Monday, July 30, 2012

A Naked Chicken Bowl from Yoshinoya

Chicken Bowl Without Sauce

If something looks strange about that bowl above, it's the sauce, or rather the lack thereof. See, I needed a quick bite tonight, and I figured that the least healthy part of a Yoshinoya chicken bowl was the sauce...or at least, there was no way that it could have added much nutritional value. So just for the sake of it, I asked them if they could give me a bowl without any sauce.

The surprising thing was that the chicken was grilled just right, complete with a crispy skin and smoky aroma that was previously covered up by that sweet sauce. Granted, those frozen veggies were pretty nasty, but it went down easily enough after dusting it with some shichimi togarashi and a couple gulps of miso soup. Maybe next time I'll ask for sauce on the side for dipping purposes.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bánh Xèo from Pho House, Suntec City

Bánh Xèo

Pho Hoa wasn't open by 11 AM today, so we made our way over to Pho House instead. I went for the bánh xèo, whose batter was thicker than I was expecting, but nonetheless helped me get a healthy serving of leafy greens down the hatch. It was definitely better than their phở; the quality of the meat and broth here just did not appeal to me.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

More from Aloha Ma Maison

From left: ahipokē and açaí bowl

This may look like an odd combination, but they were two Hawaiian dishes that I hadn't tried before, and they probably couldn't get any healthier than that. The one on the left was ahipokē, or a raw tuna appetizer. All of the soy sauce, chili, and onions took me a bit by surprise, but it went down quickly, and certainly was refreshing.

I followed that with the thing on the right, which was an açaí bowl. Yes, it was based on that elusive superfood, and it sure looked healthy with the oats and fresh fruit on it too. What I didn't expect though, was the scoop of ice cream underneath. I guess it wasn't that healthy after all. Isn't this stuff usually done with Hawaiian shave ice instead?

G7 Express Cafe, Changi City Point

Pork Floss Bánh Mì

Ever since I heard that the folks at Trung Nguyen had opened up a cafe that served bánh mì, I'd been meaning to come here to give it a try (5 Changi Business Park Central 1 #B1-51, 6636-4318). But after finally finding a chance to go all the way out there, it was a bit of a letdown. Part of it was because we'd been spoiled by that fantastic bread at Sandwich Saigon; the bread here couldn't stand a chance against that. More importantly, they spread some kind of chili onion sauce all over this thing.

Sure, it was spicy, but it totally overpowered the taste of the very things that make bánh mì so wonderful, like the pâté, cilantro, and pickled veggies. Well, if I consider it a sandwich of its own rather than bánh mì, then I wouldn't mind eating it again, especially since they offered it at a dirt cheap S$4.80 (US$3.85) inclusive of a cup of fragrant Vietnamese coffee. Maybe I'll ask them to hold off on the sauce next time.

Teochew Noodles on Tanjong Katong Road

Teochew Mee Pok

I can't read the Chinese name of this stall, but it was the one selling Teochew noodles at the Keng Bee kopitiam (271 Tanjong Katong Road). We came across this by chance, as we were originally thinking of getting Eng's Noodles for breakfast, based upon a quick online search that suggested that they opened at 9 AM. That turned out to be wrong, as they didn't open until 11 AM, so we just went to the coffee shop on the corner, finding this noodle shop with a bit of a line forming.

When we got the bowl, we could see why. The noodle texture was good, and the chili sauce was awesome. It was pretty spicy, and perhaps more importantly, had a bit of a unique earthiness to it that I couldn't quite put my finger on (i.e., it wasn't cumin, Sichuan peppercorn, nor celery seeds). Either way, I liked these guys even better than the man at Zion Road. We'll be back.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Japan's Bene Spaghetti in Singapore

Beef Tongue and Vegetables in Red Wine Sauce

There have been a few mentions of this Japanese pasta chain in the press recently, so I came down here for lunch today to see what it was all about (83 Circular Road, 6536-1726). The main thing about this place was their so-called mushi pasta. Note that it was not "mushy" pasta, but rather steamed pasta (think: chawanmushi). Granted, steaming pasta sounds a bit weird too; one might think that such a process would be precisely the thing to make it mushy. But the one I got came out al dente, and I couldn't complain about that tender tasty gyutan with healthy steamed veggies.

