GÆST

Is it gay-st, or geh-st? I can’t figure.

Watermelon quinoa salad – $14.00 

What I do know for sure, is that I had a really good lunch with Andrea and this had to be logged. I ran out of the office (first day of the final week!) the second my lunch alarm rang. The light drizzle didn’t dampen my mood, I made a quick dash to the post office and back to McCallum Street. I stood by the glass window staring at the jars of homemade granola and muesli. I watched the staff work, one made sandwiches another peeled potatoes the third one grabbed ribs out of the grill and the barista seeped cup after cup of coffee. I already knew this meal was going to be good.

I didn’t plan for this review, but I trust my instincts when it tells me a place is good, and I couldn’t not share a gem like this. I don’t frequent cafes often enough, but this Nordic place is definitely worth the trip into the CBD even after my last week here is over. Exemplary standards, my kind of OCD-satisfying thing.

We must take photos of our food
 So that it will look like this for social media
Always Insta-catching each other. We ordered twin salads-of-the-day, both omitting the feta. I can’t deny the classic watermelon and feta combination, but neither can I work round my dairy sensitivities and mild hate for cheese. Took a number and sat down outside. Classic cafe thingamajig. 
Staff was friendly and service was quick. One thumb up already. The rainbow that came on our plates made the moody weather pale in comparison. The watermelon was sweet, bright and crisp, the quinoa cooked to perfection, pumpkin seeds well roasted and the crunchy vinaigrette-dressed watercress had a subtle sharp tang that complemented everything really well. I have no comments about the onions because, onions and I – we have rough patches sometimes. The whole plate was lightly dusted with salt and pepper. Simply, it was perfection on a plate. There, double score in no time.
Good enough to bust some Monday moodies I tell you.
Halfway through lunch we saw 3 green-headed ladies walk past and I thought that was very, interesting.
Ok, pass. A quick interruption to also be ever-thankful for said friend above for picking up the tab AGAIN (!!!) I really do owe you.
I have always been a fruit-in-my-salad kind of person. But this, brought that up, up, up to a whole new level. I’m still thinking about it, and already have plans to feebly recreate this at home. They schedule different soups and salads for each day of the week, and their breakfast menu looks good enough to drop by before work. I’m excited already.
Even if you aren’t in the area, get yourself to Gaest. These guys deliver, by Adeline standards, and I don’t think it will disappoint.
Mon – Fri: 7:30 a.m – 9.30 p.m
Weekends: 8.30 a.m – 3.30 p.m
  • 21 McCallum St. #01-01, The Clift
  • Singapore 069047
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Penang 2014

Hearing our names over the system being called for last minute boarding was a very refreshing experience. It felt rather enlightening and light, in a “kind of way”. Before that we were strolling the departure grounds in a hunt for my neck pillow (which I eventually found during the trip instead). Dad also squeezed out a good sale at Longchamp. And then we ran to the boarding gates. My parents ran faster than I. As I said, a rejuvenating experience.

It’s been 2 weeks since the trip and I can still feel the pull of the sleepy town’s effects on me back home. There was tons of sun and dust. My face is still broken out. Lots has passed, I will log that next.

I digress. Back to Penang.

On the plane seat I think about future trips with friends, with a partner, with myself for work. I have never ventured away from the sights of my parents out of Singapore, but that is going to happen very soon. I used to enjoy plane rides before my I was diagnosed with a horrid back, but now taking off makes me anxious. It feels like an pending panic attack ready to bust my sorry self. Eventually that anxiety turned into an hour nap, and I woke up to the view of Pulau Pinang. Familiarity.

We shuffled into our room upon arrival at the hotel, it had a large bed right in the middle of the room unlike the usual tuck-in-a-corner. I told you, this was a refreshing trip. I felt bad for Dad who was tucked in the corner though, because that’s where they placed the spare bed. I crashed onto the white sheets but was soon cruised away by my grand-uncle and grand-aunt, and we drove to nowhere else but New Lane. It was an obligatory trip and there were no arguments, though I didn’t like the place as much as I did before. Every table there orders almost the same thing. You know your good stalls and you flock to them like grabbing a Hunger Games pack. It’s a battleground over there. I had 2 plates of kangkong cuttlefish, done my way. RM12 with no peanuts and sauces on the side. By the second order the aunty knew exactly what I wanted.

