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Archive for the ‘Dinner’ Category

Day 2 in City of Dragons!

Ok. So I booked this restaurant that’s been awarded 2 Michelin Stars and for some reason, I assumed it was in Hong Kong. While planning my itinerary, I realised that the restaurant is actually located in Macau’s City of Dreams. I almost panicked when I decided to turn a moment of folly on my part, into something positive – instead of missing out on what was supposed to be awesome Cantonese cuisine, I decided to make a day of it and visit Macau. After all, I’d never been!

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Woke up Sunday morning and prettied myself up. I packed along my dress and new shoes to change into because ain’t nobody got time for running around Macau in heels! Then, I headed straight out into the outdoor sauna Hong Kong was turning out to be, towards the Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal.

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It took me about 15min to get there from the hotel but it was a straightforward walk so no time lost going in the wrong direction on the way there. It was really fast going through immigration and took no more than 10min from the main entrance of the building to get to the berth.

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I used Cotai Water Jet which can be booked online. They’re quite organised and everyone is assigned a seat on board. STILL! When the ferry was open for boarding, there was a huge group of people (I won’t say where they’re from but I’m thinking that the first thought in your head may be correct) who jumped up from their seats with such rapid synchrony that I could only gape in awe at their coordination.

Within seconds, they were jostling to get ahead of the queue which just totally boggled me since we had allocated seats! I got so annoyed with this one lady who keep grinding against me trying to push past while yelling to her husband to ‘go go go!‘ that without thinking, I actually said “Stop Pushing!” in my basic mandarin. The lady looked momentarily shocked before pulling herself together and backing off just a little although you could so tell that she was dying to scramble ahead.

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The seats were quite comfortable and the ferry was really clean, proving to be a pleasant 1 hour ride from Hong Kong to Macau. Funny how I’m perfectly fine with the bobbing of the waves while being at sea compared to when there’s turbulence up in the air. It was so soothing I slept most of the way there.

Funny story: When we docked at Taipa Ferry Terminal, the First Class passengers alighted first and were quick to step onto the travellator leading to the immigration counters. They happily stood there travelling along, while I decided that I didn’t want to get stuck behind them, so I carried on walking and just as I was passing them, this one woman saw me and panicked, quickly pulling her trolley bag behind her. Only, her fellow travelling companion yelled something out to her and she had to turn back while I zoomed ahead and made it FIRST to the immigration booth. Talk about the power of Singapore Kiasuism (Fear of losing).

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From the ferry terminal, I took the shuttle bus to The Venetian where I then crossed the road to City of Dreams, which is really this incredibly plush mall housing all the world’s top brands.

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It’s quite a new building so everything looked sparkly and pretty. It also has a casino somewhere on the inside but it was nowhere as exposed compared to the casinos at The Venetian and Galaxy Casino.

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Dressed and ready for lunch!!

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Bad angle of me but I haaaad to take a picture with this giant ornamental thing.

Service from the minute I stepped into the reception area of Jade Dragon, until the moment I departed, was top-notch.

They’d set a lovely table for me facing an open area where I could delight in the opulent furnishings of the high-ceilinged restaurant. I chose to forgo the Set Menu knowing that it might be a bit too much for me and settled for their ala-carte menu.

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Before my orders were served, I was presented with an amuse bouche. I was to start on the right with their hot appetiser of Prawn Dumpling which had a touch of Sour Plum Sauce to accentuate the flavour of the sweet crustacean. On the left was a refreshing one-bite ‘salad’ of lightly pickled Cucumber and Yuzu.

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The first dish served to me was the Steamed White Truffle Crabmeat Dumpling. This turned out to be my favourite of the meal with the infusion of truffle perfuming the dainty dumpling, yet not quite overshadowing the fresh, tasty filling of crabmeat. There were tiny cubes of daikon I believe, cooked to retain a crisp crunch that not only added texture, but also enhanced the overall natural sweetness of this dumpling.

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With its beautiful Jade green hue, this Jade Dragon Dumpling was like an elevated version of the more humble, traditional Har Gao (shrimp dumpling). With its thin, elastic skin coloured with Spinach Juice to achieve that beautiful colour, and that gentle speck of gold leaf, it was definitely a sight to behold. Held within were plump, juicy morsels of prawns and blue lobster.

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This was the Steamed Kagani Crabmeat Dumpling which was also the priciest piece of dim sum on the menu. Sadly, the delicate skin broke when it was picked up so the sweet broth that whispered tales of the sea flowed out, thankfully into the bowl so I managed to spoon some up. Still, I felt denied of maximum satisfaction from this elite form of Xiao Long Bao. Was it tasty? Yes. Would I pay for it again? No. Personally, I would much prefer to have the Truffle Crabmeat Dumpling again and again and again.

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Taking its time to swim to mama was the final dumpling I ordered – Steamed Crystal Dumpling with Garoupa Fillet chilling in Sweet Corn Soup. I thoroughly enjoyed the subtle nature of this dumpling that allowed the freshness of the garoupa to shine. The soup was punchy with its flavours and complemented the mild flavours of the fish dumpling.

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To end, I had the Double Boiled Yunnan Organic Mushroom Soup with Fish Maw and Wild Bamboo Pith. This was full of flavour and depth which you can see from the deep colour of the broth. It was rich yet light at the same time, and accompanied by a generous piece of fish maw.

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I had to take a picture of my dining companion since it so very patiently waited for me through every single course.

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I was extremely satiated from my wonderful meal and almost ready to go when the staff at Jade Dragon informed me that they were putting together complimentary petit-fours for me.

Presented elegantly in a Chinese Tea Pot were two Mini Cones – one filled with Milk Tea Ice-Cream and the other with a Peach Sherbet. The former was full-flavoured and restrained, standing right on the cusp of being on the bitter side. The sherbet was so smooth and fruity, so much so that it took all my will power to put down so that I would have room for the other bites of dessert.

