Friday, June 13, 2014

Fudoh - The Immovable Spirit of Sake

For almost 1.5 years now, I have the privilege to be a wine blogger for It was truly a gift that keeps on giving from The Universe. For my Facebook friends, my overjoyed sights and shout-outs from drinking events and outings, made me being coined as someone "spiritual". Yes, in this case the "spirits" are referring to the alcoholic beverages. Hey, I'm in the industry, I am glad to flaunt my "spiritual" side anytime.

The Universe has recently opened up a new door for me knowing I do not discriminate my "spirits", I have been recently invited to a sake tasting event with Sake Master Kan Otsuka, the current and 19th generation descendant of the renowned Nabedana brewery from Narita City. In this event, Sake Master Kan Otsuka brought us the legendary Fudoh (不動) sake, the sacred sake for Buddha offered at Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, one of the three biggest temples in eastern Japan. Fudoh which means The Immovable, was derived from one of the guardian deity to Buddha by the name of Fudō Myō-ō (不動明王). Yes, Fudoh sake is offered with great honour to those who make pilgrimages to the temple.

Sake Master Kan Otsuka with the Chef  of Ginza Kuroson

Nabedana brewery is one of the oldest breweries in Japan since 1689. Can you imagine a family business that has been around for 325 years? If you do get to taste their sake, you are tasting a part of history that is still alive. However, what makes Fudoh unique is their openness to embrace something new without losing its heritage. Fudoh keeps recreating themselves and that is through the use of new local variety rice called "Sake Komachi" instead of the king of sake rice - "Yamadanishiki". This new variety infuses the rich, intense and yet elegant touch to the sake.

Sake Master Kan Otsuka (who approved my Facebook friend request, yay!) introduced us to the process of sake brewing which involves 8 steps (for more details, you may refer to this link):

  1. Rice polishing: The finer the rice, the more it is milled away, the softer the taste on the palate.
  2. Rice washing and steeping 
  3. Rice steaming
  4. Koji making
  5. Shubo (Fermentation Starter): +/- 2 weeks
  6. Moromi (Final Culture): +/- 4 weeks
  7. Filtration 
  8. Pasteurization and storage: At least 6 months before bottling.

Sake, like any other alcohol, and like any other good things in life, needs lots of patience. I was however, very impatient to taste the sake. Finally, Sake Master Kan Otsuka introduced us to 4 sakes:

  1. Fudoh Special Junmai
    Made from Miyamanishiki rice, polished to 60% it has relatively high acidity level (Acidity: 1.6) and relatively dry (Dryness: +3). It was a great opening that paired well with fish such as tuna, mackarel and kare. Truly refreshing and easy going that you can serve it cold or hot.
  2. Fudoh Junmai GinjoMade from Sakekomachi rice variety. Polished to 55%, acidity level of 1.5 and dryness +2 (lesser than Fudoh Special Junmai) however it has a more intense taste than Fudoh Special Junmai, which made it suitable to be paired with sushi, tempura, yakitori, shabu shabu, raw sliced red fish, etc.
  3. Fudoh Junmai DaiginjoIt has all the same specifications as Fudoh Junmai Ginjo except the RPR (Rice Polishing Ratio) - instead of 55%, it is 50%. That 5% really plays a big part in the texture and smoothness of the sake. Recommended to be paired with sushi or raw sliced white fish.
  4. Fudoh Ginjo Nigori (Unfiltered)
    Made from Fusakogane rice grown in Chiba perfecture. Polished to 60%, acidity level of 1.2 and dryness  +3. Notice the milkier colour, it is because this sake is purposely made unfiltered. Hence, it has a little bit of powdery texture to it as if you are drinking soya milk with alcohol. The unfiltered sake is a very seasonal and usually consumed during celebrations such as New Year. It has to be drunk really fresh and paired well with Korean BBQ (yes, surprisingly), hot pot and rich tasty appetizer.
If you'd like to try them now, guess what, you can! Beam Suntory, world's third largest premium spirits company to whom Singapore is privileged to be the first country ever outside Japan to try Fudoh sake, has the entire Marquee at Beer Fest Singapore 2014 just to showcase the finest handpicked whiskey, wine, sake, oh you name it. Fudoh sake will be made available from S$8-15/ glass. It will be served in a wine glass instead of typical sake shot so that you will be able to smell the aroma and receive generous portion of sake. Huat ah!

Beer Fest Singapore 2014
Venue: Marina Promenade (F1 track behind Singapore Flyer)
Event Duration: 12-15 June 2014
Time: 13-14 June 6PM-2AM, 15 June 12PM-10PM
Ticket Sales: Starts from $15/person from Sistic

If you'd like to have the chance to win great prizes, tag your pictures at Whisky and Wine Marquee with #BeamSuntoryExp and upload it through Instagram and Facebook. The best 20 pictures will win a bottle of Single Malt Whiskey each! 

