Tuesday, June 29, 2010

inSing.com is Looking for a Hawker Food Lover!

How time flies! In a blink of an eye and it has been almost 2 years that I have been working with inSing.com on street food reviews and ad-hoc projects on keywords listing and restaurant tagging. A foodie sideline that help feeds my four stomach!

Anyway I thought it might interest some foodies out there who would wanna hear about and join their Hawker Food Lover contest.

Been a closet foodie? Always wanted to try your hand in writing food reviews/articles? Know where to find shiokalicious Roti Prata, Chicken Rice, Satay? inSing.com is looking for a resident Hawker Food Lover and it might just be you!

The winner will win a Canon EOS 550D DSLR, $1000 cash per month for six months and your very own column on inSing.com! Selected finalists will also get to attend a food photography and blogging workshop by fellow blogger and friend, ieatishooipost.

Check out http://www.ilovehawkerfood.com.sg for more details.

Hurry! Closing date is 9 July.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Spicy Harmony

Most people think of Szechuan food as spicy as hell. Images of fiery Ma La broths with a tears-inducing chilli oil layer surfaces. It's generally chilli, chilli and more chilli.

But at a recent dinner I realised it's actually not quite that. Yes, chilli is a common ingredient in most dishes but there's more than just heat beneath all that spice.

The first dish, Marinated Chicken in Sichuan Style ($9.80), turned out to be my favourite of the night. Add in wedges of century eggs and toothsome liang fen (sweet potato flour noodles; $5.80) for a nice combo! The ingredients were topped with a sauce that had heat, spice, tang and a peanut/sesame seed paste component. Szechuan peppercorns (hua jiao) gave this dish a numbing, almost menthol-like feeling.

The next dish of Sliced Beef and Tripe in Chilli Sauce ($7.80) was actually slices of beef heart, lungs, shin, tripe and tongue. The two pieces I ate were flavourful and I like the chilli oil and black vinegar that coated each sliver.

Then came the Fiery Pot of Hell Boiled Sliced Fish in Ba Yu Style Sauce ($18.80). Looks mind-crazily spicy but thankfully only the fish is eaten, leaving behind the lava liquid. The fish seemed to be coated with a cornflour slurry that made it really smooth. I enjoyed the saltiness of the fish against the spicy, numbing backdrop.

For the customary veg dish, we ordered the Fried Long Beans (sorry I forgot the price). The long beans spotted oil-blistered skins and were crunchy. Stir-fried with minced pork and Chinese bottled olive. Pretty appetising and calls for rice.

This was a table favourite! The Diced Chicken in Spicy Sauce ($18.80) was like NDP in the mouth. Fireworks of dried chilli, spice, coriander stems, cumin erupted. Crispy fried chicken pieces worthy to make popcorn chicken look like child's play. Very moreish indeed!

The Eggplant with Garlic Chilli Sauce (~$8) featured tender eggplant pieces in a claypot. They were sweet and sour style and by this stage, my palate was confused between spiciness and hotness (high temperature).Haha.

This noodle-lookalike dish was actually Shredded Pork with Minced Garlic Chilli Sauce ($13.80). The strips seemed to be what tasted like bamboo shoots. The sauce leaned towards the sourish side. Unfortunately, a little too sourish and starchy for my liking.

After the slew of dishes came and went, we were deliberating if to order the Hui Guo Rou ($13.80). And pork belly was hard to say no to....especially when...

Each slice was first boiled for a few quick seconds before being fried with green chilli, red chilli and leek in a hot wok. This made it tender and at some parts, crispy. Szechuan bacon, no? One ang moh (hello Kevin!) even wanted to have this for breakfast!

A wiseman once said: "China food, China beer." Don't ask me which wiseman but dinner was washed down with Tsingtao beer. Well-chilled, light and with a gentle sweetness, it was a good choice to the full-flavoured, spicy dishes.

To end the meal on a sweet note, we had the Red Bean Pancake ($6.80). The flaky pastry was alright but a wee bit thick. Either that or the red bean filling could have been bumped up. Still it was a nice sweet ending to a spice-filled dinner.

The above photo courtesy of TTC.

Ooo...and I just realised that uploading a photo from Facebook makes it appear bigger in blogger!

It was a fantastic dinner with foodies and hey we left with sexier lips! Forget botox. Lol. The food here plays on the balance between sweet, sour, and spicy. With each component in balance, there was spicy harmony.

