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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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lai Lai Casual Dining

We entered Lai Lai because the set meals looked pretty worth it. There was a 2-person set meal for $28++. It included your choice of claypot meat, vegetables, some side dish (we ordered deep fried sotong), 2 drinks, 2 bowls of rice and 2 bowls of soup.

the claypot herbal chicken was pretty good, although the portions were a little small.

the rest of the dishes were so-so. the sotong's batter wasn't the awesome kind of deep-fried batter, the veggies were very ordinary, and the soup was a tad oily.

The highlight of our meals were supposed to be our drinks though. We were highly anticipating it, because the waiter made it sound like it's the most awesome thing ever. Well, the banana kiwi was not bad. But the coffee hazelnut (i think) was far too sweet.
Although the food didn't live up to expectations, if you are looking for food that is relatively cheap, and will fill you up, this may be the place to come. Plus the service is good, the waiter who served us had good knowledge of the menu.

Rating: 3.7/5

Lai Lai Casual Dining
Nex Mall
23 Serangoon Central

Annoying Singaporean #1

Basically, in Singapore, on escalators, you have to keep to the LEFT. no matter what you did in your home country, it's LEFT LEFT LEFT in Singapore! it used to be anything, but in the last couple of years, we started standing left.

At first, it was terrible. nobody adhered to it and everybody was still blocking the traffic. truth to be told, the situation is so much better than it was, say, 5 years ago. But still, nobody complains if there's still room for improvement. So, if somebody chokes up the traffic when he/she could well walk up or keep left, it annoys me to no end.
i will either trying stomping my feet loudly, or clear my throat, and wait for the person to make way. unfortunately, some people are pretty deaf and cannot hear such stomping and foot clearing!

so, these are my proposed solutions.
1) Paste little neon strips of green (left) and strips of red (right) on the escalator. A little unsightly though.

2) Instead of putting annoying LED lights (dhoby ghaut mrt station) that makes me giddy (haven't you seen those disco lights -_-), put the LED lights to good use. Line the road towards the escalator with little small LED lights, one side green, one side red.

3) Just scream at the person in front of you and whack his head. (no, i'm kidding. really.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Canele Patisserie

I don't set foot in places that scream atas. Atas means upstairs in malay. So, atas in urban language, means high class. Canele is exactly the place that will shock you will how atas it looks from the outside. But since it was for a classmates gathering, I suppose I will have to exchange some good conversations for an empty pocket. By the way, the name is so atas then we had some problem trying to figure how to pronounce the first part. (We didn't come to a conclusion.)

The decor inside was really pretty. It had a wonderful colour coordination, and it was a great place for tea. We spent 4 hours there, drinking tea and having cakes. It was a great place to hang out at! (Note the macaroons tree- they tempted all of us to actually have some macaroons!)

My friend ordered a savoury crepe. One friend claimed that it's a two people portion, but the one who actually had it said that it's just enough only for one. Whatever the case, while I didn't try this crepe with ham, egg and cheese, my friend found it delicious.

I had a tiramisu which cost me (I think) around $7. While I loved the flavours, I didn't really like the top layer of the top layer. Plus I think the fingers to form the sponge layer were too soggy. I know they are meant to soak up all the essence, but at the same time, ever since I had eaten the tiramisu in Strega, the texture of this doesn't really come close. I don't know what real good tiramisu tastes like. I only know what kind of tiramisu I like.

My friend had a macha cake. He took 3 hours to complete it. I suppose it could only mean that it was pretty good!

Slightly too expensive for my own taste, but a great place to hang out for tea, nonetheless!

Rating: 4.3/5

Canele Patisserie
Various locations
Raffles City Shopping Centre
252 North Bridge Road,
Singapore 179103

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dorayaki @ Nex Mall

I always loved those Japanese pancake (fish shaped) with red bean inside. Yesterday I went to NEX mall (first time there- huge mall!) and I chanced upon this shop selling dorayaki. Dorayaki is doraemon's favourite food! okay that was besides the point.

Anyway, they make the dorayaki fresh on the spot. It was pretty cheap too, $1.20 for a original red bean pancake.

They had many flavours to choose from, including durian paste, peanut cream, matcha cream etc.

This small little pancake is good! Especially since it's done on the spot, it's still piping hot. And then you get the joy out of looking at how your pancakes are done. The pancakes are light and fluffy. And the red bean inside is not overly sweet, like how many people do the red bean stuffing! Oh and I must add, it's really quite intriguing when they use a heat stamp to stamp the picture of the cow onto the pancakes. A great little snack!