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Plated, there were Sesame Macarons, a Coconut Macaroon, a Red Date and Walnut Nougat, and an Osmanthus Rice Roll. The fragrant sesame of the macarons was sublime. I might even say there could have been just a touch of sesame oil and soy to further highlight its earthy flavours.

The nougat was chewy, though not overly so, while the rice roll was incredibly light with a subtle floral infusion. Both were not too sweet which certainly delighted me. As for the macaroon, as with most macaroons, it was rather on the sweet side and not quite to my taste.

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Switched back to more comfy clothes to tour around Macau.

Lunch set me back HKD 616, an amount I would never spend on myself for a meal in normal circumstances. But hey, I figured that this was supposed to be a birthday holiday for me and so, I can afford to spend on myself dining at fine-dining restaurants.

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I found this beauty of a dragon just before leaving City of Dreams. It’s magnificent to look at and the colours of the lights shining onto the dragon changes every few seconds. I was quite mesmerised and could have stood there hypnotised if not for the fact that I had places to go and things to see.

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My plan was to take the shuttle bus over to Galaxy Casino where apparently, you can just cross the road to get to Old Taipa Village where there’re Macanese Street Foods galore and all sorts of knick knacks.

I reached the casino, and then realised I didn’t know which exit I had to take to Taipa Village. And let me tell you, the place is a maze!!

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I found this cool dancing fountain that seemed to have captured the interest of passers-by, me included. I only took a quick snap before wandering some more. Finally, I found Banyan Tree Resorts and asked the concierge for directions. Apparently, Banyan Tree is on the West side of Galaxy and the exit to Taipa is on the East side. I wasn’t convinced when he informed me that it would take a good 20min to get there. I mean hello! It’s just a mall. Only, it’s a HUGE mall surrounding a HUGE casino so I did take about 20min to reach the exit.

I stepped out, felt the wave of humidity and heat hit my skin, looked at the time, and decided I’d best be heading back to The Venetian since I wanted to have a look around there too before heading back to Hong Kong.

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By the time I reached The Venetian, I only managed to reach this area where the gondolas are. Honestly, I felt pangs of claustrophobia being in a place where there was no natural light and where everything felt so artificial. I didn’t have too much time to roam around as I didn’t want to be late catching my ferry home so after a walk around this area, I went back to West Lobby to get the shuttle back to the ferry terminal.

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I don’t think Macau’s really my kind of place. Sure, I would have liked to have at least reached Taipa Village which may have exuded a different aura altogether but the places I’d seen felt like they lacked character and authenticity. Big, tall, extravagant buildings everywhere, but lacking in soul.

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Whereas Hong Kong…

Is packed full of character from its dizzying stairs-filled streets, to its neon lights; its frenzy of movement as people rush around, to its laid-back tea-drinking culture; from its dilapidated buildings that threaten to crumble, to its modern skyscrapers.

It is a city where hipster, vegan cafes can operate alongside old-school traditional roast goose stalls, where youth traipse the streets sipping on bubble tea while older folk sit within their usual cha chain tang drinking hot milk tea, where foreigners frolic around soho while the locals continue to bolt towards their favourite wanton mee stall for comfort food.

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Speaking of wanton mee.

After an afternoon of wandering around going nowhere in Macau, I found myself considering my dinner options. I ended up settling on going to Tsim Chai Kee just to give my wallet, and stomach, a bit of a break.

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I know that Mak’s Noodles just across the road is a crowd favourite, but seeing that they’ve opened an outlet here in Singapore already, I decided to stick to Tsim Chai Kee which is known for their outrageously huge balls… of wanton.

I was still bloated from lunch so I settled on a bowl of King Prawn Wanton Soup and a side serving of Blanched Kailan with Oyster Sauce, which set me back HKD44.

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Those were amply filled dumplings that had big, crunchy prawns stuffed within. For some reason, I remembered these to be different. I wasn’t so keen on the seasoning this time and found the soup to be leaning towards the salty side. But them veggies though! They were so simply prepared but so tender, so sweet, and such a delight to eat.

Day 2 was really more in Macau than in Hong Kong but I’m glad I was able to plan my time well enough to at least see enough of the city, and to get my transport back. I remember feeling somewhat content with myself at one point because it felt pretty cool being able to navigate around and get to places I wished to go even if not always using the most direct route. Still, I was quite excited to be heading home the next day just because I missed Flo, and my bed, and the sweet smell of home! But first, I had one more awesome lunch planned before my flight!…

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About a month ago, shortly after our return from Yangon, I voiced out to Flo that I felt like travelling again, only this time, on my own. It’s not that I don’t enjoy travelling with Flo. I LOVE travelling with Flo. It’s just that I’ve always wondered whether I’d be able to hack it on my own out in a country that isn’t home to me. And turning 30(!) later this month, I figured now would be a good time, like crossing of a ‘Things To Do Before I Turn 30’ list just that I don’t actually have a list but still. And to be honest, I don’t think I was 100% certain of daring to go away alone. It was simply a desire that I’d had for a few years now and never had to guts to act on.

Flo was so encouraging – I swear, he’s just the best guy ever in supporting my decisions whatever they may be! So two days after that conversation, I sat in front of the computer and booked two Two-Michelin Starred Restaurants and one Cafe I wanted to dine at. Yeah, I booked places to eat before I even booked anything else because I figured that if I backed out, cancelling my reservations way in advance wouldn’t be too big a problem – this was a month before the dates I planned to travel.

Flo came home that evening and I told him what I did. He then egged me on to book my flights and accommodation while he went for his run. Without trying to overthink things, that’s exactly what I did. It felt so surreal and in the days leading up to my departure, I felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety. In fact, a small part of me was wondering if perhaps I didn’t want to go.

But I did.

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4am. 29th Jul 2017. Saturday.

