Salt Lake City and flakes of snow I did not see

In Salt Lake City, I saw no lakes, but I did see a gray day, mist descending upon the streets, and a bright day, with smears of clouds and sun-rays that made the cold crisp and clear, and the colder aftermath of a storm I’d slept through, stained sidewalks and puddles and gusts of condensed breaths, all from the inside of the hotel, the most luxurious I’ve ever stayed at, where my colleagues and I met with other folks and talked and talked.

***

These days I seem to only read proper books during my work trips. I finished two and a half of them this time round. One was Kathleen Jamie’s collection of essays, one of which was about a trip to see auroras and which I thought was a work of beauty, something I literally gasped at, and which was generous, because she described stuff in a way that made me think, she really wants you to see and feel what she does. I want you to read it and take it in in all its context and be happy, but I also want to share a bit of it with you, so here’s a bit of it:

Luminous green, teal green, the aurora borealis glows almost directly overhead. It intensifies against the starry night like breath on a mirror, and it moves. Across the whole sky from east to west, the green lights shift and alter. Now it’s an emerald veil, now with a surge it remakes itself into a swizzle which reach toward some far-away place in the east.

***

Apart from being a stunningly lyrical essayist, Kathleen Jamie is also a poet. And talking about poets, I found one, I can’t remember whom or where from, but I found a good one who writes about commonplace things and is supremely accessible. (This makes a difference to literalist me.) Check out Billy Collins, and his poem The Lanyard. I enjoyed how the poem sort of does a slow little pirouette to end off.

***

And this year, I also discovered Ken Liu and his stories which often mix in some aspect of Chinese typography or myth or history to poignant effect. How wonderful, that some of them are freely available. Like Mono no aware. (Gravity fans (i.e. those who like the movie starring Bullock and Clooney, not those who ensure the feel of weight) should especially enjoy it. I wouldn’t know – I haven’t watched Gravity yet.)

***

A couple of months back, I heard a song on the radio. It was a sad Chinese pop ballad, and at first I could not place the familiar voice. Then it hit a clear high note, and I realised it was 张信哲. When I got over the voice, these lyrics stayed with me.

飞机起飞之后 我的笑容永不再相同 (After the plane lifts off, my smile will no longer be the same)

Somehow, in Chinese, it’s more poetic.

***

This year, I discovered many many things about myself. One of these is that I always ruin my candles. You know, those that fill up jars? I always drop matches in them, or add in potpourri petals and bits to see how they would smell burnt, or the wick would shorten to an untenable length. Then, the candles get neglected and then the neglect becomes abandonment.

***

Also quite recently, I heard the first few piano plonks of Jewel’s Foolish Games, and immediately knew what song it was and remembered that I hadn’t heard it for many yonks, that it had been big when I was in my first year of university and that I had thought the world of its lyrics and her singing. Listening to it this time, Jewel sounded strident and pretentious, instead of raw and heartfelt. I don’t think the song has aged well.

Or maybe it’s my taste that hasn’t.

 

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In Peru, stuffed

I’m going to write about food again. No pictures though.

***

At the end of a tough few days in Lima, my boss (for the trip anyway) brought me to a Japanese restaurant one Wednesday evening. He had enjoyed the maki there tremendously, he said. The restaurant’s name, Magma Sushi Lounge, fitted the premises snugly – sofas and coffee tables made up half, bar stools and high tables the other. Odd for a Japanese place.

My boss immediately ordered passion-fruit juice – he had loved it the last time he had it here, and had even got the owner of the place to write it down in Spanish for him so he could order it again. It took a while to come – I joked that they were still watering the passion-fruit plant – and when it did, pale yellow liquid in two tall glasses with straws and the rest in a small jug – in Lima juices are often served in jugs – he slurped up a good portion and then sighed, exactly like he enjoyed it a lot. I thought I’d drink it more culturedly, but the first inhale through the straw was amazing – I was hit with the sensation of sweetness and freshness and just-squeezedness, and the sweetness was passion-fruit sweetness but dialed down to a level that was not cloying and could be enjoyed in greater amounts. Before I knew it, the Peruvian server was topping up my glass.

