Monthly Archives: October 2016

Adzuki Bean Latte

Category : Food


Where I come from, beans are strictly a savoury item. In most places in Asia, however, culinary boundaries tend to blur in an alarming fashion, and beans top the list of unexpectedly deployed ingredients.

For the most part, they turn up as toppings in desserts – red beans, green, beans, even sweetcorn frequently appear scattered over shaved ice with sticky syrups, or mashed into a sweet paste inside buns.

Or they can make a surprise appearance in drinks…

Here’s an adzuki bean latte, tricked out with whipped cream and strawberry syrup. It is absolutely the last thing I would pick from a normal menu, which might give you some idea of what else was on offer at this particular café.

Yet amazingly, it was not even half as bad as I was expecting, although the strawberry syrup helped a lot. The bits of bean skin coming up the straw were slightly disconcerting but overall, in a ‘pink’ sort of way, it was a pleasant drink on a hot afternoon.

I won’t be rushing back to order another, but it was surprisingly ok.

Eyeliner Transfers

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I have to stop buying/trying these sort of things – they look so cool on the shelf yet prove almost impossible to apply properly in real life.

These particular transfers, with their artistic variations on the regular cat’s eye flick-style eyeliner, looked amazing. But somehow they seemed to be printed the wrong way up. It might be better if the main body of the line curved down rather than up, so it would be easier to get them in the right position on your eyelid. You’d need to have that eye closed, of course, but still…

As it was, once the messing about with wet cotton pads was done, there were distinct gaps between transfer and eyelashes which needed filling in with a steady hand. At only SS2 per packet, I can’t really complain, but these things are probably more trouble than they are worth.

Ear Floss

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Opinions differ in how best to treat pierced ears. Some people swear by surgical spirit, others say that salt water is good enough, and the shops that actually do the piercings (obviously) want to sell you some very expensive care product in a bottle so big there is no way you will use it all before the expiry date.

It’s a problem, albeit a small one, as ears and earrings need cleaning if you are to avoid any annoying infections.

So I particularly liked these 2 items which I bought in Shibuya – a spray cleaner designed to reach the smallest crevice of your earrings, not to mention the insides of your butterfly earring backs, and  especially, the PiaFloss.

This is something of a design masterpiece – hold it one way up and remove the lid to find needle thin sticks of what is probably stiffened thread. Turn the tube the other way up and unscrew the end, and you will find a reservoir of what smells very much like surgical spirit. You soak the sticks you need in there, then push them carefully through the holes in your ears. There you are – sterilised inside as well as out. Genius!

Brown Rice Milk Ice Cream

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It’s low fat, lactose and cholesterol free, suitable for vegans and full of healthy nutrients – especially B vitamins. Rice milk can be made by boiling, blending and straining rice, and it is a useful alternative to normal milk.

And though it sounds like it would taste a little strange, having sampled it I have to say I could not have told the difference between brown rice milk ice cream and the regular variety.

This one came from a food stall selling all sorts of similarly healthy alternative products, in the basement of a Singapore mall. For only S$4 a scoop, and with flavours ranging from green tea to coconut or black sesame, I would call it a bargain as well as unusually healthy. I had the chocolate, naturally, and could well be back for more…

Cushion Notepads

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These caught my eye in a shop at Incheon airport. With 2 students in the family, the idea of a notepad with a soft padded cover on which you could rest your head during boring lectures, or use to cushion your wrist whilst slaving over an essay, was very appealing.

The pretty design of sky and clouds on the surprisingly thick padding was also a lovely touch.

I don’t really want to think of daughters #1 or #2 dozing off during lectures, but if they do find themselves stuck in tedious one, I hope these notepads will at least make them smile.

Hot Bath Salts

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The Japanese love their hot baths, and such are the health giving properties of soaking up to your neck in a communal tub, chatting and relaxing, that heavily subsidised public bath houses are still found in most neighbourhoods.

For those who prefer to bathe in privacy, or who fancy spicing up their dip with bubbles and salts, there are countless exciting products on sale.

Amongst them I found this, a sachet of ‘hot’ salts which promised a 20 minute soak that was as good for you as 2 hours of strenuous exercise.

