Best ‘Get Well Soon’ Hampers Under SGD50

If you’ve ever bought a ‘Get Well Soon’ hamper for anyone, you’ll know these gifts can be rather expensive. And I bet you know roughly how much each item within the hamper costs too! Like that bunch of grapes or those 6 bottles of BRAND’S essence of chicken. So unless you’re out to impress someone, there’s really no need to splurge. I do also think that some of the folks selling these “wellness hampers” need to select the items more carefully as I’ve seen how some hampers include things like apple juice and malt beverages (with lots of sugar) that are just not very good for people who are ill.

So I’ve handpicked 4 hamper vendors with value-for-money hampers that even I would be happy to receive myself. Also, I’ve included another option for folks who want to get a Get Well Soon gift for a girlfriend or a child, and don’t want a ‘generic’ sort of hamper.

#1: Orchard Florist

Orchard Florist Get Well Soon Hamper Singapore

B-YP08 Eating Well Hamper $50, B-YP04 Healthy Bites Hamper $50 (Pic: Orchard Florist)

I found Orchard Florist’s range of $50 hampers pretty good value for money. Take the Eating Well Hamper, for instance, which has a lovely range of (largely healthy) snacks that anyone ill (at home or in the hospital) will certainly enjoy snacking on. There’s also Jasmine Green Tea and Earl Grey tea sachets on top of fruit. I think people of all ages will enjoy this hamper. So practical! The “Healthy Bites” hamper (I don’t know what there is to bite on beside some fruit) comes with bird’s nest and essence of chicken from TWO brands (for those who can’t decide if they prefer BRAND’S or New Moon’s chicken essence) 😀 Add on GST plus a delivery fee of $5.35 and this will be sent directly to your gift recipient. (Website: Orchard Florist)

#2: Far East Flora

get well soon hamper singapore

Most of the companies selling hampers tend to lump fruit and flowers together. This particular hamper from Far East Flora is pretty unique: there’s a top layer for flowers, and fruits are at the bottom. And the best part is you can probably reuse this stand for your gardening – put in a few potted plants, for instance. Or use it to store jars and condiments in your kitchen! And it’s available for just $50.92 + tax + $6.96 for delivery (Website: fareastflora.com)

And for those might not truly desire / appreciate fruit and chicken essence, this next gift would likely make them go “awwwww”…

get well soon gift singapore

For just $42.84, your gift recipient gets an 8-inch teddy bear, 9-inch Elmo balloon AND a 3-rose “standing bouquet”. Seems like a 3-in-1 gift to me, and I think kids and girlfriends would surely appreciate it. (Website: giftblooms.com)

#3: 168florist

chicken essence hamper

hamper singapore

These hampers cost $39.90 each. They seem to be the most reasonably priced ones so far. Plus, there’s free delivery to Changi General Hospital and Ng Teng Fong Hospital, if you place your order online. (Website: 168florist.com)

#4: funagifts

cheap wellness hamper singapore

For $39.95, you get chicken essence plus a box of crackers and free delivery. You can even pay via PayPal. (Website: funagifts.com)

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If you’re looking for affordably priced bouquets, I have put together a list of 10 of the best (according to me) florists with gorgeous bouquets under SGD50. <- Click on the link to check them out. If you want a special gift of preserved roses, I do also have a blogpost featuring 6 of the prettiest ones that are under S$70. 😀

How This Boss Tripled Revenue by Automating Just 1/3 of His Business

e2i Inclusive Growth Programme

Mr Lee Chit Shung explaining Montreux’s success secrets to Minister Josephine Teo and e2i CEO Gilbert Tan (in blue)

Despite its French-sounding name, Montreux Patisserie Pte Ltd is a true-blue Singaporean brand.

The company supplies pastries to hotels, restaurants, schools, hospitals, country clubs and more, and they now operate out of their new factory at 44 Senoko Drive after purchasing a 20,000 square feet plot of land and building their factory according to their requirements.

And the man behind the business’ leaps of faith is Chef Lee Lay, an award-winning pastry chef who has garnered international accolades. Back in 1995, he started the bakery at East Coast Road when he was 45 years old – a decision which his friends found bold.

And together with his son, Mr Lee Chit Shung, the company has made yet another bold move in investing $11 million in buying the piece of land, building the new factory, acquiring machinery and moving their operations over from Bedok.

On 29th June, Minister Josephine Teo, the Second Minister for Manpower, visited Montreux Patisserie for a tour of the facility and wasted no time in getting hands-on experience in pastry-making.

e2i Inclusive Growth Programme

Minister Josephine Teo decorating the cupcakes after piping the cream on top.

e2i Inclusive Growth Programme

Adding the filling to the curry puff ‘skin’. The curry puffs which Montreux Patisserie makes are HUGE!

If you’re wondering why the staff are making curry puffs by hand when the company has supposedly made a hefty investment into automating its processes, it’s because the machine which produces curry puffs is “too productive”. It can produce some 85,000 pieces a day!

