Sunday, 22 December 2013

Thailand - More than Bangkok

The Amphawa Floating Market is about an hour and a half away from Bangkok and we recently made it there with the family.

The main attraction is if course the floating market as well as a ride around to see the fireflies. The view along the Mae Khlong River in the evening is stunning having arrived around 6pm on a Sunday evening.
Mae Klong River at Sunset photo AmphawaFloatingMarket10.jpg

We had chartered a boat to bring us from the jetty along the river into the canals. I had to sit in the centre - I am the balance for the boat… The boys sat in the front.
Arriving into the canal of the floating market photo AmphawaFloatingMarket11.jpg

Then the view of the market came into sight. Rows of boats anchored to the side of the canal selling cooked food. The shops are along the boardwalk.
Boats anchored by the canal photo AmphawaFloatingMarket12.jpg

The floating boats are selling cooked food - mostly freshly grilled seafood as well as the ubiquitous pad thai. Seafood available are usually scallops, fresh river prawns, squid and crabs.
Seafood at Amphawa Floating market photo AmphawaFloatingMarket13.jpg

So we walked around and finally settled down for dinner. One can choose to sit along the canal right above where the floating boats cook the food. But being a Sunday night, we could not get a seating area for 5. So we settled for a seat inside a coffee house somewhere in the middle of the canal. We ordered the food and the stall holders will deliver. First up, the pad thai stall.
Amphawa Floating Market Pad Thai Stall photo AmphawaFloatingMarket02.jpg

Then the seafood stalls.
Amphawa Floating Market Seafood Stall photo AmphawaFloatingMarket01.jpg

Then the taste test… pad thai first. The pad thai comes with small packets of sugar and chili flakes. Authentic pad thai as one would expect. Crunchy bean sprouts, fragrant egg stir fry with the noodles. Add to that some prawns and squid and it becomes a great dish.
Amphawa Floating Market Pad Thai photo AmphawaFloatingMarket09.jpg

The seafood followed quickly. First up the scallops. Looks nice but rather disappointing. The scallops were small and over-grilled.
Amphawa Floating Market Grilled Scallops photo AmphawaFloatingMarket07.jpg

So too was the sea bass. Wrapped in tin foil, the fish was grilled with scales on. What I liked was the lemongrass, lime and basil leaves they stuff into the cavity of the fish before grilling. Ok but not great.
Amphawa Floating Market Grilled Seabass photo AmphawaFloatingMarket08.jpg

The best dish was the grilled squid - done just nice. Slightly charred on the outside and still juicy on the inside. And when you dip into the thai sauce, great stuff!
Amphawa Floating Market Grilled Squid photo AmphawaFloatingMarket03.jpg

The river prawns were not too bad but unlike their sea water counterparts, the river prawns are not as sweet.
Amphawa Floating Market Grilled Prawns photo AmphawaFloatingMarket04.jpg

Typically big headed prawns, it is a good thing they don't charge by weight.
Amphawa Floating Market Grilled Prawns photo AmphawaFloatingMarket05.jpg

Along the canal, some shops sell other foodstuff like fried fish balls. As we were already full, I did not try them.
Fried Fishballs at Amphawa Floating market photo AmphawaFloatingMarket15.jpg

Available are also steam paos.
Steam buns at Amphawa Floating market photo AmphawaFloatingMarket17.jpg

And some fish paste dish - somewhat like our otak otak.
Otak at Amphawa Floating market photo AmphawaFloatingMarket16.jpg

And when you are done, sit by the canal and watch the sunset.
Sunset at Amphawa Floating market photo AmphawaFloatingMarket18.jpg

After dinner, we went for a boat ride out towards the Mae Klong River to see fireflies in the dark. Unfortunately, it was a full moon night so the sky was a little too bright to be able to fully appreciate the fireflies. Still, it was a nice experience. Give it a go the next time you visit Bangkok. Something unusual.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Putien - Yammy Yum Yum

Not many chain restaurants maintain a certain level of consistency across all their outlets. However, I have been impressed with Pu Tien.

Every three months, they add on a seasonal menu on top of their regular ala carte menu. So you will know that every time you choose to dine at Pu Tien that you will be able to try something new. This being December brings forth the Winter Specials. And I was again impressed by their offering. To start off with, the Glazed Baby Carrots.
Putien Glazed Carrots photo PutienDec2013GlazedCarrots_zpsddcba825.jpg

Sweet and crunchy, the baby carrots has been infused with a sweet, minty and lemony syrup and well permeated all the way through. Adds a refreshing touch to the carrots and definitely lifts the appetite. Also on the Winter Menu is the Tangy Braised Mushrooms.
Putien Claypot Wild Mushroom photo PutienDec2013ClaypotWildMushroom_zpsc05800e0.jpg

