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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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Imperial Treasure Cantonese Cuisine (Crowne Plaza)

The thing about reviewing dim sum from well-known Chinese restaurants is that after a while, they kind of taste the same. So, I'm picking out a few dishes that may not uniformly be found in all restaurants or which deserve particular mention. 

Imperial Treasure got me right at the honey coated cashews. Such a nice break away from your usual peanuts or the brown colour soft peanuts (whatever you call them). 

Amongst the recommended dishes by the waiter were the Char Siew Bun coated in honey. Granted, the bread was soft and chewy. But it tastes just like a mini version of a char siew bun that I could buy cheaply at some bakery. Why it is a recommended dish- that I really don't know.

I normally find these deep fried dumplings pretty much standard- but this didn't meet up to my standards. While it was uber crispy, the "oil taste" was very evident.

Another recommended dish was the chives dumpling. I didn't eat it but those who ate it said that it was good and had a thin skin.

This is a deep fried banana ball with some red bean paste in it. Interesting combination but it isn't a particularly stunning.

The only thing really worth mentioning is the egg tarts. (Look at the poor egg tart which is kind of deflated). Piping hot egg tarts with a flaky crust.

While the food does not stand out, its quality is decent and actually pretty cheap. The above + char siew sou + har gow + siew mai + 2 big bowls of porridge worked out to around $100 for 6 people.

Crowne Plaza Hotel 
75 Airport Boulevard
#01-02 (next to Changi Airport T3)
Tel No: +65 6822 8228

Makansutra Glutton's Bay

Makansutra Glutton's Bay is a place for tourists who want to try Singapore's food as quickly and as fuss free as possible. It is also for locals in the area who want to get a relatively cheap meal. These hawkers are specially handpicked by the Makansutra team.

I never knew this, but upon checking out their website, you can actually request a sampler which includes 7 dishes (or more) and costs about $30. Check out the website if you're interested. After dinner, you can walk along the river and I promise you, the views are fantastic.

Oh, but here's where the BUT comes in. If you are not looking for convenience or beautiful scenery, but just CHEAP and GOOD food, I suggest you make your way to the hawker centres in Singapore, such as Old Airport Road Food Centre and Maxwell Food Centre. The food there is likely to be cheaper and tastes either as good or even better (if you know which stalls to go to). Plus you have a larger variety to choose from.

Three of us spent $30 here which is unexpectedly quite cheap. Although you could still get a few dollars shaved off if you ate at a hawker centre. I have to say that the portions here are quite big thereby justifying their prices. 

But the standards of the food vary across the stalls. The hokkien mee ($6) (lots of ingredients- you normally don't see 5-6 fresh prawns in your plate) and fried carrot cake ($6) were delicious. The chicken wings (not reflected) were also nicely BBQed ($1.30 for 1). 

The satay ($7) was below expectations. It was too hard and you could actually chew the bones. 

The kang kong ($6) was largely decent and spicy although too oily.

Overall, this place has pretty good standards and a great location. But if you're looking for a place with a larger variety and probably cheaper and better food, head down to the hawker centres!

Esplanade Mall
8 Raffles Avenue

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fast Food Nation

I haven't watched the movie based on the book Fast Food Nation. But if you are interested in watching the trailer, click here. I'm not embedding it within the post because its movie rating is R (Restricted). But to balance the views in the movie, here's a video titled "A Tour of McDonald's Meat Factories". I will then leave you to your discerning mind where to place your trust.


I always wanted to read this book and finally got my hands on it. It's no surprise that we are surrounded by fast food, but one thing I realised is that Singapore actually has a very heavy concentration of McDonald's, as opposed to US. When I was in the US, I was surprised to find that Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks were a lot more prevalent than McDonald's. Instead, McDonald's was more often seen along some random highway or next to a gas station. 

More about this book. Ever since I read Eating Animals, I have taken an interest to the source of our food and the processes involved before your food reaches the table. There are similarities and differences between this book and Eating Animals. While they both discuss the ill treatment to animals (in different depths), they have different focuses, as you can gather from the titles. 

A favourite quote I enjoyed was this: "If we eat McDonald's hamburgers and potatoes for a thousand years," Fujita once promised his countrymen, "we will become taller, our skin will become white, and our hair will be blonde." 

This book explores various aspects of fast food, from the history of McDonald's and Carl's Jr, to the way advertisements target children as their audience, to the way the fries are made, the cattle is raised, low wages, extremely dangerous working conditions, a total lack of concern for the diseases that spread through unhygienic working conditions and how politics has a hand in everything. Basically, Schlosser paints a very grim picture of the fast food industry.

