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Now it is my turn to tell the story of how Glen asked me to marry him. It is also the story of how we got together. I decided to document everything on Gastrographic since this is a special space we share. The 8th of November started like any other normal day, just that it ended with me feeling out of this world. Well I knew Glen was up to something since he was being all sneaky the day before, but I did not expect that it was going to be this big a surprise. Glen was on leave that day as we had some errands to run. We went to Atariya in the day, and there was where he passed me my first brown envelope. I was really happy because he hadn’t written to me in awhile and I went ‘Oh hey! you had time to write me a letter!’. Anyway, when I was reading the letter it didn’t really cross my mind why the word “Will” was bolded until I read the second letter.

ONE: The Girl With The Happy Eyes

Atariya_

GirlwiththeHappyeyes

We went to Islington for a stroll after we had our tummies filled with some really awesome sushi. It was outside a home decor shop where Glen handed me my second letter.  He saw me again 3 years later at the Newton Circus bus stop wearing an orange dress. This was after RJC. We went through junior college not really knowing each other since he was one year my senior. I just knew him as Chu’s SLC muscleman canoe captain friend.

TWO: The Orange Dress Incident

_DSC2911_DSC2912It started to rain and Glen insisted that we had to go home. I did not understand why because it was still so early in the day and it was rare that we had an afternoon to spend together! We went home anyway, I went to the toilet to wash up, and when I got back into the room, there was an open luggage and he told me to pack in 5 mins because we had a train to catch at Paddington in an hour. (I’m not sure why he had risked doing so because he always gets annoyed at how long I take to pack and how much I have to pack :p)  I was asking a million questions but he refused to say anything! When we got to Paddington, Glen told me to look at the train schedule board to find out the details of the train which was leaving for Maidenhead. We almost missed our train but thankfully there were some delays and we hopped on just in time. I still did not know where we were going but this was when he passed me my third envelope. We met at the Costume Party Chu organised in 2008, and that was when we spoke to each other for the first time.

THREE: Funny How Things Happen

_DSC3215 Funnyhowthingshappen

When we were on the train, I asked Glen if we were going to The Fat Duck. He told me to stop guessing so I knew I was close, heh! There was a cab already waiting for us at Maidenhead. In 10 mins, we arrived at Bray and checked into The Waterside Inn. The place was absolutely pretty and I was blown away. I didn’t know they had little cottages and rooms on top of the restaurant, and was really surprised when I found out we were staying there for the night!

Glen passed me my fourth envelope. We met again 9 months after the costume party at Denise’s yearly NYE house party. This was when we exchanged numbers and this was the start of our friendship.

FOUR: Funny How Things Happen #2 and Happy New Year 

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happynewyear

Dinner started and the waiters were hilarious! They started congratulating us after serving each dish. I gave Glen a funny look, to which he said “I really don’t know what they’re talking about”. I laughed because I already knew what was going on.

Glen handed me the fifth envelope. He told me he liked me after two months of hanging out and I didn’t know quite what to say, which explains the title of the letter. He was leaving for Beijing for 6 months, and then London after for 3 years. (well, I guess it turned out to be a lot longer)

FIVE: But You’re Leaving Soon 

_DSC3003During his 6 months in Beijing, we kept in touch via MSN Messenger. His msn nickname was (glen.) and I would look forward to speaking to him at the end of each day after school. He sent me a postcard which read “Wo Hen Xiang Ni” (I miss you in Mandarin) and came back to Singapore with a huge bag of Mao related goodies for me.

SIX: Little Bubble

_DSC3038We continued to hang out whenever we could for the few months he had in Singapore before he had to leave for London. We went to Victoria Concert Hall for a concert one weekend and he told me after that he still liked me.

SEVEN: So Tell Me Honestly 

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Towards the end of the meal, I received the eighth envelope. Glen came over to my place one evening and spoke to my mum about us. We went through weeks of praying and consulting Chu to decide if we should give this relationship a shot. It wasn’t easy at all. We are complete opposites, have totally different hobbies, and we were gonna be half the world apart.

EIGHT: Yes, No, Maybe? 

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Glen wrote me a green letter and only gave it to me a month after, with only one week left before he had to leave for London. So with some luck, lots of praying, and a leap of faith, we decided to get together. In his words “And the rest, as you might say, is history. At the basement fountain of Raffles City Shopping Centre, I asked her in the clearest terms whether she would be my girlfriend. And in the clearest terms, she said yes.” I did so by agreeing to hold his hand, haha.

