23 July 2016

Singapore Favourite Food Village 2016 : What to eat


Recently, the Singapore food scene has a seen a lot of fussing and buzzing. Besides the first Michelin awards which has its fair share of fuss and buzz, the Singapore food festival is also ongoing till end of July. I'm usually not a fad person but it's hard to ignore them. One of the highlights of the Singapore Food Festival is the Singapore Favourite Food Village which is held from 22 July 2016 till 31 July 2016. Featuring over 20 culinary partners, it features our traditional favourites and their modern interpretations. Think seafood LAKSAgna, Salted egg yolk prata, Chilli crab prata, Pulut Hitam Matcha dirt cake, Gula Melaka ice-cream etc.



Held in a temporary site, the Singapore Favourite Food Village is a short walk from the Bugis Mrt station (take exit A). My passion for food was undeterred by the rain (ok slight drizzle actually) on Friday night. 

Our little bellies could only eat 5 out of the 20 stalls. While you are judging, here's the 5:

1) Salted egg yolk turnip pudding chai tow kway (or fried carrot cake) -$6



This salted egg version only adds to the recent identity crisis that our favourite Singaporean food has been going through. First called a carrot cake (when it's neither a carrot nor a cake), and then called a turnip pudding by Michelin recently. Now it's being modified with salted egg yolk.  

I like this modified version more! The carrot cake is fried using the usual chicken eggs and then topped with generous salted egg yolk sauce. Surprisingly, the rich and briny salted egg yolk paired perfectly with the fragrant fried carrot cake with a tinge of sweetness. A must try!

2) Crackling roast pork - $12.90 for set with side and salad





This skin of this roast pork is roasted till it is very crispy and indeed crackles in the mouth. Other than that, I think it will taste better if served hotter. There's apple sauce or mustard sauce available to pair the roast pork. Be careful with the mustard sauce which is rather stinging. Try pairing with the sweet apple sauce. 

3) Wei Yi Laksa - $5



Wei Yi means "The Only One" and also a very famous laksa stall in Tanglin Halt. Which I've never tried because I am a lazy Eastie foodie who doesn't do the Journey to the West. 

To me, Laksa is all about the golden ratio of coconut milk to spices (shallots, candlenut, lemongrass, dried chillies, shrimp paste). I find Wei Yi's ratio leaning towards more coconut milk. I suspect it lacked one of the spices, making the taste a little underwhelming. But I can't tell which spice is it. Can anyone let me know? 
Tip: remember to stir the laksa first so that the flavours are mixed better. Even though it's not perfect, it's a very good bowl of laksa chocked with much tau pok, prawns, fish cakes. One of the best stalls at Singapore Favourite Food Village. 

4) Churros 





This is embarrassing.. My unadventurous friend bought for us the chocolate version instead of the ondeh-ondeh version. Yes an ondeh-ondeh churros they have! Anyway, the churros was wondrously crispy deep fried dough that's topped with a crackle-thin crust of sugar. Very nice with the warm chocolate. You won't regret trying!

5) Sea salt Hokkaido milk soft serve -$4 


Before leaving, end off with this rich creamy milky soft serve. 

I'll recommend you to upgrade to an Instagram-worthy version (biscuit cone plus candy floss) for a small price.

6) Extra - Old Chang Kee Rendang Puff - $1.80



Old Chang was located outside the tent area. Not sure why. Anyway they have a new Rendang curry pok which is really good other than the weird green crust colouring. It is more inclined towards tangy tones. 

The Singapore Favourite Food Village is on till 31 July 2016. Admission is free. Food is not free. Only 1 week left so chop chop curry pok. 

19 June 2016

Chocolate Origin




A few years ago, I made a public love declaration (click here) for Chocolate Origin's Cuppa Lava Cake. 

Some said it smelled like an awkward teenage love story. But really, it changed my life. 

Recently, I was invited by Chocolate Origin to try their new dark chocolate gelato and latte art session, together with the other existing cakes. 

One does not get invited to a chocolate feast party every other day. Especially when it's from Chocolate Origin. Unless one is certifiably insane, one does not reject it. So off I went with great anticipation.





I was given a moment with my old love - the Cuppa Lava Cake. The airy moist chocolate sponge and luscious chocolatey intense lava goodness still had me swooned over. Yes.. yes and yes! It's still that warm fuzzy ecstatic feeling. As I dug deeper, however, the vanilla ice-cream that I used to be familiar with seemed to have grown colder (pun intended) - Cold and hard, literally. Likened to a lover who was warm on the outside but cold and stranger on the inside.

I'm going to ignore that slight sign of trouble for the moment and turn to the Original Chocolate Cake. For the love of food, it is the best-chocolate-cake-ever. That ratio of mousse vs sponge, and that ratio of chocolatey bitterness vs sweetness... golden, perfect, mind boggling and amazing. Washed down with its liquid equivalent - Iced Chocolate Shake.

