Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Share Tea


I've always liked drinking bubble tea.

And I have certainly been drinking lots of it over the last 2 weeks.

For one, I've been on leave and hence have got time to roam around as I like. Plus, I found a great bubble tea store not too far away from my home.

The most popular bubble tea shops in Singapore seem to be Koi and Gong Cha, judging from the queues for the outlets of these 2 shops around town. However, I've come to realised that I very much prefer Share Tea.

The teas at Share tea are pretty good, though in general not as fragrant as that of some of the bubble tea stores in Taiwan. The star however, are the mini-pearls. Unlike the big pearls that most bubble tea stores in Singapore serve up, Share Tea offers mini-pearls as an option and you can drink these using a standard straw.

The service at Share Tea is usually also nice and friendly, and like many of the other bubble tea stores, they are happy to "custom-make" your drink for you - you specify the sugar level you like, how much ice you want and if you want less or more pearls. The pearls and mini pearls are offered as add-ons to any drink free of charge, which is a nice touch as well.

The outlet I've been frequenting is the one at Nex mall. They have a number of outlets around the island as well.

My favourites are Oolong Milk Tea (with or without glass jelly) and Pudding Milk Tea. The Kiwi with Ice Jelly Fruit Tea is also nice. If you don't like your drinks sweet like me, remember to ask for no sugar or 30% sugar.

L'etoile

This is a cafe tucked away at a corner of Owen Road, with Japanese-French influences.

I loved the cafe's set-up and decoration. The decoration is simple, yet quaint. Level 2 has a slightly different vibe, but I don't have pictures of Level 2.

The food though is passable, nothing great. We had breakfast there and found the food so-so. The prices though, have increased from what a few popular blogs seem to indicate. I think it's because they've revamped the menu and prices recently.

It's not a bad place to spend a long afternoon with some girl friends. If you run out of new places to visit, this is a place you can consider for an afternoon tea.




L'etoile
Add: 160 Owen Road
Tel: +65 6298 2872
Website: http://letoile.com.sg/

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mushrooms on Toast


This is a really simple, yet delicious snack. I made this for breakfast yesterday.

Ingredients
- A couple of big handfuls of mushrooms, sliced
(Swiss brown mushrooms or portobello mushrooms, or a mixture of different mushrooms would be good. I used mini portobello mushrooms)
- Some dried herbs (parsley, thyme and rosemary would work)
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- A few cherry tomatoes, halved
- Extra virgin olive oil
- A few slices of good bread (I used a sourdough bread)

What I did
- Saute the mushrooms with extra virgin olive oil
- Add in the cherry tomatoes when the mushrooms start to wilt
- Season with dried herbs, sea salt and pepper
- Whilst frying the mushrooms, toast the bread
- Pile the mushrooms and tomatoes (including any liquid) on top of the toast and serve immediately

You can also add chopped garlic, cheese and fresh herbs if you like.. but I like to keep things simple. The flavours from the mushrooms and the liquid from the mushrooms soak up the crusty bread nicely.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Papaya Smoothie


Sometimes, when I end up with a papaya I do not like - either because it's not sweet enough or I've cut it up too soon and it taste too "raw", I'd use the papaya to make a papaya smoothie.

Papaya smoothie is probably the easiest smoothie to make.

It's basically just papaya with ice, milk and a bit of honey, if you like. You can jazz it up by adding some lime juice or pineapple juice.

Papayas are rich sources of antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, vitamin C and flavonoids. They are also rich in the B vitamins, folate and pantothenic acid. Papayas are also rich in potassium and magnesium and fiber.

Most people would, when they think of papayas, think of them as a fruit that helps promote digestive health. Indeed, that's my reason for buying and eating papayas. They are supposed with help lactating women as well, so I supposed I'd be eating papayas and drinking papaya smoothies regularly over the next few months as well.

Desserts from Sun with Moon

Very yummy tofu cheesecake

Many of my friends like to visit Sun with Moon at Wheelock Place.

