I can’t believe it’s been two months already, since we’ve moved to Singapore. 

We were puzzled on where to stay, when we got here. After doing some very quick touch-basing with friends and a lot of soul-searching, we settled on Tiong Bahru, a charming enclave home to hip cafes, art galleries, indie bookstores and post-war, art-deco architecture. 

I’m pretty excited to share with you some snaps of this charming area, where our new home is based.  Have you ever experienced Tiong Bahru yourselves? Shout out your favourite places! 

 

It’s really not hard to stumble across a burger joint, but you almost can’t avoid it in London.

And why would you?

In London, you’ve got all sorts of burgers for all sorts of tastes. I’ve probably had burgers from more places than I can count on my fingers (and there’s some serious burger lovin’ competition out there).

I began to think about my all-time favourites and one that made it to the top is Shrimpy’s – a stall amongst many at Broadway Market. Having a weakness for seafood, the idea of juicy, grilled prawns was too good to miss.

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Passionate about seafood, Shrimpy has been selling their signature prawn burgers for a solid 4 years and is now doing rounds across the UK. They are mainly feeding hungry market-goers at Broadway Market and Southbank, but are also invited to festivals, to the delight of many festival-goers looking for more than your run-of-the-mill festival food. Recognising that most burgers are not seafood based, they are looking to set up more stalls across London. They currently serve two versions of their burger – one with chargrilled prawns and the other with deep fried prawns (only served at Southbank). I had the burger with chargrilled prawns but I really can’t wait to try their fried version.

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The burger comes with chargrilled prawns coated in a sticky marinade, caramelised onions, samphire, pickled cucumbers, and as an option, avocado. You are also given the option to choose between two sauces. The end result is one which involves a variety of textures from the tenderness of the prawns contrasting against the crunchiness of the salty samphire. The caramelised onions and pickled cucumber give it a subtle sweetness ,whilst the avocado neutralises the flavours.

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All in all, I’m really glad they’re rocking the seafood burger boat and shrimping up the lives of hungry people such as myself.

Chicago was never my go-to place. To be honest, the United States was always at the bottom of my ‘must-absolutely-[without question]-visit’ list. Reason being that the US is has a fairly young history and a culture that isn’t too different to what I’m familiar with.

However.

I am absolutely thrilled that I got the chance to explore this American gem all courtesy to my wonderful boyfriend who booked this holiday as my birthday gift.

It’s quite extraordinary that when I told friends and family that I was heading to Chicago, I usually got a very specific reaction – a puzzled look.

Why Chicago?

Well, I probably gave Marco the same puzzled look. But as I dug deeper, I realised that it didn’t deserve to be the underdog.

Chicago is bursting with architectural wonders, incredible artworks and a fire-blazing, gangster-ridden history. The architecture, the jazz scene, the speakeasies and Chicago’s trendier neighbourhoods, all speak for the State’s ability to marry old with new.

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Chicago Picasso, 1967

Although Chicago is the third largest city in the US, we found it easy to get around, well connected and not crowded at all. The busiest areas are within the Loop, which refers to both the elevated (L) rail as well as downtown.

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The Rail Loop

Downtown comprises the financial district, Broadway and the infamous Jay Pritzker Pavilion located at the Millenial Park. Not to mention Cloud Gate (a.k.a The Bean).

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The Mirror Ball

What I absolutely loved about Chicago was that there was also an abundance of landscaping, gardens and parks.

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Never knew I dressed like a tulip garden until this very day

But the real question is, is Chicago a foodie destination.  YES – it definitely has potential. And my blog post will give you my top recommendations, should you happen to be passing by.

 

DAY 1: After the River Cruise Tour by Shoreline Sightseeing, which was a brilliant way to be introduced to Chicago’s architecture, we had our first lunch. It HAD to be deep dish pizza.

The closest I ever got to deep dish pizza was Pizza Hut. Then I encountered Gino’s East – and it changed everything. Really. EVERYTHING.

