Palate Pleasers N Tummy Teasers

Makan Post-it (2) – Tis’ the season to get hairy

November 8, 2008
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No, a reversal of the evolutionary process to look like our primate ancestors isn’t the new sexy. Getting your hands dirty is :P

First, the tools you’ll need:

                                  Utensils

Introducing your hairy subject:

                         Hairy Crab

(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:

                         Crab Roe

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” :neutral:

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 :)


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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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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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Jap’s take on pasta that works

June 28, 2008
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I love Italian cuisine as much, or even more so than Japanese cuisine. However, the thought of marrying these 2 contrasting styles elicits some skepticism on my part. If it wasn’t for the fact that this fusion was helmed by the well-known Waraku branding and that we approach food with an adventurous nature, I’d probably have brushed it off as some new marketing gimmick to draw in today’s increasingly jaded consumers.

I’m quite a fan of Waraku for they serve up some of the best ramen and udon here, coupled with an enticing variety and the use of fresh, quality ingredients. Likewise, their subsidiary Pasta de Waraku keeps to this tradition and proves they made the right move in choosing to diversify from pure Japanese cuisine.

My previous visit to their first Pasta de Waraku outlet at Central mall in Clarke Quay left me with a pretty good impression and hence I decided to give their Square 2 outlet a try. Their menu has a mind-boggling variety of pastas and a smaller selection of pizzas, gratins and rice; add to that a seasonal menu and a special menu, and you’ve got yourself a situation of “I wanna try that…ooh, but this looks good too!” :P

I especially love their ingenious Pasta Sets ($16.80 each) which come with a soup and a mini salad, as well as your choice of one of the following: 1) 2 mini pastas, 2) a pasta and a mini gratin or 3) a pasta and a mini pizza. These sets allow one to sample a variety of their fare, and are great for sharing when you’re not feeling that hungry :) Some pictures of the Gratin Set I had:

Soup + Salad

Mini Prawn Gratin

Their Corn Soup was suitably creamy and rich in its taste of corn, though a handful of corn kernels would lend the soup added crunch to boost its overall texture; still way better than the watered down version you get at Mos Burger though. The Salad which comprised of iceberg, romaine, red coral lettuce, and some tomatoes all tossed in a shoyu dressing, was crunchy, light and refreshing on the palate. Living up to its mini title was the Prawn Gratin, which was small even by my standards (I’m considered to have quite a small appetite); understandable considering it’s supposed to be a side accompaniment to the pasta dish. Made up of penne (pasta) and 4 shrimps, it was pretty yummy with the penne done al dente and the shrimps tasting fresh and sweet. The cream sauce it was baked in had a strong milky taste which grew on me though it may not go down well with everyone.

                         Spaghetti Bolognese

Completing the Pasta Set Menu – Meat Bolognese Spaghetti. As you can probably tell from the picture, the spaghetti was a tad overcooked. What looks like a watered down sauce is thankfully, solely a result of them not draining their pasta fully before dishing it. I say thankful cos’ the meat bolognese sauce is the saving grace of this dish. Rich and flavourful, the blend of minced beef in a pulpy tomato sauce with a hint of herbs is exactly how a good bolognese sauce should be. Mix in the perfectly poached egg and you get a pasta sauce that is literally good till the last drop :P

My companion’s order of Bacon Curry Pilaf ($9.80) didn’t fare as well:

                                Bacon Curry Pilaf

The sticky texture of Japanese rice and the spices used in Japanese curry are odd bedfellas. They simply do not go well together. This dish may have tasted a lot better if it was presented in the traditional style of simmering the main ingredients (in this case bacon and mushrooms) in Japanese curry and served with plain rice. Goes to show there are times when it’s best to stick to tried-and-tested formulas. There’s a reason why these formulas survived the ages y’know.

A sweet round-off to dinner came in the form of a Macha Azuki Parfait ($6.80):

                                              Macha Azuki Parfait

Think icy, creamy green-tea ice-cream atop vanilla softserve, with a base of crunchy cornflakes and adorned with a wafer biscuit, 2 strawberry slices, 2 tiny scoops of mashed red bean and 2 Japanese mochi balls. The ice-cream was a bit too milky for me which I felt overpowered the green-tea flavour; but I’m an ice-cream snob remember? :P The mochi balls were chewy and as they are tasteless on their own, went well with the ice-cream and softserve. If you haven’t tried ice-cream/softserve with cornflakes, go try it sometime! The crunchiness of cornflakes coupled with the chilled sweetness of ice-cream make for an interesting melange of flavours and textures; highly recommended! ;)

Pasta de Waraku

Central: 6 Eu Tong Sen Street #02-82/83 The Central

Square 2: 10 Sinaran Drive #01-07 Square 2

Marina: 6 Raffles Boulevard #03-257 Marina Square

Full menu here.


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When you crave Hainanese Chicken Rice…

June 8, 2008
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When I crave Hainanese Chicken Rice, one of the places I head to is Pow Sing Restaurant at Serangoon Gardens. What sets this place apart from other good Hainanese Chicken Rice stalls is their selection of tasty Nonya dishes, which complement their well-known chicken rice. Having just steamed chicken with rice can get a bit boring after awhile, which is why I like the idea and convenience of being able to pair other dishes with my chicken rice all under one roof. Having said that, no visit to Pow Sing is complete without ordering their Hainanese steamed chicken and chicken rice (pictured below):Chicken Rice

The rice served here is fragrant without being too oily, with the chicken tender and flavourful. If you love your chicken skin like I do, the glistening skin you see here should have you sold on where to dine for your next meal :D Prices depend on the chicken parts you request for (e.g. chicken wings are sold at $2 each) and a serving of chicken rice is priced at $0.90. For those who are super health-conscious, they serve white rice as well; though in my opinion, you’ll probably be better off having economic rice.

Naturally, in addition to chicken rice were orders off their Nonya menu…First up, their Sweet and Sour Fish ($10):    Sweet & Sour Fish

Essentially your good ol’ sweet and sour pork, just that it’s fish. To be precise, fish coated in batter stir-fried with slices of cucumber, tomatoes, pineapple and onions. I’m not big on sweet and sour stuff but this dish won me over by not being too sweet (as most other places are wont to do), a sauce that is of the right consistency – neither too gooey nor watery, and fish slices that were crisp on the outside yet soft and fluffy on the inside. One of my favourite places for sweet and sour fish *thumbs up*

Another dish I like to order at most places – Kangkong Belachan ($8):Kangkong Belachan

Okay, this dish doesn’t do very well presentation-wise; Reminds me of how kangkong used to be pig’s feed back when Singapore was a fishing village. Fortunately, it tastes much better than it looks. Not much to say about the veg itself cos’ it’s the chilli that makes or breaks this dish. The sambal belachan used here is superb! The fragrance of dried shrimp coupled with belachan that is not too spicy for the palate makes for a winning dish. Only downside is that it’s a tad oily.

The final dish of that night’s dinner – Crispy Tauhu ($8): Crispy Tauhu

Give this dish a miss. There’s nothing crispy about it though I must say the beancurd was really very soft and silky; much like eating deep fried tau huey :neutral: The overall taste was quite blah and even the sweet dark sauce that accompanied this dish did nothing to lift it.

Now that you’ve read this, you know where to head to the next time you’re craving for some Hainanese Chicken Rice :) All dishes from their nonya menu come in 3 sizes: S, M, L. Everything featured here is small. Their full menu, as well as address and opening hours can be found here. Oh and did I mention that there’s no service charge here ;)


Posted in Restaurants
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