DSC00509 (Edit)

Lake Toya, Japan

Spot of Tranquility.

IMG_8185 (Edit) (2)

Little India, Singapore

Spices, gold and splashes of colour!

IMG_7713 (Edit) 2

Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay

Garden City, City in a Garden.

IMG_6839 (Edit) (3)

Bryce Canyon, USA

Thor's Hammer

IMG_5531 (Edit) (2)

Chocolate Test, Singapore

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." -Charles M Schulz

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Noodle Story

A Noodle Story is no stranger to the local food scene as it has been awarded the Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide. It is set up by two former Shatec classmates who have worked at top restaurants in Singapore. 

Unsurprisingly, there was a long queue ahead of us during lunch time. It also took some time for each bowl to be prepared. 

We ordered the small bowl of Singapore-style Ramen ($8), which was rather filling. $8 may be a lot to pay for hawker food, but as I ate, I told my husband, "I will willingly pay $8 for this." 

Although it is called ramen, it is more like wanton noodles. The egg noodles were springy and coated with sauce made of dried shrimps and kelp, with a small dollop of sambal at the side. The sauce was a little too salty for me, but other than that, this innovative dish was a whole new level on its own.

The Char Siew is made using belly pork from Spain and slow-braised for 36 hours, explaining its melt-in-the-mouth texture. The wantons, made with pork and chunks of shrimps, are fresh and bouncy. I left the best for the last- the potato-wrapped prawn. Nobody can resist deep fried potatoes - what more thinly cut deep fried potatoes wrapped around a prawn! 


A Noodle Story recently wrote a post on Facebook explaining its prices and giving a breakdown for each of its ingredients- honestly, even without the explanation, I would have thought that it was totally entitled to charge what it did. 



Bonus: If you hate queuing and can bear to part with a further $2 just to get your food faster than the rest, you can buy a fast pass from Klook and attract all the envious looks of the people queueing.

A Noodle Story 
Amoy Street Food Centre
7 Maxwell Road
#01-39
Singapore 069111
Tel No: 9027 6289 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Columbus Coffee Co

On a bus ride recently, I noticed that there was a new restaurant along Upper Thomson. I told my husband, "Eh think there's a new cafe called French Toast!" 

Yesterday, my husband rolled his eyes at me after we realised that French Toast was the school teaching French classes, and was not the new cafe, Columbus Coffee! 

Columbus Coffee is owned by the owners of Atlas Coffeehouse and Lunar Coffee Brewers. 

A quick glance of the menu demonstrated serious thought in planning the menu- no run-of-the-mill items, some innovative food and some comfort food. 

Cosy interior, and there is a big table that can suit large groups (probably fits more than 12).


The Soft Shell Crab Burger ($22) caught my attention. Although relatively pricey for a burger, I didn't think it was unfairly priced. This beautifully plated dish came with two substantial pieces of nicely deep fried soft shell crab, and what really perked up this dish was the mango pomegranate salsa - though small, these packed a punch- slightly sour, slightly sweet and the pomegranate added a welcome crunch. The brioche buns are also done just the way I like it- lightly buttered, lightly toasted and fluffy. The generous portion of curly fries were pretty addictive, although they were a little too salty.


It's a nice dining spot serving good food, with friendly service as well.

Columbus Coffee Co 
220 Upper Thomson Road
Singapore 574352
Tel No: 6253 6024 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Carton King 纸箱王 (Taiwan)

We had initially wanted to visit Carton King at Dakeng. However, the taxi driver who was supposed to bring us there persuaded us to go to Lavender Cottage instead and the rest, as they say, is history. 

While at Sun Moon Lake, we were looking for dinner options at around 7+ pm and realised that the popular shops were either closed or winding down for the day. We walked to a nearby shopping centre and to our surprise, Carton King was open. 


Unlike other branches where you get to see exhibits made of cardboard, this was solely a restaurant with a small shop next to it selling souvenirs. We were the only customers around at late 7+ pm.


As we weren't particularly hungry (after snacking our way through in the afternoon), we ordered one Chilli & Spicy Hot Pot 野地麻辣锅 (NT$390) to share. The set came with a choice of drink (honey tea / honey green tea / sun moon lake black tea).

There is a restaurant policy of each person spending at least NT$100. I don't get such policies but we ordered an extra portion of pork (NT$100) just to hit that minimum limit.

Everything except the burner was made of cardboard. The waitress told us not to put too many items into the pot at the same time.


