My life with a pinch of sugar.

Category: Markets

Singapore Food Adventure (P.1): All About Dim Sum

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So I finally got around to rearranging my photos from Singapore. The trip that is wholly dedicated to the satisfaction of the stomach and one that I had the pleasure of going on with a few of my favorite people, Ploy, House, and his friend, Wen. I took tons of pictures on this trip (probably more than 1,000) but because of everyone’s hunger and minimal patience, most of the shots I took may show the food as less mouthwatering than it actually is. I guess you just have to take my word for it when I say that the dish is OH SO GOOD or FANTASTIC even with not much evidence.
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Last time I told someone about my five days, fours nights trip to Singapore, I was told about how much I’ll get bored after three days and how there isn’t really much to do in Singapore except the extravagant shopping on Orchard road. NOT TRUE (true for the extravagant shopping part, how can there be so many mega malls on one street?!). Five days are simply not enough to fully explore this gastronomic city. Sure if you’re only interested on shopping and going on rides at Universal Studio I say two days are plenty. BUT. If you are a foodie and looking to go completely guilt-free on an oversea trip with good friends, spare yourself a good 5-6 days. Singapore may be a small island but its food scene is anything but. Last time I googled “What to eat in Singapore’s Maxwell Food Center,” I was advised to go try out any stalls because everything is just downright delicious (a bad stall wouldn’t last long and would go out of business). My only advice is not to expect smiles and hospitality from Singaporeans.  You might have a whole different experience with them, but as far as I know, friendly is not the word to describe my experience.

So here is the first part of my food adventure in Singapore.

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Yan Ting
Even before landing, I knew that I wanted to have dim sum for my first lunch in Singapore. But with so many places with good reviews, it’s hard to settle on just one. Yan Ting Restaurant at St. Regis was seriously one of the best meals I’ve had throughout my whole trip. House and Wen were already in Singapore for a couple of days and weren’t joining us for lunch. Instead, Wen insisted that Ploy and I come to Yan Ting for a dim sum lunch and recommended ordering the roasted pork (top picture), an advice that we gratefully took with no regrets.
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We also ordered the black truffle shumai, steamed salted egg yolk buns, broccoli with crabmeat and xiao long bao. Apart from what we ordered, the waiter also served us pickled eggplant to start, which we thought was a pumpkin. Don’t you think it looks like a pumpkin? So everything I tasted was exceptionally good but the roasted pork and black truffle shumai was by far my favorites. The crisp skin of the pork and its soft under layer gradually melted in my mouth and the black truffle shumai was just loaded with so much shrimp giving each bite a soft springy bounce. Oh and in case you’re wondering, the steamed salted egg yolk buns tasted as good as it is picture perfect.
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Tim Ho Wan
On our last day in Singapore, Ploy and I came to Tim Ho Wan-the world’s cheapest Michelin stared restaurant-for brunch, praying that by the time we got there the queue would magically disappear and we would stride in and enjoy our meal without the long wait. How naïve we were. Judging from the number of people queuing up, we were in for at least a 30 minutes wait. BUT. Luck was definitely on our side. Since we were a party of two, we got to cut queue and waited for only 10 minutes! Yay!
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We ordered three of the Big 4 Heavenly Kings, which are the signature dishes at the restaurant: the steamed egg cake, baked bun with BBQ pork, and pan-fried carrot cake. We also ordered the prawn dumpling, bean curd skin roll with pork and shrimp, dumpling teochew style, vermicelli roll with shrimp, and vermicelli roll with beef. Yup. All that for just two girls with VERY big appetite.
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All the dumplings, rolls and the pan-fried carrot cake were good but not a WOW factor. However, two of the Big 4 Heavenly Kings certainly live up to its name. At first I was skeptical about the steamed egg cake, looking at the picture, the cake looks…to be honest like an ordinary sponge cake. But when I bit into this cake, it was clear why it’s crowned as one of the heroes at the restaurant. The cake was extremely light and fluffy in texture. There was a tiny hint of brown sugar, which I love. Definitely one of my favorite items on the menu. Now the baked bun with BBQ pork is another story. I’ve heard so much about this baked buns that I made a priority to try it before I leave. One of the greatest decisions I’ve made, YET! The bun has a crisp outer texture with soft sweet BBQ pork filling that is simply to die for. I love love love this bun. Did I say I love this bun? I love it. I would definitely go back to Singapore for another taste of this delicious BBQ pork bun.
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Yan Ting
29 Tanglin Rd, Singapore 247911
Tel:+65 6506 6866
Mon – Sun : 12:oo – 14:30, 18:30 – 22:30

