MICHELIN-STARRED SOYA SAUCE CHICKEN

Will you queue to eat Michelin-starred hawker food?  And how long are you prepared to queue?

Well, I have decided to give it a try when I was in Chinatown recently, although I don’t normally like to queue too long for food.  It turned out to be a good 45-minute wait during non-peak hours (after 3pm), on a weekday.  Perhaps this is considered not too long the wait, given its popularity way before being awarded one Michelin star last year.

S$12 for half a soya sauce chicken and S$6 for a mixture of char siew and roast pork.  Very affordable prices for its “status”. 

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Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle – one of the two hawker food stalls that was awarded one Michelin star in 2016.  The other was Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle.

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The queue was divided into two parts : one in the air-con area inside the shop and the rest outside

I noticed that the queue was made up of mostly foreigners/tourists.  How not to be attracted to this cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world if you are touring Singapore?!  Moreover it is the first time in the Michelin history that an Asian street food has been given this prestigious award.

It took me about 25 minutes just to have my take-away order taken, and then another 20 minutes to wait for my order to be ready.  There were no separate queues for eat-in and take-away customers but overall the queue was moving smoothly and the wait was pleasant.  🙂

A very pleasant, senior-in-age male staff  who was in charge of clearing and getting ready the tables for the eat-in customers, doubled-up his roles in managing the queue too.  He was so nice to even offer me a stool to sit at one corner while I was waiting to collect my order.   Such a nice gesture of customer care has definitely won my heart!  I just hope that this uncle’s job is not too strenuous for his age.

I wonder how many chickens, and how many kilos of roast pork and Char Siew are sold each day?!

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Basically there is a good numbering system for order-taking and collection of food/order.  There was even a self-service order station!  Cool!  Unfortunately, it was under utilised based on my observation.  Most people seemed to still prefer the manual ordering system over the cashier counter.  I also noted that the staffs were pleasant, friendly and efficient.

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So, was it worth my 45-minute wait?  Yes, definitely!  While hubby and I think that the char siew was quite good, the roast pork was nice but nothing spectacular.  The star i.e. the soya sauce chicken, was definitely outstanding.  The meat was tender, sweet and has a nice herbal fragrance.  Oh, I also love the chilli which has a very shiok sourish taste that went very well with the chicken!

Together with my home-cooked Chinese spinach soup, we had a lovely dinner that day.  I would surely want to go back again someday and to eat there instead.

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EXPENSIVE BUT ROTTEN APPLES

I bought some Japanese apples (produce of Aomori Prefecture) from Fairprice Finest in Marine Parade recently.  I remember reading somewhere that Aomori is the largest apple-producing prefecture in Japan and it is said to produce apples of high quality.

However, I was disappointed with what I got.

Jonagold Apples at S$7.90 per pair – one out of two was rotten

Ourin Apples at S$8.90 for 3 – two out of three were rotten

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In fact, this was not the first time.  A couple of months ago, I bought some for a friend, and they were rotten too.  What an embarrassment, wasn’t it?

Of course, I had to go back to Fairprice for a refund.

Such poor quality apples were totally unexpected since they are not cheap, and are sold by a premium supermarket.  I wonder where the problem started from?  The supplier or Fairprice?  Is there no quality check by the supplier before packing and distributing them and then subsequently by Fairprice before selling them?  When the Fairprice staff replenish the stocks every morning, do they not do any inspection?

These are what I have spotted in Fairprice Finest as well.

Organic carrots that were already rotten

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Vegetables that had already turned yellow

Looks like Fairprice Finest is not that fine after all!

29-02-2016

I have completely forgotten that today is that special day we have only once in every 4 years.  Yes, it’s 29 February!

Thanks to a dear friend’s message this morning that reminded me of the day.  This good old friend (since primary school days) who resides in Johor Baru, sends me beautiful messages almost every morning.  Thanks to WhatsApp.  Such communication is made possible without incurring additional cost in our monthly phone bills.

