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If you are a libtard do not read further.
Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling GOurmet TM
Copyright all rights reserved
The forthright and straight shooting Travelling GOurmet TM reviews award winning Israeli movie “Sand Storm” about the…
MANY TNT (not Tri-Nitro-Toluene, but Trials & Tribulations) of a very dysfunctional Bedouin family…full of Angst and Anger…
This movie dramatizes the romantic dilemma and many obstacles that stand in the way of such a “taboo” relationship taken for granted in more advanced civilised socities…
“He is from another tribe!” Is he an Alien from Uranus??? NO! Bananas!
A dysfunctional Bedouin family that is so imprisoned by archaic and asinine and moronic tribal cultures and beliefs and customs is showcased here. Brilliant acting….Chained by beliefs from the Middle Ages, the love that a stooopid father has for his eldest daughter comes second place…to his retarded and outdated sense of culture and tradition, and his fear of the village tribal chief Ibrahim plus the archaic and obsolete norms of his backward society.
This shows why societies bound by the outdated chains of repressive, retarded and asinine traditions like in Pakistan can never ever progress…Nevertheless, the women show a cunning and crafty streak in covert manipulation of the men who think they have the upper hand but…in reality…very few men realise that behind every successful man is a Powerfrau and successful woman. Women have be like this in a repressive society to SAS (survive and succeed). It is a matter of survival. Literally. The really, really expert female covert manipulators can do it so very well that the men do not even realise it! See the final scene and you will know what I mean…
Moronic libtard democRAT morons and looney clooney should see this movie. Pseudo feminists and hollywood cretins go see this movie and then go to Iran and Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to drive cars…and never come back Wahahaha! 🙂
BOYCOTT surburbicon! Hypocrite looney clooney’s latest crackpot moronic movie. Let it BOMB at the box office!
Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
The irascible and irreverent Travelling GOurmet TM tells you about…
One of the largest countries with no coast or sight of the ocean, Mongolia is a unique and unusual destination BUT with some issues worth considering before going there driven by your strong sense of adventure and wanderlust for exotic locales…
On the minus side…sometimes deadly diseases and strong sandstorms abound…It was the home to the fearsome Kublai Khan and Genghis Khan, super fierce nomadic warriors and horsemen par excellence, it not a place for the faint hearted. Their challenging surroundings made them super tough deadly and ruthless warriors!
Free and Easy OR go on a package tour group??
To be safe, better go on a package tour with a group. Mongolia is an autonomous part of the chinese communist PRC so they are not known at this time, the Mongolian government anyway that is…to be super friendly to American citizens…Not as bad as North Korea where the naive college kid was tortured to death by the North Korean MSS. Free and easy may not be a good idea unless you are a superb horseman, can eat exotic local food and live in somewhat primitive habitation in the remote areas. May be good to stick to the capital with a few day trips to outlying areas for the wide open spaces scenery. If you like to live dangerously and many do…go free and easy and be like the nomadic tartars or Mongolian nomads! They say you have never lived…until you have almost died.
On the plus side, great exotic food, but if you only like hamburgers and fries and grits and biscuits for breakfast and apple pie a la mode…maybe this rugged land is not for you…
In the Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace in Ulaaan Batur, the capital, Khara Khorum has yum yum food in opulent surroundings. It is named after the capital of the Mongol Empire (13th Century) so naturally Mongolian food is on the menu…
Bantan – a hearty soup of onions and lamb with cream.
Dumpling stuffed with minced lamb and pan fried like Kuo Tie– the tummy filling Khuushuur.
MONGOLIAN warriors and raiders placed slices of raw meat under their blazing saddles and at the end of the ride, the meat was tenderized! Sure beats the good ol’ slow cooker! The longer the journey the more tender the steak! Seasoned well and eaten raw!
MOngolian HOrsemeat Steak Tartare!
A gentle word of caution…if your tummy is not so strong, you may get “Bombay belly”…No big deal, drink plenty of tea with plenty of sugar for a couple of days till it clears. I like Ronneveldt Earl Grey or Darjeeling!
