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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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

In the Spirit of National Day (Part II)

Last night, I was on the 57th floor watching the national day preview. And oh boy, Singapore's skyline is the most beautiful thing ever. No, i'm not kidding.

From these pictures, you can see the Central Business District, old and new High Courts, Victoria Concert Hall, Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore Flyer, Clarke Quay, Fullerton Hotel, Art Science Museum, Merlion, Esplanade etc.

Then, there were the spectacular fireworks for the national day parade (preview). I took videos of the fireworks, unfortunately the file size is simply to huge for me to do a fast upload.

Best event of the year- National Day!

Friday, July 29, 2011

In the Spirit of National Day

It's going to be National Day soon. Unfortunately, there are no tickets for us to watch the parade this year! It's okay, I'll comfort myself by listening to my favourite National Day songs over the past few years. And try to get a glimpse of the fireworks, blocked by all the ugly buildings in front of me.
By the way, while I was googling Sing Singapore, I came across a funny Wikipedia entry, titled: List of Singaporean Patriotic Songs. I'm not sure if I'm really comfortable calling them Patriotic Songs. But what I know is that I grew up with these songs, singing them since primary school. The days where you hold a sheet of lyrics in your hands, and sing it like your life depended on it. No, it's not because if you didn't sing you'd get corporal punishment or something.

It's because, Singapore's my home!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Singapore: Wonton Noodles (云吞面)

Let me do a disclaimer first. Technically, wonton noodle is not a Singaporean dish. But it is so common in Singapore, you find it at every corner, at nearly any food court or hawker centre.

Wonton noodles is usually served either with soup or dry. Wonton by the way, refers to the dumpling, which can be deep fried or boiled. (It has nothing to do with 'wanton', just in case you were wondering.) Char Siew (BBQ Pork) and some vegetable is normally served along with it. (in the Singapore version)

Now the question is, where do I find good wonton noodles?

I ate at Pontian twice over the last week, once at Far East and once at Marine Parade. And my verdict is that the noodles of the wonton noodles is the best thing of the dish. The wontons are puny, and the char siew is a little too thinly sliced. Three sauce base to choose from: Ketchup without chili, chili or black sauce with chili. Chili was the obvious choice.

The queue is always long, so wait patiently and you shall have your wonton! Apparently, these aren't too authentic though. These stem from their parent stalls in Malaysia, so people say the real good stuff is in Malaysia! But for now, it's probably as good as it gets!

Da Jie Famous Wanton Mee
209 Jalan Besar (Sam Leong Road)
Closed on Public Holiday and Sundays

Pontian Wanton Mee (笨珍云吞面)
Blk 84 Marine Parade Central
Marine Parade Hawker Centre
Several Branches

St-Viateur Bagels

St-Viateur is apparently the king of bagels in Montreal. It's been around since 1957. The first time I ate bagels was in Boston (how ironic given they are most popular in New York). Bagels aren't that popular in Singapore, which explains why it took so long for me to try a bagel.

The Montreal bagels differ from the New York bagels mainly in that the Montreal bagel contains malt and sugar with no salt whereas the New York bagel contains salt and malt. Due to different preparation methods, the New York bagel is puffy with a moist crust whereas the Montreal bagel is smaller (with a larger hole) and sweeter. (Source: Wikipedia)

It was raining very heavily the day we went to St Viateur. A German friend I met at the youth hostel decided to go to the place since it's extremely well known in Montreal.

The portions were so huge, you might as well have it for lunch. That's the problem with carbohydrates, ain't it? Fills you up like nothing.

Anyway, it was a break from the norm. Who ever sees bagels served with rock melon? Plenty of jam to go with the bagels. The bagels were fresh, had a crispy outer layer and a soft interior. Coupled with the delicious accompaniments (mine was jam because I don't eat butter), it was a real treat as breakfast.

But, do heed my advice, this thing is going to fill you up for quite some time. Space your meals out evenly!

