Friday, July 31, 2015

Hong Seng Curry Rice at Redhill Food Centre: Young Hawker with Big Dreams

I'm always encouraged to see young hawkers taking up the baton to continue providing good and affordable food. Hong Seng Curry Rice (85 Redhill Lane #01-74) has another one of these heroes - Lim Jia Han who is only 25 but brimming with entrepreneurial tenacity. Just over a year ago, he had no F&B experience but is now the main cook at the family stall, churning out 22 dishes every day.

He's not just working hard, he's working smart. Already he's helped his family cut reliance on fickle labour by automating tasks and sourcing freshly pre-cut ingredients. He's even devised ways to protect the family's recipes from being stolen by staff who could run away and open up a similar stall.

He just graduated with a degree in Banking and Finance, but he's never wanted to work in an office. During his studies he's been a tuition teacher, tuition coordinator, a licensed Singapore Tourist Guide, a tour leader, a personal gym instructor and an ACTA certified trainer in Hospitality and Tourism industry.

But it was his love for food and cooking that led him to take over the family business when his uncle wanted to retire after 20 years. His family at first didn't want him to follow this hard life, but relented when they saw he had bigger dreams than just slaving at a stall.

I wrote a more detailed story on him in Yahoo and Makansutra.

Come visit and try the curry. Like most Chinese curries, it's not too spicy but is fairly balanced. He has a S$4 value set meal that comes with 6 different toppings - chap chye, pork chop, fried egg, curry potato, sambal ikan bilis, and a fried prawn fritter - but the other homestyle dishes like pork trotters and meatballs are worth checking out too.

85 Redhill Lane
#01-74 Redhill Food Centre
Singapore 150085
Open 10.30am to 11pm
Closed Thursdays
Tel: +65 9876 2288

Update: they have a stall at SMU now
Hong Seng Express (SMU Branch)
SMU (School of Economics/ Social Sciences), Unit #01-73
81 Victoria St, Singapore 188065

Thanks to Jia Han for contacting me, and for the first photo


Thursday, July 30, 2015

GIVEAWAY: Marina Bay Sands Epicurean Market Tickets!

The Marina Bay Sands Epicurean Market is back 14-16 August and it looks to be an all out fine food extravaganza. Picture this - 2,000 kg of seafood, 20,000 fresh oysters, 20 kg of caviar, and an estimated 15,000 pizzas! And that's not counting wines and spirits.

The chefs are so excited, they've put together this video for you. It's cute!

Here are the signature dishes you can sample from 10 celebrity chef restaurants (including one "akan datang" Spago!):

Adrift: Californian heirloom tomato toast with vanilla and turmeric, Pineapple tamarind glazed pork ribs, and its signature King crab melt with pimento cheese.

Bread Street Kitchen: Potted Salt Beef Brisket, Dingley Dell Pork Belly and traditional fish and chips.

CUT by Wolfgang Puck: Indian spiced wagyu short ribs and Char siew pork buns.

db Bistro & Oyster Bar: freshly shucked oysters and seafood dishes

Long Chim: Tasty Thai treats like Aromatic beef skewers, grilled eggplant salad with dried prawn, charred rice noodles with pork and yellow beans, and deep-fried chicken with plum sauce.

Osteria Mozza: grilled octopus and a new cold pasta dish -- the Squid Ink Chitarra Freddi with sea urchin, fresh crabmeat and jalapeno pesto.

Pizzeria Mozza: pizzas such as Margherita, Aglio Olio, Prosciutto di Parma with Rucola and Bianca with sage.

Sky on 57: Seared Wagyu tri tip with slow cooked egg, lu shui truffle sauce, Chilled Somen with sze chuan pepper-peanut sauce, dried bean curd, cuttlefish and sakura ebi and Braised Dorper Lamb Ribs with Asian spice, dried fruit-nut, turmeric cous cous.

Spago (joining ahead of its official opening): Handmade Agnolotti and Spicy tuna tartare

Waku Ghin: Marinated Botan Shrimp with sea urchin and oscietra caviar, Grilled Rolled Ohmi Beef with fresh wasabi and Japanese musk melon from Shizuoka Prefecture. Chef Tetsuya Wakuda will also have a second booth focusing on 12 exquisitely delicate pastries.

