Through the Senses – SINGAPORE #fieldtrip

For years, I have spent my holidays at home as we plan out our menu for our Christmas dinner. It’s traditionally grand. We cook food that usually lasts us AT LEAST three days (not even joking). 2016’s Christmas was a very different setting though. With all the changes that happened on the first two quarters of the year, we were led to having our feet touch an unfamiliar land to celebrate Christmas. So, having the spirited food enthusiast inside of me, I just had to make sure that I got my camera ready, lists of must-try foods and some comfortable shoes for all the walking (and eating) that I’ll be doing. I just cannot miss the good food the world has to offer, and this time, from the fast-paced world of Singapore.

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Wide roads, high rise buildings and people of different races immediately faced me as we were on our way to our accommodation for our short stay in Singapore. Having been so used to the crowded streets and roads of Manila, Singapore effortlessly struck me with its fast-paced lifestyle that definitely rubs off on foreigners who come in to their rather small but packed vicinity. We arrived at Changi Airport a couple of hours before dawn of Christmas Eve. I knew there was so much in store for us so a good rest was just too perfect.

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Christmas Eve, I woke up to a very chilly morning that was screaming for a holiday-style breakfast and steamy morning bath. With our friends having kilos of Excelente ham, which is very prominent in the Philippines especially during the holidays (BUT BOY, 1,300.00 PER KILO SHOULD GIVE YOU GOOD MEAT), I thought it’s not a bad idea to have it glazed and serve it with sunny side up eggs with runny yolks (CHOLESTE-ROLLIN’). Besides, what better way to have our Christmas Eve breakfast than having legit ham, right? So if my first morning in Singapore was any indication of how my food trip in their land would turn out, I definitely should have known that it wouldn’t be less than interesting.

SENSES OVERWHELMED

I flew to Singapore with no expectations at all which was very much unlike when we flew to see Bangkok. I knew I was in for possibly the most interesting food trips of my life then so it was different setting in Singapore. I may have had bits of information and probably small hints of how it would be but there was no clear expectation. And that is probably the exact reason why I was so overwhelmed every time I see stalls serving food I haven’t seen or heard my entire life. My feet just wanted to keep walking just to see how far I’ll go while following the food stalls lined up in most of the areas we went to.

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Just across the place we stayed in were series of hawkers serving pretty legit Cantonese food. I couldn’t complain. I was raised in a household that deeply celebrates Chinese (and a little Cantonese) cooking so my system may never hate it. My first shot at Singapore’s food was a clear soup with dumplings served with a smaller bowl of flat egg noodles in a rather sweet sauce (very much like the sauce of the canned pork and beans we have in here in the Philippines). It was simple and straightforward food. Maybe nothing special too, but for 3 dollars (SGD), how can I demand for more? At the late afternoon of Christmas Eve and the sun shining like it normally does in our country, I found myself craving for something sweet — and cold (or literally just anything I could eat). We were in the middle of the Chinatown near Bugis station so I was in a crazy line of food stalls (unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any of them anymore) where we found a small place that served bing su (a Korean shaved-ice based dessert). I ordered Passion Fruit flavored bing su and Red Bean Rice Balls. The bing su was nothing special but the rice balls were pretty good. I’d love to write about everything I ate in Singapore but I want to minimize the length of this post so I’ll be writing that in a different entry!

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CONVERSION MADNESS

If there was any problem that I faced whenever I ordered food, it was my innate sense of converting currencies. The conversion of our local money with Singapore’s is at (approximately) 43PHP to 1SGD. So, obviously, foods priced more than 20SGD is already a huge deal for me. I kept telling myself to stop converting currencies because I wouldn’t get to enjoy my food trip if I’ll always focus on finding how much it costs in the Philippines but I just couldn’t fight the urge to. Much more since we were running on a slightly budgeted trip so I needed to make sure that I do not overspend on food.

