Thursday, January 31, 2008

Amaryllis Blooms

The bent bud stalk from my earlier post has straightened out in the sunlight and bloomed.

Munchy Donut Comes To Thomson

I managed to evade the donut craze that is sweeping through Singapore. Krispy Kreme never excited me when I tried them in Australia and in the US. I won't be having friends bring back a box for me from Hong Kong or Japan nor will I stand in a queue for donuts.
As there wasn't a queue at Munchy Donut, I thought I buy some as a treat for the help.Okay, I went overboard with the chocolate. The one below is smothered in chocolated and filled with peanut butter. To avoid over eating I cut up the donuts and we shared.Next time, I'm pulling out my special cache of vanilla macadamia nut flavored kona coffee.

A New Meaning To Open Door Policy

While I was hard at work, these are some of the characters that dropped in on me. Several highly excited flowerpeckers. Ever seen a flowerpecker hover? Well managed I capture it on camera. He just the coolest tiny bird with the scarlet stripe down his back. He's not black but indigo. The camera isn't able to pick up the color even in the bright sunlight.The other is an eagle that was passing by my window. I heard a pair this morning calling from their nest during my walk.I missed a small flock of munias as I had to concentrate work.

Sub-Contracted Cakes

I could have made this cake myself but I'm a little stretch on time. I found Rickson at Thomson Plaza selling kueh lapis. They are definitely a friendlier cake seller who was very happy with my order of five and a half boxes of kueh lapis.
The half was for immediate consumption to allow my mother to taste some of her favorite new year goodies.
I didn't make kueh lapis this year as the cake consists of many layers and I would have to sit at the oven to bake layer after layer. Tastewise, I still like the recipe I have. This cake is good but it still lacks the oomph.

Look What The Kitchen Elves Brought

Supply the ingredients and the kitchen elves produced this Lunar New Year treat. While the executive chef slummed in her office doing her day job.
The trays I got for scones worked fantastically for the pineapple tarts.
I big on packaging, with a little improvisation I had me a nice box of tarts for my friend. She's going to be ecstatic.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I Spied A Lone Litte Bird

I was brain dead this evening and the weather was muggy after the light shower. I decided to break the camera out of its dry-box and see what I could find this evening. The usual birds were at their usual locations but nothing interesting. As I was about to head back, a lone little brown bird caught my eye.The mystery bird is a black-headed munia, a relative to the scaly-breasted munia, I photographed last week.This lone little bird didn't seem to be concerned that it was not with its flock as it continued to feed.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Matching Colors

I have lots of photos of the olive-backed sunbird but I still couldn't resist photographing this bird amongst the alamanda blooms.

Photographing Blue-Tailed Bee-Eaters

This is another bird that I would like to photography in a more natural setting but there a small group of them that have settled into suburbia. They use the antennas on houses around my place as vantage points to watch for insects. When they do spot insects in flight they take off after the insects and catch them in flight. I love watching them as they are just so graceful in flight. Once an insect is caught, the bee-eater brings it back to their perch. Where they will strike the insect several times on their perch before swallowing the insect. The bird on the right has an insect between its beak.I read that birds that eat insect cast pellets of the exoskeleton. I was thrilled to actually watch this bird cast a pellet but I was too slow to capture the act.

Tiny Bird With A Big Voice

I switched lenses over the weekend as I was trying to photograph the crimson sunbird that has been visiting my butterfly pea (clitoria ternatea) plants. After three days, I still have not gotten any good shots of the rather elusive bird. I know a pair is nesting in my neighbor's mango tree.
The other bird that I have been trying to photograph is the flowerpecker. Today, a number of supremely noisy scarlet backed flowerpeckers kept distracting me from work by flying past my window chirping very loudly.
A female settled in the electrical wire outside my window to rest and I was presented my opportunity to photograph her while she rested.
Before you ask, how can you tell that this tiny bird is a scarlet backed flowerpecker? She is just a dull green but check her back out.While she sat quietly, a male started cruising back and forth. He then settled on the wire some distance away and because he was full of nervous energy. He was harder to photograph.When he changes position you can see the scarlet from forehead to rump.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Carrot Cake From A Makansutra Street Food Master

I went in search of the carrot cake seller in Ang Mo Kio who was awarded the title of Makansutra Street Food Master. The stall has no name and is just called Carrot Cake. It's tucked inside a rather nondescript looking coffee shop at Block 107 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, called Soon Seng Restaurant.I got there slightly past 6 pm and Mr Ngerng was already hard at work frying up plates of chai tau kway. After checking with Mr Ngerng what type of oil he used. I proceeded to place an order for two packets of chai tau kway - one black and one white so that we could all taste the difference between the two versions.
This is how he starts a flat wok of chai tau kway.Once he's seasoned the carrot cake pieces, he pushes them a side and starts frying individual orders.I have to say that he is generous with the salted radish and eggs. With the black version, he is extremely generous with the sweet sauce that he pours over the finished dish.I plated up my two packets so that I could sample both versions. Overall, I prefer the dark version. Both were good with a balanced with the fragrance of fried garlic, the saltyness and the crunchiness of radish added depth and individual pieces of chai tau kway that are generously smothered with eggs just blends so well in your mouth.
Just in case you decide to go try the carrot cake, please note that the stall is open daily from 6pm to 11.45 pm only. So have carrot cake for dinner instead of breakfast.

