Tag Archives: Food

The “Karang Guni” Man


I love Singapore. Being a half American, half Japanese foreigner here, I feel like it’s the perfect blend of the East and the West. Since moving here in 2010, I have grown accustomed to most things that are uniquely Singapore – the food, the humidity, the busy culture, the language, etc… But there is one thing that my body refuses to get accustomed to and that is the loud horn of the “karang guni” man!

It is my firm belief that Singaporeans have a supernatural ability to block the noise of the “karang guni” man’s horn and keep sleeping. To test this theory, I recently asked my landlord if he heard that loud honking which was going on outside, to which he replied, “What noise?”

What I would give to have his ability.

Yet despite my hatred for the horn, I actually like seeing the “karang guni” men around my block. Whenever I see them I feel like part of me is transported back to “old Singapore” and I am witnessing something that perhaps I won’t get to see in the future, and I get a warm fuzzy feeling.

In fact, I believe “Old Singapore” is becoming a thing of the past. The one constant here in Singapore is change… and things change fast. Just last weekend I was walking down Orchard Road, amazed at how different it looked from my visit to Singapore in 2008. It’s barely recognizable. And it’s not just Orchard Road. The beautiful green field that was just across my office is now being turned into a condominium and as far as the eye can see, construction cranes are scattered all around.

It is my hope that people here won’t grow accustomed to this constant of change just like some may have grown accustomed to the loud horn of the “karang guni” man. I hope that in the midst of the rapid change happening all around us, we can all take a moment to enjoy the present instead of always striving for a “better tomorrow” by upgrading our infrastructure and eliminating symbols of our heritage. In a blink of an eye, things change and one day the loud horn will no longer wake me up.

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In Conversation

While up in Kuala Lumpur just a little while ago, I took a break from my break to do a little writing. And I must say, so much time spent together as a family, with no distractions is a pretty nice lead up to Christmas. Especially when there’s good food to go around…

Earlier this week, my family drove up to KL, a trip we like to call our “rotting time”. As I am writing this, my sister is soaking in a long hot bath while my parents are enjoying the peace and quiet away from home watching a movie on cable.

It’s been a relaxing week so far, with mornings starting no earlier than 11am and the days themselves comprising no more than massages, shopping, movies, eating… and some swimming to… you know… somewhat compensate for the amount of food we’ve been indulging in.

But along with the consumption of food comes wonderful conversation. The first night here, we had dinner at a restaurant that had a box full of cards with various themes for table topics on each table. Amongst them were amusing questions such as, “What food do you find the sexiest? What would you do differently if you were the opposite sex for 24 hours?” and some perhaps slightly more meaningful ones like, “What was the worst advice you’ve ever received?”

And just tonight, we had a dinner of scallop porridge, soya bean milk and ‘youtiao’ at a small stall in the shopping mall. A dinner that brought back fond memories for some of us. Over the meal, my parents shared with my sister and I, their happiest memories of food they used to have while they were…mm… younger.

Over these few dinners, my sister and I caught a glimpse of the lives our parents had. And those snatches of conversation about apparently silly topics can sometimes lead the conversation into more meaningful territory, areas that reveal much about a person’s thoughts and values.

Conversation over a meal can truly be a powerful bonding tool, if it is steered the right way. I’m thankful that my parents have taken advantage of these times when we’re all seated together to tell us stories they find meaningful or amusing, or to ask us probing questions, or just to catch up with us (my sister and I) and lend a listening ear. That’s a gift that I’ll always appreciate and one that doesn’t only come about at Christmas time. It’s a gift that I hope I can continue to give to my own children too in the future.

What do you think could be a gift that you could keep on giving to your loved ones all year round?

My Longan Tofu Story

As newlyweds, my husband and I are enthusiastic and excited about having people over and be a part of our new life together. We had an evening gathering at my new home some weeks ago, where old friends came over to hangout and talk about life. I wanted to be a good host and provide some desserts, and yet recognized that realistically, I would come home after a day of work with little preparation time. 

