Nunsongyee: A Korean Dessert Cafe In Burghley Drive

 photo IMG_0198-150124-v2__zpsd7e8d7b5.jpgToday, I visited this Korean dessert cafe called Nunsongyee tucked away in a corner of the Serangoon Gardens residential estate at 45 Burghley Drive.  From the vibe of the cafe, to the trendy Kpop music playing in the background, to the Korean lady manning the cafe, I felt as though I had been transported back to Seoul.  All that was missing were the loud voices of Korean girls speaking in Korean. 

 photo IMG_0216-150124-v2__zps29305854.jpgSpacious, high-ceilinged and fairly empty at noon, it was a comfortable space  for me.  I don’t like crowded places – they give me a headache.   

The focus of Nunsongyee seems to be a large variety of bingsu (I call this the Korean ice kachang) and toast.  They also have a drinks menu that includes coffee, smoothies and soft drinks.  I have tried bingsu several times in Seoul, and I always walk away feeling disappointed.  I like the texture of the ice shavings – powdery soft and smooth – but I find that the dessert doesn’t have much taste.  But since I was at the cafe, I decided to order a bingsu.

 photo IMG_0206-150124-v2__zpsc68fca54.jpgAfter dithering between the black sesame bingsu and the injeolmi (a type of Korean rice cake – not the same as tteokbokki) bingsu, I ordered the former (about $19.00 – quite pricey!).  Better to go with the familiar.  In Korea, bingsus are usually served in fairly sizable portions.  I guess that’s because the dessert is meant for sharing, and not eaten alone.

The black sesame bingsu at Nunsongyee came in a big bowl, accompanied by almond flakes, black sesame pounded into a powder, a generous helping of red bean paste, topped with several pieces of injeolmi (this has a texture similar to that of muah chee).  The cafe also gave us a small serving of a milky syrup to pour over the bingsu.  

I liked Nunsongyee’s bingsu much better than the ones that I have eaten in Seoul.  The texture of the cafe’s ice shavings was as good as the ones in Korea, and it was very tasty without being syrupy sweet.   Who knows, I may just become a bingsu convert. I want to go back and try their toast!  

Tokyo: Kissako Kaiseiken In Ningyocho

One of the first Japanese words that anyone learns in a beginner Japanese class is ‘kissaten’ – meaning ‘coffeeshop’, or ‘tearoom’, or ‘cafe’. In my mind, I have always associated ‘kissaten‘ with a modern (the popular word nowadays being ‘hipster’) cafes that have been popping up like flies in Singapore, or one of the chain cafes like Starbucks. Nope, nothing like that.

I visited a kissaten located in Ningyocho for the first time when we were in Tokyo last year. It is an old-fashioned Japanese coffee-shop that transported us to a somewhat different world when we entered it. 1960s jazz music streams out of an LP record player. Red vinyl chairs. Brick walls. Dark paneled walls. Grandfatherly Japanese men wearing hats, and smoking with their friends over cups of drip coffee. Smoky.

I felt like I had walked into a Murakami-ques coffeeshop described in one of his books.

 photo IMG_5430-140401-v2__zps6374bf77.jpgWe chanced upon this kissaten when we were waiting to join the lunch queue at Tamahide Oyakadon.  The kissaten was just two doors away from Tamahide, on the same street.  Being the typical ‘kiasu‘ Singaporeans, we had arrived an hour before Tamahide’s opening hours, and decided to get a cup of coffee in this kissaten, called Kissako Kaiseiken

Feeling a little hungry, I also ordered a plate of toast with marmalade.  I have no idea what sort of bread they use but it was the most delicious toast that I have ever eaten.  I gobbled all of it up, and immediately ordered another portion.  

Finishing that, I walked to the counter to find out how the kissaten toasts its bread.  I was expecting to see some sort of special equipment, or a special toasting-bread technique.  Alas, they used a simple pop-up toaster, coupled with typical Japanese precision timing in toasting the bread.  The guy who was toasting the bread was using a timer, and concentrating so hard on getting the bread toasted with the right timing.

 photo IMG_5438-150120-v2__zpsf68656d7.jpg I am definitely going back to Kissako when I next visit Tokyo. Coffee – drip coffee – is not great, but drinkable. But oh, I scream for the toast.

