Nasi Ambeng at Hajjah Mariam Café

Food sellers at the basement of Westgate at Jurong East face tough competition. Though the mall is higher end compared to its neighbor JEM, and Big Box and the nearby JCube, there are literally hundreds of places in these three locations where shoppers can eat – from little eateries to the many stalls in the several food courts to restaurants big and small.

If Hajjah Mariam hadn’t had a brainwave last July her little café in the basement of Westgate would have probably closed by now, just like so many others.

Hajjah – the honorific is bestowed on Muslim women who have performed the Haj – decided to focus on Nasi Ambeng. Nasi Ambeng is basically a Malay dish often served at Malay Kanduris or feasts – a huge metal or plastic platter is lined with banana leaf, the center spot is occupied by fragrant rice, and all kinds of delicious morsels, like chicken or beef, are placed on the platter and several people would sit around to share one platter. Best eaten with your hand the dish is delightfully tasty and promotes bonding and fellowship.

Hajjah Mariam decided to sell it and created a menu with different prices for each size of Nasi Ambeng. The cheapest are the solo platters of $8/- or $11/-. (Click on picture to see better.)

MariamMenuHere’s Hajjah Mariam (center) with her daughters holding up various sizes of her Nasi Ambeng:

MariamThis is the $16/- platter I tried; good enough for three small eaters:

$16With the introduction of Nasi Ambeng, the rest, they say, is history. The cafe is packed every meal time, often with long lines of customers waiting.

For now, as far as I know, this is the only place in Singapore to partake of this wonderful dish. But this being Singapore, before long, copy cats will emerge, but if you want the original, head out to the basement of Westgate and check this dish out.

Be sure to go early to avoid the long lines.

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Colors of the Forest

Local chef Sam Leong (who focuses on Chinese food) and his Thai wife and their son cooked up a storm on Thursday at Stuttgart Blackforest Boutique S-Café. The wines were organic German wines from the Schmalzried vineyard.

To start: Kessler Jägergrün Riesling Brut.

The following exotic dishes were paired with these wines:

Gello

PumpkinSoupKing Crab Meat Gello with Chilled Tom Yum Consommé
Pumpkin Soup with Garlic Herb Croutons
Öko-weingut Schmalzried Bianco Weißweincuvée 2011

LaMianHomemade “La Mian” with Wagyu Beef in Chilled Hot and Sour Consommé
Öko-weingut Schmalzried W Holzenberg Silvaner Spätlese 2011

KnuckleCrispy Pork Knuckles on Wok-fried Preserved Vegetables with duo of Classic and Spicy Asian Mongolian Sauce
Öko-weingut Schmalzried Hanweller N Riesling Spätlese 2010

LycheeLychee Parfait with Raspberry Caviar and Lychee Sorbet
Öko-weingut Schmalzried Gewürztraminer Auslese 2012

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Le 5th Grand Chapiter de la Confrefrie du Sabre d’Or

Held on 24th March, it was a muted event and a moment of silence was observed for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

To start: 2000 R&L Legras Brut Blanc de Blancs, Millesime, Saint-Vincent, Grand Cru.

The following fine, exquisite dishes were paired with these champagne and wines:

LobsterCarpaccioLobster Carpaccio
Caviar and Lime Dressing
Warm Lobster Papillotte
2005 Champagne Paul Dethune Millesime, Grand Cru

Soup

SlowCookKingCrabDouble-boiled Chicken Soup with Sea Whelk,
Conpoy, Morel Mushroom and Chinese Cabbage
served in Young Coconut

Slow Cook King Crab
Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Parma Ham Chips
Pesto Sauce
2013 Alphonse Mellot Sancerre La Moussiere, Loire

ScallopsSautéed Black Pepper Scallops
Fragrant Fried Rice with Spinach
2011 Domaine Vacheron Sancerre Rouge, Loire

BeefSlow Roasted Wagyu Beef Loin
Zucchine Gratin, Vine Tomato Confit,
Orange Chutney Pepper Sauce
NV Roger Pouillon & Sons Rose de Maceration Premier Cru Brut

PineappleHot and Cold Pineapple, Black Truffle and Coconut Espuma

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Eating Well in Sydney

More than three decades of visiting Sydney means I’ve tasted all kinds of food there, from those served in very expensive and highly rated restaurants booked months ahead to those dished out by humble food court stalls. The city never disappoints. This recent trip’s more memorable dishes include:

Roast Cone Bay Barramundi at The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay.

