Wednesday, March 31, 2010
If you have overripe bananas but are sick of making banana bread/muffins/smoothies, try this for a change. Kuih kodok or godok pisang. Gorgeously caramelised fritters using mashed bananas. Easy as pie. In fact, easier than pie! This recipe is very roughly adapted from Bananas.org (see last post), but I used a lot more fruit.
8-9 medium ripe bananas (those with blackened skin are perfect)
1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
Oil for frying
1 tablespoon Gula Melaka (palm sugar) dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water: I added this as the bananas I used were slightly waxy and not the uber-sweet variety.
1. Mash bananas into pulp (I used a potato masher).
2. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Your batter should be thick.
3. Heat oil (about 2-inches deep) in wok or deep pan using medium heat.
4. Use a large spoon to scoop and drop the batter into the hot oil. Hold the spoon low and close to the oil, so you don't get a nasty splatter.
5. Fry a few at a time until golden brown. Don't put too many in the oil at once because the oil temperature will drop too much and the dough will absorb oil and turn soggy.
6. Repeat until batter is finished.
You can see the ones I made are not as spherical as the ones sold outside. That's because I used more fruit and less flour, so they don't hold their shape as well. But they taste a whole lot nicer!
Friday, March 26, 2010
Can you picture Singha Beer (or any beer for that matter) accompanying haute cuisine at a fine-dining restaurant? I'll be the first to admit the image seemed a little incongruous at first, but hey, why not? Sometimes it is good to shake things up a little. The big question is - does it work? Let's find out...
Singha Beer commissioned celebrity chef Emannuel Stroobant to create a special menu to show how beer can be enjoyed with high-end cuisine. This one-time menu was unveiled yesterday at Saint Pierre to a group of media and bloggers.
I am not much of a beer person, but I'm very much an Emmanuel Stroobant fan! There is no denying the Chef in Black's arresting zeal, charisma and energy! The room fell into hushed awe as he entered and gave us an introduction to the menu and the rationale behind its planning. As a Belgian, Emmanuel would know his beers (he has over 70 varieties at Brussels Sprouts). The Belgians make so many wonderful beers (the Petrus Blond is nice).
So let us see what the chef has created to complement Singha beer.
Certainly a delectable menu! The main dish is the Singha signature dish. Emmanuel says the beer's acidity (not unlike wine's) lends itself well to seafood. He infused some jelly with the beer and wrapped it around scallop mousse. He also added lemongrass as a nod to the beer's Thai origins.
North sea grey shrimp salad with thousand island ice cream, momotaro tomato and organic avocado mousse
The little shrimp sat on a delicious slice of tender, home-smoked salmon. We were intrigued by the savoury ice cream (sorry mine melted as I took photos) - thousand island really tastes good as ice cream! The avocado mousse carried all the flavours of the seafood, tomatoes and dressing, and tied them in.
With beer? Yes, not bad. Singha is a pale lager, so it's very light-tasting, much like a pilsener. I felt it was a great palate cleanser and took off the rich fats well enough for the next course.
Saffron infused mussel consomme with low temperature braised patte jaune chicken and spring vegetable julienne
If there ever was a beer snack in liquid form, this would be it! This made me chug the most beer! A clear broth, but intensely salty and bold. The chef certainly did not stint on saffron either.
I enjoyed the crunchy julienned vegetables, and the patte jaune chicken tasted unusually sweet. What is "patte jaune"? I looked up and could only find "yellow leg" (direct translation from French). Yellow leg chicken, all chicken should be like you. Full of flavour in every morsel.
Singha Signature Dish - Singha jelly with lemongrass infused scallop mousse and wild herb salad.
And now the main dish. It was more substantial than what was worded. Real scallops, thick, dense and meaty ones, grilled medium-rare. The smaller brown pieces are actually potato, delightfully made to look like scallops! Tasty too. The scallop mousse was like a seafood tofu and the beer-infused jelly around it lent a bittersweet tinge. Even the carrots were treated with something that made them extra delicious.
Oh this was a surprise item. Cheese with beer, like you do with wine? Here we have (from front to back) tasting portions of Brie, Comte, Munster and a super-intense goat cheese. We particularly liked the Munster. Honestly, I felt this platter contrasted best with the beer, out of all the dishes.
Caramelized banana crusted flourless Belgian chocolate cake and coconut sorbet
This must be the famous Grandma Stroobant's flourless Belgian chocolate cake. It's creamy, smooth, bitter and light all at the same time. Goes wonderfully with the angelic white coconut sorbet, and the caramelised sliced bananas.
Again the beer did well to cleanse the palate of the strong flavours.
