Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Trip to World Farm

I like World Farm.

Each time I visit, I would wish that I have a real garden so I can grow lots and lots of plants and trees.

And each time I visit, I wish the overworked Singaporean sun would hide behind the clouds a little so I won't get so sunburnt.

Today's trip to World Farm is the first for The Husband. When we were almost there, amidst all that greenery at that part of the island, The Husband said, "Woah, what's this place?" I don't think he has ever gone to that part of Singapore before!

World Farm is a really nice nursery.. with plenty of interesting plants, knowledgeable staff and excellent service!

I'd be making another trip there soon to get more plants! (And hopefully, I will have the time to drop by Oh Chin Huat next time.)

Enjoy the pictures - I didn't manage to take that many because after a while, I forgot..

A view of a part of World Farm

Little flowers that seem to smile :)

Brightly coloured portulaca like those I've seen on Sky's blog

A flower that used to grow like a weed near our old house

I really liked these.. though I have no idea what they are.. 
and forgot to buy them altogether!

Lots of interesting greens
I wanted to buy these but the man there said these die really easily..
I will get these ones next time too..
Saw a lemon tree! It'd be so cool to grow one in Singapore..
The last picture before I left.. I didn't know starfruits can be grown here!

White Bee Hoon

Bee Hoon, or rice vermicelli are very thin noodles made from rice. They are usually fried with meat, vegetables and seafood or added to fish soups to make a meal.

A very typical breakfast you can find in most food centres in Singapore consist of fried bee hoon with lots of oyster sauce and dark soy sauce, bean sprouts and very little meat. I used to miss that a lot when I was in Beijing.

Rice vermicelli is also used to make mee siam - one of my all time favourite Singapore dishes. Mee Siam is actually a dish of rice vermicelli in a spicy, sweet and sour light gravy. It is often served with eggs, beansprouts and dried beancurd.

This restaurant we went to at Sembawang today serves a super yummy version of rice vermicelli.

I never knew the name of the restaurant prior to today, actually. I just call it the "White Bee Hoon" shop because of the very large sign that shouts "White Bee Hoon" on top of the restaurant. The rice vermicelli here is fried with lots and lots of seafood (I think) stock, with eggs, vegetables, squid and prawns. They serve it with a rather special chilli that has a strong balachan (shrimp paste) taste. The combination of the wet bee hoon, chilli, homemade barley and lime juice makes for a perfect lunch on a hot day like today.

The bee hoon is really very good.. Even as I'm editing my photos, I feel like I ought to plan another trip there soon!

Sembawang White Bee Hoon
Add: 2 Jalan Tampang, Singapore 758946
(Opposite Sembawang shopping centre)
Closed on Wednesdays

Friday, July 30, 2010

Potatoes are laid by cows

 Photo sourced from here

Eggs are laid by chickens and potatoes are laid by cows.

That's what I thought for a good number of years when I was young. Well, you can't really blame me! Eggs are often eaten with chicken sausages and potatoes with steak. And you have to admit from the relative size of the potatoes to that of a cow - they COULD have been laid by cows.

I suppose I was an imaginative child.

Probably exasperatingly so too. I'm not sure if imaginative is the right word because I just had lots of strange theories of my own.

As I've mentioned before in a previous post, I discovered dust balls under my bed and thought that elves (or dwarves) left them there. When I told my mum that, our helper blushed and went to clean out my room again. I got into a few debate with the helper and kept insisting to her there was no point to clean up because the elves would turn up again and the next day the dust balls would be there again. Often, I would show her the proofs of my argument.

And then there was this neighbour who lived on the ninth floor. Once, I walked past her unit, only to see her dressed in a long black dress, sitting at her sewing machine. I stared at her for a long while and I guess she must have glared at me because I insisted she was a witch after that day. From then on, I refused to walk down to the ninth floor to take the lifts (We lived on the 11th floor and the lifts stopped at 9th and 13th only). My poor grandmother had to climb up to take the lift from the 13th floor everyday to bring me to the kindergarten.

I also insisted that The Witch.. or her other witch friends could fly in through the windows and so insisted that all the windows be shut when my parents aren't around. And at night, every single light in the house has to be switched on so that the witches would not turn up. The Elder sister could do nothing but go along with me. My parents used to work til rather late at night. My mother would comment that when they came home from work, she would always know where our unit was from the carpark by just looking out for the brightest unit in the block.

