28 May 2007

Eating & Shopping at Bangkok - Nov 06

This was a trip made last Nov. Since I'm going to Bangkok soon, I thought I'd better quickly blog about it. Even though it was like half a year ago and I couldn't really remember all the details now; I still want to post some highlights coz it was a good trip.

Although Singapore is much advertised as a shopping paradise, I find Bangkok more affordable with a wider selection of merchandise. Well, could be due to holiday mood which makes shopping more enjoyable; and I could actually afford all the time in the world to shop at a leisurely pace.

Lunch at Greyhound Cafe, Central Chitlom
Have heard much about Greyhound, a Thai brand which started out selling designer apparel and later expanded into cafe/restaurant and targeting at the hip and trendy market. One of the outlets is located within Central Department Store; stylish and clean-cut with dark wood furnishings and everything else white - a choice stopover for those taking a breather from shopping. Thai + fusion cuisine is offered on the menu and not forgetting a wide selection of delicious looking dessert. Could see that much effort has been put in to ensure quality of food at a rather reasonable price. No wonder the cafe is immensely popular.
Food Loft, Central Chitlom
Food Loft is more than a food court, something like Marche concept with selection of thai, chinese, vietnamese, japanese and italian cuisine. Just bring the charge card to any of the open kitchen stalls and place order. At the end of the meal, bring the card to the cashier to tabulate the total amount. Won't say the food was fantastic, though it is worth mentioning that the dining ambience was chic and price reasonable.

Thai Style Noodle, Siam SquareDiscovered this random eatery at Siam Square. Was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the noodles, fishballs, pork and deep fried cheese dumplings. Little wonder it was crowded and patrons had to share tables.

It was during this trip that I discovered Siam Paragon. The newest and largest retail mall in Bangkok offering everything under one roof, even an oceanarium! How cool is that! The oceanarium is comparable to Sentosa Underwater World; in fact I think it's a notch better in terms of space and concept.
What overwhelmed me was actually the Paragon Gourmet Market and Food Hall. This literally puts our supermarket and food hall in shame. The food court is huge, must have at least 50 stalls? Not counting the restaurants selling all types of cuisine, cafes, bakeries, stalls selling snacks, beverages, thai delights, supermarket etc etc. Gosh, I nearly went crazy. I have found another gourmet paradise besides Tokyo!

MK Gold Restaurant, Siam ParagonSaw a large crowded outside this restaurant. I guess it wouldn't go wrong to follow the locals. And indeed it was a good choice. MK is a chain of restaurant offering thai-style sukiyaki. We ordered a vegetable set with a plate of its highly acclaimed roast duck. The roast duck with a special sauce was tender and succulent. The dip for the sukiyaki was spicy and sweet and complemented the vegetable well. Gotta be back next time to try more items!

Spice Story, Siam Paragon
Was attracted by the exotic flavours of ice-cream and sherbet. Tried a lemongrass sherbet which was light and refreshing. Hmmm....
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi AirportI love the open kitchen concept of the eateries that are located along the aisle between the DFS stores. The aromatic and colorful displays were really tantalising. A clever idea to tempt passengers to part with their last tourist dollars yah?
Looking forward to more Bangkok soon!

20 May 2007

Carrot cake with lemon cream cheese frosting

Was in a baking frenzy recently. Baked a batch of my Very Buttery Cupcakes for giveaways to my hubby's colleagues and friends, mum-in-law and mum. And volunteered to bake birthday cake for my JC friends' birthday celebration. Initially, was thinking of cupcakes but they have tried the buttery cupcakes already. So I thought of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

I adore carrot cake and long wanted to try baking it. Searched the internet, cook books and magazines for a suitable recipe; there must be hundreds of them around! Finally settled on a recipe adapted from Food Craft.
Was pleasantly surprised with the results. The carrot cake turned out dense and moist yet tender enough. Each mouth was savoury with natural sweetness of the carrots and raisins as well as crunch of walnut. So happy that my first attempt was successful :D Now I can bake and eat it whenever I have a craving :D

Recipe (yields 3 trays 15cm x 7cm and 4 cupcakes)

