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22 December 2011

Wishing Spheres at the Marina Bay

I've already shared with you the multitude of events currently going on in the Marina Bay area leading up to the countdown to 2012.  Many Singaporeans and visitors have also had the chance to pen their hopes and wishes for 2012 on Wishing Spheres which are being launched into the Marina Bay.  Yesterday I was lucky enough to be able to take a trip out in a boat with one of the team responsible for placing the wishing spheres out in the Bay and carrying out any maintenance that is required.

The boat was only small and could only take three of us plus the boatman and his two assistants, we had to put on life jackets (which was more of a challenge than you might think - we all had to get some help) and as everybody got on and off the boat tipped quite a bit, but once we were under way it was thankfully a lot more stable.  I had not even thought about us getting the chance to take a trip out in one of the boats beforehand so this a very unexpected but exciting bonus to my visit.

Us setting off from the jetty
The men responsible for attaching the spheres out in the bay



The boatman who took us out explained that the spheres are attached in the water by clips to a rope which he described as being similar to a spider's web.  The ropes are just below the surface of the water allowing the spheres to float on top.  As we travelled around we occasionally saw the ropes break the surface of the water as the spheres moved, this way of attaching them ensures though that they can move freely with the water without breaking free.  The team attaching the 20,000 wishing spheres is only small but can attach several thousand a day.  Although we went out in a little powerboat we were told that if any maintenance is required to the spheres already laid out that they have to use a rowing boat to reach those to avoid damaging the ropes or spheres.  

Our trip took us on one complete circuit of the bay around the edge of the spheres so we were able to see them at close range and also get some fantastic views of the skyline around the bay from the water.  We could also make out the pontoons in amongst the spheres which this year are being used to launch fireworks at the countdown display on the 31 December. 

If you have no plans for New Year's Eve and are looking for something fun and more importantly free to do consider head down to the Esplanade Waterfront and Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade to enjoy the evening of events culminating in the fireworks over the Bay.  It looks like it will be a fun way to see the New Year in, check out more details here.






REMEMBER to 'like' the Marina Bay Singapore's Facebook page to get the latest news on the Countdown and latest happenings around the Bay. 

Marina Bay SINGAPORE Countdown 2012

Saturday 31 December 2011 - Esplanade Waterfront and Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade - 6.30pm - 1am 
admission is free!

Thank you to Juliana Tan and Marina Bay and the Urban Redevelopment Authority for the chance to see this.

21 December 2011

Countdown to 2012 at Marina Bay

With Christmas just around the corner and 2012 getting ever closer you might just be wondering what to do with yourself during this time.  Well if you head on down to the Marina Bay area you'll be sure to find something to satisfy you.

The Marina Bay SINGAPORE Countdown 2012 event taking place on the 31 December brings together the wishes and aspirations of both Singaporeans and visitors for 2012.  This event is now in its seventh year is a contemplative celebration of the New Year and an annual tradition in Singapore culminating in a huge firework display over the bay.

As part of the month long lead up volunteers have been collecting wishes at various points all over the island on the Wishing Spheres.  There are 20,000 of these spheres being set afloat in the Marina Bay carrying the wishes of over 500,000 people and forming a spectacular visual arts display.  

Wishing Spheres in the water

I was fortunate enough to be able to go down to the Marina Bay area earlier this week and see the elderly, youth and children from various Voluntary Welfare Organisations pen their own wishes on the wishing spheres and watch them be launched.  It certainly was a fun evening.  I was also able to enjoy one of the many groups performing at the Outdoor Theatre at the same time.

Photo Courtesy of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay


Photo Courtesy of Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay

It is not all just about the wishing spheres and what is happening on New Year's Eve though, right up until the 31 December 2011 there are daily events for you to enjoy and be entertained by.  Take a look at the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay website and their 'Celebrate December' links for details of the many free events on now at the Esplanade Concourse and Outdoor Theatre and also the Marina Bay SINGAPORE Countdown site for more details.