St Viateur Bagel
1127 Mont Royal East

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The White Tiger

"The dreams of the rich, and the dreams of the poor- they never overlap, do they? See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and looking like the rich. And what do the rich dream of? Losing weight and looking like the poor. "

Aravind Adiga's brand of wit shines through the 2008 Man Booker Prize winner, The White Tiger.

Receiving rave reviews, this book is a clear winner right from the start. It had left me captivated the minute i read the first page, igniting contained laughter, for fear of being mistaken as a lunatic. The sypnosis of the books describes the "writer" as a complicated man, who's a servant, philosopher, entrepreneur, murderer.

It was peppered with wit throughout the book, and at times, dark humour. You could probably pity Balram's master, who treated Balram with much kindness, but suffered a fate that one didn't think that he was deserving of. But, the point is, at some point in time, the sympathy somewhat fades away when you realise that this is a true reflection of what is really happening in India. The caste system, the corruption, the poverty levels, the education levels. While it is a rising country with an incredible economic development the last decade, some problems just remain rooted. Looking at how the Slumdog Millionaire's child actors got evicted from their slum homes, it's just mere proof of the economic condition.

In view of such an economic condition and wide divide between the rich and the poor, one can't help but to empathise with Balram, who basically fixates himself on the mindset on to each his own. He can feign his piousness for his religion just to get into his master's good books, pinch a few pennies here and there, and the ultimate was his Master's ending, which he did not deserve, till we realise that Balram was once betrayed as well.

This book is written with incredible wit and beneath the layers of dark humour, lies a reflection of a true society, one that is divided by castes, by corruption. Beyond the rapid development of the country, this exposes a story of rich people who become richer and poor people becoming poorer. And to break out of this vicious cycle, the only option might just to be ammoral. Ironic really, how after he breaks out of his poverty, he starts thinking like one from the other league. And it goes on and on. A vicious cycle.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

eggplant parmesan

I have no idea why I decided to make this dish. Probably because I saw a glass baking tray and I figured that I should do something with it. And I decided eggplant parmesan it shall be! ironically, i didn't put parmesan because i realised how incredibly expensive cheeses were. It was $11 for a packet of mozarella cheese, nothing like the price in US!

Adapted from allrecipes.com

2 eggplants, peeled and thinly sliced (around 1/4 inch)
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
6 cups spaghetti sauce, divided
1 (16 ounce) package mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2) Sweat the eggplant slices by sprinkling with sea salt and let it sit for 30 min
3) Rinse and pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towel
4) Dip slices into beaten eggs and coat in ziploc bag with seasoned bread crumbs.
5) Place on a baking sheet coated with EVOO and bake for 7 min at 450F, flip and bake an addition 5-7 min
6) In a 9x13 inch baking dish spread spaghetti sauce to cover the bottom.
7) Place a layer of eggplant slices in the sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. 8)Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with the cheeses. Sprinkle basil on top.
9) Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chocolate Lava Cake

Today, I've finally baked a proper chocolate lava cake. I tried it once before but it turned out to be like chocolate cake. Now, it finally has 'lava' spewing out of it! Anyway, this recipe from noobcook is really good. Not to sweet, not too buttery, just the perfect amount of chocolate goodness.

By the way, just a little tip on the ramekin cups. You can get those at $2 each at Daiso. Be sure to slowly invert the ramekin, otherwise it will just burst open and the chocolate will come flowing out.

Adapted from noobcook.com:

(makes three 6-oz ramekin cakes)
100g dark chocolate (i used 70% dark chocolate lindt), cut to small cubes
100g unsalted butter, cut to small cubes
2 eggs
50g caster sugar
20g self-raising flour

To decorate (optional)
icing sugar and small sieve
vanilla ice cream

Additional tools
oven safe ramekins (6-8 oz)

