A gift for the occasion



Two years ago we gave a plate designed by a local designer. If you look at the centre of the plate, the koi fish are swimming around a 发 fa, symbolising 发财 – prosperity. Around the rims is the roman form of the Hokkien word “Huat” and the Chinese words are what we use for Lo Hei. Tossing of the fortune.

Best writeup for the CNY greetings and explanations can be found here:

Ingredient #1: Raw Fish (生鱼, Sheng Yu)
Phrase: 年年有余 (Nian Nian You Yu)
Meaning: “Abundance throughout the year”

Ingredient #2: Pomelo (柚子, You Zi)
Phrase: 大吉大利 (Da Ji Da Li)
Meaning: “Good luck and smooth sailing”

Ingredient #3: Pepper (胡椒粉, Hu Jiao Fen)
Phrase: 招财进宝 (Zhao Cai Jin Bao)
Meaning: “Attract wealth and treasures”

Ingredient #4: Oil (油, You)
Phrase: 一本万利 (Yi Ben Wan Li) and 财源广进 (Cai Yuan Guang Jin)
Meaning: “Make 10,000 times of profit with your capital” and “Numerous sources of wealth”

Ingredient #5: Carrot (红萝卜, Hong Luo Bo)
Phrase: 鸿运当头 (Hong Yun Dang Tou)
Meaning: “Good luck is approaching”

Ingredient #6: Green Radish (青萝卜, Qing Luo Bo)
Phrase: 青春常驻 (Qing Chun Chang Zhu)
Meaning: “Eternal youth”

Ingredient #7: White Radish (白萝卜, Bai Luo Bo)
Phrase: 步步高升 (Bu Bu Gao Sheng) and 风生水起 (Feng Sheng Shui Qi)
Meaning: “Reaching higher levels with each step” and “Progress at a fast pace”

Ingredient #8: Peanuts Crumbs (花生粉, Hua Sheng Fen)
Phrase: 金银满屋 (Jin Yin Man Wu)
Meaning: “Household filled with gold and silver”

Ingredient #9: Sesame seeds (芝麻, Zhi Ma)
Phrase: 生意兴隆 (Sheng Yi Xing Long)
Meaning: “Prosperity for the business”

Ingredient #10: Golden crackers (薄脆饼干, Bo Cui Bing Gan)
Phrase: 满地黄金 (Man Di Huang Jin)
Meaning: “Floor full of gold”

Ingredient #11: Plum sauce (酸梅酱, Suan Mei Jiang)
Phrase: 甜甜蜜蜜 (Tian Tian Mi Mi)
Meaning: “Sweet and loving relationships”

Finally, 恭喜发财。

Where this dish originated, no one remembers. Raw fish slice, yusheng 鱼生 are eaten by 潮州 (Teochews), the Chinese group I come from, for the longest time, all year round in hawker stalls.


To combine it as a dish with raw vegetables and popularised with tossing during the CNY and replicated in restaurants is popularly regarded as Singaoore in 1964 simply because there are more Chinese Teochews in Singapore for the dish to catch on as a fad. 


Whoever invented it is not the point, thank God its not patented. It celebrates the Chinese diaspora and our common heritage of a tradition that started during the Song dynasty, improved by southern Chinese immigrants in the Malayan  Peninsula and brought back to China.

Happy CNY 2018

The traditional Lohei tradition which started in Singapore by local chefs. My brother’s in laws made this to welcome year of dog.

White body is shredded radish which sounds like good luck. Crackers represent gold bricks. Fish represents abundance with leftovers – play of words. Toss the salad and wish each other blessings. Good way to make the kids and adults eat vegetables.


Outside Bay Hotel, opposite Vivocity. Some ingenious carpentry to make a flowering tree as plum blossoms dont bloom here. Plum blossoms bloom in winter and represent resilience.


Bought your red clothing?


Lovely pavilion outside Vivocity at Harborfront MRT station.



Food outlets in Woodlands – is it worth the hassle

After a tiring week teaching, I decided to give myself a day off and procrastinate from Spring Cleaning. Here I am, at 9am on my way to explore Woodlands Terrace on 15 Feb 2018, CNY eve.

Is it worth the 50 min drive one way, ie 100 min drive two ways for the factory outlet discount?

1. Go early
I was there at 9am, and the drive was smooth. Ample parking. At 1030am, the queues were forming. Carparks full by 1030am.


On CNY eve, many outlets are closed. Such as Li Chuan, Boon Tong Kee. Next year, I will go earlier, ie a few days earlier

2. Ample parking
Roadside parking. Go to the parallel lanes, while you may have to walk a bit. Park near Bengawan Solo.


3. Bring a cold bag
If you like salmon from Fassler. Many of the items are not cheap. The frozen box of cooked prawns cost $26 at Fassler but only $20 at Vivo Giant and Song Fish dealer. Items on consignment are more expensive. I am not a fan of farmed salmon and neither is my family. But the queues are long by 11am. Prices have gone up since and its $19.80 for 300g.


