126 big pao price up, ingredients down

126 big pao price up, ingredients down

When it comes to baos (dumplings), Singapore is so blessed to have many brand names offering these treats — Ho Kee Pau, Tanjong Rhu Pau and Confectionary, Teck Kee Tanglin Pau, and Tiong Bahru to name a few.

Baos are great for all occasions — from proper meals to coffee break treat. They can be eaten to fill the stomach or just please the palette.

With increasing prices of raw materials, bao prices have been escalating. This is understandably so as the outlets need to remain profitable.

However, one price hike got us a little concerned. 126 Dim Sum 揾到食 has raised the price of its popular big pao to S$2, a price point unheard of at non-restaurant level. Plus, the outlet charges GST so the real price is S$2.14.

What we noticed also was that on top of the increase and GST, the slice of Chinese sausage and mushroom were missing. For some, it’s the lup cheong that makes the difference, letting this iteration stand out for the competition. It’s what makes one drive all the way to Geylang and risk getting a traffic ticket to buy the bao.

We couldn’t let this go without asking why. When queried over the phone, a staff said, “$2 is cheap already. Others are charging $2.20.”

About the missing ingredients, she said, “Some customers told us that the lup cheong is smelly so we decided to remove it,”

Dah? That slice of lup cheong has been an essential part of the setup for many years. So why now?

Truth be told, I was so disappointed by the price hike and the missing ingredient that I refused to take a photo of the bao.

Like I said at the start, Singapore has lots of great bao outlets. Time to pick another one.

Photo: Gabby K from Pexels

Popiah skin 24/7

Popiah skin 24/7

New York is known as the city that never sleeps, Neither does Citibank, according to its tagline. If you’re a popiah lover, you’d be glad to know that Fortune Food also operates 24/7.

My family loves to make our own popiah, especially for Chinese New Year. This year, I left it a little late — the day before CNY Eve to get the ingredients.

As usual, I headed to Ng Kian Seng Confectionery, my favourtite popiah skin store at Bedok South Block 17. To my horror, all the skin were sold out (guess others had the same idea).

I put on my best smile. OK, my mask was on but my eyes were sparkling. All in the hope of convincing the lady boss to somehow sell one of her reserved stash to me.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. Instead she asked if I drove. It sounded like such a strange question but I said “yes”.

She went to rip a piece of receipt off her book and told me to head to that address to buy directly from her factory.

“What time does your factory open till today,” I asked.

She told me nonchalantly that it is open 24 hours a day.

Less than 10 minutes later, I arrived at Fortune Food at Gourmet East Kitchen in Bedok North.

As I walked towards the unit, a man asked me through the metal gate what I wanted. Just as I was preparing to take out my phone to snap a couple of shots of the place, he came out and handed me my order.

That was really fast — I was in and out within five minutes.

The 1kg of popiah skin was warm — a testament that it was freshly baked.

Next comes the taste test. While shaped and priced the same as the Bedok South shop, the skin was a little too refined and much chewier compared to what we were used to.

Overall, it’s good and most wouldn’t have noticed the difference. But, I was more used to having my popiah skin pockmarked with tiny air bubbles and a little thinner.

The plus point for this popiah skin is its constant availability. I paid S$20 per kg (think it’s the festive season surcharge) because its website pricing was S$18 per kg.

So, if you need popiah skin anytime, check out Fortune Food is at 3017 Bedok North Street 5 #01-13, Gourmet East Kitchen, Singapore 486121.

Verdict

Taste: 👍👍👍👍

Texture: 👍👍👍

Price: 👍👍👍👍

Google Nest: Good sound, great price

Google Nest: Good sound, great price

When Google announced the Google Home speaker in 2016, I was excited and wanted to get one. Unfortunately, the product wasn’t available in Singapore then.

During my next trip to the US in 2017, I stayed in San Jose and scouted for the nearest outlet selling the device. I was so delighted to find it at a nearby Walmart and bought two — one to give as a gift.

