Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mookata Traditional Thai Charcoal BBQ @ ORTO [Near Khatib MRT Station]

When Bottle Tree Park @ Khatib became ORTO, i didn't think i would patronise it that often; at least not to the extent that my family even had our lunar new year reunion dinner at one of its resident restaurants. 

Deviating from the normal buffet / Korean BBQ craving during this festive season, we opted for something that has its origins in Southeast Asia; Thai traditional BBQ steamboat, otherwise known fondly as Mookata! 

Our family has a tradition of having early reunion dinner even though we still insist on a reservation, specifically for indoor seating as our genetics have resulted in tempers flying whenever the surrounding gets too warm.

The weather was exceptionally windy that day and those seated outside might be better off compared to those stuck in the air-conditioned premise. The only issue was the unpredictable weather since the outdoor area was only partially sheltered. 

Those familiar with mookata might wonder if i have arrived at the correct place for the BBQ steamboat as there wasn't any sight of the signature "hardware".

Just wait a while after you order -the kata (otherwise known as the skillet) would appear only upon your order. The one above was a tom yam soup base which cost an additional S$5. 

Waiting is necessary since the mookata here wasn't your typical convenient, electrical-powered version. This is done the traditional way using good, old charcoal! 

Don't fret about the resultant smoke as the UFO exhaust tube (available only indoors) does a pretty neat job! 

Normal soup base - we had six adults, two kids and having two mookatas would result in less infighting between the family members! 

Now on the menu, which is always a headache for a person who loves variety - to make it easier across 8 persons with differing wants / needs, i figured a set for 4 and a meat lovers' platter would do the job. 

These didn't include the bowls of white rice and drinks which were separately charged. You may also select ala-carte items in the event you have a great / premium appetite that day. I shall share the order list towards the end of this post. 

Maybe because of their delicate display, we got the feeling that there were quite a lot of meat and we would likely be stuffed at the end of the meal! 

Set for Four - A combination of "marinated chicken thigh, pork collar, prawns, squids, suriyaki (it should be sukiyaki meat), bacon, pork belly, fishballs, meatballs, crabsticks, otah fishcakes, Chinese cabbage, kangkong, xiao bai cai (bak choy), corn, golden mushrooms, eggs, tang hoon and tofu. 

Meat Lovers' Platter - pork collar, chicken thigh, sliced beef (replaced with pork belly as mom doesn't take beef), sukiyaki, bacon, shabu shabu, pork belly (again) and 2 premium sausages. From the look of it, i thought the slices of sausages would at most make up to only 1 normal-length sausage. 

Big piece pork belly with a sesame-infused marination that was so delicious! If not for the fact that it is so unhealthy, i would love to dig into mookata every week! 

In mookata, chilli plays an important role and the one at Mookata Traditional Thai BBQ featured three levels of spiciness with the right being less spicy and left being the most potent. They were not the spicy sweet type found at Mookata New Udon Thai Food restaurant even though the spiciness was personally quite acceptable. 

Anyway, let's get started with the oiling process; placing the chunks of pork lard onto the inverted pot and let them sizzle away! 

The soup base assigned to my side was the tom yum; after a while of cooking, i noticed the meat were cooked very slowly and this wasn't good news as i was famished! 

On the other end, my elder sister and her hubby were having an easier moment; their silver pot had already turned a pretty yet unhealthy charcoal black! 

We checked with a staff and he kindly checked, agreed that the charcoal wasn't fiery hot, took it out and returned shortly with a smoking hot pot! 

Shabu shabu style - not sure if you have noticed but the steamboat area was noticeably wider than some other mookata restaurants and this means you can put in more stuff into the soup (p.s. for steamboat lovers).

Yummy pork belly! 

Tom yum soup that had a balanced level of spiciness and sourness but surprisingly, it was on the sweet side. The same sweetness goes for the normal soup base which i didn't have a picture of; just use the same photo and imagine the colour of the soup to be light yellow.

Soup was supposed to be heavily flavoured by the meat juices flowing down from the pot and this didn't disappoint; the main problem was the thick layer of oil! 

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Location
81, Lorong Chencharu, #01-04, 
ORTO Leisure Park (the old Yishun Bottle Tree) 

Operating Hours
Mondays to Thursdays - 5pm to 12am
Fridays - 5pm to 1am
Saturdays & PHs - 12pm to 1am
Sundays - 12pm to 12am
(Last order is an hour before closing)

Website

Menu / Ordering List
As above

Pricing
Set for 4 - S$68.90
Meat Lovers' Platter - S$74.90
(Subject to GST and Service Charge)

Additional Information
Since it is the lunar new year period, you can also lou hei within the same restaurant and for those who are worried about the GBS infection, you can also opt for abalone! 

Our smoked salmon yusheng! According to the supervisor / manageress, the ingredients except for the sauces / condiments / powder etc were prepared in house. 

The kids had a great time putting in the "stuff" and spewing words of auspicious meaning without much understanding of what they really mean. 

Lou-ing time with the table in a big mess right after! I wouldn't be surprised that in a moment of excitement, there could be some "liao" stuck on the ceiling or even within the exhaust suctions!

Whatever the case, our family had an enjoyable reunion dinner! :) 

Monday, February 08, 2016

Aerie Tower - Sweeping View of the Wetlands @ Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve [Singapore]

Without an eye to spot little critters and tiny reptiles, i find nature reserves rather boring and prefer to aim for the tower for a breathtaking, helicopter view of their surroundings.

It's not my first time to Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve although i always feel that it's challenging to post the pictures in this blog since i generally have nothing especially educational or informative to append to them.

