29 February 2008

Three-Tier Pork Cutlet ( A surprizingly pleasant mistake! )

OK, I am guilty about this. I refrain from fried food as much as possible, but my overworked husband has been so pressurized these days, I thought making his favourite food should make him feel better. I shall share other non-fried recipes another day.

This invention of mine is actually a result of failed attempt of another recipe. Laughs ;P The rolling portion did not work out well so I decided to pile everything together. Ha ha ... My husband likes it so much that he calls it ' the mistake divine '. Under the crispy crust, oozes melting onion-flavoured cheeze with mushroom and a tinge of Perilla leaves or seaweed. You may like to arrange it anew in your choice. Check out the recipe!

Ingredients ( Makes one cutlet )
3 slices of pork, thickness of ham slice
thin slices of onion ( around1 mm thickness )
1 mushroom, sliced thin ( around 2mm thickness )

1 piece of cheeze
2 Perilla leaves ( Or use 2 pieces of seaweed for Japanese style )
1 egg white
Bread crumbs

  • Lightly salt and pepper the pork slices.
  • Spread thin slices of onion across a piece of pork slice, followed by the mushroom slices. Tear cheeze into 2 and spread across. See pictures below for details.

  • Now, place another slice of pork on top of the stack, with the fats portion facing yourself. See picture below. I think this avoids one-sided fats concentration.
  • Fold Perilla leaves into half, spread the 2 folded leaves across. Place the last piece of pork slice across with fats facing away from you and it's done. Cutlet below is finished with seaweed.

  • Fasten with toothpicks if you feel that you can't handle the cutlet well.
  • Dip in egg white, attach bread crumbs.
  • Fry at medium heat until bread crumbs turn into delicious brown.

Frying Tip : If you are using low level of oil, it's better to land the cutlet with cheeze portion facing top, turn it later to fry the reverse. Cheeze tends to ooze out a little after frying, just be careful.

I've made 2 cutlets, one with Perilla leaves, another with seaweed within. My husband loves them both. You may wish to replace with other leaves that carry a unique flavour. It may be a small cutlet, but bear in mind you are consuming 3 slices of pork with that.

A healthy note : Fried food is not a very healthy choice. My family consumes fried food once in a fortnight, if not; longer. Take lots of vegetables and fruit if you must have fried stuff. I shall share some healthier options in days to come. Meanwhile, hope you'd enjoy this humble recipe!

28 February 2008

Lovestory of Orchids and Singapore Botanic Gardens

I have never loved Orchids when I was in Singapore. Orchid has been the representative flower of Singapore and they are such a commonplace everywhere, but they were just no more than ordinary to me then.

It was until when I started staying in Japan, and I was struggling hard to get past the first winter. One cold morning in March, when I was still agonizing over the unbearable freeze, something caught the corner of my eye...

It was Orchids, and they were fully bloomed! The luxurious colors were such a sight in the cold deadly winter, I thought I have not seen life like this for so many unbearable months. They looked indescribably beautiful in the golden ray of sunlight. Warm tears immediately welled my eyes, I could hear them telling me ' Hang on just a little more. Spring is coming... '

From then, my love for Orchids began. And I don't think that this new found love will ever cease.

The whole thing began officially when I started owning my Orchid plants. My husband fell in love with Orchids too, as he watched them grow. My lovely Orchid plants, Phal Kun and Ran Ran have brought us so much joy. It's queer how flowers can bring such gentle soothing effect, just by being themselves. Phal Kun and Ran Ran are like the fellow Singaporeans staying with me under the same roof, and sometimes they make me forget where I am. The period from first bloom to end of flower, is about 10 weeks, so it is really quite a delightful span of time compared to other plants.

During our CNY holiday, my husband and I visited the Singapore Botanic Garden. There is a special ' Orchid Garden ' within, and we took the chance to find out different variety of Orchids. It is my pleasure to share with you some of the pictures we have taken.

There were several species of Orchids in all different colors, shapes and sizes. Some were as huge as my palm while some were tiny, like the size of a thumb.
The beauty of Orchids can hardly be captured by my poor camera skills, but I can tell you, they are nonetheless uncomparably beautiful in their own way.

