Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Favourite Things

Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad


I'm in a bad mood today all day because of frustrations at work. But this song is right - thinking about things I like helps!

What are some of your favourite things?

I have lots.. some of it includes.. chocolate lava cake, a cup of hot floral tea, a good book, a breezy evening, a pair of comfy and pretty new shoes, the sound of waves, cheery flowers in the garden and freshly baked cakes..

A freshly baked soufflé by The Husband

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lan Fong Yuen in Tsim Sha Tsui

I always like shops that bring you back into childhood days. Lan Fong Yuen (蘭芳園) is definitely a shop like that.

For one, the shop itself looks like it comes from the past.. Even this outlet in a spanking new mall at Tsim Sha Tsui. (The original shop is at Central)

The shop is famous for "Lou Ting" (撈丁), which means "Stirred Instant Noodles" (撈出前一丁). 出前一丁 is a famous instant noodles brand in Hong Kong, manufactured by Nissin. The instant noodles are boiled, drained and then tossed with some sauce. It is then topped with chicken or pork, eggs and a ginger scallion mix.

"Stirred Instant Noodles" reminds me of the instant noodles dishes my sister and I used to make when we were much younger. Back then, instant noodles are our "specialty" and we would always add a fried egg or sausage in our noodles. Our "brand of choice" back then was not Nissin but Myojo.

Lan Fong Yuen is also famous for their milk tea. Some say they serve the best in HK but I never order milk tea at Lan Fong Yuen.

I like my milk tea with bread from Kam Hua. Instead, I'd order 7-Up with Salty Lemon (檸七). Salty lemon is preserved lemon and it is salty and sour, making it perfect with iced-cold, sweet 7-Up. This drink reminds me of how I used to insist having salt in my 7-Up as a kid!

Lan Fong Yuen also sell boxes of homemade salty lemon so you can bring them home to make this excellent beverage!

Salty lemon with 7-Up
Lou-Ding - with braised chicken wings, fried eggs and vegetables. 
The ginger scallion mix is most delicious

Lan Fong Yuen (蘭芳園)
36-44 Nathan Road
Shop 26, LG, Chung King Mansion (Woodhouse)
Tsim Sha Tsui

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Top 10 buys from Singapore - Part 3

Continued from Part 2

6. Hai's Mee Siam Paste
Mee Siam is actually a noodle dish made with rice vermicelli in a spicy, sweet and sour light gravy. It is often served with eggs, beansprouts and dried beancurd.

Hai's Mee Siam Paste is my favourite. They can be found at most large supermarkets. I like their laksa paste as well but their mee siam paste is the best.

7. Orchids
The national flower is Ms Vanda Joaqium, a type of orchid, of course.

If you can bring home some fresh orchids (you can buy them at the airport), it's great. But if you are looking for something a little more lasting, I think that Risis' gold plated orchids make beautiful gifts.

8. Flip Flops
Maybe it is the casual way Singaporeans like to dress.. maybe it's the hot weather.. In any case, flip flips are the preferred footwear for many Singaporeans.

I seldom wear flip flops myself.. but when I do, I wear Ripples flip flops, of course.. And of course, these are 100% designed in Singapore!

9. Pandan Chiffon Cake
Pandan is a tropical plant used widely in Southeast Asian cuisine. The leaves are green and fragrant and also strangely a natural repellent for cockroaches.

But don't be mistaken, pandan chiffon cake is delicious! They dry out pretty quickly so it's best to buy them at the airport before you leave Singapore. Bangawan Solo, a popular bakery chain store, has outlets in Terminal 1, 2 and 3 of the Changi Airport.

10. Yu Sheng packs
Yu Sheng, also known as Lo Hei (or Prosperity Toss)is a Chinese-style raw fish salad. It usually consists of strips of raw fish (most commonly salmon), mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces, condiments and even crackers.

Around the Chinese New Year season (from January to February), supermarkets all around Singapore begin to sell packs of the ingredients you would need for Yu Sheng. You only need to shred some cucumber, carrots and add some raw salmon slices to enjoy Yu Sheng at home.

Homemade Yu Sheng - My parents don't eat raw fish so we usually add abalone instead.
We like adding shredded carrots, radishes and cucumber to this salad. 
The rest of the ingredients come from the Yu Sheng pack.

