30 September 2006

My Gentle Bunny

I've been out of action recently, and so many things are happening in my life now!

Just this week, I've been through peaks and valleys emotionally, started a rather draining job (but it should get better), and really the most heart-warming of all - I got my little bunny. I've named my furry three-month old companion an endearing Moka.

He was a surprise and advanced birthday gift from my dearest girlfriend - Yin, in partnership with my bandmate - Lionel. I love her to a million bits for this ultra-thoughtful and timely gift that came on my first day of work where I was really tired at the end of it all. I was hoping Lionel would allow me to skip that day's rehearsal but he was oddly insistent on practising some songs, so I dragged myself to his place only to find Yin there with my lovely Moka. That whole plan really explains Lionel's overenthusiastic behaviour towards rehearsing.

Anyway, I feel partially like a parent already. The first night I had my lop-eared Moka under my protective paws, I did much research online to find out how best to care for him. What to feed, what foods to limit, and what to avoid. The optimal temperatures for a bunny, and how to play with him. How often to change his bedding, take him out for a play around etc etc etc. I then wrote it all out neatly so my family would be informed as well and not end up poisoning it with lettuce.

And already, my family has grown quite attached to him. Even my father has started giving the little bunny small portions of guava or jambu. My mum is in charge of feeding him his rabbit pellets every morning and my brother plays with him everyday.

But friends keep making jokes about my Moka, and about how I should keep fattening him up for a good meal one day. I'm a foodie but there are some things I just won't do. NO way ho-zay.

24 September 2006

Fowl Play

This post would not have been possible without My Brother- The Hawker Guru.

While I was in UK playing around with recipes I sourced online, it seems like he was back home exploring this tiny island for good quality hawker food with his colleagues and friends. He would travel far and wide (granted that our little city isn't really very big however) in pursuit of the best. Just the other time, he did bring me to what is now officially my favourite Roast Duck haunt.

Today's recommendation however, is somewhere to get your regular Chicken Rice fix.

It is not the first time that I've visited this stall though, I must admit. In fact, I may be just slightly prejudiced because my first impression of Chicken Rice came from this specific stall in Margaret Drive, around the Queenstown area. I grew up there and had extremely fond memories of my late grandfather and a dog named Pepper and a puppy named Noisy. Subsequently, my visits to this Chicken Rice stall dwindled especially since it is rather inacccessible without a car.

Ever since my strong interest in food started, I haven't patronised their stall though. My brother on the other hand, has been a regular customer, visiting them virtually every week. This was particularly apparent to me the way we received a resounding welcome the moment the bosses and his workers saw him when he brought me there for lunch today. Now on to the food.

We ordered two side dishes of perfect Stir-fried Beansprouts and delicious (but gruesome to some) Bo Li Ji Jiao (literally translated: Glass Chicken Feet). The beansprouts were perfect in every aspect and was the precise plate of beansprouts that ended my brother's hate-hate relationship with beansprouts. They were crunchy without tasting in the least bit raw, and not oversalted like what some places tend to do, hence allowing their delicate flavour to shine.

Of course, what's a meal at a Chicken Rice stall without the chicken? Frankly, they were faultless. Each piece super tender, juicy and flavourful. No disgusting clumps of chicken fat, but slippery pieces of gorgeous pale yellow skin and moist, supple white flesh. I wolfed down even the breast meat, which I usually avoid because they tend to be extremely dry and sometimes even powdery, none of which could be used to describe the specimens from this stall.

Half a chicken, two side dishes and two plates of fluffy and fragrant chicken rice for two people. Indeed, it was alot but believe me when I say that my brother and I lapped up every morsel.

This place is call Sin Kee Chicken Rice, on the second floor of a hawker centre situated at Margaret drive. Practically the entire floor would be packed with their patrons during lunch or dinner times, which explains the many ousted empty stalls adjacent to the chicken rice stall.

My brother and Steven.

The story behind this Chicken Rice stall is actually rather convoluted and hushed up, such that even I don't know the whole story. But Steven (as written on his name card, without a last name) took over Sin Kee, having been the chicken distributor for the previous owner, just about 7-8 years ago and business has been bustling ever since.

The workers of the previous owner stayed on with Steven, ensuring the same quality. Nothing changed, right down to the uncle who chops the chicken into chunky and succulent bits, except the recipe for the chilli sauce. It packs more heat and is just a little more sour, a directive from Steven himself, and totally agreeable with me.

The uncle in blue was most hilarious and game for the camera, something I absolute appreciate now that my camera is almost always by my side. He too, has been with Sin Kee probably since before I was even born. I love the nostalgia that came with revisiting this old place, and the sense of history I got when I saw the-uncle-who-chops chicken, or the-uncle-in-blue.

This was truly the BEST Chicken Rice I've ever had, making it by default as well the most value for money Chicken Rice meal I've ever had. Each component was flawless and if anyone thinks there's another stall with even better chicken rice, I'll be game to take on the challenge. Just a point to note however, to those who intend to head there sometime soon. It does not serve Roast Chicken or any soup to accompany your meal. Only the basic unroasted Bai Zhan Ji (literally translated: White Chopped Chicken), and the few side dishes. But trust me, these would be enough to bring you to cloud 9. Please also order the very innocent sounding beansprouts dish.

Sin Kee Chicken Rice
Margaret Drive Food Centre
Block 40-A #02-548
Tel: 64710355
Closed on Mondays

Gelato Gelato

Chocolate Gelato (above), and Lavender and Citron Thyme infused Olive Oil Gelato

When I started learning how to make ice creams with my newly acquired ice cream maker, I had no notion of the differences between ice cream and gelato. I thought that gelato was merely the Italians' fancy way of naming ice cream. That the difference between ice cream and gelato boiled down to mere nomenclature.

But when I started reading up a little more on these frozen desserts, not only did I find out what made gelato different from ice creams, I even found variations within ice creams. Traditional gelato actually contains no cream, just milk, egg yolks, sugar and the flavouring. Gelato is dense and slightly chewier as a result of the proportion of ingredients used, as well as the method used that ensures as little air incorporated as possible.

