Food, Life, Photography, Travel

Prague ~ the new Paris

A couple weekends ago, my boyfriend and I were very lucky to spend 3 days in the beautiful city of Prague.

20140801-115538-42938107.jpg

It is so hard to pick just one picture that embodies the true beauty of Prague. Partly because there are just too many things that we loved about this historic city, but also because my camera lens is pretty crap for landscape photography =_=’

Before we left for our trip I was pretty skeptical about people’s fascination with Prague. I had so many preconceptions about it only being a stag do/cheap beer kind of destination. I was SO WRONG. Yessssss there we’re many groups of drunk guys with the groom-to-be always dressed as a lady (so weird), and hell yes the beer was only £1 (seriously), but Prague was so much more than that. Let me explain.

Food

Food was my biggest fear for this holiday, mainly because I have never been excited over the thought of having meat and dumplings for dinner. Not the scrummy and delicious Asian kind, but the stodgy, food-baby-making bread or potato kind.

So meh.

Luckily for me, and luckily for Alex because I google everythingggg to death, we managed to pick some amazing places to eat.

Lobkowicz Palace cafe

I am a firm believer in not eating at tourist attractions, but sometimes you just gotta eat! £££ 7/10

20140717-172104-62464668.jpg

Special of the day – Apple strudel, and a parma ham and cheese panini

Grosseto marina

Fancy Italian riverboat style restaurant with views of the castle over the river. A solid 7/10 for the food, but really you come for the views. ££ 9/10

20140717-170358-61438698.jpg

20140801-121025-43825700.jpg

Saporita pizza and Ravioli con polpetine di pollo e prosciutto

Cafe Lourve

Fancy, art nouveau style 100 yr old cafe where both Albert Einstein and Frank Kafka got their Parisian brunch on. Lunch set menu is only in Czech but very good value. ££ 9/10

20140717-171232-61952722.jpg

Aperol spritz – everyone was drinking them!

20140801-121025-43825022.jpg

Classic Sacher – A chocolate cake laced with apricot jam and homemade watermelon ice cream

U Kroka

Our favourite of the trip, this truly is the place to come try Czech Pork Knuckle. Great value and right near the old castle grounds. ££ 10/10

20140717-171626-62186327.jpg

Roasted pork knee (or knuckle) – this was the portion listed in the ‘Manly’ section of the menu. A dish so filling you didn’t even need sides!

20140801-121024-43824451.jpg

Roasted duck with apples, red cabbage, homemade bread and potato dumplings

Klasterni pivovar Strahov

17th century brewery restored as a restaurant. Staff were grumpy but food was more-ish, the beer even better. ££ 7/10

20140717-172826-62906741.jpg

Wheat and ‘Amber’ beer

20140801-115833-43113352.jpg

Goulash in a bread bowl (tacky I know!) and Sirloin of beef in a cream sauce with cranberries and dumplings.

Things to do

Prague as a city-break is one of those cities where you can always find something to do, whether you plan ahead or not. Despite not speaking any Czech (I reeeeaaally wanted to try) I felt the entire city was pretty much accessible to me – not just because most people we encountered spoke English, but also because there were so many things you could just stumble upon and explore.

Prague castle (Pražský hrad)

20140731-164646-60406375.jpg

An afternoon can easily be spent on the castle grounds, with plenty of churches and museums to keep you occupied. If you’d rather see just the best bits (as we did) then 200 korunas gets you into St Vitus Cathedral, the grand royal hall, St George’s Basilica and the Golden Lanes. Even if you decide not to explore all of the buildings or wanting to make the most of a sunny day – the views from the castle grounds of the city below are enchanting.

Church of Saint Nicolas

20140731-163351-59631740.jpg

By far my favourite of all the religious sites, it’s (almost) gaudy gold finishings is what makes it so special. We sat in here for a good half hour just taking it all in (and cooling down from the sun)!

Charles bridge

The tourist destination that I was most looking forward to photographing, the internet has hundreds of pictures capturing Charles Bridge at its most romantic – lamps glowing through a cloak of thick mist! I was so disappointed when all I could see/capture were swarms of tourists and caricature artists – boo!

The John Lennon wall

20140731-163458-59698853.jpg

Although I’m not particularly a Lennon/Beatles fan, I loved the wall! Insanely bright and AMAZING to photograph!

Wenceslas square

20140731-163743-59863794.jpg

We didn’t spend much time here but it was worthwhile to go having just been to the communism museum. Not so much because the museum was great but more for being able to put what we had learnt there into perspective. For those who love makeup, they sell Inglot at Debenhams and have a Sephora in Wenceslas square!

