Friday 31 August 2012

New Zealand - the home of Middle-earth

I came across this TV advertisement, made by Tourism New Zealand.
This video takes you on a journey of Middle-earth, where you'll discover places that were featured in the Lord of The Ring Trilogy movies. Here are the places featured in this movie - Coromandel, Milford Sound, Matamata, Rotorua, Queenstown, Waitomo Caves, Lake Wanaka, Kaikoura, Gisborne.

After watching that, how could you not want to visit? How much more convincing do you need to visit our lovely home we called New Zealand (Aotearoa).

For more information, visit the 100% Pure New Zealand website.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Help needed for Flash Mob Haka

In just 7 days (yes, that's seven days), Fern and Kiwi will be opening their doors!

But first, they are looking for muscle power!

A flash mob Haka is in the works for this Sunday (September 2) and next Sunday (September 9) and they need all the help they can get.

There will giveaways and some free beers for participants after the job is done.

Meet at the Fern & Kiwi (their address is below the video) at 3.30 for a quick run through before they go live! Further updates will be on their Facebook page during the week.

You can learn the moves by watching the video below.


Thursday 23 August 2012

Selemat Hari Raya from Singapore

Another guest post by @SGVekNZ.

For some of us, the thought of fasting from dawn until dusk sounds difficult and challenging.  For our Muslim friends however, this is done for a whole month during the period that is called Ramadan. 

During Ramadan, Muslims devote their time to worship, good deeds and abstinence from food and drink during the day (Yes; in case you thought you read wrong; for an entire month).  To my surprise I also learnt it wasn't just food and drink but it would mean that even activities such as smoking and sex would go through a fasting period during Ramadan.  This is believed to purify one's body and soul and to bring a higher level of closeness to your beliefs.

When the sun sets, the fast is broken and families and friends gather for their meals and celebrations.  The area of Geylang Serai and Kampong Glam in Singapore becomes alive during Ramadan with bright festive lights, music, performances and bazaars selling wonderfully bright wares, clothing and food.  The food is one of the major highlights too from savory to sweet.  It is a perfect time to sample amazing Malay food. 

Stacks and stacks of Malay sweets at Geylang Serai
After a month of devotion comes a long awaited celebration; Hari Raya!  The fasting finishes and it becomes an amazing month of feasting and sharing the company of family and friends. 

We were most honoured to be invited to a Hari Raya celebration this year and to share in the festivities with our good friend's family.  We were most excited about this and even jumped onto Google to find tips on what customs to observe and a glimpse into what to expect.  Of course we quickly picked up on the phrase "Selmat Hari Raya" (Happy Hari Raya) and also got a few tips on what to not wear.  For guys it was pretty straight forward; no shorts.  For the gals; no over exposure of skin so skimpy skirts or low cut tops were a no no.

When we arrived at our friend's home we could tell some tasty goodies were cooking even though we were only just outside the front door!  It was easy to tell we had found the right flat.  The greetings started and we wrapped our foreign tongues around the new Malay words.  Smiles and nods indicated that we were saying it well enough to be understood which is quite an achievement :)

Visitors, visitors and more visitors

Throughout the day we were treated to wonderfully colourful Malay outfits.  We learnt that each family that came to visit had a colour theme that they followed for this year's Hari Raya celebration.  It was a parade of Rainbows as family after family we essentially colour coded and named.  As the day carried on when we didn't remember a person's name we simply said something like "Pink Uncle" and we all knew who we were talking about.  It was also interesting to learn that the colour theme was decided by the entire family so it showed a great sense of unity in the decision making process as well as in the wearing of the same colour on the day.  We were treated to wonderful costumes by the Black, Red, Green, Yellow, Pink, Purple, White, Blue families.  There were probably more but we lost count as so many people came to visit.

The "Red Family"; wonderful choice of colour. Did I mention everyone was smiling?

With the warmth of so many visitors the flat can get quite crowded but it was great to be amongst it all and have a little chat here and there.  When there weren't enough chairs we would simply sit on the floor.

Then of course there is the food.  Even before the main feasting dishes were offered for "Makan" (Eat/Eating) we saw that the coffee table in the lounge was laden with snacks!  There were the more classical/traditional Pineapple tarts and Almond biscuits through to the more contemporary Chocolate coated goodies.  These weren't your normal snacks though as they were just as colourful as the outfits we saw during the day.