I woke up, and got myself ready to leave promptly at 4.30am for my flight which was supposed to depart at 6.05am. I reached the airport only to find that my flight had been rescheduled to 7.35am instead because apparently, Scoot and Tigerair have merged and so, I believe they put two flights together onto one of their big 787 planes. I was bummed because it meant that I would likely be late for my 12.45pm reservation for Grassroots Pantry, so I quickly shot them an email informing them of my delay and did some research on how to go there from Hong Kong Airport.

Now, let me tell you that I think I actually have a slight fear of flying. I’m all ladidah when the plane’s gliding across the skies but the minute there’s a bump, I’ll be hanging onto the armrests for dear life, with my feet against the legs of the chair in front in a bid to feel some form of stability.

Of course, I had to be flying alone when we hit bad turbulence in the second half of our flight. I mean bad like shaking, rumbling and dipping kind of bad.
So bad that I flung my arm up the first time and scared the lady next to me.
So bad I yelped the next time the plane dipped, screwed my eyes closed and tried to breathe while my heart palpitated as though I’d overdosed on caffeine.
So bad that the guy across the aisle patted my left hand gripping the arm rest to give me some reassurance.
I swear I actually thought at one point that… y’know… the plane might not make it. Then it was over and I thanked God, praying that the rest of the trip would go smoothly. And it kind of did. Just a little shock towards the end while landing. Never felt so glad to be back on solid ground apart from the fact that I knew I’d be back up in the air just over 48 hours later. Boo!

So from the airport, I topped up the Octopus Card Flo had passed to me from his last visit to Hong Kong and got onto the Airport Express which took me to Hong Kong Station within 24min. There, I hopped onto a shuttle bus taking me to the Sheung Wan area where I got off at the Holiday Inn Express Soho stop which was supposedly the closest stop to Grassroots Pantry according to my research.

It would have been very close but me being me, I took plenty of wrong turns, asked a couple of people along the way, kind of followed their directions while wondering why GoogleMaps was pointing me in all sorts of directions. And finally, FINALLY!, after a good 20min of walking under the blazing midday sun and crazy high humidity (and we all thought Singapore was bad), I found it!

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I went in, luggage and all, sweat and all, only to find that it was a full house and my reservation wasn’t held. They were sweet enough to inform me that a table was clearing and placed me at the bar counter to browse through their Spring/Summer Menu. In the end, I decided to place my order and let them utilise the table for two since I was perfectly happy at the counter.

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On my plate: Spring Chard RollsHeirloom Carrot, Zucchini Spirals, Pickled Chard Stems, Cashew Lime Mayo. Avocado, Tamarind Dressing which they placed on the side, and Walnut Parmesan.

To drink: Jamu!Raspberry Leaf, Nettles, Linden Flower, Cinnamon, Stevia.

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I loved the drink although it was a little on the small side so I had to act all sophisticated gently sipping away while gulping down water on the side so that the Jamu! would last longer.

The Chard Rolls were refreshing in that they were filled with a lot of veggie flavours and textures. It was interesting how they used cashews to create a kind of cream although I hesitate to call it mayo. Still, I definitely preferred this form of ‘mayo’ to traditional gooey, overly creamy, cloying mayo.

I was telling Flo upon my return that they took away my fork and knife, leaving me with a pair of chopsticks to eat this with. I tried to be as dainty as possible, nibbling away at the rolls, also in part to make lunch last longer after taking ages to find it. Alas! My efforts were futile when a thick vein in my first roll refused to give in to my vigour of a bite, eventually leaving me with no option but to use my fingers to assist me in making a clean tear away. Talk about ladylike! 

Although I quite enjoyed the overall ambiance and food at Grassroots Pantry, it’s not exactly cheap. In total, I spent HKD165 on my lunch, one that I know probably won’t fill the stomachs of bigger eaters.

After cooling down and fuelling up, I found my way back to Sheung Wan Station which took all of 7 minutes. Then I went upwards towards Tsim Sha Tsui where my hotel was located.

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The above stall was just at the corner of the street to my hotel. It’s so typical of Hong Kong in that they serve sticks of fish balls all cooked in different broths ranging in spiciness. I think they have other things too like pig’s head meat, beef balls, and some other stuff I can’t really read.

Anyway, I got myself checked into GD Hotel which wasn’t anything fancy. It was a little old in interior but very clean and nice enough to go back to for sleeps and a hot shower. I chilled there a short while and freshened up before deciding to pop by a nearby mall, K11.

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I was actually looking for either a nice pair of shoes to go with a dress I bought for my fancy schmancy lunch the next day, or get a smart casual dress to go with shoes I already had. Turns out, K11 is quite fancy schmancy itself with lots of shops housing up and coming designers so their clothes were a little out-there for me and even if they suited my taste, they were sold in the range of HKD1000-2000 which was quuuiiiite a bit out of my budget.

Seriously though, one of my favourite favourite things to do when I visit a new country is to prowl through their supermarkets. I love looking at the kinds of goods and products they sell.

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I would have definitely picked up some things from here but the queues were outrageously long!! So I scrapped the idea and hopped on.

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And yes, I did find a pair of shoes I liked in the end – More expensive than I would usually pay but I guess it’s ok to treat myself to a pair of comfy, pretty shoes once in a while.

New shoes in hand, I headed back towards Central where I wanted to pick up some dinner…

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People attached to their phones. Kind of like back home. 

The Sheung Wan/Central area make up Soho in Hong Kong. Wellington Street is just a 2min walk from Central Station Exit D2 and that’s where famous restaurants such as Yak Lok and Mak’s Noodles are housed. There are a lot of coffee and brunch cafes, as well as international casual bistros around the area too so choices for where to eat is far from lacking in this area.

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I decided to make it Vegan Day even though I’m not vegan. It’s just nice to have a day where you go meat-free sometimes. It makes me feel good, especially my digestive system. Haha. And it kind of feels as though I’ve giving my body a break from all the meat.

