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Lured by black sand beaches, exotic landscapes and deep spirituality, Bali has been a dream destination for decades.
Diverse accommodation options, a wide variety of activities and a thriving restaurant and nightlife scene make it a prime choice for Singapore travellers looking for a quick getaway. This is buoyed by the more than 15 flights to Bali from Singapore every day.
Its unwavering popularity means that on a long weekend like this one, many flights are sold out months in advance.
But decades of development and a continuous stream of foreign tourists have saturated the market, and favourite Bali locales such as Nusa Dua, Seminyak and Ubud have started to lose the charm which made them so appealing in the first place.
When Ubud, the cultural and artistic heart of the island, has a Starbucks on its main road, and the restaurants, bars and shops between Kuta and Seminyak throng with foreign faces - your colleague's or neighbour's, possibly - going to Bali these days does not always feel like you are getting away.
Bali is such a holiday institution in the minds of travellers that it is easy to forget that it is just one of more than 17,000 islands which make up the Indonesian archipelago.
Singapore now has 14 direct flights and four direct ferries to Indonesian cities, and more are easily accessible through a short stopover in Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur.
The travel time to some destinations may be a little longer than the roughly three-hour flight to Bali, but tickets to cities such as Surabaya or Yogyakarta often cost half or a fraction of the price.
Now, as volcanic ash from Mount Raung in Java threatens to cancel flights in and out of Bali, it is as good a time as any to think beyond Bali and explore the other unique islands that Indonesia has to offer.
The most popular way to experience Mount Bromo is to watch the sun rise over its caldera from nearby Mount Penanjakan. Image: SilkAir
Indonesia offers world-class hiking and trekking and one of the most mesmerising trails is found in Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in East Java.
It is named after its two famous mountains - Mount Semeru, the highest in Java at 3,676m which billows smoke into the air roughly every 20 minutes, and picturesque Mount Bromo, recognisable by its missing top half, which was blown off in an eruption - and the Tengger people, one of the few Hindu communities left in Java.
Mount Bromo is one of Indonesia's most active volcanos and constantly releases sulphurous smoke from its crater. It is safe to climb though and thousands of people do so every year.
The most popular way to experience the mountain is to watch the sun rise over its caldera from nearby Mount Penanjakan. The hike to the lookout point takes one to two hours, depending on your fitness level and the number of people on the trail. There are normally not too many, as most tourists hire a car to take them to the lookout point in time for the sunrise at 5.30am.
The lookout point is packed with people and you might have to jostle to get a view of the mountain if you are not early enough. The pink light of dawn on Mount Bromo is beautiful, but hiking up in broad daylight is a good way to beat the crowds.
After sunrise, hike down Mount Penanjakan and into Tengger caldera, across 3km of soft, swirling volcanic sand to the base of Mount Bromo, where you can climb 253 steps to the top.
After the hike, spend some time in Malang, a quieter and calmer city than the busy port city of Surabaya. Its cooler climate and pleasant landscape attracted Dutch colonials and some of their historical buildings still lend their charm to the city.
Visiting tea, coffee and apple plantations is also a popular pastime in the area.
It is best to go in the dry season from April to October and be sure to pack a jacket and gloves as it is cold in the mountains. Temperatures are regularly in the low teens during the day and drop to single digits at night.
The flight from Singapore to Surabaya takes two hours and 20 minutes and Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Jetstar offer daily flights. Tigerair flies there six days a week.
From Surabaya, take a taxi or hired car to Malang, which is three hours away. Stay in Malang or a nearby village for easy access to the national park and the surrounding plantations.
Sumba is renowned for its surf and Occy's Left, a rare left-hand barrel wave on its western coast. Image: Tania Araujo
Rolling limestone hills, low-lying grasslands and fields of maize distinguish Sumba, a rural island roughly 300km east of Bali, from the rainforest-covered landscapes one expects in Indonesia.
The people are also different. Sumba is populated by tribal people of an ethnically and linguistically diverse mix of Austronesian and Melanesian ancestry. They are predominantly Christian, though they retain much of their tribal heritage, including rare, above- ground burials, animal sacrifices and Pasola, a harvest festival held in February or March in which hundreds of members from different tribes charge at one another while on horseback, hurling wooden spears. These days, it is a ritual battle, but blood still needs to be spilled to ensure a good harvest.
Sumba is one of Indonesia's poorest islands, but the kampung communities there are well known for their detailed, hand-woven ikat fabric, which has found its way into museums and private collections around the world.
Sumba is also renowned for its surf and, in particular, the rare left-hand barrel wave on its western coast. Known as Occy's Left, the wave is one of Asia's most consistent surf breaks and professional and amateur surfers pay top dollar to enjoy the ride.
It is accessible only to guests of the popular, eco-luxury Nihiwatu Resort (www.nihiwatu.com), the only high-end resort on the island. Only 10 surfers are allowed on the wave each day, and it costs US$100 (S$138) to reserve the spot.
