Monday, August 25, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey

I just watched The Hundred-Foot Journey and it is a deliciously heartwarming movie. Delicious, I say! With its long, lingering shots of luscious food, that picturesque French countryside and a good-looking cast, it's a veritable feast for the eyes. The script is also funny, and had the audience bursting out in laughter at the theatre. The movie opens 28 August 2014.

When I first heard about the The Hundred-Foot Journey, the simple title did not grab me, but as I found out more about it, I became completely enthralled and just could not wait to see it. Watch the trailer.

The movie is about the (almost comical) clash between two traditional cultures. A displaced Indian family moves to a small village in the South of France and sets up a loud, over-the-top restaurant, Maison Mumbai, just 100 feet across the street from a prim and proper Michelin-starred French restaurant.

It's all out war as Bollywood bumps against Mozart, and murgh masala fights roast pigeon. Oh, things do get ugly. Racism, discrimination, jealousy and unfair practices pop up. But when we take the step to cross the divide (be it one or 100 feet) and set aside differences, friendship and more can blossom. And in the end, food is the very thing that brings people together. And if you ever lose your way, food can bring you back.

Helen Mirren may be British but I thought she was pretty good as Madame Mallory, the proud and passionate owner of the French restaurant and defender of French tradition. Om Puri is delightfully funny as the boisterous and headstrong patriarch of the Indian family. I love watching the two of them at loggerheads.

Manish Dayal, who plays the talented young Indian chef Hassan, is surprisingly born and bred in South Carolina (imagine the cultural divide he's had to face there, certainly plenty of material). Charlotte Le Bon is the impossibly ravishing sous chef Marguerite whom Hassan falls in love with. She has doe eyes that would put Bambi to shame.

Producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey discuss the movie in this interview. The Dreamworks film is directed by Lasse Hallström who previously did "Chocolat", "My Life as a Dog" and "The Cider House Rules". Oscar-nominated screenwriter Steven Knight adapted the screenplay from Richard Morais' bestselling book of the same name. A.R. Rahman was the composer, and the music is as beautiful as the food.

And oh, the food in this movie! Breathtaking close-ups of grilled meats, fantastic spices, silky eggs, seafood and ripe market's a feast for the eyes. Slow motion food porn abounds, showing you the steps in transforming ingredients into edibles. Foodies will love this.

Even the scene where Hassan devours the cookbooks gifted by Marguerite is incredibly sensual, with her hypnotic French-accented voice narrating the recipe, speaking of cherries and cream. Oh my god. Verbal food porn. I'm pretty sure she said cream.

People who have seen the movie have been raving about it, and this response sums it up best:

"We saw a sneak preview of this movie last night. It is marvellous. It has everything you would want in a movie: wonderful costumes; incredible cinematography; delightful music; comedy; emotion. From the moment it starts you become fully engaged in the entire spectrum. Yes, it is a fantasy, and it brings great pleasure. Bravo!!"

The Hundred-Foot Journey opens in Singapore on 28 August 2014.

Meanwhile, as we eagerly await, The Hundred-Foot Journey and local French restaurant Saveur have teamed up to create a special three-course French-Indian set menu at S$36.90++, which is a good deal.

Saveur_The Hundred-Foot Journey Set Meal

Saveur at Far East Plaza

The menu will be available til 14 Sept at both Saveur outlets at Purvis Street and Far East Plaza (above). As many of you know, Saveur made its name for well-executed French fare that's incredibly affordable.

The set menu took them about two months of experimenting to devise. They delicately infused Indian elements into classic French dishes.

Seafood Bouillabaise was chosen to represent the South of France
The starter Seafood Bouillabaise was chosen to represent the South of France. A lovely medley of seafood (sea bass, grilled cod, mussel and clam) in a full-bodied broth made from lobster and fish. We at first thought there might be pumpkin in the soup giving it the orangey thickness but it's all seafood.

