An Almost Zero Waste Travel Journal – Tainan, Taiwan

Have you been making a list of things to do post-circuit breaker? Or post-pandemic?  No one can tell us when the “virus-free” day will come or how the pandemic will end, but nothing will be the same again.  Especial for travellers.

Whether we can afford the flight tickets, post-covid19 remains to be seen.  But there is no harm thinking about the next vacation spot.  Taiwan came to my mind while scrolling through the old photos on my phone.  Here’s sharing some of my zero waste reusable kits when I travel overseas.

Bring your own water bottle so that you can refuse all the bottled water during the trip.  The water dispensers in airports even dispense hot water, great for tea lovers like me.

I bring this reusable coffee cup instead of my usual stainless steel water bottle during vacations. Because this cup has a wider mouth, this makes it easier for stallholders to fill it with my takeaway drink orders.  The double-walled container is also suitable for hot drink orders.

Waste from single-use plastic bottles can be easily cut to zero when you bring your own reusable ones.  I always boil my own supply of drinking water using the electrical pot provided by the hotel.  Before sleeping, I will boil a full pot of water and let it cool down overnight.  Next morning, fill the bottles and go.  Or, you can also politely ask the hotel’s cafe or restaurant to fill up your drinking bottle before you head out for the day.  At mealtimes, I will also try to ask the eateries to help fill my bottle with plain water.

There is a lot of trash from the pantry items inside the hotel room and at the breakfast counter, if you consume them.  I don’t mind drinking black coffee to skip individually packed sugar and creamer.  I also bring along my handkerchiefs, instead of using the serviettes.  Disposable straws and stirrers are also unnecessary for me; I drink straight out of the cup (yes, iced drinks too!) and reusable chopsticks, spoons, even knives, make suitable stirrers as well!

Taiwan is a vegetarian-friendly destination.  Almost every place has vegan or vegetarian options.

Ice cream served in a cone produces less waste than one served a cup.

Dining-in is always our first choice so that we can be served with reusable plate ware and cutlery.  Byo containers are reserved for packing street food!

Another good reason for dining in; watching chefs close up while they cook your meals!

The reusable menu is so rare to find!  Everywhere else provide paper slips.

I bring along tenugui as a reusable towel/handkerchief, avoiding create trash from the use of wet wipes and tissue paper.

The tenugui make great carriers too!

Tea seed powder is also part of my byo kit, as I use it to wash my greasy food containers, cutlery and drinking bottle at the end of the day.

This enamel food container helped saved plenty of disposable waste being created.


What kind of reusable containers do you bring when you travel overseas?  What is the max number of byo items you can pack before your bag becomes too heavy!

Easy Lentil Stew

Easy Lentil Stew // Mono + Co

I am surprised that I have never tried cooking lentils before. I must have been intimidated by recipes that call for a long list of herbs and spices; I used to discard plenty of these, forgotten and expired. This happened a lot in the past when I tried out recipes for the novelty; cook once and never again.

Easy Lentil Stew // Mono + Co

It is actually my daughter’s idea to try a plant-based lentil stew recipe. It came with a long shopping list of seasoning and spices: garlic powder, onion powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, sweet paprika powder, ginger powder; none of which I have at home. It irks me to think that these ingredients might end up as food waste if we are only making the dish once.

To prevent wastage, I selected only two types of spices to buy: cumin and coriander, while substituting the rest with either fresh ones (garlic, ginger, onions) or skip them altogether. I am adding turmeric powder as I always have it at home. We have been making this stew dish at least four times, each time with different ingredients, but always with cumin, coriander and turmeric powder.

Easy Lentil Stew // Mono + Co

Recently, I have been cutting down the frequency of trips to the wet market. This means that I have to buy more fresh produce which doesn’t turn bad quickly, such as cauliflowers, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and carrots. These hardy vegetables are perfect for making lentil stews. I am also purchasing more dry food items such as beans, noodles, rice cakes from the dry provision section of the wet market. That’s how I learned that red lentils and spices (and curry paste!) are sold in bulk at the Indian provision stall. My CNY cookie container that weighs exactly 50g without its cover, makes it a breeze for the stallholder to measure my order, 200g of red lentils.