Still, this place is definitely quirky...in an amusing way, I suppose. This was not only in terms of the unorthodox ways that they prepared the food, but also the frozen flat oshibori that they provided and even the pails and colanders used as lampshades. The timer and Moroccan tagine-like thing seemed a bit gimmicky at first, but I suppose that it had a practical purpose: my pasta sauce was still tongue-scaldingly hot after a prolonged period of time. I'll come back to try out some of the other things on the menu.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yes Natural F&B Vegetarian Restaurant

Fresh Vegetable Noodles in Almond Sauce

I'm not a very big fan of Chinese vegetarian food. But these guys from Geylang had a temporary stall at the basement of Takashimaya today, and somehow the thought of some vegetables with rice noodles sounded worth a try. I guess it wasn't going to be that different from the vegetarian bún that I was planning to get anyway.

They poured an interesting almond sauce on this one. It was nutty, but not as strong as a peanut sauce. If one added some red chili oil, it would have been somewhat reminiscent of Sichuan dan dan mian. Anyway, I probably won't be going to their Geylang outfit given that their normal menu didn't look very interesting. But I was surprised by how much I liked this one.

Claypot Biryani from Zaffran

Chicken Claypot Biryani

No, this isn't biryani week or anything like that. It's just that a colleague mentioned the other day that this place at Maxwell Chambers (32 Maxwell Road #01-04, 6225-5352) had a biryani that sells out just after noon every day. Similar to yesterday, that kind of demand piqued my interest, so we came down here for lunch today to see what it was all about.

The most unique thing about it was that they served it in Chinese claypots, which I suppose was effective, as the grains along the edges were cooked to a nice crisp that I loved scraping off and eating. The meat was tender and the seasonings were fine (gotta love those little chili peppers). But alas, somehow Bismillah still takes the cake in my books.

I nonetheless plan to come back here...not so much for the biryani, but more because of a couple other things that I saw on the menu, including some spicy thing that they called a "chicken bomb," if I remember it correctly. They also had a lamb curry called bhayankar bakra; the menu amusingly states that they will try to get you Indian citizenship if you are able to eat this hot curry. I'm sold!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ali Nachia Briyani Dam, Tanjong Pagar Plaza

Mutton Dum Biryani

A lot has been said about these former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station guys (5 Tanjong Pagar Plaza #02-04). Frankly, I probably wouldn't have even noticed them, had it not been for the S$7 (US$5.50) price tag that I saw posted at their stall the other day. I figured that if they were really able to command such a high premium at a hawker center, then there had to have been something good about this place.

My first bite was a letdown, as that S$7 price tag set my expectations pretty high. But it grew on me, with each bite of those long grains getting richer and tastier, especially near the tender meat where the spices were. Before I knew it, all of the rice ended up in my belly. OK, so that probably was one of the better ones around town. But I can't help but salivate when I think of Bismillah instead.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Anwar Ratol Mangoes from Pakistan

Anwar Ratol Mangoes

Time for more mangoes from Mustafa, this one being the Anwar Ratol variety from Pakistan. These were tiny in size - just slightly bigger than your usual avocado. But they were by no means short on flavor; sweet and also a bit tangy. It wasn't as rich as an alphonso, but it was definitely one of the better ones that I've had.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cz'zar Singapore Inspired Cuisine

Deep Fried Homemade Spinach Tofu Topped with Cheese and Minced Chicken

When I first saw the name of this place (1 Kim Seng Promenade #01-37, 6836-2520), I thought it was Russian. Only later was it explained to me that it was just a strange way of spelling cze cha, or a Singaporean dai pai dong. Anyway, I ordered that thing above precisely because of how nasty it sounded on the menu: "deep fried homemade spinach tofu topped with cheese and minced chicken." Fortunately, it tasted better than it sounded. Unfortunately, it also tasted worse than it looked, arriving complete with a cold center. Ugh. At least the veggies that I got on the side were edible.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mumbai's Kailash Parbat in Singapore

Pani Puri and Koki

I know. Indian food isn't exactly making my meals from today any healthier, but at least there wasn't any meat here. Actually, I'd been told to come down to this chain for chaat for some time now, and was only reminded of that after noticing this past weekend that they had opened another shop across from Mustafa. The menu's introduction mentioned that they were famous for a few things, so I basically went right down that list and ordered away, including the thick-shelled pani puri shown here, along with that buttery red flatbread called koki.

