Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Craypot Claze

This container of complex chemical bonds is a sentimental object. Its slow, gradual dissipation of heat to provide warmth in food is a technical feature unachievable by both metal and plastic. Especially the unglazed type, when kept improperly scrapped (hygienic eaters may disagree), it provides a nice taste for the next cooking.

And these are just some of the reasons why we love our claypots. In Chinese eateries, a suggestion of a claypot dish is almost subconsciously mandatory. Claypot tofu, claypot curry, claypot rice, claypot everything. Even abalone tastes better when cooked in claypots.

It's that hearty, warm spoonful of gravy/rice or the explosion of flavours in the soup from the long hours of simmer that makes it so special. Yes, hexamine fuel tablets ensure that the steamed fish comes steamy but the sauce may burn after some time. Solid fuels are rarely heard of, in the case of claypots.

While people of a more pragmatic mindset choose to reflect on the achievements and ways of improving themselves, a current personal reflection has drawn me into realizing that I've been eating quite a number of claypot dishes in the past few months. Adding to the list are Kok Sen's homemade yong tau foo, 2nd Kitchen's garoupa photophores (very Avatar-sounding, right?), watercress with pork ribs soup from Yummy Kitchen and the really oily braised pork belly from Tong Chiang. Let's not forget the seasonal favourite of claypot rice with assorted waxed meat during the lunar new year celebration.

It's perfectly alright to apply claypots for aesthetic purposes but to deliberately state that it's cooked in it as well is to commit a culinary fraud. And it's as common as piracy these days, I'm afraid. A hot dish in a cold claypot sounds wrong, doesn't it?

Yong tau foo at Kok Sen Coffee Shop

Tonkotsu-like, garoupa's photophores soup at 2nd kitchen

Watercress soup with pork ribs at Yummy Claypot

Claypot rice at Yummy Claypot

Claypot rice at Tong Chiang

Very oily and blinding braised pork belly with preserved vegetable at Tong Chiang

On another note, the braised pork (kau yuk or kou rou) bee hoon at Yummy Claypot, though lean, is quite delicious.

Kok Sen Coffee Shop
30A Keong Saik Road
Singapore 089137

2nd Kitchen
592 Balestier Rd
Singapore 718813
Tel: (+65) 6254 3676

Yummy Claypot
340 Joo Chiat Road,
Singapore, 427592
Tel: (+65) 63457345

Tong Chiang
Junction of Serangoon Road & Lavender Street
Tel: (+65) 6296 4456/6296 4228

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rice Cafe

I do...

... enjoy moving about with my camera in weddings. Besides seizing the chance to attempt wedding photography, it also saves me from falling into the long, winding conversations with, well, mostly relatives who are concerned about everyone’s future. It doesn’t get any easier when they suffer from partial hearing impairment due to old age. Photography is also a good reason to avoid being dragged into the brotherhood and be forced to eat some s=_= by the merciless bridesmaids (the married ones, especially) to gain entry into the bride's house. But in the end, it’s all good fun, of course. And history has proven that many single men and women had found their life partners here, during the bargains. Sweet.

Rushing into the house with 8 packs of ice (for the drinks) in hand, I was already late for my cousin’s wedding. Damn, there goes my chance of meeting a prospective wife. Consolation was the delicious 3 tier orange buttercake made by a cousin-in-law and the lovely lunch that included a whole roast lamb.

I’m not sure how badly tortured was my newly-wedded cousin by the bridesmaids, but being the smart engineer that he is, I’m sure he managed to impress.

It was the perfect reason to visit Rice Cafe, as the wedding was held just a few blocks away. The news of a potent bowl of assam laksa had sent alarm across the causeway but due to weekend commitments, I was not able to return for it. Until the wedding... Topping the good food was of course, the company of dear friends.

That redolence of chopped torch ginger (bunga kantan), combined with the sourness of tamarind, fermented prawn paste and crunchy, sliced onions had never failed to whip up my appetite. It's that very scent that makes me want to loiter around the gardening section at Mid Valley's Jusco, where the nearby stall does offer quite a tasty adaptation. I'm not sure if it's still around though. Back to Rice's, the taste bordered the sweeter side, thanks to the pineapple. Really, it's a matter of preference and although I incline towards the savoury type of assam laksa broth, I still applaud Rice's take as it was thick and dense. Not forgetting the generous chunks of mackerel too.

