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Day THREE!

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One of the most important errands I had to run while in Hong Kong was to see to the safe posting of Flo’s drone. After a few crashes, he decided it was time to send it to get cleaned up and fixed because its camera wasn’t moving the way it should and it had a few bumps and bruises on its armour. The Drone Clinic happens to be in Hong Kong so we thought it’d be better and more cost-effective to send it off from here.

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Just a short 5min walk away from my hotel was the post office. At 10.30am, it was quiet. So I managed to get the parcel registered and posted within a matter of minutes. Then it was back to the hotel to pack my last few bits and bobs before checking out.

I made sure to give myself ample time to get to Hotel Intercontinental where my lunch venue was. According to GoogleMaps, it was about a 10min walk away from GD Hotel. Just as well I left room for any hiccups because at 11.30am, I went down to check out and as soon as it was my turn, the staff who was supposed to attend to me decided that he colleague needed her help checking out the other guest. They got me waiting a good 10min with a curt apology at Minute 8, before taking 20 seconds to check me out. Nice.

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Took in the last of Hong Kong’s busy streets as I walked towards Salisbury Road.

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And enjoying the little scenes that just screamed ‘Hong Kong!’ – like trees growing with their roots tumbling down from concrete walls.

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And just by the harbour stood Hotel Intercontinental. It was a slightly muggy day and as with the two days before, visibility across the harbour wasn’t great.

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Lunch was at this Two-Michelin Starred Cantonese Restaurant, Yan Toh Heen. I wanted to try Hong Kong’s Three-Michelin Starred Lung King Heen but it was fully booked. No matter, that can be saved for another time with Flo!

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They had thoughtfully laid out a table for me facing the water, with their jade place settings arranged in perfect order. The ambiance of the restaurant calmed me with Chinese Instrumental music quietly playing in the background, and the scenic view stretched out before me.

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I was first presented with a small dish of Sesame Candied Walnuts to pick on. These were crazy addictive with their caramel coating shattering with each bite and giving way to the toasty, nuttiness of crunchy walnut and inflections of caramelised vanilla from the white sesame. I had to restrain myself from devouring the lot before my food arrived.

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Of course, I had to order the Yan Toh Heen Superior Dumplings. I was advised to eat them from Right to Left beginning with the Steamed King Crab Leg Dumpling with Green Vegetables. This was delicate to the tastebuds and the spinach encased within created some textural contrast.

The Steamed Lobster and Bird’s Nest Dumpling with Gold Leaf was so sweet and so fresh. The thin slice of asparagus that was placed on it was such a minimal touch, yet, what a difference it made by providing that refreshing crunch.

The third was the Steamed Scallop with Black Truffle and Vegetable Dumpling. Once again, chef controlled his seasoning well, allowing the sweetness of the scallop to shine while the hint of earthy truffle was just enough to balance off the crustacean flavour without overpowering it.

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Yan Toh Heen also served not one, not two, but SIX types of condiments to go with the food. They had three different types of chilli sauce ranging from mild to super spicy. That orangey-yellow one on the left looks innocent but let me tell you, it was fiery all right! But also damn shiok (inexplicably awesome)! The other three – soy sauce, plum sauce, and vinegar – I didn’t touch.

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I also ordered the Steamed Black Truffle, Pumpkin, Assorted Mushrooms and Vegetable Dumplings. This usually comes in a serving of three but the staff kindly agreed to serve (and charge) me two dumplings instead or it might have been too much.

I loved the natural sweetness from the pumpkin and the turnips were cooked to retain a slight crunch. Again, the truffle didn’t threaten to overwhelm the lightness of the flavours in these dumplings.

The little pouches of happiness were all excellently made with fabulously thin, resilient skins that gave way to luxuriant, generous fillings. Overall, they were all seasoned ever so lightly, allowing the freshness and quality of the ingredients to speak for themselves. In fact, I found that there was little need for the sauces.

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I had a bowl of Double-boiled Chinese Cabbage with Matsutake and Black Mushrooms Soup to finish. Sweet. Robust. Rich. All from the cabbage and mushrooms which is amazing the intensity of flavour you can get from vegetables alone.