Kissako Kaiseiken

1-17-9 Nihonbashi Ningyocho,Chuo-ku (1-17-9, 中央区日本橋人形町)

Bara-chirashi At Shinzo

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Ended my Japanese dinner at Shinzo with a simple bara-chirashi. I am usually not fond of eating rice at the end of a long Japanese meal, but this beautiful bowl containing cubes of marinated fish artfully scattered on top of lightly vinegar-ed rice was irresistible.  The colors were so pretty.

Black Forest Cake Baking Class With Dulcet & Studio

I like Black Forest cake very much. Unfortunately, it is hard to find a good one in the local bakeries. Most places do not use enough alcohol, if they even use any in the first place, so it feels as though I am eating a dry chocolate sponge cake stuffed with cherries and cream.  A cake cannot be called a Black Forest cake if it does not contain kirsch, can it?  At least in Germany, I suppose.

When my friend – she goes to Dulcet & Studio every month for baking classes – told me that the studio is having a class on Black Forest cake, I decided to sign up for it. The last time I attended a class at Dulcet & Studio was a year ago. Time really flies, doesn’t it?

 photo IMG_1228-150104-v2__zps22e4af2a.jpgI enjoyed the class a little more this time, compared to my previous experience.  This time, the teacher, Mayumi-san, taught two items (instead of three), so the pace was slower and there was more hands-on time.  She taught us how to bake, assemble and decorate a heart-shaped (you can’t really tell from the photograph) Black Forest cake using chocolate sponge cake, chocolate cream, fresh cream, kirsch, black cherries soaked in syrup and alcohol, and chocolate shavings.  

 photo IMG_1336-150109-v2__zps9bc9d51d.jpgThe cake was good.  The kirsh-soaked sponge cake was moist and not too sweet.  The alcohol-soaked black cherries were tinged with bitterness (luvre!).  Mmmmm, I am eating a slice of the cake as I type out this post.

 photo IMG_1233-150104-v2__zpsb450b34f.jpgMayumi-san also showed us how to bake creme caramel.  So easy to make! Her recipe is very good but having said that, creme caramel is not a dessert that I am ordinarily fond of eating.  Too sweet for my tastebuds.

 photo IMG_1334-150104-v2__zpsd5f9d75b.jpgThe very pretty sensei.  She is teaching Japanese Strawberry Shortcake and lamingtons in February.     

Bangkok: Supanniga Eating Room

 photo IMG_9139-140828-v2__zps5f545e80.jpgDuring our last visit to Bangkok, one of the restaurants that we visited was Supanniga Eating Room. My friends and I had never heard of the restaurant before. Then again, I don’t visit Bangkok often enough to know much about the dining scene, apart from Nahm.  As the place came highly recommended by my friend’s boss, we decided to check out this place for lunch on the day we arrived. 

Supanniga Eating Room is at Soi Sukhumvit 55, in the Thong Lor neighbourhood, a 10 minute walk from the Thong Lor BTS station. I have never seen the restaurant’s website before, and I was expecting it to be a Bangkok-style coffeeshop. But it turned out to be a chic place located in an old shophouse.   Occupying three floors, it is tastefully designed – cosy but classy.  No thanks to the Bangkok traffic, we turned up at the doorstep of the restaurant minutes before closing time, but the wait staff did not turn us away.

 photo IMG_9137-140828-v2__zps800ddd44.jpg photo IMG_9138-140828-v2__zpse021d9d9.jpgSupanniga Eating Room serves traditional home-style Thai dishes inspired by the owner’s grandmother from her hometown.  We ordered quite a lot of food, and a jug of white sangria. The food was excellent, and we enjoyed every dish on the table.  As the Thais will say:”Aroi Mak Mak!”

 photo IMG_9144-141228-v2__zps186373bf.jpgAn appetizer known as Mieng Yong – pork floss, peanuts, roasted coconut with some kind of leaves.

