Monday, August 31, 2009

Rainy Day Comfort Food

It was raining cats and dogs (not much use since I don't eat both) yesterday afternoon and my instincts led me to search for something warm and nice.

Ok, I was actually on route to visit the Cold Storage International Wine Fair at Vivo City when dad suggested having Bak Kut Teh. The thought of hot, peppery soup instantly won me over.

The Long Pork Ribs ($7) were slightly fatty and also very tender. Each bite brought forth a sweet pork flavour that was supported by the very peppery, slightly herbal soup.

Alas. The you tiao (fried dough cruller) was sold out. But one knows that there are many other companions to Bak Kut Teh.

Tau Pok ($3) was one good example. The stack of spongy cushions of puffed soy beancurd tasted fresh and was delicious with a light soy sauce.

The Ter Kah ($6), or braised pork trotters, were a little tough but still made for good eating with the dark, spiced braising liquid spooned over steamed white rice.

Not wanting to go without vegetables, we ordered two- a preserved one and a fresh one.

The Preserved Salted Vegetables ($3) were soft and ended off on a sweet note. By itself, this was too sweet for my liking but when eaten after the meaty dishes, this salty-sweet provided a nice balance.

What would be my favourite dish for lunch that day was the Watercress ($3). It was my first time eating watercress cooked in Bak Kut Teh soup. Odd I thought, but delicious it was! The watercress imparted a sweet, vegetal note which tamed the peppery heat of the soup. This I would very happily order again. :)

For those who like intestines, them innards were also available.

More innards and organs. You can tell I'm not a huge fan of these. Biology on the table is quite a turn-off after all these years of Life Science. Hehe.

Oh before I forget. The Mee Suah ($1) is a good alternative complement to rice. Just eat it quickly as it absorbs soup really fast!

Outram Park Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha
7 Keppel Road
(PSA Tanjong Pagar Complex)
Opens: 7am-3pm, 6pm-4am
Closed on Mondays

Chew On This: The 'teh' in Bak Kut Teh refers to tea. A pot of strong Chinese tea like Tie Guan Yin or Pu-Er works well to cut through the heavyness/oilness of the meal. Take your pick from the many choices they have here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Lunch that Pretty Much Ate Dinner

Many years ago when I was doing a four-month attachment programme in Cornell University, my friend, Kin Hup, and I survived on our daily serving of a full loaf of sliced bread for lunch and a pound of spaghetti for dinner. It was a little monotonous (diet-wise) but satisfying nonetheless. I didn't go hungry, neither did I lose weight. Though I wish I had many other foods, I managed to keep a tight grip on food expenditure.

But roughly once every week, we rewarded ourselves with a buffet. These were eat-our-hearts-out, stuff-our-faces-silly episodes that made us 'high' on food, often with a slight floating feeling and sated even when dinner time came.

Thinking back, it was silly but so much fun and delicious memories. I mean how can one forget the not so subtle hint when being sent the bill without having to ask for it? Thank you, Pizza Hut. By the way, your US$5.99 lunch buffet was unforgettable. Please come back to Singapore. Pleaseeee.

Anyway, my family and I had a lunch some time last week that reminded me of these serious buffet episodes. And amazingly, it wasn't a buffet. Neither did I eat till I was stuffed.

This very pleasant lunch was at Espirito Santo, Parkway Parade.

The Roasted Pork Knuckle ($28) spotted a beautiful crackling that was crisp with a fragrance and flavour that only pork fat could give rise to. The meat was just slightly salty with a good porky flavour. The inner part of the knuckle was more tender than the outer portions though. The serving of saurkraut was perfect in cutting through the richness of the pork while the brown sauce made a tasty dip.

For salad, the *hold your breathe* Cobb Salad with Grilled Chicken, Ham, Bacon, Cheese and Egg Served with Honey Mustard and Lemon Dressing ($16) was plentiful to eat. In fact, judging by its name, I think you've figured it out as well. Lol. In addition to the above ingredients, there was blue cheese, olives and sun-dried tomatoes too. I think this was created by a meat-lover....for sure.

The Porcini Risotto with Pan Fried Foie Gras ($28.90) was well-flavoured with a tasty stock and white wine. A pity that the rice wasn't cooked enough and the porcini flavour was weak. However, the foie gras boosted the rice's flavours with its unmistakable salty-savoury-goodness.

Being opened by a Brazilian lady, we also decided to opt for a Brazilian dish- Rabada ($24). This was an ox tail stew that was meltingly yummy. The meat was very, very tender and with a good mix of flavours from both the beef itself and veggies like carrots, raddish and mushrooms.