I was thinking about my lunch the day before after this meal and although both Jade Dragon and Yan Toh Heen have been awarded 2-Michelin Stars, they can’t and shouldn’t be compared.

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Yan Toh Heen evokes this idea of refinement and subtlety both in its interior and in its food. It is beyond a doubt elegant and classy, but it does not display its grandness in a boisterous manner. Their food pleases the palate without the need for heavy seasoning, and it is in this way that I appreciated how Chef Lau allowed the ingredients to shine.

Jade Dragon on the other hand, is less reserved. From the moment you step in, you see their high ceilings and lush carpets, and you know that this is a place for the well-heeled. Similarly, their food is packed with more punch and flair.

Both restaurants must surely have their own group of followers. Perhaps, just perhaps, Yan Toh Heen may be more for the older, more sophisticated crowd, while Jade Dragon may attract more of the younger up-and-comers. I enjoyed both simply because they were so different even as they offered the same cuisine. They both displayed skill and creativity in their food, yet each had they own distinctive style.

By the way, this meal set me back HKD558.80.

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I left Hong Kong with a very happy belly that’s for sure. The ride home was not as bumpy – still a little bumpy but just about bearable. While on the plane, I reflected on my entire trip as short as it may have been. I guess I’m not as timid as I thought I was, and not as fearful of travelling around on my own in a country not too familiar to me. I realise I can have fun being by myself for days at a time even though some things are definitely more fun with a side kick.

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I’m glad that Flo encouraged me to take that step to travel alone for my first time. It made me learn that I am stronger, smarter and more determined that I thought myself to be. I say ‘more determined’ because by hook or by crook, I made sure I got to all my dining destinations regardless of circumstances, and I also refused to travel by taxi, sticking to the MTR and my good ol’ trusty feet. I will admit that after lunch at Yan Toh Heen, I had to take a cab to Kowloon Station where I then transferred onto the Airport Express, but that’s because time was tight and I had a plane to catch.

I came home with quite a bit of money leftover, but more than that, I came back feeling enriched and fulfilled. I was made happier still when Flo surprised me just as I left the Arrivals Hall! And off we went for a delicious dinner of SASHIMI!!!!!!

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Wednesday 19th Jul 2017 Noon.

I met Flo for my ‘surprise’ lunch that he had made a reservation for. I had a little inkling as to where we were going to go but wasn’t entirely certain. We met at City Hall station and headed towards Carlton Hotel. There I guessed we were going for Japanese. Then I narrowed it down to Shinji. I was right!!!!

The restaurant only opens at 12pm on the dot so since we were a couple minutes early, we I took some wefies of me and my beau.

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Shinji is actually an extension of Chef Shinji Kanesaka’s 1-Michelin Star Edo-style sushi restaurant in Tokyo. Only omakase menus are offered to ensure that the freshest, seasonal produce are served at their highest quality. Of course, I expected great things, especially since Flo had visited before and always gushed about how great the food at Shinji is.

We both opted for the smallest Setsugetsuka Sushi Course Menu – Hana, which consisted of 9 pieces of Nigiri Sushi, one dish of Maki, Soup and a Dessert. I was a little apprehensive about how much rice I’d have to consume, but overall, I was excited.

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We were seated around a 17-seat counter where we could see the sushi chefs at work as they deftly sliced through lovely fillets of raw fish, moulded sushi rice into small mounds, and carefully wiped their benches and our serving plates after each course. It was a clinical operation that flowed so artfully.

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The prelude to our Hana Set began with Seared Maguro. This was light on the palate and the subtle smokiness from the sear highlighted the cleanness of the tuna.

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Moving on to the Nigiris, we were first served Hamachi (Yellowtail). I’ve always heard, but never tried, that proper nigiri should be eaten with warm rice. It was the perfect mouthful – the grains of sushi rice were lightly packed yet still held well together, warm and pleasing to the tongue and topped with a beautiful slice of the delicate-flavoured fish.

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The Ika Nigiri was the next to grace our palate. Never have I ever had a slice of squid so soft and so creamy before. It was a delightful surprise and surely not one that I will easily find elsewhere at this level. It was served with a hint of wasabi and a single drop of freshly squeezed lime juice that brought the entire piece of nigiri to life.