From then on, it’s a love affair that has expanded to the Google Home Mini, which I installed in another room. The smart speakers produce acceptable sound quality (for my ears) and are so easy to set up.

The introduction of Google Nest Audio this year got me all worked up again. But, this time, I need not (and could not anyway) fly to the US to get my fix. My discerning daughter gifted me one as soon as it was available.

It doesn’t look like the first two iterations but everything else was so intuitive.

After more than a month with the Google Nest, here are my thoughts:

  1. Easy setup. One of the biggest frustrations of getting a new device is the setting up. But, Google has made it so easy that my Nest was up and running in a minute.
  2. Good sound. Under its larger form factor are a pair of speakers that produce good sounds. The Google Nest Audio sports a 75mm woofer and a 19mm tweeter, which delivers more oomph compared to the sole 50mm speaker on the first Home.
  3. Inconspicuous look. Some may say that the design looks too simple but I feel that it is just what a speaker should look like. Speakers are meant to be heard, not seen, so the simple look can fit in anywhere without drawing attention.
  4. Privacy mode. With so much concern over whether wireless speakers are recording conversations, Google has added a microphone switch to turn it off when greater privacy is desired.
  5. Great price. At S$139, the price in Singapore is similar to the US pricing. Plus, local shipping is free so there’s no need to pay for overseas shipping and that long wait.

The Google Nest Audio can be paired with another to provide a stereo effect. I only have one so cannot comment on how good that would be. But my imagination tells me that if one is already good, two would make the audio experience much better. If you like, you can get the Google Nest Audio from Google Singapore.

Verdict

Price: 👍👍👍👍👍

Performance: 👍👍👍👍

Hokkien mee fried till dry

Hokkien mee fried till dry
For those who love their Hokkien mee fried till dry

Fried Hokkien mee can be found all over Singapore. And they are fried in a variety of ways — wet, not so wet, sticky, and even dry.

I’ve tried a number of stalls and one that really got me going back again and again is the one at Golden Mile Food Centre. Hainan Hokkien Mee run by an elderly couple fries theirs the dry style.

A few visits turned up zilch as the food centre was either closed for washing or renovation. OK, OK, it’s my fault for not checking first but it’s usually because I happened to be in that area around those times.

When I read from a Facebook post about anpother similar style of Hokkien mee in Geylang, I simply had to check it out. It helps to have an alternative should I have a Hokkien mee fix.

Before sending my daughter to work, we popped by 134 Sims Avenue, which is just a few doors away from 126 Dim Sum Wen Dao Shi 揾到食, one of my family’s favourie dim sum joint.

Liang Ji Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee is owned by the son of the Hainan Hokkien Mee couple. The cooking style is similar but there are more offerings here with lobsters and lala versions.

Double thumbs up even without digging in yet!

We ordered the $5 entry level version (mine with pork belly only) and here’s my first impression.

  1. Great value at $5. For the price, the plate is large and more than enough for an average person.
  2. Tasty noodles. The dish is tasty and comes with more than enough ingredients to accompany every bit.
  3. The lard is to-die-for. If you want to eat here, forget about eating healthily because the lard is well worth the fats. It’s slightly saltish, oh so crunchy and left me longing for more. The good news is that if the generous portion is not enough, you can get another dollop at just 50 cents.
  4. Chilli has kick. The chilli is unlike some that are slightly sweet. This one is hot — the way I like my chilli.
  5. Not garlicky. I don’t like garlic but the way this is fried, it’s just like the Golden Mile version where you cannot really taste the garlic.
  6. Covnenient location with ample parking. There are lots of streetside parking along Sims Avenue and Lorongs 17 and 19, as well as the carpark at Lorong 19, which is just a short walk away.

If there’s one area of improvement, it’s perhaps that the noodles could be fried till it’s drier. Though it’s dry compared to others, it looks like the broth has not been totally absorbed — the noodles felt slightly sticky.

