Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Maple Story

My sister just got back from Canada and I knew the smart girl would bring home goodies without me even asking. Yay!

Maple syrup is definitely distinctively Canadian. Better than honey I feel. I like the crystal sweetness that has a slight 'matured wood' taste to it. And by that I have to clarify I don't go around licking branches. It's the kind of same taste of wine or vinegar that has been matured in wooden barrels. After all, maple syrup is derived from the sap of the maple tree's bark.

The real surprise for me was the punnets of blueberries wrapped in newspaper. Blueberries are not quite considered a local fruit in Singapore and their prices tend to be rather high for a few handfuls. So when faced with five big punnets of blueberries that have been hand-carried and air-flown from Canada, I couldn't help it but to grin from ear to ear. Each blueberry was firm and burst into sweetness with a tinge of tartness in the mouth. Nothing like fresh beautiful blueberries.

So with the maple syrup and blueberries in the fridge, I pulled myself up early on one Sunday morning and made pancakes. I was feeling lazy and so bought an off-the-shelf pancake mix the night before. Add eggs, milk and mix. Perfect when laziness strikes.

With lots of maple syrup left in the bottle, I know it's only the beginning of my maple story. And I expect nothing less than a sweet ending.

Chew On This: Despite its name, blueberries are more greenish on the inside. Only the skin gives it the characteristic blue hue. They have loads of vitamins and antioxidants so gobble them whenever you lay hands on some.

Monday, July 23, 2007

June's Makankakis Dinner 2007

I didn't feel old until last week's SBS' Orientation Camp. At a 'ripe old age' of 23 compared to the majority of 19s, it felt really different from say four or five years back when stamina and energy were almost unlimited. Despite interruptions by Spanish lessons, I had fun and Osiris, you guys rock! So it's good bye to Takhent 2007.

Now back to feeling young. Last month's Makankakis Dinner brought me to Dragonfly Inn at Serangoon Gardens. I seldom step into this area as it's rather inacessible without a car or taxi. But for good food, good wines and good company, I pressed on.

After waiting quite a bit for a VIP who was late, people around the table got hungry and impatient. Not the bext of combination I can say. I wouldn't want to mess with a hungry and impatient lady.

The first dish was the Dragonfly Appetizer Platter, which consisted of Cheese Baked Prawns, Deepfried Scallops, Scrambled Eggs with Shark's Fin and Crab Meat and a fourth dish which was more of a surprise as it was not in the menu.

Cheese Baked Prawns sound really yummy and they were. The beautiful presentation certainly whet my appetite (or was it due to the long wait?) and a bite into the prawn revealed that the thing that topped it was minced meat. While flavourful, the minced meat was a tad dry. The cheese provided the melty part but was nothing pungent or strong so those with weak cheese-hearts should be comfortable.

The Deepfried Scallops were kinda small and their crisp coated exterior belied what was inside. One bite and the light crisp coat gave way to the soft scallop which had this curry-like sauce.

Strangely, the curry-like taste reminded me of those curry-flavoured Twisties. But it was certainly a nice surprise.

Strands of shark's fin and chunks of crab meat were seen mingling with eggy bits. I found this dish really subtly sweet and fragrant. Crunchy bean sprouts also added a nice counterpoint to the soft, slightly mushy ingredients.

This is the fourth unidentified 'surprise' dish of the Appetiser Plater. I did not taste this one but I heard that it consisted of topshell.

As if recombining once more for an encore, the Shark's Fin with Crab Meat made its appearance at the table. The gravy was a little too thick for my liking but the sweet crab meat made me happy. Oh no. I think I may soon be falling head over hooves for this crustacean.

Next up was the Silver Phoenix. No, it was not some new character from the Fantastic Four. Rather, it was chicken steamed with red dates, mushrooms and baby abalone. Sounds good already?

The chicken was sufficiently tender and had absorbed the flavour of the various ingredients. A slightly herbal and savoury stock was very pleasant indeed.

Another steamed dish was the Steamed Teochew-Style Pomfret. The fish was split right down its middle and it amused me a bit as I thought most fish split this way were meant to be fried. But perhaps this way also made the flesh more accessible, removing the need to turn the entire fish over.