Rating: 4.5/5

NEX Mall
Shokutsu 10 B1
23 Serangoon Central
Singapore 556083

Friday, June 24, 2011

Singapore: Tutu Kueh

The amount of grievances I have with regard to bad tutu kueh can fill a book- The flour is too hard, the flour is not fluffy, the filling inside is pathetic, and most importantly, the cost of tutu kueh has increased over the years! I know it best because I have been eating tutu kueh for as long as I can remember. It used to be 5 for $2, now it's now $2.50 or $2.80 for a box of 5.

But still, I love good tutu kueh even though it's now more expensive. Tutu kueh is made from rice flour or glutinous flour. It is filled with either shredded coconut or ground peanut. I normally go for the shredded coconut! It is then placed on pandan leaf for that added aroma.

It's quite difficult to tell where the good tutu kuehs are. The problem is that those selling tutu kuehs normally have some makeshift stall, because they only need one tutukueh machine. I have tried many atrocious tasting tutu kuehs, but there are a few good ones, including the one at the basement of Junction 8. But here are a few well-known permanent stores:

Jia Xiang Tu Tu Kueh
Beo Crescent Food Centre
38A Beo Crescent, 169982

Tan's Tutu Coconut Cake
Block 449 Clementi Avenue 3, #01-211

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is there No Place on Earth for Me?

I bought this book as part of a necessary read for one of my courses. It was to understand what it was like to have schizophrenia. It's a pretty old book, but the relevance of it does not fade with time.

Sylvia Frumkin was a highly intelligent girl whose mental condition began when she was a teen as a result of her parents’ high expectations and denial, and possibly misdiagnosis and mistreatment at several junctures.

A keen admirer of actors who was acutely aware of her surroundings when she was feeling well, Frumkin's thoughts were lucid, which make people sigh at how mental illness can torment a person to such an extent. As visitors of other patients in the book noted, they had forgotten for a while that they were in a mental institution and “had wondered where [Sylvia’s] brilliance might have led her if her illness had not led her there.” She constantly heard voices and responded by changing religion fervently, as fervently as changing her mental institutions and running away from the institutions.

Sylvia tried hard to find a place in society but her mental condition prevented her from doing so. To quote her, “mental illness is worse than cancer, the suffering doesn’t have an endpoint.” It wasn’t as if she did not want a normal life. She wanted it so badly and remarked to a friend that, “when you know all those things exist for other people but not for you, sometimes it’s very hard to endure the not having”.

The author, a journalist, chronicled the life of Sylvia Frumkin, by following her and observing and talking to her, to note down her monologue. Normally gibberish, one could not follow Sylvia’s train of thought when she was engaged in a monologue.

Susan Sheehan also spent a period of time with Sylvia in the mental institution, in the bed next to her, so that she could write about Sylvia’s life. Her dedication and extraordinary level of journalism had led to the book winning the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction. Her writing style is direct and clear, although towards the end it became almost too predictable what Sylvia was going to do that it was almost repetitive. Nonetheless, the author wrote with great precision and has given the reader a clear insight to the life of a schizophrenic and the emotional upheavals that her family and those around her experience.

Eating Animals

After reading this book, I stopped eating meat for three days but that was about it.

Not to be mistaken for a bad book, this book was in fact very well researched and backed up by credible research. It does not preach about vegetarianism, but it lets you make your own informed choice after learning the truth about the industry. Foer manages to present facts in an objective manner, coupled with his own experience in trying to sneak into animal farms to see for himself the level of cruelty engaged in farming animals. That's honestly quite some courage, because who knows what the farmers might do to him if he gets caught. If farmers can kill a cow that way... you draw your own inferences.

The book left me uneasy at times, and sometimes I just had to stop reading because the images conjured in my mind, based on his descriptions was gruesome beyond words. The process of slaughtering animals, the manner of rearing them, the processing of the animals all prove that they are bad- whether for you or the animals. Foer also discusses about the mutation of animals because of human's indulgence, which invariably caused diseases such as H1N1 to reach the human population. It also changed my idea of how all along, I thought it was just land animals that were being harmed. I didn't know that fishes could be the subject of all these harm too.

It's a great book for those who need the tipping point to push them over to vegetarianism and for those who have no idea what's happening in the animal farming industry.

