Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Silver Moon Cake by TWG Tea Salon & Boutique

The story of how I chanced upon TWG's mooncakes was somehow similar to the plot of a telemovie I watched over the weekend, Big Time In Little Street. It was about some friends hunting for long lost family treasure hidden under a vacant shop. Instead of trespassing, they decided to rent the adjacent shop to sell nasi lemak during the day and gradually tunnelled their way to the treasure at night. The nasi lemak business was poor, much to the disappointment of the wife of the lead character, whom was an aspiring cook and oblivious to the treasure hunt. A writer from Today (yes, the free tabloid that get us queueing every morning) paid a visit and gave good review. The next day saw a long line of customers waiting to try the nasi lemak that reminded the writer of her grandmother's delicious recipe. Business grew and...

Back to TWG, well, I'm not sure if it was an advertorial but the pictures of the black and white Silver Moon Cakes got me intrigued as I flipped through the weekend edition of Today. I must admit that I'm quite jaded by all these glamourized mooncakes over the pass few years and decided that I'd stick to the plain, cheap ones. In fact, I can survive mid-autumn festival without them. Not in the case of rice dumplings though. But somehow, the photo plus the description of the unusual ingredients used resuscitated a breath of enthusiasm towards mooncake in me.

Unlike the movie, I didn't need to beat the crowd to it. Probably because the price was relatively higher and that people were more interested in other fancier flavours. The plan was just to get a piece or two, as a certain website did mention that they do sell the mooncakes individually and at a cheaper price too. Well, neither was true but heck, given all the trouble I took to speed from the Ion Orchard branch (I didn't realise that it is still under construction) to the Takashimaya booth and rushed to catch a bus back to KL, I'd better GET myself some regardless of the price. And I did, a set of 4 which cost me S$48. Oh, they came with forks, knife and a very cool box.

The black, snow-skinned type was called Illumination where the filling consisted of praline custard cream while the traditional salted egg yolk was replaced with a shell of white chocolate encapsulating orange marmalade infused with 1837 Black Tea. The combination of flavours was smart and exquisite. It did look quite unpleasing when left exposed in room temperature, even for a while, but I guess the smooth praline cream made up for that sloppiness.

On the other hand, the white, known as Pure, was filled with a chocolate mousse and centered with white chocolate crusted tangy blackcurrant marmalade infused with 1837 White Tea. Very much like Illumination, if you ask me. Both gave a refined texture, be it the skin or the filling. So, in choosing the black or white, I guess it all boils down to the choice of marmalade.

Although I'll be nowhere near durians, I thought it was quite impossible to give the Jade Mountain a miss. So, I got one for XLB to try. The mooncake made up of green tea leaves, Mountain Cat durian paste and a chestnut heart. Yupe, green tea leaves and durian. How weird is that? XLB said that the taste was definitely interesting but sweetness could've been reduced further.

Still left in my fridge is Bliss (so profound), a traditionally baked mooncake with candied orange and caramelized chestnut filling. I'm keeping it for the mid-autumn celebration this Saturday and hopefully, it'll turn out good.

Except for the skin and the construction, I still can't bring myself to associate TWG's creations with mooncakes. Especially when they are comparatively much sweeter. That's not to say that they are unappreciated, of course. On the other hand, think of them as a good alternative to the run of the mill desserts like tiramisu or creme brulee. It'll be great to savour them at TWG's Tea Salon with a nice cup of hot tea. They recommend the Silver Moon Tea.

TWG Tea Salon & Boutique
Takashimaya Department Store
Basement 2
Ngee Ann City, Orchard Road.
Tel: (+65) 6738 1111

Friday, September 25, 2009


Really, I didn't expect to step into Nanbantei, especially not after dismissing Lyrical Lemongrass who was expressing her utmost joy upon discovering one of the best yakitori restaurants in Kuala Lumpur. I think my exact words were yerrr, what's so great about Japanese satay ar?? Perhaps it was due to my bad experiences with substandard yakitori that I started developing some sort of aversion towards this style of Japanese cooking. Who would've thought that after years of abstaining from yakitori, XLB excitedly suggested a visit to Nanbantei. I was of course, at my most skeptical at first. The turning point must have been the countless raving reviews (Tatler's and my trusted foodie friends' included) I read online and the fact that we've been facing a good food drought for the longest time. Considering my previous stand on yakitori, I'd expected myself to be condemned when I agreed to go. None of that, thankfully. And by the way, reservation is a MUST here, unless you have unlimited hours to burn before, say, catching a midnight show at Cineleisure.

