Two bowls of noodles

This supposedly serves Hongkong street food but the Hongkongers will be the first to say that it is anything but. Instead, it is a combination of Hongkong-type food like dim sum and noodles with local fare like curries. The place is halal-certified so only chicken and beef are served here.

We ordered two bowls of noodles — one dumpling noodles and another beef ginger noodles. The place serves other Chinese food as well like sweet and sour chicken, stir-fried vegetables and so on.

The dumplings were stuffed full of ingredients and they were good. I could even taste the vegetables in them. The noodles themselves were rather salty though. It was as though someone had added salt twice into the soup. The cut green chilli with soy sauce made the noodles edible — with the familiar sourish taste of green chilli masking the salty taste somewhat — but I did not finish eating it. Feedback was given to the staff instead.

The beef ginger noodles were a much better choice. It was not overly salty and there was enough ginger taste to it.

Hongkong Streats Cafe, City Square Mall, 180 Kitchener Road #01-01, Singapore 208539. Tel : 6509 3902

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Drink and Ride

This is my first time at this shop. It combines a little cafe that only serves drinks with a shop that sells bicycles and accessories. There are foldable bikes and some unique ‘normal’ bikes like the odd Schwinn or two, roadies and even scooters. The main outlet used to be at Gemmill Lane where it was difficult to park as it was within the Central Business District (CBD). This place is a little laid back and very conducive for lazy afternoon bike shopping indeed.

I brought my bike here to be fixed and had my favourite Brown Cow float while waiting for it to be done. Good service and very friendly folks here.

Life Cycle, 204 Rangoon Road, Singapore 218451, Tel: 6299 4308.

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Best penyet in town?

We came here for their nasi lemak kukus but they had run out of food as it had been a busy Saturday night. So the owner suggested we ordered either their nasi ayam penyet or the ikan penyet as that would be cooked fresh and it would be nice and warm. The ikan or fish was the pomfret. Since I was a fan of pomfrets, I settled on the fish to share between two. It was after all 2am in the morning!

Usually the fish would be served ‘smashed’, hence penyet, but this time they left it intact. It was seriously good! There was no fishy taste to it at all and it was fried to the right crispiness, while the flesh on the inside was nice and tender. The freshly blended sambal chilli was a real plus. I’m not going anywhere else for my ikan penyet from now on. What a nice accidental discovery, even if it was at 2am in the morning! And next time, I’ll have the whole fish to myself!

Nasi Lemak Kukus, 908 Upper Thomson Road, Singapore. Tel: 82229517.

It was nice to see this! Sambal chilli, freshly blended.

The fish set. There were keropok (fish crackers) on the side as well.

Paddocks and breakfast

This place is at the saddle club. Horses, horse-riding and horse-gazing are part and parcel of life here. We came here early so that we could see the horses and enjoy the greenery before it got too hot. This place is away from the hustle and bustle of city life and it is a good place to ‘get away from it all’ even if it’s only for a few hours.

The menu is western and it is different for the different meals of the day and slightly different for weekends as well. I wanted to have the Brioche French Toast with burnt bananas, smoked bacon & maple butter and was told that it was only served on weekends and hence, we settled for The Usual breakfast.

Rider’s Cafe, 51 Fairways Drive, Singapore 286965. Tel: 6466 9819.

View from the balcony

Inside the cafe

The Usual with two eggs, back bacon, breakfast banger, mushrooms, tomato & sourdough

The Usual breakfast and two lattes

A different pace of life

Roll count! 1, 2, 3, 4… and away we went. “Let’s go!” the group shouted as the last member called out his number.

The afternoon was cool – ideal for trekking, pond crossing and cow-gazing – catching a whiff of cow dung as we walked past. Squirrels and birds peered at us, a snake slithered back into its crevice while some kittens played on, unfazed by our presence.

We put our bags in our rooms which were cool, clean and comfortable. Humidity here is rather high as we are near a river and are surrounded by hills. But it was cooler here and for that alone, I was thankful!

There is no wi-fi, the TV reception is fuzzy and we bathe by scooping buckets of water out of a very large water container onto ourselves. Meals are served in the mess hall. Everyday about 200 mouths are fed. I’ve not seen freshly caught fish in a while.

