Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas Party 2007

A rather late post, as we had our usual small get-together session with close friends one week ago. I planned the menu way in advance to make sure that my small kitchen and cooking apparatus could cope with feeding six people! What we had:
  • Garden salad with baby carrots, baby butterhead lettuce, cherry tomatoes and homemade basil vinaigrette. Vinaigrette made by pounding 15g of basil leaves and 1 clove of garlic, add a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice in the ratio of 3 to 1 and stir well. Don't add the lemon juice too much in advance as it turns the basil brown.)
  • Hand-made prawn ravioli with saffron brown butter. The pasta skins were hand-made that day from fresh egg pasta, and the ravioli was then stuffed with minced prawn, grated parmesan cheese, and finely chopped curly parsley. The butter was heated until just turning brown, with a aromatic nutty flavour, and the saffron which had been pre-soaked in water, added to the butter and spooned over the blanched ravioli.
  • Juicy roast chicken. I used Sakura chicken, which is supposed to be sweeter and with fewer injected hormones, and brined it for 6 hours. Brine made based on Thomas Keller's formula: 60 g sea salt to 1 litre of water, 1 sprig of rosemary, 1 sprig of thyme, 1 bulb of garlic (skins left on and crushed), 1 tablespoon of honey. Chicken was roasted at 250 deg C for 1 hour. This method is supposed to produce very juicy, evenly brown roasted chicken. Indeed, the breast meat (which usually dries up into a tough strip) was amazingly tender and juicy after the roasting although the chicken didn't get that brown... (we managed to get it very evenly brown on an earlier attempt though).
  • Chocolate fudge cake and strawberry rolls. Okay not made by me - this was from Polar the cake shop. Had wanted to make tiramisu, but we got a voucher for a free fudge cake a few days before and had to use it up. Nonetheless, I still got to exercise my creative skills by using Polar's famous sugar rolls, adding homemade strawberry jam on top, garnishing with dried strawberry pieces, and finishing off with a dusting of icing sugar and a sprig of mint!

My balcony herb garden came into good use that day! Most of all, we had a great time with our friends and played Taboo until late that night. Already looking forward to the next year's party, for which I've already committed that I will prepare a Christmas log cake.

N.B. Photos are not ready yet.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Post-Holiday Decadence: Braised Pork Belly With Chilli

In the mood for some good old fatty pork belly today, with thick sauce ladled over steaming white rice. This is real comfort food! Recipe adapted from one in Neil Perry's Good Food.
1. Take 1/2 kg of pork belly, and cut into chunks. Heat up some oil in a large frying pan and fry the pork belly, adding some sea salt at the same time. Fry the pork belly over medium heat for half an hour, turning occasionally, till the pork is brown and some of the fat has melted off. Pour away the excess fat.
2. While frying the pork belly, mash up 2 cloves of garlic and 5 dried chillies (I used fresh chillies which works well too) into a puree. Add this mixture together with 2 cups of water to the pork belly mixture, one bay leaf, and 1 piece of orange rind (I used fresh orange peel but the dried orange peel available at traditional chinese medicine halls would be good too). Neil Perry's recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin which I skipped as I did not have it readily available in my store cupboards.
3. Braise the mixture for 2 hours, adding water as needed, till the pork is meltingly tender and the sauce has thickened.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pork Chops with Ginger, Mint and Lemon

A recipe inspired by one in Neil Perry's The Food I Love for lamb. This is pretty easy and basic and is very refreshing to the palate. It is especially good for hot muggy days with a glass of ice soda or lemonade. You only need a bit of effort to make the marinade.
Pound 1 small garlic clove, 1 tablespoon of chopped mint, 1 small nub of chopped young ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, 1 tablespoon of chopped coriander leaves, in a mortar. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Marinade 2 pork chops in the mixture for at least 1 hour. Grill or pan fry the pork chops till slightly browned.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thomas Keller and Michel Roux in my house

Yes, on my bookshelves! (Although they are obviously not on bookshelves in this picture) The French Laundry cookbook has drool-worthy descriptions (food porn alert!) and pictures, while Le Bouchon's recipes are more accessible as they are based on bistro food. Michel Roux's Eggs is very user-friendly and has lots of recipes for the humble egg. Have already planned some menus around recipes in these books. A lovely present from E.

