Thursday, July 30, 2009

Two Chefs Eating Place

Two visits in less than a week, okay, I like this Eating Place. Thanks to the J-couple, I have found another good tze char stall that’s not on the east side of Singapore. Rather famous as well, judging from the reviews stuck to the stall.

Almost every table had a plate of the signature Drunken Raw Cockles. I had a whole portion (well, almost) to myself and faced the consequence the next few days. Nothing’s wrong with the cockles though. It was just me not used to that much of the raw shellfish. In fact, the cockles were really, really clean. Drowned in soya sauce, Chinese wine, sugar and topped with lots of garlic, cili padi and scallion, the cockles tasted good with every bite. Oh, it came chilled as well. Perfect for a hot night but definitely not with a hot date; the garlic’s pretty pungent.

The other signature dish; THE Butter Pork Ribs. Can any texture be more wonderful than Two Chef’s? However, we should consider if it is technically right to call them ribs since there were no bones attached.....Ok, who cares, right? Tender and smooth, it’s every Babitarian’s Sunday. Or Sundae. The powdery coating of fried butter/sugar/flour reminded me of those packets of flavouring for the shake-it-shake-it fries. Almost perfect except for the absence of an extra spoonful of salt.

Other notable dishes were...all! We had the flavourful Three Eggs Spinach, Fried Yam Sticks (with a syrupy glaze) and crispy, fragrant cereal prawns. And the hor funs. I liked both the Wat-Darn-Hor (hor fun with starch/egg sauce) and Sum-Low (stir-fried hor fun with beansprouts and fish slices). The rice flour strips must have been pre-tossed in extremely hot oil as the aroma was brilliant. Now, I heard that the Two Chefs are from Ipoh. Perhaps that’s the reason behind the mastery of hor fun preparation? Jokez.

There is also another stall in the same kopitiam that sells Sup Kambing. From the slightly gooey body, one can tell that the soup has been simmered long enough to have even melted the cartilages. And that’s great. Almost bottomless, I have learnt to be less greedy the next round. When combined with generous pieces of flaky meat and slices of toast, it's a good bowl of dinner by itself, I must say. More spices and it’d be even more awesome.

I read a headline somewhere proclaiming Two Chefs’ aim to serve quality yet affordable food. I think they are well on their way to achieving that. Good service (the Cantonese-speaking aunties were cool) helps as well!

Note to oneself: Make sure your makan partners eat raw cockles before ordering a WHOLE portion, no matter how good it is.

Drunken Raw Cockles - Blood and garlic, can you hear them vampires singing When Love And Hate Collide?

Butter Pork Ribs


Three Eggs Spinach

Fried Yam Sticks

Cereal Prawns


Two Chefs Eating Place
Blk 116 Commonwealth Drive
Singapore 140116
Tel: (+65) 64725361/94354197

And Sup Kambing from the same kopitiam.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 46): thestoryteller, thefilmmaker

(飞鸟集, 泰戈尔)

That which ends in exhaustion is death, but the perfect ending is in the endless.
(Stray Birds, Rabindranath Tagore)

Against the green backdrop of Sekinchan, innocence lost was found again. In Ipoh, a couple by the name of Jason and Orked was spending time in a kopitiam selling delicious siew yoke. In the same town as well, a hearing-impared boy called Mahesh was admiring Melur from a distance.

On the silverscreen, her vision has convinced us that religions should build and not divide. Slit eyes, bald girls, preachers; we are not that different afterall because at the end of the day, we are all searching for the same thing.

Never had I regretted paying to watch her films in the cinema, for home never felt so near. And that home was always peaceful and happy, just the way it should be.

Rest in peace, Yasmin Ahmad, the extraordinary Malaysian filmmaker and storyteller in every possible way.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 45): Donald's Not The Only Imported Duck

Initially, I wanted to blog about the gathering of monkeys (QwazyMonkey, Lyrical Lemongrass, Ciki and my furry self) on Labour Day at Four Seasons, CapSquare. As I searched for the photos in my archive, I realized that I’ve not posted my Duck King experience as well. So, it’ll be good to combine and compare these two celebrated imports; Four Seasons came all the way from London while Duck King was founded in Indonesia. All in all, ala Hong Kong roast joints.