REMEMBER to 'like' the Marina Bay Singapore's Facebook page to get the latest news on the Countdown and latest happenings around the Bay.

Marina Bay SINGAPORE Countdown 2012
Saturday 31 December 2011 - Esplanade Waterfront and Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade - 6.30pm - 1am 
admission is free!

20 December 2011

Kopi Luwak

Kopi Luwak (or civet coffee) is something I was unaware of until arriving in Singapore.  I like coffee but I guess I'm not really a connoisseur of all things coffee related.  Upon hearing about it though and subsequently discovering that the production of the coffee is fairly unique my curiosity was peaked to see if perhaps I could find an opportunity to try it at some point.

Just in case you do not know kopi luwak is made from coffee beans that have been eaten and partially digested by the Asian Palm Civet.  These civet's are cat like animals native to South and South East Asia, they can even be found in Singapore.  They are omnivores eating a variety of berries (and the coffee beans) as well as small mammals and insects.

Back to the coffee though and as I mentioned the civets eat the coffee beans which is the start of the kopi luwak production process.  Whilst in the civet's stomach various enzymes seep into the beans and chemical changes occur to the partially digested bean.  After they are passed by the civet the beans are collected from the animal's faeces and once gathered are thoroughly washed, sun dried then lightly roasted and brewed to make what is currently one of the most expensive coffees in the world (hence my husband and I deciding to share a cup).

The coffee is mainly produced in Indonesia on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi.  On our visit to Bali earlier in the year we saw several road side signs advertising spots selling the coffee, particularly on our visit to the Ubud area of the island.  The coffee is also produced in the Philippines and in East Timor.

The origins of the coffee are linked to the history of coffee production in Indonesia.  When the Dutch established plantations in their colonies the native farmers and plantation workers were prohibited from picking the coffee fruit for their own use.  The locals wanted to sample some of the coffee though and upon realising that the civets ate the fruit but did not completely digest the beans they began collecting the beans to make their own coffee.  The fame of this coffee quickly spread from the locals to the Dutch plantation owners and it soon became popular with them too.  Even in colonial times though the coffee was expensive due to the rarity and unusual process used in its production.

The price per cup ensured we just ordered one

On our Bali trip we did not get the opportunity to sample it though and it was only after reading this post by Singapore Actually that I realised it was possible to try the coffee here.  Naturally this meant a trip to this cafe, located in 313@Somerset, was in order at some point.

When the coffee arrived it was poured into a pretty cup and saucer (the type my Grandma used to own) from a small coffee pot.  It is obviously brewed to order and just the right amount for a cup is made I guess.  Taste wise it was a little bitter, but this was as I expected as it is served black but it was not unpleasant and between us we drank the cup.  To be honest at the price of it we could not afford not to finish it.  


My husband has actually had it again since whilst on a recent business trip to Jakarta.  This time it was served in a cup and tray with a civet design on and in a coffee pot that looked more like, as he said, something out of a science experiment.  He commented that it was pretty strong but not as bitter as what we had sampled here in Singapore.  Is it better in Indonesia I wonder??  I'm glad I've sampled it though and would happily do so again, perhaps next time somewhere in Indonesia.


16 December 2011

Makansutra Masterclass

I was recently fortunate to be invited to go on a Makansutra Food Safari and following on from that I received an invitation to attend a Makansutra cookery masterclass with KF Seetoh - how could I say no to that??  Apart from a little trepidation given my complete lack of culinary skills I did not hesitate in saying yes!

Our cooking class was held at Tools of The Trade or ToTT as I've discovered it is also known as.  This was a place I'd actually heard about (thank goodness) via Twitter from fellow Tweeters who are no doubt far more at home in the kitchen than I am.  Having now visited I can appreciate what a draw this place is to cooks and those who love pottering in the kitchen.  So if you are a fan of cooking, baking and hosting, are in Singapore and have not yet found this place I recommend you go and take a peek sometime.

