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  • 5 best cycling routes in Singapore

    They come highly recommended. When you think of the perfect bike ride, is this the image that comes to mind? Or maybe this? And this? “Blue skies. A friendly cycling route with lots of things to see. Sampling good food along the way. A reasonably good bike that could include a basket, or a mountain bike or gravel bike to cover more distance. Smooth cycling, too.” You could say this description fits the above photos to a T (minus some elements, of course, but you get the drift). The thing is, it was uttered by Kamal Ishnin, the founder of The Bicycle Hut – a bike rental shop that also offers guided cycling tours… in Singapore. Yes – you don’t necessarily have to go to Europe to experience the perfect bike ride or cycling route, because you can find it right in your own city. But then it also depends on what you believe to be the ideal scenario. You’re in a bustling city, after all. You won’t exactly see majestic mountains or rivers or rolling hills and plains. (Actually, you might...) Or even 100% clear roads. There may be a few misconceptions, too-high expectations and false impressions to overcome first. “This was a typical question when we started the enterprise,” Kamal admits. “It was a lack of understanding and fear of what you could and couldn’t do when cycling. (I’ll elaborate later on.) Until the time we entered the market, most locals generally cycled within their neighbourhood estates, and reserved their cycling to the East Coast Park and West Coast Park areas. There was this fear that cycling in the city was dangerous, and that you could seriously get injured. The locals were ‘fixated’ on looking at the beaches while cycling, when there were three times as much more to do, observe and experience in a city cycling journey. Wouldn’t you agree?” We would, once we hear his precautions and instructions. 😊 “Cycling in European cities has been going on for at least 50 years or more. The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France and Switzerland have been doing this with the correct building of infrastructure,” he states. “What’s important is to observe basic traffic rules and safety for cycling. Usually, I share my cycling experiences overseas to help dispel any fears, and liken them to our own city. A five-minute briefing of a recommended two- to three-hour cycling route with visual landmarks to observe along the way will reassure these folks of any concerns they might also have. We share images of those who have cycled with us, and the things you can experience along the way to allay any doubts.” For example: “Some key merits of cycling include an improved heart rate, better focus, balance and deep breathing – the basis for a healthier life.” Let’s get started then Like right now. The Bicycle Hut promotes a range of cycling routes around Singapore that feature different stops, attractions, national parks, cityscapes and more, but customers can also request for tailored activities according to their own preferences. Kamal shares his five favourite cycling routes in Singapore to help you feel inspired: #1 Eastern Coastal Loop and Coney Island Preferred bike: “Any bike type is suitable.” “This covers the famous stretch of beach that almost all locals have cycled on. Nice stretch of park connectors that start from the Marina Bay areas and runs for 21km until you hit the newly-built Dinosaur Park located just on the borders of Changi International Airport. Scenic and windy most times, with the waves gently combing the beaches. A great stretch to cycle on weekdays when it’s quiet. Weekends are packed with picnickers and other cyclists. Overall experience: 4 stars.” #2 Northern Explorer Loop Preferred bike: “Gravel bikes, hybrids, mountain bikes.” “Bike on the wild side in northern Singapore: Nature surrounds you, but you will never be too far from heartland neighbourhoods such as Yishun, Sembawang and Woodlands should you want to stop for a break along the way. The entire loop spans around 25km, but you can also opt for a shorter 11km route that takes you from Lower Seletar Reservoir Park to Woodlands Waterfront. Water is a major feature along this route, and you’ll pass through reservoirs, a freshwater swamp, and a jetty at Woodlands Waterfront that’s one of the longest in Singapore. The park connectors will keep you on smooth ground, but you’ll also hit some undulating terrain on your route. Keep a lookout for wildlife such as monkeys and rare birds. Overall