Yummylicious achar from Ikea

I was never an achar friend up till recently and even then I only eat what’s made by my KL friend TES using an ancient Melakan recipe from one of her late husband’s aunts.

She uses the freshest of ingredients and the garlic in the achar is always whole, not minced, exactly the way I like my garlic.

So you could knock me down with a slice of toro when the achar I bought on Wednesday from Ikea — almost  as an after-thought — to accompany the store’s well-known fried chicken wings that I got to take home for dinner.

The serve staff was packing the wings when I saw a notice: “Achar $1.50”  and so I said “Give me some of that”.  It was cheap, I thought, so couldn’t be much good, but would help put one more dish on the table.

But boy was I wrong. The achar was yummylicious and if not for the fact there was no garlic (unlike the TES version), I would have put it on par with my friend’s home-made product. And for $1.50, the portion was most generous, with the pix below showing what’s left after we’d already had a got at it.

Now who would have thought that a Swedish furniture store would have produced such authentic Peranakan makan? 😆

yummylicious achar from Ikea


I got the millet mush look?

I don’t know whether to be pleased or annoyed. I was at the Each a Cup outlet outside Clementi Mall’s Fairprice Finest apres lunch. I was about to order when the girl in charge said: Millet mush with agar, agar, zero sugar right?

She was right in so far that’s what i ordered the last time I was at Clementi Mall, mayb 6 to 8 weeks ago. I’ve since moved on to millet mush with black pearls.

The girl’s ability to identify the drink I took won’t have been so remarkable, if she were the one minding the outlet at City Square Mall, where I’ve become quite a regular. And where as soon as I stop by, the girl would recite what I want, without prompting.

However the girl’s at the Clementi Mall outlet where I’ve only had one drink there be4 today and such a long time ago!And every day she must serve at least 100 more more customers! Yet she remembered me!

She either has a damn good memory — or horrors! I got a millet mush face 😆

Oh, the pain of food inflation!

Earlier this week, the Government revealed that Singapore’s inflation rate is 5.2 percent in March, 2012. From 1962 until 2010, the average inflation rate in Singapore was 2.73 percent with an historical high of 34.00 percent in March of 1974 (following the oil price shocks) and a record low of -3.10 percent in September of 1976.

I should point out that the terrible high inflation rate almost 40 years ago was matched by bank or finance company deposit rates that were sky high. I remember mum enjoying 13 or 14 percent per annum interest while property prices were only a fraction of today’s prices. Mum sold a Grange Road walk-up flat for $64,ooo while our local helper and her husband bought a 3-room HDB flat in Avenue 2, Clementi for $12,000.

By contrast, today interest rates are about 0.5 to 0.75 percent per annum on average and no one can buy any meaningful roof over their head with the amounts I cited. Not even a COE, let alone a car.

Be that as it may.

But what struck me truly starkly about inflation was my return to Imperial Treasure Windows of Hong Kong at Triple One Somerset on Monday for some comfort food.   

I hadn’t intended to go there but had a few errands to run in its vicinity. 

Then bad luck struck. I had removed my cash card from my IU be4 setting off because it had fallen below a certain value and its beeps were driving me mad. But I forgot to replace it with my other cash card with higher value.

And so I fell into a f-foul mood. That 50 cent ERP fee at the Orchard gantry would now have to be met with a hefty fine. FF mood not improved when I text LH for help “with a name, please” and got no response, because LH I guess doesn’t believe in extending help for such “petty” matters.

Errands done and feeling really sorry for myself, I needed some comfort food.

With Triple One just across the road from where I was, I was like a homing pigeon.

It’s been a while since I ate at Imperial Treasure Windows on HK.

The prices looked a bit higher but no matter.

I’m hugely a creature of habit and settled for Set B which comprised half a salted egg, one BBQ chik wing, some siew yoke (roast pork), some marinaded slices of squid and rice.

I was charged $8.50.