Old Town square

20140731-163925-59965734.jpg

If you’re only in Prague for a weekend like we were, then this is one of the best places to just sit and soak in some Prague atmosphere. Hell yes it’s probably one of the most touristy places you could go (and for many would make you run a mile) but it’s touristy for a reason! A mixture of historical charm (the Astronomical clock, the Church of Our Lady before Tyn) and commercialisation of a touristy hotspots (American students promoting bar crawls, and tours on Segways) we happily paid three times as much for a beer just to soak it all in and people watch! Yay!

20140731-163925-59965086.jpg

If you walk a few minutes away from the square (and notice the crowds have thinned) this is where you start discovering some of Prague’s best drinking spots – Chapeau Rogue, Bugsy’s and Hemingway bar (my favourite) are all cosy, chilled and cheap!

Riegrovy Sady

20140801-115832-43112677.jpg

We visited this beer garden during the Germany vs France World Cup quarter-final match where they had set up a big screen with tons of benches and beer/food stands lining the garden. Full of expats, tourists and locals alike, the actual park itself offers yet another place to overlook the city.

Vysehrad castle

20140731-164233-60153537.jpg

This serene castle and grounds are two minutes away from my top pick restaurant – U Kroka. An impressively tall, fort-like wall surrounds the grounds which makes for an awesome first impression. Couples and tourists line the castle walls, which from up there you can enjoy an entirely different view point of the city, with Prazsky hrad as the crown of the horizon. Further in you come across more locals walking their dogs but I would highly recommended allocating and evening to spend here during your visit.

Peddle boating on the Vltava river

20140801-113724-41844564.jpg

No messing with the captain. Serious business!

200 koruna (about £5.50) for an hour! Such a bargain and was such a great way to spend our last morning in Prague. Wanting to make the most of ten warm weather while simultaneously avoiding being near other people (haha), we paddle boat-ed up and down the Vltava between the Charles bridge and the Dancing House. We even spotted a few fellow paddle boaters who had remembered to bring beers onboard!

Overall
I loved Prague! Although beach holidays are more my thing, Prague was perfect for a long weekend.

For 3 days we paid:
Flights – £75 p/p return with Wizzair (never again!)
Hotel – £85 p/p for 3 nights at a ‘5 star’
Spending money – £120 p/p

20140801-115832-43112048.jpg

Advertisements
Standard
Food, Life, Photography

Family time

As you probably feel in your own life, no matter how ambitious you want to be about your free time, the weekends seem to fly far too quickly. For us, as a young couple living in the city, it takes tremendous will power to make time – quality time – for our family.

I don’t mean this in a bad way but how easy it is to… plan a barbeque, do the week’s worth of shopping, pop to the cinema because you stillhaven’t seen that must-see film, sunbathe, sleep, sleep some more, check in with your favourite Malay restaurant (hehe) and before you know it that’s every weekend of the month almost over!

Luckily for me, I live very nearby my family, but for Alex this means an excursion… to the country side O.O

Yup, that’s a whole weekend job.

So for Father’s day weekend, we made the trip and I got snap snap snap happy!

Standard
Food, Life, Photography

My one true love ~ Roka

Enough about all these other restaurants, they were just mere flirtations. Now we’re talking about the real deal here – my one true love – Roka.

My love for Roka bloomed 4 short years ago, when one Chinese New Year we happened to book this as our New Year’s eve feast. Let me explain how it works.

Part of the magic of Roka is not just its culinary expertise, its mood lighting, or even its open plan kitchen for me too oogle anyone and everyone’s food. The magic lies in the word buffet.

Ordinarily buffet is such a tainted word. A hideously diseased word. But at Roka, it’s an elusive invitation to the most popular kid at school’s birthday party. And you got the seat right in front of the birthday cake.

When Roka seductively utters buffet, what it really means is – we’ll spend 4 hours making the freshest sushi, most succulent barbecue, crispest salads and tantalising soups that you could ever wish for. And you can have as much as you want. Really, as much as you want. And I’ll just keep making it.

mussels japanese food starter

Nibbles and more from our buffet starter selection.

bellini sushi egg salmon

Bellini’s and sushi – yum yum!

Chee eating salad | Roka

Chee eating salad? Books for Christmas?

On top of as-much-as-you-want sushi/bbq/salad/soup, I’ll also throw in unlimited wine, table snacks (such as the delicious beef dumplings below), a main course (see even further below) and to top it all off, a ice-cradled dessert platter.

Beef dumplings | Roka

Piping hot beef dumplings – brought straight from the kitchen to our table.

baby back ribs

These baby back ribs is the only thing that held the dinner together. My brother becomes Hulk without baby back ribs, our family dinner hanging precariously on my brother’s mood.

teriyaki salmon

Teriyaki salmon is shy

giant king prawn tempura

The most giant king prawn tempura you ever laid eyes on.

beef steak teriyaki

My steak. I was soon over the fact they had cut up my steak for me (who does this) when I let a piece of beef melt on my tongue – god it was delicious.

lau family group photo

Herro Lau family + Alex! He’s still referred to as ‘plus Alex’. Something to do with having a lot more facial bone structure than us I suspect.

