My Melbourne Skincare Haul

I’m working on a little project that requires a bit of venturing into a new category—skin care and body care products.

It’s both exciting and challenging at the same time for someone like me, who’s always had sensitive skin. As a kid, I was allergic to OFF! Insect Repellent and Safeguard soap (rashes and hives broke out all over my body). This worried my mum, so I was only allowed to use baby soaps and Dove for my body (even until now). Then when I eased into my teens, I had horrible acne breakouts, but Pond’s, St. Ives Apricot Scrub (the one with Salicylic Acid), and Cetaphil helped. So, really, it’s been an odd mix of skincare products that I’ve been using my whole life! Now that I’m in my mid-twenties, I’ve been looking at using more organic and natural products. I realised that I can’t use anything with peppermint and coffee (sadly!) because I get red and itchy and stingy all over.

So, on my recent trip to Melbourne, I purchased a few products, but concentrated on a skincare line called Grown Alchemist. Their philosophy revolves around Botanical Beauty, using technologies that have revolutionised the traditional approach to skincare, body care, and hair care. As the brand implies, it goes back to good ‘ole chemistry class (molecular structures and all), but being really considerate about each formulation’s ingredients, keeping them organic, all-natural (with tons of anti-oxidants), and without harmful chemicals and preservatives.

As a result, Grown Alchemist products are free from harmful chemicals and preservatives; they not only fight free radicals that are damaging to the human body, but also minimise them by not creating the rejection in the first place. All packaging used is also made from recycled materials, which is awesome.

So, here’s my haul!

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Sio Bak & Char Siu at 88 Hong Kong Roast Meat Specialist, Singapore

Pork is my least favourite meat. I can easily pass up on the holiday lechon (roasted suckling pig) and coffee pork ribs—and I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. Blame it on childhood trauma when I’d always find pork fat cubes with pig’s hair still sticking out of them floating inside the evening’s menudo. Gross! Growing up, my dad also suffered from physical ailments because of his health (he was a heavy drinker, smoker, and meat-eater), so we needed to lessen our porcine intake as a family.

BUT. I still get my cravings every now and then, especially liempo (grilled pork belly), sisig (pig’s mask aka beer’s best friend), and crunchy lechon kawali (deep-fried suckling pig) violently drowned in vinegar from my university’s famed eatery, Manang’s. Ahhh! Thinking about it now makes me want to book a flight to Manila and satisfy my yearning. But I must resist.

And, of course, I can’t forget Hong Kong and it’s street-side eateries selling roasted goose, ducks, slabs of crispy roast pork belly, and shiny char siu (barbecued pork). I spent a lot of childhood mornings eating fish congee with you tiao (deep-fried dough) and bo lo (pineapple shaped) buns dipped in condensed milk with my grandpa, but I’d always get my secret fix of roast meat plates accompanied by double servings of Hong Kong Milk Tea (made with Black & White evaporated milk!), too.

88 Hong Kong Roast Meat Specialist at Tyrwhitt Road makes the case for awesome, awesome roasted meats here in Singapore. While I am not much of a fan of crispy roast pork belly (or sio bak, as the locals here call it) and char siu, I find myself riding a bus just to curb my craving. It also helps that it’s a stone’s throw away from my fiancé office. But seriously, the man making these delectable porcine creations is serious about his shit.

The crispy roast pork belly doesn’t feel like it came from a reused vat of oil; rather, each bite is consistently clean and crisp. The crackling skin gives way to a juicy, super-tender chunk of pork that has a trimming of fat, but not so much that it overwhelms. What’s great about it is that it has the right balance of crunch, fat, and soft, flavourful pork.

The char siu is caramelised to a dark, sweet perfection, but keeping the meat smoky and soft. I hear he uses malt sugar, which makes the surface nicely sticky. The sweetness from the sugar seeps into the meat, providing a nice, saccharine quality to the meat.

And please, don’t forget the chilli. I always both the wet orange type (that’s vinegar based) and the dry, burning type (I’d like to think it’s his version of sambal). Roast duck is also part of 88 Hong Kong Roast Meat Specialist’s offerings, but I catch myself ordering a loaded plate of pork every damn time. And extra rice, when I’m in the mood.

88 HONG KONG ROAST ROAST MEAT SPECIALIST
153 Tyrwhitt Rd, Singapore 207566
P: +65 8225-2495

(All meals are paid for myself unless stated otherwise.)

Settlers

Falling off the grid is my favourite thing to do when I feel like I’ve had enough of life, which explains my radio silence for the past month and a half. April was a month of letting go and making tough decisions, while May instantly opened up a new and good chapter in my life.