Cooked in a clay pot, there are a few types of mushrooms, black fungus and tomatoes. Unusual but not great. Whenever you dine at Pu Tien, one must have is the Braised Homemade Beancurd. They are made by the restaurant and not purchased from third party. Very soft and fresh to the bite and well braised in light soy sauce. Not oily at all unlike those one purchases from the market.
Putien Home Made Beancurd photo PutienDec2013HomemadeTofu_zpseb46ba9d.jpg

The Pork Belly with Garlic - they call it bai ruo is also another winner for me. Although they use the pork belly, they are sliced thin and the garlic sauce is drizzled over the pork service chilled and placed over cucumber sticks.
Putien Sliced Pork Belly photo PutienDec2013PorkBelly_zps81d5f354.jpg

One more signature dish is the Deep Fried Tenggiri fish otherwise known as Spanish Mackerel. Pu Tien does it particularly well - crispy on the outside and yet juicy on the inside. I typically take it with their chili sauce.
Putien Tenggiri Fish photo PutienDec2013TenggiriFish_zpsd7acfa16.jpg

The chili sauce is also another winner in my opinion. The right amount of sour and hotness and tangy taste lifts the fried fish dish. Also goes very well with the braised homemade beancurd.
Chili Sauce photo PutienDec2013ChiliSauce_zps156708d9.jpg

The other bean curd dish is also worth having especially when you are a bean curd fan like myself. The silky smooth egg bean curd is also made by Pu Tien and stir fried with mushroom and sugar peas. Well fried on the outside and smooth and silky on the inside.
Putien Homemade Tofu photo PutienDec2013BraisedTofu_zps2562f3e6.jpg

And now for my wife's favorite dish - the Stir-fried Yam. The yam is well fried and the sugar caramelized leaving a savory exterior and a soft sweet interior. I love their version a lot.
Putien Fried Yam photo PutienDec2013Yam_zpsfd3a00cf.jpg

Another well done dish is the Braised Bittergourd. No hint of bitterness but a well braised gourd that simply melts in your mouth. Thumbs up for this dish.
Putien Braised Bittergourd photo PutienDec2013BraisedBittergourd_zps25796473.jpg

Pu Tien is also famous for their (thin) Heng Hwa style bee hoon. The bee hoon used here is the fine bee hoon and they usually cook it in a chicken or pork stock. However, I like the Soy Milk Heng Hwa been hoon more. Instead of using stock, the egg is beaten and stir fried before some soya milk is added. Then the bee hoon is added to the mix and finally, seaweed and peanuts are added on top.
Putien HengHwa Soy Milk Beehoon photo PutienDec2013HengHwaSoyMilkBeehoon_zps93a76dff.jpg

The bee hoon is light and the hint of soya milk adds a different taste to the dish. Simple yet mouthwatering.

I like Pu Tien Restaurant and definitely recommend them to friends. A normal three persons meal will set you back around $100 - ok by Singapore standards in a sit down restaurant. I shall return again to try out other dishes. This time around, I dined at their Kitchener Road restaurant which is what they call Lao Dian (the old shop).

Pu Tien Restaurant

127 Kitchener Road, Singapore 208514

Tel: (+65) 6295 6358

Valet parking available at this outlet.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

A Farewell For A Friend

Our good friend and fellow watch enthusiast Professor Massi Landi is leaving our shores for a break in South Korea. So we thought it was a good idea to gather for a farewell dinner at the Peach Blossoms Restaurant at the Marina Mandarin Hotel.

And no, there was no color theme for pants this time around as many of use were coming from work - colorful pants a no-no for those working in the office. As usual, no short of spectacular timepieces on wrists. For starters, Massi's MIH.

For those who know not, the MIH is an Annual Calendar. Perhaps the most affordable Annual Calendar. But take a look at this MIH - can you tell me what is wrong with the display?
Massi's MIH photo MassiGTGMassiMIH01_zps5f14b7fc.jpg

A similar MIH was also worn by Jim. Now you can compare the display on both MIH.
Jim MIH photo MassiGTGJimMIH_zps190bec31.jpg

Then there is the Tudor Heritage Blue Chrono on a Nato strap.
Tudor photo MassiGTGHarryTudor_zpsdc576f7f.jpg

Almost always, you will find an IWC. And this time, the Regulateur.
IWC photo MassiGTGJokohIWC_zps2d60b0f2.jpg

And of course the Jaeger LeCoultre. This example is a vintage full calendar.
JLC Full Calendar photo MassiGTGStefanJLC_zps1dd65d4b.jpg

Then there is the Parmigiani Hebdomadaire - the 8 days power reserve in blue dial.
Parmigiani photo MassiGTGEddieParmigiani01_zps7cee7b88.jpg

Another P Brand watch - not one of my favorite brands. But I shall feature it here as it is worn by my friend Lionel.
Panerai photo MassiGTGLionelPanerai_zps75546a33.jpg

