Sunday, July 31, 2011

Michael Han of FiftyThree
The July instalment of the DBS Masterclass featured Michael Han of FiftyThree at 53 Armenian Street. Michael ditched his law degree to pursue his dream of being a chef, working 16 to 18 hours a day. He began at home with Au Jardin and then at The Fat Duck, L'Enclume, Anthony's in England and Mugaritz in San Sebastian. He combines inspirations from nature with modern cooking techniques and sciences to bring about unique dishes.

I like Michael as he seems really sweet, shy, straightforward and honest. And for the most part, he had to be totally serious, as the three dishes he was demonstrating were not child's play.

His food is beautiful, but looking at the preparation work required, I would say, "Don't try this at home!" Yeah, just go to FiftyThree and eat there.

Mud Crab and Kohlrabi, Apple and Nasturtiums
Mud Crab and Kohlrabi, Apple and Nasturtiums
This is not just pretty but tasty too. Savoury crab, crisp kohlrabi and apple, smoothly peeled walnuts (they really taste like something else!), all doused with a vinaigrette and brown butter emulsion.

The recipe is daunting. I'm not even going to type it out. You can click below to see larger images and details.

This here green thing is your kohlrabi
For those of you wondering what kohlrabi is, it's this here green thing. Tastes like white radish, so in a pinch, you could use radish as a substitute. Oh what am I saying? No, no, no, you don't want to try this recipe. Just go to FiftyThree.

Michael will show you how to play with crabs
Chef showing us how to play with crabs.

Now how come I never thought of that technique for cracking crab...
And how come I never thought of using a heavy pan for cracking crabs? I love multi-purpose tools.

Anyway, if you thought the first recipe was tough, you'll drop your jaw at the second one...

Carrollʼs Heritage Potatoes in Soil

Carrollʼs Heritage Potatoes in Soil
Then again it is oh-so-pretty! This is how it's served at the restaurant, in the specially commissioned tree trunk bowls. Doesn't it look like a veritable garden? A totally edible one, with coffee soil.

Recipe as follows. Click if you dare...

Be prepared to use stuff like hay...
Be prepared to steal some meadowsweet hay from your rabbit or hamster supplies (easily available at pet shops). Yes, we're using that to cook! I always thought those things smelled so nice.

Wagyu Beef Cheek and Alliums, Asian Pear and Wood Sorrel

Wagyu Beef Cheek and Alliums, Asian Pear and Wood Sorrel
Some really tender wagyu, coated with ash breadcrumbs (hey, we're using hay again here!), and perfumed with wild garlic oil and various spices.

Aha! A much shorter recipe, barely 2 pages! BUT, you'll need a sous vide machine...


Anyway, I did enjoy watching Michael skillfully put together those dishes with dedicated precision. I am reminded again of a key reason I would go to a restaurant - to eat stuff I cannot cook myself. I also gained some insight into how unusual ingredients can be used, and I marveled at the creative presentation.

Apple Jellies
We all got to sample those famous FiftyThree apple-flavoured jellies (yes, I think these are alcoholic). Let them melt on your tongue for a slow release of flavour. Or just chew them, if you are impatient. Both ways enjoyable!

Thanks to DBS Indulge and AFC Studio for inviting me to the masterclass. Check out also previous masterclasses by Roberto Galetti (Garibaldi Group) and Sho Naganuma (Hide Yamamoto Restaurant).

You can sign up for future masterclasses featuring chefs Janice Wong (2AM Desserts), Yong Bing Ngen (Majestic Restaurant) and oh my god, Tomonori Danzaki (Joel Robuchon Restaurant)!

Friday, July 29, 2011

I've been baking quite a bit lately...
I've been baking a lot. Bread, that is.

Early in July, I revisited the "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day" technique, and I just couldn't stop after that. I already liked it when someone taught me in 2008, but this time I have the book, and it is a gem. You can turn out all kinds of breads, bagels, flatbreads and pizzas, enriched breads and pastries, etc.

What I really like about the basic bread recipe is the crust. Oh my! If there's anything I love more than crackling roast pork skin, it's crackling bread crust. And how it sings when it comes out of the oven, crinkling as it cools.

Last week I tried the Sun-dried Tomato and Cheese Bread, which is an extension of the basic bread formula. Anyone can make this, without kneading too.