What's Nyonya fried rice? I have no idea but it sure was one happy, tasty dish when tossed with shallots, omelette, cucumber and well-marinated minced meat. A good addition to the rice would be the fried chicken with salted egg yolk. It reminded me of salted egg yolk crab with the prevalent powdery yolk and curry leaves. And because the chicken was crispy, it's almost addictive. Another dish that was crispy as well was the Indonesian fried chicken. The distinction came in form of the addition of fried, crushed lemongrass (and perhaps ginger) that gave an interesting texture and taste.

Apart from the wedding, the day also signified my first taste of FatBoyBakes' legendary scrap cake. It was a dream come true! All the while, I could only salivate reading tweets and posts by the KL bloggers describing how tantalizing the scrap cakes were. Scrap du jour was red velvet with cream cheese coating. A mildly sweet and moist cake (with no artificial colouring) contrasted with a slightly tangy, cheesy cream. Beautiful.

Rice Cafe
98, Lorong Maarof
Bangsar Park
59000 Kuala Lumpur

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adam Road Food Centre


The temperature is cooling. It’s perfectly 13oC in here. Kings of Convenience’s Mrs. Cold is playing in the background. In my hand, a chilled bottle of Sapporo Black Label. The view from here is beautiful – snowcapped mountains and a misty, turquoise lake...

A pair of elderly women, followed by a man in his 50s shared my table at the food centre. Next to me was a group of French, digging into some fiery red mutton curry, mee goreng and rojak. In between family gossips, newspapers and the hot-looking dishes, they all turned my way, perhaps disturbed by my appearance. I guess they’d never seen a person drenched in sweat drinking a bowl of mutton soup before. It was a blazing hot afternoon and the oscillating wall mounted fans  did absolutely nothing for me. The cool fantasy I created didn’t help much either and before long, I’d used up the last of my very few sheets of tissue hidden in the forgotten compartment of my work/study bag since 2008.

But it was really good, this bowl of mutton soup! Most that I’ve tried were defected by one thing or another. Usually, it’s the tastelessness of the soup that annoys me the most. I liked the pronounced, appropriate blend of spices and when combined with a slight sweetness (and gaminess) from parts of the goat, was appetizing. The generous use of chilli and pepper increased my perspiration rate by ~100% but I enjoyed the heat a lot. Toppings like fried shallots and chopped coriander gave extra flavours. In fact, I’d say that a bowl of sup kambing is almost incomplete without them. Worth mentioning as well were the tender, scissors-cut pieces of mutton, added into the bowl just before the pouring of the soup. Other parts offered include the tongue, brain, ribs and leg.

I took notice of the long queues at the nasi lemak stalls across Bahrakath.



At 9.30 pm, the rather small food centre felt cosy, unlike the claustrophobia-inducing lunchtime. The queues at the nasi lemak stalls had dwindled to a scatter of few customers. I came for the complete set called the Royal Rumble that includes all the side dishes available such as otak-otak, fried chicken wing, fish and egg. Except for the wing, the rest of the sides were sold out for the day. No regrets, really. And if I were to return, I might just order the same thing and request for more of the wonderful sambal. I belong to the cult that worships the thick, slightly tangy sambal and Selera Rasa’s interpretation, though not as tangy or savoury as I would have liked it, was still way better than many. It was not runny too - another plus. A tinge of enjoyable sweetness was provided by the minced shallots. The use of basmati rice, to me, was more of a novelty than being essential. Given the reasonable prices and good food, it's no wonder that the stall is still doing well after all these years.

I had decided to visit this food centre only at night, around 10 pm to be precise. This is when I get my nasi lemak and sambal without having to wait in line, just as they prepare to close for the day. As far as the sup kambing is concerned, the cooling night breeze should fairly prevent me from transforming into that scary sweatman. It gets uglier if I forget to shave.


