Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 34): Oh My Jumping God!

The pine tree witnessed it all. From the top, it was able to see the activities that took place on both sides of wall. It knew that the Gods would be angry for the holy men could not resist the luring temptation. The tree was helpless and only wished that when lighting strikes, it would hit the neighbouring tree instead.

Two days earlier, the maiden was already hard at work; cutting, sun-drying and frying the pieces of fish maw. When her father announced that a matchmaking session was going to be held in their humble abode, she was sexcited beyond belief. The man was the youngest son of a farmer who lived in the mountain of Hern Bai, which was perpetually snowcapped.

She was definitely not the fairest of them all and her hands were coarse. But these were the same hands that had mesmerized guests from all over the province with dishes that could only be described as exquisite. The maiden was a miserable soul, one who was always waiting for her knight in shining armour to save her from the depressing state of solitude. Cooking saved her life for it was the only distraction she had. Come dawn, she would start to prepare the meals for the day. The evenings always ended with her deciding the menu for the next day.

The plan was to please her potential partner with a stew. One that was full of exotic ingredients like dried scallops, fish maw, chicken feet, abalone, pork ribs, fresh shitake mushrooms and sea cucumber. She sang as she cooked, for she was happy. She imagined how her prince charming would look like and fantasized about the amazing things that they would discover together.

Her voice transcended to the other side of the wall but did not catch the attention of the hardworking monks for it resembled neither Norah Jones nor A-Mei.

The monastery next to the house was known for having the strictest of rules when it came to acceptance of disciples. The candidates had to endure multiple rounds of rigorous physical tests and written examinations before they were allowed to meet the grandmaster whom would then decide on the admission.

They would begin their day meditating, followed by hours of martial arts training which had been incorporated with daily chores like chopping trunks for fuel and transporting water. Qi-style, of course. Come evening, they would meditate again before calling it a day. In between, there were vegetarian meals. And of course, being a monastery (or any sanctuary for that matter), talks and acts of indulgences were forbidden.

But soon, their faith would be tested.

Many would fall.

As the maiden put the finishing touches to the stew, the rich and briny scent of the combination of dried seafood had already penetrated through the walls of her house. She was most satisfied with the result and began fantasizing about her future husband again.

She kept stirring and the aroma travelled further.

And further.

Until it reached the monastery.

As if climaxing, the monks stoned for a good second.

What is this strange, almost enlightening scent?

Moments went by and the aroma had now infused into their bloodstream. Tranced, they began searching for the source of that smell of happiness. It did not take long before they discovered that it actually came from the other side of the wall. Yes, the same place that housed that terrible voice!

The days of martial arts training paid off. With a deep breath to absorb in the surrounding qi, they were able to jump over the wall with just one leap.

Suddenly, it began to rain heavily.

Then, lighting struck.

The huge pine tree fell on the maiden’s house.



This stew is called Buddha Jumps Over The Wall or 佛跳墙. The above fiction is an exaggerated, self-indulging depiction of how the name of the dish was derived. Personally, I thought the more accurate name should be Monks Jump Over The Wall as Lord Buddha himself is not in anyway related to this story.

For a more accurate description, click here.

The somehow dry stew in the photos was prepared by my momma a few weeks back. The ingredients in the cabinet were calling out our names since the Chinese New Year period but we were too busy to attempt this sinful dish. She opted for the dry version as the thick, (naturally) gelatinous gravy would complement the white rice well.

The result, delicious!

Friday, March 27, 2009


Towards the end of the night, we were a mix between infused and confused. In between, there was a year's supply of coconut milk swimming in our stomachs.

Having visited their informative website that came with an attractive ala carte buffet menu, the next best thing to do was to make a reservation.

We did what we had to do. With reference to the food and beverage chapter in the kiasuism survival guide, we starved the whole day in preparation for a fusion feast later that night.

On the buffet table, there was a spread of appetizers like salads, pizzas, soups and breads. But we came for the ala carte buffet. So, a small piece of everything to share was more than enough.

On average, we had about eight dishes to ourselves, including desserts. Here are some of the more interesting dishes that we have tried that night.

Mini Pork Burger

Nice soft bun.

Chinese Dumpling Gratin

Oriental ravioli stuffed with crunchy vegetables and baked with cheese.

Linguine Laksa-Leaf Pesto

The sauce consisted of coconut cream and chopped laksa leaves.

Laksa Fisherman’s Pie

Basically a runny curry of fish, prawns and vegetables topped with pastry for dipping.

Deep-fried Curry Chicken Wings

A crispy wing decorated with a few pieces of fried curry leaves.

