Belgium · Family · Feel-Good · France · Greetings · Informative · Kuching · New Year · Personal · Provence · Reunion · Short Story · Travel · Wedding

Reflections 2020 – A Year Like No Other

As we sang the Auld Lang Syne, clinked champagne flutes with the sounds and flares of the fireworks in the skies and bade farewell to 31st December, 2019, we had zero notion what would await us all at the turn of the year. Looking back to my 2020, my 365-day page was devoted almost entirely to the big C word that has drifted by with the passing of the 4 seasons (and counting …?)

In retrospect, there is probably one magic word that befits anno 2020: resilience. It is amazing how in the course of a few months we have been tested on our bouncebackability. Our ability of being adaptive and creative have been phenomenal.

Here is a snapshot of my diary of the year 2020 like no other.

Wedding of the Year

2020 could have been the year with a record number of weddings. Without a doubt, it was truly a blessing in disguise when my brother in Canada sent out early wedding invitations in 2019 to meet in Kuching for the wedding of his eldest son. The matrimonial vows were exchanged on 30th January, where families and friends hugged, laughed, shook hands and cried tears of joy. Here’s the write up of the wedding of my nephew and Nanako: Wedding

Wedding of Ivan & Nanako

And then, the invincible invisible enemy crushed all hopes of all planned weddings in 2020. No church weddings, no banquets, no friends or families allowed. It’s gloomy days ahead for a long time.

Traffic Lights

The WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March and lockdowns began in countries around the world. I would not have imagined that the colours of the traffic lights would dictate our way of living, but it had .… uptil now!  Teleworking had been the new norm. I have been working from home since mid-March and it has been almost 10 months down the road.  It was good at first as I hated the morning rush hours.  When the days turned to weeks and then months, WFH seemed like an added chore, a drudgery of sorts. I don’t hate it but I don’t love it either. Let’s just say, it’s growing on me.

I did go back to my office 3 times since our first lockdown in mid-March.  Although my office is prepared to have the employees back to the building, however, with the protocol of measures in line with the Fed Government’s, return to office is still not recommended.

Our ‘welcome’ pack
Basement parking for 200+ cars has never been this empty

Creative Minds

For many people, looking back at 2020 is painful and frustrating. Keeping our distance from loved ones, friends and colleagues or not being able to attend a funeral, reunion party, potlucks, film, concert, workshop, meetings all led to isolation, hence a new word is born, “social distancing”. The introverts did not mind that, but definitely not the extroverts!

The corona virus might have taken the centre stage, but 2020 was also a year full of NEW ideas, NEW initiatives, fun and loving moments.

By the way, a surgical mask that cost a few cents became the most sought after item in 2020. When masks were nowhere to be found or sold in pharmacies and supermarkets, people were forced to get creative. YouTube Channels were exploded with tutorials and ideas of “how to make your own mask”.  Millions made DIY masks.  I was intrigued by the idea but the execution never got off the ground. I still have a bagful of cotton towels, mini sewing kit, filters, elastic band spools, untouched.  When I wanted to start making my own mask, we received free masks from our commune, my company and from some friends. Not long after that, surgical masks were once again, allowed to be sold in pharmacies and supermarkets, but no longer at the price we knew pre-Covid. 

We were told during the lockdown to stay healthy, to move around the house every so often despite the movement restriction order outdoors. It ain’t easy for the outdoor types, the extroverts.  While swimming pools and gyms were closed, the free outdoors became the new ‘fitness centres’ of our world.  There’s no stopping walkers, joggers, runners, cyclists working out in the woods and parks daily or weekly.   Mind you, bicycles, sports suits, walking/running shoes and dumbbells were hot items in 2020, and pets, Netflix and Airfryer, too!!

And I just had to jump on the bandwagon!

How creative can a human mind be with a bad hair day during lockdown become a norm? When nonessential shops like a hair salon are closed for months, my hair was growing in all directions. YouTube seemed to have read my mind like an open book. Suddenly a video of an interview with George Clooney by Jimmy Kimmel appeared on my recommended feed.  It was not just an interview but a surprising confession from the actor that he cuts his own hair … with a vacuum cleaner, aka Flowbee! After checking out all the Flowbee videos, I told my boys, “I want a Flowbee!, too!” Unfortunately, it’s an American product and it’s only available in the States, and they’re all sold out! Helaas!

Instead, I watched my boys having fun cutting each others’ hair while I snipped mine myself blindly …

Short and Crisp

Speaking of YouTube channels, I noticed so many new accounts created since March: all for the sake of entertaining the lockdowners. Some channels made it big in such a short span of time. I love watching musicals, singers and songwriters and one that stood out is a father-and-daughter vocal duo, Mat and Savanna Shaw. Their debut video cover of Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer” published in March, garnered 8 million views (and counting), as I write. They have since published global livestream concerts and made their debut Christmas album in less than 10 months of owning a YouTube Channel. And I’m still watching them uploading perfectly harmonious songs. That makes me absolutely happy during this lockdown.

I’m afraid I am not one who has the patience to watch a lengthy movie in one sitting. Give me a good short story of 30 minutes or less at one sitting and I´d binge watch the videos in one night.  Omeleto is my favourite pitstop and CGI animated short films is another.  JinnyboyTV and Wong Fu Productions published quality videos with great acting and stories that are relatable with Asian values. 

Corona Summer

Summer 2020 was unlike any other summer. Airports were deserted. Commercial Planes were not flying, trains were sporadic. Many opted for a trip close to home, famously coined as “Staycation”. It was a hard decision for us, too, cancelling our trip to London via Eurostar. Infact, for ALL of us in these difficult times. We did, however, make a mini trip in September by car. We were very careful, maintaining our distance and adhering to the corona protocol and measures during our entire stay in South France.

Once a popular destination, all were quiet and almost deserted, but it was a much needed break for us. In hindsight, I’m glad we made it…

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Daudet’s Windmill, Fontvielle
Arles
Les Baux de Provence
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
Provence

The Pass that Failed

When the Belgian railway company launched the free pass “Hello Belgium” by promoting travel within the country, valid from 5th Oct 2020 for 6 months, I was thrilled. I had bookmarked a trip to Bruges with my son, but hey-ho, it was not meant to be. Belgium was flagged ‘red’ and entered into a stricter 2nd lockdown on 1st Nov when cases surged. There goes my free pass. It failed!

A Cancelled Concert: Despair vs Hope

Perhaps the most disappointing news was the cancelled live tour of my newfound favourite singers, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Josh Lee Turner, Carson McKee, Reina del Cid and Toni Lindgren. Their live concert in Belgium in November where my husband and I were supposed to go, was cancelled.  So we are reliving their music in our home and keeping our ears and eyes opened for new dates of their live concerts.  Fingers crossed!

