Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'm sorry, this must be the longest I've gone without putting up anything - eight days. What a week it has been! I've been back to Malaysia to see my parents who aren't in their best of health. In fact, Dad's had a few minor strokes that led to fainting spells and falls. And then we have the terrorists in Mumbai.

I was in a taxi yesterday and the driver told me his daughter happens to be a university classmate of the slain Singaporean lawyer Lo Hwei Yen. The latter was in Mumbai for just a freaking one-day seminar and lost her life, brutally. It's not just her. More than 150 people died. And this is only one episode out of many senseless acts of violence. Sometimes I wonder - what is the point of homo sapiens being on top of the food chain when you turn on your own species thus?

The cab driver also had a huge placard on his dashboard saying "God's love shines brightest when all else is dark." Hmmm. Cue Burt Bacharach's "What the world needs now..." - kitschy but true.

This week I am going to focus on stories about love in the news, and if there's a food angle, all the better - tall order, I know...it might lead to another week without posts! But I did read something encouraging today.

More couples (in Britain) are keeping their babies with Down Syndrome, instead of aborting them. Here's the Times UK article. It's partly because parents feel such children have better life chances, and that society is now more open to embracing instead of excluding them! Children have been integrated widely into mainstream schools, and many adults are now in work.

As the song above goes, "...love, sweet love, no, not just for some, but for everyone."


Did you know that Nigella Lawson has a niece with Down Syndrome? Her name is Domenica and you can read her story and see her photo here! She is a sweetie. Imagine having Nigella as your auntie! I'm sure Nigella's made these "chocohotopots" (see video) for her too. And the late Princess Diana, a good friend of the family, offered to be Domenica's godmother!

Domenica's father, high-flying journalist Dominic Lawson is Nigella's brother. He also cheered the increase in Down Syndrome births but lashed out at doctors for still being crudely prejudiced against Down Syndrome. Sharp read, this.

That medical attitude is prevalent in Singapore as well. Luckily, the doctors we had were at most just baffled at our decision to keep Nadine. But other couples have faced very strong pressure to abort - some even had paperwork for abortion procedures immediately and presumptuously shoved at them! I'm a pro-choice person, and believe you can and should be allowed to choose. We chose Nadine. And we would choose her over and over again.

I once read an interesting opinion piece on what it would be like if people with Down Syndrome ruled the world. I secretly think we would have more hugs, and less terrorists, no?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Glistening juicy flesh! And soft bones/cartilage!
I love my new oven! I made roast pork, and loved it! Look at the juice bubbling out from the glistening flesh. It was warm, tender and sweeeet! The crackling skin was supercrispy! I love soft bones/cartilage too, so these were a bonus. But the biggest surprise - the roasted vegetables below that caught all the dripping fat and seasoning simply tasted divine! Yes, they turned out way better than when I roast them with other meats, especially chicken!

Crispy roast pork belly
There are so many variations in recipes but I decided to pare it down to the barest - pork belly, salt, pepper and five-spice powder. HoChiak's recipe looked the simplest, although the mountain of salt crystals looked too dangerous for me to safely attempt. Thankfully, HungryBear says if you make lots of little punctures on the skin with a fork, it will blister nicely without the need for oversalting. I was too lazy to pre-blanch the pork though. But I saw vegetables and tubers below her pork in the photos and followed that (DO IT! They will be so delicious!). Southernoise used bamboo sticks to keep the length of the pork belly from warping, and also carved inch-wide slots at the bottom for greater marinating surface area.

Some people recommend letting the salted slab dry out in the fridge for a day or two, but I tried that and the skin turned so tough no fork could penetrate it (I had to resort to steak knives to poke the skin)! Will skip the fridge step in future, and see what difference it makes.

Pork belly marinated with salt, pepper and five-spice powder
So this is how I would do it next time.

ROAST PORK Experiment 2

1kg pork belly
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper (white probably is better)
1 tablespoon five spice powder
cut vegetables of choice - onions, potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, whole garlic etc - enough to fill your baking tray.

1. Clean pork belly, and make slots about 1-2cm deep and one-inch apart on the meat side.
2. Poke skin with fork or sharp small knife thoroughly as much as possible.
3. Rub salt all over, skin and meat alike.
4. Smear pepper and five-spice powder all over the meat side, avoiding the skin.
5. Insert satay sticks in crosswise manner. Leave aside to rest/marinade for a couple of hours.
6. Roast pork belly with vegetables in tray in oven (you may need to preheat) at 180 degrees for about 30-40 mins. You may need to rotate the pork for even roasting. Continue baking for another half hour or until skin has fully blistered (depends on your oven). Savour the crackling symphony within.
7. Let roast pork rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
8. ENJOY WITH ALL MANNER OF CARB - rice, bread, noodles, pasta or even salad! Or eat it on its own - it's delicious! I had to pace myself and leave some for others.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quality noodles but definitely too soft for me
Menya Shinchan was the second stop on our mini Robertson Quay pigout. Yes, after pizza, pasta, antipasto, calamari and tiramisu at Da Mario, we gorged on ramen to round up the day! This shop handmakes their own noodles, and their boss is a former MNC head who quit to pursue his love of ramen.

Whoa! Warm oshibori always makes you feel welcome!
Cheerful waitstaff greeted us with warm oshibori (wet towels for cleaning hands) prior to our meal. Always a nice touch! They have a rather extensive (and at times repetitive) menu, but somehow we all wanted to try the same thing. Tonkotsu!

Pork bone broth ramen with scorched sesame and garlic oil
You've probably heard of Menya Shinchan's famous "black ramen". It's the "scorched sesame and garlic oil" layer that makes it look ominous but the broth below is pale. Despite the charred appearance, there is no burnt taste. In fact, there's very little taste of anything. My bowl of "salty" (shio) pork bone broth was anything but. However, the cha siu was delicious. Too bad there were only three tiny slices.

Extra rich pork bone broth ramen
Southernoise picked the "rich" version of the salty pork bone broth - that just means it's got more oil on top! And it's pork oil, i.e. LARD, no less. Look at the shiny gleam. But again, the ramen was not as salty as we'd liked.

Miso pork bone broth ramen with scorched sesame and garlic oil
Keropokman chose the miso version of the pork bone broth, with the "scorched" sesame and garlic oil. It was also a bit light on taste. Prices range between S$11-13 for our bowls, but I can't remember which is what.

Seasoning and condiments tray
So, it's a good thing that every table comes with a generous tray of seasoning and condiments for you to tailor your ramen to your taste. I helped myself to the spicy miso paste, garlic puree, chili flakes and soy sauce.

Menya Shinchan is in this hidden alley near Robertson Walk. You might miss it if you're only looking around the main thoroughfare. I love the spartan yet cosy aesthetic of many Japanese eateries. There's al fresco seating as well, presumably for smokers.

What I appreciated was that even though we came late and overstayed their lunch operating hour, no one came to hurry us about settling the bill and leaving. We forgot the time, and chatted there for quite a while, enjoying the table mini-fans that they so kindly provide.

Will I be back? Possibly. There's still other stuff like the sardine-based seafood broth, cheese gyoza, Sinjiro ramen and Mazesoba that we didn't try. If I do come back, I will be sure to ask for ばりかた (barikata) or extra firm noodles.

You can read Keropokman's review here!

MENYA SHINCHAN
30 Robertson Quay
#01-05 Riverside View
Tel: 6732 0114
Open daily: 11.30am - 3pm; 6.30pm - 10pm (Sundays from 6pm only)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The glorious Antipasto set - parma ham, melon, Caprese salad and grilled vegetables
Southernoise, Keropokman and I finally got to do our Robertson Quay mini pigout that was delayed for a bit. We wanted to try Da Mario's after reading NinjaHK's review. I'm glad we did. Look at the glorious Italian Antipasto salad (S$30). Parma ham draped over sweet melon, Caprese salad (buffalo mozzarella with basil and tomato), olives, sun-dried tomatoes and grilled vegetables (eggplant and zucchini). All incredibly refreshing! I would gladly come back for this again.

Calamari fritti
We overheard the chef saying the calamari (S$14) was fresh that day. So we took one order too. The batter is slightly different from the local run-of-the-mill calamari batter. It's hard and crunchy. I can't decide if I like this better, but it does go well with the homemade tartar sauce.

Pizza Rustica - tomato, cheese, Italian pork sausage, and button mushrooms
The pizza I liked very much. This is one of their best sellers, according to the waiter. Pizza Rustica (S$18) - tomato, cheese, Italian pork sausage, and button mushrooms.

Pasta Cartoccio - spaghetti with sauteed squid, prawns, clams and mussels in light tomato sauce, garlic and white wine, bagged in foil
The other recommendation was the Pasta Cartoccio (S$22) - spaghetti with sauteed squid, prawns, clams and mussels in light tomato sauce, garlic and white wine, bagged in foil. I tend not to be fond of foil-cooked stuff as it always tends to be overcooked. The spaghetti was indeed too soft (for me). The sauce while not unpleasant, certainly is light. A bit underwhelming.

Bearded mussel in all its glory!
I seem to be coming across beards in mussels just a bit too often these days. The waiter dismissed it as "something hard to pull out". The chef later came out to explain. He uses frozen, pre-cleaned New Zealand mussels on the half shell. These are hard to inspect as he does not defrost the mussels before cooking. But he assures us these beards are not "dirty" or of concern.

Later I looked up and learned a lot more about these beards, or "byssus threads", which mussels use to attach themselves to rocks and surfaces. Here are some nuggets of information on this biological wonder.

* The byssus threads of mussels are so strong that they can even cling to a Teflon surface. Scientists are now developing a mussel-based adhesive for use in eye surgery.

* How it works (from Wikipedia): When a mussel's foot encounters a crevice, it creates a vacuum chamber by forcing out the air and arching up, similar to a plumber's plunger unclogging a drain. The byssus, made of keratin and other proteins, is spewed into this chamber in liquid form, and bubbles into a sticky foam. By curling its foot into a tube and pumping the foam, the mussel produces sticky threads about the size of a human hair. It varnishes the threads with another protein, resulting in an adhesive.

* According to Alton Brown, the byssus threads are so resilient, Greek fishermen wove these into work gloves that sometimes lasted generations. How creative! They had to be kept in salt water though.

* The beard must be removed before cooking, as it is not only inedible, but gritty to taste. But very few sites discuss what to do when you find cooked mussels with beards still inside. Can you just remove the craggly threads and eat the mussels? My dining companions think they should not be eaten.

Tiramisu
The chef eventually apologised and gave us a treat of tiramisu (S$7). This moist, creamy, cocoa-dusted confection was not too bad, even though the alcohol content was barely detectable. I always like tiramisu, no matter how it's made.

Don't expect much ambiance here. It's really casual dining. Some of the food can be worth coming back for. There's lots on the menu to explore. But this was only our first stop. Next up was ramen! Woohoo! Yes, I did mention it was a pigout session. But the ramen will be another post for another day.

Da Mario Pizzeria

60 Robertson Quay
#01-10 The Quayside
Tel: 6235 7623
Open Tue to Sun: 12noon - 3pm, 6pm - 10.30pm (closed Mondays)

P.S. Did you know mussels with orangey flesh are female, and those with beige-white flesh are male (or very young females)?

Check out what Keropokman and Southernoise had to say about this outing!

Friday, November 14, 2008

DSA Thrift Shop Goods Donation Drive
Have you been blessed with so much stuff (ahem*clutter*) that you can't use them all? Or want to shop for a meaningful present that gives in more than one way?

Here's where you can go.

The Down Syndrome Association (DSA) of Singapore has a social enterprise, SHOP@DSA21, which is essentially a thriftshop selling donated and/or second-hand goods. Through this, young people with Down Syndrome learn working skills and gain social interaction.

They are gearing up for the Christmas sale, so they would greatly appreciate donations of items you have (in working condition).

You can drop off stuff at two venues:

Down Syndrome Association (Singapore) office
Block 17A Telok Blangah Crescent, #01-270
Singapore 091017
Drop-off hours - Mondays to Fridays: 8.30am - 6pm
The Shop is open two days - Monday AND Friday from 11.00am to 3.00pm

DSA at Junction 8
9 Bishan Place #06-04
Junction 8 Office Tower (not the shopping centre, but just next to it)
Singapore 579837
Drop-off hours - Mondays to Fridays: 8.30am - 6pm, Saturdays 9.30am - 6pm

The DSA would like to thank you for your supporting efforts to assist people with Down Syndrome to become more independent and contributing members to society.

I'm headed down there myself to drop off some stuff next week, and take a look at the shop. Have you seen Clean House on Style Network (channel 81 on Starhub Cable Vision)? I love Niecy Nash and the team. They force/help home owners get rid of clutter via a yard sale and donate unsold items to a charity thrift store too!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My first experimental five-min artisan loaf
You must have seen this before in the blogosphere. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I didn't pay much attention to it until today, thinking I ought to learn proper bread-baking first, before diving into shortcuts. But thanks to Southernoise, I learnt just how easy it is to get really good bread. My first try yielded this baguette-like white bread with chewy crust and soft insides. This completely throws whatever I've learnt about bread-baking out the window!

Here's a video of the authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë Francois giving a demo on Showcase Minnesota.


And here's the recipe for the master bread given by the station's website. They use a pizza peel but you can use a baking tray, Silpat or other suitable baking container. I used an ordinary loaf pan. And I didn't use any water, although had two other moist items baking simultaneously as well.

You can create a whole variety of breads. The book will tell you how. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: the Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking (Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin's Press, Nov 2007)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bobby's all set up for Christmas
Bobby's at Cuppage Terrace recently unveiled its Christmas menu to media and bloggers at a tasting session. It's rather nice to think about Christmas, isn't it? Especially amidst this recent financial gloom and doom. Some cheer for the spirit, perhaps. Of course, it might be a less festive Christmas, if there's less money in the bank. But one would be rich if you still have family to enjoy the season with. Togetherness above mindless expenditure, I say.

Festive Tossed Salad with Honey Baked Ham
But wallet-friendly feasting is always a plus. Let's take a look at Bobby's three-course menu (S$35++ per pax, from 15-23 December). It begins with a Festive Tossed Salad with Honey Baked Ham. Colourful, for sure, with the baked ham chopped into fine pieces like confetti. However, I think it might have been better in fewer pieces but larger slices, as the tangy vinaigrette overwhelmed the ham's delicate flavour.

Tasting portions of dory and beef
For the mains, choose between:
- Grilled dory fillet with sorrel cream sauce atop a bed of pumpkin mash (far right). This was delicious. I ate the steamed vegetables (centre) with the sauce as well.
- Fillet of beef wtih signature mushroom sauce (far left)
- Grilled turkey breast topped with chestnut stuffing and giblet gravy side with cranberry sauce (not served, so not in photo).
I'm sorry I can't show you what the full portion is like - these are merely tasting samples.

Fillet of Beef with Signature Mushroom Sauce
Here's a clearer photo of the beef, which was quite tender. However, I am never fond of Western-style brown sauces, so I ended up preferring the Dory to the beef.

Chocolate Log Cake
Rounding off the meal is a piece of chocolate log cake - light yet dense, not extremely sweet or chocolatey. I have never taken to log cakes, despite their popularity. Besides the reminder that you might be eating a piece of fireplace fodder, the taste itself is generally rather bland. Discussion at the table turned to brownies, lava or fondant cakes and other forms of chocolate delights. Aaahh.

The Christmas set menu is available from 15-23 December 2008, at S$35++ per pax.

Sample of Bobby's signature BBQ ribs
However, if you'd rather have a house party than dine out, you can still enjoy Bobby's treats. Their signature BBQ babyback ribs are available for takeaway, sold by weight (I'll include the prices later when I get them). Pop them into the oven just before serving.

Daily Set Lunch Choices
If you aren't into the festive menu, there are other choices. Bobby's offers affordable lunch sets from S$14-18, with free-flow Coke/Sprite. These actually look more interesting to me, but I reckon portions will be smaller than the a la carte versions.

Check here for Keropokman's review. Southernoise was also there (I'm still waiting to link to his writeup). We met Yung Yih of HungryGoWhere too!

Bobby's @ CHIJMES
30, Victoria Street
#B1-03, CHIJMES Fountain Court
Singapore 187996
Tel : 6337-5477

Bobby's @ Cuppage, Orchard
25-27 Cuppage Road
Cuppage Terrace
Singapore 229454
Tel : 6734-3323

Open daily, 12pm to 12am (Sun-Tues), 12pm - 2am (Wed-Sat)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Japanese Gourmet Town is at Vivocity
Japanese Gourmet Town just opened at Vivocity, offering three different brands within one shop - Botejyu from Osaka, Yoshimi from Hokkaido, and Ajisen from Kyushu - central, north, and south of Japan. I was very excited to see Botejyu, a name I'd earmarked to try on my trip last year but didn't get to, due to time constraints.

Botejyu, Yoshimi and Ajisen 3-in-1
Your three major food groups! Okonomiyaki/yakisoba, soup curry and ramen!

Nadine reading the menu
It's a huge menu. Big and beautiful, lots to choose from. Here's Nadine trying to decide what to have.



I'm only putting up the menu pages for Botejyu and Yoshimi. I don't think we need to see Ajisen's, do we? The round silver stickers on Botejyu's menu indicates the dishes currently available. I think they haven't fully ramped up yet.

Italian Sausage and Hokkaido Corn Soup Curry
The soup arrived first. Italian sausage and Hokkaido corn soup curry (S$14.80), which came with lots of cheese. Hubby liked this the best (most likely because it was the most intensely flavoured dish of all). To me, a curry-flavoured soup is a bit odd. I kept looking for noodles or rice to go with it. Just not used to curry without carbo. But it was flavourful, I will admit.

Oh, you can choose the level of spiciness, from one to three chillies. They recommended two chillies for locals. But it was so mild, we'll be asking for five chillies next time we're here. Yeah, needs to be off the charts.

Midnight Special Okos - pork, squid, prawn okonomiyaki
Of course I had to try the Botejyu okonomiyaki - we chose the signature Midnight Special (S$14). It's got the works - pork, squid and prawns, and is topped with a runny egg and covered with bonito shavings.

The Midnight Special Okos comes with a runny egg on top
It was enjoyable, but the Osaka original is probably way better.

Pork yakisoba
The pork yakisoba (S$10.80) looked better than it tasted. It was a bit bland and one-dimensional. Certainly missing aonori, bonito and chili flakes, for starters!

Pumpkin Tempura
Got some pumpkin tempura (S$5.90) for the kids, as I remembered Nadine loved this in Tokyo. But this one didn't quite pass her taste test. It was OK for me, just that the batter's more than a bit greasy.

Performance chefs grilling and flipping okonomiyakis and soba
You can watch the chefs at work. Overall, this 3-in-1 shop is a great concept in terms of variety, and they've chosen some prominent brands like Botejyu. While there aren't any culinary epiphanies to be had, you'll likely find something for everyone.

JAPANESE GOURMET TOWN
#01-157/158 Vivocity
Singapore

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

History made today at 11am, Singapore time
HURRAH!!! Best news in a long, long time! Obama will be the next President of the United States of America! YES, HE CAN!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008



At the Korea Festival 2008, the Korean Food Institute put up food displays and posters explaining their seasonal food traditions. Photos are terrible here, after uploading to Blogger. It all looks nicer on my Flickr set. But at least you can have one-click access to bigger photos.









That's it for the Korea Festival 2008. Although it's still not my kind of food, I should like to try more of it. Maybe I just haven't had really good Korean food in Singapore.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sinseollo - royal hot pot
The Korea Festival 2008 had a small exhibit on royal Korean cuisine. Here are the dishes they showcased. Sinseollo, a royal hot pot brimming with ingredients.

Gujeolpan - platter of nine delicacies
Gujeolpan - - platter of nine delicacies. Looks like dough wrappers in the center with assorted fillings on the side.

Wolgwachae - summer squash and mushrooms with seasoning
Wolgwachae - summer squash and mushrooms with seasoning.

Domimyeon - stuffed sea bream casserole with vegetables and vermicelli
Domimyeon - stuffed sea bream casserole with vegetables and vermicelli.

Japchae - clear noodles stir-fried with vegetables
Japchae - clear noodles stir-fried with vegetables. Sounds like a variation of the Chinese "chap-chye" (mixed vegetables)!

Galbijjim - braised short ribs
Galbijjim - braised short ribs. Galbi = karubi! Looks like "pai kuat wong" (sweet and sour pork ribs). Yummy.

Songi-sanjeok - pine mushrooms and beef brochette
Songi-sanjeok - pine mushrooms and beef brochette.

Bibimbap - rice mixed with vegetables and beef
Bibimbap - rice mixed with vegetables and beef. I didn't know this was a royal thing. Probably the only dish I have tasted before out of all the ones above. Oddly, hubby's colleagues in Seoul say this dish is no longer popular in Korea!



Their description of royal cuisine. Click if you need an even bigger photo for the text.

Tomorrow: food by the seasons - what they eat in spring, summer, autumn, winter, and why.
 
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