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Food Review: Putien, IOI Mall Puchong

Singaporean F&B brand Putien is perhaps the epitome of a ‘success story’. From humble beginnings as a no-frills coffeeshop along Singapore’s Kitchener Road (the outlet now has a Michelin star), the brand has grown into an international chain renowned for its high quality Fujianese cuisine, which draws inspiration from the coastal town of Putian in China, of which the brand is named after. As such, diners can expect many seafood dishes on the menu, as well as specialties such as stir-fried yam and deep fried pork trotters.

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Putien has been in Malaysia for some time now, but I never got the chance to try their food until recently (part of the reason is because the prices are above average. For me, at least :P). But since it was a special occasion, I decided to splurge on a takeaway meal for the fam from their IOI Mall Puchong outlet. PS: The government is allowing dine-in for vaccinated people, so you can choose to do so. On our side, we’re trying to avoid pubilc places as much as possible.

My order was processed very quickly, and they even gave me a nice reusable bag for the takeaway. Food was still warm when I got home!

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I ordered four dishes. The servings were rather small, but since we’re small eaters it was enough for the four of us. The total came up to about RM80++.

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One of their signatures is the Putien Crispy Oyster, and it delivered with aplomb. There was a generous amount of oyster within the fluffy egg and flour batter, and the starch gave the dish a slight chewiness. So what you get is a medley of textures – crispy, fluffy, chewy, juicy. Even eaten without the accompanying chilli sauce, it was good on its own and came packed with flavour.

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I was craving for something chewy, so I ordered the braised pig’s intestine, which are cooked in a 12-spices house sauce for at least 45 minutes. They prepare limited quantities per day. It was decent, but not the best I have ever tasted; the intestines were slightly bitter. Offal is notoriously difficult to get right, though, so I think they still did a good job.

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Braised tofu. This was decent as well, but I wouldn’t say it was special.

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Another signature I ordered was the bian rou (wonton) soup, a Fujianese specialty originating from the Chinese Qin dynasty. Regular wontons are made from wheat flour wrappers, but bian rou’s are made from pork meat. To achieve their delicate, transclucent quality, the meat is continously pounded and rolled for three hours until they become as thin as paper. This gives the wontons a silky quality: think a delicate shawl wrapped around juicy pork meat, immersed in a gentle seaweed soup.

I really enjoyed the dishes from Putien, and wouldn’t mind ordering again since there are many different items I’ve yet to try on the menu. Some interesting ones include Putien Lor Mee (braised noodles), Deep Fried Pork Trotters with Salt & Pepper, Ca Fen (meesua, noodles and bihoon mix), and Sweet & Sour Pork with Lychees.

Putien has nine outlets in Malaysia; 8 are in the Klang Valley with 1 in Penang.

PUTIEN (IOI MALL PUCHONG)

G18A, Ground Floor, IOI Mall,
Jalan Puchong, Bandar Puchong Jaya,
47170 Puchong,Selangor.
Tel: +603 8080 3348

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Hungry Ghost Festival: When The Gates of Hell Open

Come straight home from college after class. Don’t loiter around until late at night.” 

Don’t stare and point at people by the road.” 

Wash your feet properly after coming home.” 

Back when I was younger, these were just some of the things my mother used to caution me about whenever the Hungry Ghost Festival approached. Celebrated in many parts of Asia, predominantly among Chinese communities, the festival proper falls on the 14th day of the 7th month according to the lunisolar calendar (August 22 this year) – but the entire 7th month is generally known as Ghost Month.

During this time, ghosts and spirits are believed to wander the earthly realm, so the living pay homage to their ancestors as well as lost spirits by burning offerings, as a form of merit making. The practice can be traced to the ancient Chinese practice of ancestor worship, but over the years, has evolved to absorb elements of Taoism and Buddhism as well.

Like many young people, I used to think superstitions associated with the Hungry Ghost Festival were a load of baloney – but I guess with age comes the wisdom of hindsight, and an understanding of how cultural beliefs are tied to our identity and our place in the world. These are practices that have been passed down through the generations, sometimes for thousands of years – and in a rapidly modernising world, there’s something to be said about keeping them alive, even though you might not believe in them per se.

