Sunday, April 26, 2009

London's Atul Kochhar at Rang Mahal

A Chili Pepper from the Buffet

The World Gourmet Summit people have been shoving spam into my inbox for a while now, most of which I have been ignoring. But one item caught my eye: an Indian Michelin-starred chef was going to be a guest at Rang Mahal. And it was perfect timing too, as a client of mine from India happened to be in town. We came down here a few days ago when they were serving a buffet lunch, which included four of the chef's signature dishes like tandoori quail. I liked it enough to want to come back here again for a proper service. So we scrambled back here tonight to catch the last day that his team was going to be in town.

Aubergine Terrine with Red Pepper Ragout

The tasting menu ended up being a bit more Westernized than the buffet, with items like cured salmon and a chocolate brownie seeming a bit out of place for an Indian meal. But I liked nearly everything that appeared on both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian menus, particularly a potato and goat cheese cake with a deep cumin flavor, as well as a paneer vol-au-vent whose mildly sweet tomato sauce was delicate enough to convert even this paneer and sweet food hater. The only thing difficult to swallow was the S$75-95 (US$50-63) for a vegetarian meal, but hey - it was of high quality, served on fine linens, and of course was cheaper than flying all the way to London.

A Japanese Papaya Melon

Papaya Melon

That was different. I noticed these little "papaya melons" at one of the Japanese supermarkets here in Singapore going for S$25 (US$17). I wasn't quite sure what it was - I thought maybe it was just a papaya shaped like a small watermelon. But when I finally cut it open, it had none of that yellow papaya character. Instead, both the flesh and seeds were white, and was really just a melon. It was sweet and juicy like honeydew, but its small size made it a bit frustrating to eat. For that kind of money, I'd rather just go the whole nine yards and get an entire melon. Was there supposed to be more to this?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hup Hup Bak Chor Mee, Ang Mo Kio

Bak Chor Mee

This was the strangest bowl of bak chor mee I'd ever had (724 Ang Mo Kio Central Market and Food Centre #01-39). It was Makansutra-listed, so we were expecting something like many of the other listings. But this one was covered in a mildly sweet brown sauce, and even had some deep fried wonton skins on it or something. While I'm glad I tried this variation, it just wasn't what I was looking for.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kurobuta Toro Ramen from Tampopo

Kurobuta Toro Ramen

One of the things that makes Tampopo a regular standby for us is the fact that it is always refreshing its rather extensive list of specials. That way, one can never get bored when coming here as there is always something new. Tonight, they featured this kurobuta toro ramen, which I liked for its firm noodles and salty broth. Would I get it on my next run here though? Probably not, as there will likely be something else to try.

Monday, April 20, 2009

One of the Better Meals on SQ

Roasted pork with grainy mustard sauce, roasted vegetables, and mashed potato

Hey that was actually half-decent. It may not look like much, but those rolls of pork were crumbly and moist, while the shrimp in that potato salad were surprisingly fresh. That was easily one of the better economy class meals I've had on SQ.

The Original Din Tai Fung in Taipei

Xiao Long Bao

This was a completely unplanned visit - we actually intended to come down to another shop nearby, only to find that we had missed their lunch hour. The original Din Tai Fung location was still open though (194 Xinyi Road Section 2, 2321-8928), so we headed up that narrow staircase for a quick meal.

Mushroom and Vegetable Dumplings

I hadn't been to this location in ages - even in Taipei, they have much bigger outlets. But I guess it was a bit nostalgic to come back to the old shop that used to be packed to the brim. And of course we got the obligatory xiao long bao, which was much better than that stuff from the streets the other day.

Hot and Sour Soup

But was it really that much better than the outlets in Singapore? It still tasted the same to me. The only difference I could spot was the hot and sour soup, which here featured some strips of coagulated pig blood. Well, as nasty as it might sound, pig blood cake really didn't taste like much. In fact, its texture and taste was similar to tofu. I just wish that the hot and sour soup were more spicy here.

