All posts by Liren

Secrets to Fried Rice Paradise

The wife knows I have been a bit bonkers about Fried Rice. I’ve been making it about once a week – in equal parts due to the following reasons:

  • It makes a great one-dish meal that can be whipped up in 15 minutes on weeknights.
  • Minimal washing up.
  • The kids love it and lap up every grain (no screaming at them to finish their dinner!)
  • My version has luncheon meat. Luncheon meat is heavenly.

fried rice

The other reason why I’ve been making this once a week is because it absolutely eats away at me when I can’t do a dish to the point where I think it should be. I’m not perfectionist, but it does frustrate me when a dish turns out sub-par. Wifey even says I get emo over it. Of course! Cooking is art that requires lots of thought and concentration. One lapse and the whole dish can be ruined. Is it true that chefs who cook using the sous vide method are lazy? Perhaps it is merely a step towards the desire for precision in their craft.

So the real reason behind the once-a-week Fried Rice dinners is this: I keep trying to make it better.

And here’s what I discovered are some ways to attain Fried Rice Paradise:

Use Rice that has been left Overnight in the Fridge

The fridge is a very dry place and leaving the rice uncovered in the fridge overnight dehydrates it. This ensures that when you fry the rice, each grain is separated from the others. Fried rice that is done this way is incredibly satisfying. Lumpy, mushy fried rice is a no-no.

Separate the eggs

When you have every grain of rice coated nicely in egg, the aroma of the rice is absolutely amazing. However, if you add the egg directly to the rice when you fry, it’s likely that you can a nice eggy aroma without being able to taste whole pieces of the scrambled eggs. I like to do both – add 2 eggs directly to the wok to coat the rice grains and scrambling another few eggs on the side to add to the rice later.

Aromas

The aroma in a good fried rice comes from a few different sources. The wok, the egg and the luncheon meat. I like to sear the luncheon meat in hot oil first till golden brown before adding the rice for frying. Browned luncheon meat is one of the best things in the world. Searing it in the hot oil before adding the rice also flavours the oil beautifully; and this flavour is imparted into the rice afterwards.

Vegetables

I’d be the first to say – I hate the frozen trinity of carrot cubes, corn kernels and peas. They taste disgusting and distracts attention from the smokey goodness of a good fried rice. It’s absolute sacrilege. It’s not necessary to add veges to your fried rice, but if you do, add a neutral flavoured one like diced long beans or… long beans. I can’t really think of any other vege that would give the fried rice some colour without compromising the overall flavours of the fried rice. If you know of any good combination, tell me!

And that’s it, one of my favourite dishes to cook recently. Till next time!

 

 

Adulting is Hard.

Being an adult is hard. Sometimes I really marvel at the complexity of life that I have had to deal with since I became a parent.

Finances, work commitments, caring for the children, family dynamics, navigating Government schemes. And on top of that, caring for myself and caring for my family. Trying to navigate an increasingly complex world for me and my children, dealing with the critical and often judgmental views of others who do not begin to understand the complexity and tiredness we deal with every day. I hardly have any emotional resources left after every weekend; and then Monday is here and work beckons.

To top it off, Xuheng is beginning his Terrible Twos and throwing tantrums every so often. Is it our fault as parents? Probably partly yes. But I can say for certain we are trying our best.

What are the options? Of course, we could outsource. To school, to parents, to other caregivers. I could then continue to have my pre-parenthood life. I could go for live music and grab a beer on Fridays, I could watch football on Saturdays midnights, and go cafe-hopping for brunch on Sundays. Why we don’t is a story for another day, but some days I really wish I could.

I struggle every day with the value base from which to parent. They say parenting is an “inside job”, but while my value base has always been quite solid I think, I find the Christian upbringing and my personal values have either surprisingly little to say to the dilemmas of modern parents or are just incredibly hard to live out given the constraints of life.

Or maybe it’s just about money. I suppose if I had unlimited money, all these problems would go away and I could just spend all the time I want at home and do whatever my heart pleases.

This is when the MLM marketers and investment “gurus” are ready to pounce. Go away.

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I don’t wanna grow up. 

Xuheng turns two!


My dear Xuheng,

You turned two yesterday! How time truly disappears when you’re having fun!