Daughter #2, fresh off a 12 hour plane ride and keen to feel better without actually working for it, volunteered to give these a try. Perhaps she should have left it a day or two longer, because a combination of exhaustion, jet lag, and the unaccustomed experience of spending time in hot water in an already steamy climate, left her fit for nothing but 16 hours asleep…

Japanese Souffle Pancake

Category : Food


I’m only going to take issue with 2 parts of this – I wouldn’t call it a soufflé and I have never seen one in Japan – but never mind, it was very nice and I left my plate clean.

‘The thickest and fluffiest pancake you’ll ever have’ boasts the menu, and they are probably right, although the pancake was really just thick and cake-like rather than bearing any resemblance to an authentic soufflé. It still took 20 minutes to arrive, however, so really was cooked to order on the spot.

There are several versions available, including a very tempting looking chocolate version with real chocolate truffles on top. In a (probably vain) attempt to select a healthier option, I chose the one with caramelised bananas and blueberries. Ok, so it did have caramel sauce as well as a lot of vanilla ice cream, but calories don’t count when you are sampling something for the benefit of your website – right?

Inside-Out T shirts

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Two for the price of one, not to mention the fact that you can take only 1 item on a short trip and quick-change into something ‘different’ whilst keeping plenty of space in your bag for shopping.

I wish more clothing firms did this sort of thing… there are the odd examples from travel specialists like Patagonia, from whom I bought the T shirt in 2 shades of blue.

The silky one is another story. I found the fabric in Hanoi, and brought some home to show the local ‘lady with a sewing machine’ who does alterations and repairs.  She was not impressed. I had to go back numerous times over the space of 3 months before she could be persuaded to give it a try, but in the end I was pretty pleased.

Shame I won’t be getting another one in a different set of colours – apparently it was incredibly difficult to sew without contrasting hems, and she told me very firmly there was no way she was making any more. Never mind, there’s a lot of life in this one.

K-Pop Starlet Lipstick

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Girl band members and soap opera starlets in Korea are renowned for their amazing makeup, which must take forever to perfect.

In particular, they have popularised a lipstick trend which uses shaded blends of colour to define the lip shape, the outer edges a lighter ‘pop’ of contrast.

I was picturing makeup artists slaving with multiple sticks and special brushes to achieve this effect, but then discovered you can buy two toned lipsticks that produce the same effect.

Obviously this needs some practise to get right, and I suspect you’d need to be a committed lipstick user to do this on a regular basis, but the technology is there…

Interestingly, I saw this first in Tokyo. It was clearly labelled as a K-Pop/K-Drama special although it comes from Japanese cosmetics firm Shiseido.

I don’t really wear lipstick but had to give this a try, and it was fun without appearing to be very effective. But I have the feeling the first daughter to spot this in my bathroom will be ‘borrowing’ it straight away.


Acai Bowl

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For such a small berry, the acai packs a big punch. And, as it comes from the rainforests of South America, it also carries a fairly hefty price tag.

The acai bowl is one of the dishes that Brazil is famous for, and daughter #1 was very excited to have the chance to try it on the beach in Rio. Sadly, she was very disappointed (her comments are largely unprintable…)

When I found small packets of acai berries on sale in Singapore and tried to make a bowl myself at home, I understood exactly what she meant. The berries come frozen, and if you defrost them completely they turn into a ghastly brown mush.

Fortunately, there are now a couple of places here which are dedicated to serving acai bowls as they should be – with the berries still frozen but broken up into a texture like granita. Served with artfully arranged fresh fruit, granola, bee pollen, chia seeds, coconut shavings and cacao nibs, this becomes a delicious treat.

Not to mention ridiculously healthy. The acai is full of antioxidants and omegas 3, 6 and 9, which are supposed to fight free radicals, prevent all sorts of problems including heart disease and cancer, and even boost energy whilst delaying signs of aging. As if all that wasn’t enough, they are low GI, vegan, and manage to make you feel full after eating just a small portion.

I can certainly vouch for that last part – a small bowl, costing only S$6.80, is more than an adequate substitute for lunch and leaves me feeling particularly virtuous.