To keep the live musical theme alive in our home, we are listening to our 2 boys making music, yes, making and singing. Feeling blessed

Counting Bubbles

“Bubble” during this pandemic means social contacts.  How many contacts we could have were decided by the Government in alignment with the number of cases locally and regionally. Currently, Belgium allows only 1 cuddle contact (“knuffelcontact”) who does not belong to our own household.  This “close contact” implies contact that lasts more than 15 minutes without having to maintain the social distance and wearing a face mask.

As far as I could remember, the number of bubbles in Belgium have been fluctuating like a yo-yo between March to December: from 2 to 4 to 15 and down to 10 and then to 4 and currently, to one lone ranger.

Bustling Kitchen

My kitchen has never been used so much the past 10 months. I was on my toes daily, balancing kitchen activities and office work. It was doable in the initial stage. I was like a duracell bunny hopping around the house with my daily chores and prepping daily meals for my menfolk.  It was exhausting, so I thought the right way was to slow down and leave the cooking to either my older son and/or order takeaways.

Here were some snapshots of the memories of my bustling kitchen ideas, savouries and sweets

When I was weary, down and out, I passed the baton on to my older son. Here’s the outcome …

While I am not in the mood to cook, and the older son flashes his white flag, I had to resort to ordering takeaways. Here are the results …

Time will tell

A year in review might suggest that the moments are behind us, but what anno 2020 has shown is the events that will last a lifetime

Both my boys had to follow their University courses online.  With lots of patience and determination, my older son graduated with his MSc degree last year. My younger son, on the other hand, is showing signs of losing hope.  Hang on there, son.  Hope works with Time and Time is capable of understanding how valuable Hope is.  

The UK finally exits the EU and Time will tell how and what the future will be

The world stood still, but Time is catching up with us. We experienced a lockdown, felt vulnerable while the virus made a major impact on our daily lives. We had to get used to the new normal and the universal 1.5m social distancing, a word we had never used pre-Covid days. Shaking hands, attending a party, travelling and grabbing a shopping cart have not been the same and Time will tell if we will (ever) get back to our previous norm.

Following a public vote, “Knuffelcontact” has been named Word of the Year by the Van Dale Dutch language experts. The word literally translates to “cuddle contact” or “hug buddy” and refers to a close contact outside of one’s household in alignment to COVID-19 regulations. 

The world stood still, but many have enriched their lives by staying healthy, eating right and being closer to their loved ones who are staying apart.  It’s just a ZOOM away.   

I look forward to the prospect of a new year in which we can see each other in person, give a hug and pass one another in the hallway with a visible smile on our face and a simple “Good Morning” 

The fact that our freedom was limited the past year did not make it easy for all of us. But I know, we’ll come out of the rut year stronger than ever before!

Here’s to a Healthy, Happy, Stronger and Safer 2021 and to all Mothers-to-be and Grannies-to-be, enjoy a new Life in your lives.  2021 is one hell of a baby boom year. The Stork is working overtime in the Year of the Metal Ox.

Cheers!

Asian · Belgium · Cook Like a Star! · Dessert · Feel-Good · Friends · Kuching · Main Course · Malaysian · Mystery · Noodles · Personal · Reunion · Sarawakian

11-11-11 Mission: 6 girls, a Cook-Off … and the Winner is …

In hindsight, life seemed like a bed of roses until a virus crushed our beds. It has been 8 long roller-coaster months (and counting??) of anxiety, akin to a Mother carrying a child in her belly. My beloved late Mum used to say with precision, “I carried you for 9 months 10 days”. Does that mean there’s hope after Christmas? In 2021….?

It’s a long dark tunnel we’re travelling in, but I have to believe there’s redemption in the darkest of circumstances.

Guess what? I’m going to paint the tunnel with the colours of the Rainbow! We need happy stories more than ever in this oppressively bleak moments.

Shall we play a game then?

Ready?

It was Sunday, 11th Oct. G, the last person I know in our group chat who would be sharing photos of food dishes, suddenly bombarded our chat group with her amazing platters. She confessed, “I really wanted something that reminds me of home kopitiam food”. 5 other charbors couldn’t agree more especially so when G is now with 2. Et voilà! 😉)

The prolonged lockdown or house-confinement has magically transformed many noob cooks to unsung heroes with their unimaginable sleight-of-hands in the kitchen. Colourful platters were virtually shared. THAT is the Rainbow I was referring to.

C: I miss Yong Tau Fu and Pan Mee
G: We should all come up with ideas on what Asian food challenge to cook next
A: Good idea!
D: I’m in! O, you’re also included in the challenge, ya 😉
X: OK. Let’s do it but first I need to buy Kway Teow 😅

And then, silence prevailed for a few days and suddenly, one message popped up in our group chat. X texted, “The best 007 has left us” *sob*

From Food to Bond. Very intriguing combo, indeed. Ha ha ha …

Set!

Wait a minute! Was it not exactly 5 years ago today when 6 girls met in Antwerp, had Cantonese-style yin yang rice noodles at Da Jia Le and coming out of the cinema humming to the tune of Sam Smith’s Writing on the Wall (aka Spectre with Daniel Craig as 007)?

Well, well, well…. History has repeated itself, albeit in an extraordinarily different way. On this 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, 6 “Bond” charbors could not meet physically, but shared their moments virtually, a reminder of the delectable lunch they had in Antwerp on 11th November, 2015

And so the story goes … 5 very determined ladies showed off their take on a noodle dish (with a story to tell) that any 007 would swoon over. But little did they know that their dishes would be judged from North, South, East and West by the mysterious “M”

Go!!

5 entries were submitted, in no particular order …

Huh? It didn’t add up innit? There’re 6 charbors, but only 5 entries? Hmmmmm where’s entry number 6??

Well, somebody had to play “M” and that’s moi! Sorry, charbors 😜

While the 5 “Bond” girls slogged away with their prized platter, the mysterious “M” carried out a secret Mission. She had to pick the winning platter.

Which of the “Bond” girls won, you think?

Drum roll please….. and the winner is …..

Damn, that’s NOT easy. “M” knows the girls too well. Not fair lah! So the mysterious “M” called upon 18 Secret Agents from Europe, Asia, North America and Oceania to co-judge the winning plate.

