Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fremantle in Singapore

It seems like the world is coming to Singapore. Barely weeks ago, we welcomed thousands of participants of the recent Youth Olympic Games to our shores. Quite a few celebrity chefs have set up restaurants at the IRs. And now Fremantle from Perth has also found itself a cousin here. Btw, that reminds me. I have not finished my Perth posts!!!! Ahh!!!!!

Breathes.

Perth's Fremantle is a harbour town full of maritime heritage, art, a famous market, seaside restaurants and pubs. It has a certain laid back, arty, zesty feel that flows through it. Charming.

The Fremantle in Singapore is located at Clarke Quay perhaps to mimic some of that lively seaside riverside feel.

Family ended up there to continue birthday celebrations.

Dad and I opted for the Set Lunch ($15nett) which was excellent value for money! Ordering two Set Lunches enabled us to try different items.

Starter was a choice of:


House Salad (Decent with mesclun leaves and cherry tomatoes tossed in creamy red wine dressing.)

Or


Seafood Minestrone Soup (Very decent with a soup brimming with seafood and tomato flavours.)


My main was Premium House Batter Fish & Chips. Fresh white fish encased in a slightly thick yet light batter, the fried fish fillets were pretty good. Note: This comes with a side salad so opt for the soup as a starter!


Dad chose the Roasted Barramundi Served with Garlic Pesto Pumpkin Risotto. While the fish was tender and tasty, the risotto was a let-down. Its texture was too mushy for my liking.


To end off the Set Lunch, the Dessert of the Day was a small cube of cake. The top chocolate-dusted half was alright but the white bottom halve with its custard-like texture didn't appeal to my family. Oh well, I hope they do have other cakes as their Dessert of the Day.

Ok, now that we are done with Set Lunch, let's move on to the other stuff we tried.


The Sashimi Plate (3 types of seafood for $25) was also good value. The salmon pieces could have been sliced better (maybe with a sharper knife) as one side of it was torn. Our favourite was the thin slices of scallops that were sweet and when dipped with a bit of soyu and wasabi, became fantastic!


A good thing to order and munch while waiting for the bulk of the food to arrive is the Bread Basket ($7)....except that there was no real basket. Lol. Anyway, the three different breads with 3 different dips (olive, hummus and tahini if my memory is correct) were very much enjoyable. A mix of textures and flavours.


The wait staff recommended us the Red Snapper Baked en Papillote ($55). It came with two sides of mashed potato and cauliflower.


The whole red snapper was wrapped in paper and oven baked. The herb marinate gave it some flavour. Generally, it wasn't bad but neither was it outstanding. Perhaps tweaking the marinate or cooking time in the oven would benefit this dish. Hey, maybe even encrust it in salt, no?

Being a rather new restaurant, my opinion is that Fremantle has quite a bit of teething issues to settle. Service is spotty and staff sometimes look a little lost. Most restaurants in Perth's Fremantle has excellent enthusiastic service (like Little Creatures!). Some of the menu items here could also be brushed up. But I think once they have found their feet, this would be a good place for a relaxing lunch and a chillaxing dinner with drinks.

For the time being, I will be back just for the set lunches!


Fremantle
3E River Valley Road
#01-05/06 Clarke Quay
Tel: 6337 1838

Chew On This: DBS/POSB card holders enjoy a 1-for-1 offer on alcoholic drinks during lunch! Hic.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Break Fast with Indonesian Delights


We are into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan- a month of fasting, cleansing and forgiveness. And when it's time to break fast, many families gather at home to share the evening meal that is usually more than sumptuous. For something different and to give the homemakers a break from toiling in the kitchen, try the Buka Puasa Buffet Dinner (Adult: $42++ Monday-Thursday; $45 Friday-Sunday. Child: $20++) at Concorde Hotel.


Celebrity Chef William Wongso (in black) of Indonesia has teamed up with Concorde Hotel's Muslim Sous Chef Nandang to offer a spread of Indonesian treats. Chef Wongso hosts the Indonesian TV cooking programme "Ceritarasa Willian Wongso" and has cooked for political dignitaries including Indonesian President Yudhoyono and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. He is also the Culinary Advisor for Garuda Indonesia.


I walked round the buffet tables and soon found my plate filled with all kinds of goodies. The prawns were meaty and and flavoured with the fresh taste of ground chilli. The brinjal was soft and sweet. I also like the rolled crabstick omelette with lashings of sweet chili sauce. But my favourite item on the plate was the Pepes Bandeng Presto Kaluwak (steamed milk fish with spiced buah keluak) shown at the bottom right corner of the plate. The black thing looked horrible but the tender fish with its soft bones was delicious with the layer of black buah keluak paste.

