Steamed Pork in Shrimp Paste

Monday, 27 February 2012

Shrimp paste is my new favourite!

Lee kum kee shrimp paste

This sauce has been on my to-try list ever since I saw it on Rita's blog. I couldn't find Lee Kum Kee shrimp paste in the UK, but it is readily available back here in Singapore. This stuff is fermented and is extremely pungent and salty, the flavour is very much like salted fish. There are many different brands and types of shrimp paste - dry, wet and can vary in smell, texture and saltiness. I don't have much experience with different types of shrimp paste, so I can't comment, feel free to experiment!

Steamed Pork in Shrimp Paste

Printable recipe
By Pig Pig's Corner

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Yield: serves 2-3


Ingredients:
  • 300 g lean pork - thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk spring onion - sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 3 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 tsp chili oil flakes
  • 2 tsp shrimp paste
  • 1/2 tsp Thick Dark Soy Sauce (Thick Caramel Sauce)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger powder
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp cornstarch

Directions:
  • Mix together all ingredients except for green part of spring onion. Leave to marinate for at least 10 mins.
  • Steam on high heat for about 10-15 mins or until cooked through.
  • Garnish with green part of spring onion.
Steamed Pork in Shrimp Paste

So good rice rice!
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The Ultimate Ramen Champion Singapore Part II, T3 Changi

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Less than two weeks after our last visit to Ramen Champion at Iluma, we visited Ramen Champion at Changi Airport. In Terminal 3, this is much smaller, with only four ramen stalls here. Two of them are new and as yet, apparently not updated on the website so background information on them are a little sketchy.

Ramen Champion Singapore T3 Changi


Ramen Champion Singapore T3 Changi spicy riki

Needless to say, the PigPig wanted to check out the newer ones and ordered “Nitamago Spicy Riki Ramen”. It’s Jiro style ramen, similar to Bario. However, there is an extra kick with the dollop of garlic chilli by the side. The broth was quite porky as well, but less so than either Bario or Ikkousha. The great thing here though is that the garlic used is pre-fried and fried shallots were added too, giving an extra layer of aroma and flavour to the bowl.

Ramen Champion Singapore T3 Changi spicy riki

Ramen Champion Singapore T3 Changi ramen
Riki ramen (right) VS Gensuke ramen (left)

The noodles are also quite thick, but less dense than Bario and definitely easier to handle. The cha-shu is thick and chunky, but somehow very porky in flavour (even for me) and isn’t as tender and tasty; the composition is also something like 60% meat 40% fat so not for the faint of heart. Lots of beansprouts and cabbage cover the bowl, but the cabbage is left in thicker slices. Oh the tori kara age (fried chicken) in curry powder is not bad too!

Ramen Champion Singapore T3 Changi Riki curry chicken

Summary: Broth: very garlicky, less porky, well complimented by the chilli. Noodles: dense and thick, but less so than Bario. Less extreme than Bario.


Ramen Champion Singapore T3 Changi gensuke

Last but not least of the stalls we tried, this stall serves a chicken based soup. However, compared to Menya Iroha (whose broth is also based on chicken), this is as contrasting as night and day. For starters, the soup is undeniably chicken based; it is as if a thousand chicken bodies were boiled and reduced down to make this extremely flavourful chicken stock. It wasn’t just a plain and simple chicken stock though, it was quite thick and rich, really comparable to the hakata style except that it used chicken instead of pork.

The noodles were a shade thinner than usual and a little bit softer than average. Three chicken slices were provided, which was not bad albeit skimpy, while a smattering of sliced spring onion is scattered about the top.

Summary: Broth: very rich and quite sweet chicken flavour. Noodles: softest amongst the stalls.


Ramen Champion Singapore T3 Changi Ikkousha

Just a brief note that we also tried Ikkousha in Changi Airport. The soup is as good as in Iluma but the noodles were overcooked and way too soft. Hopefully, it was just a one-off mistake, but it was a disappointment nonetheless.

