Wednesday, September 30, 2009

here come the vikings

the minimalistic approach to costume parties

any excuse to dress up!

such creativity went into the outfits and i loved the swathes of blue and yellow on proud display. my favourite get-up was that of bjorn! but i didn't get a photo because i was too humchi to approach a random stranger. boo. some spray dyed their hair blue and yellow, not realising that the mixture would be green and the dutch girls walked around in bona fide swedish flags. there was a sea of viking hats and horns and an altogether enjoyable night. especially when they started playing greenday's basketcase. was catapulted back to my halcyon youth and stayed for one last song, then another and another as the skate rock went into full swing. the bus could wait. it didn't help that i'd 1kg of lindt courtesy of A's mother! was torn between the boogey and the bogeyman in the cloakroom where my precious chocolate was waiting.

here's to more law parties :)

Operakällaren's Main Dining Room

dinner here was superlative, and understandably so. great ambience, better service and the best food. what more can one ask for? the gilded interior is surprisingly not overpowering, perhaps that has something to do with the strategically positioned mirrors that inject just the right amount of modern chic into an otherwise ostentatious dining room. ahhh, who am i trying to kid, it was ostentatious ;) we'd the kindliest elderly waiter who looked like an institution himself and he peppered the conversation with mock heroism so charming on a white haired gentleman. he introduced the petit fours like so, "...these're pralines, here you've chocolate with marzipan, or perhaps you'd like to try the candied apple or, hohoho, these. these are 100% danger." the 100% danger being liquid alcohol (AUGH I CAN'T REMEMBER WHICH!) encased in a fragile spun sugar outer shell that you'd to pick with your fingers and pop into your mouth. his silver tongs would've shattered the delicate thing. we'd french cider instead of bubbly because the parentals are extremely selective when it comes to alcohol and i've never had cider as elegant or upmarket as that. seeing how cider's my usual poison, i will forever feel unrefined swigging it from the bottle instead of brandished with aplomb into flutes.

and, penchant for melodrama aside, the parentals are pretty awesome company themselves and i lapped up the attention as an only child again.

amuse bouche

salt marinated mackeral with bleak roe from kalix and granny-smith apple puree

pan-fried scallop on top of a grilled aubergine "fumet' puree with a walnut granola and celery

bresse pigeon cooked two ways: lightly smoked pigeon breast served with peach terrine, carciofini salad and rillette of the leg

pike-perch fillet from hjalmaren, wrapped in a thin buckwheat pancake with roasted hazelnut cream and pata negra ham
intermezzo of grapefruit sorbet with lime jelly
fricasee of mushrooms from bogesund served with toast, poached egg and chicory cream
fillet of venison fried with mushrooms and served with potato confit, muscat pumpkin, hazelnut puree and blackberry gravy (that tasted like marmite!)
bavarois of fourme d'ambert with sea buckthorn
vanilla ice cream with marie cookie crumbs and you get to squirt your buttercream yourself.


"it's the start of autumn."

"what soup's this please?"

"the start of autumn."

we miraculously made it on time for the degustation seating after the manic dash from the airport. even the maitre' d was surprised, having heard from the concierge in oslo only hours before. they hadn't been expecting us till 9pm but passing up on the degustation menu and settling for boring ol' a la carte was motivation enough to get us there in record time. i cannot describe the wave of relief i felt when we found the restaurant and peered in to see a three top glistening just behind the glass doors. kenneth, the maitre'd is reason enough to eat at P&N. he was a perfect mix of humour, entertainment and sheer fabulousness, without coming across as obsequious. plus, he'd a great sense of timing and was always around but never intrusive. amazing! and because we dined there on 21 september, we were one of the lucky first few to sample the autumn menu.

it's always interesting to hear restaurants describe themselves and then later compare how accurate their self-perception is. P&N did good on that. kenneth was adamant that it's 'not eating but a renewal of self and refreshing of the spirit.' sounds trite when i quote him but in the context it was an apt summary. they only do one seating because they're not into mass production or profit (hard to believe, but true) and the feel the owner was aiming for was that of a living room with an attached kitchen. lovely understated restaurant and very chilled out. i do hope i get to visit again before leaving for singers. hardly as pretentious as the starred restaurants and i thoroughly enjoyed kenneth's laidback, snappy, lightly bitchy style. casual, fun and all together yummy. hey, the penultimate course even got me rethinking my stand on goat cheese!

