Sunday, March 31, 2013

Five Unusual Eats at Jalan Besar

You know we have so many hawker centres and kopitiams selling, quite often, the same variety of food. So it's nice to see some unusual offerings, all concentrated within a walkable stretch. Find these five items at Jalan Besar - pork aspic, oyster cake, claypot crocodile, chicken rice balls and a Chinese non-herbal mutton soup.

Details in my story on Yahoo Makanation:

Hope everyone's having fun this Easter weekend! I am in Hanoi, hopefully eating my way through all the gorgeous street food there. You'll be able to see near real-time photos on my Instagram.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Would You Eat Horfun From A Vending Machine?

When I first heard about piping hot horfun from a vending machine at NUS, I was so intrigued. What a crazy idea - or maybe not so?

We risked our tastebuds to show you what the thing is like:


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Triple Three Norwegian Seafood Buffet Dinner at Mandarin Orchard

Oh, if there's something Singaporeans just can't get enough of, it's seafood.

So it should be good news that the Triple Three buffet restaurant at Mandarin Orchard is featuring "A Celebration of Seafood from Norway" from 12 to 28 March 2013.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"Sambal Days, Kampong Cuisine" - Aziza Ali Remembers The Good Old Days

I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Aziza Ali, a pioneer Malay restaurateur in Singapore. She's come up with a book - "Sambal Days, Kampong Cuisine"- which charmingly captures the spirit of life back in the 50s and 60s, along with the many dishes available back then. Life was simpler but cooking more complex then; people thought nothing of spending hours just to make one dish. She particularly misses the "gotong royong" spirit, that of mutual cooperation and helping one another.

My interview with her on Yahoo Makanation has more:

I have read the book, and love it. Written with such warm nostalgia and loving detail, it will whisk you back to a different world not too long ago when people took more interest in each other's well-being and celebrated food with closer social bonds. I remember some of that. My Malay neighbours used to give us wonderful dishes during Hari Raya, and we'd reciprocate with oranges and gifts during Chinese New Year.

You look at how impersonal we are today, with neighbours who keep to themselves and barely share anything about themselves, much less food they prepare with know those good old days are long gone.

“Sambal Days, Kampong Cuisine” is available for S$15 at most bookstores in Singapore.

Chef Robert Danhi Demos 7 Special Sunkist Recipes at Morsels and ToTT

Chef Robert Danhi came to town last weekend, on tour to demonstrate recipes he has specially created for Sunkist. I was lucky enough to attend both the press event at Morsels (an interesting new restaurant at 35 Mayo Street) and the public demo at ToTT.

I have to admit that prior to these events, I didn't know much about Robert, but I'm so glad Sunkist chose him. He's an all-round nice guy and wonderful teacher - firm, friendly and funny. You truly feel the passion he has for food of this region. His award-winning book, "Southeast Asian Flavors", is stunningly detailed, almost like an encyclopaedia. It's a labour of love that took over 20 years in the making.

Anyway, he's developed some recipes exclusively for Sunkist. It's ironic that citrus fruits came from Asia, but here they are eaten mostly at the end of the meal and less so as part of the main dishes.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Capri by Fraser at Changi City/Singapore Hotel Residence - Urban, High Tech and Very Chic

If you're looking for a staycation far away from the city but not far away from urban conveniences, take a look at The Capri by Fraser right beside Changi City Point (near Singapore Expo). I'm so glad to discover this gem right in the East, and it's a lot more stunning than the marketing collaterals suggest it to be.

The Capri by Fraser hotel residence concept is a hybrid of serviced residences and smart hotels. You get the extensive range of hotel facilities along with the comforts, convenience and flexibility of full serviced residences. Best of both worlds?

Actually, it's even more than that. Take a look.

Note: This is another bumper post with 41 photos.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Singapore Shiok

Cute video. What makes Singapore "shiok" for you?