Here’s what went down:

1. I resigned! I finally tendered my resignation last April. I remember talking to a friend, and she told me something I would never forget. Life is so short, so I also figured that if you are going to burn out doing something, you better be having fun while you are at it. I want to do more things that emotionally reward me, and I want the people I love to feel it. My health was also deteriorating because of the stress and pressure, and it took a lot of humility for me to admit that I needed to let go because I’m the type of person who would fight (unreasonably) to show that I’m strong and that I could do it and I would also do a lot of pep-talks to validate my actions. But I reached a breaking point. When the doctor told me that I needed to listen to my body when it told me to rest, I knew that was it. Advertising just wasn’t meant for me, and I needed to accept that and let go.

2. I travelled. Following my last day of work, Andre and I flew to Melbourne to get some much-needed rest. Melbourne has easily become one of my favourite cities in the world because of its culture, its warmth, its accessible beaches and nature trails, and of course, its food. I’m also ecstatic that I went trekking in a rainforest and visited gorges and coastlines. We were there during early-May, and it was nice to experience the cold winter weather (no swimming because the water was freezing!) since it’s been sweltering here in Singapore.

3. I also got engaged! Apart from being the obvious highlight of our trip and the most life-changing thing that’s happened so far, this came as a very pleasant surprise. It was a very emotional moment where my yes came in a heartbeat. Now that it’s sinking in, I realised how much I’ve changed in the past two-and-a-half years. Before getting together with Andre, I didn’t quite believe in marriage, and it was tough for me to absolutely commit because I always had my doubts about love—but that all changed with him. Despite our differences, they are differences we can live with. We make a great team, and I couldn’t be happier.

4. I’ve got my hands full with food work. In the past year and a half, I’ve gained the clarity to know that I am happiest when my energy is poured into my passions—and that’s food and travel. And easing my way again into the food scene (but now, in Singapore), is a refreshing and exciting change.

5. I’m taking my first writing workshop ever. My friend Camille started 15 Days of Writing True, an online writing workshop with a setup that works perfectly for me because I’m based overseas. I’m still catching up with the modules because I missed a week’s worth of classes because I was in Melbourne, but so far, it’s feels great to dust off the cobwebs (in my brain) and rev up the engine once again.

For the first time (in a really long time) I’m excited and very much looking forward to the future. I’m anticipating the busyness of the coming days, weeks, and months—and I know it’s the good kind of busy. We’ve been taught to look forward to the next “big thing”, whether it’s a great escape or a new adventure, and to never settle. But for now, basking in the light of how things are settling down in the places they’re meant to be seems to be the right thing for this season.

Hope you’re ending your weekend on a magical note filled lots of lovely madness.

Wee Meals: Asari Butter Clams

Asari Butter Clams (or Manila Clams in Soy Butter) is one of my favourite comfort foods ever. It’s simple, flavourful, and pairs well with sticky Japanese rice. It’s a match made in heaven for me.

Asari Butter Clams

Back in Manila, I had a go-to restaurant that served the most satisfying batch of Asari Butter, but the last time I visited that restaurant, I came out with a mild case of food poisoning and a bad case of diarrhea. I’ve never visited that restaurant since that unfortunate encounter, but the taste of their Asari Butter clams still lingered.

So, I Googled a recipe, tweaked some ingredients, and the result was a surprisingly good dish. Didn’t add any sake (because we didn’t have any in the pantry), but the recipe still worked. I was really happy with how this dish came out—mainly because I was able to satisfy my craving—but also because it was extremely easy to prepare.

INGREDIENTS (makes 2 portions; or 1 if you’re greedy)

  • 1 pack shelled manila clams (I got mine frozen from a Japanese grocery)
  • Oil
  • 3 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1/3 block of unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce (I used Kikkoman)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Chopped spring onions for garnish

PREPARATION (around 10 minutes)

  1. Thaw the clams if you got them frozen from the grocery. I actually forgot to thaw mine so I steamed them in the rice cooker instead until they were not icy anymore—but not fully cooked because they would go in the skillet later.
  2. Heat up the skillet. Add oil and butter.
  3. Add in the chopped garlic, followed by the soy sauce and lemon juice.
  4. Stir in the clams and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Remove the skillet from the heat, and transfer the clams into a serving bowl.
  6. Sprinkle with chopped spring onions.
  7. Serve warm with a good serving of (preferably Japanese) rice.

Wee Meals: Mushroom Fritters with Gingery Mango Sauce

I was scrolling through my Instagram, and I saw my friend Tabitha’s IG story. She was experimenting on some Shiitake Mushroom Tempura with Ginger Sauce—and it looked really good. I remembered in an instant that my friend Lui (who also happens to be my roomie) asked what we could do with her extra mushrooms. And of course, I already had an idea thanks to Tabitha.