One good news about gelato is that it has a lower fat content as compared to French or American style ice creams, because of the lack of cream. However, some recipes call for some cream because the milk in Italy has a higher level of butterfat as compared to milk from outside the European region. Too little fat and the gelato might become too icy and less smooth. While you may not think that 0.5% more of fat is important, I did not want to go against the advice of the masters and added a little cream like the recipe asked. Gelato is also known to melt a little faster than ice creams, which explains why my photos show baby gelato balls in little silky pools of melted gelato (still delicious nonetheless).

For the chocolate gelato, I took the recipe off Melissa from The Travelor's Lunchbox. She had done some intensive research, comparing three different chocolate gelato recipes and blogged tediously about it. Needless to say, I lapped up every word and promised myself that I would try the recipe one day. And this was even before I got my ice cream maker!

True enough, the chocolate gelato turned out beautifully and was exactly as she had described it - 'The flavor was very deep and well-rounded, without a gritty/powdery aftertaste.' It was easy to scoop straight out of my freezer even after extended freezing. As I am not a big fan of deep, dark chocolate (unlike many of my friends and family), I used some dark chocolate with a lower cocoa content (45% as opposed to 70-75%) and it worked out just perfect for me.

Of course my gelato escapades would not stop there. It went one step further and ventured into the more dubious sounding Olive Oil Gelato. The first time I heard of Olive Oil Gelato, I was fascinated by what the inclusion of olive oil would do, but at the same time a little apprehensive by what the inclusion of olive oil would do. Still, I jumped into it without thinking. Instead of just using some really good, fruity extra virgin olive oil, I decided to use a lavender and citron thyme infused olive oil as well, that I had recently got my hands on from JM Thiercelin, courtesy of Bats. I recently got a huge stash of samples to play around with, so don't be alarmed if I keep plugging them in subsequent entries.

This Lavender and Citron-Thyme infused olive oil smells exactly like it sounds, strongly of the earthy olive oil, with a second layer of the flowery lavender and citron-thyme. The aroma shone very strongly while I was heating the custard base over the stove, and this frankly made me a little worried that the resulting gelato would be overpoweringly flavoured. Thankfully, my concerns were unfounded. But as taste is extremely subjective, some others might use a lower concentration of the infused olive oil to get a gelato only vaguely perfumed by the floral and herby tones.

What I loved about creating this version of olive oil gelato is that it was tremendously smooth (perhaps because of the use of olive oil) and just slightly more floral than herby. I find this extremely important because of a recent bad experience with a pure thyme ice cream that left me thinking about nothing but Lamb. This led me to believe strongly (at least for now) that herby ice creams should be limited to savoury applications, like basil sorbet in a cold tomato gazpacho. The flavour of the olive oil in the gelato was imperceptible to me except in my aftertaste, but which makes me wonder what pure Olive Oil Gelato might taste like. Rest assured, it will be my next project.

Both gelatos have been very well received, even by my father who is a traditionalist and Chinese at heart. That means any flavour beyond the conventional chocolate, vanilla, coffee or (when he is feeling adventurous) green tea is out of bounds. But trendy Asian flavours, such as Chendol, Gula Melaka, Coconut or Durian, appeal to him. So when he gave the thumbs up for this Lavender and Citron-Thyme infused Olive Oil Gelato, I was very pleased.

Olive oil gelato recipes are hard to come by, even in frozen dessert books. But I managed to get one off Mario Batali's The Babbo Cookbook.

Olive Oil Gelato
From Mario Batali’s The Babbo Cookbook

6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
¾ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 cups milk
1 cup cream

Beat egg yolks and sugar with an electric mixer until mixture is thick and pale.
Continue beating with mixer and drizzle in olive oil.
Beat for another 2 minutes until olive oil is incorporated.
Add milk and cream and stir with a wooden spoon thoroughly until all ingredients are combined.
Heat mixture over medium-low heat until custard thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon (65-70 degrees celcius).
Let it cool to room temperature, cover with cling wrap and chill in the fridge overnight.
Churn in ice cream maker the following day.
Freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

* For Lavender and Citron-Thyme infused Olive Oil Gelato, replace 1/2 cup of olive oil with 1/2 cup of infused olive oil. Or reduce this amount according to your preference.

22 September 2006

My New Hangout

I think I've been spending an inordinate amount of time at Robertson Walk recently. Ever since I got introduced to it at the Food Bloggers' Gathering, I've not been able to get it out of my mind. Worse still, I had to find out about the new eateries in the vicinity - Brasserie Wolf and The Chocolate Factory.

While I love exploring new places, I also love going back to restaurants I've dined at before just to see if the second experience lives up to my first impression. When friends ask me out for dinner and get me to suggest places, I usually take the opportunity to recommend to them such places that I've enjoyed thoroughly. I rarely suggest somewhere I haven't personally tried unless the thumbs up came from someone whose tastebuds I trust.

So when a bunch of girlfriends asked me where to head to for dinner one night, I eagerly suggested Sage. My fanaticism with Sage did not stop there, as I suggested it as a dinner venue the following day with another friend. Kimberly, the manager, as well as the other wait staff must have been pleasantly surprised by my overenthusiasm. On both occasions that I went back, I left feeling extremely satisfied. Unfortunately, my phototaking skills have not been able to live up to my expectations, and I only managed to get one decent photo.

While the Chestnut Mousseline with Oxtail Consomme and truffle oil was not on the menu, Kimberly wonderfully offered to prepare two servings just for me and my friend. The starters that I tried on both nights were really good, but I preferred the Quail Risotto to the Venison Carpaccio. I found the former more substantial, and flavourful. However, the sweet carrot puree that came with the Venison was really addictive.

I was extremely tempted to try the US Corn Fed Beef Shortribs with Foie Gras and Bone Marrow, because of the phenomenal experience I had previously. But I decided to be more adventurous and tried a Pig Trotter for my first night, and the Lamb Shank Ravioli (pictured above) for my second. If you were to ask me which I preferred, I frankly would not be able to tell you. Chef Jusman certainly does his meats well - deliciously tender, moist and flavourful.

The Pig Trotter had some Asian influences and was artfully presented in a tight circular package. The Lamb Shank Ravioli came in beautiful delicate packages, in some jus and basil oil. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of the slightly tangy sauce that was on top. I just have fond memories of how harmoniously they all melded together, and how I started feeling a little sad towards the last few bites of my dish.

