Monday, September 15, 2014

Recipe: Indonesian Tomato Sauce (Balado)

This is a tomato-based sauce that's traditionally called Balado Sauce in Indonesia. The difference between this and the western tomato sauce is that this one uses a very fragrant leaf called the kaffir lime leaves (used a lot in Thai cooking) and a touch of ground coriander. This sauce can be poured over eggs, meats, fish, tofu, tempeh, anything really. And it is so delicious eaten with hot rice. You can make it as mild or as spicy as you like. The burst of flavors will really open up your taste buds and I can never get enough when I eat this. I always end up eating a lot more than I should. But, hey, most of it is cooked tomatoes and studies have suggested that our bodies can better absorb the nutrients better with cooked tomatoes, compared to raw, especially the antioxidant properties of it. 


1 big tomato, slice small and thinly (for faster cooking)
2 small shallots, slice small
red chili, optional
4 kaffir lime leaves (available in Asian supermarket or Amazon)
1/4 tsp ground coriander
a pinch of natural sweetener (I use sucanat)
salt to taste


Sautee shallots, chili, and kaffir lime leaves until fragrant. Add tomatoes and cover the pan until the tomatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. Add a bit of water so it's not too dry. Add the coriander, sugar and salt to taste. That's it!

Now you can enjoy it with eggs or any kinds of cooked meat, in my picture below, I poured it on stir-fried anchovies - leftover from making the seaweed and anchovies soup.

Bon app├ętit!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Travel: Singapore's Eco-Friendly Gardens by the Bay

If you are visiting Singapore, you cannot miss the Gardens by the Bay. It is Singapore's latest multicultural wonder that began as an international design competition in 2006 and opened its doors in 2012. It features spectacular supertrees, cool conservatories (plants and waterfall), children's water play area and playground, and the heritage gardens that showcases plants that occupy a special place in the history and culture of Singapore's main ethnics. The Indian gardens features banyan trees, which symbolizes eternal life for the Indians. The Chinese garden has a circular opening in the wall that welcomes people into the Chinese garden, a feature found in a traditional Chinese garden, called a moon gate, which represents a full moon. The Malay garden showcases traditional village residents known as kampong house and some food plants used by the Malays such as lemongrass. The colonial garden is decorated with white flowers that were chosen to match the black and white houses of the early British times. The cloud forest conservatory features plants from mountainous areas of the world.

Some of the trees in this garden have remarkably survived the long passage of time such as the Mediterranean olive trees that are estimated to be about one thousand years old. 

Eco-Friendly Garden

At night, the mighty supertrees groves, about 20-50 meter high (as high as 16 storey buildings) are beautifully lighted. The trees absorb heat and solar panels atop their canopies harness solar energy. This energy is sufficient to light up the trees at night, collect and store rainwater to irrigate the plants that flow on their trunks.

Rainwater is collected within the gardens and passes through filter base of semi aquatic plants which cleans the water before it enters the lake. The water in the lakes that surround bay south is used for irrigating the plants and then returned to the marina reservoir when the water level rises.

Fun for the kids!

Their outdoor playground and water play area is fun for children of all ages. It's clean and spacious. And best of all, it's free!

And while there, try the unique floral ice cream made by Udders specially for the Gardens by the Bay. You can get them in their gift shop.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Travel: 12 Days in Taiwan with Kids-Friendly Places (Taipei, Yi Lan, Hualien, Sun Moon Lake, Cing Jing, Tai Chung, Puli)

Before we had a kid, we would go to Taiwan to shop and eat. Now with one in tow, we found there are so many kids-friendly places that we can explore (and that adults will also enjoy). It was a truly enjoyable trip for all!

Day 1 - Taipei. We spent very little time in Taipei because we've explored Taipei a few years back and this time we just walked around Xi Men Ding to try the local street food. We stayed at Muzik Hotel, which was walking distance to Xi Men Ding. 

We also checked out this cool Red House Theater that has been transformed to locally-made crafts shops. They sell everything from t-shirts to jewelries, accessories, potteries, soaps, etc. It's just across the street from Xi Men Ding. Must see!

And had dinner at the famous Yong Kang beef noodle on Yong Kang Street. It was yummy!

Day 2 - Jiao Xi. We took the train to Jiao Xi (Jiao Xi Station), the hot spring town. We stayed at Resort One Hotel, which included a free entry to the hot spring pools, complete with kids' and adult's slides. My two year old totally loved being in the warm pools and didn't want to get out!

At breakfast, we got to try this dish (looks like a form of aloe vera) that you eat with a drizzle of honey. Interesting and feels healthy.

Day 3-5 - Hua Lien. We took the train down to Hua Lien. The main attraction here is Taroko National Park, but there are many parts of Hualien that we can explore. We only had 2 full days so we had to choose what we wanted to do and decided to explore Rui Shui area the second day. We hired a private car and driver to drive us around. You can usually book one from your hotel. We stayed at Fantasy Apartment, which was walking distance from Hua Lien Station.

Taroko National Park

Ruishui Pasture: Feed the cows, taste fresh milk, ice cream, and custard!

Tropic of Cancer Marker: "the position in the Northern Hemisphere farthest from the Equator where the sun rays can shine directly down on the Earth."

And lastly, our driver brought us to this mountain area (sorry, I really don't remember the name)

Li Yu Lake: Relaxing Boat Ride

Day 6: Sun Moon Lake. We hired a driver to drive us from Hua Lien to Sun Moon Lake as there is no train available going East-West. It was a long winding road through the mountains but beautiful view all the way. We purchased tickets from our hotel receptionists that allowed us to hop on and off the ferry to the different parts of Sun Moon Lake and also included tickets to the theme park and cable car rides.

Day 7-8: Cing Jing, Nantou. We went here mainly to visit Green Green Grassland. We stayed at Dragon Manor Hotel and took the taxi around town. 

Small Swiss Garden

Day 9-10: Tai Chung. We visited the Rainbow Village, Lavender Farm, Mushroom Farm, and Carton King. We also engaged a private driver to make the most of our stay there. All these places are very worth visiting.

Lavender Farm. Such a pretty farm! You can buy all kinds of lavender products here (soaps, lotions, candies, dried lavenders, ice cream, etc.).

Mushroom Garden. It's a small enclosed farm full of growing mushrooms. You can buy fresh or dried mushrooms there. They also sell cooked mushroom dishes. Try their mushroom ice cream if you are feeling adventurous. ;)

Carton King Creativity Park. Super fun place to go for someone who likes to create things. Everything here is made from cartons. 

Day 11: Puli. We explored Puli area and loved all the places we visited.

King Garden: They sell all kinds of Taiwanese snacks and souvenirs.

Puli Paper Factory. So so cute! They have workshops where you can make your own paper crafts.

Guangxing Paper Mill Factory. One of my most favorite places that I visited. It's a factory where we could learn how to make paper mache from scratch and we made one too! Of course my daughter had a blast!

We had so much fun in Taiwan. It was relaxing and educational for my daughter as well!

Have you been to Taiwan? What are your favorite places to go with children?