Anyway back to our masterclass, when I arrived I was given a booklet with details of the three dishes we would be making, these were, Rojak, Hainanese Pork Chops and Bubur Cha Cha Ice Cream.  Quickly glancing at the dishes I was glad to see they all were things I'd happily eat, somehow I imagine it harder to cook something that you personally would not want to eat and that they all seemed fairly straightforward.

As it was a class led by KF Seetoh he filled us in a bit on the history of these dishes and then demonstrated each dish in turn before letting us loose on them.  Thankfully I was not the only novice cook there and he is an incredibly relaxed, fun individual so I figured that if I made some terrible error I would not get a Gordon Ramsay style roasting for it!  As we were making three dishes in only a couple of hours we did have some help in terms of pre-chopped and prepared vegetables etc. and some very helpful people tidying up after us.  If only cooking in real life (or at least my life) was so organised!


We began with the Rojak, something I'd heard of but to be honest was not exactly sure what it was.  I've now discovered it is a fruit and vegetable salad and is common not only here in Singapore but also in Malaysia and Indonesia.  Rojak actually means 'a mixture of' in Malay and traditionally the ingredients include bean sprouts, turnip, cucumber and  pineapple.  It seems like anything goes though!  The salad is served in a spicy dressing (and it definitely had a kick to it) made of prawn paste, tamarind, sugar, lime and sambal chili.

The verdict on this dish was that I'd missed out by not trying it before.  At least now I know what it is so I can order it again.  Luckily we were given little 'doggy bags' to take our dishes home and I finished eating the salad the next day.  I personally think that was a mistake though as by that stage some of the ingredients had gone a bit soggy.  In hindsight a dish that needs to be eaten when it is freshly made.

Rojak

Then we moved on to the Hainanese pork chop.  I was probably a little more daunted by the thought of cooking this one than either of the other dishes just because of the preparation involved, despite us having some help as I mentioned before.  I think though I was just letting my tendency to convince myself I can't cook and there is no hope for me take over and I was thankfully pleasantly surprised by the end result.

As for a bit of history about the dish, the Hainanese were one of the last dialect groups to migrate to Singapore in the late 1800s.  By that time most of the jobs available had been monopolised by the other dialect groups and therefore many of the Hainanese ended up working as cooks in the British homes.  As a result they learnt to cook western style dishes as well.  You still see in Hawker centres a lot of what you may think of as western food but with a quirky twist based on the ingredients that are more readily available.

Personally I'm not sure you'd want to eat this dish too often though.  It was delicious but given that the pork chop is deep fried (in more oil than I've ever cooked with in my life) I don't know that it is the most healthy option.  Isn't it always the way that the best tasting food is not necessarily the best for you!  The chop was served with potato wedges and smothered in a tangy tomato based sauce which contained of all things Worcestershire sauce!  Fantastically yummy though and a dish I've promised to attempt for my husband soon.

Ingredients for the Hainanese Pork Chop

Preparing the potatoes to go with the pork chop

Finished result - Hainanese Pork Chop

Our final dish of the evening was Bubur Cha Cha Ice Cream.  Given that we only had limited time to make all this food our version was slightly adapted from the traditional and we did not make the ice cream ourselves.  We were shown how to decorate the ice cream to our taste and of course with this dish we had to then eat it straight away before it melted!

The dish, which is traditionally prepared during the festive seasons is a Peranakan dessert made with sweet potato, yam and tapioca pearls.  It is sweetened with Gula Melaka (palm sugar), this is incredibly sweet but tastes divine, it reminded me a little of golden syrup.  I could have happily eaten it by the bucket load!  

I was a little uncertain if I'd like this as I've had yam in a dessert before and it was not something I enjoyed.  Despite my reservations though I actually quite liked it and the Gula Melaka certainly helped it to go down. 

Ingredients for the Bubur Cha Cha Ice Cream

Bubur Cha Cha Ice Cream

Our evening ended and we headed off home with our 'doggy bags' of rojak and Hainanese pork chop.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and came away quite inspired to have a go at these dishes again.  If they don't turn out exactly as I expect at least I can always go to the local hawker centre instead!