It was kind of too late to think of doing anything special for the day after receiving my friend’s message, and I didn’t want to crack my head for that too.  I thought it is good enough to just do something that I enjoy lately i.e. to read in a cafe.

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Why in a cafe?  Well, in my temporary lodging now, I don’t have a proper study room and the lighting in my bedroom is poor and bad for my eyesight.  Secondly, I tend to feel sleepy in the afternoon, so reading in a cafe over a cup of coffee and occasionally plus a piece curry puff, keeps me awake. 🙂   In Marine Parade central area, there are quite a number of cafes, all just within a stone’s throw away.  How nice!  Starbucks is my pick, so they have been getting a bit of business from me lately. 😀

My current read is a book entitled Diplomacy, A Singapore Experience.  Although I am just halfway through the book, I have found it to be not only a very interesting read but also educational. It provides insights into Singapore’s foreign policies, describes the country’s challenges as a small state and also the government’s efforts and initiatives in creating good diplomatic and economic space for the country.  I must admit that I was actually not sure if the book would suit my reading interest (I have interest only in a small range of books).  I also worried that it might be too boring and “cheem” (a Singlish word meaning difficult to understand) to read, judging from the book title but I am so glad that I had picked it up.  The book was written by S Jayakumar, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Singapore who have already retired from his political career in 2011.

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And, I had a date with hubby in the evening.  Fortunately, he was able to get off from work not too late (before 7pm) today. Hubby has been so busy with work lately and it doesn’t help when you have bosses who are slave drivers!

We went to our favourite chicken rice shop – Boon Tong Kee – in East Coast Road for dinner.  This shop is also within working distance from where we live now and going back there for a meal is one of the many things that we want to do before moving out of Marine Parade.  Too much good food to savour in this area and its vicinity!

A simple but satisfying meal.  Happiness can be that simple. It is about being able to do things that I enjoy.

CHINESE NEW YEAR CELEBRITY CRUISE

It’s the seventh day of Chinese New Year and also Valentine’s Day today.

恭祝大家 猴年 好事连年、如意安康!

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Hubby and I ushered in the Year of the Monkey on board cruise ship Celebrity Millennium.

Celebrity Mellennium docking at Laem Cha Bang (8 Feb, first day of CNY)

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We had been spending most part of our Chinese New Year (CNY) away from home in the last few years (mainly in Japan) and for a change this year, we decided to just have a short trip instead.  We jumped to the opportunity to sail with Celebrity Millennium once again when we learned about this 5-night chartered cruise trip to Ko Samui and Laem Cha Bang (Thailand), departing on 5 February. Both of us like sailing on a big cruise ship (this was our fifth time), out in an open sea and we are so blessed that we have never had any seasick problems even at times when the ship was a little rocky due to rough sea conditions.  For us, a cruise trip is always very relaxed but yet there was never a moment of dullness as what many would think so.  There are many programmes and activities lined up for us each day but it is up to us to pick our choices.   We love chilling out at Al Bacio (a cafe on board) over a cup of coffee and a book, or sitting in the balcony of our room looking at the sea and listening to the sound of the waves. In fact, just less than four months ago, we sailed on the same ship for 8 nights in Japan and Busan, South Korea.  It was something very memorable and enjoyable.

On board Celebrity Millennium, the mood of CNY celebration was vibrant.  The ship was decorated for the occasion and the climax was on the eve of CNY. There was a Chinese menu for re-union dinner with Pen Cai (盆菜) specially prepared by a chef and his team of assistants from a Hong Kong restaurant.  In normal time, only western food, buffet and fusion food are served.  Abalone Yusheng was available too at additional costs.  There were also God of Fortune, countdown party etc.   We even had fire-crackers!  I mean the electronic ones! 😀

Abalone Yusheng

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Little surprises found in our room on the eve of CNY

Pen Cai

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This dish was actually served in a pumpkin and each serving was for a minimum of four people.  Since there were just two of us, we were served this mini portion in a bowl instead and it was in addition to the western meal we opted for.  The Pen Cai was really good!