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BUT this does not mean that foods in Singapore are generally expensive. Of course there are pricey ones but if you’re just zealous enough then you’d definitely find food at really good deals. For example, there is this hawker near our place that already went down as one of my most favorite food places of all time. It was simple, nothing grand but really good. Reminiscent of the kind of food my mom prepares during celebrations back when we were kids. For about 50SGD you’ll already get 4 different Cantonese dishes (and I mean really good ones) with really good servings.

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So, the point is, if you want to get more out of your money, you just have to keep looking for places with good food with good prices. That means walking along the streets, maybe searching online and basically not eating at first options right away. There’s even this considerably cheap Michelin-star restaurant along Chinatown near Bugis station (but you may have to tolerate a pretty long queue). That’s definitely a good sign!

VIVID DIVERSITY

We spent about 4 full days in Singapore and I know that there’s definitely a lot more to extract out of their culinary identity. Walking the streets, you will be caught following aromas of foods being cooked that are rooted from different neighboring countries and some Western and European influences as well. It is not difficult to be overwhelmed as that would be the exact thing that could happen to anyone who would dare to understand Singapore’s diverse culinary gems. Within the span of 4 days however, I understood Singapore’s culinary identity as something that flows according to the people’s lifestyles. Foods are cooked fast and customers consume their food even faster. Most of the time, the food, regardless of its roots, aren’t too difficult to understand. They’re straightforward in terms of how they’re served but definitely complex during the preparations. Having different nations (on my observation mostly Indians and Chinese folks, so Malaysians too!) contribute to the population of their country, it is understandable that their culinary heritage has also adapted the culinary traditions of these varied cultures.

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I’ve been told that Singapore has very little to no exporting power (correct me if I’m wrong) so it’s incredible how they managed to climb up the ladders of a powerful country while relying largely on their business sectors. And that idea is very evident not just in their lives, their ethics, their habits but also in their way of enjoying food! My stay was short but packed with good food finds. I’m definitely going back soon to try out more food but my next destination (or destinations *wink*) is really interesting too!

MARCIANO’S NIGHT!

My holiday celebrations finally started last Saturday with a dinner I arranged with few of my college block mates. To be honest, we didn’t decide on where to eat before we met up at the mall in Makati so deciding where to eat that night was considerably spontaneous. While I was waiting for them to arrive (COS THEY WERE ALL LATE, LIKE 3 HOURS LATE… I AM NOT KIDDING) I had a couple of hours to spare to check some good places around although I really didn’t get to explore the whole area as there were a lot of people there (it’s Saturday night so you know what I mean). When nearly half of the people I expected to join for dinner arrived, I made sure to encourage them to decide where to eat already. We roamed around for a bit but ended up eating at Marciano’s at the second level of Greenbelt 3.

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Their place wasn’t too filled with people yet but by the time the rest of our bunch arrived, it was so full already that the area where we were eating had nearly no space left for walking servers. The interiors were home-y enough which my good friend and I would rate on a scale of “1 to Mary Grace home-y” at around 6 or 7.

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We ordered two 16″ pizzas for everyone to share and I ordered their Shirley Temple Truffle Mushroom Burger  for myself which was layers of bun, lettuce, tomatoes, burger patty, cheese and mushrooms (in what seemed like light coating of truffle oil), and served with potato wedges. The patty was pretty straightforward as I didn’t get any prominent spices from it which I would always prefer than “overly dressed” patties. At first, I thought the truffle oil was a little too overwhelming but trying out all the components together (LIKE HOW I SHOULD HAVE EATEN IT IN THE FIRST PLACE, I KNOW… I KNOW) mellowed it down quite a bit. The bun they used were almost similar to the dough bakers use for Ensaymada (not too familiar with it) which seemed a little unusual for me but it wasn’t much of an issue to be bothered about.

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The burger wasn’t my first choice though. I wanted to get either their Houston Porchetta or 200-gram Beef Tenderloin with Sausage which were unfortunately unavailable that time. To sway away from my frustrations, I ordered Marciano’s Spinach, Artichoke and Mushroom Dip that was served with a couple of crostini. The spinach, artichoke and mushroom as fully softened and disintegrated leaving a rather smooth texture that just fits so well with the creaminess of the sauce. Their crostini were a little staler than I’d hope and I definitely missed a little of that olive oil taste you’d normally baste the bread with when drying it off.

