Saturday, September 24, 2011

生, 老, 病, 死 (Born, grow old, illness, death)

Chinese have a saying,  , 老, 病, 死 (Born, grow old, illness, death) that points out that every human being is born into this cycle. It is, according to Quay Lo, similar to the western homily that "every man puts on his trousers one leg at a time". In other words, there are few exceptions regardless of station in life, whether rich or poor, religous or secular, evil or good, etc. My Quay Lo (husband) says that this view is too simple, and it is cynical. I think it is the great equalizer and tends to make all of us, in this respect, the same. We all know, we are going to live, and we are going to die. That is very fair isn't it?

What may not be fair is the way we have evolved,  which I have illustrated below.……LOL!

Birth through teen age years :
Have lots of energy but no money

Working Age:
Have money + energy but no time

Old Age:
Have time + money but no energy

Which stage are you? 

More to the point, we know that finally, if we are fortunate enough to go through all the above stages, it will be time to say goodbye. How about those of us who are left bereft? When we lose a loved one, do we remember their perfections or imperfections? Click on the link below and watch the video. See if you agree with what Mrs. Lee says in her eulogy for her husband. She reveals that his little imperfections made him perfect for her and her children. This video made me laugh and cry. Watch and see if it has the same effect on you. It is worth the time spent viewing it because it reminds us of an important point of view we all may tend to forget.

The dish that I am going to share with you today is one that my Quay Lo and I love for its beauty, and its incredible flavors, which truly achieve "umami".  Yet the dish is minimalist simplicity. We had this dish at Xi Yan Restaurant in Singapore several times.  The last time we were there, I bought their cookbook and tried to replicate this dish at home. I managed to get the flavors and textures right but the appearance of my tomatos was disappointing.  During the peeling of the skin, small bits of the tomato flesh pulled away, leaving unattractive holes on the surface. If not peeled with extra care they will look like the tomatos in the following photo.

I wanted them to look perfect like these. (Here is a photo extracted from the cookbook.) Obviously I failed to do so.

No matter what angle I tried in various compositions, there was no way to avoid showing the inperfections. 

So, I have decided not to worry about it further but to go ahead and share the dish and the photos as is. To my Quay Lo and I, the little imperfections on the tomatoes reminded us that we are beautifully imperfect for each other now and forever! He was excited about the results because it was the taste experience we had before. He pointed out that the small imperfections tended to hold more of the exquisite wasabi sauce.  We are pleased that we can now enjoy this appetizer any time we wish to. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do. I also hope that you will find value in the little imperfections in life that reveal character. Much more than flaws, they are features, that we can grow fond of. 

Pick the very best, vine ripened and large tomatos you can find.
Be as exacting as possible with timing the hot water dip at the start.
Then, as  mentioned, peel very carefully. 

Chilled Green House Tomatoes in Wasabi Sesame Sauce
largely adapted from Xi Yan's Cook book with modification

For the Tomato:
1 whole, large, fresh, vine ripened tomato for each diner. (Sauce recipe is based on 4-5 servings)

In a two quart pan heat approximately 1 1/2 quarts of water to scalding (but not a roiling boil).
Dip the tomatos in scalded water for 15 - 20 seconds.
Remove and place tomatoes in ice water as quickly as possible
Allow to chill, then remove peel carefully and refrigerate.

For the Wasabi Sesame Sauce
1 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup light olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 tspn lemon zest
3 tbspns brown sugar
1 1/2 tspns wasabi
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk

Toast sesame seeds in a frying pan
Remove seeds and using mortar and pestle, grind the seeds into a paste
Add olive oil and blend until well combined.
Sieve into a mixing bowl (to eliminate any lumps)
Add remaining ingredients, blending well. Chill before serving.

Make a horizontal slice across the bottom of each tomato, taking just enough for the tomato to stand freely. Then slice vertically into quarters.
Plate on chilled plates in the center and poor sauce over the tomato generously so that it runs down on all sides and pools on the plate. Decorate with a bit of basil or mint leaf.

Enjoy, and if you have a few imperfections in the tomato's surface, no worry about it lah. They will hold a little extra sauce.


  1. These still look pretty delicious!

  2. What stage am I? Aging and no money! Hee.....hee..... Thanks for this recipe. I love tomatoes. My fridge always stock up with tomatoes 365 days!

  3. good morning! feeling delight to read about this meaningful and purposeful message of imperfection. thank you! Imperfection is also perfect in within, shall embrace that and i will see beauty, right? rear end wind action?? ha! learn something new today. the naked tomatoes in the wasabi sauce sounds intriguing, never knew of such a dish. smart invention!have a nice weekend!

  4. Imperfection is perfect, it all depends on how you perceive it. I agree. My husband isn't a perfect, but God has perfectly created him for me.

