Ms Skinnyfat

A Food & Travel Blog from Singapore

With so many other local food happenings, i have neglected my Vietnam posts so here is another. There are still other awesome food places that i've tried but have yet to share. Will try to update on them. La Fourchette (French), The Sushi Bar (Japanese), Temple Club (Gourmet Vietnamese).. And some really bad ones like Augustin (French). Check out my other favorite Viet cafes under Eat Saigon.

Enough about food, this post is about finding/restoring my inner peace. I mentioned in a previous post about this mysterious yoga school which was the highlight of my trip. This place is none other than Soham Yoga. I guess Destiny bought us together. I was toying with the idea of continuing with my practice on the trip (hence i brought my gym attire) but wasn't set on any particular yoga school. It was that particular day when I was feeling quite tired and upset (due to a particular event that occurred) that i randomly did a search on the Internet for a school. And everything was history.   

Soham is located at Tran Dinh Xu in District 1 which was only 1.6km away from my first hotel, Beautiful Saigon 3 Hotel. I could have walked there, it wouldn't take too long but my first class was at night and i didn't think it'd be that safe considering i've never been there before. It's located in a 2 storey shophouse, and it was love at first sight for me. Nhu Y (the owner who is also an instructor) took my first class and i went away filled to the brim with positive energy. I thought that was the last of our meeting as Z and i were headed to Phu Quoc but there was a turn of events and we headed back to the city shortly after! And Yoga was the only thing on my mind. 

As you can see from the pictures, it's a very small and cosy place. Even though there aren't the fancy air-conditioning or fully mirrored walls like my studio in Singapore (read about it here), or the lack of a hot yoga studio, it really didn't matter. This is exactly the kind of place i would like to practise at. The instructors were all very positive. Nhu Y is an extremely confident, patient and friendly instructor (much unlike my boot camp-ish instructors at Real). She taught me how to do my first headstand in Sivananda class and even though i didn't managed to do a full headstand the first time, she was extremely encouraging. The class was very intimate and we laughed at ourselves and at each other when we do something silly. I went away with a smile on my face and in my heart after each session.

The locker and changing area
The classes that i went for had a maximum of 7 students so there were plenty of space. I like that there is a lot more interaction between the instructor and the students (not so commercialized). Paul (another instructor) shared his story about how he was so stressed out and unhealthy before he started on Yoga and how it changed his life. It was the interaction that helped me look beyond the nitty gritty affairs that i was fixated on previously and to adopt an open mind towards exploration of alternatives that would make me happier as a person. There is also a lot more meditation which really helped to calm my nerves.
The studio at Soham
I also like the little touches such as applying a soothing aromatherapy essence on the student's shoulders while we are resting in the Savasana position. It's very uplifting at the end of each session. Hot tea, water and cookies are also offered at the lounge and students are always welcomed to sit around after class to chat with the instructors. We had some really good times discussing yoga and life, exchanging experiences.

It was also at Soham where i met Daphne who is a fellow Singaporean! She has been teaching Yoga in Saigon for 2 years. She's one gungho lady who is very adventurous (from what i heard about her travels). According to her, you can spot a Singaporean from afar in Saigon because we wear more expensive stuff. :P I don't think it's the Singlish because i didn't speak it at all (i take pride in that!)
Happy me in my yoga outfit
I walked to yoga on most days after we got back from Phu Quoc. We stayed at Oscar Saigon which was right smack in the downtown area. The traffic was crazy and the walk was further (2.4km). I had to navigate across the Ben Thanh market traffic which was impossible but my road crossing skills were superb and i survived the 30mins walk to school. It was pretty nerve wrecking though. Made a video about crossing the road but i can't stand the sound of my voice on it so it's not gonna be posted.

So yea, this is my happy place in Saigon. I really miss the practice and the people. Somehow after the experience here, everything else in Singapore seems to fall short. It just feels more like a workout now. Sigh. So yea, if there's anything i'll go back to Saigon for, it'd be for Yoga and Cupcakes. :) If you ever drop Saigon, this is a must do activity. Trust me. It has changed my outlook on life. 