Perhaps the more notable thing here was the decor and the service, the former of which was brightly lit and a touch nicer than places like Raj down the street. The service was attentive too - and perhaps a bit *too* helpful. The guy serving me actually discouraged me from getting a drink called sindhi matha, saying that I wouldn't like it because it was spicy and sour. But I insisted, and enjoyed it a lot...it was just buttermilk (i.e., chaas or sambharam). He also suggested a potato cake thing called ragda pattice, which came out piping hot. I left here completely stuffed, and will easily come back.

Pandan Leaf Nasi Lemak, Tanjong Pagar Plaza

Nasi Lemak

OK, normally I wouldn't eat something like this for breakfast, but for some strange reason, I was totally starving this morning, and desperately needed something to sit in my belly. So I randomly hopped down here (6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza #02-43) and grabbed this plate for S$2.50 (US$2.00). I know, it's completely artery-clogging, with its coconut milk-cooked rice, fried chicken, fried Spam, and fried egg. But it sure tasted good.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Buta Shoga-yaki from Come-In-Hokkaido

Buta Shoga-yaki

The basement food court at Meidi-Ya is undergoing some changes, with Tsuru-Tsuru Tei in particular having moved out to the other side where Tampopo Deli was. The former "Don" stall has been replaced by this peculiarly named Come-In-Hokkaido place, which I believe is just an extension of the snack and ice cream stall next to it. Anyway, I got this shogayakidon, which wasn't that different from the one that the donburi stall used to do, I suppose. It went down the hatch quickly either way.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Youmenya Goemon is Now Serving Pizza

Margherita Pizza

It looks like Youmenya Goemon has added pizza to their menu. Not many of the options available featured Japanese toppings, but the thick crust was definitely reminiscent of that soft bread that one might get at a Japanese bakery. Unfortunately, that was a big turnoff for me. Next time I'm here, I'm definitely sticking to their pasta. If I want pizza, I'd go to Pizzeria L'Operetta instead.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Korea Epilogue: Instant Teumsae Ramyeon

Teumsae Ramyeon from GS25 and Paldo along with black pepper

One of the most memorable meals from last week was at Teumsae Ramyeon; so much that after unsuccessfully trying to buy the instant version on our own, I was able to get my local colleague to find some at a convenience store called GS25 . But when we brought it home to make it ourselves, we were let down, as it was nothing like the blazingly hot concoction that we had up in Myeong-dong.

Just by chance though, I walked into the new Lotte Korean Mart here in Singapore (67 Tanjong Pagar Road, 6222-1646), and what did I find? Packs of Teumsae Rameyon, but made by a company called Paldo rather than the GS25 convenience store that made the other pack we bought in Korea (apparently Teumsae licenses its brand out to multiple manufacturers). Fortunately, these were much spicier and closer to the original. And amusingly, the shop had a little sign that said that this "very spicy noodle" was "good food for hang over" and "suits [sic] for only adults."

Still, something was missing. It was spicy, but not so spicy that it would make one break out in a sweat. Based upon what I saw back at the shop in Seoul, I suspected that the thing that was missing was black pepper, so I bought a random tin while I was at Lotte Korean Mart as well. Yes, that added more heat, and probably was the missing ingredient. But in the end, it still wasn't exactly the same as the shops themselves. I guess that's why they've been able to expand to such a huge chain up there.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Some Korean Japchae from Bibigo

Bulgogi Japchae

Here was an order of japchae from Bibigo. Yes, one might have thought that we'd gotten sick of Korean food by now, but this was cheap and good - not to mention healthy.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Menya Aoyama Has Opened in Singapore

Tonkotsu Ramen

It looks like Ramen Champion over at Bugis+ added a new tenant last week: Menya Aoyama. My hopes were high, as the photos on the menu showed some fantastic-looking chashu.

So I was pretty let down to find that the pork was rather lifeless upon delivery, with hardly a char mark to be seen. Fortunately, the tonkotsu broth was fine, but I couldn't help but wonder if this was different from the way that this shop does it in its hometown of Narita.