And because the Singapore market for curry puffs isn’t large enough, the machine is left idling – it’s used only 3 days in a week. Once the curry puffs are produced, they can be stored for up to 9 months using the blast freezing technology, without the use of preservatives. And every pastry-making department in Montreux Patisserie has a blast freezer (there are 5 in total).

e2i Inclusive Growth Programme

Minister Josephine Teo and Mr Lee Chit Shung at the entrance to the blast freezer. One roll-in unit can blast freeze 32 trays of pastries in 32 mins!

We did not enter the blast freezer, for obvious reasons. And it was already very cold just about everywhere in the pastry-making department. The company had sought the help of food consultants who guided them through the factory building process. They were advised to keep temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius when producing the pastries so as to slow down bacterial growth. The company has also provided staff with ‘heat tech t-shirts’ to help keep them warm – a thoughtful gesture which I’m sure they’ll appreciate.

Another thing staff appreciate is the machinery which aids them in their work. For instance, cake-cutting by hand takes about 10 minutes per cake, while the machine can do the job (perfectly, if I may add) in 2 minutes or so. And the best part is that the company cuts down on wastage and employees are at less risk of accidentally slicing their own fingers when cutting the cakes by hand.

e2i Inclusive Growth Programme

Cake-cutting machine does the same job 5 times faster than by hand!

While technology helps companies cope with the manpower crunch, it can also mean that some employees no longer have their old jobs as they have been ‘replaced’ by machines which can do their tasks better, faster and cheaper.

e2i Inclusive Growth Programme

Only 1 or 2 employees needed per station (vs. 6 in the past)

Montreux Patisserie, however, is firm in its belief that workers who have been with them for so long should not be let go simply because of automation. The company credits the Employment and Employability Institute, e2i, with helping them facilitate training, subsidizing man-hours used for training, planning the new duties of staff, and other manpower related issues. e2i was able to do this only after asking “detailed questions” about the job scopes of the staff and through consultation with the company, successfully helped redesign the jobs of the workers.

“Older staff may be redeployed to the packaging department. Or they go for training and take up less laborious tasks. We cannot bear to let them go.” – Mr Lee Chit Shung

e2i Inclusive Growth Programme

Mr Lee Chit Shung shows Minister Teo the various baking equipment in the kitchen.

And when it comes to the selection of machinery, getting a good bargain AND convincing staff who might be a tad resistant to all this new technology, Montreux Patisserie has got it down pat.

“We place a deposit and ask the manufacturer to bring in the machine during the FHA (Food and Hotel Asia). At the end of the fair, they sell the machine to us at 20% discount, instead of sending it back overseas. Also, we bring our staff to the FHA and they can see firsthand how it’s so easy to operate. And e2i comes in and advises on the grants we can receive.”

Next year, the FHA, which is the largest international food trade show in Asia, will be held in Singapore again and Montreux Patisserie has already set its sights on the machines it wants.

The younger Mr Lee says the CEO of e2i, Mr Gilbert Tan, is often able to tell on the spot (at the FHA) whether the company can get a 40, 50% etc grant under the Inclusive Growth Programme, judging from the “productivity boost” during the demonstrations of what the (new) machines can do at the FHA.

e2i inclusive growth programme

The latest updates / details on IGP and its benefits can be found here

Besides grants, e2i also provides the company with information on “innovation, automation, fabrication (of machines)”. Thus, Montreux Patisserie is able to effectively negotiate with manufacturers and get customized machines from Mitsubishi Electric, etc. The machines are tailor-made to suit the products that the company is producing and also simple enough for the staff to operate.

e2i inclusive growth programme

Mdm Law Siew Leng, 51, and her team can now make double the pastries with a new dough machine (Photo: NTUC This Week)

All staff whose jobs were redesigned due to the incorporation of the new machines, have a pay increase due to productivity gains too!

“e2i has done a good job in simplifying the process of application, they are willing to listen, invest more time in us, share their knowledge and expertise as they also meet other enterprises and can do cross-references, telling us a certain machine is also suitable for us.

Thus we can check with the manufacturer and ask for certain specification and calibration. The end goal is to make it simple for staff to use – they are not stupid; they are scared. So we tell them “just press one button” and show them how easy it is to use as many things have been pre-programmed already.”

e2i Inclusive Growth Programme

Mr Lee Chit Shung, Chef Lee Lay and Minister Josephine Teo

What I found most impressive about Montreux Patisserie, beyond that gigantic box of chocolates they gave to the Minister (it’s the biggest box of chocolates I’ve ever seen!), are these two things: their emphasis on staff training, and their openness to sharing (even with so-called ‘competitors’ in the industry).

#1: Training

According to the Lees, it’s wrong of bosses to think that there is no point in training staff as they might leave the company right after receiving the training.

“Give them the chance to grow. Otherwise, they will jump ship anyway. Our job is to groom them. We must train them for our own good. Don’t be afraid a competitor might poach them.”

Training appears to be a big part of Montreux Patisserie’s company culture as the bosses believe that the staff must be trained to know the details of everything they are working with. The younger Mr Lee is emphatic about how staff need to know the ingredients well, such as how “the difference between salted and unsalted butter is only that 2%” so they know what went wrong and how to rectify the issue when they make a mistake.

#2: “Sharing is loving”

While other companies are closely guarding all aspects of their operations by not allowing people to take pictures of the machinery they are using, for example, Montreux Patisserie is going in the opposite direction.

