April 29, 2017

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by Wan Ting Koh

TEN years ago, most people wouldn’t have cared about reducing their waste but things are slowly changing with Singapore shifting towards a more sustainable environment.

More institutions and businesses are attempting to cut down on waste. Starbucks for example, gives you a 50-cent discount if you bring your own Starbucks tumbler for your beverage. Last October, 14 hotels were applauded for their waste-reducing measures, which include donating excess dry food to a food redistribution organisation and using e-signatures for the approval of internal document. Meanwhile, NTUC FairPrice managed to save more than 10 million plastic bags in 2015 due to its bring-your-own-bag campaign.

Curious to see if it was difficult or easy, I tried reducing my waste for a week. It was more difficult than I thought because of a variety of reasons, including the lack of support, inconvenience and hygiene.

Using a handkerchief in place of tissues for example, seems unhygienic to me. I also found it hard to reduce waste in my day-to-day activities simply because the “waste culture” is so ingrained in the community. This I discovered during lunch when I asked for a glass cup instead of a plastic cup from a hawker uncle and was given an annoyed look.

It’s even harder to reduce waste during the festive season – which was when I carried out this assignment. Parties and presents both use a lot of disposable products, whether for convenience or convention, and I had to avoid using those as much as I could.

In the end, using the same plastic bag as I did for my first waste diary to store my waste, I found that I managed to reduce my waste to about half the volume I originally racked up from the first assignment.

Here are some of the efforts I took to reduce my waste for a week:

 

1. Using a handkerchief instead of tissue

Handkerchief and plastic glove
Handkerchief and plastic glove

This was the thing I dreaded the most, for the sake of hygiene. Using the same piece of cloth to clean my nose in the morning and wipe my mouth after meals was akin to accumulating a day’s worth of germs and dirt on that cloth. But I did it anyway. I borrowed my father’s only three handkerchiefs for the assignment.

Even though hygiene was my main concern, I found a way to get around stains as much as I could. Instead of wiping snot and other germs directly on the handkerchief, I chose to rinse my nose in a sink before drying it with the handkerchief. The same went for after-meal wipes. I would rinse as much as I can with water before dabbing my mouth with the handkerchief. The trade-off was that I used more water.

As for the plastic glove, I had no choice but to use it to cut bread in Cedele cafe. But instead of disposing it afterwards, I brought it home to reuse for the next time I dye my hair.

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2. Using a cup for hot drinks

15908966_120300001438921156_579146540_o
Hot drink tumbler

I used a tumbler for hot drinks in place of disposable plastic cups available in the office. The trade-off is that you use more detergent and water to wash the cup instead. And if you use it outside however, like in coffeeshops, there might not always be detergent available to clean the cup immediately.

 

3. Requesting for glasses instead of disposable plastic cups for drinks

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Glass mug instead of plastic cup

I decided to request for a non-disposable cup instead of the usual takeaway plastic cup at a hawker centre drink stall for a blended fruit drink. The reaction I received from the hawker centre uncle wasn’t very pleasant however.

When it came to my turn, I requested for my drink to be poured into a hard blue plastic cup. But the uncle seemed disgruntled at my request. He took one look at the little-used blue cups from their corner on the shelves and said it was too small, adding “You must think with your head” in Mandarin. So I requested for the larger and more unwieldy glass mug, which the uncle served my drink in (rather unwillingly).

This experience raised a problem. With hawker portion sizes standardised to fit takeaway disposables, it would be difficult for hawkers to accommodate their customers’ own lunch boxes and cups if those come in different shapes and sizes.

 

4. Using a plastic container to store breakfast

WTK Lunch Box Cropped
Plastic container

Bakery staff usually pack individual pieces of bread into transparent plastic bags before placing them collectively into a carrier bag, which is pretty wasteful. So, I decided to bring my own plastic container for my breakfast instead.

The cashier who packed my bread gave me a look when I gave her this unusual request, but otherwise complied. The only limitation here is if you are buying for the whole family, then you would have to bring more boxes to store the bread. In this case, I only bought one bun.

 

5. Reusing packaging for Christmas presents 

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Packaging reused for Christmas exchange

Don’t be fooled by the Swarovski packaging. It contained no crystals.

I used it to pack five chocolate bars for a Christmas exchange with a group of friends. I was pretty proud of myself for reusing the paper bag (which I found at home) – until I received another gift which was wrapped in fancy, pristine wrapping paper. More waste to add to my count. If I hadn’t found the Swarovski package, I would have probably used scrap paper or magazine pages to wrap the gift.

 

6. Using recycle bags/handbags instead of plastic bags for shopping

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Recycling bag

This was pretty easy because a recycling bag is foldable and easy to tote around and the supermarket cashier is only too happy to let you do the packing. The only packaging you’re wasting are the ones that come with the new products you just bought.