Eng Seng Black Pepper Crab

We wanted to eat the famous Crab Bee Hoon at Sin Huat Coffee Shop (Geylang Lor 35) but at 4.30 pm in the afternoon, the owner and chef Danny was still fast asleep at home! So it was a short detour down to the trusty Eng Seng (junction of Joo Chiat Place and Still Road) for the black pepper crabs. This is seriously good stuff - the black pepper sauce is thick, redolent with fragrant butter and crushed black peppercorns. We mopped up every single last drop of it. Go very early if you want to eat - we placed our orders at 5 pm and all the crabs were sold out by 6.15 pm. On weekends a long snaking queue outside the coffeeshop starts forming at 5 pm and there are no crabs left by 6.30 pm (they sell these crabs by the cartons).
You can also order these for takeaway (dabao) and shortcircuit the queue, just head to the front of the queue, place your order for takeaway, and the aunties will give you a timing to come back and collect your crabs (usually about 1.5 hours later).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Morton's of Chicago

I had been wanting to eat at Morton's for a very long time, except that the prices were quite daunting and hence we never really got up the will to go. Last Thursday evening we finally got up the momentum to step into that revered place of the huge American steaks. And yes, it was indeed very good - they use beef that has been dry-aged for at least 3 weeks (basically hanging the beef up in a very tightly controlled environment), so that the beef is absolutely flavourful. Our bone-in rib-eye steak came with a lovely charred exterior and a smokey flavour, with a pink juicy and tender interior. However, rather embarressing, we had such small appetites that we had to share the ribeye steak (well I plead that it's huge), and couldn't finish our two sides of sauteed wild mushrooms and lyonnaise potato. Next time, we'll just focus on the star of the show!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Of Fries and Fish

Pardon the cheeky pun. This is not a post about fish and chips, but rather, about baby fish (which are also known as fries). I have been keeping goldfish for a few years now, and they've started spawning since last year.

The attrition rate is extremely high although they lay hundreds of eggs at one go, so from last November's crop of eggs, I only had 2 surviving goldfish, one of which died 2 months ago. But the sole survivor, I am pleased to report, is doing well and in fact herself laid eggs 3 weeks ago, which have hatched out into that little fry that you see in the photo above. The other photo shows the father who is huge - around the size of my hand with fingers outstretched.

These little fries need a lot of attention, which is why I've been somewhat distracted from my cooking!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Price of Inflation

There's been quite a lot of talk in Singapore lately about the levels that inflation is reaching, with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rising by close to 4% on a year-on-year basis. I actually think that the CPI is a flawed measure of inflation, because it simply tracks price fluctuations in a stipulated basket of goods without regard to the quality of those goods. So, the actual effect of inflation felt by the man-in-the-street is likely to be more than 4% if he does not cut back on his spending, or substitute the more expensive goods for another cheaper one, of lower quality. (Well I am an armchair critic as I have no other better solution to offer the Department of Statistics, so CPI is imperfect but there seem to be no alternatives.)

This point was felt particularly actutely when me and E had dinner tonight at my favourite steamboat place, Thien Kee steamboat (basement of Golden Mile Tower), Thien Kee had about half a year ago increased prices from $18 to $20 for a small set. Today, we noticed that even for the small set, the quantity had shrunk very noticeably - e.g. instead of 3 prawns, they gave 2 prawns. Compounding the effect, this would equal a price increase of about 20% or more???

Sadly, since Thien Kee is not a substitutible good for me (nothing else will do), we will have to continue paying the increased prices. Unlike us however, the lower-income in Singapore don't have the luxury of being able to make such choices, and do they then suffer from a drop in the quality of life as the cost of living goes up?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Aburiya, Robertson Quay

We had dinner with a friend during the week, and decided to eat at Aburiya, as I had been wanting to check it out for a long time. Aburiya is a Japanese charcoal grill restaurant specialising in yakiniku or do-it-yourself grilled meats. We liked the fact that Aburiya used charcoal instead of an electric grill, and the ventilation system worked well enough that we didn't come out smelling like a BBQ. Best of dinner!!! - the pork belly (buta karubi), with its fat melting and crisping over the hot coals and disappearing smoothly down our throats. This place is not that cheap - budget about $40 per person.... but I think we'll be back again....

Fusilli with Cherry Tomatoes, Garlic and Chilli

A very back-to-basics pasta preparation that is surprisingly amazingly good. Recipe from Salute! written by Gail and Kevin Donovan, the owners of Donovans, a very well-known restaurant in Australia.

- Cook fusilli (the recipe actually calls for bucatini) in lots of salted boiling water till al dente. Drain cooked pasta and reserve 1 - 2 tablespoons of pasta water to add to sauce.

- Sweat crushed garlic (2 cloves) and 2 sliced chilli padi in extra-virgin olive oil in a frying pan but don't brown it.

- Add 500 g of very ripe cherry tomatoes to frying pan and roll over high heat, till skins start to pop, about 3 min.

- Add drained pasta to frying pan with reserved pasta water. Add coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves (about 15 leaves), sea salt and pepper and simmer for 1 - 2 minutes.

- Serve immediately in a large bown with grated cheese (pecorino romano).