Lamb Shoulder - braised lamb shoulder marinated with "curry de madras" served with coco bean cassoulet
Lamb Shoulder - braised lamb shoulder marinated with "curry de madras" served with coco bean cassoulet
The main course is a hearty platter of tender lamb that comes with just a hint of curry. The Indian spices are not very strong, but complement the lamb well. Personally, I thought they could use a stronger hand with the spices, but maybe I am used to heavy spices (I love good Indian food). This light treatment would work well for Europeans who have never had curry perhaps.

Tarte Au Citron - sable breton lemon curd, vanilla mousseline, lemon gelee, marshmallow and citrus tuille
Tarte Au Citron - sable breton lemon curd, vanilla mousseline, lemon gelee, marshmallow and citrus tuille
Dessert is a fairly modern take on the citrusy tart. It's all deconstructed. A lot of sweet elements with very tangy lemon curd. Best all mixed together for a more balanced experience. There is no Indian element per se in this, but perhaps it alludes to the molecular gastronomy that pops up in the movie.

And if you were at PasarBella over the weekend, you would have seen the Le Cordon Bleu pop-up store at Lemon Zest. There was an energetic buzz in the air as the alumnus of the famed cooking school demonstrated how to cook dishes inspired by The Hundred-Foot Journey movie.

The audience learned how to make omelettes and madeleines similar to what was shown in the movie.

Chef Hassan in the movie was quite bold with his interpretation of the omelette, seasoning it not with timid subtlety but passionate abandon. Not your traditional omelette, but sometimes it's good to think outside traditional boundaries.

The movie will inspire many to cook, and here are some related recipes you can try.

Photo from Facebook
See also video clips of real life chefs talking about their own 100-foot journeys: Curtis Stone, Donatella Arpaia, Ming Tsai and Wolfgang Puck!

Yes, the passion for food unites us all despite our differences. The movie is a lovely story about how embracing another culture's food can open doors to greater understanding and acceptance.

We all have our hundred-foot journeys, to reach out, to discover and transcend barriers.

Follow the local Facebook page for more updates:
Check out the social media hashtag: #100FootJourney
View the official trailer post by Buena Vista International, Singapore.

Go. Watch the movie.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Antoinette's Savoury Side: French Classics Star in Chef Pang's New Menu

Such a pretty display cake

Mention Antoinette and most people will call to mind expertly crafted French-style desserts, and a well-loved place for tai-tai tea. Oh, the sweets are sublime indeed at this restaurant, pâtisserie and salon de thé inspired by Marie Antoinette's favourite hideaway chateau, the Petit Trianon.

Le Grande Jardin d’Antoinette (The Grand Garden of Antoinette)

But their savoury dishes are just as enthralling. There are all-day breakfast items, starters and salads, hearty main courses, sandwiches, blinis, crepes, and even pastas.

Recently, they updated the menu with some regional French classics, both on the sweet and savoury side.

Chef Pang Kok Keong

Chef Pang Kok Keong's foundation is actually in classical French cuisine. He is not just Singapore's beloved Sugar Daddy, he's a master at the savouries too. In his savoury dishes, you'll find the same precise and meticulous dedication he lavishes on his pastries.

"I'm not about being trendy or a hipster," says Chef Pang. His food is about comfort, connection and a continuity with the past. He has chosen classics that have stood the test of time.

Here are some of the new all-day dishes you can find:

Salade d'Été (Summer Salad)
Salade d'Été (Summer Salad) S$16.50
A lovely and colourful salad that's beautifully refreshing. It's got quinoa, compressed watermelon, roasted butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, feta cheese, sherry vinaigrette, olive oil, and sour dough chips that make this salad 'take flight'.

L’oeufs en Meurette (Poached egg with Red Wine Sauce)
L’oeufs en Meurette (Poached egg with Red Wine Sauce) S$17.50
If you love wine, this will be the perfect start to your day. The smoked pork belly is bathed in a heady red wine sauce. Toasted levain bread (all the gorgeous bread is made inhouse) makes a great base for the poached egg.

L’oeufs en Meurette (Poached egg with Red Wine Sauce)
See? I love the bread. I'm not a wine person, so the sauce was a little too strong for me, but the egg, pork and bread were perfect.

