March 27, 2017

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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 Najeer Yusof

THE pineapple tart is an iconic pastry that is found in many Chinese homes during the Lunar New Year. The term for pineapple in several Chinese dialects, such as ong lai in Hokkien and wong lai in Cantonese, sounds similar to the arrival of prosperity. Making the buttery pastry, which comes with a dollop of pineapple jam on top, has been a part of Mr Wei Chan’s family business for 33 years.

The 45-year-old is the current owner of Pine Garden Bakery, a heartland bakery that specialises in handmade cakes and baked goods. He is from the second generation of a line of family members who ran the bakery before him. His mother, a former seamstress, decided to open the bakery with a few relatives after realising that her tailoring business was not doing well. The recipe of pineapple tarts was passed down from her mother, Mr Chan’s grandmother. Although Mr Chan has made minor alterations to the recipe to make the tarts softer, he has retained the gist of it and still has the tarts handmade.

The pineapple tarts are made only during the Chinese New Year period and the preparations begin about a month and a half in advance. Here’s how the tarts are made:

MAKING THE PASTE: Mr Chan sources the pineapples from dealers in Malaysia. He obtains samples from them and decides on the best one before placing his order. The pineapples used to make the tarts have to be half-ripped and must not be sweet. They are skinned, grated and made into paste. The homemade paste are then stored in a refrigerator until it is time to make the tarts.
MAKING THE PASTE: Mr Chan sources pineapples from dealers in Malaysia. He obtains samples from them and decides on the best one before placing his order. The pineapples used to make the tarts have to be half ripe and must not be too sweet. They are skinned, grated and made into a paste. The homemade jam is then stored in a refrigerator until it is time to make the tarts.

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ROLL AND CUT: The base of tart is made from a mixture of butter, plain flour and salt. The batter is rolled out using a roller, to ensure even thickness. Subsequently, the base of the tart is shaped out from the flattened batter, using a cutter.
ROLL AND CUT: The base of the tart is made from a mixture of butter, plain flour and salt. The dough is rolled out using a roller, to ensure even thickness. Subsequently, a cutter is used to cut out the tart base from the flattened dough.

 

IDEAL WEIGHT: The pineapple fillings are weighed on a scale to exactly eight grams. They are then hand moulded into round shapes and placed onto the tart. The portion of the filling has to be exact, to ensure the best taste.
IDEAL WEIGHT: The pineapple fillings are weighed on a scale to obtain a weight of 8g. They are then hand-moulded into balls and placed onto the tart. The portion of the filling has to be exact, to ensure the best taste.

 

NEAT AND TIDY: After the pineapple filling is placed onto the tart, the filling is pressed to ensure that the tarts have a smooth top. Since fresh pineapples are used, the fillings contain pineapple fibers. Pressing the fillings helps to prevent these fibers from sticking out.
NEAT AND TIDY: After the pineapple filling is placed onto the tart, the filling is pressed to ensure that the tarts have a smooth top. Since fresh pineapples are used, the fillings contain pineapple fibres. Pressing the fillings helps to prevent these fibres from sticking out.

 

SEE AND SWITCH: A worker inserts a tray of pineapple tarts into the oven for baking. This is a 40-year-old oven and it has four decks. Each can fit four trays. The trays in each deck are switched among one another during baking, to ensure even baking. The worker has to observe the colour of the tarts to know if they are baked proper.
SEE AND SWITCH: A worker inserts a tray of pineapple tarts into the oven for baking. The oven is 40 years old and has four decks. Each deck can fit four trays. The trays in each deck are switched around during baking, to ensure even baking. The worker has to observe the colour of the tarts to know if they are baked properly.

 

WORKING TEMPERATURE: The tarts are made in a enclosed room with a room temperature between 19 to 20 degrees celsius. Since the batter is made with butter, a cool temperature is needed to prevent the butter from melting and making the batter too soft.
WORKING TEMPERATURE: The tarts are made in an enclosed room with a room temperature that is between 19 and 20 deg C. Since the dough is made of butter, a cool temperature is needed to prevent the butter from melting and making the dough too soft.

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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by Ryan Ong

EVERYTHING is faster and more efficient in the age of digital banking, including going bankrupt. When you consider you can get four times your monthly income in cash, in 15 minutes, it’s pretty amazing we’re all not stress eating caviar while looking at our monthly bills. For those without self-control though, the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) has made a help package – in the form of a new debt consolidation programme:

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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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 Michelin Guide Singapore

2016 has come and gone and with it, trends that delighted many, tantalised others and horrified some. What connects them all is the undeniable current of which these ideas flow: from city to city, from North America to Asia and vice versa.