Lastly, this experience will not be complete without the delicious food by Ginza Kuroson (Address: 30 Robertson Quay, 238251 Phone: 6737 5547). My favourite dish was the flatfish and the restaurant was kind enough to show us how this fish actually looks like too .... it is indeed ... flat. -_-"

This "spiritual" experience has truly been really rewarding. Thank you, Sake Master Kan Otsuka for the sharing a part of your heritage to Singapore. You're so cool that I'm so impressed to know you are quite an active user of Facebook! Thank you, Beam Suntory for bringing Fudoh Sake to Singapore. Thank you, Heat Branding for the wonderful event and ultimately, thank you, Universe for the experience that made my life so abundant.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Old Age is No Place for Sissies

Old age is no place for sissies.
- Bette Davis

Whenever I come back to my hometown, Pematangsiantar, there is one person that I must meet - my Chinese tutor. I just met her few minutes ago and it was one of the toughest moment I had in my life because the face of old age was too in my face. Yes, I'm indeed a sissy.

"Lao shi" which means teacher in Mandarin, is how I always call her since I was 3yo. But actually she has been more than just a teacher to me. She's like a friend, a mentor, a grandma and one of the important person from my hometown that's so close to my heart.

I was her student even before I went to the kindergarten. She literally saw me growing up. When she was hanging the laundry, I was there next to her pretending I was playing piano on top of the washing machine. She told my parents I did that thinking there was some talent in me and I got enrolled to music lesson after that. Aiyoh!

She never failed in giving me birthday presents ever since. By the time I was not that amused by toys and stationery, she taught me the value of gold. My birthday present was upgraded from toys to gold ring. By the time the price of gold soared up, she gave me 'angbao' (red packet) filled with money instead. Very practical. Also, as I have some phobia crossing the road in my hometown (still am), she would help me and made sarcastic remark "aiyoh, so big liao dunno how to cross road ah." Then she would smile and laugh at me for being so chicken. :) I always love those moments.

When my parents came to Singapore in December 2013, I asked them how Laoshi was doing and they said she is bed-ridden, her legs are too weak to walk. She wanted to give me angbao once again afraid she wouldn't have the chance to see me anymore. My parents dismissed her and said she's big enough and you don't need to give her angbao anymore. If you want, please give it to her yourself. That statement from her mouth really crushed me.

Today, I finally met the frail her. Someone who once used to wash me after I went to toilet cause I was helpless and clueless, now the table has been turned. She is helpless in her diaper. After talking to her for at least 10 minutes, she actually didn't even recognize who I was. But she remembered once I mentioned my name and said I have different look but my jovial and mischievous character still the same.

I asked her what she thinks is the most important in life, she said working. Indeed, she has devoted her entire life to her work. Teaching Mandarin, which she can't do it anymore now, must be devastating to her. But what she didn't know those Chinese characters are not the only thing she has imparted to her students. I can't speak for others but for me she has instilled in me the importance of being kind, friendly, generous and always smile in all circumstances (except when those moment I drove her mad, thank God there were only a few of those). Strong lady that she is in her 80s, never married, she is still with her big smile even though it lacks some luster now, but she still smiles.

People in my family (and community) always emphasize the youngsters to get married. Why? If not, when you grow old, who will take care of you? Funny logic, really. Because what if your husband/wife dies before you or if your kid dies before you or ... as if you know what will happen. Getting married is an insurance for old age? I'm not sure. I've seen too many elders with kids and spouses who are also living alone and taking care of themselves in the end.

But what I learn from my Laoshi who is single, unmarried, without any children is still being taken care of very well. A family whom she taught for many years has stepped up to provide care for her. Providing the 24/7 attention that she needs. Without her knowing, she has built her own family simply by doing what she knows best - teaching.

I don't know anything about old age but I know seeing someone you care so much slowly drifting away is not an easy sight. But that's life. All of us will go through that. Our loved ones will go through that. Hence the only moment that is truly real is the present moment we have with them, which we may lose if we are too busy on our phones when we are at their presence. Sorry ... I'm rambling with not much sense.

I said goodbye to her as I needed to leave and I did things I never did to her before. While trying hard to hold back my tears, I hugged her and kissed her on the cheek and told her,"Laoshi, ming nian zai jian." (Teacher, see you next year!). That's a lie. I will see her again before I leave because I am not sure if there is a next year. I hope so. I will see her again and with my broken Chinese I will write her a short note to let her know that my life would have never been the same without her presence (though she already knew as I already wrote her such letter once but I will do it again). I will let her know she has led an awesome life touching many lives without her even knowing and the inevitable of being old and frail is nature's way to let you know, you've done enough. Please rest and savour the moments you have collected. They are enough.

