Fatherhood, Man Matter, Opinions, Reviews

Beauty and the Beast (2017) An honest in-depth look

I LOVE the Disney animated movie (hand-drawn cartoon) Beauty and the Beast (1991). It is my favourite Disney animated movie of all times. (Not counting Pixar 3D-animated movies.) I was a kid back then but I can still remember the ballroom scene that composite hand-drawn cartoon with the 3D-CGI ballroom and chandelier. It resonated with me because the visuals were stunning, the song was sung with such feeling and it just builds and builds to a crescendo, leaving me breathless and watery-eyed at the same time. And I was in love with Belle. 😉 She’s smart, beautiful & has a mind of her own. Oh, and she’s French!

The new BatB “Beauty and the Beast” (2017) made a heroic effort to turn a fantasy cartoon into a live-action movie and while it gained a lot of realism, it lost a lot of charm & grace… and a little bit of comedy. This doesn’t make it a bad movie because I still scored it a 7/10 for explaining much of what the 1991 movie passed on without explaining, and the shear size and technical achievement of making the castle & fantasy characters believable in the real-world. However, I wasn’t able to be fully immersed in the story or suspend my disbelief until the final act of the movie when the pace picked up and the emotions swelled.

Score: 7 / 10
Pros: The story does work and filled in a lot of missing details from the cartoon movie. The sets and characters are well animated and looks real. The acting was decent and towards the end, you may even shed a tear. There are more songs for the title characters, which really helped you care for them towards the end.

Cons: The Director’s or Producers’ pacing is too uneven, starting out slow, plateu in the middle, then shoot you to space right at the end. Fans of the 1991 cartoon knows what to expect next but new viewers may get lost. Major plot points can be condensed. This even affected some of the songs which develops the individual character’s story arc.

More Cons: Emma Watson was really wooden in some scenes and I blame it on the Director. See the Chip blows bubble scene…

Spoilers ahead!

Let’s go in-depth into BatB (2017)

With the remake of any beloved movie or franchise, the new crew has the unenviable task of living up to the expectations of fans, while coming up with something new that can stand on its own. Unfair comparison is inevitable because when you watch a movie as your younger self, you are more impressionable compared to your older jaded soul. This is called nostalgia and it affects almost all of us. With that in mind, I will try to be as impartial as possible. If it’s my preference vs the director’s choice, I will highlight that! Other than that, I will review this movie like any other.

The movie opens differently from the original. Instead of a monologue of the story with a stained glass “slideshow,” BatB (2017) opens with a ballroom party where the Prince was dancing & swooning guests until the old haggard lady came in looking for shelter from the bitter cold. The opening scene sets the tone of the movie and it completely fell flat emotionally.

It could have been set as a fantasy (flashback) scene like in the Labyrinth (1986) with a dreamy whimsical tone or it could have been dark & foreboding like Maleficient (2014). Instead, the director went for a Prince not accepting a rose and getting turned into a goat-head giant sprouting orang-utan fur. It was neither fearsome nor sad. The cartoon stained glass at least show the Prince in anguish. This is just boring… like so many other reviewers who noted the director just going along for the ride, not taking any risks or driving a singular vision that could make this movie great.

If you’re coming into BatB for the first time, you will be wowed by the baroque costumes and the grandiose castle and that’s great. What I’m saying is the director could have taken these sets & settings and made them GREAT. And that is my biggest problem with this movie. After Maleficient, I was ready to see more grandiose in Disney life-action remakes and I was disappointed in that respect.

This opening scene could have been done in a much darker note showing the terror & decay of the inhabitants and the amnesia that befalls their loved ones at the neighbouring village with the aftermath of the villagers losing their children, who became teacups. It would also be a much sharper contrast when Belle starts her whimiscal “Little Town” song showcasing her loneliness and dissatisfactoion of living in a village without teenagers. The issue of not going “the extra mile” continues in Act 1 & 2.

After this, it cuts to Belle’s opening number and that is my second-biggest issue with this movie. Throughout the movie, Emma Watson’s singing was heavily synthesize with Auto-Tune. Being the title singing role, I would rather they get a professional singer like Ariana Grande to dub over Emma’s singing rather than hearing an unnatural synthesized voice, if Emma really can’t sing. Disney has done this in many of their movies where the singing voice is different from the speaking voice. I’m a fan of Emma Watson and her Auto-tuned singing really irritated me on many level.

