Argentine Caramel Biscuits ‘Alfajores’

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Similar to shortbread in texture these cookies from Argentina come with a dulce de leche filling, a caramel spread that the Argentines are so fond of. Even better as they easy to make and rather moreish!

Argentine Caramel Biscuits 'Alfajores'
Yields 12
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
1 hr 20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
1 hr 20 min
Ingredients
  1. 200g Cornflour, plus extra for dusting
  2. 150g Plain flour
  3. 60g Icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  4. 225g unsalted butter
  5. 397g Dulce de leche or caramel Condensed milk
  6. 100g Desiccated coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line two baking trays with non-stick parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the cornflour, flour and icing sugar together in a large bowl and pour in the melted butter. Mix to form a dough and turn out onto a work surface. Knead the dough a little to bring it together. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill for 1 hour.
  3. Once chilled dust the work surface with a little cornflour and roll the dough to a thickness of 1cm and cut out rounds using a 6cm circular cookie cutter. Lay the rounds onto the baking tray’s in a single layer. You should end up with 24 pieces.
  4. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until the biscuits have turned a pale golden colour. Remove from the tray and allow the biscuits to cool completely on a wire rack.
  5. Scoop a heaped teaspoon of dulce de leche onto the centre of a biscuit and then sandwich with another biscuit, pressing just so that the filling reaches the edge repeating this process with the remaining biscuits. Roll the biscuits in the desiccated coconut around the caramel edge and finish by dusting the top with a little icing sugar.
Artisan Traveller https://www.artisantraveller.com/

SweetSpot, Marina Bay Sands Hotel

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Marina Bay Sands Hotel is one of Singapore’s premier landmarks. The place resembles something landed from outer space with it’s futuristic architecture represented by way of a three tower structure, incredible up close and even better viewed from the nearby Gardens by the Bay.

The hotel doubles as a shopping centre with a full mall area in the lower floors even containing a boating lake running directly through the centre. Outside there is a large area where you can take in Singapore’s stunning harbour skyline. A real treat at night.

sweetspot marina bay sands hotel

We weren’t here for shopping or skylines on this occasion, oh no, we were here for cake. SweetSpot is a cafe situated just beside the check in area at the hotel that specialises in some top notch pastries, coffee and cakes. We headed to the Marina Bay Sands early in the morning to sample the goods on offer.

sweetspot marina bay sands hotel

The service straight away is sharp and attentive. We had barely approached the counter before being welcomed with a member of staff always on hand to assist, especially if you have difficulty choosing your cake – a nice problem to have. Macarons, slices, tarts, this place has it all. Everything behind the glass looked enticing and the prices were decent considering the location. We finally settled on a Snicker Crunch – a slice reminiscent of a snickers bar. Also a Chocolate Eclair along with a couple of soft drinks, the damage? $28 SGD (£15).

The Snicker Crunch was actually more complex than expected. A thin base of feuilletine, just firm enough to hold the slice together, disintegrated once touched by the fork. On top of that layers of genoise sponge, chocolate ganache and caramelised peanuts complete with a chocolate sheen on the top – heavenly. A definite upgrade on a regular Snickers bar.

snicker crunch sweetspot marina bay sands hotel

The Eclair was also very well made, crispy, buttery choux pastry and a light filling of chocolate creme patissiere with an intense flavour. Everything a decent Eclair should be. As we sat enjoying our sweet treats watching the world go by more and more people began to drop by mainly ordering coffee and pastries such as pain au chocolat and croissants, all of which looked very good.

chocolate eclair sweetspot marina bay sands hotel

This place was so good we ended up coming back again, this time for a slice of Opera cake and a Lychee Sable. The Opera was very good but the Sable blew our minds, it had everything, soft sable with a crunchy exterior and a sublime freshness from the lychee mousse shaped like a dome on top. Excellent skills from the pastry team.

sweetspot marina bay sands hotel sweetspot marina bay sands hotel sweetspot marina bay sands hotel

 

SweetSpot is definitely a popular go-to place in Marina Bay Sands for anybody craving delicious pastries with their morning coffee or high quality patisserie. Towards mid-morning the shop does get quite busy but the seating availability was always good on both visits. Highly recommended.