“We are happy to open our factory to whomever is interested to come and see. If we are the only one growing, how much price growth can we command? If the whole industry grows together, it’s different. We cannot be selfish; we must share. Sharing is loving. And if the Singapore pavilion gets bigger at trade fairs, it is also better for us.”

~

Even though the younger Mr Lee estimates that only about 35% of the company’s operations are automated right now, the move towards automation has resulted in the company’s growth TRIPLING. They plan to begin exporting their products by the year 2020 and are currently studying the taste profile of consumers in overseas markets, in Dubai, Hong Kong, Indonesia, etc.

With their brand of resourcefulness, and with adequate support from e2i and the Government, I believe it’ll be a piece of cake for them to spread their wings overseas. 🙂

6 Prettiest Preserved / Enchanted Roses Under SGD70

Beauty and the Beast enchanted rose singapore

Thanks to Beauty and the Beast and its overwhelming cinematic success, florists in Singapore have been cashing in on the Beauty and the Beast Enchanted Rose item. Some sellers offer the preserved roses in pretty glass jars from as low as 20 to 30-odd dollars, while others sell them at over SGD100 (with additional delivery charges). So, I’ve put together a list of 6 vendors with these “everlasting” (read: lasts for a few years) preserved roses which will put a smile on the face of your recipient. And they are sold at wallet-friendly prices too!

If, however, you prefer to send someone fresh flowers instead, you can check out my blogpost ‘Top 10 Florists With Gorgeous Bouquets Under SGD50‘. At the end of this blogpost, I’m also including some tutorials so you can put together your very own enchanted rose bell jar if you don’t wish to pay too much for one.

#1: SKfleur

preserved flower

SKfleur has over 80 different products with preserved roses in them, and prices start from $59.80. What I love most is the knob on top of the glass jar. They come in various designs: bear, heart, bird, star, etc. You can also get a $69.80 preserved rose bouquet (with free delivery) if you are old-school, preferring a bouquet over a bell jar. 😀 (Website: skfleur.sg)

#2: Petite Fleur

preserved rainbow rose

Petite Fleur sells preserved roses in a variety of colors – everything from lilac to black! But I love these rainbow ones the most! Just $70 a box! Those pastel shades are absolutely delightful! (Website: petitefleursg.com)

#3: Fiore Folio

preserved rose box

This enchanted rose box costs just $38 and you can even tell them to print “Happy Birthday” etc on the box  There’s also an additional complimentary laminated gift card you can request for. Add $15 for delivery. (Website: fiorefolio.com)

#4: @sophiegift on Carousell

beauty and the beast flower dome singapore

$68 Bell Jar, $78 Glass Dome, $68 Teddy Bear Design, $19.80 Bag Charm

Want your rose in a bell jar or in a glass dome? How about having it as a bag charm? 😀 This Carousell seller offers you a HUGE variety of preserved rose items to choose from. You can choose self-collection at Rivervale Mall or pay for delivery. (Website: https://sg.carousell.com/sophiegift/)

#5: Pretty Demure

Preserved rose singapore

If your gift recipient likes unique items which stand out from the crowd, this $35 ‘rose in angel glass’ would be perfect. Self collection is available, or you can simply pay for delivery. (Website: prettydemure.com)

#6: Timeless Fleur 

beauty and the beast rose singapore

You’ll only have to pay $65 for this Timeless Belle™ (Petite). I love the color of the roses and how they are in full bloom. (Website: timelessfleur.com)

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If you prefer sending a handmade gift, or if you want to attempt to make one of those Beauty & The Beast enchanted rose bell jar items yourself, here are some tutorials you can follow. Good luck!~

Step-by-step instructions can also be found here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Enchanted-Rose-Beauty-and-the-Beast/

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Some might say that getting preserved roses makes more sense as they last longer as compared to regular fresh flower bouquets which can probably last between 3 to 7 days. I don’t think, though, that preserved flowers can totally replace fresh flowers because:

(1) People want to be seen with their floral gifts, e.g. I want to walk around with a bouquet and not a bell jar (which would be as weird as carrying an urn around).

(2) A person can carry more than one bouquet in his/her arms, such as at the end of a performance, but it would be near impossible to stack multiple bell jars and have the person carry them for picture-taking.

(3) Glass jars are fragile and so these roses in glass jars are more suited as decorative items at home or in the office, in an air-conditioned environment and away from direct sunlight. And be careful not to break them, especially if you have young children running around.

5 Tricks Freelancers Didn’t Know About Government Procurement Via GeBIZ

Government Procurement Practices

Visual Recording by Welenia Studios (Credit: wendy@weleniastudios)

I attended a talk for freelancers and self-employed individuals some time back at NTUC Centre. This talk was organised by the NTUC Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit (U FSE) to support and empower freelancers and self-employed in nurturing viable careers, and represent their collective interests as one united voice.

