Going local at the food halls

The first evening when I arrived in Tokyo was a week night. Being the lazy me and still having a mind focused on keeping to my eating habits as much as I can, even though I am on vacation and should really let loose, I thought of checking out the supermarkets, to grab some fruits and yogurt, which are almost my daily staple these days. It just feels weird when I don’t have either, or have them in insufficient quantities.

Since Takashimaya was conveniently located within minutes away from the hotel, I popped over to the supermarket and food hall in its basement, and was ensnared in the evening peak of Japanese grabbing last minute dinners from the stalls. Most items were going at a discounted price, though not that significant but at least they became a little more affordable. Much as these are just takeaways in small portions, upon conversion back to SGD, even with the strong exchange rate now, it was still pretty mind-boggling. I can’t imagine spending this kind of money on dinner on a daily basis if I were living in Tokyo. Perhaps that explains the myriad of convenience stores and their convenient packed meals, or those “vending-machine” food outlets that dot the streets of Tokyo.

I bought 2 small portions of cooked pumpkin and a medley of broccoli, cucumber and french beans, things I didn’t used to appreciate too much, especially the variety, until the recent years. I have missed out so much but it’s never too late to start!  I also wanted to have some fruits in my system so I picked up this box of cut-fruit salad from the conbini (local abbreviation/slang for convenience store). It contains some pieces of kiwi, pineapples and grapefruit, and costs roughly about S$3.50! O_O But this is still cheaper as compared to the veggies above.Of course, what is a visit to a supermarket in Japan without picking up some strawberries!? These also do not come cheap but so far from experience, strawberries that I have bought in Japan are always sweet, not to mention that they are all of about the same size, with very vibrant colours and not in some odd deformed shape like some US-variants tend to be. These 2 boxes cost about S$7 each, which is actually not too bad, considering that in Singapore the same box could sometimes cost twice that, unless they are not from Japan. And they really do not disappoint. I could really just eat them strawberries everyday!One thing I feel doesn’t quite make the cut would be the yogurt. Even though we all know Hokkaido milk is probably one of the tastiest milk I ever had, their yogurt do not seem to match up to the European/Australian versions that I have had. Perhaps I haven’t tried enough Japanese yogurt to make a valid comment, and Soy Yogurt is a totally different ball game altogether, but the bigger tub pictured below felt a tad too watery, when I prefer my yogurts to be creamier and thicker. I love Greek yogurt too, which isn’t creamy unless it’s the Greek-style type, but then when I have Greek yogurt, my expectation isn’t that it is creamy so somehow I manage with that quite well. Hmm.  And this is the view that I got out of my window. Not a very pretty sight compared to what I have seen from hotel room windows of other places I have stayed at in Tokyo but I don’t need to sit by the window the whole day looking out at the city when I can just go out and be in the city. I love vacationing in Tokyo, and this was a good trip, despite some kinks that occurred before it finally materialised.  

the healthy part of eating

Some pictures of the healthy things that I eat, generally on weekdays. Haha. Weekends are times to indulge but weekdays are the days to make up for them.

Fruits galore. I love them, even if the repertoire of fruits that I used to eat were pathetically small, but since a couple of years ago I have learned to appreciate a wider variety and it was then that I realised how much I had been missing out!

20140624-163329-59609054.jpgGreens, again, were something that I came late to appreciate and enjoy. I like eating vegetables all along, but again the types of greens that went into my system were limited. These days, I eat quite a fair bit of them, things that I never thought I’d eat, such as brinjals and lady’s fingers! Now my favourites are actually broccoli and cauliflower, many types of beans and of course, Japanese sweet potato (the yellow-fleshed type) and pumpkin. The list can go on, but what I once thought of as a waste of money (i.e. salads) now I can have them every single day of the week. If only they weren’t so expensive as compared to other kinds of lunch options, and if only I weren’t so lazy to make my own.

20140624-163328-59608974.jpgThis is some chicken and sausage salad of sorts from Podi located in the basement of Raffles City. It isn’t the typical kind of salad I’d have as this is a little more oily due to the stir-fried chicken but once in a while I think it’s good to have some change.

20140624-163329-59609013.jpgAnd I visited a new salad place near the office, recommended by a colleague. Yay to more salad shop options and hopefully there can be more low-cost variety too!

