Wednesday, December 30, 2009

That's why this blog is called rojak rendezvous

After our Christmas meals of the East & West, X prepared a Christmas meal that was a little bit of both. Yet another Christmas meal, you may ask ? 'Tis the season for feasting & there are 12 days of Christmas.

There's a story behind this. We got duped. The wrapping said turkey & shaped to look like a whole bird. But when we got home, we were surprised to see that *it* was a bunch of turkey breast fillets shaped to look like a turkey. If it were me, I would have made my way back to the store, returned it or purchased a proper one.
X would have none of that & promptly made a sort of turkey roulade stuffed with glutinous rice & a sliver of foie gras (you can see it if you look closely enough). The foie gras was a Christmas gift from his parents.

It was so popular I requested he made more.

It's a little east meets west so that's what I call a rojak rendezvous special.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Meal of the East

My parents are your typical Chinese folks. Yet come Christmas, my father always insisted on having a traditional Christmas lunch every year. Like most Chinese families of that time, we didn't own an oven nor did my mother know how to prepare turkey so we would inevitably head over to some hotel buffet & have ourselves our Sing Dan Dai Chan (Christmas feast in Cantonese). And inevitably, my mother would go home to cook herself a bowl of rice. I told you my parents are typical Chinese folks - they need their rice. Strange as it may sound, this was our family Christmas tradition.

My father has since passed on. I've moved abroad. My siblings work for the airlines so this family tradition died a natural death. Knowing that my mother would not appreciate the Christmas meal of the West since we didn't serve rice, we took her out to Christmas meal of the East.

I've blogged about Old Hong Kong for their wonderful dimsum, I've not talked about their Chinese dishes. They have some great value set meals & whenever we have guests in town, we would take them there. This restaurant has slowly become our favorite. The owner is Mr Li from Hong Kong whom we've come to know quite well. The food is good & service excellent. He adores The Girl & *Uncle* always gives her free dimsum & desserts. So it was a no brainer for us to head over there for our Sing Dan Dai Chan.

Turkey & mango salad

BTW we had a table next to the window which gave me lots of light, the reason why the pictures turned out so well.

Abalone with sea cucumber & mushroom
X couldn't understand the appeal of abalone so I happily ate his portion

Fried e-mien with oyster mushrooms

I missed taking photos of 2 other dishes which were actually our favorite - shark's fin with crab roe (I know it's not PC but I love shark's fin & their version is extremely yummy). The second is prawns done 2 ways - in wasabi mayonnaise & salted egg yolk (probably clogged up all my arteries but who cares).

This is what they call a pre-dessert
Dessicated coconut bunnies

Mango puree with Ice cream

How much do you think this meal cost ? 7 dishes with a complimentary glass of wine - $68++ per person. Now you know why we keep going back. And it got my mother's stamp of approval - she readily admitted that she much preferred this Christmas meal of the East.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Meal of the West

Table set
Wines chilled

An excuse to use the owl napkin rings we bought in Bali

Candles lit

My sister in law just returned from Paris & she brought us a whole bunch of goodies - saucisson, foie gras, escargots...bless her !

Now we just have to wait for our guests to arrive. I'm a bad assistant cos I forgot to take a photo of the first course. Japanese tomatoes served with soba & enoki mushrooms in a ginger vinaigrette sauce.

Eggplant stuffed with salmon remoulade &
topped with crispy salmon skin

Red snapper with asparagus over a creamy spinach sauce

Main course - The duck special (from left)
Foie gras on toast, poached pear, pan fried foie gras with blueberry sauce & magret de canard
This dish alone used up my calorie intake for a month

I didn't manage to get a good picture of the dessert but it was a white chocolate mousse with strawberry sauce.
Sharing the meal with our closest & dearest friends

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Celebrating Christmas

Last night we had an interesting conversation about celebrating Christmas.

I was telling everyone how surprised I was when one of my Muslim friends complained that she hasn't finished her Christmas shopping which prompted me to reply "Do you celebrate Christmas ?". That started the discussion of how Christmas has become one big festive period rather than a religious holiday.

I love the fact that all holidays are celebrated & embraced in Singapore. There is none of that *political correctness* that has become so prevalant in America. Did you know that President Obama has stipulated that there will be no Christmas Tree in the White House - it's known as the Holiday Tree & all ornaments must not be of a religious nature ? And that the words "Merry Christmas" & "Happy Hannuka" are not be used but rather Happy Holidays.