Of course, I also went back to The Chocolate Factory. This time, I tried a Grand Marnier Souffle that did not let me down at all. I would have been back twice as well, after dinner at Sage, if not for the fact that my girlfriends and I were rushing off somewhere after dinner.

Bliss can be found at Robertson Walk.

Sage, The Restaurant
11 Unity Street
#02 -12 Robertson Walk
Tel: 6333 8726

The Chocolate Factory
The Pier on Robertson Quay
80 Mohamed Sultan Road
Tel: 62359007

21 September 2006

American Or Philadelphia Ice cream

Ever since my first ice cream foray, my ice cream recipes have all involved EGG. I've been making a creme anglaise base, chilled overnight, to churn in my trusty ice-cream maker overnight to create smooth and creamy ice-creams. Except of course, when I ventured into sorbets.

And even then, I recently learnt that there are even various recipes for sorbets that involve things other than just sugar, water and flavouring (like a fruit puree). Some may call for gelatin, and some call for egg whites! The whole issue about having egg whites in sorbets might sound a little odd and disconcerting for some, but I'm game to try this out. Especially since everytime I make ice creams, I have plenty of egg whites leftover which eventually get thrown away if they don't end up in a bowl of noodles soon.

My even more recent discovery led me to make an eggless ice cream, which is more commonly referred to as American or Philadelphia Ice cream. I was intrigued by how the texture would turn out. So to start off my American/Philly Ice Cream venture, I chose something simple from yet again, Emily Luchetti's Passion for Ice Cream.

The Brown Sugar Ice Cream involved merely 4 ingredients, one pot and just about 10 minutes to get done before chilling and churning. While it did not turn out as smooth as the other creme anglaise recipes I've tried before, it was still creamy. Not surprising, considering that the ice cream was made mostly from cream than milk. At least with eggs, I can reduce the amount of cream considerably without creating something unpalatable.

Eggless ice cream, or Philly ice cream also has the perk of keeping its shape much better than ice creams made with eggs. I usually have problems scooping more than one scoop of ice cream and taking a photo of it without it turning into a puddle of cream before a decent photo can be snapped. While homemade ice creams are chemical free and can be far superior in texture and taste, it also means that they melt a lot faster than commercial ice creams and are not very photogenic in humid environments. Philly ice creams seem to break this stereotype however. I could scoop up three whole scoops of ice cream and still take my time snapping away on my Canon Powershot, AND still enjoy my ice cream after all that.

For someone who has yet to break into their ice cream machines and are searching for something a little less fussy to work with, I'd recommend this simple recipe. While it won't be the best ice cream you'll ever make, I'm sure it'll give you that little bit more confidence with your new best friend - your ice cream maker.

Brown Sugar Ice Cream (Philly style)

2 cups whipping cream
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium low heat until almost simmering or until brown sugar has dissolved, while stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and cool in an ice water bath until mixture has reached room temperature.
Chill overnight in fridge.
Churn in ice cream maker.
Freeze for at least 4 hours and serve.

18 September 2006

The Secret Garden

Tarragon leaves, Coriander leaves, Rose petals, Dill leaves, Cornflower petals and Chive leaves all put together creates a sweet yet earthy herb aroma. The Secret Garden blend, yet again from BATS, is imported from JM Theircelin. With those bewitching flecks of pink, purple and blue amidst the rustic green, I thought they would pair flawlessly with a delicate tasting fish.

Instead of just concocting a sauce out of the herb blend, I decided to poach the fish in a liquid spiked with these flowers and herbs as well. Half an onion, the juice of 1 lemon, 2 tbspns of The Secret Garden, and some water were boiled and brought to a slow simmer and left to cool till only warm. The fish were slipped in and left to cook slowly in barely simmering heat for about 20 minutes then served with a Secret Garden sauce made from butter, cream, salt and pepper.

Using a recipe from Donna Hay's Issue 23 (Pg 54) for Zucchini Pancakes, I served Pacific Dory with three pieces of Zucchini Pancakes and drizzled sauce generously over them. A side of salad was tossed in a vinaigrette made out of truffle infused oil and truffle vinegar, rich and light at the same time if that even makes any sense to you.

Using another Donna Hay recipe for a Strawberry Ginger Punch, strawberries and mint were soaked in ginger ale and served chilled. While the strawberries and mint helped inject beautiful colours, the brown tinge from the ginger ale dulled these colours. I really liked the combination of ginger ale with refreshing hints of mint and strawberry jewels to have once the punch is finished. But because presentation is also a big factor for dinner parties, I might choose a clear soda or fruit juice like white grape juice instead.

Of course, if you knew me well enough, I would never serve just a one course when I am entertaining guests. But the 'entree', which actually could have served as a main in itself, and the dessert both deserve a dedicated entry each and shall be kept for another time while I work on perfecting each. Meanwhile, isn't it obvious that I'm now a Donna Hay convert? I think I'm gonig to start buying fewer O Magazines and more Donna Hays. Here are the two Donna Hay recipes I for this meal.

Zucchini Pancakes
Donna Hay Issue 23
Serves 4 as a side

2 zucchinis, finely grated
1/2 cup basil, chopped
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano, finely grated
6 egg whites
3/4 to 1 cup all purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbspn butter

Mix all ingredients together, adding only 3/4 cup of flour, and adding more flour if the batter is too watery.
Heat 1 tbspn butter in an 8-inch non-stick frying pan on medium-low heat.
Pour half the zucchini batter, making sure you give it a stir first, into the pan.
Let the bottom brown considerably before sliding it out onto the plate.
Cover plate with non-stick pan and invert the plate such that the uncooked side of the pancake is now on the frying pan.
Return to heat and cook until brown.
Pancake should feel firm, if not, leave in frying pan on low heat.
When done, using cooking cutters, cut out circles of zucchini pancakes and keep warm for service.
Repeat with the rest of the batter.
Taste a little before serving and sprinkle some salt if necessary.

Strawberry Ginger Punch
From one of Donna Hay Magazines :)
250g strawberries, hulled and halved
1.5 litres ginger ale (or ice cream soda/white grape juice)
1/2 cup mint leaves, left whole
crushed ice

Mix all ingredients together in a clear glass pitcher and serve.