Singapore Airlines, Tigerair, Jetstar, Qantas and Garuda all have morning flights from Singapore which get to Bali's Denpasar airport in time for the hour-long Garuda flight to Sumba's Tambolaka airport, which leaves daily at 1pm.
The return Garuda flight from Sumba to Denpasar is at 11am daily.
The Mentawaians, an animistic hunter-gatherer people living on the islands, preparing a wild pig they have killed. Image: Getty
People venture to the Mentawai Islands off Sumatra's western coast for two reasons: to trek and to surf.
The islands offer some of Indonesia's best and most consistent surf breaks all year round, with more than 25 named waves to choose from and "secret" waves you will learn of only when you get there.
The handful of resorts on the islands cater to surfers, often providing kayaking, snorkelling and fishing equipment as well.
Siberut is the largest of the islands and home to the majority of Mentawaians, an animistic huntergatherer people who had little contact with the outside world until the late 19th century. Even then, unpredictable currents, sharp coral and strong winds meant they were mostly left to themselves.
Traditionally, the Mentawaians live in uma - bamboo and thatched roof longhouses raised on stilts - and many of the 64,000 who live on the islands maintain their customs, including the ritualised sharpening of teeth and getting body tattoos.
Some organise treks through dense jungle, taking tourists to visit traditional villages, where they spend the night in uma along the way.
The jungle itself is an attraction. It is thought that the islands broke off from Sumatra 500,000 years ago, which created a unique ecosystem. About 60 per cent of the terrestrial animals on the islands, now a Unesco biosphere reserve, are found only here.
The closest airport to the islands is in Padang, the capital of West Sumatra. The quickest way to get there is with a Tigerair flight to Kuala Lumpur, followed by an AirAsia flight to Padang, and the whole journey takes less than five hours.
Garuda also flies to Padang daily via Jakarta, which takes about 51/2 hours.
From Padang, take a ferry or speedboat to your island destination. This is typically organised by the resort.
Animals roam freely on Pulau Weh, a small, sleepy island off the coast of Banda Aceh. Image: Ministry of Tourism, Indonesia
Cast away your worries on Pulau Weh, where idyllic island life is spent swinging on a hammock under the shade of a coconut tree.
White sand beaches and some of the best snorkelling and diving in Indonesia await visitors to this small, sleepy island at the northernmost tip of Sumatra.
Located off the coast of Banda Aceh in the Andaman Sea, tourism opened up here only a decade ago and it is still mostly undeveloped.
Most of the locals here are fishermen who live in the quiet main town of Sabang, also known for its production and sale of rattan furniture. Tourists arrive here by boat and move on to beautiful beaches a 20-minute drive to the west.
The two main beaches with accommodation for tourists are Gapang and Iboih.
Gapang beach has dive shops, rustic hotels with sea-facing bungalows and a handful of restaurants and cafes.
Iboih, a 10-minute drive northwest of Gapang, is a backpacker's haven, with a few basic hostels and inns lined along a pristine, sandy beach.
About 100m off Iboih is a coral reef called Sea Garden, which is great for spectacular snorkelling - turtles, stingrays and lion fish can be found here.
Diving around Pulau Weh is also highly recommended, with steep, jagged cliffs of coral, large sunfish, moray eels, manta rays and even whale sharks from November to January.
The whole island is only 156.3 sq km, a fifth the size of Singapore, but it is mountainous, with a small active volcano in the centre and a bubbling hot spring to the south.
With its mix of diving enthusiasts and backpackers and its laid-back vibe, Pulau Weh is what the Gili Islands off the western coast of Lombok used to be, before the corrosive overflow of Bali's tourism reached its shores.
The island is an offbeat gem and a welcome escape for those looking for simple pleasures.
AirAsia has daily flights to Banda Aceh via Kuala Lumpur. They cost about $200 return and take about 41/2 hours.
From Banda Aceh, take a 30-minute taxi ride to Ulee Lheu Port to board a fast (45-minute) or slow (two-hour) ferry to Sabang on Pulau Weh.
Borobudur, the world's largest Buddhist monument, was built between the 8th and 9th centuries in Java. Image: SilkAir
Yogyakarta is the cultural heart of Java, but its main attractions are the ancient monuments nearby. Use the city as a base from which to explore the astounding Borobudur Buddhist sanctuary and Prambanan Hindu temples, both Unesco World Heritage sites.
A marvel of the ancient world akin to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borobudur is the world's largest Buddhist monument and wraps itself on an 118m by 118m area up and around a small hill.
It was buried under layers of volcanic ash until Sir Stamford Raffles, then governor of Java, gave the order for it to be cleared in 1815.
Built between the 8th and 9th centuries in the peaceful rural heartland of central Java, it is composed of six square terraces topped by three circular ones, with finely carved gateways, stupas and scenes from Javanese life etched into stone. The structure is thought to be a walk-through mandala, a spiritual symbol representing the universe, and devotees can walk around the bottom terraces of the structure, which represent the everyday world, before gradually making their way to the top circular terrace representing nirvana, or enlightenment.