Having said that, it’s another place I’d visit again. If you’d like to check it out, the address and opening hours are below:

Liang Ji Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee
134 Sim Avenue, Geylang Lorong 17, Singapore 387456
Opens Tuesday to Sunday from 11.30am to 10.00pm.

Verdict

Taste: 👍👍👍👍

Value: 👍👍👍👍👍

Oculus Quest 2: Enter an alternate reality

I had my first taste of virtual reality (VR) when my colleague brought his Oculus Quest to the office last year and let us play Beat Saber on it. As I put on the headset and slipped on the controllers, I stepped into a whole new world of musical star wars and fruit ninja, slicing flying boxes to the beat with my light sabers. When I took the headset off, I was transported back to the office. It was an incredible experience and since then, I was secretly hoping for the day I could have my own Oculus Quest.

Fast forward a year and I now find myself a proud new owner of an Oculus Quest 2, having received it as an early birthday present. Released on October 13 and arriving at my doorstep halfway across the globe in sunny (and almost COVID-19 free I hope) Singapore on October 16, the Oculus Quest 2 was a portal into an alternate reality I could not wait to enter again.

It came in a sleek box and with a spacer (a plastic piece to add more distance between your face and the screen) for folks who wear glasses like yours truly. It was a breeze to set up once I linked it up with my Facebook account.

PSA: you have to link your Quest 2 to your Facebook account and there have been stories of people who have had their Quest 2 downgraded to paperweights as they were locked out of their Facebook accounts. You have been warned. A further look into those accounts shows that it mostly happens to those with new/throwaway accounts which aren’t tied to a person’s real identity. That would bring us down another rabbit hole of the “omniscience” and intrusiveness of Facebook… but tldr; if you aren’t willing to connect your Facebook account with your Oculus, the Oculus Quest 2 is definitely not for you.

Now that I’ve owned it for more than 10 days, here are five reasons why I think you’ll like it:

  1. It’s an incredibly immersive experience. As you don the headset and look around you, there’s only the ground under your feet that tethers you to reality. Ok, so I’m exaggerating a little bit – but at any rate, I’d encourage you to try a VR headset and you’ll see what I mean.
  2. It’s convenient. There are no wires involved! This is a departure from most other VR headsets which can be a bit cumbersome to set up. The headset and controllers are all you need, and this makes the set very portable. This might seem intuitive and easy to take for granted, but not too long ago, VR required the setting up of additional “base stations”/poles to get started.
  3. It’s value for money. The Oculus Quest 2 64GB is currently available for S$440 on Amazon Prime and I consider it quite affordable for a VR headset. In comparison, a Nintendo Switch console retails at S$459. A single Beat Saber game at Headrock VR which would set you back S$35 when bundled with 2 other VR games (the latter 2 are a bit harder to replicate on the Quest so maybe you could head down to Headrock to try it out!). Given it’s arguably the cheapest of the 3, I would put it at S$5 per play. The game itself cost me S$50 including an Imagine Dragons music pack and I’ve played it a tad too many times to count. I’m working on bringing the average cost per game (including the headset) to below S$5…
  4. It can provide a good workout. There are pretty good exercise games available for purchase. My only game thus far is Beat Saber and my heartbeat has gone above 150 bpm when playing this game.
  5. It’s great for connecting with friends. While there aren’t many collaborative games that I know of which you can play on a single headset, it is still great for connecting with friends. Most folks still have not really tasted the VR experience yet and when I brought it over for social gatherings, my friends thoroughly enjoyed themselves and were bowled over by the technology. A couple of them are thinking of getting it for themselves too.

However, there are a few drawbacks to the Quest 2 that you may want to be aware of too.

  1. The head strap can take a bit of getting used to and it wasn’t as hardy as I hoped for it to be. It takes a bit of adjusting to have it sit comfortably on your head.
  2. The battery life of two hours could be considered short for some. I consider it a reminder that it’s time to come back to reality though. If you’re planning to play with friends, you’ll want to make sure it’s fully charged.
  3. The game selection is rather limited compared to other platforms, and they also can be a bit more pricey. To manage costs, I’m spacing my game purchases out so I can enjoy them fully and get my money’s worth out of it.
  4. This isn’t quite a drawback, but a reminder to consider getting some hygienic disposable eye masks so that everyone’s sweat doesn’t get absorbed into the same sponge.