While my family is not particularly traditional, we do observe some superstitions and practices which I think are quite fascinating, especially to people of other cultures. There are also differences between how it is celebrated and observed among Chinese diasporas around the world, such as in Malaysia, where I am from. So without further ado, here are some interesting facts and trivia about the Hungry Ghost Festival! 

OFFERINGS

During the Ghost Month, the gates of Hell are opened and spirits roam the earthly plane. Among them are ancestors whom the living forgot to pay tribute to, those who died without a proper send-off, and lost spirits. Because of this, they are ‘hungry’; hence the importance of providing them with food and entertainment so that they won’t cause harm or mischief.

ProjectManhattan, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Filial piety is an extremely important part of Chinese culture, so even after their death, you are expected to honour your ancestors with offerings of food, drink and material goods. It is common for people to burn paper effigies of items like houses, cars, servants, clothes and hell bank notes, in the belief that these can be enjoyed by the deceased in the afterlife.

There are also people who make offerings for lost souls: those who have no one to pray for them, or victims of suicide, murder or accidents. Aside from accumulating good karma, it is believed that it will appease these angry spirits and prevent them from harming the living. Prayers for lost souls are usually held at temples, or by the road – so if you see people huddling over a fire in the evenings with bowls of food and joss sticks, it is best not to point and stare because you might risk offending wandering spirits.

PAPER EFFIGIES

Paper effigies are an inseparable part of the Hungry Ghost Festival – but if you think they’re just rough, crudely shaped pieces of paper, then you’d be wrong. While I won’t deny that some are printed with machines, there are still effigy makers who make it the traditional way by hand. They are often commissioned to create items such as mansions, life-sized effigies of guardians, servants and deities, vehicles, even ‘designer’ clothes. These master craftsmen are artists in their own right, often creating incredibly intricate pieces that take months to complete. It’s crazy when you think about the amount of time and effort that goes into each piece, only to have them go up in flames in seconds.

Paper effigies are burnt in the belief that the deceased will receive them in the afterlife. As you can see, there can be some pretty quirky items – like gold watches, mobile phones and even dentures! Photo: Jorge Láscar from Australia, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The first time I took part in a paper effigy burning ceremony was when I was eight or nine, and I vividly recall the beautiful patterns on the paper samfoo (traditional Chinese clothing for women, usually with floral patterns) that was meant for my late grandmother. Over the years, paper effigies have become more and more creative (?), with items like mobile phones (what service provider do they use in hell, I wonder?), SIM cards, laptops and the like. My colleagues in Singapore even shared a photo of paper durians with me recently. Now, I definitely don’t subscribe to the idea of my grandparents operating mobile phones and texting each other in the afterlife, but it’s certainly a unique part of the celebration.

GETAI

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Chinese opera was the main form of entertainment during the Hungry Ghost Festival, but these have since been replaced with more modern performances. Photo: grungemann/Flickr

In the old days, villages and towns would host large open-air stages, and a troupe would put on a show in the evenings. The benches at the front were always left empty, as they were meant for unseen guests. Over the years, traditional opera fell out of popularity, but the practice of hosting entertainment for the dead did not – instead, it evolved into Getai, or literally ‘song stage’. I’m not sure how it is celebrated in China as I wasn’t able to find references on the net, but in Malaysia and Singapore they are quirky, lively affairs.

Tents are set up in fields or commercial spaces (where I live, there’s one every year in front of a food court). There would be live auctions and a dinner (proceeds usually go to charity). Sometimes there are still traditional opera performances, but you’ll also get stand-up comedy, entertainers singing pop songs or oldies, and even women dressed in skimpy clothing dancing to modern numbers. This aspect might seem blasphemous to some, but I find it very unique because it goes to show how adaptable Chinese culture can be – you gotta move with the times. In Singapore, where 76% of the population is ethnic Chinese, the getai culture is even bigger; shows are broadcast on national TV.

