Monthly Archives: March 2017

Cheese Curry

Category : Food

This is apparently the national dish of Bhutan, so there wasn’t much choice when it came to ordering a set dinner in the Bhutanese restaurant I tried out for some variety in Kathmandu – the cheese curry showed up in every option.

In Bhutan itself, this would be made with a goat’s milk cheese called churpi. Elsewhere it is anyone’s guess (although there is a fair chance that buffalo was involved here…)

I do like cheese, but this really was a first for me, and it took several mouthfuls to become accustomed to both taste and texture. It was more like a soup than a curry, and had plenty of potatoes and onions in there as well as melting lumps of cheese.

Spooned over rice, it tasted very much like a thin fondue served without the usual bread. I didn’t find it anywhere near as spicy as I was expecting, however, possibly because the chilli cabbage curry it came alongside was really fiery.

On the whole, this was more of a taste adventure than anything else. I quite enjoyed it, but am not sure I would order it again…

Singing Bowl Therapy

There’s something very mystical about a singing bowl. It’s not just the fabulous sound (especially  when echoing round a Tibetan temple…) but also the vibrations that give you the chills.

Legend has it that the bowls can be used in secret rituals, with master lamas able to achieve out of body experiences through the power of their sound.

So it only surprises me that I haven’t noticed the existence of singing bowl therapy before, and that it hasn’t yet taken the Western world of alternative medicine by storm.

Singing bowls are also known as healing bowls, and have been used for more than 4,000 years in the Himalayan region. You can cook with them, make offerings in them, play them like musical instruments, and – most commonly – sound them at crucial points in Buddhist ceremonies.

They should be made using an alloy of seven metals, each of which represents one of the celestial bodies: gold for the sun, silver for the moon, mercury for the planet Mercury, tin for Jupiter, copper for Venus, iron for Mars and lead for Saturn. Any decorative inlay or engraving is a bonus.

Mind you, as a master craftsman has to hammer out each of these bowls by hand, and you need a reasonably large one for it to be any use, adding all these different metals into the mix means you wind up with something that is pretty expensive. The cheapest I could see at any of the shops around the Bodnath stupa cost US$140.

Using the bowls as therapy is a fascinating idea. Music definitely affects the mood and perhaps also the nervous system and body chemistry as practitioners suggest. Here, the vibrations of the bowl are supposed to stimulate the body to recreate its own harmonic frequency, and to help the brain produce the alpha waves it needs for deep relaxation. The sound affects not only the person who hears it, but also apparently clears the surrounding atmosphere of negative energy.

Trying it out was quite an experience. When the bowl is actually touching your body as it is struck, the vibrations go right through you, and whilst I did not enjoy this too much when the bowl was upside down on my head, it felt very good when it was placed on my aching back. Even when the bowl is simply held a few centimetres away then tipped back and forth or moved in a circle round you, the sound and frequency change in a startling way.

This was just a taster, as the nearby clinic for a proper treatment was fully booked. That, however, would have involved more than an hour of therapy, with up to seven bowls being used, some containing water. Prices start at around US$25, which is expensive for Nepal but ridiculously cheap when compared with a lot of alternative medical treatments in the West.

Regular singing bowl therapy is supposed to promote the energy balance, reduce stress, improve creativity and imagination, and generally harmonise body, spirit and soul to give a more positive self-image, all of which sound very tempting. I was sorry not to have been able to try this properly, and it will definitely be on my list the next time I am back.


Ice Cream Tuk Tuk

When I was young, long summer afternoons were punctuated by the arrival of the ice cream van, its unique jingle heard from streets away so that every child in blast range ran home for sixpence to spend on frozen treats.

By the time the van had parked and the driver opened up the side to turn his van into a shop, we would be standing in line debating what to buy. It might be the multi-coloured Rocket lolly, the pink and white Fab dipped in chocolate and dusted with sprinkles… I always loved the ‘99’, a cornet with a swirl of soft ice cream stuck with a Cadbury’s Flake.

So I was really happy to see this ice cream tuk tuk in Bangkok. Sure, it was not moving but was parked in the middle of a mall, and I realised later it was a ‘chain’ with tuk tuks in a number of shopping areas. But it was selling a wonderful range of decorated ices like the Coconut Cool Cat and Angels Berry, and quite transported me back in time for some very happy memories.


Miniature Compact

There’s something very appealing about those make-up compacts you find in airport duty free shops – the ones combining everything you might need to paint your face into one handy, slim line container. Never mind the fact that half the colours don’t really suit, or it’s the wrong type of mascara…

I’ve even been known to make my own, cannibalising some existing compact or (for really short trips) pressing together a variety of different colours into one small lidded tray.

