Thursday, May 29, 2014

Precious Couple Getaway/Staycation @ The Scarlet Singapore

Great selfie @ Le Chocolat. Could have done with better pastries though
Since Noah came, couple dates have been few and far between (and that's why all 3 previous ones were extensively covered). One which allowed us to have a night off Noah was even more precious!

Thanks to the collective help of Noah's maternal grandparents and aunts, who gave him an incredible staycation separately, and the recommendation of some dads on my Daddy Matters group, Li Li and I finally had the opportunity to have some romantic couple time to ourselves at The Scarlet Singapore, a refurbished shop-house-converted-into-boutique-hotel which I had never heard of prior to this trip.

The Scarlet Singapore
The mystique of a boutique hotel aside, what attracted me more to this location was the fact that it was a few steps away from Maxwell Food Centre (which would satisfy our local food craving), and comfortable walking distance away from heritage sites like Sri Mariaman temple, the Red Dot Museum, Chinatown, bustling Tanjong Pagar, and also chill-out spots like Club Street and Duxton Hill. It meant that even if the room was not as good as expected, we would have no lack of places to spend some quality time together without the need to take any public transport.

Tian Tian Chicken Rice, arguably the world's most famous Hainanese Chicken rice thanks to Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay, my first try after nearly 33 years. It was good!

金华鱼头米粉, undoubtedly the most delicious Fish Head Bee Hoon I had ever eaten!

The Scarlet Hotel itself reminded me very much of Hotel Muse in Bangkok with a nostalgic twist, as its classy dark-coloured contemporary interior design made us forget for a while that we were actually in a shop-house lot. Service was one of the best parts of the experience, as the team was nice local blend of different ethnic groups, all well-trained and ready to lend a warm helping hand when required.

Taking a picture in the lobby

I loved the loud red corridor, though it started to remind me I was in a shop-house lot.

There is no question that the designers did an intricate job. Every doorknob, wall accessory and toilet fitting screamed of creativity. However, our room was really quite small (I expected it) and did not have any windows. Luckily, they ensured the room at least had some skylight to make it feel less claustrophobic.

Our cosy little turquoise-themed room
Li Li loved the basin area of the little toilet, but if I were to be very honest, the finishing of the floor and wall tiles left a lot to be desired, maybe I just expected more in such a well-crafted hotel.

The best part of the staycation turned out to be the hotel breakfast. It was a combination of a perfectly-executed American breakfast and a small but very presentable Continental breakfast spread, served in the hotel's beautiful Italian restaurant. I personally feel that this is a masterstroke, because it would be a huge ask for Scarlet to serve up local/Asian flavours that can beat the insane amount of tip-top local delicacies available at the nearby Maxwell Food Centre.

Yummy American Breakfast

Nice selection of breads and pastry
It felt like we were dining in Europe

Just when my Noah-withdrawal symptoms grew to its almost-unbearable peak after breakfast, my cute sister-in-law sent me this.

Guess where he was? Looks like he was having a heck of a time as well.

So I would like to hereby extend my gratitude to Kunqi, Fengyi, my parents-in-law for taking such good care of Noah when we were 'on leave' and my dear brothers in Daddy Matters for recommending so many ideas before I decided on this one. We needed it, especially before our little one arrives this September. Hopefully we can find time for another such getaway before then.

Friday, May 23, 2014

My First 'Michelin Star' Experience: Tim Ho Wan Westgate Singapore

Tim Ho Wan @ Westgate

My gourmet trail so far during this trip in Singapore hasn't been very fortunate. I made it a point to have the best Hokkien Prawn Mee in Singapore, took the trouble to make 3 separate trips to have them but all ended in disappointment. But heck, let's just focus on the good parts ya?

Despite my love of food, Michelin-star-endorsed food had never crossed my path before, largely because they are either not easily available in my countries of residence or because they were simply beyond my comfort zone in terms of price/length of queue. Fortunately, the much-maligned Tim Ho Wan opened a branch at Westgate, which also happened to have a very short queue when we passed by, so I had to give it a try.

From all I had gathered online regarding the Tim Ho Wan in Singapore, I had little or no expectations. "Not worth the queue", "Much worse than the original in Hong Kong", "Nothing spectacular" are the usual comments from all my friends. However, I took all these with a pinch of salt. For me, Tim Sum can always be fresh, delicious and satisfying, but never spectacular, all those who expected to go "Wah Lau Eh" on a piece of "Har Kau" because of a Michelin star are sure to be disappointed, because the level of expectation has been misplaced in the first place.

Congee with century egg

Alas, the lunch did not start so well after all. The congee tasted pretty good, but it's so thick that you had to literally yank the congee off the spoon, and it technically turned into a glue when it cooled. Wouldn't order it again.

