Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun

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Yilan – Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋Just across Ji Mi Park in Yilan is Chalet Gelato, a cute little cafe serving gelato made from the season’s freshest produce.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋It’s also a great rest stop especially on a hot day to enjoy a well-deserved dessert.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋How does a lemonade topped with freshly plucked peppermint leaves or matcha freeze made with tea leaves from Shizuoka prefecture sound? :)

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋The floor to ceiling glass lets you take in the greenery surrounding the little cafe while staying cool.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋Really helpful to have the popular combinations of gelato flavours listed out on the board, and look out for the seasonal flavours. What’s your favourite?

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋All the flavours look just as tantalizing. The flavours are usually determined by what fruits or nuts are in season, and kept as natural as possible. When in season, they have an interesting dragonfruit flavour.

Nothing artificial is added when making the gelato, just lots passion and hard work. Can you imagine squeezing a whole bucket of oranges by hand?!

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋I chose a lychee rose and matcha flavour combination.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋Time to enjoy. The texture was smooth and not overly sweet, with nature’s taste filling your palate.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋Time seems to move slowly in Yilan, as you automatically slow down to take in sights of its mountainous naturescape.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋I enjoyed the refreshing peppermint lemonade.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋And an affogato makes the day even better. Coffee, anyone?

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋
Address: 宜蘭縣宜蘭市和睦路鐵道一巷27號(宜興路與民權路交叉路口)
No. 27 Hemu Railway Road, Lane 1, Yilan, Taiwan
Tel: +886 3 933 3030
Opening Hours: 9:30AM – 6:00PM daily
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/chalet.gelato

Read more of my travels in Taiwan

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Thailand – A Taste of Thip Samai: Bangkok’s most famous Pad Thai

Thip SamaiPad thai, apart from tom yum soup, is one of the most famous Thai food, and not trying it while in Thailand is like not having chicken rice in Singapore. My quest for the best pad thai in Bangkok brought me to Thip Samai, which has been around since 1966.

Thip SamaiLocated just minutes away from the The Giant Swing (Sao Ching Cha), is it not difficult to spot the stall with the perennial long queue outside as it is popular with tourists and locals alike. Locals know the place as Pad Thai Pratu Pi (Ghost Gate Pad Thai) because it’s located near by the gate of The Golden Mountain, which houses the dead body of Wat Saket. Be prepared to queue about 10 to 30 minutes, unless you get to the stall once it opens at 5pm.

Thip SamaiCooking is done on the sidewalk outside the stall, so be entertained and tempted with smells while you wait in line. I was a bit doubtful whether if it would be as good as its reputation with the clockwork-like cooking. That said, I noticed that they used charcoal stoves to attain the coveted ‘wok hei’ flavour.

Thip SamaiHe must have been doing this for a long time judging from the fury of his pan flipping. The heat was also scorching hot; it must be tough standing in front of the sauna stove for hours.

Thip SamaiYumz! What a tantalizing wok of phad thai! Someone pass me a pair of chopsticks…At its most basic, pad thai is thin, flat rice noodles fried with tofu, preserved radish, dried shrimp, and seasoned with dried chili, tamarind pulp, sugar, and fish sauce. Egg is fried together with the noodles or, increasingly, wrapped around them in the form of a thin omelet.

Thip SamaiDespite its nationalistic-sounding name, pad thai was only introduced in the 1930s. Few versions of its origins exist. One version that is often heard is that pad thai came from Vietnam, where it is known as pho sao. The Vietnamese made this dish during the Ayutthaya period and, at the time of World War II, the Thais adapted it and named it pad thai.

Another version claims the street dish came into being during Field Marshal Plaek Phibulsonggram’s stint as prime minister between 1938 and 1944. Due to the bad economic situation during these war years, the government encouraged Thais to eat noodles as it was cheap, filling and nutritious when fried with pork and vegetables. Recipes were distributed to teach the people how to cook it. Others also claim that pad thai originated from the Chinese owing to its stir-fry method and use of local ingredients such as tamarind pulp and fish sauce.

