Sunday, February 28, 2010

Durian Fiesta 2010 @ Goodwood Park Hotel

After more than 20 years, I'd decided to give it another try.

To a durian lover, it's a piece of ecstacy. The puff basically consists of a thick layer of pure D24 pulp mash binding 2 pieces of choux pastry. To my horror, there isn't any custard to sweeten or even mask the taste. The legendary durian mousse cake is just as original and sponge is used for layering instead. Perhaps the distraction of expresso and mascarpone has made the Durianmisu less durian and is obviously my favourite of the lot. I emptied the cup with pride. Well, almost. I might not be a fan, but the durian desserts from The Deli are bold and definitely of good quality.

I'm not hoping to instantly fall in love with durians with my attempt. It's just to see if I can now accept the taste, at least. I'm afraid it's still a NO. But that doesn't mean that I'm giving up. Maybe in 30 years time, I'll have another go at this.

The Deli @ Goodwood Park Hotel
22 Scotts Road
Singapore 228221
Tel: (+65) 6737 7411

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thaksin Beef Noodle and Aung Myanmar Food

As I'm drafting this post, there's only half a container of arrowroot chips left in front of me. This has got to be one of the best versions I've had in a long time - crispy, THICK, golden, sweet and nicely dry. By the end of this draft, I'm quite sure I'd have emptied the whole container. To me, it also signifies the end of another lunar new year celebration. I'm missing the chips already. And the good times, of course.


To chronologically explain the chain of events that led us to Thaksin Beef Noodle may take as long as the running of Friends (as in that Rachel and Ross sitcom) because it's just too intricate. It involves a closed claypot rice stall by the name of New Lucky, the sporadic case of a Burmese food stall that was also closing earlier that day, some bad luck, improper planning (my bad), a few preserved vegetable mooncakes and the indecisiveness at the food market. Nevertheless, our first ever gathering at Clementi was not in vain when our aunty-killer friend suggested this beef noodle stall.

Since then, I've been returning whenever I crave for some serious beef action. What's there not to like about a bowl of savoury soup containing all the tripe, tendons and briskets the bowl can fill? And when most cuts are well-softened, thanks to the long hours of simmering, you know it's worth a return. Just the sight of the huge pots brimming with hot, mocha-coloured soup and beef itself calls for instant salivation. Slightly sweet, the parts when eaten with a dip consisting of a mixture of vinegar, lemongrass and cili padi is contrastingly blissful. Not unlike any other typical Thai beef noodle setting, a bunch of basil leaves top the ensemble. My only suggestion is to power up the soup by making it more flavourful and aromatic. Add more spices!

And let's not forget the delightful mohingar from Aung Myanmar Food (the stall that closed earlier). What makes it different from the rest that I've tried is the addition of fried, crispy dhal. It certainly gives an interesting texture and some extra sweetness. The usual features of crunchy turnip slices and sourish stock are an addiction. Seriously, I can handle 3 bowls of these at once. I notice that they do serve mixed rice with Burmese dishes. Now, I might not need to travel all the way to Peninsular Plaza afterall.

There's so much good food to offer here at Clementi. The fact that most stalls are within walking distance from the MRT station makes it even more convenient to try. So, what's next? Definitely New Lucky. Not on a Wednesday though. Unbeknownst to me earlier, it's their day off.


The "supreme" version of Thaksin Beef Noodle.

Pad (that was not quite) Thai

Brother's Rojak - a famous stall in the same coffeeshop.

Popiah - another famous stall.

Aung Myanmar Food
Blk 431, Clementi Avenue 3

Thaksin Beef Noodle, Brother's Rojak, Popiah
Block 449 Clementi Ave 3
Singapore 120449

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tell-A-Tale (Part 60): Se7en...*burp*

Unlike the David Fincher film, this was a good se7en. The past week in KL (too long or too short, I still can't decide) was all about the reunions and the familiar food that came with it. Prior to the new year, I had mentally prepared a list of new restaurants and menus to explore. Instead, we revisited, among others - Reunion, steamed free-range chicken, Din Tai Fung, waxed meat, Lemon Garden Cafe and Oriental Pavilion. Dad insisted on Porto Romano (Mont Kiara branch) too, but we couldn't fit it into any of the 7 days.

