Saturday, January 31, 2009

Al-Ameen Eating House
Al-Ameen branches have been popping up all over the island. This is the Changi outlet, which is near Kembangan MRT. The menu is incredibly extensive. It lauds almost everything from Thai to tandoori. But hubby says he'd only stick with the Indian Muslim stuff, as he does with most such eateries.

Cheese mushroom prata
The cheese mushroom prata is not too bad. You can see it's nicely browned and crispy on the outside, with gooey cheese within. Tad pricey at S$3 each, especially when compared to regular "empty" or "kosong" pratas at $0.70.

Murtabak
Hubby likes the murtabak. I prefer to save my calories for Zam Zam's. Both pratas and murtabaks come with really salty curry. Suits hubby just fine, but I thought it needed a better stock base.

Mee goreng Thai-style
Mee goreng Thai-style. I've never had this before. In fact, never knew it existed. Well, it kinda tastes like a spicy version of dark Hokkien mee. Not much ingredients apart from a solitary prawn, some slices of squid and cabbage. But the gravy is umami, and made up for everything.

Sup tulang (Bone soup)
They have great soup kambing (mutton soup). But we ordered the wrong thing - soup tulang (bone soup). I'm never a fan of those huge bones (nor the marrow within). This one seemed to be a watery and extra peppery version of soup kambing.

Spicy Lala Clams
I could not resist an order of spicy lala (clams, S$4), but I was quite shocked at the colour of the dish. It really is this bright, garish red that almost hurts the eye. Much like the colouring for the reddish Indian mee goreng. Tastewise...well, it was like a failed version of chili crab.

Tandoori display
They do have a nice display of tandoori items. Must try some of these with the naans next time.

Jolie wants some papadum!
The prata and papadums kept the kids happy. Jolie had her first taste of "teh halia" or ginger tea, and she loved it. The place is pretty much al fresco, as all seating is outside the shop. If you're enough of a daredevil, you can even sit right next to the road with vehicles zooming by.

I had been hoping the food would be as good as its main and original outlet at Bukit Timah, so I don't need to travel so far. But it looks like I should make a trip to the main shop for a proper comparison.

AL-AMEEN EATING HOUSE
484 Changi Road
Singapore 419896
Tel: 64419120
Open daily 3pm to very late (about 4.30am or 5am)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wantan
Softly ethereal, as life, these wantans afloat in soup.

Roast pork noodles
Roast pork noodles of little solace.

Nasi Padang
Hearty Nasi Padang fails to fill the soul.

Curry yong tau foo
Salty curry surprisingly good.

Ice Kachang
Sweetened snow calms the mind's frazzled furrows.

The SGH Kopitiam food court has gotten a facelift
Well, pardon the photos taken hastily with the Sony C905. I wasn't expecting (or rather was hoping not to) see the insides of Singapore General Hospital (SGH) so soon. Mother-in-law has been warded again, likely for pneumonia. I really should have forbidden her to go to that funeral mass where she caught this bug. I had such a strong feeling something bad would happen. Oh well.

The wards are full of people spending Chinese New Year in the hospital - both patients and their families. Viruses, bacteria, accidents and disease know no holidays.

I'll say the SGH Kopitiam foodcourt looks pretty good now. Nice facelift, and they've extended the air-conditioned areas. The Polar Puffs cafe nearby has also been replaced by Bengawan Solo. So many changes in just five months. But the food, well, is still just a tad better than hospital food served upstairs.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lo-hei is apparently a custom from Shunde?
Thank you all who are reading, and those who gave happy lunar new year wishes in the earlier post! Here's wishing everyone abundance for the Year of the Ox ( 牛 ). Even though the prognosis is less than bullish, I hope the new year brings hope, health and happiness (hey, we've got President Obama, so that's Hope right there)! May it be rich, colourful and full of life! And of course, lots to enjoy, eat and drink for everyone!

Meanwhile, there's a solar eclipse happening as I type, so I'm going to see if I can take some photos and post them later. The sun will be 70% blocked out!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Steak!
Mmmmh, this is what we should have eaten on Sunday. Nice juicy steak at Aston's Prime. Instead, we went to try this joint (which shall remain unnamed) and had lousy burger and ribs. Sometimes exploration isn't such a good thing, when you already know tried-and-tested places.

Cheeseburger at Aston's Prime
There, a much nicer cheeseburger with chopped mushrooms, and better fries too.

Close-up of burger
Close-up of the burger patty. Sorry I couldn't get a clear shot. I always have problems with the lighting at Aston's Prime. It's warm and cosy but hell for photography!

Cream of mushroom soup, with slice of bread that's seen better days
The cream of mushroom soup is a big hot bowl with generous chunks. But the slice of garlic baguette has seen much better days.

The unsalted herbed butter
Actually, when we came here (this set of photos was from our second visit back in Nov 2008), there were very few customers at lunchtime on Saturday. I don't know if the recession will make business worse. Aston's Prime is still good value-for-money. Decent grub with no GST or service charge to inflate your bill. It's probably where I should go next time I'm craving steak and burgers, to avoid disappointment with other places.

ASTON'S PRIME
ASTONS PRIME
467 Joo Chiat Road
Tel: 6344 2447
Open 1130-2300hrs
(Closed 1st Tuesday of each month)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This parody of patch notes is freaking hilarious, although only WOW-players will fully appreciate it.

HAPPY INAUGURATION DAY, USA!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ah Hock Fried Oyster at Whampoa Drive
I *finally* hauled myself to Whampoa Drive to sample the famous Ah Hock fried oyster. Did it meet my fantasies of crispy egg and succulent oyster? Well, not completely. There are crispy bits, yes. But there are not many oysters in this dish, and the few that I found were rather small and fiddly. They do have another dish called Fresh Korean Sambal Oyster - so perhaps they use the bigger variety for that. Prices start from S$8 for that though.

Ah Hock Fried Oyster at Whampoa Drive
Actually, I like fried oyster most for the gooey starch bits, which absorb the seafood flavours of the dish. In this case, the starchy bits were a little too thick and congealed. The chili sauce provided is a little weak too, but the dish with chili paste itself didn't need more sauce.

All in all, it's still not a bad rendition - even hubby said it was pretty good, and he normally shuns this dish. Anyone else has recommendations for good oyster omelette?

Ah Hock Fried Oyster at Whampoa Drive
Portion is infamously small, so be prepared to fork out more, if you want a sizeable dish. They are really fast with orders though. My plate arrived even before I finished looking around and taking photos of the stall!

AH HOCK FRIED OYSTER HOUGANG
Blk 90 Whampoa Drive
#01-54 Whampoa Drive Food Centre
Singapore
Open 11am to 12am (closed Wednesdays)
Heavy on the prawn paste, thick and sweet
Hoover Rojak is one of the more renowned dishes at the Whampoa Drive Food Centre. You get juicy fruit and vegetable, plus pieces of crunchy jellyfish (I like!) instead of cured cuttlefish. All smothered with an incredibly sweet sauce that's rather heavy on the prawn paste.

Expect queues here daily
There is always a queue. The rojak is not bad, but it was missing a certain something. Hubby wasn't too impressed. But maybe we are too used to our neighbourhood rojak which has an extremely spicy kick.

BALESTIER ROAD HOOVER ROJAK
Blk 90 Whampoa Drive
#01-06 Whampoa Drive Food Centre
Singapore
Open 11am-6pm (closed Tuesdays)
No Japanese joint is complete without booze!
Tamon is an unpretentious Japanese eatery offering hearty, homestyle dishes at affordable prices. It has been around for 15 years in the Katong area, and that's no mean feat. Despite being surrounded by all sorts of eateries, it has managed to hold its own. It can be quite packed at lunchtime with Japanese expats and locals alike.

Daily set lunch (S$14)  - it's curry rice with udon today
Check out the affordable set lunches. Their daily set lunch (S$14++) that day was curry rice with chicken udon. Hubby liked the curry (for this alone, he likes Tamon better than Wahiro). It was tasty without being too sweet. But the boiled chicken in the udon tasted a bit gamey. Udon firm but missing a certain bounce to the bite.

Sashimi and salmon teriyaki set lunch (S$20)
Sashimi and salmon teriyaki set lunch (S$20++). The sashimi was reasonably fresh and thankfully without sinews. The teriyaki salmon seems more poached than grilled. Oh well, they didn't state how it was done. Interestingly, the rice is ume-flavoured and also has salmon flakes in it. Pity it was a bit soggy. The chye-sim appetiser I gave hubby.

Tempura moriawase S$13
Freshly prepared Tempura Moriawase (S$13) a la carte. Mmmh, we enjoyed this. Nice and crisp batter.

Tamon has been around for 15 years
Tamon's rather humdrum facade is easy to miss. It sits slightly away from the busy road, but right next to the 328 Katong Laksa. Take note of its rather limited operating hours though. I went a couple of times and it was not open (public holiday, and lunch on weekends).

TAMON JAPANESE RESTAURANT
214 East Coast Road
Singapore
Tel: 6346-6667
Open Mon-Fri
Lunch: 12 noon to 2pm
Dinner: 6pm to 10pm
Sat & Sun dinner only
Closed Public Holidays!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Ooh, I have to interrupt my food posts with this. But it's still yum yum! Finally, a smartphone that might beat the iPhone at its game! The Palm Pre is creating some buzz at CES 2009 - it won the Best in Show award. Wired lists six reasons why it's special, and I like 'em all. PCMag was blown away and calls it the hottest new product. Here's Phonescoop's video preview. CNET hopes the Pre will spur Apple to get off its laurels and innovate faster (was the last Macworld keynote a snore or what?).

I'm a big Apple fan but I have held off on the iPhone myself - awesome as it is, it isn't without its limitations. Actually, I've held off on all smartphones in general, because none of them seem to have gotten the whole package right. Many iPhone clones don't make the mark either. But the Pre sure looks promising. It takes what I like about the iPhone and does a pretty good job improving on it. And no wonder, Palm's executive chairman (Jon Rubinstein) of 18 months was formerly head of Apple's iPod division. So this is Palm with some Apple DNA.


The slide-out keyboard should be a godsend for those who don't like digital keyboards, but can seem uncool to others. Well, it certainly beats Graffiti on the Palm OS which made you relearn how to write the alphabet!

Hmm, I'm excited. I waaant one. I never thought Palm would come back from the dead. But let's wait and see the actual product, pricing and performance before we get too happy.

[photos from Palm US website]

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Vegetarian shark fin soup
Shark's fin soup. Highly prized and beloved by some; scorned and tossed by others for its effect on the shark population. There is no doubt it's a controversial dish. There is now a local movement called lovesharks.sg that wants a more active role in educating and changing the public's mindset about sharks. They held a dinner at Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant to help spread the message to media and bloggers. This bowl above is of vegetarian shark's fin - an alternative for those who prefer not to consume sharks.

Although I don't actively order it, I do love shark's fin (and shark meat too). Mainly for the fin's texture (and appearance, I guess). If you can give me that similar chewy, bouncy crunch, I am quite happy not to have the authentic fin. In a bowl of shark's fin soup, the stock is actually more important than the fin, in terms of flavour. Mockfin in a good soup is fine by me.

But I reckon it will be quite difficult to convince hardcore shark's fin soup fans to give up this delicacy. What is the real picture? Can we have shark's fin soup without guilt? A vet surgeon and member of CITES Animals Committee thinks so. He says many sharks are caught not specifically for shark's fin soup but on a wide scale by organised fishing fleets. Countries like Spain, Portugal, UK and France haul up 80 per cent of the global shark catch. Lots of sharks are caught alongside tuna and swordfish. He agrees live-finning happens, and is wrong, but it's not the main way sharks are caught. Reducing demand for shark's fin soup will not reduce the amount that's caught anyway. If we don't consume the fins, it will just be turned into animal feed or fertiliser. Of course, there is a flurry of responses rebutting him.

Anyway, there is certainly no lack of news in the media about shark over-fishing and pointing the finger at shark's fin soup.

Wikipedia entry on Shark's fin soup has lots of links

Discovery/AFP in 2008 reports that 11 species are near extinction from overfishing

Shark's fin soup is even driving other stuff off the menu, such as clam chowder

CNN 2008 article on shark's fin soup altering the ecosystem

New York Times 2006 article on sharks disappearing

International Herald Tribune editor personally slamming shark's fin soup

Actually, the most effective argument may be that shark's fin soup isn't so safe. Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish are the four fish that have the most methyl mercury in their bodies. See the FDA/EPA advisories on mercury in fish (mainly for pregnant or childbearing-age women, as well as children). Men are advised not to eat shark more than once a month, and pregnant women (and those with childbearing intentions) and children to avoid it altogether.

Meanwhile, here are the rest of the dishes at the vegetarian dinner. It's part of the restaurant's Chinese New Year festive S$358++ (for 10 pax) set menu. (Note: The quality of the food is in no way related or indicative of lovesharks.sg's efforts). The vegetarians shark's fin soup above was a little lacklustre, until we added some black vinegar. Well, the flavour depends on the broth, not the shark's fin ingredient, which itself is flavourless. There are terrible soups with shark's fin too.

 Prosperity Yu Sheng
Prosperity Yu Sheng, with mock raw salmon which tasted like, well, fishcake. This was a bit on the overly sweet side (for me), and the shredded vegetables tasted a bit dry and fibrous.

Caltrops with hairy mushroom
The other dish also with "mockfin". Caltrops with hairy (monkey head) mushroom. Water caltrops to be exact, which look and taste like harmless chestnuts here. But they are quite the menacing picture when unshelled with their dark, devil-like horns. Water caltrop also goes by other names like horn nut, giant mosaic plant, devil pod and bat nut. My first time trying it. The dish is surrounded by a moat of chopped spinach gravy.

Fresh mushrooms with asparagus
Various mushrooms with stir-fried asparagus. The ice cream cone is a little too gimmicky. The mock-meat stuff within is either trying to replicate chewy cuttlefish or spicy beef.

Spicy pan-fried vegetarian fish
Spicy pan-fried vegetarian fish. It sure was spicy. And this glaring redness is the actual colour, I kid you not. It threw off the white balance on most of our cameras. The mock "cod" was a flake-textured tofu.

Fruity almond rolls and vegetarian otah
There was banana, jackfruit and mock crabstick within the fried rolls coated with almond flakes. Perhaps a take on the mango prawn roll. Hubby liked this, but I wasn't too sure it worked. The vegetarian otah with seaweed was a rather strange accompaniment.

Stewed golden fungus with vegetarian tenderloin
Ah, the best dish of the evening, and I'm sorry I don't have a clear photo of it! Stewed golden fungus with vegetarian tenderloin. A rich medley of textures and flavours. It's the third time monkey head mushroom made an appearance, but I rather like it, so I didn't mind. There was some chewy, crunchy thing that looked like daikon but is probably konjak or konnyaku based. It tasted like sea cucumber, almost.

Fragrant rice served with steamed soya chicken
Chicken rice with stewed soya mock chicken. The Zaobao photographer put it most succinctly to the manageress in her feedback, "The rice is nice, but the chicken not so!"

Osmanthus pudding with xue lian
Ah, dessert thankfully saved the day. Osmanthus pudding with xue lian (snow lotus). Firm jelly infused with osmanthus tea, and the chewy bits (mock hashima?), sweetened with some rosy, berry-like substance. My command of Mandarin was too poor to help me understand the waitress' explanation of what it is. But it was refreshing and delicious.

Thanks to Lovesharks.sg for hosting this dinner. I enjoyed meeting the passionate young activists, and fellow bloggers/media. I had hoped to learn more from the representative from Sea Shepherd but he was unable to make it. I hope he is feeling better now.

Addition: And since some readers are a bit confused, I shall clarify again - I have not sworn off shark's fin myself. I don't order it but will still eat if served - which is terribly infrequent. Basically I don't add to the demand but I may not be reducing it either. I did not attend the Lovesharks dinner because I boycott shark's fin, but to hear more about their side of the story. After all, what is the point of them organising such events only to preach to the converted?

Reducing demand for shark's fin soup is only part of the solution, we need to target the problem from other angles too. For example, fishing regulations. The U.S. has decreed that fishing boats that bring in shark fins have to bring in the whole carcass, not just fins - the Shark Finning Prohibition Act signed in 2000 by President Clinton - and that has helped curb finning. Finning bans are also in Costa Rica, Africa, Brazil, Ecuador and the Maldives. Can we lobby for the same law? Will PM Lee sign something similar?

Here are some other ideas:

1. Contact other shark conservation organisations worldwide, and make 2010 "Year of the Shark". Tie up for activities and reward people who give up shark products for just one year (hopefully they will continue). Get restaurants to offer vegetarian fin options and give them free publicity. Highlight companies that have shark-friendly practices (airlines and restaurants that have removed shark's fin from menus, places that have stopped selling shark's fin). Get chefs to do cooking classes or shows on how to use mockfin instead of shark's fin. Combine shark population info for a yearly shark census to show improvement or decline.

2. Find out what fishing practices are in the region, and work out incentives to discourage live finning.

3. Push for governments to require identification of shark species of the fins to help assess fishing effects on shark populations.

4. Think about fisheries where shark is a by-catch. How do we encourage them to release live sharks caught, back into the sea? Australia has regulations for this.

5. Amazingly, India, which was formerly the largest shark-fishing country, has banned hunting of all shark species!
They now allow smaller scale fishing on subsistence levels, but that is still amazing. Well, I don't know how much shark fishing goes on in Singapore, but

6. Pressure Internet trading companies to stop selling shark fin.

7. Work with organisations to get the Ministry of Health to issue official warnings on methyl mercury in sharks (and similar fish), like what the FDA has done.

8. Petition the government to mandate health warning labels on edible shark products, like what they do with cigarettes. Perhaps even to get restaurants to add a warning note on menus?

9. The Singapore government is very concerned about healthy babies. Get their support and
work with hospital maternity and children wards and doctors to educate patients regarding shark and mercury consumption. Nothing scares a pregnant woman off foods more than harm to babies.

10. Target schools to educate kids about sharks, habitats, and what they can do to help. Encourage them to form life conservation clubs - not just sharks but other endangered species as well.

11. Write in to women's, parenting and baby magazines to get them to feature the hidden dangers in foods (especially shark) for women and children.


If we truly love sharks, we will find more effective ways of saving them. Rather than merely passing on that bowl of shark's fin soup, which is noble but doesn't always make a statement, perhaps we can consider harder-hitting measures.

I love shark's fin, so I don't want sharks to disappear.

Meanwhile, check out the other blogger's posts - Keropokman has great close-up shots of the food. Ladyironchef has a dramatic entry too. Waiting for southernoise and superfinefeline to blog!

LOTUS VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
2nd level, Quality Hotel
201 Balestier Road
Open daily
Lunch: 1130hrs - 1500hrs
Dinner: 1800hrs - 2200hrs
Tel: 6254-0090 for reservations

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"Lo-hei" of the prosperity Yu-Sheng with Salmon
Christmas is barely behind us, but it's time for yet more feasting! The lunar new year is almost here, and the Chinese love to start the year right - with family, food and friends!

Flickr organised another outing to Yan Ting, the Cantonese restaurant at St Regis (we had mooncakes there last year). The highlight this evening was their Chinese New Year (CNY) menus focusing on Treasures of the Sea.

Our tasting menu for the evening
This is what we had. This is a shorter version of the six-course Abundance menu (S$108++ per person). I think ours skipped the main dish - crispy soft-shell crab with pan-roasted rack of lamb scented with Uigur spices.

Lo-hei is apparently a custom from Shunde?
We started with Prosperity Yu Sheng with Salmon. My first lo-hei of the year! I always admire (but can never memorise) the detailed steps in this feel-good ritual. Every ingredient is a homonym for some blessing and is chosen for good luck. You can read about it here.

Elegantly light on the palate
While it's an auspicious dish, not many people actually enjoy it because it can be cloyingly sweet and sometimes pointless in terms of taste. However, Yan Ting's version is elegantly light on the palate. The salad ingredients are very refreshing. Chef Chan Siu Kong's plum sauce is enhanced with apple, orange and pineapple for natural fruity sweetness.

Steamed radish cake and fried yam cake
We were also served appetisers of steamed radish cake and fried yam cake (both available as festive takeaways). The radish cake is soft and delicate, but punctuated with flavour from bits of Chinese sausage. The yam cake is a bit dense but not oily. Both went very well with the chili bean sauce.

Homemade XO sauce
Worthy of special mention is their "homemade XO sauce" (available at S$30 per bottle). So delicious! I like its spicy bite too! The chili bean sauce is also available in a bottle (S$15 each).

Double-boiled shark's fin with three treasures (shiitake mushroom, bamboo pith, and dried scallop)
Double-boiled shark's fin with three treasures (shiitake mushroom, bamboo pith, and dried scallop). This is a dorsal fin that has a unique name in Cantonese meaning "skirt fin", as it has the coquettish curl of a flouncy skirt.

The fin was thick and gelatinous, the broth sumptuously rich
The fin was thick and gelatinous. The sumptuously rich broth warmed both body and soul. This nutritious tonic took many hours of preparation. They also serve braised shark's fin if you prefer it not in a clear soup. All this talk about shark's fin will probably have shark enthusiasts up in arms, but don't the Chinese make full use of the whole shark (meat, bone, skin, and even the head)?

Prosperity oyster with braised sliced abalone
Prosperity oyster with braised sliced abalone. Gratin oyster with shrimp mousse! Incredibly rich, creamy and intensely umami. The oyster is a semi-dried type, sitting atop a bed of very pungent sliced onions and some "fa chai" (name for hair moss fungus which sounds like "prospering" in Chinese). Lovely slice of abalone in a clean-tasting braised sauce.

Wok-fried glutinous rice with wind-dried sausages, and steamed coral trout "tong sing" grouper
By the time we got to the carb dish, we were surprisingly full already. But oh, I love glutinous rice. Wok-fried glutinous rice with wind-dried sausages, and steamed coral trout "tong sing" grouper (in the background). The sausages are good, the rice tasty, but the fish less than ideal. The meat was a little tough, and my cut came with lots of small bones.

A delightful Schlossgut Diel Riesling Kabinett specially chosen to pair with chinese food
Wine lovers will find Yan Ting stocked with selections specially chosen to pair with Chinese food. Here's a delightful Schlossgut Diel Riesling Kabinett which was light, dry and sweet.

Crispy glutinous rice cake and snacks, with bowl of azuki bean soup
Chinese-style dessert is usually a simple affair. In the glass we have one strip of glutinous rice cake (the darker one) and crystal water chestnut cake, both deep-fried in crispy batter that evoked memories of banana fritters. In the center, a piece of fried sesame ball, cutely called "Smiling Joe" in Cantonese, thanks to the crack that looks like a smile. Next to it is a fried mini-puff filled with sweet, crushed peanuts. These are all available as festive takeaways too.

Traditional azuki bean paste / soup using 30-year old vintage citrus peel
A comforting warm bowl of azuki (red bean) soup rounds up the meal. Chef Chan has specially sourced and used vintage citrus peel (30 years old!) for this. But its flavour is not overpowering. Interestingly, the azuki beans appear whole but melt in your mouth.

Nian gao or new year cake
Yan Ting also features a nine-fish New Year Cake (S$68++), symbolising the everlasting unity and bonds of a family. Twin fishes are also available.

Other set menus include a vegetarian one, a Golden Jade 8-course menu (S$128++ per person) and a Fortune & Prosperity 8-course menu (S$218++). If you prefer not to follow set menus, the dishes are also available a la carte. In fact, there are 20 special CNY dishes to choose from.

The CNY set menus and dishes are available for dinner from the eve of CNY (25 Jan 2009), for lunch and dinner throughout 26-28 Jan, and on Everybody's birthday or 人日, 1st Feb 2009. Retail items available from 1 Jan to 9 Feb 2009.

Signs of satisfaction
This was a good meal. Many thanks to Yahoo for hosting this, and to the St Regis team and their PR agency for their excellent hospitality. Service at Yan Ting is always excellent, and the ambiance nothing short of classy.

I am glad I got to meet Nic (finally!), Kelvin and Bossacafez. Also happy to see Dimsumdolly, MissyGlutton, NinjaHelloKitty, and Superfinefeline again. All of them are great photographers! It was quite fun, we took photos not only of our own food but other people's too (grass always looks greener on the other side!).

YAN TING
St Regis Singapore
29 Tanglin Road, Singapore 247911
Tel: 6506-6866 for reservations
Open daily 11:45 AM - 3:00 PM;
6:00 PM - 11:00 PM (last order at 10:30 PM)
 
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