Tag Archives: Food

I Have The Power To Make You Hungry

Hubby is out. Baby is asleep. I am all showered and curled up in bed…with my MacBook Pro. My quiet nights in are usually spent reading or editing photos. Tonight, it is the latter; I am pulling out photos from my recent trip to my mother’s hometown, Penang. And you know what? This is really bad news for you, especially if you are hungry.

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Lorong Seratus Tahun Curry Mee

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Anson Road Kway Teow Thng

201302 Penang 2

Penang Road Chendol

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Pulau Tikus Kueh Talam and Pulut Tekan

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Rangoon Road Banana Pancake

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Tok-Tok (Wanton) Mee from a random backlane of my Ah Ma’s place

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Leong Muah Chee (location unknown as Uncle Leong flits from one location to another. It was out of sheer luck that I chanced upon his pushcart at Lorong Selamat).

Told ya it’s bad news. Nope, am not the least bit apologetic.

P/S: Reviews on the above? All are my favourites since I was a little girl, and all are recommended by my mother’s family in Penang. With the exception of chendol, which has proven to be consistently disappointing as standards slipped over the years. Pity. Oh, the muah chee? A random GEM that I chanced upon while on the hunt for an afternoon snack at Lorong Selamat; nope, not even my relatives know about it. *smug* It is the best muah chee I’ve ever had. Everything is freshly made, from the pillowy soft and silky smooth muah chee to the toasted ground nuts to the addictive, fragrant fried shallots. This is saying a lot, as I’ve tried loads of muah chee done up this way in Penang over many years, and Leong is unbeatable. Wishing you luck hunting him down!

{The Pleasure Monger x Linsiwolsie} Cashew Nut Butter & Honey Sandwich

201301 Cashew Butter Honey sandwich 2

Becoming a new mother has brought new priorities to my life. A typical day sees me carting my 5-month old daughter around, giving her lots of attention and care, making sure that she feeds well and takes her naps, and helping her grow with stories, simple toys, songs and conversations.

As she outgrows infancy and steps into toddlerhood, we’re finally starting to introduce solids to her. Being foodies, M and I are very excited and eager to have our daughter join us at the dinner table. I also miss being in the kitchen, and can’t wait for when she is big enough so we can whip up simple recipes together.

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Having said that, I am more adept at cooking for adults than for young palettes. There is just so much to consider – nutrition, what they can and cannot take at certain ages, consistencies, and oh yes, their likes and dislikes – when it comes to preparing meals for children.

My friend, Pooja of Linsiwolsie – mother to a beautiful one-year old, seasoned traveller and curator of all things pretty and creative – points me in the right direction. Keen on preparing tasty and healthy food for toddlers that withstands long and short journeys, Pooja invites me over to her home to join in the fun and reminds me of how wonderful it is to finally step into the kitchen, and to be back behind the lens.

Come on over and have a look at the first in this series of toddler-friendly recipes – cashew nut butter and honey on whole wheat bread.

Read on for my new journey as a mother and check out what I’ve been cooking and baking in my kitchen.

Oh, The English Summer

201301 BBQ in London 1

How I miss the English summer.

The cloudless skies, the burning sun, the warm breeze sans the humidity. The way it snuck up on us, just as we threw our hands up in despair and protested, ‘You call this bleak piece of sh*t summer, dammit?!’.

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I love the way we toiled through the bitter cold of winter and dragged our soaking wet boots through the black mush called s-n-o-w, just for one very cloudless, warm, snuggly day. I love the way that spring was practically non-existent and that everyone complained about it like they didn’t know better. Most of all, I love the way Londoners reacted to the rare burst of heat, the way every square feet of plump grass patches became precious commodity in Regents Park, Hyde Park…and the odd island at the traffic lights.

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There is just something so magical about the English summer, a season that I took for granted as I was born and raised in the tropics. M and I used to celebrate those warm days with barbecue-offs on our shoebox of a balcony when we lived in London. There were a few things that had to go on the menu. Mozzarella, tomato and basil salad drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, accented with a good dash of capers and sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Homemade pork belly satay and satay sauce made with a killer secret recipe from my mother. Crisp romaine lettuce salad with pomodoro tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. Sometimes, we would cheat and do cola ribs for that instant caramel-y hit. Other times, we would tuck into M’s favourite BBQ whole chicken. And we always had wine.

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We often had friends over to join in the fun. But really, my favourite summer days were spent with M and M alone, as the charcoal turned amber, as we toasted marshmallows in the twilight, as we wound down for the day with the last glass of wine and idle chatter.