This mystical site is best experienced at sunrise or sunset. On Vesak Day, Buddhism's holiest day, which celebrates the birth and death of Buddha, a procession of saffron-robed monks pray, chant and light candles all around the temple.
Borobudur is an hour's drive outside the city and is easily accessible by taxi, bus or hired car.
Prambanan temple is closer, just 17km north-east of Yogyakarta.
This beautiful temple complex, the largest Hindu monument in Indonesia, was built between the 8th and 10th centuries and lay in ruins for hundreds of years before restoration started in the 1930s. The compound contains the remains of more than 200 temples, with eight main temples standing up to 47m tall in the central courtyard. The intricately carved stone temples boast vibrant scenes of the Ramayana, with motifs of lions, birds and heavenly trees.
West of the temple complex is an outdoor theatre, where visitors can watch the famous Ramayana epic unfold with the complex lit in the background. More than 200 performers dance and sing the story over four successive nights two or three times a month during the dry season from May to October. Or watch the full story, condensed into a two-hour performance, nearby at the Trimurti Covered Theatre from November to April.
AirAsia flies daily to Yogyakarta from Singapore and SilkAir flies there four days a week. The non-stop flight lasts two hours and 20 minutes.
Sulawesi has stunning snorkelling and dive sites. Image: SilkAir
Indonesia's most bizarre-looking island may also be its most interesting. Sulawesi's unique, many-armed shape is indicative of the many different landscapes, cultures and ecosystems which have evolved here. From colonial architecture to astonishing tribal culture to world-class diving, Sulawesi has something for everyone.
Most trips start in Makassar, a busy port city and the capital of South Sulawesi. Here, you will find buzzing nightlife and some of Indonesia's best examples of Dutch colonial architecture at Fort Rotterdam, built in 1667.
Those looking for extraordinary diving should head to south-east Sulawesi and Wakatobi National Park between the Banda and Flores seas. You can fly to Wangi-wangi, one of the park's largest islands, from Makassar; or, as a guest of Wakatobi Dive Resort, catch its charter flight to and from Bali.
Any trip to Sulawesi would not be complete without a stop in Tana Toraja, a cultural island tucked into the rugged mountainside of south Sulawesi. It is home to the Toraja, an indigenous ethnic group which has maintained many of its traditional ceremonies despite being converted to Christianity by the Dutch a century ago. The Toraja are famous for their tongkonan traditional houses with distinct, peaked roofs, as well as elaborate ceremonies, none more so than the tomate funeral ceremony.
Hundreds of Toraja attend the funerals, which go on for days and include ritual buffalo sacrifices to celebrate the life of the deceased before they are buried in graves dug deep in caves on the mountainside.
To witness these elaborate ceremonies, visit during the funeral season in July and August, when the Toraja bury their dead.
Trekking is one of the best ways to visit some of the more remote villages, and excellent white-water rafting can be found here too. Use Rantepao town as your base to explore the picturesque area.
SilkAir flies to Makassar on Wednesdays and Saturdays and returns on the same days. The non-stop flight takes three hours.
Read our cheatsheet on how to remedy travel emergencies here! A must for what to do if you lose your luggage or your flight is delayed.
1. Hop into a registered cab – and be careful not to be ripped off by your cabbie. Once you exit the Tan Son Nhat International Airport, ignore the general chaos and locate one of the two to three ao dai-clad young women who man the taxi lines and will get you into a registered one.
Top tip: Be sure to get lots of spare change as Vietnamese dong can easily run into hundreds of thousands – for instance, $1 gives you about 16,000 worth of dong. And be sure to check your money carefully. I was almost fleeced by a taxi driver who insisted that I had given him a 20,000 dong note when it had been a 200,000 dong one.
2. Buy bird’s nest in Chinatown. For a true look at Vietnamese life, pop by the super-busy Chinatown known locally as Cholon in District 5. Cholon is nothing like any of the Chinatowns I’ve seen overseas.
This giant indoor and outdoor wholesale market is where you can buy anything, from bird’s nest and pickled veggies to party supplies and cutesy face masks (most of the women ride scooters here and prefer to protect their skin from the sun and pollution). You won’t have to worry about over-zealous, touchy-feely storekeepers because they aren’t interested in you if you aren’t a bulk buyer.
3. La kopi at Ben Thanh Market. The touts are over at the more touristy and famous Ben Thanh Market in District 1 (also where most hotels are located). Fight your way past all the storekeepers who want you to buy their exorbitantly priced fake watches, straw hats, lacquerwares and whatnot, and get to the food stalls. I had Vietnamese coffee – kopi-tiam style – at a drinks stall. No fancy drip apparatus here, just thick, sweet and somewhat chocolatey coffee served in a small vintage shot glass for about $1.
