Monday, 25 July 2016

Europe trippin to Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Bosnia, Italy and

Time really passes quickly. Almost a year ago, I embarked on my exchange program in Barcelona. Before curriculum started in September, I traveled to 5 countries with two of my friends, Leslie and Steven. Well, I finally have time to make a short video of our bag-packing trip! 

Ham and Mushroom Baked Rice


Baked rice was my favourite dish when I was a kid. My favourite baked rice is from NYDC even though I haven been there for years. In fact, I can’t even remember how it tasted now but I remember it used to be my favourite. Baked rice is a typical dish on food menus. In my opinion, a satisfying baked rice should have the flavour of all its ingredients well blended together (especially the rice and sauce). Instead of merely pouring the sauce and adding the toppings to the white rice, the way to infuse the flavour into the rice is simply to cook the rice with the broth or sauce which you intend to use. This is similar to how we cook risotto. The ham and mushroom baked rice which i prepared for my family was creamy and flavorful and I am certainly going to cook this again. If you are feeling lazy, you can always substitute the sauce with campbell soup but I would definitely recommend you to make the sauce from scratch. Enjoy (: 


Recipe: (serves 3 to 4) 
1.5 tbsp of butter 
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 3/4 tsp salt 
1/3 tsp salt 
1 1/4 cups of rice 
2 1/4 cups of chicken broth 
3/4 cup of cooking cream or heavy cream 
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese 
3/4 cup of mixed shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheese
6 slices of picnic ham 
250g of brown button mushrooms, sliced or quartered

1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and coat prepared dish with butter.
2. Melt butter in a drying pan over medium heat. Add onions, and garlic, some salt and pepper when butter starts foaming. 
3. Add mushrooms and ham to the pan and cook till mushrooms are tender. About 5-6 mins. 
4. Add rice and stir to coat in butter and the ingredients in the pan. Add broth and cream. Stir, taste and slightly season with more salt if required. 
5. Bring to simmer and stirring frequently for about 10 - 15 mins. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Pour into prepared dish and spread evenly. 
6. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for another 15 mins, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is almost cooked. Check frequently and make sure you don’t over cook your rice. 
7. Uncover and evenly sprinkle a mix of mozzarella and cheddar cheese on top of the rice and continue baking till rice is tender and cheese is golden. About 10-15 mins more. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Bangkok - Places to eat

This is my fourth time going to Bangkok and I still love this city as much as my first visit. The affordable city of smiles is merely 2.5 hours flight away from Singapore and its definitely a perfect short weekend getaway. With increasing tourists inflating the prices, shopping in Bangkok isn’t as cheap and bargain-friendly as before. While cabbing is relatively inexpensive in the city, the traffic is rather bad especially during peak hours. The “Bangkok Jam” is real. Perhaps, it may be even wiser to take the BTS if you are rushing to your destination. Unlike my past few trips to Bangkok where shopping was the priority, I spent most of my time eating and chilling this time round and the following are some of the places I went on this trip. (:

1. SabX2 Wanton Mee 
I never fail to patronise SABX2 whenever I am in Bangkok. This place is a hit among Singaporeans and I believe we contribute to more than 50% of their traffic. While SabX2 is popular among us, it is not as well known among the locals. My Thai friends did not know about  SabX2. Nevertheless, they serve really delicious Wanton Mee. Different from our local version of wanton mee which comes with different kinds of black sauces, SabX2’s springy wanton mee is flavoured and well coated with pork lard oil and they taste heavenly. Unfortunately, they have increased the price from 50 to 100 baht per bowl. Serving is small per bowl but certainly a must try if you haven had it before. 


Address: 
6, 2/6 Soi Phetchaburi 19, 
Khwaeng Thanon Phaya Thai, Khet Ratchathewi, 
Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10400, Thailand
(Opp. Platinum Shopping Mall)

2. Road side Seafood/Tze Char (near Central World)
This is my favourite meal in Bangkok. It is my second time eating here and I regret not trying earlier. I know some people may be apprehensive about eating food from road side stalls especially in Bangkok but I assure you will never regret eating here. The black charcoaled and inedible looking grilled fish may look dubious and daunting but don’t let the looks fool you. The fish is encrusted with a thick layer of salt and stuffed with lemon grass before grilling them. It has a tinge of smokiness after long hours of grilling over charcoal. Beneath the skin, its flesh is tender and sweet and goes perfectly well with the chilli.





I love their barbecued squid and stir fried morning glory as well. Please also be reminded that all street stalls and markets are closed on Monday for cleaning in Bangkok.

