Simple Pleasures – CNY 2022

// hanging up leeks, my favourite edible CNY decoration-cum-food. Chinese knots and ribbon were previously decorations on a gift hamper, diverted them from the trash bin. Yay!

// placed my money planter from here into an empty tea canister, the red colour is an instant ‘huat’ effect!

// another hamper embellishment diverted from the incinerator 🙂

// never mind that this is actually a mooncake tin, repurposing it for displaying sweets and goodies that don’t require an air-tight container.

// I no longer need new outfits to usher in the new year. This habit has saved me plenty of shopping time and even more money on impulse buys, especially styles that I don’t wear beyond CNY. With proper care, I have many pieces that are still in great condition. Others just need some mending/alteration to become wearable again. Or a thorough washing, never fails to restore stuff to its former glory.

// took home a stack of excess marketing materials to add even more festive cheer to my place, beats sitting in the warehouse and turning irrelevant after the CNY.

// with limited house visits, we are spending a lot of time at home. Borrowed a few Ebooks from NLB, to be devoured over the next three days.

// counting my vegetarian journey into its 15th year, I have not run out of things to eat, still exploring new vegetarian recipes and ingredients. I discovered konjac sashimi last year but they are mostly in grey/brown colour. Found this version mimicking lobster meat that is a perfect addition to my CNY yusheng, as the vegetarian salmon slices are getting more pricey.

Fried Nian Gao With Rice Paper

I love my mum’s deep-fried nian gao with crispy batter but I have never cooked this CNY snack before. My small-batch home cooking style doesn’t justify the amount of oil required. There are pan-fried recipes that use less oil like this and this, but I got interested only after seeing this version wrapped in spring roll skin.

I want to taste more of the nian gao than the skin, the outer covering should just be crispy. I used these clear rice paper as they are thinner than spring roll skins and have a neutral taste.

Soften the rice paper with water and fold a piece of nian gao in it. Pan-fry over low heat until the bottom turns crispy.

Flip and fry the other side as well.

The rice paper is really thin as you can see the nian gao inside through the skin.

The nian gao is ready when both sides are cooked, serve immediately.

I really like the nian gao made this way; no fuss and just one frying pan to wash.

Keeping the rest of the nian gao slices in the fridge, frying more in the next few days!

How I shop meat-free at wet markets

I always think it is a big bonus to be staying near a wet market. The small business owners never fail to shower regular customers with plenty of neighbourly love. Like, they’ll show concern when you don’t turn up for weeks, and then we’ll go on to assure each other that everyone at home is alright; something we no longer take for granted since the onset of the pandemic.

I don’t plan my shopping list in great detail when I shop at the wet markets. I just have an idea how many meals I am buying ingredients for. Then, I’ll let the vegetable stall helpers recommend what to buy and cook. They would usually recommend based on what are in season or in abundance. You’ll need to exercise plenty of self-control as the stallholders tempt you with their suggestions. On this day, there were a lot of huge napa cabbages. And so, that’s how I ended up making kimchi.

I have tweaked my usual quick kimchi recipe (again) because I ran out of rice flour at home. But Maangchi has all purpose flour on this ingredient list here, so I made the switch to avoid another grocery trip. I have provided the recipe at the end of this post, but this post is really about how a vegetarian shops for her homecooked meal plans.

++ Greens ++

Due to my meat-free dietary choice, my family consumes a lot of leafy vegetables along with me. I also buy one or two hardy vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflowers as they stay fresh longer. I also ask for a handful of spring onions, cilantro and pandan leaves; these are simple ingredients that add oomph to homecooked dishes. The best part about buying from the wet markets is that almost everything comes without plastic wraps. The sellers simply wrap everything in newspapers and place them in my reusable shopping bags.

++ Mushrooms and tofu ++

Besides vegetables, mushrooms and tofu are also my must-buy grocery items. I bring my own containers to buy shiitake mushrooms and firm tofu, available in bulk sans plastic. There’s no pressure to buy in huge volume, no buy-1-get-1-free offers here; I simply purchase the amount of food I need and finish up before they turn bad.

++ noodles ++

It’s boring to eat rice all the time. I usually keep some packets of noodles and rice cakes at home as they make very useful pantry items for quick and easy one-pot meals. These are not plastic-free, but I am not pursuing a perfectly zero-waste kitchen either. The impact on overall waste reduction is greater when everyone makes a small, conscious effort to cut down on trash. Even if it means an occasional zero waste fail, it’s still better than no efforts at all.

