Oh Look, Krill!

Oh don't worry. Whales don't eat clownfish, they eat krill.


Male Camaraderie From The Girlfriend’s Perspective

Over the weekend, Dude convinced me to join him for dinner with a group of his army buddies, the men he spent his National Service and reservist trainings with. I didn’t know what to expect as I’ve never been to such gatherings before.

Shisha
Photo by simonkoležnik

The dinner was at a Middle Eastern eatery/shisha smoking hangout at Sultan Gate. There were already a number of people there when we arrived. I was introduced to a whole lot of Dude’s friends but to tell you the truth, I think I can only remember about five of them. As the evening wore on, more started arriving and in the end, there were at least 20 guys and 2 ladies, me and a girlfriend of one of the guys.

It was an interesting experience for me to see how these men interact with each other. As I didn’t have any brothers nor many male friends, it was all a very eye opening and fascinating experience.


All of them were from different walks of life, with different backgrounds, interests and personalities but brought together through circumstances that were out of their control, namely, National Service. They greeted each other with manly hugs, slaps on the back and even kissing each other on the cheek, though I think that last was a joke.

Even though most of them had just seen each other not more than a few weeks ago during their reservist, they acted as if they’d not seen each other for years. From what I learned, some of them haven’t seen each other for years due to their jobs and other reasons. I watched them lounge on the cushions (we were sitting on the floor), talking, catching up, eating and smoking shisha. It was a very relaxed gathering, with multiple smoke breaks in between for some of the guys.

I thought there would have been more raucous laughter, more dirty jokes and for me to feel left out but I wasn’t. I found that I did have things in common with them and even if you don’t, they guys were easy going and rather nice to talk to. I didn’t expect to enjoy myself, frankly. Though, I was told later that the guys were holding back a lot of their usual antics due to the presence of the two ladies. Even so, they weren’t rowdy or rude and some of them had been drinking too.

I’m not sure if this was the norm for most male gatherings but if it is, I think it’s really cool. I wouldn’t mind going for dinner with them again if I was invited.


Friday Foods: Thai Green Curry

Thai green curry
Photo by jetalone

The first time I encountered green curry was when my colleagues and I went to Bali Thai, for a fellow colleague’s farewell dinner. I didn’t know what to expect as I’ve never had it before. I was surprised at how creamy, yet spicy it was. At that time, I was on a cooking binge so I searched and found a relatively simple (but tedious) recipe for green curry from scratch.

Ingredients
For the green curry paste
* 15 large fresh green hot chillies
* 3 shallots, sliced
* 9 cloves garlic
* 1 tsp finely sliced fresh galangal
* 1 tbsp sliced fresh lemon grass
* 1/2 tsp finely sliced kaffir lime rind
* 1 tsp chopped coriander root (or substitute coriander stems if unavailable)
* 5 white peppercorns
* 1 tbsp roasted coriander seeds
* 1 tsp roasted cumin seeds
* 1 tsp sea salt
* 1 tsp shrimp paste (omit this is you’re going vegetarian)

For the curry
* 400 grams beef (a little less then 450g)
* 1 tbsp cooking oil (corn, safflower or peanut oil, not olive oil)
* 3 tbsp green curry paste (more if you like it spicier)
* 2 1/2 cups coconut milk
* 2 kaffir lime leaves, torn
* 5-10 small fresh Thai eggplants, quartered
* 2-3 fresh red chilies, sliced diagonally
* 1/4 cup sweet basil leaf (optional)
* 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce (or salt if you’re going vegetarian)
* 1 1/2 tsp palm sugar (or regular sugar if you don’t have any)
* Sweet basil leaves and red chili slices for garnish


For vegetarian:
2 cups napa cabbage or chinese cabbage, shredded
1 medium red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 cup fresh or canned straw mushrooms
1/2 cup canned baby corn
1 cup tofu puffs (or firm tofu cubes that have been deep fried)
1/4 – 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, loosely packed.

Preparation

Toast the spices in a frying pan until they’re fragrant but not for too long as they burn easily. Combine coriander seeds, cumin and peppercorn in a mortar, pound well. If You don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use a dry blending attachment that usually comes with the blender. Transfer to a bowl and put aside.

Pound the chilies and salt together well. You can use a blender for this, just try not to add in too much water. Add the remaining ingredients except shrimp paste, pound until mixed well. Add the cumin mixture and shrimp paste, continue pounding until smooth and fine.

