Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

Singapore Food Staples: Kaya Toast

It’s probably up there with other Singapore food staples like Chili Pepper Crab. Kaya Toast. A simple yet unique little breakfast/brunch dish that can be found throughout the island. Killiney Kopitiam is a well established franchised eatery…place which was founded back in 1919 in its original building on Killiney Road. Hence…the name. Right? Nowadays Killiney Kopitiam can be found in around 30 different locations around Singapore. They can also be found around different Asian countries including Malaysia, Myanmar, and Hong Kong.
We waddled along to the Siglap outlet to meet a passing friend. It’s quite small but seats outside were available and acquired.

If you’re going for Kaya Toast you need to get the set. $5 will get you the toast, tea, and two soft boiled eggs. The tea is sweeeeetttt. I’m not trying to be hip there, fellow kids. It’s sweet. It’s made with condensed milk so as you stir it up it gets even sweeter.  When you let the tea drop off your spoon it drips slowly and with a thick mindset. I had a few sips as tea is not in my daily intake radar and I can confirm its sweetness. The cup and saucer felt so nicely quaint though; memories of train station cafes and more substantial breakfasts of the past. The Starbucks age has ruined me.

All together it doesn’t look like much and, yes, the Kaya Toast disappears way too quickly due to my sweet tooth urges. But it was comfortable. Just right. Crack the two eggs into the bowl underneath and you have some dipping sauce for your toast. Result.

The kaya. What is it? It’s pretty much coconut jam. It’s nice. Too nice. Each slice of toast has also got a stow-away chunk of butter just to notch up the calorie count a little bit more – suggesting a long walk home is in order. Each bite is sweet and coconutty, if you get a chunk of butter in a bite this is balanced out with a salty buttery taste which creates the age-old salty-sweet battle over your taste buds. A war with only winners. Apart from the fat accumulating in the areas you don’t want it.

Listen, I don’t know if the soft boiled eggs are for dipping your kaya toast into. But I did it and it was great. So the egg flavour piled on top of the sweet kaya and the salty butter just ramped up each bite to another level. I enjoyed it immensely.

Yes, a recommended Singapore dish for sure. You can’t go wrong with Killiney Kopitiam for your Kaya Toast experience (or for any of their other Singapore staples either) due to their reputation and history.

Facebook Comments

Singapore Food Staples: Biryani

What comes into your mind when you hear and see the word “Bismillah”? I’ll wait. Yeah, I thought so. Will not let you go.

Anyway, Bismillah translates from Arabic into “In the name of God” so plop it before Biryani and place it above a restaurant and you expect heavenly things. And, actually, the biryani at Bismillah Biryani is good. Tasty and very very filling. We swam to Bismillah on a very rainy day on the outskirts of Little India.

Bismillah opens every day at 6pm. At 6:01pm we arrived with umbrellas in tatters. Perfect time to be there with both the timing and inclement weather meaning the service was in existence purely for us. On first impressions the interior of Bismillah is quite…red. A little run down looking with the upholstery on the chairs needing a good nuclear decontamination. Hazmat suits and power hoses would be good.

A little starter of some vegetable samosas ($1 each, good value) and some spicy dipping sauce. These were hearty, hot, and welcoming. The pastry was quite thick and the filling was a nice mixture of vegetables blended together for a pleasing bite. Or two.

The biryani that is dished up at Bismillah is of Pakistani and North Indian origin. More traditionally labelled Dum Biryani the main difference, so it seems, is that in Dum Biryani everything is steamed together over coals whereas in normal Biryani the meat is added separately later. The main difference to the diner is that the dish is mainly dry with no oily-ness with the gravies you find on normal Biryanis. Perhaps healthier? Who knows.

So what do you end up getting in a chicken biryani dish? A pile of basmati rice with two pieces of chicken (bones n all), a hard boiled egg, and fried onions. Obviously the chicken is marinated in a bunch of herbs and spices which adds another layer of complexity and deliciousness. You do get a bowl of yogurt based sauce to add a little bit of moistness to proceedings. If that floats your boat. It was nice to add it from time to time but not totally necessary if you had a nice mix of egg, chicken, onion, and rice balanced on your fork.

Having tasted the goat (it’s written as kid goat on the menu which is a little bit more ghoulish) biryani I would probably go for that next time as it seemed a little bit more flavorful. Chicken goes for $9 and goat for $15. You can get “double” versions of these which I find find crazy as I side-stepped through the open front of the restaurant and set off walking home to try and work off the fullness I was feeling.

