On one of our evenings in Singapore, we caught up with a friend who lives there. We met him near his workplace, and ended up in a random Japanese restaurant in one of Singapore’s many malls. We had been starved of seafood during our trip, so I was looking forward to having some sashimi.
We ordered some edamame to share. It’s kinda fun stripping the soybeans from the pod with your teeth.
I had a beef and tofu meal. Mhmmm, it was good to eat tofu again. The meal set came came with the main tofu dish, plus a cup of savoury egg custard and watermelon.
The savoury custard was quite good, if you like that kind of thing. My eyes were bigger than my stomach though, and I didn’t finish my meal set because I had to save room for sashimi!
The sashimi came out last. On the plate was salmon, tuna and some other random fish that I can’t recall. The salmon was good, the white fish was okay, but the tuna was awful. So, so disappointing! The texture was all wrong, all gritty and strange. Ahh well. The evening was more about the company than the food, and at least that was good.
Gak! Has it really been almost two months since we got back from Africa? And I still haven’t finished posting all my photos. What a slacker.
The more direct route to South Africa is through Perth, but I was pretty keen to stop in Singapore on the way back (plus I’m not really a fan of Qantas). We only had two nights in Singers, but it was great! The pace was a huge change from Africa. I was especially happy about having a nice hotel to stay in, with a good bed and a great shower…. oh, it was wonderful. We didn’t do much in our time there. We caught up with a friend, did a tiny bit of shopping, and we visited the aquarium/underwater world. Alastair likes stuff like that. When we were in Spain a few years ago, we went to three aquariums. Three! What can I say, the man likes his fish.
We did also eat a bit of food while in Singers.
I had some congee during transit, while we were waiting for our flight to Capetown. I didn’t get any sleep on the plane and was SO tired and cranky (poor Alastair had to put up with my moaning!). The congee made me feel a little bit better. It’s such a comfort food.
And I had congee again at the end of our trip. Mhmm, congee. I really need to make it sometime.
Alastair doesn’t quite understand the congee thing so he had pancakes. Pffft.
In Chinatown, we ducked into a small stall and had some noodles. Alastair had dumpling noodle soup.
While I had beef. The meat was tender, however the soup wasn’t particularly flavourful. But it did cost S$4, so I’m not complaining.
Alastair fit some laksa into his stay. Twice. (I didn’t take a photo of his second bowl.)
But for me, my visit wasn’t complete without some chicken rice.
It was interesting being in Singapore having come from Jo’burg. Jo’burg has a reputation for being an unsafe city, while Singapore must be the opposite. We only spent one evening in Jo’burg, and we were advised that it was fine, but not to wander around at night. In Singapore, on the other hand, we walked through Little India around midnight to get to Mustafa, the 24 hour department store, and felt perfectly safe. So I don’t know if Jo’burg’s reputation is worse than the reality, but I do know that every house that we saw there was surrounded by razor wire or electric fences. Plus I read a South African Cosmopolitan – in amongst the usual stories about how to get a man, what to wear this summer, etc, was an article about what to do if you get car jacked. Hmmm! Perhaps there is some truth to the stories.
We had four flights on Singapore Airlines. Our first leg was from Melbourne to Singapore, then from Singapore to Capetown. This was the longest we had to travel, about 24 hours all up. It was 8 hours to Singapore, with 4 hours in Singapore airport, then 12 hours to Capetown. Neither of us slept on the flights, and by the time we got to Capetown we were pretty tired. Unfortunately we arrived very early in the morning (5.30am) and couldn’t check into our room. We had to face our exhaustion and do tourist stuff until 2pm. It was quite amusing trying to stay awake!
From Melbourne to Singapore there were two meals – dinner and a “refreshment”.
Our first meal was an early dinner, served around 5pm. The appetizer was potato salad with beef pastrami. The potatoes were quite bland, but the pastrami was rather salty so they balanced each other out.