The first trial class is 5usd and it's free if you buy a class pass or sign up for membership. I got the 5 classes pass for 45usd. There is a mix of beginner to multi level classes so not to worry. They offer Vinyasa, Power/Power Flor, Sivananda, Yin Yoga and also African Dance.

Soham Yoga
84T/4 Tran Dinh Xu, Dist 1 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tel: +08 39 205 813

Did you know that there was previously an Awfully Chocolate branch in the Serangoon Gardens area? (Read about why i love Gardens here) I would support North-Easties would have known about it. Sadly, the famous Hei ice cream was no longer to be enjoyed when AC closed down. In its place, a little nondescript cafe has set up shop to serve the residents coffee (YAY! Coffee Bean just doesn't do it for me these days!) and simple sandwiches.This little cafe is called The Coffee Daily. 

It was on one of my morning rounds when i caught a glimpse of the place (happened to be looking to get some stuff from AC). From the looks of the shopfront (i was a distance away), i thought it was those old school coffee bean roasting shop. I'm sure you would agree with me just by looking at the picture below. Anyway that was until S informed me about a new cafe in the area and that's when i took a closer look at it.
Keeping to the theme of an 80s shophouse/flat, the owners stuck to simple yet iconic features that reminded me of the good old days when i was a child and had nary a care about the world. Life was simple but good (what would i know right? i was a kid. of course it was fun for me.). The nostalgia of the days of dropping by the neighborhood grocery shop to get candies and traditionally baked biscuits or buying stationary and stickers from the bookshop uncle..   
Fragmented marble tiled and concrete flooring, naked light bulbs and iron grills, tilled walls and exposed piping running along the walls. A rocking chair. Mismatched chairs. Even though the feel is supposed to be old but it sends off a modern vibe.

The selection of food is not very varied. I was craving for some foccacia and cheese and had every intention to head to the supermarket to get the ingredients and make it myself, but of course laziness got the better of me. I went with the Turkey Ham Foccacia ($9.50) because it is exactly the thing i was craving for. Ordered a hazelnut latte ($5.80) to go along with it too.

The coffee wasn't too bad, quite milky and smooth. I suppose the hazelnut syrup neutralized any acidity in the beans. I suppose i'd make better judgment if i ordered the plain latte but heck it, i love my coffee sweet and flavored. I'm not a connoisseur and i don't intend to become one anyway. I'm really not that picky when it comes to coffee but of course i can differentiate the good from the bad and this is hmm... average?

The sandwich did kind of satisfied my craving (at least the foccacia part). It isn't spectacular and i actually expected better. Honestly, even i could make a better sandwich. Swiss bake's foccacia, freshly sliced gourmet ham (instead of this packaged one) and Reblochon cheese or some fresh Brie, butterhead lettuce and sliced tomatoes on the vine (there isn't any in this sandwich). Quality ingredients and food are essential to the survival of a coffee place. You can't survive on coffee alone really. That said, the sandwich isn't thhhhaaaaatttt bad. It's hm barely passable but i just feel that they could do a lot better than this? The sandwich is interestingly served with tapioca chips which were strangely addictive after a while (i'm not a tc fan).

There is more than enough space to accommodate about 20 odd customers but i was the only one there at lunch time on a Saturday. I suppose that's because people haven't heard about it yet. So here you go! There's no service charge or gst as well. No studying or working allowed here but i suppose reading and chilling out is fine.

I wouldn't mind coming back if i'm in the area and have a caffeine urge. Sure beats drinking the crap at coffee bean. Should have tried the Shepherd's pie and carrot cake that some other reviewers were raving about. Perhaps the next time.

(Author's note: This is a crazy cafe hopping Saturday for me. First the Coffee Daily, then the Muffinry, followed by Le Chasseur Claypot rice [truly bad service] and Alfero's gelato. I'll try to update with the other posts soon, hopefully before the week ends. Too many posts, too little time. I think i need to stop eating for a while..)

The Coffee Daily
75 Brighton Crescent
Tel: +65 6284 8894
Tue - Sun: 9am - 6pm
Fri: 9am - 4pm
Closed on Mondays

Finally found an opportunity to check out Jimmy Monkey Cafe. It has been on my radar for a while but with my ever expanding cafe list plus the fact that JMC is located at One North (which is essentially the Far West), i have not been able to visit till recently. One of the pull factor was of course the coffee. The rise of these third wave coffee makers in Singapore has indeed pleased the coffee drinking community. Never will we have to settle for Starbucks again! (even though i occasionally do but that's because their locations are more convenient!) 

