Saturday, June 30, 2007

cili padi burgers

P: Sandy's cili padi (bird's-eye chillie) burger with shiitake on ciabatta ...

and Phil's 450g monster cili padi burger on homemade bread ...

strange deaths

S: I don't know why I was in such a morbid mood today but I found this list of unusual deaths on wikipedia. Some of the best are:

458 BC: The Greek playwright Aeschylus was killed when an eagle dropped a live tortoise on him, mistaking his bald head for a stone. (S: Phil, be careful!)

1671: François Vatel, chef to Louis XIV, committed suicide because his seafood order was late and he couldn't stand the shame of a postponed meal. His body was discovered by an aide, sent to tell him of the arrival of the fish.

1771: King of Sweden, Adolf Frederick, died of digestion problems on February 12, 1771 after having consumed a meal consisting of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring and champagne, which was topped off with 14 servings of his favourite dessert: semla served in a bowl of hot milk.[citation needed] He is thus remembered by Swedish schoolchildren as "the king who ate himself to death."

1841: William Henry Harrison, the 9th President of the United States, died of pneumonia one month after delivering his two-hour inauguration speech in cold weather without an overcoat.

1899: French president Félix Faure died of a stroke while receiving oral sex in his office.[citation needed]

1884: Allan Pinkerton, detective, died of gangrene resulting from having bitten his tongue after stumbling on the sidewalk.

1987: Dick Shawn, a comedian who starred in the 1968 movie The Producers, died of a heart attack while portraying a politician. Just before he died, he announced, "if elected, I will not lay down on the job,".

1911: Jack Daniel, founder of the Tennessee whiskey distillery, died of blood poisoning six years after receiving a toe injury when he kicked his safe in anger at being unable to remember its combination code.

1941: Sherwood Anderson, writer, swallowed a toothpick at a party and then died of peritonitis.

1974: Christine Chubbuck, an American television news reporter, committed suicide during a live broadcast on July 15. At 9:38 AM, 8 minutes into her talk show, on WXLT-TV in Sarasota, Florida, she drew out a revolver and shot herself in the head.

1975: On 24 March 1975 Alex Mitchell, a 50-year-old bricklayer from King's Lynn literally died laughing while watching an episode of The Goodies. According to his wife, who was a witness, Mitchell was unable to stop laughing while watching a sketch in the episode "Kung Fu Kapers" in which Tim Brooke-Taylor, dressed as a kilted Scotsman, used a set of bagpipes to defend himself from a psychopathic black pudding in a demonstration of the Scottish martial art of "Hoots-Toot-ochaye." After twenty-five minutes of continuous laughter Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and expired from heart failure.

1993: Garry Hoy, a Toronto lawyer, fell to his death after he threw himself through the glass wall on the 24th floor of the Toronto-Dominion Centre in order to prove the glass was "unbreakable".

1996: One person was killed by a tiger (named Shiva) in Alipore Zoological Gardens in Kolkata (Calcutta), India when he entered the enclosure of the tiger and tried to put a marigold garland around the tiger's neck.

2005: 28-year-old Korean video game addict Lee Seung Seop collapsed and died of fatigue in an Internet cafe after playing Starcraft for almost 50 consecutive hours.

2006: An unidentified 45 year old Ukrainian man of Azerbaijani origin lowered himself by a rope into a lion enclosure at a Kiev zoo and shouted to horrified zoo visitors, "God will save me if He exists!" Moments later a lioness pounced on him, severing his carotid artery, killing him instantly.[3

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Makeover, Pt II

P: The second part of Sandy's makeover involved visiting the hottest (and sweatiest) hairstylist in town. Yes, out with the books, in with the curlers. I realize now why hairstylists wear clothes ... I managed to dye my chest hair quartz. Luckily I wasn't allowed to use the scissors.

The end result? Not only have I been fired, I'm not even allowed to post an "After" photo! Sorry, Sandy! You can always wear a hat!

Eurasian chicken curry

P: Sandy cooks a mean chicken curry ... spicy Indian chicken curry, rich Malay curry with coconut milk, fragrant Nyonya curry with kaffir lime leaf, a simple Chinese one or this one, a fiery Eurasian devil curry. Also known as curry debal, it's flavoured with galangal, vinegar, candlenuts and a scary number of dried hot chillies. This was so good I had three helpings; I think I overdid it.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


P: A new feed from Mac Rumours appeared in my Bloglines news aggregator notifying me within hours of Apple posting a guided tour MPEG of the new iPhone on its website. Like a total geek I immediately downloaded the video.

Sandy and I watched the guided tour ... now we need two phones! There are so many great features, where to begin? An 'accelerometer' changes the display from portrait to landscape if you rotate the phone from vertical to horizontal! The multi-touch screen means no more buttons. You just tap, double-tap, pinch or slide your fingers across the screen to activate various functions.

iPhone, iPod, iPhoto ... iWant!

