Monday, July 21, 2014

When the Stranger cooks: Fettucine with rich meat sauce.

Home-made gourmet burger, even the patties were made from scratch!

I realise it's been a long time since I shared an original recipe. I have certainly not stopped cooking, but was too lazy to take enough nice pictures to make some recipe posts.

Baked seafood with lemon and potatoes

However, due to a couple of requests on my Facebook share last night, even though I lack pictures, I think I should share how I cooked my Fettucine with rich meat sauce, a dish which is frequently seen in my house in different variations.


Almost all the ingredients
Ingredients, serves 2-3:

  1. Half a large onion, diced.
  2. 250g of raw gourmet sausage (I used Sloane's Botifarra), break the casing and squeeze out the sausage meat. You could use normal minced beef or pork as well, but using good raw sausages is a cheat that will help you form a beautiful base for the sauce.
  3. 1 can of plum tomato, use imported ones from Italy/Spain.
  4. 200g of cherry tomato, halved.
  5. Half a cup of white wine.
  6. 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, optional, but it makes the sauce taste richer and fruitier.
  7. Dried herbs include paprika powder, cracked black pepper, oregano, a little of each according to your personal taste.
  8. Salt to taste.

Complete sauce, absolutely divine.
Cooking procedure:
  • Saute onions in a medium-hot pan with some oil, the key is to sweat them slowly to release their sweetness and not burn them.
  • When the onions have softened and turned a little brown, switch to high heat and put the sausage mince in to sear. You want to have a nice brown char on the mince so that it gives the sauce a depth of flavour.
  • When browning the meat, add some cracked black pepper, paprika powder and oregano to your personal taste. I personally love a lot of paprika and black pepper in my sauces.
  • When the meat has achieved a nice sear, keep the pan hot and add in the balsamic vinegar so that it reduces nicely, then add the white wine to deglaze the pan and form the beautiful base of the sauce.
  • Pour in the can of tomatoes and the halved cherry tomatoes, mix well, add in another half a can of water using the empty tomato can. Turn to medium heat, cover and leave it to simmer. You can simply use canned tomatoes, but I always like to add some fresh tomatoes to give it a more refreshing element.
  • When the fresh tomatoes soften to become part of the sauce and the sauce reduces to a nice consistency (like the bolognaise sauce you eat in a good restaurant), you can give it a taste and add a final bit of pepper and salt to your liking.

Of course, the dish will not be complete without your favourite pasta. I love to use either linguine or fettucine for my dishes, but this sauce works well with any type of pasta you prefer. Around 80-120g of pasta should be a good amount for an adult.

When cooking pasta, please salt the water generously, otherwise your dish will taste horribly bland, and lastly, follow the cooking instructions on your pasta packaging carefully, DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR PASTA. Any great sauce will be in vain if you serve it with fat, soggy noodles.

So there you have it, my Fettucine with rich meat sauce, a simple dish that you can whip up within an hour and make the people in your house very happy indeed.

Try it and let me know what you think of it!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Daddy's revelation among Potties, Urinals and Toilet Training

Noah is nearly two and a half years old and not toilet-trained. For everyone who knows me, you should understand that I have become more and more of a free-spirit after leaving Singapore for Thailand, or at least, I try to be.

Therefore, we have always let Noah be as free-spirited as he wants to be, not to the extent of freely throwing cookie crumbs all over the floor or tugging at wires, but we do not control his nap times and allow him to make reasonable choices as much as possible, and that includes things like toilet-training. We do not want to apply unnecessary pressure on him as we know that there will surely come a day when he will decide to drop the diaper and wear big-boy pants.

We started encouraging him to drop the diaper by reading him toilet-training-related books frequently, which he understands and enjoys, then putting a little urinal beside the toilet bowl in my toilet. In the last few months, I have started to invite him into my toilet while doing 'small business' so that he understands what's 'required' when the day comes.

Last night, the day nearly came.

After dinner, instead of a couple of hours of playing before his sleep routine, Noah said he wanted to pee in the 'potty'. Then came a few minutes of fully-clothed pretend-pee in my toilet. When he finally tried to take off his pants, I thought to myself, "This is it!" and ran into the bathroom, closing the door behind me.

Then came nearly an hour of coaxing him to pee. He threatened to actually do it on a number of occasions, but ended up turning around to hug me giving me an embarrassed uneasy face every single time. I guess for someone like him, who has been wearing diapers 24/7 all his life, peeing into something other than a nappy is a big uncomfortable step, which he was just short of taking last night.

For me, squatting beside my son for nearly an hour with no end-result in my toilet with a bad back after a long day of work was not what I envisioned myself doing. I was mentally and physically drained after the entire affair, and of course, I could not hide my disappointment.

However, after waking up this morning and looking back at what happened last night, I could only smile and remember especially 1 thing that he said a few times throughout the hour we spent together cuddled up in the loo.