Freelancers and the self-employed form one of the multiple groups of workers that the Labour Movement is increasingly looking after as part of their evolution to be more relevant to all working people, to help them identify where the new job opportunities are, as well as the new growth areas and skillsets required especially in the 23 Industry Transformation Maps.

groups labour movement

Freelancers are one of the many communities the Labour Movement is reaching out to (Source: NTUC This Week)

In promoting fair trade for freelancers, the Director of Freelancers and Self-
Employed Unit, Ang Hin Kee, explained that fair trade “would see freelancers
competing equally with other vendors for jobs that are being put out there.
Companies and organisations that procure their services will treat them no
differently from vendors, pay them no differently, and comply with rules of payment
in the same way”.

Ministry of Finance

Mr Chia Ser Huei (MOF Director of Resource Management) with Mr Ang Hin
Kee (Director of NTUC’s Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit)

To help freelancers be aware of how to bid for more projects especially under GeBIZ
which could possibly provide more contracts for freelancers, U FSE invited Mr Chia
Ser Huei, Ministry of Finance Director (Resource Management), to debunk myths and
also answer some of the questions that freelancers have regarding the government
procurement process via GeBIZ.

I’ve put together the 5 main woes / queries from freelancers and summarized the
response from the MOF rep in my own words, which may come in useful if you’re trying
to score that government contract…

~

#1: “What’s the difference between a bid, a quotation and a tender?”
Bid” usually refers to both quotations and tenders.

Quotations are for items below $70,000 and a ‘Tender’ for those above $70,000. Both
are submitted via GeBIZ. Of course, simpler terms and conditions will apply to
quotations.

You can partner someone else to submit a tender. There’s no difference whether you
are submitting the tender as a sole proprietor or a partnership. What matters is whether
you can deliver.

Whether you are submitting a bid as a consortium, an alliance or a partnership, avoid
verbal contracts between partners. Make things clear in black and white to prevent
complications later on.

As for purchases up to $5,000, a.k.a small value purchases, these come with the
most flexibility. Examples would include photography and editorial services.

Also, apart from submitting bids via GeBIZ, you can advertise through GeBIZ Mall.
The first 10 listings are free!
~

#2: “Is GeBIZ really transparent? I heard a company was told to put in a bid and it would definitely get picked.” 

If a company already knows that it is going to get the deal beforehand, it might not be an MOF issue anymore, but a CPIB one. Because of the checks and balances in place, the requester should be a different person from the approver.

The rules of Government procurement involve open and fair competition, transparency,
and value for money. You can certainly write in to ask why the contract was not
awarded to you. Contracts need not always go to the lowest bid; it depends on quality
factors also.

For instance, if a certain product is required to last about 10 years, and yours is the
lowest bid but the product you are offering can last for only about 5 years, you may not
get the contract. In general, about half of all contracts awarded go to the lowest bidder.

If you detect any biasedness in awarding contracts, send your feedback (e.g. regarding
unfair clauses) by (1) contacting the agency first, (2) contacting the agency’s quality
service manager and finally, (3) get in touch with MOF’s quality service manager.

~

#3: “Buyers favor companies over individuals. That isn’t fair!”

Perhaps this may be the perception some buyers have towards companies as it may
seem (to them) that a company might offer more assurance and less of a ‘fly-by- night’
risk.

While the MOF sets rules and procedures, each agency is responsible for the way it
buys things. While it is more decentralized now, things are slowly moving towards
centralization so common buys can be done together for greater cost savings.

There’s also the financial grade verification process which is valid for 3 years or shorter.
It’s centralized and you can submit documents like financial statements easily. For
quotations, it is forbidden to specify grading (e.g. S2, S3 etc). This gives smaller players
a chance.

Financial Grade Table for GeBIZ

Financial Grade Table for GeBIZ (Spring Singapore)

For tenders though, they can ask for the grading simply for assurance but there is no
central requirement from MOF. MOF is also currently reviewing the grading system to
make it even more business friendly.

~

#4: “Some agencies call for for bids, select the lowest bidder but use the idea(s) from other bidders! To whom does the copyright belong to?”

With regard to intellectual property (IP), by default, Singapore’s laws apply. The
copyright belongs to the author. It is completely not okay to steal one bidder’s idea and
choose a cheaper bidder to implement it. In government tenders, buyer agencies specify if they want to own the IP so bidders should price higher as they are selling the IP.

However, there are instances when others need to be brought on board. For example,
Sentosa ran a competition for ideas to improve guest experience. But when it came to
the execution of the winning idea(s), the guys did not have the necessary experience.
So a separate tender was called to get people who can provide the leadership / know-
how.

~

#5: “Freelancers are out of work when bids are suddenly not called for certain jobs / roles anymore! Can the relevant ministry provide a heads-up for such situations in future?”

Some freelancers who did stints as trainers for weaker students in schools were
suddenly out of jobs when MOE stopped calling for bids for those positions.

Yes, it might be good to let freelancers know what to gear up for but no ministry wants
to be accused of giving out ‘advance information’. Take the NParks Brompton bikes case for instance.

(The former National Parks Board (NParks) assistant director Bernard Lim Yong Soon
was convicted of giving false information to auditors from the Ministry of National
Development (MND) in 2012 over a S$57,200 deal to buy 26 Brompton bikes. He was
charged with lying to the MND auditors about his friendship with Mr Lawrence Lim Chun
How, a director of Bikehop Singapore, which won the tender to supply the bicycles to
NParks)

Also, with regard to the MOE case, when there’s a change of minister, there might be a
change of direction too. So freelancers will have to quickly adapt and look for other
opportunities.