 photo IMG_9147-140828-v2__zps59ac0fe8.jpgTom yum goong.  One of the best that I have eaten.  I like my tom yum soup lemak-style, compared to the ones that come in a clear soup.  The latter is usually deceptively spicy.

 photo IMG_9148-140828-v2__zps6c4822d4.jpg‘Son-in-law’ fried eggs.  Hard-boiled eggs served with a tasty sauce and fried shallots.  A simple dish that tasted soooo good.

 photo IMG_9146-140828-v2__zps8933b86a.jpgBeef stir-fried with chili and holy basil (Ka Prow Nue Lai).  Good, but I prefer the minced chicken version.

We also tried the fried prawn wontons, and cabbage drizzled with fish sauce.  I cannot seem to find the photos of these two dishes. Anyway, they are on the restaurant’s website.  Must go back to Supanniga when I next visit Bangkok and try their other dishes.  The crabmeat omelette looks droolsome. 

Supanniga Eating Room
160/11 Soi Sukhumvit 55 (Thonglor)
Klongton Nuea, Watthana,
Bangkok 10110

Takayama: Shirakawago

If I had to recommend one place in Japan that one should visit, it will be Shirakawago.  A UNESCO heritage site, the scenery here is stunning, with architecture that is quite unlike anything else that I have seen in Japan.  Shirakawago is a village containing traditional wooden houses with sloping thatched roofs known as gassho-zukuri.  The houses are surrounded by rice fields and a river runs through it.  The picturesque view of these traditional farmhouses against the backdrop of these Japanese mountains is something that I couldn’t get enough of. I have been wanting to visit this place for ages, and am so glad that I finally did.

It is fairly easy to get to Shirakawago from Hida-Takayama, where we stayed for 3 nights in a ryokan called Oyado Koto No Yume.  We took a bus from the Takayama bus station (right next to the train station) and arrived in Shirakawago in slightly less than an hour.  

 photo DSC_0519-140327-v2__zps9da8f4ed.jpgWe alighted from the bus and saw this breathtaking scenery in front of us (okay, ignore the orange cone).  The place was a little misty and foggy, which added to the magical feel of the surroundings.  It was good to breathe good, crisp, clean air.

 photo DSC_0534-140327-v2__zpsd15b739d.jpgWe crossed this long bridge to get to the village, stopping frequently to take photos of the mountains in the background.

 photo DSC_0539-140327-v2__zpsfa7af471.jpg photo DSC_0554-140327-v2__zps6aa104ae.jpgWet and gloomy skies.  Empty roads.  Loved it.  

 photo DSC_0556-140327-v2__zps34be28d6.jpg photo DSC_0557-140327-v2__zpsb8bebc0b.jpgI can read the words – “Hida Beef Croquettes”.  Oooh, I love Japanese croquettes.  

 photo DSC_0644-140327-v2__zps2aa29db2.jpg photo DSC_0558-140327-v2__zps2d3e2d32.jpgEven though I was still stuffed from the huge breakfast that I ate at the ryokan, I could not resist buying a Hida pork bun in addition to the beef croquette.  I was curious to see how different it was from our local pork buns.  I know that Hida-Takayama is famous for Hida beef (which is damn good, a close second to Kobe beef), but I have not heard of Hida pork.

 photo DSC_0641-140327-v2__zps1234e557.jpg photo DSC_0643-140327-v2__zps00390fb8.jpg photo DSC_0642-140327-v2__zpsa6e54bff.jpgI thought the Hida pork bun was good, but it was fairly similar to our local pork buns. The beef croquettes were insanely good (forgive me for the hyperbole). Crispy on the outside, and the filling was moist and packed with so much flavor.  We finished eating the croquette that I bought, and immediately dashed off to buy another.  It was too good to share!  If I hadn’t eaten the pork bun, I would have ordered a third croquette.  I was tempted to stuff my mouth with as many as possible, but I did not want to run the risk of throwing up at some point in time.  

