Friday, November 19, 2010


As an Asian, I can't keep away too long from the familiar sweet, salty and sour flavours of Asian food. They provide a source of comfort and some of my favourites include clear Asian soups as well as rice noodles in a rich and flavourful stock.

While in London, after one too many days of room service and meaty dishes, comfort food was what I was looking for. And at the old Spitalfields market, I chanced upon the ramen place Wagamama with my friend. The name and branding sounded familiar as I have a Wagamama cooking book on my book shelf. Wagamama is a chain of pan-Asian restaurants modelled after Japanese ramen bars. It was first started in 1992 in London and since then, the franchise has gone on to Sydney, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and more. The menu consists of ramen, udon and soba main meals as well as side dishes and desserts. Orders are taken on a handheld PDA and sent electronically to the kitchen. The waiter then scribbles the order number on the paper table mat.

I ordered spicy noodles and beef, (substituting the ramen with rice noodles) hoping to get a nice, fiery kick as well as side dishes of duck gyozas and chicken wings tebasaki with special wagamama bbq sauce. Must say I was disappointed as there wasn't any kick at all and the soup was sadly lacking in flavour. With the huge competition between ramen restaurants in Singapore, this wouldn't pass the test. The duck gyozas were over fried and hard but the chicken wings were quite good. My friend ordered a miso based ramen which I had to sample. At least that tasted slightly better.

Perhaps it is too fusion a place for me to expect a pure Asian taste. When I am in Chinatown in any one of the bigger cities, one instinctive guide that I use before entering a Chinese restaurant is to check the number of Caucasians in it compared to Chinese. At least it gives me an indication of how authentic the food is. I once made a mistake of asking a New York cab driver to bring me to a good Chinese restaurant. He raved about his favourite and brought me right to its doorstep. Hungry as I was, I couldn't make myself eat the huge ping pong balls masquerading as wantons. The wanton skin was so thick that they could possibly bounce back if you hit it against the wall :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Selfridges 2010 Christmas display

Selfridges' Christmas 2010 window display is said to be inspired by a George Bernard Shaw's famous quote, ‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.’ I couldn't agree more. Looks very Betty Boop inspired for the top pictures and for the rest, monsters rule ! A hip monster couple, a monster teenager, a cute monster family complete with kids and a super monster lady who does her Christmas shopping at ......Selfridges of course!
I felt that the theming of the windows could be more consistent as I can't quite reconcile the Betty Boop look-alike doll display with the monsters. It should be one or the other all the way.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

V and A Museum (Part 2)

The court yard of V and A

A spiral staircase within V and A

Posters during the Art Nouveau period

Vintage chocolate ads featuring children

A delicious chocolate bag by Moshino

Princess Diana's "Elvis" dress is on display at V and A

The Whiteley Galleries in V and A featuring sacred silver & stained glass

The Jameel Gallery featuring art from the Islamic Middle East (below)
Tile top table, Turkey, Iznik and Istanbul, around 1560
Decorative tiles with repeated patterns from Turkey 1580

Tile pattern with picnic scene, Iran 1600 -1700

V and A, named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was founded in 1852, and its massive collection include more than 5,000 years of art and design from all over the world. It spreads over a few floors and is categorised by five major themes : Asia, Europe, materials and techniques, modern and exhibitions. There are no restriction on photography which is good but lighting was often too dim to take a good photo with my simple camera without a flash. Exhibits ranged from works of art from ancient cities such as Turkey and China to those of pop culture such as the famous "Elvis" pearl dress worn by Princess Diana in her 1989 trip to Hong Kong. I love the displays that showed the evolution of fashion, from the 19th century era of crinolines, corsets and big skirts to the golden age of couture (1947-1957) dominated by Christian Dior and Givenchy. And of course, the rise of Japanese designers in the 80s such as Kenzo, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto whose futuristic designs defied convention to today's designs by Vivien Westwood, Alexander McQueen and more. And on the whimsical front, there was even a funny little chocolate exhibition featuring a chocolatey, bagalicious creation by Moshino to cute and vintage chocolate ads featuring children. There is so much more to see at V and A including jewellery through the ages, miniature portraits, sculptures, tapestries, textiles, photography and more. I couldn't finish all within a day so perhaps the next time when I'm in London again.

Monday, November 15, 2010

V and A Museum (Part 1)

When I was younger, going to a museum was never at the top of my priority list. I could never get a thrill out of static exhibits or things from the past. But it is different for me today. I suppose an appreciation of history and things of beauty and character comes with age. Whenever my daughter goes for a school excursion at one of the local museums, I can see the lack of enthusiasm in her eyes when I ask her whether she's excited. She only lights up when she gets to pack her favourite junk snacks for the journey. Hope that changes as she grows. It did for me.

Now, I make it a point to visit a museum whenever I get a chance. Having a free day in London in the course of work this past week made a trip to a museum a priority. London and New York have the best museums in the world and planning a trip to one of them is a must when you are in the country. I chose V and A , short for the Victoria and Albert Museum as it houses a range of historical art and design exhibits from different eras and countries.

It was easy getting there via the London tube. Stop at the South Kensington station and signs will lead you there very easily via a connecting tunnel. Greeting me at the entrance was a most impressive signage of V and A. The glowing alphabets moved individually every minute so that the letters can be seen by approaching visitors from both sides of the tunnel. Something as bright and modern as this really stood out against the grim bricks of the tunnel.

Another feature that stood out for me was a blown glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly installed as the focal point in V and A 's main lobby. Dale Chihuly is considered the greatest living glass artist and his work in V and A was a huge flowing blue and yellow installation that reminded me of a glowing jelly fish. The installation art and structure of the building was simply beautiful and I haven't even got to the exhibits yet.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wallace and Gromit Christmas stamps

These special Christmas 2010 edition of Wallace and Gromit stamps have just been released in Britain. I am a big Wallace and Gromit fan and they certainly get my stamp of approval though I don't live in Britain and wish someone there would post me a card with it.
These bright and cheery stamps do remind me that Christmas festivities are just around the corner and I should get a head start. Gromit seems to be the one doing all the work, from posting letters to carrying that huge ball of Christmas pudding. But he does get a reward as Wallace has knitted him a bone sweater though it is a tad too big. Strange as it sounds, one of Wallace's favourite hobby is to knit.
I love the idea of posting Christmas cards though this practice has seems to have lost its popularity with the introduction of e-cards. I still remember the sense of excitement when the postman delivered Christmas cards during the season. You never know who the card was from till you opened it. My favourites were Christmas cards with silvery glitter made to look like beautiful shimmering snow on winter landscape pictures.