Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Starbucks Sakura! Japanese Cherry Blossom Spring Merch

I am such a sucker for sakura designs. The ethereal Japanese cherry blossom is the symbol of transient life and appreciation of the moment.

Starbucks has just released drinkware in blooming pink with watercolour-like prints. They are so pretty.

Tumblers and bottles in the Petal Rain series, from left to right:
12oz: S$25.90
12oz: S$22.90
16oz: S$22.90
16oz: S$21.90

Photo courtesy of Starbucks
Left, 16oz: S$36.90
Right, 16oz: S$42.90

Photo courtesy of Starbucks
Blossom Rain
Both designs, 16oz: S$29.90 each
Pouch (comes with fabric marker): S$9.90

Photo courtesy of Starbucks
Tumbler 16oz: S$29.90

Photo courtesy of Starbucks
Green Tea Blossom Cake
Light, fluffy green tea sponge cake sitting between layers of luscious cherry blossom flavored cream. A sprinkle of dried rose petals completes the gorgeous cake.

Photo courtesy of Starbucks

NEW! Spring Season Blend (250gm, S$16.90)
Starbucks® has also introduced its Spring Season Blend celebrating a time of year marked by new beginnings and renewal. It's got dark cherry notes and a big syrupy body, also available in VIA and Origami formats.

This seasonal blend combines Ethiopian sun-dried beans with a striking flourish of dark cherry; aged Sumatra, loved for its syrupy body and cedary spice notes; juicy herbal and complex coffees from Papua New Guinea; and Colombian coffee, bright, balanced and nutty.

Also launching as part of the Starbucks® Single Origin Series is the Papua New Guinea Highlands roasty sweet with subtle spice and herbal complexity.

I never drink Starbucks coffee but the Spring Season Blend has me curious. If any of you like it, do let me know!

All photos courtesy of Starbucks

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Andre Chiang: The Future after Restaurant Andre

This was a difficult post for me to write. Last week on the 14th of February 2018, we saw the last day of service of Restaurant Andre in Singapore. Andre Chiang and his wife Pam held a cosy family-style meal for a small group of media. My heart broke as I watched Pam sob uncontrollably on a friend's shoulder. This was not an easy decision for them on many fronts.

We huddled and watched a breathtakingly poignant movie (see above) on why he is leaving and what he wants to delve into next. It's an homage to the perfection he seeks and that the team has achieved; there are gorgeous scenes of Taiwan, his homeland; and how the end is a beginning. He's going back to his roots. When people ask him where he's from and what's over there, he's often at a loss for words. So he's going to explore and discover, share and educate.

Restaurant Andre last day family meal

We are undoubtedly sad at losing what many consider the best or most groundbreaking restaurant in Singapore. Andre is a culinary artist whose mastery of flavours has put us on the world map of fine-dining. But there's also lots more to look forward to. Asia on the whole will certainly benefit. In the media Q&A, Andre gave us some insight into the next 5-10 years.

He's spot on about food education in Asia. Those who want to be professional chefs usually have to seek formal training at culinary schools in the West. What about learning our own history and cuisines first?

Meanwhile, Andre will still have a presence in Singapore. While he will be spending half his time at RAW in Taipei, he will also focus on managing the seven (soon to be 10) concepts under his restaurant group. In Singapore, he has Bincho, Burnt Ends, Meatsmith and Restaurant Andre, which will be redeveloped into a new and never-before-seen fine-dining concept by end of the year. He also has one restaurant each in Paris, Taipei and Chengdu. Three more are coming up in be revealed in due time.

Restaurant Andre last day family meal

How is he going to attain perfection while spreading himself over so many projects? His answer has piercing minimalist clarity. "What I does for each project is not to add more things to the cuisine, but to take out what is unnecessary. Just go straight to the DNA. That's really what I do."

"It's just like painters," he had said earlier. "It doesn't matter what you paint, as long as you understand colour. Ingredients are my colours. Doesn't matter if it's French or Chinese. I understand the chemicals between ingredients and formulas of taste."

"I like challenges; I like doing different things. I want to try completely different categories I've never tried before. Maybe beverages or pop-ups," he says. He doesn't mean bars or alcohol. They had developed 16 different fermented juices at Restaurant Andre. "Why not fermented juices? Why not tea? I think we can apply something from a chef's perspective. It could be cool."

As for RAW, which he has asked to be excluded from Michelin Guide consideration, he says it's a unique platform to showcase Taiwan's best.

"I have nothing more to prove. I want to keep it simple. I want people to just enjoy it. People say how can you open such a restaurant with such quality and setting and only sell US$60-70 a night for everything? It's not about how much money you make; it's a gift."