experience: 4 stars.” #3 The Green Corridor or Rail Corridor (85% completed) Preferred bike: “Gravel bikes, hybrids, mountain bikes.” “There used to be a Malaysian KTM railway line that cut through the middle of Singapore, from Woodlands Train Checkpoint to the now-defunct Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Cyclists go on a journey through a variety of landscapes, communities and unique experiences. Enhancements will begin with Rail Corridor (Central), which is known for its lush natural landscapes and elements of rich heritage. Do take note that parts of the Green Corridor nearest to the city is still under construction as we speak. Delays due to COVID-19. Overall experience: 4 stars.” #4 Ketam* Mountain Bike Park Preferred bike: “Strictly mountain bike full suspension or hard tails.” (*“Ketam means ‘crab’ in the colloquial Malay language. Probably so named as it’s on Ubin Island. You need to take a 20-minute bumboat ride from Changi Village to get to the island,” Kamal says.) “Make your way to Pulau Ubin from Changi Ferry Terminal and enjoy a cycle around Ketam Mountain Bike Park. It’s the first trail in the city-state to meet international standards for mountain biking competitions, with 10km of trails that will suit cyclists of all skill levels. The three tracks have different ratings from the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), so go for one that corresponds with the level you’re comfortable with. If you have time, you can consider turning your bike ride into a full-day trip and discover all that Pulau Ubin has to offer. Important note: The Ketam trail is very technical and recommended only for experienced riders with proper mountain bikes. Overall experience: 5 stars.” #5 Western Adventure Loop Preferred bike: “Gravel bikes, hybrids, mountain bikes.” “Beginning at Chua Chu Kang, this route takes you through various parks and greenways where you’ll get up close and personal with nature. Dairy Farm Nature Park with its rugged terrain is a highlight, as are the Jurong Lake Gardens – home to the beautiful and cultural Chinese Garden and the zen Japanese Garden. This 12km route also comes with several opportunities to hop off your bike for a bit and take breaks in the tranquil and usually uncrowded surrounds. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot one of the roughly 50 bird species that have been sighted along the Bukit Panjang Park connector. The Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden were temporarily closed due to pandemic restrictions, so check the website for updates. Overall experience: 4 stars.” Hang on a minute Whew. These routes sound great. Cool. Exhilarating. Exciting. I’m sure avid cyclists can’t wait to hop on their bikes and go on any one of them. It’s just that, erm, what if we haven’t cycled in a long time, and it’s only now that we’re looking at trying the activity again? 😬 “Start with a simple and easy ride on a non-technical bike like a basic city bike,” Kamal recommends. “Build up your confidence and bike handling techniques. It would be good to have a friend join you or you could join a cycling group. Gradually increase the distance and duration of your cycling activities. Once you’ve overcome any doubts, you can hop on a bike and do that 148km-round island journey.” Don’t forget a few important things too. “Learn how to use brakes properly and gear shifting correctly. Most mechanical faults can be avoided with the correct use of the above. Get yourself kitted with padded cycling shorts for long stretches of cycling. Invest in a helmet, some bicycle lights (front and rear), and a reliable bike lock. Bring water to hydrate yourself, and a set of Allen keys just in case you need to adjust or tighten some parts along the way.” Now go and create your own path Once you build up your confidence, that is. Here are a few more tips from Kamal to help you achieve just that: #1 Beginners can start off with a two- to three-hour journey “The route around our shop allows you to do just that with loads of ‘makan’ places to choose from. Otherwise you could pick a route from one of the five listed above. There are many more bike routes, of course. We recommend using the National Parks Boards website: Search for park connector networks and find out a list of things that you may encounter on the different routes, from biodiversity and conservation to even bicycle shops and food joints should you have a problem while cycling.” #2 Check the schedule – and your tool kit “Important note: Most bike