Friday, 31 January 2014

Recipe: Homemade Bak Kwa

Homemade Bak Kwa fresh from the oven

Bak kwa or bak gua or barbecue meat or 肉干 (ròu gān) is one of everyone’s favourite snack especially during Chinese New Year. Although it is easily available in countries like Malaysia and Singapore, it is almost impossible to find them abroad. Living in London meant that I have been Bak Kwa deprived for months. With the ban on bringing meat products from abroad, the only way possible is have some bak kwa is to illegally bring them in to the UK. Since I didn’t smuggle any in when  I came back to London, the only way to satisfy the craving is to make them myself. After 2 attempts, I finally got the recipe right!

Because sharing is caring, so here’s the recipe:


500g      minced pork
1 cup     brown sugar
2 tbsp    fish sauce (nam pla)
2 tbsp    sweet soya sauce (kecap manis)
1 tbsp    light soya sauce
1 tbsp    oyster sauce
1 tbsp    Shaoxing wine
3 tbsp    honey
1 tsp      sesame oil
1/2 tsp   five-spice powder
1/3 tsp   salt
A pinch of pepper


A mixture of all the seasoning

1. Mix all the ingredients except the minced pork in a big mixing bowl.

Mix well until a paste like above is formed.
 2. Add the minced pork and mix well until it becomes evenly mixed into a paste. Refrigerate overnight.
TIP: Using minced pork with higher fat content will make the bak kwa softer and tastier. The extra lean or lean minced pork from major supermarkets will yield drier and harder bak kwa. I bought my minced pork from Chinatown.

3. Preheat the oven to 130°C using the fan oven mode.

4. Cut a piece of baking paper which is large enough to cover a large baking tray. Scoop about one quarter of the total amount of marinated minced pork and place it in the middle of the baking paper. Adjust the amount according to the size of baking tray. (I use a 12x7 baking tray)

Place a large chunk into the middle of the baking paper
5. Cover it with a large piece of cling wrap and use a rolling pin to spread it out evenly to form a thin layer of about 2mm. The cling wrap will prevent the minced pork to stick to the rolling pin. For those without a rolling pin, use a spoon or fork or finger to spread it out evenly, just like spreading jam onto bread.
TIP: Make sure the minced pork is spread into an even layer. Uneven thickness will cause the thinner parts to be burnt quickly. It doesn’t matter what shape is formed but spreading the minced pork into a large square or rectangle will make cutting it into smaller pieces easier.

Spreading it out evenly - I totally failed my geometry here cause I can never form a proper square or rectangle
6. Bake in the pre heated oven at 130°C for 15 minutes.

7. Remove from the oven and increase the heat of the oven to 240°C. Cut the large piece of almost-ready bak kwa into smaller pieces of square of about 7-8cm.

Almost-ready bak kwa after being baked for 15 minutes. Divide them into smaller pieces.
8. Place the cut pieces into the oven to bake at 240°C for 2 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and flip the bak kwa; then bake for another 2 minutes. Baking it on both sides will cook the bak kwa evenly on both sides.
TIP: Adjust the oven heat accordingly. Every oven works differently and you would know your oven better!

9. Switch the oven to grill mode and bake the bak kwa for 1 minute on each side. Remove and enjoy after it is cooled.
TIP: Using the grill is completely optional. Grilling the bak kwa will produce a similar effect as barbecuing the bak kwa over charcoal fire.

10. Repeat steps 4 to 9 until all the minced pork is used up.

The bak kwa can only be stored for about 3 to 4 days in room temperature and 1 week in the fridge because there is no preservative. Alternatively, store the bak kwa after step 7 for up to 1 month in the freezer and bake them at 240°C when you would like to eat them.

I hope you would enjoy the homemade bak kwa!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Review: The Railway Man

Photo source: Wikipedia

“Sometime the hating has to stop”
-Eric Lomax

The Railway Man tells the story of Eric Lomax, a former British officer in the Second World War and a POW after the defeat of the British forces in Singapore in 1942. As a POW, Lomax was sent to Kanchanaburi to build the Burma Railway which saw the cruelty of Japanese Army towards forced labour. His subsequent arrest by the Kempetai (Japanese secret police) for secretly building a radio narrates a series of torture towards those suspected to be disloyal to the Japanese. Although the war ended with the victory of the Allied forces, Lomax like many other POW was psychologically torn by the war and the reconciliation with Takashi Nagase who served as an interpreter during Lomax’s detention by the Kempetai finally brought a closure to the suffering of the war.

Book Review

The autobiography by Eric Lomax is extremely well written with exceptional details and descriptions of his wartime experience. The Railway Man had a great introduction which explained his fascination of the railway and trains; and developed with a great deal of details about joining the Post Office, then the work as a signaling officer in the UK and then in Malaya and Singapore. The defeat of Singapore and the life of a POW was well details. With the vivid description, I felt as though the events was happening right before my eyes. Although the book begins with rather lengthy chapters on his early life before joining the British forces, it also contained an adequate length on the times during the war. The chapters on the building of the Burma railway, his arrest by the Kempetai and the imprisonment in Singapore after being ruled guilty as a spy by the Japanese are rather heart wrenching to see how human life had almost no value during the time of war.

Growing up in Malaysia (previously Malaya) and having heard accounts of the war from those who had survived WWII, it was easy to relate to the torture that Lomax was subject to especially during the detention by the Kempetai. Having studied the period of Japanese occupation in Malaya and Singapore and the brutality involved in building the Burma Railway, Lomax’s account of his experience plays out like a book coming to life.

Though a majority of the chapters revolved around the torture either physically or mentally on him, the final chapters of post war life after returning to the UK is a smooth transition into the reconciliation of the wartime experience. The reconciliation between Lomax and the interpreter who interrogated him during the detention by the Kempetai ends the book with a heartwarming tone and showed how forgiveness is capable of setting one’s heart free.

The Railway Man is definitely a MUST READ especially for those who love a heartwarming story.

Movie Review

Staring an award winning cast, The Railway Man was rather disappointing. At the beginning, the plot is rather difficult to follow with multiple flashbacks but this ease out later in the movie.

Although the movie is based on the book, there is an extreme lack of consistency in the story and personally, some really important parts of the book had been left out which is such a disgrace to the book. For example:

1. “Keep your chin up”
The last thing that Nagase said to Lomax (“Keep your chin up”) before he was sent away from the Kempetai camp was omitted in the movie. That very line was the ice breaker during their reconciliation years later. How could a line of such significance be left out? The characters in the movie and the torture and punishment of the characters also differed strongly in the movie.

2. Torture and Beatings
The sequence of torture and beatings were messed up. It was also rather disturbing to watch Finlay hanging himself to death on a bridge when none of this was found in the book.

3. Discovering Nagase’s existence
Adding to the inconsistencies are how Lomax discovered that Nagase was still alive and their encounter after decades apart. Lomax certainly did not fly all the way alone to Thailand to attack Nagase by surprise, forced him to feel his pain of torture and locked him in a cage; like how the movie had portrayed. In fact, on Lomax’s account in the book, he was reluctant to even communicate with Nagase after discovering that Nagase was alive all these years.

Not only was the real Lomax reluctant about meeting Nagase, he had read the book written by Nagase and understand the pain Nagase had felt for the past decades. However, the movie potrayed Lomax as a rash and emotion driven man who made no enquiries about Nagase nor read the book written by him.

For heaven’s sake, Nagase was potrayed in the movie to be somewhat of a tour guide and said to his tourist he had made somewhat 30 missions to Thailand. The real Nagase made more than 100 trip!

4. Letter to Nagase
In Lomax’s account, Patti’s letter to Nagase was the key to their reconciliation and began the communication between them leading to their meeting in 1993. Again, none of this is mentioned in the movie.

Despite the inconsistency, the movie has a enjoyable plot like any other major productions. Both Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman potrayed their character superbly well and Jeremy Irvine did a great job as the young Lomax.

Is it a MUST WATCH movie? NO!
The movie is worth paying for to watch the award winning leads and a heartwarming tale, but I’d rather just spend it on the book.

Friday, 17 January 2014

A Solo Adventure: Innsbruck

*Read how it all started here and the adventure in Salzburg here.

Waking up to catch the train to Innsbruck, I felt as weak as a kitten. Nevertheless, I am just grateful that the vomiting and diarrhoea had ceased. Living on a diet of banana, biscuits and Gatorade, at the very least I am still capable of exploring Innsbruck, my final stop. Innsbruck is just extremely breathtaking with the view of the Alps surrounding the entire city! Since it’s the final night of the trip, I splurged a little more by getting a single room in Hotel Weisses Kreuz which really right smack in the centre of the Old Town of Innsbruck.

Panaroma from Nordkette
Using the Innsbruck card, I made a visit to Nordkette and Imperial Palace. At the very top of the Nordkettenbahn cable car, the view of the Austrian Alps is quite breathtaking. With the Christmas Market just right outside the hotel, I couldn’t resist but to visit the market although the smell of sausages and mulled wine reminded me vividly of a horrible episode of food poisoning. Ended the day with a bowl of miso ramen in a Japanese restaurant for dinner.

The only sit down dinner throughout the journey and it is in an ASIAN restaurant =.=

Innsbruck city from Nordkette

Berries on some barren branches by the river

Maria-Theresien Strasse - the Grand Boulevard of Innsbruck
Before catching the afternoon flight back to London, I headed for Schloss Ambrass, Stadtturm and the Golden Roof Museum and finally, mark an end to my solo adventure.

A tourist feeding a free roaming peacock in Schloss Ambrass

Golden Roof from the top of Stadttum (City Tower)
At the end of my trip, I could say that traveling alone is definitely an experience of a lifetime. Like everything in life, going on a solo adventure has two sides of a coin. Personally, I enjoyed the flexibility of time I had throughout the trip. I could stand in the cold taking photos of the same damn thing for minutes and hours without having to worry about keeping others waiting in the cold with me. Neither do I have to worry about visiting places that others are not interested in. Being alone also meant I could budget my food and accommodation expenditure on my own accord. The freedom and flexibility is literally endless.

Of course nothing is perfect, traveling alone can get pretty quiet and lonesome sometimes. There are times where I came across something funny, something pretty or something interesting but there isn’t anyone that I could share the moment with. Everything pretty much comes down to self reflection. Another thing I didn’t quite enjoy was that  there isn’t someone to share food with; thus meaning I couldn’t try that many different local delicacies. Traveling in a group could come in handy especially when someone fell sick during the trip. Being alone and sick kinda really suck.

I believe to many; traveling alone comes across as something daunting. With no one to turn to in a foreign place, it could be quite scary sometimes. BUT honestly, the world is not that scary after all.

Here are some of the tips I considered for staying safe during my solo adventure:

1. Choose a safe destination
Crime rates of each countries are widely available online. It all comes down to choosing the amount of risk to take. If a city is having a political unrest or an extremely high crime rate, it is best to avoid them unless you are ready to take the risk. Most travel guides would also have review on different areas of each city. If an area is known for thugs and their criminal acts, avoid them. Why put yourself at risk?

2. Language Barrier
Although English is an universal language, not everyone in the world learn English in school. It would be useful to learn some of the local languages before traveling to places with a low English literacy rate or be ready for 鸡同鸭讲 (literally: chicken and duck talk) which means two confused party that could not understand the language each other is speaking.

3. Travel Light
Travel only with items you could carry easily just in case you need to run after a train or a bus. Being alone means there are no friends to be your part-time porter.

4. Staying Alert and Taking Calculated Risks
Being in a foreign place, staying alert is definitely important to stay out of danger. Making sensible decisions and taking calculated risks ought to be sufficient to stay safe. Traveling alone is no different from going out alone in where you stay. One who aims to stay safe would not walk in dark alleyways alone, or be careless with their valuables. It helps to have the number of local authorities and a mobile with roaming services.

“One travels more usefully when alone,
because he reflects more” 
– Thomas Jefferson

A Solo Adventure: Salzburg

*Read the beginning of the adventure here!

Upon arriving at Salzburg and dropping my bags off at YOHO Youth Hostel, the first thing I did was go on The Sound of Music tour. Apparently, the award winning and world renowned Sound of Music was not known in German speaking countries although it tells the story of the von Trapp, an Austrian family and was filmed mostly in Salzburg. Today, it is a money making scheme for the local tour companies. The half day tour covers all the filming sites of the movie in Salzburg but the price for the tour is extremely exorbitant. €40 for the short few hours and none of the sites has any entrance fee at all. Being a fan of the Sound of Music, I was contented with the tour but still the €40 isn’t exactly justifiable.

The site where the lakeside scenes were filmed. Remember Do-Re-Mi?

Nonnberg Abbey where Captain von Trapp married Maria in the Sound of Music

The Christmas markets in Salzburg is only of a mediocre size and I felt the Austrian Christmas Market lacks food stalls. There isn’t much choices but then again one can never be wrong to settle for sausages!

Salzburg Christkindlmarket at Domplatz 
With the Salzburg Card, I went on the Untersberg Cable Car for a view of the Austrian Alps which turns out to be quite a letdown as compared to the Swiss Alps. In Salzburg, one cannot simply miss the Mozart Birth House. The home to the music genius, the museum display a considerable amount of his life from a child to an adult. After a blissful dose of currywurst for lunch, I joined the guided tour to the Festival Hall which comprise of 3 halls meant for the use of the Salzburg Festival in the summer. One of them is the set where the Salzburg Festival in the Sound of Music was filmed.

The Festival Hall where the Salzburg Festival is held each year.
Those arches are carved out of the mountains right behind the hall and NO, there is no secret passage to Switzerland unlike in the Sound of Music.
Ended the use of my Salzburg Card with a visit to the Hohensalzburg Castle on top of Festungsberg, a small mountain in the city centre of Salzburg. There are a vast display of artifacts and rooms within the Castle walls and the location atop of the mountain has an amazing view of the Salzburg old town. Like any other young generation, the availability of free wifi in the Castle grounds felt like nirvana. How often would anyone come across tourist attractions with free wifi?! Just as I was checking my mail etc. I heard a familiar voice which turns out to be Christina, one of my juniors in King’s. Not only are we from the same hometown, we attend the same uni, bumped into each other in Austria and stayed in the same hostel; just a room apart. The world simply can’t get any smaller. After the visit to the Salzburg Cathedral, I joined Christina and her friends in the Christmas Market and it was a whole lot of fun to meet this bunch of friendly people.

The view of the Salzburg Old Town from the top of Hohensalzburg

Breathtaking sunset from the top of the fortress

The interior of the Salzburg Cathedral - European Cathedral always have an amazing interior

Photo credit: Zestin Soh
When you travel alone, you'll meet new friends. 

Glad to have met this amazing bunch of people in Salzburg.
Returning to hostel and turning in early, this was where the epic episode of my travel begun. FOOD POISONING! Starting off with a severe diarrhoea, things turn for the worst with vomiting. The last thing I ate was Bosna (sausages with bread, mustard, onion and a dash of curry powder) and in the wee hours of the night, I was regurgitating sausages out of me. If spending most of the night in the toilet wasn’t bad enough; every time I took activated charcoal pills in hopes of stopping the diarrhoea, I ended up vomiting after. Thankfully, it came to a stop after 4-5 hours. Either I had excreted everything possible or I am starting to heal.

One thing I know for sure, I WILL NEVER EAT SAUSAGES EVER AGAIN!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

A Solo Adventure: Friedrichshafen

Travelling alone was one of the many things in my bucket list and I am glad to finally be able to cross it out of the list. The curiosity of venturing into the partially unknown place is really thrilling. Of course, I’ve read travel guides, browse through tripadvisor but the idea of exploring an place on my own was still really exciting.

It all started when one day between my lectures, I was casually browsing for flight tickets to Germany or Austria. I always wanted to see the Christmas markets in the German speaking countries because as I know it their Christmas Market had centuries of history. Also, I have a tiny craze over German speaking places although I can't speak a word of German. The only reason I can think of is the amazing bratwurst! or maybe I was a German in my past life hmmm….

I found flight tickets to Friedrichshafen which is near Lake Constance that connects the borders of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The best part is I manage to find reasonable return tickets from Austria; making the total of my return flight to be less than £70. Then, my fickle alter ego took over. For nights, I was cracking my brain over if I should go with Friedrichshafen-Munich-Salzburg or Friedrichshafen-Innsbruck-Salzburg or Friedrichshafen-Salzburg-Vienna and the combination was endless. Finally, I settled for Friedrichshafen-Salzburg-Innsbruck after calculating price of the flight and train ticket, hostel rates and length of trip. Honestly, I didn’t even know there is such a place called Friedrichshafen and I can't even pronounce it right until I was checking in for my flight at Gatwick Airport.

Friedrichshafen train platform covered in bits of snow and frost

Took off from London on the same morning as my ex-housemate Royd who was flying to Vienna and spent my final moments before the solo journey having breakfast with him. When I am finally alone, it felt rather surreal that my solo adventure is actually happening. Flying budget isn’t exactly my favourite but the budget airlines must somehow adore me because they always put me in window seats. Since I always fly on early morning flights, the best part of being on the window seat is to be able to watch the sunrise. After about an hour and a half, I’ve landed in Friedrichshafen with a freezing temperature of -2°C and all beyond the airport was covered with snow and frost.

After a train ride to the city centre, my plans were to drop off my luggage in Jugendherberge Friedrichshafen and then explore the bigger towns like Konstanz near Lake Constance. Unfortunately, after walking 30 minutes to the hostel, I find it to be quiet and the doors were locked and worst of all I don’t understand anything the sign on the front door. The only thought I had was “OMG ARE THEY CLOSED FOR GOOD?!”. Then, it started hailing and snowing. How brilliant! Luckily, there was a cafe just across the road and to my relief, I was told the hostel was operating and the staff probably went for lunch or something. Considering that 30 minutes back to the town centre was far too long a walk in the snowy weather, I had a super long lunch at Cafe und mehr and waited 3 hours for the hostel reception to open. During that 3 miserable hours, I pondered if I made a right decision on travelling alone and actually wished there was someone else on the trip. Finally at 3pm after 3 freaking hours of waiting, I checked in, dropped off my bags and visited the Zeppelin Museum. A pretty impressive museum displaying the history of Zeppelin and their usage before airplanes came about.

The Friedrichshafen Christmas market was really small and had only about 30 stalls so I decided to take the ferry over to Konstanz for the bigger Christmas market. One of the best decision in the trip! The Konstanz Christmas market was pretty impressive with a large variety of stall. I stuffed my face into a grilled pork bun and currywurst. Ahhhh the bliss of eating currywurst twice in a day!

Decorations of the Zeppelin Museum

Konstanz Christmas Market bustling with crowd
My Love, Bratwurst :D

My train to Salzburg was at 7.30am. Waking up early is my biggest weakness in life. Whenever I have an early flight, bus or train, I would either stay awake all night or simply avoid the early rides. This time around because I was travelling on a budget, I had to buy the early train ticket which was at least €20 cheaper than all other times of the day. Thank goodness I woke up even before my alarm rang. This solo adventure definitely taught me that at times you just gotta depend on yourself.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Maroon 5 @ The O2 Arena

AMAZING! That is the only word to describe the Maroon 5 concert. Adam Levine and his band played most of their famous hits and the crowd was definitely in the highest spirit possible.

Robin Thicke


The concert had an opening act and a supporting act before Maroon 5 was presented to the crowd. Guess who the supporting act is?! Robin Thicke! Though Thicke had definitely gained a huge popularity after the MTV Awards performance with Miley Cyrus, his performance wasn’t exactly that entertaining. Perhaps I am really not a fan of Thicke; never actually heard of him until the MTV Awards performance cause a stir in the internet. Then again, I am really a living dinosaur when it comes to latest music. The crowd was relatively cold during his acts as well except when he sang the popular Blurred Line, the only time the crowd was all hyped up for his performance.

One of the many amazing light backdrop for their performance

Adam Levine singing to the crowd

Maroon 5 opened their performance with their ever popular hit ‘This Love’ (I believe my memory hasn’t failed me) and the crowd from the entire O2 arena started standing up, singing along and grooving with the beat. Among the other songs they sang were ‘Misery’, ‘She Will Be Loved’, ‘Payphone’, ‘Lucky Strike’, ‘Moves Like Jagger’ and many more. Twas a good show, their performance time was only about slightly more than an hour which is rather short to me. ‘Daylight’ was their final song for the night and I guess the lyrics suit the sort of goodbye situation.

Maroon 5 had a Project Daylight and their video on it is absolutely touching. Watched this a couple of hours before the concert and the video touched me deeply.

Confession: I was not a fan of Maroon 5. Well, I’ve heard their songs over the radio but never actually had them in my playlist or listen to them over and over again except for ‘Moves Like Jagger’ which is in my playlist for the gym. Today’s concert ticket was a birthday gift from my ex-housemate and about 12 hours before now, I am worried I have no idea what they are singing on stage. Now, all I can say is that I enjoyed every moment of the concert. Thank you! :D

Credits to Kelvin Hong for all the amazing photos for this blog post. We were sitting on Level 4 and the wonders of the zoom of the Sony compact camera is amazing.

Sunday, 5 January 2014


I am in so much anger that I just need to rattle about this extremely annoying, law-breaking, piece of shit THIEVES!!! Having lived in London for more than 2 years, I’ve always felt safe to travel around the city, go shopping on the bustling Oxford Street and even sightseeing like any other tourist. Albeit knowing pickpockets and thieves operate in a metropolitan like this, I have never expected to encounter one especially when I am not someone who leaves my belongings around; creating opportunity for this bunch of a**holes! Plus, I am extremely sensitive to any additional weight placed on my bags when someone tries to open my bag; proven to be true when I bruised a pickpocket’s hand in the Metro in Paris by swinging my bagpack on purpose into her when she was trying to unzip it. (SO MUCH WIN!)

TODAY, despite the amount of junk I have inside my handbag; one f***ing a**hole managed to somehow yank my iPhone which I was charging on my portable charger from my handbag and even manage to dislodge the eye piece from my DSLR in handbag. Well, I don’t exactly have evidence but that is the state of my DSLR when I was rummaging my bag to find my phone.

To recall, this is the third time in life that my mobile had been at risk and like what people say, third time is a charm. The first two mishap of my mobile was avoided successfully and today it is Pickpocket 1- Yi Lyn 0!!! The first time this ever happened was a close shaved in the LRT station of KLCC about 7 years ago. Some kiddo think he can pickpocket my phone only to let me see it in his hands when both him and I was exiting the train. I still remember shouting at him and snatching my phone back! *self salute my courage* The second incident was my very own carelessness of dropping it in the taxi 3 years ago. Though the taxi driver was kind enough to return it to me, he was extorting me for RM50 or RM100 before he was willing to return the phone to me.

After starting 2014 with the great display of fireworks, I was hoping 2014 to be a smooth sailing year ahead. Today is not even a week into 2014!!!

So, to all the pickpockets and thieves out there, I hope you’ve enjoyed the luxury you attained from stealing and depriving others of their precious possessions. Trust me, KARMA IS A BITCH! One day you will lose more than what you have taken from others. Don’t forget, you’ll probably be burning in the 18 levels of hell as well!

Feels so good after rattling. Apologies for any unintended vulgarity!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

HELLO 2014!!!

Hello 2014! 2014 definitely started with a bang for me. After braving through a massive crowd to get to Victoria Embankment, running home to get my SD card (I brought a DSLR without SD card) and spending my last 7 hours of 2013 standing in the cold together with my mom and high school mate, Julin, the fireworks display at the strike of midnight 2014 is worth every single minute of freezing in the cold.

We left home around 4.45pm in search of a place to have early dinner and then settle for a not-so-crowded spot to watch the fireworks. But as humans always are, we got ambitious. The plan changed to taking away McDonalds and camping out at a nice spot at the Southbank; only to realise we should take the risk of going to Victoria Embankment instead. 2 years ago, I tried to get into the Victoria Embankment viewing area but it was full quite early in the evening. Despite everything, we took the best risk in 2013! At 6.15pm, the crowd at Victoria Embankment was still tolerable and we even manage to camp out around the BBC cameras. RIGHT OPPOSITE THE LONDON EYE!!!

An almost perfect view - if only I was taller

Snap a picture while waiting because everyone is doing the same

The night went on with just one thing; WAITING! One of the rare moment that I wished time had speed up so the wait could be over as soon as possible. *tick tock tick tock* Finally it was the final countdown and it was drizzling. Had to yell at some idiots in front to put their umbrella down. That’s how I ended 2013; yelling at strangers to keep their umbrella and have some of the crowd echoed the same.




Lesson 1 in 2014: Good things come to those who wait! :D

HAPPY 2014!