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Food, glorious food! Holidays! Milestones and growing up Motherkao loves... The Kao Kids

5 things to do with kids, the ‘chill-and-live-like-a-local’ version

December 5, 2016

We’re having the luxury of time here in Bangkok living like (and with) the locals for the second time now. The last time we did this was last year where we lived at The Hub Residence at Ramkhamhaeng and walked daily to the tennis court 5 minutes away so that Ben could get his intensive training in the mornings.

This year, we’re doing the same. Except that we’re not at The Hub this time due to their new minimum 6-months rental policy. We’ve found decent and simple lodging nearer the beginning of Soi 4, and are super stoked we’re just next to a 7-11 and literally a minute’s walk away from the glorious street food prepared and cooked by the same locals who could still remember us from last year.

The kids pretty much delve right into being at home in BKK and know the drill well – no balking at street food (the locals here take pride in what they prepare), say thank you and hello with palms pressed together in a slight bow, smile whenever things get lost in translation and speak in English slowly, and watch out for cars before they cross even the tiniest of alleys.

When in BKK living at the outskirts beyond the tourist façade of malls and high rise, here are 5 things to do to experience life as a local. Or at least, here’s 5 things we have done.

Go ahead and try it; the experience might surprise you.

1. Be ferried down the soi, the local-way

Right in front where we live, there’s a hut with parked motorcycles on the left that ferries people from place to place and pedal carts queued up to take groups of people down alleyways (with seats enough for 6 and pedalled by a local) on the right. Hop on to a pedal cart for 5 baht or onto a motorbike for less than 30, and you can get ferried from one end of the alley to the other (or beyond, perhaps!) without having to walk!

Definitely an experience for the kids on a pedal cart and a luxury for those whose legs are aching from walking too much!

Getting a ride on the pedal cart

Getting a ride on the pedal cart: the uncle pedals hard all day to get people from Point A to B

2. Play old school video games at arcades/shopping mall

A 10-baht coin slotted into any arcarde game machine is great mileage. It lasts for 15 minutes. Put 4 in and you get an hour of rest while your boys expend their energies.

Totally worth it.

Game: 40 cents Brotherly bonding: priceless

Game: 40 cents
Brotherly bonding: priceless

My father taught me how to drive

My father taught me how to drive

At the arcades in the city centre, the games are double the price (20 baht for a race car cheap thrill) but still, they are great ways to hang out with the locals or hang out like the locals. Many of the local school kids are there dancing their para-para-dance and might even challenge you in a bike or car race.

3. Explore community malls

We checked out The Commons at Thonglor and frequently go to The Mall at Ramkhanhaeng, and The Nine. These are awesome community and neighbourhood malls to be in to watch the world go by. You can sit at cafes, eat lots of crepe cakes, pretzels and donuts, and take lots of pictures. Best part is, everything where we stay (in the area of Ramkhahaeng) is almost ten times cheaper than anything in the Greater Metropolis like Siam.

The Commons has an entire storey for kids that allows for free play (if you get food and drinks) and facilitated play (200 baht for the 1st hour); methinks this is great if you want to just chill out but your kids are raring to go. I hear they also run holiday camps like crafting and cooking. They also organise block parties where you can hang out and participate in community-building activities, similar to our RC and CC activities back home.

The Commons at Thonglor, the latest community mall in Bangkok

The Commons at Thonglor, the latest community mall in Bangkok

It's not a huge mall at all; merely a space for people to hang out, but there are interesting things around

It’s not a huge mall at all; merely a space for people to hang out, but there are interesting things around

Like these giant fans to cool the space

Like these giant fans to cool the space

And lots of space and stairs to monkey around

And lots of space and stairs to monkey around

The Kids Common is where kids can have fun

The Kids Common is where kids can have fun

And where play matters

And where play matters

Driving around in a cloth bus and using all our imagination

Driving around in a cloth bus and using all our imagination

The top yard has lots of space to chill out and a herb garden to explore

The top yard has lots of space to chill out and a herb garden to explore

Lego fun at Kids Common

Lego fun at Kids Commons

Play area that's chargeable because kids get to craft under supervision

Play area that’s chargeable because kids get to craft under supervision

4. Do as the locals do + watch Thai tv for cultural immersion

December marks the beginning of mourning for the Thai people who are grieving the passing of their late king. And every now and then the tv zones out from its regular programming and broadcasts funeral rites and rituals happening live at the Grand Palace. What a great way to be immersed in the history and culture of of a country through tv broadcasts, in a time like this.

Beyond that, my kids would sit in front of the tv to watch Boomerang and cartoons in Thai. Even if they have no idea what’s being said, the constant listening in gives them the immersion I’ve always hoped they would get. They can say some simple words in Thai, which is not bad for a start!

When we head to the malls, we also take the time to walk around the various exhibitions and appreciate the many artwork and installations in memory and honour of the late Thai king. We left flowers where they were freely available for anyone who wished to pay their respect and stood in silence to watch the many videos the malls were playing.

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One of the many picture exhibition happening right now at the walkway between MBK and Siam Discovery

One of the many picture exhibition happening right now (time of writing: Dec 2016) at the walkway between MBK and Siam Discovery

Taking a moment to watch a video of celebrating King Bhumibol's life

Taking a moment to watch a video celebrating King Bhumibol’s life

The pictures even have QR codes to scan so you can download it for keeps

The pictures even have QR codes to scan so you can download it for keeps

This art installation by a local artist features some form of kinetic energy to light up a rendition of lights making up the face of the late king

This art installation by a local artist features some form of kinetic energy to light up a rendition of lights making up the face of the late king

Step on the platform, and this comes out - how brilliant!

Step on the platform, and this comes out – how brilliant!

This installation features lots of heart-shaped people as a reminder to show love and compassion to people around you and the less fortunate (it's even some form of a charity drive!) because that's how they'd like to remember King Bhumibol

This installation features lots of heart-shaped people (and free “hugs”!) as a reminder to show love and compassion to people around you and the less fortunate (it’s even some form of a charity drive!) because that’s how they’d like to remember King Bhumibol. That’s really also what he exemplified in his life.

The kids got to learn a little more about King Bhumibol’s significance in Thai society and history, and it was, in my opinion, an honour to mourn together with the people. We also tried as much as possible to wear dark colours every day.

