Sunday, March 30, 2008

Japan Epilogue: Sapporo's Shiroi Koibito

Shiroi Koibito

I'm usually not much for sweets, but I do like this stuff. These featherlight little cookies are from Sapporo, where milk from local cows goes into the white chocolate that is sandwiched inside. And while we didn't go up to Hokkaido on this trip, I was surprised to find them for sale at Narita airport on the way out of the country (I'd only seen them in Sapporo previously).

I think I know why I like these so much. They are more rich than they are sweet, and the cookie portion appears to be made with a crapload of butter, if my palate read it correctly. No wonder why these things are so darned addictive.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Another Indian Vegetarian Meal on UA

UA's Indian Vegetarian Meal out of Narita

Here was the Indian vegetarian meal on the return run out of Narita. It wasn't as spicy as the one on the leg from Singapore, but they did include pickles and yogurt to make it a bit more complete.

In fact, they also gave me a piping hot piece of flatbread. It was yellowish in color, so I presume that it was a variant of the darker-colored chapati that I'm used to seeing?

Well, I liked this enough that I'd really like to eat the inflight Indian meals more often...I just hope that I'm not abusing the system here.

Ramen Kagetsu Arashi, Narita Airport

Arashi Shio Ramen - with a clove of raw garlic and spicy chives that I tossed on

Mmm...that was tasty. This outlet at the airport (Fifth Floor of Terminal 1, 0476-33-5920) was a good chance for us to try out the chain's goods before heading inside to clear immigration today. I loved the smooth and tasty broth of my shio ramen, although only did I realize later that they offered some bowl dedicated to garlic, which I'll have to try next time.

Meanwhile, I clumsily threw an entire clove of raw garlic into my bowl, which can fuel some major dragon breath for people on the plane to appreciate. Either way, I'm definitely hitting these guys again on my next run out of Narita. Thanks again for the tip!

Beer Museum Yebisu, Tokyo

The Yebisu Taster Set

Another day, another brewery. The beer here at the Yebisu one (4-20-1 Ebisu Garden Place, 3-5423-7255) wasn't free though; this taster set cost 400 Yen (US$4). And the facility was more of a "museum" that utilized display equipment rather than brewing on site, as this area has since been transformed into a posh retail development. Well, I'm a bigger fan of Asahi and Suntory anyway, so hopefully we'll find ways to hit up those guys next time we're up here.

Breakfast from Yoshinoya Japan

Some fish and beef set

We stopped at Yoshinoya for a quick breakfast today. My local friends insist that yoshigyu is much better in Japan than it is elsewhere, and I definitely tasted the difference this morning. The beef was not only more tender, but also much deeper in taste, such that you really got the fragrance of the rice wine and the resultingly mild sweetness. Yum.

The fish in this set was a bit dry and salty though. Well, this was just another one to tuck under Japanese breakfasts.

Another Japanese Drink Roundup

From left: Calpis Marshmallows, Suntory Shiroi Nachan, Kirin Shaba Daba

Here's another rundown of some local drinks encountered over the past few days. OK - the first one on the left was not an actual drink, but it was interesting since those marshmallows pretty much tasted just like Calpis. The one in the middle was a Calpis competitor, while the last one was just some grapefruit soda. I was rather fond of this little red bottle though - it was some kind of tarty cherry drink called Acerola.

AcerolaNot pictured here was the shikwasa biiru that we got at one of the ramen shops. Shikwasa is some kind of Okinawan lime that is squeezed into a glass of beer before drinking. That made it sound a bit like a Mexican michelada, but this one was kind of sweet (almost like lemon into a German wheat beer) rather than the salt and hot sauce taste of a michelada. I wasn't a big fan.

DyDo Corn SoupWant some hot corn soup? I once bought some corn soup that was pre-heated in the can from a vending machine here in Japan, but haven't seen one in a vending machine for quite some time now. Tonight, I found this at a 7-Eleven, where it was sitting on the pre-heated rack next to all of the coffee, tea, and lemon drinks. The taste of this one was a bit boring to me though.