Anyway, because i was due to go for a meeting in the west, i decided to just pop by JMC. Located at the isolated One North Residences, Jimmy Monkey makes an ideal spot to chill out with a book and a cuppa. It is set up by a Melbournian who was keen to recreate a true blue Aussie cafe experience and you can tell they are serious about the coffee with their Slayer espresso machine (one of it's kind in SG) and Giesen roaster. Nothing beats the aroma of freshly roasted beans to wake one's senses.
A fair selection of pastries and hot food. The croissants look big and poofy and the muffins don't look too bad either. I think the molten lava cake was recommended by reviewers on HGW.

Sadly, i developed a headache and decided to have a small scone with a side of sausages instead of the smoked duck with cheese toastie ($15). Shall give that a try another time. The scone came warmed and smells like hot cakes! This is a raisin scone and i would consider it to be more dessert than savory. I usually like to butter mine with salted butter but that combination didn't go well with the sweetness of this one. I tasted a hint of cinnamon and maple (hence the hotcake smell) and it was like eating a very dense fruit cake/bread. Not my usual type of scone (read about what i like here) but it's not that bad. Slightly above average when warmed and you should not continue eating when it's cold.

Was really disappointed when they served me the set reason being that they told me it's clotted cream and trust me when i say it isn't. Whipped is not clotted. They are oceans and stomachs apart. So don't lie to me. If you wanna know what clotted is, try the scones at Regent. I swear that's awesome. The jam was overly sweet and tasted quite artificial. Definitely didn't touch mine.

Of course i had to have something savory to go with the food so i added on the sausages. They are not spectacular but they were savory and moist enough. I would consider this to be more of a white sausage but with more chew to it. You can pass on the bread because it tasted really stale and tough. I think it'd be nicer if it's fresh because there's a nice saltiness to the brown bread which would go well with a big breakfast set. 

The cappuccino was nothing but spectacular and mind blowing. I usually take my coffee with sugar and my judgment on a good coffee is largely dependent my tolerance of its taste when i do it without sugar. Third wave cafes are awesome because they are acutely aware of the taste of the beans and they prepare it in a way that brings out the natural sweetness of the beans. I love that it's not very acidic and the milk acted as a natural sweetener to the drink. It was very smooth and the froth was lovely. It didn't even break when i added sugar (yes i cheated but sugar makes a lot of difference to coffee!). I am dying to try the affogato with crushed violet crumble. Sounds absolutely enchanting.

Definitely a cool joint to hang out at on lazy weekends. Especially with the Lazy weekend menu that serves breakfast till 4pm. Nothing beats getting great coffee (note that i didn't say food) on a lazy afternoon.

May or may not give the food another chance. Could someone try the other dishes and let me know if i should head back there another time? I still have more than a dozen different places i wanna try and i don't know if i can spare this a second visit.

9 one-north gateway
#01-51 one-north residences
Tel: 6777-8470
Sun to Thurs: 8.30am - 8.30pm
Fri & Sat: 8.30am - 10.30pm
Closed Mondays
The "fruits" finally met up for a dinner gathering after a couple of months. Full attendance for the first time in what? 2 years? The last time we all caught up in the FYP group was at Mandarin Oriental where we had the superb hi-tea at Axis. Since then L and i have had our defunct monthly indulgence, the girls and our weekend Malacca food trip and ADC bitched over brunch at FfT. So yay! We finally managed to find time in our busy schedules (them not me!) to have dinner at Shabu No Koya which is located at Liang Court.

I like to hang out in the Clarke Quay area (not for drinks but for all the awesome Japanese food) and Liang Court has been one of my favorite hangouts because of Meidi-ya. Did i mention how i love supermarket shopping (especially Japanese ones)? :)) There is also the Trung Nyugen Coffee place which serves up quite a decent Viet coffee, Tampopo ramen and the list goes on. The point is, i was always too distracted to check out the other eateries and surprisingly the basement level has a lot more to offer these days. One of which is Shabu No Koya. 

