More birthday meals

Even if I didn’t have many birthday celebrations, July was nevertheless still considerably a month of feasting for me. With 3 birthdays happening in my family and a cousin’s wedding within the span of 12 days, it is no wonder that all of us were really stuffed by the time July came to an end.

For Mum’s birthday which fell a weekday, since old folks have this thing about not wanting to celebrate their birthdays post the actual day because they believed it to be inauspicious, we met up after work at the Redhill area, at this Cantonese eatery that was supposedly highly-recommended by one of my brother’s colleagues. Since it was a week night, the place was extremely empty and devoid of patrons. We were one of 2 or 3 tables of customers in the air-conditioned part of the restaurant (that of course attracted higher prices as compared to the non-air-conditioned coffee-shop part). But I think they serve similar, if not the same, dishes. And because it was a weeknight without many customers, we could even order dim sum from the coffee shop to be served here. We kind of made a note to return, some day – wondering when that day will be, for dim sum brunch because based on what we tried, they were pretty good.So the above is a collage of the spread that we had. Imagine all that food for 6 adults who kind of are past their prime in terms of appetites. We are all now at a stage where our tummies can’t really work like they used to be, despite that on all other fronts we are definitely still very young! I enjoyed their dishes, the ones that we ordered anyway, because they exuded a home-cooked feeling and tasted not too overwhelming in terms of flavouring and seasoning. Of course, whenever I’m at the dinner table, my brother always made it a point to ensure there is sufficient veggie for the (almost) herbivorous me. I eat meat, yes I still love meat to a certain extent, but sometimes I realise I can go without meat for quite a fair period of time. Until such time when I kind of start missing eating meat. Hurhur.

The custard bun looked really good but as I am really not such a big fan of it, I didn’t have any of it. But the rest of the dishes got a big thumbs up from me!

For my brother’s birthday that capped off the month, we went to this coffee shop near Kembangan that supposedly serves awesome liver mee sua. Well, it is weird to associate me with this, because when I visited Taipei and everyone went crazy over Ah Zhong mee sua, I was one of those that ate it only because I had to. I hate the taste of liver, in whatever forms, and the gooey texture of mee sua somehow doesn’t appeal to me. But this one was pretty alright, plus the other dishes that were ordered to supplement our main (which is the mee sua – one bowl per person OMG). Or maybe because I was really hungry, having gone almost a whole day without much food because I was under the weather, battling a fever complete with chills and a suspected gastric flu/cramps of sorts. Yes, so even with that, as my sister-in-law remarked, I could still muster such a healthy appetite. Sigh. What can I say, me appetite seldom ever takes a break.

No photos of the dinner, because even if my stomach was working very hard and appreciating the food, the other parts of my body were in a shut-down mode that whole day. I even took a nap in the afternoon! Something I hadn’t done in years I think!

Blessings crown my head

As the years go by, we realise that our social circles get smaller and smaller. In most cases, it is a matter of choice because we start to get more selective of people we hang out with, spend time with, because time has become such a precious commodity that we see no point in spending these valuable moments with people who do not really matter, or perhaps people whom we feel we don’t have a connection with. In any case, my lifestyle has also dictated the way my social circle has dwindled over the years, and the energy level that I have these days just don’t lend myself to staying out for long hours whether it is after work or on weekends to socialise.

It sounds a little like I am wallowing in self-pity, what I am about to write, but this is really something that I want to write about to show a sense of thankfulness for what I have.

My birthday was last month, and I’m grateful for friends who remembered the date and sent me their well wishes via Whatsapp or through Facebook, despite that I had not publicly-listed my birthdate for Facebook to send reminders to my friends of it.

A few of my friends asked me out, but I ended up only being able to meet them, one a week or so after the actual day, another just a week ago and finally one today. Even if there wasn’t that kind of ‘fanfare’ associated with celebrating birthdays anymore, I suppose it is also a matter of choice and I still appreciate their thoughts in giving me a treat or buying me a gift. 🙂

Since young, my family never really had the habit of celebrating birthdays in a big fashion with cakes and what nots. I didn’t have any fancy celebration for my 21st, and so maybe it has also become typical for me to just spend my birthday as just any other day. While I was in school, and maybe in my younger professional days, there might have been friends who have made the day a bigger affair, buying cakes complete with candles and stuff, birthday cards and presents. These days, it is but a muted event.

Yet, I did feel a lot of love this year. My brother asked where I would like to go for dinner on my birthday. And coming from my brother, it kind of took me by surprise, and I was really touched at his gesture. There was no big celebration, sure, but what mattered was that the important people in my life were there with me that evening for dinner. It was a really traditional, Chinese-style kind of dinner, not what I usually would have picked, but my parents enjoy Chinese food and so it was an easier option for us too. I really love the char siew! The rest of the food weren’t too shabby either, but regardless the taste of the food, my heart felt warm that day. And I got a second surprise afterward, when I got home, and my other brother disappeared for a short moment and returned with 2 slices of cakes, because as he said “I don’t know what flavour you like so I bought 2.” Awww. Well, I don’t have special preferences for cakes these days, since carrot cake seemed to have fallen off the charts lately, but the tiramisu and mango cake were not too bad. I even got a candle to blow out as I made my birthday wish, which now I don’t remember what I wished for anymore.