 

7. Bringing my own plate and fork

Plastic plate and metal fork
Plastic plate and metal fork

While others attending our TMG year-end party used paper plates and disposable utensils, I stuck to my own plate and fork, brought from home. The after-party clean-up is much faster if utensils and plates are disposable though.

 

This piece is part of a series that highlights the need to #ReduceYourWasteline, in collaboration with Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore. Read the other piece here: What a waste diary looks like

 

Featured image its gone to a better place by Flickr user Ambernectar 13. (CC BY-ND 2.0) 

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by Lim Qiu Ping

AS 2016 draws to a close, we bring you the lowdown on what has gotten people in Singapore salivating and queuing up during the year. These are 13 food items, ingredients, and ideas that had customers ooh-ing and food establishments jumping on the bandwagon to offer the same or something related.

 

1. Korean fried chicken

korean-fc

Image Crisp Korean Fried Chicken by Flickr user Edsel Little (CC By-SA 2.0)

Yes, the other sort of ‘KFC’ which has been available in Singapore for a few years now but only exploded in popularity in 2015. In 2016, popular food blogs are still listing where to find the best Korean fried chicken in town. Looks like the siren call of crispy skin and meaty goodness slathered with viscous sweet and savoury sauce is here to stay.

 

2. Churros

churros

Image #churros! by Flickr user Lim Ashley (CC By 2.0)

First, we saw churros as a dessert item in cafes. And then, churros chain shops such as Churros Factory and Churros 101 started cropping up in the F&B scene in 2015. They are available even in our pasar malams, accompanied by local dips such as gula melaka. To date, the queue for this sugared fried dough remains.

 

3. Bingsu

bingsu

Image by Flickr user Lim Ashley (CC BY 2.0)

Shaved ice will always be appreciated in sunny Singapore. Throw in the Korean wave, the variety in flavours, fantastic designs and a bowl big enough to share; the popularity of bingsu has yet to abate after a year.

 

4. Light bulb drink

light-bulb-bub-tea

Image by Instagram User/ mr_mrs_p0tat0

Drinking from a light bulb is a new gimmick that has appeared this year. Bubbs, a Taiwanese bubble tea franchise which packages its drinks in a light bulb, opened a store in May. Then the Chicken Up Korean restaurant had a one-for-one light bulb drink promotion in August. There are now cafes providing their drinks in this adorable, Instagram-worthy container.

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5. Seafood white bee hoon

white-bee-hoon

Image White Bee Hoon by Flickr user Zhao! (CC BY 2.0)

Take pan-fried bee hoon and simmer it in flavourful seafood broth – this is the basics of the seafood white bee hoon. Years back, seafood white bee hoon first appeared in Sembawang and today, there are a restaurants and stalls offering their version of the dish.

 

6. Buttercream flower cake

buttercream-flower-cake

Image 버터플라워3 by Flickr user D Story (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The baking community is wowing over beautiful cake designs using buttercream flowers. The concept might be old, but this current trend originates from Korea, where baking enthusiasts and professionals re-created the Wilton buttercream flower techniques and equipment to startling effect. Just check out one such YouTube how-to video showing off the craft:

7. More cheese

cheese-fries

Image Curry Cheese Fries by Flickr user Chun Yip So (CC BY 2.0)

Swiss cheese fondue was once considered the fanciest cheese dish around. Today, cheese fries can be found even in your neighbourhood bubble tea shops. Currently, Korean and Thai barbeque restaurants are upping the ante by offering melted cheese to dip your slightly charred meats in. And let’s not forget the cheese tarts from Bake that are still commanding queues.

In the upmarket scene, the cheese wheel rolled into town this September. No longer is it enough to sprinkle cheese on your pasta – toss your noodles in it!

 

8. Re-inventions of toast

toast

Image French toast @ Wired Cafe @ Harakuju by Flickr user Gullhem Vellut (CC BY 2.0)

Ice-cream melting over the thick Shibuya toasts caught our attention in 2015, and this year, the gooey-centred richness of Lava toast takes its turn to wow us. Meanwhile, kaya toasts are perennially favoured, whether through the chain shops or the hidden gems. One principle is evident: toasted bread is in, whatever the form.

 

9. Rainbow foods

rainbow-dumplings

Image Rainbow bites by Flickr user kitty chirapongse (CC BY 2.0)

The rainbow cake had its turn in the spotlight in 2014, and some say the fad has cooled by now. The colour idea, however, persisted. Currently, rainbow creations include the kueh lapis, pudding cake, pancake, cake in a bottle, liqueur shots, bagel… And there is also a rainbow cheese toast. It is hard to imagine rainbow foods ever going away completely, especially when they are so Instagram-worthy.