Chef @andrechiang_sg’s Taiwan beef noodles are mindblowingly phenomenal. If I have to go to Taipei to eat this again, I will! . . . . #andrechiang #restaurantandre #taiwanese #beefnoodles . . . . . #sgfood #sgfoodporn #igfood #sglife #exploresingapore #wh
Meanwhile, I am hoping his joke about doing pop-up street food stalls, "maybe selling beef noodles!" will actually come true. Seriously, his beef noodles are exactly my fantasy of how they should actually taste! All those "famous" places in Taiwan no matter how good, were always just short of wow. This version blows everything out of the water.

Perhaps with this new beginning, back in his homeland, Andre is finally completing his circle.

“What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.”
T. S. Elliot


Monday, February 19, 2018

Delicious Hawker Food with DBS PayLah: Use my code CAMKTX907 to get $5

Isn't it nice to leave your bag/wallet behind and just bring your phone for lunch? I like this move towards a cashless society. I hardly even go to the ATM these days.

So when DBS invited us to try out their PayLah service at hawker stalls, I was more than on board. PayLah is convenient for paying people digitally without having to go through the whole hoopla of authorising payees via bank account numbers. All you need is a phone number. I've had Carousell buyers pay me using PayLah. For hawkers, all you need is to scan their QR code.

If you still haven't gotten the app, you can...

Use my code CAMKTX907 to get S$5

Disclosure: You get S$5; I get S$5 (but it's really a token, up to 10 referrals only).

Check out Lennard's and Diana's food trail challenge.

Fancy going on a similar but challenge-free food trail? Here are some hawker centres you can use PayLah at. The full list of hawkers is here.

  • Yishun Park Hawker Centre
  • Tanjong Pagar Plaza Food Centre
  • Zion Road Food Centre
  • 724 Ang Mo Kio Food Centre
  • ABC Food Centre
  • Beo Crescent Food Centre
  • Redhill Food Centre
  • Clementi 448 Food Centre
  • Maxwell Food Centre

These are the places I really enjoyed. Swipe to see more photos, and the process!

Alexandra Village #01-56: Shanghai La Mian Xiao Long Bao

Alexandra Village #01-27: Lye Bo

Amoy Street Food Centre #02-096: Mr Batang Fish @96

年年有鱼! 哈哈! If you’re back to work this Monday, keep the festive mood going with some fish in your lunch! Mr Batang @96 is open at Amoy Street Food Centre. Nice sweet broth with fresh fish slices, prawns and mince (Assorted seafood $4.50). Top up $1 for fried fish. The lady even gave me a “gold ingot” for good luck! Me? I gave her digital money, so she didn’t need to get hands dirty. . #DBSPayLah lets you go cashless at select hawker centres. 1. Scan the QR code (pic 2) 2. Key in amount 3. Confirm amount (pic 3) That’s it. Enjoy your food! . Don’t have PayLah? Use my code CAMKTX907 and get $5 in your wallet! . . #dbsbank #dbs #sglife #sgfood #sghawker #uncagestreetfood #mrbatang #amoystreet #delicious #fishsoup #fish #soup #foodies #burpple #hungrygowhere #shiok #love #cny2018 #hawkerfood #amoystreetfoodcentre #yummy #年年有余 #新年快乐
A post shared by Catherine Ling (@camemberu) on

I'll be adding more as I find delicious food at hawkers accepting PayLah.

Thanks to DBS for the invitation

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Folklore's Peranakan Tok Panjang Buffet Feast for Chinese New Year

If you're looking for a Lunar New Year feast of a slightly different persuasion, take a look at Folklore's Tok Panjang - a sumptuous spread of up to 15 elaborate Peranakan heritage dishes prepared true to Chef Damian D'Silva’s grandmother’s recipes - running from 15 February to 2 March 2018.

Tok Panjang is traditionally a lavish feast laid out on a long table during special occasions at Peranakan households shared with family and friends. “Tok” is the Hokkien word for table, while “Panjang” is the Malay term for long. All this while, I had thought Tok was a grandfatherly term (Malay), and didn't realise it is such a true-blue Peranakan word blending Chinese and Malay words.

Of course, every Peranakan household will have their own rendition of Tok Panjang, usually showcasing more than 15 different dishes. For Chef Damian’s Peranakan maternal grandmother, her long table fare would easily be a proud display of up to 20 dishes, mostly her loved ones' favourites.

Chef Damian D'Silva
“Tok Panjang is to intimidate the guests when they enter into a Peranakan family’s home,” quipped Chef Damian. “At grandma’s, it was how she would present her heartfelt hospitality to her guests during Chinese New Year. Grandma prepared every single dish from scratch, at least two months in advance. I would help with the preparations, like pickling the achar and making the desserts during my month-long school holidays staying with her.”