Tim Ho Wan
01-29A/52, Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road
Tel: +65 62512000
Mon – Fri: 10:00 – 22:00
Sat, Sun & Public Holidays: 09:00 – 22:00

Road Trip 2013 (P.1): Meklong Market

IMG_6767Hello! I’m so literally sugar high right now. I just got back from a one day road trip with my family to Cha-Am (ชะอำ) beach and it was so awesome. At first I was kind of dreading this trip since I just got back from Singapore a day ago (will blog about this soon!) and was exhausted from all the eating and the walking. But if I stayed home I would really have missed out because in the end today turns out to be a day well spent. I always thought taking a road trip would make a great end to the year. But this road trip is even better than what I had in mind, a journey accompanied by seafood, local confectionaries and the beach is my 2013 grandest finale.
IMG_6795IMG_6772This year, just like last year, my parents would take my grandparents  and I on a short trip as a new year’s treat. They thought it would be a good change from staying at the house and being so intensely occupied with the ongoing political riots in Bangkok. So my parents rented a van, woke up super early, packed tuna sandwiches and roll(s) of toilet paper before leaving the house at 6:15 am. But since I’m such an early riser myself, I wasn’t so affected or bummed out by the early schedule. Besides I had the whole backseat to myself and practically turned it into a temporary day bed.
IMG_6805IMG_6809The final destination of this trip is Cha-Am (ชะอำ) beach but we made occasional stops along the way to check out notable local markets and do some sightseeing. The first stop is Meklong market (ตลาดร่มหุบ). At first glance, the market appears to be just like any ordinary fresh market. It wasn’t long before I realize that this narrow alley of shops is located on an operating railway. Crazy right? So what does these shopkeepers do when a train approach. It turns out that the farmers and shopkeepers know the train’s timetable by heart and would scurried away before hearing the sounds of the approaching engine. Hahaha imagine what a thrill it must be to have to face this kind of anticipation for a living.
IMG_6832The market includes the long alley that makes up the railway as well as a larger enclosed space, which specifically sells fresh seafood from river prawns, crab to fishes half the size of my body and I’m telling you it isn’t small. The market is not for all kinds of tourist. The fishy aroma and the deep puddles on the floor make it less than ideal for those who prefer to encounter food served on beautiful silverware, cooked and ready to indulge. As for those who wanted to get more hands on with food, especially fresh seafood, and doesn’t mind getting down and dirty, Meklong market is definitely worth checking out. My dad, mum, and grandma seemed to be enjoying themselves, stopping by most of the stores, skipping only one or two, and bargaining prices with the shopkeepers. I think they bought more than half of the variety of the seafood there. Let’s just say I’ll be spending the first few weeks of 2014 eating nothing but crab omelets and shrimp fried rice.IMG_6766IMG_6878IMG_6880