Mongolians like Russkies drink a a lot…mainly Vodka! If you are not a big drinker, best tell them your liver is totally shot and you are on Doctor’s orders to be TTT…teetotal that is.
On the minus side…
The Plague is all over Mongolia transmitted by rats and mice…Actually plaque is transmitted by the fleas that live on the rodents. Luckily, it can be cured by fast use of antibiotics. If you see warnings signs, stay the hell away! The plague is dangerous, sometimes deadly.
Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B also everywhere. HVB transmitted by unclean food and plates, forks, etc. and intimate relations with women…Get vaccinated first is a good idea.
The weather can be extremely cold! Temperatures can drop real fast like in San Francisco sometimes as early as September. You need warm clothing and thermal underwear like long johns all year long, as even summer nights can get surprisingly cold. I recommend Beretta. Beretta the world’s OLDEST maker of guns also make thermal underwater and outdoor hunting gear. Really, really good stuff for professionals…
On the move in remote areas dust storms can suddenly spring up. If you do find yourself caught in one, Quickly drive off to the side of the road and Take Cover! Beware when driving, sand storms decrease your visibility a lot….
MONGOLIANS live in an animal skin tent with an interior support called a Ger, a bit like the red Indian Wigwams…politically incorrect…Native Americans, what the hell, Red Indians sounds better to me! Wahahahah! I am not known for being politically correct. Do not lean on the support when inside the tent. It will collapse and the natives will be angry with you!
If you are good with horses, you will like MOngolia. Like the Wild West, they ride horses like Americans drive automobiles. Being MOngolian horses, they only understand Mongolian…can be a problem. Giddiup won’t work…
Blackouts and/or Brownouts…
Bring a flashlight, preferably a tactical torch…The power outages can happen at any time.
If you like to sometimes live on the edge, Happy vacation! You only live twice or is it once? If you are a Buddhist…more than once for sure…and cats have 9 lives oder…
May the spirit of Genghis Khan go with you! Gute Reise! 🙂
Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
Copyright all rights reserved
All Food photos are of REAL food and wines with NO photoshop!
The irreverent and intrepid Travelling Gourmet TM visits Singapore’s iconic 5 Star luxury hotel, the marvellous…
MARRIOTT hotel. I was honoured and privileged to try Wan Hao’s new dishes on the new Menu by Chinese Chef Bryan Wong…PLUS Marriott’s new 2017 MOONcakes! How good it that!
Wah Hao after its revamp is now very elegant with an Oriental Zen atmosphere like the home of a Confucian scholar. Chinese calligraphy adorns the walls. The discerning connoisseur of Cantonese ‘haute cuisine’ savours fine dishes…to the soothing sounds of Chinese classical music played on traditional instruments like the Er Gu and Pi Pa.
Tim Sum Trio aka The Three Musketeers was delectable..Awesome Jamon Iberico ‘Char Siew’! So “sweet” and flavoursome with just the right amount of fat…and that “al dente” chewiness… Nestled in a cute mini bamboo basket I found a little dumpling with a transclucent almost clear skin. The filling comprised juicy sexy Scallop with that coveted fungus, the Morel Mushroom beloved of French Chefs. Heavenly! The Char Siew or traditional Cantonese style roast pork was made from Jamon de Iberico from Spain. Naturally sweet and juicy with the right mix of tasty fat and lean meat, it put the usual mundane variety to shame. C’est la gastronomie…
Prized and premium Abalone from South Africa in Chef’s Secret Sauce was truly very well done! Overcooked abalone tastes like shoe leather…and it must be just braised but not overdone in order to give the discerning gourmet the unique flavours and textures of the ocean. Yum! Yum! Nom! Nom!
SAS Pork with Clementines!
The classic favourite of both Orientals and Occidentals is…SAS or Sweet & Sour Pork!
Chef Bryan creativity gives this dish a new avant-garde twist caressing the fall-off-the bone tender pork rib with a slightly sweet-seductive, piquant Clementine Sauce! Sublime delight! OMG! A dish to assassinate the evil dwarf dictator of North Korea for!
