Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Birthday Letters from Daddy: Ellie turns 2

Dear Ellie

Sometimes I look at you marvel at how much you have grown within the space of a year.

From the bald, serious-looking baby to the endearing, independent, humorous little girl you have become, God's blessings have been more than abundant.

You walk without wanting Daddy to hold your hand, you sometimes even eat alone by yourself without our assistance. It's amazing how much you look like your brother while being the complete opposite.

Still, you are Daddy's little precious baby girl. I only just started putting you to bed, and finally got to experience the intimacy of you crawling up onto my chest in the middle of the night, something I enjoyed with Noah since his first day home. I am thankful it's not too late for me to properly feel every little bit of baby left in you.

Finally, I would like you to know that while I am writing this, Thailand, the land you are born in, is deep in mourning, because their beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away barely a week ago. Daddy and Mummy are wearing black everyday to grieve with our friends around us.

We must never forget that without this beautiful land and its people, meticulously nurtured by the late King for the best part of 7 decades, we will not enjoy what we have right now.

I hope you will grow up remembering this, and understand the late King's undying spirit as a guiding light in your life, that is, in His own words, "to do what I think is useful for the people, and that is all".

I am proud that you were born in Thailand during His reign.

Meanwhile, it's also important to recall your small little party at Devilish, our neighbourhood restaurant and remember everyone who came to bless you, plus the ones who made it all possible.

Pretty purple-themed 'party', photo credit: @strikingjacqpot

Can't resist these owl pegs

Ellie and Mummy, photo credit: @visanue

Noah! Photo credit: @visanue

Patrick serves the food. Photo credit: @visanue

Aileen and the Kawayiis

What a feast. Photo credit: @visanue
Noah and his true love. Photo credit: @visanue

Birthday cupcakes.  Photo credit: @visanue

Happy Birthday Ellie! Photo credit: @visanue

May you continue to grow into the bright, cheeky Ellie that we are all starting to see. We love you very very much.

Kisses and Hugs,

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

If the Stranger can cook: The Legendary Foochow Chicken Soup

If you had a choice to choose your last meal, what would it be?

For me, the choice is clear. I would yearn for something that brings me back to the scents and sizzles at my grandparents' backyard, and the slurps during the birthdays of every single member of my family - our legendary foochow chicken soup.

Recently, I have had multiple requests to share my recipe for this soup, so here you go!


Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  • 1 kampung chicken (1.2-1.5KG) chopped to KFC-size pieces, lightly blanched in boiling water
  • approx. 50ml of red rice wine or shaoxing wine
  • a thumb of ginger, sliced 
  • splash of sesame oil
  • 2-3 medium sized dried scallop, soaked overnight (optional)
  • 6-8 dried mushrooms, soaked overnight
  • 4-6 large red dates, soaked overnight (optional)
  • small handful of gojiberries
  • approx. 1.2-1.5litres of water
  • a whole lotta love

Cooking Procedure:

Fry the ginger in sesame oil till fragrant

Stirfry chicken in the aromatic ginger-sesame oil concoction till slightly brown, and when the pot is searing hot, pour in the wine and let the alcohol evaporate

At this stage, add the rest of your ingredients. the scallop, innards, dates, gojiberries and mushrooms

Add just enough water to cover the ingredients (add more if you have more mouths at home), bring to rolling boil, remove scum from surface, then turn down to a slow simmer for at least an hour or until the soup becomes a gleaming golden colour before finally adding salt to taste

So that's it, as easy as ABC.

Then again, I have to say, please use a good chicken, if you only have a soggy battery-farmed chicken in your freezer then you might want to forget about this dish until you can get your hands on a better bird.

Also, if you are into herbs, feel free to add in herbs like cordyceps, ginseng, tang gui, huaishan etc., but it's really not necessary.

I will leave you with a short video of me making this dish for myself during my own birthday earlier this month. Have a go at it and let me know what you think!

