Saturday, 1 February 2014

Skirt of Slices of Raw Fish (and other foreign tales)

Things are starting – sloooooooooooowly – to fall into place. First up is the kids’ school.  They started!  Mind you, it was the beginning of a three-day week (Happy Chinese New Year, by the way!) and it turned out that my concerns about the school being miles away were entirely justified. I’m assured that nothing is really miles away from anything else in Singapore, but this somehow manages to be.  So my euphoria about them starting school was somewhat premature, and certainly short-lived - frankly it was easier when they were at home under my feet.   Still, tho, I get to sit on the tube for 45 minutes SIX TIMES A DAY, which is good for my reading, but not so much for my social life, vitamin D intake, or patience.

Somewhat excitingly, and after seeing more or less every flat and house in Singapore, we have found somewhere I can possibly envisage myself living.  As long as I start a course of Xanax (or the landlord puts some sort of security grids up to counteract the sheer drops outside of the bedroom windows).   It too is 45 mins away from the kids’ school, but after we visited it I fed the Man margaritas, and he quickly saw the merit in getting a car, and then, after a couple of Old Fashioneds, he started to see the benefit of sticking the kids on the school bus too.  Ah, Singaporean cocktails.  You may cost more than a suite of Italian furniture, but you are SO worth it.

BEST OF ALL - we will soon have A MAID!  (Officially, a “domestic helper”, but I don’t feel comfortable calling her a helper, when what I have in mind for her is not so much “helping” as “doing it all”.) Before she can start working for us I have to fill out an application to the Ministry of Manpower (I swear), which is about four thousand pages long.  I then have to send her off for a health check, to make sure she’s not knocked up (if she is, she’ll be shipped off home – no doubt by the Ministry of Human-Rights-My-Arse).  I then have to get her health etc insurance, vouch for her well-being, and take FULL RESPONSIBILITY for her actions while she’s in my employ.  Frankly, it’s a bit of a far cry from my normal practice of employment of weeping with gratitude that someone – anyone – will mind my children, racing out of the house before they can change their minds, and making a mental note to get their phone numbers, and possibly surnames (if I ‘m feeling really on the ball) at some point in the future.

Before any of this happens, however, we lose our current staff quota (our au pair).  There will follow 2 weeks of hell, when the Man travels extensively for work (travelling for work = duty free, so I am forbidden from complaining), and I – friendless, familyless, MAIDLESS – will parent alone.  This will mostly comprise trekking to and from the effing school, but without any reading material, because I will be dragging the Baby along.  The Baby who screams and scratches and bites if she feels slighted / doesn’t get enough attention / doesn’t get THIIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSSSS, or THAAAAAAAAATTTTTTT , or is made to sit in her pram, or held on a knee, or held, full stop (or as this evening, offered food which has not been chewed in advance by my own fair mouth. WTF?). She is, frankly, intolerable, and if there were foxes in Singapore there is a strong possibility that they would be getting a tasty treat in the bins pretty soon.

But once that fortnight of frights is over, we should get staff, a manor, and... our belongings! They have not yet sunk on the high seas, as far as we know.  Phew.  There is a large container of food packed away in there, which I am hoping will slip through customs unnoticed: proper hot chocolate and Marigold Bouillon, and pine-nuts;  also a grater and my food processor, and - oh joy  - a vegetable peeler.

Who knew that a vegetable peeler would be so hard to come by here?  The closest I’ve come to is this, a sort of hybrid grater / peeler: 

Which, as well as minute millenary switching off of the radish and the burdock  - anyone?? -  makes short work of cheese and finger tips.  Mainly tho, I’ve been using it to make noodle soup, as the price of cheese threatens to bankrupt me, and noodles are – praise be! – cheap.  (Well, the same price as in Europe, which is what you’d expect in Asia, no?)

It’s piss easy, and takes about 15 minutes start to finish. If you’re feeling fancy – and flush – you can tart it up with prawns or chicken – just chuck em in a few minutes before you add the noodles. 

Again, I have no photo.  Here however is one of a sign I saw in a supermarket’s wine aisle yesterday:

(I can just see the locals standing around thinking – Ahhh!  So that’s what they’re doing when they get so drunk they vomit on the carpets.)

Vegetable Noodle Soup
You need:  For 4 hefty portions
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 or 4 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped / sliced
  • Largeish lump of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped / sliced
  • Soy sauce
  • Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 limes
  • Any vegetables you have lurking in your fridge – carrots, celery, sweet potato, broccoli – cooked or raw. 
  • 1 litre stock (any type) (OR, if you live in Singapore,  a carton of MSG. Choose from the several hundred options on offer)
  • 1 nest of dried noodles per person.

Heat a splash of vegetable oil in a large pot, then add the chopped spring onion, garlic and ginger. Stir occasionally, ensuring that the garlic doesn’t turn brown. 
Grate whatever raw vegetables you’re using (and your fingers) directly into the pan, stirring to cover in oil.
Add the stock, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and leave to simmer for 5 minutes.
Chuck in any ingredients which just need to be heated through (spinach, corn, cooked vegetables), then add the noodles and the coriander.
Leave to simmer for 3-5 minutes, add the lime juice, taste, then mess about with soy sauce and lime juice  until it tastes as you want.

Serve with a portion of grated burdock, grated to minute millenary switching off. 


  1. Off of the radish! And six times 45 minutes??? Seriously??!!

  2. Seconding lady above...4 and a half hours a DAY on a TUBE?! WHY?!!

    Um, also...what's the weather like?

  3. It's temporary - until the school bus comes through. Which should be next week, Thank The Lord. Also, I find that if I sit, forlornly, in the middle of the school yard, some kind soul generally offers me a lift home at least once a day.
    The weather is GREAT. Hot and clear skies and wrrm. No rain since we got here, four weeks ago.( Guess you lot are getting our share) Now I just have to get out from the underground to enjoy it...