Thursday, December 17, 2009
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I find that I am becoming a repeat visitor to the Peranakan Museum. That's the thing about a community museum, it generates repeat visitors from members of the community.
The Baba Bling exhibition was a revelation, mostly because I found out that a number of my great-grandmother's and grandaunt's pieces were on display, without my even knowing! My aunt (one of my dad's many cousins) had loaned them to the museum for the exhibition. I went home and asked my father about it. He asked my mother whether she remembered him mentioning (months ago) something about a reception at the Peranakan Museum for people who had contributed to the exhibition. Well, now. Guess who was definitely not told about that. And I wasn't even allowed to take any photos of my own great-grandmother's utterly gorgeous hairpins, belts, earrings and most of all, her truly stunning kerosang. Talk about family treasures.
I had to pass on my bracelets to my younger brother when his turn came. But can anyone tell me the significance, if any, of these bracelets?
P.S. Just found some of the jewellery from the exhibition featured on this site. Take a look at these beauties (my family pieces amongst them)!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
This year the Singapore Food Festival was held from 17-26 July, with a Peranakan theme. I went to the Clarke Quay Food Street on 18 Jul and also to the Spices Cafe (at Concorde Hotel, the former Le Meridien) for a peranakan lunch by veteran (82-year old!)chef Baba Jolly Wee.
I must say that I was not too impressed with the Food Street. It's not so much the food- the food was ok. But after all, if I want to eat Hokkien Mee, Poh Piah, Kim Choo kueh chang or Nonya food I can just walk down East Coast Road (my personal food street). And there is Prawn Noodle, Katong Laksa some more. So why fight with the crowds on Read Bridge, queueing up for ages for a bite of pohpiah or looking for a small table to stand at to eat?
On the positive side, after the Food Street, we went to One Fullerton where we had a great view of the fireworks being set off after the National Day Parade rehearsal.
I much preferred the Spices Cafe buffet, with a good range of dishes including certain Singapore specialties such as chilli crab, satay. The desserts were good - there was some nice apom but unfortunately by then there was not much spare capacity left in my stomach! My only gripe is that the satay was so popular that every time I went it seemed to be out. I only ate 2 sticks! But I had no camera with me so for photos and a much better review, ck out this blog.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
I've been trying to wake up earlier on Sunday mornings, and go for the early (9am+) mass. After all, I get to work around 9am most weekdays, so why can't I wake up early Sundays too? Progress, however, has been patchy. But to reward myself when I do make it on time, on my way back, I try finding something for my elevenses. That's when I pop into Katong Antique Shop for some nonya kueh-kueh - varieties not necessarily available at other places.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
I mentioned green bean soup and my father started talking about how his mother (my grandmother) made it, with sago pearls amongst the beans. I checked up my Penang recipe book, "Nonya Flavours" and there it was!
Be warned: this takes some time to cook. (I've also made a few tweaks to the recipe.)
1. Soak green beans (abt 200g or so) in water for about 1h or so
2. Add the soaked beans to boiling water, together with brown sugar - abt 150-200g (according to taste) and pandan leaves. Cook over slow heat till soft (beans should break up, soup should thicken slightly). Can take over 1.5 hour.
3. Wash the pearl sago (abt 75g or so), add to the pot. Cook till transluscent (don't overcook)
4. Add about 100ml of coconut milk, or alternatively spoon a little coconut cream on top of the soup.
My father likes it as a night snack, my mother as a mid-morning snack. How versatile!
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Anyway, I thought I would come up with my own little quiz. Here are a few questions:
1. What to look forward to after Christmas Eve Midnight Mass:
a. Roast turkey
b. Mulligatawny soup
c. Devil curry
2. Dodo and Jojo are the names of
a. two cats
b. two nuns
c. a singing group
(ok, so this is not quite a Eurasian question but it is definitely a Katong question)
3. Must haves for children's birthday party
a. Sausage rolls
b. Sugee cake
c. Green chilli sambal sandwiches
d. All of the above.
4. You would leave your shoes in the pew in church during
a. Good Friday service
b. Maundy Thursday mass
c. All Saint's Day
5. The famous Eurasian dish Smoore features these ingredients :
a. marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers
b. beef, onions, potatoes
c. beef and yorkshire pudding
The answers to some of the questions are somewhere else in this blog...
* This book and its sequel, "Elvis still lives in Katong", both by Denyse Tessensohn, are available at the Eurasian Association building in Katong together with other books on or by Eurasians.
Friday, May 01, 2009
Work intruded on the Friday and Saturday, and I went for a cooking class on the Sunday. So I didn't have time to go down. Nonetheless, for completeness, here is the story from yesterday.sg.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
URA has decided to conserve about 100 more buildings in the Joo Chiat/Katong area, as announced in this news release.
Hopefully the preservation of more of this lovely part of Singapore will also increase awareness of the history and heritage of the area.
I personally think that the so-called "Mother Tongue" policy has also led to the demise of the Baba Malay patois. Not that my family has any particular affiliation for it, of course. Being Penang Babas/Nonyas, the common language was Penang Hokkien. Of course, ironically this may also die out in the longer term, to be replaced by... ...Malay.
Most Singaporeans however do not know the difference between Penang and Singaporean peranakans. My uncle recently had his 60th Birthday Party. It was a fairly big do, with a large group of about 10 tables or so. There was a programme for the evening complete with games, powerpoint slideshows and speeches. The theme for the evening was "Peranakan". So the tables were labelled "Ayam Buah Keluak" and "Bakwang Kepeting". The MCs for the evening even started off by saying a few stumbling words in Malay, in my uncle's honour. They might have had an easier time speaking in Hokkien!