Enjoy! For something so deceptively simple, it is extremely moreish.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mozaic, Bali

Apart from babi guling, I was also absolutely determined to have dinner at Mozaic, which had been given many superlatives such as "the best restaurant in Bali" and "one of only two restaurants in Asia to be a member of les grandes tables du Monde" (the other restaurant is Bangkok's Le Normandie, which i had blogged about previously). I was so dead-set on eating there that I emailed a few times before the trip, and called a few times after arriving in Bali, to ensure that our reservations would remain.

So our second day in Bali ended up as a day of absolute gluttony, starting with babi guling for lunch, and dinner at Mozaic. Mozaic serves set dinners, at 450,000 Rupiah per person excluding taxes (or approximately SGD72), and you can choose whether you would like a 3 course set dinner or 6 course chef tasting menu for that price. We both decided to choose the 6-course chef tasting menu, and E picked the items shown in the menu in the picture, whereas I decided to be brave and go for the chef's choice.

The night started out on a high note with our amuse-boche being a lovely tiny cold glass of grilled eggplant, zucchini and capsicum, with tomato sorbet. This was so absolutely refreshing, sweet and savoury at the same time, that I couldn't wait for the rest of the dishes to come. The next few courses for E continued to be excellent, especially the seafood in clam juice-garden herb broth. In my case, there were hits and misses - I suppose from the chef trying out new combinations some of which didn't quite work. For instance, I had slipper lobster in asparagus emulsion with black truffle shavings, which tasted good, but I felt that the ethereal fragrance of the truffles was overwhelmed by the asparagus. I also didn't quite take to my first main course of baked quail with foie gras and toasted candlenut in filo pastry, more because I don't have a strong liking for gamey meat. My second main course of honey soy marinated suckling pig was actually very good, unfortunately, I was a trifled "pigged out" having just had a big meal of piggy babi guling for lunch.

If I had the opportunity to do so, I would go back again to Mozaic in a shot, but perhaps choose from the main menu this time round, and sit in the pretty garden grotto to soak in the magical ambience of fairytale land. First photo above is taken from Mozaic's website at

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Babi Guling in Bali

On this trip, I was absolutely determined to try Bali's most revered and famous dish - babi guling, or roasted suckling pig. As most Balinese are Hindu, pork is widely eaten here, unlike in other parts of Indonesia. Ibu Oka is Bali's most famous and most well-regarded outlet for babi guling, and they prepare 3 pigs each day to serve the hungry hoards that descend upon them each day from 11 am onwards. The dish itself consists of slices of roast pork, crispy skin, sausages stuffed with dried blood, fried cracklings (or lard!), and roasted pig ears, all mixed with spices and served on a bed of rice. Despite the horrific sounding description, it is actually quite decent tasting, but very much a cholesterol overload exercise! Personally, i think good Chinese roast pork (like the one from Kay Lee, Upper Paya Lebar Road) is much better but then, this is a must-try in Bali. Go early, as very long queues start forming from about 1215 onwards.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bali = Chill Out

Had a very welcome and absolutely lovely holiday in Bali, just over last weekend (which explains the lack of posts!). We booked a very nice villa in Seminyak, which was great value-for-money at USD106 nett per night, and fairly centrally located as well. We couldn't stop gawking at the pool, little lawn, and private porch located within our very own villa. Just stepping into the place and hearing the gentle tinkling sounds of water made me relax instantly. As usual, we commenced a eat-fest, but more of that in the next posts.

Seeing Stars

Two weeks ago we saw more stars again, as part of the Gordon Grill (at Goodwood Park Hotel) promotion where they invited guest Michelin-starred chefs to come and present their best dishes. This time round, we sampled the creations of 2 Michelin-star chef, Jean-AndrÉ Charial from France, trying out the 6 course degustation lunch menu. At $128+++ a person, it had better be good. And it was. We had the vegetable parmentier ragout simmered with black truffles, followed by crustacean cream veloute with royale blond liver and crayfish, and then the seared saint jacques sea scallop with potato salad. This was quickly followed by a very delectable roasted mediterranean red mullet with basil (my favourite herb), and roasted bresse chicken thigh / breast (this was a slight let-down for me as I felt that the breast meat was overcooked and a tad dry, although E said that it was just nice). Dessert was just as good:
roasted salted caramel apples with Iced Vanilla Sabayon. As can be imagined, we were all fit to burst after that stupendous lunch. However, if one has to make comparisons, I would say that Michel Roux still has an edge, with that simply divine beef cheek that I am still dreaming about.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