shops are closed on Sundays, so it would be good if someone in the group can handle basic repairs and tube replacements. Always bring a spare bike tube, tire levers and a hand pump. Most folks choose to remain ignorant about all this and would rather pay for a tube replacement. Most tube replacements can be done under 10 minutes. If you’re lucky enough, another cyclist will be able to help you with a tube replacement, but only if you’re that lucky.” #3 Don’t underestimate or overlook anything “Avoid the major roads during peak hours. Pay attention to road signages and traffic regulations. All major expressways and all underground expressways are off limits to cycling. Always plan your cycling route if you are going to cycle for more than two to three hours, and check the weather forecast. The humidity can sap your energy if you are unacclimatised. Take more breaks and treat it as a picnic session on wheels.” A cyclist’s stories Things change, especially if you’ve been holding cycling tours with The Bicycle Hut since 2013. And it’s been interesting, to say the least. Kamal’s observations could give you a different perspective and some insight into your cycling journey. (Besides that, they’re also good to know.) 👍 Which way do we ride? “As I mentioned earlier, when we started this journey, it was to change the mindset of the locals about cycling. We believed a lack of knowledge and understanding of the city areas was a key factor. Our expat communities had already been cycling in the city areas in 2013, while the locals were still cycling in the East Coast Park and West Coast Park beach areas. These locations were designated as ‘bicycle friendly’ areas by the government. It was a safe initiative, although it does have limitations. For 30 years, locals and tourists would ply the East Coast Park stretch of beach as a recreational and tourist activity. Ultimately what happens is an underappreciation of bicycles, and henceforth cycling as a whole. This suppresses creativity in cycling and the broader spectrum of cycling as an unexplored subject within tourism. Therefore, the birth of cycling tourism in Singapore. As you can see, these were all things that plagued my mind at the start. A series of actions would be required to effect some changes.” Championing cycling “My travels to Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland reaffirmed my belief that we were going the right and necessary way. There was a definite need to embark on a campaign no matter how small, and reintroduce cycling as a lifestyle. This would in turn catch fire and get support from the government in time. By reaching out to the expat communities and the tourism industry (primarily the key hotels in the city), we were able to get them to understand, support and adopt a cycling culture. “From 2013 to 2015, our campaigns to attract and entice key hotels within the Marina Bay and Orchard Road belt by offering bike rental and bike touring services to the hotels and travel agents started to bear some results. We partnered with two other bike touring companies that were already operating in the city areas as well. The idea was to synergise a series of already-running bicycle services via a cycling hub by offering bike rentals, bike tours and short group rides (we don’t do this anymore for manpower reasons), all centred within the Marina Bay, Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Orchard Road areas. This in turn would drive businesses to hotels, food establishments and attractions that are aplenty in the city areas, thereby boosting the economy. “At the same time, we started a small campaign on social media via Google, Facebook and Instagram to connect with expats and locals alike. We would post or share pictures of families and friends as they cycled in the city. It was an arduous process but we enjoyed every bit of it, learning from this experience and the challenges that came along with it. Rome wasn’t built in a day.” After almost a decade “We believe that we have succeeded in the campaign we started eight years ago. We never intended for the business to become huge (thanks to COVID-19, locals are cycling more than ever), and we still adopt a laissez-faire policy in running the business. Enter the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Singapore’s vision or Draft Master Plan 2019. “The Master Plan is a land-use plan that serves as a blueprint to guide Singapore’s physical development. Reviewed every five years, it is a statutory plan that shows the land use and development