Monday, February 28, 2011

Cute As Buttons!

Look at these beautiful handcrafted buttons! I am so thrilled to discover these from my childhood friend Eileen (way back from primary and secondary school).

What began as a rather innocent conversation on Facebook teasing her about domestic skills led to the revelation that she had started this creative sideline aptly called "Cute As Buttons". My other friend and I were blown away.

These are so pretty, I just have to share them (even though they're not food)! Here are some photos from that Facebook page.

She has various items made from these buttons, like snap clips, bookmarks and lackeys (so that's what those things with elastic thingies are called). Last year she sold these Christmas themed ones.

I really like the way she has carefully placed the fabric to highlight design elements. Takes a good eye to do that.

They would make such wonderful gifts, no? I like the fact that they are not mass produced pieces, but carefully handcrafted pieces that should bring joy to whoever appreciates them.

There's more on the Facebook page, so go take a look. Eileen is based in Australia, but she delivers worldwide and can take Paypal.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Battlestar Galactica Rides Reopen at Universal Studio Singapore

Battlestar Galactica roller-coaster
If you're a thrill ride junkie like me, you'll probably have heard that the Battlestar Galactica (BSG) rides have re-opened at Universal Studios Singapore. They unveiled the rides on 21 Feb to the media, and nervous though some of us were, we were absolutely delighted to experience world's tallest pair of duelling roller coasters.

Lifts, drops, corkscrews and spins - all part of the 90-second thrill ride
If you have a fear of heights, challenge it as you go 14-storeys above ground. The start also involves a sudden acceleration to the top and it slows down to let you see the full view just as you go over the edge. Lifts, drops, inversions, a Zero-G roll, corkscrews and spins - all part of the 90-second thrill ride!

The "Human" and "Cylon" rides appear to engage in aerial battle
Choose your side. The "Human" side has you seated, and the "Cylon" side has you suspended, with legs dangling (many barefeet!). Both sides appear to engage in aerial battle, zipping around as fast as 90km/hr! There are near collisions mere inches apart, but honestly, while we were up there, we didn't really see the other side. We were too busy screaming!

So which side was more fun? Personally for me, the Human side felt like a warmup. Good for beginners. The Cylon ride is something you absolutely have to try. It's more terrifying and fun. We all felt 10 years younger after the exhiliration. And interestingly, all the girl bloggers (Dawn Yang, myself, Eunice Khong and her friend) loved it so much, we went for seconds!

Sci-fi City is where you'll find the Battlestar Galactica rides
Sci-fi City is where you'll find the Battlestar Galactica rides. There's a shop with really cool BSG merchandise. I bought a ton of stuff (hubby is a big BSG fan and I love the series too - both old and new). Later on, I needed to exchange a t-shirt because the sizing is surprisingly smaller than US sizes. The staff at Guest Services outside the entrance came all the way inside to the BSG PX shop to get me what I needed. Thumbs up for wonderful service!

Modern stiltwalkers with new-fangled metal stilts and jumping stilts
You'll see all kinds of stiltwalkers at Universal Studios, and I noticed they now use metal stilts with complex cushioning contraptions and teeny tiny feet!

The Egyptian themed buffetaria serves Turkish, Lebanese, Indian and Mediterranean
There are lots of eateries within Universal Studios. After the ride, we were treated to lunch at Oasis Spices Cafe, a halal buffetaria serving Indian, Lebanese, Mediterranean and Turkish accented fare. I really liked the airy and atmospheric interior.

Buffet lunch at the Oasis Spice Cafe (halal)
The food is actually quite good, but we were so full of post-ride adrenalin that we did not feel hungry. Still, I polished off whatever I was served. Butter chicken, fish masala, vegetables jalfrezi, bindi (ladies fingers) masala, briyani rice and prata with papadum, raita and achar. The starter platter of pita bread served with hummus, babaganoush tabouleh, samosa and mint chutney was quite filling in itself.

The bigger question was - could we go for the rides after a heavy meal like this? Haha, we did not tempt fate, but all of us had earlier kept our breakfasts intact after the rides. So I would not worry too much about eating before riding.

The Ancient Egyptian sector
We were free to roam around the theme park afterwards. There are about seven zones each with its own theme (Ancient Egypt, Sci-Fi City, The Lost World, New York City, Hollywood, Madagascar and Far Far Away). Most of them have their own rides and attractions. I strongly recommend the Ancient Egypt's Revenge of the Mummy ride where you plunge into total darkness on a psychological thrill ride.