TOBIKO Fried Rice…
Fried Rice is fried rice right? Not here in Wan Hao…it is wok fried at high heat with minced Shrimp brunoise and Tobiko for a touch of Japan! The pinky-orange colour of the dish comes from the Tobiko which is Flying Fish Roe aka caviar sustainably harvested. Light and most satisfying!
A sweet finale is very important to any meal and Chilled Chrysanthemum Tea Gelee paired with tangy-fresh Mango Sorbet delighted my palate as the flavours danced on my taste buds like ballerinas in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
On 28 August 2008 I was the first gourmet in the world to match MOONcakes from the Marriott paired with Moët et Chandon NV Champagne on the Singapore Flyer, which was the highest and biggest observation wheel at that time. MOONcakes in the Marriott are traditionally artisanally and meticulously made one by one. For 2017, the amazing and exciting flavours to look out for are:
Premium Coconut Paste with healthful Hazelnuts in a Baked MOONcake. A lovely East meets West marraige of fragrant flavours with crunchy hazelnuts which are beloved by the French, plus Coconut which features so much in Singapore and Nyonya cuisine. Seductive aromas of Gula Melaka seduce…
Healthful über-crunchy and super satisfying without being cloyingly sweet is MIXED Nuts MOONcake! Nom Nom Nom! Yummie!
The HOney Lemon Lotus Paste with Lychee Martini Truffle is new and NOT to be missed. OMG! I love Lychees and Martinis too! So does Commander James Bond 007…
The KING of Fruits!
Marriott is deservedly famous for its Pure “Mao Shan Wang” Premium Durian in snowskin. Mao Shan Wang Durian is famed for its creamy texture, unique and intense fragrance and buttery nuances. The great British Naturalist and Scientist, Sir Alfred Russel Wallace (January 8 1823 – November 7 1913), loved the Durian and he was an Englishman and an “Ang-Moh aka “Kwei-Low”! Wahahahah!
In his famous book The Malay Archipelago 1869, Sir Alfred R. Wallace wrote:
“The five cells are satiny white within, and are each filled with an oval mass of cream-coloured pulp, imbedded in which are two or three seeds about the size of chestnuts. This pulp is the eatable part, and its consistence and flavour are indescribable. A rich butter-like custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but intermingled with it come wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, brown sherry, and other incongruities. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy.It is neither acid, nor sweet, nor juicy, yet one feels the want of none of these qualities, for it is perfect as it is.”
To be brutally honest, if you love Italian Gorgonzola Blu cheese and Crottin de Chavignol from the Loire Valley, you definitely can love the King of Fruits…the Durian.
I always like to practise my German with Marriott’s cheerful and dynamic Director of Food and Beverage, Daniel Burstein, and Daniel shared with me how his team brainstormed to find the most innovative and unique Mooncake flavours for 2017, “We had many ideas…and to incorporate Eastern and Western flavours and top class ingredients into our traditional Mooncakes, which are all handmade fresh daily!” I’ll drink to that! Marriott Mooncakes are arguably the BEST in Singapore!
The precious ‘piece de resistance’ is the…most delectable special Mooncake crafted in the artisanal way with White Lotus Seed Paste infused with an enticing savoury accent…studded with the ham of gourmets, namely Parma Ham from Italy. There are also healthy crunchy pistachios and a single egg yolk! This special Mooncake is SAS (Sweet & Savoury) at its BEST satisfying the most discerning afficionado with a pleasing smooth-as-silk Lotus Seed paste that is not grainy at all. The icing on the cake is that it is matched with bottle of bubbly Perrier Jouët Champagne NV! OMG! Yum! Yum! Nom! Nom! Available as a Limited Edition Wan Hao Baked Treasures Premium Gift Set comprisng 4 Mooncakes and one bottle (375ml) of Perrier Jouët Champagne NV at S$228 inclusive of GST. Well worth it! Excellent price to quality ratio, and a very prestigious and sure to be appreciated corporate gift!