Like all Chinese New Year reunion feasts, the dishes prepared for the Tok Panjang convey well-wishes for the new year. Seafood was considered a delicacy and served only during special occasions like weddings, anniversaries and lunar new year. Hence, dishes featuring seafood signified wealth and abundance for the new year. Another festive staple was the bamboo shoot, a seasonal produce harvested in early Spring denoting the beginning of Spring and representing good luck and prosperity. 顺顺利利!

Fish Maw Soup
Representing abundance 年年有余 is the hearty Fish Maw Soup, a rich broth using fish, pork and prawn stock, brimming with ingredients - pig stomach, intestines, fish maw stuffed with minced meat, fish and prawn balls, and sea cucumber. You can tell this has been brewed for many hours from the way the flavours of the items have been coaxed out.

Peranakan Prawn Salad
A Peranakan festive must-have, signifying wealth and luck, is the Peranakan Prawn Salad. The refreshing appetiser features poached prawns topped on a bed of fresh Chinese lettuce leaves, drizzled with chilli plum sauce and lime juice. Beware: this is rather spicy, but it really does perk your appetite up!

Soup Bakwan Kepiting
My favourite Peranakan soup is usually the Bakwan Kepiting or crab meat balls soup. Fresh crab meat is removed from the shell and mixed with minced pork, prawn and bamboo shoot and rolled into the shape of coins, then cooked in prawn and pork stock. But as good as this one was, I think the Fish Maw soup had the edge from a more complex broth.

Pie Tee
Pie Tee, the well-loved Peranakan starter, features crispy thin batter cups bearing meticulously hand-shredded turnip, carrot, bamboo shoot cooked in prawn and pork stock. Chef Damian's version is much more potent and flavourful from ingredients simmered in a highly reduced stock. You really just can't stop at one.

Otah - mackerel marinated in a richly aromatic spice mix with coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaf, and then steamed - is nothing short of glorious here. This and some fluffy rice is surefire heaven.

Babi Pongteh
Of the "mains", we liked the Babi Pongteh the best. This hearty braised pork is slow-cooked with fermented bean paste, bamboo shoot, dried mushrooms and dark sugarcane. It's just so comforting.

Itek Teem
The third soup is the Itek Teem – duck stewed with salted vegetables and a little spicy heat. Chef Damian insists on calling this Itek Teem instead of Itek Tim because Tim is somebody's name.

Ayam Buah Keluak
Ah, buah keluak, how more iconic is this as a Peranakan ingredient? It's an acquired taste for most, though. You either love it or you wonder what the fuss is about. I'm a fence-sitter but I do remember Chef Damian's buah keluak fried rice as being pretty moreish. Buah keluak lovers can look forward to limitless helpings of Ayam Buah Keluak and Sambal Buah Keluak here.

For the Ayam Buah Keluak, the pulp of the Buah Keluak nut is first extracted by hand, cooked with lard and salt, then individually filled back into the Keluak shells. The stuffed Keluak nuts are then slow-cooked with the chicken till the flavours unite.

The Sambal Buah Keluak, a popular classic at Folklore, is a rich and earthy dish of keluak meat cooked with sambal and minced pork.

Grandma's Curry Chicken
Grandma’s Chicken Curry is one of Chef Damian’s beloved dishes from his grandma’s repertoire. He particularly likes to pair this with black sauce and chilli padi. The curry chicken is cooked with a spice mix of shallots, dried chillies, ginger and homemade curry powder. Oddly enough, it tastes like a cross between typically smooth Chinese curry and a potently spiced Indian curry.

Sambal Belimbing
The Sambal Belimbling had us coming back repeatedly for more. This palate-cleansing stunner features belimbing (miniature starfruit) in sambal. The sharp tang of the fruit helps to cut through the richness of the other dishes.

Other Peranakan favourites include Ngoh Hiang, Peranakan Chap Chye, Garang Assam, and 4-Angled Bean Salad.

Kueh Kosui
Finish off with some Kueh Kosui, lauded by some as the best in Singapore. It's even better than I remember. There's also Chendol and an assortment of Peranakan Kuehs handmade by Chef Damian.

Folklore at Destination
Folklore Chinese New Year Tok Panjang is available for dinner from 15 February to 2 March 2018 from 6.00pm to 9.30pm daily, at $68++ per adult and $28++ per child (12 years old and below). Chinese New Year set lunches are served at $18.80++ per person.

The a la carte menu will not be available during this promotional period, but if you prefer to go light, you can opt for the lunch set menu.