In short, if you’re looking for a new immersive experience to share with your friends, the Oculus Quest 2 will be a great gadget to get!

Verdict

Novelty: 👍👍👍👍👍

Value: 👍👍👍👍

Overall: 👍👍👍👍👍

Jurassic Mile rocks!

Jurassic Mile rocks!

With travel almost non-existent, many in Singapore are suffering from a massive withdrawal. While the government is trying to encourage local tourism, it just doesn’t feel like the real thing of hopping on to a plane, landing in another country and taking in the sights and food!

As we struggle with the travel withdrawal symptoms, there was a glimmer of hope when social media broke news of a new attraction in Singapore. Dinosaurs (not the living kind) were spotted near Changi Airport.

As an avid cyclist who enjoys riding along the airport route, this was right up my alley and I started planning for trip to the said part of the airport. However, my plan had to be shelved when the authorities boarded up the location and placed a “Coming soon” sign.

Imagine my delight when a friend messaged me that the new attraction was opening on October 11.

The next day, I packed my bike and headed to the nearest car park in East Coast Park. Even though it was a Monday, that part of the park was surprisingly busier than usual with walkers, joggers and cyclists, including a couple of young ladies who were struggling big time on a tandem bike.

I joined them and headed towards the freshly-minted Jurassic Mile at Changi Airport Connector. The route was fairly straightforward, just cycle towards the Eastern end of East Coast Park and follow the signs.

Jurassic Mile is a one-kilometre stretch with dinosaur exhibits making for lovely Instagrammable opportunities.

The path is wide enough for three bikes to ride astride so both bikers and walkers/joggers need to exercise lots of grace and patience, especially along spots where people stop for photos.

A surprise is that beyond Jurassic Mile, the park connector extends all the way past Changi Airport Terminal 4 to Terminal 2.

The end point is the Terminal 2 arrival hall next to the car park.

Here are my thoughts on Jurassic Mile:

  1. It’s free. I can’t think of many places we can go for free but this is one and one that’s worth a repeat visit. Next time, I may consider putting my bike in one of the lockers and walk to Jewel for a meal.
  2. It’s open 24 hours a day. You can technically go anytime but bookings are needed for visits on Fridays to Sundays. This is understandable as the path is quite narrow and overcrowding may lead to mayhem.
  3. It is easily accessible. Take your pick. Cycle, walk or jog. It’s so convenient to get there. Park at T2 if you want to get some exercise or nearer at T4 if you want to reach the destination faster. A bicycle rental kiosk is located between Terminals 2 and 4.
  4. It offers loads of photo opportunities. The dinosaurs make great backdrops and photo companions.
  5. It’s a good way to spend family time. When I was there, both adults and children were awed by the displays. Besides posing for photos, the attraction is also great for walking and cycling at your own pace.
  6. It has cycling facilities. From renting to parking, everything is taken care of for cyclists, including a self-service bicycle repair station where you can pump your tires or tighten screws. And if you like, you can even take a shower before heading home.
  7. It has a cafe. This is so thoughtful. The Hub and Spoke Cafe is just reward for that exercise from the dinosaur adventure.
  8. It provides an access to airport terminals. I can now cycle to the airport. Before this opened, it’s always a case of so near and yet so far. I have cycled on the outskirts of the airport but could not get to the terminals before.

If there are areas of improvement, my wish is for some form of interactivity with the exhibits instead of them being purely static. Another is for the path to be wider so that it’ll be safer for all.

Overall, this is a place that is worth visiting at least once. I can foresee myself heading there again and again.