~

At the end of the day, it was apparent to me that while GeBIZ is a good system, it has
some shortcomings which need to be patched. An example was raised during the
discussion about people who try to game the system:

“There might be 1 person submitting 3 bids by using his own company, his wife’s
company, etc. The tendering process is open. So there still is fair competition. The
agency can, perhaps, shortlist 3 or 5 people and do more checks. If they are related, it is easy to spot. More difficult to spot would be if 5 players, for example, have coffee
together and decide on price collusion such as when 7 different airlines offer the same
rate for cargo.”

So the main message to freelancers would be to report any discrepancies spotted, keep
abreast of changes in one’s industry or field of work, and to be unafraid of asking why a
certain contract was awarded not to you but to someone else.

Freelancers also need not face the world alone; it is useful to join freelancer networks
such as NTUC’s U FSE for community support, resources and have a collective voice for freelancers.

NTUC U FSE

NTUC U FSE’s benefits for freelancers (Source: NTUC)

Bettr Barista Coffee Academy: More Than Just A Good Brew

Bettr Barista Coffee Academy

I’ve read a little about Bettr Barista over the years but only got to visit the Bettr Barista Coffee Academy recently. In a nutshell, it’s a social business which offers barista training to marginalized women and youths so they can be gainfully employed, while using a holistic approach to change their lives. The word “holistic” is so over-used these days, I know, but what the Academy does here goes beyond imparting a skill and helping people get employed.

Bettr Barista

Two Bettr Barista products: Single Serve Drip Coffee and capsules with compostable pods.

From what I understood from Jean’s presentation (she’s the co-founder), they offer a 6-month programme that helps students get stronger mentally, emotionally, and physically, beyond just getting them equipped with the right skills and sending them off for an internship. Also, the program is available only to selected beneficiaries.

Bettr Barista training

Bettr Barista Coffee Academy will be celebrating its 6th anniversary in November, and to date, it has had 16 intakes and a total of 70 students. Their graduates have also, reportedly, earned a combined $1 million worth of salaries.

And how did the Academy help people turn their lives around? Some of them had financial issues, some used to not show up for work due to problems at home, and some women have been housewives for the longest time and then had to re-enter the workforce to earn money to support their families.

Some (perhaps) unconventional things the Academy does are, for instance, to teach their students self-defense, yoga and even rock-climbing. The latter helps women who have not been working for years get a mindset shift that, hey, they can do it; they CAN climb that wall or get over the hurdles in Life. (And it’s also useful as exercise because the F&B industry is physically demanding) When the students learn about self-defense, it ups their levels of confidence and yoga, as most of us know, helps them stay calm and centered (definitely useful when interacting with unreasonable customers, I’m sure).

This B Corp-certified company also offers flexi-work arrangements such as a 3- or 4-day work week so their employees can properly juggle the commitments at home.

Bettr Barista drinks

Among the instructors at Bettr Barista Coffee Academy is Natasha Shariff, who won 4th place at the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship in June 2017. Some of her creations include a coffee + gin/whiskey combination.

Bettr Barista also offers coffee-centered classes and workshops, and have trained 3200 students worldwide, in countries like Taiwan, Myanmar and Australia. They’ve also provided coffee at over 270 events, such as one at Changi Airport which saw them serving up some 10,000 cups within 9 hours! The business has also gone into community spaces at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, INCOME’s premises, etc.

When you visit Plaza Singaura, look out for the DBS x Bettr Barista collaboration. You’ll find coffee waffles, chicken luncheon meat + hae bee hiam waffles and also chocolate + kaya waffles (only in August). Jean says there’s also a condensed milk cold brew (undiluted) which will leave you buzzing. 😀

~

Follow Bettr Barista over on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Bettrbarista/ and catch them at the Festival For Good this Saturday! I’ll be there! 🙂

4 Things I’ve Recently Learnt About Wagyu Beef

Japanese wagyu beef

I attended a seminar recently that introduced participants to the world of Japanese wagyu beef and a few other “exquisite ingredients”. At that seminar, I met Chef Jeremy Nguee (again) and also spotted Chef Willin Low (I think). My respect for them went up a notch as they are already accomplished chefs but have an admirable attitude towards learning and honing their skills. So, props to them! I was just there for the beef! 😀 Before they let us stuff our faces, though, we sat through a presentation about Japanese Wagyu and I learnt a few things I never knew about wagyu beef before:

#1: It’s best to eat out when it comes to wagyu

Wagyu beef has to be kept in the (industrial) refrigerator between 0 to 1 degree Celsius. Yes, the range is that tiny! So forget about keeping wagyu beef in your home fridge and cooking it for tomorrow’s dinner. If wagyu is stored under 0 degrees, a “large amount of drip will come out when cutting it (at room temperature)”. On the other hand, if it’s stored at above 2 degrees, “it simply accelerates deterioration”. My goodness.

*Drip causes deterioration, leading to a bad smell. Wagyu can turn grey or green when this happens, especially with certain cuts (rump, top round, neck).

(Aside) Brewerkz has just launched a 100% wagyu burger and it’s available for a limited period, so go try it!

