Monday, July 17, 2017

7 Delicious Reasons to Visit Singapore this July

7 Delicious Reasons to Visit Singapore this July

Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, July 13, 2017

1. STREAT. My absolute favorite Peranakan chef Malcolm Lee of Candlenut (best crab curry in the planet!) will be teaming up with the pioneer of modern Singaporean cuisine Willin Low of Wild Rocket in this exciting collaboration happening on July 14 and 15 at Clifford Square. The two champions of Singaporean cuisine will helm a pop-up restaurant featuring modern Singaporean and Peranakan food, alongside nine hawker stalls personally curated by the duo, each presenting a quintessential local dish with a fun twist. 

2. Whitegrass. The Michelin Guide Singapore just launched its 2017 edition on June 29 and bestowed its coveted stars on 38 dining establishments. Among the newly minted restaurants is Chef Sam Aisbett’s 18-month old Whitegrass where he serves cross-cultural flavors unconfined by geographical limitations. I had the most amazing meal with Challans duck on eggplant cream and Chinese jelly mushrooms, Australian freshwater marron with burnt chestnut miso and a 20-year aged Kamebishi soy sauce that my server ever so carefully squeezed onto my plate. Too precious! For dessert, milk jelly, milk ice cream and milk curls from Hokkaido paired with fresh honeycomb from northern Thailand, followed by an intensely mouthwatering Taiwanese mandarin sorbet that jolted me awake from my delirious food-induced coma. Every course was divine and I strongly recommend you book a table at once. 

Challans duck on eggplant cream and Chinese jelly mushrooms at Whitegrass

Australian freshwater marron, burnt chestnut miso, 20-year aged Kamebishi soy sauce 
at Whitegrass

3. Meta. The most tender octopus - a result of slow cooking for hours and hours - topped with ridiculously tasty XO sauce, plump mussels, garlic crumbs, and a side of squid ink and sunchoke puree hidden under a radicchio leaf… this is just one of the culinary treasures you will find at Chef Sun Kim’s restaurant Meta. The Korean chef could not help but add bits and pieces of his Asian roots into his dishes – gochujang on fresh Irish oysters, yuzu and shiso on raw fish, crab bibimbap – and I could not help but admire every unique bit of it. Meta received its first Michelin star this year. My first mouthful of his beetroot and burrata dusted with tobiko, I already knew in my heart that it deserves the accolade.

Irish oysters, gochujang at Meta

Octopus, mussel, XO sauce, radicchio at Meta

4. Manhattan Bar. Be transported to 19th century New York once you step into this bar, with its seductively dim lights, oak barrels, lots of dark leather, and shelves of jars containing spices and fruits for drying and pickling. All five signature cocktails I tried were masterfully crafted, but if you must to choose one drink only, let it be the Aviation (Citadelle gin, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, fresh lemon juice) which comes with a vial of Tempus Fugit crème de violette that you stir into your drink and watch the special concoction turn into a pretty purple hue. Manhattan is voted number one at Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2017 and our sweet Filipina server presented us with apple cheesecake poppers to celebrate the win. 

Manhattan Bar at Regent Hotel

5. Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow Exhibit. Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins! They are not only for eating, but also for indulging your visual appetites. This exhibition features 120 fascinating works of the Japanese artist and runs until September 3. Be ready to be blown away by the spell-binding experience which will make you smile, make you laugh, make you sad, make you cry. After the feast for the eyes, head down to Gallery & Co. for the most adorable pumpkin, and completely edible this time! 

Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama

National Gallery Singapore

6. Shangri-La Hotel Tower Wing. What a treat to be enveloped in lushness every time I walked into the lobby of my home in Singapore. Look to your left and be amazed by the nine-meter high mystical rock wall, look to your right and be amused by the massive, refreshing balls of green in place of the usual, oftentimes boring flower arrangements, look up and be mesmerized by the two thousand pieces of cascading leaves by Japanese designer Hirotoshi Sawada to create a tree canopy in this enchanting oasis. The newly renovated Tower Wing at Shangri-La Singapore takes my breath away each and every time. One of the best things about my stay, aside from the heavenly bed, was being able to enjoy a multitude of Singaporean heritage dishes without leaving the comfort of the hotel. One lazy day I had chili crab and mantou, Hainanese chicken rice, and an incredible katong laksa all by myself, washed down with a comforting mug of teh tarik followed by a sweet, chocolatey glass of Milo dinosaur. 

Shangri-La Hotel Singapore

Katong Laksa at The Lobby Lounge, Shangri-La Singapore

7. Singapore Food Festival is happening between July 14 to 30 and there will be a roster of activities to celebrate the richness and diversity of local Singaporean flavors. Imagine a hawker wine safari where Bib Gourmand hawker eats are paired with artisanal wines from Australia and New Zealand, a kueh pairing workshop where you enjoy the sweet little treats with coffee, tea, and cocktails, and a 50 Cent Festival featuring nostalgic dishes like abacus seeds, paper wrapped chicken, beehoon, and iced candy at 1980 prices – 50 Singapore cents! 

Hawker food and wine pairing at Maxwell Food Centre

Singapore nostalgic dishes at 50 Cent Festival

Kueh and cocktail pairing at Bar Stories

So fly your empty stomachs to Singapore this July, speak your best Singlish, and immerse yourselves in Singaporean culture by eating, eating, and never-ending eating!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Carte D'Or Gelato

When I was in London for three weeks last summer, my neighbour (aka the supermarket - more specifically the frozen goods section) was my best friend. I would buy Carte d'Or gelato on my way out and oftentimes on my way home, too - it was strategically located between the underground station and the apartment I was staying at. My favorite flavours were triple chocolate parfait and crema di mascarpone. 

So imagine my delight when I found out that UK's #1 gelato brand is finally coming to Manila, and just in time for the summer months, too!

To get to know Carte d'Or more, I attended a fun and interactive gelato-making class where I learned the step-by-step on gelato-making process and the ingredients that go into every scoop of the frozen treat.

My take-home lessons:

1. Carte d'Or uses only premium ingredients sourced from the places where they make them best, so we can enjoy natural flavours free from additives.

“We take pride in sourcing from only the best, no matter where it takes us - from Australian butter to pistachios harvested from South Australia and California, from Belgian chocolate to hazelnuts grown in Turkey,” boasts Earl Keh, Carte D’Or brand manager.

Real cream and butter from Australia

Pistachios from South Australia and California 

Chocolates from Belgium

2. Gelato-making is an easy and uncomplicated process. As long as you have the best ingredients, you are already halfway there!

Chef Miko Aspiras showing us how it's done. Basically, you just throw in all the 
premium ingredients and mix thoroughly.

3. It is simple, but you will need a very expensive gelato machine like this.

Cattabriga is said to be the Maserati of gelato machines

It churns gelato slowly but surely, and the result is a smooth, rich and creamy frozen dessert.

Fold pistachios into the churned gelato

Now it's time to enjoy the smooth, creamy, nutty fruit of my labour. 

4. To save yourself time and trouble (and all that Maserati money) making your own gelato, just buy a tub or four from a supermarket near you.

Carte d'Or launches four irresistible flavours in Manila:


Salted Caramel

Chocolate Hazelnut

And my favorite of the four - rich, dark and sultry Double Dark Chocolate 

We are the very first country in Asia to enjoy Carte d'Or gelato and I cannot wait to try all the local flavours that Chef Miko is cooking up for us. On my wish list: ube, buko pandan, pili nut, tsokolate, turon...

Carte d'Or Gelato is available in select supermarkets and convenience stores nationwide.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Eat, Pray, Eat in Ubud

Eat, Pray, Eat in Ubud

Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle

I chose to spend the last few days of 2016 in a place I had always wanted to go back to, a place that promises peace and quiet, a lot of nature, smiling people, healers, raw food, vegan restaurants, a place where I could slow down, reflect, and most importantly, detox my mind, body and spirit, a place which means “medicine” in its native language - Ubud.