NINE: And She Said Yes 

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I was expecting a tenth brown paper envelope but that did not come. Instead, Glen took out a dark purple Ted Baker watch box. I gave him a Ted Baker watch four years ago on our first Valentines Day and that was the box which the watch came in. It is shaped as a book and the tenth letter, together with a little brown box, was inside.

TEN: The Ted Baker Watch Box 

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The last letter made me really emotional. I don’t know how to describe how I felt because I was feeling and thinking so many things at the same time! When I was done reading the letter, Glen was in front of me on one bended knee, and he asked me in the sweetest most serious way ‘Gloria Ong, will you marry me?’. I couldn’t wait to say ‘Yes!’ and I must have said it too soon because I remember my brain telling my heart to slow down because it hasn’t registered the moment and I said “Can you do it again please? It happened too quickly and I really want to remember this forever…”  and there he was again, on one bended knee, and the whole thing did a very slow replay. The rest of it was a blur, I just know I was dizzy with happiness (jetlag, and a very full food tummy).

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So, that’s the story! I hope you enjoyed reading it. A big thank you to our family and friends for sharing this journey with us and most importantly, thank you God for bringing us together and seeing us thus far.

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134 Kingsland Rd
London E2 8DY
Open Weekdays12:00–3:00 pm, 5:30–11:00 pm
Open Saturday 12:00 – 11:00pm and Sundays to 10:30pm

… and it’s good to be back. We apologise to our readers for such a long lay-off from gastrographic. Life has been busy for us, and it has only been quite recently that we finally regained a measure of our time to get back into writing for fun!

Shoreditch Town Hall – walking up towards Kingsland Road from Old Street
Old Street_Shoreditch Town Hall

The first entry of gastrographic was of this little gem of a cafe we found on our trip to Thailand a year and a half ago. It seems only apt that we kick start this rebirth with an entry on food from around the South East Asian region again. Having lived along the edges of East London for the past 3 years, Song Que Cafe along Kingsland Road has always been my go-to place for Vietnamese comfort food when the flat larder runs low and I can’t be arsed to cook in the evening. It is a wonder that we’ve never properly reviewed this place earlier.

Old Street installation, just across from Cay Tre

In terms of taste, Song Que has a special place in my heart for its fresh and ping-pong-ball bouncy Vietnamese summer rolls, crispy deep fried spring rolls and for having a bad-ass barbecued meat selection – smelling like it was smoked over a ghetto charcoal pit and charred to perfection. If one is at a loss as to what to order (the menu has over a hundred items in it), a summer roll starter and a dry rice noodle main topped with spring rolls and barbecued pork should give you a sampler of the wonderful things coming out of the Song Que kitchen. The pho is decent, but we prefer the soup and meatballs at fellow Shoreditch rival Cay Tre.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls – with prawns so good they go boing in your mouthWhatever you do, just stay away from the chicken chow mein. It’s not even a Vietnamese dish!

Dry Rice Noodles with Spring Rolls and Barbecued Pork

Food portions at Song Que are plentiful and prices are affordable. For that reason queues outside the restaurant can be long on Friday and weekend evenings as revellers spill over from the Hoxton drinking holes to grab a bite to eat. Service can be rushed and brusque (as with most Asian restaurants), so we don’t recommend lingering over your drinks once your plates are cleared. Some establishments are brilliant for that, but Song Que is more a “please eat our lovely food and then leave as soon as you can” kind of place.

31 Tan Quee Lan Street #01-01
Tel: 6334 4086

We were introduced to Xin Yuan Ji some time ago, and it is now our go-to place for sliced fish soup in Singapore. The restaurant itself is a full service tze-char restaurant, catering both to the one-hour luncher and the relaxed steamboater. It is particularly noted for its steamboat, fishhead curry and fish soup offerings.

The sliced fish soup with condensed milk ($5.80 – $7.00) is one of their specialities. You can have it with thick beehoon, porridge, or a separate serving of rice. The original purpose of adding milk was to mimic the appearance of fish-bone soup that has been boiled for hours, but it also has the effect of giving the soup a smoother texture and a pleasant sour-salty aftertaste. Fried fish slices are also available.

The sanlao fish hor fun ($7.00) comes hot out of the kitchen smelling of wokhei, the smokey, slight charred scent cherished by Cantonese chefs. There is a generous portion of fish and beansprouts, with plenty to share around.