this was 'the start of autumn'

P&N terrine with gooseberries boiled in champagne

salmon boiled with elderberry jus and accompanied by rose shrimp

tartare of smoked reindeer with trout roe and a cream of mustard, apple and horseradish

"we've been bad, bad people. we shot rudolph and turned him into a tartare. you're not going to get a christmas present this year..." - kenneth to me

brill served on the bone with anchovy sauce and potatoes

cornfed chicken with sweetbread, summer truffle and celeriac

rouelle du tarn served with grape jelly

rhubarb and lingonberry compote with ice cream scented with roasted almond
Strandv. 9
11456 Stockholm
08-663 81 83


bergen's beautiful and even though it statistically rains 5/7 days a week, we must've caught the 2 days where there was perfect weather. stayed in a chic little place with the most gorgeous views of bryggen, the old whaft and living testament to the hanseatic league's trading empire. for those who care about UNESCO, it was basically waking up to breath-taking, panoramic views of the protected heritage site.

this restaurant came highly recommended by the concierge and we weren't disappointed. had a long day travelling and opted for an early dinner. again, we got lucky and managed to squeeze a last minute reservation from the otherwise fully booked restaurant. think it was my gaunt 'i haven't eaten properly in 6 weeks!!!' face that convinced the maitre' d to make an exception. possibly also because i'd promised that we'd be done by 8pm because we were so exhausted we couldn't possibly stay awake after.

slightly kitschy interior, lots of pale pink and old padded chairs. charming, nonetheless, with good service and traditional, hearty food. none of that pretentious big plate with miniscule servings. this was real food for real people but still prepared with a deft hand and full of subtle, wholesome flavour. it was one of those rare restaurants that leaves you feeling oh-so-full after the main course but with craving enough for dessert. and dessert was the best i had this trip, which always sweetens the deal, does it not?

shelled king crab legs

mussels in white wine sauce

the best fish i've ever had. loved the texture, firm yet very very slightly chewy, the grain (?) of the fillet just parts on first bite and it was cooked to perfection. never before have i had such a delightful fish dish.

communal potato au gratin side

best dessert of the holiday - drunken berries with home made vanilla ice cream

we were talking about dinner for hours and hours. when i first remarked that the food was superlative, my mother dismissed me with a, 'oh what do you know about good food? you've not had any in weeks.' then she took a bite herself, her eyes lit up like christmas lights and i knew that it was really good. because she's the arbiter of taste.

Bryggen 29, N-5004 Bergen
Phone: +47 5532 7919
Fax: +47 5532 7083

food for thought

i'm glad i come from a culture where love is associated with food. not that love = food or vice versa, although few may disagree, but food is definitely a way of expressing love. in fact, my changmoh cousins term it the 'asian mom syndrome' where they just feed and fatten. that, followed by repeated questions of the 'are you sure you're not cold / hungry?' sort. not that i'm complaining, anyway.

so it's little surprise that when my parents rolled round for a visit, the first thing my mother did was to make my gastronomical satisfaction her utmost concern. she expressed her shock at the sudden disappearance of parts of me that remain unmentionable in polite company, then set about making me one mountainous sandwich after another. such is the limitation of her cooking repertoire. daddy, on the other hand, knew my other favourite D word (degustation, for the uninitiated) and trawled through his hit lists for good eats. helps that one of his oldest friends is a food columnist and was only to happy to provide recommendations and reservations. we squeezed in at paul&norbert, which was an exercise in felicitous norwegian air, arlanda express and stockholm taxi timing. took off from oslo at 1840h and were esconed in the warm P&N dining room by 2005h. it had been a relatively harried few days in norway but rushing from plane to plate was both justifiable and satisfying. any later and we would've missed the degustation menu, anyway.

in addition to P&N, we dined at operakallaren on their last night in stockholm and i was in for the hugest surprise. i'd put my money on mathias dahlgren for their last night but my incredibly sweet parents said that dinner at mathias' was on them to celebrate when he visits and we were to go to town on their plastic. how awesome's that! and operakallaren was none too shabby.