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So Flo actually knows that I’m generally not so much a tuna fan than a salmon fan. When Chef asked if we had any dislikes, we both said we didn’t. Thank God for that! Our lunch ended up comprising of a fair number of tuna courses and I’m glad I didn’t dismiss the tuna so quickly because I ended up developing quite a fondness for it.

I’ve only bothered to have Maguro tuna which is the leanest cut. Hence, it was my first time eating Chutoro, which is semi-fatty tuna. It was definitely a step up from Maguro in terms of its soft, luxe texture. But then…

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Ōtoro made its appearance and lordy Lord! This was even more luxurious than the Chutoro since it comes from the fatty part of the tuna. See how handsomely marbled this slice of ōtoro is? This practically melted in my mouth and disappeared far too quickly, as with all wonderful things.

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Our trio of tuna made way for the Aji (Horse Mackerel) Nigiri which was topped with a chiffonade of aromatic Shiso. The tiniest, pea sized dollop of herbaceousness served to accentuate the sweet freshness of the fish

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I quite enjoyed this Flying Fish with Tobiko Gunkan Maki. I loved the tiny bursts of the tobiko with inflections of shiso against the still-crisp seaweed, and soft, yielding sliced fish that gave for a balanced textural contrast in this mouthful of yum.

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The Maguro-Zuke, shoyu-marinated tuna, was nicely executed – not too salty and perfectly complemented by the seasoned rice beneath.

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I love me my prawns and this Tiger Prawn Nigiri was deliciously sweet, thoughtfully cut into two pieces because I’m a lady and couldn’t possibly fit the entire prawn into my mouth. #thatswhatshesaid

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Now, this. THIS turned out to be my favourite of the lot! This Negitoro was sublime! As soon as the last of it slid down my throat, I turned to Flo and said “I think I’ve just had an epiphany!”. It was just so amazingly creamy with its richness cut by the presence of very finely chopped Asatsuki Chives.

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Our final piece of Nigiri was the Anago (Sea Eel). Unlike the unagi which is often served slathered in sweet teriyaki sauce, this was a lot more toned down with a swift brush of sweet soy glaze. It was topped with sudachi zest which gave a slightly bitter tang against the salty-sweet of the eel.

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After the excitement and dynamism of the nigiri courses, the tune of our meal mellowed down to present to us the humble Maguro Tuna Maki, with sweet, crunchy, Pickled Radish, and the most custardy, lightly sweetened piece of Tamago I have ever had.

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To wash everything down, we were served a bowl of this clear broth made from boiling tuna bones. It was light, yet rich in flavour, and boasted an incredibly fluffy, delicate, almost falling-apart-in-your-mouth tuna ball.

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Our meal ended with a light, refreshing dessert of Orange Jelly with Kiwi and Grapes, topped with a Raspberry Red Wine Sauce. In all its simplicity, I appreciated how it came to be the perfect two-bite dessert to see us off. As with our entire lunch, it was unpretentious yet bold in highlighting the quality of ingredients used. Like a ballet performance, this sweet was like a graceful bow signalling that the finale had come to a close.

Needless to say, this was one of the best Japanese meals I have had. My tastebuds have been thoroughly spoilt and it’s certainly going to be no easy feat to surpass the level at which the food at Shinji was prepared and served. Sushi – so seemingly simple to make, but so great a skill is required in order to compose it into a singular, perfect, mouthful. The impeccable service and constant replacements of our cups of hot green tea ensured that our meal from beginning to end went without a hitch.

Thank you Flo, for yet another wonderful culinary experience with you. And because it was with you, lunch was that extra bit more delicious and memorable!

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I’ve never been much of a citrus kind of girl. It’s not that I dislike how they taste, I’ve just never found myself drawn towards oranges and lemons and limes even though I have to admit that they are awesome at adding a zing to baked goods as well as salad dressings and avocados! So for some unknown reason, I started thinking about grapefruit.

I’ve probably only eaten grapefruit less than 5 times in my life – I kid you not! And it’s not a citrus fruit that crosses my mind whenever I think of playing with new ingredients for my bakes. The thought of its bitter, sour flavour profile never made me think that it could match easily with much else.