Thip SamaiFinally seated! The ambience felt traditional and it was reassuring to see many locals around.

Thip SamaiThe menu is quite a no-brainer – just pad thai. The original pad thai comes in 2 sizes, and they also offer Superb Pad Thai/Pad Thai Haw Kai Goong Sot (ผัดไทห่อไข่กุ้งสด) which is pad thai wrapped in egg omelet, and Pad Thai Sen Jan Man Goong (ผัดไทเส้นจันมันกุ้ง) which is noodles fried with juices from the head of the jumbo shrimp (oh cholestrol! but sinfully good).

Thip SamaiDo also order their shaved ice coconut or orange juice to go with your plate of pad thai. The orange juice is almost as famous as the stall as it is chockful of pulp. The price differs from day to day based on supply. It is not exactly cheap, costing almost as much as the plate of pad thai itself, but worth it.

Thip SamaiI sipped on my orange juice and watched the crowd as I waited for my pad thai to arrive.

Thip SamaiTa da – le Superb Pad Thai! I never knew fried egg could smell this good, and I felt like I was opening a treasure box. The dish comes with lime wedges, raw bean sprouts and garlic chives which you can mix into the noodles.

Thip SamaiAdd chilli flakes and a dash of sugar for extra oomph. For me, as-is was good enough. It was memorable enough to make me return for a second visit on my next trip. This time, it wasn’t as good as the first time I had it as the noodles were a little soft for my taste. Be nice to the staff, cos’ they gave me a Thip Samai sticker as souvenir when I left, haha.

Thip SamaiI would probably give other pad thai stalls a try in my quest for the most authentic and delicious pad thai the next time I am back in Bangkok. Thip Samai would still remain my recommendation if friends ask for a pad thai place in Bangkok. Afterall, it is an institution for this particular street food loved by locals and foreigners.
Pad Thai Thip Samai (Pad Thai Pratu Pi)
Address: 313 Maha Chai Road, Samran Rat, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200 Thailand
Hours: 5:00PM – 3:00AM daily
Phone: +66 2 221 6280

What you can show to the taxi driver or when asking for directions:
ผัดไทยทิพย์สมัย (ผัดไทยประตูผี)
313 อาคาร บริเวณภูเขาทอง ถนนมหาไชย (มหาชัย) แขวงสำราญราษฎร์ เขตพระนคร กรุงเทพฯ 10200
เปิดทุกวัน เวลา 17.00-03.00 น. (หยุดทุกวันพุธต้นเดือนและปลายเดือน)

Getting There
Take a taxi. There is no nearby BTS not MRT. It is quite close to downtown Bangkok so it should cost less than 100 baht by metre. Plan your visit together with the following places of interest in the late afternoon (remember they only open at 5pm) – about 15 minutes walk from Khaosan Road, few minutes walk from the Giant Swing / Democracy Monument / Golden Mountain (Wat Saket). I used Google Maps to guide my walk.

If you really wish to take the train, you can take the Silom Line to Saphan Taksin Station (S6 Station), go out through Exit No. 2, take Chao Phraya Express Boat to Ta Chang Pier and take a taxi or tuk tuk to Thip Samai. That is, if you have loads of time to kill.

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Kyoto – Savouring Yuba 湯葉 at こ豆や Komameya

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantEating in Kyoto offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Japan’s former capital. Some local delicacies that you should try include Yudofu (tofu boiled in clear broth), Kaiseki (traditional Japanese multi-course haute cuisine), Shojin ryori (cuisine of the Japanese Buddhist monks), Kyo-wagashi (Kyoto sweets) and Yuba (soy-bean skin).