20140624-163328-59608878.jpg

Green & Safe, Shanghai

Over that weekend when I was in Shanghai, I met up with one of my cousins who is currently working for an event management firm there. I guess with time, people are getting international, and are geographically mobile, so much so that these days I find a lot of people whom I know, whether close friends or not, relocating anywhere and everywhere in the world. It is interesting to know how the world is getting smaller each day and part of me always envy them for having such opportunities while I am left behind in the trail of dust from their moves. It isn’t that I have never explored this option, but things just didn’t happen in my case and maybe in my line it is a little bit harder in some way. Perhaps I should think that there is a greater reason why the overseas move just did not materialise in my life.

Anyway, on this trip, I decided to venture into the Shanghai subway once more, having only tried it once back in 2009 and deciding never to repeat the experience due to the massive congestion in the train that I totally abhor. However, this time it seemed better, maybe because it wasn’t exactly peak hours when I boarded the train, or I already got used to sardine-packed trains now. Taking cabs aren’t that expensive in Shanghai, even if I were cabbing from Pudong (where my hotel was) to Puxi, but by train, it is probably just 10% of the cab fare and it is probably quicker too. I was pretty amazed that from the station that I found to be near where I had wanted to go, Dong Ping Road, I managed to locate the place where my cousin told me to meet at, about 10 minutes’ walk from the subway.

Green & Safe, or the Green Kitchen, was where he had wanted to bring me to, some place that he frequents on weekends for brunch. Apparently, they serve organic stuff, and although I wasn’t able to find a dedicated home page online except for a Facebook page, you can find numerous reviews. Here’s a short write-up describing the place, from Smart Shanghai, and also some reviews on Trip Advisor.

My cousin was early and he ordered a fruit platter before I and 2 of his friends arrive. Based on their conversation about the order of fruit platter, it was easy to infer that prompt service isn’t a strong point of this deli, because on occasions when they had ordered the fruit platter together with the mains, the fruit platter didn’t turn up until much later, and at odd timings.

20131205-090339.jpg

But per my cousin, he said they always had interesting ways to display the fruits and you never really know what fruits you will get because it depends very much on what’s available and what is in season probably. This platter that day wasn’t the best that they had, in terms of presentation or the variety of fruits. But it was quite a good appetising start for the palate!

As I pored through the menu trying to decide on what to order (from his recommendations, most things seem to be good which proved a challenge to decide), I also thought that I wanted to try their carrot cake, which was one of the recommended items by some netizens. It is not a big slice so it won’t take up too much space away from your main. The cream cheese frosting on top of the cake was nice and rich but a little sweet for me, but it goes pretty well with the cake, which was still moist and if you can see from the pictures, contained pieces of carrot, which I really liked. 

20131205-090352.jpg

20131205-090400.jpg

There were four of us there that day, and among us, we ordered three sets of the same brunch while the fourth had a chicken dish which looked really good too (pity I didn’t snap any photo of it because I felt it wasn’t so nice to photo someone else’s food if we are meeting for the first time!). I had the scrambled egg with salmon on ciabatta (I think), served with a salad of greens and potatoes. 20131205-090409.jpg

This was truly awesome. I am not a big fan of scrambled eggs because to me they always taste somewhat weird or bland, but together with the salmon in it, and eaten together with their self-baked bread, it was delicious! It also helped that the potatoes on the sides were something that I enjoy, being such a major potato junkie, and this is definitely healthier in many aspects as compared to french fries that I indulge in.

Besides the fruits, the cake and the main, there was also this order of a cinnamon roll, served warm and infused with some chocolate sauce thing. I don’t know its exact name since I didn’t photo the menu, but that was one sinful but extremely worthwhile item to indulge in if you love cinnamon rolls. Ok, actually I don’t think it has a strong cinnamon taste if that is what you are into, but warm chocolate sauce on a cinnamon roll, that to me is already part of dessert heaven. For all that food that we had, and together with a coffee each, we paid about 140 RMB each, which works out to be something short of S$30, which although isn’t of course the cheapest thing you can think of or perhaps what some may consider affordable in Shanghai (it is after all such a cosmopolitan city already flushed with many foreigners), but for the amount and quality of food, I thought it was pretty decent. I don’t usually have such big brunches in Singapore so I am not sure about the prices here, but I think S$30 here won’t get you as much.

