The Singaporean Hainanese Moon Cake – 酥盐月饼

Like many of the Hainanese-styled food that you will find in Singapore, like Hainanese pork chops, chicken curry and beef stew, the Hainanese moon cake that some of the older Hainanese generation are familiar with cannot be found in Hainan Island.

My dad and his family used to run the only confectionery in Singapore that sells Hainanese moon cake in Purvis Street. Hainanese of his generation and maybe even mine would have grown up eating this even Moon Cake Festival or giving them as gifts to relatives.

Side note: For the younger generation of Hainanese: Middle Road, Purvis Street and Seah Street used to called Hainan Street 1, 2 and 3. Sometimes, you may still here the older generations calling them by those names and some taxi driver too still recognize them by those names. Those streets are, of course, where a lot of Hainanese used to stay and grew up in. The Hainanese character is almost gone now, except with a few chicken rice and Hainanese food stalls.

From what my dad told me, the Hainanese moon cake is actually not a real moon cake (duh!!) and also not known in Hainan Island. It was actually adapted from a similar biscuit found probably in Shanghai or its parts called 酥饼 or flaky biscuit. He is not sure when our family started selling it, but he thought that it was probably started from his grandparents generation. You see, as the Hainanese were relatively poor at that time, they could not afford to buy the typical sugar loaded lotus and salted egg moon cakes and being a Hainanese confectionery family, we had to sell something that Hainanese could buy and voila!

Whatever happened, this sure became synonymous with Singaporean Hainanese during moon cake festival since.

Alas, its sad that due to family conflicts, back biting, stabbing and all sorts of melodrama with the family (as with any big families sometimes), the family tradition could not continue and the confectionery has to close.

What is unique (and what I liked) about the Hainanese moon cake is that it is blend of umami from fried onions and pork lard, slightly sweet and salty, a little spicy with pepper and an uplifting tanginess. This just a beautiful blend of flavors when the balance of ingredients are there. That is why, it was very hard to duplicate this if you don’t have the exact recipe and proportions, as I have seen people attempting to do it before.

The main ingredients are sesame seeds with some melon seeds, this is vastly different from the traditional moon cake made with loads of sugar and lotus paste. In a sense, I could say that its healthier, but not necessarily less fattening!

Into the fillings goes grounded white pepper to give it its spiciness; rose flavored fine sugar, to give it the sweetness and additional fragrance; a bit of salt; and finally, what I feel is most important, dried tangerine skin peel. My dad says that traditionally, they got what is called 山桔 from some parts of China. These are wild tangerines that are dried up and very hard. He told me that it is a very tedious process to grind up the tangerine skin as it is very hard, but it gives a really wonderful tanginess and fragrance. Its hard to find that now and the substitute ones (and cheaper ones from Malaysia or even China) are not as fragrant or tangy anymore.

As for the skin, its nothing more than flour, water, a bit of salt and pork lard. But skills come to play on how to fold it to up the flakiness of the skin. Also the skin must be thin enough. I have tried some duplicate one where the skin is just too thick and everything is tasteless. Mind you, because the skin has pork lard, it can be pretty oily on the surface.

I will hope to dig out the exact recipe from my dad, but I think it more depends on experience and skills to get it right than just the recipe. Also I am not afraid of people getting the recipe, the more people know it, the more this moon cake will stay, even if the younger generation may not appreciate it anymore.

There you go… for those who have no idea what a Hainanese moon cake is and those who have eaten Hainanese moon cake and not sure what its all about.

Update: My cousin, Suan is keeping the tradition alive and making and selling the mooncake. If you are interested, please contact him suanchong2896@gmail.com

Also they have a small video feature his mom and the mooncake 

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Alvin Tan pity Singaporeans but its really not that bad after all

State Times Review posted a piece by Malaysian turned US asylum seeker Alvin Tan on the state of Singaporeans, which I believe some Singaporeans agree with.

http://statestimesreview.com/2015/09/07/alvin-tan-i-pity-singaporeans/

Although I agree with the gist of Alvin’s rants, its is not that bad after all for some of us. Note that I am writing this as my opinion being a middle class person with a relatively comfortable and uneventful life.

 1.  We work like a dog for 30 years in soul-sucking office jobs

Honestly, I think this describes maybe 80% of the whole world who are working in thankless office jobs or jobs they don’t like; so its not unique to Singaporeans. Personally, I have been lucky to be working in roles I enjoyed and with relatively good bosses (of course, there were some not so good ones too) and good companies. My office job has never been soul-sucking, except when under a bad boss, but majority of my working life has been enjoyable. Continue reading

When anti-gay rhetoric turns deadly

Last year to me was a defining shift in the anti-gay movement in Singapore. I am not talking about churches because we know the position that they have always held. I am talking about people who are specifically anti-gay like those in WeAreAgainstPinkDot, who talks about nothing but the destruction of gay folks, spreading misinformation, hatred, fear and encouraging suffering towards LGBT folks. Most of us usually laugh them off as silly, ill-concieved and even stupid logic and generally pay no attention to them. Neither does the authorities in general.

