Monday, July 29, 2013

Giveaway: The American Kaleidoscope: A St. Regis Arts Celebration (29 Jul - 4 Aug 2013)


The St Regis Singapore is honouring the United States of America in its sixth installment of its signature Arts Celebration series, with a week-long tribute to American culture and arts starting today. As in previous years, the hotel will celebrate the chosen country's culinary arts, performing arts and visual arts - see website for full details.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Real Certified Kobe Beef Arrives in Singapore, with Exclusive Debut at CUT by Wolfgang Puck

Last Monday, 22 July was a milestone. The highly prized and rare exported Kobe beef has finally arrived in Singapore. It will be served exclusively at CUT by Wolfgang Puck for two months before appearing in any other restaurants.

We hear of Kobe beef so often, I had thought that it must already in the market, but no! Kobe beef was not exported prior to 2012. Singapore joins Hong Kong, Macau, the United States and Thailand as the only few countries that get the coveted 300 heads total available per year for export.

This was announced at a press ceremony on that Monday when the beef was officially launched. Mr Tamir Shanel, vice-president of food and beverage for Marina Bay Sands (left above), received the Kobe Beef bronze statuette from Mr Yoshihiko Sowa, Secretariat of Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association.

Kobe Beef Sirloin Steak Cubes
The marbled cows come marching in...Sirloin steak cubes by CUT, with a special brown sauce

Kobe beef prides outstanding flavour and fine marbling of its beef on the animal's lineage. Only pureblood "Tajima-gyu" cattle since the Edo period (1615-1867) to present day from the Hyogo Prefecture in Japan that are raised by designated farmers can be considered for Kobe beef certification. The Beef Marbling Score (BMS) has to be 6 or higher.

Kobe Beef Sliders
Kobe Beef Sliders...a CUT above the regular sliders!

Specialty Kobe beef dishes are now available at CUT. These include the Kobe Sirloin, Ribeye and Tenderloin that will be grilled over almond wood.

Kobe Beef Nigiri
The Kobe Beef Nigiri is divine, but a pity it is not on the menu.

You just have to look at the marbling to know how melt-in-your-mouth it's going to be. Kobe beef is not only extraordinarily tender but flavourful as well.

Kobe Beef Steak Sandwich
Kobe Beef Steak Sandwich - juicy, well-seasoned and full-flavoured - is one of the menu items.

Tajima-gyu cows are raised to about 30 months, which is an extra two to four months compared with regular Japanese Black breed of wagyu cattle. Each year 5,500 heads of Tajima-gyu cattle are taken to the market but only about 3,000 are certified as Kobe beef.

CUT by Wolfgang Puck at Marina Bay Sands has a nice cocktail bar
Oh, by the way, CUT also serves some seriously good cocktails.

Try some of CUT's signature cocktails
You have to try some of their signature drinks. This one was so strong, it killed my brain cells, so I forgot what it's called. I'll check again.

The bronze statuette of a cow shows officially designated stores permitted to buy and sell Kobe beef

The bronze statuette is displayed at officially designated stores permitted to buy and sell Kobe beef. All certified Kobe beef also comes with a 10-digit individual number on display at the sellers and restaurants. This number can be traced back to information on where the cattle was raised and sold.

Check out the Kobe Beef official website (there's an English section), which lovingly details everything you'd ever want to know about this marvelous meat.

Mr Yoshihiko Sowa, Secretariat of Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association (centre), with Joshua Brown, Executive Chef of CUT (right)
It's A4 to A5 grade wagyu served here at CUT. So far, two shipments have come in, totalling 353kg for two months. Will this increase in future? We'll have to see, as supply is limited, so any increase will be gradual. They did not want to announce yet the other restaurants after the two month debut, but stated they would have to be an authorised user of the registered system.

Kobe beef is a protected trademark and viewed as a national treasure in Japan. Singapore was chosen for its international standard of living. Sowa-san also said, "There is no better place to debut this exclusively than at CUT, the finest steakhouse in Singapore and at Marina Bay Sands, a world-class dining destination and a popular tourist icon among the Japanese."