We’ve not tried the rest of the dishes on the menu, but the shrimp prawn paste (belachan) chicken is a best seller and purportedly very good. Just don’t question how healthy it is.

Most people hate having tourists walk into their shots of majestic monuments and wondrous natural sceneries. I’m not too particular myself – with the fog and drizzle as bad as it was at the Mutianyu Great Wall that July weekend, tourists were the only things there were to take. They hammed it up pretty well, replete with looks of genuine bemusement and fatigue-induced confusion.

“Which way to walk, da?”

Asian dad valiantly rallying his little troopers for a charge up the ramps.

Visibility was awful, on the day of Beijing’s worst rainstorm in 61 years

My friend Juan, an upstart Chilean conquistador.

Some other shots I took from an early visit to China in 2010

“Daddy are we there yet?”

I took a walk around Beijing’s Nanluoguxiang area the other day. The hutongs around the New and Old Drum towers are some of the last remaining artifacts of the capital’s residential history. Many of them have been gentrified and turned into tourist attractions, but there is still a substantial number of people residing side by side the street food stalls and souvenir peddlers.

Wen Yu Cheese Shop. They sell this dessert called 双皮奶 that was quite nice.

Love it or hate it, Smelly Tofu is ubiquitous to the Beijing street food scene.

I had lunch at the Suzuki Kitchen at 77 Xiaoju’er Hutong, an offshoot from the main tourist street. Get the Pork Shougayaki set. Portions are very generous. 

A blind but very spirited 二胡 (Erhu) player I came across at Nanluoguxiang.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world when you’re on the Beijing bus network.

Sign reads:  Setting up shop in front of this house’s door and windows is strictly prohibited. Any offenders will be reported to the police. Didn’t say anything about eating on the steps. 

Nanluoguxiang’s status as a tourist attraction is a skin-deep reflection of its rich history and the architectural significance of the hutongs there.

I took a walk to the Hou Hai lakeside after finishing up at NLGX. Several Muslim restaurants line the banks, a good place for some 羊肉串. 

Welcome to Beijing!

Hi there! Sorry for the lack of updates over the last few days. I’m currently in Beijing for summer school and the Great Firewall has made it difficult to access facebook and wordpress.

Suffocating censorship laws aside, the good news is that we’ve been working (read: eating) hard to bring you good food reports from the Northern Capital. Contrary to the popular belief that Shanghai is the best place in China for food, Beijing is a fantastic and affordable place to eat in as well, if you know where to look. Traditional north Chinese cuisine has a reputation for being oily, but thanks to a growing expatriate and student community, food enclaves catering to less oil-resistant palates have sprung up around the city.  Gloria came up for a week to visit and we’ve done some of the legwork for you.

We’ll start with Haidian district in the north-western part of Beijing. Haidian is where a majority of Beijing’s universities are located, and consequently there is also a very large student community living and studying in the area. Food-wise, it is also known for really good (and cheap) Korean food centred on the Wudaokou subway station.

Sarangbang Korean Seafood Restaurant
35 Chengfu Road

Dong Yuan Building, Floor 3
Wudaokou,

Haidian District, Beijing

+86 (10) 82618201

Possibly the best Korean food outside of Korea

Look out for Sarangbang Korean Seafood Restaurant. It is on the third floor of the same building in which the Tous Les Jours bakery is. The regular Korean fare (kimchi pork, bulgogi, bimbimbap) are all good, but also try the cold noodles, a chewy buckwheat noodle dish soaked in a sweet-vinegary soup and topped with a slices of cold pork, fragrant pear and watermelon. Nothing like it on a sweltering summer day, to be honest.

Hot day, cold noodles.

Shin Yeh
No. 2401, 4F
Xinzhongguan Shopping Center
19, Zhongguancun Main Street
Haidian District, Beijing

Classic Kung Pow Chicken

If one is in the vicinity touring the Yuanmingyuan and Summer Palace gardens, take the Subway Line 4 down to Haidian Huangzhuang station. Shinyeh restaurant in the Gate Mall serves classic and instantly recognisable Chinese dishes for good value.

Before I conclude, I’d just like to add that both these meals came up to around 60RMB (£6). The equivalent anywhere else would have cost four times as much. We’ve got a whole bunch of other places to tell you about in Beijing, so please continue to visit!

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