Top off the salad with the crackers, sauce and peanuts from the Yu Sheng pack 
and the salad is ready for tossing!

A Little Blue Surprise

I haven't been tending to my plants too much recently.

Some of them are doing pretty well.. some not so well.

It's just been too hot to stay long outside these days. That's my excuse anyway.

So it was lovely to get a little surprise in my balcony today. I have this plant in a pot I don't remember much about - the plant flowered today and the flowers are a lovely blue!

 The blue surprise in my balcony

Ciders are best for hot days like today! The Cider Pit 
(382 Joo Chiat Road) is a good place for ciders and artisan beers
This pear cider is very nice!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Top 10 buys from Singapore - Part 2

Thank you to those who responded to my question on what are the top buys from Singapore.

The top 10 buys in my list are very similar - mostly food items as well.

Whether you are buying a small souvenir for friends or a really nice gift from Singapore - I hope this list will be useful to you.

1) Bak Kwa, or Barbequed Pork
Bak Kwa, or barbequed pork, is somewhat similar to beef jerky. It is thin slices of barbequed pork that is a little salty, rather sweet, somewhat dried but yet juicy and coated with honey and oil. It is in short, yummy.

These are very popular around the Chinese New Year period, and their prices and the queue for them really go up during the festive season. The best place to get these are from Lim Chee Guan - the old store is located in Chinatown but they have a branch right smack in the centre of town, in Ion at Orchard Road.

2) Kaya, or Coconut Jam
Kaya is coconut jam that is made from coconut milk, eggs and sugar. It can either come in a greenish colour (flavoured with pandan, a fragrant type of leaves used in many South east asian bakes) or brown colour (flavoured with palm sugar).

The most popular kaya amongst tourists will be Ya-kun. Ya-kun is a chain store selling traditional coffee and kaya toasts. Their outlets can be found everywhere - from the airport to most shopping malls. I don't like buying their jam for my friends though - they have a short shelf life and expire all too soon. If I have to, I'd buy the mini bottles from Ya-kun.

My preferred choice for friends would be kaya from Glory Food. These can be found in most large supermarkets.

3) Prima Taste
Prima Taste is a Singapore brand that produces ready-to-cook pastes and premixes. I find that their "Complete Sauce Kits" make wonderful gifts. When I was living in Beijing, I love to use their Laksa kit and Chicken Rice kit to whip up food that really taste as good as those you'd find in Singapore.

They also sell very good pre-mix and noodles. The Sister-in-law love their latest product - Laksa La-mian. This is packaged like a single pack of instant noodles and taste almost like a really good bowl of laksa!

4) Purple Gold
If you are looking for a really nice gift, I think purple gold is a great idea. Purple gold is pioneered in Singapore and is an alloy made of 80% gold and 20% other metal components... and it is of course, purple. It is more expensive than your normal yellow or white gold and is usually used in small parts of an accessory (e.g. a flower or butterfly). It can be found in local jewellery stores like Lee Hwa and Goldheart.

5) Singapore Shawl
This is another item that can make a good gift from Singapore.

Shawls are pretty common everywhere but this Singapore brand makes really delicate shawls with designs of the National Flower of Singapore. Personally, I like their simpler shawls with bits of Swarovski Crystal or little embroidered flowers.

These shawls are not really cheap but they do make special gifts for mothers, sisters, aunties or girlfriends.

To be continued in next post..

 My version of homemade fried laksa, made with store-bought laksa paste

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Top 10 buys from Singapore - Part 1

I have family and friends who sometimes travel to Singapore.

And sometimes, I fly to where they are to visit them.

Very often, I try to buy them a nice souvenir from Singapore..

But it is very hard to think of something special to get.

Well, I decided I'd compile a list here on my blog so that others like me can have more ideas about what to get from Singapore for their friends.

Do you have any ideas you'd like to share?

Sometimes, I feel like buying Singapore food over for my friends

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Busy busy busy

I've been busy busy busy.

Has it only been 2 weeks since I got back to work from my block leave?

It feels like it was 2 months ago.

The next 2 days though will be interesting though - I'd be participating in a volunteer program where I'd be helping to build some houses!

Bet I'd be looking forward to icy desserts after a day of hard work! :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What's wrong with the photos?