 

10. Foods with salted egg yolk

liu-sha-bao

Image by Flickr user Felix Chia (CC BY 2.0)

If even McDonald’s is jumping on the bandwagon, things are serious. They tried to woo taste buds with their salted egg yolk burger but the bar had been set too high by June this year. Since the Golden Lava custard buns came into Singaporean’s consciousness a few years ago, products infused with this ingredient have expanded to include meats and seafood (other than crab), cakes, croissant, jams, dips, chips and many more.

Related: 5 must-try salted egg yolk foods

11. Hong Kong confectioneries

egg-tarts

Image Crispy Egg Tart by Flickr user Azchael (CC BY 2.0)

Conversations of Hong Kong foods no longer revolve around dim sum or teahouses. It is their big-name confectioneries that are garnering raves. The Jenny Bakery brand with its famed butter cookies got the first foot in late last year. Hot on its heel is Mr Rich Bakery brand. Then this year, Honolulu Café opened and their egg tarts are often sold out quickly.

The most recent player is Tai Cheong Bakery, and their egg tarts also command long queues.

 

12. Superfoods

acai

Image G by Flickr user André Schirm (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Eating food, more than just about the items consumed, is a mentality and behaviour. The movement towards a healthier lifestyle continues and the market for health products is growing.

Known superfoods such as kale and rocket leaves are now found in our supermarkets and the aisles for health foods are getting longer and more plentiful. The 2016 superfood buzzword is acai and there are now eateries dedicated to whipping up menu items of this berry-goodness.

Related: Will acai bowls help you lose weight?

13. Omakase

jap-chef

Image Itame by Flickr user Japanexperterna.se (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Local customers have become more discerning. Today, having a Japanese meal involves more than scoffing down as much cheap sushi as possible or hunting down the best-tasting ramen.

It is now about the exploration of the cuisine. “Omakase” means “I’ll leave it to you” and it will be up to the chef to surprise and delight you with exquisitely crafted items made from seasonal products. Establishments that have managed to balance between quality and budget – such as the Teppei Japanese Restaurant, with their meal sets priced from $40 to $60 – could have a waiting list that is months or, if the customer is fortunate, weeks long.

 

What else do you think qualifies as a food trend in 2016?

 

Featured image Cooking by Flickr user WorldSkills UK. (CC BY 2.0) 

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earth by Kevin Gill

IT’S New Year’s Eve – the day signalling the end of a year while in anticipation of another. A sense of celebration and hope permeates New Year traditions the world over. But some societies have quirky ways of ushering the new year which go beyond letting off fireworks.

 

1. Denmark – Watching a black-and-white show, breaking crockery and leaping into the air

Image from Facebook.

The Danes have a few things-to-do on New Year’s Eve. It starts with listening to the monarch’s – Queen Margrethe II – speech broadcast live at 6pm. This tradition of the New Year Speech goes as far back as the 1880’s and during WWII, was a means of unifying and rallying the citizens against the German regime.

Then, the Danes will settle down to a New Year’s Eve dinner that will finish with a cone-shaped marzipan cake called Kransekage, which symbolises happiness and prosperity for the new year. Also on this day, Danes will go to their relatives’ and friends’ houses and smash their crockery against the door of their houses as a sign of affection.

As midnight nears, the Danes will watch a 18-minute, black-and-white English film titled Dinner For One. It is a comedy about a butler who stood in for the dead friends of his rich mistress at her 90th birthday dinner. The show had been airing annually since 1980, with the exception of 1985 (to great public displeasure that year).

When the countdown begins, Danes will climb up a chair and at the stroke of midnight, make the leap of luck for the new year.

 

2. Estonia – Eat up to 12 meals

Image from Flickr user Mikhail Petrov. (CC BY 2.0)

Estonians’ New Year’s Eve is basically a day of enjoying food. It is their tradition to eat seven, nine or up to 12 times that day. The number of meals taken would signify gaining the strength of that number of men in the new year. The tradition holds that the number of meals eaten represents the number of people whose strength each person will gain.

However, not everything on the table is consumed. Some food is set aside due to the belief that ghostly relatives might visit on this last day of the old year.

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3. Finland – Predicting the future by melting tin

Image from Wikimedia Commons user Micha L. Rieser. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In Finland, New Year’s Eve is the time to practise an ancient form of divination called molybdomancy. A small pot of tin (or lead, nowadays) is melted on the stove and then poured into cold water. The shape of the metal that is formed supposedly foretells the future.

There are various interpretations to what a shape can mean. A ring or heart shape stands for love, while a broken shape spells misfortune. A pig would mean good health, while a monkey warns of false friendship. A ship indicates a lot of travelling is expected to be done.  That said, it’s just a spot of fun while waiting for the countdown to begin.

