Peekture: OUAM Milkshakes

Milkshakes from Once Upon A Milkshake. Courtesy of Groupon!

Photobucket

I have recently joined the Groupon craze, turning into what some people term as ‘a Groupon aunty’, one who is constantly on the prowl for cheap deals.  A fellow Groupon-addict friend tells me that she gets mildly depressed whenever her ‘Groupon inventory runs low…’!

Most of the Groupons that I have purchased so far relate to food (such as Meritus Mandarin’s Christmas log cake and salmon yusheng, shabu-shabu meat from Four Seasons Gourmet Market) and services (such as massages).

I think the Groupon deals are quite good, especially if they relate to those F&B outlets which you frequent or would like to try out as well as services which you usually purchase or is thinking about purchasing.  I like OUAM milkshakes alot so this Groupon was a MUST-BUY for me.  I still have another three OUAM Groupons – now that there is an outlet which is five minutes from my home, it is so convenient to go out and indulge my cravings for OUAM with these Groupons.

I look forward to checking my iPhone Groupon app every morning to see what kind of deals are up for grabs.  Hmmmm, should I get the Komala’s Restaurant Groupon, or not…?

Peekture: Gomtang

There is a new Korean eatery near my office which serves soups such as gomtang and soondae gukbap for lunch.

I rarely see these soups printed on the menu in the Korean eateries that I usually visit (which isn’t that many to start with…)

Photobucket

The gomtang broth was very tasty, especially after adding a little salt to it.  I was very tempted to pour my bowl of rice into the broth,  porridge-style and gobble everything up.

I am heading back very soon, to try the soondae gukbap. I lurrrrve to eat soondae!

I have a long list of Korean food that I MUST eat when I go to Seoul in April. I definitely need more than one stomach to eat everything.  Before that, I am going to have a huge pig-out session with friends this weekend at Hyang-to-gol.

Pintxos & Canapes

Taking advantage of the relatively cool weather, we invited several close friends over for dinner on the second day of Chinese New Year. We wanted to try our friend’s tezukuri tapasu (home-made tapas) or more accurately, pintxos, which he had learnt to make during his three-month internship at Martin Berasategui, a three Michelin-starred restaurant near San Sebastián in the Basque Country in the north of Spain. Pintxos are bite-sized Spanish basque tapas.

For appetizers, he put together three different types of tapas which we enjoyed with a Riesling.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

They were SOOOO GOOD, I am never gonna step into any tapas bar in Singapore.

After we satiated our bellies with tapas, we moved on to the main course which was shabu shabu! Five of us ate a kilo of kurobuta pork shabu shabu and drank sake…! The main course was relatively light and healthy – afterall, it was just thin slices of Japanese pork, vegetables and mushrooms.

Photobucket

Dessert was a light concoction of stewed nectarines with whipped cream and crushed biscuits.

I bought the nectarines at Cold Storage on a whim because I thought we could have fresh fruit and whipped cream for dessert. I wish I had thought to buy a carton of mascarpone cheese, because we all agreed that dessert would have tasted alot better with it, instead of whipped cream.

Tokyo Getaway: The Great Buddha Of Kamakura

Photobucket
鎌倉の大仏は日本に有名です。

^ The Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamukura Daibutsu) located in the Kotokuin temple was our last stop for the Kamakura day-trip.

The Daibutsu is a very famous bronze Buddha statue in Japan.  The other famous bronze Buddha statue that I’ve visited a couple of times is the one in Nara’s Todaiji temple. I like looking at huge Buddha statues – the serenity on the faces gives me a sense of calm and peace.

The Kotokuin temple is located at a different part of Kamukura, and therefore not within walking distance from the temples and shrines which we had visited before it. An overview of the locations of Kamakura’s major temples and shrines can be found here. We had to do a bit of commuting from where we were to see the Daibutsu.

