Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Limited by Balls

Balls! Have these few weeks been really busy. Since starting Final-Year Project, I have been stretched with juggling all my commitments. But by God's grace, I shall prevail.

Balls! Because this is a food blog, I shall talk about food. Balls- fish balls!

Discovered this stall with a ever-present long queue. Long queues do not always equate to good food. But there are exceptions. Ru Ji Kitchen is one such example.

The Fish Ball Mee Pok Dry ($2.50) had ribbons of eggy noodles tossed in a chilli, lard and vinegar sauce. A good mix of spiciness, saltiness and tangyness. The star of the dish had to be the fish ball- very fresh-tasting, just lightly salted and soft with a gentle, springy bite.

The Fish Ball Kway Teow Soup ($2.50) was a lighter affair with thin rice noodles in a very light but tasty soup. The Kway Teow was smooth without being too soft and it was a delight slurping strands of it with the soup.

My only gripe (besides having to queue ~20mins) is that with fish balls this good, I should have ordered a whole bowl of them! Balls!

Ok, I had better get back to some assignments now. B-A-L-L-S.

Ru Ji Kitchen
Blk 44 Holland Drive
Holland Drive Market and Food Centre

Chew On This: I saw the uncle counting the number of fish balls he had remaining and then checking against the orders of people in the queue. This means once the fish balls are sold out, he stops orders and closes for the day! Serious stuff.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Funny Char Siew & Fantastic Roast Pork @ Ulu Ulu!

When I heard a colleague mentioned that the path to today's lunch would be a 'treacherous one', I thought it was a joke. I mean, we live in Singapore. How treacherous can a path be?

But I was thrilled when I saw the following sight.

It felt so surreal. An empty grass patch. A trodden path. Green vegetation and bushes. Litter. Wobbly wooden planks. Small but steep slope. The railway track.

Was this a secret path used by illegal immigrants? Maybe not. But it sure felt like a mini adventure.

Anyway, my lab colleagues brought me to Tanglin Halt Road Market & Food Centre....where I chanced upon a very good roasted pork (aka siew yok aka sio bak).

It was a chance discovery because I had ordered Wanton Mee ($2.50) but as the Char Siew had been sold out, the stall lady suggested replacing it with Siew Yok. And what a suggestion it was!

The noodles were pretty nice with bite and the wantons were small but tasty. However these were superfluous in the presence of the Siew Yok. It spotted a good crackling with just a thin layer of fat beneath. The layers of meat and fat worked in harmony to produce delicious flavours that coated the palette upon gentle chewing.

When I returned on another visit. All that was left was Char Siew & Siew Yok Rice ($3). Again I was left with little choice. But it was a chance to try the Char Siew, which turned out to be a disappointment. There was none of that smokey, barbequed flavours. Instead, the super lean Char Siew tasted as if it had been boiled/baked. This was one funny Char Siew.

I'll definitely be back for the Siew Yok! Oh and did I mention that the Siew Yok portions are generous?!

I think I have just found my favourite lunch spot. The Tanglin Road Market & Food Centre is not the biggest but it brings the house down with a fantastic Siew Yok. The other reason being the sleepy neighbourhood with an old-world charm is such a breath of fresh air to the clusters of modern buildings in the Biopolis.

Here are my lunch kakis- Banana Girl, Xiao Lao Ban & Sweet Demoness (from back to front). More about the origins of Banana Girl coming soon!

Fa Ji Shao La
Stall 15
Tanglin Road Market & Food Centre
Block 48A
Tanglin Halt Road
Closed: Mondays

Chew On This: Most of the items sell out by around 1-2pm so go early to avoid disappointment!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Rebirth of Hock Leng Seafood

Hock Leng Seafood was my secret haunt for cze char for quite a while. Their dishes have a special place in my heart as they saw me through 'Sunday book-in nights' during my NS years. However, after the boss-cum-chef felt he needed a break, Hock Leng Seafood was closed and the space rented out to Mad Jack Cafe.

So about a year later, it was to my surprise that I saw a familiar face of a person walking out from a stall on the usually quiet end of the 2nd floor of Bedok Market Place. It was Hock Leng Seafood's lady boss. She told me that her husband, the boss-cum-chef, had hands that were itching to cook and so decided to open a small cze char stall- Simpang Kitchen.

Since then, I have been back to check out familiar favourites as well as new dishes.

The Sotong in Salted Egg Yolk ($8) was still as delicious, with a soft-springy texture and a savoury salted egg yolk sauce scented with spring onions and chilli.

This was definitely something new. I felt the love when the boss treated me to a plate of pipping hot Fried Bishop's Nose (chicken backside lah). Smooth chicken flesh with crispy tasty skin, this was way better than KFC. This item is not available on the menu but hey, if you fancy some yummy chicken backside, why not try asking?

The Kai Lan with Roast Pork ($8) was a hearty veggie dish! The roast pork was salted well and had a fairly nice crackling.

But what was better was the Nan Ru Rou ($8). This dish of fried strips of pork marinated in fermented beancurd is great with both rice and beer! The fragrance of garlic and fermented beancurd made this really tasty.

I remember I didn't quite take to their Hor Fun at their old place (yes, old wounds can be hard to heal) so I decided to try the Beef Ee Mee ($4). The gravy had specks of fermented black beans while the noodles were nicely fragrant but a little hard during this visit. What I like is that the beef slices were just lightly-tenderised. This retained more beefy flavour.