  5. I don't see anything wrong with your dish at all. It's beautiful! Besides, if it makes you feel any better, I think the tomatoes in the cookbook pic still have their skin on. That's why they look so smooth and glossy. They cheated! :D Aww ... slight imperfections gives character, I believe in that.

  6. I am at the young age:) But also have already a family and lot of responsibilities.I am brought up to respect life that was given to me to borrow for a while.Live every day as it is your last.Look around you,notice things as that is the moment NOW and will never return.Those are words of my father and many many more.,.that I am gratefull everyday for.Sharing and giving what you can..makes me happy:)So yes I am young but no make up trendy clothes and similar...I live life and things will not live me..noway:)

  7. Oh dear, what a fun post to read veron! haha... Yeah, you're so right about it. But still the most importantly....HAPPINESS means everything! Have a fabulous weekend.
    Best regards,

  8. Btw, those tacos are all in one piece....every single piece of them! Thanks again for everything. Will post about it on next week.

  9. I'm at the working stage right now, and yeah, I almost have no time to indulge in some dilly-dallying and it feels like I'm running after something, which I can't exactly pinpoint what it is >.<


    A Single Girl's Musings

  10. Nice reminder on the need to embrace imperfections.Imperfections on the tomato dish, where?? I don't see anything wrong with them, they look so pretty!

  11. what a great post, made me cry but also opened my eyes.I have been married to my husband 38 years, this video helped me lots.He is very ill, very ill, thankyou

  12. Special dishes, I have never seen this before.


  13. "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter". ~ Mark Twain. Haha what a coincidence Bananaz also posted this 3 stages of live with the nice cartoons. Perfect eulogy about imperfections. Oh love the tomatoes.

  14. LOL - I like those stages, none of 'em are ideal if we're looking at it from financial point of view, huh?

    I'm have tons of energy, but no money and no time LOL. That's my own stage.

    Now onto those delish tomatoes...I cannot believe they are tomatoes. They look soo good. I have tons of them harvested, fosho will try these recipes.

    p.s. they look great, what are you talking about!

  15. Really Enjoy reading your article Dear...I think in all stage we are there will be something not complete in our life.. but that's life.. Enjoy lah ^,^ And your dish? nothing wrong with it.. they looks perfectly wonderful.. thx for sharing that recipe ^,^

  16. It's good to remember how much we all share in common, no matter the differences.

  17. Your photos look perfect to me!!! You are too much of a perfectionist :)
    The stage I am at is, aging (too fast) still though have energy but no money. Still waiting for that windfall that never happens!!! Diane

  18. Hiya, i used for my comics :)

  19. I saw this at Bananaz, of course without the gorgeous tomato images. Enjoy your captures in your blog.

  20. it seems like Bananaz has also posted the 3 stages of life. great minds think alike. :)

    i think your tomatoes are wonderfully captured. they look so good. It makes a wonderful light dinner or appetizer. :)

  21. Your photos are so gorgeous so does the dish, simply yummy!

  22. Hmm... I suppose we all have to learn how to savor every stage in life. That was what my mother told me when I was a year younger, and what I tell her as well when she needs to be reminded of the life advice she gave me, which helped me get through things.

    To tell the truth, I can't really cook. Recently, I've been teaching myself to cook basic stuff- like soups. I'd really like to prepare meals for my family in the near future, and your site's going to be a great deal of help. ;)

  23. I am at the working stage and I enjoy my precious time off work. I enjoyed your post and the tomatoe recipe looks delicious. The taste is what really matters not the imperfections. Have a great Sunday!

  24. I'm getting older and wish I have more money! xD

    It'll be great if I can experience the stages. Well, except the illness part. I just want to get old and die of old age without any serious illness plaquing me. That's my fervent wish.

  25. Those dishes look absolutely tempting! And the colours! They just entice people to drool over them :)

  26. Veron, the imperfection of your tomatoes still looks pretty to me! The colour of this dish is stunning!

  27. What stage am I? Living on handouts and scraping out my EPF! Your tomatoes still look pretty alluring despite the flaws you mentioned.

  28. thanks for sharing this post with us, it is touching and so true...
    the tomatoes are sitting proudly on the table which full with chinese new year mood, hehe...the colors are stunning...tomatoes with wasabi sauce, sounds new to me...

  29. LOL, I'm at the stage of no $$ and No energy as well!

    Well the dish, I reckon the tatse is far more important thn its appearance, good try!

  30. hi quay po, very interesting quips and humorous too.
    most pitiful is at old age
    The wasabi sauce sounds very tasty. The photos make the tomatoes look authentic

  31. Everyone whom I love has a special place in my heart, regardless their flaws... to err is human.

    I'm not a perfectionist, although I like to be one :)

  32. How true you have depicted the life cycle! I'm now at the working life stage: have money to a certain limited extent only, still got energy, but no time to enjoy the money and energy! ^_^

  33. Imperfections, what imperfections?
    These look lovely to me for sure! It would be a boring place if we were all perfect, wouldn't it?

