What’s dessert got to do with superheroes?

What's dessert got to do with superheroes?

I came across a tweet last night that reminded me of Thai food which I happen to love. Yup, like half the world out there, I’ve been sitting here obsessively refreshing my tweet feeds and mentally praying that the Thai cave rescue of the last 4 (out of 12) boys and their soccer coach will go safely, smoothly and swiftly.

So to keep that unstoppable finger off my left mouse button, I figured I’d distract myself and keep my spirits up at the same time by talking about my favorite Thai dessert. Yums.

Well, y’all know me, I’m not much of a desserts person. Never quite fancied how overly sweet most desserts are that’re out there. No, seriously, where do you find a dessert that isn’t diabetic?

And yet, on an unbearably hot day last year, I surrendered to the call of tub tim krob. That’s not the name of a person, mind you, though it does sound like that distant grand-uncle you ruffled your hair when you were six?

What's dessert got to do with superheroes?

Okay, okay, so I’ve been having a hard time with the name, calling it tum tim tom, tim tum rom, tim tom kob, no, that’s not right either! Hopefully none of these are vulgarities I may have let slip without knowing their meanings but you get the idea. I just couldn’t get it right.

Yet it’s one of the best things ever. Although tim tub krob looks as scary as your white-haired grand-uncle at first sight with that thick coconut milkiness, there’s a lot of fun stuff going on underneath that mountain of shaved ice – thinly sliced jackfruit, red and green rubies of water chestnuts and whatever else is in there, it’s all good.

What's dessert got to do with superheroes?

This is sweet but not grab-you-by-the-throat sweet. Having all those rubies inside helps cut through some of that sweetness. And of course, in weather like this, I love all things shaved ice.

So then, back to the newsfeeds. It’s crazy to even try to comprehend what it’s taken to get to this point in a rescue that’s fraught with so many dangers and factors beyond human control.

What’s truly incredible and heartwarming are the stories of kindness, compassion and sacrifice, the many levels of brainstorms, tough decisions and planning, and the thousands of real-life superheroes who have literally emerged from out of nowhere in this time of need. Truly amazing!

Today is an important day in the rescue. They’re trying to wrap up the mission and get everyone out of there quickly and safely before the brunt of the monsoon. Okay, back to refreshing my feeds, sending positive energy and praying (join me, there can never be too many prayers for something like this).

Lockstep day

Lockstep day

I had a simple lunch today. Alone. All I wanted was to eat and absolutely not have to talk to anyone. The result of two mornings of dealing with organizations that specialize in runarounds, excruciating headaches and leg cramps. It’s beyond me how something so incredibly simple can become so insanely complicated??!

Anyways, there’s this cafe I go to that’s the perfect hangout. There’s nothing fancy about it. In fact, it’s plain, dull and rather dimly lit as cafes go, which probably explains why it’s so cooling inside. It has the feel of  a big cave, spacious and cool with ample angled corners and small spaced-out tables where you can sit and relax without feeling trapped.

Some simple noodles and a glass of cham (an ingenious concoction of coffee and tea) and I’m happy. These noodles aren’t that good but at least I have the peace and quiet to eat slowly and enjoy my book.

Lockstep

After lunch, I decide to take a stroll around the mall. No sooner do I get on the escalator when a young man with a backpack decides, at that same exact moment, to descend on that very same step and I’m like, what the heck is happening?!!

We’re squished together on one step when there’s like 35 other steps he could’ve picked. I give him the slanted eye as he continues to stand there like a bag of rocks, never once moving or turning his head. Okay, so maybe the poor boy needs his 20 seconds in the orbit of a mother, so sad for him lol.

At the top of the escalator, he turns right and I turn left (goodbye, my escalator friend) as my attention turns to… oh, nothing of interest in any of the clothing stores. I wander into Uniqlo for no reason and note that their current collection features jarringly obvious prints. Great but if I were to wear that, I’m guaranteed to run into 50 other people wearing the same exact thing! So no!

I walk around some more and wander, again for no reason, into Muji where everything is either gray, brown, white or black. Absolutely nothing wrong with that if I were feeling foggy but today, I’m feeling and looking like neon pink. So no!