Hainanese Chicken Salad

Rice crisps substituted the usually oily, fluffy rice while the dressing was a combination of soy sauce, sesame oil and perhaps a tinge chilli oil.

Spicy Crab Fusilli

A pasta dish that came with a sweet chilli crab sauce.

Local trifle sans the sponge. Based with cubed fruits and palm sugar syrup. Finished with a thick layer of coconut cream.


The least confusing of them all, a Chinese herbal jelly.

The infusion of local ingredients into western dishes and vice versa was a creative attempt. But the execution should be more refined, perhaps. And the usage of coconut cream should be controlled for it is afterall, much stronger tasting than the usual dairy cream. A dish that tastes like hair cream is unappetizing.

In conjunction with the on-going recession, this fruit is offering ala carte buffets at affordable prices (check out the website for the price list). For me, this was the main attraction. At S$25 for a dinner of unlimited orders (except for the main courses) between Monday until Thursday, it is a steal. After all, this is a hotel cafe hor.

#01-07 The Link Hotel
50 Tiong Bahru Road
Singapore 168733
Tel: (+65) 6227 2271
Website: http://www.persimmon.com.sg/

Check out the rest of the dishes I had here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Zhen Liew Siang

If there is one word to describe the local dai chow scene, it’s drama. Outsiders will find us absurd to have our tables stretched out to the empty parking spaces. If the food is good, we care not if it’s neon, freon or streetlights that guide the goodies into our ever hungry mouths. And we have our ways of managing the tropical weather. From the al fresco setting (parking spaces), the most alert of diners will then quickly help themselves to the nearest shed (mostly walkways, blocking the entrance to the closed shops/banks/staircases) once the first drops of rain are felt. Helping themselves here applies to the adults carrying their own tables, chairs, utensils and dishes while the children cheer them on. The rest of the diners join in the action. It must have looked like the changing of a scene in the Olympics opening (or closing) ceremony, if viewed from the sky.

And there are those rivalry names of the restaurants. Each claiming to be the best, the most authentic or the founder of a local signature dish. There are many theories to this interesting phenomenon. Most of them circle around family feuds. And of course, there are cases of gambling debts and adulteries. So, if this is not drama, I don’t know what is.

Deep-fried pork knuckle with a mustard/tomato sauce dressing. Sweet, slightly sour and potent. The dressing suited the flaky meat well. Fear not for the layer of saturated fat beneath the crispy layer of skin. Simply scrap it off using a spoon (yes, it’s that surprisingly easy!) and have yourself a bite of aromatic crunch.

Hairy, have you started working out yet??

The potato leaves came fresh and sweet. I do know of people who need extra fat due to their high level of metabolism. I envy them all the time, even in my sleep. This oily version suits them fine. For the unlucky me, perhaps a blanched version would be better.

Apparently, one of the signature dishes here is the hotplate squid but since the cholesterol level already spiked to a new high with the knuckle, we had the nam yue (red pickled tofu) fried chicken wings instead. Oh come on, I’m sure chicken wings are far healthier than squid. Their meat is afterall, well exercised. Love the significantly mild taste of the nam yue and the crispiness of the batter.

This is the legendary dish that had Sentulians coming back for more. Their claypot fish curry (head or meat, whichever you prefer). Dig into the pot and you will find tender pieces of red snapper and a good mix of vegetables like okra, eggplant and cabbage. Served piping hot, it will have you calling for extra bowls of rice. I don’t remember the gravy being this dilute though. But it was still flavourful nevertheless, thanks to the curry leaves and turmeric.

Here’s how the same dish looked like on a Sunday afternoon, about two weeks earlier. Now is this more acceptable. Rich in coconut cream.

You can tell that this prominent dai chow restaurant will enjoy many more prosperous years to come because the food is good and there’s something for everyone; young or old, (dyed) blondes or brunettes.

And that is good to know for we certainly do not want our dai chow dramas to end with the emerging of the more appropriate and systematic fine (and semi-fine) dines.

Restoran Makanan Laut Zhen Liew Siang
No. 30, Jalan 14/48A
Sentul Raya
Off Jalan Sentul
51000 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: (+603) 40413781
Business hours: 11.00 am – 3.00 pm / 5.30 pm – 11.00 pm

Click here for the map.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 33): Jaipur On My Mind

So, it’s been almost 8 months since we said goodbye. Not much have I heard about you these days. I’m assuming it’s a good thing for if it’s another devastating attack on your beautiful city that I have to come across, God knows how terrible it will make me and the rest of the world feel. No news is good news. Yes, let’s keep it that way.