To sum up, I was basically eating the grills AND my own words at the same time. Yes, the food here was quite something. The dishes being just slightly burnt, brought about a nice smoky flavour. I should also mention the excellent marinates and sauces catered to each dish. Take the grilled beef, for example. I just love the well-portioned fat/meat layers and when combined with a sauce that I thought consisted mostly of sweet miso, was gorgeous. The liver was nicely executed. A sweeter, almost teriyaki-like sauce was used to complement its bitter taste. It was optimally cooked too, hence the soft texture. And my first taste of grilled ginkgo with a sprinkling of salt was pretty fun.

We ordered both the Set A (12 sticks with rice, soup, pickles and dessert) and B (sashimi, 8 sticks with rice, soup, pickles and dessert). Speaking of the sashimi, freshness of the ubiquitous trio of hamachi, sake and maguro was commendable. Service was fast and efficient. I guess my only grouse was on the yasai stick, which gave the impression that it was free of charge. In fact, it cost us S$2 for a small cut of cabbage, carrot and zucchini each. Next time, I'll sure refuse this and instead, buy myself another stick of the beef skewer.

Lesson learnt - not all yakitoris are bad. Think Nanbantei.

I'm almost a convert.

Grilled vegetables.

More grilled stuff.

THE beef skewer (right).

THE liver.

Grilled ginkgo.

14, Scotts Road
#05-132 Far East Plaza
Singapore 228213
Tel: (+65) 6733 5666

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kung Fu Smooth Ban Mee @ 紅茶館

No, they are not the masters behind one of the best discoveries this year. But I'm guessing that they are fans of the ban mee as well.

Measuring about 3 X 30 cm, the ribbons of flattened flour dough look as ordinary as any ban mee can get. Take a bite and you'll understand the kung fu (or skill) involved in perfecting the texture of this pappardelle lookalike. Most stalls would've been satisfied with just the machine-finished product. Here, from what I observed, the rolled strips were pinched before blanching. Perhaps it's this technique that somehow relaxes the stress in the compressed dough and makes it extra smooth and soft and tender at the same time. I had the dry version which came with some shitake mushroom, fried anchovies, minced pork and sweet potato leaves; all the flavourful complements there were. The dressing consisted mainly of lard oil which gave a wonderful aroma and lubrication. This may be the turn off factor for many but to me, it's good stuff. Well, once in a while, of course. The chilli paste with lime dip provided an appetizing, sharp contrast. It also came with a bowl of soup with some pork balls.

I can't say the same about the screw pine (pandan lah) leaves wrapped chicken though. Although the portion did justify the rather exorbitant price, it's perhaps best to keep it dainty, like how Thai eateries would. Tastewise, it was commendable.

For one of the best ban mees I've had this year, I have Precious Pea to thank. It was really nice of her to take some time off her busy schedule (as it was just weeks before she moved to Australia) to organize this gathering (there were 14 hungry bloggers that morning!). We've been planning for this crawl for a while but somehow, our schedules just didn't mesh. My bad. And who could've thought that a supposedly simple farewell karaoke session for her would turn into a fantastic food crawl too!

Oh yes, a food crawl. Which means there'll be a sequel!