We finished off with good coffee, petit fours and hearty appreciation for the lunch. There aren't many beers that I like or can handle (I don't have those critical enzymes to digest alcohol) but Singha is one beer I can definitely take. At the end of the meal, I'd nearly polished off the entire 330ml bottle, and without turning beet red either. I think Singha would go best with seafood, spicy food or intense flavours in general. Or just as a thirst quencher! I think I had more beer than water.
Thank you, Singha Beer, for letting me see the inside of Saint Pierre, and for the beery good dining experience. Look out for reviews by fellow bloggers Aromacookery, the HungryCow, Ladyironchef and TheLittleTeochew all of whose company I was glad to have!
1 Magazine Road
#01-01 Central Mall
Open Mon-Fri: 12noon - 2pm, 7pm - 9.30pm
Sat: 7pm - 9.30pm
(Closed on Sun)
Thursday, March 25, 2010
The most celebrated name in deconstructivist cuisine Ferran Adrià will be in Singapore from April 22-23 for the World Gourmet Summit this year!
I read on Cuisine Wine & Asia that he won't be cooking but will on 22 April present a 55-minute documentary on "A Day at El Bulli" followed by a Q&A. There are 400 seats (listed as S$48 each) available for this event which will be held at luxury hotel Capella. Somehow that feature story went missing a short while later (so maybe some details are changing), but here is the official WGS press release for more information.
On 23 April, Chef Adrià will talk about the techniques and philosophy behind his progressive cuisine. He will also announce future plans for El Bulli, which he will shut down in 2012 and reopen in 2014 as a 'think tank' to attract the best talent and champion gastronomical creativity.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Crispy Fish Skin Hong Kong style - deep-fried eel skin accompanied with a superior stock dip (see bowl behind). The crackling fish skin is addictive enough on its own, but when infused with the tasty stock (let it soak a couple of seconds), it's a completely new sensation. Muted crispiness with a burst of savoury soup.
Cold Japanese Cucumber with Century Egg - this super-garlicky appetiser could be the best insurance against vampires, which may cause teenage girls to avoid this. It's quite salty, so mix it well with the cucumbers before eating.
Fried Prawns with Pepper & Salt - big, juicy crystal prawns coated with crispy bits, chopped garlic, spring onions and chillies. More salt than pepper here, but no complaints.
Smoked Golden Snapper Fish - incredibly rich and amazing smoked flavours! The smoky pungence comes through well but is not overpowering. The crisped exterior also lent texture to the tender flesh.
The fish is served with a very complementary sweet-sour spicy sauce, which I loved (it's spicy!). But you can also enjoy the fish on its own, to best savour the beautiful smoked flavours.
Blanched Live Clams in Superior Stock - clams so very fresh and tasty, soaking in a beautifully light broth. The plenitude of onions, spring onions and chives lent sweet fragrance to the very comforting stock. I'm glad they added tanghoon (clear vermicelli) to soak up the goodness. I drank it all off my plate.
Braised Pig Trotter with Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce - I was blown away by how tender and flavourful the meat was. The pieces hold their shape just long enough to make its way into your mouth, where it melts into divine succulence. I nearly wanted to order an extra portion to take home! Definitely one of the best pork trotters I've ever had.
At this point in time, one of the organisers Andrew took Ivan, Cheryl and I into the kitchen for a tour (ack, we missed out LeRoy who was in the other room!). I was honoured to meet Chef Julian Tam (far left), who has built up quite a reputation for superb culinary skills in Singapore and Guangzhou, China. He seems an affable, down-to-earth and soft-spoken man with no airs or pretensions.
It's a small space in the galley, as is typical of most Chinese kitchens, but efficient and fast-paced. I am always amazed at how humble little spaces can churn out such delicious things.
Look at the charcoal-grilled geese just glistening and beckoning! We had to stop our caveman instincts from making us grab and chomp on these immediately. So, back to our seats as these birds (specially flown in from Taiwan) got sliced up and served.
Charcoal-Grilled Goose - this is nothing short of a masterpiece. There were smoked flavours in this (especially the thigh areas) that made it taste like high-end ham. Interestingly, this goose comes with gravy - a well-spiced and savoury concoction that enhanced the smoky richness of the meat.
Stir-fried Vegetables with Lotus Root and Bamboo Pith - the vegetables were blanched just right, retaining that coveted crisp, crunchy texture. At first, I thought this was the most nondescript dish of the evening, but the superb taste of the gravy came through later. It was quite stunning and I wished there was more (or at least that more that coated the vegetables). The spongy bamboo pith was the most absorbent and soaked up the most gravy, making it extra tasty.
Fried Seafood Mee Sua - I think this delicate-tasting dish may have suffered waiting in the wings a little. By the time it was portioned out, it tasted a little cold and soggy. Loved the generous portions of crisp, large prawns though.