The Spaghetti with Chorizo Sausage Tossed in Arrabiata Sauce ($16.50) was full of the oil from the Chorizo, imparting a nice earthy spiciness that went well with the tomato sauce. Unfortunately, the pasta was a wee over-cooked. Alas.

We went back home satisfied and when dinner time came, none of us were hungry. Later on, a $4 packet of Fried Ee Mee from a neighbourhood cze char stall presented itself as "dinner" to 4 of us at about 11pm.

I had sweet dreams that night.

Espirito Santo
Parkway Parade
Tel: 6440 8867

Chew On This: 9am to 10am every Monday to Friday, get 15% off all butchery items in the chiller!

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Peranakan Lunch Affair at Spices Cafe

8th March 2010 Update: This Singapore Flavours buffet will continue into 2010. From 1st to 19th March (Mondays to Fridays only), enjoy it at only $20.10++!

If you thought that Peranakan fever is over....think again. Or rather, just check out the Peranakan-themed lunch buffet at Spices Cafe. Staff uniforms, displays etc have all been Paranakanized. Pss...even a fellow food blogger who attended this tasting is Peranakan. And so is Evelyn, Concorde Hotel Singapore's Director of Marketing Communications, who sent out this tasting invitation.

A refreshing ice-cold Lemongrass Drink was served to start lunch. A sure treat in this heat but unfortunately it was too syrupy for my preference. A hot version is also available.

A good range of Peranakan food was available and my favourite was the Sambal Sotong. The thick rings of squid had a nice bite and were very fresh. The sambal was fragrant and perfect over steamed white rice. The other items like the Beef Rendang, Sayoh Lodeh, Sambal Ikan Tenggiri, Ayam Buah Keluak and Babi Assam were competently done and flavourful too. The only downside with food constantly being on a warmer is that some, like the mackerel, gets a tad overcooked.

An unsual dish for me was the Duck Noodle Soup. It was quite unlike the typical dish found in hawker centres. The version here was delicious with the heady aromas and flavours of spices to marry the meaty, gamey sweetness of duck.

The dish on the left is Lotong while that on the right is Loh Kai Yik. The former had pressed rice cakes and soft vegetables stewed in a coconut milk gravy with dried shrimps. But I would have prefered a richer gravy. The latter was a dish that was new to me. Loh Kai Yik is essentially a chicken dish cooked in a gravy that is flavoured with fermented black beans and fermented beancurd cubes. I like this dish for its unique yet familiar flavours. Very savoury with plenty of depth.

Desserts featured a colourful spread of kueh kueh and more. My favourites were the green and blue pancake balls aka Apong. Freshly made at the dessert counter, these were chewy and not too sweet. I think they make good afternoon tea snacks!

The Peranakan Buffet at Spices Cafe is helmed by Baba Jolly Wee- an accomplished Peranakan chef of more than 50 years! The spritely 82-year-old has many interesting stories of yesteryears and aims to bring back the taste and dishes (such as Loh Kai Yik) that have been forgotten. God bless you, Baba Jolly Wee.

This lunch buffet also has a local spread of sambal stingray, satay, chilli crab among others. Its certainly very decent for the price and more than sufficient for a good lunch!

Thanks to Evelyn Neo of Concorde Hotel Singapore for the invitation and for hosting this lembu lapar.

Lunch Buffet
Mondays to Fridays: 12noon to 2.30pm
$25++/adult, $12.50++/child, $19.65++/senior citizen (above 55 years old)

Spices Cafe
Concorde Hotel Singapore
Lobby Level 3
Tel: 6733 8855

Chew On This: This Peranakan promotion was initially set to run for two months but has now been extended till December 2009! Bagus lah. By the way, dishes are rotated so be sure to call to enquire about the spread, if you insist. Else, just bring an open mind and an empty stomach.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Durty Weekend Chill Out

Weekends (including Friday nights) are beautiful. Great time to unwind, relax, catch up with self and friends.

Met up with some folks from the League and chilled at Durty Nelly's, over Bangers and Mash with Onion Gravy ($14.50), Mini Fish 'n' Chips ($12) and a bucket of 5 bottles of Heineken ($45). No fuss, no frills. Just pub grub, a cold bottle of beer and good friends.

Oh yes.