"Noah, are you 怕怕 (scared in Mandarin) to peepee in the potty?" I asked.

"No," he replied. "because got Daddy beside Noah, Noah no need to 怕怕 (scared)。"

Even though this is something I often tell him, but for him to remember it so well and answer me when I ask him the question, it just means that even if I am not the best father in the world, I must be doing something right.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

20 tips to pass off as a local in Thailand

After more than 4 years in Thailand, I am glad to announce to everyone that in most places, aside of tourist attractions which have dual charges for locals and foreigners, there is almost NO APPARENT advantage to behave like a local. Especially if you are taking taxi in Bangkok city, wearing a blonde wig and faking an American accent will improve your chances of getting a cab infinitely.

However, if you are still interested to find ways to effectively demonstrate your acceptance of the unique Thai culture to your Thai friends, here's a list of 20 ways you can do it:

  1. Add fish sauce, chilli powder, vinegar and 3 tablespoonfuls of sugar to every bowl of noodle soup before you taste it, and add even more after you do.
  2. Use toilet paper to wipe your cutlery, face, mouth and everything else, even though it is for your bum.
  3. Don't type "Hahaha" or "LOL" when you feel tickled, but use "555" instead, since 5 is pronounced as "Ha" in Thai.
    -contributed by Benjamin Tan-
  4. Use fork and knife for KFC, and don't forget to eat it with rice.
  5. Drown every slice of pizza with ketchup, and don't forget to eat it with rice too.
  6. For every cup of iced beverage, drink up the beverage and keep the ice with you, waiting for the ice to melt bit by bit to form the most delicious ultra-diluted drink and suck it all up.
  7. Fill a glass full of ice before topping it up with beer.
  8. Fill a glass full of ice, add a teeny bit of whisky before topping it up with an equal mix of still and soda water.
  9. Pose like a supermodel for every picture, whether the backdrop is beautiful scenery or just nothing.
  10. Go to a concert to support your favourite singer, but cheer for every performer just as hysterically as if they are all your favourite singers.
  11. Drive like a mafia, and be extra forgiving to other drivers who drive like you do.
  12. Use "Krup" or "Ka" behind every sentence even though you don't know what it means.
  13. Use "Sawatdii Krup/Ka" when you meet or bid farewell to anyone, though you wonder why it can be used to say goodbye as well.
  14. Go for weekend getaways in places like Amphawa, Khao Yai, Cha Am, Hua Hin and Suan Phueng, not Pattaya, Phuket or Samui.
  15. Pronounce S like S at the beginning of words but pronounce them like D when they are at the end of words. Eg."Lotus" = "Lowthud".
  16. Pronounce all Rs like L. Eg. Pronounce "River" = "Liver".
  17. Pronouce L like L at the beginning of words but pronounce them as N when they are at the end of words. Eg. "Central = Centran"
  18. Tell everyone Starbucks is your favourite coffee joint, even when you know there are tons of local establishments that make better coffee at a fraction of the price.
  19. You know that in Thailand, for many families, the twin that comes out later is the elder sibling, because his heart is big enough to let the other twin see the world first.
  20. Say hooray when protests block up all major roads, then proclaim to the world that the military coup is the best thing that could happen.

These tips are almost certainly going to impress your Thai friends, don't say I never told you!


Monday, June 30, 2014

Tips for Daddies bringing their toddlers on a staycation (without Mummy)

My favourite picture of the entire trip @Silverlake Winery

I did a beautiful thing last weekend, that many Daddies might not have had the courage to do due to various factors, that is to bring Noah, who is barely 2 and a half years old, on a staycation to Pattaya without Mummy! It was a fruitful trip, full of laughter, father-son bonding and some much-needed rest and alone-time for Li Li. I learnt a lot from the trip, and thus have compiled a list of tips for other parents (especially Daddies) out there who might be planning to bring their toddlers out on an overnight trip without your other half.

1. Pack your bag properly. More is better than less.

Noah with his favourite new book before sleeping.
Unless you are blessed like me, staying in Thailand, a country littered with too many convenient stores, you better be prepared. The last thing you want is to be stranded on your favourite beach with your toddler without wipes/extra clothes/clean diapers after he/she just pooped, or be left with a toddler insanely crying on your luxurious bed in your 5-star resort when you have nothing on your hand to appease him/her.

It's always a good idea to bring a little too much, rather than too little, of clothes, diapers, wipes, medication, their favourite snacks, books, a couple of their favourite toys, even loading the car full of their favourite songs. Every single thing will come in handy some day, this I promise you.


2. Eat is better than no eat!

Noah with his first real popsicle. It got really really messy a few minutes after this picture was taken.


A hungry toddler is a cranky toddler.

