March 27, 2017

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by Suhaile Md

CONOR McGregor. Who’s that?

He’s a mixed martial arts (MMA) star and star swimmer Joseph Schooling’s idol.

Although practising kicks are about the only thing the sport has in common with swimming, it doesn’t stop Joseph Schooling from finding inspiration in McGregor, reported TODAY (Feb 7).

MMA is a growing in prominence globally but is not as well known as swimming in Singapore. Here are five things about 28-year-old MMA champ Conor McGregor and why, we think, he inspires our very own Olympic champion.

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1. Championship record

McGregor won the featherweight title in December 2015. Not content with just one, he went on to win another title in the lightweight class nearly a year later. This made him the first fighter in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history to simultaneously hold two titles from two different weight classes. Not an easy task because losing or adding weight affects a fighter’s balance and body awareness. And McGregor did it in the UFC, the most prominent competition in MMA.

Schooling won gold and broke the 100m butterfly record at the Olympics last year. After the win, like McGregor, he set his eyes beyond that one event. Schooling has said he wanted to compete in other races in the future: The 200m butterfly and 100m freestyle. We hope he dominates those events as well. Go Joe!

 

2. Champion mindset 

“I should create my own belt. I am, in myself, my own belt. It doesn’t matter if its featherweight, lightweight, welterweight. It’s the McGregor belt. That’s it, I’m fighting for my own belt,” said McGregor, at a press conference in the lead up to a fight last year (Feb 24) .

“I want to make a mark for myself, set my own tone, I don’t want to be compared to anyone,” said Schooling when asked about comparisons to swimming great Michael Phelps (Aug 16, 2016).

Yes, McGregor is known to be much more flamboyant and uses colourful words not fit for kids. Schooling is not like that, he has a reputation of being very polite. But the mindset, of being the best and in a class of their own, is something they both share.

 

3. Champion support

McGregor, on his girlfriend Dee (Nov 14): “She’d drive me to the gym, and she’d listen to all my dreams. Dee is a lifesaver for me. I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for her, and that’s for sure.”

McGregor’s story has his leading lady.

As for Schooling, sorry ladies, that spot is taken by Joe’s mum May Schooling. Although, rumour has it he was dating 22-year old Casey Shomaker, who is pursuing a doctorate in law at the University of Texas where Schooling studies.

“Without their help, their love, their contributions, I would not be where I am today. So mum and dad, thank you,” said Schooling yesterday, reported ST( Feb 7).

By the way ladies, mummy May is ever watchful, making sure her son is not put in a compromising position by random girls (read more about May Schooling here).

 

4. Champion focus

Fame in the fighting arena set McGregor up for an action movie appearance with Hollywood star Vin Diesel. But last year McGregor cancelled the seven-figure movie deal so as not to get distracted from training.

Likewise, Schooling is focused on the coming swimming season in the United States, where he is studying and training.

“I came back (from Singapore) in December and started working hard, watched what I ate, no more going out, time to focus on the championship season,” said Schooling, reported TODAY (Feb 7).

 

5. Champion… body?

McGregor did a shoot for the ESPN sports magazine last year. The magazine has an annual “body issue” where athletes strip to their birthday suits and readers can lust after appreciate the athletic build of leading sports figures.

No Schooling has not done a naked photoshoot… yet. But there is a photo book, “Hello, my name is Joseph Schooling”, published last year. It contains photographs by Alvin Toh, who had exclusive access to Schooling on many occasions. But there’s nothing risque.

And yes, it was a bit sneaky to put this part in. Just a bit. But come on, how many ladies (and guys too, admit it!) would love Joe to bare it all?

Let’s hope he gets all inspired…

 

 

Featured image by Vimeo user mariah garnettCC BY-SA 2.0

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by Najeer Yusof

YESTERDAY, the shutters of Mustafa’s Serangoon Plaza outlet opened for the last time to a line of customers who gathered for the final day of sales. With the closure of the Serangoon Plaza branch today, Mustafa will now operate only from its main outlet, along Syed Alwi Road. Mustafa had been a tenant of Serangoon Plaza since the mid-1980s.

When we visited Mustafa in its final hours, the second and third floors were already emptied and sealed off. Customers were restricted to the first floor, where clearance sales were being held. The store became crowded by noon and the lines to the cashiers grew. Customers were generally nonchalant as many came for the clearance sales which had promotions on items such as clothes, toiletries and home appliances. Some items such as blankets had huge price cuts of up to 50 percent. Although most of the customers we spoke to did not feel sad about the outlet’s closure since Mustafa’s main outlet is just around the corner, some had a sentimental connection to Serangoon Plaza as they had been always shopping there.

Here is a look at the final day of operations of Mustafa at Serangoon Plaza:

 

CUTTING TIES: The overhead pedestrian bridge that linked Mustafa's Serangoon Plaza outlet to the main outlet was removed earlier this month. The opening to the bridges on both sides were either cemented or sealed off.
CUTTING TIES: The overhead pedestrian bridge that linked Mustafa’s Serangoon Plaza outlet to the main outlet was removed earlier this month. The openings to the bridge from both sides have either been cemented or sealed off.

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RESTRICTED ACCESS: The second and third floors of Mustafa's Serangoon Plaza outlet were cleared and sealed off by the second week of January. Red tapes and and cardboard boxes were used to seal off access routes such as escalators and stairs, to the upper floors. The customers were only allowed on the first floor.
RESTRICTED ACCESS: The second and third floors of Mustafa’s Serangoon Plaza outlet were cleared and sealed off by the second week of January. Red tapes and and cardboard boxes were used to seal off access routes, such as escalators and stairs, to the upper floors. Customers were only allowed on the first floor.