Each bowl of ramen costs about $12 on average for each stall’s regular bowl, rising to about $15 for extra cha-shu. There’s a separate drinks stand which stocks most typical soft drinks although I tend to go for the oolong tea which is nice, refreshing and unsweetened after the salty ramen soup.

Ramen Champion Singapore T3 Changi

Both the PigPig and I feel that the ramen here are all slightly different which is really the great thing about this place; people with varying preferences and personal tastes can order a different ramen, each type being a local champion from Japan. We also felt that none of them is perfect. For example, I loved the porky soup of both Ikkousha and Bario, but liked Riki’s addition of fried and raw garlic oomph. Amongst the cha-shu, I like Bario’s chunky bite but Gantetsu’s is probably the tastiest. Riki and Gensuke’s eggs were both not bad, seasoned and soft; Bario’s is probably the worst. In other words, there’s no clear winner for me, and I enjoy each bowl for their individuality.

Ramen Champion
65 Airport Boulevard
#B2-58 Terminal 3
Singapore Changi Airport
Singapore 819663
(Near CHANGI AIRPORT MRT Station)
Tel: +65 6214 2958
Ramen stalls: Gantetsu, Ikkousha, Riki, Gensuke
Check out: The Ultimate Ramen Champion Singapore Part I, Iluma Bugis (Ramen stalls: Gantetsu, Ikkousha, Bario, Menya-Iroha, Tai-Sho-Ken, Tetsu)
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The Ultimate Ramen Champion Singapore Part I, Iluma

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

One of the best things we ate in New York was Ippudo ramen but unfortunately it just didn’t strike the right chord in Singapore; felt a bit too salty without sufficient depth, and the PigPig felt more MSG was used. And then we discovered Ramen Champion…

Found in the under-renovation Iluma, adjacent to Bugis Mall, Ramen Champion sounded a mere promotional gimmick when I first heard about it. The concept: 6 ramen shopowners from Japan were invited to participate in a competition here whereby the stall that gets the most votes from the general public wins! The prize is the title of “Ultimate Ramen Champion 2011” and will get their own restaurant.

Ramen Champion Singapore

But then I started reading a bit more about the 6 different stalls on the website, looked at the pictures there and read a couple of other blog posts… and I started salivating, while at work, at 4pm, and I started getting really hungry. What especially caught my eye was that these ramen-ya folks weren’t just random ramen-ya plucked by a Singaporean businessman, but people who have won local awards and are (presumably) really good!

Ramen Champion Singapore

Their “stalls” are quite attractively laid out as well in the mall. Within their territory in the mall, one can order from any stall and will get a buzzer which activates when your order is ready. In no particular order, we tried out a bowl of ramen from each stall over several visits.


Ramen Champion Singapore bario

This is probably the most unique stall here as their ramen is Jiro style (for a more in-depth read, click here), which according to Guardian UK, is THE best ramen to eat in the world. Originating from Tokyo, it supposedly started out catered for students and the first stall was near a university. Basically, it is a tonkotsu broth (thick pork-based soup), which is extremely porky in flavour but it goes a short step further and has lots of fatty essence floating around as well. Ah, but odds are you won’t visibly see it, as the bowl is literally covered up to and over the brim with a generous amount of beansprouts and cabbage. Personally, I thought the vegetable was needed to help cut through the fatty soup but the PigPig hated it.

Ramen Champion Singapore bario

The ramen noodle itself is also somewhat contentious as it’s like no other ramen noodle, being very springy and thick; my jaw muscles ached a little towards the end, especially as there was A LOT of noodles given! However, the wife liked its chewier nature. Their “cha-shu” is amongst my favourite amongst all the stalls here though, being chunkier yet still tender and very flavourful while containing enough fat to make it delicious but not too sinful. Let’s not forget as well that the soup contains enough garlic to definitely ensure your (un)popularity in the workplace.

Summary: One of a kind, this ramen probably polarises opinions more than others here. Broth: very thick, porky, super garlicky. Noodles: fat and chewy +++.


