Jeju: MINT Restaurant

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^ Photo from Happy Mize Travel

I came across this restaurant while surfing the Internet for Western restaurants to feed TBH when we are in Jeju. 

Any Korean drama addict would be able to recognize this restaurant.  I saw it in Boys Before Flowers and Life Is Beautiful. I have always thought it would be a gorgeous place to dine in because of the dramatic views of the ocean and cliffs offered through its floor-to-ceiling windows.

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It is the MINT restaurant in the Phoenix Island Resort  situated in the eastern part of Jeju Island. 

I checked out the resort’s website and the entire place shouts F-A-B-U-L-O-S-I-T-Y.  Great views of the ocean.  Waking up to a beautiful sunrise.  Sipping a cocktail and watching the sun go down.  Taking slow walks through the fields of yellow rapeseed flowers and along the cliffs.  Breathing in the fresh ocean air every morning. 

Drools.

November Is Just Around The Corner

My friend took this photo with his iPhone 4. I’m impressed with the quality of the photo – it’s pretty sharp for a phone camera.

The few of us had our usual monthly dinner – Korean BBQ at Jangshou – and we had a cake to celebrate in advance the birthdays of the two Scorpios amongst us.

I ignored the number of candles on the cake (age is just but a number!) and focused on enjoying the very yummy longan chiffon cake.

And why do people think that I’m going to Korea BECAUSE of Rain…?! Can’t blame them.

It is quite obvious why people put “going to Korea” and “Rain” together but I have to say that I AM NOT THAT MAD.

Banana Cake @ Bollywood

I used to dread going west in the general direction of NTU – Tuas/Jurong West.  It is so ULU and there is nothing there to do. 

Maybe it is age or maybe it is a different perspective that comes with aging or maybe it is just that I have a car now,  I actually like going to that part of the island during the weekends.  Where there are no tall buildings, no crowds and lots of greenery.  I feel a lot refreshed and recharged whenever we drive out to Neo Tiew and Old Chua Chu Kang Road to check out the nurseries and farms.  Ten years ago, I would have thought myself insane.

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Today we drove out to Bollywood.  We spent a rather short time wandering around in the farm and watching a gecko on a horseradish tree before the scorching heat sent us running to the cafe for cover. 

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I couldn’t wait to eat the banana cake (and cart some back home).  I love love love it. It’s very tasty, fluffy and moist. 

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Even though I was still full from breakfast, I couldn’t resist ordering the banana curry, crunchy chicken with kedongdong salad, brown rice and lemongrass drink.  And one of the staff gave me a banana as dessert.  The bite-sized fried chicken was good but I was a bit disappointed with the kedongdong salad.  It wasn’t exactly a salad the way I understand a salad to be but a very small serving of grated kedongdong fruit, which was delicious by the way – slightly tart and crunchy – and I wished for a bigger serving.  The curry was a tad too mild for me as I like my curry hot and fiery.  The lemongrass drink was very refreshing but it could do with a bit more syrup. 

The cafe is a really nice place to chill out.

The Hunger Games Trilogy

After reading rave reviews of The Hunger Games Trilogy on practically every book blog which I have subscribed to on my Google Reader, I decided to check it out.

The novels in the trilogy are knownas The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.  This is a science fiction novel set in a dystopia called Panem (previously North America).  Panem consists of 12 poor Districts and a very wealthy Capitol from where the central government rules with an iron fist.

Every year, the Capitol holds a televised event known as The Hunger Games where two tributes between the ages of 12 and 18 – one boy and one girl – are selected from each District to participate in. The objective of the Games is for the 24 tributes to fight it out and kill each other in an outdoor area known as the Arena until one person remains.  The survivor is the winner of the Games and will go home blazing in glory and wealth.

When I first read the synopsis about this trilogy, I thought it was a horrible story to be reading.  Young adults killing themselves for the pleasure of a nation who watches the event on television..?!  Think Amazing Race but with plenty of blood and gore.

Nonetheless, I was curious enough to borrow the first book, The Hunger Games, from the library.  I figured that if I didn’t like what I was reading, I could just return the book.  It would have cost me only $1.55 to reserve it.

But. The Hunger Games IS a page turner.  I was hooked right from page 1 and found it very difficult to put the book down.  It was the same with the second instalment, Catching Fire.  I kept wanting to go hide in the bathroom cubicle during working hours to read because I needed to know what was happening next.