One week to go until the phone goes on sale in USA ... Ming, can you send me one? Er, you better make that two.

Now iReally want one ...

I've just realized the best feature of the iPhone is a special "iNeed_To_Skip_All_Of_Sri's_Drunk_Voice_Messages" function! Amazing! A certain drinking buddy, who will remain nameless unless you click this link leaves mad voice messages on my mobile every weekend. Mostly unintelligible alcohol-induced mumblings, each of which I have to listen to, in order to delete it and listen to the next voice message ... which is invariably from him too. Obviously this serial caller had been phoning Steve Jobs as well because the new iPod has a "visual voice message" retrieval system. Voice messages are displayed on the screen so you can simply choose, skip and delete at will.

Makeover, Pt I

P: Sandy's annual haircut. Can borrow some or not?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Having her cake and eating it

Sandy making her birthday wish ...

S: Thank you Katrina for a delicious birthday cake!

The Universal

P: It’s Sandy’s birthday! We celebrated with a “lormantic” dinner at The Universal, a modern European restaurant in beautiful tree-lined Duxton Hill. I rarely head up to the top of Duxton Hill, so when I do find myself there, particularly in the evenings when it looks even cosier, I’m always shocked at how pretty the cul-de-sac is. It’s like being in Paris or London, with mosquitoes. (Another favourite restaurant of ours, just over the road from The Universal, is BROTH.) The Universal is still less than six months old and is helmed by Gary Kwang, who has done stints at Singapore’s Les Amis as well as a two-star Michelin restaurant, Le Clos de la Voilette.

(All photos culled from the restaurant's website.)

I’d been perusing the menu online for several days before the dinner and had already decided on “oven roasted pigeon with orange-scented carrots and wilted spinach accompanied by a bitter chocolate sauce” as a main course. Somebody was late arriving, so I had even more time to peruse the menu again in The Universal’s very smart bar. Disaster! The pigeon was nowhere to be found. I quickly harassed the nearest barstaff and he admitted that so few people had ordered the pigeon, and that long-term dead pigeon storage is not advisable, that they had dropped it from the menu. He did add that the chef would be happy to prepare whatever dish I wanted if he had the right ingredients. That’s always a good sign.

Still waiting for the birthday girl to arrive — she likes to make a grand entrance — I took a look at the voluminous wine list. With over 500 wines in the cellar, it should have been a tricky process selecting a wine. But since I couldn’t afford any of them the decision was very fast. Er, a glass of the house Riesling, please. In their cellars they stock three prime vintages —including many 1982s — of all the first-growth and many second-growth Bordeaux wines. The 1982 vintages were all priced between S$3,000 and S$8,000 a bottle so naturally I pretended to look at that page for a long time as if deciding which to choose.

When Sandy finally decided to grace The Universal with her presence, we were led upstairs to the front dining room, a tiny room with only four tables, overlooking the pretty street. We immediately fell in love with the décor. Modern, sleek, comfortable and relaxed. Orange swivel chairs (I was tempted to do a quick pirouette but apparently this is not acceptable in refined restaurants) on polished wooden floors, stunning tableware and a quirky chandelier overhead. After a quick look at the wine list to order the second cheapest glass of white, a Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay (no, not Art Series, the other one but still more expensive than the whole bottle would have been in Australia!), we were given bottled sparkling and still water. I thought this a bit pushy, sky juice would have done me fine, but to our extreme surprise the water did not appear on the bill. Full marks to The Universal. Mind you I could have bought a small vineyard in Margaret River for the amount I spent on three glasses of wine. Having settled in, we were then presented with plates of amuse bouche (which later appeared on the bill — complimentary, of course — as amuse bush!). I have no idea what they were as I didn’t catch the waiter’s explanation but one was a kind of spicy chicken ball and the other a mini homemade brioche stuffed with something or other. Very good. In addition to the amuse bush we had Parmesan foccacia and heavily scented rosemary rolls.

Sandy ordered a set dinner of “garlic-sautéed escargot on wild mushroom served in red wine sauce” followed by “handmade potato gnocchi with shredded duck confit” and a dessert, which we shared, of “flourless warm chocolate cake with a flowing chocolate center served with French vanilla pod ice-cream”. With no pigeons on the menu, I ordered a starter of “port and Cognac-marinated duck foie gras with balsamic jelly, puree of dried fruit and homemade brioche” and a main dish of “duck confit with roasted ratte potato and beetroot mousse drizzled with a homemade sage-infused orange sauce”.