We got the dish for two (with four slices in total) and we were able to mix and match different pizzas on offer. We got the Spinach Margherita and the Meaty Legend. [Be prepared to wait 45 minutes to an hour for the pizza to be prepared and cooked – they do warn you in advance.]

The best by far was the Spinach Margherita – the tomato sauce was rich, the dough was buttery and the cheese was well, cheesy. We found the Meaty Legend had too much going on, so our vote goes for… the Spinach Margherita.

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Gino’s East Meaty Legend

Because we enjoyed this deep dish pizza so much we tried another local haunt called, Lou Malnati. We ordered the Malnati Chicago Classic and the Lou. The Lou was not meant to be too different from Gino’s Spinach Margherita but it was overly garlicky and the crust wasn’t as delicious. Sorry, Lou!

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That same day with dined at Alinea, a 3 Michelin Star Restaurant I had discovered through Chef’s Table. There are three menus available and we chose the Salon Menu with 12 courses.  On the whole, it was a special multi-sensory experience, where you are challenged to think about what you are eating based on its appearance, flavour and texture. We were also invited to the kitchen to witness the chefs at work, guided by Head Chef Grant. There, we also witnessed the making of a cocktail, mixed by a rare cocktail shaker (1 in 30 in the world, modelled after the Victorian shakers).  Some pictures of the experience below.

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DAY 2: Because a 15-course dish isn’t enough to push the thought of food out of my mind, I decided to treat myself to Xoco‘s Pork Belly Chilaquiles made out of crunchy tortillas, tomatillo-serrano sauce, poblano rajas,  pork belly chunks, cheese, and a sunny-side-up egg. It was DIVINE. Ridiculously heavy for breakfast, but it was certainly my most important meal of the day.

Never skip Xoco breakfast.

And don’t leave without trying their Aztec hot chocolate.

Or their bacon popcorn.

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Xoco’s Pork Belly Chilaquiles

And Marco’s less exciting Chorizo variation.

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Xoco’s Scramble with Chorizo

As holiday’s are not just about food (something I need to remind myself), that day we visited the world-class Art Institute of Chicago which houses plenty of notable artworks from various periods, as well as modern installations.

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Little Dancer of Fourteen Years (Degas)

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Woman in Tub (Jeff Koons)

That day’s lunch menu involved a Chicago-style hot dog from the infamous Portillo’s – a local favourite, retro-style chain, selling fast food. The Chicago-style hot dog includes mustard, relish, celery salt,  onions, sliced tomatoes, kosher pickle and ‘sport’ peppers piled onto a steamed poppy seed bun. Chicagoans call this “dragging the dog through the garden.” Nice.

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Portillo’s Restaurants

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Chicago-style Classic Hot Dog

The weather remained poor (thanks Chicago!), so we spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the Magnificent Mile and taking shelter within the many high-street and high-end shops. On the bright side, the rain left a few lovely reflections in return.

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‘You Know What You Should Do’ Mural  (2011) Jeff Zimmerman

We then closed the evening with a historical tour on Chicago’s architecture and entertainment, which took us to a few Speakeasies and infamous watering holes known for their relation to Al Capone.

We then headed to our local speakeasy – The Drifter –  which is hidden within the Green Door Tavern. A classic speakeasy serving cocktails and wild entertainment.

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The Drifter

DAY 3: The following day was classified as Museum Day, as it was bitterly cold and windy, looking exactly like this.

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Museum Campus Skyline View

We visited the Shedd Aquarium and The Field Museum (a natural history museum). They were both wonderful, with the aquarium being my favourite as I feel right at home. [Not saying I’m a fish, but I’m not a fish out of water when I’m at an aquarium that’s all.]

OK, moving on.

 

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Fish in Water?

 

We also had no other opportunity other than that day to observe the Chicago from up high. This is what stubbornness amounts to (both from our side and the clouds’). Do visit the Skydeck or the 360 on a GOOD day. Unless you really like clouds.