The Tsurugakao Hachiman Shrine is located near the Kamakura station on the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line, the Engakuji and Jochiji temples are situated very close to the Kita-Kamakura station (one stop before Kamukura station) on the same line, but the Kamakura Daibutsu is near the Hase station on the Enoden line.

After visiting the Jochiji temple, we hopped onto the JR train at the Kita-Kamukura station, alighted at the Kamakura station, switched to the Enoden Line (a streetcar-like train) at the Enoden Kamakura station located next to the Kamakura station, and alighted 3 stops later at the Hase station. From the Hase station, we walked about 10 minutes to the Daibutsu, and straight into…

Photobucket

^ Another big group of school-children. And tourists.

By the time we got to the Daibutsu, we were super tired from traipsing around the entire day.  I was craving for hot food and sake!  Good thing the Kotokuin temple is a small one, with the Buddha being its main attraction. So there wasn’t much more walking required, and because the Daibutsu is so huge, I could admire it from a quiet corner without having to jostle with the crowds near the statue.

Photobucket

Photobucket

^ Kids staring up at the Great Buddha. Awed…? Bored…?  Fascinated…? Disinterested…? 🙂

Photobucket

^ The old-world Hase station with its old, wooden beams. Standing on the platform, I felt like I was being transported to the Meiji era.

Photobucket

^  The streetcar-like train on the Enoden Line. It runs very close to private houses and you can literally stick your face into someone’s open window and say hello to whoever is on the other side of the window.

Goodbye Kamakura! It was a bit of a shame though that we didn’t manage to visit Hasedera, the famous Goddess of Mercy temple and its beautiful grounds.   But it’s okay, there will definitely be another time.

Tokyo Getaway: Jochiji Temple in Kamakura

Of the places of worship in Kamakura that we have visited this time, the Jochiji temple is my favourite. It might not look as grand as the Tsugaoka Hachiman Shrine, or as impressive as the Engakuji Shrine, or is as famous as the Daibutsu at Kotokuin temple, it is the most serene and peaceful temple that we visited that day.

Upon stepping foot into the temple grounds, I saw only the main hall and thought that there would be “nothing to see…” here. But it wasn’t the case. The grounds of the temple are quietly beautiful, without any showiness. It was a place where I could enjoy some solitude. It helped that there were no crowds at the temple – save for a couple of temple helpers sweeping the grounds, TBH and myself, I didn’t see any other visitors.

Photobucket

^ The approach to the Jochiji temple, leading to the main gate of the temple.

Photobucket

Photobucket

^ Main hall containing three Buddha statues. The temple ranks fourth on the list of ‘the most important five Zen temples in Kamakura’.

Photobucket

^ Flowerbeds and a tradtional Japanese home.  I have no idea who is living in the house.  Subsequent to the visit, I read that there is also a graveyard in the grounds, probably some distance away from the flower beds. *gulps*.

Photobucket

^ The composition of this photo is off, but I love the clear, cloudless blue sky in the picture.  The weather that day was awesome.

Photobucket

^ A bamboo grove behind the temple.

Photobucket

Photobucket

^ I get excited whenever I see fruit growing on trees. Fruiting trees are very pretty to look at, and photograph. I love the patterns made by intertiwning branches and leaves. Are these peaches, or persimmons…?

Photobucket

^ A flight of steps leading to the Daibutsu walking trail. We were game to do a one-hour hike from Jochiji to Daibutsu, but chickened out shortly after we hit the trail because we looked around and did not see a clear path leading to the Daibutsu or direction markers showing the way. We did not want to get lost in the forest! So we back-tracked and commuted to the Daibutsu by train.

This photo is one of those moments that I want to remember always. Of my husband looking very happy and relaxed!  It is so hard to coax a spontaneous smile out of him. 🙂

Peekture: Last Day Of The Rabbit Year

Photobucket

^ Chinese New Year stalls near my mom’s place.

Unlike previous years, I didn’t do my usual Chinatown walkabout this year. Just didn’t get round to doing so this time around. A bit of a shame, really.