320 Orchard Road Singapore 238865
Wan Hao Cantonese Fine Dining Restaurant on Level 3
Tel: +65 6735 5800
Nearest MRT Station: Orchard
Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
Copyright all rights reserved
The MOON is glowing at the Mandarin Orchard…
The audacious and debonair was privileged and honoured to have a very special VIP Tasting of the Mandarin Orchard’s NEW and most EXCITING…
MOONcakes a few days ago…Yum! Yum! Goddie Goodie! Located on the Bond Street of sunny Singapore, this 5 Star Hotel has lovely accommodation and also the most skilled and talented Chefs like Executive Sous Chef Liew Tian Heong , and of course…the iconic Mandarin Chatterbox Chicken Rice created by meiner guter Freund Chef Peter Gehrmann who now is in the USA.
Wait a minute…it is not just the Chatterbox Chicken Rice that the Mandarin Orchard is renowned for…but also for the most exquisite MOONcakes both traditional…and avant-garde..The traditional Baked MOONcake features sexy…smooth…Lotus Seed Paste with Double Egg Yolks. FOUR egg yolks were the norm in days gone by BUT now with everyone wanting to be health conscious and to live forever like the MOON Goddess…TWO egg yolks is considered auspicious and prestigious and not ‘Over the top” 🙂
MOONcakes go well with wine!
In 2003 I was the FIRST gourmet in the world to match MOONcakes with Wines. The Guinness Book of Records acknowledged that it was a world record, BUT it could not be entered in the Guinness Book of Records…because it was a record that could NEVER be broken. All records in the book must have the possibility that they will be broken one day…
Mandarin Orchard’s traditional MOONcake with Lotus Seed Paste go well with Trimbach Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile 2007 from the Alsace region of France, which is on the border with Germany.
There is also a LOW Sugar MOONcake with White Lotus Paste and crunchy healthy Macadamia Nuts for those who are every health-conscious, and that is the majority of us in this day and age. Not to be alarmist, but please be aware that too much sugar in your diet makes you a FATTIE! It is true.
An outstanding Snowskin Mooncake has cancer fighting Green Tea and Azuki Red Bean. The ingredients are sourced from Japan. Yes, it is inspired by Japan’s favourite flavours! I like it a lot! Green Tea aka Matcha and red beans always go together hand in glove! Itada ki mas!
I was really following my personal maxim, which is ,,Das Leben es ist unbestimmt, isst erst den Nachtisch” or translated from the German, “Life is uncertain, eat dessert first!”. This is because I was enjoying MOONcakes, normally eaten as a dessert before anything else…when suddenly…
Where is the Chef?
In a flash Chef, Liew who had been telling me about his mooncakes, suddenly disappeared…
The special Mee of Kuching in Sarawak!
Bouncy Chef Liew re-appeared with a big bowl of his signature Kolo Mee Sarawak Style! OMG Yummie Yummie! Made with very special curly noodles ‘al dente’, it was garnished with two whole baby ABALONES! The lovely and very tasty soup pleased my palate no end! Signature dish of Kuching, the city of the CAT! (Kuching means ‘cat’ in the Malay language) The other mee of Sibu called Kum Kwa Mien has straight noodles and less “Liau”. I was among the first journalists to write about Sarawak and Damai Beach resort, when Sarawak Tourism first started promoting it as a tourism destination…but that is another story.
Kolo Mee to fly to Sarawak for! I NEVER say that asinine phrase “to die for”. How goondoo is that! When you are dead you cannot eat or taste anything. Note the two plump Abalones at 12 o’clock and 10 o’clock…
Chatterbox is now not only famous for the renowned Chatterbox Chicken Rice served with a clear Consomme with Tofu Brunoise and special hot Chilli sauce, Dark and delectable premium Soy Sauce and spicy minced Ginger…
According to intercepted “chatter”, Chatterbox is also becoming well known for Chef Liew’s captivating Kolo Mee and lovely Lobster Laksa! In fact, President Tony Tan loves to dine here and so did the late President Nathan. To let you into a secret…former Prime Minister of Thailand, Khun Thaksin, also adores dining here…Shhhhh! As for his sister former Prime Minister Yingluck…my lips are sealed.