Dinner was booked at the Untitled Supper Club, a vintage-inspired, high-end venue with a dress code and live jazz. They claim to have one of the best whiskey bars in Chicago. We had cocktails.

The weather remained shoddy, so we decided to spruce things up with some jazz at the famous Green Mill, where legendary figures such as Von Freeman, Franz Jackson and Wilbur Campbell, as well as young lions Kurt Elling, Eric Alexander and Orbert Davis, played. It has not strayed far from the atmosphere of the early ’30s and ’40s in service, price and music. Shades of Al Capone’s heyday are found in the wall memorabilia as you enter and in the famous booth where he and his henchmen could keep a cautious eye on both doors. Make sure to catch the late night show (midnight – 5am) with Sabertooth. Don’t let the jet lag get to you (now that Al Capone isn’t around). It sure got me.

DAY 4: On day 4, we decided to head north towards Lincoln Park, a beautiful, sizeable park hosting a free zoo. I’m not an advocate of zoos and me being there, confirmed it. Animals, especially large animals should be roaming free and not be confined to such small spaces. However, I can’t hide that I was especially happy to see this fellow.

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Lincoln Park Zoo

In the afternoon, we headed towards Old Town which is known for its 20th-century style, pastel coloured houses – all rebuilt since the great fire of 1971.

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At lunch, we were lucky to get ourselves a seat at The Twin Anchors, a well-known establishment serving barbequed ribs. They were sticky and sweet and came with a choice of sauce, side and coleslaw.

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We closed off the evening at the Steppenwolf Theatre – showing great productions since 1974.

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Day 5: This day was nice and easy. We explored the West Loop and Greek Town. The West loop is undergoing a period of transformation. Old establishments like the French Market continues to run, although don’t expect it to be very…French.

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The French Market

Fulton Market is pretty much completely under development but comes alive at night, with young, trendy folk. Rumour has it that gentrification is slowly driving its previous tenants, mostly Art Galleries, out of the picture as a result.

DSC_0263The Greek Town was a disappointment, as all it was was a string of Greek Restaurants and the National Hellenic Museum, which we didn’t have time to enter.

Thankfully we ended the holiday on a very sweet note. I may have found one of my favourite smokehouses – Green Street Smoked Meats. We ordered half a pound each of smoked brisket and smoked pastrami with a side of creamed corn with cilantro and paprika. Washed down with Chicago’s best Pale Ale – Daisy Cutter.

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If you’ve visited Chicago or will be visiting Chicago, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Later!

Hello everyone!

I’ve recently discovered what could be one of my favourite veg dishes: Grilled Miso Aubergine. I came across it for the first time when I visited Machiya, London.

Eating the Grilled Miso Aubergine was like a revelation. The aubergine was so ridiculously creamy that you could scoop the flesh away from the skin. They also topped the aubergine with shichimi togarashi — a popular Japanese spice mixture containing ground red chilli pepper and Japanese pepper (sanshō), roasted orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, hemp and poppy seeds, ground ginger and seaweed (nori). And they also sprinkled walnuts, for a bit of a crunch. 

I was surprised I hadn’t discovered this during my visit to Japan but I’m so glad that discovery happened anyway! 

I did my research on how to make grilled miso aubergine and it seemed simple enough. I was going to make it the same way Machiya does, but then I thought about doing things slightly differently.

I recently make dukkah (duqqa), an Egyptian condiment consisting of a mixture of herbs, nuts, and spices. It is typically used as a dip with bread or fresh vegetables, but you can also add it to cooked vegetables. In fact, I recently followed a recipe by Rita Serano from her book Vegan in 7, where I oven-baked slice of cabbage and topped these with dukkah. 

Long story short, I thought ‘why not make grilled miso aubergine with dukkah instead?’ And so I did. It turned out not too different from Machiya’s but nevertheless a variation and I love it! 

I’d be curious to know of more variations that I can make with grilled aubergine. If you have any ideas, do post in the comments section below. 

Till next time!

