Old School Wanton Noodles

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Depending on which you prefer, this local dish can be called ‘wan-tan noodles’ or ‘wan-ton noodles’ or ‘won-ton noodles’, or shrimp dumpling noodles. In Singapore, the first two names are more common than the last one. Some of my Caucasian friends who live here are amused to hear that they are eating ‘wan-ton noodles’ – “why do you guys call your noodles ‘promiscuous’?”

I love wan-ton noodles, the dry version using mee pok (flat noodles similar to fettucine) with lots of chili. There was a period of time in college when I ate this every single day for lunch for a period of 3 months because I liked it. (I am a bit extreme – if I like a dish, I can and will eat it everyday.)

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to what they like about wan-ton noodles. Some folks are particular about the quality of the char siew while others are fussy about the size and taste of the wan-tons. Me? I am fussy about the bite of the noodles and the flavour of the sauce. I prefer the Singapore version which uses tomato ketchup, chili sauce and sesame oil in the sauce. The Malaysian version omits tomato ketchup and uses mainly dark soya sauce and usually comes with deep-fried wantons. I know many friends who love this dark sauce version but I don’t.  My husband prefers the soup version, Hong Kong-style.

It is sad to know that our hawker culture is gradually disappearing. I ate this plate of noodles at a hawker centre in Cambridge Road, cooked by a hawker who is in his 60s. I wonder if I will still get to eat authentic wan-ton noodles (or any other local hawker food) 10 years down the road when the current generation of hawkers retire. I guess we will still have hawkers in the future, just that they will be foreign labour and I am not sure about the authenticity of the flavors.

Promontory@Marina Bay

I bought a Panasonic Lumix GF2 a couple of years back because I wanted a small camera but had capabilities similar to that of a DSLR. I wanted to be able to bring along a camera in my handbag so that I could snap photographs as I go along my daily life. However, the experience with the camera hasn’t been positive and I have been toying with the idea of selling it. I wasn’t satisfied with the quality and colour of the images that my GF2 has been producing. Some camera-phile friends think that there might be a problem with the focusing function of the camera and have suggested that I send it to the service centre. I am going to do just that soon.

Last week, on a whim, I took the GF2 to work with me. On my walk to between MBS and the MBFC during my lunch-hour, I saw these boats at the Marina Bay promontory. A sailing event! It was the Extreme Sailing Series and Singapore was part of Team Aberdeen. So instead of hurrying back to work, I paused and took some photos of the boats sailing right in the middle of the Central Business District, on the Singapore River. I thought the skyscrapers formed a fantastic backdrop for the sailboats.

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There was a period of time in my life when I spent time at a sailing club scrubbing the hull of a catamaran. I have also gone out to sea in a catamaran, a laser and a bigger boat (the sort with a cabin but I cannot remember the name now), and capsized in the middle of sea. For someone who hates the sea and can barely keep her head afloat in water, these experiences are amongst my life’s greatest achievements. 🙂 Watching these sailors brought back good memories of those sailing days of mine. Nothing will make me get onto a sailing boat now!

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As part of the Extreme Sailing Series event, there were other side events going on in the promontory, including inviting two gourmet food trucks, the Kerbside Gourmet and The Travelling C.O.W., to spend 2 days in that area. I have been excited by the idea of gourmet food trucks and have been looking forward to trying their food. It was great that they were just a short walk away from my work place.

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The problem about food trucks in Singapore is… the weather. Eating under a huge tent in the sweltering heat made it difficult for us to enjoy the experience. One could keel over from heatstroke. I nearly melted into a puddle of fat in the heat. I am gonna try the food again another time, hopefully, in a shady spot. Or I will bring along a portable fan.

Sri Lanka: Tea Country

I decided to tweak the look of this blog a little, by giving it a 2-column look instead of the previous 3-column. I wanted a wider space so that I need not spend time resizing my photographs, especially the landscape format ones, to make them fit a narrower column. Photos also look better when they are larger in size.

After we left the Grand Hotel in Nuwara Eliya, we drove down the tea country and headed to a tea plantation known as Mackwoods.  It is a beautiful property with a great view of the hills.

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Zooming into the hills through the viewfinder of my camera, I can see the workers in the tea plantation removing each tea leaf by hand. It is a very manual and laborious process, and undertaken only by females. See the huge bags that are attached to their backs.

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The closest I could get with my lens.