All in all, a very tasty take on a biryani in a no fuss yet no frills restaurant.

 

Facebook Comments

Checking out the Singapore Airshow 2018 For Free!

Well not exactly, but if all you want is to check out the fly-bys and performances that happen for a few hours each day of the air show you can do no wrong than to plonk yourself down on nearby Changi Beach and get some good ear-splitting angles of the various planes. Map below for the exact spot I got my snaps from.

The Singapore Air Show is both a trade and public exhibition where a number of “deals” go down behind the scenes between airplane manufacturers and airlines although this year these deals were slim (ie. non existent) pickings.

I don’t know enough about military planes to talk about their mach performances and the amount of GEES that the pilots were undergoing. Just peruse the pics instead.  It was pretty cool!

 

Facebook Comments

Bite Size Review: Veganburg

You ever just step into a place and you’re immediately not happy? I’m not talking prisons here..merely restaurants.

That was Veganburg for me. And not just because it served all vegan; I’ve been dabbling in that black art for a while now. The minute you step into Veganburg you lose all sense of hearing. There is music but it’s not very loud. It’s just that it seems to reverberate off the walls creating a swirl of noise around you. Throw in a low talking service dude and you’ve got immediate issues straight off the bat.

When you walk into Veganburg the queue hits you in the face. If it’s busy the queue leaves the front door. Mistake number one restaurant floor planner. When we got to order our fake meat, we did so but the low talker had many questions. I usually can answer these questions as they are usually not hard. I need to be able to hear them though. Passed that test finally and I pay. The total was $23.70 or something and I give a nice bunch of 3 $10 notes. “Have you got 30c?” “No”. So he has to dig into his own wallet to get me exact change. Wth?! This was before the lunch hour rush too.

Anyway, food-wise I ordered the Char-Grilled Satay burger and Mrs. Horizons the Avocado Beetroot burger. Their arrival was harked via one of those buzzing disc things and I went up to the counter to see the two burgers waiting with people leaning over them getting change and things. Not good. Nobody acknowledged me taking them; I could have walked in off the street like a vegan loving hobo and snatched them up.

The food was blah. The pattys were nondescript and if it was a real animal it would have been even more sad that something had to die to create it. I think their modus operandi is to slather stuff over their patties to try to create different tastes. It doesn’t work. Boring. Whilst we were slothing our way through the meal the queue got longer and started encroaching on the sitting space and the place got louder. And I got more annoyed. We left before I renounced veganism forever.

The moral of the story? Just because it’s a fast food-esque vegan joint doesn’t necessarily take the fast-food crappy experience out of the whole equation. If it wasn’t vegan Veganburg wouldn’t exist. Having said that…people rave about it. My thinking is these are the same people who think going to Veganburg once a week is a healthier choice than their usual KFC run.

Where it at yo?

Facebook Comments

Singapore Food Staples: Wanton Mee

Wanton Mee. Me want. Wanton Mee is basically Dumpling Noodles. Wanton=Dumplings in Cantonese.
Mee=Noodles in Hokkien.
∴ Wanton Mee= Dumpling Noodles.

I waddled along to Parklane Zha Yun Tun Mee House to taste their Wanton Mee offering. Contrary to their naming, they are not in the Parklane Mall nearby (they used to be) but in the Sunshine Plaza. Confusing. It wasn’t sunny when I visited either.

They have two small eating areas with a few tables set outside in the corridor. We sat ourselves down on a messy table just to annoy them. But they weren’t annoyed and they cleaned up our table quickly and we ordered the staple Wanton Mee dish. All good.

The food came extraordinarily quickly. I don’t know how noodles can be boiled that quickly to order. Hmm. The clumpiness of the noodles were a little meh on first impression too. The noodle dish came with a little broth bowl which included a little pork dumpling swimming nicely around in it.

The dumplings at Parklane are fried in their particular Wanton Mee dish and the noodles are served relatively dry in the Malaysian fashion. I felt that the fried dumplings on my plate were a little more…destroyed…than the other dishes. The pork pieces (char siu) were quite small and pretty bland. The noodles themselves with the dark soy based sauce were a muddle of tastes that really didn’t hit home and stand out to be in any way spectacular.

The fried dumplings themselves were the most enjoyable part to eat in the dish with a pork flavour being faintly present throughout each crunch. I ended up finishing the dish (it’s not bad it’s just not fantastic) without projectile vomiting around the joint like a garden hose but I plan on hitting up some more Wanton Mee joints to compare and contrast. On paper Wanton Mee should be a tastier treat than what Parklane are offering up.

