Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Devil's Curry - my version, i.e. somewhat bastardised!

Despite being married to a Eurasian family, I have never attempted to make any Eurasian dishes. Partly because they always seem to involve long, complex, laborious procedures and some advanced sorcery unavailable to common mortals. Plus the hubby himself hates Eurasian food. But last week something simply possessed me to make Devil's Curry. I am not sure why. I don't know what a good one tastes like - every family has a different interpretation - and I don't really care for the vinegary aspect of the curry.

But I thought I'd try it anyway, and make one that I would like. Minus the copious amounts of vinegar. Would it work? Would it still be Devil's Curry? Heck, who cares so long as it's edible!

I looked at recipes - they ranged from surprisingly simple to painful. Some had so many ingredients! Others involved chicken, duck and pork partying together. I was stunned to discover there's no coconut milk in this curry at all. It all the more enforced how little I knew about Eurasian food. But one thing I did know - I wanted bacon bones in my curry for added flavour!

So here's my rather bastardised version of Devil's Curry. All measurements are very, very approximate, as I didn't keep track of my experiment but improvised as I went along. Feel free to adjust to your own preference.

One chicken breast, cubed and marinated with Worcester sauce or BBQ sauce, soy sauce, pepper and a splash of vinegar (optional, just there to pay homage to the dish's original tangy character)
400g bacon bones
3 potatoes, cubed
Mustard seeds - 2 teaspoons
Oil for frying

Chilli paste 4/5 tablespoons
Lemongrass - 3 stalks
Turmeric - two 2cm pieces, peeled
Galangal - 50g or two knobs
Shallots - 10 pcs
Garlic - 7-8 cloves

1. Brown bacon bones and breathe in the divine aroma of sizzling bacon. Then add 1.5L or so water to boil for an hour or two to make stock (it will reduce a fair bit). Add 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons sugar.
2. Meanwhile pound or blend the rempah/spices.
3. Toast mustard seeds until they pop.
4. Add 5tbsp oil and fry the rempah mix on low-to-medium heat until oil separates. About 20mins.
5. Brown chicken and set aside.
6. Brown potatoes separately add spice mix. Add chicken and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. See potatoes and chicken gloriously absorb the wonderful colours of the spices.
7. Add bacon bones and stock to the whole thing. Cook for another 15 mins, until potatoes are cooked, and the curry is at the desired thickness or consistency. Season further to taste if necessary.

What can I say? Bacon makes everything taste good.

Friday, July 27, 2012

My new favourite briyani stall is just under my nose! Hidden in the corner of a Marine Drive kopitiam is Masala Tandoor, which serves an astonishing array of Northern Indian dishes. I really appreciate that the rice is fluffy, richly spiced and yet doesn't feel greasy!

The owner Rashid was from Omar Khayyam (are you old enough to remember this restaurant?). Do you think he channels Omar Sharif too? OK, maybe not. 

He's got a tandoor oven here, where he whips out great tandoori items and naans. Go find him at Block 81, Marine Parade Central (facing Marine Drive), #01-654, Singapore 440081.

My story in Makanation:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

With Jolie

We've reached the end of an eight week trial using L'Oreal Paris White Perfect Laser products in an experiment using three non-beauty bloggers (see Facebook minisite).

L'Oreal Paris dared to compare their White Perfect (WP) Laser product results against that of an IPL session. That's pretty bold, but a self-assessment comparison test involving 85 women showed incredible results - the women were more satisfied with WP Laser results than with IPL. Spots shrunk, dark spots faded, skin texture and smoothness improved, and skin became more radiant. In that eight week test, all of the women agreed that they would delay their IPL session upon seeing the results.

DBS Indulge flew in Chef Alvin Leung of Bo Innovation for their latest Underground Supperclub. I was very privileged to have a look at how this master of X-treme Chinese Cuisine infused Singapore influences into what he interprets as "Food for the Soul" - check out how laksa, oyster omelette, chicken rice, chili crab and such become transformed into elements you may not recognise!

My story on Yahoo Makanation:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Making a wish and blowing out candles

Happy birthday, Nadine! Six years ago, you were born on your daddy's birthday, so we get to celebrate both birthdays together always. Of course, guess whose birthday we always focus on more!

I never thought she'd be a Spiderman fan, but she just won't fall for Disney princesses or female superheroes. My little tomboy.

