Tag Archive | vegetarian

Lohei coming out of my ears

Sumiko Tan might have had sharksfin coming out of her ears. I’ve never been that fortunate, pre or current anti-sharksfin days. That’s another story.

But I could claim that my celebrations this Chinese New Year saw lo-hei or yusheng or yee sang coming out of my ears — contrary to my original expectations.

I had expected not to be able to indulge as much as in past years, given the fact that my mother isn’t supposed to drink any more due to falls and other health reasons. As I never ordered yusheng or bought takeaway myself if I’m not allowed to add a generous dose of brandy or vodka to the raw fish, it had seemed likely that little or no yusheng would pass my lips this year.

While I abstained from putting out money for yusheng, others who ate with me weren’t as abstemious, starting from the second day of CNY at my sister’s where we always eat our kai-nian fan. A nephew got a rough and ready portion from a hawker in Commonwealth Avenue to complement the home cooked meal. It was good, even if at $18 it was really cheap — for yusheng!

This was followed a few days later — the 7th day of CNY and Ren day — when a brother bought vegetarian yusheng from a temple in Punggol to add to the home cooked dishes at mum’s. Her Picky cooked for the visiting families who are related in one way or another to Tan Yeow Joo, my late grandfather.

Alas, because these relatives all arrived at different times and fell upon the main meal immediately, we had to postpone the lo-hei to dessert time, by when I had forgotten to take a picture! 🙄

Still, I made up for it with subsequent lo-heis I took part in, starting with the grand affair of the Association of Banks in Singapore where for almost 3 hours on Feb 2, the Marina Mandarin’s ballroom saw more bankers per metre than at Raffles Place, Shenton Way and Marina Bay Financial Centre put together.

The same night at chair yoga at Kampung Glam Community Club, the two sifus threw a mini lohei for the class apres yoga and, because some students are vegetarians, the yusheng –made from a recipe by one of the sifu’s mum — was also luxuriously vegetarian, with vegetarian abalone contributed by moi. I got them from Esther boss of my fav vegetarian restauant, Create Healthy Lifestyle at Fortune Centre.

The next day happened to be the monthly lunch group’s pig-out and this time we did it at Jumbo at Dempsey. It was good but I wasn’t done yet.

On Saturday, I returned to the old mansion (now newly restored) for my first invite for an Open House there. It’s been 10 years since I celebrated Chinese New Year with that family at the Old Mansion. How things have changed!

And last but not least, last night I enjoyed a smashing 8-course vegetarian dinner, complete with yusheng and cold appetisers at New Fut Kai at 282 Jalan Besar hosted by brother SY. The restaurant had relocated from Kitchener Road and tho the new place was smaller, the food was just as good. And needless to say, the place was packed!

1st lo-hei of year at sister's home

food at my home prior to dessert lo-hei

el grand one at Marina Mandarin

tossing equally grand 😀


made with love by the sifus of Kg Glam

the yoga toss for luck


one of my fake abalones



Jumbo's yusheng


the Grand Mansion's version of tossing


New Fut Kai's vegetarian yusheng


the extended family tossing together


...after which dinner began with these sumptuous cold appetisers


Where’s home?

To end every year of the Chinese calendar, I participate in two family re-unions. Reason: I have 7 brothers with whom I share the same father and one sister with whom I share both parents.

After my grandfather passed away in 1986, my father for reasons best known to himself initiated the mammoth re-union dinner for the extended family. Which was never on Chinese New Year eve itself but on a night close enough. That’s a nod to the fact that majority of the extended family members already have families and in-laws of their own and their priorities for New Year’s eve might not co-incide with the minority.

The reunion dinners with Dad were always in a vegetarian restaurant — mostly at Kingsland (now gone with the wind as has the complex where it once was — Albert Complex, now renamed OG) but occasionally there were deviations, such as once in Coronation Plaza This was because Dad was a full-blown vegetarian.

When he left us in 2001, the extended family wanted to carry on with the reunion dinners, tho with one important change. We forsook vegetarian restaurants: we went from buffet outlets (eg Princess Terrace) to sit-down fare at Old Hongkong one year and Zhou’s Kitchen another year, both at Novena Square.

We might have gone to another restaurant for the latest mammoth reunion but as there were easily 50 of us, even when the full complement is never present, someone thought a potluck at a condo club house might be more economical and relaxed especially now that the extended family includes some restless early primary school kids who are less easy to restrain that babes in arm!

