Sunday, December 21, 2014

Imakatsu

So after India, I was totally craving for Japanese food. I really didn't care if it was sashimi, tonkatsu or ramen - just as long as it was Japanese. (Yes this post is outdated - had it around mid-November but too much inertia to blog)

We ended up at Star Vista's newly open tonkatsu speciality place - Imakatsu. 

We had to try the Piyo piyo minced meat cutlet, just because the egg looked so oozingly nice in the photos, but I really didn't like it - I didn't like the smell of the marinated minced meat cos the taste reminded me of the kind of meat you find in those frozen gyozas. I'm not saying that it was frozen, but it really looked better than it tastes, and for $18 I would really much rather spend the same amount of money on a proper pork loin.
 Since we were sharing, and ordered the PiyoPiyo minced meat cutlet (as an al carte dish), we decided to go for the big pork loin ($27++) to share. It's a really massive slab of pork loin.
Check out the above photo - the hand is on the same level as the pork cutlet - no forced perspectives used here. I think it can be easily shared between 3 not so hungry people, or 2 hungry people (or in my case, 2 people with normal appetites). I don't think you should attempt to eat the whole thing by yourself cos you will most definitely get gout and high LDL. 
 The pork cutlet - meeting expectations - juicy, well breaded, and not oily tasting. Since we shared a set, we didn't get free flow of rice, but they gave us free flow of shredded cabbage.

I was quite annoyed that I had to pay for the drinks (fine I was pretty thirsty that day) so I paid $3.80 for my iced tea, and was told much later that there was no topup! There's only topup for the hot green tea. I initially asked if the tea was free flow and the server said yes. The server then asked if I wanted hot or cold (hence I assumed it was free flow for both). Obviously I said cold cos I usually get cold tea with my hot food. And to my horror, after paying $3.80 (before taxes) for my tea, I was told that there was no refill when I asked for one! The cold green tea doesn't even come from a bottle or can -_-


Would I go back again?

Well, considering that Star Vista is in close proximity to my house, and that the carpark there is one of the least painless (since there isn't much shopping to be done in Star Vista Mall), I probably would. But paying for my tea, and $3 something per cup is a major turn off for me.

I think I'll go back to Ma Maison Tonkatsu (my current gold standard for pork chop) to settle my pork cravings (considering the free flow of drinks, plus the carpark is half decent if you don't go during peak hours), and for a greater variety of pork chops.

Imakatsu
The Star Vista
1 Vista Exchange Green
Singapore 138617
Phone 6694 3111



After the oily cholesterol laden meal, we decided to wash it down with some awfully good chocolate, chocolate cake (super stacked 7 layered chocolate cake, no less) and the hei ice cream.
I'm now sadly hooked to the awfully chocolate milk - it's really thick and awesome, though paying $8 bucks for it means I'll only get it for special occasions. I suppose it's a blessing in disguise or not I'll buy a whole load of it.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Mc Paneer Royale

 When I went to Sikkim, we had to stay in Kolkata for a night (when we arrived) and half a day when we were going home. We had about half a day to explore Kolkata but in view of time constraints and the bad traffic, our tour agency recommended us to stay in a hotel near the airport. There was a shopping mall next door, so being Singaporean, we spent the day shopping and eating.
 Although I'm not a big fan of McDonalds in Singapore, I do quite like trying it overseas - especially since each country has a different menu. There's no beef on the menu in India - so it's mainly chicken, fish and vegetarian choices available. I was told that I can't take photo of the menu - don't know why but when they saw me snapping a photo they told me no photo? I have no idea what kinda secret they're trying to keep? The prices are really affordable - it's roughly 50 rupees to SGD $1 (slightly more but it's much easier to count this way) so the meals were all around $3. Very affordable. But I think their regular street food is much cheaper than McDonalds.
As you can tell from the title, my favourite burger was the McPaneer - in fact, it was so delicious we nearly went back for seconds (but didn't cos we had awesome continental dinner at our hotel). I quite like paneer despite it being oily and fatty, cos it's very very tasty! In fact, during most of the time on my trip, it was one of the few curried things that I quite liked.
 Looks like a mess here but trust me, it tastes much better than it looks!There are 2 paneer patties in it. And the cheese and onion sauce tasted more like mayo than anything else. Totally worth a try. The meal was 193 rupees which makes it about SGD $4.
 The Chicken Maharaja Mac - which is the equivalent of the Big Mac in Singapore. Since I haven't eaten it for the past 14 years, I can't quite comment on the taste of the Big Mac. But the Chicken Maharaja Mac is really quite an acquired taste.
 One will notice that the chicken patties used here are extremely orange (Christine pointed this out the minute we opened the box). Actually, the orange is the same shade as the tandoori chicken orange, and if you close your eyes, you can sort of imagine that you are eating a tandoori chicken. Sort of cos the texture is a bit too soggy and wet. The sauce was also orange. The cheese tastes the same as the regular cheese.
 Remember the time when McDonalds offered the McAloo - a potato based burger? I didn't try it cos it didn't look particularly appetising, and carbs on carbs in a burger didn't particularly appeal to me. However, my other friends want to try the McVeggie burger.
Potato patties within a burger bun still doesn't appeal to me. Quite unmemorable actually.