Address:
Sidewalk outside Bangkok’s Central World shopping centre
Walk towards platinum mall

3. Polo Fried Chicken
Stumbled upon this on the net and we decided to give it a go. We were disappointed with the fried chicken which we have gotten from the road side stalls. They certainly looked appealing under the spotlights. However, we regretted our decision after taking the first bite because they were so cold and stale. It would be perfect if they were to deep fried it again before serving. Since we did not satisfy our fried chicken craving on this trip, we decided to head to the recommended Polo Fried Chicken on our last day. I am sure you will not miss their gigantic red signboard. 





It may not be the best fried chicken I have tasted in my life but they were delicious. On top of chicken, we also ordered other dishes. Their papaya salad was pretty refreshing and goes well with the sticky rice they serve. However, I find their sticky rice a little too hard for my preference. 


Address: 
137/1-3 Soi Polo
Th Withayu, Wireless Road
Lumphini, Bangkok, Thailand

4. After You Dessert Cafe
My Bangkok trip is never complete without having Shibuya Honey Toast from After you Dessert Cafe. Three years ago, I remembered joining the long queue at the Siam Paragon Outlet. Today, I could simply walk in without queuing because they have four outlets in the city now. The soft and fluffy thick toast is cut into nine smaller pieces and each slice is incredibly infused with melted butter. Topped with vanilla ice-cream and drizzled with honey syrup, it was literally happiness in my mouth. This is ideal for sharing.


5. Roast 
Roast is strongly recommended by many of my friends who have patronised. Indeed, they live up to the hype. We ordered truffle pasta, big breakfast, tomato soup and an iced coffee to share. We wanted to order waffles for dessert, as recommended by my friends, but we barely have any room for dessert after finishing our meal. Tomato soup was refreshing and the truffle pasta was creamy and lightly infused with truffle oil. Prices of food served at Roast aren’t exactly cheap even though we are in Bangkok. Their prices are comparable to some of the cafes in Singapore. 




Address: 
A) Thonglor - Unit #T1 (Roast), The COMMONS
335 Thonglor Soi 17, Sukhumvit 55
Klongton Nua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110 (4th floor) 

B) 1st floor, The Helix Quartoer, EmQuartier 
BTS Phrom Phong Station 

6. Misoya Ramen
Misoya Ramen is one of the top few ramen stalls in Bangkok and they are certainly very value for money. A generous bowl of ramen costs about 200-250baht. Their broth was slightly too salty for my preference but it was still a satisfying meal nevertheless. 




Address: 
Thong Lor- Sukhumvit55 (thonglor13)
Bangkok, Thailand

7. Audrey Cafe and Bistro
With our very satisfying tummies, we decided to head to Audrey Cafe and Bistro, which was only a stone throw away from Misoya Ramen. Many cafes are located in the same district. Audrey Cafe and Bistro has very beautiful interiors and gorgeously lit with fairy lights. We were there to try the widely raved Thai Tea and Milo Volcano Crepe Cake. As compared to other crepe cake like Lady M’s in Singapore, their crepe cakes are richer and creamier in taste and flavour.



Address: 
Thong Lor- 3
Phra Khanong, Khlong Toei
Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110, Thailand

8. Hotei Sushi TC Green
Hotei Sushi is my favourite Japanese restaurant in Bangkok so far. We discovered this gem upon arrival at our airbnb apartment. Having not eaten anything since breakfast at 8am, we were starving by 4pm when we finally reached our condo and decided to grab a quick bite at the restaurant within the condo estate. The food served definitely exceeded our expectations. The food was very fresh and they were generous with their portions. The sashimi don has thick slices of sashimi. Even their complementary clear miso soup tasted different from the mirky versions which we are familiar with. It was a very satisfying meal that we went back the next day for tea-break. For our second visit, we ordered the salmon roll and it was luscious. The sushi was topped with half-pan seared salmon with mayonnaise. I am still salivating it right now.  




Address: 
TC Green Condominium at Rama 9 

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Honey Glazed Salmon Soba

Taking a break from the traveling posts, here is something that I whipped up for my dinner two days ago. Since I returned from Europe, I have developed the unhealthy habit of eating instant food. The five months of exchange in Europe has drastically transformed my dietary habits. I used to avoid carbs and fast food in the past. As an exchange student who tried to save more money on food for travel, I began to eat more carbs because they are cheaper. Now, I could hardly revert my diet back to before but I feel happier to be able to eat without beating myself over the calories consumed.It is no longer about losing weight to be skinny but striking a balance between indulgence, diet and exercise. I’ve learnt to treat myself better.


