Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tulip you don't normally see

I like tulips when they are in their buds. That's how posters, and photos depict tulips to be. But sadly, they expire and lose their youth and beauty.

That is why a person must not have beauty that is skin deep. I taught my students, that a person can be beautiful inside though they don't look beautiful outside. My kids assured me that I am both. LOL

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ho Mok Talay

This is Ho Mok Talay, New Zealand style. This Thai dish traditionally steamed in banana leaf cups has now morphed in Auckland and comes piping hot and on fire. It is in the form of a burning aluminum foil bomb which we dub as our Mt Eden Volcano.

Inside this aluminum foil mount exterior is a mixture of chopped calamari, mussels, shrimp and crab meat, mixed in an egg custard and steamed. It is spicy and soothing at the same time. My daughter likes it and she says it is very close to her Singapore favourite sea food, the chilli crab.

For her sake, whenever we go to the Thai House in Ponsonby, she orders this dish. You can't see the fire because I forgot to take the photo when it first arrived on the table.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Australian birthday cake.

My Niece Olivia turned seven. Her mum, my sister Helen made this beautiful cake for her party.How lucky Olivia is.
My sisters are good in making cakes, See Grace's
In fact we all inheritted Mum's genes. Mum loved making cakes. In the early 60s when I was a little kid, Mum learned from her British friends how to make rich butter cakes and iced them with royal icing. We had beautiful birthday cakes.
My fondiest memory was the day I ruined my Grandpa's birthday cake. We all had helped Mum beat the cake mixture with a big spiral hand held beater in a big bucket. In those days, she didn't have an electric mixer. The cake must have been fifteen inches in diameter because we had a lot of relatives. By the time, Mum had mixed all the icing, it was my bed time. She chased me to bed.
I woke up early before anyone was awake. In those days, because of the ants and humidity of Borneo, the food pantry were not attached to the wall. They were flimsy and had legs with a water moat and wire netting doors. I must have been 6 or 7 years old. I wanted to have a sneak peek of the cake.
I must have climbed up the lower level of the pantry to see the cake kept on the upper level. The cake fell to the floor, and the royal icing cracked to pieces. Mum and Dad heard the crash, and they came to see what the commotion was.
What happened next, I couldn't remember. Mum didn't say a word. I knew I was in big trouble. But nobody said anything, by then my siblings had woken up. They were probably using their body langauge telling me that I was in BIG trouble. Mum was too busy patching the cake.
To this day, we still marvel how Mum patched up the broken cake. At Grandpa's house, in front of more than fifty relatives, Mum was beaming with pride when she brought out the cake. The relatives oooh aaaah at Mum's European cake. You see, Mum was the first member of the big extended family to make Eurporean cakes.
The best thing was I was never punished.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Big Cheese, creamy brie

Some one brought to school for morning tea a big piece of creamy brie. It must be nine inches in diameter.

I am not a very cheese person. The other time was when I was much younger, a friend's Dad who was a farmer gave us a big piece of chedder cheese. It was like those you chase down the slope.

What can you expect from New Zealand, land of milk and honey.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I was in the Gold Coast of Australia in my sister Helen's house when I saw these majestic plants. On the way to Sam's Karate class, I see this yucca tree in some one's front yard. I see it's progression from a tall rod to eventually flowers. It was about ten feet tall as it was higher than the house.

I was in awe because it was strong and didn't need anything wire or stake to hold it up. I couldn't photograph the whole plant as I was sneaking around and stopping my car at a no parking zone.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spring flowers in New Zealand

What I like Auckland is there are always flowers no matter what season it is. I capture this in Western Springs park.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bauhinia kockiana

Doesn't this flower look like a wreath that you like to hang on your door at Christmas time?

My parents grew this tropical vine like you would grow the wisteria. They had the vine from the downstairs garden, and trained it to climb upstairs and twirl on the balustrade. Besides having beautiful orangy-red flowers, the luscious leaves made the balcony very cool for us.

It is also called the Red Trailing Bauhinia and is often also called the "Orchid Tree". They bloom through out the year. It loves full sun, moderate watering and the occasional fertilizing.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Grace's cake: metallic clutch bag.

You are right to think I made a mistake. It does look like a Versace clutch bag. It's my sister Grace's creation for a lucky girl's 21st.

I have an anecdote of a metallic clutch bag. In 1990, my husband got a job lecturing in the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Before we left New Zealand, my girl friend B. said, "Ann, you will be an important wife and will be going to dinner parties, so let's go and buy you a good Oroton bag."

So off we went, I bought a silver metallic bag. In the sixteen years I was there, I have never been invited to an important dinner party, even though he became an associate professor. In reality, they didn't invite wives.

