Pig’s Trotters in Black Vinegar | 豬腳姜醋

Typically a confinement dish, Pig’s Trotters in Sweet Vinegar has recently becoming a dish that even folks who are not currently in their confinement period love to eat. Despite the name, the dish is cooked with the entire leg, and not just the feet. The biggest benefit of this dish is that it repels ‘wind’ in the body, an ailment that happens after women give birth, hence a popular confinement dish. It also helps to warm up the body and provide lots of nourishment from the ginger, vinegar and pig’s trotters.

I’m not any big chef, nor a MasterChef wannabe, but just thought of recording how I made these dishes, to serve to remind myself if I decide to make them again. Hopefully this will help someone out there who wants to try out this dish as well. Like almost all Cantonese dishes, it is not difficult, but tedious and with many small steps. Some of these steps could be removed and the procedure sped up, but it will compromise the taste of the dish.

The key in this dish is most definitely the vinegar, and I only use Chan Kong Thye’s sweet black vinegar. It’s been the one that my grandmother trusts and uses for the past 3 decades, and I’ve also known many other people who cook this dish and also uses the same brand. There are 2 types of black vinegar, the one with yellow label and pink label. They are almost the same, but the pink label is of a higher quality. The price was not much different (less than S$1) so I bought the higher quality bottle.

 

Ingredients:

  • Sweet Black Vinegar x 2 large bottles
  • Pig’s Trotters x 2 chopped into large pieces
  • Old Ginger x 3 large pieces
  • Brown Sugar x ~500g (or as required)
  • Water x ½ bottle
  • Hard-boiled Eggs
  • Sesame Oil

 

Cooking Method:

  1. Remove the skin of the ginger and chop it up to large pieces. Use the hilt of your knife and hit the ginger so it breaks open.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Ensure that the oil does not smoke.
  3. Stir fry the ginger constantly for at least 5 mins on high heat, until the fragrance of the ginger is released
  4. Pour both bottles of vinegar into a separate pot. My grandmother uses a claypot to cook this dish, but glass or ceramic pot will do just fine as well. Try not to use a metal pot, as the vinegar is acidic and prolonged cooking will damage the pot.
  5. Add in the sugar & water. I do not normally add sugar as we like it strong, but sugar is a good ingredient to reduce the acidity of the vinegar.
  6. Transfer the ginger into the vinegar, taking care not to pour in all the remaining oil.
  7. Bring the vinegar to a boil, then turn to low heat to simmer for 1 hour. You can cook the pig’s trotters immediately, or leave it overnight to cook another day. Keep the pot well covered.
  8. (While vinegar is boiling) Wash the pig’s trotters and remove as much of the visible fat as possible. This will reduce the fat that is present in the dish, making it less unhealthy.
  9. Blanch pig’s trotters in boiling water for 20 mins. This is somewhat of a cleansing method, removing all blood and any dirty things inside the bones. Boiling the trotters for 20 mins will also cook the trotter. In this way, when the trotters are simmering in the vinegar, the vinegar immediately gets to work breaking down the muscles in the meat, making it nice and tender.
  10. Clean the trotters again in tap water. Rinse well and pat dry.
  11. Add the trotters to the vinegar and continue to simmer for another 90 mins.
  12. Turn the heat off and let it cool.
  13. Once cooled, add in the hard boiled eggs.
  14. Leave it overnight. Reheat and serve with rice.

 

One key thing to note is, that you should NOT eat this as soon as it’s cooked. This dish is best left overnight. There is no need to refrigerate the dish as the acidity of the vinegar is a natural bacteria killer! Properly covered and with no contamination, it can store for a few days. Just reheat it over and over again. The more you reheat, the better the dish! The next good thing about making this dish is that if you find that you have finished all the meat, just use the same pot of soup and add more meat! As long as you ensure there is no contamination to the pot, it can last you as long as you want it to. To avoid contamination, the ladle that you use to serve this dish should be clean and dry. At any one time, only use one ladle to serve. Do not add water. Ensure there is no ‘double dipping’ going on. Any cutlery used to scoop food into your mouth should not be reaching into the main pot!