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So Mana! Fast Slow Food it was.

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I opted for a Takeaway Salad Box consisting of Kale, Roasted Vegetables, Spinach, Pumpkin and Halloumi, with the addition of Portobello Mushrooms because MUSHROOMS!

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For HKD93, it wasn’t super cheap but it was a very hefty, generously filled box of wholesome goodness. I was slightly upset that there wasn’t as much pumpkin as I would have liked, and I only found one small cube of halloumi.

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Still, all the lovely, roasted eggplant, zucchini and juicy mushrooms, along with the textured kale that had been tossed in some kind of cashew parmesan (?) ALL went into my tummy ensuring that I got myself a nice, round, food baby to go to sleep with.

Yup! So this sums up my first day in Hong Kong venturing out and about all by my lonesome. I was so tired out by my early start that I fell asleep very soon after my head hit the pillow.

I’ll share with you more about my second and third day in Hong Kong in my next couple of posts. See you in a bit! X

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#throwback to last weekend.

I had my fill of poke!

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Prior to this bowl from Aloha Poke at City Link Mall, I’d only had it once before at Alter Ego. And before that I made my own although my flavours skewed more towards Japanese rather than Hawaiian. Anyway, I found myself hankering after a bowl and this certainly hit the spot.

As requested by Flo, I did go for a base of brown rice (I ED would have definitely gone for salad greens) for my Lil Swell, which they topped with lots of greens and complimentary chunks of sweet pineapple as well as finely chopped chives. I opted for jalapeños cos a girl’s gotta have some fireeeee, cherry tomatoes and pomegranate seeds for my superfood topping. The best part of course, was my 75g of beautifully marinated original Salmon Poke.

It was $12.90 for this so… maybe just once in a while although I have big plans to replicate this at home. This time with a more tropical theme.

With my 3rd Aunt still in town since we had the memorial Thursday before for Aunty Judy, we met up with a few other uncles and aunties for lunch at this Vegetarian restaurant called Elemen.

I’d heard rave reviews about it but I know my man needs his meat. Also, after our disappointing experience at Green Dot, we weren’t sure how Elemen would fare. But guess what? It was pretty bloody awesome!

For starters, Mum and I shared this Double-boiled Burdock Root Soup with Monk Fruit. It was delicate and light on the palate, but still so comforting. I’ve been deprived of hot, steaming herbal soups so this tasted especially good!

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We also ordered this Spicy Shiitake with Purple Rice Roll which we happily shared with the rest of our table before ordering yet another.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the crunch of fresh cucumbers and carrots, and the crispiness of tempura within the vinegar-ed purple rice which had more bite than regular sushi rice, and carried a pleasant nuttiness to it. Each piece was topped with chopped shiitake mushrooms marinated in a teriyaki-esque sauce, almost mimicking unagi. Sadly, we couldn’t taste much of the spiciness which we expected from its name. More chilli please!!! 

We also had a couple of other appetisers to share: The Mushroom Salad, and the Watermelon Feta Salad.

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Both were dainty in presentation and while I enjoyed the mushroom salad (I love mushrooms!!), Flo didn’t take to it being served cold. That was quite unexpected I have to admit but served hot or cold, they’re still mushrooms so you can see just how much my love for mushrooms extends to.

The watermelon and feta salad was refreshing and light. I especially liked the watermelon eaten with some fresh mint. The food here in general are a bit on the pricey side so a more generous sprinkle of feta would have been very much welcomed.

Dad zeroed in on the Milano Pizza which ended up being the crowd’s favourite.

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Wafer-thin, crispy base topped with monkeyhead mushroom, sliced red radish, baby cress and of course, cheeeeeese!

Flo had the Edamame Tofu with Black Truffle Wild Rice.

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I managed to try some of his tofu and rice. The rice was lovely – chewy and nutty and still moist. I shall look to make some once I get my hands on wild rice. The tofu was yielding, so smooth and silky, tasty even without the luscious savoury sauce on top. Having it together simply gave it an extra oomph.

I think the entire family enjoyed lunch at Elemen. I especially liked that they highlighted the beauty and versatility of vegetables in all their dishes, using them in various way to create a myriad of textures and flavours. None of that mock meat/konnyaku seafood jibber-jabber that I deplore.

We had a great time surrounded by family and listening to stories from way back in the day. We reminisced about Aunty Judy, and we laughed about the silly antics Ah Gong (my paternal grandpa) used to get up to while driving everybody up the wall. I’m glad Flo was there with me, getting to know my 3rd Aunt, whom I am very close to, a bit better, as well as some of my other uncles. I know that they also appreciated his company very much.

And because…

I cannot leave this post without sharing about some of my kitchen antics, this is what I whipped up for last Monday’s dinner for Flo. He requested Prawns for protein and while I seriously considered making prawn ceviche, I decided I would stick to the traditional fish ceviche and save it to make for another day.

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Instead, I baked up some uber-sweet Japanese Beni Haruka Sweet Potatoes, and made Cauliflower-Rice stuffed Red Peppers. I quickly stir-fried the ‘rice’ with some finely chopped haricot beans, king oyster mushrooms, and onions, splashed in a bit of fish sauce and soy – should have added some oyster sauce but I didn’t have any, and seasoned it with some sea salt and black pepper. I didn’t want to overcook the ‘rice’ so I roasted the red pepper halves in the oven beforehand, then filled them after.

For the prawns, I used a simple Gochujang Marinade:
1 Tbs Gochujang
3/4 Tbs Soy Sauce
1/2 Tbs Minced Garlic
1/2 Tbs Minced Ginger
1/4 Tbs Sesame Oil

  1. Mix everything together. Massage prawns gently into the mix and let sit together at least 10-15min. 
  2. Heat pan and sear away!

You can also use this versatile recipe for any other meats although you should probably marinate them for longer in the fridge, about 2 hours or more. You can even use this for vegetables!