Le Grande Jardin d’Antoinette (The Grand Garden of Antoinette)
Le Grande Jardin d’Antoinette (The Grand Garden of Antoinette, also first photo) S$30 
Gardens are an apt name. With a dozen or more ingredients of contrasting colours, textures and flavours, the salads here are an absolute delight. Beautifully seared roasted duck breast with tangy pickled pears, a poached egg, roasted asparagus, baby carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, cresses, flowers, mixed greens, sunflower seeds, button mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, lotus root chips, lavosh crackers and caramel orange dressing. There's a lot of work just prepping for this dish!

This is the big garden (main course); there is also a small garden (Le Petit Jardin, S$20.50) in the starter that features foie gras on levain toast.

Entrecôte Poêlée à la Bordelaise (Black Angus Ribeye Minute Steak with Shallot Red Wine Sauce)
Entrecôte Poêlée à la Bordelaise (Black Angus Ribeye Minute Steak with Shallot Red Wine Sauce) S$36
This turned out to be one of my favourite dishes here. It's an understatement to say this was a beautiful steak with an amazing sauce. I normally prefer my steaks sans sauces, but this sauce was a perfect complement that made the beef sing me an aria. Singing cow? Well, I was just mooved.

Shrimp Capellini

Shrimp Capellini, S$26 
Capellini pasta with sea shrimp, Sakura ebi and rocket leaves. Umami bomb! They are generous with the crustacean oil, maybe just a little too generous. It was aromatic but the mouthfeel just a tad greasy. I still liked this though.

French Toast with Ham and Cheese
French Toast with Ham and Cheese, S$14
One of the four Pain Perdu Avec Crème Chantilly, this one is quite an unusual sweet and savoury combo - ham and cheese, AND maple syrup. It's made all the more decadent with Swiss Gruyère cheese cream, balanced by a salad on the side.

These are just some of the savoury highlights - the menu is pretty extensive. Have a look online.

On the sweet side, Chef Pang continues to dazzle with dramatic desserts. New on the menu are four "plated desserts" - three of which we managed to try.

La Vacherin de la Reine
La Vacherin de la Reine (The Queen's Vacherin) S$25
Witness this stunning confection of rose petal meringue filled with yuzu cream, vanilla ice cream, vanilla creme Chantilly, lychees, strawberries and raspberries, topped with a crown of ethereal spun sugar. I hear shrieks of delight. It is very sweet though. I'd wager the sugar content of this thing to be 65% or more.

Rum Baba
Baba aux Fraises (Strawberry Baba) S$18
This is a Rum Baba soaked in citrus vanilla syrup perfumed with dark rum. In the strawberry coulis lie kirsh macerated strawberries, and the baked dough is topped with vanilla creme Chantilly. Beware, the rum is strong in this one.

The Baked Alaska split open
The Omelette Norvégienne S$25
Or more plainly, the Baked Alaska, which is another dramatic dessert. It is a grand classic, not easy to make at all. Most baked Alaska desserts are more fun to watch than eat, but this one is tasty. Griotte cherries cooked in kirsch, are enveloped together with orange confit and almond nougatine in a torched blackcurrant meringue.

Baked Alaska in action
Grand Marnier liquer is poured over and flamed. Do not go too near if you are wearing abundant hairspray.

The signature array of desserts
The signature array of smaller desserts remain as alluring as dancers in a Nutcracker dream. There are some new cakes - Désir (chestnut, front row), Cafe Noix (coffee), Charlotte (Tahitian vanilla and strawberry, second row from front, named after his second daughter), Forét Blanc (white forest, third row from front), and Le Fruitier (almond and fruits).

A selection of Chinese teas and fruit teas now complement the desserts
What's also interesting is the selection of teas that go with the desserts, now including Chinese tea blends like the Oriental Beauty (S$10), which is a sencha flavoured with organic rose petals, calendula marigold flower and a hint of mint. "I feel that the clean, light profile of Chinese tea goes well with desserts, especially pastry," says Chef Pang.