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The other week, I was just itching to bake something new and as I mentioned, grapefruit simply wouldn’t leave my mind. So I went out and got me some because then it meant I would really have to find a way to utilise them. I do silly things like that sometimes.

I cut open the grapefruit which yielded its gorgeous sunset red colour to me and while I braced myself to taste its acridness, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that it was sweet, with bitter undertones and a touch of tartness – nowhere near the full-on in-your-face bitter-sour I always remembered and thought it to be.

I began to rummage around my pantry to find that I still had half a bag of ground hazelnuts that Flo really wanted for the time he had a mad craving for German Hazelnut Cake. Hmm… Sweet, nutty hazelnuts with the acidic, floral scent of grapefruit? That could work.

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And work it did! It was an unusual combination that tasted so right together. The ground hazelnuts created a slightly denser crumb and I liked that the grapefruit mellowed the sweetness level of the cake. The soaking syrup I used heightened the flavour of the fruit while adding moistness to the loaf. If you prefer, you can add more icing sugar to the grapefruit juice in order to make a thicker icing instead.

Grapefruit Hazelnut Loaf Cakes (Yields 2 small loaves)

150g Butter
120g Sugar
150g Plain Flour
100g Ground Hazelnuts
1 tsp Baking Powder
3 Eggs, whisked together lightly
1/2 Grapefruit, zested and juiced

Soaking Syrup
170g Icing Sugar
1/2 Grapefruit, juiced

  1. Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Alternate addition of wet and dry ingredients ending with dry (i.e. flour, ground hazelnuts and baking powder vs eggs and juice of 1/2 grapefruit)
  3. Pour batter into baking tins and bake 35-40min until golden brown or skewer inserted comes out clean.

For soaking syrup:

  1. Whisk icing sugar with juice of 1/2 a grapefruit until mixture is smooth.
  2. Allow the cakes to cool before pouring icing on top. If you prefer your icing thicker, add more sugar and if you prefer a thinner glaze, use more juice.

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Now while you dig into these delicious cakes…

If you have been following my blog for some time now, you’ll know that I sometimes share updates about my journey towards attaining a healthy relationship with food and with myself with the help of my family, Flo and my psychologist. Right now, I’m kind of experiencing a bit of a plateau, not feeling much like progressing upwards but also trying hard not to fall back.

I guess recent events regarding loss in the family, and then scampering around trying to cater to the whims of older relatives have been stressing me out. That, as well as the instability of work. Sometimes, I don’t seem able to recognise stress so well and only when I begin to crave my ED, do I realise that perhaps I’ve been holding back on acknowledging my emotions a lot more than I thought. It’s certainly not the best way of stress management but it helps me to feel safe and anchored. And like an addiction, falling back onto ED makes me hanker after it more and more.

I was talking to Dr A about how ED is very much an anchor for me and because it’s accessible 24/7, it makes it difficult to look to something or someone else to take its place. Then it kind of hit me the other evening that perhaps it isn’t about finding a substitute for it. Rather, it’s about me learning to trust and depend on myself, and believing that I am strong enough to carry me through life’s highs and lows, and that I should be my own anchor. It doesn’t meant relying on myself 100% all day every day, it just means having faith in myself to get over periods of fear, stress and uncertainty instead of using a crutch.  

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One of the things I most look forward to at the end of most evenings is sitting down with Flo, enjoying our dinner, and chatting about our day as well as random other things after. I love how we can exchange ideas, or can share about a difficult day, or help the other see things that may have happened from a different perspective.

The last week has been tough some days. Especially with regards to family. I guess to a large extent, I have had a sheltered life. And I’ve always preferred to think that the people who I share bloodlines with are people who have compassion, who love deeply, who care strongly, not just for others, but especially for family. Our family.

Unfortunately, ideals do not always reflect reality. In the last year, my eyes have opened to see a lot of things that have left me disappointed. But I suppose, this is my human nature in patching up the holes in stories that I only hear parts of. As a result, what I see as shortcomings, may simply be ones I created. It doesn’t make it easier to stop thinking about why some people act the way they do, but I realise that perhaps they have justifications for why they choose to do certain things, or not do them, without having to share them with me.

