Friday, May 20, 2016


Look at that KILLER sheen. You can tell just from the glaze that this is excellent char siu, nothing like the dry papery kind that tries to pass off as meat. But even I was surprised by how good it was. The first bite I had was a fatty piece that simply melted into a pool of bliss on my tongue. The thickly chopped slices were sweetly succulent with a chewy caramelised crust.


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This is Roast Paradise (#01-122 Old Airport Road Food Centre), and it is indeed char siu heaven.

Young hawkers Kai and Randall have brought KL-style char siu to Singapore, and I can't thank them enough for doing so. Have you noticed how KL-style anything just trumps all other versions? Like dark Hokkien mee, mamee goreng, and even wantan mee!


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Anyway, these two wonderfully humble and affable chaps (Randall, left; Kai, right) gave up careers in nightlife event management and apprenticed at Kai's uncle's shop in Malaysia - Restoran Famous Seremban Favourites - which is known for its char siu.

But of course there was parental objection. Randall's parents were very angry at first, preferring their son to go for studies instead of becoming a hawker.


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But these guys proved that they could succeed with a winning recipe (tweaked from their uncle's) along with determination and dedication. I saw queues forming at their stall even at 11:15am. They won their parents' approval eventually.

It's still a lot of hard work, 14 hours a day at the stall. But making food that people like is much more fulfilling. "Our customers are so much more appreciative than our previous clients used to be, especially when we go the extra step," says Kai.




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Besides the stellar char siu, I fell in love with their Hakka noodles (S$3.50). It completely brought me back to memories of Malaysia and old school food. What was it? Oh praise the lard, what else could it be! Seriously, hawkers should never have given up on lard; its unhealthy rap is undeserved!



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The noodles are lightly tossed in lard and garlic oil but aren't greasy. These noodles are also not like your regular mee pok - they are free of "kee" alkali or lye, and are less yellow, if you notice.

These noodles also contrast with the char siu because they are just lightly savoury, whereas the meat is much more intense. But mild as they were, I found them comfortingly pleasant.

You can choose to have these with roast pork as well, but the char siu is really the star. The roast pork probably has some ways to go before catching up with the char siu.



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How do they get the pork so juicy and gorgeously caramelised? Kai tells me they use pork belly and pork jowl (the premium meat, extra $1 per 100g; not pictured here) plus a marinade that works hard overnight. In addition, the meat is laboriously roasted (and basted) for 3-4 hours in the oven. The normal dry, red-dyed char siu in most places only take 15-30 minutes to cook.

So yes, I have found char siu heaven, and it's amazing that it's done by two guys who have no previous F&B experience. Prices are very reasonable despite the high rental at Old Airport Road Food Centre and increasing pork prices. It's just S$3.50 for rice or noodles with one meat; the char siu / roast pork is S$4.50 per 100g each, or S$5.00 per 100g for double roasts.

Initially they started with more items like wantans and roast chicken but as it's only the two of them, they decided to streamline and concentrate on just char siu and roast pork. I think that's wise - focus on doing just a few things but do them well, rather than do many things only half as well.

The food business is very tough and increasingly competitive, but I think they have the right elements in place.



ROAST PARADISE
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/roas.tparadise
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/roastparadise/

#01-122, Old Airport Road Food Centre
Open Tues-Sun: 11am to 4pm or till sold out.
Wed and Sun: 11am to 2pm
Closed on Mondays
Tel: 9786-7396 or 9189-1017


P.S. Yes, I have to get used to spelling "char siu" instead of "char siew" because Oxford Dictionary now recognises that but not the other. Yet.





Wednesday, May 18, 2016

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I am now happily the proud owner of a WMF Spitzenklasse 1985 Chef's Knife (20 inch blade, S$179).

The ‘Made in Germany’ Spitzenklasse 1985 series is a limited edition series specially created to mark the 30th anniversary of Spitzenklasse Plus, WMF's classic range of knives. Spitzenklasse means "top class" in German.



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The Spitzenklasse 1985 has the same tried-and-tested quality features but what makes it special is the high quality olive wood handle. The natural material is not only beautifully chic, it sits comfortably in your hand. I love the retro feel it exudes. And the gleam of the steel is simply mesmerising.

WMF blades are known for their “Performance cut Technology”. Quality blades are manufactured with precise sharpening at an exact constant angle while the new refinement of the steel makes it finer, harder and less prone to corrosion. This results in knives with long-lasting superior sharpness.




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The hardy Spitzenklasse Plus series (above, left) has ergonomically riveted handles made of high-grade synthetic material. They are seamlessly processed and guarantee optimum hygiene. That's a good point because I've seen knives with handles that corrode over time, leaving exposed rivets. 

All the knives have a balanced weight distribution and rounded edges that sit safely and nicely in the hand. The bolster provides the right balance and serves as a finger shield. 


