Monthly Archives: April 2017

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Flying Noodles

Category : Food

Sometimes a meal looks so spectacular that you don’t want to spoil it by eating it. Like these flying noodles, the piece de resistance on the menu at Hana restaurant in Singapore.

Cold noodles served with dipping sauce are a staple on Japanese menus, and very refreshing in hot weather, but here they have (quite literally) been taken to new heights.

The slim white somen noodles arrive draped over chopsticks seemingly suspended in mid-air above a handled wooden bowl. You know it is just an optical illusion, and the chopsticks are fixed by a hidden post, but it looks amazing. There is also a point – it’s not just a fun way to present the dish, but also means that the noodles do not go soggy as they sit in the sauce.

And being cold already, the food is not going to spoil whilst you spend ages admiring it and taking pictures!

There are several variations of this dish, and we tried it with both the salted egg yolk and the truffle oil sauces variations. The verdict? Messy but delicious, and great value for $20!


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Peeling Kit

This was new at Etude House, and I rather liked the suitcase design of the packet, not to mention the fact that a proper peeling is quite an expensive business and these kits were very good value.

The packet pulls apart into 3 handy sachets, and you start at the bottom with the peeling swab. This is like a giant wet cotton bud, which you wipe carefully over your face from centre to the sides, avoiding the mouth and eyes. It felt a little tingly, but not in a painful way.

Next the brightening peeling serum, which is a clear liquid, then finally a slightly gelatinous sheet mask to cool off and soothe the skin.

I enjoyed the 3 part process, but have to say I did not see any noticeable ‘peeling’ even though the ingredients list includes lactic, glycolic and salicylic acids. It is possible that the effect only becomes noticeable after a day or so, but even so, I suspect I will be sticking to the regular sheet masks instead.


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North Korean Wine

Category : Food

Tensions are very high between North and South Korea right now, with chances of a political rapprochement appearing slim. Yet not that long ago, relations were good enough for a rail line to be built joining the 2 countries.

For almost a year, starting in December 2007, one freight train a day crossed the border, taking materials from the South to the Kaesong Industrial Region, and returning with North Korean goods. The line never carried passengers, and now looks like it never will, but the shiny, immaculate station of Dorasan still stands on the border, and some of those North Korean goods, the guides say, are still available at the souvenir stands in the waiting room.

It is tricky to get into the DMZ at this point, but a guided tour will give you half an hour or so to wander round Dorasan.  It looks just like a miniature airport building, complete with customs barriers for international arrivals and departures, and although it is standing empty everything is ready to go again at a moment’s notice. It demonstrates the apparent wish of South Korea for peace and a friendly relationship with their neighbours in the North.

And there are indeed some interesting items on sale at those souvenir stalls.

Never one to pass up a shopping opportunity and possible new taste experience, I snapped up some North Korean wine. It’s made from wild grapes, is ‘organic’ in that chemical fertilisers and pesticides are presumably hard to come by in the North, and has so many floating bits that it suggests they don’t have filters up there, either.

But never mind, this is not something you can pick up any time at the local off-licence.

When it came to sampling this, however, I was sadly disappointed. I mean, I wasn’t seriously expecting it to taste like a French wine, but I was hoping it would actually be drinkable. Unfortunately, the sealing process had failed – the screw top was not just loose but also impossible to remove without resorting to brute force and a knife.

I have no idea when this wine was bottled, but it had empathically not survived very long. The smell was atrocious, and a tiny drop convinced me that this was more like battery acid than wine and drinking it might be a really bad move. I’m afraid it went down the sink.

Still, as a curiosity, it was definitely worth a shot.


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Nose Wax Kit

It’s not that I have a particular problem with nose hairs, just this home care kit I saw in Tokyu Hands looked unusual enough to try.

And in theory this is quite an interesting idea – using wax to remove unwanted hairs in the same way you might groom your legs. The note on the back of the box saying that this was Brazilian wax also made me laugh… obviously.