God of Fortune who is actually the chief engineer of the cruise.  He was accompanied by the Hotel Director.

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God of Fortune made his first appearance at 7:30pm to distribute Hong Baos (red packets with money in them, a CNY tradition) to young children and we also had the opportunity to take photo with him.  He made his second appearance at the Grand Foyer where we had the party, just before midnight for the countdown.  By the way, the God of Fortune is a handsome Caucasian man! 🙂

Another surprise for the night!

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This ice-carving of a Monkey holding a peach was unveiled right after we ushered in the Year of the Monkey, by the captain of the cruise.  It was just so attractive that many rushed to take a photo with it.  Some even touched it as if they would receive some good luck by doing so, just like many did so with the God of Fortune!

Video of CNY Countdown Party (7 Feb)

So we really had a great time that night and it is definitely another precious travel memory to be cherished for the rest of our lives.  It has been so many years since we last actually had so much fun celebrating CNY!

The cruise trip would had been perfect if not for the adverse weather/sea condition at Ko Samui that prevented all of us who had signed up for shore excursion to proceed with our plans that day.  Hubby and I were all excited about exploring Ko Samui as it was our first time there but it was not meant to be 😦  While we appreciate that our safety was of utmost concern of the captain, the compensation (US$50 per room) was almost next to nothing and it came too late (after I had done my shopping on board and settled my bills at the front desk!).  So we decided to use it to try out luck on roulette at the casino.  No luck though! 😀

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Back in Singapore since the third day of CNY, we are getting into the mood of CNY celebration after a few years’ of break.  Today, I was all happy and excited to see lion and dragon dances, one of CNY rituals, at the places that I went to.  That’s a bonus for being home in this time of the year!  I like lion dances a lot since young and I remember my parents had paid for the troupe to perform at our home then.

Video of Lion and Dragon Dances seen on 14 Feb

TENDON GINZA ITSUKI

A less palatable dine-out meal tends to disappoint me but a delicious one sure brightens up my day.

When I was in Tanjong Pagar last week, I came across Tendon Ginza Itsuki, a Japanese tendon specialty restaurant. Tendon (天丼) consists of tempura served on a bowl of rice.  The word tendon is an abbreviation of two words – tempura and donburi.

What actually attracted me was the long queue by the side lane of the restaurant, even slightly before the normal lunch hour of 12 noon for people working in offices in that area.  Since I rarely come to this part of Singapore, I have not eaten a Japanese meal in Singapore for a while now and could afford some time to wait, I decided to check it out.  Of course, I was driven by curiosity too.  So I had all the justifications not to miss it.

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There were around 20 people in front me.  Fortunately it was not too hot the weather, and the restaurant was thoughtful enough to provide huge red umbrellas for shelters.  Customers in queue could also help themselves with free-flow of water available at the front of the queue.

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There was information about PSI readings in view of the haze condition and a gentle reminder for customers to take care during the haze season. The restaurant even offered free masks!  Sometimes, it is small gestures like these that enhance the dining experience of the customers.  Unfortunately, not many restaurants make such conscientious effort though.

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My wait turned out to be 45 minutes.  That’s really long considering that I don’t normally like the idea of queuing this long for food. 5 to 10 minutes are still acceptable to me if I was really craving for a particular food, or a particular restaurant.

It is a very small restaurant but comfortable and cozy enough, with about 14 to 15 counter seats, and another 2 to 3 small tables.  I think it probably can accommodate a capacity of about 25 people.

Two chefs responsible for the frying of the tempura and one in preparing the rice

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There are only two choices on the menu : (1) Special Tendon which comes with prawn, chicken and vegetable tempura or Yasai (野菜) Tendon which is served with only vegetable tempura.

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Soon after I sat down, I was served chawanmushi (steamed egg in a tea bowl) and miso soup.    The chawanmushi has a seaweed flavour and it was certainly a nice starter for the meal.

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Guess what is in this bowl?

