Discover The Wellness Retreat at Capella Singapore

15. Sunrise Yoga

I love exploring the furthest corners of the world.  However, very often, I find myself returning from a vacation feeling like I need another one to recover from the first.  So after all the excitement of New Year, Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year, I finally decided that it was time to take a quieter sort of vacation.  I checked myself in for Capella Singapore’s new Wellness Retreat.

The retreat began with a private consultation with a dietician, and a wellness dinner at The Knolls.  I was fully expecting ‘rabbit food’, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that beyond a tasteless plate of greens, I was treated to a Thai Beef Salad, Baked Cod Fish with Olive Mozzarella Crust and Homemade Tiramisu – all nutritionist approved.  They tasted delicious, and left me feeling less lethargic than usual.

Baked Cod Fish with Olive Mozzarella Crust

Baked Cod Fish with Olive Mozzarella Crust

Day Two began bright and early at 7:30am with a personal training session with multiple Manhunt Singapore winner, Jovin Koh.  Jovin discussed my fitness abilities and goals with me before putting me through a series of weight resistance and intensive cardio exercises that gently tested my personal limits.

After ‘paying my dues’ at the gym, breakfast and lunch were rare treats. The highlight of the day however must have been the spa session at Auriga Spa.  The herbal steam room, ice foundation, vitality pool and 90-minute Shiatsu massage were uniquely revitalising.

By Day Three, I didn’t even need my alarm clock get up in time for sunrise yoga at 8am.  My body was so well rested that it didn’t scream for more snooze time.  Going through the gentle yoga postures also helped me discover a newfound sense of balance and well-being.

15. Sunrise Yoga

I emerged from the retreat feeling more than five years younger and absolutely radiant.  I also scored useful tips to embark on a lifelong journey towards healthier living. Here are five detox tips I learnt from senior therapists of Auriga Spa Amapola Nazareno and Chang Huang Mei.

GET REAL – Avoid processed food as they are packed with chemicals and preservatives. Pick real and whole food, whenever possible.

DECAF – Avoid drinking too much coffee and black tea – these stimulants dehydrate the body.

REHYDRATE – Drink up to 2 litres of water daily. Keep a bottle on your desk so you won’t forget.

BRUSH UP – Use a body brush in the morning to stimulate lymphatic circulation and drainage.

SUPPLEMENT – Natural supplements can help your body cope with a hectic and stressful lifestyle. Vitamins, antioxidants, probiotics and other superfood sweep away harmful free radicals and flush out toxins to keep your body in tip top condition.

To find out more about Capella Singapore’s Wellness Retreat or making reservations, please dial +65 6591 5000 or email reservations.singapore@capellahotels.com.

 

An Unforgettable Lunar New Year

Cassia's signature Lou Hei

Every Lunar New Year’s Eve, if I’m not abroad, you can expect me to be having dinner with my family.  By family, I mean all 23 of them from my 93-year-old grandmother to my 2-year-old niece.  It is something my grandmother insists on—she believes a person who forgets tradition, forgets family.

Like any cosmopolitan city, it’s nothing short of a miracle to get so many people to sit down to dinner together in Singapore.  It requires the expert management of multiple clashing schedules, packed with the million little demands modern life makes.

As you can imagine, arranging an unforgettable dinner for 24 is no simple affair.  So this year, I’ve decided to take a leaf from Executive Chinese Chef Lee Hui Ngai of Cassia, Capella Singapore.

During the 40 years of his culinary career, Chef Lee has charmed diners at top hotels in Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore, and made Lunar New Year memorable for so many families.  He generously shares his ‘recipe’ for happiness this Lunar New Year.

Executive Chinese Chef Lee Hui Ngai from Cassia

Executive Chinese Chef Lee Hui Ngai from Cassia

What is the most unforgettable Lunar New Year meal you’d recommend?

Chef Lee: One of the top five fish I’ve tried over the past four decades of my culinary career is the Unforgettable Fish.  In Mandarin, it’s called 忘不了鱼, which actually translates to ‘unforgettable fish’.  Once you’ve tried it, you’ll see why.  The first time I savoured this fish was when a guest from China specially requested it.  I took my first bite, and was instantly enraptured.

The Unforgettable Fish

The Unforgettable Fish

Why is this fish so exceptional?

Chef Lee: I could tell you how sweet, succulent, silky and tender it is, but that barely begins to describe it.  The Unforgettable Fish swims against the current, and its scales are unusually crisp when steamed.  Unlike other fish, we tend to steam this fish with its scales intact.