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Leaving a special flower as a mark of respect at the atrium of Siam Paragon

5. Savour the sights and smells of street food

Nobody really cooks at home, I hear. The locals settle their breakfast, lunch and dinner at the roadside street stalls and that pretty much is their way of life.

Our rule-of-thumb for street food: food must be cooked in high heat (which means we don’t really patronise the carts that sell fruits or som tum).

We love it that we get to try everything from fried dough fritters and pork porridge to beef noodles, phad thai, wanton noodles and chicken soup right at our door step. Not to mention the freshly made Thai tea and local desserts from flavoured soy milk to coconut pancakes at such an affordable price.

The locals who make a living selling street food are a hardworking bunch who never fail to tirelessly show up to cook – every single day, including Sundays and public holidays – and we have so much respect for them; we love to stand around to watch them prepare the food we want to tabao back.

They have so much pride in what they do.

This was such a godsend: I'm hacking away with this awful cough and the porridge every morning with so much ginger and spring onions and flavourful meat balls is so much comfort

This was such a godsend: I’m hacking away with this awful cough and this porridge is what I have every morning with generous slices of ginger and spring onions and flavourful meat balls is so much comfort. I’m so regular that the stall owner just knows what to do when she sees me.

How comforting

How comforting

Dough fritters for 20 baht

7 dough fritters for 20 baht which is old school youcharkway, except that it’s pop-in-your-mouth-bite-size!

Having a feast after tennis, and it's only 9 in the morning!

Having a feast after tennis, and it’s only 9 in the morning! Ben is having pad thai freshly made and the rest of us had pork soup (fatherkao), porridge (Becks and me) and some sort of coconut and yam kueh (Nat & helper)

This.

This is the best part of being in Thailand. There’s nothing not to love, and we’re enjoying every day we’re here living like we’re one of them.

All this blog's PR Stuff Food, glorious food! Reviews

It’s the smell of breakfast and more with ‘A Helping Hand’

December 4, 2016

Ever since this came along, my children have stopped eating corn flakes and cereal for breakfast.

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‘A Helping Hand’ by Frog Michaels: read how this came about here

Thanks to A Helping Hand by Frog Michaels, my helper has been churning out pancakes and variations of egg dishes for the kids, in addition to making bread and buns for the whole family since two weeks ago when the cookbook arrived.

My kids are eating better, thanks to this.

At least we no longer hear ‘Huh? Cornflakes again?’!  

A stack of fluffy pancakes for breakfast for the kids by Helper A, thanks to the cookbook

A stack of fluffy pancakes for breakfast for the kids by Helper A, thanks to the cookbook!

This was sent to me in Helper's A excitement to share she made poached eggs

This was sent to me in Helper’s A excitement to tell me she made poached eggs one of the mornings I wasn’t around. She tried many more recipes but I barely got to take any pictures because by the time we remember to take photos, the food’s all gone!

I think having a cookbook in Tagalog is such an awesome idea.

Like how awesome this is with the Tagalog side by side the English one

Like how awesome this is with the Tagalog side by side the English one

I think having 86 recipes for Western and Asian cuisine for my helper written and printed in her native language is an even awesomer idea.

I’ve personally told my helper that the possibilities are now endless in terms of what she can whip up, instead of sticking to the staples she always prepares, like pasta and fried rice. She can now be a pro in the kitchen effortlessly from this point forward.

This book is everything I wish she could cook.

A Helping Hand is Singapore’s only cookbook written in English and Tagalog and is designed to help employers and helpers alike churn out tasty, balanced and healthy meals for the family.

Beyond that, it succeeds in being more than just a cookbook: it’s a book that helps relationships between families and their domestic helpers; gives helpers the tools they need in order to feel confident in the kitchen and the information they need in order to purchase ingredients to put a meal together; and helps helpers understand descriptive cooking phrases like ‘beat’, ‘bake blind’, ‘braise’ and ‘blanch’ that would otherwise get lost in translation.

The best part of it all is that for every book sold, a donation goes to Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (H.O.M.E.) – a Singapore charity and society dedicated to upholding the rights of migrant workers.

Makes an awesome gift to your domestic helper – if yours is from the Philippines – this Christmas!

More details:

A Helping Hand helps get honest, classic, uncomplicated European and Asia dishes onto your table with minimum fuss and effort on your part. Get A Helping Hand from the various stockists in Singapore or online at a special price of SGD 39.90. We hear a Bahasa version is in the pipeline too. Akan datang!

Disclosure: Frog Michaels has very kindly gifted her cookbook to my trusty helper, A. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions here are my own. Helper A thinks ‘A Helping Hand’ has made her more confident in the kitchen and she is immensely grateful! 

All this blog's PR Stuff Food, glorious food! The Kao Kids

Wrapping up this Children’s Day

October 6, 2016

Recently, Mission Foods Singapore threw me a challenge to surprise my children by making them a “fun and creative meal made from healthy wraps” for Children’s Day.

Challenge accepted, I say! These days, anything that falls in the category of the Food Department goes straight to their father. Hurhurhur.

So I told the husband about this challenge and asked him to think of something that would get the kids to eat wraps. The kids have never eaten anything with wraps, and so it was a challenge on two counts: one, to make something healthy or fun or creative; and two, to make something they would eat.

He took up the challenge gamely with the following:

Step 1:Sear fresh prawns with olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper, and then dice

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Step 2: Dice onions and tomatoes and toss with a dash of olive oil

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Step 3: Mash kiwi of the yellow kind

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Step 4: Mix all ingredients 

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Step 5: Add pan-seared chicken breast (optional)

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Step 6: Put them all in a Mission Foods wrap 

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Step 7: Enjoy

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Wa la. A simple wrap-tastic meal that’s done in less than an hour.

A healthy meal with fruit, veggies, carbs and protein.

