What makes the best Massaman curry?

What makes the best Massaman curry?

The men from the boat have laid out a generous spread of salad, rice, chicken curry and cans of Coke on a makeshift table on the near-empty beach. The rich orange chicken curry with a film of oil floating on top calls out to me but I’m hesitant about the stormy sea that lies ahead of us, the turbulence we will have to endure to get back to land, safe or sorry. The long-tail boat, which we had taken out for a snorkelling tour around the reefs that dot Ko Lanta, the southern Thai island’s surroundings, bobs about on the waters near the shore.
I’ve fortified myself with phenothiazines but there’s no pill to escape the taste of the gut-wrenchingly salty water I had swallowed while following electric blue fish underwater. Despite the darkening sky, the whipping wind and our uncertain return to land, I decide to give food, like always, a chance.
The chicken curry tastes sweet, with a hint of hot chilli, refreshing and life-affirming. Savouring the mild yet tangy gravy, I recognize that this is not the usual chicken curry and ask Lai, our boat boy, what it is. Lai says it’s the Thai Massaman curry, a staple in the southern parts of the island. My interest piqued, I ask if the pumpkins and potatoes are a regular feature of the curry. Lai nods with a smile, saying, “This is how we make it here.”
I prod some more about the ingredients, and, after listing a few local spices such as star anise and palm sugar, he trails off, saying he’s not sure as he has never made it himself.
I let Lai enjoy his plate of chicken as I polish the gravy off my plate.
As soon as I step back on Ko Lanta, relief flooding my mind, my thoughts return to the Massaman curry and I decide to give it another go at dinner.
The dinner at a beach shack doesn’t disappoint and my friend and I are determined to learn more about the curry, now glistening golden, so rich and yet so flavourful and light. Predictably, we sign up for a Thai cooking class for our last evening.
***
Aon, a petite young local who runs the Lanta Thai Cookery School, tells us that the Massaman curry was introduced to the region by Persian merchants around the 17th century. The term Massaman, also known as Matsaman, originates from the word “Mussalman” and is popular along southern Thailand, where the Muslim population is more concentrated. Thai food expert David Thompson and Thai journalist and scholar Santi Sawetwimon say the curry’s origin can be traced to the 17th century in cosmopolitan Ayutthaya, Siam’s capital city, through the Persian merchant Sheik Ahmad Qomi. The Thai noble family of Bunnag are descendants of Qomi and the curry initially gained its popularity from use in the family’s kitchen. Other theories contend that Massaman is a southern Thai dish, influenced by Malay and Indian cuisine, or that its name is derived from the Malay word masam , which means “sour”.
In the book Chillies: A Global History , Heather Arndt Anderson says the Massaman curry even had a song written in its praise. “The curry was so beloved by Thai royalty that its praises were sung in a romantic eighteenth-century boat song from Prince Itsarasunthon of Siam (later King Rama II) to Princess Bunrot (who he later married): ‘Massaman, a curry made by my beloved, is fragrant of cumin and strong spices/Any man who has swallowed the curry is bound to long for her.’”
The curry can be made with beef, fish, duck, lamb, tofu or vegetables. Pork is less common. The warmth of the coconut milk and all the aromatics make this a hearty winter dish that is eaten in the hilly areas of Thailand during the colder months.
Pouring a generous amount of coconut milk into a hot wok, Aon asks me to stir it continuously until the milk almost boils and starts oozing oil, and to continue stirring until all the milk has turned clear. Coconut oil isn’t used, Aon says, because milk is cheaper in these parts.
The Massaman curry paste is made from grinding together Serrano chillies, shallots, garlic, galangal, coriander root, lemongrass, shrimp paste, roasted coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mace powder, cardamom pods, cinnamon, kaffir lime zest, cloves and salt.
Aon says the paste should be added as per taste and I throw in a couple of spoonfuls because I prefer spicy. I fry the curry paste until it fills the palm-surrounded terrace with the fragrance of spices. I wait till the oil oozes out again before adding the chicken, following this up with another helping of coconut milk. Once the mixture starts bubbling, I add the wave-shaped potato chunks, chopped onions, diced pumpkins, a handful of roasted peanuts and a bay leaf. Next, I add some water, a bit of palm sugar, fish sauce, tamarind juice and salt and wait 10 minutes for everything in the wok to be cooked till tender.
When I remove the lid, a slick, bright red layer of oil crowns the curry. I sit down at the table with Aon, who says the curry should soothe my soul and fire my imagination. Although Aon’s version of the curry doesn’t taste identical to the one I had sampled at the beach, it does just that.
MASSAMAN CURRY PASTE
Ingredients
10 dry red Serrano chillies, soaked in cold water and finely chopped
6 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1-inch piece of galangal or ginger, chopped
1 tbsp of coriander root, chopped
2 tbsp of lemongrass, chopped
1 tsp of shrimp paste (store bought)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, roasted
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, roasted
1/2 tsp mace powder, roasted
1 tsp kaffir lime zest
3 cloves
2 cardamom pods, roasted
1/2 inch cinnamon, roasted.
Method
1. In a wok, roast on low heat coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mace, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves until they are richly fragrant. Remove and pound to powder.
2. To this powder add dry red Serrano chillies, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, coriander, galangal, kaffir zest, salt, and smoothen everything together to form a paste.
3. Add the shrimp paste and mix.
4. Heat vegetable oil in a wok and fry the mixture on low heat.
5. Finally, once the paste is cooked and you can smell the spice, remove from heat and let it cool. Once cold, transfer into an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator. The paste can be used for a month.

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Ugali: Traditional Kenyan Cornmeal

Ugali: Traditional Kenyan Cornmeal
As a young child one of my dreams was to go to East Africa. Of course like every little girl I wanted to see a wild zebra, but as I got older what I really wanted was to quietly live like a local and not be limited to stereotypical safaris and tourist traps. In 2009 this dream became a reality when I had the opportunity to work in rural Kenya, far removed from the tourist agenda.
I quickly discovered that Kenya is even more beautiful and varied than I had imagined it would be. I also learned that Kenyans are passionate, warm, exceptionally friendly and they take great pride in their families and communities. I felt so welcome in every home and school I had the pleasure of visiting. To this day I feel deeply honored to have been invited to dine with many locals who treated me as a friend and not just a confused mzungu ! To be with Kenyans is to be in good company.
Kenya is a country with enormous diversity, from the landscapes and wildlife to the languages and people. There are 42 official indigenous ethnic groups, 44 if you count the large non-indigenous native population of Arabs (established by the 15th century along the coast) and Asians (Indians who settled in the 19th century). Agriculture varies too, since Kenya is home to deserts, mountains, forests, swamps, savannah and the Maasai Mara (‘the Mara”), one of the most popular safari game parks in Africa. Because Kenya has such a wide variety of cultures, religious traditions and food economies there is no single cuisine that defines the country. Perhaps with one major exception: ugali. Ugali
Despite the variety of regional cuisines, Kenya’s staple foods are cereals (maize, millet, sorghum), meats (beef, goat, chicken) and vegetables. There are only a few specific dishes that can be found across nearly all ethnic lines, such as ugali, sukuma wiki and nyama choma.
Ugali is considered a universal Kenyan dish and it varies only slightly depending on where you are. It is like polenta or Romanian mamaliga , but is made with fine white maize meal flour and cooked to a thick consistency similar to play-dough. Ugali is typically unsalted or un-flavored in any way since it meant to accompany other foods. Maize was introduced to Kenya by the Portuguese traders and colonists beginning in the 16th century and cornmeal eventually became the grain of choice.
In the East, ugali is usually made with white cornmeal, but in the West it is made with millet as well. On the coast you might eat your ugali with some fish or curry, but inland you might use your ugali to scoop up some beef stew like karanga . Regardless of how it is served, you should eat ugali with your right hand. The Recipe
This recipe was given to me by my friends Patrick and Josephine, whose home I stayed in for much of my time in Kenya. They currently run a nonprofit called Mission with a Vision and are devoted to helping young people gain an education and vocational training. There are so many ways they are helping Kenyan communities and I hope you will take a few minutes to read about their various projects and perhaps even consider making a donation!
Without fail, every dinner I was served in Kenya, whether in a home, at a school or elsewhere included ugali. I was first introduced to this dish at Patrick’s, and it was served as a white mound in a large shared bowl in the center of the table. It looked so much like the pile of mashed potatoes my mom would make that I dug right in and ate it plain, mentally prepared for a flavorful and salty side dish. This is NOT how you should introduce yourself to ugali! It really is delicious, but it is not meant to be eaten on its own. Pair it with meat, stew, vegetables or curry. Ingredients
Approx. 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups white maize meal flour/cornmeal
An Important Note about Maize Flour and Cornmeal:
Maize meal and cornmeal are the same thing, but they go by different names depending on where you live. The difference between meals and flours can be confusing. Maize/corn flour is generally going to be finer than meal, and “maize meal flour” is what is often used in Kenya. Corn meals can come in different grinds (fine, medium or coarse), but I’ve found that a plain white cornmeal is actually quite fine like a flour and considerably less coarse than typical yellow cornmeal. Many recipes for ugali simply call for “white cornmeal,” but just know you should go for the fine grind or the actual flour if you have the option. The Stone ground wh ite cornmeal I used is a good and accessible substitute for white maize meal flour and resulted in the nice dense, smooth consistency that I was going for.
As for the color, yellow and white cornmeal are generally interchangeable in a pinch, just know that the yellow cornmeal is too coarse and will not give you the authentic traditional ugali look, texture and flavor. If you cannot find white cornmeal and must use yellow, look for the Masa corn flour used in Latin American cooking. Directions Put the water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Slowly add the white maize/corn meal, stirring as you go. The more meal you add, the less sticky it will be. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue stirring and smashing the lumps with a cooking stick called a mwiko . I don’t have a mwiko so I just used a regular ol’ wooden spoon. It will begin separating from the sides of the pot and will form a doughy lump. Continue squeezing out the lumps and rolling the ball from side to side, pressing as you go. This process might take 10-15 minutes because you want your ugali to be fully cooked, firm and smooth. When you are happy with your ugali, remove from the pot and serve. You can serve as is (a big doughy lump) or shape it into a sort of mound or loaf. There are variations on the final look, but I’ve found that many Kenyans like to smooth out the edges with a spoon or shape it with wet hands. Some will just place in a bowl for everyone to share, and others might quarter it like I did, making it easy for everyone to take a portion.
Serve with greens (such as sukuma wiki ), roasted beef or lamb, fish, or stew.
Ideally, your ugali will be thick enough to use it to pick up your meat. Pinch off a portion, roll it in your hand, make a well with your thumb and scoop up your curry, greens or stew. If you aren’t used to eating with your hands you could use a fork, but just don’t let a Kenyan see you do that!
I most recently ate mine with a delicious Indian-style chickpea curry. Eat it with whatever accompanying dish you want, but if you experiment with some other authentic Kenyan recipes you’ll be glad you did!