After all, F&B head honchos often look across the world for inspiration. When a small gourmet butcher in Manhattan starts offering dry aging services for example, other businesses halfway across the globe are inspired to do the same. When a mixologist takes out spirits from his concoction as a challenge to create the same body without the alcohol, others too might be tempted to take up the task.

It’s almost like a butterfly effect that culminates into a trend. Here’s 10 to look out for this year.

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From left: Dominique Crenn, Alex Atala, Alain DucasseFrom left: Dominique Crenn, Alex Atala, Alain Ducasse

 

2017: A new breed of chefs
Chefs have long gotten rid of toques – the tall white hats that defined their occupation – but that has brought forth a thought leader who wears many hats. They are now entrepreneurs, sociologists, even designers and food scientists. It’s the direct result of two phenomena: chefs gaining prominence across the media with documentaries and Netflix series that highlight their philosophies, as well as more opportunities to collaborate. Think along the lines of communities like the Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle which sees big names like Alex Atala, Alain Ducasse and Dominique Crenn putting their heads together with a mission to impact not just how we eat, but how we think about eating.

 

Passage to India – via Tapas
Indian cuisine has always been about its bold and proud food that you enjoy digging into with your hands. Now, imagine tucking into crispy poppadoms and dipping them into delicate little cups of spiced potato and chickpea curry. This is Indian food done tapas-style, over at award-winning Irish chef Liam Tomlin’s Thali restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa. Over in London, new restaurant Bombay Brunch on Croyden Street follows the idea of turning traditional Indian fare into bite-sized portions. “Generally, people are used to having a curry, rice and naan. But here, we want people to take a bit of everything,” says restaurant manager JaiminShukula.

 

A dish from two-Michelin-starred Shisen Hanten
A dish from two-Michelin-starred Shisen Hanten

 

Sichuan uprising
Cantonese fare has defined Chinese food in many of the world’s cosmpolitan cities so far. But the hot and sour flavours of Sichuan cuisine are fast on the rise. In 2016, Café China in the heart of Midtown, Manhattan, was awarded one star by the Michelin Guide to New York City for standout dishes like a succulent Chungking chicken that comes with a generous amount of dried chillies. In Singapore, Shisen Hanten became the highest Michelin-awarded Chinese restaurant with two stars for its mastery of Sichuan’s complex flavour profile that comes through in the mapo tofu, a deceptively simple dish.

 

The rise of the “Grocerant”
Grocery stores are grocery stores and restaurants are restaurants – except when the two meet and gives rise to “The Grocerant”. It’s a space where restaurants sell fresh produce that they cook with or where grocery stores have chefs to whip up meals for shoppers.While some might find the portmanteau cringe-worthy, more and more of such concepts are popping up in cities around the globe. One such is Eataly which started in (surprise surprise) Italy as far back as 2004 but now has branches from New York City to Sao Paulo and even Seoul. Closer to Asia, Plentyfull – an all-day restaurant in Singapore which has a small section stocked with produce brought in by Little Farms has just set up a shop in a shopping mall no less.Perhaps the fusion of the two was inevitable. After all, the US last year alone saw consumer spending in restaurants outstrip grocery stores fuelled by millennials who are more willing to shell out money for food rather than produce.

 

 

Gourmet butchers that do more than just, well, butcher
Butchers these days do more than just chop and carve. Thanks to advanced technology, the hardware for preserving and ageing meat means sleeker outfits with fancy chiller cabinets that display rows of hunky loins ripe for picking. At Salt and Time in Austin, Texas, for instance, the butcher shop offers full services from curing, smoking and dry-ageing meats, as well as classes on sausage-making and meat-curing. Over at Provenance in Notting Hill, London, the cool grey-and-brick butcher’s shop run by a group of young Kiwis and English provides ready-to-go charcuterie platters and marinated meats.

 

Vegetables as comfort food
While vegetables continue to star in haute cuisine, expect more vegetarian options in the form of comfort fare this year. Think cauliflower steaks – you’ll find this on the menu at Park Avenue in New York City – or a heaping plate of pasta made from shredded courgettes and butternut squash. Then of course, there’s ABCV by Jean-Georges Vongerichten of three-starred Jean-Georges. Far from the daintily plated morsels on fancy plates, the casual eatery will be serving up comfort fare like dosas, crepes and even rice with lentils.Elsewhere, the rise of vegetable butchers – Yam Chops in Toronto and Suzy Spoon’s in Australia – who share tips on how to cook, carve and basically appreciate your vegetables, also makes it easier to find more ways to get creative and using new techniques to kick up the flavour quotient. Need a good alternative to bacon bits? Try lightly smoked coconut flesh sliced and diced that’s as delicious as it’s healthy.

