Sunday, July 26, 2015

Kok Sen Dinner After "Food + Socialikes Connect 2015"

It was a meeting of a few old long-time-no-see friends and many new ones at the inaugural Food + Socialikes Connect 2015, a conference by food bloggers and Instagrammers, for food bloggers and Instagrammers. The scene has certainly changed and will ever be evolving as with the nature of social media.

Bigger emphasis seems to be on photography and some go through great lengths to get the perfect (often hipster-ish) shot. For those who complain about food bloggers taking photo at the table, wait till you see some Instagrammers. :p

Sigh. Not many of my contemporaries remain actively blogging even though the love for food and the eating hasn't stopped. Moohehe.

So after an eventful full day of talks and panel discussions featuring topics like bloggers' legal rights, food photography, the purpose of blogging etc..

I thought Hoong An was going to sing. Moohehe.

After the conference, a few of us walked by the perpetually crowded Kok Sen and realised it moost be a divine sign that there was no queue! LOL. Hence, in we went and soon this plate of Big Prawn Hor Fun landed on the table. It was robust, full of the smokiness from a searingly hot wok mixed with the spicy, umami punch of dried shrimp with chilli and the smooth gravy of starch and silky liquid egg.

Also moreish was the Har Jeong Kai or prawn paste chicken. I like that there was variety as different chicken parts were used. A squeeze of lime and a dash of sambal made me moo...internally lah. Moohaha.

Sizzling in its claypot was the assorted Yong Tau Foo. Delectable pieces of vegetable and beancurd products stuffed with fish paste and slathered in a mysterious brown sauce.

To endanger this cze char restaurant's supply of rice, order up the Pork Ribs with Bitter Gourd. The thick pieces of bitter gourd had nicely absorbed the flavour of the black beans sauce. The heady combination of bitter gourd, pork ribs and black beans sauce was such a classic winner. 

May the community be like this sauce- varied, expressive, with distinct personality yet altogether together. Moohehe.

Congrats to the organisers on the event!

Kok Sen Restaurant
30B Keong Saik Road
Opens: 11.30am to 10.30pm daily

Chew On This: The place gets pretty packed so go very early! Also, they have a charming al fresco back alley seating with graffiti-ed walls. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Singapre Botanic Gardens Celebrates SG50 with Heritage Menus!


A fitting present for Singapore's 50th birthday, the Singapore Botanic Gardens has been inscribed as the country's first UNESCO World Heritage Site! I was privileged to be taken on a tour around the gardens and to sample several of its special heritage menus as part of celebrating the Garden City's upcoming jubilee National Day.

While I have been to the Singapore Botanic Gardens before, it was my first time roaming its grounds in a buggy! And it was driven by Dr Nigel Taylor, the garden's director, who shared interesting nuggets of info and insights ranging from history and ecology to plant and animal life.

If this tree might look familiar, see the Singapore $5 note. Moohehe. Given its age and vulnerability, its lowest branch has been given a mechanized support which allows for stability and measured movement for growth.

Among the trees in the gardens are some very tall ones. Makes a tall human seem like a toddler in the greater scheme of things. With their towering heights, these trees are susceptible to lightning strikes but have lightning conductors to mitigate any harm. #dontstandunderthistreewhenitrains

The first makan stop was at The Halia at Singapore Botanic Gardens (they have another outlet at Raffles Hotel which offers a different menu). This restaurant is a bit special to me as I used to work with them. Moohehe. Anyway in celebration of National Day, two special SG50 desserts, made with a tea based on the national flower (orchid!), are available until 31 August 2015. The Ginger & Gold Orchid ($12; foreground) features ice "kacang" granite with yuzu gel, lychee fruit and jelly in a medley of textures and flavours. For a moore interesting option to chocolate cake with ice cream, the White Orchid & Lapis ($14; background) offers a long thin slice of homemade lapis cake, white orchid tea ice cream, multigrain crumble, and caramelised and crunchy banana pieces.  

For those on a liquid diet (like yours truly. Moohehe), sip on two cocktails built on red orchid tea with a choice of either gin or rum- the Yam Seng ($23) has Sailor Jerry spiced rum balanced with lime juice and grenadine syrup while the 1965 ($25) contains Hendrick's gin, lemon syrup and lime juice. Both were pretty but strong so order up some food to go with them.

Then to give our stomachs a breather, we headed into the National Orchid Garden just around the corner from The Halia. Singaporeans can enjoy free admission from now until 31 August!

It was my first visit to the National Orchid Garden and we were in good hands as local orchid expert David Lim brought us around.     

There we saw the national orchid, the Vanda Miss Joaquim, which was selected for its vibrant colours, hardiness and resilience- qualities which reflect the Singapore spirit, according to National Parks.

We also saw the unofficially-crowned "most vandalised" tree with scribbles of greetings and love notes. Moohaha.

Then it was time for the next makan stop- Casa Verde. I still fondly remember WQ's and Hushie's solemnization brunch here a few years ago. On weekdays from 3-17 August 2015, Casa Verde will be featuring local iconic dishes by its Singaporean chef Danny Tan. Enjoy your choice of Laksa, Mee Siam, Char Kway Teow or Mee Rebus with a soft drink at $9.80 nett from 12pm to 2.45pm. Additionally, kids can have fun at a pizza-making workshop on 7 August, and on 9 August, get 50% off pizzas from 11.30pm to 5.45pm!

Next stop brought us to Corner House, a relatively new restaurant that has garnered critical acclaim. I was very much looking forward to meeting local chef Jason Tan since we last met eons ago when he was at the Mandarin Oriental Singapore. His cuisine defined as "Gastro-Botanica" gives substantial emphasis to the vegetables on the plate beyond being mere garnish or a supporting cast.

Singapore's 50th birthday also happens to be Corner House's first anniversary and to celebrate the affair, Chef Jason presents a specially crafted 8-course menu ($248/person) from now until 16 August 2015. Each of these 8 courses is inspired by his personal memories and chronicles his journey from childhood to being one of Singapore's prominent chefs.

We sampled 2 dishes from this celebratory menu. The first, "Remembering Oyster Omelette" (in the above photo), harks back to pre-hawker-centre days when street food was literally food on the streets. One of the street food his dad often bought home was oyster omelette. Imagine a modern, upscale, creative version and the "Remembering Oyster Omelette" with Royale oyster, farm egg, coriander mochi and Kristal de Chine caviar would appeal with its very refined touch yet keeping a bit of an old soul.

The last course is dessert and it takes the form of "My Corner of The World". Chef Jason's tribute to Corner House and celebrating his fulfilled dreams of owning a grand restaurant, this durian bread and butter pudding with a kopi surprise inside is also inspired by the restaurant's namesake E.J.H Corner, an English botanist who worked on tropical botany and the Durian Theory.

Last stop on our heritage and food trail was at Food Canopy. I didn't even know this food court existed in the Singapore Botanic Gardens! Di Wei, one of its 7 stalls, serves up Teochew tze char with dishes like Cold Crab, Cai Poh Kway Teow and Yam Paste. Tze char in the gardens! Psst...this food court even has a nutritionist to advise stalls.

It was fun outing to the Singapore Botanic Gardens exploring this national green space (and now also UNESCO World Heritage Site!) and the many F&B options it houses. Thank you to Dawn Wee and her team for hosting us.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Chew On This: Expect a slew of activities such as carnivals, music performances (Sam Willows, T'ang Quartet etc), movie screenings and exhibitions! Check out here for full details.  

Thursday, July 09, 2015

DIY Spaghetti Bolognese Recipe

One of my favourite food is spaghetti bolognese. Just love the scrumptious combination of garlic, minced beef, aromatic veggies and tomato sauce. But I often get disappointed with versions (and portions) when ordering this pasta so I often whip up my own at home. Moohehe.

The recipe is simple and typical of my cooking style- flexible, so feel free to improvise. Also, I usually cook a big pot of the sauce before dividing it up into smaller portions for the freezer. These smaller portions are handy for a quick meal anytime! 

Here's my recipe, which involves quite a bit of wine. Moohehe.

- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 star anise
- olive oil
- herbs (eg basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme etc; dried or fresh)
- wine (red or white)  
- minced beef
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
- 1 red chilli, finely chopped (can use chilli padi for moore kick)

1) Heat olive oil in a pot.
2) Add in chopped carrots and celery and stir-fry for a minute
3) Add in chopped onion and stir-fy for about 2 minutes before adding in chopped garlic and star anise. Cook until vegetables are soft.
4) Make a well in the center of the pot by pushing the vegetables towards the side before adding in the minced beef to brown.
5) When minced beef is browned, add in chopped fresh and canned tomatoes, and red chilli.
6) Enjoy a glass of wine before adding the rest of the bottle into the pot. Scrape any browned bits that form in the pot and dissolve them into the wine.  
7) Let sauce simmer in the pot, uncovered, until it becomes thick and sauce-like. Have another glass of wine in the meantime. Moohehe.
8) Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste. I often add a bit of fish sauce too, for added depth. :p
9) Enjoy with your favorite pasta and glass of wine!

Disclaimer: The above recipe is NOT authentic and cooking it for Italians might cause a riot but relac lah. It is just a recipe I personally enjoy and rather than wasting time debating on authenticity (eh who created pasta ah? The Chinese? Marco Polo? Lui Tuck Yew?), I mooch prefer to have fun, savour hot food and imbibe vino in good company. Just don't tell Nona I added fish sauce.

The Hungry Cow

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Bubbly Kway Chap Hawker Brunch!

I do enjoy a nice decadent Champagne brunch but why only restrict bubbly brunches to five star hotels and posh nosh like raw oysters, eggs Benedict, lobsters and grilled meats, as fabulous as they are? Bubbly brunch with kway chap at a hawker centre also can! Moohaha.

Met up with Sha and Jan at the relaunched hawker centre near Bedok Interchange for a brunch featuring my favourite kway chap in the east. And brought along a lovely Seppelt Salinger Vintage Cuvee 2008 bubbly to stoke the alkies and to also make this crazy hot weather moore bearable! This Australian sparkling wine made in the methode traditionelle (same as Champagne) from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, was delightful with fine bubbles, aromas of citrus, bread and nuttiness and a nice length.

The Kway Chap here was scrumptious as usual with well-braised innards, pork belly etc and smooth sheets of kway accompanied by a piquant chilli sauce. Perfect with a chilled glass of the Seppelt bubbly. ;)

Now if only the weather was less hot and humid...

Hai Fa Guo Zhi
Blk 208B New Upper Changi Road (near Bedok MRT)
Opens only from morning to lunch while stocks last.
Closes on Thursdays

Chew On This: The bubbly and glasses were brought by moo so please don't ask which stall to order it from! Moohehe.