Our biannual staycation in KL!

Hotel Royal

We have made a tradition of taking time out to do a staycation (which refers to staying at a local hotel, not staying at home) twice a year in addition to our yearly overseas trips (Melbourne last year and Frankfurt and Paris this year) and our shorter trips like to Hat Yai about a month ago.

Pavilion KL

You could say that travelling is our passion in life. :)

Timelapse Hotel

It’s actually a lot of fun and you get to experience the city where you live from a visitor’s perspective!

Hotel Royal KL

This time around, we stayed at Hotel Royal in Kuala Lumpur and basically:

Staycation Food

1. Ate a lot of food

Mamma Mia Musical KL

2. Caught a musical

Blurry Photo

3. Enjoyed each other’s company.

Staycation 2014

I’ll write more tomorrow, part of the purpose of having a staycation is to get away from the daily things you do and not do anything remotely work related. smirk

Posted: 10:38 pm Kuala Lumpur time

An unexpected meal by 1 Michelin Star Chef Dirk Maus in Germany

Lufthansa Dirk Maus

I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to experience this exclusive event – a meal prepared by Chef Dirk Maus of Restaurant Dirk Maus in Domherrenhof, Essenheim in Germany. He holds One Michelin Star and was invited to do a short collaboration – Lufthansa x Dirk Maus.

Lufthansa

His meals are only available between April – October 2012 for European flights on Business Class only (there is no First Class for domestic flights). I fulfilled *all three criteria* when I flew from Berlin to Frankfurt on the 25th of June 2012 and was pleased when the cabin attendant told me about the specially crafted menu by Dirk Maus.

Warsteiner Beer

The dishes are all from Rheinhessen – this is Chef Dirk Maus’ interpretation of the cuisine in the largest wine producing region in Germany. He’s taken the time to perfect his creations for 35,000 feet since things tastes different when you’re flying. My better half (who shared a delightful meal at the 2 Michelin Star Relais LOUIS XIII with me earlier this year) told me about how tomato juice goes well with flying and it actually has a scientific reason!

The two culinary treats awaiting for us on board was:

Chef Dirk Maus

Brennnesselsalat mit Grapefruit und Orangensegmenten
Nettle salad with grapefruit and orange segments

I had just recovered this batch of photos from a damaged HDD and also found the “tasting notes” which I have recorded on my phone as soon as the flight attendant told me that I’ll be having a meal created by a One Michelin Star chef. Heh. I liked the nettle salad – some of the leafy greens in there are quite bitter but it’s tempered well with the mild nettle and the juicy grapefruit and orange segments.

Auberginen-Ziegenfrischkäseterrine
Terrine of eggplant and goat’s cream cheese

I’ve eaten a lot of terrine and this is visually different from the terrine which I’m used to eating. The contrast between the white goat’s cream cheese in the middle and the aubergine outside was accentuated with a chunk of apricot in the middle. It makes for a very rich and rewarding experience – I didn’t know eggplant could taste this good and it’s seasoned well – salty, but not overtly so.

Dirk Maus HB

I wished that I was on a longer flight so I had a more substantial meal. This is just a small meal on a short hop on a domestic flight in Germany but I’m glad I had the chance to eat Chef Dirk Maus’ creations during such a limited time (and place) promotion. Eating a Michelin star meal at 35,000 feet is one of the more unusual places I’ve done it too (the other being our rented apartment in Paris). smirk

8 photos from our road trip to Sarikei

1. Big Sarikei Pineapple

new sarikei pineapple statue

There’s a new twin statue of the iconic Sarikei pineapple in the older part of town! This is the “unripe” version, it’s green instead of yellow. smirk Technically, it’s not a statue since it’s not an effigy of a figure, person, or animal but a fruit – pineapples are the primary export of Sarikei and they’re famous for producing these prickly fruits.

2. The Journey from Sibu

sarikei 2014

My better half flew down with me from KL to visit my dad over the weekend. I decided to drive down to Sarikei since she’s never been there before so the three of us packed into a car and headed down to the small town. It’s roughly an hour’s drive from Sibu on a two lane road.

3. Entering Sarikei

red bridge

A beautiful red curving bridge is located at the border between Sibu and Sarikei. You can also reach there by a ferry service across the river but we took the route that takes us through Bintangor (another rural town).

