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Archive for the ‘Things I Love’ Category

After getting raw and exposed with my love life before and with Flo, what better way to wrap up the ‘raw’ series with a raw, vegan dessert I just tackled?!

Brownies that aren’t baked?! Cheesecake without cream cheese?! Cake without eggs?! 

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I’ve never quite believed in desserts without eggs and butter but as more and more people shift towards having a healthier lifestyle, some have chosen to take the vegetarian route, some the vegan route, some the raw AND vegan route, and some the paleo route. Whatever the case, the world of desserts and baking has opened up to include all kinds of different lifestyle choices, and as such, the sweet life, too, has evolved.

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I shared not long ago my venture into the world of healthier baking using alternative flours such as rye, spelt, coconut and cornmeal; dabbling with coconut sugar and maple syrup; substituting avocados for butter. I’ve enjoyed my little kitchen experiments where different ingredients can yield different textures and create different flavours in my bakes. Even more, it feels good to be consuming small indulgences knowing that they’re that extra bit better for my health!

So rather than strike off another kind of dessert just because it doesn’t involve traditional baking, I decided to have a go and see just how a raw, vegan cheesecake would turn out. Obviously, I had to first make it in order to try it, especially since vegan desserts are still quite a rarity here in Singapore. I know that there are some places that make them but what better than to challenge myself and try it first-hand?

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Vanilla Raw Vegan Cheesecake (Makes 1 4.5″ round)

For the Base:
90g Dates
50g Walnuts
15g Desiccated Coconut
Pinch Salt

  1. Blend everything until mixture comes together and press into base of a 4.5″ round tin.

For the Filling:
120g Cashews, soaked in boiling water for at least 1 hour, and drained
25g Coconut Cream
10g Lime Juice
40g Maple Syrup (I used Grade B)
Vanilla Extract
30g Coconut Oil

  1. Blend everything together apart from the coconut oil.
  2. Drizzle in coconut oil and blend for no more than 15seconds.
  3. Pour mixture on top of prepared base and freeze for 3-4 hours to set.
  4. Allow to thaw in fridge for about 3 hours before serving.

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How did it fare?

I can assure you that this was exquisite with its creamy filling that carried the flavours of the seasons – the zest of Spring from the lime juice; the waft of Summer from the tropical coconut; the comfort of vanilla that whispers Autumn; and the subtle sweet woodiness of maple that spoke of Winter. The base, had some crunch from the walnuts, some chewiness from the dates, and that created contrasting textures to the filling.

But.

I can also say honestly that this was no cheesecake as we know cheesecake to be. It was creamy for sure, but not in that rich, luxuriant way that wraps around you in a hug. It didn’t have that buttery, addictive base (that I sometimes eat cheesecake specially for), nor the density of smooth velvety filling that we know to be comfort food.

But. 

I will say that this raw, vegan cheesecake did delight my palate on its own terms. Perhaps if named differently, non-vegans would have less expectations of it being like the traditional cheesecake, and more like a dessert that has a personality of its own. I would call this Cashew Cream D’lite or something cheesy like that. Can’t decide if that pun’s intended… =P

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I think the key here is knowing that with alternative desserts and baked goods, they are unlikely to ever replicate the original to a tee. They are however, undoubtedly tasty if we put aside the fact that they will be different in texture and flavour which doesn’t necessarily mean unpleasant.

Also, I have to admit that it’s amazing how those who have chosen to follow an alternative diet have managed to become so creative in quelling their need for sweet! This raw, vegan cheesecake did do the job and once again, I’ll have to admit that while it deviates quite a lot from the baked cream cheese cheesecake cheesecake we all love, it left me feeling pretty good about what I fed my body. Again, a different good. Not a ‘so naughty it’s good‘ good. More a ‘I feel like an angel‘ good.

