A Glimpse of Haji Lane (Kampong Glam, Singapore)

Haji Lane Singapore

Serving as a haven for independent boutiques and yet-to-be-discovered hot spots, Haji Lane is one place in Singapore that appeals to the anti-mall crowd. Tucked away in the heart of the country’s bright and bustling Muslim quarter, Haji Lane stands out as a narrow atmospheric street lined with charming pre-war shophouses, many with their walls covered in creative murals and vibrant street art.

Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore

The place is home to a collection of hip and trendy stores selling clothing and accessories by local independent labels, eclectic furniture, and the quirkiest of knick knacks. You will also find a number of creative cafés, bars and Middle Eastern shisha joints. Shopping is best done in the late afternoon, when the heat of the sun begins to dissipate, and by evening, when the drinking holes start to open their doors, the district truly comes alive.

Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore Haji Lane Singapore

The Cheese & Chocolate Bar @ The Club, Marina Bay Sands

The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands

If you want a night to truly remember, head to Singapore’s Bayfront to experience an all-you-can-eat buffet session at The Cheese and Chocolate Bar. Taking up a large section of the 55th floor of the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel,  the decadent Cheese and Chocolate Bar brings you face-to-face with a luxurious abundance of, well, cheese and chocolate. At SG$48++ per person, the buffet offers you a serious time with over 40 handcrafted desserts, 12 varieties of European cheeses, and a free flow of TWG teas or coffee. The best thing is, you get to savour it all while enjoying an amazing panoramic view of the bay area and the Singapore cityscape from a dizzying 55 floors up.

The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands

The desserts range from the simple (sugar-loaded and sugar-free free candy bars, chocolate fondue with fresh tropical fruit, Oreo cheesecake, decorated marshmallows, chocolate-dipped strawberries), to the exquisite (lavender apricot macarons, various pralines and petit fours, chocolate cream cheese tartlets, peanut butter brownies, salted caramel and nougat cake, chocolate crème brûlée), to the bizarre (milk chocolate blue cheese cream with thyme, chocolate infused with extra virgin olive oil, gigantic gourmet Pocky sticks).

The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands

The cheese selection is also fairly extensive, with a nice mix of hard cheeses, soft cheeses, extremely pungent cheeses, creamy cheeses, crumbly cheeses, sharp cheeses, salty cheeses and mild cheeses to choose from, plus a healthy supply of different breads, crackers and jams to accompany your selection. Some of our favourite cheeses were the Roquefort (a soft blue cheese made from ewes’ milk), Shropshire Blue and Port Salut.

The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands

The Cheese & Chocolate Bar offers an optional Black Ivory Coffee pairing (one of the world’s rarest and most expensive coffees made from Thai Arabica beans naturally refined by elephants; only 200 kilograms of beans are produced a year) at SG$60++ per person, as well as optional wine pairings (Classic Flight: SG$19++ per person, Dessert Flight: SG28++ per person).

The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands

THE CHEESE & CHOCOLATE BAR
Hotel Tower 2, Level 55
The Club, Marina Bay Sands
10 Bayfront Avenue
Singapore 018956
Opening hours: 8pm – midnight (daily)
Reservations: +65 6688 8858

The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands

Rokeby (Day Café | Night Bistro Bar) @ Jalan Riang, Upper Serangoon

Rokeby Café Bistro

Café by day, bistro + bar by night, Rokeby definitely passes as one of those hidden gems you find nestled within a quiet residential estate. Located along a modest row of shophouses at Jalan Riang, the place sits pretty in a suburb surrounded by private houses, away from busy streets and imposing high rises. Priding itself as a modern Australian bistro, Rokeby offers its customers a decent, wide-ranging menu that clearly promotes the use of fresh seafood and high grade meats, along with a variety of Australian wines, beers, teas and artisan coffee.

Rokeby Café Bistro Rokeby Café Bistro

In the span of two weeks, we visited the place twice – once for brunch and once for dinner. Both times, we left feeling incredibly satisfied with our meals, with full bellies and happy smiles on our faces.

Rokeby Café Bistro Rokeby Café Bistro

Their brunch menu offers hearty fare such as the Eggs Blackstone (streaky bacon, poached eggs, wild rocket, tomato, hollandaise sauce & brioche toast, SG$14.90) and the Rokeby Full Monty Brekkie (scrambled/sunny-side/overeasy eggs, pork bratwurst, streaky bacon, sautéed mushrooms, hash brown, tomato, baked beans, wild rocket & multigrain toast, SG$18.90).