Roast Cone Bay Barramundi at The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay.

Live abalone at Golden Century.

Live abalone at Golden Century.

And at Steersons, the following dishes:

Duck Liver Pate with port jelly, pickles and toasted brioche.

Duck Liver Pate with port jelly, pickles and toasted brioche.

Smoked Duck Salad with wild rice, spiced pecans & pomegranate dressing.

Smoked Duck Salad with wild rice, spiced pecans & pomegranate dressing.

Certified Australian Angus Rib-Eye.

Certified Australian Angus Rib-Eye.

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Lee Kuan Yew 1923-2015

LKY

Thank you, Mr Lee.

You transformed an impoverished island into a first-world country whose citizens – ordinary people like me – can take pride in. Today, we walk with our heads held up high because of your tireless efforts.

Thank you for making Singapore what it is today.

Words cannot express my sadness at your passing.

May you rest in peace.

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Two More Clays

ClayBlack

ClayWhite

Usually un-glazed, and burn hot, clay pipes do have their aficionados, however, who claim that, unlike other materials, a well-made clay pipe gives a “pure” smoke with no chance of ghosting, in other words, tobacco you use won’t leave traces of smell and flavor behind – a bit like meerschaum pipes.

Clay pipes were once considered disposable items and the rapidly changing designs in the past are often used as an aid in dating by archaeologists.

The two pictured above are a bit unusual in that only the bowls are made of clay.

Read more about clay pipes here and here.

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An Axe I Can Smoke

TomahawkThe Tomahawk is an iconic weapon associated with Native Americans. The word is an anglicized version of the Algonquian ‘’tamahaac’’ meaning ‘’what is used for cutting.’’

The Pipe Tomahawk – more than 18 inches long –  is particularly unique because its hammer head (top left) is a pipe and a hole is drilled through the shaft so that it can be smoked from the tip of the handle (top right). Thus, in a single object the two dichotomies of New World encounters are symbolized; that of the axe of war or the pipe of peace. These Pipe Tomahawks were often gifts for inter-tribal diplomacy or Colonist-Indian peace treaties. They were prized by the Chiefs who received them.

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Starring Chai Chee Prick

RudeAssholeSo a monster with shit for brains got into a cab driven by a man who has a daughter who works in the media industry.

The retarded Mongoloid berated the taxi driver nonstop throughout the journey for a number of reasons. He was raging away and truth be told, if I were that taxi driver, I would have re-arranged his face, crime or no crime. His mum wouldn’t be able to recognize him when I’m done with that motherfucker. That bastard deserves no less, to be honest. He has his lucky stars to thank that I’m just a keyboard warrior not a taxi driver, not that taxi driver.

Taxi drivers earn an honest living; sure there are bad hats, but most are honest people working hard under difficult circumstances and facing unreasonable, hostile and unfriendly passengers day in and day out just to put food on the table, to provide education for their children and to pay their household bills. They are not beasts of burden for people to yell at.

The in-taxi video was posted online by the taxi driver’s daughter and the moronsphere went into overdrive. The clip has been viewed a gazillion times online and response from outraged netizens have been fast and furious with some digging out and revealing the nasty passenger’s personal details after playing amateur Sherlock Holmes.

I for one believe that the asshole passenger deserves his comeuppance; I too am incensed by his totally uncalled-for behavior – in this post, I’ve since labelled him “monster with shit for brains” and “retarded Mongoloid” (I know, offensive to many) and “motherfucker” and “bastard” and “asshole” and those are my more polite names for him, but to be honest, I am also a tad disturbed by it all.

