Sunday, January 31, 2010

Off Peak Car (OPC)

I am not ashamed to tell people i drive a red-plate car (which is synonymous with off peak car) for the following reasons:

1) I use my own piggy bank money to pay for the instalments (though my parents paid the hefty downpayment)

2) I survive quite comfortably without the need to be tied down by excessive motor debts

3) Driving a black plate (normal car scheme) means i will spend more on fuel, carpark and ERP charges, not to mention the higher road tax.

4) It can be really stressful when driving to and fro from work, especially with jams being more and more common nowadays!!

5) Time spent driving on the roads can be better used for watching video, playing games or reading newspapers/books on the public transport like trains and buses.

Two weeks back, the old off peak scheme deterred me from driving on Saturday or eves of five public holidays in Singapore, until after 3pm.

That's two weeks ago.

Thanks to some higher beings in the gahmen (singlish for government), OPC owners are given an option to pay a slightly higher road tax to start driving their heavily-mocked red-plate cars on Saturday and eves of the five public holidays!!

And the best thing, i am the beneficiary of such scheme!!

Total damage?
S$121
($100 is the hefty service fee and $21 for the increased road tax).

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Japanese Sweets @ Nippon-Ya (ION Orchard)

I bought a few tins of sweets as Christmas gifts from this newly opened Japanese sweets shop in Ion Ochard. I was attracted due to its retro packaging (nice mh) but was surprised by the marvelous taste!!

The first suck:
it was not overly sweet.

The second suck:
it had a certain fragrance, like a very mild perfume.

The third suck:
for flavours like rose, there were rose petals encapsulated within the sweet!!

These were totally beyond my expectations. The orignal natural notion that all sweets were super sugar laden was thrown out the moment i had these sweets swirling in my mouth.

For these particular tins of sweets, I have tried Strawberry Milk, Rose Drops and Lavender. Other flavours are available and i will try them in due course. The most popular flavour (according to the service personnel) is the wine flavour.

At S$5.30 for one tin weighing 85 grams, they were not cheap but it beats travelling to Japan every time you crave one. And i am pretty confident i will be back soon to purchase other made-in-japan products like mochi, bread, pudding, jelly etc etc!!

Location
Ion Orchard (next to Orchard MRT Station), B4-13 or
The Central (above Clark Quay MRT Station), B1-39.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Divine Vegetarian Family Restaurant (添欣素食园) @ Hougang, Singapore

Every month without fail, there will be two days that staunch semi- staunch (since staunch Buddhists are supposed to go on a non-meat diet at all times) Buddhists in Singapore have no meat in their meals; one is the 1st day of the lunar month and the second being the 15th day of the lunar month.

Today, it is the 15th of the lunar month (which means there will be a full moon!) and I was coerced to have a vegetarian breakfast with my family. For a person like me who adores meat and has not had vegetarian food for a long time, it’s a FML situation!!!

Okay, not really… since I don’t really mind any food, so long it is tasty by my standard. Yes, my standard, not yours!!! :P

Going on, my elder sister brought me to this popular restaurant located in Hougang, by the name of Divine Vegetarian Family Restaurant. By divine, i deduce that either the food is damn good or I am going to the heavenly realm AFTER eating the food.

Famous for its full vegetarian menu and the wide variety of vegetarian food selection, you can select from the mixed vegetables rice stall and the tze-char stall which whips up hor-fun, fishball noodles, kway chap, mee goreng, tom yam soup and even a freaky nice & crispy roti prata!!

Here’s what we had.


Mine
This is what I chose; a self-selected bee hoon with vegetarian char siew, vegetarian sweet and sour pork and a vegetables-based spring roll!!

Although the char siew was good, nothing beats the one my mom cooked!! Okay, maybe the char siew made in one of the Buddhist temples located in Sembawang can beat my mom’s version.

The spring roll was filled with the fragrance of mushrooms and turnips. And the ‘skin’ was fried just right; crispy and not oily.

My Sister
She ordered fishball noodles!

