Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Day 1 in Kuala Lumpur

There are several ways to get to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore. I've been there by coach, car and plane. Driving takes about 4 hours while plane journey is about 40 minutes. This time, we took an early morning flight on Jetstar which went without a hitch.

We arrived in KL to find the immigration hall filled with snaking lines of people. We had to spend more than half an hour standing in line, with our tummies growling and patience thinning.

Our lodging, Somerset Seri Bukit Ceylon Serviced Apartments, is an hour away by express train followed by taxi. We arrived at the apartment close to lunch time, dropped our bags and set off in search of food.

Staying in the Golden Triangle of Kuala Lumpur made it convenient for us to walk to the major shopping centres and restaurants. On the way to Pavilion Shopping Centre, we walked past a row of interesting cafes, pubs and restaurants. This area is very similar to Holland Village in Singapore.

This restaurant's menu featuring The Magnificent Fish & Chips caught our eye.

With an impressive bar, the clientele is mainly expatriates and tourists.

As you can see, the menu is cute but the food wasn't great. We were disappointed they weren't serving fish & chips that day as their fryer had gone kaput.

We opted for the grilled seafood platter instead. The prawn smelled so funky, nobody dared to touch it.

The shepard's pie was good.

After an expensive yet unsatisfying lunch, we continued our journey to Pavilion - the newest shopping mall in KL.

Kuala Lumpur is a city of contrasts, boasting a mix of stunning skyscrapers and a fair share of decrepit buildings.

As KL is a shopper's paradise, we spent the rest of the day shopping. And eating.

Lunch was Nasi Bojari at Madam Kwan's.

Nasi Bojari - three coloured rice served with beef rendang, assam prawns and deep fried chicken drumstick - is a sinful meal but so very delicious. The chicken here is cooked to perfection - crispy outside but succulent and tender inside. The beef rendang is very soft and fragrant. The assam prawn was so nice, I wished there were more.

After lunch, we crossed over to Snow Flake Taiwanese Dessert.

Most of us ordered the bestseller featuring chewy yam and sweet potato balls but my friend's red bean and peanut one tasted better.

I hope you don't think we're gluttons by now because I'm going to show more photos of food we consumed during our 3 days there!

Dinner was quite modest as we weren't too hungry. I've read about kedongdong juice but I tried it for the first time last week and loved it so much I had two glasses. It was slightly tangy, sweet and utterly refreshing.

This restaurant's version of KL black noodles turned out to be different from what we've all had before. This was ok, but we still prefer the authentic one using a flatter noodle.

The stir fried sweet potato leaves was surprisingly tender and delicious.

After an entire day of eating, we went to bed thinking of what to eat the next day!

More coming up.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Running events

I've been having difficulty recalling past events. Must be old age. I can hardly remember which races I had participated in, so I'm listing them in my blog to serve as memories, and to inspire me to continue an active lifestyle into my sunset years.

Past Events
5 mile Jingle Bell Run Oregon, Dec 2006
11k Safra Bridge Run, Singapore, 2006
10k Shape Run, Singapore, 2006
15k New Balance Run, Kuala Lumpur, May 2007
10k Great Eastern Run, Singapore, Oct 2007
21k Standard chartered Marathon, Singapore, Dec 2007
10k Great Eastern Run, Singapore, Oct 2008
5k SPCA Run, Singapore June 2011
10k Great Eastern Run, Singapore, July 2011
10k Jurong Lake Run, Singapore, July 2011

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Joo Chiat food haunts

I have always liked Joo Chiat Road. In the 1980s, our design office was situated at one end of the road. I used to take long walks along the five foot way, admiring the intricate designs adorning the Peranakan-style shophouses.

There was a shop that sold handmade popiah skins by the kilo. I think it is still around. Over the years, most of the shops selling houseware and provisions had given way to restaurants and Karaoke lounges.

Recently, there has been an influx of cafes, patisserrie and gourmet stores. We still hang around the area alot. Last weekend, we had the best of both worlds.

We met our friends for dinner at Lau Hock Guan Kee Bak Kut Teh. This is one shop that had not undergone much changes since the early days. Compared to the newer food establishments along Joo Chiat, this restaurant may look dowdy but is still drawing in the crowd.

We had a delicious meal of bak kut teh (peppery pork rib soup), curry fish head, spicy sweet potato leaves and otah.

After dinner, we walked to Gobi for Dessert. I think their name is so endearing. If you're not careful, you might spell as Gobi Desert!

The desserts here are rich and yummy, it's like finding an oasis in the desert. Indeed, the decor is so pretty with chandelier and all, even the waiter who served us looked cute in a striped apron!

He recommended Crème Brulee Poire William - their classic custard dessert with pear drenched in a sweet syrup. It came in a rather large serving, enough for all 5 of us to have a few spoonful each. This dessert is a must try!

The Molten Chocolate Lava -Dark rich chocolate cake with molten chocolate centre served with vanilla ice cream - was rich and delicious. Perfect for chocoholics!

The best way to sample Gobi's wonderful creations is to order this 6-piece set so you get to taste their famous macaron and other chocolate goodies.

After indulging in the sweets, we were all on Cloud 9!

If you ask me, I think Gobi lives up to its catchy slogan - Disturbingly delightful desserts!

Can't upload photos

I have been trying to blog but strangely, I haven't been able to post photos. I wonder if anyone else has this problem?

Thursday, 19 May 2011

3 trips, 2 runs and 1 wedding

Life has been pretty mundane lately, which is a good thing actually but I'm looking forward to better things ahead.

Next weekend, my girlfriends and I are flying up to Kuala Lumpur for a weekend of eating and shopping. Our last holiday together in Hanoi was a fun-filled and memorable one. I'm really looking forward to this coming one.