Mango and Dill tea
There are also gorgeously refreshing iced fruit teas like this Iced Yuzu, Mango and Passionfruit (S$12.50 per pot) - it's got dill in it too. "The iced teas are visually appealing and reminds me of a garden picnic," says Chef Pang.

With these new items, Antoinette's menu now not only boasts variety but depth as well. However, the familiar favourites remain - Boeuf Bourguignon, Ballotine de Poulet à la Grand-mère, Classic French Onion Soup, and so on. Again, very much French classics.

Antoinette's decor is decidedly feminine with lots of flowers

They have always had savoury selections, as you can see in my previous posts:

Personally, I like savoury stuff more than I do desserts, and I am thankful there are choices for people who love both sweet and savoury. You don't have to be a dessert person to enjoy Antoinette. They've got it all.

ANTOINETTE is at three locations:

Main branch
30 Penhas Road, off Lavender Road,
Singapore 208188
Tel: +65 6293-3121
Open daily:
Monday to Thursday – 11am to 10pm (Last order - 9.30pm)
Friday and Eve of Public Holidays – 11am to 11pm (Last order - 10.30pm)
Saturday – 10am to 11pm (Last order - 10.30pm)
Sunday and Public Holidays – 10am to 10pm (Last order - 9.30pm)

Mandarin Gallery
333A Orchard Road,
Mandarin Gallery #02-33/34
Singapore 238897
Tel: +65 6836-9527 (sorry, no reservations)
Open daily:
11am to 10pm daily (Last order - 9.30pm)

Palais Renaissance
390 Orchard Road,
Palais Renaissance #B1-08/09/10C
Singapore 238871
Tel: +65 67356392
Open daily:
11am to 10pm (Last order - 9.30pm)

Mooncake Macaron from Antoinette - with lotus paste and salted egg yolk filling
P.S. Check out mooncake macarons - with an unusual filling of lotus paste and centre of salted egg yolk!

Thanks to Bing for the invite, and Chef Pang for the lunch!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fishball Story: Best Fishball Noodles Ever!

Fishball Story

UPDATE 2016! Fishball Story has moved to two locations: Timbre+ and University Town (see end of post for more details)

You all know Fishball Story by now (if not, you can read the Makansutra story here). Yes, that young and passionate hawker Douglas Ng who is bringing back handmade fishballs, the way his grandmother used to make them. He uses purely fish and no flour. It's an arduous process that sees him up at 4am beating, blending and pressing fishballs and chili-scallion fish cakes. He's only 23 but he has got it right.

The fishballs are soft and gently bouncy, with the natural sweetness of fresh yellowtail fish. His noodles are exactly the way I like them - al dente and dry. And for S$3.50, it's a very hearty portion. What a steal for an artisanal lunch.

Apart from the fishballs, he also personally prepares the sambal (which has a gorgeous umami kick from dried prawns or something), and the fried pork lard. Oh yes, I requested extra lard pieces as you can see. Freshly fried ones make a whole world of difference.

I tried both the spicy and non-spicy version. The spicy one with his homemade sambal wins hands down. Honestly, folks, it's not that spicy, so even if you can't take chili  heat, go for it and just enjoy. For those who need more heat, well, that's what the chili padi is there for.

Here's Douglas with his ever cheery smile.

They are very friendly at the stall, and really pay attention to what customers might need. They gave me more soup when they saw that my noodles had dried up a bit after photography. And I read various other instances where customers were delighted by the extra steps they took to ensure a wonderful meal.

Fishball Story
This is now my favourite fishball stall. If you approach the hawker centre from Beach Road, the unit is somewhere towards the back on the left. Do follow them on Facebook for updates. Sometimes they may have to close for washing, sometimes they stay open late.

You can also visit the link below for food delivery.

