Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dapur Asiah: cheap and good?

Search the net, and you will find a few raves on this stall. From Makansutra Forum, to I decided to drop by Shunfu Mart to have a taste.

When I arrived about 9am on a Sunday morning, there was a rather long queue. Must be good...or because its cheap. $2 a plate for mee siam or mee rebus.

I ordered one of each. The mee rebus

Not a bad tasting dish. The gravy was thick, savoury, but with a hint of sweetness...probably from the kichap manis. Spicy without being overpowering, even with the chilli sambal mixed in. The green chillies provided a crunchy freshness. The noodles were cooked nicely. Not the best mee rebus I have eaten, but certainly not the worst...far from it, perhaps above average even.

The mee siam:

The gravy was nice and made from solid stock...a nice blend of sourness and saltiness with the spicyness of the sambal. The bee hoon was nicely done, and the taugeh was almost raw, but provided a nice crunch. Bits of crunchy beans were floating in the soup, making it quite delicious.

I also tried some of the Malay kuihs...not bad too...for 50 cents each:

Considering the very reasonable price, and generous portions, it is no wonder why the stall attracts a perpetual queue. Worth going for the budget concious.

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

Monday, June 27, 2011

No review today...

Apologies to regular readers. I am not able to post a review today. As some of you may know, my book project is nearing completion...lots to do. Am a bit tied up today. Will be back on Thurs. In the meantime, I leave a nice meal I had sometime ago at Coffee Stars by Dao...a wonderful restaurant, with its origins in Bangkok, where they are known as Coffee Bean by Dao.

Phad Thai...

Very good, albeit a little steep prices. At Wisma Atria.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

AJInoMORI: little Izakaya in Holland Village

My friend Larry has a nose for good food and good deals. Last week, he sniffed out a 30% discount off this little Japanese izakaya in Holland he gathered the tribe, and we went for lunch.

As we entered the restaurant...nice decor...

As is usual with this tribe...the food came and went like a whizz...and nobody quite knows how much we have ordered, except its a lot. And the various varieties we sampled. Here are some notes...a bit of a blur, but I swear we did not have any alcohol...:

Pork Belly yakitori:

Not bad. Meat a bit firm. Some parts fat. Tasty.

Pork belly rice:

A bit like the Korean style bilimbab...we mixed everything up. Quite good. The flavours meld nicely.

Keeping with the Korean theme, the kimchi noodles with bonito flakes:

I couldn't really taste the kimchi...but kimchi loving Larry loved it. The noodles were like udon. I didn't find it especially nice, but it was reasonably tasty.

Small fry fried rice:

We ordered it because we thought it was fitting for small fries like us, but it turned out they were talking about the little, crispy fish.

Pork belly in citrus

I found this quite nice. Very flavourful. The pork was a bit tough and chewy at parts, but fat in others. For me, it was a nice blend.

Omelette fried rice:

This was also unceremonously mixed up, and each of us got a tasting portion. Quite good. The rice and the gravy were made for each other. And flavoured with the fried eggs...good.

Some tempura:

Prawns were nice, sweet, with a nice almost crunchy bite. The tempura was very crispy and not oily.

Squid tentacles:

Chewy, tough, but wonderful flavour. If you like the flavour of the squid, this is one for you, especially if you don't mind the tough consistency.

And two reverse rolls...Reverse avocado prawn roll:

California Roll:

Di regeur for a reverse roll. Tasted good, but not exceptional.

We had liters of Coke Light and Calpiss (yes, that's how they spell it...look it up in Wiki), and final tally, after the 30% off was $180 for 8 of us. Quite good value. We had tons of food, and quite enjoyable dishes. Recommended.

Aji no Mori
17D Lorong Liput
Lunch from 12:00am to 2:30pm
Dinner from 6:00pm to 11:00pm

Monday, June 20, 2011

Putian Summer at Putien.

I have written about Putien Restaurant in Kitchener Road before. And loved the food.

It is one of the places I take visitors to when they come to Singapore...why? Well, the food is characteristically Chinese, but not so common...though Putian is a city in the province of Fujian, the dialect spoken there is Heng Hwa. The cuisine, because of its proxmity to the sea, is lighter than the typical Amoy style Hokkien food we get. I love a khong bak pau and hae chor as much as the next guy, but I also love the lighter, fresher taste offered by Heng Hwa.

