Tuesday, March 29, 2011

soba noodles with sesame dressing

i am not particularly fond of japanese food but this is one japanese dish that i thoroughly enjoy - the cold soba noodles with sesame dressing. cook the soba noodles in rapid boiling water for about 15 minutes or until the noodles are tender. then drain and rinse the noodles under cold running water. rinse till the water is clear.

in a large mixing bowl, combine the soba noodles, fried tofu strips, cut soft-boiled egg pieces and baby spinach leaves. drizzle about half a bottle of the deep-roasted sesame dressing into the content and mix thoroughly. additionally, you can also sprinkle fried sesame seeds onto the top of the mixture.

soba noodles are made from buckwheat (soba) and they are as thick, or rather as thin, as spaghetti. here, in australia, you can get the soba noodles from most asian grocery stores. in singapore, they are available at most supermarkets, including the ntuc's. of course, you can get them at any supermarkets selling japanese food.

the deep-roasted sesame japanese dressing has a rich flavour and comes with a light aftertaste. it costs about aud$6.00 a bottle. the slightly bigger bottle, not of the same brand, costs aud$7.50 in the korean food store.

these baby spinach leaves are readily available in australian supermarkets. in singapore, you can get them from the cold storage supermarkets.

this is the inari (fried tofu) which we cut into strips before adding it to the noodles. you can get this inari from both the japanese and korean food stores. they come packed in a plastic bag.

there is one more ingredient i have not mentioned - that is the soft boiled eggs. cook four eggs in boiling water for exactly 8 minutes. put the eggs in when the water is boiling, not before. when they have cooled down, peel the shells and cut each egg into four of five slices.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

a discovery at lorong halus

on my second visit to the ponggol promenade and the lorong halus wetland reserve, i discovered something. i found out that coney island, also known as serangoon island, is now connected to the mainland by a road. we walked along the road behind the serangoon east dam to its end. a notice at the gate informed visitors that coney island was out of bounds as construction work was still in progress.

during our canoeing days, coney island was a popular stopover site for us. we would usually paddle from changi point to coney island, have a picnic there and paddle back. those days the channel between the island and the mainland was a popular site with water skiers. camping on the island was also possible but it was a bit inconvenient because you had to carry your own fresh water. i also remember swimming across the channel, from coney island to the mainland.

i had been checking out coney island from the western end, which is nearer to ponggol point, so i missed out on the reclamation work that had been done on the eastern end, which is nearer to lorong halus.

this is the serangoon east dam, one of the two which blocks the mouth of the serangoon river. lorong halus is on the right side of the river. a former landfill, it used to be a popular spot with weekend fishermen. according to my friend who had fished at this place, there were three ponds near the sea and at high tide, fish could be seen leaping out of the water.

i have seen similar tidal gates when i explored pulau ponggol barat last year. pulau punggol barat and pulau punggol timor are two other islands that are now linked to the mainland.

this is the new bridge across the river which is now part of the serangoon reservoir. crossing the river from lorong halus will lead you to the ponggol promenade. the riverside walk is popular with cyclists, joggers and walkers. on weekend evenings, the car-park at tebing lane can get quite crowded because of the many diners who patronise the eateries, two of which overlook the waters of the reservoir.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

the automobile association's car badge

this metal chrome badge of the automobile association (of singapore) has become a collector's item. it appears to be a rarity in singapore. i have been looking at old cars in car-parks and on the roads for this badge. i had been lucky to come across this one on the front grill of an old mercedes benz parked at sembawang park.

in the united kingdom where these badges were first issued in 1906, they were initially made of brass, and over time this metal was replaced by nickel, and then the white metal chrome.

according to one report, the square badge was made available in 1967. i might have seen it on some cars in the past but i have been trying very hard able to find one on a car but without success. however, i did manage to see a square emblem on the top of a singapore's automobile association's tow truck.

this is by far the one most commonly displayed by present members - the plastic decal. even then, not all members bother to get the vinyl decal for display. it is not a sought-after item like the old chrome badge.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

removing content without breaking egg-shell

first, you will need a long and sharp needle to break the shell of the fresh egg. you hold the needle with your thumb and fore-finger very close to the piercing end of the needle. gently but firmly, force the sharp end onto the shell. once it breaks, you will have created a hole which is about the diameter of the needle.

using a long syringe, pump air into the egg. as air is pumped into the egg, the content will slowly ooze out. continue pumping air into the egg until all the egg-white and the york are emptied from the shell.

next, to clean the inside of the egg, you fill the syringe with water and pump it into the egg. alternate this by pumping air into the shell. continue this process until the water that comes out of the egg is clear. you may have to do this 3 or 4 times before the water is thoroughly clear.

what do you do with the drained-out content? you should refrigerate it and consume it as soon as possible. do not keep it for more than two days.

so, what can you use this clean-out egg-shell for? most people would fill it with agar-gar (jelly) which should be a popular item at children's parties. i suppose you can also make easter eggs with these egg-shells. for decorative purposes, you can either hand-paint these empty egg-shells or use lacquered paper to cover them.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

tan tock seng hospital & tb

today, tan tock seng hospital is the second largest general hospital in singapore. the present image of tan tock seng hospital is so different from the tan tock seng in the 50s and 60s. after the war, tan tock seng hospital became known as the tuberculosis centre of singapore. when someone was admitted to tan tock seng, it had to be for the once dreaded disease - pulmonary tuberculosis. back in the 50s, tuberculosis (tb) or consumption was the number one killer in singapore.