While the soup base was pretty good and delivered a feisty kick, I was a little alarmed when frozen food were served to us. I mean, yes I get that the food we normally put into our steamboat was probably frozen as well, but having the food blatantly served in frozen form seems to be a first. Most of the ingredients were cheap ingredients - they tasted fine though.


The drink is served in a carton box and the waitress told us that we could bring the cardboard box back as a money bank. Great recycling initiative but I think we are past the age of having piggy banks!


Novel concept and it was an eye-opener how so many things could be made from sturdy cardboard. That said, the food was not value for money and you are really paying for the novelty.

Carton King (Yuchi branch)
2F, No. 163 Zhongshan Road
Shuishe Village
Taiwan 

Pancake

I'm a sucker for pancakes and waffles but the pancakes sold commercially are always ridiculously expensive (and I end up eating McDonald's pancakes). Since today is a public holiday, I decided to try a recipe from All Recipes. This recipe is for keeps because the pancake is fluffy and moist.

I also give credit to my mini happy call pan (which came together with my Isetan 福袋) as it gives the pancakes their (nearly) round shape.


Adapted from All Recipes 

Ingredients 

3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar) 
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar 
1 teaspoon baking power 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Cooking spray (optional) 

Directions

1. Combine milk with vinegar in a large bowl and set aside for 5 minutes.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl. 

3. Whisk egg and butter into milk mixture. 

4. Pour flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until the lumps are gone. 

5. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Coat the skillet with cooking spray (I did not do so since the skillet was non-stick). 

5. Pour around 1 ladle worth of batter onto the skillet and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula and cook until browned on the other side. 

Serving size
Makes around 8 pancakes 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Streets of London

Streets of London isn't located in the most prominent of places, despite being in the food haven of Joo Chiat / Katong. Upon my mum's recommendation, we headed to Streets of London for dinner on Sunday. The restaurant seems to keep re-locating, from Bukit Merah to Marina Country Club to here- not sure if there were other locations in between. 

Foot traffic was low when we were there, but this place really deserves better. 


The restaurant is decked out in London-related memorabilia. Red hues dominate in this casual eatery.

This place is essentially a one-man show- the boss himself is the chef, the waiter and the cashier. Food will therefore take a little longer to be prepared and served.


Being the boring me, I decided to go for my all time favourite Fish and Chips ($12.80). The Fish and Chips was executed perfectly. The beer-battered fish was crisped just right, without having the bitterness of being deep fried for too long and it was not oily. The fish was also a rather sizeable portion. Usually, the salads don't really deserve a mention as they are just playing a secondary role but the sweet mint dressing in this salad was refreshing and delightful.


The rest also enjoyed the London Pride IPA Chicken ($12.80).

If you live in the East and enjoy a good meal at affordable prices (no service charge and no GST), do give this place a try. The only thing is that you must be prepared to wait for your food!

Streets of London 
Katong Point Mall
451 Joo Chiat Road
#01-01
Tel No: 9754 7716 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Miyahara 宫原眼科 (Taiwan)

One day, if you chance upon a genie in a bottle and he grants you three wishes, what wishes would you make? 

I will think about the other two another time, but I think it's a pretty good deal to wish that I can eat all the ice cream available without getting fat, sick or broke (I'm kidding, or maybe not. By the way, does that constitute three wishes?). 

When we went to Taichung, one of the places on my must-go list was the immensely popular Miyahara 宫原眼科. Built in 1927 by Miyahara Takeo, a Japanese ophthalmology doctor, it was the largest ophthalmology clinic in Taichung during the Japanese occupation. As time passed, the condition of the building started to worsen and was only revived later by a pineapple cake company. 

The interior was meant to be designed like Hogwarts and it was beautiful, especially with the high ceilings. But that was it. Although they sold products like pineapple pastries, chocolate, tea etc., I didn't spend much time in the main area because the products looked expensive. 


But the one part of Miyahara that attracted long queues was the ice cream shop and we had to see for ourselves what was so great about the ice cream.


They had a wide variety of ice cream- just chocolate alone, there were 16 different chocolate flavours, with different origins and intensity. We went for the 80% Smoked Uganda Chocolate Ice Cream and it was rich without being too bitter.


There were also plenty of fruit flavours (including seasonal fruits) and tea flavoured ice cream. We tried the Grape ice cream since we never had such a flavour before and it was refreshing without being too sweet.


It does not end here. If you order a sundae, you get to choose toppings as well and get a free small scoop of ice cream. You could choose from different pineapple biscuits, traditional wedding biscuits  and shortbread etc. Basically all the fattening stuff.


