Monday, August 31, 2009

More Swabian Specialties from Stuttgart

Maultaschen Wengerter Art

The Swabian region of Germany has quite a few local dishes that I have yet to try, so I went back to the Weindorf festival later this afternoon to find a few others. The first one here was called Maultaschen, which some describe as a giant ravioli. It struck me more as some kind of a minced meatloaf-like slice that just happened to be covered up by dough. This rendition with sauerkraut was fine, but it wasn't anything that I'd really go back for. I wasn't that huge on the Trollinger wine that I got either.

Schmalzbrot

What was more exciting was this slice of bread that I grabbed at the last minute. I was a bit puzzled at first, as this was a cold piece of bread with some kind of gooey sauce on it that I feared was a bit sweet and sour. It turned out that it was not a "sauce" at all; it was pork lard smeared over the top...and blended in with crispy salty bits of bacon too. Throw some raw onions and chives on top, and this thing was just delicious. (Really, how can anything with lard, bacon, and onions *not* taste good?)

Treats from the Stuttgarter Weindorf

Käsespätzle und Schwarzriesling

Time for another German festival. This one, centered around wine, was running this week in Stuttgart. Of course, I don't really care too much about wine (and I wasn't too impressed with the Schwartzriesling that I got today either), but there was tons of food around, including not just the requisite sausages, but also Käsespätzle, which is apparently a local specialty.

Krautschupfnudeln

All of that cheese was a bit rich though, so when I saw a lady sauteeing Sauerkraut in a giant pan, I knew exactly what to get. This came with little bits of ham, and its mildly sour taste was just what I needed. But those stubby rat tail-like noodles were a bit too filling.

The Cold Breakfast on Lufthansa

Smoked Salmon, Smoked Chicken Breast, Havarti and Cambozola Cheese

Here was the "cold" platter from Lufthansa this morning. It wasn't as appealing as some of their previous breakfasts, but it did the job. Too bad the cod for dinner was a bit nasty though...it was a bit surprising given how I've generally liked their meals before.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Returning to Ristorante Da Valentino

Aglio Olio

When we first went to Valentino a few years ago, we liked it, but not so much that we made any huge effort to go back. Either we had an abnormal experience, or something must have changed since then. Over the past few months, I kept hearing from multiple people how wonderful this place was. So we finally went back there last week with a few of those friends. Indeed, we liked it so much that we realized how much we had been missing out on over these past few years, and came back here again this afternoon to get more.

Yes, we loved the food here, be it the simple mushroom starter through to the branzino sea bass, the latter of which was so simply prepared and yet appealing enough that this rosemary-hater actually liked the sprigs of rosemary that were shoved into the fish's belly. Interestingly, the aglio olio still featured entire cloves of garlic, just as was done back at Cantina, and it worked.

Not all was perfect though. We had a grilled beef last week that - while tasty - was a bit chewy. We were also a bit puzzled by the tonnato, which a colleague of mine described as "out of this world," but whose mayo and canned tuna just reminded us of tuna fish sandwiches. Well, it seems like the trick here is to order off-menu, perhaps even just letting the chef do as he pleases. We're still coming back - as long as we remember to call in advance for a table, that is.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Yang Gui Fei, Smith Street

Lamb Skewers

We didn't intend to come to a place like this tonight. But I was walking into Chinatown when I noticed this restaurant specializing in food from Xian (18 Smith Street, 6100-0629). Wait a minute...isn't Xian the capital of Shaanxi? Yep. How ironic it was then to discover this after not being able to find what we were looking for at Duo Le the other night.

Most of the items we ordered turned out to be very salty, although I suppose that one should expect that when eating this stuff. That aside, the food was pleasantly spicy and tasty, be it the cold noodles or skewers pictured above. They also had this wide noodle dish that was served tsukemen-style, as the plain noodles came with a spicy dipping sauce on the side that allowed one to control his sodium intake a bit.

While the high salt levels won't bring me back here right away (I'll stick to the shop in Geylang, whose thinner noodles were more agreeable to me anyway), it was good to find another late night shop open until midnight. They still had a number of other spicy noodle dishes that looked worthy of a try too. Maybe next time we can ask them to go easy on the salt.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Duo Le, Orchard Central, Singapore

Hong Xing Ji

Never having been to Shaanxi before, my only exposure to the Chinese province's cuisine has been my beloved cold noodle shop in Geylang. And from that, I had high hopes that this upscale chain from Shaanxi (181 Orchard Road #08-09, 6509-8616) would feature similar tasting food, as I eagerly awaited its opening.