And here's one glowing review from a fellow hands-on cooking Daddy who has tried this recipe. Glad you enjoyed it Liren!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hidden Dining Jewels in Suburban Bangkok: Bestow - Healthy Wraps with Killer Sauces

I NEVER thought I would be writing about healthy wraps on my blog, but here goes.

Proof that healthy food can be yummy too

Bestow is a health food restaurant open along Suan Luang R.9 Road, near King Rama 9 Park. 25 year old owner Best had no prior culinary experience, but through 8 months of sheer practice, research and determination, executed his concept, to bestow health in the form of delicious food to all his customers.

Unexpectedly cosy place, don't forget to read the signs!
Aside of a few minor exceptions (eg. a small selection of soft drinks and things like hot dogs/dessert tortillas to appease to children), the theme of 'lean, healthy and delicious' runs through the entire menu, which in itself is designed like a fun game of chess, where you can mix'n match your selections, understand how many calories your meal will have and and also its price.

I am no health junkie. No amount of healthy food will appeal to me if they don't please my palate. So why am I talking about some healthy wraps that contain at least 70% worth of shredded raw carrots, onions and lettuce? The answer lies in Bestow's array of home-made sauces.

I am going to reveal something big here. I HATE ketchup. On a normal day, nothing will convince me to dip anything into a pile of raw ketchup. One of the 'dares' I had to perform while trying to break into my wife's house during our wedding day was to eat a ketchup sandwich. Oh, I can live with dishes cooked with ketchup as seasoning, but raw ketchup---thanks but no thanks.

When I knew that one of Best's signature's sauces was the BTK aka Better Than Ketchup, I knew he was on my side. That said, his BTK (sweet, sour and slightly spicy) is only my 2nd favourite sauce in his repertoire, I order his Sesame Zinc (a creamy Japanese-style sesame dressing) sauce more often. After visiting Bestow a couple of times, I was convinced that sauce really matters. A good sauce can make even a low-calorie, veggie-centric wrap taste good.

Blowtorching the spring roll.

Final product

If you are dining in, I absolutely recommend you to try their spring rolls. It is their only selection which is blowtorched, resulting in a warm, crispy wrap. The crispiness does not last though, so if you are ordering a takeaway, their tortilla wraps will be more suitable.

Mostly veggies
If there was any gripe I had about Bestow, it would be that their food offered little variety. Ok, lots of wraps, but nothing much else. This was my feedback, and Best was quick to react.

Bestow's new BBQ ribs. Try their blueberry smoothie too!
He has just released his BBQ ribs (still on limited offer, check Bestow's FB/IG or call in to check availability) which turned out to be really enjoyable. The bones slide off cleanly, and it's flavourful without being completely drenched with BBQ sauce.

Bestow is proof that healthy food does not necessarily have to taste boring. Their location is not the most convenient, but if you are in the vicinity, no harm popping by for a quick meal, or you can try their delivery services on Foodpanda.

If Best continues to refine his craft, I am sure you will see Bestow appearing in more accessible locations in Bangkok in time to come.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Best Day Ever!

Have you ever exclaimed, "This is the best day ever"?

Or even better, exclaimed, "Daddy, this is the best day ever"?

Noah did last Sunday, his first full day in Bangkok after 5 weeks away, spent with only Daddy, as Mummy and Baby Ellie were still in Singapore.

There was nothing fancy, just a normal Sunday out. Church, lunch, and a movie. Plus his wooden camera around his neck.

BTS Station


Beside Chuvit Park

Up the escalator

Golden Gate Bridge?

On the red carpet?

Before his movie

Heading home after the movie

Taking pictures of his toys before dinner

I wonder when he will get his next 'best day ever'.

Maybe when he wins a prize in a competition, or when he holds his girlfriend's hand for the first time?

The day he gets married, or when he finally gets to hold his own little baby in his arms?

Whatever the case, I know I was part of his first 'best day ever'.

And it was one of my 'best day ever' too.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Pepenero: Best Italian Diner on Koh Samui

We stepped into Pepenero and saw an empty table. Owner Paolo politely told us that even though he will keep it for us, it would be better for us to come back in half an hour.


