Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Curry Debal Recipe: The Devil Made Me Do It

Despite being married to a Eurasian family, I have never attempted to make any Eurasian dishes. Partly because they always seem to involve long, complex, laborious procedures and some advanced sorcery unavailable to common mortals. Plus the hubby himself hates Eurasian food. But last week something simply possessed me to make Devil's Curry. I am not sure why. I don't know what a good one tastes like - every family has a different interpretation - and I don't really care for the vinegary aspect of the curry.

But I thought I'd try it anyway, and make one that I would like. Minus the copious amounts of vinegar. Would it work? Would it still be Devil's Curry? Heck, who cares so long as it's edible!

I looked at recipes - they ranged from surprisingly simple to painful. Some had so many ingredients! Others involved chicken, duck and pork partying together. I was stunned to discover there's no coconut milk in this curry at all. It all the more enforced how little I knew about Eurasian food. But one thing I did know - I wanted bacon bones in my curry for added flavour!

So here's my rather bastardised version of Devil's Curry. All measurements are very, very approximate, as I didn't keep track of my experiment but improvised as I went along. Feel free to adjust to your own preference.

One chicken breast, cubed and marinated with Worcester sauce or BBQ sauce, soy sauce, pepper and a splash of vinegar (optional, just there to pay homage to the dish's original tangy character)
400g bacon bones
3 potatoes, cubed
Mustard seeds - 2 teaspoons
Oil for frying

Chilli paste 4/5 tablespoons
Lemongrass - 3 stalks
Turmeric - two 2cm pieces, peeled
Galangal - 50g or two knobs
Shallots - 10 pcs
Garlic - 7-8 cloves

1. Brown bacon bones and breathe in the divine aroma of sizzling bacon. Then add 1.5L or so water to boil for an hour or two to make stock (it will reduce a fair bit). Add 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons sugar.
2. Meanwhile pound or blend the rempah/spices.
3. Toast mustard seeds until they pop.
4. Add 5tbsp oil and fry the rempah mix on low-to-medium heat until oil separates. About 20mins.
5. Brown chicken and set aside.
6. Brown potatoes separately add spice mix. Add chicken and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. See potatoes and chicken gloriously absorb the wonderful colours of the spices.
7. Add bacon bones and stock to the whole thing. Cook for another 15 mins, until potatoes are cooked, and the curry is at the desired thickness or consistency. Season further to taste if necessary.

What can I say? Bacon makes everything taste good.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Masala Tandoor - Fabulous Briyani from Former Cook of Omar Khayyam

My new favourite briyani stall is just under my nose! Hidden in the corner of a Marine Drive kopitiam is Masala Tandoor, which serves an astonishing array of Northern Indian dishes. I really appreciate that the rice is fluffy, richly spiced and yet doesn't feel greasy!

The owner Rashid was from Omar Khayyam (are you old enough to remember this restaurant?). Do you think he channels Omar Sharif too? OK, maybe not. 

He's got a tandoor oven here, where he whips out great tandoori items and naans. Go find him at Block 81, Marine Parade Central (facing Marine Drive), #01-654, Singapore 440081.

My story in Makanation:


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

L'Oreal Paris White Perfect Laser: Final Results

With Jolie

We've reached the end of an eight week trial using L'Oreal Paris White Perfect Laser products in an experiment using three non-beauty bloggers (see Facebook minisite).

L'Oreal Paris dared to compare their White Perfect (WP) Laser product results against that of an IPL session. That's pretty bold, but a self-assessment comparison test involving 85 women showed incredible results - the women were more satisfied with WP Laser results than with IPL. Spots shrunk, dark spots faded, skin texture and smoothness improved, and skin became more radiant. In that eight week test, all of the women agreed that they would delay their IPL session upon seeing the results.


DBS Supperclub with Chef Alvin Leung of Bo Innovation

DBS Indulge flew in Chef Alvin Leung of Bo Innovation for their latest Underground Supperclub. I was very privileged to have a look at how this master of X-treme Chinese Cuisine infused Singapore influences into what he interprets as "Food for the Soul" - check out how laksa, oyster omelette, chicken rice, chili crab and such become transformed into elements you may not recognise!

My story on Yahoo Makanation:


Monday, July 23, 2012

Happy birthday, Nadine! Six years old and a Spiderman fan

Happy birthday, Nadine! Six years ago, you were born on your daddy's birthday, so we get to celebrate both birthdays together always. Of course, guess whose birthday we always focus on more!

