food

Chasing Delicious

Sometimes, life gives you a perfect afternoon to rejuvenate and reconnect with the ones you treasure. Savoury, sweet and subtle sum up the flavours of the week. Last weekend, E and I made a trip to La Petite Cuisine at Serene Centre. If you’re looking for good and affordable French food, you must try the food at this place. It’s an unpretentious and fuss-free bistro which serves value for money (most of them are under the price tag of $20) and French comfort food. Oh there’s no service charge and GST as well.

The place is quite easy to spot. Just lookout for their red checked tables that lined from the corridor to the interiors. For a start, we tasted the Escargots on Croissant. The bread was so awesome. Buttery and soft. For a moment, I felt like I was floating in croissant heaven. I don’t usually eat escargots but when I popped one in my mouth, the first taste was quite shocking. It tasted dark and dirty..I swear I could smell the scent of grass. Probably the patch of grass where this poor snail once roamed. Oops. The magic began when we tasted the Salmon with Rice and Duck Confit w Potato Gratin. Both were pretty good in my opinion. Nothing to rant about. Portions were also quite generous.

Fun fact: If you look around the restaurant, you will surely spot a big guy with dreary eyes and a mustache peering out from the kitchen time to time. Yeah, you’re right. That’s Mr Chef!

La Petite Cusine, Serene Centre, #01-05

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Lychee Tea and Karaage

Saturday night’s dinner at Bibigo. I love chicken karaage. However, yesterday’s one was slightly dry and stiff, didn’t like it. Their kimchi fried rice is awesome though!

We finally adjourned at “Supply and Demand” cafe/bar at Esplanade. My first time there but definitely not the last. Good music, view and good company, what more could I ask for?

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Retracing my Roots in Hainan (Part I)

Qīngmíng Jié, also known as “Tomb Sweeping Day” is a special occasion observed by some Chinese families. It’s a time for them to visit the gravesite or temples to pay their respects to their ancestors. Unlike Singapore, countries like China, Hong Kong and Taiwan all recognized it as a national holiday with most people taking the day off from work/school to travel to their ancestral grave sites. All these years, my family’s custom simply saw us paying respects to our ancestors at the local temples. This year was different. My parents felt that the time was ripe for my sister and I to trace the legacy of our ancestors and so in April, we booked that flight to sunny Hainan island…

The Arrival

What does being Hainanese really mean? I don’t understand the dialect and neither am I able to speak it. The only Hainanese thing about me is that I like to eat roasted Chicken Rice. But then again, despite its name, I learnt that this popular dish was actually invented by Singaporeans. The closest version is the 文昌鸡 (Wen Chang Chicken) which bears close resemblance in appearance but not in taste. Upon arriving at Haikou (better known as “Coconut City”), we were warmly greeted by three of my distant cousins (met them for the first time!) who took their day off from work to be our ‘guides’. Good weather, checked. The traffic situation in Haikou reminds me of being in Bangkok. Rules here are practiced half-heartedly. Cars and motorbikes cruise in all directions. Ferrying a family of three to four on a motorbike is also normal.

Getting Around Haikou City 

Personally, I feel that Haikou embraces both modern and old vibes. On the modern side, you see modernized architecture, high-rise condominiums, interlining expressways and a couple of shopping complexes. Streets are also lined with a variety of food stalls selling their homegrown fruits – betelnuts, coconuts, jackfruits and lychees. The people’s love for BBQ seafood is also widely seen here. As you drive around at night, bustling night markets and colorful neon lights illuminate the streets. I recall feeling so in tuned with a character in the Chunking Express movie. Never mind that I had to squeeze with four other passengers in the car, the warm glow of the neon lights was simply a sight to behold.

Conversely, much of the old city remains unchanged. Some of the buildings still reflect the colonial influence with tiled roofs “flying” or upturned. Technology adoption here remains slow. The 4-stars hotel which I stayed surprisingly had really poor WiFi signals and zero facilities like the gym or swimming pool. Since smoking is also not prohibited indoors and outdoors, it’s hard to find a spot in Haikou where you can dwell in fresh, clean air.

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photo (2)Culture and Dining 

Throughout the trip, my family really felt the warm hospitality and generosity expressed by my distant Uncle and his wife. To say we were well-fed at every meal is an understatement. I feel that the people in Hainan or traditional Chinese in general enjoy entertaining guests in decent places like restaurants. It’s their way of building and strengthening “关系” – Guanxi or relationships, one of the most powerful elements in Chinese culture. This term expresses the relationship of one person to another, almost like an obligation built overtime by a reciprocation of social exchanges and favors.

By establishing this type of relationship with someone, the other party is implicitly agreeing to be also available to reciprocate when the need arises. After dinner on the first day, an old friend of my Uncle (who was coincidentally dining at the same restaurant) actually foot the dinner bill and joined us for a bit before leaving. I also noticed that most of the table arrangements were already pre-booked by my Uncle’s family. Being surrounded by chatter and laughter while dining in a private room is also a typical ambience throughout the trip.

Hainan people love to eat. The style and taste of cooking is similar to Singapore’s. My only gripe is their habit of not eating rice. Originally, I thought the staple food in China was rice. I love rice! So naturally, I was mentally prepared to see bowls of rice (and lots of steamy xiao long baos) on the table. But no! I kept seeing an assortment of meat, vegetables and tofu dishes. Once again, I said hello to the 文昌鸡 (Wen Chang Chicken) and still no sight of rice! Maybe because everyone assumed there was enough food on the table and rice was not necessary. Everyone but me. So, I courageously signaled to the waitress for a bowl of steamy grain goodness. Ah…now that’s what I’m talking about!

I shall end Part I of my Hainan travel encounters here and leave you with more snapshots of this city. Stay tuned for the highlight of this whole trip in Part II where we’ll escape civilization and travel to Qionghai Village and meet the rest of my distant “Pang” relatives.

Do give this post a “Like” if you enjoyed reading 🙂

(All photos taken by my sister and I)

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Enchanting Moments in Bali

I made it through a whirlwind of eventful happenings. In a blink of an eye, two months of my internship have already passed. A trip to Bali has also ended on a good note. During our time in Bali, we will remember how we were graciously hosted by the locals, other tourists and strangers.

Bali was a picture a minute, a smile everywhere you turned. Each day presented us with endless opportunities to enjoy each other’s company, delve deep into each other’s minds and tolerate with different travelling needs & wants. All the above, we wouldn’t have experienced if not for this trip.

If there’s a chance, I would love to be back again when the weather is cooler and perhaps with a different company. In case you’re visiting this enchanting place, here’s the place where I stayed and some other noteworthy places and things I like to share.

Accomodation: Dewani Villa (Kerobokan) – huge room and off the beaten tracks

Places I recommend:

  • Padang Padang Beach – very popular among surfers ; pristine waters
  • Sukawati Market – selling local produce, handicrafts, clothes, fabrics, shoes (remember to bargain for at least 30-50% lower)
  • Mount Kintamani and Lake – Breathtaking view uphill and downhill when you get close to the crystal clear lake
  • Rock Bar at Ayana Resort – luxurious experience as we caught the sunset while at the bar located at edge of cliffs. Must not be missed!
  • Visit a street stall and try their Babi Guling Rice. It’s essentially roasted pig stuffed with different spices. The whole pig is then carved and served with rice and other dishes.

We couldn’t have conquered all the above without our taxi driver. Initially, we boarded his cab with an intention of only a 1-way trip. Minutes into our journey, we were won over by his opinions of what to eat, do, and see.  Later, we ended up spending an entire day discovering Bali with him. He is Mr Putu Astawan, do connect with him (+6281 23807592) if  you’re looking for skilled and experienced driver to show you around. 12 years in this driving line, we can’t help but trusted him with our travelling needs.