4. Chow down on banh mi meat buns. And what happens when you get hungry? Have the yummiest banh mi at Bahn Mi Huynh Hoa, a takeaway-only hole-in-the-wall stall that offers a great variety of meat pates (they look like differently coloured ham slices). Each crispy yet fluffy bun costs about $3 and comes packed to the core with pickles, pate and mayo.
5. Slurp on sweet crab noodle broth. Of course, a bun is never enough. For the full works, I went on to slurp up the sweetest crab noodle broth at Banh Canh Ghe. This is like a watery laksa without the spicy kick in which the cook piles on fishcakes and prawn crackers, and a couple of what looked like flower crabs to me. I ate this sitting on super low stools by the road kerb. According to my guide, the floor-grazing stools are a leftover from the past when illegal hawkers found it easier to haul these away whenever the cops came by.
6. Try the sweet-and-savoury bo la lot rice rolls. We then headed to a very busy eatery that looked like one of our zi char restaurants. It was simply named Banh Xeo 46A Dinh Cong Trang, taking part of its name from the savoury Vietnamese pancake. Here, we ate ours with heaps of raw bean sprouts and mint leaves but what I really couldn’t get enough of was what my guide called bo la lot, a rice sheet roll filled with heavily marinated beef, pickled carrots and, wait for it, bananas!
7. Spam your friends with shots of pretty Instagram-friendly pastries. The Vietnamese are quite influenced by the French so expect to see a few
patisserie around. Besides the usual Mont Blanc, chocolate eclairs and fruit tarts, try the whimsically-decorated butter cream cakes. Definitely an Instagram moment here.
8. End your day by sipping cocktails on a leisurely cruise down the Mekong River. And since I didn’t want to feel that I was doing nothing but eating and drinking 24/7, I booked an overnight boat cruise down the Mekong River.
There are many cruise operators around so do your homework and read their online reviews. Mine was a small wooden boat that had just two air-conditioned cabins but all the works – think fully equipped bathrooms, an upper deck where five-course meals were served (wave at the boatpeople or the villagers doing their chores by the river bank and you’ll get the happiest smiles) and a friendly crew of five.
We hopped off for walking and cycling tours around villages and small towns and even got to eat freshly harvested jackfruit in one of the villagers’ homes. And as our eager-to-please boat guide (who was also our bartender) made us cocktails to drink before the sunset, I thought “Where have I been all my life?”
A healthy diet begins with getting enough fruit and vegetables, we all know that. How much you should eat is up for debate, with some claiming five isn't enough and you should be aiming for around ten. But one thing we can agree on is that raw is best - or is it?
Image: Cover Media
It was long thought that munching on uncooked vegetables was the best way to ensure your body absorbed all their goodness. However, it's now been suggested that certain varieties actually do more for you if you heat them first.
Nutrition expert Mel Wakeman is Senior Lecturer in Applied Physiology at Birmingham City University and has explained why this might be.
"Many of the nutrients found in plants are often less readily absorbed in the gut compared to nutrients derived from animal products. The fibre found in plants often binds particularly to minerals and makes them less available for the body to use (their bioavailability)," she told British newspaper The Daily Mail's Femail section.
"Heating can help to breakdown the fibre and so release some of the minerals for absorption, and can often increase the phytochemical content of plants which can provide additional non-nutrient benefits to our health."
Among the varieties which it's suggested could improve with heat are spinach, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms and asparagus.
For example, warming tomatoes increases the level of lycopene in them, which has in turn been linked to helping cut the risk of prostate cancer. But the problem is that while cooking boosts that, it also reduces other nutrients. That's why it's important to eat fruit and vegetables in different ways, sometimes hot and others not.
Carrots are packed with antioxidant carotenoid, which gets increased when they are cooked, and heating spinach might make it easier for the body to absorb the iron in it.
And that's not the only fruit and veg news doing the rounds at the moment. A study conducted for the BBC by people at Kew Gardens has found what many have argued for ages - items grown at home really are tastier and healthier than those from supermarkets.
It was found that tomatoes grown in the own back garden had more natural sugar, antioxidants and certain nutrients than those created in bulk by manufacturers. -- COVER MEDIA
We're all guilty of putting the kettle on, cutting a big slice of cake and just generally enjoying life. And while you may feel good at that exact moment, cake isn't what nutritionists would call good mood food.
Image: Cover Media
So to help you in your quest to consume meals that do actually make you feel great NHS nutritionist Dr Sarah Schenker and food psychologist Dr Christy Fergusson have joined forces with Tilda to compile a list of the comfort foods we should all be eating. From appetite controllers, to foods that reduce cravings for sugary and fatty snacks, read on to see what you should be chowing down on.
Their list of 22 top foods include all the usual suspects such as pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, salmon, spinach, broccoli and quinoa.
Hero foods like coconut, avocado, pomegranates, blueberries and brazil nuts also made the cut.