Green curry chicken (top) and Savoury beef-tomato casserole (bottom)
The main courses were Thai style green curry chicken and vegetables with steamed rice or savoury beef-tomato casserole with oven-roasted vegetables and potatoes. Alastair had the green curry, and this was pretty good! It was very fragrant and actually better than the takeaway Thai we had eaten the night before we left. I had the beef casserole. The meat had a firm chew to it but it wasn’t too chewy. The vegetables were nice, and retained a bit of firmness.
As always with plane meals, there was cheese and crackers and a bread roll.
Dessert was ice cream – the flight attendants handed out mango and passionfruit Splices.
The refreshment was a choice between a chicken and leek pie or braised shanghainese noodles with seafood and seasonal greens. I went for the chicken and leek pie, which was a tad salty but the pastry was nice and light.
Alastair had the shanghainese noodles which looked okay.
After a four hour transit in Changi Airport we boarded the flight to Capetown (what a fabulous airport by the way, we had a shower, used the internet, had some food, used a free foot massaging machine and could’ve shopped shopped shopped if we wanted). On this flight we were served a refreshment when we got on the plane, and then breakfast a couple of hours before we landed. This felt like the longest flight in the world. In the 12 hours on the plane I watched 4 movies and a couple of TV shows as I was too uncomfortable to sleep (damn cattle class!). Anyway, on to the food.
The refreshment was a choice between Roast chicken with mustard mayo and lettuce on flat bread or a croissant with Thai style tuna salad and tomato.
I had the chicken wrap – BOO. This was the worst thing I’ve ever eaten on Singapore Airlines and possibly ANY airline. The “chicken” was processed meat and the whole thing was bland and uninteresting. Al’s croissant seemed to be a better choice. I would definitely have preferred a dinner and breakfast and I assume the refreshment is served because it’s cheaper than serving dinner. It was a 12 hour flight though – I think it’s long enough to serve two proper meals. Admittedly there was snack service after the lights went out that I didn’t partake of – ham rolls, tomato and lettuce ciabatta, peanuts, chocolate bars, chips and apples. Still. I wanted dinner!
For breakfast, there was fruit, bread roll, and the main choices were fried rice with chicken, peas, shredded carrot and white cabbage, shrimp dumpling or a chive omelette with veal sausage, grilled tomato and potatoes. We both had the omelette, which was a regular plane omelette. Breakfast meals on planes don’t impress much.
The pineapple and grapes were nice, but I don’t like papaya. Ick!
On our way home, we flew from Johannesburg to Singapore. This was a slightly shorter flight than the one from Singers to Capetown, plus we stopped a couple of nights in Singapore to break up the travel. Unfortunately, again, we didn’t sleep on this flight and ended up wandering Singapore in the early hours of the morning (as we couldn’t check into our hotel). Luckily we were able to get our room at 9:30am and squeezed in a quick nap after checking in.
On the way to Singapore we were served lunch and breakfast. For lunch, we started with a pasta and vegetable salad with the main choices being a stewed chicken with mushroom in coriander sauce, seasonal vegetables and potatoes or the braised fish fillet with black bean sauce, seasonal vegetables and steamed rice.
Alastair and I both went for the fish, having been starved of seafood during our trip. The fish wasn’t bad, although the black bean flavour wasn’t that pronounced.
As always, there was cheese and crackers as well as a bread roll.
Dessert was a milk tartlet, which I found a tad sweet and kinda boring.
Breakfast was fried egg noodles with chicken and vegetables or an omelette with pork sausages, tomato and potatoes. It was interesting having noodles for breakfast. They were a tad salty but a better choice than another omelette. As per usual, there was fruit and a bread roll.
And then on the final leg – from Singapore to Melbourne. We were served a continental breakfast and lunch. The breakfast was simply fruit, a bread roll and a muffin (no photos).
For lunch we had marinated prawns with crispy romaine lettuce to start. Were the prawns marinated? I couldn’t taste any marinade. Still – prawns. Not complaining.
The main course choices were wok fried perch fillet in ginger soya sauce served with stewed vegetables and steamed rice or braised beef in red wine with spinach, roasted vegetables and mashed potato.
The beef dish was exclusively created by Gordon Ramsay and finally! A great plane meal from Singapore Airlines! The beef was tender and in a tasy sauce. The mashed potato was nice and creamy and not too bland. Hooray! When I asked Alastair how his fish was, he said, “Good.” He has lots of words about many things, but apparently not about food.
