Sunday, October 31, 2004

 

Out of The Pan

Today was our first visit to Out of The Pan, the basement eatery at Raffles City Shopping Centre. Their specialty is crepes, both savoury and sweet. Since we already had our dinner elsewhere, we ordered only desserts.



R. had the Chocoholic (S$6.50), which is chocolate ice-cream with whipped cream and lots of nuts.



The Chocoholic made R. go nuts. Not really. There were way too much nuts for his liking. I never thought a guy could complain about having too much of these. Oh well...



I ordered one of their recommended items, the Tiramisu Crepe (S$9.50).



What a dramatic presentation! The tiramisu was wrapped in a crepe, dusted with cocoa powder and icing sugar, topped with expresso ice-cream, and laid on a large square plate with zigzags of white and dark chocolate sauce.



The tiramisu was yummy! The chocolate sponge was heavily soaked with liquer, while the mascarpone cheese was light and creamy. The expresso ice-cream was smashing! Very rich taste of expresso, slightly bitter and not too sweet. I really liked it alot. When eaten together with the tiramisu, the sensation was simply orgasmic! But the crepe was kinda disappointing. It was rather dry. Actually, I'd rather just have had the tiramisu with the ice-cream. What an irony. Anyway, I was already stuffed halfway through eating this dessert. Needed the assistance of R. to help me finish it. It was very filling! I guess it was the crepe and the generous amount of tiramisu. Definitely not for those on a diet.

cheers!


Saturday, October 30, 2004

 

Recipe: Prawn and Celery Stir-fry



Since most of the recipes I've posted so far are stir-fries, you must be wondering, "Doesn't this gal know how to cook anything else besides stir-fries?" Well, besides baking, I do make other kinds of food! It's just that I haven't had time to experiment with other dishes lately. You see, on weekdays, I have to work, so stir-fries are fast and easy to do. Besides, they go so well with plain rice, which is what we have for dinner on weekdays.

But stir-fries are really versatile because of the endless combinations I can have. And I can get really creative with them. I can just take one recipe, swap or add a couple of ingredients, and there you have it, a new dish! Today's main ingredient is prawn, but if you like, you can substitute with scallops, squid, or chicken. You can also add straw mushrooms.

Prawn and Celery Stir-fry

approx. 30 medium-sized prawns, shelled and deveined
6 stalks of celery
half a carrot, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
chicken stock, half a rice bowl*
pinch of salt
light soy sauce
sugar
oil

1. Seasons the prawns lightly with a few drops of light soy sauce and a sprinkle of sugar.

2. Using a vegtable peeler, remove the tough strings from the outer layer of the celery stalks. Slice them diagonally.

3. Heat some oil in a wok. When the oil is very hot, sear the prawns. Remove the prawns when they are almost thoroughly cooked.

4. In the same wok, add the celery and carrots. Add a pinch of salt and stir-fry for a minute.

5. Add the stock. When the liquid boils, return the prawns to the wok. Toss for another minute. Enjoy!

*The chicken stock was already flavored, so I didn't add any extra seasoning. If you're using water, you might want to season the dish with a little light soy sauce and sugar towards the end of the cooking. Just do a taste test first!

cheers!


Friday, October 29, 2004

 

Recipe: Korean-Style Spicy Chicken



Ever since my Korean friends taught me how to make this delicious dish, Korean-style spicy chicken has become a regular fixture on our dinner table. It's spicy, sweet, savoury, tender, juicy, wonderfully aromatic, and yet it's so easy to create. The only catch is that I have to make it in advance, because the meat is best left to marinate overnight in the fridge for optimum results.

My sis-in-law loves this dish. "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime." So, Xiao Gu, if you're reading this, the following recipe is for you. :)

Korean-Style Spicy Chicken (serves 6)

3 large boneless chicken legs, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 heaped tbsp go chu jang (Korean hot chilli paste)*
2 tbsp sesame oil

1. Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Marinate overnight in the fridge.

2. Heat a wok till very hot. Lightly coat with a thin layer of oil. (Omit the oil if using a non-stick pan). Stir-fry the chicken till cooked.

3. Garnish with spring onion sections and white sesame seeds.

*Add more chilli paste if you prefer.

cheers!