4. Sarikei Clock Tower

sarikei clock tower

This is another famous landmark in town – erected in 1973, it’s been around for a while and recently the town seems to have found some funds to refurbish it. Yes, this is NOT the original clock tower – I have a photo of the earlier tower with a hollow center during my Sarikei trip in 2008.

5. Pasar Sungai Rejang

sungai rejang market

This roughly translates to “Rejang River Market”. Rajang River is the longest river in Malaysia and connects much of Sarawak. This building houses the old wet market in town and there’s lots of interesting stuff in there!

6. Scenes from Sarikei Wet Market

sarikei market

There is a stall here that sells authentic home made Sarawak laksa paste but unfortunately it was closed by the time we arrived.

7. Salted Fish

salted-fish

Salted fish is a much beloved food item here. There are many different kinds of fish being dried, salted and sometimes fermented – everything from whitebait to local species to imported cod.

8. The Original Sarikei Pineapple Statue
(accept no substitutes)

sarikei pineapple statue

This is the original (bigger and ripe) Sarikei pineapple! It’s located by the waterfront and it’s almost bleached white from the constant cleaning. Contrast the Sarikei pineapple statue with a post I wrote when I went on a trip with a couple of friends during my winter holidays back from university in Melbourne – this is Sarikei back in 2002 where it’s a much dirtier but vibrant shade.

Thai Boat Noodle Soup in Hat Yai

boat noodle soup

Boat noodle soup is known as guai dtiaw rua (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ) in Thailand. We happened to chance upon this popular stall during our last day in Hat Yai. This place seems to serve both pork and beef noodles according to the signboard but the cook told us it’s pork noodles.

boat noodle soup hatyai

Better still, the stall makes their own pork rinds! It’s hanging above the stall and these beautiful pork crackling is the product of the deep fried skin of the pork and is meant to be eaten with the noodles. They carry other brands on the table too but their own is the one with the red pig.

Just listen to the pork rind crackling in the boat noodle soup!

boat noodle soup thailand

The name boat noodle soup came from the early days when boats will pull up to the pier and tie off before serving soup to people who would come and eat at the banks. There are still markets like these in Hat Yai e.g. Hat Yai Floating Market but mostly boat noodle soup has become a land based operation.

boat noodle soup locals

You can choose from several kinds of noodles from rice vermicelli to kueh tiaw and we tried two different ones. The serving is really small – probably 2-3 heaped spoonfuls of noodles in total. However, it’s loaded with pieces of pork, meatballs, and pork liver as well as a smattering of vegetables.

thai boat noodle soup

There’s also a side of raw vegetables and bean sprouts as per Thai custom. I’m not sure if it’s THB 35 or THB 40 per bowl coz we didn’t ask but I know the pack of pork crackling is THB 15.

boat noodle soup pork rinds

You’re supposed to add the pork rind into the boat noodle soup before you eat it. The soup base is delicious – they actually put blood into the broth and season it with various herbs and it tastes fabulous. The soup base really has all the five tastes inside – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami! I was very impressed.

boat noodle soup pork crackling

This is indeed a good find as we saw that the patrons of the stall were almost all locals. They did not seem to charge us a “tourist price” either. The total came up to 110 baht for two bowls of boat noodle soup, a pack of pork rinds and drinks.

The best pork leg rice in Hat Yai

pork leg rice hat yai

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this place. My better half wanted to come here for lunch – she’s been here before and thought it was delicious. We had just arrived in Hat Yai and checked into the hotel before taking a short walk to this place.

khao kha moo hatyai

Braised pork leg with rice is called khao kha moo in Thai. Obviously, my Thai is limited so I don’t actually know the name of the stall but it’s located on Prachatipat Road. It’s very close to Lee Garden Plaza Hotel – turn left after you walk out and it’s two blocks down, at a very conspicuous corner lot that’s always *packed* with customers.

pig in bikini

There’s a really funny life sized cast of a pig dressed in a bikini sitting on her own chair beside the stall. You won’t miss it, it has a way of catching your eye. smirk The meat served here is braised pig’s trotters, one of the best parts of the pig! They only have one cut of meat but that’s a good thing coz they do it so well.

sugarcane juice

It was a hot day and we ordered a big bottle of nam oi (fresh sugarcane juice) to share. It comes in a recycled 640 ml beer bottle and costs 100 baht (RM 10). It’s worth it though, the chilled raw sugarcane juice here is undiluted and comes complete with sediments. I asked for ice cubes so it made it all the more refreshing (and it boosts energy from the sugar too).

thai condiments

You have the choice of a plate of pork leg rice with egg for 60 baht (about RM 6) or platters for two starting from 140 baht, excluding rice. There’s also the option of having the pig trotter meat on top of your rice or served separately – we went for the former.

