Wednesday, October 29, 2008

July Makankakis Dinner 2008

Procrastination is the mother of all backlogs. A shortage of time is the father. But let's all live peacefully.

Held at Zui Fairprice Seafood Restaurant, the July Makankakis Dinner brought me to the Upper Thomson stretch.

Dinner started amusingly with a door gift. It was the first time there's a welcome gift since I joined these monthly dinners. Now I have beautiful hair. :p

But Man can't live on shampoo alone. He needs soup. The Seafood Soup with Conpoy was a starchy affair and unfortunately I'm not big on starchy Chinese soups.

The next starter was Double Happiness Combination Starter, featuring Hakka Spring Roll (left) and Salt and Pepper Tofu (right). I enjoyed these twin starters. In fact, it was my first experience with Hakka Spring Roll. Filled with a umami-ish mushroom-minced pork mix, it was asking to be eaten. On the other hand, the Salt and Pepper Tofu was well fried with chopped spring onions, chilli, garlic and other savoury bits. I think one can't go wrong with hot, fried, savoury starters.

The Steamed Salted Kampung Chicken was lean. Very lean. But with whatever bit of meat it had, the taste was more intense. The accompanying dip added a flavourful, slightly spicy yet soft ginger-y dimension. It brought to mind the San Zha (hawthorn) sweets that are found rolled up in a gold wrapper. TTC later revealed that the dip contained a special type of ginger.

Next up was the Tea Smoked King Eel. I'm no fan of eels but this would have to be my favourite dish of the night. The eel's flesh had a smokey-terriyaki taste with an almost caramelized outer surface. The frizzled tea leaves, sesame seeds and cashew nuts lent their nutty-oiliness to the dish. A tad oily but it all came together very well.

The Stewed Pork Belly with Mui Choi was another full-flavoured dish. The salt and acid from the Mui Choi had helped to cut back a bit of the fat but it was still too fatty for my liking. The meat was meltingly tender though.

The Braised Fish Blabber Tube with Sea Cucumber brought together two foods that I don't really eat. Having tried the fresh fish blabber (fish maw) from a previous dinner at Wo Peng, the one here still didn't get me hooked. I think I still prefer my fish maw pre-fried before being cooked in soups.

Breathing in a fresh change, the Yau Mak Choy with Minced Garlic provided the night's main dietary fibre. Simply stir-fried with garlic, it was simple yet delicious.

The name of this dish, Fried Crabs in Typhoon Shelter Style, got me scratching my head. The huge crab seemed to be fried with the same minced bits of spring onions, chilli and garlic that were used with the Salt and Peppy Tofu. Strange name but nonetheless tasty and fresh. Btw, the roe was heavenly!

Deer Meat Hor Fun in Black Bean Sauce turned out smokey and with sufficient wok hei (the smokey flavours imparted by the wok) but the tenderised deer meat was a disappointment. Rather bland and with an unnaturally soft texture, it must have been the fault of sodium bicarbonate.

Dinner ended with a rather ordinary Almond Curd with Longan but loud chatter and jovial laughter among fellow Makankakis were proof that good company and wines made dinner a happy one!

Speaking of wines, we had a very pleasant pair from Spy Valley, Marlborough.

Kids, this is why you shouldn't drink and dive.

Thanks to TTC for putting this dinner together and cheers to more to come!

Zui Fairprice Seafood Restaurant
220 Upper Thompson Road (Junction of Sin Ming & Upper Thompson Roads)
Tel: 6455 2033

Chew On This: I'll be rolling out the August, September & October Makankakis Dinners in due time, hopefully soon. Pardon the delay. It's kinda tight with exams just round the corner so hang on. =\

*Note: I've been informed that apparently Zui Fairprice Seafood Restaurant is closed for business. :(

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Flashy Noodle Stunts

In the local hawker scene, it seems that not many people cook with any form of gusto or flair anymore. Half-hearted attempts, insipid cooking and sloppy techniques spell disaster for Singapore's local food future. Fortunately (or we Singaporeans like to use 'Luckily'), a few hawkers still have that bit of pride in not only serving up a delicious dish but also with added theatrics.

The man behind this stall serves up Bak Chor Mee (minced pork noodles) by first tossing an empty bowl high in the air. I counted for a good 2-3 seconds before the bowl was back in his hand. Showy indeed and certainly a good form of amusement while waiting for the food. With loud clanking of his large metal scoop to porcelain bowls, his lightning quick hands cooked the noodles and added the various sauces and condiments to the bowl. It had an almost palpable rhythm.

But still, mere flashy stunts won't keep Singaporeans coming back for more. Taste (you've heard it's subjective) is still important.

The Bak Chor Mee ($4) dry version had firm eggy noodles in a mix of chilli paste, fried shallots and braised mushroom sauce. For me, the braised mushroom sauce's flavour was a tad too heavy and if blindfolded, I would have thought I was eating Chicken Feet Mushroom Noodles or Braised Pork Rib Noodles. But a generous dash of black vinegar helped put everything back to Bak Chor Mee perspective. The soup that accompanied the noodles was a heady broth tasting of pork and ti po (dried sole) with a bit of liver at the end. Too much and its sweetish tinge becomes out-of-place.

