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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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Trail #5: Little India

It's said that the only place in Singapore where you can get a birthday cake at 3 a.m. is at Mustafa. Wanting to see if it's true (not at 3 a.m. though), I embarked on a trail at Little India. 

Little India Trail
I did a Little India trail and here, I've marked the places on Google Map. If you are interested in retracing my footsteps, all you need to do is to print out the map and to follow it accordingly. Why I did this was because sometimes when I was travelling, I was often bothered by which sequence I should take in order to maximise my sightseeing.

View Larger Map

A. Rochor Centre 
Ordinarily, this shouldn't be part of the trail. However, I slotted this in because in the near future, this will be part of our history. It was built and completed in 1977 but will be demolished to make way for the construction for an expressway. Nowhere else in Singapore will you be able to see such happy coloured buildings! 

B. Abdul Gaffor Mosque
This mosque caters to mainly the Indian Muslims in Singapore. It is built in a fusion of Southern Indian and Moorish styles. Please note that only worshippers can enter the prayer hall.

C. Campbell Lane 
Named after a British military officer, Campbell Lane is a visual feast of colours. It sells vegetables, accessories, prayer items etc. During Deepavali, this road is closed to traffic.

D. Little India Arcade
A conserved building, it supposedly houses "all things Indian" under one roof. We entered the small hidden lanes and found some shops selling clothes and random knick knacks. There's also a variety of Indian snacks sold.

E. Tekka Centre 
Tekka means bamboo clumps in Hokkien, which once grew on the banks of Rochor Canal. It's hard to imagine seeing bamboo around in Singapore, but I guess they definitely have some now, now that the pandas are in Singapore. The first floor is a hawker centre. The second floor sells clothes at a very good price! I once bought a sari for racial harmony day somewhere else and now I realised I should have come here for a better deal!

F. Residence of Tan Teng Niah
The vibrancy and shout-out of colours persists throughout the trail. This is one of the last surviving Chinese Villas in Little India. It was built in 1900 by Tan Teng Niah, a prominent Chinese businessman. 

G. Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
This temple is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Kali. Other Kali temples include the famous Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown. One interesting anecdote about this temple was that during World War II when there were air raids, many took refuge in this temple and both the temple and the people within escaped the bombings. 

H. Mustafa Centre 
You have to really see it for yourself to believe what Mustafa Centre actually sells. I think it was either 5 or 6 stories, selling everything from tuxedos to gold to electronics, to food to stationery to party essentials to oil lamps. Many people also come here to get their electronics before taking a flight home. I think the prices might be slightly cheaper here. But guess what, I didn't spot a birthday cake!

One thing that you will remember about Little India is the smell of spices and the attack of colours. A vibrant place to be, you can get a few souvenirs back from here, whether from the roadsides or from Mustafa. There are also many gold and pawn shops, probably as a result of the influence of early Indian settlers in Singapore, who were either moneylenders or goldsmiths. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Xiao La Jiao (Part II)

Something has to be done about the air-conditioning in 112 Katong. The other place I know that can rival the bitter winter winds of 112 Katong is Vivo City. It took some hot and spicy food from Xiao La Jiao to warm ourselves! (Click here for the first entry I wrote about Xiao La Jiao.) 

I like it when websites of restaurants are transparent, where they reflect both the menu and the prices. Here's the menu

We decided to get some noodles to share. The Pork Noodle Soup ($8) was pretty ordinary but good if you are just seeking something warm. 

The Dan Dan Noodles ($8) was also nothing exceptional.

The GeLeShan Style Chicken ($10.90) is deep fried chicken with spice seasoning. Eat it when it's still piping hot so that it is crispy. After a while, it becomes kind of hard after cooling off. But I like the spice seasoning and how the seasoning is salty at an acceptable level.

Sichuan Style Boiled Fish ($17.90) was something I had to order ever since I went to a restaurant in Boston that sold this. Soaked in chilli oil, this is a mean dish. Don't order this if you have a low tolerance for chilli. The fish slices were fresh.

The thinly-sliced Sichuan Pork Belly ($10.90) was very flavourful and had a wok taste to it.

The Claypot Eggplant ($9.80) was ordinary.

The Stir-fried French Beans ($8.50) had a very good bite to it, crunchy and juicy.

I don't really like baos so it doesn't come as a surprise that  I didn't really like the Sichuan Bun (4 pieces for $4.50, pro rated). They are pan fried buns with a layer of sesame below it with pork fillings. It comes with ginger shreds, as though it's xiaolongbao. The meat filling is juicy.

Besides the above, we also ordered Mapo Tofu ($9.80) which is really nothing to shout about. I don't eat frogs but the rest at the table said that the Griddle-cooked Tian Ji (Frog) ($16.90) was good. We also shared a plate of Stir-Fried rice with egg and crispy fish ($7.90). The fried rice was fragrant and the crispy fish added another dimension to the dish.

Here, when we asked for rice, they gave us Sweet Corn Steamed Rice ($1 per bowl). Didn't like it very much because the corn made the rice stick together. As dessert, we had Mixed Sugar Guokui ($5.90) which is a  traditional Chuan style sweet bread baked with brown sugar. It tastes like green bean paste buns.