Personally, crispy skin feels secondary. It’s always the taste that matters. I like my meat infused with additional herbs like dong gui (or Chinese angelica) which give the meat extra ooomph. And this type is usually moister and tenderer, which is great. So, even if the skin has gone soft, it will still be as good. Perhaps I’ve not traveled enough but I'd always thought that this (with additional herbs, I mean) is a local version of the roast duck. Enlighten me if I’m wrong.

At Four Seasons, the gone wild monkeys ordered some other dishes as well to complement the fried rice. I was quite disappointed actually, as the signatures were either unavailable or boring. Bland fried rice, blander stir-fried beef hor fun and a plate of char siew/siew yoke that tasted nothing beyond average. As for the roast duck...okay, it was well done and came with crispy skin but for a much hyped import, I couldn’t find the wow factor that has got Londoners raving. Best dish for me that afternoon? The claypot brinjal braise with minced meat (and salted fish?) which was very appetizing. With me still hungry and not really interested in ordering more dishes, we went to Delicious at Dua Annexe for desserts. And fun.

Nearer to home, Duck King was the talk of the town. With such majestic name compared to the humbler (but definitely more artistic) Four Seasons, one can’t help but be prepared to bow before a royal piece of roast. So, the duck. Yupe, it was good. Just good, nothing more. Again, crispy skin with tender meat. I had the braised beef too, which was delicious, given the well-spiced gravy and some pretty typical char siew/siew yoke. The King serves dim sum too. We tried the egg tart (which was subtly sweet), char leong (rice sheet wrapped yau char kuai) and steamed golden sand buns. I just love a good, runny salted egg/custard/milk filling but Duck King’s was not what I’d expected. I mean, yeah, the filling tasted rich and sweet but the texture was sadly more solid that liquid.

I admit that I’m a little skeptical when it comes to imported dishes or recipes that are already available back home. Fusion is another issue, I think. And to be honest, I’ve tasted better roast duck from Kepong and Petaling Jaya. Better? Well, I mean more aromatic, more flavourful and cheaper too. But taste is, again, subjective. The consistent hordes thronging Duck King prove just that. So, if one is interested in the above-mentioned restaurants, do check them out. Note attentive service as well.

Ohhhh, I’ve yet to compare the two!

Hmmm.....same-same lah.


@Four Seasons

Claypot Brinjal

Roast Duck

Siew Yoke

@Duck King

Braised Peanuts

Roast Duck

Wanton Mee

Not-So-Runny Steamed Golden Sand Bun


Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant
Lot G16/17
CapSquare Centre
Persiaran Capital Square
Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (+603) 2698 9393

Duck King
8-G Block M, Jaya One
No. 72-A Jalan Universiti
46200 Petaling Jaya
Tel: (+603) 7957 9819

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hua Ting + Marmalade Pantry

So, we are now back in April when life was still slow and wanderful. How I dread those days, seriously. Came a Friday afternoon when I was able to do lunch (in town somemore!) with a few bloggers whom I’ve e-known for quite sometime. It certainly was a good lunch and what’s even better was the fact that it was an informal gathering, so everyone was at their funniest. Yeah, my first meeting with some of them was at a rather formal event where stiffness was not only referred to the texture of the dessert.

And so we ate. And ate. And ate even more!

At Hua Ting, a few dishes caught my interest. The Fried Scallop Pastry With Onion And Garlic was one of them. Think doughnut; the melting soft type which was flavoured with enough garlic to keep the carcinogens away for a good few hours. It would have been longer had we ordered just steamed dishes. What didn’t make sense to me was the scallop, which the flesh was nowhere to be found in the dough. Perhaps the shape was scallop-ish? Good art, nevertheless. And there was the Steamed Cheong Fun With Sliced Fish. Kind of like the popular sam lou (stir-fried flat rice noodle with fish), only steamed, this one. And the combination worked pretty well as the cheong fun had a nice rice fragrance and the fish was flaky. A piece of advice: don’t flood it with the rather MSG-ed soy sauce.