While the Bak Chor Mee was generally good, what hit the G-(Good) Spot were the small fried dishes!

The Hae Chor ($4 for about 7 pieces) is a classic Hokkien dish of minced prawns and pork wrapped in a beancurd skin. The one here had plenty of yam, which imparted a starchy sweetness, and a good crisp skin. Dip into a bit of the sweet sauce for an added dimension.

Another good dish to share around (or maybe just with yourself) is the Zha Rou ($4), which literally means fried meat. Tender strips of pork are battered then deep-fried to give a golden outer coat and a very tender inside. The marinate was superb and brought to mind good Hainanese pork chops.

Now I wonder if we'll see flying tau poks in Laksa stalls and spinning wantons in Wanton Mee stalls. Hee.

Seng Kee Mushroom Minced Pork Noodles
316 Changi Road
Tel: 6345 7561
Opens: 7am to 10pm
Closed: Alternate Mondays

Chew On This: Interestingly, for desserts, there is Tiramisu ($18) on the menu! It's probably for a tray/tub but I did not get to try it...yet.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Fiery Bak Kut & Super Ter Kah Encounter

It's amazing what you can find in your own neighbourhood sometimes. Trying out a different kopitiam for dinner one evening, I stumbled upon two super heroes- Fiery Bak Kut & Super Ter Kah.

I mean I didn't even know that super heroes lived in my backyard.

But anyway, the stall they were spotted at had a familiar name. Before I could scan through my virtual memory of food stalls, Fiery Bak Kut struck me.

He struck me with an alluring smell. Upon confronting him, he splashed copious amounts of a liquid into my mouth. It had a peppery first impression followed by a full-bodied garlic taste. The spiciness ensued and even seemed to increase after swallowing. Very dangerous indeed. Fiery Bak Kut was meaty with bits of fat that rendered him tender. Tenderness is not a weakness.

A small fry, You Tiao, was seen with Fiery Bak Kut. You Tiao tried to impress but seemed weak along side the fiery liquid of Fiery Bak Kut.

Lurking mysteriously in brackish waters, Tau Pok, sprang a surprise attack. Packed with juices to bulk up his size, he was a walk in the park as I squashed him flat. Poor Tau Pok. He should have known his flimsy limitations.

Then out of the dark pool, Super Ter Kah finally emerged. Oh my. He was big and fleshy. I attacked by slurping up the savoury dark liquid surrounding him. A good helpline to call would be Rice. Unlike the wannabes around, Rice here was of a better quality. He had a slight fragrance and a good bite. Then aided by my trusty side-kick, Chopsticks, I pecked at Super Ter Kah's flesh- succulent, sticky and of a wonderfully gelatinous texture. He deserved his name alright!

The encounter with Fiery Bak Kut and Super Ter Kah ended there. Though victorious, I ended up rushing for a chilled ginseng chrysanthemum drink and a pack of Strepsils in the end. You've been warned about that delicious, addictive liquid of Fiery Bak Kut. Easy to overdo. Easy to suffer.

So the next time you take a stroll around your neighbourhood, be sure to keep a lookout for super heroes!

Bak Kut Teh: $4/5/6
Ter Kah: $4/5/6/8
You Tiao: $1
Tau Pok: $1/2
Rice: 50 cents

Sin Thor Bak Kut Teh
(inside the Kopitiam towards the end of Simei Mrt which is away from 7-eleven)
I apologise for the vague description of the location but you do know that super heroes can be elusive yeah?

Chew On This: The Lady Guardian of the Stall informed me that this is a branch of the similarly-named stall opposite Eunos MRT. She juggles between both stalls, appearing at the Eunos stall in the morning and at the Simei branch in the evening.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hill Street

Phew! The last week or two have been simply crazy. Read: Overloaded. Juggling too many stuff really wears one down but I'm glad that I had a small part to play in GovWare yet again! More importantly, it was the repeat chance to meet and work with the jolly Globewerkz bunch that was truly enjoyable.

Back to the foooood.

Forget Wall Street. In these times, a $2.50 plate of Char Kway Teow from Hill Street may be more comforting.

Moist and with a considerable heat from the chilli to counterbalance the sweet sauce, the Char Kway Teow here is not for kids...unless ordered without chilli (how boring). Pieces of fishcake, lup cheong (Chinese sausage), egg and beansprouts dot the plate of kway teow. Oh and the hum (cockles) were present too.

There's something magical about pork lard, chilli sauce, sweet sauce, garlic, lup cheong, fishcake, beansprouts, egg and kway teow all fried around in a hot seasoned wok.

It is recession-proof. Gawwh... I said the 'R' word.

Hello to bbpw! It was nice bumping into you. With two plates of Char Kway Teow, hope your travelling was worth it.

Hill Street Fried Kway Teow
Blk 16 Bedok South Market & Food Centre

Chew On This: This stall has received many awards/accolades, including Makansutra's Street Food Masters! But don't be buoyed by these awards, go try!