I should have known better.

Despite being in the mecca for health, the one and only clean meal I had was at Paradiso, a really cool cinema that shows old films and serves strictly plant-based food. So you see, there was no choice but to eat falafels (which were delicious, by the way) and a plate of vegan nasi goreng while I watched Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe try to make their way out of a Japanese suicidal forest alive. It was a movie that called for steak.

The rest of my meals were heavy on meat. Too bad for my body, but lucky for you, you now have a good eat list for your next Bali trip.


My search for the best beef rendang in town led me to this quirky restaurant where everything on display is for sale. The rendang served here is made using Bernadette’s family recipe and involves cooking the meat in coconut milk and secret spices for twelve hours – eight on the first day, and another four on the second. No wonder the beef was ridiculously tasty. Warning: You are likely to consume more than one bowl of rice.

Waroeng Bernadette: Jalan Gautama Utara, Ubud


The biggest dilemma here is whether one should order the Balinese crispy duck or the fried smoked chicken. I suggest both because aside from the fact that they are equally delicious, I must admit, portions are tiny. Do not forget to mix and match the different sambals, and wash everything down with avocado iced coffee. After overeating, walk off the meal around the beautiful property surrounded by lotus ponds and rice paddies.

Bebek Tepi Sawah: Jl. Goa Gajah, Ubud


The coconut curry noodles here is one dish I often fantasize about ever since my first taste of it in 2013. You can opt to have your bowl plain or with tofu or meat. Of course, I had mine with beef. Rich and hearty with a broth boasting so many layers of flavors and a depth that can only be achieved after hours and hours of simmering, it was the simplest meal of the trip but one that brought me the highest satisfaction, even topping the chichi, award-winning Mosaic. The place is always packed so call ahead to reserve.

Melting Wok: 13 Jl. Gootama, Ubud


It is difficult not to compare babi guling to our Filipino lechon (which is still, hands down, the best pig for me), but when in Bali, do as the Balinese do – eat Balinese pork. The suckling pig at this overly popular warung is stuffed with a paste made with shallots, ginger, galangal, garlic, turmeric, chili, peppercorn, and shrimp paste, and then roasted over open fire for six hours. The result is mildly fragrant pork with not so crunchy skin. Admittedly, it is not something I am ecstatic to eat again, but definitely a dish you must try once when in Bali.

Ibu Oka: 2 Jalan Tegal Sari, Ubud


From the makers of Mamasan and Sarong comes the newest addition to Ubud, serving Indonesian flavors with finesse and always with a surprise factor. My kambing curry (the spicier the better!) came with roti canai that was chewy and crispy at the same time, the tuna tartare was served with a medley of watermelon, Thai basil, sesame seeds and chili shallot lime dressing. It is the place to go for local flavors when you need a break from the warungs.

Hujan Locale: 5 Jl. Sri Wedari, Ubud


I discovered this place through an Instagram follower who tipped me about Chef Joshira’s crazy dishes. I went without any expectations, and honestly, the funky interiors left me doubtful. But WOW, my cinnamon and cumin-rubbed lamb appetizer was out of this world! The grilled meat sat on a bed of toasted cashew and feta salad tossed in lamb tamarind jus, its flavors complex, bold, exciting. The prawn tacos were fresh and delightful, the chocolate mousse rich and decadent and made even more fabulous with candied orange peel. Secret to finding this hidden gem: look for the blue octopus on the wall.

La RaMona: 9 Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Chinese New Year Lucky Eats

Of all the special occasion feasts, Chinese New Year is the most interesting to me. Unlike noche buena or media noche where heirloom recipes and family favorites are usually served, during Chinese New Year, we eat dishes that hold symbolic meanings.