CUT's executive chef Joshua Brown (right, above) says they will keep cooking techniques simple to let the natural flavour of the beef shine through.

I agree. When it's beef this good, you don't need to do much to it.

B1-71, Galleria Level,
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (next to the Theatre)
10 Bayfront Avenue
Tel: +65 6688-8517

Operating Hours:
Sunday to Thursday:6:00PM - 10:00PM
Friday to Saturday:6:00PM - 11:00PM

Daily 5:30PM - 12:00AM

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Good Morning Nanyang Cafe: A Day in the Life of a Kopi-Kia

Want a peek behind the scenes of Good Morning Nanyang Cafe? Good old school coffee/tea, wonderful kaya toast (with a few twists like ciabatta! see older post with the food pics) and perfectly runny eggs - simply soulful breakfasts at a cosy location right in the middle of the city. It's Time Magazine's one of 24 Best Kept Secrets in the World.

See how owner Byron Shoh and his team kick off the day from 7am - I have a photo story (16 pics) on Yahoo Makanation and Makansutra. 

What's not in the photos is our little training session (thanks, Byron, for the experience!). My buddy LeRoy and I had a chance to briefly apprentice one Saturday morning. We got to try our hand at making the coffee and tea, preparing the toast and seeing how eggs and kaya are done.

We had fun learning and trying to "pull" the tea in the big pots. The coffee's a bit heavy, so we just stir to get mixture to an even consistency.

LeRoy can go pro already!

Easy does it...

It's really boiling hot. I'm usually clumsy but luckily no fingers were hurt in the production of these photos.

All that mixing gets you a nice, frothy cup of tea.

There's even some tricks and tips in slicing the thin toast and spreading big gobs of butter and kaya on them. See the photo essay for more.

Of course, this is the best part. Yum yum!

The kaya is truly the highlight here - beautifully eggy, well-textured and fragrant. Made fresh on the spot every day. More than 50 eggs go into each batch!

Try it with various kinds of bread - regulars love the orange peel ciabatta!

Oh they make some really good curry chicken and chicken stew too, for lunch. Must come back for this.

Good Morning Nanyang Cafe is around the side of the Telok Ayer Hong Lim Green Community Centre at 20 Upper Pickering Street, #01-01, Singapore, Singapore 058284. It's right in front of the new PARKROYAL at Pickering.

Opening hours
Mon - Fri: 7:30 am - 5:30 pm
Sat: 8:30 am - 5:30 pm

It has branches (with different operating days/hours, see Facebook links) at

Pagoda Street:
75 Pagoda Street, Singapore, Singapore 059234

The Grandstand:
#01-34A, 200 Turf Club Road, The Grandstand, Singapore 287994

Far East Plaza:
14 Scotts Road, #02-23 Far East Plaza, Singapore, Singapore 228213


Monday, July 15, 2013

I'm Going To Boracay! Yeah, Baby!!!

Yes, Boracay! It's one of the items on my bucket list.

This tiny little island in the Philippines measures just 7km (4.5 miles) long but gets to flaunt some of the most stunning sandy white beaches in the world. It won the Tripadvisor Traveller's Choice 2013 Islands award. You can see gorgeous real photos there. Travel+Leisure Magazine also named Boracay as its Best Overall Island of 2012. Photo above from a Japanese site.


I am heading to Boracay July 18-22, thanks to the Philippines Department of Tourism and Tiger Air and Ten bloggers are going there to see paradise. We'll be traveling on Tiger Air's inaugural DIRECT flight to Kalibo, the airport nearest Boracay. Wow, you don't need to fly via Manila anymore - that shaves off up to six hours extra flying or transit time. Oh, Tiger Air's had a brand refresh - do you like the new look?

Some of the things we'll be doing in Boracay:
- island hopping and paraw sail cruising
- snorkelling and helmet diving in those crystal clear waters
- cliff diving at Ariel's Point (as high as 15m or five storeys high!)
- horseback riding (oh how I have missed this! Last done in Northern California)
- getting a taste of Zorb? Oh that's where you get to roll around in a giant hamster ball...oh help me!

