Chef Andre Chiang shares His Favorite Flavours of Taipei

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Fun Taipei Salon with Chef Andre Chiang (third from right)

Ask everyone who’s been to Taiwan what’s the top attraction there and most will say it’s the food. That’s why for this year’s NATAS Travel Fair, which runs till Aug 13, the Taipei City Government has launched a special tour package with the Singapore foodie in mind. And helping them to promote Taipei’s distinct flavours was native son Chef Andre Chiang who shared his favourite Taipei culinary delights at the Fun Taipei Salon event held yesterday at the InterContinental.

Prior to owning the Michelin 2-star Restaurant Andre in Singapore and Restaurant RAW in Taipei – both of which are ranked in The 2017 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list – Chef Chiang was head chef of the 3-starred Michelin restaurant, Le Jardin de Sens- Montpellier, in France.

“My memories of food growing up in Taipei is that the many different flavours the city offers are not tied to just the ingredients or the condiments used in the dish,” says Chiang in a statement. “Rather, these flavours are almost always a collage of physical ingredients and the feelings that come from soaking in the beautiful nature around us, the festivals we celebrate and the constant desire to explore Taiwan to fuel our need for new cultural experiences and memories.”

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Chef Andre Chiang with Taipei City Government’s Information & Tourism Commissioner, Ms Chien Yu-Yen

Here are Chef Andre Chiang’s 5 Most Memorable Taipei Flavours:

1. Shilin Night Market
Located in the Shilin District, Chiang has fond memories of this market which is regarded as the largest and most famous night market in Taipei. After school, he would alight one bus stop before home and walk through the market stalls, trying out various snacks and delicacies.

2. Danshui Old Street
When young, Chiang also lived in the Danshui district for six years. Danshui Old Street is renowned for its many shops and street stalls that sell a variety of snacks – from Iron Eggs to Fish Crackers. What he loves most, though, are the different types of handmade drinks, ranging from freshly made fruit juices to sweet honey and ginger tea.

3. Beef Noodle Soup
Tender braised beef with egg noodles served in a flavourful broth – you can’t mention Taiwanese food without mentioning beef noodle soup. Each time the chef returns to Taipei, this dish is a must-eat for him. And though there are many stalls all over Taipei, Chiang’s favourite stall is Lin Dong Fang Beef Noodle in Zhongshan District.

4. Taiwanese Hot Pot
Another traditional foodfare that Chiang enjoys is hot pot or steamboat where various meats, seafood, vegetables are cooked in a rich broth. And just like beef noodle stalls, there are many hot pot restaurants one can find in Taiwan’s capital city.

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Chef Chiang’s version of the Pineapple Tart at RAW

5. Authentic Snacks Re-styled at RAW
For his fifth pick, Chef Chiang couldn’t resist giving a shout-out to his restaurant RAW where he create dishes by blending Taiwanese ingredients with modern international influences, and where reservations are usually booked up to 3 months ahead. Whenever he could, Chiang would take an authentic Taiwanese delicacy and churn out a new “look” for it using new ingredients and techniques. One example is the traditional Taiwanese pineapple cake. Unlike our local Chinese New Year types which look like tarts, the Taiwanese ones are more blocky, with a crumbly crust and pineapple bits either in a jam form or fruit slices. The RAW version (pictured above) is like a cube with a soft and buttery crust and layers of juicy pineapple slices within. Certainly unlike the pineapple tarts I’m used to but nonetheless an unique variation of it.

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Various Gifts-To-Go ideas from Fun Taipei

Taipei’s 5 Distinct Flavours
Back to the foodie package offered by the Taipei City Government. The 3D2N free-and-easy package which costs from $545 per person (tax included) offers foodies to go on a hunt to discover Taipei’s “Five Distinct Flavours” which comprise:

1. Classic Taiwan Tastes: The likes of xiao long bao, beef noodles, bubble tea, mango ice, and so forth.

2. Everyday Aromas: Taiwanese stir-fry that usually features seafood, Chinese herbs and local fruits as ingredients. Popular dishes include chicken steak, egg omelette and soy-based pork.