My third biggest issue is with Emma Watson’s acting or Bill Condon’s direction. Animated Belle was spunky, intelligent, compassionate and graceful. Hermione (Harry Potter franchise) was spunky, intelligent & compassionate (but not graceful). So what happened to Emma Watson? Her performance was pretty sub par in many scenes and I’m willing to bet it’s the director’s fault.

I heard Emma had a very active role in redefining Belle to cater to the feminist movement. However, not all the scenes worked and it’s the director’s job to decide what scenes to keep or cut. Animated Belle was really into books and she seem to have gotten a lot of that from the bookstore, hence she’s smart but innocent. Emma’s Belle showed much less interest in books and the movie show her going to a church for books? And there was less than 10 paperback size books on the counter. How many of those are bibles I wonder… And just like that, the fountain scene was cut. Emma’s Belle did show she can use her smarts with her own invention and that worked for the movie.

The 1991 cartoon movie skipped many plot points to maintain a very focused pace including cutting the entire fantastically animated sequence with the wonderful song “To Be Human Again” from the theatrical release. When I watched the Remastered BatB (1991), I completely understood why it was cut in the first place. It didn’t contribute to the movie story-wise and inserted a 5-minute break to the pace. All the characters had overtly mention their longing for Belle to break the spell multiple times, which meant turning back to human again. There isn’t any need to waste 5 minutes of screen time to reinforce something the audience already knew.

This is the next problem I have with this movie. The pacing is slow. The songs are longer, even the “Be my guest” sequence didn’t get interesting until the last 15-seconds, but the first minute of the build-up was so slow! And Belle STILL didn’t get to eat anything except for the pudding that was not trashed by the Dishes & their Friends. For some reason, the director wants us to wait and wait till the end before he blast us with everything the CGI department can throw at us! He could just increase the tempo to match the animated movie & it’ll be fine! So I didn’t really enjoy most of Ewan Mcgregor’s “Be My Guest.” Also, Ian McKellen’s Cosworth was quite boring.

It’s the same with the entire movie. Act 1 & 2 was slow & draggy, and while I appreciate the story really being fleshed out to explain so many questions we had from the cartoon, the build-up could have been better handled. There were so many padding in Act 2 between Gaston and Maurice when a brief scene would suffice. I mean there’s a 2 minute sequence of Gaston trying to kill Maurice and Le Fou trying to stop him. Then a 3-4 minute sequence of Gaston framing Maurice and getting him locked in a cart bound for the asylum. The cartoon’s way was much more effective in this instance and moved the story quicker. Of course, it could be the producers wanting to give the wonderful Kelvin Kline more scenes, in which case, I feel the script was really weak with respect to Maurice, Agathe & Gaston. They should either cut that section out completely or show how Agathe is involved in all of this.

So, I just wasn’t emotionally involved in Act 1 & 2. Even the humour fell flat.

At this point in time you’d be wondering with so many negative comments, how the hell I gave this movie a 7?

Well, it’s because despite the director’s best efforts to dumb and slow down the movie, all the main cast did put in a really decent performance especially during their introduction and character development sequence when they’re singing. Besides Emma’s Auto-Tuned singing, everyone else’s was fine, which is weird since they only did it for Emma Watson.

Dan Stevens’ Beast was spot-on as a reluctant tyrant led astray by his father. Emma’s Belle was spunky & somewhat intelligent and she did shine in a few scenes (Act 1 & 2), although not graceful or genuinely curious (or excited) about living in an enchanted castle. Kelvin Kline’s Maurice’s tragic back-story of his wife’s death to the Bubonic Plague and his over-protection of Belle was believable & touching. Luke Evans’ Gaston is well portrayed as a megalomania & schizophrenic war-hero. Josh Gad’s LeFou lost the comedic sidekick role and became Gaston’s lover-in-the-waiting + moral compass.

Gaston’s self-admiration in the mirror scene was a highlight and it really contrasted with the director/producer not going all the way for each and every scene, like when Belle was teaching the little girl to read. They didn’t show the girl’s parents summoning the other villagers to pull Belle and the little girl apart with the girl being scolded by the parents and the rest of the villagers trashing Belle’s donkey-driven washing machine (which is a brilliant device that could have washed half the town’s laundry at a go!) This would have added 10 second of Belle’s disbelief and disgust of their petty small minds and added emotional depth in Act 1 that arc towards Act 3 when the townspeople were manipulated by Gaston to “Kill the Beast.”