It didn’t look like much when it came – there were a few slices of choice pork from the trotters, braised pig’s skin, egg, pickled vegetables on top of a plate of rice with the gravy poured over it. However, when I ate the first bite, I was instantly converted. It’s crazy good!

khao kha moo

The Thai style salted vegetables are slightly sweet (unlike our local salty pickled vegetable) and goes very well as an acidic component on the plate. The smattering of fresh coriander (whole stalks, not just the leaves) adds a great dimension of flavor and the star of the show, the braised pork leg is absolutely fabulous – fork tender, melt-in-your-mouth porcine goodness.

I told my dear that I wasn’t very hungry then but I polished off my plate faster than she did! Even the humble braised egg adds a lot to the dish. The khao kha moo here is delicious and everything on the plate belongs there, including the Thai style chilli sauce. I like how they’re generous with the gravy too.

pork leg rice stall

I could eat here everyday and not get sick but since we’re on holiday, I had to limit myself to just that once so we could eat other things. The bill came up to THB 222 for two. I’m thinking fondly of this pig trotter rice now, I would certainly go back again next time we’re in Hat Yai! :)

Greetings from Hat Yai!

hat yai

We’re in Hat Yai! My better half got me a trip here as a surprise for our anniversary. I was only told to bring my passport and did not know the destination until we flew! She booked the flights and hotel (we’re staying in Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel) as a gift.

hat yai us

It’s just a weekend trip but I’ve never been here before – we did go for a trip to Bangkok last year and this is our return couples sojourn to Thailand.

miss piggy

The food is pretty good here. Say hello to the decidedly plus sized Miss Piggy, where we had a nice pork leg rice lunch! It’s awesome, I’ll write about it soon.

lee gardens plaza hotel

Security is extremely tight here, there was a quartet of bombings by Muslim insurgents earlier this May 2014. You have to go for mandatory screenings before entering shopping malls or hotels but since we’re Chinese (there are a lot of Malaysian and Singaporean tourists here) we passed through easily.

hat yat security

There’s a certain element of profiling going on here – Muslims are subjected to rather intense scrutiny, they’re understandably worried about another attack – there has been several throughout the years!

Posted: 5:20 am Hat Yai time (GMT +7)

Win a 3D/2N trip to Macau courtesy of Macau Government Tourism Office!

Macau Old Town

I’ll love to go to Macau again! There’s so much to do there, and I’ve never actually spent a night in Macau. Heresy, I know! The last time I was there was on a day trip, we took the ferry (actually a fast water-jet propelled boat) from Hong Kong and back. That was in 2011 and a lot of my interests have changed since then.

Pork Chop Bun

I was looking for the renowned Seng Cheong crab porridge in Macau the last time I went. It used to be MOP 180 (about RM 70) per bowl and it comes with a whole crab. I also ate a lot of the food that they’re famous for like pork chop buns, ginger milk pudding

Portuguese egg tart

…and of course, the Portuguese egg tart.

However, Macau serves up a lot of international cuisines too. There are 11 Michelin Star restaurants in Macau as of 2014 and two of them holds Three Michelin Stars – Robuchon au Dome and The Eight at Grand Lisboa Hotel.

Grand Lisboa

My better half and I loves dining at different Michelin Star restaurants around the world and we’ve never been to one in Macau! I’ll love to book a table for two at The Eight, it has just been promoted to Three Stars this year!

In addition to that, there are also nine Bib Gourmand restaurants in Macau. These are always good restaurants to go to check out – always liked the idea of visiting an up and coming restaurant getting One Star the next year.