“Brazil nuts are the richest source of the mineral selenium, containing ten times more than the next richest source. Selenium-rich food helps to combat depression and studies have shown that eating a small handful of Brazil nuts everyday can help to improve mood," Dr Schenker said.
Chickpeas, asparagus, beans and bananas also featured. And if you have a sweet tooth, fear not as dark chocolate is another great choice.
Ginger, beetroot, chilli, yoghurt, chicken and turkey and wholegrain Basmati are the last seven suggestions.
"Wholegrain Basmati is a great addition to the diet. Fluctuations in blood sugar levels are associated with changes in mood and energy, in turn blood sugar levels are affected by what we eat and drink," Dr Schenker noted. "After eating sugary foods or refined carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels can rise rapidly which may cause feelings of stress and anxiety, only to crash soon after, which can then leave you feeling lethargic or in low spirits. Low GI foods such as wholegrain Basmati rice contain the type of carbohydrate that releases energy slowly, keeping your blood sugar levels steady and maintaining a more balanced, calm mood." -- COVER MEDIA
After luxury, budget and short-term rental apartments, there’s another type of accommodation that’s squeezing its way into the hotel market: enter, the “poshtel”.
The Backpack hostel in Cape Town, South Africa, is Lonely Planet's 2014 pick for top budget hotel. © The Backpack.
According to a wide sweeping trend report released at the World Travel Market in London this week, design-led hostels that offer high-tech facilities, free Wifi, en suite bathrooms, and luxurious designs are becoming increasingly popular among both leisure and business travellers alike.
Written by market research firm Euromonitor, the report pointed out that emergence of poshtels, led by brands like Clink, St Christopher's Inn-Village, Safestay, The Dictionary and Generator Hostels, is forcing budget and mid-range hotel chains to rethink their pricing and distribution as well.
Lonely Planet's pick for the top value hotel of 2014 is The Backpack hostel in Cape Town, South Africa, while Hostelworld.com gave Tattva Design Hostel in Porto, Portugal the top spot in the category of large hostel.
Though the report says that Generation Y — those born between 1981 and 1990 — makes up a key part of the “poshtel” demographic, the report adds that budget accommodations like these could also find a market in older age groups as well as the business segment.
The cold is not bothering many Elsa-wannabes this year. ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
It's set to be a cold, cold Halloween this year as characters from Disney's 2013 animated film "Frozen" top the chart of the most popular costumes.
According to a study by e-commerce provider SLI Systems, Internet users in the US, the UK and Australia have conducted over one million online searches this Halloween season for "Frozen"-related queen, princess and snowman characters.
It looks like we're in for a Hollywood Halloween in general, with seven out of the top 15 costume searches relating to movies.
"Frozen" is way ahead, prompting 122 percent more search activity than its closest movie costume rival, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Other popular film costume ideas include the 'Minions' of "Despicable Me" as well as characters from "Maleficent" and "Book of Life."
The study was carried out by analysing search activity across 17 costume retailer websites based in the US, the UK and Australia from September 1 to October 26, 2014.
Here are the top 15 most-searched costume themes of 2014:
Stated in no particular order, here are our best picks:
#1. ORIGINAL FRIED CHICKEN
($22.50, serves three to four)
NENE CHICKEN, #01-24 Star Vista, tel: 6222-6363
Nene Chicken is one of the largest fried chicken chains in Korea, with over 920 outlets. The chicken crumbled in my mouth on first bite. The meat was moist and tender, though a tad oily.
BEST SAUCE: Green onion ($23.50, serves three to four)
#2. ORIGINAL CHICKEN
($15 for half chicken, $17 for boneless half chicken)
WOORI NARA, #01-02, 19 Lorong Kilat, tel: 6464-9282
Tucked away in a quiet corner of Bukit Timah, Woori Nara was definitely worth the trip.
Everything about their fried chicken was spot on – crispy skin, wonderful flavour, tender and juicy meat. They deliver islandwide (with delivery fees varying according to distance), but we recommend eating on location.
BEST SAUCE: Soya garlic ($17 for half chicken, $19 for boneless half chicken)
#3. CRISPY CHICKEN
($7.95 for six pieces)
4 FINGERS CRISPY CHICKEN,#B4-06A Ion Orchard, tel: 1800-427-4779
Well-seasoned and tasty. The skin was crispy rather than crumbly and not too oily. Choose the drummettes for juicier meat; the wings can be slightly dry.
BEST SAUCE: Soy garlic ($7.95 for six pieces)
#4. FRIED CHICKEN
($18 for half chicken)
KKO KKO NARAKKO, 57 Tras Street, tel: 6224-8186
Th e original version had a crunchy, crumbly skin, which was very flavourful on its own if a little dry. All chicken dishes are served with tangy pickled radish.
BEST SAUCE: Sweet & spicy ($20 for eight pieces)
This story was originally published in the March 2013 issue of Her World magazine.
