Memories of ‘Batman’

13 02 2020

A guest post by Edmund Arozoo, who, following a conversation on the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, recalls a time when bats were hunted for consumption in Singapore. Edmund who grew up in a kampung in Jalan Hock Chye, now resides in Adelaide, Australia.

After band practice we often have a sit down meal of home cooked dishes at the band leader’s home. It is a great way to chill out and also have a bonding session. Last Sunday the conversation at the dinner table touched on the Coronavirus situation the world is currently facing and the theory of how it may have originated from bats and possibly through the ingestion of bats by humans. Well someone at the table declared that he had eaten bat meat before. Like me, he too was originally from Singapore. Suddenly a “kampong” memory came flashing back. I was reminded of how sometimes at dusk and into the night the “bat man” would appear. He would have with him two long bamboo poles (galahs). Each pole had along its length an edge of fine netting attached. So when the poles were raised and spread apart it was like having a fishing net spread overhead in the air.

The “batman” would survey the area for any bats in flight. Then he would observe their flight paths. And because the flight paths were very often loops and predictable he would position himself after the bat had flown overhead and immediately hoist the galahs up and spread the top ends apart and hold the netting as high as he could. He would then wait in anticipation for the bat to fly back – straight into the netting. Once the bat was entangled in the netting, both poles were lowered and the trapped bat extracted and kept in a container with the others that were caught.

The Batman © Edmund Arozoo.

If my memory serves me correctly, sometimes to attract the bats he would use the simple aid of a match box. A matchstick was removed from the box and jammed in between the top edge of the sliding drawer and the bottom side of the cover sleeve. By using the thumb to press over area where the matchstick came into contact with both parts of the box the matchstick was then forcibly moved inwards and outwards. This created a sound that we were told attracted the bats.

Bat Attractor © Edmund Arozoo.

Once he netted and stored the catches the “Batman” would move on to other parts of the kampong.

I understood that these bats were caught for human consumption.

While some around the dinner table that night expressed horror over the thought of eating bats, I had to remind them that during those days in Singapore people were known to eat flying foxes (fruit bats), iguana and wild boar.

Then I had to confess to the others that I too have been adventurous (game) here in Australia to have eaten Kangaroo meat, Emu meat pies, and when I was in the Northern Territory I had dined on Buffalo steak and stir fried Crocodile.

Prairie Hotel , Parachilna, South Australia © Edmund Arozoo.

Another memory then resurfaced – on our trip to Lake Eyre in 2016 we stopped for lunch at the Prairie Hotel in the country town of Parachilna, north of Adelaide. The menu promoted the ‘FMG’ – Feral Mixed Grill and if I remember correctly for us Aussies it was tongue-in-cheek fondly referred to as “road kill”, with Kangaroo, Camel, Emu, and Goat served as a platter.

Feral Platter © Edmund Arozoo.

In recent years I have tasted escargot, frog legs and often indulge in Blue Vein cheese (I love durians!)

Would I try Bat ….hmmm perhaps not just yet!

© Edmund Arozoo, 2020

Bat and flying fox Consumption in Singapore

The consumption of bats, especially the larger fruit bats, wasn’t just confined to Chinese population, some of whom believed it to be a cure for asthma. It was not unheard of amongst some of the other ethnic groups:

“The preparation of flying fox for consumption was quite an art and required a skilled hand as the glands under the armpit of the bat had to be carefully removed or else the whole dish was unpalatable due to the musky odour characteristic of the mammal. Flying fox was either prepared with herbs of curried. The strong ingredients presumably disguised the strong flavour of the bat. It was also considered to be a remedy for asthmatics.”

– Francesca Eber in “Singapore Eurasians: Memories, Hopes And Dreams”.

A postcard depicting a boy holding a flying fox in Singapore.



Laksa’s origins will surprise you

28 11 2017

I’ve always enjoyed a bowl of laksa. The dish, which has an amazing range of equally delectable localised variations, brings great comfort and joy to many in Malaysia, parts of Indonesia and Singapore. There is perhaps no other dish that can so strongly be identified with a locality. In its very basic form, laksa is a vermicelli like noodle in a broth.  While it can be said that it is in the countless variations of this broth, tempered by the influences of over a century, that has provided the various forms of the dish with its local flavour; its origins as a dish, how it morphed into what we see of it today, and even its rather strange sounding name, is a source of great puzzlement.

Singapore Laksa

One suggestion of how laksa got its name that has gained popularity is that it was derived from a similar sounding Sanskrit word for a hundred thousand. This, it is said, is an allusion perhaps to the multitude of ingredients that go into making the various forms of its broth the celebration of flavours that they are. I am however inclined to take the side of the suggestion that the wonderful encyclopedia of the world’s culinary delights, the Oxford Companion to Food, offers. That has the word laksa being Persian in origin. Lakhsha meaning “slippery” in old Persian, was apparently also used to describe noodles, which the book also credits the Persians with the invention of.

Sarawak Laksa

That latter suggestion will no doubt spark endless debate. There seems however to be evidence to support the assertion such as in the many noodle type dishes that are found spread across the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe – all with names that all sound very much like lakhsha. Examples of this are the Russian lapsha, the Uyghur laghman, the Jewish lokshen, the Afghan lakhchak, the Lithunian Lakštiniai, and the Ukrainian lokshina. The Italian sheet pasta dish, Lasagne, also sounds uncannily similar to old Persian for noodles.

Lokshen (photo: Danny Nicholson on Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0).

As with the variants of the Near East, Lakhsha seems to have become a similiar sounding laksa in this part of the world. Early Malay-English dictionaries, such as one published by R. J. Wilkinson in 1901, have laksa both as the word for ten thousand, as well as for a “vermicelli” – ascribing the latter’s origins to the same Persian word.  The use of the word as such is seen in several of the news articles of the day. One report, in the Malayan Saturday Post of 29 December 1928, shows how “Chinese Laksa” was then made, through a series of four photographs. As a word to describe a type of noodles, laksa is in fact very much still in use in places such as the Riau Archipelago. There, “lakse” or “laksa”, is taken as a noodle of a similar appearance to the laksa we find here made from the staple of the islands, sago.

R. J. Wilkinson’s “A Malay-English Dictionary” describes the word “laksa” both as a word for ten-thousand as well as for a kind of vermicelli.


There also are early descriptions of how that laksa may have been prepared in the press. One, found in a 1912 report on hawker fare in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, describes what seems to be quite a different dish from the one we are now familiar with:

A familiar dish with the Chinese coolie and Straits school-boy is “laksa”. The vendor of this compound, vermicelli, “rats’ ears” (mush-rooms), and other things in a kind of soup, shouts out every now and then “Laksa a wun!” and many who taste it declare that it is A1.

Lakse or laksa, describes these noodles made from sago in Pulau Singkep in the Lingga group of islands in the Riau Archipelago.

One of the many ways in which laksa is served on Pulau Singkep is with a fish broth and sambal.

poem, penned in 1931 by a prominent personality Mr. Seow Poh Leng – a Municipal Commissioner and a champion of hawkers’ rights – provides an idea of how the dish had by the 1930s, started to evolve. An attempt to draw attention to the difficulties street hawkers faced, the verse also describes how a dough of ground rice became “lumps of tiny snow-white coils” when boiled and which was then “served with tasty gravy and a pinch of fragrant spice”. Published in the Malayan Saturday Post of 16 May 1931, the piece was the writer’s response to the death of a laksa vendor. The vendor had taken his own life after several run ins with the Municipal authorities that deprived him of his livelihood.

Laska Siam, served at another popular Penang laksa stall, this one at Balik Pulau.

By the 1950s, laksa as a dish, seemed to have already taken on several distinct styles. A 1951 article in The Singapore Free Press, “Let’s talk about food”, mentions two types of “Siamese” laksa: one sweet and one hot and sour, along with a “Nonya” laksa. The two variants of “Siamese” laksa are again mentioned in a 1953 Singapore Free Press article on food in Penang. The sour type “Siamese” laksa identified is perhaps the predecessor to the Penang or asam (or assam) laksa dish of today as another 1951 report, this time in The Straits Times on Penang, seems to confirm. The article draws attention to one of Penang’s attractions, Ayer Itam (now spelled Air Itam), to which the young and old would walk six miles or brave a ride on a crowded bus to. Ayer Itam, is identified as “the village with the famous Kek Lok Si”, and (a seemingly already popular) “Siamese” laksa (Air Itam is a location many in Penang flock to today for asam laksa).

A bowl of Penang or Asam Laksa.

Another version of Asam Laksa from Madras Lane in Kuala Lumpur.

What we can perhaps surmise from all of this information is that despite its shared name, laksa in its many variations are really different dishes. Built on an otherwise tasteless base of rice or sago vermicelli or a noodle substitute, how its various forms of laksa have been flavoured to excite the palate, says much about the invention and the creativity of the region’s pioneering food vendors.

Variation on a theme, Laksa Goreng (Fried Laksa), Peranakan style.

Lakse Goreng topped with crushed ikan bilis from Pulau Singkep.

A Hawker’s Lament
by Seow Poh Leng
(Malayan Saturday Post, 16 May 1931, Page 18)
We came from far Cathay, the land of old renown,
A livelihood to seek in this far-famed town.
My parents they are old but still must toil each day
My father selling bean-curds, my mother selling “kway”.
We left our home and kin to this far distant shore;
And promised to return to see them all once more,
To share with them and theirs what little we have made
By dint of patient toil, by means of honest trade.
By four o’clock each morning when you are all abed
The ‘laksa’ I’m preparing that people may be fed
I grind some rice to powder and knead it to a dough
Then press it through a sieve to a boiling pot below.
This stringy mass of flour which hardens as it boils
Is made up into lumps of tiny snow-white coils;
Then served with tasty gravy and a pinch of fragrant spice
My ‘laksa’ finds more favour than the ordinary rice.
In woven bamboo basket made up in several tiers
Are placed my tooth-some wares and the necessary gears.
In a gourd-shaped earthen vessel the ‘laksa’ simmers low,
All day aboiling gently on charcoal burning slow.
From street to street I wander, my pace a steady trot,
And bear my loaded basket as well as the steaming pot.
The noon day trade I seek and may with luck—oh rare !
Avoid the stern police who ask a certain share.
These guardians of the law with lynx eyes watch for me,
And more than do their duty unless I pay a ” fee.”
They see that I comply with what the by-laws state;
That is, whatever happens, I must itinerate.
Sometimes from sheer fatigue I pause some breath to take,
To dry my streaming sweat, to ease the limbs that ache;
And then the “Mata-mata” finds me resting there,
And forthwith to the Court I must with him repair.
And once – alas the thought! – in prison cell I lay.
The fine imposed on me was more than I could pay.
What use is there for me this arduous life to lead?
My humble cries for mercy receive but scanty heed.
By ceaseless toil I tried an honest life to lead.
If I the “tips” forget, the traffic I impede.
And for such bogus crime there is no other way –
Before the Court I’m brought and straightway made to pay.
I’ve plied my trade from childhood, the profits have been small,
Yet I would quit right gladly for any work at all,
Seek work at any distance – if only work there be
Without the constant harass and the unofficial fee.
A rickshaw puller – aye the “totee’s” job I’ll do.
I’ll go to Malacca, I’ll go to Trengganu.
Alack! my quest is vain, my faintest hope is gone;
My limbs they are weary, my heart with sorrow torn.
Good-bye the M.H.O., my last farewell to thee!
Good-bye to all M.C.’s, good-bye the I.G.P.!
You wish me back to China, you want me off the street;
Posterity shall know I die your wish to meet!
Not satisfied with fines the Magistrates impose
The dreary prison cell must add to hawkers’ woes.
My goods and property you wish to confiscate?
But here you will not win—the law will come too late!
Good-bye my parents dear, good-bye my kith and kin!
Think not the step I take a very grievous sin.
Right well I am aware of honour due to you;
And thank you from my heart for lessons wise and true.
To comfort your old age my level best I’ve tried.
My efforts seem in vain, the cruel fates decide.
I cannot stoop to crime and slur the family name,
So drink this portion dark, preferring death to shame.