Easy Lentil Stew // Mono + Co

I will be exploring more vegetarian lentil stew recipes. In the meantime, here’s a quick sharing of how I make mine today, serves two:

1. Prep Ingredients:

  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • Olive oil, enough to cover and sweat chopped onions
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • Black pepper and salt, to taste
  • Cilantro, as garnish

2. Steps:

  • Heat up oil in a pot.
  • Add chopped onions and cook till softened.
  • Add garlic, fry till aromatic.
  • Add diced carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and chopped tomatoes, stir to cook, around 3 minutes, add red lentils.
  • Add cumin, coriander and turmeric powder, stir to mix.
  • Add enough hot water (or broth, if preferred) to cover all ingredients and bring to boil.
  • Cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer to cook, around 10 minutes.
  • Remove cover, stir the mixture, add more hot water if it’s too dry.
  • Season with salt and black pepper.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve immediately.

Do you have cooking, seasoning tips, or must-have ingredients, spices for your favourite lentil stew recipe? Share if you have, this late-comer to the world of lentils will be very grateful!

Stay Home Project: Potato Bread Loaf

Stay Home Project: Potato Bread Loaf // Mono + Co

With the circuit-breaker measures in place and all the time in the world at home, I have started to bake bread the slower way again.

I went back to kneading bread dough with a standing mixer.  I also reduced the instant yeast in the recipe, from 1/2 tablespoon to 1/2 teaspoon.  The final bread proofing time took longer but it still managed to rise above the rim of the bread tin.  I have tried baking the recipe for a second time with a bigger Pullman loaf tin, it worked well.

More importantly, the potato bread was soft and pillowy.  Definitely the kind of breakfast to look forward to every morning.

Stay Home Project: Potato Bread Loaf // Mono + CoStay Home Project: Potato Bread Loaf // Mono + CoStay Home Project: Potato Bread Loaf // Mono + CoStay Home Project: Potato Bread Loaf // Mono + CoStay Home Project: Potato Bread Loaf // Mono + Co


Potato Bread Loaf

220g plain flour

2 tablespoons milk powder, optional

1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons raw honey

100g mashed potato

1 large egg, beaten **

30-40g potato water ***

20g cold butter, cubed

** I used large egg that weighs 75grams with shell.

*** Potato water refers to the water that the potatoes were cooked in.  Cool it down to room temperature before using.

In a mixer bowl, combine plain flour, milk powder, instant yeast, sea salt, raw honey, mashed potato, egg, and water.  Turn on the mixer with a dough hook attachment and knead these ingredients on the lowest speed (KA 1) till they come into a ball.  Continue to knead for 3 minutes, then stop the mixer and let the dough sit for 15 minutes.

Turn on the mixer again and knead for 1 minute before adding butter cubes one by one while the mixer is running on its lowest speed.  Keep kneading till there are no traces of butter left and the dough has reached window pane stage.  At this stage, the dough will be extremely pliable and baby-bottom soft.

Leave the dough in the mixer bowl for its first proof of 60 minutes.  The dough will rise to double its volume,  punch down to deflate and transfer it to a clean worktop.

Shape the dough and place in a bread tin.  Proof for 60-70 minutes.

Bake in a preheated oven at 170C for 30 minutes.  Remove bread from bread tin immediately after baking and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.

To soften the top crust, brush melted butter over the top of the loaf while it is hot.  I keep a handy small block of butter just for this purpose and run it over the crust and let the heat from the bread melt the butter as they come in contact.  Save the hassle of melting butter and washing an oily brush.

101 things to do at home – Circuit Breaker (Extended) Edition

*Updated 15/5*  Added a list of eco-documentaries available for streaming.

It’s Day Five of the circuit-breaker period.  Have you run out of things to do at home yet?