Address: 6, Dong Ping Road (near Heng Shan Road), Shanghai 200062, China (东平路6号, 近衡山路); in between Chang Shu Rd and Heng Shan Rd subway stations on Line 1.

berry goodness

I love eating berries, whether it’s blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or blackberries, although the latter two, I don’t get to have enough of them because they are so costly! It isn’t that blueberries and strawberries aren’t costly as well, even if I were to get them from the neighbourhood NTUC, but they cost slightly less as compared to rasp/black-berries, which typicaly cost at least S$8 for a small punnet. Generally these are not even available at the NTUC near my home. Why do berries like these cost so much in Singapore?! When I went on business trips to some European countries, these berries are much more affordable, even though I don’t think they are produced locally.

The other reason why I don’t buy and consume rasp or blackberries as often as I would have liked is because they tend to spoil really fast. I recalled several occasions where I have bought a punnet and within a couple of days, mould started sprouting on them, and when that happens usually the entire punnet seems to get “infected” which made me refrain from cherry-picking the good ones since they all seem to in some state of decomposition already. It’s quite wasteful to spend so much money just to dump everything down the bin, so I decided to just stick to blueberries which seem to keep better, and small portions of strawberries.   20131025-093026.jpg

The other way I found, to keep blueberries longer, which I have also started to do for the raspberries (that I bought a punnet of recently), was to store them in the freezer. It works great for blueberries because I like the crunchiness of the berries when I take them out to eat as a snack when I am feeling peckish, so I thought to pop the raspberries in too. Tried them last night and the same crunchiness makes it refreshing but with raspberries that are also bigger in size, getting them frozen and eating them frozen may not be such an excellent idea. But they did still retain the sweetness in their frozen state, and since this is a way for me to continuing enjoying the berry goodness of these fruits, maybe I should continue with it!

just can’t stop eating

Perhaps due to the need to always be constantly engaged in activities of some form, I realised that wherenever I am not doing something, for instance, sitting in front of the television idling time away and not exactly paying attention to what is being shown, I would feel peckish. It’s probably some kind of condition, and that I need to find better ways to engage my brain usefully and productively, like ead something, yet I just feel lazy to read even though I really want to go through the daily papers or the books that I had bought years ago.

I don’t think that the need or the desire to want to eat frequently stems from the amount that I eat because sometimes I do think the portion is pretty sizeable already and the feeling of wanting to eat isn’t due to hunger, unless I am not noticing the hunger pangs that are in some other ways transmitted to my brain to trigger the desire.

Anyway, I decided to snap a shot of what I had for breakfast some days ago, the very first meal of the day and which is also the first half of my breakfast, yogurt with fruit and chia seeds. You can’t see the fruit that has been completely covered by the yogurt but in this picture, a green kiwi lies beneath. A little of the green is visible in the right edges. Anyhow, kiwi is my usual choice of fruit to go along with yogurt because the combination of sour on sour is so refreshing and I really enjoy the sourness. Most other days I substitute bananas for kiwis though, because of the greater satiation from bananas and because I also love eating bananas. The dried apricot is a treat for that day, just to add some colour and cheer for the morning!  20131007-090439.jpg

I said this was the first half because I eat fairly early in the mornings, and this definitely doesn’t last me all the way through to lunch time. Also, I don’t generally want to or like having my meal at one sitting; because circumstances permit, I prefer to space out my eating, which is also possibly the reason for the development of the habit to eat frequently, or rather all the time. My second half of breakfast happens around some people’s usual breakfast time, or maybe tea-break, and consists of something more substantial in the form of carbs and coffee. I love my carbs, despite how it is not so well-received by many because it can be a huge contributory factor to weight gain!

I happened to take a photo of something I asked my mum to steam for one of my night snack last week. It doesn’t look that fantastic, and obviously it goes to show how I am not the go-to person for plating or well-thought-up/orchestrated food arrangements. Whatever that is called. I just take and eat. Perhaps if I put some effort into dressing up the food that I am eating, it can extend my enjoyment further, both in the satisfaction from eating, and literally the time taken to consume the food.20131007-090522.jpg

This is pumpkin, and I have come to appreciate it and love it! Whether it is its taste or texture, steamed, grilled, roasted or stewed, I think it tastes wonderful. The ones that I have bought so far are always the ones with dark green skin, but I have seen some with orangey/yellow skin called squash, possibly another variant of this thing that I used to only associate with Jack-o-lanterns and Halloween. One of these days, I have to get some butternut squash to try and see if I like them as much as the green pumpkins!