Slice the beef into thin pieces, about about 1/3″ (3 cm) thick. Sauté the green curry paste in oil over medium heat until fragrant, reduce the heat, gradually add 1 1/2 cups of the coconut milk a little at a time, stir until a film of green oil surfaces.

Add the beef and kaffir lime leaves, continue cooking for 3 minutes until fragrant and the beef is cooked through. Add the remaining coconut milk, season with palm sugar and fish sauce. When the mixture returns to a boil add the eggplants. Cook until the eggplants are done, sprinkle sweet basil leaves and red chilies over, then turn off the heat.

Garnish with sweet basil leaves and red chilies before serving with hot rice.

Note: The last time I made this, I used all the paste that I made (yeah, all 15 sticks of chili) as I thought that the curry needed to be thicker and spicier. It depends on how spicy you want it. You can also substitute the beef with chicken or fish, though that changes the cooking time. Give it a go and tell me what you think.


The Reason Behind My Online Handle

Starlight Mints
Photo by Steven Snodgrass

Sometime last weekend, during the Potter Party, the following conversation occurred.


Me: Mints? *opens a can of mint candy and passes it around*

Raven: How come you always seem to have mints on you?

Dude: *looks like he just had an epiphany* So that’s why you’re called Mintea!

I’ve been asked multiple times, why does my online handle sound a lot like mint tea or minty?

The simple reason, is that I like mints.


I’ve always liked mints. It’s the only kind of candy that I would eat.

When I started out this blog after abandoning my livejournal, I wanted a fresh start. This included a new online handle.

It was difficult to decided what to call myself and then I thought, screw it. I’ll just pick what I like, like mints and tea. So… Mintea!

Bourbon Mint Tea
Photo bythebittenword.com

And so, that name stuck. It’s been five years since then and I’m not looking to changing it again.

So that’s my story.


Catching The Shutter Bug

I’ve never been very into photography, since my style of taking pictures is just basically point and shoot. I don’t even bother editing the pictures either. So it’s very much a surprise to me when I started to develop an interest in analogue photography.

Avariel has been part of the local lomography scene for a while and she always seemed to have the cutest camera when she went out with us on adventures. Her interest was contagious as not long after that. Raven started her own collection of lomo cameras. I tried out Avariel’s Diana+ camera but I have yet to get the film developed, so I have no idea how it turned out. I had fun just snapping away at almost everything.

Recently, I discovered that there are Holga lens attachments for the Instax mini 7s, which I already have. Technically, I bought the Instax as a birthday present for my sister but she rarely uses it, so I sorta claimed it as my own.

holga lens for instax

Anyway, there were the Fisheye lens attachment set as well as the Wide and Tele lens set. There were also the Close up & Macro lens set and the Filter lens set too. Cool huh?


I tried out the lenses to see how they look and I rather like the effect.

different lenses

I tried out using just the adapter, followed by the wide angle lens and then the tele lens, respectively. The adapter itself added a slight vignette effect to the picture and I rather like it. The wide angle lens is rather cool. The dark vignetting looks really nice against the bright centre. The tele lens however, I’m not so sure. It’s interesting but I’m not sure when is the best time to use it, or how to use it effectively.

These lens attachments have renewed my interest in getting a real Holga for myself, as I really like the unique effects that develop in the pictures.

Holga - The lost Vespa
Photo by Vick the Viking

I’d love to play around with the different lenses, filters and film types just to see what kind of effects you get. I’m the least artistic person out there but just the thought of experimenting with the different accessories sounds exciting and fun.

However, the main reason for me to not getting it yet is that, getting the camera would mean, getting the different accessories, film and of course, the cost of film would be rather high. Also, I’ve heard how addictive photography can be.

So at the present moment, I’m trying very hard to resist the pull to get a new camera. I’ll just play around with the Instax and hopefully, just be happy with it as I’m not ready for the commitment of spending moolah on shit load of camera stuff.


Potter Party At The Library

banner
Photo courtesy of Raven

One of the best things about having friends that are very big Harry Potter fans is that they plan really cool parties. Since the latest Harry Potter movie will also be the end of the series, my friend Sarah decided to organise one for the fans, to celebrate, to recap and I think, also to mourn the end of a decade of Harry Potter movies.