Then #wearwhite movement came into the picture and that to me sent a scary picture of rhetoric turning in action. I agree with my Muslim friends that wearing white by itself is not the problem and indeed if all Muslims who proclaim to support wear white following their sunnah of charity, kindness, peace, compassion and love, this would not be an issue. However, the premise of starting the #wearwhite movement was someone incessed that Pink Dot 2014 happend on the Muslim holy month and of having Muslim representative in their promotional video as sign of inclusiveness and love. I think we all can see the irony of it a movement to as Muslims to be pure at heart is started by someone angry and feeling incessed by insults. This is not different from many gay conversion movements that were started by gay people and who later regretted their involvements. Continue reading

The old man and his island

I respect Mr. LKY that is for sure. For his tenacity, vision, frugality and ability to make things happen. Reading about the red box nearly brought me to tears to hear about his dedication and frugality. I would be a hypocrite to say that his works means nothing to me, when I have enjoyed my life as a typical middle-class Singaporean, writing about this in my nice comfortable room and enjoying the fruits of our progress throughout the coming 50 years; be it clean water, safe city, effective public transport system, greenery throughout and all the creature comforts that we have that some of our neighboring countries clamor for.

At the same time, I do have to acknowledge that it is not a bed of roses for everyone. To me, it would be most disrespect to “over-praise” his achievements without understanding how they came about and what we have been led to believe over the years. Indeed, I hear once too  often many Singaporeans ranting off how LKY took a fishing village and made it Singapore we have today. This is not just disrespectful because they are misrepresenting him and his works but a bit too ignorant of the conditions and life of Singapore in 1965.

Some people thinks that that LKY does not deserve the credit to be the father of Singapore, because not all the work was done by him, I beg to differ. I see his relation to Singapore as how I see Steve Jobs is to Apple. After Steve left Apple, the company went downhill and only revive after Steve was reinstated. Steve didn’t “design” the ipod or iphone, but his vision of what his wants to happen made it happen. Steve was a visionary and ruthless at it, which is why Apple can be so successful and so is LKY. I have no doubts that without LKY visions, charisma, drive and ruthless, I would not have enjoyed much of Singapore as I enjoyed as I grew up in this tiny island.

Many people also criticized him for this ruthlessness and political manipulation starting from Mr. Lim Chin Siong and, of course, many other victims since. All I can say is that I believe Mr. Lee had a vision of what he wanted Singapore to be and he would stop at nothing to prevent that from failing. Without getting Mr. Lim out of the way, LKY could not gain control of PAP and did what he did, and it is indeed unfortunate that he was just better at political manipulation than the next person. And I have no doubts that he was really concerned about Singapore, Singaporean and its survival and this has occupied his mind since the day that his took office. It is around his vision that he did what he thought was the best for Singapore and Singaporeans, i.e. that that PAP was the best party for Singapore and everything must be done to ensure that PAP is and continues to be majority and controlling party because it was the best for Singapore. To its end, many political tools were enacted to ensure the success of PAP, which, I believe, to LKY was the best for the survival of Singapore.

Regarding the climate of political fear and prosecution, it is hard to say what would have happened if we had full democracy from the birth of the nation. Would we still have a Singapore like this or would we still be under-develop with politician fighting in parliament? But because we cannot turn the clock and experiment with an alternative Singapore, it would not be fair to say what would have been better at that point in time. Personally, I wished that everyone had at least a fair and just trial and we know that everything is not what it seems according to what Straits Times or our government in power would say.

Just as the slave system helped built America, the Japanese occupation resulted in a rise of independent South East Asia or the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima stopped Japaneses occupation or that Nazi Germany’s cruel medical experiments brought some new medical insights to the medical world. The reason why airplanes are so safe is also because of the number of air plane disasters over the years that resulted in safer and safer air planes. In many ways, we are all beneficiary of some form of injustice, cruel and deaths; the same can be said about the old man and the rise of Singapore. However, knowing what we know now, would we want to see a repeated of all those forms of death, injustice and cruelty? We cannot turn back the clock, but we can jolly well learn from history and use our new insights and wisdom to make a better world without those historical requisites.