Ramen Champion Singapore ikkousha

Out of the 6 stalls here, this was the one I originally wanted to try the most as it was of the same style (Hakata) as Ippudo ramen. Named after the Hakata district in Fukuoka city, it is essentially a condensed souped-up (geddit?) and powered-up version of a tonkotsu broth. Sadly, it didn’t have the kuro mayu or black garlic oil that Ippudo had.

The ramen is typical hakata style being thinner and quite firm. Also, this store has the kaedama available, where basically an extra balled-up portion of noodles is given. Apparently, a usual portion size is slightly smaller so the noodles don’t get a chance to soak in the soup for too long and become soggy and softer. So one is expected to request for a kaedama if you’re a bigger eater (such as me) and make sure to save some soup in the bowl for the second round. The egg and pork cha-shu was unremarkable.

Summary: Always suffers being compared to Ippudo NYC. Broth: thick and super porky, less fatty than Bario. Noodles: thin and firm, save some soup for a kaedama if you’re a big eater.


Ramen Champion Singapore gantetsu 1

Sapporo is the birthplace of miso-style ramen and is regarded by some as the home of the best ramen in Japan. Gantetsu, a 3 consecutive year award winning restaurant, is the sole representative of Sapporo style ramen here in Ramen Champion. The broth here is much more balanced when compared to the previous two tonkotsu stalls and has a sweeter tone to it, probably due to the sweetcorn. Yet, the dollop of ginger paste gave the bowl a slightly sharp tinge although it does dampen the sweetness a bit.

Ramen Champion Singapore gantetsu

The noodles were quite straightforward standard curvy noodles of medium chewiness and I actually preferred this noodles the most out of all the stalls. The cha-shu is strangely very thick and appears dry with very little fat content but it is actually very tender and flavourful. Lots of bamboo shoots were floating around the bowl too.

Summary: Broth: well balanced, probably the most pleasing for the neutral person. You'll like this if you like ginger. Noodles: personal favourite.


Ramen Champion Singapore menya iroha

An export of the Toyama region, their trademark black soup won top sales in the Tokyo Ramen Show for 2009 and 2010. The broth revolves around a chicken soup with lots of black soya sauce to give it that distinctive dark colour; there’s also a white chicken soup that we didn’t try (but apparently the white soup in their local stores in Japan is made from white prawn ~shiro ebi~. Such a shame it didn’t make the journey to Singapore).

We tried their signature dish, Negitama Ramen, which had loads of spring onions. The soup was the ‘cleanest’ out of all the samples we tried, being much clearer (not the colour!) and simple compared to the richer and more complicated broths from other stalls. There was a slight charred tinge to the soup though and I felt that the spring onion was a bit on the strong side. The noodles were of medium chewiness and quite similar to Gantetsu’s.

Summary: Personally the most dull out of all the ones here for me. Broth: simple and clean. Noodles: pretty good medium chewy.


Ramen Champion Singapore tai sho ken

Now we’re moving into the final two stalls which both specialize in tsukemen, which is essentially dipping ramen into a more concentrated broth rather than a usual soupy concoction. This can be eaten with the soup being hot or cold. The dipping sauce/soup/broth we tried here in Tetsu was the “Very Rich! Special Paitan Tsukemen” which is made of pork, chicken and seafood. The wife had the majority of this and she really enjoyed it. According to another blogger, the soup has an even stronger seafood element in Tokyo.

Another trick he reveals is that when the dipping soup cools down, you can ask the staff for a yaki-ishi, which is a hot stone to pop into your soup to reheat it. An even better piece of advice is to look for a thermal pot labelled as “Dashi Soup” to dilute your dipping sauce at the end of the meal so you can drink all the goodness and not waste it.

Summary: Broth: very rich and flavourful. Noodles: great bouncy texture.


Ramen Champion Singapore tetsu

The other tsukemen stall here in Ramen Champion, this stall has a rich dipping sauce/soup made from pork, chicken and anchovies. It’s somewhat similar to the Menya Iroha, being much cleaner in flavour and texture. The noodles are quite nice and bouncy as well, similar to Tetsu’s.

Summary: Broth: strong, but clean. Noodles: also great bouncy texture.