We met up with the cool folks from Singapore Tourism Board last night over a killer feast (first time I saw food bloggers waving the white flag). It was an evening of revelry and pondering what fills us with thrills in Singapore. Of course we had to say the four-letter F word - FOOD. But that's something too obvious and overdone. There's lots more shown in the video, but what else does it for you? Especially little hidden joys. Tag it with #sgshiok when you tell the world.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ajimer Sharif Mee Goreng at Tekka Market

Boy am I glad I stopped by for this. One of the best mee goreng in town - studded with morsels of smoky mutton, crunchy beansprouts and cabbage, tasty bits of egg, fresh green chili, peas and potato cubes. The yellow noodles have soaked up flavour and smoky aromas, but remain firm. All marvellously mouth-watering without being greasy. That's serious wok control and frying skill.

The portion is generous too. A mere S$3.50 gets you a very large plate. But you won't be able to resist polishing it all off. I did a takeaway for the family, and took a bite before they wrapped it up. Oh man, it was so good, I sat down and ate half the pack right there! Had to stop myself from finishing the whole thing. It was still good at home, after an hour in the packet.

That's Arun in the brown shirt
The mee goreng came recommended by KF Seetoh who tells me it's best when Arun is helming the stove. That's Arun in the brown shirt. You can ask if he's there, or just stealthily bring this photo along when you go.

Ajimer Sharif at Tekka Market Food Centre

The stall also has other dishes like nasi goreng, mee kuah, chicken chop, roti john, mutton soup and tulang bone steak.

#01-251 Tekka Market Food Centre
665 Buffalo Road
Singapore 210665
Open 10am to 9pm daily


Friday, March 8, 2013

Sunkist-Chef Danhi Recipe And Contest Giveaway! Plus Top 10 Facts About Citrus Fruits

Chef-educator Robert Danhi's free workshop, organised by Sunkist, happens this Sunday (10 March, 4-6pm) at ToTT. No need for registration - just come on by (first 80 guests get a goodie bag too)!

We are also giving away five sets of great prizes in a easy contest here below. Collect them at the event itself!

I'm certainly looking forward to meeting Robert himself - an amazing guy who is truly in love with Southeast Asian cuisine. See my previous post.

He will be showcasing some exclusive creations:
--  Lemon-Coriander Salsa with Seared Scallops
--  Sparkling California Lemonade
--  Sunkist Orange & Yogurt Parfait with Toasted Coconut

Here's one of the recipes. Sounds yummy already!

Sunkist Orange, Roasted Duck and Coriander Lettuce Cups


Thai Chili paste in Soya Bean Oil “Nahm Prik Pow” 1 Tbsp.
Lime juice 2 Tbsp.
Fish sauce 1 tsp.
Minced lemongrass 1 Tbsp.
Minced ginger 1 Tbsp.
Small diced Sunkist® Oranges (2 oranges)
Sliced shallots ¼ cup
Thinly sliced cucumbers ¾ cup
Sliced roasted duck – skin on breast, skin removed from leg and thigh - ½ duck (about 1 cup boneless meat)
Roughly chopped fresh coriander ½ cup
20 Small lettuce leaves, such as Butter or Romaine (2 heads)
Chopped roasted peanuts ½ cup


1. Whisk together chili paste, lime juice, fish sauce, lemongrass and ginger until smooth.
2. Add Sunkist® oranges, shallots, cucumbers, duck and coriander and fold gently until well mixed.
3. Fill lettuce cups with 2 tablespoons of orange mixture. Garnish with chopped peanuts.

This recipe was created exclusively for Sunkist by Chef Robert Danhi

It's always a great idea to add some fruits to our dishes - you get fruity fragrance, natural layers of sweet and tart, plus vitamins, antioxidants and fibre!

Top 10 Facts about Citrus Fruits

  1. Grapefruit can help suppress appetite.
  2. Flavonoids in fruits like grapefruit may protect the heart by reducing inflammation in the arteries.
  3. Cara Caras (photo above) are called "The Power Orange" because they provide 150% of the vitamin C an average person needs each day. They also contain lots of vitamin A, folate, fiber, and lycopene.
  4. Cara Caras have pink flesh inside, and a rich, floral aroma with cranberry/cherry undertones and a vanilla flavour finish.
  5. As a special hybrid of navel oranges, Cara Caras are seedless and easy to peel. 
  6. One navel orange gives all the vitamin C an average person needs a day.
  7. At only 80 calories, oranges are nutritious and filling, thanks to their fibre and water content.
  8. Just one ounce (two tablespoons) of fresh lemon juice fulfils 20% of your daily vitamin C requirement.
  9. Adding fresh lemon juice to your tea helps increase absorption of antioxidants.
  10. All these fruits are fat-free, sodium-free and cholesterol free.