Sweet treats are made of matcha, no? Image: Babette, Smoulder, Sun with Moon Japanese Dining & Cafe, Dessert First and Antoinette
Who wants to have leafy Kale or grainy Quinoa when you can enjoy equal health benefits from yummy superfood matcha? Not only is this magic green tea powder high in antioxidants, it also detoxifies the body, boasts concentration, increases energy levels, relaxes the mind and even helps in weight loss.
Naturally, these benefits extend to delicious matcha desserts as well — or so we tell ourselves — so feel no guilt while you indulge in these twelve matcha sweets we absolutely love.
1. WAFFLES AND PANCAKES
Waffle Slayer’s Matcha Buttermilk Waffle. Image: ST
I don’t know about you but to me, waffles and pancakes (and yes, they belong in one category in my book) are not just an enjoyable dessert but a classic comfort food perfect anytime, all-year-round. There’s little in life that can’t be cured with a good waffle or pancake (or more like a plate full of them). Add matcha to the mix and you’ve got a utterly delectable dessert on your hands. We’re not talking about a scoop of green tea ice cream dumped on top of your plain old waffle either, but waffles actually infused with the fine green tea powder like Waffle Slayer’s Matcha Buttermilk Waffle ($14.90) that’s topped with azuki beans and ice cream.
It's death by fluffiness with Miam Miam's Matcha Souffle Pancake! Image: Miam Miam
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, try the famous Japanese cafe chain Hoshino Coffee’s incredible hybrid Matcha Souffle Pancake ($12++) that has the thick, airiness of a souffle with all the fluffiness of a pancake. Be warned that the queue for these popular sweets at Hoshino Coffee can get rather long though, so if you don’t feel up to the wait, head to French-Japanese restaurant Miam Miam where Matcha Souffle Pancakes ($9.80) are also served.
Waffle Slayer is located at 37 Kampong Bahru Road Singapore 169356. For more information, call 62224869.
Hoshino Coffee is located at #03-84, Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road. For more information on Hoshino Coffee, call 63383277.
The Miam Miam Bugis Junction branch is located at #02-14 while the Westgate branch is located at ##01-21/22. For more information, visit http://miam.sg/.
2. LAVA CAKE
Smoulder's bite-sized White Chocolate Matcha Lava Cake gives you gooey matcha without the mess! Image: Smoulder
Molten yet fluffy, gooey yet spongy, who can resist the allure of lava cakes? I know I certainly can’t, especially when they’re infused with green tea. Get a bite of these oozing matcha goodies at the newly opened Japanese-French fusion restaurant Babette at $12++. For those with smaller appetites, you can go for local bite-sized lava cakes chain Smoulder with their White Chocolate Matcha Lava Cake ($2.80 per piece and $24 for a box of nine).
Smoulder is located at Raffles City Shopping Centre 252 North Bridge Road, #B1-68 Singapore 179103. For more information or to order online, visit Smoulder’s official website at http://www.smoulder.it/.
Babette is located at 165 Tyrwhitt Rd, #01-03, Parc Sovereign Hotel Singapore (207569). For more information, like Babette on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BabetteSG.
Image: Sun With Moon Japanese Dining & Cafe
Maybe I’m just being picky but I’ve always found Tiramisu a tad too sweet for me, even with the dusting of fragrant coffee powder. That’s why the Matcha version hits just the right note for me. The fluffy layers of mildly bitter matcha sponge cake takes off the sickeningly saccharine taste of the thick, creamy layers of mascarpone cream and balances the Tiramisu just perfectly. Trust me, I can polish off an entire slice of SUN with MOON Japanese Dining & Cafe’s Matcha Tiramisu ($8) all by myself. Fans of alcohol can also give L'Atelier TiramiSu’s dark rum laced Matcha Tiramisu ($6.80 per slice, $48 per whole cake) a try.
SUN with MOON Japanese Dining & Cafe is located at #03-15/16/17 Wheelock Place, 501 Orchard Road. For more information, visit their official website at http://www.sunwithmoon.com.sg/sun-with-moon-wheelock.html and like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sunwithmoondining.
L'Atelier TiramiSu is located at The Central @ Clark Quay, #B1-09. For more information, visit their official website at http://latelier-tiramisu.com/ and like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/LAtelier-Tiramisu/562673593776094.
While Antoinette is famous for its macaroons, we prefer its matcha-flavoured mousse cake, Opera Matcha ($9 for a slice, $40 for 500g and $80 for 1kg). Made of green tea mascarpone mousse, chestnut cremeux, almond crumble and green tea finger sponge, Antoinette's spin on the popular Japanese superfood results in a light but dense Japanese matcha mousse cake.
The Antoinette Penhas Road branch is located at 30 Penhas Rd, 208180, the Antoinette Mandarin Gallery branch is located at #02-33/34 and the Antoinette Palais Renaissance branch is located at B1-08/09/10C. For more information, visit their official website at http://antoinette.com.sg/ and like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Antoinette.sg.