Opening Times : Daily 0700-2200

Nearest Metro: Bayfront

 

Atlantis the Palm

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atlantis the palm

One of the world’s premier hotels – and we would be staying in it. It almost didn’t seem real on the drive up Palm Island to be greeted by the huge structure of this unique, famous hotel. Some say it is the jewel in Dubai’s crown and we wouldn’t challenge that. Having stayed at world class hotels before there really is nothing quite like this place. As soon as we set foot outside the taxi the luggage is taken and you are welcomed like royalty before being walked personally to the check-in.

atlantis the palm

It was hard to keep focused on what the staff were saying to us as your neck cranes up at the beautiful ceiling and marble pillars with a huge fountain in the centre. Like on Aladdin when he falls into the cave of wonders. We were informed that our stay came with free admission to the waterpark and lost chambers aquarium and that our room was situated in the east tower, home to the bars and restaurants.

atlantis the palm

It’s just incredible walking through the hotel, you could be in a shopping mall. All the passageways are lined with hotel bars, restaurants and designer outlets. At the end of the corridor leading to the east tower we caught a glimpse of the huge fishtank with its floor to ceiling glass showcasing a vast range of sea creatures. Like something out of a James Bond villain’s lair.

atlantis the palm

Our room was stunning. We had booked one of the more basic rooms but this smelt of an upgrade. A huge bedroom with views above the aquarium in which you could see sharks, stingrays and all sorts. The Burj-al-arab and in the distance the downtown skyline across the bay. Beautiful.

atlantis the palm dubai atlantis the palm dubai

The service throughout our stay was first-rate. They even remembered Ali’s birthday by sending a complimentary cake to our room as a surprise one morning. Even with the hotels fame it doesn’t feel touristy and you can easily relax and unwind in many ways. The waterpark was the perfect way to spend a day. So much fun and suited to all ages.

Alantis the Palm Birthday Alantis the Palm Birthday

If you want to relax a little more the Atlantis has its own beach and just behind that a huge pool area complete with pool bars which many people were using. Also areas for badminton and table tennis are free to use and we had a lot of fun trying them out.

So, in a palace such as the Atlantis, just what are the negatives? Well, as a resort it is perfect and there is everything here one could wish for on a sun-filled escape. For the more adventurous tourist it can be a pain getting around on the cheap. Taxi’s are plentiful out front but do take care to get the regular taxis. The staff have a habit of recommending the most expensive so do ask for the cheapest.

The other popular method of transport is the monorail which runs the length of Palm Island with its terminus beside the aquaventure exit of the hotel. Tickets are 15 AED (£3.14) for a single trip and 25 AED (£5.24) for return. The service operates between 9am-10pm so if you are planning a late night downtown rule out the monorail and get a taxi. To get downtown the best way is to take the monorail down to the final stop, heading away from Atlantis, follow the signs to Jumeirah tram stop and that connects to the metro system.

Atlantis the Palm Monorail

We found Atlantis The Palm one of the best and most unique hotel experiences anywhere in the world. For all the extras such as the waterpark and the lost chambers included in the price it’s a fair deal in comparison to the competition in Dubai. We loved it and we will return no doubt.

Momma Kongs

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Walk around Boat Quay or any popular seafood stretch around Singapore and you’ll come across crab – lots of crab. Tanks and cages full of varying species of crustacean all destined for the pot, in many cases resulting in the popular dish of chilli crab. We looked long and far for the best place serving chilli crab in town and finally honed in on this place. Momma Kong’s.

The added benefit from a lazy point of view was that Momma Kong’s is a brisk 5 minute walk from our hotel at the Parkroyal on Pickering. However the ratings for the place were off the chart when it came to their speciality, chilli crab. There are of course other options if chilli ain’t your thang with black pepper variety proving a popular second choice amongst others. We took the advice of the internet and booked a table ahead of time.

momma kongs
Approaching the restaurant there’s outside seating for around 3-4 tables but we opted to sit inside where air conditioning reigns supreme. This is a small place where seating is at a premium and where the crowd is a mix of locals and tourists. We settled on the set menu which gives you a sort of mini banquet.

$122 SGD (£68) before the 17% tax gets you a choice of a vegetable dish, a squid dish, a crayfish dish, two types of mantou, a crab, two drinks  and some ice cream to finish. All for two people to share. The choices all sounded delicious so we opted to begin with some fried (what’s the story?) morning glory in garlic. Fresh, green and crunchy, yum!

morning glory momma kongs

The squid soon followed and our table began to fill up. Huge rings of chargrilled squid served with a very spicy chilli sauce were very nice indeed but the real dish you HAVE to order here is the buttered crayfish. Oh my days. More like a lobster in appearance with a whole two tails of crayfish split down the middle coated in a rich buttery sauce, absolute heaven.

