Thursday, 24 July 2014

Kitchen Gadget Review: PHILIPS Airfryer Avance XL in Singapore

I am slowly becoming not just a gadget geek, but a kitchen gadget geek! I love how technology just makes everything better, including every day kitchen utensils and items. This is especially so when you consider the PHILIPS Airfryer Avance Collection XL (RRP: SGD539). That little space shuttle was sent to me for review, and initially I thought nothing of it... but turns out it changed my cooking life forever.

Source: Philips SG
I shall proceed to just rave about it, shall I?

I have always been curious about the Philips Airfryer because it really just sounded like a oven with another name, and doubted that anything in there will taste like fried food. But I underestimated the power of innovation, and rapid-air technology. It was only when I tried it did I realize the ingenuity of it!


There's a heating coil at the top of the dome shaped enclosure, of which a basket is placed inside. Then air is made to circulate through the coil in a circular motion around the dome, around and under the food thats sitting on the grill of the basket so you don't have to flip the food or be concerned that it's burnt at the bottom, which an oven could do easily.

Because of the rapid-air, it will 'fry' any food you place in there, as long as there's a thin layer of oil on it, or it contains fats/oils that will sizzle when in contact with heat. That's why it uses 80% less oil. You could put fries in, spray some truffle oil on them and set it for 5 minutes and voila!

In any case I'll be publishing a series of PHILIPS Recipes that I've personally tried, such as Sweet Potato Fries, Chicken Wings, Bacon Avocado Fries and finally, my masterpiece - the Matcha Nutella Zebra Cake.

Sounds yummy? Stay tuned!
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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Healthier Fast Food Review: McDonald’s can be better for you too

I am bracing myself to reactions to this post because it’s McDonald’s and HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme in one sentence. So I’m just going to say it upfront. McDonald’s is probably one of the most sneered upon food places that people see as unhealthy, so isn’t it preposterous McDonald’s to join in the programme?

Well, that’s one way to look at it.
But I prefer to choose to look at it in another way:

That by getting one of the most ubiquitous and popular food restaurants to join in the Healthier Dining movement, consumers now have more convenient ways to be healthier. Because over 120 McDonald’s restaurants in Singapore, of which many are 24/7 is now able to offer people healthier fast food at a very affordable price, conveniently.

Think about it. If HPB did not invite McDonald’s to join because they are afraid of repercussions from the public, we would be 120 restaurants short of places that offer alternatives or lower calorie meals as and when you want it (24/7, or delivery). So bravo to both for making this become a reality!

I went to try out McDonald’s Healthier Options last Sunday morning because I wanted to taste for myself what the Healthier Option combinations are like, for breakfast this time. When I arrived at the AMK Gardens branch (the one with the drive-in opposite the library), I noticed the HPB HDP decal on the door, right smack in the middle at eye level. I was surprised because I’ve never seen a sticker placed so prominently on the doors of any McDonald’s. It’s a good sign.


I had the pleasure to have another friend join me, and together we tried 2 breakfast sets. Both came with the Corn Cup (with whipped margarine on the side), and a black coffee. What is amazing is, I’ve never tried the McD corn cup before, nor the wholegrain Chicken McMuffin. And I almost never get the coffee when I am there for breakfast.


The Chicken McMuffin comes with a wholegrain muffin, something you can opt FOR FREE. To my surprise when I bit into it, it wasn’t hard or dry like one would expect of a wholegrain muffin. Instead it was soft and fluffy and I could taste a hint of grains in it, but it doesn't overpower the experience. It was so good (both taste and nutrition-wise), that I think I’ll order all my McMuffins in future with the wholegrain muffin. Again, it’s FOR FREE. Value for money!


 
Next, corn cup! It might sound weird that I’ve never tried this in my life (I’ve tried their Apple Slices before) but I think its because I’m always distracted by the fries or hashbrown. Again you can swap those out for a corn cup with your meal for free. And I LOVE CORN. Even better when it’s all taken off the cob (so there’s no need for gnawing) and ready to eat with a spoon! I tried it without the whipped margarine, and with it, and found that having it without doesn’t make much of a difference. So skip the margarine and enjoy the corn in its pure salty sweet and fragrant goodness. In fact, I wish they’d serve these plain corn kernels at cinemas in place of popcorn. 