 

WAITING LINE: Customers gathered outside the store, awaiting the opening. Although the store opened at 10.30 am, some began gathering outside as early as 10.
WAITING IN LINE: Customers gathered outside the store, awaiting the opening yesterday morning. Although the store opened at 10.30 am, some began gathering outside as early as 10 am.

 

STEEP CUTS: Items such as home appliances, blankets, clothing and even toiletries were on sale. Some had huge price cuts and irresistible promotions. There were 3 separate store spaces for the customers to browse the various items on sale.
STEEP CUTS: Items such as home appliances, blankets, clothing and even toiletries were on sale. Some had huge price cuts and irresistible promotions. There were three separate store spaces for customers to browse the various items on sale.

 

VALUED CUSTOMER: Madam Chandravalli, 42, rummages through a pile of blankets. "I heard about the closure yesterday on the news so I decided to come down today to check out the sale. It is sad that this outlet is closing as I have been shopping here for 15 years. With only one outlet now, I do not know how are they are going to manage the crowd," she said.
VALUED CUSTOMER: Madam Chandravalli, 42, rummages through a pile of blankets. “I heard about the closure yesterday on the news so I decided to come down today to check out the sale. It is sad that this outlet is closing as I have been shopping here for 15 years. With only one outlet now, I do not know how are they are going to manage the crowd,” she said.

 

OFF THE RACK AND PACKED: Some items were already cleared by the final day of sales, while others that were not on sale were moved over to the main outlet.
OFF THE RACKS AND PACKED: Some items were already cleared by the final day of sales, while others that were not on sale had been moved over to the main outlet.

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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SHARED SPACE: The common room where the elderly residents gather for meals and activities such as watching tv. They also do engage in spontaneous activities such as dancing or even cooking.

by Wan Ting Koh 

AMID the controversy over the future of Singapore’s nursing homes – whether seniors are better off in private rooms or ward-type facilites – for at least one group of seniors, what they really want is the best of both worlds.

They like the privacy and autonomy that their own bedroom offers. But at the same time, they also like being able to mingle with other residents, saying that sometimes being by themselves can get a bit lonely.

We spoke to Saint Bernadette Lifestyle Village, one of Singapore’s few assisted living facilities that offers private rooms and is run by a Volunteer Welfare Organisation. Last month marked the facility’s first anniversary since it opened in December 2015. Currently, it houses eight seniors who range from 75 to over 90 years old.

Most of the eight residents said that while privacy is a priority, they also appreciate the companionship of fellow residents and the presence of nurses who attend to them when needed.

Madam Joy Lo is one such resident. The 94-year-old has been staying at the facility for some six to eight months and has no plans to move. She first moved to St Bernadette as she felt lonely at home with only a domestic helper as company. Her son had to work, while her daughter was in the UK.

“At home we are all alone with the maid. The maid have to do housework, how can she attend to you all the time? Here we can meet others and play mahjong,” said Madam Lo.

When asked if she would want to stay in a dormitory-style nursing home, she said no, citing privacy as her main concern. However, Madam Lo is still quite mobile and doesn’t require any assistance to move around. She even made it her daily morning routine to sweep the garden after getting up at 6am.

Others her age, however, might need more supervision, she acknowledged. Like those who are ill and not mobile.

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St Bernadette, which began accepting residents in end 2015, is an assisted living facility located a five-minute walk from Newton MRT. Unlike most nursing homes in Singapore, St Bernadette offers its residents a more home-like setting by providing residents with private bedrooms and ensuite toilets, while having a nurse available 24/7 to care for the residents. Residents sign a six-month lease, which they can extend and pay $3,500 per month.

The home is located entirely on the ground floor and consists of a common room, which is attached to eight private bedrooms. Each bedroom has a TV, a bed, a bedside table, a drawer for personal effects, a phone, a chair and an attached bathroom.

Madam Lo, whose room faces the front of the home, has decorated the space with her personal belongings. Her medicinal cabinet is filled with small bottles from her makeup collection, including her favourite skincare brands: Estee Lauder and Elizabeth Arden.

Said Madam Lo:

“You’re free to do what you want, but you have food on time and people take care of you.”

St Bernadette stands in stark comparison to the more commonly seen model of nursing homes in Singapore – the dormitory-style nursing home. These are homes which can house up to 30 residents in a single ward and focus on giving residents round-the-clock medical care.

A report released last year, titled Safe but Soulless, suggested that many of such nursing homes in Singapore, though clean and safe, are regimented to the point that they become “soulless”. The two organisations behind the report, Lien Foundation and Khoo Chwee Neo Foundation, want more “home-like” environments, with single or twin-bedded rooms that give the elderly more privacy.

However, representatives from six nursing homes disagreed. They penned an ST forum letter saying that the money spent on building private bedrooms could be better spent on volunteer-recruitment and organising more activities.

Some elderly, they said, prefer to share a room because it makes them feel less lonely.

As Singapore argues over what the seniors want, back at St Bernadette, it seems the seniors are well-contented with their home.

Another resident, Madam Leong Mei Yong, has been at the home since it first opened.

The 95-year-old, who needs assistance moving around, said that there was no company at home as her children were always working. Her daughter, Ms Shirley Yap, 54, said that she decided on St Bernadette for her mother as it is near to her house and offers a private room for her mother.

Before St Bernadette, Madam Leong had stayed in Econ Medicare Centre as she lost her swallowing reflex. “She stayed there for four months until she could swallow. But she was getting to a stage where she was getting very weak, so she needed round-the-clock assistance,” said Ms Yap. Madam Leong recovered from her condition in December 2014.

Her daughter acted immediately when she heard of St Bernadette. “When this came out in the papers, I called in straightaway and came down on the same day,” said Ms Yap.

She brought her mother to see the facilities and her mother “liked it”, said Ms Yap. Madam Leong liked talking and going out to “walk” with friends. “At home there is no one, they are always working,” said Madam Leong in Mandarin, referring to her family.

