Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Founding of a Republic (建国大业)

For those who are into historical epics and the modern history of China...this is a new movie sponsored by the PRC Government on the founding of PRC. Call it propaganda if you want, it looks spectacular even then.

According to this review, the movie portrayed Chiang and KMT in a realistic manner rather than the traditional evil-doer one sees in other PRC propaganda movies. I hope to watch this movie some day.

The Founding of a Republic (建国大业) has been widely heralded as the Chinese Communist Party's star-studded cinematic present for itself to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its founding of the People's Republic of China. It debuted this past Thursday, and I saw it yesterday.

The big question on many people's minds is: Is this movie going to be a massive propaganda pieceabout the evil Nationalists (KMT) and a whitewashed version of the Communist Party of China (CPC, aka CCP)?

Actually, that question may be more prominent amongst foreigners and expats than Chinese. "Oh brother, there he goes again", the peanut gallery groans. Come now, it's true, and it's true because — believe it or not — many Chinese already expect the film to be propaganda. They're keenly aware of the circumstances surrounding it and the bigger question for them is: How many stars can they spot and identify?

Oh look, here's a poster of some of those 172 celebrities!

Apparently there are 172 celebrities involved. Oh look, here's a poster with some them!

Propaganda Propaganda

But, going back to the question of greater import to my target audience, I'm happy to report that while a few events were portrayed in a noticeably skewed manner, there's thankfully few — if any — obvious to outrageous rewritings of history (excusing dramatic artistic license). In fact, the movie was far more gracious in their handling of Chiang Kai-Shek and the KMT Nationalists than I expected. (Of course, this was because I feared the worst from this movie, and now I probably owe the CCP responsible for this movie a measure of respect for, well, not living up to my fears.) Unlike so many lesser PRC produced films and television shows set in the Chinese Civil War era, Chiang Kai-Shek and the KMT were not grossly vilified here. They were portrayed, I think, rather respectfully as multi-faceted humans with their human greatness, human flaws, and human mistakes.

Continue here:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Random scenes from East Coast

Fleets of cargo boats and tankers anchored off the East Coast of Singapore.  The global recession meant fewer goods to be shipped.  Hence the mass-laying off of vessels.  No wonder the Baltic Dry Index is at a pathetic low.

A weekend at Changi Chalet


Murals at Serangoon MRT

I am quite impressed by the murals at the North East Line station of the Serangoon MRT.  Painted by by Eng Joo Heng and collectively known as Memories of Childhood, they seem to have a Marc Chagall quality around them...


The Thais have their own version of chicken rice and here is a story about the Hainanese contribution to Thai cuisine: 


Hunting for Hainanese food will uncover a delicious range of culinary delights.

Writer: Suthon Sukphisit
Published: 8/02/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Brunch

Among the Chinese minority groups in Thailand, the Hainanese are second in number only to the Taechew. They credit themselves with many contributions to the country's economy. For example, almost all of the leading, five-star hotels belong to Hainanese owners, as do the country's largest department stores, and all of its sawmills.

Woenchang chickens in the city of Sanya, Hainan province

The Hainanese have also had a strong influence on Thai culture and cuisine. They excel at carpentry and furniture-making. In Soi Pracharat Sai 1, Thailand's biggest source of teakwood furniture, almost every shop is Hainanese-owned.

There are many kinds of Hainanese food, and all of them are favourites in Bangkok. More than 70 years ago, affluent Thais who had a yen for Western-style food had to eat it at Hainanese-run restaurants because the only places that served it were in hotels owned by Hainanese, and these were very few in number.

Today, every street where food is sold must have at least one shop that sells khao man kai, a ubiquitous chicken-with-rice dish in the Hainanese repertoire. The nood- les known as kui tio Hailam can be properly prepared only by ethnic Hainanese cooks. Attempts by outsiders to offer the dishes have not worked out.

During the era when the Hainanese came to Thailand as refugees, it is thought that they came from two places. The largest group came from Hainan, an island off the southernmost part of China. Most of them were fishermen or farmers. The second group arrived from Shanghai, and they brought several primary professions with them - chefs versed in the preparation of Western food, laundry operators and furniture makers. The furniture makers of Shanghai were considered the best and most skilled in China.

Khao man kai and Hainanese noodles are believed to have come to Thailand with the group from Hainan. These days, a chicken-with-rice meal is still a popular favourite in Hainan. In big Hainanese cities like Sanya, restaurants serve boiled chicken chopped into pieces with a nam jim, or dipping sauce. The most famous and tastiest chickens are the Woenchang birds raised in the city of Woenchang. They are small; their meat is firm, but tender, and has a thick skin. The dipping sauce is made from chillies fried in sesame oil.

'Khanom jeen Hailam' at Mui Ah food shop in Si Yan market and fried

The khanom jeen Hailam in Hainan is different from that served in Thailand. In Hainan, it is fried with seafood, while in Thailand it is served as kui tio, or noodles, and is usually in broth. In both places, though, it comes with the same type of sauce: nam kapi (made by fermenting small shrimps with salt). The menu name of this sauce is kiemkoy.