But when it finally opened, I realized that I had set the wrong expectations for myself. Not only did they not have those cold noodles, but also most of the food wasn't based on that spicy mix that I was hoping for. Case in point: the namesake Shaanxi noodles were unexpectedly white in color without a drop of chili oil to be seen.

OK, they did have some spicy stuff, such as that cold chicken above. And they did have a great sesame seed-laden chili sauce that I would easily buy if they sold it by the bottle. But I didn't care too much for their spicy crab, which was more soy sauce-based than I would like. Well, this was a very fancy table linen-adorned place that could come in handy for a business lunch one of these days. I just had the wrong expectations going in.

Xiu Ji Ikan Bilis Yong Tau Foo

Yong Tau Foo

That was different. Unlike a typical yong tau foo stall's stacked salad bar-style of ingredient selection, everything at this Chinatown Complex stall (335 Smith Street #02-87) was pre-configured. There were no veggies available, and there were no soy beans in the soup either (nor was there any of that brown sauce). I guess that this was the more traditional way of doing this?

Regardless, I could see why this place always had a long line...it was because of those delightful little ikan bilis fish that they top the noodles with. Perfectly crunchy and savory (and small enough that they don't annoyingly scrape the insides of your mouth), that little bowl of noodles was so much fun to eat that the tofu itself really became more of a distraction.

I still like Orchard Yong Tau Foo, but this one was different enough that I'll easily come back here. The fact that they open at 5:45 AM will also make it a convenient place to hit up if I'm ever locked out of the office too early in the morning again. And if Joe Porridge is open at the time, then I'll run around the corner and pick up some of his yummy yu sheng to go with it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Some Taro Root Bowl Thing

Some Taro Root Bowl Thing

I don't know if this is a common cze cha item or not, but it was basically an edible bowl made from taro root that was deep fried before getting filled with some stir-fried mix. It wasn't anything that I particularly enjoyed, but it was interesting to see. Besides, those airy fried strands of vermicelli on the side were fun to crunch on, even if they were tasteless.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hainanese Pork Chop from Han's Cafe

Hainanese Pork Chop

Han's Cafe is a local chain in Singapore that I usually try to avoid, as the rare meals that I have had there usually had way too much oil and/or garlic (and pre-minced garlic at that, if my tastebuds are correct). But someone recently mentioned to me that there are a few things that Han's is particularly good at, such as the Hainanese pork chop or curry chicken.

In fact, those things were supposed to be so exclusive that they apparently only serve it when the owner is supervising its quality at one of its shops. It looks like they have since started to expand this practice, as many of the outlets now feature a Hainanese Signatures menu featuring exactly those dishes for S$6.80 (US$4.70). I stopped in to see what the fuss was about.

I didn't realize until they served my pork chop that I had this exact same dish at Yut Kee in Kuala Lumpur. I didn't care too much for that sweet sauce (were those canned pears in there??), but I suppose that fried pork is never really anything to complain about, even if it wasn't really anything that I'll go for again. I wonder how the curry chicken tastes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mang Kiko's Lechon, Singapore

Lechon Liempo

Last Friday, I randomly ran into my Pilipina colleague at the Kopitiam at *SCAPE Youth Park. She immediately pointed me toward this stall (113 Somerset Road, 9743-6545), as they had just launched this new late night version of their original stall at Lau Pa Sat. And as the name suggests, they specialize in lechón. I had already eaten by the time I got there, but I made sure that I came back another day to give it a try. Tonight after a long day at the office, I finally did.

I grabbed the pork belly, which they were impressively generous with as they pulled a slab of pork off the grill and started cutting it up in front of me. The skin of this pork was surprisingly thick - to the point where it made it a bit difficult to eat quickly - but of course it still came with all of that lovely porky taste. I enjoyed that sour peppery soup that they gave on the side too, as it helped to cut through all of the grease. I'm definitely coming back to try some of the other menu items here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

More from Tawandang Singapore

Cockles

The food at Tawandang has never really been a huge draw for me. But I like the beer hall thing, and we came here this afternoon to take advantage of their Happy Hour. In the process, we picked up a few nibbles to go along with our brews, such as a crispy deep fried fish as well as this blanched cockle and noodle thing. It came with fresh lettuce, herbs, and sauce on the side, leading one of our friends to suggest that this was supposed to be eaten "kalbi-style," or all wrapped up like Korean BBQ. It's always fun to play with food while drinking.