Meklong market is also packed with so many Thai confectionaries. This is the part where I go around wide eyed and practically hopping from one stall to the next. The first sweets I tasted at the market is black sticky rice with sungakaya, which is egg custard, wrapped in banana leaf (ข้าวเหนียวสังขยา). The taste is not out of this world good but is still a pleasure to eat nevertheless. The next sweet wasn’t photographed since it was gone so fast that I felt guilty asking my dad for his half-eaten share. It was a sugar palm cake (ขนมตาล), which is yellow in color. According to my grandmother, sugar palm cake can be commonly found in Bangkok but it’s rare to find ones that are truly made of palm sugar. The one I tasted at the market is made out of pure palm sugar, it was mildly sweet and frgrant, SO GOOD. I also bought the sweetened taro (เผือกเชื่อม), which is one of my favorite post-meal dessert. I like to fool myself into thinking that taro is a kind of plant and so it must have some kind of health benefits, making it good for me. If you have read my previous blog, you’ll know that I do these kinds of self-reassurances A LOT. So bear with me. The last sweet treat that I tried at the market (notice how I specifically said market and not the entire trip J) is known as kralan or kao lam (ข้าวหลาม), which according to Wikipedia is consisted of sticky rice, red beans, coconut and coconut milk molded into a bamboo stick. Again, the taste didn’t make me go wide eyed but still it’s hard to go wrong with all my favorite components of sticky rice, red bean and coconut in one dessert.
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Having sampled so much sweets, I’ve learnt one important lesson today: never enthusiastically point out every tasty looking stalls to grandma. She’ll eventually buy me the whole market if I do. Next time if I ever do go food shopping with granny, I’ll learn to keep calm and hold back my excitement.

Meklong Market
Kasem Sukhum Rd, Mae Klong, Mueang Samut Songkhram, Samut Songkhram

Yaowarat: Two hungry souls’ search for food.

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Sunday is guilt-free day.  It’s when my mum and I decide to make an exception to our never-ending diet and fill our tummies with whatever we want to eat… and what better place to start than at the heart of a foodie’s paradise.

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One word when I think of Yaowarat? Food. Good old local street food. The kinds that are enjoyed by the side walk fragranced by hot air and car fumes, seasoned and broiled by sweaty and (usually) grumpy faced cooks. The complete taste of Bangkok’s very own China town. Today, because of the ongoing Gin Je Festival in Bangkok, Yaowarat is flooded by a sea of hungry vegans. The streets that are usually emptied during midday are lined up with food carts and restaurants selling non-diary and faux-meat products. Theoretically, “non-dairy” and “faux-meat” are two words that sound as unappetizing as it could possibly get. Who would have thought that these meat analogues, which are comprised of tofu, soy protein and mushroom, could work its magic and taste just like pork and chicken meat?

IMG_4691IMG_4696IMG_46985 minutes into our arrival and I’m already in desperate need to fill up my empty stomach. My mum and I end up buying mixed vegetable fried rice dumpling from one of the food tents in front of our first stop, the Dragon temple, for a quick bite. Honestly, I don’t think anything fried could pretty much go wrong, the outer layer of the dumpling is crisp and chewy from the rice flour and even though the portion of the filling is meager, it still tastes pretty good. Other options nearby are golden fried noodles with bamboo shoot, carrots and Chinese kale (ราดหน้า) or red bean and black sesame Purée (ถั่วแดง/เผือก กวน) for dessert.

IMG_4705IMG_4715As we move on to our next destination, my black hole of a stomach isn’t yet satisfied. Luckily, we come upon a small restaurant within the Old Market, called Hong Kong Noodles, that is pretty packed and so we assume that it’s well worth trying. When we’re seated, my mum orders the Chinese rice noodle with tofu, shitake mushroom and coriander (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวหลอด) as well as the mushroom fried in sweet sauce and white sesame (เห็ดสวรรค์). A fine piece of advice? Do not order the mushroom. You’ll end up sucking on your fingers and eating every last piece left on the plate. I couldn’t put down my chopsticks. It’s that good and addicting.

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Our food adventure isn’t even close to ending. The old market is filled with stalls selling fresh fish, crab and shrimp. There’re also small restaurants, with names that precedes its exact location, constantly packed with hungry customers. Common dishes sold are noodles with fish, shrimp or pork balls, dumplings and steamed buns. There’re also shops selling all kinds of dried fruits and others selling fried proteins for vegetarian that pile up like heaps of copper colored pinballs.

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Walking out of the narrow street of the Old Market is like walking out of a food cave. My eyes need to momentarily readjust to the flash of sunlight.  Outside, many trolleys are selling pomegranate juice as well as roasted chestnuts. These trolleys are in such abundance that I think it’s pretty much the symbolic icon of Yaowarat. At noon, mum and I are still in our search for something to nibble. We settle at one of the restaurants by the main street, selling vegetarian side dishes served with jasmine rice and vegetarian noodles. We order Guay Jub (ก๋วยจั๊บ) to share, which is simply rice noodles, rolled in cylindrical form served in dark clear soup with tofu and coriander. To spice up the dish, I add some hot chili flakes and a tinge of vinegar. Da yum! Extra seasoning makes such a difference!

