Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cash Rebates and Groupon Coupons with ShopBack

A good friend who is a mad expert at shopping tips and "lobangs" told me about ShopBack, which gives you cash rebates on many popular shopping sites. I'm usually quite skeptical about such deals but it came from a trusted friend who actually saved money on this. So I signed up. It's free anyway.

Wow. It worked.

The cashback rates are pretty good. They seem more generous than the rebates that credit card companies give.

What you do is use Shopback as your "launchpad" and the shopping sites see you as a Shopback referral.

You can use my code to sign up for a S$10 bonus!


I have been testing it mostly using RedMart and this is how much I have accumulated with 8% cashback. It adds up pretty quickly! I have enough for another grocery run!

You can also whip up a meal with Redmart coupon codes available right there so you don't have to hunt for codes elsewhere. So I take advantage of items on sale, apply a discount code if available (usually 10%) and then get 8% cashback on top of it all. I easily save 20-30% sometimes.

Now I am starting to use it for other sites too, like Qoo10, iHerb, Lazada, AliExpress and GearBest. Hey, every bit counts in this economy!

You can look for dining promotions at ShopBack or dine at a discount with Groupon deals.

But the biggest rebates probably come with big ticket items like trips. Get even more out of your holidays when you travel with Agoda discounts. There are also other options like Booking.com, Hotels.com, Zuji, Accor Hotels and Chan Brothers to choose from. Imagine: say 8% rebate from your hotel bookings of S$1,500 would be S$120!

The other big ticket item is tech. So if gadgets are what you're looking for, then ShopBack has some great electronics offers and deals!

OK, one small thing I have observed is: you should ideally complete your purchase before the browser session expires. It happened to me when I got distracted by something and left my computer to attend to something. While the same window may be open, the connection may have lapsed and the rebate may not get reflected.

But they will still recognise your purchase if you started it off using the Shopback launchpad. The customer service is very responsive and will credit missing rebates - kudos for that. I'm shopping in confidence but now I make sure I finish all my purchases quickly! (Psst, window shop separately first if you need!)

Again, you can use my code to sign up for a S$10 bonus!


I was a Shopback user and invited to review Shopback

Monday, April 25, 2016

Empress at Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM)

Mmmhhhh, Sticky and Sweet Pork Ribs...just look at these caramelised babies and you swear you smell the aroma. Better yet, head down to Empress at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), so you can actually savour the fatty goodness on your tongue.

The excellent ribs are part of a platter:

Triple Roast Platter 燒味三品拼: 叉燒 、燒排骨 、燒肉(S$28)
Empress Char Siew, Crackling Roast Pork, Empress Sticky & Sweet Pork Ribs

The roast pork is fairly run-of-the-mill; the star is really the ribs. They totally overshadow the char siew, even though they seem to be a similar preparation.

Empress is the new jewel in The Prive Group's crown. It takes over where Indochine used to be. The Singapore riverfront is not only steeped in heritage but also makes a scenic vista for dining.

Empress is about modern Chinese cuisine grounded in tradition. The decor also balances Chinese elements with the museum's facade. Specially designed geometric patterned screens highlight the oriental elements throughout the interior, creating a sense of division between the museum courtyard, the main dining area and private dining room.

Central to the 86-seater indoor dining space is a large six-meter bar with tall open shelving designed to allow views through to the building’s historical walls.

The 14-seater private dining room, Canton, is dressed in warm browns and teal to set itself apart from the main dining area. It offers exclusivity for more intimate dining and features exquisite chinoiserie-inspired wallpaper.

But let's get back to the food...you can tell with me, it's food>ambiance!


Crispy Aromatic Duck Salad 手撕香酥鴨沙律 (S$18)
Baby Spinach, Micro Herbs, Asian Pomelo, Nashi Pears, Goji Berries, Cucumbers, Spring Onions, Chinese Figs, Plum-Citrus Dressing

It's East meets West with this salad. Crispy duck fritters on a bed of spinach, accented by sweet fruit and tangy dressing. Nice opener.

Crispy Eggplant & Pork Floss
This was exquisite. The eggplant was so soft, delicate and almost hollow. I don't know how they managed to plate it without crumbling everything. Generous sprinkling of pork floss and

King Prawn Dumpling in Supreme Broth 石鍋餛飩雞湯 (S$14)
Teapot Soup 茶壺黃燜海皇餃伴春卷
Supreme Broth with Pumpkin, Seafood Dumplings, Crispy Spring Rolls

I have to say I prefer the more traditional King Prawn soup; it made you feel all warm and nourished like Chinese soups should. The pumpkin one seemed a tad muted, although it had the crispy spring roll for textural contrast.


From the mains, here is a choice of a meat and a seafood dish each.

Singapore Chili King Prawns 辣椒蝦球伴炸饅頭
If you love chili crab but are deterred by having to deal with messy shells, try chili prawns instead. Served with Golden Mantou, this is a much easier way of enjoying Singapore's signature seafood dish. Sure, it's not quite the same, but the mantou is still a great way to mop things up.