Ba Yu Ren Jia Restaurant
791 North Bridge Road (near the junction to Jalan Sultan).
Tel: 6296 7958
Opens: 11.30am - 3.30am

Chew On This: The spicy component of chilli is capsaicin and it does not dissolve well in water. In fact, drinking water (even if iced!) has little use to douse the fire. Instead, drink milk or yoghurt as the milk protein, casein, acts as a detergent, dislodging capsaicin from the nerve receptors.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Grandeur of Wine @ WGS

I have always read and heard about the World Gourmet Summit but have never attended any of its events due to exams schedule (both WGS & exams are in April!) and also the high cost of some of the events.

But with impending graduation and hopefully higher dispensable income, I signed up for my first WGS event- The Grandeur of Wine ($58).

Held at the Hilton Hotel on a Sunday, it attracted a steady but small stream of visitors who went from booth to booth, sampling wines and chatting with the vendors.

While the wine booths and sampling were fun, what was perhaps more educational and structured was the slew of master classes, some of which by very notable speakers. Registration for these classes was a breeze and inclusive in the $58 entry ticket!

My first master class was...

Bob Campbell MW spoke with great pride of his home country- New Zealand. With stunningly scenic photos, he introduced the different wine regions from the popular Marlborough, Hawkes Bay and Central Ontago to lesser known Nelson, Wellington and Gisborne.

Among the eight Kiwi wines featured, my favourite was the Pegasus Bay Riesling 2008 from the Waipara region. It had a golden colour and a limey, honeyed nose. On the palatte it was luscious, sweet with minerality and chalkyness ending dry. Nice, balanced and long finish.

Next was the Arachon T.FX.T & Weingut Tement Masterclass with promeninet local wine connoissuer, Dr N.K. Yong, as the moderator. This session was interesting as it provided a window into Austrian wines- not very well-known here but certainly up and coming. Armin Tement and Jacques Perrin guided the tasting of eight wines.

Tement is most famous for their Sauvignon Blanc and a tasting of four of these showed just why. There was a common vein of delicately expressive nose, mineral-rich body and a certain clean characteristic. I particularly like the Tement Sauvignon Blanc Zieregg 2006 with its refreshing acidity and more mature, nutty and earthy notes.

Among the Arachon wines featured, the Arachon T.FX.T 2007 stood out- a big full-bodied red with spices, vanilla and wood on the nose and biggish tanins and high acidity. Me thinks plenty of good years ahead for this one. The 2002 vintage showed a richer nose of blueberries, cheries, spices and a sweetish vanilla hint.

And finally, the last masterclass I attended was Classic Wines of Australia by Jeremy Oliver. Lisa Perotti Brown, the only Singapore-based MW, moderated the session. A tasting flight of eight (Think it's an auspicious number even for wines. Lol.) wines served to showcase the different wine styles from eight key regions. In the line-up were the likes of Petalima Riesling 2009 (Clare Valley), Lenton Brae Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Margaret River), Joseph Angel Gully Shiraz 2007 (McLaren Vale) and Brown Brothers Patricia Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (King Valley) among others.

My personal favourite was the Joseph Angel Gully Shiraz 2007. I like its boquet of cheries, plums, chocolate, licorice and concentrated fruit flavours on the palatte. One big, spicy Aussie shiraz.

With the ending of the Aussie masterclass, it was time for a photo shot with Jeremy Oliver, alongside my friends, Dr. Zouk and Ewan.

Grandeur of Wine, I hope you'll be back next year!

Grandeur of Wine

Chew On This: Nah, sip on this one!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Springy Wanton Mee

Life is unpredictable. A few foodies gathered one morning for kway chap only to find the stall closed with its owner apparently on holiday. A separate visit a few days later when I met another group of friends for a trek from near-by Bukit Chandu also ended up kway chap-less.

Looks like this kway chap is proving to be a little elusive.

Anyway, in the same kopitiam is a Wanton Mee stall. I had this on two occasions and found that this noodle dish here is best eaten immediately. It is unfortunately less forgiving of trigger-happy bloggers who take time to shoot.

While I found the char siew to be too lean and dry, what hit the spot for me was the springy, almost wire-like egg noodles tossed in dark soy sauce, chilli and shallot & garlic oil. Fried ikan bilis also added texture and a very savoury touch.

With the average wantons and disappointing char siew, this might just be a wanton mee where the noodles and sauces are the star. Hey, in fact I would be happy to just get a big plate of this noodles topped with blanched cai sim and a fried egg!