Pineapple Tarts

I love pineapple tarts, the more butter, the better. Here's an earlier post on pineapple tarts: http://rollingwrites.blogspot.com/2011/06/singapore-pineapple-tarts.html

The thing about eating is that, sometimes ignorance is bliss. The copious amount of butter and sugar added into pineapple tarts is pretty scary. But for good food, some sacrifice is necessary, in the form of additional fats. The first time I did it, I nearly fainted from chopping the pineapple up. I had no grinder, and was using a scissors to randomly hack at the pineapple pieces. But later I found out that there were mashed pineapple in cans- buy that and save your trouble.

Here's a recipe, adapted from rasamalaysia.


For the pastry filling

2 1/2 cups (350g) all-purpose flour
2 sticks butter/8 oz./1 cup/225 grams butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar/icing sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch (corn flour)
1 egg yolk (lightly beaten for egg wash)

For the pineapple filling

2 cans (20 oz can) sliced pineapples
10 tablespoons sugar (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon cornstarch or corn flour (mixed with 1 teaspoon water)


Preheat oven at 350 F.

1) Drain the pineapple slices and then squeeze the extra water/juice with your hands.
2) Blend the canned pineapples until it’s mushy, about 10 seconds. If you don't have a blender, just cut it as fine as possible using a pair of scissors.
3) Using medium heat, cook the pineapple and sugar until most liquid has evaporated, and the filling turned golden. Stir constantly using a wooden spoon to avoid burning. Taste, and add more sugar when needed. Add in the cornstarch (corn flour) to thicken the filling. Let it cool in the fridge.
4) Sieve the flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar into a medium bowl. Soften the butter to room temperature.
5) Add in the egg yolks and the flour. Knead to form the dough.
6) Divide the dough and pineapple filling each into 24 equal rounds.
7) Flatten the pastry dough with the palms and put the pineapple filling in the middle and use the dough to cover the filling.
8) Use your palms to round it up and then shape it into a ball.
9) Brush with egg wash.
10) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until light brown.

Ondeh Ondeh

I made some ondeh ondeh one Sunday afternoon when both my mum and I were particularly bored. They took something like 2+ hours to make, probably because I'm noob at trying to stuff the gula melaka into the green dough!

Anyway, this adapted recipe comes from a favourite blog of mine Seasaltwithfood.

250g glutinous rice flour
200 ml of pandan juice (blend 10 pandan leaves with 220 ml water)
150 g gula melaka, finely chopped
100 g grated coconut (1/2 a coconut worth)

1) Combine glutinous rice flour with pandan juice and knead lightly

2) Pinch a small piece of the dough (about golf ball size) and drop it into boiling water.

3) When the dough rises up to the surface, remove it with a spoon and shake off the excess water.

4) Mix it back into the dough and knead well to form a smooth dough.

5) Cover the dough and set aside for 15 minutes.

6) Mix the grated coconut with a pinch of salt and steam for about 2-3 minutes. Cool completely.

7) Bring a pot of water to boil.

8) Pinch a small piece of dough and flatten slightly and form a cup shape in your hands. Fill the centre with gula melaka. Roll in palm to form a smooth ball and cook the balls in boiling water. (There's actually no need for a rolling pin.)

9)When the balls float up, remove them with a spoon and shake off excess water.

10) Coat the rice balls with grated coconut.

Finally, enjoy that burst of gula melaka in your mouth!

Singapore: Ondeh Ondeh

Seriously, I have never figured out how to spell ondeh ondeh. Everybody pronounces it as oneh oneh. Whatever the case, I have had a few mishaps with ondeh ondeh. But having mishaps with ondeh ondeh is a good thing- it proves that it's a good ondeh ondeh.

Ondeh ondeh are small round balls, made of glutinous rice flour or sweet potato. Pandan juice is added into the dough, and gula melaka (palm sugar) is added into it. Then it is rolled with grated coconut.

How to tell whether it's good ondeh ondeh? When you take a bite, and the juice spills out like lava erupting from a volcano (bad analogy). In any case, this explains my mishaps. I have had the gula melaka juice spilt all over my clothes a few times. That sweet burst of gula melaka- yum yum.

I tried doing some ondeh ondeh that day, and it was quite easy to do, minus the fact that it took quite some time! But no silly steps and fuss free! Click here for the recipe.

Personally, I like the ondeh ondeh from bengawan solo. It takes skill to make ondeh ondeh that small but still have so much juice bursting out!