26 February 2008

Phal Kun & Ran Ran


There is no regret going back to Singapore for CNY holidays of course. Yet someone in Japan was probably longing so much for my return.

I started growing these lovely Orchids since last year's Spring and they added a new song to my life. It was tough looking after these tropical plants in a climate like Japan's, but I thought I was doing well.

Orchids, or rather, the ' Phalaenopsis ' type that I am growing at home is one of the most difficult to raise in cold Japan. Phalaenopsis is extremely vulnerable to chill, sensitive to hydration level, and particular about amount of sunlight. The Japanese calls Phalaenopsis the ' difficult flower ' indeed.

This is ' Phal Kun '. I named him so as he appears a sturdy young boy to me. ( ' Kun ' is the Japanese word used to call little boys ) He looks radiant than anything else whenever he bathes in the sunlight. He sparkles! Phal Kun is always such a delight to look at whenever we have our breakfast and enjoy the morning light. He is the apple of my eye.

Phal Kun has been responding well to my love and showing signs of bloom for the coming Spring. I sought advice from Orchid sellers and did my best to protect my Orchids carefully from chill, when I had to leave for Singapore.

Sadly, the countermeasures did not seem sufficient. To explain in Japanese terms, both Phal Kun and Ran Ran were severly ' scalded ' by the extreme chill of winter. I've learnt that the temperature has unexpectedly dipped way lower during my absence, it could have been then that my Orchids suffered.

I wish I could be there and protect them from the harsh winter...=*(

I hate to show you their present pathetic state. Both show no sign of recovery and their condition seem to be deteriorating. However, I am not giving up. It's alright that they may not bloom for us this Spring, I won't even think about it.

Phal Kun and Ran Ran are probably my closest friends in this lonely place. Looking after them takes a little effort, but every bloom makes my joy complete. It really saddens me to see their present state. I wish there is something I can do to make them feel better. All that I ask is Phal Kun and Ran Ran may be able to pull through this winter and survive.

I hope that I'll be able to post the good news next time. Meanwhile, I am trying my best to keep them comfortable in my love...

Lesson learnt : One can never be too careful. Complacence
costs. Let's protect the ones we love.

25 February 2008

My pastor is back. =)

One of the kindest people I have known in Japan, is the pastor of my church and his family.

I am attending a small church in Japan all these years and the only pastor of the church has always been caring towards my husband and I.

Last year's Christmas was hard. Pastor has been diagnosed with cancer and had to be operated on immdediately. He was admitted early this year to have his entire stomach removed. His condition is difficult becos of diabetes and other complications, the risk of failed operation is high.

The church moblized in chain-prayer for the 6-hours operation. I think I have not prayed so hard for such a long time... I felt immense relief and gratitude when I was informed by the pastor's daughter that the operation was a success.

My pastor went into a period of recuperation, while I went back to Singapore for holidays. It was great to meet my pastor again on Sunday's service. =) He looked tired and a little feeble, obviously smaller in size as he has lost 29kg. Yet this warm man has never failed to greet me a cosy welcome whenever I return to Japan.

I am thankful to Jesus for planting me in this small church, and surrounding me with warm people like my pastor and other members. I thank the Lord for every Sunday's message, that always give me joy and encouragement. It is unimaginable that this part should be eliminated from my life. I've come this far by the Lord's grace, and all these peoples' love.

I thank the Lord for the success of my pastor's operation, and may the Lord continue to heal him and regain health soon. May pastor serve our Lord Jesus another 10, 20, 30 and more years to come. May the fellowship of the church be a sweet time always, as we seek the Lord's presence and face with our hearts. Amen.

For the loved ones around us, let's not take their presence for granted. And let's take care of our health always.

21 February 2008

Tempura + Special Sides & Wild Tips

My husband has been working overtime since the we've returned from the CNY holiday. He seems tired after a few days of hard work and I decided to do some special dish to cheer him up. Tempura!