Durty Nelly's
#01-01/02/03 Marina Square (various other branches)
Tel: 6338 8023
Opens: Monday to Thursdays 11.30am - 1am
Fridays, Saturdays and Eve of Public Holidays 11.30am - 2am
Sundays 11.30am - 12 midnight

Chew On This: 1-for-1 Martinis daily from 11.30am to 8pm!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Childhood Fish Soup

Ahhh. The simple joys of a good bowl of fish soup ($3). Especially tasty when the fresh slices of Batang fish and the fried-garlic-perfumed soup evokes childhood. Besides fish slices, the "standard" bowl of fish soup also includes a piece or two of fish bones with some meat on it...for one's gnawing pleasure!

VEGGIE NEWS: Bittergourd slices are always given (yay!) while the leafy vegetable depends on what's fresh and in supply. My favourites are spinach (as shown in above photo) and local lettuce.

A bowl of rice now costs 60 cents here!! People are right. There's no more iron rice bowl. At this rate, soon it'll be gold rice bowl! Sigh. Gone are the times of 30-40cents/bowl of rice. But there's always mee sua and bee hoon as an alternative.

Having lived in this neighbourhood for about 20 years before moving to my current place, the food here has a special place in my stomach heart.

Teochew Fish Porridge
Stall #01-14
Bendemeer Market & Food Centre
Block 29 Bendemeer Road

Chew On This: If you're a fan of fish roe, ask for it and depending on availability, you might just be a notch happier than happy! =)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Taste of Watami @ ION

The latest kid on the Orchard block is ION Orchard. And quite a bit has been said about the posh restrooms, especially the two super-posh ones reserved for VIPs.

But a cow like me is more interested in the nosh offered. Posh nosh is not for everday and can damage the pocket quite a bit. Thank God for casual dining places like Watami- the pioneer of the Ishokuya concept of dining and with 600 branches in Japan alone.

A cool drink of Cassis Orange Splash ($5.80) started things off. The idea is to use the metal tool to squeeze the wedges of orange in the soda-cassis syrup mix. Pretty refreshing.

The Watami Salad ($7.80) was a big bowl of lettuce, maize, capsicum, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers etc topped with a dollop of tuna mayo and sprinkled with seaweed and fried wanton wrapper strips. A creamy sesame dressing dressed the whole delicious mix. I really enjoyed this salad with its clean, refreshing crunch and sweet-briny flavours. The strips of fried wanton wrappers added a savoury, crunchy touch.

Moving along to sushi, the Irodori Sushi Grandeur ($10.80) featured a pair each of Eel, Seafood Salmon and Scallop. The sushi could be wrapped a little tighter and the rice be a bit more sticky and flavourful. Nonetheless, the eel was tasty and the scallop plump and juicy.

A rather unusual (at least to moo) item was the Ika Korikori Yaki ($5.80) aka grilled crunchy squid soft bone. I have no idea which part of the squid this was but it was delicious! It had a firm bite with flavours of squid and char, and went well with the mayo dip.

Tori Yasai Kushi ($3.80) was grilled chicken skewers with mixed peppers. A little under-salted but the chicken was tender with a smokey flavour.

The Sukiyaki Nabe ($12.80) aka sliced beef hot pot with assorted vegetables had fatty slices of beef that melted away in my mouth. The wait staff correctly pointed out that the liquid in the hot pot was salty and not really meant for drinking. Dip the cooked beef and veggies into the raw egg for a smooth coating.

An odd item I felt was the Ishiyaki Bibimbap ($8.80). Being more Korean than Japanese, it seemed a little out of place. But anyway, its strong kimchi flavours and that of the Korean sweetish sauce were too overpowering for my liking. Oh I must add that glad to know that the hot stone bowl was served inside a wooden box. No more accidental ouches!

The dessert that was recommended was the Mango & Ichigo Daifuku ($3.80). It came with a chewy skin wrapped around chopped mango, strawberries and chocolate mousse. Oh yes, a light-tasting and good way to end the meal....

....not forgetting a well-chilled mug of Asahi ($7.80). Easily one of my favourite beers and perrrrfect for bringing on the weekends.

Thanks to Kit and the management of Watami for hosting this hungry cow.

PS: The media kit is lovely!

ION Orchard
Tel: 6509 9366
Opens: 10am to 10pm daily

Chew On This: Watch out for their next outlet coming soon at Central!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Bachelor's Banquet

It was a wonderful surprise that after reading about Bachelor's Banquet in the Sunday Lifestyle section, the cookbook authors dropped me an email too.

Nicholas Lin, 25 years old
Nicholas was a photographer for the New York Fashion Week and Martha Steward's Living Magazine. He also attended the French Culinary Institute’s Advance Culinary program and was marketing consultant with some of the top New York restaurants.

