Ms Skinnyfat

A Food & Travel Blog from Singapore

Ryan’s Grocery, a specialty gluten-free grocer and organic butchery, makes preparing for your Chinese New Year essential steamboat feast hassle-free (and healthier!), by offering a selection of Shabu-Shabu sets, imported organic meats and wild caught seafood. 
Ryan’s Grocery offers a selection of handmade, gluten free, organic meat ball platters ($11.80/12 pieces). Choose from hormone free chicken, juicy and flavorful beef balls made from Blackwood Valley Black Angus beef or my personal favorite- the moist Borrowdale pork balls with extra texture and crunch from the water chestnut. I could have had a dozen by myself!
Fans of pork will go crazy over the selection of free-range Borrowdale pork available in a variety of cuts, including the collar, loin and fatty belly. These lucky hogs are raised in a stress-free environment, being allowed to freely roam, play in the mud and apparently even fed strawberries! The meat is not further processed, resulting in natural flavors. We especially love the fatty pork belly, which melts in your mouth after a quick dip in the soup.
Bovine lovers will love the Black Angus beef from Blackwood Valley in the countryside of Western Australia. Exclusively grass-fed, and devoid of growth hormones and antibiotics, these lucky animals live longer than other farm bred cattle, allowing their natural flavors to develop and mature. The meat was tender, with just the right amount of fat, and was excellent with the Great Southern Truffle Mustard!
One of our favorite Spanish tapas restaurant has turned 5! Esquina is celebrating their 5th anniversary with some special chef collaborations lined up this year, and they have kick-started the celebrations with a special 5th Anniversary Tasting MenuThe 5-course menu showcases signature dishes from the restaurant’s a la carte menu for a complete journey through Esquina’s cuisine in one meal. Priced at $55, the menu will be available for lunch (Tue to Thu) and dinner (Mon to Thu), available till until 31 January 2017. 
We started with the Tsarskaya Oyster with jalapeño ponzu, salmon roe, and pickled ginger flower. The creamy pearly oyster contrasted with the sour and salty elements to provide a refreshing start to the meal.
The Spanish Nigiri is a must order at Esquina. The presentation, and the texture of the roasted bell peppers may fool you into thinking it's sashimi! We were blown away with the smokiness of the peppers and that creamy and lightly salted bacalao brandade.
I wished I had an entire basket of the golden Chorizo Croqueta with Piquillo Mayo instead of one precious bite. The breaded crust breaks away quickly to ooze a creamy milky blend peppered with salty chorizo chunks. The lightly spiced mayo helps to cut any monotony of the fried ball. 
Wouldn’t it be lovely if Chinese New Year gatherings are not always about stuffing the poor tummy with 8/9/10 course meals? We love the auspicious plates of CNY delicacies, but after a few sessions (‘coz Ms. Popular), the novelty simply wears off. Since it is basic courtesy not to decline invitations (and food, really), I’ll be generous and share a win-win solution: Have Dim Sum at Avenue Joffre!
Before your party gets to the special Chinese New Year Dim Sum menu, do request for the Lychee-wood Roasted BBQ dishes, which are specialities of Avenue Joffre. While I do enjoy the Roasted Cantonese Duck 挂炉烧鸭 (Reg $22/Half $39/Whole $75) for its tender and juicy London duck meat and glistening crispy skin, I am swept off my feet with the restaurant’s Honey-glazed Barbecued Pork 滋味蜜汁叉烧 (S $18/M $26/L $32). 
Look at the beautifully glazed char siew! Melt-in-the-mouth pork and en pointe on flavours, I just could not stop at a slice. 
Expect nothing less for “Snow Mountain” BBQ Pork Buns 雪山叉烧包 ($6)— loads of awesome char siew packed in sweet-crusted soft buns. Think HK Pineapple Bun (菠萝包). I feel doubly loved since I adore my bread carbs.
Catch the God of Fortune mascot as you dine at Furama RiverFront this Chinese New Year! With fun activities planned to entertain guests, you can expect an interesting reunion celebration while tucking into the buffet spread at The Square.
Cleanse the stomach with Double boiled Sakura Chicken with Winter Melon, Dried Scallop & Honshimeji Mushroom
The natural sweetness of the ingredients shine through in this light and healthy bowl.
The Square’s signature Wok Fried Coffee Pork Almond Flakes is available at this buffet too. If only it tastes as good as it smells. The meat could do with longer marination for the flavors to be infused.