Did the kids eat the wraps and enjoy their first experience? Well, let’s just say we might try tacos the next time because they kept screaming roti prata and I wasn’t about to pass the sugar.

~~~

Disclosure: Mission Foods Singapore sent us the wraps that were used for this challenge. All opinions – and the no-fuss recipe – are our own. No child was harmed for being worked as labour to mash the kiwi.

All this blog's PR Stuff Food, glorious food! Reviews

The Forgotten Recipe, where food is remembered [Review]

August 24, 2016

I treasure the weekends a lot these days because when we’re up for it, the family goes exploring. I’m so glad the kids are old enough now and have a great sense of adventure. Ever since we’ve moved, we’ve been checking out places we otherwise wouldn’t if we were still staying at the northeast of Singapore. We’ve done a fair bit of cafe hopping at Holland Village and Dempsey already, and lately found ourselves entranced by the charms of the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood.

Tiong Bahru market was where I was in chwee kueh heaven, slurped up bowls of pork porridge and made my father queue for crystal paus as a child.

And here’s where we also found a newly opened concept bistro that’s such a brilliant idea – completely congruent with the rustic-ness of the old and new in Tiong Bahru – and which makes us wonder why hasn’t anyone thought of such a concept for a restaurant of bistro till now?

It’s called The Forgotten Recipe.

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And what does it serve?

Forgotten recipes, and good ol’ comfort food my ah ma would be proud of.

We joined The Forgotten Recipe for their brunch buffet some time ago, and were impressed with some classic dishes that brought back feelings of warmth, comfort and simplicity. I hear that the brunch buffet happens every Saturday and there’ll be activities lined up for the kids in a separate play room within the bistro.

Which means the adults can take their time to eat, or come with company, and the kids can be gainfully occupied if they are done with their eating.

That Saturday, my kids got their hands busy playing with train tracks and car tracks, and making Angry Birds clay figurines while Fatherkao and I ate took our time to savour each dish, go for seconds, and then have dessert and coffee.

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Warming up after the stomach’s filled on playmats

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Facilitated clay modelling activity

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Look, Mama. I made RED!

The buffet line was jaw dropping with its variety of comfort food and classic dishes ranging for potato gratin and tahu goreng to devil’s curry and chai tow kway. I found the devil’s curry most satisfying; the chef nailed it with its aromatic flavours and spice level, complete with the tender chicken thighs that came with the dish.

I didn’t manage to capture my devil’s curry on my plate, so here’s a mouthwatering picture, courtesy of The Forgotten Recipe

It was like being invited to a Eurasian home for a cosy dinner.

The other dish I found novel was the tok tok mee, which was a simple noodle dish cooked in flavourful broth. There’s a sense of nostalgia eating a dish like this, and it made me wish I could have muah chee and dragon beard candy and kacang puteh after eating that bowl, just like in my childhood days.

Simple tok tok mee with belachan filled with flavours to savour!

Simple tok tok mee with belachan filled with flavours to savour!

Another dish worth a mention from the buffet line was the tahu goreng. The key to a successful tahu goreng is fresh tahu and smooth, flavourful peanut sauce. Which we got – piping hot.

Would be interesting to see The Forgotten Recipe recreate versions of that peanut sauce from experienced makciks willing to share all their recipes and provide an assortment of various Forgotten peanut toppings!

Picture credit: The Forgotten Recipe (I suck at food photography. I only dig in!)

Picture credit: The Forgotten Recipe (As you can tell, I was too busy eating I didn’t grab a picture of my tahu goreng too!)

Dessert was chendol which was a sweet end to balance out the savoury from the buffet line. I’ve had better ones in Melaka, of course, but the kids totally love that there’s ice cream in it, which was a treat on a hot day.

They've got one thing right here for sure: chendol has to be eaten with a metal spoon!

They’ve got one thing right here for sure: chendol has to be eaten with a metal spoon!

And while we took our time to eat, the kids played the afternoon away, and that was how a lazy Saturday afternoon was spent in this quaint neighbourhood I have so many fond memories of. I recounted to the kids how I ate my first bowl of yong tau foo here, which came with blood pudding, and loved every bite of it (much to their disgust), and how my aunt would bus my cousins and I from Bukit Merah where she lived to Tiong Bahru to eat that, and fishball noodles, and roast pork rice, and all of what I knew to be yummy since childhood. I recalled memories of running and playing along the same pavements we walked and how this place is one of the few that make up the Singapore I love.

Time has passed but much of the facade in this neighbourhood still remains. And how apt it was to be reminiscing childhood in a place like The Forgotten Recipe – a new within the old, and created to help people savour their food memories.

~~~

More details:

The Forgotten Recipe is at 3 Seng Poh Road, S168891. Since our visit, they’ve done a couple of really brilliant things like letting you customise your own National Day brunch buffet by bringing back local delights, and launching some new fusion creations. Follow them on their Facebook page for more updates.

The Forgotten Recipe also invites you to revive old and forgotten recipes by submitting them.

It’s nice to create new memories and be involved in the process of recreating dishes that were from days yonder.

All this blog's PR Stuff Food, glorious food! Going Out! Learning fun! Motherkao loves... Reviews The Kao Kids

Family Day Out at City Square Mall

December 27, 2015

If I could give out an award for the most family-friendly mall in the country, it has to be City Square Mall. I’m not just saying this because the kind folks from City Square Mall hosted us to a day out in November, but because every time I go to the mall (which is frequent enough), it’s like a one-stop for so many possibilities for every single one in the house. We’ve had lessons at Eye Level there since 2013, attended the ZooMoov launch party there, gone to Fun N Laughter for birthday parties, shopped at Babies ‘R’ Us for presents, ate at Food Republic, Astons, Swensen’s, Pasta Mania, Streats Hong Kong Cafe – all the food that the children liked, and chilled out for a cuppa at Delifrance and Starbucks when the kids were busy playing at a party or having lessons.

I really love this mall.

Like I was saying, the folks at the mall deepened my love for it even more when they hosted us for a family day-out last month and showed us even more things we could together as a family. It came at a time when I badly needed to spend quality time with my husband and children, and I am so grateful that I got to do that amidst the craziness at work.

First Stop: Art Jam for the Entire Family

I like the notion that we would be doing something so artistic (hurhurhur, like I am so in tune with my artsy self!) and yet so differentiated all at the same place. Which is what the entire hour (and a little more, I thought) was about at Global Art (04-23) to kickstart our Family Day Out. I had gotten my hands dirty and my nerves flustered once with acrylic painting – and then never tried it thereafter – so I was so glad that both the husband and I got the chance to learn the techniques step-by-step. What a difference a guided session makes. And how important it is to have a patient teacher, too.