So when I received an email invitation from Ann of linea Communications, I gladly took it. Thanks to Ann and Melissa of Putien who were the most gracious hostesses and to Executive Sous Chef Gongba, who attended to us throughout and did the kitchen demonstration.

The welcome drink is a special concoction...dubbed the Summer Quencher, ingredients are aloe vera, cherry tomato and sour plum juice.

Sweet, with a touch of sour. Very refreshing. And as one reaches toward the end of the drink, the chunks of aloe vera presents itself for a nice finish.

They were introducing their summer dishes, which are designed, according to traditional Chinese beliefs can help our bodies beat the heat.

We started by being introduced to some of the ingredients...most intriguing were the bowls of mushrooms/fungi:

From bottom, Rooster Comb Mushroom, white fungus, Yellow Head fungus (not sure about translation from Chinese 黄耳), black fungus and Monkey's Head mushroom.

From these fungi, and the winter melon, the chefs came up with this beautiful dish:

Winter Melon with White Fungus and mushrooms. Interestingly the use of winter melon for the summer menu? Well, Chef Gongba explained that the Winter Melon is actually a summer gourd. The plant produces a fast growing gourd on its vines. So why call it winter melon? Because the gourds are covered with a layer of hair which are white. And when growing in a field where there are thousands of these gourds on the ground, it looks like it had snowed.

I enjoyed this dish a lot. Very light on the palate, but yet, the distinct tastes of the several varieties of Yunan wild fungus and melons are apparent. The fungi and mushrooms are cooked separate from each other and the melon, as they require different techniques and cooking times. And assembled by the chef in the kitchen before serving.

We were next served a dish of organic Momotaro tomato:

The plump, juicy tomatos were from Cameron Highlands but from the Momotaro strain. A light sprinking of powdered sugar helps lift the tartness with a little sweetness. Just perfect.

Stirfried lotus root with prawn is next:

The dish came in a fresh, green lotus leaf. A bit unsuual, and provided a nice green background to the dish. The use of lotus root, selected because of the cooling properties, complemented very well with the prawns. The root providing a crunchy texture with the fresh, soft, almost luscious prawns were nice. Coupled with a touch of Putien's very special Hot Mother (La Ma) chilli sauce...this is superb indeed. Shiok.

A curious dish of small sea snails presented itself next:

Sea snails are a popular snack in Putian during summer...goes well with beer...what can be better? The dish is sauteed with Hua Diao Wine with spring onions, shallots and chilli. The snails were very small, and the shell very thin and almost fragile...the technique to enjoy this little crustacean is to suck with one's tongue, and the meat comes out easily. I won't say this is my favourite, but its not a bad tasting dish.

Next, the braised loofah with homemmade beancurd:

Loofah is a kind of a cucumber...but when freshly picked, it is soft, and tender. The home made tofu is rather interesting. Chef told us that he only uses soy beans and no other agents. Resulting in a tofu which is very stong tasting in soy, and a tinge of bitterness rounds off the tofu. The fragrant seafood sauce is very nice. As were the soft, very tender loofah.

Bamboo shoots are common in Chinese cuisine, but Putien's twist on this popular dish is to use fresh water bamboo...and to only lightly cooked, chilled and served with a sesame dressing.

We were also offered the bamboo clams...

This is interesting. The clams are air flown live from China. And packed in their styrofoam box, they often show their vitality by vigrous squirts of a fountain. These clams are baked in a bed of sea salt. Pry one open, and remove the lip, which may contain sand and other contaminants, and the luscious, rich, almost creamy clams can be enjoyed. The clams tasted a bit like oysters.

As you can spy behind the clams, is a burger like dish...this is the famous Putien shreded pork in a bun:

This must be the Chinese answer to the burger. The bun is light, but with a crisp exterior...encrusted with sesame seeds. The shreded pork is tender, probably stir fried just right...for the maximum juiciness. Delicious.

And the famous Heng Hwa beehoon:

Chef took pains to explain that the bee hoon are hand made in China. And unlike regular bee hoon which is blanched in boiling water before cooking. This bee hoon goes directly into the wok with the sauce ingredients and fried. This is a favourite of mine. The bee hoon, as you can see is thin, almost wiry. And every strand is almost distinct and does not clump together. The fragrance of the sauce, and the masterful mix of other ingredients...prawns, crushed peanuts, and dried seaweed just makes this dish superb.