Considering how much I like Japanese food, even I'm surprised I've never been to this place.

Well, I finally made it there for dinner with a group of girlfriends last Wednesday.

To be honest, having heard all about this place, I thought the food was just "so-so". It wasn't bad but it wasn't great.. I had sushi with a salmon cheek soup and my friends ordered teppanyaki. The food was really quite forgettable.

The desserts, however, made the day.

We ordered a tofu cheesecake and a green tea parfait to share.

The tofu cheesecake was very good. It came in a very dainty looking bird's cage which made me think that they had to dress up the cake because it wasn't very good. I was so glad to be wrong. It was really quite good - the texture was very much like that of a piece of good tofu and it was a very light, not-to-sweet piece of cheesecake with a salty biscuit base I really liked. (It reminded me of this recipe from Kitchen M, which I've always wanted to try..)

The green tea parfait was really good as well. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take a photo of it! Well, never mind.. This means I have a very good excuse to visit this place for the green tea parfait again. Next time, I won't share the parfait with anyone.. Hah! (You can find a picture of the parfait from this blog post)

It was delicious, with layers of everything I like. It had starts with some good green tea ice-cream, red bean and chestnut, followed by layers of mochi, green tea jelly, green tea cake and cornflakes right at the bottom.

The desserts left me with an overall positive experience at Sun with Moon. I wouldn't go back for the mains, but I'd definitely be back for the desserts.

If you are thinking of visiting though, be sure to call and make a reservation. We were there on a Wednesday night and they were packed. Hm.. I wonder if everyone else is also there for the desserts..

Sun with Moon Japanese Dining Restaurant & Cafe
Add: 501 Orchard Rd #03-15
Tel: +65 6733 6636

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Off work


I've been off work for more than a week now.

I was very busy at work up to the very last day in the office and left at about 10pm that day..

Since then, I've tried to put work behind me and doing things I enjoy - such as going for a swim in the morning, cooking a light lunch for myself at home and going around the island, eating things I like.

Next week is The Big Week though, so this time of relaxation would be ending soon.

Looking back at my post on "Things to do before September", I definitely have not done all the things I wanted to.. but I've played enough, especially over the last one week.

Savor Rye La Mian Xiao Long Bao

I mentioned a few posts back about having xiao long bao at Kampong Bahru, where Chef Icon can be found.

Actually, the restaurant for xiao long bao and other "mainland Chinese" goodies is just next to Chef Icon.

The restaurant's name is Savor Rye La Mian Xiao Long Bao. I think the owners are Shanghainese from their accent, but I haven't heard them speaking Shanghainese dialect yet. But they are definitely recent immigrants from mainland China, from their accent and the authenticity of the food.

The Husband and I visit this restaurant whenever we miss real "mainland" Chinese food.. not the typical Singapore "Chinese" food.. but those we eat when we were in Beijing and Shanghai.

It is a humble little restaurant with a very extensive menu. As such, not everything is nice but the following dishes we've tried and we think are spot on in terms of flavour and authenticity.

Xiao long bao - almost every table would order at least one of these. Good and cheap (SGD 3.80)

Pan-Fried Bao, or Sheng Jian Bao (生煎包) 
- not the best I've ever had but good enough. I haven't found a fantastic one in Singapore

 Beijing Zha Jiang Mian (北京炸酱面) - quite authentic and good. 
I would prefer more vegetables and less meat though

Hot and Sour Soup (酸辣汤) - this is really good. The best I've had so far in Singapore. 
This doesn't come with the wantons. We like to order the Shanghainese wanton separately and add the wanton to the soup. Trust me, you'd want to try it this way as well.. It makes the soup and wanton both better!

Dry Fried Four Seasons Beans (干煸四季豆) 
- this dish is very authentic, it tastes like those we often have in Beijing

Garlic Pork slices (蒜泥白肉) - this is a cold dish. 
I don't like pork but my family liked this a lot..