If not for Groupon, the probability of dining here is close to zero. Even though i am quite skeptical about some of these establishments that are advertised with these discount groups, what's the harm when we are only paying $14 for Ribeye Beef shabu shabu right? As the evening progressed, it turns out that it was indeed a good deal for us. 
Shabu No Koya specializes in Kaminabe (paper pot steamboat). For $14, you get a veg platter with japanese mushrooms, beancurd, lots of cabbage and udon. We were pretty amazed by the paper pots and we only discovered the mystery behind the cooking at the end of dinner. 

The dashi (fish stock) soup base was pretty bland at the start because we haven't added in the meat. It became very flavorful towards the end due to the essence of the beef (and fats...)

This was what we came for. Thinly sliced ribeye beef fillet. This is a portion for 2 and it seemed pretty meagre when it was first served. This was despite the fact that each slice of beef was bigger than the size of my face. 

Call me greedy but nobody eats shabu shabu for the veg. It's always for the meat. And i'm a self confessed carnivore. I wasn't very happy at the start till we started on our meal proper. By the 2nd slice i was kinda filling up and was thoroughly stuffed after 4 slices of beef (with plenty of veg, udon and RICE!). Was carbo loading unknowingly because the ponzu sauce (a citrus based sauce) for the meat was so appetizing. The mix of vinegar, soy, mirin and citrus helped whet our appetite and we started making after-dinner food plans during our meal!

Other dishes we ordered were the tamago tofu which was silky smooth. It's about $6 for 3 small pieces. Quite a miserable serving.
Gyoza comes highly recommended! Unlike the usual pastry, Shabu No Koya uses a puff pastry (same sort as the epok epok or curry puff) which was light and crisp. Each bite was a celebration of flavors. Think juicy sweet and savory minced meat with spring onion dancing with the crunchy buttery crust in your mouth. Ahh.. lovely. 5 for $8 if i didn't remember wrongly.
The normal prices are not very pricey and i think i'd still pay the normal price to dine here. I suppose they should have some lunch sets too. Anyway after eating SS with the fruits, i had another SS craving a few days later and S and i ended up having it for lunch. Post up soon!

The happy foursome who are gonna be embarking on a foodie journey together. More of such awesome Groupon deals and other eats in the future! Cheers to food and friends!

Shabu No Koya
177 River Valley Road, Liang Court B1-03/05
Tel: +65 6337 7856
Weekdays: 11.30am - 2.30pm, 6 - 9.30pm
Weekends: 11.30am - 9.30pm

S was just complaining about how high maintenance gfs are these days (a conclusion that he and his guy friends came up with which is totally baseless and untrue). According to them, we are too picky with food and always (absolute terms again) eat at expensive restaurants and refuse to eat at hawker centers. Such a sweeping statement. I'm sure there are those people with less discriminating taste buds but obviously you picked those with better taste (it's a compliment to you guys too!). Seriously you guys have too much of a double standard. BOO.

Anyway, because of that stupid conclusion, S made me have hawker for dinner last night. He claims that i would only eat this for hawker food and so we ended up at Rangoon road for some Ba Kut Teh.
S has brought me to this place before. Ng Ah Sio used to open only during the day but now that Founder has also moved down the road, i suppose they are feeling the pressure and hence you can get their BKT all day long. Yay to market competition. I couldn't remember how Ng Ah Sio tastes like (which kinda meant that it wasn't good enough for me then) but since Founder is more easily accessible, i decided to go ahead with NAS.
From what i recall, they have refurnished the place. It used to be pretty run down but now it's tiled, air conditioned and alot cleaner. Now this is more my kind of hawker place (Just kidding, i'm not that spoilt). However, it's kinda hard to differentiate between the big 3s now that their stores all kinda look alike. Somehow the character and old school charm has given way to commercialization. They now sell their BKT in satchels. 

The picky me asked the server what kinda soup they serve before i ordered. I'm a fan of the Teochew peppery clear soup and i was extremely suspicious of NAS as the pictures showed a dark soup. Was told that they add dark sauce to their soup and hence the colour. I remained doubtful till i tasted it. 
I ordered the Spare and Pork Ribs Combo ($7) just so i can judge the quality of the meat. The meat was easily separated from the spare rib but the same couldn't be said of the pork rib. Like Founders, you only get better stuff if you pay more. I still prefer Song Fa because the normal ribs are more tender and much meatier as compared to the premium ribs (read about it here).