So there we were on Saturday night (Jan 21) at a condo (where No 1 nephew lives) on Dunearn Road with a satay man working overtime to feed the hungry mouths. In addition, there were home fried beehoon Putien style (we are more or less Putienese), chicken wings from Ikea, brocoli and cauliflower vegetarian dish, tofu vegetarian dish, vegetarian fried rice, vegetarian vegetable curry, tradional Cantonese “chai”, Peking duck, pizzas, whole soy sauce chicken from Chinatown, home made Drambuie fruit cake, papaya, Jeyu grapes, white nectarine, bean curd gingko nut soup and Belgian chocolates.

potluck lucky mish mash

Alas, I overlooked to take any pictures of the ecclectic spread but managed too late to take one of what I was eating in my third round, as I listened to my oldest brother explain why he’s still nostalgic for Singapore.

P said: “I’ve been living in Melbourne since 2005 but the longer I’ve been away, the more I miss home. I don’t feel at home unless I’m in Singapore.”

I postulated that it’s because he and wife live with their daughter and family Down Under.

“No,” he replied. “We feel at home when we are there. It’s only during the 3 nights every week when we are in our own house that we feel home-sick.”

Shorthand? Family makes for home and reduces home-sickness when away from Singapore.

I looked around the room as those who share my bloodline or are related to me through marriage cluster in small groups bonding over food and catching up.

Two nephews have relocated from the Middle East; one after 5 years in Egypt; another after 3 years in Qatar. Another absent nephew has worked in Kuala Lumpur longer than he has worked in Singapore.

There’s a brother who is almost a China permanent resident having been there since the early 1980s, not to live but on short stints that lasted several months a time in places like Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu — till more recently when one factory he’s overseeing in Xian is finally done and he like all of us are getting on in age and prefer the bubble of S’pore to the wide expanse of the world.

His daughter, however, has globe-trotted for one year even be4 she had completed her tertiary education, calling many parts of the US and parts of Italy her temporary home.

Yet another brother makes such regular and extended trips to Shanghai shepherding his Singapore students to a twin school there that he feels quite an expert on the former “Paree of the East” :lol:!

I wonder how many of my nieces and nephews and their offspring — or even my younger siblings– would feel like my oldest brother feels: nowhere in the world other than Singapore feels like home? After all, unlike us — ie their parents and/or grand-parents —  the wider world would be where their own family would be scattered as more and more places would be accessible to Singapore and Singapore to those places.

By contrast, my reunion dinner at my sister’s last night was less of a thought provoking affair. It’s always good robust Chinese cooking as her late MIL used to serve the family. And my sister and her hubby have been living in the same home for the last 39 years — which is really rare in a world of rapid and constant change! 🙄

Not sure if this is exhilirating or plain depressing, especially when I consider that after many, many house moves I too have settled in one place for gasp-gasp (!!) 22 years! Have I grown roots or have I just become moribund?

Done this for 39 reunion dinners

Hungry for meat!

Contrary to what I had expected, giving up meat — even for some of the time — is really hard to do.

This despite the fact that I don’t eat beef, lamb, mutton, duck, goose, game, and many forms of crustaceans and many cuts of pork. Which shows there aren’t that many kinds of meat left in the animal kingdom or that many types of seafood that will tickle my appetite.

This also despite the fact that I’m hugely fond of all vegetables, nuts and fruit, except perhaps the pineapple.

I discovered that I’m not cut out to be a full-time vegetarian only recently when I began limiting eating meat or fish to just one meal per day. When social functions make it impossible for me to stick to that regime, I make up for it later by having all vegetable and fruit days.

I’ve written about how I longed for meat, especially pork, in a post last year.

Nothing has changed since then.

The other day, I was at Marina Bay Sands be4 lunch — just to vary the timing of my joust with Lady Luck — when I felt a sudden need-4-meat attack.

I was in Rasapura — the MBS food court — and decided to succumb to my craving for  meat rather than eat vegetarian and save my meat quota for dinner!

satisfying meat pangs

 Yup, I just had a few pieces of roast pork (siew yoek) despite the tempting meat array (below), because most of the meat on display was anathema to me: goose, duck, char siew! While the pork ribs were expensive and messy and difficult to eat.

sight for meat hungry eyes!

Dinner from winnings

When I won “big” by my reckoning at the Marina Bay Sands casino on Jan 7, I thought of treating myself to a good dinner with my ill-gotten gains at one of the restaurants either inside or outside of the casino.