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So my last post one life before Flo was incredibly wordy so I’m making sure to put add lots of pictures into this one to make up for it! Prepare your eyes for a whole lot of Nat and Flo aka #rennetan so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Picking up where I left off, I actually met Flo when I was in a weird kind of ‘ship’. I had been hanging out with this one guy for quite a few months and somehow couldn’t put my finger on whether we were together or not. Sorry I’m the kind of girl who needs things ‘official’ and said to my face rather than to assume things. Also, I think one big problem we had was that we weren’t communicating in the way that we should have which made it difficult for me to be direct and ask him about our status. In the end, I kind of gave up on things although this later proved to be a mess because apparently, we were in some kind of relationship according to him I later found out. I did share all this with Flo from the beginning and when it was time for me to make a decision, I chose Flo – Why? You’ll find out further down. 🙂

So since I didn’t think the other guy and I were in anything exclusive, I decided to explore a few dating apps, Tinder being one of them. So yes, I swiped my way right into meeting Flo. I know that some of you might cringe at the thought of using social apps to meet new people but the truth is, when you’re working from home, it’s not easy to expand your social circle.

In a country like Singapore, friends don’t usually introduce you to potential partners, or maybe my friends just don’t have good men to introduce to me. I look at it in a practical sense that we’re in an age of technology and there’s no shame in utilising it. And as I’ve learned, it doesn’t matter whether you’re on a dating app or meeting guys in real life – there are creeps, assholes and good men wherever and however you meet them. You just need to be discerning and sieve out the good from the bad.

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It was about a week after we’d ‘liked’ each other and started talking a little on chat before Flo invited me to watch a movie after work on Friday. We watched ‘Bad Moms’. We met right before the film started so we didn’t really have much time to talk and it got me thinking that this date probably wasn’t going to turn out great since I half-assumed that with nothing to go by, we might part right after the movie ended.

We didn’t.

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We found ourselves going to The Assembly Ground at Level 1 of The Cathay building and sharing about our lives with each other until the place closed. We then proceeded to walk over to Cathay Cineleisure’s Xin Wang Hong Kong Cafe that closed at 2am. And there, we sat sharing even more about everything under the sun while Flo had his late late dinner, before we were told that they were preparing to close.

And so, after being kicked out of an eatery a second time, we walked some more back to where we came from, before finally booking an Uber each to return to our respective homes.

Shortly after parting, Flo texted me to say he wanted to see me again.

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So we did.

Next day, I met him in the afternoon only to end up whiling away a good 1.5-2 hours in his office lounge while he oversaw his team’s moving from one office to another, or something like that. I was smart enough to bring a book along so that helped keep me occupied. We only managed to hang around a short time after because he had a birthday party to attend soon after. But I believe that we shared our first kiss that day.

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Then things started to move a lot more quickly. Within a month, we planned to go on a short trip to Phuket together. Initially, I wondered if it was all too fast too soon – I mean, 4 days with someone you’ve just got to know could mean having a blast of a time, or turn out to be a total fail. Thank GOD it was the former. We were total bums most of the time, hauling ourselves over to the more happening Patong area only to save our stomachs from devouring themselves.

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We indulged in awesome seafood and spicy Thai tom yum soups; we lazed under the sun; we explored some of the nooks around Patong, but mostly, we took it very easy. It was while we were here that we both realised that we had developed very deep feelings for each other.

Within a couple of months, Flo met my parents and when my brother popped down for a couple weeks towards the end of 2016, we all spent a weekend together in Malacca.

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This was when Flo got stuck with my loving, but occasional dysfunctional family (I say that will all the affection in the world). He survived and decided he could put up with our little idiosyncrasies. Phew!

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Shortly after, his beautiful sister Naima came to visit and I got the meet her.

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In January of this year, I moved in to live with Flo. It was quite a big transition for me having never lived out of my family home here in Singapore, and even when I was in the UK, I was living with my grandparents. I shared about this move in one of my blog posts beginning 2017. The main reason for it was because I was craving independence and we thought it might be better for me living away from familiar surroundings in order to also cut myself off from the habits and routine of my eating disorder. Of course, it has by no means been a cure and I’m still working towards the goal of attaining and maintaining a healthy weight as well as a good relationship with food, but I’m getting there with the continual support of Flo, my family and Dr. A.

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Living together with Flo has been quite a journey. We’ve continued travelling together to neighbouring countries for short getaways from our little island. We try to meet with my parents for dinner every one to two weeks although I also see them more often during the week.

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Summer of this year, we both went to Europe. First to Hamburg for me to meet his family…

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As well as his friends…

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I was very touched by how warm they all were to me and how much they tried to speak to me in English, which has since spurred me on to get on with some basic German classes.