Dessert was ice cream – classic Magnums.
All in all, I wasn’t that impressed with the food on Singapore Airlines. The food was better when we flew Emirates earlier this year. At least we got to eat some good food while in Singapore (posts still to come).
One of the best experiences of our trip was in Swakopmund, Namibia. Swakop is a small city in northwestern Namibia and is located on the Atlantic coast. It has a population of approximately 29,000. The city’s German origins are very evident, with the city centre filled with many examples of German colonial architecture. Being on the cooler coast, it’s a very popular holiday resort, particularly during the summer months, and hosts many adventure activities, such as quad biking, sky diving, or sand boarding.
When you reach a place like Swakop, it’s easy to get immersed in the adrenaline activities or backpacker culture and not do anything “real”. We were fortunate though. Our guide Heini was from Swakop and he took us on a township tour through the suburb of Mondesa. We went to some shops that had been set up in shipping containers, the food market, a local bar, and were even welcomed into someone’s home. After the township, we went to his mum’s house for dinner, where we were met by a group of girls singing and dancing. We were led into the backyard where a long table had been set up. Peering over the fences on either side of their property was a crowd of curious neighbour who stayed there watching the whole time.
Heini’s grandmother gave us a speech (which he translated) welcoming us to her home. She was so warm and seemed so happy to have us there. His family are Ovambo, the largest tribe in Namibia, and we got to try a traditional meal.
On the tables were a few snacks – bowls of chips (not traditional!) and fat cookies. Fat cookies seem to be balls of slightly sweet, fried dough. If you’ve ever eaten the sweet version of yau ja gwai (a Chinese fried dough) it’s very similar. However, I think I know why they’re called fat cookies. They were delicious but felt very unhealthy.
Oshifima – millet porridge
After we were all seated, a bowl of warm water was passed around to wash our hands, as traditionally cutlery isn’t used (or so we were told). Plates of oshifima (stiff pearl millet porridge also known as omahangu), came out. Millet is a staple of the northern Namibian diet, and not only is it used to make porridge, but a drink called oshikundu is made by fermenting it. Oshikundu is a sour-sweet drink and has quite a strong cereal taste. It’s a taste to be acquired! I didn’t take a photo of the drink, but found one on flickr.
Etiti’s – the top with pounded beans and the bottom with spinach
We tore off pieces of oshifima and rolled it into balls. This was then dipped into the etiti’s (shallow clay pots). One etiti held a spinach mixture and the other held pounded beans.
The oshifima seemed to be an acquired taste. It was quite bland, and it took a bit of practice to dunk it into the sauce without dropping it or getting stuff all over your fingers!
Chicken in marsala sauce
There was also plates of chicken cooked in a marsala sauce. The chicken was juicy and very delicious.
Last were bowls of mopane worms. Mopane worms are large caterpillars that feed on the mopane tree. I’m proud to say that almost everyone in our group tried one. They were…. interesting. I eat pretty much anything (as you may have noticed) but I have a psychological aversion to eating insects. I tried one anyway, and it actually wasn’t too bad. It had a gritty texture and tasted a bit like salty tea leaves. However, one was enough for me. I can cross that off the eating list!
After dinner the kids danced for us. All the children we met along the way were affectionate and oh so gorgeous. These ones were no exception. We got hugs from them as we left – just another little thing that made the evening so special.
We spent about 10 days in Namibia, and it was my favourite country that we visited. It’s a large but very sparsely populated country, with a population of about 2 million, which makes it the least densely populated country in the world after Mongolia.
Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990. Politically it’s very stable and is one of the safest countries in Africa. It’s said to be “Africa for beginners”. It’s also the only country in the world to specifically address conservation and protection of natural resources in the constitution.
The Dead Vlei
The climate is very dry, and much of the country is occupied by deserts. Desert may not sound very interesting, but oh, it’s beautiful. I was so taken with the landscape. I adored the swirling red dunes, although I didn’t like walking up them as much as I liked them aesthetically!
