True Singapore Food – Bak Chor Mee

I have to admit that i may have been wrong when i said Fried Bee Hoon was, to me, the national dish of Singapore, because now I am of the opinion that Bak Chor Mee (minced pork noodles) may be even more commonplace. Often times, Fried Bee Hoon is only sold as a breakfast item, whereas Bak Chor Mee is sold throughout the day.

It took me a while to appreciate Bak Chor Mee, because i never had vinegar in my food since childhood. I never liked Bak Chor Mee during my first twenty years in Singapore. Once i got used to vinegar though, i came to love it! The taste is rather strong, and i would say you either love it or hate it. This uniquely Singaporean dish is not found in Malaysia. No, not even in JB. Continue reading True Singapore Food – Bak Chor Mee

How to get a Russia Tourist Visa in Singapore

St Basil’s Cathedral is the first thing that comes to my mind at the mention of Russia. The iconic cathedral with multi-coloured onion domes is something i thought i should behold someday. Well, the day is coming soon. I have just obtained the Visa for entry into Russia for tourism.

What deters many from visiting Russia, besides the distance, is probably the difficulty in getting a Visa. Yes, Russia is one of the few countries for which a Visa is required for a tourism visit with a Singapore passport. Vfs handles the application for Russia Visa in Singapore, and their website provides comprehensive information on how to do so. Continue reading How to get a Russia Tourist Visa in Singapore

Annual Ubin Pilgrimage

This project began by accident. We first went to Ubin island on New Year’s day 2015. Prior to that, my last trip to Ubin was in 1995, almost 20 years ago. When New Year’s day 2016 came, we thought, why not go to Ubin as an annual routine on New Year’s day. When we set foot on the island, we were struck with the idea to have photos taken at exactly the same spot or in the same pose. And what do you know, i was wearing the same shirt by chance, and so it is decided that, henceforth, inasmuch as it is possible, we will be wearing the same clothes as well.

2015 – 2017

This year, because New Year’s day fell on a Sunday, and we were busy in church, we did our pilgrimage on the 2nd. To keep to this tradition, we must. Who knows, someday i will be doing this with my grandchildren in tow.

I love the nature and the kampung feel of Ubin. There are a lot of photo opportunities for photography enthusiasts. Here’s what i snagged during the short 3 hours visit.

Smiling all the way to the bank. Brisk business on a public holiday.
Here’s proof that you need to slow down if you want to cultivate an appreciation for art. The centipede’s feet are made of sickle, something you don’t expect to find in Singapore. Anyway, to us urban dwellers, a sickle is more associated with horror movies than agriculture, don’t you think?
Reflections at Pekan quarry
An abundance of Flora awaiting your discovery on Pulau Ubin

Saying this always sounds cheesy to me, but Happy New Year!

True Singapore Food: Hainanese curry rice

Hainanese curry rice is pretty common in Singapore, but not so much in Malaysia (by the way, it definitely did not originate from Hainan in China). I don’t recall ever seeing Hainanese curry rice in KL, but apparently you can find them as far north of Singapore as Malacca. In any case, it is not easily found in Malaysia, so I think it is right to say that Hainanese curry rice is Singaporean cuisine. Continue reading True Singapore Food: Hainanese curry rice

Cheap groceries in western Singapore

I think those who live in the western parts of Singapore are blessed with having easy access to cheaper groceries. I will just highlight two places in the west that i visit every now and then, all the way from Hougang, to buy cheap groceries. Standard disclaimer: this is not a paid review. When i say groceries, i mean food in more or less the raw form, not ready or semi-ready-made food, which is what you’ll find at Woodlands Terrace, the other location that seems popular for “cheap” food.

The first place is QB Food. This place is quite popular with Expats as they sell airflown beef, and various kinds of meat and cheeses. Due to some legal requirement, you will have to place an online order before you pay them a visit (or you can do so there and then). You can just make a random order of any item as you can still pick up any item you want. Continue reading Cheap groceries in western Singapore

Hidden Gem: Ci Yuan Hawker Centre

Well, this place is literally hidden, in a Community Club. The first of its kind, it is planted inside a place where one least expects to find a hawker centre, until now. Community Centres are increasingly infused with commercial spaces – MacDonald’s and other eateries have long been introduced. I suppose food is one of the best ways of getting people to come together, so you could say it sits well with the objective of a Community Club. For me, i’m just glad that there is finally a decent hawker centre in Hougang, where i live.

Probably drawing from past experiences, the hawker centre is built with a very high ceiling, making the place bright and airy. The seating is well spaced out, so it feels comfortable having a meal here. It can still get warm, but that’s part of the package of dining in a hawker centre. There are two interesting concepts introduced in this hawker centre – self-payment kiosks (you’ve probably heard/read about it in the news) and wall advertising space.

