Franco Manca, London

food options along tottenham court road have just gotten more exciting with franco manca’s recent opening of a new branch there! excitedly paid it a visit a few days ago, and we were not disappointed at all.

i had heard it was good, but got even more excited when i saw some reviews they had selected to put on their menu – people were really singing praises about it! “if you only eat one pizza this year, make sure it’s franco manca” – tatler. they were also dubbed the “best in britain” by the observer! seeing all that really made me take my first bite of the pizza with high expectations, and i am pleased to say that they were certainly met 😀 also, i was actually pretty full that day having had a really big breakfast, so the fact that i still thought it tasted really good probably means it really did 😉

they only serve pizzas at franco manca (along with some simple sides), and what is special about them is that they are made from sourdough and baked in a special oven made in naples by a specialised artisan (all this info is found on their menu). the oven produces a heat of about 500 degrees celsius (wow), and the cooking process is supposed to lock in the flour’s natural aroma and moisture, giving a soft crust.

we went as a group of 7 which allowed us to order a range of pizzas to try – we ordered 1 of everything on the menu except the most basic tomato, garlic & oregano, which we replaced with the veggie special of the day. it was all very exciting 😉
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here’s the menu:
20131121_131849 20131121_132615and the board of specials:20131121_134820

service was good and efficient despite the lunch crowd, and we soon had a SPREAD before us:
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HAPPINESS, seriously.

in a clockwise direction starting from the bottom left pizza:

1. gloucester old spot ham (home cured), mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, wild mushrooms – £6.85 (bottom left)
this was my favourite of the lot! i loved how there was a little bit of tomato but not so much such that it became a tomato-based pizza; this made it different from what you normally get with most pizzas (either completely tomato-based or no tomato at all), especially those from pizza chains. the ingredients that topped it were also really yummy – the ham was delicious, as was the combination of cheeses. the mushrooms were just icing on the cake, because i really love mushrooms. admittedly the ingredients do look pretty sparse in the picture, but somehow it didn’t seem to be a problem when we were eating the pizza. i do think that everyone loves toppings though, so a little more would be highly optimal. but even without, it was really yummy. tasty and satisfying but still remaining light!
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2. wild broccoli, mozzarella, gloucester old spot hand sliced sausage – £6.75
this pizza has no tomato at all, which is probably why i didn’t like it as much as the rest! it was still very good and tasty, but i do like the what tomatoes bring to pizza. without any tomato at all, i felt that it wasn’t as flavourful – just cheese on (very good) pizza crust with some (good) toppings. we were quite puzzled by the description of the veggie as “wild broccoli” – maybe we are ignorant but we thought it seemed more like something similar to watercress?! (mosdef asian kids hahaha) i liked the chunky texture of the sausage – good quality stuff; definitely not the processed kind. somehow it tasted quite like lamb though? oddly, this pizza reminded me a bit of an indian-inspired naan-type thing…?
without tomatoes, the taste of the delicious pizza crust really shone through!
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3. veg special – tomato, mozzarella, baked mixed peppers, olives, topped with rocket and pecorino cheese – £7.50
i love it when pizza comes topped with rocket and cheese (and parma ham oooh yum) so i quite enjoyed this. loved the tomato base, and the baked peppers that topped it were yummy! not the usual crunchy raw-ish peppers that you get on most pizzas. definitely a good vegetarian option. wonder what veg specials they have to offer on other days; it’ll be interesting to see what other exciting veggie toppings they have in store.
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4. tomato, mozzarella, basil (seasonal) – £5.90
this was simple but good! probably the best thing to order if you want to go back to basics. and because i really like their tomato, i thoroughly enjoyed this because that’s mainly what the pizza was about!
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5. tomato, cured organic chorizo (dry & semi-dry) & mozzarella – £6.95
this was my second favourite pizza! i loved the chorizo which was moist and juicy – the perfect addition to a simple tomato and mozzarella base. so good.
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6. tomato, garlic, oregano, capers, olives, anchovies & mozzarella – £6.70
i quite like anchovies and olives so i enjoyed this! but i can imagine that they are things that not everyone likes, so this might not be a hit for all. the anchovies added a nice saltiness and together with the capers and olives, i thought this was a pizza with very strong and satisfying flavours! my third favourite of the day.20131121_133158

ultimately, i think the highlight of the pizzas at franco manca is definitely the crust – it is light, tasty, and crisp on the outside but delightfully fluffy inside. thin and with just the right amount of bite (i hate it when crusts are super thin and you end up feeling like you’re having something close to flatbread), i think you can’t go very far wrong with your order since all the toppings end up on the same amazing base.