Going back to nature in this manner is refreshing. Here, I get to kick off my shoes, put up my feet and read a book. I get to sit at my balcony and stare at the night fog while on night duty and the children are snoring their way to dreamland. Most of all, I get to reminiscent — the squatting toilets, bathing with water out of a huge tub, gazing at lean (bordering on skinny) cows grazing on grass in mostly undisturbed natural surroundings. Even the heavy downpour and the sound of rain pelting against the roof and the strong wind blowing in my face brought back memories of me darting in and out of the rain when I was young. Tropical downpours can feel like one is being pelted with large water drops at a very fast rate.

The camp commandant even brought in some durians. These were the hybrid ones, bitter mixed with sweet. There is a joke in Malaysia (which is probably true) that the better durians have been exported out to Singapore so what we get here are the second rate ones, and ‘second’ rate they were. The size was ‘wrong’, to begin with. Perhaps because they were hybrids, they were very large, like the size of Thai durians. Then they did not have a strong smell. I could not tell the sweet durians from the bitter ones as the smell was barely detectable. In my family, my dad usually handled the durians. He smelled them, paid for them and opened them. I learnt by watching him. I was not an expert on durians compared to my dad and friends who grew up on orchards. But now, I felt like I knew a lot. I smelled the durians and opened them; short of paying for them. I’ll have my first rate durians in Singapore next time but while here, I might as well enjoy the hybrid ones which I would never be able to get in Singapore. Life here is a nice change indeed.

Soft yellow flesh durian

Bitter and sweet durian but the bitterness was barely detectable.

We had chicken and fish at every meal, served with broken rice. The good rice has been exported as well. I liked both their chicken and fish but after five meals of chicken and fish, I had had enough. The different varieties of chicken and fish were sambal chicken and fish cooked with black beans. We also had ayam penyet and nasi lemak. The food was good but I was ready for some variety after this! The first thing I noticed upon going back and having my variety was the taste. The food here tasted far more natural than what I had after this.

Freshly caught fish by a family that lived nearby. We didn’t have these for our meals though.

Is the Mad Hatter here?

My best friend’s daughters referred me to this place. In my enthusiasm to come here, I called up to book a table for four, then went to ask colleagues to come along. So six of us came.

The place was in an old cluster of shophouses dating back to colonial times. The cluster now mainly consists of eating places, some of whom are very reputable. Coming here was like going back in time to another era. I almost wanted all of us to dress up like we were going to Mad Hatter’s tea party but the closest we came to it were frilly blouses and umbrellas. It was raining cats and dogs when we arrived and the frilly brollies really added to the occasion. Dressing up would certainly have been fun too.

Because this place is an old colonial building, there was no lack of space and the folks here did up this place vintage style, making it very cosy. It is certainly inviting to spend an entire afternoon here, reading or chatting.

The hi-tea was generally good. There was enough variety. The selection ranged from the tiered tea cakes to miniature skinny pizzas which made up the bulk of the savouries. Herbal tea and ginger tea were served in old hot water flasks — those that I grew up with, for an old feel which I thought was a great idea.

The hi-tea is only served on Thursdays and Fridays, 3.30 to 5p.m., and it is hugely successful. The cafe has a lot of space and therefore seats, and the staff were very attentive, changing our plates frequently. Whoever came up with this concept is simply brilliant! And no, the Mad Hatter was not here.

“It’s always tea-time.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

House Dempsey, 8D Dempsey Road, SINGAPORE 249672. Tel: 64757787.

Seats in the verandah

Hi-tea spread within the place

Four different miniature skinny pizzas

Miniature burgers. I didn’t really find out why the bread is black though.

Multi-tier cakes

Spoilt for choice

More cakes. This was nice and sharp, taste-wise.

These were meant to be eaten with bread. I took a slice of raisin bread and placed three toppings on it — thai chicken, mushroom ragout and tuna and pineapple.

Bite-size bread with tuna toppings.

Duck topping

More duck topping

The label says it all!