1. Melt dark chocolate and butter using either the microwave, a hot water bath or a double boiler (note: do not use direct stove heat or the ingredients will burn).
2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar till the mixture turns pale and frothy.
3. Pour melted chocolate/butter you prepared in step 1, into the egg mixture prepared in step 2. Stir in the flour. Use a spatula to mix everything evenly.
4. Grease your ramekins with some melted butter (so that the cake will come off cleanly when it is baked). Fill the ramekin almost 3/4 full with the chocolate mixture and bake in a preheated oven of 180C (356F) for about 10 minutes.
5. When it is baked, remove ramekin from oven and let cool for 1-2 minutes. Use a spoon to gently loosen the edges. Carefully invert the cake onto serving plate.
6. Serving suggestion: Use a sieve to dust icing sugar over the cake. Serve a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some berries at the side.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Marina Bay Sands (Wonder Full- Laser Show)

Well, hear hear. Marina Bay Sands is not ONLY about its casino. (hello, it's been set up for quite some time and I still can't bear to part with the $100 levy for singaporeans.) Besides looking at the very beautiful skyline, you get to enjoy a 13 minute laser display as well!

Here's a official MBS video shown on their website.

Weekday nights are probably a good time to visit this place. Otherwise, i think you should prepare yourself for some crowd.

We viewed the laser show from the esplanade bay area as well. No matter which side you're on, the view's going to be pretty spectacular. Except you would be able to see the laser images if you are on the marina bay side. Seriously, might as well catch both sides? One at 8pm and the other at 930pm. Take a walk along the bay and you'll be treated to some laser business complete with a beautiful skyline! (cross fingers for cloudy/rainy days)

oh, and you wouldn't want to forget your camera.

Marina Bay Sands

Spice Brasserie

There were some vouchers we had where we could pay for 2 and get 1 complimentary buffet. So we decided to make a trip down to Park Royal to try the buffet at Spice Brasserie.

One interesting thing about the seating here (that can't be seen at other places) is this small little corner facing the glass windows. It allows for some privacy and has some green view along the windows!

Quantity wise, there is a wide variety, including chinese food, dim sum, tempura station, kueh pai tee, char kway teow, malay/indian food, sushi, braised claypot food, chilli crab with mantous, desserts and cakes etc.

Quality wise, it might be a slight letdown though. For example, the ondeh ondeh's skin is too thick. The lapis sagu's skin is also a little tough. The mango cake is quite good though. The chilli crab wasn't spicy.

The tempura station also has pretty good food. (Who doesn't like deep fried food)

All in all, Spice Brasserie is worth going to if you're looking at filling your stomach up with not-bad food at relatively inexpensive prices. For $27++, it's probably one of the cheapest buffets around!

Spice Brasserie
Park Royal Hotel
181 Kitchener Road
Singapore 208533
+65 6428 3160.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Juliette & Chocolat (Montreal)

"What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate."
Katherine Hepburn

Everybody who's been to Montreal recommends Juliette & Chocolat. And you can be sure that this is a recommendation that will stick for a long time to come. Take a whiff of the overwhelming chocolate in the shop, look at the pretty chocolates lined along the shelves, have a bite of your anything on the menu, and you will fall in love with juliette & chocolat forever.

This is the fruits and melted chocolate crepe I had. It is SO DECADENT, it's simply mindblowing. At first you would think that the fruits would be a healthier option. BUT YOU WILL BE WRONG. The generous serving of chocolate ice cream, the crazy amount of chocolate syrup, the wide variety of fruits- berries, apples, raspberries, pineapples. I can't believe I ate all these on my own. You'd be better off sharing this. The sourness of the fruits complemented the sweetness + bitterness of the chocolate. As I ate this, I told myself, my life is now complete.

It's a no-brainer if you are craving chocolatey stuff- you know the place to go. Put aside the saying "a moment on the lips, forever on the hips". You will be a happier person in this chocolate playground.

Juliette et Chocolat
3600 St-Laurent (corner of Prince-Arthur)
Montréal, QC H2X-2V4

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dim Joy (点聚)

Dim Joy is a place that prides itself on understanding how to eat dim sum. They have instructions, teaching you how to hold your chopsticks. This is very common in the US, but very uncommon in Singapore. They also don't have the standard teapots you see in normal restaurants. You can also see here how much they emphasise dim sum art.

