August in China: The Leshan Buddha

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And now to the main attraction! The Leshan Buddha is probably the biggest in the world (particularly since the Taleban blasted the Bamyan Buddhas to smithereens in 2001), built to quiet the turbulent waters at the foot of Lingyun Shan. The descent from the head to the foot of the Buddha is rather vertiginous, have a look at the winding staircase all the way down.

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Upclose, the Buddha is huge and almost impossible to capture in one frame of my point and shoot compact camera.

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Shot from below, the true majesty and sheer largeness is something to behold.

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Just for a sense of proportion, here’s a quick shot of the many ants posing under his toe.

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August in China: Buddhas Everywhere Part Deux

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Before I let you readers get to the main attraction of the Leshan Buddha himself, I must let you have a look at the other curiosities in the main complex. There were some side temples with great columns of smoke rising from incense sticks.

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In front were large old fashioned cauldrons filled with rather impressive flames for devotees to light their incense sticks.

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And I spied in a quiet corner this intricately carved dragon-shaped hammer used to sound a gong to call monks to prayer.

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In yet another one of the many side halls of the complex, I found a hall of bodhisattvas and luohan (fellas about to achieve enlightenment).

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There were a gazillion of them set out in four perpendicular arms of the hall. Each one was different and some of them had very amusing expressions and stances.

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This fella I christened the not-me-he-did-it Luohan.

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He’s of course the I’m-always-the-unlucky-fall-guy Luohan.

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Goes without saying, this is the I-pick-up-girls-oh-helloooo-there Luohan.

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Last, not least the ugh-I’ve-seen-so-many-luohans-I’ve-got-a-splitting-headache Luohan.

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Humour me, it was a long day!

August in China: Buddhas Everywhere Part Un

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One popular day trip out of Chengdu led me out to Leshan to ogle the Big Buddha. I was dismayed when told at the main entrance that only taopiao (literally: set tickets) were sold there, meaning that the only way to gain entry to see the Leshan Buddha was to also buy the set of tickets that led to some Buddha complex with the most Buddha statues in the county or some sort. It was only at the end of the day when I left by a side entrance that I realised that tickets only to Leshan were sold at a minor side gate. Yet another buyer beware warning.

I figured that I’d gone this far so I might as well pay the extra and wander through the amusement park anyway. There was a huge sleeping Buddha likeness carved into a hill face…

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… a series of sitting Buddhas carved into a hill face…

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… and lots of little Buddhas carved into niches behind a hill face!

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I quite enjoyed this bodhisattva with the infinite arms, it was just too bad the bare bulb lighting was so unflattering.

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However, I wasn’t too impressed with the deliberately neglected and moss-ridden figures outside.

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This one of the Laughing Buddha wasn’t too grotesque, just that it was too bad his belly was too far up to rub for good luck.

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After a rather ho-hum whiz past the rest of the statues came a very steep flight of stairs…

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… that rather surprisingly came with its own Health & Safety warning! The sign basically advises all those with acrophobia, high blood pressure, heart problems, the old, young and weak to take the other gentler route for the sake of life and safety. Rather impressive for China, I felt.

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The steep set of stairs of course led up to the entrance to Leshan, but enroute I stopped several times to admire the lovers’ locks lining the railing. It’s typical of Chinese custom for lovers to place a lock on the railing and throw away the key to symbolise their everlasting love. Judging from the numerous locks there, Chinese people can be very sentimental.

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Easy Apple Cake

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I was tired of bringing my usual cupcakes to a gathering, so I flipped through my cookbooks and came up with this variation on a Danish apple cake. I have no idea why it’s Danish, but after I’m through with the modifications, this is pretty much my special creation. It’s very moist and reheats very well in an oven toaster.

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Serve it as is or with some cream poured over. Yummy.

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Ingredients:
100 g butter
100 g sugar
125 g ground almonds
3 drops almond extract
2 eggs
100 g plain flour
¾ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground clove
125 ml milk
3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tbsp crushed meringue, or sugar

Method:

  1. Grease and line a 20 cm spring-form tin and preheat the oven to 180 °C.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the ground almond and almond extract, followed by the eggs.
  3. Fold in the flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate and ground spice, then gently fold in the milk. You should get a smooth, thick paste.
  4. Pour into the tin and scatter the apple slices on top. Press the apple slices gently into the cake mixture.
  5. Dust with the meringue powder or sugar and bake for 45 minutes until the apple slices are slightly brown at the edges and the cake is just about firm.
  6. Serve warm.

    Makes 8-10 slices.

    Self-Saucing Pineapple and Passionfruit Crumble

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    I had this for a very decadent breakfast and I need to tell you how gorgeous it is. I love crumble, I like passionfruit and I adore custard. The problem with crumble and custard is that the custard is an extra fiddly step and is also incredibly fattening. For the record, I am a crumble Nazi and it’s against the law to eat crumble with ice cream. Unless it’s an incredibly hot day and you’re in Singapore. Sigh.

    Nigella gave me some inspiration with her self-saucing gooseberry crumble recipe. I had passionfruit and pineapple, and everything just clicked into place. The gula melaka was a logical sweetener to keep to the tropical theme.