3. Hotpot Hotspots: From mala (“numbingly spicy”) twin-sided hot pot to Taiwanese-styled shabu shabu, having a hot pot in Taipei is a must.

4. Refreshing Sweet Treats: Handmade drinks from classic bubble tea to shaved-ice treats with seasonal fruits can be found everywhere in the city.

5. Gifts To-Go: From pineapple cakes to nougat candies, Taipei has a wide selection of tasty tid-bits for visitors to present as gifts to family, friends and co-workers.

Fun Taipei’s 3D2N free-and-easy package “foodie” package will be available from the Taipei booth at the NATAS Travel Fair at Suntec City till August 13. There will be extra perks for the first 100 sign-ups each day. For more information on Fun Taipei, visit http://www.travel.taipei.

All Photos by Marguerita Tan.

 

Sunshine Coast – Sun, Sand & Sea @ Noosa Heads


When in Brisbane: Take a day trip up north to Noosa Heads in the Sunshine Coast to take in some of the most beautiful sights of sun, sand, sea and sky you will ever see. This is Laguna Bay where you can folick in the waters, build sandcastles, or stretch your leg mucles on the boardwalk that takes you all the way to the top of Noosa National Park where a lookout offers breathtaking views of the entire area. Actually, considering the long drive – 3 hrs each way – best to stay a night or two cos you still need time to check out all the shops and cafes along the main street, Hastings Lane. Hmm, should I go again?… 

Photo by Marguerita Tan

Brisbane – Sunset over the River

When in Brisbane: Catch sunsets (about 5ish during winter) over Brisbane River by positioning yourself on the extremely busy Victoria Bridge. Just be careful and avoid being knocked down by vehicles or pedestrians. Besides sunsets, you can see beautiful fluffy clouds posturing themselves in a clear, blue sky almost everday in the city. Naisee.

Photo by Marguerita Tan

Brisbane – Street Art “City Roos”

When in Brisbane: Look around everywhere you go as it is likely you will find various forms of street art – on the walls, on the roads or on the pavement like this pair of kangaroos. Made out of scrap metal by local sculptor Christopher Trotter, these City Roos – including another pair just a stone’s away on George Street (off Brunett Lane) – are said to be the most photographed street art in the city, especially the one on the bench. Well, if you dont have time to see one in a zoo, this metallic pair will have to do!

Photo by Marguerita Tan

Celebrate Canada150 in 2017!

moraine-lakeMoraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies (Credit: Angsana Seeds Photography)

“Blame Canada, blame Canada!” That’s the chorus of a silly song from the hit animated film, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999), which I would sing out loud whenever I hear anyone mentioned “Canada”. In 2017, I might change it to “Go Canada” instead as this is the year that the country with the swoonsome PM celebrates #Canada150 – the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada.

Truth be told, there’s nothing much to blame Canada for – not Celine Dion, or Ryan Reynolds, and definitely not Justin Trudeau. Maybe, just maybe the Justin Bieber of some years ago but all is forgiven after his last pretty good album, Purpose.

Anyway, there’s definitely more to Canada than just standout entertainers and hunky politicians. It’s a country long famous for its picturesque gardens, lakes and mountain ranges; exquisite activities such as whale watching and northern lights sightings; and cultural festivals ranging from music and film, to flowers and giant balloons.

A fortnight ago, Musings on the M49 was chuffed to be invited to attend a Canada150 event organised by Trafalgar Asia and the High Commission of Canada. Held at the official residence of the High Commissioner of Canada to Singapore, Ms Lynn McDonald, we learnt from her that there will be all kinds of exciting Canada150 events taking place in almost every key Canadian city and state throughout 2017. So, if there is ever a good time to visit Canada, it is NOW.