Coffee table of goodies!
Some of the Snacks!!!

The main attraction was of course the feasting dishes, and boy they were spectacular.  We were treated to a taste fest of wonderful flavours; all with a gravy so that it can be spooned on top of Rice Cakes so that the gravy soaks in for the ultimate indulgence. 

The calm before the feast

There was Chicken Korma, Malay style.  It was less thick than it's Indian counterpart and not a bright yellow. The chicken was perfect, practically falling off the bone and even the breat meat was moist. 

Beef Rendang was also on the menu.  In this dish, the beef is cooked in the spicy gravy until it becomes dry so that the beef is essentially absorbing the gravy it is cooked into.  The result is a beef dish that is bursting with flavour and a rich thick brown gravy.  This was soooooo good. 

A Beef and Prawn mixed dish was also served.  This looked like it was cooked in a similar way to the Rendang but had a bit more kick to it as it had the distinct redness of fresh chillies in it. 

Last; but not least, was the most amazing dish of all.  We would tell it was the most popular because the pot it was cooked in was significantly larger than the pots of the other dishes.  It was a Satay Chicken dish with a beautiful rich orange and fiery redness to it.  The Satay sauce was a sensation with a perfect sweetness to it and the satisfying chunks of ground up peanuts.  Again the Chicken was falling off the bone. 

All the sauces were amazing scooped over Rice Cakes and then topped off with a condiment of toasted finely grated Coconut.  (Whew, practically salivating while I'm writing this......)

 It was truly a feast and one had to have a break after one round and then go back for seconds later!  I've never heard the word Makan so many times; you're almost expected to eat all the time :)  At the dining table it was Makan, after you finished it was time to digest in the lounge whilst having another round of Makan through the snacks on the coffee table.

We were truly privileged to be invited to join in the festivities of Hari Raya and share in the feasting.  It was heart warming to meet members of the family and really feel the togetherness of Hari Raya.  The respect to members of the family was apparent and even upon leaving, some members would graciously thank the host and exchange words of kindness and ask for forgiveness. 

We hope to experience Hari Raya again when it next comes round and already planning to make a visit to Geylang Serai, browse through the bazaar and find matching colour outfits to wear :)  The question is; what colour scheme should we choose..........?  :)

Guess which pot has the popular Satay Chicken dish?

Now thats what I'm talking about! Look at that colour

Sticky rice dumplings

Special Hari Raya Jellies; made by Macik (Aunty)  :)

And when the feasting is done, it's onwards to the next house.
See you next year. Selamat Jalan! (Bye!)

 Ramadan is the month leading up to Hari Raya so ensure you catch the sights, sounds and food at Geylang Serai and Kampong Glam next year.

Hari Raya is a public holiday in Singapore and the date changes every year.
This year it was on the August 19th.  In 2013, it will be on Thursday 8th August.

Check it out next year :)  

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Cha Siu Bao (叉烧包)

I am a big fan of the cha siu bao.  Cha siu bao is a Cantonese BBQ pork-filled bun.  These are either served as a type of dim sum during yum char, or sold at Chinese bakeries.

So when I came across a shop by the name of D'Bun on Joo Chiat Road and saw they were selling cha siu bao, I just had to go in and buy some!

I bought a couple of steamed cha siu baos, cost me S$1.60 for two mini baos.

Inside the mini baos - tasty, juicy cha siu!

358 Joo Chiat Road
Singapore 427603

Friday 17 August 2012

New Zealand comes to Singapore!

They opened up their first cafe in Christchurch, New Zealand back in 1988, and called it Lone Star Cafe, and 24 years later, there are 20 Lone Star Cafes in New Zealand.

They felt it was time to spead their wings, and decided upon Singapore, where "it's hot, it's fun and everybody loves eating and drinking out."  The name of the bar and eatery is 'Fern & Kiwi', chosen because the 'fern' and the 'kiwi' are two of New Zealand's greatest icons.

The following is an exert from their website:

"Lead by New Zealand celebrity chef Mathew Metcalfe, Fern & Kiwi will serve beef, lamb, pork and venison
straight from the farm and fish and oysters plucked straight from New Zealand waters.

Premium New Zealand pinot noir and sauvignon blanc labels will be served on tap - the latest trend to please
both the environment and the wallet - and will be joined by a line-up of New Zealand’s favourite beers including Steinlager, Mac’s, Speight’s.