Looking for a dinner place to impress your date? Whisk her away on a buggy through a gorgeous garden; wine and dine her with gourmet dishes while admiring the spectacular Singapore skyline and marina view, followed by a fairy-tale post-meal excursion to an exotic garden! All the above is made possible at POLLEN, Gardens by the Bay.
Executive Chef Steve Allen (previously from 1 Michelin-starred restaurant Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's in London) serves French-Mediterranean cuisine, with inspiration draw from South-East Asian chefs and regional agriculture. 
Two light snacks were served to start the meal- Mushroom Tapioca Cracker flavored with an onion, cèpe mushroom and feta mousse; and a smooth Chicken Liver Parfait with Beetroot Jelly
The amuse-bouche of Celery and Seaweed is inspired by Sussex pier (chef's Brit) and features the flavors of the sea with cold briny flavors from the cured mackerel, furikake, and a crunchy seaweed sand made of brown butter solids. The celery was presented in a sorbet form, without the pungent flavors of the smelly veg (hate it but that's me).
Man Fu Yuan has consistently been my go-to for impeccable Chinese meals and there's no reason not to celebrate the most important Chinese festival (Chinese New Year) with them. To ensure a year of good fortune, 捞 into a glittery pot of gold with Man Fu Yuan's black truffle yusheng with deep sea red crab, crispy silver bait fish and fresh fruits like melon and jackfruit. 
All that gold may be for show but we could do with some auspicious beginnings for sure. Plus it made the treasure hunt for the prized crab meat a lot more challenging with the blinding glitter. 
What's a proper CNY meal without some delicacy like a Chilled Marinated South African Fresh Abalone in half shell, dressed with a lightly sweet Goma sesame dressing. Served on a specially carved block of ice, the gelatinous and crunchy meat remained fresh as we slowly savored the sweet flesh.
Next, a rich and nutritious Double Boiled Chicken and Korean Ginseng Soup, complete with fish maw and bamboo pith, was served. You can expect instant rejuvenation from just one sip but we could certainly do with a pot of this. 
Braised Sea Cucumber and Fish Maw in Superior Brown Sauce. More nutrients for the skin!
It's time to do some last minute snagging of tables for Chinese New Year reunion dinner! If you're lucky, you may still be able to dine at Hai Tien Lo, which has consistently been offering great menus for festive communal gatherings.
My favorite part of the Yu Sheng is always the crispy deep-fried cracker. Over at Hai Tien Lo, they have added an extra dimension to their Flourishing Wealth Yu Sheng with some deep fried salmon fish skin. If you, like me, have a pathological attraction to salted egg fish skin, you would definitely welcome this addition to the Yu Sheng. If not, you would still love tossing around the luxurious ingredients which include Boston lobster, Norwegian salmon and Pacific clams.
The Double-boiled Buddha Jumps Over the Wall with Maca and Wolfberry Soup was packed with indulgent ingredients like succulent abalone and dried scallop, and was hearty and nourishing.
100AM in Tanjong Pagar is now home to the latest Japanese Restaurant food cluster, Itadakimasu by PARCO. Itadakimasu houses 7 restaurants under its roof, and the offerings pretty much sum up the variety of Japanese food found in Singapore. 
The restaurants include Nadai Fujisoba NI HACHI, Numazu Uogashizushi, Ramen Keisuke Tori King, Saboten, Yayoi, Shabu Shabu GYU JIN and Yakiniku Heijoen
I have not stopped raving about my new found love since I walked through the vermillion torii (gates) of Nadai Fujisoba NI HACHI. Established in 1966, it is recognised as the soba restaurant with one of the longest histories in Japan and boy are we glad that it has finally arrived on our tiny island! Nadai Fujisoba NI HACHI takes pride in serving authentic handmade soba that has a 2:8 ratio of flour to buckwheat with an original broth (dashi) that is specially made with a blend of dried bonito and kaeshi (a mixture of soy sauce, sugar and well-aged mirin aka sweet sake).
There is a variety of soba to select from: hot or cold, vegetables, seafood or meats. The Hot Kamo Nanban (soba with slices of duck) and Hot Buta Curry Nanban Soba (curry soba with pork) are both flavorsome bowls that you must not miss. Meats are tender and the broths (yes, even the curry,) are light and full of umami goodness. 