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Serves: 2

Time:  45 minutes

Level: Easy

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 2 medium aubergines
  • 4 tsp miso paste
  • 2 tsp runny honey
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • thumb-sized piece root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 scallions, green stalks sliced
  • 2 tsp shichimi togarashi
  • dukkah (75g walnuts, 25g white sesame seeds, 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tbsp cumin seeds – ground together to a rough crumble)
  • 120g rice (optional), cooked and sprinkled with shichimi and scallions

M E T H O D 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, in fan mode.
  2. Slice the two aubergines lengthwise. That would leave you with four halves.
  3. Score the flesh in a diamond pattern, taking care not to cut through the skin.
  4. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and lay the aubergines on top, cut sides up.
  5. Mix the miso, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic with 1-2 tablespoons of water to make a smooth paste.
  6. Brush over the aubergine flesh and roast for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and soft.
  7. In the meantime, prepare the dukkah. Mix all the ingredients together and using pestle and mortar, grind to a rough crumble. You can also use a blender.
  8. Sprinkle with the dukkah, sliced scallions, shichimi and serve with a side of rice.

If you’ve read The Great Steak Post (where I don’t only talk about steak), you’ll hear about Yerba Mate — the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil. It is known to have antioxidant properties, is caffeinated and is consumed 6 to 1 over coffee.

When I was visiting Argentina, I would pass by dozens of passerby drinking yerba mate from the traditional gourd known as guampaporongo or mate in Spanish, through a metal straw called bombilla in Spanish. It is also not uncommon to see the guampa being shared amongst friends, with constant refilling from a thermos. The Yerba Mate ‘kit’ can be found in any traditional store, marketplace or souvenir shops.

I myself am a big fan of tea and for that reason, I love to find ways to use it in baking, marinades, smoothies and cocktails. I was lucky enough to come across Love Tea, a Maltese Tea company that stocks a wonderful variety of quality teas. I was super, SUPER excited to find their product Green Yerba Mate Matcha in powder form because I’ve only ever come across Yerba Mate as tea leaves.

I thought hard what it would pair well with.  Eventually, I settled on the idea that citrus flavours would balance the essence of yerba mate nicely, due to their acidic sweetness. As we can’t get enough of blood oranges at home, I thought that it would be a fine contender for my bundt cake.  And the good news is, I had leftover Green Yerba Mate Matcha for a cuppa or my morning smoothie.

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Serves:  12 large pieces

Time: 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

For the Cake Mix

  • 400g flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. yerba mate powder
  • 100g coconut oil, softened
  • 170g butter, softened
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 4 eggs
  • 170g greek yoghurt
  • Juice of one small blood orange
  • a little butter and flour for the pan

For the Icing

  • 1 small blood orange, juiced
  • 200g icing sugar

***M E T H O D***

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C and grease and flour a bundt pan
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, baking powder, salt and yerba mate.
  3. In another bowl, cream together the softened butter and the coconut oil with a mixer until well combined and then add the sugar and cream together, until the mixture is fluffy.
  4. Add the vanilla, juice of blood orange and eggs and stir to combine until mixture is homogenous.
  5. Alternately add the yoghurt and flour in batches and combine after each addition and mix until the dough is smooth.
  6. Fill the prepared bundt tin and bake for 60 to 90 minutes or until an inserted stick comes out clean.
  7. As the cake is baking, prepare the icing. Add the juice of blood orange to the icing sugar and mix well.
  8. Once the cake is baked, leave to cool for about half an hour before turning the cake out onto a plate and adding the icing.

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I’m a big fan of open-faced sandwiches because a) I love that you can make it up as you go and b) because it’s a great way to clean up the fridge (if you have a busy fridge like me).  Open-faced sandwiches are also ideal when you have guests because you simply have to prepare a few toppings in advance.

I have already posted a recipe for an open faced sandwich or Smørrebrød as the Danish call it. My recipe, which can be found via this link, was inspired by Scandinavian Kitchen’s Pickled herring and egg with beetroot Smørrebrød.