About the hard-boiled eggs, as eggs harden the more they are cooked, it is always advisable to cook what you intend to consume. This will take a bit of pre-planning as the eggs need some time for the soup to penetrate every part of the egg. What I do is that I’ll throw in the hard-boiled eggs a few hours before I intend to eat this dish, so when I actually get to the time I’m going to reheat the dish, the eggs are pretty much ready. What that means, is that if I’m intending to have this dish for lunch, I’ll make hard boiled eggs in the morning and throw it into the pot of vinegar to be soaked for the entire morning. This way the eggs are being braised with the soup, yet still maintain the texture and softness.

If anyone who reads this post ever tries with the recipe, let me know how it goes for you!

Blogging Ten

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Another anniversary today! 10 years since I’ve started blogging! I’ve changed so many blogging platforms over the past 10 years, bought my own domain, my posting frequency waxing and waning constantly…

Even though I don’t blog as much now as I used to, I can never let it go completely. It’s the first platform I used to put a little tiny blip on the World Wide Web, and it’s definitely not something I can easily give up, not when it is this meaningful.

So, here’s to another ten good years!

Rant and Rave: A History Lesson

Singaporean theatre has evolved through the decades, much of it I was never involved in, not being born early enough. Not that it makes any difference to my enjoyment of The Finger Players’ “Rant and Rave”.

Running for 90 mins, and broken into 3 broad segments, the show gives a succinct recap of the formative 80s, the tumultuous 90s and the transformational 20th century of Singaporean theatre. Played by 2 amazing actresses, Arts NMP Janice Koh and veteran Karen Tan, both seamlessly weaving in and out of characters, with some characters played with such accuracy it brought a smile to my face the moment the character first appeared. I have to point out that Karen’s portrayal of Alvin Tan (Co-founder, The Necessary Stage) was so spot on that many members of the audience were heard giggling.

The one segment that I felt really strongly about was Arts and the Media. There are many times when I find that much of the arts community have this innate sense of martyrdom, and that they are quick to jump against what they perceive as injustice dealt to them, especially by the media. A recent memory was that of Straits Times Life! writer John Lui’s article where he commented about Ilo Ilo not going to be a box office hit in Singapore, despite all the winnings at various international award shows. So many theatre folks on my Facebook timeline went up in arms, calling Lui a fraud, a disgrace and whatever they can think of. The only thought I had at the point in time was, it’s just his opinion. Right or wrong, that’s up to the reader to determine. The industry complains so much about the government thinking that Singaporeans are stupid and not able to think for themselves, yet this incident shows that they don’t even believe Singaporeans are able to think for themselves and judge if an article has its merits or not.

Watching “Rant and Rave”, I feel really sorry for the art critics who are bashed, judged and scorned for their opinion piece. How can the practitioners expect their audience to have an open mind, if they themselves are not willing to give their audience some credit for having a mind of their own. I also do not believe in a comment that was made by a practitioner that basically judged theatre reviewers for their lack of understanding of the process of putting up a production. Why should they need to have that background or experience? Art is about what it means to the viewer, less so about what the director or scriptwriter wants to force down the audience’s throats. The reviewer’s job is to take his experience and put it into context for the person reading his article. A review is, in its very nature, subjective. The very nature of theatre is also the life it takes on its own, sometimes contrary to what the creator’s message really was. Different aspects of the same show will appeal and stand out to different people, and that has always been what makes theatre truly magical. Maybe, instead of snarling at the reviewers, we can take a step back and see how our works have been interpreted, and seek to understand the rationale behind the interpretation. It could even bring a whole new perspective to the show.

In any case, we have only been growing the arts scene for 30 years, I believe it is still too early to demand for maturity in all aspects. And that includes the arts practitioners, the critics, as well as the audience. All the major arts and cultural hubs around the world have had the vast history and more than half a century’s worth of evolution as their foundation and backbone. I also believe that all the challenges that the arts community currently face, will simply become fodder to continuously feed the public as we grow beyond fulfilling our basic needs of food and shelter, and seeking nourishment of the mind and soul.

“Rant and Rave” is on for one last show tomorrow afternoon as part of Esplanade The Studios Season 2014, and I recommend everyone to go catch it while you can.

X: Psychedelic Violence Crime of Visual Shock

I’ve been counting anniversaries a lot this year. 2014 is the 15th year since I’ve fallen in love with the band that changed my perspective, X-JAPAN.

Thinking back, there are many firsts that I can count that are related to X.