Thursday, October 28, 2004

 

Cranberry Beans a.k.a. Pearl Beans



Until I met my hubby's family, I had never even heard of or seen this legume. My mother-in-law (henceforth referred to as MIL), is a Cantonese. Cantonese women are famed for their skill in making wholesome, stewed soups (bo tong in the Cantonese dialect). Ok, perhaps this statement better applies to the women of my MIL's generation and before. Most women of my generation are probably more interested in other activities than labouring in the kitchen making bo tong. Case in point: my MIL's daughter, i.e. my sis-in-law, is a clueless cook, and though she grew up on a regular diet of bo tong, she has no idea how to make bo tong.

But I digress. My first contact with cranberry beans was my MIL's superb soup, pearl bean and pork ribs soup. In Singapore, cranberry beans are known as "pearl beans", a literal translation from its Chinese name. They're sold fresh in their pods. Only the beans are used, and they cook very quickly in soup, turning soft in just 20 minutes. Cook them any longer and they turn into mush.

I was curious why this delicious bean has such a low profile here in S'pore. It isn't sold regularly in the market, and even when it is, the quantity is small. Besides soup, I don't know how else it can be cooked. And is it available in other countries? How do people in other cultures prepare it?

Google turned up some references. Apparently, pearl beans are known as "cranberry beans" in the west, and they are referred to by more than one name!

Anyone who has eaten cranberry beans a.k.a. pearl beans, do share your experience with here!


As un-alike as (cranberry) beans in a pod. Look at the pink-and-white marbled beans. Aren't they pretty?


These large beans are slightly smaller than cashew nuts.


My MIL's Pearl Bean & Pork Rib Soup. The beans give a mildly sweet and nutty flavor to the rich meat broth.

cheers!


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

 

Recipe: Julia's Kiam Chye Fish Stir-fry



Kiam chye, which is salted mustard green, is a kind of preserved vegetable predominantly featured in Teochew cooking. Because it is salty and crunchy, it goes well with plain Teochew porridge. When used in cooking, it gives a lovely, savoury flavor with a light tang. But do soak the kiam chye in water for at least 1/2 hour (depending on how salty it is) before adding it to your dishes, otherwise its saltiness may be too overpowering.

The following is a twist on my mother's recipe. She used to stir-fry fish with just ginger strips and sliced kiam chye. I like the way that the ginger and kiam chye can completely mask any fishy smell, yet still bring out the natural sweetness of the fish. The kiam chye also subtly imparts a salty and tangy taste, producing a flavorful gravy. This dish is very appetising and pairs excellently with rice or plain porridge.

I decided to up the aroma quotient by adding salted black beans, give the flavor more body with abalone sauce, and add a bit of kick and color with red chillies. Here's my Kiam Chye Fish Stir-fry recipe.

approx. 800 grams of firm-fleshed white fish fillet, sliced
approx. 2 large leaves of kiam chye, sliced and soaked for an hour
2 tablespoons salted black beans
2 red chillies, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
thin ginger strips
2 tablespoons of abalone sauce
1 cup of water
cornstarch, mixed with water

1. Have all the ingredients ready. Heat up some oil in the wok. The wok must be very hot for a quick stir-fry and to seal in the flavors.

2. When the oil smokes slightly, add the ginger, garlic, black beans, and chilli. Quickly stir-fry non-stop for 30 seconds.

3. Add the kiam chye and stir-fry for another 30 seconds. You should be able to smell an intense, savoury aroma by now.

4. Put the fish slices in. Add the abalone sauce. Stir-fry to mix the ingredients thoroughly.

5. Pour the water in. When the gravy simmers, thicken slightly with the cornstarch solution.

cheers!


Sunday, October 24, 2004

 

Fried Radish Cake (Chai Tow Kway)



Fried radish cake, or chai tow kway (in Hokkien), is a popular Singaporean snack and breakfast dish. It is commonly sold in hawker centers and air-conditioned foodcourts. Often, it is sold as "fried carrot cake".

Now, those who know of carrot cake as that sweet, spongy confection made with grated carrot, nuts, and cream cheese frosting, will be in for a surprise if you come here and order "carrot cake". Our misnomer is probably the legacy of unenlightened translation. Apropos, in Mandarin, carrot is hóng luó bò (hóng = red), and radish is bái luó bò (bái = white). Ergo, someone must have mistakenly thought that "carrot" means luo bo, so it could refer to both the carrot and the radish. Concordantly, we have "fried carrot cake".