This time I made a variety of open-faced sandwiches based on what I had in the fridge, with the exception on the pickled herring itself, as that’s not something I would stock commonly. Also, I was out of my home-made pickled cucumbers but they do go really well with the salmon sandwich described below. For the pickled cucumbers recipe, check out the recipe for my patty-less shrimp burger.

And remember, do not be afraid to think of creative uses for leftovers as that is the point of a good Smørrebrød. For the purists (I suspect you may be Danish) – do forgive me for not including butter.

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Serves:  12 pieces

Time30 Minutes

Difficulty: Very Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 6 slices rye bread, sliced in half
  • 3 eggs, boiled, peeled and sliced
  • 2 small radishes, sliced thinly
  • 4 slices of ham
  • 4 tsp of horseradish
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced and grilled
  • 4 slices of smoked salmon
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1 avocado, seasoned with salt and pepper and mashed
  • 4 pieces of jarred pickled herring
  • 1 cooked betroot, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 5 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • bunch of salad cress (optional)
  • roe (optional)

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***M E T  H O D***

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C on grill. Brush a baking sheet lightly with olive oil. Lay the sliced bell pepper and allow the peppers to grill for 20 minutes.
  2. Prepare a pot with cold water. Add three eggs and hard boil them for 12 minutes.
  3.  Whilst the eggs cook, slice four slices of rye bread in hal to make 8 pieces and proceed to slice the radishes, and onion into thin slices.
  4. In a food processor combine the beetroot, mustard, sour cream and olive oil. Process until creamy and smooth.
  5. Once the eggs have been cooked, drain the boiling water and refill with cold water. Let cool so that you can peel and slice the eggs easily.
  6. Assemble the sandwiches in the following order. For the four ham sandwiches, spread horseradish on the rye bread, add a slice of grilled bell pepper and top with ham and sliced radish. For the four salmon sandwiches, spread the seasoned, mashed avocado on the rye bread and top with salmon, egg slices and capers. Add roe for that extra punch of flavour but it’s not necessary. For the four herring sandwiches, spread the beet mixture and top with a pickled herring, egg and sliced radish. Sprinkle all with salad cress.

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With the run-up to Easter, my aunt asked whether or not I’d be making traditional Maltese Lent biscuits, called Kwareżimal.  And what a brilliant idea that was because I absolutely LOVE kwareżimal and I think I’ve managed to convert a few others since I made these.
The word ‘kwareżimal’ is derived from the latin word quaresima referring to the 40 days of Lent. It reminds me very much of childhood as it was pretty much the only sweet treat I was allowed to have during the fasting period. As kids, we were asked to make a ‘sacrifice’ and in my case, it was to give up chocolate. On the plus side, I really did like kwareżimal, so it could have been worse.
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These Lenten biscuits are almond based, with aromatic spices and even cocoa powder. It is also dairy free although there are versions that use eggs. These biscuits are topped with Maltese honey or thyme honey and sprinkled with nuts.
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Makes: 8 Kwareżimal

Time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 200 gr ground almond
  • 200 gr plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 100 gr caster sugar
  • Juice of an orange plus approx 50 ml water
  • 1 mandarin, zest
  • 1 orange, zest
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 1tsp orange blossom water
  • 2 – 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp crushed pistachios
  • 1 tbsp ground hazelnuts
  • 1 tbsp desiccated coconut (optional)
***M E T H O D***
  1. Preheat oven to 180 °C/ 355 °F
  2. In a bowl mix together ground almond, flour, cinnamon, clove, sugar, zest of 1 orange, 1 mandarin and 1 lemon
  3. Add 120ml of water, orange juice and orange blossom water and mix
  4. Knead into a stiff dough, add more water if too dry but just one tsp at a time
  5. Take small pieces of dough and form the dough into balls and then form rectangular shapes
  6. Bake for 20 min or until slightly brown, not too long as they get very dry quickly
  7. In a small bowl combine crushed pistachio, ground almonds and the desiccated coconut
  8. While still warm, spread syrup on top of the biscuits and top the biscuits with the nut mixture.