For your information, the Tempura is first introduced to Japan by the Portugese, and became a popular dish among the Japanese. Even the name ' Tempura ', is originated from the Portugese. The Japanese has long since been good in imitating something, customize it a little, then calling it ' theirs '.

So much for the introduction. Let's check out this basic recipe. I shall produce a little more complicated version and share again someday.

Recipe for Tempura ( Fried prawns ) [ Scroll below for Special Sides ]

Preparation of prawn ( 10 prawns for my serving at home ) :

  • Purchase prawns that are big. The ones I use are longer than my palm when extended. I'd love to tell you what prawns I'm using but I only know their name in Japanese ( 車えび )[ Huh, ' Car Prawns '? ]
  • Take off the shell of the prawns leaving the tail portion intact. Devein.
Wild tips : Keep the prawn shell scraps in the frozen section of the refridgerator. They come in handy for other dishes, especially seafood soup. Just drop 5 to 6 prawn shells in a pot that broils 4 servings, and they produce the extra goodness to the soup. Serve without the shells please. =) I shall share more about these shells sometime later.

  • Cut off the ends of the tail ( about 5mm ), see picture below. It is said that this eliminates moisture in the tail part and makes frying safer.
  • Insert 3mm cuts into the flesh ( tummy area? ), see picture below for positions. The idea is to cut the vein of the prawn so that these hunchback fellas can straighten their back.

  • Dry the prawns with kitchen paper towel. Dry them well for safer frying!
  • Powder the flesh part very lightly to achieve dryness. Leave tail part alone.

Preparation of batter ( For frying 10 prawns and sides ) :

  • Use specialized Tempura flour, or even ' weak ' Wheat flour. Follow the instructions for Tempura mentioned in product's packaging, if any. Else, you may like to try my lighter version.
  • For mine, there's no hard and fast measurements, just a 85% cup of flour, and full cup of water. I prefer lighter coat for fried stuff. Consistency varies between different product, so if you find your batter too watery, add flour little by little to achieve a light creamy mixture. Do mix batter well.

Preparation of oil :

  • I am using Ajinomoto's cholestrol-free oil which is very light. Use a depth-deep frying pan, got to pour in a generous volume of oil to pretend bathing the fellas. For my prawns, the oil level is about the height of my forefinger.
  • Heat oil to 180deg. Sorry guys, my stove heats to 180deg upon command. To know when your oil is ready, land a droplet of batter into the oil. If it surfaces and appears ' fried ', it's time!


  • Dip prawns into batter, and leave the tail part alone at best. You would want to see the reds after frying.
  • Depending on the size of you pan, fry prawns 2, 3 or 4 at a time to acheive better frying. Overcrowding causes prawns to stick together or unable to expand in size during frying.
  • Catch the prawn by tail, dip slowly into oil, and perform a gentle swing; forth and back. This causes the batter to produce great crust. Finally, let go of prawn in a straight forthward position. The rhythm should go ' Forward, back, forward, back, land. ' Attempt the next prawn. It takes some practise.
    * Note : This action is not a must. If you feel uncomfortable about it, please do not risk your poor fingers. Just slide the prawn quietly in will do. =)
  • I fry 3 prawns in my small pan. Collect upon less than 2 minutes' oil bath, and cool on kitchen towel. ( Hehehe, I've run out of nice oil papers. ) You may wish to cool on a rack.
  • You should see some crust remains in the oil after scooping up the prawns or other ingredients, as much as you can, try extracting those crust remains out as they tend to interfere the next batch's fry. Repeat after each batch.

Fry tip : Specified time may not be reliable especially when the desired temperature is not achieved. Size of ingredient makes a difference too. Generally, Tempura need not be that deeply fried in order to achieve the golden hue. It should appear cream white and lightly crusted. Should part of crust start to turn slightly brown, scoop the fella up.