 

4. Ecuador – Burning effigies, wearing colourful underwear, and toting empty suitcases about

Image from Wikimedia Commons user Etienne Le Cocq. (CC BY 3.0)

The people of Ecuador celebrate crossing into the new year by burning effigies of people they dislike at midnight. Subjects can range from unpopular politicians, celebrities, and even fictional characters.  These effigies are known as “Monigote”, which means “doll”. They are also called “Ano Viejo” or the “old year”.

The effigies are made out of recycled materials, such as old clothes, newspaper, or sawdust. Calling these effigies Ano Viejo is symbolic since burning them means casting away the bad luck and negativity of the old year.

Ecuador also has other New Year’s Eve rituals, shared by fellow Latin American neighbours due to their common Spanish roots. One includes wearing colourful underwear, believing that certain colours would bring a certain blessing in the new year. Yellow underwear would invite prosperity, for instance, and red for love and passion.

And if an Ecuadorian desires to do much travelling in the coming year, he or she would walk around the neighbourhood with an empty suitcase.

 

5. Romania – Dress up as a bear

Image from Facebook.

Romanians get ready for the new year by donning bear costumes and dancing in the streets in them. These parades are part of the Ursul festival, celebrated by the gypsy tribal communities across Romania and lasting from after 25 Dec, Christmas day, to the New Year’s Eve.

Bears are sacred in the myths of the Romanian gypsies and the activities of Ursul comes from the belief that they could ward off evil spirits. Those dressed as bears would pretend to roll over and die in a ceremony before getting up again, thereby symbolising resurrection and new life in spring. The Romanians would also compete to see who has the best looking costume and dance.

 

Compiled by Lim Qiu Ping.

Featured image Earth by Flickr user Kevin Gill. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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by Najeer Yusof

CURIOSITY led Mr Wu Jin Hui, 73, to teach himself how to play and make Banhus, four years ago. Since then, making and repairing Chinese instruments have become his hobby. Banhu is a Chinese traditional bowed string instrument which is popularly used in northern China.

Mr Wu has thus far sold 24 of his Banhus, for $200 each. He fashions entirely new bodies for his Banhus from coconut shells and combines them with usable parts from spoilt Erhus, which are another type of two-stringed instruments. By doing so, he adds a personal touch to his Banhus and gives new life to spoilt instruments too. The entire process of making a Banhu takes him about half an hour and here is how he does it:

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Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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by Michelin Guide Singapore

AFFLUENT Seoul district Gangnam might’ve gotten famous thanks to a K-pop song, but the surroundings are also a gourmet haven. In fact, it’s home to one of the South Korean capital’s three-Michelin-starred restaurants, Gaon – an upscale establishment which serves up traditional Korean dishes, some of which are from the philosophies of ancient literature.

But Korean cuisine is not all Gangnam has to offer. Walk down the narrow street of Dosan-daero 30-gil and you’ll have Asian-Italian fusion fare at Alla Prima. Craving for Japanese? Head over to Kojima at Apgujeong for some sushi. Here’s what else the Michelin inspectors have picked out:

 

The food from Kwon Sook Soo. Credit: kwonsooksoo.com
The food from Kwon Sook Soo. Image taken from Kwon Sook Soo’s website.

 

Gaon
Cuisine: Korean
Operated by GwangJuYo Group, maker of fine Korean ceramics, food and liquor, Gaon is a traditional Korean restaurant committed to promoting a better understanding of Korean food and food culture globally. The restaurant takes pride in serving high-end, elegant cuisine in a space that honours Korean aesthetic values. The meticulously-prepared dishes, made with fresh seasonal ingredients are served in custom-designed GwangJuYo ceramic vessels. Private rooms only.

 

Kwon Sook Soo
The name of the restaurant is derived from an archaic Korean word ‘sooksoo’ which means “professional cook”. Chef Kwon Woo Joong interprets traditional Korean cuisine with a decidedly modern flair, using both rare and readily-available seasonal ingredients to create unconventional flavours. All cooking oils, preserved seafood, fermented condiments and vinegar are made in house. For a glimpse of the chefs in action, reserve a seat at the counter.

Location: 2F, 27 Eonju-ro 170-gil, Gangnam-gu

 

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Alla Prima
Cuisine: Innovative
Meaning “first try” in Italian, Alla Prima features Asian-Italian fusion cuisine that demonstrates Chef Kim Jin-hyuk’s creativity with a distinctly Japanese flair. As a chef, what he values the most is the quality of the ingredients he uses and his food clearly demonstrates that. The menu changes often, based on the chef’s inspiration and seasonal ingredients. The completely open kitchen offers the diners a clear view of Chef Kim’s team in action.