Noah had 4 short crying fits during our 2 days together, and even though I felt 3 outbursts were out of my control, I believe all 4 were somewhat related to his hunger at that moment in time.

You are on a leisure trip, I do not think it is the time to ensure perfect healthy eating for your kids. No sweets? No fizzy drinks? No snacks? More vegetables? Throw that out of the window. Unless you fully prepare your own meals, there is no guarantee your child will like the taste of anything you order, so if he/she only wants to eat french fries for dinner, you will do well to let him/her have his/her fill of fried potato, if not, the consequences will be too hard to bear. Healthy diets can wait, your kid needs to be full in order to fully enjoy the rest of the experience.


3. Keep in touch with family

Reporting to mummy when we set off. This continued for the rest of the trip.


Daddies, let's face it. No matter how well we bond with our kids, chances are, given a choice, they will prefer to stick to mummy. Therefore, with the help of technology, I highly recommend you to ensure your child keeps in touch with mummy throughout the trip. This can be through phonecalls, voice messages, selfies, messages or anything else that makes the child feel that mummy is around too. If you are too occupied to do this throughout the day, a Skype conversation before sleep will be better than nothing.


4. Make full use of trip for your kid's exposure

Noah started running once he was unleashed among the flowers
Having a trip out means your kid has been broken from his normal routine. He is no longer in his comfort zone, and has the opportunity to see and experience new things. No matter whether it's a pleasant or unpleasant experience, he/she will suck it all in.

Even though there are many things you might be worried about:

What if he falls down?

What if he gets accidentally bitten by the sheep he is trying to feed?

How am I going to answer to my wife if he sheds some blood?

What am I going to do if he poops in the pool?

Noah feeling grapes that are still on the vine.

You need to remember that as much as the trip is for you, it is for your kid too! Give him/her time and freedom to run and explore by themselves. Accidents do happen, but with sufficient guidance, everything should turn out ok (most of the time at least).

Noah on the move



5. The most important point: Take things easy!

Relax and everything will be velli good!


Saving the best of the last, I want to remind you again to take things easy during the trip. It's normal for toddlers to cry or get cranky once in a while, or for something to go wrong, but going into scary-Daddy or kancheong-spider (panic) mode is not recommended. If kids cry, they will stop. It's more important to find out why and minimize the chances of it happening again than to scare them into silence and spoil the mood for the rest of the journey. If an accident happens, keep cool and find a solution.

Lastly, with a toddler in tow without your partner's help, it is likely that things might not go exactly to plan. You might be held up somewhere and miss a couple of scheduled sights, but it's more meaningful to make the most of what you can actually accomplish.

May there be many more adventures to come.


If you have the courage to make this step, please believe that you have created a priceless bonding opportunity with your child, not over a meal or a few hours at home, but an entire trip where you only have each other to depend on. Keep my pointers in mind, and I am sure you will be looking forward to the next one.




Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Noah's Book of Jokes Volume 1

Noah is 2 years and 4 months old now.

Even though he still doesn't look anything like me, he's surely developing a knack of speaking pretty well, a trait that runs right through his Daddy. I am particularly impressed when he speaks different languages appropriately to different kinds of people even though he might not be good at them.

That said, he's also starting to accumulate some really lame jokes, which are too precious not to archive. You might have read some of these through our Facebook updates, but seriously, some are worth reading more than once.

So here it begins, Noah's Book of Jokes Volume 1:



BOSS OF THE BLOCK

Noah slung his pouch and took his briefcase. 
 "I am going to the office."

 "Who's office."

 "Noah's office."

 "Where is Noah's office?"

 "Playground."

Haha. Win liao. Good answer.




2010

"Twenty-six......"

"Twenty-seven......"

"Twenty-eight......"

"Twenty-nine........"

"Twenty-TEN!"

Bravo.




MATHEMATICAL WHIZKID

"One two three four five sex seven eight nine ten!"






SING A SONG OF *BEEP*

Noah approached Mummy while eating a bun for breakfast.

 Noah: Mummy, I wanna sing a song of sex.

 Mummy: Huh? What did you just say? Can you say it again?

 Noah: I wanna sing a song of sex.

 Mummy: Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye, four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie.... 





CUTE YOUR HEAD

Noah pooed after a few days and it was a huge pile.

Me, "Look Noah, your poopoo got mountain top."

 Noah, "Noah poopoo got mountain top. So cute."

 Cute 你的头!





DON'T SAY WAH

Noah, "Noah don't want Daddy to say wah!"

Me, "Ok, Daddy don't say wah!"

*carefully peeled off his diapers to reveal a lump of poo*

Noah, "Wah!!!!!"




NOAH THE OCTOPUS

Noah was fondling with his 'balls' after the shower right before putting on his diapers.
Noah, "Noah's tentacles."




THE END




Friday, June 6, 2014

Dealing with 2

Does love grow with time, or does it multiply?