A Malay laksa vendor in Penang, c. 1930s ( | Mrs J A Bennett Collection/National Archives of Singapore).


Laghman at Uyghur Taamliri
Uyghur Laghman
Gary Stevens on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Brooklyn - Sheepshead Bay: Jay and Lloyds Kosher Deli - Noodle Pudding
A variation on a theme. Lokshen kugel, an Ashkenazi Jewish pudding or casserole, commonly made from egg noodles.
Wally Gobetz on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

The Real McCoy

29 07 2016

Like it or hate it, there seems no end in sight to the salted egg craze. Salted eggs, a long time poor Chinese man’s source of protein, now  seem to flavour just about anything from seafood to pastries and burgers here in Singapore.

The Quarters is latest to join the fray with its own take on the slated egg burger popularised recently by a certain fast food chain. The modsin café, which is helmed by Chung Deming – the man behind the out-of-this-world Durian Crème Brulee, intends with the burger’s debut, to show us what the Real McCoy, as salted egg burgers go, should really be about.

The Real McCoy and Shiok Fries.

The Real McCoy and Shiok Fries.

While I am not a huge fan of the taste of salted eggs, I enjoy a good bite with its flavours mixed in and I have to admit that Deming’s Real McCoy is an extremely good bite.  Dripping but not soggy from the creamy rich almost cheese like appearance yellow coloured aioli – which by the way is bottled and sold off the shelf, the burger as a whole is flavourful with many subtle hints of the smaller parts that make the whole. What I also like about the Real McCoy is its wonderfully thick, cripsy and yet juicy oat batter coated American Southern style fried chicken patty that sits on a bed of lettuce and sliced tomatoes – just how I think chicken burgers should be.

Buah Keluak flavoured ice cream.

Buah Keluak flavoured ice cream.

Complementing the Real McCoy very well is Deming’s super shiok Shiok Fries – which can be eaten with the salted egg aioli or better, the chilli crab sauce. Whatever way you like it, remember to also leave some room for the desserts …. the Real McCoy can be paired with the café’s signature Durian Crème Brulee or DurianCanBoleh for a nice price until the end of August. And if durian doesn’t give you enough of a kick, there is something else that will certainly give you one – Buah Keluak flavoured ice cream that tastes just like buah keluak out of the shell when cooked in a Peranakan kitchen.

The café also has a small selection of craft ciders and beer - including this one wth a not so pleasant name. The plae beer or Pilsner is apparently named after a village with the rude sounding name in Austria. Hell means pale in German.

The café also has a small selection of craft ciders and beer – including this one wth a not so pleasant name. The plae beer or Pilsner is apparently named after a village with the rude sounding name in Austria. Hell means pale in German.

The Real McCoy ($16 nett – $14 nett for a limited promotional period only) will be available from 30 July 2016 at both The Quarters at Icon Village (at Enggor Street) and its sister outler, Kush at Timbre+ (at Alexandra Distripark).


A great reason to say cheese!

26 04 2013

There a nice little place in a corner of Toa Payoh Central where you probably won’t mind getting into a gooey yellow mess, and as the good people behind the place would have it, fall in love … The little place, Yellow Submarines at Block 177, one of the latest fast-food concepts in town, will surely get you into one – with its offerings of sandwiches and fries loaded with an oh-so-good mess of melted cheese – so good that it certainly won’t be a surprise if it does have, as the writing on the wall there would have it, you falling in love at first bite!

Certainly love at first bite!

Certainly love at first bite!

The menu is built around a Philly icon, the cheesesteak.

The menu is built around a Philly icon, the cheesesteak.

The cheese laden offerings Yellow Submarines has on its menu, is built around a long time Philly (Philadelphia) icon,  the Cheesesteak. It does however, go beyond the popular steak sandwich in its “no pork, no lard” menu and includes choices which extends to tuna as well as vegetarian sandwiches.

Yellow Submarines' menu has something to offer everyone.

Yellow Submarines’ menu has something to offer everyone.

Even with the choices on the menu, it wasn’t difficult to come to a quick decision on what I was going to have. It had to be the Yellow Submarine Classic. Filled with a generous portion of thinly sliced premium New Zealand beef flavoured with gravy and caramelized onions and coloured yellow with cheese, the Classic is indeed one – each bite into it was one which brought pure joy to the tastebuds! Yummy and I was definitely in love! There is a choice of having the sandwich on its own or adding the price of a serving of Torpedo Fries, for a very sinful serving of the melted cheese rich and somewhat spicy Torpedo fries and a drink.

The best and messiest way to have that Classic and Torpedo Fries - especially with the cheese at the bottom of the cup the fries comes in.

The best and messiest way to have that Classic and Torpedo Fries – especially with the cheese at the bottom of the cup the fries comes in.

With the portion being sufficiently large and that I had to save myself for the tempting desserts on the menu, I left it to the others in the group to tell me about the other items – all of which return positive verdicts.

The vegetarian mushroom laden M-1.

The vegetarian mushroom laden M-1 Submarine.

The Tuna Submarine.

The Tuna Submarine.

The Chicken Submarine.

The Chic Submarine.

The Single Hit.

The Single Hit.

The desserts on the menu – are highly recommended – the brownie (Choco Bomber) especially, although the cheesecake (NY Cheese Hunt) does deserve an honourable mention, as does the ice-cream filled brioche. Not a fan of brownies, the Choco Bomber did win me over with its most texture and rich enough chocolate flavour which wasn’t – as brownies tend to be, overpowering.

Must try desserts - the cheesecake, brownie and

Must try desserts – the cheesecake (NY Cheese Hunt), brownie (Choco Bomber) and brioche with ice-cream (Frozen Cannon).

Not normally a brownie fan, the Choco Bomber won me over - thought it was just right, not too sweet or overpowering.

Not normally a brownie fan, the Choco Bomber won me over – thought it was just right, not too sweet or overpowering.

Yellow Submarines can be found at Blk 177 #01-110 Toa Payoh Central Singapore 310177 (end of Blk 177 that faces Lorong 2) and is open from 10.30 am to 10.30 pm daily. For the official opening this weekend (26 to 28 April 2013 – dates inclusive), Yellow Submarines is offering a free upgrade to a meal for every purchase of a sandwich, sub or burger – so do hurry down! More information can be found at the Yellow Submarines website and Facebook Page. Yellow Submarines can also be found on Instagram and if you do post pics on Instagram, do remember to add the hashtag #yellowsubmarinescheesesteaks.

Official opening promotion - free upgrade to a meal only on the weekend of 26 to 28 April.

Official opening promotion – free upgrade to a meal only on the weekend of 26 to 28 April.

Brunch with a zebra

11 04 2013

It was probably a little too early for that glass Sangria I had late on a Saturday morning. Especially so, when I had a zebra, and if that wasn’t enough, a few horses thrown in as well, for company. I am quite sure, of course, that the horses and lone zebra that accompanied the deliciously refreshing beverage wasn’t the result of sangria induced hallucinations. The animals – wall-mounted ornaments in the form of the heads of them, meant perhaps to turn heads, were all part of the décor at the restaurant I was seated at, Sabio by the Sea, for a tasting session of the restaurant’s Weekend Brunch menu.

A reward from having brunch with a zebra.

A reward from having brunch with a zebra.

The restaurant's resident zebra,and some of its horses.

The restaurant’s resident zebra,and some of its horses.

A generous dose of Sangria, from a choice of either white or red accompanied our brunch.

A generous dose of Sangria, from a choice of either white or red accompanied our brunch.

The second of a pair of Sabio’s, Sabio by the Sea follows on the success of the Deliciae Hospitality Management group’s Sabio on Duxton Hill, and is the group’s 8th restaurant concept. In its curious décor are the flavours of the original Sabio, a cozy tavern from 19th Century Seville and elements of the sea, all infused with a somewhat whimsical touch – a reflection perhaps of the selection of flavours on its menu.

The flavourful décor inside Sabio by the Sea.

The flavourful décor inside Sabio by the Sea.

The highlight on its menu is the meat and seafood selection, grilled using charcoal ovens which have been flown-in specially from Spain – the creations of Deliciae’s Group Executive Chef Damien Le Bihan, who hails from Brittany on the wild western coast of France. The menu also offers a varied choice and includes a wide selection of hot and cold tapas; jamon (Serrano, Iberico and Iberico Bellota) and chorizo (pork sausages); paella as well as a choice of white or red Sangria, which we are told have been perfected by Sabio.

Deliciae’s Group Executive Chef Damien Le Bihan (R) posing with Bruno Menard (L) the first Singapore based Michelin Star Chef who dropped by to say hi.

Deliciae’s Group Executive Chef Damien Le Bihan (R) posing with Bruno Menard (L) the first Singapore based Michelin Star Chef who dropped by to say hi.

A charcoal oven specially imported from Spain.

A charcoal oven specially imported from Spain.

Popular items on the menu include the Esparrago (Grilled Asparagus, Serano Ham, soft Egg, Paprika & Sherry Vinaigrette), Navajas (Razor clams with chorizo and garlic sauce), El Pulpo (Grilled Octopus leg, “Viola” Mash Potato, Sauce Paprika) and La Carne (Grilled Ribeye, Cheese Sauce, Grilled Pimentos). Another very popular choice, is the restaurant’s Weekend Brunch Menu, which allows a quick introduction to the tastes on offer, for which I and a bunch of others others were there to try.

The restaurant's brunch menu.

The restaurant’s brunch menu.

Brunch starts with the El Sabio Basket with small baguette, a mini-croissant, and a mini pain au chocolat served with strawberry jam, butter, orange juice and a delighfully light yoghurt with berries. Not actually made by the restuarant, the basket contains the best bread and pastries I have come across in Singapore and is a wonderful way to put you in the right mood for brunch.

A wonderfully delicious bread basket to start off brunch.

A wonderful bread basket to start off brunch.

The bread basket was accompanied by a glass of yogurt.

The bread basket was accompanied by a glass of yoghurt with berries.

What was to follow was a feast for the senses as the restaurant served up a variety not just of what was on its brunch menu, but also some of its signature dishes which wasn’t just pleasing to the taste-buds, but also a visual and aromatic feast! It all came fast and furious: Chachouka, Grilled Ribeye, Olive Bread with Serrano Ham, a fluffy Omelette, Prok Shoulder, and an Octopus leg – pleasures out of the charcoal oven. It is hard to play favourites with all of that but if I were to choose, it would be the succulent ribeye and pork both well marinated, slow grilled and bursting with taste. I did also enjoy the Octopus leg – as I always do, especially when it is delicately grilled to perfection in the way it is done at Sabio. That interestingly is served with purple mashed potato.

Toasted Bread With Garlic, Roasted Baby Potatoes, Pan Fried Chorizo,Manchego Cheese, Soft Egg.

Chachouka – with Chorizo Sausage, Two Fried Eggs, Toasted Brioche And Green.

Grilled Ribeye (120g), Chachouka, Fried Egg And Grilled Mushrooms.

Grilled Ribeye (120g), Fried Egg And Grilled Mushrooms.

Grilled Olive Bread Stuff With Manchego Cheese And Serrano Ham, BabySpinach Salad.

Grilled Olive Bread Stuff With Manchego Cheese And Serrano Ham, Baby
Spinach Salad.

Fluffy Omelette, Roasted Potatoes , Manchego Cheese, Serrano Ham, Basil And Grilled Cherry Tomatoes.

Fluffy Omelette, Roasted Potatoes , Manchego Cheese, Serrano Ham, Basil and Grilled Cherry Tomatoes.

El Cerdo -Herbs Marinated Pig Shoulder Served With Sauteed Potatoes.

El Cerdo –
Herbs Marinated Pig Shoulder Served With Sauteed Potatoes.

El Pulpo -Grilled Octopus leg, “Viola” Mash Potato, Sauce Paprika.