I never thought she'd be a Spiderman fan, but she just won't fall for Disney princesses or female superheroes. My little tomboy.

Cake placed far away to avoid fingers poking in!

We almost always get a strawberry shortcake for birthdays around the house. Everybody loves them.

The cake, of course, had to be placed far far away prior to candle-blowing to avoid itchy fingers plunging into the delicious cream.

The girls loved the robots!

Both girls get presents - and they were absolutely delighted to get Transformers robot toys this year (besides the Spidey hooded suit for Nadine and Dora pajamas for Jolie). Hubby snagged a great deal on these toys (only S$20 each!). They actually transform into vehicles too (but with great complexity that stumps even us adults). Well, at least there's lights and voice action - that's always a hit.

Yes, who says girls have to play with Barbie?


Ep.12 of The Food Surprise by @Makansutra 10.30pm Tonite on TLC (Starhub ch 427)

Don't you wish you could follow Seetoh around as he ambushes culinary big shots and small vendors alike on his TV shows? Sometimes like everyone else he has to queue, or worse the whole crew gets thrown out! Let's see what happens in the Singapore episode tonight.

Remember Xinyao? Come to a 新谣 Charity Concert Friday 27 July at Hwa Chong Institution

Just a plug for a charity concert that my friend Peng Chi Sheng (second from left) will be performing at. He runs Intune Music School with partner Aaron, and they provide vocal and music classes for kids and adults alike (check out their Youtube channel for some of their performances).

What: A concert showcasing the very best of 新谣 (Xinyao) music from the 1980s - 1990s.
Where: Hwa Chong Institution (College) Auditorium, 661 Bt Timah Rd, S269734
When: Friday, 27 July 2012, 7:30pm - 9:30pm

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you'll remember what Xinyao was. Maybe you'll recognise some of the songs listed on the poster (click image to see bigger version).

Some are from Chinese TV serials and many are by composer Dr Liang Wern Fook, who is a prolific composer and lyricist, having created over 100 songs in over 30 years. They'll be performed by artistes from Intune Music School and Hwa Chong Institution.

Tickets are $20 for adults, and $8 for students! Buy tickets by contacting:
1) Email xinyao@xinyao.sg, or
2) SMS/call 96943090/90603500.
Also available at the door starting 5:30pm on the day itself. I may have some extra tickets too, so email me if you are really keen.

Come and listen to some nostalgic tunes and that cheer will do good too - 100% of the proceeds will go to the ST Pocket Money Fund. Say hello as well to Guest of Honour Baey Yam Keng and Special guest Tin Pei Ling!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hougang 6 Miles Famous Muah Chee at Block 69 Bedok South Ave 3

I'd been wanting to check out the famous Hougang 6 Miles muah chee but never quite got motivated enough to haul myself to Hougang. But hey, they've moved closer to me, and are now at Bedok South.

The boss Mr Teo still makes them by hand, pinching each globule of sticky glutinous rice dough and dabbing them every so briefly in the shallot oil, before coating them with crushed peanuts and sesame. He says no one makes them this way anymore (they use scissors to cut the dough), as it's really tiring. He goes home with an aching body each day. But the manual way yields better texture and that desired tensile bounce.

His father ran the business as a roadside stall since the 1950s. But when the son retires, there will be no one taking over this business.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Jiang-Nan Chun at Four Seasons Hotel Has New Exec Chef Alan Chan

The stunningly gorgeous Cantonese fine-dining restaurant Jiang-Nan Chun at the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore has a new Chinese Executive Chef.

Chef Alan Chan is the new Chinese Executive Chef at Jiang-Nan Chun
Chef Alan Chan is a Hong Kong native who has lived in Singapore since 2001. He joins Jiang-Nan Chun from Crystal Jade Dining IN at Vivocity where he was Master Chef. Alan recently collaborated with his counterparts at three-Michelin star Lung King Heen (Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong) and the two-Michelin star Zi Yat Heen (Four Seasons Macao), so he's reinforced his direction and benchmark for Jiang-Nan Chun here.


The Food Surprise: Seetoh of @Makansutra Uncovers Singapore Secrets in Ep.11

Find out the love story behind yam ring (I adore this dish, and am charmed that it has such an inspiring beginning). See if you recognise the patisserie chef Seetoh surprises in the clip. There's also sinful vegetarian chow and a hidden gem in the north of Singapore.