When I came back to New Zealand, I gave the bag to Deborah. Hopefully she will get to attend important dinner parties. LOL

Thursday, May 13, 2010


This is the season of the feijoas in New Zealand. On the outer side, it looks like the guava, but is an oval shape like an egg. If the grower fertilizes the plant, the feijoa can be 4 inches long.

You can make jam, wine and pickle. I just like it as a fresh fruit.

The feijoa tree makes a good hedge. Some people don't eat them and let them drop and rot to the ground. My friend picks them up and shares it with his friends and me. Paki Paki for not wasting.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Red Berries

When I was in Singapore, I liked to give the lady of the house I was visiting some unusual flowers and hopefully they would last a long time. I liked these berries but unfortunately, my florist doesn't know its name.

In frustration after my probing, she tells me that it is the Australian Berry. However, I can't find it when I google search.

Does anyone know it's name?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Grandpa's 71st birthday cake

This was a very formal event. The year was 1967. Here Grandpa aka Ah Kung was wearing the formal attire of a royal official of the Ming Dynasty. It was a black silk top. Underneath, he wore a loose fitting version of the modern day sexy Cheong Sum or Chi Piao. It was a black silk gown. Then he had a pair of pants. We were young and sniggered that Grand pa was wearing a woman's gown. Little did we know, until I grew up and watched Chinese TV.

Mum made his cake. It was a butter cake with royal icing. At that time, very few people had a western cake in Borneo. Mum had learned baking from the British wives of Dad's boss. An aunt brought some red Chinese paper cutting of auspicious words. Making it a perfect fusion of East and West. It was some sort of an omen. Five of the kids in the photo have chosen to live in Australia, New Zealand and England. The Chan Clan has spreaded far and wide across the ocean.

For breakfast, all of us were served with sweet long noodles. Yes, you read it right, the sweetness signifying a sweet life, and long noodles for long life to all who ate this noodles.

There was great feasting, and hundreds of guests were invited to a banquet lunch in a restaurant.

My dad told me that at the birthday of a very healthy and successful person, people like to come to these parties. Some even gate crash. They believe in taking away a bit of the luck of this birthday boy. They will take away uneaten food to share with their family at home.

Vice versa, if the birthday person was a sickly person, people will avoid going to the party. It is seen as taking home the bad luck of the sick person. They will try to give all sorts of excuse why they couldn't come to the dinner. These days, they even state, " Please no presents." People still won't come.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Raymond and Hui Fung's wedding cake

This is a cake that made people say "WoW! Raymond, did you say your Aunty Grace made it?"

Grace made this for our nephew Raymond's wedding. She did most of the work, and some of us gave a little hand. If you look carefully at the bottom tier, where there are those delicate spiral lace work, and notice a rough patch, that's was done by me. Raymond's sister Flora flew back from Australia and did a great job.

We had to send one of the nephews to scour the whole of Kuching town to get as much icing sugar as possible.

We even had an consultant engineer giving advice. Our brother in law Teo was worried the cake would cave in or topple. When he saw the piling or wooden dowels inside the cake, he had confidence that the cake wouldn't fall. Before that, he had always wondered  why the multi-tiered cakes don't flop.
Transporting the cake to the hotel was an incredibly difficult job. Henry was driving very slowly, Elizabeth held the cake with the flowers. Her husband Kallang and I sat on the floor of the back of the 4 wheel drive trying to keep the cake in balance so it won't topple over.I don't know what Grace was holding.

We were all beaming with pride. I wish the cake was left intact because it was such a beautiful cake.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Making of Grace's Wedding cake.

Cake making and icing in the Chan family and now Tiong (Grace's) is a family affair.

For the beautiful wedding cake in the last post involved a lot of work. She made sugar flowers, leaves and figurine. Grace couldn't remember how long it took. She did it when she was free on and off during the day for 2 weeks. It was tough work mixing the sugar dough or fondant icing and gum paste. The gum paste had to be rolled to tissue thin and and not break. Royal icing for some of the leaves.

Grace reckoned if she worked full time, it would have taken 10 hours for those things, leaves, flowers, bows... colouring, She couldn't use spray paint as it was done at home. 1 flower was made by a friend of KK. That's the small peach one.

She spent another 5 hours to ice the cake and cover with fondant and put on final touches. Mixing the cake, cooking and cooling took another 4 hours.

Grace was so passionate and almost a perfectionist. She told her daughter Jessie that she took off the crooked lines and redo and redo.... That's why she was so stressed when she make the cakes.

