Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What can you give someone who has everything?

This post is long overdue. It is about a birthday celebration in July this year for a very dear friend of mine, Seok Eng. She is blessed with a good heart and a beautiful family. She is a loving wife, a great mum and grandma and a successful business woman. Although the distance separates us, we are thinking of each other always. For the past few years, we I have never miss going to Singapore to celebrate her birthday with her. If possible, I would love to be there every year. So, what birthday gifts can you give someone  who has everything? Only one thing, I guess.  Our PRESENCE not presents.  It was a great pleasure for us to be able to host a wonderful pre-birthday dinner for her. We went to the il ceilo (The Sky in Italian) at Hilton Singapore. It was an excellent choice of hers. The ambience was lovely and the interior decoration was elegant. The service was 5 stars and the food was luscious! We enjoyed the ambience, the food and most of all our time together. Whenever we are together, there were not once that I was not stuffed with good food and had a good time. 

If you want to know more about this restaurant, here is a link to go read more about it.  There are more beautiful photos of the il ceilo and food they serve, there.

On her actual birthday, we had an exotic Chinese dinner at Xi Yan. That was my second time there. Seok Eng introduced me to Xi Yan when they first started and I believed this had become one of her favorite Chinese restaurant. We arrived before her and while waiting, we took some photos.

The table setting

The arts on the wall

One for the album, don't be mistaken, Quay Po was not the birthday girl.

If you are not convinced by what I told you about Xi Yan, then, I recommend that you read the review by Ho Chiak. You can find photos of most of the dishes we had that evening here. Perhaps after that, you might want to check the place out the next time you are in Singapore.

The evening ended with everyone embracing a fond memory of a perfect birthday celebration for a wonderful person.

A lovely birthday cake and...

some longevity pau for dessert

I am looking forward to celebrate many more birthdays with Seok Eng. I feel extremely blessed to have a good friend like her. 

Maybe the next birthday, I can cook a meal for her?  I was very impressed with the food served at Xi Yan and their presentation was fabulous so I bought their cookbook. I have gone through cookbook and tried a second recipe in there. I made the drunken chicken with dried sour plums and liked it very much. I liked the sweet and sour flavor that was infused into the drunken chicken meat. I would love to cook this for Seok Eng on her next birthday. 

There are so many wonderful dishes in this cookbook and I am pleased to own a signed copy. 

I have shared the Chilled Green House Tomatoes in Wasabi Sesame Sauce with you before and it was from this cookbook too. If you have missed that post and want to try it, just click on the photo to get the recipe.

Here is the second recipe that I tried and I will definitely share with you each time I try a new recipe from there because most of the dishes in there are quite simple to do but the taste is not simple, at least those that I have tried were unique and delicious. I think it is worth sharing. This photo is not well taken so it does not do justice to the dish. I got the light setting wrong. When I realise my mistake (yet another one) it was too late, we eat all the chicken and only the sour plums were left!! LOL! 

Drunken Chichen with Dried Sour Plums
Adapted from Xi Yan Cuisine with modification

1 fresh chicken (1.2 kg approx.)
3 stalks spring onion
8 slices ginger
2 stalks Chinese parsley

30 dried plums (120gms)
1 tbs wolfberries
2 tbs salt
2 cups Shaoxing wine
3 cups soup from cooking chicken
1 tsp crushed rock sugar

Cut chicken and rinse. Bring 7 cups of water to boil. Add chicken, spring onion, ginger slices, wolfberries and Chinese parsley. Lower heat to medium and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.  Drain Chicken and soak in iced water till cool. Drain again.  In a mixing bowl, add dried sour plums, rock sugar and salt.  Sieve soup from cooking chicken and skim off the oil. Pour into the bowl while still hot. Cover with lid and let dried sour plums soaked till flavour is fully infused in the soup. Leave it to cool.  Add 2 cups of Shaoxing wine and mix well.  Soak chicken in the marinade and leave it overnight. Chop into pieces. Place chicken in the serving bowl. Garnish with the dried sour plums and wolfberries. Serve with the marinade as the sauce over it at room temperature. 


  1. Hai there how are you I hope you doing great! :D i'll came by to say good morning and hope you had a blissful day ahead take care.. :)

  2. I think of all the nice pictures I am seeing here there lies something I enjoyed the most,, the bond of friendship...........I mean you said,you wish you could be there every year to celebrate Seok Eng's birthday and she must be blessed to have someone like you too...

  3. Such a friendship is more valuable than jade & gold. I feel lucky to have met you online and to visit your kitchen, friend!

    Warm Aloha from Honolulu

    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >


    < ° ) } } > <

  4. You are so lucky to still keep in touch with your old friends (schoolmates?). And so nice of you and your quay lo to take the trouble to celebrate that special day with her. Even if i would like to celebrate, I dont have my best pals from my school days to celebrate with. I lost touch with my good friends in school a time when communication was difficult and postal mail was snail mail. One of my best pals went to England and we lost touch after a few years of off on correspondence. I think you know that many of our age went to England to do nursing. Many leave and never return to Malaysia except for holidays.

