Deepavali: A Festival Of Lights

Deepavali

Just recently, Singapore celebrated Deepavali, or Diwali as it is also known, one of the biggest and most important celebrations in the Hindu calendar.  Deepavali literally translated, means a row of lamps and it is observed by families traditionally lighting oil lamps to signify the triumph of good over evil.

Deepavali

For Hindus, Deepavali is typically celebrated over five days, with each day bearing a special significance. The festivities start with Dhanteras which also represents the beginning of the financial year for many Indian business communities. The second day of the festival is known as the Naraka Chaturdasi marking the vanquishing of the demon Naraka, a celebration of the triumph of good over evil.

Amavasya, which is the third day of Diwali, symbolizes the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Amavasya also tells the story of the Hindu Lord Vishnu, who vanquished the tyrant Bali, and banished him to hell. Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year, to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance, and spread the radiance of love and wisdom. The fourth day of Deepavali is known as Kartika Shudda Padyami is when Bali returns to earth to light the lamps. The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya, and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes for reunion.

In Singapore, Deepavali is a public holiday and the festivities are observed primarily by the Indian community, more specifically, the Tamils. It is typically marked by a vibrant lighting display along the streets of Little India in Serangoon Road which is the heart of the Indian community.

Apart from the light-up, Little India is all abuzz with a kaleidoscope of activities such as bazaars, exhibitions, parades and concerts. Here you can find a vast collection of traditional Indian artifacts, floral garlands and colourful Saris – the traditional Indian costumes which feature intricate brocade patterns and glittering gems. Traditional arts and crafts will also be on sale at the bazaars.

Like many Asian traditions and celebrations, the date for Deepavali is dependent on the phase of the moon. As such it is typically celebrated between the end of October and early November. If you are in Singapore during this period, you must remember to ask your Capella Singapore Personal Assistant for more information on the activities lined up for the Deepavali celebrations.

A Guide To The Best Food In Singapore

best food in Singapore Chili Crab

With Singapore Restaurant Week just around the corner, all the country is buzzing about the top restaurants to visit explore.  Staying true to its reputation as an epicure’s paradise, the Singapore Restaurant Week takes place twice a year.  Restaurants and eateries prepare special menus to showcase their cuisine and locals enjoy a week of hearty feasting.

This got me thinking of how Singaporeans truly love their food and will spare no expense to queue or travel for the best food in town.  Like it is often said, “when in Rome, do as the Roman’s do,” so when in Singapore there are just some dishes you must certainly not miss out.

best food in Singapore Chili Crab

The Best Food In Singapore:

1. Chicken Rice
Touted as the “national dish of Singapore,” Chicken Rice is one of my absolute favorite dishes.  Usually made with boiled or roasted chicken, the highlight of this dish is the aromatic “oily rice” that is made using chicken stock and fragrant Pandan leaves.

2. Chili Crab
Another favorite (for myself- and the rest of the Singaporean population!), Chili Crab features whole crabs stir-fried in a sweet and spicy red sauce.  Chili Crab is best eaten with a plate of Man Tou, a kind of Chinese bread, perfect for dipping into the mouth-watering chili sauce.

3. Laksa
For those who love spices, Laksa is a must-try!  With its Peranakan influences, Laksa is rich and savoury soup made with thick rice vermicelli boiled in a spicy coconut broth with dried shrimp.

4. Bak Kut Teh
Literally translated to “pork ribs and tea,” Bak Kut Teh is large slices of pork ribs boiled for hours in a clear peppery or herbal broth.  Traditionally this dish was served with a thick Chinese black tea meant to cleanse the body of the oil from the dish.

5. Satay
Asia’s version of a kebab, Satay is a barbecued skewer full of meat and is usually eaten with a rich peanut sauce and condiments such as onions and cucumber.  The defining feature of satay is the delectable aroma that it gives off when it is being barbecued.

Many of these local favourites, can be found at The Knolls restaurant here at Capella Singapore, make sure you try them during your next visit.  They truly are some of the best food in Singapore!

The History Of Mooncakes

Mooncakes 1

One of my favourite Chinese festivals, the Mid Autumn Festival happens each year on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Lunar Calendar. This year, the Mid Autumn Festival took place on the 19th of September. The festival is celebrated throughout Asia, wherever there is a large ethnically Chinese population.  And in each of these locations it has adopted additional names, one of the most popular here is Singapore is the Mooncake Festival.

Mooncakes 1

For those unfamiliar, Mooncakes are a small pastry, often round is shape, that contain a variety of filling ranging from lotus seed pastes to nut mixtures to salted egg yolks.  These days you can also find chocolate, ice cream and green tea versions.  During September almost every food outlet sells their own custom version, so the varietals are endless.  The outside of the pastry is then imprinted with different Chinese characters and imagery, each design unique to its purveyor.  It is common for people to give them as business gifts as well as to relatives.

An exciting historical account of how Mooncakes came about dates back to the Yuan Dynasty when the Mongolians ruled China.  The people of China baked Mooncakes and hid messages in them, which contained their battle plans against the Mongolians.  The success of this method led to the successful uprising of the Chinese to overthrow the Mongolian rulers and the Ming Dynasty was born.  It is said that Mooncakes are eaten every year to commemorate this inspired act.

The next time you are in Singapore in September, look out for when the Mid Autumn Festival takes place and you could be in for a cultural treat.  And don’t forget to ask your Capella Singapore Personal Assistant about their favourite Mooncake source- you may be in for a treat!

Perfume Making At Capella Singapore

Perfume Making 2

Last week, Capella Singapore was abuzz with the Old World Spice and Wine event – a series of spice themed affairs (read more about it HERE).

