Steak and Peas in Birmingham

    Steak with peas?? 
#birmingham #uk #greatbritain #europenomore #travelgram #wanderfolk #liveit #letsgosomewhere #exploreeverything #globetrotter #sgblogger #igsg #vscocam #travel #food #whatiate #meatlover #makan

    Hello Birmingham, and look! A bit of blue sky. #birmingham #uk #greatbritain #europenomore #travelgram #wanderfolk #liveit #letsgosomewhere #exploreeverything #globetrotter #sgblogger #igsg #vscocam #igersFeel so tiny standing before a giant red building. #birmingham #uk #greatbritain #europenomore #travelgram #wanderfolk #liveit #letsgosomewhere #exploreeverything #globetrotter #sgblogger #igsg #vscocam

    My best friend lived in Birmingham for four years and I’ve always thought of visiting her then. That day never came. I had imagined it dreary, rainy and Privet Drive-like because of what I’ve been exposed to UK through Harry Potter and stuff, but Birmingham City surprised me.

    Day 01 was beautiful; blue skies, white fluffy clouds and considerable amount of sunshine throughout the day. It was rather chilly for a summer day, but I enjoyed the weather immensely. We took a long stroll downtown, stopping at every landmark and taking a hell lot of wefies; one must have a lot when going around with four other people who wanted a photo stop every 10 metres.

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    Lunch (finally after 325823640 stops) was at The Square Peg. Claiming to house ‘Europe’s longest bar’, it’s a great place to stop by for lunch and a few beers (or if you don’t drink, soft drinks or free flow of ice water are available too). The menu for food and drinks were extensive and we were spoiled for choice. I went with steak – as usual – and for the first time ever, it came with peas. I never like the taste of frozen peas and push them as far away from the plate as I possibly could. Apparently it’s normal in the UK to have steak with peas. Nuh-uh, not for me.

    Food wise, it was nothing to rave about. But I enjoyed the atmosphere in the restaurant/pub. The crew were friendly and helpful, and people generally leave satisfied and/or drunk. It was midday for us, so none of us were rolling out of the place. We still had some shopping to do.

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    Basically we spent the rest of the few hours we had, and what was left of our energy in Primark. It was my very first encounter with this Europe staple, and I must say… this place is evil. You go in thinking you’ll get a dress, and you end up getting a whole wardrobe and a bedsheet. Yikes. But things are so, so cheap in Primark and if you look hard enough, you’ll find something tasteful. Oh, and Harry Potter-themed stuff.

    NEXT STOP: Library of Birmingham


    Sangrias in Madrid

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    My first real step into Europe was to Norway, in winter. White snow blankets everything we past, and it was cold. Like, toe-numbing cold. Around this time of the year is the perfect time to see Europe without freezing your butts off. It’s summertime in Europe, and I’m LOVIN’ it!

    Feeling ambitious, we headed out for lunch straight after checking into the hotel. But that’s only because we know that if we take a nap, it could evolve into a 7-hour sleep. That was such a waste of a beautiful, sunny day.

    Just a 10-minute walk from our hotel was a restaurant called La Central Cervecera. According to some Madrid frequent-goers, they served a mean grilled fish and Sangria. Both, I needed to try. The nice lady who served us spoke little to no English, so after a whole lot of pointing at the menu and praying that she’d get our orders right, we had each a plate of grilled fish and chips and a jug of Sangria to share. Yes, a jug.

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    After a good two months in the desert, freshly caught seafood was most welcomed. I chose the Hake fish, a cod variety and hoped for the best. Unlike the grilled fish I’m used to in Singapore, where it’s accompanied with sambal or other herbs and spices, this restaurant does it simply. Salt, pepper and lemon juice. That’s it. A tiny part of me wished I could add a dollop of red hot chilli sambal on the fish, but its crispy skin and juicy flesh made up for it.

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    After lunch, we hopped on the train to the city, but not before chancing upon a piece of home on the wall of the train station. There were four other people with me, and their country flags too were represented on the wall. How cool is that!

    As we wandered towards Puerta Del Sol, one of the best know and busiest public square in Madrid, I marvelled at the architecture of the various B&Bs, shops and restaurants lining the streets. Of course being Asian, and brought up in the -what do you call us- Far East, the architecture in Europe is way, way vibrant in my eyes.