This place is a hidden gem.. I'm sure there are other nice dishes as well, but the above are some tried and tested ones. There have been misses too, for sure.. like their Dan Dan noodles.. but overall, this is a really nice little restaurant to visit.. Plus you can pop by next door to buy a Chocolate Trovana cake after your meal too!

Note: Photos of this post are taken over a few trips, hence the difference in lighting and look (some are taken with my phone..)

Savor Rye La Mian Xiao Long Bao Restaurant
Add: 3 Kampong Bahru Road
Tel: +65 6223 5038


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tiong Bahru Bakery and Yong Siak Street

Tiong Bahru is one of the oldest housing estate. The Tiong Bahru wet market and hawker centre, is one of my favourite market and hawker centre. There are lots of good food available there.

This sleepy area is increasingly becoming a place where specialty cafes, restaurants and shops can be found.

Yesterday, I met up with D for lunch at Tiong Bahru Bakery (56 Eng Hoon Street).

D and I were both surprised at how busy the bakery was on a weekday afternoon. The cafe was almost full and there were lots of people coming in to take away the pastries and cakes.

We ordered a tuna focaccia and a Kouign Aman to share. I found the focaccia so-so but the Kouign Aman was as good as ever. They also served pretty good coffees and tea as well. D enjoyed her cappuccino and I liked my Gryphon tea. I had the "Pearl of Orient", which as a green tea with a hint of rose.





After lunch, we walked around the Tiong Bahru area and D brought me to Yong Siak Street. This was where a lot of the specialty cafes and stores first opened up in Tiong Bahru.

I especially liked the specialty bookstore Books Actually (9 Yong Siak Street). Here, you can find books by local writers, vintage books (Hardy boys hardcover series) and lots of interesting vintage knickknacks.

Books Actually - a very interesting bookstore

Lots of interesting vintage stuff at Books Actually. 
Everything is available for sale.. some of these are stuff my grandmother and my mum still keep!

A notebook-cum-Singlish dictionary (Note: Singlish = Singapore English)

Apart from Books Actually, there are also other interesting shops along Yong Siak Street.

Such as...
- Strangelets (7 Yong Siak Street), with lots of interesting animal shaped decorations/ furniture
- Aussie-Style cafe 40 Hands (78 Yong Siak Street)
- Open Door Policy (19 Yong Siak Street), popular restaurant that opens late into the night

Nearby are other interesting shops/ cafes as such Drips Bakery Cafe (82 Tiong Poh Road) and Flea & Trees (68 Seng Poh Lane).

The Tiong Bahru area is a nice place to wander around on a lazy weekday afternoon. You'd wish you have a few stomachs though, to try all the good food around the area.

Zermatt and the Matterhorn

[Dated post about trip to Switzerland in May]


It was a rather long, though lovely train ride from Montreaux to Zermatt. 
One nice way to travel to Zermatt would be to take the Glacier Express from St Moritz. 
It'd definitely be a route I'm keen to take next time!

View of the Matterhorn from our room's balcony

The village of Zermatt lies at the southern end of the Matter Valley, which is in the southern part of Switzerland.

The village is almost completely surrounded by the high mountains and the most famous peak is the Matterhorn, at 4,478 m.

A colleague of mine highly recommended that we visited Zermatt. It's an old-fashion looking village that is charming in spite of its popularity with skiers and tourists. The village is a combustion-engine car-free zone, which means that you only see silent, battery driven vehicles around. This makes the air extremely fresh and supposedly helps with a clearer view of the Matterhorn.

 Zermatt is a charming village

You see electric vehicles around.. and they are really quite quiet

There's a Matterhorn museum in the middle of the village

We stayed in a very nice guesthouse in Zermatt with a great view of the Matterhorn. Although it was early May when we were there, there were still plenty of snow around and hence there were still many skiers around, doing a last ski before summer arrives.

It was a pity we weren't able to ski this time around. Nevertheless, we took the cable car ride all the way up to the Matterhorn and enjoyed the great views. Hopefully, I'd be able to visit this place again in the future.. and I can ski then!

 We saw this on our way to the cable car...