(Are you scratching your head over the last paragraph, just like I did after watching the scene where Neo meets The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded? Four words: forget what I said.)

So what is fried radish cake? First, steam a mixture of grated radish, rice flour and water. Let the rice cake cool, preferably refrigerate overnight. Cut into small pieces and fry till soft and slightly charred. Add chopped salted turnip and beaten egg. Pour a thick, sweet-savoury dark sauce over the radish cake pieces, then fry till evenly mixed. This sauce, the key to the success of this dish, is a closely guarded secret.

The plate of fried radish cake in the photo is from a corner stall at Tanjong Pagar Food Centre (opposite Amara Hotel). The stall's name, literally translated from Chinese, is called The '50s Fried Radish Cake. I have my breakfast there nearly every Saturday. I've been told that the present stall-owner is the grandson of the original owner, so their recipe must be decades old! And it still tastes great! I've tried other stalls, but I think this version at Tanjong Pagar is a hard one to beat.

cheers!


Saturday, October 23, 2004

 

Crispy Seaweed Chicken

Need to whip up lunch in a jiffy? No sweat. Processed food to the rescue.


Clockwise from top left: rice, miso soup, mayonnaise, tomato and lettuce salad, and Crispy Seaweed Chicken.

Here's what I did (for 2 lunchers):

1. Take half a packet of
CS Tay's Crispy Seaweed Chicken (it's really delicious!) and let the chicken pieces defrost at room temperature.

2. Wash and cook one cup of Calrose rice (short-grained, sticky rice) in an automated rice cooker.

3. Cut a few lettuce leaves into thin strips. Slice a tomato and lay them on top of the lettuce strips. Keep this salad in the fridge till ready to eat.

4. When the rice cooker switches from "Cooking" mode to "Keep warm" mode, you can start to cook the soup and chicken. Although the rice has been cooked, it's best to keep it covered and let it "rest" for a few minutes before eating it.

4. Boil 2 bowls of water with a dash of instant dashi granules. When the water boils, ladle some of the boiling water into a bowl with about 2 tablespoons of miso paste (more miso=more salty, so adjust according to your preference). Dissolve the miso and pour it into the pot. Just before the soup comes to the boil, turn the fire off. Cover the pot to keep the soup hot.

5. Heat some oil in a small wok or saucepan to semi-deepfry the chicken. Turn them so that they'll cook evenly. You don't have to use a lot of oil, just enough to barely cover the chicken pieces.

6. Serve the chicken and salad with mayonnaise. Garnish the soup with chopped spring onion.

cheers!


Thursday, October 21, 2004

 

AromaCookery is One Month Old!



To celebrate, here's a mini Mango Chocolate Crunch from Crystal Jade Cakery. Yummy mango mousse on top of a rich chocolate pastry base. Here's to many more moons of blogging!

cheers!


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

 

Braised Pork Belly (Lor Bak)



I learnt how to make this dish from my mom, who's a talented cook. It's actually a variation on her recipe for braised duck. She used to make braised duck regularly, and would give them to friends and neighbours. They were always delighted to receive her braised duck, cos the latter was truly delicious and fragrant. I'm not saying this cos it's my mom's recipe, but her braised duck is truly the best I've ever tasted. No store-bought version has yet to come close. I guess it's because she's very generous with the quantity and quality of the ingredients. And of course, you can't beat food that's been made with love. :)

Besides being generous with the ingredients, what sets my mom's braising liquid apart is the use of lemongrass and galangal (blue ginger). Most cooks use dark soy sauce, soy sauce, and Chinese five-spice powder as the main ingredients. My mom eschews the five-spice powder as she finds it too pungent. Instead, she prefers the aromatic and delicate flavors of lemongrass and galangal.

So, when mommy dearest left S'pore for a two-year overseas sojourn, her daughter (yours truly) suffered severe withdrawal syndromes. She developed hallucinations of braised ducks flying before her eyes, and even smelled the aroma of braised duck sauce in her dreams. Finally, she could no longer go without her dose of mom's lovely braised sauce. Picking up the phone receiver, she made an IDD call. "Mommy, teach me how to make your braising sauce! Huh...what? Never mind it's nearly 1am over there! I need the recipe. Now!"