Our last night in Namibia was spent in the capital city, Windhoek. Most of our group went to a restaurant called Joe’s Beerhouse. I’m sure all tourists to Windhoek visit this restaurant – it’s very well known for game meat. It’s decorated with all sorts of knick knacks – most hanging from the ceiling! For example, we were seated under a bicycle, which thankfully stayed hanging.
Excuse the hair – it gets everywhere!
The menu had many, many options (if you eat meat that is). As I looked through, I immediately saw what I was going to order – the Bushman’s Sosatie. This was a kebab of chicken, kudu, zebra, crocodile and ostrich.
Surprisingly, considering the fact that we were a large table of 25, our meals didn’t take too long to arrive. And unlike our other large group dinner, the food all arrived together! This gave those of us who had ordered the Bushman Sosatie an opportunity to conduct a meat tasting.
Chicken, random vegetable covered in bacon, kudu and zebra
First up was the very pedestrian chicken. It was terrible – overcooked and dry. We quickly moved on. The next item was some random vegetable, perhaps squash, covered in bacon. The fact that I didn’t recognise it probably says something about how much attention was paid to it.
Next on the skewer was kudu.
The Greater Kudu is a distinctive large antelope that is found throughout eastern and southern Africa. It has long spiral horns and is one of the tallest antelopes. The meat was tasty and very similar to beef steak. I was expecting a more gamey taste, but it wasn’t really there. I’ve read some accounts that described kudu as a strong tasting meat but I didn’t think so.
Following the kudu was zebra. Zebra, surprise surprise, was very similar to beef but slightly sweeter. The texture was different and quite distinctive. It was drier and grainier than beef.
Zebra, crocodile & ostrich plus 2 corn fritters
Moving along to the white meat pictured after the eggplant – crocodile. This was a firm white flakey meat – which some say tastes like chicken. I disagree. It has a very delicate flavour and I thought it tasted slightly like fish. It was very pleasant and is definitely something I would be keen to have again.
Last but not least was the ostrich, languishing at the end of the skewer. My, what a revelation this was! After the chewy ostrich steak from the other meal, this was amazing. It was cooked perfectly and was really tender and moist. This ended up being my favourite meat on the skewer, with the crocodile coming a close second.
The only negative of the night was splitting the bill. Strangely, they gave us separate bills for drinks, but all the food came on one large bill. It ended up being over $2000 Namibian dollars in total – guess who got the job of counting all the money!? Even with my superior counting skills, the waitress said we were short, even though most of us had added a tip. I still don’t know if she was cheating us or if I just can’t count. It didn’t matter. We paid extra so we could get out of there, nursing our tummies overloaded with red meat.
While in Africa, we had the opportunity to try some game meat at different points along the way. Me being me, I jumped at the chance.
First up was the roast oryx/gemsbok in burgundy sauce that was on the menu in a restaurant in Swakopmund, Namibia.
Oryx are large antelopes with long spear like horns and black facial markings (above on the right). The one above was at a watering hole in Etosha National Park.
When I ordered the meal, I wondered if it was okay to do so (ie were they endangered?). I’ve just read that Wikipedia says that it is considered a threatened species. o_O Anyway, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been on the menu if it wasn’t okay or from an okay source (I hope).
On to the meal – you know how people say, “it tastes like chicken”? Of course it didn’t! It tasted like beef but slightly gamier. The texture was very similar to beef.
That same evening, we went to another restaurant in Swakopmund where ostrich steak was on the menu. Ostrich is a dark red meat, and apparently is very low in fat and cholesterol.
Oh, the ostrich. Service at the restaurant was terrible, and I received my meal last – about 20 minutes after Alastair, who got his first! Admittedly, we were a large group, and as our guide Heini always said, “There’s no time in Africa!”
As you can see from the photo, the ostrich was rare – very rare. I quite like my meat bloody, but this was too rare and was very chewy (the larger piece was just seared on each side and completely raw in the middle. However, the parts that were cooked a bit more were nice and tender. Again, it tasted like beef but I thought it was slightly milder in flavour.
It wasn’t the best steak, but it satisfied my curiosity!
My grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in the weekend. A banquet was held at Grand Park Chinese Seafood Restaurant in Auckland. I stole one of the menus that was displayed on each table, and if any of the dish names seem a bit weird, well, I copied them directly from the menu.
First dish out was Grand Pork BBQ and Suckling Pig Mixed Platter.
Jellyfish was part of the platter. I love jellyfish. It doesn’t have much flavour, apart from the sauce that it is generally dressed in (normally sesame oil, soy sauce and sometimes chilli), but the texture is great. It’s crunchy but soft.
The pork crackling was very crispy. I love crunching through the skin to be met with the fat underneath. Mhmm. Next to the pork on this plate is some roast beef.
Next was Stirred Scallop with Macadamia Nuts. There was no skimping on the nuts in this dish. Truthfully, I found them a bit weird. I like macadamia nuts, I just wasn’t sure about them stir fried with scallops and vegetables. The crispy noodle nests were good fun though. They tasted just like uncooked 2 minute noodles!
These were the Deep Fried Golden Prawn Balls. It’s hard to go wrong with deep fried food, but they could’ve used a bit more oomph. More seasoning, or some spices perhaps.
Next we had a bowl of Shark Fin Soup with Shredded Chicken. The red stuff is vinegar. Shark fin itself doesn’t have much taste – like jellyfish it’s about the texture. This soup was a disappointment as there wasn’t much flavour.
After the soup came the Lobster in Superior Sauce (I don’t know what made the sauce so superior!). This was a large lobster – and there was one for each table! My Bro ate half of it by himself as he was the only one willing to get messy and crack the legs.
This dish was Steamed Marinated Chicken, eaten with a dipping sauce of oil, ginger and spring onion. Hoorah for the chicken head!
The Steamed Live Blue Cod Fish was U-G-L-Y. Not sure what they meant by “live” but the flesh was soft and delicious. There’s a word in Cantonese that is used to describe the texture of food – the closest translation I can think of is silky. The fish was silky.
By the way, if you ever get presented with a fish like this, try eating the flesh from the cheeks. It’s very soft and delicate. Since no one else on the table looked interested, I ate one cheek and gave the other to Alastair.
The Fish Maw and Chinese Mushrooms on seasonal vegetables was interesting. The abalone (paua!) in the middle was thinly sliced but slightly chewy. It had a stronger flavour than I normally associate with abalone. The interesting part about this dish was the fish maw (it’s the whitish stuff you can see). Fish maw is the gas bladder that helps fish control buoyancy. When eating it I was struck by the gelatinous texture and then the fattiness. It didn’t taste fishy at all – just fatty. Really fatty. Ick.
Two further dishes came out before cake and dessert. The last two dishes were fried rice and long life noodles. I didn’t bother taking photos of them because they were just fried rice and noodles. Everyone was so full at this stage that they were barely touched.
Dessert was Red Bean soup. I wasn’t that enamoured. It needed more sugar and they used dried orange peel when cooking it. I find the dried peel too overpowering. My mum makes good red bean soup. She’s shown me how to make it, and the last time I tried, I mistook kidney beans for red beans (I don’t know where my head was at – they’re completely different!). I think I ended up making a big pot of chilli instead.
And finally, we were served Long Life Buns. These steamed buns are shaped and tinted like a peach.
Inside the soft buns was lotus paste and salted egg yolk. Love the contrast of the salty egg yolk with the sweet lotus paste. I didn’t think I could eat any more but I managed two because they were delicious.
It was such a pleasure to be there while my grandparents celebrated their years of marriage. Maybe one day Alastair and I will celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary (if we’re long lived enough!). What a lovely thought.
Grand Park Chinese Seafood Restaurant Cnr Manukau Road & Greenlane East, Alexandra Raceway (Gate B) Epsom, Auckland
Somewhere between Auckland and Melbourne I caught a cold. Right now my head is a bit fuzzy and my memory of the dinner below isn’t great…. Even the pictures haven’t jogged my recall much so apologies for the lack of details. It didn’t help that I never looked at the menu – the ordering was done by the “adults”. No matter how old you get, when you’re with family you become a kid again.
