Oct 1, 2012

Yours Truly,...

Yesterday I attended a wedding dinner hosted by my ex-boss, Miss Ong Su-Chzeng. Her only daughter, Mirai was married in USA on 24 March 2012. A special dinner just for her and her friends, family from the region. 

Su send me an e-card invitation in mid July and her personal request was to ask if I could baked some wedding cupcakes for the reception. How could I say no? And I told her if she didn't ask me to bake the cakes, I would not talk to her for a long time. 

Su came to our shop together with her friend, Aileen to pick and choose the kind of boxes they would like to have as favour boxes. And since it was also Mirai's wish to have mooncakes for her wedding, Su picked a Love mooncake mould. I decided on flavours and a new flavour of lavendar lotus paste for it.

The dinner was like most of the ordinary of all wedding banquets. But this one was different from the others I have gone to. Su has invited some of our colleagues from my days in Jardine Fleming where I used to work at. There was laughter and joy as we chatted over good food and good wine..in a company of old pals and new ones too. 

Then Su went up to the stage and talked about dedications she wants to make ...for all the people who stood by her all these years. From the days when she was still in Tokyo, Japan right down to the years she came to Singapore to work and raised Mirai. And as usual, she has to talk about me again. About me doing the cakes, about  me being her "Forever Staff" and she was my "Forever Boss".  Then she made a surprise announcement about something she wanted to do for a very long time..some 20 years she said. A book she wanted to publish for Mirai. And there and then, I knew what she was talking about. It was her late husband's short stories he used to write for a Japanese magazine. She wanted so much to collect these stories and publish it into a book. She knew what she wanted. But however, she never found the courage to do it until now.

When she spoke about the book, tears welled up in my tears because I knew the story behind it. All the years I have worked with Su, for Su, knowing her, I saw the hurt, the pain she had to go through whenever we touch base on this book. She had the book printed in Singapore, with the help of a friend we all knew, Miss Eleanor Fong, from Xpress Print. It was not meant for sale, and she had limited copies printed. And it was to be given to a fair few. 

After her speech, I went up to see Su privately and I told her a bit of how the book was collected..and Su wanted me to go up and tell Mirai and everyone else how important this book was to all.

ok, why should we get so emotional over a book? Why is this book so important? Are the stories in there happy or sad? This I can tell you, its a happy book with happy stories. Of course, Mirai was too young to write, much less express her thoughts. Seeing the world at large through the eyes of a loving father of  his little girl growing up in Japan from the age of 3 years old till she was 5 years old. 

This was totally unprepared, un-rehearsed and I didn't expect myself to be up there holding the microphone to talk. So I ask that Mirai stood next to me, to hold my hand because as I spoke, tears will flowing freely from my eyes. And I said :

"Su came to Singapore more than a decade ago, to start life anew here. She came with many things, one thing was always in the back of her mind was this book that she wanted to publish somehow, somewhere in time. A book she said will be called "My Name is Mirai". However, the soft copy of the book was all typed out in single document files. And its all kept in a laptop. Su gave me the laptop for safekeeping, she says. 

And she tells me "Gina, if you can, backup all the files from it and copy it into a diskette for me."

I tried to access the computer, boot it up and it just won't start. Through a series of hardware diagnostic, tests etc, I managed to retrieve all the files. But when I try to open the files, many appeared gibberish. And there was folder which had more gibberish name to it. In there were 15 data files. Of which 10 files were read-able. The rest were corrupted.

I asked Su about it..I remembered it so clearly..she went silent for several minutes. And then I knew.. I just knew what it was.

So Su asked me to go to her house to pick up some books. I thought it was some children story books she wants to give to Natasha. But when I was there, Su just said :

"All the books are in that brown box. Please bring it home to read."

And I ask Su which is Chapter 1 or 2 or 3. And she said "Gina, there is no chapters. Just a story each month for 15 months."

I couldn't retrieve the digital copies for some of the stories. And I knew that Su wanted it to  be re-printed. And printers wants soft copies for layout, etc.

So I took it upon myself to re typed the lost 'chapters' from the computer. When Su found out that I did, she stop me from doing it. 