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Enjoying The Finest Asian Food Denver CO

Enjoying The Finest Asian Food Denver CO By Susan Anderson Life is too short not to enjoy Asian food. Enjoying this delicacy should be in the bucket list of every American in Denver, Colorado. Asian culture is just as diverse as the continent of Asia. This is the continent of many variables. Asia has the most amazing sights and sounds in the world. A lot has been written and said concerning the beautiful continent of Asia. Words are not enough to express the beauty and glamour of Asia. There is a high demand for the best Asian food Denver CO . This is simply the best food that money can buy. Visiting Asia is not a luxury. It is a basic need. Visiting Asia should be in the bucket list of everyone who loves the fine things of the present day world. As a matter of fact, life has not been lived to the full unless one has had the opportunity to visit Asia. While in Asia, one will enjoy the most sumptuous meals. One does not have to visit Asia so that to be able to enjoy an Asian dish. The whole affair can be done in the United States of America as well as in any other country. While in Denver, Colorado, one will be able to enjoy oriental as well as Indian dishes. Actually, Denver is a very cosmopolitan city. A good restaurant will take the eating experience to a completely new level. For the best experience ever, one should not choose a restaurant that deals with all types of meals. He needs to find a restaurant that deals with a specific kind of cuisine. A Chinese restaurant in Colorado strictly deals with Chinese dishes. It has Chinese chefs. A top restaurant is in a strategic location. It is in a nice place of the city. Such a place is safe and secure and has ample parking space. One should opt for restaurants that are in up market locations. While in a first class restaurant, a person will enjoy amazing views of the outside environment while taking his meals. There are many types of food that a person will be able to enjoy in an Asian restaurant. In the continent of Asia, rice is a staple food. Most countries in Asia usually produce a lot of rice. As a matter of fact, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India are some the largest exporters of rice in planet earth. Asian rice has adventure in its soul. This is the finest rice that can be enjoyed in the city of Denver. Rice is a meal like no other. It is known for its rich taste. Rice is the most versatile dish in the world. It can be mixed with different kinds of foods including beef, fish, pork, and chicken. The oldest continent on earth is Asia. As a matter of fact, civilization started in Asia. That is the plain truth. It is the ultimate reality that many historians readily accept. People of Asia have contributed in almost every major field including sciences, technology, engineering, math, and also cuisine. Oriental foods are ranked the best in the world. They are in a class of their own. About the Author: When you are looking Asian food Denver CO residents can visit our //www.thaimonkeyclubdenver.com/stir-fried now. Posted by

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New gem brings remarkable flavors to Bellmore! | Herald Community Newspapers | www.liherald.com

New gem brings remarkable flavors to Bellmore! Posted Friday, March 15, 2019 1:09 pm By Terry Biener
2920-2922 Merrick Road, Bellmore
(516) 809-9927
While Mango Indian Cuisine only opened several weeks ago, management behind it is quite well seasoned. Sewa Singh, who also owns House of India in Huntington Village, boasts 20 years in the restaurant industry. Joining him at Mango are his son, Virpartap Singh, and his daughter, Simran Kaur. Still a work in progress — as they await table candles and embellishments for the walls — the intimate space is sleek yet cozy, offering rave-worthy Northern Indian food and top-notch service.
Their expansive menu had options for everyone, from meat aficionados and seafood lovers to vegetarians. Lunch Special — soup, Nan, chutney, rice and a main dish — is $11. From the dinner menu, soups, chutneys, salads, breads, and hot appetizers range from $3 to 13. Entrees (chicken, lamb, seafood, vegetable, Tandoori, and Biryani rice specialties), are $15 to $27. Desserts are $6 and $7. Children can be accommodated.
How mild or spicy your food will be is your choice … just ask. If there is something you’d like that’s not on the menu, if they have the ingredients, they are happy to prepare it. Management is friendly and very accommodating. Portions are quite generous.
We started with Mango Lassi, a refreshing, creamy yogurt beverage. Mango Special Variety Tray wowed us with a sampling of hot appetizers — crisp vegetable and meat Samosa, Bhujia (vegetable fritters), potato, cheese and chicken Pakora (batter fried), and a basket of Papadam (spicy Indian crackers) with three chutneys on the side.
Entrees include Basmati rice. Chicken Tikka Masala, boneless white meat, arrived in delicious sauce made with cream, tomato, green pepper, onion and spices. Lamb Mango, so tender, no knife needed, was dressed in a sweet brown mango/saffron sauce. Saag Paneer, a hearty blend of spinach, homemade cheese and curry, was amazing on nan bread or mixed with rice. Garlic Nan, one of 15 freshly baked breads, was served straight from the oven.
All Tandoori items (chicken, fish, lamb, cheese) are cooked on skewers in a charcoal clay oven, served with rice and curry sauce on the side. Mixed Tandoori platter offered a variety — several types of chicken, lamb Boti, and Seikh kebab — minced lamb blended with Indian spices.
Desserts are all made on premises. We shared and enjoyed Rasmalai, a traditional favorite – soft, sweet Indian cheese in cream sauce, served chilled. Gulab Jamun, Kulfi, and homemade ice cream are also on the menu.
Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. They are closed on Monday. Reservations are suggested. Delivery, catering and take-out are available.
Recommendations:

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Why our heart belongs to Telok Ayer Street (it ain’t just the food!)