U-Zen, Concorde Hotel, KL

On the way back from Cameron Highlands we made a one night stopover in KL, and took the opportunity to try U-Zen, a Japanese restaurant in Concorde Hotel, Jalan Sultan Ismail, KL. This had received good reviews from KL's Best Eats and was just around the corner from where we were staying at the Renaissance hotel (also, our first choices of Lafite and Zipangu at the Shangri-La were unfortunately, fully booked). We ordered the omakase kaiseki - chef's menu, at RM150 each. Not having any menu to refer to, we were left anticipating eagerly what the dishes coming out would be.
Unfortunately, the entire experience was quite a bit of a let-down. First, the restaurant was completely empty. First warning sign - how can a well-regarded restaurant be empty on a Saturday night? Second, service was very indifferent, with the waitresses seemingly more interested in chatting among themselves than actually noticing that you were ready to have your orders taken or tea refilled. Third, while the food itself was fresh and actually rather good, it was not spectacular enough for us to overlook the fact that the waitresses did not know what each dish was (w: this is the appetiser. me: what is it? w: it's the appetiser ...). In any case, the prices that U-zen charged were considered very expensive by KL standards. When we went back to the hotel, we tried to reserve Zipangu for lunch the next day to make up for the experience, only to find out that Zipangu was fully reserved (yes, even the counter seats!). Oh well.... we need to remember to book it 1 week in advance the next time then. And, to trash KL's Best Eats.

Road Trip to Cameron Highlands and KL

Last weekend, we drove to Cameron Highlands for a short break among the farms and tea plantations. This was very much a relaxing holiday. Even the driving (for 9 hours to get there) was really rather fun, as we had packed lots of junk food and cold drinks (which stayed cold!) for the road. Cameron Highlands consists of a cluster of about 3 - 4 little towns, dotted with farms and plantations along the way. They are famous for their vegetables and fruits, which they export to other parts of Malaysia and Singapore as well. Indeed, the vegetables tasted so extremely sweet and crisp (this comes from a non-veggie/fruit lover) that even I couldn't resist gobbling them down. Of course, we plucked lots of fresh strawberries at RM30 per kilo as well which were so sweet and juicy, since we could choose the largest, reddest, and ripest ones to pick! A nice and slow weekend among nature and a wonderful getaway.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I was quite happy to discover a new place for nice business lunches around my workplace – Friends @ Jelita. They are located above Cold Storage@Jelita, along Holland Road. Apparently their Serangoon Gardens branch is quite well known, and they’ve now branched out into the west. As my academic researcher friend and I have a standing arrangement to meet for lunch once a month, we went there last Friday to take advantage of their special Citibank one-for-one set lunch offer (two can have a good 4-course set lunch for about $28 which is fantastic).

Friends has absolutely the most delicious foccacia bread that I’ve ever eaten – warm, savoury, and filled with lots of delectable bits of olive, roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes and olives. I ended up taking 2 pieces! The starter of salad wasn’t that extraordinary, but the main course of kami sakura chicken breast fillet stuffed with polenta mushrooms and truffle jus was a real knockout. The writeup described “kami sakura chicken” as being specially bred so that their meat is especially sweet, tender and juicy, and it was indeed true, even with the breast meat which is so prone to drying out. The chicken was complemented perfectly with the earthy mushrooms and redolent truffle jus. However, desserts were very much a let-down with two tiny squares of overly sweet cake per person. This was partly compensated by the good coffee. Other dessert choices on the menu looked equally insipid. If not for the Citibank offer effectively halving the price, I would have thought that Friends could have done much better for the price that they charged.

N.B. Photos will be posted soon. I took a photo with my handphone but left the data transfer cable in the office.

Yet More Running

As E had signed me up for both the Shape and the Great Eastern Women's runs, yesterday morning I found myself pounding the roads around Marina and Shenton Way again. The above photo shows me smiling at the 1 km mark. This second time participating in a road run was less nervous for me, and I managed to finish in a very creditable time (at least for such an unfit person) of 41 min for 5 km, even with a blister on my foot. And, I still felt okay after that (in fact, i went to the gym that evening to do some light weights and workout). I told E that my next target would be to take part in the 10 km run next year. Am I turning into a fitness fanatic?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Michel Roux at Gordon Grill

Goodwood Park Hotel is having a Michelin star guest chef event, where visiting chefs come and present their specialty dishes. E and I were so excited that we made our reservations more than a month ago, for 3 Michelin-star chef Michel Roux, of the Waterside Inn in the UK.