I encouraged Su to get it printed and I asked her back then how she wants it to be done. She says:

"It has to be a book that is black and white. The front cover must also be in Black n White. And maybe it has a picture or photo or something..something about Mirai. And the book will be titled as 'My Name is Mirai' "

It was always my intention to draw using just a 2B lead pencil, what I think Mirai would be liked. Drawing just silhouettes of a little girl, in all her curiousity about every day things and the things that made her happy. 

But I got worn down by work and life at home. And with my late father-in-law's long illness and my pregnancy with Melody was difficult, I never took time to do the drawings. But in my heart, I remembered all the things that Su used to tell me about Alan Booth, her late husband. Of how she was 'romantically challenged'..that's the words she used instead of "courted". She would tell me of things that she was happy about, or unhappy about. 

One of the saddest thing I have known Su for was to talk about Alan openly, freely in any way. It took like forever to hear her spoke of him fondly to us or even to Mirai. How she buried herself in work, how she never find courage to step into any hospital to visit anyone because she is plagued with unhappy memories of visiting Alan in his last days of suffering.

Falaq was at the wedding last night..and we both cried and we kept wiping our tears. Seeing the book gone to print was like seeing a miracle in the life of someone with whom we loved so dearly, coming into grips to reality and with life.

So Su, you have done it. You finally did. And I am so darn proud of you. We all are. All the people who stood by you, behind you, all these years. We are still here..especially me.. Yes, me. Your Forever Staff, forever here.

One last thing I said yesterday on stage for everyone was :

You never get to choose the people you meet each day, but those who left behind, left footprints in your heart, and stays with you forever..

And I know that many of the guests shed silent tears...

Aug 31, 2012

Those Glorious years...

Footloose Dance Sequence : Footloose movie

I stayed up last night just to watch a re-run on TV on this movie called Footloose(1984). Well, more like I stayed up just to catch the last dance scene..only to find out that its on youtube too.  And in the process found that there is a remake of the old movie..with newer songs added and possibly some changes to the script and more dance sequences..looks like I have to go and get the DVD for it now.

This movie brought back many memories for me. Bittersweet..some are happy, some are not. The year the movie was released in Singapore and the song became a hit on radio all time. I was working long hours with the now defunct Emporium Holdings. I travelled on public buses with earphones to the Sony Walkman, listening to all these 'hits'. There is Footloose by Kenny Loggins, or "Let's Hear it for the Boy" by Deniece Williams.

1984 was a year of big happenings , big milestones that shaped my life. My late granny died suddenly a year earlier..I was 21 in 1984. Sidney and I were still dating. I had a birthday celebration at home.. It wasn't anything fantastic I did. Because I was still grieving over ah ma. I just want to make ah kong happy. He was already wheelchair bound and often in tears when we gather the family together because he was reminded that his beloved wife wasn't around him. Sigh..life at home is often about our elders and how we should make them happy. Now I looked back in time, I am happy that we make an effort to make Ah kong happy. He passed away peacefully..

This is not intended to be a sad blog entry today. It was a year I learnt new skills, made a difference in my life and made a stand to choose to be happy forever. A year I took to grieve and to let go. The pain I felt and the tears I shed for ah Ma finally came to an end. 

I started teaching in Sunday School in our church and was graced by God for that. I spent much of my Sundays in church. Worked with young kids and got a yearning to study on Ministry to Children and got a certification on it too.  I was taking care of very young kids who are born into unhappy homes. With abusive parent or neglected families.

A year it took me to realise how blessed I was being born into a family where my parents doted on me. My relatives (aunties, uncles, grand parents, cousins, etc) are very close knit. 

A year before, my sister, my 2 cousins and I went to watch Grease at the cinema..after my granny's passing, we stopped doing those cousin with cousin outings. My uncle Andrew told me to keep the family alive by getting the younger cousins to look out for each other as it was something Ah Ma use to do. So it became a life long goal..