Perfume Making 2The series of events included a special workshop with perfumer Nora Gasparini, which I had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of.  This workshop was particularly interesting because we got to try our hand at creating our own special blend of perfume – something truly one of a kind.

The fundamental idea of perfume making is actually not too difficult – the tricky part comes when mixing the various scents to get the right composition for your ideal fragrance.  What I learned is that perfume is made up of three different “notes” which are the descriptors of the scents that you may identify when you smell a fragrance.

The top notes usually possess the lightest smells, your first impression of the perfume.  Some examples of top note scents would be grapefruit and peppermint.  The middle notes like lavender and pine are the scents that emerge after the top notes evaporate and together with the base notes, which help to give depth to the fragrance, form the main body of the perfume.  Examples of base note scents include frankincense and vanilla.

Perfume MakingThe variation of scents comes from the different amounts of top, middle and base note scents in each perfume.  During the workshop, we were each given three chances to mix our scents.  After we had selected the top, middle and base notes, we could experiment with the different compositions before selecting one for the perfume.

Once the favoured combination was determined, alcohol was added to complete the process.  The perfume must then be allowed to rest for some time to allow the alcohol to fully mix in with the oils before the perfume can be used.

An interesting take away from the workshop was actually the difference between eau de toilette, eau de parfum and cologne.  The answer lies in the composition of different notes – eau de toilette possesses more middle notes while parfum is made up of a higher concentration of base notes.  Cologne, being the lightest, is made mainly with top notes.

Celebrating Singapore National Day With The Merlion

Singapore National Day

Just last week, the whole country was abuzz as we celebrated our 48th National Day on 9 August 2013.  National Day celebrations in Singapore are always an elaborate affair and one that I love to partake in.

Singapore National DayThe highlight of the festivities is the Singapore National Day Parade.  Each year, the National Day Parade presents an exciting display of fanfare, from the traditional parade march by all the uniformed organizations in Singapore to a stunning air acrobatics show by the air force to colorful stories of Singapore told in song and dance.  This all leads up to a spectacular display of fireworks, which beautifully lights up the skyline of our central business district.

This year, the National Day Parade consisted of several different segments, taking participants on a journey through Singapore’s history and the dreams for the future. One of the segments was a fun chapter portraying the traditional folk stories that we were told by our elders.

Many of the stories feature the Merlion, an iconic symbol of Singapore.  The body of the Merlion is of a fish, which represents Singapore’s history as a fishing village and the Merlion has the head of a lion, which represents Singapore’s Malay name “Singapura,” meaning lion city

Singapore National DayOne story of how the Merlion came into being dates back to when Singapore was still a fishing village.  There was once a very bad stormy night that had engulfed the city in dark clouds and the raging winds had woken the villagers.  As the terrified villagers watched the storm unfold, suddenly a bright light emerged from the Southern waters surrounding a mystical creature.  The creature battled the waves and the storm and by morning the wind and the waves began to die down and the creature had retreated into the waters leaving a colorful trail.

Rumor has it that when the creature – the Merlion, had conquered the storm, it claimed its victory by standing on a proud perch on Mount Imbiah which is located on Sentosa Island. Today a large statue of the Merlion is erected at the Imbiah station on Sentosa Island, just a five-minute walk from Capella Singapore, where visitors can uncover the tales of the mythical creatures of the sea and find out their fortune for the year ahead.

 

Old World Spice And Wine At Capella Singapore

Meryem

This August, it’s all about spices at Capella Singapore.  I am very excited as we prepare for the Old World Spice and Wine Tasting Experience happening from the 29th of August through the 1st of September.

Meryem

One of the things I am looking forward to is to try the cuisine of our guest chef, Meryem Cherkaoui.  Chef  Cherkaoui  is a Moroccan chef, who has spent many years in France perfecting the exquisite French cooking techniques and incorporating the flavors of Moroccan cuisine.

Having visited Africa once on a holiday, I can well attest to the vibrant flavours and aromas that arise from all the exotic spices used in their cooking.  As such, I am truly anxious to savor the flavors of Morocco made with the intricacy and delicacy of the French kitchen.

Old World Spice And Wine Event At Capella Singapore

The other person I am very excited to meet at the Old World Spice and Wine Tasting Experience is Nora Gasparini, a perfumer who specialises in creating bespoke perfumes and fragrances for people.  Nora is based in Bali, which is home to the exotic scents also used by prestigious beauty brands such as Hermes and Dior.  I was thrilled to learn that she was no stranger to these exclusive spices and also uses them in her work.

What is particularly exciting about Nora is that, in line with the gourmet spice and wine event, she is bringing a selection of spice infusions created from edible spices.  Imagine being able to create your own special perfumes from ingredients in the kitchen!

One of the main highlights in the series of events is the Old World Spice and Wine Tasting Experience taking place throughout the grounds of Capella Singapore on Saturday the 31st of August from 11:30am to 5:00pm.  Chef Mereyem, together with the chefs at Capella Singapore, will be creating different stations featuring tapas made with spices from various parts of the world.  These tapas will also be paired with a selection of 26 rare Old World wines.

To add to the festivities, Nora will also have a station set up where she will be able to do personal consultations on creating unique scents and perfumes for each person.

Old World Spice and Wine at Capella Singapore is definitely an event to look out for.  I am eagerly waiting in anticipation for all the four days of exciting and epicurean adventures.

If you are interested in learning more about the event, please contact The Knolls at +65 6591 5046 or email knolls.singapore@capellahotels.com.  Hope to see you there!ND