Cake placed far away to avoid fingers poking in!

We almost always get a strawberry shortcake for birthdays around the house. Everybody loves them.

The cake, of course, had to be placed far far away prior to candle-blowing to avoid itchy fingers plunging into the delicious cream.

The girls loved the robots!

Both girls get presents - and they were absolutely delighted to get Transformers robot toys this year (besides the Spidey hooded suit for Nadine and Dora pajamas for Jolie). Hubby snagged a great deal on these toys (only S$20 each!). They actually transform into vehicles too (but with great complexity that stumps even us adults). Well, at least there's lights and voice action - that's always a hit.

Yes, who says girls have to play with Barbie?

Don't you wish you could follow Seetoh around as he ambushes culinary big shots and small vendors alike on his TV shows? Sometimes like everyone else he has to queue, or worse the whole crew gets thrown out! Let's see what happens in the Singapore episode tonight.

Just a plug for a charity concert that my friend Peng Chi Sheng (second from left) will be performing at. He runs Intune Music School with partner Aaron, and they provide vocal and music classes for kids and adults alike (check out their Youtube channel for some of their performances).

What: A concert showcasing the very best of 新谣 (Xinyao) music from the 1980s - 1990s.
Where: Hwa Chong Institution (College) Auditorium, 661 Bt Timah Rd, S269734
When: Friday, 27 July 2012, 7:30pm - 9:30pm

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you'll remember what Xinyao was. Maybe you'll recognise some of the songs listed on the poster (click image to see bigger version).

Some are from Chinese TV serials and many are by composer Dr Liang Wern Fook, who is a prolific composer and lyricist, having created over 100 songs in over 30 years. They'll be performed by artistes from Intune Music School and Hwa Chong Institution.

Tickets are $20 for adults, and $8 for students! Buy tickets by contacting:
1) Email xinyao@xinyao.sg, or
2) SMS/call 96943090/90603500.
Also available at the door starting 5:30pm on the day itself. I may have some extra tickets too, so email me if you are really keen.

Come and listen to some nostalgic tunes and that cheer will do good too - 100% of the proceeds will go to the ST Pocket Money Fund. Say hello as well to Guest of Honour Baey Yam Keng and Special guest Tin Pei Ling!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hougang 6th Mile Famous Muah Chee is now at Block 69 Bedok South Ave 3
I'd been wanting to check out the famous Hougang 6 Miles muah chee but never quite got motivated enough to haul myself to Hougang. But hey, they've moved closer to me, and are now at Bedok South.

The boss Mr Teo still makes them by hand, pinching each globule of sticky glutinous rice dough and dabbing them every so briefly in the shallot oil, before coating them with crushed peanuts and sesame. He says no one makes them this way anymore (they use scissors to cut the dough), as it's really tiring. He goes home with an aching body each day. But the manual way yields better texture and that desired tensile bounce.

His father ran the business as a roadside stall since the 1950s. But when the son retires, there will be no one taking over this business.

Muah Chee with White Sesame & Peanuts
The white sesame muah chee (S$2.50 for small). I really enjoyed this even though I'm not that big a fan of muah chee. Each morsel is soft, beautifully chewy, and melds perfectly with the mixture of fragrant peanuts, sesame and sugar.

Muah Chee with Black Sesame & Peanuts
He also does a black sesame muah chee (same price). It's got a stronger, almost musty-like aroma which I didn't take to, but interesting to try once at least.

Hougang 6th Mile Famous Muah Chee is now at Block 69 Bedok South Ave 3
There is a small queue even during off-peak hours despite the quiet location. Mr Teo says he hopes the rental will stay low as muah chee is not a lucrative business. I just hope he stays in the business long enough for someone to learn his trade and take it over.

Block 69 Bedok South Avenue 3
Tel: +65 9862-1501

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jiang-Nan Chun at Four Seasons Hotel Singapore
The stunningly gorgeous Cantonese fine-dining restaurant Jiang-Nan Chun at the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore has a new Chinese Executive Chef.

Chef Alan Chan is the new Chinese Executive Chef at Jiang-Nan Chun
Chef Alan Chan is a Hong Kong native who has lived in Singapore since 2001. He joins Jiang-Nan Chun from Crystal Jade Dining IN at Vivocity where he was Master Chef. Alan recently collaborated with his counterparts at three-Michelin star Lung King Heen (Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong) and the two-Michelin star Zi Yat Heen (Four Seasons Macao), so he's reinforced his direction and benchmark for Jiang-Nan Chun here.