More highlights of Epicurean Market 2015:

- Over 35 masterclasses from celebrity chefs and various experts

- Farmer’s Market with the freshest produce, including Chef Daniel Boulud’s famous Epicerie Boulud

- Fine wines, spirits and premium coffee

- Cocktail Bar and Whisky Lounge by Diageo with mini-workshops by experts

- After Party on 14 and 15 August 2015

- Exclusive tasting sessions of LOUIS XIII de Rémy Martin and Single Malt by Glen Ord Distillery

The three-day ticket passes are priced at $28 each. This includes two premium red wine glasses by Schott Zwiesel (usual price S$38) and admission to the after party. You can book your tickets here:


So yes, I am very happy to announce I have five pairs of tickets to give away. Each of these includes the wine glasses. All you have to do is this:

1. Share this post (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) and tag one person you'd like to go with, and the name of one dish from the signature items above that you'd definitely want to eat there.

2. Email me ( the link of your shared item(s) with the email header "MBS EPICUREAN GIVEAWAY". Please make your post(s) public, so I can see it. Some of you in the past have asked me how to find that link -- just click on the timestamp of your Facebook or Twitter post. It will bring you to the page where your post is. The URL is the dedicated link. If you still can't figure it out, just send me a screenshot and your FB or Twitter page. I'll look for your post.

Get extra chances to win via Facebook! Share my post there and tag others too.

I will choose and contact five winners by 5 August 2015. We will arrange redemption letters to be sent to the winners so they can collect their tickets at the box office.

Thanks to MBS for sponsoring the tickets. Photo courtesy of MBS, of the Epicurean Market 2014.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Park Bench Deli - Sandwiches with Swagger

Park Bench Deli - I've been waiting for this since Chef Ming Tan told me (during the filming of Food Wars Asia) he was starting his own joint. Now, if you liked his food at Lolla, you know you can expect bold flavours that work well together.

It's about the best sandwiches ever - from the chef's perspective. It's food they dream of making, hearty fare unencumbered by structure and tradition. Here, they are recreating classics, remixing all-time favourite local dishes into sandwiches, and rethinking boundaries of traditional sandwich-making. Pornworthy food, you could say.


Park Bench Deli is a collaboration with Chef Andrei Soen of the Cajun Kings and management guru Aamir Ghani. After their test concepts met with wild approval at pop-up events and food festivals, they decided it was time for a permanent outlet.

They just opened last week in a shophouse at 179 Telok Ayer Street, with one of the most gorgeous kitchens ever (I so want to live there).


One thing they believe in - the right ratio of bread to filling. They actually hollow out the middle part of the Hoagie roll so they can pack deliciousness to the roof. The Philly Cheese Steak features sliced beef gorgeously flash seared using industrial strength high heat, and sauteed onions tossed in a housemade American cheese sauce. The thin slices make it easy for you to take a bite, and the quality beef makes you moan with every mouthful. It's S$16 for a six-inch roll, but so worth it.


The Fried Chicken Sandwich (S$14) was really popular at their pop-up events. This is Southern Fried Chicken like you've never had it before. The whole boneless chicken thighs are flavoured with lemon zest, garlic and rosemary, then cooked sous vide style for ultra juiciness. As if that's not enough, it's marinated overnight in buttermilk. Then it's dredged in flour and spices, and deep-fried for crunch. Corn and cabbage slaw with homemade Russian dressing complete the ensemble.


You can literally see how moist these thighs are. I bet chicken breast would work too.


Here's the Asian inspired Kong Bak Bahn Mi (S$14). Check out the thick slabs of pork belly that have been braised for a full 24 hours in dark soy, honey, anise, cinnamon, ginger and garlic. This rich and meltingly tender meat is paired with crisp pickle mix of daikon, carrot, cucumber and lime leaf. The final topping of crushed peanuts and coriander make this an absolute blast of flavours and textures.

Chef Ming lovingly ladling the braised gravy reduction all over the meat. Yes, that's some serious "zhup" all right. Thick and tasty, more salty than sweet, but complements the roll.

Kong bak, I love you.

But wait, there's more...


Pulled pork -- oh my, this is good enough to eat on its own!

It goes into their most beautiful sandwich - the Torta (S$15) - which is a take on the Cochinita Pibil, a Mexican pork dish of Mayan origin. Slabs of pork shoulder are marinated in achiote (annatto) seed, orange and lime juice, wrapped in banana leaf and then braised low and slow.

The pulled pork is then dressed with Cotija cheese, pickled onions, and salsa on a bed of luscious guacamole. And the kicker? Pork crackling sprinkled liberally on top. This combination is complex yet comforting, and before you know it, you'll have wolfed down half the sandwich chasing the flavours.

With such punchy, over-the-top sandwiches, I'm not surprised they already sold out early in their first week. The menu may vary from time to time, as they continue experimenting. I see Pork Sisig and Duck Confit on the paper menu, along with the Peanut Butter Jelly Time confection that I tried at Savour 2015.