Mark the Date – July 1, 2017 is Canada Day!
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If you want to be at the height of the C150 celebrations, the date to aim for or plan your travels around is  July 1, the official Canada Day. Below are but a very mini selection of the interesting things you can do in the land of Mounties and Maple Leaves, plus some of the Canada 150 events happening in and around July 2017 in these regions.

ONTARIO (www.ontariotravel.net)
Here’s where you will find the capital city of Ottawa; the country’s largest city Toronto; and the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Things you can do here includes shopping/dining in the cosmopolitan cities, seek adventure on hiking trails and waterways, or chill out at lakeside resorts. Canada150 activities include:

July 1: Ottawa – Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill and throughout Downtown
July 2: Ottawa – Interprovincial Picnic on the Bridge
July 26-30: Ottawa – Urban theatre group La Machine featuring larger-than-life mechanical creatures (pictured – Credit: Ottawa2017.ca)
July 28-30: Toronto Festival of Beer
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ALBERTA (www.travelalberta.com)
This is where the glorious Canadian Rocky Mountains lie, plus four other World Heritage Sites such as Dinosaur Provincial Park and Wood Buffalo National Park; and also the political/commercial/cultural hubs of Calgary and Edmonton. Most people come here for the Canadian Rockies which offer breathtaking sights in every season. Canada150 events include:

July 1: Calgary – Canada Day at Heritage Park
July 7-17: Calgary Stampede
July 7-17: Edmonton International Street Performers Festival (pictured – Credit: travelalberta.com)
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BRITISH COLUMBIA (www.helloBC.com)
In BC, Vancouver is the city most people are familiar with but this is where you will also find spectacular scenery off the beaten track such as Cariboo C0untry and The Okanagan, as well as Whistler, one of the best ski resorts in North America. Canada150 events include:

July 1-2: Bella Coola Rodeo
July 7-9: Whistler Children’s Festival (pictured – Credit: Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane)
July 14-16: Vancouver Folk Music Festival
July 20-23: Victoria Festival of Food and Wine
Whistler Children's Festival
QUEBEC (www.bonjour-quebec.com)
Bonjour! For French culture and style, this is where you will find it in Canada. Quebec City is a World Heritage listed city, highlights of which are its Winter Carnival and Summer Festival, while Montreal has its fair share of classic buildings and modern commercial spaces. Canada150 festivities include:

June 29 – July 8: Festival International de Jazz de Montreal
July 6-16: Festival d’ete de Quebec (pictured – Credit: Quebec City Tourism)
July 14-30: Montreal – Just for Laughs Festival
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As mentioned, the above is but a very small selection of events that will be happening throughout the year in Canada. For more information, visit the various websites listed.

For Canada150 events in Singapore, follow the High Commission in Canada (www.singapore.gc.ca) on Facebook (Canadainsingapore) or Twitter (@CanHCSingapore).

For info on Canada tours, visit Trafalgar Asia at http://www.trafalgar.com.
ottawa2017-ca_150                                                                 (Credit: Ottawa2017.ca)

Main Photo of Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies by Ivy Ho of Angsana Seeds Photography.
If interested, you can purchase prints of this gorgeous photo at:
https://www.etsy.com/sg-en/listing/205859208/canadian-rockies-photo-moraine-lake

No text or photos from this post are to be reproduced without permission of the blog author.

 

 

 

Cairns: Thrills & Spills (IV)

 

When in Cairns: When all is said and done, you cannot go to Cairns and not visit the Great Barrier Reef. Just remember that there’re many other things you can do on dry land as well, in and out of the city!

Find Nemo
snorkeling-in-great-barrier-reef_by-reef-magic-cruises-640x425                      Yours truly snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef (Credit: Reef Magic)

One of the world’s seven natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef’s coral reef system is the largest on the planet and a spectacular sight to behold.