Several years forward, having my own girls now..I must have done something about that in the works. My niece, already an adult, would drive the family car to fetch my cousin Doreen and pick up my daughter Natasha for a night out with the girls..drinks, party in downtown Singapore to meet up with Dagmar(another one of my cousins who was visiting us from New York, USA)..

Ah ma..from where you are up there, I did it!!! 

Mind you, Natasha was under-aged at this time when this photo was taken. She was barely 16 years old. But could easily pass out as a young adult so they let her into pubs and night spots and she went drinking and partying with the girls.

The boys in the family hang out in the usual places..the elderly gather together once a month for food, chit chat and gossip on life and everything else.

Till today, I am so proud to talk about us..about our family together. Where we cared for each other, the way Ah Ma expected us to be.

A year later in 1985, I gave up on Sidney and met Benny, the love of my life and the one and only person who completes me. A friend once ask if I had the chance to live my life all over again, what choices I would have made. I would chose to meet Benny again, in fact, sooner. So that we can be together longer and earlier.

Benny and I did many things as most young people did in their age and time. We go dancing together..he was a better dancer than me. We sung all the 60s, 70s hits together too. In every facet of my life, he was there for me. And we shared common interests in life and things, in food and even in drinks.

Today, my life still  evolves around them..the people I grew up with, my family. The man I loved and continue to love. Some days I am tired and hateful of general things. And Benny senses my unhappiness and jumps to it and 'rectify' it. He would say things like "today, you don't have to go to the shop. " or "I bought fresh watermelon juice for you, no ice". I am a simple person, with very basic and simple needs. I don't need fancy lifestyle or gifts to make me happy. To live with me, you need to understand me. And no one does it better than Benny.

Nobody Does It Better Sung by Carly Simon

I hope one day in time..when I grow really old, I can tell my girls that life is better now because we dare to make a difference and make a stand to choose and find happiness for ourselves and to be happy forever.. 

Aug 20, 2012

Love me, Always

 I have NOT disappeared..just way too busy and way too tired to blog. On life, on home, on love and everything else. Since my last post, so many things have came and went. Six long months..my knee just gave way to the pain and I couldn't walk for many days..dragging onto almost 2 months.

 I walked with a limp, at night was worse when I need to get up to go pee..I couldn't get up from the bed. I resorted to "no-drinking" of any kind of fluids, soup, whatever after 9pm. Benny was in pain too..not physically though. Mentally, spiritually just watching me wrenching in pain physically. He took me to Gleneagles Hospital to see the specialist doctor. And was supposed to go for a MRI Scan.

I was out of action for 6 weeks. I couldn't teach as I couldn't stand properly. And if I sit down, I couldn't get up without help. I wanted to go and get a walking stick and Benny would see to it that I didn't. And he said to me : 

 "Don't walk around with a stick. Because you don't need one. I will hold your hand in mine, and I will walk with you for as long as it takes." 

And that said, he held my hand and helped me up the stairs in our apartment block as we stayed on the 2nd floor. And when I get out of our car, he would come and open the door for me, and he would help me up. He would pick up my bag for me. Help me with all the little things we all took for granted. For 6 weeks, he would go out and buy food and wouldn't allow me to cook. I run classes on a limp. After weeks of taking medication, the pain slowly and surely left me. 

Now I am back to my old self..happy-go-lucky. And still, Benny by my side..our relationship became stronger than ever, like a double edged sword fought over a 1000 battles. He used to hate watching soap dramas on Channel 8. Now he spends time with me, watching silly soapy dramas with me. Not that I am into such dramas..but just want to relax, cool off my mind from work and things. 

Every day our time spent together is measuring the love we have for each other. Doing things for each other. Then my mom went ill and my sister ask me to visit her whenever I can. And before I could say anything to Benny, he suggested that all my Sundays were to be spent at home..cooking for my mom. And he would drive me there to visit her and chat with her. 

So the past 2 months now..all our Sundays are spent together with my mom. And there were days he went to Johor Bahru with his ex classmates ..just to hitch a ride there as Benny had his tooth extracted from a dentist in JB. He had to go there every 3 to 4 weeks. I wouldn't go with him. But he felt a loss and somewhat strange when he went with his friends. I encourage him to have his own time with his friends. Away from me, family and work. But he is away, I felt a loss too. Some awkwardness that is difficult to describe. And when he gets back, he would tell me of that same awkwardness he felt too. We have grown accustomed to each other. To the way we do things. While we waited for each other. 