15 September 2006

Raw Asparagus

I popped by Tekka Market just the other day to get some fresh basil. I had heard of Chia's Vegetable Supply and how Mr. Chia stocked a wide variety of herbs and vegetables, especially for a wet market stall. True enough, when I arrived and among other things, I saw boxes of arugula, frisee, dill, tarragon, mint leaves, generous packets of basil leaves still on their stems, and portobello mushrooms all neatly packed in fives and ready for sale. It was an incredible array of herbs that excited me.

One particular vegetable stood out however. Thick asparagus in a lovely green hue and purple tips. These had bases slightly more than an inch in diameter, and I could just imagine their crunch and juiciness as I stood there oogling at them. I was so awestruck at that shop that I was more than happy to wait a little longer to pay (they happened to be severely shorthanded on that day). I don't know what was holding me back, but I didn't ask for them until the very second before I had to pay. Truthfully, I had no idea what I was going to use them in at that moment.

When I got back and was randomly flipping through The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, I saw a recipe for Lamb's Lettuce with Raw Asparagus, Pistachios, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Raw! Could I? And so I did. I was a little hesistant, but tried a little sliver and was hooked. It was absolutely crunchy and refreshing, with the delicate flavour of asparagus and images of large expanses of green fields flooding my mind. Did I say that I was hooked?

It is great to have mid-day, with mixed vegetable leaves, halved cherry tomatoes, a few pine nuts and big generous shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano (Yes, I have eaten a lot of this cheese in the last few days but am not sick of it). The salad was paired with a simple sweet, tangy sauce made from olive oil, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, salt and some honey.

And for night time parties, I imagine that they would be great as starters if served in small slivers on top a 'crostini' of portobello mushrooms and caramelised onions. What am I talking about? They WERE great and super cute too. The asparagus lightened up the flavours of the 'crostini' and did not overwhelm the subtle flavours of the portobello. It also added some bite to the snack. They took just a little time to prepare, but might feel a little laborious because you'd have to prepare the four components to this fingerfood separately. Still, if you had to make a big batch of it to go around, it'd be worth it. Just get a few helpers to create an assembly line and they'd be done in a flash!

Portobello and Asparagus 'Crostini'
Serves 2 as starters


1 tbspn olive oil
4 slices of white bread (or 4 thin slices of baguette)

1 tbspn olive oil
half a medium white onion, chopped

1 tbspn olive oil+1 tbspn water
2 big portobello mushrooms, sliced into six pieces each
half an asparagus stalk, sliced finely into 12 slivers


If using white bread, use large cookie cutters to cut out one circle from each piece of white bread (use the leftovers to make bread crumbs).
Heat 1tbspn olive oil in a non-stick pan, fry each circle of white bread (or each slice of baguette) until golden brown on both sides.
Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbspn olive oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat, sweat the onions, adding water when pan has dried up.
The water should sizzle upon contact with pan, or your heat is not high enough.
Repeat until onions are soft and brown, almost the consistency of jam.
Season with a pinch of salt.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbspn olive oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat.
Add portobello mushrooms and water.
Season with 1/4 tsp of salt.

To assemble, divide onion jam into 4 portions, scooping one portion onto each toasted circle.
Place three pieces of portobello mushrooms topped with three slices of asparagus on each portion, neatly.
Serve with large shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano (using a vegetable peeler).

14 September 2006

A Thousand and One Nights of Polenta

Tarragon, Bear's Garlic, Rose petals, Cloves, Cumin, Peppercorns, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Fenugreek, Star Anise, Ginger, Cardamom, Coriander, Onion, Garlic, Bay leaf, Celery and Salt. These are all the components of a strongly aromatic spice blend called A Thousand and One Nights. Right now, I don't think it is on the market, but Bats is working on getting their spices out on there. Since I had the luxury of testing out the blend, I set to work almost immediately.

Amidst the mustard yellow powder were beautiful dried rose petals as well as small green flakes of tarragon and bay leaves. Perhaps the blend reminded me somewhat of Soup Kambing (Mutton soup), but when I gave it a whiff I decided to head out for some lamb cutlets immediately. The lamb cutlets done medium rare (I'm still working on perfecting the timings for meat), were served on carrot puree, and accompanied by basil and onion polenta toasts.

While the lamb cutlet recipe was something I made up off-hand by combining some of the spice blend with olive oil, lime juice and honey, the carrot puree was taken from the French Laundry (possibly one of the simplest recipes they have in that book), while the Basil and Onion Polenta toasts were inspired by The Zuni Cafe Cookbook's Sage and Onion Polenta. This carrot puree was ridiculously simple for something that was creamily good, and complemented the slight sweetness in the One Thousand and One Nights Lamb Cutlets. The polenta toasts were moist and creamy beneath the golden brown and slightly crisp exterior, and I could imagine it being a wonderful addition in a great variety of dishes.

For example, I kept some for the following day to go with a Lamb and Cous Cous soup that I picked up from Donna Hay's Magazine (Issue 28). I simply sauteed some of the same marinated lamb with onions, garlic and carrots, deglazed the pot with chicken stock and added some tomato puree. I left it to simmer until the lamb pieces were tender. Just ten minutes before serving, I added cous cous, roughly chopped portobello mushrooms and thick slices of asparagus while stirring continuously. Presenting it was simply a matter of adding halved cherry tomatoes and warm Basil and Onion Polenta Toasts. While Donna Hay suggested serving it with Feta Cheese, I don't particularly appreciate Feta so I had shavings of Parmagiano Reggiano for it instead. It really was a hearty and filling bowl of soup, earthy with just faint hints of sweetness.

I realise that I have rambled on about Polenta without a proper introduction on it. It is simply ground dried yellow or white cornmeal (maize), that is popular in other parts of the world as their staple food, like how rice is to Asians though this is becoming decreasingly so. Come to think of it, I can't even remember the last time I had rice. Either it was a very long time ago, or I just have the memory span of a cow.

Anyway, polenta was not known to me until just a few years ago when I was still studying in Warwick (it feels so old to say this). Along with my discovery came other lightbulb-moments from Quinoa, Bulgur Wheat and Cous Cous. But ever since then, I've been eager to try out recipes using polenta and cous cous as they were more widely available.