Tune in 10.30pm tonight on TLC - Starhub ch 427.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Crab Fiesta at PARKROYAL on Beach Road

Chili Crab at PARKROYAL on Beach Road
While we're on the topic of seafood (the theme of this year's Singapore Food Festival), you might like to know about this crab feast at Plaza Brasserie. Chili Crab, Black Pepper Crab, a superbly spicy Salted Egg Yolk Crab, Butter Crab, Thai Green Curry Crab, Crabs in XO Sauce - all mud crabs. There are also flower crabs done Nonya style (but tasting somewhat like Indian curry crabs).

Other items might include Crab Meat Lo Mein, Braised Tang Hoon with Crabs, Vegetables and Crabmeat Tempura. I suspect one might be too distracted by the mains to try the appetisers (Dijon Crab Cakes with Coriander Paste, Chili Crab Roll, Baked Crab Shell, Mini Crab Meat Samosas, Crab Meat Gyoza, Olive & Potato Crabmeat Balls with Pesto, etc).

Of course, non-crab dishes are also available, along with freshly shucked oysters, salads, sashimi and sushi, desserts.

The Crab Fiesta is available for dinner daily from 5 July to 31 August 2012.
Mon-Thurs: Adults S$52++; Children S$31++
Fri-Sun: Adults S$55++; Children S$33++

PARKROYAL on Beach Road
7500 Beach Road
Singapore 199591
Tel: +65 6505-5710

Singapore Food Festival 2012: Seafood - Tales of Temasek

Seafood Paradise at Singapore Food Festival 2012

The Singapore Food Festival 2012 kicked off last night with a seafood theme. This year the Food Festival Village is held at the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade (see map) instead of the Clarke Quay Read Bridge where it's been for the past few years.

The Singapore Food Festival Village has three times more space

For ten days from 13 July to 22 July, you'll get to sample fare from up to 50 vendors in one place.

The good thing is - there's lots more seating space (up to three times more, I hear). So it was kind odd not having to jostle and fight for seats like in the previous years. But in a good way, obviously.

HY California is at the Singapore Food Festival Village
It looks like more restaurants participating this year, beyond just street food vendors - there's HY California (above), Covelli Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar, Seafood Paradise, Moi Lum, Al Qasr, and maybe a couple more.

We were very happy to see Executive Chef Sho Naganuma at the HY California booth. He seems to remember us from his DBS Masterclass! You know I love his chawan mushi (recipe in the post) - still the best I've ever had. Here's Keropokman's photo of Sho (right).

The sushi here is probably one of the better value items at the festival village, because even some hawker fare is going for S$8. Stuff seems more expensive this year, but the NETS Flashpay card which they promote onsite will net you a 20 per cent discount.

Seafood platter from Seafood Paradise

This year the SFF has a special seafood platter (S$36.90+) created by Seafood Paradise. You get Chilli Crab / Signature Creamy Butter Crab, Stir-fried Live Geoduck with Asparagus in XO Sauce, Crisp-fried Prawns tossed with Salted Egg Yolk, Deep-fried Coral Trout in Nyonya Style and Supreme Seafood Fried Rice.

It's nice to be able to sample their specialties this way, but I'd recommend going to Seafood Paradise itself with a group of friends to have the full portions!

Nadine loved being on water
Nadine and I also went for the Tiffin Cruise (S$68+) on a bumboat. This is one of the events that's remained unchanged over the years, but I don't know if it might be back next year.

The tiffin cruise takes you around Marina Bay
The leisurely 60-min cruise takes you around Marina Bay and turns back near Liang Court/Clarke Quay.

Food isn't the highlight of the tiffin cruise, but the tiffin carrier that you get to keep is!
Along the way, you get to snack on seafood treats like sambal prawns, seafood fried rice, calamari, mussels and fried fish. Honestly, the food is not the highlight, but the tiffin carrier that you get to keep is! These old-school metal tiffin carriers are so hard to come by these days, and the one they give is so pretty.

There are many more activities you can check out for the food festival at its website. A Jurong Fishery visit, a slew of events at Sentosa Harbourfront, cooking masterclasses, workshops, food trails, restaurant and dining promotions. If you love seafood, this is definitely a month of celebration for you.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Man Fu Yuan's Mao Shan Wang Durian Mooncake

Man Fu Yuan's Mao Shan Wang mooncake
Man Fu Yuan is pulling out the stops with their "Mao Shan Wang" durian mooncake. The thick creamy durian pulp is made even more decadent with the addition of coconut milk. The snowskin covering is also so thin that it almost melts away under your touch.