This blog resulted from an invitation and represents the thoughts and opinions of the writer. All information on this blog is provided "as is", with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness and the writer will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information. All text and photos on this blog are the original works of the writer unless stated otherwise.

Thank you to notatourist.sg, GOODSTUPHSingTel and, of course, Makansutra for a wonderful evening.

14 December 2011

Ice Cream Served Singapore Style

Whilst I was back in the UK preparing for my wedding I wrote a random list of things I wanted to do when I got back to Singapore, one of these being to sample a typical road side Singaporean treat of an ice cream sandwich.  Well technically I still have the sandwich to sample, yes that's right it really is a block of ice cream in-between two pieces of bread!  However I did try the ice cream wafer version on a recent afternoon out.

chocolate
mango

I was perhaps a little unadventurous as I had mango flavour whilst my husband had chocolate.  This despite there being the options of both durian and sweetcorn flavour.  I've been told sweetcorn flavour is good so perhaps next time.  Anyway what we had was really delicious and just what we needed as it was a hot afternoon and we'd done a lot of walking.  

What surprised me is how little the ice cream melted, despite us being outside whilst we ate them.  Usually when I have an ice cream here it's a race to eat it before it melts and drips everywhere, but not these hearty slabs of deliciousness.  By the time I'd finished there was barely a trickle of melted ice cream in the plastic bag we'd been given to hold it in and I didn't gulp it down exceptionally fast.  A treat to definitely have again, I just need to try that sweetcorn flavour and sandwich my ice cream in some bread next time.

09 December 2011

Pachyderms on Parade

If you live in or have visited Singapore recently I don't think you can have failed to notice the various beautiful brightly decorated elephants dotting the landscape at the moment.  They are part of the Elephant Parade which is currently in Singapore and is an open air art exhibition in support of the Asian Elephant Foundation.  The Asian elephant is sadly threatened with extinction and the Elephant Parade aims to raise awareness of their plight.  According to the Asian Elephant Foundation's website, so far with the aid of the awareness the Elephant Parade has brought to their plight, it has been possible to contribute over four million euros to various organisations and projects dedicated to the conservation of this elephant.

The elephants on parade have been decorated in various ways by celebrities, companies and so on.  Before arriving in Singapore there have also been parades of elephants in various other cities around the world including Rotterdam, Amsterdam, London and Milan.

Here are a just a few of the 162 elephants on display at various locations, both indoors and out, around Singapore at the moment.

Human by Kamol Tamsriwan
elePORT by PSA Group HR & Corporate Affairs Team
Wisdom by Amnard Sa-ngawong
Delightful Durian by Nat Posila and Ed Robinson
Delightful Durian from the other side (my personal favourite so far)
Singapore Skyline by Wanchalerm Meanpang
Hellaphunt by Ricky Gervais

Among those who have been involved in the painting of an elephant for the Singapore parade the list includes Ricky Gervais, the Singapore zoo, Leona Lewis, TANGS, former Singaporean President Mr S R Nathan, Joss Stone, Bobby Chinn, Philip Treacy and Rupert Grint.  Plus a whole load more, the full list can be seen on the Elephant Parade website.

The Elephant Parade is in Singapore until 11 January 2012 and they are well worth looking out for you as you go about your daily business or if you happen to be in Singapore during this period.  Which one is your favourite?

07 December 2011

The Halia

Halia means ginger in Malay and could not be a more fitting name for this restaurant located in the Botanic Gardens close to the Ginger Garden.  As I made my way through the gardens to the restaurant and although relatively close to a road I felt as if I'd stumbled upon an oasis in the middle of no where.  The afternoon and evening's rain only serving to make it feel even more exotic and lush as I approached.

Image courtesy of Foodnews PR

The Halia is celebrating its 10th birthday with a face lift, a new menu and a new culinary team.  The face lift the restaurant has undergone includes the introduction of a show kitchen which means you can watch the chef prepare your food whilst you dine.  The setting is very intimate with only space for limited diners indoors (though you can also dine al fresco) so you get a real feeling of exclusivity.