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The tea room where all guests are brought to for their complimentary pot of tea.

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We sat down and drank a pot of tea. Orange Pekoe.  Though I am not much of a tea-drinker , this tea was delicious.  Fragrant with a slightly fruity tang to it.

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After tea, we were brought on a short tour of the factory.  I didn’t take photos during the tour – it was too difficult to multi-task, taking photos and listening to what the guide had to say about the tea-making process.

We bought lots of tea to bring home as souvenirs, including two boxes of the Queen’s Jubilee tea. Souvenirs – checked.

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Peekture: Mookata

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The traditional Thai steamboat, Mookata, is the latest steamboat craze in town. It is new to me as I have never come across Mookata even though I have visited Thailand many times. I love steamboat, any kind of steamboat, especially the ones that come with two types of broth such as chicken-and-tomyam or the Sichuan broth made with fiery and tongue-numbing Sichuan peppers.

Unlike most steamboats or hotpots where the food is cooked in a broth, the Mookata steamboat offers the choice of cooking the food on a hot-plate coated with pork lard and in a broth. The wonderful thing about Mookata is that the broth at the base of the steamboat collects all the juices from the meat that is being cooked on the dome-shaped hot plate. What you get at the end of the meal is a wonderful broth flavored with vegetables and seafood that have been cooking in it that was made even tastier by the dripping juices from the barbecued meat.

Sometimes, I cannot figure out why we enjoy perspiring away in front of a steamboat in hot and humid Singapore and come away smelling of food.

Sri Lanka: The Indiana Jones Bridge, Kandy

Does this bridge look familiar?

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On our way to Kandy, we drove past this bridge which was used in the movie, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The movie crew constructed it for the film and when everything was over, did not dismantle the bridge but left it behind for the people living in that area to use.

I love my Indy Jones movies and was super excited to see the bridge. We hopped out of the car and spent some time on the bridge, taking photos and admiring the scenery. I walked up and down the bridge trying to imagine the scene in the movie, with the crocodiles snapping ferociously in the waters under the bridge. 🙂

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A rare photograph of me and the hubs. 🙂

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Sri Lankan Crab Curry

Singaporeans are known to be a ‘foodie nation’, simply because our conversations with each other tend to revolve around food – what we ate and where to eat, and also ‘cos we have plenty of fantastic local food. If you ask a Singaporean for his/her opinion on what is our national dish, the answer that you are most likely to get is ‘chili crabs’. And not just any crabs, but it has to be BIG Sri Lankan crabs.

I would totally cast my vote on ‘chili crabs’. I LOVE chili crabs. I love dipping piping hot mantous in the starchy-eggy-spicy sauce that accompanies the crabs. I love eating the orangy-red roe. When I was younger, I would even ask for any leftover chili crab sauce to be packed in a box so that I could use it to cook instant noodles the next day. Chili crab instant noodles are to die for!

Whenever I have out-of-town friends come to Singapore, I will definitely bring them to a local seafood restaurant and feast on crabs. Chili crabs, black pepper crabs, salted egg crabs, milk crabs, coffee crabs. You will literally have crab oozing out of your orifices.

When friends heard that we were going to Sri Lanka for holiday, the common little joke was – “You are going to be eating plenty of Sri Lankan crabs ah?” In our little minds, “Sri + Lanka = crabs”.

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So I was really looking forward to eating crabs in Sri Lanka. When I was in a local restaurant in Negombo and saw that its menu featured crab curry, I just had to order it. The crab curry was divine. I was a little taken aback when the crab curry turned up in a bowl, without the shell.  We are used to eating our chili crabs with its shell intact so this crab-eating experience was a little strange at first.  🙂  But I was quite happy to be able to enjoy crabs without having to dirty my hands.

The curries in Sri Lanka are so delicious.  The locals cook their curries with so many spices yet the flavors remain subtle and do not overwhelm your palate.  This crab curry was easily the best meal during my 1-week stay in Sri Lanka.

March 2013 Reading List

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I am trying to get myself back onto a reading routine. I am feeling a bit sheepish about reading so little in 2012, but I just could not get hold of any satisfying reads.

What happened to the days when the first thing I reached out for the minute I woke up was the book on my bedside table? Nowadays, I reach for my iPhone to check for messages and email that came in over the night.