Service by a particular waitress was exceptional. She was very friendly and even offered her jacket as we told her that it was very cold in the restaurant. While there are some hits and misses, the prices here are wallet friendly, and the quality of food is decent. Just make sure that if you can't take spice, check out beforehand which are the spicy dishes and which are not.

Xiao La Jiao 
112 Katong
112 East Coast Road
Tel No: +65 6636 3736

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Riders Cafe

Someone holds me safe and warm, horses prance through a silver storm.

For those who actually watch Disney cartoons, you will find the above lyrics pretty familiar. We were hoping to see some horses at the Saddle Club. Unfortunately, as it rained before that, no horses were in sight. This place is difficult to get to by walking, so it's ideal to drive in.

We reached at 11:06 a.m., just 6 minutes after the breakfast cut-off time. The waiter when handing us the menus told us that breakfast was over. With pitiful looks on our faces, we asked if it was possible to still order the breakfast items. He asked the chef and they said yes! How accommodating.

As we went on a weekday, it was pretty empty all the way until around 1 p.m. when the place became full.

I got a Blackstone Benedict with Bacon & Tomatoes, Poached Eggs & Hollandaise on rustic Sourdough ($15). Don't laugh, but this is the first time I'm eating eggs benedict. If I never eat it, I will never understand why people love it so much right. So I realised that Hollandaise is actually an emulsion of egg and yolk and butter and other seasoning. 

I like the way the eggs were poached nicely, runny but not too runny. I haven't eaten bacon for something like 2 years and this was done just right, not too fatty but just enough fats to make it moist. The juicy tomato and the hollandaise sauce seeped into the bread which made it a pretty satisfying eat. But truth to be told, I'm not much of a brunch person. So, while I find this pretty good, I probably won't pay this to eat such a dish. 

I also got a Death by Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice cream ($12). On the menu, it was stated that it takes at least 12 minutes to prepare this dish. Well, this is a whole new level of sinfulness and decadence. Two of us shared this and it totally filled us up. It was incredibly moist and warm and all that chocolate sauce was moderately sweet. That intense shot of chocolate was just wonderful. But don't attempt to eat it on your own, or you might really get death by chocolate cake in the long run.

After lunch, we took a stroll around the place and took a few pictures. Lovely place with colonial buildings which transports you out of the busy life just for a while. Service was good. Although I have some issues with the wooden tables which were pretty sticky. One of the waiters who helped remove my dish had quite some trouble trying to remove it. But overall, a wonderful place if you are a brunch person.

Riders Cafe
Bukit Timah Saddle Club
51 Fairways Drive
Tel: 6466 9819 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Princess Terrace

I was inspired to go to Princess Terrace after the Duchess of Cambridge visited Singapore. Actually, no. I'm kidding. Honestly, there's nothing regal about Princess Terrace, compared to the other fancier buffet places in town. 

Princess Terrace's Weekday Buffet Lunch (Monday-Thursday) is $38.80++. Click here for the prices on other days. They have some promotion going on as well, so you might want to call and check. 

Well known for serving Penang Buffet, I've been here many times over the last decade. Unfortunately, standards seem to have slipped a little. 

There are a few stations, including the rojak station, the cooked food station, dessert station, the chef-cooks-for-you station etc. 

I was hoping to see some youtiao for the rojak and was disappointed to realise there were none! So it seems that penang rojak doesn't have my favourite ingredients. What you have instead is an assortment of fruits like green mango and guava, vegetables like jicama and some cuttlefish. 

Nothing special about the salad section. Oh the croutons were bad though- obviously toasted a long time ago and just left there.

At the station where your food gets cooked on the spot, you can order char kway teow, penang laksa, prawn noodle, popiah and kueh pie tee etc. The popiah and kueh pie tee were chock full of ingredients and were delicious. 

Despite all the food, there's only so much one can eat and I attempted ordering a bowl of duck soup noodles with kway teow instead of mee sua. The chef gave me an annoyed look and asked me exactly what I wanted in Mandarin. 

Nonetheless, my friend enjoyed the char kway teow and apparently the herbal soup was good too. 

Here is a picture of some Penang style appetisers (which I didn't try!). 

I love satays. I love well-marinated satays. While the meat is tender, it was unfortunately lacking in flavour. In my memory, I imagine it used to taste better.

The cooked food station was nothing much to rave about.

Desserts used to be my favourite station. I used to take many of these little kuehs, especially the pulut tatai. But this was a huge disappointment. The ang ku kuih, while looking petite and extremely edible, turned out bad enough for me to spit it out. My friend who's normally not fussy about his food had the same feelings about it. As for the pulut tatai, there was just something about it that didn't taste like how it used to. 

Nonetheless, the desserts' saving grace was probably the tub of beancurd next to it. There was also a banana dessert which was not bad. If you are craving cold desserts, you can go for some ice kacang.

Princess Terrace used to be somewhere I would go without hesitation  But while the food here isn't so bad that I would give it a complete miss, it has deteriorated over the years.

Princess Terrace
Copthorne King's Hotel 
403 Havelock Road
Tel: 6318 3168