Squid momma kongs

crayfish momma kongs
The main event of course is the crab and at this point we were thankful to see that a) it did fit on the table and b) it was an average size. We were getting full by this point. Take a second out of your experience to glance around other tables tucking into their crab. The techniques people were using to get the meat from the claws ranged from wrestling with the claw crackers to borderline crab assault. Great viewing.

crab momma kongs

Remembering that napkins are chargeable in these parts we adopted a strategic approach of cracking the claws and gently prising the shell away to reveal the meat, thankful now that I made that crab salad at home that time. There’s not a huge deal of meat but the chilli sauce is superb, not overly spicy but so flavoursome and rich. The mantou buns, one fried and one steamed, were an epic accompaniment.

momma kongs
Lastly the only bugbear of the experience came after waiting 40 minutes and having to ask for the dessert which incredibly arrived after being pulled out of the freezer, what’s with the delay? Needless to say it was a decent pot of gelato.
momma kongs

The total bill arrived at $145.95 (£82.56) after tax which for the quality of food isn’t bad at all. The highlight, surprisingly, wasn’t the crab but that crayfish. Just wow. I doubt we’ll see crayfish that size in the UK anytime soon but next time we drop by at this place again it’ll be the first thing we order. So is Momma Kong’s worth the hype? Indeed it is.

Opening times: Monday-Friday 1700-2300
                        Saturday-Sunday 1100-2300

Nearest Metro: Chinatown

Momma Kong's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Searide Dubai – Jetski Tour

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Purely by chance scanning the wrong part of Dubai Marina on Google street view we came across a mooring of jetski. The idea then came about of just how good it would be to try these out, as it’s something that we have always wanted to try. Luckily we came across a very popular jetski dubai experience company from a little further up Jumeirah beach by the name of SeaRide Dubai.

Jetski in Dubai with Searide Dubai

Highly rated on tripadvisor and selected other review sites, SeaRide offer both jet ski experiences and also flyboarding, if being powered up into the air by a jet of water is your thing. You can choose an hour or two hour tour by jet ski allowing you to sample the skyline and sights of Dubai from the comfort of gliding along on a high powered machine. This drew us in and within minutes we had the confirmation by email of our two hour tour.

There are a few stipulations to the experience but none offputting. Firstly you need to be able to swim, makes sense really if you were to fall in the sea. Secondly the payment is by cash only by way of Emirati Dirham. Thirdly you need to bring along your passport otherwise it’s no jetski for you! Fortunately we met all criteria’s.

Jetski in Dubai with Searide Dubai

The other challenge is actually getting to the place. We chose to go by taxi which is your best bet as there isn’t many forms of public transport that go near the harbour. SeaRide Dubai provide printable maps and directions which we needed when it came to the taxi. The drivers though are very helpful and even if their English is at times not the strongest they still get you there.

It was a boiling hot day when we arrived at the harbour. Nothing new for Dubai you may think but recently the weather had been bad enough for the experiences to be called off on safety grounds, something that is specified by SeaRide on your booking confirmation. We approached a small hut with a couple of South African guys welcoming us with the jet ski’s adjacent on the marina. Don’t worry if you have items such as bags or money, we left these with the guys in the wooden hut while we were out on the experience.

After a safety briefing from a gentleman resembling Alan Garner from The Hangover films we were ready to go, I believe his name was Elton and not Alan, for the record. Two German’s were our tour buddies as we made up a fleet of three jetski plus our guide. Slow speeds throughout the harbour don’t last long as you hit the throttle over the sea and begin to realise the power that these machines possess.

Jetski in Dubai with Searide Dubai

It was tricky getting used to the bobbing motion and actually trusting that the jet ski wasn’t going to topple over. Then there’s the waves, damn them. The waves were only small really but enough to cause you to lift up and come crashing down again. I was beginning to wish that i’d brought a cushion.

My speed wasn’t impressing Alan, sorry, Elton. “You need to go a little faster, brother” I could just about make out through his beard. “It’s going to get a lot more wavier on the next part” oh good. Good advice from me would be just to go for it and when you hit the throttle the jet ski almost powers straight through the waves and the ride is a lot smoother. Ripping along beside the skyline is just an awesome feeling.

We stopped at regular intervals to give our nuts a break from the up and down motion but also to take on the free water they provide. In addition, Elton will take photo’s for you which is handy when stopping at Burj al-arab and The Atlantis which make stunning memories of your tour. We were loving this.

Coming into the marina area meant lots of boats, yachts and potential hazards, oh yeah and more waves. We were hitting waves at high speed, a few flung us about 10 feet in the air. This was the adrenaline rush that we’d signed up for. On an extended break at the marina beach we had a laugh with the German guys “I was diving” said one in reference to the waves.

Jetski in Dubai with Searide Dubai

The rest of the tour included more skyline views and a gentler pace on the way back. It was everything we had hoped for and more as we pulled back into the harbour to complete the circle. We thanked Elton and he informed us that the photo’s would be on the SeaRide Facebook page and free to save on our own devices. True to his word a day later there they were. Really good quality.

