Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Louvre Museum

This is one of the most controversial structure that was ever designed & built in Paris.

When it was first constructed, it faced a lot of opposition. I mean I do see the point, what's a futuristic Star Wars thing like this doing in a historical place like this?

But then again, the resulting contrast is a work of a genius. And that genius is this uncle here, I.M. Pei.

"The solid is for the dead, but the transparent is for the living."

Hmm. Uncle Pei really has a point there.

The glass pyramid was built originally to house the new underground entrance to the Louvre Museum as it's old entrance was not structurally sound anymore to carry the weight of the millions of visitors every year, especially the Americans who grew up on McDonald's.
This is King Louis XIV who was partly responsible for transforming the Louvre into one of the grandest palaces in Europe.

It's hard to imagine that a naked person on a wild horse would have such refined taste.

You'd really have to be there to experience the grandeur of the place.

The vastness of the courtyard is really overwhelming. You could tell that the successive kings who stayed here really splurged like nobody's business.

This is really spending until no manners.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Teochew La Ko ~ Steamed Mooncake

A few readers have been asking me for mooncake recipes. To be honest, I have only just finished making my traditional baked types, and I have not even started with my snowskin. I doubt I would have the time to sit down and write all the details.

This year, I spent quite a fair bit of time making my own paste, including the lotus, red bean and mung bean paste. It was a lot of work because I had problems getting to the right texture I wanted. Too wet, you can't wrap or bake them. Too dry, they get crumbly or burnt. So even though my fillings are all wrap-able, I have to succumb to the fact that homemade ones would not be as refined and chewy as those ready made paste. But taste wise, they are all authentically flavourful. Well, the red bean paste does taste like red bean.

I guess I would not be blogging about the skin recipe for mooncake this time cos I want to spend some more time to fully understand the paste-making process, and the other little aspects of it. Instead I would like to blog this recipe, which is so much more simpler than traditional mooncake making.

La Ko is basically a traditional Teochew steamed mooncake. Once you make your own, you will never, never, ever again want to buy one. That, I can guarantee. I have made four of this so far. One I dropped accidentally after steaming, one I gave away but the other two are almost all gone by now.

Make 2 X 8 inch plates
350gm of moon cake flour aka Goa feng aka cooked glutinous rice flour
320gm of water
200gm of sugar
90gm of oil
additional 150gm of water
1 big sheet of bean curd sheet

Topping/ Garnishing:
1 no of dry persimmon, sliced thinly
1 no of sweet dry orange, chopped into bits
4-6tbsp of sesame seed, toasted
6-8 pieces of sweet dry melon, sliced thinly
6-8 red dates, sliced thinly
4-6 tbsp of melon seed/ kua zi, toasted

1) Cook sugar with water till all sugar melts. Let it cool. Set aside.

2)In a large bowl, sift flour in. Separate a hole in the middle. Add sugar water and 1/2 of the oil amount. Stir till even. Slowly add in rest of oil and the additional water portion. It may get a little too wet, so don't add all the amount of the second water portion all at once. Knead into a dough. Note: The dough will not be a smooth one.

3) Divide into two equal portion. Roll out a little with the thicker portion in the centre and wrap in 150gm of preferred paste. I use red bean paste. I think the flavour goes really well. Roll out gently and carefully into almost the size of the 8 inch metal plates. At this stage the dough may get a little messy and the surface is not smooth.

4) Line the metal plate with slightly wet beancurd sheet. Place the dough onto the metal plate and pat to smoothen the sides.

5) Steam on med-hi for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 mins, covered with aluminium foil. Add toppings immediately when out of the steamer. Sesame seeds are added last, so that the rest of the ingredients can stick on first. Cool overnight before serving. You can dish it out of the plates to serve. You can also serve it cold. It can re-steamed if you keep in refridgerator.

This is a wonderfully simple mooncake to make, and it looks as impressive as it tastes. The red bean paste used can be those softer types used for pau making. It's not necessary to use those firm ones used for the traditional mooncake. I strongly suggest homemade paste as you might not want those substandard ones from outside.