#2: The cows get massages (yup, you read that right)

Apparently, massages help in preventing subcutaneous fat from accumulating in the wrong places or proportions. Also, when the calf is more than 3 months old, it gets to graze freely on quality hay. At about 9 to 10 months of age, it is sent to auction and then on to fattening farms. When the cow weighs between 650kg to 700kg, it’s shipped off to market.

After the cows are bred in such seeming comfort, they are also slaughtered using a (supposedly) “stress-free” method, with the use of the “carbon dioxide gas anaesthesia machine” (vs. the use of electric shocks).

#3: The cows have ID too

There are identification tags attached to their ears. The same ID is printed on labels / pricetags at supermarkets (in Japan) where they sell wagyu beef.

You can head to the website shown below, key in the ID printed on the packaging of the beef you’ve just bought or are intending to buy, and you can see key information like date of birth, date of slaughter, which farm it came from, etc. You’ll even get to see the parent cow’s ID information!

Beef ID

#4: Kagoshima has amazing produce

Besides beef, Kagoshima is famous for having produced the world’s heaviest radish (all of 31.1kg). We also got to sample the saba fish (with miso) which had been cooked in a factory and then vacuum packed for sale all over the world. It was delicious.

Because of the active volcanoes in Kagoshima, soil is more fertile and vegetables grow faster and taller. And apparently, Kagoshima Kurobuta is famous too:

Kagoshima Kurobuta

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Brewerkz in Clarke Quay has a little seminar room of sorts at the back, where their brewery used to be. I think it’s a good venue for F&B-related seminars, like the masterclasses which e2i often hosts. This particular one was organized by Yamato (which imports the premium wagyu beef into Singapore) and supported by e2i (Employment and Employability Institute). 🙂

brewerkz clarke quay

Yamato Shoji (Singapore) Pte Ltd Tel: 6589 8925, sales@yamato29.jp

Be Sure You Can Handle a Trucker’s Life

Making a break from work

Being a trucker is a lucrative business opportunity, and the job doesn’t sound too difficult. However, before you commit to it, you should really know what you are letting yourself into. This is especially true if you want to take out a loan to finance your new truck.

If you want to learn more about financing a truck, you can visit this page http://gotruckcapital.com/trucks/finance-a-truck/. In the meanwhile, what can you expect from a trucker’s life? Here are some of the most important things you need to know.

Solitude

The first thing you need to be aware of is the immense solitude you will be subject to. The majority of a trucker’s day is spent on the road, i.e. alone. During your breaks or at your destination you can have normal human interaction, but for the most part, you will be alone.

Of course, there are other truckers you can talk to on the radio, but that is hardly a substitute for a real human connection. So, before you embark on this career path, think about how well you deal with monotony and solitude. Do you need human companion every day? Or are you a loner who only occasionally wants to interact with others. The latter group is better suited for a long haul trucking job.

People

The people you will meet will largely be strangers. You will be driving to distant places and towns you don’t know and talk to people you don’t know anything about. You need to face the fact that the majority of people aren’t too keen on truckers and tend to be a little apprehensive to openly hostile when talking to one.

People who care about you, like friends and family are usually hundreds of miles away and that can be particularly stressful for sociable people. However, being on the road does give you the chance to be alone with your thoughts. Your loved ones and friends will be happy to see you when you return. The majority of trucking companies require you to be on the road for a few weeks, followed by a week or so at home.

Medical Issues

Truckers sit a lot, there’s just no escaping it. You need to sit at the wheel and put those miles behind you. However, with sitting come some medical issues. Before you start as a trucker, be aware that these illnesses are quite common among truckers.

  • Neck and back problems due to long stints of sitting and holding your arms outstretched, as well as from the uncomfortable seats
  • Obesity from the lack of movement and exercise.
  • High blood pressure and diabetes as a result of the obesity
  • Depression which comes as a result of not being accustomed to the solitude
  • Exposure to noxious chemicals, be it the cargo or the fumes from your own tailpipe, as well as those around you
  • Fatigue which comes from long hours of driving

Fortunately, the vast majority of the solutions to these medical problems are in your power to stop and prevent. Taking frequent breaks can help with the fatigue, and doing a couple of minutes of physical exercises can offset the back and neck pain, as well as help you stay in shape.

In addition, newer trucks have specially designed ergonomic seats which additionally help with the posture problems.

The Traffic

People who aspire to be truckers tend to be good drivers and like spending their time in traffic. However, you need to be aware of the size and proportions of the truck you will be driving. Furthermore, your cargo needs to be secured and you will have to learn what to do in case of an accident.

Trucking is a difficult job, but if you feel like you are ready to deal with everything it has to throw at you, this can be an opportunity of a lifetime. As Forbes reported, truckers are in high demand at the moment.

To contact Go Capital,                                                                                                 2485 McCabe Way, Irvine, CA 92614, USA                                                                       855-396-3600

Jamie Oliver Knife Set: Redeemable At NTUC FairPrice :)

Jamie Oliver knives

If you don’t already know, you can get your hands on the Jamie Oliver knife collection at NTUC FairPrice, at up to 88% off the recommended retail price! 😀 There’s even a knife block and sharpening steel for you to redeem. And I’ve already got one item from the collection (guess which one it is?) 😀

Jamie Oliver knives NTUC fairprice

The original retail prices of these items are rather steep but now you simply have to collect points when you shop at FairPrice (1 point for every $30 spent) and once you have a minimum of 5 points, you can start redeeming these items at special prices.