El Pulpo –
Grilled Octopus leg, “Viola” Mash Potato, Sauce Paprika.

The inquisition of what’s on Sabio’s menu would not be complete without a taste of what has to be the items which are the most sinfully pleasurable. Even with a tummy full of what was previously served, we all had room for all of what came, including the House’s Signature Dessert, the especially sinful Pastel de Mantequilla Salada Carmelo Lava – Salty Butter Caramel Lava Cake which oozes not just with warm and sticky caramel, but which together with the ice-cream it was served brought pure pleasure with each mouthful.

Pastel de Mantequilla Salada Carmelo Lava -Salty Butter Caramel Lava Cake.

Pastel de Mantequilla Salada Carmelo Lava –
Salty Butter Caramel Lava Cake.

Also of note is the Piña Asada. That came in half the shell of the pineapple with golden caramelized cubes of its previous contents in it, served with a portion oh-so-heavenly vanilla ice-cream. The other dessert items which we got to savour also deserve an honourable mention. These are the Arroz con leche – Vanilla and white chocolate rice pudding, the Churros – which I must say have to the best tasting ones in town. That, if not also everything else, is certainly reason enough to make a visit my Sentosa Cove all worthwhile.

Piña asada - Roasted marinated pineapple served with vanilla ice cream.

Piña Asada – Roasted marinated pineapple served with vanilla ice cream.

Arroz con leche -Vanilla and white chocolate rice pudding.

Arroz con leche –
Vanilla and white chocolate rice pudding.

The best tasting Churros in town!

The best tasting Churros in town!

Sabio by the Sea offers dining both in the restaurant and al fresco and is located at Quayside Isle next to W Hotel at 31 Ocean Way #01-02 Singapore 098395. It is accessible by car as well as from the Beach Station in Sentosa (Sentosa Bus 3 to Sentosa Cove Arrival Plaza from Beach Station), which runs every 30 minutes from from 8 am to 10.30 pm daily. The restaurant is opened from 12 pm to 10 pm on Mondays to Thursdays, 12 pm to 12 am on Fridays, 10 am to 12 am on Saturdays and 10 am to 10 pm on Sundays. The restaurant can ne contacted at 6690 7568 or For more information on the restaurant and on the Deliciae group, do visit

Detail on the menu board.

Detail on the restaurant’s menu board.

Pairing with Martell on a high

28 03 2013

It is in a room with a view that I experienced what has to be one of my high points of the year. It wasn’t just that I was seated in a restaurant, which on the 62nd floor of One Raffles Place, is perched close to the top of what is one of the highest points over Singapore one can possibly get up to without boarding an aircraft, but also from the treat over lunch that was to follow.

Compliments of the Chef: a teaser before the pairing session, Cream of Youth, that we were told (jokingly), would take 10 years off our age (photo taken with LG Optimus G).

Compliments of the Chef: a teaser before the pairing session, Cream of Youth, that we were told (jokingly), would take 10 years off our age (photo taken with LG Optimus G).

Lunch, which was at the kind invitation of Martell and Stellar at 1Altitude, was a tasting session of a cognac pairing menu available exclusively at Stellar for the month of March (it has since been extended to Sunday 14 April 2013). The menu involves signature dishes on the Stellar menu, paired with cocktails made with Martell Cordon Bleu cognac as a primary base. After a quick introduction to the restaurant with a Cream of Youth, the tasting session proper commenced with the first pairing on the menu. This was the very rich Duck and Its Nest: Pan-fried foie gras in a semolina crust; duck rillettes and arfait; corn pancake and quince compote. To complement the foie gras, a cocktail with a balance of acidity (as a foil for rich foods), sweetness, aroma and texture, much as the classic accompaniment to foie gras, the full bodied white wine, Sauternes, is was required. The result is “Inside the Rocks”, a concoction with dry orange, molasses syrup and fresh parsley that is mixed with Cherry Brandy and Martell Cordon Bleu. Chilled inside a hollow ball of ice which is broken before it is served, the cocktail is indeed a delicate blend – the dry orange drawing out the notes on the cognac – a perfect accompaniment to the rich flavours of the foie gras and rillettes of duck.

Duck and Its Nest: Pan-fried foie gras in a semolina crust; duck rillettes and arfait; corn pancake and quince compote.

Duck and Its Nest: Pan-fried foie gras in a semolina crust; duck rillettes and arfait; corn pancake and quince compote.

Which is paired with "Inside The Rocks": a cocktail of dry orange, molasses sugar, herbs and Martell Cordon Bleu.

Which is paired with “Inside The Rocks”: a cocktail of dry orange, molasses sugar, herbs and Martell Cordon Bleu.

Next was a Classic Lobster Bisque, served with leek fondue and a seared scallop ravioli, paired with a champagne cocktail “Erlinda 1942”. The cocktail meant to bring out the feel of summer, brought out by the taste of lemons and herbs. Besides lemon juice and star anise, the very refreshing cocktail has also crème de cassis, rose Water, St. Germain liqueur, champagne, and Martell Cordon Bleu mixed into it, bringing out a zest which well complements the lobster bisque with a huge and very succlent piece of scallop in the ravioli.

Classic Lobster Bisque with a succulent piece of seared scallop in ravioli which is paired with "Erlinda 1942" a champagne cocktail with a taste of lemonsand a hint of herbs - mixed of course with some cognac.

Classic Lobster Bisque with a succulent piece of seared scallop in ravioli which is paired with “Erlinda 1942” a champagne cocktail with a taste of lemons and a hint of herbs – mixed of course with some cognac.

The highlight of the pairing menu seemed to saved for last, the last before the dessert that was to follow, that is. To accompany the very tender slow cooked (over a wood coal fire for four hours) Kobe C beef off the ribs, served with short rib hash, tarragon baby vegetables and morel sauce, was “1st and Last ”. While that certainly wasn’t the last cocktail to be served, I certainly would not have minded if it was. The deliciously penetrating and flavourful aroma brought out by the infusion of cardomom syrup and a cinnamon stick is certainly one that lingers and one which seems to melt into the tasty morsels of beef oozing with flavour from its cooking. The cocktail is one in which the spices come together with a Martell Cordon Bleu base and Zen green tea liqueur bringing out a “lemony and flowery” flavour,  “with note of camphor or eucalyptus due to cineole in the essential oil”.

Kobe C rib of beef, smoked and slow cooked over wood coals; short rib hash; tarragon baby vegetables and morel sauce.

Kobe C rib of beef, smoked and slow cooked over wood coals; short rib hash; tarragon baby vegetables and morel sauce.

Paired with my personal favourite "1st and Last" - rich in flavour and spiced with a cardomom syrup and cinnamon stick - one gets a high just from the aroma it oozes.

Paired with my personal favourite “1st and Last” – rich in flavour and spiced with a cardomom syrup and cinnamon stick – one gets a high just from the aroma it oozes.

Dessert is something that always comes as a treat, more so in this case being prepared at the table. The “1-Caramel Dessert Experience” which was served on a platter and to be shared was certainly made even more irresistible with its baked Alaska with strawberry ice cream and warm chocolate brownie; Valhrona chocolate praline bomb with berry compote; and vanilla crème brûlée with dulce leche ice cream. The 1-Caramel Dessert Experience is one that is paired with “El Favorito”, a very rich combination of Martell Cordon Bleu, vanilla ice-cream, Mascarpone cheese and white cacao – said to bring emotions to your head, with a sweet and creamy flavour – it did well complement the dessert experience and while it was perhaps a little too heavy for me, it was a sweet and flavourful way to bring the tasting session accompanied by one of the best views of modern Singapore out the window, to a conclusion.

Preparing the 1-Caramel Dessert Experience: Baked Alaska with strawberry ice cream and warm chocolate brownie; Valhrona chocolate praline bomb with berry compote; vanilla crème brûlée with dulce leche ice cream.

Preparing the 1-Caramel Dessert Experience: Baked Alaska with strawberry ice cream and warm chocolate brownie; Valhrona chocolate praline bomb with berry compote; vanilla crème brûlée with dulce leche ice cream.

Dessert is served.

Dessert is served.

The baked Alaska.

The baked Alaska.

Dessert is paired with "El Favorito": Martell Cordon Bleu, vanilla ice-cream, Mascarpone cheese and white cacao.

Dessert is paired with “El Favorito”: Martell Cordon Bleu, vanilla ice-cream, Mascarpone cheese and white cacao.

The “Pairing with Martell” menu is available at Stellar at 1Altitude until 14 April 2013. Besides the individual paired items on the menu, a set menu which includes all dishes and cocktails, is also available at s$185++. Reservations are highly recommended.

Spreading happiness at Serangoon Gardens

14 02 2013

Tucked away in a somewhat obscure area of Serangoon Gardens is a delightful little café that as its name, Sun Ray Café, suggests, brings sun rays over the area. Describing itself as a joyful and offbeat spot, the cafe is probably better known to pet owners – it being one of the few pet friendly eateries found in the area of Singapore.  I guess, not being a pet owner, I might be forgiven for not being aware of the cafe, and it was only through an invitation for a food tasting session that I got to know of its existence.

Yu Sheng that is served not with raw fish, but with smoked salmon and tossed with a fork.

Yu Sheng that is served not with raw fish, but with smoked salmon and tossed with a fork.

That it is an offbeat place is probably also seen in some of the food creations made specially for the occasion of the Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day. One of the first things we got  to do was toss the what has come to be a tradition for the Lunar New Year in Singapore and Malaysia, Yu Sheng or Raw Fish Salad. That is perhaps as traditional as it does get, not only is the “Raw Fish” Salad topped not by raw fish as its name might suggest, but by a generous helping of smoked salmon, but it also is  tossed with a fork. Topped off with croutons, and served with plum sauce, the salad’s ingredients and the salmon topping is shaped into a short cylinder in a mould – taking on a rather quirky and non-conventional appearance. The Sun Ray Café Yu Sheng Platter, named Rising Joy is rather a rather delightful twist to the traditional dish, comes in two sizes – a small portion ideal for 2 diners is priced at $10.80 and the large portion for 4 diners costs $16.80 and will be available until 24 February. Being a pet friendly, the café also serves a pet version of the dish with boiled salmon, a portion of which costs $6.80.

A peek into the pet friendly café.

A peek into the pet friendly café.

The main part of the food tasting was to introduce the café’s Valentine’s Day menu (for which this post probably comes a little too late for). Available on 13 and 14 February, the menu comes with a choice of three entrées. The menu is also served with a Smoked Salmon Salad served with a wonderful walnut sauce dressing; a Cuppa’ Mushroom Soup inspired by how cappuccino is served these days which I thought was just right – light and not overladen with cream; a choice of Home Made Tiramisu or Chocolate Lava Cake; and a choice of drinks – a Signature Mocktail Mellini or a glass of House Wine. The entrées can be selected from a Australian Seared Steak (marinated in red wine and rosemary and served with Lyonnais potatoes); Crusted Salmon (sesame crusted salmon with sweet taro mash – I am told it is naturally sweet taro); or the Honey Glazed Spring Chicken (grilled and served with oven-roasted potatoes). I though the salmon turned out the best – full of flavour complemented by the sesame crust. The steak was also tender and juicy and rich in flavour. The chicken however did taste a little too sweet and wasn’t to my liking. The menus are priced at $45 for the steak, $35 for the salmon and  $30 for the chicken.

The smoked salmon salad with a walnut sauce dressing.

The smoked salmon salad with a walnut sauce dressing.

Cuppa' Mushroom Soup.

Cuppa’ Mushroom Soup.

The Valentine's Day menu offers a choice of entrées. The Australian Seared Steak menu costs $45.

The Valentine’s Day menu offers a choice of entrées. The Australian Seared Steak menu costs $45.

The crusted salmon.

The crusted salmon served with sweet taro mash.

Honey Glazed Spring Chicken.

Honey Glazed Spring Chicken.

The very refreshing Signature Mellini Mocktail.