We also had maki and salmon sashimi (fresh enough), but the yummiest dish of the night was something called the special ika roll – grilled squid stuffed with crab meat and shrimp, cut into rings, drizzled with a savoury rich mushroom gravy, just a teeny tiny bit gingery. It was so good – the gravy was magic: it should have been too rich, but it wasn’t – that we ordered and finished (ok, with some difficulty) another set.

***

The next day two colleagues and I went to Punto Azul. One of them had talked about this restaurant in glowing terms – very good, yet affordable. It turned out that there was a queue there – apparently it only opens 11am-4pm, and there is always a queue. After waiting for about half an hour and then ordering some food and then eating the cancha (crunchy toasted ears of corn, a little salted) and teasing one of the colleagues about the earrings he bought for his girlfriend and the other colleague then cajoling him into showing us the earrings (the other colleague saying he’d role-play as the girlfriend) and then seeing the earrings – I remember they were pretty and Peruvian but cannot for the heck of me remember what exactly they looked like; I think there were stars involved somehow – and complimenting him for his taste and pointing out other customers’ mixed fried combos in hushed tones, the food arrived. The mixed fried combo was calamari and fish and shrimp, with a light onion garnish on top that somehow took away all the oiliness so that there was just the batter and the freshness of the seafood to chomp into. The squid-ink risotto was black – they were generous with the ink, I said, and then we got to talk about how the chefs got the ink (I personally think there are ready packets of ink they can buy) and one colleague described the squid-ink seafood curry (curry!) his grandma makes – and was the star of the show. There was a surprising tang to the rice – think cherry tomatos, just ripe – and that actually made the risotto, usually so heavy, heartily appetising. The ample portions of shrimp, scallops, fish and octopus proved to be worthy accompaniment.

***

I got super-lucky when I checked in online for my flight back – there was an offer to upgrade to business class for about S$500 for the 12-hour-plus first leg, and I jumped on it after wondering if it was a trick.

Congratulations? Congratulations!

Last Friday, I learnt that a colleague had adopted a child. When I next saw her, I congratulated her. That immediately felt very strange – were congratulations as suitable for an adoptive mother as a pregnant one? I brushed the strangeness aside then, but it’s continued to bob up and down in my thoughts. The adoptive mother hadn’t looked unhappy at my congratulations (and why would she?). Still the feeling of strangeness remained.

It will subside slowly, I expect. I probably felt strange because, for the first time in my life, I was congratulating an adoptive mother. And one who, I understand, had wanted a child for a while. So certainly some rejoicing was appropriate.

I had even asked for the child’s name, and it had even stuck for a moment, before quickly being smudged away from the surface of my Teflon brain. Shall ask Reb her child’s name again.

Stuff I’ve found interesting lately

It’s been a long time since I last wrote here. Gonna take a while to get the gears smooth and the voice back. Anyhow, here’s some stuff I’ve enjoyed / found interesting in the last few months.

1. Depot, a great little eatery on Federal Street in New Zealand

Image
Potato skins at Depot. Heartily crunchy.
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Mussels, grilled in their juice, with croutons. Too few.

2. Gone Girl, a casually callous thriller with a characters I want to see more of

3. Hi, I’m Liz – animals and corniness – deadly combo. I especially liked narwhal vs. beluga.

4. How the experience of driving has changed – when I was younger, I didn’t care so much about the mortality of others.

5. The nature of friendship, the closeness built up over time and the sloughing off of judgement and extra expectations.

6. Introducing more people to arrowhead chips :)

7. This nerdy economics comic, which I will understand in about eleventeen more weeks.

8. How easy it is to feel worthless at work, from a loss of autonomy brought about by not being familiar with a new portfolio.

