May 27, 2017

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Authors Posts by Clare Thng

Clare Thng

Clare Thng
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by Clare Thng

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Suspect: Salted egg custard.

Aliases: Liu Sha 流沙, Nai Huang 奶黄

Wanted for: Dim sum, fried chicken, molten lava cakes… essentially anything Singaporeans can get their hands on.

Physical appearance: Liquid gold.

Taste profile: Sweet and creamy with a savoury undertone.

Ingredients: Mainly butter, evaporated milk and salted duck egg yolk. Some recipes may include custard powder.

Last seen: Oozing from an Antoinette croissant, the latest craze it seems.

The use of salted eggs has traversed styles, cuisines and even eras, from its use as a simple congee condiment to its incorporation into elegant French macarons. One can trace its origins back to 6th century China when salted eggs were mentioned in Qimin Yaoshu (essential techniques for the peasantry), an ancient Chinese agricultural text. Originally, salted eggs were prepared by wrapping fresh duck eggs with a mixture of salt, charcoal or clay. Now, the most common method entails soaking the eggs in a salt brine for four to five weeks. Once the salting process is complete, the yolk hardens into a deep orange colour.

But who knew that the salted egg, then branded as a peasant’s dish, would fall into the hands of culinary auteurs? Over the years, chefs and bakers have embraced the preserved ingredient with enthusiasm, adding its remarkable Midas touch to their dishes. Today, salted eggs have amassed a huge network of loyal followers especially for its “sunshine-esque” custard, liu sha. 

 

What is liu sha?

Essentially, liu sha is a custard made from mainly salted duck egg yolks, butter and milk. For a general preparation of salted egg custard, we spoke to food writer David Yip of Gastronaut Diary.

SALTED EGG CUSTARD RECIPE

Ingredients: Salted egg yolk 3 (approximately 50g)

Butter 75g

Sugar 45g

Milk powder 2 tbsp (approximately 20g)

Custard powder 2 tbsp (approximately 20g) 

Steps:

  1. Steam salted egg yolk for 10 minutes. Mash it with a fork and set aside.
  2. Heat butter until foam subsides. Sautee salted egg yolk and sugar until sugar melts.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  4. Chill until mixture is firm.

If you take a closer look, you will realise that the main ingredient of salted egg custard is in fact not salted egg yolk. Salted egg yolk is a crucial ingredient, obviously. However, in this recipe for salted egg custard, only 50g out of 210g of ingredients is salted egg yolk. That makes less than 25 per cent of the liu sha. In another salted egg custard recipe by lirongs.com, the relative amount of salted egg yolk was even lower at only 20 per cent.

In a typical recipe for salted egg custard, it seems like butter forms the most part of it.

 

What’s the hype? 

When dim sum houses introduced liu sha in salted egg custard buns, it became all the rage of 2014. A relentless reinvention of salted egg flavours then came into play as chefs began to incorporate the mixture into different food items.

The novelty of its flavour resides in the savoury notes of salted egg against a custard creaminess. Its recent ascent from plates to pastry has been captured in yet another unconventional pairing, the liu sha croissant. It is essentially a buttery, flaky breakfast pastry cradling a molten salted egg custard filling. In Hong Kong, European bakery chain “Urban Bakery” launched them in September 2014. In January this year, the croissant hype reached our shores, echoing the craze of its predecessor, the liu sha bao.

We spoke to Chef Shawn Koh of Flavour Flings Cafe, a pioneer of the liu sha croissant in Singapore. Initially, upon attaining the Halal certification, the chef’s sole intention was to create an alternate flavour of croissant for his Muslim guests to enjoy. Within three weeks, it became unimaginably popular with several bakeries and cafes following suit. Even big names like French-inspired patisserie chain “Antoinette” joined in. Now, at least six food outlets here have gone with the flow and started selling liu sha croissants. Each costs around $6 to $7.50, almost double the price of a normal plain croissant.

 

Liu sha or liu sham?

But are all salted egg foods made from scratch and from salted duck egg yolks? Perhaps not.

Speed and convenience matter to the professional chef. Enter salted egg powder, a one-step substitute typically used for stir-fried salted egg dishes. Each pack yields up to 68 egg yolks worth of powder.

Chefs behind popular restaurants like Park Royal, Mellben Seafood and Peach Garden Miramar use the powder, according to their testimonials online. They say the salted egg powder saves them the inconvenience of preparing salted egg sauce. Making the sauce from scratch is a time-consuming process of steaming salted egg yolks followed by blending it, or mashing it with a fork. With the mix, chefs could simply fry the powder with butter for a salted egg sauce. 

