Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Black Pig Chase

Since the beginning of time, man has been tracking and hunting down animals for food. His hunger and the need for survival drives his forage into the forests. Fast forward to today, man still has this same instinct and drive but now does so with a twist. So after gathering information by sight, sound and maybe intuition, a few food bloggers tracked down the Black Pig trail and ended up in Tampopo. One pig-friendly (wo)man went after an eel.

At the basement of Liang Court, we laid an ambush and waited quietly. Then at the sight of the Black Pig, out flew nets, spears and cleavers. Squeals of joy filled the air as we tied the Black Pig to a pole and carried it to the fireplace to make Tonkatsu and Ramen Soup. Okay, so maybe the Tampopo staff did all that for us while we just sat our ass down on wooden seats. But other than that, service that day was not much to be desired.

It's not often that I go to Liang Court so I decided to try the rather famous Black Pig. I found the menu for Black Pig Tonkatsu a little confusing. Different cuts of the meat were used and each at a different price (totally understandable) but hardly any details were furnished. There was no description of any particular cut or what diners who opted for it could expect. For example, I found the $3 price difference between the 'Top Grade Loin Cutlet' and 'Loin Cutlet' difficult to justify. Asking two different staff at two different times about the difference between 'Top Grade Loin' and 'Normal Loin' was pointless, with answers that displayed lack of product knowledge and worse still, simply brushing us off with "I don't know."

Anyway, I opted for the Top Grade Loin Cutlet. How special was Black Pig? If there was a plate of normal Tonkatsu and Black Pig Tonkatsu in front of me, I wouldn't be able to tell too much of a difference. Distracting breadcrumbs and tempting sauces do not help. Maybe I should opt for other methods of cooking to allow the delicate flavours to emerge.

Here's a comparison of the Black Pig Cutlet ($24.50) and my Top Grade Loin Cutlet ($21). Confusing names now for two Black Pig dishes? The top piece was Top Grade Loin Cutlet and the right halve of the meat was white while the left halve was 'blackish'. The bottom piece, courtesy of Jasmine, was the more expensive Black Pig Cutlet. This seemed to consist only of the 'blackish-coloured' meat. Containing more fat streaks of fat, it was also more juicy and tender.

Do try some of the interesting sauces that are available. The sour plum sauce (left) gave an nice sourish edge to the Tonkatsu.

For desserts, we shared the Scooped Strawberry Shortcake. It was more cream than sponge but thankfully the cream tasted fresh and surprisingly light.

Looks like the year of the pig may usher in more pigging out and Black Pig adventures. But hopefully the service at Tampopo will be less boar-ish should I return.

Liang Court Shopping Centre (Next to Medi-Ya Supermarket)
Tel: 63383186

Chew On This: Black Pig aka Kuro Buta aka Berkshire Pork is what Waygu is to beef. More fat marbling promises a more tender and flavourful pork. And no, the meat is not as black as the name suggests.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Macaron-Filled Afternoon

I don't really have a sweet tooth but there's just something that attracts me to macarons. Several rows of colourful macarons displayed neatly can cause my heart to skip a beat, as if to allow me to savour the moment without any interfering throbbing. Ack. It has got me all poetical now.

Still thinking of the ones June bought for me for the Christmas Flog Exchange, I dragged Ewan and Ryan to Bakerzin on one sunny Sunday afternoon. I was glad that hazelnut, which Bakerzin ran out of when June popped by, was available that day.

I picked one of each flavour ($1.50 each) and ended up with a plate of six macarons. The colours and their corresponding flavours are as follow (clockwise):
Yellow- Lemon
Pink- Rose
Speckled light brown- Hazelnut
Green- Pistachio
Light brown- Chocolate
Dark brown- Coffee

Of all the flavours, the lemon, hazelnut and chocolate ones found the most favour with me. The lemon macaron had a tart edge to counter the sweetness. The hazelnut one was flavourful and nutty while the chocolate variant boasted a nice, thick chocolate ganache between the two shells.

Macarons being rather sweet on their own, would probably accompany a strong pot of tea perfectly. I tried pairing them with Iced Lime Mint ($6.20) but it backfired. I had expected the Iced Lime Mint to be refreshing but it turned out to be sickingly sweet. A concoction of Sprite, ice cubes and a few torn mint leaves, it clashed head on with the sweetness of the macarons. A nice cup of English Breakfast tea would have been more apt.