It's chocolate at its best.



Apart from the rich cakes and gelato that you can indulge in, Chocolate Origin also offers coffee made from the finest Arabica coffee beans from Latin America. The Arabica beans, known for their distinctive aroma and exquisitely smooth texture, form a perfect marriage with Chocolate Origin’s cakes and gelato. They are looking into organising latte art sessions where you can show off your inner barista.

I was a little restless as the star, Dark Chocolate Gelato, hasn't made its appearance as the night goes by. After all, we all know the law of anticipation which increases invariably as time ticks on. They do know how to play this game.

Finally.



It was love at first bite.

For a moment, it felt like a guilty betrayal towards Cuppa Lava Cake. My mind and heart were pretty much out of control. They were right about this one. It's richly divine, intense and effortlessly smooth. Made with Belgian chocolate, it's not overly sweet and tastes how chocolate should be - bittersweet. According to Chocolate Origin, it was a five year work-in-progress, from curating the perfect Belgian premium chocolate, the right gelato-making machine (from Italy, the birthplace of gelatos), tweaking, testing, tweaking, testing.

$4.50 a scoop, and $12.50 a pint which is cheaper than Haagen. Give me the pint.

In conclusion, this place is dangerous and a slippery slope to diabetics and heart problems. Chocolate Origin does what it sets out to do - steal my heart at the first bite. There is no stopping. It never will.


12 June 2016

Bangkok Priorities


I think I’ll never be sick of Bangkok. The problem with Bangkok me is that I am always there on short visits. And I try to do too many things in that 2 or 3 days there. Due to the limited resources (i.e. stomach capacity and time), it is crucial for me to prioritize the food that I want to eat. On my recent last trip to Bangkok, these were some of the places that I ate at. It's going to be my to-eat list going forward, sorted by priority level. 

(A) High priority

1. After You - Shibuya honey toast


I think the picture says it all about the famous Shibuya honey toast. But I will still elaborate. The warm and lightly buttered toasted toast is airy on the inside and crispy on the outside. It is accompanied by smooth vanilla ice-cream. When drizzled with the honey, the combination is equivalent to fireworks in the mouth. Even my friends who hate sweet stuff love this.

I’ve not personally tried the other varieties that After You have but according to my research, don’t bother with other varieties. This is the real bomb.

Tip: Go during odd timings like dinner time when there is a shorter queue.

2. Ban Khun Mae


This is a one-stop place for all my favourite Thai dishes – Phad Thai, Basil chicken, Pandan chicken, spring rolls. I also tried the Tom Yam but didn't include it in the photo above as the photo turned out blurred. Going to Ban Khun Mae feels like going home. Because the food is hearty and taste like home-cooked dishes. And also because a lot of Singaporeans eat there too. Ban Khun Mae has really nice Red Ruby (water chestnuts) and Mango sticky rice too. This is a place to come if you are like clean and simple flavours with not too much experimentation or embellishment.

3. Coconut ice-cream at Chatuchak


Nothing beats refreshing coconut ice-cream + coconut water on a sweltering hot day at Chatuchak. There are several stores selling this but we got the one that came with a flag.

4. Som Tum Nua


The speciality is supposedly the Som Tum (papaya salad). But I love the fried chicken more. A perfect amalgamation of crispy texture and tasty flavour. A must order.

5. Out of the world fried chicken


Somehow the Thais just know how to cook really delicious fried chicken (or Gai Tod as they call it). Especially the ones at the streetside stalls (outside Central World). There is something in the marinade that makes it special and irresistible. I wouldn't be surprised to know if the marinade is a complicated concoction of a wide variety of herbs and spices. Southeast Asian food is famous for that, thanks to the easy access to various spices in the region. Unlike the American or Korean versions, the crispy skin is thinner and I think this allows the spices to be better absorbed by the tender meat underneath.

I call it my "out of the world" fried chicken because that's how AroiMakMak.com described it. You have to try it yourself to know exactly what we are talking about.

6. BAKE cheese tart



Best cheese tart ever. Within the crackly crust contains creamy and smooth cheese.

OK when I was there during my last trip, BAKE has not arrived in Singapore. But if you are in Bangkok, why not? Since the queue is much shorter, it only makes sense to eat in Bangkok.

7. Smooth Curry



Located in Plaza Athenee, a 5 star hotel, this is a hidden gem. The set lunch comprising of 4 courses is only THB 666 (~S$25). Among the 2 of us, we had 8 different dishes to share - crab sausage,  prawn spring rolls, Tom Kha Gai (spicy and sour coconut soup with chicken), Tom Yum Goong (spicy and sour lemongrass soup with shrimps), beef tenderloin with sweet basil and green chili, red curry with chicken and coconut, red ruby and mango sticky rice. The food is top notch and exquisite.

