Some books for me this Library Loot!

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

 

Whee! Some actual books for me for a change!

sharazde

Sharaz-De – by Sergio Toppi (Illustrator), Edward Gauvin (Translator)

A set of tales inspired by 1001 Arabian Nights, European comics master Sergio Toppi’s Sharaz-de explores a barbaric society where the supernatural is the only remedy to injustice.

endlessnumbered
Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller

Peggy Hillcoat is eight years old when her survivalist father, James, takes her from their home in London to a remote hut in the woods and tells her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. Deep in the wilderness, Peggy and James make a life for themselves. They repair the hut, bathe in water from the river, hunt and gather food in the summers and almost starve in the harsh winters. They mark their days only by the sun and the seasons.

When Peggy finds a pair of boots in the forest and begins a search for their owner, she unwittingly begins to unravel the series of events that brought her to the woods and, in doing so, discovers the strength she needs to go back to the home and mother she thought she’d lost.

After Peggy’s return to civilization, her mother learns the truth of her escape, of what happened to James on the last night out in the woods, and of the secret that Peggy has carried with her ever since.

We keep borrowing Pout-Pout Fish!

Mini reviews: The Last Chinese Chef; Hood

lastchinesechef

The Last Chinese Chef – Nicole Mones

So at first I was all, what does an American writer know about Chinese cooking? Well turns out she knows quite a bit, having spent 18 years doing business in China!

And so this Chinese-Singaporean whose great-grandparents came from China but has never stepped into China itself (unless you count Hong Kong but it’s not really China, is it) had to concede that Mones does seem to know what she’s taking about.

A few pinyin errors aside, as well as one too many uses of “zhen bang!” (which to me tends to be something young kids say, or parents say to encourage their little kids), it was an interesting read and insight into Chinese culture. Like this bit about showering at night:

Of course, she thought, another meal.

“Does someone else need to use the bathroom?”

“Not now. They’re Chinese. They bathe at night. You slept through it.”

I had a good chuckle over that. Having spent most of my life residing near the equator, a shower before bed is pretty essential. Sometimes showers were required more than once a day, if it was a particularly sweltering day. And yes, life near the equator means that it’s hot all the time.

I have to admit being far less interested in Maggie’s story. She’s in Beijing to find out about if her late husband really did father a child with a Chinese woman. She’s also a food writer and has been tasked to interview Sam, an up and coming half-Chinese (his mother was Jewish) chef. He knows his food.

“That’s just flavor. We have texture. There are ideals of texture, too—three main ones. Cui is dry and crispy, nen is when you take something fibrous like shark’s fin and make it smooth and yielding, and ruan is perfect softness—velveted chicken, a soft-boiled egg. I think it’s fair to say we control texture more than any other cuisine does. In fact some dishes we cook have nothing at all to do with flavor. Only texture; that is all they attempt. Think of bêche-de-mer. Or wood ear.”

But the thing is, she really doesn’t know anything about Chinese food. Right. And she’s a food writer.

Anyway, Sam is auditioning to be part of the national cooking team of some cooking competition. And the food that he does eventually cook sounds heavenly. In fact, all the descriptions of food were the shining stars of this book.

Breakfast was congee, rice porridge with shreds of a briny, pleasingly marine-flavored waterweed and crunchy, salty peanuts. Hard- boiled eggs, pickles, and fluffy steamed buns flecked with scallion surrounded the pot. Two kinds of tea were poured, Dragon Well green, which was Hangzhou’s local specialty, and a light, flower-scented oolong that Sam said was from Fujian.

This really made me miss living in Singapore, where porridge can be eaten any time of the day. Porridge for breakfast? Sure. I like a Cantonese-style fish porridge. Porridge for supper? Even better. Especially if it’s Teochew porridge where there’s a big spread of cooked dishes to go along with the rice porridge with sweet potato cooked into it. I like it with fried fish, vegetables, pork stew, braised goose, pickled vegetables.