Lastly, I tried the Sunrise Roll Chicken Ham! A relatively new breakfast menu item, I find the Sunrise Rolls to be perfect for when you don’t want too heavy a meal, but something just enough to nibble on. The Sunrise Roll is made with wholewheat wraps as well, which is not dry or tough at all and I always love it whenever there’s eggs and ham for breakfast. So it is a perfect and convenient breakfast!

What’s more, if you visit the McDonald’s website, you’ll see nutritional information for all their items. Here there’s the one for the Sunrise Roll.

 
Check out the Nutrition Calculator on the McDonald’s website now and also find out more about what you’re eating in terms of the breakdown. You can then compare that to your recommended daily intake on the HPB website’s Calorie Calculator (flash-only though).

Thanks to McDonald’s and HPB for introducing me to better alternatives and healthier options, proving that fast food can be healthier too!


This post is brought to you by HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme. For more info, visit eathealthy.sg

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Friday, 18 July 2014

Restaurant Review: Swensen’s Healthier Choices Dishes Available!

Many people cringe when they think of “healthy food”. I know I did, because the typical image that comes to mind is a celery and spinach-chomping person with no joy in eating. Some readers who visited my blog recently saw all the posts in conjunction with the HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme told me my blog posts are “too healthy, I don’t think it’s for me”. Before you leave this blog from the sheer ‘healthiness’ of my blog posts, I just need to proclaim that I am as unhealthy as every one of you. I enjoy my occasional fast food and usual hawker fare, and wouldn’t want to stop any time soon.

BUT!

Being healthy is not about drastic measures of abstinence from junk food or eating mountains of salad. Keyword is in being informed, and taking everything in moderation. For example, I know now that there are more options when dining outside for me to choose from that is equally yummy but healthier, and I would like to share some of these options with you.

Case in point – Swensen’s. I’m sure many of us grew up with the perception that Swensen’s is the place you’d go for ice cream cakes and the gigantic Earthquakes.

Like this:


But while that’s still available on the menu, Swensen’s has actually gone through a lot of changes to their dining menu. Instead of just ice cream, they’ve expanded to offer savory meals. And beyond just savory meals, they’ve gone the extra step to offer Healthier Choice dishes to join the #eathealthySG programme!


I had the pleasure to try out a salad and 2 mains for it. The Grilled Chicken Salad ($12.50) is filled with crunchy, cold and fresh romaine lettuce (my favorite!) and topped with generous layer of grilled chicken. The thousand-island salad sauce is served on the side and it really depends on how much you’ll need for your salad. If you want to watch your diet, cut down the dressing!



For mains, we had the Grilled Barramundi with Garlic Aioli ($17.90). I can see why the Barramundi is their star dish. Despite how simple it looks, there are 3 big factors as to why it was so incredibly delicious when I tried it. 


1) Super fresh barramundi that is not overcooked. It was succulent, and I could taste the natural oil from the fish that gave it that tender texture. 

2) The garlic aioli dip. DIVINE. I might just start experimenting with how I can recreate that dip, because it is so gorgeous! Super intense garlic flavor that mixes well with the creamy taste for you to dip everything in.

3) Affordable and healthy. Choosing to be healthier does not have to be expensive. And in this case, the combination that Swensen’s came up with both for the calories and the price is just consumer-friendly in every sense!

The Chicken Victoria ($15.90) was really simple, but you’d be surprised at how delicious it tasted! I know I was. When it first came it looked so unassuming and huge for something below 500-calories. I know, how can it be? I gathered that it must be because there was not much fat or oil! The chicken breast was so tender and juicy -- you couldn’t tell because it looked pale in the photo, which we always associate with dryness, so you have to go taste it. I also really enjoyed the baked potato with sour cream too, plus the vegetable sides. I can imagine myself having this every week.


Thanks to HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme for creating Healthier Choices for Singaporeans to enjoy when they are eating out!


