January 9, 2013

Bird's Nest - A Delicacy

Bird's nest soup is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine quite popular in China and Hong Kong. Chinese believe that the natural collagen in bird's nest is good for the skin and keeps it looking young. Some also consume with the belief that it has aphrodisiac benefits.

For the first time I tasted bird's nest soup in a Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong. I quite liked the texture of the soup, continued there after without hesitation, thinking that bird's nest is name of a Chinese dish.

Actually these bird's nests are built by Swift birds with their saliva. These nests are in the shape of a cup. These are harvested, cleaned and cooked as a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. These bird's nests are quite expensive as well.

During my latest visit to Indonesia, I had the opportunity to capture a video of cleaning process of such white nests. Here it is:

(Video captured with Samsung Galaxy Note)

Bird's nest originated from Indonesia and today, Indonesia is one of the major exporters. Currently commercial production of these bird's nest are now undertaken in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam etc. Hong Kong has overtaken China as the major importer of bird's nest. 

When you are travelling to Hong Kong, China or Singapore don't forget to taste this dish. You will like it. 

Now the key question is to whether bird's nest is considered a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian dish. Since it is not meat or egg, in my opinion vegetarian's are good to go. Willing to hear other views.

January 5, 2013

Do We Want To Be Taken For Granted?

Above toon constructed with tools provided by

Thanks to Debajyoti Ghosh of 'Shortcut to blogging glory' fame, for showing me the toon site. 

January 4, 2013

Ali Nachia Briyani Dam - Singapore

Recently my ex-colleague recommended a nice Biryani place in Singapore. Since my colleague is a known foodie, I had no reason to disbelieve his recommendation. At Ali Nachia Biryani Dam shop, he recommended that we take mutton biryani with ribs. The mutton biryani that we bought tasted amazingly good.

The quantity was sufficient enough not to feel too full or too less. Mutton was perfectly cooked and most importantly without the usual after smell of the meat. Rice grains were long, not sticking to each other and less oily.

The biryani is of Malay style and not Hyderabadi style. It is called Nasi Briyani (spelling is correct!), where Nasi refers to rice and briyani refers to Basmati rice.

During the lunch, he told me the story about Ali Nachia Biryani Dam shop. Originally it was located in Tanjong Pagar railway station for more than 3 decades with reasonably roaring business. When the railway station was closed, they were asked to relocate to Tanjong Pagar Plaza.

In the process, unfortunately, the owner Mohd. Ali Latif lost most of his loyal clientele. Added to that the shop has a locational disadvantage being at a corner behind a pillar on second floor. The going has not been that good for Latif after the relocation.

Ali Nachia Biryani Dam sells mutton, chicken and fish biryani. As on date of this post, it costs SGD 7. They are closed on Sundays. Generally, Mohd. Ali Latif and his wife will be there at the shop. Mild, friendly and humble Malay couple.

Though I was introduced to this shop only two weeks ago, I have already gone thrice to this shop, once along with a friend.

The shop is situated at:

Level 2, Tanjong Pagar Plaza (the end nearer to Tanjong Pagar Market), clean with B grade certificate. My rating for the food here is 4 stars out of 5.

Running a restaurant business is tough in Singapore and it will be a shame if popular biryani shops like Ali's are folded.

If you are reading this post from Singapore, please visit this shop and try out the mutton biryani with ribs. If you like it, please ask your friends also to patronise Ali Latif's shop.

If you are reading this post from out side of Singapore, please share this with your Singapore based friends and ask them to try out.

Btw, hailing from Biryanibad, i.e., Hyderabad, known for the world famous dum-biryani, I quite liked this variation.

Poor imitations of 'Hyderabadi dum-biryani' is sold in a number of restaurants in Singapore. But, I am yet to get the satisfaction that I get when I devour chicken biryani from Paradise restaurant on MG Road or Cafe Bahar in Hyderguda.

Btw, my global hunt for a perfect match for Hyderabadi dum-biryani is still on... :)

January 3, 2013

Coffee Luwak

First a fact - Indonesia is one the top coffee producing countries of Robusta variety of coffee beans.

During my recent visit to Indonesia, I was intrigued by the term 'Kopi Luwak' (Coffee Luwak).

In a coffee shop 'Coffee Luwak', there was a poster containing a rat like animal with coffee seeds. The animal is known as Luwak or Asian Palm Civet.

These Luwaks eat the better coffee berries in a coffee farm and excrete the seeds.

Did I hear some one say 'ewwww..'?

Never mind, let me continue the story - such seeds are collected, washed, processed, roasted and powdered to make a cup of delicious kopi.