The latter I'm used to cos when I was living in New York, if you are not sure if someone celebrates Christmas, you just say Happy Holidays. Over here, everybody wishes everybody Merry Christmas just like we would wish them Happy New Year - no religious connotation, just that they enjoy the festive season. Christians & non Christians - all share in the celebrations. Likewise for Hari Raya or Deepavali.

Just because we are so racially tolerant here doesn't mean we must not be sensitive to other religions. I was recently informed by my office staff that I can't heat up pork items in the microwave nor put non halal food in the fridge (which happens sometimes when I bring leftovers to the office for lunch). I immediately made a mental note to be more careful in future.

So let this be a season to be jolly !! Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas !!

If you are still hunting for presents (you know how it is - when someone you hadn't planned on giving a present, suddenly gives you one), here's a list of uniquely Singapore gifts. Be sure to check out the other interesting lists.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Katong Laksa not in Katong

Gosh I thought I'd never finish my posts on Vietnam. Seem to have taken me forever.

Now let's move on.

I'm always amused at *displaced* food places eg. Odeon Beef noodles, Jalan Kayu Roti Prata & Katong Laksa that are no longer at their original home territory. We, Singaporeans seem to identify our food with the place rather than the name of the chef.

Come to think of it, are there any famous street food chefs that you know of ? I'm not talking about the likes of Sam Leong which you would associate with Tung Lok but say maybe a particular hawker sifu that is known by his/her name eg. Mr Lim Ah Beng's famous fried kway teow. Know any ?

So there is this stall in our neighbourhood named Katong Laksa & we obviously don't live in Katong. We frequent it often & surprisingly, a favorite with X. I say surprisingly only because I would have never thought the strong flavor of laksa & coconut would appeal to foreign tastebuds like Anthony Bourdain. To be honest, laksa was never one of my favorite until very recently.

For $3.50 (don't you love how cheap street food is in Asia, there is no way I can buy anything off the street in France for under 2 euro), you get a small bowl of laksa. I love mine with extra cockles so my usual is the medium portion & X always order the biggest bowl.

I doubt their laksa is prepared from scratch on site but it still has a lot of depth & a step up from the food court ones that are just regular, if you know what I mean.

There is a reason they are called Katong Laksa. Don't bother with the nasi lemak.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

She's 5

Last week you turned 5 & yes, as you like to tell everyone you are no longer a baby.

Who would have thought when I wrote your birthday message last year that we would be celebrating your next one in Singapore. You have been a real trooper this year. I was afraid that you would have a hard time adjusting to life here having lived in the French countryside all your life but you seemed to have embraced it here.

When we first arrived, you didn't speak much English. Since I didn't want you to only hang around with French kids, I didn't register you in the French school. Now not only do you speak English like a local child, you refuse to speak French (what's up with that !). A fact that is causing some distress with your parents. Mamie & papy are also very sad when you don't speak to them in French.

It still amazes me how quickly you seemed to have adapted to living here. You settled down very well in your new school - you love your new friends & teacher Juliana. When before you never talked about what happened in school, now that's all you talk about & more. Neither your father & I are very chatty, we suspect you might have gotten that from your grandmother.

Being the affectionate child that you are, you cannot seem to understand why the kids are not more so here. How many times have you tried to hug or kiss a boy, only to have him draw away ? It's not because they don't like you, sweetie, they are just shy & not used to this kind of affection. I don't want you to stop being affectionate, you hear me. You always have us for hugs & kisses.

This year, you've also learned how to swim. We didn't sign you up for any lessons. Your father taught you & before we know it, you started swimming without your float bands & not long after, can swim the length of the pool. I couldn't be prouder. Unlike your other friends, you don't go to any enrichment classes - I know you feel a little left out sometimes but believe me, there will be time enough when you're older that you need extra classes, just not now.

The one thing you seem to miss about France is the food. You were never difficult when it comes to food but that seemed to have all changed. You used to love cheeses, any types of cheese but not anymore. You never refused ham before but now wouldn't touch any. You were adventurous with food before, now you hardly eat. Por por does most of the cooking now but whenever papa decides to cook French, your eyes light up. You love your gratin and hache parmentier and pot au feu and of course your favorite escargots.