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It was also amazing for me to experience the gorgeous sights of Hamburg and surprisingly delicious fare, all made even better by the perfect weather!

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We then went on to London where we spent time with my maternal family, all of whom Flo finally got to meet.

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We spent time with my parents as well with short day trips out of London and came home nearly every evening to Grandma’s soul-hugging home-cooked meals.

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Our summer visits certainly brought us closer together in the sense that I managed to see more of Flo through his interactions with his nearest and dearest, and vice versa. I enjoyed it very much and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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It was quite funny because the other day, I remembered thinking that we’ve been living together for a larger proportion of the time that we’ve been a couple. Admittedly, a lot of things in our relationship happened quite quickly but we’ve been blessed that they have worked out well for us. And in the time that I’ve been living with Flo, I’ve learned so much!

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I’ve learned how to iron much better, and I try to keep our home as clean and tidy as possible. I know that I’m a far better baker than a cleaner but I try my best with the vacuuming and the mopping and the scrubbing.

I also try to cook more often during the week. Simple things and when I’m feeling brave, I try new recipes. Recent ones for Flo include Pork Tenderloin with Mashed Potatoes

Steak and Wedges…

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Sliced Potatoes

Of course, our relationship, like every other, is not perfect. We suffer from the occasional blip which both of us hate going through, but I choose to see them as learning curves where we learn more about ourselves as individuals, and as a couple, so that we can continue to grow together.

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What I love about our relationship is that I feel able to communicate with Flo more often than not. I feel able to share with him my thoughts, hopes and dreams openly. In areas where I used to feel vulnerable, he has slowly enabled me to trust and not be afraid. I enjoy that we can cuddle up to each other and say nothing at all, but at the same time, we can also talk about anything at all.

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With Flo, I feel that I have become a better, stronger woman. I am becoming more confident in myself, and Flo never fails to tell me how attractive he thinks I am. I have learned to become less of a fiery little chilli padi, to be more patient, and to listen more. I have learned not to give up so easily, to work harder at our relationship, and to love with a bigger heart. It is not always easy, but with Flo, I want to make it work. So far, we have been making it work. And I pray that we will continue to grow in love for years and years to come!

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So this is our little story as of right now. It’s always easy to share about the wonderful snippets that go on within our relationship but I promise you that we go through periods where we want to tear each other’s hair out. At the end of the day, we are two different individuals, who have grown up in different environments and raised on different values and beliefs. But we have similar goals in life and for sure, we share some of the same values that point us towards a similar direction. And we have love. And so, we learn to accommodate our differences, and to give and take.

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In the time I’ve been with Flo, I’ve come to believe that aside from love, there has to be communication and trust in a relationship. 100%! If there’s no trust, or if you trust even only 99% of the time, then there is no grounds for a relationship because you have to trust your partner wholeheartedly. Communication is also a must. And it is when you feel least like communicating, that’s when you HAVE to.

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Flo is my best friend, my confidante, my travel mate, my dance partner, my plus one, my shoulder to cry on, my pillar of strength. And while I know that there is no perfect man, I believe that he is quite perfect for me. I don’t know where our story will continue, but I hope that it will continue a long long while more. Perhaps. Maybe. Even. For the rest of our lives!

 

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Since I had a recent request to blog about how I met Flo, I decided that a little booze before hand should lighten the mood and put us all at ease for an epic long post about our relationship which should turn up as my next blog post. I’ll probably break it up into two posts lest it become a novel – I’m thinking Before I met Flo and How I met Flo and beyond, because I think that some events in my life before Flo helped mould me into someone able to appreciate Flo and the amazing man that he is.

But first, a lug of Red Wine perhaps? 

In a batch of Coconut Flour Brownies?

With Cherries on top?… with some folded in?

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My first attempt at these brownies was a fail in that they came out dry, too dry. I wasn’t happy with them and after Flo’s confirmation that they were bordering inedible, I had to make them again, only this time with my trusty Coconut Flour Brownies recipe with a few light tweaks.

My initial thought was to experiment using a totally different recipe to see how it would turn out. I realise now that if you have a consistently faultless recipe to begin with, then you should stick to it and jazz it up from time to time. It’s amazing how a splash of red wine and some cherries can amp a good recipe up a notch or two.