SUPERSTITION

Every culture has superstitions, but the Chinese in particular have many. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to cut my nails or whistle at night, because it might attract bad spirits. In retrospect, I think there was a hint of logic behind them: electricity (and nail clippers) did not exist in the old days, so it was dangerous to cut your nails in the dark. Also whistling at night would disturb the peace. But because we often parrot what our elders tell us, we continue handing these superstitions down even in modern times when we can turn on the light with the flip of a switch.
As for Ghost Month, here are just some of the common beliefs:

  1. Don’t stay out late. – Night is when the spirits are at their strongest, so to avoid anything untoward, avoid staying out after dark.
  2. Don’t go swimming – Angry water spirits might try to drown you.
  3. Don’t swear – you don’t know when a spirit might be lurking around and feel offended.
  4. Don’t wear red – apparently spirits are attracted to the colour red, and might follow you home.
  5. Wash your feet when you get home – to get rid of unwanted bad energy.
  6. Don’t hang your clothes out at night – you might just have an extra guest coming into your house when you collect them
  7. Don’t tap someone on the shoulder – it is believed that a person has three ‘lights’ – one on their head and one on each shoulder, which ward off evil spirits. By tapping them, you’re essentially extinguishing the light.
  8. Avoid killing insects – the Chinese have a belief that spirits might be reincarnated as insects like butterflies and moths. They could be visiting relatives, so if you just smacked that moth flat, you might have killed grandma.
  9. Be wary of offerings. – Sometimes people leave offerings out by the side of the road (especially in Malaysia) so it’s best to keep an eye out. You wouldn’t like it if someone stepped all over your food now, would you?
  10. Don’t take photos – The idea of photographs and how they can capture spirits is not unique to Chinese culture. So it’s best not to snap any, especially of offerings. I’m sure you’ve watched Shutter.

As the world grows ever modernised and practices that are deemed old-fashioned and superstitious are abandoned by the younger generation, it is heartening to see that The Hungry Ghost Festival still has its proponents. It’s a case study of how culture is fluid and ever changing; where tradition is valued but also adapts to the times.

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This “App” Calls Out Auspicious Sayings For Chinese New Year – So You Don’t Have To

Chinese New Year is just around the corner (the first day falls on 12 February), but with the pandemic still raging in many parts of Southeast Asia, celebrations will definitely be more subdued. In Singapore, for example, gatherings will be limited to eight people, no CNY company dinners are allowed, and shouting during lo hei (the act of tossing yusheng, a ‘fish salad’ often served in Malaysia and Singapore during CNY) is also discouraged. Understandable, since no one wants Fourth Uncle’s spit flying all over the place (even before the pandemic, but I guess back then it was… tolerated). Here in Malaysia, the government has yet to announce an extension of our Movement Control Order, but it seems likely to be extended for another two weeks.

I wrote a piece recently about how certain traditions and practices might be observed differently this year, including e-hongbao and online shopping for clothes – and now we can add one more to the list: an app that calls out auspicious sayings like ‘HUAT AH’ (prosperity/good luck) and BU BU GAO XIN (steps to success). If you think about it, it’s actually quite a brilliant solution for lo hei – since saliva is more likely to fall into food what with all the shouting and yelling of auspicious phrases. Also, since many people won’t have the luxury of visiting their relatives, the app is a fun way to liven up the atmosphere – minus the worry of spreading COVID-19.

Created by a kind soul going by the pseudonym DJ Beng, the ‘app’ (they’re calling it an app but it’s really more of a web page, since it only works on Google Chrome) contains 15 auspicious sayings, which you can tap on for the desired phrase. Some of these include the customary “Nian Nian You Yu” (Luck every year) and Huat Ah. There’s also a separate tab for toasting, ie Yamseng. What I find really cute is that the longer you press the “yamm” button, the longer the audio plays: the effect is really reminiscent of actual toasting during Chinese gatherings, where everyone tries to shout yammmmm as long as possible. The audio even includes the typical ‘out-of-breath’ effect you get from people trying to sustain their shouts, so it sounds very realistic!

Best of all? There are both Mandarin and Cantonese options for the lohei. For Cantonese speakers like myself, this is a joy. Canto is being eroded these days in favour of Mandarin, and it’s always nice to see your own language being celebrated.

You can have a go for yourself at djbeng.com/lohei.html. Note: It only works on the Google Chrome browser on your phone.