Cake ingredients
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional, can also reduce quantity)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (optional, can also reduce quantity)
  • 1 1/2 cup caster sugar (more or less to preference, I'm thinking of reducing further)
  • 1 cup sunflower oil (can try extra virgin olive oil)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup raisins (can use cranberries too)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (can use almond, sunflower seeds too)
  • 1 tbs dark rum
  • Preheat oven to 180C
  • Butter cake pans/trays
  • Sift flour, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon and ground ginger.
  • Whisk sugar and oil in a mixing bowl until well incorporated.
  • Add in eggs, one at a time and blend well.
  • Add in the flour mixture and blend until batter is smooth.
  • Stir in the carrots, raisins and walnut.
  • Add dark rum.
  • Divide batter in cake pans/trays/muffin cups.
  • Bake in oven at 180C for around 40 min (toothpick inserted into centre of cake comes out clean).
  • Let cake cool on rack completely before frosting.
Icing ingredients
  • 8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese (cube and soften at room temp)
  • 3 tbs butter (soften at room temp)
  • 1 1/2 icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tbs lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 tbs lemon zest (optional)
  • Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed until light and smooth.
  • Add icing sugar slowly and beat at low speed until well blended.
  • Add vanilla essence, lemon juice and lemon zest.
  • Frosting can be used for spreading immediately but results will be better if chilled. Once chilled, frosting will be firmer and easier to spread.

I totally dig the tangy cream cheese frosting. Besides using it for cakes, I think it would be suitable as a dip for crackers too. For those who like a stronger cheese taste, you can add more cheese or add more lemon juice for more zest.

Tada! My first carrot cake with lemon cream cheese frosting and decorated with bits of chocolate crunch pearls - humble but wholesome.
At the end of the day, although the entire baking process was exhausting, somehow I found it rather therapeutic. More baking?

19 May 2007

SU Korean Cuisine at Far East Plaza

Brought my mum-in-law, mum and 2 younger brothers to SU Korean Cuisine at Far East Plaza as a belated Mother's Day treat. Was contemplating between Crystal Jade Ginseng Chicken and BBQ and SU Korean Cuisine, decided to go for the latter since food is quite authentic and I had relatively good dining experiences previously (2 times in fact).
Better to recommend a tried and tested place as hubby is very skeptical about Korean cuisine. His impression is only kimchi and more kimchi and he had bad experiences dining at Seoul Garden before. Both mums have no qualms about it as they are interested to try Korean cuisine; must be the influence of Korean drama like Dae Jang Geum and Goong. My brothers should be satisfied since there is BBQ meat and deep fried stuff.
We ordered the promo set meal for 4 pax at $129++ which comes with:
  • 8 Korean Side Dishes
  • Boiled Sliced Pork with Cabbage
  • Grilled Mackerel
  • BBQ Beef Short Rib
  • BBQ Beef
  • BBQ Chicken
  • BBQ Pork Collar
  • Assorted Rice in Hot Stone Pot
  • Authentic Ginseng Chicken Soup
  • Fruits

In addition, ordered the Korean Style Fried Rice Flour Cake and Deep Fried Prawn. All these are really more than enough for 6 people.

The side dishes were served first. The photos above were the ones served during my previous visit half a year ago (didn't have opportunity to take photos of the side dishes this time, reason later). I remembered there was kimchi, soy beansprout, chestnut jelly, radish, spinach, potato. Quite enjoyed all of them except for the jelly which was tasteless on its own and flavoured by something like soy sauce. Weird.

The grilled meats were well marinated, very tender and juicy. I love the idea of putting the whole piece of meat with lettuce and beanpaste into the mouth. Every bite was a burst of savoury flavours and aroma. Yum!

The soup stock was light with distinct taste of ginseng. Chicken meat was tender and glutinous rice was almost melting. My mum liked it alot.

Didn't have chance to take photo of the actual stone pot as the waitress whisked it away for dividing immediately after letting us have a glimpse of it.

This has got to be my favourite dish of them all. Rice was cooked in a black kettle stone pot, topped with spinach, soy beansprout, mushroom, carrot, radish, beef and raw egg and most importantly mixed with Gochujang (Korean hot chilli paste). As the stone pot was very hot, the rice at the bottom got burnt and formed bits of rice crust which was what I love most. The assorted rice was sticky, moist, spicy, sweet and crispy.

Mum-in-law loved this dish a lot as the fatty pork belly was juicy and crunchy. Wrap the meat with cabbage and radish kimchi for a more refreshing taste.

This dish didn't do well, unfortunately. There was a fishy taste which we didn't like. We had to dip the fish with lots of sauce.

I love this dish too as the rice cake was very chewy, and the spicy sauce really complemented it well. Apparently, this dish is one of the most popular snacks among teens in Korean, especially for girls. I can just imagine chewing into the spicy rice cake during winter and the instant warmth it would bring!