I must have been the only person out of the group of 5 that didn't find the dim sum to be awesome. I found it okay, but not as fantastic as it ought to be. My main gripe with the egg tart was that it was laden with salted butter. The pastry of the egg tart turned out to be salty, instead of being neutral.

The prawns of the har gow were fresh. But the skins were a little too thick for my liking.

Nonetheless, the piping hot porridge made up for it.

The char siew dishes were also good.

Make sure you make a reservation if you want to come here on a weekend. Otherwise you will spend your time waiting for the tables to clear as the place is rather small and can only contain a few tables. There are some tables outside, but they are often full as well.

Dim Joy
80 Neil Road

Fraser's Hill

Fraser's Hill was around a 7.5 hours drive from Singapore, including toilet breaks and meals. It was the beginning of the durian season when we went there, so the roadside stalls weren't stocked up with the durians yet. But, on our way back from Malaysia, we got to try some really good and cheap durians from Rawang!

The roads in Fraser's Hill is rather narrow and are one-way for most of the roads. They have scrapped the old system of opening the roads at different times very recently, according to the caretaker at the place we stayed at.

We stayed at Richmond Bungalow. There are five rooms in the entire place. https://www.aloharesorts.com.sg/resort/fraser-hill

The rooms are very huge, with an attached toilet. However, there is a slightly musty smell from the mattress and the room itself. But other than that, the place is very clean. That is because you have to leave your shoes/slippers outside, and wear a pair that the caretaker passes to you.

They also can prepare meals for you. We tried the breakfast and dinner. The breakfast was so-so, but the dinner was pretty good! Apparently, it's cooked by a Hainanese chef! They serve one soup and three dishes for dinner in the living room. There is variation in the food, such as sweet and sour pork, sour fish with apples, vegetables, etc.

There is even a vegetable patch outside Richmond.

The kinds of activities range from bird-watching to walking the trails, to paddling boats, etc. We didn't bird watch because we did not know how to. So instead of watching, I listened! Every morning, the birds would be singing outside.

The Jeringau Waterfall is worth a visit if you just want to walk around and have nothing better to do. It isn't exactly a spectacular waterfall, but still pretty nice surroundings.

If you're looking for a city centre, I'm afraid the below is as much as it gets.
Our main activity was walking the trails. We covered 5 out of 7 trails, but didn't manage to cover the pine tree trail because it was too long for us to cover in 2 days. The most challenging trail out of the 5 was the Bishop Trail. It was difficult for me because I had led a sedentary life for too long. But it's very satisfying after completing the trail.

Plenty of beautiful flora and fauna.

Fraser's Hill is a great place to have a short getaway. There is plenty of fresh air and the walking of trails will keep you more than occupied. Plus the view is beautiful. Just remember to protect yourself from leeches if it's the rainy weather!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

龙华酒楼 (Macau) (Casa De Cha Long Wa)

We googled places to have good dimsum in Macau for breakfast. And it seemed like the only place that was consistently recommended was this place. It wasn't on the main road, and is located next to some small market stalls.

There's a very 1930s feel about this place, and everything is self service. You wash your own tea cups and chopsticks, take your own dimsum from the tray, and pay for your food at the counter. You can dream on about air-con. It's just natural air here.

There were random bags of tea and other things lying around, giving a very rustic feel to the place! It's like a small little museum on its own, with a collection of the stuff accumulated over the years!

So here comes the food. The food is ridiculously cheap, although I'm not sure how to describe the taste of dim sum in this place. Let's just put it that I like my normal dim sum a little better. The dim sum here doesn't taste bad, but it isn't anything spectacular anyway. I suspect it might just be what what dimsum used to be, and hence it missed out on the evolution. That I don't know, you have to try the food to understand.

Overall, it's a good place to just sit around and take a few pictures of a 1930s looking place. It's not commercialised, just feels very homely. Also, the people at this place are very friendly. The guy at the cashier invited us to walk around the place and just take photos! Sacrifice a little for the quality of the food, in order for you to have a feel of an old establishment!