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Lake Toya, Japan

Spot of Tranquility.

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Little India, Singapore

Spices, gold and splashes of colour!

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Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay

Garden City, City in a Garden.

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Bryce Canyon, USA

Thor's Hammer

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Chocolate Test, Singapore

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lake Bohinj (Slovenia)

On the day we went to Lake Bled, there were hundreds of accordion players, both young and old, playing tunes throughout the day, to celebrate the start of summer season events. It was festive and fun. 

The next day we went to Lake Bohinj and it was a complete contrast- so tranquil and not filled with people at every corner. 


Lake Bohinj is the largest permanent lake in Slovenia. When we were there in May, the weather was a little temperamental. One moment, we were greeted with beautiful blue skies. The next moment, the showers descended upon this tranquil place.


We stopped along the way to get some groceries for a picnic. We spent some time at the benches and the only visitors who were intruding into our personal space were the ducks which were waddling around and waiting for some food to come along their way.


We came across a shop renting equipment to canoe, kayak etc. The lady in the shop didn't look too pleased having to do business, but that was fine by us. We rented a canoe and spent an hour on the lakes. We were the only people on the lakes and the calm waters gently pushed us along, as we admired the spectacular landscape around us.


Wildflowers are always my favourite. They don't need careful manicuring or tender loving care by humans. They grow freely and goes where nature takes them.


It should take around half an hour from Lake Bled to Lake Bohinj. If you are an adrenaline junkie, there is probably not enough to offer you at Lake Bohinj. 

Tip: Do find an appropriate parking spot where you want intend to stay for some time because I remember we were paying quite a bit for parking here. 

Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant

Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant is one of two revolving restaurants in Singapore. It offers good views of the port and Sentosa and don't worry, it revolves slowly enough such that you wouldn't get nauseous while eating. 

The restaurant has been around since 1977 and has that old school feel.  

For Father's Day, we ordered the set menu for 6 ($288++) and the menu looked promising (later, I found out that it does not help to have high expectations). 

The meal started off with Shredded Scallops with Fish and Egg White. While the smooth consistency of the dish was enjoyable, the egg white taste started to overwhelm the taste buds after a while such that the entire dish tasted predominantly of egg white. Some might also find this a little too mushy. 


The Fish Maw & Seafood in Thick Soup was average.


The Stewed Pork Ribs was one of the better dishes- it was not tough and tore easily.


The Authentic Barbecued Peking Duck was disappointing. Peking duck is typically served without the meat- look from the picture how much meat came out together with the skin. The skin was also not as crispy as it ought to be.


The vegetables were again average.


I didn't enjoy the noodles at all. I have a particular aversion to yellow noodles which have that slightly bitter taste. Needless to say, I barely ate a few mouths of this.


The fish came out right at the end, around the same time as dessert. If this is not poor planning, I don't know what it is. I found the fish lacking in freshness although it was not to the extent that it will cause a stomach upset.


The dessert was Osmanthus Jelly. Given that I have tried to make Osmanthus Jelly, I know how inexpensive and quickly this dessert can be made, despite restaurants making this look like a high-end dessert. This osmanthus jelly didn't have a strong osmanthus taste. Presentation was awful as well.


Food is not great, not value for money. For that price, you are better off somewhere else unless you are paying for the views. Staff generally looked like they were owed wages.

Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant
201 Keppel Road
Tel No: 6272 8822 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

9 Food Souvenirs to Bring Back from Singapore

Everytime I go travelling, without fail, I will google what are the best souvenirs to bring back to Singapore from that country. And of course, food often ranks high on that list.

Instead of telling you to buy merlion fridge magnets (what?), here is a list of 10 food souvenirs to bring back from Singapore- from a Singaporean's perspective (i.e. I do not consider the Singapore sling a worthy souvenir).

1. Kaya 

Kaya is a coconut jam spread, that it is made from coconut milk, sugar and eggs. There are recipes online (for example, Rasamalaysia) but really, I am not going to go through all that effort to make kaya.

My cousin who stays in Germany recently requested that I bring 3 bottles of kaya when I visited. The family of 2 adults and 2 children finished one bottle in 2 weeks!