Grace recruited her brother-in-law to knead the dough for her until it was pliable enough to use rolling pin on it. His hands got so tired and hot. Her cousin in law James helped paint the flowers and arrange the bouquet. James it was hard work because the flowers are brittle and not flexible like real flowers where you can squeeze through the foliage etc...

Grace says, "Things like that people don't know, only the cake people know. if doing for 1st time like me, then it was a surprise!"

For all the effort, Grace can say, "I can say, I did it. hehehe"

My comment is, Grace is a very special person to go such a long way for a sister in law. This is not the first cake she made, She made another fantastic cake for our nephew Raymond's wedding. Again, it was a family effort. Some of us returned from Australia and Singapore to help.

What's familY????

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Wedding Cake that Grace made for her Sis-in-law.

My youngest sister Grace made this wedding cake for her sister-in-law KK. This is the product of great passion and talent. Grace wants me to tell you that the whole thing can be eaten, figurine, wedding veil, flowers and all.

Hello Kitty is popular over here in Singapore. She wants to show the photo of the cut up cake cos many people think that the wedding cakes here are fake. It is hard making a real cake because of the humidity in Singapore..

Grace did not go to cake making school. She acknowledges that her love and her desire to learn cake making by watching our mother and Sister Elizabeth.

Our brothers also helped with icing the cakes. Henry used to play with the food colouring, he mixed green colouring into our nestum.

When Mum made cakes during Chinese New year, she would use 100 eggs, and all our us kids had to help in beating the eggs manually with a big spiral beater with the eggs in a big bucket. We took turns, beating the ____ out of the eggs, When one child is tired, the other took over. We all helped, that training taught us perseverance and helped in our careers.

We did so much together, that is why among the siblings, now scattered in so many parts of the world, we have so much to laugh and cry as we reminisce our child hood.

This Mothers' day, we think of the new babies that make us happy, the  babies that didn't make it and made all of us cry. We think of the mums who are sick and hospitalised.

In another post, I will tell you the scenes behind making the wedding cake. You can't buy these cakes, it is the fruit of love. Grace is not a chef, Grace is a computer expert, but a stay home mum by choice.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My sister Helen's cake

My mum taught us well. Here's another sister Helen's cake for her son Thomas.

This cake was made for Thomas. Kind of muddy disaster because the chocolate ganache icing melted in the hot hot Queensland Summer!!!. Thomas loved the cake especially when the fireman and firetruck got stuck and were sinking into the mud.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Sister Grace's cake

My mum was a fast learner. She was one of the earliest in Sarawak who learned to bake Europeon cakes and ice them beautifully. My sisters followed her foot steps. I bake and ice cakes, but I am not sophisticated and don't make dainty cakes.

Grace, the youngest sister is very clever with her hands. She sews beautifully, and her cakes, well, this speaks for itself.

Spaghetti Bolognese

We are ethnic Chinese, but my kids grow up in the western world and they love Spaghetti Bolognese. As a dotting mum, I cook what they like to eat and then cook something Chinese for the water engineer.

I have been cooking Spaghetti Bolognese for a long time and in large batches. I have cooked to raise money for the Deaf Children in Kenya. My recipe is not authentic and do not have lots of herbs and spices.

Today, as I cook this batch of Bolognese sauce and vege spirals, I feel quite emotional. I am cooking them for a family who is faced with the sad prospects of losing a mum to cancer.

Fellow blogger Autumn Belle @ KDP comments that this year, she has become a "straw",
This is from the second verse of a Chinese Children's song;
Mommy's the only dearest in the world
without a mom you are like a piece of grass/straw
away from mom's heart,
where will you find happiness?

You can hear the song on my other blog.

Happy Mums' Day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Carve a Craved Water melon

Crave a carved water melon,
Carve a craved water melon,
Carve a craved water melon for a craved job in a craved country.

I was never good in tongue twisters.

I was watching a documentary on New Zealand's recruitment of Thai Chef. The chefs had to do a fruit and vegetable carving presentation. Once I was in Bangkok, and was staying at the Bangkok, Dusit Thani hotel. My girls and I were admiring the vegetables presented in such a beautiful way.

This photo was taken last Year during the Thai King Bhumibol Adulyade's birthday. There was a display of fruits and vegetables so beautiful that you feel sorry to ruin it by eating.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gingko fruits:Pak Guo

The Gingko tree, the leaves are good for your memory.

The Chinese use the gingko nut for sweets. They are very good for you., fellow blogger and my school mate and "big sis" said she would like to be under the gingko tree. Yes, it would be lovely to see the leaves. Just don't look down when the fruits are ripe.

CY, this is for you.
I bent down to find some fruits and take the photo. Because I have decided that this is a food site, I am not going to tell you my reaction. Do go to my other site and you will understand why.