A Malay folktale: The Princess of Mount Ophir

It was said that a beautiful fairy princess lived at the top of Gunung Ledang. She had been raised by a group of beings that were half-man and half-beast. Because she was a fairy princess, she never grew old. Her beauty was enhanced by the breezes that blew atop the mountain.

Many sultans sought her hand in marriage. Yet perhaps the mountain sought to preserve her purity, for no messenger ever reached the top of Gunung Ledang. And so, the princess spent her days on the mountain, dancing and singing in the cool air.

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Then came the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah. He sent three of his best warriors to find the princess. It was believed that the journey was so tenuous that only one of them managed to make his way to the princess’ home. There, he put forth Sultan Mansur Shah’s proposal.

The princess replied that she would marry the sultan if he was able to provide her with three items: seven vats containing women’s tears, seven trays of mosquito hearts and seven drops of his son’s blood.

Upon his return to the palace, the warrior conveyed the princess’ message. The sultan was crushed when he heard it. As he sat in his royal chambers, he lamented, “I can provide seven vats of women’s tears and even seven trays of mosquito hearts. But to prick my son for even one drop of his blood is impossible for me to bear!”

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And so, for many more years, the princess remained atop Gunung Ledang. It was believed that she eventually did find her true love, a fierce warrior named Nakhoda Ragam.

She moved down from the mountain to live with him. Her bliss was shattered one day when they were spending time together. He had tickled her so much that she accidentally stabbed him with a needle as she laughed uncontrollably.

After the incident, the princess returned to the mountain and never laid eyes on another man again. Soon after, Nakhoda Ragam’s boat was destroyed in a storm and the debris became the six islands off Malacca.

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An introduction to Chinese cuisine

To the Chinese, eating is a very important part of life. It is a social activity and helps to break the ice. In Chinese society, food is also a measure of success.

More than just eating, the Chinese also love to cook as it is seen as an art in itself. Chinese cuisine places emphasis on colour, aroma and flavour. Not only must a dish taste good, it must also appeal to the senses to be able to whet the appetite.

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Cooking methods

There are countless ways to cook the same ingredients, and each way of cooking imparts its own unique flavour to the food:

  • Steam
  • Boil
  • Double-boil
  • Stew
  • Poach
  • Braise
  • Stir-fry
  • Shallow-fry
  • Deep fry
  • … and many more!

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Eight main cuisines

  • Sichuan, with characteristic rich and spicy dishes like Gongbao diced chicken
  • Shandong, with dishes like Dezhou braised chicken
  • Suzhou, with its carefully presented steamed crucian carp
  • Guangdong, with distinctive sweet and crispy dishes like roast suckling pig
  • Fujian, famed for Buddha Jumps over the Wall
  • Zhejiang, which emphasises fresh food and natural flavours, particularly seafood
  • Huizhou, which favours delicacies from the land and sea
  • Hunan, which features rich foods with strong colours like cured meats

Now, tell us, which is your favourite?

 

A walk down memory lane

As you might already know, it’s Asiapac Books’ 35th anniversary this year. Having been in the book industry since 1983, we want to showcase just a bit of our catalogue of out-of-print books. Perhaps you’ve seen these before back in the day?

AsiapacHistory1_LabourPainsAsiapacHistory1_LabourPains-Pg3

Labour Pains was the first book published by Asiapac Books. It is a comedic book on gender inequality illustrated with cartoons and comic strips.

AsiapacHistory1_ChessKingAsiapacHistory1_OfFoxFairiesGhosts_OtherMarvelsAsiapacHistory1_HeroinTrailAsiapacHistory1_GhostStoriesOfOldChina

These four titles are examples of paperback classics and Asian literature published by Asiapac Books in the 1980s.

AsiapacHistory1_100CelebratedChineseWomenAsiapacHistory1_100ChineseEmperors

Two award-winning titles illustrated by renowned Chinese artist Lu Yuan Guang.

Check out more of our publications both old and new at our 35th anniversary comics exhibition today (it’s free)! We’re located at the Level 8 Promenade of the National Library Building from now until 9 December 2018. Oh, and don’t miss out on our upcoming events (updated list on Facebook or Eventbrite)!

The importance of editing your writing

Before you submit your manuscript, ask yourself: has it gone through an edit at least once?

Of course, publishers have in-house editors to do the job for you, but giving your raw manuscript a good look-through can greatly increase your chances of getting published. Here’s why.

1. Is your story consistent?

When writing a book, it is easy to get lost in the plot and characters, especially if you’re the creator. Letting your imagination run wild is great, and creativity should not be hindered in any part of the writing process. However, it is fundamental that the writer sits down and reads through the story later on to make sure that the tale is consistent, there are no plot holes and that characters are properly introduced. Basically, you want to make sure your reader understands your story without needing any preknowledge of the context (unless, of course, it’s a sequel).

