Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The day is almost finally here! I spoke about Chowzter briefly here, when I mentioned the UK Sunday Times clip. This Friday 25 April I am flying to London for the Chowzter Awards!

Chowzter is gathering its chief chowzters (there are some 80 of us in total) for its first awards - The Tastiest Fast Feasts on Earth! Check out the 60 nominations - Singapore is one of five listed for "Foodiest City", and our Tian Tian Chicken Rice made it to the rice category. The results will be unveiled Sunday 27 April 2014.

It's going to be amazing meeting up with passionate foodies from all over the world. They've got a wonderful program lined up for us! Exploring markets, fish and chips, and the best steaks on the planet. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to see live updates!




Vancouver – Alaskan King Crab 5 Ways @ Dynasty





Berlin – Doner Kebab @ TBD

Sao Paulo – Mortadella Sandwich @ Hocca Bar


New Orleans – Fried Chicken @ Willie Mae’s Scotch House

Vancouver – Braised Duck with Mushrooms @ Dynasty


Vancouver – Sugar Buns @ Giovane Cafe






Jakarta – Crispy Pork Belly with Tamarind @ E & O







Monday, April 21, 2014

There are just so many things to do in life. Work, family, social activities, creative pursuits, sports, volunteering, activism, and hey, sleep (very important, but I get so little of it)!

Cooking is wonderful therapy. It's such a luxury to prepare and plate a beautiful dish. Some days you will be proud to spend the morning marketing for choice ingredients, pounding rempah from scratch, and slaving over a stove til the evening for a prize meal. But sometimes, you just want something fast, easy but tasty. And for that - one-dish meals are best.

I love a cheesy baked dish - potatoes, rice, pasta. Carb is comfort. But it's all the oozy melty cheese that does it for me. This is a simple gratin dish you can whip up anytime. It's so easy you can get kids to help you with the layering steps. Here are step-by-step photos, followed by full recipe at the end.

Ingredients for Garlicky Spinach Potato Gratin using Perfect Italiano Cheese
Perfect Italiano gave me their Mozzarella and Parmesan to use for this dish. The pre-grated mozzarella is convenient for when you want to use lots of cheese (and when you don't want another item, the grater, to wash later). And it melts so nicely without being too oily.

Sautee spinach with garlic
Preheat oven to 220 deg C. Sauté minced garlic in a bit of butter. Add spinach and stir-fry until leaves are just wilted.

Grease baking dish and layer with potato slices
Grease a baking dish with butter and put a layer of potato slices on it (about half the potatoes).

Spread the garlicky spinach on the potatoes
Spread the garlicky spinach on the potatoes. Enjoy the aroma.

Top it with both mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
Top it with Perfect Italiano Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Add nutmeg and pepper to the cream of mushroom soup
Add nutmeg and pepper to the cream of mushroom soup that's diluted with water or milk. I secretly like cream of mushroom, even if it's from a can (but strangely not cream of chicken, even if made from scratch). You can substitute the cream of mushroom with an equal amount of cream and milk.

Pour soup all over the layers
Lay the rest of the potatoes on top of the dish. Pour the soup mixture all over the layers. Out of curiosity, I tried the whole can, but this is clearly too much. It did make a nicely moist gratin, so feel free to adjust the liquid portion to your own liking.

Top off with more cheese!
Top off with more cheese! Yes, both, especially the grated Mozzarella!

The finished cheesy potato gratin
Bake in oven for about half an hour, or until the top is browned. You'll see it bubbling at the bottom. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Here's the full recipe (click to see full-size image, and to save offline or print).

Feel free to improvise with your own favourite ingredients. Check out my other recipe: the Easy Cheesy Chipotle Chicken Quesadillas!

You can go to Perfect Italiano for more recipes. Check out their other products too, like Perfect Bakes, and Pizza Plus!

This post was brought to you by Perfect Italiano

Who doesn't like a melty cheese treat? Quesadillas are quick and easy snacks to make - like a Mexican version of the grilled cheese sandwich. Quesa means cheese, so apart from that, you can experiment with any other ingredients to put in those flour tortillas. Here's one version I made, with chili beans, grilled chicken and chipotle pepper sauce. L'il bit smoky, l'il bit spicy, and a whole lotta fun. Full printable recipe is at the end.