The kit contains enough pieces to give your nose a Brazilian 3 times over. There’s a plastic beaker in which you put some water, then 3 small paper cups, 3 bags of wax pellets and 3 pairs of plastic wands with which to apply the wax.

You add 1 bag of pellets to the paper cup, sit this on top of the beaker and microwave for 1 minute until the steam melts the wax. Then you dip the wands in, one at a time, to cover the ends in the wax. Run this round the inside of your nose, press firmly so it all sticks, then pull.

This was the point where I remembered how much I hated waxing, and how very painful I found it the only time I ever tried. I hesitated, the wax went cold, then came straight off the wand when I tried to pull it out.

Cue panic, as I realised I had a nostril plugged with solid wax and no clear idea what to do next.

Well, it took tweezers, scissors and fingernails, leaving my eyes watering in pain as the hairs did finally come away. I am ashamed to say I could not bring myself to do the other side, and am still fussing over the sore, hairless and slightly waxy inside of the abused nostril.

You could call this a valuable learning experience. I may donate the remaining bits of kit to one of my daughters, but I will NOT be trying this again!


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Water Brush

This is one of those supremely useful inventions that you did not know you needed until you saw it.

It’s a paintbrush, but a hollow plastic one which holds water and feeds it through a tiny valve to the brush itself.

Ideal for those artistic moments when you turn a drawing made with those wonderful ‘watercolour’ pencils into an actual painting, or when you let small children loose on that special paper which changes colour when wet.

These things need practise, as it takes a while before you work out how hard you can squeeze the brush without ending up soaking your masterpiece, but otherwise they are a joy to use.

From the art stores of Japan, obviously…


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Eyescream

This is so silly it was irresistible.

New in Singapore, apparently from Barcelona, this is shaved ice cream presented like a cute and swirly monster.

Big cylinders of the ice cream are stored in freezers at the back of the stall – choose your flavour and it is popped into a machine which spins to carve the top off in big folded ‘shavings’. Next you choose 2 toppings from the vast range under the counter, then let the server bring it all to life with 2 big sugar eyes. There you have it, a sweet treat to chuckle over for less than $7.

I went for chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips and salted caramel sauce. But there’s a huge choice, and I could have had wildberry yoghurt, mango or cheesecake, with the likes of gummy bears, sugared peanuts, cookie crumbs or marshmallows on top.

The ice cream was a bit watery and tasteless for me, but this is a cool idea and clearly very popular. First in Asia – you heard it here!

 


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Man ‘Blotters’

Facial ‘blotting paper’, carefully packed into decorated folders about the size of a business card, can be found in the handbags of many Japanese women.

They provide a sort of halfway stage of freshening up before you need to actually get out your makeup and make repairs. That is, if you start to feel slightly shiny, a few dabs with one of these will usually do the trick.

What I have not seen before, however, is the male version, and I only really noticed it on the shelf because I was wondering why this particular packet held twice the number of sheets but was cheaper. Not only that, further inspection revealed the blotters are specially embossed, to absorb more and stickier sweat, all without it leaking through the paper onto your hands.

Although it is designed for men, this product is also perfectly suitable for ‘active women of metabolism’, apparently. Which is a nice way of suggesting that you might be sweating more than the delicate ladies version can cope with.

As this was packed into a small square booklet with a gold cover, and was actually called ‘Gold man’, I was a little disappointed that the pages inside were just a slightly shiny caramel colour instead of something more sparkling.

Also, my husband professed himself baffled at the suggestion that he might find them useful – he had never heard of these and saw no reason why he might ever use them.

Oh well… I suppose it’s the thought that counts.

I


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Instant Cake

Category : Food

Freshly baked cake in 60 seconds… sounds too good to be true? Believe me, it really, really is.

This turned up on the shelves of Cheers convenience store and I could not resist, even though the $2 price tag should have been ample warning.