If you don't live by bread creations alone, they've got side dishes like Pasta Salad, Potato Salad, Wild Rice Edamame Salad, and Quinoa Salad, along with dips like spinach and a really nice hummus.


Park Bench Deli has a cool and casual vibe. They make it easy for you to do takeaways.

They also serve breakfast - lox bagels, a sandwich of eggs, cheddar, frisee, aioli on brioche, granola and an acai bowl (with banana, strawberry, coconut flakes, and honey).

Meanwhile I am still dreaming of pastrami piled high on rye. I hope Park Bench Deli brings back their smoked pastrami creation that I missed!

179 Telok Ayer Street
Singapore 068627
Tel: 6815-4600
Open Mondays - Fridays 9am - 3pm
Open Mon — Fri 10.30am till 10pm (closed 4-5pm)
(last food order at 930pm)

Sat 10.30am till 4pm
(last food order at 330pm)


Many thanks to Chef Ming and team for the invitation and hospitality


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mikuni at Fairmont Singapore Celebrates Summer Unagi Festival 20 July - 31 Aug


Mikuni at Fairmont Singapore is one of my favourite Japanese restaurants. It never fails to impress with a skilful blend of strong traditional basics with creative modern touches and aesthetics.

Executive Chef Moon Kyung Soo has brought the summer unagi festival "Doyo no Ushi no Hi" that's celebrated in Japan to Singapore. I'll have more on the festival at the end of the post. Eel is most fatty and nutritious during this time. Two menus - lunch and dinner - feature an amazing array of traditionally cooked eel dishes. This promotion runs 20 July to 7 August 2015.

UPDATE 4 Aug: Due to popular demand, the promotion has been extended to 31 August!

Both menus start with the Chef's Seasonal Selection (above) - three kinds of Zensai: Barbecued Eel Jelly, Smoked Salmon Yuzu, Eel Yahata Maki Burdock, Crispy Eel Bone. 

Each one of these deserves slow enjoyment and exploration. The eel jelly is like a savoury custard studded with mushrooms and topped with unagi. Yuzu makes the smoked salmon sing. The hardy burdock has been stewed just right. The eel bone is a deliciously crispy umami stick. We wouldn't need calcium pills if we ate these every day.

Mikuni Eel Special Summer Lunch (S$120)

The five-course lunch is a good deal considering that it's 200g bowl of good unagi plus sashimi that includes otoro and Hokkaido uni. The regular unagi bowl is already S$77 or so. It's plated in one tray, almost bento-like, to make things easier to eat for those who have a limited lunch hour.

The lunch items are also in the dinner menu, but the latter has almost double the dishes, and more premium items too.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Scoot 3x Weekly to Kaohsiung, Taiwan and onwards to Osaka, Japan!

If you love going to Taiwan and Japan, you'll be glad to know low cost carrier (LCC) Scoot has added Kaohsiung and Osaka to its lineup! The two new cities boost the number of destinations to 15 in seven countries.

We were on the inaugural flight TZ288 to Kaohsiung from Singapore, departing bright and early 6am on 9th July. It's an all new Boeing Dreamliner 787 -- oh I love this new plane! I had gotten acquainted with the 787's spacious wide-bodied cabin on Scoot's first Dreamliner flight (to Perth). It comes with better humidity, air circulation and cabin pressure. And those electrochromic windows!


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lollapalooza Singapore: Lolla's big sister has more good food!


If you can't get enough of Lolla, you'll be glad she's got a big sister now. Lollapalooza (no relation to the annual music fest in Chicago; it means "something out of the ordinary") continues the practice of well-made food that is sophisticated but not pretentious.

The trio behind this - Thaddeus Yeo, Lee Chin Sin and Pang Hian Tee - are some of the most knowledgeable (and nicest) foodies around. They've parlayed their love for fabulous flavours to secret supper clubs and now successful restaurants. What a great way to share good food -- create some!

The difference is, Lollapalooza is bigger and more suited for communal dining, whereas Lolla is more about small bites.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Swiss-Belhotel: 4-star Hotel at Lagoi Bay, Bintan

Swiss-Belhotel Lagoi Bay is the spanking new four-star hotel at the newly developing commercial and beach resort area north of Bintan. It belongs to an international chain with over 125 hotels worldwide. This is the hotel nearest Flyboyz and we stayed here one night.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Flyboyz at Lagoi Bay, Bintan: The Flying Dutchman Opens Beach Bar with Retro Kick


How many of you have thought about setting up a beach bar for your retirement? Many dream, but few do. Veteran Singapore entertainers Chris Henson and Mark Van Cuylenberg aka The Flying Dutchman have made it happen.

