Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kichi-Kichi Express Rotary Hotpot

Kichi-Kichi Express Rotary Hotpot

OK, I have to confess that this was my second time here. I didn't think that I would come back; after all, how could anything be good at a conveyor belt-driven hotpot place? (And one that amusingly featured little square icons that were clearly a ripoff of iOS app tiles!) Besides, it's not like I really cared for the broth, sauces, nor ingredients last time. But I needed something fast, light, and yet generously portioned for lunch today, and this all-you-can-eat chain featuring single-serving pots came to mind.

And yes, somehow this place kinda worked for me today, but not without keeping in mind the lessons learned from last time. Ingredients? I loaded up on veggies and fish with only just a little meat. Sauces? I went au naturel...except a quick touch of the sesame dip. Broth? I definitely didn't get their "Szechuan" version, which was not the bright red mala broth one would think it to be, but rather a clear one with a slice of that Sichuan pickled vegetable stuff. I stuck to the mushroom broth instead, which provided just the light yet savory taste that I was looking for.

It was then that I realized what it was I was really after: the now defunct Mushroom Park from Taiwan, whose steaming cauldron of tasty mushrooms in a light broth with just a touch of meat and sesame sauce on the side is something no longer available in Singapore. The quality of ingredients here certainly wasn't anything like theirs, but in the absence of any other choice, this had to do for now...and yes, I dumped a ton of mushrooms into my bowl. (Side note: interestingly, this place is apparently from Vietnam. I never would have guessed their origins given that the food was nothing like Vietnamese lau.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Few Items from Meidi-Ya (Again)

Hello Kitty Seaweed Chips

Yes, somehow I ended up at Meidi-Ya twice in one day. But this time I noticed a couple things other than those oranges, like these little tins of seaweed. Is it just me or is there increasingly more Hello Kitty-branded food around these days? These were little strips of crunchy seaweed "chips" in a variety of flavors, and yes, I liked it better than that Tao Kae Noi stuff.

Mitsuya Cider and Pepsi Mont Blanc

Then when I was in the cold drink section, I noticed some Pepsi logos in the corner of my eye. Last week's Korean Coke immediately came to mind. But upon further inspection, this really was a local country variant of Pepsi, leveraging some kind of chestnut flavor, apparently. I didn't try it.

Kirin Mets Wild Charge

But the thing that I did drink was this Kirin Mets thing. Given its baseball inference and Wild Charge label, I thought maybe it was an energy drink or something. It didn't list caffeine in its ingredients but rather some kind of amino acid, which if I read it correctly, not only helps heal injuries and lower blood pressure, but peculiarly, can also be used as treatment for erectile dysfunction (!). Maybe they should have used little blue diamonds in the label instead.

Produce Scenes from Singapore Today

Malaysian King Bananas, Choklum Mangoes, and Jackfruit

After a lip-smackingly satisfying breakfast at Murugan Idli Shop this morning, I made my way across the street to the new extension of Mustafa. With a much wider selection of product available there now, I was hoping that maybe some special mangoes would be available, even if it was wishful thinking being only February. There were some of these Malaysian mangoes available, but perhaps more interesting were these king bananas in front of them. They were huge - like the size of a diakon. And yes, those jackfruit in the background were gigantic too. It was like the fruit-on-steroids section or something.

Thai Loofah

Then in the vegetable section I noticed these Thai loofahs. I'd always known loofahs to be those things from the soap stores that you're supposed to scrub your skin with (cue the shower scene in Caddyshack). It was only now when I looked it up did I realize that loofah is actually a vegetable that is eaten too. I suppose that it'd be some good roughage for your digestive system.

Hassaku Oranges

And on my way back I stopped at Meidi-Ya to see what kind of Japanese fruit was available today. They had these Hassaku oranges sold in what I felt were amusingly packaged sleeves of three or four. I didn't buy any though; I've come to realize that the Sunkist navel oranges that Meidi-ya selects for those sealed 4-packs are usually pretty good. As such, I can still get a proper juicy and tangy set of seedless oranges without having to pay those high Japanese prices.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shimbashi Soba's "Value Seiro"

Value Seiro

This was on Shimbashi Soba's current list of specials. It was just your everyday soba, but it came with a barrage of sauces and condiments, including some yuzu pepper and the goma tare that I like so much, as well as a warm sauce with a ramen-like layer of oil on top, which provided a soothingly tasty coating around the noodles.