Paying close attention to the teacher so we can model after her

Paying close attention to the teacher so we can model after her

Practising on paper first before starting on the canvas

Practising on paper first before starting on the canvas

Following the instructions on the task sheet and getting familiar with the palette knife

Following the instructions on the task sheet and getting familiar with the palette knife

And we started when we were ready!

And we started when we were ready!

Whilst the adults were busy learning the basics of acrylic painting, the Kao kids were equally engaged learning the techniques of colouring and shading with oil pastels, something I am grateful that they got to pick up. I am also impressed that teaching instructions and tasks were differentiated for Ben, Becks and Nat at our session at Global Art, and the kids were all engaged sufficiently.

It was crucial that the tasks were differentiated as each child was at a different skill level, and Global Art teachers made sure of that

It was crucial that the tasks were differentiated as each child was at a different skill level, and Global Art teachers made sure of that

All three of them of pressed on through the hour to complete their respective tasks.

Presenting the Kao Kids' masterpieces...

Presenting the Kao Kids’ masterpieces…

And so did Fatherkao and I!

And our completed flowers painted on canvas with acrylic paint!

And our completed flowers painted on canvas with acrylic paint!

Second stop: Flying on flavoured wings at Wingstop

When we were done with painting, our stomachs needed to be filled. Lunch was calling out to us in the form of wings. Chicken wings, that is. I thought the kids would be thrilled, but it turned out that I was more thrilled than them. This was like a dream come true, eating a buffet of flavourful, marinated wings and challenging my spice level at the same time. I thought Nene Chicken did it for me; but I’m happy to say Wingstop (B1-33) did more.

Did what?

Filled our tummies with American-style buffalo wings that contained too much goodness.

Warning: Drool-inducing pictures of food ahead First, the deliciousness of the salsa chips and fried mushrooms

Warning: Drool-inducing pictures of food ahead
First, the deliciousness of the salsa chips and fried mushrooms

And then they kept coming... This is Garlic Parmesan

And then they kept coming…
This is Garlic Parmesan

The Lemon Pepper and Louisiana Rub

The Lemon Pepper and Louisiana Rub

The Mango Hanebero

The Mango Hanebero

Teriyaki... And then my hands got too busy and too messy to be taking pictures

Teriyaki…
And then my hands got too busy and too messy to be taking pictures

Kids loved the Garlic Parmesan and Teriyaki, husband loved the Louisiana Rub and I loved the Mango Habanero best, although I also did challenge the Atomic.

Wingstop is all about “sauced and tossed, and made to order” chicken wings with 11 flavours to choose from – the first ten comes from the States: Original Hot, Cajun, Atomic, Mild, Teriyaki, Lemon Pepper, Hawaiian, Garlic Parmesan, Hickory Smoked BBQ and Louisiana Rub; and the 11th, the Oriental Soy Pepper is specifically made for the local market. It already is in 660 locations in the U.S; and this is its 2nd store in Singapore at City Square Mall. You have to absolutely try them to love them.

Nat loves the drumstick!

Nat loves the drumstick!

And this was me before I conquered the Atomic

And this was me before I conquered the Atomic

Third Stop: Becoming Baking Geniuses

All ready to bake

All ready to bake

When we were done with lunch, we proceeded to Genius R Us (07-07/08) for a time of mother-and-children bonding session. If you followed this blog since I first started, you would know I baked a fair bit with the kids and for the kids when I stayed home. Baking has always been therapeutic for me before the kids and when they were younger and could only assist in some tasks.

Unfortunately, I’ve become a little bit more OCD as the kids got older, and I’m quite sorry to say that I’m a pain in the neck when it comes to precision for measuring out ingredients, and becoming really, really fussy about mess.

So you can imagine me doing the happy dance inside when I learned that I would get to bake and not need to worry about cleaning up.

The Kao kids were really thrilled to be baking with Mama again, although I think the Mama three years ago (when we all started baking together) and the Mama now is very different; the former being more relaxed in the past and the latter now being a tad naggy. I had to constantly nag at the kids to listen to instruction, wait for me to help them with measurements and not break the eggs.

We're making ice cream cone pops today!

We’re making ice cream cone pops today!

My little bakers

My little bakers

My littlest baker

My littlest baker

And their ice cream cone pops

And their ice cream cone pops

Nonetheless, I think the kids did a terrific job despite their naggy mother. We had many cake pops to eat after that, and I had to nag them about hydration and pacing their chocolate intake. Well, the successful cake pops made everyone happy at least!

Last stop: Sweetness in Cocoa Heaven

Who was I kidding when I nagged about pacing chocolate intake with the cake pops? Our last stop was choco heaven and that was the most joyous part of the day for the kids. I think all nags from Mama was quickly thrown out of the window. Bring on the adrenaline, and the cocoa here at Cocoa Colony, is what they said.

And after the first few round of cocoa drinks, I succumbed too and asked for more.

Ordering our drinks...

Ordering our drinks…

From this list of Top 10 Faves at Cocoa Colony

From this list of Top 10 Faves at Cocoa Colony

And going 'wow' at all the desserts!

And going ‘wow’ at all the desserts!

We got to try the signature creations at Cocoa Colony (01-12) and learned about the history and origin of each cocoa gem in liquid form, solid form, gelato form and even powdered form. Cocoa Colony is a local company that believes in using quality cocoa in everything they make and sell, yet keeping prices affordable and accessible for everyone. That’s great news because the last time I went to another specialty cocoa place at the Esplanade some years ago, it dented my wallet a fair bit.

I’m hopeful now that we’ve all tried the deliciousness of the liquid gold that is cocoa in drinks, tasted it in gelato and savoured it in other forms like their Cocoa Bolas and chocolate bars at Cocoa Colony and can safely say that their avant garde cocoa isn’t any lesser in quality than the famous one we all know that’s moved to Vivo. I love the affordability at Cocoa Colony which gives me the option to try many more items on the menu.

We sampled the best cocoa in Cocoa Colony hot

We sampled the best cocoa in Cocoa Colony hot

...and cold

…and cold

I tried the pure cocoa in powder form

I tried the pure cocoa in powder form

And the kids couldn't stop savouring the gelato

And the kids couldn’t stop savouring the gelato

Oh well, cheers!

Oh well, cheers!