Iberico Ham and Crunchy Nuts!
The other baked Mooncake that I really like is the MIxed Nuts with Jamon de Iberico or Iberico HAM from Spain. Ay yai yai Caramba! I adore the flavours and CRUNCH of the healthy nuts , the sweetness of some candied winter melon and the sensational taste and texture of Spanish ham! At breakfast buffets I detest turkey ham! It must be the real thing! Real bacon and real honey baked ham!
The James Bond MOONcake!
If you like the supple Snowskin Mooncake…my name is Martini…Lychee Martini 🙂
I do recommend the Lychee Martini Snowskin Mooncake…redolent with the intense flavour of lychee fruit plus the “kick” of a Vodka Martini. This “Martini” is NOT “shaken, not stirred” a la 007, BUT is simply scrumptious! I like this mooncake with a ice-cold Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred, made with Stolichnaya Vodka…and if at all possible, with a voluptuous, curvaceous Hungarian blonde lady at my side….007 would love this!
CRANBERRIES are full of goodies that help fight heart disease and UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections and even Cancer! Amazing but true! Therefore, you must try the HEALTHY Cranberry Snowskin MOONCake with its sweet but not overly sweet flavours and sexy and smooth lotus seed paste without an overly sticky mouth-feel.
On a most savoury note, Chef Liew went off to his kitchen to come back with crispy and yummie Chicken Wings battered in Salted Egg Yolk and a super-crispy Fish Skin also battered in Salted Egg Yolk!
A good Chef I always feel is like the winner of the reality show “Survivor”. Good Chefs can outlast, outplay and outwit the people in F & B…those that sometimes through ignorance or incompetence, try to make his job harder instead of easier…C’est la vie mes amis,
I love Chatterbox in the Mandarin Orchard Road and her marvellous MOONcakes! Bon appetit!
Mandarin Hotel Orchard
333, Orchard Road
An original poem by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
Copyright all rights reserved
The MOON glows
The sun shines
The world spins
like an orange
in the sky
Round, the MOON
glows softly, quietly
in the heavens
in our galaxy
small and insignificant
in the Universe
The MOON glows
Lovers hold hands
Time stands still
Love, Romance, Happiness
Happy Hearts rejoice
The MOON glows…
Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling GOurmet TM
The irrepressible and implacable Travelling Gourmet TM shows you the…
MARVELLOUS and BEST airline inflight safety video ever! It also highlights Singapore’s iconic landmarks and tourist sights. I feel sure that STB had little to do with this. I may be wrong BUT from my personal experience when I was invited by STB for a meeting after SARS hit Singapore and hit tourism like a mortar bomb, the STB people there shot down all my think-out-of-the-box ideas! They found them too radical and thought they could not work! C’est le &*^%$, as they say in France.
Featuring a svelte and splendid looking SIA girl in her sarong kebaya and immaculate Nyonya bun hairdo…the essence of SIA’s care for her passengers shows the difference between SIA and airlines… like Delta where they get the Airport Police to beat the hell out of their passengers…then drag them off like a wild boar shot dead. I know. I have hunted wild boar before…and other big game…but that is another story.
To echo President Trump…believe me…believe me, female flight stewardesses on Air France, Quantas and Delta and others of their ilk…look like male WWF wrestlers…OMG! Nightmare on Elm Street!
I for one, am really looking forward to seeing this safety video on my next flight…on SIA of course, the world’s BEST airline! By the way, the video is going VIRAL! I wonder why…:-)
Singapore Airlines…you are a great way to fly…
AND a great way to dine too!
Bon appetit! Keep calm and carry on eating! Wahahahah! 🙂
It is a tough job being The Travelling Gourmet TM but someone has to do it…:-)
With bright and dynamic Betty Wong of SIA’s top management
Story and photo by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
Copyright all rights reserved
The dynamic and irascible Travelling Gourmet TM goes to…
MILLIONAIRES’ Row in a quiet exclusive suburb of sunny Singapore called Siglap.
