Saturday, August 23, 2014

Such a pretty display cake

Mention Antoinette and most people will call to mind expertly crafted French-style desserts, and a well-loved place for tai-tai tea. Oh, the sweets are sublime indeed at this restaurant, pâtisserie and salon de thé inspired by Marie Antoinette's favourite hideaway chateau, the Petit Trianon.

Le Grande Jardin d’Antoinette (The Grand Garden of Antoinette)

But their savoury dishes are just as enthralling. There are all-day breakfast items, starters and salads, hearty main courses, sandwiches, blinis, crepes, and even pastas.

Recently, they updated the menu with some regional French classics, both on the sweet and savoury side.

Chef Pang Kok Keong

Chef Pang Kok Keong's foundation is actually in classical French cuisine. He is not just Singapore's beloved Sugar Daddy, he's a master at the savouries too. In his savoury dishes, you'll find the same precise and meticulous dedication he lavishes on his pastries.

"I'm not about being trendy or a hipster," says Chef Pang. His food is about comfort, connection and a continuity with the past. He has chosen classics that have stood the test of time.

Here are some of the new all-day dishes you can find:

Salade d'Été (Summer Salad)
Salade d'Été (Summer Salad) S$16.50
A lovely and colourful salad that's beautifully refreshing. It's got quinoa, compressed watermelon, roasted butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, feta cheese, sherry vinaigrette, olive oil, and sour dough chips that make this salad 'take flight'.

L’oeufs en Meurette (Poached egg with Red Wine Sauce)
L’oeufs en Meurette (Poached egg with Red Wine Sauce) S$17.50
If you love wine, this will be the perfect start to your day. The smoked pork belly is bathed in a heady red wine sauce. Toasted levain bread (all the gorgeous bread is made inhouse) makes a great base for the poached egg.

L’oeufs en Meurette (Poached egg with Red Wine Sauce)
See? I love the bread. I'm not a wine person, so the sauce was a little too strong for me, but the egg, pork and bread were perfect.

Le Grande Jardin d’Antoinette (The Grand Garden of Antoinette)
Le Grande Jardin d’Antoinette (The Grand Garden of Antoinette, also first photo) S$30 
Gardens are an apt name. With a dozen or more ingredients of contrasting colours, textures and flavours, the salads here are an absolute delight. Beautifully seared roasted duck breast with tangy pickled pears, a poached egg, roasted asparagus, baby carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, cresses, flowers, mixed greens, sunflower seeds, button mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, lotus root chips, lavosh crackers and caramel orange dressing. There's a lot of work just prepping for this dish!

This is the big garden (main course); there is also a small garden (Le Petit Jardin, S$20.50) in the starter that features foie gras on levain toast.

Entrecôte Poêlée à la Bordelaise (Black Angus Ribeye Minute Steak with Shallot Red Wine Sauce)
Entrecôte Poêlée à la Bordelaise (Black Angus Ribeye Minute Steak with Shallot Red Wine Sauce) S$36
This turned out to be one of my favourite dishes here. It's an understatement to say this was a beautiful steak with an amazing sauce. I normally prefer my steaks sans sauces, but this sauce was a perfect complement that made the beef sing me an aria. Singing cow? Well, I was just mooved.

Shrimp Capellini

Shrimp Capellini, S$26 
Capellini pasta with sea shrimp, Sakura ebi and rocket leaves. Umami bomb! They are generous with the crustacean oil, maybe just a little too generous. It was aromatic but the mouthfeel just a tad greasy. I still liked this though.

French Toast with Ham and Cheese
French Toast with Ham and Cheese, S$14
One of the four Pain Perdu Avec Crème Chantilly, this one is quite an unusual sweet and savoury combo - ham and cheese, AND maple syrup. It's made all the more decadent with Swiss Gruyère cheese cream, balanced by a salad on the side.

These are just some of the savoury highlights - the menu is pretty extensive. Have a look online.

On the sweet side, Chef Pang continues to dazzle with dramatic desserts. New on the menu are four "plated desserts" - three of which we managed to try.