Thank you, Laoshi. See you tomorrow or Friday. I have not decided yet. But I will see you again.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

I Need. I Want. I Be.

"I need to write."

A voice that has been nagging in my head for the past few months.
My last blog entry was in October 2013. I had a few draft blog posts but none of them was completed.

"I need to write."

There I said it again.

In the end, I wrote nothing.

So, today I silent the voice of "need" and change it to the voice of "want".

"I want to write."

The purposeful little voice of "a want" beats the many nagging voices of "a need".

And that is good enough for now, so I thought.

It's funny how these 2 simple words - "to need" and "to want" may have the same word(s) at the end of the sentence (Eg. to write, to eat, happiness, freedom, etc) but each carries different motivations.

As I write and ramble further in this post that may lead to nowhere, I come to realize there is a verb that is more effective than "to need" or "to want". That is - "to be". Because when you just "be", you don't need to need or to want because you already are "that".

"I write."
"I eat."
"I am happy."
"I am free."

I will let "be" be the word that guides me in this new year. Funny that "to be" is actually part of my Chinese name and yet I still need to be reminded of it. Tsk Tsk Tsk Tsk.

Oh, Shakespeare, you're a wise man indeed.

"To be or not to be, that is the question."
- William Shakespeare

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Path of No

Fade to the background I go
To a place I let go and let flow
I have no control, oh wait, I do
But I opt for the path of no

I watch as the world unfolds
I listen as the words are shown
I witness. I observe. I nod.
I go to the path of no

Questions and shadows followed
This vast Universe unknown
Eyes closed, I breathed in more
And found I'm already home

Thank you Google Image for this.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why Do I Love Pigeons?

If you have been my Facebook friend for a while, you can't help but to associate me with pigeons. You will see I often talk about them, take photos of them, pretend to have conversations with them and friends will tag me of some pigeons photos because they thought of me when they see pigeons. (Honoured, thank you)

I wonder how did I start to love pigeons? I was not born like that. I didn't notice pigeons when I was young. I didn't notice pigeons when I was in the university. How did it happen?

As I walked down the memory lane, the earliest quirky pigeon experience I had was when I just finished my lunch with my BFF at the hawker center near my place. I saw, there was (I think) 1 pigeon in front of us. It was walking so cutely with that swinging behind. I followed it for quite a while then I chased it and then it flew away. I remember saying this out loud,"Cheh! Whatta show off!" As usual, my best friend just shook her head in disbelief. Though she's used to my idiosyncrasy, but the list keeps expanding as time goes by and she has no choice but to keep out with it.

Since then, I notice pigeons everywhere I go. I find them really amusing. They always make my day without fail. Sure, in Singapore, they are everywhere. But I didn't use to notice them the way I notice them now. Whenever I had a bad day, the sight of them will perk me up a little bit. Believe it or not, my good days definitely outnumber my bad days. Maybe because, as I started to notice the small little things, those small moments snowball into bigger moments.

Today, I finally understand why I derive joy from such experience as I stumbled upon the following quote -

The big events are noteworthy. But the big events are not the fabric of your life experience. And it’s the fabric of your life experience that equals to the way you chronically feel. And the way you chronically feel, is life. 
- Abraham-Hicks

Ahhh ..... A-HA!
That makes sense now.
Noticing pigeon is one of the thread in the fabric of my life experience. Listening to Titanium by David Guetta, was another. Going for wine events and getting to know people are two more threads. Stumbling upon cool words contributes too. What started off as only a few strands of individual string, have woven themselves beautifully into a big piece of fabric. And that ... is ... my life experience. A big, ever expanding tapestry that I call my awesome life.

Dear pigeons (I don't care what breed, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, etc you are)
Thank you for enriching my life. Thanks for having fun with me (well, fun for me, not sure about you. :p) and I know for sure we will have more of such moments going forward. I'm glad you're always there when I need you, except at night but your friends - the bats - do a good job too, sometimes.

So, how do you chronically feel? Have you found what are the strings that contribute to your fabric of life? 

Monday, September 2, 2013

I Believe There's A Reason

I believe there's a reason why I was born as an only child. For slowly I learned, I am responsible in keeping myself entertained when my parents were working. I have books and my imagination as my bestest of friends. I hardly knew what boredom was.