Yong He Dou Jiang Da Wang, Taipei

You Tiao and Dou Jiang

This was a bit of a close-up shot here, but here was our breakfast this morning from Yong He Dou Jiang (102 Fuxing South Road Section 2, 2703-5051). It was just the usual Taiwanese breakfast fare: soybean milk, sticky rice rolls, and various forms of greasy carbs. It ended up being a bit too heavy for the morning though - to the point where we almost felt a bit sick. But of course we had to get this stuff while we were in Taiwan.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jin Hai An (Golden Beach), Taipei

Pepper Prawns and Taiwan Mine Beer

When I asked a local colleague of mine for a tip on something that was unique to Taiwan, he recommended this place (103 Jilong Road Section 1, 2768-6622). Specifically, he suggested the pepper prawns, which were sitting in that big metal pot there. The white pepper seasoning was right up my alley, but for some reason the prawns were a bit on the tough and dry side, even though the shop claimed that these were live. Maybe it was just the way it was prepared.

That's when we moved on to the so-called three-cup prawns, the name of which was in reference to the rice wine, sesame oil, and soy sauce used. These were much more moist (was it because they used male prawns instead of females?). The oil these sat in also made them rich and fragrant enough that I gobbled these guys right up, even if the sauce was mildly sweet. They had plenty of other cooking styles available, but of course we only had the chance to try two of them.

Well, as with most shellfish, don't eat this when you're hungry, as it takes too long to shell these things (especially when they are so hot that they burn your fingers). But if you've got the time to kick back, then it's great to wash it all down with beer. The brand I grabbed tonight was called Mine, which appeared to be from the Taiwan Beer people.

An Assortment of Taiwanese Street Food

Ay-Chung Oyster Noodle

Here's a collection of snacks that we got for lunch today on the streets of Taipei, the first of which is Ay-Chung Oyster Noodle, complete with a bit of that scorching chili sauce. No trip to Taipei is complete without getting a bowl of this stuff, even if it is a bit disturbing that they are now using those wasteful paper bowls regardless if you're eating there or packing it to go.

TKK Chicken Wings

Next up was a local fried chicken chain called Ting Kua Kua, or TKK for short. I originally thought that they specialized in that flat Taiwanese ji pai or chunks of xian su ji, only to realize that this was more like the Colonel...almost like Taiwan's answer to KFC. The taste was definitely local though; not much batter and mildly sweet. I didn't mind the taste too much, but if I'm going to clog my arteries, I'd probably choose something more that is a bit more aligned to my palate.

Mushroom and Meat Soup

Here was a bowl of mushroom and meat soup...or to be more specific, that thick Chinese soup called geng. I wasn't a huge fan of this one, as it was a bit sweet, and the chili sauce at this guy's shop just wasn't spicy enough. His condiment selection also featured Worchestershire sauce instead of vinegar. I definitely liked that cuttlefish shop's version a lot more.

Oily Rice

And finally here was a bowl of you fan, or literally, oily rice. This sticky rice was very fragrant upon uncovering the slices of shiitake mushroom and little dried shrimps. But I hated that sweet red sauce that they doused on top of it. It would have been so much nicer with some Cantonese chili oil (or even Ay-Chung's spicy chili sauce) instead.

Deep Fried Crickets from Jurassic, Taipei

Deep Fried Crickets with basil and shrimp chips

Actually, these look more like grasshoppers than crickets, right? Well, whatever the critters were, we came here (196 Bade Road Section 2, 2741-0550) tonight for the novelty of some bugs and beer. This tacky dinosaur-themed place, also known as Indian, has clearly seen better days. We almost immediately regretted coming here given how dead it was, but we still sat down anyway.

Our primary intent in coming here was for the beer, which comes in these wooden barrels that you keep at your table. It was only San Miguel, so it wasn't really the beer itself that we were after, but rather the gimmicky way that they serve the little snacks that one can get with it, like some stir fried clams or the bugs that you see above. The bugs were salty and greasy enough that they complemented the beer, and of course provided an obvious amusement factor. I didn't eat more than just one or two of them though.