The following dish is not only healthy and versatile but easy to prepare. You can certainly add any left over ingredients from yesterday’s home cooked dinner to the soba as well. The ingredients are easily available from the supermarket.  Soba is a healthier alternative to traditional pasta. Unlike traditional pasta that is made from refined flour, soba has more fiber, protein and less calories. 

Recipe: (2 servings) 

Soba
100g of soba
1tbsp honey 
1/2 tbsp mirin 
2 tbsp soy sauce 
1tsp sesame oil 

Fish
2 salmon filets
1/4 cup honey 
1/6 cup soy sauce 
1tsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp fresh ginger 

2 eggs 

1) Prepare the salmon marinade by mixing all ingredients together.
2) Partially make 1/2 fillet deep cuts on the skinless side of the salmon fillet. 
3) Marinate the salmon fillet well and refrigerate it for 15 mins to a couple of hours. 
4) Prepare the marinade for the soba by mixing all ingredients together.
5) Cook soba according to package instructions. Once soba is ready, drain the water and pour the marinade into the pan and mix well with the soba. 
6) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius and bake the salmon fillet for 10-12 mins until cooked. 
7) Meanwhile, prepare a pot of water over high heat until it is boiling. Bring it to bare simmer. Place the eggs into the water and cook for six mins. 
8) Put all the toppings together and enjoy. šŸ˜ƒ 




Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Netherlands - Amsterdam


Amsterdam is a beautiful city that is well known for its luxurious canal houses and charming gabled facade. These canal houses were once homes for the wealthy, but are functioning as museums, offices and hotels now. The sheer grandeur of the picturesque landscape immediately made me ask myself why I did not pick Amsterdam as my exchange destination. But the answer was made so clear to me when I found myself freezing in the cold an hour later. The weather was cloudy and we had occasional downpours throughout my four days in Amsterdam.


Mesmerised by the picturesque canal districts, I wished I could spend more time outdoors people watching or to admire the houses. I visited the Ann Frank Museum and my friends and I had to queue in the rain. Every tourist takes picture with the "Iamsterdam" landmark. So its pretty impossible to get a photo without anybody else in the background unless you head there early. 




Fresh and delicious raw red herring. Definitely a must try when you head over to the street market. 



Forget the large dutch pancakes, these mini fluffy poffertjes are better. We also tried the freshly made stroopwaffle from the street market. Those gigantic pieces were selling for 1.50 euros per piece.


Cheesy chicken sandwiches from the street market vendors.




Last but certainly not the least, the city is also notorious for its red light district and has become a regular tourist site in Amsterdam. There are plenty of sex shops, sex theatres, peep shows and sex museums. Prostitutes dress in lingerie and some even barely anything stand behind red lit glass doors to attract attention from passers-by. The red light district is generally safe as there are lots of tourists and is patronised by both men and women.


Saturday, 30 April 2016

Portugal - Lisbon, Evora, Sintra & Porto

Portugal is located next to Spain, but pretty far from other European countries. To my surprise, it is one of my favourite European countries. Flight from Lisbon to Porto only costs me ten euros. Transport, food and accommodation are very affordable as well. If you are a fan of codfish, be ready to feast on them without burning a hole in your pocket.

Lisbon

The hostel in Lisbon was the best I have stayed so far. They offer an extensive range of breakfast, which consists of beverages, artisanal bread, spreads, ham, cheese and even freshly made crepes. It was a generous spread. The hostel has a pretty hip and cool rooftop patio which has a small pool, bar, home-grown herbs for cooking, and even a huge tent-tage where they host BBQs and parties on certain days of the week. Each bed has a personal lamp, curtain for extra privacy and a huge locker beneath it. I highly recommend one to stay in Sunset Destination Hostel in Lisbon. Unfortunately, my time in Lisbon was pretty short and only managed to visit several places of attraction. 

Belem Tower

The Belem tower was built as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor in 1515 and it is one of the most popular sightseeing attractions in Lisbon. To capture the most breath taking view of the tower, visit it in the evening and catch the sunset. 

Feira Da Ladra

Feira Da Ladra is a flea market where you can find a wide range of second hand goods, handmade artisan goods, CD’s, cassettes, clothes, stamps, antiques, paintings and even mobile phones that trace back to the Nokia 8210 series. The market is held on every Tuesday and Saturday, from dawn to dusk. 

