Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Dinner of 3 Birthdays

With the birthdays of my dad, mum and sis falling in a span of less than a week, we decided to combine the celebration by having one dinner. :)

As my dad much prefers Chinese food to ang moh food, we decided on Asia Grand Restaurant. After all, Peking Duck sounds good, no?

Peking Duck (promotional price of $30 for the whole bird; usual price $56) was competently done and definitely a bargain at that price!

Each slice of duck skin was accompanied by a stalk of spring onion, brushed with some of the sauce and wrapped in an egg crepe. I like the crispy duck skin that had just a small layer of underlying fat.

After being de-skinned, the rest of the duck was taken back to the kitchen and turned into Duck Ee Fu Mee ($10). This was sufficiently tasty but my main gripe was the measly amount of duck meat in here. It certainly does not seem like a whole duck to me! Maybe next time I should just request for the duck to be chopped up and served.

Poached Boxthorn ($16) was an excellent veggie dish! The thorny vegetable (aka gao gei or jiu ji) has dark green leaves which are used in this dish. Distinctively pleasant bitter taste that went well with the sweetness of wolfberries and a very good chicken stock. I think there's lots of iron and vitamin A in here!

Roasted Whole Boneless Suckling Pig (promotional price of $70 for 1/2; $140 for whole pig; usual price $240 for whole) brought back fond memories of my beloved pig in Hong Kong. But alas. I should have known about making comparisons and having expectations. This suckling pig was by no means bad but people adverse to porky smell/taste might wannna avoid this.

Personally, I enjoyed the pig. There wasn't much meat but the skin...oh the skin....perfectly crisp till it crackled in the mouth. Dad was right. We paid for skin. :D The thick layer of fat beneath the skin triggered cardio nightmare alerts and so I actively bit them away, leaving just a sliver. But even that with the skin packed heaps of flavour!

The Prawns with Egg Yolk ($28) at the adjacent table tempted us and so we ordered a plate too. Moohehe. Big prawns lightly dusted in flour and flash fried before being coated in a salted egg yolk sauce. Very savoury!

For desserts we tried the Chilled Hashima with Lotus Seed ($9). The "soup" was thin and had an almond essence taste which I personally do not like.

A better and cheaper dessert was the Mango Cream with Sago ($6). Rich and fruity with the goodness of mango, it paired well with the sacs of pomelo that provided a slight tart-bitter counterpoint to the sweetness.

The Mashed Yam with Gingko Nuts ($5) was also pretty good with a nice consistency and deep flavour of yam (and possibly lard).

This cow was happy. Nothing like a meal with the family. Now, if only my birthday was in the same week as theirs! Blessed birthday, dad, mum and sis! God bless you cow cow.

Asia Grand Restaurant
331 North Bridge Road
#01-02 Odeon Towers
Tel: 6887 0010

Chew On This: There are private rooms for those who want more privacy but do call and enquire on their use/booking. And BYO is allowed!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Din Tai Fung Blogger's Workshop

Din Tai Fung is synonymous with one thing- Xiao long bao (XLB). And it was this that a group of food bloggers tried to learn to make. Btw, guess which blogger's camera was this? :D

It wasn't easy with many steps (kneading! pinching! rolling! filling! folding! steaming!) that required practice and more practice. Most XLB chefs train for at least 1-2 years just to be able to a decent XLB.

Our chief tutor that day showed us the ropes and the result of a well-made the paparazzi bloggers snapped away!

Instead of meat, we used a red bean paste as the filling because it is apparently easier to handle. Even with that, most of us struggled.

Here's the graveyard of failure. Our ugly, spoilt XLB skins that were marked for condemnation. Too fat! Too thin! Out of shape! Uneven! Sigh. The harsh scrutiny of life. Thankfully, the DTF chefs maintain their standards to ensure the uniformity of their XLB.

It is easy to tell which was made by a DTF chef and which (two!) were made by yours truly. I have to admit it was my second time attempting to make XLB. The first was also at another DTF media event and also featured the same chief tutor. Same teacher, same steps, same student, same results. Must be me. Moohahaha.

Hence, new-found respect for XLB chefs!

On to the makan portion:

I like the not-overly-thin and slight chewiness of the skin of the freshly steamed XLB. The hot meat juice within had a nice sesame oil flavour.

PS: Thankfully, they were not as cruel to feed us the ones we made! Otherwise, I think I would have been put off XLB for quite a long while.

Fragrant Pork with Crushed Garlic ($6.80) featured chilled tender slices of pork, wrapped round cucumber sticks, in a spicy and super garlic-y sauce!

Vegetarian Delight in Special Vinegar Dressing ($2.80) was a simple starter of strips of seaweed, Jew's ears (I think), tung hoon, pressed tofu and chilli and spring onions. The vinegar dressing made it a little sharp and appetite-perking....

...which was perfect as the Fried Rice with Shrimp & Egg ($10) arrived. Unfortunately, I didn't take to the artificially springy prawns. Most Chinese restaurants 'crystallize' their prawns by rinsing them for long periods in cold water and treating them in sodium bicarbonate/baking soda/corn/potato starch but I don't quite like the super crunchy result of this. More often then not, the prawn looses its flavour. The fried rice had a generous amount of eggs but I found the overall flavour to be rather weak.

I enjoyed the Stir-Fried Nai Bai with Garlic ($12). The crunchy, leafy greens were a delight and the (deep-fried I think) whole garlic cloves were sweet.

A Steamed Chilli Crab and Pork Bun ($6 for 4 pieces) is 40% larger than the usual XLB! What's inside? A chilli crab filling with a sweet-spicy sauce.

And on to desserts! Sago with Ice & Sweet Coconut Sauce ($3.50) was pretty good with the lup lup (Cantonese for granular?) mouth feel from the sago. The coconut and gula melaka (palm sugar) sauce was sweet, creamy and fragrant.