The deep fried prawn was sliced into half like a butterfly and coated with breadcrumbs. Tasted ok, not too oily.

Overall, it was a good meal with good quality food, no doubts about it.

The only gripe is the breakneck speed the dishes were served. To begin with, although our table sits 6 people comfortably, the space was limited due to the BBQ area in the centre. The servers seemed in a hurry to serve the dishes all at once, trying to squeeze them into whatever space there was, even though it was obvious there wasn't much space left. Moreover, the serveware is big and heavy and each dish comes with its complement sauce. Felt kind of pressurized to finish the dishes in a faster pace. This is why I didn't have chance to take photo of the side dishes and we didn't replenish them although we liked some of them.

Not sure if I would be back again since this was already the 3rd try. I'm very keen to try Gujeolpan which I think is not available at SU. Gujeolpan is the "nine-sectioned plate" consisting of different vegetables and meats served with thin pancakes. In ancient times, this dish is served only at special occasions such as weddings, and associated with royalty. Maybe Crystal Jade would have it? I must check it out one of these days.


17 May 2007

Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice at Commonwealth Ave Cooked Food Market

My favourite chicken rice stall has got to be Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice 新记 at Commonwealth Ave Cooked Food Market (Blk 40a, Margaret Drive). Seldom eat chicken rice as I feel that it is too oily. Come to think of it, this is one of the few chicken rice stalls I will visit.
Hubby first introduced me to this stall when we were dating some 8 years ago. He swear by the chicken rice here and I'm totally bought over as well :p

The chicken here is lean and tender. What makes it special is the sauce drizzled over the meat. Seems like some light soy sauce (there must be more to it), simple yet brings out the taste of the meat.
I so love the vegetable 油菜 here! There are bean sprout and choy sim 菜心; I always order choy sim which is cooked just right - crunchy, juicy and somehow taste a little sweet. Could have been boiled in some chicken stock? A little light oyster sauce completes the taste.
The chicken feet 鸡脚 is very nice too; texture is very crunchy and usually served cold with light oyster sauce and pepper. They used to serve chicken intestine 鸡肠 which tastes even better than chicken feet but stopped a few years ago as the preparation is tedious and ingredient not readily available.

I like the rice here as it is fluffy and fragrant yet not too oily.

And not to forget the sauces here (forgot to take photo). They serve 3 - the classic chicken rice chilli packed to a punch with a hint of garlic, ginger which balances the oilyness of chicken rice and meat, last but not least, good quality dark soy sauce which is slightly saltish with tinge of bitterness and sweetness.

13 May 2007

Leng Huat Fishball Noodle at Taman Jurong Market & Food Centre

Whenever hubby and I work late or feel like having supper, we will head towards Taman Jurong Market & Food Centre for a comfort bowl of Teochew style fishball noodles. This has got to be one of my favourite fishball noodles stall.

There seems to be a perpetual queue everytime I go. Not sure what time the stall owner starts the day, most probably noon or afternoon; but the stall sure opens till midnight, sometimes even past.
Leng Huat Fishball Noodles used to the corner stall of the old Taman Jurong market and had even longer queues back then. A 30 minutes wait was not unusual. After the market was demolished, we thought we had lost a makan place. But we found the stall again at the new Taman Jurong Market & Food Centre!

I prefer 'Mee Kia' to 'Mee Pok' and 'mai hiam', no chilli but lots of ketchup :p... The regular bowl comes with 2 fishball, 2 octopus ball and a few slices of lean pork and fishcake. You can upgrade by adding more condiments. The meei kia is cooked to just the right QQ texture, the fishball is bouncy, lean pork is tender and my favourite octopus ball has bits of chewy octopus meat.

I believe the auntie has got some magic touch. There was a period of time when an uncle replaced her temporarily and the noodles turned out different and it just didn't feel right. I always feel a sense of warmth and calmness whenever I tuck into a bowl here, sounds exaggerated but it's true!

Taman Jurong Market & Cooked Food Centre #02-89

09 May 2007

Sun with Moon Japanese Dining & Cafe @ The Central, Clarke Quay

Felt pretty bored on a Wednesday evening, short of ideas on where to go. So hubby and I decided to head to The Central at Clarke Quay - the newest kid on the concept retail block.

Navigation of the mall is a little confusing for now as many shops are not opened yet. Aside from the usual fashion and accessories stores, 1 wing of the mall is devoted to eateries and fans of Japanese cuisine (myself included) should be pleased to know that majority are Japanese restaurants! So seems like this is a Jap-centric mall.