Location: 23 Dosan-daero 30-gil, Gangnam-gu

 

Jungsik's Sweet Gujeolpan
Jungsik’s Sweet Gujeolpan

Bo Reum Soei
Cuisine: Barbecue
Beef restaurants are ubiquitous all over Korea, but this relatively new spot which opened in Oct 2015 offers something prized and uncommon: Jeju black cattle. Choose from a wide range of cuts including sirloin, tenderloin, chuck tail flap, outside skirt steak, brisket and two types of raw beef dishes: tartare and sashimi. The prime meat is flown in directly from the family-operated farm. Private rooms are available on the second floor.

Location: 36 Teheran-ro 81-gil, Gangnam-gu

 

Hamo
Meaning “of course” in Gyeongsang province dialect, ‘Hamo’ honors the traditions of authentic Jinju-style cuisine from the old days. Jinju Bibimbap, with a mound of seasoned raw beef on top of vegetables and rice, comes in a brass bowl with a side of beef and turnip soup. The noodle-free Joseon Japchae tossed in a fragrant mustard sauce is popular also. The owner’s family are soybean farmers and make all the fermented condiments from scratch.

Location: 2F, 819 Eonju-ro, Gangnam-gu

 

Jungsik
Touted as a pioneer of modern Korean fine dining, Chef Yim Jungsik’s restaurant offers a feast for the senses with his unique take on Korean cuisine. Jungsik Seoul expanded and relocated to its current three-story Cheongdam location in 2014, complete with a bar floor, restaurant floor and private-room floor. Some of the standout dishes include octopus aioli, spicy green chili cream kalgksu and sea urchin bibimap. Excellent wine list.

Location: 11 Seolleung-ro 158-gil, Gangnam-gu

The food at Mingles. Image credit: restaurant-mingles.com
The food at Mingles. Image taken from Mingles’ website.

 

Kojima
Some of the most exquisite Japanese food in Seoul can be found at Kojima, a modern and sophisticated Japanese restaurant tucked away on the 6th floor of luxury multi-brand boutique Boon the Shop. A number of booths and intimate private rooms are available, while the main dining area is complete with a sushi counter. The freshness of the ingredients is the life of this restaurant and veteran chefs take great care in handling the pristine seafood.

Location: 6F Boon the shop, 21 Apgujeong-ro 60-gil, Gangnam-gu

 

L’Amitie
17 solid years of dedication and passion to preparing consistently fine food with quality local ingredients and skilled precision has made Chef Jang Myoung-sik a reputable name in classic French cuisine in the local dining scene. Located on the second floor of a quiet contemporary building south of the river, L’amitié is the ideal space to enjoy an elegant meal in privacy as it only offers small private rooms. Reservations are a must.

Location: 2F, 7 Eonju-ro 153-gil, Gangnam-gu

 

Mingles
Since 2014, this contemporary fine dining establishment has captured the imagination of even the most discerning palates with Chef Kang Mingoo’s new and bold creations that pay respect to Korea’s culinary heritage. Traditional fermented condiments and vinegar—‘jang’ and ‘cho’—play integral roles in the dishes, even dessert. Traditional liquor pairing is offered in addition to wine pairing.

Location: 1F, 757 Seolleung-ro, Gangnam-gu

 

The food at Twenty Four Seasons. Image credit: Viamichelin
The food at Twenty Four Seasons. Image taken from Viamichelin.

 

Ristorante Eo
Be sure to call in to make a reservation as it is the only way to secure a table at Ristorane Eo. It may also be a bit of a challenge to track down the location as the restaurant does not have a signage. Chef Eo Yun-gwon, who developed his culinary skills in Milan, delivers highly accomplished modern Italian cuisine, through two six-course set menus. Each dish clearly demonstrates his insight on the integrity and simplicity of Italian cooking.

Location: 43 Dosan-daero 81-gil, Gangnam-gu

 

Twenty Four Seasons
Inspired by the 24 seasonal divisions of the year that governed agriculture in ancient times, ’24 Seasons’ is a modern Korean dining space that pays homage to the different seasons of the year. While staying true to the roots of traditional Korean cooking, Chef Tony Yoo experiments boldly with seasonal ingredients, creating distinctly Korean flavors with modern nuances. Enjoy the elegant simplicity of seasonal Korean food in a minimalist yet sophisticated décor.

Location: 13 Dosan-daero 37-gill, Gangnam-gu

 

Votre Maison
Chef min-jae Park has some interesting parkour of his career – he owned his Korean restaurant for five years and it was working great, but he changed to French cuisine because he felt that French cuisine can show his philosophy of creation in kitchen with method of cooking. This passionate, and caring chef’s cuisine is reflecting his personality as well. We hope that you will feel the same happiness from him with his cuisine.