Links to my Sikkim and Darjeeling trip:
Part 1
Part 2 
Part 3
Part 4

Monday, December 8, 2014

How to Maximise your Llao Llao Experience

5 proper swirls
So the people who know me have been quite exasperated with my (unhealthy) obsession with Llao Llao. I've been queueing up many times for llao llao to get my llaollao fix, and also dragging people to queue up with me. Of course, I'm not a pro que-er like Serene (who has contributed to this post with her very keen observation skills, out of the countless number of times of queueing up and contributing to Llao Llaos speedy expansion in Singapore).

The branches that I frequent most is the PS branch and Orchard Central branch, and most recently, the United Square branch.

How to Maximise your Llao Llao experience
Usually, there will be an unreasonably long queue. First, I decide if it's really worth queueing, and if I can finish eating my yogurt before my next appointment. If there is a slightest doubt, I would not queue. What can be worse than queueing and wasting 15 minutes of your life than queueing and not getting to the end of the queue? I usually do not queue if the queueing time exceeds 20 minutes unless I am in desperate need of llao llao to satisfy my craving, or if I am with another friend as crazy over llao llao as I am, who would accompany me. Also, my tolerance for queueing at PS is lower as the queue snakes outside the mall, where there is no air conditioning (very important, since I am incredibly heat intolerant).

The Sanum
Out of their many items in the menu, my favourite is the Sanum. I don't believe in queueing up and wasting a part of my life (no matter how short) and then buying the Petit llao (smallest item on the menu). Seriously, if you're queueing up, just do yourself a favour and get what's best on the menu! Plus, it's $6.50 for a whole heap of ice cream yogurt, 3 kinds of fruit, one crunch and one sauce.

Crunch
The next step would be selecting the ingredients for your Sanum. The server will put a small whirl of yogurt into the cup, and ask you for your choice of crunch.

The crunches available are: sunflower seeds, chocolate muesli, caramelised biscuits (aka caramello biscuits), oreo, colourful pebble cereal, digestive biscuits, almond biscotti, kit kat and a few other offerings.

I don't particularly like chocolate with my yogurt - I feel that the sweet chocolate doesn't go well with the sour yogurt. But I think lots of my friends think otherwise. My favourite topping is the caramelised biscuits - it's quite sweet, finely pounded and goes well with the fruits.

I've tried the chocolate muesli and found it way too hard and pokey (pokes my gums, teeth, tongue and basically makes the whole experience very unhappy). I've also tried crushed oreos but they are chocolate base, I find that they don't go very well with the yogurt.

I haven't tried the sunflower seeds or the almond biscotti, but it would be next in my list to try (even though I am the most unadventurous person ever - I've been eating more or less the same combination  since I've discovered llao llao).

Fruit
You then have to choose 3 kinds of fruits to add into your Sanum. I am a huge fan of strawberry so I usually get 2 servings of strawberry, and a serving of blueberry. The other fruits available are banana, pineapple, mango, kiwi, rock melon and watermelon. I do like berries very much, but another reason why I choose them over the other fruits (i.e. banana) is that they are generally more expensive, so this will give you more bang for your buck if you are counting your pennies.

