POHcooks: Char Siew (Asian BBQ Pork)

1 kg of homemade Char Siew

1 kg of homemade Char Siew

Made char siew for the first time today! It was a whole lot of work but so worth it! The sauce is really tasty without being overly sweet, and the continuous basting of the pork allowed the meat to remain moist yet achieving the caramelised exterior.

Char Siew: recipe adapted from chefandsommelier

Ingredients
1 kg pork belly strips (sliced into 2-3 cm thick) or 不见天 (Armpit cut) – I used a mixture of shoulder cut and armpit cut

Marinade
180g sugar
100g oyster sauce
4 tbsp shao xing wine
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 cube red fermented beancurd, 1 tbsp red liquid.

Method
1) Clean and pat dry the pork.
2) Mix all the ingredients for the marinade and marinate pork overnight.
3) Heat oven to 240 C in fan mode.
4) Reduce the leftover marinade in a pot over the stove until it thickens.
5) Roast pork strips for 15 minutes on each side in the pre-heated oven, allowing the juice to drip into a baking tray below. Baste the pork with the marinade every few minutes while roasting until the char siew gets nice and charred.
6) Rest the char siew for 5 minutes before cutting it into slices. Serve with leftover marinade.

Closer look at all that delicious meat

Closer look at all that delicious meat

 

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Date a man who loves you

Date a man who loves you. Meet him when you are hurt from your previous relationship and have lost all faith in love. This man will simply be a much needed listening ear at this point in time, a pillar of support as you become self-absorbed in your seemingly shattered world. As time progresses, he will become a strong presence in your life, an indispensable character as you find your feet amidst the chaos.  The man who loves you will summon the courage to ask you out, somehow managing to see some good in you when you are such a wreck. He will accompany you to specialist appointments without being prompted to, and entertain you with chess games when attending courses together. The man who loves you will tolerate your indecisiveness and contradictory nature, patiently navigating your quick temper and trying all means to make you happy. He will ignore the hurt from your constant nitpicking and reluctance to acknowledge the relationship, choosing to love you and be there for you. The man who loves you will be very persistent, believing in the relationship even when you have your reservations.

Date a man who loves you because he will love everything you hate about yourself. He will indulge you in your greediness, and find you beautiful, even at your worst. He will be patient, and sensitive. The man who loves you will blow dry your hair when you are tired, be extra quiet when you are asleep, bring out his secret stash of cashew nuts when you are hungry, and blow air at you when the weather is warm. He will take photos of you, and shop with you without complains. The man who loves you will love you entirely, unconditionally, even when you are difficult to love.

As your relationship progress with the man who loves you, don’t start taking him for granted. Don’t compare him with other guys who show love flamboyantly. He loves you in the simplest but most precious of ways. Ignore the lack of fireworks and unicorns and rainbows, passion is fleeting. Appreciate the stable relationship and honest communication, because sparks will fizzle but a strong foundation will never topple. Treasure the simple happiness when he sincerely finds you adorable, and be grateful for all the ways he accommodates you.

He is dependable, and with him, you know you will lead a lifetime of happiness. You will see the world with him and create wonderful memories together. You will support each other in your goals, and learn and grow together. You will celebrate milestones with pride, be comforted in the knowledge that he will be a wonderful parent. You will raise a happy family with him, and become those couples that are very much in love till the end.

Date that man who loves you, fall for him in a slow and steady way, build a foundation with him, and know how lucky you are to have found him.  Date the man who loves you, choose him and make him feel loved, because he deserves it.

— specially written for the boyfriend, who is such a man. I couldn’t be more blessed having you to love me. Happy 6 months!

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POHtravels: Seoul Travelogue – 4D4N (Part II)

After a good night’s sleep at the airport, I made my way to Hotel Aventree Jongno, my home for the next three days.

Hotel Aventree Jongno

I was sufficiently impressed by this hotel during my previous trip that I chose to stay here again. The rooms are nice and clean, and most importantly, it is very conveniently located near the subway station and within walking distance of major tourist spots such as Insadong, Myeongdong, Gyeongbokgung and Samcheongdong. Although the hotel staff aren’t really friendly, they are professional and speaks good English. I wouldn’t recommend the breakfast though. With its limited variety, you will be far happier eating yummy delights off the streets of Seoul.