your choice of toppings is really a matter of personal preference, and they a good range of options 🙂 i definitely preferred the tomato-based ones though; thought they were tastier and hence more satisfying/hearty. all the toppings used are also top quality – most of them are sourced directly from italy, and i thought the difference is taste was definitely noticeable. all this at an extremely affordable price too!

franco manca occupies a very bright, pleasant and relatively big dining space (turnaround time is quite quick so even if you have to queue, you probably won’t have to wait too long!) that is perfect for a casual lunch along TCR. food is great and service is good too, so i will definitely be returning, especially given the very reasonable prices. its probably going to be quite a hit with all the ucl students in the area; it has certainly already won over my friends and i 😉

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remnants of the lunch crowd

Franco Manca

98 Tottenham Court Road
London W1T 4TR

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The French Riviera & its glorious food

one million apologies for the updates drought!!!

life has been one mad rush since exams ended (and I posted about my celebratory end-of-exams meal) – 2 of my bestest friends were in town, and not only did we explore London together, we also had a short escapade in the French Riviera!!! when we got back, 1) housing woes struck (#2ndyearproblems) 2) I had less than a week to pack my entire first year life into boxes/luggages and move out of hall 3) I went to Panama on an 11 day volunteering trip!

met my family in london after panama, and am now typing this post from a hotel room in beautiful Rome. true story. like I said, life has been a mad mad rush since exams ended, but I suppose its a (largely) happy problem.

its been so long; where so I begin?! guess i’ll start with foodie adventures with some of my favourite people in the world in beautiful South of France 🙂
IMG_20130522_161843unfortunately i don’t think I remember all of the names of the restaurants we ate at; i really should have noted them down somewhere 😦 next time I will!!!

my favourites out of all the food we ate in france:

1. smoked salmon cream cheese pizza: we had this for our first lunch of the trip, which was at beautiful eze village. it turned out way better than any of us expected i think! its been a while but i still remember how it was one amazing, gooey mass(/mess hahaha) of cheese-y goodness. on top of the regular cheese that goes on the tomato base on the pizza, the thin crust was loaded with cream cheese and finally topped with salmon. SO. GOOD. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. seafood risotto: i LOVED the meal we had at this restaurant near our hotel. unfortunately i can’t remember its name but if any of you really want to go if you happen to be travelling to nice, its along the main shopping/restaurant stretch near place massena and it’s the only restaurant there with a tripadvisor sticker in its window!!! (which is why we chose it) (i am truly a believer in tripadvisor stickers when i travel– i think they’re normally the sign of something at least average to above average!!!)

the servings were huge and service was really friendly! we had seafood risotto, spinach & cream cheese ravioli and a beef pasta thing. they were ALL good, but if i had to pick a favourite, i’d probably pick the seafood risotto! it was of the perfect consistency – neither too dry nor too wet, and there was a delicious prawn-y taste in every bite. the rice was also done perfectly for risotto, not too hard or too soft, and the seafood was sweet, juicy & fresh.