Contest - Giveaway!

Yes, we're giving away here five sets of goodies from Sunkist, Chef Danhi and ToTT.

     Chef Danhi cookbooks
     Jamie Oliver peeler
     Cocktail mixing set from ToTT
     Branded aprons
     Oranges and lemons

How to enter:

1. Tell me in a comment below your favourite dish/drink/cocktail that uses oranges, grapefruit or other citrus fruits.

2. Email me (camemberu at gmail dotcom) your contact details (with the subject "Sunkist"), so I can arrange to pass you the prize at the Sunkist-Chef Danhi event at ToTT, if you are a winner.

3. (optional) Share this post on Facebook for an extra chance at winning. I will be able to track shares on the Facebook fanpage. You can also like it, if you like.

Winners will be chosen via random draw, so everyone has a fair chance. Closing date is noon, Sunday, 10 March 2013. I will contact winners via phone/email immediately after that, to meet you at the 4-6pm event.

So easy, right? Jump in, there's nothing to lose. I hope to see you at Chef Danhi's event!


SuperBrunch at the Ritz-Carlton: Next Indulgence Happens 17 March

True indulgence comes twice a year.

The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore is holding its legendary bi-annual SuperBrunch on 17 March 2013. The hotel’s got a new Executive Chef Massimo Pasquarelli who has worked at several Michelin-starred restaurants around the world, including the Alain Ducasse Group.

This mind-blowingly luxurious buffet is so massive, it stretches from Dale Chihuly’s “Sunrise” glass-blown sculpture at Chihuly Lounge across the lobby to “Sunset” in Greenhouse Restaurant. That's 78m of food. But it isn't just a quantity and variety deluge, but thoughtful and beautifully presented culinary treats. There are à la minute stations, unlimited Champagne and live entertainment. Dionysus himself might show up!

Let me show you what the last SuperBrunch was like.

Bewarned, this is a super-long post with 38 photos in total, plus highlights you can expect from the 17 March SuperBrunch. Haha, someone said on Facebook, "This is some serious food porn!"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Django Unchained: Movie Review. Or Heck, Just Go Watch It!

"Django Unchained" is bloody awesome. Oh yes, it's bloody, all right. You won't expect anything less from Quentin Tarantino. But he's cobbled a pretty good spaghetti Western with the underdog-black-slave-gets-fantasy-revenge theme.

I don't want to give any spoilers or reveal too much of the plot - it's really best to just go in, sit back and enjoy the movie without knowing what's coming next. As it is, I already think the trailers reveal too much.

Thankfully, the movie has its humorous moments amidst the violence. It's got basically what works in a plot, villains you love to hate, heroes you want to root for, enough laughs and surprises. But it does sag and drag at certain parts, most notably the centre portion. So much so that you are practically relieved to see the signature bloodbath finally break out.

The film itself garnered 91 nominations and won 25.

These include five Academy Award noms, and two wins.

Quentin Tarantino who wrote and directed the movie, took home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Did you know he writes his screenplays by longhand and not by computer? Dude loves pain, all right. But hey, I respect that old school bent.

He also has a cameo in the movie. Suitably short-lived role.

My favourite character by far is Dr King Schultz (right) who recruits Django as his deputy bounty hunter. I love the way he manages to shoot first and pacify later. He's the most beguiling of the lot - a mix of compassionate vulnerability and cold-hearted decisiveness.

Not surprisingly, actor Christoph Waltz who embodies Dr Schultz with warmth and wit, won the Best Supporting Actor accolade at the Oscars.

Jamie Foxx plays a gritty Django to good effect. Earlier on, Will Smith had been one of the casting considerations for the role, but much as I love Will, I think he might be a little too goofy to play Django.