 photo DSC_0570-140327-v2__zps8a0dcbd6.jpgBeautiful Japanese Alps in the background.  If we had arrived in Shirakawago one week earlier, it would still be snowing and the entire place would have been blanketed in a a sheet of white snow.  As it is, all we saw were dirty blocks of snow on the ground.

 photo DSC_0569-140327-v2__zpsac1b5548.jpgCouldn’t resist processing the photo and turn it into a black-and-white piece.

 photo DSC_0566-140327-v2__zps881fc23e.jpgThis is my favorite photograph of Shirakawago.  After snapping what could possibly be a hundred photos on the camera, in and around this spot.  I am surprised at how clear this photo turned out given the foggy weather when it was taken.

 photo DSC_0560-140327-v2__zps2a6daaa8.jpgI think this is the main street in Shirakawago, with a number of shops lining the road.

 photo DSC_0572-140327-v2__zps162cfa6e.jpg photo DSC_0613-140327-v2__zps3bef72fa.jpgTook a little hike up a windy road to get a panoramic view of the village.  Beautiful, beautiful view from the top. 

 photo DSC_0602-140327-v2__zps30c9bb93.jpg photo DSC_0594-140327-v2__zps2f06215e.jpg photo DSC_0587-140327-v2__zps8f5f0aec.jpgI would like to see this view during winter, when the rooftops are enveloped in a fleet of snow.  But I doubt I can brave the cold.

 photo DSC_0593-140327-v2__zps446cb4d9.jpg photo DSC_0678-140327-v2__zpse9301fb3.jpg photo DSC_0662-140327-v2__zps30e8382d.jpgAs we hiked back down to the village, the sun appeared and the skies cleared.  We got to see what the village and farmhouses would look like in spring, against a clear blue sky and fluffy white clouds.  Just as picturesque.  

 photo DSC_0653-140327-v2__zpsbfd71953.jpg photo DSC_0650-140327-v2__zpsabe71bc7.jpgWhat an adorable dog owned by the people behind this cafe.  We did not linger on for a drink, as we wanted to catch the next bus back to Takayama.  I needed a good, long soak in the onsen.  

Good & Cheap Yong Tau Fu At Hui Ji In Tiong Bahru Market

One thing that I miss very much after going back to work is eating the Yong Tau Foo noodles at this stall in Tiong Bahru Market.

 photo IMG_0954-141228-v2__zpsac056e50.jpgFor S$3 a bowl, it is great value for money. Generous portions of Yong Tau Foo heaped on top of noodles tossed in a yummy concoction of chili, sesame oil, crunchy fried lard, soy sauce and sweet sauce, it is my favorite thing to eat at Tiong Bahru Market. Run by an elderly couple, the queue during weekends is crazy-long.

I used to eat it only during weekday mornings to avoid having to wait.  Now, I just have to queue…with an iPad in my hand. 

Hui Ji Fishball Noodles and Yong Tau Foo
#02-44  Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre

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Tokyo: Hanami At Nakameguro

Cherry blossoms at Nakameguro-kawa. It is an excellent place to view the beautiful cherry blossoms.  We walked along both sides of the river, filled with quaint and charming boutiques and cafes.

 photo DSC_0995-140331-v2__zps26229628.jpg photo DSC_1008-140331-v2__zpsa29a1fa1.jpg photo DSC_0989-140331-v2__zps9116766f.jpg photo DSC_1022-140331-v2__zpsc058da4f.jpgWhat lucky residents to be living in those apartments overlooking the Nakameguro Kawa.

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 photo DSC_1016-140331-v2__zpsa6e51c04.jpgLike many cherry blossom viewing spots throughout Tokyo, Nakameguro-kawa was jam-packed with groups of merry-making locals and tourists soaking in the atmosphere of early spring.  I was quite tipsy in broad daylight, having indulged in rose champagne purchased from the little pushcarts, as I slowly made my way through the crowds.

 photo DSC_1028-140331-v2__zps6d360e2b.jpg photo DSC_1021-140331-v2__zpsa33a6b50.jpg photo DSC_1035-140331-v2__zps3a660360.jpg photo DSC_0977-140331-v2__zpsa02817ac.jpgWe just bought air-tickets to Tokyo over the Chinese New Year period next year.  Even thought it would be too early to catch the cherry blossoms, but we would like to make another visit to Nakameguro-kawa, just to enjoy the place without endless throng of human beings. 