Jetski in Dubai with Searide Dubai

Getting back to Atlantis the Palm was easy enough. Taxi’s can be hailed from the main round outside the harbour entrance or the guys can order you an Uber. We would recommend the taxi from the street though which is a lot cheaper. What an experience it was and a two hour tour was perfect for getting the best out of the experience. Highly recommended.

Bookings: https://searide-dubai.com

 

Dubai Mall and Fountain Show

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It’s the biggest mall in the world. Not only that, it seems to have the biggest walkway in the world too. The route from the metro station ‘Dubai Mall’ takes an eternity. Catching glimpses of the Burj Khalifa – only the tallest building in the world – on your way through takes the stress off the ramble.

We entered the mall with two purposes. Firstly to check out the centre itself and then take in the fountain show in the plaza outside. We gathered very quickly that this is a favourite of the local people with many men in traditional arab dress with families in tow gathering round the vast array of shops – and believe me, there’s plenty of them!

dubai fountain show

The Dubai obsession with excess goes into overdrive here. There’s shops in the distance we can’t even make out. This place is huge. Finding the area for the fountain show wasn’t easy but the best advice is to keep following the signs and head down the escalators to the base floor. Turn back on yourself and out of the doors into the plaza area. The shows begin at every half an hour from 6pm until 11pm, completely free of course.

dubai mall

We would say save your money going up Burj Khalifa and get a great view of this building from the fountain area. You get beautiful views of the world’s tallest building complete with the fountains as free props. Highly recommend this as the entry to the building can be very expensive, especially in the evening.

The fountain show is extremely popular, especially at sunset so do get there in time to grab a good spot either on the bridge or by the railings. Boats take tourists on mini-cruises around the fountain lake, one of which came under heavy spray from the jets of the fountain at the beginning of the show causing laughter from the crowd of spectators.

The show itself is stunning and set to background classical music, usually on a theme.  The fountains dance in rhythm to match the music with incredible height. In one airline magazine it is claimed that this fountain show is viewable from space!

dubai fountain show

We stopped afterwards for a cake at the famous french patisserie Laduree which is perfect for anyone wanting high-end patisserie in a relaxed setting. In the back area of the cafe is a tearoom with comfy chairs and a chilled atmosphere. As expected here the service is faultless and the cafe has the added plus of an outside seating area. We had a Plaisir Sucre – a slice of chocolate and hazelnut and a Saint-Honore with rose and lychee. Both pastries were light and full of flavour, intense rose taste in the Honore was amazing and perfect flavours with a nod to the middle east.

laduree Dubai mall laduree Dubai mall laduree Dubai mall laduree Dubai mall

For anyone even remotely interested in shopping this mall has everything. The sheer size of the place should occupy a good few hours of your time whether you wish to go high end or mid-range. The highlight for us was definitely the fountain show outside in the beautiful plaza, a true spectacle and unusually for money-mad Dubai, a free attraction. Well worth visiting.

Dubai Attractions

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The Attractions

Dubai is one of the most incredible places for architecture where the seemingly impossible becomes possible. Burj Khalifa is one such example, the tallest building in the world and sadly it commands the tallest price i’ve ever seen to climb a building. Expect to pay 125 AED (£27) before 7pm and after the price rockets to 350 AED (£76). For me the best way to see it was from the fountains of the Dubai Mall while taking in their light show which begins at 6pm in the evenings showing every 30 minutes until 11pm on a daily basis.

Burj khalifa

Atlantis the Palm holds many attractions to both guests and visitors. The Aquaventure waterpark is a must with free entry to hotel guests and regular tickets at 260 AED (£56) this park is home to the leap of faith. A huge waterslide that leads under a shark tank after a vertical drop. I tested my courage by doing this first off at the park, the guy at the top of the slide instructs you to cross your arms over your body and cross your ankles. Then yells ‘go!’ and you see the drop below for the first time, it’s a moment of sheer adrenaline as you fall out of the sky and pass under a tunnel of sharks before landing in a pool of water, it’s a proper thrill. I loved it. Other rides include rapids, flumes and zip-wiring.

Also in the Atlantis complex you can find The Lost Chambers. An aquarium featuring all things fishy. Again it’s free for hotel guests with visitors paying 100 AED (£21) in my opinion though unless you’re a guest it’s not worth paying for entry. The exhibits are few with none more impressive than the giant fish tank which is free to view in the hotel anyway.

the lost chambers

If adrenaline is your thing then why not go on a jet ski tour with Searide Dubai. For 800 AED (£173) per jet ski we had a two hour tour which covered the skyline, the Burj-al-arab and Atlantis the Palm. The guys at Searide were laid back and friendly, providing maps and directions which our taxi driver relied on as it’s a little out of the way (30mins taxi from Atlantis). Take your passport along as you won’t be able to take part without it. The valuables we had were kept safe in the office by the staff with our experience paid for in cash only. We were in a group of us two and two other guys, full safety and jet ski handling was covered at the start by Steve, our guide.

