Saturday, February 27, 2016

Shopping for Paintings from Street-Side Artists in Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam is home to a lot of famous artists, so it comes as no surprise, that you see a lot of artwork on display, as you walk along the streets of District 1, or downtown Ho Chi Minh.

On one of my trips with my boss, we saw this painting
in the airport, and we were told that it was several
hundred US dollars.
It sounded a bit expensive, so I told my boss, let's sneakily take a photo, and I will look for something similar for you, the next time I find myself in Ho Chi Minh City for work.

Two weeks or so after that, I was back, and this time around I had more time to walk around our District 1 neighborhood.
Local Vendor in front of the iconic Post Office.
Still the same vendor, this time in front of Notre Dame. 
Quaint Cafe I saw beside the Post Office, but I didn't
really have time to go in.

There were a lot of art galleries that lined the streets, but whenever I asked if they had a painting which had a house similar to the photo I took from the airport, the answer was always the same. They can do any painting I wanted! Hahaha, they even brought up websites of famous Vietnamese artists, and any painting there - they can do for US$100 for a 100cm x 100cm canvass.

Now, I appreciate the can-do spirit and all that, but it's a bit difficult to commission a painting for someone else. What if my boss doesn't like the design, or worse, what if we don't like how it is "copied"! Que horror! So I decided to just ask for their cards and continue on my walk.

Then I stumbled into this passage, across Vincom Shopping Mall.
Inside, there were three different artists at work,
similar to Mr. Cheng here.
I asked all of them if they had something similar to the house photo, and Mr. Cheng showed me this.
US$50 for 80cm x 80cm
The painting was quite nice, the texture of the leaves comes across quite well,
and the price was right. I immediate sent my boss a photo to ask if he wanted it.
I didn't have the heart to bargain with Mr. Cheng because
he was blind in one-eye, yet I loved how he still manages
to do what he loves, which is paint.
I even went back to buy a painting to go with the first one we chose, so that we could give it to my boss as his birthday gift, which he loved by the way.
Thank you Mr. Cheng for sharing with us your talent!

Instead of rolling up the canvass which is the norm, I opted to carry it home as is instead, as I was afraid, the textured part of the leaves might get damaged.

The concierge just brought me to the corner shop,
to wrap the paintings in bubble wrap for US$5 or so.
All set to fly home to the Philippines now.

Just a word of caution, if you are flying on Philippine Airlines, the 80cm x 80cm painting is a bit over the allowable check-in dimensions. They let me check it in only if I would agree to hand carry my smaller luggage with my instant pho, so while it is not a hard and fast rule, you can't maximize the size and weight as well of your allowance. They will only allow you to abuse one rule at a time, unless you have more charm then me and you get them to agree. Hahaha. just saying.

Art Gallery
26 Ly Tu Trong
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
*look for Mr Cheng on the left corner, 
immediately after entering the art gallery passageway

Friday, February 26, 2016

Spize on River Valley Road, so posh now, but still so good

Before we lived in Singapore, we used to visit Tim for weekends. We would leave Manila after work on a Friday, and arrive in Singapore around midnight, very hungry. Hahaha.

Singapore restaurants are not known to stay open late, so we already had our favorite late night Go To Places, and one of them is Spize on River Valley Road.

It used to be just tables by the roadside, and we go to them for their Chicken and Cheese Murtabak (filled Roti) with curry sauce, which was the best I've ever had. When we lived in Singapore, we were lucky enough to stay 15 minutes away on foot, so Spize was a go to place to bring our guests, especially when we were looking for a midnight snack.

When Alvy and Andy visited us in Singapore in 2011.

I was quite surprised to see Spize recently, when our cab passed by from our hotel on the way to Orchard Road. While a lot of places in Singapore have closed shop due to high rent, Spize has not only expanded, it has upgraded too, into a real restaurant.

Air conditioned, with an open kitchen too!

They still have road side tables, if you miss the ambiance of the good old days, but reservations are recommended unless you don't mind the wait.

Last year, there was a time when I was really craving for my favorite Spize dishes, so when Sof and Yaya were with me, we made reservations for dinner.
Sof and I yaya selfies
Our favorite Spize dishes.

Food Photographs by Sofia
Sofia and Ninang Ady's Favorite Drink
Milo Dinosaur (SG$3.90)
Sofia's usual order: Fish and Chips (SG$13.90)
Chicken and Cheese Murtabak (SG$12.50)
This is what we come here for, and recently I realized, leftovers travel well.
Next time, I can even bring this home.
Bullet Pepper Steak (SG$21.90)
My favorite Main Course "Side" to the Murtabak to share.