And that brings me to the end of my nothing-interests-me tour of the mall. So what’s left? Not much except the grand old grocery store to scout for random veggies. I decide on avocados, pumpkin, bread… and after running the length of the vegetable aisle and finding only a pitiful selection, I’m forced to rummage through the organic section. Which, by the way, I find quite amusing.

As I’m coming out of checkout, another random young man falls into lockstep with me as he tries to get me to sign up for some credit card. Most times, this gets me slightly annoyed, especially when I can’t understand a single word of what they’re saying so my signature bored and beechy resting face is my unspoken answer right there.

Strangely though, this guy’s super cheerful, speaks English and refuses to be shooed away. So now even I have to smile when giving my standard answer – “No, no thanks”. Of course, he insists his card is like no other and that I simply must sign up now or forever regret it. He’s funny and frankly, I admire his enthusiasm. He’s prattling on like a train even as he tries to keep up with me. His is not an enviable job and I wish I could help him but the best I can do is tell him “No thanks but good luck”.

Some days, you run into random people that bring up question marks in your brain and other days, you run into someone that make you smile. I ran into both types today. Lucky me!

What’s in that rickety tin bowl?

What's in that rickety tin bowl?

Just when I thought it was going to be an ordinary dinner at one of the most highly-anticipated restaurants on our p.e.a.r.l (our picky eater restaurant list is still very much alive despite having gone through many iterations since the last mention), this Saturday night Korean barbecue came with a question, what’s in that rickety tin bowl?.

We walked in and all the tables inside the restaurant were occupied so we had to grudgingly say okay when the server pointed us to a table outside. Outside, as in on the kerb along the road where cars are double parked.

After the initial clinkety-clang of distributing plates and cutlery (which is apparently the customers’ job now), we eventually settled down to enjoy an ambiance of blue evening skies, natural lighting and lungfuls of a barbecue smoke and carbon monoxide fume cocktail that, we were delighted to note, comes free with the meal! Aah, the joys of kerbside dining!

What's in that rickety tin bowl?

So there we were, alternating between flipping various kinds of meat on the grill and constructing meat morsels and 반찬 (banchan or side dishes) into lettuce wraps. I have to admit that when it comes to cramming fistfuls of lettuce wraps into my mouth like they do in Korean dramas, I’m an epic fail. I bite my lettuce wraps in half and sometimes chomp on just the leaf alone. Duh!

Diners were filling up the tables fast and pretty soon, we were surrounded. Too busy playing musical chairs with cutlery and utensils on a table that’s way too small for everything to fit, I paid little attention to the 40-ish couple at the next table. From out of the blue, Mr Smiley (seems he had this perpetual smile pasted on his face) reached across and asked if we’d like to have the excess rice balls his wife was rolling in her gloved hands.

What's in that rickety tin bowl?

I was like, what? say that again, read: eyeing him in disbelief. Now how often does a random stranger offer to share their food? That’s right, almost never, right?! although I’m guilty of having done it myself. One time, we had a bowl of untouched salad that was too much for us to finish and so as not to let it go to waste, I handed it over to the young couple at the next table. And they too had been just as wide-eyed and hesitant to accept my offering then.

Now here was a stranger holding out a rickety tin bowl with 9 rice balls inside and I’m like umm. I could’ve been gracious and snatched the bowl from his hand but my first instinct was to say no. It would’ve been out of character for me to accept. People including acquaintances have been offended. Not that I mean to offend. Truth is although I love to cook and I blog endlessly about food, food is not really a big thing for me.

So then Mr Smiley started explaining that one order of rice balls was too much for him and his wife as they had other dishes as well. Then, he said the magic phrase – they don’t like wasting food, he said and I was impressed and instantly sold. We collectively chimed in and thanked him profusely. Since you put it that way, sure, we’ll help you with that, thanks lol.

What's in that rickety tin bowl?

So that was how a rickety tin bowl and 9 rice balls changed hands. We’d never had rice balls before but Mr Smiley assured us they’re delicious and that we won’t regret it. And he was right. Those rice balls were freakin’ tasty (we order them quite often now) and meeting these like-minded folks is always nice.

What's in that rickety tin bowl?