I mean, a book that sends me off on a foodie memory is always a good read. Well, the problem with this book was Maggie. And she’s a big part of it. If we could strip away her side of the story, and make her a smaller side character (for Sam still has to explain his cooking to someone), and focus solely on Sam and his family’s cooking history as well as the food itself, this would have been an excellent book.

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Hood – Emma Donoghue

Most people know Donoghue from her rather scarring book, Room.

But she has also read some other amazing books. Hood is one of them.

Pen (Penelope really but no one calls her that) and Cara have been together, on and off, since they were teenagers in a convent school. For the last few years, they had been living together. A couple. Living in Cara’s father’s house even, although he doesn’t know more than that they are friends. Same goes for Pen’s colleagues and family.

Cara dies in a car accident. (Not a spoiler. It’s in the blurb). Pen as her lover and best friend is grieving. She is widowed but no one can understand that.

When these people looked at me they could have no idea that I was anything to their missing relative; that I had let her dip her biscuits in my tea, on and off, for thirteen years; that sometimes, in the middle of a conversation on inflation or groceries, she would look down at my hand in sudden wonder and would tell me, her voice hushed as if in church, ‘Oh, I want your hand inside me.’

Donoghue takes us through that one week of mourning, as Pen sorts out her life, her memories, her past with Cara, and her future.

How very foolish I had been, in this age of pic-’n’-mix consumerism, to have slept with only one woman in the thirteen years since I discovered the whole business. Now I was left high and dry and loverless. Though I knew theoretically that there were other people in the world who could heat up a bed for me, I didn’t believe in them as anything more than fantasies. Bed was Cara, and without her, without at least the possibility of her return, I felt infibulated.

Hood was a very moving story, not just about death and dying but about Cara and Pen’s relationship, how it began and faltered, how they hid their love. I enjoyed Pen’s voice, her perspective, her intelligence and wit.

In an interview with Flavorwire, Donoghue admits that Pen is one character of hers that stuck with her:

Actually I like Pen in Hood.  There’s a lot of my thoughts in her, but she’s living a life (closeted in Ireland) that I walked away from, so she’s a sort of alter ego I suppose

The Last Chinese Chef and Hood could not be more different. One by a new-to-me author who surprised me with her knowledge of Chinese culture and food but emotionally I couldn’t connect with her characters so I’m not quite rushing out to read her other books yet. The other by an established author whose works I had previously enjoyed somewhat but after reading this one I want to champion and say, hey blog reader, go read Emma Donoghue’s Hood. Or you know, any of her other books.

It’s Monday and July is nearly over!

itsmondayIt’s Monday! What are you reading?” is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at Bookjourney to share with others what we’ve read the past week and planning to read next.

 

 

Terrible photo that I quickly snapped before dishing out. But it’s a peach and plum cobbler. White peaches and yellow peaches and one sad plum that no one wanted to eat as the rest weren’t sweet! The recipe is from Orangette and originally for a plum cobbler. I added the rolled oats onto of the cobbler topping as I always like oats in crumble/cobbler! So good.

 

We always have a nice time at the Children’s Museum in San Jose. And as an extra benefit, Sunday mornings from 11-12 are its members-only hour. The kids got to take their time at the exhibits, including the Tet (Vietnamese new year) exhibit which had a lion dance costume, musical instruments and even a little kitchen to play in.

Currently…

It’s Sunday evening and as I’m that kind of last-minute blogger, I’m just pushing this out right now. Yeah.

Reading:

companionwolves
A Companion to Wolves (Iskryne World #1) – Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear

uprooted

Uprooted – Naomi Novik

Watching:

Girls Season 1.

Mad Men Season 7. I’m kind of trying to watch this as sloooowwly as possible.

Eating:

Well I’m in bed at the moment but we er had Popeyes for dinner. Woohoo! Fried chicken. Mashed potatoes. Coleslaw. And then peach cobbler to follow. So American a dinner. (I think? Is cobbler an American thing? I know crumbles are more British. Right? I can’t say for sure. I’m from Singapore.)