Bengawan Solo
Various Outlets

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Singapore: Ang Ku Kueh

Ang Ku Kueh means Red Tortoise Cake. It's normally filled with ground peanut, red bean paste or green bean paste. The skin is made from glutinous rice flour. It is then placed on a banana leaf. It's a dish that is bought as breakfast, supper, or simply just as a snack. An auspicious snack (red in colour), its tortoise shape means longevity. (Plus it's cheap- around 60 cents a piece)

Well, to be honest, I'm not a big fan of angkukueh because I find that the glutinous rice flour can be a little too sticky, or that it is too oily. But I found some good ang ku kueh that day. It was not oily (despite its shiny surface), and the thin layer of skin didn't stick to my teeth and it was chewy. Plus there was plenty of ground peanut filling!

The best place to get your ang ku kueh is Ji Xiang Ang Ku Kueh. This is the store that made me change my mind about ang ku kueh!

Rating: 4.5/5

Ji Xiang Traditional Ang Ku Kueh
Blk 1, Everton Park, #01-33
Singapore 081001
Ji Xiang

Monday, June 13, 2011

Singapore: Pineapple tarts

Pineapple tarts are synonymous with Chinese New Year. During the festive season, pineapple tarts are everywhere to be seen, it will be difficult not to see it! While it is not exactly considered a "Singaporean" kind of food, it is very popular among Singaporeans. Pineapple is also known as onglai, which means prosperity. (Mark my words, these prosperity will show on your tummy if you eat too many pineapple tarts!)

There are many kinds of pineapple tarts. There are those where the pineapple jam is laid on a flaky tart, others where the pineapple jam is hidden inside the buttery goodness. There is the tart, the roll, the ball, and possibly other combinations.

I spent 2011's Chinese New Year in Boston, trying my hands at making some pineapple tarts (while trying to get some heat from the oven for some winter relief). Oh boy, these are some artery-clogging snacks. I did it twice, once myself, and once with my good friend in Urbana-Champaign. The pineapple tarts were gone in no time, and the best thing is that, this buttery snack is rather fool-proof.

Making the pineapple tarts isn't as difficult as some people (i.e. my mum) make it out to be. In fact, the pineapple jam is rather easy to make! Just get a can of pineapples and then send it to the grinder. If you are really particular, you can get the full pineapple instead. Click here for recipe.

Where to find good pineapple tarts?

Bengawan Solo
Many locations

Le Cafe
264 Middle Road
Singapore 188990

Singapore: Hainanese Chicken Rice

The truth is: There is good chicken rice and there is bad chicken rice.

Hainanese chicken rice can be considered the national dish of Singapore. You see it at every corner of Singapore, hawker centres, school canteens, high class restaurants, and even on Singapore Airlines. That's how much Singaporeans love our chicken rice.

There are a few components to chicken rice that will make or break the dish. There is the chicken (duh), the rice, the sauces & condiments, and maybe, the soup.

The chicken tends to be dry at many stalls. Therefore, I define a good chicken by how succulent it is. Its skin also tends to be moist (that means fats by the way). The rice is mixed with the chicken broth and garlic. The chili sauce is spicy and with garlic too! Don't look down on a simple thing like chilli sauce, it will make or break your eating experience!

If you are looking for something extra special, you can go for chicken rice balls instead. These rice balls are more commonly found in Malaysia, although there are a few stores in Singapore that sell chicken rice balls. I tried one that day, and I still prefer normal chicken rice. The chicken rice balls were too gooey for my liking. Plus the aunties at the stall were so snappy, I could have choked on chicken bones.

Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball
Blk 111 Lorong 1, Toa Payoh, #01-366
Chang Cheng Mee Wah Restaurant, Singapore

Here are two recipes that look exceptionally enticing. But honestly, there are such things called premixes. Just grab yourself a decent brand of chicken rice premix, and you're off to getting very fragrant rice!

I have tried many chicken rice stalls (obviously, since I stay in Singapore). And the best of the best include:

Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice
Stall No.10 Maxwell Food Centre
Singapore 069184

Delicious Boneless Chicken Rice
865 Mountbatten Road, #B1-85/87,
Stall 3 Katong Shopping Centre

Boon Tong Kee (Katong)
199 East Coast Road
(Opp Holy Family Church)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Giordano's Pizzeria (Chicago)

Why why why? Why is there no deep dish in Singapore? I still think of the deep dish pizza at Giordano's ever so often.

It was very crowded during lunchtime and the pizza took a long time to come. (more than half an hour). But, it was worth the wait. Before the pizza came, we ordered a few pieces of garlic bread first because we were really hungry. The bread was really soft and light!