Before I complete this post with more food photos – this was actually our Lau family (plus Alex) Christmas dinner. As Chinese and conflictingly British as we are, we do celebrate Christmas, but we want the tastiest food to celebrate it with – whether it be Japanese 😉

dessert platter

Yummy! Smaller than our portion we received on our first visit 4 years ago, and far less selection, but one mustn’t be picky after one has eaten all of the food.

passionfruit ice cream

Secret passion fruit explosion inside of our ice cream.

alex mowles pohlin lau

Even shier than the teriyaki salmon. Who woulda thunk?

Merry Christmas, everybody!* **
*in my best Dr. Nick voice
**Simpsons fans, you know who you are.

Standard
Food, Life

My local: Taste of India

I love food, but I love food even more when I can afford it.

Ever dreamt of a meal for two that costs a mere £12? Mains so fulfilling (notice I used fulfilling, not just filling!) that you needn’t bother with a starter?

Well you can my friend, at Taste of India, you truly can.

Warning: this is not your usual curry house. In fact, I dare you to skip the curry – it’s all about the Dosa at Taste of India. What is Dosa? It’s a savoury rice & lentil pancake that comes in a variety of magical forms. Fancy more carbs? Make it a Masala Dosa, packed with potato curry. Fancy wearing it? Order a Paper Dosa, formed like a large crispy party hat, it’s just as satisfying to eat as it is to wear. Not content? Why not go for a Family Dosa? A six foot monstrosity, enough to fill your family and the table next to you. (Unfortunately Family Dosa only exists at my former love, the Chennai Dosa chain, but you get my drift – there are a lot of Dosa variations to be had!)

So last Friday, the boy and I found ourselves drifting longingly towards Taste of India, in search for some sweet relief from cooking duties (thanks Friday feeling), but also an excuse to get our Dosa fix.

Alex had the Onion Rava Masala Dosa (Onion goes into the pancake batter, the potato Masala goes into the Dosa, and the Rava meaning it is a Semolina batter rather than rice/lentil). This is my favourite out of all the Dosa variations, and while Dosa is usually a breakfast dish back in Malaysia, it’s so good as a dinner too. For £3.80, I could eat it all day, any meal!

IMG_2406

Onion Rava Masala Dosa served with daal and a variety of coconut chutneys.

Now call me crazy, but I did have to go for the bigger meal, see?

IMG_2404

This beauty is the Punjabi Thaali. I know I can’t finish it when I order it, but it doesn’t stop me ordering it all the same. What you can see from the photo is basically a huge mound of rice (which no human could ever finish without exploding like a pigeon. Okay, except that every male Indian in the restaurant manages to finish his rice – just not me), the rice comes with a variety of curries – sweet and savoury. You always get a paneer, potato and chickpea curry, as well as cauliflower fritters (yummy), but the others tend to vary. They also then to throw in at least two sweets – usually a semolina dessert and a Gulab Jamun.

But that’s just not enough…

IMG_2405

I get a poppadom and chapatti just to top it all off.

We did not finish these dishes. My boyfriend is a dustbin, yet he could not help me finish this. And all for £12 – why would you ever eat anywhere else???

Note – all South Indian restaurants serve complimentary water, in Taste of India’s case, it’s bottled water. Perfect accompaniment to a heavy, extremely satisfying meal.

Now it’s almost Friday again, I might, probably just end up there again tomorrow!

Standard

Being the ever dutiful daughter that I am, I spent one of my ‘free’ days blackberry picking with my younger sister.

a) it got her out of the house and off of any form of electronics

and

b) my mum, who is super healthy and Chinese, enjoys anything organic and most importantly, free. She tends to ignore that they have grown alongside a busy road, and therefore exposed to plenty of car fumes – I never point this out, just silently laugh in my head, always in my head.

Along the way, we discovered these beautiful dried leaves. I couldn’t resist getting my camera out, especially with the soft light of the late afternoon.

DSC03087

DSC03100

DSC03092

DSC03093

DSC03110

Food, Life, Photography

Urban blackberry picking

Image
Life

Daily Prompt: “It’s Pohlin, sounds like Poland but pronounced po-LIN… just call me Po”

This is what I have to go through every time I meet someone new.

Some days it’s easier, and people will remember the TV program – The Teletubbies – and understand Po, or perhaps find a more modern reference in Jack Black’s Kung Fu Panda.