Nice tin for your kueh lapis. Ideal if you are buying a lot as gifts to clients. Update: I cut up the slices to store in fridge and tried one. Very fresh. Hehe. Better than the retail outlets. Even himself who doesnt like lapis, ate 3 slices. Verdict: I will buy a few boxes for friends next year. But lapis doesnt keep well and may turn mouldy in less than a week.

4. Know your prices
At Fortune bak kwa, frozen food is not cheaper than NTUC Fairprice or your wet market. I am not a fan of bak kwa. My family buys other brands. Perhaps it is cheaper than going to JB. I bought a lot of stuff, simply because I was there and I dont have time to go to the supermarket.

At Bengawan Solo, the prices are 10% cheaper than their outlets. Afterall they are not going to kill their own retail outlet business. Spending $100, my discount was $10. Wonder how much my petrol cost?


Will I return next year? I will go a few weeks earlier for Zac meat, Li Chuan, Boon Tong Ker ginger sauce. All of which were closed for CNY on the eve.

According to this blog, Zac Meat may open during Hari Raya. If so, I will certainly go and stock up oxtail and minced beef. It also mentioned 2 fish-head for $2 (usually its $3 for one in supermarket)- which I did not see at Fassler today. All the good stuff gone by CNY eve.

I will check out QB Trading, Li Chuan and certainly Song Fish Trading near Chin Bee/ Jurong side. But Song Fish has outlets in the city anyway.

Maybe I will give Woodlands another chance after CNY, as it appears retail is all year round especially for Zac Meat although it now has online delivery too. https://www.portopantry.com/products/maincategory/zac-butchery


Happy Chinese New Year


All set for CNY. Calligraphy by an ex colleague of L.


Pussy willows bought last week after class from Far East Flora. $11.90 for big flower, 1.8m (discounted one week before CNY). Ask them to cut the length. Buying in Chinatown adds to the festive cheer, but I will only go one day before eve.
Oranges courtesy of MIL.




Lots of tidbits and fruits from friends.
Pineapple tarts bought from OS Bagus Foodstuff (when they set up stall at SIM), surprisingly good.



Food in fridge courtesy of Mom with Heineken/Tiger beer in the fridge.

I am set. Thank God for all the help I got.

Lithophytic Orchid




Photo sent to me from CG’s garden when she asked to help her identify her orchid.


Photo taken by me of my 2017 calendar issue by the Singapore Botanical Gardens, featuring drawings in full colour from the library archives.

Most were commissioned during the tenure of Henry Ridley during 1888-1908, drawn by the famous de Alwis brothers from an accomplished Sri Lankan family of botanical artists.

According to NParks, the lithophytic orchid originated from the mountains of Peninsula Malaysia mostly found above 1000m. Plants bloom mainly between Nov-Jan and June-Aug.

Inflorescences are up to 30cm with numerous small flowers.

Singapore is boring and expensive??


Its official. Timeout has done a survey and Singapore was rated 31 out of 32 countries in terms of boring and most expensive for alcohol and food.

Haha. Time to take surveys less seriously. When I was in Okinawa in December, I heard a comment from a Japanese living in Tokyo that Singapore is very expensive. “More expensive than Tokyo and Okinawa? ” I asked. How can it be? This is an unusual Japanese guy who is drinking and eating by himself. He has been in Okinawa 6 times for diving. Used to work in London, and been to Singapore and now works for an American MNC in Tokyo.

Not expensive, dont you know that Okinawa has 3 drinks for $10 every Friday night?

Ok. I am for alcohol tax. Please continue to make alcohol expensive in Singapore!!!

However, I will not take survey too seriously. I know more Thais with homes in Singapore (%wise) than Singaporeans with homes in Bangkok, despite homes being so cheap in Bangkok. More Thais who send their children to study in Singapore than Singaporeans who send their kids to study in Bangkok (outside of expats). 

Is Bangkok more exciting to visit than Singapore. Absolutely. And…. Thais are one of the nicest, most gracious Asians, second to Taiwanese. (Japanese are not as nice or welcoming to foreigners.) Surprisingly Taipei not in the ranking at all. Its certainly more liveable than Dubai.

Well. Denmark and all the happy Nordic countries are not even in the ranking. We can’t be everything to everyone.

I will not take the survey too seriously. But for Tel Aviv to be ranked 12, while Singapore is 31, that’s surprising. It will be on my travel bucket list for sure.

In terms of natural sights, history and culture, Tel Aviv certainly has more to offer. I think we should rethink about the textbook propaganda that Sir Stamford Raffles was the founder of Singapore and we were a sleepy village before he came. Neither which is true. That should bump up the culture a bit.

Unfortunately given our space constraints, old buildings have been torn down. It is a dilemma we have to live with. Don’t blame the survey. But dont take it too seriously either. I am imagining the Danes dont give two hygge about not being on the list.