The rather unattractively utilitarian name probably arises from the fact that it comes with an onigiri on the side. But to me, the bigger value here is actually another set that they offer. I can't remember the name, but it includes a generously sized flask of sake - enough for a decent buzz - as well as quite a few courses of food for a little over S$30 (US$24).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Imported Korean Coca-Cola

Korean Coke

I spotted this at a Korean market this afternoon: among the various bottled and canned Korean drinks was everyday Coca-Cola, but clearly meant for the domestic Korean market...and puzzlingly imported into Singapore. At first, I wondered if maybe this was similar to the cult-like following for Mexican Coke, but the label (translated into English, anyway) said that it used fructose, so it didn't seem to be a sugar thing. Well, I didn't try it to know if there were anything special about it, but it just seems like it was brought in for the sake of it. And yes, they had Korean Pepsi available too.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saffron Fettuccine on United Airlines

Saffron fettuccine with spinach, shiitake mushroom, and chicken in a light garlic gream sauce

Tonight United was serving this saffron fettuccine, which frankly looked and tasted a lot better than I was expecting given previous pasta experiences in midair. Granted, the sauce was a tad heavy on the garlic and the pasta was totally overcooked to the point where I would be hating it if it were served in a restaurant. But given that this was in-flight, I actually liked it a lot, especially thanks to that generous amount of spinach provided.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Express Dine Option on United Biz Class

Some Chicken Stuffed with Boursin Cheese

Does anything look strange in this photo? I opted for United's "Express Dine" option today, which meant that they brought out the starters and main all out on the same tray rather than the usual process of several courses.

One could argue that this isn't anything different from the way Economy Class meals are served, but the other thing is that the meal also came out much earlier...pretty much by the time they serve drinks and nuts. I was finished with dessert by the time everyone else was just getting their starters. I'm definitely doing this again; just the act of getting that tray out of the way allows me to get straight to work (or sleep, if that's what's required). I'm not trying to occupy my time with an in-flight meal after all.

Oh - and how was the food? Fine. Today's Executive Chef selection was this chicken stuffed with Boursin cheese, which kept it interesting.

A Quick Stop at Super Taqueria

From front: lengua taco, carnitas taco, and horchata

I had to rush to the airport this morning so I didn't have enough time to get breakfast at the shop that I wanted to go to. So I made a quick stop at Super Taqueria instead, a small South Bay chain that I used to enjoy but hadn't been to in a while.

I don't know if it was just because I'd forgotten what this place was like, or if it was because my perception has been skewed by all of those taco trucks lately, but I was a bit let down today. The meat in my tacos wasn't as exciting as I would have hoped, and I wasn't a huge fan of their tortillas either.

And much fun as that salsa bar may be, it also reminded me of some of those "fresh Mex" places like Baja Fresh or Una Mas. I thus don't know if I'd go out of my way to come back here again, but at least it was still a hundred times more Mexican than Taco Bell.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Crawdaddy, San Jose, California

Three boiled hot crawfish with the remainder of the pound in the plastic bag behind

After taking care of all of my stuff tonight, I finally got a chance to make a run for some of that Vietnamese Cajun food, but this time going further east to this place (779 Story Road, 286-2729). In contrast to Gumbo Jumbo, these guys were much simpler, with paper laid out on all of the tables and giant rolls of paper towels thrown your way with a plastic bib. The menu was short, and pretty much just featured shellfish with a few sides. I grabbed a pound of crawfish with a piece of corn and sausage while I was at it.

When I opened the scorching hot plastic bag, the sauce was all I could smell. With my last crawfish memory being a much simpler Louisianan version, I wondered to myself why one would want to overpower the wonderfully natural taste of crawfish with spicy garlic butter. And worse, why bother with that lime/salt/pepper dip on top of that? Well, after eating a few of these, I finally realized what was going on. These things were basically like eating buffalo wings.

