Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas #1: Ang Ku Kueh

The colors make you want to sing Christmas songs, only you can’t if you stuff one of these in your mouth. They are by far the best roasted peanut filled Ang Ku Kuehs ever. Buy a dozen and put them in a nice box for the Christmas parties you’ve been invited to at the last minute.

Price: $0.80 each

Other flavours available (but not in Christmassy colors)

Poh Cheu Handmade Soon Kueh & Ang Ku Kueh

127 Bukit Merah Lane 1 #01-230 Singapore 150127

I Am Not A Food Blogger: Some Food In Our Hood

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Our Food Patriot K.F. Seetoh still hasn’t wiped the foam from his mouth from ranting about food bloggers, which is why I’m telling you now, I’m not a food blogger.

I don’t know how to write about food except to tell you I like it or not. But there’s a chance I might like a restaurant or cafe simply because the people who run it are nice, and are passionate about the things they make.

But there are places where we would probably have avoided if we looked closer before making a reservation.

Saturday afternoon offered one such place. We’d driven past it several times, and the location had once been a Swiss-German restaurant we liked. So I made a reservation, and picked up the family to go there for lunch. It looked like a pretty hip place from the outside, with the raw, distressed metal and glass and cement finishes.

Plus, it served ribs and wine, because from the name, you’d know it did. But once we opened the door and got in to be seated by the very friendly and attentive wait staff, we knew we were in trouble.

First, they piped-in Kenny G! In place of what you’d expect a hip rib joint to play! Secondly, we were the only people in the restaurant apart from the staff.

Then, when we asked for recommendations, the (really friendly and attentive) waiter obliged by giving us this, his only suggestion: “If you don’t mind spicy, then you should try our spicy pork ribs”.

Thank goodness for the Kenny G muzak, or else we might have had our brains working.

Then came time for us to dabao what we couldn’t finish. We were told, “Takeaway container is 50c”. There would have been complete silence at that moment if not for Kenny G.

We found the food to be pretty ‘meh’ considering the price, but don’t rely on me to tell you, because like I said, I’m not a food blogger, and maybe they’re better known for their wines.

Good Review

Good & Bad Review

1 Million kg Challenge: Update

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OK the fortnight is almost up, and I think I’ve lost the Blogger Challenge component (to get as many people to sign up for the 1 Million kg challenge) of the campaign.

That means a forfeit. Of me wearing spandex and doing yoga or some other exercise designed to make me look more ridiculous than I already do. So please, if you want to save your eyes and those of the nation, do your part and let me not be last if there’s still time.

Being a part of this campaign has been interesting. Not least because I got my friends thinking about what they’re eating and what they’re doing about their health. I get lunch reports from friends telling me what they’ve had and what they’ve cut out. A fried chicken meal is now had apologetically.

Last week, a friend brought Naomi and I a box of delicious nonya kuehs sprinkled with coconut and guilt.

Personally I don’t believe in putting even more stress on myself when it comes to my own health. I count myself lucky I’m able to enjoy tasty and unhealthy goodies once in a while, and in moderation. But to be able to do that requires a little bit of thought into what I’m eating.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with having pre-diabetes and I’m quite sure if I hadn’t modified my diet then, I’d have upsized it to full diabetes by now. I’m now so used to not having soft drinks or any drinks with added sugar that the last time I had a gingerale, I had a stomach ache for a whole night. Most days now, the drink accompanying my meal is a glass of water or a cup of unsweetened tea.

It pays to be mindful, and I’m glad we eat healthily in our household. I know it’s hard to change our mindsets – but like the proliferation of soup stalls shows, once we create the demand for healthier food, the supply will follow.

If the 1 million kg challenge is new to you, or your friends, sign up, and sign them up. Oh lordy save me.

Good Things Must Share: Lim’s Soup (The Art Of Soup)

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There’s been a surge in soup shops across the CBD in the past two years, catering to workers’ increasing preference for healthier options. I’ve tried some of these places, and I’ve never gone back to any. Soups dished out from boiling vats are simply depressing, and most of them don’t taste good.