Ingredients for cheesy chipotle chicken quesadilla

Most quesadilla recipes don't call for Mozzarella, but the Perfect Italiano Mozzarella here gives a nice stretchy and stringy effect. Adds to the fun experience, don't you think? I'd put Mozzarella in anything baked and cheesy. And because it comes already grated, it's really convenient. Use as much as you like, and you can store the remainder easily as the packaging comes with a "ziplock" feature.

The Perfect Italiano Parmesan adds a bold salty kick to complement the Mozzarella's mildness. Both are versatile on their own or used in combination.

The quesadillas are really easy to make. Here's how:

Grilled chicken marinated with salt, pepper and Tabasco Chipotle Pepper sauce

1. Marinate chicken for half an hour or overnight (that's best). Grill them in the oven until nicely browned. Slice when cool.

Toast the wraps in a non-stick pan

2. Lightly butter the wraps and toast it on one side in a non-stick pan (I love my new ceramic pans from ToTT!). You can toast them as full or half moon slices (I was playing around to see what was best). Leave one side untoasted (that will be the side you toast after you put in the ingredients). For extra crisp results, use the toasted side as the inner side where you lay the ingredients.

Lay out all the ingredients you like

3. Lay out the dressing, chicken breast slices, beans, cheeses, and a dash of the Tabasco chipotle pepper sauce.

Put in a non-stick pan

4. Put the wrap with ingredients back into the pan for toasting (the untoasted side) on medium heat. Fold them over and let the ingredients melt into each other. You can place a plate on top of the wraps to hold them down.

Toasted golden brown and all oozy in the middle

5. Flip them over if you need to, but they should be done in less than two minutes. Be careful not to let the wraps burn! Use a spatula to check the underside from time to time.

Well that's your cheese snack all ready to eat! The half moon pockets are fun for kids as well, and they like the crispy cover as much as the melty cheesy mix inside. Feel free to come up with your own mix of ingredients - guacamole, red peppers, olives and tomatoes are common. You could even try a cheesy sambal ikan bilis version!

Here is the printable recipe (click to view full size image), which you can also save offline. Check out my other recipe, using both these cheeses - the Garlicky Spinach Potato Gratin!

Meanwhile, check out other recipes from Perfect Italiano, which also has other products like Perfect Bakes and Pizza Plus cheese mixes.

This post was brought to you by Perfect Italiano

If your tastebuds are looking for adventure this week, pop by Punjab Grill and savour the Kashmiri specialties on showcase right now from 16-24 April 2014. They have flown in a special chef and the ingredients from the region, and oh what exotic flavours they've conjured up!

I'm starting with the end: this amazing Kehwa tea poured from a "samawar" or samovar. This metal (normally copper or brass) charcoal teapot has an inner chamber filled with live coals, somewhat resembling our charcoal steamboat pot in concept, but holds tea instead. In the cold climes of Kashmir, this helps keep tea warm for longer. Hot tea in chilly weather, what bliss that must be.

The Kehwa tea (no, it's not chrysanthemum!) is a sweet green tea with cardamom, almonds, saffron and other spices. Supposed to be very good for digestion, and it tastes beautiful. Reminds me of 八宝茶 (Eight Treasure Tea) with all the herbal goodies.

As for the food, Kashmiri cuisine is slightly different from Northern Indian cuisine. It's heavy on lamb and yoghurt, but interestingly, the curries are lighter. The use of spices also differ - not so much garlic, onions and ginger, but more cumin, fennel, asafoetida, and even sandalwood.

Here are some highlights from the set menus offered (lunch S$50, dinner S$90):

The Kashmiri appetizers
The appetizers (left to right):

Kashmiri Kukur Tikka: Kukur means chicken in Kashmir - say it out loud and it makes sense! These are tandoori-like boneless chicken thighs marinated with kashmiri whole red chili paste, enhanced with green sounf (fennel?) powder, finished in a clay oven.

Tabakh Maaz: this is a traditional royal Kashmir method of cooking lamb. Here's the lamb ribs have been marinated with aniseed powder and saffron milk. The meat is first boiled for tenderness, then roasted and pan-fried for a crispy exterior. The lamb's natural flavours are really enhanced.