Kopi Luwak is produced in small quantities and hence one of the most popular varieties of coffee from Indonesia and most expensive.

Indonesians believe that when the coffee berries/seeds are inside the intestines of Luwak, they absorb enzymes and get more nutrients and flavour. Apparently such processed (not a variety) coffee is expensive and exported widely.

When you visit Indonesia, you decide if you really want to have a taste of this special variety of Kopi Luwak. Not me!

January 1, 2013

Batam, Indonesia - Travel Report

Batam is one of the 1700 plus islands of Indonesia, about 45 minutes ferry ride from Singapore, situated roughly 20 kilometers south. Originally a fishing island has transformed itself since 1972 to current state.

Quick Facts:
- Batam island is around 700 square kilometers, almost as big as Singapore island
- Has around 1.4 million population
- Since the year 2006 Batam island has been a tax-free island
- Main revenue generators are - a Panasonic factory, receipts from tourism (around 60 per cent of the tourists are from Singapore, followed by Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanse etc.)
- Though Indonesian Rupiah is the currency, Singapore Dollar is accepted at most places

Batam has five ferry terminals:
- Nongsapura Ferry Terminal
- Sekupang
- Waterfront City 
- Batam Centre International Ferry Terminal 

Picture of Batam Centre International Ferry: 

(picture courtesy: wikipedia)

Batam has a functional airport Hang Nadim International Airport with nearly all flights from domestic destinations with international flight between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Batam.

Indian passport holders get a VisaOnArrival for USD 10 for a 10 day stay and USD 25 for a 30 day stay. 

One of the main reasons Singaporeans, Koreans and Japanese travel to Batam is because of the Golf courses that have come up in the recent years. Both beginners and professionals visit these golf courses regularly.

As of today, Batam has seven golf courses, some of them are pristine and of international standard: 
- Palm Springs Golf and Beach Resort
- Southlinks Golf and Country Club
- Tering Bay Golf and Country Club
- Indah Puri Golf Resort
- Tamarin Santana Golf Club
- Batam Hills Golf Resort
- Padang Golf Sukajadi

Two years ago when I visited Batam, it was almost decaying. But this time around I saw quite a bit of development in the city with a number of hotels being built and a number of shopping complexes resembling those of Singapore, coming up. 

Some of the places that we visited: Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya Buddhist Temple, one of the biggest Buddhist temples in South East Asia. Please note the usage Sanskrit words, names in the following pictures.

Vegetarians take heart. There is a reasonably big vegetarian restaurant serving good food within the complex.

As of today, Polo Ralph Lauren has three main manufacturing hubs - China, Indonesia and Srilanka. Indonesian unit is based in Java, but all over Indonesia you can find the Polo Ralph Lauren outlets, not necessarily owned by Ralph Lauren, selling goods at much cheaper prices compared to other international locations. However, the goods in outlet in Batam is not as cheap compared to the outlets in Jakarta where you can get a good polo t-shirt for around SGD 35 (approx Rupees 1,500). Visit to the show room is one of the tourism place.

Indonesia is famous for 'Kueh Lapis' roughly translated as layered cake. Singaporeans love to eat Indonesian Kueh Lapis. The one in the picture below is decorated with plum fruit. One of the tourist destination was to a modest home preparing Kueh Lapis in a large scale. 

 Javanese cultural show was another tourist spot:

A performer peeling coconut fibre with teeth.

Another performer eating glass.

(All pictures, except one, shot with Samsung Galaxy Note 8 megapixel camera)

For a quick vacation, Batam was a okay destination. Give few more years and given the growth Indonesia is witnessing, Batam could turn out to be a much sought after resort island. 

Finally a fact before I finish my post - many Singaporeans have their weekend wives in Batam :))

December 28, 2012

Abhijit Mukherjee's 2 Minutes Of Fame

There are a number of people, especially those who are elected by public (mango men) to public offices, competing with each other in putting foot in their mouths.

Not sure why our President (of India)'s son had to make a comment when the entire nation was upset with the New Delhi gang rape of a medical student. Perhaps Abhijit Mukherjee wanted to get into the public space by hook or crook with insane and irrelevant comments while the tempers were flying high? With his 'dented and painted, two minutes of fame' comments, Abhijit Mukherjee got his two minutes of infamy (fame) while his foot was going right into his mouth.

Earlier it was from another foot-in-the-mouth specialist Botsa Satyanarayana, the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee Chief, who made unwanted remarks - that 'just because India achieved freedom at midnight does not mean that women can venture out after dark...' Seriously, why?!

Now with the sad demise of the victim, all of us need to get together to ensure that we provide a safe and secure place for women of all ages to move around in a country known for its rich cultural heritage.