Now we do every thing together. Seeing the doctor, doing deliveries, having lunch or dinner. Watching soap dramas, packing stuff. Benny became extremely sensitive to my needs. To how I feel of things in general. He is upset or worried easily if I am upset. And if I am worried, I dare not show openly to him. He became defensive towards my needs. If anyone said anything harmful or hurtful to me, he jumps to my 'rescue'. 

 These days we talked more about growing old together and what we would do when we grow old. Of we should fill up our days should we not be working anymore. We do not know what the future holds for us..but we know we will see each other through all the days of our lives. And he told me that if I grew to be really old and couldn't walk, he would still hold my hand. 

And with that I said to him "Ben, Loving you, Always.. !"

Feb 26, 2012

Love and Be Loved

The Moon Represents my Heart sung by the late Ms Teresa Teng.

Ms Teresa Teng was my mom's favourite chinese singer. For years, I grew up listening to this song on radio and later on cassette player when my mom would play it all the time.

I think many of us who grew up in Asia in the mid 70s would know or heard of this song and know of Teresa Teng.

We just got back from Guangzhou, China last Friday afternoon. A short and sweet mini honeymoon sort of holiday. I chose to be this time because its cold in China. We stayed at the Furama Hotel. And quite close to the river where many locals and tourists flocked there to 'romance' under the stars at night or just to sit there and watch the world go by.

I had intended that we go there too..but my knee suddenly misbehave and I was in pain. I couldn't walk very far, and even if I did, I literally took baby steps and very slowly too. I took him to places I would go whenever I travel to Guangzhou alone in the last couple of years. The places I go to eat my breakfast, lunch or even dinner. And I took time to tell him of the things I do to keep my mind off on the family when I was alone in Guangzhou.

Benny literally walked the steps I took..in Guangzhou. Seeing where I have been, places I have gone to shop or just unwind.

However, due to my knee problem, he also took small steps with me. We did the usual tourist thing like going to Beijing Lu(a tourist belt in Guangzhou). Beijing Lu is similar to our Singapore's Orchard Road area. But I was in pain, so he said "let's go back to the hotel to rest. Unless you want to shop and buy things?"

And I said:

"We didn't come to Guangzhou to hibernate in the hotel!"

and then he said :

"But I am tired and tourist shopping for clothes, shoes is not my thing"

But I knew..he was concerned of me. The first 2 days we walked in the bitter cold in our wind breakers and thick coats to have breakfast. Then by the 3rd day, my knee just 'give way'

And he got up early and said :

"I will go and buy breakfast. What do you like to eat?"

We had dinner with friends..with the freight forwarders who handles our shipment. They are more like family to me than business associates. For years, I have treated them like my sisters and brothers. And while we were there, they ferry us around town and brought us round to shop too.

I didn't take any photos with Benny..just photos of him eating. And everytime he digs his spoon or chopsticks into any meal, he would say something like :

'Its good..but it lacks something..."

and then I would go "What? too salty? too oily?"

"No, it lacks the chilli sauce you made for me."

We spent 4 days in Guangzhou China. We rekindled our old courtship days..of us walking hand in hand, doing things for each other. With him opening car door for me or shopping door for me, Waiting for me while I buy chinese junk food to eat.

For 4 wonderful days, Benny make me feel like a million dollars. My love tank filled..to the brim. My batteries re charged. And then on the way back..in the air plane, he said to me

"Let's do this again..maybe later this year.."

Benny having his breakfast at this dim sum joint I frequent..

The next day(2nd day), he ordered his favourite Chives and Minced Pork dumplings...

He waits for me while I took photos of kitty, cats by the road side..letting me do the things I enjoy doing.

and even though he doesn't like pastries and cakes or KFC, he just wanna try every silly thing I did when I was travelling and working alone in Guangzhou China

This is the Portuguese tarts by KFC. We had to order KFC meals just to get these tarts.