Drinking:

Water. We were out the whole day. Farmers market in the morning, children’s museum after, off to take a look at furniture at West Elm after that. Then grabbing dinner to eat at home. When I’m out the whole day I don’t drink as much as I usually do at home. And when I don’t drink enough water I get a headache.

Cooking:

Mee goreng (here’s a recipe). It’s a fried egg noodle dish usually spicy, with bean sprouts, chicken, tofu. Just typing it makes me drool a little.

Also, shepherd’s pie. Hopefully the kids eat it this time. You would think that minced beef, mashed potatoes and peas would be a win with two littles. No. Not at all. I’m going to add in frozen corn this time. See if that helps.

Scallops risotto.

Browsing:

Over at the Misfortune of Knowing, Enid Blyton Who? 

How not to be Elizabeth Gilbert – Jessa Crispin writes in the Boston Review

Traveling the world with books – The Millions 

In praise of the unlinked story collection – Literary Hub

A Life in Books’ Man Booker wish list

I’m not a big fan of cheesecake but this cheesecake-topped brownie has me hungry (Food52)

Last week:

I read:



Far Arden and Crater XV – Kevin Cannon

The last Chinese chef – Nicole Mones

Hood – Emma Donoghue
Double Barrel #1 – #11 – Xander and Kevin Cannon 

(This serialises Crater XV as well as Xander Cannon’s Heck.)

Little Adventures in Oz Vol 1 – Eric Shanower

I posted:

Comics round-up: Far Arden; Crater XV; Little Nemo

Weekend Cooking: Beef Hor Fun

Library Looting plenty of picture books and more

Diverse Comics

What are you reading this week?

Comics round-up: Far Arden; Crater XV; Little Nemo

 

farardencraterxv

I was in a bit of a reading slump recently. Picked up a book, nah not for me, at least not at this time. Picked up another. Also not quite the right fit.

So I figured a good comic would do. I’m not quite sure why I started on this one. Scribd recommended it to me, probably because I had read Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland before that.

I didn’t quite get it at first. Army Shanks? Arctic pirate? RCAN? What?

It’s quite simple.

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Army Shanks and a whole other bunch of people are searching for Far Arden, supposedly a myth, but someone once found out how to get there. And there’s a map! Somewhere….

But first there are villains and an orphan! And the Royal Canadian Arctic Navy!

It’s a big frozen ball of fun and laughter.

Army Shanks dives for fish and grabs it with his bare hands!

Army Shanks fights Angry!

Face kick!

Slice!

Punch!

Army Shanks turns up again in Crater XV.

This time he’s downtrodden and a bit sad. And he’s off to Antarctica, where Arctic pirates go to die or drink themselves to oblivion or something. But there’s this girl he meets, and he’s convinced she’s Pravda, someone he knew from the orphanage.

There’s also something about astronauts on a simulated moon mission at “Crater XV”.

I’ll say it again. It’s a ball of fun.

Army Shanks! Army Shanks!

littlenemo
Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland –  Eric Shanower and Gabriel Rodriguez 

A very darling and enchanting comic for all ages, Little Nemo is an update on a classic early 20th century comic strip by Windsor McKay.

Nemo has been chosen as the royal princess’s next playmate. The only problem is getting him to Slumberland. As Nemo has no interest being the playmate. Because she’s a girl. Yuck! Will he ever get to Slumberland and meet the princess? Does he want to? What is Slumberland anyway?
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Fun for the young and young at heart, that’s what Slumberland is! Even getting there is a thrill.

 

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M.C. Escher would be pleased, I reckon. 

I read this because it was illustrated by the awesome Gabriel Rodriguez, who is responsible (with writer Joe Hill) for one of my favourite comics ever, Locke and Key. Little Nemo is about as far away from the gore and, as the husband put it, “so morbid”, Locke and Key as you can get but it is still a fun read nonetheless, with absolutely brilliant and whimsical illustrations from Rodriguez.

