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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