++ More Mushrooms and root vege ++

More food packed in plastic, mostly fresh mushrooms. Today, I got oyster and shimeji mushrooms; these provide great flavour to stir fries. Eryngii, also known as king trumpet or king oyster mushroom provides an amazing scallop-like texture; I love adding them to all my Buddha bowl recipes.

With most of of food imported, packaging is a practical solution that keeps produce from ending up as waste due to spoilages. Besides opting for non-excessively packaged items and choosing local produce whenever possible, I also decline additional plastic bags and carriers. And then, I’ll always make sure the food purchased ends up in our tummies and not in the landfills, because food waste is still the dumbest environmental problem. That’s why I only buy loose carrots, onions and potatoes, not those in big bags.

++ Eggs and tempeh ++

No meat, no problem. Eggs and tempeh are great protein-rich meat alternatives. Also come with minimal plastic packaging when you buy these from wet markets. The egg seller even allows you to return the carton for reuse!

++ Storing & Organising ++

Potatoes: Depending on my meal plans, I buy just enough potatoes and use them up before they sprout. Here are my storing tips that I have been using to keep potatoes fresh up to 1.5 weeks:
1. Place them in a mesh bag for ventilation
2. Store in dark, cool place; I keep them in the darkest corner on my countertop
3. Do not wash the potatoes until you are ready to use them
4. Do not keep them in the fridge
5. Keep them away from onions and bananas

Onions and Garlic: I keep these in a basket on the countertop

Eggs: They last longer when store in fridge, but I try to use them up in two weeks.

Spring Onions & Cilantro: I store these inside airtight boxes so that they stay fresh; they don’t turn mushy even after one week. Carrots too.

Vegetables and fruit: These go into the crisper drawer, but not before wrapping them in newspapers or beeswax wrap.

After organising my kitchen, I start to make quick vegan kimchi with the following recipe adapted from Maangchi’s recipe here.

Quick VEGA napa cabbage kimchi

1 large napa cabbage

For kimchi porridge 
2 cups water
4 teaspoons all purpose flour
3 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons Korean hot pepper flakes*
3 tablespoons soy sauce
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1/2 onion, chopped
4 stalks spring onion, chopped
1 carrot, julienned

Cut napa cabbage length wise into 4 or 6 parts, depending on your preference and the size of your cabbage.

Rub salt between the leaves, add water and let it sit for 2 hours. I place a cast iron pot to press the cabbage down, making sure it stays submerged in the salted water.

Make kimchi porridge while waiting for the cabbage to be ready.

In a saucepan, add water and all purpose flour, stir with a spoon to mix well.

Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously to make sure the mixture cooked into a smooth paste without burning at the base. Once a thick paste is formed, add sugar, continue stirring until all the sugar grains disappear. Turn off heat and let the paste cool down.

When the paste has completely cooled, add garlic, grated ginger and chopped onions.

Blend with an immersion blender.

Add Korean chili pepper flakes, I use 4 tablespoons, add more if you prefer spicy kimchi.

To finish the porridge making, add soy sauce, julienned carrots and chopped spring onions, stir to mix well.

We are now ready to make kimchi!

Rinse the cabbage leaves in clean water to remove all the salt.

Rub kimchi porridge evenly on every leaf, mix well.

This can be served right away as fresh kimchi.

Or, let it ferment overnight at room temperature.

The cabbage will continue to release liquid during fermentation. Next day, I transfer the kimchi into glass bottles and keep them inside the fridge to let it continue to ferment slowly.

One large napa cabbage yields four large-680ml bottles of prebiotic-rich kimchi.

Besides eating the kimchi straight from the jar, I also add them to stews/ stir-fries/ fried rice.

Need more reasons to make kimchi at home? Here are more meat-free recipes that make good use of the good stuff!
Kimchi Jjigae
Quick Kimchi Pancakes
Kimchi Fried Rice
Kimchi Bibimbap
Mushroom and Kimchi Dumplings
Tofu and Kimchi Dumplings

Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns

Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns // Mono + Co

These are basically cinnamon buns with the sugary fillings and glaze removed.  I thought it was a good idea to add mashed carrots into the dough since they go so well with cinnamon and raisins in my carrot cakes.

Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns // Mono + Co

Because I did not spread butter and sugar on the surface of the dough, there were no pretty swirls on my cinnamon buns. If you prefer to see that on your rolls, brush a generous layer of melted butter, followed by another layer of cinnamon grounds, brown sugar and raisins before rolling the dough up.  The layer of fat will keep the dough from sealing up during slicing and proofing.

Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns // Mono + Co

I baked these buns in my 9-inch/ 23cm clear glass pot instead of my round tin as I wanted to utilize the pot more.  It also serves as a great storage container for the buns since it comes with a heavy glass lid.

Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns // Mono + Co Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns // Mono + Co Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns // Mono + Co

I feel great seeing carrots in my breakfast rolls!

Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns

235g plain flour
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon grounds
1 small egg, beaten
95g carrots, steamed + mashed
25g water
25g cold butter, cubed
50g raisins **

** Soak raisins in a bowl of warm water for 30 minutes.  Drain and gently squeeze dry to remove excess liquid before use.

In a mixer bowl, combine all the dry ingredients together (plain flour, yeast, sea salt, brown sugar, cinnamon grounds) with a hand whisk.  Then add beaten egg, cooled mashed carrots and water.  Turn on the mixer to knead with a dough hook.  Once a dough ball is formed, stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Start the mixer again to knead for 1 minute before adding cubed butter one by one, and knead till the dough reach window pane stage.  Stop mixer and leave the dough to bulk rise at room temperature for 60 minutes.

After the dough has risen, punch down the dough to deflate and transfer to a clean and lightly floured work top.  Sprinkle worktop and palms with flour if the dough is too sticky to handle.

Roll out the dough to a rectangle sheet, spread raisins on the surface.  Roll up the dough from the longer edge and pinch to seal.  Slice the roll into 8 pieces and arrange them in a 9-inch pan.  Leave this aside to proof for another 60 minutes, covered.

Preheat oven to 170C, and bake the bread for 25-35 minutes.

When done, remove bread from baking tin immediately and place on a rack to cool completely.





Tidy Tuesdays : Cord Mess

Taming Cord Mess // Mono+Co

Cords, cables, wires.  Where do I start and where do they end?  I am never the best person to decide power point locations around the house.  I will just hide them away for aesthetics purpose instead of considering their locations from a necessity point of view.

I wish every appliance will be wireless someday.  If that is not possible, then that device will come with its own retractable cord, like those found in the vacuum cleaners.  Extend when I use them, retract and hide the wires when they are being stored away.  Can’t help but see coils of cords around the house as a potential landing area for dust and dirt.   Thankfully, my electrical kettle comes with a design that allows the dangling cord to be coiled and hidden below the base.  Grease and dust? Yikes, you get the idea.

Right now, I am using 2 solutions to organize cords that are way too long.

Taming Cord Mess // Mono+Co

Make knots : For slim and long ones like charging cables, which I want them at a fixed length, I shorten them by making a wobble, there are plenty of Youtube guides online, just search “wobble”.

This monkey knot looks stylish for cord management too, but I have yet to use it.

Taming Cord Mess // Mono+Co

Cable Reel : For other devices that I need some flexibility in the cord’s length, I use this cable reel (photo above) from Daiso that allows me to coil up lengthy cords in a white subtle enclosure.  It comes in 2 models/sizes, but I find the large one easier to use as it coils up longer cords like those of table lamps (they are the most generous when it comes to cord lengths!) and standing/table fans (the adjustable reel allows me to alter the length of the cable depending on which part of the house I want the fan to cool down.)

I have 5 of this cable reel at various parts of my house now, they are a breeze to use and the best part is they instantly erase sight of cluttered cable mess tagging behind these appliances :

Taming Cord Mess // Mono+Co Taming Cord Mess // Mono+Co Taming Cord Mess // Mono+Co Taming Cord Mess // Mono+Co






Housekeeping : Removing Rust Stain On Glass

Housekeeping : Removing Rust Stain On Glass // Mono+Co

Glass is one of my favorite material.  Plastic is on the other end of the spectrum.  Where possible, I will choose a glass container over Tupperware.  They look prettier and last really long if you don’t have butter fingers.  They are also really fairly easy to clean; most of the glass items in my house still look brand new.

All in mint condition, until I got this rust looking stain on the bathroom shelf.  Seems like someone left a wet metal cap overnight on it and the unsightly ring rust stain formed right in the middle of the shelf, a very eye catching spot.  When I run my finger over the stain, I couldn’t feel anything, just smooth glass, as if the rust color has be absorbed.

I have tried baking soda, in vain, hoping that it will gently scrub off the stain.  Seems like stains on glass are a lot difficult to remove than I thought.  Then I recall this “rust dissolving jelly”from Daiso sitting in the tool box.

Housekeeping : Removing Rust Stain On Glass // Mono+CoHousekeeping : Removing Rust Stain On Glass // Mono+Co

After leaving the jelly for a few minutes, the stain came off easily when I rubbed it off with cotton bud.

Gosh, lucky me,  no more eye sore on the shelf now.  Shelf is looking brand new again.