I believe there's a reason why I'm a Scorpion Monkey. Both western and eastern zodiacs are signs that thrive through curiosities. Questioning everything, I learned to see my life filled with adventures and mysteries. The people I met were like the characters in the movies, dropping clues so the seeker may eventually solve the puzzles.

I believe there's a reason why I was born in Indonesia. A country with the motto - Bhineka Tunggal Ika which means we are one even though we are different, I learned to embrace diversities. Every culture; be it the Javanese, the Batak, the Chinese, enhances the richness of the country. I remembered being at awe with all their wedding costumes for each province. Not to mention my palate was truly spoiled by the choices of food that one can never run out of.
Image courtesy of
I believe there's a reason why people called me many names since I was 3 years old. Donald Duck. Donut. Kacibol (The one with holes in the specs). Maradona. Madonna. Dontel. Don King. Dono. Dari Tanah (From the ground). Da Li Dan (Big egg). Da Ling Dan (Big zero). I learned that they can call me anything they want and I can still have fun in the process because names have never defined me. So far, I am giving myself more nicknames than others have given me. And I finally learned what I called myself is so much more important than what others call me. For now, I am very happy with Frenchie Cow-ish Pigeon-ish Scorpion Monkey Golden Beng who shouts Huat Ah and drinks wine at anytime possible. This list will get longer as I discover more things in my life.

I believe there's a reason why I was made fun of when I mixed with friends who were much younger than me in high school. People called me "The King of Kids". I understand now, I was learning to stand out and not to conform. I learned to be comfortable with whichever crowd I chose. Most importantly, I have learned, there's no such things as age gap; it's only the gap in your mind that you're unable to come into terms with.

I believe there's a reason why my parents had to bring me to all their "older people" outings. I was always the only kid around and never allowed to leave my parents' sights. I understand now, I was being trained to the art of observing, listening and communicating with a more mature audience. Closing the imaginary "age gap" once again, from the other side of the spectrum.

I believe there's a reason I feel at ease in Singapore. Equipped with my love for Hokkien dialect and surrounded myself with the locals, I was naturally mistaken as Singaporean within one month. I learned that Singapore is another platform for me to embrace International diversities. More cultures, more adventures, more experiences, more knowledge, more things unknown. Exciting!

I believe there's a reason why I studied in Singapore, a heaven for knowledge in all forms. I continued my journey through books, tapes and seminars. Though the self-help route honestly didn't help me much, but without those pebbles to step on, I wouldn't have discovered the final rock to lean on and I wouldn't have met my amazing ex-boss who's now my mentor, my big brother and a really good friend.

I believe there's a reason why my dog, Kiky, had to pass away when I was in Singapore. Thinking of that moment could still bring me to tears. I have learned that her death was a lesson that I took really long to learn. That every moment with your loved ones is simply precious. You can't get back with whatever you think you can trade it with. Once it's gone, it's gone. I vow to myself, I will never get a dog unless I am able to spend most of my time with it. I can't bear to think I have never spent enough time with it. Not again.

I believe there's a reason why my heart was compelled to learn French for no logical reason at all. It was a gate that opened up to explosions of friendships, experiences and amazing possibilities that I wouldn't even have imagined it to be possible. If I really need to trace back, my current sources of income, all thanks to my one single decision of following my heart - taking French course in Alliance Francaise. One of the best decision ... EVER!

I believe there's a reason why I am here now. Well, maybe, there's no reason. Maybe there has never ever been a reason for anything at all. All this can just be my imagination. But I still choose to believe in reasons that serve and inspire this selfish lunatic me. Hello, c'est ma vie! As long as I still can choose for myself, I will choose to believe in the goodness of all things.

"... how simple and beautiful life can be—if we choose to see it that way." 
- Oprah Winfrey

Cow Rocks!
How 1 year and 8 months just flew outta the window and life keeps getting better. Thank you, Universe! :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

To Live With or To Live Without

Just yesterday I posted this conversation that I had with my BFF on my Facebook, it was titled as -_-" of the Day. Something that just make you have the "WTH" look.

-_-" of the Day:
DD: I think I'm not so attached to most things/people nowadays anymore. Can live without more and more things.
BFF: Really? OK, let me see what are the things I can take from your room. Hmm ... 
BFF: Your clothes don't fit me. I'm not interested in your Eiffel towers. Your fridge can't fit into my room. OK. Nothing to kidnap.
DD: -_-"

I received many interesting comments too from my friends such as .....

"I want your eiffel towers."

"Are u attached to your money? I can help relieve you of your burdensome material possessions."

My friends do have great sense of humour. I enjoy playing along with them too.