Interestingly, Foxx (real name Eric Bishop) grew up in Texas amidst some racism, and has no issues with the movie's controversial slavery theme and liberal use of the N-word. History is what it is.

Leonardo diCaprio totally commands the role of Calvin J. Candie, the slick, rich and cruel plantation owner training slaves to fight to the death. He's better as a bad guy than a hero, anytime.

And what's a Tarantino movie without a dash of Samuel L Jackson?

This time he plays a treacherous, cynical badass, the Uncle Tom male servant in Candie's employ. I kept wanting to see him morph into the surprise saviour, coming round to the aid of his own kind. In one scene, I think he does, unintentionally. But on the whole, he's still someone we're supposed to hate (gosh, how is that possible?)

Django Unchained opens 21 March 2013 in Singapore. Go watch it. Even if you're squeamish about guns and gore.

Thanks to Wei Li and Alvin for arranging the movie preview. All photos from the movie's Facebook page.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Chat with Chef-Educator Robert Danhi, Author of Southeast Asian Flavours

Robert Danhi-making Tom Yum in Thailand

Chef Robert Danhi is going to be in town for a free cooking workshop/demo (March 10, 4-6pm) at Tools of the Trade (ToTT), organised by Sunkist. Chefs are often a passionate lot, but rarely have I seen an American one brimming with such intense love for Southeast Asian cuisine.

Robert, whose career spans 25 years as a chef-educator-author has written
a book, Southeast Asian Flavours, featuring recipes that he researched, and food that he personally cooked, styled, and photographed.

The book won "Best Asian Cuisine Book, USA"and "2nd Best Asian Cuisine Book, World at the 2009 Gourmand Awards made finalist in the James Beard Foundation Book Awards 2009. The website has sample recipes.

I really liked his video on Saigon - his fresh, honest and zippy take on the various dishes and ingredients of Vietnam. I also had the chance to ask him about his fascination with Southeast Asian food. Check it out below.

1. You're doing a PhD on the Gastronomy of Southeast Asia. Why has the cuisine of this region captivated you so?

Upon arriving on my first trip more than two decades ago, I was captivated by the abundance of variety in Malaysia - and that food was the primary topic of conversation at every socio-ecomonic level - not just affluent foodies. Food was an accurate representation of their cultural history, geography, and ethnic diversity. I began to explore. Thailand was next and wow, the attention to the aesthetic aspect of presentation - even at the simplest market in the villages food was artfully presented with such respect and honor.

Robert Danhi-Lemon Grass Intoxication

2. When and where did you first experience Southeast Asian food, and what was it like?

Although I sampled a few things when I was a teenager I really did not experience Southeast Asian food until I was 19 when my then-girlfriend, now wife, brought me to her home Malaysia. The food was so alive and exciting. In one bowl of noodles you experience so many textures, tastes, sensations - truly full sensory experience.

For instance with a Laksa lemak - the first glance and you see bright strips of choy sum, deep red sambal, yellow tinted coconut gravy…and that’s just the beginning of this sensual experience. You slowly lean into the bowl and the scent of lemongrass is intoxicating, the dried shrimp aroma from the rempah wafts up and forces you to reach down for a bite. Then there is the noodles, spicy sambal, crunchy bean sprouts….aiyooo, I was in love!

3. You must love Asian street food. But increasingly we see the threat of it disappearing or declining. What can be done to keep the wonderful legacy going, given that young people these days prefer more comfortable jobs to hawking food on the streets? Training? Government incentives/subsidies? Awards?

Street food is about the street - and once you bring in into an indoor Hawker Center…by definition it is no longer street food - it can be equally satisfying but you lose some elements - the hum of the passing motorbike, the smell of the nearby sidewalk that is stained with years of use, the heat of the sun…

Keeping street food alive? First off - working in restaurants and hotels is really no easier. The more street food hawkers get respected, and yes awards are a great way to increase them being respected, the more young folks will want to be part of that culture. It also would be good to quantify and promote how they can earn more than cooks and chefs. Culinary schools should incorporate the foods in their curriculum and include the operation and financial matters which most have no idea how it works. It is a profession and should be treated as such.