Madam Lisa Lai, a fellow resident, concurs.

“Here I can talk to friends. No one takes care of me at home, so staying here is more convenient,”

said the 85-year-old.

As residents treat the facility like their own home, they are free to come and go as they please as long as they have company. At the time when TMG visited, one resident had gone to stay with her daughter who was back from the UK and another resident had brought friends over to visit.

Residents also have events to look forward to. Just a two weeks ago, residents of St Bernadette joined neighbouring nursing home Good Shepherd Loft for a Chinese New Year reunion dinner for the first time.

And if they feel that the festivities are too much for them at any one point, they always have the option of returning to the peace and privacy of their own bedrooms.

For Madam Lo, this peace is well cherished. “You can eat together, you can play together, but when we sleep we go in,” she said.

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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by Joshua Ip

AT THE “Singapore Perspectives” conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, 27-year-old lawyer-poet Amanda Chong accused the development of our arts infrastructure as (and here I begin to quote the Mothership article):

“… a branding exercise grounded in the desire to transform ourselves so we might be attractive to the world’, citing our beautiful galleries and museums as well as the government’s annual $700 million expenditure on the arts.

‘If we continue this trajectory of pursuing a global city built from the outside in while opening our doors wide to the world, we are ultimately closing the doors on ourselves… Singapore’s arts scene is important for our own sake. The arts should not just or even primarily be an instrument of the State to attract global talent.”

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In doing so, she drew the ire of Tommy Koh, but made a strong and strident argument for art for art’s sake. She made three points to back this up. I feel the need to further expand on the three points of her argument, as it seems inadequate to me. In the spirit of “Cabinet Battle” from Hamilton, I have crafted my retorts in a hip-hop beat:

 

1. The arts teaches us to be more mindful of dissenting views that exist, and enrich our understanding of the truth.

The arts assists the state to be more mindful of those
who must persist in making noise, who try to oppose;
it gathers them in easily-observable groups
so everywhere they feasibly go, Big Brother snoops.
Dissenting views enrich the few with faux independence,
so call a poetry reading and just take the attendance!

 

2. The arts helps us to see other members of our society as equals and as humans, not as objects to be dealt with.

The arts helps us to see other society members
as inspiration for our literary adventures;
Prostitutes or prisoners or even the Prime Minister
are equal opportunity protagonists in literature!
They won’t object to be subjected to our prolificity,
from nothing, we make something, we’re increasing productivity!
Human interest stories might be individually worthless;
we can monetise them if we just put the right word first!

 

3. The arts can contribute to the national conversation about our future in a meaningful way.

The arts can contribute to conversation.sg,
by making richer countries think that we are so edgy.
Unlike third world regimes that can be much more demanding
we never censor arts, we only pull back our funding!
If liberals want to gibber about freedom and passion
the free grants that we give will be our kneejerk reaction!

So what is wrong, Amanda Chong, with art not for art’s sake?
Observe the upward market curve that all of us partake.
We started with a junket to take part in this whole damn response
to marketing a market and its artificial Renaissance:
if foreign talent is inherently arts-obsessed,
why can’t our parent-state apparent fake its interest?
So Amanda, I contend there’s nought to contend with,
its fine to sell your soul but please just make it expensive!

P/S: (She plays the part of starving artist slightly too well:
please give her book a look at the attached URL.)

 

 

Joshua Ip is a poet and founder of Sing Lit Station, a literary non-profit that organises Singapore Poetry Writing Month, Manuscript Bootcamp, poetry.sg and other activities to promote writing in Singapore.

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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by

ASIA is home to thousands of cultures, yet the one ingredient that unites us all is having rice as part of our daily meals. From India in the west to Japan in the far east, down to furthest southern reaches of the Indonesian islands, rice has been a staple for billions of people for thousands of years.

Yet the humble grain, or at least the processed white version of it, has been at the crosshairs of health authorities in recent years for its role in diabetes.

Harvard researchers studying over 350,000 participants way back in 2012 for instance, noted that an additional serving of white rice raises the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 10 per cent. This is explained in part by its high glycemic index (GI) score which causes spikes in blood sugar.

But these same researchers note that modern sedentary lifestyles have a large part to play as rice has been in the Asian diet for millennia and health issues are cropping up only now. One solution: reduce the amount you eat, but do it without starving.

This is easily done by adding seeds, nuts and grains. While the purity of a simple bowl of white rice is certainly hard to beat, these small modifications not only add interest in flavour and texture but ramps up the amount of nutrition you’d get in one sitting. Here’s 7 you can add for a healthier bowl of rice.

01 Barley
Barley incorporated into short grained rice yields a nutty taste with the chewy texture of al-dente pasta while providing more manganese, phosphorus and proteins. The grain cooks at the same rate as rice so it can be mixed and cooked at the same time. To get this right, combine 1 cup barley with 1 cup rice with 2 ½ cups of water and cook as per normal in your rice cooker.

02 Quinoa
For those looking to increase the amount of protein in your diet, quinoa is your go-to grain. The cereal which is native to South America takes just 15 minutes to cook so add it into your rice towards the end if you prefer it still crunchy. While white rice and quinoa is an easier combination, consider cooking with brown rice to include more fibre.

Amaranth, the ancient Aztec grain.
Amaranth, the ancient Aztec grain.

03 Sesame Seeds
There’s more to sesame seeds than just having it as an oil or to sprinkle on top of burger buns. They’re packed with nutrients like proteins, fat and fibre, and tastes best when roasted and crunchy. To get the best out of this flavour and texture, dry roast the sesame seeds on a hot saucepan until slightly browned, and mix it in with cooked rice.