The Fragrant Peanut Dumplings ($6.80 for 6 pieces) looked quite cute- like a white furry ball. The glutinous rice flour skin was nice and chewy. Inside it was the classic peanut and sugar combi with sesame seeds. :)

And talk about cute. I couldn't help but take a shot of the Caucasian girl who was entertaining herself by pulling faces at the glass panel. Maybe that's what happens when mum and dad takes too long to order! Heh.

Anyway, this cow is happy to give away a Din Tai Fung $10 voucher to two persons! Just leave a comment with your email address and we'll be in touch.

The vouchers expire this Saturday (31st July) and I plan to mail them out tomorrow before noon. That still leaves plenty of time for you to plan a meal at any DTF outlet for either this Friday or Saturday.

Else, I'll donate it to my four stomachs and they'll thank you for the xiao long baos (such a tough job)... if no one wants the vouchers. :p

Update: Congrats to Lynette and Chantel for winning the vouchers!

Thanks to Veronica and Hsian Ming of Sixth Sense Communications for the invite, vouchers and for hosting this hungry moo.

Din Tai Fung
313 @ Somerset (various other outlets)
Tel: 6509 6696

Chew On This: The Steamed Chilli Crab and Pork Bun is only available till 31st August! Citibank card-members enjoy a 15% discount off this dish.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

3rd Time Lucky Kway Chap

On my first and second visit to this kway chap stall, I found it closed. The owners apparently went on a holiday. So instead of kway chap, we had wanton mee and prawn noodles.

On this most recent third visit, the stall was open! Yay. And since I was early, I had a bowl of prawn and pork ribs bee hoon soup. Some things never change. Hahaha.

So back to the kway chap...

All sorts of goodies (braised tau pok, braised egg, pig skin, salted vegetables, fishcake, braised pork belly, intestines) worked their charm. Resistance was futile and silly.

There was also steamed fish, braised duck and stewed chicken feet!

Everything on this plate was good with a rustic, soy-sauce-infused flavour.

The braised duck was very tender and flavourful with a slight touch of spice. Dip it into the orangey chilli sauce and the acidity of the vinegar cuts through nicely.

For the kway, my ideal kway has to be smooth and slightly oily/silky with a bit of a chewy bite. The one here had a rougher texture and was softer. The not-too-herbal broth was certainly more robust than most other versions.

All in all, there was a very pleasant rustic appeal to the kway chap here. No refine-ness, no wimpy-ness. Pure hearty flavours!

Note: The above food was shared between 5 of us and cost us about $6+ each.

Tong Lok Kway Chap
Eng Lock Koo Coffee Shop
114 Pasir Panjang Road (at the junction with Pepys Road)
Opens: 7am-3pm
Closed: Sundays

Chew On This: This has got to be the neatest kway chap stall (and possibly hawker stall) I have ever come across! Not a splash of sauce or dribble of oil in sight. Things were neatly displayed and arranged too. *salute*

Monday, July 19, 2010

Prawn Noodles Pit Stop

A few of us met to collect our convocation gowns (woohoo!!) and grabbed a fairly quick lunch before heading for the studio.

The Prawns and Pork Ribs Bee Hoon Soup ($5) was as good as the last time 2 years ago. The soup was a tasty brew full of the goodness from boiling big pork bones and prawn shells. A scattering of fried onions over the dish added a lovely flavour too!

How about the prawns?
They were fresh and meaty. Their shells conveniently removed, making them easy to eat. I like that their heads were still intact. Gives one the added pleasure of sucking all that delicious juices in there!

How about the pork ribs?
I would have preferred bigger pieces actually. Nonetheless, they were very tender with just a little bit of fat.

Greedy me sometimes wish they would sell a XXXXXXXL bowl of prawn noodles! Hehe.

River South (Hoe Nam) Prawn Noodles
31 Tai Thong Crescent
Tel: 62819293
Opens: 6.30am to 4.30pm daily
Closed: Once a month on Mondays

Chew On This: Savour the soup for there shall be NO refills! :(

Sunday, July 18, 2010

SFF: Clarke Quay Food Street

The Clarke Quay Food Street opened with Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Lim Hng Kiang, gracing the event. In the opening ceremony, the VIPs placed different food items, representative of the different Chinese dialect groups, into a steamboat.

The whole Read Bridge was transformed into a food street with more than 30 food stalls! As the night grew, the crowds swelled and made this perfect for people watching. Camera-toting foodies, curious tourists, young clubbers, energetic students, aunty aunties and people decked to the nines made this a melting pot of people.

Yes, the force was strong.

We succumbed to...

Roast Duck!

Traditional Hainanese Kuehs!

Chicken Rice Ball & Fried Ngoh Hiang!

Fried Carrot Cake!

Bell Puri! My first time trying this but I really like it! The texture was coarse and grainy (like cereal) due to the puffed rice and with onions, tomatoes and 5 chutneys mixed in, it had a very fresh flavour with depth!

Hakka Yam Abacus Seeds!

Prata & Satay!

Plastic Crabs! Err..I meant Cold Crabs wrapped in plastic (hygenic mah!).

Hakka Black Glutinous Kueh! Very interesting. Slightly sweet, toasty, glutinous flour scent and dried orange peel taste.

Traditional Chinese Sweets & Cakes!

Hakka Chicken with Wine Lees!

Aunty! Popiah! Fresh skin made on the spot some more.

Hurry as it ends this Saturday!

Clarke Quay Food Street
Read Bridge
16th-24th July 2010
Opens: 4pm-11pm

Chew On This: To purchase any food or drink at the Clarke Quay Food Street, purchase a Kopitiam stored-value card at the counter. Cash is not accepted at all stalls.