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.

Pho-to

Tongue-in-cheek. Inspired by my colleague.

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^ Pho 24

The Vietnamese Pho is one of those things that I don’t enjoy eating but still eat it anyway. Like chocolate cake.

What’s not to like about flat white noodles in clear beef broth, thin slices of beef, topped with onions, bean sprouts, basil and cilantro?

I don’t know. Pho just tastes very bland.

Nightlights of Saigon

On the way to the Sheraton Hotel for a drink, we passed by the Hotel Continental Saigon and I was immediately attracted to the hotel’s changing lights.

It was quite tough taking these pictures of without a tripod and I am glad that they didn’t all turn out blurry.

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I love the facade of this building, the iconic signage and the wide boulevard in front of it, especially at night, when the entire area looks rather romantic and all. Is this how it Paris looks like at night?

I could have stood at the boulevard all night watching the lights change colour. If I get a chance to go to Saigon again, I would really like to stay a night or two in this grand old dame.

We went up to the rooftop of the Sheraton Hotel to enjoy the nightlights of Saigon. 

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We were treated to a gorgeous view  of Saigon from the rooftop but unfortunately, the bar proved to be rather incompetent in mixing cocktails.  

We all placed orders for a round of mojitos and were promptly served terribly watered down versions that they cannot be called mojitos but ‘mock-jitos’.  Too stingy on the rum for the drink to qualify as a cocktail.

There was no time to waste and we adjourned to the Park Hyatt where we enjoyed several rounds of a good, stiff mojito.  Dark rum mojito served with a sugarcane stirrer.

A Vietnamese Bistro

While walking along Dong Khoi street (the Orchard Road equivalent in Saigon), we stumbled on this quaint Vietnamese bistro hidden in an alleyway called Quan An. 

I can’t quite remember the directions to this place.

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The 1930s-looking interior of the bistro looks like it came straight out of a painting.  With its faded dusty pink walls, hanging lanterns, retro-looking mosaic tiles and stairway with a laquer finishing.

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Full of old-world charm, it serves very good chicken wings and fried spring rolls. The three of us spent a wonderful time having afternoon tea (coffee, rather) and chatting away in the bistro.

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The only grumpy thing about this bistro was the waiter’s attitude.

The problem I have with visiting such a place is that I tend to spend all my time taking photos of it.  It will always take me a second visit – which is usually impossible – to soak up the ambience of the bistro and appreciate every bit of the charm that the place oozes.  I will want to visit this bistro again if I ever have the chance to visit Saigon in the future.

Quick Trip To Saigon

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I just got back from an intoxicating (and I mean it literally) work-cum-play trip to Saigon. I wish the Vietnamese had kept the old name of the city.   I have always thought ‘Saigon’ to be a much prettier name than ‘Ho Chi Minh’.  

The trip was short and we had quite a good time eating, shopping, (lets just leave out the work bits) and drinking. We drank too much and slept too little. And we were either hungry or inebriated or a combination of both.   The horrors of alcohol and baaad company!

This is my second trip to Saigon.  My first trip was in 2007 when I went there to, erm, watch a concert.  During that trip, my friends and I were similarly intoxicated and inebriated most of the time, albeit caused by a different sort of stimulant! The sort that dances and unfortunately, does not come in a bottle.

As it was a really short visit at that time, I didn’t have much of an impression of the city apart from the Ben Thanh market (where we shopped till we dropped), the dizzying number of motorcycles whizzing past and the insufferable heat.  The weather was slightly better this time – still sweaty and hot but there were daily showers to bring the temperature down somewhat.

Staying right in the city centre, I saw the charming side of Saigon this time.

Eton Mess

I love this English concoction of cream, meringue and strawberries. It is such a pretty summery dessert.

But I didn’t quite enjoy the Eton Mess at Oriole Cafe today. I wished it had less meringue and more fruits. Also, the whipped cream was dense and there was too much syrup over it.

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I tried making the Eton Mess once at home and it turned out to be a real mess. I went overboard with the cream and we ended up eating eating mounds and mounds of light, fluffy whipped cream.

Edit: Looking at the photos again, the red streaks seem like fresh red blood.

Old Jam And Fresh Scones

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Craving for some scones, I made a batch yesterday. It was my first attempt at making scones. Not sure why since I love this stuff.

They didn’t turn out looking how I expected scones to look like, but were edible. I gobbled up 3 immediately after they were done baking in the oven because I was so hungry after expending all the energy screeching my head off at the tuina session.

No clotted cream. So I ate the scones slathered with butter and old strawberry jam.

When I say “old jam”, I meant OLD jam. Jam that has been lying in my fridge since 2005. Gross I know. I could call this vintage jam.

I bought the jam from Margaret River five years ago, and could not bear to throw it away even though it has expired.

It hasn’t gone bad or turned mouldy. And I’m still very much alive.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

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This is one of the best books that I have read since Pride & Prejudice and The Moon And Six Pence.  To me, there are good books and there are great books.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is in the latter category. 

Personally, I define a great book as one which I am afraid to reach the last page; and when it does, I feel sadness and regret.  I want the book to go on and on forever.  That would certainly turn a great book into a bad one.

The name of this book sounds quite odd at first and is a mouthful to pronounce. The first thought that came to my head when I came across this book title was – ‘What’s Guernsey and what’s Potato Peel Pie?”  But the reviews of the book intrigued me.  Every single review I read on the Internet is a glowing one.

Guernsey is an island off the coast of Normandy and belongs to Britain.  The book, an epistolary novel, is set in Guernsey immediately after World War II ended. 

The story revolves around the exchange of letters between Juliet Ashton, a 30-something author who made her name writing a newspaper column during the war, and a group of residents in Guernsey.  The letters contain anecdotes – actually, very sad stories told in an amusing way – of the residents about their lives during the German occupation of Guernsey. 

The group of residents are members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a book club which was set up on the spur of the moment to conceal a roast pig dinner from the German soldiers.  To keep up with the farce, the members continued to meet to discuss the books that they have read.  Eventually, the members found solace in books which nourished their soul and kept their spirits up during the difficult times.  As food was scarce then, the members fed themselves with a pie made out of potatoes and potato peel during their book club meetings.

Told in a dry and matter-of-fact manner, the book gave me an insight into how the people of Guernsey lived under the Germans, how they tried to secretly feed the Polish war slaves who were being worked to death by the Germans, and most of all, staying courageous in the face of adversity, nurturing friendships and the strength to live and survive under oppression.

I love the writing in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  The characters in the book came alive for me and I felt like I knew these people.  The language is so breezy and witty yet the words are tinged with heaviness, sadness and longing for friends and family who had perished during the war.  

Actually, what really piqued my curiosity about this book is the German occupation of Guernsey.  I have always been very interested in novels and films about the Holocaust eversince I first read I Am David at the age of thirteen years old.  I Am David was one of my literature texts  in Secondary One and it is another favorite book of mine.  (My husband pointed out to me that reading history books will give me more accurate insights into the Third Reich but such books bore me to tears. *Snore*

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a keeper.  It is a pity that the author of the book, Mary Ann Shaffer, passed away before the book was actually published. I cannot look forward to reading more of her writing.

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