It is difficult finding cheap, healthy, and tasty lunch options, but I think this trinity might have finally arrived in the form of this nondescript food stall in a coffee shop in Bukit Merah Central. Thanks are due to Dr Leslie Tay and the HPB’s 1 Million kg Challenge for bringing us to this place.

Called Lim’s Soup (The Art of Soup), the food stall is lovingly owned and operated by Eric Lim in the day. By night, Eric does something in finance. He didn’t elaborate and I didn’t ask what it is that requires you to work at night in finance, because when you make soup as awesome as his shop does, why would you want to talk about anything in finance?

Soups are different at Lim’s, as Eric explains – there is a science (and and art) to “double-boiling” soup. The indirect heat extracts the flavour of the soup’s ingredients without overcooking (yes you can overcook soup) them. The results are clear broths and subtle flavours that dispense with the need for further seasoning, or god forbid, MSG.

Apart from the soups, Lim’s offer three grained steamed rice with a topping of cabbage as accompaniment, as well as menu items such as steamed minced meats with various toppings like salted egg yolk.

 
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There’s also a dish of baked rice with salted fish which is probably the best I’ve ever tasted. At other places, you’d probably dig into the dish and bite into chunks of salted fish which kill your tastebuds. Not so with Lim’s version because the salted fish is so finely minced that it infuses the entire dish.
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The thing that’ll probably make me lim a lot more of Lim’s Soup is that they deliver (if you order a day in advance). They’ll double boil your order and put them in vacuum flasks that will keep your dishes warm for two hours. This is because Eric thinks microwaving your soup to reheat them is an insult to every ingredient in your soup. He’s such a double-boiled soup nazi about it that he’ll let you keep the vacuum flask and only collect them the day after you’ve finished your meal. Now, that’s dedication.

Lim’s Soup (The Art of Soup)
Block 161, Bukit Merah Central
Singapore 150161.
11:30am to 8pm
Closed Sundays and PH
Tel: 83837687

1 Million kg Challenge

We’re into the third month of the new year, and while I’m glad I didn’t make any health-related resolutions to break, I haven’t done anything for my health apart from an alcohol fast that ended when I went on holiday last month (walau, Hokkaido is home to many first class breweries, can?)

But that’s going to change with another HPB initiative. The 1Million kg Challenge aims to make the whole country lose 1 million kg through healthy choices in diet and fitness. That hopefully will make Singapore light enough to be towed out of this region and away from the haze.

So if you don’t want to be in the haze*, and want to be healthy, do sign up for the challenge at www.millionkg.sg to pledge your weight loss or complete healthy tasks to be rewarded** with prizes.
1MKGC Blogger Challenge - MIYAGI
The other challenge the HPB has initiated is this #1mkg Blogger Challenge. mrbrown, DanielFoodDiary, and myself will try to get as many people signing up on the 1 Million kg Challenge portal. Please click through this link or my picture on the right to sign up, and I’ll be credited with the referral.

This is where I beg and grovel for your help. Because if I come in last, they’re going to make me do something humiliating, like wearing spandex and doing hot yoga or something. So, tolong. Because mrbrown looks better in spandex than I do.

Over the next three weeks, mrbrown, DanielFoodDiary, and myself will be talking about our challenges in becoming healthy. We’ll be accompanied and mentored by the evil Dr Leslie Tay, who will torture us with tales of tasty hawker food while telling us it’s bad for us.

mrbrown and myself will also be at Ngee Ann City this Saturday between 3 and 4pm, supporting the launch of this campaign. Come and have a chat with us, and maybe give us your weight loss tips.

Think you’re up for the challenge? If so, then it’s game on! #campaign4mrbrown2wearspandex!