We had the 4-course set lunch, for the rather princely sum of $108 per person. This comprised of a foie gras terrine with chicken and pistachio nuts, shellfish minestrone soup (with scallops, clam and a surprising pesto-filled ravioli inside), oxtail and beef cheek in beaujolais wine, and sliced pears and blueberries in shortbread biscuit and coulis of red fruits. Everything was extremely good - the foie gras terrine was surprisingly light but creamy and infused with rich fragance, and the beef cheek was so meltingly tender. However, one thing that we took issue with was the slowness with which the food came onto the tables - we were kept waiting half an hour for our soup. The waiter's explanation was that this was due to some confusion in the kitchen, probably Chef Roux was not used to the Singapore team and vice-versa.
Just to add, when we walked into the restaurant, we actually came face to face with the great man himself! I was too stunned to ask him for a photograph but he did smile at both of us. Eventually at the end of lunch, I plucked up enough courage and did get his autograph :-)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Shanghai Hairy Crab

It's crab season! I had been eyeing the live Shanghai hairy crabs sold in the supermarkets for some time now, as I had never eaten hairy crab before. So after an incessant 2-week long barrage of "i wonder how it tastes"; "should we buy some to try" and "look, it's on sale this week", E agreed that we could buy some to steam and try. (These are real easy to cook. Simply steam for 12 - 15 minutes, and eat unadorned or if you prefer, with a dipping sauce of black Chinese vinegar and minced ginger.)

These crabs are not cheap - we bought the "non-branded" type and they already cost $5 for one (they're tiny, each is only about the size of my palm and I have small hands). The "branded" crabs cost $20 - $30 a piece!

The end verdict was that the crabs were quite tasty and sweet, and the crab milt was smooth and fragrant. But nothing spectacular. Maybe we should next buy the "branded" ones to see if there's anything different about those.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sushi Yoshida

Last week, E and myself had lunch with E's friend, just back from a work trip in France. We decided upon Sushi Yoshida (tucked away in a lovely secluded area at 10 Devonshire Road), as we had heard good things about it from the Skinny Epicurean's blog and as it was also recommended by Singapore Tatler's Singapore's Best Restaurants.
We had the set lunch menus, which I have to say are priced at a rather premium rate of between $27 to $45. The chirashizushi set which I had, and E's sushi set both came at $38 each. But the quality was high, with very fresh fish, and a lovely slab of fatty marbled tuna (top left hand of photo above) which literally melted in the tongue!! The starter of soft-boiled egg with wasabi and dashi stock was a delightful surprise, being so simple and yet so delicious (and possible to try and replicate in the home kitchen). A good find indeed, though both of us agreed that Tatsuya seems to be a notch better.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Elephant Mooncakes

Have not been blogging for a long time due to an insane volume of work. Last week, I managed to take some time out to bake mooncakes (the Mid-Autumn Festival, where it is customary to eat mooncakes and drink tea, is coming soon). The mooncakes were okay, but not very succesful. Maybe I should stick to buying those from the big hotels next year! Apart from the traditional round mooncakes with wordings, i also made a couple of elephant and hippo mooncakes using cute cookie cutters just for fun.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Wrapup of a Busy Week

This week has been jam-packed with events and activities, some planned...others not.
  1. Watched 2 food movies both set in a french restaurant: Ratatouille and No Reservations. GV Gold Class is quite an experience! Ratatouille is a lovely lovely movie, plot and characterization are just wonderful and nuff said abt the super-realistic rendering. No Reservations is a typical sweet American date movie, very good for destressing.
  2. Ate 13 Oysters and 3 sea scallops at the Bar and Billiard Room, Raffles Hotel. Regretted over-eating in the car on the way back, as I felt quite sick.
  3. Bought yet another pair of Ferragamo shoes at the sale. Hmm. That brings it up to 5 pairs. Checked out the Japanese steak chain Pepper Lunch for dinner that day, quite pleasantly surprised. Wouldn't mind another visit.
  4. Fridge broke down (boo hoo hoo!) and bought a new fridge (yay!). Had to eat foie gras on toast for 2 consecutive breakfasts because I refused to let it go to waste.
  5. Checked out NTUC Fairprice Finest at Bukit Timah Plaza. Not that impressive leh, but I did manage to find sea water from Japan! I guess it's for the purists cooks of ramen.
  6. Ran 5 km in the Shape run.
Rather exhausting but exhilarating too. Think we'll have to take things a lot slower next week.

Run, Run, Run

I finally did it! Participated in and completed one of those mass 5 km runs, that is. Considering my low level of physical fitness (the most dreaded item in PE lessons last time was the 2.4 km run, and I always had to drag myself to the finish line in a half-dead state), today's run was a real accomplishment for me. Completed the 5 km in 44 min, not a great time, but I am happy that I did my best and pushed myself :-) It helped that I had the greatest cheerleader and supporter, who woke up at 5.30 this morning to wake me up, get my gear ready, make milo for me, drive me there and took lots of photos. (I am not in the photo above, by the way.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Silkroad Restaurant, Amara Hotel

Lunch today with an old friend, at Amara hotel's Silkroad restaurant. I particularly like this place because of the excellent hand-made noodles (which I find better than Crystal Jade's) and modern (not stuffy) Chinese ambience which is not too pretentious either. The eight-treasure tea is a must try, especially to see the tea master showing off his skills in pouring the hot water from the long spout teapot. If one goes on Saturday night, there is a tea pouring demo with 16 different styles, very eye-opening!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Cheesecake for Mum's Birthday