Having said that, i guess i would post some of the photographs taken during the trip i made with my dad on new year day even though there wasn't much to be seen.

Above is Aerie Tower - said to be a landmark for the nature reserve. Not many are aware what Aerie refers to; a person, a bird or just a name thought of with no significant relevance? 

Reached the top of the tower! Coming back to the name, aerie is defined as "a large nest of a bird of prey, especially an eagle, typically built high in a tree or on a cliff" on google! 

The wetlands featuring low-height flora which wasn't much, honestly.

Similar to the view windows at Yangshuo, a different side offers a different view and this side shows the cityscape of Johore Bahru, state capital of Johor, Malaysia. 

On good days, i should be able to see hundreds and maybe even thousands of migratory birds on the mud-lands; that would have resulted in a much more impressive sight! 

At that time when i visited, it was literally an "empty" place with few roosting birds. i thought it was already the start of the winter season but according to a few friends today, the climate this year is extremely odd and even in Japan, the snow fell only at about mid-January. 

Whatever the case, hope the situation would improve soon. If not, the reputation of Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve as a popular spot for migratory birds would definitely be undermined. 

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Enjoying Guilin Scenery Via the Trusty Bamboo Raft & Surrounded by Local Folk Songs along Yulong River (遇龙河) @ Guangxi Province [China]

The stopover right after our visit to the Green Lotus Peak wasn't a toilet break as initially thought should i be any less observant; oh well, i needed to release some pressure from my bladder anyway.

Right in front was where our next item on the itinerary shall begin. Known as Yulong River (遇龙河) with the first two characters 遇龙 translated as Meet the Dragon, we will be taking a short cruise on the traditional bamboo raft!

Singaporeans can never stop to look whenever there are stalls; even when the scale isn't comparable to Yang Shuo West Street or Xing Ping Ancient Town

I was more enchanted by the pretty exotic birds. Bet i have to pay a sum of money to take pictures with them even though no one stopped me for taking pictures OF them.

Breakwaters were built along the river as it was prone to flooding and the water on the surface didn't deter the motor vehicles from crossing! It's quite a frightening sight as there wasn't any barrier and one wrong step would mean damage to the vehicles, injuries or even death!

The quieter side; according to an information panel, there were some mentions on drift tourism safety management. Hence, i am unsure if river drifting is also one of the river's tourism draws.

Nevertheless, dad was as excited as me since i was complaining that the best way to marvel Guilin's scenery was to take a non-machine bamboo raft rather than the motorised boat for the President's Cruise along Li River.

Guess my wish had come true!

With more than fifteen of us in the tour group, we had to take two separate rafts and it made perfect sense for my dad and i to split up; can take photos for each other mah.

Tea was available yet none of us had a sip for two reasons; it didn't appear to be exceptionally hot and we were an obedient bunch. The tour guide didn't inform us if it would be chargeable.

The "kind" rules for those on the raft; our of the three rules, we flouted the first one as there wasn't any life jacket on board for us to wear!

Dad on the other raft and as expected, he can "arrow" me to pose for him. I didn't know he has taken so many photos of me and they didn't show a "slim" side of me!

Elderly boatman navigating the raft with just one long bamboo pole!

River depth was at a maximum of about five meters and this section was shallow; enabling the boatman to use lesser effort to push /stop the raft. Hard work indeed!

Another person i should give credit to was the lady (belong to the Zhuang minority) on our raft. Equipped with a loudspeaker, her presence was instrumental in making the cruise memorable.

Time to start the cruise!

Relentless effort by the boatman and we had a much bigger load! A 20-minute cruise should not be too tiring for him but imagine he has to do this quite a few times a day!

Other groups - maybe because they didn't have the boisterous local lady we had, their expressions seemed to infer boredom! Haha.

Not a flattering picture yet her voice was a power to reckon with. And she's undeterred in answering our questions and encouraging us to partake in a competition between the two bamboo rafts. 

Video as above for your viewing pleasure. 

Continuing our way - the distance we covered wasn't long and our Zhuang lady serenaded us with our Singapore classic; Rasa Sayang and even the hokkien song 爱拼才会赢! 

The happy expression said it all. 

Aside from the fantastic singing and our peals of laughter, we totally soaked in the atmosphere surrounding by towering cliffs and a cow grazing by the riverbank.

Not my fault; they gamely looked towards my direction when i shot the photo.

A higher stone bridge for those who didn't want to risk their motor vehicles getting damaged or anyone injured / dead. Yulong river has a bridge that's about 400-hundred years ago; pity we didn't have the chance to marvel at its glory. 

Taking a breather; in life, we should always stop at certain junctures, throw out all the thoughts in the mind and re-calibrate their importance and priorities! 

Photographs of the surroundings - i used to think i would die early and hence, has absolutely no plans for retirement. Now that i am about half past retirement age, i think this is the kind of place to retire to. My first choice, however, is still Dali at Yunnan! 

Going back! 

Our Zhuang lady took up the microphone again although this time, we persuaded her to leave the loudspeaker alone as the volume can be piercing! She agreed and boy was her natural voice even more endearing! 

View the video to find out! 

Pretty wasn't it? I am so hoping to get my hands on a full frame DSLR next time; as i have insisted, my camera has capabilities to make up for my lack of skill. 

Last up - seeing with my own eyes the fishing power of the cormorants! Click the link here to read further.

Time to disembark and bid goodbye to the Zhuang lady who has given us not just laughter but also lasting memory of this item on our itinerary. To think that i was thinking it would be just another boring cruise. 

Once again, photo taking opportunity with the cormorants for a small fee. 

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