In this past Christmas weekend, I was really ill but still couldn't take a break from cooking. First the shops were closed and second, there's little culinary choice.
Today, I'm well enough to go out for a ride so we took a drive to Helsinki. Dinner was at one of our favourite restaurants called "Singapore". It's opened by a Malaysian couple who have been here for almost 20 years. According to HG, when they first came to Finland, they called their restaurant "Malaysia" but business wasn't great. Customers flow improved when the name is changed.
This is the closest we get to home food. We often meet other Singaporeans and Asians here, whether residents in Finland or people on business. Food here is generally better than what is served at Chinese restaurants. Even our Chinese friends complain about Finland's Chinese restaurants so we have yet to try one.
Dinner tonight was ginger chicken, chilli prawns and tofu/caixin. Rice is provided free of charge.
I remember the first time we came to this restaurant some 8 years ago, HG was so excited we found a Singapore restaurant, he tucked into the food straightaway. Rice was served in a large bowl (like the kind we use for soup at home) and he helped himself. To the whole bowl. It was only later we realised the portion of rice in that bowl was for sharing.
He finished all the rice in his bowl nevertheless. Either he was very hungry or he misses home food very much. Nowadays, the restaurant serves rice in a metal bowl with a handle. Maybe in case customers mistake the rice bowls.
Our humble tze-char food ensemble you see here cost us €43 tonight. That's almost S$90!
As much as we would like to come often, we give ourselves a treat here once a month. Or twice a month at most. The Tohs get to enjoy MZ restaurant the rest of the time.
In Beijing, we could stuff ourselves with Japanese food, delivered to our door, for less than RMB200 (S$40). Or we might have Italian pasta and risotto, also hand-delivered, for around RMB100.
Home delivery in Singapore is mostly restricted to Pizza Hut and the like. But it's easy to hop to the nearest coffee shop or hawker centre. Or CJ or Hoshigaoka or etc etc etc. I really miss Xiao Ming at Farrer Road Market.
After dinner, we brought our car to the car wash. We haven't seen anyone here wash their cars themselves. Anyway, in winter, you wonder which would freeze first - the water or your hands.
We read that cars should be kept clean in winter so that liquids and gravel don't freeze between crevices. If two moving parts are frozen together, they might tear apart when the car starts moving.
A summer wash starts €10. A winter wash costs... €17.
The last time I went for an automised car wash was in my friend Desmond's car at the now-demolished Shell station along Farrer Road. You might remember it was at the junction with Holland Road but has since made way for an widened road and a new condo.
After the car is positioned corrected, the machine starts its routine with water spray, then soap solution and the brushes roll over the car (two at the sides and one at the top). Water is sprayed gently and the car is dried by gusts of air.
And that's it! The experience was pretty much the way I remembered it. But 4 times more expensive. Oh yeah, the brushes here are probably made from TPE which would not scratch the car. In Singapore, people prefer hand washing because the thin plastics bristles leave unsightly marks.
Well, over here, there's not a human being in sight during this whole process. Except the cashier. In some petrol stations, there aren't even cashiers - they are totally self-automated.
Otherwise, the petrol station is where you can have lunch, take a shower or take a roll on the jackpot machine. www.abcasemat.fi/en/