Wait. Don’t Eat. Yet.

Dinner
The vegetables look sadly wilted as they had been sitting around for a while – after I was done with cooking, I realised that I had forgotten to turn on the rice cooker……

Just like how I don’t understand why there are some people who enjoy taking macro shots of creepy-crawlies, there are also people who have no clue as to why I am crazy about taking food photos (yeah, even a mug of frothy teh tarik also must take).

Guess it is mostly because I love food (who doesn’t?) and I enjoy photography (yeah, right) and what better than to marry the two (which annoys the heck out of my husband but well, it might be good for his blood pressure to be annoyed from time to time). 

Also, I think the gastronomic experience starts with the eye so I like to capture how a dish looks when it is served – whether it has been meticulously plated according to the rules of fine-dining establishments or not (think char kway teow or hokkien prawn noodles) does not really matter.  Yes, even my own modest ‘everything-pile-on-the-plate’ meals, I like to take photos of.  Practice (at every opportunity) makes perfect!

Does this make any sense? Even if it does not, never mind – this isn’t a Financial Times column. 

So, eating with me can be quite a tiresome affair (and more often than not, embarrassing) because I like to snap photos of the food before I let anyone at the table dig into it.  In whichever possible angle – aerial, side, 60 degrees or at various apertures, lighting and set up.  And I balance the camera on anything on the table – wine glasses, plates, bowls, vases…

I guess my regular dining companions have gotten so used to such antics that whenever their food arrives at the table, they will automatically say “Go on, do whatever you have to do…and HURRY UP. I am frickin’ hungry.”  But I always take my time with TBH’s food because it raises his heckles immediately.

Know what happens whenever I dine out and forget my camera? I start twitching.

Seafood Pancake

Haemul Pajeon
Haemul Pajeon (‘haemul’ – seafood; ‘pajeon’ – pancake)

The haemul pajeon served by Red Pig, a Korean eatery at Amoy St run by two Korean ahjummas, is by far the tastiest that I’ve eaten in Singapore.

The pajeon is very crispy on the outside and the insides filled with generous portions of scallions and squid.  Quite a number of other places which I have tried are too generous with the batter and too stingy with ingredients, so I end up feeling as though I am eating half-cooked batter and hardly anything else.

I also like Red Pig’s kimchi jigae which is more sour than what we are used to.

Apart from the pajeon and kimchi jigae, I think I keep going back to Red Pig because the eatery’s atmosphere is reminiscent of eating in Seoul.

Strawberry Milkshake

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‘Agent Strawberry’ – Once Upon A Milkshake

Not very fond of strawberries (unless they are Korean strawberries) but I like strawberry milkshake.  Alot.

I still remember those days when going to McDonald’s for a happy meal meant having a strawberry milkshake, French fries and a cheeseburger (without the pickles, of course) – in descending order of importance. 

For some reason unknown to me, McDonald’s stopped selling milkshakes and I felt a huge, crushing loss.  One day many years later, McDonald’s put milkshakes back on their menu but my happiness was shortlived. The strawberry milkshake just did not taste the same as before.

A few people recommended Billy Bomber’s strawberry milkshake and I tried.  It turned out to be a lemon!  Thin and tasteless.

Anyway, Relish came along and I rediscovered the joys of sipping a delicious strawberry milkshake.  Served in a tall glass, Relish’s milkshake is thick, creamy and robust with small chunks of strawberries added to give some bite.  I have no idea how they make this – and I am not sure I want to know – but I am sure a glass of this pink concoction pretty much maxes out my permissible calorie intake for the day.

Recently, we have been frequenting Once Upon A Milkshake, an ice-cream and milkshake parlour at Maxwell Chambers. I like this place.  The whole set-up, in a purple-and-white theme, is very charming and quaint.

I am addicted to their strawberry milkshake, which is homemade strawberry ice-cream blended with low-fat milk.  It is everything yummy without making one feel je-lak.

Have not tried any other flavours yet.  And I doubt I will get around to doing so anytime soon.

Siem Reap: Day 1 – Preah Ko

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Constructed by King Indravarman I in 879 to honour his forefathers when he first ascended the throne, Preah Ko means ‘sacred bull’. There are several stone bulls still standing at the front of the temple (but they don’t look like bulls to me no matter how hard I stare at them).