Verdict

Quality of exhibits: 👍👍👍👍

Facilities: 👍👍👍👍👍

Experience: 👍👍👍👍

Value for time: 👍👍👍👍

Overall: 👍👍👍👍

Slice of Love brownie: Rich and so intense

Slice of Love brownie: Rich and so intense

Brownie is a word that stirs the mind and dispatches saliva to the mouth. So far, most of the brownies I’ve tasted in Singapore and during my travels have been good.

Pair a hot slice with ice cream and all the good feelings are released. Problems and worries just disappear, if only for a while.

I was gifted with a slab of brownie, lovingly made by Slice of Love, a home-based bakery in Singapore. The Fudge Brownie made of dark chocolate was packed with walnuts.

My family, including our Filipino expat, tried it and the verdict was unanimous — it’s great. It’s so rich and intense that a slice was enough for us — and most of us have a sweet tooth!

Here are four reasons why we think it’s worth the calories

  1. Rich and dense. The moment we sunk our teeth into it, we could feel just how decadently rich it was. And it was so dense — packed with dark chocolate fudge — that we stopped at just one inch cube each. It just means that we get to enjoy it again and again.
  2. Great bite feel. Inside the brownie are chunks of walnut that gives a great complementary bite feel. The soft crunch and bitter taste go so well with the slight sweetness of the brownie.
  3. Loaded with antioxidants. We think that using dark chocolate is a masterstroke. Besides not being too sweet, dark chocolate also packs more antioxidants.
  4. Nice packaging. The packaging speaks volumes with its simplicity (without been overwhelmingly loud) and practicality (the slab fits nicely in the box). Having it in brown is a wonderful way of creating a sense of expectation of what’s inside without exposing too much.

This is one fudge brownie we’d go for if we feel the urge for something rich and intense, or as a gft to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary. Actually, anytime is a good time to have a slice of this dessert.

Priced at S$37 (750g) and S$27 (480g), the fudge brownies are available for order at mysliceoflove@gmail.com.

Verdict: 👍👍👍👍👍

What? You burnt my cheesecake?

What? You burnt my cheesecake?

Burnt cheesecake – If you told me that a shop will be serving burnt cheesecake a couple of years ago, I’d wonder why the shop’s still in business. But truth be told, burnt cheesecake is a cheesecake that is toasted (not totally burnt) on the outside.

I was blessed with a Cat & the Fiddle Burnt Cheesecake for my birthday this year, and was surprised at how good it tasted.

Charred on the outside, the char forms a layer of ‘skin’ outside the cheesecake that provides a soft cakey texture on the outside. It does not leave a burnt after taste, and the texture’s pretty good.

This cheese cake is unique because it’s a mix of the jiggly Japanese cheesecake style, with the seemingly creamy texture like a New York cheesecake. The cheese filling has a tangy flavour – perhaps sour cream or lemon juice – which gives it a refreshing taste. The texture of the cake, coupled with the tangy and cheesy flavour makes this cake, delectable.

Interesting knife!

Aside from the cake, the other elements of the Cat & the Fiddle store is also really appealing. The cake is in a plastic container within the box – this ensures that the cake does not stick to the cardboard box, and is easy to store! The knife that came with the cake is of good quality, and bears a unique shape (still practical enough to cut the cake).

Apart from the burnt cheesecake, Cat & the Fiddle has many other flavours available. I’ve had the Milo, Durian, and Oreo cheesecakes (on separate occasions), and all were good. I highly recommend the Milo cheesecake as it is covered in Milo powder too!

If you’re looking for a cheesecake that’s rich, tangy, yet not too overpowering, Cat & the Fiddle’s cheesecakes are a must-try! You can take your time to enjoy the 18 cakes they serve.  Cat & the Fiddle has physical stores in Clarke Quay, Westgate and Junction 8.

In search of cakes

The so irresitible Lady M cakes — original (left) and salted caramel (right)

Cakes have a way of invoking that oh, so good feeling. Once the staple of birthdays and other celebrations, they have become the go-to dessert for any occasion.