Chinese New Year Set Lunch

15 Feb to 2 Mar 2018
$18.80++ per person

Soup of the day

Choice of a meat
Babi Pongteh
Grandma’s Chicken Curry
Ngoh Hiang

Choice of a seafood
Garang Assam
Peranakan Prawn Salad

Choice of a vegetable
Peranakan Chap Chye
4-Angled Bean Salad

Served with steamed rice

Dessert of the day

Destination Singapore Beach Road
700 Beach Road, Level 2
Singapore 199598

Tel: +65 6679-2900 / +65 9021-9700
Instagram: @folkloresg
Facebook: folkloresg

Opening hours
Monday–Sunday: Lunch: 12.00 pm – 2.30 pm (Last order 2.15 pm)
Dinner: 6.00 pm – 9.30 pm (Last order 9.15 pm)

Many thanks to Folklore for the invitation

Monday, February 12, 2018

台北新馬辣經典火鍋 Taipei New Mala Premium Hotpot: Best Steamboat Buffet I've Had In A Long While

This has got to be the BEST value mala hotpot you can find in Taipei. Now, we all know the popular brand 馬辣火鍋 Mala Hotpot there, right? The all-you-can-eat hotpot with impossibly long queues?

Well, building on that success, they have in the past year opened a premium line of outlets called 新馬辣火鍋 Xin or New Mala Hotpot offering higher quality meats and seafood for just 10% more in price. Dinner is only NTD725 (about US$24.70 or S$32.80)! Just look at the feast!


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Chinese New Year at Man Fu Yuan, InterContinental Singapore

Every year, the Chinese New Year dishes at Man Fu Yuan are a real treat we look forward to. They are especially well-known for good suckling pig, but this time, I found the Steamed Lobster with Chinese Wine and Egg White even more enjoyable. Chef's addition of crispy pork lard pieces were the perfect garnish.

You can scroll through the dishes here, but I'll also show you some highlights.

The Treasures Yusheng with baby abalone, Hokkaido scallops, salmon is dressed with a sake goma sesame sauce which is a delightful Japanese touch.

The soups here are always well-brewed and satisfying, and so too was this Double-boiled Chicken Soup, Fish Maw, Bamboo Pith, Matsutake Mushrooms. Every mouthful feels like a blessing.

This year's Roasted Suckling Pig paired with Foie Gras, Daikon and a crepe. The meat seems more gamey than previous years' (almost like a Western-style roasted piglet) and the foie gras is probably a little too rich a partner, but the pickled or braised daikon makes a gorgeous foil.

I am glad they serve dessert in whole coconuts here. I absolutely love scraping every last bit of the fresh coconut meat; it's rightfully a separate dessert on its own. The warm Double-boiled Hashima in Whole Coconut has many other ingredients in it that make it look appropriately festive.

Many thanks to Man Fu Yuan for the invitation.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Chinese New Year at Wan Hao, Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel

Wan Hao Chinese Restaurant at Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel is generally a reliable stalwart for Chinese cuisine. We tried the Chinese New Year (CNY) offerings, and they did not disappoint.

The Crispy Pork Trotter (above) is served with gorgeously coloured juliennes, and a rather unusual wolfberry sauce.

Their yusheng this year is an indulgent Lobster, Scallop, Salmon, Tuna and Caviar with Kumquat Sauce (S$298 for large). But some bitter pomelo came out a little too strongly in some of our servings.

Wan Hao CNY Pen Cai
Wan Hao's Imperial Pot of Prosperity Pen Cai (S$1088 for 10 pax)
This is a feast of Australian 3-head Abalone, Crispy Oyster, Braised Irish Duck, Whole Pig Trotter, Conpoy, Sea Cucumber, Fish Maw, Japanese Shiitake Mushroom, Iberico Meat Ball, Black Moss, Baby Chinese Cabbage, Mustard Greens, White Radish, and Beancurd Sheet.

Deep-fried Cod Fish with Celery Sauce
The fish is fried to impeccable perfection and the intense sauce pairs well with the fatty fish.

Marriott Singapore Wan Hao CNY Dishes
Braised US Short Ribs in Japanese Light Soya Sauce
This was okay; tender beef infused well with a rich soy flavour.

Marriott Singapore Wan Hao CNY Dishes
Dessert is Chilled Lemongrass Jelly with Lemon Sorbet. It's light and refreshing, so you can't go far wrong with this.

What's really cute are their nian gao tarts - a creative way of making the sticky rice cake more alluring!

Check out their CNY page for more details!

Many thanks to Wan Hao for the invitation.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Swissotel Merchant Court Singapore: Family Staycation

Swissotel Merchant Court Singapore introduced the "Family Fun" package last year which comprised two interconnecting rooms, special treats for kids, and guaranteed late checkout at 2pm. You could even have one of the rooms transformed into a Swissôtel Kids Room with special amenities.

The other highlight of staying here though is the Ellenborough Market Cafe (above) with its nice buffets.

Here's what the rooms looked like:

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