I had many theories and imaginary friends when I was young... There were quite a few of them and it's hard to go through all my theories and introduce my imaginary friends in this post.

But these theories occupied my time after school and my imaginary friends kept me company during my spare time. I stayed rather far away from my primary school, you see. And there weren't many kids near our place around my age that I was allowed to play with. The Elder Sister was too grown up for me and The Younger Brother was just a baby then.

So my theories kept me occupied and my imaginery friends kept me company until we moved and my new Primary school was just a 10 minutes walk away from my house.

I think one of the nicest things about being a kid is that you can imagine and create a world of your own. Even if it is a bizarre world.

I mean.. I would never be able to come up with a theory as good as "potatoes are laid by cows" now.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Can you live without your phone?

I forgot to bring my mobile phone out today.

I felt weird the whole day.

Plus I had to meet up with some girlfriends for dinner at 730pm.. which I might be late for. How to get in touch with them with no access to yahoo or gmail at work? In the end, I emailed Friend A to get Friend B's number so I could get Friend's C number from Friend B. So complicated.

Gone are the days where we remember our friend's numbers. Nowadays, I only remember my mum's numbers, The Husband's mobile, our home number.. and my grandma's home number.

And I felt insecure the entire day without my mobile phone with me. I wasn't really expecting any call after I've informed one of my girlfriends about being late for the dinner.. But somehow.. something just didn't feel that right all day.

Can I live without my mobile phone? Maybe it is possible that I can get used to not having it.. but I think I'd rather not.

Probably my next phone - I'm in some queue for it

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Madam Grandma's

One of my favourite restaurants in KL is Madam Kwan - they serve good local food and is conveniently located at KLCC, which is a place I would go every trip to KL. Yes, it is just hawker food that attracts me to Madam Kwan and at the kind of quality they have there, I'm happy to go back everytime.

A colleague found out about this and told me that Grandma's in Singapore hired a chef from Madam Kwan and the menu is very similar to that of Madam Kwan.

I just had to rush there over the weekend to try the place out upon hearing that. It's been sometime since I went to KL, and I miss the nasi bojari from Madam Kwan.

Grandma's version is called nasi bukhari (pilaf rice). As usual, I requested to change the rice to coconut rice (nasi lemak).

Like Madam Kwan's nasi bojari, the nasi bukhari consisted of beef rendang (excellent), assam prawns (very good, better than Madam Kwan's) and chicken drumstick (very good.. though Madam Kwan's one was better). The rice though was a huge disappointment - it was way too oily.

Beer at Grandma's is probably one of the main attraction. I do not think that there is another restaurant out there where you can find S$3 Tiger or S$5 Erdinger. I think beer from 7-Eleven would cost more than that!

But for me, I'd go back again for the nasi bukhari and chendol. Perhaps I should also give the Assam Laksa a try. The one at Madam Kwan is pretty good..

What we had - nasi bukhari and stir-fried sweet potato leaves. 
Both were excellent

Chendol with gula melaka
Probably the cheapest beer in town

Add: Orchard Parade Hotel
1 Tanglin Road #01-13
Tel: 6732 3082
Other branches are at United Square and Paragon

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Try blending your fruits instead

I like how fresh juices in Taiwan are made and sold. If you buy a glass of fresh fruit juice in Taiwan, chances are, the fruits are "blended" and not "juiced".

The first time I ordered a glass of fresh fruit juice, I thought the shop made a mistake. Then I realised that most shops in Taiwan would serve the juices that way - blended instead of juiced. (Sadly though, the shops tend to also add some sugar so they are not always that healthy)

I found "blended juices" rather odd at first. But it is an acquired taste. More importantly, blending your fruits, with a bit of ice keeps all that natural fibres in your glass, instead of leaving them in the juicer.

So nowadays, I would also blend my fruits instead. Today, I blended some starfruits. Yummy!

Roughly chop up some starfruits and throw them into the blender.
Add some ice and blitz everything

A glass of blended starfruit juice

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ice Green Tea with Starfruit Juice

Iced Green Tea with Starfruit Juice. 
This photo was taken by a very talented friend of mine

 I like iced drinks that are not too sweet, so this drink is perfect for me. The slightly tart and sour taste of starfruit lends a great flavour and goes extremely well with the more delicate taste of green tea.