Wazwani Handi Aluv: a tender tandoori-roasted potato reserved overnight in fennel powder, marinated with ginger garlic paste, sprinkled with saffron kewda milk.

Kashmiri Tsaman Sarson Tikka: Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) infused with Kashmiri yellow chili powder, enhanced with mustard oil and golden glazed in a tandoor

Nadru Kabab - pan-grilled lotus stem marinated with chili, dusted with roasted mint powder and has sandalwood in it!
And the most exotic appetizer has to be this: the Nadru Kabab

A signature of Kashmir Valley, this is pan-grilled lotus root or stem marinated with red chili and dusted with roasted mint leaves, but the kicker ingredient is sandalwood. The lotus root patty smells and tastes of incense. I almost feel like chanting.

The Kashmiri mains
The mains are even more astounding (clockwise from noon):

Gucchi Pulao (centre): I have never had pulao or pilaf rice so delicious before. A fragrant combination of jumbo morels (wow, wait, morels? yes, these mushrooms are in Kashmiri cuisine too, but just as rare and expensive!) and royal cumin in basmati rice cooked on dum under flaky puff pastry.

Dum Aluv: very much a Kashmir dish - dum aluv are potatoes simmered with fennel seeds, dry ginger and Kashmiri chili gravy. This may seem like a simple potato, but it's lipsmackingly good.

Gadh Palak: the dark green spinach puree tempered with mustard seeds is phenomenally savoury and tasty; I could so eat it on its own without the gadh (fish).

Kukur Hindi Rogvanjosh: chicken version of the famous Brahman Roganjosh

Rogvan Josh: the famous Rogan Josh (one of my absolute favourite dishes) is a much loved specialty of Kashmir. This version has shoulder of baby lamb cooked the old fashioned way over extremely low heat. It's spiked with a melange of freshly pounded spices including fennel and red chili (hence its colour).

Gushtaba: I am learning all kinds of new food names here. The Gushtaba is a finely minced mutton meatball or dumpling spiced with green cardamom and fennel. It's served with a creamy curd-based sauce. Apparently a lot of work goes into the preparation. The mutton is beaten with a wooden hammer until it reaches that velvety consistency. Personally, though, it was a little dry and paled in comparison with the rich flavours of the other dishes.

Wow, saffron paratha and Kashmiri breads
You get a basket of breads/naans too - and what a luxurious basket it is! Saffron paratha and Kashmiri breads stuffed with dried fruit and nuts.

Desserts - kulfi, Shufta and beetroot halwa
Desserts are usually not a highlight in Kashmir, but the chefs have done marvellously with this trio. The spoonful of kulfi (left) is pleasant but it is the Chukander E Afroz (right) or beetroot halwa that amazes. It is a burst of flavours at once foreign and familiar, just like many of the dishes before it. We tried to pry what ingredients went into it. There is a touch of condensed milk in it - ah, that explains the comforting feeling.

Look at the colourful candy coated cumin seeds scattered across the platter. Cute!

After dessert you get that lovely Kehwa tea. I so want to make that a ritual at home too.

Executive chef Javed Ahamad and guest chef M Rehman
This menu is the collaboration of Punjab Grill's Executive chef Javed Ahamad (left) and guest chef M Rehman above. Kudos for a wonderfully executed meal. Indian food can be heavy, but good Indian food is worth every calorie. I can't wait to go back and explore Punjab Grill's regular menu - they're more focused on Northern Indian cuisine, but I'm glad they had this Kashmiri detour.

2 Bayfront Avenue,
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands B1-01A,
Singapore 018972
Tel: +65 6688-7395

Open daily
Lunch : 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM
Dinner : 6:30 PM to 11:00 PM

Sunday, April 20, 2014

MakeShake at Jurong Point turned one in Jan this year. This is a great concept - customise your own milkshake any way you like! And so far, it's the only one I know of in Singapore. I just wish it wasn't so far away in the West in Boon Lay! They need an outlet in Changi Airport, I say. And maybe 112 Katong.

Their malted vanilla ice cream is homemade and lower in sugar, so you can taste more vividly the ingredients you add to it. You can pick from a base (vanilla, chocolate or frozen yoghurt), add flavours and toppings.