Celebrating English Language Day

Apparently it’s William Shakespeare’s birthday today. Well, history has it that he was born and died on the same day. It turns out those aren’t the only coincidences ‘cos, what do you know, today also happens to be English Language Day! I had no idea! The two things in the world that I’m craziest about are celebrated on the same day and I didn’t know? Duh!!!

At any rate, I’m sure I’ve mentioned before in some long ago blog post that I grew up reading Shakespeare and happen to be a big fan of his plays. Although I don’t quote him out loud as often as I used to, his quotes still do pop up in my mind every now and then. It’s still my ambition to be as great a writer as he was when I grow up.

As for that other love of mine, the English language, what can I say?  It is, to me, the most beautiful language in the world. So why aren’t people more serious about learning it and getting it right? I could write a book about that. Suffice to say that over the years, I’ve watched the standard of English decline to a level where some days, it sounds and looks almost unrecognizable to me.

Yes, English is important and it’s not enough to say “I only need enough of it to get by in daily life” because from what I can see, it’s clearly not enough. It’s not enough to be able to string together some random words in no particular order and with a total disregard for grammar and pronunciation. And yes, I’m frustrated at people who refuse to learn.

But clearly today is not the day to lament about what we can’t change. It’s a day to celebrate the fathomless power and elegance of the English language!

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

Happiness is finding a new place to add to the Pearl (Picky Eaters’ Approved Restaurant List). We stumbled on this great little Korean fast food place that passed our taste test with flying colors. Well, stumbled isn’t exactly the word. We’ve walked past it a million times and even scoffed at the menu a few times (that was before the Great K Revolution, of course).

The million dollar question is this: How could we have walked past so often and never thought to stop? Well, we couldn’t tell from the pictures on the menu if the food would be good. Thing is we’re not in the habit of staring openly at people’s food as we walk past their tables. It’s rude to stare especially when people are eating. My children were trained never to do that and if they did, they’d no doubt have heard from me!

I’m not sure what made us step in. As with all new places that we’re trying out, we didn’t order much. The Chicken BBQ came with rice in a K bowl (no less), seaweed soup and 3 side dishes  I wish it came with a Korean name as well, like maybe 치킨 바비쿄. But even without that, the grilled chicken is flavorful, mildly sweet and not too salty.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

The 닭 볶음 (dak bokeum), or stir-fried chicken in chilly sauce had a good mix of veggies in it. It’s reminiscent of 김치 찌개 (kimchi jjigae, or kimchi stew). The tangy, spicy sauce was lip-smackin’ good till the last drop. Even the Colonel would agree heh!

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

As for the 3 반찬 (banchan, or side dishes), there’s 김치 (kimchi), 밀치금 (anchovies) and a random third dish. The kimchi isn’t as crunchy as I’d like it to be but I love the anchovies.

The 파전 (pajeon, or Korean pancake) may look unassuming but don’t be fooled, there’s hidden squid in the batter, and veggies you can actually see. Most restaurants would just serve this ‘blank’, and charge more for the loaded version. I like the light crunch in this pancake. The sauce is okay, a bit too salty so we dip it in the dak bokeum sauce.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

On another occasion, I surprised myself by ordering their 비빔 국수 (bibim guksu). Remember I swore off cold noodles the first time I ate them because to me, there’s only one way to eat noodles – piping hot.

Then one fine day, I found a stash of buckwheat noodles in my kitchen (I didn’t buy ’em), concocted a meal with them and fell in love, either with the noodles or my own cooking, I don’t know which 😝. Yeah, that was random even for me. But I ended up loving every mouthful of those buckwheat noodles eaten warm, of course, not cold.

Fast forward to when I saw bibim guksu on the menu and jumped at it without even thinking. Thankfully they weren’t served cold but were room temp instead. Awesome, I wouldn’t have had them any other way. Yums.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

So it’s happy days. We’ve been back many times, and now even the restaurant staff know our faces and orders and give us a special discount. Yes, they have a customer-friendly team unlike the usual ones with fake amnesia. “Why you not early today?” the cute waiter asked when we strolled in on a weekend lunch hour and couldn’t find a table. He found us one pretty quick. Now that’s service for ya!