Onikoroshi sake in a juice boxFinally, here's one that is hot on the heels of our wine-in-a-juice-box discussion: how about sake-in-a-box instead? This one featured one of my usual brands from years ago called Onikoroshi, which literally translates into "Devil Kill" (or as it seems to be called on the Internet these days, the "Demon Killer"). But it's been so long since I've had this stuff that I can hardly make a comparison. Either way, it was mild enough that it made for easy sipping.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Shaka Shaka Chicken from McDonald's Japan

Shaka Shaka Chikin - Chizu

I know, I know - the past few meals haven't exactly been the healthiest things in the world. But there were so many promotions for this Shaka Shaka Chicken stuff from McDonald's that curiosity got the better of me when we passed by yet another one of the Golden Arches here in Tokyo.

The instructions on the wrapper pretty much explain it already: choose a powder mixture (in my case, cheese), dump it into the bag where your deep fried chicken patty rests, seal the bag and shake it up, and then open it and eat away. In that sense, it was a bit like Typhoon popcorn from Hawaii. And I suppose that if you got the spicy flavor, then it might taste like those Taiwanese chicken things. Then again, one could also say that it was nothing more than one of their chicken burgers sans the bun.

It wasn't exactly anything that I'll eat again, but it was amusing as well as easy on the wallet at only 100 Yen (US$1). Anyway, let's file this under localized McDonald's items.

Ayu Shioyaki from a Yatai

A Yatai Selling Ayu Shioyaki

One of my favorite things to do on the road is to hunt down street food. And while Japan has an overwhelming number of places to eat, it's not often that I've been able to come across street vendors. But today, the cherry blossoms were in full swing in Tokyo, so a number of yatai had been setup in for the hanami matsuri festival.

All sorts of things were being sold, ranging from takoyaki to yakisoba and even candied strawberries. But the thing that really got me excited were the little trout skewers inserted upright around little fire pits where they roasted away with nothing more than a little bit of salt. I grabbed one for 500 Yen (US$5).

Ayu Shioyaki

Actually, it wasn't a little bit of salt...it was a lot of salt. It was so salty that parts of it were nearly inedible. But when I managed to get to other parts where salt had fallen off, it did end up being a tasty treat, complete with bones soft enough to eat. Looking back, I guess the proper practice would have been to scrape off some of the excess salt with my finger first...is that right?

Teppanyaki Akasaka, ANA Hotel Tokyo

Notice the collection of diced fat browning away at the bottom

Whew! That was quite a meal. A friend of ours suggested meeting here at the teppanyaki place at the top of the ANA Intercontinental today (exit the Tameike-sanno station, 03-3505-1437) not only because of the views of the city, but also because lunch prices were much cheaper than dinner. Of course, the food was also supposed to be spectacular.

And spectacular it was indeed. Similar to that meal we had in Kobe a while back, the A-4 grade of Japanese sirloin that we had was bursting in juicy fat with every bite, not even requiring any of the sauces that they provided. I also got quite excited to see them do things such as trim the fat from the sirloin and dice it into little cubes for use in the garlic rice afterwards, as well as smear a thin layer of rice onto the hot grill to make a crispy skin companion to our rice bowls. Nice - that was definitely making the most of everything at hand.

But how much cheaper was it really? Well, it wasn't exactly a shockingly cheap meal; our set ran for about 6,000 yen (US$60), with other choices dropping down to 2,600 Yen (US$26) for lower grades of beef - or well past 10,000 Yen (US$100) for throwing in seafood and other items. But all of that compared to dinner rates that could clear 20,000 Yen (US$200) for some options - whoa! Either way, our selection today was cheaper than that meal in Kobe. I don't know which part of Japan this beef came from, but at 6,000 Yen, it provided around the same level of satisfaction for almost half of the price. And that was definitely nothing to complain about.

Orochon Ramen at Rai Rai Ken, Yokohama

Orochon Ramen #6

This photo may look familiar. It looks similar to a bowl from a couple of days ago, right? Look a bit closer though and you'll notice one huge difference: how much more red the broth is. Yep - thanks to the help of a friend, we finally realized that this shop was indeed selling orochon ramen, the former word of which is a reference to some fire festival from the Ainu people in Hokkaido. And you specify how spicy you want the broth, all explained in an amusing sign overhead (albeit in Japanese).

Presumably last time they gave us the lowest #2 grade, which anyone should be able to eat. #4 is a bit spicier, while #6 is supposed to be able to scare off a bear. The sign said that if you order #10, then you have to cover your own medical bills, while they absolve all responsibility if you go for the top #20.

This bowl here was #6, which was just enough to be enjoyable to me without being excessive. We probably could have pushed it to #10 with no problem, although that might not necessarily be as fun to eat. Either way, it's always cool to see these kinds of shops with scales of spiciness.