The protagonists in the trilogy are 16 year-olds Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. They live in squalid District 12, a coal-rich region of Panem, where boys above the age of 18 are sent to work in the coal mines. Peeta was selected as one of the two tributes of District 12 while Katniss volunteered to take her younger sister’s place.

Most of the book vividly describes the wretched lives of the people living in the Districts of Panem, the merry-making and lavish lives of the Capitol, the preparation that the tributes have to undergo for the Games, the obstacles faced by the tributes during the Games and how they fight it out in the Arena.

Grotesque? No.  Not one bit.  Gripping? YES.   I found the story very refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable.  It is about inequality, survival, love, family, friendships, choices and the power of the human will to live.

Now that I am done with The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I am dying to read the final instalment of the trilogy, Mockingjay.  I have been checking my library account everyday to see if the book has arrived in my neighbourhood library for collection.

Steamed Bread

Before Gardenia invaded our lives, we bought bread which costs $0.70 a loaf from the local confectionary or sold by an uncle who hawked the same kind of bread in his mini-van.

In primary school, I ate two slices of the deliciously soft bread, spread with generous amounts of margarine and marmalade, for breakfast (plus two soft-boiled eggs which I absolutely hated as a kid) every morning. After a day or so, the bread hardens slightly and that’s when my mother steams the bread in a wok to soften it.

I adore steamed bread. Hot, slathered with melted butter. I fold each slice of bread into quarters and stuff the entire thing into my mouth.

Not many of the kopi chains such as Coffee & Toast or Wang Cafe serves steamed bread as part of their menu. Whenever I ask for steamed bread at these places, they automatically put the bread into the microwave! Steamed bread – over hot, boiling water. Not microwaved bread!

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^ Steamed bread at this Blk 58 Lengkok Bahru coffeeshop. It’s super yummy. The coffeeshop is very old and decrepit-looking – the sort that we should be preserving as part of our heritage – and sells basically kaya toast, coffee, tea and noodles.

Notre-Dame Cathedral

The one in Saigon known as Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica. Not the Notre-Dame de Paris.

Located in downtown Saigon, the cathedral is situated right next to the hotel where we stayed in.

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I spent an hour wandering inside the red-bricked cathedral one morning, enjoying the serenity of the place (which was a stark contrast to the buzzing traffic outside).

I am not a Catholic, but being around a Catholic church always brings back memories of my childhood days. As a kid, I studied in a kindergarden which was located in a Catholic church and I used to tag along with my neighbours whenever they attended Saturday mass, followed by a yummy dinner.

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The one thing that I couldn’t admiring in the cathedral was the stained glass.

Smoked Trout on Blinis

Argh. I can barely survive till November.  Work is a bitch and I am trying to keep my head above water. Thinking about food always helps to ease the pain a little.

Lately, we have been visiting Culina’s restaurant pretty often because we like the food and the casual dining ambience.  Not much of a service to speak of but because the food is good, we don’t mind the lack so much.

Unless I am not feeling very hungry, I almost always order the ocean trout.  I like how they cook the trout, which is lightly grilled and served with vegetables.  And because I am not a food blogger, I am unable to give a soporific analysis of why I like the trout.

By the way, I am sure my friends and husband will rejoice when they hear this – I have stopped taking photos of food in local restaurants. But hawker centre food doesn’t count.

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An appetiser that TBH and I enjoy sharing at Culina’s is the smoked trout with sour cream, chives and blinis.  I like trout alot.

During my last visit to Culina’s, I discovered that this appetiser has been rotated out of the menu!  And the only way for us to continue eating this is for me to make it myself. 

So I did.  But using crème fraiche instead of sour cream. Good thing that this is quite easy to put together.

Good Eggs, Good Eggs!

Over the weekend, we enjoyed a yummy home-cooked meal and fun conversations at C’s place.

Our feast.

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Fried eggs, ayam buah keluak, bittergourd with tao cheo , vermicelli-fishball soup and super spicy home-made sambal chilli.

I overdosed on the chilli and my stomach burned the entire night.

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Apart from desserts, her eggs are the best! :p (I’m sure she gets my joke…)

Cha Gio

The Vietnamese spring roll.

The deep-fried spring rolls are my FAVOURITE Vietnamese food. I could eat a dozen of these in one sitting.

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^ From the quaint Vietnamese bistro, Quan An.

The non-fried spring rolls – I try to stay away from those because the rice paper wrappers are so difficult to swallow. I always feel like I’m choking when eating these rolls.

Thor, The Food Thief

Thor in action. Before he was condemned to cat purgatory.