Actually, it's not completely correct to say that they added a new tenant. These guys basically took over Tetsu's old spot, which is a bit of a disappointment considering that they were arguably the most unique of the bunch there. I wonder why they left.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Korean Ginseng Chicken on SQ

Korean braised chicken with ginseng, seasonal vegetable, and steamed rice

The Korean meal on SQ tonight was this braised ginseng chicken. Fortunately, the taste of the ginseng in this was not too strong, and was able to give it a bit of fragrance. But alas, I'm still not a huge fan of ginseng and other Chinese medicine, so I didn't really finish this. At least it was a half-empty flight, complete with power outlets. It actually made economy class somewhat pleasant.

Ja Yeon at Incheon Airport in Korea

Spicy Beef Stew

I was looking for something to sit in my belly when I got to the airport today, and this spicy beef soup sounded like exactly what I needed. It was actually more mushrooms than beef, which was a good thing. I happily slurped this thing down.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Donmongga in Gangnam-gu, Seoul

Korean barbecued pork

Time for pork-based Korean barbecue again (I can't read the address, but the phone number is 567-0096). This shop specialized in a style from the island of Jeju, which meant that the pork came with a thin fish-based dipping sauce that got heated on the charcoal grill along with the meat. My local colleagues called it "rotten sauce" (don't worry - they weren't from our marketing department!), as it was mildly fermented to give it a bit of stank...in a good way.

Som Ri Korean Restaurant, Seoul

Korean Shabu Shabu

When I first heard about Korean shabu shabu, I was kinda curious to see how it differed from the Japanese version. So our colleagues took us to this place on the ninth floor of the Hyundai department store (554-609) for lunch. Apparently there isn't even a Korean name for this dish. It's just shabu shabu.

Anyway, there were certain Korean elements that were to be expected, like the array of banchan spread out across the table. And there were a few minor differences that I noticed, including the use of a peanut sauce rather than a sesame sauce (although ponzu was still provided), as well as the fact that the veggies were all dumped in first.

Carbs came last with the choice of either noodles or porridge that they made in front of you with the remaining broth. Yes, it was closer to the Japanese version than the Chinese version. I still like the purity of the Japanese version, but I've also grown a bit tired of it lately, so this Korean version was a nice change.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

My First Taste of Korean Kong-guksu

Kong-guksu

We needed a quick meal after a long day in the office today (and before a long night of work ahead), so we went to a random food area in the mall next to our office and picked the restaurant that had the most people. Of all the things on the menu, this white bean soup thing looked the most unique, so I figured that I'd give it a try.

It was nasty. It was basically plain noodles sitting in a cold and thick soybean milk, with nothing but some sesame seeds, cucumber slices, and a cherry tomato to go with it. I had to keep eating kimchi on the side in order to give my palate any sense of excitement. Ugh. I won't be getting that again.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Teumsae Ramyeon in Myeongdong, Seoul

Spicy Ramyeon

At first glance, one might find this place rather puzzling. Why go to a restaurant to pay these guys to basically open up packs of instant noodles and cook them for you? Well, on one hand, she garnished these things with a few fresh items that clearly wouldn't come in a packet. But much more importantly, these noodles packed a punch that I'd never gotten from a pack of instant noodles before.

See, common instant noodles from Korean brands like Nong Shim Shin, etc. are usually bright red in appearance, but are really more salty than they are spicy. This one, on the other hand, was blazingly hot. Part of it was because of a load of black pepper that I saw her sprinkle in, but part of it was also just the sheer heat of whatever seasoning packet that they used in this thing. Even the non-spicy version that they offered was pretty darned spicy thanks to that black pepper.

We loved this stuff so much that we immediately went to two supermarkets to try to find this stuff to bring home, but alas, none could be found. Maybe that's why these guys have expanded to so many other locations in the country - and if I read it correctly, they only started making the instant noodles afterwards. I hope I can find some soon.

Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market, Seoul

Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market

I'd been looking forward to this place for a while now, as it was a bit like Tsukiji in Tokyo with fish auctions and tons of fresh seafood for sale. But unlike Tsukiji, this place was much more consumer-friendly, despite the word "wholesale" in its name. Fishmongers left and right not only borderline-harassed you to buy from their stall, but they took credit cards too! The idea was that after buying your seafood, one brings his catch to one of the many restaurants upstairs where they prep everything for you.