Robert Danhi-Street Side Breakfast

4. How do you feel about adapting or modifying a country's cuisine to suit the tastebuds of foreigners?

I think it’s a HUGE mistake to modify for foreigners that are visiting…that’s why they are here. One of the most common misconceptions about Americans is that we don't like spice - it could not be more opposite - in the US we love spicy chicken wings, salsa for chips, and the Thai sauce Sriracha is in almost everyone’s kitchen and has become a chef’s best friend. When we come here we want the real deal.

Now if you are asking should it be modified when exported - sure SOMETIMES, it depends on concept, location, consumer….. It can be done respectfully and with integrity - that’s actually a majority of what I do with my clients - first help them understand and experience the original, then decide on non-negotiable traits that can't be lost then adapt for their brands.

5. What's the most difficult thing to teach?

Cooking over a high heat with a wok…it’s so fast that it takes a long time to get it.

Robert Danhi-in Saigon Market

6. Who were your most significant teachers, and what inspirations will you always remember from them?

Khun Kobkaew and Khun Ninh of Khao San Cooking school in Thailand. They are historians, cooks, chefs and willing to share everything they know - that’s a real teacher! My wife, Esther, she has taught me so much about cooking and even more about the spirit of cooking - cook with your heart and care about what you are doing - otherwise, it’s not time for you to get in the kitchen.

7. What are your top three favourite dishes?

Too many favorites to narrow to my top three but a few that stand out are:

Malaysian Hokkien Mee - Kuala Lumpur Style, the thick wheat noodles slathers in the pork laden dark soy gravy. I love it with pickled green chilies in addition to the traditional sambal belacan.

Singapore Kaya Toast - and in Singapore Yakun kaya at Far East Plaza since they still cook over charcoal, then split the bread in half exposing the tender center, slather with kaya, a few slabs of salted butter. Then dipping these into the soy sauce doused soft eggs with white pepper and a healthy dash of white pepper - WOW, especially with the deep rich coffee.

Vietnamese Bun Bo Hue - the Imperial Soup that harnesses the flavor of not only pork and beef but also a dollop of shrimp paste. This lemongrass spiked broth is tinted with annatto, garnish with shrimp balls and served with small plates of shaved banana blossoms, cabbage and mint that is added as you devour each bowl.

Robert Danhi-Eating Vietnamese Breakfast

8. Most surprising eating experience? And most terrifying?

Probably when I arrived to a roadside restaurant and found a whole roasted cow spinning of charcoal - that was surprising for sure… and terrifying. A pleasantly surprising experience was red ant larvae curry in central Thailand - actually quite tasty… what I really liked were the deep-fried and grilled rice paddy mice in Vietnams Mekong Delta… I want those again, especially delicious on a hot evening with some chilled beer.

9. How well do Americans know Southeast Asian food, and how do they take to the authentic flavours in your experience?

Southeast Asian food is very well established in the USA - especially Thai Food. Singapore and Malaysia are really on the rise thanks companies like the successful Chipotle chain that just opened Shophouse-Southeast Asian Kitchen - featuring the Foods of Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. Chain (multi-unit) restaurants really popularize things as do TV shows and they are all featuring Southeast Asia.

10. Does your wife cook? She's a Nyonya from Malacca, which means she's likely serious and fastidious about food. Has she taught you about food or cooking? 

Yes, she is truly one of the best cooks I know - frankly a better cook than I am - I call her my Kitchen Angel as she effortlessly floats around the kitchen creating amazing flavors in such a short time. Also - she is my business partner at Chef Danhi and Co where we are consultants to the food world and has been a major part of writing both of my books - Southeast Asian Flavors and Easy Thai Cooking.

Robert Danhi-On beach in LA

Catch Chef Robert Danhi when he gives a demo at ToTT.

Sunkist Presents Chef Robert Danhi in Singapore

Date: 10 March 2013
Time: 4-6pm
FREE Admission
Venue: ToTT Cooking Studio, 896 Dunearn Road 01-01A, Singapore 589472
Tel: +65 6219-7077

First 80 guests receive a goodie bag!

All photos courtesy of Chef Robert Danhi
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