Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Ok, as mentioned in my earlier post on “So, what is really wrong Little Nonya”, here is my observation on why Jeanette is not entirely to blame for Juxiang able to understand what people are talking about even though she was not facing them.
To clarify first, all these are my guess and observation, thus it might not be correct. Let me know if you have other findings.
One of the scenes which I have noticed that has this error was the first episode. The first mistress (Lin Mei Jiao) asked to look at Juxiang’s embroidery and commented that her daughter Meiyu’s cannot be compared with her’s at all. She commented that it looked good on its own, but is pale in comparison against Juxiang’s. She wanted Juxiang to exchange with Meiyu’s.
All through the dialogue, Juxiang was seen standing behind the first mistress, so by right deaf Juxiang would not have heard what she commented. I analysed and thought that they are made to stand that way to suit the camera angle i.e. the scene would look good for aesthetic reasons. Then if so, it was obviously an instruction from the Director and the logic part was sacrificed for camera angle. This is why I think it is not fair to pin it as Jeanette’s poor acting skill.
I looked through the second time and I had another thought. You know how people with missing senses are more sensitive than common people like you and I? I guessed Juxiang might not have relied entirely on lip reading, but on the body language and facial expressions of the speaker. She might not understood 100% completely on what the person want but maybe 70% or even 80% of the content, mostly guessing her way through.
Like the above example which I have cited, the First Mistress was holding both shoes patterns and talking away holding them. I would have guess this is not the first time that Juxiang was subjected to such unfair exchange and if you were her and had been bullied through your life, wouldn’t you have some clue as to what the first mistress wants?
While we are speculating on the possible reasons, it would be better if the drama had been clearer and had more patience in revealing the story. In reality, they cannot since they have a budget and they had spent a lot on the show already. It is supposedly one of the most expensive drama they have ever produced, I read. Anyway, as the week goes by, I have discovered some more loopholes.
- At the Chen’s place, it was Chen Xi’s Chor Chor 80th birthday. They are trying to find a suitable bride for Chen Xi. It was said that Yue Niang was illiterate and she has to sew Chinese character. Later, she remembered the characters above the board at the alter hall and sew them. When Chor Chor asked her about the characters and what they meant, she read out the words and explained more proper than any of us could on the meaning…
- Yue Niang went to look for Chen Xi to warn him that someone is trying to harm him. She was intercepted by Zhen Zhu. The scene showed that it was night time. Then in continuing scene, Libby was relating to Chen Xi later on how she knew about the possible harm. It showed Libby saw Yue Niang walking out of Chen Xi’s house in board day light. Huh, what happened here?
- Again, the illiterate Yue Niang can read the letter which the Hotel manager wrote for her.
Since my first post on the drama “Little Nonya”, I have also been doing my own research online to see what others have commented about it so far. Many of the comments which I read are negative. Actually to be fair, there are some good about the show too. Let me start the ball rolling to list out some good of “Little Nonya”.
Good Acting from the Supporting Roles – Not in any particular order
Guan Xu Mei -管雪梅
She is one of the senior entertainment reporters in SPH, but I think she acted before in the past. Even though she is only given cameo roles for the first few episodes as “Tua Gu”, Juxiang’s aunt and Pan Ling Ling’s Mother, I find her acting quite good. In fact, her expression is more natural compared to Lin Mei Jiao.
Ng Wei – 黄慧
I am sure everyone agreed on her lively interpretation of Ah Tao, the Ma-Jie. It was really good acting from her and was always very expressive. I think she is a very hardworking artist who speaks very clear Mandarin. If only, she can present a more realistic persona as a host, I am sure that people would accept her more. I find her sometimes "act" too much when MCing which hides her true character from people.
Xiang Yu – 向云
Needless to say, Xiang Yun managed both the characters with ease. I can totally tell apart whether she is acting as “Tian Lan”, Juxiang’s mother or aged “Yue Niang”. Actually, I just found out from Little Nonya Wikipedia page that her role was supposed to be filled by Huang Bi Ren? It was because Bi Ren did not renew her contract, thus was awarded to her. Wow, so this role is reserved for the “professional” level actress only. I am sure either one of them would execute the role with ease.
Li Yin Zhu - 李茵珠
Another experienced actress who managed the role well. Though some commented that she did not have enough presence as the matriarch of Chen’s family, I thought her acting was quite impressive already with very natural expression. I thought in one of the scenes against Qi Yi Wu - it was as though her nose can act too.