One amazing thing about this dish was the generous serving of vegetarian pork lard!! It’s amazing how alike they were! The taste was not too bad but I will prefer the real thing anytime!

=======

Location
Block 356, Hougang Avenue 7, #01-803.

Additional Information
Be prepared for crowds if you visit this restaurant during the 1st and 15th of the lunar month!!

Contrary to its name, the correct setting is coffee shop, not restaurant. Hence, don’t expect air-conditioning and cushy, leather seats!!!

Nothing is perfect in his imperfect world, judging from my mom's selection of stir-fried pumpkins, lady fingers which were really "ugh".

Be Your Own Judge.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rubee's Currency

Seriously, Rubee deserves to have his face on the currency. I am not going to be ambitious here, a US $1 is what i am thinking for.

A picture has been meticulously selected for its honourable placing on the note; white hair, aged look, eyebrows sprouting out and no smile.

Perfect!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cheese Fan (大理乳扇) @ Yunnan, China

Whenever i was recollecting my first trip to China, one particular delicacy never failed to activate my salivary glands.

This delicious snack originated from the minority Bai tribe in Dali, a place in Yunnan and is called "乳扇"; so named because it is made of milk and resembles a bamboo-made folding fan. 

When you are in a foreign place and realise a lot of shops are selling a specific kind of food, the chance is high that it is the local delicacy. That's exactly what happened when i was touring the old town of Dali! I sourced around and finally found one stall that proudly proclaimed to be the best!

"Toasted" over a pot of charcoal, the strips of cheese were smeared with rose sugar and wrapped round a bamboo stick.

In that cool March weather of roughly 10-15 degrees celcius, the slightly-charred melty cheese proved to be a warming factor and the fragrant rose sugar left a superb aftertaste that made you crave for more of it!!!!

If not for the limited time (as usual), i would have bought a few sticks for snacking in the cold night!

*Note*
I tried this same snack in Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan.
Disappointing!! The taste was just not right!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Crabs - The Best Way to Cook Them

What's the best way to cook a crab?

From my previous makan (food) postings, it may imply that crabs in butter are my favourite but i beg to differ. My favourite style of cooking a crab is.............

Steamed.

Mundane? Definitely.
Common? No doubt about that.

So? I still think steamed is the best way of cooking a crab! Tear away the hardy shell (which can take a while depending on your skills; i prefer to use my metal teeth), and you will find meat that is so sweet, so delicious that you wouldn't mind the fishy smell stuck to your fingers!! 

As with any seafood, freshness is the key to its taste. In a way, sauces and spices can enhance the flavour. However, in order to savour its pure sweetness and salty flavour, seafood is best eaten steamed.

Argumentative i know. 

Want to have the true taste? Eat it raw. At least that's what i have heard before. Well, face it. To each his/her own!!!

*meixin, please help me thank your mom again for the bag of steamed crabs!!!!*

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Eighteen Chefs @ Yishun Ten

I know there are eighteen luohans (arhats) of a buddhist origin but who are the "good" eighteen chefs??

If i had been an avid reader for Jin Yong books (famous for his wuxia novels), i would have associated this eighteen chefs with some kind of chivalrous gang in the dynastic era that takes pride of their combined culinary skills with superb, sky-flying marital arts.

It's not to be. Except for its culinary skills.
And i don't think there are 18 chefs in that limited kitchen area.

Despite the above, we have to patronise in order to know how good (or how bad) an eatery is.

The ordering system here is similar to the Cafe Cartel; you write your order on an order form, make payment at the cashier, collect your cutlery and wait for your food.

Pretty simple?

It is, provided you are getting ala-carte items.

Eighteen chefs (i am calling it 18 chefs; too lazy to type the e-i-g-h-t-e-e-n) has this special menu item called "Be Your Own Chef".

As the name suggests, you can choose the base (pasta, cheese rice etc), one of eight sauces and one of twelve ingredients, with an option (pay extra money) to add additional ingredients.

Not wanting to use my-terribly-over-used brain,
i chose ala-carte.