The star of the day- We ordered a spinach deep dish. It was oh-so-yummy! Who would have thought vegetables in a pizza would have tasted so good! Two of us shared one pizza and were stuffed silly, and couldn't move after the meal. It was that filling. But what's more important is that it was really good! Loved the crust and everything else about the deep dish pizza! Look at these oozing cheese sticking around!

Rating: 4.5/5

Giordano's Pizzeria
730 N Rush St
(between Chicago Ave & Superior St)
Chicago, IL 60611

Singapore: Rojak

Uh, what does rojak mean?

There are two uses.
1) Singapore is a rojak society. (adj)
2) Uncle, I want a plate of rojak! (noun)

In both instances, rojak actually means some kind of mix. There are two kinds of rojak sold in Singapore. One is the Indian rojak, the other is the fruit rojak. The Indian rojak consists of potatoes, eggs, beancurd and prawns.

I normally eat the fruit rojak, which normally consists of cucumber, pineapple, bean sprouts, deep fried beancurd, and deep fried fritters. The sauce that is poured over the mixture of the abovementioned is a dark sauce, which is both sweet and sour. It is made of water, belacan, sugar, chili and lime juice. Ground peanut is then sprinkled in abundance.

For strange people like me who just like the sauce and the fritter, you could request for just the youtiao (the deep fried fritter). They won't give you the strange look because many people do the same. (so it seems that I'm not that strange afterall)

If you are looking for something slightly different, I recommend Apa Rojak at Lau Pat Sat. They add fruits into the rojak. I love it, if not for the fact that it's slightly more pricey than average hawker centres. I normally choose just apple and guava, although they have a wider choice. The youtiao is also grilled, and it comes together as yummy goodness!

Rating: 4/5

Apa Rojak
Lau Pa Sat Festival Market #114
18 Raffles Quay (S)48582

But back to traditional rojak, there seems to be some kind of consensus that Toa Payoh Rojak (not in Toa Payoh) is the best rojak around. I haven't tried it myself, but if everybody says it's good, it must be good! But you need to obtain a queue number, that's how popular it is!

Toa Payoh Rojak
Old Airport Road Food Centre

Singapore: National Orchid Garden

This is a garden oasis in the city centre. Situated in the Singapore Botanical Gardens, the National Orchid Garden attracts both orchid lovers and people just looking for a place to chill.

Orchirds holds a very special position in the nation's heart. The Vanda Miss Joquim is the national flower of Singapore. (No, the picture below is not the Vanda Miss Joquim- I just found the closest looking).

I went on a weekday afternoon, the weather was scorching hot (but you wouldn't really expect anything else in Singapore- except maybe if it's raining). But I spent an entire afternoon there, very amazed and impressed by the beauty of the orchids. Just in case you thought it was a small collection that you could just scoot through in two hours, you better think twice. For photography lovers or flower lovers, this is the place for you.

Although I didn't manage to take any pictures of it (i think it was either too dark or I was too lazy), one particular attraction that you might be interested in, within the orchid garden, is the VIP Orchid Gardens, where you could see the orchids named after famous people, such as Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher etc.

While entrance to the Botanical Gardens is free, entry to the Orchid Gardens is $5. However, the $5 is totally worth it, when you feel the joy surrounded by the beautiful orchids! Plus if you are a student or 60 years and above, you just need to pay $1. It is free for children below 12 years!

For more information, you may visit the website at: http://www.sbg.org.sg/centralcore/nog.asp

(p.s. Bring your water bottle, a fully charged camera, and a hat/umbrella!)

Singapore Botanic Gardens
1 Cluny Road, Singapore 259569

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Modern Pastry (Boston)

So, the fight is between Modern Pastry and Mike's Pastry. Apparently, Mike Pastry always wins, judging from the queue. But I've eaten at both, and I say, I prefer Modern Pastry!

Why I like the canolis better here than Mike Pastry is because it's smaller- it's easier to eat, and makes you feel less guilty about the calories that you're going to put on anyway (self delusion, I know). I tried the one with the chocolate filling. I like how it's thin and crisp. And somehow the amount of chocolate filling was just right. It didn't make me feel like it was too much, or too little.

While I suppose it's a must try since it's in North End (Little Italy) and everybody raves about cannolis, you ought to take a bite of this too. But honestly, I would rather be eating some good tiramisu in some other restaurant in North End. Nice to try, just for the experience of tasting something new!

Rating: 4/5

Modern Pastry
257 Hanover St
(between Board Aly & Parmenter St)
Boston, MA 02113