Seared Angus Beef Tenderloin Cubes 黑椒蒜片安格斯牛仔粒
Garlic, Black Pepper Sauce
This was a simple but effective rendition, without excessive use of tenderiser.

Fried Brown Rice Medley 松子鮮菌露筍炒糙米飯 (S$20)
Hon Shimeji Mushrooms, Asparagus, Goji Berries, Pine Nuts

Most of us were too full by this juncture, but this carb dish was amazingly good. I'd say it's one of the best fried rice dishes I've had in a while. Plus it's a "healthy dish" with all the grains, plant proteins and antioxidants.


Dessert in Chinese restaurants tend to be quite simple and limited. But here you get all kinds of non-traditional almost fusion desserts to satisfy that sweet tooth. Look at the options (prices around S$12):


Salted Peanut Toffee, Coconut Ice Cream

Jackfruit in a creme brulee

Black Sesame Sponge, Black Sesame Ice Cream

Thai Pineapple, Honey Mango, Passion Fruit Pearls, Coconut Ice Cream

STICKY DATE & LONGAN PUDDING 中东棗龍眼布丁蛋糕、椰子糖奶油 酱、 核桃、伴枸杞子蜜漿雪糕
Gula Melaka Butterscotch, Walnuts, Goji Berry & Vanilla Swirl Ice Cream

Sesame Seeds, Red Bean Popsicle

‘Cheng Teng’ Ice, Longan, Red Dates, Black Sago Pearls

Everyone liked different things. The sticky date pudding, coconut custard and nian gao were my personal favourites.

For large gatherings, EMPRESS offers set lunches and set dinners starting from $18 and $88 respectively. Those looking for a lighter lunch can also opt for a selection of Dim Sum (starting from S$5.20) which is served daily.

Speaking of dimsum, they have a Weekend Dim Sum Champagne Brunch! Adults S$58, Kids (aged 5-12) S$28 with two seatings 11:30am to 1:30pm, and 2pm onwards (MUMM and Jouet champagne is S$44 and S$60 extra).

I must come back and check that out. Especially the crispy bacon and prawn vermicelli roll!

1 Empress Place, Asian Civilisations Museum, #01-03, Singapore 179555

Facebook: www.facebook.com/empressasiancivilisationsmuseum
Tel: +65-62388733
Email: reservations@empress.com.sg / info@empress.com.sg
Opening Hours | EMPRESS
Monday - Sunday Lunch: 11.30am – 3pm (Last Order 2.30pm)
Dinner: 6pm – 11pm (Last Order 10.45pm)
Opening Hours| EMPRESS Bar
Sunday to Thursday 4pm – 12mn Friday & Saturday 4pm – 1am

Many thanks to The Prive Group for the invitation

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ash & Elm at InterContinental Singapore: Chic European Restaurant

Olive Tree turning into Ash & Elm has got to be one of the most amazing restaurant transformations in Singapore.

It's a multi-million dollar total revamp, turning the former all-day dining eatery at InterContinental Singapore into a chic European dining hotspot featuring three culinary theatres - a charcuterie and cheese room, a wood-fired oven and an open-grill kitchen.

The open kitchen area reminds me of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. I do love that sleek contemporary look with the polished steel and pops of colour accenting the black.

The main dining area has a skylight canopy that lets in gorgeous natural light by day but transforms into a stylish colour changing space in the night. Pendant lights comprising hand-cut polished crystals helps set the mood. The slim line design of the chandeliers help anchor the double height space.

Stunning looks aside, the food has also gotten a massive upgrade. And that's the best news. Here's a look at some of the dinner items.

A photo posted by Catherine Ling (@camemberu) on

Witness the insanely good Beef Tasting Sharing Plate (S$108) above:
From L-R: Australian Rib-Eye Steak, Bave e d’Aloyau, New York Striploin

This was some of the best steak we've had in a while, and I'm surprised it came from a hotel instead of a steakhouse. Ash & Elm uses Manuka wood chips alongside charcoal in the grill for robust aromas. We liked the striploin a lot surprisingly. The French Bave e d'Aloyau had the most gamey but complex flavour. This is a seriously must-try platter.

Choose from Bearnaise sauce, Peppercorn sauce or Natural Jus to complement the steaks (honestly, the meat was so good, they didn't need any).

Ash & Elm Platter (Small S$24 / Large S$42)
House-Cured Beef Pastrami, House-Smoked Pork Loin, Air-Dried Rolled Pork Belly, Cold-Roasted Beef and Pressé de Foie Gras with Smoked Duck

The signature platter has charcuterie favourites all on one platter. There are also French, Italian and Spanish themed platters each featuring the meats and cold cuts from the respective countries.

Flat breads: Pumpkin and Bacon (S$18)
Pumpkin, Bacon, Nutmeg, Sage, Mascarpone and Parmigiano-Reggiano

The wood-fired oven churns out the most delightful flat breads. I liked the light, chewy and fluffy bread base, almost more than the toppings (maybe pumpkin is too bland for me). Next time I will try the Prosciutto and Arugula (S$26), or the Chorizo and Olives (S$24). There's also a Vegetarian one (S$22).