In our family, a Chinese New Year meal consists of lucky foods which are believed to bring us good fortune in the year to come. On our dining table will be a whole fish with head and tail intact because fish signifies abundance, and head to tail represents abundance from beginning to end. There will be pork, dumplings, abalone, noodles, glutinous rice balls, oranges, each dish symbolizing wealth, prosperity, longevity, happiness, and good luck.

I must admit it is a tedious task to prepare a traditional Chinese New Year feast, and how lucky are we that we can now just take the whole family out to celebrate the special occasion at a restaurant. Or two. Or three.

Because I live closest to Mall of Asia and the new S Maison at Conrad, I thought I’d share with you my picks of dishes to eat in these two malls for a lucky and tasty Year of the Rooster.

One word to describe the siomai at Masuki - SIOMAI! Ginormous in size and packed densely with meat, it is best enjoyed drowned in the signature special sauce and then bathe with fresh calamansi.

Noodles represent longevity and the maze soba is a wonderful way to eat your way to long life. Bouncy noodles that you toss with chunks of tender pork chasiu, bamboo shoots, spring onions, leeks, sesame seeds and a runny onsen egg, it is 100% MSG-free yet full of umami. Add a drizzling of chili oil to make things even more exciting.

Mann Hann oyster cake is a fluffly, gooey, chewy egg pancake studded with juicy, briny oysters. I know this sounds weird, but the best way to enjoy it is to smother the whole thing with ketchup. An oldie but always a goodie. 

Radish in Hokkien sounds similar to good fortune, so the more radish you eat, the better fortune you will enjoy. Biting into Paradise Dynasty’s radish pastry's incredibly crisp and flaky crust reveals the naturally sweet, moist and creamy bundle of turnip strips. The play on different textures and flavours makes this golden nugget a sheer delight to eat. In fact, it is so delicious I sometimes I forget I am eating vegetable!

The bean curd roll with seafood and pork is the siomai’s heartier and tastier albeit lesser known cousin. Wrapped in a spongy bean curd skin that has soaked up all the deliciousness of the soya-based gravy, this is one dimsum so flavourful it does not need any condiment.

Chinese New Year is about family bonding and a hotpot meal is the perfect venue for this occasion. Unlimited meats, seafood, dumplings, offals, vegetables, every kind of ball imaginable, sushi, sashimi, desserts and drinks, Four Seasons has the widest selection I've seen in Manila. There is something to suit everyone's taste, and you can eat to your heart's content for a price that just can't be beat.

Pork knuckle is one of the lucky foods to eat during Chinese New Year because its roundness and fattiness symbolise a well-fed year to come At Modern Shanghai, the trotter is braised until fall-off-the-bone tender, served with a superior brown sauce, and priced at P888 - the luckiest number which means "to prosper."

Imagine boiling and simmering Jidori chicken bones until they are fully dissolved and reduced to a rich and velvety chicken broth. And then imagine using this collagen broth to cook your complete meal of chicken, meatballs, vegetables, noodles, and shrimps. Every ingredient you put into this beauty pot adds a layer of flavor to the soup, making every sip a whole new experience. Best part is, the more you eat, the younger, more beautiful and supple your skin becomes.

Gong Hei Fat Choi and bon appétit!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Paradise Dynasty

Eating in Paradise

Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, December 15, 2016

My first time at Paradise Dynasty was in Singapore six years ago. I saw the posters everywhere, along the walkway to the MRT station and all over ION Orchard, the most happening shopping mall during those days. Photos of bamboo steamer filled with dumplings the colors of the rainbow haunted me. Oh how I love rainbows. And chasing/eating them.

I made plans to have lunch there with a friend almost immediately. We ate our way through the colorful babies, which also doubled as educational materials for her learning toddler. “What color is this dumpling mama is eating?” “Green!” “How about the one Auntie Jin is eating?” “Yellow!” “Orange!” “Red!” He had almost as much fun as we did, even if all he ate was blended chicken and vegetables.

It was not surprising to see the same reception when Paradise Dynasty opened in S Maison. Curious people queued up for the fun experience and there was always a basket or two of rainbow xiao long bao on every table.