2. If you were your targeted reader, would you read your book?

It’s not enough just to make your book understandable. You want it to interest your target audience as well. To do this, you need to make sure the tone and of the book are engaging. If your story lacks suspension, plug in those holes! The best kind of book keeps the reader glued from start to end.

3. Is your completed manuscript what you started out intending it to be?

Very often, plans change along the writing process. Sometimes, what was initially thought up as a sci-fi novel could turn out to be a romance thriller instead! When that happens, the important question to ask yourself is: are you still excited to market this book as it is? After all, you are the biggest seller of your book, and ensuring that it is exactly what you would like to promote is key to publishing your hard work. If you have doubts, perhaps there is something that needs to be changed within the script.

Check out more about the process of publishing a book at our 35th anniversary exhibition held from now till 9 December 2018, at the Level 8 Promenade of the National Library Building. Not only do we have a whole panel telling you about it, our founder Lim Li Kok will also be speaking about (comic) book production in a seminar on Saturday, 8 December 2018, 3–4.30pm! Sign up for free here!

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

The ongoing debate: Singapore’s hawker culture

Amidst the discussion concerning the place of Singapore’s hawker culture in UNESCO’s list, let us take a trip down memory lane and reminisce the beginning of it all.

Hawkers

Do you recognise any of the above hawkers? Can you name the food that each of them sold and the sounds that they made?

Not only did the smell of delicious food permeate the streets of Singapore, much din was made too: hawkers shouting to advertise their food, the highly-anticipated ringing of the ice-cream bell, the familiar “tok-tok” rhythm by the bamboo apparatus of the Tok Tok Mee man…

Many immigrants in 1900s Singapore relied on food hawkers on the streets for their daily meals. Besides famous dishes like braised duck, noodles and nasi lemak that are still rampant all over the country today, there were many other types of food sold that we no longer can find here.

These include…

Lok Lok

… Lok Lok…

Pig's Ear

… Pig’s Ear…

Grilled Squid

… grilled squid…

Crocodile

… and even crocodile meat!

Due to hygiene reasons, these cannot be sold the same way in Singapore anymore.

In addition, the clean and well-maintained hawker centres that you walk past every day are a far cry from what it used to be! Most of the hawkers in that day carried their stalls with them and set them up wherever there were customers.

Hawker 1

Hawker 2

Hawker 3

Hawker 4

What do you remember from the hawkers in the past? Do you have similar stories to share?

Tell us more at our book launch tomorrow! Get your hands on our latest graphic novel, Once Upon A Singapore… Traders, where we show you the hawker culture that has made Singapore what it is today. Details: The Arts House, 10 November 2018, 2pm-3pm. Register here for free!

Get to know: Tina and Alan

With the nearing of our book launch for Once Upon A Singapore… Traders, we thought we’d speak to writer Tina Sim and illustrator Alan Bay, to understand a bit about their inspiration behind this publication and their book journey so far.

book cover

So, first, what got you into writing / illustrating?

“I like to read and share what I have read,” Tina says. “I guess that started me scribbling.”

For Alan, it was video games and comic books. “I remember it all started when I was reading Dragon Ball Z back when I was younger, and when I decided to draw my own version in an exercise book.”

Nice. And what was your inspiration behind writing / illustrating for this new book?

Alan muses, “I wanted to create a lighthearted comic book based on Singapore’s rich history, to encourage the curiosity of readers on the topic.”

Tina adds, “I like to tell stories from my childhood and youth, and I am so fortunate to have Alan draw my memories into being.”

That’s awesome! Now, what do you think was the most memorable part of this book-making journey?

“Growing with Grandpa and Aloysius as the story developed,” says the writer. “Even though they started as mere characters on paper, as we went along, they developed a life of their own. The dialogue, the jokes and the banter just fell into place.”

“This was my first time collaborating with a writer and publisher, so it was a huge learning opportunity for me.” Alan chimes in. “As an artist, I had to constantly remind myself that my drawings were meant to complement the story instead of being a flamboyant showcase.”

Okay, last question: what do you hope this new publication will achieve?

“I hope readers young and old will enjoy this trip down memory lane,” says Tina.

“I also hope this book inspires those who have been through a time of old, like grandparents, to share their own first-hand experiences with the new generation,” Alan says.

Now that you know a bit more about these creative minds, why not drop by to shake hands and talk to them in person during the Singapore Writers Festival 2018?  They’ll be at The Arts House on 10 November 20182pm-3pm where they’ll be sharing all about this latest publication! Entry is free: register here!

P.S. Their comic book is now available for pre-order at our webstore!