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London’s China Town isn’t too different to what you’d expect from any China Town.

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Expect amazing dim sum and Hong Kong-styled Cantonese roast duck, with your occasional bubble tea and bubble wrap shop, baked goods including fish-shaped custard-filled wafers and groceries selling delectable Asian fruit and vegetables, including Durian!

Here are some of my favourite pictures from London’s China Town.

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Chinese Roast Duck

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Cha Siu Bao

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Taiyaki Shells

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Taiyaki filled with custard

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Taiyaki filled with custard

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Chinese Buffet

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Fresh Durian and Jackfruit

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Chinese New Year Cakes made out of Sticky Rice

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Pokémon-themed Soft Drinks

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Elaborate cakes from China Town Bakery, London

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Fresh Dumplings

After spending too much time watching other people eat, life began to feel unbalanced, so I got myself a place at Joy King to eat some traditional Chinese. Food was great, service not so much as they pressure you into ordering without giving you ample time, and they serve you the bill before you’ve even finished. Also, they could do with friendlier waiters. Overall, I would rate it a 6, because the food was delicious but there’s room for improvement elsewhere.

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Dim Sum

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Roast Duck Broth with Noodles and Bok Choi

Marzipan has always been something I’ve associated to travel. I have two distinct memories: one related to when I had my first Mozart Chocolate truffle which I remain devout to (and bought swats of in Vienna); and another associated with Brussels, because it’s not uncommon to come across marzipan chocolate cigars.

Whilst my experience has been somewhat limited, I’m still a huge fan of the sweet, almond paste. And you couldn’t have imagined my excitement when I discovered how easy it is to make.

Makes: 24

Time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 300g ground almonds
  • 50 ml maple syrup
  • 40 ml amaretto
  • 1 tsp lemon zest form an unwaxed lemon
  • 175 g dark chocolate
  • topping such as crushed, almond flakes, lemon zest, melted white chocolate (optional)

***M E T H O D***

  1. Mix the ground almond with the lemon zest in a bowl.
  2. Mix amaretto and maple syrup in a separate bowl.
  3. On a clean surface, empty the ground almond mixture onto the surface and create a well. Slowly add the liquid to the almond mixture and begin to knead. Once all the liquid has been combined with the almond mixture, knead until compact. Wrap in a piece of cling film and chill in the fridge.
  4. Break chocolate into small pieces and melt it gently over a bowl of boiling water (bain marie). Make sure the water does not touch the bowl with chocolate.
  5. Take the marzipan out of the fridge. Pinch small pieces of marzipan and roll them into equal size balls. They should weigh around 15g each before dipped into the chocolate.
  6. Dip the marzipan balls in melted chocolate and place them on a drying rack for the chocolate to dry. Place in the fridge if you want to speed up the drying process.
  7. Add the toppings before the chocolate dries. If you are adding melted chocolate, wait for the dark chocolate to set first.

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On one of the many days spent in Marylebone High Street, we decided to pop by Fischer’s Café and Konditorei.

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What makes Fischer’s interesting is that it serves typical Austrian food — an common occurrence in central London; and it’s designed to evoke 20th century Austria. You’ll notice they’ve done this well when, as soon as you’ve set foot in Fischer’s territory, it feels like a whole new era.

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You’ll quickly find yourself in a dim lit environment, with dark cherry wood, gold embellishments and dated paintings. You’ll notice two in particular: one which adorns the bar and another which dominates the main dining area, accompanied by Fischer’s very own branded clock.

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Open all day, serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, waiters clad in a black and white uniform, dash from one table to other with plates of schnitzels, sausages and strudels.

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The last time I had schnitzel was a while ago, when I visited Austria. I had a ballot ticket for the prestigious New Year’s concert performed by the Viennese Philharmonic opera, in the grandeur of the Musikverein. In the winter cold, which bit like hell, we sought refuge in Austrian comfort food and relished the Austrian cakes and creamed coffees at our every turn.

