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Saturday 31 May 2014

Dumpling Festival / Dragon Boat Festival (端午节)

Happy Dumpling / Dragon Boat Festival to all!

Photo source: http://www.tour-beijing.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/Qu-Yuan-221x300.jpg

To share a little history, this festival (also known as Solar Maximus Festival) a day to commemorate the sacrifice Chinese poet Qu Yuan's sacrifice. He jumped into the Miluo River , ending his life in protest against the rulers and corruption in the 278 B.C.

Dragon boat came about as the people rowed out in search of him, but their efforts at rescuing him were futile.  Hence till today, many countries celebrate this festival by organising and participating in dragon boat races.

Anyway, despaired that they could not find Qu Yuan, the people accepted that he has perished in the womb of Miluo River. To prevent the hungry fish from eating up his body, the people tossed rice dumplings (glutinuous rice wrapped with different fillings and wrapped with reed / bamboo leaves) into the river for them to feed on.

Hence, eating rice dumplings is another way of people celebrating this festival. I used to dislike rice dumplings because of the stickiness, greasiness and heavy taste of spices. Now, if I do buy dumplings from outside, I only eat the Black Pepper Chicken ones from Eastern Dumplings (Dong Yuan) - spicy and flavorful, and they use lean chicken meat.

But I only really started to enjoy rice dumplings officially when my Mom began making her own. I tried to help out, but it is no easy feat, so I help to shop for the ingredients - bamboo leaves, mung beans, glutinuous rice, mushrooms, chestnuts, beans, spices, salted eggs, dried oysters and roast pork (yes, her very own recipe).

I love her dumplings because they are not greasy, they taste good and they are small enough I could eat one by myself. In the past when she had more time, she used to pound her own chilli padi and put some in - making it even more sumptuous. 

After indulging in rice dumplings, remember to drink green tea to "wash down" the oils and all.

Have a good celebration!

Thursday 29 May 2014

Lunch at The Reading Room

I read about The Reading Room in a magazine at least a year back, but never found the time to visit till today. It is situated amongst a row of shophouses in Chinatown area, at 19 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089833 and the number to stay eonnected is 6220 9019.

The outside is prettied up by plants and a distinctive maroon-and-white signboard, along with high bar tables and stools for those who prefer to have a glass of wine outdoors. The indoors is what really saps one's attention and leaves them awestruck - i never expected it to be this pretty. A combination of classic "library" combined with vintage charm, this comfortable cafe shall soon be my favorite spot to pop by.

As the name implies, there are lots of books for reading or purchase, it is totally my kind of place - savouring a good book over a good meal or drink! The cosy, pretty ambience is enhanced further by sultry country / olden pop music, I spotted songs by Marilyn Monroe even!

This is the cute menu - when the cafe manager handed it to me, I was a little astonished. Upon flipping through it, I was assured that it was indeed a menu. The food listed leaned heavily on the Spanish side - tapas, burgers and all.

My choice of book for the day was a psychological thriller about multiple personality disorders (MPD - my favorite topic) by Mary Higgins Clark. It was a great companion, needless to say.

I had a tough time deciding if I should go for the lighter Spanish bites, lunch set or one of these seemingly-delectable desserts.

In the end, I settled on the recommended set lunch (also in menu as a la carte) that cost SGD$14.90 (but I changed my drink to a Cuppuccino so all in all I paid SGD$18.50). The coffee was pretty all right - not like outstandingly aromatic, but flavorful enough that I did not add any sugar, and appreciated the simple coffee art.

My recommended TRR Burger was served just as I was starting to get acquainted with the chosen novel, along with the Garden Salad on the side. The salad was crisp, fresh and sweet, infused with a dark dressing that was light but saltish.

The TRR Burger came with bread that looked very freshly-baked, and it was almost crunchy at first bite. The beef patty was very delicious, well-marinated and succulent - the perfect juicy burger patty, save for tiny bits of hard fatty chunks. It was infused with the sapid flavor of cheese, enhancing the flavor. On top of that, the sweet crisps of lettuce, sour juiciness of tomato slices and crispy bacon elevated the texture and taste factors to very high notches on the sumptuous scale. I appreciated the quality recommendation.

All in all, I really enjoyed this place - a lazy afternoon of eating, sipping coffee, people watching and indulging in an exciting novel (without having to spend money buying one, or bringing my own!). The service was good too - they were constantly checking that we enjoyed the food and were comfortable enough. I wonder what took me so long to check this place out.

Dedicated to Maya Angelou

Photo source: http://graphicsheat.com/maya-angelou-quotes/

Rest in Peace, Maya Angelou - thanks for all the great works of literature you've written. I share my favorite herein - a write that is strongly tinged in melancholy, yet laced with utmost strength...

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise. 