Apple Hong Yi Xin - 洪乙心
She also improved a lot in acting. She started to show that she can be versatile actor in drama "Just in Singapore" as a soft-spoken Vietnamese mail-to-order bride. In this show, she was casted as a baddie too – a disgruntled wife who is neglected by Pierre Png's character. I actually pity her character that she was forced to be ruthless by the environment.
Dai Yang Tian - 戴阳天
Forgot to add him. He is one of the better looking actor which Mediacorp has discovered recently. Most importantly, he act well and has an interesting persona, kind of cool and playful. I guessed he would probably make it to Ah Ge level if he continues to perform well.
Good Props and Sets
Needless to say, I am sure many of us are awed by the beautiful decorations of a traditional Peranakan house. While some of the scenes are shot on-set at Malacca, I noticed they have created replicas set of the Peranakan house. Though unable to compete with the real one which looked like a palace, one can tell that they tried their best to re-enact the scene.
Hmm... I am feeling a bit sad that the show is coming to an end very soon. I wondered if the new drama by Chen Li Ping and Zhong Qin will have an interesting and substential plot. In meantime, I will be chasing "Little Nonya" every night till it end!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Located at level 3 of Suntec Convention Centre, Pearl River Palace Restaurant is probably one of the few quieter places to have your meals there, I read. I called to make a reservation in the morning and was rather surprised that there are still seats available since it was Christmas eve. Not that we really celebrate Christmas, but perhaps bitten by the holiday spirit bug, we decided to splurge a bit for a nice dinner. Hmm, sounds like the reviews which I read are rather true… so I was rather curious how the food would turn out.
Upon reaching there, I noticed their advertising poster. It appears that they are trying to "tell" people about their ala carte dinner buffet too. I read in a hurry and was a bit mislead that each diner will get a glass of free Champagne... it turned out that the free champagne was for Christmas set meal...
Ala Carte Dinner cost $38.80++ each from 6.30 pm onwards till 10.30 pm. Last order was at 9.15 pm. Besides the ala carte dishes, each diner will get a complimentary "Buddha Jumped Over the Wall" (expensive seafood stew like dish) and 100 g Poached live Prawns. There are also unlimited serving of Peking Duck. Sound good so far...
The "Peking duck assembly line" worked rather seamlessly. One dapped the egg crepe with sauce, the other one place the meat into the sauce crepe. Another is in-charge to crave the meat.
Though it stated Chili sauce, it wasn't spicy in my opinion (I can take very spicy food.). Can't really taste the X.O. sauce. Slightly blend in fact. Nothing interesting. Can skip.
Peking Duck in Egg Crepe
Not really good. I think the sauce is too sweet. They offered cucumber on the side, so that diners can put it in on their own, but it would have been better if there were spring onion too.
Like common poh piah. The plus point about this was that it was served piping hot. Can skip.
Tasted very good on its own and needed no sauce. Really worth it.
So, how does one differentiate a live prawn and a really fresh prawn? Well, some science lesson here. The first part in a prawn to decompose will be the head. It decomposed really fast. The head consisted of brain and etc gluey matter, as it decomposed, it liquefied. As a result, there will be a gap between the head and the body when the liquid escaped.
A live prawn would have no chance of decomposition since it was hauled freshly out of the water until cooking time. Therefore, the head and the body would stick closely with each other, with no gap. However, a fresh prawn would have encountered some decomposition, so the gap between the head and body would exist.
As I was taking pictures, I digged in the last. I heard my mum and brothers saying that theirs have abalone etc expensive stuff. I spooned and scoped in the bowl, but cannot find those expensive stuff that they got. My portion looked soupy and almost like a spare ribs herbal soup... So unlucky and not fair.. I therefore asked the waiter why my one does not have abalone. He immediately apologised and promised to get a new one for me. Guess what?
The new one had ingredients stuffed full. There is the abalone and lots and lots of Sharks Fin. But, it did not have the mushroom this around, Hee hee but I am not complaining. I hope the restaurant would be more careful with the ingredients portion of the soup. Everyone should get the same ingredients to be fair. It was then that my mum then remarked that hers does not have shark fins...
Anyway, the soup was light and flavourful. It is one of those that when you drink, you know it is good for you. Yummy.