it was surreal to be feasting for five days straight after my multiple kitchen disasters and i'm blessed with foodie parents who know how to live it up, with me in tow, of course. i hope i don't live to regret it, but i ate so much and so well when they were here that i'm satiated enough to survive on my abysmal cooking for the next few months, till i meet them in st. moritz in winter.

good times :)

many tales to tell

but need to catch up on sleep.

will post proper soon :)

all photos on facebook already.

stay tuned.

home sweet (stock)home

hello hello :) i'm back! it's been a brilliant (almost) fortnight away and i, rather miraculously, survived 6days of my parents and, almost consecutively, another 6 of the german twosome. norway was mind-blowing, as was portugal, and photos and commentary to come. but for now, there's laundry to do, dinner to cook, a room to vacuum and a party to attend. in that order. and i'm running 2h late. yay me!

oh. and 9am class.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

get me out of stocks

so i exaggerate. it's hardly a bad place to be. enjoying the exchange lifestyle and sullen swedishrants aside, i'm really glad to be in stockholm for a few months.

but it's been over a month since i got here and that insatiatiable wanderlust has begun to bubble up yet again. just in time for a parental visit (them) and a desperate, "can we please go somewhere???" (me) so the parentals obliged. they're not too hot on stocks either so it didn't take much convincing. in fact, i even had to persuade them to spend a day here for me to show them around my adopted home. they were quite happy to in-and-out of arlanda!

so they get in bright and early tomorrow morning and we're off to bergen 2h later. going to the fjords and i take all credit for organising a norway*in*a*nutshell at a fraction of the price (thanks, turt!) then we're making our way from bergen back to oslo by train, bus and boat. they leave from arlanda (atas airport for real airlines) wednesday afternoon and i leave from skavsta (budget airport) wednesday night :) just enough time for me to do laundry and re-pack.

will be in lisbon and porto till the following tuesday, which also means that for the next fortnight or so, i don't have to cook :) words cannot express how delighted the prospect makes me.

the blogging hiatus begins! photos and posts when i get back.


p/s if you're bored and/or indulgent in my absence (oh how i presume), you might want to skim the archives. go on, knock yourself out.


i know i talk too fast when i'm excited but, seriously, to be told to slow down by the powers-that-be at wordpress??? that's a new low.

another swede party

it was bound to happen sooner or later but there's a swede party tomorrow night. would be more enthused if i actually liked sweden / the swedes but i'm a little ambivalent at the moment. it's a funny country with strange ideas entrenched in her psyche. the legal system leaves much to be desired (helloooooo? retrospective application of family law depriving underprivileged ex-es, who married under the former law, of alimony should they divorce after implementation of the new law WITH NO RECOURSE, inter alia.), compounded by the lack of constitutional protection of individual rights (granted, i come from singers so it's a little hello kettle, my name's pot) which results in the absolute disregard of my negative right to organisation i.e. paying sgd80 to be forced into a union if i actually want to take exams here.

as you might be able to tell, i'm marginally disgruntled.

plus there've been other less than pleasant incidents that fuel my niggling doubt that the swedes are actually the most latently bigoted people on earth, they're just too afraid to recognise it! so they end up repressed and overcompensate for the unacknowledged inadequacy by maintaining a facade of open-mindedness.

yes, i'm generalising. yes, there's the occasional likeable swede. am grateful for the opportunity to be on exchange and i should be more appreciative of my adopted home. but hey, i'm also a work in progress ;)

but back to the party! had a blast at the midsummer's party i went to in singers, wonder what this will be like.

figured a complete look wasn't worth the money so i copped out and am relieved that i'll be looking relatively normal tomorrow. if nothing else, at least my sole swedish item will make a semi-decent souvenir.

prawn stock

a bad habit of mine is to do something vaguely well then do it to death until i get so tired of it that i want nothing to do with it ever again. i attribute this to some innate compulsive behaviour. but let's not go there.

