Greyhound Cafe- Vegetarian in SG

Ok- I’ll admit it- given how much I’ve loved the food at the original Greyhound cafe in Bangkok and KL, I was counting down to the opening of the one in SG at Paragon.

Many many options which you will spend many many minutes waiting for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ignoring murmurs about long waits and lousy service, we went in nonetheless, hoping for the same great food. Well, at least on that count- they didn’t disappoint. The food- drinks, main course, dessert- everything was fantastic. Except that it took the staff 10 mins to serve cold water (you need to pay $1 for limitless pours!), 20 mins to serve the drinks, 40 mins to serve the main course and another 20 mins for dessert (which if you must know, was a frickin’ slice of cake!!!). We probably followed up about 6 times with the waitress who served us- so much so, that my 4.5 years old son now knows what ” follow-up” means. To be fair, each time, she would come by and tell us that she’d chase the kitchen for us but some food or an apology would have been better.

The food is great but I’m not sure we have about 2 hours to wait for cafe food. I will definitely go there again- it’s right on top of my post retirement list of to-do’s.

Din Tai Fung- Vegetarian in SG

Din Tai Fung is a family favorite and serves, what I can only describe as familiar comfort food.

While the vegetarian menu is by no means extensive, it is always reliable and given the number of branches the chain has (20+) , always at an arm’s distance, no matter where on the island you are.

Can’t-go-wrong choices- Steamed veg Dumpling/ bun, braised tofu, fried rice, noodles in special sauce (do let the server know that this needs to be a veg preparation) and Spinach with garlic. Wash it down with lemongrass or longan juice. Light on the tummy and wallet. Typical meal for 3 (40-50 sgd).

Steamed veg dumplings-, same stuffing as the steamed bun.
Braised Tofu- Makes for a great appetizer.

 

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Canton Paradise: Vegetarian in SG

I like to eat out. I’m also vegetarian. Which means I feel about as cheerful as Hulk at food courts (all that food and nothing that I can eat!!). But I also crave variety and I can’t really go to Original Sin for the 100th time or apologize to my son & hubby as I drag them to a pretentious vegan place or skulk around in Little India forever. I am convinced there are tons of fantastic places in SG that can delight fellow foodies who happen to be vegetarians.

This is the first in a series of restaurant discovery (& review) posts.

CANTON PARADISE, Alexandra Retail Centre

460 Alexandra Road, #02-30, PSA Building, Alexandra Retail Centre, 119963

Open for lunch and dinner all days.

This was a bit of a chance discovery on 2nd Jan since our original choice, Orange Lantern was closed. First things first- it is child friendly- plenty of space (there were families with strollers at the table) and plenty of high chairs available. The staff are also courteous and friendly.

Hot and Sour Soup- Canton Paradise @ARC

 

TOFU
Crispy Salt and Pepper Beancurd -Canton Paradise @ARC

 

 

 

 

(The pic quality is super shoddy because the thought that this could find its way into the blog occurred midway through the meal- I assure you, there was a lot more tofu on that plate 🙂

There are enough and more vegetarian dishes on the menu- the Hot and sour soup and Fried tofu were outstanding. The roast chicken and egg fried rice was also quite yum, I’m told. Pity we were past “dimsum’-o-clock’- I did spot a mushroom dimsum there..! Noodles were quite all right- not disappointing but nothing to write home about. But this is Singapore- if you mess up a plate of noodles, you should probably consider a change of career or location or both.

Recommended. If you aren’t making a trip to Alexandra any time soon, you could also visit the restaurant at Star Vista, Marina Bay Sands and Amber Road.

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Fursat- Moments of leisure

Hawa ki thapki dheemi dheemi,

khayalon ki raftaar maddham,

Yaadein bhi aur chaahein bhi,

Jaise goonje khwabon ki sargam

 

Yeh lamhe bulbulon se bhi nazuk,

Jinhone khudi ke darwazein khatkhata diye,

Gili mitti si mehekti hai zindagi

subah ki dhoop si ummeed liye,

 

Jo paas hai uska poora ehsaas,

Kamiyan kuch waqt ke liye kar di nazar andaaz

Fikr ka choga odhenge phir kabhi,

Filhaal, fursat se kar lein fursat ke saath mulaaqat.

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Beckoning 2016!