Our first night in Auckland was my Aunt Miriam’s birthday. We loaded up the van (something that can take half an hour with my family) and headed off for an early dinner at Sunshine Chinese Restaurant. A sign on the door said that it was Auckland’s best Chinese restaurant, as decided by Cuisine magazine in 2005 and 2006.
Dinner started off with a bowl of thin Chinese soup.
Next out was the soy sauce chicken. The flesh was slippery and tender.
The chicken head was left on for presentation. Cluck cluck!
Pork spareribs in plum sauce.
This was assorted cold meats – roast pork, roast beef, roast duck and, my favourite of the plate, jellyfish!
Green beans and mince – this dish was rather salty, but good eaten with rice. I would’ve preferred more spiciness.
Seafood and tofu hotpot. The hotpot was delicious – the seafood was sizzling hot and just cooked through. I also enjoyed the tofu which had soaked up lots of sauce.
Beef strips and celery. I think that the beef had just been dipped in flour and stir fried. It looked like the beef should be crispy, but it wasn’t.
The eggplant hotpot was probably my favourite dish of the night. The eggplant was very, very soft. My only wish was for some chili to go with it.
This was my Aunt’s birthday cake. My cousin, Anthony, blew out the candle (he’s 5).
The cake was okay. I dislike fake cream, so points off for that.
And finally, a bowl of sago to finish off. I love sago. It was a good ending to the evening.
There’s a sure fire way to gain a couple of kilos in a weekend – spend time with my family. This weekend, Alastair, my Bro and I flew to Auckland to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. (60 years! How incredible is that?!)
From the moment we got on the plane we started eating, and didn’t finish until we got back to Melbourne. Al and I flew Emirates (the first time I had flown with them) and I was impressed. I loved the plane (an Airbus A340-500 I think), I loved the hot towels they handed out just before take off, and the food – well, considering we were 40,000 feet in the air, the food was pretty good!
On the flight over to Auckland, we were served brunch. There were two choices – an omelette and chicken.
Alastair had the omelette with gruyere cheese accompanied by creamed spinach, tomato wedge, grilled veal sausage and rosti potatoes. I had a moment of panic when the flight attendant asked me what I wanted and I choose the omelette. Al picked the chicken and we ended up doing a swap. After I saw him eating the omelette, I wanted it back. It was super cheesey, and I like cheese!
I had the sauteed chicken with mushroom sauce served with creamy mashed potatoes, buttered green beans and carrot batonettes. Even though I had cheese envy, this wasn’t bad. The mushroom sauce was well flavoured, and the vegetables still retained a bit of crunch. The mashed potatoes could have used more seasoning but I couldn’t be bothered trying to find my tiny packet of salt amongst all the other stuff on my tray.
The obligatory bread roll, and cheese and crackers. I was happy that the butter (in a little packet) was spreadable but was intrigued to see that it was white. It was Australian butter too.
What I had of the fruit was good. There was strawberry, a couple of red grapes and some pieces of rock melon and honey dew. Al got my rock melon and honey dew as I’m not a fan. I did eat a piece to confirm that I don’t like it – yes, that dislike is still there.
Light cheesecake with strawberry topping and whipped cream. This was a bit light on the strawberry flavour. And I didn’t realise it was cheesecake until I checked the menu to type out this entry!
The flight back we were served dinner, with two choices – New Zealand lamb ragout or pan-fried blue cod. Al and I both went for the lamb.
The lamb ragout was served with roasted pumpkin, buttered green beans and creamy herb mashed potatoes. This smelt SO good. The lamb was tender and the sauce was rich and savoury.
I mopped up the rest of my sauce with my bread roll. And then polished off the cheese and crackers.
The appetiser was sliced charsiew duck served with marinated Thai glass noodle salad. There was also a salad with ginger dressing.
Dessert was a rich chocolate gateau/mousse with pistachio and raspberry coulis. Couldn’t taste or see the pistacho, but I enjoyed the texture of the mousse and the raspberry against the chocolate.
I’ll post about the two main meals we ate in Auckland over the next few days. There was lots of food, lots of family and lots of photos!