The next morning mum and I went down to the breakfast buffet first, Dad came later, but it was a terrible spread for a hotel like that. I was remarkably disappointed. I mark hotels by 1) cleanliness of the toilet 2) decency of their breakfast spread 3) convenience of location. I reversed by disappointment when we got to Pulau Tikus market, I got myself a plain egg ban jiang kueh and it was heaven. The glorification then crashed as it got saltier by bite. I don’t know why, these things aren’t supposed to be salty. Or are they?

We walked through the narrow alleys of the local wet market, it wasn’t any different from Singapore. I enjoyed it nonetheless. Looking at fresh produce makes me happy and I’m expecting a lot from Borough Market in September. Little India was a gem. We bought a huge bag of spices and herbs, I got asafetida (and made the best dahl to date on Mother’s Day after)! The famed mural paintings at Armenian were around the corner, so we drove through the installations and paintings, but they didn’t fascinate us very much unlike the throngs of tourists queuing for a photo. Singaporeans are so distinct. At 2PM I died and went to food heaven. We went to Padang Brown. That place shines from a distance in all its glory and I recognise every inch of it. We had lunch there for the 3 remaining days. I leave you with photos below without captions because there is no need for them. Not when it is Padang Brown’s paseumbur and seafood popiah. You just don’t need any explanations.

Other than being caught in the act.

We ventured around the malls next to the hotel in the evening. I was too full for dinner so I went to the gym. I picked a treadmill facing the sea and thought “the darkest nights produce the brightest stars”. By the time I got back to the room Dad was out for his late-night whisky and Mum was in the shower.

On the 3rd day we hired a taxi instead so my grandaunt didn’t have to drive us around. We went to buy biscuits as gifts and drove to Ke Lok Si temple. That was as touristy as we got. Lok lok was open today! Devoured, then drove down along the coast of the beach. Parts of it were in ruins but that made it seem all the more authentic. It looked breezy outside. I have no memory of the bits and bobs we did in the mid/late afternoon, but I went to the gym till we had to leave for dinner. They booked a table at Hai Nan Town. It poured as we pulled into the parking lot, and there was lots of table chat over dinner. It was a meal that felt distant and foreign but seemingly the same. I always feel like that.

Day 4 was hazy. I vaguely remembering speaking with the lok lok uncle, and saying goodbye to Padang Brown :'< We covered the remaining of the malls and had dinner at Nando's before the car took us to the airport. For record purposes I must archive how dismayed I was when I found out Nando's was priced lower than our outlets here, and it was in RM. Conspiracy! Rental in Singapore is a throat-slasher. So I took the chance to order a double hehe. The flight back was quick, the ride home from the airport was even quicker. My body has accustomed itself to budget flight seats. Next, I conquer 13hr flights.

Penang Otak-Otak

When life gives you daun kaduk, make otak. No one should settle for lemons when you have otak. Ever.

My gastronomic trip to Penang last week left me inspired to get a little work done in the kitchen. So when my grand-aunt presented me some of these beautifully grown leaves from her neighbour’s garden, I had to do something about them, especially on a rainy night when your friends are out clubbing while you only have an option of domesticating yourself at home because you have work the next morning. And there was no other way to go than the classic otak.

Otak was something I loved as a child. My tongue would brave the biting spice that tingled on my taste buds in a painful but extremely satisfying way. I didn’t need porridge or rice, I would eat packets of it on its own. Mine turned less pudding-like because I didn’t have enough coconut milk. But for record’s sake, I’m jotting down my best variation to date.