Ramen Champion Singapore

Ramen Champion
201 Victoria Street
Bugis Iluma #04 - 08/09/10
Singapore 188607
(Near BUGIS MRT Station)
Tel: +65 6238 1011
Ramen stalls: Gantetsu, Ikkousha, Bario, Menya-Iroha, Tai-Sho-Ken, Tetsu


Check out: The Ultimate Ramen Champion Singapore Part II, T3 Changi (Ramen stalls: Gantetsu, Ikkousha, Riki, Gensuke)
Read More...

Coriander Pesto Linguine

Monday, 20 February 2012

I usually use coriander to garnish my dishes but they always come in a big bunch and they wilt so quickly in the fridge. I can't freeze them as garnishes are best fresh, so I usually blend them and use in marinades like for the Grilled Coriander and Lime Chicken I made awhile ago. Another great way to finish up all the coriander before they go bad is to make pesto. The pesto is very versatile. Simply toss together with some pasta, use as a dip or serve with grilled chicken or fish.

Simply. Healthy. Oh-so delicious!

Coriander Pesto Linguine

Coriander Pesto Linguine

Printable recipe
By Pig Pig's Corner

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Yield: serves 2


Ingredients:
  • 150 g linguine
  • 4 tbs pesto (recipe below)
  • Fish sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds
For pesto: makes 3/4 cup
  • 50 g peanuts and sesame seeds mix - roasted
  • 50 g fresh coriander
  • 1 red chili - coarsely chopped (more to taste)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 lime's juice
  • 6 tbs olive oil (or more)
Directions:
For Pesto:
  • Place all ingredients in a food processor, blend until a paste is formed. Add more oil if too dry.
For pesto linguine:
  • Cook pasta according to the instructions on the package. Drain.
  • Mix together pasta and 4 tbs of pesto (more if too dry).
  • Season to taste with fish sauce.
  • Drizzle a bit of sesame oil and garnish with sesame seeds.
Coriander Pesto Linguine
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Wild Yam with Goji Berries Stir-Fry 枸杞炒山药

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Fresh, crunchy, addictive. Nutritious, healthy, tasty.

Wild Yam with Goji Berries Stir-Fry 枸杞炒山药

I made soup with Chinese wild yam (Huai Shan 淮山, also known as shan yao 山药), so I thought I'd try something different. The flavour is very mild and subtle, so the best thing is to do a simple stir-fry. As mentioned before, wild yam has loads of medicinal functions, such as promotes urination, lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, acts as an antibiotic, has anti-aging properties and also improves digestive system. It is great for the kidney, lung and spleen. So...eat more!

Wild Yam with Goji Berries Stir-Fry 枸杞炒山药

Wild Yam with Goji Berries Stir-Fry 枸杞炒山药

Printable recipe
By Pig Pig's Corner

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Yield: serves 2


Ingredients:
  • 400 g Chinese wild yam 山药
  • 2 tbs goji berry - rinsed
  • 1 tbs Shaoxing wine
  • 3 cloves garlic - pressed or minced
  • 1/2 tsp chicken powder
  • A few dashes white pepper powder

Directions:
  • Soak goji berries in Shaoxing wine for about 10 mins or until softened.
  • Remove yam skin with a peeler. Thinly sliced then soak in water till later use. Rinsed a few times before cooking. Remember to wear gloves while peeling and slicing the yam as the slimey fluid will make your skin itch.
  • Heat up a bit of oil in a pan. Add garlic, fry until fragrant.
  • Add yam sliced and stir-fry for about 2-3 mins.
  • Pour in goji berries together with the Shaoxing wine. Stir-fry for a further few mins.
  • Season to taste with some chicken powder or salt and pepper.
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Steamed Pork Belly with Lemongrass and Assam

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Here's another recipe adapted from the cookbook 'The ultimate guide to steam cooking 蒸的好轻松 by 程安琪‘. I thought it would be weird steaming pork with lemongrass and assam as it sounded more like a recipe for fish but it turned out surprisingly good! The original recipe uses chili padi but I didn't want it to be that spicy so I used regular red chili instead.