La Vacherin de la Reine
La Vacherin de la Reine (The Queen's Vacherin) S$25
Witness this stunning confection of rose petal meringue filled with yuzu cream, vanilla ice cream, vanilla creme Chantilly, lychees, strawberries and raspberries, topped with a crown of ethereal spun sugar. I hear shrieks of delight. It is very sweet though. I'd wager the sugar content of this thing to be 65% or more.

Rum Baba
Baba aux Fraises (Strawberry Baba) S$18
This is a Rum Baba soaked in citrus vanilla syrup perfumed with dark rum. In the strawberry coulis lie kirsh macerated strawberries, and the baked dough is topped with vanilla creme Chantilly. Beware, the rum is strong in this one.

The Baked Alaska split open
The Omelette Norvégienne S$25
Or more plainly, the Baked Alaska, which is another dramatic dessert. It is a grand classic, not easy to make at all. Most baked Alaska desserts are more fun to watch than eat, but this one is tasty. Griotte cherries cooked in kirsch, are enveloped together with orange confit and almond nougatine in a torched blackcurrant meringue.

Baked Alaska in action
Grand Marnier liquer is poured over and flamed. Do not go too near if you are wearing abundant hairspray.

The signature array of desserts
The signature array of smaller desserts remain as alluring as dancers in a Nutcracker dream. There are some new cakes - Désir (chestnut, front row), Cafe Noix (coffee), Charlotte (Tahitian vanilla and strawberry, second row from front, named after his second daughter), Forét Blanc (white forest, third row from front), and Le Fruitier (almond and fruits).

A selection of Chinese teas and fruit teas now complement the desserts
What's also interesting is the selection of teas that go with the desserts, now including Chinese tea blends like the Oriental Beauty (S$10), which is a sencha flavoured with organic rose petals, calendula marigold flower and a hint of mint. "I feel that the clean, light profile of Chinese tea goes well with desserts, especially pastry," says Chef Pang.

Mango and Dill tea
There are also gorgeously refreshing iced fruit teas like this Iced Yuzu, Mango and Passionfruit (S$12.50 per pot) - it's got dill in it too. "The iced teas are visually appealing and reminds me of a garden picnic," says Chef Pang.

With these new items, Antoinette's menu now not only boasts variety but depth as well. However, the familiar favourites remain - Boeuf Bourguignon, Ballotine de Poulet à la Grand-mère, Classic French Onion Soup, and so on. Again, very much French classics.

Antoinette's decor is decidedly feminine with lots of flowers

They have always had savoury selections, as you can see in my previous posts:

Personally, I like savoury stuff more than I do desserts, and I am thankful there are choices for people who love both sweet and savoury. You don't have to be a dessert person to enjoy Antoinette. They've got it all.

ANTOINETTE is at three locations:

Main branch
30 Penhas Road, off Lavender Road,
Singapore 208188
Tel: +65 6293-3121
Open daily:
Monday to Thursday – 11am to 10pm (Last order - 9.30pm)
Friday and Eve of Public Holidays – 11am to 11pm (Last order - 10.30pm)
Saturday – 10am to 11pm (Last order - 10.30pm)
Sunday and Public Holidays – 10am to 10pm (Last order - 9.30pm)

Mandarin Gallery
333A Orchard Road,
Mandarin Gallery #02-33/34
Singapore 238897
Tel: +65 6836-9527 (sorry, no reservations)
Open daily:
11am to 10pm daily (Last order - 9.30pm)

Palais Renaissance
390 Orchard Road,
Palais Renaissance #B1-08/09/10C
Singapore 238871
Tel: +65 67356392
Open daily:
11am to 10pm (Last order - 9.30pm)

Mooncake Macaron from Antoinette - with lotus paste and salted egg yolk filling
P.S. Check out mooncake macarons - with an unusual filling of lotus paste and centre of salted egg yolk!

Thanks to Bing for the invite, and Chef Pang for the lunch!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fishball Story
You all know Fishball Story by now (if not, you can read the Makansutra story here). Yes, that young and passionate hawker Douglas Ng who is bringing back handmade fishballs, the way his grandmother used to make them. He uses purely fish and no flour. It's an arduous process that sees him up at 4am beating, blending and pressing fishballs and chili-scallion fish cakes. He's only 23 but he has got it right.

The fishballs are soft and gently bouncy, with the natural sweetness of fresh yellowtail fish. His noodles are exactly the way I like them - al dente and dry. And for S$3.50, it's a very hearty portion. What a steal for an artisanal lunch.

Apart from the fishballs, he also personally prepares the sambal (which has a gorgeous umami kick from dried prawns or something), and the fried pork lard. Oh yes, I requested extra lard pieces as you can see. Freshly fried ones make a whole world of difference.

I tried both the spicy and non-spicy version. The spicy one with his homemade sambal wins hands down. Honestly, folks, it's not that spicy, so even if you can't take chili  heat, go for it and just enjoy. For those who need more heat, well, that's what the chili padi is there for.

I should have taken a photo of Douglas too. They are very friendly at the stall, and really pay attention to what customers might need. They gave me more soup when they saw that my noodles had dried up a bit after photography. And I read various other instances where customers were delighted by the extra steps they took to ensure a wonderful meal.

Fishball Story
This is now my favourite fishball stall. If you approach the hawker centre from Beach Road, the unit is somewhere towards the back on the left. Do follow them on Facebook for updates. Sometimes they may have to close for washing, sometimes they stay open late.

#01-85 Golden Mile Hawker Centre
505 Beach Road
Singapore 199583
Open daily 10.30am-5pm (but go early as they may sell out by 3pm sometimes)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It's Singapore's 49th birthday, and what unites us better than our crazy, unexplainable, incessant love for food? We have so many amazing dishes on one little island nation. But which local dish do you think represents you the most?

Take the Electrolux fun interactive quiz here:

It turns out I am Nasi Lemak.

On another attempt, I got Chili Crab. Haha. I hear Laksa and Char Kway Teow are lurking somewhere. Even an Ice Kachang! What are you going to be?

Well, whatever dish proves the most popular in this quiz is going to be showcased at TANGS in a cooking demo by Electrolux Chef-in-Residence Eric Low. Mark your diaries for Sunday 17 August, 3-5pm!

Electrolux found in a food survey that 93% of Singaporeans say that they are passionate about food, but a huge percentage – 65% – describe their cooking skills as limited or a disaster. This cooking demo is a way to show Singaporeans that there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to cooking, and these easy-to-cook recipes can help them take the first step to building kitchen confidence.

Interestingly, 35% of men claim to be the primary meal preparer in the family, but only 8% of the women say their husbands do more of the cooking.

Chef Eric Low
Chef Eric Low is an amazing teacher - he loves sharing information and I have learned a lot each time I listen to him. I've got some of his recipes to share too, in a future post. Do watch out for those.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

[UPDATE 14 Aug 2014: The Lime Truck will be at Orchard Gateway for both days now, due to unforeseen restrictions. No more The Vault, folks!]

FIJI Water is bringing one of America's best loved food trucks to Singapore!

The Lime Truck
The Lime Truck from Los Angeles was the winner of The Food Network’s "The Great Food Truck Race" (season 2). They will be bringing their signature dishes in a two-day pop-up at The Vault (15 Aug) and Orchard Gateway (16 Aug). Full proceeds go to Willing Hearts, a volunteer-run non-profit organisation set up to provide for the needy in Singapore.

Chef Daniel Shemtob, CEO of The Lime Truck

Chef Daniel Shemtob, CEO and founder of The Lime Truck, will star in this collaboration with FIJI Water and the Kerbside Gourmet, Singapore's first gourmet food truck with a social vision. The "Kerby" truck will be transformed to replicate the Lime Truck's signature lime green exterior, with Chef Daniel on board.

Blue Crab & Jicama Taco

All dishes will be served with a bottle of FIJI Water (330ml). The blue crab and jicama taco (above) looks delish bejewelled with pomegranate seeds. You can also expect their fresh fish ceviche tostada, and the braised pork belly taco with tomatillo pico de gallo (see below)!

The Lime Truck's concept is "fresh, healthy, accessible food" and since its inception in 2010, it's garnered a cult following for its soulful cooking using fresh ingredients, jazzed up with contemporary appeal. They have two brick and mortar restaurants named TLT Food, and Chef Daniel Shemtob was named one of "LA's 30 under 30" by Zagat.

So come for a taste of the legendary food truck revolution that's sweeping America and help contribute to the needy! Remember 100% of the proceeds go to charity.

#FIJIWaterLimeTruck Giveaway
Bonus! FIJI Water is giving away $50 worth of food vouchers on its Instagram (@FIJIWaterSG). To stand a chance to win, simply repost the giveaway photo (look for this one above) and hashtag #FIJIWaterLimeTruck. Results will be announced this Friday.

Stay tuned for updates on

All photos courtesy of FIJI Water

Monday, August 4, 2014

Locals come to pray for pregnancies and smooth deliveries at Phước Hải Tự (福海寺, "Luck Sea Temple" ) in Saigon

After a day of slow-paced tranquility in Da Lat, we headed back to Ho Chi Minh City where we had more sights to see. Like this amazing scene at Jade Emperor Pagoda which has chambers with different deities to pray to - this one is Kim Hua, the Goddess of Fertility. The light coming through the roof is perhaps a good omen for many women who come here to pray for pregnancy and smooth deliveries.

VietJet Air heading back to Ho Chi Minh City
Our VietJet flight was smooth from Da Lat in the central highlands. It takes only 25 mins to get to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

Malaysia Airlines classic livery, taken 17 July at Saigon Airport
When we landed, we saw this Malaysian Airlines plane with classic livery. I had not seen this old logo in a long time - what memories. Sadly it was also the morning of 17 July 2014...we did not know a major disaster would happen to them just a few hours later.

The Jade Emperor Pagoda was built by the Cantonese community in 1909
This is the Jade Emperor Pagoda or Chùa Ngọc Hoàng at 73 Mai Thi Luu Street, District 1. Originally a Taoist temple (the Jade Emperor is the ruler of the heavens in Taoism), it has been renamed Phước Hải Tự (福海寺, "Luck Sea Temple") since 1984 when it came under Buddhist management. Yes, try finding it on FourSquare and you'll see so many names.

Jade Emperor Pagoda or Phước Hải Tự (福海寺, "Luck Sea Temple" ) in Saigon
It's a small and rundown temple, but with lots to see. Devotees will release turtles into the pond for good karma. Inside are various altars, statues and figurines from both Taoist and Buddhist lore. The air is dense with the smoke of incense. A lot of punters also come here to pray for good luck.

You can buy candles and incense to burn at the temple
You can buy candles and incense to offer to your deity of choice. I love these translucent red ones stamped with gold lettering.

There are various chambers; this one dedicated to the Chief of Hell
There are several small chambers that are quite intriguing. This one to the left of the main sanctuary is dedicated to Thanh Hoang, the King of Hell. It has a mystical and otherworldly feel. His red horse is by the right and he is flanked by strangely Puritan-looking black figures. The rest of the eerily dark chamber - the Hall of Ten Hells - is filled with wood panels depicting punishments awaiting those in the netherworld.

Buddha statue in the multi-faith temple of Phước Hải Tự (福海寺, "Luck Sea Temple" ) in Saigon

Buddhism has had a profound effect on Vietnam's 20th century history. It is still one of the most visible religions in Vietnam.

Street life outside the temple
Street life outside the temple. Some vendors sell birds and tortoises for Buddhists to release.

Viet Village
Lunch was at Viet Village, which was a pretty elegant dining space.

Cute little chicks
These are "Incubating cranes in the nest" - something like scotch eggs. Adorable.

Viet Village in Ho Chi Minh City
The food is generally safe, and well presented. Expat prices but may be worth it if you want that nice atmosphere and comfort.

Startup Coffee
Cafe next to Viet Village. Don't let it be said that entrepreneurship is dead. Creativity is another matter, however.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh City
After that we visited the Independence Palace, also known as the Reunification Palace or Dinh Doc Lap. This building witnessed every historical event in the Saigon government until the regime finally fell in 1975.

Tank replica at Independence Palace
A North Vietnamese tank famously crashed through the gates on 30 April 1975. This effectively ended the Vietnam War and caused the Fall of Saigon or Reunification Day, depending on who you speak to.

Replica of stolen jet that was used for a bomb raid on the palace
Replica of stolen F-5E jet that was used for a bomb raid on the palace.

Independence or Reunification Palace at Ho Chi Minh City
Inside you'll see the various meeting rooms and ceremonial halls.

Red circles mark the spots where
The rooftop of the palace. Nguyễn Thanh Trung, a pilot of the Vietnam Air Force and an undercover communist spy, flew an F-5E aircraft from Biên Hòa Air Base to bomb the palace. The red circles mark where the bombs landed.

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica
A short walk away from the palace is the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, built around 1880. The statue of the Virgin Mary stands before it.

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica
It is of course much smaller than the Notre Dame in Paris. But it's still quite impressive. All the original building materials were imported from France.

Saigon Central Post Office is just across from the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica
Just across from the Notre Dame is the Saigon Central Post Office designed by Gustav Eiffel. Yes, the man who lent his name to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. This was built when Vietnam was still part of French Indochina in the early 20th century.

Interior of the Saigon Central Post Office
The neo-classical architecture inside is so stunning, you sometimes forget this is an actual working post office. But it's such a tourist attraction these days. You'll see tourist shops to the left and right of this main hall.

Next up - a coffee break!

We went for a quick workshop on how to brew Vietnamese coffee.

This is how you start a cup of Vietnamese coffee
The Vietnamese filter is like a coffee pot for one. First you fill the top part with three rounded teaspoons of freshly ground coffee. Place the metal screen onto the coffee (you can press it to compact the coffee - this apparently makes it stronger). Pour the boiling hot water onto the coffee, using a spoon to gently break the flow of water. Fill it to about a quarter.

Let the coffee slowly drip to the bottom
Put the lid on and let the coffee steep and drip to the bottom. This should take about 3-5 minutes, so having a friend around to chit chat with helps.

Lift the whole strainer and enjoy your coffee
Remove the whole filter and strainer on top and enjoy your coffee (you can add condensed milk or sugar). The lid makes a convenient saucer.

Royal Lotus Saigon lobby
Back to the hotel to freshen up. We stayed at the Royal Lotus Saigon which is in a row of hotels.

I had a nice room at Royal Lotus Saigon
Some of the rooms have been refurbished. I got a really nice corner room which was extra spacious.

So spacious my corner room is at the Royal Lotus Saigon
Yes, much more spacious. But my bathroom did not have see-through windows like in the neighbouring room.

Banh Mi street stall
We were really craving some street food and begged our tour guide for some recommendations. He told us about this Banh Mi stall that he goes to every morning. It was near our hotel.

Lady making Banh Mi
Two streets down to the left and a short walk later, we found the stall. We ask for Banh Mi Thit (the works). It was 15,000VND - less than US$1! The lady works fast, and we soon carried our precious packages back to the hotel to shoot and eat.

Banh Mi from the streets of Saigon
It was good. The fillings looked a little skimpy to our gluttonous eyes but the taste was just right. Nicely crisp bread that was soft on the inside. Hey, that sounds just like a Po'Boy. Except no way you'd get a Po'Boy for less than a dollar.

So that capped our short trip to Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 1: HCMC Pho, Thien Hau Temple, Cyclo Ride, Water Puppet Show, Saigon River Cruise
Day 2: Excursion to Da Lat the City of Love and Flowers, Bao Dai's Summer Palace, Railway Station, Night Market
Day 3: this post

VietJet offers daily flights between Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City with duration per section of 1 hour and 50 minutes. The flight departs Tan Son Nhat International Airport at 8.50am (local time) and Changi International Airport at 12.40pm (local time) daily. VietJet is looking to increase the flight frequency for this route to 14 round trip flights weekly to meet increasing demand.

Psst...VietJet is now having a sale! If you book before 31 August, you might be able to get fares for as low as S$0.50 - less than the price of this banh mi! Of course, that's before the airport taxes and surcharges.

Buy your tickets online between 1pm and 3pm
at their website -
or the booking tab on their Facebook page -

Many thanks to VietJet for the media familiarisation trip, and to Canon Singapore for loaning me the 5D MkIII for the photos. 

I love this baby!
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