In Singapore, we’ve been so blessed by the variety of cakes available — from local bakeries to renowned global cake shops. There’s something for every cake craving, whether it’s Bengawan Solo’s kueh lapis or Lady M’s crepe cakes, which are simply to die for.

Since the circuit breaker measures were put in place, it’s been a frantic search for cakes. And I discovered that I was not alone. “Cake” is the most searched word on qoo10.sg, seemingly more important than “Mask”, which came in 4th.. “Cake delivery” is at number 6.

Cake is the most searched word in qoo10.sg with cake delivery also featuring in the list.

Before I dive any further, this article is NOT about where you can find cakes in Singapore at this point in time. It’s about how we’re yearning for cakes and the last few that we had.

Just prior to the closures, my family and I managed to sink our teeth into a couple of slices of Lady M‘s Mille Crepes (see photo at top). I consider it the western version of Bengawan Solo’s kueh lapis. The crepe cake is rich without being overpowering. Though there are a few types, my favourite is the original, which feature about 20 paper-thin handmade crepes layered with light pastry cream.

Layers of creamy goodies (Source: Lady M)

When all dine-in outlets were closed, we spotted a Bengawan Solo outlet that was open at Jewel and snagged a Chocolate Hazelnut cake. Coated with a layer of chocolate with buttercream in between, this cake is great for any occasion. We still miss the store’s Chocolate Gateau which is no longer available but remains one of our all-time favourites.

Great for any occasion (Source: Bengawan Solo)

Another that I managed to get online was Secret Recipe‘s Chocolate Indulgence. This cake deserves a five-star rating for value for money for its size and height. Underneath its Belgian chocolate coating are layers of milk and white chocolate filling.

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Layers of chocalate decadence (Source: Secret Recipe)

When D-Day (all cake shops to close) arrived, it was a case of desperation setting in. Since no standalone cake shop was supposed to be open, I went online and discoverd Whyzee still had some cakes available plus free delivery for orders above S$80. Shortly after the order was placed, the Chocolate Desire and Tiramisu cakes (why order one when you can have two) was delivered to my place. The cakes are small but dense and rich.

Super quick delivery (Source: Whyzee)

Our final cake for this season came from Four Leaves. And surprisingly, it was discovered during a quick grocery run to Parkway Parade. One of my daughters loves its Coco Exotic cake, which has a layer of feuilletine at its base. This is our last for the season, which we hope will end soon.

Our final cake for this season (hope it ends soon!)

So, over a period of just a few weeks, we have enjoyed some of our favourite cakes.

My search for cakes has ended — for now. As all cake shops and factories have shuttered, whatever is available was made weeks ago so it’s not fresh anymore.

I’ll have to wait for the cake shop closure measure to be lifted, which hopefully is next week.

50K meals for needy in Singapore

Source: The Food Bank Singapore

In such trying times, many low-wage earners may have lost their jobs. Food and beverage (F&B) establishments are bleeding as people stay home. Charities are experiencing massive drops in volunteer numbers and donations. Against this dire backdrop, The Food Bank Singapore (FBSG) has come up with Feed the City (Take-Away Edition), a community effort to feed the underprivileged while supporting local eateries.

The idea involves getting donors to pay for meals, food and beverage (F&B) partners to provide cooked meals at special rates, and volunteers to distribute 5,000 meals to needy households island-wide.

First to suppoort this scheme are electric retailer Geneco and online caterer Grain. The initial beneficiaries are expected to be needy senior citizens who do not have a place to gather following the cessation of Senior Activity Centre activities in Singapore.

“FBSG is committed to take on the crucial role during such uncertain times to continuously provide food to vulnerable communities and remain fully operational to ensure no one gets left behind. We are issuing a rallying call to sponsors and F&B outlets to come on board Feed the City (Take-Away Edition),” said Nichol Ng, Co-founder of FBSG.

The programme is expected to last two months but FBSG is prepared to extend it till the DORSCON level returns to green.