Making Jewelry With Woon Hung

I like Woon Hung’s jewelry.  They are handmade, using mostly natural materials sourced from various places in Asia, such as Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines. Her pieces are unique, and go quite easily with most of my work clothes.  

When I heard that she was conducting classes at Soon Lee over a weekend, I signed up for it.  Not that I have any serious interest in making jewelry, but I was quite happy to spend a couple of hours learning something new, and having fun while doing so.  Also, I get to bring home the two pairs of earrings that I make during class!

 photo IMG_0455-141123-v2__zps8ff7e97b.jpgThe first thing that she taught us was wire work.  Using two pairs of pliers, we practised measuring, snipping, twisting and turning the stainless steel wire into small, symmetrical hoops that connect the beads.  It was very challenging trying to shape the wire to give you tiny hoops that were of the same size and shape – I get oval hoops instead of perfectly round-shaped ones.  Making jewelry is not so easy.   

 photo IMG_0461-141123-v2__zps6696fb20.jpgAfter an hour of practice, we were ready to make our first pair of earrings.  A simple pair of one-strand dangling earrings.  Woon Hung provided us with quite a wide selection of beads, in various colors, sizes, shapes and materials.  It took me ages before I could decide on the teal-and-coral combination shown above.  

For the earrings, we used gold-plated wires which were not as strong as the stainless steel ones, so more care was required not to “over-twist’ the wires, as this will cause them to break easily.  I was quite proud of how my hoops turned out.  Got some help from Woon Hung along the way.

 photo IMG_0469-141204-v2__zps36e11bbc.jpgThe second piece was a more complicated chandelier-style earrings.  I decided on green and light purple colored beads.  By then, I was quite comfortable with shaping the hoops, and Iless obsessed with getting perfectly round-shaped circles.  So I finished making this pair in a shorter time than the first pair.  I was really pleased with the results – not too shoddy for a first attempt.  Quite pretty, I must say.  Have I worn these earrings?  Nope, my mom wanted both pairs, so I gave them to her.  I had fun and that is what’s most important!  

I follow Woon Hung on Instagram, where she shares photos of new designs, her home and travels.  Besides her jewelry, we both share a love for Korea, and can yak non-stop about that country. 🙂

Making Scented Candles At Bloesem

We are always tempted to veg out at home on weekends. But still, we try to do one or two light activities such as going for brunch, grabbing a coffee or ice cream somewhere, visiting the nursery to get fresh flowers, and aim to head home after lunch.

A couple of weekends ago, I signed up for two classes over Saturday and Sunday. One class was to learn how to make scented candles, and this was held at Bloesem, a charming and cosy studio in Tiong Bahru. The other was to learn how to make jewelry at a class taught by Woon Hung at Soon Lee in Haji Lane.  I love Woon Hung’s handmade jewelry, and I have purchased a number of pieces made by her.  

It was clearly not great planning to schedule two classes in one weekend, because this meant that I spent most of that weekend out.  

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The scented candle making class, held on a Saturday, was a 3-hour session.  I really liked the vibe and look of Bloesem studio – it is basically an old Tiong Bahru apartment with a kitchenette, a bedroom and a living room, that has been converted into a bright, airy, modern space.  The living room became a work space for conducting classes, the kitchenette is a functioning one that is used to make coffee, warm up snacks and prepare lunch for the participants of the class.  

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The class was conducted by the folks behind Deckle & Hide, who supply Bloesem with their homemade scented candles out of their home studio in Brisbane.  They talked us through the theory of making scented candles – their philosophy when sourcing for ingredients, the type of aromatherapy oil that is best for making candles, what to consider when selecting a combination of scents, how to mix and match them using cotton bud sticks, and the ratio of oil versus wax (we used soy wax in the class), points to think about when selecting the shape of containers for the scented candles.