Pork Larb and Pork Knuckle

We also grabbed some other items, like this pork salad, which wasn't as spicy as I would have liked, but those dried peppers on top provided extra heat if one wanted to bite into them (and they were generous with that gritty rice powder - yay!). If you look closely in the background, you can see their signature pork knuckle too. We were a bit surprised to find that the skin was a little sweet, but it was crispy and delicious, and really wasn't that out of place with the Thai chili sauce. I still have yet to hear the band here play though.

Breakfast at Tiong Bahru Market

Macaroni Soup

I went back to Tiong Bahru Market again for breakfast...and in fact, back to that same fish soup lady from yesterday. It wasn't because it was anything special, but rather just because the thought of a light soup for breakfast sounded good. This time I got the macaroni soup though, which - as suspected - couldn't compare to Xin Mei, but at least this didn't require as much travel time.

Chwee Kueh

I was still a bit hungry though, so I picked up some chwee kueh, although this time from the other stall (64, I think?) on the other side. I really don't remember the specifics of Jian Bo's version so it's hard to make a confident comparison, but today's did strike me as a bit more fragrant. I should do a blind taste test one of these days to be fair.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Japanese Kyoho Grapes...and Seedless

Kyoho Grapes

In another episode of pricey Japanese fruit, here were some Kyoho grapes. Usually these things have seeds in them, but I found a seedless variety today for S$20 (US$14) a cluster. That's convenient, seeing that I don't even bother peeling the thick skin like one is supposed to either.

As one would expect of such expensive things, these were super juicy and candy-like sweet. But perhaps what is more unique about these things is the fact that they taste mildly fermented...as if one were eating wine. Pretty cool. I wonder how those super pricey ones in the triple-digit gift boxes taste.

A Random Bowl of Fish Soup

Fish Soup

Here's a bowl of local fish soup from a totally random stall at Tiong Bahru Market. It wasn't anything special, and in fact wasn't even from a fish soup stall, but rather from some lady selling a bunch of random stuff (including macaroni soup). Either way, the light thin soup was exactly what this belly needed to revive itself on a Saturday morning.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Macaroni Soup from Xin Mei Congee

Clockwise from bottom: macaroni soup, soy bean milk, and yu sheng

That may look like a weird cloudy muck, but if you look closely, that bowl of soup is filled with macaroni. Yup - it was a bowl of Chinese soup noodles from stall 32 at 724 Ang Mo Kio Ave 6, which I vowed to come back to after seeing it last time we were up here. As much of a culture clash as it might seem, I suppose that it served the purpose of providing a form of noodles, and in a convenient bite-sized form at that. Otherwise, the rest of the bowl tasted like local breakfast noodles, with a light yet rich porky broth dusted with white pepper and topped with a few garnishes.

Actually, this stall's specialization was Chinese porridge. While I didn't venture into that arena, their yu sheng caught my eye given how they sliced it into very long and thin pieces, so I grabbed a plate out of curiosity. But they ended up covering that thing in so many shredded veggies and chili peppers that one could hardly even notice the fish in there. I mean, I liked the seasonings, but it was really more of a salad than yu sheng.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Nolboo Korean Restaurant, Singapore

Nolboo Galbi

A lot of Japanese chains have expanded to Singapore recently. And it looks like a big Korean chain now has an outlet in Singapore too. Located across from Ootoya at Orchard Central, these guys (181 Orchard Road #08-04, 6884-9151) featured tables where the barbeque setup was reversed: the vacuum siphon rose up from the table rather than down from the ceiling, while the hot coals sat in a movable pot rather than in a recessed grill.

I grabbed their namesake Nolboo Galbi. My sweet-averse palate didn't really care too much for its marinade, but the meat was tender and tasty enough on its own that I gobbled it up pretty quickly anyway. Similarly, their banchan skewed a bit to the sweet side (nor did they provide any sesame oil dips), although it was good to see such a fresh and generous spread. Well, even if I prefer places like Red Pig over this, I might come back here one of these days to check out some of the stews and clay pot items.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

An Assortment of Japanese Lemon Sodas

From left: Lemon Squash, Super Lemon Soda, Kirin Lemon

Here were a few lemon sodas that I picked up from the Japanese supermarket today. The main thing that caught my eye was the slender Super Lemon Soda in the center. It wasn't as sour as I thought it would be, but it still was very strong, and tasted just like the candy. The Lemon Squash one on the left was a bit like a flavored Pellegrino, while the Kirin on the right was just like 7-Up. The latter only served to remind me that "lemonade" outside of the US is not the same lemonade that I usually think of.