Oh funny story before I sign off. After Sunday’s veggie-filled lunch, Mum and Dad headed off to church before coming over to have dinner with Flo and I. Mum had been having a craving for Vietnamese and wanted to go back to Long Phung. Due to the lack of animal meat in their bodies, the two men made sure to have their fill at dinner, Dad especially. Flo had a bowl of Chicken Pho and Dad, Vietnamese Beef Stew with Rice. Then they both shared a plate of Rare Beef cooked in Lemon Juice that Flo loves but haven’t been able to have for quite a while now.

So right at the end, Mum saw that Dad had left a single chunk of tender beef sitting in its bowl while he focused on eating the rare sliced beef, and asked whether he was going to finish it. Before he could answer, I quipped “Of course! He just likes it so much he’s saving it for last! Riiiiiiight?”. To which Dad smiled until his eyes turned into two horizontal lines, gleefully nodding his head in agreement. I know. Because I’m my father’s daughter and can totally read his mind. And because that’s exactly what I do too!

Are you a ‘Save the Best for Last’ kind of person or ‘Have the Best First’ kind of person? Let me know!! I used to think that EVERYONE should save the best for last but I know a few people who like to have the best first so it’d be interesting to know which train of thought you subscribe to. Don’t be shy!!! =P

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Last weekend was a nicely packed one for Flo and I in that we were busy enough, yet not so busy to tire ourselves out for the week ahead. We decided to book tickets to a local theatre production – Boeing Boeing. Flo’s never been to watch any of our local theatre productions before and I was a little worried that some jokes might get lost in translation. In addition, knowing that my man is not a big fan of musicals, I wasn’t sure whether Boeing Boeing would be full of music, dance and song galore. So I simply had to keep my fingers and toes crossed that the show would live up to its good reviews.

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We bought ourselves awesome seats along the first row of the second half of the theatre. I’ve not been to Victoria Theatre since it got renovated so I was very impressed with its modern interior that breathed of comfort and great visuals from all corners unlike before, when big pillars would block certain sections causing one to have to crane their neck left and right depending on where the actors were on stage.

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The entire performance was full of energy and not too localised which we very much appreciated. Oon Shu An was perfect as the resident ‘SQ girl’, and I thought that Judee Tan took the cake as a flight attendant from ‘China Air’ with her accent totally on point. In fact, I think the women outshone the men in Boeing Boeing although the men were vital characters to the plot.

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The cast were incredibly sporting and game to pose for all the audience to snap photos of at the end of the show. I have to admit that in recent years, Singapore’s local theatre has been producing more and more performances of substance. Some of them are catered more to locals but still, they are witty, charming, and insightful.

Flo and I walked away gushing about how well Boeing Boeing was performed, and how impressed we were by the production as a whole. No, there was no breaking into song and dance but Flo actually said that even if they did he would still have enjoyed it. So we plan to watch more local theatre and support our local actors!! I always love watching Dim Sum Dollies and Hossan, so hopefully they will put on a show later in the year which Flo and I can attend. They tend to focus more on Singapore current affairs, and are very quick to touch on the political yet so very clever in making it unapparent. That would be nice for Flo to experience especially now that he’s been in Singapore nearly two years now.

Also, this weekend saw me making a Black Double Chocolate Birthday Cake with Gold Drippings. It’s not perfect, and there’re lots of bits I could improve on, but it was a nice challenge to have had.

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I’m not one who encourages the use of lots of food colouring so I recommended that chocolate ganache be used instead of buttercream. I was worried it might not turn out well but thank God somehow everything came together. It was also my first time gold-painting over white chocolate ganache so again, I was glad that the ganache set well for me to paint over although I think it was a little thicker than I’d have liked. Next time I’ll be better set to make an even prettier cake!

We also spent Sunday evening with some of my old high school girlfriends. It went ok but it’s funny how sometimes, gaining the perspective of someone else helps you to see certain things in a new way. I guess we change over time and while we’d like to think that our friends may evolve along with us, that’s not always the case. We tend to hold on to friendships especially the ones that we’ve been part of for years and years. That’s not necessarily a bad thing unless there are elements within that friendship that may be a little toxic.

Of course, I don’t plan on cutting off ties entirely, just that I won’t be making as much of an effort anymore with them not because I don’t care, but because that care is seldom reciprocated. It took another person to help me realise that even with old friends, there should be respect in how we speak to each other, thoughtfulness in our replies, and patience in our thoughts. Perhaps it’s time to cultivate new ones. 🙂

And just a little snippet of Monday’s dinner to kick off our week…

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It does stretch my brain quite a bit when it comes to thinking about what to cook for dinner these days. I don’t always want to ply Flo with the same foods and the same flavours. I enjoy challenging myself to creating new dishes and for sure there are hits and misses.

This dinner was both a hit and a miss. I tried my hand at making Baked Zucchini-Carrot Rosti (to be healthier) but I failed to squeeze out as much water from the zucchini as I should have so the rosti didn’t crisp up properly. The Grilled Honey-Dijon Chicken Breast was yum-O though – Honey and Dijon Mustard, a dash of Olive Oil, Fresh Minced Rosemary, Salt and Pepper. That’s all there was in the marinade! I tried some of the chicken so I give it my thumbs up, but truth is, I felt like some baked tofu for my choice of protein Monday night so a sprinkle of sea salt and some cayenne pepper on top and it was enough to make me a happy girl!

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It’s been a while since I shared a savoury food recipe. Most of my days in the kitchen is spent working on recipes for sweet baked goods usually because I tend to have the ingredients at hand. As they say, baking is more of a science, and cooking, more of an art.

I don’t count myself a great cook by any means, but I’m proud to say that at the very least, I’ve not burned down our kitchen. I also happen to be quite the lazy cook. The more ingredients I see on a recipe, the more I cannot be bothered to make it. Also, if I happen to have most of the ingredients on the list, then I’m more than game to give it a go.