Shrimp Siew Mai
Steamed rice with chicken and chinese sausage
Siew Mai and steamed rice "盅仔饭" with chicken are both not considered Tim Ho Wan's signatures, but they both tasted really really fresh and good. I would consider them better than the average plate you can get in other restaurants.

So now for 3 of the 4 Tim Ho Wan signatures:

Fried carrot cake

This fried carrot cake was, for me at least, one of the nicest I have ever eaten (and trust me, I have eaten a lot). It's extremely soft while still holding its shape when you pick it up with your chopsticks. I believe its structural strength has been given by the large amount of radish shreds it holds. Surely a must-try.

Chee Cheong Fun with Liver
It's actually quite surprising that one of the 4 best dishes at Tim Ho Wan was actually a Chee Cheong Fun stuffed with liver (the pig kind, not the goose kind). They will do very well to make me like this dish, given the fact that liver has always been one of my least favourite innards, and as expected, I didn't. I will only recommend this dish to pure liver lovers.

BBQ Pork Polo Bao

Ok everyone take a deep breath and say with me..... Wah.... Lau..... Eh!

I have told people that as long as Tim Ho Wan can wow me with 1 dish and the rest of the dishes taste better than average, I would be suitably impressed. The next time you go to Tim Ho Wan, please order its BBQ Pork Polo Buns, take one in your hand and bite in when it's hot. Beyond the thin and crispy sweet milk crust will be a piping hot pouch which pops as it breaks, letting loose a gush of hot air trapped inside then a goo of runny BBQ pork gravy. If the same dish is even nicer in Tim Ho Wan's original shop in Hong Kong, I can imagine the Michelin star judges (especially the Caucasian ones who do not frequently eat this) giving their endorsement just because of the sheer excellence of this humble Bun.

Ok verdict from the Stranger in Bangkok:

I am not used to queuing for food, so no, Tim Ho Wan is not worth a long wait. However, it serves better-than-average Tim Sum coupled with a couple of outstanding dishes, so if there is little or no queue (eg. less than 15 minutes wait), I will say it is a must-try if you are a Tim Sum lover like me, just don't let the supposed Michelin-star reputation skew your expectations and affect your enjoyment.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My top 5 mobile food stalls in Bangkok

Those who know me well will realise that I have been participating in many major exhibitions because of my new business venture selling King Koil Mattresses and Protect-A-Bed mattress protectors. But don't worry, this is not going to be a post telling you how to choose a mattress, that is reserved for a better day.

My frequent visits to BITEC Bang Na, IMPACT Muang Thong Thani and Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre have given me the revelation that food in convention centres in Thailand (just like in most other countries) are mostly overpriced and taste horrible. Therefore, I have been determined to find salvation for our hungry tummies, whether we are exhibitors or visitors, at major trade fairs. If you can't find decent food outside the shows (in the food courts/cafeterias), why not try your luck inside the show instead?

In this post, I am going to list down my 5 best mobile food stalls in Bangkok. By calling them mobile food stalls, I mean they are mostly found moving from event to event earning their living selling food without permanent locations. Aside of trade shows (big and small), they can sometimes be spotted during special events in different shopping malls.

Khao Mok Gai, or what I call Nasi Briyani with Chicken from a mobile Muslim stall
Before I formally go into my top 5, I would like to clarify that because I cannot read Thai properly, I am not able to tell you the full names of the stalls, but I will do my best to teach you how to identify them.

Stranger in Bangkok's 5th Best Mobile Food Stall: Strawberry Shake with Yoghurt

They sell assorted fruit drinks, focusing mainly on strawberry shakes
My favourite drink during trade shows

It was a huge struggle to include a drink into my top 5, but I believe this beverage deserves my accolades. Since I came to Thailand, I've drank at least 20 cups of this if not more, at different locations, mostly during some local food festivals at Paradise Park. The mixture of fresh yoghurt with deliciously tangy sweet strawberry ice gives this drink the right balance to refresh anyone in the sweltering heat.

Stranger in Bangkok's 4th Best Mobile Food Stall: Croissant Bistro

One of the only stalls that I can read the name. 

Gourmet Croissants
If I were to be brutally honest, I feel that Croissant Bistro should really not be on this list, because with the quality and price of the gourmet croissants they churn out, they can easily hold their own with their own stall in a major shopping mall.

I have spoken to the owner before regarding this, but it seems like she hasn't found a suitable location yet, so croissant lovers, please feel fortunate when Croissant Bistro still takes the trouble to come to a location near you, because I do not think it will last very much longer.