It is difficult not to love Special Truffle Dashi Maki Tamago with Club Japanese Sauce. Move aside, onsen tamago! With shreds of crabmeat in the sauce, this funky Japanese omelette is a winner. My only wish is that the restaurant opens earlier so that I can have this for breakfast!

Other signature dishes at Nadai Fujisoba NI HACHI include Tempura Soba, Kano Maze Soba (dry soba with duck) and Kamo Nabe (duck shabu shabu). The Kano Nabe sure calls for a gathering of friends!
Another well-established restaurant housed in Itadakimasu is Numazu Uogashizushi. Being one of the restaurants that have coveted auction rights in Numazu fish market (Shizuoka Prefecture), you can expect fresh sashimi and sushi at this sushi restaurant. Did I mention that the slices of fish are very generous too?
It's time to start panicking about CNY dinners! Most restaurants are filling up fast, with some already fully reserved for Chinese New Year’s Eve. So it's gonna be a furious week of CNY posts on the blog. Here's one for you at Peach Blossoms at Marina Mandarin!
Chinese New Year is not complete without the ubiquitous Yu Sheng. Health conscious foodies have turned their backs on the traditional Yu Sheng that often gets additional sweetness from candied goodies like ginger and winter melon. Peach Blossoms' Marina Mandarin Salmon Yu Sheng with mixed fruits uses an array of colorful fruits that naturally sweetens the dish with the mix of shredded strawberry, jackfruit, kiwi and rock melon. We definitely approve the concept of eating by colors!
Guaranteed to elicit oohs-and-ahhs is the Barbecued Whole Suckling Pig. Golden brown, yet thin and crispy, the suckling pig skin goes exceptionally well with the steamed buns and sweet sauce that are served alongside.
Other highlights from the Chinese New Year festive set menus include the Double-boiled Kampung Chicken Soup with Premium Matsutake Mushroom. Affectionately also known as Japanese Truffle, the Matsutake mushrooms imparts a heady aroma and earthy flavour to the nourishing double boiled chicken soup, providing much comfort and satisfaction.
Peach Blossoms elevates the now commonplace salted egg prawns to a luxurious level with their Baked Boston Lobster with Creamy Salted Egg Yolk and Cheese. Rich but not overly unctuous, this dish is sure to win over even your fussy grandmother!
South America has been on my travel list since like.. FOREVER. I was supposed to explore this continent back in 2014 but due to some misadventure, it did not happen. I guess it was a blessing in disguise since ideally, it would make a lot more sense to visit a couple more countries in one trip. Let's face it, we don't have the luxury to go on holiday for months. 
After setting our minds on the trip, we were faced with bigger problems! Where should we go? Should we just do one country extensively or visit a couple more? How much time should we spend at each city/country? How do we get from one place to another? Is it going to cost an arm and a leg, or both?