Served in a claypot, the dish has huge chunks of Sea Cucumber and some Fish Maw. It has a rather strong bean paste taste, but not salty. In fact, it tasted just right. However, my brother pointed out that it has a slight rancid taste to it which my mum explained that might comes from the fried fish maw. For those who do not know, fish maw has to be boiled first to clear up the oil taste before it can used for frying or stews. However, I am guessing that the weird taste might comes from shrimp paste. It is very typical in Cantonese cooking to add a bit of shrimp paste into their Claypot stew.
This dish has a lot of expensive ingredients in it. Tasted very good, a bit like Yi Pin Guo that we had at Zi Char stall.
Another of our favourite was the deep-fried marble globy fish. Here you see the waitress dividing the fish into portions for us.
Nope, it did not have pineapples and tasted very common. I have tasted better ones elsewhere. Disappointed.
The chicken was marinated just nice. Fried crispy outside, but the meat remained juicy inside. Not bad.
Not my cup of soup. Though it mentioned Fish Maw and Dried Scallop, I tasted only chicken shreds and black fungus. They should have offered us vinegar to go with the thick soup, but there are none. Can skip.
Rice and Noodles:
One of the Chinese Restaurant's stable dish. No one should screw this up. They cooked the noodles well. Should try.
Seafood Fried Rice
It is a healthier Fried Rice as it wasn't too oily. You can taste the "Wok Hei" in the rice that it had been stir-fried fast in high heat. However, I had a hard time trying to find the seafood. They were too well camouflaged. I mean if it not seafood, then don't name it seafood...
I have eaten better ones... This is again Char Siew with bean sprouts and it is not crispy either, but no seafood. Do not be mistaken. I scolded my brothers for ordering these... We are eating buffet here, not trying to stuff ourselves silly, but yet they ordered one carbohydrate dishes after one another... Angry.
This is the Gui Ling Gao - Herbal Jelly which I have tasted. Not bad. I like the one mouth size, so that we can taste more.
I guessed it was Christmas eve, thus it rather packed like 90 % full. The decorated the room with helim balloons free for all to take. We took a bunch home.
I love their nicely decorated waiting area which heavily reeks of Chinese essence.
On the other side of the entrance was the beautifully decorated Christmas tree!
In case you did not know, Pearl River Palace was awarded as one of the best Restaurants in Singapore!
Though the price of buffet was rather steep, but the quality of food is good. They served rather good food overall especially with the Sea Perch, Prawns dishes and Coffee Ribs.
Some of the dishes were not properly executed and could do with improvements.
I am however irked by some of the staff's attitude. The first lady which brought us to our seat and took our first order had missed out some of our order. Not sure if this was done intentionally or not, since it was the nicer dishes that were missed out. Furthermore, she could not even bring herself to smile. Then when we ordered plain water, she signalled to another of the waiter to try convincing us to order re-fillable drinks... See ah, it is not about the money here. I am already here to eat a lot of food, why should I stuff myself with more calories with sugary drinks? Dislike this hard-sell attitude.
Then when make payment, another of the lady staff asked why we had ordered so little food. I stared at her suspiciously. I must acknowledge we ordered quite a bit. However, she said we ordered little compared to other guests. I wondered if this was delivered with intended sarcasm. In any case, it makes me very uncomfortable!
I must say the rest of the staff was rather ok. They cleared our dirty plates very promptly and including the one which changes my Buddha Jumped over the Wall soup, all of them are quite courteous.
Finally, I realised that plain water and warm water was charged at $1 per person. I am sure many had debated on whether there should be charges for plain water. I must say it was rather petty of the restaurant to charge each of the paying diners $1 for the drink considering that we had paid a considerable amount for the buffet.
It is quite a good restaurant with good quality food, but the service standard needs to be improved further.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The chosen character that best describe year 2008 is:
Over in Taiwan, they too have similar Chinese character of the year selection. The Taiwanese selected:
Well, I have been thinking, which of the chinese character would aptly describe Singapore’s happening in 2008. I must say it is not easy. It is very difficult to summarise a whole year’s happening into a paragraph and imagine you can only chosen one character. It took me a few days when I finally found the suitable character just now which is:
Pronounced as “Wu (4)” – meaning “realize”. Like many countries, there are many happenings in Singapore for the past year. Be it good things or bad one, to think in a positive way, these happenings are learning points. While we realized that we cannot take things for granted or that our small country can also shine in International arena, we should learn from all these experiences so that we can improve and be better. Realization in my opinion is better than ignorant. Instead of harping on why, I am glad that at least we “realized” at this point where improvements can be still made.