The very refreshing Signature Mellini Mocktail.

Besides the food – the café’s owner is also big on coffee. A trained barista, he hopes to also turn the café into one that serves specialty coffees and is considering roasting his own beans. Tthe café was kind enough to have a little coffee appreciation session during which Columbia Geisha beans (which we were told cost $300 a kg!) were used and the practice of coffee cupping was  introduced – after which I will not look at a cup of kopi-o in the same way again.

Brewing the Geisha beans.

Brewing the Geisha beans.

A cupping spoon.

A cupping spoon.

Located at 79 Brighton Crescent, more information on the pet friendly café can be found at its Facebook page. And do note that, as a special treat, the café is extending a $10 return voucher – all you would need to do to claim the voucher is to say “Happiness will keep us alive!” to the staff serving you.

High on Sky

1 10 2012

Lunch on the third day was to be quite a surprise, the venue for it being high in the Sky above the Macau peninsula. It was on the 21st level of the AIA Tower, at the aptly named Sky 21 to be exact, a destination that as I was to discover, offered more than just a great dining experience in a room with a view.

Sky 21 is a surprise that awaits on the 21st and 22nd floors of the AIA Tower in Macau. Sky Life – an action and entertainment venue on the 22nd floor is seen here (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The sign at the entrance to Sky 21 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Much of the decor found in the MOP 20 million dining and entertainment venue is Zen inspired (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Stepping through into the restaurant, the view offered not only out the windows but of the restaurant itself was a pretty eye-catching one. The 80 seat main dining area’s Zen inspired décor, was certainly one with a lot of appeal. It was at a private room where we were to have lunch, and stepping inside, it did not take very long for the cameras to come out. The views out the window and the room itself certainly seemed to catch the fancy of everyone in the group. The VIP Room accommodates a maximum of 16 people, and can be reserved for private events such as birthday parties, private dining, and small meetings and is equipped with a private restroom, projector and screen.

The Zen inspired decor seen in the main dining area (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The VIP Room is a room that certainly has a view (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The southward view from the VIP Room (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Decor inside the VIP Room.

The lunch menu at Sky 21 offers a selection of set meals, a Pan-Asian selection that gives diners a choice of Macanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Indian, Japanese and Vietnamese. I decided on the Japanese which proved to be an excellent choice, as was the various other choices made by the other in the group. After a common raw tuna salad that was served, my set was served. Beautifully arranged on a tray, it had a bowl of a crab roe salad with aloe, another of udon noodles in soup with Japanese roast pork, a generous serving of sushi, and a rather attractively presented slice of wasabi cheesecake.

Inside the VIP Room (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Choices, choices! Willy probably wishes he could order everything on the menu (i did too!) (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The Japanese set that I ordered (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The Wasabi cheesecake – yummy!

Valyn staring into her dessert – one that came with the Macanese set.

Being one who eats first and asks questions later, I will leave reviewing the food to one of my favourite food bloggers, Yiwei. I can however say that the food certainly did not disappoint and is very good value based on the prices that were on the menu.

The food review is best left to food blogger Yiwei.

There was some time for a small presentation of prizes to the winners of the previous day’s race through the streets of old Macau at which no one came away disappointed. Even with the team I was in coming in an embarrassing last, Kaika (my teammate) and I did receive a prize – for a photo posted during the race. The prizes were presented by Iris of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) in Singapore, who we have to thank for making the trip such a wonderful experience. The MGTO were the kind sponsors of the trip, with Tiger Airways, which flies to Macau daily, sponsoring the flights to and from Macau.

Iris announcing who the winners of the race were (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A shot of my race teammate Kaika.

Valyn showing the prize that she got … (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A short tour followed of the MOP 20 million luxury dining, shopping and entertainment destination, which is not only on the 21st floor AIA Tower, but also extends one floor up to the 22nd floor. On the same level as the restaurant, we were to discover a surprise that was hidden in a room behind closed doors – an exclusive luxury retail showroom that is reserved for Sky’s VIP guests. Designed to attract the big spender, there is a selection of hard-to-find luxury goods on offer behind the showcases … something that certainly opened the eyes of the ladies in the group (and most of the men too)! Access to the showroom can also be made via a concierge service that is available through one of the Suncity group VIP rooms which can be found in all Macau 5 star Casinos.

Inside Sky Luxe (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Leaving Sky Luxe behind, we went up a flight of stairs to the 22nd level where we got a look at Sky Life, an action and entertainment venue which offers live entertainment and features guest DJs; and also the SKY B bar and lounge with an open terrace which has great views of Macau Tower and of the area around the Grand Lisboa. The two outlets do also offer dining – a semi-buffet Western Excutive Lunch is available as well as a Classic / Asian Afternoon Tea. Both certainly are cool places I wouldn’t at all mind an evening out in.

Sky B is a bar on the 22nd level (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The open terrace of Sky B offers magnificent views of the area around Macau Tower … (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5) …

… and the skyscrapers around the Grand Lisboa (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Another view of Sky B (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

At this point I would like to express my appreciation to Sky 21 for the scrumptious lunch and also for showing what a wonderful concept Sky is all about. It certainly is a place to see and also be seen in. More information on Sky 21 can be found at its website (click here).

Links to getting high:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways
Sky 21

Note: this is a repost of my post on the My Macau Experience 2012 site which sees 10 bloggers share experiences of their visit to Macau. Readers will get a chance to vote for their favourite My Macau Experience 2012 blogger and stand a chance to win $1000 worth of Macau travel vouchers. Voting starts on 28 September 2012 and details can be found at the My Macau Experience 2012 Voting page.

In pursuit of happiness on the streets of old Macau

20 09 2012

Much of the second day of our trip to Macau seemed to be spent in the pursuit of happiness. Happiness, not as one might imagine, found in the brightly lit gaming rooms that one can’t really get far away from in the territory, but rather found in and around the narrow streets and back lanes of old Macau, streets and back lanes that given more time, are ones that I certainly would want find myself getting lost in.

A dance of joy at the foot of the steps leading up to the iconic ruins of St. Paul’s, one of the many pockets of happiness that awaited us on the second day (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Scrambling around the streets late on what was a muggy Sunday morning, it didn’t take long to find ourselves dripping in perspiration and it did seem for a while, that that was the last thing that would lead us to any form of happiness. We had found ourselves involved in a Mini Macau Amazing Race, split into five teams of two, wandering around seemingly aimlessly seeking answers which were to be found in the narrow streets in and around Senado Square.

Have GPS will race … not that it helped … as my team was the last to arrive (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

We did in the course of the race, stumble upon happiness. We found that in the name of a street – Rua da Felicidade or 福隆新街,which translates to the Street of Happiness. The name has its origins in a seedy past, one that was associated with the pleasures of the flesh. The street is today (along with the narrow streets around it), where pleasures are still to be found, in indulgences that some would say are no less sinful. This we had to leave for a little later with the little matter of having first to finish the race.

The pursuit of happiness brought us to a street called ‘happiness’, the Rua da Felicidade / 福隆新街 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Being paired with a very able partner in Kaika, of The Cosplay Chronicles fame, somehow wasn’t enough. Arriving drenched in the morning’s exertions at the pit stop, we were to hear the dreaded ‘you are the last team to arrive’. Looking back, we had perhaps spent a little too much time on happiness, in search of what one might call a purveyor of happiness that eluded us. We did find some momentary happiness at the end point though. That came in the form of what has to be one of the simple pleasures of Macau – a Portuguese Egg Tart or Pastel de Nata as some refer to it. The Macau favourite was one that came from Margaret’s Café (玛嘉烈蛋挞), tucked away in what seemed like an obscure alley not far from the Grand Lisboa Hotel, which served as the end point.

A jump of joy in front of St. Dominic’s Church, one of the stops along the race route … I was paired up with Kaika of The Cosplay Chronicles for the race (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Happiness at the pit stop – found after having an egg tart (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Margaret’s Café (玛嘉烈蛋挞) is tucked away in what seemed like an obscure alley not far from the Grand Lisboa Hotel (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The scene that greeted us at Margaret’s Café, might have had fuelled some delusions some of us might have had that the large crowd that was present was there to cheer our efforts. It was however clear that they had come for the rich creamy custard filled flaky pastry cases that can only be described as a little piece of heaven. There was just a queue that was in evidence, with tables laid on the outside all filled up, many were seen, egg tarts in hand, standing around in the alleyway. The café had been one of the many pockets of happiness surprising us in the labyrinth of streets of the race route and looking back at it, the race certainly was an well thought of means devised by the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) to help get us acquainted the streets in and around Senado Square and what they have to offer.

There was a large crowd at the café when we arrived (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Those who could not find seats did not seem to mind having their egg tarts standing (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

With the newly acquired local knowledge fresh in our heads, a number of us decided to use the free time we had after the race to embark on a quest to seek out the pockets of happiness we now knew the streets had to offer. Retracing our steps back to the street called happiness, we sought out Cheong Kei Noodle House (Loja Sopa Da Fita Cheong Kei or 祥记面食专家) and the famed shrimp roe noodles we were made aware of. Undeterred by the queue that had formed when we arrived, we patiently waited for the reward that awaited us, shrimp roe noodles of which we each had one (we realised that the portions served were small enough), sharing a bowl of wan ton soup, and what seemed like house specialities fish skin salad and fish balls deep fried with a coating of rice that resembled balls of Fererro Rocher. The shrimp roe noodles, noodles sprinkled with dried shrimp roe on top, made an interesting eat and turned out to be quite a happy treat. The fish balls and wan ton were too, but I think the jury was out on the fish skin which if anything was rich, as I learned from the ladies with us, in collagen.

The queue to get into Cheong Kei did not deter us (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Fish Skin Salad, a specialty – the jury seemed to be out on this (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Fererro Rocher balls? Deep fried fish balls coated with rice (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

What we came for, happiness in a serving of shrimp roe noodles (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

… which Ai Sakura seemed to find (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Feeling happy from the exercise of gluttony at Cheong Kei, there was more happiness to be sought. We decided to find it in some sweet delights that Macau does have an abundance of – desserts! We headed to the Leitaria I Son (義順牛奶公司) along San Ma Lo (新馬路 / Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro), known to many who visit Hong Kong as the Yee Shun Milk Company. The dessert shop, which I understand originated in Macau, offers a range of smooth and creamy steamed milk puddings with a variety of toppings, all of which would probably require several trips to Macau to have a complete taste of. We shared a few different bowls – a plain milk pudding, as well as one each with ginger, lotus seeds and red beans. The ginger was quite an interesting experience, and if you are fond of having a cup of strong ginger tea we find at the sarabat stalls in Singapore, it is something you certainly will like – which I did. Seeing the expression on the face of one in the group, Rui Long, the representative, as she had a taste of it also told me that ginger wasn’t everyone’s bowl of milk pudding. I did however find, and I think many would agree with me, that the bowl with the red beans topping came closest to happiness in a bowl – red beans seemed to best complement the joy of milk pudding.

The search for more happiness took us into Leitaria I Son (義順牛奶公司) along San Ma Lo (新馬路 / Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro), known to many who visit Hong Kong as the Yee Shun Milk Company and famous for their steamed milk puddings.

Happiness found in bowls of steamed milk pudding at I Son … just so good! (Photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

It was at this point that some decided to head to the shops in Senado Square in search of the happiness that shopping does bring. A few headed back to the starting point of the morning’s race, Ponte 16, to visit the MJ Gallery and MJ Café there. The gallery, the only one in Asia devoted to the late ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson (MJ), is where MJ fans will take great delight in the 40 well-known pieces of MJ memorabilia on display. This includes the iconic white rhinestone glove which he wore worn during his first moonwalk performance which was televised during Motown’s 25th Anniversary in 1983, and also a fedora hat and crystal socks worn during his Victory Tour in 1984. MJ was certainly a big part of the generation I am in and I was quite happy to see that he has fans in the young bloggers who came along. One big fan we were to discover amongst us was Rui Long, who I must say did an excellent impression of MJ next to a life-sized standee of MJ doing the legendary moonwalk.