 

 

110 Per¢ – Tony Consiglio

 

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So 110 Per¢ (110 Percent) is some popular boyband. I’m guessing like One Direction or something. And this group of women, “Mature Older Fans of 110 Per¢” are one crusty bunch. They’re united by their love for the band and that’s about it. They’re in the same fan club yet they’re mean to each other sometimes. It’s a little bit sad really. One ignores her family in her devotion to the band. Another is an unfortunate caricature of a heavyset woman who has no friends at work. It was rather painful to read at times. 

 

secondthoughts

Second Thoughts – Niklas Asker

I was intrigued by the cover. Unfortunately, the story wasn’t as odd or mind bending as I was expecting. I mean, giant head! Teeny tiny town! But it was still an interesting enough story about the chance meeting of two strangers at an airport, and how this meeting changes their lives. I really liked the artwork but I think I was expecting something either a little more eccentric or deeper. 

 

 

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All read on Scribd.

 

Weekend Cooking: Beef Hor Fun

Beef hor fun is one of my favourite things to eat.

It is a stir-fried rice noodle dish with beef and vegetables and a thick gravy.

You can find it at zichar places in Singapore, where most of the dishes are of the stirfried stuff.

And sadly, something I can’t seem to find at restaurants here in the Bay Area. Instead I have to make do with what I can at home. It’s really quite different as at home it is hard to get the ‘wok hei’ or ‘breath of the wok’, that smoky flavour you get when food is cooked in a wok at scorchingly high heat.
So here is a very basic how-to, without any definite measurements. If you’d like something more specific, here’s a good one from 3 hungry tummies. 

As with much of Chinese cooking, it’s all about advance prep. You need to have everything chopped/sliced/ready to be tossed in the hot wok at the right moment.
Begin with rice noodles, preferably fresh and wide.


As you can see these aren’t fresh. Or wide. But one must make do.

If your rice noodles are fresh they can go in the (very hot) wok immediately with some soy sauce and sesame oil. You want to get some colour on those pale strands!

If it’s the dried kind like these are, they will need to be soaked in warm water for a while. Drain well then do as above. Dried noodles may need a bit longer on the hot stove.
Most beef hor funs that I’ve had usually use mustard greens. But I had some bok choy from the farmer’s market to use up. I prefer these anyway.



 

Marinate thinly sliced beef at least half an hour in advance. I used a chuck steak and sliced it thinly while it was still somewhat frozen. Oyster sauce, soy sauce, white pepper, a little sesame oil and corn flour. I also added some Worcestershire sauce but mostly because I like to add that to beef dishes.

You’ll also need to finely slice some ginger, about four to five slices. I also chopped up four cloves of garlic and a small shallot. Also get an egg ready. Not necessary but it makes things even tastier.

Sear the beef using high heat until it’s about 60-70% cooked. Put it on a plate. You will add them back to the pot again later, so don’t worry about it not being completely cooked.

Get your wok hot again, stirfry the ginger, shallots then the garlic. Then I added the bok choy, adding a bit of stock (I only had chicken stock but beef stock would be great) to help it cook faster. Add more chicken stock bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and add a cornstarch solution (cornstarch with a bit of water stirred together) to help thicken the gravy. Drizzle in the egg and stir. Then add the beef.

 


 

Then spoon your gravy over your noodles and eat while hot. If you like, serve with some sliced green chili in soy sauce.

weekendcooking

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Library Looting plenty of picture books and more

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

 

It has been ages since I’ve done a Library Loot post!
   
   
Which is odd as ever since we discovered the little library that opens only on Wednesdays and more importantly, has a great playground in the park behind, we’ve been going every week.

The library always has a great selection of picture books and board books. Recently, I’ve been picking up more non-fiction books for the four-year-old who is especially interested in the solar system and the universe these days. Who knows what we will read about next?