Yes, how I miss our English summer.

Check out what’s cooking in my kitchen!

Also check out my other food adventures.

Homemade Bak Kwa (Barbecued Pork Jerky)

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After five long years in London, I’m finally back in Singapore, just in time for reunion dinner on the eve of Lunar New Year.

I am beyond excited. Not so much for meeting nosey people at gatherings, and giving red packets (being married also means I no longer qualify for shamelessly parking at random houses for red packets from strangers who clearly dread to see me), but I am thrilled to be spending the Lunar New Year with my folks and siblings, and I am keen to carve out new traditions with my husband and baby girl.

Before our daughter came along, M and I made up certain Lunar New Year traditions in London. We were very homesick and often rallied friends to ignite the good cheer that each New Year brought. We would host a steamboat reunion dinner with massive piles of sliced meats and vegetables, and inhale these after dipping them into divine sauces (often concocted with Sha Cha sauce, sesame paste, chilli paste, chopped coriander and raw eggs). We would bring out the games table and play Monopoly or poker (and very occasionally mahjong) whilst watching Stephen Chow comedies. I would makepineapple tarts, kueh bangkit, cornflake caramel drops and even clementine macarons for our friends to snack on. We also made sure to do a proper spring clean, arrange stalks of pussy willow in the only vase we own, and put up chun lien (New Year couplets) on the walls. We would have friends over for more steamboat dinners throughout the fifteen days of Lunar New Year, and we would head out to Min Jiang at the Royal Garden Hotel for yusheng and Peking duck. No Lunar New Year was complete without a trip to Chinatown in London, to take in a little of the festivities, jostle with the crowds and admire the rows and rows of Lanterns overlooking Gerrard Street.

Gosh, I miss those times.

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I also craved for certain foods that we couldn’t quite get in London, bak kwa (Chinese barbecued pork jerky) for instance. I missed being greeted by wafts of smokey meat on the barbecue, sinking my teeth into ‘em chewy, sticky slices, and licking remnants of that addictive sweet-savoury caramel off my fingers. What did I do then, to satisfy the craving? Why, I made bak kwa from scratch of course! The husband thought I was a little crazy but he was happy that I did! It turned out to be really easy, the marinade was simple enough (I omitted certain ingredients that I couldn’t get in London and improvised) and all we needed to do was to finish the slices off on the barbecue! I wouldn’t go as far as to say that they were authentic, but the homemade bak kwa came pretty close to the real thing.

I don’t know if anyone cares for the recipe; if you do, please comment away*! Bak kwa costs an arm and a leg in the days leading up to Lunar New Year, and I would make them again if I weren’t busy taking care of my daughter and finding time to brush my teeth.

Ahhh…the days when I could find the energy to cook anything and everything. Oh well, the time will come.

Check out what’s cooking in my kitchen!

Also check out my other food adventures.

*UPDATED with recipe:

Homemade Bak Kwa

500g minced pork
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 tablespoons unrefined granulated sugar (regular sugar will do, I used this because I had spare unrefined sugar in my pantry)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon shao xing wine
1 tablespoon kecap manis
1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
1/4 teaspoon dark soy sauce
Red liquid food colouring (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 120 degrees Celsius.
2. Mix all ingredients together until well-combined.
3. Place the meat mixture onto a piece of baking parchment that is cut to be slightly larger than your oven tray.
4. Place a piece of cling film on top of the meat mixture and roll out the mixture with a rolling pin until 3-4mm thick. The cling film will prevent the meat from sticking to the rolling pin. Then, gently hold up the sides of the parchment and lay it on the oven tray.
5. Remove cling film and grill in the oven for 17 minutes (I used the fan assisted grill function). This dries up the meat a little so that the final product wouldn’t be too soft. Turn the temperature up to 170 degree Celsius and grill for another 10 minutes; this cooks the meat. You may then choose to char the meat at 200 degrees Celsius for 3 minutes or to finish it off on a charcoal BBQ. I prefer the BBQ as it gives the smokey flavour characteristic of bak kwa. Cool the meat down till desired temperature, cut into slices and serve. Do adjust your grilling times according to your oven idiosyncrasies to fine-tune the texture of your bak kwa.

The recipe is rather versatile and you can tweak the quantities of the seasoning to obtain a saltier or sweeter flavour.

Enjoy!

Florence Eats: Best Truffle Pasta at Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco

201301 Florence Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco

The world ends today*. I’m looking for the best dishes to tuck into before I croak. What do I go for?