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Cutting with a WMF knife is always a pleasure: feeling the blade sink and glide smoothly as you cut through a myriad of items. It's not only efficient, it's also safer than a blunt knife as you don't struggle as much and items don't slip under a blunt edge (also, no accidental finger-slicing).

It is fast becoming my favourite kitchen accessory, making almost all my other knives redundant.




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I remember the first time I handled a WMF knife. It was the Chef's Edition series of knives designed for aspiring chefs and professionals. These are pure awesome.

Made entirely of stainless steel, with a smooth transition from blade to handle, they not only look cool, but cut through everything like butter. Personally, I think these are the best performers.


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They are introducing a Chinese Chef's Knife (far left, S$269) for this range in July 2016. I still think the Chinese cleaver is the most versatile kind of knife; it is the ultimate multi-tasker - debone meat with the sharp tip, smash garlic with the flat blade, pound meat with the spine, cutting paper thin slices of vegetables, removing the skin from a fish, and peeling ginger. This is next on my Christmas wishlist!

A good quality knife makes a world of difference in your cooking experience. It is often said to be the most important tool in the kitchen. Invest in a good knife that lasts, and you'll save yourself headaches and also reduce waste by throwing away fewer knives.


PROMOTION

From 9 May to 24 July 2016, WMF will be offering a complimentary parer knife (worth S$19) with minimum purchase of S$100 worth of WMF knives, while stocks last.






Many thanks to WMF for the Spitzenklasse 1985, and letting me try the Chef's Edition knives

Thursday, May 12, 2016


Kids these days get to travel a lot more than those from past generations. So it's nice to see that hotels are beginning to cater to family travel and holidays. The Westin Hotels & Resorts launched the Westin Family program across 200 of its properties in December 2015.

The program integrates family experiences within the hotel and introduces more meaningful branded amenities for young travelers.

My kids love staycations, and it's as good as any a holiday for them because you can add fun attractions and interesting explorations. What's really helps is a reliable hotel in a good location with nice pool and facilities.




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photo courtesy of Westin Singapore
The Westin Singapore is a 305-room upper-upscale hotel levels occupying levels 32 to 46 of Asia Square Tower 2 in the Marina Bay precinct. It's in the heart of the business district but is also close to heritage zones like Chinatown. The central location makes it easy to get around on foot or via a number of Mass Rapid Train (MRT) stations nearby.




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Upon check-in, kids will receive their Westin Family Travel Journal welcome amenity with a variety of interactive activities that help children of all ages connect with their family and a Local Activity Guide, with a list of kids’ friendly attractions.




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There are additional amenities including a drawstring bag, hat, water bottle and even a whole hardcover storybook - The Little Singapore Book! It introduces Singapore history and culture through simple storytelling and vivid illustration.



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My girls enjoyed the journal activities and reading the books. The journal became my kids' favourite item in the whole welcome kit.

Westin Family celebrates play as a vehicle to explore, learn, develop new skills, express ideas and build relationships with others.

“We curated our welcome amenity with our young travelers in mind, to enhance their well-being through exploration and discovery,” said Lance J. Ourednik, General Manager, The Westin Singapore.




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I love the Westin rooms; they are beautifully spacious and tastefully appointed in peaceful, earthy colours. But the best part is the Westin Heavenly® Bed with the plush pillowtop design making the mattress super comfortable. I also wish I had taken a close-up of the bedlinen to show you how silky soft they are.




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My kids were floored by how luxurious the room was. They were so excited and happy, jumping around and totally making themselves at home.




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The roomy closet makes me jealous. I don't even have this much space in my own wardrobe at home.




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A work desk allows you to take care of business. The safe is conveniently nearby so you can store important items and documents.




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Cooooookies! We found these near the desk - so very thoughtful of them to have an airtight container for the cookies, so we can store and enjoy them throughout our stay. And we got chocolates too. Welcome kit for the adults!




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The other amazing thing about the Westin - ultra luxurious spa-like bathrooms! These alone make it worth staying here.

Just imagine a hot soak in that standalone tub with the view...



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The bathroom is built to pamper with gorgeous fittings, lighting design, and huge dedicated spaces to each section - shower, toilet, sink and bath. Fragrant White Tea By Westin™ bath amenities, soft bathrobes, and cosy slippers complete the experience.


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photo courtesy of Westin Singapore
There is also a Heavenly Spa at the hotel if you should want full spa treatments (or just a break from the kids). Or you could go enjoy the gym - the WestinWORKOUT® Fitness Studio facilities are open 24 hours.



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The outdoor infinity pool has submerged sun loungers with water jets. Come in the mornings when you can have the pool almost to yourself!





The Westin Singapore kindly arranged a trip to Universal Studios Singapore (USS) for us as part of the staycation.



I think they have recalibrated some of the rides. The Transformers one was a lot more vigorous and thrilling this time. I guess they have to do this to draw repeat visitors! 



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The Revenge of the Mummy ride is my favourite. This high speed indoor roller-coaster is in the dark and can be a bit scary for kids, with real fireballs, swarms of scarab beetles, sudden drops and reversals. But my girls have started to like it.

I can't wait for them to be old enough to go for the Battlestar Galactica rides.




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Bubbles. We had so many favourite moments of wonder for the day out.


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Most playful capture at the attractions: we took several "kawaii" shots, but too many were ruined by monkey faces. So here's one that's not so bad.




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Best discovery of our USS exploration: we found where the best food is! Despite many trips to USS, we do not always eat here because there are better options outside the theme park. But Friar's Good Food has pretty decent grub, and it's no wonder they are the most crowded.

We had the Friar's Catch of the Day - crispy battered fish and prawns (they ran out of calamari though). Only letdown was the fries; they were limp and soggy. Oh, the soft serve ice cream is not bad either. Doesn't have the awful powdered milk taste that some soft serve ice creams have.



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One tip from the kids: bring your water bottles! There are water fountains just outside most restrooms. But note that the water is not chilled. If you want cold drinks, you'll just have to pony up the cash for theme park drinks. Psst, guess which drink is best?



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Best drink award goes to Gloria Snack Shack's Ice-Blended Coconut Freeze (S$6), or something like that. I don't know the exact name. It's made with real coconut flesh, blitzed with ice. So refreshing on a hot day and worth every cent.




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Tip from me: get the Express Pass. The cost may sting a little but the sensation of breezing past the 70-minute line to enjoy your ride instantly is priceless. You can repeat your ride again if you so wish, without a wait! It really doesn't make sense to spend precious time at USS standing in line and sweltering in the heat.

Because we had a kid with special needs, USS gave us free Express passes for her and an accompanying family member. Sometimes they may be kind enough to give passes or single ride Express vouchers to one or two more additional family members so you don't have to be separated as a family. But it depends on the staff handling the matter - some are more generous than others.

Still, it's really nice of USS to do this for people with special needs, although this may not be a well-known policy. Just check with the office that's at the extreme left of the entrance.





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Back at the hotel, we were glad to relax in cool comfort and check out the dining options.




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We had dinner at Seasonal Tastes, the all-day dining and buffet restaurant. The a la carte dishes come highly recommended, more so than the buffets. But if it's variety you want, the buffet certainly has the usual crowd pleasers of chilled seafood, carvery, roasts, Asian hot dishes and desserts.




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Food at The Westin leans towards the healthy. The buffet breakfast features made-to-order eggs and waffles, complemented by SuperFoodsRx™ dishes made from powerhouse ingredients rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Eat Well is one of their six pillars focusing on wellness.




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The Westin Family program lets children (aged 12 years old and below) dine for free with every purchase of an adult meal. Items may be ordered from the Westin Eat Well Menu for Kids, a menu of nutritious and delicious options.




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Families can also receive a discount of up to 25% when booking a second room or have the option to book connecting rooms, based on availability.

Rates at The Westin Singapore start from S$330++ per room, per night, valid for bookings from now till 31 December 2016.

For more information on Westin Family, please visit www.thewestinsingapore.com, www.westin.com/family or follow #WonderAwaits.


WESTIN SINGAPORE
12 Marina View
Asia Square Tower 2
Singapore 018961
Tel: +65 6922-6888





Many thanks to Westin Singapore for the Westin Family experience.

Monday, May 9, 2016




Travel-savvy gourmets rejoice!

The Epicurean Journeys Pop-Up Chef Dining Series will be back in Singapore. From 30th May to 3rd June, five celebrated chefs from The Luxury Collection Hotels in Austria, Greece, India, Italy and Thailand will enthral diners with indigenous flavours from their home countries. You don't have to travel the world, the world is coming to you.

Those menus on the website look sublime! One chef will take over each night at the historic Fullerton Waterboat House to showcase epic eats from their stunning hotels. Wine-pairings and vegetarian menus are also thoughtfully included. The series ends with afternoon tea that’s available on two days.


India (Monday, 30 May)

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ITC Luxury Collection Hotels in India
presents Corporate Chef Manjit Gill

Chef Manjit Gill oversees the famed Bukhara, Dum Pukht and Royal Vega restaurants. His stellar menu includes dishes like the Tandoori Jhinga - Bukhara: Char-grilled jumbo prawns marinated in a carom-flavoured mixture of yoghurt, red chillies, turmeric and a Chefs’ blend of spices, and the world renowned Dum Pukht Biryani - Basmati rice simmered with lamb in mace, ittar and kewra, finished in a sealed handi.

PRITHVI RASA: A JOURNEY OF 6 TASTES
S$168++ with wine pairing
S$128++ without wine


Italy (Wed, 1 June)

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Hotel Danieli, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Venice
presents Executive Chef Dario Parascandolo

Chef Dario heads Restaurant Terrazza Danieli at this picturesque hotel in Venice. His menu includes Venetian grilled octopus; Broccoli Tortelli with Lobster Royal; and Whipped Codfish Cannolo covered with Aperol and prosecco jelly, garnished with green olives caviar

VENETIAN SOJOURN: 6-COURSES
S$168++ with wine pairing
S$128++ without wine


Thailand (Thu, 2 June)

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Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Bangkok
presents Executive Sous Chef Manachai Konkangplu

Chef Manachai who has been with the hotel since 1995 takes great pride not only in presenting refined Thai classic but also introducing diners to less well known dishes and personal favorites. One of his highlights is the Kiew Waan Nua Gam: Premium Wagyu beef cheek accompanied by a herb-rich crispy rice ball
and an authentic green curry sauce.

A TASTE OF THAILAND’S FOUR REGIONS: 6-COURSES
S$168++ with wine pairing
S$128++ without wine


Greece (Fri, 3 June)

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presents Executive Chef Sotiris Evangelou

The multi-awarded Chef Sotiris apprenticed alongside Ducasse, and believes in authentic Greek cuisine using healthy raw ingredients to produce outstanding taste. His menu begins with seafood - seabass, red snapper, and octopus - but his main dish is a Baby Lamb Fillet with smoked eggplant trilogy with raisins, pine-nuts and tzatziki foam.

FLAVOURS OF THE AEGEAN: 6-COURSES
S$168++ with wine pairing
S$128++ without wine


Austria (Wed, 1 June and Fri, 3 June)

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Hotel Bristol, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Vienna
presents Executive Chef Manuel Gratzl

There's nothing like passion to the craft that imbues a chef's creation with flair and creativity. Chef Manuel has prepared a dazzling array of tea time treats - chorizo madeleines, lemon baiser, caramel apple, banana cake with chocolate icing, macarons, plus classic Viennese specialties like Schönbrunn pancakes, Kaiserschmarrn with sweet plums, and Cardinal cake.

SWEET SYMPHONY: A VIENNESE AFTERNOON TEA
ON 3-TIER AFTERNOON TEA STANDS
S$77++ with Champagne
S$53++ without Champagne




Last year's successful Luxury Collection Epicurean Journeys culinary series saw three nights of exceptional dining from award-winning chefs from three Luxury Collection Hotels in Paris, San Francisco and India.

“For the global explorer and food lover, the discovery of a destination through its indigenous aromas and authentic tastes becomes a lasting and cherished memory; a portal to the locale’s rich culture, charm and local treasures,” said Yeoh Fay-Linn, Director - Brand Management, The Luxury Collection and St. Regis, Asia Pacific.

I have always loved traveling and so have my tastebuds. And here we have five acclaimed chefs from five rich culinary landscapes. Coming to your table soon.

For more information and to book your seats, please visit www.epicureanjourneys.sg – Early bird discounts of up to 20% off are available for a limited time. 











This post is made possible by The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.

Friday, May 6, 2016


Looking for authentic Sarawak laksa and kolo mee? Well, they are really hard to find in Singapore, because the ingredients are just not the same here.

However, I found a pleasantly "homey" rendition in Red Hornbill in a kopitiam just outside the Bedok Library. The owner, Mr Then Hua San, is from Sarawak, sources his laksa paste from his home state and custom makes his noodles to resemble the QQ and non-alkaline aspects of kolo mee.

I've not been to Sarawak before, so I can't compare. The first time I had Sarawak Laksa was at Laksania, and the broth was seriously intense and complex. This one is much lighter and less punchy by comparison. But Laksania's one seems to have suffered in my subsequent visits, so Red Hornbill although more muted is still pleasantly balanced.

The portions are seriously hearty, especially the laksa which comes with full prawns, chicken, shredded omelette and bean sprouts. And it comes with a super pungent sambal belachan you should not miss!

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This small half-stall is easy to miss - its faded signboard has the words Red Hornbill in very small letters - but you'll likely spot the queue of homesick Sarawakians long before you see the stall.




Full story in Yahoo Makanation and Makansutra. This is just the digest!
https://sg.style.yahoo.com/post/143517501938/red-hornbill-sarawak-laksa-and-kolo-mee
http://www.makansutra.com/stories/3/1587/RedHornbillSarawakLaksaandKoloMee

RED HORNBILL
#01-357, 205 Bedok North Street 1, Singapore 460205
Open Tuesdays to Sundays (closed Mondays)
11am - 2pm; 4pm to 8:30pm





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