Prehistoric thrills await within Jurassic Park
Prehistoric thrills await within Jurassic Park - try the Canopy Flyer or get soaked in the Rapids adventure. Kids can go for the Dino-Soarin Pteranodon ride. There is also a food court nearby with a full-scale T-rex skeleton as a central feature.

Far, Far Away is right here
Far, Far Away is right here! There's a 4D movie adventure within the castle, where you can see, hear and feel the action from jolting seats.

Shrek's Donkey with his little 'uns!
The Enchanted Airways may be a junior roller coaster but it can feel even more scary than the Battlestar Galactica one (which has you securely strapped in)!

At the Madagascar section, King Julien rules!
At the Madagascar section, King Julien rules! He's my favourite in the movie.

The penguins of Madagascar
Live performances from the movie "cast" featuring the penguins of Madagascar.

Come face to face with all sorts of characters
In the Hollywood and New York City sections, you'll bump into all sorts of characters.

Woody and his girlfriend
Of course, all the perennial favourite cartoon characters are there too.

Universal Studios Singapore
So that was my first time at Universal Studios Singapore. Some friends of mine have the signed up for annual passes, so they can go in as often as they like!

Thanks to Matthew from Universal Studios Singapore and Resort World Sentosa for such a thrilling experience and fun day out. Thanks, also, Walter, for hooking us up!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant

King Sized Nanxiang Crab Roe Steamed Soup Bun ($6.80)
Many of you probably know of Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant, famous for its king-sized steamed soup bun. The one where you drink from using a straw, yes. There was just one outlet at Bugis Junction for the longest time, and then under new management, they started expanding.

If like me, you tried them many years ago and did not find anything memorable, it's time to revisit them and see just how different it is now. I was pleasantly surprised with the 20 new dishes they have introduced in conjunction with the opening of their flagship 100-seater outlet at Plaza Singapura in November last year.

Their new executive chef Yee Cheong Wah understudied the famous Nan Xiang restaurant in Shanghai in order to bring these dishes to Singapore.

The King Sized Nanxiang Crab Roe Steamed Soup Bun ($6.80) above is still there, and still fun. You're not meant to eat the skin, I learned. The bun been made extra strong (i.e. tough), so that it will hold the hot soup within. But yes, peel it open by all means to get the very last delicious drop.

Shrimp & Pork Filling Steamed Bun ($7.80- 6 pieces)
Shrimp & Pork Filling Steamed Bun ($7.80- 6 pieces)

Nanxiang now has the biggest variety of xiaolongbao around - at least ten types! The fillings include crab roe, mushroom, pork, shrimp, and vegetables. Each is a good mouthful of meat that retains a toothsome bite (Nanxiang's hallmark). So it's not finely minced meat like you might get at other restaurants. The skin is well-made and the broth flavoursome.

Jelly Fish with Spicy Vinegar ($6.80)
Appetisers include Jelly Fish with Spicy Vinegar ($6.80). The jellyfish is cut into large and chunky strips, and they use the more expensive part - the head - for extra crunch. The portion is generous for the price!

Nanxiang Drunken Chicken ($6.80)
I passed on the "Yuan Yang" Duck Tongue (drunken and braised styles), but tried the Nanxiang Drunken Chicken ($6.80) which is lightly fragranced with Chinese wine.

Braised Pork Belly Ribs ($12)
Braised Pork Belly Ribs ($12). Looks like a nice slab of tender kakuni, but once you bite into it, the complex sweetness will take you by surprise. Yes, they use fruits like orange, lime and pineapple for natural sweetness and a fruity tangyness.

Steamed Egg with Clams ($6)
Steamed Egg with Clams ($6) - seafood goodness in a familiar home-style dish. It comes piping hot too, so be careful as you dig in!

Stir-Fried Green Bean Noodle with Crab Roe ($12.80)
Among the rice and noodle dishes is an unusual Stir-Fried Green Bean Noodle with Crab Roe ($12.80). It's like tanghoon but in kway teow form. All the better to slurp up the crab roe with! I do wish they would try this type of noodle with other ingredients

"Hua Niang" Steamed Cod Fish ($13)
"Hua Niang" Steamed Cod Fish ($13) - something that's both healthy and delicious. These boneless slices are easy to eat and perfect for kids.