And ta-dah! I’ve redeemed the Chinese Chef’s knife. Haven’t used it yet though 🙂

Jamie Oliver Chinese Chef's Knife

I found one line on the back of the box pretty funny: “This versatile knife is also great for chopping veg into matchsticks”. I’ll just have to watch out for my fingers then. 😀

It’s only $19.90 if you have 10 points. So far, I have cooking pots and storage containers from FairPrice. And I think this collection looks awesome. I’ve seen Gordon Ramsay sharpen a knife with a sharpening steel before and apparently there’s a particular angle / technique to it. If I find that video again, I’ll post it here. For now… happy shopping and cooking!~

VLV Riverside @ Clarke Quay: “The Rolls-Royce Of Zi Char”

VLV Riverside

All pictures in this blogpost are courtesy of Hearted Moments Photography.

When the sun sets, the area along the Singapore River comes to life amid a myriad of color (it’s really very pretty). As bumboats ferrying tourists go past, you can tuck into a good meal of premium ‘zi char’ dishes at one of the restaurants along the river. VLV Singapore now offers riverside dining options and my friend, M, was so impressed she said this is the “Rolls-Royce of zi char”! Save for the fighter planes going past every 5 minutes or so (in the rehearsal leading up to the National Day Parade), it was the perfect spot for the couples and the friends like us to enjoy a delicious dinner under the gorgeous canopies.

What’s the difference between VLV’s version of ‘zi char’ and regular ‘zi char’, you might ask? Well, let’s start with the appetizer: Crispy Bull Frog with Ginger. Besides gorgeous plating, this dish is a truly creative one. The thin and long ‘crisps’ are actually ginger slices. It’s ginger like you’ve never tasted it before. It’s uber-crispy so people wearing dentures or braces might have trouble with it. The rest of us simply love it as it’s crispier than potato chips! And while not as meaty as chicken wings, the pieces of bull frog are well-seasoned. This dish is a feast for the eyes even as it satisfies your tastebuds.

Crispy Bull Frog with Ginger

Then there’s the Crackling Pork Belly paired with salted fish. (One of my pals is a BIG fan of salted fish) The pork belly is very thinly sliced and slightly on the salty side, so I think it’s great eaten with white rice. Where’s my rice? 😀

Crackling Pork Belly

The Ginger Scallion XO Noodles also come with a very generous serving of pork lard. Needless to say, it’s a good noodle dish but seniors might want to leave the lard for others instead.

Ginger Scallion XO Noodles

The Stir-fried Sambal Prawn with Petai dish is pretty spicy, so once again, I’m missing the rice. (We didn’t have rice that day as we already had noodles) I don’t eat petai, despite its many health benefits, so I felt like it was a bit of a waste for us to leave all that petai behind. But prawns are definitely one of my favs.

Stir Fried Sambal Prawn with Petai

The star of the meal had to be the Chairman’s Crab, which featured a steamed Sri Lankan crab with bonito egg white. If you look closely, you’ll see the ikura (salmon roe), which adds that salty flavor to the dish and also is a joy to eat as it gives a little ‘pop’ in your mouth before releasing all its goodness. Yum! 😀

Chairman's Crab

We flipped the shell right side up solely for photo-taking purposes 😀

Chairman's Crab VLV Riverside

Besides the goodness of the crab, the sauce has egg white, dashi stock, bonito, etc, and this is done in their signature cooking style. As for the freshness of the crab, my pal commented that “It doesn’t get firmer than this”. Thank you, Chef, for selecting such a fresh (and sweet) crab for us.
I’ve tried VLV’s 45-day-old duck before, when we went for lunch at VLV previously. The thin, crispy skin will be a hit with many. And my verdict remains the same: the duck could do with more fat, like those at London Fat Duck but it’s good for those who are health-conscious, really! 😀 I simply picked out the fattier bits to eat. 😀 This time round, though, it’s Roasted Truffle London Duck for dinner. If you’re a fan of truffle and duck dishes, try this one…

Roasted Truffle London Duck

And one other dish I think everyone will enjoy is the Congee with Flower Clam and Prawn. This seafood porridge has the sweetness from the various ingredients within and it’s cooked to perfection, without the lumps in porridge which I really don’t like. Just give me this porridge dish and some pepper, and I’ll be very happy. 😀

Congee with flower clam and prawn

My pal made this bold comment: “After eating this zi char, how to eat any other zi char?” Indeed, we will remember the crab and porridge fondly, hopefully not in the middle of the night. But judging from the meals we’ve had at VLV, I believe the chef will continue pushing the boundaries so the next time we pop by again, we’ll be in for yet another culinary surprise from him. 🙂

I think any tourist who stumbles upon this restaurant while touring the Clarke Quay area will certainly find it to be a gem, just like we did. There’s music to enjoy while you dine as video clips are projected onto the wall (the side of a neighboring shophouse). To complement the meal, order some beer or wine so you can enjoy this atas zi char to the max. I’ll be sure to order the osmanthus jelly next time too – totally forgot about it – as it would be the perfect finish to any meal at VLV. We had ice cream across the river instead, as there’s this little Japanese dessert shop called Tsujiri that I’ve never visited before. 🙂 I might do a review in a bit.