Papa is very proud to be your daddy. My heart swells with pride everytime you say a new word. It swells even more when I see you sayang your MeiMei and hold her hand.

Xuheng, you are an incredibly fun-loving, funny and even cheeky boy. Papa loves your laughter and your smiles. You just absolutely love to spend time with Papa and Mummy! 

You are also a very sensitive boy. You sometimes get upset when we use harsher tones on you when you do things you are not supposed to – like touching the electric socket or trying to open the car door. But this sensitivity also means you are so expressive of your love for Papa, Mummy and MeiMei. 

Papa loves how you absolutely must give MeiMei a hug, tell her ‘I love you’ and ‘byebye’ when she goes off into infant care before you go to your own class. Papa also loves how you always say to Mummy (instead of ‘byebye’) “Mummy I Love You!!” in the loudest voice you can muster. You are a wonderful, loving boy.


Papa enjoys our evening times before you go to sleep. You would throw a ball around, laugh and use daddy as your playground, sliding up and down and riding on daddy’s back like a horse. You can never get enough of playing that way with Papa! 

Papa never knew his heart could contain so much love and tenderness for you, my son.

Xuheng, you have grown so much! You’re a big boy now! Papa and Mummy pray that you will continue to grow in love, kindness and joy every day of your life.

We love you!

Papa & Mummy

2 July 2016

Redmart vs Honestbee vs PurelyFresh: Which one do you use?

I’m not a techie per se – I don’t hanker after the latest gadgets or the funkiest new technology. Many of the electronic items in my house were bought on a budget, some are even pre-loved. But one thing that I’ve been quite pleased with in recent months has been the advent of the grocery delivery services.

I’m the one who does most of the meal-planning and cooking at home, and so naturally the responsibility of grocery shopping falls on my shoulders. With two under 2, I initially tried to do one major grocery run to the wet market/ supermarket a week to save time; but honestly the carrying got to me. It’s not easy juggling 20kgs of groceries with a stroller and an easily-bored toddler.

Each of the 3 big players in the grocery delivery market have their strengths; but also weaknesses. Let me share with you:

Redmart:

RedMart-Screenshot-720x394

Redmart is the biggest player possibly because they were first-movers. The co-founder of Facebook is apparently an investor. They stock their own inventory in the warehouse.

Strengths:

  • Huge variety, excellent range. But, why you no sell bittergourd!!?
  • Generally, they carry higher quality items; some even from artisanal stores.
  • Good range of ‘angmoh’ items – if you need stuff like gluten-free, organic etc.
  • Excellent web & app user experience. It actually makes grocery shopping fun.
  • Excellent and responsive customer service.

Weaknesses:

  • I seem to no longer be able to get same-day or even next-day deliveries now that they are getting more popular.
  • I’ve encountered late deliveries a few times, but to their credit, they do give me some cash credit in my account to make up for it.
  • Their meat items, while fresh, tend to be of the more expensive range.

Honestbee:

honestbee

They don’t carry their own inventory. Essentially what they have is an army of shoppers ready to chiong down the NTUC aisles for you when you place an order and deliver it to your place.

Strengths:

  • Exact same pricing as what you get in stores.
  • Managed to get same day delivery once.

Weaknesses:

  • Because they don’t stock their own inventory, you can order the item online but when the guy shops for you, the item isn’t available. Now, that sucks. And in my experience, it happens really often – especially if you pick a delivery time like evenings (which I do because that’s the only time I’m home) and the shopper starts shopping for your items at 5pm. That’s when all the veges and fruits are gone already.
  • Their website only has pictures, but not descriptions, of the items. Sometimes, I need more information of the item but there’s none.

PurelyFresh:

FB Logo

PurelyFresh is actually the owner of several wet markets and they have leveraged on this supply chain to grab the market share of people like me – still like the quality afforded by the traditional wet market but needing the convenience of online shopping.

Strengths:

  • Their veges, meats and fish are seriously fresh. Excellent quality. The pomfret I bought was fresher than the freshest fish I could get as the first customer at NTUC.
  • Customisation. You can request for any type of customisation for your items – just like you can at a wet market. Chopping, slicing, gutting, de-skinning, de-boning, portioning. And no mistakes so far.
  • Clean packaging. The items come perfectly wrapped and clean. No leaking of blood etc from the meats. I just pop it all directly into my chest freezer.