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20130522210242160 2013052221224591920130522_210015(photobombing waiters are always welcome hahahaha)

3. azzuro gelato: read that it’s the best gelato in nice on tripadvisor and though we didn’t try many others, i’m still inclined to believe so after trying it!!! its by a nice little square in the old town and they have a HUGE range of flavours but don’t worry – you can get cones with up to 10 scoops if you can’t decide 😉 i had the tiramisu and something with berries (something like raspberry ripple but i can’t remember exactly what it was anymore L) and they were both really good. very creamy and smooth! i found some of the flavours (candy-bar inspired ones) which I tried before deciding on the 2 I chose were too sweet though! j and l got nutella, pistachio, chocolate etc and we were all happy kids. so happy that we returned the next day to get more heehee20130524_13270920130524_132937OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

4. pastries from random boulangeries: france was croissant heaven and we had amazing croissants, brioches and other similar pastries for breakfast every day!!! they were so. good. and so cheap too. most of the legitimately local bakeries you find in the old town/along random streets sell them for between 1-2 euros and we didn’t have any bad ones over the few days we were there. who needs fancy & overpriced stuff like paul in singapore/london??? J was particularly pleased with her plain butter croissants – going back to basics is always best (Y)20130523091801725OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsuper yummy chocolate brioche ahhh take me back now please!!!

L giving legit local bakeries her stamp of approval:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAchocolate croissant in all its amazing buttery & flaky glory

5. crepes: we had amazing crepes for lunch on the day we were in st paul de vence! we sat in this little cave-like opening off a quaint little alley and enjoyed an apple cinnamon crepe and another savoury buckwheat one with goat cheese, fig stew, ham, and pine cone kernels (??). the apple cinnamon one was good, but I didn’t find it particularly special or unique since you can get that at creperies worldwide. i REALLY liked the savoury one though. i know it looks pretty ordinary in the picture but it was really delicious. loved how the crepe batter was buckwheat and the yummy goats cheese that went well with the ham, while the pine nuts added bite and the figs just made it perfect!!! j and l found the taste of the goat cheese a little too strong for their liking though.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6. Jean Luc Pele, Antibes: stumbled into this shop while roaming the streets of antibes. we were taken in by their fancy, hunger pang-inducing shop display – check it out!!! j tried their macaroons, l had a giant macaroon, and I decided to go for something chocolate-y since chocolate seemed to be their specialty. they were all good! the macaroons were above average (though my ultimate favourite macaroon maker is still pierre herme (more on that later)!!!) and what was really cool was the CHOCOLATE CAVE in their shop. we didn’t even realise it was chocolate on the walls and ceiling (too busy stuffing our faces with sweet treats) until we started scrutinising the writings that were carved into the walls. worth a visit if you’re in antibes!
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CHOCOLATE CAVE!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgorgeous treatsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

7. beef carpaccio at café bianco in nice: we read about this restaurant run by a french man and his Japanese wife in easyjet’s travel magazine on the flight to nice, and were so pleased when we discovered that the restaurant was right round the corner from our hotel. it’s a simple and quaint little place where the daily menu is written on a little blackboard that the wife takes to your table for you to check out. we had an amazing cheese toast as appetiser, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
and the beef carpaccio as main:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAit was a huge plate for each of us but we finished every bit of it – sliced and lightly seasoned to perfection! L isn’t a fan of beef (especially raw beef!) so she opted for a fish + zucchini spaghetti thing from their a la carte menu. what was interesting about it was that there wasn’t actually any noodle in it at all… after a few bites we realised that the “spaghetti” was actually all shredded zucchini/cucumber/similar veggies. it was reallynicely presented but besides how fresh the fish was, i personally felt that it didn’t taste exceptional! in fact, it kind of tasted like an asian stir fry (japanese influence?) with quite a heavy sauce that I thought didn’t go that well with the lightness of the fresh fish! but we enjoyed the meal thoroughly nonetheless!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
oh yes and the wedges were to die for:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(at this point I must interject and just mention a tiny detail – I never got to finish this post in rome; I am now on a cruise ship on the Aegean sea! we left Istanbul this afternoon and will be in kusadasi tomorrow morning! really exciting times, and LOTS of good food on board. a post for another day!!!)