When the food came, I vaguely remembered there should have been an accompanying bowl of soup. But again, I was happy to eat some comfort food and didn’t want to stir up my FF mood again.

It wasn’t until today when i checked my blog that i discovered how prices have gone up at the Windows on HK cafe over less than 2 years.

When I first discovered the cafe in July 2010, I couldn’t stop singing its praise. As witness here!

Back then, the set I ate on Monday had come with a hearty Cantonese pork soup and was priced at $7.

I was quite miffed to discover a few months after that the rice and mixed meat dish had de-coupled from the soup. The main was priced at $6.50 while the soup was priced at $2. I ranted against the higher prices here.

Since then, prices have gone up even higher. Now the main is $8.50 sans soup. But then, that’s about what’s charged in most food courts, if one isn’t too careful with one’s selection, especially at brand name nasi padang stalls!

Even worse may come as suggested by this website  –which I must warn is trying to sell fear rather than hope.

And hope there should be. After all, didn’t I start this blog in 2008 with a post anxiously wondering if rice would reach $15 a kg after oil prices broke the USD100 mark?

Since that post, the world has been living more or less with oil prices above that defining level. Yet rice — if one settles for the no-frills variety — isn’t priced anywhere near $15. Yet! 🙄

2 contrasting meals in one day

Last week, I inviegled AE to take me up to Woodlands to buy more smoked pork knuckles from Wang Foong. Die-die I must eat the stuff again — and AE the good soul not only agreed to drive but also brought along chiller bags with the necessary ice-packs too.

Natch to say, we went a bit crazy and then discovering that Fassler was next door, we loaded up on fresh mushrooms (half the prices charged by Cold Storage downtown or anywhere else for that matter!) plus some fish and sauces!

But that pre-prep food venture isn’t the main course of this post.

Rather, it was the organic vegetarian cafe called Sunny Choice at Rail Mall that AE introduced me to on our way back from Woodies that not only filled my stomach and thrilled my taste buds but also provided a cure for sore eyes. The plating and taste were far superior to my usual hangout Create Healthy Lifestyle at Fortune Centre but with superior prices too!

For example, the ABC juice at Sunny costs $6, compared to $4.50 at Create which I already thot expensive, when at Clementi Mall’s basement juicer, it comes in a larger helping — for all of $3.20.

Sunny’s sushi roll (the standard of most organic veggie joints) costs $6 too, whereas Create charges $3.50. Even at the hoity-toity Sophie’s (4th level, Fortune Centre), it’s only $3.80 — at least it was when I last ate there, mayb two years ago.

Guess the extra is for the sunny ambience of the cafe.

By contrast, the same night I joined my chair yoga mates from Kampung Glam Community Club for a spot of hot pot at House of Hot Pot in Tan Quee Lan Street. The Lim yoga gurus hosted, to celebrate their 20th semester of chair yoga teaching at Kg G.

It was again a meal guaranteed to give vegetarians a nightmare as the plates upon plates of free flow pork, chicken, beef and seafood were delivered to our table. True, there was also plentiful of veggie, seaweed and mushrooms of all variety and hue but as we let the meats and the rabbit food mix in the hot pot brew of tongue tingling tastes, it’s really very hard for even true blue vegetarians to resist.

But resist one young yoga classmate did as she is a full-time vegetarian — unlike me who is vegetarian part-time and erratic! It helped too that the gurus had specially brewed what they called “the soup of love” — a non-meat, non-seafood brew for her to cook the veggie, mushrooms et al in!

Now I can’t think of a day where I ate two meals that are as different as chalk from cheese 😉

most flavorful lei cha fan

tauhu goreng with pumpkin paste

pricey veggie sushi

Hot pot butcher's brew

when veggie meets meat

2 stupid car parks & 1 good discovery

In recent weeks, I came across two carparks that have poorly programmed parking monitoring systems.

First is that carpark that’s bound by the Golden Mile Food Centre, the Kampung Glam Community Club and several blocks of HDB flats.