Mushroom Fritters with Gingery Mango Sauce
Mushroom Fritters with Gingery Mango Sauce

These mushroom fritters are all-veg, are bathed in egg, and then coated with Panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese before frying. Compared to the more generic breadcrumbs, Panko is used in Japanese cuisine and is made from crust-less bread. Because of its airy and light texture, it yields to flakier and crispier fried food. It’s a bit pricier than regular breadcrumbs, and I didn’t have much of a choice because this was the only available breadcrumb in the grocery. The Ginger-Mango Sauce was Lui’s, and it conveniently came in a bottle (but I’m sure there are lots of recipes in Google). We tried it with an avocado dip, and it fell flat. Tabitha used a ginger sauce, so I guess what complements this dish are sauces that are punchy and are more on the tangier side (Asian sauces; particularly Vietnamese nuoc chams and Thai nam jims that you can get in bottles, maybe even a fresh marinara, or even ketchup). But it any case, it’s addictive and pairs well with creamy scrambled eggs with gouda! Lui and I had this for brunch today, and here’s how we made it.

INGREDIENTS (makes 2 portions)

  • 1 pack brown mushrooms
  • 1 egg
  • 2.5 cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • S&P
  • Thyme
  • Oil (for frying)
  • Gingery-mango sauce
  • Chopsticks for dredging the mushrooms
  • Paper towels

PREPARATION (around 15-20 minutes)

  1. Slice the mushrooms from top-to-bottom. Leave the stems if you like (we do).
  2. Heat up your skillet. Make sure that the heat is spread evenly. We use an electric stove in the apartment, so it’s a bit tricky.
  3. While heating up the skillet to super-high heat, prepare your work station where you’ll separate your wet ingredient (the egg) from the dry.
  4. Crack your egg in one bowl.
  5. In a separate container, place in your Panko breadcumbs, Parmesan cheese, S&P, and thyme, and then mix.
  6. Add your oil into the pan.
  7. Lower the heat to medium, and using chopsticks, dip a mushroom slice into the egg, then into the Panko mixture. Do this for the other mushrooms until the whole pan is occupied.
  8. Keep face-down for 1-2 minutes or until the side is golden brown. (Don’t be impatient and check if it’s done after 30 seconds or else the breadcrumb mixture will separate from the mushroom.)
  9. Flip mushrooms and cook until the other side is golden brown.
  10. Place paper towels on a plate and put the mushrooms on top so that the paper towels absorb all the oil.
  11. Serve with the gingery mango sauce, or any sauce you want!

REFERENCE PHOTOS BELOW!

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Restaurant Locavore, Bali

I literally jumped out of my bed and cheered as I was scrolling through Instagram and found out Restaurant Locavore’s leap from No. 49 to No. 22 in the recent San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards, making it the recipient of the Highest Climber Award, and, also, Best Restaurant in Indonesia for 2017.

I was in Bali last December for the holidays, and getting a seat at Locavore was the top priority as we planned the itinerary. The only date with available seats was on 30 December, which I thought would be a great way to wrap up the year.

When booking on Locavore’s website, you are presented with two menus—vegetarian and the omnivorous Locavore menu, with an option to have five or all seven dishes, with or without a cocktail pairing. After a ludicrous amount of contemplation, my partner and I decided to both have the Locavore menu (one of us was supposed to have the vegetarian menu, but maybe next time). We chose the 7-course menu (but were served a total of almost 17+ dishes!), and instead of doing the cocktail pairing, we decided to head over to Night Rooster opposite Restaurant Locavore (also by the same folks) for some pre-dinner drinks.

Apart from the beaches at Nusa Dua and lighting sparklers on New Year’s Eve, dining at Restaurant Locavore was probably the highlight of my Bali trip. Aside from the food, there is so much good and contagious energy in the space, and you can tell that Chef Eelke Plasmeijer and Chef Ray Adriansyah train and lead a very inspiring culinary team.

Here you have two opposing backgrounds that complement rather than clash—Chef Eelke trained in modern French cuisine in Holland and Chef Ray, coming from Sumatran background, did his training in New Zealand. Locavore has fostered its own signature approach to food as it uses contemporary techniques as a catalyst to bring out the fullest flavours of Indonesia’s local ingredients—from spices to seafood.

Amuse Bouche: Candied young fruit with ginger and cashew nut gel with chilli powder. Restaurant Locavore’s version of a “rojak”.
Amuse Bouche: Candied young fruit with ginger and cashew nut gel with chilli powder. Restaurant Locavore’s version of a “rojak”.
Seaweed pillow bread, tamarind emulsion
Seaweed pillow bread, tamarind emulsion
Black rice blini with smoked egg emulsion and crispy black rice
Black rice blini with smoked egg emulsion and crispy black rice
Bloody Mary sorbet with tomato consomme
Bloody Mary sorbet with tomato consommé
Cauliflower and coconut with elderberry vinaigrette
Homemade rote with peanut oil, nuts (dukkha), and sambal matah

And here come the mains!

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