Before going up the mountains this time, we made sure we had our lunch first.. 
(Unlike at Jungfrajoch, where we were really starving by the time we came down..)
This is a really HUGE calzone!

Travelling up the Matterhorn

The world turns from green...

To white...


Friday, September 14, 2012

Using Japanese Daikon in Oden

I love cooking oden at home.

It's just so easy - simply chop the ingredients required into large pieces and throw them into an oden stock, which is rather simple to make.. Especially if you, like me, cheat with an oden stock mix.

It's even easier if you cook it using a thermal pot. Simply boil everything (except for the fish cakes) together for about 30 mins, then leave in the thermal pot to simmer for half a day. Take it out an hour or two before serving, add the fish cakes and then boil away for another 15 mins, before putting it back into the thermal pot. I usually make enough for 2 days, because I think overnight oden taste much better. The flavour in the stock really seeps into all the ingredients and make everything taste so much richer.

One trick I've learnt that makes homemade oden taste good is to make sure I use only Japanese daikon.

Daikon, or 大根 in Japanese, literally means "large root". Somehow, I think that Japanese daikon (which you can buy from any Japanese supermarket, or some premium supermarkets around town) taste a lot sweeter than those you get from regular supermarkets or markets, which are mainly from either Malaysia or China. Yes, the Japanese daikon cost quite a bit more.. but I do think the taste difference justifies the price. 


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Somen Salad with Mini Portobello Mushrooms


This is a variation of the Udon Salad with Sesame Dressing.

Instead of using udon, I used Japanese somen instead. Somen is a kind of thin, white Japanese noodles made of wheat flour. You can get somen in Japanese or Korean supermarkets. They cook very quickly - about 2 - 3 mins in boiling water, and hence are very convenient if you don't want to spend a long time cooking lunch on a hot day.

The "salad" part of the dish was made up of mixed salad leaves, cherry tomatoes and grapes.  Then, I added some mini portobello mushrooms which I stir fried with some olive oil and black pepper and salt.

Instead of adding sesame sauce, I used wafu (和風) dressing instead.

"Wafu dressing" literally means "Japanese-style dressing". It is a vinaigrette and soy sauce based salad dressing, which you can make easily at home.. You whisk some oil, rice vinger, soy sauce and sugar to taste to get the base of the dressing. Then, you can add yuzu sauce or grated ginger or roasted sesame seeds etc to make give the dressing an extra kick. You can also add some sesame oil to make it a chukafu (中華風) dressing, ie Chinese-style dressing (although it's still "Japanese" Chinese-style dressing, if that makes sense..).

Of course, wafu dressing is also easily available in most supermarkets in Singapore. Just look for it in the Japanese food section.

I forgot to take pictures of the dressing...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Udon Salad with Sesame Dressing

I wanted something light for lunch after a swim this morning, so I decided to make a salad.

This salad is partly inspired by Dainty Bites, whose "Main Course Salad" series I really like. It is also inspired by a noodle dish I sometimes have for lunch from Wheat Baumkuchen Pasta & Noodle Bar. This noodle bar at One Raffles Place sells noodles tossed with some seafood or meat, sesame sauce, served on a bed of lettuce.


But I usually prefer more vegetables and less noodles, so my homemade version is just that. It's first a salad, then a noodle dish.

Ingredients
Mixed salad leaves, approx 50g
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Fresh apricots, quartered
Hard boiled egg, sliced
Canned tuna (I used about half a can)
Udon noodles, cooked and then chilled in a bowl of ice water (Use as much or as little as you like - the amount determines how many you can feed)
Sesame dressing (homemade or store-bought)
Toasted sesame seeds

What I did
1. Toss the salad leaves with cherry tomatoes and fresh apricots
2. Toss the udon noodles with the sesame salad dressing and toasted sesame seeds
3. Ensemble the salad together by putting the noodles on top of the vegetables, then topping off the dish with slices of hard boiled egg and tuna
4. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on top
5. Mix well before eating, adding more dressing as required as you mix

You can also add in other vegetables as you like - like shredded cucumber, carrots, mushrooms etc

 The base salad

 Chilled udon noodles tossed with sesame dressing

Top off with tuna and hard boiled eggs. 
You can also use prawns, roasted chicken slices or mushrooms. 
Instead of hard boiled eggs, shreds of omelet would be nice too

To make your own sesame dressing, grind 3 tablespoons of roasted sesame seeds and then whisk in about 2 tablespoons of Japanese mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of mirin and 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil. Add soy sauce to taste (about 1 tablespoon should do).