Milo Dinosaur at PappaRich, Bangsar.

The discovery of PappaRich at Bangsar with The Girl From Abu Dhabi and Lyrical Lemongrass on reunion day was perhaps one of the best surprises this festive season, for me. I returned the next two consecutive days. It was mostly about the convenience of the location, the fixed prices (an important factor in the first 15 days of the new lunar calendar) and the extensive selection of drinks. In less than 3 hours, it was time for the official reunion dinner at Sin Kar Hee. After that night, it was clear to us that the next reunion dinner should be held here as well. I remember saying that I don't succumb to the exorbitant prices of Chinese restaurants and here at Sin Kar Hee, not only were the prices reasonable, the portions were huge. For about RM450 per table of 10 pax, we were served 10 dishes including a steamed chicken, fresh patin, tom yam prawns in 2 whole coconuts, greens, a roast duck, braised pork knuckle and what I assumed to be honeyed ribs. And if reservation is made earlier, one can secure a table in the air-conditioned room. It was fuss-free, high-speed (they had to manage 2 seatings that night) dining that required only the simple distinction of tasty or not. Nothing too analytical here, please. In the case of Sin Kar Hee, it was tasty. A reunion dinner should be like this - substantial, cheerful and slightly chaotic.

Going vegetarian on the first day of the lunar new year.

At home, the first day of the lunar new year is usually greeted with the smell of a pot of well-simmered soup of dried oysters and daikon. This year was no exception. The fibrous, stir-fried dish of assorted vegetables, black moss, beancurd skin and fu yu (fermented beancurd) and braised arrowroot slices are for breakfast - reheated later for lunch, tea, dinner and supper. No complaints because anything with fu yu is appetizing and goes well with rice. Following a purging of what's left of the reunion dinner (thanks to the vegetarian first day), the second day started again with a reunion filled with meats. Another new discovery this year was the usage of fresh lotus seeds in salads, which became part of our yue sang. Absolutely crunchy, sweet and slightly bitter, it was refreshing and went interestingly well with toasted sesame seeds and poached yellow garlic chives.

Steamed waxed meat on the second day of the lunar new year.

Char yuk with crunchy wood ear fungus - perfect for all celebrations.

Nutritious homemade yue sang sans a good name.

Back on the outside, it was suggested that Reunion at Bangsar Village II is a good place to bring tourists and friends/relatives returning from abroad to sample better KL-style Hokkien Mee, simply because it's similar to the real thing, more hygienic and has good ambiance. I'm rather neutral on this because at the moment, I really don't see any potential authentic Hokkien Mee in town that I can proudly introduce to my foreign friends. For me, Hokkien Mee at Reunion is about the slices of liver (it was almost compulsory in the old days), the amazing lard, the good stock but lacking in wok hei. It still delivered when we visited last Thursday but sadly, they ran out of belacan chilli paste. Eating it with Hong Kong style chilli oil is just sacrilegious, if I must say. We found 2 gems at Reunion that day - the char siew polo bun that came soft and sweetly glazed (I'm thinking of honey) and the captivating smoky aroma of good quality waxed meat cooked in a claypot of rice.

Reunion at Reunion.

New year celebrations are about drinking as well. Accidental or not, a gathering of some of my dear blogging friends at The Smokehouse at Bangsar turned out to be a drinking session (at 3 pm) that was really fun. And at another gathering of a larger scale, drinking was upgraded from beers to whiskeys and wines. Thanks FatBoyBakes for the great time! In another session, drinking was almost detox-like as we downed pints of fruit juices at OM, Jalan Genting Kelang. I had celery juice...with syrup. This is a Thai restaurant that offers quite an interesting menu. I'll be back to try.