04 Amaranth
This ancient grain was a staple of the Aztecs and is as protein packed as quinoa. Unlike quinoa though, amaranth turns mushy when cooked, so go by your preference when cooking it with rice. Generally, more amaranth leads to a soft pudding-like texture. But a good way to start and gauge your preference would be to use 1/4 cup of amaranth to 3/4 cups of other grains.

05 Soy Beans
Soybeans have long been cooked with glutinous rice in Asia as part of leaf-wrapped dumplings and often come seasoned with savoury additions. The beans are also so protein-packed that it’s recommended as a replacement for those on meat-free diets. To cook it, soak the soy beans overnight so they soften up, dehull them and then add your desired amount into the rice to cook simultaneously.

A bowl of garbanzo beans
A bowl of garbanzo beans

06 Mung Beans
Healthy ingredients can be difficult to find but thankfully, mung beans or green beans as they’re commonly known are found everywhere. They’re packed with nutrients like magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, folate, zinc and vitamin B6. Like soy beans, soak the green beans overnight before cooking. Recipe-wise, the Iranians have a dish named Mash M’tubuq which calls for ½ cup of mung beans to 1 cup of rice. It also calls for other ingredients like yoghurt, onions, molasses and dill but there’s no reason why you can’t try it out plain.

07 Garbanzo Beans
Garbanzo beans are often seen more as the main ingredient in hummus than with rice but it’s a combo that’s also seen in Mediterranean and Indian dishes. Save yourself some time and go for the canned version rather than the dried version as getting the buttery texture it’s so loved for requires more than just soaking, but also simmering for 1 ½ hours. As canned versions are already cooked, simply add your desired amount towards the end of the rice cooking cycle and give it a good stir.

 

This article first appeared on Michelin Guide Singapore. Visit Michelin Guide Singapore on Facebook.

Featured image mixed rice by Flickr user theilr. (CC BY 2.0)

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by Suhaile Md

CARRYING cash, counting change and a wallet full of jingling coins may not be your thing. Or you might have just forgotten to withdraw money to buy groceries. If so, there are various cashless payment options, like using your EZ-link or credit card, to pay for your groceries the next time you shop at supermarket chains like NTUC FairPrice and Giant.

Here’s a list of those available options at NTUC FairPrice, Giant, Sheng Siong, Cheers and 7-Eleven.

 FairPriceSheng SiongGiantCheers7-Eleven
VisaYesYesYesYesYes
MastercardYesYesYesYesYes
Diners Club InternationalYesYesYesNoNo
Samsung PayYesYesYesYesYes
Android PayYesYesYesYesYes
Apple PayYesYesYesYesYes
Ez-LinkNoNoYesYesYes
MasterCard PayPassYesYesYesYesYes
Visa PayWaveYesYesYesYesYes
Nets FlashPayYesYesYesYesYes
Nets
YesYesYesYesYes

NETS

Most of us are familiar with this. Insert the card into the card reader; type your pin. Money is deducted straight from your account. If you lose your card, a stranger has to know your PIN number to be able to use it. Even if it’s stolen and the thief knows your PIN, your losses are limited to your withdrawal limit.

 

Credit cards

Payment via VISA and Mastercard are still the most widely accepted. Diners International, not so much. As the names suggest, you buy on credit and pay the bank at the end of the month.

Cancel your card immediately if you lose your credit card though. Transactions below $45 (sometimes below $100 depending on the card) don’t require a signature. So if the cashier is not alert, anyone can use your card to make numerous transactions.

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EZ-Link

EZ-link payments are accepted at Giant, Cheers and 7-Eleven only. The stored value card needs to be topped up once you’ve used up its value. Given that most Singaporeans use EZ-link cards for public transport, you’d think that this method of payment would be widely accepted. But nope.

One reason could be because unlike credit cards and Nets, EZ-link cards have no security feature. No PIN number or signature is required for transactions.

Note though, that if you register your EZ-link card online, you can cancel the card if you lose it. The cash value of the card, at the point of cancellation, can be transferred to your new card when you register it.

 

Using your phone

If you see the “NFC” sign and you use a Samsung phone, iPhone or Android phone, chances are you can pay with your mobile phone. All you have to do is tap your phone on the Near Field Communication (NFC) reader.

Image Mobile payment terminal, in Fornebu, Norway. Operated by NFC technology. Telenor. taken from Wikicomm user HLundgaard.
Image Mobile payment terminal, in Fornebu, Norway. Operated by NFC technology. Telenor. from Wikimedia Commons user HLundgaard.

Apple pay, Samsung Pay and Android pay are services rolled out by the tech giants that allow users to input their credit and debit card information into their phones. But it’s not the sensitive 16-digit card number that is stored. Instead, a separate, unique digital code is generated. It’s this code that is used during the transaction. This way, your credit card information is not at risk of being stolen by anyone who has access to your phone.

Apple Pay and Samsung Pay require either a fingerprint or PIN authentication for every transaction. Android pay only requires it after every third transaction.

 

Contactless card payments

Nets FlashPay, Visa payWave and MasterCard PayPass are basically cards that you can just wave over a card reader to pay. No PINs, no signatures required. Read more about the cards here.

If you lose the card, cancel it as soon as possible. Otherwise, anyone can just use it until the credit limit is reached without ever getting caught. Contactless payments tend to be limited to $100 per transaction. Some cards however, do not have limits. Check with your bank for details.

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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by Brenda Tan

SCHOOL lunch times have been in the news – why are our kids having their mid-day meal so late?

I’ve taken to preparing a packed lunch for my daughter. It takes me 10-15 minutes in the morning.

I invest in good thermal food containers that keep food hot or cold for a long period. I also plan a weekly menu so that I’m not usually stumped for what to cook for her. Moreover, this menu is a guide that gives me flexibility. If we have lots of leftover from dinner, I can simply reheat and pack it for her as lunch. I also take note of her favourite foods and what works well for her meal and what don’t, so that the meal can be refined.