The pivotal scene where Belle and Beast felt something inside them and Belle sang “Something There” started slow but build up faster than “Be Our Guest.” It worked and we gained more insight into why Belle could ever learn to love the Beast. The Beast was starting to melt and it showed in Dan Stevens’ performance, even beneath all that orang-utan fur. 🙂 By the end of the song, he had even learned to laugh and shot Belle down with a giant snowball, one of the few scenes with unexpected humour.

The most important scene of the movie has to be the ballroom dance scene where their love blossomed. The set was very well done and the mood/lighting was impeccable. Belle’s gown was BEAUTIFUL and the Beast suit was well-done. However, as with the rest of the movie, the magic isn’t turned on till the very end of the ballroom scene . I think it has to do with the cinematography being too choppy. There just wasn’t enough of the grand sweeping pans and pullback + zoom-ins from the dance to a wide-angle shot of the ballroom. The camera was dead set on the couple dancing and it cuts in and out of the scene instead of the original slow panning and zooming. However, the last 1/3 of the sequence did work when the music swells and the magic starts with the Beast sweeping Belle off her feet. Some may prefer this although I personally prefer the original 3D animated sequence.

I also prefer Angela Lansbury’s Mrs Potts rendition of “Beauty and the Beast” because everything just felt heightened. The notes soared higher, the musical crescendo was more majestic, so much so that you feel your soul being lifted as well. And it ended so sweet and gently. Emma Thomson did a decent job but Angela Lansbury did it with 1 take, hitting all the right highs and lows. I also prefer Celine Dion & Peabo Bryson’s rendition of “Beauty and the Beast”, although Ariana Grande & John Legend take was awesome too.

After this, the final Act starts when Gaston locked up Maurice & Belle and the pace picked up considerably. The music and singing also somehow picked up several notches with “Kill the Beast.” The director seemed to be in a rush to finish the movie and it seemed to make the movie MUCH more enjoyable! The plot was tighter, the action was swift and decisive. Mrs Potts recognised her husband from the village during the castle lobby fight sequence! Belle and the Beast tag-team to fight Gaston and Gaston’s cowardly act of begging the Beast not to let go, then shooting the Beast in the back made more sense than the original.

All the actors also seemed to wake up and really pulled their acts together. Belle suddenly became fearless and compassionate, Beast truly showed his aggressiveness and resolve, Gaston became the jealous & cunning nutcase he truly is.

After the last petal fell, BatB (2017) did something unexpected and pulled a tear-jerker by showing all the castle inhabitants turning to lifeless object in addition to the beast dying. Belle cried and finally confessed her love for the Beast. At this moment, the mysterious enchantress returned to break the spell, resurrecting and reforming the Prince. The castle staff reanimated & returned to their human form while winter turned to spring. And as a bonus, the village invaders suddenly remember the castle and their loved ones working there. This absolutely made a lot of sense retrospectively.

This last 10-15 minutes of the movie really saved it. While it’s still not great enough for me to give it 7.5, it made me feel it was still worth my money bringing the family to watch it. Without it, I would have rated this movie a 6. It’s interesting to note that when I watched BatB on 16/3/2017, IMDB showed 6.1, but as of 18/3/2017, IMDB shows 7.6. Rotten Tomato also went up to 71% while Metacritic remains at 65.

I would recommend you go watch it. You will probably enjoy this more if you’ve never watch the animated movie first because there’s a reason the 1991 movie is rated an ‘8’ on IMDB.

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Fatherhood, Finance & Insurance, Man Matter, Solutions

Maximising the Supplementary Retirement Scheme

What is SRS?

Most people are familiar with CPF OA, SA & MediSave, and what you can do with each account. CPF also manages another account for Singaporeans/PRs & even Foreigners, it called Supplementary Retirement Scheme or SRS.

SRS is primarily used as a tax relief scheme in Singapore due to the compulsory Minimum Sum Scheme that feeds in the CPF Life pension fund for Singaporeans & PR. For Foreigners, who lack other means of tax relief, the maximum SRS tax relief is higher.