Searide Dubai

I must say it’s an incredible feeling riding the waves and you just don’t realise how powerful these things are, amazing feeling cruising along the skyline with the wind in your hair and the water relatively calm for the most part. Photos are taken by the guide and available to download from Facebook after, a great way to save your memories from the experience.

Other attractions in Dubai include The Mall of the Emirates which contains a snowdome where you can ski, snowboard and toboggan but we didn’t visit this area this time around. Dubai Marina is worth a visit especially at night when beautifully lit up.

dubai marina

 

Zam Zam – Murtabak in Singapore

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Trawling through YouTube for inspiration on where to get great food in Singapore brought us to the popular channel belonging to Bangkok blogger Mark Wiens. Wiens had raved about a restaurant serving Indian murtabak – a filled bread, like a roti, fried until crisp – by the name of Zam Zam, based in the Arab quarter of Singapore.

Zam Zam SIngapore Murtabak

We headed to Zam Zam around mid-morning having skipped breakfast in anticipation of the famous variety of murtabak sold at the restaurant. Getting off at Bugis station onto the North Bridge Road it’s a quick walk to the Arab quarter which houses beautiful buildings and a very impressive mosque. Directly opposite the mosque are a collection of restaurants all specialising in traditional Indian and Arabic food. One of these is Zam Zam, a restaurant in all honesty we would walk past if we didn’t know about their reputation.

First impressions weren’t exactly great I’ll be honest. The place was very simple and in need of a good lick of paint. Downstairs seating is at a premium so many choose to head upstairs where there is air conditioning and plenty of space for diners. This felt more like a church hall with the fold up tables and bare floors. Certainly not the atmosphere of a restaurant.

Zam Zam Singapore Murtabak

The service here didn’t get off to a good start. We were seated and then waited around 15 minutes before they remembered to give us the menu’s. Many of the clientele were muslim with a handful of tourists. The restaurant appeared to be very popular with families which made for a rather noisy atmosphere.

We ordered the mutton murtabak and the chicken murtabak along with a couple of soft drinks. Given that it was still morning many people were ordering teh tarik – a milky tea. The choices of murtabak available is vast, anything from chicken to fish and even vegetarian options. We also went for a dish of Nasi Goreng with chicken which featured amongst the rice dishes on the menu.

The real plus about Zam Zam is that when your food arrives so does the bill so no further waiting around is needed. Many customers seemed to just eat and then go on their way straight after. The chicken murtabak arrived and it was a beast. A massive folded over stuffed roti packed with chicken slathered in a curry sauce – with extra sauce to dip it in containing curry leaves, similar to a Keralan curry sauce.

Zam Zam Singapore Murtabak

Zam Zam Singapore Murtabak

The mutton was a lot smaller in size, thankfully. It didn’t appear as inviting as the chicken in appearance but the flavour was decent enough. The real pick of the bunch though was the Nasi Goreng, wow what a flavour! We’re still trying to figure out how they manage such a powerful flavour from simple rice and chicken, almost a smokey taste and very rich with a deep red colour to the rice. The chicken had been left on the bone for even more flavour. So so good.

Zam Zam Singapore Murtabak

We gave it our best shot. The chicken murtabak, as tasty as it was, defeated us. The time came to examine the bill and our eyes almost popped out of our heads. Just $26 SGD (£14) with each murtabak coming in at $7 SGD (£3.87) very good value for three dishes and two drinks.

Zam Zam Singapore Murtabak

Zam Zam Singapore Murtabak

Is Zam Zam worthy of its plaudits? Not for us.It’s not a place that would be high on our list to return to in Singapore. The service lets it down in many ways despite it not being particularly busy on our visit. We also had better roti and curry combinations from the Smith Street street food stall Prata King containing a lot more flavour. The Nasi Goreng made the trip across town worthwhile but for all the rave reviews about Zam Zam we found it adequate but nothing special.

Opening times: Daily 0700-2300

Nearest Metro: Bugis

Singapore Zam Zam Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raffles Hotel, Billiard Room Bar

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Singapore’s most notable contribution to the world of cocktails is of course the famous Singapore Sling. Created at the Raffles Hotel at the Long Bar in 1915 the drink has attracted many visitors to the site of its conception, including us. On a bright, rather sweaty day in Singapore we caught the metro to City Hall and began the short walk in search of a glass of Singapore history.

raffles hotel singapore sling
The hotel is well signposted from the metro and passes a huge war memorial in a serene park dedicated to casualties of World War Two.  Approaching Raffles Hotel it is hard not to be impressed by the beauty and grandeur of the place. As we made our way towards the entrance there were clear signs directing those who wish to sample the famous Sling to head for the billiard room. Something very handy if you have no idea where you are going. Of course the drink was created in the famous Long Bar but this was under refurbishment at the time of our trip.