I'm surprised that these guys were still around. In fact, it looks like they have expanded to Southern California, of all places...but I'm assuming that they don't serve crickets there, right? That defeats the whole purpose for me then; the only reason why I would go to Indian is for the novelty of the crickets and the beer barrel. Even if they have a regular food menu, it's not exactly somewhere that I'd think of going to eat at. And admittedly after seeing how old school this place has become, I don't think I'm going back.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tripod King Hot Pot, Taipei

Ma La Guo

This place's name might sound a bit weird, but it was literally translated from its Chinese name, Ding Wang, and was in reference to the three legs that these pots stood on. Originally from Taichung, these guys recently set up shop in Taipei (89 Guangfu N Rd, 2742-2116). It has been so popular that reservations have been pretty hard to get...unless you are willing to go for a late slot like 10 or 11 PM.

Yep - they are open until the wee hours of the morning, but it's not like many of those other late night dives. Not only is the ambience upscale, but more importantly, the ingredients are of high quality. The moderately spicy version of the red broth was so well-balanced that I didn't even need any dipping sauce. The moderately sour version of pickled cabbage and pork broth on the other side of the pot also hit the spot, cutting through all of the grease and making all of the dumplings, meatballs, and sliced meat a pleasure to eat.

The Tripod KingWhenever I asked locals about the best hot pot in Taipei, they would usually mention either this place or Tai He Dian. I prefer this place though, mainly because of the broth. And no, they didn't offer any Taiwanese sa cha sauce here - just a vinegar-based sauce and a salty tofu thing instead. But again, I didn't really need any of it given the quality of the broth.

Hong Shi Fu Mian Shi Zhan, Taipei

Beef Noodle

Wow - that was pretty darned good. Bowls of beef noodle are of course ubiquitous in Taiwan, but this chain of award-winning shops was definitely one of the better ones. What made it so different? For me, it was the quality of the meat, which was melt-in-your-mouth tender. That made this thing so tasty that I inhaled it in seconds, even if the noodles were a bit too soft for my taste.

They also had a version where the broth was clear, which I liked even better, as it featured two different cuts of thinly-sliced beef...making it a bit like Vietnamese pho, but without all of that basil and lime of course. Toss on some of that red chili oil and pair it with some of those cold side dishes, and I can see why this place proudly displays its trophies in that case up front. Thumbs up.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Some Thai Shiso Leaf Thing

Some Thai shiso leaf thing

That was different. The local office here in Taipei went out for a team dinner at some nearby Thai buffet. The spread was filled with the usual curries, papaya salad, and pad thai. But they also had these cool little things: basically freshly ground chili peppers wrapped in a shiso leaf and topped with some peanuts and pomelo. This bite-sized thing was spicy, but also very refreshing thanks to the dominance of that shiso leaf. Is this something that is actually eaten in Thailand, or was this some form of Taiwanese localization?

Xiao Long Bao off the Streets of Taipei

Xiao Long Bao

This was a totally random set of xiao long bao that I grabbed from some back alley shop. The stuffing was tasty but the skin was a bit thick. Well, this was just a quick cheap refueling stop anyway.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tang Kung Bar-B-Q, Taipei

Mongolian BBQ

This afternoon I asked my local colleague where the best Mongolian BBQ was in Taiwan, so he took us here (283 Sung Chiang Road 2F, 2502-6762), a place that he said was much better than that Genghis Khan place we went to last time. This place was still pretty grimey, but the BBQ spread looked encouraging. Not only did they feature venison among the meat choices, but they also had fresh basil, which was a new experience for me. And when I finally brought my bowl up to the chef, he kept telling me to load up on more sesame oil, which this sesame oil-lover was more than happy to oblige.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite taste right to me after I finally got it. I'm sure that part of it was because I took it easy on the seasonings. But I also realized that it was because there was one critical ingredient that was missing: noodles. They didn't offer it at all - it was just meat and veggies. The only carbs to be had were those sesame bread things, which didn't really do anything for me either. I guess that noodles are really only present in the American version, eh? Well, Atkins dieters can rejoice here. Me, on the other hand? I think I'll wait to go to the States for my next bowl of Mongolian BBQ.