This book didn't really affect my eating pattern. As the years passed by, my intake of fast food has decreased. Except for the occasional pancakes from Macs, I haven't eaten my favourite childhood food- McNuggets for quite some time. And I don't have any humanitarian reasons for this. It's just that the more information I have about the food, the more I want to shun it.

(photo credit: cupofzup)

As for Schlosser's writing style, it gets a little boring after a while. For example, to emphasise the age at which people are tormented by fast food in some way, his standard sentence goes like this, "(something happened to the guy.) He was (insert number) years old." I know this is a very minor point but it got on my nerves a little. Other than that, it seems well researched. I base this on the humongous amount of references at the back of the book but I know sometimes, it isn't representative.

The ideas behind the book are interesting although different people may have different preferences for his method of delivery. The first part of the book bore me because it was about some history and I'm totally not a history person. But other than that portion which you can speed through, the rest of the book should offer a good glimpse into the world of fast food. 

Taking Pictures at the Table- Is it Rude?

Sometimes when I take photographs of food, I feel a sudden pang of guilt creep over me. Am I ruining my fellow diners' eating experience? Am I intruding into the privacy of others? Or do I just look like some massive stalker?

For the record, I don't switch on the camera flash, there is no sound from my camera, I take pictures extremely quickly and I don't climb onto chairs to take pictures of food. Most importantly, I never shove my hands in front my friends' plate, saying "Just give me a minute to take a picture, won't you?" (I do it very occasionally only to one or two people whom I know wouldn't chop my hand off for doing that.) 

Despite these, Giles Coren remarks: 
"I think photographing one's food in a restaurant is easily as rude, disrespectful and brutish as … dropping one's trousers in the middle of the room and taking a massive dump."
This must be the same sentiments shared by the occasional stare I get from the person next table when I'm taking pictures of my food. My food. Not his or hers. 

This article is only for those who think that it's rude to take photographs in restaurants. If you don't belong to this category, you can stop reading from this point onwards.

(photo credit: Pictures of Asians taking Pictures of Food)

1) You rely on reviews 
Especially for people who take pictures of food and then post a review somewhere, I think they don't deserve to be called rude. A less compelling case could be made for those who take pictures without doing anything to the pictures, but my next point will show that they are not blameworthy either.

Unless you have never relied on a single food review floating somewhere around in some kind of media, whether online or in print, you don't deserve to call someone else rude because you are benefiting from that review.

Are you sure you haven't relied on any of these sites?

2) All kinds of photography are (largely) the same 
If you go overseas without taking a single picture, maybe you are qualified to call someone who takes photographs of food rude. Otherwise, you can't. Why? Because taking a picture of your food and taking a picture of the Eiffel Tower or the pyramids involve the same logic. You take photographs because you have a purpose- to remember a particular landmark, to remember a good meal or to write a food review.

(photo credit: ABC News)

3)  There are tonnes of worse behaviour in the restaurant
Just off my head, I could think of some bad behvaiour in the restaurant that are much worse than food photography. One that many people are guilty of is texting during the meal or fishing out your phone to check your mail. Just because it's so prevalent doesn't mean it's alright. It's rude.

(photo credit: Robert Cargill)

4) I enjoy my food 
I know some people say that taking photograph of food actually ruins the eating experience. But guess what? I don't take photographs throughout the meal and I actually eat. Otherwise, where does the food review come from?

5) It's rude to stare 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Joy of Quiet

For those who haven't had some quiet time away from this crazy world for some time, I think this NY Times article, "The Joy of Quiet", might encourage you to reclaim some sanity.
Nothing makes me feel better — calmer, clearer and happier — than being in one place, absorbed in a book, a conversation, a piece of music. It’s actually something deeper than mere happiness: it’s joy, which the monk David Steindl-Rast describes as “that kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.” - Pico Iyer

Liang Liang Garden

I don't really blog about desserts from hawker centres because they normally cost the same and taste the same. But I'm blogging about Liang Liang Garden because of its price and the crazy amount of ingredients they provide. 

By the way, this weather is driving me mad. First, it's the sweltering heat. Just as you thought you could get some relief after some rain, it just gets HOTTER. This is where desserts come to the rescue! 

It's not that often that you can find desserts at such prices. I think the most expensive item I saw on the menu was $2. This bowl of mango with aloe vera costs $2. Look at the amount of mango and aloe vera. Given so liberally! This would have easily cost at least $2.50 or more in any other hawker centre. 