What happened to the days when I could not sleep unless I read a few pages of a book? Nowadays, it is the iPad that I fall alsleep with.  It usually hits my face with a thunk and jolts me awake.

I used to go everywhere with a book in my bag. I disliked the idea of commuting without a book to read. It was easier to pass the time with a book when waiting for the bus or the train. These days, I drive and even when I am whiling away my time waiting for someone or something, I have my iPhone to entertain me.  As my husband says, I have to stop this iPhone addiction. I absolutely agree. But where, oh where is the iPhone detox clinic?

Last week, I checked in on all the book blogs that I follow on Google Reader (damn, what am I going to do when Google Reader is discontinued after 1 Jul…?) and looked around GoodReads to get some book recommendations. Then I went straight to the library’s reservation site and reserved 4 books. I felt really happy collecting these books over the weekend, and I sort of relived those happy childhood days of my weekly visits to the library.

Crossing that these books will turn out to be great reads. I badly need a good book fix!  I know that I will enjoy Farahad Zama’s Mrs Ali’s Road to Happiness and Zoe Ferarris’s Kingdom of Strangers.  That’s a 50% hit rate!

Time to go and lie in bed with a book.  Good night!

xoxoxo.

Sri Lanka: Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya. Also known as ‘Little England’.

It took me a while to wrap my mind around the correct pronounciation of the tea country in Sri Lanka. Based on phonetics, I thought that the name of this place was pronounced as ‘noo-wa-ra-eh-li-ya’, but no, it is actually pronounced as ‘noo-reh-lia’. A very pretty name.

The drive to Nuwara Eliya from Negombo was 5-hour long, bumpy and ass-busting. For this trip, we travelled in a Japanese salon car, and my feedback to our travel agent was that a 4-wheel drive would have been more appropriate and probably more comfortable for the passengers given the road condition.

We understand from our guide that the Sri Lankan government has started to build highways between towns to reduce travelling times between the major towns in the country, and the first expressway between Colombo and Galle was completed last year. Until such time, visitors travelling around Sri Lanka have to be prepared for long and tiring car rides on single-lane roads that are not in the best of condition.

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We arrived at Nurawa Eliya in the late afternoon, checked into our room at the Grand Hotel before popping out for a walk around the hotel. The Grand Hotel, though old, is quite charming with its Elizabethan-style architecture and picturesque grounds. It was the former residence of the Governor of Sri Lanka between 1830 and 1850. Seated in the large drawing room with a fireplace and a cup of tea, I imagined myself to be an English lady-of-leisure. I should have brought along my tea dress, satin gloves and a pretty hat. I have been watching too many British period dramas. 🙂

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Gorgeous hydrangea bushes.  I was very tempted to pluck one off the bushes.

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Hello, Handsome Doorman!   And look at the lovely chandeliers hung from the ceiling.

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Cosy drawing room with plush sofas (great for curling up with a book), a fireplace and wi-fi (yay!).

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Well-polished wooden floors make me want to run and slide across the corridor in my sneakers.  A better view of the chandeliers and lights here.

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The charm of Grand Hotel faded somewhat after I trudged up the flight of stairs to the second floor and opened the door to my room. The room was a decent size, clean and neat. However, it was dank, musty…and erm, had no wifi (I know I sound like a spoilt city girl). The mustiness was odd given that the hotel is located high up in the mountains with plenty of cool fresh air, and from what I understand, a frequent turnover of rooms due to its popularity with tour groups.

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I was charmed by the flower-shaped lamp shades.

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Lovely tea-room. I like the black and white floor tiles. TBH and I are coffee-drinkers and do not drink very much tea.  Since we are in the tea country, we wanted to try the local teas.  So we had tea and scones at 5pm, just before we skipped down the hotel driveway to dinner at an Indian restaurant near located 2 minutes away.

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Nice tea cozies!

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This gigantic metallic contraption is actually a hot water boiler…to make tea.

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The hotel lounge which looked quite cool to hang out at after dinner for drinks.  Pity we never got the chance to do so because we drank ourselves silly at dinner (at the same Indian restaurant down the driveway) during our two-night stay in the hotel.

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We also look a walk further away from the hotel and discovered some AMAZING old trees lining the driveway and down the main road towards the town square. I love old trees, especially those with interesting branches growing in all directions. Will post these another day!

Time to lie in bed and enjoy what’s left of my Sunday evening.