喜喜, Hong Kong

A trip to Hong Kong would not be complete without visiting one of their 茶餐厅, which is loosely translated as Tea Restaurant. These are essentially Hong Kong-style coffee shops that sell a variety of local food including buns, toast, noodles, and so on, not forgetting the aromatic Hong Kong milk tea that I really enjoy. Of course, their menu items can get really extensive and most of these are open for long hours, some even operating 24 hours so they serve anything from breakfast, lunch, dinner to morning and afternoon teas.

I don’t normally have their full breakfasts because a lot of them tend to include macaroni as one of the breakfast items, part of a set of a beverage, bread that is lightly toasted or some variant of their well-known pineapple bun (菠萝包), and usually a serving of scrambled eggs. That is one huge breakfast, much more than our humble breakfast set at Yakun. So anyway, back to December last year, I finally had my fix of a local cafe one night and ordered what typically will be frowned upon at that time of the day/night.

20140205-220405.jpgOmelette (since I don’t think this counts as scrambled eggs) with ham and spring onions, which is honestly quite delicious and fried to the right perfection for me. Who cares if it might be oily for that hour? It was accompanied by buttered toast that again, though sinful, because of the butter smeared on it and toasted, had my resistance crumbling in its face.

Then there is the main draw for me, soupy instant noodles with barbeque pork (aka char siew)! I suspect that the green peas are included for the sake of faking some semblance of healthy eating (vegetables?) but entirely futile, even if I ate them all and I really do quite love green peas. The char siew was heavenly to me despite that I am having it at a 茶餐厅, or I was just too deprived of it for too long. It is not overly roasted or perhaps it being dunked in the soup base made it softer but generally I thought it was fairly tender yet not too soft even with the fatty bits.

20140205-220411.jpgNot pictured is the milk tea that came much later, because the waitress missed out my order. I really adore their version of milk tea, which our teh-c kosong (tea with evaporated milk and no sugar) doesn’t even come anywhere close to imitating. Somehow the tea we have here just isn’t as fragrant or the tea taste just isn’t really there.

I couldn’t seem to find out more about this particular place that I went to, called 喜喜, which my friend brought me to, in a quieter part of Causeway Bay away from the bustling activity of the Times Square or Sogo areas. But I’m pretty sure there are tonnes of such cafes everywhere in Hong Kong, and I can’t wait for my next trip there for more of the yummy Hong Kong food!

all that yummy goodness

Just before I left Hong Kong last December, my friend and I stopped by Tin Ho Wan at the Airport Express station (Hong Kong Station) for me to get my fix of the famed char siew baos. Well, in Singapore the craze is probably not over yet judging from what I hear about the queues and also what I see at Plaza Singapura. I haven’t personally visited the other outlets yet but they are probably the same. And this is the only thing that interests me.

20140127-231516.jpgThe takeaway is so much faster, even though there is also some waiting involved. But where I’d stood in line a couple of years back at the then-Yau Ma Tei outlet for a couple of hours I think, this time it was probably approximately 20 minutes that I waited for these three buns. They still taste as good as I remembered, nice and warm and the char siew inside so delicious and juicy. Although it feels a little weird standing along the glass panels next to the escalators eating them out of the styrofoam takeaway box, there were many others doing the same, with most even setting up a small picnic area with their friends or family after having packed lots of different types of dim sum.

20140127-231522.jpgMy friend and I had one each and she took the remaining one back to her office to reward herself subsequently for heading back to work on a Saturday afternoon. But it’s good to share this way, works to my benefit since I only wanted one anyway. As long as she doesn’t mind it.

That was about all that I had from Tin Ho Wan, but I had dim sum on two other days, at another tea house called Lin Heung. Apparently they have a newer outlet somewhere in the Western District. I’d been to the original outlet located along Wellington Street few years ago and was really fascinated by the very traditional setting and also local yum-cha crowd. At this newer outlet or maybe even possibly due to its popularity it has somehow become inundated with tourists like myself. We visited Lin Heung twice, and each time there was always a long wait for the kinds of food that we wanted. That’s perhaps the spirit of yum-cha, where you can sit for a long time sipping tea and poring through the morning papers as you wait for the freshly-made dim sum, ordering and savouring them wicker basket by basket and not have them all at the same time buffet-style.

20140127-231529.jpgThis came in a set of threes, where you had to choose three items, so clockwise from left, there was the carrot cake, the yam cake and i think the dark brown was the nian gao. I liked the carrot cake because it was pan-fried to just the right degree for me, not too hard or soft, even though well these aren’t the healthiest choices of food that we can have. But the tea should go well with it in cleansing away the greasiness?