  5. Friendship is always priceless. Nice clicks as usual.

  6. what a beautiful post, what a good friend you are, I am sure she feels equally blessed having you for her friend, delicous chicken dish as well,

  7. It's a good question, what we give people who have everything... My best friend turn sixteen last month and I made him something because there wasn't really anything that I could buy that he wanted.

    It sounded like you had a wonderful weekend with you friend. It's such touching to know that it's possible to stay friends with someone even over long distance.

  8. wow.. indeed a lovely ambience, out of curiousity, I hopped over to the links too.. thought of going to Sg in December and celebrating Christmas there for the very first time! :)

  9. Haven't been to Singapore for years...

    Yes, sometimes it is so hard to buy presents for someone who has everything. Buy something expensive, I can't afford and he or she probably has it already...and maybe something a lot better- buy something cheap, you do not feel nice.

    Yes, cooking a special dinner would be nice...or just bake a cake or make some special cookies - things that come from the heart money just can't buy...

  10. Nice restaurant, good 'old' friend, and this is really a wonderful moment for all of you. The drunken chicken with dried sour plum is very special dish, I might try it one day but both my hubby and I don't like the 'smell' of wine....

  11. That is so true - that the best present you can give someone who has everything is your time, your presence. The drunken chicken reminded my of my confinement food ;)

  12. True. It's hard to find something for a person who have everything

  13. what a beautiful restaurant and the cake is absolutely tantalizing!

  14. Both you and your hubby's presence definately is the best gift for a friend who has everything! I just saw your angry birds cupcakes..that really had wowed me! so now quay po can teach, can bake, can cook and now can make even make chirp chirp cupcakes!!

  15. What a beautiful way to celebrate your friends birthday...such a treat!
    Those tomatoes are amazing...great recipes both and sounds like a fantastic cookbook!

  16. Beautiful pictures! What a great way to celebrate a special occasion.

  17. The restaurant looks very nice.


  18. And I thought it's your birthday 'coz you look gorgeous :D Both of you are very lucky to have each other , gifts are optional ;D Love those arts on the wall .

  19. Oh my, what a feast! These 2 places are in my top list to dine. I'm glad we're on the same page on food!

    I did a Drunken Prawns sometime ago & u also have a Drunken Chix! We're both alcoholic. Hahaha!

  20. I always enjoy your posts and beautiful pictures. Have a Happy Thanksgiving :)

  21. Veron...your presence there is already a precious gift to your fren Seok Eng :) Like me, I rather personally bake a birthday cake for Claire :) it is more preicous than buying one for her. Glad you and Quay lo had a wonderful time in Singapore :)
    Happy Thanksgiving to you, Quay Lo and Nick :)

  22. you gave him happiness :) the best gift of all


  23. I sometimes wonder too, what to give when that friend has almost everything?

    Your photos are so sharp!

  24. yeah, i might be like you too, cook her a meal or two. Drunken chicken keeps me thinking of confinement food.

  25. It's true, sometimes presence is the best gift.

  26. @mars
    So sweet of you to drop by and find out how I am:D I am doing great. You have a swell Sunday ok?

    Yes, you are seeing the most important element in this post. Good observation:D

    The feeling is mutual.

    Oh I feel lucky too. I am still in touch with lots of my high school classmates. I am also in touch with some primary school classmates and one kindergarden classmate.

    Thanks. Although we have not met in person. Your friendship is precious to me too.

    I guess when we make a friend, we should value our friendship. I do value ours too:D

    Yes, we can. Distance is not a deterrent for true friendships.

    Do go, Christmas is more alive in Singapore!

  27. @suituapui
    Exactly, that is how I feel too.

    I hope you like the drunken chicken when you do try it.

    Yes, but they don't have the sour plum right?

    @Small Kucing
    So, the best is to give them things that money cannot buy hehe

    @Rachel Joy
    Oh yes, those two restaurants are worth checking out.

    hehe, I am still learning from you!

    @Magic of Spice
    I love the cookbook and most of the recipes in there.

    Thanks so much for your kind words.

    Yes, they are.

    Thanks for your compliment. My Quay Lo loves the arts there too.

  28. @Shirley
    I know you like those two restaurants, I have read your posts.

    @Kitchen Gypsies
    Thanks and hope to visit with you often. I am sure you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family.

    Thanks for your Thankgiving greetings. This year, I had a lonely Thanksgiving because my Quay Lo, Nick and my Mum were away but I am thankful that I have some really private time to myself and I enjoyed the day:D

    yes, she gave me too.

    Give your friends your time, care and concern and most of all let them know you love them.

    hehe, ya I know you are enjoying all those wonderful confinement dishes.

    @That Girl
    Yup. There is no better present than PRESENCE!


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