I’ll highly recommend for EVERYONE to check out Swensen’s in the immediate future because they’ve really reinvented themselves with awesome dishes, especially healthier choice ones. It’s a great place to bring your family, or for parents, your kids to let them have a good meal and maybe even a small treat after that. Do remember to get your Healthy Go Lucky stamps for the dishes you ordered!

This post is brought to you by HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme. For more info, visit eathealthy.sg 

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Thursday, 17 July 2014

Guest Chef Restaurant Review: Osia Resorts World Sentosa with Chef Tim Montgomery

I had the pleasure to attend the tasting of a very special guest star's cuisine today at Osia restaurant at Resorts World Sentosa (Festive Walk). The feature is named 'Cooking with Friends' and invites Australian Chef Tim Montgomery's to create food for you from today to this Saturday, 19th July. The set dinner menu (3, 4, 5 courses from $90++ onwards) also mixes in some of Osia's best dishes so you get the best of both worlds.

A celebrated Australian chef, Tim Montgomery was previously singled out as South Australian Chef of the Year and has recently taken on Executive Chef roles at Berardo’s Restaurant and the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival.

The restaurant decor's pleasant, and what will strike you will be the giant open kitchen where you see chefs busying around. There are about 8 of them, which is a lot of people for not many diners! That's the level of work that goes into fine food. Surprisingly there is absolutely no food/grease smells at all, which is magical.

 Here's the special ala carte menu from both Osia and Chef Tim.

What me and my sister had was the special dinner set menu, which is a combination of both Osia and Chef Tim's creations (not pictured above). Prices are actually really reasonable for the quality and effort put into the dishes.

3 courses for $90++
4 courses for $115++
5 courses for $135++

We first had the Stone Hearth Flat Bread ($11) which you can choose 2 from 5 flavors. We picked the garlic butter and macadamia pesto. It came with a "bush tomato" squeeze tube, which is a first for me! It's such an innovative way to serve up a sauce which was so delicious I literally ate it plain. The bread was super soft and fragrant too, like a flat fluffy pillow to rest your head on...



Then for starters

Fjord Trout (Osia)
Foie Gras (Osia)

or Chef Tim Montgomery's Cauliflower Soup with quail scotch egg, pickled mushrooms and truffle oil. Of course we've focused on trying his creations! The cauliflower soup was heavenly. I never would imagine the plain ol' cauliflower to taste so good! It was creamy yet not overpowering or heavy. Couple that with a few slivers of truffle and oil from it, and you've got yourself a comforting bowl of soup. The quail scotch egg I didn't even notice, because the soup was so good!



For Mains
I can't decide which is better, the fish or the steak. But for this 3 nights, I'd suggest you pick the sea bass from Chef Montgomery.

The sea bass comes with brandade, organic scotch egg, smoked potato espuma and avruga. What's really great about Chef's dishes is his use of rare herbs, which gave the dishes a unique, fresh (literally!) edge. That, and the fresh exquisite presentation just takes dining to the next level. The sea bass was a fine example of that. I really enjoyed the smoked potato, that mixed with the yolk from the scotch egg when its broken apart just made it so much more delicious.




The grain-fed black angus beef tenderloin from Osia was also really good too. It is served with with creamed sun choke, basil cepe, acquerello rice 'tomato parmesan' (which is super fun to eat!) and a sweet red wine sauce. I found the beef exceptional - tender and pink inside, and satisfying. Come back next time for it!


For dessert, we had a interpretation of a popular Australian candy called "Cherry Ripe". Since I've never lived in Australia, I didn't know what it was so I googled it. This is what it is like!

Source: Teamlocals

'Cherry Ripe' is made of the 3Cs - chocolate, cherry and coconut. I actually do not like coconut, especially desiccated ones, but my was I wrong when it comes to it being made into an ice cream, on top of a rich chocolate mousse, sprinkled around with dark chocolate dust, and paired with cherry halves and cherry jelly. Cherry jelly. What a great idea.

According to my sister, on Masterchef they always claim that the hallmarks of a great dessert is if it contains these elements - crunchy, soft, sweet, tangy, cold and warm. While the warm part is slightly missing, all the rest were met!