Housekeeping : Cleaning The Washing Machine

cleaning washingmachine 002
Frankly, I felt like throwing away my 3 year old washing machine after cleaning it with the $2 detergent from Daiso.  The type of grime that surfaced after a 6-hour soak surprised me.  The clean freak in me just wanted to start afresh with a brand new one after learning how much gunk there is in a machine that is supposed to keep my laundry clean.  But there are some features that I really like about this washer, which I do not see in the current models.  So it is better to maintain a strict cleaning schedule for the washer, than to spend money on a new one which will eventually become dirty if neglected.

cleaning washingmachine 004
Why do I like my current washer?  First of all, it has a TUB DRY function.  I am not sure what exactly this is, but I know that the machine needs to be as dry as possible to  prevent mold and mildew from growing inside the washing machine.  The manual stated that this feature will allow water to evaporate from the tub; sounds like all machines should have this button, who will want the washer to remain wet after use?

Maybe this feature is a given in all other washers, but my hope is that the tub dry function actually opens up whatever “inlet/outlet” it has to improve air circulation, allowing the tub/drum and other inner surfaces to dry up as much as possible before the next use.

Secondly, the washer includes a TUB CLEANING mode, see that sparkle and shine drawing on the panel?  Again, I am unsure of its effectiveness; if it has any special motion programmed to really clean up the tub and wonder if this 54-minutes of spinning alone is enough to keep it clean; the user manual recommends “chlorine-type” detergent, so I use bleach only.  So far, that is all I do to clean the washer.

Lately, I found out about the availability of special washing detergent for washing machine from a Taiwanese home shopping channel.  One thing led to another, I saw pictures like this, video like this and a homemade version like this, and decided to try a washer detergent that I found in Daiso.  I have seen similar ones being sold at a Japanese supermarket, but they cost a lot more.

cleaning washingmachine 001
This box of washer detergent from Daiso comes with two individual sachets, 75g for each use.  I open up a sachet and pour the white powder into the machine while it is loading itself with water.  By the time the water level reaches the full load mark, I notice some black stuff floating around.  They look similar to the black flakes that occasionally attach themselves to my clean laundry.  I pause the cycle at this juncture, and let the tub soak in the solution for 6 hours.

cleaning washingmachine 007cleaning washingmachine 008
(photo above) These delightful looking bubbles appear after a few hours, letting me feel that the detergent is working, indication of cleaning in progress.
cleaning washingmachine 003
After 6 hours, I switch on the machine again to continue its cleaning cycle.  As the washer start spinning, more dirt surface.  By now, I am pretty convinced that my earlier rounds of tub cleaning sessions have worked, even with bleach only.  If you think mine is dirty, take a look at this user’s account.

I decided that it is better to sieve out these floating particles than to leave them to drain on their own, in case they get stuck somewhere along the pipes and remain inside the washer.

(photo below) The small strainer  will be used for cleaning washing machine only from now on.

cleaning washingmachine 005
After the machine has finished its entire tub cleaning mode, I decided to do another rinse cycle, as the instruction on the box stated 2 rinse cycles after the soak.  I threw in a clean towel, to see if I can get more of those “flakes” to attach themselves onto the towel, to check if the washer is really clean.  True enough, there were more :cleaning washingmachine 006
I became satisfied only after another 2 rounds of rinsing.  Makes me wonder if my 3 year old machine can be this dirty, what about my previous one that lasted for a good 10 years?

5 habits to stay after this enlightenment session:
// remove laundry immediately after the cycle is completed
// always keep the washer lid open when not using
// program tub dry function as auto
// stick to a monthly cleaning schedule, either with detergent, homemade mixture of baking soda + vinegar, or just vinegar
// avoid adding excessive amount wash detergent and stay away from fabric softeners to prevent residue built up inside the machine.  Instead, add baking soda to increase the effectiveness of the washing powder or salt as alternative to softeners.

What To Say At A Lo Hei Session

what to say during a lo hei session

Tomorrow will mark day #15 and the last day of the Chinese New Year celebration period.  Last night, we decided to have a last session of Lo-Hei for 2014 at home, with a prepacked Yu-Sheng ingredients.  I topped up with lots of julienned green radish and carrots, a lime, more ground peanuts (I thought the quantity they provided was too little), toasted white sesame seeds, and peanut oil.  Did not prepare fish, as no one takes raw fish at home.

The other few DIY Lo Hei sessions we had so far, always ended up with the same situation, not knowing what to say, as the ingredients are tossed in.

Not this time.

So asked my eldest daughter to do some Goggle-ing, and we happily tossed the Yu-Sheng ingredients away.




/ the website  for the auspicious phrases.

/ i found this info-graphic later.

/ hundred percent  homemade Yu-Sheng is possible.