This photo was taken with the mooncake at near room temperature. The taste and texture seems to come out more when it's not chilled.

Each mooncake is individually shrinkwrapped and paper-boxed. There's a slim package in front for tea too.
It's available in a box of four pieces (S$54.80), or as part of the Snowskin Mooncake Collection (S$51.80) which also features Green Tea Paste with Dragonball Jasmine, Lotus with Macadamia Nuts and Sesame Paste with White Sesame Seeds. You can also mix and match your preferred flavours.

There's a long rectangular box in front of the mooncakes that give you space for a tea sachet and set of plastic cutlery and napkin - so very thoughtful.

Nadine playing with the mooncakes
Here's Nadine playing with the mooncakes. They also have the classic baked mooncakes. I should like to check out their unusual High Mountain Sweet Potato Mooncake with Champagne Chocolate, in boxes of eight pieces. It's a signature item they pioneered five years ago. But for now, the Mao Shan Wang durian piece has me purring most contentedly.

Such pretty packaging
The boxes are so elegant and pretty, in muted gold and purple. These make such nice trinket or storage boxes.

Mooncakes are on sale at the Teahut, located at the hotel's Bugis Junction entrance from 10 August to 30 September 2012, as well as at major shopping malls. Call 6820-8519 or 6820-8520 for more details.


L'Oreal White Perfect Laser: Week 6 Update

Take the plunge!
A few weeks ago south of Sydney, I took the plunge. Off a plane at 14,000 feet! I think the wind blew off some of my freckles.

Or maybe not. I've been using L'Oreal Paris White Perfect Laser products in an eight-week trial. I've been recording the progress in my first and second posts (read those for more details and "before" photos).

I'd brought along the products for my Sydney trip, and I was grateful for the very moisturising All-Round Protection Whitening Cream in the Australian winter. My skin simply drank it up.

Week 6
After six weeks of use, I think my smaller freckles have disappeared. I used to have so many. Well, the bigger ones I still have plenty of - those are probably permanent but even they seem to have lightened a bit.

Anyway, I know I'll never be freckle-free because in my case, they come back so easily after a day in the sun. But that's fine with me because it's always good to be out and about! Nothing beats some fresh air, sunshine and vitamin D. But if you spend lots of extended time in the sun, you should definitely slather on sun protection regularly!

Along the coast of New South Wales south of Sydney
Skydiving is one of those life-changing moments. For some, it's a personal triumph over fear. For others, a high-adrenaline thrill like no other (just ask the instructors who have done it 15,000 times). I was really nervous before rolling off the plane, but afterwards, you just feel like you can do anything!

Fear stops you, courage frees you. It's true.

I hear that paragliding can actually be more scary (you're zipping by so much closer to the ground), so maybe that's my next challenge. We saw some people doing that while we were at this scenic cliff overlooking the beautiful coastal hamlet.

Will share more about skydiving and the gorgeous coast of New South Wales in a later post.

Stay tuned also for the final L'Oreal Paris White Perfect Laser update at the end of week eight.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sydney: Staying at the Amora Jamison

The Amora Jamison Sydney is ranked as a five-star hotel right in Sydney's Central Business District. It's not big or grand, but it is quite well-appointed and the location makes it easy for you to explore the city on foot or by ferry. It's right between the Rocks/Harbour area and the Queen Victoria Building/Westfield shopping heaven.

The room at the Amora Jamison Sydney
The rooms are elegantly simple, with basic necessities catered for. The king-sized bed is fairly comfortable. There's an extra pillow and wool blanket in the wardrobe, should you need them.

Simple but comfortable furnishings
There's a long desk with sockets nearby, and a single lounge chair in brown velvet. The large window gives you a view of the city (however my room faced an office building where I could peer at openly visible cubicles).

Everything is neatly tucked away in the closets
The wardrobe-cabinet holds also the flatscreen TV, bar fridge, tea/coffee making facilities, safe, iron and ironing board. Everything gets tucked away neatly, giving the room a really clean and spartan feel.

There's a long bath and one sink
The bathroom is decked out in black and white - nice long bath, single sink and shower stall. They don't give all the supplies that we are used to in Asian hotels though - things like dental kits, combs, etc. These can be requested. I'd have thought toothbrushes were pretty essential.

The shower stall is pretty roomy
The shower stall is also pretty big.

They have a small pool
There is a heated swimming pool and gym.

The Amora Spa
The Amora Spa lets you indulge in beauty treatments and massages.