9. How long it’s been since I’ve had Nestle Crunch until I had it on a recent flight, and how sweet it is now compared to the perfect bite of milk chocolate and rice crisps I remember it as.

10. How satisfying it is to read books again. For some reason, though I’ve kept on buying books, I had lost the motivation to really read. When it started, I stopped reading fiction, except for genre fiction of a certain predictability. Then, I dropped that and my most challenging reading material became non-fiction books, easier to absorb in small distanced sittings. Then I dropped even non-fiction books, and for some months relied entirely on news and other snippets pulled to my screen via RSS. My favourite explanation for this progression is that my pool of attention was being squeezed dry at work, and only replenished during the weekends. Not sure if that’s true, but the year-end spate of public holidays helped to restore some of that resource, whatever it was, and I’m very happy to be back among the book-readers.

11. The Progress Principle. And from the notes inside that book, this paper. The key insight is that progress in one’s work life is more important than many other factors used to motivate performance.

12. If you listen to podcasts and are curious, 99% Invisible has to be on your list. It’s refreshing, wonderfully produced and endlessly thought-provoking. Episode 67 – about a broken window which haunted the window-breaker for years and years – is a recent favourite.

bummer

A few weeks ago, I lost my one week-old iPhone in a cab.  I realised the loss after about half an hour at home, and when I called the phone it had been switched off.  It isn’t exactly straightforward to switch an iPhone off, so I lost a large portion of hope there and then.  Still, I went through the motions.  I called the cab company, but found out that Comfort Delgro’s lost-and-found hotline operates only during office hours, and had to email them about my loss instead.  The real bummer was that I had to change the passwords to my Facebook and Gmail accounts, having made it laughably easy to access them for anyone who held my iPhone in their grubby claws.  Guess I wasn’t planning on losing it.  I am, however, planning to get the 4th generation version when it comes to Singapore. 

And last week, I got to go to Halong Bay during the weekend, in the midst of a work trip to Vietnam.*  It was one of those hot humid days with only a sporadic weak breeze even on the very pretty bay and I was with colleagues (including essentially the CEO of the organisation) I wasn’t all that familiar with and I had to climb up steps which were sometimes slippery on the way to view a limestone cave I would rather have not viewed and the boat we were on** could not dock on the pier and so we had to jump on to another boat which was docked***, go through it and step on to the the side railing of yet another boat, yours truly stupidly holding a bottle of mineral water in my right hand for someone else and using only my left to steady myself against the cabin of said boat and walk along said railing (just to help put you in the moment with me, said railing was not very wide) to the aft of said boat, where I grabbed onto the friendly and strong arm of one of the Vietnamese sailors-helpers-wranglers and levered myself onto our boat, where I glumly realised how out-of-shape I was.  Not pleasant.

P/S.  I don’t really know why I don’t blog as much as I used to. 

*My preferred way of spending a weekend during a work trip is to vege out at the hotel, only emerging (weather and friendliness of locals permitting) for some simple cuisine and exploration.  Alas I can already imagine tours to experience things-one-just-had-to-experience-after-coming-all-the-way in my very near future.

**On which we had a very satisfying meal, with easily de-shelled freshwater prawns, fries (yes, fries), steamed fish (expertly de-boned by a very accomplished lady colleague), stir-fried squid with some seasonal vegetables and mussels bought for a fortune from a kelong right in the bay

***This was after a harrowing (for me, afraid of heights and lacking balance) hurried rush along some narrow and high steps, and upon I jumped onto said docked boat my spectacles flew off my head and landed on the deck, slightly scratched; I need to get new specs.

excerpts

One of the reasons I set up this blog was to help me learn – learn to write better and learn through processing experiences.  And so I’ve been thinking about setting up a new blog focusing on lessons and happenings at work.

But till I do, I’ll be blogging about stuff at work here.