We were stuffed. But we were mostly hungry. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? With that, we adjourned to the nearby Marmalade Pantry, a café famous for its desserts. Well, everyone has a different interpretation of what a dessert really is. So, guess what I had?

It was a Foie Gras Burger with Sundried Tomato Relish. Hey, if it’s comforting, it’s a dessert. Agree or not? My insanity aside, we did order a few real desserts like the Chocolate Truffle Cake, Rose Cupcake, Chocolate Tart and the signature Sticky Date Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Can do but not top-notch, to be honest, as I thought the sweets lacked refinement, in terms of taste and texture. Back to my dessert, where is the foie gras? Unless the liver melted (in vain) in the searing process, I don’t see why there wasn’t any bit of foie gras in my patty. So, gone was the smoothness that I had expected. Having said that, the minced beef tasted rather good, with a nice aroma. Oh, the relish! Slightly smoky and spicy, it was everything tasty. In fact, I think the relish would go well with just about everything.

Reading this post, I can imagine that OMG-FINALLY! look on the faces of the group as this has wayyyyy passed yesterday. And to think that I’ve met up with them again (twice) after this gathering. Now, I can only hope that it won’t take another 3 months before I post about the other burger place that we’ve visited.

Fellow makan-ers:

Hua Ting Restaurant
Second Floor
Orchard Hotel
442 Orchard Road
Tel: (+65) 6739 6666

Marmalade Pantry
#B1-08/11 Palais Renaissance
390 Orchard Road
Singapore 238871
Tel: (+65) 6734 2700

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

正 宗 炭 烧 (Authentic Charcoal Roast)

Source of heat (or fire, as the Chinese would put it) aside, it is the skill that perfects a roast. One look at the result and I was amazed at how well the slices of pork belly looked. Every surface was equally cooked (one can tell from the consistent shade of burgundy on the pieces of meat) and burnt edges were minimal. Of course there are those who prefer the charred bits for crunch and aroma but in terms of skill, I guess it is technically more challenging to keep the char siew tender yet unburnt than to produce a melting soft texture with a carbonized exterior.

The lean cut.


When it comes to KL-style wanton mee, the emphasize has always been on the thick, sweet dark soy sauce which customarily defines a good bowl of gorn low meen. In my humble opinion, it is the lard oil that fuels the taste. Here, one can expect lots of it, complete with those crunchy fried bits. Great indulgence.

The stall cooks up an impressive array of dishes despite the rather limited space. There's also a magic pot that stores Teochew-style braise of innards and eggs. Though not the best that I've tried, the intestines, which came soft and flavourful, were good.

I should complement the condiment of coarsely chopped garlic and ginger as well. Served with coriander and a dash of sesame oil, it was really tasty.

Conveniently located along the main road and just next to a wet market, it's a favourite among the lunch crowd. With another famous siew yoke stall just some metres away, I don't see why I need to travel all the way to town for a good piece of meat on those carnivorous yet lazy days aka everyday.

A good find that's worth alerting fellow babitarians.

正 宗 炭 烧 (Authentic Charcoal Roast)
Taman Kok Doh Hawker Centre
Jalan 17/42
Taman Kok Doh, Segambut
51200 Kuala Lumpur

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 44): HIStory

Over the past week, I've been catching up with old friends, really old friends and the one inevitable topic that we discussed was the departure of Michael Jackson.