Panfried Red Bean Pancakes - the flaky pastry here is a little thick and doughy, but the smooth red bean paste within makes it a satisfactory dessert nonetheless.
It's been said that Wo Peng has so many good offerings, it's hard to identify their "signature" dishes. Many of the dishes are also not on the menu, so feel free to ask if they can whip up a specific item. You could also ask them to tailor some dishes to your budget (and preferences), based on the day's freshest ingredients. Generally, the food will not disappoint. However, note that Wo Peng does not serve the typical "flavours-in-your-face" cze-char. Chef Julian is not heavy-handed with sauces and instead seeks a finer balance of flavours.
Decor here is modestly no-frills (hey, we're all here for the food). But it's certainly cosy and comfortable enough for dinners big or small. The restaurant now occupies two shophouse units. Look out for the brightly lit signboard. However, parking is infamously difficult along Macpherson Road, so take advantage of the free valet parking service in front of the restaurant.
Warmest appreciation to the Makansutra organising team, especially Andrew and Tony, for arranging these delicious dinners month after month.
WO PENG RESTAURANT
476 Macpherson Road
Tel: 6747 9892 (reservations strongly recommended)
Open daily 11am - 3pm; 6pm - 10pm
Friday, March 12, 2010
When I was given the chance recently to interview the guys from HungryGoWhere, I jumped at it. I like the site and think it's the best of the food-related user review sites out there. Plus the founders (Wong Hoong An, Dennis Goh and Tan Yung Yih, above) have remained a really nice bunch! Here are my quick and dirty dozen questions for them.
1. You get around 670,000 unique visitors a month. How many user reviews do you get a day now on the Singapore site?
HGW: We get on average around 40 reviews a day.
2. There are so many "me too" food sites with user-submitted reviews - how do you cope with such competition?
HGW: We actually think that it is good to have a wide variety of such sites as it promotes a greater understand on what Web 2.0 and user-generated food sites are about. If we were the only ones in the whole world running a user-generated food site, it would be extremely unlikely that people would have taken notice of us or this industry for the matter. It is precisely because there has been such a proliferation of user-generated food sites that people have now sit up and taken notice of such a trend, and of course visit us.
3. Do angry chefs know where to find you after bad reviews have been posted?
HGW: We actually think they are more interested in finding the reviewer! But seriously, we want the restaurants to engage their diners (our community), and every restaurant is allowed to post their management response to each and every review on their restaurant, free of charge.
4. Have restaurants ever threatened to sue you?
HGW: As legal fees tend to be very high, many restaurants (when they are unhappy with certain reviews) choose to work with us to resolve the issues rather than go through the legal route. We would generally advice them to write a management response to let our community understand their viewpoint.
5. How do you prevent business owners from faking positive reviews of their own eateries to bump ratings up?
HGW: Our community actually helps us monitor which reviews look suspicious and alert us to them, allowing us to zero in on the reviews that have violated our terms and conditions, and warrant our attention. In addition, for the restaurant owners and managers whom we have actually met, we always encourage them not to post reviews on themselves as our community is quite a discerning lot. Imagine if you have posted a highly favourable review of your own restaurant giving ratings that are perfect marks, the expectations of the people visiting your restaurant after reading the highly inflated review would be sky high, and there is no way that you would be able to meet those expectations. The subsequent “disappointed” reviews would bring the ratings back down to earth. That is the power of HungryGoWhere – the market as a whole cannot be fooled, and the ratings given by the market will reflect the wishes of the market. Our main job is to make sure that there is a critical mass of people using HungryGoWhere so that we have a statistically significant sample size to draw from when assessing which restaurants are the best in the industry, as rated by the market. Thankfully there is already a critical mass of users in Singapore, and we are now working on getting a critical mass in every subsequent market that we expand into.
6. Who is the biggest eater of the three - Dennis, Hoong An or Yung Yih?
HGW: Clearly, it is Hoong An! He is a monster eater!
7. I see Hoongy submits a lot of reviews but do Dennis and Yung Yih also put up reviews (under what usernames)?
HGW: The funny thing is, we have this little ongoing bet in the office on how long we can stay hidden. Hoong An has already been discovered, but he has made it very easy to find him. The remaining two of us are still waiting to be discovered! On a more serious note, people have asked us whether our reviews carry more weight, and we would like to highlight that we write all our reviews in our own personal capacity. Our ratings are given the same weightage as any other reviewer’s ratings, and we are not able to decisively change the ratings with our own reviews. There have been restaurants or hawker stalls that we liked that the market disliked, and vice-versa, but that is the beauty of HungryGoWhere – the market ultimately decides, not us. We are merely facilitators who get the conversation going so that the market’s views get drawn in. Once we have done that, we have done our job.