I was so excited to dig into my Ice Cream Sundae (NT$160 for 2 scoops + NT$80 for the sundae) that I didn't even take a proper picture of the ice cream. Besides the fact that the ice cream was obviously quality ice cream, we also loved the almond biscuit, pineapple biscuits and sweet guava. Actually, I loved every single thing about the sundae.


After the last bit of waffle biscuit and ice cream went into our mouths, we suddenly were concerned whether we could fit into the jeans we brought along for our holiday. But really, absolutely no regrets.

Miyahara 宫原眼科
No. 20 Zhongshan Road
Central District, Taichung City 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Thus Coffee

One scorching weekday, I somehow hatched a grand plan to head to Thus Coffee in the sweltering heat. The cafe provided a cool respite, with a nice and cosy ambience to boot. 


I wasn't feeling particularly hungry and ordered the Baked Eggs & Toast ($14). This reminded me of my favourite Wild Honey breakfast- Tunisian. Like Tunisian, the tomato stew was tangy and refreshing, and was slightly spicy. It was a match in heaven with the healthy toasted multigrain bread and had pieces of chunky apple cider sausage topped off with a sous vide egg.


Although I felt tempted to order dessert here, I felt that the prices were on the high side and decided to let the money in my piggy bank stay intact. Otherwise, this was a nice afternoon spot to relax and enjoy some good food.

Thus Coffee 
4 Jalan Kuras
Singapore 577723
Tel No: 8411 7565 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sun Moon Lake 日月潭 (Taiwan)

Before setting off to Taiwan, I was keeping an eye on the weather at Sun Moon Lake. I was hoping for good weather as we had planned to cycle there - CNN has crowned it one of ten of the world's best bike routes for cyclists. I am no cyclist but am always up for some good views while burning off the fats stored from eating at the night markets. 

1) Brief background 

Sun Moon Lake is the largest body of water in Taiwan. The area around the lake is home to the Thao tribe. The east side of the lake resembles a sun while the west side resembles a moon. 

You will note that there is an island in the centre of the lake. Lalu Island is considered to be the home of the Thao ancestral spirits. As the Thao tribe consider this island a sacred place, tourists cannot visit the island. 

2) Getting to Sun Moon Lake 

As we were at Taichung, we took the Nan Tou Bus 南投客运 from Taichung. The route and timings are available online and we studied the timetable before setting off to the Taichung Gancheng Station. It took around 1 hour 45 minutes to reach Sun Moon Lake and cost NT$195 for a one-way trip. 

3) Boat trip around Sun Moon Lake 

As we were spending a night in Sun Moon Lake and only reached in the afternoon, our B&B host suggested that we take a boat ride so that we get a flavour of the place. 

We walked to the Shuishe Pier and some boat operator approached us. As we thought it was getting late in the day, we didn't check the prices of other boat operators and agreed to pay NT$300 per person. The boat operator also gave us a timetable of the times that the boats leave each pier. There were 3 stops - Shuishe Pier, Xuanguang Temple Pier and Ita Thao Pier. 

Our first stop was the Xuanguang Temple Pier. 


Even on weekdays, each stop was teeming with visitors.


On the brochure, one of the places recommended was 阿嬷香菇茶叶蛋 (Mushroom Tea Leaf Egg) (1 for NT$13). I didn't try it as I am not a fan of Tea Leaf Egg but my husband said that it tasted very ordinary.


We then walked up to Xuanguang Temple where you could get a bird's eye view of Sun Moon Lake. There is a rock which states 日月潭 and people were queueing up to take photos next to the rock but we did not as we wanted to cover sufficient ground before catching the last boat back from Ita Thao. The relics of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang are in this temple.

We then took the boat to Ita Thao Pier. From Ita Thao Pier, you could take the ropeway to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. Or if you are rushing for time like us, you can just walk around Ita Thao where there was plenty of street food. It was the first time we tried a rectangular piece of mochi grilled over charcoal, where you could choose your toppings (we chose sesame and peanut).

We thought that the attractions we visited were average, and the views not exactly great. Was this all that Sun Moon Lake had to offer?


4) Walking around Sun Moon Lake 

After returning to Shuishe Pier, we walked around asking the bicycle shop operators what time they opened the next morning as we wanted to do an early morning cycle before leaving at 10 a.m. They typically open at 8 a.m. which was a little too late for us. Luckily for us, we walked into Merida Bike where the shopkeepers were so accommodating they said we could just give them a call from 6 a.m. onwards and the boss would open the shop early for us. How's that for excellent customer service!