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    Looking at the crowds milling about you wouldn’t even think it was a Monday. DON’T PEOPLE WORK HERE?! Plus it’s summer, so there’re tons of sales going on. I walked into Zara, Pull and Bear and other shops.. came out with more receipts in my purse than notes.

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    The temperature dipped significantly in the evening; the slight drizzle in the evening could have been a factor, but that didn’t stop us from wandering further. We walked by a five-storey Primark in Grand Via but didn’t head inside to curb temptations… which we will learn to regret the next day because it may have been one of the biggest Primarks in the world with extensive selection of items we could possibly want but do not need. Oh well.

    All in all, we discovered that Madrid was a city that knew no weekdays or weekends. It’s crowded every day of the week, and so vibrant you could just sit at an alfresco cafe sipping coffee and/or Sangrias and watch all kinds of people go by you. I’d love another opportunity, a longer time to explore the beautiful Spanish capital.


    Iraqi Cuisine: Qouzi or Ouzi

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    It was 8.30 in the evening and the Flatmate and I were at Souq Waqif and I was positively starving. Walking down the lane of restaurants and cafes, we saw Al Adhamiyah. It was an Iraqi restaurant, one of those I’ve chanced upon on Zomato  a service like hungrygowhere for Singapore’s restaurants. There were not many patrons in the restaurants, it being past break fast time and all, so we were seated in a nice, air conditioned corner upstairs away from the hustle and bustle of the Souq.

    The restaurant was dimly lit, making it a comfortable place to dine in, and at the same time lets diners feast their eyes on the well placed traditional Iraqi decor, which includes old pictures of the functioning cities in Iraq.

    I wanted to try something traditionally Iraqi, so obviously I asked for the waiter’s recommendations. Maskoof or Masgouf is a traditional seasoned, grilled carp dish. It was also full of bones, hence not my cup of tea. I went with his recommendation of the Roasted Lamb Qouzi (54 QAR/ ~ SGD 20). He hinted that we should share.

    Of course, before the dish came, curious me was Googling what on earth had I just ordered. There were no such things as Lamb Qouzi. But Lamb Ouzi however, was braised lamb atop spiced rice.

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    My Lamb Qouzi/Ouzi came and the waiter was right; the rice portion was for like two or three persons. The dish came with two sides: traditional okra stew and white bean stew. I skipped past the white bean stew because it tasted like baked beans, and I am not a huge fan of baked beans (but my best friend Rasyidah eats it with baked rice once upon a time). But the tiny okra cooked in tomato paste was flavourful.

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    I couldn’t stop gushing about the lamb though. It was tender; the meat slides right off the bones and was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Mildly spiced, making the two kinds of rice and noodles, plus the okra perfect accompaniments to the lamb. Rice and noodles somehow reminds me of a story Ummar told me about his Dad mixing rice and noodles and I have yet to grasp the concept of that.

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    Complimentary dessert and Iraqi tea was served after the meal. Dessert was Mahalabiya, a Middle Eastern milk pudding with almond shavings and walnut bits. Creamy and not too sweet. Traditional Iraqi tea was served in mini cups, smaller than the Turkish tea cups and tastes of Cardamom. Unlike Turkish tea, where they served them plain with sugar cubes on the side, Iraqi tea was known to be super sweet. Since the attentive waiter realised we are not fans of super sweet stuff, he left the sugar unstirred at the bottom of the cup.

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    An overall lovely experience, and the food was great. Will definitely come back when I have cravings for good meat. Our total damage for the night was less than 100 qar, just a little under SGD40. For two people. Need an introduction to Iraqi cuisine, here’s one in Doha!


    Breakfast For Dinner

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    You know that feeling where you aren’t sure of what to do now or what to do next… when you’re trying to make plans for the future but the events of the now aren’t cooperating? When you’re basically in limbo and have no freaking idea what to do?

    Yeah, I’m in that limbo right now.