intensity allowed for every plot of land in Singapore. In March 2019, the URA unveiled key proposals under the Draft Master Plan 2019, which outlined the strategies for Singapore’s development in the next 10 to 15 years. This included the construction of several key park connector networks that would link the entire island, and can be explored by bicycle or walking. Ding-ding! They say timing is crucial in any endeavour. All of the above factors culminate in the growth of cycling in Singapore – a steady, constant and rapid growth.” In the end… “We could talk about Singapore’s past and trends, and why folks thought this way and that, but that would be best done while on a bicycle tour. Most Singaporeans from the ’50s up to the ’70s era cycled within their neighbourhood communities. The bicycle then was a means of basic transport. The nation was in its stages of infancy, gaining independence in 1965. The humble bicycle served as a part of life but not a lifestyle per se. I guess it depends on how you look at it. As public transportation improved in Singapore, the bicycle served a secondary transport role for parents to ferry their children to and from school, or for going to the nearby wet market for light grocery and household requirements. I believe it’s similar in many other countries as well, be it in Asia or Europe.” Final thoughts (and tips) Because it doesn’t hurt to be extra-prepared. It may spell the difference between you having a nice ride and, well, not. 😁 “Unlike traditional bike shops, we don’t engage in retail or bike repairs. There are over 400 bike shops in Singapore, so take your pick. We could make recommendations on which local bike shop suits you best,” Kamal suggests. “Our key focus is still cycling tourism and the promotion of cycling as a whole. We tried to link up with some eco-tourism agencies in Malaysia and Thailand in 2015, but it was too taxing and time-consuming a subject to look into with a large requirement of logistics and staff. So that has to wait awhile for now. We do a lot of thinking most times.” 😊 And yet, “We have a variety of bicycles to rent for self-exploratory tours, and you can also join our pocket bike tours,” he reveals. “Pocket bike tours are from Wednesdays to Sundays at S$80 per person, minimum of two persons required. Bookings need to be made at least five days in advance to ensure tour guide availability. If we are not able to help you, we will refer you to the next bike touring company that is in partnership with us.” #1 Think it through “Plan ahead if you intend to cycle. Get as much information as you can ahead of your cycling date in unfamiliar territory. Contact the bike shop and ask for suggestions.” #2 Choose the most suitable bike “Take note that different bikes have different uses. Get the right type of bicycle for the right job. Some are for light cruising for a two- to three-hour journey. Others are for long-distance cycling and will cost a bit more.” #3 Know where to get help “At The Bicycle Hut, we make every effort to assist customers who have a bike breakdown within a 3km radius (within half an hour) of the shop, although that may not be possible on busy weekends and holidays. If you are planning to cycle long journeys, say beyond 20km, be prepared to contact a bicycle transport company to assist you if you have a breakdown. You can use Gogovan or Lalamove to help you with this. They’re like Uber and Grab but for transporting goods and services, and most times they can pick you up within 30 minutes of booking. If you are more than 10km away with a breakdown, then use Gogovan. Good thing is, breakdowns are rare and usually tube punctures.” We can rest easy and just enjoy the experience then. 🙂 Find The Bicycle Hut at 1 North Bridge Road, High Street Centre, #B1-53, Singapore 179094, tel: +65 6635 8353, and on Facebook and Instagram. The Bicycle Hut also has corporate clients (like airlines) – with annual payments and packages, they can furnish your team with bikes for cycling as a way to exercise and de-stress from a hard day’s work. 👍

  • The world’s best hot sauces according to a sauce finder, a sauce whisperer and a sauce guinea pig

