Palate Pleasers N Tummy Teasers

Dian Xiao Er – 17 July 2008

July 25, 2008
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Everytime I step into a Dian Xiao Er outlet, I feel as though I’m being transported back in time to the days when China was ruled by the imperial court, where it was the norm for men to sport long silky tresses and swordsmen downing jars of wine were as common a sight as HDB flats. The decor of their outlets really resemble those inns right out of a period drama :P

Apart from their quaint furniture, another draw of this place for me is, of course, their food! Just like their sister restaurant (Soup Restaurant) has a signature chicken dish, their specialty dish also features a bird:

                          Ten Wonder Duck

(Ten Wonder Duck – $12.80)

This Ten Wonder Duck is 1 of 3 versions of their trademark herbal roast ducks, which involve marinating the birds with herbs before roasting them in an oven. The number ten represents the 10 varieties of herbs and spices used in this dish. According to them, “a duck roasted in this manner is crisp to the touch and golden brown in appearance; its flesh tender and juicy with an overwhelming fragrance of herbs” :o Ok, they’ve said it all. Nothing much left for me to describe of this dish except to say that they aren’t lying ;) That said, this version boasts a somewhat sweeter taste as compared to the more savoury angelica root version. Both are good; depends on what your personal preferences are :D

                          E-fu noodle with Conpoy

(Stewed Ee-Fu Noodle with Conpoy & Golden Mushroom – $10.80)

If you love your mushrooms and ee-fu noodles like I do, this dish is a winning combination. The noodles are stewed thus allowing them to fully absorb the flavours of the conpoy shreds. Yum!

And the veg dish to round off the meal:

                                     XO Long Bean

(XO Long Beans – $10.80)

Long beans stir-fried in XO sauce – nothing spectacular and I couldn’t really taste much of the spiciness that’s associated with XO sauces. I found the long beans a tad undercooked as well.

I like that the chefs at Dian Xiao Er aren’t heavy-handed on the salt as some Crystal Jade outlets are wont to do, and that most of their fare taste pretty good. Check it out sometime if you haven’t already, and remember to order their herbal roast duck :D

Full list of Dian Xiao Er outlets here.

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Local Breakfast Delights Part II

July 14, 2008
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I knew I would be heading back to Hainan Garden Market and Food Centre sometime after my previous post on it, hence my decision to chronicle my foodie finds in parts :)

The following will be a review of what I had on 2 separate occasions:

                                      Economic BeeHoon

                                                      (Economic BeeHoon – $3)

Settled for Economic BeeHoon one morning after wandering around and feeling uninspired as to what to have. The familiar Hup Lee (#02-29) signboard caught my eye and remembering the fragrant, tasty beehoon from their outlet at Kovan Market and Food Centre, I decided to stick with what I thought would be the “safer choice”. I even ordered the exact same ingredients that I’d usually have at Kovan. Unfortunately, signboards were the only thing these 2 stalls had in common. The noodles/beehoon at this outlet were bland and insipid; both veg I had tasted uncooked and hard. Deep-fried chicken wing? Mediocre. Another experience to remind me yet again that I should start avoiding f&b frachises like the plague; unless of course you’re McDonalds. Wait a min, I don’t even like Uncle Ronald all that much :neutral: My best memory of him would be how my sis used to burst into tears when my parents tried to make her share his wooden bench for a picture :lol: I guess having bright red hair and thick lips on a white-as-sheet face doesn’t endear you to children much.

Anyhowz, lesson learnt – To avoid disappointment, stick to your tried-and-tested stall instead of being lured by their franchises. Trust me on this; I’ve experienced franchise screw-ups across everything from zi char stalls to chinese desserts and even Crystal Jade. It seems that franchises work best if the stuff you’re selling belongs to one of the following categories: 1) frozen food (e.g burger patties) or anything that doesn’t require the skill of a chef to whip up, 2) drinks ala Starbucks, 3) you don’t sell food.

Tried Mong Kok Noodles (#02-41) again and this time I went for their Wanton Noodle Soup ($3):

                      Wanton Noodle Soup

I thought it was average. Nothing to shout about, though I must add that people are willing to wait for an hour for this on weekends. They are very generous with their noodles, which look nice and springy though they don’t taste so. Their wantons are ordinary; I’ve had better. Worth a try if the waiting time doesn’t stretch beyond 30 minutes.

P.S. I’ve updated stall numbers and pictures in my previous post on this place :D

Hainan Garden Market and Food Centre

Block 105, Hougang Avenue 1

Traditional Chinese Heritage Goodness

July 8, 2008
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The name of this restaurant’s somewhat a misnomer as my initial impression was that they sold only Chinese double-boiled and herbal soups, much like an Oriental version of The Soup Spoon. I guess they meant to convey the impression that they specialise in traditional Chinese soups hence Soup Restaurant, but that’s inaccurate cos’ they do a pretty good job with their dishes as well :D In fact, their signature dish isn’t even some sort of soup but a delectable Samsui Ginger Chicken (which we ordered of course).

For those who aren’t aware, the name of this dish had its humble origins from the cooking area (I wouldn’t even call it a kitchen) of samsui women living in Chinatown back in the old days. The story goes that these women who lived on a subsistence level, as a result of their low wages, only got to enjoy their Samsui Ginger Chicken during the Chinese New Year. Although their trademark red cloth hats have since faded into oblivion, such traditional delicacies have been preserved by Soup Restaurant which prides itself on sticking to family recipes and traditional methods of cooking.

According to them, this means steam-cooking chicken for a pre-determined duration and temperature to maintain its aroma and taste. Here’s the end product:

                     Samsui Ginger Chicken (Small)

                                                   (Samsui Ginger Chicken – $14.80)

The style of presentation of this dish is unique to their restaurant. Steamed, deboned chicken breast slices dipped in a fragrant ginger sauce and eaten with  cucumber garnish or wrapped in lettuce. My least favourite part of the chicken has to be the breast as the flesh tends to turn out dry and tough, and the lack of bones makes it rather boring to chew on; not so when it comes to their Samsui Ginger Chicken which manages to be tender, smooth and flavourful with a light drizzle of soya sauce and a generous amount of pounded ginger. Yum. :P

The next dish wasn’t as well presented visually and turned out looking like a mess on camera:

                                           Tofu Prawn

                                                                  (Tofu Prawn – $16)

Bet you couldn’t tell what this was if I hadn’t stated it >.< We could play a “Spot the tofu/prawn” with this picture haha! If you (like me) thought the orange eggy gravy, which obscured all the main ingredients, resembles what you find in our famous local dish of Chilli Crab, give yourself a pat on the back for being spot-on! I must say that I’d much prefer the original gravy-crab pairing though; the sweet-spicy gravy held such a distinct taste on its own that it overpowered the milder tasting tofu and prawns.

Finally, a veg dish to complete the meal as always:

Kang Kong with Fermented Beancurd

 Kang Kong Fried with Fermented Beancurd ($7.80) is a simple dish and the one served here is fairly decent; the kang kong is crisp and there is just enough fermented beancurd stir-fried in to give off that familiar pungence without being too salty.

 If you are a fan of spicier stuff, I would suggest going for their Sambal Sweet Potato Leaves otherwise known as 阿婆番薯叶 in their menu. The last I remembered, their sambal had an aromatic fragrance of dried shrimps and wasn’t too spicy or oily. Now that’s what I call tradition at it’s best ;)


Soup Restaurant outlets listed here.

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