So you can imagine my excitement when a friend sent me a recipe for a Polenta Cake (from Jamie's Italy) to try out since he had no access to a proper convectional oven. It had the basic cake ingredients, sans leaveners, and was chockful of chopped apples and raisins. Dried figs were involved as well but I decided to do without it. A little oversight on my part caused me to add twice the amount of eggs required for the cake, making it puff up slightly more than necessary. But it might have been a blessing since I found it sufficiently moist and dense. Any denser and I would not have enjoyed it past a few bites. I also made a few adjustments to the temperature to ensure that the top did not burn before the insides were cooked.

In the picture above, the Polenta Cake was served with a scoop each of Orange and Cardamom Ice Cream, and a Lime Ice Cream. As the cake had little bits of orange zest as well, I found it went much better with the former than the latter. Both were recipes I picked up from Emily Luchetti's A Passion for Ice Cream, but the I feel that the lime zest was not given enough time to infuse into the cream anglaise base, resulting in an ice cream perfumed only very slightly with lime. Perhaps it was because the Orange and Cardamom Ice Cream flavour dulled my tastebuds to the more subtle perfumes of lime. In any case, I see much potential in Lime Ice Cream since Lime Sorbets are usually overwhelmingly sour. Even typing the words 'Lime Sorbet' has over-activated my salivary glands.

And using the same garlic and basil infused olive oil, I made a variation of the Fettucine Aglio E Olio. This time, I served it with the soft, creamy and sweet garlic chunks, fried basil, and some lightly sauteed Porcini Mushrooms that I just got last night, courtesy of J. Coincidentally, I had been finding for some dried porcini mushrooms or morel mushrooms just a night ago, so this surprise was beyond pleasant. Straight from Italy, they were far more flavourful than the Portobello Mushrooms.

Carrot Puree
Adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook
Makes 2 small servings

2 medium carrots, cut into uniform pieces about ½ inch wide and 1 inch long
About 1 cup cream, or more.
Kosher salt

Place carrots in a saucepan large enough to hold them in a single layer.
Pour just enough cream to cover the carrots.
Bring to simmer over medium heat and simmer gently for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the carrots are completely tender (test: a knife should go through without resistance).
Adjust the heat as necessary so that cream does not scorch.
Drain carrots and press on them to remove excess cream.
Puree carrots in a food processor and season to taste with salt.

(Can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to a day.)

Basil and Onion Polenta Toasts
From The Zuni Café Cookbook
4 to 8 servings

5 cups water
1 cup coarsely ground polenta
3 tbspn unsalted butter
About 1 medium white onion
1 dozen fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Freshly cracked black pepper

Bring water to simmer in a saucepan, then whisk or stir in the polenta then stir until water returns to a simmer.
Reduce heat until polenta only bubbles and sputters occasionally and cook uncovered for about 1 hour, stirring as needed, until thick but still fluid.

While polenta is cooking, melt butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in onions, basil and lots of freshly cracked pepper. Salt lightly and cook slowly until onions are translucent and soft. Add about a tablespoon of water each time if the pan is too dry. About 8 minutes.

Stir onions and basil into thick polenta, season to taste with salt.
Spread the mixture in a square pan and leave to cool to room temperature or until firm.
Cut into triangles and lightly fry in a non-stick pan with just a little olive oil until golden brown.
Serve warm.

Polenta Cake
Serves 8-12
(From Jamie's Italy)


A knob of butter
100g polenta
200g plain flour, sifted
100g stale breadcrumbs (though all I did was break up some fresh bread into small pieces and lightly fry in a pan until toasty)
100g caster sugar
500ml milk
3 large eggs, beaten (I used 6 small eggs)
100g honey
55 ml olive oil
100g dried figs (omitted)
100 g raisins
500g apples, peeled, cored, roughly diced (half green and half red)
Half teaspoon ground cinnamon
Zest of 2 oranges
Zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
Mix polenta, flour, bread crumbs and caster sugar together in a big mixing bowl.
Mix wet ingredients of milk, eggs, honey and olive oil well.
Add to dry ingredients and stir until well incorporated.
Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
Pour into an 11inch/28cm round baking tin that has been lined with baking paper and greased with some butter.
Bake in oven for 30 minutes, reduce temperature to 140 degrees celcius and cover the cake with aluminum foil and bake for another 20 minutes.
Serve warm with a dollop of crème fraiche or a scoop of Orange Cardamom Ice Cream.

13 September 2006

Update on dogs

Still well and cute. This is by far the oddest position I've seen a dog fall asleep.

Orange and Cardamom Ice Cream

I recently got access to a stunning Musso Ice Cream Machine Mini, and ever since then have been very excited about making something, anything. Flipping through Emily Luchetti's 'A Passion for Ice Cream' on the other hand made me feel like making everything. The photos are irresistible and the possibilities never ending. A huge variety of flavours (Buttermilk ice cream, Butter Pecan ice cream, Raspberry-rose water sorbet, Vin Santo Ice cream....) served in numerous ways (in a scoop, in milk-shake, in a mold, as a sandwich...).

After much deliberation, I finaly picked out an Orange Cardamom Ice Cream to try. I've always been interested in using spices in ice creams or trying out combinations of flavours, unheard of (at least to myself). The recipe seemed simple enough requiring the basic ingredients for ice cream, with the addition of orange zest and ground cardamom, which I substituted with whole cardamom pods. Also, because I only wanted to make a small batch, I halved the recipe and made a few adjustments according to my personal preference.

The result was an ice cream with an almost imperceptible cardamom flavour, which was fortunate since not many people take to spiced ice creams well. It had a faint tinge of orange, was light and not very chewy, with a sweet orange flavour. I would serve it with candied orange peel but did not make any. So unless you're sure you're a weirdo like me, who likes to consume zest straight ( in small amounts of course), then I'd suggest you serve yours neat. Now all I need to do is make a Hot Chocolate to go with it and you get a Cold Italian Hot Chocolate with Orange-Cardamom Ice Cream.

Orange-Cardamom Ice Cream
Serves 3


3 egg yolks
3/8 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 cardamom pods
1 cup milk
1 cup whipping cream
zest stripped from 1/2 a large orange


Whisk egg yolks, sugar and salt together.
Heat milk, cream, orange zest and cardamom over medium heat, stirring occasionally until almost simmering.
Pour milk and cream into egg mixture in a thin stream, whisking as you pour.
Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula until custard reaches 65 degrees celcius and lightly coats the spatula.