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantYuba 湯葉 is one of the main ingredients of Shojin ryori, and is also nutritious with high protein content. Yuba can be served raw or cooked in various ways, from appetizers, soups, desserts and even as vegetarian meat. At Komameya (‘little bean shop’), a yuba restaurant by Kyoto yuba maker Ueda Yuba Company, you can savour savor interesting dishes made with freshly-made yuba. This is also one of the few places in Kyoto that serves yuba made from black soy beans (kuromame) and green soy beans (edamame).

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantKomameya has two branches in Kyoto. I visited the Nishiki branch for dinner. It is not that easy to spot as it is located on the third floor of a building. The best landmark around would be Ippudo Ramen two buildings away.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe restaurant was cosy and perfect to spend a leisurely meal at.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantKomameya serves a-la-carte dishes as well as set courses for lunch and dinner. I went for the 雪 Yuki Course consisting 10 dishes (it is a sizable feast for ladies).

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantWatching the chefs at work. Such seriousness.

Tofu is especially famous in Kyoto for a few reasons – the city’s large number of underground springs provide excellent water quality for making tofu from good quality soybeans grown locally. Moreover, the tofu-making tradition has been passed down from generation to generation in Kyoto and the competition is fierce to keep up with other shops. Finally, the demand for vegetarian food is large from the priests living in the many temples in Kyoto. Tofu will thus remain an integral part of Kyoto.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantI ordered an unsweetened soy bean drink to start with.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe appetizer trio of black sesame bean curd and fried soy bean balls was a good start to work up an appetite for dinner.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantYuba ‘sashimi’

Yuba is made by simmering soy milk in a large, rectangular pan. As the soy milk boils, the thin, delicate film that forms on the surface and scooped up is yuba (See how it is made here). Asians would be familiar with this in its dried form as beancurd sticks (腐竹 fu zhu). When served fresh, you can dip it with a little soy sauce if desired. I prefer to savour as-is.

If you are there with friends, you can also order the yuba pot and try making it yourself. Otherwise order a-la-carte dishes instead of the set course, else there will be too much food.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantAn odd combination, but I loved the mashed soy bean curd with olive oil.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantInstead of the usual miso soup, the clear yuba broth with citrus was refreshing.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe only meat dish was grilled fish with yuba and cheese.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThis dish of yamaimo (mountain potato), atsuage (fried tofu pocket), and grilled yuba reminded me of oden.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantBraised black soy bean yuba with golden mushroom, garnished with flower petals.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe fried yuba was delish!

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe final savoury dish was Kumiage Yuba-don, a rice bowl covered with smooth soy milk yuba and a raw egg. Not a single grain of rice was left behind.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantFinally, dessert was matcha soy bean pudding (which reminded me of panna cotta), topped with a piece of fried yuba.

I enjoyed my meal tremendously. It was mind-blowing to see yuba prepared in so many different and delicious ways, and at a wallet-friendly price. I look forward to visiting again the next time I am in Kyoto, and to check out other yuba restaurants in the city.

こまめや Komameya

Nishiki Outlet
3F, Libertas Nishiki-koji Bldg. Nishiki-koji, Higashi-no-Toin higashi iru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
〒604-8127 京都市中京区錦小路東洞院東入る西魚屋町619 リベルタス錦小路3階
Tel: +81-75-221-7300
Webpage: http://www.ueda-yuba.co.jp/komameya_fifes/nishiki/nishiki.html
– 3 minute walk from Shijo subway and Karasuma train stations
– immediately west of Kyoto Daimaru Dept. Store north entrance
– 50 metres west of Nishiki Market west entrance
– 5-min walk from Karasuma Station on Hankyu Kyoto Line, or 5-min walk from Shijo Station on Metro Karasuma Line
Opening Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2.30pm; Dinner 5.30pm-10pm
Closed on Wednesdays

Nijo Outlet 二条店
Address: 〒604-8381 京都市中京区西ノ京職司町8-1
Tel: +81-75-812-3717
– About 2-min walk from Nijo Station 二条駅
Opening Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2.30pm; Dinner 5.30pm-10pm
Closed on Mondays dinner and Wednesdays