At Capella Singapore, we import the Unforgettable Fish ‘live’ from Sabah, Malaysia when it’s fully-grown and at least 2kg in weight—any smaller, and it loses some of its unique flavour.  As with the best ingredients, there’s no need to do too much with it.  It is best enjoyed lightly steamed, with a glass of white wine or champagne.

Any other dining tips for an unforgettable Lunar New Year?

Chef Lee: Lunar New Year has special significance for Chinese around the world.  We believe it is auspicious to enjoy a beautiful and unforgettable meal to herald an amazing New Year.

Fortune and good luck aside, what really warms my heart is being with my family, and watching their sheer delight in enjoying a meal together.  As a chef, this naturally fills me with a deep sense of pride.  But as a father, husband and son, this gives me a glimpse of true happiness, in all its richness and simplicity.

Cassia's signature Lou Hei

Cassia‘s Signature Lou Hei

If you are planning your own Lunar New Year’s celebrations, be sure to check out Cassia’s Lunar New Year specials here.

#SG50 – Five Reasons To Visit Singapore in 2015

Party With Us In Singapore

I love travelling.  I am deeply convinced that travel is the only thing money can buy that will make you richer.  Most days, I’m just looking for any plausible excuse to hop onto a plane.  As I grow older, however, I tend to look less abroad, and closer towards home for inspiration.

Singapore is evolving.  Yes, we still retain our quirks and hybrid culture.  Most of us still call any elderly man, especially taxi drivers, “Uncle”.  And we still love durians enough to have durian buffets.  But as a country, we are also rapidly modernising and progressing.  And by “progress”, I mean we are developing a more vibrant art, culture and music scene, and a greater sense of national identity.

Recently, Singapore was listed by CNN as one of the 10 top destinations to visit in 2015, and Lonely Planet elected us as #1 on its Best in Travel 2015 list.

All this couldn’t have come at a better time.  As a born and bred Singaporean, let me share with you five reasons you should visit me at Capella Singapore this year.

2015 Is One Big Party

Party With Us In Singapore

Party With Us In Singapore

New Year’s Eve last month was just the beginning of a year long party.  If you were here, you’d remember how top DJs were flown in from the coolest cities in the world (including DJ Mr. Best for Capella Singapore).  Fireworks also lit the sky everywhere—not just at Sentosa where Capella Singapore is nestled, but even at suburban areas around the island.

This is but a taster of what to expect this year.  In a couple of week, Chinatown will celebrate a special light-up ceremony, with lion dancers prancing around our ‘Lion City’ to cue in Chinese New Year.  After this, you can look forward to holidays such as Vesak Day and Hari Raya Pusa before Singapore officially turns 50 on 9th August.  You can be sure we’ll pull out all the stops for that party.

We Are Committed Foodies

Your taste buds will love Singapore.  Our running list of celebrity chefs includes Joel Robuchon, Tetsuya Wakuda, Jamie Oliver, Wolfgang Puck and Daniel Boulud, to name a few.  And this year, Gordon Ramsay joins the fold.

Our food culture, however, extends way beyond these international culinary stars.  New dining concepts are sprouting out by the minute—including NOX where you dine completely in the dark, and secret bars such as Operation Dagger and The Library with no signage and password requirements for entry.

We are also one of the few countries in the world that truly believes in supper.  If you happen to be hungry at 1am, you won’t have to satiate yourself with cold bites.  You can find piping hot Singaporean food anywhere, including Bak Kut Teh (peppery pork rib soup), Indian food, noodles, oyster omelette…  Here is a list of places.  Supper in Singapore is a unique and bustling experience, and one of the best ways to get a true taste of local culture.

The Art Scene Is Booming

Let’s not talk about the iconic ArtScience Museum, which of course, is a must-visit.  We’ve also got the Gillman Barracks, a colonial army base-turned-contemporary art cluster, and the upcoming National Gallery Singapore, which will house an extensive collection of Southeast Asian and Singaporean art when it opens in mid-2015.

Music is also thriving in Singapore.  If you love seminal music, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival is just a few days away, and if you prefer jazz, Singapore Jazz Festival is scheduled for early March!

Green Is The New Black

Gardens By The Bay

Gardens By The Bay

Granted, our ‘garden city’ moniker is a bit of a tired cliché for locals.  We are however, embracing the global green movement.  Whether you prefer real food or raw food, you can probably find a quaint café nearby.  You could even saunter into an organic farm such as Bollywood Veggies, and ask for farm-fresh Indian fare.

On cool evenings, we also love to spend time in our little pockets of green.  And being city folks with famously short attention spans, we need to be entertained.  Gardens by the Bay and Singapore Botanic Gardens regularly organise music performances, artists’ workshops, writers’ workshops and seasonal exhibitions.  So pack a picnic basket and some wine, and enjoy round-the-year summer.