(written 7 years back for another year, but the wishes stay relevant)

Moments of introspection. Crib-free hours.
Work that doesn’t just pay the bills.
New Things. New People. Old Friends.
Days that are ordinary, and yet fulfilling.
Enchanting vacations and Cheap Thrills.
Happiness and joy that is not always selfish.
Music and dance. Thoughts that waltz.
Warm smiles and genuine affection
Getting closer to being the person you want to be.
Going back to being the person you were.
Exploration and Adventure.
Experiences that are not captured on camera.
Time for yourself out of the calendar and inbox
Hot chocolate Fudge induced inspiration.
Walks on the beach and at times, on cloud #9
Cups of hot coffee and interesting conversations.
Hog-athons and marathons. Prayers and Peace.
Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2016.

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Jaate ho tum kahan?

‘Click-like-share’ ki duniya men rehte ho
Khaas dosti na sahi, par nazar sab pe rakhte ho
Kitna dikhaate aur kitna chhupaate ho,
Jo dil mein hai, kya woh bayaan kar paate ho?

Nazar jhuki jhuki se rahe
Roz kisi nayi talaash mein ho
Par Aas paas ka koi ilm na rahe
Kyon aise ghum ho jaate ho?

Kyon aisi ranjish liye phirte ho
Jo har kahi suni jung ban jaaye,
Kuchh jiyo aur kuchh jeene do,
Kyon lafzon ko zehar ki chaashni mein dubaate ho?

Paas rehke bhi door ho
Uss mehfil se tum laut hi nahi paate ho
Kabhi fursat ho aur ‘wi-fi’ nahi, toh sochna,
Ki tum kya ho aur kya ban jaate ho!

Rishton ki Paheli

________________________________________________________________

Ummeedon ki zyaadati,

Jazbaaton ki numaaish.

Aage badhne ki hidaayat,

Yaad rakhne ki guzaarish.

Pairon ki bediyaan hain

Ya udne ke liye pankh

Kinaare le jaaye kabhi,

Khuli hawa mein kabhi ghute dum.

Chaley they khwabon ki rait pe,

Monjhon mein behne lagey hum.

Humsafar hai to sahi saath mein ,

Rishton ke dariya mein phir bhi doobe hum.

 

 

Solo Vietnam Trip- Sapa Redemption

Day 6- Ekla Cholo Re: Dining with a Black H’mong family

The day began relatively ‘late’ with a 8 am breakfast and 9 am meet up with Ca, my lovely 19 years old guide. She, I discovered, is a mother of two (!) as the child marriage practice is hugely prevalent in the Sapa tribes and in spite of other signs of modernization- television, electricity, modern clothes, this is one practice that refuses to die. The day’s program was supposed to start with a walk to the wet market to buy some fresh produce, then walk back to Ca’s village where they would cook a meal for me and then a trek back to the hotel.

Ethos, the travel company, I’d booked the trek with, had explained that most Black H’mong families practice subsistence farming and that having 4-5 items on the lunch table was a rarity. Meat was extremely expensive and hence reserved for very special occasions (weddings and funerals, mostly!) It was one time when my being vegetarian was actually not a hindrance in dining with the locals.

The wet market was buzzing with fruits, meat and vegetable vendors, stall owners and early morning shoppers. There were also groups of Black H’mong women getting ready to venture into the town with the day’s wares. Most of them were strictly against being photographed and later Ca told me that given how cash-strapped the families are, they have come to treat even photographs as a source of revenue. Also, the reason they are so persistent when they see tourists is because the income they earn from selling handicrafts, is what will help them survive the winter. All irritation that I had felt the previous day upon being accosted by seller after seller, evaporated- couldn’t really begrudge someone their survival techniques. Though, the question of why the men were curiously absent in all these proceedings remained to be answered.

The shopping expedition was quick and we made our way to Ca’s village after having bought tofu, tomatoes, cayote, bamboo shoots, garlic, ginger and morning glory. On the way, Ca gave me a quick glimpse into her life history- she had actually been adopted by a German couple and had spent a few years living in Germany but the couple had financial difficulties and sent her back a few years ago.  Ca adapted pretty well back into the traditional ways of her family- got married and promptly had 2 children- a 2.5 years old daughter and an 8 months old son. In fact, for what made for a shocking anecdote while trekking, she described to me how her water broke while she was on the way to the doctor (the nearest hospital was several kilometers away) and that she gave birth to her son on a rock. I almost lost my balance as I realized she was pointing to the rock where I was standing and taking pictures! Couldn’t really imagine how the chirpy and cheeky 19 year old was describing such tough times with no sense of despair or complaint. And back home, not getting a taxi on a rainy Friday becomes such a pain point! Sometimes, all you need to appreciate your own life is a gentle dose of perspective.