I have Glory brand Nonya Kaya at home, and know of others who have this brand at home too. At less than S$3 for a 400g jar, this is an inexpensive souvenir.
Credit: RedMart

Alternatively, if you are looking for something more presentable, and possibly more reputable to foreigners, you may want to go for Ya Kun's kaya at S$4.80 for a 290g jar.

Credi: Ya Kun 

Alternative:


If you know Ya Kun, you probably would know Toast Box as well.

I was very intrigued by the Sprouting Kits sold by Toast Box. Firstly, this is a charitable effort where they help to raise funds for Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations. Secondly, you may say ahh this does not fall under the food category! Well, the sprouting kit comes with soil compost processed from Toast Box's recycled coffee grounds, together with seeds for growing the sprouts, so yes, it kind of counts as food.

I know for a fact that the plants that my friend grew in an office environment had sprouted uncontrollably, meaning that these are really easy plants to care and maintain for.

The sprouting kit is sold for S$5 each and 100% of the proceeds go to charity.

Credit: Toast Box 
2. Pandan Cake 

CNN has named Pandan Cake as Singapore's national cake- you may therefore want to bring a box of it back. Do ask about its shelf life beforehand.

Pandan cake is a chiffon cake made with the juice of the pandan plant. CNN has specifically named Pine Garden and Bengawan Solo for their pandan cakes. I have tried both and both are great. But if you don't want to specially go out of the way to get your hands on some pandan cakes, Bengawan Solo is a better option because there are many outlets in Singapore, including the airport.

At Bengawan Solo, one slice costs S$1.50 and a whole cake costs S$15. At Pine Garden, it costs S$9 for one cake. (P.s. You may also want to get the kueh lapis / pineapple tarts / chilli prawn rolls from Bengawan Solo.)

Credit: Bengwan Solo
Alternative: 

If you are one who really enjoys baking, instead of buying the pandan cake, how about buying the pandan leaves themselves! You can find these useful green leaves at markets or supermarkets such as NTUC. Pandan leaves are not just meant for baking or cooking soups- they can be insect repellants as well. Check out their many purported uses here.

3. Bak Kwa

Bak Kwa is essentially barbequed meat which is sweet and salty, or otherwise known as jerky. They may be pork, chicken or beef.

You can either eat them piping hot on the spot, or if bring some back to share (are you sure you really want to), you can buy those vacuum packed ones which are really convenient. These are pricer than your normal food souvenirs- it costs S$38.40 for 600g of these vacuum packed goodies.

Credit: Bee Cheng Hiang

You may get them at Bee Cheng Hiang or Lim Chee Guan.

Alternative: 

Instead of barbequed meat, how about some floss? It has a light and fluffy texture and goes well with anything plain tasting (e.g. porridge). If you have eaten Thai pineapple fried rice, you probably would have seen this sprinkled on top of the rice.
Credit: Seriouseats 
4. Pre-mix

Wow, there are so many in this category, I don't even know where to begin. Basically, if you are lazy to cook things from scratch but really want to try some Singapore food, here are some of the pre-mixes that you can easily buy off the shelves of supermarkets in Singapore.

(a) Bak Kut Teh

Bak Kut Teh is essentially pork rib cooked in a broth full of herbs and spices. It literally means "meat bone tea" - there is however no tea in the dish. The tea is served alongside the soup as it is believed that the tea can help to dissolve the fat in this dish.
Credit: NTUC
(b) Chicken Rice

Unless you haven't been on the hunt for local food, I am sure you would have come across this dish.
Credit: NTUC
Bonus: Believe me, no chicken rice is ever complete without chilli sauce.
Credit: Shermay

(c) Laksa

Laksa is a noodle dish served in a soup of rich curry coconut milk - it's one of those dishes where you will wonder whether the numbers on the weighing machine will shoot up after drinking that delicious curry gravy.
Credit: Redmart 
(d) Chilli Crab

"I hate chilli crab"- said no one ever.

Chilli crabs have been a real treat since young. It is both sweet, salty, sour and spicy all at the same time. Best enjoyed with deep fried buns.