The chef de Cuisine behind the wonderful creations now on offer is Reynaldo Arriola.  He was born in Singapore and has had professional culinary experience in both Singapore and France previously.  His cooking philosophy is 'that one should always keep an open mind with the use of ingredients' and his new menu 'showcases modern European cuisine with occasional touches of Asian spices'.


The food certainly was beautiful both in the presentation of it and in the textures and taste, a real feast for the senses.  We began the evening with a Ginger Jive drink made of ice blended fresh ginger and fruit punch with orange and honey.  I love ginger and the refreshing tang in the drink certainly gave it a refreshing twist.

Ginger Jive drink
I had the opportunity to sample several appetizers whilst dining although I confess to not sampling the oysters.  I gather though from my fellow diners that they were very good.  Asides from the oysters our appetizers also included, a tian of vine ripened tomato with pine nut, guacamole, mango salsa, shiso and braised courgette, Jamon Iberico Bellota with baked yuzu walnut and olive oil, salad leaves with ginger-infused foie gras, balsamic deglaze, green apple, fresh fig and piment flakes and last but not least a tempura of white prawn and salad leaves with light lemon vinaigrette, baby shiso, beetroot and a celeriac reduction.

My personal favourite was the Jamon Iberico Bellota.  We were advised by the chef that this dish should really be eaten with our fingers with the walnut wrapped in the ham.  The ham was deliciously tasty with a wonderfully cured rich taste to it.  Even in the most exclusive of places if the chef tells you a dish is best enjoyed when eaten with the hands I recommend you take their advice!


tian of vine ripened tomato with pine nut, guacamole, mango salsa, shiso and braised courgette

Jamon Iberico Bellota with baked yuzu walnut and olive oil
Image courtesy of Foodnews PR
salad leaves with ginger-infused foie gras, balsamic deglaze, green apple, fresh fig and piment flakes

tempura of white prawn and salad leaves with light lemon vinaigrette, baby shiso, beetroot and a celeriac reduction

.




After our appetizers we were then treated to a selection of the main courses firstly sauteed risotto soja with mascarpone and parmesan with poached oysters in a natural jus, seasonal truffle, seaweed, mushroom emulsion and white wine reduction.  This was certainly a very different risotto from any I've sampled before.  Mainly because the risotto rice was not rice at all but actually beansprouts cut up into very small pieces.  Certainly an inspired creation and one you should sample for yourself.  I just hope I haven't ruined the surprise by telling you here!  

sauteed risotto soja with mascarpone and parmesan with poached oysters in a natural jus, seasonal truffle, seaweed, mushroom emulsion and white wine reduction

We then sampled the Blackmore Wagyu rump, score 9+ (180 gm) with garlic saffron mash potato, sauteed baby spinach and madeira jus, the pan-fried Hiramasa kingfish with grapefruit foam, jamon Iberico in potato galette and a panache of vegetables, the grilled half lobster in a mushroom risotto with seasonal truffle, the black and white sesame seed crust farmed blue fin tuna tataki marinated in soy with sauteed baby spinach and saffron cream sauce, the pan-seared Challans duck breast with lyonnaise potato, apple and cinnemon compote and duck jus and lastly the roasted New Zealand rack of lamb marinated in Javanese spice, with ratatouille, purple potato puree and lamb jus.  I personally thought the duck was delicious and was perfectly cooked but all the dishes were amazing.
Blackmore Wagyu rump, score 9+ (180 gm) with garlic saffron mash potato, sauteed baby spinach and madeira jus
Image courtesy of Foodnews PR
pan-fried Hiramasa kingfish with grapefruit foam, jamon Iberico in potato galette and a panache of vegetables
grilled half lobster in a mushroom risotto with seasonal truffle

black and white sesame seed crust farmed blue fin tuna tataki marinated in soy with sauteed baby spinach and saffron cream sauce
Challans duck breast with lyonnaise potato, apple and cinnemon compote and duck jus
Image courtesy of Foodnews PR
roasted New Zealand rack of lamb marinated in Javanese spice, with ratatouille, purple potato puree and lamb jus

