the 2005 movie starring Keira knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy. Yang told me that this BBC series is highly acclaimed amongst the other ‘Pride and Prejudice’ films. Some say that this series is even better than the book itself.

Work in term 3 was so hectic that only at the end of week 4 did I have the luxury of time to sit down to watch the DVD. After watching the 6-episode production, I fell in love with it! The choice of cast for the various intriguing characters was superb and there was depth in the development of characters. Besides the all so wonderful Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, I also marveled at how effective Mrs Bennet, Mr Collins and Charlotte Lucas turn out to be. Excellent acting there.

The scenery in this movie is like – makes me yearn to visit England someday. The lakes, woods, fields and houses – ah, so very lovely. They melt thy hearts :D If you get to watch this film, check out the costumes too.

An ex-colleague loved the novel so much that she has read it 100 times over! And she’s in her sixties now. Wow. As for me, I had read it twice. Compared to ‘Sense and Sensibility’, this one is filled with witty dialogue and interesting plots. In addition, the old English language sounds so cultured and beautiful as compared to what we use today for our spoken word.

There’s one minus point though. A strange feeling of loss mingled with longing lurks somewhere in my subconsciousness after watching the show or reading the book. I suspect what I felt was similar to those feelings of many soccer fans after each World Cup season ended.

Ah, the power of story. :)

On a lovely Sunday morning

We’d stopped by Ang Mo Kio Central for brunch after Sunday service just now, and guess what was on offer?


Yep – the Bee Chee Hiang bakkwa was going for just $31.50 a kg – which Ling remarks is the cheapest she’s seen for a long while. I took this picture really to tease our Missouri friend, Matt, and watch him turn green.:) Unfortunately, the offer ends today, so those of us who’re staying in the area, go for it!

And oh, that’s Ling checking out the shop just ahead of me haha.:)