Daddy, how did I get my name?

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

We’re expecting our first child in mid-April, and we’re thrilled as pomeranians with new Hello Kitty chew toys. But six weeks until the bun is baked, and we’re struggling with names.

Our shortlist consists of exactly ONE English name, and ONE character for his Chinese name. Oh, yeah, it’s a boy!

Some people have no such problems. Angelina and Brad are great at naming kids: Maddox, Pax Thien, Shiloh, Zahara! But they probably have eight full-time staff coming up with them.

So, we’re enlisting the help of you, our friends, family, and readers to help us choose a name. Imagine, you get to name our son! But even better than bragging rights, if the name you propose is picked, we’ll give you a brand-new, Blu Dot Couchoid Studio sofa. (Download a pdf spec sheet here.)

Couchoid Studio Sofa

(If this sounds like some thinly-veiled publicity stunt for our store, that exploits an innocent, unborn child, I say to you, “Yes, it is!” But at least it’s better than naming your child “Brooklyn” just to get free pizza.)

Couchoid in-situ

Seriously, though, we just figured it might be nice if others could share in our big event. You know, the wisdom of crowds and all that. So here goes:

Our surname is “Quah” (“柯” in Mandarin). The one English name we like is “Kyle”.

The Chinese name we like is a lot “King” (“敬”) which means “respect”. Preferably, it would be used as the second name, i.e. “Quah King Something.” “King Kong” has already been thought of and rejected, thank you very much.

We also like “Khai” (“凯”) which means “triumphant” or “victorious.” But the problem with “Kyle Quah King Khai” is the alliteration—it’s just too much of a tongue-twister.

Some guidelines:

  • You can offer a Chinese name, or an alternate English name, or both.
  • One to five carefully considered names is plenty. We prefer not having to read a list of 300 names lifted off the internet.
  • We don’t mind if the name’s uncommon. We’re not keen on Michael, John, David or Andrew. (Apologies to readers with those names.) I personally like cowboy names. Cody, Jake, Wyatt, but the wife will have none of it, as according to her, they’re “too American.”
  • Chinese names can be in any dialect. Hokkien if at all possible, otherwise we’re not too fussed about it. The Chinese character should, naturally, be something meaningful.

Send your entry to:pomelobaby (at) gmail (dot) com

Good luck!

Raymond & Karina

The fine print: Contest closing date: 15 April 2008. Please include your name and a contact number in your entry. Prize eligible for readers residing in Singapore only, sorry. Sofa is not exchangeable for cash, currypuffs or anything else. If more than one person suggests the same name, the first person who emailed it in, wins. In the event that we go with a completely different name than any suggested, we will award the sofa to one person chosen at random. Winner will be announced on this blog soon after the delivery date.

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Glacier Berthillon, Paris

Monday, 29 October 2007

One thing I REALLY need to learn to do, is to write short posts. Which will give me no excuse to write so infrequently.

Anyway, the wife and I were in Paris last week, and we managed to have some really fabulous food. One of the things we had the pleasure of tasting, was Berthillon ice cream.

On Ile Saint Louis, down a small street about five minutes’ walk from Notre Dame, three generations of ice cream artisans have been making ice cream and fruit sorbets since 1954. (Isn’t it strangely appropriate that “artisanal” has the word “anal” in it?)

They serve/sell Berthillon at numerous cafés and bistros, but this is where it’s made, and where they have all the flavours, including special seasonal ones. Everything’s made from scratch with all-natural ingredients, and nothing contains preservatives. At 2€ a scoop, this is definitely one of the best bargains in Paris.

I’m usually not a huge fan of ice cream (my biggest complaint that it’s always too sweet). And the only other time I absolutely LOVED it was when we had “Fifty Bean Vanilla Ice Cream” at Spago in Beverly Hills, made with—no prizes for guessing, FIFTY vanilla beans. I have not tasted ice cream—in any flavour—like it since. Nor am I likely to.