Lunch set course (a la carte available)
Yuba set course JPY2,000
Komame-ya set course JPY3,000
Dinner set course (a la carte available)
Yuki set course JPY3,500
Tsuki set course JPY5,000
Hana set course JPY7,000

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Tai Cheong Bakery 泰昌餅家 opens its first Cha Chaan Teng in Singapore

Tai Cheong Bakery Singapore 泰昌餅家Tai Cheong Bakery, a Hong Kong brand known for its egg tarts, has opened its first Hong Kong-style cha chaan teng diner in Singapore. The diner at Holland Village comes after a series of pop-up stores and a takeaway counter at Takashimaya Food Hall.

Tai Cheong Bakery Singapore 泰昌餅家Diners can have a taste of Hong Kong with traditional cha chaan teng dishes at the 60-seat eatery located right in the heart of Holland Village. With already so many similar Hong Kong cafes in town, I was curious to find out if this one is as authentic.

Cha chaan teng culture came about in the 1950s as a result of Hong Kong’s increasingly cosmopolitan and westernized middle class. Back in those days when Hong Kong was still a British colony, only high-class restaurants served western food and most of them did not welcome local Hong Kong people. After WWII, in a bid to end such discrimination, local Hong Kong people started to open their own restaurants called Cha Chaan Teng (translated into tea hall) serving affordable dishes combining elements of Western dining with unique Hong Kong flavours for people from all walks of life. Such cha chaan teng operate-around-the-clock serving a wide range of food at a breakneck pace to match Hong Kong’s busy lifestyle. In fact, cha chaan teng is so much representative of Hong Kong that it was suggested that the humble local diner should be listed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

For me, visiting a (non-touristy) cha chaan teng is a must whenever I go Hong Kong. You learn to adapt to their pace and it’s the best way to experience the local culture. You get to share tables with the locals (tab toi), get scolded for hesitating over your order and overhear the latest gossip in the neighbourhood lol. Sometimes the waiters are the funniest bunch of people to talk to when they are not so busy.

Tai Cheong Bakery Singapore 泰昌餅家Tai Cheong Bakery will have a takeaway counter to sell its signature egg tart and other pastries, including a new durian and cheese tart specially created for Singapore and sold exclusively at the diner. Dine in customers can order up to 2 egg tarts per person and are not allowed to take away egg tarts. Customers at the takeaway counter may order up to 4 boxes/16 egg tarts.

Tai Cheong Bakery Singapore 泰昌餅家I visited the diner during its first opening weekend, and queued for about 45 minutes. You can give your name and mobile number to the staff, and the system will call your mobile once your table is ready. I chose to wait by the diner and feast my eyes on the menu.

Tai Cheong Bakery Singapore 泰昌餅家Piping hot egg tarts are the best! I always love eating them hot when the warm egg filling slides down your throat, and the crispy crust melts as your teeth sinks into it.

Tai Cheong Bakery Singapore 泰昌餅家We started out our meal with a coconut tart and an egg tart to share. The egg tart was up to expectation while the coconut tart was a disappointment – I tasted more flour than coconut.

Tai Cheong Bakery Singapore 泰昌餅家I loved my spicy cola boiled with lemon and ginger; it made me feel like I was in Hong Kong once again. The Hong Kong milk tea went terribly wrong though, it was tannic and didn’t taste anything like the Hong Kong tea we knew. Even after one packet of sugar the taste wasn’t right.

Tai Cheong Bakery Singapore 泰昌餅家The mains fared much better. We ordered the Three Colour Silky Egg with Rice (with roasted pork and crispy pork belly) after seeing it on many of the diners’ tables. The portion was huge. The curry fan in me initially wanted the Beef Brisket Curry Rice but decided against it after seeing the actual pitiful-looking dish being served. So, presentation does play an important part in whetting your guests’ appetite.