Here are some tips and tricks, and recipes, for packing a lunchbox meal:

Tips for packing school lunch

Tip #1 – Prepare the food container

To ensure that the thermal food containers are at their optimal temperatures, put in boiling water and seal the container while cooking. Then, when the food is ready, pour away the water before putting the hot food into the container. Do likewise using ice cold water for cold foods.

Tip #2 – Calculate nutritional value over a whole day rather than in one meal

While I try to ensure that the lunch follows recommended food groups and servings, sometimes it’s difficult to do so with a packed meal. It’s easier to remember that if the kids do not get their serving of fruits and vegetables at lunch, they can do so in a snack when they get home.

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1. Japanese cold noodles with dipping sauce

Image from Brenda Tan's Facebook page.
Image from Brenda Tan’s Facebook page.

My children’s number one favourite and very easy to make.

Ingredients:

Soba noodles (or udon noodles)
Katsuo Atsukezuritsuyu (soba sauce)

  1. Cook the noodles in boiling water for about 5 minutes.
  2. Cool the noodles in ice water.
  3. Strain the cold noodles and put it into a cold food jar. Garnish with sesame seeds and cut seaweed.
  4. In a watertight container, dilute soba sauce with water.
  5. Kids can either dip the noodles in the sauce or pour the sauce over the noodles to eat.

I purchase the noodles and sauce from Daiso or from any Japanese supermarket.

 

2. Fried rice

Image from Brenda Tan's Facebook page.
Image from Brenda Tan’s Facebook page.

It’s easy to prepare the ingredients ahead and store it in the fridge. Cooking the fried rice takes only a few minutes and the rice keeps its heat very well for lunch as a balanced meal.

Ingredients:

Leftover rice
Leftover meat from dinner, diced (or marinated raw meat, diced)
Leftover vegetables from dinner, diced (or frozen vegetables)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 egg

  1. Heat up oil in a frying pan and fry the chopped onions. If using raw meat, cook the meat when the frying onions turn fragrant.
  2. Add the rice and stir-fry to break the rice up. Add the leftover ingredients or the frozen vegetable. Fry and mix the ingredients well.
  3. Move the rice mix aside and crack the egg into the frying pan. Stir-fry the mix again and incorporate the egg.
  4. Add pepper and salt to taste.
  5. Put into a warm food jar.

A variation to fried rice would be to make rice pancakes. Leftover rice and frozen vegetables are mixed with eggs into a batter, with a little salt and pepper. The batter is spooned into small round pancakes on a hot frying pan to cook. When the rice-and-egg batter firms up, the pancake is flipped and is done.

 

3. Noodle soup

Image from Brenda Tan's Facebook page.
Image from Brenda Tan’s Facebook page.

Noodle soup is easy to prepare ahead and delicious for lunch. The trick is to keep the soup hot in the thermal food jar and to add it to the noodles and vegetables when it is time to eat. My daughter found it easier to pour the hot soup into the noodles so I usually pack the noodles in a lunchbox that can accommodate the soup. This meal is good for older kids as it might be difficult for younger children to deal with hot soup.

Ingredients:

Cooked noodles
Leftover soup broth from dinner or use chicken stock for the base
Fishballs
Slices of fish cake
Leafy vegetable like chye sim, cut into one-inch pieces

  1. Boil noodles and vegetables until cooked. Drain and put these in a lunchbox.
  2. If using chicken stock, fry some chopped onions and garlic before adding the stock to give the soup more flavour. Add the fishballs and fish cake slices. When the soup boils, pour it into a thermal food jar.

 

4. Spaghetti aglio olio

Image from Brenda Tan's Facebook page.
Image from Brenda Tan’s Facebook page.

Another favourite of my kids, this only requires three basic ingredients:

Spaghetti
Olive oil (enough to coat cooked spaghetti, about 2 tablespoons)
Minced garlic (usually half a teaspoon for one portion)

  1. Cook the spaghetti in water, with some salt and olive oil added.
  2. While the spaghetti is almost done, in a separate large frying pan, fry the minced garlic in the olive oil on medium heat until fragrant.
  3. Drain the spaghetti, leaving about 1 or 2 tablespoons of its water with the noodles.
  4. Add the spaghetti and water to the frying pan. Stir to combine well with the garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Depending on the kid’s request or whether I have the ingredients on hand, I sometimes add chopped tomato or mushrooms, or even bacon to the spaghetti.

 

5. Easy macaroni and cheese

Image from Brenda Tan's Facebook page.
Image from Brenda Tan’s Facebook page.

Another family favourite, but for packed mac & cheese in the morning, I make a “cheater” version.

Ingredients:

Elbow macaroni (or fusilli pasta or any kinds of pasta)
Evaporated milk
Cheddar cheese, 1 slice

Method:

  1. Measure how much pasta could fit into the container. Then pour enough evaporated milk to cover all the pasta. If you don’t have evaporated milk, just use plain milk. The evaporated milk gives a creamier texture to the mac & cheese. Pour out the pasta and milk into a microwave safe dish and heat it up for about 2 to 3 minutes. (You don’t have to fully cook the pasta as it will continue to cook in the thermal jar for the next 4 hours.)
  2. If you don’t have a microwave, just estimate the amount of pasta and evaporated milk you’ll need. Boil the pasta (using water) until it is semi-cooked. Drain it and then continue cooking the pasta in the evaporated milk.
  3. Add a slice of cheddar cheese to the dish and stir to mix well. If the milk dried out too fast, just add milk or water to the dish. Add salt and pepper, dried herbs like oregano or basil, to taste.
  4. If using the microwave, put the dish back into the microwave for another minute to melt the cheese. If using the stove, just make sure to stir the cheese into the pasta until it’s melted.
  5. Put the mac & cheese into a thermal jar for it to continue cooking.