#01-85 Golden Mile Hawker Centre
505 Beach Road
Singapore 199583
Open daily 9am-5pm (but go early as they may sell out by 3pm sometimes)

Main outlet:
Timbre+, stall 14
73A Ayer Rajah Crescent, Singapore 139957
Opening hours: Mon to Sat - 8am to 6pm

Other outlet:
2 College Avenue West #02-01
Stephen Riady Center, University Town, NUS, Singapore 138607
Car entrance is opposite New Town Secondary School, along Dover Road.
Opening hours: Mon to Sat -  9am to 8pm

Tel: +65 9800-5036


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Happy National Day! What Local Food Are You? Chef Eric Low Will Demo No.1 Dish in This Quiz with Electrolux at TANGS 17 Aug

It's Singapore's 49th birthday, and what unites us better than our crazy, unexplainable, incessant love for food? We have so many amazing dishes on one little island nation. But which local dish do you think represents you the most?

Take the Electrolux fun interactive quiz here:

It turns out I am Nasi Lemak.

On another attempt, I got Chili Crab. Haha. I hear Laksa and Char Kway Teow are lurking somewhere. Even an Ice Kachang! What are you going to be?

Well, whatever dish proves the most popular in this quiz is going to be showcased at TANGS in a cooking demo by Electrolux Chef-in-Residence Eric Low. Mark your diaries for Sunday 17 August, 3-5pm!

Electrolux found in a food survey that 93% of Singaporeans say that they are passionate about food, but a huge percentage – 65% – describe their cooking skills as limited or a disaster. This cooking demo is a way to show Singaporeans that there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to cooking, and these easy-to-cook recipes can help them take the first step to building kitchen confidence.

Interestingly, 35% of men claim to be the primary meal preparer in the family, but only 8% of the women say their husbands do more of the cooking.

Chef Eric Low
Chef Eric Low is an amazing teacher - he loves sharing information and I have learned a lot each time I listen to him. I've got some of his recipes to share too, in a future post. Do watch out for those.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

California Sensation Lime Truck coming to Singapore; Pop Up Food Truck with FIJI Water 15-16 Aug #FIJIWaterLimeTruck

[UPDATE 14 Aug 2014: The Lime Truck will be at Orchard Gateway for both days now, due to unforeseen restrictions. No more The Vault, folks!]

FIJI Water is bringing one of America's best loved food trucks to Singapore!

The Lime Truck
The Lime Truck from Los Angeles was the winner of The Food Network’s "The Great Food Truck Race" (season 2). They will be bringing their signature dishes in a two-day pop-up at The Vault (15 Aug) and Orchard Gateway (16 Aug). Full proceeds go to Willing Hearts, a volunteer-run non-profit organisation set up to provide for the needy in Singapore.

Chef Daniel Shemtob, CEO of The Lime Truck

Chef Daniel Shemtob, CEO and founder of The Lime Truck, will star in this collaboration with FIJI Water and the Kerbside Gourmet, Singapore's first gourmet food truck with a social vision. The "Kerby" truck will be transformed to replicate the Lime Truck's signature lime green exterior, with Chef Daniel on board.

Blue Crab & Jicama Taco

All dishes will be served with a bottle of FIJI Water (330ml). The blue crab and jicama taco (above) looks delish bejewelled with pomegranate seeds. You can also expect their fresh fish ceviche tostada, and the braised pork belly taco with tomatillo pico de gallo (see below)!

The Lime Truck's concept is "fresh, healthy, accessible food" and since its inception in 2010, it's garnered a cult following for its soulful cooking using fresh ingredients, jazzed up with contemporary appeal. They have two brick and mortar restaurants named TLT Food, and Chef Daniel Shemtob was named one of "LA's 30 under 30" by Zagat.

So come for a taste of the legendary food truck revolution that's sweeping America and help contribute to the needy! Remember 100% of the proceeds go to charity.

#FIJIWaterLimeTruck Giveaway
Bonus! FIJI Water is giving away $50 worth of food vouchers on its Instagram (@FIJIWaterSG). To stand a chance to win, simply repost the giveaway photo (look for this one above) and hashtag #FIJIWaterLimeTruck. Results will be announced this Friday.

Stay tuned for updates on

All photos courtesy of FIJI Water

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