20140127-231535.jpgThe first time that we were there, we managed just two or maybe three items because the wait was just too long and we decided to give up waiting for the right things to appear in the push carts. So we returned on another day, and the moment the siew mai (and some other stuff) came out, everyone just rushed to the push carts instead of waiting for them to come around. If you are slower, then you’ll either have to wait for the next round that could be another long wait or just pass on having it. These were pretty ordinary, not bad but none too special if I could recall.

20140127-231540.jpgAnd of course, to us, or at least to a Singaporean like me, staple dim sum fare always means siew mai and har gao. I don’t usually order char siew bao because it fills up half of my stomach and it’s just not worth it. Unless it’s THW’s char siew baos of course.

And I found something else that probably might also fall into this same category. The mini egg tarts of Lin Heung. These were freshly made and the egg custard part was still very warm and fragrant, slightly soft and runny, and the pastry beneath was flaky but not falling apart. I really loved these when I sank my teeth into them, and made a mental note that the next time I visit Hong Kong, I would try to make it a point to go to Lin Heung for dim sum, if not just for them!

20140127-231546.jpgBut I was told that the standards aren’t always consistent, as my friend went back on another occasion and found that they don’t taste as good as that time when we visited. Hmm, I hope I don’t get disappointed!

Space @ My Humble House, Esplanade

If anyone is remotely interested, these two weeks are kind of a busy time for me, so there are actually less updates as compared to before. I have also been feeling more tired than usual, and there are those days where I just do not have the mood, motivation or energy to do anything, even writing. But well, I did go somewhere over the weekend; went to Space @ My Humble House at Esplanade for dinner! I must have been a real frog in the well because I never knew that My Humble House had a more affordable version, which is actually located right next to it on level 2 of the Esplanade. I haven’t been to Humble House before, and honestly I know nothing about it other than it could possibly be (and my friend validated that impression) expensive.

Space is just a 34-seater restaurant, comprised of some counter seats as well as square tables scattered around the sides of the eatery. It isn’t like your usual Chinese restaurant, possibly due to the way it is furnished, especially the use of dark colours against some white furniture. Well maybe it still comes across as Asian, because as I read the short intro on its website, it is the work of a renowned Japanese designer and his team, and then I thought, yes it does have some Japanese feel to it. Anyway, these were what we had, not the cheapest fare if you think about Chinese food, but definitely pocket-friendly.

Hainan chicken rice, that comes with a small pot of soup and rice, for S$12.  20130708-225832.jpgIt must be pretty good, because my friend has had it several times and it was also the recommended dish from her.

20130708-225845.jpgI was poring over the menu, even though it isn’t all that extensive. But since I don’t take hot food that much these days, I was going to give my stomach a treat. So this was my order of Sichuan mapo tofu that came within a claypot and is served with rice and a couple stalks of greens, for S$10.

20130708-225900.jpgThe mapo tofu wasn’t spicy at all, to me. I had expected that Sichuan mapo tofu would mean a certain degree of spicyness but this was more savoury than spicy. Despite that, I think it was good, because I finished the whole piping-hot claypot of sauce and tofu! With all the goodness of the sauce, it goes really well with the rice.

20130708-225911.jpgThey also had dim sum on their menu, interestingly called dim sum for the lunch menu, and tapas otherwise. I wouldn’t have thought to associate this term with Chinese food, but well I suppose it could be applied similarly, except that it probably originated from Spanish cuisine.

I liked the decor of Space, whether it’s inside, or the couple of seats outside of the restaurant, which were given a touch of privacy by these partitions put up around the tables. It also helped of course, that the area Space occupied is generally away from the usual noise and crowd of the Esplanade. The second floor is where thoroughfare from the link way of CityLink flows into, but this crowd will usually just head down to the ground level on the escalator so it doesn’t spill over to this part. It’s weird because it is just a few steps away yet the serenity felt on this part of level two is a stark contrast to the otherwise bustle of the area near the escalator. Maybe this spells bad news for a restaurant, but then again I think Humble House, and for that matter, Space, are probably not dependent on commuter traffic to generate business. Not sure how long they have been there but I think I remembered Space from sometime back.

Only downside for me was that the service and attentiveness of the staff could use some improvement. Aside from the fact that they didn’t appear interested in tending to the needs of customers, which included taking of orders and filling our glasses, they seemed more keen on huddling behind the counter chatting languidly among themselves. Even as customers left the restaurant by walking past them at the entry/exit point, they continued deep in conversation without bothering to say thank you/goodbye or even smile at the departing customers. For a restaurant well-received restaurant, I would have expected more, but perhaps for the price we were paying, we shouldn’t. Particularly if we were comparing the price level of Space to their next-door neighbour.