8. Where is HungryGoWhere going after Malaysia, HK and Australia?
HGW: We are currently investing a lot in R&D to lay the technological framework for our global expansion. Hence, we have not yet pinpointed the exact country or region that we will focus on in the near future, and it would not be fair to raise expectations in the near term. But we do promise that once we are ready, we are going to expand rapidly across the entire globe.
9. What are the best three foodie finds you have discovered through user reviews?
HGW: This is a really, really tough one! We have found so, so many great places after starting HungryGoWhere, thanks to all the hungry foodies out there! It is impossible to rank them all, but we would say that.
10. Food fights - sometimes squabbles break out on the website between users with differing opinions. What's the worst you've seen and have you ever needed to referee any argument?
HGW: People are passionate about food, and therefore, there would be times when there might be differing views on the restaurants based on their respective dining experiences. We generally do not try to get involved in such disputes, unless it clearly gets out of hand (i.e. use of vulgarities).
11. I notice you were chosen as poster boys for the Economic Defence portion of this year's Total Defence's "I Will" campaign. How do you feel about taking part?
HGW: We are excited to be able to do our little part. We feel honoured to be able to represent new start-ups and entrepreneurs in this year’s Total Defence campaign.
12. How have users responded to the MSN co-branding partnership? Personally I prefer the classic version (see below) and I'm glad I can still access that.
HGW: You know, you are not the only one who gave us that feedback. We take the feedback of our user community very seriously, and that is why we are currently in the process of tweaking the site in response to all the valued feedback we have received from our users.
So there you have it - their candid and thoughtful answers. Here's hoping the team at HungryGoWhere continues their enthusiasm and good work! May they enjoy their streak of success for many more years to come. Now if anyone of you out there has figured out what usernames Dennis and Yung Yih hide behind on the website, pray tell! Meanwhile, all you HGW users, keep adding those fabulous reviews that make this a great site!
Saturday, March 6, 2010
I have to post this. During my last Japan trip in 2007, we hunted high and low for Go!Go!Curry! in Shinjuku. We saw the signature yellow logo but for the oddest reason, could not find the right staircase or lift to go up. It was late and we were tired, so we abandoned our quest.
Little did I expect the yellow Go! Go! Gorilla to come to Singapore.
OK, this is what the "Economy Class" takeaway (S$12.50) looks like. The different "classes" (Healthy, Economy, Business, First) just refer to amount of rice, not size of katsu. The laminated paper box is sturdy enough to take the curry poured over the cutlet and rice.
Tastewise - we were expecting curry but were slightly taken by surprise as it's more like a thick beef stew. It's not bad, once you get over that expectation. Flavours are robust and hearty. Just not very curry-like. The meat is pretty good quality and the rice is short-grain Japanese rice. No shortcuts, I'm glad. But I still wonder what the Shinjuku experience would have been like.
GO! GO! CURRY!
ION Orchard Outlet
2 Orchard Turn
#B4-55 ION Orchard
Tel: 6509 4555
#05-01 Stall 24 Food Republic
313 Orchard Road
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Bonchon is a Korean chain that's a hit in the U.S. A group of four friends (hence "4 Fingers") brought the franchise to Singapore. What caught my attention (besides the NYC subway style wall-tile decor) was the media attention it had garnered. In the U.S., Esquire and GQ lauded Bonchon as "best fried chicken" and The New York Times also did a feature on it. So now, is it really worthy of the praise?
There's quite a lot of fat in chicken wing skin, and the Koreans have managed to cook chicken in such a way (twice-fried) that renders the fat out (yay!), resulting in a delightfully thin and crunchy skin. Miraculously, the meat stays tender and moist.
I did a takeaway box (6 wings, S$7.95) of both flavours - soy garlic (rather sweet) and hot (very mild). The wings are lightly painted with sauce and the skin did a good job of staying crisp, despite our humid weather. I'd still recommend eating them fresh on the spot than doing a takeaway though.
Worthy of mention are their fries. Generously seasoned with seaweed, sea salt, paprika and chili flakes! Oh *love*! But even their "large" (S$3.50) is not a huge portion.
Other downsides? You do have to wait a while (about 15-minutes) for your chicken to be prepared. I guess this means they cook only upon order, and not pick from a tray of ready-fried items like KFC does.
And it's not cheap - my little snack of 6 chicken wings and pack of fries cost S$11.45, but I might come back still.
BONCHON CRISPY CHICKEN
2 Orchard Turn
#B4-06A ION Orchard
Open daily: 11 am to 10 pm