Then, this afternoon, I was at the super-crowded-during-lunch-time kinda coffee shop. Sipping my hot tea and eating biscuits. I was lucky to get a seat but then again, when you are just one person, how much space do you need, right? The Universe gave me 2 tables for 4.

Meanwhile, a group of people, who were blocked by a big pillar from my angle, were looking for a table. They were trying to squeeze in 1 table which by right only fit for 2. One attentive and "efficient" server (bosses will love this kind, I bet), Mdm. Lee, came to me and asked if I was willing to swap table with them. I said, of course and thanked her for letting me know as I couldn't see them. If not, I would have offered them anyway. With my shrinking butt size, I don't really need that big space.

This incident got me thinking though. I'm not sure how it is related to my Facebook post or what I'm going to say next but I'm still going to say it anyway ...

Firstly, I find it really interesting that a day before I made such statement, the next day I was being shown a similar situation to affirm what I already affirmed.

Secondly, I am very amused by my friends' reactions who immediately think if I can live without it, I should give it away. It really got me thinking ... Sure, I can live without many many many things. But if I do have it, do I really need to give it away? Why? Just to prove my statement is right? No wonder I rarely want to be right anymore nowadays. I just want to be happy.

So, I can live without many things but I am happy to have them anyway. So, sorry my dear friends, I'm happily not giving you any of the items you are requesting not because I can't live without them but because I know I can choose to live with or without them. And, at this point of my life, I still choose to live and appreciate them for as long as they let me to too.

I'm not sure if I'm making any sense. Oh well, maybe not and that's fine too. It's 10.52PM now and apparently I have been given a curfew to vacate from the office building asap ... if not .... I also dunno what will happen. Hmmm ...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

An Act of Courage. A Gift of Friendship.

Friday the 13th of April 2012 was a very special day to me. Well, actually everyday is special to me. However, 2012 was a year of COURAGE if I could put a theme to it. Courage because I practiced it so well that talking to strangers seems easy peasy to me now. But nothing beats the vivid memory of that Friday the 13th. A day where my courage had grown so naturally (without alcohol) and the decision I took, changed my life forever.

My friends (including my beloved BFF) and I were watching a concert at my French school. It was some Gypsy band called Les yeux noirs. Superbly exciting! A great prelude to what was going to happen afterwards. On the same row as me, I noticed a girl whom I have chanced upon in a workshop before. I didn't know her name but found her intriguing (ya, my favourite word to anything or anyone that piques my curiousity).

So, after the concert, apparently there was free wine and mingling session. I was totally ecstatic (yes, cos there was free wine!!). But before I went to get my wine, I told my BFF that I was going to get to know her. She gave me a stare but she knew my quirks too well ... she just let me be. So, that was what I did exactly. Walked up to the intriguing girl and said hi and a beautiful friendship was forged just like that. Because, I followed my guts and took a chance with it. It never goes wrong.

We hardly meet in person but we talk pretty much constantly over WhatsApp (Thank you, WhatsApp! You're an awesome creation!). Our friendship is one of a kind. We see the ups and downs of each other and we are there, through WhatsApp and most of the time we found laughter and relief. 

What I appreciate from her the most is the gift that she gave me without her realizing on the 2nd of May 2012 (20 days after knowing each other) when she texted me "U fix hearts. Cus u've kept me smiling when I know I would otherwise be miserable." That was the day when I kept a "Soul Food" journal on my phone. I didn't know then that I thrive on Words of Affirmations. She was one of the rare soul who says things as it is and means them. (Seriously, this trait is really rare. I can count with my 10 fingers how many people do bother to say things out loud like that). Especially when she truly feels appreciative, she will just say it out (ok, more like type it out loud)! I didn't realize it at first until she said them so many times that I felt so good and hence I started collecting words from others too. To date, I have too many to count for and these words really feed my soul. 

From her, I too learn to show my appreciation verbally. I have always be thankful to the Universe and the birds and trees and butterflies but maybe I didn't say it enough to people around me. Through her living example, I started to spread it out loud when I feel so appreciative towards others. I feel good doing that and I believe others feel good in receiving that too. Simple gift that costs nothing but a few limited breaths of mine. The more I give out, the more I notice they are coming back to me too. Maybe these people have been giving soul food to me without me realizing. But now, I am totally aware of them. 

Today is her special day. I am so thankful that she was born because her presence has truly changed my life for good. My dearest and whatta-awesome-wordsmith-you-are, happy birthday. I don't have much to give but my words of appreciation towards our friendship and virtual presence for each other. I'm looking forward to seeing you tonight. You will have an awesome journey in this life because all is swell in our world. 

Joyeux anniversaire, ma chère amie!

Image taken on that special Friday the 13th of April 2012