Sous Vide Duck Confit

The first recipe anyone wants having a go with Sous Vide is probably steak. No exception for me, but alas, I have frozen duck legs available on hand but not beef steak, so duck Confit it is.

The recipe actually takes 12 hours of cooking time, which makes me wonder if it is a waste of electricity. It certainly wouldn’t be a waste of effort, because there’s hardly any effort involved when you do it Sous Vide – just 10 minutes to apply salt and herbs, 10 minutes to rinse and place in water bath, and another 10 minutes of searing. Continue reading Sous Vide Duck Confit

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Pro with Snapdragon 650 Review

I have just gotten the Redmi Note 3 (Pro edition – with Snapdragon 650 CPU, also the Chinese rather than the International version, which is probably not yet available now and will obviously cost a lot more). There was an earlier release of this phone with the same name, but powered by the Mediatek X10 CPU. These days, there are more devices than there are ideas to name and distinguish between them (happens to Apple as well).

For the current release of the Redmi Note 3 (RN3), there are two versions yet, one with 16GB/2GB RAM, and the upgraded one with 32GB/3GB RAM. I got the cheaper one of the two, which is probably more than adequate for me.

Continue reading Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Pro with Snapdragon 650 Review

Taobao product recommendation – suction pump

I think most people will be wondering what a suction pump can be used for. This one is actually meant to be used for vacuum packing blanket, comforter, bedsheet and the like, to reduce the space needed for storage. As such, it is quite a heavy duty pump, designed to draw a lot of air out in as few strokes as possible.

I bought it for a completely different purpose. The Ziploc vacuum kit which i have been using to vacuum seal my mason jars is showing signs of wear and might break down any moment, so i thought i should get a replacement, and i was wondering what i can find on Taobao to do the trick, and i stumbled on this. If you look at the double chamber on this pump – the combined volume is probably about the same as that of a pint sized mason jar, which means it draws out the air in a mason jar in just a single stroke to create a very strong vacuum! It works so well that i’m retiring the Ziploc vacuum pump already.

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The only feasible way to store salad

Honestbee second review

 

My second Honestbee delivery came exactly on time at 12pm (my selected slot was 12 – 1pm), so, bravo on that. Only half the items i ordered were fulfilled, which is great – it means i’m getting a higher percentage of discount (43% to be exact). This makes me picture an imaginary scene in Honestbee’s meeting room, where the business owners are doing palm-face, maybe shedding some tears over the money burnt. Continue reading Honestbee second review

Taobao product recommendation – multi egg frying pan

Multi egg frying pan

I wasn’t going to recommend this frying pan, until now. Well, i was expecting it to be non-stick enough to require little to no oil/fat when frying eggs, which isn’t the case. It only works when you use a small amount of oil/fat (as you do with the typical non-stick egg frying pan), which i now feel is acceptable, since fried eggs taste better with a bit of oil/fat anyway.

The main advantage of this frying pan is of course being able to fry up to 4 eggs at a time, which is a major time saver when you’re preparing a meal for a few people. I like the size of the eggs you get – small (as pictured above) and slightly tall (the photo above is deceptive – you won’t get the straight edges). To make sure the top part of the eggs are cooked, you need to cover the pan when frying the eggs. A cover is not supplied, but you can just use whatever pan cover you already have. Continue reading Taobao product recommendation – multi egg frying pan

Taobao product recommendation – child toilet seat adaptor

Not a lot to say on this one, except that it fulfills its intended purpose. For a short period we were using a portable toilet bowl, which requires cleaning up after use. What I discovered was that by the time a child is ready for toilet training, they’re big enough in size to go direct to the real toilet bowl, so you might as well do so. Obviously, a portable toilet bowl is very expensive (S$40+), whereas the child toilet seat adaptor cost only 66 yuan (S$14.50) from Taobao. It is also much lighter than the portable toilet bowl.

Portable toilet bowl
Portable toilet bowl

Taobao product recommendation – SJ7000 Action Camera

I get nauseous easily from watching non-stabilized video, so I never wanted to get a camcorder to record video that I know I can’t bear to watch later on. However, i now need one to record the proceedings of an upcoming indoor event. With an under S$100 budget in mind, I turn to Taobao as usual.

At the back of my mind, instead of getting a Camcorder in the traditional form factor, i was toying with the idea of getting one of those action cameras meant for sports enthusiasts that are hugely popular now, since it has the video recording capability that i need anyway, and can double as a video recording tool on a trip (it can perform a few other tricks too).

Prior to this, i know next to nothing about action cameras, except that it was made popular by GoPro. A quick search on Taobao introduced me to a popular GoPro knockoff called SJCAM. It is so popular that almost all of what is sold on Taobao are not the real SJCAM, though all of them claim to be. I think it is probably the case that SJCAM outsources the manufacturing and simply puts its branding on the OEM products. I don’t mind a single bit getting something that is not officially SJCAM branded because the price alone – at less than half that of the comparable SJCAM branded one – justifies everything.

