Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dapur Asiah $2 Tasty Meals at Shunfu Market

Mee Siam
Tucked away in a corner at Shunfu Mart Food Centre is a humble-looking stall called Dapur Asiah that still takes pride in preparing decent food. They sell a variety of one-dish meals like Mee Siam (above), lontong, gado gado, nasi lemak and soto ayam and mee rebus. The amazing thing is, everything goes for only S$2! The Mee Siam was nice with lots of crisp beansprouts, and portions are generous too. 

Mee Rebus
The mee rebus is also one of the better ones I've had. There are some Malay kuehs too, going for 50 cents each, but I didn't try those. I think the mains are the highlight.

Good Malay hawker food is often a lost art. It's time-consuming preparing all the "rempah" (spices) to go into a delicious dish, and these days many hawkers end up cutting corners in terms of ingredients to make ends meet. So I'm really pleased to see Dapur Asiah still offering tasty and hearty meals and at such affordable prices. We should really support businesses like hers!

Dapur Asiah is at Shunfu Market Food Centre

320 Shunfu Road
#02-29 Shunfu Mart Food Centre
Singapore 570320
Open Tue to Sun: 7.30am - 2.00pm (closed Mondays)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Space Battleship Yamato - Go See It!

Totally not food-related but I haven't been so excited about a movie in ages!

I saw Space Battleship Yamato today, and it is phenomenally enjoyable! I loved every minute, every line (even the cliched), and every gorgeous CGI scene. OK, maybe the melodrama near the end was a bit protracted, but it's understandable - they have to milk the emotions to the max!

Fans of Takuya Kimura will enjoy the eye candy, but the rest of the actors are well-cast too. Hiroyuki Ikeuchi played the commander Saito with perfect psychotic zeal. If only they got a real life Sanada for the Sanada Chief Tech Officer role too!

Anyway, the original anime series was wildly popular, and I'm glad this live action movie more than lives up to expectations. I'll let the trailer do the talking - this is for the Japanese release which happened 1 Dec 2010 and the song is by Steve Tyler!

Hubby wants to get the battleship model kits! I shall proudly have that at home next to our collection of Millennium Falcons!

Poster photo from the movie's Facebook page for Singapore and Malaysia.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Beijing Roast Duck at Paradise Pavilion

A sight to behold...Beijing style roast duck!
Isn't this a sight to behold? Paradise Pavilion's signature Peking duck (S$88) is as close to the Beijing real deal as you can get. I was fortunate to be part of last year's annual dinner here with the Radio 93.8LIVE team Eugene and Howie, along with fellow Foodie Lunch Pick contributors Hoong An, Leslie and Leroy (I occasionally guest on the show).

What a beautiful duck!
Is there a difference with traditional Beijing style Peking duck? Well, each duck is roasted only upon order and it takes about 50 minutes (so pre-ordering is wise, but don't come late!). Many Cantonese restaurants crisp the skin by dousing the bird in hot oil, but Paradise Pavilion browns the skin carefully over aromatic woodfire. It is brought to your table piping hot, and the chef starts carving it soon after, to avoid the skin collapsing and crinkling upon cooling.

The chef carves up the duck while it is still hot
Paradise Pavilion sought and hired two chefs from Quan Ju De (official website's in Chinese, see Wikipedia page for English details). This famous chain in China is one of the few big names synonymous with Peking duck, and has a culinary history that dates back to 1864. Quan Ju De now sells over 2 million ducks a year, and is a nationally cherished brand.

The crispy duck skin is carved and served with a sliver of meat underneath
The prized first round of skin carved from the breast. The layer of fat under the crispy skin melts on your tongue like snow meeting a brazier.

There is also a sliver of meat accompanying the skin, so you also get the tender sweetness of duck flesh.

Served with scallions, sliced cucumber, sugar, bean sauce and two types of chili (paste and sliced with soy)
One of the best ways to enjoy it is to dip it in sugar. If you think that sounds weird for Peking duck, just think of prata with sugar. Fat + sugar = win!