The timing of the steaming was perfect as the pomfret's flesh was firm and yet silky soft when my molars did their work. In fact molars would be too harsh an equipment. Gums would do nicely. I also enjoyed the delicious liquid surrounding the fish, that resulted from the steaming. Salted vegetables, tomato wedges, beancurd and slivers of red chilli made it yum yum.

This was one dish that stumped the table. A plate consisting of many aluminum foil-wrapped thingy with satay sticks prodding out. Only after unwrapping the foil did we realised that it was BBQ Giant Prawns. The word 'giant' was probably casually used. To be fair the prawns were large but nothing I would term 'giant'.

A blackish sauce coated the prawns and tasted a bit like black pepper sauce. I didn't take to it. I would have preferred the pure aroma of grilled prawns with a bit of butter and a sprinkle of pepper.

The 5 Treasures with Seasonal Veggies turned out to be gingko nuts, sea cucumber, fish maw, Chinese mushrooms and dried oysters with a few pieces of brocoli that made the veggies look more like a garnish. And I think 'seasonal veggies' here meant anything the restaurant could get its hands on. But of course, like there's a brocoli season in Singapore.

Stingy veggies aside, I must say that the portion of the 5 treasures were generous. The braising gravy was also full of dried seafood flavour. To me, this was certainly a dish of Chinese delicacy standard.

The Sweet and Sour Pork in Yam Basket is a rather common dish but the real deal is how it is being done. The version here at Dragonfly Inn has a slightly fatty piece of pork coated with corn flour, deep-fried and fried with, well, a sweet and sour sauce. The pork did and should have some fat which gave that juicy, satisfying sensation in the mouth. As for the yam basket, I didn't get to try but it sure looked good. Hey, I'm not the fastest eater around. Add in picture-taking and I'm probably one step behind the rest. But that's not an issue to me. :)

In a traditional Chinese dinner, it is common for a noodle dish to be served as the last course and it can either act as a good enforcement to the yummy dishes before it or it can be a spoiler. Unfortunately, Dragonfly Inn's Special Handmade Noodle was the latter. I don't know whose hand made the noodles or if that's that important but the noodles were limp and generally lacking in taste.

That night, I also had the pleasure of tasting two varietals that I've not had before. This bottle of Riesling Kabinett was shared by June and it had an intense taste of guava on the palate. Slightly fizzy and sweet, it was delicious. Oh and did I mention that it uses a glass stopper in place of a cork? More wines should be sealed this way!

The other varietal was Pedro Ximénez which Ivan had brought. A dark, almost syrupy liquid with a strong taste of molasses and slight hints of ginger and spice at the back. Very interesting.

I'm no Robert Parker but I'm just stating what I tasted and sensed. Please don't sue me.

Finally, thanks to Tony, Andrew and Alice for organising this dinner and to all who shared wines, company and laughter.

Dragonfly Inn
5 Maju Avenue
Tel: 6286 1058
Opens 11.00am to 2.30pm & 6.00pm to 10.30pm Daily

Chew On This: The next Makankakis Dinner for July will be on this Wednesday, held at An Fu Restaurant in Balestier but I won't be attending due to my Spanish paper the following day. Diners can expect authentic Sichuan food and I quote TTC here 'Not for the faint hearted.'

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Floggers Dinner 2007

Joone has graciously volunteered to put together the annual Floggers Dinner for this year. I have not been to the previous dinner but from what I read and heard, it was truly eventful both for getting to know fellow floggers as well as for the good food. I will certainly be looking forward to this year's.

This is from Joone:

Excuse Me, Are You a Flogger?
Once a year food bloggers on our tiny island gather to share a meal, not to mention that so far they have been terribly delicious. Keeping with this two-year old tradition, this year should not be any different. So if you are a food blogger from this tiny red dot or from anywhere else in the world that will be in Singapore on the 31st August or 1st Sept (to be determined), drop me an email at if you are interested, I'm trying to get a feel of the group size before determining the venue.

Let me know:
(i) preferred date
(ii) dietary restrictions
(iii) questions & suggestions.

More details to be published in the next two weeks.

*End of Message*

I'm currently helping out in SBS' Orientation Camp so I'll post more when I return over the weekend. Hang in there!