Credit: Jumbo

5. Irvin's Salted Egg Fish Skin


This is certainly a new addition to the souvenir list. This is not something that one would traditionally buy from Singapore as it was quite recent that the salted egg yolk craze hit our shores.

Honestly, I am not sure what is weirder- salted egg or deep fried fish skin. All I know is that this is a very addictive snack. One moment, the packet of fish skin is in your hands, the next moment, like magic, it mysteriously disappears.

Back in the days when they first started and rented small carts, the packets flew off the shelves and you had to be put on a waitlist to get your hands on a packet. Nowadays, they are doing so well that they actually have physical stores in big shopping centres.


6. Biscuits

Just like how there are biscuits from overseas you can't find in Singapore, the reverse holds true as well.

This tinned biscuits formed a large part of our childhood. However, I am not sure when, but these are now "retro" biscuits. They are cheap, sweet, unhealthy and satisfying.

Credit: Makansutra
One of the all time favourites remains the gem biscuit. These are fluorescent little sugar gems dropped from the celestial skies! I used to exclusively eat the sugar. Now that age has caught up, I throw most of the sugar away and eat the biscuits. You can get these from supermarkets, for example Khong Guan brand.

Credit: Thefoodpornographer
7. Tau Sar Piah 

Two of the most well known Tau Sar Piahs are in Balestier - Loong Fatt Tau Sar Piah and House of Tau Sar Piah. These are old-school shops and you can choose either the sweet or salty green bean-based pastries. Best eaten hot!

Credit: Burpple

8. Janice Wong's sweets 

If you find that your wallet is dripping with money, and you really want to impress your friends with some chocolates, but not those from Godiva which is available in so many countries, you may wish to buy some exclusive Janice Wong chocolates.

I have heard from my friends on how delicious and beautiful her desserts are, but never tried them due to the price. But really, look at these beautiful treasures. Guess what, these chocolates come in local flavours, including chilli padi, gula melaka, mango curry and salted egg etc. If you want the more normal flavours, they have it too!

Credit: Janice Wong
9. Instant Teh Halia 

Starbucks sells pumpkin spice latte, chai latte etc. Here, at Singapore, we have teh halia which is essentially ginger tea. No need to labour over making the tea from scratch- here, for less than S$5, you can get 20 satchets of instant teh halia. If you are not a fan of teh halia, you can consider getting the teh tarik as well.
Credit: Cold Storage

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Old School Delights

My good friend's mother was telling me that she liked this cafe along Thomson - Old School Delights because it was fun. Since it got her stamp of approval, we headed down. 


I think the main draw here is that they provide games (from our era) for families to bond over.


Back in those days when there was no iPhone, no iPad, no internet on phones, my mum used to buy random games for us to play- Uno, Game of Life, Monopoly, Snake & Ladders, Bingo, Scrabble, Donkey etc. And of course, not forgetting Old Maid. At this cafe, they bring you back to those good old days. Up till this day, my mum still owns us at playing five stones, nothing has changed in 20 years!


Even their menu is in the form of a school notebook.


The Lil' Drumlets ($5.50), not surprisingly, were a hit. Deep fried to a crisp and very juicy within.


I ordered the Hor Fun with Mushroom Stock ($8.80). The question is why should I be paying so much for something that I can buy for much cheaper in a hawker centre? Aside from the fact that the price point is fine considering that you enjoy the comforts of air con and can play games, they try to value add to the dish. For example, the portion here is certainly bigger than what you get at a hawker centre and the mushrooms are certainly bigger as well. My only gripe with this was that it was a little too salty.


While i didn't try the Nasi Lemak Besar ($6.90), I tried the jumbo otak which was pretty decent.


We ended the meal with a Lemony Cake ($4.50). Without any embellishment, this was a homely and simple cake that was buttery and lemony without being too sweet.


A nostalgic place with decent food at affordable prices.

Old School Delights 
215M Upper Thomson Road
Tel No: 6458 4518 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pizzeria Rustika (Slovenia)

We stayed 2 minutes away from Pizzeria Rustika and it came highly recommended by our local host- she said it was cheap and good! This pizzeria was a rarity in Europe. In Europe,  restaurants often told us that their kitchens were closed at 2 p.m. Here, they are opened between 12 a.m. to 11 p.m. and even offer home delivery!