With everyone in Singapore hunkering down at home until May 4, lots of #StayHome activity ideas are being shared around; the message is simple: Stay Home To Stay Safe.  Jotting these down as we still have the next three weeks to do our part to flatten the curve by staying at home.

I also started looking for programmes that would help my elderly parents feel less bored at home.  This is more challenging; my mom has been scrolling through videos on the small smartphone screen all day.  Sharing online content is not enough. If you know of any meaningful activities during these times to engage the seniors, please share with me?

This is still a growing list.  It’s a work-in-progress as we navigate this pandemic crisis together.

// If you enjoy documentaries and films about the environment

+ Our Planet series: One Planet, Frozen Worlds, Jungles, Coastal Seas, From Deserts to Grasslands, High Seas, Fresh Water, Forests

+ Chasing Coral

+ The Next Black

// If you enjoy reading 

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

+ Borrow digital reading materials online – the public libraries are closed; gain access to thousands of ebooks, audio books and digital magazines by downloading the NLB app.  You will also need the Libby and Press Reader app to read the borrowed titles, follow the in-app instructions or refer to the FAQs here.

+ Read magazines online – SPH is offering three month’s free access now

+ Audiobooks for kids from Audible are now available for free, sometimes it’s nice to rest the eyes for a while.

+ Read Covid-19 updates and related stories onlineNational Geographic, The Guardian, The Atlantic

+ Read an eBook, “Coronavirus and Business: The Insights You Need from Harvard Business Review”

// If you enjoy stage performances

+ Watch a musical – Andrew Llyod Webber musical on The-Show-Must-Go-On! YouTube channel, release every Friday and available online for 48 hours.

+ Watch a local play – The Necessary Stage‘s Rosnah(2016) and Those Who Can’t, Teach (2017). Pandemonium‘s Dragonflies (2018), Wild Rice‘s Monkey Goes West,The Theatre Practice‘s Liao Zhai Rocks!, Liao Jiu, Sing’Theatre‘s A Spoonful Of Sherman (2019)

+ Ballet for you? The Winter’s Tale by The Royal Ballet

+ National Theatre full play: Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as The Creature

+ Catch a concert performance – Montreux Jass Festival has made over 50 performances available for free streaming.

+ #DabaoSCO – Singapore Chinese Orchestra is asking us to “nua at home” and enjoy concerts like this and this.  Follow SCO FB Page for regular updates.

+ Andrea Bocelli, #MusicForHope, an Easter Sunday concert, live from Duomo di Milano

+ Concert highlights from Esplanade are now available online

// If you enjoy DIY sewing projects

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

Got cloth at home?

+ DIY reusable masks with patterns and instructions from here, herehere and here

+ Make reusable masks without sewing, like this, this and this

// If you enjoy bread-baking

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

Do you have a sourdough starter at home?  I am making a new one.

+ If you have one sleeping at the back of the fridge or inside the freezer (yes, it is possible), try reviving it?

+ But first, I am making raisin yeast water; they make starters strong which help to produce the dramatic oven spring in bread.  I use this recipe from Junko Mine.  Then I make my starter.  Then I will bake bread with this recipe.

+ Find natural sourdough starter guides and sourdough bread recipes: The Perfect Loaf, The Clever Carrot, Nourished Kitchen

+ If slow-baking with a natural starter is not your thing, try these recipes using commercial yeast instead. Milk Bread | Pull-apart Garlic Bread | Po Lo Bao | Butter Buns |

// If you enjoy cooking

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

+ I am beginning to enjoy IGTV content shot from the real kitchens of chefs like Chef Massimo Bottura  and Padma Lakshmi

+ Binge-watch YouTube cooking videos: Bon Appétit, Day Day Cook, Peaceful Cuisine , Adam Liaw , Green Kitchen Stories

+ Famous recipes unveiled!  Hilton shared how to home bake Doubletree chocolate chip cookies; Ikea tweeted the meatball “instructions”, which should not be confused with this version on IkeaSG’s website;  Disney Park posted this churro recipe and video; I have never heard of a funnel cake, but Canada’s Wonderland is giving away their recipe online as well; bread recipes from Belmond hotels

+ More recipes: Pret A Manger dark chocolate chunk cookie recipe

// If you enjoy doing household chores

+ Be motivated by vloggers that cook, clean and organise the house: here, and here,

+ Get inspired by early risers! This Morning Routine playlist gets me excited about waking up at 5am, even on a non-working day!

