Saturday, December 31, 2011

Vintage plastic wares

A vintage butter dish reminiscent of the one I broke when I was a kid

A pretty three tier plastic ware made in Japan in the late 70s

A vintage Chinese New Year candy tray with compartments for different sweets and melon seeds

Well designed vintage ceramics and plastic ware from Europe and America are doing a thriving business on ebay today. There are also beautifully designed Japanese and Hong Kong vintage plastics of the 70s and 80s which were popular household items in Asia back in those days. Some of these early plastic wares such as the Chinese New Year candy trays from Hong Kong were very durable and had a nice "crystal cut" finishing which made them such beautiful collectibles. Also found a vintage butter dish which was similar to my mum's back in the 70s. I remember dropping and breaking it when I was a clumsy kid.  Don't you think this vintage butter dish makes a lovely jewellery box ? It certainly has a unique star cut design which was the trend back then. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cafe culture in Singapore

Above and below : L'etoile cafe at Owen Road

Above : Sticky chocolate cake from Old School Delights .
Below : Cute chalkboard menu

New cafes seemed to have mushroomed all over Singapore in the most unexpected places. Hidden in an old shophouse off Race Course Road is L'etoile, a French Japanese inspired cafe that has a beautiful space on the second level. Vintage furniture such as an old dresser, a sewing machine table, antique looking clocks and comfy armchairs complete the look with nice, flowy lace curtains. I went there with my friends for lunch on a weekday but I wished that the menu had more to offer besides sandwiches plus coffee and tea. Had the smoked smoked duck on ciabatta and for someone not particularly crazy about bread, it was really fresh and good. Highly recommended though by a friend is their weekend brunch where French crepes with butter and sugar are available including a most delicious strawberry shortcake. Maybe on a weekend the next time.

160 Owen Road near Farrer Park MRT Station (closed on Monday)

And for a place closer to my home is Old School Delights, off Upper Thomson Road. It had a very familiar classroom environment complete with chalkboards as well as vintage toys and card games from the 70s and 80s. Remember Old Maid, Happy Family and Donkey ? Old School Delights ' signature dish is definitely the mee siam made with a special family rempah recipe. Love the menu handwritten in chalk especially the dinosaur drinking from a straw. There are 3 versions of Singapore dinosaur drinks available here - everyone's favourite Milo dinosaur including the Horlicks dinosaur and Bandung dinosaur. I couldn't resist the sticky chocolate cake though I do recommend sharing it with a friend as it is decadently rich.

Old School Delights
215M Upper Thomson Road

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What is friction ?

Love the decorative book shelf panels at a recent book fair at Suntec City, Singapore. They highlighted quotes on friction by famous authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Paul Therouse, Dorothy Allison and Virginia Woolf.

"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she were to write friction." This quote by Virginia Woolf reflected the status of the women of her time in 1929. Taken from her extended essay A Room of One's Own , it reflected a feminist point of view and a push for freedom for women writers in a literary world dominated by men. 

Love another quote of hers that I can relate very well to.
" One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. "

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bakerzin Serangoon Village

A moment of serendipity brought me to Serangoon Gardens one afternoon. I used to frequent this quaint and cosy place in Singapore when I was growing up. Every other Sunday evening, my family and I will head down to Tip Top Restaurant situated at a little corner and had the most delicious fish head curry. And if we ever wanted a fish head curry take away, it was placed in a big Milo tin. The restaurant has long gone and so are the second hand book store situated close to the defunct Paramount theatre. This was my favourite place for Beano and Archie comics and annuals, the magazine Movie News, Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie books.

Didn't realised that a little mall has sprouted at the former site of Paramount theatre. Called  My Village, it is home to NTUC finest, a Japanese BBQ and Hong Kong restaurant, spas, amongst others.  At the front of the mall was Bakerzin, popular for its cakes and pastries. On weekday afternoons from 2-5pm , you can enjoy a cake/pastry with any beverage in the menu for just $8.90. Had the Foret Noir commonly known as the Black Forest. It was a lovely cake layered with kirsh soaked chocolate, almond chocolate mousse, cream, the most luscious dark cherries and chocolate flakes. I ordered Moroccan mint tea with it and I must say I do look forward to another afternoon in this lovely part of Singapore again. Perhaps I 'll try the vintage Borshch restaurant, a landmark here amidst the changing landscape of eateries.   

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Swirls of Delight

Had fun doing little swirls with a skewer the other day. It wasn't an art piece though it had the feel of it. In reality, it was golden yellow swirls of cheese amidst dark brown swirls of chocolate. Was making my daughter's favourite comfort food cheese brownies as she was pretty stressed from studying for her exams.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Han's black forest cake

The Han's restaurant food chain reminds me a lot of an American diner . Set meals of either grilled or fried chicken chop, black pepper or minute steaks, fish and chips served with soup of the day, garlic bread, coffee or tea. I have very fond memories of the place as it was one of the cheaper options for family dining. Back in the late 80's, a black forest cake was only a staple of hotel coffee houses until Han made it accessible to the masses by introducing a cheaper version at only $1.40 per piece or $14 for a whole cake. It was the cake for many of our family birthday celebrations. Other memorable cakes in Han's selection that have not changed through the years are their peach tarts and rum balls . I haven't tasted their black forest cake in years and just had to when my friends and I drove pass one of their first restaurants at Upper Thomson. Had the black forest cake and a cup of tea and that special moment came back, even if it was for just a while. 