Golden Pumpkin Cake ($3.60- 2 pieces)
The Golden Pumpkin Cake ($3.60- 2 pieces) is also fun to eat. It reminds me of Indian bhatura and poori, all puffed up with air, but the dough is much more delicate here, of course.

Yam Pastry with Sesame ($5.20- 4 pieces)
Yam Pastry with Sesame ($5.20- 4 pieces) - hey, it's orh nee in a stick! I can't say no to anything crispy, so this was also another highlight.

Icy Water Cress Honey ($2.50)
But the most surprising discovery of all has got to be this - Icy Water Cress Honey ($2.50). Yes, watercress. I went, "huh!?" too. But try it! It's so refreshing and tasty, you just can't imagine why nobody's done it before!

Contemporary decor with steamer baskets as primary decor
Dining at Nanxiang is a cheery affair. The decor is modern Chinese with steamer baskets as a theme. They have cleverly used them to build partitions and also to decorate the walls. I think they pretty much used up all the steamer baskets in the market at one time, just for decoration!

Fresh Pork Filling Steamed Bun ($6- 6 pieces)
One last look at their xiaolongbao. Fresh Pork Filling Steamed Bun ($6- 6 pieces) - the filling within is indicated by a printed wooden tag placed in the centre.

Prices as you can see, are very affordable and the dishes are great for sharing. So this makes it ideal for groups of friends or family. The predominantly Shanghainese fare also makes a nice change from the usual Crystal Jade type of restaurants. Check out the full menu online (complete with prices).

Enormous thanks to LeRoy of Foodnews and Nanxiang restaurant for inviting me to taste the new dishes and allowing me to change my impression of Nanxiang for the better. The newly revamped Nanxiang is certainly a "thumbs up" as their logo denotes!

68 Orchard Road
#02-01 Plaza Singapura
Singapore 238839
Tel: 6337 7446
Operation Hours:
Lunch 11.30am to 3.00pm, Dinner 6.00pm to 10.00pm (Mon to Fri)
11.00am to 10.00pm (Sat, Sun & PH)

180 Kitchener Road
#04-15/16 City Square Mall
Singapore 208539
Tel: 65 6509 9134
Operation Hours:
11.30am to 10.00pm (Mon to Fri)
11.00am to 10.00pm (Sat, Sun & PH)

200 Victoria Street
#02-53 Bugis Junction
Singapore 188021
Tel: 6835 7577
Operation Hours:
Lunch 11.30am to 3.00pm, Dinner 6.00pm to 10.00pm (Mon to Fri)
11.00am to 10.00pm (Sat, Sun & PH)

Look out also for Nanxiang Express which serves takeaway xiaolongbao, pastries and snacks at:

23 Serangoon Central
#03-K17 Nex Mall
Singapore 556083
Tel: 6634 4833

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Restaurant Week 2011 - Let The Reservations Begin!

Restaurant Week Singapore 2011 will be back 21-27 March, during which you can enjoy a 3-course lunch /dinner for a mere S$25++ / S$35++ at the 76 participating restaurants. The public can start making reservations from 23 Feb onwards.

New participating restaurants include Salt Grill & Sky Bar, KU DÉ TA, Stellar@1-Altitude, Boathouse, Le Saint Julien, Oyster Bar, La Villa, Sabai, Table 66, Kinki, Ivory Kitchen, Matsu, Wild Rocket, One Rochester, 1Twenty Six, Clifford (Fullerton Bay Hotel), Patara Fine Thai Cuisine, My Little Spanish Place, Cassia and The Knolls (Capella Hotel), LaBrezza and Yan Ting (St Regis Hotel). Some of these restaurants will be putting forth their signature items for the event.

I won't take up too much of your time, because you need to go over there and start booking straight away. More than 17,000 reservations have already been made - priority pre-bookings by Amex and organiser Diningcity members (well, you know what they say about membership and privileges).