I used store-bought sesame dressing this time around.

Drinking Coconut Water During Pregnancy


It may be an old wive's tale, but I've been told by many that I should try to drink fresh coconut water in the last month of pregnancy.

It is supposedly to help with the baby's complexion - some say for a "clean" and smooth complexion, whilst others say for fairer skin.

Some think that one should drink coconut water daily.. others say it's too cooling and one should drink it only twice a week. Others say one should drink it only during the last month of pregnancy, whilst some think one can start anytime in the last trimester.

Whatever it is, the consensus seems to be that coconut water does help with a baby's complexion.

I don't know how true that is, but I do know that coconut water is rich in nutrients.

Coconut water is one of the richest sources of electrolytes. It is high in chlorides, potassium, and magnesium and has a moderate amount of sugar, sodium and protein.

It is a natural isotonic beverage with similar levels of electrolytes as the human body. It helps in replenishing lost fluids and salts lost by the body naturally, thus can prevent dehydration and exhaustion in a tropical climate.

Coconut water is a natural diuretic and so increases the flow of urine, so it helps prevent urinary tract infections (UTI). It also improves intestinal function and promotes digestive health, thus helping with constipation, sluggish digestion and heartburn, common problems during pregnancy.

Coconut water contains high levels of lauric acid which is what is used by the body to make monolaurin -– a disease fighting fatty acid derivative. Hence, drinking coconut water can help strengthen one's immune system. (For lactating mums, coconut water helps too because the lauric acid will make the breastmilk even more nutritious for the baby)

It is also essentially fat free and has zero cholesterol. Some studies even suggest that it can have some effect on improving "good" cholesterol levels (HDL) in the body.

With all the above benefits, there is no reason why I wouldn't drink more coconut water.

Coconut water is easily available in Singapore. You can order it in most restaurants or food centres all around the island.

I like to drink it at home too and I find it more convenient to buy "cut" ones from the supermarket. These ones have a deep cut on their shell all around the top of the coconut. The coconut is still sealed because the flesh is not cut through. All you have to do before drinking is to use a little sharp knife to cut through the coconut flesh to get to the drink.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Fresh Turkish Apricots

The Husband likes to eat dried Turkish apricots from a gourmet food store from Hong Kong (Bon Bon Bon). Both of us think the dried Turkish apricots selected by the owner of the food store are the best we have eaten.

Recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find fresh Turkish apricots at the supermarket we often go to.


I've previously never eaten fresh apricots.

I find these fresh Turkish ones really quite sweet. They have a velvety skin and the flesh, whilst not extremely juicy, is smooth and sweet. It take like something between a peach (though not as fragrant and sweet) and plum (though not as tart).

Apricots contain Vitamins A, C and lots of fiber. They make great diet food, since they contain large amounts nutrition and are yet very low in calories as compared to other fruits. Dried apricots have an even higher concentration of vitamins and nutrients, but are also slightly higher in carbs.

They taste good eaten on their own and when added to salads. I also think adding them to yogurt and muesli make a great morning or afternoon snack.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Chateau de Chillon

[Dated post about trip to Switzerland in May]

Château de Chillon is located on the shore of Lake Geneva in 3 km from city centre of Montreux.

Montreux is an interesting city. It's the only French city of Switzerland we visited during our trip.. and it's interesting to suddenly start hearing French being spoken and seeing signs in French, after a couple of weeks of reading German signs and trying to decipher some of the announcements in German.