    Welcome the burn. So far, I’ve watched four YouTube videos of people doing the Paqui One Chip Challenge. I don’t know why, because the setup, format and reactions are all basically the same. Or similar. Same with those that feature spicy foods, and foods smothered in hot sauce. Or wait… maybe I do. 😊 “I love them within reason,” says Steve Carr, co-founder and “sauce finder” of FIYAH! Heat Store. “Some are ridiculous with the hottest ever ever ever sauce. But ones that have flavour and grow with a skill or talent – (like) hot chilli eating, for example – need practice.” “To me they are good for raising awareness and can be pretty comical,” adds Tim Sedo, his fellow FIYAH! co-founder and “sauce whisperer”. “In the end, though, I want hot sauce to be a part of people’s diets and respected as a culinary thing, and not just a novelty gag.” Ben Lee, the third FIYAH! co-founder and “sauce guinea pig”, agrees. “It’s fun to watch, but I’d much rather see people learn about the sauces (how, why and when to use them) than just for banter and burning each other with spicy flavours. “A lot goes into making a hot sauce and so they should be savoured, not just be a gag,” he maintains. “Though watching people try some of the hot sauces we have has become a favourite pastime!” They have lots Of hot sauces, we mean. FIYAH! Heat Store is an online shop in Hong Kong that specialises in hot sauces sourced from all over the world. They have hot sauces available in different heat and flavour ranges to suit every palate, threshold and preference. They’re part of a growing and vocal group of people who absolutely love hot sauces. Because there has been an increase in the consumption of spicy foods, and the use and creation of hot sauces and condiments, in recent years. At least I think so. There’s also been a huge amount of attention paid towards these items. (I guess it’s because I have been watching too much YouTube, and feel like I see these things almost everywhere.) “I feel like we are at the start of where craft beer and coffee was a few years ago – all very much underground and have grown with the discovery of methods, varieties and flavours,” Steve points out. So it’s not just me then? 😁 “Nope, not you,” answers Ben. “I think within the past decade or so there’s been a big shift towards supporting local businesses, which with greater access to selling online has enabled lots of people to start selling their homemade sauces. “With this shift, it’s only natural that everyone has become more aware of craft produce,” he explains. “Like Steve mentioned, it’s been underground for a while but the discovery has significantly increased – we’re only at the start.” Our tolerance for heat, too. “I think overall people’s tastebuds are growing more global, and that our palates are getting used to higher heat levels,” observes Tim. “Remember how ‘hot’ sriracha was the first time you tried it? Now it just feels like delicious ketchup! “At the macro level, the hot sauce scene feels similar to where craft beer was about 10 years ago; it’s pushing forward new and bold flavours backed by more compelling brands and experiences,” he echoes. “It’s an exciting time to be involved and change the way people think about the category. Hot sauce for the people!” Hear, hear It’s true, though: I, for one, have never visited or had a meal with someone who doesn’t have at least one bottle or brand of hot sauce in their kitchen. Which goes to show just how popular, useful and essential the hot sauce is (or has come to be) – some of us probably can’t cook or eat without it. It’s cool to discover old and new hot sauces, and have a couple on hand to add more flavour. But what if it’s your job to go through all of the hot sauces currently in existence, try to gather them all in one place, and curate them so customers will know what to get? Well, it’s a task that Steve, Ben and Tim are more than happy to fulfil. 👍 So what does it take to run a hot sauce shop – and what would convince them to reach for a particular hot sauce? What’s weird and wacky? Why is hot sauce more than just the level of heat it provides? We break it all down right here (and give you a few good ideas in the process as well). 😊 The challenge of choosing, selling, trying, tasting and testing hot sauces from around the world Steve: “Yeah – we have tested well over 200 sauces, and some are super hot and were quite a shock to the system. But as we try, we start to get the flavours and the styles. Only one has caused issues!” Tim: “We test and fully endorse everything that we stock, and have almost-weekly tasting sessions to try new sauces. This is a huge part of the fun and has led to an ever-evolving assortment of what we believe to be some of the world’s best hot sauces. No bogus sauces – everything is FIYAH!-approved!” Ben: “We love our hot sauces and know everyone else will, too, because we’ve tried them all. It’s tough work but someone’s got to do it.” 