Had a hard time deciding where to eat. Obviously it got to be Jap cuisine but which one?

There is Tom Ton which specialises in tonkatsu and shabu-shabu, notably pork served is black pork imported from the US; Marutama Ramen offers authentic tokyo-style ramen; SHO-U - can't missed this one with its striking red wall and entrance decorated with sakura art, serves contemporary Japanese fine dining; Kyomomoyama - specialises in sushi and sashimi; Ma Maison - Jap-Western cuisine; Waraku - popular Jap cuisine joint that serves a wide variety of favourites like udon, rice sets, tempura, sashimi; Pasta de Waruku - Jap-Italian cuisine; Sun with Moon Japanese Dining & Cafe - selection of both traditional and modern Jap dishes.

Wanted to try Waraku (heard much about it in reviews) but there was quite a queue. I guess there are many like-minded Singaporeans. Ended up at Sun with Moon as there are also many ravings about this stylish joint which is under the Suntory F&B group that brought in Pepper Lunch. There are 2 other outlets - Chijmes and Wheelock Place.
The restaurant offers alfresco dining facing Clarke Quay and limited seatings indoors. Decoration is cozy and elegant with wood furniture and open kitchen concept. We opted for indoor seats but only counter seats were left. Not a bad choice though, the table surface area is spacious and the semi egg-shaped cushion chairs quite comfy and we had a partial view of the kitchen. Could see dishes being whipped up meticulously and items delicately decorated by the chefs - sure whetted our appetite.

For starter, we ordered the Foie Gras Lettuce which is a trio of foie gras canapes - juicy foie gras with teriyaki sauce atop a small slice of toast and a leaf of lettuce. I like the pairings though the lettuce is a tad dry. I guessed it's there mainly for presentation.

We also ordered the Kushi Mori - an assortment of grilled chicken, pork, minced meat, prawn. Quite standard charcoal grilled items; what attracted me was the Jap sweet potato that was the base. It was grilled to perfection, soft, fluffy, sweet and complemented the meats well.

For the main, we definitely had to go for the Kamameshi 釜饭, traditional steamed seasoned rice pot. The mixture of konnyaku, bamboo shoots and carrot in the rice adds to the fragrance; texture is slightly sticky and chewy. Definitely a satisfying pot, oishii desu!

Not much room for dessert but simply had to try to the tofu cheesecake! Came in a cute little birdy cage. The cake is very light with an almost melt-in-your-mouth smooth texture. Cheese is just right not too heavy, crumbs at the base add some crunch and wild berries atop add a tinge of sourness. Simply divine, we polished it off the 'cage' in no time.

The bill came up to a considerable amount but worth it in terms of ambience, food quality and service. Would like to be back for more desserts.

After the meal, we walked around the basement. Delighted to discover Petit Provence, apparently an offspring of Provence, my favourite bakery at Holland Village. Limited items available like cinnamon bun, chocolate & cream wassant, cookies and cakes. No milk pan :( which is my must-buy bread at Provence.

2 interesting shops - Nippon-Ya Japanese Food Boutique that sells pretty-packaged Japanese snacks and confectionery imported from various parts of Japan as well as Taiwan Lao Zhao Pai which sells specialty foodstuffs from Taiwan. These are great as gifts but somehow the buying mood is just not the same as when you are abroad. But I know now where to go when I'm hankering for Japanese or Taiwanese snacks.

There are other stores like Chippy British Takeaway - famous for fried Mars bar and beer-battered fish n chips; Marcial Kobe - mini donuts and taiyaki. Some stalls are not opened yet. I also remember seeing an ice-cream palour selling ice-cream from Hokkaido, somewhere on Level 1 (must try the next time).

Would I go back to The Central again? Yes, the lure of Jap cuisine.

SUN with MOON Japanese Dining & Cafe

#01-70/71/72 The Central

Tel: 65347784


06 May 2007

Very Buttery Cupcakes

Spent my Sunday "practising" the Very Buttery Cupcakes that I learnt at Shermay's Cooking School Cupcake Workshop II more than a week ago.

Couldn't make up my mind which flavour to make and ended up attempting all 4 variations - Lavender Cupcake with Lavender & White Chocolate Frosting, Chai Spice Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean & White Chocolate Frosting, Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling & Meringue Topping and Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes with Orange Zest & White Chocolate Frosting.

