Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Power Chendol @ Jin Jin Hot / Cold Dessert (津津冷热饮品) - ABC Brickworks Hawker Centre (Behind IKEA Alexandra)

When i last had dinner at ABC market a few months back, Kon took the liberty to order a lot of food after a fun-filled yet tiring day at Universal Studios Singapore.

One of the many things we had was this marvellous chendol that i personally felt should be awarded as the best chendol i ever have (at least for Singapore).

It's not hard to see why; the generous layer of thick gula melaka on a tower of shaved ice! Most local dessert vendors give way too much coconut milk and at the same time, stinge on gula melaka (which is Malay for palm sugar).

I am not that superficial to be sold completely by the chocolatey brown gula melaka. Once you break apart the outer layer, the internal structure is almost powder like, turning into liquid form rapidly once it reaches the mouth.

Ingredients are basically the same; attap chee (nipah seeds), red beans, green rice flour jelly. Basic is not necessarily bad since it does preserve the original goodness of the dessert.

Before i try the rumoured epic chendol at Malacca, this cold dessert from Jin Jin Hot / Cold Dessert shall remain the best.

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Location
6 Jalan Bukit Merah, #01-20,
ABC Brickworks Food Centre

Price
Power Chendol - S$1.50

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Upper Seletar Reservoir Fishing Ground [Calming of The Stressed Up Mind]

The only reason why i have to wake up early on weekdays is purely out of necessity; work that pays me money to pay my bills, my expenses and allowance to my mom.

On weekends, i would try to sleep in although i would at times pull myself out of bed to participate in activities like stoning (due to a lack of sleep) in front of a natural morning view like the above.

This place, Upper Seletar Reservoir Fishing Ground, is actually my favourite spot for stoning in the early morning after sending the asshole Alex to work; i find it really hard to fall asleep again when the sun is up.

I am no fisherman and prefer to let other people do the job so that i can have fish on the dining table. Patience has never been my virtue.

My routine is pretty simple; sit on any of these benches after i park my car illegally by the side of the bus bay. This is one of the rare moments i crave for a cigarette after kicking this unhealthy habit for nine years.

The number of anglers patiently waiting for their catch, the panoramic misty view of upper seletar reservoir, the cool and fresh morning air, the peacefulness of the environment - these factors calm my mind.

I would then proceed nearer to the bank side and every time; i wonder why some people love to fish. I find it cruel to hook a fish and subject it to extreme agony even though i have no qualms in eating them, regardless of the killing methods. Ironic but true.

But there's more to the fishing ground. Monkeys happily goof around with many eyeing your food and drinks! Remember, feeding a monkey in Singapore is illegal unless you are in the Singapore's Zoo.

There are also patches of glistening white stuff on the grass!

They are actually spider webs that look extremely pretty due to the morning dew. Since i don't see them in the later part of the day, I wonder if their life span is less than a day and whether they are of a certain species.

Most likely, i would be able to catch the rising sun. This place is in fact pretty good to catch sunrise and sunset; albeit not in their full glory!

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To get to the fishing ground, you may drive your own car or board bus no 138 from Ang Mo Kio Bus Terminal. This bus goes to the Singapore's Zoo and the fishing ground is one of the many stops.

For those who wish to embark on angling and would like to know the kind of fish that is edible in the reservoir, click the above picture.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Artichoke Cafe + Bar @ Sculpture Square near Bugis (Corner of Waterlook & Middle Road)

Sinfully rich desserts were on our minds when we exited from a divine meal (note: shake aburi maki) at the standing sushi bar!

It's unanimous we didn't want desserts from a typical coffee parlour like the nearby Coffee Club and it was fate that eventually brought us to Artichoke at Sculpture Square.

Serving the not-commonly-seen-in-Singapore Moorish cuisine, i totally dig Artichoke's decor; free will with no strict rule that every table, every chair has to be of the same design.

Even the white walls are replaced with blackboards and their purpose is clear - additional writing space for stuff like special dishes not on the menu, their food philosophies etc.

Menu was given but we did not fully utilise it! Those special items on the blackboards seem more interesting and after a lot of deliberation, only one dish was from the menu.