In appreciation of Singapore Zi Char Cuisine

Prawn noodles with bee hoon
Yong Tao Foo

Bitter goud ribs

Prawn paste chicken

Zi Char stalls are very much a part of the cuisine landscape in Singapore. Zi char means stir fry in Chinese and these stalls are commonly found in coffee shops, selling a variety of the most loved dishes in Singapore. There is no need for posh, fancy restaurants if you are on a budget as zi char stalls do serve what most Chinese restaurants do, but at cheaper prices without the air con and posh table settings. Some of Singapore's most loved zi char dishes include prawn paste chicken, Kung Pao chicken, pork ribs, steamed fish both Teochew and Cantonese style , hot plate beef, chilli and black pepper crabs, cereal prawns etc . 

Tourists coming to Singapore should try the food at the hawker centres as well as that from zi char stalls at coffee shops. Savouring authentic local food in the countries we visit is always one of the best parts of travelling. One of the better zi char places that I love to patronise is the Kok Sen Restaurant in Chinatown. The yong tao foo and the prawn noodles bee hoon are really quite exceptional !

Kok Sen Restaurant
30 Keong Saik Road,

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ann Siang Hill

Sometimes I feel like a tourist in my own country. Things in Singapore are moving so fast that if I haven't visited a place for a year or so, chances are things may have changed quite a bit . Was at Ann Siang Hill just yesterday and shops that I remember were just here not too long ago are gone. Swanky boutique hotels have popped up in this conservation area together with cafes and bistros which are quaint and charming. Nice to know that just down the road is the contrast of the bustling Maxwell Road Market, a famous Singaporean food  place where the office crowd descends upon like a flock of seagulls during lunch.  

Most of the elegantly restored shophouses at Ann Siang Road here were built between 1903 and 1941 and were once the traditional homes of clan associations and exclusive social clubs. A nice place for a stroll and to admire the little architectural details that adorn the buildings such as some original art noveau tiles on the exterior.   

Monday, September 12, 2011


Was rummaging through the shelves of my favourite second hand book store in Bras Basah complex and a  hard cover book with a beautiful illustration caught my eye. A Table in Provence, Classic Recipes from the South of France was published in 1987 and chronicles Lesile Forbes ' culinary odyssey of Provence, in the kitchens of the people she met - gourmets, grandmothers, shop keepers and vine growers. Handwritten in manuscript and illustrated through the most charming drawings, it shows what makes southern French food so memorable - " terra cotta pots of basil and fennel, bundles of wild thyme, savory and rosemary from warm hilltops, bottles of fruity olive oil, ropes of white garlic and baskets of thumb nail-sizes clams." From truffle hunting in the Luberon to the rich variety of Provencal bread, from calissons, a famous almond and melon sweet meat to the most luscious recipes featuring aubergines, zucchinis, pumpkins and olives. All these paint a most inviting attraction to visit Provence for its beautiful countryside and to taste its rich produce. 
Is Provence as lovely as she had described ?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Agnetha and Frida


Love the handmade dolls I bought in Bangkok. I couldn't quite decide what to call them till someone commented on their eye shadow. Think I shall call them Agnetha and Frida after the girls from ABBA. They had the loveliest eye shadow in blue and purple as it was the rage back in the late 70's. It would not be possible to have a Beatles reunion but if ABBA were to have a get together concert one more time, it would be a blast !

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Four areas in Chinatown were given conservation status on 7 July 1989. They are the areas of Kreta Ayer, Telok Ayer, Bukit Pasoh and Tanjong Pagar. These consist mainly of 2 -3 storey shophouses of transitional, late and Art Deco shophouse style. Most of the buildings have been restored to its former glory but the thriving activites and way of life that I used to remember as a child have long been gone.

In September 1983, 500 street hawkers were removed from Chinatown's streets and many went into the Kreta Ayer Complex, but many other unlicensed ones disappeared from the scene.

The removal of rent control since the early 1990s has also forced many traditional businesses out of the old shophouses and in its place comes advertising agencies, marketing firms, lawyers' offices, pubs and restaurants. 

Singapore's Chinatown is uncharacteristic of many Chinatowns elsewhere in the world. Clean and organised with offices and many shops selling tourist souvenirs. I miss the Chinatown that my mum and grandma used to go. The authorities certainly did well in terms of the cleaning up but sadly, the soul and spirit of most of the traditional enterprise got cleaned out as well.  