Strange as it might have sound, but like many others, I was expecting an auspicious year ahead because of number 8. Little did I expect that, it was one of the worst year we ever had. To explain, the character that aptly describes my year would be:
I had a bad start of the year and it deteriorated further downstream. Though superstitious, I am not someone who would just give up and let luck affect my life. However, I am not prepared that lies and honeyed words could sway people’s impression and trust in me that easily. It is all in the mind of perception...
Friday, December 19, 2008
Hailed as a big production and the annual Mediacorp’s anniversary drama, “Little Nonya” was heavily publicized and had garnered rather much attention from people even before it started showing. However, the first episode was practically drowned by criticisms and is still drawing criticisms episode after episode. There were people commenting that the lead actress, Jeanette Aw’s acting was poor and that the storyline was lousy.
I thought the criticism on Jeanette Aw’s acting was a rather unfair comment to her and many of them did not even elaborate on why her acting was poor. To clarify first, I am not a Jeanette’s fan, but I thought her acting was acceptable and she actually improved a lot. I find her role as Juxiang a rather good interpretation of a deaf and mule girl.
The only part that I thought she was unnatural was that she gestured too much. It is like there are gestures/expressions for every sentence of thoughts. However, this is a very common flaw in local TV drama. I attended a short film course sometime ago. The lecturer pointed out local TV drama will act “extra” in order to make it easier for people to understand. For example, when an actor is exiting the scene through a door, he/she would say I am leaving, and then open the door and leaves. However, you will not see these “extra acts” in film (excluding Jack Neo’s flim) or real life. The actor/you and I would just open door and leaves. (I might not be able to explain in his exact words, but this is roughly what he meant.)
Then the complaint about her voice is really far-fetch and cruel. I do not remember her natural voice to be that low-keyed in her earlier drama. She obviously put in a lot of effort to suppress that kid-ish tone and had improved a lot on her intonation, but those people who criticize it did not manage to hear that and still criticize her like for the sake of criticising despite the effort. That, I find is personal attack already and it is very mean to put people down like that.
Anyway, Jeanette’s acting skills should be the least of concern now. Recently, I find it harder to follow up with the storyline as it is getting more and more confusing on the facts. Some parts were so absurd that it is beginning to spoil the big production. The problem should lie with either the Scriptwriter or the Director.
Poor Execution and Missing Punch
Yamamoto brought Juxiang out to the field to take photos. Halfway through the bicycle ride, Yamamoto stopped and asked Juxiang to wait for him. He disappeared for a while and Juxiang began to panic and went to look for him. He re-appeared into the scene with some wild flowers on hand for her.
I believe this scene set the tone for later on why Juxiang is so insistent and convinced that Yamamoto will return from the Japan, but the execution on the scene is poor. It barely leaves an impression and the hint of setting the tone is too subtle.
Yueniang’s Mama (Xiang Yun) just came back from hospital. They were having dinner in the living quarters when Pan Ling Ling walked in. She wanted to move Xiang Yun upstairs where they had prepared a room for her. Xiang Yun rejected and replied that she is more comfortable in the servant quarters. Pan Ling Ling went on to make some snide remarks on how their food belonged to Huang and she would have approved it if she had asked for permission first.
I think the punch line was not delievered. It makes me questioned if she had come in to point Xiang Yun that she was to stay at the servant quarters or she had come in to check on what they will be eating. In either case, she was not snide enough and the motive were confusing and unclear...
Loopholes: Explanation needed
- Yamamoto was killed in the forest. Why would the Japanese soldiers bother to carry Yamamoto’s body back to the headquarters?
- How did Yueniang manage to travel from Singapore to Malacca alone and during war-time? Not forgetting that she is only a kid...
- Her mama had trained her for some years to be a proper Nonya, but yesterday plot, Lin Mei Jiao revealed that she had only stayed in UK for 2 years…… So how come all the children grow up so fast? They were still kids when they boarded the steamship to UK… Suddenly, they all come back as adult and look old...
Besides the above examples, there are many more which I did not list down. So, what happened? Didn't they double-check the storyline before it was pushed out? It is not the first time that poor execution and loopholes in storyline had spoilt a drama.