However, the texture of the meat seemed coarse and somewhat dry. That left me shaking my head every time i bit into the ribs. The soup packs a peppery punch and i believe they were over-generous with the seasoning (hopefully not MSG). Zhang Ziyi would send this right back to the kitchen because it is SO SALTY! I consider myself to be a savory person and this is too much for me even. Gulped down 2 cans of drinks after. :P
Had the braised beancurd and tau pok ($2) with it, alongside my youtiao ($2). Nothing spectacular once again and on the salty side once more. 

One thing i'm sure from this experience is that if i can't remember anything about a restaurant i've dined at in the past, i should just steer clear of it. For Ng Ah Sio, it's more of a hype than anything else and I can be sure i'm never coming back again. For those with a higher tolerance for salt, give it a shot. I'll stick to Song Fa for now. 

208 Rangoon Road
Tel: +65 6291 4527
Tue-Sun: 7am - 10pm
Closed Monday

I'm not a chicken rice person. It's not that i don't like the dish, it's just that i don't eat it on a regular basis. I'm lucky i guess, i just do not have the palate for oily and unhealthy local food. No char kway teow, most Malay dishes, Laksa... They are just not part of my daily meals. I think the last time i had chicken rice was a year ago.

The thing that irks me about chicken rice is the aftertaste. That concoction of garlic and ginger somehow lingers on hours after consumption and it's practically impossible to get rid of the smell or the taste even if you try to scrub your mouth with a toilet brush. But that is also what makes chicken rice so tasty- the chili which contains those ingredients.

Anyway, the friends and i headed to Boon Tong Kee (River Valley) for dinner the other night because C requested for that. As usual, W and i had to accommodate him because London doesn't do good Chinese food and certainly no awesome Sg food. So it's always local food when he comes to visit. And of all places, he chose Boon Tong Kee. I never tried all these so called famous chicken rice chains e.g. 5 Stars, Pow Sing.. I think they are over hyped and i don't think their chicken rice is that good (quite an unfair judgment since i refused to try them). The opportunity finally presents itself for me to dispel this opinion and sadly it was just as what i expected.

The chicken was coarse and kinda dry. I believe that a good chef can make breast meat tender and juicy but even the texture of BTK's chicken thigh was rough and a little tough. I shall not even talk about the breast meat. I believe i can steam a better chicken than this. Seriously i've tried better chicken at random kopitiams around Singapore.
The rice was nothing spectacular. My idea of well cooked rice must fulfil the following qualities- fluffy, right amount of moisture (just a little moist), fat grains. For chicken rice, it has to be fragrant and flavorful. This rice smells better than it tastes. Somehow the chicken fat/stock/gravy did not infuse into the heart of the grains. Again, i've had better rice from elsewhere.  
The veg was more tasty than the chicken IMO. Done the Canto you2 cai4 style with fried shallots and oil with soy sauce.

And if there's anything that's really good, it's the mei cai kou rou (Braised pork belly with preserved vegetables)! The pork is braised long enough till the meat simply disintegrates as you send it into your mouth. The meat is absolutely tender and well marinated with the sweet sauce and it also absorbed some of the saltiness of the preserved veg. This dish is quite sweet actually but it's really good. Think it's only $8 for 3-4 slabs of pork belly. A very good complement to the somewhat tasteless rice.
BTK is what i would call a tourist trap. I think we were the only locals who were dining there that night. Bet everyone followed some guidebook and hence they ended up there. This is more a restaurant than a hawker stall and they do other zi char dishes (Chinese) as well. If you want local food with "ambience"as what C requested, this is an option you could try. I think Chicken rice tastes better when it's packed to go because the rice can soak up the essence of the chicken and that sesame-soya-chicken fat gravy that is drizzled on top. I'm not weird.

Locations: Ang Mo Kio, Balestier, Bukit Timah, East Coast, MacPherson, River Valley, Whampoa West. Opening hours vary, check website for details.

