28 February 2009

Japanese-French Pastries 09-I Class

Been looking forward to Chef Keiko's Jap-French Pastries Class, since attending her Christmas Traditional Goodies Class in Dec 08. Sadly, she will be returning to Japan soon and this Jap-French Pastries Class could be the third last class she's conducting in Singapore for some time to come.

Have enjoyed her classes very much as she's ever so gracious and her baked goodies always look so impeccable and stylish. Really hope she could come back from time to time to conduct more classes at Shermay's Cooking School.

For this class, she demonstrated the following recipes.
  • Japanese Pumpkin Tart - Sweet short pastry tart base with Japanese pumpkin cream filling
  • Matcha (jap green tea) Tiramisu - Green-tea flavour Italian mascarpone cream cheese cake
  • Matcha (jap green tea) Dacquoise - Traditional French almond pastry with matcha (jap green tea) flavored butter cream
  • Yuzu Chiffon Cake - Japanese Yuzu citrus flavored chiffon cake
The sweet short pastry looked quite manageable. Have not attempted any tart pastries before, so I guess this is a good start. Quite cool to be able to bake my own tart base rather than use store-bought ones.
Have never tried pumpkin tarts before so didn't think much of it initially. But I think my perception of this pastry changed after seeing and tasting Chef Keiko's creation. Not only did it look so pretty, it tasted yummy too. It's not just pure pumpkin puree, there were much more depth in ingredients and meticulous steps to make the filling so creamy, yet light in taste.

This is gonna be one recipe that I will be attempting soon!

Instead of using store-bought sponge fingers, it's actually fairly simple to make it at home! Great snacks for kids too.
I love this green tea tiramisu! It's so addictive, creamy with almost melt-in-the-mouth texture. The green tea powder complements the mascarpone cheese cream perfectly. I had thought that matcha powder would be too strong but surprising no. And I quite enjoy the tinge of rum added in the cream mixture which enhanced all the flavours.

Didn't enjoy the classic tiramisu as I'm not really a coffee person. I'm more into tea - chinese tea, english tea, green tea... So this matcha tiramisu would be perfect for me!

Actually I never heard of dacquoise before. Another new pastry learnt today. It may not be a good looker, but this french tea cake tasted quite yummy. Texture is somewhat between cake and biscuit? I like the green tea buttercream filling which can also be used for swiss roll.
My favourite recipe of the lot - Yuzu Chiffon Cake! In fact, I signed up for this class mainly because of this! I am totally in love with yuzu. Bought quite a lot of yuzu products when I went to Japan - yuzu honey, yuzu lip gloss, yuzu facial blotters. LOL.

Instead of using cream of tartar to stabilise the meringue, a small quantity of corn flour is used. The chiffon turned out so light and fluffy and of course with the alluring aroma of yuzu!

I must get my hands on some yuzu!!! Gotta go Mediya or Isetan Supermarket one of these days. Although yuzu looks very much like orange, the taste and aroma is unique, slightly more zesty with an addictive fragrance (but not to the extent of lemon). I love yuzu. LOL.

And as usual, all participants took home a box of goodies, lovingly made by Chef Keiko!

Tip of the iceberg, each participant received a goodie bag of Top Flour and Super Lite Flour, compliments of Prima. Shermay managed to invite Prima to sponsor flour for all of us (previously we received canola oil from Sunbeam as well!). Chef Keiko's recipes usually use Top Flour; and Super Lite Flour is apparently very good for chiffon cakes. What a perfect sponsorship :D

Looking forward to more classes and I have a crave to bake now!

25 February 2009

Beautiful rainbow

I saw a rainbow near my house after work today =D

Had finished grocery shopping and was on my way home to cook dinner when I caught the rainbow.

It was such a rare and breathtaking sight, I couldn't resist walking towards it, bags of shopping and all. Too bad I only have a normal digital camera without wide angle lens, so couldn't capture the essence of it all.

The rainbow was neatly sprawled across the open field. Never have I seen such a perfect arc with distinct spectrum of colours.

And if you look closer, there was another rainbow above this one, very faint, but still visible.

The lovely sight and gentle breeze sure lifted my spirits. Ahhh... the simple pleasures in life. I lingered for a while before going home. Could see kids and adults alike peering from their windows and similarly excited about the discovery.

Here's the view from my level. Pretty wasn't it.

22 February 2009

Mini mahjong & table set

I got a new toy! A mini mahjong set complete with miniature table :D

The set looks so chio that I just have to get it despite already owning medium and small sizes mahjong sets at home (with mahjong table of course!). I think it is perfect for road trip travels, chalet, gatherings... where mahjong table is not readily available or space is constraint. The table is around 37cm by 37cm, whereas tiles measure a mere 2cm b 1.5cm. So cute can.

The miniature table looks pretty elegant, made from dark wood and complete with laquer-vanish. Table top is specially laid with green velvet and even the drawers are laid with brown velvet.
The tiles are quite well engraved too despite the size and even with tile holders for ease of handling. After playing, just keep the tiles back into the drawer. Neat!
Even if not playing, the set serves as a cool home deco piece, I think :p
Anyone interested to Kai Zhang? LOL!