Lines and people who annoy me

Lines and people who annoy me

바빴어요! (Been busy). So many errands, so little time. Granted I do procrastinate for as long as I can because well, who likes errands? I don’t. That’s why I want to get through them quickly so they won’t be hanging over my head like bananas in a fruit shop. The errands themselves 몬제 아니야 (aren’t the problem). It’s those darned lines and the characters I meet.

(1) The Pretenders

Over the weekend, a couple tried to edge themselves into our line while pretending to be so deep in conversation they didn’t notice there was a line? Nice try but “please get back in line”, we told them and they slunked quietly away.

In another daring episode, a woman pretending like she was all engrossed in talking on her cellphone planted herself in front of us. We were busy sorting through our shopping basket so I was like, okay, never mind.

But when time came for this woman to pay, she took her own sweet time digging out coin after coin to which Hip2bDaughter turned around and said to us, loudly enough to be heard, “Some people cut in line and don’t even have their change ready”.

And you know what. As the cashier was bagging her stuff, she turned around and started to chime into our conversation with her unsolicited advice as if she were our old friend. Seriously! The cheek of some people! As if chatting us up would somehow redeem her from her rudeness. Nope, not working!

(2) The Make-No-Boners

In another the grocery line episode, a woman cradling a few items casually walked up and stood in front of me. I eyed her for a while thinking, okay, maybe she’s with the group in front of me. It soon became clear she wasn’t. I gave her a minute and I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer. “The line is back there. Please get in line!” I wasn’t being nasty, just matter of fact.

Reluctantly she scooped up her items and wandered away… and even as I watched, she cut straight into someone else in the next line. She’s a diehard, that one lol! People like her don’t need an excuse. They just assume it’s their inalienable right. The best part is the person she cut off didn’t object and let her through. Great way to embolden chronic line cutters like her!

Now here’s the joke. The man at the top of my checkout line heard me and shook his head casting me a look of disapproval. I notice many people don’t honk when someone cuts them off in traffic and the next thing, I see them doing it themselves. I can only conclude that this guy’s probably a line cutter himself since he sympathized with her (even when it was none of his business).

(3) That-Cashier’s-My-Friend-ers

One day, I was standing in the bank with my number slip in hand. There were several people ahead of me. Only two counters were open, my car was double-parked outside, and the wait was longer than I cared for. Guess what?

A couple walked in and went straight up to one of the counters right after the last person left and before the next number came up. Instantly there was a friendly exchange and the cashier went ahead with their transaction. I guess if your friend works there, that makes it okay to act like you own the place and ignore everyone else.

Lines and people who annoy me

Image credit

Seriously, line cutters are such a pain. Everyone’s busy. Everyone’s in a hurry. You’re not the only one. I want to get my stuff done fast so I can get the heck home, out of the traffic, out of the sun. Just as you do, So yeah! Have some respect for other people’s time, and get the heck in line.

I’m a reasonable person. If you come up to me with a good reason why you should be ahead of me when clearly I got there first, I’m all ears. If you have a genuine emergency or truly deserve it, I’d be more than happy to give you my spot. Otherwise please stop wasting my time AND the time of everyone else behind me who’ve been waiting endlessly. They too are busy. They too are in a hurry. Tsk!

Peace out!

Profound wisdom of a 10-year-old

Profound wisdom of a 10-year-old

A small news headline in The Korea Times caught my eye recently. “Boy, 10, offers lesson in life”, it said. A third grade boy in South Korea had been given a homework handout showing a malnourished boy dressed in tattered clothing eating breadcrumbs off the floor.

His assignment was to “Think about how happy you are while observing this photograph (of the poor boy) for five minutes”.

Profound wisdom of a 10-year-old
Image credit: The Korea Times

Tears pierced my eyes when I read the boy’s answer. And this is the verbatim quote: “I think it’s not right to feel happy comparing myself to others’ pains. We need to solve their pains together, so that we all can live happily.”

How profound!

All it takes is this simple insight from a mere 10-year-old to put everyone in their place. Indeed what message are we sending our children by suggesting that we rejoice in the misery of others, when we should be instilling empathy, kindness and compassion in them.

Maybe it’s time to start thinking about what values we’re teaching our kids.

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