Chef Koh too agreed that the product skipped about two steps of the traditional method. Although the cafe now completely abstains from using salted egg powder, he said “using (the powder) is faster” and creates “a more productive kitchen operation”. He attributes the convenience of salted egg powder to its property as a thickening agent, similar to custard powder. “It is easily thickened with liquid, and forms up as a sauce or paste,” he added. 

At Flavour Flings Cafe, the recipe for its liu sha croissant filling initially comprised salted egg yolk powder only. But looking at feedback from many customers, the cafe decided to make its liu sha from scratch with steamed salted duck egg yolks. “Customers preferred a more a savoury and ‘sandy’ salted egg yolk lava,” Chef Koh said. The cafe decided to cut down on the sugar and load up on the salted eggs instead. Flavour Flings now uses 100 per cent salted duck egg yolk for its croissants’ lava filling. It sells up to 120 croissants per day on weekdays and on weekends, about 200 croissants. Despite his attempts to keep up with the boom, the croissants are sold out within two to three hours each time a new batch is ready.

Customers aren’t the only ones who notice the difference. David Yip of Gastronaut Diary felt that salted egg yolk powder fell short in terms of the unique taste and texture that freshly steamed, mashed salted egg yolks can offer. “For most salted egg lovers, we always look out for the grainy texture, rich orangey oil and aromatic taste,” he said. When it comes to salted egg sauce, he much prefers the sandy texture found in the freshly made versions adding that “the processed salted egg mix is too ‘smooth’ for me”.

 

Read salted duck egg yolks?

Under the nutritional information provided on the back of a package of salted egg yolk powder, the list of ingredients reads: Chicken Egg, Maltodextrin (a food additive), Shortening Powder (Contains Milk Protein), Yeast Extract, Creamer (Contains Milk Protein), Flavourings (Contains Egg), Colourings. The powder may contain traces of cereals containing gluten, soy, fish, crustacean, peanut, and tree nuts.

There is no mention of salted duck egg yolks. Chef Koh felt that perhaps chicken eggs were used in place of duck egg yolks as chicken eggs are usually cheaper. He also noticed that salted egg yolk powder, in general, gave the end product a brighter orange colour as compared to using real salted duck egg yolk. The vibrancy of this colour could be partly attributed to the colourings found in the powder. However, he pointed out that the colour of salted egg dishes is also dependent on other ingredients – like butter and milk – as well.

So the next time you catch yourself drooling over a picture of salted egg prawns or croissants, look past its gilded image (and maybe the several Instagram filters) and ask yourself, “Liu sha or liu sham?”

.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this report referred to “Chef David Koh of Flavour Flings Cafe”. This is incorrect. The chef’s name is “Shawn Koh”. We are sorry for the error.

Featured image of croissant by Flickr user stuv-spivack CC BY-SA 2.0

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by Clare Thng

AGAINST the usual multitude of cupcake flavours, some bakers have travelled into parts unknown, offering daring couplings in the saturated cupcake scene. These novel morsels have started to gain notoriety – and some ridicule – for their uniqueness. Nasi lemak? Really? But whether you’re a fan of red velvet or onde-onde, in the contemporary world of cupcakes, there’s ample room for both. Here are some cupcakes with a local twist:

Nasi Lemak one cupcake a day
Image sourced from One Cupcake a Day’s Official Facebook page

Nasi Lemak Cupcakes

A hearty meal captured in a decadent dessert, the Nasi Lemak cupcake from OneCupcakeADay is a pandan cupcake with sambal chilli tucked inside its fluffy exterior. The cupcake is finished with a sprinkling of crushed ikan bilis and peanuts, providing a crunch which works nicely against the velvety coconut buttercream.

The halal online bakery has a line of 20 savoury cupcakes from Chilli Crab to Satay Club (a vanilla cake with beef satay, peanut sauce, fish crackers, and clove buttercream). Each cupcake costs $3.80.

Where: OneCupcakeADay (online)

Bandung 

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Image sourced from Fluff Bakery’s Official Facebook page

At Fluff Bakery, a local drink is transformed into something… more solid and decadent. Imbued with a subtle floral fragrance, the rose infused cupcake holds a bandung custard core and is topped with condensed milk frosting.