Although my mum didn't share my enthusiasm for her cheng teng because the ice melted too quickly and therefore diluted the cheng teng (I blame it on the weather), I still think the price here is very attractive! 

Other desserts you could possibly try are those recommended by ieatishootipost, including ice kacang dinosaur!

Liang Liang Garden 
Tiong Bahru Market
30 Seng Poh Road

忠于原味 (Zhong Yu Yuan Wei Wanton Noodles)

Before you read anything else, I suggest you watch this 8 minute long video on 忠于原味. Unless you are really hungry and can't wait to join the queue. It tells you what meat is used for the char siew, including the meat from the pig's armpit 不见天. There are also two other kinds of meat. 

I didn't know what was good at Tiong Bahru Market so I just joined the longest queue. The other stall which had a really long queue was the stall selling Lor Mee. To get me to the front of the queue, it took me 30 minutes.

Is the wanton noodles really worth queuing up for? Contrary to popular opinion, I don't think it's worth queuing up for 30 minutes. I'm not sure which part of the pig I got because to me, while it was chewy, it wasn't particularly stunning. It's definitely better than the hard kind of char siew though. Everybody raves about the char siew marinate but I felt that it wasn't flavourful enough. Maybe all that waiting made me lose my sense of taste.

I think what really stands out is the noodles- Really bouncy. If you saw the chef cook, you would know why. He boils the noodles in the water, then puts it in cold water, and then puts it back in the hot water, ensuring its QQ quality.

The wantons weren't particularly special but they were good enough. 

At $2.50/$3.50 a bowl, this wanton noodles comes cheap. However, all that time spent queuing up might be a negative factor.

忠于原味 (Zhong Yu Yuan Wei Wanton Noodles)
Tiong Bahru Market
30 Seng Poh Road

Tow Kwar Pop

The rojak at Tow Kwar Pop makes your heart go "Pop pop, pop pop!" Okay, that was an awful slogan from me. 

The wait for the rojak here can be a little long because they do everything on the spot so you can be assured that your rojak tastes fresh. 

What I love about the rojak ($4) is how everything is toasted. Warm and crispy. The cuttlefish was also a welcome addition. The sauces were delicious and not overpowering. Those who love tau pok would love the Tau Pok with cucumber in it. Fruits also added to the appetising factor of this dish. 

One of the best rojak I have eaten in some time, after Apa Rojak at Lau Pat Sat closed down.

Tow Kwar Pop 
Tiong Bahru Market
30 Seng Poh Road

Marriott Cafe (High Tea)

I'll just be honest why I like the high tea here more than that in Equinox. Passion Fruit Cake. More about that later.

Colours of the photos in this entry will be a little weird because they are taken with my iPhone. Generally, the food that you will find at the high tea are pretty localised, unlike some other buffets.

Here are the different stations. The salmon selection is considerably wide. There's smoked salmon, curried salmon etc. This photo is not representative because there are more at the side. I think this buffet is perfect for those who love salmon.

The seafood section is dominated by prawns. Wished there was a larger seafood selection. Next to the seafood selection was a rojak making section and on the other side was a small selection of sushi.

There is also a selection of deep fried food (e.g. deep fried fish, deep fried chicken on skewers), local food (e.g. curry puff, satay, roti prata etc.)

Other local food includes yong tau foo, laksa and mee siam where they do it on the spot for you.

I found it quite interesting that the station here had scones, pizzas and popiahs. What a weird combination. The chef here is responsible for making the popiah. I went for three small servings of popiah because I loved them sooo much! Just add the chilli sauce and you're hooked onto that popiah for life. There was also a whole lot of Chinese food such as bak kut teh, dim sum, etc. 

I'm obviously not kidding when I say that local food features very heavily in this high tea. Here, the chef fries oyster-egg pancake for you on the spot.

If you're feeling sinful for all that food, you could probably turn to the salad section. But seriously, paying money to go for high tea and eating lots and lots of salad is akin to paying to go to Disneyland but only taking pictures with the guy at the ticket booth. 

A selection of bread and some "dry cakes". The only thing I ate from this section was the durian pound cake which was good, although I would have preferred durian cake or durian, for that matter. There were cookies here as well. Although I didn't try it, my friend said it was not too sweet. 