Drum roll (again) please…
And the WINNER is …

Erm … hidden in the comments from the 18 judges, hereunder …

Can you decipher? 🧐🤔

“All look so yummy, how to judge? Especially when they are dished up differently”
“See photos only and not tasting, difficult lah. Maybe it doesn’t look nice but taste nice?”
“If I’m not saying right, no hard feelings ok. It’s just the presentation”
“Well, if you ask me to judge on which dish I’ll go and grab first based on the look, I would say this picture.  Based on presentation, I would say the top right photo.  Looks clean and decent”

“How the dish is presented, can be deceiving.  Let me taste all first, lah …”
“I feel that I must have a criteria to judge”
“I am sure many will choose their favourite dishes”
“I base my judgement on photo presentation”
“I’m not a very noodle person”
“Oh dear, I’m very bad at this.. ”
“I don’t really like all the wet, wet noodles. Only the curly kolo mee”
“This one is always my favourite”
“I ranked them in order of how they looked and the seasonings in the noodles”
“Give me 1 and 2 anytime. Yum “
“How to judge? In terms of presentation or which one looks appetizing?”
“I’m not a good cook so I really can’t decide.  All looked yummy. Anyway, the best is the 1st photo”
“Wait, since this is based on presentation only, I will have to look closer.”

“The plating for E is not pretty, but I bet the bee hoon and pork tasted superb”
“This plate is missing some greens, otherwise, it will be my no 1”
“Dry mee always comes first for me, except laksa ”
“I prefer bee hoon, mee pok, finer and thinner type noodles”
“If this was kway teow, automatically no 1”

“Looks delish ‘cause of the veg, fresh coriander, crispy shallots and meat”
“I like bee hoon with bean sprouts, carrots, omelette strips, spring onions or chives for colours”
“Looks delish, but noodle looks bland”
“This colour is not enticing. Meat looks ok but again the presentation and colour not attractive”
“My ranking depends on the season. In these cold days, I would say …”
“Looks like Thai dish, interesting!”
“Cantonese kway teow! My favourite!”
“3rd picture looks like dry foochow noodle? Looks great! Sweet black sauce, yums!”
“Toppings look amazing, but noodles look plain”
“Minus points for no greens. Noodles look too plain but meat looks perfectly cooked”
“This looks ok, but too dry and colour not attractive”

By the way, did you manage to de-crypt the winner and the winning entry? 🧐
For now, my lips are sealed …🤐

As a bonus, 2 early birds sent the Mysterious “M” the best virtual desserts ever imaginable. Both entries deserved the highest accolades. Without being able to taste the desserts de facto, M made the conclusive decision that both plates were EQUAL winners. Period!

The journey of Life is a perfectly surprising CIRCLE; you never know when the BEST PART comes back to you because the end of one journey is the beginning of the next. We are all connected in the great circle of life – FRIENDS!

The magic of the the 11th day of the 11th month was re-visited when 5 girls sent their VIRTUAL LOVE in sync 💞

Well, it takes a virus to bring us back together, stronger than ever before 💪

Stay safe and take care

Virtual hugs 🤗

Chinese New Year · Family · Feel-Good · Friends · Japanese · Kuching · Nostalgia · Personal · Reunion · Siblings · Wedding

The Wedding: One Stone that killed several Birds …

When my brother in Canada announced that his eldest of 4 sons was getting married, we felt elated at hearing the news. That was Nov 2018. With the cold and dreary Canadian winter (ahem … Alberta to be precise), the low-keyed garden wedding was beautifully executed.

Since the garden prenuptial was purely a Canadian family affair, families from afar did not get the feel of the joys of that matrimony. Knowing this brother of mine, he’s not one to fall short for such plan. Let’s put it this way … he’s not an ‘alang-alang’ guy. LOL!

One fine morning we all got up to reading a pleasant message from my brother via WhatsApp

We’re going to Kyoto for the wedding!

So desu ka?

So desu ne!

I was over the moon with that news …

If you’re wondering, why Japan? Well, my brother has embraced a new addition to the family. His daughter-in-law-to-be is a stunning Japanese 😉

By the way, Japan has always been one of the countries I have bookmarked. Coincidentally, it’s also the destination I have promised my younger son with a sworn statement, swearing my promise to bring him to the Land of the Rising Sun, one fine day… Here’s the story if you missed it : My ‘Japanese’ Boy

A Damper!

Just as we were feeling euphoric with the news, our ecstasy suddenly fell flat southward. Alas, the cruel force of gravity! Our joys were short-lived because there was not going to be a trip to Japan. Sob! Sob! Instead, the Japanese contingent preferred to travel to the Land of the Hornbills! So much for my Japanese dream … sigh!

Another stumbling block was the Wedding date: 30th January! It’s the month-end close and coupled with the unceasingly intense news coverage of the pandemic Covid-19. Ai yai yai! So how?

Well, I could choose not to make the trip, but the thought of missing such event that occurs once in a lifetime was just unendurable. So, geared with my laptop et al, I booked my flight and hotel. Hubs and BIL booked theirs separately.

Exit Miss Piggy, Enter Stuart Little

We touched down Kuching International Airport exactly on the first day of the Lunar New Year. While the family were enjoying scrumptious Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner, we had to make do with the mediocre Emirates meals on air. The 24-hour flight and transits covering 4 airports and 3 continents had left me feeling absolutely knackered and groggy. To add salt to injury, 3 of 4 of our check-in luggage went missing, or rather, they did not arrive in the same plane as our ETA, therefore, we had to go through the hassle of filing reports of our missing baggage. At that point, I could not wait to have a nice warm shower and jump into a comfortable bed. Luckily the hotel shower was excellent and the bed was very clean and comfortable. I was in slumberland in no time at all.

Oh by the way, the 3 luggage arrived the next day.

Working Holiday

In between working and delivering my reports, I thought some free moments could be spent with my family or friends, but I was wrong. The time zone difference of 7 hours was the most challenging factor. When I was free, it was already midnight M’sia time and time to hit the sack. This was the mode I had to endure for the next 2 weeks …

I must thank my hubs and especially my younger sis for being the protector of my tummy while I was on “lockdown” in my hotel room

All I needed to tell them was what I craved and hocus-pocus, my wish was granted. Ha ha …

Wedding Day: Morning

The day arrived when the Lands of the Hornbills and the Rising Sun became ONE.

The beautiful bride and the handsome groom exchanged their Holy Matrimonial vows with their unyielding “I do” and promised to be true to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for they will love and honour each other until death do them part.

Amen to that!

With teary eyes of joy, families from near and far flocked together and rejoiced in jubilation.

 

Teary-eyed moment between Mum and Daughter

Congrats Kanoko. You’re next … 😉

Wedding Day: Afternoon

While the melodic morning bells chimed and made way for the fiery afternoon crackers, we adjourned for the traditional Tea Ceremony at the groom’s uncle’s house with a “light” brunch.

A Wedding tea ceremony is the epitome of respect and gratitude by the newlyweds towards their parents and elders by serving them tea.  It also symbolizes that the bride and groom officially belong into a new and extended family.

Wedding Day: Evening

My sisters, a niece and I were the first to arrive and therefore we had the first glimpse of the banquet hall without any mortal in sight.

Oh no, we were not trying to be prying “kaypo“, but we were there early as ‘duty managers’. Lol!

Duty calls. The early birds at their work station 😅

Once upon a moment, very immaculate, absolutely quiet and empty …  Sssh… ssshh..