16 February 2009

Bangkok 13-15 Feb09

My first overseas trip for 2009! Was supposed to blog about my backlog - Kansai Nov 08 trip first, but that would take much more effort and I'm feeling lazy.

Anyways, hubby planned for this trip a month plus back, to celebrate end of my big project and also Valentine's Day. Was really anticipating this getaway as I needed a break from work desperately.

Took Air Asia flight at 8.30pm on Friday night. This way, we didn't need to take leave. Almost 2.5hrs flight, we landed at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. After a horrendous long wait to clear customs, we finally boarded an airport limousine cab to Banyan Tree Hotel.

Banyan Tree is having this "Thailand Smiles Again" (Banyan Tree Phuket & Banyan Tree Bangkok) promotion. Book a stay at Banyan Tree Bangkok or Phuket between 1 February 2009 and 30 April 2009 and receive one complimentary night. Decided to go for it, although location of the hotel is less than ideal with no near BTS or MRT stations.

In no time, we checked into the luxurious Premier Suite Room (other suites were fully booked!).

Furnishings and amenities are as usual, befitting for a hotel of this class.

The bedroom is very cosy with ambient lightings and soft furnishings. Hubby loved the bed but I still prefer Westin's heavenly bed.

Bathroom with all essential toiletries. I like the thoughtfulness of his and her toiletries bag with different items for male and female.

Free internet access was included for this promotion, so we brought along our notebook to check information anytime we needed. Bar area offers complimentary selection of Dilmah tea. (Didn't note for coffee since I don't drink coffee). Ice bucket was empty though (previously when we stayed at Grand Hyatt Erawan, ice was filled upon our check-in, exceptional service).

Complimentary breakfast was provided for one day of stay, so we woke up early and made our way to Rom Sai Restaurant.

I love the full length glass windows here, feels relaxed surrounded by lush greenery and a koi pond while having meals here.

Buffet breakfast was the usual - selection of pastries and breads, juice bar, salads and appertisers, cheese and crackers, cereals and yogurts, eggs station, hot foods, cold cuts... more interesting would be a sushi bar. Woah, eating sushi for breakfast :d

And I love the selection of fruits here, presented in a myriad of colours, sure whetted my appetite.

A hearty breakfast to start my Valentine's Day! I totally love the grilled tomato stuffed with herbs and chopped mushrooms and topped with bits of mozzarella cheese. I must google for a recipe to try this at home.

And the fruits! The honey orange was so cute and tiny, I couldn't resist. It was really sweet and juicy despite its size. Jackfruit was a little too hard, probably not ripe enough.
After breakfast, we hired a cab to Erawan Four-Face Buddha, customary visit for every Bangkok trip. The concierge was quite thoughtful as we were presented with a pocket size card with a list of the more popular places in Bangkok with thai translation. With this card, we needn't worry about language barrier when taking cabs.

After praying at Erawan Shrine, we took BTS to Asoke Station, and made our way to Lavana Spa. We love our previous experience here so decided to re-visit. So happened, the spa was having a promotion - For a 120min Aroma Oil Massage treatment (1200 baht) booked before 1pm, we got 60 min Facial worth 1000 baht free! That was value-for-money! So hubby and I took up this promotion. It was also hubby's first facial in many years. LOL!
We started with a foot bath, then led to a couple room for the massage and facial. With soft spa music, we slowly drifted to sleep while our skillful and gracious therapists kneaded our strained and tired bodies.
After 3 hrs, we were fully recharged and ready for some shopping.
Couldn't resist some street hawker foods. Hubby bought pork satay, chicken gizzard and chicken wings. The chicken gizzard was so good, chewy and flavourful; so were the other meats :d

Came across an abandoned half constructed building with lots of graffiti. I love the expression of art and thoughts through graffiti. Pity Singapore is too conforming to allow such freedom of artwork anywhere and restricting to limited gazatted areas.
There were lots of snacks and drink stalls inside the BTS stations. The orange juice, freshly squeezed at the stall was the ultimate thirst quencher. One interesting note, even though food and drinks are allowed inside BTS stations, no one really eats and drinks inside the trains and no one litters. Probably Thai people are in general gracious and civic-minded? In fact, train stations in many countries sell food and drinks (some even right at the platform) but there aren't littering problem.
Hubby wanted to tailor some business shirts, so we alighted at BTS Nana Station and walked around 8-10 minutes to this tailor shop called Gulati. This shop is ran by an Indian gentleman who speaks perfect Thai and English language. He is most professional and hubby would come here to tailor his business shirts at least once a year. I decided to make a few work shirts as there is a wide selection of colours and materials available. We tailored seven pieces in total, cost around 7000 baht and delivery by 12noon the next day to our hotel. I'm impressed with the quick-service. In fact, there are many tailors in Bangkok who offer such service. For suits, pants and blazers, it would usually take 2 days (with fitting).
Thereafter, we made our way to Central Chitlom, then to MBK for some shopping.
For dinner, initially we wanted to take a dinner cruise along Chao Praya River but found most of the cruises over-priced for Valentine's Day Set Meals. Moreover, we weren't sure of the quality of food. Decided to date hubby's friend who is currently working in Bangkok for recommendation of a good dining place.
Hubby's friend S, recommended this thai seafood place at the Huay Kwang area (neon light district of Bangkok), called Nathong Restaurant. He brought along his thai friend (very pretty thai lady who is so sweet and speaks very good English, she was so nice to translate for us throughout the evening). We met at MRT Hway-Kwang station and took a cab from there.
This restaurant works abit like our local seafood restaurant, with tanks for live fishes for customers to choose.
We were impressed by the sheer size of the restaurant. There is a large pond, and a centre-stage built over it featuring thai live bands throughout the night. Patrons could sit at alfresco dining areas built over the pond (surrounding the centre-stage), or level 2 of an adjacent building, garden area, or indoor air-conditioned area.
As it was Valentine's Day, the entire place was packed and we arrived quite late, so we could only get garden area seats, which was a little far from the centre-stage but still could hear the music.
Menu selection is extensive and after much deliberation, we settled on 6 dishes, which were quite a lot for just four of us. But we wanted to try a bit of everything lah (gluttony excuse). Food was served fairly quickly. We were famished and tucked into dinner while soaking in the atmosphere. The photos didn't do justice to the food as I didn't have time to slowly take photos.