I’m a regular tho not frequent user of that carpark, as I go to Kampung Glam for my weekly chair yoga sessions. About a monthy ago, the carpark was converted from coupon parking to ERP parking.

My heart sank three Thursdays ago when I saw the long line of cars waiting to go thru the hourly parking gantry. The angry looking “FULL” sign lit up in red prompted me not to waste  time waiting, so I headed for a nearby coupon parking carpark in North Bridge Road.

Imagine my surprise when after I parked, I made my way on foot towards the CC and saw that beyond the new gantry there were at least 10 empty lots for hourly parking!

I felt like kicking myself for my impatience. I should have waited since obviously the turnaround time in the new ERP carpark was fast and furious.

Hence the Thursday after that, I wasn’t put off by the long queue that once again was outside the FULL sign. And I wasn’t disappointed as after 5 minutes I was inside the carpark.

What surprised me however was that once again there were far more parking lots available than the number of cars waiting at the gantry. What the XXXX, I thought, especially since our government has become so environmentally conscious as to want to go green all over the place. 🙄

Having a badly programmed system that doesn’t tell the truth about the number of vacant lots available and so cause line upon line of cars to idle their engines and emitting carbon monoxide in needless waiting isn’t very green friendly — at least in my books.

Last Thursday when i went for my yoga, it was the same story: long queue of cars waiting to enter and several empty car park lots within the carpark. Clearly no one has complained so I shared my observation with the girl manning the CC counter. She looked blankly at me. I gave up.

Guess it will be the same on my next visit. But if the LTA, URA, HDB, NEA, PA and other users don’t make a fuss, why should I?

Today I encountered a problem at the Clementi Mall carpark that was the right opposite of the Kampung Glam carpark!

It was raining cats and dogs and there was a short queue into the carpark. I waited and within a few minutes i was in. Then to my horror, I discovered that the two vacant lots indicated turned out to be only one lot, as there was already a car under one of the green guide lights which didn’t turn red.

That wasn’t all. There were at least 8 to 10 other cars eyeing the just vacated lot. Which meant that Clementi Mall’s gantry let in more cars than there was vacancy, FCOL!

Worse, there was no way to ensure that those who entered first would get the first vacant lot, as there are two entry points and no one to ensure fair play. Even if there was, it wasn’t possible that the first lot to be vacated would be near the car that had been waiting the longest!

Even my parking lot prayer didn’t seem to work for once. And I would have left the car park immediately if not for the fact that I had dropped off my mother and her maid earlier to get a table at the Thai cafe, Sticky Rice.

Thus I found myself circulating the carpark for no less than 20 minutes without any success and paid $1.40 to exit to look for parking elsewhere with visions of myself being soaked to my skin when I finally turned up at the cafe for lunch.

I needn’t have despaired. The HDB carpark right next door had many vacant lots and what was even better, I found that it was connected with Clementi Mall by lifts that led right to Sticky Rice. And i had no need for an umbrella at all.

Now why in tarnation didn’t the Clementi Mall management display signs inside and outside its tiny carpark to suggest parking next door?

Guess they won’t have the initiative to do anything so complicated if they can’t work out that it isn’t a good idea to let in more cars than there are vacant lots!  😆

I must also report that thanks to the over-full Clementi Mall car park I have discovered a new way to access the mall’s facilities without going into its terrible basement carpark. Even better is the fact that the HDB carpark next door offers far more friendly wheel-chair access. Which is a plus for mum who now needs a wheel-chair to go around malls.

 So perhaps the parking lot prayer I was uttering so furiously did work after all!

Descend 2 rustic French @ Prinsep Street

It’s March and time again to celebrate CK’s birthday. Last year the party was at 70 storeys above ground at JAAN par André at Swisshotel Stamford. Year be4 that, we went to Michael Han’s Fifty Three at Amenian Street. Wonder where would we go next year to drink to his significant landmark year?

For this year anyway, we came down to earth again as HTK chose, with our concurrence, to mark CK’s day at Le Bistrot du Sommelier. This year, there were only four of us hosting as the regular fifth is on long medical leave and felt it won’t do to be seen having a meal in public!