Notice something about these pictures?

One of them is not right...

Let me know what you think.. and I'd share what's the problem..

Updated on 13 July:

Well.. firstly these photos are all taken by me and no.. I wasn't in a production for Harry Potter.. The third photo is the problematic one because firstly the trolley says it belongs to Times Square and secondly the Hogwarts Express is in the middle of Times Square in HK.

There was actually a display of Harry Potter related props at Times Square - from a small section of Diagon Ally to the Hogwarts Express.

And then of course, there was Dobby.

I'm so looking forward to Sunday, when I'd finally be able to catch the finale of the movie series.

Genki Sushi in HK

There are 2 things I think they do in better in Hong Kong. (Not that we do everything else better here but these are the 2 things I think there is little debate required)

The first being the bus system. Singapore buses are infrequent and makes far too many stops. Quite a pain to travel on and most of us would take the subway anytime.
It takes an hour and a half for me to travel from my place to my grandma's place on a weekend and really, Singapore is far too small to warrant such travel time.

Hong Kong bus network is excellent - short waiting times during peak hours and most have very well designed routes.

The second is Genki Sushi. Genki Sushi HK serves fresh sushi and offers a vast menu, with seasonal specials.

The one in Singapore, if Genki sushi is still here in Singapore at all really isn't that good.

Each time I go Hong Kong, I'd frequent the Genki sushi near where we stay. Unfortunately, it is wildly popular with the residents in the estate and sometimes the queues are just too ridiculous.

I managed to have a meal there last trip and after a few photos, I kind of forgot about photo taking! So as you can see, the food is really quite delicious.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ugly Flourless Cake

This cake is called the Ugly Cake.

It also has no flour so it is not only ugly, but flourless.

The Brother-in-law loves this cake though and after eating one at our place, he politely asked if he could pack home a slice.

My mother says it's like eating a piece of soft chocolate, which is I think by far the closest description to what eating this cake feels like.

This is of course another bake by The Husband and I think it's by far his personal favourite. I have no favourites. So far, I've enjoyed every single cake and dessert.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Souffle Au Fromage

We bought a delicious souffle-like cheesecake from a Japanese fair sometime back and it was super light and delicious but also rather pricey.

The Husband made a similar cake yesterday.

He got his recipe from this cookbook by a famous Japanese pastry chef. This cake is made very much the way you would make a souffle - by beating egg whites to a soft peak and then adding in cheese. Unlike a souffle, it is baked in a water-bath for a rather long time (about 70 mins), so the cake doesn't raise very much but yet has a souffle-like texture.

A similar recipe I'd like to try would be this. The cake in this recipe looks very much like those you'd find in Japanese cake shops.

The cake didn't look very impressive but oh it was really very good - it was airy light with a hint of cheese, eggs and lemon. This is a truly melt in your mouth type of cake.

I had 2 big slices and briefly considered going for a third.

With such frequent bakes happening in our kitchen, I'm getting lots of opportunities to practice my photo taking skills of food!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Singapore Botanic Gardens

During my block leave last week, I went to the Botanical Gardens to have lunch with some friends at the Halia Restaurant (Halia is Malay word for Ginger).

I haven't been to the botanical gardens for many years, so I decided to visit it again one evening for a stroll with The Husband.

The Singapore Botanical Gardens is a really nice garden to visit... but it is really too hot to take a stroll in the gardens at any time other than early morning or evening.

Come along for a stroll with me here, in the comfort of your home.. or wherever it is you are reading this from.

The garden is really rather big - we only covered a part of it that day

Swan Lake - a couple of swans and lots of turtles. Should have been called Turtle Lake

The famous 5 dollar tree. This tree appears on the Singapore 5 dollar note. 
I really like the long branch of this tree

The Singapore flower - Vanda Ms Joaqium

These flowers are grown in an area built like a little maze. 
It's really quite pretty!

The sky was beautiful that day

I like the fiery shade of this flower

Last picture I took before heading off to dinner. I'd be back soon again!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dragons, Weapons and....

A few colleagues and I went over to a fellow colleague's apartment about 2 Sundays back.

I was MOST impressed with this bachelor's apartment.

Not because he lived in a really lovely condo with a balcony right when you walk into his apartment.