Strain custard into clean bowl and cool until room temperature.
Refrigerate overnight and churn in an ice cream machine.
Freeze at least 4 hours and serve with candied orange peel.

12 September 2006

Portobello Aglio Olio

The potluck in the previous entry saw me making some Portobello Pasta using an Aglio E Olio recipe that I kind of came up myself after browsing a few recipes online. But since I've got access to an enormous library of cookbooks recently, I decided to pick out an Italian cookbook and follow a proper Aglio E Olio recipe.

Since I'm such a visual person, I chose a recipe from The Food of Italy by Sophie Braimbridge and Jo Glynn. Nevermind that I had never heard of them before, or even seen this cookbook before. The photos in them were tantalising enough for me. They also seemed to provide a comprehensive list of recipes, from Antipastis to Pizzas and Breads, to Desserts.

Their Spaghettini Aglio E Olio recipe was different from the one I used the other day in that the garlic was not painstakingly sliced, and did not have to be browned till crisp. This made preparing the dish a lot easier, of course. But this also meant that the garlic flavour was not as pronounced, though this would be good for people who, unlike me, adore garlic. All I did in addition was add some thickly sliced portobellos and crisp fried basil, which may have adulterated this simple traditional pasta dish, but gave the dish a little more character.

Guess who wanted some, but couldn't get any. It was difficult resisting those pleading bambi eyes though.
My Fettucine Aglio E Olio
Serves 4
400g Spaghettini
90ml olive oil
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 of a big, red chilli, thinly sliced (optional)
4 Portobello mushrooms, thickly sliced (optional)
a handful of basil leaves, deep fried in olive oil (deep frying is optional)
grated Parmegiano Reggiano
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente.
Heat the oil in large frying pan over low heat.
Add the garlic and chilli and gently fry for about 2 minutes, or until the garlic has softened and slightly browned at the edges.
Just before removing pan from heat, fry basil leaves.
Heat portobellos in about 1 tbspn of the olive oil and a tbspn of water over medium heat until softened and all water has dried up.
Lightly drain the spaghettini, reserving a little of the cooking water.
Return the frying pan to heat and add the spaghettini, and portobellows and toss to coat.
Taste for seasoning with salt and pepper and serve at once with grated parmegiano.

11 September 2006


I haven't had a proper potluck in a while. Those days in Warwick potlucking our nights away really linger in my memory. Perhaps it is because of distance, that potlucks in Singapore are not usually very successful. That is, half of those who turned up did not go bearing home-made food. Nonetheless, food was plentiful so perhaps it was a blessing in disguise.

I had prepared a pot of Aglio E Olio (Garlic Spaghetti) with added fat, juicy Portobello mushrooms, but it proved a little unphotogenic. So I gave up taking photos of it. Aglio E Olio is possibly the easiest tasty pasta dish to prepare that every guy should master to impress their girlfriends. When dressed up with a sprinkle of chilli flakes, freshly chopped basil or flat leaf parseley, and served with a generous portion of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano, they will no doubt get some major brownie points.

Gabe and April (the middle couple in the middle) had jointly prepared a Banana Toffee Pie (Banoffi/Banoffee Pie). Even though it did not turn out as they both had hoped, and ended up a little too soft to handle, I sort of prefered it in that gooey state. We passed the pie around and dug directly into it instead. I'd have this version of Banoffi Pie rather than the one at Marmalade Pantry anytime. The latter involves some tasteless whipped cream dolloped on top and a very stingy portion of toffee and banana. I really thought it was sweet, that both of them had prepared the dish together. Even their little banter about how lazy Gabe was in whipping the cream (which explains the final consistency) was endearing. *cue Awwwww*

Actually, we were all supposed to bring a dish that started with any letter in the word 'Singapore'. Maybe that would explain the reds and whites in the photo. But we ended up with just a few dishes that started mostly with the letter P. My Portobello Pasta and the banoffi Pie. Sophia, our host, provided Satay. And Jumpy had brought us Cranberry Muffins (pictured above, and baked by his mum). How does it suit the theme? They are Incredible Cranberry Muffins. While, yes, they were incredibly light and fluffy, that was really pushing it a little too far.

A quarter of NJC S01S06, +1 (April, who is welcome anytime, next time).

Prayers Answered...

...Just for a while, while I wait for my daddy to get a bunny with me.

Say hello to Alix!

10 September 2006

Dinner In

On some occasions, instead of having good chats with friends in restaurants, I suggest potlucks at someone's place. However, it usually ends up with me doing most, if not all, of the cooking. And meeting a few of my ex-NJC friends had this exact outcome. They chipped in for the groceries, easing a little of the strain on my wallet. We all gathered at one of their homes, that was spacious and frill-less, just like a typical bachelor's pad.

For the first course, I used The Cook's Book to whip up the 21st Century Tortilla that CH had blogged about before. My photos are just never as gorgeous as that. I had been dying to experiment with the Gourmet Whip for a long time now but had never had the opportunity. This small party presented the perfect opportunity and it turned out great. The bottom layer of caramelised onion was simply delicious despite being a cinch to make. In fact, every component of this dish (egg sabayon and potato cream foam) was not difficult to execute and really went together harmoniously. My non-foodie friends were a little wary of being served foam dispensed out of a scary looking thermos flask with nozzles sticking out all over the place, but took to it very well in the end.

To save myself a little effort, I used some of the frozen braising liquid made with Oolong tea, soy sauce and spices, to make a simple braised chicken. This was a definite pleaser with its fork tender chicken meat and flavourful sauce. I just had to add some glazed carrots to complement the sweet, salty sauce.

To finish off their meal, I served some Chocolate Gelato with Vanilla salted caramel sauce. This gelato has been receiving rave reviews from everyone who tried, making me one happy chap. Thankfully we did not have to open any packets of crisps (as seen on the table), which one of them bought JUST IN CASE my cooking turned out inedible.

09 September 2006

Saffron Bistro

I've been going through a rough patch recently, which should be pretty obvious from previous posts about comfort food and furry companions. But thank god for friends who willingly fill up my schedule to take my mind off troubles or to offer a listening ear. That implies more dinners and lunches taken outside with friends of course.