The chefs in attendance...left is Executive Chef Xial Liangrong and right is Li Gongba.

Overall, excellent tasting session. Well prepared, knowledgable wait staff and of course the very impressive knowledge of the chefs. I will continue to patronise Putien, as I have done for years. Very nice.

#02-18/19 nex
tel: 6634 7833

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tung Lok Signatures

I guess Tung Lok doesn't need any introduction...a old name in high end Chinese cuisine in Singapore, this chain of restaurants have outlets occupying the entire strata of price ranges to suit one's wallet. From the high end and quite expensive Tung Lok Signatures, to the more down to earth Zhou's Kitchen and Lao Beijing...both of which are permanent favourites of the family.

But a celebration warrants a higher end location, with a higher end budget to match. It was my mother's 79th Birthday, so we decided to splash a Tung Lok Signatures at Vivocity.

We started with an unusual grilled foie gras with sliced duck served on a light pastry:

Quite superb. The foie gras was lightly seared...the insides were beautifully smooth and creamy. The outside crisped a little. The duck meat was nicely done, though not spectacular. And the pastry light and very complementary to the duck. Interesting migration of French culinary style over to Chinese.

Next we had the Tian Jia style braised shark's fin. Yes, we still eat sharks fin...

Rather nice. There was generous combs of shark's fin...small strands, which are crunchy to the palate. And the gorgeous chicken and seafood stock which lifts the dish. The stock is no ordinary stock...I can tell its been prepared with long hours over the fire...causing the protein in the chicken and seafood to denature, and completely meld into the it a thick, and slightly sticky collagen consistency.

Next were sauted prawns with greens and yam spring rolls:

Excellent dish too. The prawns were nice, fresh, crunchy. Good breath of the sea was evident in the prawns as one bites into it. The spring rolls were also nicely done. Even though deep fried, the skin remained crisp and dry. The insides, as one bites into it, releases the rich, creamy fragrance of yam.

Fish was next, and we had steamed soon hock:

Not much to look at this fish...but the steaming was very well done. The fish was firm, but yet tender and juicy. The doneness was such that at the core...where the bones are, it is slightly pink. But thouroughly cooked. The sauce is what makes or breaks a simple dish like steamed fish, and this was equally simple with a superior soy and ginger and chilli. Not my favourite for the evening, but nice.

Next dish was the interestingly named Bomber chicken...

It turned out to be a whole chicken done like har cheong kai. Decently done, but I have tasted better har cheong kai elsewhere...and indeed even at home. But while this passes the mark, not one to write home about.

Braised beancurd with spinach was next:

Served with snow fungus and some vegetables, the tofu was fragrant, and very soft within its leathery, slightly crispy outer skin. The sauce tempered the taste and brought it up a level. I liked this quite a lot.

The rice dish was lotus leaf rice with dried seafood:

I found this to be very good as well. As the lotus leaf was being cut, the wift of the gorgous fragrance enters one's nostrils and thrills. The rice seemed to be a combination of regular long grain fragrant rice and sticky rice. Beautiful dish.

The desserts: Chilled aloe vera gel with lemon sherbet:

Kind of western inspired as well. The aloe vera jelly was very nice. Had a springy consistency, and allowed the chunks of fresh aloe vera to shine. The sherbert was a lime sorbet, and I suspect home made...the ice crystals were a little irregular, but the taste authentic and very good.

As we were nearing Father's Day, the menu included a serving of Longevity Peaches:

These were quite good...the skin and pastry outer was nice and a light pau...the filling was ling yong. And was rich and creamy.

Of course, as this was a birthday celebration, we had a cake brought in. The Tung Lok staff are used to birthdays...they gathered around, sang the birthday songs. Had the cake delivered on a large plate with birthday greetings hand written on. And the the cake, or rather fruit tart which we purchased from Fruit Paradise Tart Shop.

The tart is superb:

Loads of fresh strawberry on fresh cream, on a marscapone filling a tart case. Beautiful.

Tung Lok Signatures
QB House - Vivocity
1 Harbour Front Walk, 098585
6376 9555
Subway: HarbourFront
Open Daily 11am-10pm

Monday, June 13, 2011

La Petite Cuisine: A contender to best Confit du canard?