Rokeby Café Bistro Rokeby Café Bistro

We had a go at their Eggs Benedict (SG$13.90) and Foie Gras Benedict ($21.90) during our brunch visit, which we washed down with a surprisingly fantastic Cappuccino (SG$5) and Flat White (SG$5), both made using a special blend from Western Australian coffee roasting company 5 Senses Coffee.

Rokeby Café Bistro Rokeby Café Bistro

Eggs Benedict
Lovely poached eggs served on a bed of honey baked ham and cushioned by a shockingly glorious piece of brioche toast. I say shockingly glorious because the huge, thick slice is sinfully fluffy-soft on the inside, with a thin outer layer that is ever so perfectly crisp. A brilliant hollandaise sauce smothers the eggs, finally sprinkled with herbs and spices. The dish is wonderfully plated, with a generous amount of balsamic-dressed rocket leaves framing the colourful creation in the middle. Delicious and very filling.

Rokeby Café Bistro Rokeby Café Bistro

Foie Gras Benedict
Similar to the Eggs Benedict in terms of presentation and base ingredients, but with a large piece of pan-seared duck liver and some bold truffle oil added to liven up the flavour game. At SG$21.90, it is the most expensive item on the brunch menu, so only go for this if you’re willing to treat yourself! Otherwise, trust me, the Eggs Benedict alone will more than satisfy you!

Rokeby Café Bistro Rokeby Café Bistro

For dinner, we spoilt ourselves with their Truffled Parmesan Fries (SG$8.90), which came in a large bucket, filled to the brim. Yes, the whole bucket was full. I get disappointed when restaurants sneakily stuff the bottom part of the serving container with paper so that it only seems full. I’m glad that Rokeby isn’t one of those places. The fries themselves were salted perfectly and flavoured surprisingly well, with a good balance between the strong elements of parmesan and truffle.

Rokeby Café Bistro Rokeby Café Bistro

Their Golden Calamari Rings (SG$10.90) were a pleasant surprise as well. Served with an addictive chilli mayo and a side of rocket leaves, the calamari rings were graced with delicately crisp and golden battered shells, and were in no way rubbery or overcooked inside. Always a good thing!

Rokeby Café Bistro Rokeby Café Bistro

We also shared a bucket of Rokeby Chilli Mussels (SG$19.90), which came with a generous amount of toasted multigrain bread to soak up the chilli. They have four levels of spiciness that you can choose from: zero, mild, hero and legendary. I’ve gotta say, their “mild” spicy is actually pretty darn spicy, even for me! So, go for no spice if you can’t handle the heat!

Rokeby Café Bistro Rokeby Café Bistro

Rokeby is one place we wouldn’t mind becoming regulars at! The staff greet you with a smile and the food, although not exactly cheap, is impressive and well-presented. The interior is light and airy, making it a good spot for a weekend brunch or early dinner, and the restaurant itself is fairly easy to get to from Lorong Chuan MRT Station and Serangoon MRT Station.

Rokeby Café Bistro

ROKEBY (DAY CAFÉ | NIGHT BISTRO BAR)
15-9 Jalan Riang
Singapore 358987
Opening hours: 9am – 10pm (Tuesday – Sunday)
www.rokeby.com.sg

Chinese New Year 2015 Recipe Roundup – Goat Xi Fa Cai!

Chinese New Year Recipe

19 February brings the Lunar New Year to 2015. James and I will be in Singapore to enjoy the festivities and attend the exciting family reunion with my relatives. This will mark the first time in exactly 10 years that I will actually be home for the annual celebration. It’s always been the Christmas reunion that I attend each year so this will be something different for me.

Here’s a quick roundup of all the CNY related recipes I have posted on my blog thus far, with some commentary on the significance of each treat. Remember guys, homemade goodies make great gifts! I hope the Year of the Goat brings good luck to each and every one of you!

- 恭喜发财 -

Pineapple Tarts

Chinese New Year Recipe

Pineapple tarts are a very common Southeast Asian snack staple regularly enjoyed during Chinese New Year. These bite-size “tarts” boast a perfect balance of buttery melt-in-your mouth pastry and a great golden dollop of sweet yet tangy, subtly spiced pineapple jam. In Singapore, jars and jars of commercially-made tarts make their appearance without fail weeks in advance at supermarkets, food outlets, cakeries, bakeries, specialty stores and even convenience stores. Enthusiasts actually go out of their way each year to try to find the best tarts available! Get the recipe! 