Hubby totally loved this fish and I think he ate quite a fair share of it! LOL. The flesh was tender and succulent, and complemented by the tangy sweet, sour and spicy sauce.
The Tom Yam Goong was peppered with thai spices and very flavourful. Passed hubby's taste test (he is particular about Tom Yam soup!) but I felt it was a tad too spicy and sour for my liking.
The steam squid offered a piquant taste, probably due to the kaffir lime sauce. Texture of meat was quite tender, just right QQ.

Stir fry chicken with cashew nut is quite a common thai-chinese dish. This was served well with just the right amount of spiciness and sweetness with tinge of honey.

I was rather impressed with these steam river prawns! They were tiny but succulent and fresh. Went perfectly with a thai green chilli sauce!
We also ordered a Kai Lan with oyster sauce which was stir fry just right but a tad salty. All in all, 6 dishes with rice, 8 bottles of coke, 2 bottles of water, 2 bowls of dessert only cost 1600 baht. Sure can't beat that in Singapore!
After dinner, we went back to hotel tired but satisfied.

The next day, we slept all we wanted and woke up quite late. Decided to go to Siam Paragon for some last minute shopping and lunch since the place offers a large selection of eateries.
Nevertheless, we ended up at MK Gold again, because hubby simply loves the roast duck there :p Oh well. We ordered our usual veggies for the hotpot, with a plate of roast duck and our fav drink here, iced chinese tea.

This time, we decided to try their dim sum, which was surprisely quite well done.

Most importantly, the sauces. I love the sauces here, 1 for hotpot, 1 for roast duck and 1 for the dim sum. All offered different tastes which complemented the main dishes really well.
After lunch, we quickly shopped at the supermarket before heading back to the hotel for check-out. I love the supermarket here at Siam Paragon, which is modeled after Japanese supermarkets. Lots of feature and concept counters, offering different types of food, drinks, snacks for tasting. And the thais know their packaging well! Why can't Singapore supermarkets be like this?
We still had around 2 hours to spare before departing for the airport, so I decided to go for another spa treatment at Banyan Tree Spa, since there was a 20% discount offer (might as well go for it!). While hubby lounged around at the Business Centre. Will blog about the Banyan Tree Spa at another entry.
With a 20% discount, it was still rather pricey. 90min treatment (30min foot bath, shower, relaxing time + 60 min massage) was double the price of my 3hr treatment at Lavana Spa.
So what is the difference between Lavana Spa and Banyan Tree Spa? In terms of furnishings, Lavana Spa focuses on lots of white spaces and airy and clean concept, whereas Banyan Tree Spa exudes a posh and cosy charm with elaborate interior designs, furnishings and textured touches. For treatments, both felt the same, probably Banyan Tree offered more luxury. As for service, both therapists were skillful and gracious and offered superb service. I guess Banyan Tree has an edge in terms of branding but if I were to choose again, I would prefer Lavana Spa for its value-for-money yet semi-luxury overall atmosphere. Then of course, there are literally hundreds of massage places in Bangkok ranging from very affordable (but no frills) shops, to mid-range spas like Lavana, to the top notch like Banyan Tree and Dusit Thani. It all depends on one's preference and budget.

We parted the hotel with some random shots of the hotel's interior design, which is towards folk art. Unlikely to stay here again due to the inconvenience.
With that, ended our short 3D2N getaway. Time always flew past when we were enjoying ourselves but we will definitely be back away since Bangkok is merely 2.5hrs away and quite hassle free.
Bougth this at the airport. The mangoes were really sweet and sticky rice very qq and sweetened with coconut milk. Yum!

Hubby loves this traditional thai dessert made of golden mung beans, coconut milk, jelly. The dessert is moulded into miniatures of fruits and veggies. Really cute!