Getting to Hotel Aventree Jongno from Incheon Airport:
By Airport Shuttle – Take bus 6005 from Passenger Terminal level 1, Berth 5B. The bus stops directly outside the hotel and takes about 80 – 85 minutes. It costs 15,000 krw for a one-way trip.

Airport shuttle bus 6005 to Insadong

By SMRT – Take Airport Railway to Seoul station and change to Line 1 heading towards Soyosan. Alight at Jonggak Station. From Jonggak Station, take exit 3-1 and walk straight for about three minutes till you see Hotel Aventree Jongno.

 

Ready to explore with latte in hand/ Walls of Gyeongbokgung palace/ Pretty flowers/ Outside Gyeongbokgung palace

Ready to explore with latte in hand/ Walls of Gyeongbokgung palace/ Outside Gyeongbokgung palace/ Pretty flowers

Pretty graffiti along Samcheongdong/ Flowers in front of cafe

Pretty graffiti along Samcheongdong/ Flowers in front of cafe

 

Owl Art & Craft Museum

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I LOVE OWLS. Ok, that could be an under-statement. How about OWLbsessed? 🙂
After stumbling upon this place during my previous trip (it was closed), I knew I MUST put it in my itinerary this time round.

My verdict?
THIS IS AN AMAZING PLACE OMG I LOVE THIS PLACE!

It was totally worth the 1.5 hours wait. (website stated that it opens at 10am, but the actual operating hours is from 11am-7pm, and it didn’t open till 1130am)
The one-room museum is cramped with more than 2,500 owl paraphernalia; telephones, radios, coins, mugs – all collections of the owner, affectionately known as the owl lady. I was so happy looking at all the owls that I could cry. It was so inspiring! Can’t wait to start my own collection too!

 

Owl Art & Craft Museum

Owl Art & Craft Museum

Entrance to the museum

Entrance to the museum

Finally in!:D - The only photo spot in the museum

Finally in!:D – The only photo spot in the museum

Getting to Owl Art & Craft Museum:
From Anguk Station, take exit 2 and follow Bukchon-ro all the way. Along the way, you will see Bukchon Hanok Village (a residential area with traditional housing) on your right. After visiting the museum, you can continue down Bukchon-ro (moving ahead instead of back down the same path) to Samcheongdong, a street filled with mostly with lovely cafes and yummy food. As you continue walking, you will eventually reach Gyeongbokgung palace on your left.

Operating hours: 11:00 – 19:00 (closed from Monday – Wednesday)
Entrance fee: 5,000krw (Inclusive of a drink)

Getting to Owl Museum

Getting to Owl Museum

Insadong/ Gangnam Myeonok

Brimming with happiness, I set off for the next stop in my itinerary – Gangnam Myeonok. Located in Insadong, this restaurant is well-known for their galbi-jjim (steamed short ribs) – see reviews here. However, as the dish only comes in sharing portions (with the smallest costing 35,000 won for 3pax), I settled for the more manageable mandu-guk (dumpling soup) instead.

Gangnam Myeonok/ Mandu-guk

Gangnam Myeonok/ Mandu-guk

The mandu-guk comes with four huge dumplings, some beef cubes and egg ribbons. The dumplings are generously filled with meat and sprouts, and is juicy without the strong pork taste. A very satisfying dish in the cool weather.

Getting there:
From Anguk Station, take Exit 6, walk straight and turn left into Insadong-gil. Walk down Insadong-gil, a street flanked with souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes, museums and Ssamziegil, and you will eventually see Gangnam Myeonok on your left.

Getting to Gangnam Myeonok/ Insadong

Getting to Gangnam Myeonok/ Insadong

Novelty soft-served icecream shop/ Starbucks along Insadong-gil

Novelty soft-served icecream shop/ Starbucks along Insadong-gil

Art shop along Insadong

Art shop along Insadong

Myeongdong
Myeongdong is one of the major  shopping districts in Seoul. There are two anchor department stores (Lotte and Shinsegae), various shopping malls (e.g. H&M and Migliore), and hundreds of skin care stores (e.g. Missha, Innisfree, Laniege, just to name a few). Besides being a shopper’s paradise, Myeongdong is also a great place to experience the night life in Seoul and to sample the various street snacks that Seoul has to offer. From spicy grilled chicken skewers to chewy rice cakes to grapefruit drizzled with honey, you will soon be lamenting your lack of stomach space.
For someone who is really low on shopping stamina, I spent a decent portion of my funds purely on skincare (cheaper than Singapore, must stock up!) and had a really enjoyable time window shopping (with a snack in hand, of course).