This takeaway-only halal bakery is known for offering other local flavours such as teh tarik, Horlicks and onde-onde for $4 per cupcake. The menu changes weekly, so be sure to check the offerings online before heading down.

Where: Fluff Bakery, 12 Jalan Pisang, Singapore 199079

Onde-Onde 

onde onde
Image sourced from Fluff Bakery’s Official Facebook page

Another cupcake paying tribute to local flavours is the onde-onde cupcake. The soft pandan cake gets instant invigoration from its molten gula melaka centre. Take a bite and gula melaka effortlessly spills out. Topped with coconut flakes that cling onto a thick layer of coconut-infused buttercream, this $4 cupcake is a sure show stopper for any gathering.

Where: Fluff Bakery, 12 Jalan Pisang, Singapore 199079

Solero cupcake

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Image sourced from One Cupcake a Day’s Official Facebook page

The $3.80 Solero cupcake is an ode to local childhood favourite, Solero ice cream – a lime popsicle with a creamy vanilla core. The Solero cupcake is a vanilla flavoured cake enlivened by tangy lime curd at the centre. Every bite is a throwback to simpler times and childhood fun.

Where: OneCupcakeADay (online)

Salted egg lava muffin

Black&Ink lava egg
Image sourced from Black&Ink’s Official Facebook page

Upon each order, this coffee-flavoured muffin will be heated up in the microwave to create a molten velvety salted egg yolk filling. Compared to the other cupcakes, this muffin at Black&Ink is a little more pricey at $4.80. Known for its muffins with surprise centres, find other tantalising combinations at the store – like the kimchi egg muffin (muffin studded with kimchi with a poached egg nestled in the middle) and its gooey centred Thai Tea Milk muffin.

Where: Black&Ink168 Changi Rd, 419730

 

Featured image from Fluff Bakery’s Official Facebook page. 

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by Clare Thng

CARDBOARD collecting isn’t exactly a dangerous activity, but at least three people have died from doing just that over the last two years.

Yesterday (March 30), Madam Poh Ah Gin became the third fatality when a taxi reversed into her at high speed at a carpark in Bedok North Street 2. The 78-year-old was collecting cardboard when the taxi driver lost control of the vehicle while reverse parking and rammed into her twice, killing her.

In November 2014, an 86-year-old woman who had also been collecting cardboard was run down after walking into the blind spot of a bus in Marsiling Lane. Madam Ching Guan Eng was dragged for a short distance, and her trolley and stash of cardboard were stuck under the bus. The coroner ruled her death as an “unfortunate traffic misadventure”.

Earlier this year, Madam Tan Powi Kim, 62, was loading cardboard onto her lorry in Collyer Quay when a black BMW crashed into her. She died later in hospital.

Three deaths in two years. Why, that’s more dangerous than…

1. Swimming with sharks

So far this year, more people have died from the mundane task of collecting cardboard, than being killed by sharks. While shark attacks often make sensational headlines, the last fatal attack in Singapore dates back to 1954. A naval diver was attempting to recover packets of opium that had been jettisoned in the harbour bed for the police when he was attacked by a shark. Figures compiled by the Shark Research Institute, which maintains a database of confirmed shark attacks around the globe, cite only four recorded shark attacks here, three of which were fatal.

2. Electrocution

You are more likely to die from collecting cardboard than handling electrical equipment or industrial machines. A 2015 Workplace Safety and Health Institute’s statistics report noted only one fatal injury from electrocution over the last two years. In 2014, the worker was electrocuted while repairing a faulty air-conditioning unit at a shophouse along Dunlop Street.

3. Killer litter

Over the past decade, Singapore has seen only one case of killer litter. In 2014, TODAY reported the death of an elderly woman after she was struck by a bicycle wheel flung by a teenage boy from the 14th floor. This was the first reported fatality since 2002, when a Singapore sales manager died after a falling metal chair hit him on the head and fractured his skull.

 

Featured image boxes of boxes by Flickr user Ambernectar 13CC BY-ND 2.0.

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Carfree Carlite?
Illustration by Sean Chong

by Clare Thng

IN HIS opening address to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) symposium on The Future of Mobility, Professor Kishore Mahbubani spoke of a future where “no Singaporean will own private cars.” By 2050, he said last November, we shall witness an age of “shared self-driven cars which we will summon with our smartphones.”

Is this what utopia in a crowded city-state looks like? Probably not to everyone.

