Thursday, July 31, 2008

Peng Lai Ge Taiwanese Snacks 蓬莱阁台湾小吃

Zha Jiang Mian - Noodles with Mince in Braised Bean Sauce
I'll be upfront and admit my heart does not beat for Taiwanese food. It's blah. It's bland. It's puzzling (why something that tastes like this can be popular). But maybe that's just the variety in Singapore. I've not been to Taiwan but I've seen long, lovingly detailed reviews of Taiwanese snacks. So I'm still optimistic for the day I'll encounter something to change my mind about the dullness of Taiwanese food. Today, however, is not the day.

Peng Lai Ge has been at Joo Chiat for eight years. The owners hail from Taiwan and set up this eatery when they saw very little in the way of Taiwanese eats in Singapore. The food is quite authentic, says my friend, but in a homestyle manner. This isn't the wildly popular commercialised snacks you'll get from the night markets.

Zha Jiang Mian mixed
We tried the zha jiang mian (S$5) - noodles with mince in braised bean sauce. Technically this isn't Taiwanese, but a Northern Chinese dish. The noodles here were a bit too starchy for me, and tended to get tangled in stubborn, hot clumps. They failed to absorb much of the seasoning. The cucumber juliennes were also a bit old and fibrous. I think one can easily make tasty zha jiang mian at home. Check out didally's recipe.

Fried chicken
Fried spiced chicken (S$5.50), which were unusually tender while retaining a crisp exterior. The owner claims they carefully remove all the fatty parts, so it tastes crispy and not greasy. Not unpleasant but I think I prefer Lai Lai's version which has a more complex flavour.

Taiwanese vegetable
The owners also highly recommended their "seasonal Taiwanese vegetable" (S$7) - yes, the name is that generic. It's not on the menu and they only prepare it when they get can get stock of the vegetable. Although hesitant and unsure of the vegetable species, I took a gamble. Unfortunately for me, it's like a hybrid of chye sim and xiao bai chye, both of which are my most hated vegetables. But I have to say the stir-frying method is not bad - very clean-tasting, delicious in a simple manner.

Taiwanese rice dumpling
I had to try their "Taiwanese rice dumpling" (S$3.50), billed as using only the finest Taiwanese glutinous rice. But as you can see from the photo, that rice is rather mushy. What was surprising was that the rice dumpling came doused with a funny brown gravy. It's like raw garlic puree flavoured with braising sauce. So pungent and spicy, it was like garlic wasabi. Oh man, dragonbreath +10.

Peng Lai Ge also boasts smelly tofu (fried fermented tofu) as a signature dish, something I did not want to try. They have quite a lot of other dishes too, like oyster mee sua (vermicelli), braised beef noodles, scallion pancakes, egg-wrapped meat floss, fried chitterlings, various soups and desserts.

Decor is spartan but clean. There are helpful photographs in the menu. These were taken by the couple's daughter. Peng Lai Ge has several outlets now, but the owners say there have been imitators who tried to replicate the entire name and menu without consent (notably one in Vivocity, which closed after the owners took issue with them). Wow. I'm still puzzled why anyone would want to copy this. Perhaps I need to try more dishes but I'm not sure when I'll be coming back.

PENG LAI GE 蓬莱阁台湾小吃
456 Joo Chiat Road
Tel: 6478-1787

with branches at:
No. 82 Lau Pa Sat Festival Market
18 Raffles Quay

#B2-LF2 Changi Airport Terminal 3
Basement level 2 South

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Remember your first taste of lemon?

lemon baby
I can't help it. This is so cute! Sorry it loads slowly - the animated gif is 1.9MB in size; but it's worth waiting for. Love that innocent, wide-eyed wonder as the kid bites into the lemon unsuspectingly!

P.S. This is not me torturing my kid. Just some random file from the intarnet.

Wahiro A La Carte

Beef shimeji
I could not depart without sampling some kushiyaki, which Wahiro does very well. Beef shimeji (S$5.80), simply delicious.

Butabara (pork belly) and kawa (chicken skin)
Pork belly (butabara, S$2.80) tastes so good grilled like this. Chicken skin (kawa, S$1.80) too. Grilled crisp and miraculously not greasy.

Nankotsu (grilled chicken gristle or cartilage) and scallop bacon kushiyaki
I've been called crazy for liking nankotsu or grilled chicken cartilage (S$2.50), but hey, clearly the Japanese thought it desirable as a regular kushiyaki item. Grilled very nicely here and still a little moist with bits of meat on the soft bone. I daresay these were better than the ones I had at Nanbantei in Tokyo. The scallop bacon was pleasant but may not be worth the price (S$9.80).

Luscious, beautiful, and thick slabs of salmon
Salmon sashimi (S$12). Glorious colour. That coveted firm yet almost creamy texture. Sweetness that you savour in silent reverence.