Berthilon Cones

But Berthillon comes pretty darn close. Especially my scoop of “Caramel au beurre salé” or Caramel with Salted Butter. I can’t tell you how delicious it was. If ever you needed proof that the human palate enjoys the taste of fat, this is it.

Had the queue not been so long, I would’ve gone right to the back of the line to get another scoop. Or gone inside for one of these:

Berthillon Sundae

Flickr photo by MomentstoShare

The scoop of “Framboise à la rose” (Pink Raspberry?) that Karina had was delicious too, or so she said. I was too busy enjoying the sweet, smoky, creamy, salty taste of cold, liquid butter.

Berthilon Queue

Berthillon Glacier
Address: 31, Rue St. Louis en L’Ile, 75004 Paris
Phone: 01 43 54 31 61
http://www.berthillon-glacier.fr

Moooi Carbon Chair

Thursday, 6 September 2007

I went to Amsterdam last week for work, and managed to spend some time exploring the city.The Netherlands is home to a large number of world-class designers, running the entire gamut of fields—from furniture to architecture, textile making to ceramics, fashion to graphic design. Some Dutch design heavyweights that immediately come to mind are Hella Jongerius, Marcel Wanders, Viktor & Rolf and Rem Koolhaas.The Dutch design collective, Droog, alone has worked with over a hundred different designers. I dropped by their store, and saw this unbelievable table by Miriam van der Lubbe.Frog Table at Droog AmsterdamScenes from an Indonesian fairy tale about a Frog Prince were cut by laser into the walnut surface, then four Balinese craftsmen worked for two weeks, carving out half the tabletop into a spectacular relief of lily pads, tadpoles and frogs—in all stages of its life cycle.Frog Table at Droog AmsterdamThe table has to be seen to be believed. One half is precision-etched, with incisions barely a millimeter wide, and the other half is insanely hand-crafted. This juxtaposition was part of the artist’s intent; where countries would normally use cheap Indonesian labour to manufacture mass consumer goods, she used skilled artisans to produce a one-off masterpiece. (Ironically, perhaps, the labour cost was still probably fifty times cheaper than it would have cost to make in say, Italy.)I digress… more Amsterdam posts to come soon.One chair of Dutch design that I really love is Bertjan Pot’s Carbon Chair, designed in cooperation with Marcel Wanders, and produced by Moooi.Carbon ChairIt’s made from 100% carbon fibre, with no metal frame, and weighs an incredible, I don’t know, 3 micrograms, or some other ridiculously light weight. You can lift it with your little finger; it’s so light and feels really fragile, but yet, incredibly strong.The Carbon Chair was inspired by an experimental chair Pot created as an homage to Charles Eames’s DSR side chair with Eiffel base. Using carbon fiber and epoxy resin to “trace” the chair, the result was the “Carbon Copy”. (This chair was never produced, and remains only a prototype. Image from Bertjan Pot’s website.)Carbon CopyPot also designed the Random Light, which was his previous experiment with epoxy-soaked fibreglass strands. (He says on his website, “people who know me, know I like random.”) Originally hand-coiled around a large balloon, it took three years to perfect the mechanical process which allows it to retain its random, non-machine-made look. It’s now available in three sizes, the largest one slightly over a metre in diameter.Random LightCarbon ChairMaterial: Epoxy and carbon fibreColour: BlackDimensions: 75 x 46 x 50cm (H x W x D)Seating height: 45cmLIMITED AVAILABILITY DUE TO SHORTAGE OF CARBON FIBRE

Syed Alwi Yong Tau Foo

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I LOVE Yong Tau Foo. It doesn’t matter which variety: regular YTF, Ampang YTF, Hakka YTF; I love them all. If my surname was Yong, I’d name my child Tau Foo, just as a tribute.