We will be staying at the Boracay Regency Lagoon resort, where all the rooms look out onto a stunning lagoon shaped pool that's 1200 square metres (about 13,000 square feet?) big, the largest on the island. Photo from the hotel website.

Here's a video showing you what it looks like.

Plus, we'll get to peek at other properties like the Hyatt and the Shangri-La (purportedly a honeymooners' haven).

This is going to be such an awesome trip! I hope to bring back pics and videos, using the Canon 6D.

Meanwhile, you can view live on Earthcam the popular White Beach on Boracay 24 hours a day.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Wildlife Warrior Bindi Irwin Plants Tree in Singapore's Gardens By The Bay In Memory of Dad Steve

Steve Irwin's daughter Bindi is incredible. For a 14-year-old, she knows exactly what she wants to do in life, guided by passion and wisdom beyond her years.

Bindi resolutely believes in lending a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves, caring for the environment and animals, and changing the world. Kid empowerment, baby!

She came to Singapore to plant a Queensland Bottle Tree at the Gardens by the Bay, and dedicated it to her late father. "I hope that the tree will be a reminder to everyone that my dad was one man who changed the world. If one man can make a difference, YOU can make a difference."

Bindi was in Singapore along with her mom Terri and brother Robert. Together they run Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors, which is a charity established by the Irwins to involve people in supporting the protection of injured, threatened or endangered wildlife. Mr Philip Green OAM, the Australian High Commissioner to Singapore also attended the event.

Yes, we must have the tree hugger shot!

The tree-planting event also commerates her role in the Discovery Kids programme "Steve Irwin's Wildlife Warriors", which features the family's efforts in continuing Steve Irwin's legacy of wildlife conservation and welfare. Her new show premiered July 10 and airs Wednesdays at 8pm with repeats on weekends 9.30pm.

Bindi may also be inviting Singapore kids to follow in her footsteps and be involved in protecting wildlife and the environment. There are plans for a co-branded initiative called Discovery Kids and Wildlife Warriors. Stay tuned for updates on the website.

I was able to ask Bindi a couple of questions on behalf of my nieces Claire and Chloe in Sydney who are her biggest fans. Here's what she said:

Catch Bindi Irwin in two shows on Discovery Kids Asia (Starhub Ch 308 and Singtel Mio Ch 458):

Bindi's Bootcamp: weekdays 10.30am, 4.30pm and 10.30pm

Wildlife Warriors: weekdays 8.00pm with encores weekends at 9:30pm

Meanwhile, I have four Discovery Kids tents to give away in a random draw!

These tents are awesome! Bright, colourful, roomy and fun! Really easy to set up too.

Plus they are autographed by Terri, Bindi and Robert!

Courtesy of the channel. Discovery's stuff is always amazing. The Discovery Kids channel offers educational and entertainment content to school age kids between six and 12.

As usual, it's really easy to enter - two ways:

1. Share this post on any or all of your social media platforms - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, StumbleUpon and so forth, and send me the link(s) in the comments below. Each link is one chance.

2. You can also share the Facebook fan page post here for a chance. I can track the shares there, so no need to post those here.

Just make sure I can contact you via those profiles to send you the prize, if you win. Contest closes in two weeks at 26 July 2013, at 11:59pm.

Have fun sharing and good luck!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Singapore Hawkers vs Gordon Ramsay: Who Really Wins At The Singtel #HawkerHeroes Cook-off?

I'm still too tired from following Gordon Ramsay around Singapore the past weekend and surviving the very exciting and intense Singtel Hawker Heroes showdown at Newton Food Centre.

You can read my Yahoo story which came out just a few hours after the event for what happened.

As you all know by now, the British celebrity chef won for chili crab, but could not beat Tian Tian for chicken rice, and 328 Katong Laksa for laksa.

I will add the Ramsay eye candy for all you fans of his later tomorrow.

Oh what the heck, here you go.

The guy is a megastar! Many of us were totally blown away at just how popular Mr Ramsay is. You cannot believe the crowd!

Nearly 5,000 people came to have a glimpse of their idol. (iPhone photo)

Even luckier were the first 1,000 people who queued up very early in the day...(the first person showed up at 1am, even though the event was at 6.30pm). Fancy Gordon Ramsay serving you food personally.