Ice Lemon Tea

The one here tasted suspiciously like the ice lemon tea from Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Not that i am complaining; i have always loved the ice lemon tea from KFC.

Chicken Soup

How many times have you tried a bowl of chicken soup that does not contain any chicken meat? Don't tell me it's the essence of chicken that we should be having (this can be easily done using Knorr chicken cubes).

I took pleasure in biting a few pieces of chicken meat while having a bowl of chicken soup; which was exactly what i experienced in 18 chefs!

EggsChipsBeansDogs

This is a really classic name for a dish that contained eggs, chips (fries), beans (baked beans) and dogs (hot dogs lah!).

With the exception of the eggs, the others were pretty normal. Alex said the baked beans were pretty good though.

Seafood Aglio Olio

One of my favourite pasta, seafood aglio olio is desirable due to its perceived "lightness". When the dish arrived, the first thing that attracted my senses was the delicious aroma.

The calamaris were cooked to just the right softness. And the prawns were really good! Anyone knows where to buy prawns that are partially white when cooked and have a really "crunchy" bite?

Now the pasta. Unlike other aglio olio i tried, the one here tasted more flavourful with lesser olive oil; the feeling it gave was almost like eating hokkien fried mee!

Nonetheless, the overall dish was delicious.

E18hteen Banana Explosion

First and foremost, do not expect 18 bananas (note the singular). There are no such good deal in Singapore at a price of just S$5.90!! Be realistic!!

In any case, this is a normal dessert that had 3 scoops of ice cream (two vanilla, one chocolate), diced up bananas (from one banana) and chocolate fudge.

I should have tried the recommended E18hteen Funky Strawberry!

 ========

The price breakdown as follows:
1) Eggschipsbeansdogs @ S$5.90
2) Seafood Aglio Olio @ S$12.90
3) E18hteen Banana Explosion @S$5.90
4) Combo A (Drink & a scoop of Ice Cream) @ S$2.50
5) Combo C (Drink, Chicken Soup & Garlic Bread) @ S$4.20
Plus GST @ 7%
Total: S$33.59

Location:
At Yishun Ten Cineplex, which is beside Northpoint Shopping Centre, which is across the road from Yishun MRT Station. In the event you need something more visual, please access streetdirectory.com and type "Yishun Ten".

Additional Information:
The owner of 18 chefs, Uncle Benny, is quite famous. Numerous newspapers have featured him as a local entrepreneur and he was the Yellow Ribbon Ambassador in 2007.

Uncle Benny used to work in "Fifteen", a world class restaurant owned by Jamie Oliver and that might explain why "18" is used partially as a namesake for his eatery.

Your first time eating at 18 chefs?
No problem! A friendly staff member will explain to you the ordering system (at least it helps to save some brain cells). 

Overall service was friendly and the food were served pretty fast!

Most importantly, especially for my Muslim friends,
Eighteen Chefs is a Muis-Certified Halal restaurant.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Windy Weather - The Return of Kite Flying

The Straits Times has written on this before. The once-popular hobby is making its comeback!

Yes people! I am talking about Kite Flying! The leisure activity that kids before the 1990s love to do!

Remember, it was the time when computer games were almost non-existent, handheld gaming devices were limited to the privileged few, shopping centres were concentrated at a few places (like Orchard) and some of us live in kampongs (villages) where greenery was everywhere!!

Anyway, the chilli-hot place to fly a kite (literally) in Singapore is the two huge plots of field near to Sengkang Sports Centre!

On weekends, you can see fathers bringing their families to these plots of land. Although it may seem pretty educational, i strongly believe the real motive is for the fathers to relive their childhood.


Regardless the reasons, it is quite a sight to see so many kites in the sky. And the design of the kite is no longer just quadrilateral!

Call me sua ku but they have become so attractive with so many different shapes, lengths and patterns!!! To think we used to make our own kites using paper, glue and some sticks!


With that, i cannot help but think how kites will look like 50 years from now!


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