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A Chinese Banquet with the Olympus E-Ms and Pros
A typical Chinese wedding in Singapore typically comprises several segments: the Fetching of the Bride, Tea Ceremonies, a religious segment (e.g. a church wedding), followed finally by the evening banquet. Wedding photographers are routinely contracted to cover an entire day packed with these events, and it can run from as early as 6AM and non-stop all the way till 10PM, and they are also often even asked to find time in-between to put together a montage of photos taken in the morning so that they can be shown during the evening proceedings.
Dad recently had a fairly lavish 80th birthday celebration banquet at Wah Lok Cantonese Restaurant @ Carlton Hotel, the same hosting hotel and also restaurant when we had our own wedding banquet 10 years ago. To be fair though, we’ve been several times to Wah Lok over the years, since it’s one of the larger family’s favorite Chinese dining places, and the family knows some of the restaurant’s personnel well enough that we get pretty good service. All of our closest relatives and neighbors were invited to form four tables, and my role was the designate event photographer. Not a role I’m experienced in at all of course, but it was a fun opportunity to try a few new things, and perhaps also get a small degree of insight in to what banquet photographers do and the circumstances they work in.
The equipment outlay was pretty simple: both the E-M1 and E-M5, and both of the Olympus f2.8 pros: 12-40mm and 40-150mm, and the every trusty Nissin i40 for fill-in flash. The ceiling wasn’t very low, so flash bouncing off the ceiling wasn’t going to work well. Unsurprisingly, the Stofen-styled diffuser was throwing so much light around that there most persons’ faces got harshly lit, necessitating adjustments in Photoshop. Shots taken with the i40’s built-in flip card looked much better.
The two E-Ms are similarly configured, and the outputs of both are basically similar. The almost 5 year old E-M5 has started acting up though – it occasionally takes a couple of tries for the unit to power-on properly. Old age? And of the two lenses, the real champ was the 40-150mm. It nailed focus reliably and briskly, and made possible candid shots from halfway across the room. As for shot parameters: pictures were between ISO400 to 800, and for print and blog display purposes, totally usable, and flash sync was set to 1/60s.
A small sample of the pictures from last evening then.
If there’s one other consideration the next time I’m asked to do an event like this again, it’d be that I’d seriously have to think about bringing a second flash-gun. Two camera bodies with two f2.8 lenses great! Having to repeatedly switch the flash gun between the two E-Ms – not so much LOL.
Weekend Mornings @ The Bean @ 14mm – Part 4
During our paktology days – that’s ‘dating’ for our Ang Mo friend – Ling would often muse aloud about finding some nice coffee joint and stoning (i.e. vegetating) around a couple of beverages. Problem was that I wasn’t a coffee person then, so our dating places were usually anywhere but. That was of course a while ago. Since returning to full-time work 7 years ago, I’ve gained a new appreciation for hot beverages. I can’t today for instance get through a morning without my usual caffeine kick.
Over the last week and possibly because we were slowly exhausting our weekend morning brunch places, we ventured into a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf joint at TampinesOne just to try something different for breakfast, and we were pretty impressed. The food itself was alright but it was possibly the laid back ambiance and decor that the both of us determined to start hitting beverage cafes as an alternative to the usual breakfast places we hit over weekends. Best of all, Hannah loves the new environments, and has taken to bringing either books or even worksheets to occupy herself with.
Thing is though is that location is everything. Not all these cafes are as equivalently conducive to stoning for an hour before we have to go about our business for the rest of the day, and the ones which are centrally located are also frequently descended upon quickly by hordes of JC and University students who’d buy a single beverage take-out and stretch their stay for the rest of the day.
Photos taken again using the 14mm f2.5. The colors were pleasingly warm, which is a bit of an odd contrast against the somewhat cooler color rendition off the 20mm f1.7 which I sold away earlier this year.
Melaka – For Foodies, the not so good and lagi worse – Part 4
While most of what we had for makan in our five day stay in Melaka was great, we had a small share of bad luck in Melaka. One of which was deserved – i.e. we walked right into the restaurant knowing it was going to serve mediocre food – but in another case, the stall was well-reviewed elsewhere in blogsphere but was a disappointment for us instead.