The party was held at the multi-purpose room at the library and was open to all fans. We were encouraged to dress up as characters from the movie. I’d initially wanted to make a Death Eater robe but I didn’t have the time (or frankly, the inclination) to sew the robe. Heck, I didn’t even finish making my wand. However, I had a Gryffindor House t-shirt, so I was all set.


We met at the library and while waiting for everyone to arrive, we busied with the tying of the house ties and well, just taking pictures. I brought my Instax camera, hence the scanned pictures of instant film.

pre-party photo

When everyone was there, some of us decorated the room, some of us got into our costumes while I the rest of us guarded the door against over-eager party attenders, and there were a few.

our hosts

The party was hosted by Nymphadora Tonks and Bellatrix Lestrange, giving us the good vs evil vibe. It was fun; quizzes, house points, book recaps and even a re-enactment of some scenes in the book.

teachers

The Hogwarts teachers were dressed rather casually but then, it is a party after all.

The party was concluded with a feast that included cake, Berti Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and even Butter Beer, contributed by one of the teachers. I didn’t stay long for the feast but it was still going strong when I left.

I know that most of us are actually excited about the new movie but those of us who’ve read all the books and watched all the movies, multiple times in the last decade or more, it feels like we’re saying goodbye to a beloved friend. So what better way to send off a friend than an awesome party?


Friday Foods: Black Pepper Beef

Black Pepper Beef Ginger
Photo by irwandy

My best friend is an awesome cook and I really like the way that she does her cooking; simply throwing everything together, roughly cut and just going with the feel of it. One of the many recipes that she shared with me is the black pepper beef, which is versatile and simple to do.

Ingredients
1/2kg of beef, thinly sliced and marinated with chicken stock granules
1 medium onion, sliced
3-4 tbs thick, sweet soy sauce (or to taste)
1/2-1 carrot (depending on the size), sliced into thin strips
1 green onion, sliced diagonally to about 1-4 inch thick (or what ever size that you want)
1 bell pepper, core removed and sliced into strips or cubed
1 tbs cornflour, mixed with a couple tablespoons of water
1-2 cups water
1 egg
white and black pepper to taste
1 tbs oil


Heat up the oil in a pan or wok and throw in the beef and the pepper.

Stir it around and once the beef is cooked, add in the onions and stir until it’s soft.

Add in enough water just to cover the meat and stir in the soy sauce. Taste to see if you’ve added enough of the soy sauce and pepper.

When the mixtures bubbling, add in the cornflour mixture to thicken. You don’t have to add in everything. Just add, stir and see if it thickens to what you want it to the consistency that you want.

When it’s thickened, reduce heat and add in the vegetables, mix and cover. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked through.

Turn off the fire and break an egg into the pan/wok. Serve with hot rice or you can eat it on its own.

Note: You can add in any kind of veggies that you like; broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms are some examples that you can use.


Me And My MILO

Milo
Photo by Nestle

I grew up drinking MILO, the popular malted chocolate drink. It was one of the first things I asked for when I woke up and still remains one of my comfort food/drinks when I’m feeling low. It’s also a meal replacement for me when I’m just too lazy to eat or in need of a quick snack.

I didn’t realise that MILO has been in the region for far longer than I thought. It wasn’t until I found this ad for MILO from the 70s.

I would say that most of us in Singapore grew up drinking MILO. Now days, my MILO drink in the morning is almost always spiked with a little coffee, for that extra kick of caffeine.


Now days, there are so many variations of MILO drinks out there and one of the most popular one is the MILO Dinosaur.

Milo Dinosaur!
Photo by mulberry leaves

This is when a large glass of iced MILO is topped with a thick layer of MILO powder. It’s wonderfully sweet, cold and if not drank right, might induce cough fits from inhaling the MILO powder straight into the throat.

Even the ads have also changed with the times.

Even so, the message is still the same, MILO is good for you. It also tastes very good.

MILO is so popular in the house that whenever anyone buys the pre-packaged MILO drinks, it usually doesn’t last more than a few days. It’s just something that my sisters and I really love, even as adults.

When I was in Australia a long while ago, I discovered that the MILO blend in Australia tastes differently from the one that we get locally; it’s more chocolaty and goes so well when mixed with warmed milk. So I was overjoyed when I discovered that we could actually get the Australian blend here. It costs a little bit more but for MILO lovers like it, it’s worth paying a little bit more.

MILO is the one drink that will almost always help make me feel better.