Another thing that I have realised, is that if you ask for 2 servings of strawberries, the server just takes 1 full spatula full of strawberries and dump it into your cup. As opposed to asking for strawberry, blueberry and strawberry, where they will scoop two servings of strawberry, and you'd tend to get a bit more strawberry, or any other fruit for that matter. I've tried this a few times and it's consistently more (but may be purely psychological for me, since I'm such a cheapo).

Sauce
The sauce comes next. There's a choice of caramel, wild strawberry, wild berries, Rafello, white chocolate, chocolate, chocolate crunch, white chocolate, apple sauce etc.

My favourite is wild strawberry, as there are really chunks of wild strawberry inside. Wild berry is way too sweet for milky liking. Rafello really tastes like the rafello chocolate, just that it doesn't go particularly well with the yogurt as it is too sweet and coconutty.

I haven't tried white chocolate or the apple sauce (looks really gross to me) yet.

Chocolate (just the plain old chocolate) gets very hard after being drizzled over your yogurt and at the bottom, it usually just becomes a solid chocolate lump. As I mentioned earlier, I don't like chocolate with my yogurt.
However, I will make a concession for the chocolate crunch, which is a different kind of chocolate. It doesn't harden like how the normal chocolate does, and there's a delightful crunch at the end of it. It doesn't taste purely of chocolate, but has a slight hazelnut taste.

The Top
Lastly, it all boils down to luck as well as keen observation skills. The last bit of the Sanum is the most important bit. It will decide if you're queueing is worth it, and if you did get your moneys worth. I have noticed a very large difference in the amount of soft serve yogurt that is given. You can get 5 really large swirls, to form a grand, towering Sanum, or a really crooked, small, twisted swirls which is barely even 1/4th a properly swirled Sanum. It's all dependent on your server - the swirling skills as well as if they are in a rush.

If I am queueing with a group of friends, and we do get a good server (5 generous swirls), we would usually try to order as a group, so that all of us can get a nice big towering Sanum. However, sometimes, this also backfires as the server feels overwhelmed and tries to make the swirls quickly, which gives us all very small tight swirls and a tiny Sanum. If the first person gets a lousy server, we will split up the order so that there will only be one unfortunate person would get the crooked Sanum.

My Favourite Combination
 Caramello biscuits, strawberry+blueberry+strawberry, and wild strawberry sauce
Do note that I'm not a big fan of chocolate (with the exception of chocolate fudge cake)

My Two Cents Worth
I really don't think that this yogurt can be considered 'healthy' especially since I'm convinced that there's more than 500 calories in a Sanum, but it really tastes so good that I have regular cravings for it! So please don't eat it just because you think it's 'healthy'! You can probably eat this as a not so balanced meal replacement.

I really dislike the way they let their servers leave their long ponytails swishing about - I feel that it's really unhygienic but this is just my personal opinion, I doubt that this really affects the taste of the yogurt. Perhaps it's all part of a marketing ploy, just like Frolick's. But then again maybe it's cos I'm 80 years old and as stickler for hygiene.

I do think their servers work really hard and there's a perpetual queue, but they are mostly efficient and quick and cheerful. So kudos to them!

The Branches
Marina Link #B1-04 Marina Square Shopping Mall

Plaza Singapura #01-22A (opposite Bread Talk) - you can see the depressing queue when you drive into the carpark. My heart sinks each time the queue snakes outside

Singapore Polytechnic
500 Dover Road Polytechnic Food Court 3 (lucky poly students!)

313 Somerset
313 Orchard Road #B3-55 - incredibly long queue, I haven't been back for a while cos the queue is ridiculous

United Square
101 Thomson Road #01-K14 - My new favourite outlet - cos it's out of CBD!

West Mall
#01-K6 1 Bukit Batok Central Link

NUH
1 Lower Kent Ridge Road #01-37

Anyway, for other cheapos (like me) out there, there's this economic rice post that's worth a read! Same psychology applies for choosing ingredients for Sanum!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

India - Darjeeling and Sikkim : Part 5: Food

Not many people know this but I don't like chicken rice and bak ku teh (I was told that I am the oat unpatriotic person :/), Indian food is really one of my least favourite cuisines. Other than my once yearly butter chicken / murtabak / roti prata craving, I don't really eat Indian food. I find the curries and spices overly aromatic and I don't particularly like the oily feeling I get after eating. 