There are daily day tours and cruise providers, such as Reef Magic (www.reefmagic.com.au), that offer a host of activities including snorkelling, diving, glass-bottom boat rides, helmet dives (note: Not for those with asthma) and even helicopter rides (www.gbr.com.au) where you can admire the vast expanse of the reef from high above.

If you cannot swim or are a poor swimmer like me, opt for a guided snorkelling tour with a marine biologist who will steer you through the waters with a life buoy, and explain and point out things underwater such as clown fishes (“Nemo!”) hiding in sea anemones. If you can dive or swim well enough, take the plunge into deeper waters, where you will get to see a greater variety of corals and fish species.

Embark on a Food Trail
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                   English Devonshire tea at Lake Barrine teahouse (Credit: Marguerita Tan)

If you enjoy food and nature in equal measures, embark on a food trail tour to the Anderton Tablelands (www.foodtrailtours.com.au) located south-west of Cairns, where you will learn how regional foods are produced there, while zipping through the Wet Tropics rainforest, dry plains, rolling hills and mountain ranges.

For this foodie, there was no greater joy than feasting on delicious tea and scones in a historic teahouse by Lake Barrine; sampling fresh cheeses and chocolates in Atherton; learning how macadamias, Australia’s most famous nut, are grown and harvested; and tasting over 20 fruit wines, ports and liqueurs at a Mareeba tropical fruit winery.

For more info on this food trail, check out my blog post on it at this link:
https://musingsonthem49.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/cairns-grub-grog-atherton-tablelands/

On route to the area are many nature highlights including this massive 500-year-old, 50m-tall and 44m-wide Curtain Fig Tree sited near the town of Yungaburra. Simply ask your tour guide to point them out to you (although he would probably do so anyway without your asking!)

l1140962-480x640                      The 500-year-old Giant Curtain Fig Tree (Credit: Marguerita Tan)


My article on Cairns was originally published in TODAY newspaper
 on December 15, 2016.
http://www.todayonline.com/lifestyle/travel/eight-ways-cairns-will-impress-you-its-great-outdoors

 

Cairns: Thrills & Spills (III)

When in Cairns: Yes, there’s loads to do in this Australian city that is flanked by the Great Barrier Reef. Here are two more options:

Inhabit the Island

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Sunset as seen from Fitzroy Island (Credit: Fitzroy Island Resort)

Just a 45-minute ferry ride from Cairns, Fitzroy Island (www.fitzroyisland.com.au) is a 99-room tropical island resort with its own rainforest and beaches, located on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Snorkelling is great here as beautiful corals and fish are located close to its many beaches, such as Shark Bay and the scenic Nudey Beach. If you are lucky, you can even spot giant turtles in the waters.

You can also check out the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, which nurses injured and sick turtles back to health. There are various bush-walking trails that lead to sights such as a working lighthouse, crystal-clear springs and panoramic views of the Barrier Reef at the summit.

A rare evening storm ruined our chance of catching a gorgeous sunset, but then again simply chilling on a breezy beach with a cold beer in hand and ending the night with scrumptious Australian cuisine at the island’s only restaurant more than made up for it.

Push your Vertical Limit

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                              Soar above a rainforest canopy on the Kuranda Skyrail (Credit: Kuranda Tourism)

Kuranda is a picturesque village set amid the World Heritage Site Barron Gouge National Park, and the best way to explore this ancient rainforest is by taking the Skyrail, a 7.5km cableway that glides just metres above the rainforest canopy. (A Diamond View glass floor gondola offers rarely-seen views of the treetops.)

There are three stops where you can hop off and get onto boardwalks and lookouts to take a closer peek at the diverse fauna and flora, as well as stunning views of the 260m Barron Falls and Gorge. Look out for signs that list the guided tours by Skyrail’s Rangers.

For an alternate return trip, hop onto the Kuranda Scenic Train for different viewpoints of the gorge and its waterfalls as it travels through 15 hand-carved tunnels.

To be continued…

My article on Cairns was originally published in TODAY newspaper on December 15, 2016.