The empty banquet hall was slowly filled with guests, one by one, filling each table to the brim, and zing, boom, bam, the roof caved in and the noise began!  Forget whispering to your neighbour because you would never get your message across to the recipient correctly 🙂

Bless me Your Grace for I have sinned …

The party began with the clamourous and deafening Yuuuuuummmm Seng!

The Prosperity Toss

What an appropriate dish to serve as we were still in Chinese New Year mood.

The higher the better, the messier the table means you have done your part in shouting at the top of your lungs, the blessings of good luck, fortune and happiness. Toss High! Lo Hei! 

Reunion of Family and Friends

Although it’s the Bride and Groom’s day, it was, without a doubt,  an opportune day of reuniting with long lost relatives and friends. My brother must have invited his entire year school mates that evening.  Buddies whom he had not met for more than 30 decades came from near and far!  It was practically a class reunion.  I bet the boys felt 17 again …

Likewise, it was great meeting cousins and relatives whom we have not met in donkeys years!

Only an event as such, could bring us together.

And by the way, I shared my fair share of reuniting with long lost friends whom I have not met since Primary school, since Form 5 and since Form 6.  They have evolved to be successful ‘towkay’ and ‘towkay neos’. One owns the chain of Curry House restaurants throughout Sarawak, one an acclaimed Music teacher and one ‘Superman’ in the person of the Most Hallowed, His Grace, the Archbishop of Sarawak!  I was so thrilled and blessed to have met them all in one evening!

Cheers!

Family Bonding

Luckily, I was not the one getting married. A wedding day is a very exhausting affair akin to a full time job with full-blown overtime albeit for a day! Been there, done that. Ha ha …

It was a BIG relief when the party’s over and we’re back on the normal track.

Although I was physically in Kuching for 3 weeks, it was a working ‘holiday’ for me for 2 weeks . I had only one week of ‘me-time’, therefore, it was very precious.  I had consciously chosen to spend more time with my siblings, reminiscing the good old days. There were too many stories to share in too short a time.  We knew Mum and Dad were with us throughout because we could not stop talking and thinking about them.  How else could we be here without them, right?

As we grow older, we’ll find the only things we regret are the things we didn’t do, and one of the things is making the most out of visits to our elderly relatives.

They’re not getting any younger and so are we.

Life is too short so let’s make the most out of it.

Live SIMPLY

Laugh OFTEN

Love DEEPLY

The truth is, a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by the headcount at dinner table, but by the tradition you help family members create; the memories you share, the commitment of time, cares and love you show to one another.

Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as ONE.

Have a Blessed Weekend!

Cheers!

Belgium · Books · Culture · Did you know? · Feel-Good · Friends · Informative · Mystery · Nostalgia · Personal · Reunion · Sarawakian

When 7 girls and a baby decided to go for a weekend getaway… Part 2

It has been a bit more than a month ago when we had an exclusive all-girl weekend getaway. It was meant to be a fun-filled and stress-free weekend for 7 girls for a getaway with great food, quality bonding, lots of laughs and just having the best time ever. Oooops… forgot baby Z, the only XY-chromosome in our girly group! 😀

On 5th Nov, I have posted Part 1 of our weekend getaway to (O)Porto, the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon. By the way, Portugal’s famous port wine is named for Porto, and Portugal, is one of the world’s most beautiful countries! 

Oh dear, it has been 3 weeks since, and Part 2 was still not out … hmmmm

I’m sure the girls were wondering, and I was right. Last week I met up with X for lunch and here’s our conversation:

X (curious): When is part 2 of our trip going to be ready, or have you decided to stop…?

D: Definitely not stopping. In the pipeline … 😉

X: Ha ha …. I thought you have decided to stop !

D (smiling): Nope, am collating the photos first and that’s one big hold-up! The App I’m using jumbled up my photos and they are not in chronological order anymore and mind you, I have more than 10k photos on my iPhone! Argghhh …

X: My condolences to you, then …

D (grinning): Humph! 

Pre-Mortem 

With the majority of us working and/or travelling, AO volunteered to do a research on Porto a week before our ETD. She had BIG plans for us 7 girls and her baby. It sounded just too good, but was it doable? The main point of discussion was whether Duoro Valley was a go or no go in our Weekend getaway. Places of interests and links were attached in an email for us to revert with our feedback.

While X and G had replied, here was my feedback –

Hi ya’ll !

Hey AO, a massive thanks for the great research, indeed. Well done, charbor! I was re-reading your message and noted that getting to the villages would take at least 2.5 hours. That means to and from the villages would take 5 hours and that’s just the travel part and not taking into account the actual time spent there. We would easily lose three-quarters of a day just to get there and back. It’s a pity because I would love to visit the breathtaking Duoro Valley, but due to time pressure (short weekend et al), with a heavy heart, I’ll give this visit a miss. I’m sure Porto city has a lot to offer especially so when it’s a first time for most of us. Oh by the way, I just checked the weather forecast and it’s not looking great, It’ll be 17 to 18 deg C with 60% to 70% chance of rain!!! Hope the forecast is wrong ! So it looks like X, G and I are saying “no” to Duoro Valley. Not sure about C, O and AM. Anyway, since you and AM will be staying a day longer, hence, am assuming you girls will be going on Sunday, if we’re not going in a group, right?. And if you’re going, don’t forget to share your experience with us after the trip, k? 

Cheers and counting down to our Porto trip!!

D

So the road trip plan to Duoro Valley was dumped, as C and O were also not keen, due to time constraints. That meant, AO and AM, the last girls to leave Porto, would be going on Sunday, right?

Erm … afraid not… 

Just a day or two before our departure, AO, the littlest, but feistiest girl in our group (Lolz!) decided a last minute change in plan, i.e. to go on with the trip to Duoro Valley, with or without the group not on Sunday but on the day of our ETA in Porto! The reason for the change in schedule was because of …

 …This !!!

Sunday, 23rd Oct was to be the bleakest of all days. Cold and wet at 14 deg C! Driving along the winding roads to Duoro Valley under a heavy downpour would appear to be too dangerous, so it would definitely be a no go on Sunday to Duoro Valley … BUT… feisty AO was determined to make that trip!

Now the question(s): Did AO go to Duoro Valley or not and if she did, who came along? 

I left the office at almost 9 pm the evening before the trip. I was absolutely knackered and dog-tired; hence I was 100% looking forward to an easy and stress-free weekend with the girls and a baby …

Bem-vindo ao porto! Welcome to Porto!

We left Brussels Airport at 10:50 and arrived at Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport at 12:20. As soon as we touched down, our group had to split into two! Yup, the trip to Duoro Valley was decided at the last minute and AO managed to ‘lure’ a victim and who izzit?