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We finished the crostini before the dip so I tried to slather the potato wedges that were served with my burger on the dip and boooy it worked so well together. That was as if I didn’t have enough food yet considering the pizzas (Spinach Prosciutto and Truffle Mushroom) I ate PLUS the servings of Joey Tribbiani Meat Lasagna (yes, a friend told me it’s a F.R.I.E.N.D.S. reference) I got to try. The pizzas were okay and to be honest, the lasagna wasn’t too great but I totally like how they stayed true to a typical and straightforward lasagna. Besides, meat sauce, bechamel and loads of cheese are enough to drool over right?

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Closing the night out, I asked for a glass of Sangria which I ended up not finishing up. I am trying to get myself get used to wines and other liquors so I could hopefully understand them better in the future but I’m just not quite there yet.

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Over-all, the experience was great. The whole feel of their place in Greenbelt 3 wasn’t too overwhelming and the interiors surely encouraged people to stay in and get some good conversations going. The price range maybe on the expensive side specially for students with meals ranging from as low as 300.00 to as high as 1,500.00 (goes nearly the same for their drinks and liquors). I personally wouldn’t mind spending some money considering the warmth of the place which is definitely a nice haven to catch upwith friends and/or family (OR maybe romantic dates with special someone). Also, that night I got to catch-up with few of my really good friends, celebrate a rather fruitful year and had a toast for the years after. So there really wasn’t anything that could make the experience less than appropriate. What a way to kick off the holiday celebrations!
Just a tip: they have pretty decent portions for their meals. Their solo option for pasta may be more than enough for one (*coughs* my sister) so choosing the right meals to share could definitely make your experience their a little less pricey. 
Marciano's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

VEGETARIAN WHO?!

I know I have talked about this before (maybe a little more than I should) but now that I’m getting close to some real holiday celebrations, I might as well write something about it again.
About three months (?) ago, I decided to get into something I never thought I’d ever get myself into. I’ve always been an absolute carnivore and it’s always been a struggle to eat vegetables. But having a small part of me that is always curious over a lot of things which leads me to try different stuff on the most random times, I ended up deciding on getting myself into vegetarianism.

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If you’ve been with me since I started the journey, you should know how days went and how much of a struggle the first few days have been. I must admit that right now, this whole system’s not too difficult for me anymore. Yes, there are days when I find it hard to find something to eat but I have this new found excitement to find good food without meat (exploring different food places is super fun too). BUT as exciting as the last few months have been, I know I cannot forgive myself if I let the holidays pass without enjoying the celebrations completely. And honestly, I don’t think I would enjoy the celebrations to the fullest if I would continue depriving myself of meat.

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So with all the holiday dinners, vacations and (possibly) family reunions that are lined up for the weeks ahead, I just know that I need to allow myself to eat meat again. But that does not go without any challenge at all. The challenge for me would be to control the amount of food I’ll be taking in. I have lost a good amount of weight already (blog for that coming soon) so I need to make sure that I don’t gain them back just because I allowed myself to eat meat for a couple of weeks. I don’t know how the next few weeks would go but you can bet that I cannot wait to enjoy the celebrations with all the meat already. I’ll think about how I’ll transition back to vegetarianism (or if I would) once the celebrations are all over. I honestly can’t be bothered to think about right now.

So for the next three (?) weeks ahead, I’ll try my best to write about how the festivities would go for me. Hopefully, I’ll get to sneak in some exciting food features in between too! Right now, I need to start calming myself down because my carnivorous self is just so ready to be unleashed!

 

GIFs are from giphy.com

 

Day 21 – GREAT EATING DAY!