Superlative Creature Comforts

From the minute you step into Changi Airport, you’ll sense how obsessed we are with shopping.  In space scarce Singapore, we’ve somehow managed to cramp an incredible number of big name designers into our airport.  In fact, many of us head there for our shopping and dining fix, even when we are not travelling.

That said, I’m sure you’re not in Singapore just to shop at Prada.  We’ve got amazing local designers such as Hansel and Ong Shunmugam as well.  Check out this list.  Other local brands I love include Carrie K, founded by advertising managing director turned artisan jeweller, and Merci Encore, an aromatherapy atelier founded by the former senior beauty editor of Harper’s Bazaar Singapore.

Of course, to end your trip with the ultimate indulgence, you should definitely make Capella Singapore your final pit stop.  As part of SG50, we are launching a decadent 50 fingers massage from mid-2015.  In just 60 minutes, our five dedicated spa therapists will knead out tension and aches you didn’t even know you had.  You’ll emerge feeling utterly renewed and as light as a cloud.

 

The Perfect Profiteroles Recipe

IMAG1140 2

I have a confession to make.  I have a sweet tooth and easily succumb to delicious treats made with milk, butter and most importantly sugar.  Given that, you can only imagine my sheer delight when Capella Singapore’s Pastry Chef Sam called me into his kitchen to share the new profiteroles recipe he is working on for The Knolls.

I was very grateful that Chef Sam took time out of his busy schedule to teach me.  According to Chef Sam, “I always believe to teach is to learn twice. By teaching I get to learn a second time, and also it gives me insights on ideas other people may have, which could eventually become part of my next idea for a new creation.”

Chef Sam’s profiteroles were indeed heavenly and they were surprisingly easy to make.  They were light with a slight bite and with a rich golden brown colour.  The profiteroles were sweet at first bite, but with a mild salty aftertaste perfectly complementing the chocolate sauce we made.

profiteroles

Profiteroles
Serves six

Ingredients:
50g Milk
50g Water
¼tsp Salt
1Tbsp Sugar
50g Butter
60g All Purpose Flour
2.5g Baking Powder
2 Eggs

Method:
1. Mix the milk, water, salt, sugar and butter into a saucepan.  Bring to boil allowing the butter to melt.
2. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.
3. Remove from heat and pour the flour into the boiling liquid and cook until a smooth dough forms and it pulls away easily from the sides of the pot.
4. Put the hot dough into a mixing bowl. Continue mixing while adding in 1 of the eggs to cool it down immediately.
5. Add in the second egg and continue mixing until the dough forms a smooth shiny consistency.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
7. Pour the mixture into a piping bag and pipe onto a tray lined with baking paper.
8. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until dark golden in colour.
9. Remove from oven and once cooled on a baking rake, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to two days.
10. Once chilled, poke a hole into each profiterole and pipe in ice-cream and serve with chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Sauce
Makes 1 ½ cups sauce

Ingredients:
½C Water
⅓C Sugar
2Tbsp Corn Syrup
¼C Cocoa Powder
100g Dark Chocolate Chips

Method:
1. Bring water, sugar, corn syrup and cocoa powder to a boil in a small saucepan.
2. Remove from heat and quickly whisk in dark chocolate pieces.
3. Stir until smooth.
4. Strain through a fine mesh sieve.
5. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
6. Pour generously over profiteroles.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!!!

Romance in Singapore

Chinese Vday image

In Singapore we do not celebrate Valentine’s Day Once- but twice.

While the Western Valentine’s Day is recognized in Singapore, we also celebrate the Chinese version.  It falls on the fifteenth day of the Lunar New Year, which this year happens to be Februrary 6th.  In my earlier blog post about the Chinese New Year Celebration I mentioned a little about the Chinese Valentine’s Day, but I thought I would take a closer look at it now.

As I previously described one of the central traditions involves single women throwing mandarian oranges into the water to be collected by potential suitors.

But where does the excitement and lore come from?

Historically, it was only on the fifteenth day of the Lunar New Year that unmarried women could go out into the streets (accompanied by a chaperone).  Many young men would gather in the hopes of catching glimpses of these lovely maidens. The legend holds that there would be a “matchmaker” from the moon who would be watching and would tie red strings of destiny on the legs of compatible couples. Incidentally, because of this legend, matchmakers in the past were traditionally very busy on this day in hopes of pairing couples.

So, if you are looking for love, be sure to go out in public on the 6th.  You may just meet you destined partner!