Photography: The Meaning of 平 (Píng)

平. A simple, symmetrical word. Pronounced píng, it means “balance”.

Today marks the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year calendar, triggering the age-old tradition and flurry of visiting of the Elders, extended family, and sometimes friends. I’d start the day by visiting my grandmother, handing her a pair of oranges and wishing her good health and other blessings, followed by spending the rest of the day with my immediate family and relatives moving from house to house.

Over the years, the list of places to visit has gotten shorter and shorter that now for most people, it’s practically a cheatsheet of one-stop-multiple-hits (i.e. where everyone just agrees to congregate at one place). As the Elders move on, some of the tradition is lost and the generations no longer see value in (and in fact, dread) meeting people they mostly only see once a year. As a kid, it was all fine and dandy receiving hong baos (red packets containing money), but as we moved beyond childhood, we realised that we now have to make small talk with relatives, deal with never-ending questions about non-existent boyfriends and girlfriends, much less marriage, and have to actually appear interested in whatever conversations there are over the span of many hours.

But 平 – this simple, balanced, symmetrical word, has far deeper meaning in the Chinese language when used in conjunction with other words, and which possibly unlocks the secrets of the essence of harmony; if I were to attempt to string its range of meanings together into a mosiac, it is akin to a beautiful 平旦 (dawn) where everything is 平顺 (smooth-sailing), 公平 (fair; there is equality), and where there is 康平 (good health) and the ones you love are 平安 (safe).

This Lunar New Year, I wish you the same balance and harmony in the many aspects of life in which 平 remains relevant and rings true. As conveyed in the clean, simple strokes of the character itself, perhaps we could realise that, indeed, achieving a balance is far simpler than we think. And perhaps, we would also find 喜 (yet another word resonating in symmetry and balance; pronounced , meaning “happiness”) in the process, just as I had a few hours ago tossing yu sheng (an oriental salad) and cheering the full suite of blessings with my family in a team effort to fondly usher in the new year over reunion dinner.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Symmetry.”

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Paradise Dynasty, Singapore

SCRIBBLES

Category: Chinese – La mian, XLB

I daresay Paradise Dynasty is one of my all-time favourite and most frequented restaurants. Just a few days ago, my friend who’ll be coming over from San Francisco in March asked for some recommendations, and this was one of the places that came to mind almost immediately.

Multiple locations including ION Orchard, Westgate and now, VivoCity

Every Singaporean would have heard of Paradise Dynasty – it’s one of the restaurant chains in the famous Paradise Group that owns several other fantastic Chinese restaurants such as Taste Paradise and Paradise Inn. They’re so well represented in Singapore that you’ll probably be able to find one of their restaurants in any decent-sized mall.

Damage: $$

Paradise Dynasty is one of the more (if not the most) affordable options from the Paradise Group, and it’s easy to get full (and I mean really stuffed) on under $20 per person. Portions are generous, and they’re especially popular for their La mian (pulled noodles; ~$10) and Xiao Long Bao ($8.90 Up).

To go: Yes, and often!

One of the most value-for-money places, with good service and delicious food, I’d come here time and time again. Paradise Dynasty almost always has a long queue, especially if you’re going anytime outside of office hours – whether it’s on a weekday after work or on a weekend, prepare to wait at least half an hour. Besides the La mian and Xiao Long Bao, the other dishes are mostly of a very good standard as well. I don’t believe I’ve ever left Paradise Dynasty unsatisfied.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

Paradise Dynasty Xiao Long Bao Singapore Food Review

Since the servings are quite large, we decided to go with a mix of dishes to share, including a basket of xiao long bao, wok-fried rice with shrimps and preserved vegetables, crisp-fried fish fillet with minced garlic, and crispy sweet and sour porkXiao long bao (literally “small basket buns”; feature picture) are little steamed soup dumplings originating from the Jiangnan province in China. They are pinched into tiny folds and sealed at the top and when bitten into, releases the tasty soup within. The ones at Paradise Dynasty came piping hot, but I felt that the delicate skin was pinched too tightly at the top such that it gave it a more heavy doughy texture which could explain the breaking of some baos. Overall, it came second to Din Tai Fung’s – although they have their signature basket of xiao long baos in 8 flavours which you can’t get anywhere else; the truffle, foie gras and garlic ones being particularly good.

Paradise Dynasty serves up a tasty fried rice, with fluffy grains and a good stir-in of fresh ingredients, second only to Din Tai Fung (looks like I need to write about DTF!). The crisp-fried fish fillet  was lacking flavour and the batter was extremely tasteless and oily, which made us queasy – so I definitely recommend against ordering it.

Crispy sweet sour pork Paradise Dynasty Singapore Food ReviewThe crispy sweet and sour pork (also known locally as “kor lor yok”) was delicious! When we next return, I’ll make sure to order it again. It was so crispy, and caramelised in the flavourful sweet and sour sauce, flavoured with the sweetness of pineapple and onion slices and countered by the chilli.

For dessert, we had the egg white soufflé with banana and red bean. I’d had it before at the ION Orchard branch and remembered it was light and fluffy in texture, but this one was… deflated. The soufflé fell into more of a thick sort of dough, so perhaps it would be wise to skip the dish since you won’t know who’s in the kitchen.

Egg white souffle Paradise Dynasty Dessert Food Blog Singapore

Egg white souffle red bean banana Paradise Dynasty Singapore Review

If you’re visiting Singapore and are new to Paradise Dynasty, I strongly recommend ordering the la mian, because they are really among Paradise Dynasty’s strongest dishes. I didn’t have it this time but I have had it almost every other time I visited – springy noodles in a robust pork bone broth, an onsen tamago (egg with a firm but custard-texture yolk) and, in many renditions, fish maw- it just always hits the spot each and every time.