Sandy’s escargot was delicious although, as she later discovered, the base flavours were not that dissimilar to those of her main course. Strange that they should be offered together on the same set menu. Or not, if it saves on preparation. My foie gras was exceptional if rather alcoholic, and was mouth-wateringly good when paired with the jelly and fruit puree. My duck confit was delicious and I had to fend off Sandy’s advances, as she’s a real duck confit fanatic. The portions were really quite big and Sandy was struggling to finish her gnocchi. I was washing my duck and her gnocchi down with a big, heady Australian Shiraz (by this stage I had decided to fall back on the credit card) and only just finished my food. I can’t comment much on the chocolate cake as I only got to try one spoonful. Sandy cunningly asked me a question about one of my books, knowing full well I would drone on for ten minutes, by which time she had finished the whole thing!

When I recovered from the great disappearing-chocolate-cake-trick, I called for the bill and we were pleasantly surprised to see that the water was free and no service charge was added. The service was of course top notch; a wait staff was ever present, standing discreetly in the corner to serve the four tables, so we tipped accordingly (probably insultingly low compared to their regular diners).

Definitely a place to check out. Next time we’d probably try to ask for a degustation menu to share ... more dishes but much smaller portions. I’m sure they would oblige with whatever combination you requested.

Update: Gary Kwang, Chef de Cuisine at The Universal, read the above post and emailed: "Thanks for the write up on us. Do let us know one day in advance for the pigeon dish on your next visit." Great!

Monday, June 11, 2007

quiche with no crust

P: After inspecting my Italian vegetable torte made with courgette, asparagus, baby spinach and basil in a mascarpone, ricotta and parmesan base, Sandy declared "Oh, you mean it's just a quiche without a crust". Oh well!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

hangover cure!

P: Ahh, the perfect hangover cure: bacon, poached egg and chili padi sandwiches for breakfast, washed down with fresh orange juice, followed by one of Sandy's super-strong ice-blended mocha frappucinos! OK, so the caffeine isn't great for rehydrating the body but what the hell, it wakes you up.

Easy workday dinner

S: One of the easiest workday dinners we enjoy is chicken breasts stuffed with roasted red pepper, parmesan and basil, sprinkled with paprika, flash fried to brown the sides and seal in the juices and then baked in the oven. Served with whatever-pasta-is-lying-around al oglio peperoncino = garlic, chilli and olive oil!

P: Delicious!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

sandy's hometown

S: my early years in Kangar ...

S: my teenage years in Penang ...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

phil's hometown

P: Where I grew up ... Baxter Farm, Willoughby on the Wolds, England. All pix courtesy Google Earth.

where we live now

P: one the few remaining pockets of green in Singapore!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Samantha wins damages

Samantha, the hottie in pink from the Penang wedding thread below (scroll down), finally won her long-running court battle against a taxi company that owned the cab she was riding in when it crashed in Shanghai. She was only awarded ten percent of the US$1 million she was demanding but it should help. When we were up in KL last weekend, the story was running in the newspapers there -- Samantha is from Penang (Sandy's classmate) and not from Hong Kong as stated in the China papers. Apparently Samantha is less upset about the amount she was awarded than she is about her real age being revealed in the newspapers. I'm sure she said she was only 26 at the wedding in Penang last month!

Shanghai Daily news

Samantha Teoh, a 33-year-old Hong Kong pop singer, will get 750,000 yuan (US$97,403) compensation from China CYTS Shanghai Auto Service Co Ltd, company driver Shan Genbao, and a truck driver surnamed Chen for her injury in a traffic accident, the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court ruled yesterday.

On February 28, 2004, Teoh and her boyfriend took a taxi driven by Shan to their hotel. Shan soon realized he was going in the wrong direction and tried to make a U-turn, when a truck smashed into the right side of the car. Teoh was badly injured, suffering numerous broken ribs and internal injuries. The injuries have hindered her career, the court heard.

Jalan Yew eateries

Back in KL for the weekend we went in search of some good makan. Two of our favourite noodle stalls are located on Jalan Yew, within walking distance of Hueh Hueh's house and next to Pudu wet market. May King's famous lam mee is a dish of fat yellow noodles in a thickened sauce to which should be added lashings of sambal belacan; Hokchiu red wine lees chicken noodles is a delicious sweet red soupy mee served with green chilli sauce. I interviewed the Hokchiu noodle sellers 12 years ago for Wine & Dine magazine, so it's great to see they're still going strong.

happy 60th

Father-in-law's 60th birthday dinner in KL ...

flattened roadkill piglet ...

kah san showing off some moves ...

massage chair on wheels

P: Sandy and I travelled up to KL for father-in-law's 60th birthday. Forget flying up, we took a massage chair on wheels. This sixteen-seater bus not only had a TV-cum-games console for each person -- with a choice of over twenty movies and a dozen games -- but the chairs had a built-in four-speed massager!