Sunday, April 17, 2011


If not for the picture of a purple potato mash that got my previous TimeOutSingapore (and Istanbul) donor salivating, I wouldn’t have paid much attention to Magma, a German bistro located at Bukit Pasoh. Not that German cuisine is uncreative or boring, of course. Or that German restaurants are now as populous and common as their French counterparts. My first Deutsche meal was certainly exhilarating. The selection of beers, pork knuckles, sausages (lots of them!) and sauerkraut – they were all I dreamtsch about for awhile. A few Oktoberfests later, I was no longer the curious, excited virgin I used to be. I’m sure it’s just me settling with equivalents (well, sort of) that I feel resonate best with my tastebuds; like a pint of Guinness, siow bak (Chinese roast pork belly), lap cheong (Chinese waxed sausages) and kimchi. Magma was my first proper German meal since my birthday a few years back, if I correctly recall. And it was a good one, no doubt.

You'd think that business was brisk on a Saturday evening, since it's good. Throughout the night, only 5 tables were occupied. We're not complaining, for the ambiance was excellent; a relieving contrast to the chaotic, congested restaurants in town. This called for a celebration. We had a bottle of sparkling "Secco Festival" Riesling with a touch of peach that came at just S$33. For that pleasant price and taste, it made us really happy. I should thank the attentive and cheerful staff (and The Local Nose) for the recommendation.

As for the dishes, I can't decide if I liked the flammkuchen or the pork knuckle more. The thin, crispy flatbread with a sour cream base (appetizing!) and sprinkled generously with apples, onions, tomatoes, chicken and cheese was a plethora of textures and tastes. Perhaps it's a norm in some regions to combine apples and onions in their recipes, but it did seem strange to me, initially. Now, I think this combination works deliciously well. To add apples to curries, burgers and that's an idea! The pork knuckle was exemplary, I thought. A bite unravelled 3 distinctive layers that blended perfectly right - savoury, pink, flaky meat beneath golden, crackling roasted skin glazed with honey. Condiments like beer gravy and German mustard provided an extra kick to the meat.

In the midst of such pleasures, the purple potato mash had completely slipped off our minds. That's okay. The dinner itself was a privilege, for not only was the food good and relatively affordable, we'd also enjoyed a really rare, serene weekend dinner with affordable bubbly and wonderful smiles. We must have done something right to deserve this.

2-4 Bukit Pasoh Road
Singapore 089816
Tel: (+65) 6221 0634

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hokkien Mee Me!

Back in the 80s, there was a TV commercial selling cornflakes that I thought was misleading. Well, to me, at least. It started off by comparing a young kid’s reaction to two types of breakfast. On the right (yes, I even remember the layout!), he had a bowl of cornflakes and looked really happy. On the left, he was served some dark, fried noodles that resembled very much like Hokkien Mee. And guess what, he looked terribly disappointed. Every time that commercial was aired, I’d say (to the TV screen), ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? I’m not against those tiny golden crisps fortified with dozens of nutrients but if the marketer decides to force supremacy against Hokkien Mee (or any stir-fried noodle, for that matter), it gets personal.

My affection towards this calorific, deathly dish is obvious, if you’d read my previous Hokkien Mee posts. Time and again, I'd mentioned that in the last decade or so, I’d never been wholeheartedly satisfied, even with some of the more established stalls in KL/Selangor. I was told that perhaps my ideal Hokkien Mee had never existed, that it’s all in an idea of perfection that I’m indulging. Definitely not. I remember how it tasted back in the older days – a savoury stock and slightly sweet dark soy sauce reduction done to a sticky consistency, coating every strand of thick egg noodle, sprinkled with the quintessential dried, pounded flounder, glistened and aromatized with a layer of hot lard oil. Sometimes, there's the additional fried shallot oil too. Let’s not forget a sharp, pungent cili boh/belacan dip that cuts through the sweet/savoury reduction, adding a new dimension to already exciting taste. Jaded that I am, with my ceasing torch, I continue to find that taste, good taste, long lost.

On an accidental night after a light shower, a few of us old kids decided to finally visit the two infamous Hokkien Mee stalls, located at the opposing ends of a stretch along Jalan 222, Section 14 in Petaling Jaya. Both were equipped with fast-paced and knowledgeable, mostly foreign staff. Ahwa’s version had a matte finish – an emphasis on dark soy sauce that ensued a sweeter aftertaste. What lacked, I thought, was the compulsory aroma (wok hei) of hot lard oil. Hence the missing shine as well. Peng Yuan, on the other hand, was glossy and aromatic. The sauce was less reduced and leaned towards the savoury side. Despite the loose consistency of the sauce, as a fan of all things savoury, I’d personally liked Peng Yuan’s more.

Ahwa's Hokkien Mee

Ahwa's What-Darn-Whore

So far in this blog, I’ve rambled too much about Hokkien Mee but not so on the other definitive Chinese noodle dish, Cantonese-style. I must say that I’m a big fan of its more popular variant - the (90% phonetically correct) what-darn-whore or thick rice flour noodles (whore fun) topped with an egg-starch sauce. The browning of whore fun is important to provide wok hei and separate the stacked strands. Ahwa did a good job at that. Their assembly with a smooth, sufficiently gelatinous egg-starch topping sealed the deal for me. I would have been more enthusiastic about Peng Yuan’s version if not for finding a broken toothpick (let’s hope it was unused) in the sauce.

Peng Yuan's Hokkien Mee

Peng Yuan's What-Darn-Whore

On a different occasion, the old kids decided to explore Sunway Giza on a Saturday night. The main complex didn’t excite us much but the young and fashionable seem to enjoy thronging here on weekends. Nearby, at an extended shoplot, we found a branch of yet another infamous Hokkien Mee institution, Restoran Damansara. This one offers a menu and additional fried lard bits. Perhaps due to an overwhelming amount of oil insulating the sauce and noodles, it turned out rather bland. But the shine and colour did look sinfully appetizing though. The Cantonese version fared better with a crispy web of fried rice vermicelli (bee hoon) and whore fun soaked in a subtlely flavoured egg sauce.

Restoran Damansara's Hokkien Mee

Restoran Damansara's Cantonese Stir-Fried Ying Yang Noodles

There are a few Hokkien Mee stalls left on our list but to be honest, I’m not too optimistic looking at the names. One of which I had frequented some years ago, way before they decided to go big with mediocre and expensive Hokkien Mee. I’d never been back since. Although the long lost taste may not be found in the near future (not never, hopefully), every outing with the old kids was fun, as we reminisced the days of being wild, young and free. Now, I wonder if they remember the cornflake commercial.

Restoran Ahwa and Peng Yuan Hokkien Mee
off Jalan 222 Petaling Jaya
Selangor, Malaysia

Restoran Damansara Hokkien Mee
35, Jalan PJU 5/9 Kota Damansara
Selangor, Malaysia