    Why crumble for breakfast? Mum used to make apricot crumble for breakfast on weekends when we lived in Germany. It is such a comforting childhood memory. Also, a friend of mine claimed that passionfruit taken at night makes for a poor night’s sleep, so I make sure I only take passionfruit in the morning. It’s a silly superstitution I know, but humour me here.

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    Ingredients:
    120 g butter, frozen
    200 g plain flour, frozen
    3 tbsp sugar

    1 passionfruit
    ¼ small pineapple, chunked
    2 tsp gula melaka
    1 egg yolk
    4 tbsp cream

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    Method:

    1. Remove the butter and flour from the freezer. Cut the butter into slices, then bits and using your fingers, rub it into the flour. You should get lumps of various sizes.
    2. Stir in the sugar and set aside. It’s worthwhile to make a larger batch of crumble topping to freeze for later. Then you can have crumble on demand.
    3. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
    4. Stir the gula melaka into the passionfruit pulp and pineapple chunks until dissolved, then place into a shallow ovenproof bowl.
    5. Beat the egg yolk and cream together till combined, then stir into fruit mixture.
    6. Spoon the crumble over the mixture. Make sure it’s a very generous layer.
    7. Put in the oven for 25 minutes. Make sure you have something inside to catch the spills, it’s likely to bubble over.
    8. When it’s browned on top and bubbling below, take out carefully and allow to cool for 10 minutes before almost burning your mouth trying to get at the tart, sweet, fragrant, gorgeous goodness.

    Serves 2-3, depending on how much you want to share.

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    I went to Suntec to meet up with some friends for lunch. Shinta suggested MOF, so Japanese it was.

    I was quite disappointed that a lot of items on the menu were unavailable. Just my luck, but the most delicious stuff were the ones they didn’t have. Shelving my plans for negitoro, I had Maguro Sashimi Juu ($10.80) instead. Look at how pretty the serving is. Too bad the taste didn’t match its looks. I’m used to fresher stuff from Sun and Isetan supermarket, so this one was a bit of a letdown. It wasn’t stale, but the tuna tasted a bit flat and the salmon roe was slightly flabby. The little balls of delicious fish oil should be bursty and firm. It was a pity, this dish could have been so much better.

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    I liked the dessert there. We ordered a Mango Mixed Imo ($6.80) and changed the soft-serve ice cream to green tea red bean ice cream for an extra $1.50. The ice cream was excellent, it was silky and smooth with just enough green tea kick and bits of red bean to chew on. The deep-fried sweet potato and yam were both good, a bit like a more sophisticated (and more expensive!) goreng pisang. The batter was nice and crisp and the tubers were softly grainy, a good combination with the ice cream. I think the two measly strips of mango didn’t go very well with the rest of the dessert though.

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    MOF My Izakaya
    3 Temasek Boulevard
    #B1-40 Suntec City Mall
    Tel: 6338 5523

    Greenwood Oysters Galore

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    Hypodermically wanted to eat cheap oysters so we went. By the time the gang assembled at Greenwood Fish Market, they’d been cleaned out of their $1 oysters. No biggie because they offered us the ginormous Baron Point ones at $3 each. Thus our group of seven cleaned out their $3 oysters too.

    They came piled high on the plates. Since we’re all on Facebook, we had a field day alternately taking pictures and cam-whoring. Pride of place of course were the two massive platters of massive oysters.

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    Just so you can get a handle on how big these suckers were, here’s a picture. J-thing said they were as big as a yeti’s paw. (Like he’s seen one before.)

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    Of my three oysters, one was absolutely sublime. It had a clean seafood flavour with the characteristic metallic oyster tang. It slid down my throat like a dream and my only regret was that I was on a budget and I couldn’t have a glass of muscadet to go with it. Nonetheless, there were a few priceless seconds where only discreet slurping was heard at our normally too-loud table. Of course it all ended when we reduced the oysters to this.

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    Now for the bit on the downsides.

    1. Service was abysmally slow. We were a loud boisterous group and it took ages before we managed to catch someone’s attention to make our order. Even though we kept flagging down the servers, they weren’t allowed to take orders and were too harried/distracted to get a manager over to take our orders. It had to get down to this: J-thing called the restaurant on his mobile phone to get someone to come over!
    2. Two of my oysters were a bit… ripe. So was one of Cheshirefeline’s. He paused dramatically mid-oyster and very drily said “Uuuhhhh… I think I just had what my oyster last ate before it died…” I had the runs the next day. Yup, you got it right. The one who indiscriminately eats Southeast Asian street food had the runs from eating $3 oysters at Greenwood. Perhaps I didn’t have any alcohol to kill the oyster cooties, but this really shouldn’t happen.
    3. Nowhere on the menu did it say that everyone at the table had to order a main dish to enjoy the $3 oysters. Some of us health freaks only wanted (expensive, mind you) salad and others wanted to share. It’s fair enough if the restaurant was upfront about it, but we only knew when we tried to order. Luckily we were a bunch of yaw gwees and the restaurant |”closed one eye” to let us order one less main. Uh, yeah, fine. Whatever.

    Anyhow, Tristella and I shared the fish and chips. It was decent, but not particularly memorable. Good chips, OK fish and too sweet salad dressing. Meh.

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    Greenwood Fish Market and Bistro
    34 Greenwood Ave Singapore 289236
    Tel: 6467 4950