The most recent dinner I had with a friend brought me somewhere I hardly ventured - Boat Quay. While the very pub infested Circular Road was thronging with yuppies and expats, Saffron Bistro stood out not just as the only place serving decent food, but also as the only rather empty place. That made me feel a little doubtful about my friend's recommendation, but I decided to have a little more faith and went with it. Besides, I am a huge fan of saffron, using it in anything from ice creams to cakes to risottos.

We ended up ordering 2 starters - a fish cake with saffron cream sauce (pictured above) and a marinated cod fish wrapped in banana leaves. Both were amazingly tasty in their own way, the former being extremely rich (from the saffron cream) and perfectly crispy on the outside; the latter was uber fresh, soft yet succulent and tangy from the herbs, spices and (most probably) lemon juice. This started off the meal on the right footing, without even mentioning the complimentary mango lassi, spicy papadoms, mint yogurt sauce and sweet chutney.

Needless to say, I had high hopes for the main courses and was thankfully not let down. The saffron basmati rice was fluffy yet not dry, and went beautifully with the curries. Our Rogan Josh (lamb curry) was tender and tasty without being overly salty, while the vegetable dish had saffron and pear (or apple) chunks in it making it sweet, extremely unique and surprisingly good.

I loved that both dishes had generous amounts of sauce that I could douse my rice and naans (garlic, and herb) in. Notice how I've left out much description of the naans. That's just because I felt they were just alright. Not that they were bad, but they were forgettable. I'd have been perfectly happy with just that portion of rice, which was big enough for two to share.

This dinner was fabulous and I would love to bring friends back to Saffron Bistro. Although we were the only two customers in the restaurant for most of our dinner, the waiters were polite and left us alone to our conversation until they had to serve or clear the plates. We were greeted with smiles when we went in, during service and just before we left, making the whole experience a pleasure.

Saffron Bistro
50 Circular Road
Singapore 049405
Tel: 65365025

08 September 2006

Birthday at Ember

Restaurant Ember. Perhaps it is not so well known, especially among those who never venture into the Chinatown area. It really isn't the kind of place I would happen to walk pass and decide to give it a go. Besides, even if you really do decide to drop in for dinner on a whim, they probably won't be able to squeeze you in since they're usually fully booked for lunches and dinner. The night that I was there was no different. But I was thrilled that The Birthday Girl chose to go to Ember, since I had wanted to try it out since last summer.

Restaurant Ember is actually under Hotel 1929, a boutique hotel. That means, the hotel is squashed up, but compensates itself with its chic but quirky decor.

Take for example this really endearing bear, albeit being a little down and fatalistic looking, placed on an otherwise very inviting armchair.

Or how about this vintage barber's chair? Situated in the 'cosy' lobby of the hotel, they certainly conveyed the message of fun and mischief.

Dinner within Restaurant Ember itself was not too shabby. I had a towering Red Snapper dish with lobster roe, ratatouille, and lobster jus. The Seafood Linguine came in a more generous portion, compared to my Red Snapper at least. Desserts looked beautiful and were reasonably good. I guess you could say that my experience there was satisfying. Other than having to wait for quite a while for our main courses to arrive (because we did not order any starters), the service staff were friendly and welcoming, accomodating and thoughtful, and the food (while not phenomenal) was pretty good. Maybe I just shouldn't have ordered a fish dish, because meats fascinate me alot more.

And this was the reason we did not order appetisers - Durians! Our dear Birthday Girl had a craving for durian, and thankfully no one strongly objected. Off to Sims Street (just next to Geylang) for Sultan Durians, which are the durians in season now for the next two weeks.

This was really such a rare sight for me, these two ladies all decked out in brands, caught in the most unglam act ever. They have bags so precious that they had to leave them in the car boot, while I lugged my own imitation product bought cheap cheap from Bangkok, to the table.

07 September 2006

Sugary goodness?

When I need some comfort I usually head for something high in fat, sugar or carbs like chocolate, ice cream, pasta, fries, or chips. But since I've been trying to (key: trying) watch what I eat recently, I know that reaching out for any of those would be opening pandora's box. I'd end up grabbing everything in sight, even going down to the minimart ( I say this as if it is really tiring to do) to grab anything that looks like it is filled with sugary comfort, to binge on. And so I spoon myself some cool black cherry yogurt and top it with some walnuts and try to savour every mouthful, while putting aside thoughts of how much I wish it was some of that dark and smooth Chocolate Gelato I just made.

I really wish my dad would hurry and bring me to get a bunny soon. I need a furry companion now, more than any other time.

05 September 2006

Burger Of Your Dreams

Does this burger look irresistible, or what? Sandwiched between layers of tomato salsa and black pepper sauce, oozing with juices from your first bite into the soft, fluffy bun that had been toasted on the insides before assembling, it really was a burger done well. No fancy ingredients other than the sauces (if you even consider that really fancy), yet worth every cent because it was so moist, juicy and heartwarmingly tasty.

At $17.80, it comes with super cute cubes of potatoes and a small portion of greens. Though both were tasty, I'd have been happy with just a huge bowl of chunky potato wedges to go with it. That would have been a bonus though, since the burger is enough to make me go back for more every Sunday (yes, they only serve it on Sundays). After this, you would probably scoff at the fastfood chains' excuse for a burger.

Just to give you a sense of the size of the burger, here's my dearest friend eager to tuck into her burger.

And here's her other half looking a little upset that his food is getting attacked even though the other two girls already have more than their fair share of food. That plate of green mess is actually their Laksa Pesto Spaghetti, served with quail egg and (big) prawns. It was definitely flavourful, just a little oversalted for me. I'd love to find out the recipe for his laksa pesto though, since the last time I tried, I ended up with a fibrous mess that was really inedible.

And finally, I like to give all my friends equal air-time. And show off a little of what my new camera can do. ;)
Hangout Hotel at Mount Emily
10A Upper Wilkie Road
Tel: 63399448

04 September 2006


Lots of people hate Mondays, but I look forward to it every weekend. It is the only day my mum has a day off since she has to work the weekends too. And all that means we get to spend the day together at home, preparing a usually simple lunch side by side.