The condiments and ingredients given will also be used for the subsequent rounds of carvings. There is more meat the second time around, along with the skin. You wrap them with scallions, sliced cucumber and bean sauce in thin flour pancakes (not the modern egg crepes). I should have taken a photo of the flour pancake, but the duck was just too gorgeous!

Specially built ovens for roasting the Peking duck
Paradise Pavilion is so serious about following the Quan Ju De way that its stone ovens are hand-built to the exact measurements as those in Beijing's for even roasting, and the restaurant imports applewood from China.

Several dishes at Paradise Pavilion
There were some other dishes that we tried, including a tender poached chicken in a mildly spicy Sichuan sauce with creamy peanut butter, a trio of modern appetisers, a hearty double-boiled soup with sea treasures, and edamame tofu topped with crab roe.

Wok-fried Ramen with 6 Headed Abalone in Abalone Sauce
But I have to highlight the Wok-fried Ramen with 6 Headed Abalone in Abalone Sauce. Not so much for the abalone, but the noodles! They had amazing texture and wok hei!

Private dining room at Paradise Pavilion
The restaurant itself is uber-posh. Here, swinging panels of dark wood finished with velvet and golden studs open up peek-a-boo style to a private dining area. It simply looks like no expense has been spared to make this place look as opulent as it can be.

Private Room w views - Paradise Pavilion lr
The decadent fabrics and furnishings are French-inspired and luxuriously neo-classical. This is one of the five private rooms we dined in. Too bad I did not have a wide-angle lens that could do the place justice, so I am using an official photo, courtesy of Sixth Sense Consultancy.

It was an honour to meet Paradise Group CEO Eldwin Chua, a man living his dreams with the rapid expansion of the Paradise Group of restaurants. Not bad for a guy who started out as a zi char cook. Big thanks to him and Carlyn from Sixth Sense for hosting this dinner, and thanks to 93.8LIVE for inviting me.

Check out also Leslie's lengthy 101 on Beijing Roast Duck.

#02-01 Marina Bay Financial Centre, Ground Plaza
8A Marina Boulevard, Singapore 018984
Tel: +65 6509-9308
Open daily:
11.30am - 3pm (Mon – Fri) Last order 2.30pm
11am - 4pm (Sat/Sun/PH) Last order 3.30pm
3pm – 5pm (Mon - Fri)
6pm to 11pm (Daily) Last order at 10pm

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Telunas Beach Resort in Riau, Indonesia

Sorry for the silence the past few days. We went to check out the Telunas Beach Resort in the Riau islands, three hours away by boat from Singapore.

It's a rustic resort, set on stilts over the sea. Doesn't it look almost like the Maldives? Well, I think this is the nearest resort-on-water that I know of near Singapore. I had not heard of this place until a family friend introduced this to us - they had been there at least six times, and love it!

Incidentally, this blog is taking a new direction with 2011. More travel posts! All food and no play makes everyone a little bit tubby, I say! So we are going to get moving. "The Traveling Camemberu", as I joked with someone on Twitter.

Telunas Beach Resort has private chalets, family rooms, multi-suite family rooms and dormitories. These are all connected by wooden walkways on stilts.

I love the wooden walkway. The boards are deliberately set slightly apart to give you a peek-a-boo view of the shimmery turquoise waters.

Yes, as mentioned, this resort really is rustic. There is no air-conditioning, just ceiling fans and only cool spring-fed showers for most rooms. There's phone coverage but no Internet. No televisions in the rooms, only a shared one in the lounge with a DVD player and a small collection of movies. There are some books and a box of toys in the lounge too.

But the whole point of the resort is to simplify life for a while, and for you to reconnect with nature and self. I do have to say it is very peaceful and tranquil here.

This tanning platform is also where you get to jump uninhibitedly into the sea!

That little island there on yonder is the real Telunas island. The resort is actually on the much larger Pulau Sugi (or Sugi island). Telunas island itself has no water or inhabitants, but the name does have a nicer ring to it, so I'm not surprised they chose it for the resort.