I'm delighted that you enjoy being in Singapore. It's where I grew up & I want you to get to know it too. You will go back to France with Papa next year for a few months - don't forget that too is your home. Know that you have family in France & in Singapore who love you very much.

Happy Birthday my princess

Gros gros bisous
Maman & Papa.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Quan an ngon

This was our last meal in Vietnam. After our 5 days by the beach, we headed back to Saigon to catch out flight home. Our friends brought us to yet another, good food spot.

You will probably find this in all the guide books. One guy had the idea to bring together the best street food in Saigon into one place. So think of it as one big food court.

Find a table. Walk around to see what is available. Decide what you want. Then get one of the waiters to walk around with you again. Start pointing & ordering. Return to table. Devour dishes. Order more if still hungry. Simple as that.

The place is full of tourist & may not be satisfying as eating by the road but you do get a wide range of food & very decent quality.

Everything looks so good. Be careful you don't over order. We clearly did & seemed to greedily gobbled down everything.

This was our favorite. Vietnamese satays.
Absolutely delicious.

We didn't order this.
Think they were stuffed snails.

Grilled seafood is always a crowd favorite

I ordered this pig's ear wrap
- nobody shared this with me except the kids who only wanted the rice paper

Yum another satisfying meal

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Attractions @ Mui Ne

The beaches at Mui Ne didn't get us excited. The sights did.

We rented a jeep with the driver who brought us to all the sights - took about 5 hours for 500,000 dong (about US$25) definitely good value for money. You can also sign up with tours but that would mean following a group which doesn't quite sit well with us.

The Girl with her Vietnamese hat & toy

All the tours take you to the same places - the White & Red Sand Dunes, the Fairy Stream & fishing village but since we had the jeep all to ourselves, I requested for a stop over at the Cham ruins just outside Mui Ne.

Cham is an ethnic group found mainly in Cambodia but also in central Vietnam. The Cham Towers were occupied during the Cham Kingdom & believed to have been built in the 8th Century to worship Shiva.

Next stop the Fairy Stream which we all enjoyed. When our *guide* dropped us off, we were a little skeptical but we obediently removed our shoes & started wading in ankle deep stream of brown water. About 3 mins into it, we were greeted with an amazing landscape - a red & white canyon.

The colour of the sand which gives the canyon it's unique shade

Red mud bath any one ?

Not sure how far the fairy stream goes on for but we walked as far as we could & only turned around when the stream got too rocky to walk

Next stop - a small fishing village

More of those round fishing boats that I had talked about

But the most spectacular, must be the White Sand Dunes. The sand was white, fine and swept by the wind into the beautiful dunes. I was transported out of Vietnam into the movie set of Lawrence of Arabia.

They were selling these sleds made of cardboard at the entrance. Don't even bother. We see people trying to slide themselves down - it's not like sledding down snow. If you have never walked on sand dunes before, let me tell you, it's a tiring exercise.

The tour continues onto the Red Dunes. They are a lot smaller but by then, it was getting dark & we couldn't even tell if the dunes were red.....

We returned - tired but content.

Food @ Mui Ne

A converted van into a hot dog stand

Not sure if you can read the sign but everything is in Russian

Seafood is plentiful, cheap & good

I wanted to see if the Vietnamese steamboat is any different

They have the same stuff like fish balls, seafood, vegetables but the soup was bland & the ingredients not as fresh as I had expected

About the only I like was the addition of the fresh noodles

Bun Cha Gio
Another favorite
We had that 2 days in a row

A surprising find was Sankara. This "Ku De Ta" lookalike is apparently the new hot spot in Mui Ne. This hip beach lounge would not be out of place in Phuket or Bali. And unlike Ku De Ta, this swimming pool is actually big enough to swim in.

The food is very good & maybe because it just opened - the prices are kept very low. Definitely order the dragon fruit magarita. Dragonfruit grow in abundance in the area & even though as a fruit, it's not particularly tasty, it works well in a cocktail. We love the crab cakes (full of chunky crab meat) & the seafood croquette that we decided to try their main course - seafood pasta & cuban pork dish. What a pity we only discovered this place on our last night.