Most people who contribute to SRS knows you can use 100% of the funds for saving and investment purposes. However, due to the volatility of the markets this past few years, many had withheld their investments.

Tax Relief

If you go to IRAS website, you can find the Tax calculator. For readers earning more than $50,000 gross income, it’s worth taking a look at it even if your other Tax reliefs reduces your Tax liability to roughly $1000 per year. If your gross income is more than $100,000, it’s time to pay attention!

Assuming you have max out all your other relief and you still have to pay a sizable income tax every year, SRS is a viable tax relief to consider. Check out the table below.

This table is for calendar year 2015 where assessment is done in 2016. Maximum SRS is $12,750 for Singaporeans & PRs, and $29,750 for foreigners. For the purpose of illustration, I’m ignoring the 50% rebate (capped at $1000) on payable Income Tax due to SG50, and the table is calculated for Singaporeans and PRs only. Foreigners will jump down 2 tax brackets so the potential tax savings is doubled!

Income bracket after other relief Tax payable Tax Payable after SRS Tax Savings
$40,000.00 $550.00 $145.00 $405.00
$50,000.00 $1,250.00 $453.75 $796.25
$60,000.00 $1,950.00 $1,057.50 $892.50
$70,000.00 $2,650.00 $1,757.50 $892.50
$80,000.00 $3,350.00 $2,457.50 $892.50
$90,000.00 $4,500.00 $3,157.50 $1,342.50
$100,000.00 $5,650.00 $4,183.75 $1,466.25
$120,000.00 $7,950.00 $6,483.75 $1,466.25
$130,000.00 $9,450.00 $7,633.75 $1,816.25
$140,000.00 $10,950.00 $9,037.50 $1,912.50
$150,000.00 $12,450.00 $10,537.50 $1,912.50
$160,000.00 $13,950.00 $12,037.50 $1,912.50
$170,000.00 $15,650.00 $13,537.50 $2,112.50
$180,000.00 $17,350.00 $15,182.50 $2,167.50
$190,000.00 $19,050.00 $16,882.50 $2,167.50
$200,000.00 $20,750.00 $18,582.50 $2,167.50
$210,000.00 $22,550.00 $20,282.50 $2,267.50
$220,000.00 $24,350.00 $22,055.00 $2,295.00
$230,000.00 $26,150.00 $23,855.00 $2,295.00
$240,000.00 $27,950.00 $25,655.00 $2,295.00
$250,000.00 $29,750.00 $27,455.00 $2,295.00
$260,000.00 $31,550.00 $29,255.00 $2,295.00
$270,000.00 $33,350.00 $31,055.00 $2,295.00
$280,000.00 $35,150.00 $32,855.00 $2,295.00
$290,000.00 $36,950.00 $34,655.00 $2,295.00
$300,000.00 $38,750.00 $36,455.00 $2,295.00
$310,000.00 $40,550.00 $38,255.00 $2,295.00
$320,000.00 $42,350.00 $40,055.00 $2,295.00
$330,000.00 $44,350.00 $41,855.00 $2,495.00
$340,000.00 $46,350.00 $43,800.00 $2,550.00
$350,000.00 $48,350.00 $45,800.00 $2,550.00
$500,000.00 + $78,350.00 $75,800.00 $2,550.00

It is important to note that SRS tax relief should be viewed as a tax deferment scheme because after you retire, any funds withdrawn will STILL be subjected to Income Tax. Fortunately, only 50% of the withdrawn amount is taxable.

Investment opportunities for SRS funds

SRS pays out a 0.5% interest per annum, which until last year was an attractive safe investment return compared to Fixed Deposit. Investors looking for higher returns typically invest in unit trust funds or structured funds of some sort. However, higher risks funds are negatively impacted recently due to market forces.

Fortunately, AIA just introduced a new product in 2015 to cater to savvy investors looking for a safer investment instrument while beating inflation. As I’m not allowed to advertise any insurance & investment products, all I can say is this is an SRS lump sum endowment product that gives a guaranteed monthly annuity for a period of 15 or 20 years starting from the retirement age.

For more information, please email me directly and reference this article in the email.

Limitations of SRS

To prevent money laundering and tax evasion, limitations are placed on SRS funds, whether invested or not.