Note: The weather has been crazy since the lunar new year. Rain pours as frequent as my toilet visits and when not, the scorching heat can be conveniently used to fry crunchy lard cubes for Hokkien mee. On several occasions, as I was stuck in the bus or train with the air conditioning system on full blast and a view of the unpredictable rain, I get warmed up by reminding myself of the delicious, spicy food I had in recent memory. Hence this post.

Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak (Stall No. 2)
Bahrakath Mutton Soup King  (Stall No. 10)
2 Adam Road
Adam Road Food Centre
Singapore 289876

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sim Hap Ke and U-Soya

The night started off well with a lecture that discussed DNAs, stem cells, asexual plants, cloning and the legalities that come with it. I call it a retro night of secondary school biology. In the Q&A session, I began to drown in the pool of questions, obviously posed by those from the pharmaceutical industry and some science fiction fans. The bombastic terminologies used were suffocating, to an engineer like me at least. I reached for a float, in form of my iPhone, which has now been installed with a Flickr application. And that’s how I survived the night – by mentally salivating over photographs of food.

Using the application, I discovered some untagged photos of mine, including those taken at Sim Hap Ke(e). How could I forget? It was afterall, a rather significant meal.

Salt-baked clams

Some issues remain unresolved and are still debated during our gatherings. After all these years, some of us from the school in the village still can’t decide if we liked the CBN or BBGS girls of class 199X more. It’s like choosing between a Canon and Nikon DSLR, in my opinion. I shall leave it at that. Rich in sarcasm were our words and we enjoyed every bit of it very much. Acerbic as the words may be, they were actually comforting.

Chicken in a bucket

Although we originated from the hood way far from here, Cheras seems to be an obvious meeting point since some have moved to as far as Seri Kembangan. Given the task of choosing a place to meet and eat (for the assumingly obvious reason), I did some research and a post from Precious Pea led us to Sim Hap Ke(e). Nearing noon, only 1 table was occupied and my good o’ classmates’ doubtful expressions were somehow hilarious. But of course, 22 years of friendship and trust triumphed over a presumably bad, fly-swatting restaurant with ease. As the hour went by, the restaurant started to fill up. We must have failed to note that it was a Sunday.

So 2007 was a dish named deep-fried kailan.

Framed photos of their signature dishes were hung on the wall. Most were new to me and that's exciting. In fact, it was their unusual salt-baked clams that initially got me intrigued as I read Precious Pea's post. It didn't disappoint, as the natural sweetness of the well-cooked clams worked well with the salt. I think it fits easily into the list of favourite tapas in bars, pairing nicely with a glass of white wine. As for the chicken in a bucket, I couldn't catch the logic behind the huge receptacle except being aesthetically pleasing. I'm sure the bucket was not involved in the steaming process. The free-range chicken on the other hand, was tender and came with lots of juice that was savoury enough to go with multiple bowls of rice. Nice. Here's the thing - when steaming free-range chicken at home, include some Chinese angelica and be generous with the salt. It's a simple idea that should guarantee some nice aroma and tasty juice for the rice. The pork with 3 flavours was reminiscent of the butter crab with usage of curry leaves, chilli and a buttery sauce. However, the sauce was quite sweet and I'm suspecting that it was mayonnaise. If it was, then we've found a new, good way of using (not abusing) mayonnaise in Chinese restaurants.

Pork in 3 flavours

We were hanging around Leisure Mall after lunch and hopped into a few nearby cafes, just snacking and tokking kok. Besides catching up on each other, it was also an attempt to not return home to face the mundane. We were 13 again.

One of the more interesting places was U-Soya, where it’s all about their signature tau foo fah (or tau hui). And it was good, given the smooth and rather refined scoops of beancurd. My favourite has got to be the interesting Shanghai Salty Tau Foo Fah. Topped with crunchy dried shrimps, chillies and onion/oyster sauce, it almost felt like eating pureed congee. Good stuff. Here’s a suggestion to U-Soya - more savoury flavours, please! Salted egg perhaps? Or minced pork with shitake mushroom? Preserved vegetable with pork? Mental salivation continues.