He then apologetically explained that the kitchen was small, and they made everything fresh on order, so they needed time to serve guests who were still waiting. True enough, though there were only 3 other groups in the small restaurant, many of them hadn't eaten.

Well anyway, it was a casual Friday night on a resort island, waiting was not a problem. We requested to simply sit at our table and until he's ready to come to us.

Menu bound on the heaviest piece of solid wood you can find. This menu will break your toes if you drop it accidentally.
Oh, and Paolo was nursing a broken leg. He didn't even need to be here. Instead, you find him hopping on crutches painstakingly to every single table again and again to make sure they were fine.

I came to realise within a few minutes that that's just how Pepenero is. They live and breathe their food. For a moment I felt I was not in Thailand anymore. Such cosy, intimate settings eating authentic Italian food hosted by a passionate Italian family just doesn't come by easily in this part of the world. I was a bit shocked to find it in Koh Samui, an island more famous for its sinful moon parties, a place I had been trying to avoid for the past 6 years.

Finally when Paolo came to us, we simply asked him to choose 3 dishes for us to his liking, and he did not leave without explaining in detail how the dishes would be prepared. All of us lost track at some point, but that's just because we were so confident that we didn't bother to pay attention anymore.

Managed to coax some Parma ham and Mozarella out of them as we waited for our food

When the dishes came, we were pretty blown away.

Home-made Gnocchi with asparagus cream, clams and asparagus

Personally, I have not eaten Gnocchi or any other pasta prepared like this. The mix of fragrant asparagus and fresh clams was so incredibly good. A dish I might never forget.

Home-made Bigoli with Italian Sausage Ragu, red wine and fennel seeds
Bigoli is a bigger form of Spaghetti, suitable for pairing with a robust ragu sauce. This was also an excellent dish, with a familiar name but tasting pleasantly unfamiliar.

Ribeye Tagliata style with shallots
It is difficult for me to judge this dish because I have never eaten beef so rare. It was just very slightly seasoned so that we can taste the real flavour of the meet in every bite. I have to say though, that every element on this dish you see was very well executed, potatoes and vegetables included.

Home-made Limoncello before we left, so sweet but so strong, I nearly did a cartwheel after downing the shot

Don't get me wrong. I am not about to make a conclusive judgement on Pepenero after just 1 visit. The food was not perfect (beef too rare for me, dessert a little too sweet too late into the night) but it never is, no matter where we go.

I feel extremely compelled to write this simply because I believe that regardless of what we feel, the food is perfect for Paolo. He will only serve what he feels is flawless to every single diner every single time. That is how Pepenero is, in their own time, dish by dish made from the heart, diner by diner whom he will get to know by heart.

Paolo and I

Keep up your good work Paolo. It was a pleasure to be your guest. You won't see me much, but my promise to you is to appear in front of you whenever I land on the island.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bangkok Life Hacks: The 1st Collection

With 6 years of experience living life in Thailand everyday, I hereby present you my list of life hacks in Bangkok, as presented on my IG feed (@strangerinbangkok) via the hashtag #bangkoklifehacks, minus the ones that are no longer that relevant, and grouped into 4 categories, guaranteed to make your life in this crazy city that teeny weeny bit better.

1. Battling Yucky Airport Food

Eddietor's Note: Not only my favourite noodle at the airport, but definitely one of my favourite in the whole of Bangkok.

2. Vegetarians look here!!

Eddietor's Note: This is one of the dishes the non-vegetarian me orders most at Greyhound.

3. For you, the one residing long-term in Thailand

Eddietor's Note: The COMPLETE game-changer, full post here.

Eddietor's Note: No Black Canyon coffee please, no... no... NOOO!

4. Beat the Queue!!

Eddietor's Note: There's probably no more queue even at Emquartier now especially after Bake Cheese Tart's arrival.

Eddietor's Note: One of my original Wah Lau Eh! items. Read here.