The group that left to Duoro Valley took a rented car whilst the group that headed straight for the city took the Metro. Before we said our temporary goodbyes, we wanted everyone to meet for dinner together. We suggested and agreed to meet at the hotel lobby around 7pm, all 7 girls and a baby!

Did we make it? That’s the question … 😉

By the way, it was C who volunteered to accompany AO and baby Z and she was happy to be the ‘chauffeur’ for the entire journey up the wine growing valley of Duoro

The 5 of us had initially wanted to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel. We queued on the taxi stand, but it was just hopeless because there were 5 of us. The cabbie allowed max 4 passengers per trip. A minivan-type taxi would be perfect but they didn’t appear very often, so we changed our strategy and went for the Metro instead. 

The journey to the city centre took about 35 minutes and a single fare was Eur 1.80. For the first time, we needed to buy the Andante ticket which included the 0.60 cent rechargeable Andante card

Taking the metro is by far the cheapest and quickest way to get to the city but I remembered well we had to wait for about 40 minutes for the metro train to start moving. We had lost precious time playing the waiting game .. 

Porto Trindade Hotel

Trindade station is the 15th stop from the airport. The hotel was not an obvious find as the sign was virtually non-existent. We had to cross the road from the Metro and walked uphill all the way to the hotel while at the same time, dragging our luggage. It was probably a blessing in disguise that AO and baby Z didn’t have to go through the gruelling walk that afternoon. 

Goodness gracious!  It was almost 3 pm and we had not had our lunch. Before we checked in our rooms, X asked the receptionist where we could eat the famous Porto signature dish, francesinha. Without a smile on his face, he gave us the name of the restaurant (Café Santiago) and to remember the landmark “Coliseu do Porto“. The restaurant’s just opposite the theatre which is a local landmark and a leading venue for music and cultural events in Porto. Oh-Kay… with a landmark in mind, we shouldn’t get lost, right? 

If I remembered well, I didn’t recall we being greeted by a friendly receptionist. I would describe the staff as professional rather than friendly, except for one super friendly barman, whom we got acquainted with that evening when we redeemed our welcome drink at the bar. He was very helpful and went the extra mile to give us tips on places to visit during our stay in Porto.

When we checked-in into our rooms, we had only 10 minutes to orientate ourselves in our respective room, after which we had  to gather at the lobby and left the hotel in search for that mysterious francesinha

It was not an easy peasy search for that specific Café because we still had to acquaint and orientate ourselves with the city and her surroundings. 

Avenida dos Aliados

From our hotel, we started at the monumental central avenue, Avenida dos Aliados, aka Porto’s ‘reception room’ right in the heart of the city.

It’s a lively avenue during the day, but what a pity the skies were quite grey and it was quite chilly that afternoon as well. The avenue would have been a great place for a relaxing promenade, but of course we did not miss a photo opportunity next to the statue of D. Pedro IV on a horse. He was a symbol of courage and affection for the people of Porto. Behind us in the distance was the City Hall of Porto, situated at the top of Aliados Avenue, at the heart of downtown.


We could not dilly-dally too long there as time was the essence. In hindsight, it’s unfortunate that our group was splitted into two. We came as one and we should have stayed as one. With two splitted groups, timing became a challenge. We hadn’t the clue if C, AO and baby Z had the rented car and/ or if they had started the journey direction Duoro. We could only hope and pray that the 2 girls and a baby were danger-free and fine. Therefore, the only right way to do was to respect our agreed timeline prior to our going separate ways. 

And by the way, we still have not found the landmark the hotel receptionist was directing us to, so we walked and we walked and we walked …

The Quest For Francesinha 

In order not to have too many people doing the same thing, G and X were the map readers or navigators.  Girls being girls, little arguments and banterings were the norm. One said north, the other said south. So we walked and walked and walked until we came to Porto’s lively shopping street, Rua Santa Catarina. Part of the street is closed to traffic, making it a mostly-pedestrianised shopping street. Well of course we did not stop there to shop (not yet) BUT we had a closed glimpse of the most renowned “Harry Potter‘s” Café Majestic.  

Harry Potter

Yup! Will talk about that in a bit, because the priority quest then was to monitor the landmark, Coliseu do Porto and our francesinha !!!!

And we finally found the landmark!!!

Yay!!


Café Santiago 

If this café was recommended by staff at our hotel, then it must be good. It was full house when we arrived, so it’s a good sign that it must be more than good 😉

We had to wait for a vacant table. What made it more difficult was we were with 5 people. First of all, 5 is an odd number and 5 were too many to get a table in a packed café, so we waited …

We finally got a table meant for 4, so we had to squeeze one of the girls. When the waiter brought the menu card to us, I goggled at the photos of the menu. Only 2 shades of colours: yellow/brown and orange! Where are the greens? Reds? Purples? Whites?


I suddenly felt constipated gawking at the photos. To be honest, that’s not my kind of food, but, hey we walked more than 10,000 steps just to experience a typical Porto dish, so game on!

Francesinha is one of the most typical dishes in Porto. It’s a type of sandwich (toasted bread) stuffed with different layers of meats (cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage, beef steak) and covered with cheeses and then oven-grilled until the cheeses just slightly melted. The sandwich sits on a spicy tomato-beer sauce, which secret recipe will never be revealed… well, that did not bother me, because I would not be craving for francesinha in a long while …

We ordered 3 different items on the menu and shared those amongst the 5 of us. We had to be careful not to eat too much as we promised to meet for dinner, all 7 girls and a baby that evening.

By the way, I was glad I got to try the infamous francesinha. For me, it’s once bitten, twice shy. Don’t get me wrong, it was a tasty dish, but it was way too heavy for my liking. I think the other girls shared the same sentiment as I did, right charbors? 😉

São Bento Railway Station

After the heavy late ‘lunch’ of francesinha, we were in dire need of more walks. Our next stop was worth the stop. It was a railway station but it was not just an ordinary one. São Bento is the oldest and is claimed to be the most beautiful railway station with its 20,000 dazzling blue-and-white Moorish tile panels, known as azulejos. The painted tiles on the walls illustrate the evolution of transport in the area, as well as depicting scenes of the history of Portugal. 

Oh by the way, we were lucky to be entertained by the local military orchestra that afternoon 😀



Churches and Cathedrals 

It’s amazing to see how many churches and cathedrals in quite close proximity with each other in the centre of the city. We have probably been to most of the churches, which looked amazing on the façade as well as the interior. 

It was good to have those peaceful and silent moments once in a while after the fast pacings and stresses of the day to recharge our batteries 😉


Birthday Girl

The clock ticked and we were wondering about AO, C and baby Z. Before we headed back to our hotel, we stopped at a pastry shop in the hope of buying a cake for birthday girl, AO, as a surprise, however, the cake shop ran out of cakes. Instead, we agreed unanimously to go for 7 mini cakes (mix of chocolate, passion fruits, raspberries and mangos) at a Specialty Cake Shop on the way back to our hotel. 