*Cover image: Getty Images

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Easy 4-Step Bakkwa Puffs

Bakkwa (also known as rougan) is the Chinese version of jerky, consisting of flattened pieces of dried meat seasoned with sugar, salt and spices. It is very popular among the Chinese community in Malaysia and Singapore, and although you can get it all year round, it is most commonly eaten during the Lunar New Year. We also prepare it differently here; ie cooking the meat over charcoal so it gets imbued with a nice, smoky flavour.

Bak kwa

Photo: Alpha, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve never been much of a bakkwa fan. I don’t hate it – if I was visiting someone during the festive season and they offered me a slice, I wouldn’t say no – but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it. I’m sure many people would beg to differ though: apparently the line for the Lim Chee Guan brand of bak kwa in Singapore can stretch up to three hours!

Recently, my colleagues were tasked with making a video on ‘unique ways to prepare bakkwa’, and on my part, I had to come up with a recipe. All the good ones like pasta, fried rice and what not had already been taken. Not being much of a cook myself, I initially thought of just frying it as an omelet and calling it a day, but then my mom suggested I use it as filling for pastry, and bake it with cheese. Brilliant, Moomins!

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Closest place to my house selling bak kwa is Oloiya in Bandar Puteri Puchong. Thankfully, Malaysians are a bit saner than Singaporeans (or maybe it’s coz COVID cases are in the four digits daily these days so people are kiasi?) , so there was no three hour queue.

Oloiya sells chicken and pork bakkwa in 100, 300 and 500 g portions. Unlike pre-pandemic times, they no longer display stacks of meat out in the open, probably for hygiene purposes. Instead, everything is vacuum packed and sealed. No tasters as well. It takes away from the traditional shopping experience, but hey – safety first.

I couldn’t visualise how much each portion was because everything was already packed into plastic, so I ordered the middle option (300g – RM35). It turned out to be quite a lot, as there were six pieces inside.

Aside from traditional chicken and pork, Oloiya has items like “Blooming Beauty Pork” (basically dried bacon strips), pork / chicken floss, and snack-sized bakkwa (called Bak-Off. I’m surprised this name got approved for the market lol). For those who are looking for gifts, Oloiya also offers nicely packed gift boxes with options for personalised engraving.

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Anyway enough promo: on to the bakkwa puffs.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pieces store-bought filo pastry (if you’re feeling hardworking, you can make your own – but I don’t have a recipe for that lol)
  • 1 piece bakkwa, cut into thin strips
  • 1 slice cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten (for eggwash)

Method:

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  • Fill half of the filo pastry with bakkwa and top with cheese. Make sure there is enough space at the edges to fold.
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  • Fold pastry into triangles and seal the edges with a fork.
  • Brush egg wash on top of pastry for colour.
  • Pre-heat oven. Set to 180C. Bake for 20 minutes. (PS: If it doesn’t look brown enough, either bake for another 10 minutes, or set the oven to a higher temperature.)
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And there you have it. A creative way to enjoy your bakkwa!

If you think about it, you’re basically making a sandwich of sorts. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with meat + cheese + pastry combo. The pastry gives it a nice and crispy exterior, and the bakkwa’s sweet and salty flavour goes great with cheese. The texture also softens a bit during the baking process, so you actually get meat that is more moist.

What are some of the creative ways you eat your bakkwa? Or do you enjoy it as it is? Let me know if you’re planning to try this recipe, and how it turned out for you! 🙂

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A Meaty Affair @ Butcher’s Block, Raffles Singapore

Offering some of the world’s finest cuts of meats with a wood-fire-focused dining experience. Butcher’s Block – a buzzing specialty meat restaurant – opened its doors last month to round off the stellar F&B outlets at the revamped Raffles Arcade in Singapore.

Butcher's Block - Restaurant Interior

 

Expect a convivial evening as soon as you step into the restaurant’s stylish adorned interior, which features cobalt blue hues, complementary dark wood panelling and bold brass furnishing and accents.

There’s a glass cooler aptly named The Vault, displaying fine cuts of meats right next to the Open Kitchen, where guests can watch the chefs in action. Adding to the visual appeal is The Library, an exposed wine cellar that houses more than 200 different wine labels, including a good selection of natural wines. For guests who prefer privacy, two private dining rooms, each seating eight persons, are available.