The hours went on effortlessly and we were more than willing to spend the night with a blockbuster, karaoke, some bowling and Mamak food. But of course, the mandatory weekend family dinners await, just like the old days. Skip the boring dinner? No way. We’re good kids, you see.

Sim Hap Ke
26, Jalan Waras 1
Taman Connaught
56000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (+60) 12 3235688 / (+60) 12 319 3381

39, Jalan Manis 3
Taman Segar
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: (+60) 12 408 6604

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Founder Rou Gu Cha Cafeteria

The grandma of a friend once mistakenly replaced a cup of water with syrup and we had a rather sweet mutton curry (with raisins) on Christmas day. Surprisingly, it turned out...well, strangely delicious. Many wonderful things were accidentally discovered, weren't they? As I took my first sip of the Teochew-style broth, I began to wonder if the classic peppery taste started with an accidental case of too much white peppercorn. Whatever sparked the idea, it had since garnered a legion of fans and at the preponderating Founder, the constant queue outside the restaurant is almost a landmark along Balestier Road.

From the huge collection of photographs of famous patrons (some faded, literally or not) to the business card showing a smiling, prosperous-looking founder, I couldn't help but felt a certain sense of pride surrounding the restaurant. Not that it's bad but if my bowl of pork ribs was extraordinary, I would have gladly joined in the Founder parade. We forgot about the prime pork ribs and had the normal, chunkier cuts instead. Still packed with heat from the peppercorns and contrastingly light taste of broth, I thought the meat could have been tenderer. One thing's for sure - we never ran out of broth as a diligent uncle kept on refilling our bowls. Interestingly, it was the pork trotter, with its flaking goodness in a flavoursome braise that got us excited instead.

Despite the rush, a confused taxi driver (with no change and a malfunctioning receipt printer), a bowl of grass jelly beancurd that was supposedly presented in a yin yang design and of course, some bak kut teh that was just okay, it was certainly good catching up with friends. This is one of our many Balestier Road stories.

Founder Rou Gu Cha Cafeteria
347, Balestier Road
Singapore 329777

Rochor Beancurd House
432 Balestier Road

Monday, March 15, 2010


The night before, my friend lured me into a tarot session. In between cards of skeletons and burning towers and gold coins, I was told that there is more than one zodiac sign to a person. The result of planetary rulership in astrology, they said. I'm sure we are quite aware of our Sun sign, but how much do we really know about our Moon sign, which I was told, reflects our personality rather than individuality. My friend further explained that individuality is what one wants to portray while personality equates to one's true characteristics. And it's only natural that the Sun and Moon signs differ from one another.

At one time, there were 4 of us at Giovino but the fact was, we were in company of another 4 presences, only visible to the gifted ones. M. Night Shyamalan should make a movie out of this. Evil spirits they were not, for the loud sounds of the drum and cymbals from the lion dance that took place across the road didn't drive them away. As I was informed, they are the real us, trapped in a physical being. Sun and Moon!

I had my inner drawn that night. Pretty awesome. Thanks to the gifted one whose 10 minutes ball pen creation looked like a Francesco Clemente on charcoal.

Greek Ntolmades (rolled vine leaf with rice). An appetising mild taste of chlorophyll only works on certain dishes and this is one of them. Though good, lacked a sourish touch.

Spanacopita (baked sauteed spinach in filo pastry). Flavourful filling of chopped spinach but the filo could have been crispier.

Kreatopia (baked minced meat in filo pastry). Again, the meat was well-seasoned and could have been eaten with almost anything. The pastry was rather moist than dry.

Greek Moussaka (baked layers of eggplant, lamb bolognaise, potatoes and béchamel). A brilliant dish that included a surprise ingredient of potato slices. Layers of distinctive flavours, from slightly sweet eggplants to sourish bolognaise, make this dish a winner.

Greek Bifteki (300 grammes of beef patties sealed with Emmenthal and bacon). Deception at its best - a steak-like slab (complete with criss-cross grill marks) that wasn't really a steak but had beef. Saltiness was elevated when combined with cheese and bacon. It also had a good flaky texture, similar to crab cakes.

More drinks before nasi campur and maggi goreng.

