Happy Chinese New Year! [PICS]

Chinese New Year greeting[MANY PICS BELOW UNDER FOLD]
Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year would be coming round this weekend and I am absolutely excited to usher in the new snake year.

My family has bought new pots of flowers, red glittery decorations and gave the house a good scrub. Most importantly, we have started baking festive delicacies, many of which are finger licking good and drool worthy.

This will be the starting point of my new project this year where I will spend the year writing and snapping pictures of my mum’s cooking. At the end of it all, I hope to be able to produce a family recipe book that records not only recipes but also kitchen larder tales.
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My grandma’s stories: Grandpa and life’s greatest hatred

(This is part 10 of an ongoing series recounting my grandma’s stories about her life and the old days in Singapore. For past entries, links could be found at the end of the post.)

“Even if I die, I do not want my ashes to be placed right beside him,” grandma said calmly of grandpa, a man whom she was destined to marry since being sold to his family at a tender age.

My grandparents got married in the postwar year of 1947 (Click here for my previous blog post about their marriage) and about two decades later, family life took a turn when grandpa became mentally unstable.

“He became crazy and would hit me with a shoulder pole (a yoke used to carry water buckets front and back),” grandma said. “He hurt my back very badly and up till now, I still cannot bend my hands to scratch my back.”

His acts became increasingly incomprehensible where he would at times buy baskets of vegetables like eggplants and spinach only to leave them in a room at home to rot.

I grew up having never met grandpa before nor saw a single picture of him. In my mind, the image of grandpa is simply a blank slate. So it came as a rude shock to hear from grandma about his insanity, the beatings and her unforgiving anger.
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My grandma’s stories: Hungry ghost festival, part two [PICS]

(This is part two of the eighth installment of an ongoing series recounting my grandma’s stories about her life and the old days in Singapore. Click here for the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eight part I of this series)

A live getai, literally translated as a singing stage, performance

“Many ghosts that come out of Hades during the Hungry Ghost Festival are hungry and miserable spirits roaming the streets for food. Misfortunes might befall upon you should you bump into the fierce and hungry ones. The way around it is to burn more money and prepare food for them in hope they will leave you alone,” grandma explained.

The Hungry Ghost Festival or yu lan festival, held during the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, has gradually evolved from the past to today in Singapore and Malaysia as culturally interesting events.

One of the highlights would have to be the free entertainment that could be found almost everywhere around the island every day of the week for the seventh month.

If you have yet to read the first part to this post, click here. [Scroll below for photo slideshow]

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My grandma’s stories: Hungry ghost festival, part one

(This is part one of the eighth installment of an ongoing series recounting my grandma’s stories about her life and the old days in Singapore. Click here for the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh part of this series)

Every seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the belief is that the doors of Hades would open for ghosts to wander back on earth. Many of them have suffered in hell where they starved for months making it necessary to feed them with offerings to ward off any evil, hungry spirits.

Though widely consecrated amongst the Chinese diaspora, the month-long Yu Lan festival, as it is also known, in Singapore and Malaysia tends to be loud, garish and colorful events.

This post would be split into two parts, published at the start and end of the week, where Ah Ma and my mum would discuss about the evolution of this festival.
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Book review: Malay Sketches and Eid Mubarak!

A late Eid Mubarak everyone! For all Muslim friends and readers out there, hope your weekend was filled with love and forgiveness, not forgetting good food and company!“Malay Sketches” by Singaporean author Alfian Sa’at will be my recommended read for this festive season, tinged with a strong dose of Southeast Asian flavor.

This book is about the Malays, an ethnic group residing around Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and southern Thailand, where the majority are Muslims.

I have always took the identity of Malays for granted until when my foreign friends asked me and it become quite awkward because having grown up with Malay friends and relatives, I did not consciously think about who they were.

This issue was also brought up in “Malay Sketches” through a fictional character Hidayah, a Singaporean Malay student studying in New York. Continue reading