Really good red bean custard snack on the way to Myeongdong

Egg bread

Egg bread

Chicken Skewers

Chicken Skewers

Sausage with rice cake

Sausage with rice cake

More information about Myeongdong can be found here.

 

 

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POHtravels: Seoul Travelogue – 4D4N (Part I)

I fell in love with Korea after my first trip in mid-September 2013.
There is just something about the vibes of the place that makes me want to go back again and again.
The food, the people, the lovely tree lined streets… thinking about it just makes me so happy. 🙂

Imagine my joy when I chanced upon this Scoot promotion in October 2013! Return tickets to Seoul going for just slightly over $300 (inclusive of taxes)! SCORE!!
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With cheap air tickets secured, the planning of the trip begins. (Have I mentioned how much I love planning itineraries?!)
Since most of the major tourist attractions in Seoul have been covered during the previous trip, the focus this time round was mainly on food, shopping, and all things relaxing!

4D4N Itinerary

4D4N Itinerary

 Spa On Air

One minor problem about budget flights is the poor flight timings. For this trip, my flight was scheduled to arrive in Seoul at 10:35 pm, making it too late to catch the airport shuttle bus to town. Not wanting to cab (since I was alone and cab fares to town will cost approximately SGD70) and looking to save money on accommodation, I decided to just spend the night at the airport.

Introducing SPA on Air  – a jimjilbang (spa) located in Incheon Airport. Not only will your luggage be properly looked after, you will be able to experience the jimjilbang culture in Korea – having showers, baths and saunas in birthday suit (not that I was looking forward to this) and sleeping on floor mats. Best of all, it was very reasonably priced! An overnight stay will set you back just 20,000 krw (approx SGD25).

Spa on Air (B1, Incheon International Airport Passenger Terminal)

After making payment for the night, I was given two (really tiny) face towels, a set of ‘uniform’, and a key for the shoe and clothes lockers. The jimjilbang was definitely no where as spectacular as the Yongsan Dragon Hill Spa), but it was plenty sufficient for a comfortable night’s rest – with separate dressing rooms, showers, hot and cold baths, dry and wet sauna, and a common sleeping area. And despite my initial apprehension, being in the nude in front of others wasn’t so bad, especially when other ladies were strutting around like it is the most natural thing on Earth. Guess it helps that I will never see them again after that day!

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POHtravels: Taipei Travelogue – 2D2N (Part III)

Day 2 was designated as a chillax day – a welcomed rest after the long day of travelling the day before.

Complimentary breakfast at Inhouse hotel. My pick: French toast and egg served with maple syrup and milk tea (I requested to exclude the sausages)

Complimentary breakfast at Inhouse hotel. My pick: French toast and egg served with maple syrup and milk tea (I requested to exclude the sausages)

Ximending

Ximending


We started our day at Yong Kang Street – a destination famed for its wide selection of eateries ranging from good old hawker style noodles establishments to classy themed cafes.

Yong Kang beef noodles (永康牛肉面)

Our first stop – the famous Yang Kang beef noodles. Thankfully for us, there was not much of a queue when we reached about 11am.

Yummy beef noodles at 永康牛肉麺館 (No. 6, Alley 4, Lane 148, Section 2, Xìnyì Rd, Daan District)

Yummy beef noodles at 永康牛肉麺館 (No. 17號, Lane 31, Section 2, Jīnshān South Rd, Daan District)


One of the must-eats in Yong Kang, the beef noodle truly lived up to its name. As I don’t eat beef due to religious reasons, I was only able to try the soup, which was perfectly unami – rich and satisfying. The bf loved it and felt that it trumps Ding Tai Feng’s braised beef noodles.

Patisserie La Douceur

After a satisfying brunch/lunch, we set off to our next location – Patisserie La Douceur, a gorgeous minimalistic cafe. I spent quite some time drooling over the wide variety of sweet treats before deciding on a mont blanc (sponge cake covered with chestnut mousse) while the bf chose a tiramisu dessert that came in the form of a huge macaron. My mont blanc was really really good! The mousse has a distinct chestnut flavour and was not overly sweet, and the sponge cafe was so soft and lovely. I didn’t really try the tiramisu as I am not a fan of coffee, but it sure is pretty! Wish we have more tummy space to try out more of their desserts!