Sour Pickle and Pork Hot PotOne thing that I did appreciate about this place though was the fact that they also gave you that sour veggie and pork hot pot stuff; apparently the sour broth was meant to help cleanse your palate after eating all of the meat from the BBQ. I definitely liked the quality of the meat that they used here; the pork was thin, tender, and full of porky lard flavor...yum. But after having had a couple of bowls of BBQ before, I really couldn't eat that much more.

A Random Hot Pot Lunch in Taipei

Hot Pot

This was just a random lunch set that I got at a place near our Taipei office today. It wasn't anything to go nuts over; it was just one of those single servings of hot pot that one often finds in Taiwan. It tasted like it looked; light and soupy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tainan Danzai Mian in Taiwan

Tainan Danzai Mian

Here was a small bowl of danzai mian, a dish that originated in the southern city of Tainan. Not to be confused with the spicy dan dan mian, this was nothing more than a simple bowl of soup noodles. But it was light and refreshing, especially with those little bits of celery...and all for just NT$30 (US$0.90).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Squid from Laoning Street Night Market, Taipei

Blanched Hokkaido Squid

Needing a quick refuel before returning to a long evening of work ahead, I popped out onto the streets of Taipei for some cheap street food. I fumbled around a bit with some fishball soup and even some sesame oil noodles that were loaded with chunks of raw garlic before finally spotting this stall, which apparently specialized in live Hokkaido squid.

At first I grabbed some of that thick geng soup before I spotted a couple eating a plate of plain squid like you see above. That aroused my curiosity, so I asked for one of those. Contrary to what the wasabi and soy sauce dip on the side might suggest, this was actually blanched rather than raw. And the squid was nicely fresh and firm, going well with the basil and raw ginger shreds.

Now, it wasn't necessarily something that I'll get cravings for, but I am glad that I found something so healthy. I'll likely make an effort to come back if I'm in the neighborhood again (it was maybe one or two stalls back from the north end of the street on the west side - just look for the lady with the big metal tray of sliced squid under the blue and white sign).

SQ's "Oriental Selection" to Taipei

Japanese style sauteed sliced pork in ginger sauce, selected vegetables and steamed rice

This "Japanese style sauteed sliced pork" was the meal in SQ economy class today. I was rather discouraged at first, especially with that pork being slightly sweet. But then I realized how tender and tasty the pork really was, so it actually turned out much better than I thought it would...well, for airplane food, anyway. File this one under another episode of daikon on airplanes.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Heong Piah from Yee Hup in Ipoh

Heong Piah from Yee Hup in Ipoh

Hey that was pretty good. A teammate of mine brought these back from her hometown of Ipoh in Malaysia, where apparently this Yee Hup shop is known for this stuff. If you've never tried one of these before, then the photo must look a bit weird, as if it were some tasteless hollow pastry. But what made this thing so addictive was the sweet and salty gooey stuff inside, which - according to the label - was made from sesame and onion. It sounds weird, and might look weird, but it was good enough that I couldn't stop with just one of these. Now if only that flaky skin didn't make such a mess at my desk...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fried Potatoes from Sapporo Curry Yoshimi

Fried Potato

Here were some fried potatoes from Yoshimi, a Japanese curry soup place from Sapporo that has expanded to Singapore...sorta. Actually, it's hosted as part of that Japanese Gourmet Town conglomeration at VivoCity (1 HarbourFront Walk #01-157, 6224-9690) together with an outlet of Botejyu and Ajisen.

The thought of a thin curry-flavored soup didn't sound very enticing today, but I did grab some fried potatoes just out of curiosity. Unfortunately, these didn't do it for me. While they were piping hot and crispy, they were so heavily breaded that one tasted more bread than potato. I suppose that I'll give that curry soup a try one of these days though.

Jia Xiang Sarawak Kuching Kolo Mee

Jia Xiang Sarawak Kuching Kolo Mee

This was what was known as kolo mee, a bowl of noodles from Kuching on the island of Borneo, but available through a chain of shops here in Singapore called Jia Xiang. In many ways, it wasn't that different from Southeast Asian wanton mee. But what did stick out here were the thin curly noodles, which seemed borderline a good way. I don't know how this compares to the real thing in Sarawak, but I liked the flour-y taste of the noodles enough to easily eat this again.