8. our dinner in cannes. one of my favourite dinners of the trip, besides the fact that the waitress was completely racist and unprofessional, making faces behind our backs (which she thought we did not notice) and exchanging snooty glances with her colleagues. it was totally uncalled for and we were so mad and super close to just walking out but thankfully we didn’t because the food was great! the olives we started with were really sweet and juicy, followed by this mysterious bread + cheese + dip combo which they brought to our table though we didn’t order it and didn’t see any other table having it (we decided that they must have noticed how disgusted we were with their service and the free food was a peace offering HAHA) which was so. good.
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for starters we had an amazing salad (with huge pear slices, walnuts, parma ham, cheese, really fresh salad leaves & tomatoes)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand an interesting fish soup! It was surprisingly not too fishy, and we could actually taste bits of fish in it.. quite interesting and reminded me of the fish soup i’ve had in norway! the mains were not particularly exceptional, though the fries that came with the beef were quite interesting! really thinly sliced potato strips that were perfectly fried. the oil used was definitely fresh and the fries weren’t dripping with oil – legit FRENCH fries (Y).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdessert was unsurprisingly, amazing – profiteroles and a yummy panna cotta in all its wobbly goodness heehee.
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(are you drooling yet???)

9. last but certainly not least, the one thing nobody should ever leave france without having – PIERRE HERME MACARONS. 20130525_140622i know of people who prefer laduree (I beg to differ!!!), but my family has always thought pierre herme does them BEST since having them in paris a few years back and being completely taken in by their interesting flavours like mandarin + olive oil, truffle & coing + rose! i now have to make treks to Selfridges before heading home over school breaks to get my hands on these sweet treats so my sister and mum can get their fix. we inhaled 7 macarons right after lunch (and before stopping for tea in a cookie café) and i had what is probably my favourite macaron flavour ever – green tea & black sesame. 20130525_140201OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IT WAS SO GOOD – the ultimate combination in my eyes (i can never resist having those 2 flavours of ice cream in Japanese restaurants heehee)! they even had white sesame seeds on the top and ahhh it was so so good, though i know the pictures don’t exactly make it look particularly mouth-watering! the other flavours were also yummy, and i think on a whole pierre herme in france is even better than pierre herme in london – seriously good stuff.
just casually snapping pictures of food in place massena (typical asians and proud of it wahahaha):
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okay i think this post has gone on long enough but before i go, i shall leave you with some of my favourite snapshots of our amazing little escapade – good food and great company, what more could you ask for? 🙂

view from the top of eze village – 20130522112833091

antibes beach –
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in nice – 20130524122307367

sunset in cannes – 20130524201346886

till next time 🙂 bisous!!!

ps. back in london after the cruise with the family and will be heading home to singapore really soon! more travel posts to come; watch this space 😉

La Nonna, Singapore

checked out this italian restaurant on a tuesday afternoon, and we enjoyed an amazing 50% off the food bill (an ongoing offer they have at their outlet at namly place)!!! good food + great company + amazing discount + parallel parking success outside the restaurant = three happy girls.

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we had a late lunch at 130 and were the only customers when we arrived. they (rather unhappily; probably weren’t expecting any more customers for lunch) told us they were closing at 230pm but that didn’t deter us one bit! good food awaited us and we were ravenous!

the meal started with some bread rolls which were nicely warmed up.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the first thing we ordered was a crabmeat linguine in creamy tomato sauce – this wasn’t on the menu but my friend requested it and they were more than willing to do it for us, which was nice. it was very good! the crab was fresh and they were generous with it – definitely not shredded up frozen crabsticks or anything of that sort. the sauce was also great, it had a cream base but was light and of a great consistency – thicker than normal tomato-based sauces but not too thick at all!
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we also ordered their signature pizza which had tomato, mozzarella, parmesan, asparagus, egg and black truffle – it was a really delicious combination and this is something i would go back to la nonna for! not just because i LOVE truffle, but also because of the wet egg yolk (MY FAVOURITE OMG), asparagus and the thin crust! it was a light pizza and something very different from what you’d get from the commercialised pizza chains – the usual oily, unhealthy, processed pepperoni/pineapple/ham stuff.
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the third thing we ordered was the gnocchi. i can’t remember exactly what went into the sauce, but it was cream-based with a touch of lemon zest. we agreed that we preferred antoinette’s version of gnocchi in cream sauce (though that one seems to be heavier), but this was not too bad either! the gnocchi was soft and quite fluffy, and the sauce was not too gelat (i realise i use this word a lot hahaha but it is really the most apt thing i can think of in many situations!!!).
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the servings were pretty big so by the time we got to dessert, we only had space for 1 to share – the panna cotta, which was really really good, and quivering away in all its wobbly goodness! it was extremely well done, and we derived great excitement from watching the wobbly tower threaten to collapse as the waitress brought it to our table. it was light, creamy and of the perfect texture – a great rendition of a classic italian dessert!
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total bill: SGD42 (after 50% discount – AMAZING DEAL)

