Spent the morning in the office. Everyone was in a holiday mood and work was the last thing on our minds. Just as well we got half the day off.
Usually we forego the usual festive foods like turkey (dry! tasteless! big!) and log cake ( fake! fat!). Ever since we knew each other Christmas Eve has always been celebrated with a Japanese meal because we both love Japanese food. This year, I treated husband to lunch at Kaisan. Oyster-ponzu shooter, pristine thick slices of sashimi, maguro sushi (oh, the perfect rice!), grilled bamboo clams with spicy mentaiko, pan-fried beef with garlic, lots of special little dishes in between to tease and excite the palate and to finish, one of their fish soups. At Kaisan, I've never had the same soup twice, once it was some fish bones roasted, salted and slow-cooked classic soup, another time made with snow crabs, and last Friday we had our first and most memorable encounter with the angel fish in our soup. What a perfect lunch to start the holidays with.
Then it was back to our apartment to pack and shower. This took forever, and we only drank Asahi at lunch! Also managed to forget the camera so after reaching AYE we had to turn back home, aiyah! At 5:00 p.m, we reached the Second Link. Long queue, but only at the Singapore side. Traffic up north was thick, but southwise was worse. So relieved to reach my parents' home by 9:00 p.m.
The kitchen was a frenzy of activity. A favourable newspaper article about Special Treats, my third sister's home-based catering business, was published on 17 December and ever since that day, her telephone has been ringing non-stop.
Apparently I missed some action the previous day. A customer had turned up at the door to collect her order. My sister thought it was for the next day so there was NOTHING ready for this customer. Giving the customer benefit of doubt, she asked her to wait half an hour. Somehow she managed to rustle up a party meal in that time, but behind the kitchen door, it was all panic and mayhem. The domestic helpers' hands were trembling as they worked, when they spoke they stuttered and their faces were pale. My brother rushed to the supermarket for emergency supplies, but looking up at the shelves, all he saw was a white blur, his mind momentarily blank. What a drama. The next day the customer called to apologise, she had indeed come on the wrong day.
On the night we arrived, the kitchen was relatively calm. Just some apple pies, mince pies and eclairs being made, and my mother systematically cleaning the kitchen in the background. My sister made almost everything from scratch, including the pastries and mince pie filling.
There was no time to cook anything for our own consumption. Father and brother tar-powed noodles and cze char from Soo Kee in Jalan Imbi. There are quite a few Soo Kees in the area, my father likes the original outlet. For desserts, durians and pulasan, which is similar to rambutan but easier to eat- it is not as difficult to open and the very sweet flesh detaches easily from the seed unlike the clingy rambutan (if it is not clingy, we call it lak-kang).
If we were in Singapore, we would attend midnight mass. My parents and siblings are not Catholics, so we spent a quiet night at home chit-chatting. Also no gift exchanges, not a tradition in my family. Did bring home loads of chocolates, teas and food gifts for everyone though.
On Christmas Day, I found plenty of food in the house. Turkeys of course, in three different sizes, also ducks and chickens. All stuffed to bursting with sister's own recipe that includes rice, dried fruits and herbs. With trimmings of real gravy made from the meat juices, roasted vegetables and cranberry sauce.
Bored of turkey? Well, there was gammon ham glazed with marmalade.
Or roast beef. Or a handsome salute of racks of lamb.
Vegetarian? How about a cheesy roast vegetable tart? And for afters, fruit cakes, mince pies, apple pies and chocolate eclairs. Everything home made.
Only snag was, all these foods were for her customers, not us.Their orders get packaged ready for them to serve or sent to appreciative friends in hampers. Most customers collect the food from my parents' house because my sister is too busy to deliver. We made one delivery for her, must have been a special arrangement. Someone ordered a Country Hamper for Harith Iskandar, my favourite comedian and all round entertainer. I shook his hands but was too shy to ask for autograph.
We ate Christmas lunch at Li Yen, the Chinese restaurant at Ritz Carlton. Dim sum, reliably good food. Visited Second Sister, whose children have hand-foot-mouth disease so she was self-quarantining them from other kids. Then to Bangsar Village, which is not really a village but a shopping centre. There is a bookstore upstairs that sells very pretty books on graphic design, architecture and art. I wanted to buy a book, it was a beautiful book with loads of ooh-aah fonts and pictures, and terribly expensive. The assistant said there was a new copy inside the store room, on hearing this his colleague sent eye signals at him and told me the display copy was the only one left. I decided not to buy.
For dinner, we joined other Malaysians at the hawker centre at SS2. Tar-powed dinner. Char Kway Teow, Popiah, Wantan Noodles, Char Siew Rice, Satay. The char kway teow was good, so was the fried tanghoon from his competitor across. The satay was shiok, I ate a record 8 sticks (record for me lah, normally I eat about 5). There is only this lone satay stall in the centre, and the queue was very long, but well worth waiting for.
Watched House of Flying Daggers. Fell asleep midway. This movie sucked.
Lunch at Kim Gary. The parents cringed a little at the sight of the thick toast with condensed milk and peanut butter, but conceded later it was not too bad. Then we watched Stephen Chow in his new nonsensical masterpiece Kungfu Hustle. In Cantonese, yay! This has got to be the most hilarious movie I have seen the whole year, and I don't mean toilet humour or slapstick funny, it's the type of funny that makes you cry and snort and forget all your worries and concern.
Boxing Day dinner was the most fancy meal eaten that weekend. We went to my maternal grandparents home and ate dinner with my aunts,uncles and cousins and their families. Plenty of food.
Roast beef cooked by my sister. I am not being biased, but the beef was OhMyGod truly good. At the other table, the beef was the first dish polished off. Picture on right: Stuffing from the turkey.
One thing I can expect from my grandmother is familiarity. We can rattle off a list of dishes that will probably make an appearance on the table at every family gathering. Steamed kampung chicken, check. Roast duck from that particular stall in Petaling St, check. Braised sea cucumber, check. Yong Tau Foo, check. But there was no chicken curry. Never mind, the chicken was very tasty. So was the roast duck, I ate almost a quarter bird by myself, and had some more as leftovers the next day.
To balance the meatiness, stir fried greens. The bitter gourd, particularly plump and not too bitter, braised with taocheo and chicken was another favourite with me too.
Day after Boxing Day
Was the day I ate at Madam Kwan's twice. KLCC outlet for lunch. Bangsar outlet for dinner. Ordered Ipoh Kway Teow both occasions. Because their Ipoh Kway Teow rocks. So does their ABC and cendol, they let you help yourself to as much gula melaka as you like, how nice is that?
Day after the Day after Boxing Day
Last day to bust the hawker food quotient- pork ball noodles, Penang Char Kway Teow, Roti Canai, Thosai. Then back to Singapore and more austere diet.