    Maybe someday I can look back to this post and celebrate how far I’ve come since being this low, but today I’m still in that hole and desperate to climb out of it… but I don’t know how. I won’t call it being depressed because I’ve seen that word being thrown around loosely, I don’t know what it means to be depressed. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. I’m not going to box my feelings up and label them. And don’t ask me what it is about, because right now I won’t tell. Maybe someday I would. I’m optimistic that this too shall pass. I hope.


    So I do what I can do. I finished two series on Netflix (Bates Motel and The Returned because I like to dig my own grave getting myself shit scared when the flatmate is not around). The people around me (literally) are really supportive: random lunches, visits to the flat and tea at ungodly hours. The flatmate couldn’t stand me holing myself up in the room watching Today’s Special – a pretty good but not too satisfying culinary film- and dragged me out for dinner and shisha. I was most impressed with what I had at the Iraqi restaurant, I will write about it later.

    And I eat breakfast for dinner. Like, a heavy breakfast to break my fast at dusk. Because early mornings are spent eating things that are not too heavy, yet at the same time high in energy to sustain me throughout the day.

    I defrosted some turkey bacon, and throw them in the oven, fry up some scrambled eggs, emptied out a whole can of Heinz baked beans… enough to keep some for nuking another day. Toasted some bread, spread some heavenly butter on it and brewed some hot water for coffee. Nescafe Gold Blend Barista Coffee, at least that’s what it says on the can. Love it with a dash of vanilla soy milk that I am slowly running out of.

    Then I wiped the plate clean, and the mug of coffee too. I think of what to do the next day. Same thing I’ve been doing for the past 9 days. The only thing different is probably what I plan to cook. We’ll see how that’ll turn out.


    How to survive a long-haul flight

    Seat 1F.
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    In my few years of travelling, the shortest time I spent on a plane was 30 minutes, and the longest… a collective 8 + 8 + 2 = 18 hours (+ 6 hours transit + 4 hours being bumped off an overbooked flight)……. basically 30 longest hours of my life.

    Having the aircraft as my ‘office’ has its perks. I learn the best way to maximise rest no matter how bright it is outside, how many people are shouting across the aisle with me in the middle, and the constant dings of call bells when people want a glass of water or something.

    All you need are 5 simple things. Most of them are available in your airline-issued amenity kits, but in the likely event of you travelling on a no frills, low-cost airline… you might want to consider packing these items.

    1 . Neck Pillow

    An essential for long-haul flyers if you don’t want to wake up with neck ache. Even though some headrests can bend and support your neck, they aren’t very comfortable. The common U-shaped ones are great, but I find them rather bulky. Mine is the gem I discovered in Muji (as shown in the video above), a pillow that looks like a miniature bolster that supports your back, and doubles up as a neck pillow when clipped. They come in different colours and materials, and are quite pricey (SGD 30+ a piece) but they are worth splurging on. It clips easily to your bag, and if you don’t want to get it dirty and save some space in your carry on, it can be unclipped and tucked in the corner.

    2. Eye Mask



    I’ve come across two materials of eye masks: synthetic and cloth. The cloth ones are more gentle on your skin and won’t leave any dents or marks after you pull them off hours later. The synthetic ones though are easier to clean, and won’t trap dust. If you wanna go one step up and be fancy schmancy, you can bring the silk ones from your ultimate pampering collection. Just don’t lose ’em.

    3. Blanket



    All full service airlines provide blankets to passengers on a long haul flight. Some snitch them off the plane as souvenirs. Again, in case you’re travelling low-cost, or on flights that for some reasons don’t provide blankets, pack a thin blanket or a thicker shawl in your carry on. Most people would probably drape the blankets around themselves from shoulders down. Others -like me- would just cover our heads too like a corpse to anyone walking by. It makes me feel safe and warm in the cocoon that I made. ‘How do you even breathe?’ they all ask. Make sure to open the air vent above your head before you completely cover yourself. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you don’t pass out due to oxygen deprivation underneath all that material.

    4. Headphones



    To block out surrounding noise, be it from the plane engines or other human beings around you. The earpieces that come with your phones may be good enough, but I prefer semi noise cancelling over ear headphones. Because better sound and keeps people from talking to you of course. Unfortunately, they are pretty bulky. They shouldn’t be too noise cancelling though. It may not seem important to you, but in the unlikely event of an emergency, you need to snap out of whatever song that’s playing on your portable music device and focus on how to save your lives.