Good and bad idea.
Good - found the infused butter and frosting pretty do-able at home, though very time-consuming because everything was made from scratch! But really had a sense of achievement and satisfaction after seeing the end-product.
Bad - the washing and clearing up were killer-tasks. The entire process practically 'stole' my meant-to-be-lazy-and-do-nothing Sunday! Hadn't had any lazy Sundays for a long time, well itchy fingers :p Not that I have much to complain with my fruits of labour :D

The meringue turned out really well this time (had previously attempted it when making buttercream but the meringue turned all runny). Didn't have a blowtorch so couldn't brown the tips of the topping. I guess it still looked alright. P.S. shall I buy a blowtorch? Nah, maybe not.

Shall bring this batch of cupcakes to the office tomorrow. Anyone wants to try?

02 May 2007

Advanced Open Water Diver Course - April 2007

Yeah! Just completed our SSI Advanced Open Water Diver Course at Pulau Tioman, Malaysia over the weekend. After the Redang Dive Trip earlier in April, hubby and I decided to take up Advanced Diver Course so that we can experience night diving and build up our confidence for more challenging dive destinations like Sipadan later this year.

Arranged the course with Fishermen Scuba once again since we took our Open Water Diver Course with them last year. A theory lesson was conducted prior to the open sea training to get ourselves familiarize with the expectations of the course. Basically, we would cover 4 Speciality Courses - Deep Diving, Navigation, Night & Limited Visibility Diving and Search & Recovery, to get certified as an Advanced Diver.

This time, we decided to self drive and meet the group (leisure divers and advanced students) at Mersing Jetty in the morning instead of staying one night at Timotel. At around 7.30am, we boarded the Fishermen Dive Explorer and set off towards Tioman.
Our 1st dive was at Bahara Rock, a mid-point navigation guide between Mersing and Tioman. This was essentially a check out dive to warm up and get ourselves familiarize with our dive equipment. Had problem descending initially as my wetsuit was dry and very buoyant. Made a mental note to fully wet my wetsuit in future to avoid such a problem. Sighted soft and hard corals, blue-spotted stingray, lizard fish, lots of anemone and anemonefishes, nudibranchs... didn't manage any good photos as I wasn't comfortable with the dive (was tired from the journey) and also trying to adjust to the equipment.

After the dive, we went to Kampung Genting for lunch. Then set off to Pulau Renggis for our 2nd dive. For this dive, we focused on recording our air consumption at various depths in order to calculate our SCR (Surface Consumption Rate). After which, we went for a quick spin around the reefs. Spotted a huge grouper, parrotfish and Titan Triggerfish, lots of nice soft and hard corals.

Headed to Kampung Salang and checked into our chalet. Rested a bit before commencing our 3rd dive which was a navigation training at sandy bottom of Salang House Reef. Learnt how to make use of compass to do Reciprocal, Square and Triangle navigation through buddy system. Spotted a cute baby stingray but too bad didn't bring along our camera.

Our 4th dive was the much anticipated Night Dive. Training was at Salang jetty and house reef. Upon descent, we did basic drills such as switching off and on the torches. It wasn't all that dark and scary perhaps because street lamps at the jetty area were pretty bright. After the drills, we explored the reefs; quite an adventurous feeling since the surrounding was illuminated by a focused beam from our only source of light. Spotted a lone large barracuda staring menancing at us. I guessed it was pretty disturbed as all of us were like shining our torches at it. There were many nocturnal creatures around, and I wondered whether they were disturbed by our presence?

We were pretty much knocked out after the dive and hit the bed almost immediately after dinner.

Woke up refreshed and ready for our Deep Dive training at Chebeh. Sea was pretty choppy and felt a little queasy but was okay after descent. This was my 2nd time to Chebeh and it was still as beautiful. Many lovely sea fans, corals, schools of fusiliers; spotted a big school of barracudas and went chasing after them. Descended to 100 feet as part of deep dive training and once again recorded our air consumption so that we could make a comparison between SCR for shallow dives and deep dives.

Our 6th and last dive was at Pulau Soyak and it turned out to be my favourite for this trip. Lovely dive site, good visibility, galore of nudibranchs some of which are species we have never seen before, soft and hard corals, giant clams, anemone and anemonefishes, schools of reef fishes. Almost towards the end of the dive, a very friendly Hawksbill Turtle swam by and played with us.

Ended our course on a high note. Great trip, made many new friends who share the same passion for diving and realise that the world is really small :)

Till the next dive trip!