And though he prefers normal steamboat over Mala Pot, he just had to try this once just to please me

Even at the Departure hall at Baiyuan Airport, I said must try this cafe's food..so he did.

So to end this post..if you were me..wouldn't you feel that the world stood still for 4 days and your love for that special someone was worth it all?

That's what I felt..Happy, Contended and still very very happy...as if still in honeymoon. And mind you, we are married for 24 years now.

Tomorrow, Suzie will be visiting our shop..the same friend of mine who brought Benny to me..

Feb 14, 2012


I Love How You Love Me sung by Bobby Vinton

Today is Valentine's Day. A day where every loving couple shared their moments of love with each other. Different people do it differently. Those who can splurge on good things would take a holiday perhaps, others go for candle-lit dinners of good food and wine. And then there are the many hopefuls out there wishing , and waiting for that someone who is just perfect for them to come along.

Benny and I have loved each other since the day we met..and that was in July 1986. I remembered it clearly because it was about the time after my birthday in late June which I celebrated alone...yet again. Feeling depressed, and lonely, I seek my solace in Suzie, my best friend from school. And she said "Gina, I'll figure it out for you. Give me time to find someone for you."

And yes, she did. She sent Benny to me a few weeks later.

Its been such a beautiful journey I made for Love. And it was planned that Benny and I would spent the rest of our lives together like Valentine's Day. So we did things for each other, say silly love words to each other, every day, every moment of our lives. How time flies, its been 6 months now since he quit his full time (good paying) job to be with me. To work with me and side by side.

I won't say its easy. Initially we had fights, big and small. We came head on clashes with each other. I was always head-strong in everything. Being the youngest at home, my parents spoilt me silly. Always, Benny would give in to me. All the time! But when we work together, he was out of his comfort zone. A place he used to work where he reigns over all. Now I seem to have the say of everything and anything. And his pride was hurt.

I learnt quickly that a man needs to have his day all the time at work. A day his pride is at the best. So I went to God and ask that He humbled me and mellow my overly eager spirit to rule everything and anything. And then God told me "Be the wife in the Bible. The one which the Book of Proverbs spoke of..the woman who puts her family first. And like a servant, she humbles herself in front of her husband. Where she is loved and adored. "

And so, here I am, re-born you might say. And then I looked back in all my years as his wife, I realised that I was always in the background. Always the one who plays the soft and subtle music. The person who stood behind, never in front. The one who spoke only when spoken to.

In the recent months, I wrote funny status quotes about "My boss" at Facebook and people replied "I thought you are the boss?". And then I said "no, I am the one who sweeps the floor, clean the table, wash the dishes and make kopi(coffee)". In short it meant that for as long as Benny works with me in the shop, in our business, he is head of the household, the boss in the company.

We do things together. We seek each other's opinions on everything. I learnt to humble myself and spoke to him as if we are still dating. No more raised tones, no more harsh notes. If I am upset, I show my displeasure. If he is angry, he shows his temper. But all these never passes a day. We end our days with a happy note.

Recently there was sales order we had and it was to be delivered to the customer's residence. I couldn't go with him as I had guests in our studio..TV crew, Mediacorp artistes came to ask me things for their upcoming TV program.

So I told Benny :

"So today you go alone..please drive carefully..slow down if you can. If you are lost on the road, just ring the customer to tell her. "

And then he said "no worries, I got the GPS on, I will figure my way there"

He did his deliveries and drove home. When he reached home, the girls have gone to school..the house was empty, and quiet.
I was still in the shop.

And then he sms me to say :

"Miss you, its very lonely to do delivery alone."

Later that evening, he came to the shop and all he could say was : "how was your day? Did the TV people give you problems? Did you have any difficult customers?"

and he went on and on asking me if my day alone in the shop was okay and whether I have eaten my lunch properly as I was busy entertaining people and I often forgot to eat. Before I could even ask him the same.