Adhika Maxi, 24 years old
Max worked his way up the ranks in restaurants and also attended the French Culinary Institute. After which he further honed his skills at restaurants, including Gordon Ramsay's Maze, and various Izakayas and ramen houses in Japan. Max was chef de partie at the Michelin 2-Star Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in New York.

Bachelor's Banquet is a cookbook, featuring more than 80 recipes, that aims to equip modern bachelors with easy, tasty and presentable recipes.

Find out more or order a copy now at Order before 15 August and get a pre-order discount of 15% plus a bonus of getting your copy autographed!

A-very-Singaporean-"HOW MUCH?"
Hardcover- $23.99
Softcover- $18.99
*Above prices before 15% discount.

Here's a recipe with a photo that made me hungry, courtesy of Nicholas and Max.

6 pieces prosciutto or serrano ham, shaven
1 chorizo sausage, sliced on the bias
2 mozzarella balls
200 g tube polenta, sliced to ½ cm slices
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Wild rocket leaves
Fleur de sel
Olive oil

In a mixing bowl, combine mozzarella, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside to marinade until ready to serve.

Over medium heat, cook sliced chorizo for 1 minute a side.

Season polenta slices with salt and pepper then sear the polenta cakes for 2 minutes a side.

Roll slices of prosciutto tightly and leave at room temperature.

To assemble: Plate the polenta cake as the base of this dish, alternate the rolled prosciutto, marinated mozzarella and chorizo on top of the seared polenta.

Garnish with rocket leaves, chives and a drizzle of olive oil.

Chew On This: Being at the same age as the authors and also a bachelor and a foodie, I can totally identify with the simple yet delicious need for recipes like these!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Makan on Board the Stewards RiverBoat!

Like a mini version of the Minor in Entrepreneurship, the short Bio-Entrepreneurship course was tiring but enjoyable. So much so that while the cow has been eating, there hasn't been much contact time between hooves and keyboard, for blogging.

It's times like these that I fondly reminiscence relaxing experiences such as the fairly recent cruise down the scenic Singapore river on a cool Thursday evening. It was arranged by the folks from Santa Fe prior to a media tasting. The boat trip was a journey down memory lane for Santa Fe as it began life 10 years ago there.

Oh yes. I went trigger-happy on board the bum boat, taking in the familiar touristy sights of the Singapore landscape.

Anyway, mooving along to the tasting on board a different boat this time- the Stewards Riverboat. It was a relatively big ship that brought to mind pieces of old American history. Having had its engines removed, it was permanently anchored at Marina South Pier.

But do watch out for the little waves that rock the boat gently side to side. Taking pictures made me a little dizzy with the perceived movements of both hands, head... and sometimes food. Handy to note that should you get a little seasick, the Sante Fe crew has ginger capsules to soothe you.

Food! Food! Food!

Buffalo Wings ($6.50) are a firm favourite and the ones here were pretty good. Tangy with a bit of heat, the wings flew off the plate. That's not an exaggeration to hungry people. :p

The BBQ Baby Back Ribs ($21.90) were my personal favourite for the night. The meat was soft and easily slipped off the bone. The BBQ sauce smothered over the rack added smokiness and flavour.

As finger-food or to share, the Seafood Chimichangas ($6.50) were tasty with their filling of prawns, squid and fish. A refreshing mint sauce was served alongside.

Meat on cast-iron pans? The Chicken and Beef Fajitas (~$22 and $24 respectively) should be eaten quickly as shown by the unknowing demonstrator in the picture above. Wait too long and the meat cools off, becoming tough. Remember to slap on the sour cream, veggies and salsa on your tortilla!

My second favourite for the night was the Blackened Beef Burger ($17.90). It looks more like flattened beef burger in the pic because we requested for the staff to divide it into 6 portions. But this is bigger than it looks. A substantial beef patty with ranch sauce, lettuce, tomatoes and onion rings, made for a bite of peppery, savoury and creamy sensations.

The portioned out burger does prove that food is best shared.

Talking about sharing, our brownie was also automatically sliced into 6 portions. Kudos to the attentive staff.

We also had a waffle with ice cream. Unfortunately, desserts don't seem to be Santa Fe's strength.

What I think is their strength is the homely setting and friendly vibes. It is after all a family business with deep Christian roots.

Thanks to Leonard for the invitation and the stewards of Santa Fe for hosting moo.

Santa Fe
31 Marina Coastal Drive (other branch at Orchard Point)
Berth 1, Marina South Pier
Tel: 6278 5775

Chew On This: With the Stewards Riverboat's close proximity to the National Day Parade area, this would be a great place for a view of the fireworks....all on board a ship.