Steamed Pork Belly with Lemongrass and Assam

Steamed Pork Belly with Lemongrass and Assam

Printable recipe
By Pig Pig's Corner

Prep time: 15 mins
Marinate time: 30 mins - overnight
Cook time: 15 mins
Yield: serves 3


Ingredients:
  • 500 g pork belly - skin removed but leave the fats underneath intact, sliced
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbs light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 2 stalks lemongrass - cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces and lightly bashed
  • 2 red chili - sliced
  • 2 tbs tamarind
  • 4 tbs hot water

Directions:
  • Mix together tamarind and hot water. Strain to remove seeds.
  • Mix together tamarind and all the other ingredients. Leave to marinate for at least 30 mins.
  • Place everything in a steaming bowl and steam for about 15 mins or until done.
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Saveur, where coffee shop meets French food.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The subject of Saveur (translated into flavour or taste) first appeared during a dinner at Santi (I think it must be only foodies who will talk about food elsewhere while still in the middle of a meal, or the terminally gluttonous). My fellow dining companions had already sampled Saveur and were voicing their support for their efforts in bringing modern French food to the common people. You see, the unique thing about this food outlet is that it’s based in a kopitiam (coffee shop), one of the cheapest options a food purveyor can get.

Saveur, Singapore

Both young chefs are Shatec trained and have experience in local French restaurants. Interestingly, they are also keen on cooking using sous-vide , which is essentially cooking of a food product in a vacuum-sealed bag then usually cooked for a long time in a low-temperature water bath (e.g. ~60ºC). The most obvious effects of this is the very even heat distribution to the food product but other secondary effects are also noted sometimes such as textural alteration.

Saveur-Singapore

Anyway, Saveur is to be found in a little corner of the Ali Baba Eating House coffee shop right opposite the new mall of Katong 112. Its worth noting that the online menu is at best, a rough guide and hasn’t been updated recently; my uncle who has been there on 5 separate occasions now but never got a chance to eat their pork belly as they have limited supply of each item a day.

Foie gras served with lentils. We chose the 60g version for $14 which sounds incredibly cheap. Yes I know it is still ridiculously cheap at $14, but I can’t help but feel that the portion size still looked a bit small although I accept it may be because it’s in two halves instead of a whole. Anyway the duck liver itself was not bad but didn’t feel as decadent and rich as the better goose variety. And a pice we had had some chewy bits.

Saveur, Singapore-foie gras

Angel hair pasta. We tried both versions they had: with kombu ($4); with tiger prawns and lumpfish caviar ($7).

Saveur, Singapore-pasta
Angel hair pasta with kombu

Both pasta dishes were actually very good, perfectly cooked and brilliantly seasoned. There isn’t a huge difference in taste between the two dishes, so it really depends on whether you want to pay an extra $3 for the tiger prawns. I think a little bit more olive oil would have helped make it just a little bit smoother though and some dried chilli flakes would’ve been nice to give it a little kick.

Saveur, Singapore-pasta
Tiger prawn angel hair pasta with lumpfish caviar

Duck confit ($8.90).

Saveur, Singapore-duck confit

The duck had a great crisp outside but was still juicy within. Meat nicely seasoned. The mash was a great supporting character as well, wonderfully creamy and smooth, with a hint of orange flavour. Quite a simple dish here but very well executed.

Saveur, Singapore-duck confit

Beef. We tried both versions they had on offer today, a plain medallion ($13.90) and a bourguignon ($13.90). Both beef were were very tender and can be easily eaten without using a knife. However, the bourguignon was a little on the dry side (weirdly given the cooking method).

Saveur, Singapore-bourguignon

The medallion was better as it had more flavour from the sauce and the meat was more juicy and tender.

Saveur, Singapore-beef medallion

Salmon confit with apple and fennel salad ($8.90). Again the method of cooking is sous-vide but it worked much better on this fish than the beef earlier. The salmon meat had that characteristic feeling upon biting where the flakes all fall apart individually while chewing. The kombu topping was full of umami flavour while the fennel and apple salad gave the dish balance via not just its sweet/sour juxtaposition but also the mild crunch.