***

I’ve been blogging irregularly and infrequently.  I’m not certain about the reason; it’s probably related to how busy I am at work.  Or maybe it’s the one-dimensionality of what I can blog about, since most of what I experience and think about is work-related.  (And I don’t want to seem one-dimensional?)  Or maybe it’s the lack of time I’ve have to think about things.  (Or to think about them deeply enough to come up with things worth writing about.)  It’s a curious thing: what motivates my blogging?

I note down things I want to blog about on my E71, and then transfer them to a virtual Post-It note on my desktop (via this application called Stickies).  And since I haven’t blogged for a while, I have some stuff that’s been on that Post-It note for a while.  Time for some culling.

***

A while back, I shifted seats from one directly perpendicular to the corridor facing the rooms of some senior colleagues, to one further back, separated from the corridor by one or two work-stations.  I miss the proximity to the corridor traffic, the saying “hi” to more people.

***

My work trip to Hanoi in November last year was an eye-opener.  While the views from my hotel – the InterContinental Hanoi Westlake, a beautiful hotel/resort overlooking Hanoi’s largest lake – at sunrise and sunset were quite sublime, the most memorable moments came during the trishaw rides we took amid Hanoi’s rush hour.

I can no longer remember the trishaw rides I must have taken in Singapore.  In any case, I’m not sure they would be a comparable experience.  Not when the trishaw-man was manoeuvring haphazardly through steady streams of cars, motorcycles and other trishaws, all the while keeping up a conversation with any fellow trishaw-man within hearing distance; not when part of the route was a roundabout where the traffic lights were observed only through blithe nonchalance and where the streams of cars, motorcycles and trishaws mingled and miraculously sorted themselves out without significant incident; not when, to turn right, an impatient car-driver would go round the trishaw’s left and cut in front of it, all the while without any sort of visual signal whatsoever, leaving the chap manning my trishaw to mutter darkly under his laboured breath; not when the pollutants in the air left tangible evidence in one’s respiratory system; not when the air itself reverberated with the rhythmic pulsing of car horns – yes, instead of bland blasts, car horns here pulsed almost musically, perhaps because instead of acting as alarms (“watch out!”), they served more as a constant reminder of where a vehicle is (“I’’m here, I’m here, I’m here”) – which would make them an innovative adaptation to a situation where near-accident proximity to other vehicles is a given.

***

On 7 December 2009, I travelled to work on the MRT, and someone smelled strongly of lemongrass.

***

Some time in January this year, I was in a meeting at which we were trying to describe to some overseas guests how tripartism (dialogue, consultations and collaborations among a country’s social partners i.e. employers, unions/workers and the government) works in Singapore.  I explained that it was a framework that Singapore’s social partners worked in.  Another colleague said that tripartism was Singapore’s modus operandi.  And in between us this other colleague said that it was in Singapore’s DNA.  And as I sat there listening to the discussion, it struck me that either “modus operandi” or “DNA” – more the latter – was a better, more easily identified with illustration of the way tripartism works in Singapore than “framework”.

***

Recently, I dreamt I was in a nail spa.  Disclaimer: Having never been to a nail spa, I can only guess where I dreamt I was at, but it looked like what I expected a nail spa to look like.  Why I was in a nail spa in my dream, I have no idea.  I do recall that a couple of days before the dream, I had seen a lady with an elaborately manicured set of nails on the MRT.  Maybe I just needed to cut my nails (which were long-ish when I had the dream).  For the record, I didn’t get a manicure in the dream… probably because I didn’t have the imagination to dream it.

***

Just last week, or maybe the week before, on the way to work, I saw a lady wearing really beautiful shoes – classic oriental design, like something you’d see on a cheongsam – but with bloody scrapes above her heels.  The shoes were the unforgivingly hard sort, and that might have been her first time wearing them.  I could so empathise with that, and with the realisation that she was stuck with those painful, heel-raking shoes for the rest of the day.