Some headed back to Ponte 16 to visit the MJ Gallery.

Paying homage to the late ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson at the MJ Gallery at Ponte 16 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The MJ Café at Ponte 16.

The time tunnel at the MJ Gallery captures the key milestones of MJ’s legendary career (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Rui Long during a perfect impression of MJ.

The MJ Gallery features 40 items of MJ memorabilia including some iconic items such as the white rhinestone studded glove he wore during his legendary moonwalk performance televised during Motown’s 25th Anniversary in 1983 (photographs taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

I decided next to head on my own in an attempt to discover the heart of old Macau, starting with the A-Ma Temple (媽閣廟) which is thought to be at the origins of the Portuguese given name of its former colony. The temple, I will write on in part of another post, which dedicated to the Taoist protector of fishermen, the goddess of the sea, Mazu or Matsu (妈祖 / 媽祖), serves as the starting point of any heritage trail through the streets of old Macau. It is also a stone’s throw from Lilau Square, the heart of the first Portuguese settlement. It was at the square where peeking through a window of a convenience kiosk, I spotted Yiwei, of Foodeology fame, seemingly in a state of happiness peeking (quite coincidentally) through a window at the opposite side of the kiosk.

The A-Ma Temple (媽閣廟) is at the origin of the Portuguese given name for Macau.

Having spent a little more time that I thought at the A-Ma Temple, the Moorish Barracks along the way and at Lilau Square, and perhaps a little distracted by the sweet smile at the other end of the kiosk, I abandoned thoughts of continuing with my trek through old Macau. I decided on heading back to Senado Square where I would find the larger part of the group, with the promise of a raid on more places of culinary happiness later that evening.

The joy that accompanied the surprise through a window of a kiosk at Lilau Square.

I found the group close to the steps leading up to the ruins of St. Paul’s, looking for happiness in the many shops selling Macanese / Cantonese confectionery and biscuits found in the streets leading up to the ruins. It is at these shops that Macau favourites such as boxes of almond cookies fly off the racks like hot cakes, and where another favourite, what I is best described as sweet barbequed meat or 肉乾, referred to locally as jerky (or in Singapore as ‘bak kwa’ or ‘long yuk’), is displayed in folded sheets as large as a piece of A4 sized paper– something I would certainly would have found happiness in as a child!

The streets below the ruins of St. Paul’s are littered with shops offering happiness in the many local snacks and confectioneries.

Sweet BBQ Meat a.k.a. jerky or 肉乾 is displayed in A4 sized sheets.

A shop assistant with a flat basket of a local favourite, almond cookies.

Ai Sakura finding happiness in a confectionery shop.

Tired from what was a long day out, it was then time to seek the dose of happiness at one of Macau’s food institutions – one we found out about during the race, Wong Chi Kei Noodle House (黃枝記麵家) in Senado Square. Wong Chi Kei has been in business some for some 66 years, having started in 1946. Set in an old shophouse in Senado Square, the wait to get into the restaurant, popular with locals and visitors, proved to be well worth it. The noodles and the soup in which they were served can be described as nothing less than a bowl of great happiness! As with any visit to the region, I had to have a bowl of beef brisket noodles. I thoroughly enjoyed and would if I could, return for more. The wan ton noodles and crab congee are apparently among the favourites here, as is the shrimp roe noodles, which served in larger portions with a generous helping of wan ton, was received well by those who did try it.

A happy customer leaving Wong Chi Kei Noodle House (黃枝記麵家) in Senado Square, a local institution.

The verdict was that the shrimp roe noodles at Wong Chi Kei brought happiness to those who tried it.

Leo of Spin or Bin Music must be wondering how Ai Sakura is going to eat all that!

Another house specialty is the crab congee.

Before we were prepared to call it a day, there was still one last bit of happiness we had to seek. We headed back to the dessert shop that had eluded Kaika and me during the race, Hang Heong Un (Loja De Doces Hang Heong Un / 杏香园雪糕甜品屋), in which their walnut cream desserts are said to bring pure joy. I decided on ordering something that would cool me down instead, it having been a hot day – a cold water chestnut based dessert. That did bring pure joy to me, certainly an excellent way to bring what I must say was a very successful pursuit of happiness through the streets of Macau to a very happy conclusion.

Last stop for finding happiness was Hang Heong Un (Loja De Doces Hang Heong Un / 杏香园雪糕甜品屋) off the street of happiness.

A refreshing bowl of water chestnut based dessert – a perfect way to end a happy day.

The visit to Macau was made possible by the kind sponsorship of MGTO, flights were sponsored by Tiger Airways with check-in baggage allowances included.

Links to Happiness:

Getting there
Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways

Pockets of ‘yum’:
Margaret’s Café
Cheong Kei Noodle House
Leitaria I Son
Wong Chi Kei
Hang Heong Un

Happy places:
Suggested Walking Tour of Macau
Rua da Felicadade
Senado Square
Ruins of St. Paul’s
St. Dominic’s Church
A-Ma Temple
Lilau Square
MJ Gallery at Ponte 16

Note: this is a repost of my post on the My Macau Experience 2012 site which sees 10 bloggers share experiences of their visit to Macau. Readers will get a chance to vote for their favourite My Macau Experience 2012 blogger and stand a chance to win $1000 worth of Macau travel vouchers. Voting starts on 28 September 2012 and details can be found at the My Macau Experience 2012 Voting page.

Video of Mini Macau Amazing Race as captured by the crew of

Finding pleasure in the world’s largest stack of thorns

31 07 2012

Living in Singapore, the opportunity to indulge in a session of durian gluttony does present itself every now and again, including one that recently came along. This latest session wasn’t however one that would count as a typical session, but one that did involve what was touted as the world’s largest stack of durians that was dubbed a ‘Durian Extravaganza’. The extravaganza was held at the Hard Rock Hotel’s Coliseum at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) last Friday evening and involved some 3,000 kilogrammes of the thorny fruit – the creamy yellow pulp covered seeds of which brings delight to many in South-East Asia, so much so that the fruit is worshiped as the ‘King of All Fruits’.

The Durian Extravaganza at the Coliseum, Hard Rock Hotel Singapore, saw the world’s largest stack of durians with some 3,000 kg of the thorny fruit being stacked up for a feast that attracted some 1,200 guests.

A closer look at the stack.

The Coliseum was transformed into a setting designed to take one back to the good old kampong days with dried leaves covering the floor and guests sitting on wooden stools set among thatched roofs – reminiscent perhaps of how many would have enjoyed the fruit in days gone by, days when perhaps due to the short season and relatively small supply, indulging on the fruit was always seen as a huge treat. These days, supply does seem a lot more abundant – with many plantations across the Causeway improving on their yields. The increased supply however hasn’t seen the Singaporean love affair with the fruit diminish in any way with the event at the Coliseum proving it with some 1,200 guests – many members of RWS Invites – a membership programme with RWS, going through the 3 tonnes of fruit over two sittings which took place over a four-hour period.

An old world in a new – the Durian Extravaganza took place in a setting design to bring back the good old kampong days …

Some 1200 Guests devoured 3000 kg of durians over a four-hour period.

While the focus of many of the guest were on the durians of which more than six varieties were on offer including the local favourite Mao Shan Wang, there was more than just durians with local seasonal fruits including duku langsat, longans, rambutans and the ‘Queen of All Fruits’ – the mangosteen to complement the durians at the sessions which no doubt left everyone, including some brave non-locals, with not only a full belly, but with a huge statisfied smile (if there was one) on their faces. More information on the Durian Extravaganza as well as some of the varieties of durian on offer can be found at the RWScoop website.

A Mao Shan Wang durian …

A D24.

Besides durians there were other seasonal local fruits on offer such as the Mangosteen – the ‘Queen of All Fruits’, rambutans, longans and jackfruit.

A very brave non-local having a go at the fruit – which must be said is an acquired taste.

Spicing Town up

27 07 2012

Having a spice fix is something I can’t live without and I got one last Friday at a dinner buffet at the Town Restaurant at the Fullerton. On for a very short period of time from 20 to 30 July 2012, Town Restaurant takes one on “A Tasty Passage to India” through its dinner buffet – one that combines the flavours brought in from the Taj Palace New Delhi with the selection of seafood on ice, salads, pastas, pizzas and cheeses that is always a draw on its popular buffet line.

Delivered straight from the Taj Palace New Delhi is the “A Tasty Passage to India” DInner Buffet at The Fullerton’s Town Restaurant.

Seafood on ice from the buffet line.

The buffet which is presented in partnership with the Taj Palace New Delhi and Jet Airways, sees many Northern Indian specialties being served up including Murg Badam Shorba (Almond-flavoured Chicken Broth), Kasundi Mahi Tikka (Bengal Mustard Fish Kebab), Kolapuri Mutton (Spicy Mutton Curry), Phoolkopichi Bhaji (Cauliflower Curry Served with Crushed Peanuts), Paneer Makai Seekh (Minced Cottage Cheese and Corn Kernels Char-grilled On Skewer), Chingri Malai Curry (Prawns Cooked in Coconut), Subz Briyani (Vegetable Spiced Rice) along with an assortment of Indian Breads and tangy Chutneys. In town to lend their expertise to Fullerton’s The Courtyard are Guest Chefs from the Taj Palace, Shahid Hossain, the Executive Sous Chef of Taj Palace New Delhi, and Commis Chefs Sandeep Chauhan and Vinod Kuma from Taj Palace New Delhi’s speciality Indian restaurant Masala Art.

A selection from the grill.

Tandoori fish.

A selection of breads.

With what must certainly be too much to choose from for one dinner sitting, I had to selectively sample what was on offer. What I can say is certainly worth a try besides the briyanis and breads which I never can resist, is the Kolapuri Mutton, the Tandoori Fish, and a potato cutlet which is topped with sauces, the name of which I unfortunately was not able to catch. “A Tasty Passage to India” is priced at S$52* per adult and $26* per child (6 to 12 years old) [*subject to service charge and prevailing government taxes]. The dinner buffet is on unitl 31 July 2012 daily from 6 to 10 pm at Town Restaurant (located at the lobby level of The Fullerton Hotel). For reservations, please call (65) 6877 8128 or email

Potato cutlets frying in a pan …

… and is served with sauces that include a masala sauce and a mint sauce which is topped with pomegranate – delicious!

Taking off with Scootitude!

8 05 2012

It had seemed for a brief moment that I had found myself on a flight of fancy – not one of my own, but that of a group of men and women dressed in yellow tops that I had found myself in the company of. One in the group, a tall gentleman, spoke of how what they were giving me (and a group of others) an introduction to had come out of a flash against a somewhat surreal backdrop of a combination of hues that could possibly only have been painted by the hand of an artist. Much as it might have seemed otherwise, it was in fact something that had become real – the tall gentleman being Campbell Wilson, the CEO of Scoot,Singapore’s newest airline. And it was in the capsule of the Singapore Flyer that a group of bloggers and I had been holed in which provided not just a great vantage to what was a remarkable sunset over Marina Bay, but also an ideal location to hear about Scoot and what the airline is all about.

A flight of fancy into the surreal colours of an unusual sunset?

Before Campbell got down to giving us the lowdown on Scoot, there was some fun to be had … girls pitted against boys in a game that exposed my inability to properly draw much more than a few basic shapes – there being no escape from it with nowhere I could possibly hide in the confines of the capsule. After a reward of a boxful of snacks (after all a prominent blogger did refer to the airline as “So Cheap-O Overseas Travel”), it was down to the quick presentation by Campbell during which we heard that it had all begun in May 2011 with a flash – a flash drive that is ….

Inside the Scoot capsule on the Flyer.