This weekend marks the second Car-Free Sunday of the year. Launched by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), most parts of the civic and central business district (CBD) roads will be closed from 7.30am to 10am, an extension of half an hour since the first Car-Free Sunday last month (February). Connaught Drive, however, will be closed for the whole day, from 7.30am to 7pm.

For two and half hours or more, pedestrians can explore the CBD streets, free from its usual clamour of horns blowing and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Instead, pedestrians can relish a peaceful morning of yoga at the Esplanade Park or perhaps try their hand at a game of mini-tennis along Connaught Drive. With a line-up of robust programmes, pretty much members of all ages are set for a day of fun.

Along with its aim to “promote active lifestyles and enhance livability in the city”, the six-month-long Car-Free Sunday is part of a much bigger G agenda to discourage car use.

In all its manifestations, this “car-lite” philosophy has in fact made several appearances in the past.

Such as in the 1960s, when the G first started levying higher taxes on cars. Then came the area licensing scheme in 1975, which restricted car usage in the city. In 1998, this was replaced by Electronic Road Pricing (ERP). After that came the vehicle quota system, introduced in 1990… and so on.

How far will Car-Free Sunday take Singapore on the road to being car-lite?

The first Car-Free Sunday was off to an encouraging start with up to a few thousand joggers, cyclists and walkers taking part in the event, Channel NewsAsia reported. Speaking of the public’s response to the event, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that the initiative could be expanded and become a permanent fixture if the response from the public “gets even better”.

But to reach the goal of becoming a “car-lite” nation, an event like Car-Free Sunday is probably not going to cut it. Why not? Because we need the infrastructure to support this, too. This means providing alternatives to driving that the public will adopt as part of their commute.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong spoke about this when he wrote in a blog post that the G was working hard to improve public transport and infrastructure for active mobility options like walking and cycling. It would take “tremendous effort and time” to make this vision of a car-lite Singapore a reality.

It was a point also brought up by The Straits Times’ former environment correspondent Feng Zengkun, who wrote that in order for Singapore to truly attain its car-lite nation status, “a high quality, reliable public transport system has to be supplemented by access to taxis, car-sharing and bicycles”.

Members of the public seem to back these concerns: In a letter published in the ST forum on Dec 24 last year, Ms Maria Loh compared Singapore’s system of trains, buses and taxis to New York City’s, saying that more train lines and trains would encourage more people to switch to public transport: “It is a matter of time before our train network reaches the majority of Singaporeans, making it more seamless and less painful to use public transport.”

Until then, car-lite may not be for everyone – especially when such infrastructure-building is incomplete.

Then, there is the issue of changing mindsets – one of three areas Prof Mahbubani said would need to happen for the G’s car-lite vision to become reality. The other two areas are the availability of transport alternatives and an integration of all modes of public transport under one Public Transport Board (PTB).

Recently, this question of alternatives was given some clarity when a panel tasked by the Ministry of Transport to look into personal commuting gave its list of recommendations. It included allowing electric scooters to go on footpaths and cycling paths, and for those on bikes to ride on footpaths – giving people greater latitude, autonomy and choice than ever before in their personal commute.

But while it may make sense for the majority of the population in an urban metropolis to rely on public transport, some perceive cars as more than a simple means of transport. To them, cars go beyond material possessions and symbolise a mark of identity and status.

In a Dec 21 forum letter to ST, Mr Paul Chan wrote in reply to Prof Mahbubani, arguing that the professor had underestimated the depth of the car culture in Singapore, and that the journey to eliminate cars would be a “long and arduous one”.

“Perhaps we should strive for a “middle ground” in both the literal and figurative sense – roadways shared between buses, driverless vehicles, light-rail trams and a reduced number of private cars,” he concluded.

Three days later, Mr Edmund Khoo echoed the same viewpoint in an ST forum letter, pointing out that “existing car owners are reluctant to give up something which has become an extension of themselves, and not merely a tool to get from points A to B”. 

Still, it’s possible for such mindsets to shift with time, said Ms Maria Loh.

She said that a change of mentality was possible if the younger generation could be persuaded not to view car ownership as a status symbol. Instead, they could be educated about the harm to the environment caused by excessive cars on the roads and the amount of money they could save by forgoing cars altogether.

The success of the nation’s push towards a car-lite future will be dependent on all these factors. As to what this future might look like… Want to go for a walk this Sunday in the CBD?