// If you enjoy exercising

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

A friend managed to set up a basic home gym before the shut-down of non-essential businesses took effect.  I only have an old yoga mat at home so I will learn to make-do at this moment.  Seems like running will have to wait too. I will turn to YouTube channels for at-home workouts instead:

+ Yoga: Yoga with Adriene, Purple ValleyAhstanga Yoga, Yoga with Tim, Fightmaster Yoga, The Yoga Room, Boho Beautiful

+ Others: Pop Sugar Fitness, Blogilates, HASfit , Fitness Blender, Group HIIT ,Live Fit GirlTrifecta Pilates

+ Dance tutorials: Like this, and this

// If you enjoy learning online

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

+ Activities and classes at Community Clubs may be suspended but PA instructors are conducting lessons online using FB Live instead.

+ NTUC Learning Hub is offering free online courses from GO1 for a limited period, till May 31.

+ Or explore other online course platforms EDx and Coursera for courses that suit your interests.

+ LinkedIn classes on remote working

Stay Home Project: Make Ahead Meals

The ongoing Covid-19 situation has brought out the best and the worst in people.  I am fortunate to be working in a sector where I get to see the compassionate and generous side of Singaporeans.  This somewhat calms me amid the cycle of emotions fueled by the pandemic crisis; fear, uncertainty, frustrations, just to name a few.
Like many, my family has started paying more attention to personal hygiene.  We also wipe our mobile phone with 70% alcohol-based disinfectant more frequently than before.  Surface cleaning is now done with disinfectant, no longer just water or vinegar.  There is currently no evidence that natural cleaning products like vinegar or vodka (it only contains 40% alcohol) are effective disinfectants against Covid-19.  Refer to this list provided by NEA instead.  I have collected my #BYOBclean hand sanitiser which contains benzalkonium chloride as an active ingredient.  I will be using it to disinfect high touch areas; the label recommended this usage too.  According to the website, the hand sanitiser will lose its effectiveness after six months as it is filled in a recycled bottle.  Let’s make sure we use up the hand sanitiser/disinfectant by September 2020 to prevent wastage.
As social-distancing measures tightened, we have also found ourselves staying at home longer than before.  Come mealtimes on workdays, takeaways seemed a better idea, with safe-distancing laws now enforced at public areas.  Hence, I decided to step up my make-ahead meals routine to make home-cooking on weekdays a breeze.  This #stayhome project that explores the world of meal-prepping is largely inspired by the Japanese’s johbisai and the Korean’s banchan.

001. Fried shallots and shallot oil
A pantry must-have ever since I discovered Kolo Mee in Kuching.


002. Vegan Kimchi
Totally skipped the minced garlic from this recipe that was adapted from Maagchi’s, and added one whole apple instead.


003. Meat-Free Dumplings
My own recipe, inspired by the vegetarian dumplings, gyoza, xiaolongbao I have eaten!
-large firm tofu, mashed
-handful of dried shiitake mushrooms, soften in water and chopped
-1/2 yellow onion, chopped
-few stalks of green scallions, chopped
-dumpling wrapper, white, round ones
-Seasoning: sesame oil, light soy sauce, pepper, all to taste*

* Lately, I am beginning to sound like my mom when I share recipes!


004. Taro Pullman Loaf
For assembling a handy sandwich meal.
– 280g plain flour
-120g taro, steamed
-1/2t instant yeast
-1/2t sea salt
-2T raw honey
-1 egg
-70g water, pour slowly and adjust according to the hydration level of your dough
-1T neutral flavour oil
Follow the instructions here, almost same recipe except for the flaxseeds.