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Pickled vegetables!  It’s free-flow!Tendon07

This sign on the wall says that the restaurant uses carefully selected Japan-produced rice

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I ordered the Special Tendon which came with 2 pieces of prawns (pretty big ones), 2 pieces of chicken, mushroom, long beans, pumpkin and baby corn and a little pleasant surprise as well!  The ingredients were really fresh and good, and the tempura were fried just right.  I never knew baby corn can be this delicious!

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The little surprise –  a fried egg hidden under the tempura!  Oh, I love fried egg with the egg yolk uncooked!

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I thoroughly enjoyed my meal!  It actually took me half an hour to savour every bite of it!  It was definitely worth the long wait. For the price of S$13.95 for the Special Tendon, and S$12.95 for the Yasai Tendon, I think it it pretty good value for money, especially for the quality of the food!

After the meal, I spoke briefly with the service staff who was also manning the cash register.  I found out that this restaurant has been opened for about 3 months and the two chefs frying at the counter are from Malaysia.  One of them has worked in Japan for 8 years.

If I really had to pick on this restaurant, then I think it will have to be the loud music.  I like the fact that it was playing Japanese music but something more soothing will be pleasant for the diners.

Walking out of the restaurant, I texted hubby to tell him how satisfied I was with the meal.  I will go with him the next time, and I will have the yasai tendon instead.

On my way walking to the MRT station, still feeling happy with the meal, I saw pale blue sky and some white clouds.  At last, after many weeks of hazy condition.  What a bonus for the day!

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More Japanese food awaits me in the Land of the Rising Sun.  Hopefully by the time I return to Singapore  in two weeks’ time, there will be no more haze.

MACDONALD’S SG50 HELLO KITTY

So, Hello Kitty has arrived to join in the celebration for Singapore’s 50th Birthday!

Two sets ordered – one for myself and the other is my younger sister’s.

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Beside 6 Value Meal vouchers worth a total of S$30 and 6 SG50 Hello Kitty plushies, the collector’s set also comes with one limited edition Singapore landscape booklet, 6 standees for the plushies, 6 Hello Kitty cards and a SG50 Flyer.

The 6 plushies – Samsui Woman, Trishaw Uncle, Durian Lover, Orchid Lover, SG Parade and MacDonald’s Crew

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It’s nice that MacDonald’s has included 6 paper standees this time for the plushies but I am not folding them up until I am ready with the space to display them.

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From MacDonald’s website

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Surely fans of Hello Kitty (especially Singaporean fans) will not want to miss this set that commemorates Singapore’s Golden Jubilee.  I was actually surprised when my younger sister expressed her desire to get a set too.  I never thought that she would be interested.  Perhaps this goes to say how little I know my younger sister!  In fact, she also bought the set offered by SingPost earlier this year but I decided to give that a miss.  When hubby read about this collector’s set that was going to hit Singapore, he actually told me that the plushies look cute.  Woohoo, looks like he has fallen in love with Hello Kitty too!  We have visited Puroland Japan (indoor theme park of Sanrio characters with Hello Kitty as the star character) twice, in two consecutive years.  Believe it or not, it was hubby’s idea to re-visit.  Of course, I was more than happy to say yes!

Back to the order.  I was ordering them from Ipoh while holidaying there, on the first day when the online sales started at 11am but met with some difficulties.  I thought MacDonald’s would have improved their online system after the hiccups last year.

Already sold out at the start of the sales?

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So, it actually took me a while to finally be able to get through the transaction.   Phew…..

Time to go to MacDonald’s with my vouchers! 🙂

IPOH FOOD HAVEN

Hubby and I went on a week-long break in Ipoh (Malaysia) during the Hari Raya festive holiday earlier this month.  This was my third trip to Ipoh in slightly over 3 years.   We were there to visit my uncle and his family.  It was more of a trip to spend time with the young children of my cousins who seem to like us a lot, but not so much about sightseeing.