I didn't get to order my other favorite dish, Egg Tofu and Fresh Mushrooms on a hot plate, when I was with Sof and Yaya because they don't eat tofu. So I was glad when Sam and I ate here again last week.

Egg Tofu and Fresh Mushrooms (SG$13.50)
Craving Satisfied! Hooray!
Now officially our Go-To-Dinner Place... that is open after the shops close.

Congratulations Spize on your successful expansion. Cheers to many more meals at your restaurant! just saying.

Spize at River Valley
409 River Valley Rd, 
Singapore 248307

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Markobar Martabak, owned by the son of the Indonesian President no less

Martabak is one of my favorite Indonesian snacks, I know, I know... I have a lot of favorites, but I swear, they are really good.

The traditional Martabak comes in sweet or savoury variants. Martabak Manis, or sweet Martabak, is like a thick pancake, with generous filling, then folded in half to look like a pancake sandwich. There is also a thin version of this, which is like a crispy crepe, but I forgot to take photos.

The Savoury Martabak, normally has egg and meat and is deep fried to a crisp.

When we visited Solo, the hometown of Indonesia's current President Jokowi, one of the places we check out was the Martabak place owned by his son. 
The Markobar is famous for their 8 flavors in 1 Martabak, with a soon
to launch 16 flavors in 1.
I was quite surprised to see that this popular place, owned by such a famous
person, was a very humble roadside stall, which was very busy too.
The secret to a really yummy Martabak is the generosity with the butter!

They even taught our colleagues to make Martabak.

Step 1: Pour the batter into the pan.
Step 2: Wait for the sides to crisp and the bubbles to start coming out.
So the left pan is almost ready, but the right pan needs more time.
Step 3: Sprinkle some sugar, and just wait for it to
cook a bit more.
Step 4: Once the batter is cooked, use a spatula to remove
from the pan.
Step 5: Fill with toppings as desired, and remember,
use loads of butter.
For the traditional martabak, they just fill it with the
desired flavor, then they cut it in half, butter it some more
before it's cut in pieces to serve. (Refer to photo above)
Markobar's style is to cut it in 8, like a pizza, and topped
per slice, with the flavors you want.
You can't forget the condensed milk of course. Even the
traditional Martabak has condensed milk on everything.
Voila! Keju (Cheese) and Nutella Keju/Ovamaltine Keju!
Great Job, Arnaud!

Markobar's Martabak is a great novelty, but I think I still prefer the traditional Martabak version - especially Holland Martabak, a chain specializing in higher-end Martabak flavors using real butter! I forgot to take photos but if you find them, you must order Red Velvet Martabak with cream cheese filling and crushed oreos, and Toblerone Keju Martabak! My favorites. just saying.

Markobar Martabak

Holland Martabak

Saturday, February 20, 2016

European Food Hawker Center at Stew Kuche with generous Foie Gras dishes from Immanuel French Kitchen

We all know I love anything Foie Gras, and anything value for money too... That's why I have always been a fan of what used to be a very popular Le Cuisson, which you can read about here, one of the pioneers of French Hawker Cuisine in Singapore, and of course, I'm a fan as well of the still popular, Saveur, which you can read about here.

But I think it becomes a totally different ball game, when the entire hawker center sells different European Food, at affordable prices of course, which is what Stew Kuche is all about.

Luckily, it is just a block away from the hotel we stay in when we're in Singapore for work, so it means I can get a Foie Gras starter everyday, since my daughter doesn't really want to eat here, but if I were travelling with other people, I can't wait to give the other food stalls a try.

You need to arrive early to secure a table. It gets busy for dinner, but there is no one if you go straight from work.

I've only tried Immanuel French Kitchen, and I loved it so much, I went back the next day for more.

The first time around I brought Sof and Yaya hoping they would find something they wanted to eat, but they had their heart set on Chicken Rice, so I just ordered a starter instead so we could have Chicken Rice after.
Pan Seared Foie Gras with Side Salad (SG$16.50)
Seriously the most generous portion of Foie Gras ever (outside Paris),
and it was well cooked too.
Really great value, but also no ambiance. Hahaha.
Not Sofia's cup of tea.

Immanuel actually asked if I was feeling adventurous, and he recommended the Foie Gras cooked with Miso, seaweed and daikon, but I opted for the classic instead. It was so good, I needed to come back the next day to try the adventurous version.

Foie Gras cooked with Black Miso (SG$16.50)
A really simplistic descripstion would be to say it's a heavenly mix
of Miso Soup and Foie Gras. So good, I licked the bowl clean!
Thanks Immanuel for the great Foie Gras! Can't wait to try your other dishes.
Can't wait to try the other places in Stew Kuche as well. just saying.

Stew Kuche
Immanuel French Kitchen
119 Bukit Merah Lane 1, 
Singapore 151119