Weaknesses:

  • Small variety.
  • Despite running their operations as an “online wet market”, there are many items you can get at the wet market that you can’t get here. Items like shui jiao skin, salted vegetables, salted fish etc are strangely not available. Low margins, I suppose?
  • I think they don’t deliver on Mondays (traditionally the day most wet markets are closed).

Conclusion:

You can probably tell by now, my experience with HonestBee hasn’t been fantastic. Given their operations model, I think there’s not much they can do to rectify the issues.

I continue to use both Redmart and PurelyFresh (I just ordered a third weekly order from PurelyFresh). Redmart is the mainstay for heavy groceries like rice, laundry detergent or drinks when I’m having guests over. Those tend to take time for me to accumulate enough for free delivery. For weekly vegetables, meats and groceries, I think I’m gonna stick to PurelyFresh for its quality and freshness.

Which grocery delivery service is your favourite?

 

5 things husbands wished their wives knew about Fatherhood

I wrote this post after coming in touch with many men who had a not-so-smooth transition to fatherhood after their children were born, and the resulting stress but great strain on their marriage. I hope that by penning down these thoughts, more men will feel more open to share their struggles and fears with their wives – thereby opening the relationship to greater strength and vulnerability.


We loved our wives before we loved our kids.

Our partners were our first commitment; and for some of us it was a commitment without knowing if we would have kids or not. We stood ready to love our wives through the ups and downs; through the thicks and thins, kids or no kids. Our wives were first, and even when the kids came we wanted to put you first. This will help you understand point number 5.

We struggle too.

No matter how macho or how bo-chup we look, we struggle too. Inside.

struggle

As all the attention is poured on our wives and our babies after they are born, we struggle with loneliness. Suddenly, the word ‘express’ no longer means having a HTHT with our soulmate. ’nuff said.

We sometimes find it hard to tell you we’re struggling.

Because of our male ego, or maybe because we just have less vocabulary for feelings, we may not be able to tell you how we are really feeling. Or some of us just feel plain guilty for bogging you down with our needs when we see you already struggling big time with a newborn.

silence

We may find it hard to let you know that we feel useless at home; or that we feel torn between you and your mother; or that we can’t help but wonder what’s happening to the marriage. We find it hard to let you know that deep inside, we are vulnerable too.

We need affirmation too.

And so please affirm us. Let us know it is appreciated when we wake up for night feeds. I know enough men who refuse to do so, to know that a husband who helps is not a given. Let us know that you know we are making an effort. Let us know that you know we love you.

We are afraid we will take second place in your heart.

We are so moved by your love for our children; and in that moment we know we made the right choice to marry you. Yet deep down inside, we are secretly afraid we will become number 2 in your heart; that we are no longer priority.

Fellow husbands and fathers, I hope this post encourages you. Often, it is not strength, but vulnerabilities that inspires. Let’s press on!

 

Delight and Despair in the Inner Life of a Father

I chased after his every move as he walked as briskly as his little legs could take him. To hold him steady whenever he walked down the stairs meant that I had to bend exceptionally low to reach his armpits. “Damn. Old already.” I muttered to myself. Contrary to popular belief, the high offices of financial institutions, political parties or even the UN Security Council are not the centres of power struggles. Imbalance of powers begin at the seemingly innocent playground.

The unspoken challenges of who can run faster, jump higher or climb quicker. The taunting gets louder with age. Gender and racial segregation, largely self-enforced, are clear as day. Social groups and imagined communities form a palpable sense of ‘Us vs Them’.

I looked on with pride as my son now climbs each step of the stairs more steadily than before. I am forced to my knees to go after him as he gleefully runs beneath a little bridge about half my height. I find myself scrambling and suppressing my laugh as he finds out for the first time the force of gravity on the slide.

And why do I notice mummies tend to go before a child, but daddies tend to follow behind?

Fathers are wired differently.

Mothers say, “Don’t run so fast”, “Don’t climb so high”; fathers say, “Run faster”, “Climb higher”.

Mothers protect by preventing children from getting hurt. Fathers protect by preparing them so they won’t get hurt in future. Both are needed.