The other day, Flo mentioned wanting to go for Thai food for dinner. It didn’t quite register with me though as I thought the plan was still up in the air when we spoke of it a couple days earlier. So I simply assumed that we weren’t going after all and I decided to do something sweet for Flo and try my hand at cooking something Thai-inspired.

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This recipe for Thai-grilled Steak is really simple and doesn’t require a whole basket of ingredients. Just make sure you get a good cut of steak so that it’ll be nice and tender after being cooked. I didn’t think there was quite enough of a spicy kick though so I might add in an extra piece of Thai bird’s eye chilli into the marinade next time.

The nice thing about making this is you can have the steak in a salad, or stir-fried with vermicelli. You can even cook down the marinade to form a luscious, flavourful gravy that will go perfectly with rice.

I also made a simple recipe of Pickled Carrots for the bit of tart and a bit of sweetness to balance off the heat. So. GOOD!

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Thai-Styled Grilled Beef:
200g sirloin steak

20g Fresh Basil
8g Fresh Cilantro
2tsp Minced Garlic
1 Tbs Fish Sauce
1 Lime, Zested and Juiced
1 Bird’s Eye Chilli
1/2 Tbs Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Sunflower Oil

  1. Whizz everything up together (Apart from the steak of course).
  2. Pour marinade into a ziplock bag along with the beef and let sit in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
  3. Remove from fridge about 20min before cooking to allow the steak to reach room temperature.
  4. Heat pan on medium heat. Once ready, cook steak to your desired doneness. About 3 minutes on each side for medium rare which is how we usually prefer ours.
  5. Remove steak from pan and allow to rest before slicing.

Pickled Carrots
1 Carrot, Julienned
1/4 Cup Rice Vinegar
1/3 Tbs Sugar
1 tsp Salt

  1. Put everything together in a bowl and let sit for 30min.
  2. Drain liquid from the carrots and you’re ready to go!

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As you can see, I made it into a nice big wrap that refused to bundle up nicely so I ended up having to swaddle it in foil like a big, badass baby. Spinach and Rocket leaves, with Cherry Tomatoes, Roasted Onions, Pickled Carrots, Creamy Avocado, Fresh Basil and Cilantro, and of course, Sliced Thai-Grilled Steak. I ended up not having to use any sauce for moisture because the pickled carrots more than made up for the absence.

This was a really substantial dinner and while not authentically Thai, the essence of Thailand was clearly there. And… We did quell Flo’s cravings a few days later when we met up with a couple of his friends and dined at a nice, Thai restaurant that left the taste of garlic in our mouths and the burn of chilli on our lips!

 

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Flo and I generally agree that when it comes to holidays, we prefer to take it easy rather than rush to do one thing after another after another. Having packed days usually mean returning home and feeling even more tired than before we left so like with most of our trips overseas, we hung out with our bed some more after breakfast on Sunday morning.

Then, after checking the train schedules we were ready to leave our room at 12.30pm in order to catch the 1.10pm Circular Train from Yangon Central Railway Station.

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Yangon Central Station is a beautiful landmark of the city that is based on traditional Burmese architecture after their original one built by the British was destroyed by the Japanese. Its colours look weathered but it still looks rather grand.

The interior of the station is quite simple but functional. The people there were quick to inform Flo and I to go straight to Platform 7 in order to catch the Circular Train.

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There, we were pointed in the direction of the ticket booth although it took Flo and I a little while to understand what the food hawker was trying to tell us as he kept signalling for us to go back from where we came. On hindsight, I’m touched by all the random strangers around the station who helped prevent Flo and I from getting lost in translation without any ulterior motive.

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We paid for our tickets and hopped onto our train. Note that there are trains going West and trains going East. Of course, it makes no difference if like us, you plan to just sit the whole round. The 1.10pm train turned out to be an Easterly bound one so we hopped on and managed to squeeze ourselves into a spot along the row of seats.

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This was just before our train departed. I promise you that just 3 minutes before we set off, the carriages suddenly filled up and people packed themselves in like sardines. We could really feel true, blue Burmese love as different odours filled the air and chatter between strangers arose.

There were individuals who shimmied up through whatever space was left between people’s legs, begging for money, and soon after, food vendors started parading through the cabins.

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A basket on their heads, and a stool in one hand. When an order came through, they’d plonk their stool down, serve their goods, collect their kyets, and get back up to see to other passengers on the train. Fresh pineapples, asian pears, boiled eggs and water… All the things you’ll need for a train ride.

At quite a few stations, there’d be food hawkers sitting right on the platform awaiting hungry travellers. This lady below was pretty awesome. As our train pulled in, she lifted a piece of cloth off her lap and with one swift movement, made all the flies disperse off the food.

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As we got further away from the city, we saw the more rural parts of Yangon where there were padi fields galore. Concrete buildings turned into wooden shacks with metal roofs, and spotting pigs, goats and cows became the norm. Then as the train circled closer back towards Yangon Central Railway Station, the scenery morphed once more into a noisier one with the honking of cars, the rise of taller buildings, and the grey of tarmac.

Three hours was quite a ride. Towards the halfway point, the train emptied out and that helped cool the cabins down. I don’t know if I’d go back to ride on the Circular Train again. I think once is enough. For the experience at least.

It felt good to stretch our legs after sitting for most of the journey. Flo and I made our way to this small cafe called Cafe Genius where we thought we’d have a drink.

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Almost all of their menu encompassed drinks and while the cafe wasn’t quite what we imagined, it was still nice being able to relax a while before deciding on what to do next.

We knew that dinner would be at 19th Street aka Chinatown, but we also had a couple hours to spare before then. Somehow, by a stroke of luck, we chanced upon an instagram photo that told of a Massage place along the same street.