I may have totally forgotten to mention that I do not put myself into a kind of system like intermittent fasting when I know I’m up for a crazy and rough day(s) ahead. So yesterday wasn’t a case of cutting of food. I just really didn’t get to eat as much as I should because time simply didn’t permit it. Today’s been entirely different though. I mean, how can you go wrong when you begin your day with buffet breakfast? I know buffet food can often compomise the quality of their food just to be able to provide a variety of food stuff but what I had was actually good. They had a lot of vegetarian-friendly choices like their vegetable omelette and mushroom bam-i. But more than anything, I specifically loved their pumpkin soup. I have tried way better pumpkin soups but I loved the addition of thyme. It changed the whole body of it! I’ll try doing that the next time I make my own at home.

 

I had my lunch later than I should but it was well worth it. I saw a blog that listed 7 of Singapore’s best ramens and luckily, one of the ramen included in the list has a store located just within Mall of Asia Complex. I tried exactly what the article wrote about. Uma Uma’s Mazesoba. It’s not the soup kind which makes it less filling than most of the ramens I have tried. It had onsen egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, spring onions and sesame seed and all those just made up to the missing meat broth or chasiu that’s a usual part of more famous ramen bowls. It was worth hunting for and I’d definitely go back with friends to get it once more (maybe add another onsen egg next time?).

 

Since I had my lunch late, I don’t feel like eating anything soon but I’ll still probably order some in a bit since I have a long night ahead but I’ll be ending this here. CAN WE JUST TAKE NOTE THAT IT HAS BEEN 3 WEEKS IN THIS SYSTEM ALREADY? I know I’m not like on absolute vegetarianism yet (this does not mean I eat meat though) but this has gotten into my lifestyle already so it’s becoming less and less difficult to pull through. So that’s nice! Watch out for a new kind category that will be coming up soon.

Day 16 – FEELING BETTER!

Last night was a totally depressing night for me. I realized I wasn’t losing weight (maybe because I weighed right after having my dinner) although I knew that I was feeling otherwise. However, when I woke up earlier I was feeling more motivated than ever. I prepared Tomato and Pesto Pasta which I didn’t get to eat until 1 in the afternoon because I am on a 16-hour fasting. So you can only imagine how difficult that was. I got to eat the pasta when I was already in the food court of Glorietta 4 where I was set to have a meeting with a client. I looked for something to pair it with so I strolled around their food court for a couple of times before (hesitantly) deciding to just get a short order of Chop Suey from a Chinese food place there. The pairing’s unconventional, that’s for sure, but I did enjoy it. I specifically loved that usual Chinese taste you’ll only get when the stir fry’s done well in a wok. Absolutely loved the fact that the vegetables weren’t overcooked too. It’s a little pricey but I was satisfied with it so I could care less.

 

Right after the meeting, I had a couple of hours left to spare before meeting up with my college friends (one of them ditched us so boo!). I worked at the Starbucks branch at Greenbelt 5 (I think?) where people don’t seem to runout. You know Christmas is nearing when Starbucks is getting more and more packed everyday. I haven’t really tried their holiday drinks so maybe I should get some of those soon. I heard the peppermint based frappe is pretty good, I’ll definitely try that out. So at around 7 in the evening, my college bud arrived and we decided to eat at this katsu place (I forgot to get the name). I got their Udon which was on a nice clear soup served with cabbage, corn, pickled cucumber (I think) and some tempura batter crumbs. The servings were too big I didn’t even finish my udon (but I may have had 3 or 4 servings of cabbage). They also served this infused water which was a lot more like tea than water lol. I didn’t get to ask what it was but I tasted some toasted sesame in it. Over-all, it’s definitely a good place to eat at and I’ll make sure to come back soon to take photos of the food and the place so I can share it with you guys.