Grand Lisboa Hotel

There are people who make special trips just to eat at different Michelin Star restaurants around the world, or plan their travels around reservations (like us), if you’re one of them, Macau should definitely be on your itinerary!

Macau

Macau is distinctively unique as a cultural destination since the Portuguese was a huge part of her history and left an indelible mark. It’s unlike any other Far East Asian destinations!

You can see this in the architecture in Macau. A lot of the famous landmarks are from the time of Portuguese settlement and that makes it a very unique destination for travellers who like culture.

Ruins of St Pauls Cathedral

One of the most iconic places is the Ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral. This is a favorite for visitors to take “I was here” photos and it can be really crowded at times. However, most people don’t venture beyond the steps, there’s actually a lot of fun to be had in going into the ruins. I strongly suggest that you take the time to explore each place instead of just posing for a quick picture and moving on.

Macau Square

Pro tip: I’ve seen a lot of tourists do that and it actually goes against the entire ethos of travelling – you go for yourself, to enrich your mind, and to experience new things, not to prove that you’ve been there by taking a selfie to put in Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. Take the time to stop and immerse yourself in your surroundings instead of looking through your dSLR/smartphone for that “perfect picture” and end up spending the majority of your trip updating your social media channels – that can wait till you come back.

pork chop bun macau

Macau actually offers a lot of different experiences for different people. You’ll be surprised to hear that if you just think Macau is all about gaming. The highest bungee jump in the world is the Macau Tower Bungy Jump at 233 meters! They also offer the second highest skyjump in the world (contrary to popular belief, the Vegas Stratosphere does not offer true bungee jumping, it only has a skyjump). You’ll love the experience if you like anything that gets your adrenaline going!

If you prefer performances and theatre, The House of Dancing Water is a must-see. This USD 250 million extravaganza is housed in a purpose-built theatre designed with a record-breaking 3.7 million gallons of water – it’s received a lot of praise from critics and the public alike and I’ll love to catch this epic love story by Franco Dragone someday!

Ginger Milk Pudding

There’s all year round events and festivals, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, different cuisine appealing to all price ranges, entertainment from theatres to adrenaline pumping bungee jumping, and best of all it’s visa-free for Malaysians!

Macau Signboard

That’s the true beauty of Macau – there’s really something for everyone! You can get the chance to win a 3D/2N trip to Macau just by blogging! Write a post about three amazing things about Macau that makes you want to visit and why you should be selected as the winner and stand a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip! Get writing and submit your permalink at the Nuffnang blog post to win!

Macau Shops

I’ll love to go again since there’s so many things that I missed the first time around (like dining at The Eight, the new 2014 Three Star Michelin restaurant in Grand Lisboa Hotel).

Magnum 5 Kisses Limited Edition Ice Cream

Magnum 5 Kisses

I love how Magnum regularly has a series of very creative limited editions with a theme. I first wrote about it in the *first month* I started blogging – April 2002. I was in Melbourne, Australia and the 7 Deadly Sins just came out, with a flavor for every sin. There was also a wonderful 9-ice cream series called The Sixties Nine that came out the next year and I reviewed every single one!

Magnum No3 Passionate Kiss

We were in Paris, France earlier this year when we spotted the new limited edition 5 Kisses series. There are five (5) different Magnum ice creams in total and we got some to eat. The Magnum 5 Kisses is a range inspired by French Patisserie flavors and it came to Australia recently (although we ate ours in France).

Magnum 5Kisses Limited

1. First Kiss
Crème Brulee

2. Loving Kiss
Meringue Et Fruit Rouges

3. Passionate Kiss
Tiramisu

4. Flirty Kiss
Gateau Au Chocolat

5. Stolen Kiss
Tarte Aux Pommes

5 Kisses Magnum

Magnum No. 4 Flirty Kiss Gateau Au Chocolat is the full-on chocolate flavored one. It’s a chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce and chocolate brownie pieces, all coated with a layer of crackling milk chocolate. Each of the Magnum 5 Kisses retails for €4.19 at the local Monop’ which isn’t very cheap when converted – almost RM 18 per Magnum!

Magnum Passionate Kiss Tiramisu

However, some of them are very good. We liked Magnum No. 3 Passionate Kiss Tiramisu – it had a distinctively authentic taste, with mascarpone flavored ice cream (!!!), coffee sauce, chocolate chunks and sponge pieces, all coated with a layer of crackling milk chocolate.