And he said to me :

"I think when I am very old, I will ask our girls to send me to the old folks home"

When I heard that, I knew what he meant, I was almost in tears but I put on a happy face and said :

"What? You want to leave me at home with our girls and be their house maid while you play Chinese chess at the home?" Of course I knew what he was trying to say..the greatest fear he had in life was that I wasn't around in our autumn years. And then he would be alone and how he used to wish that he would go first as he thinks that I can handle it without him.

When you reach this age in your life with your partner, Death is something you don't talk out loud. Its said in subtle ways, beating around the bush about it.

And then I told him "We told God many many years ago that He should take us home with Him..together. Never to leave one behind. And I still believe that it will happen this way." And so that was why when we do things without the other, our hearts ached and we felt somewhat awkward in our way.

A Valentine's Day is meant to be a happy day, to talk about love and all the nicest things you share with your better half.

For me and for Benny, we celebrate this every day. And every moment of our lives together.

Next week, from 20th to the 24th February, we will run away together..away from work, family, our girls and home. And rekindled our youthful days of being head over heels with each other..spending blissful moments..

May you all have a Blissful Valentine's Day today..and all the days of your life together..

God Bless you..

Feb 6, 2012

A Taste of Time with all things Chinese

LOVE sung by the late Nat King Cole

Today is the last day of the Lunar New Year celebration. Chinese folks here and all over the world would celebrate this day with more feasting of good food with their families and close friends. Being a Christian all my life, I never quite get to celebrate it in full swing. As Chinese New year is also about traditional belief, old chinese culture of filial piety, of respect for others, and alongside with prayers and burnt offerings to the deities of Chinese belief.

Most people think that Chinese belief are a religion. I see this as a practice and a hand-me-down of a set of rules and must-do from one generation to another. Not many people now follow these practices. But some really go to great lengths to practice it.

My mom always tells me "We are Christians. We cannot pray to our ancestors or offer burnt offerings. Just follow the feasting part will do. And have respect for others who are non-Christians. Especailly your inlaws. Do anything they ask of you, minus the prayer part, offering of incense and burning of offerings."

So all these years, I played the role of a dutiful wife to Benny, a respectful daughter in law to my mother in law and an obedient child to my parents. Because I believe that despite being a Christian, I am still very much a Chinese.

My mom told me as the eldest Daughter in law, it is my duty to cook and serve my inlaws. In the begining of the early years, I can't cook at all. And I so thankful that my late father in law was so forgiving and he did all the dishes for me. Along the way, I stood by his side, helping him to prep the dishes and learn a thing or two from the old man.

And every year when I cook and prepare the feast for the family, I am reminded of him. Of how he would cook and prepare the meals. I have fond memories of him. Unfortunately none of his children are interested in cooking or prepping food. I was able to learn much from him.

This year our Reunion Eve Dinner was prepared at my new studio. Since I wanted to keep it 'halal', I chose recipes that does not have wine, pork or lard oil. Here's what I cook :

Because my mom in law was a vegetarian, I had another section just for her. Its a vegetarian steam boat pot set aside with veggies to cook and dip into

Then on the First day of CNY, we had our first meal with my mom in law. And every year, its the same food. A big steam boat pot with Napa cabbage, fish maw, fish balls swimming in chicken stock. Side dishes are braised sea cucumbers, chicken, steamed prawns.

Then we went home to change..and went to my mom's place for dinner. My mom is no longer fit to cook for so many people, so my aunt took the liberty to order food by a catering company.

This is what I mean..Chinese New Year is now all too modern. People stop cooking for families reunion dinners. In due time, no one understands the true meaning of what Chinese New Year was meant to be. Just like Christmas.

Some one ask me why I can be bothered to cook such an elaborate feast to serve the family. I find great joy to do this. Even my mom ask me.."you can just order the food, why labour over it and fuss up the whole kitchen just to cook for us?". Then Benny told her "It gives her great joy and she enjoys doing it. Plus, home cooked food are tastier, less msg, salt too."

Benny knows me too well. And with each feast I cook for the family, its always him who decides what goes on the table. In a way, you can say we planned the menu together. After all, we are feeding families closed to our hearts. The people we loved and continued to love.