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The sneaky fella was watching out for another opportunity to jump onto the table after being released from the bathroom. I thought only stray cats go around foraging for food.

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See the cunning look on his face..?!

Felix, Kylie & Thor

On Sunday, we were invited to a friend’s place for afternoon tea.  He is currently living in a lovely pre-war walk-up apartment in the River Valley area which has lofty ceilings and retro mosaic tiles.  We wished we were living in one of these walk-ups (the only down side being that there are no lifts, which means that I will have to lug heavy groceries up the flights of steps and when I travel, drag the over-loaded suitcases up and down. Not good). You just don’t get such apartments anymore – not in the modern condominium developments.

The few of us had a good time catching up over coffee, home-made scones, crusty bread with cheese, hummus and macarons. Lazing the afternoon away.

Besides the human company, we had a ball of time with the three cats living with our friend – Felix, Kylie and Thor.  Technically, the cats belong to our friend’s housemate.  He adopted Felix and Kylie from the cat welfare society several years ago and is house-sitting Thor, a friend’s cat, for a year.

I absolutely adore the trio!

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^ Felix, a docile grey-haired cat with turquoise eyes, can be found curled up in his basket most of the time. He reminds me of a cartoon character but I just cannot recall which one. *The colour of my rug matches my eyes*

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^ Kylie has a pair of gorgeous golden coloured eyes and smooth, thick fur.  She is a very sweet and affectionate darling who mews loudly when stroked.

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^ Thor is the devil in the trio, albeit an adorably impish one with luminous green eyes. 

Thor would scare the living daylights out of me if I ran into him in the dark.  Imagine having a pair of intense green eyes staring at me.  Not realising that he is actually a guest in the house, he bullies his fellow housemates and is always looking for an opportunity to swat at them with his paws.  Don’t you think Thor looks like a dog? I think he does.

Also, Thor is a sneaky food thief and quite a skilful one.  He is used to being fed scraps from the table by his owners and hasn’t quite understood that his current sitters do not tolerate such a practice. 

Midway through our tea (and conversation), he jumped on a friend’s lap abruptly and took off with a chunk of his scone. For that infraction, he spent the next 30 minutes in cat purgatory, that is, locked in the bathroom where we could hear him hissing angrily.

If I had to choose one of them as a pet, which cat would I pick…?? The husband has decided on Felix.

Thit Nuong In An Alley

Thit Nuong – Vietnamese grilled pork. Fresh off the charcoal grill from a roadside stall in Saigon.

This pushcart stall is located somewhere behind the Opera House. I had forgotten to note its exact location in our post-drunken stupor.

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What I usually like to eat in our local Vietnamese restaurants is Bun Thit Nuong which is cold vermicelli topped with slices of grilled pork, fresh vegetables and a dipping sauce (known as nuoc cham).  I find that this dish has more interesting flavours than pho.

At this roadside stall in Saigon, we had the grilled pork with rice, some vegetables and a fried egg. The grilled pork was super yummy.

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We polished off two plates of rice with grilled pork at one go.  Sitting on tiny stools in a dingy alleyway. I had trouble trying to balance my butt on the stool while shovelling food into my mouth.

No stomach trouble afterwards.  In case you are wondering.

Happy Birthday, Meow!

It is the husband’s birthday today.  (The birthday cake in the photo wasn’t the husband’s.)

It was like any other work day but we ended the day with a nice dinner at Gunther’s at Purvis Street.

We haven’t been to the restaurant before and I am glad that our first dining experience turned out quite well.  The food, the service and the ambience were all pretty good.  There is always a temptation to stick with the tried and tested places so that we wouldn’t get nasty surprises.

Both of us opted for the tasting menu.  We absolutely loved the cold angel hair pasta with Oscietra caviar (flavoured with konbu) and grilled bamboo clams ala Provencale.  I want to order the pasta as a main course the next time I visit Gunther’s. 

I am no traditionalist but I grew up in a household where eating ‘red eggs’ and vermicelli are important traditions of celebrating one’s birthday.

For as long as I can remember, on my birthdays, the first thing that I do after washing up in the morning is to peel ‘red eggs’, followed by eating a hearty bowl of home-cooked vermicelli.  Either my mother or grandmother would go through the trouble of dyeing the eggs red and preparing a bowl of vermicelli for me.  Sadly, this tradition stopped after I got married and moved out of my parents’ home. 

Maybe I should cook the husband a bowl of post-birthday vermicelli during the weekend.   If I don’t mess it all up.

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