P.S. I don't have the exact address nor phone number, but if you come out of the JR Kannai station, then head toward Isezaki Mall. The shop is located on a small street sandwiched between the big Route 16 and the Isezaki Mall Shopping Street, perhaps two blocks inward from the Metropolitan Expressway on the east side of the street. The sign is in red with yellow lettering and features a black bear wearing yellow clothes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum

Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum

I absolutely detest museums. You could offer to pay me a million dollars to go stand in line at someplace like the Louvre and I still wouldn't do it. (Well, OK - maybe I'll do it for a million, but on the condition that I only need to stay inside for 15 minutes after checking out what kind of treats are being sold at the cafes inside.) There are some museums that I will happily go to though, and many of them are here in Japan. Why? Well, these are museums dedicated to food, and the Raumen Museum is a quintessential example (2-14-21 Shin-Yokohama, 045-471-0503).

"Museum" may be a bit of a euphemism here. One could argue that this is no more than an overglorified food court put into a Pirates of the Carribean-like faux-outdoor setting. (I seem to remember years ago that they had display cases showing the history of ramen, the invention of instant noodles, etc. up on the ground floor, but I did not see it today...did they get rid of it for some reason?) Still, "food court" would be a total insult to this place, considering that these guys pulled some of the best ramen proprietors around the country to showcase all of the regional variations in one spot. You get to sample the goods...just pay for your selection from the little ticket machines and hand them in. "Mini" sizes are available, which liberated enough stomach space for me to try three of the eight shops today.

Komurasaki Mini Ramen

My favorite type of ramen is from Kyushu, so my first choice easily went to Komurasaki, which sprinkled grilled garlic onto its bowls. The full-tasting tonkotsu broth was done just the way I like it, and the bowl also featured a thin - but very tender and tasty- slice of chashu. Thumbs up on that one. What's next?

Hachiya Mini Ramen

Hachiya was another one that caught my eye. From Asahikawa, these guys added grilled lard to the broth, which gave it a musky/smoky aroma that was a bit peculiar at first but became rather addictive after a few slurps. A green garlic paste was also available on the side for one to add to taste. Good stuff - and a perfect example of how drastically these bowls will change depending on which side of the country it's from.

Ryushanhai Mini Ramen

And what seemed to be the most popular vendor here with lines forming outside its door was Ryushanhai, known for its Akayu karamiso ramen, the spicy red karamiso topping being the key. The broth struck me as a bit sweet at first, but the taste was also very complex, and was very enjoyable once mixed up. Even in the "mini" bowl, they were very generous with their noodle portions, and the springy texture was a delight. That one was worth the wait.

No, the "burned ramen" guys were not here. Sadly, we also found out the hard way the other night that the Curry Museum in Yokohama shut down last year. But on this note, it would be interesting if a similar museum could be started in the US featuring hamburgers: showcase the regional differences between SoCal's In-N-Out versus Chicago's Billy Goat Tavern and even the abomination known as White Castle all in one spot. Vegas would be a great place for something like that, wouldn't it?

Kirin Yokohama Beer Village

Kirin The Gold

Cool - Kirin has a big factory here in Yokohama and offers free tours of the brewery (1-17-1 Namamugi, 045-503-8250). Even though Kirin is my least favorite Japanese beer, I wasn't exactly going to refuse the two free beers at the end of the tour. After all, free beer is free beer. (Snag any unused coupons from anyone else in your party and you might get even more!)

And unlike the Taiwan Beer factory, the facilities here were very nice, with overhead views of the brewing and packaging floors (one could almost see Laverne & Shirley down there putting that glove on one of the bottles). We even got to sample some of the sweet wort before the yeast had been added; perhaps not surprisingly, it tasted like liquified bran flakes. They weren't selling any beer-based soap in the gift shop though.

If you come out here, take the Keikyu line to Namamugi station and just follow the multiple signs all over the station pointing to the Beer Village. You'll see the big Kirin building from a distance once you get out of the station anyway. No reservation was needed for us today...we just walked in.

