Singapore's National Day Song 2013

The new theme song for Singapore's National Day 2013.  Kingsley has been humming the chorus all morning but is still working on perfecting the choreography!

Singapore - Catalunya

It seems like practically every week we hear about a fancy new restaurant opening up in Singapore.  The rare few turn out to be really amazing but most seem to fall somewhere between pretty good and slightly lacking.

I was cautiously optimistic when I heard about a new Spanish Tapas bar called Catalunya which recently arrived in town, and was pleasantly surprised to have a wonderful dinning experience not just once but twice within the same week!

Girls night out - pre-dinner drinks at Fullterton Bay Rooftop bar followed by a tapas meal at Catalunya. 

Catalunya is housed in a glass, dome-like structure on the water in Marina Bay. It has amazing views - and we were lucky enough to time our pre-dinner cocktail with the National Day pre-show fireworks display over the Bay which were beautiful.

What a view!

But perhaps even better than the view, the service at Catalunya was one of the best we had experienced so far in Singapore. The wait staff, many of whom were from Spain, were knowledgeable and extremely friendly. I was especially impressed with the sommenlier who helped me pick out a fantastic Spanish wine (Pazo De Senorans - Albarino) for our girls night out and then remembered me (and the wine I liked a week later) when we were back for a friends Bday dinner.

We were also served a special treat - deconstructed olives? - which are a specialty of the restaurant and unlike anything I have ever experienced before. The olive has been soaked in olive oil for quite some time and has a very thin skin.  The texture is similar to that of a large fish egg that pops as you slowly bite into it.  If you can imagine that, in the form of a green olive, that literally explodes with flavor as you place it in your mouth.  I am not exactly sure how they make them - a time consuming process to be sure - but absolutely amazing!

Other highlights from the menu were the bikini toasted sandwich (truffle ham and cheese), suckling pig and the potato croquettes filled with minced beef.

The only downside of the restaurant was its popularity. Reservations were quite difficult to come by. Both evenings we were only able to get a table for our group after 9pm though our bookings were made over a week in advance.

Though not necessarily an inexpensive evening, we had an amazing dinning experience with good food and great friends.  Catalunya may just be my new favorite place in town for a special occasion!

Korea - A lively encounter with food

Kingsley and I ate incredibly well in Korea. Several trips to Korea later, and I have developed a deep abiding appreciation for Korean cuisine.

One evening we experienced a VERY fresh seafood sashimi dinner.  In fact it was so fresh I was a little startled to discover that the sea cucumber I had put on my plate was still squirming a bit.  Evidently Kingsley is no stranger to the "still twitching adventures" placed in front of him on his many travels but it was certainly a first (and second) for me.  Even with the slight twitch as our dinner slid town our throats, we couldn't help but go back to the same restaurant a few nights later because the quality of the seafood was so incredible!

Another fun evening involved dinner out with some of Kingsleys co-workers.  It was someones birthday so we had a great time singing happy birthday while toasting to their good health with Makgeolli (a delicious milky white fermented Korean rice wine).  I learned many things that evening the most critical being to never let anyones glass go empty and even more importantly to never agree to a "bottoms-up" challenge with a local! 

Another evening involved a traditional Korean BBQ dinner where one is supposed to grill the beef at the table.  It was immediately apparent that Kingsley and I didn't have the slightest idea what we were doing so the "cooking" task was taken over by several of the servers who kept stopping by every few minutes with excuses of delivering a new dish, or refilling our soju cups, but it was evident that the main focus was to make sure Kingsley and I didn't get in the way of cooking our beef perfectly.  And WOW was the beef amazing when we were finally given permission to eat it!

We knew we were in for an amazing meal when we first sat down and noticed that the guy at the table next to us had loosened his belt and undone his pants in order to...better accommodate...the amazing Korean BBQ dinner.  That in itself was sight to behold (and sadly not appropriet to photograph) but our Korean beef dinner was truly a spectacular meal.

I also unknowingly impressed the wait staff by requesting a refill on their homemade kimchi (which was amazing!).  I doubt they had ever seen a blond girl eat so much kimchi in one sitting and they clucked like proud mother hens every time I went for another additional helping.

The freshest sashimi (and possibly one of the best) I have ever experienced!

Korea - Bukchon Hankok Village

I spent an afternoon wandering up and down the lanes of Bukchon a neighborhood which contain several clusters of traditional “hanoks” in the midst of the modern skyline of Seoul.

My starting point was the Bukchon Traditional Culture Center on Gyedong-gil alleyway where I picked up a beautiful map of the area illustrating all of the cultural sites and each individual hanok.  There are somewhere around 900 hanok's in the Bukchon area.

A hanok is a traditional Korean style house whose design is based on "baesanimsu" the Korean equivalent to “feng shui”.  

"Materials, proportions, orientation and function are all considered and utilized to create the most pleasant living environment possible. "

One principle of feng shui states: "North high - South low."  The Bukchon area backs onto a mountain to the north and the houses are stacked down the hill like a movie set. All the hanoks face south, to absorb maximum sunlight in the winter.  The kitchens face east - traditionally women would wake early to prepare food and the sun's rays were believed to have anti-bacteriological effects on ingredients. Another interesting principle is that everything in the bedroom should be low to make sure the energy does not drain from your body. According to Korean beliefs, when your bedroom is low, you sleep very soundly.  I learned lots of interesting housing design tips to keep in mind should we ever decide to build a house. 

Bukchon is a beautiful area of Seoul to explore and I enjoyed spending the afternoon walking through the old neighborhoods in awe of the beautiful old homes and the simple peacefulness of the feng shui architecture. 

Korea - Kimchi World

We spent last week in Seoul which is quickly becoming one of my favorite places in Asia to visit.  One of the best parts of visiting Korea is the amazing food. It took a little time to figure out what to order while in Korea but since then I have quickly become a huge fan of Korean cuisine. One of my favorite dishes being Kimchi.  Naturally, when I learned Kimchi classes were available in Seoul, I had to sign up!  I spent a pungent but lovely afternoon at Kimchi World in Insadong where I learned how to make Bossam Kimchi as well as several other traditional Korean dishes.

The cost of the course was 28,000 won - about $30USD for that price you also get to dress up in a ridiculous looking traditional Korean costume.  Such a great deal!

My Kimchi - the critical step in the process is to make sure you cover every last piece of the cabbage with the Kimchi sauce - a mix of garlic, salt, vinegar, chile peppers, and other spices.

Kimchi is loaded with vitamins A, B, and C, but its biggest benefit is its “healthy bacteria” called lactobacilli, found in fermented foods. Studies have shown that Kimchi helps lower cholesterol, blood pressure and that it also has disease fighting antioxidants and well as digestion aiding probiotic bacteria. 

With so many beneficial properties it is no wonder that Kimchi has an age old reputation of boosting longevity!

Kimchi chef! 

Next we made rice noodle Tteokbokki and Bulgogi - Japchae 

Tteokbokki - also known as Topokki is a popular snack food in Korea- boiled rice cakes with onion, green onion and spicy sauce.  

A dish made from sweet potato noodles stir fried with sesame oil with carrots, onion and mushrooms. 

Taste test results: both were good but I was partial to the Topokki. 

Bangkok Airways Music Video

It isn't the best angled footage but I just couldn't stop laughing as I watched the Brittany Spears style pre-flight safety (music) video on Bangkok Airways.

Koh Samui - Snapshots

The view from Boput - Fisherman's Village

Coconut water on Lamai Beach

Yogi girls explore the night market. 

Crickets anyone? 

Silver Beach

Annette and I enjoying a coconut at Silver Beach