Homemade Baklava
Let me give you the layman term; nuts-filled pastry with a scoop of ice cream. To Cavin, ingredients are useless if i could not accept the taste.

The taste of the pastry was almost like a less compacted Chinese peanut candy albeit with a spicy aftertaste to match its Arabic origin. The gelato had an appetising salty sensation to it although i don't remember any trace of orange blossom as mentioned on the menu.

Brownie with Mascarpone
I wouldn't know what a mascarpone is even if it slaps me across my face. But thanks to google and subsequently wikipedia, it is actually "Italian cheese made from cream, coagulated with citric acid or acetic acid".

This vanilla bean mascarpone topping is perfect for the super moist brownie that sat on a comfortable layer of melted valrhona dark chocolate! And no brownie lovers can fight the temptation of brain shaped fresh walnuts sprinkled outside AND to find whole hazelnuts hidden inside the brownie!

Looking back, this has to be the best of all brownies i ever have.

Pastitsio
(feeds 2-3 pax)
As taken from the blackboard, this is greek style baked mac and cheese with oxtail sauce, kasseri cheese, white truffle oil and rocket (arugula).

I have never known anything with macaroni to taste so rich - no doubt the magic of oxtail sauce mixed with white truffle oil.

And the generous amount of tender oxtail left a deep impression on me - how could something that sound so disgusting taste so good? Wait, smelly tofu is delicious!

Overall, this was..... so fulfilling and i basically threw away my mission that day; which was to cut down on heavy main meals after 6pm! And this was after a light dinner at standing sushi bar!

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Location
161 Middle Road (within Sculpture Square, which is beside Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, NAFA)

Map
As taken from the name card.

Reservation
6336-65949

Price
Homemade Baklava - S$15.00
Brownie with Mascarpone - S$10.00
Pastitsio - S$38.00

Subject to Service Charge only.

Additional Information
Should you prefer the great outdoors for a more artsy fartsy ambience (not for those with night blindness), you may wish to note that an outside area with standing fans is available.

Please visit http://www.artichoke.com.sg/ for other basic information (opening hours etc).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day Trip to Pengerang (邊佳蘭頭灣), Johor (Malaysia)

Judging from the questions received from fellow Singapore residents who have never been to pengerang, i think it would be good to blog on my day trip to this relatively unknown place in nearby Johor province of Malaysia.

Let me bring you back to 13 November 2011; a rare Sunday when i was unceremoniously pulled out of my cozy bed at 4.45am to get ready for the trip!

Dawn has barely started her day when we reached Changi Point ferry terminal. I was hungry for breakfast but since none of my relatives and family appeared to feel the same way; i figured i could afford to wait till we reach Malaysia.

Bumboat service to Pengerang starts officially at 7am and you are required to hand over your passport for custom registration. At S$10 per ride per person, the bumboat operator will only leave if the capacity of twelve passengers is filled. Note the words "No Fixed Departure Time"! 

In the frustrating situation where you have waited for far too long, you just need to pay the operator the equivalence of twelve passengers and the bumboat is ready to go.

See that hill at the horizon? That's pengerang. It looks pretty near yet it took us one gruelling hour to reach! I was so bored with nothing to do as i am prone to motion sickness and could not afford to risk spoiling the day with continuous spells of giddiness by playing iPhone games and reading books.

Interior of the bumboat - i guess the maximum capacity of twelve persons is for safety reason since there is definitely enough space to squeeze in more passengers.

This was almost forty minutes into our slow moving ride.

Finally!!! At this point, my uncle took the opportunity to ask the operator if we could make a reservation for our return ride. This move proved to be really beneficial at the end of the day as there were so many people waiting for a ferry to get back to Singapore.

Besides a small convenience shop located within the ferry terminal (or dock), there is no other commercial area! Walking a few kilometers to the nearby Sungai Rengit town was not an option. We had no choice but to book a taxi (that can seat 4 adults) for the whole day at RM 90 (roughly S$40).