Things are not going well here though. You see, we’ve gotten into a little trouble of late. Money trouble. And the unfolding of the real life dramas that headline the dailies these days are not making us any richer. Or better.

I think a lot about escapism these days. For awhile, at least.

Call me mad but I wish a black cat will lead me to another world where time stands still so that I can sit back and reprioritize my life before the clock starts ticking again. Sometimes, there are dreams of houses up in the mountains where different types of herbs grow in my garden and I will just wake up to smell them, have delicious meals cooked for me and sleep again until the next day. Oh, I dream of a pork noodle stall too, complete with black vinegar from Zhe Jiang.

On one of those dreamy days, I found myself in the library, looking at titles most familiar to me. The blue Lonely Planets and the compact (but heavy) DKs. Across the rows of global escapisms, I saw a tag that said Indian Food Recipes.

And that’s when I remembered you. You were a true escape. Not of those silly, dreamy Piscean shits. You were real. Your history, culture and people astounded me. Your food, oh my God, your food can charm even the most venomous of foodies. Just throw them your majestic Rajasthani thali and watch them go weak.

I took a few glossy ones, sat at a corner and decided that this was one of the best. Atul Kochhar’s Indian Essence.

The picture of the Laal Maas reminded me of the redness in your cooking. Red, fiery red. And that was one of the reasons why I loved it so much. I scrapped the initial idea of attempting a roganjosh and went ahead to adapt Mr. Kochhar’s Laal Maas recipe instead. Cooking’s more fun when it comes with reminiscence of the good times (and good food).

Of course, it was nowhere near the real thing but the spirit of the fellowship of the spices was very well contained. Imagine a combination of turmeric, dried chili flakes, ground coriander, cardamom, toasted cumin and garam masala raveled in the wonder of yoghurt.

I need to work on making the meat tenderer. And to remind myself to be sensible on the chili flakes as I am afterall, not Rajasthani.

In the morning after, sans the smell of herbs in my garden up in the mountains, I reheated the Laal Maas and made myself a pasta dish with more chopped coriander for a ting of freshness.

Jaipur, I hear you sniggering at this feeble attempt of your infamous Laal Maas and that you rather have me trying a Chettinad dish which I am more familiar with. But thank you for I know you mean well and that you just want me to not forget you and your wonderful people. And food.

You can be sure of that, my friend.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 32): A MasterBaker

You know he's for real when he serves only pure cream with his scones, thinks that a lemon chiffon cake is pointless, focuses on the taste of his bakes above everything else and gives practical recipes for free.

His creations are unpretentious.

Full of flavours.


And definitely value-for-money.

Oh, here's the Hairy Berry's Tart.

"May your wild tart always be overflowing with thick sweet cream", he said.

Awwwww.....Thanks so much, FBB! It was absolutely lip-smacking!

"...but ahem, I am into health food these days, so no cream. Okay, okay, that's rubbish, I forgot to stock up."

Yes, solid humour plus excellent bakes. That's FatBoyBakes for you.

And that's why I am a fan. Come, join in the fun here!

The logo was created by the super creative A Lil' Fat Monkey.

Check out FatBoyBakes' creations here.
And his food reviews here.

By the way, I stole the Hairy Berry Tart photo from FBB. I hope it's ok!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Brotzeit @ VivoCity

The initial plan to embarrass me with a candlelit cake AND a birthday song sung by the staff of Brotzeit did not materialize fully. The cake was there, but the song did not come with it. I guess something went wrong in the planning and thank gawd for that! The cake, or the Weissbier Tiramisu (S$10.50) was exceptional.

I got a little suspicious when BeerGirl (aka BG aka Tasmanian Girl aka Xiu Long Bao) did not order dessert. How could she when there were a few interesting signature desserts on the menu?

Not rum or kahlua, the tiramsu was actually infused with reduced Paulaner! The creamy froth that topped it went very well with the soft sponges and chocolate. Lighter than most and sufficiently soaked in beer, it has got to be one of the better desserts I have had in restaurants recently.

BG loves exquisite beer, which is cool. So, I guess Brotzeit was a good idea from her since she was able to drown herself in the endless list of beers while I chomped (most of) the meat. I must admit that this is not a good place for photography as it gets really dark after sunset but hey, we are here to eat and to get drunk. If al fresco is your thing, reserve the table where you actually face the sea for an additional conversation piece.

So, happy hour it was and BG had the Hefe-Weissbier Paulaner (Halbe 0.5L - S$11.90), described as a typical beer from Munich; top fermented, unfiltered, made with wheat malt, naturally cloudy with vitamins and hints of banana. Oh, the number one Weissbier in Germany as well.