The Chateau is listed as "Switzerland's most visited historic monument" - it really isn't that very impressive a chateau, but it is very old and made up of many buildings connected to one another, so it was a good place to spend the afternoon exploring.

There were exhibits of witch hunting in Europe when we were there so it was not only an interesting afternoon.. but an informative afternoon as well.


Miniature of the Chateau

Various snaps of the castle

View of lake from the chateau (1)

View of lake from the chateau (2)

View of lake from the chateau (3)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kouign Aman from Tiong Bahru Bakery

Usually, once I find something I like from a restaurant, I tend to stick with that "something" for a bit and it usually takes a while before I'd try out something new from the restaurant. It's the same with bakeries, cafes and hawker stalls.

However, it was upon my second visit that I decided to try the Kouign Aman instead of buying a croissant.

Oh, I wanted to order their croissant, which I think is the best I've eaten in Singapore. But my colleague insisted I try this pastry instead.


It was VERY GOOD.

Very sinfully buttery and sweet.. but oh.. so good.

It was crispy, even more crispy than their croissant because of the caramelised sugar coating all over the pastry. It was also more buttery than the croissant and much sweeter.. but it went so well with a cup of hot, strong tea without sugar.

The pastry is crispy and flaky all around the sides and as you bite into the centre, it gets more pillowy and moist. It is also slightly (very slightly) salty and that balances up the sweetness of the pastry.

This pastry is called Kouign Aman (Or Kouign Amann, with a slightly different spelling). I later on learnt that Kouign Amann is not strictly a pastry but a crusty cake. It is made with bread dough containing layers of butter and sugar folded in, similar in fashion to puff pastry albeit with fewer layers. The resulting cake is baked slowly until the butter puffs up the dough and the sugar caramelizes.

This blog details out how this cake is made.. it is really a complicated cake to make.. and the amount of butter and sugar used is slightly disconcerting. This cake is from Brittany and ‘Kouign’ means cake and ‘Amann’ means butter. Well, considering the amount used, it's a very good name for this cake.

Tiong Bahru Bakery by Gontran Cherrier
252 North Bridge Road #B1-11/12
Raffles City Shopping Centre

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chocolate Trovana from Chef Icon


Ever since I read Petunia's post last year on Chef Icon's Trovana Chocolate Cake, I knew I wanted to try this cake.

I went by the shop a few of times and failed to get a cake - they don't open on Sundays, public holidays and they close at 8pm. And they don't always have the cake available if you didn't pre-order.

We went to Kampong Bahru on Saturday evening for some xiao long bao, and I thought of trying my luck with this cake again.

The chef was around that day and when he said, "Hmph.. let me check, we might have a 500g one still in the fridge", I held my breath. After all, it was 730pm on a Saturday, so the possibility of having any cakes in a bakery that was almost empty wasn't high.

But he came out with a cake on his hand and finally, I get to try this elusive chocolate cake. The trovana chocolate cake comes in an assortment of flavours - pure, blueberry, black forest, banana or strawberry. The pure chocolate one was the one available and that was the one we brought home.




The cake looked really basic (As Petunia said, "non-descript appearance") but it was really quite good.

"Pure" is a very good way to name this chocolate cake. The chocolate was smooth and rich yet just subtly so. You really do feel like you are eating a very pure and basic piece of soft chocolate with every bite.

The chef mentioned that he uses a blend of cocoa beans from France and recommended that we eat the cake with a cup of unsweetened red tea to complement the taste of the chocolate. He was right. It went perfectly with the red tea and leaves you wanting more, which is what every good chocolate cake should make you feel.

This bakery uses only all natural ingredients and does not add any preservatives, artificial ingredients, or hydrogenated fats into their products. 


The Chocolate Trovana cake is one of the 2 signature cakes from Chef Icon. The other one is the New York Cheesecake, which I'd love to try next time. Both cakes are available only as whole cakes (500g, 1kg or 2kg).

Chef Icon Nature Bakery
Add: 5 Kampong Bahru Rd
Tel: +65 9337 3900
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