When in Vienna, the one thing you can’t avoid is Weiner Schnitzel, Austria’s national dish – a pan fried dish (in lard) made from pounded veal (otherwise known as escalope), covered in breadcrumbs, served with lemon. You’d expect an Austrian restaurant to have nailed the national pride, so we decided to put our faith in Fischer’s and ordered the Weiner Schnitzel served with jus parisienne. As a side, we went for the Austrian Potato Salad, consisting of boiled potatoes with a mustard dressing, garnished with parsley. Both were very good, the Schnitzel cooked to perfection and the potato salad fresh yet creamy.

DSC_0898DSC_0902And whilst we were at it, we recognised that we could do with a second helping of potatoes!  Serving Gröstls und Röstis for brunch, we had a good feeling about the former, so we went for the classic bacon gröstl with a fried egg. Turns out this seemingly unpretenious dish had all the ingredients for contentment — it was a crunchy, savoury, egg-topped delight —  so much so that, it’s inspired me to cook it, one frosty morning. Watch this space for more on how to make the perfect bacon gröstl.  

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London. One of those places that you’ll never keep up with. Or could you?

With new restaurants and shops popping up in every nook and cranny, London may forever seem in motion. But there are a few neighbourhoods which retain their charm. It is this yin-yang sense of familiarity and flux, this sense of recognising the characteristics of specific London areas and how they metamorphose, that allows me to recognise and appreciate how spoilt for choice Londoners are.

One day, I might wake up feeling like I need to don my favourite Keds and hit the bars in Shoreditch or I could wake up wanting to flaunt my little black dress in the fashionable district of Kensington. Sometimes, I just want to wake up to Marylebone High Street – a place that occupies that sweet spot between trendiness and class.

Marylebone is an area that boasts of being sought after by residents as an attractive residential location, and by tourists for it’s landmarks – Madame Tussauds’ waxwork museum and the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It’s central, a stone’s throw away from the regal Regent’s park, Mayfair and Fitzrovia. Teeming with Georgian houses, it prizes a Georgian mansion that houses the Wallace Collection of art and period furnishings, which typify the area’s elegant architecture. It dumbs down its commercial vibes, as it leaves most of that to Bond Street, which it borders. And it’s also got its own flair, with its modish Marylebone High Street. I’ve left a few suggestions below for those keen to explore.

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Plan ahead and visit with an empty stomach. Head to The Providores and Tapa Room, a Kiwi establishment that took London by the storm following the birth of its Turkish Eggs. I’ve also had a wonderful time at Fischer’s, a Viennese restaurant, evoking 20th-century dining, which I will be reviewing in my next blog post.

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For a cheeky one, try The Marylebone known for its quirky cocktails, a polite crowd and a retro popcorn machine with popcorn you can help yourself to. What’s not to like? For a cheeky second, you’ll want to do this in secret, so head to the prohibition-style basement bar Purl. Think leather sofas, dim-lit lamps, vintage accessories and a menu consisting of cocktails that come with mini-portioned nibbles purposely paired with your drink of choice.

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After you’ve wined and dined, I would suggest two non-food related places  (WHAT?!) to pit-stop by, on Marleybone High Street. Although you’d best be sober because these places are sure to induce some serious spending.

First, for some mindfulness, head to Daunt Books – a brilliant bookshop established at the beginning of the 20th c. housed in a spectacular Edwardian building with oak galleries and skylights. Specialising in travel, Daunt Books arranges its sections geographically, with guides, phrase books, travel writing, history and fiction grouped by their relevant country. Check out their website for news on talks and it’s annual festival held in March.

DSC_0965DSC_0963DSC_0961 For obsessive browsing, visit the Conran Shop – a shop that covers everything from furniture to lifestyle and wonderful gift ideas. It is delightfully bright and colourful, cluttered with all things intriguing.

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When you’re done with Marylebone High Street don’t miss out on Lamb Conduit Street, which is just as lovely.