La Douceur Patisserie

La Douceur Patisserie

Yummy gorgeous desserts at La Douceur Patisserie

Yummy gorgeous desserts at La Douceur Patisserie

Japanese matcha cafe (not it’s real name)
On our way to  Patisserie La Douceur, we stumbled upon this quaint Japanese cafe specialising in matcha desserts. Being a lover of anything matcha, there was no way that I will pass up this cafe. And so, despite being sugar-high and contented after our visit to Patisserie La Douceur, we made our way there excitedly for 2nd round of desserts. So thankful that I have a bf who is willing to indulge with me! ❤

MATCHA!! oh I LOVE MATCHA!

MATCHA!! oh I LOVE MATCHA!

Chillaxing with kindle - SUCH IS LIFE!:)

Chillaxing with kindle – SUCH IS LIFE!:)


The matcha desserts truly hit the mark! Looking at the pictures now, I can’t help craving for the matcha yuzu tart! Such an amazing pairing – matcha fragrance with refreshing yuzu flavour, firm buttery tart base, and soft rich mousse. *sighs* If only I can turn back time.

I can’t recall the name of the cafe and googling didn’t churn out any proper results (for once). But the cafe should be easy to find! Look out for it along the same street as Patisserie La Douceur.

This concludes our food adventure in Yong Kang Street. For a more comprehensive guide to the eats in Yong Kang Street, check out this and this.

Strolling along..

Strolling and burning off some food before more eating 🙂


聚火锅

Our last formal food stop for the day is 聚火锅, a steam-boat franchise well-known for it’s high quality ingredients and kelp soup base. I made reservations in advance as they are often fully booked.

Wide variety of vegetables

Wide variety of vegetables

Part of our spread!

Part of our feast


One word. IMPRESSIVE.

Their set menu comes with a wide selection of food. You get to choose from 5 kelp soup bases (original, tomyum, milk, herbal and miso), a choice of mains (beef, pork, chicken, seafood, beef/pork and pork/chicken), vegetables platter, plum vinegar -refillable (to cleanse the palate), a speciality item (homemade meat/vegetable balls, bacon tofu etc), choice of carbs (rice, udon or japanese sweet potato noodles) and dessert (black sesame creme brulee, matcha glutinous rice balls, chinese black fungus). The soup base was seasoned just right, lightly imparting the ingredients with flavour yet not overwhelming them. The ingredients were fresh, the speciality items delicious. I also couldn’t stop drinking the refreshing plum vinegar! Besides the food, the service was awesome. Friendly and quick to help, our waitress has a smile on her face all the time, adding to a truly satisfying dining experience. Super recommended!

After so much feasting, we slowly walked back to the hotel and spent the rest of the night exploring Ximending. We tried the famous 阿宗面线 (which was absolutely delicious with vinegar and chilli), 豪大大鸡扒 (huge fried chicken chop could never go wrong for the bf), grilled mochi (near The Body Shop), before our stomachs started protesting.

A FOODfilling weekend trip indeed 🙂

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3 ways to prepare broccoli

Me and my broccoli bouquet

My broccoli bouquet

Broccoli, often eaten for its nutritional value and health benefits, is hardly known for its deliciousness. This humble vegetable is used to being overlooked, contented to play an unassuming role in our dishes, quietly complementing its richer and more flavoursome counterparts. Today we are going to give it the credit that it deserves, to elevate its status from calefare (extras) to the best supporting actor, and to let it walk the red carpet with its head held high.

Ingredients
Broccoli, cut into florets*

* To prep the broccoli, cut it into bite size florets. For the stem, use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough exterior and cut it into 1-inch segments. To wash the broccoli, prepare a vegetable wash by combining 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp baking soda and a cup of water. Dilute some of the vegetable wash in a big pot of water and soak the broccoli florets and stem for 5 to 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and use as intended.