Park Bench Deli There’s little reason why the Cubano is a unanimous favourite! Photography: Park Bench Deli
If indulgent, messy and substantial sandwiches are more your speed, Park Bench Deli hits the spot. A departure from your ordinary sandwich, PBD knows just how to satisfy any sandwich snob by piling beautifully toasted bread with double fried egg, crispy bacon and tater tots (fried egg power from the breakfast menu) or tender pulled pork, ham and delish coffee dijonnaise (the popular Cubano). So good, we almost shed a tear every time we bite into one. Park Bench Deli, 179 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068627 Plain Vanilla Bakery Just like a page out of Kinfolk…Photography: Aditi Gaitonde, Nicole Nithiyah
Try the cupcakes from Plain V and you’ll know why we have such high standards. You could probably hear our internal screams when the bakery opened an outlet at Telok Ayer . Too pretty-to-eat tarts and glazed galettes aside, there’s also a deli section with wholesome options and great set lunch deals. And you know how we feel about single-use plastic and why we love this: bring your own lunchbox to get five percent off all deli, breakfast and lunch items! Plain Vanilla Bakery , 134 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068600 Pot Yummy Yummy
Craving hotpot but too lazy to arrange one with the buddies? Follow our lead indulge in hotpot for one at Pot Yummy Yummy. You get a mini hotpot to yourself with a choice of over seven soup bases. Ingredients are placed on a conveyor belt so all you gotta do is plonk your favourites in the pot. There’s a sweet set lunch deal (meat of your choice with up to six ingredients from the belt) that we keep going back for over and over again. Pot Yummy Yummy , 80 Telok Ayer Street, #01-01, Singapore 048466 51 Soho 51 Soho serves up one colourful lunch. Photography: Selina Altomonte
This new hang at the head of Telok Ayer is quite a pretty sight with swanky interiors, cut-out motifs and customised chairs with designs that almost look like batik prints . Beyond the facade, the resto offers everything from breakfast feasts and healthy lunch bowls to themed cocktails with an Asian twist. 51 Soho , 51 Telok Ayer Street #01-01, Singapore 048441 Chuan Hung Noodles Slurp down Sichuan noodles at Chuan Hung Noodles. Photography: Nicole Nithiyah
This unassuming noodle place is a burst of Sichuan flavours. Hidden at a quaint spot in China Square, it offers Sichuan rice noodles and noodles with the choice of clear, red (spicy) or mixed (less spicy) soup options. If you can’t handle the heat, the less spicy option has just the right amount of kick. Go for the signature braised beef with a side of ox tongue. Chuan Hung Noodles, 51 Telok Ayer Street #01-01 Singapore 048441 MeatSmith
We’re kinda obsessed with MeatSmith’s brisket and fried chicken sandwiches, not to mention all the other juicy meats prepared on-site using smokers specially flown in from the States. Expect all the good stuff with just enough charred and fatty bits, comfort food including the best mac and cheese in town, and if you’re game for a serious feast, suckling pig. MeatSmith , 167 & 169 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068620 Fu Lin Bar & Kitchen
Who’d ever guess that you could fuse hipsters and Yong Tau Fu together? At this trendy Yong Tau Fu spot, they serve delicious crispy Yong Tofu, served with minced chicken and mushroom broth and springy noodles. And guess what? When the sun goes down, this place turns into a stylish tapas bar! Fu Lin Bar & Kitchen , 127 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068596 Moosehead Kitchen Bar Moosehead Kitchen and Bar. Photography: Moosehead Kitchen and Bar Nestled in a shop that’s endured since pre-war times, Moosehead Kitchen Bar features an array of palate-teasing Mediterranean food in a fun and laid-back ambience. The bar also offers a smorgasbord of fine beverages from new-world wines to boutique labels. Moosehead Kitchen Bar , 10 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068579 The Tipsy Owl Bakery & Bar
Remember The Muffinry? The place has evolved, rebranded as Bakery & Bar, and is now known as The Tipsy Owl by Bakery & Bar. Don’t worry, loyal fans, you can still get your fave muffins, quiches and sandwiches made from bread baked in-house (or a baguette if you catch them on time!), but the scene changes after hours to a bar and restaurant vibe, with $5 bar bites on Fridays. Grab a charcuterie platter, or pizza and prosecco: this is one chill little spot worth checking out. The Tipsy Owl , 112 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068581 The Market Grill Chargrilled whole lobsters from Market Grill. Photography: Market Grill
This snazzy, industrial-chic restaurant has us salivating with its sizzling meats and naturally flavourful seafood. The buttery chargrilled lobster is a top choice, as is its sinful burgers – for a unique take, try the Bleu Cheese ($25 for 150g, $33 for 200g). The complex beef patty burger comes with bleu cheese, sweet burnt onion marmalade, and bacon sandwiched in a walnut raisin bun. The Market Grill , 208 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068642 Napoleon This and a glass of wine? Hell yes. Photography: Napoleon Food & Wine Bar.
The impressive range of wine available at this underrated bar and French bistro should very well please vino lovers. Sampling the South European labels by the glass is easy on the wallet too, with $8, $12, $18 and premium options to taste. Napoleon , 206 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068641 SunMoon
One of the most affordable healthy options in the CBD, Sun Moon is a fruit shop that whips up nutritious, juices (think a combination of apple, beetroot and carrot for $3.50) and fresh salads for a mere $5 (that’s no typo!). We frequently pop in for a juice as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up – this is a real winner in our books. SunMoon , 167 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068618 Manna Korean Restaurant
Manna serves up a fragrant and hearty ginseng chicken soup, as well as Korean cuisine staples like spicy tteokbokki (sliced rice cakes and vegetables in hot sauce), seafood pancakes and bibimbap . Manna, 101-109 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068574 Yakiniku-Oh
Sizzle things up with a good ol’ Japanese BBQ boasting a wide selection of beef cuts, flown in from Japan. If you’re looking for a wallet-friendly lunch, then be sure to check out their lunch specials that start from $8. A new lunch spot contender, perhaps? Yakiniku-Oh , 122 Telok Ayer, Singapore 068591 Sarnies Now THAT’S a sandwich. Photography: courtesy of Sarnies
If you are yearning for an Australian hipster café, this is your place. Sarnies was one of the first decent coffee shops to open in the CBD, with seating that spills out onto the pavement, so it’s a hotspot for meetings over coffee (and after-work drinks). It’s been one of our go-tos for coffee and lunch fare – yep, we still pop in even though the staff haven’t cracked a smile for four years… Sarnies , 36 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068601 Magal BBQ
It’s safe to say that Korean BBQ lovers have plenty of options to choose from along Telok Ayer. A popular hangout spot for big groups, this Korean BBQ restaurant serves everything from flavourful beef cuts to dolsot bibimbap (bibimbap served in a hot stone bowl). Magal BBQ , 123 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068592 Bumbu
Bumbu is an ideal spot for spice-loving folks looking to dig into scrumptious Thai-Indonesian cuisine. Some key dishes include tom yum seafood soup and pandan leaf chicken – perfect for sharing. Bumbu , 125 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068594 My Awesome Cafe Photography: My Awesome Cafe via Facebook
With its Chinese medicinal store façade, and charming interior made up of random bits and bobs, My Awesome Café is absolutely endearing. The great range of salads makes for a satiating, healthy lunch – we can’t go past the My Awesome Salad, a generous portion of mesclun with smoked salmon, herbed chicken breast, duck rillettes, avocado and tomatoes. My Awesome Café , 202 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068639 Shake Farm Breakfast, lunch or a pre-workout shake? Shake Farm is your guy! Photography: Shake Farm via Facebook
If your body’s screaming for a detox from the indulgent and not-so-diet-friendly grub around the area, you’re in luck. Shake Farm will save your diet with shakes, breakfast bowls, protein bowls, acai bowls and super toasts. we’ve been craving the avocado and feta cheese toast ever since we tried it!. For guilt-free after-work drinks in the evening, the space transforms into a healthy bar with organic cocktails, biodynamic wine, gluten-free organic beers and healthy tapas. Oh, and if you’re looking for a quiet meeting spot or a quick workout, levels two and three have a cosy workspace and offer yoga, pilates and boxercise classes. Shake Farm , 126 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068595 Nusantara Cuisine
If you’re in need for an affordable Indonesian feast that doesn’t skimp on flavour, then hop down to Nusantara Cuisine. This laid-back nasi padang eatery has a pretty straightforward menu of Indonesian classics like nasi goreng cabe hijau (green chilli fried rice) and beef noodles. Order the Teh Tarik for a midday caffeine boost. You’re welcome. Nusantara Cuisine , 171 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068621 Gold Ocean Curry Fish Head
The go-to place for those with a hankering for authentic fish head curry, this seafood restaurant has stood the test of time and continues to draw in the crowds with its winning recipe and quality ingredients. Heads up: the queues here can get pretty insane, so go for an early (or late late) lunch! Gold Ocean Curry Fish Head , 181 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068629 Chong Wen Ge Cafe Photography: Chong Wen Ge Cafe
Nestled within Thian Hock Keng (Singapore’s oldest Chinese temple), Chong Wen Ge is a vibrant Peranakan cafe that serves heritage dishes with a modern approach, and an awesome spread of kueh. We’ll admit it: we’re suckers for beautiful decor and this place delivers with its gorgeous tiled tables and heritage setting. Get the full review of Chong Wen Ge Cafe on our sister site HoneyKids. Chong Wen Ge Cafe , 168 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068619 Pantler
Offering freshly baked croissants, Pantler does a rendition of the traditional French pastry that consistently wins us over. Beautifully crusted with buttery texture and a soft, fluffy consistency, Pantler’s chou a la crème – priced from $4.90 – are definitely worth a try! Pantler , 198 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068637 Royz et Vous
Once located in Bali Lane, Royz Et Vous is now thriving in our very own Honeycombers ’hood of Telok Ayer. Mains here are nothing short of spectacular, with classic dishes like herb-crusted salmon, steak and smoked duck with roasted potatoes. But one thing that puts this restaurant ahead of the game is its Halal wines (yup, you read that right) – these have been de-alcoholised through vacuum distillation. Royz Et Vous , 137 Telok Ayer Street #01-01, Singapore 068602
SHOP Perk by Kate The boutique’s a great intimate space to try on some lingerie. Don’t be shy! Photography: Nicole Nithiyah
Take a respite from the food (and heat) and enter Perk by Kate’s intimate boutique just above Plain Vanilla Bakery . Expect to find a great selection of lingerie brands including Perk by Kate, Eberjey, Timpa, Addiction Lingerie and Commando. There are also sizes for fuller-bust women, bralettes, lace slips and even a maternity range. The brand also practices sustainability by offering complimentary strap changes, band tightening and band replacement for delicates purchased at Perk by Kate. Oh, and we gotta talk about that lovely boutique! It’s filled with blush and deep blue hues and rose gold accents that scream French chic. You’ll never want to leave. Perk by Kate , 134A Telok Ayer Street Singapore 068600 Odds ‘N’ Collectables
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Odds N Collectables is a prime example. Opening hours are up to the owner, Telok Ayer icon Mr Juzer, but you’ll often catch him after lunchtime on weekdays. His collection of vintage collectables , trinkets and nostalgic local treasures include cool oddities and legit collectors’ pieces: have a chat with Juzer and you’ll learn just how serious a collector he is! We’ve snapped up everything from vintage coffee cups to antique kueh molds, cool posters and original rattan chairs here. Odds ‘N’ Collectables, 128 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068597 Q Menswear Dress to impress with Q Menswear. Photography: Q Menswear
Want to dress to impress? Then Q Menswear is the way the go. The menswear label, which was founded just four years ago, offers ready-to-wear casual apparel, accessories, and grooming tools. But if you’re looking for something more unique, they do bespoke too. Q Menswear , 116A Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068585 CustomMade Bespoke shoes by Custom Made Photography: courtesy of Custom Made
Founded by local shoe aficionado, Donovan, and having recently relocated to Telok Ayer, Custom Made is the go-to place for bespoke shoes for men. No ‘middle-men’ involved in the selling process means that Custom Made is able to offer quality dress shoes for the fraction of the cost. Also, with a huge variety of colours and customisation to select from, on top of using premium genuine leather, you can definitely expect the finest quality of shoes here. Still unsure if this is your best bet? Its comprehensive step-by-step customisation guide can help you understand the process. By the way, do check out the instructions on how to find the CustomMade showroom as it can be tricky to locate – look for stairway S94 on Telok Ayer St, next to Ying Fo Fui Kun, a Chinese National Monument. CustomMade , 82 Telok Ayer Street, #02-04, Singapore 048467
VISIT Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre Nagore Indian Muslim Heritage Centre in Telok Ayer. Photography: Jnzl via Flickr
Did you think Telok Ayer was gonna be all about food? Think again! This culturally-rich enclave also has a plethora of historic landmarks that would excite any culture vulture. Take a peek inside Nagore Dargah – arguably one of the more prominent landmarks in the area – and you’ll find a gallery that showcases Singapore’s Indian Muslim culture and heritage. Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre , 140 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068604 Ying Fo Fui Kun
Another historic landmark to check off the list is Ying Fo Fui Kun. It’s the home to Singapore’s Hakka clan association – a smaller Chinese dialect group. And while centuries have passed since its construction, its heyday is far from over, with meetings and events still held there to this day. Ying Fo Fui Kun , 98 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 048474 Thian Hock Keng temple Telok Ayer has a lot of history: you can’t miss Tan Hock Kieng temple. Photography: Selina Altomonte
A visit to Telok Ayer is never complete without checking out this marvel of ancient Southern Chinese architecture! Singapore’s oldest Hokkien temple has been a familiar sight in this area since 1839, and is now a must-visit for tourists looking to explore Singapore’s rich and diverse history. Thian Hock Keng , 158 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068613 Thian Hock Keng temple. Photography: Nicole Nithiyah Beng Kong Ee Seah
Ever been curious about acupuncture? Steel your nerves and book an appointment at acupuncture centre, Bee Kong Ee Seah. There, the resident acupuncturist will insert needles in specific chi paths, practising a healing art that is widely believed to have many health benefits. Bee Kong Ee Seah, 210 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068643 Al-Abrar Mosque
Sandwiched between shophouses, this low-key mosque is one of first few mosques ever to be built in Singapore. A place of worship among Tamil Muslims back in the 1850s, this mosque was later refurbished to accommodate 900 people, a whopping five times its original capacity. Al-Abrar Mosque , 192 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068635 Singapore Musical Box Museum Singapore Musical Box Museum. Photography: Honeycombers
Venture within the ancient confines of Thian Hock Keng temple, and you might spot this museum that houses an extensive collection of musical boxes that date back centuries. Fun fact: these artefacts were left behind from European settlers back in the day. Singapore Musical Box Museum , 168 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068619 Telok Ayer Green It’s quite a nice spot to hang out when the sun dials down. Photography: Nicole Nithiyah
On cooler days, have your lunch at Telok Ayer Green and watch the world go by. Located behind the Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre and Thian Hock Keng temple, this spot gives you a quick history lesson on Telok Ayer’s origins and the Malay fishing community (who were also the first residents of the hood). The sculptures around the area paint quite a picture and depict the simple life from the past. Telok Ayer Green, Telok Ayer St (behind Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre and Thian Hock Keng temple)
WORK OUT Level Gym The breezy space’s Midday Madness sees gymgoers working on primarily free weights and bodyweight exercises. Photography: courtesy of Level Gym
Aside from being a beautiful place to work out and its convenient location, Level keeps fitness interesting with a huge variety of original, high-end equipment that creates a different, dynamic and fresh routine every time you visit – there’s not a running machine in sight! Whether you’re looking for boxing, weight-lifting, toning, or cardio, you’ll find a bit of everything at Level. Level Gym , #01-03, 137 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068602 The Yoga Mandala Lunchtime stretching is always a good idea. Yoga Mandala Photography: courtesy of Yoga Mandala
Relax, recharge and rejuvenate at Telok Ayer’s only yoga studio. All it takes is a short climb up the stairs to find this hidden sanctuary of stress-free vibes in the midst of this buzzing street. Classes are available for drop-ins, beginners, and advanced yogis. Remember to bring a mat! The Yoga Mandala , 134 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068600
SPAS AND SALONS Beaute Hub
While not exactly a men’s only spa, Beaute Hub is an award-winning spa and skincare specialist that caters to both sexes. Here, they provide an array of services such as body contouring and slimming, skincare and spa. For the lads, highlights of its face, body slimming and spa services include Beaute Hub microdermabrasion, Beaute Hub Meso Body Slim Therapy and Beaute Hub Body Scrubs and Wraps with Tourmaline Hot Stone Sauna. The friendly staff at the outlets will walk you through the treatments to find one that best matches your needs. Beaute Hub , 124 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 06859 3 Ancient Therapy
Okay, we admit it: a reflexology sesh can sometimes be a little torturous, but there’s nothing like a good kneading from a relentless reflexologist to get us back on track. Ancient Therapy on Telok Ayer is a traditional Chinese massage studio – we’re talking multiple massages going on in a room – but for us, it absolutely hits the spot when we need to turn the lunch break into an emergency therapy session. We’ve popped in for just a 15-minute massage, and this is one of the most affordable places in town, so no excuses: squeeze in a treat. Ancient Therapy, 184 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068631, call 6223 3873 to make a booking Like this story? Check these out:

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Exclusive: Indian antitrust watchdog raids Glencore business, others over pulse prices – sources

Search for: Exclusive: Indian antitrust watchdog raids Glencore business, others over pulse prices – sources FILE PHOTO: The logo of commodities trader Glencore is pictured in front of the company’s headquarters in Baar, Switzerland, July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo
March 16, 2019
By Aditya Kalra and Mayank Bhardwaj
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s antitrust watchdog raided units of global commodities trader Glencore and two other firms in Mumbai on Saturday in an inquiry into alleged collusion on the price of pulses, four sources with knowledge of the raids told Reuters.
More than 25 antitrust officials carried out the raids at the offices of local units of Glencore and Africa’s Export Trading Group, and India’s Edelweiss group which previously had a commodities business, two government sources told Reuters.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has been investigating allegations that the companies formed a cartel to discuss the pricing of pulses while importing and selling them in the Indian market at higher prices in 2015 and 2016, when India faced an acute shortage, the sources said.
A spokesman for Switzerland-based Glencore, Charles Watenphul, declined to comment, while India’s Edelweiss, which sold its commodities trading business in November 2016, and the Export Trading Group did not respond to requests for comment.
Two years of drought pushed up prices of pulses such as chickpeas and black grams, which are a staple of Indian cuisine, in 2015 and forced New Delhi to offer duty-free imports, encouraging foreign and Indian traders who imported pulses to sell locally.
“The collusion by these companies led to higher prices of pulses,” one of the government sources said, adding that the CCI’s inquiry started three months ago.
The investigation will also assess whether the companies have continued their alleged collusion even after the prices of pulses stabilized in recent years, the source said.
IMPORT PRICES
The raids on five company offices in India’s financial capital began on Friday and were concluded on Saturday.
Antitrust officials collected evidence, including documents and e-mails, and questioned company officials during the raids, a second government source said.
Another source, an industry executive, told Reuters that CCI’s search involved going through company records at Glencore’s office in Mumbai, confirming it was part of the watchdog’s probe into accusations of fixing import prices.
The drought during 2015 wilted crops and exacerbated shortages of food such as protein-rich pulses and India, which consumes about 22 million tonnes of pulses annually, faced a shortfall of 7-8 million tonnes in 2015-16.
The CCI’s raids on commodities traders mark only its fourth such search operation in its near 10-year history. They can only be conducted with approval from a judge.
In October, the CCI raided the offices of global brewers such as Carlsberg and Anheuser Busch InBev and found e-mails which allegedly showed violations of Indian anti-trust laws. (https://reut.rs/2JeQKEs)
The brewing companies have pleaded leniency under a CCI program, Reuters has reported.
(Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Mayank Bhardwaj; Additional reporting by Rajendra Jadhav and Aditi Shah; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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A Guide to Where to Eat, Drink and Sleep in Berlin

A Guide to Where to Eat, Drink and Sleep in Berlin
Blog updated: March 2019
Berlin is easily one of my favourite cities in the world. There’s so much good food and so many great and interesting bars. It’s also a good city to be in both if you’re a backpacker on a budget and if you want to treat yourself. I must admit, during my summer in the city, the main thing I did was eat so this guide will mainly focus on that but since many of these places also do good drinks, that really is a win win. Eat Schnitzelei – Charlottenburg
My Dad is a big fan of wiener schnitzel and found this place by googling the best places for schnitzel in Berlin. The restaurant is in a quiet residential area and is clearly a favourite with the locals, given the number of people there (making reserving a table a must). The menu doesn’t just consist of schnitzel – there is also a list of German tapas that is perfect for starters (or as a meal in itself). There’s baked potatoes with soured cream, trout mousse with rye crackers, meatballs with a mustardy sauce, plums wrapped in bacon, little pretzels with obazda cheese and currywurst – to name a few. I’ll say it now, I actually prefer the tapas to the schnitzel because it is that good.
There are a variety of different of schnitzels, good for people like me who don’t eat veal. On my first visit I tried the pork schnitzel (flavoured with horseradish and mustard) which came as three small pieces on a (huge) bed of (cold) potato salad. My meal was nice but there was a bit too much going on and I preferred the meat to potato ratio of my Dad’s huge weiner schnitzel and smaller side of potato salad. On my second visit I went for the cordon bleu (chicken filled with ham and cheese). It came in breadcrumbs so I figured it was basically a fancy chicken schnitzel. I definitely preferred this but the tapas is still the winner. But actually it’s not the food that makes me love this place: it’s the buzzy, local atmosphere and the incredibly friendly waiters. Voner – Friedrichshain
As you will probably have already tweaked – I am not vegan. But I have a lot of friends that are and so I have often taken little adventures across cities on my holidays to find haunts my friends have read about. Voner – a vegan kebab place – was one such haunt that I was particularly keen to try. I love kebabs. My “voner” kebab was not bad at all but to be honest I’m not sure I’d go for one again. It reminded me of falafel (which I love) but which wasn’t going to satisfy my kebab cravings. What I would go back for, however, was the chips. They were insanely good. 1001 Falafel – Kreuzberg
1001 Falafel is the place that converted me to the ways of falafel. Their falafel and halloumi wraps, packed with salad and drizzled in garlic sauce, are reasonably priced (around €3.50) and absolutely amazing. I usually have meat in most things but I ended up here on many occasions. Even my falafel-hating Dad liked them. Aki Tatsu Sushi – Kreuzberg
My love of sushi has been a relatively recent development so when I visited Aki Tatsu a few years ago I didn’t really appreciate it. My (then) sushi-loving (now vegan) Berlin Buddy, however, was in heaven – particularly given that their happy hour deal runs from 12pm – 11pm. Bargain. Amrit Indian Restaurant – Kreuzberg
Amrit is nicely decorated and serves very tasty food. The portions are also enormous. I have a more than hearty appetite but even I asked for a doggy bag! The Berlin Buddy and I could probably have got one portion between the two of us but that would have meant we didn’t have some delicious leftovers for lunch the next day. Brammibal’s – Kreuzberg
Brammibal’s is a vegan doughnut shop in Kreuzberg. I arrived at around 4/5pm one Saturday afternoon to find that the shop was open but the doughnuts were sold out. I left very disappointed. My second attempt, when I arrived at midday the next day, was more successful – I am not sure I could have handled being disappointed again. Thankfully, there were plenty of doughnuts waiting for me and I went for the white chocolate & coconut and the hazelnut & salted caramel – after two visits, I needed two doughnuts. They were nice but I was a little disappointed after I had gone to so much effort – they were a bit bready for my liking. Burgermeister – Kreuzberg
Chances are you’ll hear about Burgermeister before you stumble across it. It once only lived in Kreuzberg, under the U Bahn line by Schlesisches Tor station. Now, however, it has a more conventional eat-in location in Kottbusser Tor as well. I’m not sure it quite lives up to the hype but, if the friends I went with on my first trip are any indication, that is certainly a minority view. I’m not saying I’ve not enjoyed my Burgermeister experiences – they are nice, reasonably priced burgers and I’ve had my share of Burgermeister cravings since – and a visit to its under the tracks spot in particular is a typically Berlin experience you probably should have. Chaapa Thai Kitchen – Kreuzberg
Chaapa is one of my favourite restaurants in the whole of Berlin. The interior decor is very oriental, the atmosphere is relaxed, the staff are efficient and the food comes quick. The wantons and spring rolls make for very good starters but the highlight for me is the chicken phad si lew (fried noodles) which is what I order every single time.
You can only imagine how disappointed I am to say that Chaapa has now closed. Gemuse Kebap – Kreuzberg
I very rarely meet a kebab I don’t like (and I’ve had a lot of kebabs) but my Gemuse Kebap kebab was something else. The Berlin Buddy had never tried one before and I’m glad she tried one this good but I’m not sure it was properly representative of kebabs in general. It came in a grilled bap and had veggies, salad which actually looked quite fresh, chicken, seasoning and feta cheese. You would have been happy if you’d been served this at a restaurant. It was both filling and a bargain and lasted for brunch the next day. Green Bambo Vietnamese – Kreuzberg
I must admit, Vietnamese has never been my favourite cuisine but the Green Bambo proved me wrong. I am a big fan of fried noodles and the chicken pho xao I ordered here was amazing. Paglia – Kreuzberg
Paglia is a really good value Italian restaurant (think fast food meets Italian cuisine). The interior is nice and there is also street seating outside. The pizzas are huge, the salads are tasty and the calzone are delicious. Santa Maria – Kreuzberg
One of my favourite meals that I’ve had in Berlin was at Santa Maria. I’ve been to this Mexican restaurant on a couple of occasions but, on the first, I don’t remember being that fussed. On the second, however, I ordered the Puerco Especial burrito – a burrito filled with pork belly, guacamole, chipotle cream and salsa (and cheese if you’ll pay more for it, which I obviously did) – and I was won over. Either something has changed or my memory just sucks. I was also quite the fan of their happy hour deal on margaritas – where they are €5 between the hours of 7pm-9pm. What’s not to love. Tiki Hut – Kreuzberg
Tiki Hut was designed in the kind of quirky way that made you feel like you should be somewhere more beachy rather than sitting out on a street in Berlin. The cocktails were yummy, as were the nachos and the delicious Jack Daniels burgers – and I don’t even like Jack Daniels. It was also pretty well priced. Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt – Mitte
If you’re looking for some local delicacies then Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt’s Bavarian cuisine might not quite be typically Berlin but I like to think it’s cultural enough. My beef goulash was really good. It was served with Swabian egg noodles which I didn’t think were as good an accompaniment as some creamy mash potato or chunky chips but I was willing to overlook that for this stew. Borchardt – Mitte
Borchardt’s history dates back to the 1800s. It is an expensive choice but seems to be a bit of a Berlin institution. When I arrived at 8pm on a Friday night, it was still a bit quiet but it wasn’t long before it became so packed that people were queuing for seats. Being so popular, the tables for two are tightly packed, so it feels like you’re dining with the people on either side. This gives the place a sociable atmosphere – although if you’re not a people person, this may not be for you!The service did slow down as the restaurant filled up but this was hardly surprisingly given the waiter-to-customer ratio. It kind of had the vibe of a Parisian brasserie – as the guy at the table next to me pointed out. It’s an open space with four big pillars in the centre and plush red seating, lined with golden bars.
I had the caesar salad to start (just with parmesan and without the chicken option, as this would have taken the price from about €9 to €18) which was lovely, followed by the half grilled lobster (€36). The lobster was tasty but I was left a bit hungry – for the price I would have liked a whole one. Cafe Einstein – Mitte
Berlin is big on coffee house culture and it seems to be a favourite pastime in the city to sit outside a cafe and watch the world go by. I must say, I do see the appeal of it and at Cafe Einstein you can do it with some really good ice cream, which really is the best way. Cecconi’s – Mitte
I first heard about Cecconi’s after my friend told me that they served pasta inside a wheel of cheese. She knows how obsessed I am with cheese so thought I might be interested to know – and I was. So off I went. Cecconi’s is a short walk from Rosa Luxemburg Platz in the beautiful Soho House. The building makes me think of an old aristocratic home, with big chandeliers and sculpted ceilings. There are some quite expensive options on the menu but the pasta and cheese wheel (aka tonnarelli cacio and pepe) is only €12. It turned out that you don’t actually eat the pasta from inside the cheese wheel. Instead, it is presented to you by a waiter who then whisks it off to swoosh the pasta around the cheese wheel so the sauce gets all nice and cheesy and then it is dished out onto your plate. Yum. Rausch – Mitte
Rausch (until recently Fassbender & Rausch) is pretty much my idea of heaven. It’s a chocolate shop (complete with chocolate sculptures) with a cafe and restaurant where you can snack on a dessert or a full blown chocolate-inspired meal. I’ve only been for the desserts but, safe to say, I’ve been several times. During those times, somethings have changed – the sculptures, the menu, the name, even the introduction of a conveyor belt pushing round sweet and savoury treats – however one thing has not changed: the deliciousness. I’ve sampled a few of their delicacies but the torte with white chocolate mousse and raspberries, sandwiched between a layer of sponge and a layer of raspberry goo and wrapped in a thin layer of white chocolate is my favourite. It goes particularly well alongside their hot chocolate, which comes in either milk or dark chocolate varieties and with various flavourings. It’s so rich and delicious that it needs to be served with a little shot glass of water. I don’t think I need to say anymore. Soy – Mitte
Soy was another discovery made on my vegan wanderings. It is a Vietnamese place near Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz and probably the best vegan food I’ve found in Berlin. I’m a noodle girl through and through so I ordered the Bang Canh Hap which consisted of udon noodles with tofu, seitan, “various vegetables” and soy sauce. It was delicious. To be honest, I didn’t really need the seitan and I’ve never been a massive tofu fan – I would have been happy with just the noodles and veggies covered in soy sauce – but I actually didn’t mind the tofu here. Either my tastebuds are developing or this was better than average tofu. I washed it all down with a lovely “minzshake” – i.e. coconut milk mixed with pineapple juice and mint. Bun Bao – Prenzlauer Berg
Bun Bao also holds the title of one of my favourite Berlin meals – or at least it did. When I first visited, after rave reviews from one of my friends, and ordered the ‘One and Only’ bao bun burger (basically a really big bao bun), which came stuffed with pork belly, onions, pickled radish, carrots, cucumber, coriander and roasted peanuts, I thought I’d found one of the best things I’d ever eaten. The lemonade with pineapple juice and mint that I ordered alongside it was also great. The service might have been incredibly slow but it was worth the wait. I went back a couple of years later and I could not have been more excited. I passed a lot of tasty looking (and busier) places on the way but I kept on until I arrived at a deserted Bun Bao. I ordered the same bao bun burger but this time it was so hot that I could barely touch it and it seemed to be so hot because it had been really overcooked and was really tough. Having been twice, I can’t say which is the odd time out (although considering my friend’s previous comments, I’m hopeful it’s the latter). If I go again, I’ll let you know. Spooning – Prenzlauer Berg
After my failed second visit to Bun Bao, I decided to try and bring things back with a trip to Spooning – a cookie dough cafe I had passed on the way. I got a couple of scoops of different flavours, covered in chocolate. Unfortunately, I forgot how sensitive my teeth can be in the face of sweet things, and this was very sweet, so didn’t really work out for me either. Sukho – Prenzlauer Berg
I found this Thai restaurant completely by accident when I got lost exploring Prenzlauer Berg and it turned out to be quite the hidden gem. My duck and fried rice was delicious and I could sit outside in the sun with a nice Thai Singha beer, which made me reminisce about my trip to Thailand. I then took a beer to Mauer Park opposite and relaxed surrounded by the locals who had flocked there. It was a great way to spend an evening. Cafe Haberland – Schöneberg
If you’re interested in local history then Cafe Haberland is a place for you. I went to learn a bit about my own history, as the cafe is named after two of my distant relatives, whose company was responsible for a lot of construction in the area before World War II. The cafe has information on the walls and interactive screens with short videos about some prominent former residents of the area, including Albert Einstein and the Haberlands. The fact that the cafe also sells some tasty cake is just a bonus. Konditorei Frau Behrens Torten – Tempelhof
The inside of Konditorei Frau Behrens Torten feels like a quaint French home. There are paintings on the walls, old-fashioned furniture and quaint china. My friends and I stopped in for vanilla chai lattes but, since the cakes on display looked particularly good, we also tried those. The Vegans had a vegan almond tart, the Veggie had a strawberry and cream tart and I had a huge slab of coffee and chocolate cake. We all left feeling a lot warmer and happier. Anh Ba – Wilmsersdorf
Anh Ba is a Vietnamese restaurant not far from Hohenzollernplatz. The decor is quite beautiful and the food is delicious. As the menu was all in German, my family and I had to rely on the waitress and her recommendations. Thankfully, she was very helpful and picked out some great choices. To start, we had a couple of plates of shrimp wantons and a couple of coconut-y soups. Then we had a banana salad, red curry with breaded chicken, noodle soup and chicken skewers. The red curry and the soups were definitely the best. Benedict – Wilmersdorf
I’ve passed Benedict at the Max Brown Ku’damm Hotel many times (usually on my way to breakfast at Weyers) and every time it’s looked packed. When I eventually went, I faced a 45 minute wait for a table but, thankfully, there was space for my friends and I to take a seat and have a coffee while we waited so even though I was starving, the time didn’t drag. Too much. The menu is full of stuff you would expect to see on a London brunch menu – I ordered my standard order of Eggs Benedict, which was served with some thick slices of sourdough. Happily, this is one of the multiple orders that came with a mimosa. My breakfast was nice but I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was worth waiting 45 minutes for but that might be because in London I have access to a lot of similar options whereas if you don’t have regular access to this elsewhere maybe you would want to hang around. Curry 36 – Wilmersdorf
I’d had a recommendation that Curry 36 was one of the best places in town for currywurst. Curry 36 is a stall near the U Bahn station at Zoologischer Garten. The number of people milling around on the Thursday afternoon I visited was a good indication that it had not been oversold. Although I have since been told this is more of a currywurst option for tourists rather than locals, I can confirm that it was still very good. Daitokai – Wilmersdorf
When my Dad first took me to Berlin, him and I went in search of a Japanese restaurant in the Europa Center that his dad had taken him to around 20 years before. It was still there. The restaurant has wood panelling lining the walls, a little stream trickling through it (complete with fish) and waitresses in kimono. Daitokai is a teppanyaki restaurant which involves the food being cooked at the tables on an iron griddle so you get dinner and a show – this included having my ice cream set on fire, without it melting. When I first visited, I had duck and beef and, while the food lived up to the amazing setting, my own culinary skills did not. The rest of our communal table started giggling at the sight of me failing to use chopsticks and the chef offered me a set for kids – with an elastic band around the ends so you could pincer your food. I managed without those in the end. On subsequent visits I’ve had an incredible six course Japanese feast. There was duck, sashimi and other seafood, beef… I could go on but I slid into a food coma and cannot remember what else there was. I actually woke up with a food hangover. Dean and David Cafe – Wilmersdorf
Dean and David was a brilliant find that specialises in healthy and fresh food. The salads are huge, the curries are fragrant and the wraps are tasty. Egger’s Steakhouse– Wilmersdorf
From the outside looking in, I’m not sure Egger’s is a place you’d stop at if you were walking by and hadn’t heard about it before. It’s hard to describe the decor – to me it looks a bit like an old fashioned American sports bar. But I’m telling you that you should go because it does a really great steak. The steak also comes with a helping from the salad buffet for starters which you might not think is worth mentioning after I’ve already brought up the great steak but I actually really enjoy it as part of the meal. Franceso Forgione – Wilmersdorf
If you’re in the mood for some warm, comforting Italian food then Franceso Forgione is the place to go. The staff are friendly, the food is homey and delicious and the wine is cheap. I can vouch for the pizzas, the ham and cheese tortellini and the carbonara. I appreciated the fact that the waiters leave a big pot of parmesan cheese on the table, instead of grating a bit for you and then taking it away – that way I can ladle on as much as I want without feeling guilty for ending up with more cheese than pasta. Kerszberg Cafe – Wilmersdorf
I’ve been meaning to stop by Kerszberg Cafe ever since I passed by and saw breakfasts being served on those cake stands used to serve afternoon tea. When I actually went, I wasn’t quite ready for so much food (and wasn’t sure what on the menu involved a cake stand anyway) so instead ordered the interesting sounding “At Mom’s” combo which included scrambled eggs with chive, Gouda cheese, boiled ham, herbal cream, jam, fruits and salad. I’m not entirely sure it’s a combination I’d order again but each thing was nice on its own. I’ll go back to try and find the afternoon tea breakfast. Max und Moritz – Wilmersdorf
Berlin is a good place to go if you’re a fan of kebabs – you can get something really special here. I’ve heard that Max und Moritz often has queues of people waiting in line for their kebabs, so when I passed by late one night when it was quiet and nothing else was open, it seemed like the perfect time to try their doner. It was presented to me like a trophy on a plate. Instead of a pita, the bap was like a big crusty roll which had the bread centre taken out and replaced with tasty meat, fresh salad, garlic mayonnaise (optional) and even the odd chip. I could see what all the fuss was about. Nea Knosso – Wilmersdorf
Nea Knosso is Greek restaurant that seems to be a firm favourite with the locals – in any event it’s usually been packed when I’ve been and the owners clearly know the majority of people who visit. The menu is huge but when I first went I wasn’t feeling well so just ordered the aubergine and courgette fritters and a tuna salad (which turned out to be huge). They were both good but I did get food envy over my Dad’s lamb cutlets. On my next trip, I still wasn’t in the mood for lamb so tried the feta salad to start (a great choice – I was rewarded with huge slabs of tasty feta) and moussaka for main. It was good but I was defeated and my Dad had to step in to assist. On my last visit, I finally tried the lamb chops and, let me tell you, they were worth the wait. Reinhard’s im Kempinski Hotel – Wilmersdorf
In comparison to some of the other restaurants on this list, Reinhard’s is very expensive but it is also very good. In fact, I ordered the best steak I’ve ever had here. I find that steaks either have no taste or all of the taste and this one was most certainly the latter. It also came covered in sauce and alongside some pretty tasty chips. My pea and parmesan ravioli soup (a piece of ravioli surrounded by a bit of soup) was also faultless, except for the portion size.
This is also home to one of my all time favourite breakfasts. It may have been expensive but it was huge and consisted of a buffet with everything you could possibly want – cold meats, fish, cheeses, fruit, cereal, breads, yoghurt, eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms and even mini muffins and doughnuts. It was amazing.
If you just fancy something lighter (and cheaper), the mozzarella with pesto and tomatoes on brown bread is a popular and refreshing choice. You can sit and eat it with a coffee at one of the tables outside on the pavement and watch the world go by. Serrano – Wilmersdorf
Serrano feels like a fine dining restaurant with a Peruvian twist. It turned out to be quite differently priced to the restaurants I had visited when I was actually in Peru (by which I mean it was not cheap) but the food is delicious. I tried the selection of nine little plates of Peruvian tapas (I finally tried cerviche, something I had not managed during 3 weeks in South America) and I topped this off with a Pisco Sour as well. As a main I went for Lomo Saltado – a dish comprising of beef, onions, chips and rice – and, for dessert, chocolate cake with foamed cream. If I could use the drooling face emoji here I would. Weyers – Wilmersdorf
Weyers is easily my most frequented breakfast place in Berlin. The place has the feel of a quirky hotel restaurant, with painted brick walls, white tablecloths and menus that were sandwiched between hardback covers of old Vogue magazines. The staff are friendly, the orange juice is freshly squeezed and the menu has a lot of options. There are some things I am more of a fan of than others. I wasn’t crazy about the scrambled eggs with bacon, ham and onions (aka an omelette) as the onions were a bit overpowering or the big cooked breakfast but which turned out to be more like a frittata and was a bit dry. What is great (the piece de resistance, if you will) is the breakfast for two, with a selection of breads, meats, cheeses, fruits, jams and salmon. My Dad and I used to order this often but the problem is that it would put us into a food coma that didn’t exactly make us feel ready to go out walking and exploring so we’ve had to branch out. Thankfully there are other tasty options, like the fried eggs (with lovely runny yolks) and crispy bacon and the pancakes with fruit and maple syrup.
Weyers isn’t just a breakfast place – it’s an all times of day place. I’ve been for dinner once and, as in the mornings, the place was busy but I managed to get a table and I had a fantastic steak dinner. It turns out that this place is a good all rounder. Drink Cafe Luzia – Kreuzberg
Cafe Luzia is one of my favourite bars in Berlin and it is suitably hipster. The walls have been stripped back, there’s lots of exposed pipes and wires and the place is filled with a random collection of furniture. It feels like someone began completely renovating the building but gave up and just filled it with stuff. And I mean that in a good way. The vodka and cokes I ordered there were expensive but the prosecco was cheap and during the summer days they open up the big glass windows lining in the front of the bar so that people can spill out and lounge half on the street. On my last visit, t hey had some live music which involved a guy jumping up onto the tables and getting up in the audience’s faces while screaming into a microphone. Unsurprisingly, it cleared the place out somewhat. I was actually a bit scared but it definitely felt very Berlin. Tiki Tonga Bar – Kreuzberg
Tiki Tonga has a pretty interesting decor – there’s a gold square board above the bar that actually moves. I think it was meant to resemble rustling leaves but it did freak me out a bit. I had to wait a little long to order but the cocktails were lovely and the fact that the happy hour lasted from 6pm – 10pm made it a very happy hour indeed. Prater Biergarten – Prenzlauer Berg
The first time I went to Prater Biergarten was when I was taken by a friend in 2013 – so before free data roaming in the EU was a thing (this is an important point in the story). I didn’t know the name of the place and I only paid so much attention to where we were walking. What I found was a big, lovely beer garden – so lovely I tried to go back again the next night with different people. Unfortunately, we never made it because I just got us lost and I had no access to Citymapper (instead we ended up finding Sukho and Mauer Park which was no bad thing). I had no idea what the place was called and didn’t really think about it until one of my more recent trips to Berlin when, while with my Dad, he suggested going to a nice beer garden he’d found not far from where we were in Prenzlauer Berg. I wondered if it may be the same place and, as it turned out, it was! So now I can go back whenever I want. Mein Haus am See – Mitte
Mein Haus am See was a bar recommended to me by some Berlin locals, which I took as a good sign. It seems to be known for having staggered seating that’s inspired by baseball stadium seating. It also has a good atmosphere and was pretty busy, even on the weekday night I went. Newton’s – Mitte
The bar in Newton’s runs alongside the wall on one side of the venue and, in warmer months, gets extended so that it actually curves out onto the path in front – so there is plenty of space to pull up a stool and have a drink. There’s a good vibe and there is something classic about the decor, with its brown walls and red leather arms chairs. Although, there are also photos of nude women on the walls, taken by the bar’s namesake, Helmut Newton. The gin and tonic is expensive (€12) but you certainly get your money’s worth as far as the amount of gin is concerned. The beer is much cheaper (€5). Weinerei – Mitte
The idea behind the Weinerei is that you rent a glass and then help yourself to wine throughout the night. Before you leave, you just pay what you feel you owe. I can imagine people taking advantage of this but it seems people must be pretty honest and I think I actually overpaid for my share! I do love the idea and it certainly attracted it’s fair share of people who agreed with me on that. Radke’s Gasthaus Alt-Berlin – Wilmersdorf
As you may have gaged from this list so far, I spend quite a bit of time in Wilmersdorf and I often visit Berlin with my Dad. However, we’ve not actually found a local bar – we just end up in restaurants. So when we ended up grabbing an early dinner at the Christmas market by the Gedächtniskirche, we were left at a bit of a loose end. We didn’t want to just go back home and watch TV but I wanted to find something more German than the Irish bar in the Europa Center that my Dad suggested. We went for a wander and ended up in Radke’s Gasthaus Alt-Berlin. The inside is kinda old fashioned and it has character – I particularly enjoyed that the bar stools were decorated with Santa outfits. We might have been far from the only tourists in the area but considering the area we were in – off a main shopping street, close to the KaDeWe – I did feel like we’d found a more local option and we ended up staying until we got chucked out (surprisingly early, at around 10pm). Sleep Alcatraz Backpackers Hostel – Prenzlauer Berg
I stayed in the Alcatraz hostel on my first night of my summer in Berlin and found that it was way more welcoming than the name suggests. The staff were helpful and the atmosphere was friendly. The location was also very good, on a main road through Prenzlauer Berg close to Eberswalder Strasse U-Bahn station, although this did mean that it was quite noisy. Still my room was clean and comfy. I’d left it pretty last minute but was able to get one night in, just not more after that, which was a shame because I enjoyed my stay. Lette’m Sleep Hostel – Prenzlauer Berg
Lette’m Sleep was where I stayed when I couldn’t book back into Alcatraz. It was only a stone’s through away on a side street in Prenzlauer Berg, meaning that it was much quieter but still close to bars, restaurants and an U-Bahn station. The common area was quite buzzy and I was able to spend a day in there using wifi to send off some job applications. Again, I enjoyed my stay but left it too late to be able to book more than a couple of nights. Corner Hostel – Prenzlauer Berg
The location of Corner Hostel wasn’t quite as convenient as Alcatraz and Lette’m Sleep as it was in a more residential part of Prenzlauer Berg, but it was still walking distance from the local amenities and U-Bahn station. It didn’t feel quite as modern as the others but I ended up in a nice room with some friendly people. I did get locked out of my room for a few hours one night and, on my first day, I had problems with another guest staying in my dorm but I was offered another room and after that the staff went out of their way to look after me and make sure I was okay. They also put out free, coffee and cakes in the common area, which I certainly enjoyed taking advantage of. Advertisements

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Travel Writing: Unorthodox: A Snowflake in St. Petersburg

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The 2014 St Patrick’s Day match between London Irish and the Harlequins was, for 21 years, the coldest I had ever been in my life. Flanked by my brother and our mother, I sat, stood, and Mexican Waved in snow, while the Irish lost (as they seemed to be in a habit of doing). At half time, my brother went to get another Guinness. My mother and I went to the bathroom, where she removed her tights on the concrete floor, and gave them to me to wear under my jeans. I was so chilled, I felt as though I might vomit. This was Reading in March. Almost exactly three years later, I would learn the true meaning of cold during another snowy March – this time in St Petersburg, Russia.
I’ve always had an interest in the Romanovs, but actually ending up in Russia can be put down to the realisation that happens to every young person when they’ve been a legal adult for a couple of years: ‘I can do whatever I want!’. Thoughts of ‘One day I’d love to’, and ‘How cool would it be if we could’, become ‘I will’. Suddenly I had a job, real money, and could spend it on what I wanted, no matter how big or grown-up. It takes some getting used to. No asking for permission. No begging for handouts. No parents involved at all, actually, unless they are invited. I did choose to invite my mother, as she is a wonderful travelling companion, and not only because she has money and loves me (the most desirable combination for a sidekick). I craftily disguised my invite by offering to take her for four nights in Russia’s cultural capital as a birthday gift. Flights and accommodation covered by me, but if she wanted any natty trinkets, she’d need her own pocket money. I’m not proud to say that my hedonism also meant I neglected to check any VISA requirements, and by the time I’d realised they were necessary, had run out of money. Thankfully the cash cow mooed, and £250 and a trip to the embassy later, my present seemed less generous. No matter, she insisted. It was done – we were off to Leningrad.
‘Where?!’
Ah – St Petersburg.
In her twenties, my mother travelled quite extensively, including visiting St Petersburg in 1980-something. I’ve always admired her for it; she grew up on a council estate in small-town Cornwall and was never handed anything, whereas my brother and I were jetting across the Atlantic in our early years. Still, touching down at Pulkovo was thrilling – my first experience of seeing a billboard in anything other than the Latin alphabet. Even more thrilling was that I could make a lot of it out, given that so many words for companies and products (amongst other things) are directly translated from English to Russian. I had been independently studying the Russian language for a good few months at this point, and with pure glee at finally getting to put it to practical use, pointed out to my mother in my best Russian accent,
‘Burger King!’
‘Yes’, she nodded encouragingly.
Glowing with pride, I turned back to the sign to see the logo, in English, beside the Вургер Кинг that I had just translated. For a moment I was disheartened, but in true Brit fashion, picked myself up again. After all, this was a big city, and it was only natural that there would be a Старбакс (Starbucks) on every corner.
Less than a day later, I found myself on my knees kissing the ring of the American King himself. Russian food sucks. Borsch, spelt, unidentifiable pastries at the breakfast buffet and the lines between sweet and savoury blurred, but not successfully, like the triumph that is maple-bacon-pancakes. Soggy beetroot on beige lumps of god-knows-what seemed to be a popular dish at most establishments, causing me to wonder whether I was missing a trick, or if the cuisine is simply nostalgic for the days of starving Siberian peasants. I’m not ashamed to say I ate at a Pizza Hut and Burger King twice in four days. The most spectacular part was accidentally ordering a soda in a size unseen even in America, bringing to mind Parks and Recreation’s bit on a 512 oz ‘child size’ drink being the volume of a two-year-old, if that child were liquefied. It required two hands to hold, and and one side of a parka to hide shamefully from the hotel staff. We even went to TGI Fridays at Pulkovo, a restaurant I generally wouldn’t touch unless starved. I will only accept being called uncultured by someone willing to eat the clingfilm-wrapped raw fish I saw thrown amongst other cooked and uncooked meats in a chiller cabinet in a mini-mart. I chose the Kinder Egg nearby because the choking hazard was smaller. My weak English stomach can’t handle anything more exotic than a chilli flake on my smashed avocado.
The Russians seemed to be under the impression that being English, we were rich. Perhaps they treat everyone like that, but if so, it’s the best hospitality in the world. The taxi driver that chauffeured us to the Mariinsky 2 to see the State Symphony Orchestra of the Republic of Tatarstan promised, unprompted, that he would return when the show was over and wait right in this exact spot. He did. On the way back to the Pushka Inn, our grand but inexpensive hotel overlooking seagulls riding up the Moyka on icebergs, he drove leisurely as if we had the roads to ourselves (we didn’t), rolling along beside points of note.
‘That is…’ he would begin, before making a pained noise, and then squeezing out a few sounded letters as he realised he didn’t have the English word. We gave him a brief chance before ending his agony.
‘Cathedral?’ My mother offered politely.
‘Yes!’ He was elated. We were also rather chuffed, as the journey cost no more than 425 roubles, or five pounds. The hotel staff welcomed us back each night as though we were brothers from another motherland, with beaming smiles and ‘приветс’ (‘hi!’). The rooms were spacious, well-finished and toasty, and the only thing keeping me up at night was the thought of a formidable breakfast in the morning.
Perusing TripAdvisor on the first night, we thought we might see if the culture capital could offer a reasonable zoo for visiting, as is our tendency in big cities. We would have settled for an aquarium, but it happened that my clingfilm fish was the closest I would come to sea life (even with lacking the crucial life element). Unfortunately, Russia’s zoos appear something of a depressing nightmare. The makers of Blackfish need to catch the next flight over and earn another BAFTA. I hope one day the animals of Leningrad Zoo mount their own Madagascar style exit, except a breakout would more likely have them lost in Siberia than living it up in the Indian Ocean. We decided: no zoos. No dancing bears, as romantic as it’s made to sound in the opening bars of Once Upon a December, the theme from that classic Dreamworks animation which entirely desecrates the memory of the Romanovs by replacing their brutal bayoneting with Rasputin’s pet bat doing a musical number. I was more than a little surprised to find it aired on the miniature television in our hotel room, but watched it with much delight, Burger King crown atop my head. I reckoned I looked just like Anastasia, shoving fries into my mouth and singing along in English and off-key.
We were lazy in our restaurant hunting. I tend to be picky anyway, figuring that if you’re going to eat out, eat well. I take an orderly pleasure in doing prior research for most things, and don’t enjoy to be surprised, positively or negatively. Thank Christ I checked before dumbly walking into the nearby eatery that featured an indiscernible animal carcass pinned to the wall. A couple dined by candlelight below, just inches from sandy-coloured fur. Had the creature fallen, they would’ve soon known how Leonardo di Caprio felt sleeping inside his dead horse in The Revenant. I put two and two together, and realised exactly why Russia’s captive animals live in such bad conditions: there’s money in the restaurant decor trade.
If you’ve ever been impressed by Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland, try standing in Palace Square, watching The Winter Palace be dusted with snow. It was evening, and the falling icicles were illuminated by spotlights set into the paved ground. The Romanovs took up residence in the imposing Baroque stronghold in the 1760s, and given that Russia’s longest season is winter, would remain there for the majority of the calendar year. The palace’s original 645,835 square feet have been expanded to include the annexes and create the Hermitage Museum, spanning 1,978,622 square feet in total. The vast collection (The Hermitage is the second biggest art museum in the world) began when Catherine the Great tired of collecting boyfriends, and took an interest in the arts. It’s not only a Russian history nerd’s dream: from Matisse to Ancient Persia, a first-century statuette of Athena to fragments from the Palaeolithic Age, it would take a particularly stubbornly ignorant person to say that nothing took their interest. I made such a claim when my mother dragged me to the Tate St Ives as a youth, and scowled foully until we left. In my defence, the Tate had nothing nearly as curious as the Hermitage; top marks went to the piece titled simply: ‘Puppies and sculls’. Exactly as it sounds, the sculpture by Kaigyokusai Masatsugu features a skull swarmed by puppies, all set in ivory – 69 year old proof that the right artist can blend goth and kitsch flawlessly. I knew immediately what I wanted from the gift shop.
It’s important to distinguish between the palace and the museum. The displays are set out in a way that draws interest to the plainer nooks, and allows the most ostentatious areas to stand alone. It would be detrimental to stand in the centre of the ballroom, marvelling at the parquet floor and wall carvings, and have some Persian vase as an afterthought in the corner. No, the curators appreciate what’s enough of an attraction (the throne room, solarium, and a library rivalling that of the one the Beast gifts to Belle), and divide the rest of the building into areas of interest. I experienced an internal struggle deciding which I wanted to absorb first, eventually deciding to experience the the palace on a superficial level before engaging more intelligently with the museum. The foyer is three stories high, ivory with gold carvings dressing the details on statues moulded to the wall. The floor, checkerboard with a crimson carpet guiding guests up the Jordan Staircase to the balcony. From there, the stateroom, where a populous group of senior-schoolers had gathered to take very serious prom pictures, dressed in their suits and elaborate dresses as the snow fell outside. The palace seems to go on forever, having a Narnia effect: on entering, guests find an entire world they didn’t expect. In the basement, Greek busts and smoothed stone lions from way back when years only had three digits. A few floors up, charming sleighs for the Romanovs to get around in winter. Our two-day passes were not enough. Next time, I’m hiding in a sarcophagus at closing time and staying a week.
When Nicky and Alix weren’t in the Winter Palace, they were paddling in the sea at Peterhof, where stands their summer home and its famous fountains. On March 26th, the sea was frozen, the leaves were crystallised just under the surface of solid puddles, and the fountains wouldn’t be flowing for another month. Melting lipstick in my pockets were instant heat packs, to which by the end of the trip I would feel an affectionate attachment. Like in Palace Square, the exterior hosted women and men playing dress-up for photo opportunities with tourists. I was impressed with their endurance; it was only when the rain became enough to drown in that they retreated to the shelter of temporary buildings behind a chain-link fence. One of these shoebox outbuildings happened to be just that, a toilet, guarded by three Russian furies in aprons who insisted I give them a handful of roubles to empty my bladder. When we vacated, they rushed in agitatedly, ready to clean and convinced we would have missed the icy commode and pissed all over the floor. I suppose they were wise to worry – if we had been so uncoordinated, in seconds the bleak bathroom would have become an unsanitary ice rink.
The primary insult of Peterhof had come just before we began our exploration of the palace. On entering, you must queue to receive a pair of plastic bags to wear over your shoes, to save damaging the carpet. Now, as to not exacerbate any conceptions I’ve already laid about my uncultured self, believe when I say that while I understand the crimson carpet is a couple hundred years old, my Timberlands were fresh. One does not bag Timbs. It’s not done. To be frank, I’m not convinced the petite French interior of the palace is worth shuffling around in at all, especially in contrast to how grand and shoe-bagless the Winter Palace is. A fashion exhibition rated highly, but the rest of it was decidedly unmemorable. The gardens and fountains would have been striking, but only in the summer, as they were intended. All that sticks in my mind of Peterhof is a clash with the tour group that stoutly refused to let us pass, despite my извиниетс (excuse mes) getting increasingly firmer. They’re probably still there now, bagged-shoed, creating a stubborn tourist dam as they stare at an antique chaise longue.
Just as the fountains don’t flow, the ferry doesn’t run out of season, so getting to Peterhof required an hour long bus ride on a rickety little minibus that took enough standing passengers to make it look like a Tokyo metro carriage in rush hour. It kept time as efficiently too, and at the minute the schedule promised, we bedded down in our seats, with nothing to do but stare out of the window. As my impressions of Russia so far had me fascinated by the melange of Eastern and Western influence, it shouldn’t have been surprising that the suburbs appeared a varying combination of American gated community and European villa style architecture. Hold that image, and then apply dilapidation. So many houses were unfinished, empty shells. There were some that had burned, and some that had crumbled. As in America, suburban houses are large because there is an abundance of land, yet the walls are hollow and the design simplistic. Character lacking. As a contrast, Peterhof, gilded in Rococo and with a 300 metre long facade, has been nicknamed the ‘Russian Versailles’. The brutally extortionate gap between the classes is a problem now just as it was during the revolution, and 100 years on, the federation has a president that knows more, yet cares less about its poor. With 20 million Russians living in poverty, it’s not hard to picture Putin shrugging at the statistics, declaring: ‘Let them eat spelt.’ To not be unfair to Putin, the last Tsar, Nicholas the 2nd, also allowed his people to starve, though due to ignorance and incompetence over intentional immorality. It’s suggested that his wife Alix (her grandmother, Queen Victoria’s choice to rule England) had more of a grip on things, and often advised her husband. Knowing how the couple and their children, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei died at the bayoneted barrel ends of the Bolsheviks made a visit to the Peter and Paul Cathedral surprisingly somber. The resting place of every ruler since Peter the 1st died in 1725, the cathedral floor is dominated by marble tombs. Nicholas and his family have their own small room, and above a polished parquet floor, set into the wall, are gold-framed stones labeled with the names of the family and the servants that refused to leave them in their final hours at Ekaterinburg. Standing in the centre and reading the Russian variants of their names etched into stone suddenly made me slightly emotional. The last royals were cornered in a basement by nine drunken Bolsheviks, parents shot first and then children stabbed as the gun smoke was too thick to see through and the killers too intoxicated to aim. After being looted for jewels, their remains were buried at the side of a dirt road. Only thirteen-year-old Alexei’s spaniel survived. Even a hundred years on, the Russians have mixed feelings on the Romanovs, but regardless of whether you’re a fan or a hater, you’d have to be made of ice to be cool with the brutality. I didn’t feel like buying anything from that gift shop.
Although I tend to see the world through rose tinted Raybans when I get steamrolling, the question of how the reds would receive my pink hair briefly crossed my mind. All I’d seen of Russia had been tweets about Pussy Riot and that picture of Vladimir Putin riding a horse with his pale manly chest on show, and I wasn’t sure if pink hair would make me gay in such a conservative country. I needn’t have considered it. The Russians are the most courteous people I’ve come across. In France, the concierge unfairly blamed my friend for our key card not working. In Russia, they stuck notes with the weather and thoughtful proverbs on the door every morning. In Portugal, we were sniffed at in the golf club for being guests. In Russia, everyone tried their hardest to speak English to us foreigners. In Canada (Canada!) a man viciously dragged his dog across the road by its lead. Russia, there was a queue to stroke the sultry stray cat stopping traffic on a street corner. With Eleven timezones and borders from Finland to Mongolia, it’s a given that Russia is so culturally eclectic and mysterious. To me, there seemed something disjointed about how vastly standards vary – how manners matter more than animal welfare, for example. However, I observed this as a tourist – it’s easier to see when you set out to look. I’m sure if I put a microscope on Britain and my own practices, I wouldn’t be accepting any prizes for altruism.
The place has had a tough time, with a comic-book-bad-guy for president, centuries of bloodthirsty monarchs (Ivan the Terrible beat his own son to a pulp), and a history of movie villainy. Don’t judge a country by its ranking on the Global Peace Index (154 out of 163 – yikes); look past Russia’s resting bitch face, and you’ll find the reason the country doesn’t freeze solid: its warm inhabitants. Their arms are open to show off what makes their country so unique: from handcrafted matryoshka dolls to fresh gingerbread on the street, meeting Kazakhstanis, Estonians and Chinese all in one day, and watching a man ice skate with his dog on a pond – Russia is pure magic. As soon as I’ve saved enough money for another VISA, I’m packing a knapsack of Super Noodles and Lunchables and catching the next iceberg east. Advertisements

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Female Chefs Take Centre Stage at Black Sheep Restaurants

Female Chefs Take Centre Stage at Black Sheep Restaurants Female Chefs Take Centre Stage at Black Sheep Restaurants
Hong Kong (Hong Kong SAR) – March 18, 2019 ( travelindex.com ) – While many observers bemoan the lack of female representation in the restaurant industry, one Hong Kong hospitality group is leading the charge and embracing the change. First and foremost, Black Sheep Restaurants is about the people in our team and the family we have created,” explains Syed Asim Hussain, co-founder of Black Sheep Restaurants. “If you look after your people, give them opportunities to grow and support them wherever possible, they will do the right thing for your guests.”
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Together with his partner, chef-trained Christopher Mark, the pair founded Black Sheep Restaurants with the intention of creating a dynamic community and telling compelling stories through food. “Community is our cornerstone and we are dedicated to ensuring our family flourishes. In less than seven years, we have grown our team to over 1,000 team members and half of them are women. While other restaurant groups struggle to achieve gender equality, or are reluctant to promote female chefs to senior positions, women are a driving creative force in our restaurants and leaders in their respective fields.”
Gisela Alesbrook “My recipes have been passed down the generations from my mother and grandmothers.” At the Wes Anderson-styled Hotal Colombo, Chef Gisela recreates the humble cuisine of her childhood in Sri Lanka, paying homage to her family’s treasured recipes and her native country’s vibrant street food culture. Of Dutch Burgher and Indian by heritage, Chef Gisela prides herself as being one of Black Sheep Restaurants’ very first hires.
Despite dabbling in a range of interests, from banking to lingerie design, Chef Gisela is happiest in the kitchen. In Hong Kong, she is excited to showcase her native culture and its underrepresented cuisine. Her dishes come with all the staple spices, colours and flavours you would expect in a local Sri Lankan eatery, presented with added finesse.
Lisette Magampon “The most important class is technique. A great chef is first a great technician, and that only comes through endless repetition.” Chef Lisette oversees Osteria Marzia, Black Sheep Restaurants’ coastal Italian restaurant. After a five-year stint at the renowned Gramercy Tavern in New York, Chef Lisette’s passion for Italian culinary began when she bought a one-way ticket to Italy determined to learn about its regional cuisines. After travelling the breadth of the country, she returned to New York to work as Sous Chef at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, a restaurant focused on the cuisine of Italy’s Umbria region.
One of the challenges of working in a male-dominated industry like F&B is that female chefs have to work twice as hard to prove themselves. She credits Philippe Bertineau, of Alain Ducasse’s acclaimed Midtown restaurant Benoit, and Jonathan Waxman, who pioneered Californian cuisine, for helping to shape her early career.
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Safia Osman “For any skill, take your time to learn, study and stay in a place long enough to understand. To learn pastry, make it better and prettier than yesterday.”
As the pastry connoisseur who helms The Bakery, Black Sheep Restaurants’ central pastry kitchen, Chef Safia grew up with cereal and pie, the latter becoming a distinguishing part of her culinary repertoire.
Dedicated to creating sweet delicacies, she names honey as her go-to ingredient for its ability to bring classic sweetness to desserts and enhance savoury dishes with a layer of complexity. Born to Somali-American parents, she developed her sweet tooth from an early age. One of her earliest memories is discovering a local breakfast snack, Injera, comprising a layer of stacked sweet crepes with honey.
With over 20 years of experience, Chef Safia has worked alongside such celebrated pastry chefs as Claudia Fleming, winner of the coveted James Beard Award. After leaving the US, she worked in Dubai before arriving in Hong Kong in 2016.
Angie Ford “Being able to be creative through food is extremely freeing.” For Chef Angie, cooking presents endless learning opportunities. The Executive Chef of Buenos Aires Polo Club, Black Sheep Restaurants’ Argentinian steakhouse, Angie started her culinary career helping out in the family kitchen at the age of 11. She grew up learning the different roles in a restaurant, from serving and bartending to managing before finally beginning her apprenticeship when she was 18. She is continuing a family tradition as her three sisters are currently pastry chefs.
A vocal advocate of ethically-raised meat, her menus at Buenos Aires Polo Club demonstrate her expertise and ability to prepare various cuts of steak from one specifically-reared breed, the Aberdeen Black Angus. Chef Angie competed in Iron Chef Canada, which she recalls as “a super stressful hour but also extremely rewarding”. Her advice for surviving in the pressure-cooker world of restaurants: “Be a positive force in the kitchen, and do not lose your cool.”
Yen Chan “Nobody is born as a chef, and it does not happen overnight. If you want to succeed, you need the right attitude.” For La Vache Tsim Sha Tsui’s Yen Chan, her hobby became a passion and eventually her career. After studying Culinary Arts and Design in Canada, she worked front of house for five years before taking up the challenge to venture into the kitchen. Aside from overcoming a language barrier, she had to familiarise herself with the frantic pace of working in a large-scale line kitchen.
With the goal of one day opening her own restaurant, she was inspired by a visit to a fifth-generation sushi bar in Tokyo, where the resident chef produced a handmade piece of sushi every two seconds. “Watching that level of expertise is inspiring. It reminds you of the level of dedication required to hone your craft.”
Charrinn (Noom) Singdaechakarn “Be a chef who never stops learning, and love what you do.” Head Chef of Soul Food Thai, Chef Noom has been mastering the cuisine of her homeland since she was 24. While studying in Sydney, she took on a part-time job working in the kitchen of a Thai restaurant. Her passion for cooking began as a child. Living in a garden house, her mother would grow fresh ingredients to incorporate into their meals. Her appreciation for authentic ingredients extends to Soul Food Thai where everything is made from scratch. Originally from Issan, the Northeastern province of Thailand, her go-to dish is noodle soup. Although it looks deceptively simple, it requires lots of ingredients and patience to prepare and perfect.
For Chef Noom, the most challenging part of Thai cuisine is mastering the knife skills. Her mentor, Chef Chaiwat, helped develop these skills by having her “julienne the kaffir lime leaf into hair-like strands”.
About Black Sheep Restaurants Niche, thought-provoking and story-driven, Black Sheep Restaurants is a Hong Kong-based hospitality group founded in 2012 by Syed Asim Hussain and Christopher Mark. Together they share decades of experience in hospitality and business development, along with a zest for travel and discovering dining subcultures.
Black Sheep Restaurants curates distinct dining experiences that tell a story about a particular time, place, culture or cuisine while celebrating the bounty of premium ingredients available both locally and from abroad. Always pushing boundaries, the group continues to expand rapidly within Hong Kong and beyond.
In December 2018, Syed Asim Hussain became the world’s youngest restaurateur to hold two Michelin stars when BELON and New Punjab Club were honoured with one Michelin star each. New Punjab Club is the world’s first Punjabi restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. March 17, 2019

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New gem brings remarkable flavors to Bellmore! | Herald Community Newspapers | www.liherald.com

New gem brings remarkable flavors to Bellmore! Posted Friday, March 15, 2019 1:09 pm By Terry Biener
2920-2922 Merrick Road, Bellmore
(516) 809-9927
While Mango Indian Cuisine only opened several weeks ago, management behind it is quite well seasoned. Sewa Singh, who also owns House of India in Huntington Village, boasts 20 years in the restaurant industry. Joining him at Mango are his son, Virpartap Singh, and his daughter, Simran Kaur. Still a work in progress — as they await table candles and embellishments for the walls — the intimate space is sleek yet cozy, offering rave-worthy Northern Indian food and top-notch service.
Their expansive menu had options for everyone, from meat aficionados and seafood lovers to vegetarians. Lunch Special — soup, Nan, chutney, rice and a main dish — is $11. From the dinner menu, soups, chutneys, salads, breads, and hot appetizers range from $3 to 13. Entrees (chicken, lamb, seafood, vegetable, Tandoori, and Biryani rice specialties), are $15 to $27. Desserts are $6 and $7. Children can be accommodated.
How mild or spicy your food will be is your choice … just ask. If there is something you’d like that’s not on the menu, if they have the ingredients, they are happy to prepare it. Management is friendly and very accommodating. Portions are quite generous.
We started with Mango Lassi, a refreshing, creamy yogurt beverage. Mango Special Variety Tray wowed us with a sampling of hot appetizers — crisp vegetable and meat Samosa, Bhujia (vegetable fritters), potato, cheese and chicken Pakora (batter fried), and a basket of Papadam (spicy Indian crackers) with three chutneys on the side.
Entrees include Basmati rice. Chicken Tikka Masala, boneless white meat, arrived in delicious sauce made with cream, tomato, green pepper, onion and spices. Lamb Mango, so tender, no knife needed, was dressed in a sweet brown mango/saffron sauce. Saag Paneer, a hearty blend of spinach, homemade cheese and curry, was amazing on nan bread or mixed with rice. Garlic Nan, one of 15 freshly baked breads, was served straight from the oven.
All Tandoori items (chicken, fish, lamb, cheese) are cooked on skewers in a charcoal clay oven, served with rice and curry sauce on the side. Mixed Tandoori platter offered a variety — several types of chicken, lamb Boti, and Seikh kebab — minced lamb blended with Indian spices.
Desserts are all made on premises. We shared and enjoyed Rasmalai, a traditional favorite – soft, sweet Indian cheese in cream sauce, served chilled. Gulab Jamun, Kulfi, and homemade ice cream are also on the menu.
Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. They are closed on Monday. Reservations are suggested. Delivery, catering and take-out are available.
Recommendations:

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