June in Thailand: Farm Animals at a Karen Village

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There was the usual assortment of cute farm animals at the village: goats complete with nursing kids…

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… lively little piglets running all over the place…

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… in complete contrast with their lazy parents conserving energy in a heap.

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The hens teaching their chicks to scratch around for food in the dirt were really cute too.

Surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be any animals doing work in the village. The only mechanical work being done was by some children threshing the rice. How strange!

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Singapore-Style Farmer’s Market

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There’s this place in Choa Chu Kang called Farmart that bills itself as a farmer’s showcase of sorts. DC and I went there to check out the fresh produce as I was going to cook Sunday lunch for the usual suspects. It wasn’t quite the fruit and veg bonanza I expected as only one measly store sold sweet potato leaves and another one sold two types of fruit. The rest of the stores sold eggs, fresh fish, honey, quail and quail eggs, local pastries and wheat grass juice. There wasn’t a huge selection but the offerings were all very fresh, particularly the live fish on sale.

We stumbled across a small stand selling incredibly sweet Silver Valley pineapple and excellent mangosteen. The pineapple came from the same man selling pineapple at the goat farm in Lim Chu Kang and it’s sweet and aromatic, better than the Sarawak varietal. The mangosteen came in large net bags with the dark purple skin glistening brightly at us, beckoning us to buy. These were very good too. The seller claimed that they were so good only one in a hundred were bad. True enough, all of the ones I had were excellent, just the right balance of sweet and sour.

We then proceeded to Cheng’s Seafood Village within the same compound for lunch. DC’s idea of a simple lunch was horfun, stir-fried vegetables and a large heap of butter prawns. The cooking here is good. They use good stock liberally in the food. The vegetables were fragrant with lots of yummy stock and the horfun noodles were pre-fried so that each ribbon of noodle was slightly charred. Very well done. I also quite liked how there were  some little surprises such as the mussel in the horfun. What DC didn’t like was a mushy prawn. You win some you lose some I guess.

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DC claimed that it was good enough that he ordered butter prawns as the unhealthy alternative would be the oat prawns. I think I can safely say that DC is rather insatiable, perhaps more so than me. The moreish prawns were coated in an almost sweet butter crisp and were fried till just right. They were excellent even eaten shell on.

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Cheng’s Seafood Village
67 Sungei Tengah Road Unit 43
Tel 6892 5590

Farm Visit at Poison Ivy

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A friend and I went to explore the Lim Chu Kang farm area on a lazy Sunday. Our first stop was of course for lunch and we had it at Poison Ivy at Bollywood Veggies Farm.

First, we cooled off with an icy glass of fig tea and then perused the menu.

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We ordered quite a bit of stuff off the special menu of the day. There was a lot to choose from but only two bellies to fill, so we had a tough time choosing.

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We started with the grilled brinjal. Even though the presentation was awful, with the tomato and onion sauce slapped on messily, it tasted quite decent. Dunno why but it seemed to be fried in egg rather than grilled like it said on the menu. I liked the soft texture It was not badof the brinjal although the sauce was a touch too sweet. My friend said that he had eaten better on previous visits.

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Next up was the banana curry. It’s so popular that it’s often sold out, so get there early for your banana curry fix. It was quite unusual because the bananas were the starchy less ripe variety. It went surprisingly well with the curry although I felt that it could have had a little more depth, perhaps paired with another vegetable, either carrot or cabbage maybe.

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Our last main dish was sweet potato leaves fried in chilli, garlic and onion. It was delicious! I liked how tender it was. It’s hard to find sweet potato leaves that aren’t fibrous and tough. These were deep green and very young, going very well with rice.

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For dessert, we had banana crumble and kueh kosui. The crumble was more of a cobbler and came with the usual supermarket vanilla ice cream. I liked the texture of the banana and suspect it’s probably pisang rajah. The topping and ice cream were pretty run of the mill. I routinely make better crumble than this and in my books, crumble has to come with custard. Not up to my standards.

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Now the finale certainly was a worthy one. The kueh kosui was what it should be: soft, sticky, coconutty, caramelly and yummy. It came in a big slab and had to be teased out in bits by the sticky forkful. Even my true-blue grandma-makes-everything-from-scratch Peranakan friend said it was decent. Pass!

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A word about the portions: they’re not exactly the most generous, but it makes for reasonable prices and the chance to nibble at a lot more things. I think small is beautiful, so I’m not complaining. Just take note if you’re a big eater, as opposed to merely a greedy eater like me. The bill came up to $23.50 for the two of us. It was decent considering we had two fig teas, three dishes with rice and two desserts.

Poison Ivy Bistro
100 Neo Tiew Road
Tel: 6898 5001

August in China: A Walk in a Dong Village

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Just like its bridges and drum towers, Dong village houses are made of local wood. They blend charmingly into the forest, although some villages are much better kept than others. The first picture is of one that tourists frequent more.

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This slightly dustier village was a bit poorer, perhaps because tourist buses didn’t stop here. In this village, Willy and I had an odd sense that the people were wary and suspicious of outsiders. Even the curious children weren’t as open as I expected.

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Nonetheless, I was glad to see that there was some kind of government care in this village. At least the poster shows that they’re bothering to do something about female infanticide, reminding the minority groups that girls are a valuable part of their community.

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In the other villages, prosperity was showing in the form of spanking new houses. This one was very near to the main road. Everything was made from scratch from local timber. Nothing seemed to be metal or prefab.

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The villages didn’t have a proper sewage system. They relied on the age-old system of ponds, algae and ducks.  An outhouse  was built in the centre of each pond and presumably rotated between the ponds. Some of them were pretty clean, with melon creepers vines growing along the borders of the ponds.

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Others were equally pretty, with the red algal bloom. It was only after some thought that I realised why the algae was doing so well. They probably allowed the algae to grow, then drain the resulting water into the paddy fields as fertiliser and allow the ducks to get at the algae. Whether it’s correct or not is another matter,  it’s all pure speculation on my part.

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The back of the village opened out into the valley. The flattest parts at the bottom were filled with paddy fields, while the higher elevations had other crops like tea and corn.

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As we strolled along the back paths, villagers went on with their hard work on the land.

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On the other hand, we tourists went on to climb halfway up a slope and enjoy the beautiful views.

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I could stare out at this scenery every day, it’s so amazing.

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