Fish Porridge @ Wang Food Court
Reviews for this fish porridge stall at Wang Food Court shows up on a couple of blog and foodie places online, and Ling marked it out as a must-check-out eating place when we were planning for the trip. The foodcourt is situated beside Hotel Grand Continental, which itself was just a short 5 minute from The Majestic. We popped by the foodcourt on our first day after checking into the hotel in the early afternoon, but most stalls at the foodcourt were closed, necessitating a return visit on the second day evening.
The stall offers a variety of fish-based fare. We both tried the fish porridge (MY$3.50 and upwards), and found it surprisingly nothing like what the reviews online raved. Ling was especially disappointed that the fish didn’t seem fresh and the soup base for the porridge was bland. I’m not normally a fan of fish-based porridges or soups, but frankly, even the fish soups in my school canteen taste better. Also, I wasn’t expecting stellar customer service, but even that seemed lacking. We both found the middle-age lady serving us unfriendly; her tone when taking our orders was curt and she snorted a loud “沒有” (“don’t have”) when we politely asked for an additional small serving bowl for Hannah.
Also; the fish slices had bones in them; so some caution is necessary if you’ve got young children with you.
Mei Sin Café
This café is also just very nearby The Majestic, and we dropped by for a quick lunch on day 4 on Saturday just before noon. We weren’t expecting much when Tripadvisor ranks this at #114 of #162 granted though that it’s just got one review to its name. The coffee shop was pretty packed with lunch-time crowds, so we were still a little hopeful. So, we ordered the char kway teow and wanton noodles. And the food was, well, still bland with the latter just a little more tasty than the char kway teow which needed a lot more black sweet sauce. Sigh.
At least the service was much better. The elderly gentleman whipping up the kway teow was friendly. This guy was a one-man show; cooking, serving, and collecting back used dishes all by himself. Interestingly, each plate of noodles was cooked separately. The aunties manning the wanton noodle stall were even warm, chatting with Hannah, and even obliging Ling’s request to cut the noodles up into smaller strips for our little girl.
On a different note; we picked up a couple of trays of pineapple tarts from Malacca Jonker Nonya Enterprise on our way to Pak Putra yesterday evening. The baker must be proud of her 100% homemade tarts, since her name is even included in the cover packaging. We’re going to try these when we’re back at home – and if they’re good, Ling’s probably gonna write up about it here.:)
Melaka – For Foodies, the Good and Decent – Part 3: Pak Putra Tandoori & Naan Restaurant
On our last evening in Melaka, Ling and I both wanted to try different cuisines. We had quite a bit of Indian cuisine just yesterday, but I still wanted to try this Tandoori restaurant that’s rated #1 of all restaurants at Tripadvisor. Ling on the other hand wanted to try Milk crabs at a Chinese restaurant just outside our hotel. What to do – we have only so much stomach space to go around.
Thing is; we’ve had mostly average to abysmal luck with Chinese food in Melaka (you’ll read about this in our Foodie post #4) and I wasn’t that keen to test luck again, whereas all the Indian cuisine we’ve tried in Melaka – putting aside the fact that it was all Carbo heavy – have been pretty good. Moreover, Pak Putra Tandoori & Naan was in the approximate direction of Jonker Street that we were going by anyway.
Now, finding the place was supposed to be easy – except that this time round, iOS maps were just plain wrong, pointing us to an address that was about 100m away from the actual place. We wandered around the area for nearly 45 minutes before eventually finding the restaurant – imagine the relief we felt.
The restaurant is like many other local Melaka restaurants we’ve dined at; it’s spartan, totally functional and without the usual amenities i.e. air-conditioning that Singaporeans expect at eating places. A quick visual glance at the other patrons also having dinner gave us early confidence though: both Chinese, Indians and Malays were robustly tucking into Naans, and we saw a mix of patrons: families, couples, singles and even a couple of elderly Caucasians, mildly surprising since the street was some distance away from the very touristy Jonker Street.