so on sunday i made prawn stock and it turned out well so i used the remnants to do crock pot porridge for monday. and then on monday, spurred on by the fleeting success, i made even more prawn stock. this time for J, too, who came over for dinner (garang already, can invite guest somemore). and then i unintentionally reduced the first batch to nothing. good job. was so upset with myself i overcompensated with the second batch and had enough stock for a few hungry families. so i'd prawn soup on sunday night, praw soup porridge on monday morning, prawn noodle soup on monday for dinner with J, prawn noodle soup for lunch on tuesday, prawn noodle soup for dinner on tuesday and finally the last of the lot for breakfast on wednesday. now i don't know about you but having practically the same thing six meals in a row is my idea of modern day torture. it might be an acceptable way of life in north korea or somewhere but masochism's thankfully not a trait of mine.

i'm relieved to have drained the last drop of prawn stock and don't think i could stomach another prawn for awhile.

now to challenge myself with chicken stock. mhmmm :)

a disaster a day

this post's for you, S.

deep down i hope this'll be the last tragicomedy cooking post. even deeper down, however, i know there must be an inner reserve of strength to fight the self-delusion. in fact, i'm quite resigned to the fact that my place's most certainly not in the kitchen. i don't need molecular gastronomy, i just want to not-starve. that's not asking for very much, is it?

after the coffeemaker on sunday, the prawn stock on monday (literally reduced to nothing at all) and the rice cooker on tuesday, i'd thought the kitchen was running out of ammo against me. as of this morning, the score was still 2:0 in the kitchen's favour. but i awoke with a renewed zest to actually do something right today. and i'm not just saying it, i was absolutely certain that today was the turning point. after all, how many more appliances could pull a decepticon and outwit me!

so with great drive and determination, i set out to make dinner. realised i'd perishables in the refrigerator that will go bad soon (well, duh...) and thought i'd whip up something cutting edge and innovative. ok so i lied about only wanting to not-starve. then i opened the refrigerator and accidentally found myself in an old mother hubbard moment. i'd 1/2 an aubergine (my new favourite vegetable), 4 semi-rotting tomatoes, 1kg of ageing onions, greek salad cheese and caviar. undauntered, i decided to attempt a vegetable stirfry. plus points for creativity, no? so i sauteed the sliced onion and aubergine with oyster sauce, diced the better half of a tomato, mixed it with the crumbling cheese and plated the lot. half hot, half cold. because i'm such a good cook, i obviously inhaled my dinner and was satiated. or not.

still peckish, i did something i'm not proud of. it was something i'd sworn i'd stop doing, something i'd rationally decided was beneath me, something my parents would be horrified about should they ever find out, something that made me start to question my self-worth. i broke into my stash of emergency microwave dinners. and this' when the fun started.

the kitchen gods must've sensed my budding optimism a mile away and saw it as an opportunity. i emptied the lot onto a plate, covered it with another plate like the good girl i am, added an additional 2 minutes for good measure and nuked it.

6+2minutes later, i remove my steaming dish from the microwave and take a tentative nibble. so far so good. this goes on for a few more chews before i hit something cold. and crunchy. something suspiciously like an ice crystal, or fifty. i stir the plate of microwaved goo and it makes a scary scratchy sound against the plate.

here we go again.

pertinent thought of the day: why's even a microwaved dinner beyond my reach?

p/s this episode took precedence over my kettle incident in the a.m. let's just say overflowing kettle + electric base = kettle death. the current count is kitchen 3 : me 1. it's mutually assured destruction, i kid you not.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


is arguably the best thing since sliced bread.

that's my grandma. she's turning 80. i hope i've her genes :)

new years'

was toying with the idea of spending new year's away before realising that i've not been home for new year's since 2005-2006. which leaves me in two minds - do i stick with my new tradition while i can or should i stay home since i'm possibly going to miss christmas at this rate.

so while i wallow in nostalgia, let me share these memories :)

milan 31.12.07
was waiting outside the duomo for the clock to strike midnight but there were italian youths brandishing ignited firecrackers and throwing them at unsuspecting revellers. i stared one of them down (thus saving my trenchcoat from a certain fiery end) then figured it was time to retreat to more sophisticated surroundings. sought refuge at a charming jazz bar around the corner and spent a few hours nursing my EUR20 cocktail. oh the audacity!

