Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

Month: June 2018

Flight Review: Finnair | Economy Class | Dublin – Helsinki | A319

I can see the future.

I can see myself flying this route quite a few times in the next few years.

The Departure

Dublin Airport is a secret shame of mine being Irish. It’s just not the best airport in the world. Or Ireland. Far from it. Terminal 2 has tried to up DUB’s game but it all still comes back to the infrastructure of Terminal 1 and the whole airport. It’s just not the best. An express train connection to Dublin or even Belfast straight from the airport? Hell no, line up for the buses or taxis. A stress free check in experience where open space is in abundance? No chance; it exudes franticness. This is DUB 2018 yo.

The Flight

AY 1382 departs from Dublin daily (apart from Tuesday and Thursday which doesn’t make it daily I guess) at 10:25 and arriving in Helsinki at 15:25. It is served by a mix of Airbus 319s and Embraer 190s. We had the A319 on our particular day. And this particular A319 was an A319-112 (OH-LVA) which was born in 1999; making it 19 years old.

Today we would be delayed by roughly 40 minutes by some late refueling of the aircraft. Shell happens.

The A319 is a squat little Airbus but seating room in Economy isn’t too bad on the knees and you end up thinking you’re on an A320 until you look back and see the fuselage ending quite abruptly and quite near.

Boarding was fuss free and flights attendants welcoming. Finnair’s A319s have little overhead monitors that drop from the ceiling to keep any eye on our flight progress and gate information at your arrival destination. The screens, sadly, are really hard to read and quite dim in the daylight of the cabin.

Food is available for purchase in Finnair Economy but for a 2hr 40min flight on average I tend to stock up on food before the flight (and in particular some Tayto from Ireland!) as I don’t want to take out a second mortgage on board.

The flight went by very quickly and if you’re given a clear sunny day on your way over from DUB to HEL you will get to see some beautiful white snowscapes and coastlines of Norway and Sweden as you come into the descent down to Finland.

The Arrival

HEL is not hell. It’s a very manageable and quiet airport to either arrive or transfer in. They have some major upgrades happening over the next few years which is increasing the number of gates available. Here’s hoping this will decrease the amount of times you have to hop onto a bus when you land (which was our experience) as that’s always a little bit annoying after a flight not to just walk directly into the terminal.

I’m looking forward to having HEL as my home airport for the foreseeable future as I believe it is a relaxing point of departure and arrival which doesn’t get the stress levels up too much. That’s always a help. Next time I experience HEL I will be arriving in my new home. A few days after I arrive I will be taking a short hop over to the Aland Islands on a Finnair ATR72 to scope out the main town Mariehamm. Watch this space.

Singapore Food Staples: Ban Mian

After purchasing a rather long strip light bulb in Home DIY, I was hungry. LCD light bulb I’ll have you know. And I would need to replace the ancient starter that my old strip bulb had. The salesperson had faith in me to do so. Alone. I didn’t.  Anyway, I needed some sustenance before proceeding with the massive light bulb operation that was awaiting me in the shadows of the kitchen back home.

I took the swift moving people dodging trail underground from ION Orchard to under Tangs to the small and relatively quiet quasi-hawker centre there. Tang’s Food Market. As I perused the pictures telling the individual dish stories I rested upon Chili Ban Mian. I like the word chili. I had to Google Ban Mian.

Ban Mian originates from the Han Chinese and manifests itself as a bowl of flat egg noodles, vegetables, mushrooms, dried anchovy, fish/meat (in this case minced pork), soup/dried (in this case soup), and a very softly softly boiled egg. And it’s delicious. And the chili approach makes it extra delicious.

At $5 this is a good deal for prime real estate food eating in the underbelly of Orchard Road. You get a small bowl of broth which was quite underwhelming and tasted mainly of the chives/onion that was floating around lifelessly inside.

To the main dish. Now I don’t know if mixing everything together is something that should not be done ever but I did. I didn’t regret it one bit. It was amazing. The crunch of an occasional anchovy was magnificent. The chili burned merrily away with each mouthful. The minced pork were of a decent portion and mixing them up into the entire bowl allowed for the soft and delicious morsels to be in nearly every mouthful. The egg disappeared into the noodle and soup concoction to become one be-a-utiful soft component to counterbalance the dried anchovy. The sporadic greens were fine and the mushrooms which are not really friends with my digestive system were just OK but were relatively flat in the taste symphony.