Circa 1983-84 was a great time for pop music. What would a pre-school kid like me know about music back then, you might ask. Well, for one, I remember the choruses of some songs that were nominated for a Grammy that year (1984). There was a show on public television that played the videos of those songs and a relative actually recorded it on an audio cassette which later became a prized possession of mine. Back then, I would play the tape on what we called a mini-compo that worked on power of less than 15 watts. It was a lightweight, flat, mono-stereo Sanyo. So, you can imagine how fascinated I was when I first heard of a 1000 watts sound system from Sharp back in the early 90s. But the Sanyo was good enough for someone who couldn't differentiate the treble from the bass until he started keeping sideburns.

I can't remember the sequence of the recorded songs now but there was the mellow Every Breath You Take by The Police. And Billy Joel's Uptown Girl from his An Innocent Man album. It was also the year of Flashdance, which I believe I'd watched at the Rex cinema along Jalan Sultan, Chinatown. The smash introduced Irene Cara's What A Feeling and Michael Sembello's Maniac to the world. And for some strange reasons, the sight of those sweat socks that girls wear these days reminded me of the two songs a lot. It was also the year when I couldn't decide who was scarier-looking; Annie Lennox from the Eurythmics or Boy George. But of course, one can't deny the catchy, synthesizing beats of Sweet Dreams (remember the cows in the video?) and the slightly reggae-influenced Karma Chameleon. Lionel Richie had it big too, that year, with All Night Long. David Bowie said Let's Dance, remember?

And there was Beat It by Michael Jackson.

Who could forget the simple phrase that took the world by storm. I really thought it was about beating each other up (the video was suggestive of that). You can't blame me. I was only an innocent kid who knew of nothing but good hokkien mee from the Pekeliling flats back then. It was later in life that I understood the meaning of that song. Eddie Van Halen's guitar solo only made the song more powerful, with a rock edge. Who was Billie Jean? It was another song that I didn't understand as well. But the soundscape of it all, including the funky bass line, was just too amazing that one can't help but groove along. And that moonwalk! A perfect blend of pop and R&B, it remained as one of my favourite Michael Jackson songs (remixed or not).

We were in primary school when Bad was released. While Smooth Criminal, Bad and Dirty Diana were the most popular singles from that album, it was Man In The Mirror that had an impact on many of us. The poignant song had traveled with us to leadership camps and other school functions. In my list of cool, uplifting songs, I placed it only slightly below U2's awesome One. If the melodies of the song (got to love the electronic keyboard-led intro) doesn't hit you, the words will.

If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself
And Then Make A Change

While his subsequent albums were deemed to be less successful than Thriller and Bad, I thought there was progressive maturity in song choices. Gone were the mainstream pop tunes and came urbanized beats that were rather cool. My personal favourites were Stranger In Moscow (which I thought had a slight trip-hop element in it), You Rock My World and Blood On The Dancefloor.

The King Of Pop will be missed for there will only be one who can dance, sing and be Michael Jackson. But I guess on the positive side, we should believe that his legacy will continue to evolve with time through artists whom were inspired by him; like Ne-Yo, Justin Timberlake and Usher.

In our conversations, we confessed that we were not big fans of The Gloved One but it was through music icons like him that we had memories, good and bad memories that reminded us of the friendship we shared.

So, thank you Michael Jackson, for adding to the unforgettable moments of our lives.

We shall celebrate your legacy soon with a karaoke session of nothing but your songs. And we hope to do you proud!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 43): To Bake A Mockingbird (Cake)

I know you want me (want me)
you know I want cha (want cha)
I know you want me
You know I want cha (want cha)


Rumba (Si)
Ella quiere su Rumba (Como?)
Rumba (Si)
Ella quiere si Rumba (Como?)

The music blared and I was shaking 'mah hips when my phone rang. There was no caller ID nor number displayed. I picked up the call to discover that it was a woman on the other side of the line and expected it to be one of those phony calls which usually start with a something like Congratulations, you have just won yourself a car! Please give me your bank account number for identification. None of that in this call but strangely, she sounded like a tweeting bird.