Wednesday 28 May 2014

The Top Five (5) Perfumes in my Life

I love perfumes - it all started with the very first bottle I was given, back when I was sixteen. I love everything about perfume - how it makes someone smell more feminine, sensual and fresh; how pretty perfume bottles usually are, and how someone knows you are there even before they see you. I often get feedback that my perfume scent is "very strong", but most times, I cannot smell anything when I spray it, really. Best of all, scents bring back memories, whisking us back in time.


Photosource: http://fimgs.net/images/perfume/o.1542.jpg

1. Ghost's "Summer Moon"
This perfume and I had a very brief love affair, a love-at-first-sniff. Ironically I have never owned a bottle of this officially, but I was given many smaller bottles and packets of samplers by a friend who worked for a branded cosmetics company. It is a limited edition in 2003 - floral fruity fragrance with notes of musk, sandalwood, rose, lotus, peaches, mandarin orange, apple, marigold, freesia, apple, bergamot & lemon - nothing too sweet. It exuded a heady, exotic scent that brought its name alive.

The bottle is very beautiful too - shape of my beloved Lady Moon. This perfume was sold for a very brief period after the launch, and has since stopped gracing the shelves. Trust me, I have bugged all international contacts to hunt for it for me, but in futile efforts.

2. Anna Sui's "La Vie De Boheme"
This is my current daily poison of choice (well, almost), and another "love at first sniff" perfume depicting the Bohemian spirit and lifestyle. This is yet another exotically heady scent that brings out mysterious thoughts in one's mind upon smelling it - another floral concoction of Turkish rose, sparkling pear, berries, pitahaya accord, peony, dry woods, sandalwood, musk and black vanilla. Having a gorgeous bottle is a bonus to this beautiful scent.

3. Elizabeth Arden's "Red Door"
The Red Door is another scent to reckon with  - a powdery trail of elegance and glamor all contained in a bottle. Its scent is classically feminine, with notes of ylang-ylang, red rose, orchid, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, orange blossom, wild violet, freesia, honey, sandalwood and vetiver.

I prefer the previous bottle (heard its limited edition though) that looked literally like the red door that it is.

4. Christian Dior's "Poison"
Christian Dior is one of my favorite brands, if not best. This sensual, exotically powdery scent rouses images of richness, sophistication and a sense of mystery that only it could bring out. As this is a heavier scent, I use it for night functions usually. Consisting of notes of coriander, wildberries, orange honey, tuberose, and opopanar, giving the exotic scent a spicy overture. The bottle is adorable, I hold it like an apple in my hand.

5. Givenchy's "Ange ou Demon"
For this scent, I fell in love with the name and sleek bottle - ombre tones on a bottle that resembles teardrop diamond. The scent is warmly and sweet - nothing like ditzy sweet, but more of a feminine touch to a versatile fragrance. In fact, this scent is my favorite when having important meetings, because it has a very "I'm professional though I smell good" kind of tone to it.

Ange ou Demon contains notes of mandarin, white cumin, saffron, Maxillaria orchid, ylang-ylang, creamy rosewood, dense oak moss absolute, Tonka and vanilla.

These are my top five scents to play around with, and I love them all. Besides these, I do have an assortment of others that I use at times too, most of them are gifts. I spray perfume behind the ears, at the chest area, underarms and the front of my clothes. Sometimes I dab some at the wrists too.

6. Hugo Boss' "Intense"
One of the earlier scents I loved to sport, I don't seem to be able to find it in local shops lately. This is a warm, enigmatic flavor that contains notes of different flowers, spices, musk, patchouli and amber resin etc. I like how it suggests feminism yet stays warm and intense, a scent suitable for professional women; a very practical, non-frivolous flavor.

7. Gucci's "Envy Me"
A simple-looking bottle with the signature interlocking Gs monogram all over it, this marks the next favorite down my list. Its scent is very fresh and light, a concoction of floral, fruits, pink pepper, musk and woods notes all in one.

8. Anna Sui's "Love"
This scent should be my 8th favorite, having replenished it a few times. The pretty bottle and insanely sweet flavors (vanilla, pink pepper, musk and an assortment of many other flowers) makes this a rather romantic scent to sport, especially on a date.

The rest are all not in order of preference. I realize that I prefer stronger scents with exotic, enigmatic and sensual tinges to  them.

9. Anna Sui's "Secret Wish Magic Romance"
Another dreamy-looking bottle containing a freshly spiced up scent amongst sweetness, exuding notes of bergamot, lemon, sweet melon, coconut, musk etc.

10. Coach's "Poppy Flower Coach"
A non-descriptive bottle - not if you don't look carefully at the carefully inscribed cap. A fresh, floral scent that actually contains wet ivy and sugared raspberries notes amongst others! It is a lovely scent, suitable for most occasions.

11. Issey Miyake's "L'eau d'Issey"
This is a "clear as spring water" aquatic, with the creator wanting to emulate the spray of a waterfall, fragrance of flowers and forests in the springtime all into one scent. Besides a wide array of flowers and spices, I note that this contains cedar and carnation too, interesting. This is a gentle, feminine scent with an almost ethereal quality to it.