Friday, July 13, 2007

500g of Desire

We live in a world where size does matter when it comes to certain things that our hearts desire and we secretly covert for. Anything less would mean not getting satisfied. But hitting the right spot would mean simply orgasmic. It was with this desire that led me to arranging the tryst.

A desire for a good 500g of steak. Forget scrawny flat pieces of cow with tonnes of mucky sauce slopped over for god knows what reason. When it comes to steak, thin is NOT in. Anything below 200g is a waste of time. An average 200g steak is decent but never feels enough. Morton's on the other hand, is a heaven which I hope to ascend just for the pure size and quality of their famed steaks. But that I will leave for a more special occasion.

Down to earth steaks which are affordably priced and have an acceptable standard of quality are few. Aston's Specialties is one such place, in my opinion, that serves them. So I contacted Aston and arranged for a dinner for 11. A dinner that consisted of three special orders- 500g ribeye at about 3cm thick.

The 500g Ribeye ($25.90) came with a choice of two sides.

The pasta salad remains my favourite choice.

The sight of the 500g ribeye induced instant mouthwatering. It didn't look like a monster steak, after all it's only 500g. But the fact that it was twice as big, or should I say as heavy, as the Ribeye Extra Cut made its presence at the table more felt.

But I have to say that it fell below my expectations. My medium-rare was more of a medium and the bottom side of the steak was cooked longer than the other side, resulting in an unevenness.

Nonetheless, what I was happy, in fact very happy, about was the fact that despite it being overdone by medium-rare standards, I found the steak juicy and not as tough as the jaw muscle-building one at Hog's Breath. It could have been better but I'm not about to complain knowing that Aston had before hand informed me that the steak would need a longer time to cook and so because of a few friends who arrived late, the serving time was pushed back. This probably resulted in the overcooked part. Benefit of the doubt given. And I'm willing to give it another shot, or two.

Gourmet sausages from Butcher House were also available here and we decided to share the Sampler which gave us a selection of four sausages. It was mostly a salty affair and pretty forgettable. I understand they no longer serve them.

And yes. Aston's Specialties have expanded from a 30-seater to about a 90-seater but the queues are just as crazy. I'm seriously planning another assault on the made-to-order steaks and maybe up the weightage. Size does feed the ego.

Happy birthday, Ryan! My tradition was in my favourite colour and with a support (push-up?) thingy, it's probably more kinky than the 'SARS mask'. Thanks a lot, you guys!

Aston's Specialties
119 East Coast Road (Opposite Katong Mall)
Opens: 11.30am to 11pm daily
Closed on Mondays
Tel: 62477857, 9147-4627 (Aston)

Chew On This: For those who wish to BYO wines, there's a $10/bottle corkage charge. Decanters and ice buckets are also available but I have to mention that the wine glasses are worse than those at Ikea. So those who are particular about glasses, should BYO too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cheryl's July Bake Sale

We are in July! Time has been flying sooooo fast, it's only now that I realised that. Sheesh.

So July means the start of the Singapore Food Festival and also brings the annual Great Singapore Sale to an end. One other event to note is that Cheryl aka the Baker of She Bakes & She Cooks will be holding her July Bake Sale!

This coincides with the launch of Cocoa & Butterscotch, a baking-writing-designing team of two that is offering the above baked goodies.

For those who have not been to her blog, do check it out and be tempted by the evil muffins, seductive brownies and damn cookies. I did warn you.

Cocoa & Butterscotch

Chew On This: Cocoa & Butterscotch's motto is 'Together we'll make the world a happy YUMMY place'. While you can't taste Live Earth, this is so much more least for the stomach.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Soon To Be Lost Comfort

I truly believe in comfort food; Food that need not neccessarily be expensive or rare or classy or exquisitely-presented. But rather, comfort food seems to be able to connect with one and provide a nice warmth. There's something just comforting about it.

One such place that serves food I would term as 'comfort food' to me is Hock Leng Seafood. Located near my current home, I discovered it three years ago after shifting into the area and have been faithfully patronising it since then.

Hock Leng Seafood would be the place for many a dinner before I booked into camp during my NS days and after entering NTU, it continued to be a regular dinner place before I returned to hostel on Sunday nights. A simple meal with the family before I left for the weekdays which were spent in camp and now in hostel. Such is the special attachment that developed.