To make this drink, mix iced green tea with some fresh starfruit juice. Shake the entire mixture well in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and the drink is done.

I like making myself a glass of iced drink and having it in the cool of the evening at my balcony.. with a great book. It makes me feel like I'm on vacation.. even though I'm still home and in my own balcony.

Alas, now that I started full-time work again, such opportunities are getting very rare. Weekends just rush by too quickly!

Joe's Corner Cafe & Bar

This is a casual restaurant very near my place. I think it is one of the nearest shops to my place.

It is the kind of restaurant that in my dreams I own and work in.

They sell homemade pizzas, wholesome pastas, New Zealand ice-cream and a very interesting collection of beers.

Maybe one day.. I'd really own a restaurant like this.

In the meantime though, this is a nice place to chill out for dinner. It has a homely feel to it and the people there are friendly and pretty efficient. I'd definitely be visiting again to try out the extensive beer collection.

Joe's Corner Cafe & Bar
Add: 25 Simon Road Singapore
Tel: +65 6280 0855

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A good bowl of ramen

I think any good bowl of Japanese ramen has got to be somewhat oily.

The fragrant oil from the broth should coat the springy ramen noodles. The broth should also be slightly on the salty side so that it balances the plainer taste of the egg noodles.
 The vegetables should be fresh and crunchy, never overcooked. The seaweed should be still crispy, with some parts of it soaked full of the broth.

The egg should have a watery yolk, and lightly salted. The noodles and soup should be piping hot... but the egg should be cool, never hot or warm, so that it acts as a coolant to your mouth, after slurping in all that hot noodles and soup.

The best ramen, according to me, is still ichiran ramen from Kyushu. My favourite in Singapore is Miharu, a Sapporo-styled ramen at Gallery Hotel although sadly, the standard there has dropped somewhat since the fat Japanese chef left.

Nantsuttei ramen is pretty decent though. The noodles can be slight better.. the egg ought to be much better - it isn't at all liquid in the centre.. but otherwise, they serve a really decent bowl of ramen!

The black oil you see floating on the thick broth is supposedly black garlic oil.. and it is this that lends a distinct flavour to the ramen at Nantsuttei. In case you are worried though... It isn't very garlicky at all.

The basic ramen with an egg. I have problems with the egg.. it was overcooked!

My friend had the char-siew ramen. It had quite a lot of meat..

Very cute instructions on how to eat the Nantsuttei ramen

Nantsuttei Singapore
Add: Parco Marina Bay
#03-02 Millenia Walk
Tel: (65) 6337 7166

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Otah Making Class - Wrapping up

How to wrap an otah - demo by Alice

The hardest part in otah making is the preparations. The wrapping itself is pretty simple actually.

Firstly, cut a banana leaf into a size slightly bigger than your hand. Then scoop about 2 tablespoon full of the otah mixture onto the banana leaf and make 2 folds along the grains of the leaf to wrap up the mixture.

It is important to put 2 fingers at the ends of the leaf before flattening the otah so that the otah mixture will not leak out of the sides of the leaf.

Then, place all the wrapped otah onto a tray and steam for about 10 minutes, until the otah is cooked. Alternatively, toast the otah in a toaster or an oven for about 5 - 8 minutes, at 150 deg C.

After all that preparations and wrapping, it's eating time!

Alice steamed some Chinese buns and cut up some cucumbers and fresh, crispy lettuce for us to eat with the otah. She allso toasted some french loaves for us to eat with the otah.

After all that cooking, it's time to eat!

Otah with steamed buns and toasted french loaves - both very good!

Alice also gave me this plant to bring home. We added some of these leaves 
into the otah mixture as well.. but I can't remember the name of this plant..

One of A's dog - Max. Max is a really sweet dog and he decided to hang 
around in the kitchen whilst we were there. I almost stepped on him 
when I went to wash my hands at the kitchen sink!

Otah Making Class - Preparations

A is a friend of a friend. According to my friend, she is an excellent cook but there is no one she can hand down her recipes to as her 2 sons are not interested in cooking.

She is also Peranakan and I have a weakness for Peranakan food. So, through my friend's arrangement, a few of us went down to her colonial styled apartment today for an otah making class.

I have to admit - it's really troublesome to make your own otah at home.