I had an excellent meal at Osia restaurant trying out Chef Montgomery's limited time only set dinner menu, and would hasten anyone who's looking for a special dining experience to visit Osia in the next 3 days! Obviously you can tell that I am in love with the dinner. Call the the number below to make a reservation now.
Osia
Level 2, World Square at Resorts World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway, Singapore 098269
65776560 / 65778888 
Thu - Tue: 12:00 - 15:00, Thu - Tue: 18:00 - 22:30
Closed on Wednesdays

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Thursday, 10 July 2014

Healthier Food Review: Fish & Co Under 500-Calorie Meals

Do you know that Fish & Co. is a restaurant started by a Singaporean? I always thought that it’s a chain from Australia or the US, but was pleasantly surprised to find it is a homegrown brand through and through. I’ve been frequenting Fish & Co. since JC days  when it was no longer acceptable to have class gatherings at Seoul Garden (blast from the past, that!). We would go to Fish & Co. in a big group and order their Seafood Platters to share among 3 or even 4 people because back then it was expensive, and considered a treat. As I grew older however, it became the norm to just share it with another person, but sometimes we’ll not be able to finish it especially if I share it with another girl!

That’s why we can now rejoice because Fish & Co. has come up with 11 dishes under 500 calories, for times when you really just don’t want to overeat as part of HPB's Healthier Dining Programme.

Source: Fish & Co.


What I had the incredible chance to do is to review ALL 11 dishes during a food tasting at the Fish & Co. Novena Square branch. I definitely overate, but I took a long walk to the train station after that to digest. Between the 4 of us we also did not manage to finish everything, but we gave it a good try.

My top 3 favorite dishes among the 11 would be:

1. Grilled White Fish with Peri-Peri Sauce (483Kcal), pictured at 8.

The Fish & Co. rice has always been a favorite of mine because I love the little raisins in them, but also because they are always fragrant and satisfying. Coupled with the piquant peri-peri sauce on the fresh white fish, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

2. Baked Salmon with Citrus Crust (437Kcal), pictured at 5.

I really enjoyed the crumbly crust on the salmon, which again was cooked to perfection and fresh to the bite. The seasonal vegetables were really lightly flavored so I could taste the original flavors of the vegetables themselves! Of course, the mushroom cream sauce was heavenly when paired with the salmon and good to every last drop.

3. Mediterranean Pizza (464Kcal), pictured at number 3.

My bestie’s favorite, the vegetarian Mediterranean pizza was a surprise hit among all the seafood! The pizza was covered with generous coatings of tomato sauce and mozzarella, and some herbs and olives as well. Simple, but sometimes it's the most difficult to do well! The thin crust also helped to make this dish much lighter than normal pizzas.



The rest of the 11 were yummy too, so don’t let my word be the final one. Did my review made you hungry? Fish & Co.’s store locator is here! Do make a mental note to order these healthier options, and get your Healthy Go Lucky card stamped in return. Good luck, and be healthy!

This post is brought to you by HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme. For more info, visit www.eathealthy.sg

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Monday, 7 July 2014

Cafe Review: The Lokal at 136 Neil Rd, Singapore 088865

I really do wonder how many hipster cafes are there in Singapore. There seems to be at least 2-3 popping up every weekend! That means about 10-15 every month? That said, I still find myself seeking out the newest and the coolest to go spend my money on, because, #YOLO, and also because between cafe hopping and shopping, the former is probably cheaper. Though I did go shopping over the weekend because, #YODO (you only die once) and there's #GSS. This weekend found me checking out The Lokal (est. June 2014) located at a corner unit of the place where you can learn German from (Goethe Institute) along Neil Road.


I really like the decor of the place, hipster stereotype it might be, because I find the white/blue/wooden accents very pleasing. They even have hipster wooden fans! I also think we or our next generation can look at photos (or archaic blog posts) of today in future and see how it is like in the past, just like how I would look at photos of old American diners. Because it is slowly turning into a distinctive design style. The shophouse is small and narrow with the bar/coffee counter stretching along it, before opening up into a rectangular space with more seating. It doesn't feel cramped though, and ventilation was just fine (which is very important). It can probably seat about.. 30-40 people.