12. Elizabeth Arden's "Provocative Woman"
Another scent to reckon with - an exotic scent inspired by Catherine Zeta-Jones, a smoking hot scent with notes of spices, quince, water lotus, ginger lily, midnight orchid, papaya blossom, pink freesia, white sand, red amber and Hinoki wood.  A sweetly luscious scent that charms by day and enchants by night.

13. Estee Lauder's "Dazzling Gold"
Now this was the very first perfume given to me at sweet age of 16, a rather powerful burst of strong floral tones encumbering spicy overtures. The notes are orchid, lily, plumeria, sandalwood, vanilla and exotic tree sorts. I find this flavor too sharp for my liking.

14. Gucci by Gucci
A perfume that comes with a very classy-looking bottle complete with lock and chains, this perfume features some rather strong notes of wood and spices. The notes consist of exotic guava, Haitian Tiare flower, patchouli, musk and base.  It is a very practical scent, suitable for the sensible and sporty at heart.

15. Lolita Lempicka
Last but not least, a very adorable perfume that comes in a tiny apple-shaped bottle, nestled on a miniature coach. The flavor is spices combined with a light, hedonistic experience.

We have come to the end of my scents, giving the senses a break. Wish I could preserve some scents forever, but alas, they float away like the sands of time...

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Dinner at Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant

So, it was the annual Mother's Day cum Mother's birthday celebratory dinner, and this year, the chosen venue was Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant, located at 201 Keppel Road, Level 9, Singapore 099419 (the number for reservations is 6272 8822).

The reason why I chose this restaurant was because of its interesting revolving concept, thus offering sweeping views and taking panoramic scenes to another level altogether. The other reason is because this place was where my mother brought my grandmother to eat at, 30 years ago too, when my maternal grandmother was still alive. So this place holds nostalgic value. For some reason, I made reservations for 6, as usual, instead of for 5 now...

One steps off the elevator at level 9, and continue to ascend a long flight of red-carpeted stairs to reach the top, where delicious aroma assaults the nostrils and guests are being ushered to their tables. The interior (according to the Mom) hadn't changed much since her last visit - the same elegant Chinese restaurant settings in place, the same red carpeting and framed windows. I felt very comfortable in this sophisticated-but-not-overwhelming decor, and a couple of the service staff were very friendly and helpful too.

After ordering (with some recommendation from the lady who took our order), we were served appetisers of crispy pickled vegetables (salted vegetables) and braised peanuts to munch on while waiting for our food. We also had a hot pot of Chinese tea to go along with the meal.

The first item arrived - Shredded Scallops with Fish and Egg White (medium, SGD$45.00) - it looked different from the photo I saw online at their website, but we were assured that it was the very same one. We were encouraged to add vinegar to it, so we gave it a shot. The dish was tasty with the sapid flavor of egg white and sweetness of scallops and fish. It was an interesting item, cooked to be something that tasted like, say, dry shark's fin soup or dry fish maw soup kind of taste. We liked it.

Then our Xiao Long Baos (SGD $22.00) came, a tray of 10 piping hot, crystal-skinned buns containing delicious broth and succulent minced pork meat within their wombs. Recommended to eat them hot, duh.

Next up, we had the Authentic Peking Duck (SGD$65.00) - oh well, the skin portion first. It was very crispy and tasty - and we loved the egg-flavored flour skin it came with for the wrap. There was black sweet bean paste sauce, cucumber slices and spring onion stalks served together for the wrap too.

After quite a while, we finally got to see and taste the rest of the duck. It was so tender, I couldn't help having 2 - 3 pieces because the flesh nearly melted in one's mouth. The taste was light but the aroma of fresh duck meat was eminent. This was a keeper for sure.

Next up, we had the Brussels Sprouts (kailan) (medium, SGD $30.00) stir-fried in oyster sauce, something healthy and green for what was to be a heavy meal. The vegetables were fresh and sweetly-crispy, and we appreciated that the oyster sauce was not too salty.

They served the Mushrooms with Beancurd (medium, SGD$30.00) afterwards. This was a fairly normal dish - tofu with nearly crispy skin and very silky tender interior, carrot slices, shiitake mushrooms cooked to perfect softness and peas, all tossed in a starchy gravy.

Finally, we ended the meal with Fried Ee-fu Noodles (small, SGD$20.00) - this one contained ingredients such as chives, chicken strips, mushrooms and beansprouts. The noodles was quite tasty, but somehow it lacked the deliciousness of ee-fu noodles served during some wedding banquets. Something missing?

Their desserts looked very tempting and unique, but we did not order because we brought our own cake for the Mom. The entire meal cost SGD$258.00 for five persons. Let me share photos of the revolved views accompanying us for a heart-warming dinner - from dusk to sunset to nightfall.