Yong Tau Foo (which is the Cantonese pronunciation, Mandarin “niang dou fu”—thanks, Van!) literally means “stuffed tofu,” with the stuffing made out of fish paste, although sometimes, it’s mixed with pork. Somewhere along the line, someone must’ve figured out that you can stuff pretty much anything with the mixture; and now, you have stuffed brinjal/eggplant, chillies, bean curd ‘puffs’ (tau pok), lady’s fingers (okra), bittergourd, mushrooms, etc. There are also deep-fried items like wantons and bean curd skin, as well as meatballs, cuttlefish and sausage-like things. Finally, you can also add vegetables, together with noodles of your choice.

Syed Alwi YTF

One of my favourite stalls in Singapore is at the corner of Syed Alwi Road and Jalan Besar. I’ve been eating here for about 12 years now. I don’t remember exactly how I came across this place, but I’m guessing it was on my first visit to Deskar Road to do research on red light districts. (I think there’s an idea here. “Eating Your Way through Singapore’s Red Light Districts” sounds like something a lot of tourists will enjoy. I’ll pitch it to the Singapore Tourism Board if the opportunity arises.)

Syed Alwi YTF

Order pegs with table numbers on them. Clipped to your bowl after you choose your items.

Although this is supposed to be Hakka YTF, it neither comes with yellow noodles, nor does it come as a fixed selection of items. Here, you can pick any number of items, and you can have it dry, in a clear broth, or with laksa soup.

Syed Alwi YTF

Take a bowl, fill ‘er up, and enjoy!

My order will almost always have two pieces of brinjal (Best brinjal you’ll ever taste in YTF. Deep fried and delicious.), two lady’s fingers, and two slices of bittergourd. The other four pieces depends on my mood. But the soup choice is pretty much a given: clear broth, with watercress. The flavour of the watercress permeates the soup, making it richer and more complex. Full-bodied. With hints of arugula. It’s good, trust me.

My seven-year-old niece, who’s a finicky eater, had some tonight and proclaimed, “it’s tasty!” Praise doesn’t come any higher than that.

Syed Alwi YTF
If you get ten pieces or more, it’ll come to the table in a bowl the size of a small basin.

Oh, just one last thing. If you go late at night, and happen to be at a table next to the old man with one full, and 11 empty bottles of Tiger Beer, and he’s calling out to you really loudly in goodness-only-knows what dialect, don’t worry. He’s a harmless fixture there. Just wave and smile. And tell him I sent you.

Syed Alwi YTF

Hakka Yong Tou Foo
Fu San He Coffeeshop
Corner of Syed Alwi Road and Jalan Besar
Open 3:30p.m. to 3:30a.m. daily, closed on Sundays

The satay here is also worth trying, in particular the pork satay. They give you the old-style Chinese peanut sauce that’s pretty rare these days, with minced pineapple in it.

George Nelson Bubble Lamps

Sunday, 12 August 2007

George Nelson (1908-1986) was, together with Charles and Ray Eames, one of the founders of American modernism. His best-known furniture designs have all become icons of mid-century modernism, and include the marshmallow sofa, coconut chair, and platform bench. He also created these boldly graphic wall clocks for Howard Miller:

George Nelson Ball Clock

George Nelson Sunflower Clock

Although he was trained as an architect at Yale, he became extremely well known as a graphic designer, an industrial designer, an interior designer and exhibition designer. He was the design director at Herman Miller from 1945–1972, where he also pioneered the practice of corporate image management, graphic programs and signage.

George Nelson Herman Miller Poster

In 1947, George also created the “Bubble Lamp” line. Inspired by a self webbing material used to mothball ships in New York, he was convinced it would be perfect for lighting. He made a metal frame, tracked down the source of the webbing material and by the next day he created a big glowing sphere and the Bubble Lamp was born.

Bubble Lamp Group
George Nelson Bubble Lamps made by Modernica. Available at Pomelo Home in Singapore.