DSC_0931I, as are many others, am ineptly in love with La Fromagerie which, as you may have guessed from the name, are especially known for their farmhouse cheese, hosted in their delectable Cheese Room. As if cheese wasn’t enough, they also sell fresh produce, baked goods and dry store ingredients.

Their Cheese Room is an experience in itself. As you enter the carefully controlled climate, you’ll be unsure where to feast your eyes – every sort of cheese you can think of is available, with eager staff ready at your beck and call, to tell you cheesy tales of wonder.

DSC_0948DSC_0947DSC_0946They also have a cafe at the back so that you can take a break from browsing and start your marathon of indulgement. I mean, you owe it to yourself, right?

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Hopefully if all went well, you’ll be leaving Marleybone considerably poorer, with a few precious books from Daunt, a colourful thing or two from The Conran Shop and a wheel of cheese. No, make that five.

You may have already heard from my Instagram that I’ve been to South America and had a wonderful time. If not, here it goes again. I HAD A WONDERFUL TIME.

Now, as you can tell from the title of this post, it sounds like its going to be pretty much about one thing – steak.

Yes.

And No.

I WILL be showing you mouth-watering evidence of how Argentina and Uruguay have nailed the Parilla (or grill on an open fire). But I will also tease you with other sumptuous bites.

So, steak. Let’s begin.

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As a foodie, I was never particularly excited about steak. We never really ate much red meat at home. As I was planning for Argentina and I was looking for suggestions on what to eat, I nearly jumped off my seat when I saw how many ice cream parlours were selling dulce de leche flavoured ice cream.

I did, however, book one steak place for the 1st night we were to be in Buenos Aires. And I’m so glad I did. Parilla don Julio is noted to be one of the long-standing steakhouses; serving premium cuts of meat cooked over a traditional parilla, it really does offer a great introduction to the Argentinian steak. They do great sides too and have an excellent wine list, stocking plenty of Malbec from Mendoza (the wine country in Argentina). The setting is formal so expect great service. If you do decide to visit, do book well in advance, as there is a queue every night and it could last well over an hour.

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If you want to experience parilla in less of a formal setting, I would suggest heading to a market, like the Feria de Mataderos in Buenos Aires. This market is a bit of a journey (an hour by bus, to be precise) from the city centre, but it’s worth the trek in order to escape the tourist crowds and get to see the gaucho horseback-riding competition and folklore dancing. Not to mention the various food stalls.

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You’re also going to want to pass by the Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo, Uruguay for some proper asado (or barbeque). Not unlike Argentina, you will find the word asado commonly used. This is were it gets confusing: asado itself means two things: a cut referring to short ribs and more significantly a range of barbecue techniques and the social event of having or attending a barbecue. You will find many locals having asado on the street of Argentina and Uruguay. It is at precisely that point, you will begin to kick yourself for not mingling enough with the locals.

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Giving steaks a break, another typical meaty dishy is the lovely choripan. It took me a stupid 5 minutes to realise that the word choripan was a combination of the two words chorizo (sausage) and pan (bread).

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So yes, it’s a hot dog – Argentinian style! They grill those juicy pork sausages, place them in bread, and drizzle them with chimichurri.

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At the Feria de Mataderos, I also found a stall preparing fried empanadas and they were simply wonderful (the empanadas and the empanada makers). These pastries were of two different types: one filled with beef and potato and the other with ham and cheese.

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And this is my sweet sister, who almost devoured the empanada before she allowed me a shot. Thankfully, I was quick enough.

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I also tried seafood empanadas and I only found these at the San Telmo Market, in Buenos Aires. This is another place you definitely have to visit for its various bric-a-brac shops, antiques and food stalls.

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And don’t forget to grab yourselves some wonderful dulce de leche ice cream, which comes in various varieties. For those who don’t know, dulce de leche is a staple in Argentina. With an appearance and flavour similar to caramel, you’ll find it in practically everything sweet, but mostly ice-cream, churros and alfajores –  a soft, crumbly cookie popular in South America.

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