During one of my visits I was able to chat with Paradise Group CEO Eldwin Chua who was in town to oversee the opening of his first Manila branch. “We are very excited to be in the Philippines. We have been wanting to bring our brand here for many years, we were just waiting for the right partner and the right location,” shared the young Singaporean businessman.

In the span of 13 years, the Paradise Group has expanded into over 30 restaurants in Singapore and 20 outlets in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and London, with every branch exuding opulence and luxury. When you go, make sure to check out the VIP room with its monstrous dragon sculpture hanging on the wall. It’s like stepping into the lavishness and drama of 1930’s Shanghai, with you feeling like some emperor, ordering and eating up a feast, and then feeling absolutely pleased with yourself when the bill arrives and you realize you are paying ordinary working men prices.

This is exactly the experience Chua wants to offer his diners. “Here at Paradise Dynasty, we want customers to enjoy premium food in fine dining setting without breaking their wallets. We use simple ingredients and find ways to elevate their flavors. We always work to improve and innovate so we can offer gourmet food with exceptional value.”

So what are the five dishes you must try at Paradise Dynasty?

1. The most popular 8-color Dynasty Xiao Long Bao, of course. 
You will be given an eating instruction manual to ensure you get the optimum taste of the
technicolor pouches. No, you cannot just eat them according to your favorite colors. 
You have to follow rules here and eat the dumplings in this sequence: Original, Ginseng, 
Foie Gras, Black Truffle, Cheese, Crab Roe, Garlic, Szechuan. The two I enjoyed most
were #3 foie gras and #4 black truffle. While I thought this was fun and something 
people should try once in their xiao long bao-eating lives, I am still a purist at heart
 and prefer uncomplicated flavors, which brings me to the second dish.

Rainbow xiao long bao eating manual

2. Original Xiao Long Bao
To be enjoyed simply with vinegar and ginger because the classic way is the best way. Period.

3. Scrambled Egg White with Fish and Conpoy 
This dish dates back to a time when seafood was a rare commodity in China. The emperor
wanted crab during a time there was none so the kitchen had to create a dish to satisfy
his craving. The result: egg whites cooked painstakingly under low heat to attain a texture 
similar to that of the crustacean. If this dish made the emperor happy, I believe it should 
make ordinary people like you and me happy, too. Tip: There is a special way to mix
the egg yolk so sit back and let your server do the honors.

4. Stir-Fried Shredded Pork with Chinese Crepes 
Paradise Dynasty’s take on peking duck. Shredded pork stir-fried in black bean and hoisin
sauce until tender, to be paired with scallions and wrapped in thin, soft and chewy pancakes.

5. Radish Pastry
This is THE BEST THING at Paradise Dynasty. Soft and creamy radish strips in an 
incredibly fine and flaky crust that is almost too gorgeous to eat. Do eat it anyway. 
I can come to the restaurant and order nothing else but eight pieces of this golden 
beauty and leave perfectly merry and content.

Paradise Dynasty is located at 2/F S Maison at the Conrad, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City 
Tel: 828-8333

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Arla Promise

This was our breakfast during the presentation at the Arla Factory in Holstebro, Denmark. 
It was a typical breakfast spread - breads, deli meats, cheeses, jams, and Lurpak butter.

I must admit, because I see it so often, I have taken the Lurpak brand for granted.
Obviously, it is good butter therefore the choice of many, kind of like how Colgate 
has become toothpaste for most of us. 

You see, I am a butter monster. Sometimes I eat little pieces of bread just because they
help transport the silky, creamy yellow goodness to my stomach. 

So imagine my delight when I discovered that Lurpak butter is produced by Arla, the 5th
largest dairy company in the world and the biggest organic dairy company of them all! 
During our factory visit, we spotted an Arla truck delivering fresh milk from the farms. 
Fun fact: Did you know that 308,000 tons of raw milk is used to make 130,000 tons of 
butter in this facility each year? It is the biggest butter dairy in the world serving 
918 million consumer units!