It was refreshing to hear what Scoot, which aims to fill a gap in the low cost carrier market for flights that go beyond a 4 hour range, was all about. The fun that we had at the start, and what was to follow later, certainly provided a feel of what the good people behind the new airline wanted to be seen as – quirky, fun, informal, engaging and inclusive – something that must appeal to youthful crowd they hope to reach out to as well as the young at heart, a category I should at least qualify for.

It was an evening of fun … but what was Kevin attempting to depict???

One thing interesting I was to learn about Scoot was its out-of-the-ordinary recruitment process – designed to select candidates for its cabin crew that show what the airline terms as “Scootitude” to project that fun and quirky image it wants to project. I was to have the opportunity to see this first-hand and must say it was a process that had the candidates and staff involved wearing lots of smiles and one that I quite enjoyed being at.

The fun-to-be-at cabin crew selection process involves both individual and group participation from the candidates and is intended to identify those who show “Scootitude”.

Staff seemed to be having fun too at the recruitment drive.

Evaluators assessing candidates as they participate in a group exercise.

Another thing that did come out in the presentation on the flyer besides hearing about the four destinations announced thus far: Sydney (to which the Inaugural Flight on 4 June 2012 is to), Gold Coast, Tianjin and Bangkok, is the series of promotional events in the lead up to its inaugural flight, which included a “Bid the Price Down” campaign in China, a “Name Our Babies” contest, as well as a Spot a Scoot Cab contest in Singapore which is currently ongoing in which a pair of tickets can be won every two weeks during an eight week period which ends on 31 May 2012. More details can be found on the FlyScoot Facebook Page.

The evening’s fun ended with great food at the Singapore Food Trail under the flyer ….

The evening’s fun did have to end – but not without great food 1960s Singapore style, at the Singapore Food Trail under the Flyer – the promise of which might have been the motivation for me in taking up Scoot’s invitation to fly with them, and in great company … I am certainly glad I did take the invitation up – not only did I learn more about Scoot and what the airline aims to do, I was able to also meet some great people to be with – people that I certainly wouldn’t mind flying with.

… and in great company … CEO Campbell Wilson is seen looking away from the camera …

Head of Cabin Services Ng Ju Li with two of members of her cabin services team.

Strolls through less familiar streets of old

13 01 2012

Another wonderful place where I have been able to take a step back into the old world is the city of Ipoh in the northern Malaysian state of Perak. It is a place that I sometimes stop by on my drives up north, one that I may have had less of a connection with than perhaps Georgetown, Kuala Lumpur or Malacca, but one that I always enjoy a visit to. Ipoh does draw a crowd of visitors during the holiday season in Singapore, with many having relations or friends there, some having orginated from a city that has somewhat of a reputation for being a “sleepy town”. It isn’t hard to see why Ipoh acquired the reputation as even on the busiest of days, other than at the crowded eating places and streets crowded with cars, the five-foot-ways of the many pre-war shop houses that dominate the old town are eerily silent, with many of the shop units shuttered shut. However, sleepy as the city that rose from the wealth gained from tin deposits found in the limestone hills that surround it may seem, there is a lot more than the famous food and a break from the fast paced world that Ipoh has to offer.

The pouring rain brings an otherwise sleepy side lane in Ipoh to life - Ipoh has acquired a reputation for being a sleepy town.

A durian seller - another signs of life along the otherwise silent five-foot way.

Despite redevelopment in some areas of Ipoh, there is still a wealth of pre-war architecture to admire in the sleepy town.

One is the Art Deco styled former Ruby Theatre.

Arriving in the pouring rain one afternoon in late December, there wasn’t much I could do except head for Jalan Yau Tet Shin for lunch. The food that the city and its residents are very proud of does without a doubt, make an excellent starting point for any visitor to the city (although finding a parking space can prove a challenge). It is at Jalan Yau Tet Shin that two Steamed Chicken and Beansprout outlets that Ipoh’s residents swear by (read more about this in a previous post) can be found. The location of the two, Onn Kee (安記) and an old Ipoh favourite Lou Wong (老黄) also makes an excellent staging point to make a raid on the confectionery shops the city is equally famous for and to discover some of the old world I am always fond of strolling through – something that as a result of the rain I wasn’t really able to, choosing to wait out the afternoon’s deluge indulging myself in the offerings of another of Ipoh’s food institutions – Funny Mountain Beancurd, a stone’s throw from where I had lunch. The beancurd was exceptionally smooth but all too sweet for me and institution or not, I prefer the ones I am used to back home.

Ipoh's succulent and crunchy beansprouts - a great dish to accompany its equally famous steamed chicken.

There wasn't much to do but wait the afternoon's deluge out.

That is unless one has a toy windmill.

Funny Mountain Beancurd.

Perhaps with the sugar rush the beancurd gave me, the energy had to be expanded in doing some walking and not having previously explored another old part of town down Jalan Raja Ekram close to where another of Ipoh’s food institutions, Foh San (富山) can be found at “Dim Sum Kai” or Dim Sum Street – Jalan Leong Sin Nam. Foh San serves another of the city’s culinary must-trys, Dim Sum, which I did have the opportunity to try this time around. Having also previously tasted the Dim Sum across the street at Ming Court (明阁), I wasn’t quite convinced that what I did taste this time around was better than that.

Dim Sum at Foh San - another Ipoh favourite.

Another well known Chicken restaurant - Cowan Street along Jalan Raja Ekram.

The area around is one where there are several old streets and architectural gems hidden away. On a side street running parallel to Jalan Raja Ekram, Jalan Lau Ek Ching, is one which was a delight to discover. The street has apparently, had quite a bit of history – with a somewhat sleazy past based on news articles that I’ve found in the online newspaper archives of the National Library in Singapore. The is one report that caught my attention, with the explosions in Kuala Lumpur being very much in the news this week – that of a bomb that ripped through a bus that had been parked overnight on a side lane off the street during the Emergency in 1965. What drew me to the street was a row of gorgeous double storey pre-war buildings at the north end which I spotted from Jalan Raja Ekram, which, sadly, would have seen much better times. The signs for the houses are good though, with the obvious attempts at restoration and reuse by new and seemingly trendy businesses already having moved into a few of the units. On the other side of this row is another equally gorgeous row, one that is elevated. Each has a flight of stairs lined by curved balustrades leading up through stone pillars to a small compound.

A row of pre-war houses along Jalan Lau Ek Ching which is receiving a new lease of life.

The inside of one of one of the houses under renovation - a pub and a bridal studio are among the new tenants of the row of houses.

Another look at the exterior.

A staircase leading to another row of houses along Jalan Lau Ek Ching.

A row of pillars along the same row of houses.

Running parallel to Jalan Lau Ek Ching is Jalan Raja Musa Aziz (the former Anderson Road). At the junction of this street with Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil (Clarke Street), is another beautiful sight to behold – that of the Art Deco building that once housed the Ruby Theatre, which again, is one that would have seen much better times. The building was completed in 1938 and leased to a Kuala Lumpur based cinema magnate Mr Ong Ee Lim who housed the Ruby in it. The building was also known as the Lau Ek Ching Building on the evidence of an old postcard, having been owned by the Ipoh gentleman who gave his name to the street I had just walked through, Mr Lau Ek Ching. Based on a report in an issue of the Straits Times dated 2 January 1938, I learnt that the building was built at a cost of $100,000 and designed by an Ipoh based Architect firm Boutcher and Company. It had a seating capacity of 800 at its opening and had its ground floor used as a covered carpark. Today it houses a furniture shop, looking somewhat forlorn and out-of-place even with much of the old that still surrounds it. There was much more to see than the two hours I had permitted. The two hours did feel like too short a time of course, but it wasn’t something that I minded. It did mean that I would have another reason to return to a city that is more old world than new and one which allows me to get away to into a world in which I am always able to find a lot more comfort than the one that I have found myself growing into.

An old postcard of The Ruby in 1960.

The former Ruby today.

A building belonging to the True Jesus Church.

A back lane in Ipoh I found myself wandering through.

The yellow world that Ipoh seems to be.

More of Ipoh
Posts from a previous visit

A stroll around the streets of Old Ipoh

Ipoh’s grand old railway station

The church of St. John the Divine

The flavours of Ipoh

Ipoh’s Spooner Road

Seeking an old world over the New Year

5 01 2012

Strange as it may seem, I found myself wandering around streets some 350 kilometres away during the lead up to the New Year, thinking for a while that I was in a Singapore that I had my wonderful childhood in. The streets of Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur where I was has been a source of fascination for me since my first visit there as a child of six and it has also become, along with other parts of the country, a place where I often search for that world – the Singapore of my childhood that is now lost to me. The streets of Kuala Lumpur today and those of the Singapore of yesterday are undeniably two very different worlds – worlds far apart in many ways. Both cities have seen dramatic changes in four decades since my first visit and are today hardly recognisable from the cities they had emerged from. There is however one key difference in how either city have gone through their respective transformations. Where with Singapore, much of what made Singapore, Singapore, has now been lost – replaced in many cases by the cold hard stare of glass, steel and concrete, there is still the buzz of daily life that can be discovered nestled in between the towering edifices of modern Kuala Lumpur.

There are places I remember ... that resemble this. A back lane off the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

An area that I take particular joy in wandering around has become known as the city’s Chinatown – centred on Petaling Street or Jalan Petaling, once a must-go destination on my almost annual visits to the city to savour some of its culinary offerings. The street market it is well known for has unfortunately seen the inevitable invasion of stalls that provide a wider apppeal to a tourist than the local, but there is still in and around the area a world much like that old world we have left behind in Singapore to stumble upon. It is in the five-foot ways and narrow alleyways off the main street that this older world I seek is tucked away. One, alleyway which runs parallel to Petaling Street off Madras Lane (or Jalan Sultan) is home to what must be a well known wet market, teeming in the early hours of daylight with many from the area and beyond, in search for the day’s supply of fresh produce. I first came to know of the market on a trip to Kuala Lumpur that coicided with my very first journey out of the now forgotten Tanjong Pagar Railway Station some two decades ago – and it nice to see that it still is set in that wet, slippery and less than pleasant smelling passageway that leads to what must seem like a reward at the end of it.

The wet market at Madras Lane.

A butcher's assistant at the wet market.

What lies at the end of the wet market is a cluster of food stalls – ones that have a reputation for being amongst the best in a city where sumptous street fare is never hard to find. Despite the less than pleasant demeanour with which customers of some of the stalls are served, the cluster never fails to draw a steady stream of hungry customers in the mornings and the very popular Chee Cheong Fun, Yong Tau Foo and Assam Laksa usually sells out by the time one arrives for a late lunch.

Madras Lane is also famous for its street fare.

The early morning crowd at the Yong Tau Foo stall.

Enjoying a bowl of noodles at Madras Lane.

After a bowl of the irresistable Assam Laksa and a glass of warm soya bean milk the morning I found myself there, there was still time to discover what else Madras Lane had to offer. The five-foot ways and crowded back lanes was certainly a joy to wander through -a hole-in-the-wall shop with colourful magazines strung up for sale, as well as a shop lot where one could have an offending mole removed caught my eye as did a back lane strewn with pushcarts awaiting use to serve the evening’s dining crowd, a back lane barber, a sidewalk fortune-teller, and a cobbler waiting patiently for his next customer.

A bowl of Assam Laksa I had to have.

A sidewalk fortune teller along Jalan Sultan.

A hole-in-the-wall shop.

A five-foot way along Jalan Sultan.

Have that offending mole removed.

I suppose I would have spent the entire day immersing myself in that old world – but that unfortunately wasn’t that Singapore that I had sought, although it did in many ways remind me of it. It was time then to transport myself to the new world – first for lunch and for a look at another area I was familiar with from my early visits to the city – the Bukit Bintang area which has also seen tremendous change. And as darkness descended on the city for the last time in the old year, it was time to embrace the new – in a way that even an old world cannot escape from – with a blast of colours in the sky, but perhaps in a gentler and quieter way than it would have been if I had stayed at home. With that there is a realisation that much of the old ways will soon be forgotten … but there is that hope that the city I found myself in, would cling tightly on to those little reminders of its past which would allow me many more opportunities to seek the familiarity and comfort of the old world that I can no longer find in the place I grew up in.