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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by Clare Thng

OVER the last two days, news reports have laid out predictable trends such as falling fertility rates and climbing elderly numbers in line with the 2015 General Household survey results. But what about the lesser known, almost unbelievable, data? After trawling through pages of statistics and graphs, here are five facts we came across which you may not have known:

1. Chinese are the least bilingual.  

Over a span of five years, the proportion of the resident population literate in two or more languages has increased by almost 3 per cent. In 2015, nearly nine out of ten of literate Malays were able to read in two or more languages. This was followed by 82.9 per cent of Indians who could do so as well. On the other hand, it was the Chinese who suffered the lowest proportion of residents for multi-language literacy at only 70.3 per cent.

While a majority of the Chinese and Malay were literate in English and their mother tongue only, language literacy was more diverse among the Indians. In addition to the 45.7 per cent who could read English and Tamil, 14 per cent of Indians were literate in English and Malay as well.

2. In almost half of all marriages, husbands are as smart as their wives. 

In 2015, 46.1 per cent of married couples comprised husbands with the same educational qualifications as their wives. The other 54 per cent being married couples where either the wives had lower qualifications than husbands or vice versa. Among married males with university qualifications, 67.7 per cent of them had a spouse who was also a university graduate.

With more females joining the workforce, dual-career couples have been on the rise as well from 47.1 per cent to 53.8 per cent. Within these five years, the proportion of marriages where only the husband worked had fallen from 32.6 per cent to 27.7 per cent.

3. Almost half of primary school students walk to school.

If they chose to anyway…

In light of the close proximity of schools to their homes, 44.7 per cent of pre-primary and primary school students did not require transport to school in 2015. This was a slight fall from 46.2 per cent in 2010.

4. Indians have the most diverse religious affiliations. 

Aside from language literacy, the religious affiliations of Indians were most diverse compared to the other racial groups. In 2015, Hinduism with 59.9 per cent was the predominant religion of Indians. This was followed by Islam with 21.3 per cent and Christianity with 12.1 per cent. Other religions such as Sikhism made up about 5.4 per cent.

5. Among the ethnic races, the number of persons in Malay households saw the largest fall. 

The average household size for Malay households fell from 4.2 persons in 2010 to 3.9 persons in 2015. Over the same 5 year period, Chinese households experienced a marginal decline from 3.4 persons to 3.3 persons while that of Indian households remained unchanged at 3.6 persons. This makes the shift towards smaller households the most notable in Malays out of the ethnic groups. In spite of this dip in numbers, the Malays continue to have a larger household size on average than Indian and Chinese households.

 

Featured image by Natassya Diana.

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Singapore flag with illustration of the silhouette of the HDB.

by Clare Thng

BILINGUALISM, housing and an aging population are just some of the several issues brought to the forefront after yesterday’s release of Singapore General Statistics 2015 household survey. With over 27,000 household participants, the report reveals various characteristics of the resident population and households of Singapore. Upon its release, results of the government survey made it to the headlines of over seven news outlets, including The Straits Times (ST), ChannelNewsAsia (CNA), TODAY, AsiaOne, Singapore Business Review (SBR), Lianhe Zaobao and even international names like ShanghaiDaily.

Under the top news section, The Straits Times ran its headline with “English most common home language in Singapore, bilingualism also up“. It provided substantial coverage of bilingualism and literacy rates, going into detail on the use of English and other dialects in households. Other key household changes such as the proportion of elderly in households and religion affiliation were given a brief overview in the form statistic diagrams.

TODAY’s headlines, on the other hand, read “Greater number of Singaporeans not identifying with any religion” with an entire article on religious affiliation alone. Statistics were based on ethnicity, education levels and racial demographics. Besides a breakdown of the statistics, TODAY aided readers by citing an expert opinion by National University of Singapore sociologist, Tan Ern Ser, on what the trend reflected.

Apart from religion, TODAY expanded on higher rates of home ownership and literacy rates with an article titled “More Singaporeans better educated, own homes“. It noted that the rise in post-secondary qualifications had seen an increment in all ages. Multi-language literacy had also become more prevalent where the proportion of those who can read two or more languages increased.

Headlines on CNA read “More Singaporeans, living in condos, fewer driving cars“. Along with Asiaone and Singapore Business review, all three were anchored on home ownership.

Aside from home ownership and modes of transport, CNA’s report also zoomed in on the ageing population of Singapore. With regard to the rising proportion of elderly in households, they spoke to a sociologist, Dr Paulin Straughan, on the infrastructure and social support needed to “support ageing in place”.

