Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lamb Shank Biryani at Al-Tasneem

Most nights, when there're no specific food cravings, the man and I fall back to biryani. I really really dislike pizza, which is a food item the man likes. At least we can agree on biryani, and Gokul, for all those meals of default food.

We have been heading out to Al-Tasneem for its delicious lamb shank biryani. At S$15 for a portion, that giant bone spells happiness for the man. It's quite a large serving, and enough to share. Unless you're really hungry. Am less enthusiastic about the lamb. I've tried bits of it. It's always pretty tender and flavorful. I love the curry and the biryani though.

We usually get there about 8.30pm, and somehow discovered that often, this is a good timing because the kitchen would have trotted out a fresh batch of lamb shanks and rice at about this hour. There're also sides of vegetables, which are done usually crunchy. Surprisingly. Many times, these vegetables are mushy.

We haven't even ordered much of its other foods on the menu because there's nothing else we want to eat at this eatery. They have mutton biryani, but that's very different. Most nights, they offer a bee hoon goreng putih with ikan bilis. It's not the best though. I've had varying degrees of quality, but they aren't as delicious as those say, at the eateries next door. Heheh.

Al-Tasneem Halal Restaurant
709 North Bridge Road (on the corner of Jalan Pinang)
Singapore 198681
T: +65 6291 1781 or +65 6298 2047
Hours: 8am to 11pm daily

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Anti-Gravity Fun

Began anti-gravity classes at the gym. I love them! If not for V who has been raving about how awesome they are, I wouldn't have even tried them out. I'm beginning to discern the differences between the gym's anti-gravity aerial/yoga and anti-gravity pilates. Am still afraid of face-planting though. I'm not fully acquainted with the techniques or how to fully utilize those silk hammocks, so learning how to do that is half the fun.

These classes feel like comfortable massage sessions; they're way less grueling than my usual pilates sessions at a dedicated studio. Sure, the poses are familiar, some form of flexibility and the same upper body and core strength are required, but not too tough. In fact, it's helping me stretch out those tight hamstrings and hip flexors. There're over 1200 poses in the teacher-training manual anyway, so the instructors always throw in challenging modifications to certain poses for students keen to try. The silk hammocks act as a leverage for most movements, making them easier, requiring way less effort. Imagine doing those inversions on the Cadillac. My gawwd. There're Level II and III classes, or you could ditch this gym and head out to the pole and aerial fitness studios, but what for? These are fun. I want a stretch, not a mad challenge or to become an aerialist.

I honestly think everyone that should go for at least five individual pilates sessions at some point. A good Pilates instructor can help you so much with form, posture and alignment, identify weak spots and teach you how to utilize your muscles. Once you get that, you're good to go for any type of classes without straining anything. However, gym classes are done in groups, and won't have the benefits of an instructor helping you to isolate those muscles and work on them specifically. You're on your own. I use the gym for strength training and some semblance of cardio workouts on days when I just want to move a little more.

📷: V, who cheekily took a shot of my nice big printed butt.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lunch at Elemen元素

J efficiently got us out for lunch at Elemen元素. Opened by the people behind Koufu, the vegetarian fusion menu is very on-trend. Ermm, it's got a super similar concept to SUFOOD, including the set menus, especially in those rosemary breadsticks. The breadsticks even looked the same.

It doesn't really make sense to order a la carte, when a main is already S$16++. So we opted for the S$23.80++ five-course menu which included a drink and a dessert. My apple kale juice totally hit a spot. J's iced lychee green tea was a tad sweet.

There were appetizers, and starters of a spinach salad and a double-boiled maca soup. My main of salted egg pasta was fine! Wasn't salty enough. :PpppP J's main of edamame tofu with black truffle wild rice was delicious. I suppose you kinda need to like Chinese desserts- they were safe enough in the form of coconut-infused jelly with watermelon sorbet, and snow osmanthus with grass jelly. The portions were totally sufficient for me. Bigger stomachs might want to go for the eight-course set.

I liked the food! Whatever I had that day was low on salt and pretty tasty. But I didn't think they went low on sugar too. Ha! Lunch was good, and the company made it all the more delightful. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

These Sardonic Funny Stories

I know nothing about John Jodzio. But I was totally bowled over by his 17 short stories in 'Knockout' (2016). For once, Kindle blurbs didn't oversell this book. It's funny, quirky, dark, sarcastic and very clever. The endings of the grim and almost-bizarre stories are abrupt, and perhaps intentionally done so. (Reviews here, here and here.)