However, this kind of thing - the smorgasbord of choices is bad for me, because I end up wanting to put everything in, or try some weird combination that I know won't work but just can't resist (I have inborn mix-and-match sabotage talent). I like to think of it as risk-taking. Mango and digestive biscuits with M&M nuts, no?

If you prefer, you can opt for any of the suggested flavour combinations. Set menus take the guesswork out of things, although mix and match choices are pretty safe too, generally. Can't really go wrong, unless you have my talent too.

From the preset menu, I liked the Banana Rama (banana and caramel) more than I thought I would. The Simply Marshella (nutella and marshmallows) sounded unbeatable, but I ended up preferring the Supernana Nana (strawberry and banana). So go ahead and give different flavours a try. You never know what you are going to like.

What they also have is the waffle hotdog (S$1.90 per stick or S$1.50 with any shake), which you must try! The waffle casing is hot and crisp on the outside, but fluffy inside. I reckon it's not easy to get right as the waffle is quite thin! The savoury sausage goes really well with the slightly sweet waffle.

And yes, this is a giveaway. Thanks to Chief Milkshaker Seth Lui, I am giving out ten mini milkshakes (like the cups you see above - and that's a six-year old child's hand for comparison). Just comment below what unique flavour combination you'd go for, and email me your entry at camemberu @ with the subject title "MakeShake Giveaway", so I can notify you if you win. Easy peasy.

As usual, I will have the same giveaway running on Facebook, so you can have an extra chance winning there. Closing date: noon, 24 April 2014. Winners will be notified by email or Facebook.

Watch their Facebook page and blog for promos! MakeShake also does bulk delivery for private events and functions too.

1 Jurong West Central 2, #02-K3
Singapore, Singapore 648886
Tel: +65 6794 5458
Open daily 11:00 am - 10:00 pm

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Oh the Sunday brunch at The Knolls, Capella Singapore, is a lovely resort-like escape from the city, with well-selected dishes to please the palate. Interestingly, there's no egg station here, but they have plenty of other delicious things to intrigue you (the yakiniku grilled meats are amazing).

For Easter (20 April 2014) , they have even greater gourmet offerings to go with free-flow Taittinger Champagne - five different seasonal oysters, organic Agneau de pré-salé ("Salt meadow lamb"), salt-baked Yellow Chicken, corn-fed poultry from free-range farms, all from France. Look out for the turbot with lovely grilled vegetables. And you'll be pleasantly bowled over by the pretty desserts.

Executive Chef David Senia is from Southern France, and has brought in many influences from that region, as well as exquisite produce. Even the little details like butter - I love the Beurre d'Isigny - are carefully chosen.

Full details in my stories here:

There will also be a hunt for three actual “peacock eggs” hidden on the grounds of the Capella. The prizes include a one-night stay at a one-bedroom garden villa, dinner for two at Cassia and a 90-minute massage at Auriga spa.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Here's my dad with his three youngest grandchildren (Nadine, Jolie and Xi-Yee) at Chinese New Year in 2010. It was the first CNY without my mom. Next CNY, it will be the first without both of them. He has gone to be with her, on her birthday April 9, 2014.

We've had a while to prepare for this, as his health was gradually declining, but losing a parent is still one of the toughest things ever.

It was seven-year-old Nadine who first alerted me that something was wrong. Last month, out of the blue, she tapped on my iPhone screen and in her limited speech (she has Down Syndrome) said, "Call 爷爷 (ye ye or grandpa)..."

I did and found out he had just been hospitalised, and that was to be a three-week long ordeal. The start of the end. When I was away for his funeral in Malaysia, she kept trying to call him too, via anyone's phone she could get her hands on. It was like she knew. Sometimes you just can't explain the bond.

This blog owes quite a bit to my dad.

Pa is the reason I am a foodie. He truly enjoyed his food, and he showed his love by feeding us delicious things. You'd often hear him say, "What shall we eat today?" and planning dinner before lunch is over. He liked to bring us to his favourite restaurants and eateries. He made sure we had a full glass of milk before bed. Food is love. I think that's true in many Chinese families, especially traditional ones. We may not be expressive, but we care by firstly making sure our loved ones are well-fed.

He also taught us the importance of reading, and the acquisition of knowledge. Our home is filled with books, whatever we could get in that little town. I think it helped me become better at writing too.