And not because of the dragons he kept at his place.

Figurine dragons, that is.. He had really impressive looking ones with 3 heads and multiple wings. I really liked them but they weren't the most impressive creatures around.

The number of weapons and uniforms he had in his apartment was probably one of the largest private collection I've come across.

And I dare say even some museums (ahem, I won't say which ones) probably do not have as many in their collection. He really had A LOT of weapons.. and A LOT A LOT of uniforms. All kinds of military uniforms really - from second world war ones to Singapore's own SAF ones to Japanese samurai ones. The collection he has was really quite jaw dropping.

But even those wasn't what impressed me the most.

What impressed me the most were the number of pots this guy had.

And the number of baking trays.

These were top quality cast iron pots.. and a really interesting and wide collection of baking trays..

(Did I even think I had a lot of baking trays? I'd never feel guilty over my collection again.. even if I haven't used half of the trays I have.)

Happily, all the pots and trays were not just for decoration but very much used by their owner. This colleague of mine loves cooking and he can really cook very well too, if I may add.

He made a beautiful roasted beef with herbs and red wine, vegetables in a delicious white sauce and a special sort of dumpling made of fresh baguette crumbs.

For starters, we had a simple but yummy prawns in spicy sesame oil. And for dessert, we had a very nice sour cream cake with peach slices.

He has generously shared his recipes with me, so I'd be making some of these soon and will share those on my blog.

For now, enjoy the pictures from this very impressive apartment.

A colourful dragon with 3 heads

Another one with many heads.. I liked the colour of this dragon..

Just a few of the weapons on display - all with the 
appropriate licenses when he shipped them to Singapore

This reminds me of the Last Samurai. 
I'm intrigued by the different coloured feet.. :P

The amazing collection of baking trays.. Some I really like too! 
I had a great big urge to rush off to do some shopping after seeing these

The most impressive collection of cast iron pots. 
This photo doesn't show all the pots he had!

Delicious roast beef swimming in red wine

Very interesting and filling dumplings

I hate cauliflower but this white sauce made even cauliflower nice! Pretty amazing

The roast beef sliced - see how he pushed in bits of garlic into the meat?
These garlic tasted good!

My lovely dinner at N's place.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

End of a Nearly Perfect Week

I had a nearly perfect week.

One week off work.

6 working days to be very precise.

6 days of not thinking about work (well, I did a little.. but just very little... not more than 10 minutes, I hope..).

I feel really refreshed now... like I've got my "gumption" back.

It was almost perfect.

I went to HK for a few days and did all the things I wanted to do there.. Then I came back and  met a few blogger friends for lunch.. went swimming a couple of times.. read a lot of magazines.. had my facial.. went shopping on a weekday.. had lots of great desserts at home.. watched lots of TV.. went for a stroll at the botanical gardens.. took naps.. had some beers.. played some computer games..

Basically, I didn't achieve very much this week, which was exactly what I wanted.

But I also fell sick mid-week and have been coughing since then. So that affected my week a little.

Still, it had been a good break and now, I feel I'm ready to charge!

Of course, I know I'd be swamped at work over the next week and I'd feel like I never had this break.. but at least I feel good for now.. :)

Molten Chocolate Cake

The Husband baked this today.

This has been on my to-bake list since forever.. and I've not done it.. The Husband spoke about this yesterday and I got to eat it for tea this afternoon.

I'm such a procrastinator!

This cake really yummy - it has a really rich chocolate taste. The centre is not as molten in that it didn't flow right out.. but it was lava-like enough... somewhat like very soft egg yolk.

I should challenge The Husband to make souffle next!

He used his own recipe for this cake. The one I wanted to bake was the Big Melt-down recipe from Kitchen Tigress.

More Homemade Desserts

The Husband is on a roll.

He made quite a number of desserts yesterday.

The strawberry dessert is a variation of the mango one he made earlier in the week. The egg pudding is nice - I love the bottle that it was made in.

The coconut cookies are really nice too. These are made by shaping each cookie by hand.

At this rate, I can forget about my diet.

 Layered strawberry dessert. This is not as sweet as
the mango one but that's why I like it!

Strawberry mousse

 Egg Pudding

Coconut cookies

These are shaped by hand