On Being a Singaporean PR…

I’m a Permanent Resident (PR) of Singapore, but feel like a second-class citizen. Of course, being PR grants me certain privileges, including shorter lines at immigration, enrolment into CPF, the government’s compulsory retirement savings scheme, and eligibility for jobs that my foreign friends simply can’t touch.

But the political climate here is getting uglier every day. I can understand locals grumbling about crowded trains and buses, rising costs for housing, job competition, and not being able to send their children to the schools they want. Perhaps the PAP has brought in too many people, and at too fast a rate. Increasingly though, i see forum posts or blog comments claiming that “PRs should not be allowed to do xyz“, or that “the government gives undue advantages to PRs”.

Is this for real?

Already, there are many rights & obligation differences between a PR and a citizen besides the ability to vote and hold a Singaporean passport. PRs enjoy lower subsidies for medical treatments, can only buy government housing under special circumstances, and have to queue behind children who are citizens when balloting for primary schools. On the other hand, the rules governing mandatory NS duty for PRs are arguably more lenient. More disturbing is a new breed of self-anointed “True Blue” Singaporeans – supposedly those who were born and bred here, as opposed to naturalized citizens. {sigh}

Since i relocated with dear hubby (a Singaporean) so that we could start our lives here, i have to admit it’s saddening to see these events unfold. It makes me really miss Toronto, the home of my heart’s heart. I honestly hope that in time, i can grow to love this country too.

Panna Cotta with Gooseberry + Calamansi Lime Puree

I had a dinner invite, so needed a simple dessert that would survive in Singapore’s heat while travelling on public transit for about 45min. Panna cotta is a traditional Italian custard, which you can make ahead with various garnishes for a simple yet impressive treat. I had intended to be a lot more systematic with my recipe but…

Warning #1: Taste your ingredients before making stuff up

I admit it. I was quite enamored of gooseberries – especially their delicate wrapper leaves – ever since I saw them in a cookbook years ago. Of course i never actually tasted one, but hey, it’s just a fruit right {covers face}. Anyway, i was planning to follow a basic panna cotta recipe from Epicurious, and then top with pureed gooseberries, adding sugar if necessary.

A lot of people describe the taste of gooseberries as being similar to sour grapes. They tasted more like sour cherries to me. And to be honest, the intensity of flavour was a bit weak and one-dimensional. To counter that i added some freshly squeezed lime juice to give it some ooomph and punch. Et voila, dessert fixed.

Warning #2: Respect ‘Best Before’ dates on your UHT whipping cream

Another confession. I secretly believe the food industry puts these silly ‘Best Before’ dates on perfectly normal food products so they can limit their liability and sell more goods. I had a small, unopened 200mL carton of UHT (ultra-high temperature treated) whipping cream in the fridge that was about a month past its due date. It came out of the package rather clumpy. But i had no time to return to the store (okay fine, i still believed i was right because the taste & smell were okay) so i went ahead and used this clumpy cream. Of course i didn’t want dinner guests to get sick, so i test ate one myself first. The verdict? No problems. But for peace of mind, just respect the date in the future! Maybe.

So without much more rambling, here is an ad-hoc recipe. Sincerest apologies for the vague measurements.

Panna Cotta with Gooseberry & Lime Puree (Source: Epicurious) — Serves 4

  • 1/2 tbsp       Unflavoured gelatin
  • 1 tbsp          Cold water
  • 1 cup            Heavy cream (I used whipping cream with 35% fat content)
  • 1 cup            Half-and-half (I used full cream milk, 3.8% fat in Singapore)
  • 2 tbsp          Granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp             Vanilla extract
  • 1 punnet      Gooseberries, seeds removed
  •                      Juice from Calamansi limes, to taste
  1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small saucepan. Let stand for 1 min, then heat mixture over low heat until gelatin is dissolved. Remove pan from heat.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring whipping cream, milk, and sugar just to boil while stirring continuously. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture and vanilla.
  3. Divide cream mixture into 4 ramekins. Pop bubbles on the surface with a fork if you don’t plan to invert before serving.
  4. Chill ramekins, covered, until the custard sets (at least 4h).
  5. To serve in ramekins, top with mashed up mixture of gooseberries and lime juice. To serve on plates, dip the ramekins into hot water for 3 sec, run a knife around the edge to loose the custard, and invert onto a small plate. Garnish with gooseberries and lime juice.

I found cheap disposable plastic containers with lids at NTUC (I think it was a 10-pack for S$2-$3) because i didn’t want to bring heavy ramekins on the bus. The panna cotta was very well received, but for an asian palate i think the consistency would be considered too rich/heavy. Experiment with the ratio and fat % of the cream/milk if that’s the case.