Location: B1F, 16 Eonju-ro 168-gil, Gangnam-gu

 

 

This article first appeared on Michelin Guide Singapore. Visit Michelin Guide Singapore on Facebook.

Featured image Rainy night in Seoul by Flickr use rjareed. (CC BY 2.0)

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by Ryan Ong

AIRLINE ticket prices work like a Singaporean driver’s turn signals: random, or based on rules that only make sense to them. That explains the rise of airline ticket comparison sites. But before you start booking that trip to Syria (or whatever’s a popular holiday destination these days; I don’t keep up with tourism trends), you should know a few things about how flight comparison websites work.

by Suhaile Md

UBER or Grab? Choosing which private car service these days has less to do with service and more with the size of their coupon discounts.

At least, that’s what it seems from the various cash coupons being offered by both companies over the past few months. Even ComfortDelGro, Singapore’s largest taxi service company, who’s never really been big on coupons, is following suit.

This week (Nov 21), Grab offered 50 per cent off rides between 10am to 5pm. As for Uber, users pay the usual fare for the first trip but get $5 off their subsequent five rides between Nov 21 and Nov 25.

Such ad-hoc offers have been going on for the past few months and usually, a promotional code is required to unlock them. Often, they are in the form of $3 to $5 discounts per ride for limited periods and applicable to the first 1,000 to 5,000 customers.

Sometimes Uber and Grab have contests thrown in as well. Last month, Uber riders stood to win free access to Halloween parties while Grab users had a shot at winning a pair of tickets to the Women’s Tennis Association finals in Singapore.

All these are in addition to the perennial referral promotions offered by both companies. New users to Grab get $8 credited to them while they earn a further $8 per referral. For Uber, it’s $20 and $10 respectively. Users can only use the money on future rides though.

The success of ride-hailing apps depends on the size of its network of drivers and passengers, said Assistant Professor Yang Nan of the National University of Singapore’s Business school. He said in an interview with The Straits Times: “An app that’s falling behind in the competition for riders or an app that just enters the market would only deliver worse rider experience with lower vehicle availability and longer waiting time.”

So the competition for a larger customer base is what the coupons are all about. Timing matters as well. Because the earlier you start, the better your chances of securing a larger slice of the market. It’s tough to fight for the streets of Singapore. And there have been casualties.

British ride-hailing platform, Hailo, left the Singapore scene last week after spending little over two years here, to focus on the European market. It had partnered SMRT and started in Singapore on October 2014. This, nearly a year and a half after Uber and Grab entered Singapore in early 2013. Another British firm, Karhoo, entered Singapore late last year but never got around to getting drivers on the road. It announced its closure here on Nov 8.

The incumbents are not taking it lying down.

SMRT’s plans with Hailo did not turn out as planned. But of the remaining six operators here, four have partnered Grab. TransCab, Premier taxi, HDT taxi, and Prime taxi formed exclusive partnerships with Grab since September this year. And already, discount coupons worth $3 to $5 have come into play. But it can only be redeemed if booked through the Grab app.

Singapore’s largest taxi company ComfortDelGro, which operates both CityCab and Comfort taxis, has similar offers for passengers who use its own app. And it’s more generous: Commuters get $5 – $10 off per ride compared to the usual $3-$5 discounts offered by Grab and Uber. More recently, between Nov 16 and Nov 22, the first 1,000 passengers per day got $8 off their taxi fare.

Over half of ComfortDelgro’s 30 million bookings in the past year were made on its app. Which means on average, over 82,000 bookings are made per day via the app. While it’s unclear how many bookings Uber and Grab fulfil a day, ComfortDelGro’s numbers are nothing to sneeze at.

Nonetheless, when you think of booking a ride online, you think of Uber and Grab. “I will check both [Uber and Grab] apps before booking and choose the cheaper option,” said Mr Fahad Ibn Azam. And with all the coupon giveaways recently, “I have been using Grab quite exclusively” in the past few weeks even though “I started with Uber”, added the 27-year old engineer. He uses the service about “two to three times a week”.

Grab user Ms Baey Shi Chen doesn’t see herself switching over to Uber. “I already use a service that works”, said the teacher. Similarly, when Uber user Ms Tiffany Tan was asked if she had used Grab before, she replied: “I didn’t see the need to try as I am happy with using Uber.”

Both Uber and Grab have their fans but there’s also the price conscious consumer who goes for the most savings. The incumbent ComfortDelGro cannot be dismissed as well. So secure your seat belts, the tremendous taxi showdown’s in town.