Laying out facts like which race held the highest proportion of home ownership and which were the most popular house types, SBR ran a short piece centred on the home ownership trend.

Out of the three reports, Asiaone had the most extensive coverage of households. Besides the general overview, it noted the shift towards smaller households was “most notable among Malay households, even though the community still had larger households on average than their Chinese and Indian counterparts.” While it had drilled down on education, marriage and transport statistics with several infographics, Asiaone expounded the least on religious affiliation.

Lianhe Zaobao ran a front page story with its headline “significant rise in the proportion of young singles“. It mainly delved into the topics of singlehood, education as well as home ownership, with little mention of religion and transport.

ShanghaiDaily picked up the news from Xinhua news, and its headline similarly reads: “proportion of singles among younger age groups in Singapore“. The report was kept succinct and straightforward by reporting the general statistics of the household survey.

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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by Clare Thng

YOUR best friend’s grandmother has just passed away. Distraught with grief, she has written a 500-word Facebook post about her loss. Should you “Like” the post? Would it seem insensitive? Do you leave a comment? Fret not, Facebook user, for all it takes is a teary-eyed emoticon to send your deep condolences and express sincere sympathies via Facebook.

Indeed, such is the power of an emoji.

As of this year, a new feature has been bestowed on Facebook users – “reactions”. Simply hover your mouse over the “Like” button and you will find six emoticons instead. From an open mouth to express surprise to a teary-eyed face for sadness, they depict various expressions you can now send to your loved ones. The other four emotions include love, laughter, anger and cheer. “People wanted to express empathy and make it comfortable to share a wider range of emotions,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page when the “reactions” were first launched.

Users embraced the update. Megan Lim, 19 and a Facebook user of seven years, felt that the “reactions” feature was Facebook’s innovative way of setting themselves apart from other social media sites. “It gives Facebook that personal touch,” she said adding with a laugh. “And the emoticons are quite cute!”

What’s lacking in these emoticons, however, is a Singapore spin. Here are some we think Facebook sorely needs:

Sian

An expression of boredom, weariness and in some cases, frustration.sian

Why Facebook needs it: There is something about this sian emoticon that speaks to all Singaporeans on a spiritual level. Just like this emoticon, sometimes you can’t help but roll your eyes at some posts you read. An overly dramatic 200-word rant from someone suffering from the common flu? Rob Kardashian’s tragic breakup? Clearly, the perils of your 40-year-old housewife neighbour are of no concern to you. Neither do you understand why celebrity tiffs matter so much to your teenage niece.

But instead, you cultivate an expression of empathy and yet detached interest by sending them a sian emoticon. A way of saying “noted… but without thanks”.

Steady

Usually used as a compliment for one’s achievements or a word of encouragement.steady

Why Facebook needs it: A former classmate has recently changed her relationship status to “engaged” and your cousin finally made it into law school. It’s impossible to churn out a congratulatory note when stuck in a meeting so instead you send them a thumbs-up. In fact, it’s better than a thumbs-up, it’s a “steady”.

Cheem

Borrowed from the word “chim”, “cheem” is used to describe something profound or intellectual.

cheem

Why Facebook needs it: This expression is for Facebook posts that are just simply beyond you. Appropriate scenarios include your Harvard graduate uncle who shares his scholarly take on the latest US democratic debate. “Michigan primary?” you wonder as you scroll past. “A gun gives you the body, not the bird – Henry David Thoreau.” Again, you are befuddled. What you need is a cheem emoticon, in other words, “Interesting… I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Jialat

Used when one is entrapped in a difficult situation.

jia lat

Why Facebook needs it: MRT breakdown? Jialat. 300 PSI level? Jialat. Threats of nuclear strikes by North Korea? Say it with me: Jialat. From posts about transport hiccups to a potential apocalypse, this emoticon is needed for its versatility and richness in meaning.

Shiok

A term that captures anything from ecstatic to delicious. Sometimes, both.

shiok

Why Facebook needs it: Your colleague updates his status about his well-deserved holiday at the palm-fringed beaches of Bali. At the same time, a bubbling claypot of hokkien mee appears on your feed. Moments later, someone shares a 1-for-1 Golden Village movie ticket promotion. Three facebook posts, but only one emoticon that best captures your sentiments – shiok.