All that preparation work makes a 50 cents otah looks like a very good deal instead.

But to me, all that hard work and trouble is worthwhile because homemade otah just has that extra fragrance that the ones you buy outside just can't compare with.

I'm quite sure A would be more than happy to share her recipe, so here it is..

The ingredients are:
- 1.2kg of King Mackeral Fish - scrapped off the skin with a spoon
(You can also mix in some finely sliced dory fish to the mackeral)
- 250ml of fresh coconut milk
- 2 large eggs
- Rempah, which is essentially a chilli paste consisting of:
  - About 20 dried chilli (boiled to soften) -more if you want it spicy
  - 250g of onions/ shallots
  - 8 pcs of candelnuts
  - a small thumb size of fresh turmeric
  - 80g of galangal (or blue ginger)
  - 1 tbsp of shrimp paste
  - 2 tbsp roasted coriander seeds
  - 2 tbsp roasted fresh grated coconut
- Finely sliced kaffir lime leaves (about 4-5 leaves, depending)
- Finely sliced turmeric leaves (about 2 leaves)
- Cooking oil
- Cornstarch
- Sugar and salt to taste
- Banana leaves for wrapping (Scalded to soften)

The rempah is made by blending all the ingredients together. Some cooking oil can be added to make it easier to blend. After that, the rempah, fish meat, coconut milk and eggs should be mixed by hand. Use your hands to also break up the fish meat into finer pieces as you mix everything together.

Cornstarch and water can be added as required to make sure that the entire mixture resembles a light batter. Add in some sugar and salt and then toast a little bit of the mixture to try out the taste.

After all that work, it's time to wrap the otah!

The many ingredients that go into the humble otah. 
It takes time to ensemble everything together

Scrapping the fish meat and mixing everything together

The soul of the otah is in the rempah

The final mixture

Banana leaves - softened and cut up for wrapping the otah

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Piling up

I'm seriously behind in my housework.


The laundry is piling up. I can't wash anything because it's raining everyday anyway and nothing will ever dry. But the pile still bothers me.

The floor is getting really dusty again and I've only just swept and mopped the floor on Sunday. (As a child I used to think that the dust balls under my bed are left there by dwarves after they had a party in my room whilst I'm away or sleeping.. Sometimes, I still suspect that my theory was right. I mean... why else would you see dust balls in an almost perfectly sealed up room so frequently.. but then, I had so many other strange theories as a kid.. is a post for another day.)

The week's supply of shirts that I've ironed have been drawn down and more ironing needs to be done.

I never understand how others cope with housework. It is a complete mystery to me. I mean, I wake up pretty early every day.. and sleep quite late. Apart from work, I only blog a little.. facebook a little.. read a little... watch some TV whilst I'm doing these... so where does all my time go to?

Maybe other working ladies are really efficient and can do three things at any one time.. all the time.

There are days when I feel so poorly about my efficiency and today is just one of those.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Crumb with one m

I have been following this blog called Crummb for quite a while now. This is a blog by a food critic who blogs about her bakes.

When you see a lady who is determined enough to make 3 tier wedding cakes at home, blog about baking successes and more importantly her baking failures.. and who obviously has very good taste in cakes.. and design.. how can you not follow her blog?

Crummb doesn't blog very often. When she does though, I usually enjoy her post a lot.. and always tell myself I have to try out the recipes she recommends. (Sadly, procrastinator ME haven't tried a single recipe..)

She has decided to quit her day job now to start up a home business of what else but cakes! Her new home business is called Crumb, with one 'm'.. Check out her blog for more details.

With her approval, here are a couple of her pictures.. Since I haven't had the chance to try out her recipes.. perhaps I should order a cake for a very special occasion..

Lemongrass Roast Chicken

Somehow, I don't have a very good picture of this.. But this is a really simple dish to do. Happy inspired me with this dish when I went over to her place and she served some chicken wings with lemongrass.

What I did was seasoned some chicken drumsticks with Thai fish sauce, a bit of soy sauce and honey. I also added some sliced lemongrass and red chilli to the chicken and left them in the fridge to marinate overnight.

Today, I had a conference call in the evening that I decided to take from home. When I reached home from work, I dumped the chicken into the oven at 190 deg C and took the call. After about 30- 40 minutes, the call was over and the chicken was done.

The chicken doesn't look very good but I really liked eating it. The meat was literally falling off the bones and the skin was really crispy.