It's tough to pick a favorite. I re-read quite a few simply because they were so delicious. Most of the characters in this book are misfits in society, and yet remain hopeful. Title story 'Knockout' tells of how a recovering drug addict and his best rehab pal Tommy learn the secret of knocking animals and people out by squeezing this spot behind the neck. They tried to steal a tiger, and how in the end his father had to shoot the tiger when it tried to maul them. The whole story says a lot of one's choice of friends, and relationship with a stern father.

'Duplex' plays out like a mini television series. It's just bizarre. The protagonist meets an unfortunate roommate Jayhole who is an erstwhile bounty-hunter and tortures everyone with his practical jokes and refuses to let them move out, to the point of handcuffing them to the bed frame. They have one weird upstairs neighbor Caruso. Strange happenings ensued. The protagonist is only free of Jayhole when his past- his ex-wife and daughter caught up with him to hound him for maintenance and child support, and he fled.

In the end, I decided the best plan of attack to survive the next few weeks was to avoid Jayhole as much as possible. To make it harder for Jayhole to keep tabs on me, I started to climb in and out of my room through my window. When I was inside my room, I used a flashlight and moved around slowly, trying not to make my floorboards creak. At first I had a hard time adjusting to the darkness, but soon I became proficient at eating soup from a bowl I couldn't see and pissing into a Snapple bottle using only the faint light of the moon.

'Our Mom-And-Pop Opium Den' ostensibly talks about the competition between opium den versus a big-box opium den. The small shop is struggling to survive, and in need of a huge amount of cash injection to pay off bills and the mortgage. However, the sub-plot also takes a look at the relationship with the protagonist and his ill father, and their regular customers who haven't gone over to the big chain Opium Depot yet. It also reveals how he refused to be cowed or bribed by Opium Depot's big boss Windom to bow out of business. The father seems to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and might or might not have died when he 'attacked' Opium Depot's huge balloon gorilla mascot on the roof.

Our place looks almost exactly the same as when he opened the doors thirty years ago. Red and gold walls. Silk tassels hanging from every goddamn thing. I've worked the register since I was eight and for the last twenty years I've watched hundreds of people kill themselves slowly and convincingly. It makes me sad to think I probably won't get to see our current group of regulars meet their maker too. 
My father pushes dirty sheets into the washing machine, pulls clean ones from the dryer. Outside our doors, all bets are off, but inside here, he's still a huge help to me. Inside here, he can sometimes make me forget he forgets. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Coffee In A Chocolate Cone

It was just before lunch and I was at a random cafe getting a banana and a coffee when J's text came in. Went 'WTF' and stared up really hard at the microwave oven behind the cashier. (See reference to surveilance gadgets.)

How would she know where I was when I didn't update anything on social media or talked to anyone since waking up five hours ago?! I was a little busy to be staring at the phone anyway, till now. The text read, "Are you going to be in the Duxton area at lunch time by any chance?" Ehhhhh, yes, I was headed to Duxton Road in fifteen minutes.

J really really really wanted this coffee in a chocolate cone cup at MavRx Coffee Apothecary. She said it had been months since the tiny coffeeshop brought in these cone-cups. Obviously she wanted it enough to hightail out of the office downtown to get a caffeine injection. LOL. Needless to say, I was very impressed by her dogged determination to get a good cup of caffè latte. Never underestimate a caffeine craving.

I stop by MavRx rather often to get a to-go cup. I was happy to see the woman on a random date, and certainly didn't mind a second cup of coffee. Merrily strolled over to Duxton Road. It was only slightly past noon. Coffee was nutty and all chocolate. At S$10 a chocolate-cone-cup, this was dessert, totally. (Their regular coffee with milk is S$5.) It was good!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Fitness Goals

The friends and I have kinda stopped heading out for drinks. I've purposefully cut down on alcohol for the past two years. I think I'm doing pretty well. The friends are beginning to do that too, on the premise that we don't have fatty livers and any sudden medical conditions that have attacked the body as a catalyst for a renewed interest in upkeeping our fitness levels. We seem to want to do this as a pre-emptive measure.

When the friends and I try to match schedules for a meal this year, we keep hearing,

"I've got yoga. Can't do that timing. How about an hour later?" 
"I'm headed to the gym! How about tomorrow?" 
"I'm doing inversions today. Can't eat before. Can we do a late lunch?" 
"I'm tied for pilates. Can we shift lunch later? Or get a coffee earlier?" 
"I'll be all hot and sweaty after spin class. Can we do hawker centers or kopitiams?"

What's up with this year? It seems as though everyone has consciously allocated time for fitness pursuits of their choices. The only problem- we don't always want to do the same activities or head to the same type of gyms and studios. The gyms and studios we've signed up with also hold different cancellation policies, so it also depends on who's more flexible on the matter re-scheduling classes.