Friends in high places…
I have friends in high…and low places worldwide…and many of those in high places live here in huge bungalows with equally huge swimming pools.
In affluent Siglap, you will find the sparkling new restaurant of my friend, Chef Pung. aptly called...Tasty Court. There are those who say independent restaurants are good, and hotel restaurants are bad, and then there are those who say hotel restaurants are good, and independent restaurants are bad. As The Travelling Gourmet TM, I humbly and respectfully say: “There are good and bad restaurants EVERYWHERE ! As an independent restaurant…I found
TASTY Court is very well designed with a bright, cheerful ambience with large rectangular mirrors framed by multi-coloured Peranakan tiles. Three diamond shaped glittering chandeliers dangle from the ceiling. The ‘aura’ and ‘feng shui’ if this place is very conducive to enjoying a good meal! It is like that classic Beach Boys’ song “Good Vibrations!” Chef Pung welcomed me warmly. Chef Pung has a happy aura and is modest and humble despite his skill. He was at SAFRA Toa Payoh previously.
I sat down at a square wood-edged marble table…sipping my soothing Chrysanthemum tea, it was not long before the delicious delights arrived…The restaurant was quite full despite it being a Monday…normally a quiet day in restaurants.
The Hare Cho/Shrimp Beignet is really crispy and tasty made with prawns, there are actual chunks of fresh prawn meat inside! So yummie with batons of carrot, cucumber and daikon…refreshingly pickled of course.
Sustainable seafood is ‘de rigeur’ nowadays…and so the Chicken Stock Fish Maw Soup with goodies like braised and slightly crunchy Fish Maw was most satisfying…and NO shark’s fin! A good hot soup can be a meal in itself, I always say.
And the shark has, pretty teeth dear…
Oh mein Gott! FLAMING Chicken is for the pyromaniac in you wahahahah! I love it! Tender moist chicken with no red blood in the bone and joints and a crispy skin with a potato crisp-crunch for a stimulating texture contrast. Eating is believing…
Do not miss succulent LANGOUSTINE in a sexy creamy, cheesy sauce! Yum! Yum! Nom! Nom! Not overcooked and delicious on the palate…heavenly.
As The Travelling Gourmet TM I am very honoured to call many Chefs my good friends. To a man, top, top Chefs like mes amis, eminent Paul Bocuse, Tetsuya Wakuda, Heinz Beck, Anne-Sophie Pic (the rose among the thorns), kind and good hearted Hubertus Real, Georges Blanc, Raül Balam Ruscadela and more, they are as humble as they are skilful, creative and talented!
Chef Pung of Tasty Court, The Travelling Gourmet TM and Executive Chef Eric of the Intercontinental Hotel
As for the poseurs and crackpots like oliver, lawson and ramsay…Les hommes ne vivraient pas longtemps en société s’ils n’étaient les dupes les uns des autres. It means from the French, “Men would not live long in society if they were not the dupes of one another.” Le mérite, que le monde ne récompense qu’à la mesure de ses apparences. Imbeciles are best ignored. Do NOT waste your hard earned money on over-pretentious, over-rated, over-Yahya-Papaya horrible restaurants like ‘burnt ends’ (YUCKS!) where everything is burnt and nobody takes your phone calls with incredibly bad service! Better for you to come to a place where people genuinely welcome you…where good food served a la minute makes you happy…
like Tasty Court in “Millionaires’ Row” Siglap…a really good independent restaurant. Come here soon. You will be glad you came 🙂
To eat is a necessity but to eat intelligently is an art – Dr. Michael Lim is The Travelling Gourmet TM:-)
Tasty Court By Chef Pung,
1 Figaro St,
Tel: +65 6538 3533 Reservations recommended, especially on Fri and Sat for dinner
Story by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
Compiled from many sources in the public record
The intrepid and exuberant Travelling Gourmet explains how ancient Roman Doctors treated their legionnaires suffering from wounds sustained in vicious hand to hand combat…
Roman Army Doctors and Medical Care
MEDICAL care was very important for the Roman Army because they were in many wars…and legionnaires suffered spear wounds, sword cuts, dagger stab wounds, arrow wounds, blunt trauma wounds from clubs and wounds from all many of weapons. war to the Romans as they built their empire was a fact of life…like Israel defending its very right to exist. In war, people die or they live…wounded and damged…but Roman doctors had their own armamentarium of medicines and herbs…to heal the sick.