  • ‘Forever Love’ was the first song I downloaded from mIRC
  • First MV I searched for to watch was ‘Endless Rain’
  • First time I went to watch a movie (Windstruck) solely because of the ending song ‘Tears’
  • First celebrity that I researched online to find out about their history
  • First time I wrote to the radio station’s Japanese music program to request for a X special, and sending them all my research (I almost went on air as a guest, but I chickened out)
  • ‘Forever Love’ was the first song I tried to memorise the lyrics for by searching for the romanisation
  • Their ‘Perfect Best’ CD box set was also the first, and only, box set I have.

When I bought the ‘Perfect Best’ box set, I played it so often that I could memorise the order of the song, and I could recognize the song just from the opening few lines of music. The 2 CDs, together with Luna Sea’s compilation album, were always in my CD booklet that I carried around. I was always plugged into my Walkman and secretly hated meeting a classmate on the way to & from school, because I had to pause the music and socialize.

I’ve talked about X before, and even till now, I’m still impressed at the amount of strength & determination that is inside someone so seemingly vulnerable as yoshiki. Someone who is soft spoken, loves to giggle, and is so polite that he finds it hard to reject if you ask him more than once. Even when he gets mad, he’s adorable. But when it comes to music, the focus and the perfectionism shines through the roof. It was the most obvious when they were in the midst of their fifth, and what turned out to be the final, album “Dahlia”. The album took 3 years to write, record and produce, because yoshiki was tweaking it so much.

Enough about yoshiki. Even though yoshiki is definitely the soul of X, I love the band, not just him. Their creativity and songwriting skills were impressive, as well as their arrangement capabilities. I was 16 when I first listened to ‘Forever Love’ and toshi’s voice is nasal yet not annoyingly so, and the music was just enchanting. I was totally caught up in the melody, picturing it with the manga I was reading. X-1999 by CLAMP was what introduced me to X, if anyone really wants to know. It was the first time I realised how powerful music really is, the ability to pull you into a scenario and fire your imagination and emotions. It also struck me how important the vocalist / the voice really is. I didn’t understand the lyrics, didn’t know what it meant, but toshi’s voice matched the music so well, it’s like an instrument in itself, part of the entire arrangement. It was the first time that I realised that lyrics is not everything. You do not need lyrics to feel the emotions and message of a song, if it’s well written. This also set the foundation of my music taste till now.

The variety of music that they write is also another defining factor. Their styles range from various styles of metal, to classical, to acoustic, collaborations with philharmonic orchestras, purely piano ballads; it’s just simply amazing the range that they display. The tempo changes drastically mid-song in ‘Silent Jealousy’ and ‘Kurenai'; including even a short excerpt of ‘Swan Lake’ in ‘Silent Jealousy’.. They released a 30 min long single with one song, ‘Art of Life’, a song which brings you through various emotions

But what I really truly love about them, is that they are rebels. True rebels through and through. Why else would you persist in this pioneering road of visual kei in conservative Japan? KISS is acceptable, but only because they are gaijin, or foreigners. X is not. They are true blue Japanese. All that dressing up as Victorian chicks with long wavy hair and copious amounts of make-up was simply unfathomable to the Japanese, especially the media. But still, they sold albums. Amid all the hate, they sold tens of millions of albums, leaving those Japanese press with no choice but to grant them interviews. No major label wanted them, so they released their albums as an independent label. And they still sold albums. They write songs about sex and death and other taboo / unorthodox topics that were touchy in Japan. Yet they still sold albums.

I’m still waiting for the day I get to see them in Singapore. L’arc-en-ciel has been here. Luna Sea has been here. When will it be X? Every time I remember the Taiwan concert I went to, the emotions I felt when I was shouting WE ARE X!… I just wish I get to see them again, soon!

p/s. This post is posted today, because it is hide’s death anniversary today.

Annyeong Daehan Minguk!!!

It’s been 15 years since I’ve been in South Korea, the first, and the only time I’ve been there was during the year end school holidays in 1999. I was only 16 at that time and the whole family went on a package tour. Don’t really remember much about the trip, only that we were luckier than the other bus in that we got a better local guide who kept us entertained with random jokes and stories. The first Korean word I learnt was ‘ippoyo’, because he said that it sounds like 一包藥 (a packet of medicine).