 

For some reason, this day has been full of stress but I didn’t feel sad or anything bad at all. I guess I just get super GV when Christmas is getting closer. The kid that’s still very much inside of me is getting very happy so you can bet I’m excited as hell for the holidays (especially now that Halloween’s over). As you may know, I am in a series of serious stress lately because of previous and succeeding projects which would run until the end of November  (so far) but the stress isn’t getting into me in a bad way at all. Now, I’m starting to get sad thinking about my plans of taking a 5-day to week-long break from this diet when we leave the country over the holidays. But, that’s still more than a month from now so I still have a good amount of time to get myself immersed in this whole system more and hopefully, soon enough, I will (and we will) see some noticeable changes already. Power pushing!

Day 12 – SLEPT ALL DAY!

That’s just about it. If you’ve been following my blog (few of you thus, so if you haven’t PLEASE follow) you’ll know how stressful the last week has been. Most especially, the last few days of it. I was tired both physically and mentally so I was really looking forward to this 4-day weekend so I can rest up good. Waking up, I didn’t struggle as much as I thought in terms of coping up with the fact that I am living alone. My sister just left last night and my mom’s on a vacation so I’m pretty much living alone until Tuesday. I don’t think they’re all too worried primarily because I believe parents are mostly just concerned about what their kids are going to eat whenever they leave. And that isn’t an issue at all. I actually had a couple of situations before that I cook up better food when I’m alone. Of course, making do with whatever’s on our storage. This time, however, it’s much different. What we had in store are different kinds of meat which I am obviously staying away from so all I had to eat was that pancit bihon I cooked yesterday. I tried adding some of the curry sauce I had left over my pancit and it tasted good so that’s all I ate for the entire day (plus that Halo-Halo from Chowking because it was a very hot day).

 

Anyway, aside from the fact that I slept around 4 or 5 times today, I want to talk about my contemplations about how long I’ll be doing this whole vegetarian diet. When I woke up earlier, I randomly weighed myself and found out I was barely losing weight. Actually, I wasn’t. Maybe my brother’s right, this whole vegetarian kind of diet doesn’t fit our genes. But no. Again, it’s still too early. Maybe, just maybe, my body’s still adjusting. And also, I haven’t fully gotten myself into the whole system. When I say that, I don’t mean like I still eat actual meat. What I mean to say is, I am still lenient when it comes to eating foods with meat extracts (for lack of better word). For example, the pancit bihon I ate all day had some slices of pork BUT I didn’t eat the pork meat and patiently separated each of it. So yeah, I’m still on my second week so there’s still a good amount of leniency I am giving myself. Also, I need to mention again that our storage isn’t filled with vegetarian-friendly supplies/ingredients so it’s much harder to prepare something to eat that way. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get more vegetarian-friendly ingredients soon. And I think that I’m slowly getting used to this that I might be able to put in some physical work (exercises and workouts) in my daily schedule.

 

And there is another thing I was contemplating about earlier (and for a couple of days now actually). This December, we’re going somewhere outside the country. And I’m sure that by now, you guys understand that I’m sort of  trying to align myself with food bloggers or food enthusiasts(?). And I feel like I won’t be able to enjoy the food that is in the country we’re visiting if I’ll be on a strict diet like being vegetarian. See, when we went to Thailand last August, I literally ate whatever food I laid my eyes on. And I enjoyed it so much. So now that I’m going to a different country, I want to be able to enjoy the food there as much as I did in Thailand. It’s not that I think being vegetarian is boring and all. It’s actually fun (the stress, mostly).  But, I think we can all agree that a good part of understanding one country’s food culture is trying everything they have to offer (or as much as you can). From meats, to vegetables, to preserves or even their street foods, everything just calls for better understand. And I don’t want to compromise my trip there just because I am on a strict diet. I want to take good food shots as I eat them and I want to write about my experience there. That’s why I’m really considering taking a short break from this diet when we go there IF EVER I’m still on this whole vegetarian diet by that time.

 

There are really a lot of things to consider but time is the biggest factor I’m considering. I’ll go through this whole process and decide how I’ll go upon things. Especially now that I’m enjoying the stress of thinking about what to eat. Maybe soon, I’ll start sharing some recipes once I get to start cooking some of the food I have planned on cooking. It’s been fun 12 days, looking forward to more interesting stories definitely.