Two weeks before our departure to Porto, 6 girls were discussing about giving AO a birthday surprise. In a way, it was good that AO was not around when we planned the small do later in one of our rooms. 

Going back to the hotel was more civilised as we had internet connection and free wifi. X and AO were in contact with one another to get more information about their ETA at the hotel. 

When the 2 girls and the baby finally arrived, the 7 mini cakes were lighted from the candles which G brought with her, and we sang the birthday song in unison while greeting the birthday girl. 

Happy (belated) birthday, AO


2 Girls And A Baby

We were glad to see C, AO and baby Z again after 6 hours or so of separation. Surely there were lots of stories to tell. If not, then what happened in Duoro remained in Duoro 😉

And most certainly the 2 girls managed to know each other a bit more, too. What those 2 girls had gone through were completely different than what the 5 of us had experienced that afternoon. It’s like the clash of 5 ‘city’ girls vs 2 ‘country’ lasses. Lol

However, when C shared with us some of the photos, we could see why the Duoro Valley is called the enchanted valley with her magical landscapes. There’s no wonder why this cultural landscape is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO

While the 5 ‘city’ girls had their tastes of francesinha, the 2 ‘country’ lasses had a go with Portugal’s most renowned pastry, pastel de nata (Portuguese egg tart pastry). C, with the golden heart, bought some grapes and a bottle of local Duoro red wine that she would later share with us. Obrigada, C!


Full Quorum Dinner @ Restaurant Antunes

Like Café Santiago, Restaurant Antunes was recommended by staff at our hotel. According to the receptionist, the restaurant served local Portuguese cuisines, hence, were not to be missed. Booking was essential, so the hotel staff made a reservation for us. 

The restaurant’s located behind the Metro Station (across from our hotel). It didn’t look much from the street, however, when we got inside, it was packed to full capacity as the locals patronise the restaurant daily. 

Oh boy, it was 8 pm and the francesinha and the mini birthday cake were not fully digested in my tummy and there we were, dining again! I ordered for a fish menu (grilled hake with baked potatoes … yes, boring …) and so did C, G, O and AM whilst X and AO eyed for the roasted pork shank. 

And guess what? THE star of the evening was actually the roasted pork shank, the iconic Pernil de Porco, which was the house specialty. It was unlike anything I have ever seen. The pork shank was HUGE, man!  It was actually very good, 100 times better than my tasteless hake 😦

Good choice, X and AO (Y)

We ordered sardines as starter, which were excellent and we also enjoyed the couvert. I’m glad we were recommended Restaurant Antunes because for me, it was a Portuguese eating experience. The service was fast and excellent even though the waiter spoke limited English. Somehow we managed to understand and communicate with no problem 😀

If I were to go to Restaurant Antunes again, I would go there with an empty stomach and order their Pernil de Porco

Good thing that there’s someone in our group who’s a meat eater, so we could see what’s on each other’s plate. The culprit will know who I am referring to here 😉

After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and went straight to the bar to redeem our welcome drink. I had their red Port Wine. What else ?! 😀

I think we must have hit the sack at almost 1 am. It was going to be another long day the next day …

Mercado do Bolhão (Porto’s Colorful Market)

After a stuffed and almost dog-tired day the day before, we gathered at the hotel lobby at 9.30 am (after a scrumptious buffet brekkie with a fair choice of cold and warm dishes). AO and baby Z missed the headcount that morning as AO had to return the 24-hour rented car that brought the 2 girls and a baby to Duoro Valley. While waiting for AO, the 6 of us walked to the nearby Trindade Church to have a peaceful and quiet moment. 

When we got out of the church, G, the ‘navigator’ and timekeeper, shepherded us to Mercado do Bolhão, which is considered to be Porto’s most colourful market located in the heart of the city. The exuberant market is found in a 2-tier, rather old building. The market opens daily from 7am until 5pm except Saturday when the traders called it a day at 1pm. Sunday is a day of rest.

The Bolhão market is not a very big market, unlike the markets I have been to in the Provence (South of France). Nevertheless, it has its own charm as everything traded at the market was locally produced from fresh fruits, breads to household items. 

All of us bought some souvenirs to remind us of our stay in Porto. AM was, undoubtedly, the happiest girl on the planet as she bought oodles of fridge magnets to add on to her colossal collection of magnets. Lol


We adjourned to a Café in the marketplace spotted by G, of course 😉

In less than 30 minutes, AO and baby Z joined us. And we were full quorum again …

Now off we strode to the meeting point of the Yellow Bus!

Hurry girls ….!!!

Yellow Bus Hop-On-Hop-Off (HOHO)

A week before our ETD from Brussels to Porto, AO volunteered to order 7 HOHO Porto Vintage tickets online for us. It’s cheaper buying online at Eur 11.70 per tix as opposed to Eur 13 buying at location. 

Our tickets were valid for a day and we could HOHO in Porto as many times we wanted anywhere along the Porto bus tour routes, which were either the Purple or the Orange route/ line. The Porto Vintage included free access with wine tasting to Espaço Porto Cruz, which, unfortunately we did not use, due to a few non-drinkers in our group plus time constraints. 

By the way, we were supposed to take the Purple Line that morning with the aim to go to Matosinhos, but somehow, we boarded the wrong line, the Orange route. 

Wrong line or not, I thought that was a blessing in disguise. To be honest, I’m not a sea person so I did not mind missing the trip to Matosinhos, although one or two girls might be disappointed… Well, we knew when travelling in a group of 7 double X-chromosomes, there’re bound to be some ‘negotiable’ contretemps. Anywhow, Matosinhos was the less recommended place than the other side of the riverbank, Vila Nova de Gaia, or simply Gaia by the friendly barman at our hotel. That, I remembered 😉

For me, I know I would be back to Porto and I could visit all the places I have missed. It’s not the end of the world 😉

Ribeira and Porto River Bank

It was 12.30 pm and the stop at Ribeira was just perfect. Excellent timing for our midday lunch. 

The old town, centered at Ribeira, was built on the hills overlooking the Douro River. I absolutely adore the long promenade along the Duoro riverbank. In fact, the site is listed as World Heritage protected by UNESCO, and represents the famous postcard image of the city. 

The Cais da Ribeira (the Quay of Ribeira) is the soul of Porto, where one can climb aboard one of the many typical boats and take a mini cruise down the river. We had thought of taking a cruise but had to quit the idea because of time pressure. 

I loved the look of the charming pastel houses stacked like blocks of Lego and the narrow medieval streets and seedy alleyways, and of course the spellbinding Dom Luis Bridge. 


We found a nice restaurant on a hilly slope but with 7 and a half people, finding a table was almost near to impossible in a touristic area if pre-booking was not done. Anyway we waited like predators 😀

C double-checked with the waiter and he promised to set up a table for us as soon as a group of people left. 