As Flo advised me one of these evenings, I shouldn’t assume their thoughts and guess the answers to the reasons why. It’s true. I also recognise now that even if I cannot control what they do, I can control what I do. And really, that’s what matters the most.

Sharing a bit about how Flo helped calm me and alleviate my heavy sadness brought about by recent events reminds me so much of the peace and tranquility I get whenever I sip on a cup of hot Matcha green tea.

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And so, I decided to share a recipe I baked this period that involves Matcha. In order to balance off the familiar earthy bitterness of Matcha, I threw in some mashed sweet potatoes. Keeping in line with the Japanese theme, I used Japanese Sweet Potatoes (aka Satsuma-Imo aka Purple-skin yellow-flesh) which imparted a slightly chestnut-y flavour. For crunch, my choice of nut was Macadamia because I figured that its creaminess would go well with the herbal fragrance of the tea.

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One of the boons of this recipe is that all you really need to do is throw all your ingredients, apart from the nuts, into the blender and give it a good whizz. Badabing-badaboom. Done. 

Sweet Potato Matcha Blondies (8×8″ Square)

360g Sweet Potatoes, Cooked and Mashed
2 Eggs
75g Butter (or Coconut oil if you want to make this paleo)
Vanilla Extract
60g Honey
7g Matcha Powder
28g Coconut Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
80g Chopped Macadamia

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line an 8×8″ baking tin. 
  2. Blend everything together apart from the macadamias. 
  3. Fold in chopped macadamias.
  4. Bake for 18-20min.

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These blondies were mildly sweet from both the honey and the sweet potatoes which suited my palate. You’ll probably get a slightly different flavour profile if you use the orange US sweet potatoes, and I reckon that you’ll also yield a moister blondie. Not keen on sweet potatoes? You can also try using kabocha or a winter squash of your choice… In fact, I did just bake up a batch of Kabocha Blondies. I’ll share the recipe with you soon I promise!

Not-so-secret-fact of the day: I LOVE KABOCHA! I could eat it every day – I actually used to!, but now living with the boyfriend, I’ve adapted to becoming more varied in what I eat. Still, kabocha is love!! Eat kabocha and drink matcha-chacha all day every day and I’ll be pleased as pie. This story can be saved for another day. Right now, it’s time for sweet potatoes and matcha!

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We managed another road trip with my parents on Thursday but this time, we weren’t as ambitious as before. It was a straightforward 40-ish minute drive to Cliveden, an estate now owned by the National Trust.

Cliveden actually means “valley among cliffs” and has been home to dukes, countesses and a Prince of Wales! Amongst others, of course. Its grounds are huge and its gardens are gorgeous. The day we went was another amazingly beautiful day, perfect for all the families who came with their little ones for a picnic and to run around.

The vastness of Cliveden made me wonder just how its past inhabitants used to get around. By horse? Carriage? Walking? And what if they needed to find each other? 

There was also an area where The Dollhouse was situated. They had these little tree stumps together with a big stump that doubled as chairs and a table. Dad got quite excited being able to sit on one of the stumps.

We continued further in to a large fountain also known as The Fountain of Love where the shell supports three females who are being seen to by Cupid. Yes, I actually try to do some kind of research on these things especially for those who are interested.

I’m sure there were a lot more to Cliveden that we missed out on simply because it was so big and we didn’t have enough time to explore every nook and cranny.

From this shell fountain, we walked up the long driveway leading to the mansion that now operates as a 5-star hotel.

We didn’t enter the hotel but we did walk round its terrace which gave us a bird’s eye view of the parterre. At 4 acres, this is possibly one of Europe’s largest formal gardens.

How cool is that?!

After reaching the parterre, we decided to try and loop back to the car as tummies were beginning to growl. We kind of overshot one of the turns but in doing so, we managed to get a nice shot of Flo and I amongst the tall trees with not a person in sight (behind us). We were all wondering actually, why the crowds had thinned out.

Mum, I think, was getting tired, so was a little annoyed that we had to walk the extra way to get onto the right path back to the car where lunch was waiting for us.

Olive Bread with Serrano Ham. 