Sundried tomato and cheese loaf

I'll list here a basic framework of how I made this bread:

You need to first make the refrigerated dough (this is enough for four 1-pound loaves):

3 cups lukewarm water
1.5 tbsp granulated yeast (I use instant)
1.5 tbsp kosher or other coarse salt
6.5 cups unsifted, all-purpose flour
  1. Make sure water is slightly warmer than body temperature. This helps initial rise to be just 2hrs instead of 3 or 4.
  2. Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart/litre bowl or plastic food container
  3. Mix in the flour - no kneading necessary. Dough should be uniformly moist.
  4. Cover with lid (not airtight) and allow to rise (about 2hrs). Longer periods are OK too.
  5. You can use a portion of the dough after this, but fully refrigerated dough is less sticky and easier to shape.

That's the basic dough recipe, which you can use to make boules and such.

For the sundried tomato and cheese bread, you'll need

1 pound (450g) of the basic dough above (not all of it)
Olive oil for brushing the loaf
Half cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
Half cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or any other Italian-style grating cheese; I actually used some Beemster Classic - we just can't stop eating Beemster at home now after getting to know it here)
Cornmeal for dusting (optional)

  1. On baking day, dust the surface of the dough in the container with flour and cut off about a grapefruit size. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball (stretch surface of dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating as you go).
  2. Roll out the ball into a quarter-inch thick rectangle. Use enough flour to prevent it from sticking to the work surface but not so much that it's dry.
  3. Brush the dough with olive oil. Scatter the chopped tomatoes evenly and sprinkle the cheese all over. 
  4. Starting from the short end, roll up the dough into a log and gently tuck the ends under to form an oval loaf. 
  5. Allow to rest an hour. The book calls for a pizza peel and baking stone (hence the cornmeal for dusting the pizza peel), but it's fine to just use a parchment-lined baking tray. I still let the dough sit on a slight dusting of cornmeal on parchment for that nice gritty effect.
  6. Preheat your oven 20 minutes before baking to 450°F/230°C
  7. Brush the top of the dough lightly with olive oil and slash parallel cuts across the loaf, using a serrated bread knife. Place the bread (on baking tray) into the oven. 
  8. Pour one cup of hot water into a small tray or metal container and put that into the oven as well (but note that tabletop ovens may not be able to handle this extra steaming). I put it on the oven floor, which I was recently told is not advisable (try the lowest rack instead). Or you can use a broiler tray that does not interfere with rising of bread. 
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until deeply browned and firm.
  10. Allow to cool before slicing or eating. Yes, we all want to carve right into warm bread fresh out of the oven, but let it cool first, or the inside may still be partly gummy.

Sundried tomato and cheese loaf

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cold Stone Creamery has taken awhile to come to Singapore but they've become an instant hit the moment they opened at Orchard Central in March 2011. It's packed to the gills, especially on weekends. A second branch has opened in Far East Square on 27 July.

Banana Caramel Crunch®  (French Vanilla Ice Cream, Roasted Almonds, Banana, Caramel)
Keropokman, Momo and I braved the OC crowd on a Friday night and tried several of the Signature Creations (in "Like It" size of 4 oz, S$5.50). It's an additional $1 for freshly-made waffle bowl and $1.50 for chocolate-dipped waffle bowl (I much prefer the plain waffle bowl).

- Banana Caramel Crunch® (French Vanilla Ice Cream, Roasted Almonds, Banana, Caramel)
Nice combination, with very strong banana flavours. Keropokman found the bananas a little too young, but I didn't mind.

Germanchökolätekäke®  (Chocolate Ice Cream, Pecans, Brownie, Coconut, Caramel)
- Germanchökolätekäke® (Chocolate Ice Cream, Pecans, Brownie, Coconut, Caramel)
If you are trying to pronounce that morass of words - just think "German chocolate cake". Personally, I am not sure what language that's in, since chocolate cake in German is Schokoladenkuchen. I could only make sense of "chökolätekäke because of Dora the Explorer episodes showing a "Cho-co-la-te" tree.

Berry Berry Berry Good®  (Sweet Cream Ice Cream, Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries)
- Berry Berry Berry Good® (Sweet Cream Ice Cream, Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries)
This must be bursting with anti-oxidants!