raffles hotel singapore sling raffles hotel singapore sling
Saying that though the billiard room is a bit swish. A huge billiard table from when the room first opened is available and on closer inspection you can actually still play on it, even though it looks too much like an antique to even touch. The service, as you would expect, is professional and friendly. Cocktail menu’s are given out but really there’s no need, everyone’s here for the same thing.

raffles hotel singapore sling
We were seated right at the bar in a prime spot to watch the mixologists at work. There are plenty of tables for those who wish to sit and enjoy their drinks leaning back in comfort though. Also there are huge bags of monkey nuts which many people break off the shell, eat the nut and feel like a rebel by dropping the shell on the floor – the only place in Singapore where littering is permitted.

Within a few minutes of ordering our drinks arrived, freshly shaken and looking fabulous. You kind of expect that though at a hefty $31 SGD (£17) per Sling. The drinks passed the taste test with flying colours. Sweet cherry flavour with the gin just reigning the sugar level in enough to balance it. Fresh flavours as well as orange juice mixes perfectly with the rest of the fruit flavours and alcohols. A maraschino cherry and a chunk of fresh pineapple for garnish rounds it all off nicely too.

raffles hotel singapore sling
There’s no getting away from it. This place is touristy. However it’s in a nice way. The crowd there on our visit were in no way loud or irritating, just people relaxing in a nice setting enjoying a taste of fruit flavoured history. Inevitably though once the drink ends so does the experience. We got the bill from the friendly bartender and paid at the counter on the way out, as is customary in Asia. It is also worth noting that 17% tax is charged on top of the price of drinks.

raffles hotel singapore sling
On our way out of the hotel we caught a glimpse of the hall serving afternoon tea, reminiscent of our time at The Ritz, London. It’s a great setting to spend time relaxing and enjoying high class food and drink. We left happy with a real desire to come back to Raffles to properly enjoy a stay at the hotel. As for the experience of an authentic Singapore Sling it was everything we could have hoped for and a must-do on the list of any visitor to Singapore.

Opening hours Sunday-Thursday 1100-0030
                        Friday-Saturday    1100-0130

Nearest Metro: City Hall

Dress Code: Casual

Camden Lock – Halloumi Fries, Churros & Pulled Pork!

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Camden Lock appears in pictures to be a serene place where one can sit outside a trendy bar or on a bench eating beside the canal from one of the numerous vendors based in Camden Market. Trying to exit the tube onto the busy Camden high street didn’t quite  live up to the imagery. It was a Saturday. It was madness.

Getting to Camden is easy enough by tube. Take the northern line to Camden and follow the hoards of people to the stations exit. At the time we went there were one way designated entry and exit systems. On the high street leading up to Camden Lock you will pass numerous street sellers from record sleeves to clothing and phone cases, a typical market. Camden struck as as quite a cool place where many young people from across the capital come to chill out and enjoy the weekend.

Camden Lock

We could just make out above the crowds the famous bridge with ‘CAMDEN LOCK’ inscribed on it. The walk from station to market isn’t a bad one at all taking just 10 minutes in total. From the canal bridge there’s a beautiful view across the lock. It’s also a good way to get your bearings and take a photo or two. The next task of course is finding the food, we could smell it but we couldn’t yet see it.

Heading up a narrow entrance beside the lock and towards the market hall we came across a market spread over two floors. The usual market wares of jewellery and artworks are sold here but no food. For that we had to descend a flight of stairs on the market’s far side heading towards the bridge over the canal. At the foot of the stairs is a courtyard and home to Camden’s elite food vendors. We had made it.

The sheer choice and variety of cuisine was overwhelming, do we try Indonesian? BBQ? A burger? Oooh I fancy churros. The place is rammed with some great eateries for sure. All prices, given that this is London, are very fair for what you receive as well. We aimed for a stall that has a reputation for very tasty halloumi fries, a place called Oli Baba’s run by a couple of Aussies on our visit.

£6.00 ($7.69 US) gets you a portion of crispy halloumi fries topped with a mixture of chilli flakes, zaatar, yoghurt dressing, mint, pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds. Usually the stall is rammed but as we were there early we got served more or less straight away. The background of the canal boats and bridges makes for beautiful photographs for all you keen photographers out there. The fries matched the beauty of the setting, they are awesome. The salty taste of the halloumi against the spice coming from zaatar and chilli is nice enough but to hit it with sweet and fresh flavours from molasses, mint and fresh pomegranate takes this a level higher. We loved them.

camden lock halloumi fries

halloumi fries

The food area began to fill up rapidly with many people choosing to come over the canal bridge directly into the stall’s area. We took this opportunity to give the place a thorough examination before our next bite. Columbian arepa’s, like a filled corn flatbread, were being sold just behind Oli Baba’s and were doing a roaring trade with the biggest line of any stall. We were walking  by Japanese, Thai, Korean burrito’s until we rocked up at a stand selling pulled pork sandwiches. Mmmmmm.