Feeling all adventurous, we ordered three Naans: a garlic/butter, an onion, and a double-cheese which was highly recommended by a Jonker Street salesperson we’d just bought pineapple tarts from. The Naans come with their own gravy, but we added Tandoori chicken which a lot of other patrons were also having, and a mutton daal. And a large Mango Lassi (of course, Matt). The Tandoori chicken was barbequed well on the outside though small bits of it were still a little bloody. Its meat was succulent with strong flavor and a slight tinge of chili. The mutton daal on the other hand was just prefect; thick, lots of spices, and generous in its helping. The mutton dip was so good we just ignored that accompanying Naan dip altogether.
The bill came to MY$33.50 (S$13.50); slightly pricier than the other Indian fare we’ve had in Melaka, but still way cheaper than back in Singapore and delicious to boot.
The walk back to The Majestic took 50 minutes, and ended with Ling grumbling if we could avoid finding #1 rated restaurants that were so far from our accommodation LOL.
Melaka – For Foodies, the Good and Decent – Part 2
This one’s for our Missouri bud.:)
One local blogger in SIngapore has remarked in his posts about Melaka; that generally speaking, the grittier the place, the tastier the food is likely going to be. We haven’t quite put that theory to absolute test yet, but having tried several Indian eateries and stalls in our Melaka stay, we’re ready to say that Indian cuisine is good everywhere we go. We covered these three places on our third day: lunch, dinner and supper.
After reading the blogger’s post of the Indian fare whipped up at this roadside restaurant, we gave it a go for lunch. The place was almost directly just opposite The Majestic at Jalan Bunga Raya Pantai; you just cross the road, walk about 10 meters, and there it is.
Like many other Singaporean Chinese, we all love Indian food, though when it comes to knowing for certain what to try, we can get a little clueless. For this time round, we tried the Roti canai – which is the Malaysian equivalent of Roti pratas – and had a couple of egg and eggless ones. Bit of novel experience too; that gravy helpings are DIY. There’s a contraption comprising several metallic containers of gravy variants, and you help yourself to it (though you don’t get to horde the entire gravy train to yourself though – it’s communal).
Total damage for 2 egg, 2 kosong canais, Ling’s Teh Halia and a can drink for me was MY$8 (S$3). Nowhere can you find similar and as delicious fare at this price in Singapore.
Vazhal Elai (Banana Leaf) Restaurant
This restaurant, located at 42 Jalan Munshi Abdullah, was a lot harder to find. Tripadvisor’s entry for this eatery is “Banana Leaf” restaurant; only that the place’s signboard says something else. It didn’t help too that the iOS and Google maps gave conflicting instructions where this eatery was. We ended up wandering around looking for the place on the first evening, settling for Lu Yeh Yan eventually. We found the place the second time round just now. Compared to Restoran Saravanna, the place looked and felt cleaner with its brighter décor and looked recently renovated.
We were the only Chinese in the restaurant at dinner time, and got quite a mix of both curious and also amused looks at these two obvious non-locals with a three year old girl who didn’t stop chattering, the moreso when I fished out the E-M5 to take pictures of what we were having! The fare served in this restaurant was common Indian fare, judging from the menu pasted on the wall, but it sure was authentic. I had the mutton, Ling had the chicken and vegetable sides alongside white rice, all served on banana leafs – literally. Hannah had the Thosai. Just look at her:
All delicious, and we cleaned our plates excepting Hannah; she wanted to leave some room for the candy cookies back at the hotel. Damage was MY$16 (S$6.50). The funniest thing was that Ling was still hungry. So, without stopping, we headed back in the general direction of the hotel and stopped for…
Puteri Erra Roti John
This stall was located at a foodcourt also almost directly opposite The Majestic at Jalan Bunga Raya Pantai.
There was a long queue for this fellow’s Roti Johns; at least a dozen and another half were served before it came to our turn. Ling chuckled that the joint is like a factory line; someone just concentrates on frying the bread, someone else does the vegetable and gravy dressing, and a third person does the packing and serving. Ling ordered two, but was misheard and we got three instead at MY$2 each ($0.80). The stuff was pretty oily but once you get past the fact that eating one of these will make you feel like you’ve just deducted a few more days out of your life, they were still incredibly delicious.
