Yongkang Street 永康街 lies within the Da’an district 大安区 in Taipei, a semi-residential and business area. It is one of my favorite places in this bustling city as it is dotted with a variety of unique shops, restaurants, cafes and tea salons where one could simply hang out leisurely for a few hours amidst all the sight-seeing and shopping. It is symbolic of the kind of lifestyle which many younger Taiwanese now very much look forward to or are striving for, where one could afford the time to smell the flowers, admire changes of the seasons, rest the mind and tame the soul. Unfortunately over the last few years, no thanks to the opening up of tourism regulations for visitors from across the straits to visit Taiwan, Yongkang street is slowly being overrun by the Mainlanders, epitomised by the long queues outside 鼎泰豐 Ding Tai Fung and 永康牛肉麺館 Yong Kang Beef Noodles, not to mention the noise and rowdiness they bring along with them. However, as the Taiwanese locals strives to live out their own lives the way they’d wanted, it is still possible for find quaint spots of serenity in the vicinity of Yongkang Street where 慢活 “leisure life pacing” is still the abiding philosophy.
Dimsum is one of those things which you would probably not wanna miss when you are in Hong Kong. It is one of those things which Cantonese cuisine is symbolically known for, amongst other dishes of course. In the past, dim sum was largely enjoyed as breakfast, i.e. a few bamboo baskets of steamy hot savory and sweet treats, alongside a pot of Chinese tea, not forgetting the daily papers and weekly gossips. This is still a common sight in many traditional Chinese restaurants for the regular Hong Konger. However, dimsum culture has extended its hours way beyond sunrise, right into the day. In fact, while many of the more traditional Chinese restaurants known for serving dimsum open really early in the morning, many of the newbies who sprung up over the last couple of years and rose to stardom as “dimsum specialists” start their daily operations only just before lunch-time!
For our recent trip, we stayed at a hotel which offered breakfast, serving croissants, scones and my favorite fruit conserves, which we have no reason to refuse. So our dimsum breakfast plans in our itinerary were conveniently shelved. But fate has it that we should be in the Mongkok area when it suddenly poured. Determined not to be deterred by the wet weather, we opted for a contingency plan, one which involves eating but of course! I remembered that there is a Tao Heung outlet near where we were and a quick navigation over GPS confirmed that we were in fact just steps away. So dimsum breakfast we were meant to have, nicely worked out to be dimsum lunch instead!
The pastry scene in Singapore seems to be getting more interesting over the past year or so, with quite a number of new outlets opening up, sometimes in places least expected. Many of them operate as cafes or coffee shops, the seeming craze in Singapore now, offering cakes and pastries in interesting flavours and combinations to woo the crowd. This was especially so with the SG50 jubilee celebrations going on this year, which brought innovative creations like pulot hitam cake, orh nee tart etc, to stay relevant to the theme. I very much hope this stream of creativity is not just a sudden spur, but instead would continue to encourage our local budding bakers and pastry chefs to work harder to create a pastry enjoyment culture which would be here to stay.
Patisserie Platine joins the scene as one of the latest kid on the block and arrives with much pomp and circumstance, launched by the haute dining Japanese cuisine establishment Waku Ghin, under the helmage of celebrity chef Tetsuya Wakuda. Some like-minded pastry loving friends and I made a date to come here, not only to sample the wide range of pastries Patisserie Platine provides, but also to soak in the ambience it has to offer.
Melaka is a unique city and a melting pot of all sorts. Being strategically positioned along the Straits of Malacca which was named after the city, it attracted people from all over the world in search of opportunities for better living, trade and territorial occupancy. Like Singapore and Penang, Melaka was an important trading post and pit-stop for the Maritime Silk Road, promoting interaction and subsequently, the forging of blood ties between the folks of the Far East from China and Siam, with those from India and even as far as Europe. One of the earliest to have reached were the Portuguese, who colonised Melaka for more than a century from the 1500s. As a mark of commemoration to celebrate the long time establishment of the Portuguese heritage in this UNESCO historic city, Casa Del Rio Melaka is running a special feature called “A Taste of Portugal” at their River Cafe and River Grill restaurants, paying homage to the Portuguese influence on Melaka. For the first night upon our arrival, we were enthralled by a Portuguese Wine Pairing Degustation, specially created by Chef Micael Valentim who was flown in from Portugal precisely for the occasion. It was a wonderful night which celebrated authentic Portuguese cuisine with Portuguese wine.
We haven’t been back to Bangkok for more than 10 years but it is not like we’d totally forgotten about it all this while as we’d booked flights and planned itineraries over the years but the trip never did materialise. We love the city but just not the social unrest which troubles the city, either from the reds or the yellows which happened from time to time. But I’m glad we finally had a chance to come back to this interesting city but seriously, we didn’t know what to expect. 10 years could change a person, lest a city. This time round, we’d decided to skip much of the usual tourist circuit of cheap shopping and street food (yes sacrilegious for Bangkok I know!) but instead, opted to experience how the city had grown and matured in other aspects of its culinary endeavors. Curious we are, but at the same time we were lost. Thankfully we have friends who frequent the city and it was not difficult to get recommendations. One place we saw popping up quite frequently on our “intel” was Water Library Brasserie @ Central Embassy.
Melaka is a city which lies close to my heart. I love it for many reasons, the food, the people, and the surprises abound, be it a new Peranakan dish which I’d not eaten before, or an interesting little street dotted with small quaint shops which I’d never been to previously. Despite being to this city which lies just 4 hours north of Singapore on numerous occasions, I’d not grown tired of it and I don’t think I ever will. Just last week, I had a wonderful opportunity to visit this beautiful place once again, with an entirely new holidaying experience that awaits…
Mention Singapore hawker fare and many familiar dishes come to mind. Char Kway Teow, Chye Tow Kueh, Laksa, Bak Chor Mee are just some of the familiar favorites which any true blue Singaporean would be more than glad to indulge in whenever the opportunity avails. A dish which I truly love and enjoy immensely is Char Hae Mee, which is also known as Fried Hokkien Prawn Noodles. And here is my humble attempt to recreate this much-loved noodle dish at home.