La Porca specialises in pulled pork sandwiches and wraps with sides available such as fries and extra toppings for your sandwich. The smell coming off the grill was amazing as we approached the front to place our order. Pulled pork in a brioche bun is one of our absolute favourites and when you add in apple coleslaw and mustard rocket with tomato, red onion and Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, oh my! We parted with £7 ($9.02 US) and got stuck into pulled pork heaven. The sandwich was excellent with all the sweet/sour/smoky flavours that make up a great pulled pork bun,  you have to stop by here. 

la porca camden lock

The market was now heaving so we decided to grab a dessert item. We had heard about ice cream being made with liquid nitrogen at one stall but we ended up being pulled in the direction of churros, that ol’ favourite. The stall imaginatively named ‘Churros’ was tucked away in a corner of the market with a few tourists deliberating wether to go with Nutella or caramel sauce with their churros. The menu items included an ice cream option with your churros if you fancy something a little different.

churros camden lock london

We stayed traditional and went for a small portion at £5 ($6.44 US) consisting of 4 churros and one dip of choice, we went with Nutella. The churros were fried to order which was a nice touch and rolled with cinnamon sugar. Fresh out of the fryer they can’t be better and these went perfectly with the rich Nutella.

Camden Lock London Camden Lock London

Leaving behind a full market and walking canal side back to the tube we were glad to have finally cracked Camden. The area has a great vibe about it and the service from the traders is relaxed and friendly. The food from all the stall’s mentioned was very good indeed and a really good way to try different cuisines for a small price. Especially in a city as expensive as London. If you happen to be travelling on a budget make a stop at Camden, there are many great bars and places to hang out and of course some very good street food to try.

 

Silom Soi 20 Market

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We had just come off 24 hours of virtually no sleep flying from Dubai to Bangkok at 3am local time. So the prospect of waking up at 7am wasn’t exactly ideal but what made it worthwhile was the reason for the early start, Silom Soi 20 morning market.

This market is featured amongst many of Mark Wiens’ countless Bangkok food blogs and really caught our attention. Mainly as the street food was both different and enticing but also we were staying at the So Sofitel around three streets away from the market.

silom soi 20

Even at 7am Bangkok’s thermostat begins to rise. Although the heat on this particular morning was quite mild unlike the sticky lunchtime humidity. We strolled along Silom road just past the metro station and encountered a small line of tuk-tuk’s. Remembering that a tuk-tuk ride at least once is a must-do in Bangkok we entered into negotiations.

The tuk-tuk driver was pleasant enough and spoke enough English for us to work out where we were heading. 100 Baht (£2.22) was the agreed price, steep of course for just going 5 minutes up the road but tuk-tuks are famously more expensive than most transport in the city. The ride itself was smooth and the driver dropped us right into the centre of the hustle and bustle of the market.

silom soi 20

The smell of the market is something that I won’t forget in a hurry. The stench of fish sauce is overpowering at times but you get used to it and once you do the smell of top class Thai food comes through. We saw so many sites, from local fruit and veg to monks selling herbs fresh from metal bowls. Grilled meat on skewers, at this hour? A popular breakfast option around here. Many Thai locals were present at the market with many of the tourists presumably still in bed. We were looking for a certain stall which had been featured on Wiens’ blog which was a lady selling a dish known as Khao neow dam sang kaya which translates to Thai sticky rice with custard.

We headed to the top of the market at the Silom road area and decided to work out way down. Out of the corner of my eye I could see through the parting between customers there was an old Thai lady seated beside a large metal bowl. Easily missed even if you are looking for her! Examining her stall there’s an option of either black or white sticky rice which gets packed into a pandan leaf and topped with reduced, sweet coconut milk and a spoon of sweet Thai set custard.

Silom soi 20

25 Baht (£0.55) each parcel was a great deal with the service friendly even if English wasn’t spoken, it’s easy to get across what you would like from what’s on display. We chose black rice, mainly for photogenic reasons. It turns out that the rice has a nutty flavour, almost like it’s been toasted, really good against the rich coconut flavour.

The whole parcel was tasty and very rich indeed. The best way to eat it has to be with your fingers although it wasn’t a messy process as sticky rice holds together well. The custard on top i’m still trying to work out how it’s made. Traditional method is to steam the custard for this dish but this didn’t taste like it had been steamed. Almost like a set fudge kind of texture and sweet caramel flavour. We’ll have to work on recreating that.