Best Strawberries I've Eaten

Forget about American, Australian or Malaysian strawberries, they are often a let down taste wise, and the punnets of strawberries aren't fresh and are often bruised.
I was introduced to Korean strawberries when my brother gave me some to try. Since then I've been hooked on these gorgeous, luscious and sweet strawberries that are to die for. May be it's they way they are packed but there's no damage at all in each punnet of strawberries. See how fresh the individual strawberry but folks be prepared to pay at least $10 a punnet. If you do see them give them a try you will not regret parting with your money.

Chinese New Year Plants

After almost two weeks of going back and forth to the hospital. It was kind of nice to be able to relax after all the stress. On my way home, Friday evening I made an impromptu stop over at the flower gardens near Caldecott Hill. I wanted to let the two helpers enjoy the colors and the multitude of plants that were at the gardens, and I was on the look out for more Amaryllis bulbs but of different color if the gardens stocked them this year.
It was a sea of riotous color with flower of many hues. Kumquats, pussy willow, hydrangea, chrysanthemum and much, much, more.
This plant is new to me and the tag on the plant says Japanese Begonia but the plant doesn't look anything like a begonia. The red blossom is also un-begonia like.After walking through all the gardens at Caldecott, I walked away with a pot of lavender but no Amaryllis bulbs in sight. Actually, there are less plant varieties this year.

The Suburban Herons

I had completely forgotten about these photos and wanting to post them till I was sorting through my photos. These little herons live right smack in the heartlands along with lots of people in a very well used public park. You can spot them if you eyes are sharp and if you know where they like to hide. I had quite a bit of fun deciphering where their calls were coming from and then figuring out where they were. I found one above me.After which I just have to go back to their favorite vantage points to find them.These birds can be seen elsewhere in the park too, like in the canal or around the pond shores stalking fish.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dessert - Glutinous Rice Dumplings

I went over the Chinatown Complex Temporary Market to locate another "Hawker Legend" - Hai Sing Ah Boling. They make sweet glutinous rice dumplings with ingredients that handmade.A bowl of dumplings cost $2 and is served in a styrofoam bowl. You choose a specific filling or choose to have different fillings. I had a bowl at the stall and requested for mixed. They were all yummy. I was a little apprehensive on the durian filling but I was pleasantly surprised, I liked it. The dumplings are smooth and chewy.
I then went back to get a bowl to take home and as my help doesn't like durian. I ordered dumplings filled with black sesame paste. They look a lot prettier in a nice porcelain bowl.See how nicely balanced the dumpling is and because nothing is machine made you get great texture.
There are several versions for the soup for the dumpling - pandan clear soup, sesame paste or peanut paste soup, broken peanut based soup and I sometimes use soy bean milk when I cook frozen dumplings that one can buy from the supermarket. I will need to head to Maxwell to try the other versions.

A Dying Dish - Pig's Organ Soup

Pig's organ soup is a dish that I've not had in a long time. Partly because it is hard to find a stall that prepares it well. I was at Tiong Bahru Market again and I decided to give Koh Brothers Pig's Organ Soup. Part of the reason why this dish is dying out is because many have given up eating offal here and the preparation of the various pig's organs that go into the soup is extremely consuming.
Here's a close-up of the piping hot but oh so tasty bowl of soup.Here are the parts of the pig that are in the soup - heart, stomach, intestines (large and small), liver, lean pork and meat balls. To provide the kick is salted mustard green, pepper in a great clear pork bone stock.
Here are slices of heart which is all muscle and quite nice to chew on. What is no longer found in the bowl no more are kidneys, tongue, cubes of blood cakes and soft stewed skin. I would have liked my bowl better if the stock was more full bodied, sour and salty.
The next time, I'm at Tiong Bahru I will also give their glutinous rice with chestnuts stuffed in intestine caul roll. This is another dying dish that is eaten with sweet sauce.
Just so that you know, only one of the two Koh brothers still cook, the other had retired. This gentleman is already in his late seventies. When I was there he was serving his customers while sitting on a bar stool. If you have the guts to eat this offal dish do so as it's hard to find a good bowl of soup these days.

Hong Heng Beef Noodles

I have eaten at Hong Heng's at Ang Mo Kio a couple of times before but I never remembered to bring along my camera with me as they were more at a spur of the moment thing.This time I did, my order was for dry noodles with beef. By the way, this stall is pretty well known and well patronised so be prepared to queue for your noodles. They start selling their noodles in the morning and go on till after lunch.
I like this stall as the beef is tender and not over cooked. The noodles, bean sprouts and beef are smothered with smooth sticky gravy and topped with salted mustard green, Chinese parsley and a lime. The small bowl of soup is also flavorful and tasty without the after taste of MSG. The other thing that has to be good is the chili that comes with the fermented krill (cincaluk).Combine them all together and you have yourself a real tasty treat.