Preah Ko consists of two rows of three towers on a raised platform, facing east. The central (and taller) tower was dedicated to Jayaraman II, the founder of the Khmer empire. The tower to the left was dedicated to King Indravarman’s father and the tower to the right is dedicated to his grandfather. The 3 rear towers were dedicated to the wives of these three men.

Unlike Bakong which was made from stone, Preah Ko was constructed using bricks. The intricate carvings and inscriptions on the prasats and walls are beautiful and still in pretty good condition.

Even though this was only the second temple in our trip, I was beginning to feel the onset of temple fever.

Click to enlarge:
Preah Ko Preah Ko Preah Ko Preah Ko Preah Ko Preah Ko  

Other Posts of Siem Reap:
Siem Reap: Arrival
Siem Reap: Overview
Siem Reap: Day 1 – Bakong

Siem Reap: Day 1 – Bakong

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The Bakong was the first temple we visited. I was so pre-occupied with taking photographs that I completely missed out on our guide’s explanation of the temple’s history.

Ok, I confess that I barely listened to our guide throughout the trip and had to research on the Internet the history of all the temples we visited after I returned.

Constructed around AD 881 by King Indravarman I (3rd Khmer King), the Bakong was the first sandstone state temple of the Khmers.  It is seated in the centre of Hariharalaya, the first capital of the Khmer Empire, and this area is now known as Roluos. 

As Hindu was one of the official religions of the Khmers, the construction of state temples was understandably heavily influenced by Indian temple architecture.  Featuring a 5-tier pyramid surrounded by chambers, chapels and prasats (towers), the Bakong is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the home of the gods in Hindu mythology. Each of the 5 tiers represent a different realm (from bottom up) – nagas (cobras), garudas (mythical birds), rakshasas (demons), yakshas (nature spirits) and maharajas (kings).  

What we were unprepared for was the unbelievably hot weather.  Barely started the day and we were already soaked in perspiration climbing up and down the very steep steps of the Bakong.

So happy to see humongous coconuts on sale as we exited the Bakong, but it was difficult getting away from the clamoring hawkers trying to get us to buy their coconuts. 

Other Posts on Siem Reap:
Siem Reap: Arrival
Siem Reap: Day 1 – Overview
Siem Reap: Day 1 – Preah Ko

Siem Reap: Day 1 – Overview

After a good night’s rest and a pretty heavy breakfast, we were both ready to start exploring.

Our guide, Phat, met us at 8.30am in the hotel lobby and our first stop was to buy the 3-day Angkor temple pass costing US$20 per person.  The ticket counter takes a photo of each tourist and imprints it onto his/her ticket.   I was quite surprised to hear that the revenue from the ticket sales does not entirely go to the Cambodians but is shared with a Vietnamese company who has been granted ticket concession rights to the Angkor Archaeological Park for a number of years.

Phat also showed us a map of Angkor (attached in the thumbnail below) and highlighted the locations of the 7 temples which we would be visiting over the next 3 days.

Aside from the Khmer Rouge genocide between 1975 and 1979 and the legendary Cambodian landmines, I know every little about Cambodian history and culture. Not surprisingly, I had a bit of a difficulty trying to absorb Cambodia’s history recounted by Phat along the way – the good husband was naturally nodding away enthusiastically.

Very (very) briefly, present-day Cambodia came under Khmer rule sometime around AD 802.  At its peak, the Khmer Empire was the biggest and most powerful in Southeast Asia, with its boundaries stretching as far as the Thai-Burmese border in the west and Laos in the north.  Hinduism and Buddhism were the Khmers main religions.

The Khmers were architectural genius, building remarkable temples and irrigation systems, as well as being master stone sculptors.

The Khmer civilisation came to an end in 1491 when the empire was invaded by the Sukhothai Kingdom.

Angkor Map (click to enlarge):
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Other Posts on Siem Reap:
Siem Reap: Arrival
Siem Reap: Day 1 – Bakong
Siem Reap: Day 1 – Preah Ko

Popsicles

Popsicles

I tasted these popsicles for the very first time during the Korean pop concert at Fort Canning last December.

Having queued for a long while to enter the concert grounds, we were looking to buy a drink to quench our thirst. Nearby, a makeshift stall manned by Koreans was selling take-away bimbimbap and thin-crust pizza slices to (long-suffering and hungry) Korean pop fans and we spotted in the stall’s ice-box these attractively wrapped popsicles in orange and pear flavours. We bought both flavours.