When we finally got a table after waiting for some 15 to 20 minutes, everyone sighed with relief.

Phew

After the more than positive review of the sardines we had at Restaurant Antunes, we ordered them again as our starter. They were so moreish and finger lickin’ good 🙂

Before the Porto trip, I have heard a lot about Bacalhau (dried and salted cod) dishes, which are common in Portugal, but have never tried it. Out of curiosity, 5 girls went for the house specialty bacalhau dish, recommended by the waiter. AO went for the squid dish with tomato rice and X, for the pan-fried salmon. 

The verdict? 

I would rather have 20 sardines on my plate than that one piece of bloody hard, chewy and salty cod fish! I was totally disappointed, and so were some of the girls…

In hindsight, I should have ordered that salmon 😦  Drooling …! 

X, I want you as my personal food advisor. Lol!


On the other side of the riverbank, I saw the famous Sandeman Porto Wine Cellars, which wine I have used in my cooking or just drink it as apéritif. Too bad, we did not do the wine tasting tour. Well, I’m even more determined now to return to Porto 😉

Palácio da Bolsa

After the amazing time we had at Ribeira and the riverbank, we took a walk to Palácio da Bolsa, literally translated as Stock Exchange Palace.

Our visit to the Palace was probably one of the most memorable and flattering moments. 7 girls and a baby were standing at the cashier counter waiting to pay the entrance tickets and guided tour. Guess what? The friendly Portuguese girl thought we were students and charged us student rate which had a 50% discount! Wow! That’s amazing innit … we looked like students *feeling flattered*

When the 40-minute tour started, we met the girl again. She was our bi-lingual guide who spoke in both Portuguese and English.  

I’m not sure about the rest of the girls, but I wasn’t really paying attention to the guide’s stories.

I was busy taking photos, of the floors, ceilings, walls, doors, pillars and what have you. I could see there’s a great mix of architectural styles and decorative arts and the highlight of the Palace was undoubtedly, the Arab Room. I felt as if I was transported into One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. The room is decorated in exotic Moorish Revival style. It was breathtakingly spectacular with all the golds and glitters! Simply Wow!


Porto Cathedral (Se Catedral)

After the Arabian Nights’ tour, the girls were debating to either climb the 240 steps of the 75.6 metres high Torre dos Clérigos (Clérigos‘ tall bell Tower) adjacent to Igreja dos Clérigos (Church of the Clergymen) or climbed a few steps up to Porto Cathedral. 

We agreed to go for the latter, as some of the girls were showing signs of exhaustion. Porto is a very hilly city, by the way. Which reminded me of Rome.

With Romanesque roots, the Porto Cathedral has undergone many changes throughout the centuries. What’s lovely from the square in front of the Cathedral was the panoramic views of the city. There you could view in a distance the Torre dos Clérigos, which we had to forego, most unfortunately…


Livraria Lello – Finding Harry Potter in Porto

We did not climb the Clérigos‘ tall bell Tower, but we definitely walked across the plaza to the most enchanting bookstore in the world, the Livraria Lello Porto. Does it remind you of a scene in a Harry Potter movie? 

Did you know that this spellbinding and unique bookstore inspired the Harry Potter’s library in Hogwarts?

Did you know that J.K Rowling lived in Porto teaching English in the early 1990s and that rumor has it that her inspiration to write Harry Potter began at Livraria Lello?

I did not, until I entered the bookstore. Wow!!

It’s not a big bookstore but the stunning interior and the exquisite swirling stairway with its red-carpeted steps and banisters, impressive mouldings and wooden walls did not prevent tourists from taking non-stop photos. It’s simply dreamy and eye-catching!

Oh by the way, there’s an entrance fee of Eur 3 which is fully redeemable if you buy a book. I bought 2 books, not Harry Potter. Ha ha ha …


Remember Café Majestic which I linked to Harry Potter earlier in this post? 

J. K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone while spending countless hours in local cafés, one of which was Café Majestic along the lively and busy Rua de Santa Catarina.

Ponte de Dom Luís I (The Dom Luís I Bridge)

It had been a very, very long day for all of us: walking, a bit of shopping, window shopping, sightseeing, eating, more walkings, etc. Poor baby Z  was in dire need of a nappy change, hence, AO and baby Z returned to the hotel whilst the 6 of us adjourned for coffee/tea at a nearby Café in the vicinity of the magnificent bookstore. 

And then, it started to rain! 

We had planned to meet for dinner on the other side of Duoro River, all 7 of us and a baby. In order for the 6 of us to get to the other side of the riverbank, we had to crossover walking the double-decked metal arch bridge, the Dom Luis I bridge, that spans the Douro River between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. 

Due to time constraints, 6 very headstrong girls braved the heavy downpour and walked the bridge’s top deck from Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. It was a 5 km walk. None of us thought of stopping or thinking of giving up and going back to the hotel. We just walked on wearing the skimpiest and most lightweight disposable ponchos. Only G and AM had umbrellas with them. I could feel my shoes ‘flooded’ with water. It was an uncomfortable feeling; wet and squidgy, and my pants from knee down were totally drenched. So was my hair. I just hoped not to get sick, that’s all.

And we walked on and on and on …

It was a blessing in disguise (again) for AO and baby Z. It would definitely not be a comfortable walk for both mama and baby, that’s for sure.

 

The night scenes of the bridge and the views of the Duoro River dividing Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia were breathtakingly magnificent. 

By the way, Porto’s iconic bridge was completed in 1886 by a student of Gustave Eiffel, best known for the world-famous Eiffel Tower in Paris.

After the seemingly long and unending walk to the other side of the bridge, we were not famished but we just wanted to sit down in a dry place and enjoy some light and fresh seafood.

We found a lively seafood restaurant, Duoro Velho


AO and baby Z uber’d their way comfortably from the hotel to meet us at the restaurant. It was good to see them again and gorgeous baby Z slept through the entire evening at the restaurant closed to his mama’s chest swaddled in his baby carrier.

We spoiled ourselves rotten, stuffed with barbecued seafood and chicken dishes; our last meal together in Porto. Oh by the way, the sardines were huge and not as nice as the tiny ones we had at Restaurant Antunes and Ribeira

We had probably spent a good deal of time at the restaurant because I could feel my pants gotten drier as well as my hair, except for my feet and shoes!  Couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel, though. 

With 7 of us, we took 2 taxis, while AO did a test check on prices of the one uber’d and the other normal. AO, baby Z, X and D uber’d their way back to the hotel in one cab paying a total of Eur 3.80 which was almost 50% cheaper than the normal taxi taken by G, C, AM and O.