The first thing we did after arrival was to pick up my cousin niece from her school.  It was the last day of school (15 Jul) before Hari Raya.  In Malaysia, schools dismiss early every day during the Ramadan month and are typically closed for a week or longer for the Hari Raya festival.  In Singapore, our children never have such “treats”! 😦

Many parents waiting at the entrance of the school to pick up their children.  For afternoon session (primary 1 to 3 pupils), school dismissed at 5pm

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Mobile hawkers selling a variety of kachang (nuts), ice cream and even Yakult outside the school.  This is so nostalgic!

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We were received with great hospitality, as always,  and were pampered with lots of good local food every day and of course, that include a few vegetarian meals and tubs of durians which my aunty bought.  My uncle and aunty are vegetarians.

Whenever we were in Ipoh, we were not so keen on their restaurant food.  It was the local hawker food that we looked forward to.  I think it is not an overstatement to say that Ipoh is a haven for food!  Thanks to our hosts (my uncle and aunty, cousin and her hubby) who drove us around every day to savour a variety of yummy local food in some of the very popular stalls that the locals go to.

Moon De Moon (满中满) is famous for Curry Mee (咖喱面) and Gai Si (shredded chicken) Hor Fun (鸡丝河粉).  All tables were already taken up by the time we arrived at 845am.

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Just look at all the amount of bowls stacked up at the Gai Si Hor Fun stall.  They were customer orders waiting to be served.  We waited for almost an hour to get our food but it was worth doing so.

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Dry chicken curry mee which we ate for the first time.

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Gai Si Hor Fun in chicken and prawn soup.  The portion was not big, so it was in addition to the dry chicken curry mee!

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Spotted this very old car in front of the coffee shop when we left.  Some parts of the car have already rusted.  Unlike Singapore, there is no age limit for cars in Malaysia.  One can drive his car as long as he wants.  I remember one of my aunties in Johor used to drive a Volkswagen for over 40 years!

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Lei Ching coffee shop (丽晶) is famous for beef brisket noodles/Hor Fun (牛腩面/河粉) and Mee Rebus (爪哇面)

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This Mee Rebus is different from what we have in Singapore.  It has a tinge of sour taste that I found it rather refreshing, and the gravy is orangey in colour.

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The Hor Fun was served separately from the bowl of stewed beef briskets in tasty broth

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Chee Cheong Fun (猪肠粉) in curry gravy from a stall in the foodcourt of Parkson shopping mall.  In Ipoh, Chee Cheong Fun is typically served in minced pork and mushroom sauce with deep-fried shallots but some stalls serve the curry version too.  Shiok!

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Some fried stuff like fish cakes to go with the Chee Cheong Fun.  Very nicely fried, fresh and crispy

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Kedai Kopi Ah Chow looks a bit rundown but the food is definitely good

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Another version of curry Hor Fun served with shredded chicken and Char Siew.  Customers can opt for dry or soupy version.  Love it!

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Seaweed Mianxian (紫菜粉).  In Ipoh, the word 粉 (meaning powder in English) means any kind of noodles such as Kway Teow, noodles, Mianxian etc.

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This gives you an idea of the price of the food. I would say very reasonable for such delicious food

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Kedai Makan Canning Garden (桂和园) sells Chap Fun (or economy rice). See the queue?  So, what’s so good here?

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It’s the fried chicken!  My cousin said it is better than KFC’s and I can agree with her.  Unlike the rest of the dishes which were already cooked in advance, these fried chickens were freshly fried at the back of the shop and brought out in batches.  The stall opens from 10:30am but the fried chicken would be sold out by around 1-2pm.

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Fresh and tasty. Soft and crispy in the outer layer and tender inside even for the breast meat

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I don’t have a record on where I ate this fried Kway Teow which has very good wok hei (charred wok flavour).   Freshly fried Kway Teow & noodles (commonly known as Cao Fun 炒粉 in Ipoh)  is another common local breakfast food.  The Ipoh version of Char Kway Teow seems to have a sourish flavour that makes it rather special.