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It looked clean and bright, so Flo and I decided that a foot massage would be a very good idea before dinner. Part way towards Chinatown though, the skies opened up and rain came bucketing down. We managed to duck straight into a little hotpot eatery where I had an order of green tea before we braved the elements and carried on. Thankfully, by that time, the rain began to let up and when we reached 19th Street, the rain had more or less stopped.

So the massage place we went to is called Spa by Willy’s. I know, Willy wouldn’t be my first choice in naming a spa, especially in Asia. It’s right along the stretch where all the BBQ stalls are so finding it wasn’t too difficult.

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For 1 hour, it was heaven! I think you can tell by the photo Flo took of me above. We opted for a foot massage but they start off by giving a back, shoulder and head massage too. They also provide tea, a small carton of milk and a little packet of snack for each person. It was definitely a good idea to go for the massage.

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Back outside, we faced the people running the BBQ joints yelling at us to eat at their restaurant and that their skewers were best. I read that they’re all pretty much the same in standard and pricing so it doesn’t matter too much where you go. Following the food blogger Mark Weins though, Flo and I went to Shwe Mingalar.

We chose a a few skewers of vegetables, prawns, squid, and meats ones, although what annoyed us was that we didn’t have a clue how much they were charging us for each skewer. We were only told after the food was cooked and delivered to our table.

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For this, drinks (a can of Tiger and a bottle of water), and a plate of rice, it amounted to 22800 Kyats which isn’t cheap. Then again, it was Chinatown and Chinese people anywhere the world around are awesome at making a quick buck off of you, especially if you’re a tourist. I can say that because I’m Chinese. And it’s true! 

Food-wise, it was actually really good. All the items were seasoned nicely and grilled to perfection. Only there was a chicken wing that Flo ordered that tasted really off. Like really really off. Thankfully, it was just the one. Also, that spicy sauce they served the skewers with, it’s similar to the one the Thais serve with their grilled meats, that was just off the charts addictive! Flo pretty much mixed the sauce into his rice and lapped it all up!

So yeah, that’s pretty much our short weekend trip to Yangon in a nutshell. Next morning, we were up fairly early to grab a bite before heading to the airport. Along the way, I saw this piece of graffiti on one of their street walls.

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“BART!” “BART WAS NOT HERE”

I appreciate the irony.

And at the airport, there was a painting of the Karaweik Palace that I enjoyed. It’s not quite as awesome on photograph than in real life, but I thought to share it anyway just because.

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I’m not sure when Flo and I will return back to Yangon. We’d love to visit Mandalay for sure one day. I’m quite certain though, that in the coming years, Yangon will undergo a whole lot of change as it opens up to the rest of the world. And perhaps, when we visit again, we might not be able to recognise it so much.

Still, I hope that the Burmese will continue to hold on to the warmth and hospitality that seems so much ingrained in their culture; that they will continue to don on their longyi and thummy as they go about their daily lives; that they will continue to wear flip-flops because they’re so practical for their unpredictable weather; that they will continue to apply thanaka onto their faces to protect themselves from sunburn – (by the way, did you know that thanaka is one of the main source of ingredients used in SKII?), that they will hold on to their identity for as long as they can before the ideals of the rest of the world dilutes its very essence.

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Just this weekend past, Flo and I flew away to Yangon. He had actually booked us tickets as well as accommodation few weeks ago which was really sweet of him especially because that period was rough-going for me. Initially, I wanted to be kept in the dark as to where we were off to, and to be surprised once we reached the place. Subsequently, I changed my mind because me being me, I wanted to research on possible good food places to visit and once we were at the airport, I’d find out anyway.

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We met at the airport around 3.45pm for our 5.10pm flight. I was totally confused by the time difference between Singapore and Yangon the whole first evening we were there. I think we arrived around 7pm Yangon time i.e. 8.30pm SG time, just that I kept thinking that Yangon was 2.5hours behind us and not 1.5hours.

Anyway, it took us a while to get on a taxi and reach our hotel. Flo chose this beautiful teak wood hotel, Kandawgyi Palace Hotel, that is situated right by the Kandawgyi Lake. Since it was quite late, we decided to save the exploring for the next day and have dinner at the Japanese restaurant located within the hotel compound – Ō Ta-Ke.

It looked exactly like a Japanese Inn and was so quaint. It felt as though we were entering someone’s home. It was rather on the quiet side when we went, and we had a private room all to ourselves. Flo had a Bento Set while I went for the Hotate Teppanyaki.

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I know right?! Who goes to Yangon and eat Japanese food? But I had to share this meal with your eyes because the scallops were amazing! Quite possibly the best I’ve had so far in my life!

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Unlike some places in Singapore that go heavy-handed with the sauces and oil, the chef displayed a deft hand and good restraint over the seasoning of the vegetables and seafood. The scallops were large and sweet without the presence of excessive sauces – just a touch of aged miso on top and it was heaven. The vegetables as well, retained a perfect crunch without being raw. Perhaps it was hunger that made the food taste exceptional. Whatever the case, the flavours are well and truly etched in my mind, and I have Flo to thank for for being so generous with me. Love you!

First thing Saturday morning once we’d had our tummies filled with breakfast, Flo and I made our way down to the boardwalk along Kandawgyi Lake.

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There was a little monastery to the side of the Karaweik Palace, a barge inspired by the Pyigyimon Royal Barge. It was constructed to face the Shwedagon Pagoda so that visitors can not only take in the view of Shwedagon, but also bask in the midst of Myanmar culture while revelling amongst nature.

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The barge looked so regal sat along the lake, even with the overcast skies above. The lake itself was a jade green in colour from the algae floating near the surface, but that further highlighted the golds and greens of the palace.

As the sun peaked out and the temperature rose, Flo and I decided to turn back. As we walked carefully over the uneven, unstable planks on the boardwalk, these two little friends ran by us with a bunch of balloons. This photo I took invokes in me a sense of carefreeness that I felt watching them.