Soon Heng Noodle
Eng Lock Koo Coffee Shop
114 Pasir Panjang Road (at the junction with Pepys Road)

Chew On This: I happened to be wearing the Standard Chartered Marathon 2007 Finisher's Tee and apparently the uncle at this stall also took part in it and wanted to treat me to a bowl of wantons! Haha. Of course, with a trek all the way to Vivocity ahead, I politely declined.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lobster Bonus

Recently, I had the pleasure to check out the Harvest of the Sea dinner buffet at Spices Cafe. Although I had wanted to earlier drop by this place, somehow it never reached fruition. Then perhaps the lure of lobster..... sealed the deal. Haha.

And I am glad it didn't disappoint! A newly added bonus to the usual buffet spread, the lobster was grilled with a lovely buttery fragrance and its flesh was succulent. Each diner is entitled to half a lobster (~200g).

More seafood can be found on ice.

But what excited me was the Drunken Prawns. Cooked only upon order, the prawns were meaty and their sweetness complemented the slight bitter edge of the herbal stock which had a splash of Hua Diao Jiu (Chinese cooking wine). I like this kind of aroma therapy!

There were many dishes such as braised ox tail, sashimi, sambal mussels, curries etc but here's just a snap shot of what I found more interesting.

In another section, the Coffee Smoked Salmon caught my eye. It was interesting with the salty smoked fish carrying the aromas of coffee and and just a hint of vanilla.

Fried seafood would appeal to most- especially kids! Here they had squid, fish, prawns and scallops. The trick is to catch the timing when these goodies are freshly fried and just brought to the buffet table.

From the live pasta station...err...not that there's a distinction between live and dead pasta... But I digress. The Penne Bolognese was a surprise. I was half-expecting overcooked pasta. Instead, the penne was pretty decent with some bite while the sauce was a tasty marriage of beef and tomato.

Also available was an array of 5 crab dishes, each done ala minute when an order is placed. I tried two.

The Black Pepper Crab packed heaps of black pepper intensity against the fresh, white flesh of the mud crab.

For something a little more different from the usual Chilli Crab or Black Pepper Crab, go for the Gulai Coconut Crab that was cooked with coconut milk and herbs. The coconut milk gave the crab an additional edge of fresh sweetness.

Finally we reached desserts- an assortment of tarts, cakes, creme brulee, pastries etc.

And warm molten chocolate to end off the night.

Thanks to Evelyn and Vivien for the invitation and for hosting moo.

Here's a BIG Happy Father's Day to my Daddy and all other Dads out there!

Spices Cafe
Lobby Level 3
Concorde Hotel
Tel: 6739 8370

Chew On This: This Father's Day, Dad gets to dine for free with 3 paying adults! Spices Cafe will be offering an Afternoon Tea Buffet (12noon-5pm; $35++/adult; $18++/child between 3-12 years old) and an International BBQ Seafood Buffet Dinner (6.30pm-10pm; $45++/adult; $22++/child between 3-12 years old). Each Daddy also gets a door gift and stands a chance to win accomodation at Concorde Hotel KL and Singapore!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

SLA Rocks Bedrock!

Just last week, the Steak Lovers' Association had a rocking good time at Bedrock Bar & Grill.

The set dinner was the most costly we have had so far but the lure of 400g USDA prime ribeye was hard to resist. Believe me, I tried!

First up, bread and butter issues: To be more correct, it was naan and French butter and roasted garlic. The naan was warm, fluffy and chewy- perfect with a smear of creamy French butter. The roasted garlic rocks with its sweet, roasted flavour.

Soon to arrive was the Bedrock Smoked Tomato Soup ($12 ala carte). This was comforting with the familiar sweet and tart tomato flavours along with basil. As the tomatoes were smoked with applewood, this dish had an additional smokey dimension.

Finally, the main course of the night- 400g USDA Prime Ribeye ($88 ala carte). Served here with shoestring fries and steamed broccoli, the steak had streaks of fat marbling giving it tenderness and flavour. It wasn't robust. More of a good balance between intense beefy-ness and subtle sweetness. Very enjoyable...especially with vino!

To complement the steak, hot whiskey mustard was served. The grainy texture provided, well, texture and the mustard flavour was mild and restrained. Pretty good with steak. But in my opinion, the USDA prime ribeye was more than able to stand on its own.

For dessert (which everyone almost forgot after the steak!), we had The Dark Side ($12 ala carte). It sounds very Star Wars-ish and I don't expect Sith Lords to be sweet. The irony was that this Valrhona 85% dark cacao flourless cake was a little sweeter than expected (considering it was 85% dark chocolate). Nonetheless, it was The dribbling of sour cream did add an interesting touch to the chocolate, helping to cut through the heavyness.

Vino parade: My favourite two were the Taurasi DOCG 1999 (second bottle) and the Priorat 1998. Corkage at $30 per bottle. !@#$%

Thanks to Thomas for, as usual, gathering the SLA-ers and to Keith and Elly of Bedrock for the special set dinner menu and for hosting us. :)

Group photo credit to Anthony.

Here's the happy bunch of us at that wonderful, cosy dinner. Proof that food and wines without company is just food and wines.

Bedrock Bar & Grill
96 Somerset Road
Pan Pacific Serviced Suites
Tel: 6238 0054
Opens: 12noon - 2.30pm; 6.30pm - 12midnight
Closes: Sunday

Chew On This: This was the first time the SLA had a unanimous vote for steak when it came to the main course! Woohoo. Don't worry, lamb/chicken/fish/pork-eaters. We still love you.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Singha-ing in Saint Pierre

The recent blistering weather has reminded me of the Singha experience at Saint Pierre (3 Magazine Road #01-01, Tel: 6438 0887, Closed on Sundays). Cool comfort with a crisp, refreshing taste.

Oh yes, it was fine dining and beer! White starched table cloth, utensils with enough weight to give the impression of culinary substance and water served in glasses fit for wines. Not quite the image I had of Singha or any other beer for that matter. But that was set to be challenged.

The man tasked with this challenge was Chef Emmanuel Stroobant (aka The Chef in Black aka the Muscles from Brussels). Chef explained that like wines, the acidity in beers also goes very well with food (and even fine dining).

Was Singha beer up to it? Here's the battle of the bottle vs the fork.

A really jiam (sharp) jiam tao loti (that is French loaf in Hokkien- one of Singapore's official unofficial languages) with French butter and olive oil kept hunger at bay for a bit. The sprinkling of salt over the butter was a nice touch. Like with wines, salt can enhance the taste of beers and made the flavour of this Singha more rounded.

North sea grey shrimp salad with thousand island ice cream, momotaro tomato and organic avocado mousse. A very pretty dish. I loved the salty and smokey flavours of the smoked salmon against the creamy avocado and sweet, acidic momotaro tomatoes. The thousand island ice cream was really interesting- cold, tangy and sweet. The Singha's good acidic structure complemented this dish nicely.

Saffron infused mussel consomme with low temperature braised patte jaune chicken and spring vegetable julienne. This consomme literally tasted like the sea! The saltiness was unfortunately too intense for me...even the beer struggled with this.

Singha jelly with lemongrass infused scallop mousse and wild herb salad was THE Singha Signature dish. Plump, juicy scallops were well-seared on the outside and nicely raw inside. I found the oblong potato pieces a delight with soft innards and crisp top and bottom sides. The soft scallop mousse was delicate-tasting and wrapped with a sliver of Singha beer jelly. All very intricately balanced.

Guess where Singha originated from? (Answer: dnaliahT). So it naturally paired well with the delicate lemon grass-infused mousse and the sweet seafood flavour of the scallops.

This selected cheese platter was a surprise addition from Chef. From front to back: Brie, Comte, Munster and goat cheese. With Singha's slight bitter edge from the hops contrasting the cheeses' creamy and milky proteins, I very much enjoyed this pairing! This cow loves beef and cheese- proudly cow products. ;)

Caramelized banana crusted flourless Belgian chocolate cake and coconut sorbet. The chocolate cake was delicious! The flavour of good, bitter-sweet chocolate had depth and went nicely with the caramelized banana (think creme brulee's burnt sugar crust). But as a pairing with Singha, this dessert item was far too heavy though the beer did the job of cleansing the palate.

Petit Fours and a cup of hot tea rounded off this meal.

On our way out of the restaurant, we spotted this. This would be my favourite way to end a meal- a whole trolley of cheeses and port!


It was my first visit to Saint Pierre and what a pleasant one it was. The Singha beer and fine dining experience was unique and certainly showed that Singha can hold its own against the notion that beer is just good for hot sunny days and with pub grub. Thanks to Singha and the folks from The Right Spin for the invitation and for hosting this hungry cow.

Available at major supermarkets, restaurants and pubs.

Chew On This: Singha beer is the first beer brewed by a Thai!