I made this cheesecake late on Friday night / Saturday morning for my mum's birthday yesterday. She's not much into western pastries or food, but surprisingly likes cheesecake. I painstakingly wrote the letterings using melted dark chocolate and a toothpick, took about 10 minutes. This recipe which was passed to me by a lovely ex-colleague meiling, garnered rave reviews all round and requests for a next time. Will post up the recipe if meiling agrees! :-)

E and Chicken

I always get asked this question, "so who does the food preparation?". Answer is my lovely husband. I kid you not, E actually likes to cut up ("dissect") whole chickens from the supermarket and separate them nicely into their parts - ribcage, drumsticks, wings, breast meat. Hmm. Work-related syndrome? He does this every fortnight, when we buy a chicken to store.

So yesterday, E bought a chicken from the halal section but discovered mid-way through his "dissection" that 'the heart is still in there', 'the gallbladder is also not removed and is very large', 'lungs are not removed completely'. Methinks, it's good that E is the one doing all this stuff and not me then.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Nanbantei, Yakitori

Had been thinking about going to Nanbantei for some good yakitori (sorry, none of that tori-q nonsense please) for a few days, so seized the opportunity on Tuesday when E asked for dinner preferences. It was a good de-stressing activity from work to watch the chef deftly sprinkle salt over the grilling meats. I had the A-course ($34) with 12 sticks of yakitori, including a very yummy jumbo prawn and cherry tomatos wrapped in bacon. Our last trip here was more than a year ago, hope that we will not have to wait another year before finding an excuse to come back here again!
Nanbantei is at Far East Centre (? the one next to Grand Hyatt Hotel, with all the teeny bopper shops and fashion), on one of the top floors, either the 4th or the 5th.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Aston's Wagyu Beef

As I was working late on Tuesday night, E and I went to Aston's in East Coast road for a late dinner. Surprise surprise, there were still hordes of people queuing up even at 9.30 pm. I ordered the Wagyu beef which was rather a steal at $38.90 - my first time eating wagyu beef. The texture was indeed meltingly tender, but other than that I didn't feel that this was such a standout dish. In any case, the kitchen messed up E's order of a New York Steak, which came 45 min late. Luckily, it was perfectly cooked. Final verdict? Good quality ingredients, decent cooking at very reasonable prices, but by no means a fancy meal.
N.B. the photo was taken using my new Samsung phone. quality quite good, yes?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Supermarket Bounty Hunters

I think we are so lucky to be able to easily buy lots of interesting ingredients at the supermarket and whip up really good meals at home. Last night, we came across New Zealand green mussels (at a really cheap price of 80 cents for half a kilo) and Kyoho grapes (at a less cheap price of $10 for 300g).

Steamed Mussels in Spicy Broth (from Neil Perry's Good Food)
- 1.5 kg mussels, cleaned and debearded
- 1 red onion, sliced. 4 cloves garlic, sliced.
- 1 teaspoon chilli flakes (pepperoncino)
- 2 tablespoon salted baby capers
- 75 g Italian parsley, roughly chopped
- 150 ml dry white wine
- 3 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)
- juice of 1 lemon
- freshly ground pepper
Heat a little extra virgin olive oil and saute the onion, garlic and chilli flakes for abt 5 min. Add the mussels, capers, parsely and wine, cover and cook till mussels open. Add the butter, lemon juice and combine. Grind some pepper over. Serve over spaghetti or with warm crusty bread.

Kyoho Grapes are extremely large and sweet, with a rich winey syrupy taste. Eat them quickly for they tend to ferment very fast due to the high sugar content. A simple recipe for making jam with them from the Internet, although that seems rather extravagant to me, given the price at which they are sold.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Inagiku, Raffles the Plaza

Me and E went for an expensive Japanese dinner at Inagiku two nights ago, as we have the Feed at Raffles card which gives us 50% off on restaurants in the Raffles group of hotels. And a good thing too, as we ordered the $140 Summer Tempura dinner set, which had the following items:
- Seabass sashimi with apple balsamico dressing
- Seafood Tempura (i had shrimp, abalone and scallop tempura)
- Steamed Sea Urchin, Shrimp and Cucumber covered with Sparemint Jelly
- Vegetable Tempura (i had sweet potato, asparagus, pumpkin and cherry tomato)
- Simmered White Gourd and Sharks Fin soup
- Chirashi Sushi
- Kyoho grape

Quality of the food was undoubtedly good, with the highlight being the chirashi sushi which I was overwhelmed by the variety of sashimi heaped on the bowl, especially my favourite ikura! We were a little surprised by the rather Chinese sharks fin, but found the broth extremely tasty! However, we both felt that the service was not as attentive and warm as we would have expected given the price; perhaps they were a tad short-staffed that night. A good experience though (although we probably might not go back if we did not have the discount card). We'll be back for the Teppanyaki, which look very yummy and are also reasonably priced.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My lovely bridal boutique

The loveliest thing happened to me today... my bridal boutique called me up and said that they were returning me my wedding gown as a present! All singapore brides will know that wedding gowns are usually rented (even for those like mine that are custom made) and the cost of buying one is really quite exorbitant. So whatever the reason why my boutique gave me the gown (maybe they ran out of space to store it), it really got a lot of goodwill from me and their other customers!