Hopping back into the car, we continued on in search for what is allegedly the oldest freehouse in England. Mum and Dad were brought there by a good friend of theirs before and it wasn’t far off from Cliveden. Only… it’s located in a rather remote area so finding its exact location required some trial and error, before resorting to some old-fashioned help, before getting confirmation from Googlemaps which decided to come through for us only after we’d already asked for directions.

Rickety, uneven floors and a low ceiling greeted us at their entrance.

And the interior did feel quite dated with all the random paraphernalia seemingly gathered over the years, decades, centuries?

The place did look old, but whether or not its as old as the over 900 years that they claim to be, I’m not so sure.

Age aside, it still looked sturdy as a rock and while the boys had their pints in hand to cool them down in the afternoon sun, Mum and I settled for coffee.

We decided to have our drinks out in the warm sunshine even though the inside looked very cosy and intimate.

We managed to make it home much earlier this time around which was nice. Our day felt quite relaxed and it was great being able to spend more time out in the fresh air. Being home early also meant that dinner was served hot and fresh out of their pots and pans.

Grandma made my favourite Spinach Curry!! And Mum’s favourite Braised Chicken with Lily Bulbs and Shitake Mushrooms.

I know, I keep saying that Grandma made my favourite this and favourite that. That’s because they’re all my favourite and just as the flavour of Mum’s cooking is unique to herself, so is Grandma’s. Replicating the taste of her cooking would be a near impossible feat!

Also, on many previous trips, owing to my ED, I refrained from eating Grandma’s food what with the oil and salt and blah blah blah. I would buy my own food and cook them to my liking. So I think that being back this time around and allowing myself to enjoy grandma’s food also made her so much the happier. And there were times after dinner where I’d feel as though I’d overindulged but at the end of the day, it was a real treat being able to eat her familiar cooking so f*ck ED because it was worth it.

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Our first morning in London – Northwood to be exact, the town where my family resides when we’re there. It was a soggy day, quite typical of the UK, and it was a bit of a bummer because I felt like Hamburg had totally impressed me with its weather and while I was hoping that London would do the same, it felt like a lame effort on her part.

I guess London being London, it just had to keep to its ‘usual’ default, predictable self. And that, I suppose, can be quite endearing.

After a nice breakfast at home, Flo and I went for a walk around the area. I just showed him our small little high street, and Waitrose – because we love supermarkets!! And just around the corner, was my old school where I did my A level’s.

Northwood College. 

The sign’s been changed and looks rather stiff and boring now. I mean, it didn’t look that much fancier before but it used to state the headmistress’s name as well and somehow it looked prettier.

Flo and I had a rough idea how we were going to plan our days in London so since we didn’t have much time there, we decided to take the family out for lunch first thing. Grandma and Grandpa chose to go for dim sum and I have to admit, I’ve had dim sum at their ‘usual’ before and wasn’t too impressed. We went there anyway, and whaddya know? Looks like they’ve upped their game. The dim sums were more refined and the only dish that disappointed us badly was the pork and century egg congee. That was just mehhh…

I kind of over-ordered not realising that grandma was adding on quite a few noodle dishes but all of us managed to polish everything off in the end. I helped quite a bit too although I did feel quite bad after. And even then, I hankered after a bit of dessert but decided to wait till later…

Because the fam-bam decided we would go visit Windsor Castle while grandma and grandpa went shopping at the Chinese Supermarket.

We used to visit Windsor every year when my brother and I were little. And every year we’d take a photo on their wooden benches by the castle. We” as in my family, and/or just my brother and I, and/or my parents and my brother, and/or my parents and me. You get the idea.

This time, we managed to get one with all of us including Flo. This lovely lady, she sounded Welsh, who was with her young family, gamely offered to help us take a photo. And she did a great job of it too!

Then after a bit of wandering along the Windsor high street, Flo and I decided to have some ice-cream. Not just any ice-cream. A softee! 

Again, this is something from my childhood that I haven’t had in years!

And with a Flake no less!

I remember Kor and I running up to the Mr. Softee van to buy a cone each whenever we were there in summer.

This time though, there wasn’t a van. Just a quaint little shop by Windsor Castle. A quaint little shop that sold these softees for £2.50 each!! Well, 50p extra for the Flake.