5. MILLE CREPE CAKE
Image: Lady M
Nine years (wow has it really been that long) after the initial crepe cake craze, this Japanese-French dessert is still going strong here, especially with the arrival of Lady M, original creators of Mille Crepe cakes, in SIngapore just a year ago. With cream sandwiched between 20 layers of crepe so thin it practically melts in your mouth, it’s no wonder why crowds flock to the famous chain, particularly for the Green Tea Mille Crepe cake ($8 a slice). Dusted with matcha on every layer of thin crepe, the mildy and earthy aftertaste offsets the super rich and sweet layers of cream.
Image: Dolce Tokyo Facebook
If you prefer a good old sponge cake, Dolce Tokyo’s Matcha with Goma Black Sesame Cake ($11.50 each) is not only sinfully delightful, it’s also absolutely Instagram-worthy.
Lady M is located at Marina Square Shopping Mall, #02-103 and One Fullerton 1 Fullerton Road #01-10 Singapore 049213. For more information, visit their official website at http://www.ladym.com.sg and like them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ladymsingapore.
Dolce Tokyo is located at 313 Somerset, #03-23. For more information, like Dolce Tokyo on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/DolceTokyoSG?_rdr.
Image: Nana's Green Tea Facebook
While this combination of agar jelly, azuki bean paste and ice cream may sound ordinary enough, this classic Japanese dessert in fact harmonises a great mix of textures with the chewy jelly, creamy ice cream and smooth bean paste. Japanese-French restaurant, Nana’s Green Tea, serves their Matcha Anmitsu ($8.80) with syrup to add a hint of sweetness to the naturally bitter matcha.
Nana’s Green Tea is located at, Plaza Singapura, #03-80/81/82. For more information, visit their official website at http://nanaha.com/ and like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NanasGreenTea.
7. SHAVED ICE
Image: Dessert First
On sweltering, muggy days (ninety percent of the time in Singapore), I would like nothing more than to stuff my face with a huge, heaping bowl of my favourite cold dessert — shaved ice. There’s nothing more satisfying, I find, than feeling the icy cold relief spreading mouthful by mouthful through your entire body, especially when it’s a refreshing matcha flavour. Grab a bowl of your own Matcha Shaved Ice ($7.80) served with azuki beans and nata de coco at Tsujiri Tea House, the 150-year old Japanese Tea House from Uji, Kyoto. Taiwanese dessert house Desserts First also serves Green Tea Snow Ice with redbean ($5).
Desserts First is located at 8 Liang Seah St #01-04. For more information, visit their official website at http://www.dessertfirst.com.sg/.
Image: Nana's Green Tea Facebook
The Parfait may seem similar to traditional Japanese dessert Anmitsu, with the same ingredients of azuki bean paste, green tea jelly and ice cream, but its layered structure, on top of the added crunch of cereals, puts it on a whole new level (and that much more Instagram-worthy). Luckily, this pretty matcha dessert is available in a wide variety of restaurants and cafes in Singapore, including Tsujiri Tea House, Nana’s Green Tea, Maccha House as well as SUN with MOON Japanese Dining & Cafe, with each place adding their own extra ingredients to the mix.
With so many Japanese cafes and restaurants, particularly green tea themed ones, constantly popping up in the Singapore, there’s no need to worry about running out of Matcha desserts anytime soon. Just in case anyway, I’ll be sure to stock up on my Matcha Kit Kats and Haagen Dazs's Green Tea ice cream (I'm dying to try Cornetto's version too!). Hey, a girl has got to be prepared right?
Healthy eating is the hardest thing to do. Hands up, how many times you’ve opted for convenient fast food despite knowing that you will regret this decision when you have to run an extra mile the next day? I can’t be the only one who has the pizza delivery hotline on speed dial, right? But between juggling work, family and my social life, who has time to slave away in the kitchen for a wholesome meal? Plus, isn’t it much easier to open a bag of chips than to toss a salad together?
Well, that was my excuse until I met superfoods. You see, superfoods are so called because they are packed with vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants and more often than not, are also low in calories. Superfoods will help keep you feeling and looking healthy, inside-out and can be found easily in any supermarket. I’ve picked out four that don’t require any cooking!
Yes, healthy eating is easy like 1-2-3! Credit: Corbis images
The little blue fruits are the MPVs of healthy food. Flavonoids, antioxidants, soluble fibre, potassium and vitamin C are all found in blueberries. They help prevent diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and more. A study done by the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School has revealed that blueberries are also rich in anthocyanins, a kind of flavonoid that lowers blood pressure and makes blood vessels more elastic. These anthocyanins also aid in the anti-ageing battle by protecting the skin against harmful free radicals.
Tip: Have at least three half-cup servings of blueberries a week to reap heart-loving benefits. Don’t worry about using frozen ones – they are as good as fresh ones. Remember that the bluer the blueberries are, the more antioxidants they have!