Have a good yummy celebration!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Star Cruise Day 1: The Feasting Begins

To continue with our cruise adventure which we did in May this year, being new to this experience, we took our time checking in and settling down, & was enjoying the little window in our little room. We thought that since our room was on the same floor as the restaurants, we'd have no problem getting food. And when we looked around other rooms, no one seems to be around. So they probably not even checked in yet. Little did we realise the consequences of being in a ship full of Asians. When you're surrounded by Asians, you need speed to win.

So obviously, when we reached the first restaurant at around after noon, there was already a ridiculously long line that snaked out all the way to the lifts. And there were three restaurants on Aquarius. So that's where everyone is!

Anyway, to cut the story short, we opted for the Chinese restaurant, which was actually one our our last few choices but the queue was the shortest, cos eating Chinese food away from home is like you never left home, except for when you're in Hong Kong or China. Well, we were still in Singaporean waters...

It's a different feeling being in a restaurant on a ship. I guess it's the windows, & the light, & the view of the vast open ocean & the sensation of cruising. It's exciting in a naive, child-like wonder kind of way.

And one very commendable thing about Star Aquarius restaurant is you have to patiently wait for a table and they come very fast. Once there is empty table of your group size, you will be given a card as follows. Placing the card on the table means the table is taken and you can go grab your food without having to worry about someone else grabbing your table. So there is absolutely no need to fight for your table by putting handbags on different tables or get your group members go early and sit down to reserve.

Vegies with Vermicelli ~ Vegetarian style

The food here is not something Nee would shout about, but it was above edible generally.

Normal Fried Rice as normal as it can get

It was lunch buffet style but somehow the food was served to the tables on plates like these. So whenever anyone sits down, these stardard few pieces of dishes will immediately appear from nowhere & laid down onto the table by the efficient waiters. The only difference is size which is dependent on the number of people on the table. So obviously we had the smallest plate.

Sweet and Sour Pork

I couldn't help but to think that there was a food ration going on, like, 'Here's all you can have. Eat up.' But then I saw that the other tables were piling plates like nobody's business so I knew that wasn't true. You can ask for refill. And on some tables, the leftovers were excessive. Felt a little heartsick to see all the food not eaten especially in times like this when resources seems to be getting scarce. One thing about food here, it's plenty & it's non-stop gluttony. Star Cruise dont not hold back anything in terms of food.

Stir Fry Vegies with with fish and Chestnuts

I was pleasantly surprised to come across this black sesame dessert again, after having it in Hong Kong. But really pale in comparison.

Oh, just for the record. These were the BEFORE pictures.

Greg & Nee before the grand epic marathon.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cell Fritters Durian Kids

I was supposed to post this last night, before midnite, but I konked out halfway.

I couldn't think of a proper title for this post so I ended up with a combined one. We had another cell group gathering at our house last night. And as usual, before it started, the kids were already buzzing like flies in the kitchen.

This is Heather & Nathan, Nee's kung fu kids. I don't know about you, but Nathan sure looks like one of those Cambodian boys selling banana fritters by the roadside, trying to make a dollar a day just to live. Look at him, he looks worried whether he'll make the sales target today.

Nee's banana fritters uses fresh & healthy bananas courtesy of Jo.

Nee's overloaded prawn fritters with giant prawns. Just in case you're wondering, it's just that she couldn't find the smaller ones. NEE: Both cucur pisang and prawn fritters are slight undercook so that it can be fried up again right before serving. This is tip for party purpose for those who worry about deep frying dishes.

We also had Nee's Belachan Bee hoon, Sweet Taugeh Noodles, Nee's Har Kow (prawn dumplings) and agar agar mooncake. And Nee's latest gastronomical experimentation, the New Durian Mousse Cake, uses sinfully rich & creamy durians courtesy of Alex. You can marvel at the durians here.

It is simply sinful. And that makes us about the most sinful cell group in the whole of Kuching. God is probably looking down, & shaking his head at us, & wishing for a piece of it.

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