What a sweet, sweet end to the Family Day Out!

***

I couldn’t believe that I had spent ONE entire day doing so many things with the family, and that a mall with its family-friendly tenants provided this opportunity. All in all, it was a fruitful weekend well-spent with the family at City Square Mall, and I cannot say enough that it’s altogether impressive and convenient as a one-stop to do so many things!

Disclosure: We were invited to spend a day out with the family at City Square Mall and hosted by the kind people from the mall mentioned in this review. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions here are strictly our own.

***

LATEST EDIT: Cocoa Colony has since ceased operations at City Square Mall as of 2017. For a list of updated stores, visit their site here. The menu and drinks remain largely unchanged and are wonderful sweet treats to have to make your day, nonetheless.

All this blog's PR Stuff Food, glorious food! Going Out! Holidays! The Kao Kids

Fly away spontaneity

April 29, 2015
The Transit Lounge at T2 where sunflowers abound and one is a little closer to the planes and skies

The Transit Lounge at T2 where sunflowers abound and one is a little closer to the planes and skies

During the long weekend that was the Good Friday weekend that was in April, we did the crazy spontaneous.

We booked a budget flight and got onto to the plane, away to KL for a 1D1N.

Yes, we left the country for a one-day-one-night spontaneous family getaway.

And it was such a fun one with everyone in tow, helper included.

We departed for KL on a 4.30pm flight on Saturday, arrived in KL at 5.30pm, took the KLIA Express to KL Sentral. From there we walked to Le Meridien where we got two rooms with an awesome city view, and then headed to Jalan Alor for dinner.

The luxurious beds at Le Meridien all to themselves. They say 'yay' and I say 'yay' too! No co-sleeping on this trip!

The luxurious beds at Le Meridien all to themselves. They said ‘yay’ and I said ‘yay’ too! No co-sleeping on this trip!

Walking down the food street at Jalan Alor

Walking down the food street at Jalan Alor

Our dinner consisting of chicken wings, satay, oyster omelette, carrot cake, char kway teow, beer (for the adults) and juice (for the young 'uns)

Our dinner consisting of chicken wings, satay, oyster omelette, carrot cake, char kway teow, beer (for the adults) and juice (for the young ‘uns) – awesomely yummy!

Back at the hotel room late at night, my husband sprang me a birthday surprise, and the kids and I were on an all-time high. They soaked in the warm water in the tub. The adults soaked in the city’s night view from the hotel window. By the time we crashed, it was close to midnight.

Happy birthday (again), this time from the hotel staff at Le Meridien, planned by Fatherkao

Happy birthday (again), this time from the hotel staff at Le Meridien, planned by Fatherkao

The next morning, we checked out and took a taxi to Seremban to meet with family, had lunch, and was back at the KL airport by 3pm, and back in Singapore – 3 hours later.

This was Restoran Xin Kai where we had great bak kut teh!

This was Restoran Xin Kai Xin in Seremban where we had great bak kut teh!

All with one big duffel bag and a huge dose of a sense of adventure.

Were we tired? Not at all. We were adrenaline-charged by this sudden burst of spontaneity.

For the kids, it was all about new sights and sounds, and non-stop eating.

For the husband and I, it was all about holding hands, which we haven’t done for the longest time.

For the family, it was all about experiencing a foreign land together and filling one memory page at a time, moving around from place to place and taking a flight together, watching the clouds and sunsets and pretending we were cruising through a billowing sea of cotton candy.

Any time spent with family is good time, and I am glad for this spontaneous family getaway

Any time spent with family is good time, and I am glad for this spontaneous family getaway

We would do this again in a heartbeat, this crazy spontaneous!

***

Cherish the special moments you have with your children. Share your very own spontaneous #FrisoMoment at apps.facebook.com/FrisoExperiences and stand to win a host of amazing prizes, courtesy of Friso Singapore.

Here are the mechanics:

How to participate

Submit a photo of you and your child sharing a special experience. You may submit 1 experience each week. Each photo submitted will earn you two instant rewards – A Friso Experience journal and a Friso voucher worth $5, $10 or $20. Friso Singapore will also select and print one photo in 4R size with a Friso frame and send it to you.

You will be eligible for weekly and grand prizes if you agree to display your image in the gallery to inspire other parents.

Prizes:
  • Instant prizes: Friso Experiences Journal + Friso Voucher will be awarded to every entry.
  • Weekly Prize: The best photos will be selected to win the weekly prize. If you didn’t win in the first week, you will still be eligible for the weekly prizes in the remaining weeks of the month.

Week 1 to 2 (7 Mar – 23 Mar) 8 x FujiFilm Instax Mini 8

Week 3: 5 x Rebel Kidz Retro Racer Balance Bike

Week 4: 5 x Annual Zoo membership [2 adults + 2 Child]

Week 5: 5 x GOPRO Hero Camera

Week 6: 3 x Port of Lost Wonders party package

Week 7: 5 x Fujifilm Instax Share Printer

  • Grand Prize: A year’s supply of Friso milk.

One winner in April will be selected from the top 25 most voted entries for the month.  You may vote once per day for each entry. Remember to include the hashtag #FrisoMoment on your IG and FB posts!

 ***

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Friso Singapore. Friso Singapore has invited Motherkao to share her #FrisoMoment to inspire parents to experience MORE with their children.

All this blog's PR Stuff Fatherkao loves... Food, glorious food! Going Out! Motherkao loves... Reviews The Kao Kids

Stealthy, steady success for a 40th birthday bash – Part 2

August 20, 2014

So the husband turned 40 earlier this August, and was given total VIP treatment by me, the kids and the good people at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport.

And because Changi Airport, particularly Terminal 3, is our family’s favouritest place in this country, it was especially special for us to be celebrating Fatherkao’s birthday there, staycating at one of the ‘World’s Top Ten Airport Hotels’.

From my stealth liaising a month before the birthday surprise to the day we checked out, my family was warmly hosted at Crowne Plaza. The Marketing Manager was fully attentive to the needs of our family of five as she arranged for us to check into the 36-square-metres Deluxe Twin Club Room with an extra rollaway bed so we could all sleep comfortably. And when she learned that the entire staycation would be a surprise birthday celebration for Fatherkao, she gamely offered to place a cake in the room so I didn’t have to run around the airport with kids in tow to hunt for one prior to checking in.