Rising Sun: Last bowl of ramen

Now, this is a word of caution for anyone who wants to eat at Narita Airport before their flight out. Do eat before you go through immigration and not after as there is hardly any restaurants after immigration. We were flying out on a Saturday night and there were like only three eating places, out of which two were already closed by about 8pm. In the end, I settled for this bowl of ramen before flying out. This place is at gate 86 and they opened till later than the others.

If you want to pick up any souvenirs, the shops after immigration are duty-free. The price difference is about 6%. Check with the folks at the shops before immigration if the items are available in the shops after immigration before you buy. The price difference is not great unless you are buying expensive items though.

Thank you for coming with me on the food trail in the land of the Rising Sun.

Sayonara, Nihon. Till next time.

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Hot instant charsiew ramen which was not bad. I wanted something hot.

Rising Sun: Sashimi Don

After visiting Leornardo, we went to the Ueno market. I had forgotten how busy it could be. After looking at all the fish, frozen and fresh, vegetables and the smorgasbord of edible and wearable items, we were quite pleased to chance upon this really busy stall that served sashimi on rice for a song! We paid and sat down, drank the iced roasted rice tea, chowed down our sumptious meal and left. It was that kind of place as it was really busy and customers ate quickly to make way for others. In the kitchen, the production line worked non-stop, serving out the meals. That was going to be our last meal in Japan as we were leaving that evening and I was very glad that we had sashimi.

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Ueno Park

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The main street along Ueno station

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Hawkers peddling their wares. In this case it was nuts and packaged foods.

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A very large frozen flower crab.

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Smaller flower crabs.

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Seafood.

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Our lunch!

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Another lunch set

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Name of the stall.

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Rising Sun: Brekky before Leonardo

Today was going to be an exciting day as we were all going to see Leonardo, well, an exhibition featuring him, that is. So we got up bright and early and headed on down to Ueno and to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. But what’s an outing without food, so we headed off to breakfast first.

The set breakfast set here was really worth it. The standard bacon and scrambled eggs on nice thick light butter bread was almost heavenly as were their large servings of coffee and tea. But of course, the real feast came after.

C’s Cafe, Ueno Station, Japan.

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One of the breakfast sets.

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The tuna set

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Salad and minestrone soup on the side as extras.

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Nice large cup of coffee. The place is known as C’s Cafe.

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With full bellies, we proceeded to see the exhibition on the Sistine Chapel, featuring Leonardo da Vinci. This is a picture of The Musician that I took off a postcard that a friend had bought. Leonardo da Vinci was known for several famous paintings. What I didn’t know about him was that he was also into geometry, optics, machines and the use of perspective in his drawings. This set him apart from the other artists during the Italian Renaissance. This guy was a genius!

Rising Sun: The Art of Sushi

When my nephew visited Japan, he went to a good expensive sushi restaurant. He had saved up for his meal, so he knew exactly what he wanted. I would have been happy with cheap and good sushi but a friend of mine who knew about my nephew’s adventure decided to let us have the experience of eating at a traditional sushi place. She booked a table for us in case it was crowded. It was a Friday and there was no crowd at all except for a couple at the sushi bar.

There were two people working behind the counter, presumably the very experienced sushi chef and his son. Tea was served by the sushi chef’s elderly wife. I was told that this shop has been around for more than a hundred years old, passed down from one generation to the next.

We ordered our food and both father and son set to work making the sushi for us. At this kind of place, sushi is best eaten at the counter, eaten with sake and small talk is made with the chef. We did neither of those things. As we were a larger group, we could not sit at the counter. We also did not really want to drink and we did not really speak Japanese either. So, for all those reasons, our experience was not really authentic. This shop also had limited supply of what I was used to. I was more familiar with conveyor belt sushi where everything was reasonably priced and I could just take what I wanted off the conveyor belt. But here, each sushi portion was rather specific and other sushi that I was more familiar with were not available.

Still it was a good experience for me and the next time I visit a place like this again, I would sit at the counter and try to fully appreciate the art of sushi-making from the chef. Ja matta. Till next time.

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The menu on the wall that looked more like a painting.

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Their website which is in Japanese.

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Chef and son making the sushi. The other two customers in the shop.

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Our choice of sushi.

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The sushi was good.

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Cucumber maki

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