 

A Bowl of Pho in Vietnam
A bowl of Pho in Vietnam
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Vietnamese food finds new fans
Ramen has had a passionate cult following in the West for years now but hot on its heels is Pho, the humble Vietnamese streetside dish. The dining culture is the same: noodles in a broth topped with slivers of meat slurped on with chopsticks but with the addition of fresh herbs.This familiar mode of eating means it’s easily being taken up in the West while gaining a whole new breed of passionate fans across the world. How else can anyone explain the furore that ensued when a US magazine featured a non-Vietnamese chef educating the masses on how to eat pho earlier this year? And who could forget that viral image of outgoing US president Obama sitting on a blue stool with chef Anthony Bourdain in a Hanoi restaurant with a bowl of pho in front of him, right hand cradling a beer. Those of us looking for healthier options to ramen without sacrificing the familiar comforts can surely toast to that.

 

The bowl becomes the plate
Acai bowls, power bowls, grain bowls. All these ideas are coming to a head this year as more people are opting to use bowls over plates either in eateries or at home.It could be the way we eat that has become a little more relaxed – think TV dinners or at a party when a bowl is clearly superior to avoid spillage, but at least one academic claims that the tableware that holds our food influences how we perceive its taste.

“I certainly believe that the plateware we use to eat from plays a role in what things tastes like,” says Charles Spence, head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford in a BBC interview. “Everything from the texture, the temperature or the feel or the plateware or bowl can fit into this.”

A dish from Twenty Four Seasons
A dish from Twenty Four Seasons

 

More Korean traditional fine dining
For so long, going out for a Korean meal meant heading to a cosy mom-and-pop joint where the atmosphere is convivial, the service is almost family-like and the ban chan (side dishes) keeps coming until you’re too full to move. Yet a paradigm shift has occurred in the Korean dining scene since the Michelin Guide landed in Seoul late last year.The spotlight has shifted to Korean fine dining – an idea that even Koreans themselves don’t seem to take fondly to, at least at first. We’re not talking about modern interpretations of Korean dishes here, but of chefs digging into the historical roots of the cuisine and bringing forth philosophies for the modern diner.Chef Kim Byung-Jin of three-starred Gaon for instance, has spent his entire career studying the essence of Korean cuisine and believes it to lie in its natural simplicity. “Many Koreans still think that a full-on spread comprising as many dishes as possible is the way to serve guests,” says the chef. “Although the visual impact of it may wow the guests at first, in the end, not one dish stands out. When there is a story to be told and that story is narrated in a way that connects the chef with his guests, then that to me is fine dining.”

 

 

Mocktail Mixology: No longer mocked at
It’s no secret that cocktails – no matter how well done – pack on the calories. But a night out might just be easier on the body this year as more bartenders turn their attention to elevating mocktails and stirring up delicious and healthy non-alcoholic drinks. Think the use of cold-pressed juices, fresh citrus fruits and light sweeteners like birch syrup which comes with an earthy smokiness that (almost) makes you think you’re sipping on a negroni.If you think this is a cop out for establishments wanting to charge high prices for no booze, think again. Crafting a glass still takes real effort and solid savoir faire. “In some ways [mocktails] take more development than an alcoholic drink,” says Sylvie Gabriele, owner of Love & Salt restaurant in California to Eater.com. “Alcohol by nature has body and kick and we had to really develop those flavour profiles to produce a full experience.”

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

Featured image Gwanaksan_Mountain_09 by Flickr user Republic of Korea. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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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

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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

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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 

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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

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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 Wan Ting Koh

IS IT any surprise that the only contraceptives most women know about are the condom and the pill? They might even know the varieties of condoms available since they are sold openly on the counter, and even the brands of birth control pills.

But a vaginal ring? It sounds more sexually erotic than procreation-prohibiting. Only 31.7 per cent of 259 women surveyed were aware of this contraceptive, according to a study conducted between 2013 and 2014 by National University Hospital doctors.

MSM has the results of the study, but doesn’t say much more about such non-traditional contraceptives apart from how some of them work. A vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring a woman inserts into her vagina to prevent pregnancy. It releases the hormones, progestin and estrogen into the body, which prevents the ovaries from producing mature eggs. Once in place, the vaginal ring is left alone for three weeks and taken out in the last week of the month.

Apart from gynaecologists, the ring, popularly known as the NuvaRing, can be found at Mount Elizabeth’s (Mount Elizabeth Road) pharmacy and costs $43.14 per box. Each box contains one ring. Now compare that to a minimum of $8 for a box of 12 condoms. Ladies, wouldn’t you rather get the guy to buy himself the cap than get you a ring?