Sunrise here is lovely. You can see the planet Venus, that bright spot in the upper right corner (click to see bigger photo).

Sunset here is just as beautiful. The waters are always very calm.

So that's all on the outside. Let's go inside and see...

The rooms are fairly well-furnished for a rustic resort - dark walnut bed, dresser and chest of drawers, writing table and chair. I mean, I'm used to the spartan diver dormitories at Aur/Dayang on the Malaysian east coast, so this is quite luxurious for me. (And don't ask me why but the kids immediately jumped onto the bed and started playing with the towels).

The only problem I had with the room was an unexplained allergy (sneezing and runny nose) with some falling debris from the roof and timber (happens when it is too dry or when there's a heavy rainstorm).

The resort may be rustic but sanitation is not compromised. The bathrooms are modern, clean and functional. However, only the three private chalets have water heaters, and these are gas-powered (the type where you can see actual flames from a little window)! I haven't seen one of these since I was like 8, in my grandmother's home.

Food is pretty decent. Here I have a tray of breakfast items on my balcony table. There's a live station for eggs in the morning, so you can get your eggs done omelette-style (choose your ingredients), scrambled or sunny side up. Oh, and they have this "morning brew" special where you get to choose a really nice brewed tea or coffee (hubby was thrilled to see Sumatran Mandheling coffee on the menu).

For lunch and dinner, you'll usually see about three dishes with rice, followed by dessert. There's no menu, you eat what they serve, but you can eat as much as you want. It can be Indonesian or Western. The first day was fantastic - rendang, vegetables and a kick-ass sambal belachan! We liked the sambal so much, we bought some to take home.

And then, one night we got beef tacos/burritos, complete with salsa and guacamole! Desserts can be interesting too. Homestyle cendol, banana crepes, and something that looks and tastes like a brownie, but is made amazingly from black glutinous rice flour (no chocolate at all)!

It is quite easy to overeat, as I think I did. After a full meal, you can relax on the lounge chairs and hammock pavilions on the beach. You can play football and beach volleyball too. Kayaks are available for rent. And there is even a bonfire pit. On the final night, we set up the fire and roasted marshmallows as we looked up into the clear starry night.

Jolie got quite a tan there. The children, of course, loved the beach and the sea. Interestingly, the beach has a sand bank that kind of forms a shallow wading area that's perfect for the kids.

If you are so inclined, you can explore beyond the resort. There is a steep jungle trail which leads to a small obstacle course in a clearing. The host will bring you with a local guide. You can also check out the mangrove swamps and nearby villages.

There's also an interesting sight on the beach at low tide. An army of soldier crabs by the thousands will emerge from their sandy home.

This is a close-up of what they look like.

There is certainly quite a bit of wildlife around. Birds will make nests under the huts. We saw a huge hornbill at the beach. You can hear monkeys squabbling in the forest. A few stray dogs howling at the moon.

Telunas Beach Resort was started by three Americans, but the staff are all local. You are assigned a guide or host who will take care of you throughout your stay. I do have to say the service here is fantastic.

They recently hosted their first wedding here too. Sometimes school kids from international schools will come here by the boatload, but they will let you know if your visit coincides with large groups.

It takes about three hours to reach Telunas Beach Resort from Singapore. First, you take a ferry (45 mins) from Harbour Front Ferry Terminal to the Sekupang terminal in Batam, and transfer to a Malay-style fishing boat (90-120 mins, depending on currents) which will take you direct to the resort.

The boat transfers can be a bit costly, so it makes sense to go in a big group. See full details and costs here. Our private chalet (inclusive of food) cost about S$200 (twin-sharing) per chalet per night (kids below 5 stay free, additional adult $70, additional child aged 5 and above $30). With the boat transfers, our 4D3N stay for a family of four (two kids staying free) came up to about $1,000.

