Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sky Dining on the Singapore Flyer

Singapore Flyer - capsules up close are nice and silvery
Want to take dining to new heights in Singapore? You can, with Premium Sky Dining at the Singapore Flyer. Yes, that's dinner on board the Flyer, complete with full butler service. Hubby and I had a chance to try it out, courtesy of an invitation from Singapore Tourism Board (thank you, Benjamin!), and we enjoyed it very much. It was also our wedding anniversary this month, so a romantic dinner like this was just perfect.

Ground floor VIP Lounge for "check-in"
You'll have to check in half an hour before your "in-flight meal" here at the VIP Lounge. No worries, you can wander about the complex after that, so long as you come back at a prescribed time. Sky dining guests also enjoy express boarding - no queues to contend with!

F1 Race tracks in the run up to the event
We saw the F1 race tracks being prepared - this was just a few days before the races started.

Ginger Ale with Raspberry
This complimentary drink - chilled ginger ale with raspberry - was delightful. It may seem like the poor man's champagne, but hubby and I both liked this, much more than actual bubbly!

A big nod too, to the in-flight butlers or hosts who were discreet, efficient and competent. They make you feel very well-attended to, without being obtrusive.

Take dining to dramatic heights
The feeling you get when you're on top of the world is....wheee! You get to enjoy this twice, since there are two rotations included in the one-hour dinner.

Appetiser of shrimp salad with Thai-style chili dressing
During the first rotation, they serve bruschetta, a sun-dried tomato roll, the raspberry-ginger ale drink, and appetiser of juicy shrimp salad with Thai-style dressing. The menu changes monthly (check website for details). The food is catered by Megu.

Baked cod with Honey Miso
The mains are brought on board as the second rotation begins, and everything is served hot. My "Baked cod with Honey Miso" was delicious - I would love to have this again if they serve it on a regular basis somewhere.

Roasted Roulade of Chicken wrapped in Turkey bacon
The "Roasted Roulade of Chicken wrapped in Turkey bacon" did not do as well. But rolled chicken never really does. The third option was an Oriental lamb shank.

The Integrated progress
Well, we knew the view was the real highlight of Sky Dining. When the Integrated Resort (IR) is completed, it will be even more stunning.

Marina Square and Millenia Walk
Marina Square and Millenia Walk. Too bad I didn't have a tripod for these night shots.

Upper floor VIP Lounge for dessert
The two rotations finished all too quickly, but the journey was not over yet. We adjourned to the VIP Lounge on the 3rd floor where we could take our time for dessert and sweet conversation.

The lounge has lighting that changes colour to match the decorative lighting on the Flyer (this pink is not a permanent feature).

Coconut Panna Cotta
Dessert was coconut panna cotta on gula melaka - it was quite lovely and didn't need all the decorative chocolate. We finished off with coffee, and reluctantly pulled ourselves off the comfy seats.

Singapore Flyer
This is certainly a nice way to celebrate very special occasions.

I'll confess I was not a big fan of the Singapore Flyer prior to this. Being stuck in a slow-moving pod was not my idea of fun (I'm a roller-coaster addict). But after trying it out, I do appreciate it a whole lot more, and I now understand why people have said they enjoyed it.

The somewhat surreal nature of dining on an observation wheel plus the airport-like lounge also make me feel like I've just been on a short holiday.

Premium Sky Dining is by reservations only, available twice daily (7.30pm and 8.30pm) at S$199++ per couple (there are four tables in the Sky Dining capsule). You could also book a private capsule for 2-10 persons for S$1,500 nett. More details at the website.

30 Raffles Avenue, #01-07
Singapore 039803
Tel: 6734 8829 / 6333 3311 for bookings

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Homemade Char Siew

First attempt at Char Siew
This weekend's fun project was making char siew for the first time. Turns out it's a lot easier than I thought - just marinate and roast. The best thing is, you can omit the red food colouring. I adapted the ieat Fatty Cheong recipe (see below).

First attempt at Char Siew
The char siew turned out not bad, but still missing a certain something. It is a bit too salty (I started marinating a day before roasting). But at least it's not cloyingly sweet. The surprise ingredient here was taucheo (bean paste) - I never knew char siew involved this. I'm not crazy about taucheo so I reduced the proportion used but the flavour came out quite strongly still.