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying // Mono + Co

Have you ever counted how many food items you actually stock up at home?

DORSCON Orange was officially declared on 7 February.  What followed after was unbelievable: sights of empty supermarket food shelves where canned food, instant noodles, and rice used to stack neatly were widely shared on social media and made headlines for next two days.  Even the earlier CNY promotions did not empty out the shops like 2019 nCoV did. You get the feeling something is terribly wrong when toilet papers were also being snapped up by worrying shoppers who went into panic-buying mode after the announcement was made.

Hubby asked if we need to buy anything before everything runs out. I confidently replied “No.”  I have been sticking to my buy-enough-to-cook-four-meals shopping habit for years.  Despite the lean grocery list, I find myself often cleaning out my pantry to use up older, expiring food.  And I never run out of things to cook.

Food waste is a huge problem in Singapore, 763 million kg was generated in 2018.  Of all the food waste created by households, rice and noodles are the most common types : exactly what everyone is hoarding now.   How much will be wasted in time to come?

I may sound like a broken record, but if everyone buys and cooks the amount that they can finish, food waste problem will be easy to avoid.  I took a quick inventory check before prepping today’s lunch.  I have not shopped for the last five days, yet I found enough to make at least six more meals with my kitchen stock of fresh and processed food.

I thought it is pretty impressive, given how little I shop.  Although the frantic buying seems to have subsided, nothing beats forming a good habit to know what you already have at home before a grocery shopping trip.  I am sharing my inventory list, including meat items that I don’t consume, but rest of my family members do.  I counted over 160 food items stored either in my pantry, fridge or freezer!   The best thing you can do before filling the shopping cart with impulse, or worse, panic buys, is an inventory check of what you already have at home.  Save the rice, noodles and canned food for people who really need them.

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying // Mono + Co

// Unopened Items

001. Olive Oil 2L
002. Suki Chilli Sauce ^ bought for CNY
003. Canned Bailing Mushrooms x 2
004. Canned Sardines x 2
005. Canned Cream of Mushroom
006. Pink Salt
006. Condensed Milk
007. Coconut Cream
008. Sambal Chilli
009. Bean Paste
010. Ground Vietnam Coffee
011. Peanut Butter
012. Cashew Nut Cookies ^
013. Green Tea Powder
014. Green Tea Leaves
015. Digestive Biscuits
016. Instant Yuzu and Honey Powder Beverage
017. Cake Mix
018. Brownie Mix
019. Tomato Sauce Hotpot Soup Mix ^
020. Mala Stir-Fry Sauce ^
021. Moneyhead Mushroom Herbal Soup Pack
022. Herbal Soup Pack ^
023. White Rice Cakes 300g ^
024. Spaghetti Pasta 500g x 2
025. Dried Udon Noodle 360g
026. Mee Swa 300g x 2 ^

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying // Mono + Co

027. Mixed Rice x 3.6KG

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying // Mono + Co

// Opened Items: Rice 

028. White Rice
029. Black Rice

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying // Mono + Co

// Opened Items: Oil, Sauces, Spices

030. Apple Cider Vinegar
031. Sesame Oil
032. Olive Oil
033. Cooking Wine
034. Vinegar
035. Black Soy Sauce
036. Pepper
037. Sea Salt
038. Brown Sugar
039. Vanilla Extract
040. Tumeric Power
041. Cumin Powder
042. Coriander Powder
043. Cloves
044. Star Anise
045. Cinnamon Sticks
046. Corn Flour
047. Mala Stir-Fry Sauce ^