Recipe for Special Side 1 : Stuffed green pepper

Ingredients ( makes 6 ) :

3 green pepper, 2 chicken fillet, 1/4 onion; minced, salt, pepper, 1tsp cornstarch

  • Mince chicken fillet, season with little salt and pepper. Rub cornstarch into minced meat. You may add 1tsp of water to ease rubbing. This effort helps retaining moisture of meat so that it will not become too hard after frying.
  • Mix minced meat with minced onion well. Fillings done.
  • Cut head and tail off green pepper. Half and rid off seeds.
  • Spread fillings into green pepper.
  • To fry, simply dip into batter and fry for 2 minutes.

Recipe for Special Side 2 : Bundled Enokitake

Ingredients ( makes 5 ) :

Enoki Mushroom, packet of Japanese seaweed( 5 pcs within )

  • I am only using part of the mushroom pack here. Cut roots of the mushroom, but to the extent that they still adhere together. Split carefully into comfortable bite-size bundles. Do not spread them loose, this makes bundling job easier
  • Bundle each piece of Enoki branch with seaweed. Wet the ending side of seaweed to create the adhering effect. If seaweed fails to yield. moist them carefully to make them soft for control.

Wild tips : Wrapping seaweed around ingredient gives surprizing flavour and special look to the dish, but dry, crisp seaweed may be a pain to manipulate. Extract needed seaweed out of drying agent, expose packed seaweed in the kitchen for 2 days before use. Refridgerating helps too.

  • Holding bundled side, dip into batter. Fry for 2 minutes.

In the Tempura dish, prawn is the main while others are sides. For the sides, the Japs use anything from mushrooms, lotus roots, herbs to potatoes. Do pull them together in a plate to make a gorgeous pile. The golden rule, always arrange the prawns with tails pointing up!

Enjoy the natural taste of Tempura. Or, serve with Japanese sauce like つゆ( Tsuyu ). You may lighten the taste by adding a little boiling water ( to serve at colder climate ), or just water ( at hotter climate ). For us, we like it straight. Some like it with grated daikons ( 大根 ) within the tsuyu, ( oh, spare me ). Other options : prepare a small dish of good mineral salt for dipping, barbecue sauce, Tartar's, you name it.

頂きます。( Itadakimasu : I'll be tucking in. )

To Chinese New Year 2008! CHEERS!

According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, 21st Feb is the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, which marks the end of the Chinese New Year (CNY )celebration. Though I've been back to Japan since the 4th day of the Lunar New Year, I'm still very much in the CNY mood. The reunion dinner on New Year's eve with my family was heartwarming. My husband also managed to join us for this utmost important event of the Chinese.

I love the decoration and warm atmosphere everywhere! Everything is in big, loud RED, which symbolizes ' auspiciousness ' in Chinese belief. GOLD is another auspicious and popular color. You can't help noticing the eye-catching decoration and be engulfed in the cheery mood!

I really wish I could stay a little longer to catch the fireworks display, and have more local food before I return to Japan. Two weeks' stay is truly a little short, but I know that I ought to be back home to support my husband.

My husband and I managed to visit Vivocity Shopping Mall for the first time, and got a brand new shopping experience. I was impressed by the scale of the mall, and the wide variety of shops that it has. As it is being built beside a harbour, we got to enjoy the outdoors when we got tired from shopping. Watching the sky and sea was really relaxing. We would surely like to return again to check out the remaining stores and spend time leisurely in the cafes by the sea.

My fishing-fanatic husband never misses his chance whenever he is in Singapore. He claims that Singapore has exotic fishes that can't be found in Japan.

We tried fishing at our favourite Changi Beach, but the waves were too strong and we returned disappointed. My husband decided to try again at the HUGE pond near my
home, and TALA, he caught 2 fishes that looked like cousins to me.

GIF animations generator gifup.com

Don't the fellas look alike? Orange happens to be one of the CNY theme color for ' Gold '. I can't help but feeling gleeful about this unusual catch while there are undoubtedly many other fishes of different colors in the pond. I wish something good will come our way this year. =D

I've brought my favorite CNY goods back to Japan of course! Pineapple tarts, barbecue pork slice, cookies, nuts and chocolate bars that I can't find in Japan. Though I could not bring over some Mandarin oranges, I brought a pomelo back to enjoy for days. =D . CNY still ' reigns ' in my house whenever I nibble on those goods in unspeakable delight.