In theory it is a fine idea… empty the sachet of powder into the tub, add milk (or water) to the marked line, stir well then microwave for 1 minute. Hey presto – instant cake!

In practise it was all another story. It would have been very much more helpful to mark the line on the inside rather than the outside of the tub. It took rather longer than 60 seconds to stir the powder and milk into an acceptable consistency. The lid was so flimsy that it came with a warning that it was a burning hazard and therefore unsuitable for use in the microwave. And the 60 seconds baking time had to be followed by 120 seconds cooling off time.

You will note that I have not mentioned the taste or texture yet. You can probably take a good guess at those. This was supposed to be a chocolate cake but it ended up something like a dark brown, slightly damp bath sponge. I managed one spoonful before it went in the bin.


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Painting with Pollution

This is a fascinating initiative from Tiger, long time producers of Singapore’s most popular beer, and is designed to create art ‘from the streets, for the streets’.

This particular artwork, packed with local landmarks in the general shape of our island state, is currently in progress on Orchard Road.

Its USP is that it is being painted with ink made from air pollution, specifically exhaust fumes, and this is a continuation of a project which has already been carried out in Hong Kong with great success.

In Singapore it all comes under the umbrella of #uncageideas, a direct reference to recent Tiger advertising campaigns, and is all about ‘ideas that are so bold they stop you in your tracks’. Here they are trying ‘to turn the ugliness in our air into something beautiful’ whilst pointing out the damage that industrial growth is doing to the region.

Modern technology is all very well, but a lot of it depends on burning fossil fuels, the by-products of which are thought to be responsible for untold health problems and premature deaths each year. One of the most obvious examples is the traffic on our roads, which plays a huge role in polluting the atmosphere.

This whole project is a collaboration with scientists at Graviky Labs in India, an MIT Spinoff that builds high impact technologies, and it focusses on a ‘Kaalink’ designed to capture the fine particle matter from exhaust fumes before it reaches the air.

The devices were fitted to trucks, generators and ferries across Asia, and over a period of months they captured billions of these particles.  Trace heavy metals and carcinogens were removed before the purified soot that remained was converted into different types of inks and paints.

For example, the artists have been working with tools which include a range of marker pens, the smallest of which being a fine tip which holds the output of 40 minutes of diesel car pollution, to a 600ml spray can which contains the soot from almost 3 days. It’s all pollution which hasn’t ended up in the air and in your lungs.

There’s no clear link to beer, except that Tiger have always been an innovative company. This is a great idea bound to keep raising awareness of a big problem, and I wish it every success.

 


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Goldfish S’mores

Goldfish crackers have always been a favourite in our house, either as cute croutons in soup, or simply from the packet as a tasty snack.

We’ve sampled all the different types, which include vanilla cupcake, fudge brownie and rainbow colours, but the plain cheesy version has always come out tops.

This s’mores flavour, however, looks set to give the others a run for their money.

Not that we actually like s’mores so much, you understand. That combination of toasted marshmallow and melted chocolate sandwiched between graham crackers is just a bit too sweet and sticky for more than the occasional taste.

It’s just the memories that taste inspires, of weekends cabin camping in the Japanese alps, sitting laughing round a bonfire with marshmallows on sticks, getting burned fingers and tongues. This was when daughters #1 and #2 were members of the Girl Scouts of the USA organisation, which had an overseas troop at their school, and I was a volunteer leader.

There’s no way you can recreate that kind of thing with crackers from a packet, but you have to give Pepperidge Farm credit for trying. The familiar fish come in chocolate and graham crackers flavours, then the ‘marshmallow’ fish is a bit smaller and (sadly) more like a crunchy meringue than a squishy marshmallow, but never mind. It’s the thought that counts and this certainly hits the spot.

I found this packet in Hong Kong, where it was clearly a left over Christmas special, so doubt I will have the chance to buy more any time soon, but it was a real treat. Thanks for the memories!


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