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Trial and error!  My favorite combination – orange, lavender, cedar and lime. After a while, you can get quite overwhelmed by the aromatherapy oils that you have to keep sniffing at.  Olfactory overload. Good thing is that good quality organic botanical oils were used during the class; otherwise, I may have felt quite nauseous.

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I like how they serve you little tea cakes, cookies and coffee at the start of class.  Tasty treats.

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My scented candles – using a little peanut butter jar and a milk bottle.  I was advised not to use a cylindrical type container as the flame gets too close to the mouth of the bottle which may cause an explosion.

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We ended off the class with a light and tasty lunch – pomelo salad tossed with shallots, peanuts and prawns.  Loved it!  I have to learn how to re-create this.  

Bloesem has pretty interesting classes, if you look at their past workshops.  I am already thinking about signing up for the next one.

Tokyo: Tamahide Oyakodon in Ningyocho

If you are a big fan of oyakodon and you happen to be in Tokyo, you should give Tamahide a try. I read that this famous restaurant in Ningyocho, founded in 1760 (or thereabouts), is the birthplace of oyakodon. What makes them special is the chicken that they use – a type of chicken that is unique to Japan, With such a reputation, one should not be surprised to hear that this Ningyocho eatery attracts a snaking queue every day.

I love eating oyakodon, the simple combination of rice, simmered chicken buried under runny eggs and onions, is comfort food to me. So Tamahide is a place that was at the top of my Tokyo food list during this trip. Tamahide opens at 11.30am and I made sure that we arrived at 10.30am, one full hour before the eatery open for lunch, so that we would be right at the front of the queue.

We were so early and had nothing much to do, so we popped into a cafe just next door for coffee. Wow – this cafe is another place that came straight out of a Murakami book. It has a 1960s setting, with red vinyl chairs, a record player and filled with old Japanese men smoking pipes. I couldn’t resist ordering a plate of toast to go with my coffee – not a wise move because I should be saving stomach space for oyakodon. I am so glad that I ordered  the best toast that I have eaten. I finished one plate and ordered another. It was utterly delicious. I should rave about this in another post, since this post is about oyakodon.

 photo DSC_1070-140401-v2__zps4c39dddf.jpgBack to oyakodon. Tamahide is a traditional Japanese eatery, exuding an old world charm. You remove your shoes when you enter the restaurant. You are served by gentle ladies wearing kimonos. You place your orders on the first floor and are led to a tatami room on the second floor. You sit at the table Japanese-style, i.e., on the floor and try to fold your legs as comfortably as you possibly can.

 photo DSC_1071-140401-v2__zpsdcc1706c.jpgWe ordered the most basic oyakodon set. They serve you a cup of tea and a cup of clear chicken (essence) soup. The chicken soup as delicious.

 photo DSC_1072-140401-v2__zpsfee3ae34.jpg Next comes the oyakodon, served in a beautiful lacquer bowl.

 photo DSC_1075-140401-v2__zps355828e8.jpg Remove the lid from the bowl, and this is what you get. I am not sure if the crazy-good toast did something to my appetite, but I didn’t enjoy the oyakodon as much as I expected to. I am not sure what it is about the taste of the dish that didn’t whet my appetite, but I just felt let down by it. Disappointed with the taste (or lack thereof), or disappointed with the fact that I didn’t enjoy it? I don’t know. It just didn’t give me the ‘warm and wonderful comfort food’ feeling that I would usually get, eating a piping hot bowl of oyakodon.

 photo DSC_1077-140401-v2__zps8b260105.jpgWe left the eatery, and saw this queue outside Tamahide.

Tamahide 玉ひで
1-17-10 Nihonbashi Ningyocho, Chuo-ku Tokyo, Japan
(Exit A2 Ningyocho Station)
Tel: +81 3 3668 7651
Lunch 11.30am-1pm 
Dinner 5pm-10pm (4pm-9pm on weekends & PH)

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