Some people commented that a true leader is prepared to sacrifice for the sake of the whole. I call it a bluff because only if you are willing to sacrifice yourself, your family, children and life for that leader, then you are qualified to say something like that. Also it is my observation that who supported or are indifferent about LKY and PAP’s persecution of political enemies and political gerrymandering are the ones who never had to experience the repression and fear of being on the wrong side of the political divide or the wrong side of law, e.g. 377a. But what is most interested is that folks, not all, impacted by those agenda are not necessarily just an angry bunch of folks ready for revenge. Many of them are even more driven to make a difference to the lives of people around them, to help them, to care for them, especially those persecuted wrongly, discriminated or without a voice.

The old man and his island. The father of Singapore, I salute you for all that you have done, the good and bad, for your dedication, tireless hard work and perseverance of making Singapore a worthy place to be and to stay. For putting Singapore on the map when our size only occupy an alphabet in the maps and for making everyone else wished that they had had a leader such as you in their country.

Thank you and farewell.

Growing pains and collateral damage

Here is what I have to say about hecklegate (as some bloggers so aptly put it):

1. Not happy with protest does not equal pro-PAP

Just because someone gets pissed off with or disagrees with RN and HHH and #ReturnOurCPF protest because of the perceived heckling during a charity event, doesn’t make them a PAP lackey or sympathizer. Even if they are just pissed off with the protest itself without the incident, it still doesn’t make them pro-PAP. There are many reasons why people don’t agree with the protest, even though they may agree with some of the issues with our CPF and even the proposed solutions. I find it astounding (but not surprising) how some immature folks can draw such conclusions just because one dislike what happened. Continue reading

New MCE causes at least 40 mins jam at Central Boulevard

Something you may not get from news regarding the problem with the MCE opening from news media after all the self-congratulatory efforts for the gov’t.

The MCE opening forced traffic from both directions of AYE to exit via Central Boulevard in order to go into Shenton Way or MBFC area. This cause slow traffic to build up from 8 am onwards! I can see from my office building the queue build up all the way to AYE at Keppel Road in the morning. At 2 pm today, there is still a long queue of cars coming via Central Boulevard.

So what would have taken me 15 mins from my home to office in MBFC during morning hours will now take me at least 40 mins more!

The problem as you can see from the picture below is that most of the traffic are trying to go into CBD, but they are squeezed into 2 lanes left turning lanes towards CBD.  I am surprised that they spend all that money to build the tunnel but such a shoddy work on the traffic planning on the Central Boulevard.

MCE Jam

HDB flats for singles makes people stupid

Okay, this is not exactly what this writer, Daniel Chia, say, but that is the message he implies, as below

More new flats for singles: Sending wrong message

The push by the Housing Board to supply more new flats to singles is not good news for the nation (“HDB to roll out more new flats for singles”; Sept 24).

First, these flats will discourage the formation of family units.

The Government has been encouraging people to get married. But offering new flats to singles will have the opposite effect.

Second, when two singles who own such flats get married, what is to become of the units? Are they allowed to keep them?

The age criterion for ownership should be raised to 45 and the salary ceiling lowered to $2,500.

The Government should not give in to pressure from singles.

Daniel Chia

What dear Daniel doesn’t seem to be unaware (what world does his live in?) is that this is only the first time HDB actually builds HDB and give some priority to singles. Yes, the government also tried to sell some unsold HDB flats in far flung reaches of Singapore to singles some time ago. But for the longest time, the policy against singles has never changed and yet Singaporeans are not getting married at the age the governments wants them to and not having enough babies. It should be obvious the issue is more than just flats.

Worst, Mr Chia, perhaps as a Freudian slip, implies that people are getting married only to get a HDB flat because it requires two persons (ok parent-child still can), if not there is no meaning in getting married. I don’t know if this Daniel is married or not, but it looks like this is could be reflection of his own life. Perhaps he wished the government offered new HDB flats for singles so that he would not need to get married and is now really pissed about this dilemma.

And almost insidiously, it feels like another hidden agenda against gay equality. After all what does “Pressure from singles” imply? Which singles forms the biggest pressure group but LGBTs? Actually it is very easy to solve this problem, just equalise marriage and you will not have such a big “singles pressure group”.

Anyhow, for someone to say that such move will encourage Singaporeans to stay single is just plain stupid. I can imagine conversations around dinner gong like this:

Mom: When are you getting married?

Single person: I am not getting married, the government allows me to buy house as single, no point getting married.

or

Your current partner: Let’s get married and get a HDB flat

You: Nah, I think I prefer to stay single because I can get a HDB flat on my own without getting married to you… thanks for the offer

or

You: Yes!! Now that I can buy a HDB flat as a single person, I have no desires to get married and have children

To paraphrase one my friend: “Govt should not sell HDB to stupid people”