🙂 The challenge of finding hot sauces for FIYAH! Steve: “I spend most of my time looking for new sauces or old ones that people haven’t heard of. The biggest challenge is finding ones that are nice for me but also good for others. Not everyone has the same palate – what I may find horrible, another person may have their mind blown!” Tim: “So many sauces, so little time.” Unlikely places they’ve found hot sauces Steve: “New Zealand has one major brand but finding other super local ones. Swaziland also! Just discovered new hot sauces in France and the Netherlands!” Tim: “Canada. As a Canadian myself, I had no idea that some of the best sauces in the world come from the Great White North! Dawson’s and Heartbeat are delicious!” Ben: “In this day and age, with global connections and flavours, I’m not really surprised everywhere has their own version. I’ve just been surprised by how many there are out there, from all corners of the globe, which has been great to see.” Myths and misconceptions about hot sauces that they’ve come across Steve: “Most people don’t realise a hot sauce isn’t just hot but a range of complex flavours and styles. From sauces like Tabasco to a sauce based around yuzu – there is a huge difference and range. Most of the time, people need to try and then they get the variety.” Tim: “The myths are pretty easy to dispel. The whole scene has moved so far beyond just heat for heat’s sake (although there is a place for this, too). One taste of something perfectly balanced, nuanced and, well, hot, and people figure it out pretty quickly that something interesting is happening in this small nook of the culinary space.” Ben: “‘It’s all about the heat.’ Yes, heat is a key ingredient in hot sauces, but there are so many different types of chillis or burns that every sauce is different. It’s not just about how hot it is. Not only that, but everyone reacts differently to different chilli, which is what I find most interesting. Just because one hot sauce for you is super super hot, doesn’t mean another one will be. That’s why you have to try them all!” The ingredients and “formulations” in hot sauces that surprised, amazed and shocked them Steve: “Blueberry-based hot sauces with some of the hottest chillis on the planet. Mind-blowing and one of the best-tasting things I have ever had!” Tim: “I am not the biggest fan of fruit-based sauces, but when there is a fruit-forward sauce that also has a serious savoury and heat element, I am in love. A great example of this is the Spicy Sweet from Pisqueya, with its beautiful fragrant passionfruit notes backed by a strong savoury structure and a solid heat kick. Delicious. I also love our more funky ferment-based sauces, where you can really taste the ferment. Heartbeat from Canada are masters of this.” Ben: “Mango! I love mangoes but did not anticipate them to work well in hot sauce.” Now we get to the juicy bits: Their top 5 picks for the hot sauce beginner From Steve: #1 Secret Aardvark’s Aardvark Habanero Hot Sauce “Simply put, one of the best sauces we have and a classic. Super tasty. Mild/medium on the heat levels. Goes on everything and anything!” #2 Humble House’s Ancho & Morita Hot Sauce “More a tangy barbecue hot sauce. Just perfection. Used in marinades from rice to tacos to burgers.” #3 Flagrant Hot Sauce “Made in Hong Kong using Japanese ingredients. Just one of the best sauces out there. Perfect replacement for Tabasco!” #4 Shaquanda’s Spicier Smoke “Made in Brooklyn – and the sauce your life has been missing. Smoky. Berries. Heat. Heaven…” Tim: “I’d recommend a range across mashes, ferments, oils or crisps, and cooked sauces to understand the nuances between different hot sauce production methods (sort of like a pilsner, stout and IPA taster for someone new to beer). After that I would break it down by big chilli families – jalapeno, habanero, bird’s eye, pot peppers, scorpion, ghost, reaper, etc. From the FIYAH! range moving from mild to hot, I’d suggest…” #1 Flagrant Hot Sauce “Good on everything, not too hot, perfectly balanced.” #2 Shaquanda’s Mx. Green Sass “Perfectly bright, good-on-everything sauce.” #3 Dawson’s Cremini Habanero “Good heat, chef-y flavour.” #4 Mellow Habanero’s Extra “Perfectly distilled habanero flavour with a good heat kick. Nerdy habanero perfection.” #5 Adoboloco’s KoloheKid Hot Sauce “Hot and delicious.” Their top picks for a hot sauce fan/expert/master/professional like themselves From Steve: #1 Anything by Torchbearer “Super tasty