Having such an oven means your starter breads are also more interesting.

Other goodies from the wood-fired oven include Gratinated Lasagna Bolognese, (S$25) Whole Seabass "Au Plat" (S$49), and a whole Boston Lobster Thermidor (S$78).

Slow-grilled Spanish Iberico Pork Chop S$39
Also from the charcoal grill is this beauty. A hefty pork chop with a medley of lusciously grilled vegetables. By this stage, we were a little too full to fully appreciate this but it was definitely a dish well-executed.

Tasmanian Salmon Fillet À La Plancha S$46 
Sustainably-Farmed Tasmanian Salmon, Grapefruit Hollandaise and Mixed Vegetables

They also do a fairly good grilled salmon. The interior is nicely tender, still medium rare. But this and most of the other mains simply pale against the Beef Tasting Platter (or perhaps my beef bias is showing...)

Seafood Linguini S$31
Scallops, Shrimps, Squid, Clams, Olives, Basil and Crustacean Sauce

Such generous seafood in this plating. This pasta almost tasted Chinese, like it had some soy seasoning. Maybe the thick crustacean sauce was just extra umami.

Remember the wood-fired oven? Yeah, it does dessert too!


Chocolate-Hazelnut Pizza (for sharing) S$24
Chocolate Brioche, Dark, Milk and White Chocolate, Praliné, Marshmallows, With Cocoa Granité and White Chocolate Ice Cream

I think chocolate fans will think they have died and gone to heaven. If they make a salted caramel version, I think I will float to heaven myself.

Other desserts are more ordinary - fruits, ice cream, sorbet, apple tatin, peach melba and Salty Chocolate Rum Raisin. I am curious about the Yuzu-Citrus Combination though - Lemon Sablé Breton, Yuzu Curd, Mandarin Orange Reduction and Yuzu Sorbet. Must come back.

So that's Ash & Elm at the InterContinental Singapore. Despite the complete overhaul, prices are pretty reasonable. Again, the steak is the highlight and reason enough to return.

They have a semi-buffet lunch available Mondays to Fridays, and have just introduced Sunday brunch. I hope to cover those in time to come, so watch this space.

Level 1 InterContinental Singapore
80 Middle Road
Singapore 188966
Tel: +65 6825-1008
Open daily
A la carte lunch daily 12 noon to 3pm
Semi-buffet lunch Mon-Fri 12 noon to 2pm
Dinner daily 6pm to 10.30pm

Many thanks to Ash & Elm for the invitation

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

5 Best Beaches in South-East Asia

Doesn't the recent warm weather make you yearn to be on a beach somewhere? Enjoying cool blue waters and powdery sand, with an ice cream cone or cocktail in hand. Well, the good thing is, some of the best beaches in the world are right at our doorstep! Here are five of my favourite beaches in South-East Asia:


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Where to Eat at Orchard Central: Joie by DOZO, Sumiya, Som Tam, Tony Roma's

If you've been to Orchard Central recently, you might have noticed it's become quite the food haven. Yes, I counted 33 F&B outlets with two more opening soon (Pompompurin Cafe and Tanuki)! Most of them are clustered around floors 7, 8, 11 and 12, with a few in the basement and ground floor. I don't know about you, but my tummy says that makes it a lot more interesting to explore.

Recently I got to visit three restaurants I've never tried, and one that's always been a family favourite. Here they are:


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Honey Almond Cranberry Coconut Granola Bars with No Refined Sugar

I fell in love with making granola bars this year. They are so fast and ,easy to make, and taste way better than the packaged stuff sold on the market. Plus, you can make sure yours doesn't contain refined sugar.

Here's a version that uses only honey (and dried cranberry) as a sweetener. The coconut oil gives it a tantalising aroma but you can use butter too. But the recipe is so versatile, you can vary the nuts and dried fruit. You can also swap out flax seed and linseed for wheatgerm and other nutritious grains.

2.5 cups oats
1 cup almond slices
1 cup dried cranberries
Half cup flax seed (best ground to a meal)
Half cup linseed
Half cup honey
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp salt
butter for greasing baking dish/pan

The method is based on Alton Brown's recipe. I tweaked it to suit my own ingredients.


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F.  Butter a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish (I used a 9" x 13" baking tray) and set aside. You can use parchment paper as well as butter; lifting off the finished product will be much easier.

2. Spread the oats and almonds together onto a half-sheet pan. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.

3. In the meantime, combine the honey, coconut oil, vanilla extract and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring until everything is combined.

4. Once the oats and almonds have been toasted, remove them from the oven and reduce the heat to 150 degrees C or 300 degrees F. I think my own oven does better at 160 deg C but yours might vary.

5. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine.

6. Turn the mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes.

7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. It will still seem a bit soft when fresh out of the oven. That's okay; it will harden when it cools.

8. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

That's it for easy granola bars with no added refined sugar!

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