Since I learnt my lesson in Bhutan, I armed myself with lots and lots of snacks (Hello Panda, Pocky, potato chips and Tao Kae Noi) and a whole load of instant noodles, before I went to Indian, just in case my hotels didn't have international food. Kiasu max. 
Fortunately, I didn't have to eat any of them (save for 2 days where I didn't want to eat the Indian food at the hotel restaurant but I wasn't hungry enough for instant noodles). 

This was one of the first meals we had in Darjeeling - I think it was Tibetian food and not Indian food. Lots of curries, pickled vegetables with rice. The brown soup at the front left hand corner is lentil soup, not really my cup of tea.
One of the many roadside stalls selling food - I don't know what this is called, but it's a potato mixture with what looks like dried fried noodles on top.
Check out the environmentally friendly leaf cup!
A street vendor selling Pani puri
There's a puffed cracker which he first makes a hole in, stuffs a potato spice mixture into the cavity, and dips it into a jar of turmeric soup.
Hygiene standards are very questionable.
Whereby whoever is eating it will do so straight away, before the whole cracker becomes soggy.

You can read more about Pani Puri here  I didn't eat it cos of the questionable hygiene and I'm super paranoid about getting gastroenteritis (I didn't get GE in the end! And neither did my friend who spent the whole time eating the aforementioned street food with questionable hygiene standards)

One of the many biscuit shops along the way - lots and lots of biscuits.
Random Sweet Shop
Jalebi, which is a deep fried flour based crispy snack, which is saturated with rose syrup.
I'm not sure what this is called but its' a small pieces of deep fried potatoes with spices, similar to a vegetarian version of popcorn chicken. Highly addictive.
The famous rosso gula (white ball at the back), there's a similar version which is brown in colour and comes in rose syrup. It's so insanely sweet I feel like I'm going to get diabetes just by tasting it. The little coloured balls in front are some sweets.
One of my favourite foods - thukpa, which is similar to those ban mian kind of noodles you find at the food courts/hawker centres. I'm not sure if it's a Sikkimese dish or a Nepali dish (according to some online sources it's Nepali but it's widely available in Sikkim). Since I don't eat beef, I usually go for the vegetable thukpa as most of the restaurants are quite small and only stock one kind of meat.

We ate so much thukpa cos it's one of the few dishes that I really enjoyed! I was so thrilled to have found something that I really liked, so we had it for most lunches. 
Beef Thukpa 
Vegetable Thukpa 
I think this was not thukpa but some kind of instant noodles, tasted the same to me anyway. I really love noodles compared to rice so any noodle dish is welcomed. 
Something very similar to the Thukpa - but has a different noodle base - this one is a hand made shells which are very similar to macaroni. I think the flour base they use is same as the momo skin.
The momos, which are similar to the steamed Northern Chinese dumplings - very filling and usually stuffed with vegetables (cabbage, onion), cheese or minced meat (usually beef or chicken).
This was one of the hotel meals we had - usually fried rice with some stir fried meat (or curried meat) and stir fried vegetables.

One of the breakfast dishes we had, after dragging up everyone to watch sunrise at 4am. It's a potato curry, served with flatbread (looks like chapati but they call it roti). 
Some snacks which we ate at a festival in a monastery.
Gundruk, a fermented vegetable soup which is usually eaten during winter. There's a mixture of mustard leaves, radishes, tomatoes etc inside the soup and it has a slightly sourish taste due to the fermentation process. It's quite similar taste as the szechuan sweet and sour soup we find in Singapore, just that it's not spicy.