Lurpak is produced only in Denmark and Arla takes serious measures to keep the quality 
at its highest. "Butter tasters" are employed to taste the product every 20 minutes during
production and Operations Engineer Jakob Pedersen has been doing it for 16 years!
 No wonder despite serving almost 1 billion consumers, they get only 55 complaints in
a year. Here Jakob shows us how he does quality checks, inspecting the butter up 
close and then taking a big spoonful into his mouth.

And that is me taking advantage of the situation, enjoying my 
own spoonful(s) and eating Lurpak butter like ice cream! 
I think I can live here happily ever after.

That is, until Holstebro Cream Cheese Factory. God, it smelled like heaven in there!
And it is one of the cleanest facilities I have ever been in.

Everything is automated, precise. Watch the video at the end of this post to see the action.

Check out all the exciting flavours. You name it, they've got it!
How about chanterelle cream cheese on your bagel today?

Best part is, there is absolutely no artificial ingredients in the mix. "Arla uses only the 
real deal for all its cream cheeses. There's real garlic pieces in our garlic cream cheese, 
bits of olives in our olive cream cheese," Arla Foods Philippines GM Jen Christian 
Nielsen proudly reports. Arla does not believe in artificial preservatives, 
and instead utilizes sweet buttermilk as stabilisers. 

And Kenneth Olesen guarding the goods from me. Lol.

So delicious we ate them right out of the tubs

My personal favorites are olive, tomato and basil, goat's cheese, horseradish, 
papaya and curry, and chocolate. I pray these will be available in Manila soon.

Cheese snobs will be ecstatic to know that Arla also produces very special small batch, 
single-farm artisan cheeses under the Arla Unika brand.

We were lucky enough to sample a few during our visit, and with Cheesemaster 
John Gynther himself

Nutty, creamy, caramel-y Havgus

Sweet, salty and full of umami Gammel Knas

And an interesting coffee cheese made with Coffee Collective's Guatemalan coffee. 
Bet you've never had anything like this before!

Cheese and tea pairing at 9:00am? Yessir!!!

The most special experience for me was visiting Faregard, one of the 12,600 farms 
Arla works hand in hand with.

There are 400 cows in Faregard and I must say each and every one of them looks 
healthy, meaty, very well taken care of.

It is so wonderful to see the cows live in a clean, stress-free environment, 
and are allowed to move around freely

They get clean water, nutritious food and soft beds

And enjoy a little play time, too! 

Of course, like every parent (although none will admit), Rasmus has his favorite child. 
When asked how he chose his favorite, he said it just came naturally, like the feeling 
he felt when he first met his wife! How adorable is that?!

As for me, my favorite cow will be the one that produces the most milk! Haha!

These are the cows that produce 40-70 litres of milk a day. Because they work harder,
they are rewarded a place in the VIP section where they enjoy all the good stuff in a cow's 
life, like feeds that are higher in nutrients and minerals...

... plus free massages anytime of day!

It is so heartwarming to see the hardwork and dedication that mother-and-son team 
Birtit Gade and Rasmus puts into providing their cows a home. They treat them
like family and with love and respect. Arla cows eat healthy and live happy, and
we all know that healthy and happy cows produce better and yummier milk!

With Senior GM for Arla Foods Philippines Jens Christian Nielsen, 
Cheryl Tiu and Pam Pastor. 

I have always loved Arla, and even more now after experiencing firsthand its company values, its faithfulness to deliver the promise of providing healthy, natural, responsible dairy products. 

Every time I see Arla products on supermarket shelves, I will remember the farms, the cows, the love that Arla farmers put into their work, the quality and consistency that Arla factories aim for to bring to the world food that is not just good and nourishing to the body, but also good and nourishing for the soul.

Arla Official Website
Arla Philippines Website
Arla Philippines Facebook
Arla Philippines Instagram

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