In June, I'm heading to a weekend escapade at Batam with another group of friends. After hearing Ivan singing praises about Batam, we made him organise a trip for us. Finally, after months of coordination, we'll be setting off on 17th June. Traveling with CH, his 2 best friends and their spouses will definitely be an interesting experience!

Then in September, CH and I are going to Siem Reap, a major tourist hub in Cambodia. Needless to say, we'll be spending most of our time at Angkor Wat.

To compensate for all the anticipated over-eating, I've signed up for the Great Eastern 10k Run and SPCA 4.8k Run. This is nothing compared to the 25k run that CH is doing tomorrow, but it is better than lazing around.

Another event to look forward to is Ivan's wedding in August. Yes, he is the one who planned the Batam trip. He is CH's good friend from university, so we're very happy for him.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Upside down pear cake

CH claims he had never seen a pear cake until I baked one last weekend.

Well, I had to do something about the over-ripe pears in the fridge.

And the pack of granola that had been lying around.

I've made cakes using bananas and apples, so I don't see why I can't make one using fresh pears! The result was pretty good too.

5 small pears, peeled and sliced
50g butter
1 teaspoon sugar

Melt butter in a frying pan. Add pear and sugar. Cook until pear is soft. Set aside.

200g butter
1.5 cups self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
Grated fresh ginger (optional)

Cream butter and sugar until mixture is pale. Stir in one egg at a time.
Add in flour + baking soda + grated ginger until the batter is well mixed.

Sieve a thin layer of flour onto the baking tin. Layer the pear slices at the bottom of the tin. Pour granola (optional) on top of the pears. Pour all the batter into the pan.

Bake in pre-heated oven at 170 degree celcius for an hour. Let cake cool for 10 minutes. Turn a cake plate upside down on top of the cake pan and carefully invert the cake pan onto the plate.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Bengali food @ Mustard

After reading about Mustard here, I couldn't stop thinking about the food. While we're familiar with Indian food, we had never tasted anything that's Bengali. So, we needed to make our way to Mustard, fast!

Last Friday, we gathered at Mustard at 32 Race Course Road for our first Bengali/Punjabi meal. I even brought a list of highly recommended dishes. While waiting for our friends to arrive, we snacked on pappadam served with a sweet/tangy dip.

The decision to eat there was a good one. All the dishes we tried exceeded our expectations. Even my friends thanked me for bringing them there.

The aloo jhuri bhaja ar cholar dal, or lentils was served with a plate of fried shoestring potatoes. The lentil is cooked to the right constituency. To our delight, we tasted bits of crunchy coconut in the creamy sauce. The dish is perfect on its own, without the need for fried potatoes.

The chicken rezalla is a mild curry cooked using yoghurt instead of coconut milk. The chicken pieces were tender and the gravy was rich and creamy.

The mutton dish was outstanding. The meat was cooked until tender and flavourful, without any hint of (gamey) mutton smell. This dish goes so well with rice.

This is the softest and fluffiest rice I had ever eaten. The grains are long and slender, they look like shredded coconut!

The chingri maacher malai curry, or prawns in a delicious coconut sauce was my favourite dish. The sauce is so addictive, I drank by the spoonful.

I forgot to take photos of the maacher paturi, or white fish fillets smothered in mustard and steamed in a banana leaf. The fish was very tender and had a distinct smokey taste.

We also ordered bread and garlic naan.

After a satisfying dinner, we walked to Kulfi Bar at Upper Dickson Road which serves kulfi - Indian ice cream made using milk, nuts and spices.

The ice cream is typically served in round slices and topped with crushed pistachios and other nuts.

The cafe is situated in a handicraft store. From the photo below, you can see Indian artifacts and knick-knacks for the home.

We received a gift of Korean tea leaves from our friends.

Hike @ Bukit Timah Hill

I went hiking with SK this morning, this time we 'conquered' Bukit Timah Hill which, at only 163 metres, is the highest point in Singapore! I used to do my long runs here every Sunday while waiting for SK to finish tuition. At that time, I could run up and down the hill rather effortlessly. Today, I nearly died while attempting to run up the steep incline! It took me a long time to catch my breath. Gosh, I'm so out of touch these days.

A bunch of macaques gathered at the entrance of the park. This mother had a teeny weeny baby clinging onto her belly.

There are two ways to get to the summit - a gentle paved road vs a series of steep steps. We took the shorter but steeper route.

After tackling one flight of steps, we had to deal with another.

Finally, the concrete stairs gave way to a gentler incline.

Then we could see the summit - a pavilion basking in the morning sun.

On the way down, we spotted a monitor lizard foraging for food in the undergrowth.

Instead of taking the same route back, we made a diversion into the jungle trail.

This time, we went downhill via a series of steps. Descending is just as tough (on the knees) as going uphill!

This little artwork on a dead tree trunk brought a smile to our faces. Someone was declaring his/her love in the middle of a forest!

Some of the trails we encountered were well trodden and muddy.

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Nature Reserve are homes to more than 840 flowering plants and over 500 species of animals (including butterflies). With such an astonishing variety of plants, animals and insect life, the nature reserves are indeed treasure houses of Singapore's biodiversity.

The jungle trail even boasts of a tiny waterfall.

To get back to the main track, we had to climb up an endless amount of steep steps.

At one point, the tall steps gave way to gentle root steps created by nature. Aren't they fabulous?

After the hard climb, I stopped to catch my breath (and check emails).

Thanks to technology, I can hike and work at the same time. Some people feel that it defeats the purpose of going into nature but to me, I enjoy having the best of both worlds!