Prawns Overdose

A few weeks ago, I bought a group deal voucher for a all-you-can-eat prawns offer for 2 people at the Auckland Fish Market. And along with the prawns you get free flow of salads, chips, garlic bread and dips too. $50 for a two hour seating period. Quite a steal if you ask me.

So Terry and I went. The verdict? Nice ambience, tasty chips and garlic bread, a generous salad spread and of course, prawns overdose! We did pretty well in two hours. I think we could have easily downed a kg of prawns each in addition to the salads, garlic bread and chips!

Fresh garlic bread, chips and dips

The salad bar - beans, pasta, potatoes, coleslaw and greens

Our first serving of freshly steamed prawns

It was a little chilly at the open-air setting but luckily the heater saved the day

Our second serving of prawns because we can!


Happy Grass Konnyaku Jelly

Define dessert. Something that is sweet, good and heavenly but usually does not fill you up for long despite containing calories as high as one complete balanced meal.

I have a very sweet tooth and also trying to control my daily calorie intake. Not a good combination.

Mango flavoured konnyaku jelly powder

Then there’s Happy Grass Konnyaku Jelly powder. It comes in so many fruit flavours – lychee, mango, strawberry, kiwi fruit, apple etc. One packet (250 grams) of jelly powder yields 1.5 kg of yummy fruit jelly. That’s one 9 X 9-inch square pan of crystal clear konnyaku jelly. Total calories: only 183!

Its vegetarian, fat free, gluten free, egg free, dairy free and halal…..and oh-so-yum! Guaranteed to please everyone. It has a very high fibre content too. What more can a dieter ask?

Dissolve the jelly powder in 1250 ml of water and bring to boil, then add in the provided Malic acid, pour into a square baking pan to cool and chuck the whole thing into the fridge to set completely. Or, you can pour it into pretty little moulds with pieces of fruit like the illustration on its packet. I think its tasty enough on its own. Plus, I am lazy and I don’t want to add in extra calories 🙂

I usually cut my jelly into squares and eat them straight from the pan over a few days. Or, I serve them in a nice glass bowl. Very presentable if you have guests over.

One 9 X 9 inch pan like mine easily yields 64 jelly squares. That’s less than 3 calories per square!

Definitely my kind of dessert/snack.

My Make-up Box

The last time I de-cluttered (again), I threw out almost 90% of my make-up products. All expired and barely used. What a waste.

I use make-up only when there is an occasion. Also, I am lazy to do it on a daily basis when I don’t really need to. Nevertheless, I felt necessary to own every eye shadow and lipstick and blusher shade – just in case. How silly. Everything expired before I even had a chance to apply it. I mean, how many special occasions are there in a year?

When I replenished my make-up collection I decided minimalism is the way to go. I like the nude and subtle look because I believe in applying make-up to enhance your features, not paint them. So, neutral earth colours it is.

This is a list of my entire make up collection and they do the job for me wonderfully:

  1. Elianto BB Cream, natural shade number 02.
  2. Maybelline Mineral power foundation powder.
  3. Cover Girl TruConceal concealer.
  4. Lo’real Infallible eyeliner in black. A thin line for a simple day look and smudged lines for a smokey evening look, with or without eyeshadow. Doubles up as an eyebrow pencil for me too – dabbing it along my brows and smudging it using the built-in smudger to blend into and shape my natural browline.
  5. Maybelline Expert Wear eyeshadow in Natural Smokes. Can be either applied lightly in the day or used to build colours for a smokey eye finish in the evening.
  6. Maybelline Falsies VolumExpress waterproof mascara. Because I have short and droopy eyelashes.
  7. Sally Hansen lip gloss, one in nude and one in peach/pink.
  8. Thin Lizzy 6 in 1 Professional Powder in Light as my blusher. When travelling, this is my blusher, eyeshadow and face sculptor/bronzer all in one. Love it.

When I bought my Thin Lizzy, it came as a set with a brown and black eye pencil and a clear lip gloss. Otherwise, I only have one of each essential makeup product. My makeup box is well equipped to create a few different looks for me. It is complete and minimalist. I am happy.

How many make-up products do you have and actually use?


I am not a gadgets person. My Sony Ericsson W300i has kept me happy since 2006. Its sleek, it has a nice colour screen and very good audio quality.

It never occurred to me to buy a smart phone or even a touch screen phone although everyone around me is carrying one. Most of them are even well into their 3rd or 4th smartphones. I never felt I needed one.

When Terry signed up for a mobile calling plan and got a free iPhone 4s, he let me use it. He wanted the minutes not the smart phone he said. I was a little sceptical. For one, it was much bigger than my Sony and well, I was very out of touch with hi-tech gadgets like the iPhone!

It took me some time to get used to using a touch screen and the idea of “applications” and being connected to the internet 24-7. I can’t believe I am saying this but I find the iPhone 4s very handy indeed! Definitely not just a pretty little toy.

Oh how I love my iPhone 4s, let me count the ways:

  1. Facebook. Need I say more?
  2. I like using the iPhone to create my digital shopping list every week. I can even tick off items as I shop. I used to scribble on random pieces of paper which ended up everywhere. Now I can save some trees too (ahem!).
  3. I ride the bus everyday. With the Maxx app, I can check the bus arrival board of my stop live from home and plan to start walking accordingly. No more watching helplessly as my bus drives away right in front of my eyes across the street. Not a good way to start the day I tell you.
  4. The iPhone 4s is built with an 8 megapixel camera which is comparable to, if not better than many digital cameras. Coupled with the WordPress app, I can take pictures and upload it into a draft post straightaway. No cables, no transferring from camera to laptop, no excuses for not blogging!
  5. Have you heard of the Genius Scan app? It lets you take pictures of documents with the iPhone camera and convert them into PDF files. And you can email them immediately too. How handy is that?
  6. I keep a daily food and exercise journal on Its iPhone app enables me to keep track of calories throughout the day as I eat! It works, I have been shedding pounds steadily. But that’s another story for another day.