Here’s a description from a 1968 Howard Miller sales brochure, that reads like it could’ve been written yesterday:

“Airy, lighthearted “Bubbles” designed by George Nelson, make lamps and lighting fixtures that are so effective and functional in today’s contemporary settings. Their pleasing shapes are fashioned in sturdy, light-weight steel and a special translucent white plastic. The “Bubbles” will always cast a soft, even light.”

Howard Miller manufactured the lamps from the early 1950s until the line was discontinued in 1979. But Modernica has faithfully re-issued the Bubble Lamps to the exact specifications using the original Howard Miller factory tooling.

The Nelson Bubble Lamps are now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA).

George Nelson Bubble Lamps

The George Nelson Bubble Lamp collection comes in Saucer, Ball, Cigar, Apple, Pear, Criss Cross, Lantern and Propeller shapes, and includes table lamps, pendant lamps, sconce lamps and floor lamps. Materials: Steel skeleton, self-webbing soft plastic polymer. Made in USA.

(George never actually named the different lamp designs and they were simply given numbers by Howard Miller. A large Saucer lamp was simply sold under “Bubble Lamp H-727,” a large Ball lamp was sold under “Bubble Lamp H-725”.)

Sources: Wikipedia, Georgenelson.org, DWR, AIGA. Photo links to Flickr users Sweet Juniper, Hot Funk, Nailmaker.

Sand Worm Soup

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

I’ve already been a bit tardy at adding new posts to the blog. It’s been a crazy week. And some nights I come back from work, and I crave for a warm, comforting bowl of soup.

One of our meals in Guangzhou was at a place that served Panyu cuisine. Actually, I never really found out what characterizes Panyu cuisine, other than they sterilize your utensils in a wok right at the table:

Sterilizing Tableware in Guangzhou

The restaurants that don’t do this, serve table settings shrinkwrapped in plastic. As we all know, nothing says “hygiene” more than shrink wrap.

At the place in my previous post, they had these sand worms. And I thought they looked, well, interesting. (If there are any marine biologists reading, please help me identify these critters in the comments section.)

Sand Worms

Curiousity got the better of me, and I was sure these things aren’t endangered by a long shot, so I ordered up a bunch. Our waitress called over a girl to clean them, a task which the girl did quite deftly.

She’d pick up a worm, and hold it underwater in a basin. Then, using a long, thin stick (the Malay word ‘lidi’ describes this best), she’d shove it through one end of the worm, and the entire contents of the worm would exit the other end in a little black cloud.

I’m taking a wild guess here, but I think these worms swallow large amounts of sand, and filter out anything nutritious, because the primary component of sand worm innards is, surprise, surprise: sand.

Cleaning Sand worms

We then asked what the best way to prepare them was. “In soup, with white radish,” the waitress replied with great conviction. So, all righty then, Sand Worm Soup it is!

Sand Worm Soup

As you can see, the body of the sand worm is essentially a long, ribbed prophylactic (visible by clicking for larger photo).

And now, the million-dollar question. “What does sand worm soup taste like?”

Uncannily like white radish soup. As with bird’s nests, sea cucumber, frog’s glands and the countless other things that Chinese folk enjoy eating, the worms themselves were disappointingly bland as well, and slightly crunchy to the bite—somewhat akin to the texture of bamboo pith. Why can’t any of these things taste like foie gras or truffles, or wagyu beef?!

The waitress came over to inquire how the soup was, and we told her it was sorely lacking any flavour. “It is?” she said, genuinely surprised. It was then that she confessed to never having eaten the damn things before. Lovely. We instructed her never to recommend that dish to anyone ever again.

She must’ve felt bad about it, because she later brought over a plate of watermelon slices on the house. Not to sound ungrateful, but I think they were Panyu sand melons, the red parts tasted exactly the same as the rind.

Postscript:

I’ve found out that these worms are Sipuncula, Sipunculoidea, Sipunculida, or sipunculid worms. Commonly known as peanut worms, or in China and Vietnam, as “Bibi” worms. They are also found in Singapore waters and there’s a lovely picture of them here.