And here's a note to floggers/photo-taking people, Bakerzin has a no-photograph-taking policy for it's line up of elcairs, cakes and other confectionary items on display. I found out after the manageress informed me after seeing me take the above shot.

Raffles City Shopping Centre (various other branches)
Tel: 63366006

Chew On This: Bakerzin also has cookies for Chinese New Year. Samples for the cookies are available upon request. Do try the cranberry ones.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Easy-Peasy Pan-Fried Nian Gao

Another CNY favourite of mine is Nian Gao (new year cake). Traditionally made of a brown sugar and glutinous rice mixture and steamed in a banana leave-based mold, it can be eaten steamed and topped with grated coconut or coated in a batter and pan-fried.

I prefer the latter. When pan-fried, Nian Gao has a crispy outer coat and a gooey inner core. I can eat a whole lot in one sitting. And so can a few of my relatives who also like the cake.

With basic ingredients like a bit of flour, water and an egg, a simple batter can be whipped up in a minute. Here's how.

1) Nian Gao
2) One cup Flour
3) Halve cup Water
4) One Egg

1) Add the flour to a bowl and create a well.
2) Pour water into the well gradually and mix.
3) When a consistant mixture has been formed, crack an egg in and mix.
4) Coat the slices of Nian Gao with the batter and pan-fry til golden brown.

So surprise your family with a plate of these yummy once-a-year treat!

Chew On This: If the Nian Gao is soft and difficult to slice, either sun it or place it in the fridge to harden it.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Cake that Rocks My CNY

To me, Chinese New Year (CNY) is one of the major festive celebrations of the year. The whole reunion dinner, steamboat, pineapple tarts, love letters (The edible kind. Valentine's over, my dear.), spicy prawn rolls, kok zai (crispy shells encasing sweet chopped peanuts), nian gao (New Year Cake) and mandarin oranges usher in the mood for family gatherings and visits, ang bao collecting, snack attack and unfortunately, over-eating.

But I just love CNY. My family gets together and bake kueh lapis(Thousand Layer Cake). This seems to be some sort of tradition since I was in kindergarten. My Dad told me that even before I was born some 23 years ago, he and Mum used to bake these cakes for extra cash during CNY. Although I've been helping out through the years, this year was my first time assuming the lead role. All the long, I've helped out in the measuring, mixing, baking etc but getting everything together and knowing and coordinating all aspects of the kueh-lapis-making session was a different thing. Being my first time in the lead role, the resultant cake did not match up to my Mum's version. While mine tasted equally good, the layers seem thicker and not as consistent as hers.

So here's a short intro of my Kueh Lapis mania.

You know there's some serious churning when the KitchenAid looks like this. Keep out.

Part of the magic is when butter, sugar and eggs combine.

The delicious-smelling Kueh Lapis batter. Did I mention I added XO into this? The bitter-sweet lingering aroma of the alcohol drives me crazy. And I bet also my neighbours.

Even baking two cakes at the same time nearly took halve my life away. I took 14 hours of non-stop baking action to churn out another four Kueh Lapis.

Looks like a normal cake? Check out the huge, happy empty glass container at the back. You should have seen the even happier cow.

Now it looks like a normal and UGLY cake.

Slice away and you'll reveal the precious layers inside. Simply B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.

Kueh Lapis is a VERY tedious cake to bake. Unlike most cake recipes that call for the ingredients to be mixed, dumped into the baking dish and chucked into the oven, Kueh Lapis is painfully made one layer at a time. Each layer takes about 10 minutes to bake and considering that the cake could possibly consist of about 15 layers, you get what I mean by TEDIOUS. I started baking non-stop late on a Friday after school at about 10+pm and ended at 8.30am the next morning. Maybe that's why the layers were generally thicker than normal. Thick layers could indicate a squeeze to finish the cake batter, or just mere impatience or, in this case, sleep deprivation.