Kung Fu Smooth Ban Mee @ 紅茶館
28, Jalan Seri Sentosa 9A/133
Taman Sri Sentosa
Batu 6 1/2, Jalan Klang Lama
58000 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: (+6016) 288 3911

We, the hungry bloggers:

Precious Pea
Kusahi Keat

Friday, September 18, 2009

milca - Hokkaido Soft Ice Cream

It has never been brought to my attention, this stall. I believe the nearby, perpetually crowded takoyaki stall of Tsujiki Gindaco has got something to do with it. An introduction by the ice creamanic didn't convince me of its quality. I mean, there are just too many stalls proclaiming their desserts being made with fresh Hokkaido milk. And with low prices to boost, I seriously question the authenticity of it all. She went ahead and bought herself a cup of, in her own words, comfort food. The skeptical me took a bite and well, let's just say that I really liked the mildly sweet, smooth ice cream. Be it Hokkaido or Okinawa or Ipanema, the optimum density must be applauded. I don't think the goma sauce, shiratama dango and azuki beans were necessary. It was good on its own. A quick check on the internet revealed that this imported brand is rather popular in Japan.

milca Hokkaido Soft Ice Cream
B4 (Food Hall)
Ion Orchard
Orchard Road

Click here for Elaine's take on milca.

The long weekend is here again and I'd like to wish my Muslim friends a blessed and joyful Eid ul-Fitr. To the rest, have a good chill. With some comforting ice cream, perhaps?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 50): Kuala Selangor

There’s nothing tranquil about this place. In fact, I don’t think it ever was, since my first visit about 25 years ago. But one thing’s for sure. The roads are now wider and the number of shops multiplied. Cars piled by the road and restaurants seemed to be in full swing. I observed more foreign tourists too. That’s good news.

It was a hot afternoon when we reached the fishing village of Pasir Penampang. Here, it’s all about seafood, mostly dried. The busiest area is always at the junction or concourse as I like to call it, where the two most prominent restaurants are located. Sans proper traffic system, congestion is inevitable and it’s always entertaining for diners at the restaurants to see how drivers untangle themselves.

The few rows of shophouses, where most businesses take place, stretched thinner as we moved away from the restaurants. Some say that it’s along the narrower lanes that better bargains can be found. I left that to my momma and aunties to decide.

Playing tourists, we were very much anticipating the food that would be laid upon us. The restaurant did deliver, in terms of freshness of the seafood. However, the execution, be it intentional or not, left much to be desired. The oyster omelette was basically a thick, tough pancake (where’s the cornstarch?) with the slightest amount of oysters. Among other flops were the soggy fried calamari and greasy stir-fried snow pea sprouts. As for the visually delectable stir-fried bee hoon with crab, well, let’s just say that perhaps the only seasoning used was soy sauce. The sweet crabs and the springy rice vermicelli were cooked in vain. An addition of hotplate cockles saved the day with a flavourful sauce, which consisted of sweet beanpaste, onions, dried shrimps and chillies. Again, playing tourist, I’m sure the view from the restaurant’s amazing come sunset.

Restoran Makanan Laut Jeti
No. T26, Jalan Pasir Penampang
45000 Kuala Selangor
Tel : (+603) 3289 2917/ 3289 4917

Here, shopping for dried seafood after a meal seems obligatory. And why not? The briny smell and colourful local produce are invigorating. Crispy, amber dried shrimps, large dried oysters and gorgonzola-like salted fish were just part of the display that got me salivating. Let’s not forget the snack that’s synonymous with fishing villages - prawn crackers. As strange and even ludicrous as it may sound, I actually found one of the best heong pehng (fragrant biscuit) right here. Hot from the oven, the fresh bake, coupled with the sound of crispy crust against the steel tray got my imagination running wild. The simple filling of maltose syrup and fried onion oil was really delicious. The dozen that I bought stayed fresh for about a week. If I were to return, this will definitely be on top of my shopping list.

I remember the photo of a very young HairyBerry, in his little cartoon sweatshirt, standing beside one of the ancient cannons on top of Bukit Melawati or Monkey Hill, as my parents would call it. Among us were historical structures (mainly in white), silver leaf monkeys and long-tailed macaques. To a kid, this was definitely more memorable than the fishing village. So we decided to revisit the hill after stocking up at Pasir Penampang. Unbeknownst to us, visitors are prohibited from driving up the hill on certain dates and since the elders were reluctant to climb, we abandoned the idea and headed for some cooling coconut drink before leaving the old royal capital of Selangor.