There is a limit on how much cash you can inject into SRS to qualify for tax relief. This figure is revised yearly. For example, maximum SRS tax relief is $12,750 for FY2015 while in FY2016, this is increased to $15,300 for Singaporeans/PRs and $35,700 for foreigners.

Withdrawals from SRS are also governed by a strict set of rules which can be found here. The most important of which is, early withdrawal before the statutory retirement age causes the withdrawal amount to be 100% taxable + a 5% penalty on the withdrawal amount. Investment returns are also 50% taxable even after the statutory retirement age.

Despite these restrictions, if your investment returns can beat the penalty + additional load to your Income Tax for that year, it’s still a worthwhile tax relief.

All comments and questions are welcome. Be sure to like this article if it’s useful and share it with your friends and family, or colleagues who can benefit from it! Button are all over my website just waiting for you to click them! 🙂

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Fatherhood, Health, Solutions

What to do if your child got HFMD

Introduction

HFMD, all parents dread these 4 letters & with good reason. It’s the chicken-pox of the 2010s, where your child cannot go to childcare or school and there’s no cure and no vaccine.

In Singapore, MOH has declared it endemic and there’s a good chance it’ll infect your kids like it happened to my (then) 4yo daughter.

As an insurance professional, I’ve handled many HFMD claims for StarShield babies so far this year (2015) and heard many horror stories regarding the pain & suffering of their toddlers and themselves. My kids are 6 & 5 so I understand their pain and I was somewhat prepared when my 4yo (at that time) daughter got HFMD. So I’m here to share how to be prepared to handle the situation if this happen to your child.

What is HFMD?

Hand Foot Mouse Disease is caused by 2 different families of virus, and like flu, your immune system is only primed for that particular strain in that particular sub-family. If you’re infected by a different virus strain, your prior infection isn’t going to help you.

The symptoms appears 3-4 days after infection and the most common ones are lesions around the joints & mouth, a low level fever and most painful of all, many many ulcers in the mouth. It’s seriously scary to see so many ulcers in your child’s mouth if you’re unprepared so I’d prepare you by showing my daughter’s. 😉 13-14 ulcers in total!

The ulcers are the worse part of the disease. That’ll take about 5-6 days to clear before the doctor can declare your child healthy and non-infectious. HFMD affect different children differently because there’re so many virus that can cause it and these virus particles can survive even when the mucus is dried up. So the best defense against HFMD is to ensure your kids washes their hands before eating anything. Since there’s no vaccine & no treatment available, it’s a waste of time & money to see pediatrician unless your child is below 2 years of age.

Just see a normal GP for liquid Paracetamol or acetaminophen to manage the fever & pain from the ulcers. Some GP prefer to prescribe Ibuprofen and that’s fine because it’s more effective as a painkiller, but the dosage MUST be strictly followed because liver damage is a known effect even with a light dosage. This is why I opted for Paracetamol.

If you want more detail on HFMD, click here.

What to do?

  1. First of all, don’t worry, most HFMD in Singapore don’t result in death. Hospitalisation may be needed if you can’t manage it properly so I’m here to help you manage it properly!
  2. Be prepared to take 1 week leave if you cannot find someone willing to take care of your child. Please don’t ask your parents to take care of your sick child. Elderly has a weaker immune system & if they catch HFMD, they’ll suffer badly!
  3. ENFORCE hand washing for everyone at home if you don’t want everyone to be infected! Also, no kissing and reduce touching to minimize the chance of contaminations and increasing the itch to those blisters.
  4. DO NOT share food! Always pass the food to the child so that his/her utensils never touches what the rest of the family is eating.
  5. Wash your child backside or ensure he/she washes his/her hands after using the toilet because HFMD is passed from feces to the mouth.
  6. Prepare some topical (non-steroid) cream to reduce itching.
  7. Prepare the following if ulcers start appearing. (Painkiller, ulcer cream, watermelon plant powder)
  8. If ulcers becomes bad, prepare plain porridge everyday with some salty or sweet condiments. Everything that goes into the mouth is going to hurt like hell for your child. Sympathise with the pain but ensure your child gets the food down because he/she really needs the nutrients to fight off the infections! (Contrary to many advise, ice cream hurts!) High salt or sugar content hurts the ulcers so plain and warm is good.
  9. Use alcohol swaps to wipe down all the child’s regular toys + surfaces he/she touches everyday like door knobs to minimize cross-contamination. Sterilising the whole house is frankly impossible and since HFMD viruses are not air-borne, just ensuring everyone washes their hands before food and you’d be fine. My 6yo son has close contact with his sister but by following our instructions, he never contracted it.
My main weapons against the ulcers.
My main weapons against the ulcers.