There are new and interesting highlights this year.
  • EatDrinkLove - a collaboration with Lunch Actually, Asia's premier dating company, where single diners will get to meet different eligible singles with every course at dinners on 23 or 24 March.
  • CULINAire wine deals at $20 ++, $28++ or $38++ for two glasses of wine at participating restaurants who will be selecting wines from Brown Brothers (Australia), Chapoutier (France), Ruffino (Italy) and Torres (Spain)
  • Reserve a table, and win a pair of tickets to Amsterdam on KLMworth S$3,200 and a meal for two at a top restaurant there in June 2011
  • Win a BMW dining experience: be chauffeured in a luxurious BMW 7 Series, to enjoy a tantalising three-course Restaurant Week set dinner for two and a bottle of champagne at The Cliff Restaurant at The Sentosa Resort & Spa.
More details, of course, at the Restaurant Week Singapore official website. Happy dining!

Photo above courtesy of Sixth Sense Communications - thanks for inviting me to the launch of Restaurant Week at Tower Club today!


Sunday, February 20, 2011


Totally random, but I absolutely love this ad. Not just because it's got international megastar 真田広之 Hiroyuki Sanada along with such a gorgeous cherry-blossom vista. The ad beautifully crystallizes this Zen-like way of enjoying something as simple as tea. Even though the girl is the one who playfully asks him to close his eyes, Sanada turns the lack of sight into an even more intense sensory experience.

He listens to the drink being poured. Notice how he demands absolute silence and focus just before he takes time to savour the aroma. And then he samples it with deference. No vulgar big gulps, just enough to taste. A true "umai" experience.

Sigh. I love the Japanese.

And I want some Ayataka tea now!

UPDATE: oh my goodness, there's an app for that! Touch, draw and shake the cloudy "nigori" and see it dissipate. Darn, that just makes me want more green tea!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chef Santi, You Will Be Remembered

Here's Santi Santamaria right in the center of the group

I think you all know by now that we lost a fine Spanish chef yesterday evening right here in Singapore. The illustrious Santi Santamaria passed away during the dine-around tour at the Grand Opening of the Marina Bay Sands, which saw all seven celebrity chefs converge to formally unveil their restaurants at the Integrated Resort. He was only 53.

For me, it's extra shocking and surreal, because we all saw him on stage just a couple of hours before the unfortunate incident. He was still hale and hearty, still sharing his love of food and cooking. And about how everyone, regardless of passport/nationality, can enjoy the same food.

There he is in the photo above, right in the centre. From left to right - after the guy in black suit is Mario Batali (from New York), Daniel Boulud (New York), Wolfgang Puck (Los Angeles), Santi Santamaria (Barcelona), Guy Savoy (Paris), Tetsuya Wakuda (Sydney) and Justin Quek (Singapore). The last guy who joined in for the photos on the far right is Chef Christopher Christie, Executive Chef of Marina Bay Sands (thanks to a reader's comment below).

Well, Santi is already sorrowfully missed by many. He's always come across as warm-hearted and jovial, very easy to like. This was a chef who believed in using natural ingredients and processes to bring out the best in food. May his loving creations continue on in his restaurants.

My deepest condolences to his daughter Regina, his family (I read he just became a grandfather last week?), his friends and his staff. I cannot imagine how difficult a time it must be for them.

Photo last August with Regina and Santi
Photo with Regina and Santi from Aug 2010 at Santi's during the launch of the tapas bar.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

HK2: Yuen Kee Restaurant 源记茶餐厅 at Kimberly Road

Fried beef horfun
We were famished after arriving and checking in to The Luxe Manor. So we had lunch at a nearby cha chan teng - an absolutely perfect way to start our eating journey. Yuen Kee was just a few doors away from the hotel, and was one of the places on my foodie hitlist. I had read that they are quite well-known for 干炒牛河 (gon chau gnau hor) or fried beef horfun (flat rice noodles). So we had to have that.

What came was a delightfully huge portion (easily enough for two) of very homely noodles. It was  tasty and satisfying, although not the best we've had.

Sliced beef and tripe noodles in soup
They also call themselves "beef experts" and offer a variety of beef parts with noodles (both dry or in soup). I love tripe, so I had to give this a try. Sliced beef and tripe noodles in soup. The noodles had a strong ("kee") alkaline taste, but it didn't bother me. The beef slices are nothing short of tender, fatty goodness, and the tripe deliciously soft and chewy. The beef brisket is also quite popular here.

Fried fish skin
I was also thrilled to see my favourite snack of fried fish skin on the menu, available for a song (HK$15-20 or so, if I remember correctly - they didn't give a receipt, and I didn't shoot the menu). Crunchy indulgence!