Private dining room at Jiang-Nan Chun
We had the opportunity to try some of his signature dishes at a media session where we also got to meet their new Director of Public Relations, Michelle Wan.

Don't you love the lush greenery surrounding the hotel? Even though it's so near Orchard, it's got that prized serenity that is so relaxing, it's almost like a resort. This is one of the three private dining rooms - Hangzhou, Suzhou and Yangzhou - which seat 14, 10 and six respectively. Great views.

Tomato Amuse Bouche
A Tomato Amuse Bouche kicked off the session. The slow-poached tomato in lychee did a good job of whetting appetites.

Roasted Duck and Roasted Char Siew
And then onto some appetisers proper! Roasted Duck and Roasted Char Siew - both tender and superbly marinated. I felt the char siew didn't need the red colouring - natural caramelisation and browning can look more appetising. The duck is really good though (and I'm not even a fan of duck).

Roasted Pork Belly
Roasted Pork Belly - done the way the Cantonese restaurants do best. Crispy brittle crackling atop nicely balanced layers of lean and fatty meat.

Drunken Chicken Roll
Drunken Chicken Roll - interestingly done in a roulade, with a generous dose of wine.

Peking Duck
Peking Duck - could you ask for a more splendidly roasted bird?

Peking Duck
They serve the Peking Duck here with flour pancakes tinged green from spinach. We noted that the chef seems to like spinach, as you'll see.

Of course, lunch would not be complete without dim sum. Actually, they serve dim sum all day! Our ears really perked up at the good news. It's so hard to find good dim sum in the evenings.

The selection here is pretty good with unusual touches or extra thought put into the little heart-warming morsels. Some of them are just enough to make you wonder what the extra special flavour is, without being in your face. But others are bolder, and delightfully surprise your palate.

Steamed Pork Dumpling with Shrimp and Baby Abalone
Steamed Pork Dumpling with Shrimp and Baby Abalone - decadence in a bite.
See spinach leaf?

Steamed Scallop with Cod in Spinach Sauce and Truffle Oil
Steamed Scallop with Cod in Spinach Sauce and Truffle Oil - wrapped in cabbage and steamed in broth, this is definitely one of the healthier options on the dim sum menu. The spinach sauce is delicious - it definitely has a good stock base.

Baked Flaky Pork Pastry with Bacon, Ham and Sesame Seeds
Baked Flaky Pork Pastry with Bacon, Ham and Sesame Seeds - oh yes, we could taste the bacon in this one.

Steamed Pork Dumpling in Spicy Vinegar and Garlic
Steamed Pork Dumpling in Spicy Vinegar and Garlic - strong and pungent from the raw minced garlic.

Steamed Lobster and Shrimp Dumpling with Shrimp Roe
Steamed Lobster and Shrimp Dumpling with Shrimp Roe - your har gau gone deluxe! So pretty the presentation, and you can see how the thin skin is expertly folded.

Steamed Mushroom Dumpling with Asparagus, Celery and Carrot
Steamed Mushroom Dumpling with Asparagus, Celery and Carrot - now these may seem like just vegetables, but what amazing flavour they had! So much so that they made an even bigger impact than the lobster and shrimp dumplings.

Deep-fried Pastry with Salted Egg, Mushroon, Onion and Curry Powder
Deep-fried Pastry with Salted Egg, Mushroon, Onion and Curry Powder - at first, these look just like the fried yam puffs, but bite into one and you'll see the flavours are so different. The curry stands out for me, although the others didn't detect it as much.

Very flowy salted egg yolk custard buns
Very flowy salted egg yolk custard buns - eat carefully! These buns have very molten cargo.

And now for the signature mains.

Simmered Fillet of Star Garoupa with Beancurd Skin and Wolfberries in Carrot Broth
Simmered Fillet of Star Garoupa with Beancurd Skin and Wolfberries in Carrot Broth - healthy and satisfying. This alone can be quite filling!

Wok-fried Spiny Lobster with Spanish Chorizo, Minced Pork and Egglant served in Claypot
Wok-fried Spiny Lobster with Spanish Chorizo, Minced Pork and Egglant served in Claypot - probably my favourite dish of the lot. The combination along with the slightly spicy seasoning is just mouth-watering.