  34. Such a sweet post ;) I'm still in the first stage- and definitely have no money!!! This dish look beautiful, even if it isn't perfect :D The sauce sounds really interesting- I'm trying to imagine how it would taste with the tomato! I might have to try this :D

  35. Nothing is perfect but those tomatoes sure look yummy. My motto in life, enjoy while you can, life is too short.

  36. There's no 100% perfection in human....I have no $, but got energy to work hard, in terms of time....try to squeeze out just a lil bit of time to pamper myself after all the hard work....just keep smiling and everyday is a brand new day. Btw the red tomatoes look superb yummy with wasabi sauce.


  37. Those tomatoes look perfect to me. :) I think I'm at the working time to enjoy.

  38. those called little imperfections are what makes everything unique in life! in addition... its the effort and love that goes into it that makes this gorgeous... :)

    thks for sharing as always QP.. :D

  39. I guess... my stage is teh working stage. So busy everyday... I hope we have the money tho. It never seems to be enough. But at least we are healthy and happy?

    Your wasabi sesame sauce looks so delicious!! Even though I don't eat wasabi, I know the taste and it sounds so good (for wasabi lover, this is really good one!). Your photos are supoer gorgeous! Quay Po... amazing job!!

  40. Love the post! Which stage am I at? Mmmm.... I don't even wanna think about it. Just enjoy life as much as I can.

    I'm impressed that u know Xi Yan, it's such a private place. Thks for sharing the refreshing starter!

  41. I agree with Ping, the cookbook tomatoes look like they have the skin on. I actually didn't see the imperfections...until you pointed them out. Besides nature often has it's flaws, and I think it's still beautiful. The dish sounds so good!

    What a shame we don't have the energy when we have the time, not there yet, but we need to fix that! :)

  42. We are our own biggest critic, aren't we? :) Anyway, we're home cooks not restaurant si fu with a commercial kitchen. :) Your dish looks good! The sauce sounds interesting too!

  43. Interesting and life-learning post (as always in your blog). Cute illustrations esp the last old couple one which I believe is every couples' dream. ;)
    Nothing is perfect in this world, just like nothing is impossible in this world. No matter which stage are we at or even if it's none of the stages here, as long as we try/did our best, that's already good enough.
    Personally, I feel that it may and could be those little imperfections we're attracted to in the first place...somehow? lol
    Lower expectations=Lesser imperfections. ;)
    Very unique recipe and your tomatoes look tasty!
    PS: Imperfections make it unique and stand-out in a way...

  44. I'm in the last stage - no energy, no money either. LOL!!!

    Looks may be deceiving. Some presentations make something look so nice but the taste may be disappointing. Kampung cooking often does not have the looks but they taste great. Same with people - the Chinese say you know his face but you do not know his heart.

    Personally, I'm not into tomatoes cooked - would rather eat them raw. Same with cucumber.

  45. @yummychunklet

    When we age, we do not need a lot of money, what we really need is good health and company. As regards to the tomato, me too, have them around all the time.

    Well said:D

    @Sheoh Yan
    And you to your hubby!

    You got such good eyes..I think you are right, after taking a closer look, they looks like they have the skin on. Aiyoh! why they cheat ar? hehe Now, suddenly my tomatoes look more pretty!

    Wow that is deep for someone who is young as you!

    and Good Health! I am very happy to know that the tacos are all in good condition. If you have difficulty find them at your end and you want to do something with them, just buzz me my dear, they will be on their way to you!

    Although you find yourself busy and have not much time to indulge at this stage, but it is the most challenging stage in our life. When you come to my stage (old age), you will have lots to reminisce.

  46. @Lite Home Bake

    I am sorry my post made you cry and I am sorry to hear that your husband is very ill. I am sure it is very hard on you to see the one you love uncomfortable. I pray that he will get well soon.

    When I first tasted this this, I feel the same like you.

    Yes, I don't mind my age so it doesn't matter. Enjoyed your post on the 3 stages of life. There is not once I left your blog without feeling I learn something and being inspired. Also, there is not once I did not laugh out loud, you have such good sense of humor my friend. Thanks for having your space for us to hangout!

    If you ask me to choose between money and energy, I will choose energy. With energy I can do lots but with money but no energy, what can we do? It is wonderful to grow your own tomatoes and I am sure the taste will be more superior. Thanks for your compliment.

    @My Home Diary in Turkey
    I am happy to know you enjoy your time here my dear. I enjoy reading all your comments too. Glad to share the recipes and hope you will try it someday and like it.