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As we’re getting full and strolling along the street aimlessly, stopping occasionally to buy some tofu or shrimp balls back home for dad, I have a sudden craving for something sweet. Besides, an eating trip is not complete without a little dessert to clear the palate. In the end, we settle at a small shop called Singapore Pochana, which serves pretty much the best Cendol (ลอดช่อง)- a green rice noodle dessert, serves with jackfruit and coconut cream- around the area.

IMG_4772 IMG_4774IMG_4781After slurping the very last drop of the coconut cream, I think I’m all set to survive without a meal for at least a day or two. My stomach feels so friggin tight and I’ve to resist every temptation to secretly unbutton my pants. However, the success of today’s spontaneous food adventure prompt me to keep finding more days in a week to splurge and spoil my appetite. After all everyone needs their own sweet escape once in a while 🙂

 

Spring Epicurean Market: Sunday morning into a food coma.

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Thailand’s seasonal system is pretty messed up. Everyday I feel like I’m either in a colossal sauna or a mega steam room since the weather simply alternates between hot/ humid and just plain wet. Last Sunday was no different. However, the happening of the Spring Epicurean Market on the green lawn of the Spring and Summer restaurant brought about a breath of fresh air. The market is held every last Sunday of the month with local vendors selling organic products ranging from home grown vegetables to freshly baked goods.

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To me, the word “market” in Thai paints a pretty graphic picture of a dimly lit and un-air-conditioned space with pigs and chickens on chopping blocks. And so I was quite excited when I heard that various farmers market are popping up around community spaces such as K-Village and Nawamin City Avenue offering a good venue for a family outing or a casual meet up with friends.

IMG_4419Yes, Sunday is that one day of the week when the streets are cleared and most people don’t get up until their internal alarm clock spontaneously decided to chime. But since I have always been a morning person, I made plans to meet my lovely friend, Bee, who was a doll to sacrifice her beauty sleep for an early morning outing with me and my family at 8:30.

When I arrived with my parents and met up with Bee, the lawn of the Spring and Summer restaurant had already turned into a playground where children ran around without a care in the world. Some people seemed to have arrived earlier and were enjoying their morning breakfast and coffee out in the open.

IMG_4464Judging from the look of things, I was pretty glad I skipped breakfast… Everything looked so good and appetizing that I literally jumped from vendor to vendor, tasting pretty much everything that I could get my hands on. It wasn’t long before my parents gave up on my enthusiasm and retreated into the restaurant to enjoy a cup of coffee in peace, leaving bee and me at our state of overexcitement.

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IMG_4430IMG_4465Bee and I went around different booths to take a peek (and an occasional tasting) of what was selling. The quinoa stuffed tofu and jasmine rice sushi from Spring restaurant was my favorite. It tasted so light and healthy…I think I could have eaten more than 10 if I weren’t so tempted to try out the foods from other stores. Bee and I also tried Joe Sloane BBQ’s grilled chorizo sausage with mango and applesauce on sourdough bread, which tasted absolutely delicious. One of the booths was also selling fruit popsicles, which was a hit for the kids, and the one next to it, from Appia restaurant, was selling mean looking eggplant lasagna.

IMG_4429Before leaving I made it a priority to check out Amatissimo café’s beautiful pastries and ended up buying their famous cronut (croissant + donut), macadamia nut sticky bun and almond croissant. Personally, I think their baked goods are just godsend… don’t know how they do it but seriously, how can bread tastes this good?

IMG_4457Altogether, the trip to the market is a great change to my usual Sundays. It was nice to see so many families out and about, enjoying good food and supporting local produces. I look forward to going back there next month and perhaps try out the healthy looking burrito or zucchini pancake from Absolute Fit Food..mmm.. or maybe the chocolate carrot cake that I’d been eyeing on… 😉

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