It's also interesting that we tend to think of fast food come the lunar new year. Understandably, these are the few places that are open for business in the first few days of the new year. But that was the 80s. Now, many restaurants (Chinese or not) are open throughout the year and yet, we still find ourselves thinking of KFC and McD. I guess it has become part of the new year celebration - like how we find ourselves watching movies (usually Hong Kong productions) in cinemas on the first day, even if it's the first row from the screen and the fact that we have cable channels at home. Oh, I watched that 72 Tenants movie this year and it was hilarious. Within the first 4 days, we've already had doses of burgers, fries, fried chicken and pizzas.

Hours before leaving KL, we had lunch at Lemon Garden Cafe, Shangri-La. The buffet spread was similar to what I had a few years back except that now, they'd extended the salad section to include yue sang. After a quick browse of the spread, I decided that I should mostly focus on the Malay and Italian sections. The last dish I had there, and for this new year trip, was a bowl of wanton mee topped with slices of abalone that I stole from the yue sang section.

Lemon Garden Cafe, Shangri-La.

Abundance of food is good omen for the coming year. What's more important is that all good things should be shared and that nothing should go wasted. I hope everyone had a wonderful, yummy new year and are fully recharged for work. Yes, that's today!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Yuen Kee and a Happy Lunar New Year

Amidst the humidity, chaos and a pinch of glum as a close family member was to leave for Manchester, came a plate of wat dan hor (hor fun with thick egg sauce) that was surprisingly good. Oh, we thought you were aware of their wat dan hor, said an aunt. Gosh, I felt betrayed. Lucky for them, it was not Hokkien Mee or else, someone’s head would have rolled that evening. Enduring the MSG and almost amateurish inclusion of mustard greens was not too difficult, given the good amount of wok hei (without being too oily) and silky smooth egg gravy that was just sufficiently starchy. It’s not easy to find gravy as golden as this, even at some reputable Chinese restaurants. What’s more comforting was when the first bite announced the right thickness of hor fun. Overall, no pickled green chillies required. And that’s a good thing.

I assume that I’d only been here once. Twice at most. Not that it’s bad, of course. In fact, the shed is usually packed to the brim come weekends. The dishes we had were rice-compliant – like the Taiwanese dish of three cups chicken, assam fish meat curry, omelette and the most exotic of them all, braised pig’s tail with peanuts. Despite my hair loss problem, I realize that one has to take life with a pinch of MSG. Let’s face it, the articial flavouring is now as mainstream as the internet. There are even grades to choose from too, apparently. What’s a broadband equivalent, I wonder. Oh, the point is, Yuen Kee comes slightly high on MSG.

The most anticipated dish was of course, the nicely rendered, chopped tails with softened peanuts to provide a good bite. The sauce was a typical oriental combination of soy, sesame oil and MSG. The same ingredients, when reduced further, drizzled with some fah tiu wine, sprinkled with more sugar and topped with basil leaves became the delicious coating for the three cups chicken. Power is something red, spicy, aromatic and sour – like assam fish meat curry. Usually filled with the goodness of fish cutlets and assorted colourful vegetables, it’s the all-time one dish wonder that guarantees a few servings of rice. Yuen Kee’s red snapper version was nothing short of power, except that I prefer thicker curries.

A quick inspection of the tables around me revealed a variety of dishes that looked interestingly dissimilar to what we would usually order at our favourite dai chow stall. Despite having partially moved to this part of KL for a few years now, I'm still learning about the food scene here. I drive pass Yuen Kee almost every weekend when I'm back in town. Looks like I should stop by for dinner more often. I wonder if their Hokkien Mee is any good.

Yuen Kee
Between Jalan Antoi Kiri and Jalan Kepong Baru
(Opposite Madrasah Al-Islah Ad-Diniyah)
Kepong Baru, Kuala Lumpur.


I don't get to do extended family dinners often and therefore, I look forward to the next one, which will take place in a few days from now. It's going to be a happier event of course, as compared to the one at Yuen Kee, because everyone's back in town for the lunar new year. I've not received details of the venue yet (knowing them, I bet it's going to be another dai chow joint) but I guess in the company of close relatives (oh, and alcohol), some overdose of MSG should be forgiven. Not sure if I'll succumb to the exorbitant prosperous prices though.