Wow, they were YUMMY. Sweet, cold and addictive. Each of us had something like 3 popsicles that night. The flavours were intense and I think that is because good quality fruit extracts, not just colouring, were used to make the popsicles.

My fridge is now stocked with popsicles (orange, pear and kiwi) from Seoul Mart at Parkway Parade. They are great to have on a warm and sticky Singapore day.

Siem Reap: Arrival

I have yet to write about our trip to Siem Reap last November. After I return from a trip, I spend alot of my time editing, organising, uploading and captioning photographs; by which time, I am too tired to write a long post about the trip. [Bits and pieces of my post on my short Seoul trip last October are still lying in a folder somewhere.]

Before my memory fades, I thought that I should just kick off Siem Reap and write a little as I go along. To start the ball rolling, here is our itinerary (not including the two travelling days).

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We landed in Siem Reap after dusk, alighted from the plane and walked on the tarmac to the airport. The exterior of the airport could be mistaken for a Balinese resort with its wooden structure, sloping roofs and curved eaves. It was a refreshing change from the usual bricks-mortar-glass-and-steel structure that we are used to.

Clearing customs was a breeze and the hotel pick-up was waiting to pick us up. The ride from the airport to the hotel was smooth and traffic-free, and I saw numerous Korean restaurants lining both sides of the main road leading to the hotel – I learnt later that Siem Reap is a popular tourist destination with Koreans.

We reached Hotel De La Paix in 30 minutes, checked-in and quickly changed for dinner at Abacus. Friends who had dined at this French restaurant highly recommended the place for its excellent food at very affordable prices. We had Googled the restaurant and read many complimentary reviews regarding its food, price and service.

The bellboy got us a tuk-tuk to bring us to Abacus – and back as well – which is situated in an alley off the main road between the airport and the hotel. The Siem Reap tuk-tuks are very similar to the ones in Bangkok. I have always loved riding in tuk-tuks because they are so much fun. Unfortunately, the ride to Abacus was quite bumpy as the roads were uneven and full of potholes – I hung on tightly and tried to enjoy the short ride.

Abacus is situated in a bungalow with a beautiful garden but it was too dark for us to appreciate the surroundings. The restaurant setting was warm, cosy and casual. I am always slightly nervous about dining in a French restaurant because I find the atmosphere in a number of them rather formal and, may I say, uptight. I felt relaxed in Abacus, well, relaxed enough to take out my camera.

The menu is quite substantial, with choices of French and Khmer-style courses. We ordered two appetisers – the mango and crabmeat salad and beef carpaccio – to share and the restaurant also served an amuse bouche. Very yummy. By this time, I was seriously regretting having eaten on the plane.

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For mains, I had chosen the pan-fried beef tenderloin, wild mushrooms with mash potato, foie gras truffle sauce, while TBH opted for marinated duck breast served with mashed potato and pumpkin, wild mushrooms and snow peas. We each had a glass of red wine.

The meats were really good but for me, it was the sides – wild mushrooms, snow peas and mash – that shone. Regretfully, we had absolutely no space for dessert and could only order cappuccino to round it all up.

The food was excellent, we were very happy and no, the bill did not break our pocket. We could afford to return another day.

With our very stuffed bellies, we braced ourselves for the bumpy ride back and hoped it wouldn’t make us throw up our dinner.

Good thing, it did not.

Other Posts on Siem Reap:
Siem Reap: Day 1 – Overview
Siem Reap: Day 1 – Bakong
Siem Reap: Day 1 – Preah Ko

Beo Crescent Curry Rice

A friend brought us to this dingy-looking stall housed in an old coffeeshop at Blk 40 Beo Crescent many years ago and we have not found another curry rice place which we liked better eversince (esp when there is plenty of parking in the two HDB multi-storey carparks a very short distance away from the coffeeshop).

The stall is run by Hainanese folks. Unfortunately, they are not open during dinnertime (and on Wednesdays) which means that we can satisfy our curry rice cravings only during the weekends.

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Our usual orders are: rice, fried eggs, braised cabbage, deep-fried pork strips and taupok – which comes up to approximately $7 for two persons. If there are more than the two of us, we would also order the sambal sotong and/or sambal fish (they use batang fish, for those who are particular about their fish).

The reason why the rice is the focal point in the photograph is because to me, the rice IS the most important thing to eat here. Drenched in three different types of curry sauce, the rice is definitely good enough to eat on its own, I feel.

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