And no; we didn’t finish all three – it was too much food LOL.
Melaka – For Foodies, the Good and Decent – Part 1
For our Melaka 2012 trip, I organized the accommodation and itinerary while Ling handled the transportation and makan places. Like our experience in Japan, we found both good and bad eating (or just plain sloppy) eating places in Melaka, and these are supposedly decent dining places in countries where cuisine is otherwise deemed as a highlight for any visitor to the country.
Aside from our daily breakfasts at The Majestic which came as part of our stay package, we dined for the most part like the locals did; literally street side stalls with cars wheezing past less than a meter away, food courts, and coffee shops. Ling had done quite a bit of homework and Googling about finding out the good eating places and fitting them into our general itinerary and areas to visit each day.
Lu Yeh Yen
This was a Chinese restaurant just 5 minutes walk from The Majestic, with opening hours between 1800 to 0200 hrs. The restaurant is pretty easy to find as it’s located beside a small Chinese temple; in fact it seemed that you could dine on the temple grounds itself too. We went by the restaurant on the first evening, and though it was just us and a couple of other patrons (interestingly all Caucasian), our food took a while to arrive – nearly 30 minutes. We had the sweet/sour pork ribs, salted vegetable soup with toufu, fried rice, and mixed vegetables. The bill totaled MY$34 (S$13.50). Each dish – we asked for smallest portions – was between MY$6 to MY$9.
There was sufficient food to go round for all of us, and taste-wise was alright and about equivalent to the neighborhood zi-cha eateries back at home. Not much care was given to each dish’s presentation though, The wait staff were responsive and helpful though not what I’d call warm or friendly.
Nadeje Cake House
This came by way of Doreen’s recommendation; that its Mille Crepes was something we absolutely had to try for tummy pleasure. This little eatery is tucked away at one of a series of parallel side roads about 7 minutes walk from Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall. We found the café without much difficulty, thanks in good part to iPad maps and also the café’s striking black-colored exterior facade.
We initially thought that we’d just stop for cakes, supposing that this place wasn’t going to offer anything else. When we saw that the place also had an menu comprising western main courses, we decided to have lunch here too. That turned out to be a bit of a mistake. The café wasn’t crowded during the near lunch hour we visited. Wait service was attentive and took the initiative to get appropriate cutlery for our young daughter.
Cake slices were around MY$9, with main courses MY$10 onwards. We tried the Tiramisu and Original Mille Crepe, both of which were suitably creamy and marvelous. Beverages were a pretty exotic Pineapple Yakult mix and Ice Chocolate Latte, both which were ordinary. The main courses though were disappointing: we found the cream Carbonara and Mushroom Cream Soup plain and diluted respectively. Bill was MY$51.50 ($20.50) The little cup containing the sweetener for the Latte had a prominent ant swimming at the top, which the wait staff replaced apologetically after I pointed it out. Interestingly, the Tripadvisor reviews for this place is mixed, with some noting problematic wait service standards. We didn’t face any such difficulty, though that might had been also because the hour we went was off-peak.
On the overall, recommended for the yummy cakes but not for the rest of the menu.
Conversations with a Three Year Old – 2
There’s a couple of dishes that I can do passably well, learning that mostly came off my years spent in Perth. One of them is, incidentally, one of Hannah’s favorite dishes – Carbonara pasta. So, that was for our dinner this evening.
Now, Hannah loves the fresh mushrooms that routinely go into my recipe. And on this occasion, she swiped everything off her plate faster than either of us. After which, she eyed my plate that still had plenty left.
“Daddy, you have a lot of mushrooms left. You don’t want to finish all the mushrooms.”
Hannah’s first attempt at reverse psychology? It certainly can’t be her attempt at Jedi mind-tricks for sure!
We’ve been starting to let her in on the fact that she’ll be having a little brother or sister soon by informing her of the actionable things she’ll have a part in. For example, that she’ll be sharing her room soon with another. She seems quite alright with it, though whether she really understands the full extent of what is to come might be shown by her asking questions in response – which she hasn’t yet.