Magnum Tiramisu

Both of us thought it was awesome! The boxes that contains the Magnum 5 Kisses are made well, with sturdy cardboard and a perfect ice cream inside. The construction of the Magnums are spot on too – every single element can be seen and tasted!

Magnum Kiss Tarte Aux Pommes

The best in the series though would be the last one – Magnum No. 5 Stolen Kiss Tarte Aux Pommes. This is made with a vanilla ice cream interior, apple sauce and pastry pieces, all coated with a layer of crackling white chocolate dusted with cinnamon.

Magnum Stolen Kiss

It’s the only one of the 5 Kisses that has a white chocolate exterior and it tastes exactly like an apple pie!

Kisses Us

Keeping with the theme, here’s a happy one of us at The Louvre, one of the most iconic places in Paris! :)

Pierre Hermé “Les Incontournables de Paris” macarons from France

Pierre Herme Macarons

The macarons from Pierre Hermé are the best macarons I’ve ever had in my entire life! It was the first place my better half wanted to go to when we were in Paris earlier this year. We went to two of his shops – the original one is at Pâtisserie Pierre Hermé Paris in Bonaparte but their Macarons & Chocolats Pierre Hermé Paris boutiques at Galeries Lafayette has seating arrangements!

Macarons Chocolats Pierre Herme

Pierre Hermé also sells a wide variety of fantastic chocolates and pastries but we were here for the macarons so we got a pack of 7 macarons and opted to eat at the beautiful rooftop with an amazing 360 degree view of Paris instead of at the boutique itself.

Lafayette Roof

My dear liked the Les Incontournables De Paris (The Essentials Of Paris) box so I got that for her. It costs €18 for a box of 7. The friendly attendant was even kind enough to let us pick the flavors (it’s supposed to be a fixed box set) and even include *limited edition macarons* from the Pierre Hermé Paris ‘Les Jardins’ Collection 2014!

pierre herme france

Pierre Hermé has a total of 23 (!!!) flavors of macarons at any time. However, most of their box sets have a theme e.g. the Initiation 20-piece Assortment (€59) only has 4 different types of macarons. There’s no set price per macaron, it depends on what you get and the price can range from €2 – €3 per macaron. We got ours for slightly over €2.50 each (about RM 11 per macaron).

pierre herme chocolates

The French guy serving us allowed us to choose anything (including limited editions) from the 23 different flavors for the 7-pack, so we took turns choosing macarons:

pierre herme les jardins collection

HUILE D’OLIVE & VANILLE
Olive Oil Fruite Vert, Vanilla & bits of Green Olive

CRÈME BRÛLÉE
Vanillas & Caramel bits

MOGADOR
Milk Chocolate & Passion Fruit

MILÉNA
Fresh Mint & Red Berries

MONTEBELLO
Pistachio & Raspberry compote

JARDIN DES 8 TRÉSORS
Lotus Seed, Red Date, Wolfberry, Rosebud, Dried Orange Peel, Dried Longan Fruit, Chrysanthemum and Osmanthus

INFINIMENT ROSE
Rose & Rose Petals

Les Incontournables De Paris

I just love how weird and quirky the flavors are! It’s not just for the “wow factor” too, the combinations works very well! My first choice was the delectable Huile d’olive & Vanille with bits of *real* green olive!

olive vanilla macaron

I’ve never had an olive macaron (with REAL olive pieces inside) before and we both loved it!

Pierre Herme

My dear went for the Crème Brûlée which actually tastes remarkably like the real thing! I couldn’t believe it.

rose petal macaron

The delicate Infiniment Rose is made from rose and has rose petals (!!!) in the macaron!

milena macaron

We loved every single macaron – there were no duds or mediocre ones in the box, every single macaron was balanced well, not the sickly sweet macarons we get here but an amazing symphony of perfection.