A somewhat quieter welcome to 2012 than I would have expected in Singapore - fireworks over Bandar Utama in Malaysia.

The finale after the 10 minute dispay over Bandar Utama.

Get Ready to Paint the Town Peri-Peri

21 12 2011

I’m never one to chicken out of painting the town red whenever I am offered a chance to. And now, there’s a chance not just to paint the town not just red, but also very saucy, as well as getting away being chicken, with a nationwide campaign launched by Nando’s to hunt for Singapore’s Favourite Peri-Peri Flavour! Peri-Peri sauce is as most of us who have been stung by that first flavourful bite into the juicy, succulent and well marinated famous flame-grilled chicken know, synonymous with Nando’s, offering four degrees of hotness with Lemon & Herb, Mild, Hot, or Extra Hot flavouring it. Singaporeans we know, do like it hot, but just how hot we like it is something that Nando’s hopes to find out in a contest that runs from 1 December 2011 to 31 January 2012 and will perhaps offer voters a much better choice than what we had in voting contests of recent memory.

Some like it hot! There's a chance now to vote for how hot you actually like it!

Do let Nando's know how hot you like it!

Speaking about the launch of the campaign, Ms Mac Chung Lynn, CEO of Nando’s Chickenland Singapore Pte Ltd, said: “This campaign is a celebration of Nando’s key ingredient that has made it famous all over the world – the specially blended Peri-Peri sauces. We hope to engage Singapore in a fun and competitive voting contest while simultaneously communicating our vibrant brand personality and key attributes.” During the campaign period, Singaporeans can cast their votes – at any of the five Nando’s outlets they dine in, during Nando’s street activation activities, or via their Facebook Page ( Online voters and those involved in the street activation activities are also entitled to win instant prizes via lucky dips that include 1,000 full chickens amongst other prizes, and hotting things up even further, at the end of the voting period, 100 lucky voters of the winning flavour will be invited to participate in a specially themed Nando’s party that we are given to understand is guaranteed to raise the Peri-o-meter temperature even further!

Don't be surprised to see some pretty faces rallying for their favourite flavour during the campaign.

With all that to raise the temperature this cold and wet time of the year, there certainly is no reason to go cold on this vote and however hot you do like your chix – there is one – flavour that is, that will definitely please you … so do head down to a Nando’s outlet, or to the Nando’s Facebook Page and make your choice. And remember, please vote saucily!

Voting Card for restaurant diners.

My choice is clear!

Be seduced by some Extra Hot Chix!

11 12 2011

Much as I am somewhat of a glutton, I must admit that it doesn’t take a glutton to think twice about accepting and invitation for a food tasting session at Nando’s – especially when one discovers out the delectable treats the restaurant in Singapore now has to offer on its menu. Nando’s, famous for its flame-grilled chicken, has been one of my favourite drools ever since my first bite, having stumbled upon one outlet on a cold, wet and dark winter’s evening in London in 1995 – and when that invitation to go for the Nando’s Chickenland Getaway, it had to be a yes.

I have been a fan of Peri-Peri since stumbling upon a Nando's outlet in London in 1995.

Walking into what seemed like a group of unruly protestors holding placards at their new Tampines Mall outlet, it did feel like I might have been in London again – I wasn’t of course, the protestors actually promoters for Nando’s latest campaign which I wold mention in another post. Being one of the later ones to arrive, it wasn’t long before the first of several treats came – in the form of colourful Designer Drinks – Madeira Red and Refresh Mint. One sip of the Madeira Red – a pomegranate lemonade made with Sprite, and I was in a very sweet and refreshing part of heaven! Loved it so much that I had to have another.

Designer Drinks to die for.

Soon after the drinks were served and introductions were made to break the ice, it was time to share – we were advised that sharing is very much a part of the culture that gave us Nando’s and a feature of Nando’s menus are sharing meals – one, a starter, Pestico was promptly served together with some other starter items on the menu – Wild Mushroom Soup with Bread and Chicken Livers with Portuguese Roll. The chicken, as well as livers, are made with the secretly blended world-famous Nando’s Peri-Peri sauce that makes Nando’s such a huge hit – which come in four flavours from which the customer can choose from which are Extra Hot, Hot, Mild and Lemon and Herb. I’ve always been one for Extra Hot the Petisco platter which was flavoured just with that, was, I thought, made it perfect. The Petisco comes with chicken wings and thighs, served with olives, Peri hummus and Cream Perinaise on the side and is a sharing platter that is certainly an excellent way to begin any meal at Nando’s. I am not one for innards, but with Peri-Peri flavouring it, I really didn’t mind the Chicken Livers at all. The other item is also a good way to start – Wild Mushroom Soup loaded with the taste of wild mushrooms! And with starters so mouth-watering, it did seem as if there wasn’t going to be place for what was to come.

Pestico - a starter to share with chicken wings and thighs, pita and hummus and olives.

Chicken Livers with Portuguese Roll.

Comfort food - Wild Mushroom Soup with Bread - loaded with the flavour of Wild Mushrooms.

Having done an excellent job in delivering the starters, the polite and attentive staff soon delivered the main courses – first up were attractive looking tender pieces of marinated flame-grilled chicken thighs on a skwewer supported by a metal frame, and served with sides – Espetada. This came to us again in different flavours – I tried the Lemon and Herb, which I always thought was a nice choice if the senses demanded something that wasn’t hot. I loved it – the juicy and flavourful bits of chicken would certainly be a huge hit with anyone who tries them and makes an excellent alternative choice of a chicken dish. We also had flame grilled quarters of chicken as is traditionally served in Nando’s as well as another dish that I was really surprised with – the Cataplana. I requested for the chicken to come naked – so to speak – served without the topping of Peri-Peri sauce that it seems to be always doused in both in Singapore and Malaysia – something which I felt disguises the real taste of the famous flame-grilled chicken. What came was served just how I asked for it – and I wasn’t at all disappointed. Without the chicken unclothed, I could as I suspected, taste it for what it really was – the rich flavours of chicken pieces that had been flavourfully marinated coming to the fore – just the way I had fallen in love with it off that cold dark street in London.

The Espetada being served.

The Espetada - skewered pieces of deliciously marinated flame-grilled chicken thighs, comes served with a choice of two side dishes.

A close-up of the Espetada dish which makes an excellent alternative to the traditional serving of chicken quarters.

Naked chix which appeal to me - without the huge amount of sauce that it is often served with - this is how I think that you can really taste the flavours that makes Nando's such a hit worldwide.

What I thought was a most excellent addition to the wonderful Nando’s menu is the Cataplana. I always have enjoyed a meal of the traditional rice dishes found around much of the Mediterranean which are always full of flavour, but I have always found the flavours a little overpowering on the dishes, being used to how rice is served in this part of the world. Half expecting that to be the same of the Cataplana with strips of Peri-Peri basted chicken, peppers and ripe tomatoes trapped in a traditional copper dish over a bed of spice rice, which the menu suggests is waiting to be opened, I was pleasantly surprised with the rich but subtle flavours found in the dish, flavours that certainly did not overpower, but complemented the ingredients perfectly and it is for me not just a dish waiting to be opened, but one I can’t wait to have a go at again!

The one that really surprised me with it's rich flavours that do not overpower - the Cataplana.

No makan session would be complete without desserts, and after the wonderful main courses that were served, Nando’s obliged with a selection of wonderful looking desserts, which included Natas – traditional Portuguese egg custard tarts (something I always find hard to resist), cakes and another item that so delighted me – Chocolate Crunch Rolls – melted chocolates mixed with biscuits – which didn’t do my attempts at shedding some weight no favours – as I just had to have more of it!

The selection of desserts from Nando's includes Natas, and Chocolate Crunch Roll.

I guess with all that on offer, there is more reason to be seduced by Nando’s hot chix, especially with Nando’s expansion into the heartlands with two new outlets, the one that I had the treat in at Tampines Mall and another that will be opened in December at Katong I12. Both are decorated in the warm and welcoming colours and natural wood and certainly adds to the dining ambience. Nando’s I12 Katong will also offer something more when it opens, with an exclusive Breakfast menu, as well as with extended opening hours till 1am from Sundays to Thursdays, and till 3am on Friday and Saturday late nights. A special Snack and Beverage menu will be on offer during the extended hours.

Nando's newly opened Tampines Mall outlet (image courtesy of Nando's Singapore).

To commemorate the opening of the two outlets, Nando’s has also introduced sharing meals for the festive period that is ideal for families and groups of friends. Available in platters for two, four or six people, what is on offer are juicy chicken thighs grilled to perfection, grilled corn on the cobs, Mediterranean rice, salads, potato wedges and other side dishes. Something else that is surely reason enough to go to Nando’s this festive season to celebrate!

Nando's Sharing Meals to celebrate the opening of the two latest Nando's outlets (image courtesy of Nando's Singapore).

Information on Nando’s Sharing Meals:

Celebration for 2 – $38.80
– 2 x ¼ chickens
– 1 x Peri Wedges & Creamy Perinaise
– 1 x Salad (Choice of Portuguese or Caesar Salad)
– 3 x Regular Sidelines of your choice
– 1 x Citra (1/2 litre)

Celebration for 4 – $68.80
– 4 x ¼ chickens
– 1 x Peri Wedges & Creamy Perinaise
– 1 x Salad (Choice of Portuguese or Caesar Salad)
– 4 x Large Sidelines of your choice
– 1 x Citra (1 litre)

Celebration for 6 – $98.80
– 6 x ¼ chickens
– 1 x Peri Wedges & Creamy Perinaise
– 2 x Salad (Choice of Portuguese or Caesar Salad)
– 5 x Large Sidelines of your choice
– 2 x Citra (1 litre)

You’ve gotta love that Verve

6 12 2011

Nothing beats having simple things done right, and that is just what a Pizza Bar in Marina Bay, which had its opening on 1 Dec 2011, attempts to do with its selection of pizzas, pastas and gelato. “Simple things done right” is a guiding principle that has found its way into the motto of Verve, the group that behind the Pizza Bar which is the latest addition to its family, as well as Pizzerias in Clarke Quay and One North, having started out at its original location in Gillman Village.

Gelato being served on opening night on 1 Dec 2011. An exquisite set of flavours of Verve's homemade gelato is on offer at the Pizza Bar on Marina Bay at $6 a scoop.

Mr Rob Coldman and partner Karen on opening night.

The band played on ....

Verve, the brainchild of Mr Rob Coldman, is very much inspired by passionate people behind simple but great products that people want, products that are without complication and fuss. This includes the likes of Enrico Piaggio, whose vision of developing a low-cost motorcycle for the masses in the 1940s resulted in the Vespa scooter – the simplicity of which endures to this very day.

Pizzas, gelato, tiramisù shots, cocktails and more was on offer at Verve Marina Bay's opening night on 1 Dec 2011.

My introduction to Verve, came by way of an invitation to an event at the Marina Bay City Gallery which culminated in a tasting session at the al fresco Pizza Bar – the setting of which was simple and almost unassuming. Comfortably seated, it was what came next that delighted me. First to be served were the cocktails and if not for the fact that I was driving, I would have had more than one of the refreshing Appletinis, made with fresh Granny Smith apples. The selection of starters Calamari with Garlic Cream and Potato Wedges with Chilli Crab dip were simply well fried, drained and utterly delicious especially the Chilli Crab dip that accompanied the wedges.

An Appletini - made with fresh Granny Smith apples.

Verve Pizza Bar at the Marina Bay City Gallery.

Calamari with Verve Garlic Cream.

Potato Wedges with Chilli Crab dip.