I like my beer dark and dense, like Portishead’s Sour Times. Looking at the menu, I guess the Original Munich Dunkel Paulaner (Halbe 0.5L - S$12.50), a dark lager beer from Munich which was made from caramel malts suited me best. It certainly did not disappoint with its rich malt taste.

The Brotzeitflade Bayern (S$18.50) must have been the German version of a pizza. I’m reading off the menu, “thin crust fladenbrot with tomatoes, emmenthaler cheese, black forest ham, mild green peppers, cocktail onions and mushrooms”. Certainly a multitude of toppings there, I must say. The texture of the crust was harder and tougher than any of them Italian savoury pancakes but I guess in general, after downing a few pints, everything should go soft in the mouth. The yellow mustard was a contrastingly delicious complement.

At S$36.00, the oven roasted crispy pork knuckle with sauerkraut and potato salad was quite a deal as it could easily feed four or two very hungry white-collar workers like us. Loved the moist, tender meat and the cauliflower-looking skin, roasted to crispy perfection. Slightly bland but then again, its German and not Chinese siew yoke.

When it comes to German food outings, I try to not miss the sausages. Since the birthday berry was allowed to choose whatever he wanted (from the menu), the thick-skinned him went for the kill and ordered the Würstelplatte (S$32.50), a platter of assorted sausages including spicy chicken, lamb, mini pork cheese, weisswurst and garlic. Each distinctively flavoursome yet shared the same commendable softly firm texture. It came with more sauerkraut (which I secretly wished it could be substituted with a bowl of rice) and mustard. We left the plate almost squeakily clean, save for some inches which we could really swallow no more.

Thank you BG for the beery porky dinner which was fantastic!

I heard she came again, the following week.


Brotzeit German Bier Bar & Restaurant
VivoCity, 1 HarbourFront Walk,
Singapore 098585
Tel: (65) 6272 8815

Read BG’s take here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 31): Reunion

Clicking on the POST button for my previous post, I knew I was already late for Reunion. 15 minutes to be exact. I should have known that there was another Starbucks in Bangsar Village, which was just a few doors away from Reunion.

From far, I saw Fatboybakes talking to Bald Eagle. As I stepped off the escalator, I could see them no more, in front of the restaurant. It was as if the mirror-finished façade of Reunion has warped them into another dimension somehow.

The main entrance led to two large rooms, each directly opposite one another. Since the staffs were busy in the usual Chinese restaurant manner, I just took a guess and turned into the darker room without asking for assistance.

No sign of the people I know.

When I finally found them (in another smaller space hidden inside the darker room), I was surprised to see Lyrical Lemongrass already well seated next to Bald Eagle while sipping her cup of Chinese tea. I thought she would be late as she had to work that Saturday. Sushi was already there as well, after returning from a European fantasy. And from there onwards, it was all about jokes, magazines and fun. Then came Snow White, followed by le CoupleToy and lastly, the Deafly Gorgeous One.

Since there was only one spotlight that made photography slightly easier that day (the lighting in this part of the world was really poor or romantic for some of us), we snapped away blindly, hoping that we would be able to get at least one steady shot. For portraits, we had no choice but to use flash.

And we feasted.

The ever-thoughtful Fatboybakes brought a cheesecake from Shangri-La for the birthday boy but that ungrateful arse accidentally blew off the candle with his nostrils before pictures could be taken.

We would have stayed on, just to poke at one another or simply chill, if there were no such things as prior obligations. But the brunch itself was already a reunion of friends that will be cherished for a long time to come. The birthday boy could not thank everyone enough for the wonderful time.

As you can tell, there were no descriptions of food. Not because we were drunk on the woody Japanese whiskey or that the food was bad. It was all about the company of friends that made the brunch so much more meaningful and fun. And to me, that should the focus of this post.

Well, to be fair, the food at Reunion was good, especially the dim sum. In between Her World and I Am Legend, I could still define the subtlety of the yam and char siew puffs. The Vietnamese Roll with century eggs and ginger was very interesting too. Perhaps I should do another brunch here, one day.

No pictures of friends???

Yes. That’s because their faces are already saved in my mind. It just goes to show what a wonderful and unforgettable group of friends this is.

Same goes for the Hokkien Mee we had too!

Lot 2F-17/18
Level 2, Bangsar Village II
2, Jalan Telawi Satu
Bangsar Baru
Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (+603) 2287 3770


There was a K-session at night as well but let's save that for another post.