I honestly don't know if this tomato and cheese soup is one of their local dishes, or something for westerners, but it was pretty good. I really like the fresh cheese (it's similar to ricotta) so just as long as there's cheese in anything I think it'll taste good.
 Stir fried fresh organic mushrooms. Super delicious - I don't know what kind of spices they put in but it's so good.
Stir fried pumpkin (if you remember, it's the pumpkin we bought from the village earlier).
The tasty pumpkin
These are some wild jungle vegetables which is used to make shishnu
These were some fresh millet seeds which we saw in a farm, along the way.
And this is the local alcohol, called tongba or chang (see the wiki page here). It's fermented millet seeds. Traditionally, it comes in a large bamboo cup (don't know where my bamboo cup photos went, but this one is a aluminium cup).

Drinking tongba takes a lot of time, and needs lots of patience. Hot water from a flask is poured into the bamboo cup, and the mixture is allowed to rest for about 5minutes, no stirring allowed (apparently you will get a bad headache if you stir the mixture - I think it's just the hangover). After waiting 5 minutes, you then drink the mildly sweet alcoholic mixture through the very eco friendly bamboo straw. The process is then repeated multiple times, until there is no more taste.

There's a shortcut way to drink tongba, which is to grind and squeeze the fermented millet seeds, and then sieve it through a cheesecloth. The resulting mixture is a white milky mixture which has a stronger taste. For people who are pressed for time I suppose.

This is the last post for my Darjeeling and Sikkim trip. I will do a short post on my transit in Kolkata soon. I really enjoyed my trip and am missing the times that we woke up super early (partly due to jet lag) to watch the sunrise and walking around admiring the scenery and breathing in the super fresh air. Sikkim isn't very commercialised or touristy yet, and amazing beautiful scenery. I will probably go back to visit the northern part which wasn't covered during this trip due to time constraints, and am planning a trip to Nepal next year (cannot wait! Hope my leave gets approved)

You can read more about my trip here.
Part 1
Part 2 
Part 3
Part 4

Saturday, November 29, 2014

India - Darjeeling and Sikkim: Part 4

In Pelling (Sikkim), we had the luxury of staying in an awesome resort. I think this would have cost an arm and a leg in a developed country (i.e. out of my budget). Which is why, I have decided that from now on, I shall only visit developing countries (apart from the awesome scenery, fresh air and food). 
This is the view from our resort - the Chumbi mountain resort and spa. We didn't go to the spa (which has awesome reviews on trip advisor) since we were too busy trying to sleep early to catch the next days sunrise, and maximise our last few days in India. 





This is Pinky again! Visited her a few times during our stay in Sikkim cos we went to Hotel Garuda for tea and lunch.
Free carwash at all the numerous waterfalls. The roads are really bumpy and dusty, so most people take the opportunity to wash their car at the waterfall.
The Singshore bridge, which is a suspension bridge about 200m in length. It's the second highest suspension bridge in Asia, and the bridge sways when vehicles cross it.
Lots of rice terraces in the valley.
Wild cucumber, plucked off a tree.
We didn't believe that it was cucumber at first, until our guide took a bite out of it. I didn't try it but according to those people who tried (and one person tried it AFTER it was washed with bottled water, true city dweller style), it was tastier than our usual cucumber.
Squash growing on a tree. There's lots of edible stuff growing everywhere if you know where to look (I don't).
We visited the Rabdentse ruins, which used to be the ancient capital of Sikkim, until the Nepalese army. There's really nice views from the ruins.
After visiting the ruins, we walked around a small village. This is their charcoal stove in the kitchen.
We bought half a pumpkin from one of the villagers.
It looks pretty unripe and wasn't orange like the usual pumpkins that I know of, but it really tastes good and tastes even sweeter than the normal pumpkin.
Little kitten at one of the houses.
Lots of pickled vegetables.
Freshly plucked walnuts
Cracking walnuts - it's hard work cos the shell is really hard! I wonder how they manage to crack and peel the walnuts whole
Freshly cracked walnut. The flesh is actually slightly wet and very tasty, not like the dried ones that we get from the supermarket (btw I buy Nature Wonder Walnuts and it is definitely not half as tasty). Had a difficulty time trying to get the nut out initially, but things improved when I managed to get a fork to dig out every morsel of the precious walnut.

After all the holidays, I'm feeling all cooped up like a factory chicken. I wanna be a free range ...

Links to my Sikkim and Darjeeling trip:
Part 1
Part 2 
Part 3
Part 5