So it is with great pride that I organised a dinner there with a few League members on one Saturday. And I hope they enjoyed its warmth.

For some weird reason, most of the squid dishes that I've tried here over the years all turned out very good. So for this dinner, I ordered the Garlic Sotong (Squid) and the Salted Egg Sotong.

The Garlic Sotong ($8) had succulent pieces of squid which had a very light garlic taste. At this point, vampires reading this blog should flee for their lives deaths lives. For surrounding and on top of the pieces of squid were crunchy flakes of garlic. These were extremely flavourful with the punch of garlic but without the harsh element. Totally addictive.

As for the Salted Egg Sotong ($8), it was another winner as the savoury salted duck egg sauce coated each piece of squid. Eaten with rice, the rich and slightly oily salted duck egg made a perfect companion.

I like the steamed fish served here very much. My favourite choice of Chinese Pomfret was unavailable that night so we settled for the Steamed White Pomfret ($4 per 100g) done Teochew Style. The fish was fresh and while it was less meaty than a Chinese Pomfret would be, it was still good. Steamed with pieces of beancurd, Chinese mushrooms, salted vegetables, tomatos and slivers of red chilli and ginger, the liquid that surrounded the fish was very tasty and good to the last drop.

For soup, I picked Gao Geh Tong ($6)- a soup made with with the dark leaves of a thorny vegetable that is believed to be good for the eyes due possibly to its high vitamin A content. The leaves imparted a pleasant slightly bitter aftertaste which the pork, fried garlic and fried ikan bilis (anchovies) complemented well. This resulted in a delicious soup which makes it one dish I never fail to order when I'm here.

A signature dish here, the Hock Leng Beancurd ($10), is another crowd pleaser. Soft homemade beancurd was deep-fried and smothered with a tasty brown sauce comprising minced pork, prawns, onions and garlic. This ranks top in my list.

Was everything equally good here? Unfortunately, just as man is not made equal, not every dish was outstanding. The only 'risk' I took that night was ordering the Vietnamese Pork Ribs ($12) as it was the only dish I had not tried before. And I regret my actions as it turned out to be only so average. Maybe that's why the place is called Hock Leng Seafood. Most of their seafood dishes perform better.

Even after the last morsel of food was gobbled up, we still felt a little peckish and so some one suggested ordering Mai Pian Xia ($15) or otherwise translated as Cereal Prawns. This was also my first time trying this dish here but unlike the Vietnamese Pork Ribs, the prawns was not as disappointing. Fairly large in size, the prawns were coated with cereal and fried till the shells were crispy. The prawn tasted fresh and while the oaty, nutty cereal taste was nice it was not as sinfully good as other versions around.

To end the meal, the Lao Ban Niang (Lady Boss) treated us to a portion of Yu Tou Sha. A special dessert that intigued most at the table. When I had my first Yu Tou Sha a few years back, the Lao Ban Niang had to teach me how to eat it. If not for her guidiance, I would have simply washed my hands in the bowl of iced water a la after eating crab!

A bowl of iced water was placed beside the plate containing sticks of yam and sweet potato which had been fried with honey and sugar. Quickly pick a stick of yam or sweet potato and dunk it into the iced water for a few secs. Then take a bite. Lao Ban Niang explained that the iced water quickly cools the honey-sugar coat on each stick of tuber, creating a harder, crisp shell of sweetness. I like the way the coldness of the outer hard coat contrasted with the warm soft fluffy interior. Hard and cold on the outside, soft and hot on the inside. Simply genious.

Along with the items that appeared for dinner that night, I have also decided to mention another two dishes which I like that were part of another dinner there.

The Gan Xiang Crab ($19.20 for an approximately 600g female crab) was stir-fried with curry leaves, curry powder and crab roe. The crab flesh came off the shell cleanly, without sticking. Tastewise, it was quite a refreshing change from the ususal chilli or pepper crab. There was a bit of heat either from pepper or chilli that hits only a few seconds later. The generous crab roe also made it finger-licking good. Overall, not too bad a crab dish despite me not totally being into these crustaceans.