Jason Wong, Founder of Dads for Life


I didn’t quite expect a short, somewhat routine evening trip to the plagground to elicit the most complex of emotions in me.

My heart soared as he screamed ‘playyyyyyyyyyy’ as I released him from the clutches of the stroller after I had applied a liberal amount of Ru Yi oil on him to prevent mosquito bites. And as quickly as it came, my beaming with pride turned to anxiety and worry.

He doesn’t know what he’s coming up against, I thought. Bigger boys. Higher steps. Kids who had no idea how their strength could be overwhelming to an 18 month toddler. Some who just didn’t care. I found in me almost a compulsion to protect, to catch, to ensure. And in cases when he was being bullied by inconsiderate kids, I almost wanted to bully back. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

The playground is the centre of power struggles. Us adults? We’re not immune either.


zeph 317

As a young man from a conservative Presbyterian background, I found this verse very hard to swallow. In fact, it was so out of sync with the worldview taught to me that I secretly suspected that this verse was added to the Scriptures by a heretic.

They say it takes a father to know one. I concur; and if I may add, it takes a father to know The Father. Who would’ve thought, that a trip to the playground would awaken the realities of this verse in my heart again?

Of course! Fatherhood is the awakening of delight. Us men, socialised into stoicity and emotionless strength, rarely open our eyes to wonder.

“From that moment, I loved him.”

A recent father describing the first time he sang to his newborn child.

We delight in the fruit of our wives’ wombs. We delight as they begin to wake up to the world around them. We delight when they first recognise us, when they first smile at us, when they call us ‘Papa’. Oh, the indescribable joy, our hearts bursting.

But this delight has a shadow. The shadows are cast when they seek independence from attachment. The shadows are cast when their attachments are aligned towards their mummies, as is often the course of nature. They are cast when us daddies, in our inevitable frustration and angst, lose our tempers and our self-control.

And the shadows are the darkest when us, in the midst of the busyness and demands of our careers to provide for the family, begin to feel that our children are chores rather than joys.

Oh, the despair. He’s climbing up that damn stairs again. How many times must I crawl on my knees? Is it time to go home yet? He needs to sleep. Argh. He doesn’t want me again, he always wants only Mama.

The despair of tiredness. Of frustration. Of helplessness, of meaninglessness. Of rejection.

These are but the hilly terrains on the landscape of fatherhood.

And like our children, traversing the obstacles up and down that seemingly innocuous playground, we follow them. We go with them through the ups and the downs, through the smooth parts and the challenging ones, cheering them on, picking them up, soothing their scraped knees and their scratched chins.

‘Run along!’ we shout.

Our hearts held back by apprehensiveness, but filled with delight.

 

What a crazy, crazy 2015.

I’m clearing whatever few days of leave I have for the year and I have a few moments to spare. The long drives to send Xuheng to the infant care and back these few days have been very pensive for me.

sunrise road

Credit: andrewandbonnie.wordpress.com

The roads are empty, the streets are dark (yes, we send him that early), and it all makes for a very reflective mood for me.

What a crazy, crazy year. In my mind, there is only one phrase to describe it: an emotional roller-coaster.

I have been through so many emotional ups and downs this year that it frequently drains me out.

I started this year on 2nd January beginning a new job. I had one 6 month old kid. I was staying in a small room rented from a kind friend.

365 days later.

I have a different job. I have two kids, a son and a daughter. I now have my own flat in Punggol.

My savings are dwindling every month. My CPF is wiped out.

I am poorer, yet I am richer.

I am happier, yet in some ways more stressed out than ever.

It gets better, but more complicated.

I’m thankful for the many blessings that have come our way. My wife’s strength and support. My parents’ help in the caregiving for the children. Fantastic infant care for Xuheng and a place at the childcare in the new workplace. Our wonderful domestic helper, Aye Mu. My own space in this house.

If you ask me whether I had foreseen myself going through all this at the beginning of the year, I would have said ‘no’. If you had asked me if I ever knew I could juggle this many transitions at one go, honestly I wouldn’t have known. It’s damn tough, but I grind it out living just day by day and saving up my childcare leave.

Perhaps one thing I need to learn is: responsibilities in life never get easier; we just become stronger.