Method
Boiling – Boiled vegetables do not have a good reputation. Often associated with baby or hospital food, they are thought of as soft, bland and unappetising. Loving my vegetables green and crunchy, boiling has never been my choice of preparing vegetables. That is, till I came across this book by Tamar Adler. In the book, she imparts sound advice and lessons about day to day cooking through lovely writing, teaching home-cooks that simple ingredients could and will translate to stunning dishes; that good food doesn’t require skills and frills. Her passion and love for cooking is truly inspiring, and the advice she gives – enlightening. With a whole chapter dedicated to boiling vegetables, I learnt things that I never knew, banishing misconceptions I once had. It really is astounding how delicious boiled vegetables could taste when they are prepared properly.

Start by bringing water to boil in a pot and salt the water generously (in Tamar Adler’s words, till it tastes like sea water). Not only will this help to flavour the broccoli, it seasons the cooking liquid, turning it into an all-rounded vegetable stock. Next, boil the broccoli florets till fully cooked and tender (a fork should be able to pass through the thickest part easily). This brings out the sweetness of the vegetables, even if that means risking losing their bright green coat. Once done, drain the cooked broccoli and toss in good EVOO while hot*.  Simple, but mind-blowingly delicious.

*There is no need to plunge the broccoli in an ice bath (to retain its colour). Cooked vegetables should look as it is, cooked. 🙂

Steaming – A comprehensive guide to steaming vegetables can be found here. Serve the steamed vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of flaky sea salt like here for an elegant side dish, or dress it up with a drizzle of truffle oil and lemon zest like here. I made the latter for my family one day, and the brother, who is usually slow to dish out compliments, had nothing but praise for it. The truffle oil introduces a rich earthy flavour, while the lemon zest adds a refreshing touch. Combined, it’s a dish set out to impress.

Roasting – Heat oven to 200 degree Celsius.  Toss broccoli florets in olive oil, and season with salt & pepper. Roast for about 10-20 minutes till its edges are lightly charred and crispy. Roasted broccoli will lose it’s pretty fresh green coat and take on a dull unappetising brown. But don’t let this deter you! The browning imparts a nutty caramelised flavour, and tossed with more EVOO, some roasted pine nuts and grated parmesan, it is a side dish that you will be proud to serve to your guests. Alternatively, make it the complete meal with some brown rice, roasted sweet potato and delicious miso dressing, as in Smitten Kitchen’s version here.

With so many ways to enjoy this humble vegetable, you are bound to find one that you fancy. Who knows, you might never want to eat anything else for breakfast, lunch, and dinner ever again!

What is your favourite way to eat broccoli?

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POHcooks: Taro and sweet potato balls dessert (芋圆, 地瓜圆)

Falling in love with this dessert from the first trip to Jiu Fen, Taipei

Falling in love with this dessert from the first trip to Jiu Fen, Taipei

Ever since my first trip to Taipei, I was enamoured by this dessert I had in Jiu Fen – 芋圆 (directly translated as taro ball); a dessert consisting of grass jelly and tapioca balls of various flavours (taro, sweet potato, matcha etc), topped with red beans and mung beans. The tapioca balls were chewy and soft, with a hint of the base flavours, and the grass jelly and beans provided complementary textures and flavours, making it super addictive. Right after the trip, struck with an insane craving, I tried my hands making it based off this recipe, and was delighted to discover that it was a close substitute for the original.

First attempt at making taro and sweet potato balls

First attempt at making taro and sweet potato balls

Since then, a franchise selling this dessert was introduced in Singapore and I no longer have to go through all the trouble when cravings hit. However, food from your own hands is always THAT bit more special, and after having the authentic version once again during my recent trip to Taipei, I was eager to try making it again!

POHcooks: Taro and sweet potato balls dessert (芋圆,地瓜圆)

POHcooks: Taro and sweet potato balls dessert (芋圆,地瓜圆)

This is a perfect dessert for all weathers. On chilly days, snuggle under the blankets with a bowl of tapioca balls served in hot ginger soup. For hot and humid days, a bowl of shaved ice, grass jelly, red beans and the tapioca balls will make a refreshing treat.

Makings of sweet potato ball

Makings of sweet potato ball

Makings of taro ball

Makings of taro ball

Before: Raw taro and sweet potato balls all packaged and ready to be cooked!

Before: Raw taro and sweet potato balls all packaged and ready to be cooked!