 

Additional reporting by Vanessa Wu

Featured image by Natassya Siregar.

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by Li Shan Teo 

FARM-TO-TABLE dining isn’t new here, but what about farm-in-diner?

While a number of local restaurants and F&B establishments have long started their own edible gardens, or have commissioned farms to produce edibles for them – Fairmont Singapore has had its own private edible garden since 2008 – the presence of vegetables or herbs indoors, or very close to an eatery’s premises, is fast becoming popular.

Just last year, Open Farm Community, a restaurant in the Dempsey area with an urban farm on its premises, was launched. And recently in June this year, Open Door Policy at Tiong Bahru underwent a facelift to include – inside its dining area – an edible garden running the length of the restaurant.

“Diners seem to like knowing – and seeing with their own eyes – where their food comes from and how it is grown,” said Ms Natalia Tan, a spokesman for urban gardening specialists Edible Garden City. Having an edible garden nearby also “marks out a chef or restaurant as having a stronger commitment to the bigger picture of food”, she added.

Mr Calvin Soh, 49, of One Kind House, a cafe, agreed that “people want to be connected to nature”. And with edible gardens nearby, “it’s a marketing angle for them (the restaurants)”.

If you want to feel closer to nature while you dine, here are some places to check out:

 

One Kind House

Dubbed as a “21st century kampung” by Mr Soh, One Kind House is an eclectic mix of a cafe, art hub, garden, kitchen and restaurant. The elements combine into a friendly kampung-like environment, where people chat over cups of coffee or tea.

While the place is still a house for some members of the Soh family, anyone can walk in for coffee or tea, as One Kind House has a section reserved for a barista. 

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to taste some of “Mommy Soh’s” home-cooked lunches and dinners that are made with ingredients from the garden. The 74-year-old is the matriarch of the house and enjoys gardening and cooking. Invites for home-cooked meals are usually posted on Facebook and seats are limited (around 10 people usually), so remember to check the cafe’s page.

One Kind House doesn’t have a fixed price for their food and events – you tip to pay. But there are recommended tipping prices for you to consider.

It also offers classes on gardening and cooking.

Image by Calvin Soh. 

 

Location: 136B Lorong J Telok Kurau, Singapore 425966 (opposite the Telok Kurau Park)

Opening hours:

Tues – Sun: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

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Open Door Policy (ODP) 

Just recently renovated, ODP offers customers a the experience of dining in the company of fresh produce as an edible garden is placed along the length of the restaurant. Some of the produce grown in the restaurant include arugula, Russian kale and local lettuce.

odp-edible-garden

Image from ODP’s Facebook page.

The restaurant also boasts a rustic feel with its use of a brick and wood combination for its interior design. And its menu, which was created by head chef Daniele Sperindio who took over from chef Ryan Clift in 2014, is a nod to a diverse group of cultural influences – from Latin America, Europe, and Australia.

Some of the dishes include guacamole risotto ($20), kangaroo fillet ($34), braised beef cheek ($32) and pan seared sea bass with artichoke, potatoes and rocket salad ($27), which uses the produce from the edible garden.

odp

Image from ODP’s Facebook page

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Location: 19 Yong Siak Street, Singapore 168650

Tel: +65 6221 9307

Opening hours:
Mon, Wed – Friday: 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 11pm

Sat: 11am – 4pm, 6pm – 11pm

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Open Farm Community (OFC)

The restaurant has an urban farm on its premises, boasting a “first-of-its-kind” dining concept in Singapore. The farm at OFC has a mix of herbs, vegetables and fruit trees, including greens such as basil and okra. The produce is used in the kitchen and the menu is seasonal, changing every four months.

As the farm is so close to the restaurant, customers can see the produce as they dine and walk among the different herbs and vegetables during their visit to OFC.

Some of the dishes on the menu right now include the watercress soup with soft poached hen’s egg, crispy kale, and olive oil caviar ($19), as well as braised lamb shank with homemade couscous, olives, capers and green peas ($45). You can check out the menu here.

OFC organises an Open Farmers’ Market on selected weekends, where people get to showcase and sell their fresh produce. The place also has farming workshops and activities such as a pasta masterclass to encourage an understanding of food and its origins.

ofc

Image from Open Farm Community’s website. 

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Location: 130E Minden Road, Singapore 248819

Tel: +65 6471 0306

Opening hours (restaurant):
Mon – Fri: 12pm – 4pm, 6pm – 10pm
Weekends and public holidays: 11am – 4pm, 6pm – 10pm
Opening hours (cafe): 8am – 9pm

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Artichoke

Farm-to-table eateries aren’t always found at ulu locations. Artichoke sits on the edge of Bugis street, making the cafe an accessible place to dine at. A few stacks of crates full of herbs and greens are found at the courtyard of the cafe, providing easy access for chefs to get some of their vegetables and herbs. Examples of the produce grown there include red peppers and tomatoes.