Silom Soi 20

Silom soi 20

Is Silom 20 Market worth the early rise? Oh yes. Silom 20 is a great way to experience a daily Thai Market and grab some authentic street dishes along the way. You can find many things here such as mangosteens and other fresh fruit to eat in amongst the tasty street food fresh off the grill or even, as we had, stuffed into a leaf. As you’re up early, why not plan a trip to the Grand Palace on the same morning? Beat the queues and enjoy one of the top attractions in Thailand. Even better on a full stomach.

Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 0600-0900

Nearest Metro: Silom
Nearest BTS: Sala Daeng

Maxwell Food Centre – Hawker Centre

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Chicken Rice. The national dish of Singapore. Right here at Maxwell Food Centre you will find the best version of Hainanese Chicken Rice known to man at a stall called Tian Tian Chicken Rice. It’s so famous that its customers have included Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay. Both gave it a unanimous thumbs up.

Maxwell food centre Singapore Chinatown Maxwell food centre Singapore Chinatown

We rocked up at this famous hawker centre on the trail of Chicken Rice only to discover that a select number of stalls were open – Tian Tian sadly wasn’t one of them. In pictures the centre looks quite clean and modern but it’s actually quite dingy. The sun was shining brightly outside but in the communal seating area between the stalls it’s relatively dark with the lights of the stalls aiding illumination.

Chicken Rice was what we fancied so Chicken Rice is what we went to try. A stall named Hong Xiang Hainanese Chicken Rice had freshly boiled birds hanging in the window and a number of interested punters approaching for a plate of the good stuff. The lady serving was friendly offering me a spicy sambal chilli sauce to go with the medium sized plate of Chicken Rice for a very reasonable $5 SGD (£2.76).

Maxwell food centre Singapore Chinatown

Maxwell food centre Singapore Chinatown

We were expecting a gelatinous mouthful of plain food looking at the dish itself. It did appear very ordinary. On tasting it though, it was anything but. The chicken skin melts in the mouth and the rice is fragrant with a hint of garlic to it. The chilli sauce was quite sharp, similar to piri-piri and a little went a long way with this dish. We loved it. Poaching the chicken seems to keep it juicy resulting in a plate of food that falls firmly into the comforting category.

To wash this down we bought a cup of sugar cane juice from the stall directly opposite. We watched eagerly as the vendor pressed a fresh sugar cane through a machine to extract the juice. $1.50 SGD (£0.83) for a medium sized cup of the sweet stuff – and this was sweet. Initially the drink is quite refreshing but as we got halfway down it began to taste like cold tea which had been over sweetened. Not particularly pleasant.

Maxwell food centre Singapore Chinatown

Maxwell food centre Singapore Chinatown

Walking around we spotted a place called Popiah and Cockle – a popular spot for Rojak. I remember hearing about Rojak somewhere and remembering that it was good. What i didn’t know was what exactly it was. All I knew was that people were hovering around this stall and emerging with plates of something that looked intriguing. I approached the friendly lady and opted for non-spicy version of Rojak.

Maxwell food centre Singapore Chinatown

I tried to gauge just what the heck was going into the pestle and mortar. I got beansprouts, a sweet sauce and a few random items before the whole lot was poured onto a plate, garnished with sesame seeds and ready to eat. I could smell a fermented smell, similar to shrimp paste. The whole arrangement looked like a cold dish of coated fruits and vegetables in a syrupy glaze.

The first bite was a Chinese doughnut. The sauce tasted very good indeed, sweet, slightly sour and extremely rich. The flavours began to jump out at this point. Beansprouts for crunch and pieces of pineapple that were delicious with the sauce. The vegetables such as courgettes and cucumber I wasn’t so keen on.

The salad was an adventure in itself. I found crunchy peanuts and began to figure out that the sauce was a typical Indonesian one made with palm sugar, shrimp paste and lime juice. It’s probably one of the strangest things that I’ve ever eaten. I really couldn’t decide if i liked it or not. If you happen to fancy a portion of Rojak at Popiah and Cockle it’ll set you back $3 SGD (£1.66). For that you do get a substantial portion given the richness of the salad.

Maxwell food centre Singapore Chinatown

With that we left behind the Maxwell Food Centre generally happy with what we had tried and even more happy with what we had spent. The hawker centre’s of Singapore are a haven for the budget traveller and those who want to try a taste of the real Singapore. Of the stalls we visited Hong Xiang Hainanese Chicken Rice stands out from the crowd. A great option if, like us, you happen to miss out on Tian Tian’s award winning version.

Opening times: Tuesday-Sunday 1000-1600 (Stall opening times vary)

Nearest Metro: Chinatown