Crowne Plaza Deluxe Twin Room: Two little people are getting comfortable!

The Crowne Plaza Deluxe Twin Room: two little people are getting comfortable!

Checking out the room, and lazing on the rollaway bed

Checking out the room, and lazing on the rollaway bed

The glass panelled bathroom! And so we thought we'd be in full view of everyone when we shower, until we found blinds!

The glass panelled bathroom! And so we thought we’d be in full view of everyone when we shower, until we found the blinds!

I did nothing but turn up, check in, blow the balloons and light the candles with the kids to create some party atmosphere for the birthday boy.

This was special delivery, arranged by the Marketing Manager, who thought it'd be nice to have a cake at check in

This was special delivery, arranged by the Marketing Manager, who thought it’d be nice to have a cake at check in. The Lobby Lounge has one of the best cake selections, in my opinion. Because this cake was absolute heaven.

We were also given exclusive Club Lounge Access, and there, the kids got juice, the adults had coffee, and we all spent a lovely afternoon together after the cake-cutting, watching Fatherkao teach Ben how to play a game a chess.

Ready to lounge!

Ready to lounge!

First, some chess. Then, some juice!

First, some chess. Then, some juice!

The Club Lounge at Crowne Plaza Hotel Changi Airport was such a respite. At the lounge, we could look out and see the bustling city traffic on one side and a calming rainforest pool view on the other. The best part of it was, we had the place largely to ourselves.

City view from the Club window

City view from the Club window

Pool view from the Club window

Pool view from the Club window

We checked out the pool after we were done with our lounging, and I must say, I haven’t seen so much open space for a while in concrete jungle Singapore.

A pool with a view

A pool with a view when you look out and up

I’ve never swam in a pool like this, amidst lush greenery and wooden sun decks. It was like being in an island resort while in a city. I loved the space I could look out to, and the planes I could look up at. The kids enjoyed exploring the pool in their floats, although the water was extremely cold and being in it made our teeth chatter so much we had to head to the bathtub in the room immediately after for a warm soak.

I think the kids had the most fun being in the bathtub in full view of us looking in from the room on our beds. Give these kids warm water any time. They haven’t learned to swim yet so they’d much prefer the safety of the tub.

Before dinner we headed to the Club Lounge again, which was on the same floor as our room and the pool – and oh how so convenient to just pop by whenever we wanted – to enjoy evening cocktails, mocktails and canapés. I loved that at 5.30pm when we were there, there was absolutely no one (the hotel folks say the tourists usually head out to town and weekends are quieter than weekdays). We had the entire lounge to ourselves, and were given such royal treatment, getting served drinks of our choice, snacks and then getting our photos taken.

Oh the spread of canapes! This was like dinner for me!

Oh the spread of canapés! This was like dinner for us already!

We sneaked out while the littlest was napping to have some snacks and drinks

We sneaked out while the littlest was napping to have some snacks and drinks

I had a mocktail, he had a Singapore Sling!

I had a mocktail, he had a Singapore Sling!

Can you tell? The birthday boy was one happy camper, and was savouring every minute of his 40th birthday.

Later in the evening, we were hosted by Azur, the award-winning restaurant at Level 2 in Crowne Plaza for Fatherkao’s birthday dinner, and had some of his closest buds join us for more celebration over food, wine and laughs. At the restaurant, we talked and laughed over a good buffet spread of Eastern and Western cuisines – something which we haven’t done so with our friends for a while.

And what an even more pleasant surprise to find that there was yet another surprise for the birthday boy with yet another birthday song and cake.

Everyone's really making sure the birthday boy realises he is 40!

Everyone’s really making sure somebody realises he is 40!

Fatherkao was more than happy to be eating cake again. Not before he tried to clean off the zero in the ‘40‘ which was piped on his plate.

So he cleaned off the zero, and wished he was 4 instead

So he cleaned off the zero, and wished he was 4 instead

Still in denial, this man.

After dinner, the men continued with more wine and talk, while their wives and kids lazed in the cosy hotel room. Nothing would have pleased my husband more than this: to be able to enjoy good wine with his buddies whom he has known for decades and to cheers to more good years ahead.

The best things in life: food, friends and family

The best things in life: food, friends and family

Someone once said, “Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar but the best improve with age.” I certainly married someone that’s turning into fine wine at 40.

You’re not old, dear. You’re just mature. 

——-

Thank you, everyone that came to make Fatherkao’s day, and Crowne Plaza Hotel Changi Airport, for your hospitality and impeccable service. You’ve made this birthday really special and have set the standard for all the other staycations to come, because Fatherkao says it’s the best one he’s had so far. We’ve done A LOT of staycations since 2004, and if he says so, you’re truly something!

——–

Disclosure: Crowne Plaza Hotel Changi Airport sponsored our 2D1N staycation-and-birthday-celebration for Fatherkao, and hosted us at Azur for dinner. We had exclusive access to the Crowne Plaza Club, and had our breakfast there the next day as well. I did not receive any monetary compensation, and this post was a result of the wonderful experience we’ve had celebrating a milestone and being pampered silly. This may be the most unlikely place to consider having a staycation, but I tell you – the SPACE you get! Being away from the crowd and having such exclusivity is totally worth it, if you’re someone like me who is tired of too many malls, too many people and  too much noise.

This was our breakfast at the Club Lounge - we had the place all to ourselves on a beautiful Sunday morning

This was our breakfast at the Club Lounge – we had the place all to ourselves on a beautiful Sunday morning

Entrance to Crowne Plaza

The entrance to Crowne Plaza

More details:

Crowne Plaza is connected to Changi Airport’s Terminal 3 via a seamless, air-conditioned link bridge that gives you easy access to the shops and F&B outlets that operate round-the-clock.

A 2D1N stay in a deluxe room on a weekend starts from SGD263 and includes breakfast. The deluxe rooms feature an ergonomic workspace, comfortable beds, ensuite bathroom with separate rainshower and bathtub, and free WiFi connection.

Overnight parking is available at the airport for SGD20.

Food, glorious food! Motherkao loves... Nat Kao

For the love of Korean food (II): jjajangmyeon

August 2, 2014

The other day I had to make jjajangmyeon.

Because?