SJ7000 housed in the waterproof casing, comes in a generic box without any brand
SJ7000 housed in the waterproof casing, comes in a generic box without any brand

The model i settled on getting was the SJ7000. The package that includes an extra battery, at RMB 280 (S$62), costs only RMB 15 more than the package without, definitely more worthwhile. Shipping to Singapore cost another S$9. For the “princely” sum of S$71, i’m getting what appears to be the same camera as the SJCAM X1000 which retails at US$99 (S$140), so it’s almost exactly half priced. If one is tight on budget, the non-WiFi version is available at RMB 195 (S$43). However, i thought the WiFi version makes possible some fun usage scenarios. You could use it for security surveillance – place it in some corner and monitor what’s happening remotely through WiFi. You can even mount it on a drone. For the fun factor alone, i thought it was worth paying the extra S$20. The other fun thing one can try with the SJ7000 is time lapse video recording.

Overall, I think the video quality is satisfactory. The LCD display quality is rather mediocre, which is fine, since it mostly serves the purpose of a viewfinder and also to show an index of the videos and photos captured (there is no point using this camera for photography though, your mobile phone probably performs better). For my intended purpose of recording an indoor event, with camera mounted on a tripod, there is constant image noise on those static parts of the scene (i.e. the general background), due to video compression and probably an inferior quality CMOS sensor. In the case of using the action camera while on the move, as the camera is designed to do, this wouldn’t be a problem, since the scene is constantly changing. Again, this is acceptable to me, since i wasn’t intending to record professional quality video in the first place. The audio quality turned out to be above average, a pleasant surprise.

Another important aspect about this camera is that video is shot in wide angle (i.e. fisheye), which is mostly a good thing – you can capture a lot of the scene from a very short distance, also the footage will appear to be less shaky (less nausea inducing) when you’re using it on the move. In exchange for these advantages, you’ll have to accept the distortion that comes with shooting in wide angle.

Prior to buying this camera, i read that it (as with all the SJCAM cameras) has a 4GB file size limit, due to the use of the FAT32 filesystem by default. This restricts the maximum recording time, at Full HD resolution, to about 35 minutes per file, when the 4GB file size is reached. When this happens, there will be about a one second interval before the camera starts recording a new video. I was hoping that the fix to overcome this problem, as suggested in some online sources – re-formatting the SD card into exFAT filesystem, would work, but unfortunately it does not. Unless you constantly need to record very lengthy videos of more than 30 minutes, this would not be a problem though. By the way, a Class 10 UHS-I SD Card is good enough for recording a Full HD video, and these are dirt cheap.

The WiFi functionality worked as advertised – tested on Android using an app called Youmera. The link provided (through the QR Code on the box/manual) points to a Youmera download that is broken, but you can find this app on Google Play.

All in all, I think this was a good buy and i doubt you can get better bang for buck with any other action camera.

ezbuy (65daigou) review

First off, it is important for me go clarify that this is not a paid review (and I say again that none of the reviews on this site is). 65daigou and many of the third party Taobao parcel forwarders pay bloggers to write reviews. Reading paid reviews always feels distasteful to me and takes away credibility from the author despite how objective they say they are. That said, and I think it’s obvious, the monetisation strategy for this site is plain old advertising, so don’t be surprised if you see a 65daigou advertisement on this page (i hope 65daigou catches the hint).

Prior to this, I never used 65daigou, since it is easier to just use Taobao’s consolidated parcel forwarding. Besides, Taobao’s parcel forwarding goes by actual weight, whereas 65daigou, and practically all third party parcel forwarders go by volumetric weight, which typically costs more, unless your parcel is very compact and dense. My preference is always for actual weight because i think it’s less likely to spring me a nasty surprise. Nevertheless, I think 65daigou’s economy air shipping rate, at $1.99 $1.69 per 0.5kg volumetric weight (basically the industry standard), is quite competitive (for comparison, Taobao’s shipping rate starts at S$6.40 S$5.30 for the first kg, and thereafter S$2.65 S$1.85 per 0.5kg).

While trying to order a video camera, Taobao’s parcel forwarding option was not available, due to the lithium battery in the video camera. I was left with no choice but to go with a third party forwarder. Naturally, I turned to Google to find out which one was better, but was not able to arrive at a conclusive answer. Eventually I went with 65daigou, because they appear to be more established (having the capacity to handle shipments from China, Taiwan and USA says something), and they have an on-time shipment guarantee.