***

And just last Wednesday, I ate at Breakthru’ Cafe with my mum and my dad.  I really enjoyed that  :)  And we enjoyed the chilli (with spicy dried shrimp) that came with the glutinous rice.

***

Recently I have been thinking about my influence on people I manage.  Someone thanked me for being a “nice and appreciative” boss.  And my instinctual reaction to that, was that I don’t want to be known as nice and appreciative – I’d rather be associated with competence, with intelligence, with industry… and then I thought, would I really, as a boss?

Important things

About 10 days ago, I was having a very enjoyable meal at Sushi Tei (try the ikura (salmon roe) chawanmushi) with a long-legged friend and we were talking about ambition and priorities.  And she had me do this interesting exercise.  She tore up the folded piece of paper that the wooden chopsticks came in into eight bits and told me to write down the eight things most important to me, one on each bit of paper.

I wrote:

  • Comfort
  • Family
  • Doing well at work
  • Being knowledgeable
  • Writing well
  • My bolster
  • Reading good books
  • Food

And then she asked me, if you had to take away two of these important things, which would they be?  Not too difficult.  I took away my bolster and reading good books.  So six were left.

  • Comfort
  • Family
  • Doing well at work
  • Writing well
  • Being knowledgeable
  • Food

And then she told me, take away two more.  And I took away food and writing well.  (This is as best as I remember it.  I could have removed comfort… but anyway, here’s what I think I took away.)  And so, four were left.

  • Comfort
  • Family
  • Doing well at work
  • Being knowledgeable

And then my long-legged friend told me to remove two more.  And I took away comfort and being knowledgeable.  And two were left.

  • Family
  • Doing well at work

And so it seemed, to me, the most important things in the world are my family and doing well at work.  And then my friend asked, are you spending enough time on the most important thing in the world to you?  And my answer had to be that I was, at work, and I was not sure I was, with my family.

And I thought, it was good to be made to think in this way.  I shall do this exercise again, but seriously, and by seriously I mean in a state of mind that would not involve my bolster – significant part of my life though it is – as one of the eight most important things in my life :)

P/S.  Today at about 3.45pm I was on a high after doing a presentation to an important person who was very enthused about her work.  Then at 4.00pm I reminded someone to do a very important thing.  And at about 5.55pm I thought I saw someone dab at tears on his/her face, because of a very important thing, of course, for otherwise why would he/she shed tears?

Geneva (again) – a stuffed weekend and unhappy Heathrow

I was just in Geneva again – got back the two Fridays ago – and, apart from some stressful work involving the chaperoning of a couple of important personages, it was a rather fun trip.  (Although, thinking back, I still wish I felt less stressed and more prepared.)

The only free weekend we had, we rented a car and drove all the way to Tasch, from which we took a train to Zermatt, from which we took another train to snow-capped Gornergrat.  The thing I remember about Gornergrat, along with the snow and some unexplained swathes of bluish-green water that looked vaguely reminiscent of sulphur pools I saw in New Zealand, was an absolutely giant Saint Bernard – it was sitting there, tongue lolling, with another less impressive specimen, and would have made for a scary sight, except that like all Saint Bernards it looked utterly benign (if more or less ignorant of your presence) and bereft of ill will.  I think if I got lost in the Swiss Alps and one of these trudged up to me with whiskey in the keg attached to its collar, I would be quite assured :)  On the way back from Tasch, we had dinner at a great Italian restaurant at Montreux.  (I’ll try to find out and post its name.)  Now, I’m not a salad fan but the seafood salad – with an appetising vinaigrette and generous portions of grilled littleneck clams, octopus and squid – was absolutely delicious.