That pretty much summed up our Monday. We went home in time for grandma’s dinner. Mind you, we had dinner at home every day while we were in London because grandma kept enticing me by cooking all the food that she knows are my favourites. Also, she was very flattered that Flo enjoyed her cooking and that spurred her on to make sure she cooked at her highest level each evening. That’s what Chinese families are like – we show our love through food. The more we feed you, the more we love you. 

Tuesday morning, we left home at 10am, and went all old-school with the map to go to Stratford-upon Avon.

It took us a while because we decided to go through Oxford. Bad idea. Oxford had really heavy traffic getting back onto the motorway and just before we reached Stratford, Flo and I were dying for a pee.

We stopped by this super cute little town just before Marlborough, and found a pub that generously allowed us to use their restrooms. I loved how they had their walls embellished with these words/phrases of affirmation.

Yes. “Shine bright like a diamond”. We all know that song, but how often do we remember to shine like a diamond?

Also, this town seemed very into crafts and even the little barricades(?) by the roadside were adorned with knitted ‘hats’.

From the top…

Had your 5 a day?

When we finally reached Stratford, it was right about lunch time. So we quickly found a cafe where we could sit al fresco and order some hot drinks to go along with our homemade sandwiches.

Or breadrolls.

I had the poppyseed one.

With cream cheese and stuffed with salad greens and smoked salmon. Yummers!

Mum and Dad decided they wanted to continue with their sit-down so Flo and I took a walk around the street where Shakespeare used to trod on.

Right at the head of the street they have a statue of a Jester.

And to the side sits Shakespeare’s humble (or not-so-humble) abode.

A picture of me taking a picture of Mum and Dad.

And of course, a wefie!

We were contemplating going to the lake round the corner and were actually walking towards it when Mum informed us that if we wanted to visit Bath or Avebury, that it might be smarter to leave sooner rather than later. So we turned back towards the carpark where we set off towards Avebury since we ascertained that it’d be nicer to walk around the area than to visit a single site. Also, Flo had seen Roman baths in Italy before so we might as well go somewhere new.

And off we went.

Again, the journey took quite a while from Stratford and by the time we got there, it was already about 4pm.

We didn’t manage to spend too much time walking around the huge stones. The area actually consists of three stone circles, including the largest stone circle in Europe. They’re much like the ones set in Stonehenge only the nice thing about here is that you can still go up to the rocks and touch them.

Till today, when summer solstice arrives, so does a crowd of campers who might participate in meditation activities together or to simply enjoy the soundscape concert.

Perhaps some might be there for the sheep. Mum was a little reluctant to trod on the grass because of sheep poop pretty much everywhere. It’s not too bad as long as you watch where you’re stepping, or if you’re like Flo, you might not care at all and go chasing after the sheep.

My boyfriend, the shepherd. 

We were off not long after we arrived. I think we were a bit too ambitious this time taking a road trip to two places that were not very close to each other. Stratford was a bit of a drive away and we would have probably done better spending the day there rather than try to stop over at Avebury. It felt as though we’d spent more time sitting in the car than enjoying the fresh cool air of England and as we’re all not getting younger, you can imagine a lot of backache and leg cramp action going on the longer we sat in the car.

Oh. I also tried this Vanilla Coke Zero. It ended up being the only one I had because I couldn’t find it any place else.

I thought I’d struck gold when I picked up another bottle at our Northwood Newsagents’, only for Flo to point out that it was Vanilla Coke, no Zero. Boo! This was an absolute gem of a drink. It taste incredibly creamy and luscious. ’tis a pity it’s not available as widely as it should be!

Also, at the very place I found my Vanilla Coke Zero, I picked up a packet of this popcorn.

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I wasn’t expecting much from it but it was so good! It really tasted like peanut butter even though they really just used peanut flour and ground almonds to flavour the popcorn. And a bit of sugar.

It blew my mind! On the way back I bought a packet of their Fiery Worcester Sauce & Sun-dried Tomato flavour but that was a bit of a let down. I’ll stick to the Peanut & Almond one.