Testament to the chef's skill in filleting fish
The fish bones strung up say a lot about the chef's skills too. Look at how clean they are. Could not help admiring these.

112 East Coast Road #01-27/28/29
Katong Mall
Tel: 6342-2252
Lunch hours: 12-2pm
Dinner hours: 6-10pm

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wahiro Bento

Various appetisers with salmon roe
My friend had the Wahiro Bento, which he seemed to enjoy very much. The various appetisers were "SHIOK!" but the salmon roe a tad salty. Still, it all went together beautifully.

Fried fish
The fried fish item was also good - no fishy taste at all, a good indicator of freshness.

Sashimi, sweetest ever.

Potato croquettes
Probably the only disappointment - the bland potato croquettes. Looked really good to me though.

Wahiro Bento
The Wahiro Bento is S$25 and comes with rice, pickles, and a bowl of clear soup which has a whole shrimp, mushroom and other goodies. Available daily.

112 East Coast Road #01-27/28/29
Katong Mall
Tel: 6342-2252
Lunch hours: 12-2pm
Dinner hours: 6-10pm

Monday, July 28, 2008

Wahiro's S$15 Lunch Set

Tempura - shrimp, okra, lotus root
Tempura tepee of shrimp, okra and lotus root.
Crisp perfection. Light as air.

Mini sashimi trio
Mini sashimi trio. Thick, luscious bites.
Freshness never tasted so sweet!

Cooked item - chicken stew
Chicken stew. A taste of home.

Crisp salad with tangy ponzu dressing
A fresh beginning. Icy cold, crisp and tangy.

Wahiro's S$15 lunch set
My, I have forgotten how good Wahiro is. This is the first time I'm trying them for lunch. The quality of ingredients and elegant portions made me feel light, clear-headed and refreshed after eating. This lunch set used to be S$12+ just last year. With recent increase in prices, it's now S$15 but still unbeatable value. Available daily but menu items may vary according to chef's selection.

Older Wahiro posts here and here. Tomorrow, the Wahiro Bento.

Update 29 July 2008: I came here again today but the food was not as impressive. Sashimi slices were smaller. Rice a bit soggy. We had the "fried item" instead of tempura, and it was minced salmon sandwiched between lotus root slices, breaded and deep-fried. Didn't work for us. Tempura's a much safer choice. But sometimes the fried item can be a nice tori karaage, so it depends on your luck. The stew was much nicer today, made with shabu-shabu thin slices of pork instead of chicken. Miso soup was salmon miso instead of plain. We also had a delicious mori soba (cold noodles, S$9.80), which came al dente.

112 East Coast Road #01-27/28/29
Katong Mall
Tel: 6342-2252
Lunch hours: 12-2pm
Dinner hours: 6-10pm


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ye Lai Xiang 夜来香 Chng Tng

Chng tng from Ye Lai Xiang
Yes, Bedok Corner Food Centre is famous for a certain chng tng (literally "clear soup", a sweet Chinese dessert). Available hot or cold, a S$2 bowl gives you a variety of ingredients, such as dried longan, white fungus, candied melon strips and dried persimmon. A strong pandan flavour dominates but it's rather grassy, so I'm not sure it sits well. My preference is still for the East Coast Lagoon version, which is also a more generous portion.

Ye Lai Xiang stall at Bedok Corner Food Centre
This is it. Ye Lai Xiang 夜来香. One of the oldest stalls in this food centre. I always thought it was odd that they sold kangkong-cuttlefish as well, just at the neighbouring stall.

Stall no. 31, Bedok Corner Food Centre

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hokkien-style Bak Kut Teh at Bedok Corner

Hokkien-style bak kut teh?
Bedok Corner is not all about Malay food, of course. Right across from the Muslim stalls is probably one of the most non-halal of Chinese dishes - bak kut teh (pork bone tea) and pig organ soup. But warm soup is great for a cold, rainy day. And interestingly, this hawker seems to offer the Hokkien-style broth, which is darker (from use of soy sauce) and less commonly available than the Teochew counterpart which is clear and peppery. Hmmm, you could call Hokkien-style bak kut teh the shoyu version and Teochew-style the shio version! Sorry, my mind is too much on ramen these days!

Bak kut teh is best enjoyed with dough fritters and rice
I was very pleased to be given lots of soft bones in the ribs. These were boiled until just right, soft enough but still with bite. The broth however was a little too pallid for my taste. When I cook my own bak kut teh (it is the easiest soup ever to make, really), I load it up with tons of garlic and pepper. This stall serves chili padi (bird's eye chilies) and thick, dark soy sauce as condiments, so I dumped a good measure of chili padi into the soup for a stronger kick. This claypot set above, with the dough fritters and rice cost S$5.50 - for the price, the portion is reasonably generous.

Traditional Bak Kut Teh
Overall, not the best BKT around but it'll do in a pinch.
It looks like the stall won some TV award too but I won't hold that against them.

Stall no.19, Bedok Corner Food Centre

Friday, July 25, 2008

Roti Jala at Bedok Corner

Roti Jala with boiled egg, salad and curry chicken in bowl
In addition to nasi padang in the previous post, hubby decided to go for some roti jala. I like roti jala but I can't even remember ever having in Singapore. I don't see it much around or I haven't been looking hard enough. Anyway, this set (S$2.80) comprised four pieces of roti jala, a serving of curry with entire chicken wing, a boiled egg and token salad. The curry was luridly thick and spicy! It BURNS but in the way that makes you want more! A stark reminder that roti jala in itself is nothing if the curry isn't good.

I thought the roti jala (the griddle-fried, lacy pancakes or crepes) were a little underdone. Maybe I've been fed burnt pieces while growing up, but my image of roti jala has always been of that which are slightly browned on the surface, with the bonus of a crisp edge here and there.

Goreng Pisang Satay Power
The scent of jackfruit completely envelopes this stall. They sell mainly fritters (like banana, tapioca, jackfruit), satay and ayam penyet along with roti jala, sundry cakes, cookies and a couple of desserts. I should try the "Satay Power" next time!

Stall 12, Bedok Corner Food Centre

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cahaya Bedok Corner - Nasi Padang

Nasi Padang - rendang, achar, begedil, sambal ikan bilis petai and stirfried beansprouts
We had grand plans for birthday meals but shelved them in the end, in favour of simplicity and something nearby (blame the rain and our sleep-addled state). Hubby loves Malay food, so we went to Bedok Corner Food Centre where there's lots to choose from. We shared some nasi padang. Rendang, achar, begedil, sambal ikan bilis petai and stirfried beansprouts - all quite good!

Dishes for you to pick from
Yeah, who says you need to go to a restaurant for a good meal? Here you can feast on many tasty dishes of your choice. I felt like going for a second round to try more things! And this is just one stall out of many others in the food centre.

Cahaya Bedok Corner
The Nasi Padang is from Cahaya Bedok Corner Gerai Yang Hassan (Cahaya means Light and Gerai is Stall, so it roughly translates to "Yang Hassan's Stall, the Light of Bedok Corner"). Hmm, I just noticed their menu seems to infer that nasi padang is served only at lunchtime. Dinner is satay, nasi lemak and other snacks.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nadine is two years old today!!

My little girl is growing up! Two years old today! Doesn't she look so mature already? We joke that she's our supermodel at home - oh yes, she will entertain you with a dorky back-bending pose that she's seen models do when they pivot and pause.

She is such a rambunctious tomboy, never a still moment. Running here, running there and especially, running out of the classroom! Looking at her today, you'd never guess she was born with a major hole in her heart. But that's been fixed. Nadine had open-heart surgery when only three months old (only the most harrowing experience ever!). The only tell-tale sign now is a fading scar down her chest where the incision was. I am still amazed how little babies can have their chests cut and yanked opened, hearts mended, with lifebeats stopped and resumed at will. The miracle of surgery. Every single day she is alive has been a blessing. But then that's true of all children, regardless of their condition.

Nadine's birthday pressie!
We got her a Dora Playhut Mega Maze for her birthday! It's a portable playhouse with tunnels and two "buildings". I'm reminded of the hamster house and tunnels I used to have. All this is missing is the wheel!

Nadine and Jolie explore their new castle
And now I can't get them to come out!

Given that it's also Nadine's daddy's birthday, we have double reasons to celebrate. Last year, we feasted at Lei Garden, CHIJMES. Where shall we go this year? Hmmm! :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Shin Kushiya at Suntec City

Gyu karubi and Enoki maki skewers
I've not been to Shin Kushiya until today because for kushiyaki, there are guys like Kazu, Kushigin and Wahiro who are better at the game. But the Suntec City branch looked inviting, and the extensive, gorgeous menu piqued our interest.

Shin Kushiya prides itself on using bincho charcoal, a premium white charcoal that purportedly gives grilled items a nice smoked quality and sears them on the outside while retaining juices within. The gyu karubi (premium beef, S$3.80) and enoki maki (enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon, S$2.60) were not bad. Not supermemorable, but decent.

Two types of dipping salt - curry and plum (I think)
I appreciated that they provided two different kinds of dipping salt - one is curry-flavoured and I think the other might be plum. The kushiyaki items are not too strongly seasoned, so the salt enhances the flavours.

Mixed Kushiyaki set
Shin Kushiya is quite noted for being a tad pricey. But the lunch sets are pretty good value for money. The Mixed Kushiyaki set (S$17.80) gives you five skewers - asparagus wrapped in thinly sliced pork, pork neck with mustard sauce, prawn, yakitori and shiitake mushrooms stuffed with minced chicken. Rice, pickles, cold tofu appetiser, salad, miso soup (with nameko mushrooms!) and fruit complete the set. Nice to see that the fruit is beyond the usual wedge of watermelon.

Wafu Hamburg set
The Wafu Hamburg set (also $17.80) was a tasty whopper - we'd expected a much smaller patty for the price. It was tender although thoroughly cooked, and the teriyaki sauce complemented the meat very well.

Sashimi moriawase (small, for two)
We reckoned that raw fish may not be their strong point, and were proven right. The sashimi moriawase (small, for two persons, S$22.80) looked better than it tasted. The salmon and mekajiki were OK but the hamachi was a bit fishy and the amaebi not terribly fresh. Maguro was non-descript. We should have stuck to the skewered items or maybe tried other things.

Modern chic and good presentation
In general, not much wow factor but still a satisfying meal. Hubby liked the place enough to go back again someday. There's something about the way they present themselves that makes you want to eat there - the place exudes casual chic and the menus are very attractive (nice of them to show pictures of the kushiyaki items for the uninitiated). The wide variety of food (beyond kushiyaki) they offer also means there's something for everyone. Unfortunately, they may not excel at everything, so this may account for the numerous mixed reviews they've had.

#01-031 New Suntec Galleria
Suntec City Mall
Tel: 6337-3988
Open 11.30am - 3pm for lunch; 6-11pm for dinner (weekdays)
11.30am - 11pm (weekends)
(two other outlets at Vivocity and Far East Square, check website for details)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Malay Wedding Feast

Bersanding - the wedding couple is seated on the ceremonial dias
We got invited to a Malay wedding! I haven't been to one in ages, so it was something we looked forward to. This was held at the Eunos Community Club. The main hall was converted into a banquet area richly decorated with roses. For this special occasion, the couple are raja sehari, King and Queen for a day. Here's the "royal" couple seated upon their pelamin (ceremonial dias). The groom arrived earlier accompanied by a kompang (hand drum) band. All part of bersanding (literally, sitting together on the bridal couch) ceremony.

Jolie is amazed at it all
Celebrations extended to the sheltered basketball court outside, where the kenduri (feast) was held. I remember in Malaysia, such feasts were often held under festive marquees right along the road near the bride's and bridegroom's homes. Families and friends chipped in to prepare the feast in the spirit of gotong royong (helping each other). In Singapore, the kenduri is more frequently held at void decks of HDB flats.

Guests could help themselves to the briyani
These days, it's common to find caterers doing the cooking. This couple chose not one caterer but several. Each one was a specialist - there was a briyani guy, a satay chap, a dosai cook and even the desserts came from a separate shop. Doesn't the briyani look good? Fluffy basmati rice to go with mutton, chicken, prawns and vegetables and achar (pickles). There was also rojak and mee soto.

Any party with free-flow satay is a winner!
The satay man was kept very busy - the guests loved these delicious skewers of beef and chicken.

Dosai a la minute
Here's the dosai station, which I didn't get to try because there was just so much food!

The desserts station was the centrepiece
There must have been easily 30 different kinds of cakes and desserts! Both Malay and Western alike. Nadine loved the bubur cha-cha, tako (water chestnut in coconut jelly wrapped with pandan leaves) and strawberry coulis even though she normally detests sweet things.

Beef and chicken satay with cucumber, onions and ketupat (steamed compressed rice)
We enjoyed the satay very much. The meat was lean but moist and well-marinated. Generous portion per skewer and the all-important peanut sauce was a beautiful blend of spices and flavours. I was quite happy I got the caterer's card.
Azman Jamil 9007-8029
Aliman Jamil 9041-9731
Kitchen at 18 Rowell Road, Singapore 207976

Platter of prawn curry on briyani rice, with ayam masak merah, vegetable dhal curry and mutton rendang
Staples at Malay weddings - briyani with mutton, ayam masak merah (chicken cooked in spicy red tomato sauce), vegetable dhal curry and curried prawns.

Party favours, candy gifts and rose petals for added atmosphere
At the end of the wedding, guests are given little gifts. Traditionally bunga telur (eggs decorated with flowers) symbolising fertile union are given out to herald the pitter patter of little feet that the marriage will hopefully bring. Chocolates and candy are common substitutes these days. We also got as souvenirs some lovely white coffee cups.

The mood was simply festive. Many guests from all walks of life came together to cheer and congratulate the newly wed. It was a beautiful event and we wish the happy couple many years of wedded bliss!

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