 

Easy and healthy snacks

These are easily packed into small lunch boxes for the kid’s breaks:

  • Nuts (eg. almond, peanuts, cashews). Buy in larger quantity. Pack the amount desired into the kid’s airtight lunch boxes to reduce waste.
  • Fruits (eg. grapes, apple slices, blueberries, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, kiwi fruit, melon, bananas). Fruits tastes better if cooled and kept in a cold thermal jar. For small fruit items like grapes or blueberries, it may be faster for the kid to eat them if they are skewered on a food pick.
  • Cooked chickpeas. I buy this in a can, drain the water and heat it up in a microwave with water and a stick of cinnamon. The chickpeas are then cooled before packing them into a lunch box.
  • Vegetables (eg. celery sticks, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, corn cup).
  • Cheese sticks or cheese cubes. To ensure cheese keeps well, I usually put them in cold thermal jars.
  • Hard-boiled eggs. To make it fun, I usually use an egg mould to shape the eggs.
  • Sandwiches and buns. These are great stand-by for a quick snack box.

 

Read our other stories on primary school late lunches:

Why do our primary school kids have such LATE lunches?

MOE responds to lunch break story

 

Featured image by Pixabay user yujun. (CC0 1.0)

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by Wan Ting Koh

TEN years ago, most people wouldn’t have cared about reducing their waste but things are slowly changing with Singapore shifting towards a more sustainable environment.

More institutions and businesses are attempting to cut down on waste. Starbucks for example, gives you a 50-cent discount if you bring your own Starbucks tumbler for your beverage. Last October, 14 hotels were applauded for their waste-reducing measures, which include donating excess dry food to a food redistribution organisation and using e-signatures for the approval of internal document. Meanwhile, NTUC FairPrice managed to save more than 10 million plastic bags in 2015 due to its bring-your-own-bag campaign.

Curious to see if it was difficult or easy, I tried reducing my waste for a week. It was more difficult than I thought because of a variety of reasons, including the lack of support, inconvenience and hygiene.

Using a handkerchief in place of tissues for example, seems unhygienic to me. I also found it hard to reduce waste in my day-to-day activities simply because the “waste culture” is so ingrained in the community. This I discovered during lunch when I asked for a glass cup instead of a plastic cup from a hawker uncle and was given an annoyed look.

It’s even harder to reduce waste during the festive season – which was when I carried out this assignment. Parties and presents both use a lot of disposable products, whether for convenience or convention, and I had to avoid using those as much as I could.

In the end, using the same plastic bag as I did for my first waste diary to store my waste, I found that I managed to reduce my waste to about half the volume I originally racked up from the first assignment.

Here are some of the efforts I took to reduce my waste for a week:

 

1. Using a handkerchief instead of tissue

Handkerchief and plastic glove
Handkerchief and plastic glove

This was the thing I dreaded the most, for the sake of hygiene. Using the same piece of cloth to clean my nose in the morning and wipe my mouth after meals was akin to accumulating a day’s worth of germs and dirt on that cloth. But I did it anyway. I borrowed my father’s only three handkerchiefs for the assignment.

Even though hygiene was my main concern, I found a way to get around stains as much as I could. Instead of wiping snot and other germs directly on the handkerchief, I chose to rinse my nose in a sink before drying it with the handkerchief. The same went for after-meal wipes. I would rinse as much as I can with water before dabbing my mouth with the handkerchief. The trade-off was that I used more water.

As for the plastic glove, I had no choice but to use it to cut bread in Cedele cafe. But instead of disposing it afterwards, I brought it home to reuse for the next time I dye my hair.

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2. Using a cup for hot drinks

15908966_120300001438921156_579146540_o
Hot drink tumbler

I used a tumbler for hot drinks in place of disposable plastic cups available in the office. The trade-off is that you use more detergent and water to wash the cup instead. And if you use it outside however, like in coffeeshops, there might not always be detergent available to clean the cup immediately.

 

3. Requesting for glasses instead of disposable plastic cups for drinks

15902680_120300001447240220_825296852_o
Glass mug instead of plastic cup

I decided to request for a non-disposable cup instead of the usual takeaway plastic cup at a hawker centre drink stall for a blended fruit drink. The reaction I received from the hawker centre uncle wasn’t very pleasant however.

When it came to my turn, I requested for my drink to be poured into a hard blue plastic cup. But the uncle seemed disgruntled at my request. He took one look at the little-used blue cups from their corner on the shelves and said it was too small, adding “You must think with your head” in Mandarin. So I requested for the larger and more unwieldy glass mug, which the uncle served my drink in (rather unwillingly).

This experience raised a problem. With hawker portion sizes standardised to fit takeaway disposables, it would be difficult for hawkers to accommodate their customers’ own lunch boxes and cups if those come in different shapes and sizes.

 

4. Using a plastic container to store breakfast

WTK Lunch Box Cropped
Plastic container

Bakery staff usually pack individual pieces of bread into transparent plastic bags before placing them collectively into a carrier bag, which is pretty wasteful. So, I decided to bring my own plastic container for my breakfast instead.

The cashier who packed my bread gave me a look when I gave her this unusual request, but otherwise complied. The only limitation here is if you are buying for the whole family, then you would have to bring more boxes to store the bread. In this case, I only bought one bun.

 

5. Reusing packaging for Christmas presents 

15857159_120300001448845290_981952426_o
Packaging reused for Christmas exchange

Don’t be fooled by the Swarovski packaging. It contained no crystals.

I used it to pack five chocolate bars for a Christmas exchange with a group of friends. I was pretty proud of myself for reusing the paper bag (which I found at home) – until I received another gift which was wrapped in fancy, pristine wrapping paper. More waste to add to my count. If I hadn’t found the Swarovski package, I would have probably used scrap paper or magazine pages to wrap the gift.