Remy Lefebvre, Chef de Cuisine at Butcher's Block, Raffles Singapore

Presented by Chef de Cuisine Remy Lefebvre, the Butcher’s Block menu is a culmination of his professional culinary experiences across his 16 years of cooking in Qatar, Spain, Grand Cayman among other locales. He favours the time-honoured methods of curing, ageing, fermenting and cooking with wood fire.

Porterhouse

 

The age-old craft of wood fire cooking requires technical skill and employs a variety of techniques, such as smoking, grilling and slow cooking in embers, to impart distinct flavours and aromas that appeal to one’s primal cravings. Meat is not the only thing on the curated a la carte menu – there’s also delectable seafood and vegetables prepared to perfection.

For a unique dining experience, the OAK (One of A Kind) Table offers a fun, theatrical way to experience the cuisine. Only available on Fridays and Saturdays, the OAK Table features off-the-menu delights that are only revealed on the evening itself.

Cecina de Leon

The menu allows Chef Remy to deliver table side interaction, showcasing special cuts often in limited quantities – whether a small batch of prized beef or even a whole fish dry-aged to achieve remarkable umami notes.

Turbot

Completing the experience is a line-up of one bubbly and three wines, selected by the Raffles sommelier team and offered all at once for guests to be able to taste with every dish to discover their own preferences. Priced at SGD398++ per guest, the OAK Table accommodates just eight guests who will be seated at the three-metre long communal table in the middle of Butcher’s Block with an unadulterated view of the action in the kitchen.

BUTCHER’S BLOCK

#02-02 to #02-07, Raffles Arcade, 328 North Bridge Rd, Singapore 188719

Opening Hours: 6:00pm–10:00pm
Restaurant capacity: 44(2 Private Rooms of 8 persons each)
butchersblock.com.sg

*Photos courtesy of Directions Group Inc Pte Ltd

 

3 Hours Inside The World’s Best Airport: Changi Airport, Singapore

I’ve been to a fair number of airports, but none yet have come close to matching Singapore’s Changi. It’s clean, it’s efficient, and it’s a destination in its own right, especially since the 1.3 billion Jewel lifestyle hub opened. Definitely deserving of the World’s Best Airport title, which it has held for seven years straight.

It seems like I’m always pressed for time whenever I’m in Singapore (the last 3 trips were all for work). This trip was no exception, but my designer F and I managed to beat traffic from the city centre to the airport; leaving us with three hours to explore the place. We made a beeline for Jewel Changi, near Terminal 1.

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Changi has four terminals, three of which are connected via pedestrian bridges. Our terminal (4) was, unfortunately the only one that warranted a 10-minute bus ride. Free shuttle buses run on a regular schedule so one shouldn’t be too worried unless you somehow get stuck in rush hour traffic.

The main highlight of Jewel Changi is the Rain Vortex, comprising the world’s largest/tallest indoor waterfall at 40 metres high. Officially, they call it a ‘toroid’-shaped roof, but a media colleague once compared it to a part of the human anatomy and now I can’t think of it as anything else (thanks, Roopini! -_-). That aside, the structure is super impressive, featuring 9,000 pieces of glass.

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Surrounding the Vortex is the Shiseido Forest Valley, which spans five stories and has over 3,000 trees and 60,000 shrubs. The air can be a little moist and humid when you’re standing around the vortex, and you get the feeling like you’re in a giant indoor tropical rainforest. SkyTrains connecting the different terminals run on elevated tracks right next to the vortex – it looks like a scene from a futuristic dystopian novel, imo.

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F and I went to check out the Pokemon Centre on Level 4 (the first outside of Japan!). It was filled with the most adorable plushies and Pokemon paraphernalia ever. I haven’t been following new gen Pokemon after Johto League, but it was nice to see familiar classics like Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Jigglypuff and the like.

Take a selfie with the Pikachu riding a Lapras at the store entrance!

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Not sure what these are; apparently they’re quite popular (?) coz each customer could only buy 2.

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Detective Pikachu furry keychains

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Game booths

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There are a total of 151 Pokemon plush toys to collect; 143 of which are available at the store. The rest are Japan-exclusive.

PS: My favourite Pokemon of all time is Raichu!  I think it often gets overshadowed by pre-evolution bro Pikachu. Among later gen Pokemon, I always chose Skitty as my main when playing Pokemon Emerald (because cats). I also like Wigglytuff,  Ditto and Staryu.