Good to know (Y)

Pyjama Party @ Room 702

It was good to be back in the hotel, or to be more precise, my hotel room.  I’m sure the other girls felt the same way. It has been a while and my room was so immaculate, meaning the presence of housekeeping was there. Brilliant!

C invited us for a nightcap of one of Duoro’s local red wines which she got while spending time at the wine growing valley of Duoro on the first day with AO and baby Z

It was a good wine. Thanks heaps, C! Thanks for sharing the wine with us. Hugs xxx


No worries, no one was tipsy. There was only one bottle and 7 glasses of whom 2 had to decline the offer for obvious reasons 😉

The evening was still young and we played a ‘game’ initiated by C.

And the game went like this …


Nah …. what happened in Room 702 remained in Room 702…

Hint: We got to know each other (even) better  and thanks heaps, O, for sharing with us the ‘scary’ story 😉

And for the … Erm … sorry, my lips are sealed . Shhhh…!!!

It was our last night in Porto together, all 7 girls and a baby, and we hit the sack at 2 am in the morning !

Blue-Black: The Winning Colour!

Sunday, 23rd Oct. 5 girls were flying back to Brussels.

Strange but true, 5 girls met that morning at the buffet breakfast wearing, uncannily, the same colour tops. Blue! And – honestly – it wasn’t  pre-planned.

That colour was to become the magic moment of the day!


X‘s son, DJC is a professional footballer playing for one of Belgium’s First Division Pro League decorated clubs, Club Brugge that dons the  Blue-Black home kit. 

And even stranger and truer, the team had a match while we were flying that afternoon, against one of their major rivals, Anderlecht. 

And the result? 2 – 1 for Club Brugge. Awesome! 

The Last 2 Girls And A Baby

The girls said their goodbyes at the hotel, leaving 2 girls and a baby behind. 

It was a lovely Sunday day and Matosinhos was explored and the girls’ boxes were ticked.

And I made sure to buy a port wine at the airport. It was a 20-year old Tawny Port. One of the finests 😀

Goodbye Porto, see you next time!

The 5 girls parted ways at Brussels airport only to be reunited for quick lunches at work weeks.

And life goes on as usual …

Carpe Diem, girls! 

Cheers!

#Thermomix · Asian · Belgian · Brazilian · Bread · Cake · Chicken · Chinese · Curry · Eggs · Family · Feel-Good · French · Friends · Hakka · Indian · Indonesian · Informative · Leisure · Main Course · Malaysian · Meat · Noodles · Nostalgia · Own Recipe · Pasta · Personal · Pie · Poultry · Reunion · Rice · Salad · Sarawakian · Savoury

Tom Yum Goong (Fragrant Prawn Broth): The way I like it with no sugar added and celebrating my 1st year anniversary with my TM5 #thermomix

1st November this year fell on a Tuesday. I could have made a bridge for a longer “weekend”, but could not due to my workload at work 😦

I was glad to break off work for that one day that week for a yearly family reunion, hosted by one of my SIL’s. While driving to my SIL’s, we stopped at a friend’s house. I received a text message from F that she was giving away some of her ‘harvests’ in her garden. 

Guess what? I hand-picked the chillies in her garden. They were so, very, very fresh! She wanted only the red ones, so I helped myself to the green chillies. I didn’t mind the ‘raw version’ at all, because I knew if I left the chillies wrapped in absorbent paper in the lower drawer of the fridge, the chillies would ripen. 

And I was right!

10 days later, some of the birds’ eye chillies had turned to a lovely bright orange-crimson colour. And I knew exactly where some of the chillies would end up into 😉

Thai Chef vs Me

There was one Wednesday that I took a day off and brought my 2 sons out for lunch (Note, both boys had half-day school / Univ on a Wednesday). We went to a Thai resto near our place. 

For starter, I ordered Tom Yum Goong (TYG) for us. It was a good TYG, but I missed that Oomph in their soup. It was a wee bit too lame. 

Saturday came, and TYG was in the pipeline for our lunch menu.

So here it was, my version vs the Thai Chef’s. 


And not only that, I made my TYG in my thermomix! 


To be honest, I could eat my TYG all day without anything else that day, because it had been a while since I last made the soup! I looked back at a post I wrote; it was in March this year when I had friends over. You can read it all … Here 🙂

Because I love bold-tasting soups, I thought of a way to totally infuse the aromatics in the soup first before proceeding further. Be warned! It’s a highly seasoned soup that hits the palate and warms the heart without burning, if you know what I meant 😉

(Note: This is my own recipe using my preferred method – tried and tested – after a few trials and errors).  

Please be aware that some measurements are not given as only you will know how much or how little you want to put in the dish. Remember, “Ut quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum” or what is food for one man may be bitter poison to others. 

Ingredients A

  • 2 cm piece galangal
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 lemongrass
  • 2 coriander roots

Ingredient B

  • 5 g cooking oil / coconut oil

Ingredient C

  • 1,500 g water

Ingredients D

  • Lemongrass, bruised and halved
  • Shallots, halved 
  • Galangal, sliced
  • Bird’s eye chillies, lightly bruised
  • Kaffir lime leaves, lightly bruised with the fingers

Ingredients E

  • Fish sauce, to taste
  • Homemade chilli paste, eyeball for colour, taste and flavour
  • Salt, to taste 

Ingredients F

  • Prawns, shelled 
  • Mushrooms, sliced 

Ingredient G

  • Lime juice, to taste
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved or whole

Ingredient H

  • Fresh coriander 

Steps –

  • Place A in the TM bowl. Grind 5 sec/ sp 10  * 2

  • Add B. Sauté for 3 mins/100C/ sp 2 
  • Place D in SB and add C. Cook for 15 mins/ 120C/ sp1


  • Remove the SB and tip the aromatics in a bowl. Set aside for garnish later.

  • Transfer F in the SB. Cook for 4 mins/120C/ sp 1 or until the prawns are cooked. 

  • Remove the SB and set aside the cooked prawns, mushrooms, etc
  • Add E. Cook further for 5 mins/ 120C/ sp 2


  • Add G. Stir for 1 min/ R/ spoon
  • Assemble a serving bowl with prawns, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, some slices of galangal, bird’s eye chillies, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Garnish with H.
  • Done!


Happy 1st Anniversary!

I made the TYG to go with my Nasi Ulam and baked spiced chicken. Our Saturday lunch was the bomb, by the way, with full-blown explosion of flavours. Yup, my kind of food 🙂


There’s no better way to celebrate my first year anniversary of owning the thermomix than sharing with you some of the dishes I have conjured the past 12 months using my most used kitchen gadget today!

And as they say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words‘ …


IMPORTANT NOTICE : Please be aware that I’m neither a Consultant/ Advisor nor an employee of Thermomix.  I am NOT paid anything from any parties. I just happened to own a thermomix and love doing what I’m doing and will continue doing so. 

Happy Mid-Week ya’ll!

Cheers!