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Another not-to-miss food in Ipoh – Salt-baked chicken (盐焗鸡).  There are quite a number of shops selling salt-baked chickens but my cousin considers Aun Keng Lim (宴琼林)’s is the best and this brand is available only in Ipoh.

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The salt-baked chicken is generally not big in size, and best eaten when it is still warm

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One very popular biscuit shop downtown, in an area with many other eateries frequented by tourists.  See that long queue extending out of the shop?

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Sin Eng Heong sells a variety of biscuits but these kaya puffs are the most popular.  They got snatched up immediately after they were taken out of the oven!

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What’s selling here?  Funny Mountain (奇峰) soya milk and soya beancurd.  It is  very popular not just amongst the locals, but also tourists.  We actually had to queue (in the car) for our take-away.

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See that man wearing a blue cap and white shirt, with an apron?  He is the staff who runs to the customers queuing in the car to take and deliver their orders.  That saves the customers the trouble of finding a parking lot and getting out of their cars.  That’s how thoughtful the service is despite its good business!

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In Ipoh, one is spoilt with choices for vegetarian food too.

Shi Fang Zhai (十方斋) vegetarian restaurant is located at Menglembu (a town within Ipoh City, about 15 to 20 minutes drive away from Ipoh downtown)。  It serves pretty good vegetarian food and it was our second time there.

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This coffee shop (随缘素食店) sells vegetarian Char Siew and chicken rice and some other vegetarian dishes.  The owner runs a real chicken rice stall in another location during the day, and operates this vegetarian stall from late afternoon.  He is surely one very hardworking man!  I heard that it is also popular.

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Don’t they look like real Char Siew?  Nice!

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Vegetarian chicken rice

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Jiu Jiu Fu (99福) offers a good variety of Taiwanese, local and even Japanese vegetarian dishes.

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Vegetarian Unagi Temaki (hand rolls)

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Vegetarian salmon Makizushi

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Vegetarian mee goreng

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Above are just some but not all of the food we have savoured during the week.

I noticed that almost all the food stalls that we went to are owned/manned by middle-aged and older locals.  This probably speaks of the authenticity of the food.  I wonder given another 10 or 20 years, will they also be faced with the issue of losing their local food heritage just like what we are facing with the hawker food here in Singapore.  Hopefully not or it will be a sad thing.

It’s really very convenient now to travel between Singapore and Ipoh with up to three airlines serving this sector.  Firefly (a community airline wholly-owned by Malaysian Airlines) was the sole player when it started flying between these two cities in June 2009.  Just in the middle of this year, Tiger Airways and Malindo Air (a hybrid airlines between Malaysia and Indonesia which was established in 2013) started flights between Singapore and Ipoh too.  We still flew on Firefly (for the third time now) which has been reliable in terms of its services based on our experience, although its airfares were more expensive than the other two budget airlines.

This propeller aircraft has a capacity of only less than 80 passengers.

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Malaysia is one favourite travel destination of Singaporeans, when it comes to short and affordable (or even cheap) getaway holidays.  This is mainly due to the great advantage of our currency exchange rate against RM (Ringgit Malaysia).  This aside, I actually think that Malaysia has not only been blessed with rich natural resources which is total lacking in Singapore, it can also be an even better destination for tourism (not just for Singaporeans),  be it for sightseeing, food, shopping, history and culture, relaxation etc., if the country is better managed, and more effort is put in to improve its tourism sector.  I have actually shared my thoughts with a few of my Malaysian friends, and they can’t agree with me more.

I have not travelled much in Malaysia.  Safety is always my biggest concern when it comes to holidaying in Malaysia.  There have been many reports about robbery, attack etc.  in Malaysia.  My cousin, and also my friends in KL were robbed of their handbags before. In my cousin’s case, she was approached and robbed in bright daylight, right in front of my uncle’s house!  The same had happened to her daughter’s piano teacher in front of her house. That’s scary!  Safety and stability are definitely important factors for tourism.  Unfortunately, many Malaysians are very unhappy and have even lost their confidence in their government now.