Finally, moving onto desserts! To quote my friend, "This place has every single dessert that I love!!" Tau suan, ice jelly with soursop, chendol etc. I didn't like the ice because they were too choppy. They would probably fare better with an ice making machine.

There is also a variety of nonya kueh.

The ice cream flavours are good and there is a wide variety of topping to put on the ice cream. Cones provided! One thing I didn't like about the ice cream was that it melted too fast. Nonetheless, the ice cream was not too sweet.

Last but not least, look at those good looking cakes at the bottom right of the picture. I'm not exactly sure what its composition is. But I think it's passion fruit at the bottom with a thin layer of cake, and a layer of mango paste on top. Is that what pure happiness feels like?

As mentioned earlier, I would rather pay for this high tea buffet than that at Equinox. At $35++ (around $40), it isn't exactly cheap but it's worth it. Its timing is from 3-530 pm and I encourage you to make a reservation as it can get rather crowded. Service is erratic, with very fast plate clearing, but it took 10-15 minutes before we realised that we weren't going to get water if we didn't ask for it. We were also not asked whether we wanted coffee or tea (we drink neither) but I thought it would at least be good to ask. Despite this, the servers had very friendly demeanour.

I once again emphasise that there is heavy focus on local food. It can be a good or bad thing for different people so make sure you make a wise high tea choice!

Marriott Cafe
Marriott Hotel
320 Orchard Road
Tel: +65 6831 4605

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cutting for Stone

This is the period of time where I do nothing, but sleep, eat, read, eat and sleep. Life's fulfilling in a way, but it won't be for long, whether fortunately or unfortunately.

I bought Cutting for Stone more than a year ago and finally sat down to read it. The thing about thick books is that they don't really appeal to me. My writing style is, if you could put it in one sentence, don't bother putting it in ten. Then again, when it comes to fiction, the additional adjectives could paint a much better picture.

Warning: The first 1/5 of the book is incredibly descriptive, incredibly boring. Now that I've stated that outright, I'll say: The remainder 4/5 of the book was simply captivating. Before delving further, I'm sure this book would appeal to doctors. I totally know how people of different professions love books that describes their profession- because they can identify! Now, if you are a doctor or medical student, I'm sure the medical jargon would not escape you.

I'm sure those who are not doctors and happen to be reading this blog will be wondering, why is it titled Cutting for Stone?

Buried somewhere in the book, it states that in the Hippocratic Oath, one of the lines are "I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art." It is by no coincidence that the surnames of the main characters are Stone, and the fact that this story is very medical-based.

This book is about two twins who came to this world by the union of an Indian nun and a British doctor. The nun dies during labour and the doctor, unable to accept the fact, disappears. The twins are brought up by two other doctors in the hospital and the twins eventually become doctors. The events in Ethiopia caused the twin's "adoptive father" to land in jail for a brief period of time, and later results in Marion Stone (one of the twin brothers) to escape to US. Shiva (the other twin brother) and Marion are inextricably linked and yet have very different characters. Towards the end of the book, many things start falling in place (not providing the spoilers here!)

The first thing I thought after reading this book was, please don't make it into a movie. Upon googling, it seems that there are plans to make it into a movie. The thing about making books into movies is that you destroy imagination. But ever since it became a New York Times bestseller for so many weeks, you know its fate has been carved in stone.

That aside, Verghese makes it clear through his writing that he has very sound medical knowledge and can also write well. He makes you keep all the questions you have as you keep reading and answers all of them at one swoop towards the end. This book is for those with patience as things may get a little dry when he tries too hard to paint his characters. Sometimes, he also gives very vivid description of the surgeries or diagnosis so that if you were a medical school student, you would probably put your Sherlock Holmes hat on and feel pleased about getting it correct (assuming you identified it correctly!).

(photo credit: Joanne Chan, NY Times)

This is a good book, as long as you can get pass all the verbose. Beautiful writing nonetheless and a well-developed plot.

“The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lingzhi Vegetarian Restaurant 灵芝

One fine day, I may become vegetarian. But not yet. In fact, the arrival of that day is still very far away. As much as I enjoy eating vegetables, I can't let go of all that meat either. 

We decided to visit Lingzhi 灵芝 for some vegetarian fare today. 

We opted for the hotpot buffet ($22.80++) which is probably the least money savvy option you can ever go for. For your hotpot, you get to choose 2 out of 3 soup bases which includes tom yum, clear soup and herbal soup. 