Durians!

You won’t find in me a big durian fan. In fact, over the last uncountable number of years, I have not had many seeds of durians, despite that most of my family are huge durian-lovers. I grew up eating durians on a pretty regular basis during durian season, because of relatives in Malaysia who owns durian plantations. These days however, I think there isn’t such a thing known as durian season because it seems like durians are available most times of the year, isn’t it?

I don’t know when I stopped eating durians, or at least became not so fond of them. But it wasn’t because of its notorious pungent smell that those who don’t like it complain about. I adopt a neutral stance where durians are concerned; I just wasn’t that keen on them anymore. Back in the past, I remembered that D24 used to be a top-grade durian quality, are they still available now, or are the best durians now known as Mao Shan Wang (猫山王)?

Sometime recently, my brother went on a trip to Malaysia and came back with lots of durians, so when I went home one evening while they were eating it, I joined in too and had a few seeds.

20130801-091129.jpg

These were really good, the type of durians that I like, with relatively darker-yellow flesh that is more firm (i.e. not over-ripe or mushy) and laced with traces of bitterness. I don’t really like durians that are too sweet, and I think my brother knows what I like. 🙂20130801-091141.jpg

Those seeds were the only few I had out of the lot that he came back with. Most of the durians were opened up and packed into these containers for the rest of the family to bring home.

good morning!

I used to be someone who could literally sleep till the sun sets. When I was a student, my mum was always complaining that I am a late-riser, because I go to sleep late at night, and I could spend the whole morning and even afternoon still asleep, then wake up maybe just before dinner. Of course this doesn’t happen all the time but it was something I was completely capable of. Now, this is totally unimaginable for me; maybe not impossible but perhaps as the years go by and as much as I guess one needs less sleep as one grows older, I find time to be too precious to be spent sleeping. I know sleep is important, and I try to keep a certain numbers of slumber hours each night too, unsuccessfully, but then I try not to spend too much time sleeping.

And it isn’t difficult for me to wake up early in the mornings either. It used to be hard, but these days it has become a habit to rise early. Even on vacations I don’t really sleep in because I want to make the best of my time, especially since I don’t keep late nights (anymore, usually), my days have become more regular. Generally, I wake up at about the same time each day, regardless if it’s weekday or weekend, and I always wake up looking forward to breakfast.

My breakfast isn’t an elaborate affair, and to some people it is even boring and unthinkable, but it is what gets me motivated every morning. It is also a part of the travelling that I enjoy, because during those trips I fully indulge in breakfast, much more than when I am at home, and let myself eat more. Haha.

Sometime ago, I got to know about a way of having breakfast that I totally enjoy now. Typically, I have yogurt with cereals or fruits, but what I came across was based on oats. I used to make quick oats, mixing oatmeal with hot water and adding in some fresh or dried fruits to flavour, but then because it was hot, I didn’t enjoy it as much because it made me perspire thereafter. This way that I came to know about through a friend’s postings online makes cold oats, which is a great idea for me.

I went online to find out more about it and modified the ingredients a little, until now the main things that go into my breakfast oats are yogurt, flaxseeds, old fashioned rolled oats and fruits. I pre-mix the items and keep them in the fridge overnight so that the oats could be soaked up in the yogurt and soften, and in the mornings, add in the fruits. I used to also add in milk or soya milk but it made the texture of the oats a little too watery if I didn’t put in enough yogurt, so I decided to cut the milk and stick to just yogurt since that is my preference over milk anyhow.

20130704-074218.jpg

This doesn’t look very palatable, especially to some of my friends who think I am eating baby food but it is something I really love and look forward to each morning! It is only on rare occasions when I bring this to office that I cut the fruits and put them into the jar, otherwise everything is in a bowl that I eat out of at home.

20130704-074233.jpg

It is a generally healthy way of having cold breakfasts, and I’m glad I got to know about this! My mum has her theory of cold breakfasts being not so good for the body, maybe she has a point there too because some of my friends can’t take cold stuff for breakfasts, but so far I think it is still ok for me. As I was rummaging through for used plastic bags to put the jar into one morning, I found this.20130704-074247.jpg

Helps to make the morning even better, doesn’t it? Have a good Friday and great weekend coming up!