It was rather packed when I went on a Sunday afternoon at about 3pm. My friend was told there's going to be an HOUR's wait, which turned out to be grossly exaggerated since moments later some tables freed up. The manner in which the seating arrangements was done wasn't quite nice though, I heard from her. Rest of the service was alright, just not the guy that does the seating. Such a pity.

There's quite a lot of people working behind the counter, busying around. Food/drinks came rather quickly, which is good!


Apparently this is a Slayer coffee machine. It is see-through! Very cool. The barista and coffee's from Sarnies. I've tried that, and found it good. I can't really tell the difference between the 2, but then again I never could.


Here's the weekend brunch menu. I like the fact that you can customize your brunch plate with the sides. The selection also has a good mix of sweet and savoury. Prices are slightly steep for the full works, but the sandwiches and lighter stuff's alright.


Coffee menu! Of course. Again, probably about 20% more expensive than what I would liked to pay but prices include GST and does not have service charge! But it does seem like a trend nowadays for cafes to charge a lot (or is it just inflation?). Plus, Starbucks is always around to set the benchmark for pricey drinks right?


The food -- here's the Roast Chicken Panini ($15) which my friend had, and was happy with. It looks fresh and the ingredients were generous enough! I will eat this for lunch in a heartbeat.


My other friend ordered a cranberry(?) scroll, which is a flaky pastry there. I had a taste and it was also excellent. Buttery, flaky and not at all heavy. When I see pastries done well, I think back to my baking achievements and feel a bit sheepish.

And here's the toasted banana bread with homemade yogurt (non-sweet), crushed macadamia and caramelized bananas ($12). It was really awesome. My friend who had the sandwich is a huge banana bread fan, and have tried many. Her review? It's good. Definitely something you should consider ordering for dessert, or a tea time snack! The yogurt's not sweet so it helped balance out the banana bread, and the gooey banana with the bits of macadamia gave the dessert a variety of textures.


Ending with a superb cup of mocha ($6) which my friend ordered. The latte I had was good, but for chocolate fans should definitely go for the mocha which pleasantly surprised everyone. They used high quality dark chocolate, and it was fragrant and not too sweet. It's a pity the coffee taste was masked. But still, good hot chocolate is rare.


Even though there are so many hipster cafes to choose from, put The Lokal on your to-visit list if you are in the Duxton/Tanjong Pagar/Outram area, because good food + good coffee places are hard to come by. 
The Lokal
136 Neil Road, Singapore 088865
+65 64239918

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Sunday, 6 July 2014

Event Report: New season of River Monsters Premieres July 8, Discovery Channel

I was invited to the River Safari sometime in late May because Jeremy Wade was in town to promote the 6th season of River Monsters, and he is somewhat of a big deal because he had grappled with some really huge fishes before - including being head butted by a giant araipama, the cousin of the arrowana fish.

Look at those teeth!
Source: azstarnet.com
Anyway! It was an interesting experience having him recount some of his personal experiences about the show during the speaker session - apparently a lot of times he did things not because he is looking for trouble, but more because its for the viewers. The director will instruct him for example, to place a bloodsucking fish on his neck.



Look what I found? Looks perfect for dinner tonight.


Here's trooper @stooffi along for the event!

After the talk, we got to see a live feeding session with manatees by Jeremy Wade in the Amazon Rainforest in the River Safari, which is an extremely cool aquarium filled with many manatees! It was funny because Jeremy actually did a selfie with one of the manatees with his GoPro camera. That must be one amazing instagram.





We humans have Salad Stop. Manatees have them too! They are so cute.
Next up we wandered around River Safari since it was our first time there, and saw the many rivers of the world. I really quite liked the place, though some of the animals cramped up in small spaces made me feel uncomfortable. I do hope they will remove them, and keep to amazing river fishes and specimens. 

But we wouldn't get to see these 2 amazing species - the Red Panda, and the Monochrome Panda! LOL. They are super cute, and the enclosure they live in probably has more air-conditioning than the average HDB flat. Which is cool. Still, I think it'll be better if they are back home in their natural habitat. 