What NOT to do

  1. Do Not Let your child play in public & spread the virus.
  2. Do Not Bring you child to childcare & expect them to take care of your sick kid.
  3. Do Not Eat all sort of medicine, western or traditional. It’s not going to help. Just ensure your child is well-fed & hydrated.
  4. Do Not Use steroid based cream or medication. (It hinder the child’s development.)
  5. Do Not Punish the child for not following your instructions or being cranky. Trust me, the ulcers are driving him/her crazy enough.
  6. Do Not Overdose your child with painkiller.
  7. Do Not Give lots of kisses & hugs. If you go down, it’ll take twice as long for YOU to recover! Then WHO’s going to take care of you & your child?

Dealing with the ulcers

  1. The most painful ulcers are those at the back of the throat & mouth. Those under the tongue will make it hard for your child to eat anything.
  2. Give painkiller. Follow dosage carefully especially with Ibuprofen. For very young toddlers, watch out for these side-effects & stop the medication immediately and see your doctor.
  3. For Paracetomol or acetaminophen, you can safely increase Paracetomol dosage slightly if needed.
  4. If you believe in Watermelon plant powder, you can spray 2-3 times to the back of the tongue. My girl didn’t like it because it’s so bitter.
  5. Personally, I prefer the ulcer gel because there’s no restriction on dosage.
  6. Clean your hands and carefully apply a dot of ulcer gel on your little finger.
  7. Dap or rub the dot on the ulcer. Repeat until you’ve covered all the ulcers.
  8. For those ulcers at the back of the throat, I squeeze a liberal amount under my daughter’s tongue and ask her to mix it with saliva, gargle & swallow.
  9. If you do all 3, most of the pain will be gone enough for you to feed your child!

Feeding

  1. Since there’s no cure for HFMD, it’s important your child is able to fight off the infection him/herself. This means he/she must eat or at least drink formula milk that can fulfill the daily nutritional needs.
  2. Plain, bland, soft & warm food is the best. I found plain porridge is the best for my daughter, together with those Taiwanese mock duck or glutten which is not too strongly flavoured. After a few initial tentatively swallows, my daughter manages to finish her porridge in record time! Just remember to spread the porridge in a big plate so it cools down fast!
  3. We’ve tried different food, milo, cold milk & ice-cream. All hurt her badly especially cold stuff.
  4. After food, I find that another round of ulcer gel helps to take the edge off the pain enough for her to sleep soundly.
  5. For hydration, I found that plain water is the best because the sugar in flavoured beverage hurts the ulcers for a long time. If your toddler is young, you can try to thin the milk a bit if he/she is rejecting the milk.

Fever

I generally wouldn’t worry about the fever unless your child becomes listless and lethargic, or worse, have a seizure. If you follow the dosage of the painkiller & the fever stays high, quickly seek medical help.

Recovery

By following these rules, my girl recovered nicely with no weight loss or lasting effects. I hope this article helped you if your child got HFMD.

Insurance

Most insurers don’t comprehensively cover all aspects of managing childhood disease like HFMD. Fortunately, I know one that does that. From outpatient GP/Specialist costs, to taking care of the taxi fare or parking fees shall your child be hospitalized, to the actual hospital bill. It’s very affordable to boot.

A happy claim for my clients.
A happy claim for my clients.

For more information, please email me! erictay_et@aia.com.sg

Errors? Comments? Questions? Use the comment box below!

(PDPA: Note that by emailing me, you consent to allowing me to email you back regarding HFMD information shared in this article. Don’t sue me later saying your email is in the DNC ah!)

Fatherhood, Food & Cooking, Man Matter

Enhancing your rice #1 (Non-halal)

I love to cook and I love to experiment with food. So I’m always looking for new ingredients and recipes to try & perfect, like the 24-hours super juicy roost chicken by Heston Blumenthal.