Because this:

KWB_1

KWB_2

Gah, why so cool, Woo Bin-sshi. You had me at jjajangmyeon

I referred to the recipe from Maangchi and adapted it to suit the tastebuds of the kids. I bought the blackbean paste from the Cold Storage at Compass Point and a pack of buckwheat noodles conveniently placed next to the blackbean paste on the shelves.

Chunjang

Instead of pork belly, I used 假腰肉 (literally translated: fake waist meat), a part of the pig which the kids like to eat, and which is also cheaper than the loin fillet. Or sometimes just strips of shabu shabu pork. And instead of the zucchini, daikon and potatoes, I used carrots and some bunashimeji mushrooms, and of course lots of onions.

When they are all diced, here goes:

1. Stir fry pork with vegetable oil (I use Knife’s Shallot Oil) until golden brown, remove pork from pan and pour away excess oil

2. Stir fry vegetables beginning with hardest to the softest: so carrots, onions, mushrooms

3. Clear a space in the centre of the wok by pushing ingredients to the edges

4. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the centre of the wok and then the blackbean paste (I added whole pack the first time, and 3/4 the second when I made jjajangbap). Stir with wooden spoon for 1 minute. Mix everything in the wok and keep stirring.

5. Add 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoon of brown sugar (I found the paste really salty!) and simmer for 10 min

Jjajang in a wok

6. Open the lid, stir for a well mixed thick consistency and add a little sesame oil (I totally skipped the starch)

7. Serve with noodles or rice

Jjajangmyeon

Jjajangbap

My kids don’t like cucumbers, so I topped my dish with sesame seeds instead.

Gah, why so cute Nat Kao-sshi, you make me want to cook this everyday just to admire the moustache.

Jjajangmyeon moustache

 Read also For the Love of Korean Food (I): Simple Homecooked here

All this blog's PR Stuff Food, glorious food! Happy days Motherkao loves... Reviews

So fine, yet so casual [Review of E’spuma Lab]

July 22, 2014

The husband and I are huge fans of Top Chef and Masterchef. We watch the programmes to get inspiration for our cooking, and eating, of course.

Because we catch the various seasons of these programmes quite regularly, food looking like this…

Wild duck and wild apples

Photo source

And chefs using this odd-looking cannister to pump out foam like this…

iSi Whipper

Photo source

…are not sights uncommon to us. Just that we’ve never had the opportunity to try food cooked this way, or have them plated like such and put on our tables.

Then our chance came one Saturday ago.

We were invited by E’spuma Lab, a new casual diner that aims to bring innovative culinary techniques like espuma and sous vide out of Michelin-star restaurants and into the casual dining scene in Singapore at wallet-friendly prices. I was informed that all the dishes for the tasting session would be foamed, espuma-style and that every item on the menu would be something that would fill me up and satisfy children and adults alike. I have seen chefs on TV making sauces and desserts using the steel-like cannister (which is called the espuma siphon, I later found out) and was genuinely curious how anything prepared by this technique would taste like.

Most of all, I wanted to see how cooking techniques so atas would finally be revealed and prepared to be tasted by commoners like me and my family.

For the uninitiated, espuma is Spanish for foam or froth, and is a culinary technique in which an espuma siphon is used to infuse air into the food, creating an airily light texture. This technique adds a very interesting dimension to natural ingredients, especially those that have been mashed, pureed or juiced.

Sous vide is a culinary technique in which food is cooked in a vacuum at a constant temperature, using a thermal circulator. This technique ensures perfectly cooked eggs and evenly cooked meat.

So this, ladies and gents, this was the food plated and prepared for us that evening. But atas no more, I tell you, because E’spuma Lab’s sole mission is to make haute cuisine totally accessible and affordable to people like you – and me.

Why I am not a food blogger: The first dish that came was this -Sautéed Mushrooms with Espuma Potato Foam (SGD6.80) - and I started feeding hungry kids. Photo credit: E'spuma Lab

Why I am not a food blogger: The first dish that came was this -Sautéed Mushrooms with Espuma Potato Foam (SGD6.80) – and I started feeding hungry kids.
Photo credit: E’spuma Lab

And this was the 2nd - Curry Chicken with E'spuma Potato Foam (SGD6.80) - and I started feeding myself. Photo credit: E'spuma Lab

And this was the 2nd dish to arrive – Curry Chicken with E’spuma Potato Foam (SGD6.80) – and I started feeding myself.
Photo credit: E’spuma Lab

Then the Sous Vide Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Fried Salmon Skin (SGD3.80) came and the son, who loves eggs, devoured the whole thing. Photo credit: E'spuma Lab

Then the Sous Vide Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Fried Salmon Skin (SGD3.80) came and the son, who loves eggs, devoured the whole thing.
Photo credit: E’spuma Lab

Spaghetti with Swedish meatballs and E'spuma Caramelised Onion Sauce

Then more mains came, and at this point, I was yelling, ‘Stop! I need photos first!’ Spaghetti with Swedish meatballs and E’spuma Caramelised Onion Sauce (SGD6.80)

Spaghetti with Chicken Cutlet and E'spuma Bacon Sauce (SGD6.80)

Spaghetti with Chicken Cutlet and E’spuma Bacon Sauce (SGD6.80)

Fragrant Rice with Pan Seared Sous Vide Chicken Breast and E'spuma Pesto Sauce

Fragrant Rice with Pan Seared Sous Vide Chicken Breast and E’spuma Pesto Sauce

Fragrant Rice with Cajun Chicken Leg and E'spuma Curry Sauce

Fragrant Rice with Cajun Chicken Leg and E’spuma Curry Sauce

Oh, happiness!

I hear there’s also espuma-ed mushroom soup, espuma battered fish and chips and new items on the menu every time Chef gets inspiration! Happy times, people, these are happy times.

And believe me, that evening I was really happy. Really, really happy. I loved everything I tasted, and I am not saying this just because I got a free meal. I would gladly pay every cent (and maybe more) for whatever I ate (and they were really priced reasonably – just look at each portion and respective price!) I especially loved, loved, loved the curry chicken dish; it was so light and satisfying. There was absolutely no flavour overdose (also known as jelat, in localspeak) because the curry foam was so airily delightful. Every sauce that came espuma-ed was a hit with the kids, Fatherkao and me.