The Gallery where breakfast is served
The Gallery Restaurant and Bar serving international fare is open 6.30am to 10.30pm. This is where we all started our mornings, with breakfast! There's a live egg station next to the breads, fresh orange juice, French press coffee and whole pots of tea!

Breakfast - fresh fruit, cheeses, nuts, eggs, bacon and sausages
Eggs, sausages, bacon, cheese, pancakes, lots of fresh and dried fruit!

The concierge and cashier at Amora Jamison Sydney
The concierge counter at the lobby works pretty efficiently. Rooms can be had from AU$190 to AU$450 depending on class and dates (you can call or book online with the hotel direct for best rates).

It's a Thai hotel! The portraits of the King and Queen oversee the concierge
I realised only close to the end of our stay that this is actually a Thai-owned hotel. While it didn't feel as luxurious like the larger five-star hotel chains, it does still make for a cosy yet comfortable stay.

11 Jamison Street
NSW 2000
Tel: +61 2 9696-2500

Google map location

View Larger Map

Thanks to Destination NSW for arranging our accommodation here, and Scoot for making the flight possible.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sydney Day 1: Sydney Harbour, Opera House and Dinner at Cruise

The grand organ concert hall at the Sydney Opera House is a sight to behold. That gorgeous baroque style organ is also the world's largest mechanical tracker-action pipe organ. What you see here is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg - most of it is hidden behind. With about 10,500 pipes, I can only imagine what the full resonance of the music will be like when it's being played.

We had a really nice tour of the Sydney Opera House
We had a most informative tour of the Opera House and our guide was full of amazing facts and figures about the iconic structure, its history, construction and operations. Did you know there's more steel inside the concrete of the Opera House than the entire Sydney Harbour Bridge? Yes, they need that much to support all those domes.

These seats have been here since the beginning!
These chairs look pretty new, don't they? Well, guess what - these are the very same chairs that's been installed since Day 1 - only the upholstery has been changed. They are also designed to absorb or reflect the acoustics the way a human being would if one were seated in the chair. So the sound will be uniform, even if some seats are empty.

VIVID Sydney features huge 3D mapped projections onto the Sydney Opera House
The beautiful domes become a canvas at night for VIVID Sydney. Huge moving 3D mapped projections are cast from across the harbour onto the Opera House roof. Did you also know that the tile patterns on the roof and wall surface were inspired by the print on a woman's bikini? Looking at those curves, I can understand why.

A woefully rainy afternoon, Sydney harbour bridge
iPhone photo

It was a woefully wet afternoon at the Sydney Harbour. Otherwise you can have sunset drinks at the Opera Kitchen (Lower Concourse level, Sydney Opera House) while taking in the great views. I've seen many also hiring a boat on Sydney Harbour.

But we were grateful for the opportunity to head back to the hotel to freshen up a bit before dinner at Cruise Restaurant (Level 2, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay West, The Rocks; tel +61 2 9251 1118).

Casual atmosphere at Cruise Restaurant, The Rocks, Sydney
The restaurant is on the second floor of the bar with floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of the harbour. It's an intimate, casual, warm-lit setting you can relax in as you tuck into modern Australian fare. The main attraction here really is the unbeatable harbour view with the Sydney Opera House right across from the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

Steak salad that was better than the steak itself
Seared beef salad with snow pea leaves, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, toasted sesame & ponzu (AU$19). We liked this better than the char-grilled squid starter. In fact, the beef here was more tasty than the full Black Angus steak fillet.

Grilled salmon with braised edamame
Grilled King Salmon with miso eggplant and steamed soybeans (AU$35) won the most raves out of all the dishes. The salmon is incredibly tender and moist; the little braised soybeans bring a seriously salty kick.

Roasted baby potatoes
Roasted new potatoes with truffle and parmesan (AU$10). How could you say no to these babies?

Apple pie
For dessert, French apple tart with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel. So simple but so good. Trust me, you won't regret picking this over the passionfruit creme brulee.

Sydney harbor
iPhone photo
We ended the evening with a quick stroll along the harbour before heading back to our hotel, the Amora Jamison, which I will show you in the next post.

It was late in the evening, but I still managed to catch up with family in Sydney - hubby's brother, wife and two lovely girls - even if just briefly. With Scoot's affordable fares, I think we can visit more often!

So that's Day 1 of the Destination NSW tour of Sydney for media who flew here on Scoot's inaugural flight to Sydney. Days 2 and 3 will reveal more sides of Sydney, including skydiving and vintage shopping! Stay tuned.
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