This is what I cook on the 7th day of Chinese New Year..also known as the Birthday of Men or 人日. Every year without fail, I would cook and invite my parents, my sister, her hubby and my niece for this. This year, Benny invited his friend and wife and I included my cousin too. Because she stays only a few blocks from our place.

In the dishes shown, 2 of them are Seok Buay's most priced recipes. The ultimate dish was the French Seafood soup.

Today..no feasting. Because its a monday and everyone is either in school or working.

If you want the recipes for what I have cooked, go to Culinary of Fame to get it. Or if you are already a member at my KC Forum, find it there too.

Enjoy and may you have a joyous, happy year of the Dragon..filled with the abundance of Good Healthy, Love, Prosperity and Happiness.

Jan 30, 2012

A Tribute to my Mentor

My Saviour, My God, Written and performed by Aaron Shust

When I started Kitchen Capers forum back in July 2004, my mentor and good friend, Seok Buay taught me how to cook this delicious and most delightful French soup. I told her back then that this dish will be the FIRST recipe I will share online at the forum.

And since then, I have not stop sharing recipes online. Whether its at my forum or at other forums which I visited often.

Yesterday I cook this again for our family's lunch at home.

When I was cooking this soup, memories came flooding back to me. I was tearing all the time. Because I was reminded again, how much I loved her and how much I missed her.

When people talk about things in their life that pauses them to think about life. I could only think about food and about how Seok Buay has made an impact in my life. She left behind her legacy to share with anyone, everyone, any where and every where. She selflessly shared with me the deepest secrets to good food. Which is actually just LOVE, TIME and whole lot of PATIENCE. And these 3 key ingredients makes the best of everything you put out on the dining table.

This soup may not be cooked in the way it is explained here. If you have learnt to cook this from a French method, this method differs greatly. I fused both Western and Chinese methods of cooking to perfect this soup.

Its alot of work, alot of time and effort. But the end result was that our guests came back for seconds. It was so satisfying that they ask for a bigger bowl to have the soup and wouldn't stop at 2 bowls.


French Seafood Soup
Recipe by the late Mdm Tan Seok Buay
Re adapted by Gina Choong

Serves 10

4 carrots(cut)
2 large white onions(diced finely)
8 large red tomatoes

4 flower crabs(medium size)
1kg Mussels
1 kg white clams
1 kg of large King Prawns
1 kg of squids
500g scallops
1kg salmon fillet
2 bottles of White Wine

4 litres water

Herbs/Spices: **
10 pcs of Bay Leaves(dried ones are fine)
1.5 tbsps each of the following:
Ground Thyme
Rosemary Leaves
Ground Oregano
Sage Leaves
Ground Majoram
Ground Black Pepper

1. Clean and chop/break crab claws and cut into smaller pieces.
2. Using a large sauce pot, add 3 tbsp Olive oil and stir fry onions till fragant.
3. add all the herbs/spices into it and stir fry.
4. Add tomatoes(chop), carrots and then water
5. Cook on medium heat/fire till boiling.
6. Add all the crabs into it. Boil for 10 mins on medium heat.
7. Remove the crabs and add it each seafood item one at a time.
8. Remove each item to briefly cook it. Drained well. Set aside.
9. Remove the vegetables, puree it, and then put it back into the soup to boil for 10 minutes.
10. Then strained the pureed vegetables and discard. return the soup to the pot to cook.
11.Once it starts boiling, add in all the seafood items back into the pot.
12. Leave it to simmer for 10 mins, then add wine.
13. Serve warm..

My notes on Seok Buay's recipe:
Seok Buay uses dried herbs as she says most Asians are not used to the strong flavours if you use fresh herbs. I find this extremely true. It took a while to win friends over to try the soup.

Seok Buay says that this soup is versatile and you can just change the ingredients list each time based on what you can get from the fresh seafood market each time. And every time you cook this dish, its different again. But what stays with this dish is the love you give out to others. That's what I liked about this dish.

Who would ever thought that a humble French seafood soup would cause such an impact to someone unseen, unheard like me? In July 2004, no one knew who I was or what I was doing. And obviously no one cared too.