hot hot sauces, and the far-end-of-the-spectrum ones are amazing. Just heat and flavour.” #2 Da’ Bomb’s Beyond Insanity Hot Sauce “Pure heat with an interesting flavour. Definitely hurts. Ten minutes of pain and somehow I like this. Just the reaction the body has sends endorphins through the system!” #3 Adoboloco’s Hamajang “Best sauce on the site in my opinion. Super smoky and super hot. Really good sauce and the company is awesome!” #4 Hellfire’s Fear This! “A great sauce – very hot. Doesn’t linger for long but just flavour and a top level of heat.” #5 High River Sauces’ Rogue “Blood orange with a real mix of different super hot chillis. Just a really interesting blend.” Tim: “I would lean into the fermented or mash sauces. There really is no place to hide for the producer if the production isn’t right. To go back to the beer analogy, if the batch is sh*t, just add a bunch of hops and call it an IPA; but if you mess up a pilsner everybody will know, because the ingredients are so simple and pure. So ferments and mashes all the way!” On what makes a hot sauce a favourite (Check out their personal list of must-have sauces here: Steve, Tim and Ben.) Steve: “For me, I really enjoy a blend of heat and flavour, but more on the heat side – something that I know is hot but the flavour almost balances it out. Some of the others are packed with flavour to the point you don’t get the ‘hot’.” Tim: “I lean towards the more chef-y flavours over the heat. I want something that is really unique and surprising. I am less interested in the versatility of a sauce and appreciate those angular sauces that you really can’t place what is going on or even what it would pair with. Aka Miso from Bravado Spice Co is a good example of this.” Ben: “I’m not all about the heat. While I’ve come to enjoy the hotter sauces, I’ve generally leaned towards those that are a bit more flavoursome and so on the lower end (for some people). Shaquanda’s does great hot sauces as do Heartbeat – both hot but not blaringly so!” The hot sauces they’d likely give away as gifts From Steve: #1 Flagrant Hot Sauce #2 Any of the Mellow Habanero sauces from Japan #3 Da’ Bomb “In case I wanted to f%$# them up.” Tim: “Flagrant. I am a super fan of this sauce. Delicious, well-balanced and interesting. Also the guys who make it are rad dudes and it’s from Hong Kong. Love gifting this sauce.” Ben: “They all make great gifts. Each one has its own story so you’ll be supporting local communities or makers when you gift them, which is what I think makes a good gift!” The hot sauces we’ll find stocked or stowed away in their bag, on their desk, in their kitchen (because, you know, just in case) Steve: “Flagrant, Tabasco Scorpion Sauce (hottest they have ever made), and Aka Miso.” Tim: “I’m not a snob – classic sriracha is still one of my go-to’s. I am loving Dawson’s XXX Ghost Pepper Mash and Adoboloco’s Hamajang for pure delicious heat.” Ben: “Shaquanda’s! Love their sauces.” The weirdest hot-sauce-and-food pairing they’ve ever tried Steve: “Weirdest – Hellfire’s Blueberry Hell with vanilla ice cream. Pure sex. Super tasty and a weird balance. I have 200 in the kitchen so I grab what is at the front.” Tim: “Nothing is weird in the world of hot sauces. I put hot sauce on everything. A bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter smothered in sriracha is one of my faves. Vanilla ice cream with Heartbeat’s Blueberry Habanero… delicious.” Ben: “Steve wins this one! I still like to complement my eggs in the morning or dinners at night with some hot sauce.” If the heat becomes too much, the foods and/or drinks they go for that will hopefully lessen its impact Steve: “Pray. Pray. Pray. The best thing to do is worry about your stomach rather than the mouth. Get something in there before you eat hot stuff and plenty of liquid after. But your mouth will just hurt.” Tim: “Something with fat content and some viscosity. Water and beer just spread the pain around. Try yoghurt cottage cheese.” Ben: “Knowing that it will end. Just give it time. Most of the hottest don’t last more than 15 minutes so grin and bear it, really. But if it really gets too much, yoghurt or milk works.” And when you do get to the end? Try another one. You know you want to (especially after all this talk about hot sauce). 😉 Because if you buy your stash from FIYAH!, then there’s bound to be more. The growing number of YouTube videos of spicy foods, challenges and hot sauce taste tests is proof. 😊 Find FIYAH! Heat Store on Facebook and Instagram. Shop here.