I’m not sure Internet vigilantism is the way to go. We have driven Anton Casey and Amy Cheong out of our country and brayed for Jover Chew’s blood, but is a little self-restraint in order? “Righteous indignation” gone too far is a slippery slope and can prove dangerous; often the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Any action arising from a fit of pique is seldom positive. I also wonder if we have become so thin-skinned and intolerant and worse, completely unforgiving? Or do we resort to such public shaming only because our hallowed institutions and august bodies with their noble aims have failed us, with the result that we have to resort to public lynching of those who pissed us off? Have we taken things into our own hands because those whom we trust to protect us have let us down so miserably? Also, have the years of Courtesy Campaigns and efforts like Singapore Kindness Movement not been effective?

The poor, defenseless taxi driver was mercilessly bullied and scolded for no rhyme or reason but the video uploaded by his daughter was titled “RUDE ASSHOLE, The Movie” and was presented “In Association With Fat People, Inc” and ended with “And you Chai Chee Prick. FUCK YOU.” Hardly polite words, and why the sneak attack on fat people?

Didn’t Nietzsche once warned that whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster himself?

I’m not suggesting that we turn the other cheek all the time, but as Singapore is celebrating our 50th birthday this year, let’s recognize that the winds of change are blowing and the choices we make will determine whether Singapore becomes a cancerous red dot that is doomed for destruction or a bright shining red dot that is a beacon of light in a dark world of nastiness, spite, revenge, pride and lust.

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None but the Lark so Shrill and Clear

Lark

Collecting and drinking single malts from all over the world is a lot of fun. The Japanese, Swedish, Taiwanese and the Indian ones have never failed to thrill. Some have even won awards. Browse around this blog for my posts on those single malts.

In Sydney last week I was gifted a bottle of Lark single malt from Tasmania.

Although distilling of spirits is not new in Australia (Lark Distillery was the first licensed distillery in Tasmania since 1839) single malt production in Tasmania is a relatively recent thing. It was started in the mid-1980s by Lyn and Bill Lark, using pure mountain waters, premium quality Franklin barley and fragrant highland peat. The Larks use hand crafted copper pot stills for distillation and maturation was done in small quarter cask oak barrels. These small barrels have a larger surface area in relation to their volume compared with the larger barrels used elsewhere. Both aspects of aging (evaporation of volatile esters and interaction with oak character) occur in a shorter maturation period than that of the more common larger barrels used in Scotland.

The whisky is lightly peated and resembles a Scottish Speyside or Highland single malt.

Lark consistently distills some of the world’s most prized whisky, with no more than 100 liters at a time. So a bottle is a rare treat!

Thanks, Ian Baxter for the much treasured bottle of Lark!

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Another One Bites the Dust

SolLevySol Levy was a tobacco store in Sydney and though most people working in there seemed cocky, cranky and grouchy it was about the only place worth visiting if you are into pipes, pipe tobacco and cigars.

Those days, signs like this were all over the store:

As a tobacconist, we carry a range of legal-to-sell products for the tobacco user. 

And, by the way, collect and pay heaps to the government.

Please ask our sales staff. It is our pleasure to serve you.

or

Can’t see what you are looking for in this old established tobacconist.

Please ask our sales staff. It is our pleasure to serve you.

or

In accordance with the NSW Government Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008 we are prohibited from displaying smoking products.

We operate a legal business & will serve any person over the age of 18.

Australia’s draconian anti-tobacco laws have resulted in the most horrific, hideous, macabre, shocking and puke-inducing anti-smoking ads in the world. As required by law, tobacco products are packaged plainly with those revolting pictures plastered on 85% of each package. Taxes imposed are also very high. Yet, despite those grotesque images, no tobacco products, including pipes, can be displayed. Customers must ask for them – treasures revealed on request, so to speak. (Ironic that the Australian prime minister was pleading for the lives of two of his countrymen sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug trafficking – so drugs are ok?)

When I landed in Sydney last Saturday, I was saddened to discover that Sol Levy has closed in early November last year. Tough Aussie anti-smoking measures have sounded the death knell for Sol Levy. For a business established in 1890 and trading for over a hundred years, that’s a very sad end.

Even if those who manned it were cocky, cranky and grouchy most of the time.

The price tag will make you go blind - yes, that was how much Aussies paid for a tin of tobacco back in 2013. (Photo was taken in 2013.)

The price tag will make you go blind – yes, that was how much Aussies paid for a tin of tobacco back in 2013. (Photo was taken in 2013.)

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