Yep, you specify the degree of spiciness here, and I got the second to hottest one, which was delightful enough that I kept wanting to eat more. And dipping it into that lime dip somehow *did* make sense. Indeed, if it weren't for the lime juice mix, this thing would be a bit like those spicy crawdads that I remember getting on Ghost Street in Beijing ages ago. Either way, it's great for washing down with beer. Next time I'll have to try hitting up Southern California's Boiling Crab, which has opened a shop in San Jose too.

El Sol Market's Taqueria, San Jose

Clockwise from Bottom: Lengua, Carnitas, and Al Pastor Tacos

I needed a quick snack before dinner tonight, so I stopped at this Mexican supermarket (705 North 13th Street, 287-8431), as it featured a little taqueria on the side. I grabbed a my usual lengua, carnitas, and al pastor varieties at $1.50 each and gobbled them up in seconds.

Now, some of the taco trucks that I've been eating at have been edgier in taste, so I wasn't going nuts over this place. But these were still tasty enough that I'll come back, especially since they had tons of other things on the menu like menudo.

Plus, next time I'll try not to be so rushed so that I can pick up some local stuff from the grocery section, like pork rinds and even dried chili peppers. I guess the setup here is a bit like La CosteƱa, bit with a bigger market and wider selection of cooked food.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Pozole from Linda's Restaurant in San Jose


I had my hopes up for this place (1179 East Santa Clara Street, 971-8444). A shop that opened at 5 AM and was known for Mexican soups? Dude, I'm so there! I ordered a bowl of pozole and eagerly awaited its arrival.

Unfortunately, I was a bit let down. I mean, the meat was tender and the taste was pretty good (enough for me to nearly finish the entire gigantic pho-sized bowl). But I suspect that I somehow had built this up so much in my head that inevitably it was going to be hard to meet expectations. To my dismay, the selection of toppings was a bit limited too, without any radish or avocado to be seen. Maybe I had to ask for them.

Anyway, I'll still come back. Like I said, it tasted good, and being open early in the morning has its advantages, especially in terms of beating traffic as well as a long day of meetings ahead. The frijoles here are supposed to be great too, so I still want to try that. But I'll have to remember not to come in a rush, as service was surprisingly slower than I had hoped.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A Salami Sandwich for Lunch

Salami Sandwich

Here was a salami sandwich from a random shop near the office. It did the job...I guess it's hard not to slip into sandwich mode when in the US.

Grilled Cod Fish Salad on United

Grilled Pacific Cod Salad

When this starter arrived on today's flight, I had to look again...was that fish underneath it? Yep. It was mild, but was also exactly what I wanted given that they always seem to serve prawns instead. Note to self: the 777's to Narita are *still* using the old business class seats. I would have thought they had gotten around to these planes by now.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Random Snacks from Chinese New Year

Huanglauwu Peanut Candy

Here were some random but noteworthy snacks from the Chinese New Year holidays, the first of which were these peanut candy things from Sichuan. No, they weren't spicy - they were basically like peanut brittle but with much more peanut than candy. I ate a bunch of them, but stopped myself after finding some of them disturbingly tasting a bit chemical-like.

Chinese Mystery Meat

Next up were these rather unattractive meat things from Shantou that looked like canned cat food or something. I'll avoid the cliche here, but curiosity got to me so I tried one. I liked it...a lot more than I thought I would. They were kinda like Chinese beef jerky: a little greasy, a little salty, and mildly spiced up. I ended up uncontrollably devouring nearly the remainder of the plate, leaving only a couple of slices just for the sake of being polite.

A variety of mochi, including wasabi flavor

And then there was a bowl containing a variety of flavored mochi in individually wrapped packets from Taiwan. Most of them were pretty straightforward, like the mango and orange flavors. But I'm glad I looked at the green one carefully before opening it: it was wasabi-flavored. Eventually I opened it (after trying out all of the other flavors). It wasn't sinus-clearingly strong, but it was definitely the weirdest of them all and not something I'd reach for again.