Serangoon Gardens is one of my regular chill out places in the North East. It's convenient, homey, quiet and it also has a lot of food establishments. In my younger days, Chomp Chomp was the regular supper venue for the the brothers and i. The famous RK house is also around the corner- it never occurred to us to pull such a terrible joke on the servers, that's just mean. Ice Cube was our dessert spot till Frolick popped up and then Udders. Before myVillage opened, we studied at the old Coffee Bean and ate at Cafe Cartel and now there are so many more options. Gardens is pretty much the Holland V of the North East, just less noisy and more chill.

I'm usually not very adventurous when i head to Gardens for food. I associate it with comfort food and tat usually meant Sushi Tei for me. Each time i head there, i'd pass by Arbite, which is just next to ST on the 2nd storey. I never went in because it always look empty (typical Singaporean) until Bernie suggested having dinner there one night. I tried it and i kinda fell in love and the rest was history.

I recently headed there for a farewell lunch for a colleague and we noticed that they have converted the sitting area to accommodate more tables. Guess more people have discovered this gem! The interior feels pretty much like a dining room at Ikea. Simple furnishing and decor. Natural light is very important to me and this place is lit up nicely. 

The selection of drinks is not very extensive but it suffices. Milkshakes for $6 (not very thick. Strawberry one is somewhat fizzy? The colour is extremely artificial as well.). I love the Iced Lemon Tea ($3) which is made fresh. It's about as yummy as Toast's. There are some ales and ciders which are priced reasonably ($10). 

These were what we ordered for lunch. 
Mediterranean Vegetable Sandwich- Grilled eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, pickled onions, roasted cherry tomatoes, rocket leaves and crumbled blue cheese on a sun dried tomato focaccia ($13.90). The veg were fresh and juicy. Love the vibrant colours on the plate. I was eyeing the sundried tomato focaccia, it looks really tasty (didn't try it because Piglet was obviously greedy!).
Papardelle with mushroom and parma ham, spinach in a cream sauce drizzled with truffle oil ($19.90). The papardelle and tagliatelle are made to order and served fresh daily. I love this dish but it may be too cloying after a while. I liken the papardelle to our Chinese mee hoon kway but this has more bite to it. Not really al dente but it's just right for the huge sheet of pasta. I wished they gave more of the parma ham because the cream sauce could be a little bland. Highly recommended anyway. Order it to share and get another savory dish. :)
Japanese Curry Pulled Pork Wrap- Shredded pork collar, caramelized apples, leeks and a Japanese curry sauce wrapped in a tortilla skin ($13.90). This is another great dish. The pulled pork simply melts (probably due to the fats), and caramelized apples go so well with the slightly sweet Japanese curry. The sweetness is nicely harmonized by the salted wedges and that is always an important factor for me (read about it here).
Pork Schnitzel- Breaded pork loin deep fried till golden brown, mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables served with blue cheese apple butter and gravy ($17.90). This is huge. Boss devoured it before i could take a closer look at it. I suppose it must be really tasty? The description of the sauce sounds really yums. I will probably try it someday, after i run like 10km maybe.
Squid Ink Tagliatelle with crab and tiger prawn. Jumbo lump swimmer crab with tiger prawns, asparagus and leeks in a Rose Sauce ($23.90). I had this for lunch when i was there. Tagliatelle is like meepok and sadly this was a little overcooked. I didn't taste any of the squid ink in the pasta, which is a shame. But when it comes to squid ink pasta in a creamy tomato sauce, Valentino is my go to place. The asparagus taste is also quite overpowering, so if you don't like that, get them to remove it from the dish. Fresh seafood and general servings of the shelled crab. Succulent and sweet+savory prawns as well. Average dish perhaps but maybe i'm just fussy.

The portions are more than sufficient and i always do not have space for desserts after. Shall make a conscious effort to eat lesser next time. OH! Did i mention that there's All-day-breakfast too? YAY!
66A Serangoon Garden Way
Tel: +65 6287 0430
Tue – Fri: 11.30 am – 3.00 pm, 6.00pm - 10.30 pm
Sat – Sun: 11.00 am – 10.30 pm
Last Order at 2.30 pm & 9.45 pm
Closed on Mondays