Those who know me will know that I’m loyal to a few Jrock bands, but otherwise my celebrity flings come and go at lightening speed. And I hardly pay much attention to a celebrity when they are at their peak, and only start being interested after they’ve passed it. Thus, 9 years after their debut, I’ve recently been taken up by Super Junior, and in particular Kim Heechul. He’s pretty, handsome, funny, witty, and crazy, all rolled in one. Just the type of unorthodox celebrity I’d like. Anyway, fan-girling aside, the whole reason I brought up Super Junior (other than continuously telling the world Heechul’s my bias), is that I’m finally going to South Korea again! After 15 long years!

Flying off in a few days and really looking forward to eating the local food and visiting all the tourist spots that I missed, and the museums that I didn’t get to see. Plus, maybe do a bit of Heenim stalking.

7 years of Twittering

2014-02-20 21.40.26

On this day (and time), 7 long years ago, I signed up for a little application called Twitter. Social Media, social networking, microblogging were not terms that were popular in those days and it was Twitter’s explosion at SXSW in 2007 that caught my attention and made me decide to try it out. It was an odd thing to use, as it forced users to be much more succinct than blogging, and you were not essentially communicating to any specific person like SMS services.

I was here,

  • Less than 1 year after the official launch on July 2006.
  • Just a little over 1 year from their founding date of March 2006.
  • One month after their wild popularity at SXSW in March 2007.

My Very First Tweet! #notmymostintelligenttweetunfortunately

firsttweet

Tweeting now is a lot simpler, cheaper (to non US / UK residents) and more meaningful than it used to be back in the early days (for me, at least). As an early adopter of this service, I’ve seen how Twitter can impact our daily lives and our social interactions, especially how it changes the way we accept how information is shared with us.

  • SMS shorthand

Unfortunately, I’m going to start with one of the annoying things that I believe is in part correlated to how users adapt to Twitter formats. Many of the newer users may not be aware that the reason why you are restricted in the number of characters in each tweet really goes back to how it was during the early days. There were 2 ways to send a twitter (as it was called in those days), via the web / via SMS to a UK based cell phone number. The 140 character limit that Twitter has is largely due to the restriction of characters in SMS. It had to be short to be able to be sent via SMS. This brevity means that if you want to say something a little longer than 140 characters, you had to get creative. So ins8 o typin in eng, u typ in shrthd so u cn put mre in a twttr dan norm. n typ lol so u cn luff.

[rant/] I remember I spent quite a bit of moolah on Twitter then, as we had to pay (~S$0.60) to send a tweet as it could only be sent via SMS to a UK number! For folks living in US or UK it was cheap, as they had local numbers to send to, but for all overseas users, each tweet actually cost us physical dollars. Plus, you get an SMS every time someone you follow tweets. So if you follow 10 people, and each person tweets 5 times a day, you would get 50 SMSes a day! It was so annoying that I even remember tweeting something like “People who twitter 3 times in a row needs to have a life.”. Imagine how invasive Twitter used to be without these mobile apps. [/rant]

  • Popularising of URL shortening services

This is definitely a result of Twitter. Even though URL shortening services were already available (Remember TinyURL?), their use was very much limited to sharing on IRC or for easy remembering. With the character limits of Twitter, if anyone wants to share links, it will be impossible to comment, as some article links just take up the full character limit. Thus services such as TinyURL became extremely useful. Why I believe Twitter is a mover in the URL shortening service world is really because TinyURL was launched in 2002, many years before Twitter, and it monopolised the URL shortening service ‘industry’. It had no competition, because usage was low. Then Twitter came about and with the character limit, the need for such services grew so much that many more blossomed, each domain getting shorter (bit.ly) and shorter (t.co). This is basic economics of demand and supply. Without Twitter users’ demand, TinyURL could be the sole supplier for more than 5 years, until that product could no longer satisfy the users’ needs (TinyURL’s shortened URL is 25 characters, yet bit.ly is 14 characters).

  • Instant information

What I mean by this is that before Twitter, we got opinions from blogs, news sites, forums; we got social updates from friends by texts, emails, phone calls, and meetups. With Twitter, there is instant updates about every thing they are doing, from what they are eating, reading, or watching; where they are going to; how they feel about the last meal they had… In the beginning, we didn’t know what to do with Twitter, so we over-shared.  It became a platform for regular people to be ‘famous’ by shouting out to the world. Then regular folks started getting into conversations with people they followed. People started sharing news and information about the things that are happening around the world. 2009 was an incredible year for Twitter. Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) realised the brand enhancing power of Twitter and ballooned to 1M followers. Barack Obama won the US Presidential Election. Michael Jackson died. These news were spreading like wildfire and for the first time since the launch, Twitter found itself a new path. Even the company realised it, and changed the question asked to “What’s happening?”, instead of the previous “What are you doing?”