The trek was full of stops as I couldn’t get enough of the lush green landscape but soon had to acknowledge that we were inching closer to lunch time, so it might be better for us to opt for a faster stride.

Ca’s home was rustic and charming from the outside, what with hens and goats flopping about, village elders loitering around (there was a funeral two houses away and the prospect of meat had attracted the crowds) and cherubic toddlers playing in the yard. The rustic picture lost a bit of the charm when I stepped inside- I didn’t mind the mud floor or thatched roof but the house was fairly  dingy as the number of windows was equal to the number of TVs- 1! Inside, more relatives were huddled around the TV, watching some Korean drama dubbed in Vietnamese. Ca’s husband started the wooden fire and thanks to the combination of smoke and my dust allergy, I had a huge sneezing bout and decided to duck out in the open for some photo ops and fresh air. Ca’s relatives proved to be willing subjects, esp. those influenced by the rice wine they’d had at the neighbour’s funeral. I did offer to help but realized how inadequate I would be in a rural kitchen where notions of hygiene and order were going up in wooden smoke, for it is not everyday that hens come rushing into the kitchen, followed by the dogs. I gulped some water (carried my own bottle, thank you!) and took on the shooing duties and wondered if I was just being a silly snob and whether this is what most foreigners go through when they visit some parts of India. It was a strange mix of feelings and thoughts as I saw Ca tie her son to her back and carry on cooking (was I imposing on their family time or was I enabling a good meal for that day?), one common source of water for kitchen and bathroom (maybe the water was right from the source and clean and perhaps what won’t kill me would make me stronger?), Ca’s mother in law giving her grandkid Fanta in a lid and the little girl trying to give some to her baby brother as well (it’s wrong to feed sugary, aerated drinks to kids vs. let them have a treat once in a while). Before the lack of wi-fi and the general sense of boredom caught up with me, lunch was on the table and by that time, I was super hungry and abandoned all my misgivings to dig into an admittedly yummy meal. After the meal I noticed Ca merrily enjoying rice wine while nursing her son and I couldn’t help but intervene. She told me she had rice wine even when she was pregnant! I was a bit horrified and quickly launched into a speech about how alcohol was not recommended and could potentially harm the baby. She took another sip and sagely offered “Yeah. That’s probably the reason why all of us are so short”. I decided to say no further and waited for her to finish, so we could trek back to the town.

The trek back was even better – the weather was nice and toasty and with the crisp mountain air and beautiful landscape, I decided to not worry too much about the ways of the H’mong people- live and let live. Que Sera Sera! Thanks to the rice wine, dear Ca was chattier and funnier on the trek and kept pranking me about the distance left to be covered. Truth be told, after 2 hours, the lovely toasty sun was beating down on us and making us long for clouds and shade. Finally the muddy roads gave way to concrete and the destination was well within sight.

The day was exhausting and well spent and I was pleasantly surprised to see the Ethos team ready to receive us at the hotel to get my feedback as also to decide the plan for the next day. The next day was to be spent with a Red Dao guide and (gulp), to be spent biking. I wanted to ensure it was safe (the sound of biking on mountains certainly wasn’t!) and could only imagine the shock that my family would experience if I told them of this plans. The day’s forecast (as per Google) was also supposed to be rather horrid with rains and thunderstorm but Hoa assured me that the inaccuracy of the forecast could be totally relied upon and that she would ensure the weather was all right in the morning and only then give us the go signal.

With a prayer to the weather gods and with another meal at dear Hill Station (where the staff had come to recognize me and pretty much predict my order), I ended the day’s adventure- glad that Sapa had lived upto its reputation. For all those planning to go, don’t make the same mistake as me and judge it based on the town- go to the villages and the hills and discover its true beauty. A lesson in humility will also be yours for the taking.

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Pizza from scratch- Recipe

This was my maiden attempt at making pizza from scratch- previous efforts have involved just buying the base and adding the goodies.