Enamel ware from China

Bought some Chinese enamel ware today from an old couple who had a little make shift stall at one of Chinatown's five foot way. They were selling off all sorts of Chinese enamel ware which were quite common in the 70s and 80s but are less so today. The old couple used to have a shop years back and these were their left over supplies. Somehow I appreciated the flower motifs on the enamel trays . It is quite common to see the bright red ones in some traditional Chinese wedding shops but these were more subtle. My black and white majie in those days used enamel ware very often, the larger trays for making the pink and white tang yuen as well as for drying food in the sun while the smaller ones were for steaming tou fu, fish and ribs. Seeing them makes me remember those days very fondly.


Received a box of Grand Hyatt mezza nine mooncakes the other day that were really unusual.  Little pieces of mooncakes in the shapes of Chinese chess pieces, laid over a tray and over a Chinese chess board. It was a real shame to have to eat it so I whipped out my camera for some shots of how beautiful it looked before passing it around to be devoured.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Happy Teacher's Day !

Put together little packages of home made cookies for my daughters to give to their teachers. The bright yellow tags kind of matches the sunflowers at the residents' garden at my place. Some of my neighbours do have green fingers, unlike me. 

Happy Teacher's Day to all teachers out there :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dempsey - PS Cafe and House

House and PS Cafe are two of my favourite shabby chic places at Dempsey, though I have not been back there for a while till recently, on two occassions. PS Cafe looks like a posh cafe in New York overlooking the woods while House is like a spa cum high tea place. 

Presentation of food at both places were great though the chef at House seems to be a little short on the salt for my main dish - fish in a broth of mussels and soba. Couldn't complain about the raspberry chocolate cake with vanilla custard as it had a wonderful nutty texture which goes well with the tart strawberry and the smooth custard. There was also a little promotional message on their place mat - vintage tea party from Thursday to Friday, 3 -5.30pm. Despite it being a weekday, there were lots of ladies , some obviously ladies of leisure indulging in food , tea and gossip. Wish I could live that sort of lifestyle. Nah....I would probably get bored after a while.

While at PS Cafe, I couldn't help admiring the 2 huge bouquets of hydrangeas near the door. Was disappointed when I got to the table as there was only a small vase with a single stalk of decaying chysanthemums. Dying flowers make me a little sad somehow so I kept looking at the hydrangeas instead. Had a miso cod fish with a salad at the side and it was delicious without making me feel guilty. But I did take quite a bit of french fries with triffle oil from my friend , not to mention the desserts that came after. My friend had lemon pudding while I had the ginger one and both came served with lots of cream and ice cream. Oh dear ! But I  convinced myself that it was alright and I would go back to my down to earth porridge lunch the next day.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bangkok Shopping

Colourful ribbons at Platinum Fashion Mall (accessories floor)
A colourful stripey rubber ducky at the entrance of Siam Centre
A different expression for every toyboy (Siam Centre)
The courtyard of Siam Centre
A colourful montage of tiles at a shop in Siam Paragon
Bangkok is such an enjoyable place to be if you want a shopping and culinary experience. If you only have a few days to spare and shopping is a priority, there are many options depending on your budget. There's Chatuchak market (market is only fully open on weekends) , one of the largest indoor market where each lane is a treasure trove of bargains and unusual finds. Skip all the fake goods and you will see authentic Thai handmade treasures and quality clothes which costs so much less compared to department stalls and boutiques.

The best way to get here is to take the Skytrain to Mo Chit station which is only about five minutes walk away from the market. Finding your way from the station is easy - just follow the large crowd of people. But if there are at least four persons in your group, take a cab and use the meter. With everyone having different shopping interests, it is not easy to shop in a group at Chatuchak . Locating one another is difficult too as the lanes are like confusing little mazes. Best thing is to get a map at the information centre or even print it out from the web and arrange a meeting point. The map is also useful as you can zoom in on the category of goods you want to buy rather than meadering aimlessly. Alternatively, get to meet your friends at a stipulated time at the clocktower, one of the higher structures within the market which can be seen from most parts of Chatuchak. 

For a more structured form of shopping, there is the Platinum Fashion Mall, where people take shopping seriously, judging at the way some actually lug luggage bags as shopping bags.
This massive wholesale mall is a source for retail shops all around Bangkok. Bargain hunters can still pay wholesale prices by purchasing a minimum of three and if you are lucky even two pieces from the same store. With more than 1,300 shops, you'll need at least four hours to get through the place and even blogshops and businesses from countries as far away as Russia actually come here to stock up. With floors dedicated to every category of goods - accessories, clothes, leather goods such as bags and shoes, it is the shopping mecca of Bangkok.

Platinum Fashion Mall
542/21-22 Petchaburi Road

But for a more upmarket shopping experience, there's Siam Centre where many established Thai fashion designers set up shop as well as Siam Discovery,  a place that houses major international brands. Siam Centre and Siam Discovery are actually twin shopping malls, conveniently located at the BTS Skytrain Siam Station. They are just opposite Siam  Paragon, adjacent to MBK Centre. I especially love the eateries and the beautiful big supermarket at Siam Paragon. Well, this is as much as I have discovered during my 3 days there.