Tempura Tendon Tenya

Haru Tendon

Here was another one of those meals on the way to the train station today. This big chain specializes in quick and easy tendon (as in tempura donburi rather than the muscle connector), and I grabbed what appeared to be a special featuring seasonal vegetables and fish. I was a bit bummed to find that they doused that brown sauce all over it, thus making the batter less crispy than it could have been. But it was cheap fast food after all, so I wasn't exactly expecting much either.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Burned Ramen" from Gogyo, Tokyo

Kogashi Shoyu Ramen Haafu Saizu

Damn - this f*ckin' kicked a$$! The black broth might look rather hideous, but I assure you that the aroma coming from this bowl was one of the most inviting scents I'd ever come across. See, the reason why it was black was because these guys (Nishi-Azabu 1-4-36, Rojiman Nishimashi 1F in the Roppongi area, 03-5775-5566) created what they call kogashi ramen, or "burned ramen." I don't know what exactly they do to give it that burned taste, but huge flames flare up in the kitchen whenever it's ordered, so they're doing something magical back there.

Yup - if you like the carbon-scorched taste of meat on a fire, then you'll like this stuff. (As one of my friends put it when he ate it, "Holy sh*t! It's like I'm drinking yakiniku!") I grabbed the kogashi shoyu version, which was much more polished than the coarser kogashi miso, but both were so enjoyable that I slurped them up (mind you, this was just after a complete yakiniku meal about an hour earlier, so I really had to have liked it if I willingly force fed myself both bowls). The broth was also scorching hot in temperature thanks to a heavy layer of clear oil sitting on top insulating it all in. Yes, I know - get a heart attack and cancer all in one go, but oh was it good!

Hands down, this was one of the best bowls of ramen I'd ever eaten, and I definitely prefer this over Jyangara. These guys are apparently run by a bigger shop called Ippudo with a specialization in Hakata-style ramen, so I suppose that one of the other reasons why I liked this so much was because all of the beautiful carcinogens rested on a tonkotsu base. And I'd told that no other shop makes anything similar yet, so this is definitely going to become one of those rare things that you start dreaming of when you leave. I can't wait to go back.

Yakiniku from Jojoen, Tokyo

Yukke

Mmm...that was a good one. Jojoen is an upscale yakiniku place with multiple locations across Tokyo, and my friend took us to one of them with a big smile on his face as we walked toward it tonight. After having eaten it, I understand why he was smiling as everything was delightful.

All of the beef served here was wagyu by default, thus making it all very tender and fatty, such that I hardly even touched the sauces that they gave (although I definitely appreciated the salty sesame oil and garlic on the side...and the yukke was not too sweet either). Keep in mind that we only got the "normal" grade of beef too...one can only wonder how it would have tasted if we had upgraded.

I also smirked a bit when our carnivorous friend mentioned that they have some of the best salad dressings around, but it wasn't a joke. Despite the very spartan appearance of nothing but leaves coated in dressing, the salad was right up my alley with its salty sesame flavor. We finished off the meal with some kind of strawberries filled with condensed milk and frozen into individually wrapped desserts. Nice one - this was a great meal from start to finish.

Mochi Cream from Cafe COMME ÇA ISM

Mochi Cream

Mochi ice cream has been around for ages, but there was one shop in particular that we really enjoyed on our last trip to Osaka, so we were happy to run into one again here in Tokyo today. What made these so special was that they were filled with what seemed to be some kind of creamy custard inside rather than stone cold ice cream.

So we were a bit puzzled today when these seemed more like the latter. There were some instructions attached to the bag; it was all in Japanese, but presumably it offered tips on how to keep them and how to let them defrost so that they do become more like that custard-y stuff that we had before. So we probably just needed to let them thaw a bit more. (Can anyone confirm?)

I did notice a shop in Singapore recently (a donut shop, I think?) with a sign promoting something similar, but I immediately dismissed it because it stated that it was ice cream inside. Now I'm starting to wonder if it were the same thing, and if it merely needed a quick exposure to the searing Singapore heat outside first.

A Spicy Ramen Shop in Yokohama

Some kind of spicy ramen

Needing some quick nourishment before getting on the train, we stopped at this tiny ramen shop in Suehiro-cho (one of the small streets off Isezaki Mall in Yokohama). It was one of those typically small and narrow counter-only shops but it was packed with salarymen so we figured that it had to be good.

Some guy sitting next to us had a bright red bowl that looked pretty good, so we grabbed one one of those, together with a tsukemen variant of it, both of which turned out respectably salty and spicy. It was only in retrospect that I realized that these guys offered varying degrees of spiciness, if I interpreted the Japanese sign correctly. I'm now very curious as to how aggressively they could turn up the heat on these.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Za Watami, Yokohama

Ko Sakana Karaage

This was a completely random izakaya that we wandered into at the northern end of Isezaki Mall here in Yokohama tonight (045-232-1690). We were amazed when they brought out their negima skewers, which were surprisingly bristling in crispy/salty/greasy fat, and totally tender at the same time. Yum!