3 cheers for Bridal Veil!

Sunday, August 12, 2007


My favourite flower, tulips. This brings back lovely evocative memories of strolling down King's road years ago and buying a bunch for 2 pounds. E, who is always very sweet, bought some to cheer me up this afternoon.

Soft-Boiled Eggs with Foie Gras

Decided to indulge ourselves today with a little decadence for breakfast, given the kind of stress and workload we've been facing lately (my so-called National Day public holiday was completely blown off on non-stop work from 8am to 10 pm at night. And, I am still working this weekend.)

So, half-boiled eggs with pan-seared foie gras seemed like a jolly good reward for breakfast this morning, and real easy to prepare too. The richness and smoothness of foie gras goes extremely well with the creamy sensous texture of half-boiled eggs...calorie overload anyone?? :-)
N.B. I have frozen the rest of my foie gras stash from London and will portion it out slowly e.g. foie gras chawanmushi (an idea from Ikukan), foie gras on toast, tournedos rossini (a french fine-dining dish comprising of tenderloin steaks with foie gras slabs).

Monday, August 6, 2007

How to Open A Coconut

Okay, confession - this is quite a mundane post. On our Bangkok trip we observed so many street vendors expertly and easily opening coconuts that we tried this method ourselves, and it worked to our great surprise! Here's how it goes:
- Use the back of a Chinese cleaver (the blunt and heavy end) to tap with moderate force on the top round part of the coconut. Do not tap the sharp end, as the husk is much thicker there.
- You should see a fracture line / crack start to form. Continue tapping, shifting the coconut, until the fracture line forms a neat circle.
- Use a spoon to gently lift under the fracture line, and the entire top round of the husk should lift off cleanly, giving access to the coconut flesh and juice.
N.B. This method only works for Thai coconuts. Don't try it on the local coconuts, their husks are way too thick for this.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Baan Khanitha, Bangkok

Rounding up our Bangkok trip with this post on Baan Khanitha. This is a well-known Thai restaurant; they have two branches and we went to the one at Sumkhumvit. We have eaten lots of Thai food before, but I thought the food tasted especially flavourful and good: we had spicy pomelo salad, soft-shell crab with green curry, tom yum goong, and sticky rice with mango. In my opinion, this place is better than Blue Elephant, where we went for dinner 3 years ago.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Le Normandie, Bangkok

We were quite determined to try Le Normandie, which is located in Bangkok's Mandarin Oriental hotel on this trip, given its perfect score (10,10,10) ratings in Thailand's Best Restaurants. The set lunch was gulp, priced at 1000 baht (about $43 singapore dollars) per head, which is hefty for Thailand, but much more affordable than their dinner. The views were stupendous - from our window table we had a beautiful view of the Chao Phraya river and all the activity of the river boats in the serene and luxurious surroundings of the restaurant.
For our extravagant lunch, we had the following:
- Duck Leg Confit with dried fruit, liver, and vegetables with mustard
- Fricassee of vineyard snails
- Escalope of coral reef garoupa with aromatic herb crust and saffron flavoured vegetables
- Roasted beef tenderloin with pumpkin mille-feuille, parmesan cheese and fresh herbs
- Cakes from the dessert trolley
The food was expectedly good - one would not expect anything less from a restaurant with a three-Michelin star consulting chef. It didn't quite blow me away the way that Europea or Biscotti did, but then maybe I have plebian tastes :-) However, it was really an eye-opening experience to see how differently the very rich of the earth live from the rest of us common folk. Do dress up if going to Normandie - jacket and tie are mandatory for men at dinner, and common at lunch even.