After: Gleaming like jewels <3

After: Gleaming like jewels ❤

Taro balls and sweet potato balls: recipe from mitongwu
Serves 2

Ingredients
Taro/sweet potato puree* 100g
Tapioca flour 30g
Water ~10g (to adjust accordingly)

*To make the puree, slice the taro/sweet potato and steam them till fork tender, about 15 – 20 minutes. While steaming, use a bamboo steamer or cover the lid with a large cotton cloth to prevent excess moisture from dripping onto the taro/sweet potato. Use a fork/ potato masher to mash the taro/sweet potato. I like to leave the purée a little bit chunky for added texture. However if the purée is too chunky, the dough might fall apart easily.

Method
1) Combine the purée and tapioca flour in a bowl
2) Add water, a little at a time (1/2 – 1 tbsp)**, until the dough comes together in a ball.
** This is to prevent the dough from being too wet, thus requiring the addition of more flour which will affect the texture. A good proportion would be 70% purée, 30% tapioca flour.
3) Spilt the dough into half and roll each half into ropes of 1 – 1.5 cm in diameter.
4) To form the tapioca balls, cut the rope into pieces of 1.5 – 2cm. Lightly coat the pieces with tapioca flour to prevent them from sticking together.
At this stage, you can choose to proceed to cook the tapioca balls immediately or store them for future use. They will last a week in the refrigerator and keep for months in the freezer.
5) To cook the tapioca balls, bring water to boil in a saucepan. Pop the tapioca balls into the water in batches and scoop them out once they expand and float to the surface.
6) Toss the cooked tapioca balls with some sugar (adjust to taste) while they are still warm
7) Serve hot/cold with toppings as you wish!

Another view of the  yummy treat!

POHcooks: Served with grass jelly and home-made red beans

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POHtravels: Taipei Travelogue – 2D2N (Part II)

In-house Hotel 
As this was supposed to be a budget trip, I didn’t want to spend too much money on accommodation. Seeking balance between comfort and affordability, I found this gem of a hotel on Agoda; a 4-star boutique hotel at only SGD 144 per night! We were later given a free upgrade to their newer wing,  In-house Boutique hotel, which was even better as it was just a mere 1 minute walk from the Ximen metro station.

Map of Ximending

Map of Ximending – The original In-house hotel is marked out at the top left hand corner

Besides its excellent location, In-house Boutique hotel met my expectations in more ways than one. The bed was comfy, the room was clean and tastefully decorated, the bathroom was equipped with good showers and high-tech toilet, l’occtaine toiletries was provided; it was definitely value for money.  Situated in one of Taipei’s famous shopping districts – Ximending, we were also able to experience the bustling night-life and awesome street food right at the door step.

Checking in

Checking in

In-house hotel (photo credited to http://taipei543.com/2013/03/05/inhouse-hotel/)

In-house hotel (photo credited to http://taipei543.com/2013/03/05/inhouse-hotel/)

Getting to In-house hotel from Taoyuan International Airport:
Take Free-go bus  (飞狗巴士) from Taoyuan International Airport bus terminal. The journey takes about 40mins to an hour, and costs NTD140 (SGD6) for a one way trip. The driver will drop you at the nearest drop-off point to the hotel.

Book In-house hotel here

Jiu fen (九份) – my favourite!
After leaving our luggage at the hotel, we set off for the first stop in our itinerary – 九份.

九份 is a small town in north Taiwan, and is one of the popular tourist destinations in Taipei. Renowned for its quaint streets and tea houses, 九份 is a wonderful place to spend an idyllic afternoon. The main commercial streets are Jishan Street and Shu Qi road, which are flanked with a wide variety of shops ranging from unique souvenirs to grilled squids to the ever famous yam ball dessert (芋圆).

Map of Jiu Fen - places mentioned in the blogpost are marked out

Map of Jiu Fen – places mentioned in the blogpost are marked out

Entrance of Jiu Fen

Entrance of Jiu Fen

Yummy fishball noodles at 魚丸伯仔 (There are quite a few stalls selling fishball noodles. Go to the right one!)

Yummy fishball noodles at 魚丸伯仔 (There are quite a few stalls selling fishball noodles. Be sure to go to the correct one!)

jiufen3

賴阿婆芋圓 – One of the two stalls in Jiu Fen famous for the yam ball dessert. The balls are chewy in texture, with a variety of flavours such as yam, sweet potato, black sesame etc, and is served hot or cold with red beans and mung beans.