 

6. Using recycle bags/handbags instead of plastic bags for shopping

15878051_120300001439843638_628025763_o
Recycling bag

This was pretty easy because a recycling bag is foldable and easy to tote around and the supermarket cashier is only too happy to let you do the packing. The only packaging you’re wasting are the ones that come with the new products you just bought.

 

7. Bringing my own plate and fork

Plastic plate and metal fork
Plastic plate and metal fork

While others attending our TMG year-end party used paper plates and disposable utensils, I stuck to my own plate and fork, brought from home. The after-party clean-up is much faster if utensils and plates are disposable though.

 

This piece is part of a series that highlights the need to #ReduceYourWasteline, in collaboration with Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore. Read the other piece here: What a waste diary looks like

 

Featured image its gone to a better place by Flickr user Ambernectar 13. (CC BY-ND 2.0) 

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by Lim Qiu Ping

AS 2016 draws to a close, we bring you the lowdown on what has gotten people in Singapore salivating and queuing up during the year. These are 13 food items, ingredients, and ideas that had customers ooh-ing and food establishments jumping on the bandwagon to offer the same or something related.

 

1. Korean fried chicken

korean-fc

Image Crisp Korean Fried Chicken by Flickr user Edsel Little (CC By-SA 2.0)

Yes, the other sort of ‘KFC’ which has been available in Singapore for a few years now but only exploded in popularity in 2015. In 2016, popular food blogs are still listing where to find the best Korean fried chicken in town. Looks like the siren call of crispy skin and meaty goodness slathered with viscous sweet and savoury sauce is here to stay.

 

2. Churros

churros

Image #churros! by Flickr user Lim Ashley (CC By 2.0)

First, we saw churros as a dessert item in cafes. And then, churros chain shops such as Churros Factory and Churros 101 started cropping up in the F&B scene in 2015. They are available even in our pasar malams, accompanied by local dips such as gula melaka. To date, the queue for this sugared fried dough remains.

 

3. Bingsu

bingsu

Image by Flickr user Lim Ashley (CC BY 2.0)

Shaved ice will always be appreciated in sunny Singapore. Throw in the Korean wave, the variety in flavours, fantastic designs and a bowl big enough to share; the popularity of bingsu has yet to abate after a year.

 

4. Light bulb drink

light-bulb-bub-tea

Image by Instagram User/ mr_mrs_p0tat0

Drinking from a light bulb is a new gimmick that has appeared this year. Bubbs, a Taiwanese bubble tea franchise which packages its drinks in a light bulb, opened a store in May. Then the Chicken Up Korean restaurant had a one-for-one light bulb drink promotion in August. There are now cafes providing their drinks in this adorable, Instagram-worthy container.

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5. Seafood white bee hoon

white-bee-hoon

Image White Bee Hoon by Flickr user Zhao! (CC BY 2.0)

Take pan-fried bee hoon and simmer it in flavourful seafood broth – this is the basics of the seafood white bee hoon. Years back, seafood white bee hoon first appeared in Sembawang and today, there are a restaurants and stalls offering their version of the dish.

 

6. Buttercream flower cake

buttercream-flower-cake

Image 버터플라워3 by Flickr user D Story (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The baking community is wowing over beautiful cake designs using buttercream flowers. The concept might be old, but this current trend originates from Korea, where baking enthusiasts and professionals re-created the Wilton buttercream flower techniques and equipment to startling effect. Just check out one such YouTube how-to video showing off the craft:

7. More cheese

cheese-fries

Image Curry Cheese Fries by Flickr user Chun Yip So (CC BY 2.0)

Swiss cheese fondue was once considered the fanciest cheese dish around. Today, cheese fries can be found even in your neighbourhood bubble tea shops. Currently, Korean and Thai barbeque restaurants are upping the ante by offering melted cheese to dip your slightly charred meats in. And let’s not forget the cheese tarts from Bake that are still commanding queues.

In the upmarket scene, the cheese wheel rolled into town this September. No longer is it enough to sprinkle cheese on your pasta – toss your noodles in it!

 

8. Re-inventions of toast

toast

Image French toast @ Wired Cafe @ Harakuju by Flickr user Gullhem Vellut (CC BY 2.0)

Ice-cream melting over the thick Shibuya toasts caught our attention in 2015, and this year, the gooey-centred richness of Lava toast takes its turn to wow us. Meanwhile, kaya toasts are perennially favoured, whether through the chain shops or the hidden gems. One principle is evident: toasted bread is in, whatever the form.

 

9. Rainbow foods

rainbow-dumplings

Image Rainbow bites by Flickr user kitty chirapongse (CC BY 2.0)

The rainbow cake had its turn in the spotlight in 2014, and some say the fad has cooled by now. The colour idea, however, persisted. Currently, rainbow creations include the kueh lapis, pudding cake, pancake, cake in a bottle, liqueur shots, bagel… And there is also a rainbow cheese toast. It is hard to imagine rainbow foods ever going away completely, especially when they are so Instagram-worthy.

 

10. Foods with salted egg yolk

liu-sha-bao

Image by Flickr user Felix Chia (CC BY 2.0)

If even McDonald’s is jumping on the bandwagon, things are serious. They tried to woo taste buds with their salted egg yolk burger but the bar had been set too high by June this year. Since the Golden Lava custard buns came into Singaporean’s consciousness a few years ago, products infused with this ingredient have expanded to include meats and seafood (other than crab), cakes, croissant, jams, dips, chips and many more.