 

Featured image and illustrations by Natassya Diana

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Madonna. Image composited from Flickr user: JD Urban

By Clare Thng 

THROUGHOUT the decades, Madonna has delivered theatrical spectacles from stellar to scathing. In light of Singapore’s first ever Madonna concert, we present the controversies behind getting the Material Girl here. Sing it to the tune of the classic “Like A Virgin”.

She made it through the MDA

Somehow she made it through

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has been known for its firm stance that concerts should not contain any material which offends any race or religion. Yet somehow a pop star togged out in lingerie and clad in crucifixes is set to perform in Singapore in just three days.

Didn’t know how strict they were


with her albums too

After its worldwide release, her 1992 album “Erotica” was on hold in Singapore. The album was eventually released with the exception of the overly explicit “Did You Do It” track. A year later, Madonna was also banned from performing her controversial Girlie Show World Tour here, as it bordered on the obscene and was “known to be objectionable to many on moral and religious grounds”.

DVD?

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Such displease

Apart from the world tour and album, her 2007 DVD – The Confessions Tour: Live from London – was banned in Singapore as well. It was banned for her controversial performance in which she sang the ballad “Live To Tell” while suspended on a giant mirrored cross. Although the DVD is not distributed here, fans may still purchase it online.

R18

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they banned one song too

Only those aged 18 and above will be permitted entry to the concert this weekend. As part of an amended playlist, Madonna will be dropping the song “Holy Water” involving scantily dressed nuns pole-dancing on a cross.

But it made some cross

Yeah, it came across

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 shocking and crude

Archbishop William Goh had expressed the Catholic Church’s concerns about Madonna’s concert. “There is no neutrality in faith; one is either for or against. Being present is in itself a counter-witness,” he said. Such sentiments were echoed by leaders from Protestant churches who had raised it in a meeting with the Law and Home Affairs Minister.

Watch Madonna

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live for the very first time

Over 30,000 people in Singapore are expected to watch the Queen of Pop strut her stuff for the very first time this Sunday at the National Stadium.

It’s Madonna

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con-tro-ver-sial, news headlines

It seems like no matter where or when, her attempts to push musical boundaries courts controversy across the globe. In Taipei, Madonna draped herself in Taiwan’s flag at the end of her show – a gesture that caused outrage in China. In the Philippines, bishops had harsh words for her, condemning her concert as the “devil’s work”.

Will you be heading to the concert?

 

Photos sourced from Madonna’s official Facebook Page.

Image of Madonna “Rebel Heart Tour” by flickr user Daniele Dalledone. CC BY-SA 2.0

Image of Madonna by flickr user Fiona Hodge. CC BY 2.0

Featured Image sourced from Flickr user JD Urban

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by Clare Thng

OVER the years, Marina Square has been pegged to memories of families at food courts, students at movie theatres and more recently, rats at hotpot restaurants. According to TODAY, two more businesses are joining a former tenant in suing the mall’s operator, Marina Centre Holdings, to counterclaim damages related to rodent activity in the mall.

In early 2015, a dead rat was found soaking in a salted vegetable dish at a restaurant in Marina Square. Following the incident, a thorough inspection conducted by the National Environment Agency (NEA) uncovered a rat infestation. According to NEA, rodent activity had been detected in the false ceilings of up to 14 Marina Square eateries and at one of its bin centres. Since news emerged of the report by NEA, businesses in the once-bustling mall have come and gone, some currently embroiled in a legal tussle with the mall’s operator.

But how much of the 30-year-old mall’s problems are really about rats?

The businesses who have taken Marina Square to court are desperate to believe that’s the case. After the incident, Caerus Holdings, which manages Lady M Confectionary, had ended operations in January last year, midway into its three-year lease.

In response to this, the mall took legal action against them on October 15 stating that it had breached the terms of its lease and sought damages amounting to $211,149 from the losses it claimed it had suffered.

This included the loss of rent since Lady’s M departure. The former tenant, however, believed that the rodent issue ensued from the construction of the mall’s new wing. Caerus Holdings is now countersuing Marina Square for the “loss and damage” it had suffered as a consequence of the construction work, reported TODAY. In their defence filed in November, the firm struck back claiming that the management was accountable for failing to ensure its premises were rodent-free, thereby making it impossible for Lady M to carry out business in the first place.