Another view of

Front view of 賴阿婆芋圓

阿妹茶酒館 (a-mei tea house) - said to be where creator Hayao Miyazaki drew much of his inspiration for the animated movie Spirited Away

阿妹茶酒館 (a-mei tea house) – said to be where creator Hayao Miyazaki drew much of his inspiration for the animated movie Spirited Away

Experiencing the fine art of tea drinking

Experiencing the fine art of tea drinking

Getting to 九份:
Take the Metro to Zhong Xiao Fu Xing (忠孝复兴)station. To get to the bus stop, take exit 1. Just outside the exit, there will be a row of shops on your right. Turn right (to where the shops are), walk along the shops, and turn left once you reach the corner. The bus to take is Keelung bus number 1062, heading to Jin Gua Shi. Alight when you see the 7-11 (entrance of Jiu Fen).

For a more comprehensive guide to 九份, check out the wikitravel page.

Shi fen (十分)
After spending a good few hours sipping tea and reading, we reluctantly left the warm and cosy tea house for the chilly winds and made our way to our next destination – 十分. As both of us didn’t manage to visit 十分 on our previous (separate) trips to Taiwan, we were very keen to go there this time round to experience the somewhat touristy activity of the release of sky lanterns.

Releasing sky lanterns (放天灯) is a ritual whereby wishes are written on a lantern which would later on be lit up and released into the sky – signifying the carrying of your prayers to the deities above.
The sky lanterns range from NTD100 to NTD150 depending on the number of colours chosen, each colour representing a different aspect of your life (health, money, love etc.)

Braving the chilly winds/ Waiting for train at Rui Fang train station

Braving the chilly winds/ Waiting for train at Rui Fang train station

Shi Fen train station/ penning our wishes on the sky lantern

Shi Fen train station/ Penning our wishes on the sky lantern

Releasing sky lantern (let our wishes come true!!)

Releasing the sky lantern (let our wishes come true!!)

Obligatory railroad photo

Obligatory railroad photo

Getting to 十分 from 九份:
Take bus 1062 (from the bus stop highlighted in the map) to Rui Fang train station. Take the train from Rui Fang train station to Shi Fen train station.

Directions to Shi Fen

Directions to Shi Fen

Raohe Night Market (饶河夜市)
饶河夜市 is one of the three most popular night markets in Taipei, joining the ranks of 师大夜市 and 士林夜市. Having been to all three night markets, I would say that I love the food at 饶河 best, despite 士林 being the seemingly more popular one. There seems to be more food variety at 饶河, or maybe my memory is failing me, while 师大 has more clothes and accessories shops to cater to the university crowd in the area.

Raohe Night Market

Raohe Night Market

Super awesome herbal mutton soup and pork ribs soup at

Super awesome herbal mutton soup and pork ribs soup at 陳董藥燉排骨

Distinctive entrance of Raohe night market/ Queuing for famous black pepper biscult (which was pretty normal in our opinion)

Distinctive entrance of Raohe night market/ Queuing for the famous black pepper biscuit (which was pretty normal in our opinion)

More eating! Garlic fried squid (left), mutton skewers (right)

More eating! Garlic fried squid (left), mutton skewers (right). YUM!

Popiah icecream fix (ice-cream wrapped in thin rice paper, topped with shaved peanuts and cilantro (yes!)) that I didn't get to eat in Jiu Fen

Finally got my popiah ice-cream fix! (ice-cream wrapped in thin rice paper, topped with shaved peanuts and cilantro (yes!)) – so yummy!:)

Juicy grilled king mushrooms!

Juicy grilled king mushrooms!

Getting to 饶河 from十分:
Take the train from Shi Fen train station to Rui Fang train station. From there, take bus 1062 (we took another bus in the end as two bus 1062 refused to let us board due to full load) to 饶河夜市. The journey will take close to an hour. To be safe, ask the driver to inform you when to alight. They are usually more than happy to do so!

After filling our tummies with all the yummy food, we cabbed back to our hotel to rest after the long but happy day.

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Mastering boiled eggs

It took longer than I am willing to admit to learn the proper way to boil eggs. Growing up, my concept of boiling eggs meant putting them in a saucepan filled with tap water and boiling them to death for 15 mins or more. Grey-rimmed dry yolks and rubbery whites are all I have ever known; I could never understand how anyone would enjoy boiled eggs. It wasn’t till one fateful day in a ramen shop that my relationship with boiled eggs changed forever.

