lo-hei !

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lo-hei” – A toss for Happiness, Blessing, Abundance, and, well, all things good! This is the Cantonese term that describes a tradition begun in Singapore of sharing a large salad and raw fish / seafood dish called yusheng“, usually during the Lunar New Year. Everyone joins in with gusto, quite a bit of vim and vigour, to stir and toss the salad into a blended mix. The dish is delicious, a delightfully composed orchestration of lightly piquant, sweet, savoury and ‘umami’, the dish often includes ‘auspicious’ sounding fresh vegetables, pickles, raw fish, highly prized seafood, such as abalone, crab, shrimp/prawn, bound together with a sweet-sour sauce.

This Autistic Bunny is a foodie, and how absolutely, fabulously fortuitous to have a brother-in-law who was a top professional chef and now a food scientist. Never a dull meal when we’re with this chap. Always happy tummies too! Well, folks, the Lunar New Year is almost upon us, so it’s time for food-tasting, reviewing and just enjoying the goodies galore. Some of the dishes are new concoctions and others are variations on a traditional theme. This year, my brother-in-law has developed a new and superbly tasty variation of the traditional “yusheng” salad dish, and we’ve had the good fortune of several previews, in the quest to make it just perfect.

My Foodie Bunny verdict? It’s really delicious! But that’s too sweeping and general, so I’ll provide a quick hyper-sensory AutisticBunnyMe detailed summary of the dish here.

Why do I like “yusheng“? It is a beautiful dish to behold. I also enjoy the way distinct, separate entities blend together, visually and texturally still retaining each their own properties visually as well in texture and taste. Carrot is carrot, turnip is turnip etc, no mushiness (which I detest, hence my dislike for stews and curries), just clean, clear, varying degrees and harmonic reverberations of ‘crunchiness’ and ‘chewability’.

Then there is the raw fish – I have always loved raw fish, not sure why, and raw fresh oysters too. Cooked fish takes on a flaky, dry, ‘crusty’ texture that my tongue rejects upon contact, which is why I need a lot of sauce when eating cooked fish. And I avoid cooked oysters as far as I can. They taste like fishy powder.

The Premium set which I’ve been taste-testing has a plethora of yummies from the sea: Amaebi (sweet shrimp), Kajiki (swordfish), Salmon, Hotate (scallops) and Kanifumi (crab sticks) and juicy Abalone. Abalone is yet another favourite of mine. My grandfather used to give us cases of the stuff every year during the Lunar New Year season, and one of my favourite memories is opening a tin of mini abalone and stabbing at the little chewy things with a fork. All to myself, no need to share, straight out of the tin! (Of course there may be others who dislike the eccentric textures and tastes of seafood presented this way, if so, there are other variations of the dish available.)

Then there is the ‘Pork-sperity’ version that comes with bakwa – thinly sliced, tender barbecued pork jerky, another traditional favourite among the Chinese. (Our Singapore version has my top vote, I think we do it best here.) Lightly sweet and savoury, there is a mild smokiness that lingers in the mouth. I’ve never had bakwa in this dish before, it’s a new sensation to me, and since I love bakwa, this addition is a welcome change.

What struck me most was the addition of local fruit in the ‘Fruit-licious’ version: Guava, Pomelo, Mango, Pear and Rose Apple (we call it “jambu“). A quirky, unique combination, refreshing in texture, taste and fragrance. This is such a surprisingly excellent synthesis, especially as I absolutely love tropical fruit!

I’m not fond of the mandatory traditional crushed peanuts or the little puffy crackers poured on top of the dish, but they do lend added texture to the richly endowed experience. I tend to pick out the puffy crackers as I feel they interfere with my exploration of taste, texture and smell, but almost everyone loves the stuff, and it’s an auspicious symbol, so it stays.

OK, I’m almost done with my glowing review. One last thing, and a very important one: that secret recipe yuzu sauce, whatever is in there, it’s amazing! I’ve never tasted any other yusheng sauce like this one. Kudos to my talented brother-in-law. The sweet-sour traditional sauce pales in comparison to this one. This is the sauce that binds everything together into a grandly orchestrated uplifting ‘zing’ – a perfect reward for all the gung-ho efforts put into tossing the yusheng in the lohei tradition.

My personal recommendation, especially for a largish crowd? Get the Premium set + Fruit-licious set – blend and toss! Add your own bakwa if you like too. The best!

Here’re some photos from the many taste-testing sessions we’ve had. I usually dislike festive seasons, but this Lunar New Year, I really am looking forward to doing the lohei and tucking in!

(Work in Progress… arranging the components is an art in itself!)

 

(All ready for the secret sauce, and then lohei!)

 

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Mine! All mine! Now to retreat into my corner to tuck in.