Saveur, Singapore-salmon confit

Altogether, we shared 4 plates of starters and 3 mains between us 4 people for a total of $80 (no wine available!). So yes, it is definitely cheaper than eating out in a “proper” restaurant, but then again the food quality still isn’t quite up there as well. Also, you are missing out on the other side comforts of eating in a restaurant such as air-conditioning and clean tables for example. If however, you’re a bit like me where the food comes foremost and other aspects are secondary (I’m quite happy eating good food at roadside stalls), then Saveur is probably worth a shot for decent cheap French food, if only to tell your friends you had foie gras in a kopitiam.

Best bit: the salmon and pasta are easily the best choices here.
Worst bit: the foie gras, even at only $14, feels like such a letdown. Menu is limited too. I think we've tried almost everything there on the menu.

Saveur
Ali Baba Eating House, Foodstall No 3
125 East Coast Road, Singapore 428810
(located at the corner coffeeshop of
Joo Chiat Road and East Coast Road)
Tel : +65 91250124
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The End of the Chinese New Year Celebrations

Monday, 6 February 2012

Chinese New Year Cake-nigella's clementine cake

Chinese New Year or Spring festival is the longest and most important festivity in Chinese culture. It is celebrated from 1st until 15th day of the first month in the Chinese Lunar calendar. The 15th day is the first night of the lunar year to see a full moon, this day is known as 'yuan xiao jie' 元宵節, which means "first night of the full moon" or to Hokkiens, this day is known as 'chap goh mei', which is Hokkien for the “15th night”. This day also marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities and is usually celebrated with lots of lanterns, rice dumplings and oranges.

Chinese New Year Cake

In Malaysia and Singapore, this day is also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day. For singles looking for a partner, single women would write their name and contact number on mandarin oranges and throw it in a river, lake or pond, while single men would then try to collect them and eat the oranges. The taste of the oranges is believed to give them an indication of how their possible love life would be - sweet represents a sweet and joyous love, while sour...well, you know...

Chinese New Year Cake

This cake is Nigella's clementine cake. Instead of clementines, I used 450 g of Mandarin oranges. The design of this cake is adapted from e's joie. The oranges, flowers and the white sheet of 'paper' that the flowers are sitting on were made using fondant. The leaves and stems were piped out with buttercream.

Chinese New Year Cake-nigella's clementine cake
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Chinese Lion Dance, Dragon Dance, Firecrackers

Saturday, 4 February 2012

'Dong, dong dong, chiang. Dong, dong dong chiang...'. Lion dance is a form of traditional dance and performance in Chinese culture and is a highlight of Chinese New Year celebrations. It usually performed as a ceremony to scare away evil spirits and to summon luck and fortune.

Chinese New Year Lion Dance

The lion dance is also associated with 'Nian' 年, the mythical creature who would come on the first day of New Year to eat livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. 'Nian' is afraid of red colour and hence the loud noise and red would scare it away.

Chinese New Year Lion Dance

One of the highlights of the performance is the traditional custom of "cai ching" (採青), which means "plucking the greens". the 'green' is usually a head of lettuce. Everything is done for a reason. The green vegetable in Chinese is 'cai' (菜), which sounds like the word 'cai' (财-fortune). Once the lion has 'plucked' the greens, the greens are thrown towards the audience to represent good wealth.

Chinese New Year Lion Dance

Chinese New Year Lion Dance

Since it is the year of the dragon, we also had a dragon dance performance. Dragons, in Chinese culture, symbolise power, strength, wealth and good luck.

Chinese New Year Dragon Dance

Lastly, firecrackers, which is believed to scare away the evil spirits (or 'Nian') and misfortunes right at the start of the year.

Chinese New Year Firecrackers

Please DO NOT attempt this at home.

That's my father-in-law holding the pole. Brave.

Chinese New Year Firecrackers

Please DO NOT attempt this at home.

PS. All pictures taken with my iPhone 4s.
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