Hopefully blogs like this will continue to keep interest in Peranakan culture and history alive - at least this is part of my motivation for persevering on with it.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Someone who read my last post commented to me that I had kept my readers waiting quite some time for the sequel. Much as it pains me to admit it (pride going before a fall and all that) but the reason was because I was not quite satisfied with my pineapple tarts. The jam turned out beautifully – sweet and aromatically spicy, but with a tangy edge to it – but the pastry turned out a little too hard and not crumbly enough. I was also trying to get the hang of the pastry cutter/mould and so the shape of my tarts was not that nice; nor was my jam perfectly rounded or smooth. All in all, an amateur effort.
Fortunately I had made loads of jam so I had the opportunity to try the pastry again. This time the tarts turned out nicely shaped (I had improved my cutting techniques) and the pastry more crumbly and softer in texture. I must admit that since I used a standard shortcrust pastry recipe, it was not as buttery and rich as some other pineapple tarts I’ve eaten. Also my mother was commenting that I should have put in some salt (but I was not using unsalted butter, was my reply) and used some lard as well as butter (I’m concerned about health implications, I said). Nonetheless, I thought the pastry complemented the tarts well.
Anyway, here is a brief recipe:
(generally, do this at least one day before the pastry to let the jam cool down completely)
1. Take two pineapples, dice and blend finely in a blender. Add a little pineapple juice to facilitate the blending process – the juice adds a little zing to the jam later on. Note that traditional recipes call for the pineapple to be grated or chopped finely but this is very timeconsuming and probably the reason why I didn’t get around to making pineapple tarts for so long. It is of course possible (as someone suggested) to grate half and blend half the pineapple, for a better and more chunky texture. But for simple and fuss-free pineapple jam, I’d go for the blender.
2. Slowly cook the pineapple mixture over a low flame. Add 2 cloves, a stick of cinnamon and a piece of star anise to flavour the jam. Cook till thick (this should probably take 30-40 minutes or so), remove from flame. See picture for how the cooked jam should look like.
Ingredients: 250g flour; 125g butter; pinch of salt to taste; 2 eggs (beaten).
1. Sift flour and mix with salt. Rub butter into the flour till it resembles breadcrumbs.
2. Pour in the beaten egg slowly, mix together to form the dough - use hands if nec. No need to use all the egg. Put dough in fridge for at least half an hour to cool.
3. Roll out the dough to about 0.5 cm or so. Using a pineapple tart cutter (metal ring with mould within to form depression in pastry), cut out the tarts and put them on baking tray. Fill in with jam, glaze with beaten egg (now you know why you don't need to use it all) diluted with a little milk. Top with a little pastry piece.
4. Bake at 180 degrees centigrade for about 15-18minutes, when it has reached a light golden brown colour.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
There were a few problems, of course. First, the equipment. I had no idea where my pineapple tart cutter and mould were. So a new cutter was definitely needed. This is not the sort of thing one can pick up easily in the local Cold Storage. Fortunately, I chanced to go to Haig Road Hawker Centre for lunch last Sunday. There, I found Gim Hin Lee, a specialist baking shop. It sold everything the aspiring baker could desire - baking tins of all shapes and sizes, other baking equipment such as cookie cutters, rolling pins, a wide variety of baking ingredients (in small sizes and large sizes for commercial kitchens), and of course, my pineapple tart cutters. Not quite the traditional one-piece copper mould, but the two piece cutter and mould which is good enough for me.
The second challenge was finding the right recipe. My grandaunt used to make the best ever pineapple tarts, a family recipe which she had bequeathed to her daughter. But my dear mother kept on forgetting to get it for me. So I had to turn to the recipe books for some ideas. Then the questions arose: should I find a Peranakan recipe, or a Eurasian recipe? And, who started making pineapple tarts anyway, the Eurasians or the Peranakans?
A difficult question to answer, so it turned out. Quite clearly, the techniques behind pineapple tarts appear to me more European in origin. The cooking of the jam, the use of European pastry suggest that the Eurasians may have come up with the tart first. But then, the pineapple tart is a treat so closely associated with traditional Chinese New Year celebration food. The golden colour of the pineapple jam on top of the pastry circle, or the jam forming the golden heart of a pastry ball - the very appearance is auspicious. And then "pineapple" translates (or so I understand) to "Ong Lai", or "wealth comes" in Hokkien. Doubly prosperous, indeed! Little wonder the Peranakans embaraced the pineapple tart as their very own.
I thought that one way to find out would be through looking at cookbooks. But the two oldest I have (Mrs Handy's and Mrs' Lee's) make no mention of pineapple tarts at all. Hmmm... could it be that pineapple tarts are a relatively new culinary innovation? Seems unlikely - my mother recalls one occasion as a child when she helped her mother and aunt make (Eurasian) pineapple tarts. And of course her aunt must have been making pineapple tarts well before that, so the practice must be at least 60 years old, based on my family history alone.
In the end, I decided to use a combination of recipes from Eurasian cookbook writers Wendy Hutton and Mary Gomes, as I thought these recipes would be closer to my grandaunt's secret recipe. More about my baking experience (and the recipe) in my next post.
But for now, gentle reader, one question for you: do you know how pineapple tarts originated, and how long ago? Whilst stories and anecdotes would be most welcome, I am hoping for historical confirmation/evidence of some kind as well.