Wantan soup with lots of greens!
We also tried a bowl of wantan soup, no noodles. The wantans have generous fillings of minced pork and shrimp, and the broth is pretty decent. But nothing like Mak's, of course.

Bright, cheery and newly renovated
I believe Yuen Kee is a chain, as we saw some others later on as well. But this particular outlet is extra bright and cheery - I think it's been recently renovated. This shop may have been around for more than 30 years (I read this somewhere, but can't find the article now). Can someone who knows verify?

Yuen Kee has been around for more than 30 years, so I've read...
Prices are very decent - around HK$15-35 (about S$3-7) for most items here. Good for simple refueling.

27-33 Kimberley Road
Shop 6-10, G/F Wing Lee Building
Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 21919339


Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day! Cookie Love from AFC Studio

Happy hearts deserve to be given out all year round!
Happy Valentine's Day! It doesn't get more basic than this - sugar cookies with icing - but what fun to make and share! I say these happy hearts deserve to be made all year long.

It was a hands-on baking demo
The Asian Food Channel (AFC) has a Studio at the 7th floor of Orchard Central, where they hold hands-on cooking classes and demos (sometimes by visiting celebrity chefs). A few of us attended a blogger party where we learned how to make these cookies as well as chocolate chip biscotti.

I was last here for a Spanish cooking masterclass. I'm glad that some of the Spanish ingredients (like the smoked paprika) are still available here.

Anyone is welcome to chill here with a book and a cuppa
The colourful and cheery studio not only has merchandise, books, trendy cookware and kitchen utensils, but also an extensive cookbook library. Anyone is welcome to sit down, chill with a book and a cuppa. Their cafe section offers desserts and pastries made fresh daily by their own in-house culinary team. The coffee's pretty good, and they serve TWG tea. All this far from the maddening Orchard crowd below.

AFC Managing Director and Co-Founder Hian Goh
AFC Managing Director and Co-Founder Hian Goh who led the blogger session says they can customise classes as well. The classes are usually kept deliberately small, so the audience can benefit from a better teacher-student ratio.

Chef Sue-Ann showing us how to make chocolate chip biscotti
Chef Sue-Ann Lambert brought us through the steps and made it look super-easy. Let me share the recipes they gave.


Dough ingredients:
2 cups flour
A pinch of salt
85g butter, softened
170g sugar
2 eggs
half teaspoon vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix to combine. Add salt, vanilla and flour, and mix until dough just combines.
  3. Chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll chilled dough and cut with desired cutter. (Some of us created handmade shapes, so there are no rules!)
  5. Transfer to baking tray and bake for about 8-12 minutes, or until edges turn golden brown.
  6. Decorate with icing (Sue-Ann's recipe below, but here's one that doesn't require egg whites!)

Icing ingredients:
2 large egg whites (60g)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups (330g) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

  1. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice until combined.
  2. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth.
  3. Use icing immediately or transfer into an airtight container before it hardens. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.


Chocolate chip biscotti

1 cup sugar (white or brown is fine)
half stick (quarter cup or 4 tablespoons) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 cup chocolate chips (or anything else you fancy - nuts, dried fruit, etc)

  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat a few more minutes. Add the vanilla.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt, then add to the mixer. Combine well, then stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Shape the dough into a log, approximately 12 inches long and 3 inches wide with lightly floured hands. You may find it easier to shape them into two shorter logs. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 30 minutes at 160 degrees C.
  4. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Slice diagonally into desired thickness (no more than half inch slices), and return them to the baking sheet. Bake again until cookies turn light brown for about ten minutes. Flip them over and brown them for another few minutes.
  5. Allow to cool and enjoy with your favourite coffee or tea!

Meanwhile, in the spirit of Valentine's Day, catch the worldwide premiere of "One Night: A Malaysian Wedding - Chef Wan" at 9pm (Singapore) or 8pm (Jakarta and Thailand) tonight. Chef Wan faces his ultimate challenge of putting together THE wedding for his daughter Serina. I hear it goes on for 3 days and the bride goes through 10 wedding dresses. Chef Wan puts together his signature dishes at a gala dinner for 700 guests. What a stress bath it all must be, but vicarious adrenalin for the rest of us. (photo from AFC website)

Thanks once again to AFC and Fulford PR for inviting me to this blogger event.

181 Orchard Road,
#07-02 Orchard Central,
Singapore 238896
Tel: +65 6834 4829
Opening Hours: 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

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