Apple Pie A La Cold Stone®  (French Vanilla Ice Cream, Cinnamon, Graham Cracker Pie Crust, Apple Pie Filling & Caramel)
- Apple Pie A La Cold Stone® (French Vanilla Ice Cream, Cinnamon, Graham Cracker Pie Crust, Apple Pie Filling & Caramel)
Even the apple pie filling is shipped from the U.S., along with pretty much all the other toppings and ingredients! We tried to ask where they source their milk from, but learned that it's all in the pre-mix that comes in from the U.S.! No milk is added here!

Our own creation - Cotton Candy and Orange Ice Cream, mixed with Gummy Bears
We also tried out a crazy combo for our DIY cup. Blue cotton candy flavoured ice cream with orange ice cream mixed in with gummy bears and rainbow sprinkles. Even the staff thought this was weird. They recommended not "mixing-in" the two flavours! Hahaha! Well, actually the flavours are pretty mild, so even if they did jumble everything together, it would not be a disaster.

I have to say the ice cream is unusually thick and dense, with an almost chewy texture. It's unlike the common air-whipped varieties that melt very quickly. But this also means one scoop is a lot more filling than what we might be used to, and we might over-eat quite easily. I seriously had trouble buttoning my pants the next day!

PB&C Milkshake
Their Signature Shakes go for $8.50 (16oz). Here's the infamously rich PB&C (Chocolate Ice Cream, Milk & Peanut Butter) milkshake. I don't think I could tackle this on my own!

Cold Stone Creamery staff doing the mix-in
Cold Stone Creamery staff mixing in the ice cream with toppings. They sometimes will do flaring, acrobatic throws of the finished scoop and catch it in the cups or bowls. Or let customers have a go at it!

Yes, one wasted scoop, but all in the name of fun
Not all the scoops land perfectly, of course. It's all in the name of light-hearted fun, which is what Cold Stone is about. The merry bunch there will sometimes even sing and dance, in addition to all those ice cream tricks!

The waffle bowls are so popular, there is a dedicated station making them non-stop
The waffle bowls are so popular, there is a dedicated station making them non-stop. And you know, the smell of freshly made waffles is just so inviting! There's also an open show kitchen where you can watch the ice cream being made. It's the only such kitchen in the Cold Stone chain (of over 1,400 outlets) around the world.

Choose from all sorts of flavours
The ice cream is made on-location, fresh every day. With all the different toppings and flavours, there's an estimated 11.5 million different combinations. Have fun trying some out!

Thanks to Leroy of Foodnews for hosting us, and Cold Stone for the treats.


181 Orchard Road
Orchard Central #01-09/10
Singapore 238896
Tel: +65 6238-9060
Open daily 11am – 11pm

49 Pekin Street
#01-01 Far East Square
Tel: +65 6557-2979
Opening Hours
Mon–Fri: 10am – 9pm
Sat: 10am – 8pm
(Closed on Sun)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I like the decor - it puts you in a soothing and relaxing mood
Fisherman's Market at The Central is a gorgeous place. As you ascend the escalator into the primarily white hall filled with beautifully presented seafood, you'll feel like you've just floated up to heaven.

There are so many Japanese buffets in Singapore (see my list of almost 40 Japanese buffets here), but this one is positioning itself as a premium Japanese-Western-Asian seafood buffet.

The name may be similar to Manhattan Fish Market, which is also at The Central, but there is no relation. Fisherman's Market is a Japanese brand set up by Create Restaurants, a conglomerate with 110 F&B concepts in Japan. This is their first endeavour in Singapore.

I will have to say, I absolutely love the soothing decor of white, wood and glass. There is ample space and a high ceiling for one half of the restaurant. Double-storey floor-to-ceiling windows give you a grand view of the Singapore River and Clarke Quay. Of course, I was too distracted by the food to take a photo of that view until it was too dark.

Seafood on ice - prawns, oysters, mussels
The food does look amazing. Seafood on ice - oysters, prawns, mussels, etc...all of which I did not try, but I heard raves about the oysters and scallops from others.

There are nearly 90 dishes to choose from!
Everything is neatly and compactly arranged, so it does not look like an overwhelming lot, but there are up to 90 dishes available! I wasn't even able to try a quarter of the stuff there.

As with a buffet this size, there is definitely something for everyone, but it will also be tough to do everything perfectly.