 

 


 However, the adult sections are a bit scanty.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes was something I did find on the shelves (Hood is on Scribd). But the Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear is a request that I made from another library.

I also have recently downloaded some e-books from the library. These are from the 3M catalogue.

uprooted swimmingantarctica

 

Naomi Novik is a new-to-me author. And I have been wanting to read Swimming to Antarctica for a while now. Cox has been long-distance swimming since a teenager! I mean, just read this:

By age sixteen, she had broken all records for swimming the English Channel. Her daring eventually led her to the Bering Strait, where she swam five miles in thirty-eight-degree water in just a swimsuit, cap, and goggles. In between those accomplishments, she became the first to swim the Strait of Magellan, narrowly escaped a shark attack off the Cape of Good Hope, and was cheered across the twenty-mile Cook Strait of New Zealand by dolphins. She even swam a mile in the Antarctic.

I do realize that an exciting life doesn’t necessarily make for a good read, but we will see how it goes!

Diverse Comics

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This week’s question from the Broke and the Bookish is:

Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters (example: features minority/religious minority, socioeconomic diversity, disabled MC,  neurotypical character, LGBTQ etc etc.)

I decided to focus on comics, instead of ‘books’ in general. So here are Ten Comics/Graphic Novels that Celebrate Diversity!

(I do realize that there has been some advances in diversity in the superhero comic world, like Miles Morales (aka Spiderman) but I don’t really read much DC/Marvel comics. Instead, these are some of the comics that I have, you know, actually read.)

And for far far more on diverse comics, see the Diverse Comics Tumblr

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Rat Queens – Kurtis J. Wiebe (Writer), Roc Upchurch (Illustrator)

For an all-female band of heroes! A dwarf woman!

 

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Lumberjanes –  Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen (Illustrator)

Because girls need more comics like these.

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Sunny – Taiyo Matsumoto

One of my favourite manga series, Sunny focuses on a group of kids who live in a home. Some of them do have parents, but they just aren’t able to take care of their kids (alcohol, poverty etc).

msmarvel1

Ms Marvel – G Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

A Pakistani-American superhero! A girl who dons a shalwar kameez on one page, and a superhero costume on another. Of course t shirt and jeans on regular days.

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The Shadow Hero – Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

Another Asian-American superhero! One of my favourite bits was when his mother tries to get him superpowers.

(*Also see Yang’s other works: American-Born Chinese; Boxers and Saints

And Liew’s other works: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye; Warm Nights Deathless Days: The Life of Georgette Chen )

shinya

Shinya Shokudou – Yaro Abe

Another manga. This time one that is set in a late-night eatery. It’s diverse in the sense that the patrons of the eatery are from different walks of life. There is a stripper, a student, a celebrity, a gangster, salarymen, young people, old people, rich people, poor people. Something a little different from Japan. Unfortunately it only seems to have been translated from Japanese into Chinese so far.

DykesToWatchOutFor

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For – Alison Bechdel

Bechdel is best known for Fun Home but I think her best work is in her first book, a collection of comic strips that she wrote for 25 years, and which was syndicated in 50 alternative newspapers.

gameswallows

 

 

A Game for Swallows – Leina Abirached

 

March Book One and Two – John Robert Lewis, Andrew Aydin (Co-writer), Nate Powell (Artist)

These books tell the story of US Congressman John Robert Lewis, from rural Alabama to meeting Martin Luther King, to the Nashville Student Movement which used nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins to break down segregation. Truly inspiring.

It’s Monday and I’m journeying with Army Shanks to Far Arden

itsmondayIt’s Monday! What are you reading?” is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at Bookjourney to share with others what we’ve read the past week and planning to read next.

 

 

It was a relatively uneventful weekend. One with a lot of eating as usual, but relatively uneventful otherwise. But that can be good too. Running errands, spending time at home, being with the family.