Self-payment kiosk
Wall advertising space

Continue reading Hidden Gem: Ci Yuan Hawker Centre

True Singapore Food: Chwee Kueh

Chwee Kueh (steamed rice cake) is as Singaporean as it gets. I have not seen it anywhere else in the region. No, not really in Malaysia, other than in neighbouring Johor, which may well have imported it from Singapore. Not in Thailand, nor Indonesia.

It is interesting for being light enough as an after-meal snack, yet heavy enough to be a meal if you like. The main crave-inducing feature is the topping – fried minced preserved radish with shallot. You couldn’t eat the topping on it’s own though, it will be too salty and overpowering. Chwee Kueh, served warm, is truly the perfect pairing. The topping is very oily, and this oil is an indispensable part of the whole package, as it imparts a fragrance very much like truffle oil does.

Chwee Kueh remains one of the cheapest food item that can be found in a hawker centre, at S$0.25 per piece with a minimum purchase of 4 pieces. It is probably the most inflation-resistant food – the price hasn’t changed for more than a decade.

Bedok Chwee Kueh
Bedok Chwee Kueh Chinatown Branch

The Chwee Kueh by Bedok Chwee Kueh is one of the best. It is hard to resist having some Chwee Kueh post-meal at Smith Street Food Centre (which to me is the best Food Centre in Singapore). Have you had Chwee Kueh recently?

True Singapore Food: Yellow Noodles

If Fried Bee Hoon is ubiquitous in Singapore, one could say Yellow Noodles is at least equally so, making an appearance in a wide range of dishes, including but not limited to Fried Mee (sibling to Fried Bee Hoon at economic Bee Hoon stalls), Mee Goreng, soup noodles (think prawn and pork ribs soup noodle and Yong Tau Fu) and not forgetting Hokkien noodles, which is a uniquely Singaporean dish itself.

Hokkien Mee, Singapore style. Served on a yellow plate - classic.
Hokkien Mee, Singapore style. Served on a yellow plate – classic.

Yellow Noodles is so popular in Singapore that you find at least 4 or 5 different brands of locally produced Yellow Noodles sold in the supermarket. It is unique among all the other types of noodles in that it is actually a little soggy and has a slightly bitter alkaline taste, and it is well liked precisely for these qualities.

Continue reading True Singapore Food: Yellow Noodles

Crawl-less year end staycation

Excerpt from The Straits Times

The causeway has been in the news recently, being the source of frustration to travellers when they are stuck in a 5 hours jam to cross it. I can relate to this, as I myself was stuck in jam lasting more than 3 hours. On 11 December, a Friday, I joined the queue into the CIQ from the EDL at about 420pm, and managed to exit Woodlands Checkpoint only at 730pm.

The jams are happening despite an improvement in the workflow at Woodlands Checkpoint, whereby the vehicle inspection is done at the same time as the immigration clearance. This would have reduced the overall waiting time by probably half an hour, but apparently this wasn’t enough to relief the congestion, which one frequent causeway user said was the worst ever. It was so bad that she decided to put up in a hotel in JB. Looks like i’m not the only one having the same idea.

Excerpt from The New Paper
Excerpt from The New Paper

The best ways to avoid the causeway crawl are obviously air travel, or don’t travel! This is certainly not a good time to drive into Malaysia (and vice versa). Here are just some ideas of what one can do, free of charge (not counting transport and food of course), while staying put in Singapore. Yes, my kind of staycation. I simply don’t believe in spending money to stay in a local hotel.

Christmas light-up

This year, there is a new venue to view Christmas light-up other than the obvious Orchard Road. Yes, you probably already know it – Christmas Wonderland @ Gardens by the Bay. Judging by the popularity of this event, i have a feeling this will be held annually. A friend of ours who tried to go there (by public transport) was stuck in a queue for 3 hours. On my first attempt to get there, i immediately scrapped the idea on seeing the multi-kilometer tailback of cars queueing to get into the carpark. It was absolutely crazy!

Anyway, i went a second time, before 6pm on a Monday, and the car parks were already full, but the car park at Marina Barrage had plentiful parking (apparently the cars that were queuing were not aware of the availability of this car park that is within easy walking distance into Gardens by the Bay). Our plan was to have an early dinner at Satay by the Bay. It was quite empty before 6pm too, though before long, queues started to form at the food stalls as well.

It is certainly worth a look, but not quite pleasant having to contend with the crowd, especially when visiting with young children.

The centrepiece
A very elaborate Christmas tree

Sentosa is another plausible option even if it is slightly cheesy.

DSC_0312 DSC_0335

Get in touch with nature Continue reading Crawl-less year end staycation

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