VLV riverside review

~ Go Try The Zi Char At VLV ~

Reservations: +65 6661 0197

3A River Valley Road #01-02 Singapore 179020 (*within walking distance from Clarke Quay MRT station)

*All pictures courtesy of Hearted Moments Photography.

Rong Heng Seafood Restaurant @ East Coast: Where Robots Serve You Food… Almost

rong heng seafood steamed crab

Before National Day, we had a seafood dinner at East Coast (lovely place that it is) and visited, for the first time, Rong Heng Seafood Restaurant, which is located near big names like ‘Long Beach’, ‘Jumbo’, etc. While the other restaurants were really busy, it was quieter at Rong Heng, which we didn’t mind, since it meant that food wouldn’t take long to be served and we can dine in peace and quiet. There were quite a number of robots stationed at the entrance but only 1 was actively working within, delivering our food from the kitchen’s entryway right up to our table. The restaurant claims to be the first in Singapore to employ robots. And I think it’s a smart move because of the labor crunch and also because of the novelty factor; they even got featured on The Straits Times last year! But whether you employ robots, drones or what-have-you, it doesn’t matter if the food doesn’t taste good, right? So that’s what I focus on…

We ordered a crab steamed with ‘hua diao’ wine (花雕酒) and egg white:

rong heng seafood

The chef was a little heavy-handed with the cooking wine but the taste was not unpleasant. The crab was fresh and tasty too. *If you’re unsure whether a certain eatery or restaurant serves fresh crab, have it cooked using the steaming method. Nothing’s going to help mask an unpleasant odor or taste if the food is steamed. If cooked in a chili or black pepper sauce, much can go unnoticed. 😉

We also ordered the seafood horfun. It was a tasty dish with 3 plump prawns on top:

rong heng seafood horfun

The appetizer was a crispy baby squid dish which my pal liked, but I have never tried before. If blindfolded and asked to identify this dish just by tasting it alone, I’d guess it’s ikan bilis or some kind of roasted peanut. It’s crispy to the point of being plain hard and while I can see the little tentacles and squid bodies, it’s a bit hard to reconcile the sight with the taste, like, how is this not anchovies when it tastes so much like it?!

rong heng seafood crispy baby squid

And the first thing we were served was Chinese tea (and it’s included in the bill, not gratis). It’s like they didn’t bother to find out if we want a fresh coconut or Coke or something else. But I suppose tea is the best accompaniment to a typical Chinese meal. Though beer would have gone well with the crispy squid. #justsaying

As mentioned earlier, there was just one robot on duty (with a blue scarf around her neck) when we were having our dinner. Once the dish is ready, the chef places it in the window and presses a bell. Upon hearing the ‘ding’, the staff (in blue) will transfer the plate onto the tray the robot is carrying, and off she goes…

rong heng seafood robots

When she arrives at our table, there’s a quick greeting and she tells us our food is ready… all in Mandarin. And a waiter will transfer the plate from the robot’s tray onto our table. If we are too preoccupied with snapping photos and/or a video, the robot will actually go off with our food. I suppose it has not been programmed to be able to know when the tray is empty or still laden with food. So that was funny! 😀

rong heng seafood robot restaurant

In terms of the seating arrangement, I’d recommend that you *not* take a seat at one of the smaller tables near the glass panels. Sure, the view is nicer but the tables seem like they were meant for use with steamboat equipment. It’s not hollow underneath so you cannot stretch your legs or even sit close to the table. And I experienced cramps before the end of our meal.

rong heng seafood review

What’s this black paneling doing here? It’s where I should be able to stretch out my legs!

rong heng seafood restaurant review

So if you don’t mind sitting outdoors or have a larger group of friends or family with you so you can take one of the bigger tables (which, thankfully, have leg room), you’ll enjoy your dining experience here even more.

Robots on standby… (they are like additional service staff who can be activated with just a moment’s notice)

rong heng seafood restaurant robot waiters

After we had stepped out of the restaurant and walked some distance away, a lady from the restaurant ran out after us. She wanted to hand us a business card with her name and number on it. Also, she’d written ‘15% discount’ on the card. Apparently, we simply have to look for Susan when we head back again and we’d get 15% discount off our bill. I’m not too sure if we’ll be back, but you are most welcome to use this privilege: look for Susan, get 15% off. 🙂

Rong Heng is located right next to Long Beach.

rong heng seafood east coast

While dining within Rong Heng, I spotted wait staff helping diners over at Long Beach put on their disposable aprons. That level of service is impressive. Besides the quality of the food, I suppose the restaurants have to compete based on attentiveness and service quality. They could certainly learn a thing or two from Haidilao, for instance. If Rong Heng had, maybe, given us each a small bowl of dessert (which we didn’t order), that sweet gesture might have us coming back again, as the meal costs over $100. Instead of having the lady run after us and try to shake our hands (I kept mine firmly in my back pockets. LOL)