Maeuntang

We focused mainly on two items today: a flatfish and a snow crab. The flounder was served raw; you could do sashimi-style with wasabi and soy sauce, but since we were in Korea, we did it hwae-style instead, which meant wrapping it in a lettuce leaf with some green chilies and garlic as well as a dab of sauce. The fish itself was rather tasteless though (not to mention disappointingly tough), which meant that one effectively was just tasting the condiments. The more delicious thing was that maeuntang soup above that they made with the fish bones afterwards. It had a much more satisfying depth to it.

Sea Urchins

The steamed snow crab was even better, with a delicate sweet meat as well as delicious crab fat in the shell (much better than that frozen stuff from back home - and it was also extremely effective to open that crab with scissors rather than a nutcracker). Clearly the photo above is not crab though; it was sea urchin, as we got one as a bonus from the fishmonger when haggling downstairs. I liked it so much that I went back for more, especially since he was only charging 10,000 won (US$8.80) for three of them. I'm definitely coming back here again.

Monday, July 02, 2012

An Outlet of Chicken Jumak in Korea

Hot and Spicy Chicken

Fried chicken chains are everywhere in Korea, and we must have passed by at least a handful of different ones in less than 24 hours here. So when we needed something for dinner tonight, we stopped at a chain called Chicken Jumak for a plate of wings.

I was a bit hesitant to get the spicy version, mainly because every single time I've had this stuff in the past, it was too sweet and too big. I hoped that perhaps it might be different here in Korea itself, but alas, it was again sweet and gigantic. Clearly, I prefer smaller, more vinegary American wings instead.

Even if this stuff packed some sincere heat, I just didn't enjoy eating all of that sugar coated batter. (And that cabbage drizzled with ketchup and mayo?? Yuck!) Frankly, the best thing out of this meal was the cold draft beer, which was crisp and refreshing after a long day on our feet.

Galchi Jorim Alley at Nandaemun Market

Galchi Jorim

The first time I went to Seoul about 12 years ago, a colleague took me to some hot and stuffy alleyway for the sole purpose of getting some kind of fish stew for lunch. I had no idea where I was, but I remembered the ladies grilling it outside in the alleyway under dangling lightbulbs. Today, by sheer chance, I walked down here and realized that this was the same place. I couldn't remember the exact restaurant, but most of these guys were selling the same stuff.

Anyway, this thing is made from an eel-like fish called hairtail, which is actually rather frustrating to eat given those tiny little bones that one has to keep plucking. But the slices of daikon at the bottom were tasty, and the peppery chili sauce on the side kept it fun too (no, the bowl in the middle was not half-eaten...it actually arrived that way being only half-full). Admittedly I enjoyed this more for the novelty factor though. If I'm ever down here at Nandaemun Market again, I'll probably try to head to that Kalguksu Alley instead.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

ChunCheong Dakgalbi Near Sincheon Station

ChunCheong Dakgalbi

I have no idea what the name of this place is, as it was all in Korean. But after having walked down the first alleyway south of Sincheon Station in Seoul, this place seemed the most unique with these paella-like pans that I had never seen before. We had no idea what to order, so the guy just suggested the first item on the list, which wasn't much more than just chicken and cabbage with some shiso leaves and sauce. After some stirring and some time on the heat, this was ready to be eaten.

It was the sauce that made this thing good. I couldn't quite place my finger on it, but it tasted like celery seeds in there or something to give it an earthier flavor than typical Korean spicy sauces, the heat of which in this chili paste really built up over time (great for pairing with some suds). We got some noodles to soak up the remaining sauce, leaving this place stuffed, having spent no more than 12,000 won (US$10.50), inclusive of two beers. What a bargain.

Bon Juk and Bibimbap at Incheon Airport

Salmon Bibimbap

Knowing that it was going to be more than an hour before we got into the city and to our hotel (let alone finally getting back out again for a meal), we made sure to stop for a quick bite here at Incheon before taking the bus into town. This place was serving porridge, bibimbap, and noodles, so I went for this salmon bibimbap. It was fine, but admittedly not anything so exciting that I'd be craving it again. I suppose that was to be expected given that they positioned it as a welbing shop. At least it was healthy.

The Korean Meal on SQ

Korean Beef with Rice

As expected, SQ was serving Korean food on the way up to Seoul today. Sadly though, this is how the meal turned out; that beef was so tough that I literally spit it out without eating the rest. I probably should have grabbed the Indian meal instead, which they were running on this code share flight out of India.