Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Visiting Chinatown in Singapore

2010 is the year of the Tiger. In Singapore, its almost tradition to make a trip down to Chinatown to buy Lunar New Year goodies and to revel in the atmosphere that only Chinatown during the pre-celebration period can bring.

A period where we spring clean the house, put up auspicious decorations, stock up on food and prepare for the impending family reunions and visitations.

The first day of Chinese New Year this year falls on the 14th of February and it also coincides with Valentines Day! The week prior, my sister in law, momma in law, brother in law, nephew, helper and my two girls made our way down to visit Chinatown.

It was extremely sunny that day! We literally came back with a tan just strolling down the streets. We stopped by the temple where my mother in law decided to make some offerings and pray for some blessings. I made the kids pose for me in front of the temple and they did it with squinty eyes while squealing under their breathe "hot! hot!! hot!!!"

The temple has such intricate architecture.

Posing at the entrance before we head into the Chinatown Streets...

And we were greeted with walls and walls of cookies & pastries. And along the way, cases of drinks for the dehydrated "tourists" like us trooping under the hot sun... we usually would not walk through chinatown otherwise in the year... so the annual Chinatown trip made us like "tourists" in our own country.

The girls were awed by the rows of colourful flowers, mostly fake and we coo'ed over the decorated mini curly bamboo pots.

Even more flowers.. so pretty!!

And Pussywillow.. these plants are supposed to be like little cats feet and its really furry and soft too! Really like fur!! I always love running my fingers through these little buds and amaze myself at how soft they are..

These are for luck! Curly bamboo to place at home. I wonder how they make it curl like that!

And various decorations that you can purchase to make your home more auspicious.

You can also find an interesting selection of chopsticks from those with cartoon characters to zodiac signs and all in different colours and lengths too. And for only $1 a pair!

And crystals and beads in all array of colours too...

Fruits! Some that you would only see during the Lunar New Year season like gourds and pumpkins.. they have some significance that has to do with luck but specifically what? I'm not sure.. perhaps someone can enlighten me on that..

We bought 4 pomelos and were thrilled over the mini pumpkins! They were so perfectly shaped and coloured that they almost looked fake but they were real!

Some more fruits... and mini mandarin oranges...

Dried fruits and preserved treats.. some to cook and some that you can just eat on its own. Mostly deeply sugared and dried for prolonged storage.

More preserved fruit and we came across these big packs, like almost 30cm in diameter "cakes". These were flavoured "Nian gao" cakes or Chinese New Year Glutinous rice cakes but as you can see, these were coloured. The traditional Nian Gao would usually be brown possibly because of the brown sugar used to make the cake. But these were blueberry, strawberry, lychee and even green tea flavoured!

Gotta go with the times and give novelty as the years develop huh?

And there was this old man who cheerfully sat there playing his Chinese instrument. I whipped out my camera and signed to him to take a picture? And he giggled like a school boy, posed and smiled for me. I was completely amused and Lauren dropped in some money in his collection box in appreciation. And then he sang us a Thank you! Yeah.. SANG it.. not said it.. we walked away smiling.

And even more tidbits like nuts, peanuts and watermelon seeds.

And with the Nian Gao cakes.. watermelon seeds which used to only be black and red now comes in green tea green and pink (don't know what flavour this is though) too!

And rows and rows filled with packs and packs of jelly, mochi, nut brittle and cuttlefish cubes for sale with vendors yelling into their head microphones for a free tasting in hopes that you would stop and purchase their wares.

We stoppped by a stall and saw them grilling squids. I took one photo and the cook picked up all the squids and waved them at me in attempt to give me a better shot! In the end after 5 shots, I had him lay them down on the pan as the protective plastic shield kept on reflecting light and I could not see the squids in my picture.

A stick of squid like this costs $3 and comes with chili pepper. Doesn't really taste fantastic and was just like how it looked. Really squiddy and rubbery. Not something I'd buy again but I had to try it at least once.

And my favourite shot of the day, my girls ran past me and screamed. "Mommy!! Take our picture!!" and immediately grabbed eachother. Awwww.... sisters. Can't live with eachother but can't live without each other too.


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