Double-boiled Sakura Chicken Soup with Chinese Pear and Fig
Double-boiled Sakura Chicken Soup with Chinese Pear and Fig. Chef Alan Chan likes to innovate with nuances of flavour. Here the pear and fig not only lend sweetness to the soup, but also help to add a cooling effect to the body system in Chinese traditional medicine terms. Great for our sweltering weather. A good Cantonese soup can be so fortifying.

Braised Beef Cheek in Sweet and Sour Sauce and Gold Leaf
Braised Beef Cheek in Sweet and Sour Sauce and Gold Leaf - beef so tender, even sous vide can't put up a fight to create this kind of texture and flavour. Hey spinach! Both will give you iron, so eat up!

The final noodle course is also another of my favourites.

Morel mushrooms in sauce being poured over crispy noodles
Morel mushrooms in sauce being poured over crispy noodles. The noodles have already been seasoned, so they are already peppery and flavoursome. The mushroom sauce adds more umami punch, and the shaved truffles crown the noodles with luxurious aroma and taste.

Crispy Noodles, Fresh Morel Mushrooms, Shaved Summer Truffle
So here you have it - Crispy Noodles, Fresh Morel Mushrooms, Shaved Summer Truffle. Deservedly over-the-top. I would so come back for this!

Trio of desserts: Homemade coconut ice cream served with black glutinous rice, Deep-fried Green Tea Dumpling
Trio of desserts: Homemade coconut ice cream served with black glutinous rice, Deep-fried Green Tea Dumpling. Pulut hitam given a twist with coconut ice cream instead of coconut milk. The Deep-fried matcha dumpling is a textural delight - I had to ask how they managed to fry it. At the far end is a mochi-like dumpling, which also was as tasty as it was cute.

It looks like Chef Alan Chan has done a marvellous job with the new menu. We loved his enthusiasm as he explained each dish in Cantonese, and the Restaurant Manager Ng Chong Kim gave a darn near poetic translation of all he said, in English/Mandarin.

Jiang-Nan Chun also has a Weekend Oriental brunch featuring 101 items of dim sum and popular dishes in unlimited servings. But lunch or dinner any other day looks just as good for their dim sum (again, I say, available all day!) and some of their special dishes.

Check out also their National Day dining promotions - on Aug 9, the Oriental brunch goes for S$47++ per person instead of the usual S$58++, inclusive of Peking duck and free-flow juices!

Four Seasons Hotel Singapore
Second floor
190 Orchard Road
Singapore 248646
Tel: +65 6831-7220
Open daily
Lunch 11:30 am – 2:30 pm
Dinner 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Weekend brunch
Sunday (first seating) 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Sunday (second seating) 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Saturday 11:30 am – 2:30 pm

Many thanks to Michelle Wan and the Four Seasons Hotel for the invitation and for hosting the lunch.

Find out the love story behind yam ring (I adore this dish, and am charmed that it has such an inspiring beginning). See if you recognise the patisserie chef Seetoh surprises in the clip. There's also sinful vegetarian chow and a hidden gem in the north of Singapore.

Tune in 10.30pm tonight on TLC - Starhub ch 427.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chili Crab at PARKROYAL on Beach Road
While we're on the topic of seafood (the theme of this year's Singapore Food Festival), you might like to know about this crab feast at Plaza Brasserie. Chili Crab, Black Pepper Crab, a superbly spicy Salted Egg Yolk Crab, Butter Crab, Thai Green Curry Crab, Crabs in XO Sauce - all mud crabs. There are also flower crabs done Nonya style (but tasting somewhat like Indian curry crabs).

Other items might include Crab Meat Lo Mein, Braised Tang Hoon with Crabs, Vegetables and Crabmeat Tempura. I suspect one might be too distracted by the mains to try the appetisers (Dijon Crab Cakes with Coriander Paste, Chili Crab Roll, Baked Crab Shell, Mini Crab Meat Samosas, Crab Meat Gyoza, Olive & Potato Crabmeat Balls with Pesto, etc).

Of course, non-crab dishes are also available, along with freshly shucked oysters, salads, sashimi and sushi, desserts.