I will be eating this again. I left with a pleasant burning mouth and happy taste buds. I then proceeded home to change my starter and light bulb successfully. Thanks Ban Mian.

 

Singapore Food Staples: Chicken Rice

THE national dish of Singapore. Probably. Capital “the”. Just in case you thought I was being liberal with the shift key.

“Chicken rice, really!?” I hear you scoff and mumble around your KFC. Listen up. It’s good. Better than finger lickin’. Trust me.

You can get chicken rice everywhere. I went to a hawker centre that was near me. No reason other than location. Everyone has their favourite; don’t bother me. So I went to Zion Food Centre and was drawn towards Boon Tiong Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice and their $4 Chicken Rice Set Meal. A steal. I didn’t steal it. I paid for it.

I went for roasted chicken because I like that more than steamed. With the set you get a small bowl of broth, a side of green veggies, and a dome of rice. Keep an eye out for the vat of spicy chili sauce to add to your dish. Highly recommended addition.

I was very happy with all of this for just $4. That’s the thing about Singapore; you can eat cheap if you want to. And it will be delicious. Hopefully. This was.

The broth was of undetermined origin. I would guess chicken bone broth or something. It had a volume to it; it wasn’t just chicken flavoured water. It was more chicken than water.  More machine than man.

The veggies were nice. Probably the least flavourful in the set but a nice counterbalance to the chicken flavoured everything else.

The roasted chicken itself was nice. Nothing spectacular but nice. $4 nice. Resting on a sleeping bag of cucumber slices.

The rice was tasty. With chicken rice dishes the rice is usually infused with garlic and chicken stock so it really elevates the usual rice flavour to something is more entertaining to the palate. Your palate. Adding a little chili sauce (which is usually quite thin) adds a little bit more pop to each bite and leaves a nice mouth buzz.

Mix it all together in one and you get some nice mouthfuls of different textures and tastes throughout. I can’t stress enough how much good value can be found in Singapore’s hawker centres. I’m cramming in as much as I can before I shuffle off.

 

Singapore Food Staples: Laksa

Forgive me for being biased but I believe Asian food has the most willingness to surprise, scare, delight, and excite the weary eater. One of the most low key foods you can have in Singapore is laksa. I mean low key in a way that it’s a nice gate-way to the world of Singaporean/Asian dishes. There’s a lot more scarier dishes out there.

But, of course, there are different versions of laksa. But, of course.
I’ve had many. I like them all. I won’t stand in the corner and fight for one in particular but I will tell you why I like katong laksa. Because I had that today and that’s what I remember.

After walking back from the Istana where I had my improptu photoshoot with Donald Trump I wandered in a post-presidential daze to Janggut Laksa on the 4th floor of Wisma Atria. The Food Republic there is quite reasonable (for Orchard Road) and has an excellent range of local fare.

Ignoring and laughing at all signage directing me towards a meagre small bowl I opted for the $7.50 large bowl. Again, not cheap by hawker centre standards but cheap enough for Orchard Road.

On first slurps of a Katong Laksa you get a gritty texture to the soup base. Which is nice. It adds a bit more depth to the taste and feels more wholesome. The grit is ground up dried prawns for your curiousity. Maybe you didn’t want to know that. Another difference between other laksas I have had is that everything is spoonable in a Katong Laksa; the noodles are cut up into more scoop-upable sizes. Which is why they only gave me a spoon until I asked for some chopsticks. Which probably insulted them on many levels. Then I realised I didn’t really need it. Laksa lesson learned.

This laksa was delicious. Both sweet and spicy. Both gritty and smooth. The Laksa noodles, coconut milk, curry soup base, chili, dried shrimps, cockles, prawns and fishcake marry each other perfectly. The fish cake slices with a hint of faint fishiness contrast the punchy cockle taste which hits you with an ocean wave flavour. Getting a mixture of everything with each spoonful is the beautiful part of eating a laksa; and one that I will miss when I leave Singapore.

You should leave a laksa behind with slight spicy after burn on the back roof of your mouth from the spice and sambal, with the remnants of sweetness on your tongue from the soup and shrimp, and with a salty aftertaste from the cockles. And all of those tasty memories are very much welcome.

R.I.P. Anthony Bourdain

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