Saturday, September 30, 2006

Gateaux de Voyage

The Japanese have got to be the masters of presentation and packaging. I love receiving gifts from Japan because they're wrapped up as pretty as birthday gifts; I feel like it's my birthday again everytime I unwrap one. Anyway, this little package was bought from a Tokyo train station in Tokyo . What an appropriate name, "Gateaux de Voyage" = "Cakes of Voyage".

I was pretty surprised that this actually tasted as good as it looked. Normally I'm quite disappointed with the taste of some Japanese products because they're created more as feasts for the eyes and not the palate but the outer layer of this cake was moist and light whilst the ganache filling was rich and creamy. This actually tasted like a chocolate twinkie on steroids haha.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Durians in Geylang

Geylang is rather famous (or infamous) for being a hotspot for the world's oldest profession. For some reason there are quite alot of stores selling durians here as well, perhaps because it's a horny (literally) fruit itself? This place purportedly claims to sell the D24 variety and my friends were in the mood for some durian after Fatty Weng's so we stopped by.

I'm not a big fan of durian, preferring to enjoy durian derivatives instead but my friends were pretty disappointed with this offering. The meat was not thick and creamy and the flavor mild. Not the best durian indeed. Maybe we went to the wrong store but if there's a next time, I'm going to stick to the ones at Chinatown instead.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fatty Weng, Guillemard Rd, Singapore

Fatty Weng is indeed a Singapore institution. This place at 89 Guillemard Rd has been around for a very long time. After getting pretty bored of all the "zichars"(coffeeshop restaurants) that have popped up serving similar Hong Kong Street food I needed to get an authentic "zichar" fix really bad. I craved; Fatty Weng delivered.

These nice shiny bits aren't little gold nuggets but they are definitely worth their weight in gold. Fried crispy pork bits are like the original food enhancer (much more natural than MSG as well). Just toss in some (or lots) of these babies into anything you're eating and it'll just taste that little bit nicer. Or you can just snack on them straight like I do. Did I hear someone say, "Defibrillator STAT!!!"?

This dish is called King of Spareribs (literal translation) but it's actually fried spareribs with a mild sweet and sour sauce. Well marinated and tender with just enough fat, this stuff just glides down your throat. The sauce wasn't excessively sweet and had a really nice smokey aroma as well which reminded me abit of a toned-down version of" Sugar Ray's Smoky BBQ Sauce".

Fried oysters in special sauce came next. This has a very nice crispy edge on the outside despite little evidence of much flour or batter. The oyster flesh within is still soft and juicy and the savory special sauce complemented the dish perfectly.

Refried roast pork belly with dark soy sauce. You can taste that they use good quality soy sauce here because it's fragrant without being overtly salty. I would have preferred it if they would toss in some diced garlic and ginger as well which is how I normally cook this dish but this pure simple flavor went down really well too.

The dry-fried beef flat rice noodles which came next was even better than some I've had in Hong Kong. The beef was tender and the fine balance of sweet and soy sauce permeated into the very being of the noodle. It was also glistening with enough oil to make a really smooth feed.

The pork liver in claypot was cooked just nice. Cooking liver is a very delicate process because if it's too raw it's still bloody but if it's overcooked it's too rubbery. This however, was just nice. Tender and succulent with heaps of spring onions, this is the dish for all you liver-lovers out there.

Fried prawn paste chicken was next. This is done the style I remembered when I was kid. It didn't have alot of batter, wasn't excessively dyed red and actually had other parts than just the wings. Although it was just abit dry, I really appreciated crunching down the crispy bits of skin.

Ahh, the obligatory it's-all-healthy vegetable dish. We originally ordered just plain Chinese broccoli (gai lan) but before the waitress walked off, I managed to add in a little beef for good measure. Looks like the Chinese broccoli did a cameo appearance in this dish haha. The beef was extremely tasty and tender and what Chinese broccoli which was present was crisp and fresh.

Look at that spread! And all for under 85SGD. I've not had a meal so satisfying in quite awhile. If this blog was a magazine, Fatty Weng would be the centrefold of this month's issue.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hua Fong Kee Roasted Duck, Ang Mo Kio, Singapore

Hua Fong Kee Roasted Duck has a reputation of being one of the better roast duck joints in Singapore and her main branch is at Toa Payoh. I've tried the duck from the main branch before and was honestly very unimpressed. They opened a branch at Ang Mo Kio recently and I decided to give them another shot.