After a few years of planning and looking, they finally built Flyboyz at Lagoi Bay, Bintan. Why Bintan?


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Keisuke the Ramen King Opens Ginza Tendon Itsuki (Tempura Donburi)!

A good bowl of tendon (tempura donburi or tempura rice bowl) can be so satisfying. That crisp batter light as air, glistening with sweetly savoury sauce...wrapped around juicy vegetables and seafood atop a bed of pearly rice - mmmmh!

It doesn't even have to be fancy. I remember one cold and hungry evening in Tokyo when I was rescued by Tenya, that tendon chain. It was simple, cheap and surprisingly not bad. It made me wish that good tendon was more widely available in Singapore.

But it looks like I'm not the only one who feels the that way. The Ramen Keisuke chain saw a niche opportunity in this, and is launching tomorrow (2 July 2015) a tendon specialist shop - Ginza Tendon Itsuki!

The Ramen King going into tempura donburi? Well, they created Ginza Tendon Itsuki in collaboration with Ginza Itsuki Sushi restaurant in Tokyo, Japan, tapping on their expertise. Keisuke Takeda’s childhood friend Naoki Takaku is chef-owner of Ginza Itsuki Sushi.

This is certainly much more classy than Tenya, but prices aren't too much higher. The menu is simple; there are just two dishes. The Special Tendon (Tempura Rice Bowl, S$13.90) has shrimp and chicken in addition to vegetables. I was surprised to find two large strips of chicken tempura in there, but I guess fish would drive the price up. The Vegetable Tendon (Vegetable Tempura Rice Bowl, S$12.90) is a great option for vegetarians. Both are sets that come with miso soup and a lovely chawanmushi. You'll also get freeflow cabbage pickles.

The secret to good tempura is not so much the ingredients, but the art of frying and the right temperature. They have two fryers - one at 165 deg C for vegetables, and one at 175 deg C for meat and seafood. The produce is sourced locally or nearby countries.

However, Tendon Ginza Itsuki uses a higher grade flour from Japan to achieve better texture. The rice is from Hokkaido, and known to yield a firmer bite. They also cook it with less water. I think that's smart, because the last thing you want in your tendon is overly steamy rice making your tempura soggy.

Here's Keisuke-san himself plating the bowl.

I liked how the batter was light and non-greasy, and how the vegetable items like the baby corn still retained a juicy crunch. The chicken was moist and shrimp suitably juicy.

I am told that in Japan, people consider tempura healthy if it's expertly done. The flash frying at the right temperature and timing cooks the food without loading it with grease, and the batter protects the nutrients from damage.

Speaking of bowls, these porcelain beauties are by Arita, a 400-year old brand from Japan. They are specially designed with a thick and heavy base. This helps heat retention, so that by the time you get to the bottom of the bowl, the rice is still warm. How thoughtful!

There's a nod to local tastebuds here - a deep-fried egg that has a rich, runny yolk bursting from within (sorry I already scooped a bite of that before I took this photo). Oh, they don't do this egg addition in Japan. But I'm betting most locals will love it.

There's no dipping sauce here, the tendon sauce alone suffices for both tempura and rice. Add some chili flakes if you like.

Your rice doesn't come out of a crude, large-scale commercial cooker either. They have four of these high-end rice cookers, so that they can better control the texture and consistency of the rice.

Well, they can still manage to do this since it's a small restaurant, seating only 24 at a time (14 at the counter, and 10 at tables). I also saw the staff measure out the rice and weigh it on a scale. Nothing is left to chance here.

For all the care and effort put into the donburi, I'd say it's really value for money. I only hope the inevitable queues move quickly, because I'd certainly want to come back again.

I'm very pleased to hear that the Ramen Keisuke chain is doing so well and expanding, when so many restaurants are struggling. Ginza Tendon Itsuki is the 8th concept, and it's not stopping there. Keisuke-san now has several other concepts (Keisuke Tori King, Keisuke Gyoza King and Takeda Shouten Sake Bar) at Tanjong Pagar alone, forming a Keisuke "Yokochou" (横丁)  or soul food alley. They are also looking to expand beyond Japan and Singapore. I hear Perth might be a consideration!

Look out also for his first local flavour ramen - the "Laksa Ramen Special" in August celebrating SG50. Proceeds will be donated to the Tanjong Pagar community and the underprivileged.

101 Tanjong Pagar Road Singapore 088522
Tel: 6221-6678

Open daily from 2 July 2015:
11:30am - 2:30pm | 5:30pm - 22:00pm
NOTE: Payment is by cash only. No credit cards

Many thanks to Keisuke-san, Hideki and team for the invitation to preview the restaurant just prior to opening. 

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