You will need:

600g yellow makarel fillets cut into thick slices / 3 eggs or 2 whole eggs & 2 whites / 200g thick coconut milk / 8 large kafir lime leaves, chiffonade / 2 tumeric leaves, chiffonade / 10 daun kaduk, chifonnade

Spices (grounded into a paste using a mortar and pestle, blenders not recommended):
A: 4-5 shallots / 5 cloves of garlic / 3cm galangal / 2-3 stalks lemongrass / 0.5 tbsp tumeric powder
B: 1 red chili padi / 1 large red chili / 15 dried chilies, soaked for at least 5hrs then drained and cleaned / 4 buah keras (candlenuts)

Seasoning: sea salt (~1 tsp) & pepper to taste / 1 tsp sugar / 1 tsp belachan (I used the thai variety) / 0.5 – 1 tbsp rice flour

Others: banana leaves, roasted over a flame to soften / additional daun kaduk to line the banana leaf packets

Method:
1. Begin by pounding all the spices. I recommend doing A and B separately but if you’re pressed for time you could do them all together. Set aside.
2. Combine seasonings with fish slices, eggs and all the shredded leaves. Mix lightly.
3. Start pouring in coconut milk, a little at a time. Stir the fish well, and it should start to break apart, forming a kind of pastey consistency with large chunks still intact. Stop once you have reached your desired consistency. The final product should not be too watery or too thick. You would have to eyeball at this stage.
4. Fold steamed banana leaves into a case. For newbies, refer to this video. Line the base of the cases with a couple of daun kauk. Spoon fish mixture onto it and fold up, securing with toothpicks.
5. Steam on high heat for about 6-8mins or until cooked. Remove from heat immediately. (*note: make sure the cases don’t touch water/get too wet from steaming. wrap cover of steamer with a kitchen towel)

Keeps for a few days in the fridge. To reheat, heat up steamer till hot and bubbly. Turn off the heat and place packets into heated steamer. Leave for a couple of minutes and remove.

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Believe me when I say I have chocolate for breakfast. Really, I do. 

I never saw myself doing this, but I received plentiful questions re this gem right here so why not share some of this goodness? I’ve been having this for breakfast for days on end, and that speaks a lot because breakfast sits high on my list of priorities. I don’t even see breakfast ‘just’ as a meal, it’s a priority. I go into these cyclical phases of oatmeal, french toast, pancakes and sweet potatoes. Sometimes when I feel like it I slip into a mild granola situation, but that’s mostly for when I actually have the time to make it. Other times I make lots of soups and freeze them for the week. This magical creation stemmed from my need of wanting something kind-of-creamy-but-not that all of the above could not satisfy.

You will need:

1.5 tbsp chia seeds / 0.5 cups soy milk / 1 tbsp (heaped if you’d like) cacao powder* / half a medjoul date (optional) / heaped 0.25 tsp each  cinnamon powder, vanilla powder, maca powder

Mix everything in a jar or airtight container and leave in the fridge overnight. If you use the medjoul date, spoon the chia seeds into the container of choice, blend everything else using a high-powered blender before stirring the liquid with the chia seeds. In the morning, top with whatever you fancy. I usually do cacao nibs, chopped berries and my classic granola that seems to be around lots these days. The nuts add the perfect crunch and the cacao nibs add an intense accent to the already chocolate-rich beauty. Enjoy!

* I really do think cacao and cocoa powder taste relatively different, but use whatever you like or have on hand.

Pituitary

The waterproof plaster on my arm is creasing on my skin and making strange marks. The scar that it covers is what reminds me of the entire saga and I begin to question myself, mostly unsure of the trouble I’ve put myself into again. The kind of trouble that only amplifies my lack of trust for my very own good. Will I relapse again?

Maybe
Afterall,

I know my way round these things far too well

Bits

“Some faint scraps of her dream would get caught on her wall of conciousness, but she couldn’t retrace these fragments back to any coherent narrative. All that remained were small, random images. She slept deeply, and the dreams she did have came from a very deep place. Like fish that live at the bottom of the ocean, most of her dreams weren’t able to float to the surface. Even if they did, the difference in water pressure would force a change in their appearance.”