who i would recommend this to: people who drive as the namly outlet is pretty inaccessible  on foot. an alternative would be to go to the holland village outlet which is a lot more convenient to get to via public transport, but the offer there is a 1-for-1 offer instead of a 50% one. a place for a nice, casual, leisurely lunch with food that’s of a good quality and great value for money when the discount is available for lunch on weekdays!

will i be back? will definitely go back to enjoy the great savings at lunch and if i’m craving italian food!

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La Nonna
76 Namly Place
Singapore 267226

Singapore Foodspam

I AM IN HEAVEN.

Singapore = food, food and more food. And not just any food – amazing, delectable, delicious, mouth-watering, wonderful, sensational, marvellous, FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD.

this is the look i permanently have on my face:Image

one of sheer joy and excitement. my eyes light up like the high beam lights on my car when i see food. food from SINGAPORE. food from HOME.

took a while to get down to writing this post because i had some issues transferring pictures from my phone to my computer but its all been sorted now, so here i am!!!

been eating heaps since i got back and this post is 1) proof of that and 2) basically going to be a picture spam – you have been warned!!! after all, a picture paints a thousand words 😉

so, let’s begin.
random delicious things i have eaten since getting back (and this isn’t even half of it):

1. bak kut teh from my favourite bkt shop in singapore for dinner on the first day i got back! it is seriouslyyy good stuff, but its the herbal and not the peppery sort so it really depends on what type you like; this may not be your cup of tea! for those who are interested though, you can get some amazing piping-hot Klang-style bak kut teh at:

Leong Kee (Klang) Bak Kut Teh
321 Beach Road

don’t forget to add yew char kway (aka you tiao) and some salted veggies to your order! 😉20130324_190638the braised pigs trotters were yummy too!!! check it out – bubbling away…20130324_190801

2. i’ve also had countless cups of bubble tea – what’s new? for those who know me well enough, you’ll know that i love this drink so much that i worked at a bubble tea shop for a few months while waiting to enter uni last year. during the interview when they asked me why i wanted to work there, i simply said “I LOVEEEEE BUBBLE TEA”, and i think it must have been the unmistakeable sparkle in my eye and quickened rate of speech (due to sheer excitement of talking about my favourite drink) that landed me the job 😉

i do have my favourites – honey milk tea with pearls/grass jelly milk tea/fresh milk tea/milk tea with pudding+grass jelly+pearls (yes i am a milk tea kind of person!) but i generally drink alllll kinds of bubble tea and love checking out random new stores that pop up all over the place just to suss out which ones serve the real deal 😉
TIP: Toa payoh central currently has a grand total of 5 (or more???) bubble tea stores. perfect for a bubble tea drink trail? hahaahah.
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3. finally tried plain vanilla cupcakes from holland village after hearing so much about them – and i think they are definitely better than the ones at twelve cupcakes!!! maybe it was the outlet of twelve cupcakes i went to, or maybe they were having a day where their cakes were a little off, but i was unimpressed when i tried the cupcakes at twelve cupcakes! i found the cake too dry and more like a muffin than a cupcake, whereas at plain vanilla, their cupcakes are denser and more moist – how i think a cupcake should be!
get some at:

Plain Vanilla Bakery

34A Lorong Mambong
Holland Village20130326_145606
4. i am a fruit monster. and i am so happy to be back home getting to eat all my yummy tropical fruits (okay not everything in this picture is local, but look at the mangosteens and dukus!!!). here’s what happened when my sister and i went shopping for fruits when i first got home:
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5. amazing leafy, green, fresh & proper asian vegetables:
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didn’t realise how much i missed my legit asian veggies till i saw what my mother brought home from the market. think she got a little excited at the prospect of me being home and went all out with the marketing hahaha! but i’m not complaining.