But this dish spin-off and started a whole new career for me. Teaching me the simple things in life and the riches you get in life isn't all about money or fame. Its the friends you made, the people that left their foot prints in your life.

Jan 20, 2012

Golden Goodness

Its almost Chinese New year..And I haven't baked any new year goodies for the family. Each year, this proves to be such a challenge now. With the studio to managed, and the store I have to baby sit too. Though Benny runs the store now. There are still many 'grey' areas I need to look into and watch over. Its not an overnight hand over of duties. Despite his many many years of retail experience, running a baking supplies shop takes much practice and basic know-how.

There are so many things I wanted to share online but I just couldn't find the time. The moment I step into the studio, there is always work that needs attention.

Like this jelly I wanted to make..seems to take forever too. But I managed to find some time yesterday, just an hour is all I need. And I did this, purely just to show case 2 products I sell in my store.

1. The ingot plastic packaging case
2. Frozen Kumquats from CapFruit France

I showed the final end product of my recipe at Facebook. And promised everyone a recipe to follow. So I decided to post it here at my blog. Well, basically, you can use any mold you have at home for this. I just wanted to show off stuff I have.

The jelly was mildly sweet because I didn't put that much sugar in it. Except that I use Golden syrup for it. The taste and flavor of the kumquat was evident. It was delicious..smooth, cold, and has that zesty taste. I use the balance to pour into a larger pineapple mould. I would serve this on Reunion dinner..

This year, our dinner will be cooked by me..and served in our new studio.

Here's to all a Very Happy and Prosperity Year of the Dragon!!

Golden Kumquat Jelly
Recipe by Gina Choong

200g golden kumquat(Frozen)
1 packet of Agar Q jelly powder(colourless/white)
2 tbsp condensed milk
100ml golden syrup(if not, go for maple syrup or honey)
800ml water

1. Defroze kumquats in tap water, cut into half. And squeeze out all the seeds. Look at my pictures for reference.
2. Puree the kumquats till soft and mashy.

3. Add pureed fruits, and the rest of the ingredients into a sauce pot to cook till its sticky and thick.
4. Leave it off the stove to cool slightly. How to know if its cool enough? just dip a spoon into it and tap on your tongue..! or at least this is how I always test if its cool enough. Or else, just leave it aside for about 10 mins.
5. If you use the plastic case I have, you need to invert it in a deep bowl. By itself, the mould cannot stand properly.
6. Pour the liquid into the mould and leave the whole bowl into the fridge to set. This may take 1 to 2 hours.
7. Put the base(gold base) over the top of the case, flip over...voila! Done!

This is how the plastic casing looks like..! You can only find this at our store at Kallang Bahru. Costs $0.80 per set(top and bottom)

Jan 13, 2012

So many Things...

Things , sung by Dean Martin and Nancy Sinatra

I seemed to have disappeared. Its just that I have so many things to do. To plan, to decide. For home, for work, for the studio. Today is Friday, the 13th. Not the nicest date if you want to think of all the nice things or the luckiest things..But for me, its the best today.

Because Mediacorp's Channel 8 will be featuring my store and my studio tonight. On a program called HDB Tai Tai. At 8:30pm tonight. If you are in Singapore and I guess in Asia too, you can catch this on xinmsn.com.

They came to film last October 2011. And told me just before airing it, they will let me know the date. Here are some photos we took when they came to do the filming.

They also ask me to bake cupcakes and decorate it for filming. I did so many things and my highlight was to feature our Mahjong Tiles chocolate mould and how I use it to make chocolates and painted the chinese tile. In my haste, I forgot to put it on the table for them..

They will do a voice over so it was like a silent movie when they came to film.

These are made for filming and of course its also edible! I packed these up into boxes and the crew took it with them for tea later.

And my chocolate mahjong tiles...that didn't make it to program!! sighz...

Here is the address to my shop and studio

Kitchen Capers
Block 71 #01-531F Kallang Bahru Singapore 330071
Tel : +65 6392 0159

Kitchen Capers Baking Studio
Block 71 #01-531E Kallang Bahru Singapore 330071
Tel : +65 6392 0159