Google PlusFacebookTwitter

Shark fin soup for the soul

By on Sep 13, 2010 in Travel | 4 comments

I ate shark fin soup today. Boy, do I feel like a right bastard for contributing towards the extinction of an endangered species. See those pinkish chunks floating in the soup? Those are pieces of shark fin. It’s scant in its presence as this a ‘mass-market’ version; gourmet shark fin soup costs a bomb (~$100, I’ve heard) and comes with sizeable cartilaginous chunks of shark fin. Shark fin itself apparently has no taste, and it takes the flavour of whatever broth it is in. Most often the broth is chicken soup, as it was here. I didn’t know what to expect when I placed my order, so I requested for an extra helping of vegetables to mellow down the taste. Shark fin is…chewy – and in my case tasted like chicken since that was what the stock was. Those of you who know me would know I’ve been a vegetarian for many years now. Vegetarianism is a personal choice I made arising out of taste rather than any religious or ethical compunctions. All that has gone for a toss here in Singapore though since you’ll be hard-pressed to find vegetarian eating options here! (Do you ‘eat’ soup or ‘drink’ soup? The consensus seems to be that if the soup contains solids such as croutons then the verb is ‘eat’, otherwise ‘drink’ for light broths. I think when the words ‘shark fin’ precede the word ‘soup’, the verb should most definitely be ‘eat’.) I also had an egg-and-seaweed fold in the same meal – it’s a dish that roughly has the consistency of a dumpling on the outside, with a filling of puffy egg whites and seaweed strands. ‘Crispy biscuit’ is akin to a poppadum, coated in yoghurt-based dressing; ‘sandwich biscuit’ is a slice of pie stuffed with mashed potato. By the end of my meal, I realized that I had ordered too much food. The drink that you see in the picture above is ‘Chin Chow drink’. I asked the cashier/server at the (separate) place I bought the drink as to what was in it. He just smiled enigmatically, gave me back my change, and called another woman at the shop who gestured towards the crushed ice and said, “It taste better when ice bottom.” I later found out ‘chin chow’ is the Chinese name for grass jelly – made from the leaves of a mint-family plant. When you order a ‘chin chow drink’, you get blocks of grass jelly mixed with black, minty tasting liquid with crushed ice on top. I got more than my money’s worth out of the meal (cheap and filling at S$4.50) but the item that piqued my interest when I saw it on the menu – the shark fin soup – didn’t make a distinct impression on me except for hurting my conscience. Maybe this tasted like nothing more than chicken soup because it’s cheap shit. Maybe some day – when my conscience has recovered, and my wallet is thicker – I’ll try ‘real’ shark fin soup. **** I went to the Fairprice Xtra superstore at Jurong Point Shopping Centre to stock up on breakfast cereals and snacks. I consider myself to be good Samaritan, so when I noticed an unattended package lying at the checkout counter I pointed it out to the checkout counter lady (‘CCL’ in the conversation below). Me: Ahem. It’s seems someone forgot their groceries here. CCL: That belong to you. Me: Really?! Are you sure? CCL: [points to the entry ‘Pringles x 2’ on my bill, out of around just six items] This. Belong. To. You. (She probably wasn’t trying to be sarcastic with the emphasis. Probably. I like to think it was because she had difficulty speaking in English.) Me: Ah. Yes. Being a checkout counter employee at a superstore must require patience than a hostage negotiator...


By on Aug 21, 2010 in On A Whim | 2 comments

Dad: Are you done chewing through your Pepsodent? Me: Erm, no… Me: … Me: Are you sure you didn’t mean Happydent instead? Dad: Oh yeah. That would be it.

Multiple identities

By on Jul 22, 2010 in Personal | 8 comments

Customer support for any company can be notoriously annoying and inept. Now you can add ‘(unintentionally?) humourous’ to the list too. I called up Tata Sky satellite TV‘s helpline today to drop ESPN from our account today, now that the World Cup is over. After a brief wait, I was connected to a customer service representative (CSR in the dialogue below)… CSR: Good afternoon Mr Ankur Banerjee, how may I help you? Me: I wanted to drop the ESPN add-on package from my account. CSR: Sure thing, Mr Chatterjee. Please wait while we check you out. (‘check you out’? Did some wise guy actually write that in the script reps have to follow?) Me: … CSR: Thank you, for waiting Mr Mukherjee. The package you requested has been dropped from your account. Me: (trying to control laughter at this point) … CSR: Mr Mukherjee? Me: Erm…right…of course. Thanks. CSR: Have a good day, Mr Chatterjee. I can’t help but laugh how within that short span of time with customer information available on-screen someone could get my name wrong so many times. Maybe Tata Sky customer service reps are allowed one-joke-at-the-expense-of-customer per hour, to lighten the mood in the workplace. That, or the guy suffers from...

My mom is terrific at a lot of things, but…

By on Jul 19, 2010 in Personal | 12 comments

I would be misleading you if I said I’m ‘just’ a heavy sleeper. You might be the sort of person who can hear a fucking ninja creeping across the floor (to kill you) while asleep, but when I am sleeping I’m as good as knocked out after taking ten sleeping pills. If it wasn’t for my pulse, I would be pronounced dead every morning. So waking up is a daily challenge for me. Over the years, I have developed many strategies. Such as setting 25 separate alarms on my cellphone all within the space of half an hour – all of them 1-2 minutes apart from each other – around the time I want to wake up. There have been times when I have successfully slept through this cacophony. The problem starts when I want to, say, take a short nap. I might tell my mom that I need to go somewhere and that I’m decide to take a short nap (I don’t do that often) and in case my alarm doesn’t work could she please wake me up on time. My mom’s terrific at so many things, but one thing she’s failed miserably so far is to be able to wake me up. Ever. Her method works like thus… Mom: Wake up. You just slept through your alarm and you said you need to go somewhere now. Me: Mffmfphhhh? Mom: Are you going to wake up now then? Me: Mmmfffppphshh… Mom: Good. Also, there’s this untidy pile of papers lying on your table. Is that supposed to be thrown away? Me: Mmmpppppfffhhhh! When I do wake up approximately two hours later (or until an angry  friend calls me irritatedly on my cellphone, whichever is earlier) I find that I have massively overshot my nap time and that piece of paper in which I had figured out how to solve the BP oil spill has been thrown away. Mom comes back into my room when she hears my “AAAAARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHH!” scream that would put Hollywood sound libraries to shame. Mom: What’s the matter? Me: I overslept. AAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGHHHHH! Mom: I did wake you up. Me: I beg to differ, as you can see. Also, I can’t find that piece of paper where I had figured out a kick-ass solution to the BP oil spill problem. The one where I’d planned to use Chetan Bhagat to block the spewing oil vents. Mom: I threw that away. You consented to it. Me: AAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I think at times when she really wants to throw some stuff of mine out she deliberately asks me that when I’m half asleep. After all, “Mmmmpppffhhh” is unequivocally ‘consent’. And now you also know why Nokia, Inc is my most trusted friend when I have to wake up at a specific time. Still love my mom though....

Middle-Eastern Winnie The Pooh

By on Jul 10, 2010 in On A Whim | 1 comment

“Have you seen Body of Lies? Mark Strong’s performance in that film is top-notch!” “Oh yes, I’ve seen that one. Doesn’t he play the character of Honey Pasha?” “Erm…he plays the character of Hani Pasha. ‘Hani Pasha’ sounds like name of a badass, high-ranking Jordanian intelligence official. ‘Honey Pasha’, on the other hand, is probably what they call Winnie the Pooh in Middle Eastern countries.”