I had a good time at the River Safari and also seeing Jeremy Wade in person, and in the water. Thanks to Discovery Channel for the invite. Remember to tune in to the premiere of River Monsters Season 6 this coming Tuesday, 8 July! Otherwise, you can watch the repeat telecast every Friday at 11 pm, Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 11 am.

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Saturday, 5 July 2014

Healthier Food Review: Smoothie King 500-calorie combo meals

I’m not sure about you, but sometimes I will have the occasional smoothie craving especially when the weather’s really hot. Good news for those like me - here I’ll be introducing Smoothie King’s 500-calorie combo meal offers ($9.90) made with wraps or salad, and fruit/veggie smoothies! This is in line HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme that has partnered with restaurants/food stalls to offer healthier choices.

I had the chance to try it out at the 313 Somerset branch for dinner, and it was really a refreshing and healthy change compared to the usual dinner or even lunches of mixed rice, majority of meat, and very little greens/fruits. I ordered the Spicy Chicken wrap, and it was substantial enough to fill me up. The chicken was not marinated or oily on its own, but instead relies on the chili sauce to give it a flavor boost. I enjoyed the crunch in my lettuce as well!


Here’s the delicious looking wrap and smoothies (I tried quite a few just because I wasn’t decided!)



To go with the wrap, you get to choose between 5 smoothies - Gladiator Pineapple Mango, Slim N’ Trim Strawberry, Apple Kiwi Kale, Berry Beautiful or Angel Food aka Strawberry Banana. (For more details on the nutritional info of each of the smoothie, click on the link of the smoothie names.)

My favorite smoothie was Angel Food, only because it was in such a delightful shade of pink and I liked the combined taste of banana and strawberry! Otherwise, I would recommend the Apple Kiwi Kale, my next favorite. The good thing about the smoothies is that they are not overly sweet, and I could taste the fruits inside quite distinctively. The ice blended formula is also very welcome for our warm climate (and personally for me, to douse the fire ignited by the Spicy Chicken wrap!)

Here is the list of all 9 Smoothie King outlets for you to try their combo meal or veggie blends out.

The Centrepoint #01-09/10/11
176 Orchard Road, S(238843)
Tel: 67336864
Opening Hours:
10am to 10pm Daily

313@Somerset #01-14/15
313 Orchard Road, S(238895)
Tel: 68362203
Opening Hours:
8am to 10pm on Sun-Thu & Public Holidays
8am to 11pm on Fri-Sat & Eve of Public Holidays

Suntec City Mall #02-312/313
3 Temasek Boulevard, S(038983)
Tel: 63386768
Opening Hours:
9am to 10pm on Sat-Sun & Public Holidays
10am to 10pm on Mon-Fri & Eve of Public Holidays

Marina Bay Link Mall #B2-11
8A Marina Boulevard, S(018984)
Tel: 68343542
Opening Hours:
10am to 8pm on Sat-Sun & Public Holidays
8am to 10pm on Mon-Fri & Eve of Public Holidays

Cathay Cineleisure Orchard #05-01A
8 Grange Road, S(239695)
Tel: 68366012
Opening Hours:
11am to 10pm on Sun-Thu & Public Holidays
11am to 1am on Fri-Sat & Eve of Public Holidays

Bedok Mall #B2-22
311 New Upper Changi Road, S(467360)
Tel: 68449003
Opening Hours:
10am to 10pm on Sun-Thu & Public Holidays
10am to 11pm on Fri-Sat & Eve of Public Holidays

The Metropolis #01-17
9 North Buona Vista Drive, S(138588)
Tel: 63395040
Opening Hours:
8am to 8pm on Mon-Fri & Eve of Public Holidays
9am to 5pm on Sat
Closed on Sun & Public Holidays

Nex #02-K2/K3/K4
23 Serangoon Central, S(556083)
Tel: 66345965
Opening Hours:
10am to 10pm on Sun-Thu & Public Holidays
9am to 11pm on Fri-Sat & Eve of Public Holidays

Kallang Wave #01-40
1 Stadium Place, S(397628)
Opening Hours:
10am to 10pm on Sun-Thu & Public Holidays
10am to 11pm on Fri-Sat & Eve of Public Holidays

This post is brought to you by HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme. For more info, visit eathealthy.sg 

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