Eddietor's Note: Emporium is the mall right opposite Emquartier.

What a great list!!

No? Tell me your Bangkok life hack then!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What to eat near Bangkok BTS Stations: Ploenchit (E2)

Ploenchit (E2) BTS Station might be the most hiso (ie. atas, high-class) station along the entire Sukhumvit Line. The malls, hotels, office buildings and even the hospital close to it all exude a certain form of class. Needless to say, the dining opportunities around it will naturally be endless, so even though it's not my favourite neighbourhood, it has many of my favourite restaurants in town, which you should try as well.

1. La Buca : Italian classics that are all about Mr Oreste

One of my original Wah Lau Eh! restaurants, La Buca is the definition of a man's heart and soul. It's almost unbelievable how a restaurant can be so focused around a single person, but his flamboyant self-indulgence is also the main reason for La Buca's excellence.

How many Orestes do you see?
You might not even have read about La Buca before this, but trust me, Mr Oreste will make sure you leave satisfied. Don't expect food to reach you plated like a Michelin star (we will come to that later). Instead expect rustic Italian dishes done with flair and gusto. Just sit back, hope Mr Oreste comes, and enjoy whatever he unleashes at you when he does.

2. Flour Shoppe: Lime Cream Tart!!!

When I got to know Flour Shoppe a few years ago, they were only a small tart stall outside Tops Supermarket Central Chidlom. Now they already have a full restaurant on the same level, selling the same tarts and some reasonably good Western food.

Pretty good Spaghetti Carbonara, but what's with the raw spring onion on top?
Yummy Fried Chicken Biscuit

My recommendation at Flour Shoppe will most definitely be their tarts, especially their lime cream tart. Perfect place for afternoon tea if you are in Central Chidlom or Central Embassy.

I can eat these everyday!

3. Kang Ban Phe: Delicious Tom Yum Noodles, with or without the Kang

Kang Ban Phe's shop-front in Ruamrudee Village

Most photogenic noodles in town?

Hailing from Rayong, Kang Ban Phe is worth the hype. Not only does the bowl of Tom Yum Seafood Noodles look good, it tastes extremely good too. Both the broth and noodles are of a different level as compared to your typical street-side fix. The Kang (thai word for mantis shrimp) though, is underwhelming. Pre-cooked way beforehand, it's tasteless and slightly over-done when served. This bowl will taste equally excellent, with or without the Kang.

4. Cafe Parisien: Chef Herve Frerard's brainchild after Le Beaulieu

I was shocked and disappointed at Le Beaulieu's sudden closure, but the opening of Cafe Parisien ensured that the sadness was short-lived.

Set in a glass house beside the spectacular Sindhorn Tower, Cafe Parisien has taken Chef Herve's French classics into a brighter, more casual setting.

Organic Pork Chop

Grilled Flank Steak
Chef's famous business set lunches are still offered, and at its price range (690++THB), it has to be one of the best in town.

5. Savelberg: Not 1, but 4 Michelin Stars

Evening at Savelberg
Chef Henk Savelberg set up Savelberg after achieving Michelin Star recognition at 4 (!!) previous restaurants. It is safe to say that we are fortunate to be able to sample his cooking here in Bangkok.

At Savelberg, a dish is not actually a dish, it is really an artistic assembly of up to 10 different intricately-prepared components to make up a single cohesive dining experience. Let me just give a few examples:

Amuse Bouche of  White Asparagus Powder with Smoked Tasmanian Salmon
Lobster Salad with Red Curry

Cape Grimm: Wagyu Cheek, Bone Marrow and Grass-fed Striploin
If you would like to know more about my entire dining experience at Savelberg, you can have a look at Wilbur's piece on As a summary, it is probably safe to say that dinner at Savelberg will most likely give you a pleasantly-unforgettable evening.


I really hope this list will prove useful, especially if you are planning a special surprise for your loved one. That said, I am also sure that this list is only the tip of the iceberg available at Pleonchit. Part 2 to come in due time!

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