Unfortunately, I didn't like the duck at the branch either; for the same reasons why I didn't like the one at the main outlet. The duck was scrawny, the skin was not crispy, it was seasoned with too much salt and compensating by drowning it in copious amounts of ridiculously sweet gravy didn't help either. In a nutshell - bad roast duck.

The roasted belly pork was nothing to shout about either. It tasted as though it was only seasoned with salt, didn't taste any pepper or five-spice. Just when I was going to declare this joint "beyond redemption", I bit into a piece of the barbecued pork. Finally, a saving grace. The barbecued pork was done very well, the edges were charred just nice and the sugar coating was caramelized without being burnt-bitter, the cut of pork had a good balance between the fat and the lean meat. If there's only one thing worth eating here, it seems to be the barbecued pork.

I ordered a bowl of seafood soup from another stall in the coffeeshop to cleanse my palate from the bad duck and roasted pork and was pleasantly surprised to find clams in my soup. I love clams and they made the broth far sweeter and tastier than most seafood soups I've had. I'll definitely come back here for this soup and maybe some barbecued pork.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Shilin Snacks, Singapore

It's good to see enterprising people bringing in stuff from other countries for us to savor. I'm a big fan of Shilin Night Market and was fortunate enough to frequent it before its major renovation (somehow it's not the same anymore). This place does some iconic Taiwanese snacks such as the fried chicken cutlet, oyster vermicelli and tempura (tian bu la). Although their quality varies from store to store, I usually give into the temptation and still get at least a chicken cutlet whenever I see one because (people who know me will know that) I have a huge soft spot for Taiwan or more accurately; the Taiwanese.

I love to add extra chilli powder to my chicken cutlet. It's almost glistening in crimson glory. This isn't really the best chicken cutlet I've tasted, the meat was too thin and dry and the oil didn't really taste fresh but it sufficed for my little craving then.

Although the chicken cutlet is nothing compared to the ones in Taiwan, I'm always pleasantly surprised with the tempura. This actually tasted better than some I had in Taiwan and believe me, I've tried a lot. From the stir-fried, deep-fried, boiled and grilled versions; I've tried them all. I like to add chilli powder to my tempura as well which is usually not the norm, in fact I had a mini lecture from one server once on how, by definition that "tian bu la" can't be spicy because it's "bu la". In which, I responded with an emotionless blank face and gestured towards the chilli powder. She eventually but reluctantly sprinkled it on.

Ahh, the ORIGINAL Shilin Night Market. That's one happy guy holding a piece of Extra Super Large Fried Chicken Cutlet (literal translation).


Monday, September 25, 2006

D Rissoles

As some of you may notice by now, I like to use mince in my dishes. The beauty about mince is that it's easy to prepare just before you need it (which is great when you just get back from work), it does not need to be marinated at all and only needs to be seasoned 20-30mins just before cooking. The rissole fits many definitions but a common factor I seem to see in most of them is the addition of potatoes, hence the "D Rissole" was borned.

1. Minced beef
2. Shredded potato
3. Diced onions
4. Chopped smoked liverwurst (this is really optional but I love the flavor of smoked liverwurst)
5. An egg
6. Rice flour

1. Mixed the minced beef, shredded potato, smoked liverwurst and the egg yolk together
2. Season with salt and pepper
3. Grab a handful and mould into rissole-like structures
4. Smear the surface with egg white and coat it with the rice flour
5. Fry those rissoles!

1. Using semi-chilled beef is easier to mould
2. I got the inspiration to add liver to my minced beef from Uber's 101 burger but I wouldn't waste my foie gras on this
3. You may substitute the liverwurst with some coarse pate if you still want the liver flavor
4. I prefer to use shredded potatoes instead of mashing or blending them because I wanted to preserve some bite

This can be eaten plain but for some reason I paired this with tonkatsu sauce and mayonnaise and they went together like old friends.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lotte Sunfuds - Chocolate Coated Sunflower Seeds

I've always had a soft spot for the sunflower, I guess it's probably because I like to eat sunflower seeds haha. My preferred method of eating them was shelled and honey-roasted, that was until I came across Lotte Sunfuds, which are basically Korean chocolate coated sunflower seeds. This stuff is so addictive that after awhile you just start eating directly from the packet by putting your lips at the corner and pouring copious amounts into your mouth.