A very good example would be "Golden Road" where the sloppy ending practically wiped off all the good review for the show. Story did not explain how Li Nan Xiang was able to claim Rou Gu Mei's body out of the mortuary (loophole) and Producer explained how the ending scene for Tay Peng Hui did not turn out as it should be. Tay was supposed to be killed by a robber when he refused to give up his wallet as there is photo of Felicia Chin inside. That scene was to show that some humanity in him and his love for Felicia Chin’s character. However, we only saw Tay robbed and killed by robber...
It is not easy to gain back some trust from viewers, but the company managed to do so. Before viewers really give up totally on local productions, maybe the company would like pull up their socks and showed us that they can still produced good show. A truly good show which we have nothing to fussy about. Something like they used to do in the past, good quality show which all of us would rush back home at specific time, just so that we can catch the next episode.
Would we experience that again?
Read my additional comments on Little Nonya at More on the drama "Little Nonya" and "Little Nonya 3 Minutes Extra Footage - The Final Nail..."
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I made it weeks ago and the result was rather good. Below is the recipe with step-by-step pictures to guide you along if you are interested to bake one at home too.
Plain Flour - 70 grams (Stiffed Twice)
Baking Soda - 3/4 Teaspoon
Pandan Paste - 1 and half Teaspoon
Vegetable Oil - 2 Tablespoon
Egg Yolks - 3
Fine Sugar - 40 grams
Egg White - 4 ( should weigh about 140 grams)
Fine Sugar - 40 grams
- Line the bottom of the 17-inches chiffon cake tin with grease paper.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
- Mix the flour with baking soda first before stiffing. To incorporate the maximum amount of air, stiff the flour mixture twice or even thrice.
- We will need to use both the machine mixer and hand-whisk. Machine mixer to be use for egg white and hand-whisk for yolks.
I doubled the recipe to make a bigger cake, thus there are more egg yolks in the picture. If you wanted to do the same, doubled all the other recipes except the baking soda. I used a teaspoon instead of double it to prevent getting the "dry" aftertaste. For this recipe, it is not advisable to reduce the sugar content as it may dry out the cake too.
In a large bowl, whisk ingredient A - 3 yolks and 40 grams sugar thoroughly.
Eventually, the mixture should be thick enough to form a ribbon and the colour of the mixture should be in pale green.
At this stage, add in vegetable oil.
Stiff in the flour and mix the flour using a whisk. Take care not to over-mix the flour mixture, otherwise gluten will form and cake will become tough.
At this point, the egg white should be beaten to semi-firm peak. However do check on the egg white earlier than the stipulated time on whether it is in the correct texture already. Stop the machine when it has reached the correct texture.
Take about one third of the firm egg white and mix it into the flour mixture. You can anyhow mix the content with a hand whisk at this stage. This step is to "lighten" the cake batter so that it is easier to incorporate the rest of the egg white into it.
With the rest of the egg white, lightly fold them into the mixture preferably with a plastic specular. (I did not show the specular in the picture. ) Folding is a special way of mixing to prevent air from escaping from the mixture.
What is folding? Scrape the content from side of the bowl and pile it into the centre. Then scrape the bottom of the bowl and pile them on top. Repeat the movement until the egg white are fully incorporated.
To note - Air will escape if overmix and if the folding action is too rough or been mixing for too long.
Quickly pour the cake batter into a greaseless pan that has been lined with grease paper at the bottom. The reason for not greasing the pan is to ensure that the cake can have some fiction for it to cling on to and thus able to raise higher during baking.
Alternatively, can you also use tall muffin pan to bake the chiffon cake. It will take less time to bake. I suppose you can leave it to bake for 15 mins for muffin size and check if it needs another few minutes.
It should take about 35 minutes to bake a 17 inches Chiffon cake at 180 degrees celcius. See how high my baby cake has raised to. The sense of accomplishment one felt at this moment is priceless...
Once out of the oven, it is important to turn the cake tin upside down for it to cool down. Chiffon cake is a very delicate cake. By turning the cake upside down to cool down in its pan will prevent the cake from sinking due to its own weight...
My very own Pandan Chiffon Cake!
I must say this is not an easy cake to bake, thus do not feel disheartening if you failed to make it right the first time round. Just be more careful and read through the recipe a few times to get yourself familar with the details, like for example the mixing part, I am sure you get it right eventually.
If you ever try this out at home, do leave me a message if you like the recipe.
Other Photosophize's Sweet Recipes:
Or refer to My Kitchen for other recipes.