The Ancient Romans based their medical knowledge on that of the Greeks, enhancing it over time with their own folklore and innovations. Like other cultures, their pharmacology was based on herbalism; and while it contained a hefty dose of woo-woo, many staples of the Roman first aid kit were scientifically sound. A great example is Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historiae, a massive encyclopedia of facts, hearsay, myth, and superstition. Pliny was an officer in the Roman army during his youth, so it’s not a stretch to speculate this collection of “remedies” was influenced by what he learned in the field; from his writings (and those of physicians like Galen of Pergamon), and from the records and artifacts left by the legions, we can put together a pretty good picture of how Roman army doctors dealt with the aftermath of battle.
Roman surgical tools from Pompeii
Legion medics employed a variety of surgical tools including scalpels, forceps, clamps, tweezers, and saws. What made this hardware slightly less terrifying was how it was treated; Roman doctors kept their own personal kits, and took pride in keeping their collection clean, up to date, and in good condition. They were skilled in setting bones, correcting dislocations, and sewing lacerations, and they knew enough about the circulatory and muscular systems to repair pretty hardcore damage — so except for the most catastrophic wounds, legionaries were not automatically doomed to bleed out or face amputation. As for pain management, they had nothing to rival today’s anesthesia, but strong opiates did a lot to dull the senses — you would be awake for your surgery, but hopefully so strung out that you wouldn’t care.
But after bones were splinted and stitches tied off, the real trick was preventing infection. Luckily the Romans practiced excellent hygiene, and the army was no exception. Surgeons knew dirty tools caused festering, and they boiled everything before each use; they also boiled the cloth used for bandages and the twine used for sutures. They knew the benefits of rinsing wounds with alcohol or vinegar, and of keeping hands and clothing relatively clean. As for post-triage care, their use of herbalism proved to be less woo-woo and more science, as modern medicine has since discovered. The following five ingredients were some of the most important in Roman field medicine, and while they don’t exactly replace soap and penicillin, all five have been proven at least moderately effective.
Honey was often used as the base for poultices and dressings, both for its consistency and because it was known to ward off infection and speed up healing. Honey inhibits the growth of bacteria: when applied to a wound, it creates a slow release of hydrogen peroxide, keeping the area clean.
Calendula arvensis, the pot marigold
Crushed garlic was used in poultices or for scrubbing down sick-rooms; as you can imagine, the result was rather fragrant. If the patient could bear it, they would indeed benefit from garlic’s antibiotic properties. It was used as an antiseptic as recently as WWII.
The bark of the willow tree is high in salicylic acid, the main component of aspirin. It was prized by many cultures as an antiseptic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory, and could be administered in several forms: infused in wine, steeped as a tea, or ground for poultices.
Calendula — the garden marigold — was a mainstay of the Roman medicine cabinet. The flowers were used in poultices and taken as tea to prevent and break fevers. Calendula is mildly anti-biotic and high in flavonols and saponins. It is widely used today in lotions and skin products.
Achillea millefolium, common yarrow
The Romans called yarrow achillea in honor of Achilles, who was said to have required his soldiers to carry yarrow on their person at all times. Its main function was to arrest bleeding; it could also be used to dull pain and break fevers. Yarrow is high in salicylic acid and anti-inflammatory compounds.
The Roman battlefield was as much a scene of horror and agony as any other throughout time; wounds were just as ghastly, risk of infection just as dangerous. But with hygienic practices like cremation of the dead, latrines to prevent dysentery, and sound medical techniques to prevent and treat infection, the Roman legions maintained a state of health and sanitation not found in other military forces. In the ancient world, that advantage alone could make all the difference.
HONEY…not just a food…
The use of honey as a wound dressing extends some 4,500 years into the past…