Comparing the Thai version of khao man kai with the original Hainan recipe, people in Hainan say the Thai variant is better because it is made with castrated birds, which are plumper, tenderer and have more fat. But Hainanese in Thailand who have tasted Woenchang chicken claim that the Chinese bird tastes better.

As for the rice and the sauce, the rice in the Thai version wins on all fronts because of the way in which it is steamed.

First, uncooked jasmine rice is fried with garlic and salt, and then slowly cooked in the broth obtained from boiling the chicken. It has a delicate scent of garlic, and is slightly salty. Best of all, it is flavoured by the chicken broth and the fat that it contains.

The Thai sauce that accompanies the dish is made from tao jio (a salty sauce made from fermented soybeans) mixed with chopped ginger and chillies. A small amount of sweet, molasses-like black soy sauce is added to that.

Khanom jeen Hailam is served in two ways: "wet" (in broth) and "dry". The dry version combines the noodles with beef, which has been boiled to extreme tenderness and simmered in thick rice-flour water, and the result is topped with tripe, peanuts and sesame seeds. It is served with the kiemkoy sauce. Those who order it wet will get the noodles in broth together with fresh beef cooked briefly in a wire dipper and pickled cabbage. This version, too, is eaten with kiemkoy.

breaded pork loin in sauce at Silom restaurant.

As for Western food cooked in the Hainanese style in Thailand, there are far fewer restaurants serving it than there were in the past. Indeed, in Bangkok, they have disappeared almost completely. One of the most famous of these dishes is beef salad. Beef is fried over a strong fire until it is golden brown on the outside but still tender inside, and then placed on top of a bed of salad vegetables. Salad dressing is then poured over it. There are two types: a sweet, thick, creamy one and a clear one usually made from the oil used to fry the beef, with some soy sauce and sugar added.

Besides this salad, there are also satoo lin wua, or beef tongue stew - made by stewing beef tongue in catsup - and pork loin that is breaded with flour and fried. The latter is served garnished with peas. All of these nearly extinct dishes exerted, and are still exerting, a strong influence on Thai eating habits.

There is a little restaurant towards the back of Si Yan Market that makes tasty khanom jeen Hailam. It is called Mui Ah, and is open daily from the morning into the afternoon. It serves the noodles either wet or dry, and also offers a pork version as an option for customers who don't eat beef.

Another place to try, Jay Wah restaurant, is located at the entrance of Soi Luk Luang 7, off Luk Luang road near Thewakam bridge. They do business only in the evening, from 5pm to 10pm. The main dish is khanom jeen Hailam made with pork, and it's quite good.

A restaurant that serves Western dishes prepared in the original, old-fashioned Hainanese style is Silom restaurant, located near Wat Khaek off Silom road. They still serve the beef salad, beef tongue stew, and fried, minced pork dishes described above.

Khao man kai shops are all over the place. There is a good one at the base of Wat Sa Ket bridge on Damrong Rak road. It is called Jutaphote. Others worth trying are a famous shop in Plaeng Nam road off Yaowarat, and Thong Lee shop on a small soi off Yaowarat close to Ratchawong road.

If you are interested in tasting Hainanese food prepared by Hainanese cooks, now you know where to go.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Being British and the English Language

Someone forwarded this to me.  It tells alot about what's being British and the ironies of the English language.
I might only have spent 4 years in the UK but that experience changed my life in more ways than one.  Despite my love for travelling to the most exotic outlying regions of the world, Britain and in particular, London, would always have a special place in my heart.
Being British is about driving in a German car to an Irish pub where we drink a Belgian beer. On the way home we pick up an Indian curry or a Turkish kebab. Then we sit on Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV.

Most of all we're very suspicious of anything foreign.

More than that, only in Britain can you get a pizza quicker than an ambulance; only in Britain do banks leave both doors open, but chain the pens to the counter; only in Britain do supermarkets make sick people walk to the back of the store to get their prescriptions, while healthy people can get their fags at the front.

We might be British, but you can't deny that we're bloody funny.




We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Then shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and th! ree would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let's face it - English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren't invented in England ..
We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,
we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing,
grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?
Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.
If you have a bunch of odds and ends
and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

I! f teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?
If a veget! arian ea ts vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
in which your house can burn up as it burns
down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out,
and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

And, in closing, if Father is Pop,  how come Mother's not Mop?




Chinese Traditional Opera brochures

Another set of beautiful brochures, this time on two famous traditional Chinese themes:
1) The romance of Su Dongpo and Chaoyun
2) The Four Great Classical Beauties of Ancient China
A pity hardly anyone in today's Singapore, including myself, truely appreciates these classics anymore.  I would love to see them prosper but cannot bother to find time or interest to watch them myself.

Chinese Theatre brochures

Chanced upon these interesting stuff.  They seem to point to a more idyllic era...

Kseniya Simonova - Sand Animation (Україна має талант / Ukraine's Got Talent)

Sand animation by 2009 Winner of Ukraine's Got Talent. Not only is the art spectacular but it is very touching. Many members of the audience teared during her moving portrayal of life during Ukraine's Great Patriotic War against the Germans in World War II.

I love these DKNY ads - even found at my MRT station!