Speaking of Italian food, if you are ever in the old town part of Geneva – that’s across the bridge from Gare Cornavin – you may wish to try the seafood (fruits de mer) spaghetti at the Spaghetti Factory.  It’s good too :)

And so after about 10 days, the work was over, and a colleague and I made our way back home via Heathrow.  Okay.  (I’m taking deep breaths now as I gather myself to talk about this objectively.)  I don’t know if you know this, but if you’re flying SQ and you fly back to Singapore via Heathrow, you have to claim your baggage and then check it back in.  In other words, you have to go through immigration so that you are in the London side of the airport for a good half hour to an hour and then check yourself and your luggage back in.  And go through snaking queues leading up to metal detector gantries and the most un-chipper security personnel I’ve ever seen.  Not a happy experience.  The 13-hour plane ride back was comfortable – I was lucky enough to be on a flight that was about 75% full, and I was the only passenger on my set of three sets next to the window; I think that says something about the economy, no? – but I really wouldn’t want to fly through Heathrow again, ever.

P/S.  Oh don’t think I did not take photographs – I did, but I stupidly updated the software in my phone without making back-ups.  Sigh.

Geneva – prawn buffets, mushroom cappuccino and other observations

I am in Geneva because of work – day after day, the meetings remain lengthy and tedious; sometimes it feels like the participants are pedantically and often petulantly discussing obscure ways of preparing honey-baked ham or some other matter of similar significance, instead of trying to come up with concrete ways to address major labour issues – but given the food I’ve eaten, I could well be in Geneva on one of those culinary escapades.  I don’t quite keep track of the days via the meals I have anymore, but there have nevertheless been memorable meals. 

Twice last week my colleagues and I girded ourselves for gambas à gogo i.e. prawn buffet.  The star of the show: steamed prawns stir-fried in garlic butter, served on large shallow trays in their juices and bits of garlic, as many prawns as you can peel and eat.  Yours truly is a classic spoiled peasant princeling – back in Singapore my dear mum and brother would peel my prawns for me; I don’t even like to have to pull the tail off prawns that have been otherwise de-shelled – but after an awkward start I was proficient enough to chow down the succulent, garlic-infused pink commas one after another.  And “chow down” are appropriate words – the way we Singaporeans tuck into good prawns is vastly different from the dignified pace the Swiss shell and bite and chew their prawns and daintily mop up the juices with bread.  We are messier, and we eat more, much more.  I think I peeled more prawns at those two sittings than I ever have – admittedly, this would not be that inconceivable or impressive an achievement – and I just wished that I had photographic proof of those decimated trays and heaps of shells to show my folks.  My colleague thinks that every time we come to Geneva for the prawn buffet we severely deplete the local prawn supply and cause a serious price hike, and if you see one of those photos, you may agree.

Oh right, I said we did this twice last week!  The first time, on Monday, we had the gambas à gogo at le Furet.  The first few trays of prawns were good, but there wasn’t much gravy to mop up with the shoestring fries (also free flow).  The second time, Thursday I believe, we went to Le Corail Rose, which I thought had more consistently succulent prawns, more and yummier garlic gravy (which carried the taste of prawn in spades, while le Furet’s was merely salty) and chunkier fries (also free flow).  And, in anticipation of the massacre, Le Corail Rose provides lobster-bibs, decorated with a drawn-on bow, so you look neat and formal while you rip into the doomed crustaceans.*

I like prawns done any number of ways, and I like mushrooms in its many forms and regardless of how it is prepared too.  We were in Annecy, a French town about 75 minutes via bus from Geneva, at a charming restaurant and served by a very capable (and very busy) waitress whose command of English was limited.  We ordered a lunch set that came with mushroom soup, and when she repeated our order she said something very like “cappuccino”.  She got it wrong, we thought, but when we pointed to the text for mushroom soup on the menu to clarify, she nodded curtly, said something very like “cappuccino” again, briskly collected our menus and left.  She came back after a while bearing six cappuccino cups – those glasses that are held up with a metal “ear” so that you don’t burn yourself if the contents are too hot – of vaguely cappuccino-coloured stuff, topped with vaguely cappuccino-like foam.  A colleague sniffed it and said it smelled savoury. 

