Whilst you’re wandering along the streets of Chinatown picking up some last minute bargains on CNY goodies or simply soaking in the festive atmosphere, make time to pop by Temple Street (one of the many aisles of road closed to vehicles during this festive period) and keep a lookout for the following shop:
What’s to be found here? Chinese desserts galore Here’s a preview of their menu…
Everything from Peanut/Almond/Walnut/Black Sesame/Yam paste, egg pudding, even carrot/pumpkin/yam cake
…to flavoured snow ice and coconut kueh! What better way to cool oneself down than to indulge in an icy dessert after an afternoon spent browsing makeshift street stalls under the sweltering sun
These 2 desserts aren’t particularly new or unique, but what makes them stand out from similar versions elsewhere is the stall’s generosity with ingredients. Chunks of fresh mango in a thick mango pulp and an unstinting amount of diced water chestnuts ensure fans of the desserts keep coming back for more
Not in the mood for something sweet? Help yourselves to their home-made carrot/yam/pumpkin cakes and cantonese rice dumpling.
Delightfully soft, fragrant and flavourful, you won’t be stopping at just one piece Remember to have it with their home-made chilli which packs a punch with its distinct taste of dried shrimp. Wonderfully YUM!
Interesting tid-bit: Remember Farmer Brand peanuts? They are made and marketed by the same company that owns this dessert stall.
65 – 67 Temple Street
No, a reversal of the evolutionary process to look like our primate ancestors isn’t the new sexy. Getting your hands dirty is
First, the tools you’ll need:
Introducing your hairy subject:
(Steamed Hairy Crab – $39.90)
*Step-by-step process censored due to the gory, messy nature of mutilating (crab) parts*
Source of buried treasure unveiled:
Yup, that’s supposed to be the highlight of consuming hairy crabs – its rich, cholestrol-laden crab roe. Eaten with dark vinegar and ginger shreds, papilles thought it tasted no different from the roe of other crab species. Be prepared to expend some effort before you get a taste of hairy crab meat; you’ve got to literally snap every single leg of the crab and dig out the flesh with the tools pictured above. The end result is tiny shreds of crab meat, a plate covered in crab hair and tired fingers. Papilles concludes “Too much hassle for too little returns”
For those who are curious about the taste of hairy crab, there was too little of it to leave an impression on my palate. I did recall though that it wasn’t as sweet and as tasty as I’d heard some people rave about. Still, if you’re looking for a first-hand experience of dissecting crabs, head down to Din Tai Fung now as these crabs are currently in season
That’s what I’d heard about Basil Alcove that led me to the cafe tucked in one of those worn-looking buildings, a place I’d have hurried past without an inkling that good food lurked in the premises. Thank goodness for newspapers and the internet. But there’s always two sides to everything and in this instance, it was a case of raised anticipation and expectation.
So I wasn’t particularly impressed. The menu was a lot more limited in variety than I had been primed to expect. In effect, there were some pastas and a handful of your usual western mains (i.e. pork chop, chicken, fish and lamb rack). In all honesty, if it wasn’t for the reviews I had read and heard, I’d probably have turned around and left. But there I was, and I did want to find out just how much truth there was in those reviews
On a side-note, a tip from papilles: If you’re new to a dining estab, always go for their “signature items”. Cos’ then if that item doesn’t measure up, it saves you the trouble of trying the rest But I guess most of you know that. And that is what I did…
I must admit the presentation of this dish did elicit quite some “oohs” and “ahhs” from the table, and was deserving of the “fine-dining” label. But the important question was if it tasted as fine.
Verdict: The lamb was done perfectly medium-well as requested, an ever slight crisp with a tender, pink, juicy centre. Intensely flavoured with a smoky herb taste, their lamb was hardly gamey. And most importantly, I didn’t have to expend too many calories just trying to get at the meat; I’ve had places where I literally had to saw at the meat and gave up eating it entirely cos’ it defeated the purpose of eating since I was losing calories faster than putting them in
The pretty li’l sides of mango chutney, mashed potato and sauteed raddish added colour to the plate but did little to enhance the overall flavours of this dish. I also found the portions of this dish to be on the small side; then again, at $20.80 without GST and service charge, and considering the overall quality, Basil Alcove is a rarity. To sum it up, slightly above average food at slightly below average prices
#01-12 Fortune Centre
190 Middle Road
Tel: 6336 1318
Even the most adventurous and fussy of palates wish for something a little less complicated and fanciful every now and then. A blend of simple textures and flavours – the mark of comfort food, should never be underestimated. A remedy for the home-sick and plain sick alike, these are the foods that nourish the soul and help restore the balance of one’s gastrointestinal system. Ok, if what I’ve just said sounds too abstract to make sense out of, just know that comfort foods well, provide comfort
Which is why whenever I feel under-the-weather and in need of soupy healthy stuff, I pop by a particular stall for some ban mian (handmade noodles):
Make no mistake, despite having a generous serving of greens and some pork slices in what appears to be a clear broth, this isn’t your typical ”healthy-tasting” fare. What sets this stall apart from many others is its broth, richly flavoured with the taste of garlic, pork and anchovies. A standard bowl ($3) comes with a poached egg, but you can choose not to have it (like I usually do) if you don’t like the idea of egg whites clouding up your broth.
NB: The coffee shop where this stall is located just completed an overhaul so expect the signboard to look slightly different. A taste-test post-renovations ascertained the quality remains unchanged, with the added bonus of a cleaner dining environment
Block 177, Toa Payoh Central
(Corner coffee shop diagonally across Toa Payoh Central Community Building)
And we’re not just talking cheap food, it has to be decent-tasting stuff at the very least. Craving a Jap bento set or some curry udon yet holding back cos’ of the dreaded +++ that raise your bill beyond belief? Well, now you can satisfy those cravings and still be light on your wallet If you happen to live near the western side of this sunny isle, there’s the option of hopping over to the canteen at the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences at NUS; the Japanese food sold there is tasty and at student-friendly prices naturally. If a “journey to the West” sounds best to you only when it’s with reference to a book title, sit up and keep the following name in memory - Mansaku. I’m not too sure what this means in Japanese or if it’s even Japanese, but I do know that it works out to be somewhere along the lines of “cheap & good Jap food” for me
Their popular Salmon Set. And I can see why too – The salmon fillets were fresh and pan-fried just right, doused with a sweet-salty sauce. The side of freshly shredded cabbage provided an added crunch. My only complaint was that the rice was a bit lumpy that day, but that is a minor gripe. With a meal like this costing under $7, they really don’t leave you much room to nit-pick
Business is so brisk that the owners, who used to operate both lunch and dinner shifts, need only open for lunch now. That means the stall is open from 11.30am till everything’s sold out (which usually doesn’t stretch beyond late afternoon) Check out their Teriyaki Chicken set as well. The chicken is well-marinated, and the sauce fragrant without being overly salty like most teriyaki sauces used everywhere else.
#01-93 Golden Mile Food Centre (Beach Road)