6. bread – nothing that i can’t get in london but still good good food nonetheless:
freshly-baked fruit & nut loaf from baker & cook, a lovely little shop near my place, perfect for me to pop by for some good bread!

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Baker and Cook
77 Hillcrest Road

more yummy breads, from Maison Kayser this time – orange bread (L) and fig bread (R)! YUMMY.20130401_093631

7. something i grew up on and will always love – $1 ice cream from the pushcarts along orchard road! my standard order: attap chee ice cream in bread!!! i’ve always found it strange how people don’t know that these uncles sell attap chee ice cream; i’ve had to convince many disbelieving friends that attap chee ice cream does exist, these uncles do sell it, and YES, they have whole attap chees inside!!! hahaha. this uncle’s cart is the one i patronise the most – outside taka, at the crossing that will bring you to paragon! (and yes, i was so excited to be back and eating it again that i took a picture with the uncle hahaahhaahha)20130327_201323a

8. made a trip to peperoni’s – always going to be one of my favourite restaurants along the stretch of eating places at greenwood! super yummy squid ink linguine that made me look like i was wearing black lipstick for the rest of the meal:
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i love the pizzas they do at pepperoni’s too; they have the GINORMOUS family-sized ones which are always exciting and what i love is that they can do 2 flavours on 1 pizza! my favourites are the suprema, parma ham, frutti de mare, and the pancetta, and omg, you HAVE to try the giant portobello mushroom appetizer if you are there – it is to die for, especially if you are a mushroom lover like i am!!!

Peperoni Pizzeria
6 Greenwood Avenue

9. my mum had a friend visiting from the states and we had a mini local food feast at home! it was all very exciting and satisfying – 20130329_193631
CHICKEN WINGS!!!20130329_195953
POPIAH PARTY!!!20130329_200714
MEE SIAM!!!
along with many other things – oyster omelette, satay, chicken rice, kueh pie tee etc etc etc! YUMZ. i think i might have been more excited than her visiting friend… hahahahaha

10. homecooked wonders: i am so lucky to have a maid that is an AMAZING cook at home. here’s some of the stuff she has whipped up since i’ve been back – i have decided that i shall write a post on her one day hahaha just to honour her cooking prowess and skillz.
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had some traditional teo chew style yu sheng, just because i didn’t get to toss any over CNY this year 🙂20130330_200354
okay she didn’t cook this – we had it delivered hahahaa but still yumzzz. and i was super intrigued by how the pig is SMILING.. do you see it too!?!?20130330_204852
steamed fishhhh – something i have missed!!!20130330_205345
liver cooked to perfection – credit goes to my mum for this!!!
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my all-time favourite chinese soup – lotus root and peanut soup! omg i could eat bowls and bowls and bowls of this.20130331_195955tau suan!!! one of my favourite local desserts. she makes a mean pulut hitam too (Y)20130325_121626simple homecooked noodle soup with ikan bilis and an egg done just the way i like it – ah, how good it is to be home!!!

11. tau huay – lots and lots and lots of it. 20130330_212731

12. sugar cane juice!!! oh how i have missed you.20130331_132052

12. ngoh hiang – ALL-TIME FAVE, especially the prawn cracker (Y)20130331_132527

13. my favourite breakfast from ghim moh market – thosai/appam/soya bean milk20130403_082222

14. MEE JIANG KUEH – from my favourite stall, also at ghim moh market!!! its the best, srsly. 20130403_083434
okay i think i should stop now – i really apologise for the picture spam; i think i might have gotten a little carried away… but this is already a whittled down selection of food!!! i still have several individual places that i have visited and want to write about, and will get down to that soon and update when i am not stuffing my face or burying my head in books (who am i kidding – that has not been happening much at all) and hence have the time to write a proper post (like tonight when i decided that property law was just not happening for me 😦 as my friend very appropriately asked – “are you studying or eating???” )

till then, HAPPY EASTER, EVERYONE!!!

much love,
rach (& her growing food baby)