Sunday, August 31, 2008

Happy Merdeka Day, Malaysia! And Anwar is in da House! Yay!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Forbes this month laid out the 10 top-earning celeb chefs, and there are a few surprises. Number 1 is a lady, and not even a professional chef! Rachael Ray is laughing huskily all the way to the bank, with US$18 million a year.

Most of the rest don't earn that much, really. Half the list doesn't even make it to John McCain's definition of "rich" (he thinks everyone who earns less than US$5 million is considered "middle class").

1. Rachael Ray - US$18m
2. Wolfgang Puck - US$16m
3. Gordon Ramsay - US$7.5m
4. Nobuyuki Matsuhisa - US$5m
5. Alain Ducasse - US$5m
6. Paula Deen - US$4.5m
7. Mario Batali - US$3m
8. Tom Colicchio - US$2m
9. Bobby Flay - US$1.5m
10. Anthony Bourdain - US$1.5m

(photo from Rachaelray.com)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Soto Ayam
Ta da! Homemade soto ayam - chicken soup Malay-style, with ketupat (steamed pressed rice) and shredded chicken, topped with two begedil (potato cutlets), beansprouts, coriander, fried shallots and a dollop of wicked red chili paste. OK, we cheated with ready-made rempah (spices) - some days we all need a shortcut.

For our energy shortcut, we used a thermal magic cooker.

This totally non-electric thermal cooker works by retaining heat like a thermos flask. All you need to do is boil stuff using the inner metal pot for a few minutes, put that pot into its thermal case and let the food cook in their own heat. Even chicken bones can turn soft after a few hours. Best thing is, you don't have to keep an eye on the fire, unlike with regular boiling. No spilling, burning or drying out.

It's even got an upper tray which we found just nifty for warming up the ketupat (steamed rice patties/cakes) for the soto ayam. Good for heating up a second dish too.

I first saw this pot in a blog called Youcookieat (which I incidentally wish was more active cos it's got great step-by-step photos). Then keropokman and southernoise extolled the pot's energy-saving virtues and versatility. I was sold! I got this in mid-June and have since experimented with pork rib soup, beef stew, chicken rendang, sweet barley with winter melon strips, kachang puteh (chickpeas/garbanzos), and now ayam soto.

Works like a charm and food stays piping hot. Great when members of the family eat at different times. I wish there was an oven-like equivalent for dry-type dishes!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Nikon D90 does VIDEO!!!

(photo from Nikon USA)

Yet another moment of Drool! Nikon announced the D90 model, which will be the first DSLR to do video! More details on CNET.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Steak & Guinness pie
Scruffy Murphy's is Gaelic Inns' outpost by the East Coast Parkway. Sunday mornings see this Irish restaurant-pub packed with Caucasians and very tanned beach-goers. We tried their Steak and Guinness pie (around S$14.50). It required 20 minutes to prepare but arrived looking great - a behemoth of a golden puff pastry dome atop a large bowl. Crisp crinkly fries and baked beans complete the ensemble.

Steak but not much Guinness in the pie
The puff pastry was delicious! Unfortunately not much else was. Yes, there were chunks of tender steak inside, with carrots, onions and celery but the seasoning was really bland. Guinness? Barely detectable.

Scruffy's Breakfast S$10.20
One reader recommended me their breakfast. This is my second time trying the Scruffy Breakfast (S$10.20). While not as robust as the Jones English Breakfast at Dempsey, this one is a lot nearer home and is half the price. But either the cost-cutting has come into play, or their portions are not very consistent. This time the bacon and mushrooms were measly! Egg done with runny yolk, a boon for those who like it like that.

SCRUFFY MURPHY'S
1000 East Coast Parkway, B7 Marine Cove, Singapore.
Tel: 6449-7717
Open Mondays to Thursdays 3pm - Midnight,
Fridays & Eves of PH 2pm - 2am,
Saturdays 9am - 2am,
Sundays & PH 9am to Midnight

Friday, August 22, 2008


LOL! I shall never see mooncakes in the same way again!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Busy bro doing brisk business
The East Coast Lagoon hawker centre might as well be called Satay Village, because it's a mini-hub of satay stalls. A dozen or so, all trying hard to snare patrons with warm smiles and friendly calls. Hmmm, a sweet dilemma. Which one do you try?

Satay sizzling over hot coals
I have had advice from some who have gone around trying and testing. "The one next to the (only) ayam penyet stall" they say has the most tender and tasty meat. In our experience, that's true on some days, less so on others. But they do a really good job marinating, because these skewered BBQ meats are good enough to eat on their own, without any dipping sauces.

Beef, chicken, mutton and tripe (babat, below)
We packed home some satay for MIL, whose appetite has remarkably improved in the last few days. I snuck a few sticks of babat (tripe), for myself - never had tripe as satay til now. Surprisingly, it was the most tender of all the meats. Soft, yielding and heavily spiced, yet without any offensive scent so common with organ meat. I must have more next time!

Haron Satay is Stall no.55
Looks like they sell chicken wings too, with a price list for bulk orders. In fact, someone yesterday just left a comment recommending their chicken wings. Ah, more things to try next time.

HARON SATAY & CHICKEN WINGS
Stall no.55, East Coast Lagoon Food Centre

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Freecycle Singapore group on Yahoo
OK, this is not about food but recycling by giving. Do you have pre-loved stuff too good to throw away but collecting dust? It could be useful to someone else. Or want something but willing to settle for secondhand? I stumbled upon Freecycle (with group in Singapore) which connects people who have stuff to give or get. It hopes to reduce waste by keeping usable stuff out of landfills. I like the concept and its noble aims, even if it's clearly prone to abuse.

I subscribed to the local group and found that people are giving away stuff as exotic as Balinese benches and ballet accoutrements, or as everyday as bicycles and books. It also pained my heart to read that someone is in need of a hospital-type bed and oxygen concentrator for an old lady with respiratory problems. There are some interesting posts, and people are supposed to list reasons for why they want stuff. This Times UK journalist observed that it gives you "unedited insight into the minds of your neighbouring humanity."

Given that the once-phenomenal Yahoo Auctions Singapore has died (retiring Oct 6), I no longer have a place to dispense usable stuff. Yeah, there's eBay but I don't like its system much. Freecycle works WAY faster than auctions too, because hey, money's not involved - and hopefully, you won't have to endure soul-wearing bargaining or endless queries.

I am looking forward to clearing some clutter and possibly earn a bit of good karma doing so!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sambal stingray, S$10 for small portion
Leng Heng Seafood BBQ is quite the name at the East Coast Lagoon hawker centre. It's been around since 1972, and has earned the title of Makansutra Legend on top of that. This is my first time trying them though. Opted for a sambal stingray, which came looking more steamed than BBQ'd. The sambal sauce is quite potent - spicy bite with a complex sweetness. The spicy-tangy cincaluk dipping sauce is also on the sweet side, and would have been better with a more sour edge. Everything was also a bit oily. Still, you can't help but polish off every bit of the stingray. I enjoyed scraping the tender flesh off the cartilage, even as I guiltily fended off images of stingrays seen on old scuba-diving trips.

Sambal stingray, comes topped with sliced okra and onions
The small portion (S$10) is indeed quite small, just enough for one person or as tasting portions for two. I didn't really care for the sliced okra garnish but the raw shallot slices added a piquant hit.

Leng Heng Seafood BBQ
They are also famous for their "kiam chye ark" or salted vegetable duck claypot soup. I'm not eager to try that as I'm not fond of duck and didn't find appetising the pre-filled claypots of duck pieces and ingredients, stacked messily outside the stall. But they offer 100 or so other dishes if you are keen on something else.

LENG HENG SEAFOOD BBQ & CLAYPOT DELUXE
Stall no.6, East Coast Lagoon Food Centre
1220 East Coast Parkway
Singapore 468960
Tel: 64450513
Open Fri-Wed 2pm-1am

Sunday, August 17, 2008

BBQ Chicken Wings!
One of the hot favourites at East Coast Lagoon Food Centre is BBQ chicken wings. I'm not sure which is currently the best, and certainly can't remember the ones I had prior to the massive renovation a few years ago. These are from stall no. 44, oddly called Teddy Bear. Wings good-sized and well-marinated but the chili really does not go with the chicken.

Teddy Bear - not quite the first thing you'd associate with BBQ chicken wings!
Chicken wings S$1.20 each, for a minimum order of two. They also sell satay - chicken, mutton and pork but no beef. Hey dude, you need to put more thought into the chili sauce!

TEDDY BEAR BBQ CHICKEN WINGS
Stall no.44, East Coast Lagoon Food Centre
I really don't know who in the world first started blogging about food. Have heard it's the Japanese, which would not be surprising.

My online searches led to an interesting archived page by Dave Siegel - he blogged every meal in 1996. My, it's a blast from the past - the early days of the Internet - gosh, does anyone remember VRML?

Ah, those were the days when I actually could be bothered crafting websites by hand-typing HTML, and "View Source Code" was something you did when you envied a certain webpage's layout.

But back to Dave's 1996 food diary - there are no photos and long descriptions of dishes or recipes, but Dave includes memorable quotes, many of which are quite funny.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Carl's Jr Onion Rings
Ah, someone recommended me the onion rings from Carl's Jr and I'm glad for it. They're not bad at all. Batter with crunch and that slice of real onion within. Possibly the best so far, from fast food joints.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gorgeous backdrop for desserts
Nadine did well yesterday at her annual development review with Dr Bhavani Sriram, the foremost physician for Down Syndrome in Singapore. We always feel good after meeting Dr Bhavani. She is genuinely warm, full of encouragement and love for these children. Oh, and her husband is Nadine's cardiac surgeon too. He's the best around, and has saved many lives.

After the session with Dr Bhavani, we decided to treat Nadine (and ourselves!) to a high tea at Carousel. She enjoys tasting a bit of everything, and it's a great way for us to discover what she likes or not. Used the DSLR and noticed a difference to the quality of photos, compared to those taken at the lunch we had last year. Alas, photos better this time but food not as good. Still, there were some highlights.

Cold platter
Carousel has scaled back its high tea, I think. Last year, there were still cold seafood (mussels, scallops) on ice but now it's just limited mixed sashimi, sushi, and some salads. These looked and tasted like leftovers from lunch.

Nasi lemak and the works!
Nasi lemak with the works - achar, crispy chicken wings, onion omelette, fried ikan bilis with peanuts, a very rich vegetable curry (sayur lodeh), minced mutton curry and fish fillet. Most of it pretty good, but the rice was overly "lemak" (rich), saturated with coconut cream and a bit soggy.

Middle Eastern chicken shovaslaki and mini pizzas (back)
There was doner kebab-style chicken shovaslaki with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pita bread. Edible but not as good as the ones from Zac Cafe. Forgettable mini pizzas in the background.

Laksa, fried kway teow, seafood otah and fried items
Lots of Asian stuff at the high tea. Fried kway teow, laksa, congee, soups, fried items. Seafood otah, on the far right, was very good. Meant for nasi lemak, but people had swiped it all during the time I plated my nasi lemak earlier. The serving ladies are almost motherly - one of them said to me the kway teow is fried well today, and asked me to take the shrimp. I don't get this kind of service very often!

Platter of fried items and kueh pie tee
We found the fried and dim sum items a little dry. One easy explanation - this place is halal and therefore, chicken is used to replace pork. This does not translate well, as chicken tends to taste dry. Sorry but non-halal dim sum just doesn't make the cut.

DIY Ice kachang dessert!
I had fun with the DIY ice kachang dessert. There's a cast-iron machine that shaves ice into snow-like mounds but it looks so traditional, like the ones used by stalls in olden days, I was automatically looking for a manual handle before I spied the on-off operation button. Customise your creation with gula melaka, colourful syrups, jellies, coconut cream, evaporated milk, creamed corn, gingko nuts, lotus seeds, and even maraschino cherries.

Mee jiang kueh and muah chee
Ah, just the other day, Keropokman was talking about ban jian kueh, or mee jiang kueh as Carousel calls them. The friendly serving lady gave me freshly made ones, saying these would be nicer hot. The muah chee (glutinous rice dough balls coated with crushed peanuts and sugar) is nicer though.

Small selection of French desserts
Turns out the desserts were better than the mains (or the savoury items). There is a small selection of French pastries, as well as Nonya kuehs. I didn't get to sample all of them. Also available (which I had no room for) - a tall chocolate fountain, tubs of ice cream, lots of fruits, muffins and scones with accompanying jams, creams and sweet sauces.

Sweet tapioca braised in honey; bread and butter pudding with vanilla sauce
Hubby liked the sweet tapioca braised in syrupy honey, topped with coconut milk; whereas I preferred the bread and butter pudding with vanilla sauce - yes, those are real vanilla specks in the sauce!

A meal for all times of day
I see that prices have increased for some meals. The food was not as stellar as what's served at lunch but still, the weekday high tea offers good variety and value-for-money at S$25++ (Citibank cardholders get 15% off, not sure until when). Expect to pay S$32++ at weekends though. Reservations recommended.

CAROUSEL
(click on "Launch Dining Site" to see sample menus, dining hours, etc.)
Lobby Level, Royal Plaza on Scotts
25 Scotts Road
Tel: 6589-7799

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Well folks, this is post no. 404! We've quietly streaked past the 400th post milestone and also crossed the half-millionth pageview mark. I'm still quite flabbergasted that more than a thousand people a day visit this humble site - some of you I have come to know via the comments but most are lurkers - so here's a big HI and THANK YOU to everyone for popping by!

Why am I highlighting the number (404) that is also famously the HTTP response code for pages not found? Cos these days I can't seem to find good food or interesting eateries to blog. Also haven't been able to venture out much, what with sick MIL at home. I do hope to pick up the pace again soon.

So it's been mostly simple home-cooked fare. Last night we had hiyashi chuuka - the Japanese cold Chinese-style noodles that's a summertime favourite. I was a bit hesitant to use angel hair pasta but it turned out pretty acceptable. Recipe adapted from bento.com.

Hiyashi chuka (cold Chinese noodles) using angel hair spaghetti

HIYASHI CHUUKA RECIPE - you can tweak this to your own taste
For sauce/soup:
* 3 tablespoons soy sauce (I used mentsuyu and skipped the sugar)
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 3 tablespoons white vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
* 5 tablespoons chicken stock (I only used half)
* 1 teaspoon sesame oil
* 1 tablespoon Chinese or Japanese hot mustard (optional)

Toppings: really anything you like.
* 2 eggs, fried crepe-style (like a thin omelette), then cut into thin strips
* 2 or 3 slices ham, julienned (cut into thin strips)
* 1/2 cucumber, julienned
* 2 crabsticks, parboiled and julienned

Noodles: 8 ounces or 200g angel hair spaghetti, boiled til al dente. Rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process. You can either refrigerate the noodles in advance or add some ice cubes to cool them further.

Serves 2.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

UPDATE SEPT 2009: THIS PLACE HAS CLOSED DOWN. It's been taken over by a vegetarian stall.

Tempura don
Modern Japanese cuisine at coffeeshop prices - that should be a hit with Singaporeans, given their love affair with Japanese food. Cilantro Modern Asia, formerly a restaurant at Purvis Street, aims to bring higher end Japanese fare to the heartlands, at my neighbourhood coffeeshop of all places!

We saw the signboard and menu put up but waited til they had a few weeks to settle into their operations here. You can read more about their background on ieat's blog. Today we came here to try them out.

The tempura don (S$6) comes generously with two prawns, carrot, pumpkin, okra and eggplant fried upon order and served sizzling hot. The tempura is well-executed by coffeeshop standards. The short-grain rice, however, is of inferior quality. That's lamentable as rice is a big part of the don (rice bowl) experience. But for S$6, you are not going to get those plump, glossy, chewy grains as you would from a reputable restaurant.

As with most tempura don, the sauce poured on top, along with the steam from the rice, tends to make the fried items soggy real fast. I shall remember to ask them to serve the tempura separately next time.

Wagyu beef don
We were curious about the vaunted beef wagyu don (S$9.80). Yes, the beef is "meltier" than what you get in usual beef bowls but I had to concentrate to tell the difference. The intense flavour of the sauce seemed to overwhelm any delicate fragrance of the beef. Still, it was pretty tasty, even if lacking in true wagyu wow factor (for that, you'll need Aburiya's wagyu karubi). Wagyu is still best eaten seared in portions at least 1cm thick, so they retain the delicious fat. Just my humble opinion.

Again, as with the tempura don, the rice is the letdown. Both the rice bowls come with miso soup that has tofu cubes and wakame (seaweed).

Banana chocolate mousse
There is a chilled display case in front of the stall, holding the desserts. We saw three kinds but chose the chocolate banana mousse (S$4.80). They sure didn't hold back on the chocolate. It's extremely decadent, rich and dense with a layer of caramelised banana pulp in the middle. The whole thing is a bit too sweet for my liking but I'm sure dessertaholics will rejoice while savouring this.

Cilantro Modern Asia at Marine Terrace
Service today was warm and friendly. They even use a restaurant-style order-taking machine and give out receipts. It'll be interesting to see if "heartlanders" will embrace Cilantro and make it a success.

CILANTRO MODERN ASIA
Blk 59 Marine Terrace #01-71 (modern Japanese)
Opens 8.30am (but only breakfast items like mee siam at that hour) until 9pm

Two other outlets at:
Blk 51 Old Airport Road #01-37/38 (probably the restaurant's mainstay offering)
Blk 28 Bukit Merah #01-4476 (Western)
Contact Jackie at mobile 9795-0289

Saturday, August 9, 2008

OK, I'm not a fan of donuts but get this - Krispy Kreme is opening 20 stores in Malaysia over the next five years! Malaysia boleh! The first store will be opened in Kuala Lumpur by early 2009. CNN story here. I think half the people queueing up there when they open will be Singaporeans. D'ohhh nutsss...

Oh and Happy National Day, Singapore! :P

Happy 43rd birthday, Singapore!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Jolie and Nadine with goodie bag snacks
For Nadine's birthday last month, we assembled little goodie bags for her classmates at Rainbow Centre. Went to Yamakawa, the Japanese supermarket at Central (above Clarke Quay MRT, at Eu Tong Sen Street), where I knew I could get kawaii mini snack packs that kids love.

Kawaii mini-packs
Cheese sandwich biscuits, little senbei (rice crackers) and gummy candy. These are so delicious I don't think only kids should enjoy them! Even Ritz biscuits made in Japan taste a LOT better than local versions. S$3.50 to $4.80 per strip of 4-5 packs.

Some of the candy
They have so much candy there, many with unusual flavours. I'm not terribly in favour of giving young kids sweets but at least the kids in class are taught to brush their teeth after every meal.

How do I eat this...
Jolie and Nadine "helping" me to assemble the goodie bags.

Yamakawa Supermarket in basement of Central Shopping Centre
This is an old photo of Yamakawa Supermarket, taken when they newly opened some time ago. Brightly lit shelves stocked with a dazzling array of snacks, tidbits, candy and grocery items. They have expanded their range of goods and I hope they keep doing so! Yamakawa also supplies to other department stores and supermarkets.

YAMAKAWA TRADING
The Central, 6 Eu Tong Sen Street, #B1-28b
(I hear a second outlet has opened at Tiong Bahru Plaza)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Someone kindly asked about MIL's health, given the recent hospitalisations. Hubby's sister and brother flew in from Seattle and Sydney respectively to see her. She was finally discharged today after a lengthy 11-day stay. The good news is, she seems to be in good spirits and is glad to be home. However, she is STILL refusing to eat or drink much. Her weight is 35kg and dropping.

I look at this food blog and think it's so ironic that someone in my household is slowly perishing from malnutrition.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Spicy soup noodles with beef,  "typhoon shelter" style
I'm really a superlate adopter when it comes to HK-style cafes or "cha charn tang". Actually, I haven't truly embraced it as am still dubious of this brand of "fusion" cuisine.

The spicy soup noodles with beef, typhoon shelter (bi feng tang) style (S$8.50) kinda reminds me of Ajisen's ramen for some reason. But hubby says the taste grows on you. It's a HUGE portion. Wish the noodles were firmer though.

Fries with minced beef sauce
Surprisingly, the most tasty item was fries with beef mince sauce (S$3.90). The fries are very well-seasoned. Available in other different "flavours" like seaweed, curry, paprika, etc. We like this better than Carl Jr's chili cheese fries. See Nadine enjoying it in the background.

Baked cheese rice with chicken wings, smothered in twin sauce
The baked cheese rice with chicken wings in two sauces (S$10.50, not worth it): this might be some people's idea of simple comfort food but it's a bit too bland for me. Skimpy on the cheese and sauces drizzled over plain, broken rice. Tong Shui Cafe's version serves fried rice, which has more flavour.

HK style milk tea and almond milk (background)
The milk tea is passable - tastes like bubble tea without the tapioca pearls. The almond milk is delightfully strong though.

We came here today after visiting MIL in the hospital (yes, she's there again, third time in six weeks). Brought both the little ones along and left my DSLR at home. I have to say the old point-and-shoot camera is still much more portable, not to mention discreet. Good for casual eateries like this, I guess.

HK KIM GARY RESTAURANT
1 Harbourfront Walk
#02-128 VivoCity
Tel: 6376-8183
Open daily 10am - 10pm

Friday, August 1, 2008

An Evening of Moroccan Mystique
Southernoise and I went yesterday to a media party hosted by Hill & Knowlton, a prominent public relations agency in Singapore. They converted the second floor of Theatreworks into a dreamy, plush Moroccan-themed setting. Exotic costumes, henna tattoos, belly dancers, fire-eaters, a beer-sculling competition and live band added to the pulse and excitement of the evening. But the highlight of it all, to my delight, was the food. Excellent Middle-Eastern fare, provided by Zac Cafe. The selection was small but very satisfying. Pardon the quality of photos as it was very dim. 

Doner kebab - chef carving grilled meat off a vertical spit
Grilling was done in the open air. The chef is carving meat off the doner kebab vertical spit, to be filled into pita bread pockets on the side. I love the aroma of caramelised grilled meat.

Chicken shawarma - grilled chicken, mixed vegetables, tahini sauce in pita pocket
The resulting chicken shawarma in pita bread tastes so good! Filled generously with grilled chicken, mixed vegetables and a special tahini sauce. This beats any burger any day! I nearly wished I could take home some with me!

Fish and lamb kebabs, marinated with Middle Eastern spices
The kebabs were gorgeous. Huge chunks of meat marinated with Middle Eastern spices, skewered and freshly char-grilled. Four types available - lamb, fish, chicken and vegetarian. I only tried lamb and fish. Both very good but the lamb was superior.

Juicy, tender and flavourful lamb
So delicious we had to have a second helping. How do they make char-grilled lamb so tender, flavoursome and juicy?

Samosas with seasoned minced lamb filling
Nice fat samosas packed with seasoned minced lamb.

Fattoush salad with diced tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, olive oil, sumac and pomegranate sauce
I wonder if Keropokman (who loves salads) would have liked this - he wasn't able to come due to another meeting. Despite its appearance, the fattoush salad was a bit strong-tasting. The abundance of parsley gave it a bitter tinge. But once paired with a bit of grilled chicken, it was more than palatable. 

Baklawa
There was lots of pita bread, baba ghanouj and hummus dips to go with everything. And for dessert - baklawa or baklava. Multi-layer phyllo pastry stuffed meatily with chopped pistachios and drizzled with honey. One of the better ones I've had but still way too sweet for my liking. I was grateful for fresh fruits on the side.

Thanks to Hill & Knowlton for a lovely party, truly a feast for the senses! Now if the food is this good, I must check out the eatery itself. Zac Cafe is owned by halal meat supplier Zac Meat. I hope this means they get quality, fresh produce. Meat lovers, take note - they have an all-you-can-eat dinner on the first Saturday of each month!

Catering by
ZAC CAFE (restaurant arm of Zac Meat, click on "What's New" to see info on Zac Cafe)
17 Jalan Pinang (you can see it along Victoria Street)
Tel: 6295-1816
Open Mon-Sat; 11am-11pm
 
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