 

Facebook Comments

Singapore Food Staples: Tau Huay (Dou Hua 豆花) Beancurd

Consistency is key in every facet of life. People who drive cars need to consistently not crash. And food needs a consistency that your brain is suited to. So with an innocent western palate, tackling Tau Huay (beancurd) will be fighting the consistency from the start.

Rochor Original Beancurd is one of the most popular and established bean curd dessert places in Singapore. Founded in 1955 by a married couple when Singapore was, itself, finding its feet. So props to them.

It’s a simple dessert. At $1.20 it’s an affordable after meal refresher if you can get past the consistency. Served in Singapore with a simple sweet syrup in a small plastic cup, this beancurd dessert has a number of different variations throughout Asia.
For me, the problem wasn’t the consistency it was the blandness of the syrup. Tofu, in essence, is pretty tasteless so it relies on what accompanies it. The syrup was just not sweet enough and instead of syrup it just tasted of mildly sweet water. Like a cube of sugar was thrown in to a bucket. Perhaps other beancurd joints have more tasteful syrups…

Rochor Original Beancurd has a space upstairs if the few seats downstairs are taken. Apart from it looking like a prison cafeteria it was fine once lights are turned on and a few fans are whirred into action.

Tau Huay can be served both hot and cold and maybe the sweetness of the syrup permeates more with a little heat? I don’t know and I don’t think I will be trying it to find out. So, in summation, consistency might be a challenge (think phlegmy) but, in my opinion, Tau Huay is just too bland to register as a refreshing sidewalk side dish for me. I’ll stick with water.

Facebook Comments

Singapore Food Staples: Carrot Cake

No, you’re wrong. You just are. This is not the affable dessert that you have scoffed down at your grandmother’s on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. This is, in fact, a savoury omelette type concoction made primarily with diced up white radish, preserved radish, eggs, and garlic (or other seasoning). With a nice dollop of chili paste on the side if you so desire (or mixed through it if you so desire that). “But where are the aforementioned carrots!?” I hear you warble. There aren’t any. So there. It’s a lost in translation sort of thing with the Hokkien name of this dish Chai tow kway meaning radish or carrot (chai tow) cake (kway).

I went to He Zhong Carrot Cake stall in Bukit Timah Food Centre to taste this particular dish. It’s a busy place with a 30 minute wait for the dish. No hurry. Let’s do this. You give your table number and they deliver your carrot cake and grab your money when the food is served. And served it was.

On first appearance it looks all omelette-ly. Only when you start pranging and probing away with your chopsticks do you get the chunks of radish appearing. The light brown crust are the pieces that are top of the taste tree on this one as it adds a little crunch to this quite soft and gooey dish. Each mouthful is a mish-mash of radish and egg and is quite a low key taste; at first you wonder if it’s all that it’s supposed to be. After a few mouthfuls, though, you begin to appreciate the balance of tastes and the ease with which you can just, simply, eat. This is all good. And adding a little chilli paste to proceedings elevates the carrot cake to new levels; the sharpness and the little heat that the paste brings to each bite is a perfect balance to the undertones of radish and egg.

I think I would probably get the chilli paste on top or mixed through if I was getting it again. It completed the dish for me.

As you can see above the carrot cake gets prepared in one big wok. This looks like the start of another batch with the radish chunks and a bunch of seasoning kicking off proceedings. The man that served us was very friendly and was delighted to see us enjoying his food. I would hope I can make it back again before the end of times.
On a side note Bukit Timah Food Centre is also a place where I can see myself heading back to as it has a massive array of different stalls to try out.

Facebook Comments

007 in Concert

Gooooollllldddfinngaaaahhhhhh…

Bond. James Bond. The movies go hand in hand with the theme music. Maybe even, in some cases, the songs eclipse the actual movie. Oscar nominations and wins prove that point, actually!

Thus and therefore we have concerts and performances centered purely on the classic Bond music over the past five decades and further thusly 007 in Concert was performed in the Marina Bay Sands MasterCard Theatre on the 19 and 20th January. British conductor, Pete Harrison, led his 28 piece orchestra accompanied by two vocalists (Laura Tebbutt and Tim Howar) for the more…vocal…of numbers

It was an excellent night all around and musically a treat for sore ears which are bombarded by a mish-mash of fake music vomited out of taxi radios and Uber Food scooters on a daily basis.