Jardin des 8 Tresors

The other highlight was Jardin des 8 Trésors – the April 2014 monthly limited edition macaron from the Pierre Hermé Paris ‘Les Jardins’ Collection 2014 with 8 different Asian treasures packed into 1 macaron – lotus seed, red date, wolfberry, rosebud, dried orange peel, dried longan fruit, chrysanthemum and osmanthus with incredibly complex flavor and texture profiles.

mogador macaron

We were munching on the macarons in a sky park on top of Galeries Lafayette on a sunny spring day with lots of other locals camped out to enjoy the fresh air and the amazing panoramic view of Paris.

pierre herme us

It was one of the highlights of our trip – enjoying good food, each other, and the Parisian experience!

montebello

I have never had a better macaron than Pierre Hermé in Paris! Adriano Zumbo comes close and Ladurée is a distant third. I highly recommend eating the original ones from France in France, you can’t keep it for more than 4 days and I dub Pierre Hermé the best macarons I’ve ever had in my life and my dear agrees! :)

Zumbarons @ Adriano Zumbo Patisserie

zumbarons adriano zumbo

I have heard about the wonderful macarons from Adriano Zumbo in Australia for quite a long time. Thus, I took the opportunity to purchase the entire range of macarons (affectionately dubbed “Zumbarons”) from Adriano Zumbo Patisserie when I was in Sydney. smirk

mylo can

Adriano Zumbo is also credited with making the Zonut, and his version of the croquembouche – the Macaron Tower (available in 65 and 95 pieces). He also makes a lot of beautifully quirky and delicious pastries and cakes like the mylo can.

i heart zumbo

He’s been regularly featured in MasterChef Australia and I’ve wondered just how good his macarons taste compared to Ladurée at Champs-Élysées, Paris and Pierre Herme – both of which we tried during our trip to France earlier this year.

passionfruit honeycomb

I actually went to two of his shops, the bigger of which is located at The Star. The shop also doubles as a cafe and carries 12 different flavors of his macarons. I bought a 12-pack which comes in a nice sliding box with one each of the entire Zumbaron range in the shop:

zumbarons

  • salted butter caramel on toast
  • hazelnut praline
  • malted milkshake
  • francesco brownie
  • passionfruit & honeycomb
  • caramelized white chocolate
  • fingerbun
  • berry brulée
  • lime & mandarin
  • caramel au beurre sale
  • salted butter popcorn
  • toasted marshmallow

zumbarons macarons

Adriano Zumbo’s two most popular (famous?) macarons would be the salted butter popcorn (with real popcorn covering the shell of the macaron) and the malted milkshake (a rather interesting blue hued macaron).

adriano zumbo macarons

Each Zumbaron retails for AUD 2.50 and there are *no bulk discounts*. You can get a nice 2-piece box of Zumbarons for AUD 5 and the 12-piece long box costs AUD 30. That comes up to almost RM 8 per macaron!

adriano zumbo

It’s worth every cent though! I had two of them fresh and bought one to eat on the spot too. There’s a sign that says Zumbarons don’t travel well and I made sure to keep a gentle hand on mine since I wanted to bring the 12-piece sliding box with every single Zumbaron flavor I managed to find back for my better half to try.

adriano zumbo star

Adriano Zumbo actually has 40 different Zumbarons that rotates seasonally but those are only available with a pre-order. I visited a couple of his shops and found that the one with the most variety on offer is at The Star at Sydney with 12 different flavors on offer.

salted popcorn malted milkshake

We both liked it and we thought it was way better than Ladurée and slightly better almost on par with Pierre Hermé in France. I particularly liked the salted butter caramel on toast (which actually has toast) and the francesco brownie (which actually has bits of brownie). My dear also liked the lime & mandarin which packs a refreshing, zesty bite.

zumbarons pack

His malted milkshake Zumbaron is pretty good too and the salted butter popcorn is just pure genius with bits of popcorn on the shell – no wonder it’s the two most popular flavors. His macarons are made for the adult palate and doesn’t have excessive amounts of sugar – some of them even taste slightly salty!

zumbaron kit

I also bought a bake-at-home Zumbaron kit so we’ll be making our own salted caramel macarons soon! :)

zumbaron range

You can find Adriano Zumbo Patissier in Melbourne and Sydney. Adriano Zumbo at The Star is their latest exciting concept store and carries their full range of cakes, pastries and Zumbarons. It’s the main one I went to and you can find them at:

Adriano Zumbo Patissier
The Star
80 Pyrmont Street, New South Wales

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