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying // Mono + Co

// Opened Items: Breakfast and Snacks

048. Ground Coffee
049. Almond Powder
050. Thai Tea Dust
051. Instant Coffee Granules
052. Milo Powder
053. Chinese Pu’er Tea Leaves
054. Sticky Rice Tea
055. Raw Honey
056. Peanut Butter, Creamy
057. Peanut Butter, Unsalted, Unsweetened
058. Quick Cook Oatmeal
059. Rolled Oats
060. Wholegrain Oats
061. Raisins
062. Almond Nuts ^
063. Dehydrated Mango
064. Dried Prunes
065. Mixed Nuts ^
066. Marshmallows ^
067. Chocolate Bars ^

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying // Mono + Co

// Opened Items: Dry Goods

068. Kombu
069. Seaweed
070. Dried Mushrooms
071. Bean Stick/ Tau Kee
072. Plain Flour
073. Self-Raising Flour

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying // Mono + Co

074. Chinese Barley
075. Holland Barley
076. Candied Melon Strips
077. Brown Sugar Bars
078. Dried Sago Pearls
079. Black Eye Peas
080. Black Beans
081. Red Beans
082. Assorted Instant Noodles x 21
083. White Rice Cakes
084. Sweet Potato Noodles

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying // Mono + Co

// Perishables:

085. Red Onions
086. Garlic Bulbs

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying // Mono + Co

087. Mandarin Oranges ^ x 6
088. Oranges x 7
089. Apples x 4
090. Pears x 3
091. Bananas

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying // Mono + Co

// Inside The Chiller

092. Eggs
093. Soy Milk
094. Cow’s Milk
095. Prune Juice
096. Ribena Concentrate ^
097. Vegetarian Oyster Sauce
098. Liquid Amino
099. Light Soy Sauce
100. Chilli Sauce
101. Tomato Ketchup
102. Plum Sauce
103. Ketchup Manis Sweet Sauce
104. Hot Broad Bean Paste
105. Chilli Paste
106. Thai Vegetarian Chilli Paste
107. Suki Chilli Sauce ^
108. Red Wine Lees
109. Red Fermented Bean Curd
110. Spicy Fermented Bean Curd
111. Kewpie Mayonnaise
112. Japanese Curry
113. White/Black Sesame Seeds
114. Flax Seeds
115. Chia Seeds
116. Wholemeal Flour
117. Cheddar Cheese Slices
118. Cheddar Cheese Block
119. Butter
120. Kaya
121. Yogurt Natural
122. Yogurt Strawberry Flavour
123. Yakult
124. Milk Powder
125. Baking Soda
126. Baking Powder
127. Instant Yeast
128. Cereal
129. Mee Swa, opened box
130. Red Pepper Powder
131. Dried Longans, Large
132. Dried Longans, Small
133. Dried Red Dates, Large
134. Dried Red Dates, Small
135. Wolfberries
136. Peach Gum
137. Pine Nuts
138. Fried Bean Sticks
139. Silken Tofu
140. Miso Paste
141. Preserved Olive Vegetables
142. Pickled cucumber
143. Bak Kwa ^
144. Condensed Milk
145. Evaporated Milk

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying // Mono + Co

// Fresh Produce

146. Enoki Mushrooms
147. King Oyster Mushrooms
148. Lettuce
149. Cabbage
150. Bok Choy

A Full Larder: Over 160 Food Items At Home Without Panic Buying // Mono + Co

// Inside The Freezer

151. Butter
152. Stale White Bread
153. Kueh Lapis^
154. Shabu Shabu Pork Slices^
155. Pork Ribs
156. Swedish Meatballs^
157. Chicken Nuggets^
158. French Fries^
159. Coconut Ice Cream^
160. Ice Cream Cones^
161. Rice Balls, Black Sesame Filling^
162. Julienned Carrots

DIY Kaffir Lime Shampoo

Getting used to the routine of a full-time-working-mum means jam-packing my weekends with column-writing/ volunteering/ baking/ DIY projects.  This schedule leaves me with little time to try out new DIY projects, only those that are simple enough made it to my to-do list.