The only downside is the relatively short battery life. With my usage, I have to recharge my iPhone battery pretty much every night. I guess I can’t complain since its performing so many tasks at once.

I’m really impressed with the iPhone 4s and I’m glad I finally get to use one. I’m outdated, I know. I’m still not a gadgets person. I wouldn’t care less if the iPhone 5 comes out tomorrow, I’m sticking with the 4s until it decides to die on me.

Prawns in Tamarind Sauce (Assam Prawns)

My granny used to make this dish and I always licked the plate clean. Even sucked the tamarind sauce out of the prawn shells. Perfect with rice.

May be I had too much of it growing up, I don’t really dig assam prawns anymore. But it is still one of my favourite dishes to make for dinner because it needs almost zero preparation. Un-shelled prawns works best.


  • ~10 large prawns, shells intact or 12 – 15 medium un-shelled prawns
  • ~ 3/4 cups tamarind paste
  • ~ 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil


  1. In a bowl, mix tamarind paste, dark soy sauce and sugar.
  2. In a frying pan, heat cooking oil and pour in sauce mixture.
  3. Let it bubble gently until slightly darkened and reduced. Taste and add sugar or soy sauce to balance the acidity of the tamarind.
  4. Add in prawns, stirring until sauce becomes caramelised and reduced and prawns are fully cooked.
  5. Serve with hot rice.

The tamarind sauce is actually a clever way to camouflage the fishy smell of prawns that are no longer fresh. So next time, if you discover a batch of prawns in the back of the fridge/freezer which you totally forgot about, don’t throw them out, make assam prawns 😉

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Spaghetti with garlic and olive oil. So basic but so flavourful. I have wanted to try making Spaghetti aglio e olio for sometime but never got to it. Until I stumbled upon jars of anchovies for sale in the supermarket. There are many versions of spaghetti aglio olio recipes available on the internet but I had my eyes set on Rachael Ray’s, which calls for Italian anchovies.

I like how simple it is, I can whip it up in 20 minutes with minimal preparation. The anchovies are very salty so you don’t even need salt. I made/ate this 4 times already this week, I am officially addicted!

I simplified Rachel’s recipe a wee bit, making do without dry vermouth and substituting dried pepper flakes with red chilli powder. I didn’t have parsley so I used a sprinkle of Italian herbs which contain parsley. Works just fine for me.

This recipe makes one serving.


  • ~100g dried spaghetti
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 or 2 anchovy fillet
  • 4-5 large cloves garlic (I love garlic!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder or one fresh red chilli de-seeded
  • Parsley (I used a sprinkle of Italian herbs)


  1. Boil spaghetti in a pot of slightly salted water according to packet instructions until al dente.
  2. While spaghetti is cooking, pound the garlic and fresh chilli (if using) until a paste is formed.
  3. Heat EVOO in a frying pan on medium heat.
  4. Add in anchovies and stir/break it up until it melts into the oil. (Mine didn’t melt completely, but its okay!)
  5. Add in garlic paste and chilli powder (if using), stir and let it sizzle gently in the anchovy oil.
  6. Sprinkle parsley or Italian herbs, stir for another 2 minutes on medium heat. By now the spaghetti would have finished cooking.
  7. Add cooked spaghetti together with a little pasta cooking water into the pan and mix around until well coated.
  8. Serve hot.

I like to eat mine with plenty of fresh cucumber slices or lettuce leaves. I think it compliments the saltiness of the anchovies very well. Mmmmmmm……

On Being Smart……Not!

People get this misconception that just because I am a PhD student, therefore I am smart. That’s what I used to believe too. Of course I’d like to think of myself as a smart person because I am doing my PhD. So wrong….!!

Very often, people give me this impressed look when they ask me what I do here in New Zealand, and I say I am doing my PhD. Then they oooh and aahhh when I tell them its in Chemical Engineering.

While its nice to be praised, I also feel very embarrassed and uncomfortable. Because, third year into my doctoral program, I can tell you indefinitely that I am not smart! Seriously, I am not trying to be polite, I really am not that smart!

People who are really really really smart knows better than to go do a PhD. I started my PhD program because I hated my job! I struggle with my PhD program. To the point I ask myself almost daily now, “Tien, what the hell are you thinking trying to do a PhD???”

One of my lecturers from my undergraduate days has this to say on how to graduate with a PhD in hand. “Tien, you have to be stubborn. No matter how bad other people try to comment negatively about your work or results, be stubborn and keep believing that you have what it takes. Just be stubborn!”

The keyword here is stubborn. Not smart, but stubborn! I believe him wholeheartedly!

And then there is this article that discusses how stupidity is important in conducting scientific research. If you’d like to be a PhD student, have a good read at this article, and think long and hard whether you really have what it takes. While being smart helps at times, it doesn’t get the job done, honest!

I am not smart, but I still want that PhD. And I can appear to be smarter. I hope I can make the cut. I am fighting for it. Wish me luck, I need LOTS of it!