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Singapore-exclusive merchandise : Pikachu dressed in pilot / air stewardess clothing!

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The Canopy Park on the top floor required an entry fee, so we skipped it. You can walk around on the Canopy Bridge, and even bounce around on a giant suspended net.

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As evening approached, the lights came on at the Vortex, illuminating the waters in a pink glow.

We originally thought of having Shake Shack for dinner, but it was non halal so we ended up at A&W instead lol.

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Hopped on to the free shuttle bus to Terminal 4, which is where Air Asia operates from.

I really like how they’ve made Changi into a lifestyle destination. There’s so much to see and do, from art pieces and interesting displays to numerous retail and F&B outlets. You can stay occupied until the very minute you board the plane, rather than fiddling around on your phone and trying not to fall asleep (KLIA 2 cough cough).

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Art installations

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A row of shop with ‘fronts’ that had innovative digital displays on the top ‘floors’. The windows would open to reveal screens with characters enacting a story. Didn’t stay to watch the whole show, but the display was really life-like. This is how you get tourists to stay and spend, and I think Malaysian airports can learn from this.

We often think of airports as boring transit points – places we rush through to get to our actual destination – but Changi is well deserving of its World’s Best Airport title and proves that you can turn airports into thriving lifestyle hubs. Check out of your hotel earlier and go explore the airport the next time you’re in Singapore! 😉

 

 

Singapore Welcomes FIVE GUYS and I’m Honestly Jelly

Singaporeans have it good. Not only do they have Jollibee (ie my favourite fried chicken ever. Sadly still not available in KL), their first ever FIVE GUYS store has also just opened. Today.  insert jealous meme here

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Long a cult-favourite in America, FIVE GUYS started off as a family-run burgers and fries joint in Washington, D.C in the 1980s. It quickly became popular, and was voted the #No.1 burger in the D.C Metro area. The family behind the business, the Murrells, had a simple concept: fresh, juicy burgers with all the toppings you could stuff between two fresh-baked buns. Decades on, the brand has thousands of franchises across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and legions of die-hard fans.

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The Singapore outlet at Plaza Singapura occupies a space of over 460 square metres, and seats up to 52 diners indoors. It will eventually have an outdoor seating area to accommodate up to 160 patrons. Following the FIVE GUYS ethos of freshness and quality, there are no freezers or microwaves at the outlet, and burgers and fries are made fresh every day. The meat is a perfected 80/20 lean-to-fat ratio, and patties are hand-made seven days a week on site, with no preservatives.

Meanwhile, the bread is baked fresh five days a week in a locally contracted bakery, following the same recipe used globally. Potatoes are cut fresh daily, soaked to remove the starch and double-fried in pure, no cholesterol peanut oil to create the firm exterior and fluffy ‘mashed-potato’ interior FIVE GUYs fans swear by. 

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What To Eat… 

Pay for a basic hamburger (or hotdog), then choose from 15 free toppings to create your ultimate dream burger. For me, that would be mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, ketchup, relish and onions – but they also have mustard, pickles, grilled onions, Jalapeno Peppers, Green Peppers, Bar-B-Que sauce, Hot Sauce and A1 Sauce. To top it off, bacon and cheese. I think the best part about this is that you get to pick and choose what you like, rather than have a burger with pre-selected ingredients and fish out the ew stuff (for me, it’s pickles).

Other sandwich options include a BLT stacked high, creamy grilled cheese, veggie burger sandwich, lettuce wraps and burger bowls.

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  • Burgers – Hand-formed burger patties with no preservatives. Buns are baked fresh daily with a secret recipe and warmed on a dedicated grill to get the perfect toast.
  • Hot Dogs – All-beef hot dogs are split and grilled lengthwise for a caramelised exterior. Comes with the added option of melted American-style cheese, crispy smoked bacon, or both.
  • Fries – Fries are cooked in peanut oil and made boardwalk style, firm on the outside with a creamy, mashed potato filling. Try them with spicy Cajun seasoning for a kick. 
  • Shakes – FIVE GUYS shakes have a creamy, vanilla base. Customise them by adding one or more of the eleven premium mix-ins like crispy bacon(!), real bananas, fresh strawberries or cold-brewed coffee made daily in store.