The cafe specialises in Moorish-Middle Eastern cuisine with a focus on using locally farmed ingredients as much as possible. Some of its dishes include feta burrata ($24), lamb shakshouka ($26) and cauliflower sabbich ($23).

artichoke

Image from Artichoke’s website. 

Location: 161 Middle Road, Singapore 188978

Tel: +65 6336 6949

Opening hours:
Tues – Sat: 6.30pm – 10.30pm
Sat: 11.30am – 3.30pm

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Featured image 20110610 garden by Flickr user Lake Lou (CC BY 2.0)

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by Michelin Guide Singapore

IT’S a long way from the seats of our gala dinner up onto the Michelin stage – just as it’s a long journey to success. On the eve of his restaurant’s move to a brand new venue on Dempsey Hill, we go Behind The Scenes with Malcolm Lee of Singapore’s Candlenut restaurant to learn more about the struggles and sacrifices he had to go through to get the restaurant to its current stature, and why he has a love-hate relationship with it – even today.

The Struggles and Sacrifices of Running a Michelin-Starred Kitchen: Malcolm Lee of Candlenut video by Michelin Guide Singapore. Visit Michelin Guide Singapore Facebook page here.
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Featured image a screenshot of  The Struggles and Sacrifices of Running a Michelin-Starred Kitchen: Malcolm Lee of Candlenut video.

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by Felix Cheong

A fictitious self-confessed arts buff, Arthur Aw, complains that Singapore packs far too many arty events than are humanly and financially possible for him to attend. Maybe it’s time the Government steps in to regulate the industry.

IS SINGAPORE over-festivalised?

No matter which direction I swivel my head, there is some kind of festival asking to be counted and courted. And it’s not a good thing for my wallet.

This month alone, there are three film festivals competing for my eyeballs and credit cards: the German Film Festival (Nov 3 – 13), the French Film Festival (Nov 10 – 20) and, of course, the granddaddy of them all, the Singapore International Film Festival (Nov 23 – Dec 4).

That’s not forgetting other film festivals that had already done their time: the Israel Film Festival (Sept 22 – 25); the Buddhist Film Festival (Sept 17 – 24), the Japanese Film Festival (Sept 1 – 18), the Design Film Festival (Sept 3 – 11), the Love and Pride Film Festival (Aug 19 – 31) and the European Union Film Festival (May 10 – 22).

My wife and I, film buffs to our Singapore Core and beyond, have bought tickets to so many films over the past six months that we often skip lunch to save money. Even our two children have to share one meal a day (and sometimes, none at all).

There is so much food for thought that we just cannot afford to give any thought to food.

As if that doesn’t pile on our misery, there are numerous arts festivals whooshing through and swishing around town.

This month alone, there are six die-die-must-go festivals, happening almost one after another: the Singapore Biennale (Oct 27 – Feb 26), the Illustration Arts Festival (Oct 28 – Nov 6), the Singapore River Festival (Nov 4 – 5), the Singapore Writers Festival (Nov 4 – 13), the Affordable Art Fair (Nov 18 – 20) and the Anime Festival Asia (Nov 25 – 27).

Tickets can cost anything from $20 to more than $100. And that’s not including the ones that had already taken our breath (and money) away: the Dans Festival (Oct 13 – 23) and the Singapore International Arts Festival (Jun 22 – Jul 9).

Like all Singaporeans brought up to appreciate (read “grab”) a buffet spread, we make it a point to make it for all arts events, even if it means attending them on an empty stomach.

It’s the yao gui syndrome. Anyone old enough to have an elephant’s memory will remember that back in the 1980s, Singapore was derided as a “cultural desert”.

Well, not anymore. This desert is now an oasis flooded by and drowning in the arts. In fact, there’s so much buzz that it’s giving us a headache.

Our belts have also run out of holes for us to tighten and, short of selling our four-room HDB flat in Punggol, we can no longer afford to patronise the arts.

This is where I strongly feel the G can step in to regulate the industry, the same way it has historically stuck its fingers into all the small spaces of our lives.

For a start, it can publish a White Paper detailing how organisers can coordinate their festivals so they do not bunch up. Alternatively, festivals can be run once every four years, like The Fifa World Cup and the Olympics.

Secondly, we should be allowed to tap into our CPF to pay for arts events. Or a government subsidy, much like the ActiveSG credit to encourage people to lead healthy, sporty lives, could be dangled, like an election carrot, to all citizens.

After all, art is good for the soul is good for the mind is good for the body.

Arthur Aw

 

Featured image by Guet Ghee Pang.

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