Buttery Cashew Nut Cookies

Chinese New Year Recipe

There are many different types of traditional Chinese New Year cookies that contain ground nuts of some kind – walnut cookies, peanut cookies, almond cookies, etc. My favourite by far has to be cashew nut cookies. I find them to be airier in texture, with a more palatable flavour. Whatever the case, most of these tender nut-based CNY cookies are known for their crackly tops and golden glossiness from the brushed-on egg wash. Get the recipe! 

Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice Dumplings) in Ginger Syrup

Chinese New Year Recipe

Symbolising family closeness and togetherness, these chewy little balls are made using glutinous rice flour and are usually served in a bowl of sweet broth made from boiled rock sugar and fresh ginger. While the dumplings are sometimes eaten plain, they are sometimes filled with a sweetened paste – black sesame, ground peanut and red bean pastes are common. Savoury versions of this traditional dish also exist. Get the recipe! 

Fragrant Peanut Cookies

Chinese New Year Recipe

The peanut is an auspicious symbol in Chinese culture. Like noodles, they represent longevity. They are also said to bring about prosperity, stability and good fortune. A well-made peanut cookie should crumble and melt into a smooth peanut paste in your mouth, yet still have a notable crunch when you take a bite. The addictive fragrance and flavour of roasted peanuts should leave you hankering for more! Get the recipe! 

Singapore’s River Safari 2015 – The Great Panda Wonderland!

Singapore River Safari

The biggest draw to the River Safari is the climate-controlled Giant Panda Forest exhibit, which features adorable red pandas (also known as “lesser panda” or “red cat-bear”) and majestic black-and-white giant pandas. In this day and age of rapid urbanisation, both species are extremely vulnerable to habitat loss due to deforestation. Fortunately, extensive conservation efforts are being made to ensure the survival of these rare creatures.

Singapore River Safari Red Panda Singapore River Safari Red Panda Singapore River Safari Red Panda Singapore River Safari Giant Panda Singapore River Safari Giant Panda Singapore River Safari Giant Panda Singapore River Safari Giant Panda

Apart from the pandas, other exciting mammal exhibits at the River Safari include crab-eating macaques, squirrel monkeys, giant river otters, jaguarundi cats and manatees. There are even some birds on display such as the scarlet ibis and the lesser adjutant stork. Of course, majority of the river-themed wildlife park is home to amphibians, reptiles and fish.

Singapore River Safari Crab-eating Macaque Singapore River Safari Squirrel Monkey Singapore River Safari Squirrel Monkey Singapore River Safari Squirrel Monkey Singapore River Safari Giant River Otter Singapore River Safari Lesser Adjutant Stork Singapore River Safari Lesser Adjutant Stork Singapore River Safari

The prehistoric-looking, ever-smiling alligator gar (Mississippi River), charming African dwarf crocodile (Congo River), odd-snouted Indian gharial (Ganges River) and giant catfish (Mekong River) are all sights to behold. And don’t miss the Chinese giant salamander, green anaconda, electric eel, red-bellied piranha and sturgeon exhibits!

Singapore River Safari Alligator Gar Singapore River Safari Alligator Gar Singapore River Safari African Dwarf Crocodile Singapore River Safari Indian Gharial Singapore River Safari Mekong Giant Catfish Singapore River Safari Burmese Archer Fish Singapore River Safari

As with the Singapore Zoo, the River Safari is graced with the fantastic backdrop of Upper Seletar Reservoir, and the densely forested surroundings already teem with natural wildlife – you are bound to spot wild birds and aquatic creatures in the distance! Enjoy a cappuccino at Mama Panda Kitchen (SG$5.50) and marvel at the adorable panda coffee art, or try one of their chocolate custard-filled panda buns (SG$2.90). The brightly-lit café has a pretty neat view of the reservoir!