Hannah @ 30mm – Part 4
We celebrated our 6th Wedding Anniversary on Sunday with High Tea at the Carousel @ Royal Plaza on Scotts. Ling has been raving about the place since a visit with colleagues there earlier this year. Prices were about reasonable for the seafood/international/cuisine spread, with Hannah eating for free. That said, apart from the sashimi, boiled prawns and mussels station – which every patron made a beeline for immediately after High Tea started – I didn’t think there were standouts in the rest of the fare.
The rest of the weekend went by quietly, home bound for the most of it excepting brunches at Greenwich Village and then with parents on Sunday. Ling is still walking around with a slight daze i.e. nausea and been rather listless. Hannah on the other hand is as chirpy as ever, and still wants to spend as much play time with us. I’ve noticed that she has a ‘priority’ list of play activities that she loves to do with us, starting with her favorite at the top of the list:
1. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse games (Disney has a suite of fun and partially educational Flash browser games on their web site).
2. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episodes
4. Lego bricks to build her Clubhouse
Yep, she’s sold on everything to do with the Clubhouse, though thankfully, as before, she doesn’t kick up a fuss when she doesn’t get to do those play activities centered on Mickey Mouse and friends. I’m not certain if it’s a healthy sign or not though, that she seems to just want to spend time with us doing something and anything and seemingly unable or unwilling, normally, to play on her own.
Oh well. Can’t complain too much since we hope that she’ll still want to spend time with us parents when she gets a lot older. If we’re just so lucky, this might be habit forming for her that carries through to adulthood.:)
Paging for Ang Mo!
Ling is right smack in her first month pregnancy blues, what with round the clock bouts of nausea (she’s BTW glad that I can do most of Hannah’s chores including feeding and bathing, except for brushing teeth that I still can’t get a handle of). For dinner this evening, she quipped that she needed extra-spicy food to help mask those inclinations to vomit. So, she asked for Thai food.
As it happens, there’s a delightful little Thai stall situated at a coffee shop near my workplace. We’ve checked out the place before for dine-in lunches and takeout dinners already, and the fare is decent. This time round though, the wife and I had a massive miscommunication about what we both wanted, and she ended up ordering food enough for four adults when it’s just 2 1/4 adults between the three of us, at most.
Half an hour of struggle later and while I was driving back, I wheezed:
“I don’t think I’m going to ever want to touch Thai food again for a month.”
“I feel so bloated I’m going to merlion. Where’s the plastic bag…?”
Upon which Hannah chimed in and declared:
“Dinner was very good. I like it!”
Accidental Discovery: Yummy Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee at a Ulu Coffeeshop
The stall is located at a nobody’s coffeeshop tucked underneath a multi-storey HDB car park off one corner of Tampines town. I wonder if the stall even have a name! It is called ‘Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee’ or ‘Wu Ba Ye Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee’ if you prefer your prawn noodles to be served on a leaf. ‘Wu Ba Ye’ is opeh leaf in Chinese. This is a type of leaf sheath used to hold cooked dishes such as fried kway teow and hokkien prawn mee.
Nowadays, almost every food court and coffee shop in Singapore houses a stall that sells fried Hokkien prawn mee. However, most do not impress. Perhaps I’m too particular. Too often I find myself regretting having bought the noodle dish after eating a few mouthfuls and forcing myself to finish the rest in order not the waste food. I used to enjoy Geylang Lor 29 fried Hokkien prawn mee but the last time I was there with our angmo friend Matt, I felt that the yellow noodles had a strange taste.
This ‘Wu Ba Ye Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee’ stall serves really tasty fried Hokkien prawn mee. The flavours of all ingredients were balanced and well incorporated, noodles were cooked with the right wok temperature and sufficiently moist without being soggy. The prawns were reasonably juicy too. Lard was served with the noodles but I always pick them out, hee hee. Oh ya, the chilli complemented well with the noodles too. We have bought this dish from the stall for a couple of times already and I must say that the quality has been consistently good.
Give this stall a shot if you’re around the vicinity k. Let me know what you think :) For more information, the stall is in a coffee shop called Soon Hong Food House located at Tampines St. 72, block 742A (beneath multi-storey car park). They are closed on Mondays. Opening hours are from 11 am – 10 pm.