I know now, after doing a bit of Googling, a bit more about mushroom soup done cappuccino-style.  But at the time, I was new to this unfamiliar way of doing soup.  We were given soup spoons, so I dug past the foam and tried a spoonful, and found that the soup was delicious, thick with mushrooms.  There was a small stick of dough fritter, very light, almost crumbly, studded with toasted sesame seeds on its top side, and that was the next thing I dunked into the mushroom cappuccino, about two inches of it, which I then bit off.  That bite of fritter – sesame seeds, deep-fried flour, the crispness of the fritter, suffused with mushroom soup – tasted like a little piece of the best pie in the world.  Then the soup cooled enough to be drunk like cappuccino, and that capped a very satisfying first course to what turned out to be an otherwise ordinary meal.

Geneva’s not an interesting place in the usual way towns or cities are interesting.  There is a fairly long shopping-dedicated street, and restaurants galore of course, especially if you know where to look, but it’s not an interesting and dynamic place in the fashion of a Shanghai, say, or a San Francisco even.  But it is interesting in other ways.  For example: The Swiss have extremely well-behaved dogs.  They bring these dogs – I’ve seen boxers, pugs, huskies/marlamutes, chihuahuas (one was shivering like mad in the icy wind), various types of spaniels, pekingese, dachshunds – to the shopping centre and up the bus and tie these dogs to something near the supermarket entrance when they go inside for groceries, and I’ve never ever seen one misbehave in the slightest.  Another example: Sirens are an enigmatic staple of the Geneva night.  I have seen maybe one car accident – my memory is hazy on this regard – in my whole time in Geneva, but I hear many sirens every single night.  (They are common in the daytime too.)  Do that many fires break out?  (Haven’t seen any telltale smoke.)  Do that many people get injured on the nearby ski slopes?  (Mmm… possible.  Near those ski resorts, you see many people in casts.)  Do that many cats need to be rescued?  (I have seen maybe one cat all this while – it’s uncanny, the contrast with the number of dogs I’ve seen.)

P/S.  I brought way too many clothes to Geneva, but one of these pieces of apparel was a sweater – I was going to say it was ill-fitting, but because of my sideways expansion it’s become almost well-tailored – given to me by a pal just before I went to San Diego for an exchange programme while I was in university.  (That’s… *counting*… 8 (!) years ago now.)  I’d forgotten about it, I think; I am well-insulated and rarely wear sweaters in Singapore, so I hadn’t worn it in a while.  It felt oddly comforting to wear it.

*Incidentally, you know there’s this dish called “drunken prawns”, yes?  The better-known version of the dish is essentially prawns – fresh as fresh can be – steamed with a strong dash of liquor; I’ve seen whiskey used for this, and shaoxing jiu.  I’ve also seen the not-so-well-known version of “drunken prawns”.  This was at one of those seafood places at East Coast Parkway, where these prawns – once again fresh as fresh can be, indeed still leaping and flopping all over one another – were shaken in a transparent lidded pot with some wine (whiskey I believe) and soy sauce – until they were drunk – and then peeled and eaten while they were still shuddering in one’s fingers.  I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it myself, folks, and I’ve since seen it more than once – my dear dad and bro are both big fans.  (Another account of someone savouring this dish can be found in this article by an author who had to research Chinese food for his books, about halfway down the page.)

Kuriya send-off

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to have dinner at Kuriya (basement of Raffles City Shopping Centre, next to Din Tai Feng) with a few colleagues, sort of a send-off gathering for one of them, a really popular humble smart gentlemanly type, who would be gone to another altogether different environment for a year.  It’s not a stretch to say that all of us will miss him.

What with all the comfortable company and conversation, just about the least important part of the gathering was the food, which turned out to be generally good to excellent.  The grilled pork belly with spring onion was juicy with marination, its layers of fat and meat distinct and succulent, with just enough charred bits on the edges.  I thought the soft shell crab hand roll and the quite exquisitely presented sushi balls on bamboo were dishes we could try on a return trip too :)