The place is super quiet, offering an elegant reprieve while being right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city.  We were the only ones there during lunch (I think it's more busy during dinner). Highly recommended to bring your secret lover here.

8. Mango Tree




Mango tree is located in transit area of Survarnabhumi airport. It is my to-go whenever I need a meal at the airport. And if I still can't get enough of Thai food before flying home. The green curry is sumptuous and chockfull of chicken meat, best drizzled on a bowl of jasmine rice. The Phad Thai is coated with a perfect mix of sweet and savoury sauce.

(B) Medium priority

1. T&K Seafood


This place is in Chinatown and very easy to find. The lazy us had the curry crab (peeled version) and a steamed fish. The curry crab was disappointing. It might be because it was peeled and so there was not much kick. The steamed fish was ridiculously cheap and we loved it.

2. Raan Jay Fai



We came here for the famous Drunken noodles which every blogger has recommended. I have no idea why the noodles are called drunken when there is no alcohol in it. It's mainly stir fried flat noodles with lots of seafood. The chef is Raan Jay Fai and she cooks her food over charcoal, giving the food an unmistakable wok-hei. The drunken noodles were great and spicy. The seafood were in abundance and fresh. But it is very expensive (THB 400 or ~S$15). OMG. The place is very popular at night but Madam Raan Jay Fai cooks each dish individually. (Seriouslyyy). Which meant we had to waittttt.. I think we waited for almost 2 hours. OMG. While the drunken noodles were awesome, I don't think I will be back unless I have a lot of time.

This place is a victim of its own success, unfortunately.

3. Mango sticky rice (Mae-varee)




Mae-Varee was top search result when I googled "Best Mango sticky rice". Hmm.. Mae-Varee is great and the mangoes are sweet not sour. Which is what you should be getting in Bangkok as the Thais usually use a special type of mango called nam-dokmai (flower nectar mango). I can't really tell how Mae-Varee is better than the rest of the mango sticky rice which you get at any part of Bangkok. They are same same and not different to me.

We trekked specially to Sukhumvit Soi 38 for it. Apparently, according to our pre-trip research, there is supposedly very good street food there. However, we found there aren't many stalls there and it was quite boring for us.

4. Coffee Beans by Dao


Coffee Beans by Dao has several outlets. We had the yam cake which was had a thick smooth layer of yam paste atop fluffy moist cream cake. Don't mind going back to try other cakes.

5. The Deck


The Deck is situated right opposite the Wat Arun across the river. We went there specially to get a night view of the glittering Wat Arun. Unfortunately, the Wat Arun lights were spoilt that night. Otherwise, it would be a perfect ambient place for some drinks.

6. 55 Pochana


It was of some comfort to us knowing that we were the only foreigners in this late night supper place in Sukhumvit. Which means we probably are eating the real Thai food. We were there for "dinnpper" (dinner + supper) so the famished us ordered more than 1 dish. I can't remember what was the name of the dish on the top left. I think it was some vegetable + vermicelli. The top right was a spicy crispy duck + crispy basil dish. The thin slices of duck were flavorful and very spicy, and tastes rather interesting with the fragrant crispy basil leaves. The Tom yam was a bottomless bowl of seafood and also very spicy.

If you can't handle spicy food, don't come. This place is not for amateurs.

We couldn't finish everything. It's wiser to just order two dishes in the future. The food is also too oily for me and I will request them to go easy on the oil next time.

7. Nara Thai


As we could not afford the Nara Thai in Singapore, we can only eat the original version at cheaper prices in Thailand. Pad Thai, Basil chicken and Tom Yum Goong get our thumbs up. 

8. A&W - Root beer + curly fries


Yea...Because we all missed our childhood comfort food. 

(C) No priority (won’t be back)

1. MK steamboat



MK is supposed to be a famous Thai steamboat. Hmm not sure what is the hype about. I mean the roast duck was not bad, tender meat, but not out of the world. The steamboat was quite a letdown.

2. P Aor Tom Yum Goong


This was supposed to be the best Tom Yum Goong in Bangkok. We were disappointed that it was served not hot, and that the prawns were not fresh. This is also the first non-spicy Tom Yum that I ate. Without drinking water.

3. Thip Samai Phad Thai



Supposedly the best Phad Thai. Not served hot. I prefer my food to be served hot and piping. It is tasty but I think it is comparable to other restaurants. Not worth the hassle to travel (it's not really in central Bangkok) and queue for it.

4. Roast Cafe


Another "must-try" from our pre-trip research. Hmmm so so and the dish was killed by the balsamic sauce which I hate most. Seriously balsamic sauce is like waste water. How can anyone serve waste water? If you want to serve waste water, you should disclose in your menu.

So there you have it. My two cent baht worth of where my priorities are. You're welcome. Now I can’t wait to go back to Bangkok again.. to eat.. repeat. 
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