  • How to pick yourself up

    And pull yourself together, according to our fur pals. Animals have this incredible ability to bounce back and just get on with it. A quick chat with Ricky Yeo, the president and founder of Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD), reminds me of this. And I’m so glad of it. “Our work with dogs has always helped us to deal with the challenges of life, because of our unwavering mission to help strays and give them a second chance at life,” he states. ASD rescues not just strays, but abandoned dogs too. An animal welfare organisation in Singapore, they rehabilitate these dogs and find homes for them. Ricky is also a dog trainer and behavioural consultant who runs The Dog Listener Consultancy – a centre that promotes healthy, positive communication and cooperation between dogs and their owners through obedience training courses, workshops, and health and nutrition consultations. Plus he’s a principal trainer for Project ADORE, a programme under ASD that allows HDB residents to legally adopt medium-sized, mixed breed dogs; a dog behaviour columnist for The Straits Times; as well as a certified Jan Fennell Dog Listener. Overall, he’s now had over 20 years of experience in rescue work and dog training. And it’s safe to say he’s seen a lot of heartbreaking situations and cases. “In general, those dogs that we rescued from the brink of death are the ones that always appreciate their second chance the most,” he confesses. “Dogs who were hit-and-run victims and left to die, suffering from unimaginable pain; dogs who are afflicted with disease like skin problems, tumours, grievous injuries from fights, maggot wounds…” And the sad list goes on. And on. But before we all cry and feel so down, read till the end of this post to hopefully lift yourself back up. Because Ricky reveals the many positive things we can learn from dogs, and why we only need to take our cues from them and look at them for inspiration. This post is for us (me, especially) to read again every time we need to, and whenever we want to. A different perspective can change things (especially during this time). #1 Stop whining Or at least stop after a few moments (we all need a release sometimes). “Dogs always inspire us because they find ways to deal with their hardship, like those on the brink of death – they fight for life because their lives matter to them,” Ricky observes. “And the most important thing is, they don’t complain!” #2 Focus on what’s in front of you “It’s always about making the best of your opportunities and situations. Always be grateful for what you have, and always be appreciative of others who have helped you.” #3 Look back, and on, with courage “See how they (dogs) rebound back to life, recover from their experience, and live life to the fullest with unconditional love, and forgive those who inflicted that pain onto them,” he asserts. “That’s just the miracle of dogs, and why they are here with us – (for us) to be better people and to have that sense of purpose in life… that we can make a difference and make the world a better place.” #4 Be a good listener Discover ways to improve and nurture your listening skills, so that you’ll truly hear what someone is trying to say. “As a ‘dog listener’, it’s always about understanding what’s going on in the dogs’ minds, what fears they have, what drives them, and then connecting with them at the core level, and helping them assimilate into our world as part of our family, our pack,” Ricky maintains. “That’s what dog training is all about.” #5 Think of others first “Open your mind and heart to the body language of your dog. Don’t taint it with your human perspective; but rather think about doing what’s best for them, and not what’s best for you.” #6 Create a programme or routine “Develop a structure that involves love and attention, and revolves around the dog’s core needs,” Ricky recommends. (On a side note: Determine and figure out your needs. What are they? How about someone else’s?) “A truly happy dog is one that’s calm, composed and responsive, when all of its core needs are being taken care of and you show the pack leadership that your dog needs. “Every dog has a personality just like people; they have quirks, faves and peeves. You just have to observe and learn and adapt, just like they would with you,” he adds. “It’s a dynamic process that goes on through your life with your dog, and the satisfaction always comes from the strength of that bond and the understanding that you achieve.” #7 Don’t just stand there “If dogs could talk, they’d all probably say the same thing: ‘When are you guys going to get off your butts and do some good, and be someone good?’” Yes, when will you? When will we, I mean. 😁 Do you feel empowered? Or at least a bit lighter, centred, and more motivated? Even if you don’t (maybe not now), something positive may still come out of following these seven tips. “You develop a much stronger bond with your dog and you will always be guided by the motives of true love: to do what is best for the other, and not what benefits you.” That’s true. Because if you’re an animal lover, I think that’s how you’ll feel, and that’s what you’ll do. You want to be a better person for them, and for yourself too. 👍 For more on Ricky and Action for Singapore Dogs, check out their site, Facebook and Instagram. You can help ASD by donating, adopting, volunteering and sponsoring their rescues.

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