32, Jalan Changkat Bukit Bintang
50200 Kuala Lumpur,
Tel: (+603) 21411131

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

jewels artisan chocolate

Has my Sunday lunch turned awry pastel?

Salmon soup with thick bee hoon at 313 Somerset's Food Repulic.

With names like Sugarland and the Sugarcubes, it's easy to assume that these are just pretty little girlbands. Instead, we get raw, wild sounds of lead singers Jennifer Nettles and Bjork respectively, which pretty much sum up what I think of the macarons at jewels - with an edge of saltiness to the not-overly-sweet meringue and fillings, unlike the many I tried before. Only 5 types are available - Passion Fruit filled with passion fruit conserve & almond cream, Green Tea filled with green tea & dark chocolate crunchy pearl, Raspberry filled with raspberry conserve & rose almond cream, Butterfly Pea Bloom filled with kaya & pandan almond cream and Black Palm Island Salt filled with salted egg & almond cream topped with black palm island salt.

What attracted me was definitely the one with the salted egg filling. Like my comment on Ice's post, it's time that we have more salted egg-based desserts. And this works perfectly well for macarons, I feel. It was easy to get excited over a dessert with an oriental element that was interestingly confusing at the first bite. It reminded me of a salted egg custard flowing bun sans the steam, of course. Unlike the contrasting sweet/salty taste of the Black Palm Island Salt, the one with kaya and pandan was more of a case of complementing flavours. Perhaps there is already a similar design but it's still ingenious, having to infuse the rich flavours of coconut and pandan into the almond paste. In general, the fillings were moister and more generous, giving the macarons an oozing effect that's visually beautiful. The green tea macaron could have used a bitterer green tea powder instead, for a stronger taste, I feel.

So, after all the macaron talks, what does jewels actually sell? Chocolates. :)

jewels artisan chocolate
Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road
Tel: (+65) 6509 8998

Monday, March 8, 2010


The way I see it, Japanese cuisine has now become as common and acceptable as yong tau foo. Except for being more expensive, it's easy to understand the logic behind the acceptance. There's something for everyone - grilled, raw, fried.....they've covered it all. Be it authentic or not, there is at least one Japanese restaurant in almost every shopping mall but sadly, none serving Chettinad banana leaf rice.

Having said that, I do like Japanese food, especially when it reminds me of the good times in Japan. Sometimes, it's not about the creativity but more importantly, how similar the taste is to the real thing. I'm still in search of Japanese curry with a dense taste of chocolate (yes, it's quite common there) that I tried at the Matsuyama train station.

Last Christmas, I found a good reason to lunch at Kirishima, after noticing it at a birthday lunch from the neighbouring Delicious. A glance at the huge menu revealed rather reasonable prices (think Yuzu) and interestingly, there was almost nothing noticeably fusion.

Inaniwa udon is sort of like my Harajuku kway teow (whatever that means...I just felt compelled to include the line) and when permissible, a must-order. What's nice about Kirishima's take was the inclusion of the optional yuzu peels to the cold soy sauce dip - an exemplary attempt. It certainly added a refreshing taste but obviously, it should be done before applying the wasabi, which will instantly kill whatever good taste there is in the dip.

There must be a reason why unagi don is such a hit in Japan and some rice-loving countries. I think it's the combination of the richness of unagi, the sweet soy sauce and glutinous texture of Japanese rice. In general, eels are cooked kabayaki style, with constant glazing of the sticky, sweet soy sauce. So, I thought it would be fun to try the steamed version instead. Hence, the choice of the Unagi Seiro Mushi. When not grilled, it lacked the charred flavour but was compensated with the unmasking of the more natural, sweet taste of unagi. What could have been better was the offering of a larger slab of the eel.

This restaurant is located in the city centre yet somehow feels like a secret hideout that has yet to be discovered. That day, while the town was quietly celebrating Christmas, Kirishima was filled with loud laughters, mostly coming from a table of friends celebrating Christmas with good food and company. It was a joyful brunch indeed.

Kirishima Japanese Restaurant
Lot 1.2. 1st Floor
Dua Annexe
211 Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (+603) 2162 8127