None of the other items that we got tonight got us quite as excited as that, but it all did the job in the end (the fried fish above, for example, pretty much tasted just like it looked, even if mildly fishy). Anyway, we have a few places slated for the week ahead, as well as time for more random discoveries, so we'll see what we can uncover.

Kijouyu Udon from Narita Airport

Kijouyu Udon

Seeking a quick snack before getting onto the train into the city, we stopped at this random noodle shop up on the fifth floor of Narita Airport today. It was the first time I'd heard of kijouyu udon, which was served cold with soy sauce, grated daikon, and sliced leek. It was also supposed to come with a local fruit called sudachi, but it looked like they gave me a plain lemon wedge instead. Either way, it tasted just like it sounded: refreshingly light and spruced up with a tart citrus taste, all of which went great with the shop's firm handmade noodles. That hit the spot.

The Indian Vegetarian Meal on UA

United's Indian Vegetarian Meal

From time to time I like to get the Indian meal on SQ, but I never knew that United offered one. I pre-ordered this special meal today and was very happy to find that they had provided vada together with a pleasantly spicy curry. There weren't any Indian mints nor buttermilk to really complete the Indian experience, but I'm sure glad that I got this instead of the omelette.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Kambing Shootout at Ayer Rajah Food Centre

Soup Kambing from A Rashid Khan in the front and Shireen Rizwana in the back

Soup Kambing is one of my favorite local dishes in Singapore. And yet it's not often that I get to eat the stuff aside from an occasional run down to some random roti prata shop. So this morning, we went west to where allegedly some of the best Soup Kambing could be found on the island: the Ayer Rajah Food Centre (503 West Coast Drive).

Two stalls here in particular sold it: A Rashid Khan at stall #58 and Shireen Rizwana at stall #49. Interestingly, both of them claimed to hail from Shenton Way, but that's where the similarities ended. A Rashid Khan's came off a bit more polished to me, with subtle flavors in the soup and extra tender mutton. But I preferred the brashness of Shireen Rizwana's instead. It was not only more tasty with a bit more more oil floating on top, but more importantly, it was delightfully spicy enough to get my heart racing.

Now, it's been a while since I've been to the guy at Adam Road, so I am having trouble making a comparison to his. But I think these guys here are open until around midnight so I'll be sure to come down here next time I need a late night filling. Good stuff.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Samsui Ginger Chicken from Soup Restaurant

Samsui Ginger Chicken

Here's an updated photo of the Samsui Ginger Chicken from Soup Restaurant. I guess I like this stuff since it's a bit similar to chicken rice...without the rice of course, and focused on the ginger. Fighting off a bit of a cold today, these fresh lettuce wrapped things were exactly the light and simple remedy that we were seeking.

Note to self: next time decline those boiled peanuts that they shove onto your table so as to avoid the automatic S$2 charge.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mysore Pak from Alluraiah Sweets in Ongole

Mysore Pak

This stuff rocks. One of my colleagues is from Ongole in Andhra Pradesh, and he usually brings back some Indian sweets from this shop, which is apparently famous for these things called Mysore Pak.

These little pieces may look rather drab in appearance (they look like erasers, don't they?), but just one bite makes my eyes light up with glee. Or should I say...ghee. Yep, the reason why this stuff tastes so darned good is because it is largely made from drawn butter and sugar...plus some other ingredients, I'm sure.

This stuff has only a ten day shelf life, three of which have already been consumed in transit on the way to Singapore. With an entire box in my hands now, the frightening thing is that I'll have to clear the rest of this pretty darned quickly. My arteries are never going to forgive me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Tom Cruise Collection

Tom Cruise Collection

This has nothing to do with food. Nor am I one to really care about fashion. But I just couldn't resist a snicker at this clothing label, especially given my recent encounter with "Bread Pitt." (I'd prefer a Will Ferrell Collection myself.)

There was no "Made in..." statement so I don't know where it was from, but this short sleeve shirt was only S$5 (US$3.60). What a bargain!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

BBQ'd Prawns from Westlake Fishing Village

All of our hard work

That was fun. This wasn't a restaurant; rather, this was a grimey outdoor fishing venue (9 Japanese Garden Road, 6268-0604) featuring various man-made pools stocked with fish for you to catch on a rod, as well as BBQ's on the side for grilling afterwards. The rookies that we were, we stuck to the easier prawn fishing pool, which proved to be harder than it looked but ultimately still got us some decent results.