Lionel came double wristed. Here is the Seiko Blue Monster - the 100th Anniversary piece. On his mesh bracelet.
Lionel's Seiko photo MassiGTGLionelSeiko01_zpsa1d24330.jpg

Another vintage - The Rolex GMT Pepsi…
Rolex Pepsi photo MassiGTGLarryRolex_zps47fbb6ff.jpg

In a gathering like this, I am always certain I will find a watch I have not seen before. And in this case, a customized Mark II Pilot. A manual winding watch that looks like a regular Pilot.
Mark II photo MassiGTGDirkMarkII_zpsd7f19f61.jpg

A Patek Calendario ref 5135
Patek Calendria photo MassiGTGStefanoPatek01_zpsc16fedb6.jpg

And another friend came double wristed. First the Breguet.
Breguet photo MassiGTGKevinBreguet_zps88addd73.jpg

Then the Lange 1 Tourbillon. I failed as a photographer - the photos I took that night of this watch did not turn out well. But the watch is so beautiful that I cannot not post it here. So I am using an archived picture from my previous shots.
Lange 1 Tourbillon photo MassiGTGKevinLange_zps92149b5c.jpg

Probably one of the most beautiful watches for the night. And now the table shot.
Table Shot photo MassiGTGTableShot01_zps33098113.jpg

Notice how they all turned into a one-handed watch? Perfect timing. And now for the food. First Up was the Peking duck which was carved and presented. Then came the wasabe prawns.
Wasabe Prawns photo MassiGTGFoodWasabePrawns_zps5458832b.jpg

Next up the pork neck asparagus - a stir fry dish with very tender pork collar.
Pork Neck Asparagus photo MassiGTGFoodPorkNeckAsparagus_zps200a2581.jpg

The Kungpao chicken was excellent too. The chicken is lightly floured and then fried before the sauce coats the meat. Nicely crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside.
Kungpao Chicken photo MassiGTGFoodKungpaoChicken_zpsa434f178.jpg

The spinach and shark's cartilage broth is another winner. The broth is slightly thicken by the shark cartilage and is silky smooth. The wolf berries add a nice sweet touch to the broth.
Spincah in Shark Cartilage Broth photo MassiGTGFoodSpinachSharkCartilageBroth_zpscb91f844.jpg

The clay pot seafood tofu was also braised to perfection.
Seafood Tofu photo MassiGTGFoodSeafoodTofu_zps651ba435.jpg

The bitter gourd with spare ribs and also a few other dishes like the ostrich meat, eggplant with minced pork.
Bittergourd Spareribs photo MassiGTGFoodBittergourdSpareribs_zpsb0deae63.jpg

And finally the Ee Fu Noodles with duck meat.
Ee Fu Noodles photo MassiGTGFoodEefuNoodles_zps11c9fdc7.jpg

And all too soon it was end of the night. We wish you safe journey Massi, Francesca and Ginevra. Enjoy Korea and we shall see you in one year's time. And who knows, we may come visit you there. Ciao!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Spacecraft - Romain Jerome's Answer to Retro Complication

When Romain Jerome unveiled the Spacecraft, he did so with the help of two watchmaking geniuses Eric Giroud and Jean-Marc Wiederrecht. Featuring a trapezium shaped titanium case, it gives the watch a space-age feel.

What lies beneath is a complex mechanical wonder. The base is an ETA 2824 with the jumping hours and retrograde function module developed by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht at Agenhor.
Romain Jerome Spacecraft photo RomainJeromeSpacecraft01_zps290567e2.jpg

The top of the watch features the minutes and the winding crown is at the back.
Romain Jerome Spacecraft photo RomainJeromeSpacecraft02_zpsb5ddca2a.jpg

The front panel features the retrograde jumping hour. A red-lacquered cursor is driven across the panel indicating the hours in red.
Romain Jerome Spacecraft photo RomainJeromeSpacecraft03_zpsb08141a9.jpg

The watch comes with a special strap made by Singaporean strap maker Hughes Low. Black croc with red stitches. Originally, the watch came with a black polyamide mesh strap but an owner change it to one made by Hughes. Manuel tells me that when he saw the strap, he liked it and asked for the contact. The rest they say, is history.
Romain Jerome Spacecraft photo RomainJeromeSpacecraft04_zpse4016a39.jpg

Invariably, there will always be a comparison between the Spacecraft and MB&F's HM5. Manuel says both watches take inspiration from very different source and the complex mechanics behind each watch is also different.
RJ Spacecraft and MB&F HM5 photo RomainJeromeSpacecraftampMBampFHM501_zpsef354301.jpg

Limited to 99 pieces, the Spacecraft is indeed unique and a technical wonder. And the price point is also very attractive. The Spacecraft is a departure from the DNA range of watches from the RJ stable. Here is my report on the Moon Orbiter and the Titanic DNA.