It may not be every urbanite’s idea of escaping the hectic, bustling life but to absorb in a timeless town that promises everything from fresh seafood to history to lush greeneries and (to a certain extent) fireflies sounds like a fun weekend getaway to me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Relish (by Wild Rocket)

Blue Cheese And William Pear Beef Burger
(with walnut butter, bleu auvergne, rockets and poached pear)

Wild Rocket Beef Burger
(with rockets, sarawak pepper cream & sun-dried tomato relish)

Seafood Burger With Lemon Mayo
(with patty of crab, fish, prawns, octopus)

Bacon And Cheese Beef Burger
(with crispy streaky bacon, tomato relish and emmental cheese)

BBQ Char Siew Pork Open Burger
(with char siew soft-bone pork, secret char siew sauce, homemade foccacia)

Pandan Panna Cotta With Gula Melaka

Vanilla Ice Cream With Roasted Black Sesame Puree

Clearly, my favourite was the BBQ Char Siew Burger. What's there not to like about a slab of tender meat marinated with a sweet, teriyaki-like sauce? The sponge of foccacia was a delight. There was no gimmickry in this burger. Just simple goodness that could well be prepared at home, provided one gets a hold of the secret sauce. So start selling by the bottle already, Relish! The pear/blue cheese and seafood burgers, though interestingly described, were of an acquired taste. As the name suggested, Ram-Lee was Relish's interpretation of the classic Ramlee burger. The omelette wrap was a true Ramlee spesial, but since it's gourmet, I thought it could have done more with some injection of creativity. Fresh ground beef alone doesn't count. I liked the fusion desserts here. Probably inspired by the onde-onde, the panna cotta was a burst of flavours. Black sesame is an all-time favourite of mine, and when combined with a scope of light vanilla ice cream, was comforting.

To the relished that day - We've been talking about Smok’inn Frogz since forever. In fact, it was that very idea that sparked this outing! So, when ar???

The relished:

Relish (by Wild Rocket)
#02-01 Cluny Court
501 Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 259760
Tel: 67631547

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kedai Kopi Shin Lok

It must have been somewhere after the Rawang exit that I began losing my bearing. Then, there were oil palm trees, oil palm trees, cows, oil palm trees and more oil palm trees on both sides of the expanding road. Along the way, the only thing that looked vaguely familiar (from food blogs, I think) was a signboard directing cars to Ijok for the infamous beggar’s chicken. At a certain T-junction, we turned left to Klang. I asked my cousin if we had made a wrong turning.

Kuala Selangor is the other direction, right?
Yeah. But we are going for some snacks first.
Ooohhh…What kind?
Woo gok and choi bao.
Huh? VEGETABLE bun? That good meh?
*Nodding* Mmm…very famous.

At first glance, the shop resembled nothing but a small town kopitiam where locals would come to chill. I imagined pairs of hostile, stinging eyes as we entered. Some would let out scary, evil grins that rivaled The Joker's (Jack Nicholson’s portrayal). Ahhhh, here comes a fat guy. He’ll make good filling for our steamed buns for months to come. But we must first shave him clean, like how we do wildboars. Somebody stop me from bingeing on AXN Beyond already!

It was nothing of that sort, of course. In fact, as I observed, patrons were an equal split between locals and tourists. The counter where orders were placed and delivered, was armed with mostly foreign staff of impressive agility. The crowd grew as we waited for our take-out and by the time we left, the number of cars lined by the corner lot had doubled.

Understandably, with slightly burnt hands holding the steaming hot buns and mouth busy chomping them, no pictures of the snacks were taken in the car as we continued on to Kuala Selangor. Now, skeptics (like myself) may ask how interesting can vegetable buns be? To add faux meat will be ridiculous. How about the inclusion of quartered, hard-boiled eggs then? Now that’s a thought! It definitely added a nice touch to the stewed, soft shreds of jícama (doesn’t that sound more sophisticated than our usual sengkuang-bangkuang?). Think popiah filling, only less complex. Encapsulated in a slightly chewy skin of flour, it was good, hot stuff. I can’t praise the buns enough. The curry version, on the other hand, paled in comparison, in terms of innovation and taste.