A good Kueh Lapis cake should be sufficiently moist with a good dose of rempah (mixed spices). The layers that make up the cake should be of a consistent colour (from consistent baking time in the oven) and not be too thick. Too faint a colour from being baked too short a time and the cake loses its fragrance. Personally, I use my family's Kueh Lapis as the benchmark for the cake. I have found few worthy challengers that can actually topple it.

But just a word of caution for those with high cholesterol and heart problems, go ahead and enjoy Kueh Lapis but in moderation as it contains a lot of butter, sugar and eggs. After baking eight Kueh Lapis, I have used up enough eggs that could have been potentially sufficient to raise an army of chickens.

The Hungry Cow wishes one and all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous Chinese New Year. Go visit the relatives. Go collect the ang paos. Go pig out on those once-a-year goodies.

Chew On This: I had actually wanted to sell these Kueh Lapis for CNY but was too caught up in school work to plan the sale. Oh well, maybe I'll make it available round the year on this blog. A good Kueh Lapis can be eaten anytime, not necessary just during CNY. Do let me know if you are interested.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Good Pairing

Hey Chinese New Year is just around the corner. The prosperous-coloured gravy of this featured dish should start the mood. Everyone loves chicken rice and laksa but this stall combines both- the chicken from chicken rice and the gravy from laksa. So who says you can't have the best of both worlds?

Being a cautious virgin, I ordered a small bowl of Chicken Curry Noodles ($3). And went on to regret not ordering a bigger portion. The chopped pieces of chicken were succulent (like those of good chicken rice stalls) and the gravy was typically Hainanese with a strong dose of coconut milk. But the gravy was not 'curry thick', it was lighter and more like laksa. Although it looks spicy, trust me. It's not. Add a dollop of chilli and the heat balances out the gentle sweetness of the coconut well. Besides the chicken, other stuff that was included in the bowl included the usual laksa items of tau pok (smoked beancurd puff) and fishcake but sans hum(cockles).

I wonder what other food have ingenious people paired together...

Hock Hai (Hong Lim) Chicken Curry Noodle
Maxwell Food Centre

Chew On This: If you get so engrossed in taking photos at the stall, you may get away with not paying for your bowl of noodles! I had unintentionally walked away and in the process forgot to pay the uncle. But nah, this cow went back and paid up.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Macaron Wish

This is a belated post on my macaron Christmas Flog Exchange wish that was kindly fulfilled by June. Isn't the colours just so pretty? Rose, coffee, pistachio, chocolate and lemon. She has also sent me a macaron recipe which I will attempt soon after Chinese New Year, time allowing. Thank you so much, June.

Chew On This: Macarons are a French pastry that are mainly made of egg whites, sugar and powdered almond. Flavours range from blackcurrent to raspberry and green tea to caramel. Weirder flavours that have emerged include truffle and lime basil.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Death By Chocolate

I know I've always liked chocolate but it's only now that I realize why I haven't exactly pulled myself to a chocolate buffet. I went along with the Deli Aprecio Club for the chocolate buffet at Swissotel Merchant Court two Saturdays ago. Almost EVERYTHING had chocolate. Chocolate pudding, pastry, pralines, truffles, drink, cakes, mousse and of course the ubiquitous fountain had most ooo-ing and ahh-ing.

Here are some happy people that night.

And here are some of the sins:

Chocolate Croissant- I like this a lot. Imagine the rich slightly sweet chocolate and the salty buttery pastry combination. Ok, now imagine tasting it. Heaven.

Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Fountain

Chocolate Cake- This was too dry for my liking. The chocolate was definitely there but a little moister and it would have been better.

Carrot Cake- This, like the chocolate cake, was dry. Taste wise, it was flat without the nice aroma of mixed spices and the cream cheese frosting was missing. It seemed a little lonely among the chocolatey line up.

Here's a drink to induce some happy hormones and also probably a not-so-happy throat.

Step 1: Select your choice of chocolate.

Step 2: The kind chef will melt the chocolate buttons in a pot and blend in some cream.

Step 3: Your liquid cocoa fantasy. I had mine strong and bitter.

Assorted Chocolate Pralines

'Pseudo-Tiramisu'- I termed this as such as it looked like a normal Tiramisu but lacked most of the typical Tiramisu insides. Still good enough to eat though.

Now don't those pretzel-shaped cookies on the left look a tad too familiar?