Today, lunch took a flash to assemble. My mum had some craving for asparagus and bought some skinny ones from Sheng Siong. With some olive oil, sea salt and pepper in a non-stick pan, the asparagus was ready. But we dressed it up with some scallops, seared, and some balsamic syrup made by reducing a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar with dried mint and black pepper. This isn't a typical dish we would cook to go with porridge, but when it comes to food, we always just go with what our heart (or rather palate) asks.

And using the leftover braising liquid from the pork belly, we braised some duck wings in it. After scalding the duck with hot water, and plucking any remnant feathers still left on the wings, place the duck in the braising liquid and bring to boil, then simmer for an hour (to an hour and a half). Leave it overnight and reheat it the next day before serving with some of the sauce, reduced and adjusted for sweetness. I assure you the most tasty duck meat, melting off the bone.

Eating our lunch while watching Jamie Oliver get all dramatic over a posh version of Eton Mess and some Strawberry Champagne, makes for a wonderful Monday afternoon.

03 September 2006

Fuschia Icing

A long-time friend had gotten me to help her bake some cupcakes for her parents' 25th wedding anniversary. 'Something healthy', she asked. So that eliminated any inclusion of chocolate, peanut butter, or the combination of both. I ended up going with a carrot cupcake with lemon creamcheese frosting, but panicked when I couldn't find for my old kick-ass recipe that I had jotted down in one of those kitchen diaries that eventually got forgotten.

I needed to find one quick, and one that worked. I needed an authority on cupcakes and that's when I thought of CupcakeBlog. I've been to her site umpteen times, oogling at the photos and her descriptions of the cake. In awe of her inspirations and her meticulousness in preparing the ingredients, something I have yet to master. Considering the MANY cupcakes she had prepared, I had no doubt that she would have a recipe at hand for carrot cupcakes, and she did not fail me.

So with a little adaptation, I tried her recipe and I'm glad to announce that it works wonderfully. The carrot cupcake stayed moist even after 2 days and had a good amount of crumble in it. After an episode of trying to COME UP with a recipe for carrot cupcakes based on experience and memory, and achieving dense kueh rather than cake, I now know how to appreciate cake with a fair amount of fluffy crumb without being dry.

I did make a few alterations to the recipe though:
-replace 1/2 cup orange pulp with milk
-replace buttermilk with fresh milk and a few drops of lemon juice
-add 3 handfuls of coarsely chopped Californian walnuts (which are less bitter even when raw) and 2 handfuls of raisins
-omit orange juice in frosting
-add a few drops of lemon juice to frosting

I also created some icing in fuschia and made a little attempt at 'art'. Looking back, I should have just tinted the remaining frosting and used it to pipe the hearts instead, since they would be less prone to spreading.

Frankly, I haven't tried the cupcake as a whole with the icing since I wanted to give my friend a few extra cupcakes. But both the cupcake and the frosting tasted good, and held well. This cupcake is a keeper, and so is the website!

02 September 2006

Pork Belly

Foie Gras, Fatty Char Siew, Marrow and now Pork Belly. All the things I would gladly shorten my life for with every bite. And because this was only a recent enlightenment, when I tried Anderson Ho's recipe for a Oolong Tea Steeped Quail Egg and Pork Belly quite a while ago, I erroneously substituted the Pork Belly. As if that was not enough, I FOOLISHLY chose chicken breasts which do not take well to braising. At all. Sadly, I had to commit such a sin while preparing for a party.

But the sauce that resulted from the braising was amazing and was even better the next day with some duck. So after having been hit hard by the previous failure, I was determined to follow the recipe more closely this time and bought a generous portion of pork belly.

But like I have commented before, his recipes omit many crucial steps that you would only realise after trying it out. For example, he says to add all the braising liquid ingredients into a pot to simmer. One of the ingredients is Oolong tea leaves. As you can imagine, if you were to add this to the braising liquid directly, the tea leaves would cling to your pork belly and be everywhere in the sauce. So I recommend placing them, together with your spices, in a muslin bag for easier retrieval later on.

Also, I'm not sure how he manages to create such perfect looking slices of pork belly. But if presentation is as important to you as it is to me, I would make the pork belly the night before, then refrigerate the meat overnight. Slicing it when cold is alot easier, and made even more effortless with a Kasumi knife. It really was like slicing through butter. You could then return the pork belly to some heated thickened sauce and serve. Such advance preparation also makes creating a dinner party a little more stress free, unlike creating a pasta dish that has to be served as soon as it has reached al dente stage.

This really is an easy recipe that everyone should try. It just takes a little time but requires little effort. The result is amazingly satisfying and worth every moment away from your beloved computer or television. Who wouldn't want to have some fork tender pork belly with those heavenly layers of pork fat?

Oolong Tea Steeped Pork Belly
Adapted from Menu Degustation
4 servings

20g Oolong tea leaves
15ml dark soy sauce
100ml light soy sauce
3 cinnamon sticks
2 cloves
3 star anise
1.5 litres chicken stock
1 inch knob of ginger (optional)
1/4 cup rice wine (optional)
25g rock sugar
200g pork belly, cleaned, plucked, and rubbed with five spice powder, salt and black pepper
Cornstarch, dissolved in water

Wrap Oolong tea leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves and star anise in a piece of muslin and secure it close. Add it to chicken stock, soy sauces, ginger and rice wine in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

Sear pork belly on all sides on high heat then simmer in the braising liquid for an hour or until tender (I braised it for 2 over hours and it was fine).

One ready, remove pork belly and slice.

Bring braising liquid to boil until it has thickened into almost a syrup, while adjusting for taste with sugar and salt. Add cornstarch solution if necessary.

Serve pork belly with sauce and garnish with crispy shallots and coriander.

01 September 2006

The trusty one

I am proud but a little sad to announce that my trusty Panasonic point-and-shoot camera has been put to rest. All the photos that I've taken and posted on this blog has been taken with this small, and slightly bulky (compared to all the snazzy slim ones on the market now) camera.

Although it has a few scratches, it is still in perfect working condition. But I have finally invested in a camera that has better functions. I have been oogling at it for a long time now, and finally made the plunge when I found out that I could get it much cheaper through US-based online sites. The catch is that you need a kind and patient friend to help you buy the product with her American credit card and get it sent to her address in USA, then send it over to you in Singapore.

Now I just have to figure out what all those functions will do for me!