Tram 28
When in Lisbon, one has to take the famous tram 28. It will take you through the hills of Lisbon and discover the stark contrast between the historic and traditional quarters and the sophistication of other parts of the city. 

Food

The Portuguese cuisine is famous for seafood and has many mediterranean influences. Olive oil is one of the main bases of Portuguese cuisine and many of their local dishes consist of cod fish. While cod fish is relatively expensive in Singapore, it is one of the mainstream local seafood and hence, inexpensive. A codfish main dish served in an average restaurant costs about six to eight euros. I was feasting on cod fish for almost every lunch and dinner. 


When you go over to Portugal, you certainly have to try the Portuguese egg tarts. Some of the egg tarts from the traditional bakeries are excessively sweet. I had three to four egg tarts a day and the best I had is none other than the ones from the famous Pasteis De Belem. It is a walking distance from the Belem Tower. The shop can be easily identified because there is always a long queue outside.


The egg tarts, also known as Pastel De Nata, are extremely crispy and flaky on the outside but soft on the inside. The consistency of the custard is very fine and smooth and most importantly, not overly sweet.

Evora


Evora is a medieval town, approximately one and a half hour train ride from Lisbon. It houses the second largest collection of Portuguese national monuments. I made a day trip to Evora to skydive.


I had my first skydiving experience with Skydive Portugal and it was absolutely amazing. Portugal offers skydiving all year round. I paid approximately 240 euros for the 4200m jump and multimedia package, consisting of both photos and video. The instructor straps two go pros on his hand, one to capture photos and the other to capture video. The most scary part of skydiving was the moment when I had to step out of the plane to position myself for the jump. I could literally feel my pulse in my mouth. Without any hesitation, the instructor jumped off the plane and I found myself falling. Once we reached terminal velocity, it felt as if I was floating in the air with a ton of air blowing at my face. At this point, enjoy the panoramic view of the world beneath you. 

Sintra

I also took a day trip to Sintra, the "Fairy Tale Land", which is home to quite a number of palaces. With only a day in Sintra, I visited two palaces Quinta Da Regaleira and the Pena Palace. Quinta Da Regaleira houses a romantic palace, chapel, luxurious parks and a vast array of constructions. The place is huge and i think one can spend about half a day exploring Quinta Da Regaleira alone. Unfortunately, I did not spend much time in Pena Palace as I was rushing to catch the last train back to Lisbon. I guess it will be good to spend a night in Sintra.
 

On our way back to Lisbon, I also took away a sandwich and some home-made pastries from the recommended Saudade Cafe, near the Sintra station. A nice stop for breakfast or lunch.

Porto


Livraria Lello & Irmao 















When in Porto, one definitely has to visit the Lello bookstore. Known as one of the top three most beautiful bookstore in the world, the inauguration of the bookstore in 1906 was attended by renowned writers. The entrance fee is three euros. However, your purchase will be subsidised by the entrance fee should you buy any book from the store. Upon entering the bookstore, you will be welcomed by the marvellous and grand looking stairway and exquisite wooden walls. 










J.K. Rowling is believed to have drawn some inspiration to write Harry Potter in this library. She worked as a language teacher for several years in Porto. Indeed, there are some similarities between the Lello library and the one described in Hogwarts.

Ponte de Dom Luis I

Sharing much architectural resemblance with the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Ponte de Dom Luis I is also designed by Gustave Eiffel. It is a double decked metal arch bridge that spans across the Duoro River, connecting Porto and Nova de Gaia. The bridge consists of two levels. Cars and metros use the lower level while pedestrians may use either level to cross the river. 


After crossing the bridge to Nova de Gaia, you may walk or take a cable car down to the foot of the hill. 

Port wine 






At Nova de Gaia, there are plenty of cellars that offer wine tours at affordable prices. I visited the Sandeman Cellar. The duration of the tour is about an hour and includes tasting of port wines. During the tour, you will get to unravel the secrets of Porto wine and its aging process.

Majestic Cafe
The Majestic cafe is one of the top tourist attraction in Porto. The classy cafe is designed by architect, Joao Quieroz in the 1920s. With such ambience, don’t expect the prices to be cheap but it is defnitely a worthy visit to admire the majestic interiors and atmosphere. 




The breakfast on the table costs us 20 euros in total. 

Francesinha

Do try their local Portuguese sandwich, Francesinha. It is made with bread, wet-cured hamlinguiƧa, fresh sausage such as chipolata, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thicktomato and beer sauce served with french fries.

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