We threw our catch onto the fire with a liberal sprinkling of seasonings, including a spicy mix that I brought back from New Orleans. And how pleasantly fresh and firm the shrimp were! It wasn't a lot of food in the end, but it was rewarding given all of the effort it took.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Wine in a Juice Box - With a Straw

Wine in a juice boxHa ha! We have discussed wine in a can. But how about wine in a box? This is not that big box wine with the plastic tap...these are single servings in little juice boxes, complete with a plastic-wrapped straw glued to the side.

I know nothing about wine, so I really couldn't tell you if this were any good or not. But for only S$6.50 (US$4.60) at a local 7-Eleven, these little 250 ml boxes from France conveniently (and amusingly) provided a couple glasses worth of wine fitting for a Sunday afternoon. Chuckle, chuckle...

E-Sarn Thai Cuisine, Sixth Avenue

Moo Yang Nam Tok

To whomover recommended this place (20 Sixth Avenue, 6462-5608), good call! We enjoyed the food here, most notably the nam tok, which came with that critical ground rice powder sprinkled on top. I also enjoyed the Isaan tom saap soup, all of which complemented the requisite khao niao sticky rice, among others. Just be sure to tell them that you want the food "extra spicy" in order to really give it an edge.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Yu Sheng from Maxwell Food Centre

Yu Sheng

Here's an updated shot of the yu sheng from Ho Kee Porridge. With all of the oil, scallions, ginger, sesame, chili peppers, and lime juice covering this thing, one couldn't really taste the fish itself. But I like it - probably for the same reason why I like that "tiger vegetable" stuff too. Snagging a couple of those greasy local Krispy Kreme things on the way out of Maxwell Food Centre was also a nice addition to this afternoon snack.

Bread PittPerhaps more interesting was the name of this stall (#94) that I randomly passed by. It looked like just another local bakery (I didn't buy anything), but the name of course drew a bit of a chuckle. This one can be filed away in the amusing names section.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pizza Al Taglio, The Central

Mushroom Pizza Al Taglio

Geez - this pizza by the slice thing is getting popular in Singapore, eh? This place, fittingly named Taglio, was something I noticed out of the corner of my eye as I left the Central tonight (6 Eu Tong Sen Street #01-67, 6227-1795). They had a few local variations available, like a spicy chicken bak kwa-topped one and even a Thai green curry chicken one, but I stuck to a basic slice of mushroom pizza to see how it would fare. I liked the thin crust, but the overall taste still didn't give me the "bang" that I was hoping for (and I dunno why they felt the need to put parsley on it either).

What aroused me more were the rich cheese-stuffed sausages that they sold on the side - and the casings were surprisingly crispy. They also sold pasta here, which was a bit peculiar at first until I realized that these guys were actually run by the Amici people, whose Tanjong Pagar branch has since closed. While their new place wasn't necessarily anything to get me too excited, it was interesting to see another one of these pizza places opening up.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gobi Manchurian from Annalakshmi

Gobi Manchurian and Jeera Rice

Contrary to how it might sound, the first half of Gobi Manchurian is not a reference to the desert bordering Manchuria, but rather the Hindi word for cauliflower. Yep, this Chindian dish basically consists of deep-fried cauliflower sauteed in a red "Chinese" sauce. I'm not a big fan of it due to the sweet and sour taste, but at least it's spicy.

This was from the pay-what-you-want Annalakshmi, which has since moved from the Excelsior over to Chinatown Point (133 New Bridge Road #B1-102, 6339-9993). It might seem weird to find an Indian restaurant there, but what's even more peculiar is the fact that it is tucked all the way behind a back passageway where no one would really go unless you have to go to the bathroom or something. The obscure location - nor soiled tablecloths - didn't seem to deter many people though, as it was packed tonight.

I did grab one other interesting thing: neer moor, a greenish buttermilk drink featuring ground ginger and curry, of all things. I really liked it. It reminded me a bit of sambharam, but with a very pronounced ginger taste. While I won't be going for the Gobi Manchurian again, I am coming back to Annalakshmi.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Long Stemmed Strawberries from California

Long Stemmed Strawberries from California

No, this wasn't meant to be a strawberry shootout or anything. I just happened to be at Cold Storage here in Singapore when I noticed that they were also selling gigantic strawberries, all looking deliciously red and ripe. But these being from California, they were much cheaper than those Japanese ones at only S$13.90 (US$9.25) for a box of eleven, or about S$1.25 (US$0.85) each.