Whatever the type, these are all information. News, gossip, sightings, tips, all information that we can get as soon as the incident happens. There is no waiting a day for the newspapers to write it up, or the bloggers to draft a post analysing the situation. Everyone can be a reporter, posting updates on the fly. If you didn’t read it on Twitter when it happened, you would be getting ‘old’ news, because everybody else would have (I’m exaggerating, of course). This is sometimes to the point if you hear a rumour on the streets, your best bet would be to search Twitter. If it’s word on the streets, you bet it was tweeted first.

 

In any case, with this Anniversary, I became curious about how Twitter has grown over the years and their major changes and milestones. I can’t say I’ve watched Twitter grow up, as the cost put me off a bit, till I got a smartphone & Twitter got an app; but then work piled up, and the excuses went on… Now that Twitter has grown to the mammoth it is right now, and I’m back more actively in various forms, I went back in time to see what everyone else is saying on the internet. 

Dr 4ward posted a really interesting infographic of Twitter since it officially launched. I’m a bit curious why his number of registered users state that it’s 1.3M registered users in March 2008, when my Twitter ID seems to be #3,189,741… I’ve assumed that the Twitter ID is allocated sequentially, but a variety of possibilities could account for Dr 4ward’s numbers, such as deleted / suspended accounts, engineering test accounts etc. Though I have to say, the numbers are quite massive. Possibly Twitter did a major account wipe-out of dead accounts?

Matthew Panzarino (@panzer) from The Next Web created a new Twitter account to look at Twitter from an entirely new light.. I absolutely agree with what he says about handles deviating from the person’s names. When we were first asked to create a handle, all we could think of was just using our names, or variations of our names.. There were a lot of @jack @crystal @mhofner around.. Nowadays, you get more complicated handles

Newsweek hits the nail on the head back in 2007, when the article discussed Twitter, the lure and the potential.

More history of Twitter infographics on Mashable (@mashable). I love infographics!

Ah.. the good old times…

1 Step Forward, 10 Steps Back

So once again, Singaporeans discuss homosexuality. However, this time round, it’s not a discussion about repealing Section 377A (which I still maintain is archaic and should be abolished), but about our very own Health Promotion Board posting a FAQ on sexuality, and touched specifically on issues / topics surrounding homosexuality.

Screenshot from HPB:

hpbscreenshot

 

Other than an obvious filter for gays/bisexuals (where are the lesbians in this FAQ?), I was rather glad to see this type of information being available online with a neutral stand. Taking a sample question on “How and when will I know if I’m gay or bisexual?” The answer that was provided is neutral and provides simple & good information. 

hpbscreenshot2

 

So we can now all look to the sky with tears running down our faces, thinking how much of a progress this is for our nation.

BUT OF COURSE, WHO AM I KIDDING?

A Minister of Parliament has to feel ‘disappointed’

A magic-wielding pastor is shocked and deeply upset

Online petitions to take down the FAQ

Online petition to restore the FAQ

And more discussions online as usual, since this is the internet.

At the end of the day, there really isn’t anything different whether you are homosexual or heterosexual. I don’t even care if you are into bestiality if that’s what floats your boat. (I do judge pedophiles very much)

In a way, I’m glad we are having this type of conversations or discussions, or even moving one step forward at all.

Personally, I see Singaporeans as rebelling teenagers to their archaic parent / government. Some teenagers rebel and fight because they can, and for no particular reason. Most teenagers fight back because they finally see that things are not the way their parents say they are, and they are refusing to just swallow everything that their parents say without questioning. They are finally coming into their own skin and very eager to cultivate their own personality and be themselves for the first time. Those who succeed at changing their parents go on to become strong men and women; those who fail simply slide back into their personal oblivion. Most of us, however, find a middle road and pick the battles that actually matter to us, and let some things go. I think we will get to see who we truly become in the next couple of decades. It took us 50 years to get to this stage, I do not expect us to grow up as a nation in one or two elections. I just hope to see progress before I leave this world.