The only trouble was I already had my meat meal for the day at Beng Tin with my friends and so dinner had to be vegetarian — and it would be a shame to blow my winnings on a salad, potatoes and such like. Also, I didn’t want a long leisurely dinner; just food that tastes good.

I deliberated whether I should head down to Rasapura the food court where I know from my 5th visit to the casino on Jan 2 that there was a vegetarian stall. The helper was friendly and generous with the helpings. The prices weren’t exhorbitant.

But I hesitated heading that way because of the longish stroll from the casino and also because the food was right out of the Greasy Spoon.

So Hobson’s choice meant Tong Dim, a noodle house right inside the casino, which saw long queues outside the first couple of times I was at the casino last year.

On the night of Jan 7, I was lucky. There was no queue. In fact there were empty tables and the receptionist was most helpful.

dinner bought with my wins

There was only one dish on the menu that met my no-meat, no-fish criteria. Vegetable fried rice. And my request for less oil was cheerfully acquiesced to. As the dish cost just $7.50, I even splurged on a glass of white wine, a Lindemans chardonnay which at $12.50 a glass could have bought me a whole bottle from the supermarket.

Still, it was the casino’s money I was spending, so I didn’t feel a scrooge.

I was in such a good mood that I even checked for Sparklette’s benefit whether the restaurant charged for water, warm or cold. When told “no”, I wondered why I wasn’t served any with my rice but was still in such a charitable mode that I made no fuss.

My meal ended and I returned to hitting the jackpot machines but not for too long. Because I’d been out all day — though only getting to the casino around 4.30pm — I decided to call it a day while most of my winnings were intact.

You see, once i had bought a full-year entry to the casino I didn’t feel the need to max out my $100 per day levy. I could go at any time and leave when the going is good. Which is what I did on the 2nd time I used my annual entry pass!

So you think wine is vegetarian?

The other day, I had a small window of time while shopping at Cold Storage Great World City. So I lingered a little at the wine section, checking prices mostly, to compare which country offers the better buy among the large variety of wines available.

One thought that struck me was why the supermarket grouped the wines sold according to country of origin instead of according to pricing which would make shopping so much easier and efficient.

I also find it ridiculous to see very expensive Marlboroughs sitting next to far cheaper grapes from the same region and country.

I’m not fussed about country of origin but I’m more fussed about the grape. And I usually want to pay no more than $25 for a bottle of table wine and have often to hunt high and low, to find one that met both price and grape criteria.

Anyway, this post isn’t about my wish-list to Cold Storage to make its wine section more customer friendly.

typical wine label

Rather, it is to share my discovery that wines contain ingredients, trace tho these may be, that must make them unsuitable for those who adhere to a strict, permanent vegetarian diet, assuming that strict vegetarians — those who don’t eat meat or fish out of religious conviction– are allowed to imbibe alcohol, 😉 .

Apart from the ubiquitous declaration that sulphite has been added to the wines, my eyes widened on reading on typical labels (see above) that milk, egg and even fish — yes fish — could have gone into making the wine.

Perhaps this isn’t news to sophisticcated wine drinkers. To me, however, it’s a real revelation.

This discovery means when I go vegetarian for religious and spiritual reasons — perhaps only one day a year, usually on Chinese New Year day — I may have to forego alcohol altogether too, unless I can find a wine that goes well with vegetarian food but doesn’t contain any of the taboo ingredients!

Road to vegetarianism

Although there are many species of meats and seafood I don’t eat — duck, goose, beef, lamb, veal, deer, turtle, to name but a few — I’m not a natural vegetarian.

I do like meat and seafood, most times.

Despite this, I’m all ears when a conversation turns to vegetarians and vegans, as it did last night.

Some friends and I were having a hearty meat and fish dinner at Pieterasanta, that delightful Italian restaurant in the heart of Portsdown Road. More about that dinner in a future post.

For this post, it’s about the train of thought triggered by HTK, one of my dining companions, who in turn turned to the topic because I started talking about one of his ex-colleagues I had run into recently.

That started him talking about another ex-colleague who had turned vegetarian in preparation to become a Buddhist monk. But that wasn’t the thrust of his spiel. Instead it was about the good value and service of the $25+++ set lunch served by Seven on Club.

He extolled Seven on Club for being so service oriented that it was prepared to cobble together a vegetarian set lunch for his ex-colleague, even though it wasn’t part of the daily deal — and charged nothing extra for it.