These are the measurements I used. By the way, this makes A LOT OF MARINADE. You can easily soak 1kg pork in this.

0.5 kg Pork Collar (if you like it juicy) or Pork Shoulder (if you like it leaner)
250g Sugar
150g Oyster Sauce
100g Bean Paste (Taucheo or Dou Jiang)
100ml Soya Sauce
2 teaspoon Rice Wine
2 teaspoon Black Soya Sauce
I omitted the red food colouring, but you can put 1 tsp if you like.

1. Mix all the ingredients together and marinade the meat in it for at least an hour (overnight is best).

2. Roast in a moderately hot oven for half an hour, turning and basting the meat till it is cooked and slightly charred.

I roasted it in my tabletop oven, 200 degrees C for half an hour (basting halfway and at the end), and then at 240 degrees for another 10 minutes for greater char.

First attempt at Char Siew
Oh yes, my favourite parts are the charred bits.

First attempt at Char Siew
Well, now I can say I have made both char siew and roast pork. Still prefer the latter over char siew though.

Oh the other thing to note is that the pork shrinks a bit after roasting. I thought I might have leftovers to make char siew pao but it was all gone in one meal.

Addendum: Was talking to Tiantianchi on Facebook and he suggested adding a pinch of five-spice powder and even using rose dew wine 玫瑰露 instead of rice wine. Fantastic ideas! I'm also thinking of experimenting with miso honey combinations rather than taucheo.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rum & Raisin Burger-Bun & Butter Pudding

Rum & Raisin Burger-Bun & Butter Pudding
I had a lot of burger buns leftover one day, and decided to experiment using those for bread and butter pudding. I braced myself for utter failure but hey, it works! The pudding is beautifully soft with gently crisp edges.

It was not the only thing that worked. I also tested photographing this (it was night time) using a small mirror to reflect and bounce the light from the pop-up flash. The effect is surprisingly nice, warm, and not harsh. A Lightscoop uses the same concept and would be a more elegant solution, but it's not so readily available here. Well, I thought I would not need an expensive external flash unit for a while. Haha. That was 10 days ago. I'll continue this later.

Anyway, back to the burger bun and butter pudding. I'm jotting down here for my own reference the recipe, which is adapted from this one.

* 1/3 cup caster sugar
* 4 eggs
* 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
* a handful of raisins (you can use whatever dried fruit you like)
* 3 tablespoons rum (I used Myer's dark)
* 2 cups milk (go full cream; you deserve it!)
* 4 burger buns, halved
* enough butter to spread on buns and to grease baking dish

1. Soak raisins in rum for a few hours, until they're plump.
2. Generously butter the burger bun halves, and grease the baking dish.
3. Place sugar and eggs in a bowl. Beat with a fork until pale. Add vanilla, raisins, rum and milk. Beat until well combined.
4. Arrange bread in dish, with slices overlapping each other - I put the buttered side up. Pour egg mixture over bread. Stand for 20 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 170°C. Place pudding on a baking tray or rack. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until set.

Optional extras:
You can dust with icing sugar and serve with ice-cream and strawberries. Or serve with vanilla cream. I'm not fussy so I just poured more cold milk onto it.

Rum & Raisin Burger-Bun & Butter Pudding

LG Global Chocolate Hunt!

I half-thought this was going to be some chocolate-based treasure hunt, but hey, US$10,000 and the soon-to-be-launched BL40 Chocolate phone sounds even better! Quick, check the serial number on your LG Chocolate phone if you have one!!! You might win this even if you don't clinch the S$9.7m TOTO jackpot this evening.

Meanwhile, for those who still want tickets to F1 Rocks featuring Beyoncé and the Black Eyed Peas....LG is releasing the final 200 tickets tomorrow!

First 10 in line will get their tickets free while the next 50 will receive special LG goodie bags. Tickets cost $200 in cash purchases and are available at the LG Concept Store, VivoCity from 11am, 26 Sept 2009. Tickets are limited to one ticket per person.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Mei Cai" Mooncake

Mei Cai Mooncake!OK if you thought "bak kwa" mooncake (previous post) was weird, wait til you get a hold of this - "Mei Cai" mooncake. Yes, those preserved vegetables that go with braised pork belly!

I had never even heard of mei cai mooncakes, much less tasted them. So when Nic kindly lugged back from KL four packs of these exotic mooncakes, we all immediately said yes to an impromptu dinner.

So what does it taste like? They resemble the sweet Teochew pastry biscuits (normally with lotus paste). The filling in this one is similar to that used in "lao puo bing" or "wife" biscuit - winter melon, citrus peel, pork lard...just that it has black sesame, and of course, preserved vegetables. However, there is no overpowering "mei cai" flavour - just a gentle hint of savory to enhance the sweet. Something unusual for sure.

Mei Cai Mooncake from Setapak Teochew Restaurant
The only place where we know this is available. Looks like they've been around a long time (since 1912)! They serve regular Teochew dishes there too. Nic is gonna scout the dishes someday he says!

Setapak Teochew Restaurant
283-285 Jalan Pahang
53000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +60-3-40238706

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kia Hiang Restaurant Mooncakes

Baked mini mooncakes
Kia Hiang Restaurant has been around for more than 30 years. I never knew they were the first to use durian puree in mooncakes. (Will we ever see a debate on who invented what mooncake first, like the food fight a certain Malaysian minister stirred up recently? Haha) Anyway, Kia Hiang sent me a box of baked and snowskin mini mooncakes each, including their latest creation - the "bak kwa" (sweet BBQ pork) mooncake.

Bak kwa (BBQ meat) and selected nuts mooncake
Bak kwa mooncake? My first thought - oh no, too gimmicky! But I realised if it replaces Jin Hua ham in the "wu ren" (five nuts) moooncakes, then it's actually a much more palatable idea.

Don't worry about biting into mouthfuls of oily BBQ meat. The bak kwa is chopped up into tiny cubes, and sparsely integrated to lend a hint of flavour. The combination of the walnuts, pumpkins seeds, almond, sunflower seeds and winter melon strips make a tasty and chewy combination. These mooncakes are not too heavily spiced either, thankfully. But the almonds did come across as noticeably bitter, for some reason.
Cost - 6 Pieces ($25); 9 Pieces ($36).

Baked mooncakes - red lotus and white lotus with yolk
OK, I'm obviously not going to win any awards for cutting mooncakes. These are low sugar lotus paste (with yolk) mini mooncakes. You can see how thin the skin is, even on such mini mooncakes!
Red lotus paste - 6 Pieces ($24); 9 Pieces ($34)
White lotus paste - 6 Pieces ($25); 9 Pieces ($36)

Baked pastry crust mooncakes with salted egg yolk (macadamia and walnut versions)
What I did like were the baked pastry crust mooncakes. The short crust texture stays crisp, even without airtight storage. There are two kinds of filling, indicated by an entire nut embedded on the outside (see first photo). 6 Pieces ($24); 9 Pieces ($34)
- Red Lotus Paste with Macadamia & Yolk (left)
- Orange Lotus Paste with Walnut & Yolk (right)

Yam mooncake with flaky pastry
There was one single yam mini mooncake with flaky pastry - this kind used to be my favourite, because it's almost like eating orhnee (yam paste dessert). This one is too small to be of much impression, but I liked that it wasn't too sweet. Actually all their mooncakes are not overly sweet, which is good.

Mini snowskin mooncakes
The mini snowskin mooncakes. I never quite caught on to snowskin, to be frank. I still prefer the traditional baked types.

Green tea and Chocolate snowskin mooncakes
Mmmh, I was really looking forward to the chocolate with rum & raisin mooncakes ($28 for 6 pieces, $40 for 9 pieces), but found it rather too rich. Oddly, I wound up liking the green tea mooncake a lot more. It's more lotus paste than green tea, but the subtle flavour is what works. Green tea mooncakes that taste like thick matcha paste are just too overpowering.

Durian and Blueberry snowskin mooncakes
If you're a durian fan, you'll be pleased with the durian mooncake. It is made with deliciously smooth durian pulp ($28 for 6 pieces, $40 for 9 pieces).

Blueberry and cheese mooncake ($24 for 6 pieces, $36 for 9 pieces) tasted like fruity mousse. The cheese is not too strong or tart.

See the real durian pulp!
Here, take a look at the durian pulp! This is after it has "defrosted" a bit, and you can see the texture. Unfortunately, the moistness of the pulp will literally decimate the snowskin, if you leave it out in the hot weather too long. But I doubt that will be a problem, because there's no waiting to eat these mooncakes!

Jolie eating her first mooncake
Jolie instinctively picked up a mooncake and started eating. Her first mooncake! Looks like she enjoyed it.

In the spirit of fostering stronger family ties, Kia Hiang will offer a signature dish (Claypot Chicken) or a box of mooncakes for free if you bring your parents to dine between the month of September to Mid-Autumn Festival (3 October 2009).

Check out Sparklette's review, and Julia's Tried and Tested mooncake roundup on inSing.

201 Kim Tian Road #01-400 (junction of Jalan Bukit Merah and Kim Tian Road)
Singapore 160201
Tel: 6273-7352 (for mooncakes); 6272-0087

Mooncakes also available here:
Century Square Shopping Centre, 1st Storey, Main Lobby
Chevron House (Change Alley)
B2 Takashimaya Square
Vivocity (Facing Tangs)
3rd Storey Raffles City
Bugis Junction
Raffles Xchange

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri

Hari Raya Goodies
Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri to all celebrating! Maaf zahir dan batin. Hope everyone gets lots of nice things to eat! Here's a small haul from the Geylang Serai area.

Top left: bubur terigu (wheat pudding/porridge/dessert)
Top right: sweet potato donuts
Bottom left: cempedak goreng (jackfruit fritters)
Bottom right: banana sago dessert

All from Hajah Maimunah in Joo Chiat, except for jackfruit which is from a fritters stall at Mr Teh Tarik Eating House (corner of Onan Road and Changi Road).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Penang Hawkers' Fare Buffet at York Hotel

York Hotel has been flying in hawkers from Penang since 1986 for its "Penang Hawkers' Fare" buffet promotion. It is so popular, they do not take reservations. This is my first time trying it, and I went with Aromacookery, who had just come back from Penang (and could vouch for each dish's authenticity).

The Sifu's Char Kway Teow
Penang Char Kway Teow - by far the most popular dish at the buffet! The stall is manned by two chefs. From their frying technique alone, you can tell the older one is the "master" (or at least he took more pride in what he was doing). This is his dish. It had nice "wok hei" and flavours that came through nicely.

The Disciple's Char Kway Teow
The young man (I shall dub him the "disciple") did not seem to focus as much when frying. His dish turned out to be less appetising indeed. Interesting how the exact same ingredients can turn out differently.

Kway Teow Soup
This Kway Teow Soup may seem plain, but it's actually quite delicious if you appreciate the "cheng" (clear) flavours. Good stock, fresh herbs, fried minced garlic and sesame oil.

Oyster omelette
Oyster omelette - fragrant and tasty, although not piping hot. Slightly wet with gooey starch (I like!) in places. There was a health advisory pinned at the counter, cautioning people not to over-indulge in this, lest they experience discomfort later!

Penang Laksa
Penang laksa is incredibly different from laksa farther south - the tangy, spicy, fish-rich broth does not have coconut milk or curry elements. I actually enjoyed this, as it's not as sour as some versions I've encountered. Dollop of the famous Penang prawn paste (hae ko) ups the umami factor by several magnitudes.

Lor Bak - assorted fritters with dip
Lor Bak - assorted items (dry beancurd, pork loin, yam, sweet potato, shrimp) lightly battered and fried, served with chili and a starchy, gooey dip. This is like a delicate version of Singapore's 五香虾饼 "wu xiang xia bing" (assorted prawn fritters). We had double helpings of this!

Penang Hokkien Prawn Mee
The Penang Hokkien prawn mee. Aromacookery gave the serving lady a smile and was rewarded with extra ingredients! Succulent pork ribs, and extra fried pork lard pieces. The soup is robust and tasty. Pity about the prawns - they look like the frozen variety.

Penang Rojak
Penang rojak is strongly characterised by the Penang prawn paste (hae ko) which seems extra potent. Sliced rose apple (jambu air), guava, turnip and cucumber make this a refreshing yet intense vitamin C treat.

Crispy ban chang kueh
This was actually one of the first items we took because the queues were still short. The ban chang kueh (crispy peanut pancake) is delicious when fresh out of the pan. Lashings of melted Planta margarine hold the crushed peanut and sugar in place.

Ban Chang Kueh (top) and Apom Balik (below)
The humble-looking apom balik is a new addition, and a lovely one too. Sweet, ripe, almost caramelised banana slices and shredded coconut form the filling of this soft folded pancake. We went back for seconds towards the end of our meal, only to find they had run out of it!

Ice Kachang
The ice kachang is pretty standard. Syrup, sweetcorn, attap seeds, kidney beans, etc drizzled over shaved ice.

The chendol is not the old school type I was hoping for (the watery, milky brown, lightly salty version with faint green noodles). Here it's with ghastly green noodle bits, coconut cream that tastes like it came from a box, and not enough gula melaka. Basically no different from what you get in any food court.

Freeflow bandung
Wash it all down with free-flow bandung (rose syrup and milk). Other drinks are also available at a separate cost - one of the first things the waitresses will offer you as you sit down. But they are not pushy, and will point you to the free bandung at the corner after you decline. Water is served free too, both cold and warm varieties.

I'm not sure if the hotel gets top-rate hawkers to fly down each time, but some of the dishes are certainly more than decent. The variety isn't as wide as other buffets, but I like that most of the food is prepared a la minute.

The Penang Hawkers' Fare runs in March, September and December (generally during school holidays) every year. The current promotion is from Sept 4-20. See Aromacookery's interpretation of the same lunch.

21 Mount Elizabeth
Singapore 228516
Tel: 6737-0511 (note they do not take reservations for this buffet)
Lunch: 12 noon – 2:30pm
Dinner: 6:30pm – 10pm
Price: S$25.80++ (adult), S$18.80++ (child below 12 years)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The OMY Singapore Blog Awards 2009 Ceremony

Someone came in curlers! A stormtrooper got lost too.
Bloggers of all stripes (no lepered prince or jeebras though) gathered at SupperClub last night for the OMY Singapore Blog Awards 2009 ceremony. The theme was "Bedroom" - can you spot the lady in curlers? Sorry for grainy photos. I didn't intend to take any initially, and only had my iPhone with me.

Minister George Yeo was sporting enough to come
Foreign Minister George Yeo was Guest-of-Honour, and even came early for the event.

Guess who crashed the party?
Oh, look who crashed the party?

Teeny tiny portions of food wafted over to us from time to time
I plonked myself down with Keropokman, Momo, Ladyironchef and his friend. The comfy beds encouraged a laid back vibe. But we were all hungry (hey, food bloggers always are!). From time to time, servers would come with light refreshments, but portions proved too small and infrequent for us.

Fusion "Chow Mein" - smoked salmon pasta with mushrooms and pecans
Pasta served in mini Chinese take-out boxes, which was the more edible of the snacks served (others being middling canapes and deep-fried beef mince balls that were revoltingly mushy). Nope, I guess you don't come to SupperClub for suppers. I'm surprised they dared serve this to the Minister!

Didn't I tell you the theme was "Bedroom"?
This is one of the finalists, I think? I still don't know who it is, but I love the stormtrooper suit!

I really like the Fabrix camera case
They gave out Fabrix camera cases. I was amazed that these were made in Singapore. Quality material, individually handcrafted and even has space for two memory cards inside the pouch. Thoughtful design!

Oh and do head on over to Ellena Guan's "Cuisine Paradise" to congratulate her on winning "Best Food Blog" for 2009! She's been blogging a long time (since 2005). I remember seeing her blog way back. It's still as warm and motherly today.

Thank you too, for all of you who put in a vote for me. This has been fun. There are so many good blogs out there, and I'm glad to have discovered many new ones in the OMY Singapore Blog Awards. One of the gems they uncovered is Laukokkok, a 47-year-old guy who writes about old buildings, paraphernalia and all things nostalgic. He won the Best Individual Blog award. Bravo!

You can see the full list of winners here.
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