Grandma cooked my favourites for dinner! I know it doesn’t look like much but Chinese home-cooking is a lot healthier and tastier than the salty, greasy stuff often found at Chinese takeaways.

Braised Chicken with Shitake Mushrooms and Chestnuts. And Glass Noodles stir-fried with Sweet Cabbage and Dried Shrimp. Aaaaand my favourite, comforting bowl of Lotus Root Soup on the side, unpictured, brewed with lots of patience, and love!

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… And almond cake.

But before I get into the nitty gritties of my latest kitchen experiment, I had the privilege of baking Kim’s birthday cake albeit a little early since I’ll be away on her actual birthday.

She requested an Apple Walnut Cake with Peanut Butter Cream but as she’s pregnant and currently having to watch her sugar intake, I made this with 60-40 Coconut Sugar to Caster Sugar ratio, and refrained from adding sugar into the cream since peanut butter already has some of its own. I did drizzle more plain, melted peanut butter on top since peanut butter is love and who doesn’t want more of it?!

Kim’s special in that she was the one who recommended Dr. A to me. She’s a real inspiration to me and is someone I love and admire. Kim and her husband are both outstanding people not just in their accomplishments, but also in character. I know that both of them have gone through challenges in their lives, individually and as a couple, but God is faithful and they are now being blessed with a soon-to-be-born daughter whom I cannot wait to meet!

Now, this is actually a scheduled post and right now, I’m probably biting into a Currywurst and walking around Planten um Blomen in Hamburg with Flo. I’ll definitely be writing about my virgin trip to Hamburg as well as my 3484239th trip to London (first trip there with Flo though!) when I get back. In the meantime, I wanted to share this Date and Almond Cake recipe with you.

The Muslims are about to begin their fasting month and it is often the case that they break fast by eating dates. I have never fasted for religious purposes before, and I won’t even try to compare my ED days of extensive restriction to what my Muslim friends go through annually. I respect their steadfast dedication to their beliefs so what better than to demonstrate that than by baking a cake using dates!

Also… I just wanted to bake something different.

The beauty of this cake is that you get crunch from the almond nibs, a bit of chew from the dates, a hint of spice from the cinnamon, all smacked in the middle and on top of fluffy, vanilla cake!

Date and Almond Cake (Yields 1 8″ Round)

150g Finely Chopped Dates (I find it easier to cut them using a pair of scissors)
100g Almond Nibs
90g Brown Sugar
5g Cinnamon Powder

250g Butter
180g Caster Sugar
Vanilla Extract
3 Eggs
290g Plain Flour
7.5g Baking Powder
125g Milk

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line an 8″ round baking tin. 
  2. For the filling and the topping, mix dates, almond nibs, brown sugar and cinnamon powder together and set aside. 
  3. Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Then add in vanilla and eggs one at a time. 
  4. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately, starting and ending with the dry mixture. 
  5. Pour half the batter into prepared tin, then sprinkle half the date and almond mixture on top. Pour the second half of the batter on top to cover, before topping with the rest of date and almond mixture. Gently press the mixture down into the cake batter so that they ‘stick’. 
  6. Bake for 75min. If the top starts to brown too much, cover with foil for the last 15min. 
  7. Allow to cool before removing from tin. 

This cake is perfect for sharing amongst friends and family. Have it as it is, or if you’re feeling indulgent, drizzle some salted caramel sauce or honey on top. This cake has so many different textures and flavours that work incredibly well with each other. Definitely stick to the dates but if almonds aren’t your thing, switch to walnuts or pecan nuts. Not into cinnamon? Try ginger or cardamom!

Chances are, this cake isn’t going to last you through to when I return from my little Eurotrip. I’ll be back though so don’t you forget me!

And a quick update:

I saw Dr. A one more time last Monday because I wanted to get a little ‘booster shot’ before leaving for Europe. After a couple good weeks, ED is trying to hit on me again which is expected since that’s what bullies do. I’m anxious about how meals will be while I’m away but apparently, our body reacts to fear and excitement in exactly the same way. The only difference is how we perceive the situation. In other words, I may actually be excited about the different foods I’ll get to try especially in Hamburg – tasting things that Flo grew up with. Will I fall in love with them? We’ll just have to wait and see…

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