My main gripe was with a few of the meat dishes. The fried chicken, though tasty, was dry. And so was the veal cheek satay and beef rendang. I wonder if it could be a style or preference of Indonesian meats.


This hungry cow was super happy with this bowl of Rawon Buntut (East Java Buah Keluak Oxtail Soup). Though it had a salty first impression, the lovely depth, sweetness and earthiness of spices and robust oxtail combined to win my heart. While at the soup, munch on the Indonesian keropok, Emping Belinjau! I like the slight bitterness of this cracker. :)


There's also a barbecue section and here, it's the fragrantly grilled prawns and tender lamb chops that I heart. Oh how I wish there was sausages.


For desserts, there's a whole spread from puddings, chendol, assorted kueh kueh and cakes.


Chef Wongso's Sarikaya Creme Brulee looks cute eh?

This Buka Puasa Buffet Dinner runs till 9 Sept and would appeal to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike with the wide range of flavours from Indonesia. Sit by the pool side and feast under the stars!

Thanks to Evelyn and Vivien of Concorde Hotel Singapore for the invitation and for hosting me.


Buka Puasa Buffet
Level 4
Concorde Hotel
Tel: 6739 8370
Opens: 6.30-9.30pm (until 9 Sept)

Chew On This: Diners will have a chance to win attractive prizes (including business class tickets for two and two nights' stay at Hard Rock Hotel Bali!) in a lucky draw!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Family Lunch @ Dian Xiao Er

I like Sundays. Most Sundays give me the opportunity to have a meal with my grandparents.

On a particular Sunday, we headed to Dian Xiao Er for lunch.


Dian Xiao Er is known for its duck and their Duck Roasted with Angelica Herb ($22.80 for medium size) certainly did not disappoint. I like the matching of the natural flavours of the duck and the Angelica herb (Dang Gui). It was fortifying, herbal and sweet. Oh and the joys of nibbling on duck skin!


For a tasty vegetable dish, try the Yau Mak with Fermented Beancurd ($11.80 for medium size). The leaves of romaine lettuce were coated and quickly stir-fried in a fermented beancurd sauce that oozed savouriness. Perfect with a bowl or two four of steamed rice.


I usually don't like Snakehead or Toman fish due to the muddy taste that is often associated with the fresh water fish. But we went ahead to try the Hong Kong Style Steamed Fish Slices ($17 for medium size) anyway. It turned out to be a huge surprise when I found myself actually enjoying this dish. There was none of that horrid muddy taste. Perhaps it was the fragrant sauce with soy and garlic flavours that did the trick.


Wheatgrass Tofu ($11.80 for small) also turned out nicely with a small mound of prawns, scallops and pacific clams that topped the greenish tofu. Don't be frightened by its colour! The tofu had a homemade quality and didn't taste grassy nor oily.

Overall, it was a very good, satisfying lunch with the family. :)


Dian Xiao Er
#02-203/204
Marina Square Shopping Centre
Tel: 6337 1928
Opens: 11.30am-2.30pm; 5.30pm-10pm

Chew On This: Dian Xiao Er offers many dishes which are said to have various health benefits. Eat happily and be healthy, you all!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Breakfast Steeped in Heritage

Together with fellow food bloggers, Camemberu and Putri Berendam, this Hungry Cow will be contributing two posts to Yesterday.sg- National Heritage Board's online portal to celebrate all things heritage.

In food-crazy Singapore, I strongly believe food is certainly an integral part of our heritage.

With the Putu Bola experience as my first post, my next post focuses on one of Singapore's favourite breakfast food- kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs and kopi/teh. It is available in quintessentially every kopitiam on this little red dot.


But for a feel of nostalgia, try this local breakfast favourite at Chin Mee Chin Confectionery. This kopitiam has been around for ages (since 1950s?!)! The marble table tops, ceiling fan and repeated pattern of mosaic floor tiles of this Hainanese coffeeshop remain true to its era. While Chin Mee Chin Confectionery seems to be out-of-sync with rapidly modernizing Singapore, it is precisely this old world charm that appealed to my modern Singaporean soul.

I have not experienced the 1950s but I hear that in those (some say "good ol") days....

There was generally no air conditioning. TV sets were few and were in stunning black and white format. And for mass entertainment...Rediffusion, anyone? ....and definitely no Starbucks, Gardenia or even a PAP-led government.

Ok back to Chin Mee Chin Confectionery.

Chin Mee Chin Confectionery still roasts their own coffee beans, makes their own kaya, bakes their own buns and uses charcoal to grill their buns and boil coffee/tea. In this current world of fast food and convenience, that's amazing.