A dessert to end the meal with was the Yu Tou Sha ($6)- finger-length sticks of yam and sweet potato coated in sticky maltose glaze. Dunking each stick into the iced water created a thin, hard candy coat that gave a layer of texture before one's teeth hit the starchy core.

A smaller stall means lesser kitchen space and staff which can translate into a scaled-down menu and longer waiting times during peak periods.

But for now, I am very happy that a then soon-to-be-lost comfort is now back in action. God Bless Itchy Hands.

Simpang Kitchen
Bedok Market Place (Simpang Bedok)
Opens: 11am-3pm; 5.30-10pm
Closed: Alternate Mondays starting from 11 Jan 2010.
Tel: 9669 5293

Chew On This: For dishes such as their homemade Fu Long Tofu and Steamed Chinese Pomfret, one has to order in advance now. I guess that now that it's a small stall, space and manpower constrains on some dishes are inevitable.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Value Set Lunch

One thing good about having many options for lunch is well... having many options. In fact, some times too many options! But when time is limited or skies are pouring, it helps to have a good, near-by place to call on.

That is what Chef Mum is to me. Lab colleagues introduced this place to me and I like it for its good-value, dependable and tasty food.

Two visits have seen me order the Penne Arrabbiata Set ($6.80nett), consisting of soup, pasta, dessert and coffee/tea.

The Soup-of-the-Day was Cream of Mushroom. It was creamy, thick and with a slight heady flavour of shitake mushrooms. Not bad but nothing really fantastic as mushroom soup goes. The Cream of Asparagus during my first visit was much better.

The Penne Arrabbiata was really good! Firm tubes of penne in a tomato sauce spiked with chilli. The heat from the chilli was fresh and also with depth. I suspect they used both fresh and dried chillis for this effect. A few strips of chicken were hiding somewhere in the pile but really, I could do with just the pasta and sauce here.

Dessert-of-the-Day was Grass Jelly. A sweet and soothing end to round up lunch. Previously, I had Red Bean Soup which was rustic and tasted very home-made. :)

A cup of tea completed this set lunch, and also provided caffeine to fight off any impending Z-monsters.

On days when I don't have the luxury of a more leisurely lunch or when it's pouring like mad, you'll know where to find me.

Chef Mum
8 Biomedical Grove
Tel: 6464 2083

Chew On This: Ask for a card and collect stamps with each set lunch ordered. A muffin is free on the 5th stamp and a set meal is free on the 10th stamp! Nom nom nom.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Dining at Ivan's

Happy New Year!! May 2010 be filled with delicious eats and memories!

Since starting my Final Year Project stint at Biopolis a few weeks ago, I have been really tired. Lots of brain juice drained fresh daily. And balancing other commitments have become increasingly challenging.

But I shall persevere in faith for restful increase.

Anyway, speaking of good eats and delicious memories, I had a very enjoyable dinner at Ivan's place. This big friend with an equally big heart decided to host a simple dinner for a few blogger friends. And what a treat it was!

Though I was tired, I couldn't quite say no to friends (and steak). And so I met with Camemberu, Ladyironchef, The Baker and our host, Recent Runes. Some Like It Haute had to unfortunately miss this dinner due to work engagements. :S

Dinner kicked off with one of my least favourite vegetables. I like tomatoes when bruised into ketchup and sauces or even in a single slice in a burger but other forms scare me. But it was with much relish that I went for second and third helpings of this Tomato Salad. The plump fairly sweet slices of chilled Momotaro tomatoes on a bed of baby spinach and dressed with Dijon vinaigrette were outstanding. The Dijon vinaigrette packed heaps of flavour and kick. hic. kick. hic.

Then the 6-Hour Braised Oxtail with Red Wine Jus and Pearl Shallots brought me back to my senses with its fork-tender meat and flavoursome but clean-tasting jus (fantastic with baguette!). Ivan's rendition was relatively light-and-fresh-tasting in expectation of...

S-T-E-A-KKKK!!! Oh yes, another yummy dish of cow. The 800ish-gram 21-Day Grain-Fed Dry-Aged Ribeye was a beauty to behold and the smell of it sizzling in browned butter was equally alluring. What seemed to be missing on this steak turned out to be the Balsamic Glaze. The second steak (photo not taken as both hands and mouth were still very busy) had this sweet-tart sticky glaze and immediately, the flavours of the steak were more pronounced.

To accompany the steaks was a bowl of Boiled Potatoes in Butter and Herbs. Steak and potatoes are best friends, specially when the potatoes are soft, sweet, buttered, herbed and sprinkled with big flakes of salt.

Dessert was kindly provided by The Baker. Her Apple Pie was a good ending to the meal. I like that it was not overly sweet and the apple wedges were chunky enough with bite. Paired with ice cream, it was a great ending to a meal! *lens-and-finger-pointing included*

And we were well-lubricated with a Tsantali Organic Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 that I brought, and a Majella Shiraz 2006 and a Tokaji Aszu Eszencia provided by Ivan.

Though drained out by a long day at work, I was glad I came for this dinner. It made me fantasize even days later! Proof that food with foodies does magic.

The thing I like about home-cooks is that though many a times the food may not be restaurant standard, it is rustic, earnest and cooked with love. These are quality ingredients I like.

A big thanks to Ivan for hosting us over for dinner. Having also hosted several dinners at home, I greatly appreciate the efforts in preparation, cooking and cleaning in a one-man operation. Mucho gracias, amigo!

Chew On This: I'm glad I did.