Best tempura in any buffet - these are fried a la minute
I appreciate that the tempura is fried only upon order. Every table is given a few clip tags, which you present to the stations (there's teppanyaki and tempura) and they will bring your order to your table once it's done. No waiting necessary. How nice.

Sushi rolled by native itamae
There are various kinds of sushi available, all done by native itamae. The Japanese sushi chefs do manage a bit of English, and can tell you what ingredients are used.

The hot dishes were pretty decent
The hot mains are fairly decent. The kids loved the pasta vongole bianca (what is it with kids and pasta?) and seafood fried rice. However, the chili crab and black pepper crab did not have much meat in them, so it may be more worthwhile trying other items than cracking those shells.

The dessert station may be small but it's one of the better stops here!
The dessert station may look small, but it holds some of the best goodies here. We all loved the DIY soft-serve ice cream machine, and I am glad to say the ice cream tastes way better than McDonald's (which now has this almost artificial milk powder flavour).

Don't miss the creme brulee - it's divine! Super rich and eggy too. You can ladle some of the "Macedonia" fruit cocktail mix onto your ice cream too. The tapioca pearls in the coconut milk are a little undercooked though.

Fisherman's Market is a Japanese and Western buffet
On the whole, great score on decor and presentation. Foodwise, there are hits and misses, as is normal with most buffets. It's a pity I wasn't able to try everything! Maybe I missed some good stuff somewhere in there...

The buffet is dinner only, but there is also a la carte downstairs for lunch.

Mondays to Thursdays : S$39.90++ (Adult) / S$22.90++ (Child below 12yo)
Fridays to Sundays : S$49.90++ (Adult) / S$27.90++ (Child below 12yo)

Thanks to Word of Mouth and Create Restaurants for the invitation.

6 Eu Tong Sen Street
#01-16 , #02-17 The Central,
Singapore 059817
Tel: +65 6221-3177
Open Daily:
11am–11pm (1st Floor, Ala–carte)
6pm–11pm (2nd Floor, Buffet, dinner only)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Singapore Blog Awards 2011 Party
The Singapore Blog Awards 2011 on Saturday was a lot of fun! The minute you walked into the venue (Shanghai Dolly at Clarke Quay), you were greeted with festive cheer and energy.

Singapore Blog Awards 2011 Party
It felt bigger and better this year. It helped that this year the venue was well-lit, and we could see just how many bloggers were involved. We also had lots of entertainment. Local singer Shimona Kee performed some really nice numbers. Later on there was a costumed skit too, by some bloggers, I believe.

Singapore Blog Awards 2011 Party
It was great meeting old friends and new friends.

I was also very enthused to finally meet in person some folks I had only known on Twitter or online. Thanks to everyone who came up to say hello!

Singapore Blog Awards 2011 Party
And then we had the opening sequence, complete with confetti. The guest of honour was Major-General (NS) Chan Chun Sing, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports and Minister of State, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. He gave a speech glowing with praise for bloggers, even singling out notable examples.

Singapore Blog Awards 2011 Party
The results were announced in quick succession. No "after the break" pauses to keep us in suspense. The Best Food Blog 2011 award went to Foodeology! Congratulations, Yiwei! In fact, congratulations to all ten winners this year!

Singapore Blog Awards 2011 Party
As Domino's was a sponsor this year, we certainly got to sample some of their pizzas. We also had free-flow Tiger Crystal beer courtesy of Asia Pacific Breweries. There were other finger food and mini-cakes. The food is a lot simpler this year, which suited the occasion fine, since it was held at tea-time (2-5pm).

Singapore Blog Awards 2011 Party
There was an award for Best Dressed (Male and Female). The theme was "History Goes Social" so we could dress up as any historical figure, famous or otherwise. So we had (from left to right): Pocahontas, Cleopatra, Liang Po Po, Cleopatra no.2, shepherdess and shepherd, Alexander McQueen, Marilyn Manson, Dick Lee (the "widescreen" version) and er, Michael Jackson (yes, that's Steven Lim who also did a somersault in his intro, accidentally knocking the beer bottle out of widescreen Dick Lee's hand.

Singapore Blog Awards 2011 Party
We had a full reunion of the Royal Caribbean travel bloggers! Well, this photo is missing the bikini girl (she ran up a tad late) who incidentally also showed up in a bikini top at the awards.

Singapore Blog Awards 2011 Party
Great job, OMY team! Now, we're all looking forward to SBA2012!