Carabiniero In A Broth

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The good thing about having friends who love to cook and are competent at it is that I often get wonderful meals prepared at home, in return for a bottle of wine, a bunch of flowers and some good company (I hope).

It gets even better when your friend loves to cook, is great at it and runs his own restaurant. ‘Cos I get to try interesting, seasonal produce imported from the Western hemisphere that may not be easily available to the home-cook, and without having to travel out of the country.

Last week, he brought in a small quantity of ‘carabiniero‘, a large scarlet Spanish prawn that is considered a delicacy in Spain, or so I hear. The carabiniero was lightly grilled on the outside while keeping the interior slightly raw, served with a richly-flavoured prawn broth and a very tasty pile of cabbage and onions.  It is a shame that the lighting in the restaurant was too dim for me to take a decent photograph of the dish with my iPhone.

The prawn is very sweet and succulent, with plenty of creamy orange roe oozing out of the head.  The texture of the prawn is not much different from that of ebi sashimi – creamy and slightly ‘sticky’. So if you like ebi sashimi – which I totally adore – you will enjoy this dish.

Lucky for me that the husband does not quite appreciate seafood that is not thoroughly cooked so I got to enjoy most of the ‘carabiniero‘.  Ignoring all the health-warnings flashing in my head, I happily sucked all the orange gunk out of the prawn head and slurped up the broth.  If it wasn’t for the pretty hefty price tag attached to this dish, I would not have thought twice about ordering another portion. I am crossing my fingers that he will bring in this dish again.

When I visit Spain, hopefully soon, I will be watching out for this scarlet creature on restaurant menus.

xoxoxo

Peekture: Flowers For The Weekend

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Another practice session! TBH thinks the whole thing is quite fugly but I like this arrangement. The colours look very pretty and the arrangement doesn’t have my-usual-messy-stick-everything-together look.   I have always liked the ginger flower because of the shape and colours, but could never figure out how to arrange them nicely.

Happy. 🙂 I think I am improving, very slightly but improving. Unlike before, I no longer look at my arrangements with distaste.

xoxoxo

Sri Lanka: Sunset At Negombo

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That is us.  Having ‘Sex On The Beach’ (the cocktail, silly! :-)) at the hotel bar in Negombo admiring the gorgeous sunset  and being quietly grateful for what Mother Nature has bestowed upon us.

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Love the hues of pinks, yellows, oranges and lavender meshed together with the fluffy clouds and silhouette of the coconut trees against the blue sky.

And naturally, I could not stop skipping around with my iPhone, trying to capture as many shots of the fiery crimson sun as possible.

Peekture: Flowers For The Weekend

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TBH and I were just going to have a quick lunch at a Thai eatery near our place and chill out at home, but we ended up driving all the way to Holland Village to buy fresh flowers.  We love having flowers at home ‘cos they add so much cheer and life to our home.

Unfortunately, the selection at the flower stall wasn’t great today.  I was hoping to buy a huge bunch of yellow orchids but these were not available today.  So we picked white eustomas and red berries, a simple color combination that should not go too wrong in my hands.

I am quite happy with this arrangement, though I definitely need more practice.

Peekture: Matcha Shiratama Zenzai

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I have never really enjoyed matcha ice-cream, not even in Japan. So whenever I am at a Japanese restaurant in Singapore, unless it is part of a set meal, I don’t usually consider matcha-related options for dessert. My choices of an ice-cream dessert typically veer towards a yuzu sorbet or a goma ice-cream, because I love the slightly tart but fragrant flavour of yuzu – it is a great palate cleanser at the end of a meal, and I like the creamy and nutty flavour of black sesame.

Maybe it is one of those ‘change-in-taste-buds’ thing that hits one at a certain age.

Or maybe the folks at Tsujiri added some kind of opium in the matcha soft serve ice-cream that they sell at 100AM, because the Tsujiri experience is definitely a life-changing one for me, as far as matcha ice-cream goes.

These days, I crave for matcha ice-cream, especially if it comes with azuki and shiratama. The slight bitter edge in the matcha ice-cream, the sweetened azuki (or ‘zenzai‘) and the chewy-doughy texture of shiratama is so satisfying when the flavours come together.

I am glad that Ichiban Boshi serves quite a tasty Matcha Shiratama Zenzai, ‘cos that means I can just skip there for some comfort dessert whenever the work day gets a little rough.

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