The Eugenia Hotel, Bangkok

E and I went gallivanting to Bangkok over the weekend for a short recharge. For a change, we decided to stay in this lovely boutique hotel, The Eugenia, that was recommended by Chubby Hubby.
And what a joy and charming experience it truly was! The Eugenia is completely furnished in an old colonial style with antique furnishings, complete with with copper bathtub. Although a tiny hotel with only 12 rooms, the service was warm and impeccable, and truly outstanding in the small touches, e.g. breakfast was freshly cooked every morning, orange juice was freshly squeezed out of real oranges, not out of a bottle, bedlinens of real linen imported from Belgium..... The owner owns a fleet of vintage cars - a Jaguar, Mercedes, and Daimler-Chrysler, that you can arrange to be picked up from the airport in. The only slight complaint that we had was that the hotel was a little far from the BTS skytrain station for walking, but then they provide a complimentary tuk-tuk service, and being slightly off the beaten path does add to its charm and tranquility!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Herbal Prawn Soup

I was inspired to invent this dish after I ate at Pu Tien (Heng Hwa cuisine) in Kitchener road. The soup base was cooked using dried scallops, chinese wolfberry, ginseng, and chinese cooking wine. I then double-boiled the soup and prawns in a bamboo cooking container that I went all the way to Temple street to buy. End product was good but needed further refinement to improve the herbal taste of the soup!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Very Very Easy Pork Chops

Yet another recipe from my uni room-mate YL, super easy and yet tasty. We had this for a simple dinner tonight, after:
(i) a very expensive and good dinner at SzeChuan Court, Raffles City Shopping Centre last night (cheapest set dinners start at $58 per person, before taxes and service charges).
(ii) a greedy home-cooked lunch of 3 steamed mud crabs yesterday.

Coming back to the topic, here's how the pork chops can be prepared:
- Marinate two pork chops with 1.5 teaspoons of honey, 3 tablespoons of quality oyster sauce, and 2 teaspoons of light soya sauce
- Leave for at least 1/2 hour
- Panfry until cooked, or grill for about 7.5 minutes each side. Add sliced onions when grilling or frying, if you prefer.
- Serve with hot steamed rice

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Herbed Foccacia Bread

I had been toying with the idea of baking foccacia for some time, but only got down to it this morning, as I lacked the dried thyme to add to the dough mixture. The bread turned out beautifully aromatic with the scent of fresh rosemary (yes, a recent addition to my herb garden), thyme and extra virgin olive oil, and grains of coarse salt sprinkled over the surface. What better way to start a weekend?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fantastic Dinner at Europea

Back in Singapore after a long 24 hour journey, and this post is just to round up my eat-fest in Montreal. Firstly, I tried dinner at Toque! which had very good reviews by the New York Times but I was not impressed. Sure enough, the food was good, but there was none of that wow factor which I was expecting from a place with such high prices and international rating (maybe that's why). Waiters were coldly efficient and friendly enough, but not warm and gave me the feeling that they were rather snobbish....

Happily, this experience was more then redeemed on my last night in Montreal, when I went to Europea, which I had stopped by previously to buy macarons. I had the degustation menu, which came up to a total of $100 canadian dollars including tips (about $150 SGD), which comprised the following lovely courses:
- Lobster cream capuccino with white truffle oil
- Roasted scallop and langoustine in veal broth
- Pan fried foie gras, foie gras 'au torche' with pineapple chutney, duck confit with sundried tomatoes
- Light CO2 foam of caesar salad (i thought this was very innovative! Tasted like caesar salad but looked and had the texture of a light green mousse)
- Roasted alaskan crab leg with butter and cream, lobster ravioli
- Warm goat cheese crumble with pistachio nuts, organic figs
- Chocolate raviolis, suzette caramel and orange zest
- White chocolate parfait, passion fruit mousse

Oh my goodness, all the food was really good stuff and at a very worthwhile price, considering the quality. I especially loved the seared foie gras and the grilled alaskan crab leg. I also appreciated very much the chef's efforts in talking to every table (he took a photo with me!), and the little gift of banana cake which they gave to every customer to take away (they also gave macarons...). Left very happy when I walked out of the place.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Macarons from Europea

I must confess - not having eaten macarons before and not having a sweet tooth, I didn't quite understand what was the fuss all about. Yesterday, after a visit to the Notre-dame Basilica, I was strolling along the streets of old Montreal when I came across a gourmet boutique shop operated by restaurant Europea. And there in the windows, were these lovely macarons sitting all a-pretty, tempting one to just buy all the different flavours (pictured above: 3 types of chocolate, apple and caramel, lemon, and passion fruit). One bite and I was hooked...light as air, crispy and soft at the same time...I only wished I had enough stomach space for more!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Picnic In Jardin Botanique, Montreal

Bon Jour! I am now in Montreal, Canada on a business trip. As I arrived over the weekend, I decided to take advantage of the lovely summer weather to have a picnic lunch in the Botanic Gardens, which is a well-worthwhile visit. Of course, I was most interested in the herbs and vegetable plants but the poisonous plants were really fascinating too. I find it very interesting how the Jardin Botanique management allow the poisonous plants to be still "within access" of the public, although there are warning signs aplenty. In Singapore, the management would probably be too fearful that someone would eat the fruit and get poisoned for this to happen!