    5. Your favourite travel playlist



    I miss my iPod Classic that’s sitting in the drawer collecting dust at home. :( Anyway, I learnt that the more you listen to the songs you actually like, the easier you fall asleep. Spotify is one of the few services I subscribe to. When I am connected and come across a song that I like, I’ll save it to my personal playlist that I make available offline. 10-hour flight? No worries. My 88-song playlist could last me a full day non-stop… if I played them twice. My current earworm: Coldplay’s Hymn for the Weekend.

    These are the five things I will never, ever forget to bring with me when I travel or I’ll be suffering the entire flight #firstworldproblems. If your list differs from mine, I’d like to hear from you! I’ll try them on my next flight! :)

    What I Ate Wednesday

    Singapore Laksa with a twist

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    I found a couple of ‘Best Singapore Favourites’ boxes while grocery shopping last weekend and plucked two off the shelf. Never would I thought I would ever resort to this, alas.. there’re not many places serving laksa in Doha.

    Laksa is essentially a kind of thick, white rice vermicelli in spicy noodle soup. I’ve tried a couple of variations to laksa and my two favourites are the Asam Laksa and the Lemak Laksa. They are two very, very different kinds of laksa. The former originates from Penang, and the word ‘asam’ comes from the Malay word for tamarind. The soup is not only sour, but contains mackerel that had been poached and then flaked. Typical garnishes include pineapple, mint leaves and cut chillies.

    Penang (12 of 58)

    Lemak Laksa, or Singapore Laksa, however, is rich, savoury, creamy and not sour at all. Coconut milk is the key ingredient to the soup giving it the distinctive, rich ‘lemak’ taste.

    The pack consists of 1 laksa paste with laksa leaves (though I didn’t see any in the paste, nor in the soup when it was done), 1 laksa premix and 1 generous packet of sambal chilli. You have to add your own noodles, meat of choice and vegetables… and 600 ml of water. It’s super duper easy to prepare.

    Because laksa noodles are so impossible to find in Doha, I substituted it with a packet of Udon noodles I found on the same shelf. The result : Thicker, chewier noodles but no less delicious. Instead of cockles (speciality in Singapore laksa) I added a pack of mixed seafood that included mussels, clams, shrimps and a piece (yes, just one) of lobster.

    I love my laksa with a little crunch, so I sliced up some Saudi cucumbers and tossed them in along with a few beansprouts I managed to salvage from the previous week.

    The gravy isn’t as thick as I would have liked it to be, but a slurp of the coconut-flavoured soup was enough to cure my homesickness for a while. Instead of using the sambal chilli included in the box, I added a dollop of Sambal Belacan Power for extra spice.

    So. Much. Win.

    No other complains, I inhaled the whole bowl in less than 10 minutes, and had enough leftovers for 1.5 more bowls.

    My Singaporean readers back home, please don’t head to NTUC to get a box (because I remember seeing them there). You’re better off heading to Katong. Eat an extra bowl for me while you’re at it. Extra cockles please. To those who are adventurous (and not in Singapore) and would like to have a taste of Singaporean cuisine, it’s worth the bucks.

    What I Ate Wednesday

    Korean Bibimbap

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    Occasionally we have Sunday dinners, or at any point of the week when we feel like having a communal dinner. Miju’s Korean and she loves cooking. By default, she makes amazing Korean food. This week she introduced us to Bibimbap, a bowl (or rather, bowls) of mixed vegetables and rice.

    The amount of effort put in to make a Bibimbap is really something. One has to slice those carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms and cabbages really thinly. Some ingredients need to be boiled, and some eaten raw… So much work for vegetables. Top those assortment of vegetables on a bed of rice and add a dollop or two of spicy Korean sauce and you’re set. Some enjoy Bibimbap with a fried egg, even ultra fresh raw eggs.

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    Today because we are all carnivores and need our meat, she thoughtfully pan-fried some lamb kofta to satisfy our meat cravings…. and added the stir-fried sesame noodles just in case four bowls of Bibimbap to share among 10 people weren’t enough. Oh, they were enough. And man, they were delish.