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They were probably no older than 8 but running around without an adult in sight. In most countries these days, it’s uncommon for children to wander far away from home by themselves. Here in Yangon however, it still feels normal. It still feels safe. It’s still part of the old world charm where people don’t need to have their doors locked every night before bed, where neighbours don’t need to knock before entering, where children can spend their day barefoot catching insects and getting muddy.

Anyway, after Flo and I rested some more after our walk, we went off for lunch. I’d pinned down Rangoon Tea House which has had lots of rave reviews about their modern spin on local Burmese food.

We chose the Pennywort Salad,

wp-image-1036576100Pennywort leaves chopped, hand tossed with peanuts, shallots and tomatoes

Tea Leaf Salad,

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House pickled tea leaves, diced tomatoes and crispy nuts served on a bed of shredded cabbage

And Catfish and Daggertooth Mohinga (Small).
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Two fish-based broth made with lemongrass, coriander, fish sauce, fresh chickpeas

I think both our favourites turned out to be the salads. Mine the Tea Leaf Salad and Flo’s the Pennywort. Both had interesting textural contrasts from the crunch of the nuts/beans which were much appreciated. The fresh, tangy acidity of the lime juice helped cut the bitterness of the greens while highlighting the sweetness of the shallots and tomatoes.

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We weren’t so blown away by the Mohinga. The broth was too light in flavour and I was expected a bit more punch from its colour. I did have our hotel’s rendition of mohinga on our last morning in Yangon and that was more to my taste – a more robust broth with a kick of fiery spice and a gentle savoury-sweetness from the fish.

We rounded off our lunch with Gate Sone aka Black Tea for me, and Shan Fusion Espresso for my man.

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Then we set off towards Bogyoke Aung San Market.

Along the way, we walked through Maha Bandula Park where their Independence Monument stands. One thing Flo and I both noticed about being in Yangon is that the Burmese are very warm, hospital people and quite often, they would engage in conversation with us just so that they can practice their English.

Here, we were also spoken to by a local who shared with us a bit about himself, and with his knowledge on Buddhism, got us to find out what our animal is. Apparently, each day is represented by an animal. So based on the day you were born, you find your animal. It’s a little like the zodiac. Turn out, Flo’s an elephant and I’m a tiger. ROAR! 

Just across from the park is the Sule Pagoda. It’s a little blurry unfortunately but the other picture I took wasn’t quite as pretty.

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It seems to me as though every road in the city ends up leading to the Sule Pagoda. We didn’t visit this pagoda, but it was a beauty. Surrounding the inner core of the pagoda were lots of little booths, some had fortune tellers in them while others sold flowers for prayers.

We carried on some more and finally found ourselves at the Market.

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Only, we got ourselves distracted by the new mall directly opposite called Junction City. At first, we went inside to find a comfortable place to pee, but the City Spirit in us unleashed itself at the blast of air-conditioning in our faces as we entered. It felt so damn good. We convinced ourselves that we’ve had more than enough of markets in other Southeast Asian countries so we happily ran amok along the supermarket aisles looking at what interesting things they had, before settling ourselves down to a cup of KOI tea.

Around 4.30pm, we taxied our way towards the Shwedagon Pagoda which is further north of the main city. There are quite a lot of stairs leading towards the main pagoda so it might be a little tiring for older folk. Tiring or not, it’s definitely worth a visit.

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The pagoda may not look that big but some of the monks were up there checking on the building, perhaps doing some maintenance work or something. It took a while before we spotted them simply because they looked so tiny, like a pinhead! That’s how big the pagoda is!

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As the sun started to make its way down, Flo and I stood in awe at the way the gold of the pagodas glowed. The skies were a perfect blue with a smattering of pure white clouds floating across. It was breath-taking!

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And remember the little story I mentioned above about your birthday DAY animal? So what happens is, around the pagoda are all the days in the week and this one below is for the ‘elephant’ people who are born on a Wednesday. What they do is they take water and clean the statue of Buddha and/or the gold elephant below, and in return, they are blessed.

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As evening began to move towards night, Flo and I left towards Strand Road Night Market. We were expecting something more along the lines of our pasar malams where small stalls are set up selling anything and everything. We were a little disappointed upon arriving because not only had it started to pour, but it was a simple line of stalls all selling food that we were unsure of.

We scampered off quickly to another place on my ‘To Eat’ list – 999 Shan Noodle Shop and arrived at 6.50pm. We only realised as we pored over their menu that they closed at 7pm. How very blessed we were!

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We shared a bowl of Shan Noodle Soup in chicken broth. It doesn’t look very impressive but trust me, a mouthful of those noodles and impressed you will be! They were ever-so-slightly chewy but not in an undercooked way. They tasted of rice noodles with a little something something extra. Definitely something I’d hanker after on a cold, rainy day.

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Their stir-fried watergress (I’m guessing it’s water spinach aka kang kong while Flo says they meant watercress) was lovely, fresh and crunchy. Not heavily seasoned at all which meant two thumbs up from me.

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The last dish we shared was a bowl of their specialty wantons. I wasn’t so blown away by these although I have the admit that their wantons were generously filled with meat. They were also generous with the wantons. Flo loved these though. I think they seasoned the meat with a little turmeric which I’m not so accustomed to.

The lovely people at 999 Shan Noodle Shop very sweetly gave us a complimentary plate of local dessert. It was mont lone yay paw (I had to look that up) which is like a glutinous rice ball stuffed with a mix of jaggery and grated coconut. It was tasty, a little sticky and very chewy (think mochi but more chewy) albeit a bit too sweet for me. Still, it was a simple dinner, but an immensely enjoyable one that I’m sure both Flo and I will reminiscent about whenever we think about Yangon.

I didn’t think I’d write this much about our first full day in Yangon so I’ll continue on to our second day in my next post. Sit tight!!

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