How do you like them (Japanese) apples?

Granny Smith in between Japanese Aomori apples

Having gone through most of the Japanese orange selection at the market, I've now shifted my attention toward the apples, most of which have been eye-poppingly huge and individually wrapped in protective foam sleeves. I grabbed one of the big ones plus some tiny golf ball-sized ones that I'd never seen before either (a normal Granny Smith is shoved in the middle there for scale).

At first, I wasn't quite sure what to make of the one on the right, as it was so big that it almost could have fed a family of four. But after having tasted a slice, I was very glad that it was so big, as I kept wanting more. It was very delicate in flavor (only mildly sweet), but it was so juicy that one could almost call it thirst-quenching. And of course it was perfectly firm without any of that nasty mushiness that I hate about common apples.

I couldn't say the same about the little one on the left though. It may look a bit like a plum in the photo, but it was an apple, and was sold in a box for about S$10 (US$6.50). It didn't really taste any different from regular old Red Delicious apples - and unfortunately, this box might have been around for a while as the texture was disappointingly mushy. The small size also made it a bit annoying to eat considering that it was too easy to bite into the seeds in the core. But that didn't matter; I was totally stuffed from eating that giant apple on the right anyway...that thing was almost a meal on its own.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Voilah! Set at La Villa, River Valley Road

Some duck thing

I went for another French Gastronomy Festival deal tonight, this time from La Villa (341 River Valley Road #01-03, 6836-5286), a Mediterranean outlet from the Senso team. Their Voilah! set featured a two-course meal plus a glass of wine. And I loved the first item pictured above, which was a deliciously rich duck sitting atop some very light and airy toast - yum.

This was followed by steak frites, which tasted fine, although mine came out so underdone that I had to send it back (and this is coming from a guy who very, very, very rarely sends anything back, lest that French toast scene from Road Trip becomes a reality - lunges, anyone??). Well, it still was a pretty darned good deal at only S$30 (US$20). It's just too bad that this promotion only lasts until next Wednesday.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

La Fromagerie by Edith & Julien

150gm Cheese Board

Th EU has started running a seven month art and culture promotion in Singapore, with the French Gastronomy Festival portion having just started the other day. As part of this, multiple restaurants across the island have been offering S$30 (US$20) meals, including La Fromagerie (5 Mohamed Sultan Road #01-01, 6732-6269), a cheese shop from the team behind Le Saint Julien. We had seen this place a long time ago, but it looked like now they had seating and some small menus. We grabbed their S$30 Voilah! special, which was a 150 gm board of cheese with a glass of wine.

I am by no means a pro when it comes to cheese, but I certainly do like the right amounts, that is. We were provided with six different types tonight, ranging from some mild Parmesan and goat cheese on one end to a stanky blue cheese and runny cumin-flavored one on the other. I liked them all - particularly the pungent ones at the end. But after all of that cheese and bread, I admittedly got a bit sick of of it (and ready to pass out), especially since we also grabbed some macaroni & cheese and a bowl of onion soup. Well, they are moving to Holland Village soon, which seems like a fitting place to cater to the hanging-out-on-the-weekend crowd.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

My Favorite Geylang Dishes - at Boat Quay

Liang Pi and Lamb Skewers

Hey - cool. Jin De Lai Zhong Hua La Mian at Boat Quay has a couple of the mainland Chinese dishes that I thought that I had to go all the way out to Geylang for: Xinjiang skewered meat and Shaanxi cold noodles. Now, these were not as good as (the now defunct) Xiao Ping, but the skewers and noodles were spicy enough that next time I might just save myself the effort of going all the way to Geylang by diverting to Boat Quay instead.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Hock Kee Tanjong Pagar Fuzhou Fish Ball Noodle

Fuzhou Fishball Soup

It had been a while since I had Fuzhou fishballs, so I grabbed a bowl from a random guy at Maxwell Food Centre today (stall number 8). I like these things because they have meat shoved inside all of that minced fish, although this one was a bit too soft for me. I was more fond of some of the ones I've had in Taiwan instead, where it often comes with tiny bits of celery in the broth.