“I’ll Make something simple”, I told myself. During my lunch break that day I had a brilliant idea – Longan Tofu – a light, syrupy sweet dessert. Easy to prepare, and yummy too! I swung by the supermarket and snapped up the two simple ingredients I needed.

When I got home, I proudly showed my husband what I had – one large can of Longan in syrup, and – the star – one cube of silken tofu.

He gave me a perplexed look, and wasn’t sure what I was getting at. He asked, ‘Isn’t it supposed to be almond jelly?’

‘Of course not! It’s Longan Tofu,’ I said.

“Hasn’t he made Longan Tofu ever?” I thought to myself, and hurried into the kitchen to prepare. I happily sliced the tofu into smaller cubes, tenderly placed them into a large serving bowl, and poured the can of longans and syrup in as well. I was rather confused when I saw that the tofu sank straight to the bottom, and remembered that it would usually be floating at the top.

Brushing the thought aside, I enthusiastically told my sister-in-law as she walked into the kitchen, about what I’ve made, showing her the final product. She took one glance at it, gave me the second perplexed look of the night, and burst out laughing. In fact, she laughed so hard she couldn’t stand straight.

I suppose you can say that it was about that time that I realized  I’d used the wrong tofu. I found out too that Longan Tofu doesn’t actually contain any tofu. My husband was right. It is supposed to be jelly.

Thankfully I confessed it to my friends, and most of them were game enough to try my version of Longan Tofu, and we didn’t have to waste any of it. I comforted myself with the fact that it was the healthier choice *wink*. I’m glad too that my husband still expressed his appreciation for the effort I made to be a good host.

Well, I am going to try making the real Longan Tofu again one day, to ‘redeem’ myself and change the Longan Tofu story that has been going around our group of friends.

Made a silly mistake lately? Perhaps it’s more serious than the wrong ingredients for a dessert; perhaps it’s a wrong word used in your communication, or a wrong attitude you had about a situation. Whatever it is, it might not be all that bad you know, you could try making it right the next time round. 🙂

p.s. Got the correct Logan Tofu recipe to share? I’d be glad to get my hands on it!

Food and conversation

It’s always great to hear a compliment, especially from the person you love. I’m thrilled when my girlfriend compliments me, like the other day when she exclaimed, ““I’VE NEVER SEEN SUCH INTENSE CONCENTRATION!” However, I’m not sure if this was really meant as a compliment since the statement was actually referring to my eating habits.

I don’t know about you, but I love to eat. I’m not fussy, except when it comes to seafood. The moment my stomach growls, my mind is immediately filled with thoughts of food. I do not pay attention to my surroundings. Once the plate is placed in front of me, I get tunnel vision. When I dig in, I Dig In.

Everything around me fades into the background, and unless my companions somehow grab my attention, their words fall on deaf ears. It’s food first, talk second. This is actually a good practice since my parents taught me to never talk with my mouth full. I will not speak until every tiny morsel is wiped clean from my plate.

Many of you may think that since I am not talking, I must be good at listening. This is true! I listen to my thoughts – I should stop grinding my teeth when I chew; I should cut more carbohydrates from my meal, etc. Then, all thoughts of weight-control magically disappear when I take another spoonful of rice dripping with meat gravy. That’s why I have a love-hate relationship with my food.

Now, having a human relationship makes some things more challenging. I want to eat, but I also want a meaningful conversation with my girlfriend. My brain keeps switching between both objects of affection. I have to intentionally pause to talk, listen, then take my next bite. This can pose a challenge since my girlfriend prefers a conversation where both parties are looking into each other’s eyes. I have tried doing that but you just can’t serve two masters in the same space and time. I have to give what is due to my girlfriend and what is due to my food.

So what is my solution? Easy. Start with small talk before the food is served and go deeper after I have licked my plate clean. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Once the bulge at my belt line is satisfied, I become a more effective listener.