For more information on the resort, check out their website and Facebook page. They are currently expanding the resort, and there is some construction (and thus noise) going on. It should be completed sometime in July 2011.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How to Help Japan

I am finding it hard to blog, about food. It's been three days since the massive M9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, but I am still dumbstruck by the devastation. Japan is very special to me, and it is where I feel most at home. To see it in this state is absolutely heart-wrenching. Millions there are now without food, water and heat in near-freezing temperatures. Many still need medical aid, shelter and basic necessities. This photo (by Toshiyuki Tsunenari/Asahi Shimbun, via Associated Press) from the New York Times haunted me today, showing the desolation amidst the destruction. And there's still the threat of nuclear disaster and the toll on their already weak economy.

I'm sure many of us have Japan in our prayers, and we know their people are extremely resilient and will come through the crisis stronger than ever. But any tangible help we can give I am sure will help change someone's life.

Google has launched a crisis response page, with tools to help find people. You can also donate to the Japanese Red Cross directly via Google Checkout there.

Save The Children
has a Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children in Emergency Fund. Zynga has also partnered Save The Children, so if you play CityVille, Farmville and Frontierville online games, you'll be able to donate quite easily.

CNNmoney.com has a page on what to give, and what to avoid especially fraudulent sites and emails. Give only to established and well-known aid organisations, particularly those who already have a presence in Japan.

Actor Ken Watanabe has a special message on his Kizuna (Hope & Unity) 311 website, calling for help, prayers and support.

Even Twitter Japan released a blog post on how to help (scroll down to see English portion).

And I leave you with something heartwarming. Fellow food blogger Daniel Ang did a very sweet post dedicated to the people of Japan. Check it out.

Update: Take a look at these translated Japanese tweets on how the people are still upholding noble behaviour during this crisis. Society before self!

Video from Kizuna311 on Youtube - messages of love from LA to Japan

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Good value set lunches at Doong Ji Korean Restaurant

Sometimes there's nothing like a simple and hearty meal to chase the blues away. Like a nice big bowl of bibimbap!

Doong Ji is a small restaurant in the row of shophouses along East Coast Road (in between Northern & Eastern Dumpling restaurant and Cafe Oliv). I believe it took over Togi in the same spot.

Banchan or side dishes
The food is fairly decent and homestyle. I really like the banchan they give. Yes, it's refillable upon request.

What's really value for money are its weekday lunch sets at S$8.90++

Choose from a main dish and enjoy it with generous banchan, rice and soup. Click to see bigger details.

This promotion has been running since last year, and it is popular with the residents nearby. So it makes sense to come early or make reservations.

222 East Coast Road, Singapore
Tel: +65 6345-4264
Open daily
Lunch: 11.30am – 2.30pm
Dinner: 6pm – 10pm

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Reebonz City Launches with Week-long Goodies

The shopping savvy know about Reebonz, the special members-only site that holds private sales of luxury and lifestyle items. Premier brands at discounted prices, in a nutshell.

I've been a member for a while, and from time to time, I get email from Rebecca Tan who keeps me apprised of the latest deals. It's like having a shopaholic friend who tells you about happening closed-door sales! Sales at which you don't have to throng with rabid crowds and manic aunties. And it's not just Prada, Marc Jacobs, Dior, Gucci, Coach, Ted Baker and such. Sometimes we get KitchenAid, and items for the home or kids. The sales are quickies though, they usually last just a couple of days.

In conjunction with its second birthday, Reebonz is relaunching its City portal with a whole week's worth of city-living highlights in "The City and Me" celebration. From 7 to 13 March 2011, Reebonz City will unveil some of the best in lifestyle trends and experiences. Each day you will see a treat dedicated to one of the sectors below.

RETAIL: enter the world of fashion and beauty for a spot of retail therapy.
E.g. Special deal with GloMinerals Starter Kit complete with loose powder, concealer, kabuki brush, consultation and makeover.

Amici Fettuccine
DINING: explore culinary treasures from plush restaurants to hidden rustic gems.
E.g. A specially prepared menu at Amici Italian Restaurant in Holland Village. This is something I must check out! Have heard good things about Amici, but need to make a journey to the West for this!