Besides making me want to visit Seven on Club sooner rather than later, HTK’s story also caused me to think about the vegetarians and semi-vegetarians I’ve known, who took their meatless route for different reasons.

There was my dad. He became a vegetarian when he was 19 and according to family folk lore for no reason than that he fell sick every time he ate meat. And so he continued his meatless regime till he passed away at 87.

Then there is this friend from Kuala Lumpur who made a vow to go vegetarian for life if her desperately sick older sister could survive her heart operation. Her sister did and my friend has been a staunch vegetarian for over a decade now.

A new young friend who came into my circle recently — via the chair yoga class — is also a vegetarian.

She’s a jet-setting professional who just returned from a 3-month working stint in a Namibia manufacturing operation. She’s healthy and full of life and when asked whether vegetarian food was available in South Africa (I’m quite suaku), declared it wasn’t a problem at all.

And of course there is my old school mate, the indefatigible Betty Khoo — mother of motivation guru Adam Khoo and also best selling author of the Cancer Cured and Prevented Naturally book.

She has in recent years gone vegetarian, for the environment and health, though I don’t think she’s as strict about it being a wholly non-meat meal at all times.

A close relative of mine who after a family tragedy a couple of years ago has gone vegetarian too but, like Betty, not in a fussy way. Eat vegetarian whenever he has control over his meal.

A long-time Indian friend is vegetarian for a few days every week. He reminds me of the time when my mum ran a hair-dressing business. She and her staff used to go vegetarian for 10 days every month, and in certain months — the 3rd, 6th and 9th month according to the Lunar calendar, if I remember correctly.

In those days, staff were given board and lodging as part of their employment package. So some workers who weren’t into vegetarianism used to complain that that was a cunning way for the boss to save on her workers’ food bills.

Of course that was decades ago when veggies were cheap and meat expensive. Now both run neck and neck!

Reunion pick & choose

Every year, as the Chinese New Year draws near, my extended family will hold its omnibus reunion dinner, so that each nuclear family will be free to have its own smaller reunion on the eve of the new year.

The combined reunion is attended by 40 to 50 family members, with the occasional would-be-family member joining in. The numbers depend on how many of us are in Singapore or have returned to Singapore, and have no important over-riding engagements that fall on the date picked.

Every year, the wife of the first born in my generation will fix the date for the omnibus reunion. This year the dinner was held unseasonably early on Jan 31, two whole weeks before the New Year, due to the fact that brother and wife had returned from Melbourne to Singapore earlier than usual to do missionary work in Batam. And they needed to be back home to his Church Downunder be4 their 4 weeks being away were over.

waiting to be tossed

So, last Sunday night (Jan 31) saw us some 40+ strong gathered at Zhou’s Kitchen in Novena Square Two starting our $388+++ set menu dinner by tossing yu-sheng.

Before my father went to heaven rather suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 87 in 2001, we tossed only vegetarian yu-sheng, as my father became a vegetarian from the age of 19 and never craved for meat. Sure, he was a Buddhist but his vegetarian diet was a preference rather than a sacrifice. Hence all our reunion dinners were at vegetarian restaurants, notably at places like Divine Realm etc which have all (co-incidentally) closed since his passing.

All this is a preamble to the diverse ways those at my table approached the dishes that were served.

A brother, still mourning the loss of his teenage daughter two years ago, has in recent times gone semi-vegetarian, by avoiding meat and fish wherever possible.  So steamed drunken prawns and steamed live garoupa, sharksfin soup and chicken were off limits. Even with yu-sheng, he could only eat the salad.

His mum, who had taken a vow to avoid several kinds of foods, including garlic and onion, had also forsworn live prawns and fish. I’m with her where live prawns and fish are concerned, tho I’ve not taken any vows.

I just feel it’s so wrong to eat something that’s still swimming in the tanks only minutes be4, altho I’ve friends who tell me scornfully: “You mean it’s all right to eat something that’s been dead hours, days, weeks?”

My mum avoids all prawns, live or otherwise, so she skipped the prawn dish too. Alongside her, a sister-in-law skipped the sharksfin, chicken, prawns, fish and the raw fish. And of cos, mum’s picky Siti refused to eat yu-sheng.

In the end, only one or two dishes were fully cleaned out, including the dessert which was wholly and undilutedly vegetarian: cream of red bean with glutionous rice dumpling!

Considering our respective dietery quirks, I’m wondering whether we shouldn’t  return to those vegetarian reunion dinners when Dad was around?

Perhaps next year!