This one, though, is the tiniest, most adorable compact I have ever seen. In fact, it is so cute I cannot bring myself to use it, but simply take it out to delight over once in a while.

A cube barely 3 cm a side, it has slide out trays and manages to include 6 eye shadows, 2 lip and cheek gels plus 2 incredibly small brushes with which to apply them. Not to mention the mirror in the lid so you can see what you are doing.

I bought this in Tokyo, at the Daikanyama Minipla, and don’t regret a single yen.

Skyline Lashes

There’s a bit of a fashion in Asia right now for things that look British. I have no idea why and hardly like to ask, but there it is…

So, it is common to see people sporting T shirts, bags and even shoes decorated with Union Jacks or famous London landmarks.

These false eyelashes really stopped me in my tracks, however, in a fashionable Hong Kong mall.

Huge, papery, and looking like you’d have a job keeping your eyes open once you had them on, these ‘So London’ skyline lashes enable you to decorate your lids with the London Eye, Big Ben, the Gherkin and even Tower Bridge with a boat passing underneath.

As I’ve never seen anyone actually wearing these, I’m not clear whether you are supposed to use the whole lot at once or snip off one landmark at a time to use as an accent on big nights out.

Other versions, with flowers and swirls, were also available, looking equally large and daunting. But although I found them startlingly artistic, I’ve never had any luck making false eyelashes stay in place, and was not going to shell out HK$135 to try again with these.

Animal Dim Sum

Sometimes there is no reason except the cuteness.

These are some of the amazing dim sum you can get in Hong Kong…

The outside is adorable, the inside occasionally a challenge, but who cares what they taste like when they look like this?

Blackhead Pen

The illustration on the packet misled me slightly, here. I thought I was buying some sort of silicone ended tool which would ease out blackheads by gentle friction.

What this actually involves is a black plastic stick with a hole at each end, the edges of which you run round the offending area. It seems to do more damage than simply squeezing with your fingers, and the picture that confused me turns out to show the inner piece which pushes out to help you clean the tool afterwards.

I won’t be passing this on to either daughter.

Hair Vacuum

This is the funniest thing I’ve seen at the hairdressers since the arrival at my local salon in Tokyo 15 years ago, of a machine which washed your hair.

That gave me such a fit of the giggles that all the staff were laughing too by the time the revolving jets had shampooed and finished rinsing.

This innovation is considerably more sensible, and seems to do a better job, too.

Sadly, it is only available at barbers shops, where a quick spray rather than a proper wash seems to be the norm. In Japan, men have their hair washed both before and after a cut, to get rid of all those stray snippings. In Singapore, once the trimming is done, those annoying hairs are swiftly removed with a vacuum hose.

Thanks to my husband for letting me take photos… this clearly works a treat!

Drip Tea

I was sceptical at first… this looks like nothing more than an attempt to hijack the ‘origami’ coffee trend for tea.

It’s the same ‘rip open at the top and pour hot water in’ bag, suspended by dinky cardboard arms over the sides of your cup. How could it possibly be any different from a tea bag?

But I was surprised and delighted. It may simply be the quality of the tea, which comes from the mountains of Imari in Kyushu, and whose leaves are apparently wrapped whilst budding for a ‘sweet undertone with a sublime taste’. It may be the quality of the filter, which is very fine mesh rather than paper.

Whatever the reason, this was the nicest green tea I can recall tasting – delicate, aromatic and fresh. The poster that caught my eye promised this would taste and smell like green tea steeped in a pot, because the way the filter opens out gives the leaves chance to unfurl and thus produce a deeper flavour than they would in a normal tea bag. It seems this was right, and I will be rushing back for more.

Kids Masks

When it comes to Korean skincare and cosmetics, their excellence is generally a given. It takes great packaging and/or how cute you look when you are using them to make one stand out from the rest.

And, Asian girls being what they are, for every sheet mask that is printed with an elegant design of lace or flowers, there are five or more adorned with animal faces or cartoon super villains.

Imagine, then, that you have children, who are fascinated to see Mum sporting the face of a grinning sheep or shark. Of course they are going to want to try them too. And why not? The earlier you instil a great skincare regime into your offspring, the better their complexions will be.

So here you have child sized versions of those massively popular sheet masks, either the same designs made smaller, or kid-friendly cartoon characters from their favourite movies. I only saw them in Shibuya, but I expect they will be everywhere before long.

I think this is a great idea, and it’s also catching potential new customers really young. If daughters #1 and #2 were still small rather than grown-ups now larger than me, I would have bought a bunch of them on the spot.