Me: Wei? (in absolute Canto style)
Caller: *Tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet*
Me: Who this? What you talk???
Caller: *Tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet*
Me: *Getting impatient*
Caller: *Tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet*
Me: Burn in the oven with your tweets, damn bird!

And I disconnected myself from the madness.

Burn in the oven.

Oh gosh, my mockingbird WAS really burning in the oven! The instruction called for 180 degrees for 45 minutes but I was already 15 minutes late! I blame the addictive songs on the radio that morning. Rushing to the kitchen, I noticed that the convection oven was still humming in its usual manner but the glass panel had shattered. The mockingbird was gone.

She-bird called (or should I say tweeted) again, at this very wrong time. I was mostly pissed and didn't hesitate to greet her with some maternal curses, again, in true Cantonese fashion. She resonated to my wrath and hung up.

I felt a sudden surge in heat. A shadow was growing on the wall in front of me. It was my own silhouette. I turned to face a monster. It was a giant flying bird on fire, almost the size of an adult golden retriever. The immense brightness from the fire was blinding. It flew towards me and I knew that there was no way that I could survive. The bird would peck me to death while my hairy skin burn. My barbecued self would feed the bird well for days, given the size of my thighs and belly. And it would definitely appreciate the aroma of my layers of slightly charred, succulent fat. (Think melt-in-the-mouth roasted pork belly from Ah Wong or char siew from FSF).

As much as I hoped that Megan Fox would come to my rescue (in her bike), I was prepared to burn and be devoured. Just don't glaze me with malt syrup after I'm grilled, like how they do char siew. I hate stickiness, in every sense.

The bird got closer. I bit my lips and kept my eyes shut.

It stopped, somewhere about one metre in front of me. Shocked, I opened my eyes, only to be blinded by the violent radiance of the fire once more.


What now???


Huh, meh ar???


And I jumped out of bed.


It's amazing what excitement can do to you. First come restlessness. Then, dreams (both good and bad). I dreamt about she-bird just a few hours before attempting my first mockingbird cake. Not a hummingbird as I substituted oil with butter. And neither brown sugar nor cinnamon powder was used. Before going into the details of my experience, let me thank Fatboybakes (FBB) again for his constructive and practical recipe. Believe me, I've tried recipes of some famous TV chefs and my cakes turned into porridge or stones without fail.

So, back to the cake. I had a terrible experience baking with canned pineapple cubes before. My cake turned out absolutely soggy, even after draining and squeezing the cubes with my hands. This time, I roasted them in the oven until the edges browned to remove the excess liquid and to give it a slight caramelised taste. Hand-crushed pecan and walnuts were toasted as well for the crunch. Dessicated coconut was added for that grainy texture but there was not much flavour though. Will definitely try the grated Hawaiian type next time. A tablespoon of vanilla extract to give it a nice flavour. The rest of the ingredients were referred to FBB's recipe. As for the topping, the initial plan was to do a proper layer of cream cheese/icing sugar/butter/vanilla blend but since I was running out of time, I resorted to a simple cup of cream cheese spread instead. Personally, I thought it was good enough and more affordable (RM2 lesser than a 250 grams block of cream cheese).

The result was pretty ok, I thought. I like the contrasting moist cake/crunchy nuts combination. Lots of room for improvement though. For example, I will need to add more bananas for the exotic scent. The cake could have been fluffier too. Perhaps a blend of brown and castor sugar will give a more interesting taste. Oooh, how about some kahlua in the cake? The possibilities are endless but I just have to find the time to bake. Meanwhile, there's always the perfect hummingbird cake from The Daily Grind when craving calls. Will blog about that wonderful piece of cake soon!

Click here for FBB's mockingbird cake recipe.

Like what you see? Then join the FatBoyBakes Fan Club by clicking here.

Click here for The Daily Grind's website.