These claims were then echoed by Pita Pan Management, who was drawn into the lawsuit two weeks later. On November 2 last year, Pita Pan left the mall eight months ahead of the expiry of its lease. Similarly, it is countersuing Marina Square after the mall sought for compensation of damages for pulling out. Within a year of adverse publicity, the Mediterranean restaurant had faced a continuous decline in sales. Its average monthly sales had plummeted about 37 per cent to $27,747.06, from an average of $44,300.47 between 2013 and 2014.

In a separate case filed last month, Saigon Times Ptd Ltd had sued the mall and eight existing tenants, claiming damages of $249,000. In its statement of claim, business at Saigon Baguette, had plunged 80 per cent in the wake of the issue. Citing an example of the mall’s negligence on the rodent matter, the existing tenant alleged that the mall had paid no heed to its request to seal a hole in its storeroom which it suspected was the source of the rat problem.

For customers however, rats are not the only reason the mall is emptying.  

Current tenants of Marina Square mall have noticed the shrinking crowd at the mall all along. Some attributing it to the closure of cinema operator Golden Village and bowling alley “SuperBowl” in 2014. Furthermore, Marina Square’s spokesperson has said the retail sector was facing challenges from “the growth of e-commerce and competition”. Marina Square also would have suffered from the surge of newer and bigger malls sprouting up along the Central Business District and Orchard Road. This includes Suntec City’s relaunch last October, which started drawing crowds after its $510 million facelift.

In a bid to recapture its glory days, Marina Square had also undergone a $95 million revamp completed in 2013. The overhaul introduced “Emporium Shokuhin” the following year, Singapore’s first integrated Japanese emporium. However, despite the mall’s best efforts to pick up on business, people are still not turning up in hordes like they used to.

When was the last time you went to Marina Square?

 

Featured image by Natassya Diana.

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by Clare Thng

CAPTURED in a hippy anthem with a geek’s twist, here is a summary of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s visit to Silicon Valley, San Francisco. To be sung in the tune of “San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie, and we recommend that you play the song in the background as you are reading the article. Enjoy!

 If you’re going to San Francisco, 

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 Be sure to wear a headset on your head

During his visit to Facebook’s HQ, PM Lee experienced the Oculus Rift, complete with Oculus Touch controllers. “Amazing how immersive the virtual reality experience was,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.

If you’re going to San Francisco,

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You’re gonna meet some CEOs there

Apart from trying out new technologies, PM Lee also met with Apple CEO Tim Cook to see how Singapore could use Apple’s technologies in its pursuit of a Smart Nation status. He also met up with other prominent business leaders in Silicon Valley such as Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

For those who come to San Francisco,

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CNY includes a lo-hei there

At a gathering – organised by the Overseas Singapore Unit – over 300 Singaporeans in San Francisco had the opportunity to celebrate Chinese New Year (CNY) with PM Lee.

In the streets of San Francisco

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Tech titans are everywhere.

Over lunch, the Prime Minister discussed tech trends with Todd Park (Technology Advisor to the White House), Brian Koo (Formation Group), John Doerr (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers), Tim O’Reilly (O’Reilly Media) and Nicole Wong (Senior Advisor at Albright-Stonebridge Group).

All across the nation, PM Lee’s motivation

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Engineers in motion

During a chat with Singaporeans working at Google, most of whom were engineers, PM Lee discussed the importance of making engineering more attractive in Singapore.

There’s a whole generation

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with some new aspirations

In a dialogue, PM Lee shared his hopes and plans for the country’s journey towards a Smart Nation with Singaporean tech professionals working in San Francisco.

PM in motion 12742461_1049381478457891_310383849556036246_n

Indeed, the Prime Minister was literally in motion when he toured the Tesla factory. Described as “exhilarating”, he rode in a Tesla Model S P90D, one of the latest models of Tesla’s electric cars.

PM in motion

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In a jolly mood, PM Lee also took a spin in Google’s latest self-driving car.

For those who come to San Francisco,12715742_1050691328326906_7222656488770792611_n-1Be sure to buy some croissants while you’re there

While this may be a working visit, Mr Lee spared some time to visit the famous Ferry Plaza Farmers Market with his wife for breakfast. “My ham and cheese croissant was good!” he wrote in a Facebook post.

PM Lee in San Francisco,

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fun-filled time before the Summit in Sunnylands.

Looks like our Prime Minister enjoyed his short stay in San Francisco before attending the US-ASEAN Leaders Summit, which will be hosted by President Barrack Obama from February 15-16 in Sunnylands, California.

Photos sourced from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook page

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