What I certainly enjoyed the most were the pizzas – authentic thin crust Italian style pizzas made with fresh dough and topped with a simple and well-balanced selection of toppings that gave the pizzas a clean and uncomplicated taste – just how I like my pizzas. Of the pizzas we were to taste, the Enzo bowled me over with its toppings of Peking duck with just the right amount of sauce, fresh Japanese cucumber and spring onions –the menu did hint that “You’ll come back for more!” and its something I certainly would go back for a lot more! The other pizzas on offer, the Altobello (Spicy Beef), Mancini (BBQ Chicken) and Capricciosa (Ham and Artichokes), were no less delicious, and if not for the unique experience of Peking duck on pizza the Capricciosa would have got my vote.

Pizza Capricciosa with Mozzarella, tomato, mushrooms, artichokes, cooked.

Pizza Mancini - BBQ chicken with onions, cheese and peppers.

Pizza Enzo - Peking duck topped with fresh Japanese cucumber ... the menu suggests that "You'll come back for more!" - I certainly would!

There was also a treat at the end, a raid on the gelato bar. With a selection of Forrest Berries Sorbet, Decadent Chocolate, Lime Sorbet, Chocolate Baileys, Hazelnut, pistachio, Green Almond, Vanilla Cognac, Cookies and Cream – it was hard to make a choice. I finally settled on the Hazelnut – I somehow invariably fall for a nut flavoured gelato, something that I had no regrets about, savouring each mouthful of the soft creamy and nutty flavoured treat – something as well that I would most certainly be back again for more!

Too many choices at the gelato counter!

A selection of gelato.

About Verve:

Verve was established with a short motto that has become the guiding principle to our business proposition. “Simple things done right”.

We’ve been inspired by passionate people who have set out to do the same. People who have provided simple but great products that people want, without complication and without fuss.

People like aeronautical designer, Enrico Piaggio who back in the 1940’s had a vision of a low-cost motorcycle for the masses.

Long before ergonomic studies had been recognised or fully understood, the riding position of the Vespa was designed by Enrico to let the rider sit upright with a clear view, comfortably and safely.

The motorbikes of the time he found to be uncomfortable and bulky, with wheels that were difficult to change after a puncture. Worse still, the drive chain made them dirty. However, his aeronautical experience secured the answer to every problem. To eliminate the chain he designed a vehicle with a stress-bearing body and direct mesh; he put the gear lever on the handlebar to make it easier to ride; to make tyre changing easier he removed the forks in favour of a supporting arm similar to an olio aircraft carriage. Finally, he designed a body that would protect the driver so that he would not get dirty or dishevelled.

In 1946 the first Vespa (Wasp in Italian) was born. It has become an enduring icon in it’s own right, and as transport for the masses is a perfect example of something simple, done right.

Classic images of Enrico’s work can be found at our new restaurant at One-North, off North Buona Vista Road.

Like Enrico’s Vespa, our aim is to continually improve.

Tradition and technology meet at the oldest Indian Vegetarian Restaurant

11 11 2011

As a child, one of the things I would look forward to is my mother’s return from her visits to the market. She always had a treat for me, be it in a tiffin-carrier or something wrapped in a piece of leaf or paper tucked away in her rattan marketing basket. I was never disappointed by the choices she made and one of them would usually include one of my all time favourites – Putu Mayam. My earliest impressions of the soft stringy looking South Indian String Hoppers were that they resembled what we would refer to as Bee Hoon or Rice Vermicelli, pressed together into a flat pile. It was something that may be eaten with curry, which my parents often did, or as it is often served in Singapore, accompanied by orange coloured sugar and grated coconut. It’s something that we still find in Singapore, only that it isn’t made with the love and care of the hawker, but, as with most local snacks and cakes we find these days, produced in a factory. Ironically, it is across the Causeway where most of the factories that produce Putu Mayam are located that we still find Putu Mayam, or Putu Mayong as it is known as there, being made as it might have been all those years back – the dough of rice flour mixed with hot water, salt and oil pressed using a Idiyappam (its proper name) mould and cooked over a steamer fashioned from upturned rattan baskets (I have seen this being done at two locations at Pulau Tikus and Air Hitam in Penang).

Putu Mayam or Idiyappam served with Dhal Curry at Ananda Bhavan.

I was to discover, much to my surprise, that there are still outlets in Singapore that maintain the tradition – one being Ananda Bhavan, which I had a chance of visiting a month or so back thanks to the good people of the television series on Singapore’s food history, Foodage (in which Ananda Bhavan and its late 3rd generation owner Nadarajan was featured). It is here, at Singapore’s oldest Hindu vegetarian restaurant that Idiyappam is made as it might have been – soft and moist and unlike the somewhat dry out of a plastic bag variety we tend to find these days.

Putu Bola served with orange coloured sugar and palm sugar.

The visit offered a lot more than just Idiyappam of course, there was another old favourite – something that is perhaps less common than Putu Mayam – Putu Bola – made from the same dough and rolled into a ball, as well as a chance to watch an Appam making demo and dig into the wonderfully tasty Mysore Masala Thosai, try some Naans, some sweets and Masala tea.

Appam making demo - first heat and oil the pan.

Pour the batter into the oil and heated pan.

Spread the batter over the pan.



Remove from pan when lightly brown.


Ananda Bhavan traces its history back four generations to 1924 and was started by the the great-grandfather of current generation that runs the business at the location of one of its current outlets at the Ellison Building along Selegie Road and has over the years re-invented itself to cater to the changing needs of its clientele, offering home delivery services and catering – orders can be placed over the phone or online – as well as through a recently introduced free smartphone application (for the application on Apple iTunes App Store – click here). The restaurant also caters to groups of a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 30 for dining with activities such as appam or prata making apom or prata. Arrangements can be made by dropping an email to Mr Viren Ettikan.

Ananda Bhavan also offers North Indian food such as Naans.

Sweets for the sweet - Jalebi (think it is called that).

From a little street in Singapore – Hock Lam Beef 100 years on

11 10 2011

I first came to know of Hock Lam Street’s famous beef noodles back in heady days of the late 1960s. I must have been about three then when I willingly accompanied my mother on her regular shopping forays to the area around, an area that was the 1960s equivalent of today’s Orchard Road, only because of the promise of a reward of what had become my favourite bowl of beef balls floating in the piping hot rich brown broth of beef soup. The memory that I have is not of the stall in particular, which to be frank I don’t have a recollection of, but of sitting at a table laid out on a five-foot way on the outside of a coffee shop at the corner of North Bridge Road and Hock Lam Street, eargerly awaiting my reward which my mother would have placed an order for and the taste of the broth and bouncy beef balls which I somehow could never have enough of.

A long way away from the five-foot ways of the 1960s Hock Lam Street.

The Hock Lam Street where my first encounters with the piping hot bowl of beef ball soup was (photo source:

Today, a little over four decades have passed since the last time I found myself at a table on that particular five-foot way, and it is comforting to know that it is not just that distant memory of a long lost Hock Lam Street that remains. And while the area in which it operated has undergone a complete transformation into a soulless and sober place that bears little resemblance to the bustling streets where shoppers came for the latest fashions and to indulge in some of their favuorite hawker fare – Hock Lam Street itself now buried under a shopping mall, the folks behind the beef noodle stall are still dishing out noodles in their signature beef broth. The business is still very much in the family and is now run by Ms Tina Tan who seeks to continue with a tradition that goes back three generations before her, albeit in the much more comfortable surroundings of the three outlets that she now operates under the name Hock Lam Beef. The business was featured on a television programme on Singapore’s food history in the years since independence, Foodage, which aired on Okto recently in which Tina recalls a very different environment that her father, Mr Anthony Tan operated his stall in – the hot and sweaty and rat infested streets of the old Hock Lam Street, has certainly come a long way. Last weekend, Hock Lam Beef which traces its history back to Tina’s great-grandfather, celebrated its 100th anniversary with a celebration which included lion dances in which all proceeds for the day was donated to the Make A Wish Foundation. For me, it was a reason to celebrate with Hock Lam Beef, not just because of its centenary, but also because it is wonderful knowing that one of the things that I remember my childhood for, is still around in a world that has changed too fast.

A lion dance to celebrate 100 years of Hock Lam Beef.

Inside the China Street outlet.

Ms Tina Tan and staff at Hock Lam's China Street outlet during the 100th Anniversary Celebration.

Mr Anthony Tan, Tina's father who ran the stall when it served my favourite bowl of beef ball soup.

Mr Anthony Tan and staff at the China Street outlet.

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Low and slow at The Atlantic

22 09 2011

From the highs of the Eureka Skydeck 88, we moved on to our next stop where we explored the lows of The Atlantic – our dinner destination where we were to savour the low temperature cooking genius of one of Melbourne’s celebrated chefs, Donovan Cooke. The Atlantic, a restaurant sited at a prime waterside location at Melbourne’s Crown Entertainment Complex, draws its inspiration from the famous meat packing district of New York, as well as the hustle and bustle of the fish markets of yesteryear and may perhaps be the jewel of restaurants in the Crown. Donovan returned last year to Melbourne, a city that remembers him well for his previous stints there, after a spell as the chef de cuisine at the Derby Restaurant and Bar at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, to helm The Atlantic as its Executive Chef and partner.

The Atlantic is set in a prime waterfront location in the Crown Entertainment Complex.

Donavan Cooke the Executive Chef of The Atlantic.

Walking through the bustle of the restaurant’s floor and past the open kitchen and oyster bar designed by none other than Donovan is enough to get the gastric juices flowing in anticipation. We sat down in a private room surrounded by fish nets, lit by the glow of the wine cooler that served as the wall on one end. Studiously examining the pre-selected menu, I saw that a four course dinner awaited us, starting with a Yellowfin Tuna Tartare – which I somehow couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into.

The open kitchen designed by Donovan Cooke.

Fishnets add to the ambience of the restaurant.

The reverse side of the menu. The Atlantic strives to provide the diner with a true ocean to plate experience.

As always, there was some excellent wine to accompany the meal – we started with a sparkling 2006 Yarrabank Cuvee selected to complement the started of raw tuna, horseradish and Iberian ham and the excellent company perfectly. Donovan Cooke then made an appearance; giving us the low-down on the low temperature cooking techniques that he employs which was to feature on the next two dishes on the menu.

We started with a 2006 Yarrabank Cuvee.

The Yellowfin Tuna Tartare we started with.

The first of the two, Citrus Marinated Olive Oil Confit King Salmon, cooked at low temperature for a long eight minutes appeared on the table. Orange and served with a slice of orange, the piece on the plate bore the colour of raw salmon. Half expecting the taste of raw salmon, which I often enjoy, I was pleasantly surprised to bite into a very smooth textured piece of fish which was oozing with the rich flavours of the citrus marinade – a heavenly piece of perfectly cooked, albeit raw looking, salmon that seemed to melt in my mouth. The salmon was accompanied by 2008 Gioiello ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay.

The very raw low temperature cooked Citrus Marinated Olive Oil Confit King Salmon that melted in my mouth.

Next came another melt-in-your-mouth delight – Braised Wagyu Cheek, which did not just melt in the mouth, but provided me with a sensory treat, even if I thought it might have been a little too salty. The Wagyu cheek was another that was prepared with low temperature, braised for a total of eight hours until it literally dissolved as I bit slowly into each and every bite of it. This was complemented by a Shiraz – a 2006 Moortangi ‘Old Vine’.

The Braised Wagyu Cheek - another one that melted in the mouth.

The sommelier explaining the selection of wine.

Pete was his usual animated self, as Eric looks on somewhat bemused.

Donovan Cooke at work.

After that wonderful treat of salmon and beef, it was time for dessert – Vanilla Panna Cotta – my second panna cotta of the day. This was served with Persian fairly floss and strawberries and was perfect to bring what was a perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable first day in Melbourne. There were to be two more days of adventure that awaited us, but for the moment – the meal was all that I wanted to remember Melbourne for.

A sinful end to a perfect evening - more panna cotta ...

... and coffee ... to keep me from falling asleep ...

The Atlantic
Crown Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006 Australia
Tel: (03) 9698 8888
Fax: (03) 9698 8899

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

The post has also been featured on the Atlantic’s website: