Friday, October 30, 2009

The most important sides - youtiao and sliced chillies in dark soy sauce
Bak kut teh (pork rib tea) is a comforting brew. If the authors of "Chicken Soup for the Soul" had been Asian, I bet they'd be tempted to name their work "Bak Kut Teh for the Soul". Plus, no crouton can beat our Asian fried you tiao!

The best part sometimes, for me, are the sliced chillies in dark soy. The pork ribs become a vehicle for these babies, and plain white rice gets its Cinderella transformation when drizzled with this stuff.

You can make bak kut teh quite easily at home, and I often think homemade ones are still the best. But bak kut teh shops remain extremely popular. Witness the long queues at Founder along Balestier Road, and the floor-to-ceiling photos of celebrities who have dined there.

I have never gone there myself as I'd heard many times that the quality has gone down since it became famous. But curiosity got the better of a few Founder virgins, so a group of us trooped there last night and braved the crowds.


Pork Ribs Soup
The much-awaited bowl of bak kut teh (S$8) arrived. OK, if you disregard all the starry hype about this place, the food is actually passable. The broth is lovely when warm - nicely peppery and a little bit sweet. However, the meat was very lean and tough though. Not fall-off-the-bone tender. It's certainly not been stewed long enough.


Beancurd Skin
There are a few side dishes (all S$4) to go with the pork ribs. Beancurd skin, I like! Tossed with fried shallots. A tad oily, but all the better for slithering down your throat.


Mei Cai - Preserved Vegetables
The "mei cai" or preserved vegetables had chopped garlic generously mixed in. It was more sweet than salty.


Fried taupok (beancurd)
The braised taupok (fried beancurd) was a little flat, flavourwise. Basically it was just a sodium bath.


Mixed Innards - Kidney, Liver, Intestines
The bowl of mixed innards (S$8) - kidney, liver and small intestines. All of which I don't eat, so I left it untouched. Medium rare liver fans may be glad to know the liver is still bleeding into the soup when it arrives at your table, imbuing the broth with a reddish tinge.


Pork Trotters
The pork trotter (S$8) tasted better than it looked. Even though the meat was also lean, the trotter was way more tender than the bak kut teh ribs. Oddly, the meat served here is incredibly lean. We all started discussing how pork is pointless without a bit of fat. After all, fat is flavour.

Service is brisk and relatively friendly. Our soup was topped up once. And I do appreciate the air-conditioning, no matter how feeble.

Well, now I can say "been there, done that". Now I just have this urge to buy lots of garlic, peppercorns and juicy pork ribs...time for a remake!


FOUNDER BAK KUT TEH
347 Balestier Road (under New Orchid Hotel)
Singapore 329777
Tel: 63526192
Open daily except Tuesday
Lunch: 12 noon - 2pm
Dinner/Supper: 6pm - 2.30am

Monday, October 26, 2009

We had "A Whiff of Lemongrass" for dinner.

Not literally, of course. Meena was here for the Nuffnang Awards as a nominee for Best Food Blog. I absolutely love her photos and writing (go visit and you'll see), so I was thrilled to finally meet her.


Black Pepper Crab
We (Nic and XLB, Keropokman and Momo) brought her to Eng Seng for the famed black pepper crabs. It was love at first bite. This is a dish that truly deserves its reputation. That molten black lava that coats the crabs is kick ass! It was not only spicy, sweet and savoury but incredibly umami. Wonderful balance of flavours. I'm craving it again, as I write.


Chili Crab
Although nowhere as spectacular as their black pepper brethren, the chili crab is pretty decent. It didn't taste spicy at first but after a short while, you'll be aware of a distinct heat gradually burning on your lips and tongue. Oh, don't expect mantous (Chinese buns) here - when they ask you if you want bread, they really mean ordinary sliced bread.


Stir-fried "Nai Bai"
The token vegetable for the meal - stir-fried "nai bai" (they're like mini bak-choy). Nice, simple and garlicky.


Black Pepper Venison
The black pepper venison with ginger and scallions - uber tender slices of meat, a la Chinese restaurant tenderizer. Still tasty.


Chinese-style Mee Goreng
Many people like the mee goreng here. It was competently done, but in the shadow of the awesome black pepper crabs, it did not elicit too many wows.

We also got a taste of the restaurant's famous "shut-down" process. Every customer is informed of the closing time around 8.45pm. Whether you have finished your meal or not, they start turning off the fans and some lights close to 9pm (rather early for a restaurant). Shutters come noisily down and you are left a small exit area around 9.15pm. So, folks, enjoy your crab but don't take too long!

I managed to take home a piece each of the crab dishes, to let hubby have a taste. He'd been a skeptic all this while, and totally refused to come here (anywhere that requires him to queue and possibly endure gruff service) but he agreed these crabs were good. Perhaps, oh perhaps, I can come back again soon.


ENG SENG RESTAURANT
247-249 Joo Chiat Place
Singapore 427935
Tel: 6440 5560
Open daily except Wednesdays, 5pm - 9.30pm

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kohi-ten Coffee Parfait
We adjourned to Kohi-Ten at Cuppage Terrace for a spot of coffee and dessert after Ohsumi. Had a delicious coffee parfait (can't remember the actual name or price, likely about S$7.90 or so). It's coffee and vanilla ice cream with cubes of springy coffee jelly. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

KOHI-TEN
19 Cuppage Terrace
Tel: 6732 808
Open daily
Mon-Thu: 8.30am - 11pm
Fri-Sun: 9am - 11.30pm

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shabu-shabu
Ohsumi is one of the first shabu-shabu specialist restaurants in Singapore. This little place on the third floor of Cuppage Plaza has been drawing Japanese expats and locals in the know. The decor looks like it hasn't changed since they set up nine years ago. It's a bit dingy and run-down but this hasn't deterred people from coming here for the food.

They offer various shabu-shabu sets (most come standard with appetiser, vegetables and udon/ramen/rice). The broth is basically boiling water with a piece of kelp. You can add chopped garlic and chillies for more flavour. Three kinds of dipping sauces are available - ponzu, gomadare (sesame seed) and the special house blend (what seems to be a ginger-peanut ponzu).

If you prefer, you can go for the kimchi steamboat, sukinabe or sukiyaki instead.


Kurobuta Moriawase
Ohsumi's specialty is pork. In particular, Kurobuta pork (the famed Black Berkshire breed). This is from the Kurobuta Moriawase (S$45++) mixed platter course, comprising belly, loin and shoulder. Sliced paper-thin, these barely need a few seconds to cook in boiling water. Smooth, silky and fatty they were. Pleasant but not mindblowingly so.


Wagyu (Australian)
This is from the Australian wagyu set (S$75++). Nicely marbled beef, but the few slices leave you very much wanting! Like the kurobuta, these cook in an instant, and are beautifully tender. However, again, there are no major taste epiphanies to be found. They also offer Japanese wagyu (S$120++).


Regular beef, additional plate
We sprung for an additional plate of regular beef (S$24++), just to compare. You can immediately see the difference. It also takes slightly longer to cook, and is not as tender or delicate in taste. But it's beefier in flavour, and generally good enough. The regular beef set is S$30++ for lunch and $42++ for dinner.


Medley of vegetables, tofu, bean vermicelli and sticky rice cake
Vegetables, tofu, bean vermicelli and mochi (sticky rice cake) provide badly needed bulk for the hotpot. I tossed in the udon at the end, hoping for a good broth. But it was still bland, unlike the Mo-Mo-Paradise shabu shabu we had in Tokyo. Hubby had the rice option, which came with various pickles. A scoop of rich green tea ice cream closed the meal.

Service here can be spotty, although the Filipina waitress was fairly OK. However, I hope they have other options for their restaurant music - the melancholy instrumental themes made it quite depressing.

Overall, a decent meal, but I'm still not a fan of shabu-shabu. For the price we paid (final bill S$198), I would much prefer to have wagyu and kurobuta on a BBQ grill instead (hello Aburiya and Gyu-kaku!).

If I do come back, it'll be to try the regular pork which I hear is pretty good. For big eaters, they have a buffet (regular pork only - shoulder, loin and belly, S$46++ per person) and a "all-you-can-eat-and-drink" course (S$69++ the pork plus beer, sake, shochu and oolong tea).

OHSUMI
5 Koek Road
#03-24/28 Cuppage Plaza
Singapore 228796
Tel: 6235-6178
Open daily 11.30am-2.30pm & 6pm-10.30pm

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Have you ever wished, as a child, for parents who were better? Or a life less boring? Coraline did, and see what happens to unpleasant little children who whinge, complain, and demand both things and attention? Well, they get what they want. But what they want is not what it's cracked up to be...

Coraline is the first stop-motion animated feature shot in 3D. It's cold and creepy from start to finish - the perfect movie for Halloween. Yes, it's astounding artistry, captivating eye candy and good voicework.  The attention to detail is truly a labour of love. Just look at the puppets - they have really small hair (a production department takes care of that). And really small clothes. Someone was specially hired to create miniature knitwear, all painstakingly done with yarn as fine as hair and knitting needles as tiny as sewing needles. And that's just a drop in the ocean of meticulous stop-motion filming and 3D artwork.


But it does fall short in some respects. Coraline is imaginative yet unoriginal. It's a rehash of many stories. Alice in Wonderland meets Nightmare Before Christmas, for one. There are also elements of Hayao Miyazaki but none of the emotional charm. Yes, it does leave you cold (a little). Mainly because none of the characters are truly likeable.

I haven't read the book by Neil Gaiman, but I understand the movie does not follow faithfully (Coraline's sidekick Wyborn does not exist in the book, for example).

And while the movie is gorgeous, don't expect too much 3D. The effects are there more for subtle depth, and the movie does not fling too many things in your face (I secretly wish they would).

So let's see if you like the story. Bored, neglected, precocious little girl follows some white rabbit mice down a secret tunnel in her new home (a pink Psycho-like Victorian mansion on steroids). On the other side of the tunnel is a parallel home where she meets her "other mother" and "other father" - beings identical to her parents except that they are wonderful! They cook for her, coddle her and want her to stay. But they also eerily have buttons for eyes.

Now, she doesn't get creeped out by those buttony eyes, and even makes repeat visits for free food and entertainment. Only when they want to sew buttons on her own eyes does she make for the hills.

But then again her own real world is eccentric enough, what with vaudeville neighbours, stringy black cats and the Igor-like Wyborn. Oh well.

The pace really only picks up when the whole deal takes a dangerous turn and in the end, Coraline has to muster up courage and resourcefulness to save the day.

Dakota Fanning voices the eponymous lead character, and Teri Hatcher is her mom (real and other world). Playing the father (real and other world) is John Hodgman - you may know him better as the "PC guy" from Apple's "I'm a Mac" ads. Funnily enough, he does use a PC in the movie, a decrepit old thing with green monochrome display no less.

Coraline opens in cinemas Oct 29 in Singapore. Other movie trivia at IMDB.

Meanwhile - TOTALLY off-topic - I'm drooling over the newly announced iMacs - 27-inch display Quad-core with the new multi-touch mouse and wireless keyboard!



This movie preview was at the invitation of OMY, as part of their Blog Awards.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Finally I have an iPhone cover
So many people have been asking me about the Ben & Jerry iPhone cover and how they can get one. The bad news is - it's not available anywhere except during Chunk Fest, which is over (boo hoo). They don't sell it at the scoop shops either! The good news is - I now have 10 of these to give away, thanks to the kind folks from Ben & Jerry itself!

All you have to do is comment below, and tell me

a) "I want!"
b) Name one flavour that was available at Chunk Fest (there were 34 flavours, so should be easy! Click link for hints. But please don't repeat someone else's answer)
c) Name your favourite Ben & Jerry ice cream flavour.

First 10 satisfactory responses will win an iPhone cover. I will mail items to the winners.

Meanwhile, Ben & Jerry is organising a "2 Scoops 2 Scary" Halloween Tour of Mischief and Mayhem. Go trick or treating on the Ben & Jerry bus from Dempsey to the Night Safari. You'll get to visit the Flavor Graveyard and embark upon the Train of Terror! Local moosicians Jack & Rai will be entertaining throughout, and all trick or treaters will depart with their pumpkins full of Ben & Jerry’s goodies.

Ben & Jerry Flavour Graveyard at Night Safari
Simply purchase two scoops of ice-cream at Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops island wide from now till 25 October to enter for a chance to join the tour on 31 October 2009. Take a stab at i-scream flavours like “Vampire“ Chunky Monkey, “Mad” Chocolate Fudge Brownie, “Beastly” New York Super Fudge Chunk, “Evil” Cake Batter, Bloody Black Rasberry. Simply ghoulicious! More information on their website.
Murukku
Happy Deepavali to all who are celebrating, and a joy-filled long weekend for everyone else! May you all have lots of tasty things to eat. Here's Nadine's favourite snack - murukku!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bowl of vegetal goodness - Thunder Tea Rice
I didn't have a good picture of Thunder Tea Rice when I first posted about it. So I went back again with my camera in tow this time. This traditional Hakka dish, also known as "Lei Cha Fan", is lauded as a health food, with the plethora of beneficial herbs and vegetables used. As for the taste, either you'll love it or you won't. I happen to like it, but no one else in my family will touch it.


Additional side dishes for set meal (add $2)
Add $2 for side dishes - a surprisingly delicious basil omelette and a slab of fried tofu topped with minced meat. The mince seems to be chicken, as they've now adopted a "no pork, no lard" policy. Doesn't quite taste as good as I remember, unfortunately.


Thunder Tea Rice and its benefits
I also wrote about the benefits in my previous post. I doubt we'll benefit from the physical aspects if we don't actually prepare the dish. It's a labour-intensive process, which I'm actually glad I don't have to do.


Main branch of Thunder Tea Rice in Joo Chiat
Many places in Joo Chiat have come and gone, but I'm glad this place is still standing. *touch wood*


THUNDER RICE TEA
Main outlet (click to check latest outlet details)
328 Joo Chiat Road
Time: 1000 - 2200
Telephone: 6342-0223

Amoy Street Food Centre Branch
7 Maxwell Road #01-39
Time: 1100 - 2000, Off on Sunday

Vivocity Branch (Food Republic)
1 Harbourfront Walk #03-01 Stall 3
Time: 1000 - 2200 Telephone: 62732209

Lau Pa Sat Branch
18 Raffles Quay #01-12
Time: 0800 - 2200

Suntec City Branch
1 Raffles Boulevard Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre
Unit 125 - 126 Foodrepublic
Singapore 039593
Time: 1000 - 2200 Telephone: 68202273

Woodlands Branch (Franchise)
Blk 768 Woodlands Avenue 6 #01-30 Stall 20 Singapore 730768
Time: 1000 - 2230 Telephone: 63673116

Friday, October 9, 2009

Golden Spoon Seafood Restaurant
Yes, back-to-back posts on Makansutra forum dinners. I am enjoying these not just for the food, but the company. There are lots of veteran foodies there who happily and generously share their knowledge of food and drink. For the Oct session held at Golden Spoon Seafood Restaurant at Tiong Bahru, Keropokman, Momo, and I were lucky to be seated at TTC's table again, along with Ivan this time (poor HungryCow got exiled to another table, due to last minute table-shuffling).

The amount you learn from just one dinner listening to these connoisseurs is amazing. This time, for example, we had fun with the wine-guessing game - they each bring a mystery bottle of wine and everyone tries to figure out the type, vintage, its geographical origin (Old vs New World) and even the type of grapes/blends used. The non-drinkers (K-man, Momo and I) joined in for fun - without tasting the wines, just looking at and smelling the bouquet.

The wine drinkers were savvy and could pin down almost all the details. With a few tips from Ivan, I could start guessing vintage correctly (2 out of 3 wines, missed the 3rd one by one year). I think his Aura of Wine Divination +6 helped. Put me out there alone, and I may not fare so well!

But I digress, let's get back to the food. Like many of the makan venues, Golden Spoon is an air-conditioned Chinese cze-char (cook and fry) shop that focuses more on food than decor. We had a nine-course dinner, starting with one of my favourite things - the cold platter.

Cold Platter with 5 varieties
1] Cold Platter with 5 varieties - 冷盘

a)Homemade Seaweed Rolls with Salted Egg (紫菜咸蛋卷, lower right): so-so, fried stuff is better piping hot than cold
b)Pig Trotter Aspic (猪脚冻, upper left): very savoury and delicious
c)Fried Gui Hua Fish Maw (桂花鱼鳔, upper right): I love egg and fish maw, so I had no complaints
d)Thai Style Jellyfish (泰式海蜇, center): one of the more unusual and captivating marinades for jellyfish. There's a strong kaffir lime-like scent to it.
e)Sesame Prawn Salad (沙律鲜虾, lower left): decent, with tiny cubes of fruit underneath


Sharksfin Soup with Scallop & Crab Meat
2] Sharksfin Soup with Scallop & Crab Meat - 蟹肉干贝扒翅
Very huge bowl - probably enough for 15 small bowls, but the seafood in here is pretty scant. The soup was also very salty, almost like a shoyu broth. But I appreciated how it warmed the belly. We were hungry!


8 Treasures Vegetarian Dish
3] Eight Treasures Vegetarian Dish - 八宝素菜
Lots of vegetables (I'm sure there are eight), including cabbage, carrots, mushrooms and white radish, all wrapped inside beancurd skin, and stewed in a rich gravy. Thankfully not until overcooked and mushy. The medlar seeds added a subtle but welcome tinge of sweetness.


Steamed Live Patin Fish
4] Steamed Live Patin Fish - 菜脯蒸山果鱼
I'm always a little wary of patin fish, because it can taste muddy if not well-prepared. But thank goodness it wasn't so here. Golden Spoon obviously took some effort, possibly by keeping the fish alive for a few days in clear water to expunge muddy elements. The fish was sweet and fresh. We all loved the chye poh (salty preserved radish) scattered on top too. 


Roast Chicken Cantonese Style
5] Roast Chicken Cantonese Style - 南乳吊烧鸡
Chicken roasted with red fermented beancurd. Also pretty decent. All gone in a matter of minutes! The skin is the best part.


Braised Pork Ribs Traditional Style
6] Braised Pork Ribs Traditional Style - 京烤肉排
Here's TTC doing the honours of cutting the whole slab of pork ribs. It was amazingly tender and very thoroughly braised (we suspect they must have used a pressure cooker, to get everything, including the bones so soft).


Panfried Black Pepper Beef
7] Panfried Black Pepper Beef - 黑椒牛肉
Wow, fish, chicken, pork and now beef - that's a lot of meat for one dinner. The beef is competently done, but as with many Chinese restaurants, it's got that spongy, soft texture that only tenderizer can achieve. The sauce is pretty good on the vegetable pieces like onion and chili.


Glutinous Rice with Ham in Lotus Leaf
8] Glutinous Rice with Ham in Lotus Leaf - 腊味荷叶饭
Until now, most of the dishes were fairly high on the sodium scale (and hey, my salt tolerance is not exactly low). The glutinous rice, however, was quite bland in comparison, even with the generous amount of Chinese waxed and liver sausages. Or could it be that our tastebuds had been over-salted by that time? I think it needed some dried shrimp or other for more dimensions of flavour.


Double-boiled Hasma with Pear & Red Dates
9] Double-boiled Hasma with Pear & Red Dates - 红枣炖雪蛤
Hashima for dessert! The crunchy cubes of pear added texture contrast to the soft hashima. Even though it was a warm dessert, it was quite refreshing and helped cleanse the palate.

I did wonder how the restaurant could make any profit with this line-up of dishes. Each of us only paid $40 nett. No corkage charges either. On top of that, they gave each diner a $20 voucher for return visits.

Let me know if any of you would like the voucher (min spend of $100 required; a la carte orders only; no expiry date). I'll mail it to you. Just ask for it in the comments. If you'd like to see more photos and dishes from Golden Spoon, here's a thread on it in Makansutra.

GOLDEN SPOON SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
62 Seng Poh Lane (opposite Por Kee)
Singapore 160062
Tel: 6536-2218
Open daily 11.30am - 2.30pm; 6.30pm - 11pm

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A much overdue post, but here it is - last month's Makansutra forum members dinner at No.3 Crab Delicacy. Lots of boisterous laughter and friendly banter, as usual. It was nice to see Liverpool65 again (omg, it's been 2 years since that bak kut teh lunch!), and to finally meet Cactuskit and his cute little girl (Cactuskid?). Plus forum veteran VitiViniVino, who had a really nice camera setup! You can see their photos here.

Here is the food we had.

Drunken Cockles
1] Drunken Cockles: I skipped this, but most people at the table enjoyed this (including Professor R who was clearly more adventurous than I am)! Looks delicious, but I'm always squeamish about cockles, especially semi-raw ones!

Sliced Cold Bittergourd appetiser, served with honey
I picked at the appetiser of cold bittergourd slices instead.


Cold Crabs
2] Cold Crabs: this won rave reviews, but I still think cold crab is an acquired taste. The flesh is a little briny, hard and powdery compared to steaming hot versions. Still, it was a lot of crabmeat and roe for crabs this size.


Teochew Style Steamed Kurau Tail
3] Teochew Style Steamed Kurau Tail: very light-tasting with savoury, tart and gingery hints.


Clams in Special Sauce
4] Clams in Special Sauce: oh this was my favourite! The sauce is delicious. I must learn how to make this so I don't have to go to restaurants just to eat this.


Fried Pigeon
5] Fried Pigeon: decent marinated and fried til crispy. Pigeons look skinny but surprisingly have enough flesh for one to nibble on. Cactuskid loved this so much, she kept savouring her piece the whole evening.


Stewed Cabbage Chicken
6] Stewed Cabbage Chicken: slightly herbal chicken wrapped in cabbage and braised. Not the most exciting combination, but probably has some Chinese nourishing principle behind it.


Braised Pork with Buns
7] Braised Pork with Buns: this one was the letdown of the evening. Gooey, starchy sauce and fatty, nondescript slices of pork that don't seem to have had much braising.


Curry Crabs with Buns
8] Curry Crabs with Buns: this is one of No.3 Crab Delicacy's signature dishes. The curry is like fish head curry, and is certainly tasty on its own. The crab was also tasty on its own. But the two did not complement each other somehow. You could just picture the curry doing better with other seafood or meat. Served with fried mantou buns.


Traditional Hokkien Noodles
9] Traditional Hokkien Noodles: this filler dish closed off the meal. The gravy was seafood-rich and umami, but the dish was sorely missing one critical ingredient - fried pork lard pieces! The other detractor was the strong alkali taste.

On the whole, this was not one of the best dinners we've had. Still, with all the crab, it was very good value at S$40 per person. I'll post Oct's dinner soon.

NO.3 CRAB DELICACY SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
2265/267 Outram Road
Singapore 169059
Tel: 6327-2148

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Finally I have an iPhone cover
My precious. Gone.

Ever since I got my supersweet iPhone 3Gs in July, I've been living in torrid fear of losing it. Well, I don't have to worry anymore, because it finally happened. Slipped out of my pocket in the cab at Rainbow Centre, Margaret Drive when I was fumbling with Nadine, backpack and making payment. I always check the seat, but this time I forgot to check the floor.

This phone is the absolute best I've ever had (and I so love the cover!). The apps kept me up til 2am, the constant connectivity made me wish for longer commutes, and the sleek, gorgeous interface just makes you want to play with it more. Even Nadine and Jolie were so enthralled, they quickly learned how to access the phone and its apps.

Slim to nil hopes of getting it back. The person who has it just kept declining calls from all sources. Whoever you are, you know how to contact me should you suddenly have a stab of conscience (a $$$ REWARD awaits you too!). You know my Gmail, my Facebook, my Twitter, my contacts, my IM, my Skype, my photos and my blog. You even know my calendar (see you at the Makansutra dinner tonight?)

I do have to let you know I have filed a police report on this loss. So, if you try to sell this phone, or if any of you out there come across an iPhone 3Gs with the IMEI code 0119490062673, please be aware that it's on the police's wanted list. I have read that people have been arrested for handphone theft, thanks to this list.

Meanwhile, I mourn and kick myself for allowing sleep-deprived carelessness to lose my most beloved gadget, which I can't afford to replace at full price. But even as I realised my horrific loss yesterday, watching Nadine during class and holding her in my arms, made me realise I still have the most important things in life. I'd happily lose the phone over Nadine any day.

At the end of the day, it's not the material stuff that matters the most.

(But I still won't say no to having my iPhone back!)

Nadine
 
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