Stranger in Bangkok's 3rd Best Mobile Food Stall: Yaowarat Fish Ball

Remember how the stall looks, with its bright red steamers
It only sells 3 kinds of fish balls, and always steamed, never fried

I am a lover of fish balls in Singapore, and it's difficult to find similar ones in Bangkok. Instead of going to Foodland to buy those really expensive imported ones from Singapore, I have found my solution in this mobile fish ball stall. Aside of them being a little too salty, which I will solve by blanching them in hot water before cooking, there is really nothing bad to say about these fresh springy balls. Even Noah can chomp down a few of them at one go.

Stranger in Bangkok's 2nd Best Mobile Food Stall: Red Pork Noodles

Hey, I can read the name! Literally translates as Yaowarat Food Stall
You cannot miss it if you see the glut of hanging red pork or the mountain of noodles

Or even simpler, the sight of this bald uncle who is always there flamboyantly selling his noodles

I was sceptical at first when I saw the heap of pre-cooked yellow noodle. I am a firm supporter of cooked-to-order noodles and for me, this could never be good. However, there was always a long queue at the stall wherever I went, so out of curiousity, I took a plunge.

Noodles nicely Al-Dente and all ingredients extremely fresh, and the fried shrimp balls are an absolute delicacy!

It seems like they have proven me wrong. Not only do I have to eat it everytime I see it, I now rank this as the 2nd best mobile food stall in Bangkok.

Stranger in Bangkok's BEST Mobile Food Stall: Pad Thai

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that I am just missing food back home, because 4 of my top 5 are not traditional Thai food. They are either Chinese food, French pastry or a childish cold drink.

You are not completely wrong, but I think I redeem myself by presenting to you a pure Thai dish as my number 1...... Pad Thai!!

The Pad Thai is usually served on 3 medium-sized white oval trays

This is an absolute must-try if you see it, especially if you love Pad Thai in the first place. The uncle you see in the picture only cooks them in small batches of perhaps around 10 servings per time. If you observe him cook, you will see how meticulous he is. He never looks flustered even though he's always busy, and the heaps of dried shrimp, chives and beansprouts ensure that his Pad Thai is not only tasty but healthy as well, and because there is a perpetual queue for his noodles (especially during mealtimes), you are almost certain to get your bowl piping hot. If you are not sure which of the 3 variants to choose, I recommend the spicy flat noodle without shrimp, because it saves you the trouble of peeling, and it gives you more noodles to enjoy for the same price.

Trust me, it tastes better than it looks.

So there you go, my top 5 mobile food stalls that will never disappoint you if you are lucky enough to see them during a tiring shopping trip in Bangkok. Don't say I didn't tell you!

PS. These opinions are purely mine, and I would like to hear from you! Do you agree with me? If not, do you have other mobile food stalls that you would like to recommend to me and all my readers? Feel free to leave comments!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Stranger in Bangkok's Mother's Day Tribute

When I look back at my childhood and the relationship with my mom, for some reason, bad memories will surface first, every single time.

My clearest memories of growing up with her are visions of her raging at my brother at the dining table for not doing well in school (even though he always got first in class in Primary School), beating me with a cane until the cane broke into two, then when I breathed a sigh of relief, she tore off the shorter half of the cane and continued her beating with what she had left in her hand, all because I got 90 for a Chinese test. The most traumatic one was when I cried when I knew I got second in class and did not dare to go home, spending the entire afternoon sitting at the bottom of the flight of steps leading up to my apartment in distress, contemplating how to explain my utter failure.

So yes, this is my mum, Lucy the Angel, who filled my childhood memories with horrifying images and nothing much else. 

However, through all these, something prevailed, even though she has never said it to me in my face.


My dad is from a different era, he concentrated on fulfilling his own set of duties for the family, which he did admirably, but as a result, he was seldom around during the time I was growing up. My parents' relationship was also not the most cordial one, so my mum pinned her efforts and hopes fully on her children.

Amidst the unforgettable instances of horror, there were things she did everyday that I probably took for granted and became blind to, the chores, the sending me to and from school, the food (that completely shaped my cooking style today), the laundry, the dishes etc. When I was sick, even the slightest moan in my sleep would wake her up (from her room, no less) and tender loving care would follow till I was nurtured back to perfect condition.

She always wanted the best for us, and wanted us to be the best. Though much of the time, her version of best differs greatly from ours, it did not take away the fact that all her life, she had been punching above her weight to ensure we punched above ours. Many times, I had the feeling that she was living her life purely for us, to the point I feel that she would die for us if necessary.

Thank you Mum, for showing me what sacrificial love is, and for doing everything to make sure I became the best person I could. 

Thank you too, for forcing me to get braces which put my teeth behind bars for 6 years so that I could look decent enough to get a wife (I got my girlfriend barely a year after I took my braces off).

Sorry for being away in Bangkok all the time and thank you for your understanding.

Happy Mother's Day, have a good one in Perth celebrating my cousin's wedding.

Love you.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...