HEALTH & WELLNESS: enervate yourself with studio workouts or blissful spa treatments.
E.g. A detoxification programme at Body Inc, a holistic wellness spa founded by Jacelyn Tay.

TRAVEL: experience carefully selected sanctuaries, resplendent interiors and breathtaking landscapes.
E.g. A 2D1N package transporting you to the old world charms of Thailand.

So those are just some of the deals that urbanite Rebecca Tan has earmarked for "The City and Me" celebration. She and the team of Reebonz City "curators" voraciously comb the city for coveted services, luxury deals and extraordinary events. They negotiate offers for its members, and act as a bridge between consumers and good deals.

And now, just for "The City and Me" week, you get two special promotions:
1. Purchase a deal and stand a chance to win all of the experiences above!

2. Sign up for the newsletter and get to win a Resorts World Sentosa Weekend Stay for 2 and Universal Studios Weekend Express Pass for 2!

Reebonz is on Facebook too. Like them and see more. They are giving away something when they hit 10,000 likes (now at more than 9,000). They are on Twitter as well, with more than 6,000 followers! Rebecca is going to start her own Twitter account too, just for Reebonz City. Catch her on http://twitter.com/ReebonzCityGirl

So mark your calendars for 7 to 13 March, for that's when "The City and Me" comes alive!

All photos courtesy of Reebonz.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

HK2: Yung Kee with Friends

Everybody knows Yung Kee
Everybody knows Yung Kee in Hong Kong. On our first day in Hong Kong, we had the pleasure of catching up with some wonderful friends there for dinner. We were quite lucky to even get a table, as it was nearing Chinese New Year, but my friend Katie knew the folks there.

Yung Kee's famous century eggs
Here are the famous century eggs - so beautiful and tasty. I can fully understand why some people go to great lengths to bring some home by air.

Braised Pork Belly
Gorgeous braised pork belly. The picture says it all. It's as delicious as you can imagine!

Stewed Goose with Goose Blood
Yung Kee is famous for its signature roast goose, but that's not what we had. We decided to try something else, which also came recommended. A claypot stewed goose with goose blood (at first I thought it was pig's blood). Robustly flavoured but not too gamey. First time I've ever had goose blood too - it was quite unusual.

Appetiser of some cured melon strips
We had these on the side, which made great palate cleansers. Some variant of cured melon strips, I think.

Sea Cucumber Innards
And another first for me - sea cucumber innards! These longish intestines were fried and salted like calamari. I can't quite describe the taste, but the texture is amazing - both chewy and crunchy. Whoever first ate these must have been brave. Sure proves that the Chinese won't waste anything. I think the Japanese eat these too (konowata).

It's amazing that sea cucumbers can expel their intestines when they feel threatened, and grow a totally new set in 50 days. But I don't think that's how they are harvested.

Assorted Lap Cheong
And on to more normal fare - some very good lap cheong (Chinese sausages).

Egg with Shrimp
Eggs, softly scrambled with large juicy prawns and chopped scallions. So delicious and comforting.

Beef with Kailan
Beef with Kailan - probably our only vegetable appearance. They use tenderizer as with most Chinese restaurants, but it's still very tasty.

Crab claw
Some nice crab claws to round up the meal.

Red Bean with Jelly
We had an assortment of desserts. I loved this red bean jelly.

Mini Egg Tarts
Mini egg tarts. I thought these were even better than Tai Cheong's (although they have different crusts).

Yummiest Red Bean Soup Ever
This red bean soup is fragrantly perfumed with dried orange peel (I normally don't like orange peel, but it was so good here). It's the best red bean soup I've ever had.

Yung Kee with Friends
We had such a fun evening catching up. I'd met up with Katie when she was in Singapore earlier, and this time, we managed to round up more people whom I had not seen in almost 20 years, since the good old days of school. Nice to see that they have all done well for themselves and are such lovely, happy people.

Thank you, guys, for the wonderful dinner! And by the way, happy birthday, Katie! Just a coincidence I decided to publish this today and then I found out it's your birthday!

32-40 Wellington Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2522 1624
Open daily 11.00am - 11.30pm
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