The study also looked at women’s awareness of seven other contraceptives to ascertain the level of awareness and knowledge of contraception among women in Singapore, and to see if current measures to educate women on contraception are effective. All the women, who were between 21 and 49 years old, know of the condom, and 89.2 per cent were aware of oral contraceptives.

However, less than half were aware of five of the newer methods available. These five are: birth control patches, implants, hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), injectable contraceptives, and, yes, vaginal rings. Awareness of hormonal IUDs ranked at the bottom, with only 24.3 per cent being aware of them. Women ought to be aware of alternatives other than the pill and condoms, because they might be more suitable for their bodies, or even more effective.

MethodAwareness
Condoms100 per cent
Oral contraceptive pills89.2 per cent
Tubal ligation73 per cent
Copper IUD72.2 per cent
Implant48.3 per cent
Injectable contraceptive46.7 per cent
Patch 40.9 per cent
Vaginal ring31.7 per cent
Hormonal IUD24.3 per cent

Here are the seven contraceptives (apart from condoms and the NuvaRing) available in Singapore, and where you might get them. Note though, that all require a prescription from, or a consultation with, a doctor.

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1. Oral contraceptives

These come in the form of pills which contain a combination of hormones, estrogen and progestin, in your body when ingested. These hormones prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation.

Oral contraceptives are available at pharmacies and some GP clinics for a range of prices. You can buy these contraceptives after visiting a doctor for a prescription at certain Watsons, Guardian and Unity pharmacies. Pills cost between $6 and $50.

2. Implants

Birth control implants are devices that release a hormone which prevents pregnancy. They come in the form of plastic rods the size of matchsticks, and are placed under a woman’s skin – usually her upper arm. Implants are probably not available over-the-countertop at pharmacies, as they require doctors to inject them.

However, they should be available at gynaecologists or specialist clinics. GynaeMD Women’s Clinic provides Implanon, a type of implant, for $823, including the consultation fee and the device itself. Consultations range between $120 and $135. The implant should last for three years.

3. Copper IUDs

In case you’re wondering what they are, IUDs, are T- or U-shaped plastic devices that are inserted into a woman’s uterus by a doctor. The copper IUD is wrapped with a copper wire and makes the uterus and fallopian tubes produce fluid that kills sperm.

The IUD device has a plastic string tied to its end, which hangs down through the cervix into the vagina. The doctor uses this string to remove it. IUDs are a long-term birth control method that can last up to five years.

Copper IUDs are available at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s outpatient pharmacy for around $40. You can visit a gynaecologist to have the copper IUDs inserted as well. A procedure at Judy Wong Clinic for Women would cost $420, not including consultation fee and GST.

4. Hormonal IUDs

Similar to the copper IUDs, hormonal IUDs are inserted into the uterus for long-term birth control. It comes in a T-shaped plastic frame that releases a substance and thickens the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching or fertilising an egg.

KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s outpatient pharmacy has Mirena, a brand of hormonal IUD, for around $350. A procedure at Judy Wong Clinic for Women would cost $680, not including consultation fee and GST.

5. Birth control patch

The birth control patch is a small, square patch that looks like a plastic bandage. The woman sticks it to her skin, and it releases hormones into her body to prevent pregnancy. One patch can last a week. The more popular brand of patches in Singapore is Evra, which is stocked at certain Unity, Guardian, and Watsons pharmacies.

Unity pharmacies sell a box of Evra, which comes with three patches, for $43.15. Guardian sells it for $40 per box, while Watsons sells it for $35.70. Not all branches of the pharmacies stock the patches though – it is recommended that you call the branch before making a trip. KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s outpatient pharmacy also sells Evra for $36 per box. These require a prescription too.

 6. Injectable contraceptives

The contraceptive injection is a shot that contains hormones which stop a woman’s body from releasing eggs and thickens the mucus at the cervix. Shots are needed either once a month, or once every three months, and are administered by doctors.

Dr Tan & Partners clinics provide injectable contraceptives for $45, not including consultation fees. Its consultation fee for its branch at Robertson Quay is about $60 to $80. Judy Wong Clinic for Women provides the shot for $40, not including the consultation fee.

 

7. Tubal ligation

This is a permanent form of birth control that involves severing the fallopian tubes so that the eggs cannot reach the uterus. The equivalent procedure for a man would be a vasectomy, where the vas deferens from each testicle is clamped. This prevents sperm from mixing with the semen that is ejaculated from the penis.

Tubal ligations are surgical procedures that are subjected to hospital and doctor rates. You can approach gynaecologists and specialist clinics for them.

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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