Ladies Fingers Fried with Hae Bee (Dried Shrimps) ($8) is another good thing to order if you eat the vegetable. The slices of Ladies Fingers are not as mushy or slimey as they are known to be. Hae Bee added a depth of flavour while the small bits of chilli provided heat. Yummy.

I'm thankful for the chance to be able to enjoy the food here over the last three years. On that dinner night, another big table was enjoying their food and wine and they have been loyal customers for the past 10 years. I left feeling wistful but grateful for those three years of comfort.

Anyone wanna eat here? Call me along!

Hock Leng Seafood
304 Bedok Road (inside Simpang Bedok)
Tel: 6442 8612

Chew On This: It deeply saddens me to have to say this but Hock Leng Seafood will cease operations on 15 July 2007. Apparently they have recieved an offer to rent the place from them and the chef-owner would benefit from a much needed rest. If you are wondering who's renting the place from them, the answer is Mad Jack Cafe. I'm not terribly excited but I'll be shifting soon anyway.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Sweet Ending

To end the Bangkok posts on a sweet note, I shall blog about one of my favourite Thai desserts- Mangoes with Glutinous Rice.

It was sheer joy when I found out that a Food Exhibition was going on in the hall above the one where I was at for a seminar. So during the break, I visited the exhibition and bought a pack of this delicious stuff. Imagine sweet juicy Thai mangoes against sticky, chewy glutinous rice which had a pinch of salt. Truly yummy. Now I have to just imagine because I don't think I can get my hands on an equally good version back here. Oh well, at least I've been there, ate that.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Maccies Surprise!

In the sprawling mall of Siam Paragon, my eyes lit up as I walked past gourmet bakeries and Parisian confectioneries. Was that a macaroon that just winked at me? Sub-consciously, I back-trekked and found myself grinning at the display case.

Maccies! I don't normally associate Bangkok with macaroons so it was a sweet surprise. Or maybe they followed me all the way to Bangkok.

I forgot to take note of the prices and exact names of some of the items here but I can still give a rough estimate for some of them.

A box of five macaroons costs about 85 Baht which makes it around 80 Singapore cents each. That's quite cheap relative to those found here in Singapore. The ones here at Lenotre were delightfully chewy and very sweet. I guess the high sugar content is crucial for the texture of the macaroon since most I've tried were all sweet. Very sweet. My favourite flavour here was the lemon one which had the right amount of tartness to stand up to the sweetness. I like. This reminds me, I should be posting up my second macaroon attempt at home in a while.

It seemed Lenotre was a little obsessed with macaroons that even the cup which I was sipping tea from had a few macaroons printed as graphics. And almost every cup, saucer, plate, salt and pepper shaker etc had a 'Lenotre' imprinted on them. French pride I sense.

This Almond Pastry (~S$2) tasted buttery, sweet and had a nice bit of crunch from the layer of almond slices. Sinful indeed.

Tiramisu (~S$5) here looked beautiful in a glass, displaying the layers of mascarpone and sponge fingers. A nice touch I liked was the crunchy bits of biscuits coated with chocolate that made up the top layer. It made for an interesting contrast to the smooth and rich mascarpone. There was a substantial liqueur kick from the soaked sponge layer but I think soggy sponge fingers and soft mascarpone was a little too 'mushy' for my liking. Perhaps something firmer could be used instead of sponge fingers.

Panna Cotta (~S$5) is another popular dessert and the version here at Lenotre tasted as good as it looks. Soft vanilla pudding oozed creaminess and a gentle sweetness while the middle layer of berries compote had a sourish tang. There were bits of macerated berries in there too. The slices of fresh fruits on the top added a 'healthy' touch.

The desserts here were all eye-candies. Everything looked so tempting, I had a hard time resisting buying one of each. So the next time anyone's in Siam Paragon, remember to check out this place for tea and dessert!

Ground Floor #32-991
Siam Paragon
Tel: 66(2) 129-4365

Chew On This: For maccie nuts (the people, not the flavour!), there's a Macaroon Pyramid (3000 Baht) available for purchase.

A tallish cone with different flavoured macaroons stuck to it makes a beautiful table centre piece and would be an instant conversation starter. Now, if only I can lug this on board...