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Coconut Flour Cherry Red Wine Brownies (8×8″ Square)

75g Butter, melted and cooled
50g Cocoa Powder
6 Eggs
150g Coconut Sugar
60g Coconut Milk
pinch Salt
60g Coconut Flour
125g Pitted Cherries, halved
30g Red Wine

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line an 8×8″ square tin.
  2. Combine butter/oil with cocoa powder and mix well.
  3. Stir in eggs, coconut sugar, milk and red wine. Mix well.
  4. Add flour and salt until just incorporated.
  5. Fold in 3/4 of the cherries and pour batter into prepared tin. Then press remaining cherries lightly on top, into the batter.
  6. Bake for 20-25min until just set.

Did I enjoy these Red Wine Cherry Brownies? Heck yeah I did. They were not only moist with a whispers of bitter chocolate and mellow coconut, they contained the deep, dark, fruity flavours leftover from the wine. The cherries complemented the beautiful berry tones and also added pockets of fudge from its naturally sweet juice infusing into the batter.

I’m not much of a wine drinker. Actually, I’m not much of an alcohol drinker at all. I’ve never liked the taste of it. Moreover, I get the Asian Blush whenever I take a couple of sips (yes, sips!) and this massive vein in the middle of my forehead appears if I continue to drink up even after my face starts flushing. So unattractive!

But in baked goods, I love how the alcohol evaporates to leave more flavour complexity behind while highlighting existing ones. One of my favourites to use is rum. It’s perfect with chocolate, and citrus, and coconut. If you’re baking with oranges or using vanilla, add in some Grand Marnier, or anything with berries like with this brownie, some wine will level it right up. For starters though, this brownie recipe is sure to put you onto the path of more boozy bakes! Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

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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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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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Still playing with herbs in my kitchen… I went back to a good ol’ favourite –  Reliable Rosemary, from my last bake with Sassy Sage. I decided to pair Rosemary up with some toasty Macadamias and a nice dose of Chocolate Chips to liven things up.

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Instead of brown sugar, I decided to go with coconut sugar. You know, unrefined sugar and all. Interestingly, the use of coconut sugar with the rosemary created this wonderful spicy flowery gingery flavour that you either love or hate. I love the warmth of ginger and thankfully, so do a lot of people here in Asia. Ginger is known to be warming to the body and great in fighting colds and flus. It also makes a comforting dessert here where older aunties boil old ginger in water with some rock sugar. Sometimes they’ll add other awesome stuff like white fungus, or gingko, or the more extravagant glutinous rice dumplings filled with crushed peanut, sesame, red bean or yam paste, and it all goes down a treat!

But I digress. These blondies while looking a lot more like brownies due to the brown hue imbued by the coconut sugar, tasted almost nostalgic with the gingery tones and slightly sticky, chewy texture which reminded me so much of our Chinese version of nougat.

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Rosemary Macadamia Spelt Flour Blondies (9×9″ Square)

150g Butter
2 Sprigs Rosemary
1 Egg
2 Egg Yolks
200g Brown Sugar
Vanilla Extract
125g Spelt Flour
1/2tsp Baking Powder
120g Macadamias
50g Dark Chocolate Chips

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line a 9×9″ square baking tin.
  2. Brown butter with rosemary sprigs. Let cool before removing rosemary.
  3. Whisk egg, yolks, brown sugar and vanilla into the brown butter mixture.
  4. Add spelt flour and baking powder to combine.
  5. Fold in 3/4 of chopped macadamia and dark chocolate chips.
  6. Sprinkle remaining nuts and chocolate on top. Scatter more chopped rosemary on top if you like.
  7. Bake 22-25min. Allow to cool before slicing into bars.

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I wonder if perhaps next time, with the memory of red dates and walnuts in mind, whether I can somehow make East and West meet in this blondie with the addition of rosemary and coconut sugar once more. Hmm.. That would certainly be an interesting baking project to undertake. I’ll start my trial tests and weasel out the errors, and fingers crossed, I’ll be able to share a nice recipe with you that will have the essence of our Asian Red Date and Walnut Candy in Blondie form!

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