And posing for photos.

This is what the tasting platter looks like. You know what, everyone had different opinions about what they liked.

Personally, I like the rice in Ramsay's chicken rice better (lighter, drier and not "jelak" or satiating). Tian Tian's was a little too mushy for my tastes, and saltily smothered with gravy. Their chicken was slippery and tender, while Ramsay's was served almost without skin. But Ramsay lost out majorly in terms of the chili sauce alone - his was made with vinegar, while the other is fragrant with lime, ginger and garlic.

Chef Ramsay's laksa was commendable - again more savoury and robust. Rather strong on spices like turmeric and blue ginger...and there's something else in there I can't quite identify. Keropokman said it tastes more like curry mee than laksa. It does take a while getting used to, but I liked it enough.

And now for Ramsay's winning chili crab. Yes, it's far more bold, complex, robust and spicy. It's tangy, savoury and not too sweet. I really do have to say that I love the chili crab. This is what I tweeted when I tasted it.

This crab was boiled first before it was mixed with the sauce. I know some people think it ought to be cooked with the gravy to extract the umami essence of the seafood. But Jumbo's tasted a bit too mushy, and the sweet eggy sauce was not quite what I would want to dip mantou in. Well, I'm not a fan of chili crab to begin with, but I sure did like what Ramsay did.

 Actually what was interesting is that after about an hour into the voting, he started tweaking the sauce. Yes, he spent quite a while personally making sure it got to its winning formula. I think I was lucky in that I didn't choose to eat early, so I got the later (yummier) batch.

Is anyone looking? Haha. Well, I wouldn't call it cheating. Whatever he did sure turned the tide for Ramsay, and he started seeing votes shooting up after that.

There were some really tense moments for the chef. He really took the competition seriously. Did we hear a few F-words? Give a guess.

He still managed to find time to give a laksa demo for the press.

You have no idea how crazy it became for the media. Of course, we all wanted front row privileges, and some of us nearly got crushed!

 But to be rewarded with this sight...Gordon Ramsay serving you laksa. Oh my. I don't think I'll ever see this again. But hey, he did mention something about opening a restaurant here...

That thick, gorgeously savoury broth. Maybe a touch greasy, but I like that he wasn't afraid to go spicy.

 Gordon also went around for public interaction with the diners.

 He also shared some talk with KF Seetoh, which also ended in a high-five.

Finally it came time for the results at 9pm. When asked who they would cheer for, it was Gordon. When asked whose food they voted for, it was Singapore.

So here are the winners - Tian Tian Chicken Rice (in white and red), and 328 Katong Laksa (in blue and red). Kudos for holding their ground in the face of a celebrity chef with Michelin-star restaurants.

This isn't really about who is more superior or skilled, but shows that it doesn't matter what awards you have, good food can be found in the humblest of places using ingredients that aren't premium or fancy.

Hawkers have been serving us great, tasty and very importantly - affordable meals. That, to me, is an even bigger challenge, because you can easily turn out great meals with best grade and pricey ingredients, and a grand kitchen. Half the job is done for you. But try serving the masses on a budget and keep them coming back for more?

And it was nice to see that even such a decorated chef can turn humble and learn from folks who do exactly that. He's already dreaming up dishes for his restaurants using what he learned here.

Well, at the end of it all, I think the Singtel Hawker Heroes event was a huge publicity coup - the competition itself is mainly great entertainment, but it did wonders fanning our loyalty for hawker food, and putting Singapore hawker food on the international radar. I don't think getting Ramsay to come here was easy (or cheap). But this will remain a talking point for quite some time to come.

So, everybody wins! Singtel, hawkers, Ramsay, and us!

Here's a part of the brief press conference given after the results. I summarised most of it in my Yahoo story too. Sorry for shaky video - trying to juggle taking both photos and videos using iPhone and DSLR! Yeah, I know, I'm greedy.

Watch the crowd go wild at the end as he leaves...

So Singtel, you have spoiled us. What's next?

All photos (unless indicated otherwise) taken with the Canon EOS 6D, kindly loaned to me by Canon Singapore.

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