Saturday, April 28, 2012

Only a man of intelligence knows how to dine

Earlier this month, a food magazine interviewed me for Gastronommy asking the question, "Tell us why desserts are so important in this world."

I answered something to the effect of,
Desserts represent a special indulgence that only human beings really invest time in.  Some might consider it an evil form of gluttony, but if you think about it, it's a celebration of living beyond the most basic of necessities for survival.  Typically delicate and refined, dessert making is one of the many small things that separate us from animals.  But the best part is that desserts are an affordable luxury for anyone - everyday of their lives if they so choose.  And who doesn't like a happy ending?

Though a touch cliche, I thought I was otherwise pretty clever and oh so deep.  But a few weeks after that interview, I was reading Dining Out by Andre Dornenburg/Karen Page and saw this quote, "An animal swallows its food; a man eats it--but only a man of intelligence knows how to dine." 

Leave it to Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin to have put it much more succinctly.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Nothing is impossible in the circus: Cirque Mother Africa [video]

I have to share this article I put up on  Tomorrow is the last day to catch the show.

Now that I've seen the show, I may have been wrong to compare Cirque Mother Africa to Cirque du Soleil.  Besides its similarities in not being an ordinary circus that is usually filled with tightrope walkers, lion tamers and dancing elephants, Cirque Mother Africa has its own distinct identity, pulsating with a wonderful energy.

Clearly I'm meant to be an editor of words on paper, not being on video!
It's not too often that we see blatant injections of African culture here in Asia.  As jaw-dropping impressive the acrobatics were, the real life of the show came from the musical segments based on traditional song and dance from various parts of the continent.  I found myself tapping my foot to the beats, wishing I could dance with the same life that seemed to emanate from the very core of each of the performers.  The children seemed to agree -- during intermission, we saw little girls flexing their knees and exuberantly bouncing their shoulders to tunes still stuck in their heads.

Not to overlook the breathtaking acrobatics either, we witnessed a live record breaker of 51 back-flips in a row (previous world record held just under 40).  And these were not your ordinary back-flips - a talented young performer was tossed those 51 times in the air by the legs of another (clip at 0:33).

Stunning feats of strength were displayed by bulky Hulk-sized men, but even more impressively showed their agility as they landed softly as cats after flipping through the air.  Tricks like riding impossibly tall unicycles were included, though the performer garnered the most pleasure from the audience when he mastered the tiniest unicycle I have ever seen (clip at 0:10).

There were times when I held my breath as contortionists waved to us from inconceivable positions or as chiseled bodies scaled stacks of wobbly chairs to pose into positions that would rival any Olympian gymnast.

I applaud the 40 performers here in Singapore for the very first time from Africa.  If you haven't caught the show yet, you have one more day to get your tickets and watch the dazzling show at Esplanade.

Public sales for tickets are now ongoing ranging from $68-128.  Cirque Mother Africa can be seen from April 12-15th at Singapore's Esplanade Theatre.  (Available through or call 6348-5555)

Monday, April 9, 2012

How to open your own hawker stall (Singapore)

I was casually surfing the web when I came across this article on Makansutra: So you want to be a hawker: Essential steps for a foodful career

It first caught my eye, because the opening photo is of a friend's uncle (as in blood-relative 'uncle') whose Hainanese curry stall (Feng Kee Hainanese Curry Rice) I had written about ages ago.

Then there's the intriguing topic, especially for us expats who haven't grown up with Singaporean hawker culture.  Make no mistake--my local friends would often tell me--as simple as a hawker stall looks, it is very difficult to get a spot open and running.

This Makansutra article gives some tips to point you in the right direction, including bidding for your first food stall.  You can find the nitty gritty details at National Environment Agency's (NEA) website.  But most importantly, quality comes first, so make sure you have your craft near perfection.  Food-obsessed Singaporeans aren't forgiving when it comes to their hawker grub!
As posted on

I see the appeal of Japan. (Tokyo, Hokkaido, Sapporo)

Onsen (natural hot spring bath) in Niseko

As you might expect, I have countless photos, countless stories to retell, and even more recommendations for you to try.  However, I'm still catching my breath back here in Singapore, so in the meantime, here's a quick photo tour of my one week in Tokyo and Niseko (with a glimpse of places in between like Otaru).
Special thanks to Paul and Damien - gaijin as they may be, they were as amazing as a guide as any local could be. Thank you Kanae and Mai, who are not so gaijin, for showing me around Ebisu.