Not only that, the lady shopkeeper also recommended that we take a walk around 涵碧步道 to catch some sunset views. It could not have been a better recommendation.


We enjoyed a cooling and easy walk, complete with good sunset views.


5) Cycling around Sun Moon Lake

One thing I realised in Taiwan was that like Singapore, you cannot trust the weather forecasts. Despite the forecasts of rain, it never rained in Sun Moon Lake when we were there and the weather was glorious.

We called Mr Wang of Merida Bikes at around 6:45 a.m., asking him if he would be able to open his shop for us to rent the bike. Not long after we reached, the shop was open as promised. He was clearly particular about safety, telling us that we should ride slowly in areas where there is tree cover, that we should not speed, and that we should wear safety helmets. We paid NT$100 per hour per person - this may be on the pricier side compared to other shops. That said, their bikes are in good condition. Given that we only had two hours to spare, he also recommended the best route to take.


I recommend an early morning ride because the views are great and there were no crowds to jostle with.


As we only had two hours to spare, we took the route recommended by the owner. There is a brief description of the bicycle route at this link. It was a relatively easy and safe ride. If you are not confident, you can always get down the bicycle and push the bicycle. There are some pretty up and down slopes- if you want, you can always choose to turn around once you reach that portion of the cycling route.

The cycling allowed us to take a good look at the beautiful Sun Moon Lake- views which we would have otherwise missed if we were content to just accept the views on the boat ride.






The thing I did right this trip was to walk and cycle around Sun Moon Lake. If the weather is good, you really get the best views of Sun Moon Lake. If you are up for it, I certainly recommend taking some time to explore Sun Moon Lake at your own time- the boat ride simply does not do it justice! 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Double Scoops

Every time a waffle craving strikes, we head over to Salted Caramel or Double Scoops.


It's always nice to see ice cream shops in the heartlands so you don't have to specially make a trip to town just to satisfy your ice cream craving. The prices at Double Scoops are also reasonable compared to other good gelato shops.

There is a chill vibe in the cafe, with plenty of natural light.


We always order the Waffle ($4) with a scoop of ice cream ($3.50). There is an additional charge of $0.50 for premium flavours. We have tried a few flavours at the cafe, including After Eight and Mao Shan Wang.


The Waffle is a star- it is thick, fluffy and crispy on the outside. The fragrance of the waffle always drifts to our table even before the waffle reaches our table. I used to say that Salted Caramel has the best waffles but I think this is a real contender. The ice cream here is the real stuff- smooth, not too sweet and always has some fruit / nuts / chocolate bits (or other food related to the ice cream) in it.


If you are in the area and craving ice cream and/or waffles, you should certainly head over to Double Scoops.

Double Scoops 
Block 226A Ang Mo Kio Ave 1
#01-627
Tel No: 6452 0208 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 (Taiwan)

Although there are many branches of Din Tai Fung in Singapore, I seldom visit the restaurant because there was always a long queue. 

However, given that Din Tai Fung's roots were in Taiwan, we decided to head there for some xiao long bao. The founder of Din Tai Fung first worked as a delivery man in a store called Heng Tai Fung, which sold cooking oil. The owner later put the founder in charge of the oil store's accounts. However, the oil store was forced to shut down due to business losses. The founder decided to set up his own oil shop with wholesale oil purchased from Din Mei Oils. To show his appreciation to his boss at Heng Tai Fung, he named his store Din Tai Fung. Later, sales at the store plummeted and he turned to making and selling steamed dumplings instead. 


We decided to go during off-peak in order to avoid the queues. To satisfy our hunger in the meantime, we stuffed ourselves with Ah Zong Mian Xian and drank bubble tea. There was still a queue when we reached at 3 p.m. However, we were surprised that we were instantly shown to our seats in the restaurant, probably because there were just two of us.


For those who want a guide to enjoying the xiao long bao, there is a guide provided at every table, in a few languages. I always thought that the correct method was to bite off the head of the xiao long bao and drink the soup within. However, the guide says that you should poke a hole to release the broth.


We wanted to fulfill our vegetables intake for the day and ordered a 干扁四季豆 (String beans) (NT$130). As it was an appetiser, it was a cold dish. I prefer my vegetables hot but this was fine as well. It was crunchy and well seasoned.


We were contemplating whether to order 5 小笼包 (Soup Dumplings) (NT$21) or 10. We definitely could have done 10 but decided that we wanted to save our stomach space to try something else as well.