This is a new series of food hack/recipes that I’ve done at home which I’m sharing to cater for men & women who are too busy to cook a decent meal but still wants to enhance what they can get with limited ingredients and limited time. More importantly, it’s cooked at home so you control the quality & nutritional value.

You will see many of the ingredients are being reused & remixed so you do not have to spend time looking for them but at times, the mix of ingredients may seem bonkers and that’s the whole point. Doing something special to surprise your loved ones and delighting their taste buds.

There’re only a few condiments/spices that I frequently use which I’d reveal over the series but rest assure I’d keep reusing/revisiting the same taste so the ingredient don’t go bad from disuse. Most of the ingredients I use are of higher quality but because you’d only need a little, in the long term, it’s inexpensive.

If you have any questions or comments, or if you love it as much as I do, please click the article header and find the comment section below.

Recipe #1 – Bacon Butter Rice

To kick off the series, I’m going to show you how to enhance your plain rice. Unfortunately, some of my recipes don’t have Halal equivalent (like this one,) so I’d put that in the title.

This recipe is so ridiculously simple because you simply throw all the ingredients into the rice cooker and wait. I got the idea last week when I realize my bacon is about to expire and rather than simply frying it up, I thought why not put it in the rice to give that wonderful smoky fragrance! Heavenly! I can already imagine the aroma from this special butter rice. And the best part is, it goes well with Chinese food as well!

Don’t worry, I’d explain the purpose of the ingredients so you don’t have to buy a specific brand or type. Just find the closest match, mix it up and have fun!

One last note. It’s hard to cook for 1-2 person, so most of my recipes are upsized to be stored for later consumption. It’s perfectly fine to use the microwave to reheat rice. For meat, fish & vegetable, you should consider steaming if possible.

Serving size: 8 adult portions or 6 man-sized portions

Ingredients:

  1. 1 pack of streaky bacon (you’d want more fats to make the rice smoother so back-bacon is not such a good idea & definitely don’t waste that parma ham!)
  2. 2 tablespoon of salted butter or cut about 1cm from the block (if you use unsalted butter, add about half a teaspoon of salt)
  3. All-purpose herbs (unsalted) in a shaker
  4. 4 cups of rice (Jasmine or Thai fragrant rice is best but long-grain or pearl rice should work too)

Note about the ingredients:

  1. Real Bacon has a smoky aroma that really adds a fantastic and luxurious taste to the rice. This can’t be easily replicated with Turkey Bacon or even good ham.
  2. Use REAL butter, buy what you can afford. Generally more expensive butter has more milk solids + water and thus taste more creamy. NEVER use margarine for your health’s sake.
  3. All-purpose herbs comes in a shaker form but are not cheap unless you mix it yourself. Fortunately, you don’t have to use a lot each time. However, because it’s so versatile, it’ll be used in many of my recipes! If your herb contains sea salt, use a little less salt if you find the result too salty.
  4. Most Asian get our carbohydrates from polished rice. It’s so versatile but its potential is under appreciated. I’m going to show you MANY things you can do to enhance the humble rice in future posts!

Cooking:

  1. Wash your rice once and drain. Fill it to the number 4 mark in the cooking pot.
  2. Dump the salted butter or the unsalted butter + salt into the water.
  3. Shake the herb onto the water so it covers most of the surface loosely.
  4. Stir!
  5. Cut the streaky bacon in half (meaning from 15cm slices to 7.5cm)
  6. Chuck the first half to the bottom of the rice and the other half on top, making sure it’s completely submerged.
  7. Cook the rice as per normal.

Tips:

  1. Don’t worry about the quantity of the ingredients. Adjust it to your liking. These recipes are supposed to be quick food hacks.
  2. Do not use too much herbs! The herb is there to give you a tantalizing aroma, too much and it becomes bitter. If you like a stronger smell without the bitterness, use fresh herbs!
  3. Similarly, do not use too much salt as the bacon is pretty salty already. You’d want the salt to enhance the savory sweetness (umami) but not to make the rice salty!
  4. Know your rice! Stick to what you know best. Most Japanese brand rice cookers will cook Thai Jasmine rice, Thai Fragrant rice & Japanese Pearl rice to perfection with the Plain rice program. However, different rice are cooked differently, for example, USA and China Pearl rice has a lower moisture content, meaning you need to pre-soak the rice for some time after washing and before cooking!