Of course to round off any good meal you need a selection of wonderful desserts which we were amply provided with here.  I was very satisfied by now but still managed to find room to sample the selection on offer.  This included, a solid chocolate air and white truffle snow with savoury egg custard filo stack and fresh red berries.  This was so much lighter than a normal chocolate dessert due to the clever use of cooking processes meaning that even after a large meal you can still make room for this delight.  I gather it was deliberately designed as such so no excuse for saying you have no room for dessert when you dine here!

solid chocolate air and white truffle snow with savoury egg custard filo stack and fresh red berries

I also tried the freshly baked fig tart with bacon pear ice cream, almond date, brie cheese, sour cream sabayon and wild mountain honey and finally, my personal favourite of all the desserts, the strawberries and cream, edible garden with passionfruit lychee dew.  This consisted of a wild strawberry ripple with cream cheese and vanilla ice cream on shortbread crumb with raspberry, blueberry, edible flowers, chocolate choux pebbles on almond cocoa soil and a passionfruit jelly in a shooter of sweet lychee liqueur syrup.  Absolutely wonderful!

freshly baked fig tart with bacon pear ice cream, almond date, brie cheese, sour cream sabayon and wild mountain honey

strawberries and cream, edible garden with passionfruit lychee dew
Image courtesy of Foodnews PR

As befits a restaurant whose name translates as ginger our meal was rounded off with a deliciously refreshing warm ginger drink.  Described as a good aid to digestion, the hot Halia Infusion, a house speciality of sun-dried ginger and wild mountain honey was delightful.  I would definitely recommend this to round off your dining experience here, the ginger being wonderfully warming and tangy.  

I was certainly very impressed with my dining experience here.  The restaurant would be a wonderful place to come for a business lunch, a romantic meal or any special occasion with its sumptuous food and get away from it all location in the Botanic Gardens, but who needs a special occasion to enjoy food like this?  

hot Halia Infusion a house speciality of sun-dried ginger and wild mountain honey

The full a la carte menu is available for dinner daily, 6.30pm to 11pm (last seating at 10pm).
The full a la carte menu is also available for lunch from Mondays to Fridays (except public holidays), 12pm to 5pm.
A 2-course ($28++) and 3-course ($32++) set lunch menu is available from Mondays to Fridays (except public holidays), 12pm to 2pm.
Set lunch items are changed on a weekly basis and supplementary charges are applicable for premium dishes.

Brunch and tea are also offered at The Halia (see details below), please note that I did not personally sample either of these.

Villa Halia (just opposite The Halia) is available for private events, for event and banquet bookings, call (65) 6287 0711 or email, banquet@halia.com.sg 


1 Cluny Road, Ginger Garden
(enter via Tyersall Avenue)
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Singapore 259569

For reservations: (65) 8444 1148 (Reservations not accepted for brunch and tea)
For event/banquet bookings: (65) 6287 0711 or email banquet@halia.com.sg
Website: www.halia.com.sg

Operating Hours: 
Lunch – Mondays to Fridays, 12 noon to 5pm (set lunch only available till 2pm)
Dinner – Daily, 6.30pm to 11pm (last seating at 10pm)
Brunch – Saturdays, Sundays & PHs, 10am to 4pm
Tea – Saturdays, Sundays and PHs, 3pm to 5pm 
From 5pm to 6.30pm daily, only drinks will be available
(The above timings are applicable to The Halia only)

Villa Halia is open daily from 12pm to 10pm

Seating capacity: 32 in Restaurant; 70 at the al fresco; 220 at Villa Halia

Dress code: Smart, Casual

Modes of payment: Cash / American Express / Visa / Mastercard

This blog resulted from an invitation and represents the thoughts and opinions of the writer. All information on this blog is provided "as is", with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness and the writer will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information. All text and photos on this blog are the original works of the writer unless stated otherwise.

Thank you to Foodnews PR and The Halia for the kind invitation.
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