POHcooks: Ajitsuke Tamago (Japanese marinated soft-boiled egg)

POHcooks: Ajitsuke Tamago (Japanese marinated soft-boiled egg)

Ajitsuke Tamago. An egg. A boiled egg. A simple marinated boiled egg but oh so delicious! Its exterior so smooth and shiny, gleaming with a tinge of brown from the marinate; its egg white firm yet not tough and unwieldy;  most importantly, the yolks. Oh the creamy melty delicious golden yolks! I was hooked. I was obsessed. Be it soft-boiled eggs, or hard-boiled eggs, I was determined to learn to make them perfectly.

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Some research and testing and a lot of eggs-eating later, my trusted method to boiling eggs was born.

Ingredients
Good quality medium sized eggs* at room temperature
Water
*I use eggs weighing about 60g. For larger eggs, you might need to add 30 – 60 seconds to the time

Method
1) Bring water to boil in a pot. (Ensure there is sufficient water to fully submerge the eggs.) Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and carefully lower the eggs into the pot.
2) Set your timer:
5 mins** – For soft-boiled egg with runny yolk: Most of the white is set and the yolk is runny enough to flow  (to pair with toast soldiers)
5 mins 45 seconds – For egg with thick and creamy yolk: The white is fully set while the yolk is thick and creamy (for the making of Ajitsuke Tamago (above) or enjoyed with noodles)
8 mins – For hard-boiled eggs: The egg is fully hard-boiled, with a firm white and opaque yolk
3) Transfer the eggs into a bowl of tap water till it is cool enough to handle. Lightly tap the shell with the back of a spoon till the whole shell is fragmented and peel them gently. Peeling the eggs under running water will allow the shell to slip off easily.
**Eggs boiled for less than 5 mins will be tough to peel

Soft-boiled eggs - 5 mins

Soft-boiled eggs – 5 mins

5 mins 45 secs

5 mins 45 secs

Trust me. This method works, every time.

Any other tried and tested methods of boiling eggs?:)

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POHcooks: Shakshuka (Eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce)

I was first introduced to this dish at Artichoke, one of my favourite dining establishments in Singapore. There were raving reviews about their Lamb Shakshuka – a Middle Eastern dish consisting of two eggs poached in spiced tomato sauce with kashkaval cheese and lamb, topped with pistachio dukka and served with bread. The description alone sounded so wonderful and I knew I had to try it for myself. It sure didn’t disappoint. The stew was really delish – perfectly poached eggs nestled among generous chunks of tender gamey lamb, the accompanying bread dying to be soaked in the rich hearty tomato sauce. 

Artichoke cafe & bar - Lamb Shakshuka (photo credited to http://www.ladyironchef.com/2011/05/artichoke-cafe-restaurant-communal-dining/)

Artichoke cafe & bar – Lamb Shakshuka (photo credited to http://www.ladyironchef.com/2011/05/artichoke-cafe-restaurant-communal-dining/)

While I was re-planning my menu for a brunch party, I came across this recipe at Smitten Kitchen and was immediately reminded of the crazy delicious version I had at Artichoke. As most of my guests are not big meat eaters, this lighter vegetarian option was perfect. The ingredients were easily available at supermarkets, the instructions look easy enough, and most importantly, it looks presentable and crowd-pleasing (who doesn’t LOVE EGGS?!). True to my expectations, the dish was very well-received. Every morsel of the dish was wiped clean. Breakfast food at its best indeed!

Shakshuka (Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce): adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, cubed
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp of ground chilli (the recipe originally called for jalapeños)
1 tbsp paprika (I used sweet paprika, but smoky paprika should work too)
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained (I used Hunts Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes)
Kosher salt, to taste
6 eggs
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander

Method
1) Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the red bell pepper, garlic, cumin, chilli and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.
2) Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.
3) Before serving, crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with bread.

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POHcooks: Shakshuka

 

For a meaty version, check out onedishcloser’s lamb shakshuka with chargrilled aubergine and garlic yoghurt
For green shakshuka (a version with spinach/kale as base instead of tomato sauce), check out dollyandoatmeal’s green shakshuka with smoky socca bread

 

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