Full set of photos on Flickr and Facebook.

Yes, that's Darren up to his shenanigans. He should have been crowned Best Entertainer!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mildly Spicy Salted Egg Squid
Ever had a craving for dim sum and drinks late at night? Now you can have dim sum for supper, together with cocktails, bottled beers and wines too. Stacked Dim Sum Bar (Facebook) at The Quayside (Robertson Quay) was started to do exactly that.

The al fresco joint is associated with Red House Seafood and is right next to it, so they probably share the same dim sum expertise. However, at Stacked, you'll see several more contemporary and fusion creations along with traditional stalwarts.

My absolute favourite item at Stacked is the Mildly Spicy Salted Egg Squid (S$12). These well-seasoned savoury nibbles are just so addictive!

North Taiwan Lychee Beer
North Taiwan Lychee Beer (S$12) is an interesting brew they offer. It's really light and sweetly refreshing. There's a version with Honeydew too.

Strawberry Margarita
My friend had the Strawberry Margarita, which came looking like a giant slushie. In our outdoor weather, this melts fast, so you also have to drink quickly too, so it doesn't overflow!

Asparagus Prawn Cake
The Asparagus Prawn Cake (S$10.50 for 3 pieces) is a juicy patty of chunky diced shrimp and sliced asparagus. Nice.

Steamed Chilli Crab Pau
Steamed Chilli Crab Pau (S$8.90 for 3 pieces). These soft, fluffy, bite-size buns have a dollop of chili crab gravy and crabmeat in them. A little too sweet for me though. I found out later that there is a fried bun version, which I think would do better (more fried mantou-like?).

Char Siew Pastry
Char Siew Pastry (S$5.90 for 3 pieces). These are rich, soft and crumbly. Most of us enjoyed this.

Stacked Platter
Now for the fusion dim sum. We tried the following Signature Stacked Dumplings (S$8.90 per basket):

Top: Shredded Duck Dumpling with Hoi Sin Sauce (shredded duck with thinly sliced cucumber)
Bottom left: Scallop Pesto Dumpling with Mayo Dip (diced scallop with Italian basil pesto)
Bottom right: Margherita Dumpling with Balsamic Vinegar Dip (diced tomato, mozzarella, Italian basil)

These can be a mixed bag though. The duck dumplings had lots of meat in them, but the skin is a tad chewy. The scallop pesto dumplings were a little too greasy for me (perhaps the shape of the dumplings retain more oil?). The Margherita dumplings had a lot of cheese within, but it somehow masked the tomatoes and basil (mozzarella as a cheese is a bit bland).

Stir-fried XO Carrot Cake
Stir-fried XO Carrot Cake (S$8.50) - this was quite soft and moist, and it carried a heavy aroma of Chinese sausage.

Teochew styled Noodle Pancake
Teochew-style Noodle Pancake (S$6.90 for 3 pieces). These egg noodle patties are apparently a traditional Teochew snack, and require a lot of work to make. You have to boil, season, pan-fry and cut into shapes. I'm sure I missed out a few steps. Well, it tastes almost exactly like wantan noodles (without the wantan), but with crispy sides.

Stacked Mango Sago Pomelo with Peach Vodka
Stacked Mango Sago Pomelo with Peach Vodka (S$7.90). This lies in between a drink and dessert. It's quite thick, yet drinkable. I rather liked it. The peach vodka lends a fragrant kick.

Stacked Dim Sum Bar is at The Quayside
Interior image courtesy of Stacked

The interior decor is a mix of organic and industrial, using unfinished wood panels, concrete and corrugated siding. No air-conditioning here, but there's a 'Big Ass Fan' to help keep things cool. Stacked also has large TV screens showing football and movies. The bar overlooks the river, and is probably great for people-watching as well.

I don't know why there haven't been more dim sum bars in Singapore. I guess mainly because good dim sum is labour intensive and requires a full kitchen. If you are sick of regular bar food, maybe Stacked is an alternative since not many places offer dim sum in the evenings.

Thanks to Sixth Sense Communications and Stacked Dim Sum Bar for the media tasting session.

60 Robertson Quay
#01-13 The Quayside
Tel: +65 9677-8281
Open Mon-Thu: 3.30pm-11.30pm
Fri: 3.30pm-1am
Sat: 1pm – 1am
Sun: 1pm-11.30pm
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