Pre- Requisites: Besides patience, Pre-heated Oven and a Pizza pan (either flat surface or the one with perforated bottom- for a crisper base)

 The What- ingredients (for the dough)

1 cup wholemeal flour (atta)
1 cup fine flour (maida- the finer the better; usually referred to as Top flour or OO flour)
1 tsp honey
1 packet active dry yeast (11 g)
¾ cup warm water
salt to taste
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

The What: ingredients (for the sauce)

½ a can of tinned tomatoes
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

 Mix and simmer all ingredients together for 1-2 mins. Keep it this way for a chunky sauce. Else, blend it all together.

 The What: ingredients (for the toppings)

Mozarella cheese- you could also use the pre-mixed “pizza cheese”- which is a mix of mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan.
Whatever in in your fridge (you are limited by your imagination!) Suggestions- Cherry tomato, olive, onion (plain or caramelized), mushrooms, eggplant, red/yellow/green pepper, jalapeno.
Herbs- Oregano, Basil or good old pizza seasoning mix

The How- method

  • Add honey and yeast to the warm water in a bowl and stir well.
  • Let it sit for 3-4 mins until you see a layer of foam on top. If you don’t get the foam, you’ll need to make another batch.
  • In a mixing bowl, mix salt and flour and then add the yeast mixture and olive oil.
  • The mixture is quite sticky at this stage, so you may be forgiven for using a spatula or spoon. (I did it the old fashioned way and the sticky scary hands were also useful to drive the little monster away from the kitchen!
  • Add a bit of flour (1-2 spoons) if the mixture is too sticky for comfort. You aim is to get this to a recognizable mass of dough.
  • Once done, leave it in a warm place, ideally covered by cling film or a damp towel. I left mine in the microwave. Let it sit for 3-4 hours.
  • Once the time’s up, clean the work surface (if it’s granite or marble, lovely!) and put sufficient amount of flour on it.
  • The dough should be twice its original volume by now (if yes, give yourself a nice pat on the back!) Knead the dough, incorporating some flour into it, so the texture resembles that of “dheela atta”- still moist and stretchy but not exactly flubber.
  • Divide the dough into 4 equal portions- 2 if you want large size pizzas.
  • Put the portions in the bowl or on a flat tray (space them out as they will rise again) and let them rest for 30 mins in a warm place (e.g. a microwave).
  • Now would be a good time to pre-heat the oven (30-45 minutes at the highest temperature- usually 220-250 C)
  • Take out the dough and flatten it on the floured work surface- don’t use a rolling pin- spread it out using hands and fingers, baby! Take care not to make any particular side too thin.
  • If the surface breaks or there is a hole, just mend it with some extra dough.
  • Put on the pizza pan (would be great if you could heat the pizza pan for 5-10 mins) and spread the sauce on the base, ensuring that you don’t spread all the way to the edge.
  • Add the toppings and cheese (now this is one step where you can involve the little ones or the other adults who want to ‘help’) .My son loved this part, although most of the olives ended up in his mouth instead of on the pizza!
  • Put in the oven and bake for 8-9 mins ,though the duration quite frankly, depends on how thick or thin the base is. If it’s your first time, then hovering around the oven with a watchful eye will help.
  • Take out, put on a cooling tray and cut into slices. Enjoy!

 Note:

  • You can make 4 pizzas (serves 3-4 people) quite quickly with this method. Best enjoyed fresh, though you could make them in advance and bake again for 1-2 mins. Am not a fan of refrigeration and freezing food so haven’t tried that yet. Do try and tell 🙂
  • Do not re-heat in microwave unless on convection or grill mode- you will end up with gooey mess.
  • You can vary the ratio of wholemeal flour to plain flour, based on your preference. Traditionally, you need to use only plain flour but it comes with huge guilt and zero fibre 🙂
  • You can also try using BBQ sauce as the base vs. tomato sauce (got this as a tip on FB so try it and let me know how it goes!
  • Experiment. Experiment. Experiment. Do share the results!

DISCLAIMER– am no Masterchef- this recipe was a result of combining two brilliant resources. Find them here and here – do browse through the NYT site in particular- great for inspiration, but they do have some very specific equipment that would be rare in most ‘novice baker’ apartments- pizza stones or tiles, for instance.