*sorry, joking. Haze beyond our control
**minimum system requirements: participants must be between 18 and 64 years old, and have an existing BMI of between 18.5 to 37.4

The Bravery

When I went to uni with this bunch of fellas, we used to dare each other to do really stupid things. Like playing football at night in winter, topless, or diving into the surf at Bondi at night in winter with clothes on – this went on even after we left uni and returned to Singapore.

Once when we were at some expensive bar, we dared each other to do a runner. We all ran, but in wrong directions, and no one stopped us because we were shrieking like girls.

If we had a motto, it would have been the commando-like “Who Dares Wins”, but localised: “Who Scared Who? (Nabeh!)”

A nicer way of putting it would be that we all got along because we liked giving things a shot. My friend Shakir played in a Sydney rugby club with me before even learning the rules, and we both went abseiling precisely because we were scared of heights.

Once a student of aeronautics and a licenced commercial pilot, but who had the worst timing when it came to graduation – in 2002, Muslim trainee pilots held (and still hold) the world record for most number of planes flown into skyscrapers – Shak never once saw work as a pilot.

But always on the lookout for something interesting to do, the dude I’m proud to have been friends with for 18 years is now co-running this new joint in the newly hipster Jalan Besar Stadium neighbourhood, Shak revealed that the name, The Bravery, came about because “if you want to open cafe, must be damn brave man”.

Besides the damn kok etymology, The Bravery’s other noteworthy pedigree is that it is set up by the people who opened The Plain, on Craig Road in Tanjong Pagar. With that comes super coffee (they don’t roast their own beans, but that’s more than made up for by expert baristas who make sure your coffee is never burnt or sour), great sandwiches, and this breakfast item you have to have:

The Brave Bergedil is poached egg on bergedil corned beef hash with avocado and turkey bacon. Apart from the turkey bacon (which tips it over to the halal side of breakfasts), this combo works – I don’t care what this blogger says.

People who work nearby and who are familiar with Chye Seng Huat Hardware and Windowsill Pies (you know who you are, you Mad (Wo)Men) must come here for your coffee and light lunch fixes. And because they’re open all weekend, it’s worth coming out to Match-Fixers’ Central. Apparently it’s packed on weekdays but Sundays see crowds smaller than a regular S-League match.

The Bravery
66 Horne Road
Singapore 209073

And The Winner Is

We were so lucky to have had a final NYC burger at Shake Shack’s JFK Terminal Four outlet, and having been back in Singapore for five days, we’re now suffering serious burger withdrawals. Or it could just be jet lag.

I’ve never craved burgers so much, and I know there’re burger joints all over the U.S. that’d lay claim to having the best patties, so we’ll just have to eat our way across 50 states (ok 49, ‘cos maybe not Hawaii ‘cos they probably put pineapple in theirs) another trip.

But for now, here are the other three outstanding entries:

Steak & Shake’s Steakburger

DBGB’s Frenchie

Ai Fiori’s White Label Burger

If I had to pick a winner among all the burgers, it’d have to be The White Label. If you can’t taste it for yourself, then knowing what goes into it may help.

Thank you Michael White
Thank you Michael White

Ich Bin Ein Hamburger

We didn’t plan on doing this, but I’ve been told it’s quite characteristic of a trip to New York to entail many distractions, random and sudden new objectives, and a lot of it having to do with food.

On our first night in Manhattan, our local friends took us out to a burger speakeasy, simply called The Burger Joint, and simply hidden behind a velvet curtain in the lobby of the Parker Meridien hotel in mid-town Manhattan.

The following day, we made a plan to walk from 59th Street southward to Eataly, and stopped at Madison Square Park for Kai to get a little play time. There we saw our first Shake Shack, then we saw our first crazy Shake Shack queue and decided to come back some time after lunch hour. It still took over 20 minutes to get our burger, but thankfully, it was a 20 minutes worth waiting. It was also the first burger Kai has ever finished on his own.