Friday, August 07, 2009

A Chinese Steamed Rice Bowl Thing

Preserved Vegetable with Minced Pork Rice

I got this at a totally random food court stall that specialized in steamed Chinese soups along with a selection of rice bowls. It wasn't anything special (in fact, it got a bit mushy down at the bottom). But I was just amused by how the minced pork sat on top of the rice in a patty form, reminding me a bit of my usual negitoro-don from Narita.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Canelé Pâtisserie Chocolaterie's Seafood Stew

Italian Seafood Stew

Here was a seafood stew from the newly renovated Paragon outlet of Canelé. I was surprised by how fresh it was, especially given how shellfish isn't exactly a focus of this pastry and chocolate shop. Portions were pretty tiny, but this worked for me, especially with its thin white wine-based broth.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mangosteen: The Queen of Fruits

Mangosteens in front of a wall of durian

Out of all of these years I've been in Singapore, I can't believe that I haven't taken a more conscious note of these things. I mean, I've seen them around, but I never really took the time to eat them. These were mangosteens, a local fruit unrelated to the mango.

The meat inside looked like cloves of garlic, but were juicy and with a texture a bit like a lychee. Most importantly, they were very tangy, which instantly resonated with me. Known as the Queen of Fruits, it was fitting that we got it during a run for durian, or the King of Fruits.

Mongolian King BBQ, Lorong 13 Geylang

Mongolian Pancakes, Skewers, and Pickles

That was totally unexpected. We were actually on our way to get some quick bowls of Shaanxi cold noodles when we passed by this stall (1 Lorong 13 Geylang) selling what was allegedly Mongolian food. I've never been to Mongolia before, so I have no idea how authentic this was, but apparently this guy came from Mongolia and just setup shop here in Singapore only a few weeks back. There wasn't a single customer in sight, and yet something inside me really wanted to give it a try. I'm glad that we did.

It was a bit weird at first, as he gave us a milk tea that was slightly salty, and in fact had a bit of oil floating on top. Only after digging around a bit did we realize that that was the proper Mongolian way to drink tea, and that sometimes rice and noodles are even added to it. Then we got some kind of pancake-like things that were stuffed with minced mutton. It was a bit like a local murtabak, but smaller and simpler. It came with a number of condiments, including two types of chili sauce and a salted raw garlic puree, which made those things very easy to eat.

Finally, we got some skewers reminscient of the Xinjiang variety, but this guy grilled them in less than a minute, and also minimized the seasonings, thus making them a bit more guilt-free than LDM around the corner. There wasn't too much else on the menu, but there was some kind of Mongolian porridge and dumplings that will be worth trying next time (yes, I'm coming back). And no, despite the name, there wasn't any Taiwanese Mongolian BBQ to be had.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Korean Army Base Stew from Red Pig

Budae Jjigae

On my first visit to Korea, one of my local colleagues introduced me to budae jjigae, a stew with a bit of a sad history. It was created in the aftermath of the Korean War when there was little food to go around. Locals ended up scrounging up whatever excess food was being discarded by the US Army, which included things like hot dogs and Spam. Combine it with some instant noodles, tofu, and the usual Korean spices, and Army Base Stew was born.

Today this dish lives on, although of course as a properly prepared dish now. I noticed it on Red Pig's menu the other night, so we came on down here and got a small-sized one for two people. It's been nearly ten years since the last (and only) time I had this dish, so I really can't make too much of a comparison. But it pretty much tasted like it looked, even if the sliced hot dogs inside were a bit of a bore. I did like the rich taste of the soup though.

Xi Xiang Feng Yong Tau Foo, Ang Mo Kio

Yong Tau Foo

We came up here (724 Ang Mo Kio Ave 6 #01-23) because we were told by loyal 20-year customers of this stall that it was even better than some of the other yong tau foo places that we've been eating at recently. And there certainly was a loyal customer base. Even at 10 AM, there was a long line that had formed. It was a bit of an interesting system: pick your ingredients first, and then get in the long line to wait for them to cook it.

Eventually, we got our bowls, and we could see why this place was so popular. The spiciness of the chili sauce woke me right up, and I didn't even really mind the sweet brown sauce too much, even if it's something that I normally pass on. The soup was filled with tons of soybeans too, giving it a respectable beany taste. And it was dirt cheap too, with our bowls costing only about S$3 (US$2).

But I still prefer Orchard Yong Tau Fu. I like the wide and fresh selection of ingredients there, as well as the super friendly staff. And the soup at Orchard had a nice peppery spike to it, whereas this one was a tad sweet. Sure, I'll be willing to put up with the long lines here if I'm in the neighborhood again. But my first choice would be for Orchard.