Two of my friends cum fellow main committee members who are often too shy to pose for my lens. A rare shot. The picture says it all. I guess chocolate + girls = happy girls ...until the weighing scale comes out from under the bed.

As the night progressed, some people got slightly high on chocolate while others developed temporal phobias. Me? I simply OD-ed on chocolate. Been there. Done that. But I don't think I will be attempting another chocolate buffet, at least not any time soon.

Crossroads Bar
Swissotel Merchant Court Hotel
Tel: 6337 2288

Chew On This: The chocolate buffet is available only on Friday and Saturday evenings. The cosy bar also has a TV showing ESPN for those EPL fanatics. The atmosphere is really nice. Valentine's spot maybe? Too bad I don't have a tall, sexy cow.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Rice Table

Here's another entry that has been stowed away until now. Hence also the lousy pics that came out. These were before I started to experiment with lighting, exposure and flash. Oh and I'm still trying to perfect the business card thing that Ivan has advised but obviously I didn't manage to try it for this entry as this has been some time ago.

I met up with about 12 friends and once former fellow colleagues from the army. Even though some of us were from different platoons, we still went through the same specialist course and passed out of it as one batch. Work within the company, ZPC, was varied, different but yet somehow linked. This probably explains the bonds formed between individuals who have gone through challenging times together. The human spirit is amazing. Place a group of strangers in a tough environment, make them work hard and magically formidable bonds form. Maybe it's the fact that not many people outside the company knew how those inside felt.

Darren was the organizer for this dinner at Rice Table (Cuppage branch). It costs $19.80++ for an ala carte buffet dinner. Rice Table does not serve pork but it has not obtained the Halal certification as it serves alcohol. I would probably just highlight some dishes that I feel are more worth mentioning. The rest will give you an idea what was served that night.

Ikan Bilis (Fried Anchovies)

Ikan Goreng (Fried Fish with Tomato Sauce)

Sambal Kang Kong (Spicy Water Spinach)

Ayam Goreng (Fried Chicken Wings)

Ayam Pedis (Chicken in Spicy Sauce)

Sayur Bumbu Taoco (Lady's Finger in Bead Sauce)

Sayur Lodeh (Vegetable Stew)

Tauhu Kuning (Curried Beancurd)

Soto Ayam (Chicken Soup)

The sambal that came with the keropok (prawn crackers) was really good. Hot (in the spicy sense) and fragrant with a tangy zing, it makes me salivate even now while I'm doing up this post.

The Perkedel Jagung (deep-fried potato-corn patties) had a nice crispy coat and served hot, the spiced mashed potato inside was really a delight. In fact, go with the sambal and it'll add a kick. But I didn't really notice any corn though.

I supposed this dish of diced green apples in kicap (soy sauce) was included to be more of a palate cleanser. The tart sourness of the green apple and the slightly savoury kicap worked well to refresh the tastebuds and erase any trace of spiciness.

When eating steamed white rice, nothing beats prawns in a rich coconut broth. Shells were removed for lazy people convenience and the mildly spicy gravy went very well with the plain rice. I wish this Sambal Udang (spicy Prawns) was more spicy.

The beef rendang was sufficiently tender but I would have preferred the rempah (spice mix) to be more robust.

The Tauhu Teloh (beancurd omelette) was a favourite among many at the table. Chunks of beancurd were first coated in egg and then deep-fried, resulting in a crispy albeit oily outer mesh that doesn't look too pretty. The taste was sinfully good though.

Personally, I did not really enjoy the buffet here as I prefer the food to be more spicy and savoury instead of having a sweet tinge (as in the case of most Indonesian food) but what I did enjoy that evening was meeting up with my army friends. Thank you Darren for organising.

Rice Table (other branches at International Building & Suntec City)
43/45 Cuppage Road
Tel: 67359117
Lunch: 12pm - 3pm, last order at 2.15pm
Dinner: 6pm - 10pm, last order at 9.15pm

Chew On This: The centrepiece of the table here is the 'rijsttafel', a word coined by the Dutch which literally means 'rice table'. This modern version also acts as a warmer to keep the dishes warm. A few tea-light candles under a metal plate seems like a simple idea that one smart man here introduced.