Channelling the typical, drawn-out Kiwi summer holiday - fresh ingredients, cool beers and chilled-out tunes -
Fern & Kiwi will also introduce Singapore to some of New Zealand’s best Kiwi-grown musical talent."

Located in Clarke Quay, Fern and Kiwi will open its doors in September 2012.

I can't wait until next month, but until then, we can have a look at their website.

Fern and Kiwi Logo, taken from their Facebook page

Saturday 11 August 2012

Emerald Hill's No. 5 Bar

(Another guest post by my husband).

Its a well known that Friday is one of the most anticipated days of the working week.  You can finally shut down the computer (and lets be green here; turn it off completely please), say shove it to the Man and head out for some drinks with your buddies.

This Friday turned out to be a different type of get together.  The people we were meeting up with were friends; but we were meeting for the first time ever.  So how can that be?  Well on Twitter we know each other but we've never met in real life before.  To tell the total truth, we did know 2 people and that is a bit of a relief as arriving at the meeting point, I realised I had no idea what the others looked like!  Everything worked out of course and I didn't run into a #fail.  Not your everyday meet ups but hey we hit it off fairly well and were talking amongst ourselves like buddies do. Yes; we  talked in real life as opposed to sending out tweets. Great night :)

Anyhow, lets talk drinks.

The location was Emerald Hill.  Those who have been in Singapore awhile would know it well. Emerald Hill can be reached by catching the MRT to Somerset.

Our bar of choice was No. 5.  This is a great bar and there is a buzz about it with the smoking crowds at tables outside and inside there are 2 levels.  Quite dim lighting in the bar, even more so due to the choice of dark oak colours.  It actually adds to the charm of the place as No. 5 is actually housed in an old shop house.  Old photos and pieces of art line the walls.  2 levels and there is a bar on each floor. For larger groups definitely try and grab a table upstairs.

Another thing you'll notice is that from time to time as you're moving around, you'll hear crunching sounds coming from your steps.  Like the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel, this is another bar where you can shell your peanuts and simply throw the shells onto the floor.  This is perfectly fine and you won't get held liable for any Singaporean littering laws :)  It is so encouraged that one of our drinking buddies was leaving a pile of shells on the table and the waitress came and swept it off the table onto the floor!

Drinks wise; you could order your usual beers and wines.  I didn't have any wine but I'm guessing that since the ladies were ordering the same one again and again it must have been a decent/good drop; Sauvignon Blanc from memory.  I had Gin and Tonics for the night and they were quite good. Decent amount of Gin in the drinks too and the Tonic was actually bubbly for once.  Its odd that many other places I go to the Tonic is very flat.

There is also the usual selection of cocktails but No. 5 appears to pride itself on Martinis.  There were the Lychee ones through to an Earl Grey one.  We didn't try any of them on this occasion but on a previous visit I did try their Chilli Martini.  True to its name the Chilli itself can be seen in a large jar on the bar fermenting in its own juices.  The bartender would grind up the Chilli, add some of the spicy juices and shake up a Martini for you.  Great spicy after taste; must try.

Overall, a great place to chill out, a good buzz and a crowd that is relaxed.  Bonus is that on Emerald Hill, the small area is surrounded by bars so you can always move from establishment to establishment and sample the drinks on offer.  Second bonus is that you can easily find a taxi in the area after a great night out.

Check it out.

Dunno which round we were on, but everyone was Happy :)

Thursday 9 August 2012

Karin Japanese Restaurant

Japanese food is one of my weaknesses.  I used to frequent this restaurant about once a fortnight for lunch when I was working in the area.

Yuki, the owner / sushi chef is a friendly guy who loves to have a bit of a chat to his customers if he's not too busy.  You ask him what he recommends, and he'll recommend it to you.

This is where the Sashimi & Sushi gets created

The sushi and sashimi are made to order, so it is always delivered to your table "fresh".


Prawn Tempura Roll
Karin Japanese Restaurant is located in the Auckland surburb of Parnell.  It is tucked away down a little paved lane off Parnell Road, past the ANZ bank.  After a few steps (and to your left) you will see the red curtain that tells you where the entrance to the restaurant is.

Karin Japanese Restaurant
237 Parnell Road
Auckland, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 356 7101

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