Luckily, my life-changing shampoo is one of those easy to make ones; a mixture of tea seed/ camellia powder and water.  I can hardly call it a “project” when all I do is combining two ingredients in a bottle and ending the two-step instructions with “shake to mix well.”  But it still amazes me how something so simple AND affordable ($4.90 for 1kg) balances my oily scalp when no commercial shampoo can do so.  I wouldn’t describe my current hair type as silky smooth but at least no longer limp and greasy.

The only thing I miss most from using commercial shampoo is a headful of great smelling hair after stepping out from the bathroom.

That’s why DIY kaffir lime shampoo intrigued me since the citrus fruit produces a beautiful fragrance.

I first stumbled upon the recipe via this 10-minute clip, but I could not find kaffir limes.  I realised much later that this ingredient, common in Thai cooking, is sold by the florists in the wet markets.  This is because customers buy them along with flower offerings as kaffir limes are believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.  How interesting!

After a thorough scrub-clean with salt, boil to cook them in a pot filled with enough water to submerge the fruit.  I make a small fresh batch weekly with 6 to 8 big sized kaffir limes.  This usually costs me around $2.  After 15 minutes of cooking, the peel turns yellowish, and the fruit is cooked to soft.  Quarter the limes with scissors and transfer the entire pot contents, fruit and water, to a blender jar.  I don’t have a countertop blender, so I use an immersion blender.  Hence, I simply pour everything to a narrower but taller beaker to make sure my immersion blender blades are fully submerged during use.

Blend for a few minutes until you get a relatively smooth mixture.

This is not technically speaking not smooth enough, but it is the best my immersion blender can achieve.  A counter-top blender can probably produce a creamier version.

Next, I strain the mixture to yield a smooth and creamy “shampoo”.

Then I strain the pulp residue further with a cheesecloth/milk bag, no wastage.

Bring the “shampoo” to boil again to sterilise, cool it completely and transfer to a squeeze bottle.  Store in the fridge.

I add the pulp to my compost pot, hoping to produce organic fertiliser for my sweet basil plants.

To use, dilute shampoo with water (I use 1 part shampoo 4 parts water)  and massage to dry scalp, rinse thoroughly.  This shampoo doesn’t lather like commercial shampoo. Add one to two drops of castile soap to the mixture if you are not used to it, then slowly reduce or remove the soap altogether after a few weeks.

More on kaffir limes:

// this post by the Permaculture Sydney West has a long list of uses for kaffir limes

// this kaffir lime marmalade

// make kaffir lime tarts

// the leaves!

All these make me want to grow my own kaffir lime tree!

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander’s guide

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

When I think of zero-waste bulk stores, small shops in the neighbourhood centres come to my mind first; wet markets for packaging-free grocery, hardware stores for spare parts and stainless-steel-everything, Chinese medical halls for loose-leaf herbal tea or medicine, even dried rose buds and lavendar, all sans the plastic bags.

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

I have shared so many of my zero-waste wet market grocery shopping attempts here and here that I started to wonder if I am boring everyone to death.  So it was really a pleasant surprise when Mothership picked up one of my posts and shared it here.

If you want to find out more about zero-waste grocery shopping in the heartlands, start by exploring the wet markets first.  Check out what your nearest wet market offers.

To locate a wet market near you, try these sites:

1)I found a list of markets on data.gov.sg, a very interesting website to gather local statistics and data.  Unfortunately, it was last updated back in December 2016.

2) There is another list in PDF format on NEA’s website available for download here.


Here are 5 things I buy #byo style from the wet markets, that always surprise people who have not been to one before!

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

1.  Ground Coffee
Not your atas single-origin coffee for a home-brew flat white.  These are Nanyang-style blends, roast to perfection for making a full-bodied kopi-o.  Bring a small air-tight container, no more than 500g volume.  The stall-holder will tell you the coffee aroma escapes immediately after grinding.  If left standing unconsumed for too long, the grounds will end up only good enough for scrubbing body or absorbing odour in the air.