Related: 5 must-try salted egg yolk foods

11. Hong Kong confectioneries

egg-tarts

Image Crispy Egg Tart by Flickr user Azchael (CC BY 2.0)

Conversations of Hong Kong foods no longer revolve around dim sum or teahouses. It is their big-name confectioneries that are garnering raves. The Jenny Bakery brand with its famed butter cookies got the first foot in late last year. Hot on its heel is Mr Rich Bakery brand. Then this year, Honolulu Café opened and their egg tarts are often sold out quickly.

The most recent player is Tai Cheong Bakery, and their egg tarts also command long queues.

 

12. Superfoods

acai

Image G by Flickr user André Schirm (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Eating food, more than just about the items consumed, is a mentality and behaviour. The movement towards a healthier lifestyle continues and the market for health products is growing.

Known superfoods such as kale and rocket leaves are now found in our supermarkets and the aisles for health foods are getting longer and more plentiful. The 2016 superfood buzzword is acai and there are now eateries dedicated to whipping up menu items of this berry-goodness.

Related: Will acai bowls help you lose weight?

13. Omakase

jap-chef

Image Itame by Flickr user Japanexperterna.se (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Local customers have become more discerning. Today, having a Japanese meal involves more than scoffing down as much cheap sushi as possible or hunting down the best-tasting ramen.

It is now about the exploration of the cuisine. “Omakase” means “I’ll leave it to you” and it will be up to the chef to surprise and delight you with exquisitely crafted items made from seasonal products. Establishments that have managed to balance between quality and budget – such as the Teppei Japanese Restaurant, with their meal sets priced from $40 to $60 – could have a waiting list that is months or, if the customer is fortunate, weeks long.

 

What else do you think qualifies as a food trend in 2016?

 

Featured image Cooking by Flickr user WorldSkills UK. (CC BY 2.0) 

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earth by Kevin Gill

IT’S New Year’s Eve – the day signalling the end of a year while in anticipation of another. A sense of celebration and hope permeates New Year traditions the world over. But some societies have quirky ways of ushering the new year which go beyond letting off fireworks.

 

1. Denmark – Watching a black-and-white show, breaking crockery and leaping into the air

Image from Facebook.

The Danes have a few things-to-do on New Year’s Eve. It starts with listening to the monarch’s – Queen Margrethe II – speech broadcast live at 6pm. This tradition of the New Year Speech goes as far back as the 1880’s and during WWII, was a means of unifying and rallying the citizens against the German regime.

Then, the Danes will settle down to a New Year’s Eve dinner that will finish with a cone-shaped marzipan cake called Kransekage, which symbolises happiness and prosperity for the new year. Also on this day, Danes will go to their relatives’ and friends’ houses and smash their crockery against the door of their houses as a sign of affection.

As midnight nears, the Danes will watch a 18-minute, black-and-white English film titled Dinner For One. It is a comedy about a butler who stood in for the dead friends of his rich mistress at her 90th birthday dinner. The show had been airing annually since 1980, with the exception of 1985 (to great public displeasure that year).

When the countdown begins, Danes will climb up a chair and at the stroke of midnight, make the leap of luck for the new year.

 

2. Estonia – Eat up to 12 meals

Image from Flickr user Mikhail Petrov. (CC BY 2.0)

Estonians’ New Year’s Eve is basically a day of enjoying food. It is their tradition to eat seven, nine or up to 12 times that day. The number of meals taken would signify gaining the strength of that number of men in the new year. The tradition holds that the number of meals eaten represents the number of people whose strength each person will gain.

However, not everything on the table is consumed. Some food is set aside due to the belief that ghostly relatives might visit on this last day of the old year.

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3. Finland – Predicting the future by melting tin

Image from Wikimedia Commons user Micha L. Rieser. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In Finland, New Year’s Eve is the time to practise an ancient form of divination called molybdomancy. A small pot of tin (or lead, nowadays) is melted on the stove and then poured into cold water. The shape of the metal that is formed supposedly foretells the future.

There are various interpretations to what a shape can mean. A ring or heart shape stands for love, while a broken shape spells misfortune. A pig would mean good health, while a monkey warns of false friendship. A ship indicates a lot of travelling is expected to be done.  That said, it’s just a spot of fun while waiting for the countdown to begin.

 

4. Ecuador – Burning effigies, wearing colourful underwear, and toting empty suitcases about

Image from Wikimedia Commons user Etienne Le Cocq. (CC BY 3.0)

The people of Ecuador celebrate crossing into the new year by burning effigies of people they dislike at midnight. Subjects can range from unpopular politicians, celebrities, and even fictional characters.  These effigies are known as “Monigote”, which means “doll”. They are also called “Ano Viejo” or the “old year”.

The effigies are made out of recycled materials, such as old clothes, newspaper, or sawdust. Calling these effigies Ano Viejo is symbolic since burning them means casting away the bad luck and negativity of the old year.

Ecuador also has other New Year’s Eve rituals, shared by fellow Latin American neighbours due to their common Spanish roots. One includes wearing colourful underwear, believing that certain colours would bring a certain blessing in the new year. Yellow underwear would invite prosperity, for instance, and red for love and passion.

And if an Ecuadorian desires to do much travelling in the coming year, he or she would walk around the neighbourhood with an empty suitcase.

 

5. Romania – Dress up as a bear

Image from Facebook.

Romanians get ready for the new year by donning bear costumes and dancing in the streets in them. These parades are part of the Ursul festival, celebrated by the gypsy tribal communities across Romania and lasting from after 25 Dec, Christmas day, to the New Year’s Eve.

Bears are sacred in the myths of the Romanian gypsies and the activities of Ursul comes from the belief that they could ward off evil spirits. Those dressed as bears would pretend to roll over and die in a ceremony before getting up again, thereby symbolising resurrection and new life in spring. The Romanians would also compete to see who has the best looking costume and dance.

 

Compiled by Lim Qiu Ping.

Featured image Earth by Flickr user Kevin Gill. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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