The concert was done (thankfully) chronologically which means starting off with the “we all know it” James Bond theme from Dr. No. Continuing through, one would argue, probably the most richest and charismatic suite of songs from the Sean Connery era. From Russia With Love (Matt Monro), Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey), and Thunderball (Tom Jones) are absolute belters of songs. Vocally exploding at various times they are a magical trio of theme songs that befit the era and ooze secret service and danger. You Only Live Twice takes the James Bond theme in another brilliant direction. More swinging and soothing vocals by Nancy Sinatra which still exudes Bondism; intrigue, dangerous romance, and secrecy. Amazing. Diamonds Are Forever wraps up the (real) Connery era with Shirley Bassey annunciating the words as only she can. The song perfectly portrays the major roles women have in the Bond universe.
All songs were delivered perfectly by Tebutt and Howar who both did an amazing job all night.

Let’s not forget On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with George Lazenby. It actually had two amazing songs; both the instrumental theme music of the same music (a masterfully Barry composed spy-laden swooping musical number) and the sentimental Louis Armstrong We Have All The Time In The World. Sung, on the night, by a local guest singer it was well sung but a bit smarmy; like a drunk wannabe Bond waiting to leech on a couple of nuns.

On to Roger Moore; my era’s bond. Live and Let Die was done as an encore (which I missed as Mrs. Horizons was falling asleep). I’m sure it was great and rocking! This era was one of female lead vocalists and a general theme of slow-paced reflective pieces. Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better is a classic; a melancholic nod to Bond’s trail of influence he leaves behind him. Radiohead (who will pop up later) covered this at some point; check it out. Shirley Bassey’s Moonraker was skipped over for some reason with an instrumental from that movie played. Sheena Easton’s For Your Eyes Only keeps up the Moore era theme of the female perspective; a little schmalzy for me but still a strong song. All Time High  (originally sung by Rita Coolidge) from Octopussy was sung by a local singer whose dress almost passed her butt cheeks. Great voice but, yeah…Also probably the weakest song of the night. Tebutt did a great job on all the other songs.

Moore and Dalton overlap thematically for me with two songs/movies. And the conductor agreed as they played them together. A View To A Kill (Moore) by Duran Duran and The Living Daylights (Dalton) by A-Ha are both quite a dramatic synth-pop turn after all the female driven thematic era of Moore Bond music. I like them both though and they are also songs I remember from the time. Both performed well by Howar on the night. Dalton’s final movie as Bond License To Kill I actually don’t remember if they played it….(Gladys Knight sung the original)…Hmmm. I’m sure I would have remembered….odd..

Pierce Brosnan time, to be sure. A pretty weak run of songs here in my opinion with Tina Turner’s Goldeneye being the only powerful Bond song from the era. On the night they bundled them altogether too as they really don’t warrant any major time separately. Sheryl Crow’s Tomorrow Never Dies is okay if not a paint by numbers run through of a Bond song. The World is Not Enough by Garbage (how the hell did they get that gig?!) is pretty…garbage to be honest. Die Another Day by Madonna is up there with the worst of the Bond songs ever. All sung admirably well on the night by Tebutt again.

Finally the Daniel Craig era. Howar took on Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name from Casino Royale (with a very nice “this one’s for you Chris” before singing) and did it justice. It’s hard to do Cornell. Some instrumental from Quantum of Solace followed (I think) before the final two recent Bond songs. Adele’s Skyfall is a hark back to classic Bond songs whilst Sam Smith’s Writing On The Wall from Spectre will always be a little too..weird for me as a Bond song. It doesn’t help knowing Radiohead’s Spectre was booted for Smith’s cracking-glass-high-pitch effort. Rejected for being dark?! It should be and it suited Spectre a million times more than Smith’s song. Smith won an Oscar though…maybe I’m out of touch with reality.
Both Tebutt and Howar did well (with Howar doing his utmost with Smith’s crazy high vocals) with these show enders.

Also played during the set was The Pink Panther theme and a medley of American cop shows; most notably Police Squad! Welcomed.

I’ll leave you with what could have been…

That’s it. Surprisinghorizons will return in….Another Blog Post.

Facebook Comments

Singapore Food Staples: Bak Kut Teh 肉骨茶

songFa-4

I have a mission and I have chosen to accept it. 30 dishes that are quintessentially Singaporean. To be eaten before July 2018.

The first dish Bak Kut Teh 肉骨茶, thankfully, wasn’t that displeasing when described on paper. It basically means meat bone tea. It’s not really tea but you can drink tea with it so stop worrying.

We headed to Song Fa Bak Kut Teh at 17 New Bridge Road.