Then the next day, we happened to be walking past Minetta Tavern at close to opening time and our local friends decided it was worth our giving the famed Black Label Burger a shot even though the tavern was kinda small, and a little noisy with post-work people hanging out having drinks. Custom-made from dry-aged ribeye, skirt steak and brisket, the patty is sublime, and at the moment, the Black Label stands as the best burger I have ever tasted.

(As we were leaving the tavern, Bono – yes, the Bono of the U2 – was just walking in, and nearly got hit in the head by Kai’s stroller, which was being passed to me overhead – so crowded was the tavern.)

There are other burgers to be had – we have lists, but the first three made for a really good trifecta.

The Smoke Shack from Shake Shack
The Smoke Shack from Shake Shack

Seminyak Highlights

Our love-hate relationship with Bali continued this trip, with our ideal idyllic villa getaway shared with our friends celebrating their anniversary turning into a three day battle with mosquitoes (and the holey mosquito net) before we retreated to a multi-storey hotel with fewer bugs.

Constant traffic jams on single-laned roads plied by mercenary cabbies whose reflex upon seeing us with kids in tow was to charge a prix fixe R50,000 (about $6) made for unpleasant afternoons. But watching the three children in our entourage charge at waves on Seminyak’s grey sanded beaches were the highlights along with some great food at some of the most beautiful beach club restaurants in the world. Coffee places in nooks of shops are also the norm along this stretch of south Bali, and you’d want to abandon the hotel breakfasts for a great espresso fueled brekkie.

REVOLVER
Australian style. Great breakfasts with bread and pastries from Monsieur Spoon – whose owner broke fast with us and told us he made the best croissants in Asia. I have invited him to set up shop in Singapore. You can thank me when that happens.

GROCER & GRIND
Go for GG’s Breakfast Burrito. Only cos you’re on holiday and you can have a burrito for breakfast

ANOMALI COFFEE
Great coffee, but the food so so. My entrecôte and frites was so underdone they refunded me.

CAFE DEGAN
Best Indonesian fare ever. Puts Sanur and every other Indonesian outlet you’ve ever had in Singapore to shame.

SARDINE
Great seafood – try the fish pan grilled Indonesian style. And the marinated sardines are great too.

NAUGHTY NURI’S WARUNG
The Seminyak branch is slightly more comfortable than the Ubud original. The ribs and bebek goreng are still great, as are the killer martinis. Order one and the waiter does a dance.

POTATO HEAD BEACH CLUB
The place to be for Bali sunsets. Drinks are so so, but there’s a mean snack platter. Beautiful people gather here to watch the sunset and each other.

MOZAIC BEACH CLUB
Randall’s cousin chum siong with one of the chefs to make an exception and allow our kids to dine with us (for this, we are eternally grateful). Fantastic food with a great ambience.

COCOON BEACH CLUB
Another place we decided to go to after Melody thought it’d be great after the kids got to muck around at the beach – which was crazy crowded because it was Sunday (every Balinese boy and dog are on the beach playing football on Sunday). The appetizers were great but the mains, while still good, were a little underwhelming.

MERAH PUTIH
Our party gave this place a star just for the decor/architecture – I have never seen a restaurant like this. The kelas atas Indonesian fare was simply fabulous, and you won’t go wrong ordering everything on the menu – just bring more friends to eat with. Probably the only people to complain would be the staff, because the kitchen is inexplicably upstairs while all of the tables bar three are downstairs. You’d have to ace your shuttle run to work here.

Our tips for enjoying Bali: Eat at the above places, bring lots of bug repellent, sunscreen, and always tell the taxi driver, “meter please”.

Naughty Nuri's

Potato Head Beach Club

Untitled

Mozaic Beach Club

Grocer & Grind

Revolver - Espresso made with love

Revolver - Breakfast - Poached Egg on Avocado on Toast

Katie Allan - Revolver

Samaya Spa & Resort

Merah Putih

Merah Putih - Babi Guling