The restaurant’s location is a bit dicey. EC who drove me there in her immaculate top-of-the-range Merc claimed that it’s the first time she’s been back to Prinsep Street since her youngest sister was born in a private clinic situated there.

As her sister is well past 40, that tells you how far away from our eating radar that corner of Singapore is! 

Thankfully there was — and is — nothing dicey about Le Bistrot, especially its food which though rustic was real and robust, for which read plentiful, good quality and tasty.

The wait staff were warm and friendly, and accommodating — especially in regard to our request for five pieces of profiteroles to end our meal, because each was the size of a fist and none of us could manage a whole serving as that comprised two profiteroles!

Contrast this with the response to our request at another restaurant featured in this blog (not linking dat placce but do a search in this blog and you will strike lucky!).

 That place served dishes tapas style and every item tended to come in a plate of five. As there were six of us, we asked if they minded serving us an extra piece with the price per dish adjusted accordingly.

The answer was that they minded ie a flat no! That night, each of us took turns in having less than our share as the different dishes were served. Which left us with a bad taste in the mouth, besides finding the high price and the mostly indifferent food hard to swallow!

Now back to Le Bistrot.

The staff’s thoughtfulness was underlined from the word go.

We were told that the cooking of the pre-ordered cote de beuf won’t start till everyone had arrived so that the meat won’t be overdone! As I don’t eat beef, wild snapper was suggested for my main course and I gladly accepted. It turned out to be excellent.

 We shared our starters. A 150 gm worth of pork terrine and fresh herring with salad. They bothered to make sure there were five slices of herring in the salad, so that each of us could have a tasting bite. OK perhaps that’s a co-incidence ie they always cut the herring into five pieces per serving. Even then, it’s a nice co-incidence.

As for the pork terrine, with a thick crust of fresh peppercorn, it was out of this world for me and I ate more of it than the others who wanted to save room for their beef. I couldn’t stop eating the restaurant’s own-made bagguette either but then I’m a bread basket 😳  as is obvious from some of my other posts!

(Aside: Thank goodness most who break bread with me are similarly inclined as one of the regular monthly lunchers remarked to me at our March meal:  “U’ve had your third roll”. I looked startled and guilty. “U’ve been counting?” I asked. “Not really, I’ve been counting what I’m eating and I noticed we each had three!”)

Now for the final verdict on Le Bistrot’s food: it’s good food made better by the very reasonable prices. The four hosts paid $98 each, which meant had the B-boy not been our guest but a Dutch treat, the per pax price would have been $78.40 and that included an excellent Merlot!

 I’ll drink to our next return! With two caveats: if only the Bistrot will open for lunch and it adds a restroom on the 2nd floor. To drink and then having to rush down to the one and only restroom in the restaurant on the first floor smack next to the kitchen could make one turn teetotaller!

herring all gone be4 I could snap!

I could clean up terrine myself!

my own snapper delight!

1kg cote de beuf -- LW's pix

happy birthday dear CK!

Minimum spending on friends

Had three friends to lunch at the Singapore Cricket Club yesterday because I discovered that I still had $99 to go before end-February or would once again suffer the club’s minimum spending penalty, which dictates that members must spend an average of $100 on F&B over 3 months or have that sum billed to you, whether or not you have consumed that amount!

Naturally, I would rather my friends benefit than the club: so there we were at STUMPS, a sort of SCC version of a British pub. I rather like its faux Brit ambience though hate the uncomfortable high stools and small tables.

I particularly like the “healthy” buffet and always go for that. My guests, being very polite, also went for it. With drinks (just AL and I had wine) and coffee (AL, GC and ST), the bill came to under $80.

So I must make sure I go eat another $20 worth before February turns into March!

Pix below are courtesy of AL whose camera does more justice to the food and my guests than my poor wobbly camera phone!

smile for camera!

main buffet

dessert section

what AL chose