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

2.  Plain Flour
Prima Mill’s “for-professionals” ranges of flour are available through the dry goods stores inside the wet markets.  I have come across two types: Flying Fish brand (my favourite, with a 10.8% protein level) and Necklace brand (9.5% protein level.)  Let me know which one your nearest store carry!  My container allows me to buy up to 2kg of flour.

Zero-Waste Grocery Shopping - A Heartlander's Guide // Mono and Co

3. Grains and Nuts
Offering varies, depending on the size of the wet market.  I usually get my walnuts here.  You can also buy raw almond and peanuts, bake them into healthy snacks.  I bring drawstring bags to make it easier for stallholders to weigh and pack.  Once I reach home, I will transfer them to air-tight containers.

4. Assorted “Old-School” Biscuits
Bring an air-tight container.  Avoid the temptation to buy too many types!

5. Chinese Preserved Vegetables (酸菜,咸菜,大菜,四川菜。。。)
These pickles are great for adding flavours to Chinese-style meatless soups.  The stalls sell them by weight, this means buying according to requirement, say, a quarter head of the preserved cabbage instead of the entire head.  Bring a leak-proof container, and……

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co… a reusable shopping bag to pack everything, of course!

Happy zero-waste shopping in the heartlands!

The only scone recipe I bake with – A Failed Attempt

The Only Scone Recipe I Bake With // Mono and Co

Update (29.09.19): A failed attempt no more!

Photo above, this is the first batch of scones I made.

And this is from the second batch, made one week apart from my failed first attempt.  A very steep learning curve, Hurray!

I think the first batch of scones did not rise nicely because I did not use a proper cookie/pastry cutter at first.

Not that I use a proper one now too, read on….

Recognise this “round cookie cutter?”

I upcycled from a 7-cm wide condensed milk tin by removing both ends using a can opener, making sure that there are no sharp points that could cause injury.  If a 7cm-wide scone is too big, find a smaller metal tin to upcycle.

One more thing to note: always WASH AND WIPE DRY IMMEDIATELY after using, so that the metal tin will not rust.

I am going to keep baking scones with this recipe because everyone loves it!


Double Cream Scones

recipe from here but I first read it here
Yields 10-12 pcs

Ingredients
1 egg
50ml double cream
180ml milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
450g self-raising flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt**
50g caster sugar
110g cold unsalted butter, cut into small 1/2-inch cubes

glaze: 1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon milk

// Note 001 ** the recipe calls for a large pinch of salt.  I used 1/2 teaspoon.

Preheat oven to 180C.

In a small mixing bowl, combine egg, double cream, milk and vanilla extract and mix well.  Set this mixture aside.

In a larger mixing bowl, mix self-raising flour, baking powder, and salt.

Run butter into the flour mixture with fingertips until they resemble bread crumbs.  Create a well in the centre and add three-quarter of the liquid mixture.  Stir gently with a fork, proceed to add the remaining liquid mixture until everything comes together to form a soft, shaggy dough.

Pour dough onto a floured workbench, using a scraper, gather dough together.

Gently fold the dough in overlapping directions about 4-6 times, without applying too much pressure on the dough.  The surface should look less craggy by now, lightly pat dough into a circle.

Sprinkle a little more flour on the dough if it is too sticky.  Use fingers to pat it to about 2.5cm thick.

Dip a round pastry cutter (5.7cm wide) in flour to coat surface, then firmly stamp out 6 scones.

Important: Lift up the paster cutter, do not twist -doing so will seal the sides and the scones will not rise up tall and straight. (like my failed ones below, which cracked!)

Gently gather the remaining dough together, lightly re-roll and cut out more scones.

Transfer scones to a baking tray, leaving two inches of gap between.

Brush top with glaze mixture.

Bake scones for 17-19 minutes, until well-risen or golden brown.
I baked my 7-cm wide ones to 20 minutes at least to make sure they cook through.

Transfer scones to wire rack to cool slightly.  Best served warm.

Extra tip: according to the recipe, unbaked scones can be frozen and baked at a later time.   When ready to bake, simply brush glaze on top and bake for 24-25 minutes at 180C.