No nos:

  1. Do NOT use turkey bacon, ham & luncheon meat, it wouldn’t turn out as well.
  2. NEVER use margarine! It just isn’t healthy!
  3. Putting the ingredients into the rice before the water. You need a very specific amount of moisture during and after cooking as the oil & fats will drive out some of the moisture from the rice grains. You’d want a chewiness to the rice and the moisture in the rice is very important!
  4. Using Soya sauce instead of salt. I personally think the soya bean taste will dilute the smoky aroma of the bacon but I have not tested this. I just imagine the 2 together and it seems to cancel out or at least doesn’t flare wonderfully.

Well I didn’t hold anything back so you should be able to get the same taste as my family last week. Everyone loved it and I hope your family loves it too!

Fatherhood, Solutions

Alternate way to cure asthmatic cough or bronchitis

Coughing kids are no fun

Many parents will go through this stage of their toddler having wheezing/asthmatic cough, which develops into bronchitis, causing sleepless nights for both parent(s) & child. The toddler may also lose appetite, requiring additional medication to boost appetite and/or immune system or to protect the lungs.

Clogged airways when the Bronchi is infected.

As a last resort, pediatrician may even prescribe antibiotics together with steroids which must be delivered directly to the bronchi through a nebulizer. Keeping the mask on the toddler is another adventure altogether! Steroids retard growth in toddlers so it’s only prescribed where absolutely necessary.

We bought this Omron Nebulizer NE-C801 for our boy.

Each course of treatment cost around SGD$300 & it’s no guarantee that it’ll cure the child immediately. We went back to the same pediatrician twice because he’s highly recommended but the medication only lessen the phlegm & cough but it never cure our 2 year old boy.

Sure looks easy doesn’t it? First thing a toddler do is claw at the mask!

Within 60 days, we burnt through $800 trying to cure our boy, including doctor visits, cost of the nebulizer + the 2 visits to the pediatrician. And our boy has hardly improved since day 1! Argh!

The Environment has no effect

While all the treatment is ongoing, we also tried ways & means to ensure a clean environment for him. We tried to purify the air in the room with our Delphin vacuum cleaner, use the 3M air-con filter with carbon, adjust the humidity & temperature (28C/26C) in the room, put special essential oils that supposedly helps with sinus problem & change his bed sheet every week. We even tried to open the windows + fan with ionizer.

Well, nothing really helps.

An Epiphany

We were about to bring our boy to an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist, Dr Brian Heng, who cured my wife’s bronchitis & my client’s prolonged dry cough due to smoking, when I had an epiphany!

30+ years ago, my parents spent hundreds if not a thousand dollar trying to cure my childhood asthma. I even went for weekly swimming lessons to build my lungs to reduce my wheezing cough. Eventually, after a few visits to Dr William Heng, who’s Dr Brian Heng’s late father and a pioneer of ENT in Singapore, I was cured.

Unfortunately, it came back a year or so later and I had to go through the same treatment. However this time, the durian was in season & my dad bought a big bunch of durian home. I really loved durian & without thinking how it’ll affect my cough, I just ate a huge amount of durian!

(I seem to remember some old folks saying durian is heaty so you can’t eat it while having a cough.)

(We didn’t see Dr Brian Heng initially because we’re not sure if he can see a toddler. But we also didn’t call and ask.)

The Cure!

Yup! The king of fruits!

Disclaimer: This “cure” only works when the child has green phlegm or what Chinese call winter cough.

After taking the durian, I realize the next day that most of my phlegm has cleared & I only had a bit of itchiness in my throat. After taking a bit more of the cough syrup, I was completely cured!

I discovered early on that when I had “heaty” cough with yellow phlegm or just itchy throat, the durian actually makes things worse. So durian is not a cure-all.

So I did the next logical thing for my boy. I bought durian & made my boy eat as much as he wants. The next day, his phlegm was mostly cleared. I let him continue the cough syrup, stopped nebulizing, steroids, ventolin, etc., until he’s cured within a few days.

So now, every time he coughs with (usually green) phlegm, we’ll let him have the usual expectorant and ventolin for a few days, then finish it off with a round of Durian! 😀

Did it work for you or your child? Comments are welcome!

BTW, this works for adults as well! 😉