We had burgers and fries at The Counter.

 

A lunch at My Dumpling in Milpitas, with some lovely xiaolongbao, spring onion pancake, fried milk bread and condensed milk to dip in, some wonton noodles, pork chop rice, and an excellent red bean pancake with loads of sesame seeds. The place was packed by 1130 and service a little all over the place, but the food was great. Tons of food, with plenty of leftovers for tomorrow!

 

Currently…

 

Reading:

agodinruins

A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson

I’m on the last stretch and to be honest am still not quite sure what to make of this book. Atkinson is for sure an amazing writer but I’ve been wondering about all this back and forth that she puts the reader through. It made more sense in Life After Life. 

fararden

Far Arden – Kevin Cannon

Army Shanks! Army Shanks! He punches! He kicks! There are polar bears! 

 

Watching:

lindsay

Orange is the New Black season 3. Ok so last week I mentioned not being into it but then I suddenly did get into it and now I’m a few episodes in.

Also, Angel Season 2 and New Girl Season 3, which guest stars Lindsay from Freaks and Geeks (aka Linda Cardellini)!!!! So I had to Google her and I DID NOT realize that she was in Mad Men as Don Draper’s neighbour. She really looked very different there…

Listening:

The Carpenters.

Eating:

 

Last week Wee Reader and I made some oatmeal cookies – one batch of oatmeal raisin coconut and another of chocolate chip. So oatmeal equals breakfast!

Drinking:

This loose leaf chai tea that I picked up from our local farmers’ market.

Cooking:

Something to do with eggplants… I will have to figure this out soon as these eggplants were from last weekend. Maybe I’ll turn it into spaghetti sauce. My other option is to make it spicy. Or to slather it with a miso marinade and grill it.

Also some chicken stew with potatoes, carrots and cabbage.

Oh and I had picked up some scallops from Costco. So maybe a risotto, or if I don’t have the time, a simple scallop linguini.

Browsing:

I missed the Shirley Jackson Reading Week! But I wanted to highlight Stuck in a Book’s post on covers of Jackson’s books

Over at Savidge Reads, some short story collections by Christos Tsiolkas and May-Lan Tan

Clueless is 20 years old. Twenty. Years. Old. 

The 321 books in David Foster Wallace’s collection (Open Culture)

Oh my… I really want to eat this Chocolate Honey Almond Tart (Averie Cooks)

Last week:

I read:


Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland – Eric Shanower, Gabriel Rodriguez
Second thoughts – Niklas Asker
The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories – Joan Aiken
The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

I posted:

Top Ten Tuesday: Last 10 books that came into my possession

The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories

Weekend Cooking: Kongbah bao and stirfried kangkong 

What are you reading this week?

Weekend Cooking: Kongbah bao and stirfried kangkong 

When I was growing up in Singapore, Sunday evenings meant heading over to my paternal grandparents (Gong gong and Mama) home in the Katong area, the east side of Singapore. Singapore, in case you didn’t know, is a tiny dot on the world map and getting from one end of the island to another takes no time at all. Well, unless you’re stuck in a traffic jam. And on a tiny island (277 sq miles) with some 5.5 million residents there’s bound to be traffic.

Sunday dinners were big affairs then, as my dad has four sisters and one brother, not to mention their spouses and children. We kids would eat first. My mum would scoop the rice from the rice cooker in the kitchen. Then we would bring the plates over to the big round dining table in the dining room, and get food from the dishes placed on the lazy Susan. We would head to the front porch and eat at the plastic table there, while the adults had dinner at the big table inside. There was always a vegetable dish, a meat dish, a fish dish and a soup. Cut fruits and Chinese tea would follow on the front porch afterwards. On a special day like a birthday there would be a dessert.