The fish sauce, lemongrass and chilli added a really nice kick to roast chicken. This is definitely something I'd be making again and again..

Beijing food in Hong Kong

"You want to have Beijing food in Hong Kong? Why?"

That was my first response when The Husband suggested we go to a Beijing restaurant in Hong Kong for a meal with our family. Then I gave in because, it has indeed been quite a while since I had Peking duck.. and even in Beijing, I don't often eat Beijing food since it really isn't that common.

This is a rather old restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui. No fancy furnishings... rather tightly packed layout.. and very very crowded when we went there on a Thursday evening.

This restaurant is famous for its specialty -- honey-glazed Peking duck. The Peking duck is not that bad. It is the kind where the skin and meat of the duck is sliced and eaten together. Unfortunately, it is a far cry from my favourite Peking duck from Datong and hence, my cravings for Peking duck were not particularly satisfied by the meal.

Most of the other dishes we had though, were pretty good. I liked the "vegetarian goose", which is this roll of beancurd with vegetables inside. The stir-fried "crabmeat" dish was also pretty interesting. It wasn't really crab - just stir fried egg whites but oh...! They really do taste like crabmeat, especially with a light dose of Zhejiang vinegar.

At the end of the meal though, I realised although the restaurant serves Beijing food.. we didn't really have anything very Beijing.. apart from the duck, of course.

Stir-fried crabmeat that were really egg whites

Honey-glazed Peking duck - eaten with skin and 
meat instead of the 2 separated

Vegetarian goose - very yummy beancurd
Stir-fried pork with a sesame pocket - the sesame pockets
Stir-fried pork with a sesame pocket - the meat

Sugared apples

鹿鳴春飯店 Spring Deer
Address: 尖沙咀麼地道42號1樓
Tel: +852-2366-4012 / +852-2366-5839

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Soufflé-like Cheesecake

This Shinori Hakodate Cheese Cake is so soft and fluffy that it almost feels like a soufflé, rather than cheesecake.

I bough a box of these from the Hokkaido fair at Isetan sometime back. Yummy. Hokkaido is famous for milk and dairy products. I remember having lots of yummy soft-cream, milk and cakes in Hokkaido.. but I didn't know they had such good and light cheesecake. I'd keep that in mind the next time I go Hokkaido!

I think the Hokkaido fair was really interesting (albeit really crowded).. They really had quite a lot of rather special food on sale there.

Isetan sometimes organise fairs with special produce coming over from various parts of Japan. Another place that does this is Mediya, at Liang Court.

Hakodate Cheese cake.. also called Maru Cheese.. Maru means round in Japanese.. 
I'm assuming it's because of the shapes the cakes come in!

Super light cheesecake.. yummy!

Ice-blended Avocado with Milk

I blended some avocado with milk and ice with my powerful Vitamix blender for an afternoon drink on Sunday. Making this drink made me really tempted to buy an ice-cream maker. I'm sure it'd be really nice to turn this into an avocado ice-cream and add some gula melaka to go with it!

The Husband didn't like this one bit though. He tasted some, made a face and refused to have any more of it.

But the drink tasted pretty good to me. It is so thick it is almost like yoghurt... and  I like the creaminess of the avocado with the milk. If you like your drinks sweet, be sure to add a healthy dose of syrup or honey.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Excuse me, do you Prada?

I don't. And by that I mean.. I don't really speak Prada, Balenciaga and Armani.

Some of my colleagues at my new workplace are very into shopping and brand names. As I hear them chat, I was a little surprised at how behind I am in the world of Gucci and Armani. Hey.. I work and live in a city, in an industry where many are into branded goods, fast cars and fine wine..

Yet for some reason... my knowledge of these have always been... ahem.. behind times.

But having more fashionably in-tuned colleagues had me starting to pay a little more attention to those around.

And I noticed something rather strange. Sometimes, those who can probably least afford such items are the ones who are most willing to pour all their money into them. Those who can very comfortably afford such items, especially more elderly ladies, are more likely to scrimp and save all their money safely away.

Seeing these 2 groups of individuals around me had me arrive at this conclusion - I don't want to grow old and be penniless before I die... and yet the last thing I want to do is to just save and save and have lots of money in my bank account when I die.

The question is then - how do we balance between spending and saving?