the incidence of tuberculosis was so bad that some sufferers had to nurse themselves at home; there was just not enough beds at tan tock seng to cope with the large number of tb sufferers. the success of treatment was better when the disease was detected early. coupled with the fact that the disease was infectious, all government servants had to be x-rayed on a biennial basis. i remembered my visits to the villa on moulmein road to have my x-ray taken. there was also one instance when i had to report to sata (singapore anti-tuberculosis association) on palmer road to have my chest x-rayed.

today, this row of buildings have become part of the ren ci medical centre and the singapore christian home for the aged. back in the 60s, when i walked past these blocks of buildings, i used to see tb patients convalescing in the one-storey structures. i think there were similar blocks along mandalay road. the patients would usually be seen in their blue and white hospital clothes; most of them were skinny and frail and i imagined i could hear them coughing.

this was the tan tock seng i knew when i was growing up. kampong chia heng, where we lived, was separated from tan tock seng by the former jewish cemetery on thomson road. next to the hospital was another kampong known as kampong lorong sinaran. those days when someone had a persistent cough, we would say: " tb, ah? you better go to tan tock seng." living so close to the hospital also made us more aware of some of the symptoms of the disease, like loss of weight (nearly all the patients were skinny); a persistent cough and, in very severe cases, coughing out blood.

i think the dreaded disease was finally brought under control not just because of all the x-ray examinations and campaigns like the anti-tuberculosis week but because of the improvements in the country's general hygiene and housing.

the low buildings (compare photo 2 and photo 4) - they have not changed much over the years - are a reminder to us that tuberculosis was once the scourge of our society. i hope they do not demolish these buildings as they serve as a connector to the past.

Monday, March 7, 2011

solitary prowling monkey

this long-tailed macaque monkey has been prowling the area around bukit panjang park for quite sometime already. it must have got separated from its troop. monkeys are gregarious and they do not normally move or operate alone. in the wild, when i see one monkey, i can be very sure that there are a few others around. but this lone wild monkey has moved from its natural habitat to an urban environment.

the same monkey has been spotted along the linkway that joins the newly opened senja-cashew community club to the bukit panjang plaza. it has also been seen at the bus-stop nearest to the community club, on the side of the pang sua storm-water retention pond. of course, it has also made its presence felt at the club; hence, the above notice. i have also seen some 'kind-hearted' people feeding the 'poor' monkey.

of late, it has been spotted along the parapets and corridors of the block of flats next to the community club. that was when we got concerned and worried. i remember last year there was a report in the local papers about a monkey that was a nuisance and a menace; it entered a flat in which there were two young children, and it messed up the place. this also took place in bukit panjang.

the other story from malaysia, also reported last year, was even more scary: a monkey killing a baby.

when i contacted the agri-food and veterinary authority (ava), the officer manning the helpline told me that if i lived in a landed or private property, they could lend me a trap to catch the monkey. how about hdb dwellers? sorry, there was nothing much they could do except to advise us (living in a public estate with no apparent owner) to be alert and, of course, not to feed the monkey.

i think the community club is still in the process of contacting the relevant agencies because the monkey is still moving around the place freely and i do not see any trap around.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

the harpers' visit to singapore 2011

this is not the harpers' first visit to singapore. since leaving singapore in the 50s, john harper and his family, including his now grown-up children, have visited singapore a few times. but this was my first time meeting john and his lovely wife ann. john is one of my more ardent blog followers. he has been making comments regularly in my blog and on facebook.

when john wrote to me earlier this year about his intended visit and his wanting to meet up with me, i racked my brain to think of places that may excite someone who had spent some years in singapore. however, my apprehension was needless because john had a list of the places he wanted to visit.

first, he wanted me to go with them to sungei buloh wetland reserve after having read about my several encounters with the smooth otters and the crocodiles. from the onset, i had to tell john that i could not guarantee that we would definitely see otters or crocodiles at the reserve. as it was high tide, i took him to the mangrove walk where i pointed out to him the tree-climbing crabs and the giant mudskippers.

as luck would have it, we came across a juvenile crocodile basking in the sun along one of the not so travelled tracks. this was also my first time seeing a crocodile on the track. in all my previous sightings, the reptile was in the water. we managed to get within 10 metres of the crocodile to take the picture.

on another day, we made a trip to the last surviving kampong in singapore - the one at lorong buangkok. nothing has changed much since my last visit to the place in 2010. we were fortunate to meet the lady who owned the piece of land on which the kampong is built. she was most accommodating and helpful, teaching us how to deal with the dog in one of the kampong houses.

the other place where i joined the harpers for a visit was the thow kwang dragon kiln at lorong tawas. we had to reach there by 8.00 pm that friday because there was a pre-tour briefing before the start of the wood firing. there was quite a crowd that night, with a festive mood in the air. again, we were privileged to have the owner of the kiln with us to give us a history of the place and to explain the firing process.

this was the farewell dinner john and ann hosted for some of the foyers (friends of yesterday.sg) at fatty weng's restaurant along guillemard road. chun see (of good morning yesterday) commented that one of us would blog about the place. victor koo (of taking up the challenge) would be the best person to blog about it because he used to live close to albert street. the other person who could blog about it is peter - a guest blogger of good morning yesterday.

that day was my first time eating at any fatty weng's restaurant. i had heard about fatty weng when it was at albert street in the 60s. i was also aware that it moved to guillemard road in the 70s and subsequently into the singapore badminton hall sometime in the 80s. today, it is back on the same place.

like chun see, i also wondered if it was the same one from albert street. when you have made a name for yourself, many others will latch onto the name. there is a fatty weng in the bencoolen street area and there is even one in a food centre at block 155a bukit batok avenue 8.

chun see, peter and victor all took time off to show john and his wife around places nostalgic to john. they were especially impressed by peter's knowledge of the changi area.