Definitely the taglierini al tartufo (taglierini with fresh truffle) from the kitchens of Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco. It was so good, that we replicated this dish at home. Seductively heady and nutty, I couldn’t stop gushing over this rendition, much to the amusement of diners at the next table.

The pappardelle al cinghiale (wild boar ragu) comes a close second. I am not really into game, but this was smokey and very flavoursome, without being nauseatingly pungent (a smell that I have come to associate with game). The silky ribbons of pappardelle were the perfect accompaniment to the chunky wild boar sauce.

I’m a pasta aficionado, so I would do away with the roast meats and so-so desserts at Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco, and hit the streets for some good ol’ gelato!

*No, the world isn’t really going to end today….well, I wouldn’t know, would I?!

Check out our trip to Pisa and other adventures in Florence!

Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco is located at:

Borgo San Jacopo, 62r
50125 Firenze, Italia

Florence Eats: A Very Quick (and Cheap!) Bite

Let me put it this way…there is waaaay too much good food in Florence. We were spoilt for choice and I would have hoovered every pasta dish that I came across on the menus, if not for the fact that there is such a thing as a satiable appetite, even for a glutton like me.

Every meal in our itinerary was accounted for, but S from Breadetbutter urged us to try the sandwiches at Il Fratellini, a hole-in-the-wall kiosk that offers delectable yet affordable sandwiches and a good selection of wine, so  of course we HAD to have tea.

Now, I ain’t a fan of sandwiches, having once lived in London for too long and grazed on good and bad ones for a fair number of years. But this was DA BOMB. Warm crusty, yet fluffy bread with prosciutto arrosto and smothered in crema tartufata (roast pork ham with truffle cream) for only €3! Very good indeed. I mean, just look at the truffle cream oozing out of the sandwich! I regret to inform you that my husband devoured most of it. Tsk tsk.

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Check out our trip to Pisa and other adventures in Florence!

Il Fratellini is located at:

Via dei Cimatori 38/r
50122 Firenze

Florence Eats: The Great Gelato Battle

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One of the greatest pilgrimages that we made in Florence was to various gelaterias to fill our jelly bellies with scoops and scoops of gelato.

I wasn’t interested in wasting sacred room in my tummy, and calories, so I looked to Breadetbutter for her recommendations on various gelateria she visited in Florence, and to the hotel concierge, Andreas, for his favourite shop in town.

Amidst all the steaks and pastas that we tried to fit into our pits, we could only drop by three. All are well worth a visit, although there are some differences that made my favourite stand out a little.

(Anticlockwise from top)

1. Perché no!

The gelateria is a tiny little thing tucked away in a small street in town, but packs a power punch in certain rather innovative flavours. I had the hazelnut and sesame flavours, hazelnut being my staple at any gelateria and sesame being a fascinating combination of chestnut honey, sesame caramel and mozzarella. The hazelnut was a little icy, much to my disappointment (it could be a batch problem, because streams and streams of people were coming in to check out their favourite gelateria). Sesame, on the other hand, knocked my socks off! It was creamy, very nutty, and well-texturised with crunchy specks of sesame caramel without being the least bit cloying. YUM. M, a fan of citrusy notes, was floored by the extremely tangy lemon flavour. Let’s just say that the lemon is so tangy, that I’m pretty sure it moves mountains…and chronically Botox-ed faces.

Via Tavolini 19r50122 Firenze

2. Gelateria La Carraia

This was the first gelateria we visited, after our steak dinner at Osteria del Caffe Italiano. The long walk from the osteria, across the Amo River, and finally, to the shop gave us plenty of time to digest the cow we had devoured. I went for the chocolate and hazelnut flavours; they were delightfully creamy but were unfortunately a little too sweet for me. I wish I had room to try more flavours before passing a verdict, for there was a painfully large crowd at the gelateria, a testament to how good the gelato is touted to be.

Piazza N. Sauro 25/r50124 Firenze

3. Vivoli

Andreas, the cheerful concierge at NH Porta Rossa, let us in on his favourite gelateria, and boy, were we glad to hunt it down on our last day in the city. It is a shame that we didn’t drop by sooner as Vivoli is just a stone’s throw from Osteria del Caffe Italiano, the restaurant we visited on our first night in Florence. This gelateria houses a good number of seats, and quickly won us over with the best gelato we have ever had. Perfectly creamy, clean flavours done to the perfect sweetness…do you need a better reason to check this gelateria out? I’m very partial to the hazelnut over here, by the way.