One good way is to Google 'Best of South America travel' and start from there. This should give you a general idea of the different types of experiences SA has to offer.
How about a grass fed Argentinean steak?
City lovers will have much to enjoy in Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo, and Rio de Janeiro. Great food, music, and dance. You'd be thoroughly spoilt.
If you're into nature, flora and fauna, the Amazon rainforest is a must. Waterfalls are your thing? Get wet at Iguazu Falls. Weather too hot for you? Head down to El Calafate for the glaciers and trekking at Torres del Paine
Love your wines? Drink to your fill at one of the many vineyards. We think it's absolutely possible to drink your way through Chile (check out the Chilean wine region here) and those amazing Malbec in Argentina
Amazing breakfast and coffee at Coffee Town, San Telmo Market Buenos Aires.
If coffee is your poison, may we remind you that SA is also the coffee producing continent and all them single origins are easily within reach? 
Did you think we forgot Machu Picchu, one of the new seven wonders of the world? Hell no, we started the post with that!
For your reference, here is our itinerary. We wanted a mix of city, culture, nature, and wine experiences and finally settled on this mix.
Argentina- Buenos Aires: 4 nights 
Chile- Santiago, Valparaiso, Vina del Mar and 3 wineries along the way: 3 nights
Peru- Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu: 4 nights
Argentina & Brazil- Iguazu Falls: 2 nights
Flights- To South America
Next, check out where is the best to fly in and out from. Buenos Aires is a good spot to start/end your trip given the generally good air connectivity to the surrounding countries. Otherwise, Sao Paolo is a good option as well (sadly SQ discontinued their flights there). You may also want to consider an open jaw option if the price works out to be right.

Flights- Within South America
Given the limited time we have, the best mode of transport is by flight. We flew with Latam Airlines (under oneworld® alliance) and it was safe, comfortable, and reliable. Plus we could easily book multi-city trips easily on their website. 

We chose to book directly instead of getting the oneworld® Visit South America Pass. It may or may not be cheaper to book through oneworld® given that the tickets are priced by zones. You are also required to book your return travel on a oneworld® partner to South America in order to enjoy these fares. 

Booking these tickets is also very troublesome- only the oneworld® partner you're traveling with can book the tickets for you; and they need to know the exact flights that you want to be booked on. There's a lot more work on your part, and the turnaround may not be that quick, so tickets may run out in the meantime.. Anyway, just check both. It may save you some money either ways. 

International flight on Qatar: 7+ hours to Doha, and another 17 hours to Buenos Aires with a stop in Sao Paolo in between. Cost: S$2400
6 flights within South America on Latam: US$850 (the prices can fluctuate a bit depending on the timing that you pick so just keep playing with the timing)
Have a drink! It'll help with the planning anxiety. HAHA.
Free & Easy or Guided Tours
The crazy research and planning drove me crazy and i started looking around for tour operators who could help with the logistics. We went with a customized tour only because they could provide me with all the experiences that I wanted e.g. visits to specific wineries, food tour; group tours and private tours to sites and entrance fees (we learned a lot more about the culture with these tours in fact); booking of hotels (that we specified); and airport transfers. Well it's a free and easy with some help and convenience i'd say. But in short, if you want a great experience out of this trip, you need to do the ground work regardless. 
Private food tour in Lima Peru. Dining at Huaca Pucllana, which is located on an ancient site.
Cost wise, it can vary a lot, depending on how exclusive and luxurious an experience you are looking at. I'd say that our was a mid-range experience at a super low-end price. It would probably cost me more if i booked the exact itinerary myself. Also, the other tour operator that provided me with a similar itinerary was charging about US$800-1000/pax more. I was also quoted US$6k/pax (land tour) in another case. #sorrynothoneymoon #honeymoonalsowontpaysomuch #okmaybewillifigotomars

So if you wanna do a customized tour that is super value for money, go with Peru Interact Trails. They are based in Peru (duh) but are quite on the ball when it comes to working with the other local operators in the other SA countries that you wanna visit. Hell they even saved us from our broken down train from Machu Picchu back to Cusco. #notsponsoredbutidontmindalso
We stayed in a mix of boutique and chain hotels. This is Hotel Classico in Buenos Aires.
We paid about US$1900/pax for 10 nights of accommodation and activities (we chose to do Buenos Aires on our own since it's just another city). Super value for money really. I'll share with you guys more on the exact things we did as part of the tour.

Hope this helps a little with your South America travel planning! More to come soon.