The Crab Fiesta is available for dinner daily from 5 July to 31 August 2012.
Mon-Thurs: Adults S$52++; Children S$31++
Fri-Sun: Adults S$55++; Children S$33++

PARKROYAL on Beach Road
7500 Beach Road
Singapore 199591
Tel: +65 6505-5710
Seafood Paradise at Singapore Food Festival 2012

The Singapore Food Festival 2012 kicked off last night with a seafood theme. This year the Food Festival Village is held at the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade (see map) instead of the Clarke Quay Read Bridge where it's been for the past few years.

The Singapore Food Festival Village has three times more space

For ten days from 13 July to 22 July, you'll get to sample fare from up to 50 vendors in one place.

The good thing is - there's lots more seating space (up to three times more, I hear). So it was kind odd not having to jostle and fight for seats like in the previous years. But in a good way, obviously.

HY California is at the Singapore Food Festival Village
It looks like more restaurants participating this year, beyond just street food vendors - there's HY California (above), Covelli Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar, Seafood Paradise, Moi Lum, Al Qasr, and maybe a couple more.

We were very happy to see Executive Chef Sho Naganuma at the HY California booth. He seems to remember us from his DBS Masterclass! You know I love his chawan mushi (recipe in the post) - still the best I've ever had. Here's Keropokman's photo of Sho (right).

The sushi here is probably one of the better value items at the festival village, because even some hawker fare is going for S$8. Stuff seems more expensive this year, but the NETS Flashpay card which they promote onsite will net you a 20 per cent discount.

Seafood platter from Seafood Paradise

This year the SFF has a special seafood platter (S$36.90+) created by Seafood Paradise. You get Chilli Crab / Signature Creamy Butter Crab, Stir-fried Live Geoduck with Asparagus in XO Sauce, Crisp-fried Prawns tossed with Salted Egg Yolk, Deep-fried Coral Trout in Nyonya Style and Supreme Seafood Fried Rice.

It's nice to be able to sample their specialties this way, but I'd recommend going to Seafood Paradise itself with a group of friends to have the full portions!

Nadine loved being on water
Nadine and I also went for the Tiffin Cruise (S$68+) on a bumboat. This is one of the events that's remained unchanged over the years, but I don't know if it might be back next year.

The tiffin cruise takes you around Marina Bay
The leisurely 60-min cruise takes you around Marina Bay and turns back near Liang Court/Clarke Quay.

Food isn't the highlight of the tiffin cruise, but the tiffin carrier that you get to keep is!
Along the way, you get to snack on seafood treats like sambal prawns, seafood fried rice, calamari, mussels and fried fish. Honestly, the food is not the highlight, but the tiffin carrier that you get to keep is! These old-school metal tiffin carriers are so hard to come by these days, and the one they give is so pretty.

There are many more activities you can check out for the food festival at its website. A Jurong Fishery visit, a slew of events at Sentosa Harbourfront, cooking masterclasses, workshops, food trails, restaurant and dining promotions. If you love seafood, this is definitely a month of celebration for you.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Man Fu Yuan's Mao Shan Wang mooncake
Man Fu Yuan is pulling out the stops with their "Mao Shan Wang" durian mooncake. The thick creamy durian pulp is made even more decadent with the addition of coconut milk. The snowskin covering is also so thin that it almost melts away under your touch.

This photo was taken with the mooncake at near room temperature. The taste and texture seems to come out more when it's not chilled.

Each mooncake is individually shrinkwrapped and paper-boxed. There's a slim package in front for tea too.
It's available in a box of four pieces (S$54.80), or as part of the Snowskin Mooncake Collection (S$51.80) which also features Green Tea Paste with Dragonball Jasmine, Lotus with Macadamia Nuts and Sesame Paste with White Sesame Seeds. You can also mix and match your preferred flavours.

There's a long rectangular box in front of the mooncakes that give you space for a tea sachet and set of plastic cutlery and napkin - so very thoughtful.

Nadine playing with the mooncakes
Here's Nadine playing with the mooncakes. They also have the classic baked mooncakes. I should like to check out their unusual High Mountain Sweet Potato Mooncake with Champagne Chocolate, in boxes of eight pieces. It's a signature item they pioneered five years ago. But for now, the Mao Shan Wang durian piece has me purring most contentedly.

Such pretty packaging
The boxes are so elegant and pretty, in muted gold and purple. These make such nice trinket or storage boxes.

Mooncakes are on sale at the Teahut, located at the hotel's Bugis Junction entrance from 10 August to 30 September 2012, as well as at major shopping malls. Call 6820-8519 or 6820-8520 for more details.

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