First stop - an amazingly small Chinese temple! Chinese familiar with the classical novel "Journey to The West" will find this temple similar to the one Sun Wu Kong transformed into in his great battle with Erlang deity.

Size aside, i love the peaceful surrounding devoid of any beachgoers and tall buildings. City life can be really frustrating and despite my usual noisy behaviour, i do enjoy quiet moments like this.

Coming back to the cute little temple, it has a history spanning more than a hundred years and with reference to a document i found on the web, it worships Ma Zu (goddess of the sea) and Tua Pek Kong.

I am a frequent patron of Chinese temples (thanks to mom) but this is definitely the first time i am seeing a dragon-headed dagger (knife) in the incense urn!

Located next to the temple is a shack that could probably serve as sleeping quarter for the temple's caretaker. Either that or it's a play house for the kids living next door.

Sungai Rengit town! We actually visited another temple and were on schedule to visit a third temple when my cousin and i protested that we could not take the emptiness in our stomachs anymore!!!

Malaysian style wanton noodles that were surprisingly not impressive.

Wife's biscuits (老婆饼) was recommended under "what to buy" in the wikitravel's page on pengerang and the best place to purchase them is from this shop called Kedai Kek Lim Choo Seng (聚成中西饼店) at sungai rengit town.

With only two main streets, it was not difficult to find our way to the shop which is opposite the only Marrybrown fast food restaurant in town.

Lim Choo Seng's main business is Chinese pastries and there was quite a comfortable variety to choose from.

Some, like their signature wife's biscuits, are freshly made in the shop while some are imported from other parts of Malaysia. For wife's biscuits, there are two types available for sale; big wife and small wife (in manadarin, small wife means concubine).

Traditional glass containers for biscuits! It's been so long since i last touched these! Those with peanuts are terrible heaty and i risk having a sore throat every time i lack the conviction to stop crunching them in my mouth.

Mom was holding the big wife's biscuit for comparison sake and as you could see, it was as big as my mom's head! I should have taken a bite then as my younger sister happily finished it the next day... =(

While strolling on the other side of the road (otherwise known as marrybrown side), a whiff of pancake fragrance hit our nose and we stopped precariously by the road side - undecided if we should buy some given our not too long ago breakfast.

F*ck it - it's only RM1.50 for the peanut pancake! An equivalent size will sell for S$2 in Singapore and i am a sucker when it comes to such good deals!

Big pancakes are usually not my preferred type as i tend to feel shortchanged on the fillings (would likely ingest 90% flour, 10% filling). But this one was well balanced in the proportion and definitely one of the better pancakes i have.

Spotted this old school brick game console at one of the shops! Once upon a time, you will catch people playing this on the trains and buses!

Another temple; albeit a more famous one. With mom, temple visits are part and parcel for any overseas trip.

Patron deity is again Mazu, the goddess of sea. As the fastest way to travel to Southeast Asia back in the early twentieth century is by water (oceans, seas and rivers), many Chinese emigrants pray to Mazu for a safe journey and this has resulted in many temples worshipping her.

Situated right in front of the temple is this muddy river. It would be befitting to have the temple facing the sea, just like the first temple we visited in the beginning of this post.

Living in land scarce Singapore means that many kampong (village) dwellers were faced to evict for needed development in the 80s and 90s. I was one of them and the house in this photograph bears an uncanny resemblance to the old house we had in the Nee Soon area.

Next desination was ostrich farm. You can read more here.

The highlight of the trip; a sumptuous seafood lunch at good luck restaurant! Click here for more information on what we had.

While on our way to a shop that sells live seafood, we chanced upon this modern building that seems grossly out of place.

You get my picture?

When i was still living in the kampong, it's common to find people selling provisions from the comfort of their own house. In this case, bubble milk tea.

We didn't manage to purchase any seafood (everything was sold out) although we did manage to get to the town centre of Sungai Rengit again; the seafood restoran is within walking distance!

Saw a water lizard on our way back to the ferry terminal - my family used to catch this in our village back when wildlife cuisine was still legal in the Singapore market.

Saying our goodbye to Pengerang! Will i be back? Probably for the lobsters and wife's biscuits!

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