P.S. For those who have noticed that my hair looks more 'Japanese' these days, that's because I got my hair cut and colored in Omotesando at ACQUA.  My stylist is Kosuke Takezawa.
Tel: 03-3400-8585

Mille feuille in Midtown Roppongi
Omotesando Hills -  I did zero shopping for myself, sadly.
Roppongi night life
UKON to start and end a Friday night, the ultimate hangover prevention.
Cold soba with fresh herbs and shaved daikon
La Tour D'Argent Tokyo, French classics with the fine use of both French and Japanese produce, differentiating itself from its Parisian mother back in France. (see interview with owner Andre Terrail here)

The famous tuna, post-auction
Tokyo's Tsukiji Market - 7am in the morning

Otaru, quick stop on the way back to Sapporo from Niseko
The finest uni and ikura I've ever had the pleasure of having in my life.
Local yakitori spot in Hokkaido.  He takes pride in his craft.
Train ride from Sapporo to Niseko
Nightfall view from my cabin window
Whoops.  Back to Tokyo for a moment - this is Harajuku in a nutshell.
Mt. Yotei, the view we get from Niseko
Hello there!
Snowboarders and skiiers.  Jump away.

After a full day of snowboarding, this pretty Bernese Mountain dog is here to greet us

kampai! (Funnily enough, they don't serve Sapporo beer at Hanazono ski lodge, but Kirin.  Sad!)
You won't find tourists (except us) at this ultra local Niseko ramen spot.
Back in Tokyo.  Roppongi Crossing.
Food everywhere, including on our walk to Meiji Shrine
Sukiyaki, anyone?
My last meal in Tokyo: Pizza at Savoy in Roppongi
My last drink in Tokyo - how cocktails should be done. Also where I had the best bloody mary I've had in my life.

鳥松 やきとり
Torimatsu Izakaya
北3条西1, 虻田郡倶知安町, Hokkaidō, 044-0053, Japan
English: 1 Kita 3-jo Nishi | 北3条西1丁目, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0053, Japan

Niseko Ramen Kazahana (
倶知安町字山田170-50, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, Japan 044-0081
English: 170-50 Yamada, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0081 , Japan
* Order the "Niseko Ramen" (potato froth base) and mini charsyu don.

Save Inaho, Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan +81 134-23-1425
* Amazing fresh sashimi and sushi.

170-248 Aza-Yamada, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
Phone: +81 (0) 136 23 2603

Abucha 2
191-29 Yamada, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido
Phone: +81 136-22-5620

Bang Bang
Hirafu Zaka Street | Hirafu, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido
Phone: +81 136-22-4292

Higashiyama-onsen, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido
Phone: +81 136 44 1111

Hotel Niseko Alpen Restaurant Syokusai Hirafu
204 Yamada Kutchan-cho Abuta-gun Hokkaido
Phone: 0136-22-1105

Rakuichi Soba
Address: 431 Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido
Phone: 0136583170

15 minutes from Hirafu, in Kutchan
Phone: 0136 23 2893

Gyu Bar
Phone: 0136-21-1432

Niseko Supply Company
190-13 Aza-Yamada, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido
Phone: +81 136-55-8861

Monday, April 2, 2012

Savour 2012 Highlights [video]

Interviewing chefs such as Julien Royer of Jaan, Alvin Leung of Bo Innovation, Andre Chiang of Restaurant Andre, Gunther Hubrechsen of Gunther's (for & Appetite magazine, see videos below)

It's been an exciting weekend with Timbre Rock & Roots 2012 and the first time Savour Singapore 2012.  Savour, Singapore's first notable gourmet outdoor food festival was held over the last weekend of March at the F1 pit (right next door to Timbre's Rock & Roots at Marina Promenade).

Masterchefs like Alain Passard (L'Arpege, Paris), Hans Valimaki (Chez Dominique, Helsinki) and Enrique Olvera (Pujol, Mexico) joined other leading chefs and vintners from Europe, Asia, Central and South America in the inaugural Savour festival, the three-day food and wine fiesta.

Here are video clips of highlights of each day at Savour!
Soon we'll have a full length video of the event - look out for it on

Day 2 - March 31, 2012

Day 3 - April 1, 2012


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