I wished Chinese New Year didn’t come so quickly after Christmas and the New Year, so that we can all have more time to enjoy and soak in the Chinese New Year atmosphere.

Tokyo Getaway: Ghibli Museum, Mitaka

One of the things that I wanted to do during this trip was to visit the Ghibli Museum, located at Mitaka, just outside of central Japan. Being a fan of Miyazaki’s animes, I was curious to see the animation and art museum which showcases his work.

I read that tickets to the museum – ¥1000 a piece for adults – are not sold at the museum, and have to be purchased in advance at the Lawson convenience shops in Tokyo.  I bought ours at the Lawson store located just across the road from my hotel, with the help of the store’s staff, because I couldn’t make out the instructions on the ticket machine! To manage crowds, the museum has four designated entry times a day – 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm and 4 pm.  We chose the earliest time at 10am.  You can find detailed instructions on the Lawson website here.

It was very convenient for us to get to Mitaka from our hotel in Shinjuku. We took a train on the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku station directly to Mitaka station. I cannot remember how long was the ride between the two stations, but it was definitely no longer than an hour. From Mitaka Station, the Ghibli Museum shuttle bus (¥200 one way and ¥300 for a round trip) took us to the museum. Easy! Alternatively, you could take a slow walk from the train station to the museum, which is what we did on our way back.

Photobucket

^ A life-sized grinning Totoro greeting visitors at the main gate.

\Photobucket

Photobucket

^ There was a long queue to get into the museum that day. And a bus-load of Taiwanese tourists came after us.

The museum comprises two floors – the first floor contains some exhibits and a small theatre which screens short movies produced by Studio Ghibli and the second floor houses special exhibitions.  The museum also has a gift shop, an outdoor cafe and a roof-top garden.

The interior of the musem is whimsical and quaint, just like the drawings and colouring in a Miyazaki anime.  While we oohed and aahed at how pretty the place was, we were actually quite disappointed to find out how small the museum is, and how little there is to see.  I felt that it was just a big indoor playground for very young children.

We spent 30 minutes watching the short movie in the theatre – a cute story about a little boy and a whale in the sea.    When we were there, the museum was exhibiting sketches, drawings and frames that were used in creating Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service and a couple of other animes. The exhibits filled all but two small rooms, and needed at most 30 minutes of viewing time.  The rooftop garden is quite tiny too and could hardly accommodate more than a handful of people. Then we spent some time in the gift shop where yours sincerely bought herself soft-toys of Jiji, Totoro and Ponyo.

Having been inside the museum, I can totally appreciate why it is necessary to have visitors buy tickets in advance and have designated entry timings to limit the number of visitors at any one time…

Photography is prohibited inside the museum, so I could only photograph the rooftop garden and the outdoor cafe area.

Photobucket

^ After entering the museum, we exchanged our Lawson receipts for these entry tickets, which come in the form of a strip of film. So cool…!! If you raise the film against the light, you can see anime images on it.

Photobucket

Photobucket

^ Very attractive-looking cafe in bright yellow and fire-engine red.

Photobucket

Photobucket

^ The museum was invaded by school-going children and their mothers that day…

Photobucket

^ The cafe was full. You see patient moms queueing under the tent for their turn to enter the cafe. I thought it is very considerate on the part of the museum to provide chairs and a tent for the waiting mothers. We didn’t queue to go into the cafe, but bought ourselves a hot-dog at a snack bar outside the cafe.

Photobucket

^ The life-sized robot in Laputa on the rooftop garden of the museum!

Tokyo Getaway: Engakuji Temple, Kamakura

By the time we were done with visiting Tsurugaoka Hachiman shrine, it was close to noon, and temperatures were creeping up to become mildly warm.

From the shrine, we took a long sweaty hike to the next temple, Engakuji Temple, the second of Kamukura’s leading five Zen temples. You can tell that the temple is Zen from the austere-looking wooden gate.