But we love one another and do want to meet. We either grudgingly trudge to the other's class just to check it out or take it as cross-training, or we shift schedules to meet for meals after whoever's classes. Long may this continue!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Nyonya Dry Mee Siam

When the friends told us to come over to the mother's house for dinner, we never say no. It's quite a treasured sort of invitation. 😍 However, we're a little hesitant because we know how much effort the mother puts in to get dinner on the table. She has help, of course, but still. The mother is a wonderful cook and feeds us non-stop through the years with a parade of delicious foods from her Peranakan kitchen, many of which we won't see or taste at the restaurants. Oof. 

Dinner was nyonya mee siam, ! Hurrah! Thick bee hoon was used for this round. If you like your mee siam dry like how I prefer it, then don't ladle so much gravy into the plate. Otherwise, feel free to soak it up. There was a full plate of ngoh hiang too. Every ingredient including the skin was homemade and fried just before we arrived. I really like this version- smaller than the average ngoh hiang, and it's more elegant because it's not chockfull of meat.

We found space to squeeze in the mom's dessert of dried beancurd and gingko nuts (白果腐竹雞蛋薏米糖水). It was served refreshingly chilled and not sweet! Wheeeee. While it isn't something I'm used to after meals, this sort of Cantonese style 糖水 dessert, I still slurped it up. When everything is homemade, this appreciative guest will not allow leftovers on the table.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Checking in at LeBoot Classes

I've always been highly resistant to doing cardio activities unless it's masked in some form of fun. UGH. Running, Tabata/HIIT, circuit or interval whatever-thingamajig, Spartan races and Crossfit are low on my list of preferred exertions. BUT I have to do some form of aerobic, anaerobic and plyometric exercises regularly before I step into my fourth decade and the body's hormones shift again. Whatever I do now is to cushion my body for a loss in bone density, the onset of potential osteopenia and osteoporosis.

My most hated exercises are mountain climbers, jumping jacks and burpees. Trainers simply love using these as warm-up. Yucks. I simply refuse to do them. Instead of running or jumping them, I walk. Hahahah. I love how Pilates already grounded my posture when it comes to climbs, push-ups and lifts. Those one-to-one Pilates sessions specifically targeted my weak spots. "Slide the shoulder blades down!""Lift the waistline!""Spiral your thighs!" These are reminders I take to every workout at the gym where I don't have the benefit of a personal trainer.

Got dragged out to a few sessions of LeBoot at the gym. It uses equalizers, or in this case, Lebert EQualizers. You jump, squat, dip, lift, pull, push, crawl and jog. How each session goes, is completely dependent on the trainer doing it. Some go for the cardio component, and some do a lot of core work, balancing and climbing. (Watch those videos on youtube! Plenty of good ones.)

The classes so far seem to hover mostly at beginner level to work on strength, agility and cardio. The intermediate and advanced levels look a lot like calisthenics, and well, yes, yoga or pilates moves, requiring loads of core and shoulders. I don't mind LeBoot as a form of heavier cardio workout. To me, a 45-minute LeBoot is almost as strenuous as a 50-minute class of barre or POP Pilates. :P These require an almost similar amount of exertion.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Farewell Cafe Pal

Before Cafe Pal permanently closed on 12 March 2017, I squeezed out an hour to hop in for lunch with Y. She loved its orange chiffon cake with chocolate sauce at the side. I'm not so keen on desserts, so my default foods there were always its clear tom yam soupphad thai and som tam (although it could be a lot more spicy). Many loved its basil minced chicken with rice and an egg sunny-side-up.

The nondescript no-firm identity quiet cafe was a perfect hideout in town. It's a great place to hang out in the middle of the afternoon too. Unpretentious. I've enjoyed its casual vibes for four years. I'll miss it. The cafe did good teas, and surprisingly decent caffè latte, chiffon and coconut cakes.

Although Cafe Pal was great company in my tea journey in those strange years, I'm glad that my memories of the cafe aren't just about tea or tea workshops. That would suck. I no longer even drink tea seriously and mostly avoid it. Those gorgeous refreshing fruit infusions aren't counted. Coffee is my preferred form of caffeine intake. It's the cafe's laid-back vibes and Thai food that I appreciated.

Cafe Pal's Thai food menu was supplied by Yhingthai Palace Restaurant just across the street. I haven't heard anything about Yhingthai Palace closing. So that's good. At least I still have one nice Thai restaurant to eat at. Apparently there's gonna be one last hurrah in April. I've no idea about the format or what sort of a party it is. Gotta check their Facebook page for updates.

Thanks for the awesome food and drinks, Victor and Claire. It's been a good run indeed. Happy holidays and all the best to your future endeavors!

The girls made me a bear! Y said it looked like a schnauzer. Heheh.