Singapore River Safari Singapore River Safari Panda Cappuccino Singapore River Safari Panda Pau

SINGAPORE RIVER SAFARI 80 Mandai Lake Road Singapore 729826 Opening hours: 9am to 6pm (daily) Admission: SG$28 (adult) / SG$18 (child) Official Website | Park Map

See what we thought about other zoos and animal parks here: Singapore Zoo / Singapore Jurong Bird Park / Singapore Marine Life Park S.E.A. Aquarium / Singapore Taronga Zoo / Sydney, Australia Nara Deer Park / Japan Nogeyama Zoological Gardens / Japan

The Singapore Zoo 2015 – Oh, Those Cheeky Orangutans!

Singapore Zoo

I’ve accumulated a huge number of photographs from my last two excursions to the Singapore Zoo. From playful lemurs, otters and baby orangutans, to lazy sun bears, proboscis monkeys and giant tortoises, it brings me great pleasure to present to you a wide-ranging selection of the best images from the lot. Be sure to check out the blog post I did back in 2013 regarding this very zoo for even more animal pictures!

Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Sun Bear Singapore Zoo Sun Bear Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo

We also recently made a trip to the outrageously colourful Jurong Bird Park (with one of my favourite cousins) and spent the entire day there – it was pretty darn wild! Stay tuned for a blog post on the panda-licious manatee haven that is the River Safari, coming very soon!

Singapore Zoo SINGAPORE ZOO
80 Mandai Lake Road
Singapore 729826
Opening Hours: 8.30am to 6pm (daily)
Admission: SG$32 (adult) / SG$21 (child)
Official Website | Park Map

Homemade Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice Dumplings) in Ginger Syrup

Tang Yuan with Peanut Filling

Glutinous rice dumplings, or tang yuan (汤圆, literally “round balls in soup”), are traditionally eaten during the Chinese Winter Solstice Festival and on the 15th (final) day of Chinese New Year. It is said that the little dumplings nestled together in a bowl symbolises family closeness and togetherness – very fitting for reunions and festive gatherings!

Tang Yuan with Peanut Filling Tang Yuan with Peanut Filling Tang Yuan with Peanut Filling

Made using glutinous rice flour for that prized chewy factor, the small dumpling balls are often filled with a sweetened paste before being boiled in a sweet ginger soup. Popular dumpling fillings include ground black sesame, red bean paste and peanut paste. While this sweet dessert is common, savoury versions also exist and are popular among families from the Southern regions of China.

Tang Yuan with Peanut Filling Tang Yuan with Peanut Filling

These glistening white pillows of chewy goodness explode in a taste and textural sensation of gritty peanut and sugar when you bite into them. Some like to dye the white dough various colours (usually red, green and yellow) to make the dumplings stand out, but I think they look more attractive without gaudy dye and make for an elegant after-feast dessert.

Tang Yuan with Peanut Filling Tang Yuan with Peanut Filling Tang Yuan with Peanut Filling Tang Yuan with Peanut Filling

Homemade Glutinous Rice Dumplings in Ginger Syrup
adapted from The Gumdrop Button’s black sesame tang yuan.

Ingredients:

for the peanut filling:
¼ cup caster sugar
½ cup coarsely ground peanuts
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened

for the dumpling dough:
cold water
2½ cups glutinous rice flour

for the ginger syrup:
3 slices of fresh ginger
several large pieces of rock sugar

Preparation:

  1. To make the sweet peanut filling, combine the ground peanuts, sugar and butter together until an even paste forms. Create little ¾ inch balls out of the paste. If the paste is too dry, add a little more butter to the mixture. Place the prepared balls in the fridge to chill while you prepare the dumpling dough.
  2. Combine the glutinous rice flour with just enough cold water until the dough comes together and has a firm yet malleable consistency (similar to that of play dough).
  3. Roll some dough into a ball about 1½ inches thick. I find that greasing your hands with some peanut oil helps prevent the dough from sticking to your palms. Flatten the ball into a large circle, place a piece of the prepared peanut paste in the centre and wrap the dough around it. Make sure the dumplings are sealed well, then lightly roll into a ball. Repeat this process until all the dough is used up.
  4. Fill a pot with 3 to 4 cups of water and add the slices of ginger and rock sugar to taste. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once the pieces of rock sugar are fully dissolved, gently place the dumplings in the water. Boil the dumplings for about 5 minutes, or until they float to the surface.
  5. Put the cooked dumplings in a bowl of cold water to stop them from overcooking (this helps them maintain their springy texture). When ready to eat, serve the dumplings in a bowl of the hot ginger soup.

Tang Yuan with Peanut Filling