OHHHHH! Before I forget, the whole fire birdie saga was fictitious (obviously). The story was made up to relate the on-going tag (where one has to start a post with the opening line decided by the tagger) to my latest baking experience. I was tagged by TheNomadGourmand (the song and first line was chosen by her) and I will now tag Joe of Lotsofcravings. Joe, you have to begin your next post with:

"They have been contained for two weeks. But the durians managed to escape from Sungai Buloh with the help of the rambutans. It all started..."

Have fun!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Yoshimaru Ramen Bar

It was early autumn of 2003 when my colleague brought me to a ramen shop in Osaka. He told me that the shop was part of a famous chain which originated from Hakata, Fukuoka. The high influx of patrons was overwhelming and it took us about 15 minutes to secure a few adjacent seats at the large, lacquered communal table which looked rather synthetic. If it was made of timber, the tree must have been really old, judging from the number of annual rings accumulated on the truncated surface. On it were sets of condiments to go with the ramen like pickled ginger and sesame seeds.

Definitely love at first taste, that bowl of tonkotsu ramen. The milky white broth, which was boiled for hours (causing the pork bones, fat and collagen to literally melt), was rich and wonderfully flavoursome. Garnished with simple yet aromatic ingredients like scallion and sesame seeds/oil, it was completeness at its best. For a little contrast, takana or pickled mustard greens was added. Some fat cuts of char siew complemented the rich broth really well.

Since then, I have not found a credible competition. Miharu at Gallery Hotel was a local favourite of mine as the soup was dense and had a really nice fried garlic flavour. But that itself was a miso-tonkotsu hybrid, not the authentic Hakata version. The rest were simply exaggerated with a high level of salt and/or MSG.

Yoshimaru is not the name of that memorable ramen shop in Osaka but apparently, another famous ramen chain from Japan. We’ve been showered with imported ramen chains in this part of the world recently. And that’s good news, of course.

The word bar itself suggests a more contemporary approach towards ramen appreciation but to the hardcore ramen fans, the only thing that matters is the taste. So, bring on the signature dish already!

I had the Moridakusan Ramen which was basically topped with almost every ingredient that Yoshimaru offers, including soft boiled egg, cloud ear mushroom or kikurage, mentaiko, takana, nori sheets and char siew. The broth was tad mild in taste but very satisfying, nevertheless. Oh, and not much MSG too. I would have called this Kiasu Ramen instead because there were just too many toppings and some I deemed, were rather unnecessary. The mentaiko, for example. Its fresh, briny taste didn't help in accentuating the overall taste of the broth. In fact, the lump of red eggs got tragically drowned in it instead. And I never found nori sheets any helpful in a bowl of ramen, to be honest. The ramen was cooked just right and rather smooth, so that was good.

While the genial Mentaiko Mayo Prawn Burger was delicious despite the smaller-than-my-fist size, I thought the gyoza could do better with a more generous filling and seasoning. Back to the burger, now this is how mentaiko should be applied. Slightly salty, the cream-dressed roes went really well with the crispy batter and greens.

Check out the menu and be fascinated by the attractive presentation and variety of ramen and mini burgers. That itself will guarantee a subsequent visit. Let's not forget the tonkotsu ramen (sans all the irrelevant toppings) as well because it's simply good and that's rare in this part of town, I think.

As we slurped the ramen loudly in that tiny ramen shop in Osaka, I was told that besides Hakata and its infamous tonkotsu ramen, the Fukuoka prefecture is also famous for its musical talents. Like Ayumi Hamasaki. That got us going on and on about J-Pop and personal favourites. After finishing the last drop of that orgasmic potion, we helped ourselves to another pint of Asahi before calling it a night.

I've lost contact with that colleague of mine since I changed my job. And most unfortunately, I've also lost the name of that ramen shop that perhaps will always remain as my favourite tonkotsu ramen of all time. One of the biggest mistakes I've ever made in my life, for sure!

Yoshimaru Ramen Bar
31 Lorong Liput
Holland Village
Singapore 277742
Tel: (+65) 6463 3132

Check out other reviews on Yoshimaru:
Liquid Shadow
Southernoise Gluttony
The Travelling HungryBoy