FIVE GUYS (Singapore)

68 Orchard Road, Plaza Singapura, #01-32, Singapore 238839
Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm
Tel: (65) 6976 4385

fiveguys.sg

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Travelogue: One Night In Singapore

Where would you go if you only had a couple of hours in Singapore? 

Some might make a beeline for Clark Quay and its vibrant bar and club scene, or maybe Orchard Road & Bugis for a spot of late night shopping – but being the nerd that I am, I wanted to go see the Super Trees @ Gardens by the Bay. LOL.

9.00PM

C and I set out from our hotel at Shangri-La, where we took a Grab to the nearest MRT (Somerset – red) and traveled to Dhoby Ghaut. There, we changed to the yellow line heading to Promenade. Gardens by the Bay is literally at the station’s doorstep.

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Spanning over 100 hectares, Gardens by the Bay is one of Singapore’s most visited attractions, with beautifully landscaped gardens, conservatories and groves – a literal green oasis in the middle of the city. Walking through the nicely manicured lawns and neat pavements, one can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity behind its design and architecture, as well as the massive effort it must take to upkeep the place.

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The highlight of the Gardens is the Supertree Grove – towering structures of light and steel made to resemble – you guessed it – trees. I think they’ve become even more iconic since the Crazy Rich Asian film: think Singapore, think Supertree Grove.

Theyre’ not only there to look pretty: the trees are essentially ‘vertical’ gardens, with complex technologies such as photovoltaic cells that help it to harness solar energy for the plants, a rainwater collection system for irrigation, as well as air intake and exhaust functions for the conversatories’ cooling systems.

There are light and sound shows twice daily at 7.45 and 8.45PM. Too bad we missed it by the time we arrived. There’s also a restaurant up in one of the trees, and a pedestrian bridge ( you need to pay for that though) if you want to get upclose to the structures.

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A great spot for photos is this illuminated bridge that connects different parts of the vast park, as you’ll be able to see some of the super trees as well as the Singapore Flyer in the distance.

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Also close to the Promenade side of the Gardens is the iconic Marina Bay Sands building,  designed to resemble a ship at the top. There is a convenient pedestrian bridge linking the two, so we made a quick detour to see the sights before returning to the MRT station.

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Tree-lined pedestrian avenue.

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The grand interior of one of the buildings.

10.30 PM

From Promenade, we rode the MRT one stop to Nicoll Highway – C’s usual haunt for food back when she was still working in Singapore. We hadn’t had dinner and our stomachs were rumbling by the time we got to the Golden Mile Complex, which C described as ‘shady but they have good food’ lol. Anything for good food!

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Built in 1973, Golden Mile is an old but clean (is there anywhere dirty in Singapore even?) shopping complex that reminded me strongly of KL’s Ampang Park. Like how Lucky Plaza is a hub for the Filipino community in Singapore, Golden Mile plays host to many Thai businesses, including numerous mookata (grill and steamboat) buffet joints, karaoke spots, mobile phone shops, bars, clubs and the like.

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We popped into a random one that was packed despite the late hour and got a set for two, which was chicken and seafood. Did not realise that it came with liver or would have skipped this, but the rest of the items were good, especially the chicken meat which had been marinated in a flavourful garlicky concoction. Shrimps were large and meaty, but I do wish they had given us a bit more squid.

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For those of you who have never tried mookata, all I can say is that you’re really missing out! It’s extremely popular in Thailand, where it is known as mu kratha, and features a uniquely designed pot with deep edges for boiling, and an elevated centre for grilling. They give you a few slabs of lard to ‘oil’ the grill with, so the meat comes out tasting extra fragrant.

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Of course, no meal would be complete without the quintessential Thai milk tea. The version served here was humongous; almost as tall as my head.

Our meal came up to SGD  25 per pax (screaming at self not to convert it into ringgit) which was reasonable given the portions.

1.30 AM
The last train back to Somerset ran until 12.30AM, and it took us another hour to book a Grab because there were problems with C’s SIM – but all in all, a good couple of hours spent taking in a slice of Singapore. Hope this helps if you’re ever in town for a super short stay. 🙂