bangkok 31.12.06
landed in bangkok a few hours before the bombs went off and were in blissful ignorance at saw sam sai (random alliteratively-named restaurant) until the various parentals started frantically calling to make sure we were ok. and then we found out that we were dangerously close to the blasts. which was quite the mood-killer. so we did the responsible thing, called the singers embassy to register our existence and survival, left the restaurant in groups of 2-3 at 5minute intervals, expertly dispatched by JK in full combat mode. made our way back to the hostel (but not before stockpiling enough bintang for a siege) and partied it up in our 2 x 10bedders. vaguely remember furtively peeking out of the hostel at 2350 and joining the congo line of drunk italians from the trattoria next door as we made the most of our self-imposed captivity in our tiny courtyard.

hello nakedlaywers, i miss you :(


complimentary celebratory sake 31.12.08
(gonpachi - nishi-azabu, tokyo)

shiny happy people 01.01.09

maybe not home in time for christmas but most definitely home in time for new year's.

so, should silly thair with its oversuscribed flights to bangkok for the cross-cultural unions (shall leave the stereotyping to your imagination!) fail me yet again, i'm on the lookout for non-europeans / europeans whose families don't want them / without families* to embark on a christmas traipse with.

blast from the past

excerpted from a blogpost on 24 june 2008:

it's been 7half weeks since i left home and there's 2half weeks to go but i'm already feeling that dreaded, sinking feeling of the impending end of a holiday. i don't want to go home :( so much for trading a year on exchange for 10wks of unbridled adventure this summer. kena cheated - a year is much longer than 10wks. that said, after skinning and removing the seeds from 1kg of grapes, i do miss having grandma around :) it's been an exponential curve of sorts, this whole learning to be domestic thingum. don't have much of an opinion of it. it's almost de rigeur for people for live without familial support for an extended period of time to have an epiphanic 'oh i'll never take home for granted again!' moment but truth be told, i've yet to be truly house-trained, as one would an insolent puppy.

what i've come to realise, however, is that self-
insufficiency is a luxury. how absolutely ironic. we spend our whole lives trying to be self-sufficient and once we are, we miss being cared for. well, i do at least. for as long as i remember, there's always been grandma, or porpor, or some maternal figure making sure i've enough to eat / drink and have regular bowel movement, the latter being of utmost importance. i'm unabashedly spoilt in that respect :) but suddenly, this time away means no more outpourings of familial love in the form of basic necessities. if i starve and die, it's all my fault.

so i left singapore with this fantastic notion that i was martha stewart incarnate.
machiamdomestic goddess-and-bringer-of-limitless-fun rolled into one. 7weeks on, i still cannot cook. my very limited repertoire involves omelette of whatever's in the chiller / random meat marinated in even more random packet mix / rice. oh tell a lie, it's not omelette but scrambled egg because i can't even flip the darn thing. but rice! my one gastronomical success to date has been learning to cook rice the primitive way i.e. in a pot. the eternal optimist in me, who carted files of recipes and the trusty heirloom of a cookbook that my great-granny used, is convulsing in despair somewhere under the pile of plum peel. the realist, however, who has always known deep down that her place is not in the kitchen, is clutching her ghostwritten essays and gloating in secret. there is a certain inherent duplicity, in what you hope you are and what you know is you.

although i do console myself with the thought that i can't fulfill my potential in the kitchen because it doesn't have an oven so i can't bake or proper dishes (hence i am unable to make lasagne / tiramisu / anything vaguely interesting). also, it doesn't make sense to have a well-stocked kitchen because you'll never use everything up. i could've killed for a grater, but the joy it would've brought me the few days i'm in leuven and even fewer that i'd to cook for, apparently wasn't worth EUR4 -_- little things like that, you know. i did wonder what chubbyhubby&wife would've done with the same limited resources - what could they have rustled up?! think i asked that and he retorted,
'they'd have eaten out.'

began on the premise that i was invincible, that cooking and self-sufficiency were
easy. i stand humbly corrected. prefer being the sous chef because chopping is therapeutic, because i like arranging everything according to colour (before the chef chucks it all together in the wok :(). on an absolutely unrelated note, i realise exchange leaves you with circumstantial friends. not that there's anything wrong with being friends out of circumstance, but the social dynamics really change. sometimes you've to be chummy with people you wouldn't necessarily be chummy with back home. just because they live next door. or because they don't mind travelling with you heh. what if they're not nice?! then how :( but i guess there's good circumstantial too.

aaah so withdrawal symptoms. just 2 more days in leuven then it's off to prague and greece before going back to sunny singapore. looking forward to visiting the prettiest city in the world then it's back to athens, followed by mykonos, santorini and crete. this summer's been whirlwind, have seen almost all i wanted to see in europe, and more with the spontaneous solo trip(s) and accepting that once it's over, it's work work work. then again, there's hk and hopefully bintan to look forward to. oh, and at least a year together in the same country. keep forgetting that he's actually going to be around from now on.

and just so i don't misrepresent leuven, here're some photos of it showing some signs of life. there was a midsummers' night concert next to the town hall. apparently there was a fair too. but in true belgian fashion, the fair started late and ended in the early evening. because it was midsummer's and nightfall would have probably been around 5pm. so it made no sense to stay open longer. nope, none at all.

my favourite statue in leuven. it's a student pouring beer into his head while studying. ocular proof that there's absolutely nothing to do but binge drink or study. sometimes both at the same time.

mass of people. whoodeedoo.

kitchen envy

am overwhelmed with envy whenever i read food blogs. they're terrible for my self-esteem because i end up feeling extremely inadequate. it always begins that way, that latent self-loathing bubbling up to the surface, and hot on its heels comes self-delusion (heyyy, i can do that too!) and then i bite off more than i can chew while i entertain these fancy schmancy mental images of myself effortlessly whipping up delectable dinners that are michelin magnets.

accidentally promised to do nothing but cook and clean when i descended on leuven last summer. i swore to feed and fatten (him, not me!) with grace and ease, eagerly filling my suitcase with cooking books and recipes cut from trashy magazines. "how hard can it be?" i'd scoffed.

ten weeks later, my limited repertoire remained limited. the only semi-productive thing i'd done was to buy 1.5kg of mystery meat because it was cheap (and pushing expiry), although i don't think we ever finished it. i couldn't cook, i couldn't clean, i couldn't even make charsiew from a packet. in the end, my liability status became all to obvious and i was banished to amsterdam where i had much fun stocking up on fresh fruit. because, what else do people visit amstie for?

one year on, while on self-imposed exile here in stockholm, i'm no closer to self-sufficiency.

what a pity :)

yet another cooking mishap

i wish i was making this all up, really. if only this was some irrational bid for attention and i'm actually an undercover culinary genius. alas, this' a pseudo-justifiable story and after somebody hacked into my facebook account to broadcast to my 15,000 facebook friends that i drowned rice in the cooker, i feel the need to salvage some modicum of self-respect.

still playing back in my head the whole rice-cooking process, trying to troubleshoot and pinpoint exactly where i went wrong. was it accidentally soaking the rice for a few hours instead of washing it? was it putting in water and rice in the ratio 6:1? was it opening the cooker to check on the rice one time too many? maybe all of the above. and some. but when i saw the bubbles coming out from the vent, i knew something was wrong. having checked with friends in the know, it requires a lot of skill and some dumb luck to get the cooker to blow bubbles.

can you see the bubble???

frantically texted for reinforcements and was told to pour out some water. which i did! but the cooker kept on bubbling and gurgling and when i finally was about to give up hope, the cooker spontaneously switched off. i think it died. anyhoos, my rice was soft on the outside and hard on the inside. a strange combination of soggy and crunchy and none too palatable, i might add.

absolutely distraught at my apparent bad luck with kitchen appliances of all shapes and sizes, i tossed the rest of my vanilla ice cream into my earl grey tea for an instantaneous pick-me-up. didn't make me feel any more confident about my lack of culinary competence but at least it felt like i was recreating coffee club's earl grey vanilla.

and i took a photo of it, much to throw away's amusement. maybe i'm being hyper-sensitive here but i could've sworn she was mocking me.

this's how dinner turned out - stir-fried chicken thai-style (mix courtesy of my concerned aunt) and over-under-cooked rice :(

and here's the rice up close so you can see photographic evidence of the dinner disaster. and it's supposed to be white rice by the way. maybe i should be a little more worried that it became uniformly brown in the cooker (no, it's not the lighting!)

i need a cooking skill transplant fast.

DD says:
i thought you were cooking up a genuine storm when you mentioned
thai style chicken etc
chicken looks good though
did you spoil your cooker?

missjabok says:
it spoilt my rice.
we share a mutual distrust now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


i just might make it home in time :)