On our birthdays, we got to request for a favourite dish or two. I adored my grandmother’s fried prawns which had a flour batter. Crisp and light and easy to sneak from the kitchen when no one was looking! But I also pretty much always asked for her kongbahbao (also known as kongbak or 扣肉包). The tender juicy savoury pork belly wedged into soft steamed buns was our version of a burger. Sometimes it’s even better than a burger. Or if you don’t have buns to steam (I get them from the Asian supermarket here), the meat is fantastic served over rice with the gravy poured over.

The recipe is pretty simple and it can all be done in a crockpot for fuss-free cooking.

This was about 1 kg or 2.2 pounds of what the Chinese supermarket called ‘pork stew meat’ but pork belly is ideal. It should preferably have some fat on it, otherwise the meat will be dry.

Add to this 6 – 8 cloves of garlic (remove the skin and lightly smash with the side of your knife), 1 tsp five-spice powder, 2 tbsp dark soy sauce, 1 tbsp oyster sauce, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp sugar, dash of white pepper, one star anise. Some recipes include a few thick slices of ginger, others include a couple of tablespoons of Chinese cooking wine.

The crockpot was set on ‘low’ (but I think my crockpot’s temperature settings are actually quite high!) for three to four hours. Otherwise you can cook it on the stove, simmering it for about one to two hours until the meat breaks apart easily.

We served the kongbah with stirfried kangkong or water spinach (空心菜). It is named for its hollow stems. We picked these up at our local farmers market, which has a lot of stalls selling Asian vegetables. But they are also found at Asian supermarkets too. It’s apparently a close relative to the sweet potato, which is probably why sweet potato leaves (yes we like to stirfry those too!) look quite similar to water spinach leaves. Nutritious and cheap. And with their hollow stems they cook fast.

Kangkong has a very mild taste so in Singapore it is often cooked with spicy sambal belacan, like in this recipe here. But because the kids were going to eat this too, I stuck with just chopped garlic and shallot. It’s quite a bit of garlic I know but I think this vegetable needs it. I used about four cloves of garlic and one small shallot. Fry the shallot first then add the garlic. If the stems seem a bit woody chop the ends off, and fry the stems first. But this bunch had smallish stems and were cooked together. If you have chicken stock, toss some in with a few shakes of fish sauce and a good splash of soy sauce and a bit of white pepper. Otherwise, if you have oyster sauce, that works out great too.

If you want to make it spicy, finely chop some chilis and toss them in.

weekendcooking

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories

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It is times like this that I wonder what I was reading as a child. And why did I never read any Joan Aiken?

Would the child-me have enjoyed the Armitage family’s antics as much as the adult-me does today?

Because it was such a fun, silly, charming and enchanting read that I so wished I could share with my kids.

(They’re 2 and 4 and while they are developing their own sense of humour, I don’t think they’re ready to appreciate this book quite yet.)

What is an Armitage Family story?, you may wonder.

Well, there is Mark and his sister Harriet, and of course their parents, Mr and Mrs Armitage. Mark and Harriet are very likable, rather sweet kids, to whom delightfully odd things happen. Their parents often get turned into things, but react in very straitlaced manners. Like fundraisers and business meetings. Although the fundraiser is for the Distressed Old Fairy Ladies and Mr Armitage takes his meeting as an insect. As in, oh I am an insect, oh bother, here, son just take me to my office so I can conduct my meeting anyway.

You know, because these things happen. And mostly on Mondays. Because on Mondays, “unusual things were allowed, and even expected to happen at the Armitage house”.

One of my favourite stories involved Brekkfast Brikks, a dusty kind of cereal with a cut-out garden on the back. A magical cut-out garden that is!

And the one where Mr Peake, the ghost who lives in the house, takes Harriet out from school for the holiday weekend.

Or maybe it’s the one where the unicorn makes its appearance.

It’s just full of wonderful stories to read, reread and share. Whether it’s a Monday or not.

“Well,” she allowed, “we could have a special day for interesting and unusual things to happen – say, Mondays. But not always Mondays, and not only Mondays, or that would get a bit dull too.”