It was Pa who gave me a love of photography. I remember his old manual Olympus film camera that he sometimes let us play with as kids. It was just point-and-shoot back then, nothing technical involving f stops and metering, but you learn to have a good eye and to compose your shot.

Ironically my dad has never seen my blog. Or the Internet for that matter. He belonged to this age where computers were unnecessary in daily life.

Grief is a terrible filter. But as I shared on Facebook, there are little real miracles that tell me he is is still looking after us in his own way. And I am comforted that he is now with my mom, their ashes side by side.

I will remember all the things he taught us - honesty, hard work, responsibility, kindness and humility.

And I will continue documenting good eats as a nod to his great love of food.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cranley Hotel - Facade at night

Do you love London and all it has to offer? One can guess that shopping and English Premier League football rank pretty high on the list for Singaporeans.

Cranley Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel in the heart of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, has come up with a package that aims to marry both shopping and football interests of its guests.

The package includes a £50.00 Selfridges voucher to get you started on your shopping spree. Harrods, Harvey Nicholas and many more within easy reach, so you will certainly be spoilt for choice. A personal shopper service can also be arranged to suit every styling requirement, from grooming and make-up, to wardrobe consultation. Revamp your wardrobe with stylish recommendations through a tailor-made shopping experience along Bond Street, Mayfair or Oxford Street.

Football fans - you'll know that this year’s FA Cup Final will be held on 17 May at Wembley Stadium. Chelsea fans will love that Cranley is in close proximity to Stamford Bridge. Watch the big four battle it out or an underdog team coming out tops as the Premier League season draws to a close. Cranley’s concierge can assist in lining up a full day at Stamford Bridge, beginning with a stadium tour, lunch at Chelsea’s very own Frankie’s Sports Bar and Diner, and a Chelsea FC Museum Visit.

Cranley Hotel - Four Poster A
The hotel itself is gorgeous. Occupying three Victorian houses that date back to 1869, Cranley offers elegant decorations and beautiful interiors. Rooms are coloured by a Regency palette and four-poster beds are handcrafted, while antique mahogany furniture, period oil printings and brass fittings complete the majestic ambience.

Cranley Hotel - Lobby

Shopping and football activities aside, couples can also celebrate their romantic milestones with a Victorian-styled photo shoot within the hotel.

Savour traditional afternoon tea for two, and wind down with the lovely toiletry range from Penhaligon that holds two Royal Warrants. (One of the first inhabitants of this historical building was a Welsh perfumer who sold his business to the famed William Penhaligon.)

Other offerings include complimentary Wi-Fi internet access throughout the hotel, a welcome drink on arrival, daily newspaper service, champagne and canapés every evening, nightly turndown service with home-baked goods, 24-hour room service menu and guest computer and business services.

From £249.00 a night, this package is available from now till 31 May 2014, (valid for a minimum stay of two nights, subject to availability with certain dates excluded) in which guests will enjoy:

- Daily full English breakfast on the front terrace
- Daily traditional afternoon tea for 2
- £50.00 Selfridges Voucher
- 2 pm late check-out guarantee
- Early check-in guarantee if booking is made more than 10 days in advance

“London is one of the top travel destinations for Singaporeans, and we have noted a shift in consumer preferences for unique experiences in boutique hotels. This summer package is specially put forth for Singaporeans to experience the warm hospitality of Cranley Hotel in a building with historical nostalgia.” said David Garcia Ramos, General Manager of Cranley Hotel.

The Cranley Hotel is owned and managed by award-winning Singapore real estate developer, KOP Properties. The KOP Properties' portfolio also includes Montigo Resorts, Nongsa (see review!), and the Ritz Carlton Residences, Singapore. Past projects include The Spazio, Scotts Spazio and Hamilton Scotts, the world’s tallest en suite elevated car porch residence. KOP Properties was also involved in the extensive refurbishment and renewal of 10 Trinity Square, a listed building in the heart of London’s financial district.

I will be heading to London myself at the end of the month, and am going to see Cranley Hotel for myself. Will bring back photos and a review! These photos above are courtesy of Cranley Hotel.

10 Bina Gardens, South Kensington, London SW5 0LA.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7373 0123
Location on Google maps:

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