After all that huge European portions we were eating, we decided to share a salad (it doesn't hurt to pretend to be healthy) and a main. We got a Rustika Salad (8.90 Euros). We were a little taken aback when we saw the large portion of the salad. It was a simple salad with lettuce, rocket, tomato, corn, ham, cheese and olives. It offered a much needed respite when we were getting too full with the pizza.


We shared a Morska Pizza (8.90 Euros) which consisted of tomato, garlic, mussels and squid. They were so generous with the mussels, it's as though mussels here were free. I had to constantly remind my husband not to finish all the mussels or the souvenir he would be bringing back from the holidays is cholesterol! This was definitely more than enough for two to share although we marvelled at how a girl at another table ate the entire pizza on her own. The pizza was decent for the price we paid.


To round off the meal, we got a Marlenka (3 Euros). The presentation is pretty bad but tasted pretty good. It is a honey cake, layered with chocolate sponge and there was a good kind of gooey in between. It might border on being a little too sweet for some though.


The waitress was very pleasant and friendly. Value for money, certainly worth a visit!

Pizzeria Rustika 
Riklejeva cesta 13
Bled, Slovenia
Tel No: +386 4 576 8900 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Haus Anastasia (Bad Ischl)

Haus Anastasia is one of those places that might not look like much initially but turned out to be one of our favourite places for the trip. 

1) Location 

Haus Anastasia is located around a leisurely 15 minutes walk to town. The hosts would gladly tell you which route to take to reach town. The roads can be a little narrow to drive so if you don't mind walking to town, walk. It is a convenient base to nearby places such as Hallstat and many lakes. 

2) Apartment 

No footwear permitted within the apartment but we are perfectly fine with this because it just means that the hosts really value cleanliness, and that's what we got! 

Aside from the host's own living space, there are three apartments housed within the same compound. Despite that, the apartment we were in was spacious and had everything we needed. For the tall ones, do take note not to bump into the ceiling when walking up the stairs. 

There was a living room which was equipped with a TV and a shelf outside the apartment full of DVDs. There were also guides on what you could do as well as a thoughtfully curated list of restaurants that the hosts recommended. We in fact bumped into the hosts at a restaurant which was recommended in the list.


The kitchen was fully equipped and you had everything you needed to prepare a meal.



The beds were a total luxury. It was the first time during our trip that everything about the bed was right- for once, we had proper beds and pillows which were neither too hard nor too soft. We woke up feeling well-rested. The only minor thing was that we were wondering why there were two separate mattresses instead of one, but it was not an issue at all.


3) Toilet 

The toilet was warm (something that was not a given in all the places that we have been to) and provided bathing products.


4) Hosts 

The hosts, Elaine and Russ, were hospitable and were ready to make recommendations if you required any.

An enjoyable stay - it offers the comfort of your own home!

Haus Anastasia 
Traxleckerweg 30
Bad Ischl
Austria 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ostarija Babji Zob (Slovenia)

Of the various restaurants we went to in Slovenia, Ostarija Babji Zob in particular left a deep impression on us, for the comforting and beautiful food as well as friendly service. 


We ordered a Home-Made Mushroom Soup (3.90 Euros). Thick soup with chunks of butter and plenty of mushrooms with each spoonful made for a promising start. One could almost imagine an old grandmother in her kitchen stirring a pot of mushroom soup lovingly.


I am not a cream pasta person, so when ordering the Noodles with Spinach and Smoked Trout (10.20 Euros), I specifically asked the waitress whether it was cream base. She said that there was very little cream. I went ahead with ordering it and realised that something must have been lost in translation because it was a cream pasta! Nonetheless it was surprisingly good. The creamy taste did not overpower and they were generous with the smoked trout which was not too salty.


My husband got himself the Carniolan Sausage with Mustard and Fresh Horseradish (8.80 Euros). The Carniolan sausage is a Slovenian sausage and contains at least 75 to 80% pork (aside from bacon), and at most 20% bacon. It tasted pretty much like the German wurst.


Value for money and very close to city centre.

Ostarija Babji Zob 
Cesta Svobode 8
Bled 4260
Slovenia