These nuts are a good source of antioxidants, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, copper and manganese. Researchers from the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in the US have found that adding walnuts to one’s diet can help protect one against diabetes and heart disease. An extra incentive to chomp on walnuts are that they are highly satiating – you feel full longer – which plays a major part in weight control!
Tip: Just seven – yes, seven – walnuts a day will help you load up on all the omega-three fatty acid, protein and anti-inflammatory polyphenols you need, especially after a particular tough workout.
Here’s another superfood that helps with portion control – tiny chia seeds. Add them to any drink and they will swell to more than five times their original size to help your stomach feel satisfied faster. Apart from being rich in antioxidants, protein and insoluble fibre – the latter to help your digestive system running – the chia seed has the richest source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, based on a study published in the Nutrition Research journal. That’s super news for vegetarians. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and more.
Tip: To hit your daily recommended omega-3 intake, all it takes is one or two tablespoons of chia seeds. I like to mix them with water whenever I get the mid-afternoon munchies.
Yoghurt’s known for being full of calcium and full of active probiotics that help both your digestive and immune system. Did you know that it has also got protein and minerals like potassium, iodine and zinc that keep the body functioning at tip top level? In fact, the calcium and amino acid content (protein) in yogurt helps keep your stomach fat under control. A study done at the University of Tennessee in the US showed that calcium will help with regulating cortisol production – the hormone cortisol is produced by fat and aids in the accumulation of more fat – and amino acids burn off fat.
Tip: If you aren’t the sort to chug down milk, eight ounces of yoghurt equals a cup of milk – and you need three one cup servings of dairy products each day. Not a fan of the tart taste? Add a piece of dark chocolate – chocolate with at least 70 percent of cocoa is another superfood that’s rich in flavonoids and antioxidants.
Wave goodbye to plastic lunch boxes or expensive Thermos containers that office drones use to tote their lunch in.
And say hello to electric lunch boxes, which reheat or cook food using steam.
Simple dishes can be cooked in under 30 minutes.
There are at least two brands in the market now.
Yoei Group Singapore, which imports a range of kitchen products, introduced the Yoei Electric Lunch Box here early last year and has sold up to 10,000 sets.
The lunch boxes are available at selected FairPrice Xtra hypermarkets.
A single-tiered one costs $49.90 and a double-tiered one is $69.90.
A local company, Kessler, which sells household wares and appliances, also launched the Kessler Multi- Function Electric Lunch Box early last year.
Mr Mike Chan, 50, a director of the company, says it has sold more than 20,000 units.
The company has a permanent counter at People's Park Complex that sells its brand of single-tiered electric lunch box at $50.
Lunch boxes from both brands carry the Safety Mark certification by Spring Singapore.
Apart from these two brands, which have a physical presence in stores, electric lunch boxes can also be found online.
A search for "electric lunch box" turned up hundreds of results from a variety of brands and deals at online marketplaces such as Qoo10 and Rakuten.
Other online retailers include S.O.T.A Innovation, Sparknet Retail and smaller blogshops such as Mingoshopping.
Prices range from $16.50 to $69.
These lunch boxes appeal to busy office workers with tight lunch breaks, small families who want to do minimal cooking and travellers who want to cook food such as porridge for young children while on vacation.
Managing director of Yoei Group Singapore, Mr Joseph Liew, 32, says: "Eating out during lunch is not as healthy as eating home-cooked food, and heating food brought from home using a microwave oven often dries up the food and makes it lose its nutritional value as well."
Kessler's Mr Chan adds: "Some people who live alone do not want to buy bulky home appliances. This lunch box does not take up a lot of space."
Owner of blogshop Mingoshopping, Ms Tham Kuai Meng, 40, imports Self-Heating Happy Lunch Boxes from Hong Kong.
A double-tiered one costs $33.90 and a triple-tiered one goes for $45.90. She says she sells about 30 sets a month.
The electric lunch boxes are easy to use.
Add water to the heating plate, place the food in the stainless steel bowl over it, clasp the box securely, plug it into an electric socket and leave it to steam.
The device will turn itself off when all the water has evaporated.
The Yoei and Kessler lunch boxes come with a measuring cup and guide on the correct amounts of water to use and approximate steaming times for different dishes.
Ms Sherlynn Tan, 37, a housewife, recently bought a double-tiered Yoei electric lunch box.
The mother of two children aged 11 and seven, says: "Sometimes my kids will stay back after school and I eat lunch alone.
"I think this lunch box makes it more convenient to cook one-portion meals for myself."
Whipping up a hot meal on-the-go are other reasons people are buying the lunch boxes.
Ms Chen Xiaguang, 60, is thinking of buying an electric lunch box to cook meals for her one-year old grandson while on vacation this month.
She says: "My grandson needs to eat soft foods such as porridge. I thought this would come in useful for cooking food for him on the go."
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on March 9, 2014. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.