Via dell’Isola delle Stinche 7r, 50122 Firenze

Check out our trip to Pisa and other adventures in Florence!

Florence Eats: I Didn’t Know My Husband Is A Carnivore

The shadows fled the city of Pisa and descended upon Firenze, prowling the cobbled alleys in search of flesh and blood…

Oh, alright…who am I fooling? We were nothing like ghouls and vamps, but we were certainly making a hasty beeline for a bloody (no pun intended) good Florentine steak dinner. After checking into NH Porta Rossa, we wandered down the street, awestruck by the architecture before getting lost at the rather worn-out end of Via della Vigna Vecchia. It was pretty dark in the alleys after the sun set, with the meagre number of street lamps in that area. At the risk of sounding like a complete chicken, I was convinced we were going to be killed by someone…or something. I was starting to hurl expletives at my friend for recommending this restaurant to us, when we circled the peeling block for the 163rd time and finally found the osteria.

The restaurant was empty. I thought we were done for but decided we should give the food a chance as the friend who recommended the restaurant used to be a chef. Also, Italians don’t go for dinner till late in the night, unlike us who were right on time (London time, that is…) to fill our bellies. We sat down and hoped for a meal so good that it would make up for all the worries about getting killed.

Now, we did have an excellent dinner. The crostini was lovely, especially when piled on high with nutty cannellini. The buffalo mozzarella was such a delectable, creamy incarnate of perfection that it was almost worth getting killed for one sinful bite. The tomatoes in the salad couldn’t get any sweeter, or fresher. And the steak, oh that divine piece of meat! We devoured a massive 1.3kg porterhouse and drew astonished/disgusted/I-don’t-know glances from other diners. Well, M had the most of it; whilst I was quite taken by how succulent and tasty the steak was, I couldn’t quite stomach more of it as the hunk of meat looked too rare for a visual eater like me. M was delighted of course, he didn’t have to fight his wife over the other love of his life! I sat through most of the meal, watching in awe as M alternated shoving morsels of steak and sipping Chianti like a well-oiled eating machine. Amazing but scary, the feat and my husband, that is….

We finished our first Florentine dinner off with a romantic walk across Ponte Santa Trinita for some gelato, naturally, feeling really quite chuffed that we made it out of the alleys alive, and more importantly, that my husband’s love for giant hunks of juicy steak, could explain his tall stature. Hmmm. We learn something new everyday.

Check out our trip to Pisa and other adventures to follow in Florence!

Osteria del Caffe Italiano is located at:

Via Isola delle Stinche 11/13r, Firenze

Tel. +39 055 28 90 20

A Sweet Farewell to London…and Some News

I’ve procrastinated long enough on this teeny announcement. Or two teeny announcements, if you will. Some of you, whom I know personally, are already in the loop but I thought eight months is a long time to go on the blog without actually talking about it even in the most cryptic manner, so it is time to spill the beans. I had wanted to protect my privacy and keep the news all to my selfish self. The last I heard though, some naysayers have already caught wind of this anyway and I’ve been told by my loved ones that I should share the news because readers (who are still sticking around…I’m very happy to know you are, given that I barely wrote anything in the first three-quarter of 2012) would want to know, so here goes…

…I’ve moved back from London to Singapore for good, since eight months ago…and…I’m pregnant!

After five long years in London, I’m finally back home. Suffice to say that everything and yet nothing has changed since 2007. Suffice to say that I’ve done a whole lot of growing up in the UK, seen countless beautiful sceneries whilst travelling, made the most wonderful friends in the five years, tasted a decent portion of good food, started a blog that I thought no one would want to read, cooked/baked/photographed/styled my way from complete noob to amateur-amateur, interacted with the most amazing chefs, built a home from scratch (literally) and learnt a hell lot on ‘How to Live Life to the Fullest, Responsibly So 101′. I also found time to fall deeper in love with my best friend, get married, graduate with a doctorate and have a baby.

London is a big part of my life.

When it came down to the last second, to leave my home of five bittersweet years, I was devastated. The exit from London was pretty hasty. I quit my job, found out I was expecting (and hence decided that I should return to Singapore prematurely to prepare for delivery, I was supposed to leave London only in the summer of 2012), moved to Boston for six weeks as M was posted to Harvard, flew back to London for a night, switched my bags out for summer clothing and everything that I might need back home before speeding back to Singapore the next day. I didn’t really have time to say goodbye. To-date, I still keep the bucket list I had drafted for London and I hope that I will be able to return to the city one day to check the items off the list. I couldn’t even attend the Olympics events that I had bought tickets for.