Apparently, the major attraction is the woo gok or yam puff. Soft and refined, the layer of yam was a marvel. To contradict that texture with a thin, crispy coat (thanks to the flour that bound the yam paste) that was not dissimilar to deep-fried batter, was excellent. Aromatic as well. The filling, which made up of minced chicken oozed moist from the combination of savoury marinate and juice from the meat. This classical dim sum was certainly worth the stop.

Re-steamed, the buns tasted as good as the ones we had that morning. This is one of those rare foods that I believe will satisfy everyone; be it healthy eaters or carnivores. And it makes one darn fine midnight snack too.

Hmmm...if only I remember how to get there and not end up in some twilight zone.

Kedai Kopi Shin Lok
1, Jalan Kenari 1
Taman Kenari Sungai Sembilang
45800 Jeram
Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: (+603)3264 7591

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 49): So Far So Food

Today marks the second year of my ten cents blog. This is usually the time when one recollects his or her blog-related experiences in the past 12 months. Yawns, I hear? I feel that blogging is very much like children. The older they get, the less adorable they are and the more you have things to say or complain about them. There are days when taking care of them feel like a chore. But deep down, you still love them. And as the years go by, you tend to understand them a little better. That’s when you’ll chill and just let nature takes it course, for better or worse. I find myself wanting to write more this year and because my Piscean thoughts work in a mostly arbitrary manner, I thought it would be good to generalize them into a few ideas.

1) Evolution

There’s no way in denying change. You just have to come to the terms and try appreciating the new discoveries and facts. As I blog, I understand that perhaps it’s not a food blog that I wanted. Ask a random person on the street and most probably, they’ll tell you that a food blogger is an online food critic/expert (scary isn’t it?), which I don’t think I’ll fit in. I’m more comfortable with just eating (which is easier to understand) and share my experience. It’s more fun this way. The food blogging scene, to me, has changed quite a bit since I’ve come to know of its existence. It has gained credible acceptance and popularity for its connection with netizens. The drawing factors are that food blogs are real, honest, educational, informative and collocates with simple words like delicious, yummy and nice that the yous and mes can relate to. With acceptance and trust come opportunities and interests in other aspects. It’s industrious and/or fun, in my opinion. But I have this to say; that with each action, it should subsist of integrity and good nature as to not mislead. And when I hear of my food blogging friends gaining recognitions through their honest talents and efforts, I am truly, truly happy for them.

2) Humble pie is delicious

This year, I was lucky enough to have met a few new friends who blew my mind with their knowledge in food. Just give them 10 minutes, a food topic and be mesmerized by their sharing of food thoughts. Not being masochistic but to be slammed by them for my inadequate and often, senseless food ideas is humbling. And there were my cooking and baking whimsicals. I like to deconstruct recipes, just to make a statement. Sounds good but the fact is, it’s crap. There was a time when my supposedly pecan/yoghurt cake turned into some sort of baked porridge. Once, my banana bread was so hard, I could have easily used it as a brick. Basics, my friends, are important. For a beginner like me, at least. So, I started all over again, with a basic butter cake. Over a few months of practice and equipped with some dependable recipes, I think I’ve started to understand the science and art of things. I’m still sticking to cakes and dishes I know best, and trying out some new, practical recipes once in a while. Hopefully this time next year, I’ll be able to present a better report card.

3) *Chik Chak*

Seriously, I think there were times when I would choose photography over blogging, as a hobby. Simply because results are almost instantaneous, with the same amount of creative work being put in. I update my photography archive more often than my blog! But then again, the ideal hobby should combine all the elements of one’s best interests, hence the blog. There are usually complaints that food turns cold as pictures are being taken. I am guilty of that. But hey, I’ll try to improve on my speed lah, ok? We’ll request for reheating if we have to. Joke.