    @That Girl

  47. @Diane
    Like what Bananaz said, age is is a number if you don't mind it. Money is not much use at old age if we are not healthy so having energy but no money is a better than have money no energy.

    Thanks for the info. Those comics are cute and entertaining.

    Thanks for your visit. Do drop again.

    @Life Ramblings
    Yes, this makes a fantastic appetizer. I have just commented on Bananazs' post on the 3 stages of life. I said either it is great minds think alike or fools don't differ… hehe

    @Treat and Trick

    Your mother is very wise. When you start to learn cooking, soup is the best thing to start with. It is good that you are preparing yourself to cook for your family in the future. That will bring you much joy.

    Thanks for enjoying your time here. I appreciate that off work time is very precious at our working stage. I cannot agree with you more that taste is more important. You too have a great week.

    Don't wish for more money, wish for good health, happiness and peace. I am sure everyone dread the illness part but that is not within our control. We just have to cross the bridge when we come to one.

  48. @That Girl
    Absolutely correct.

    @Ah Tze
    Thanks. Ya, I love the color too.

    Thanks for your visit and thanks for the compliment.

    @No-Frills Recipes
    Very soon for us too.. hehe.

    That's a good idea, I should remember to serve this on Chinese New Year

    I know you are kidding.. but I can see you have a wonderful family and happiness!

    Yes, it is pitiful for those who get very ill at old age and have no one to care for them.

    Don't be a perfectionist my dear, better to say it is good enough hehe

    @Alice Phua
    I guess at our working stage, we have to consciously make time for ourselves and not procrastinate. Time flies and very soon we will arrive at the stage where we have no energy.

  49. @The inTolerant Chef
    That's true too.

    Oh yes, try, you will sure like it.

    You are doing the right thing for sure.


    That's it, pamper yourself whenever you can.

    @Food Dreams
    I am glad you agree with my Quay Lo.

    I think you are better off with health and happiness than a lot of money and without that. I am surprise you do not eat wasabi:D

    Yes Xi Yan is truly a very private place and if it is not because my girlfriend brought us there, we might not even know about it.

  50. @Lyndsey
    If we start early to eke good care of our health, we might delay the 3rd stage of our life.

    Exactly, I got to remember that

    Yes, no matter what stage we are in, we just remember to love life and we will be okay.

    Hahaha, don't bluff! I think you have both! I LOVE kampung cooking, they are the best. So true about Chinese saying. My mum says that a lot. There are friends I know like you, just don't like cooked tomatoes and cucumber but if you try this dish, it will change the view. I promise, if not, I will pay for the tomatoes. LOL!

  51. I would love to have more money and time........

    the tomatoes dish look so unique with sauce over. So far, i only eat raw tomatoes. Those cooked one i will not eat. I wonder why. hehe

  52. wonderful post, loved that video, and thanks for following!

  53. @mNhL
    Who doesn't? hehe.. There are many people who do not like cook tomato, maybe some don't like it to be mushy? But do try this one, it might change your view.

    You are welcome and thanks for your visit and comment. See you around.

  54. @mNhL You have a good point, and in fact, I think it is that point that this dish is all about. In most cuisines there are many dishes that call for cooking tomatoes, especially into sauces. I would not want to give those up, but there is something very wonderful about a fresh, vine ripened tomato that is undeniable. Growing up, my father's garden always had a lot of tomatos and it was easy to go and pick one for munching. Fully ripe on the vine, still warmish from th sunshine, biting into one of those tomatos was exquisite. Though my mother canned a lot of tomatos for later use, and also made tomato jam, all of which were delicious, that first bite of a just picked toato is what is most emblazoned in my mind.Cheers, @QuayLo

  55. btw don't get dishearten for not able to achieve how food looked in cookbooks cos there are many secrets in food styling :p

    many such dishes can see but cannot be eaten. hv to undercook some of them so they look "fresh" and many many more... I'm slowly picking them up

  56. @Pick Shan
    Yes, I know about the food styling:D It is a very interesting subject. On this tomato dish, I guess the trick is to leave the skin on for photography. Ping got a good and spotted that. That's why the sauce runs smoothly down the tomatoes.

  57. Veronica,

    I think you are too harsh on yourself, my dear. I don't see anything wrong with your tomatoes at all. Your dish look quite vibrant, lovely, and delicious. I will always choose taste over looks when it comes to food. Looks are there to attract and lure you into the dish, but that can also be done with the right use of ingredients and depending on who the dish is for. I'd much rather eat something that tastes great, but doesn't look all that great as compared to something that looks great but tastes awful. Looks can only attract you for so long, but it's the taste of the food that truly takes grasp of your attention. Plus, we taste with our tongues, don't we? Not our eyes. ;)


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