Eating choc-coated sunflower seeds can be fun too. Haha, talk about the ultimate product placement ad! I bought a box of these from overseas because I'm not sure if I can find this in Singapore but I'll go check out that Korean shop at Tanjong Pagar where I get my Jinro from. Well, one pack of chocolate coated sunflower seeds certainly isn't a healthy well-balanced meal; but who's to say that ten packets aren't? Haha.

Since we're on the topic of sunflowers, I thought I'll just share this as well. I was driving through the Orchard strip a few days before the IMF thingy when I saw sunflowers by the verge. "This is so cool." I thought to myself and wound down my window and took a quick shot. But I had my doubts if they could survive in our climate.

This was how they looked like yesterday. Poor little buggers, they didn't even stand a chance...


Spring Court, China Town, Singapore

Spring Court at 52 Upper Cross Street is supposedly the oldest Chinese restaurant in Singapore. They are celebrating their 77th anniversary this year and as such had a promotion going on where you can get a peking duck for 0.77SGD. The catch being you have to spend more than 70SGD on other items. So we decided to go for the 45SGD per person set menu and safely exceeded that amount for the two of us to enjoy the Peking duck.

We started with the braised shark's fins and crabmeat soup. There wasn't much real shark's fins in here, don't expect to see any combs of it and the soup was slightly too starchy. These negative points were compensated by the generous chunks of crabmeat which I did find rather delectable.

The Peking duck was not carved at table-side due to space constraints but I did spy them carving away at a small table a distance away. This was slightly above average peking duck, the skin was crispy but a little too greasy, the sauce was generic but the cucumber and spring-onions were quite fresh and crispy. The pancakes were made in advance and were served at room temperature.

Braised mushroom, broccoli and abalone came next. The sauce was rather rich but only a tad bit too salty. The broccoli was fresh and crunchy, the mushroom quite succulent and juicy but the winner in this trio was clearly the abalone which was reconstituted from its dried form into delicious, tender goodness.

Fried soft-shell crab in black pepper was next. This tasted like any good old deep fried dish. Salty, crunchy and a little greasy. I do wished they had more mayonnaise on the side instead of just those two squiggly lines. I guess I could have requested for more mayonnaise but just really couldn't be bothered.

The seafood dish of the night was steam scallops in spicy sauce. The spicy sauce tasted abit like XO sauce which reminded me of the ones I had at Owen's Seafood. Pretty ok dish, the scallops were fresh and sweet but nothing mind-blowing really.

The last course before dessert looked like it came out from the dimsum trolley. But to be fair to it, the glutinuous rice was very soft without being mushy and the salted egg-yolk, Chinese sausage and chicken filling balanced out pretty well.

Despite the large dallop of coconut cream (tasted like it came from a can or packet instead of fresh), this dessert of honeydew sago was unremarkable. It wasn't bad but it definitely was not spectacular either.

All in all, Spring Court delivers average to slightly above average fare. The 0.77SGD Peking duck may be a bit of a gimmick but it still tasted quite good. However, I was slightly disappointed because I expected a little bit more from Singapore's Oldest Chinese restaurant.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Cafe Le Caire, Arab St, Singapore

It's 2AM and you're feeling slightly peckish and in the mood for a smackeral of something. That's how I was feeling that Saturday night and after a short thought, decided to head down to Arab St for some Middle-Eastern food. Caire is French for Cairo, but that's about as French-ish as this cafe gets; they don't even serve the crème caramel that I see so often in the Middle-Eastern restaurants in Bangkok.

Even though it wasn't that warm at this time, I decided to cool myself down further with a refreshing glass of hibiscus juice (sans the sugar). This was really quite tart and refreshing and gave me quite a jolt. The taste of hibiscus was clearly evident in this and reminded me of that tea I had at Helio Cafe.

We started with the typical hummus and breads. The breads weren't served warm and were slightly too coarse and dry for my liking. The hummus was pretty good though despite being slightly too strong in the "beany-chickpea" flavor, the fresh wedge of lemon toned that down abit.