This shot was taken after the ala carte buffet brunch at Jing and funnily enough, it reminded me of that old new year song about spring returning to the land with bees and flowers. Of course, one would have imagined more bees and flowers when listening to that song lah.

Here's wishing everyone a good year of the tiger and a restful holiday.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

MELT @ Mandarin Oriental

For the longest time, we've been wanting to try The Line at Shang - the best buffet in town, apparently. But after a trip to Paris, the J-couple decided that buffets should include foie gras and macarons, so MELT seemed to be a better choice.

This was exactly a week after my prosecco brunch at The Lighthouse. So, despite the fact that the Sunday brunch does offer the optional champagne (and premium champagne at a higher price), I decided that another round of bubbly might just draw me into addiction.

I reinstated my stand at MELT - that there's no such thing as a gourmet spread, simply because of the unjustifiable pricetag. For S$88++, I don't think we should expect anything beyond decent foie gras and baby lobsters. It's about the variety and here at MELT, the choices are sufficiently enticing.

Buffets are about having fun (soberly or not) and this is the best time to play around with your food. Mixing your food, I mean. There I was, making myself a burger combining ground beef patty, gherkin, mustard and foie gras, and created a surprisingly workable cold inaniwa udon with air-dried beef. In between the sashimi, egg benedict, fish cutlet with cooked dragonfruit, grilled ribs with red wine rendered cabbage, prime rib slice, honey-glazed ham, Yorkshire pudding and some oriental dishes, there were sorbets as palate cleansers. Desserts make up of, at most, 2.781% of my interest at the buffet table but at MELT, I must say the sweets were lovely. The macarons, profiteroles, cheesecake, ispahan and chocolate pudding, yes, especially the rich chocolate pudding, are worth a mention. It was a good ending to the non-bubbly affair.

The earlier plan was to have a long run in the evening but instead, I slept through the cool evening. No regrets, of course.

Fresh Seafood

Inaniwa Udon + Air Dried Beef

Beef Burger + Foie Gras

Tiramisu, Macaron, Profiterole, Cheesecake, Ispahan, Chocolate Pudding

MELT @ Mandarin Oriental Hotel
5 Raffles Avenue
Marina Square
Singapore 039797
Tel: (+65) 6885 3082

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sang Kee Wanton Mee @ 747 Kopitiam

Not sure if things have improved at Sang Kee but here are some personal tips that will hopefully help to ease the pain of waiting for their infamous char siew wanton mee.

1) Bring a group of friends that you can talk to for hours.
2) Have some nice char kway teow from the nearby stall.
3) Wear something outstanding so that they can remember you.
4) If you are too hungry, queue for takeout (it’s faster, really).
5) Bring reading materials.
6) Annoy the lady boss by bugging her every 10 minutes.
7) Don’t bring older family members who hate waiting.
8) Settle for the table nearest to the stall.
9) Come very early.
10) Bring along some humour.

I’ve had some pretty good memories here – breakfasting with my folks, meeting up with a recovering Lyrical Lemongrass, catching up with The Girl From Abu Dhabi and A Malaysian Kitchen In Manchester, and of course, the consistently tasty bowls of wanton mee, covered with a light yet flavourful curry base and topped with sweetly glazed char siew. There’s also the springy, dry-tossed version, served with crunchy lettuce. Do request for the belly for that soft, rich, aromatic bite. Their char siew is meant to be eaten this way, I feel.

Sadly, I fail to see a system here. Even if I’m wrong, that there is an indeed a system, it’s time for a major overhaul. To have the lady boss reminding us of a long waiting time is a kind gesture, but to be the first to order, only to be served last is another issue altogether.

It’s been a few months since my last visit. Perhaps things have been ironed out now and the ordering system has improved. I do hope so, as with a few strong, more efficient competitors conveniently located within the vicinity, it’s quite obvious which of these the customer will not choose. Seriously, good char siew should not be wasted on a bad system.

Sang Kee Wanton Mee
SFS (747) Kopitiam
Jln PJU 1/3C,
Sunway Mas, Petaling Jaya