Other days I might feel brave and introduce my full first name. “Pauline” they’ll guess, thinking I have an accent or they have misheard me. “No, Polin” I’ll gently correct them, with a slight air of impatience, yet forgiveness – it’s not their terrible name that’s making this so awkward. “Oh, Pollen, okay.”

My name is Poh Lin Lau. Pronounced POH LIN LAU. Poh, as in “Oh, I’ve forgotten my keys.” You think I’m kidding for needing to emphasis oh, but there have been many an interview where I have to endure being called Pholin (fo-lin). Or Poo-lin. Yes, over the years there have been too many Poo-lin’s, and much too much heartbreak on my end. (On a side note, I have to mention that the American interpretation of my name is by far the worst – Pearrrrl-lin)

Why, you are thinking, did my parents decide to name me so?

I was named in disappointment that I wasn’t born a boy. Just kidding, but I think judging my all possible baby names, my parents were pretty much planning for a boy. Oops, sorry! An all-things-Asia aficionado, my white father wanted to name me Little Dragon 小龍 (Xiaolong). As in of Bruce Lee (screen name) fame, Little Dragon. Imagine if I had to excuse my father’s martial arts obsession for the rest of my life, explaining Xiao Long at every introduction. No, instead I get just as much joy explaining my actual name.

Poh Lin 宝莲 means Precious Lotus. Pronounced Bǎo lián in Mandarin, it sounds far better than it’s Cantonese counterpart – Boh Ling. Really, bowling?

I know, it’s like they hate me.

Lastly, to go with my Chinese name, I was given my mother’s surname – Lau. Just to make things just that little more confusing.

My Chinese eyes and fair hair.

My Chinese eyes and fair hair.

Looking like an Asian baby, people would question whether I was really my father’s daughter, with my Chinese eyes and my Chinese name. As I grew older and more into my Western nose, and finally each day looking more like my father, I begun to feel, and look, far less suited to my very Asian name.

Joining a new school, company or anything that required me to give up my name beforehand, I was always met with shocked or confused looks as people tried to work out the connection between my name and face.

How very 90's ~ Me at 18 months.

How very 90’s ~ Me at 3 years. (*whoops I was a bit out on my first guess)

But now at the ripe old age of 22, I can’t really say I hate my name anymore. When I was younger, and often bullied for having a different name (how cliché), I think I hated my name. It stopped me from being, well, normal. I don’t think now that normal is something to strive for, but I do believe normal would mean for me that my name could be pronounced correctly the first time. There was a time I believed my name stopped me from getting a part-time job in my very white town (at the time). I still couldn’t tell you that I firmly believe it isn’t stopping me from getting a job right now!

But I don’t hate my name. I appreciate my heritage, and I’m proud of my family. But do I wish sometimes that I had at the very least an English nickname (like most Asians)? – defeatedly, yes.

But for now, I will keep introducing myself as “Pohlin, sounds like Poland, but pronounced po-LIN.”

Chinese, really?

Have you found yourself frustrated at what your parents named you? Or just wishing people were a little better at pronouncing your name? Or have you found that your name has held you back in life, from that job or making friends?

Link
Zucchini fritters - definite yum yum!

Zucchini fritters – definite yum yum!

Last week, I was bestowed upon a huge courgette (which sadly in all my excitement I didn’t take a picture of), but imagine this thing was huge. Like the size of my thigh – okay it was smaller, but not by much.

Blessed with this large courgette, I figured I have to make the most of it, and practically bake it into everything! Ergo fritters, bread, breaded chips, salads – you name it!

But with all this baking, I was taken back to a recipe we used at camp. This was back when I decided to spend the summer looking after mischievous kiddies from NYC who’d never seen grass. Or a lake. Or just any wild outdoor space. And one of the activities that we did with down at the camp’s farm, was bake zucchini cookies.

photo

My first group of campers, fellow counsellors and I.

Now when I first heard of these, as an Englishman, I was immediately repulsed, naturally. But powering through, pretending to be excited about the prospect of vegetable cookies just so as to trick the kiddies into believing so themselves, I was pleasantly surprised.

Unlike a regular cookie, or biscuit in England, these courgette cookies are light and almost cake-like. More reminiscent of a muffin top (not the overhanging trouser-fat kind), these cookies are delicious paired with a sprinkling of chocolate chips melting inside its fluffy, doughy cake-ness.

I’d found a relatively easy recipe online and set upon straining this juicy, steroid-pumped courgette ready for cookies! *There were no steroids really, just lots of loving kindness which helped it grow to its Hulk resembling size.

My boyfriend’s family heartily help me demolish these cookies, which I can happily say were mere crumbles before the day had ended.

Zucchini cookies: a definite no-no or just the right kind of wrong?

Food, Photography

Zucchini cookies: a definite no-no or just the right kind of wrong?

Image