The hummus was also served at room-temperature and I'm more used to it being either slightly chilled or deliberately warmed. Then again, I'm probably just nit-picking because it was still quite tasty.

My dining companion ordered the Turkish coffee. Drinking hot and thick coffee at 2AM? Respect. This came in that little espresso cup and just for comparison's sake I've put my guitar pick on the saucer to illustrate how tiny this cuppa was. I had a sip of this and found it not only too sweet but tasted too strongly of Arabic spices as well. I guess the sugar and caffeine concoction was to create their equivalent of Redbull. On a really random aside: I remembered how years ago when we would scull down heaps of Redbull to do an all-nighter before our big exams and it had no effect on us whatsoever. We felt so cheated that we named the beverage "Redbullshit" ever since haha.

Another appetizer, grilled aubergine with yoghurt. The yoghurt is served natural (read as very sour) and if not for the balancing of flavors with the very nicely grilled, melt-in-your-mouth aubergine, I would have probably developed a stomach ulcer. But to be fair to this dish, it does grow on you after a while.

This dish of crispy chicken was recommended by the waiter and although it was nicely charred and crispy, it wasn't really an authentic Egyptian dish. Nevertheless, it went down really well and the wedges on the side were fried fresh too. Didn't taste or see any shrooms in the mushroom sauce though.

The special of the day was mandi kharouf using lamb shoulder. This was excellent, the lamb was well-marinated, grilled and stewed to tender perfection. The accompanying tomato based salsa-like sauce complemented the long-grain rice served with it. Even the cherry tomatoes were crunchy and sweet.

More stuff from the grill. Although the meats may look slightly burnt in the picture (and maybe they were!) the meshawi (mixed grill) pieces were still succulent and tender. The winner in this would clearly be the beef as the chicken and shish kebab tasted rather bland. I do like the odd grilled mushroom which was still very juicy despite being rather charred.

Being pretty full after all this grub, I was only in the mood for one dessert - baklava. I was told their baklava had sold out! But I do understand that baklava is more Lebanese in origin than Egyptian. Where can I find good baklava in Singapore? My quest continues...

This place still keeps it real by cutting out on the frilly bits and should satisfy for about 25SGD per person.


p.s: They have a range of sheeshas here too if you are in the mood for a puff.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Istimewa Nasi Padang, Hoy Fatt Rd, Singapore

A family member introduced me to this place a few years ago when I was back in Singapore for a holiday and I've been a fan ever since. Located in a rather secluded location at Block 28, Hoy Fatt Road, Istimewa Nasi Padang has been satisfying my Malay mixed curry rice cravings for some time now.

This place really gets the crowds going especially on weekdays where you get alot of office people queuing up for their plate of scrumptious nasi padang. Probably the dish I love the most here is their ayam goreng (fried chicken) and I'll happily wait by the side to make sure I get a piece that is freshly fried. The batter is really thin and the crispiness of the skin just speaks for itself. After perforating the skin, you sink your teeth into juicy succulent chicken. The chicken here is well-thawed too and fried till they are no traces of residual blood.

Most of their other dishes are in qualities far exceeding average. The beef rendang is not bad too and gives the one at Warong M.Nasir a run for its money. The fried lung could have been drier and saltier though because I like mine like a jerky. This place only opens for lunch and you probably won't get much of anything left after 2PM. Don't expect any fancy decor in this joint, but instead bask in the joys of old school coffeeshop dining with plastic stools. foldable tables and heaps of sweat.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bee Cheng Hiang, Singapore

There's one main thing that sets aside Bee Cheng Hiang from the rest of the the bakkwa stores. This is also the reason why I patronize Bee Cheng Hiang. That reason is - Gourmet Bakkwa. Bakkwa is very much like a grilled pork jerky. Traditional bakkwas are made from seasoned minced pork. What sets gourmet bakkwa from the rest is that thin strips of belly pork are used instead of mince. The interlacing of fat and meat creates a nicely caramelized texture which practically melts in your mouth.

The edges are charred just enough to impart a smokey taste without any bitter hints of being burnt. The meat fibres are continuous and the cut is actually very similar to bacon without the rind. Quality doesn't come cheap here though and you do pay a premium of about 1.20SGD per 100g above the traditional bakkwas but that's ok with me because I can't eat too much of this in one sitting and normally just get a 100-200g bag to snack on.