Confit du canard is one of my all time favourite French dishes. I have tasted my fair share of ducks done this special way. And my reference standard is Chez Dumonet in Paris.

And this little shop in Serene House, right by the French Embassy has a good reputation of serving one of the better ones in Singapore.

The shop is run like a cafeteria rather than a restaurant. One goes up to the counter to place the order and pay. And wait for the food to be served. Prices are eminently agreeable.

Edward had the cream and ham spagetti...

Spagetti Carbonara...the spagetti is nicely done, just a touch over al dente. The cream sauce is delicious, thick, rich, creamy. The slices of smoked ham providing a nice and able complement. Good pasta.

But I came to try the the confit du canard

Served with a beautiful, tart, sourish sauce which perfectly complements the rich, luxurious taste of the duck. The skin was crisp, as is evident in the photograph below:

But it lacked the crunch that I would excect from a totally crisp skin. The meat was well preserved, and at some places a bit hard...just a tad, mind you...but mostly nice and tender. The gratin potatoes could have been better lacked the nice, crisp crust over. But the potatoes were flavourful, and creamy.

Not the best confit du canard I have eaten. But given its only S$16.50, very reasonable. And I would venture a recommendation with the caution of the budget nature of the dish.

La Petite Cuisine
Serene Centre 10 Jalan Serene, 258748 - 6314 3173
Open Weekdays 9am-10pm

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cooking School: Cookyn at GardenHub

Cooking classes and demonstrations have recently caught on in Singapore...big time! A decade ago, this was the strict territory of ah sohs and aunties in Community Centers. But in the last 3 years, perhaps, they have sprouted everywhere. Shopping centers teaching kids how to bake, cook....mostly for fun, but also to put in a sense of responsibility and appreciation to the art of cooking. And even more recently, Sam Leong and his wife started a school, many home cooks started their own school. One such school used to operate from a residential flat, and went by the name of Cooking by Mervyn...but recently they decided to go big...and took up a nice, secluded block in Margaret Drive. The place has large grounds, and used to house a spa, a small cafe and a gold driving range. I think the driving range is still there, but the spa and cafe is now Cookyn Inc and another tenant. Right next to the Queenstown Remand Prison...which is also no more.

I met up with the chef in attendance, Mervyn himself, and Amanda who handles the business arrangements

We were doing the Connoisseur Akademie for A. Lange & Sohne No 2 at Cookyn (that's why Mervyn is spotted wearing the ALS corporate apron), and we were there to taste the food and inspect the premises...Nice dining area with the instructional kitchen:

Typically not run as a restaurant, Cookyn guests normally have to prepare the food they will eventually eat. For those of us who are horrendous cooks, and will spoil dinner...the chefs there will salvage the day....

And every good meal starts with fresh ingredients:

Raw scallops...later to be grilled with a bit of butter and a squeeze of lime. The scallop was obviously very fresh. And done in the grill with equaly fresh prawns...make a great starter:

Amazing dish this one...very nice indeed. But just before this grilled dish, we had some succulent, fat, Canadian oysters:

Also superb...would be fantastic with a nice glass of champagne...say a Bollinger or a Krug.

A third starter of salmon was served...grilled to perfection...note the grill marks on the bacon wrap around the fish:

Here, Mervyn demonstrated his superior skill on the grill. Superb does not begin to describe this salmon. Nicely done and slightly charred with grill marks on the outside, the inside remains superbly moist and tender. Almost like it was cooked sous vide, and seared just moments before serving. But Mervyn confirmed all cooking was done on his Porsche Design grill.

To cleanse the palate before the main course...home made sorbet...made by vigrously stirring fruit juice in a bown with dry ice. As the dry ice sublimates, the cooling freezes the juice...and with judicious stirring makes a sorbet.

We had pork as a main course...this was a slow roasted pork, with a puree of mashed potato:

Wonderfully cooked...tender...cut with fork tender...but still with flavours of the pork. Nice.

Getting your hands dirty and trying to cook the meal for yourself is commendable...and can be a fun activity...good for corporate team building. But this evening we just feasted. And the food was divine.

Cookyn Inc
Block O, Gardenhub
60 Jalan Penjara (via Margaret Drive)