I thank my husband for his understanding towards my needs, and my family's warm reception to the both of us during our stay. Every CNY has been such a great time, but I reckon too that good times never fail to pass too quickly.

Perhaps, I would never truly appreciate the spirit of Chinese New Year, and relish the traditional custom; if I have not been married overseas. I've probably looked forward, and enjoyed CNY in a child-like anticipation, more than any other adults of my age. I guess any other lady married overseas feel exactly like I do... We shall never grow indifferent to the celebration of CNY. Wherever we are, CNY shall always be celebrated even if we can't return to our hometown for reunion. Yet, it is still my sincere wish that all Chinese worldwide, may reunite with our loved ones again for this special festival of the year. This New Year, may all your fondest dreams come true. Peace, Love, Joy.

祝 新年快楽、歳歳平安

15 February 2008

Macaron for Valentine's Day 2008

If I were to follow the Jap's style, I should be producing something out of chocolate for Valentine's Day sweets. Yeah, I know.

Unfortunately, my husband had too much good stuff during the Chinese New Year stay in Singapore, and signs of ' heatiness ' has revealed all over him. I decided that he better not touch those heaty stuff anymore, especially chocolate and nuts. He sulked when I told him frankly, ' Sorry dear, no chocolate for Valentine's Day this year '.

I changed my mind on the V-Day afternoon. For all the love that my husband has showered me, I ought to produce something to express my loving, so long it's without the coco formula. Wink*

Both of us have not tried macarons before until I've produced some home-made ones. I have the impression that Singaporean bakers are making the macarons the ' in ' thing, so I merely followed the trend. The unbearable sweetness of macaron isn't really into my fancy, but my husband loves it absolutely.

There is still plenty of areas to buck up on, like the appearance of the feet, flavours and so on. Look, these sesame flavoured macarons are considered disqualified as they are without ' feet '.
The cranberry flavoured ones ' can probably walk ' ( oh, they look like cute little UFOs ), but their feet obviously too large and needed to be kept neatly within.

I know that I've done a sloppy job this time : poor piping, temperature is too high, feet problems & etc. Well, I'd surely love to try making better ones next time.
There's plenty to learn for a novice baker like me! I really look forward to learn much from other bloggers and friends around me. Your precious advice is welcomed anytime!

My husband smiled from ear to ear when he saw the macarons after overtime work. My dear deserves what's from the bottom of my heart.

So, Happy coco-free Valentine's Day.

14 February 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

It's the special day of the year again, Valentine's Day.
Do you know, in Japan, Valentine's is meant especially for the gentleman. Ladies would prepare Valentine's Day token like chocolate, branded gift and etc, for their special ones. The ' ladies' version ' of Valentine's Day falls a month later on 14th March, which they call it the ' White Day '. This is when the ladies shall receive a gift from the guys.

Just in case you feel that Valentine's Day has nothing to do with you, or should be specifically designed, defined and dedicated to the only ' eligible ' ones, Valentine's Day can be celebrated by anyone, everyday, everytime. =)

I thank God for His warm and unfailing love, that I need not wait for one day in an entire year to receive a token of love from Him. Everyday has its own joy, blessings and gift of love, and I receive them free. Neither need I burn my pocket to give back something just as valuable or worthy.

Love is just so amazing that money can't buy, neither is it measurable.

I thank my loving husband, family and friends for their loving too. I may not have given much, but they are always kind and loving to me. I think this alone is one good reason to celebrate Valentine's Day and remember the goodness of those who love us. Valentine's Day definitely takes more than just a lover-partner, let's be thankful for those who ' lovers ' who love us in their special way.

Happy Valentine's Day.

07 February 2008

Happy Chinese New Year 2008!!!

It's the time of the year again! HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!
I can't really explain, but the Chinese New Year seems to be rather ' quiet ' compared to the previous years...

Nevertheless, it is a joy to be back and able to celebrate this utmost important event of the Chinese. I thank God, loving husband and family; anything that makes this possible.
Wishing everyone a blessed year ahead, with good health, happiness and prosperity!