The next months went by in a blur. There was so much to do with my relocation. I had to get my accounts, documents and life in order. I missed M terribly when he returned to London to finish up his studies. I went through pregnancy alone, save for support from my family and in-laws. None of the relocation bit, physical or emotional, was easy. The days started looking brighter when M came back, triumphant as a fully-qualified doctor after five gruelling years in med school. He packed up our flat in London as hastily as I had left UK, attended his graduation ceremony with his parents but without a very pregnant me, flew back to my arms in Singapore, sorted out whatever I couldn’t handle and supported me through the last trimester.

We had a heart-to-heart talk yesterday night before we fell asleep at 3.30am. It’s been a while since we chatted this much, for four hours in fact. And we both realised how different life is in Singapore. London was a dream. We lived life to the fullest, laughed and cried the hardest, seen the best and went through the worst. It was a city where we grew up the most as individuals and as a couple. It was our first real home together. Coming back to Singapore makes for an almost surreal dive back into reality, where we are suddenly challenged with obligations and responsibilities to others other than two of us, issues to do with fitting into the local culture and soon-to-be parenthood. Even though Singapore is our home, we haven’t got the slightest inkling as to what lies ahead and we will need to do to rise up to the challenges. One thing’s for sure; we are back now and we will make our lives here work. We will carve out new memories, strive towards new goals and conjure new dreams.

To celebrate the chapter that was London, and welcome the new that is Singapore, I prepared my very first dessert table before I left UK. I was challenged in every way, as I have been during my life in London. Different pastries and desserts to make on limited resources, thinking about what really mattered to me that would fit in with the theme, and putting it all together so it makes sense and gives heart. So there you have it, a blue-white-red presentation of a Victoria sponge, Marmite cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and macarons with rose buttercream, a true culmination of something that is quintessentially English, a little bit of what I have learnt to love and another that is a little cosmopolitan owing to the time I spent in Europe. I’ve also scattered the cards, letters, notes and gifts from family and friends around the entire dessert table just for…the two of us to enjoy. Shame I couldn’t offer the sweets to anyone else. Oh well, maybe next time.

Happy homecoming to us, and may we meet again, my fair London.

*Updated: This post is featured on Tastespotting. Check out my profile on  Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Read on for my new journey as a mother.

Like my bakes? Then check out my other sweet adventures in the kitchen!

Decorating at Bea’s of Bloomsbury

You know that I have a rather hefty backlog when I write about something that happened…(more than) a year ago. I’m truly embarrassed but erm, better late than never right? Right.

I have been rather busy, just not in the kitchen, unfortunately; for the record, I’ve only baked thrice this year, all for M’s birthday. Lately, a spin round the bakeries had me thinking about cakes again. Baking remains very much a passion of mine, and I do hope to do it on a more regular basis when I have the time and resources. Nailing recipes for the right taste and texture aside, I do love to try and churn out pretty treats, something that I don’t achieve very often with my meagre talent for craft. As such, I have always yearned to attend a decorating course to help me along but these are often costly ventures that add up and being a miserly self-taught baker, I dropped the idea very quickly.

I was thus absolutely delighted when E invited me for a cupcake decorating class at Bea’s of Bloomsbury. She had won four passes and thanks to her, I got to attend my very first decorating class! I made my way to the bakery at Holborn on a weekday, eagerly anticipating the lesson to come. We were going to learn all about buttercreams, ganaches, and decorating techniques; all these fitted perfectly into my agenda. I was also excited to get to see and work in a professional kitchen.

We took down recipes on how to create the perfect frosting, made our own piping bags, practised writing with ganache, and of course, worked on perfecting rosettes and what-not on the cupcakes. I haven’t got the piping perfect, but oh well, I had loads of fun decorating my cupcakes! We even got to take two dozen of these babies home (vanilla and chocolate ones, smothered in an assortment of dark chocolate ganache, praline Italian buttercream and raspberry Italian buttercream). I particularly enjoyed the chocolate cupcakes, which were moist, very dark and chocolatey, yet fluffy. The frostings were wonderfully light and not the least bit cloying – my colleagues were a big fan of the raspberry buttercream, while I loved the praline.

Now, all this talk about baking and decorating is making my stomach groan. Excuse me while I go rummage in my kitchen for some emergency sweet treats, before somebody gets hurt.

*Updated: This post is featured on Tastespotting. Check out my profile on  Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.