As September draws nearer, and my little girl's kicks in Li Li's tummy get stronger by the day, I gaze at little Noah sometimes and ponder.

Me and Noah, when he was 10 months old

Over the last 28 months, aside of my time at the office and 4 short couple getaways, I have spent every minute of my life with my firstborn, cradling him minutes after his birth, going every single step of the way with him up till now. My life was just Li Li, Noah, work and pretty much nothing else.

Everyone who knows me would probably know that I had been with Li Li, also my first love, for more than 11 years before we finally tied the knot, so I am a firm believer that love grows with time. It is not logical for me to think that something or someone will suddenly appear out of nowhere and make me fall head over heels in love with it (my son did to a certain extent, attachment still took some time to really develop).

Here comes the question to all parents reading this. If love takes time to grow, does it mean that I will never be able to love my younger children as much as my older ones? How does love simply multiply?

Then, I thought about my work situation here in Bangkok. I came here with a small hand-carry suitcase in 2009 and was tasked to make something happen out of nothing, then in 2013, was thrown with the task to do everything all over again with our second venture in Thailand. Do I, then love one company more than the other? I would say no, because they are both under my care and it is my job to do my utmost best to ensure that they run properly for as long as possible. Will I love a company more eventually because of its heritage or success? Probably, but it doesn't take away my dedication to any one of them.

Maybe parenting is also the same.

Regardless of the absolute amount of time I spend with each child, I am first and foremost, their daddy. 

And maybe that's all that matters.

PS. Looking forward to meeting my little one!


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Precious Couple Getaway/Staycation @ The Scarlet Singapore

Great selfie @ Le Chocolat. Could have done with better pastries though
Since Noah came, couple dates have been few and far between (and that's why all 3 previous ones were extensively covered). One which allowed us to have a night off Noah was even more precious!

Thanks to the collective help of Noah's maternal grandparents and aunts, who gave him an incredible staycation separately, and the recommendation of some dads on my Daddy Matters group, Li Li and I finally had the opportunity to have some romantic couple time to ourselves at The Scarlet Singapore, a refurbished shop-house-converted-into-boutique-hotel which I had never heard of prior to this trip.

The Scarlet Singapore
The mystique of a boutique hotel aside, what attracted me more to this location was the fact that it was a few steps away from Maxwell Food Centre (which would satisfy our local food craving), and comfortable walking distance away from heritage sites like Sri Mariaman temple, the Red Dot Museum, Chinatown, bustling Tanjong Pagar, and also chill-out spots like Club Street and Duxton Hill. It meant that even if the room was not as good as expected, we would have no lack of places to spend some quality time together without the need to take any public transport.

Tian Tian Chicken Rice, arguably the world's most famous Hainanese Chicken rice thanks to Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay, my first try after nearly 33 years. It was good!

金华鱼头米粉, undoubtedly the most delicious Fish Head Bee Hoon I had ever eaten!

The Scarlet Hotel itself reminded me very much of Hotel Muse in Bangkok with a nostalgic twist, as its classy dark-coloured contemporary interior design made us forget for a while that we were actually in a shop-house lot. Service was one of the best parts of the experience, as the team was nice local blend of different ethnic groups, all well-trained and ready to lend a warm helping hand when required.

Taking a picture in the lobby

I loved the loud red corridor, though it started to remind me I was in a shop-house lot.

There is no question that the designers did an intricate job. Every doorknob, wall accessory and toilet fitting screamed of creativity. However, our room was really quite small (I expected it) and did not have any windows. Luckily, they ensured the room at least had some skylight to make it feel less claustrophobic.

Our cosy little turquoise-themed room
Li Li loved the basin area of the little toilet, but if I were to be very honest, the finishing of the floor and wall tiles left a lot to be desired, maybe I just expected more in such a well-crafted hotel.

The best part of the staycation turned out to be the hotel breakfast. It was a combination of a perfectly-executed American breakfast and a small but very presentable Continental breakfast spread, served in the hotel's beautiful Italian restaurant. I personally feel that this is a masterstroke, because it would be a huge ask for Scarlet to serve up local/Asian flavours that can beat the insane amount of tip-top local delicacies available at the nearby Maxwell Food Centre.

Yummy American Breakfast

Nice selection of breads and pastry
It felt like we were dining in Europe

Just when my Noah-withdrawal symptoms grew to its almost-unbearable peak after breakfast, my cute sister-in-law sent me this.

Guess where he was? Looks like he was having a heck of a time as well.

So I would like to hereby extend my gratitude to Kunqi, Fengyi, my parents-in-law for taking such good care of Noah when we were 'on leave' and my dear brothers in Daddy Matters for recommending so many ideas before I decided on this one. We needed it, especially before our little one arrives this September. Hopefully we can find time for another such getaway before then.