Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Baba House, Singapore - A little bit about the Peranakan history...

Amazingly, Singapore is just not about shopping and eating ;)   You can learn a bit about culture too. So, if you have an hour or two to spare, do venture down to the Baba House.  Nestled between the other shophouses, it's hard to missed as it's painted a lovely shade of blue.

Peranakan Chinese is mainly refered to the descendants of the Chinese immigrants who came from China and married local women and settled here in the British straits of Malaya.  They refer to themselves as Baba Nyoya (Baba for males and nyonya for females)  Their children were mostly English educated and are more loyal to the British than to Mainland China.  - Like my grandfather, who was always dressed like an English gentleman (in suits)  The nyonyas are famed for their cooking and sewing skills!

This was a Straits Chinese ancestral home to 19th Century shipping tycoon, Wee Bin and his family who originally came from Fujian, China.  Up to 6 generations of his family lived here before being it got donated to the National University of Singapore (NUS).  A 4 million donation was given to NUS by Ms Agnes Tan, the last surviving daughter of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) in 2005, which allowed them to acquire the shophouse, restore and maintain it.  The great thing is they have painstakingly made sure that all restorations were done as close to the original construction.. right down to the colour of the house.  From the tour, I gathered that the shophouse was in a horrid state, and a lot of work had to be done to get it up and running (the top floor had bat pooping right up to the calves of the leg, some of the wooden structure had termites eating through them.  Chinese workers from China were hired to re-carve some of the doors as well.. )

Although lots of their original decors have been moved to somewhere safe, you still get the feel of the rooms (formal room, everyday/family room, master bedroom, bedroom) as there's still lots of furnitures with intricate carvings, antique praying altars for the god and ancestors etc are still there, so, you'll get the feel of how they lived during those historical times)...

They will only allow up to 12 people to visit at each time, so an appointment is essential.  No photographs inside but you are allowed to take as many photos outside.  The tour guides were very knowledgable and were keen to answer any type of questions.

If you are keen to experience more of the Peranakan culture, I would suggest you venture up north, towards Malacca and Penang as they are full of Peranakan culture.

It does make me nostalgic when I was here, as it brought back a lot of memories of my mum's ancestral home in Penang.  I never did appreciate all the furniture and decors as I grew up there, visiting Penang every holiday and running around the gardens and the mansion with all the antique furniture.  Now that it's no more, I feel sad and wish I had remembered more or at least took more pictures...

Baba House
157 Neil Road
088883 Singapore

Outside Baba House

Peeking ...

When the lights start coming on

One of the two tour guides

I think the lights have the names of the surname of the original occupants in Chinese

Our main tour guide who took us around and explained everything to us

So much details in the carvings...

The beautiful door in black and gold

I'm so fascinated with the lamps

The first room is the formal living room, where the men of the house entertain guests

One of the ladies in our group

Outside the gates
Closing time..

Until next time, stay safe!


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Brunching at Wild Honey, Mandarin Gallery, Singapore

After having rice or noodles practically for every meal... (Hey! I found a joint selling $2.50 for rice, 2 vegetable and 1 meat serving... Imagine $2.50 for each meal!! hmph!), it's quite refreshing to pop over here for brunch.

I saw this on one of the meetups, but unfortunately, I was only always on the waiting list...  So, when S's cuz suggested this place for brunch, I was all too happy to oblige!

You really need to book as the place fills up pretty quick.  We had a 1pm booking, so, I was there 5 mins to 1pm.. and waited... and waited...

Where is that girl!!?  Turned out, she was chatting or being chatted up by some hot guy trying to sell her face cream! hmm... I guess we know what he's trying to put on her face.. ;)

ok ok.. enough with the crude joke.. We are here to talk about food!

Anyway, while waiting for her, I kept flicking the menu back and front, back and front, trying to figure out what I wanted, while looking around...

The menu is actually quite impressive and everything on there sounds mouth watering.  There's all day breakfast with a range of sweet and savoury dishes, salad, sandwiches, meat and fish dishes.  Food from NY, Scandinavian, English, Aussie, Parisian etc..  Guess everything to keep everyone happy! ;)

I finally decided to choose between a naughty or a nice (ish) dish..  A toss between Curly Kale Caesar Salad (poached eggs, crispy prosciutto, white anchovies, shaved parmesan, dried cranberries, pine nuts, garlic brioche , croutons crispy sweet potato ribbons & anchovy lemon dressing) or the Vegetarian Portobello Road

We were seated in the corner, and I had a good view of the workers busy clearing and picking up order from the kitchen
Very festive cheer!
Jeez.. We are all seated very close to each other.. I feel like this is a speed dating set up! hehe... You can seriously hear your neighbour's conversation, and vice versa!
Interesting.. The food comes out and sits for a few seconds under those lights before being whizzed off by the busy waiters
I'm so hungry, I'm just staring at my cutleries...
Thankfully, she finally arrived, looking so happy!  20 minutes after!!  