Happy Lunar New Year, Every Bunny!

stew

Festive seasons are to me like stew. I love food. I love eating. But I am wary of stew. Things get thrown willy nilly into a large pot, stirred, cooked and cooked, and then poured out in a chunky, goopy, mass. The sound it makes when a scoop of the stuff hits the plate or bowl? Quite nauseating, like a soft belching blended and layered with thick, dull, stretched out staccato. I do not much like stew. And I do not much like festivities.

Regardless, it was a goodly Christmas and New Year over here for this Autistic Foodie Bunny, and I am beginning to learn how to actually enjoy these things.  Continue reading

wrap warp

Why am I making sensory associations in my mindscape with wonton dumplings today? Not very sure… It’s a surreal wrap-warp day. Continue reading

catch up ketchup

It has been a flurry of activity over here for weeks now, and I know there will be more when I return to my home city for a brief visit over the Lunar New Year holidays. Over here, I have been enjoying the recent additions to our home – my girl friend, her darling Westie girl, and a beautiful Lorikeet. Yeah, the bird does make an awful racket, but he stays in the back and so I am ok. There are plenty of birds in this area anyway, so he just merely adds to the cacophony. I have not suffered from sensory or social overload as yet, because my friend is very respectful of personal space, and she is usually busy in her own room working at her computer anyway. Oh, and we mustn’t forget Panda’s homecoming too! Yes, Panda is back here, in a loving, patient home, where she belongs! Continue reading

Christmas bliss

The majority of social-minded humans adore festivities. Understandable, when one’s brain is wired to veer towards togetherness, the primitive feeling of safety in numbers, and personal identity is immersed in and anchored upon the collective. The brains of autistic individuals seem to have evolved differently, on a tangent, and hence, we have far less of that primal ‘yearning’ or preconditioning to find refuge and comfort in numbers and associations with other humans.

I won’t go into the details here, but what makes festivities even worse for many of a different neurological wiring is those with atypical sensory wiring, i.e. hypersensitivity. Whether or not autistic, people with hypersensitivity suffer a surfeit of sensory reaction triggered by what seems to most others as innocuous stimuli.

If you are interested to find out more, do check out this article about how some autistic individuals perceive and experience holidays and festive events: “Autistic Holidays.”

So, I was glad to spend Christmas alone – well, I wasn’t alone really, I spent it with Lucy. She is the best company for me, especially because I was unwell (still battling that horrible bronchial-asthma that was triggered by the nasty infection I caught while in Hong Kong!). It is a great physical and mental effort to have to summon energy for socialising. I have learned to do it, and I do even enjoy the company of close friends, but it is always a strenuous exercise, even with those I love, and even if I am enjoying the occasion. I have no close friends here, and spending any amount of time in a social setting with people who are not close friends but rather virtual strangers, is a nightmare I would rather not have to encounter – so my being unwell was a good excuse, not that I needed much of one, since I only received one invitation for drinks anyway. 🙂

Before you think this is a case of sour grapes (at not having been invited anywhere), think again. Autism aside, if your senses were so finely tuned that overload easily occurs even at the most simple of environments such as having a meal at a crowded restaurant, you would be more empathic. Autism adds an added dimension to it, of course, exacerbating the problem, but for me, it isn’t the autism that I have had to struggle with, but it is the uncontrollable physical reactions of my sensory neurons!

I was relieved not to have to turn down even more invitations. I always feel guilty, as if I am being grossly impolite, when I turn down invitations, even though I know intellectually that nobody would even bat a neurotypical eyelid at my absence (even if they were to notice it)!

Christmas in Paddington with Lucy was beautiful, the streets suddenly almost empty, devoid of traffic, hence, quiet and peaceful. Shops were closed, so Lucy and I could lurk at the windows and peer inside without inviting suspicion – well there was a police car with two policemen watching us, but that was ok, Lucy gave them a friendly greyhound nod and tail wag and that made it all fine! The sky was overcast, someone remarked previously when we were discussing weather that it would be a ‘horrible day’, but for Lucy and me, it was perfect! No hot paw pads, and no sunburn!

empty street!

empty street!

taking time to smell the flowers?

taking time to smell the flowers?

Christmas bells

Christmas bells

Lucy loves window shopping!

Lucy loves window shopping!

Nosh was simple for me. Supermarkets were all closed on Christmas Day of course, and I didn’t want to face the insane crush on Christmas Eve anyway, so I just ate what I had in the kitchen and fridge. All home made, including the puff pastry for the pie!

tuna, carrot and egg pie, with carrot soup

tuna, carrot and egg pie, with carrot soup

egg, spinach, cheese and tomato bake

egg, spinach, cheese and tomato bake

spaghetti aglio e olio with olives

spaghetti aglio e olio with olives

It was a lovely, sensorially blissful Christmas indeed!