Photobucket

^ I can imagine how beautiful the view from this angle would be during the height of autumn, when all the leaves of the trees turn red, gold and yellow.

Photobucket

^ Sanmon. The imposing main gate to the temple.  We saw a number of people sitting around the gate, painting.

Photobucket

^ Butsuden, the main hall of the temple.

Photobucket

Photobucket

^ There were a number of people sitting in the temple grounds, sketching and painting on their own. It must be very therapeutic painting in the outdoors in such beautiful and quiet surroundings, especially in relatively cool weather.

Elegant-looking Japanese middle-aged ladies painting away in their big, lovely hats against a backdrop of centuries-old wooden temples and trees make such a pretty picture.

Quite a few people I know have taken up social painting as a pastime, but the venue is an indoor one. They have invited me to join them but…unfortunately, I am painting-challenged (despite having a grandfather who draws beautifully).

Photobucket

^ Engakuji’s bronze temple bell. It is the largest bell in Kamakura and designated as a National Treasure.

Photobucket

^ More rosy-cheeked school-going kids on excusions! Some of them make very adorable faces when asked to pose for pictures.

Tokyo Getaway: Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine In Kamakura

Photobucket
^ Founded in 1061, this is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan. The temple grounds are big and beautiful.   You have to pass through three Torii gates and climb 62 steps before you arrive at the main hall of the shrine. I skipped climbing the 62 steps this time.

Photobucket
Photobucket
^ Took a photo of this little girl at the Taikobashi Bridge, a stone bridge that arches over two ponds, which leads to the main shrine.

Photobucket
Photobucket

On the day that we visited, it looked like there was a festival going on, because we saw young children dressed in beautiful kimonos accompanied by their parents at the shrine.  It might have been the shichi-go-san Festival (seven-five-three Festival) where 3-year-old boys and girls, 5-year-old boys, and 7-year-old girls visit the shrine to pray for good health and good luck.

Photobucket
Photobucket
^ Omikuji (おみくじ). You see these kids tying strips of white paper with printed characters to the stand? These are ‘paper fortunes’ drawn from an omikuji vending machine. Yeah, the famous Japanese vending machines sell you delicious hot/cold canned drinks and coffee, and can also tell your fortunes…! Cool, right? If she had drawn a bad fortune lot, she must tie the paper at the stand “to leave the bad luck at the shrine”. If it was a good fortune lot, she would bring the strip of paper home.

Another thing that I must do when I next visit Japan! The only problem I can foresee is whether I can understand what has been written on the piece of paper. This is important because I don’t want to make a big boo-boo by leaving good fortune behind and bringing bad fortune home…!

Photobucket
^ The stone bridge leading to another shrine sitting on an island in the pond.

Photobucket
^ I think this is the Heike Pond in the grounds of the shrine.  The lotus plants growing in this pond produce red flowers while the ones in the other side of the pond  have white blooms.

Photobucket
Photobucket
^ Ema (絵馬). You see hundreds of these wooden plaques hung on a stand in most Japanese shrines. Worshippers buy a plaque at the temple, write their wishes on it and then hang it on the stand, known as an ema stand.

I have always wanted to write a wish on one of these plaques, and I shall do it the next time I visit a Japanese shrine. Hopefully, I can string together a wish in Japanese by that time.

Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
^ Such pretty and colourful food stalls.

Peekture: Khajur Pak

I tried a new food recently.  My colleague from India brought us a gift when he came to Singapore for a business trip.  He gave us a type of Indian dessert known as Khajur Pak.

Photobucket

I am not fond of Indian desserts because they are generally very sweet, and I don’t have a sweet tooth.

But the Khajur Pak is delicious, and is not as sweet as I thought it would be.  Khajur Pak is made of dates (khajur), mawa (dried milk) and erm, ghee.  The one that I was given also had pistachios and almonds – nuts that I love.

Khajur Paks are very addictive to eat!

error: Content is protected !!