They also have an outlet a few doors down on the corner at 11 New Bridge Road. I think they channel people to whichever one is less busy.

songFa-3

Song Fa’s menu has a number of offerings but the first dish on their menu is their most famous and the one we were there for. You can order the Bak Kut Teh classic meat (pork) bone tea with two or four bones. The four bones were the order of the day as it was unseasonably cold (23c!) in Singapore and we needed some sustenance.

songFa-2

songFa-7

So the Bak Kut Teh as a bowl in front of your face is quite plain visually but it packs a deliciously peppery broth which the pork bones lounge in. The meat on the bones can be pulled off quite easily with your chopsticks and the pork itself is flavourful and tasty. It’s the broth that wins in this dish though and the service staff come around and refill you a couple of times to keep the heat going. The broth, it is said, has a mixture of herbs and spices including cinnamon, garlic, and cloves. The garlic part is quite obvious as there were two whole cloves were present and were a nice textural contrast to the pork and broth. I felt that the overall taste was of pepper but there was a definite complexity behind it and every mouthful was tasty.

songFa-6

songFa-5

songFa-8

Other side entertainment we ordered were a side dish of greens; fine. Some dough fritters which were amazing dipped into the broth and the ubiquitous bowl of white rice. A small pot of tea was ritualistically made for us by the service staff which was nice of them when they saw our deer in the headlights faces when presented with the tools to make it with.

songFa-3

The decor at Song Fa (at least at 17 New Bridge Road) is made to be ye olde timey Chinese village eatery and it is cosy and welcoming. Service was attentive and friendly. Prices, below, weren’t too crazy and I would recommend it as a place to take visitors to Singapore as the food on offer isn’t unpalatable to noobish non-Asian stomachs.

songFa-11

New Doc 2018-01-14

Facebook Comments

Visiting Haw Par Villa in Singapore

20171221_114551

You want to see some weird sh…tuff in Singapore? Sick of the pristine sidewalks and effective transportation systems? Sick of the amazing food? Want to see what Singaporeans will create when they let their imagination run wild and allow all their weird sick fantasies out into the open? Proceed to Haw Par Villa. It even has its own MRT station. Uh-huh.


If you’ve used Tiger Balm at all in your life then you have contributed to this…strange…place. You see the creator of Tiger Balm, Ah Boon Haw, created Haw Par Willa in 1937 based on old Asian stories and myths.

It’s also free to enter so you probably want to pop along to give your wallets a brief respite in Singapore. Let’s take a look.

20171221_115128

Best to head early in the morning and head for the 10 Courts of Hell area as that’s where the weirder stuff is. You pass an epic fight between rabbits and rats on the way. Naturally.

20171221_115331

The Ten Courts of Hell is based on Chinese mythology. It’s not pretty. I guess it was intended to put people off being naughty. Above you see what happens when you jaywalk in Singapore.

20171221_115500

The crime for the above court of torture? Graffiti. With permanent marker. Ooohhh.

20171221_115531

Getting sawn in half with a big cleaver. This happens if you don’t finish all your food at a hawker centre. Actually I’m not even joking; one of the reasons for this torture is “wasting food”.

20171221_115549

Judge Judy didn’t take any prisoners in a previous life. Getting cut in half vertically was the antidote to rumour mongering. Our next door neighbours fight a lot; that’s not a rumour, that’s fact. What do I get?

20171221_120018

After you leave the 10 Courts of Hell you can apply some Tiger Balm to your wounds by a friendly tiger. Sorted.

20171221_120604

Some turtles bring you back to a sense of zen and peace.

20171221_120934

And then all is forgotten by the fat jolly Buddha.

20171221_120953

There are a couple of monuments to the creator’s family dotted around.

20171221_121010

Thankfully the only monkeys were mythological monkey god ones.

20171221_121450

“He who can climb well shall not be dragged into caves by wolves.”

20171221_121537

The Titanic recreation was a bit more dramatic; we see Rose after dropping Jack off the front here straight into a shark’s snappers. Nice. Would have added some spice to the movie. Cameron take note.

20171221_121704

The work put into the stories is quite impressive but wear and tear is apparent.

20171221_121747

Finally, near the top of the park a nice serene Guanyin the “Goddess of Mercy” to allay all our fears that the world is going to eat us up.

Yes, so it’s an interesting little attraction to go visit. Your reaction to the different displays will range from “what the hell…?” (literally), “that’s gotta hurt”, and “huh, that’s weird”.

Facebook Comments

Page 1 of 9

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén