Saturday, 28 June 2014

Trooping the Colours

An annual event held on a Saturday of June, Trooping the Colours is held to officially celebrate the Sovereign’s birthday. Although Queen Elizabeth II is born on the 21st of April, the Sovereign’s birthday is publicly celebrated in June. Held by the Household Division, Trooping the Colours is a tradition which dates back to the 18th century where the colours of the battalion were trooped down the ranks so that they could be seen and recognised by soldiers.

Being my last English summer, there is nothing better than to catch a glimpse of the much celebrated royals during the parade. Growing up in a Commonwealth country, the English royals were once part of our system and their presence today is still much a hype amongst Malaysians. With a large crowd expected and most roads around the Buckingham Palace and Whitehall closed, I made my way early to the Buckingham Palace at 7am.

For the first time in my life, I saw traffic lights being removed from the ground!
Getting there early secured me a relatively good spot and through the long wait, it was impressive to see how traffic lights were removed to make way for the march past and police dogs securing the location from any threat. By 10am, the crowd poured in with lines of people along The Mall and around Buckingham Palace. At quarter past 10, the royals made their way into the Palace before getting on their carriage for the ride down to the Horse Guard Parade.

From 10am, the impressive Foot Guards and Household Cavalry started their march in batches towards the Horse Guard Parade. The horse carriages carrying the royals followed behind the Household Cavalry on to The Mall.

The band marching in

Foot Guards marching past Buckingham Palace
The Household Cavalry
A glimpse of Kate Middleton with Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry
Kate Middleton as elegant as ever
Her Majesty in her carriage going into The Mall
A closer look into the Her Majesty

While the Sovereign and royals are at Horse Guard Parade for Trooping the Colours ceremony, the ordinary changing of guards took place and it was a long hour before the royals return to the Buckingham Palace. At 1pm, the Queen and royals appear on the balcony to watch the fly-past by the Royal Air Force.

Fly-Past with the colours of Union Jack
Trooping the Colours is an impressive event show casting the Foot Guards and Household Cavalry in a parade with much gusto. The British military parade is one of the most interesting in the world. Even the ordinary change of guards in Buckingham Palace attracts thousands of tourists. With the attendance of Her Majesty and the royal family, it was an added bonus to catch a glimpse of the royals while watching the spectacular march past.

For more images:

What can you see:
x - a view of the Household Cavalry and the royal family passing by, a great view of the balcony of Buckingham Palace
x - a view of the Household Calvary and the Foot Guards coming in from Spur Road and the royal family passing by, unfortunately no view of the balcony
x - a view of the Household Cavalry and Foot Guards and the royal family passing by, no view of the balcony as well
x - a view of the Foot Guards passing through and Household Cavalry, no glimpse of the royal family, a great view of the balcony

How the march past takes place:

The march past of the Foot Guards begin from the barracks near St. James Park into Spur Road across Buckingham Palace into the Mall. The Household Cavalry enters from Constitution Hill into The Mall. The carriages carrying Her Majesty and the royal family exits Buckingham Palace from the left gate into Constitution Hill down to The Mall.
Returning to Buckingham Palace from The Mall, the carriages enters Constitution Hill into the left gate of the palace. After returning to the palace, the royals appear on the balcony shortly and return back into the palace and reappearing again for the fly-past.

*The route of the guards march past may change from year to year. However, from the many times I've watched the Change of Guards, the routine is the same throughout the years. So, it may apply to Trooping the Colours as well

The seats for Trooping of Colours ceremony is limited and are allocated by ballot. The applications for the tickets are open in January and February each year. Simply write in to:

Brigade Major
HQ Household Division
Horse Guards

Find out more details on

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Recipe: Pandan Chicken/Gai Haw Bai Toey

Pandan Chicken!

Watching some cooking show online had stirred up my cravings for pandan chicken and Thai food. Pandan chicken in restaurants is usually rather expensive (just my personal opinion) and a huge plate usually ends up with a heap of pandan leaves and a fairly little amount of chicken. So I searched up the recipe online and tried to make my own pandan chicken at home.

Following the recipes of Amy Beh and RasaMalaysia, I tried to come up with one using whatever ingredients and spices I have in my kitchen. Moving back to home in a few weeks time, I didn’t see the need to buy more seasonings.

So, here’s a mash up of their recipes and using whatever I had in the kitchen:

Pandan Chicken (serves 5-6)


400g chicken thigh (bones & skin removed)
20 pandan leaves (trimmed & cleaned)
20 toothpicks
Vegetable oil (for frying)

3 cm           ginger (grated)
2 cloves      garlic (chopped finely or grated)
1 stalk        lemongrass (sliced finely)
2 tbsp         soya sauce
2 tsp           Worchester sauce
1 1/2 tsp    fish sauce
1 tsp           ground tumeric
1/2 tsp       pepper
1/2 tsp       sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp    corn flour
3 tbsp         thick coconut milk


1. Slice the chicken thigh into cubes and marinated with all the seasonings except coconut milk and leave it to stand for at least 3 hours.

2. Clean the pandan leaves, trimming the ends and wipe the water off with a clean dry cloth or kitchen towel.

3. Add in the coconut milk and mix well.

4. Place 2-3 cubes of chicken at 3-4 cm from end of the pandan leaf. Bring the end of the leaf in to form a cone shape and wrap the pandan leaf around to form a triangular shape. Secure with a toothpick.

A few messy pandan chicken that I've wrapped up for frying

4. Heat up a pot of oil and fry the pandan chicken in batches until it is cooked thoroughly.
TIP: Test if the oil is hot enough by placing a chopstick into the oil. If there are bubbles around the oil, the oil is hot enough for frying.

Be ready for some splattering of oil (I had to mop my entire kitchen after frying)
The fragrance of the pandan chicken will fill up your entire kitchen.

With the ingredients above, I manage to make 19 pieces of pandan chicken. Being a little impatient, I only let my chicken marinate for over an hour before cooking them. They are still tasty but it could definitely be better if I had leave them in the marinate for a longer period of time. Though sceptical about adding coconut milk into the chicken, it actually made the chicken much more fragrant.

Apologies for the horrible explanation on how to wrap the chicken. Check out the videos on Youtube on how to wrap the pandan chicken.


A Surprise in Caernarfon: Blas

Starting off a week getaway to North Wales with encounters of somewhat identical menu in almost every food joint made me conclude that my diet for my holiday will be the typical English breakfast and pub food. That is until I came across Blas. A local explained that the name ‘Blas’ meant ‘taste’ in the Welsh language.

Located in Hole in the Wall Street, this little joint in the heart of Caernarfon town wall is a gem. Opened only over a year ago, Blas serves a spectacular fair of modern Welsh cuisines. Every plate were so amazingly presented that it felt pretty much like a Michelin star dining experience. No wonder Blas tops the ratings in Trip Advisor for restaurants in Caernarfon.

A relaxing part of Blas

Entering the petite doors of Blas, instrumental music plays softly and the waitress swiftly showed us to our table. Moments after being handed the menu, we were served with a variety of amuse bouches.

Amuse bouches

Curry popcorn: 
Dusted with curry powder and with a touch of Indian spices, the curry popcorn is a nice option of savoury popcorn.

Cream cheese and tarragon crostini: 
Topped with rich cream cheese infused with tarragon and herbs, the cream cheese is a heavenly addition to the crostini.

Pork and black pudding with apple puree: 
My favourite amongst the amuse bouches! Enveloped with bread crumbs; the crunchy and chewy texture of pork and black pudding combination with apple puree, the finger size amuse bouche melts in the mouth creating a heavenly weave of flavours

Smoked salmon roulette: 
With stripes of smoked salmon with cream cheese and rolled into a roulette, yet another delectable amuse bouche. 

From left to right: Butter, Welsh blue cheese and chives butter roll, plain white dough
Welsh blue cheese and chives butter roll and plain white dough:
Despite the reputation of blue cheese having a distinct scent which is not for everyone, the warm bread with Welsh blue cheese and chives butter brings out a delectable taste of similar of salted butter with chives.

Starting off with the seared scallops as recommended by the waitress, there's no room for any disappointment. Such a great starter worth nothing but praises!

Seared Angelsey scallops, braised pork belly, 
apricot puree & chorizo oil @£8.95
Two large scallops were pan seared to perfection and the touch of fruity and sourness of apricot puree enhances the freshness of the scallops. Added to the combination is a thin slice of braised pork belly which were seared to create a crispy later on the outside. 

Moving onto the main courses, I opted for the cod while Christine chose the lamb. The high expectation from the amuse bouche and starter were definitely met!
Roast Loin, shoulder & neck croquette of Welsh Lamb,
with asparagus, wild garlic & samphire @ 
The lamb was served pink with croquettes and as Christine puts it, "This is so good!". Having a try of the lamb and croquette, I have nothing but praises for this lamb course.
Pan fried cod, prawn bhaji, raisin puree,
curried cauliflower and a spinach & mango pickle @ 
Having tasted the cod dish in Gordon Ramsay's Michelin-starred Petrus, the pan fried cod in Blas was definitely a match for the standards of Michelin-starred restaurants. Topped with curried cauliflower and a splash of creamy curry broth, the pan fried cod had an Indian touch to it. With the raisin puree and mango pickle, the hint of sourness yet again creates another wonderful fusion.

At the end of our main course, we were extremely contented and gave dessert a pass.

Given the location of Blas in a small town of Caernarfon, it was a wonderful find. The dining experience in Blas satisfied our taste buds with the highly commendable culinary skills and clever combination of ingredients. Adding to the delectable food, the service was attentive and friendly.

With the excellent culinary skills, Blas is definitely worth a try! Despite slightly costly for dining out in Wales, the price was worth every penny in comparison to most London restaurants and UK chain restaurants. 

Find out more about Blas on their website and the address below. 
Bwyty Blas
23-25 Hole in the Wall Street
LL55 1RF

Food rating: 9.5/10
Service rating: 10/10
Ambience rating: 9/10
Overall rating: 9/10

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Conquering Yr Wyddfa

Hiking has always been an adventure I longed to experience. Given my ankle, knee and shoulder injuries and poor fitness in the past, I had shelved hiking right to the back of my priority list. Inspired by Phil Keoghan’s No Opportunity Wasted concept, hiking was moved back right to the front and Snowdon became my very first hiking experience. Together with Christine, it was an amazingly breathtaking (pun intended) hike.

Situated in Snowdonia National Park, Snowdon stands tall at 1085m. There are various tracks to the summit of Snowdon and we opted for PYG track for our ascent and the Llanberis Path for our descent. Setting off from our base in the village of Llanberis, the Sherpa bus took us to the carpark of Pen-Y-Pass where the PYG and Miner Track begin. With an elevation of around 300m from Pen-Y-Pass, there was much less height to climb.

Thrilled to start off the hike from PYG Track
The date was 3rd June 2014 and the weather forecast was positive with a 80% chance of a clear summit.

Starting off the PYG track and the first 10 minutes were made up of mostly gravel paths and sturdy steps made from rocks. The beginning was great and our energy level was sky rocketing. Thinking that most of the path would continue to be of similar difficulty was probably my most naive thought. The path gradually becomes difficult with high steps and quite a bit of scrambling were needed. With steps higher than my knee most of the time, it took my short legs almost double the effort compared to my friend and all those tall angmohs.

An hour plus into the hike, we had our first glimpse of Llyn Llydaw and Miners Track
Breathtaking Llyn Llydaw
Climbing further for over an hour, the breathtaking view of Llyn Llydaw and the causeway in the Miners Track came to view. Meeting a family of four who seemed seasoned with the path, much to our delight, we were told that the top of the summit was no more than 90 minutes away. Resuming our ascent after a short water and photo break, we climbed further and came to the intersection to Crib Goch (the scary knife ridge which require serious mountaineering skills). Kept left correctly for Snowdon summit but then the real fright begun.


The path curved by the slope of the mountain and after some scrambling, we were lost in the midst of piles of rocks which none look like a worn path by hikers. Keeping close to the mountain for a further 5 minutes and yet there was no apparent path. It was almost immediately the thought of “SHIT WE ARE LOST” came into my head and I succumbed into panic mode. Getting lost on the mountain was the last thing I wished for. Christine on the other hand was actually amused by my panic attack and kept her composure, convincing me to continue climbing until we find the path. We turned into quite an amusing bickering pair about where to go; with one wanting to stay put until we find the right direction and another wanting to charge ahead knowing the path will come into our way somehow.

One thing we knew was the direction towards the path but it was still horrifying because our sight could only see up to the top of the nearest slope ahead of us and we had no idea what is ahead after the slope. And off we scrambled our way up and down a slope and another and another. With every step I took, I was muttering prayers every second, praying that the PYG track came back into our sight. After almost 30 minutes, prayers were answered and the PYG track came into sight. Being on the top of the slope, we had to make our way back down to the track. My pair of walking poles were amazing life savers to help us back down to the track from the slippery grass slope.

Back on track - the gentler path on the hike

Back on the track, it was time for a break to calm my nerves. Absorbed into the views of Llyn Glaslyn, it was a perfect spot for a break. The final stage of the climb after joining in with the Miners Track were much more tiring with high steps and steep ascent. At the intersection, we continued up the zigzag path which is actually just a zig and a zag. Together with a group of four English aunties and uncle in their late 50s or early 60s, we ascend up to the summit, joining with Llanberis path for a final 100m climb along the rail tracks.

Back onto the PYG track, posing for an artsy photo is a must. LOL

Climbing further away from Llyn Glaslyn, looking back and the view is amazing
Panaroma from the meeting point of Llanberis Path, Miners Track and PYG Track
Caught a Snowdon Mountain Railway passing by
Anyone who would love to head up the summit but isn't keen on torturing their legs can hop onto the mountain railway and be transported right to the door of the summit cafe
The clouds and mist in the final 100m stretch to the summit
After a cloudy and misty period, the sky cleared slightly for a better view from the Trig Point
Standing tall at the Trig Point on Snowdon Summit

Together with the group of four we met along the way, we headed onto the Llanberis Path and took a stroll back to the village of Llanberis. Much of the path had a gentle slope but was filled with lose rocks making it difficult to walk on. Going down was definitely harder on my knees. Coupled with exhaustion from the ascent, my poor knees were whining about a path which seem to take an eternity to end. After an hour, our older English friends headed off ahead of us. It’s embarassing that I was probably too slow for them.
Llanberis Path
Coming to the halfway house, half the journey down was completed and the remaining path was gravel path with little incline. Along the way, we were entertained by the symphony of sheep calling out to each other. Reaching the end of the path, a long winding tarmac road was awaiting to lead us back to Llanberis.

Mehhhh Mehhhhh Mehhhh all the way

End of the hike with all limbs still attached

Heading back to Llanberis, there’s nothing more satisfying than a good meal. Well, I would have given everything for a bowl of piping hot wanton noodles but being the countryside of Wales, I had to settle for chicken pie instead.

The ascent and descent to the summit of Snowdon took us about 7 hours excluding our long break in the summit. Despite the aching muscles and blisters, conquering Snowdon was a great satisfaction. There’s nothing more satisfying than successfully pushing through mental and physical limits.

Finally, my greatest gratitude to Adilah for answering my crazy amount of questions about the hike and the path, the weather and everything there is possibly to ask.