The Teh C (tea with evaporated milk) was served in an old-school porcelain cup and saucer. White sugar was available from a small beer glass, which some how reminded me of my grandfather's old provision shop, Nam Hong.


The Kaya Toast here featured buns, grilled over charcoal and smeared with a sweet, eggy kaya and topped with a pat of butter. A different experience from the usual toasted bread.


Two soft-boiled eggs perfectly cooked and enjoyed with a dash of dark soy sauce and white pepper. When slurped from the saucer, it provided warmth, comfort and nourishment. Proof that runny eggs, dark soy sauce and white pepper make a formidable combination that is as delicious as it is simple.


Chin Mee Chin Confectionery also does a small variety of baked goodies. Here's their egg tart and custard bun. Nothing fancy nor exquisite but the attraction is really their rustic and old-school appeal.


And hey! The old Hainanese man, who seems to be in his 80s+, is still working here sans the typical blue-and-white-stripes ah pek pants. Kudos to him for remaining active and being able to contribute at his age! Who says old = useless?

After the simple breakfast here, I can't help but relish the atmospheric nostaglia of many decades before my time and count myself privileged to have had a breakfast so steeped in heritage. Maybe a better way to teach National Education is to eat it!

Thank you, CMC. May you last for the sake of many future generations to come.


Chin Mee Chin Confectionery
204 East Coast Road
Tel: 6345 0419
Opens: 8am - 4pm
Closed: Monday

Chew On This:
Before we lose a national heritage.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Awesome Beef Noodles!

With TTC recommending this stall and after Camemberu's post that tortured me for weeks, it was time to make a trip to wolf cow down Toa Payoh Hwa Heng Beef Noodle.


The Beef Tendon & Meat Dry Noodles ($5) was a bowl with generous portions of tendons, beef slices and topped with blanched bean sprouts and shredded preserved vegetable.


It was love at first slurp. The dark gooey gravy boasted beefy notes with the spices (cinnamon, cloves etc) playing a less-dominant, supporting role. The thick bee hoon here was thicker than most others and was especially shiok to slurp up with the beefy gravy clinging onto every strand. Squeeze in a lime, add in the chilli sauce and chinchalok for a lagi shiok experience! Everything combined beautifully.

The beef tendons were soft, semi-gummy and gelatinous. Not much taste on their own but delicious with that beefy gravy! I also like that the beef slices were not overly tenderised and retained both bite and flavour.

While some people deliberate over whether to choose the dry or soup versions of noodle dishes, I often spare my neurons the trauma and go with both versions. It sure beats complex calculations and pure mental (and not to mention gastric) torture. ;)


Seeing that there was also char kway teow on the table, I decided to opt for the Beef & Beef Ball Soup ($4) sans rice/noodles. I enjoyed the soup which was robust and beefy. Like the gravy, the sweet beefy-ness was allowed to shine without any overly heavy influence of spices. The only let down was the beef balls. I didn't take to their dull taste nor texture.

Here at this stall, it was the dry version with its thick and chewy noodles coated with a superb gravy that won my heart and stomach.


Toa Payoh Hwa Heng Beef Noodle
Yeap Coffee Shop
27 Maude Road
Tel: 9621 5180 (Mr Kian)
Opens: Tuesday-Sunday; 11am-3pm
Closes: Monday

Chew On This: This is the legacy of the famous Odeon beef noodles stall that was at the long-defunct Odeon theatre. I am too young to have experienced the one there but through stories about old Singapore, the Odeon beef noodles stall was THE beef noodles stall!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Effing Lard-Rich Hokkien Mee

Rainy morning. Makan buddy. Taxi. Work. Lunch. Ewan recommended me this stall in Toa Payoh.


This Hokkien Mee ($4 for medium size) is seriously not for the faint-hearted. It was chock-full of pork lard! This gave this noodle dish a very pleasantly robust taste and not to mention an alluring aroma. The noodles were soft, nicely moist and really tasty, being cooked with a stock that was infused with seafood flavour. A squeeze of lime perked up the dish a notch further.

I enjoyed the pieces of lard with their crispy edges. Scarily, it was so shiok lah!


Come Daily Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee
Blk 127 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh
#02-27 Market & Food Centre
Tel: 6251 8542
Opens: 9.30am – 9pm
Closed: Mondays

Chew On This: Who seriously needs prawns and squid here?

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Tasting a Ball of Heritage


Heritage is defined by the good ol' Wikipedia as "something which is inherited from one's ancestors". Seeing that Singapore is a relatively young nation built by migrant workers from different places, our heritage, though short, should be rather unique and rich.

Unfortunately it seems that most Singaporeans do not give a hum chin peng about our own heritage. Who were our forefathers? Where did they come from? Why did they come? How was life like for them (certainly no MRT, no air-con and no ultra-clean water)?

Maybe the way to Singaporeans' heart for heritage is through their stomach. What did our forefathers eat? Were there rojak, chicken rice and roti john? Did they eat foods from different ethnic groups outside of their own?

Now we're talking heritage. Food heritage!

And so it was with great curiosity and pleasure that I experienced the Putu Bola. Putu what? PUTU BOLA. Yes, from the same Putu lineage as Putu Mayam and Putu Piring. Lol.


Flour is first steamed then mixed with fresh desiccated coconut before being pressed and shaped into a ball. The putu bolas are then steamed for 10 minutes.

While they are steaming, let's look at how Putu Mayam is made. Before this, I had ignorantly thought it was made of bee hoon.


The same flour mixture is pressed through a hand press to get thin strands of the dough.


It is then steamed and eaten with red/brown sugar and desiccated coconut.


Ok, now back to the Putu Bola. When eaten with sugar and desiccated coconut, its taste is actually very familiar...not unlike Tutu Kueh. But its round shape gives it more weight and substance. The texture is not spongy, but rather semi-kueh-like with a slight crumbly feel. Sweet and with a coconut fragrance, this should be a crowd-pleaser especially with the kids!


For those with a sweet tooth or a very sweet tooth, the many other Indian sweets would delight.


Ananda Bhavan also served up this very fruity and creamy lassi with a nice hint of Angelina Jolie salt.

As a treat, we had this expert lady kopi-tarik-er who pulled a mean cup of coffee with steady hands.


This is how it should be done.


This is how the current generation does it. Worrying, isn't it? Haha. Like cheap sparkling wines with carbon dioxide pumped into them, the bubbles here are large and coarse.


I pulled my own cuppa without the expert lady's height nor her grace. The coffee was very smooth, creamy and surprisingly not too sweet. And like Champagne, which is fermented in the bottle, the bubbles are small and refined.


We were hosted by Mr Nadarajan (right in above photo), the Managing Partner of Ananda Bhavan Restaurant. Standing alongside him is his Chinese employee (left in above photo) who has embraced Hinduism and is almost an icon associated with the restaurant! Mr Nadarajan regaled us with anecdotes of life in Singapore during "those good old days" and about Putu Bola. According to him, Putu Bola was made and sold by the Putu Mayam sellers who used residual flour from making Putu Mayam to make Putu Bola. As times were tougher and our people not so well off, many ate Putu Bola as it was cheap and filling.

Nowadays, kids would fork out $6 or $7 for a fast-food meal and not even bat an eyelid. Nothing wrong, kids. Just different kids growing up in different times.

As I bit into the Putu Bola on my plate, I felt its humble warmth and the sweet comfort that it offered to the many generations before our time.

In the words of Mr Nadarajan: "Indians believe in reincarnation. While some may hope to be reincarnated in the USA, I hope I will be reincarnated here in Singapore." And with his gesture of bringing back a lost sweet heritage for the current generation to experience, I can't help but swell with national pride.

Majulah Singapura.

Thanks to Anu of Fulford PR for the invitation and to Mr Nadarajan for sharing a slice of our heritage with us.

Putu Bola Recipe
*Courtesy of Ananda Bhavan Restaurant*

Ingredients

* Rice flour, 500 grams
* Desiccated coconut, 450 grams
* Salt, 2 grams
* Red Sugar and desiccated coconut, to serve

Preparation

1. Add 100 grams of water to 500 grams of rice flour
2. Loosely knead the mixture
3. Sieve the mixture and steam it for 10 minutes at 100°C
4. Add the fresh dessicated coconut to the steamed flour and shape into balls of about 80 grams each.
5. Steam the mixture again for another 10 minutes at 100°C
6. Serve the Putu Bola with red sugar and dessicated coconut


Ananda Bhavan Restaurant
95 Syed Alwi Road (other branches)
Tel: 6398 0837
Opens: 24 hours daily!

Chew On This: Now you can have a taste of this lost heritage food! For two days only (8-9 August) the Putu Bola ($1.20) is available at all Ananda Bhavan Restaurants. Happy National Day, Singapore!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

De Dietrich Cooking Demo with Robin Ho


I first met Chef Robin Ho, Group Executive Chef of The Marmalade Group, when he was involved in Lim Chee Guan's opening at ION Orchard. There he made a very simple and delicious half-boiled egg topped with chopped bak kwa.

And so it was with excitement that I accepted the invitation to his cooking demo held at La Galerie De Dietrich.

First up some words from our sponsors:


La Galerie De Dietrich is a beautiful showroom showcasing De Dietrich's range of kitchen appliances from fridges to wine cellars, ovens, espresso machines and induction hobs. With a cooking demonstration area, it was a perfect spot to host their customers and show them the practical functions of their equipment.


De Dietrich- quality, design, innovation and performance. I like their sleek, minimalist touch. When I get my own home....

Chef Robin planned three courses, each featuring olive-based products from Gourmet Passion.


The Lakudia range of extra virgin olive oil and olives from Greece is a good stash for any larder. Think olive oil is just for bread/salad, or olives are only good as antipasto or in martinis? Chef Robin's three courses will prove otherwise.


I like this pair of mustard. The Fig Mustard had a nice natural sweetness while the Olive Mustard packed a more savoury, briny note. I would spread some in a ham sandwich or slather sparingly over pork chops and sausages. In fact, these mustard would be prefect with Chinese-style crispy roast chicken!

And now we resume to the cooking demo:


For the first course, Chef Robin poached lobster tails in melted butter at 58°C. This would apparently retain the flavour and juices of the lobster. The cooked lobster tails were then sliced and tossed together with baby spinach, feta cheese, avocado, red onions, tomatoes, fennel, cucumber and croutons. Throw in Lakudia kalamanta olives for an added dimension of flavour! These were dressed in a concoction of Lakudia extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, fresh dill, Italian parsley and salt.


I enjoyed this Lobster Greek Salad with Fennel Lakudia Olives tremendously. The fresh flavours and varying textures made this more than just a bowl of greens. :) Did I mention it was frozen lobster tails? Chef Robin said: "It is how you treat the product that is important." And for making frozen seafood so tasty and unfrozen-like, I give a rating of five thousand freaking chopsticks! My first rating ever. Moohehehe.


Oh and I should not forget to mention that Chef Robin threw in a couple of tomatillos (or what he calls "green zebras") in there! Beautiful sweet-tart flavour.


Course number two was Slow Cooked Chilean Seabass with Parsley Olive Oil Dukkah Spice, Mushy Peas and Semi-Dried Tomatoes, Lakudia Olive Mustard. The fish aka Cod was cooked in an oven at low temperature over a relatively longer period of time. This made its oily flesh succulent and nicely firm. The asparagus was steamed in a steam oven (Wah, I usually use a pot of boiling water with a steamer platform or more recently an electric steamer, but a De Dietrich steam oven made it super cool.) for a quick 5 minutes before being seared on a hot skillet. My favourite part of the dish- mushy peas!

Eeks! I can't believe I just said peas were my favourite part of a dish. I am a green-pea-hater. But this mushy peas thingy was just yummilicious!! Frozen peas cooked in chicken stock, butter and thyme and blitzed to a mushy, paste-y, semi-creamy consistency. It neither sounds nor looks good but tasting is believing.


For the final course of dessert, Chef Robin baked an olive oil cake! No butter used here.


The resulting Orange, Almond and Lakudia Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cake with Fig Salad and Fig Mustard Ice Cream was a good dessert to end the session with. The Fig Mustard ice cream was very interesting with honeyed and fruity flavours. The combination of the ice cream, fig salad and orange, almond and olive oil cake worked like magic. It was: Hot! Cold! Sweet! Sour! Bitter! Savoury! Citrusy! Spongey! Creamy! Fresh!


I don't know what they're thinking of but I would be most happy to experience this olive magic all over again!

Thanks to Ivy of Food News for the invitation and to De Dietrich for having me.


La Galerie De Dietrich

#01-04
The Cendex
120 Lower Delta Road
Tel: 6508 4600
Opens: Monday-Friday: 10.30am-7pm
Saturday: 10.30am-6pm
Closed: Sundays & Public Holidays

Chew On It: Stand to win a pair of De Dietrich cooking demo tickets! These demos take place both on weekdays and Saturdays and involve a number of chefs including Julien Bompard, Edward Voon, Milind Sovani, Pang Kok Keong, Diego Chiarini and Yong Bing Ngen among others.

All you have to do is post a comment stating one kitchen appliance that De Dietrich offers, by next Friday (13th August) midnight! Don't forget to leave behind your email address too. I will randomly select a winner via an online random number generator. Good luck! :)

Update: The online random number generator has selected '3' which means ye_pei_yan@hotmail.com wins the pair of De Dietrich cooking demo tickets! Congrats. Thank you all for participating and for those who did not win, maybe the next time you'll be next! :D