Tai Cheong Bakery Singapore 泰昌餅家
The Three Egg Macoroni Soup with Luncheon Meat was comfort food to me, though the luncheon meat strips were really salty. We were feeling a little ‘egged out’ by the end of our meal – almost every single dish had eggs in them so our cholesterol level must have shot up by quite a bit. Overall, it’s a nice casual place to hang out with friends, and I hope the downsides we had were just nuances of a newly-opened eatery. I would probably visit again if I am in the neighbourhood.

泰昌餅家 Tai Cheong Bakery Singapore
31 Lorong Liput Singapore 277742
Opening Hours: 10:00AM to 10:00PM (Mon to Fri)/9:00AM to 10:00PM (Sat, Sun, PH)
*Note that mains are available at 11:00AM – 2:30PM/ 5:30PM – 9:30PM (Pastries and drinks are available all day)
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/taicheongeggtarts

Tai Cheong Bakery’s original store in Hong Kong
Address: G/F 35 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 8300 8301
Opening Hours: 7:30AM to 9:00PM (Mon to Sat), 8:30AM to 9:00PM (Sun & PH)
Nearest Train Station: Central MTR, Exit D2
Website: http://www.taoheung.com.hk/tc/brands/tai_cheong/index.html



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Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in Singapore

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in Singapore
Tsuta, the world’s first and only Michelin star ramen eatery, has opened its first overseas branch in Singapore at Pacific Plaza.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeNaturally, a queue is to be expected. At Tsuta’s original nine-seater store in Sugamo, diners queue as early as 6am for a ticket to enter the nine-seater eatery which only opens at 11am. So the 1-hour queue here doesn’t sound that bad afterall.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeBest thing to do while you queue – look at the menu and decide what you will have. Two basic ramen choices are available – the Shoyu Soba and Shio Soba which comes with char siu, bamboo shoots, and ajitama (flavoured egg). A miso version will be introduced at a later phase.

The shoyu ramen is made with a special soya sauce and a dashi stock of chicken, vegetables, clams and seafood, and topped with black truffle puree. The shio version is made with seafood and chicken stock together with Okinawa sea salt and Mongolian rock salt, and served with green olives in truffle oil.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeOwner-chef Yuki Onishi, who used to be in the fashion industry, learnt how to cook ramen from his father. Tsuta emphasizes on using only natural ingredients, and to ensure quality the chef uses a custom-brewed shoyu from Wakayama Prefecture from soya beans that have been aged for two years, and another one that is concocted by Onishi himself. The noodles are also made with a blend of four wholewheat flours. The chef also introduced Western influences by adding truffle puree into his recipe.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeOnce seats are available, you will be lead inside to place your order at a vending machine. Simply hand over the tickets to the counter staff once you are seated.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeAfter an one hour wait, I am finally inside the 18-seater ramen eatery. And hungry.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeDiners can watch as the chefs prepare your bowl of noodles.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeThe delightful look of anticipation

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeFinally I am presented with my bowl of Ajitama Shoyu Soba! To be honest I was initially unimpressed by its appearance. My first taste of the broth fared much better. It was lighter than most ramen I have eaten before, and the truffle puree added a fragrant taste to it. I like the smooth, springy texture of the noodles and the flavoured egg. I felt that the pork char siu was a bit tough and lean for my liking (I would have preferred a bit more fat). Overall, I enjoyed my bowl of ramen, since I cleaned up the entire bowl. Being lighter in flavour, you will not get an overly-full feeling as with oilier versions. Would I queue again? Maybe, if the queue is under 30 minutes.


Tsuta Ramen Singapore
Address: 9 Scotts Road, #01-01, Pacific Plaza, Singapore 228210
Tel: 6734 4886
Opening Hours: 11:00AM to 10:00PM daily
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Tsutasingapore

Tsuta Ramen Japan
Address: 〒170-0002, 1 Chome-14-1 Sugamo, Toshima, Tokyo 170-0002, Japan
Opening Hours: 11:00AM to 4:00PM, 6:00PM to 9:00PM daily
Phone: +81 3 3943 1007