I bought the long-stemmed variety, which I worried wouldn't be as sweet, given that they were probably intended for stuff like chocolate dipping or something. Fortunately that was untrue, as many of these were even more sweet than the Japanese ones from last night. But they were not as consistent as the Japanese strawberries, as some of the ones in the Californian box were not quite as sweet as the others, particularly as one got closer to the stem.

By and large though, they were still some of the better strawberries I've had, and at only half of the price of those Japanese ones. Granted, they were still pretty expensive at S$13.90 a box, but they were good enough that they were worth it.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Japanese Ichigo Amaou Strawberries

Ichigo Amaou

The Japanese fruit section at Isetan's basement in Singapore always amazes me, be it the S$80 (US$53) melons or the gigantic yet beautifully colored apples individually wrapped in foam padding. Today they were selling S$29 (US$19) stashes of strawberries, apparently flown in from Fukuoka, if I read it correctly. Yep, at only eight strawberries per packet, that's S$3.60 (US$2.40) per strawberry. They sure looked and smelled good. Given our recent experience with Japanese melon, I had a feeling that they would taste good too. So I took the plunge with the most expensive bunch of berries that I'd ever bought in my life.

Yes, they were good. They were almost the best that a strawberry could be. Every single bite of these gigantic things was tremendously juicy, sweet, and ripe, as if someone had filtered out all of those duds that one often gets in those square green plastic baskets and left only the best pieces. Was it worth S$29? I wouldn't go that far...as sweet as these things were, I was actually hoping for something even sweeter (I suppose that one of its virtues was that it was delicate). Well, I do look forward to my next slice of Japanese melon though...that stuff just completely blows me away.

Kitchen Mogu Mogu, Far East Plaza

Hanbaagu Suteki

The food here (14 Scotts Road #01-07) was nothing to get excited about; not only was my hanbaagu burned dry underneath, but the rice was clumpy too. This place, was notable however for its execution, as it used self-ordering/payment kiosks that are commonly found in Japan. After the order gets placed, simply collect your food from the faceless kitchen staff and sit yourself down. It'd be interesting if a QB House opened nearby in order to really get the kiosk action going.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

La Pizzaiola, Holland Drive, Singapore

Prosciutto E Funghi Pizza

I'm grateful to whomever left the suggestion for this place the other day (43 Holland Drive #01-63, 6779-5502). Similar to Pizza da Donato, these guys sold rectangular slices of pizza that you picked from the glass display case. I was a bit amused to find that they later cut each of these already small pieces into even smaller bite sized ones before bringing it out to you, but either way, each of these little things was looking pretty good.

So I was a bit let down upon my first bite, since the taste of my mushroom and ham pizza was too modest for my liking. But this quickly changed with just a sprinkle of their burning hot chili pepper flakes, which were similar to Borgo's fiery mix. Given how small these slices were, I went for a second piece, this time going for the diavola, whose oozing red salami grease helped provide a bit more pickup. I was also fairly impressed with the crispy pastry-like crust, which is usually my least favorite part about pizza.

In the end, they seemed a bit timid in the flavor department, but I'll come back. Indeed, my mushroom soup seemed rather bland at first too, but after another spoonful or two, I came to realize that the mixture of all of its ingredients was rather sophisticated in the end. Well, for their pizza, I'll just make sure that I choose the right toppings and toss some of that chili pepper stuff on. One bonus was that they sold little bottles of the flakes for you to take home too.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Prime Rib from Morton's Singapore

Prime Rib

I'd never ordered the prime rib from Morton's before, mainly because they do such a great job of grilling instead. But a colleague of mine had mentioned a while back that they do a great job of prime rib too, and that it was worth making the extra effort to call ahead to put your name on one, as quantities are limited. Tonight, I was in the mood for something lighter, so prime rib sounded appropriate...and I was fortunate enough to be able to get my hands on the very last cut for the day.

They definitely did provide a beautifully thick piece. And it tasted fine, especially the fat-lined seasoned edges of the meat. But I still prefer the moistness of Lawry's. In many ways, that was pretty much what I had expected too. I'll continue to stick to Lawry's for roasting but Morton's for grilling.