I would say 65daigou’s website is very intuitive to someone who understands the overall concept of buying from Taobao. I was promptly informed about the arrival of my parcel at their China warehouse, way ahead of the delivery status update on Taobao’s website. I made the payment for the shipment via an Internet Banking transfer, and received acknowledgement of my payment within 1.5 hours (they promised to update within a few hours). The shipping to destination happened in less than one day after that. The estimated date of arrival given was one week from shipping date, although the given estimation on the website is 4 to 6 days. Anyway, my parcel arrived in 5 days, so their guideline on the estimated time to ship proves to be accurate. I picked up my parcel (for free) from their warehouse in Seng Kang, which is just minutes from where i stay. The pick-up timing is 6-9pm for this particular warehouse, which is probably convenient for most people. It’s nice that they have a proper warehouse.

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65daigou’s Seng Kang Warehouse

Update 12 Feb 2016: I have since tried their ship-for-me service for USA as well. Again, very prompt notice of parcel arrival, both at the US warehouse and arrival in Singapore. The shipping rate is also much cheaper than what i was using before (Flat S$3.99 per 0.5kg vs US$11.80 for first 0.5kg and US$3.25 for subsequent 0.5kg). Gosh! i was paying way too much before!

Update 30 Nov 2017

Ezbuy was in the news recently for their failure to fulfill customers’ buy-for-me orders. Somehow, Taobao wasn’t happy with ezbuy’s way of buying thousands of items per day using just a handful of Taobao accounts. If you’re one of such customer who use ezbuy buy-for-me, i would suggest it’s time you moved on to buying from Taobao yourself. It will save you money in the long run, and it will be easier for you to resolve problems by communicating with the seller directly.

Anyway, i have something good to say about ezbuy. Just today, a parcel was received into the USA warehouse on my behalf, and ezbuy’s staff managed to repack the parcel, reducing the volumetric weight from 2.59kg to 0.66kg! That saves me S$12!

Survey of Singapore credit cards

I’ve written about the best credit cards for overseas spend (one of the more popular posts on this site) and also about credit cards that earn you the most cash rebate (it is slightly outdated already). Here’s my personal take on all the credit cards in the market. Note that corporate credit cards and cards aimed at specific demographic or special-interests or tied to specific merchants are generally excluded (e.g. high rollers, students, golfers, petrol, departmental store etc.). Cards for accumulating air miles are also excluded. Let me be honest about this – i don’t believe in accumulating air miles, since i am never insistent on sticking with any particular airline for flights. Even when you use your miles, you will still be paying taxes and levies, which can sometimes amount to as much as the price of a discounted flight ticket. Continue reading Survey of Singapore credit cards

Lazada review

Lazada is a relatively newcomer to the online retail platform business, coming at the heels of Qoo10 and other wannabes. Despite seeing promotional ads for the site umpteen times, i never felt there was a reason for me to check out their site. It was while searching for a Hand Blender that a product listing from Lazada showed up in the Google search result, that i decided to take a look.

For the particular Hand Blender, 3 relevant results representing 3 different companies selling the product came up in Lazada’s search. The prices were about the lowest offered in the market (i.e. equal or lower than what you will find in an electrical/electronics departmental store). Obviously, it is cheaper to buy it online because you can apply a few discounts:

  1. Promo codes – there were at least a few promo codes for Lazada available, which gave a minimum of $10 worth of discount. I even saw an ad at a bus stop that offered a $11 discount on Lazada.
  2. helloPay – prior to this i had never heard of helloPay. It was during checkout that i noted using helloPay offers a 15% discount. For an $8 item, a 15% discount ($12.75) is definitely better than the $11 bus ad promo code, so i decided to check out helloPay (by the way, there is supposedly a $15 discount available if you use their app to order, but i didn’t try). Apparently, helloPay works like PayPal. At present though, it seems that no other merchant, other than Lazada, accepts helloPay payments. I proceeded to sign up an account under my wife’s name, since i was going to use her credit card to make payment. Lo and Behold, i got a $5 credit for signing up. I further noted that they had a referral program whereby you earn $10 if someone you referred made a payment through helloPay. I immediately referred myself. I got a $5 credit as well. So for the $85 Hand Blender, i am paying $85 – $12.75 – $5 + $2.5 (delivery charges) = $67.25
  3. Shopback – I made the Lazada purchase by going through Shopback and received a $3.6 cashback (obviously this is not available if you order through their app).
  4. Bank of China Credit Card – 5.5% cashback on online purchases, which is about $3.7. Taking into consideration the Shopback cashback as well, what i really pay for the Hand Blender is $67.25 – $3.6 – $3.7 = $60, which is a $27 discount overall! Not forgetting, my wife received $10 in her helloPay account for the successful referral, which effectively makes it a $37 discount!

Continue reading Lazada review