When the bamboo steamer basket was placed on the table, I felt like there was so much emptiness surrounding these 5 little dumplings- we should have ordered 10 to fill up the void! There wasn't much time to mope about this though because these little goodies are meant to be delivered from plate to mouth within milliseconds. The thin (yet thick enough not to be broken when lifted with chopsticks) smooth skins contain sufficient amount of slurp worthy soup and bouncy minced pork. Each piece has to have a minimum of 18 folds.


These were the other 5 mini goodies that we had to save our stomach for. We had never tried these Red Bean Dumplings 豆沙小包 (NT$16) but these were absolutely delicious. While this did not contain soup, each skin was wrapped around a generous portion of smooth red bean.


Service was excellent and despite the crowds, the waitresses were polite and one of them even struck up a conversation with us.

A must go in Taipei, just try to go at off-peak hours.

Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐
Various outlets
Xinyi Branch
No. 194 Sec. 2 Xinyi Rd
Taipei City
Tel: 02-2321-8928

Opening hours:
Mon-Fri: 10:00 - 21:00
Weekends and holidays: 09:00 - 21:00 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Lavender Cottage 薰衣草森林 (Taiwan)

We wanted to do a day trip out of the main area in Taichung and went to Zhongshe Flower Market in the morning by public transport. We hadn't included Lavender Cottage in our itinerary because it would take too long by public transport and we simply didn't have sufficient time. We flagged down a taxi at the train station, directing him to drive us to Carton King. However, instead of driving us to Carton King, he managed to convince us to go to Lavender Cottage instead (of course paying much more) because it would be a waste not to visit the cottage. 


The entrance fee was 150 NT per person and you would get a coin each. You can use the coin at their stores and get 100 NT off.

Lavender Cottage was started by two girls who love coffee and travelling. One worked 6 years in a Taipei bank and the other was a piano teacher in Kaoshiung. They bought a hill and started to grow lavender.


As it was already late afternoon, we decided to grab lunch first before visiting the attractions. Lunch at 森林咖啡馆 was a very relaxing affair and it felt as though time just stopped. We were surrounded by forests and mountains as we enjoyed our lunch. You can have a look at the menu here.



We ordered a Lavender & Pomelo Tea 薰衣草香桔茶 (NT$170). It was a refreshing citrus drink with a hint of lavender.


As I was feeling unhealthy from the previous night of snacking in the night market, I ordered the Mushroom Hotpot (NT$360). The soup was light and the guilt of eating all the deep fried food instantly fell away (who am I kidding). There were different kinds of mushrooms in this healthy hotpot, which was served with a bowl of purple rice.


To end the meal, we ordered an Orange Upside-down Cake with Rosemary (NT$100). I was hoping that it might taste like the magical Orange Pie we tried in Greece but alas, it was not meant to be. This was a butter cake with orange rind in the cake. It was decent but nothing to rave about. 


After lunch, we started to explore the Lavender Cottage.


This has to be my favourite place of the attractions. At 年轮邮局, there is a wide selection of whimsical postcards.

You can purchase the postcards and the staff will help you send the postcards (no additional charge, for international addresses as well) in whichever way you want it. It could be today, a month later, 2 years later or 5 years later. You could send it to yourself, your family or if you want, not send it out at all and keep your inner thoughts a secret forever. There is a table with colour pencils, pens and colourful tapes for you to write your postcards. 


We then proceeded to have our ice cream fix. There was a selection of ice cream, including lavender, berry yoghurt, mint chocolate, lemon grass and rose. My husband opted for the lavender flavour and said that it was pretty ordinary.


You can also redeem a free drink (with a marble in it) per ticket.


One should not come here with the expectation of seeing beautiful lavender flowers because they will be disappointed. I'm glad I read reviews and had moderated my expectations. To begin with, this board states that lavender likes cool weather but is afraid of the rain. However, as Taiwan's summer is hot and rains often, they have purple flowers to replace the lavender between May and September. The lavender is supposed to be in full bloom between January and February.


That said, I think one should not expect much even in the peak blooming season. The lavender patch is rather small and will cause minimal excitement, if any. That said, it was nice to just breathe in the cool air at the higher altitude.


Our last stop was the souvenir shop, which of course sold lavender products.


I felt that my trip here was worthwhile not because of the lavender, but because how this place makes me feel like life can be slower and that we can take our time to be one with nature.

Lavender Cottage 薰衣草森林
No. 20 Zhongxing St
Xinshe District
Taichung City
台中市新社区中兴街20号
Taiwan