4) Work hard, eat hard

Over the past year, I’ve heard of family and friends falling sick for the simple reason of negligence. And being a food fan, I guess I’m more susceptible to health issues like diabetes and heart diseases. Oh, eating disorder too. Inspired by my friends, I started running again. Don’t expect much because I’m slow. My aim is always to finish than to finish in time. The last few months saw me eating healthier on weekdays and indulging on weekends. So, the 4 stomachs rule only applies on weekends and special occasions. There’s no secret to good health, I guess. Just a wiser choice and sensible amount of food. It doesn’t mean that I don’t take lard anymore lah, kan? I’m still very much a babitarian. Just run more to burn off the excess lah.

5) Food, friends and foes

A relative once told me that a good person is one who enjoys food and music. I find that quite true. Through the interactions on this blog and beyond, I’ve made some really good friends. Friends who appreciate all kinds of food and are silly, cool, honest and fun. Our gatherings have been greatly misunderstood as a reason to get drunk. Really, it merely adds some sparks to our already crazy parties. And there were food crawls and makan sessions. I remember many times when the food was so good, we all smiled almost simultaneously. That’s cool. And real. I’m not skeptical but there are times when I find hosts on tv shows rather fake with their oishi or orgasmic expressions. Then again, it’s partially commercial and that’s how it works.

Wow, that’s quite a load of s*_^ that I’ve said. I wonder how long the third anniversary post will be like.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

La Strada

Over dinner at La Strada, I told XLB that for the past 2 days, it almost felt like my birthday instead. On the night of her birthday, after my lesson, we were at Serene Centre. She surprised me (shouldn't it be the other way round?) by lugging some Ion Orchard take-outs; curry rice from Ginza Bairin, Vietnamese glass noodle salad with grilled pork from The Orange Lantern and pork ume burger from R Burger. The first of my birthday feast. Then, we headed to Island Creamery for some ice cream (too bad they ran out of our current favourite flavour, pierre sake) before ending the night at McD's with a slice of walnut cheesecake. It was the best birthday cake I could find at almost 11 pm. Before we left, I gave her the last 2 packets of my Wang Wang Rice Crackers, a snack I munch on between lectures. Not for nothing, of course. If you noticed, the packets are printed with some of the most auspicious Chinese greetings you can think of. Tasty as well. A pragmatic gift, I thought.

I chose La Strada because we've always wanted to try a Les Amis and that she was a pizza fan. If true, then the complimentary slices were a good preview of what the extensive selection of pizzas would be like. Delicious. Just the rich tomato sauce base itself is worth a mention. But we didn't order any that night because we reserved space for more interesting dishes.

If I had to choose the one dish that I'd come back to the street over and over again, I guess it'd be the Spaghetti Carbonara. It doesn't get any more orgasmic than the scent of truffle (I'm no sow) wisping from the warm plate of hand-made spaghetti, Spanish ham, shaved parmesan, confit of egg and ground black pepper. The truffle came from the butter, which when combined with the parmesan and yolk, translated into a carbonara that was rich with every slurp, without being cloying. I talked and dreamed of this for days. XLB had the Merluzzo, which was basically oven-baked codfish with asparagus, cherry tomatoes and clams. Only when it's fresh that one gets drips of briny and sweet juice from the seafood. It was good. Prior to the carbonara and cod was the satisfying starter of Tonno; pan-seared thick slices of tuna served with fine beans salad and drizzled with a sweet apple balsamic dressing.

For dessert, gelati of coconut, passion fruit, muscavado and yoghurt. The ice cream/gelato expert gave two thumbs up, especially for the coconut. I thought the texture was refined and the flavours rather natural (meaning, no artificial flavourings). As I placed the order, I asked for the piece of pre-ordered birthday cake as well. Yeah, I know. Never been good with this kind of birthday thingy. Back to the cake. I was hoping for the chocolate and zucchini that I've read somewhere but got just the chocolate instead. Still, a very dense, velvety piece and definitely spelt Valhorna.

Wishing you all the gelati and Rachael Yamagata songs in the world.

La Strada
1 Scotts Road
#02-10/11 Shaw Centre
Tel: (+65) 6737 2622
Website: http://www.lesamis.com.sg/