No cloying texture, no starchy heaviness. Only pure foam heaven.

And just so you know, for our desserts we had durian fritters – which were so not-oily that you could pop a whole bunch in your mouth and have a good loud durian burp at the end of it.

E'spuma Batter D24 Durian Fritters (SGD3.80)

E’spuma Batter D24 Durian Fritters (SGD3.80)

As we did.

You can pop these fritters in and not feel that they are oily or cloyingly sweet at all!

You can pop these fritters in and not feel that they are oily or cloyingly sweet at all!

Now I can finally tell myself that I’ve come close to what the judges were tasting in Top Chef and Masterchef. Take that, Padma Lakshmi. By the way, just so you know, Chef Teo Yeow Siang, the brain behind E’spuma’s innovative dishes, has 13 years of experience and has won many international awards; so technically he’s better than any Top Chef alum any time. I’m wishing that E’spuma Lab would expand their operations soon and be found in a mall near me. Good on the working crowd for now, since it’s the only one and only at Pomo Mall (formerly Paradiz Centre at Selegie Road) but if I’m there and need a meal, I wouldn’t even need to think once.

We checked out the humble kitchen with sophisticated equipment (the espuma siphons and sous vide cooker) and were touched that this is a place with heart. No trade secrets, no airs. Just good food at really low prices for all.

We checked out the humble kitchen with sophisticated equipment (the espuma siphons and sous vide cooker) and were touched that this is a place with heart. No trade secrets, no airs. Just good food at really low prices for all.

More details:

E’spuma Lab is at 1 Selegie Road, Pomo Mall, #01-20/21 Singapore 1883306.

Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 11am to 9pm

Contact number: 8222 1113 (Why need contact number huh, you ask. Because if you are near, you can cater! Durian fritters to go!)

… … … …

And just so you get to try what I did, I’m giving away my $10 voucher (yes, the one which the folks gave me in my press kit) to you so you can go check out E’spuma Lab! (FYI, their set meals cost only $8.80!)

If you want to win it, simply LIKE E’spuma’s Facebook Page and leave a comment on this blog post telling me what you might like to try!

Giveaway ends 30 July 2014. I’ll mail the voucher to the winner after the random draw!

Winner announcement: CONGRATS to Samantha! The list randomiser picked you and you’ll be eating at E’spuma Lab soon!

Espuma winner

Disclosure: My family and I were invited by E’spuma Lab for a food tasting session. No monetary compensation was received for this post and all opinions here are my own, with input from the big and little tasters. 

UPDATE AS OF 22 OCT 2015: I was told that they’ve since ceased operations at POMO. Which makes me very sad. So very, very sad.

Food, glorious food! Motherkao loves...

For the love of Korean food (I): simple homecooked

July 18, 2014

I’ve been subjecting the family to a lot of Korean food these days and it’s all thanks to watching too much kshows, I tell you. I don’t know how many times I ran to the kitchen in the middle of the night to cook myself a pot of ramyeon while watching Boys Over Flower, how many times I craved for beef japchae watching City Hunter and how many times I wanted to reach for the phone and order me some chicken (and beer) while watching You From Another Star (chimek, remember?). And every time the folks over at Running Man had food games, I found myself wanting to eat tteokbokkikimchi and jjambbong.

Lately, I make the kids and the husband eat a lot of pork cooked in this particular sauce / marinade from Bibigo (that’s supposed to give a BBQ-à la-bulgogi flavour to the meat) :

I love both the Original and the one with pineapple

I love both the original and the one with pineapple

For the kids, I make it with the sauce without the heat. It’s a really easy one pot meal and I modify it to suit the children’s palate. I just fry sliced onions, shallots, and garlic with shabu shabu pork that’s marinated with the sauce, add some cornstarch and an egg to make a thicker gravy and pour everything on a bowl of hot rice.

The kids love this. For myself, I add the heat with the red pepper version and kimchi on the side, and we all have a hearty rice meal like that. When we do eventually get sick of pork, I figured I’ll be doing the same with chicken and beef.

Bibigo's 'Hot & Spicy' Korean BBQ Sauce

Bibigo’s ‘Hot & Spicy’ Korean BBQ Sauce

When in need of soup, the fastest thing I’ve done is to boil a pot of water with a huge tablespoon of bean paste and throw in some ready-made, frozen vegetarian Korean dumplings.

A hearty meal with just bulgogi pork with rice and soup

A hearty meal with just bulgogi pork with rice and soup

Now, that’s so much faster than what we usually do for Chinese cooking. Every time we want to have soup, we have to start boiling pork or chicken bones with red dates, huaishan, beiqi and goujizi by 3pm so we can get soup that tastes like soup (and not water) by 7.

It’s not a big hit with the kids as compared to my Chinese soup but hey, if they need some liquid to go with their rice, we can have it like that too.

I recently also made the popular ikan bilis Korean side dish which was a big hit and something everyone loved. I referred to The Domestic Goddess Wannabe‘s instructions here, but modified them by airfrying my ikan bilis in my Philips Airfryer first and threw everything in after heating up the sauce. I used roasted sesame also, instead of toasting sesame seeds in a dry pan as she suggested:

Two versions of myulchi - one with heat, the other with honey soy, plus a huge japchae side dish to eat for dinner (and for tomorrow's lunch!)

Two versions of myulchi – one with heat, the other with honey soy, plus a huge japchae side dish to eat for dinner (and for tomorrow’s lunch!)

I made two versions – one spicy and the other with honey soy. They were super addictive!

And for me, no dinner experience is complete without a bit of japchae. This is the dish I get to vary however I want, because I am usually the only one eating (and finishing) it. Here’s a step-by-step guide which I referred to to make my japchae, again adapted from The Domestic Goddess Wannabe.

I usually boil the sweet potato vermicelli instead of soaking it. I’ve added beef on one occasion, and pork on another with garlic, shallots, onions and whatever that I could find in the fridge – carrots, radish, cabbage, mushrooms. The tip is to fry the hardest veg to the softest, and the meat last, and then the noodles with the seasoning however you like it.

I’m hoping to share more about what I do at home making Korean food, because right now, I can’t get enough of it! Do you love Korean food too? Share your links with me or reveal where’s good to eat Korean and what’s good to have in Singapore!