A Non-Traditional Chinese New Year

祝大: 马年吉祥!马到功成!马年行大运

Chinese New Year has been pretty simple this year. No spring cleaning, no shopping for new clothes, no visiting of family and friends. There has not been much of a 气氛 (atmosphere) for me here since my family are not with me and I am not at all integrated into the Chinese community. While saying that, I still enjoyed this festive season, with my two BFFs, Xiaowei and Lili, in an untraditional way. We tried to hype up some fun amongst ourselves. The plan was to have a meal together and bake some Singaporean style pineapple tarts. XW and I were in charge of the pineapple tarts, naturally, though we are two newbies at it, while Lili was the head chef for our CNY lunch. The menu was evident – hot, spicy Sichuanese food. As she says it, “我的招牌菜 (my signature dish) !”

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Another way to commemorate CNY is gambling. However, instead of gambling with money, we decided to use wasabi peas since we had a newcomer. A little creativity allowed everyone to spice up their life with wasabi burning up the nostrils. 

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We planned to finish making our tarts within a day but we started the day late (how does it always end up like that…) and on top of that, we took our time to savour the amazing home cooked meal. In the end, we only managed to do up the jam.

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The pastry was left to the next day where we tried to work as efficiently as possible since we + husbands were craving to have a taste of the end product.

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For first timers, I must say we have done a darn good job. Of course there are always areas for improvements but for now, I am popping those tarts in my mouth like nobody’s business! 

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Not too bad for a quiet CNY. Sending out all my love and wishes to friends and family back home! You have been missed! 

 

Signing of with love, 

Esther 

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The Little Details about Sunny Singapore

Many more details to come… 

I officially touched down in Singapore on the first of February, Friday, 30 minutes after midnight. Despite an hour and a half of delay on my first lap of flight from Montreal to Chicago, I still managed to arrive in Singapore at the designated time. As a waft of local accent floated around me, I breezed through the automated clearance gate knowing that I am home.

What struck me first, needless to say, was the climate. The air smelled different. Instead of the clean, crispy smell of winter, my nose twitched to the strong earthly flavours of heat and humidity. My eye lids grew heavy as I prepared myself for the night. I assumed that my exhaustion from a gruelling 23 hours plane ride would knock me out completely regardless of my environment. Confidently, I chose to do without the AC and left the windows open. My assumptions were wrong. My body reacted to the perturbing heat and city sounds. It had been a long night.

Jet lag struck for the next few days. I was tired both day and night hence I took things slow i.e. I had only one activity a day. On the first official day of landing, I caught up with a girlfriend whom I will not be seeing for a long time. We treated ourselves to local Teochew Porridge. The stall is located opposite Beauty World, Bukit Timah. The second day, we made plans to head down to Chinatown for what I call the ‘Chinatown Squeeze’ (to be elaborated later) and the third day, a simple steamboat at my cousin’s place.

Teochew Porridge

When introducing Singapore, there are three main things to summarize this tiny red dot – the climate, the people and the food. Aforementioned, the climate is one where you feel sticky all the time, like post stick pads. In terms of people, the recent heated debate has been whether Singapore, as a country, is ready to accommodate 6.9 million people by year 2030. This is definitely a conversation for another day as this sole reason is enough to make me grateful to have the opportunity to step out of this congested country. Every year, my family and I have this tradition to head down to Chinatown to bask in the Chinese New Year atmosphere.  Numerous stalls selling various goodies have been set up along the streets resulting in a non stop shopping. The main excitement? To squeeze with the rest of the population while walking down those narrow streets. Imagine heat, humidity and crowd. You wouldn’t want to be caught in there for too long.

Chinatown

 

Chinatown Squeeze

Beside Chinatown, there is a famous food center called Maxwell market where you will be spoilt for choice. You can find many of the local food there such as Char Kway Teow, Hokkien Mee, Rojak, Popiah etc. Definitely one of a kind where is it hard to find these flavors anywhere else in the world besides, maybe Malaysia. A shout out to foreigners who are visiting the country, ‘Get a seat before buying your food’. It may not sound like a considerate thing to do but one has to adapt to the culture. I saw quite a few foreigners walking around with their tray of food, lost and exasperated. Les pauvres.

popiahhandmade dumplingsIt is great to be home to spend some time with my family and friends. It is also a good opportunity for appreciate Singapore and its uniqueness. The next few write ups would probably revolve around my home country and its culture so stay tune!

Wishing all a Happy Chinese New Year!

Wishing all a Happy Chinese New Year!

Signing off with love,

Esther