I suppose they found that deep frying everything was the best way to make vegetarian food taste good. The labels were placed wrongly but all you needed was a little common sense to figure out what the food really was. In other trays (not in photograph), there were fried noodles, rojak and curry vegetables. In these trays, there are yam croquette, spring roll, curry puff, carrot cake, vegetarian pork pastry etc.

In my memory, the mock meat that I tasted at the Liat Towers branch tasted a lot like the real thing. Here, it tasted simply like... mock meat. Which isn't really a bad thing, just that people might be more attracted to eat vegetarian food if you could cook something that tasted like the real thing.

There was also an assortment of dimsum, including steamed siew mai, steamed char siew bun, steamed beancurd vegetable roll, steamed vegetable bun etc. You play a game of "Guess the Dim Sum". Winners get to eat their favourite dim sum and losers, well, don't get to eat their dim sum unless they open every single bamboo container! 

On a more serious note, i would have preferred if the dim sum were categorised instead of having to open every single cover. The dim sum was quite good on the whole, except that the beancurd vegetable roll tasted a little too oily. 

This is what we ate for the bulk of the meal- mushrooms, corns, noodles, vegetables, seaweed. I hope you're not expecting me to say anything about these ingredients because I'm sure you eat them on a daily basis as well anyway.

Desserts include almond longan, green bean soup, white fungus and some red bean/custard longish shape dessert (which tastes like mochi). The items were not too sweet.

For $22.80, I would say don't bother coming here. All the ingredients are really cheap and as my economist friend puts it, "You're simply paying a premium for the fact that it is vegetarian." Do yourself a favour, buy these ingredients from the market and throw it into boiling water or some other stock. If you're craving the deep fried items, feel free to join the rather long queue at the Lingzhi counter and buy some dim sum back.

Lingzhi Vegetarian Restaurant 
Velocity @ Novena Square
238 Thomson Road
Tel: +65 6538 2992

Monday, May 21, 2012


I watched Hugo on the airplane- imagine a small little screen with bad resolution, bad sound system, air turbulence and an elbow poking from the person next to you. Despite all these, I was enthralled by the film. It is obvious that they deserved every single Oscar (bagging five of them is no mean feat).

This movie is best watched 3D and is based on Brian Selznics' novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It is about a boy who lost his father in a fire. Prior to that, his father used to take him to the movies and his father particularly loved those of Georges Melies. After the death of Hugo's father, Hugo's uncle takes him away and teaches him to maintain the clocks in a railway station. Meanwhile, Hugo steals mechanical parts to repair a mechanical man which his father particular treasured. From there, the story unfolds.

(photo credit: Wikipedia)

I put off watching this movie for so long but finally watched it on the plane. It seems like a children's movie, with all that whimsical elements. But more than that, it stands for broader themes such as finding hope once again and following your dreams. What stands out the most is the cinematography. It doesn't even take conscious effort to realise why this is deserving of best cinematography.


Tampopo Restaurant (Takashimaya)

I have heard about Tampopo quite a bit. Whenever somebody asks, "Where's the best ramen in Singapore?" Tampopo would be inevitably be one of the names raised. There are two branches- one at Liang Court and the other at Takashimaya. 

There was no queue when we arrived at 630 pm. 

It's easy to tell how I'm short sighted. I was planning to have the Tonkatsu Ramen because reviews said that it was very good! But my eyes got diverted to the words that said "Voted Singapore's No.1 Ramen". In the end I ordered the Tampopo Black Pig Shabu Ramen. Talk about powerful advertising.

The Tampopo Black Pig Shabu Ramen ($14.30) came in different versions. There was the deluxe version  ($16.30) that came with an egg and sweet corn. There is also the double meat portion ($15.80). Although it looks like there are a lot of chilli flakes in it, don't be deceived by its menacing appearance. As the waitress said, it was very mild chilli. Those chilli eaters at our table sprinkled more chilli liberally. 

I loved the pork because it was very chewy and had just a thin layer of fats to complete the chewiness factor. Besides the pork, I think the soup base was not as flavourful as I would like it to be. The noodles are springy and the slightly salty bamboo shoots were a good accompaniment to the noodles. 

I was slightly surprised that this place didn't serve hot green tea but water instead. Service was good although it was difficult to catch one of their attention since there was a busy dinner crowd. Food is probably a little overrated, although I would consider it good ramen anyway. However, for those who have easy access to Liang Court, you might want to head over there because I heard that the ramen there is better and they sell the famed cream puffs as well!

Tampopo Restaurant
Takashimaya Shopping Centre
391 Orchard Road
Tel: +65 6235 2318