Started with a mocktail - Mandarin Wilderness:  Ice blended raspberry, mandarin orange, banana and honey, $7..  Not too sweet and definitely an eye pleaser!  Great for the weather
Voila!!  Portobello Road:  Poached eggs, portobello mushrooms, wilted spinach, onion & bell pepper confit smothered with hollandaise sauce (that's the naughty part!) on wholemeal brioche (seriously, damn good!  There's oats and pine nuts in there), $24 ..  Looks really pretty!  
At the top is I Love NY:  creamy scrambled eggs with smoked sturgeon, smoked salmon, caramelised onions with toasted sesame bagel & herbed creamed cheese, $24
Just to be on the safe side.. I gave it the good poached egg prick with my knife.. and guess what came oozing out!!  YUMMMY OOOOZING EGG YOLK!!!  I was sooo happy!  

I had to say, was such a lovely meal.. I gobbled up everything on my plate.. Will definitely be back to try the rest of the menu..

Happy Eating!!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Settling into life in Singapore...

Returning to Asia, to my roots is not as easy as I originally thought.  Being born in Malaysia and studied my primary school here, I thought it should be quite a breeze adjusting to the culture.

But, I guess I've been living away for so long and settling into life here has been quite an awakening.  It's totally different if you are just on holiday, or transiting through for a few nights on route to Australia or back to Europe.

So, here are a list of things I've noticed:

1.  It's so humid here.  I'm soaking wet in sweat just after coming out from the shower.  I find it best to switch on the air conditioning, have a shower and come back to the room to get changed.  Then, you'll still be nice and cool when you leave the house instead of pouring with sweat and needing another shower straight after!

2.  Being of Chinese appearance and not being able to converse probably in Mandarin, I've had old ladies frowned at me asking me if I'm a Japanese and if not, why can't I speak Mandarin.  hmm.. I'll usually retort that I'm not local =P  I've then learnt to just nod and smile and let them speak.  It's hard to ignore them as I tend to frequent hawkers centre or food courts where you need to share your table.  So, note me nodding continuously throughout my meal and smiling.. and uttering 'Shi' (yes).  Thankfully, I'm slowly picking off some cobwebs from my Mandarin language box stored in my head.  By the end of the meal, sometimes I can string 3 - 4 words in Mandarin to them and wave 'Zaijian" (bye) at them.

3.  The elderly which we should always refer to as uncles and aunties.. I find the uncles a lot nicer and more patient than the aunties.  The uncles are less likely to judge and will happily speak to me in English.  But keep in mind, if they can't speak English, they are definitely from mainland China not Singaporeans...

4.  I find a lot of locals speak Hokkien, which can be a fun especially at the Hawker's stalls! =)  They always seem so pleased when I start ordering in Hokkien.  Made their day and mine too! Cue me looking so proud!

4.  The locals seem to dislike anything from mainland China and anyone from China for that matter.  Overhearing an aunty speaking haughtily to her own friend who was pointing excitedly at some food from the hawker's stall.  "Those are China.  Don't eat lah.  You don't know what they put in there!"  Ouch!  Some truth in it!  but.. hmm.. I think she forgot that we are all originally from China...  But seriously, Chinese brand of anything has a bad reputation.  There's so many food contamination of such and the locals prefer to support their local people instead of supporting the mainland Chinese who are very aggressive in their approach

5.  Queuing.. Hmm.. What queue, seriously.. It's non existence here! I've had one too many times while I wait patiently for the guy in front of me at the counter while some aunty or uncle or worst, someone younger than me, just swooped in and straight to the counter making their request.. err.. helllo???  I miss the Swedish ticket system!  A bit tedious but so damn orderly!!

6.  The term "Ang Mo" - how some expat wives get all in arms about it.  To me, being born in Malaysia and being hokkien, I grew up with that term.  It actually means red (ang) hair (moh) and referred to caucasian in general.  There's no other term to describe caucasians unfortunately, and some finds it offensive as the term in cantonese, "gwei lo" translate into ghost person/chap.  But seriously, these are not meant to be of an offence, so, don't get angry if you hear that term

7.  Buses are a good way to travel, there's single or double decker, air conditioning and there's always a seat no matter when I catch the bus (it helps if it's during off peak hour ;) )  It's a cheap way to travel too!  There's hardly any caucasians on them which surprised me a bit.... I guess they prefer the MRT or.. cabs!  Seriously, you should really catch one here.  I find the time difference between catching the MRT and buses are just 5 minutes at the most and you get to view the city from the top of the double decker!  I guess it's easier for me as I'm usually alone, with no kids and in no hurry to get to one place

8.  How clean the streets are..  No matter where I am or what time of the day it is.. The streets are seriously clean.. even alleyways!!!

9.  Pretty sad sight.  I think Singapore is the only city I've been to where the elderly are still working to their bones..  Stockholm, the elderly will be out having fika, or walking their miniature dogs. Here...  It's work work work till they all collapse.  Seriously.. hard manual labour, clearing dirty cups and dishes from hawkers centres, driving trucks and unloading heavy boxes.. My heart seriously gave out when I see them.  I still can't get over it..

Anyway, here are some photos I took on Sunday, where it was a tad cloudy... just around Clark Quay...

How clean is this alleyway... The air conditioning units are a laugh though..  It's hot here.. but.. hmm...

Someone drying their laundry out on the streets =P

Clark Quay

A bunch of kids waving hello from the boat!

Pretty cloudy day.. but hey.. it's still pretty! =)
Till next time!