Now, after several attempts, I have come close to recreating my mom's yummy sauce. But I substitute the duck with pork belly, cos the preparation of duck is a lot more trouble than pork belly. Also, I haven't learned how to cut up a whole duck. Anyway, my mom used to save the braising sauce from cooking the duck to braise pork belly too. Such is the versatility of braising sauce. It actually gets better when you reuse it. You can also use the leftover sauce to braise whole hard-boiled eggs, firm beancurd (tau kwa), or livers.



Oh, this was so good! Today's pork belly was braised to perfection. The fat was soft yet succulent, and the meat was very tender. And it wasn't too greasy. The pork almost melted in my mouth. Mmmmmmmm......! My only grouse is that it was a tad too salty.

I'm sorry I don't have the exact recipe, cos when I make this dish, I rely purely on estimation, and taste the sauce as I go along. I'll just try to give you a rough idea.

Julia's Mom's Take-Your-Breath-Away Braising Sauce

lemongrass
galangal (blue ginger)
cloves of garlic
finely chopped shallots/red onions
brown sugar
soy sauce
dark soy sauce
water
vegetable oil

1. Heat up the oil. Add the aromatics: shallots/red onions, lemongrass, galangal, and garlic. Fry till the shallots are soft.

2. Add the meat and mix with the aromatics. Sprinkle brown sugar generously all over the pork. Let the sugar melt. By now, the whole kitchen should be infused with a mind-blowingly sweet, citrusy and intense aroma.

3. When the sugar has melted, add the soy sauce and dark soy sauce. Then add just enough water to cover all the ingredients. Don't put too much water, otherwise the sauce won't be rich and thick.

4. Taste the sauce when it boils. Add more sugar or soy sauce accordingly. Cover, turn the flame to low, and let the meat braise for an hour.




Clockwise from the bowl: chopped onions and shallots, lemongrass, galangal (dunno why this is also called blue ginger when there's no tint of blue at all), and garlic cloves.

For now, I can have my fix of my mom's lovely sauce with pork belly. But for the real deal (braised duck), I'll still have to wait for the Jedi Master to make her Return.

cheers!


Sunday, October 17, 2004

 

Left in the Cold



My mom believes that cold food and drink is bad for one's stomach. She always insists on piping hot meals. She used to say, "Quickly come eat your dinner. Your food's getting cold!" And she would get very grumpy indeed if I took my own sweet time getting to the dinner table. In fact, she's so anti-anyfoodthatiscold that salads, cold sandwiches, ice-cream(!), cold fruit, and soft-drinks were no-nos for me. Yeah, I used to be a deprived-of-anythingfoodthatiscold kid.

But now, I'm a free woman. While I still like food that is supposed to be hot to be served piping hot, I now add anyfoodthatiscold to my food list. One of my fav lunches is cold sandwiches. They're easy to make and cleaning-up is a cinch. They're also light and appetising, perfect for lunch on a hot day.

I'm so glad my mom doesn't surf the internet.

cheers!


Friday, October 15, 2004

 

New Look

I've given my site a fresh new look, and added links to some of my fav food blogs.

Cheers!


Thursday, October 14, 2004

 

Recipe: Easy Fried Rice



Fried rice was probably invented as a result of using leftover plain rice to make a quick one-dish meal. However, it has become very popular, simply because it's delicious and wholesome! You have carbs (rice), protein (meat or seafood), and fiber (vegtables) all on one plate. Every rice-eating Asian country has their own version. One perennial favorite Chinese version is Yang-chow Fried Rice. The Japanese have their Western/Chinese-influenced Omu Rice Omelette. The Koreans use their trademark spicy kimchi to make Kimchi Bokkeumbap (Kimchi Fried Rice). The Thai are famous for their Pineapple Fried Rice. Nasi Goreng is the spicy and tasty version of fried rice in Malaysia and Indonesia. The Indians have their pilaf, a wonderfully aromatic concoction of rice, spices, nuts and raisins. In Singapore, we're very lucky to have access to all the above due to the variety of cuisines that restaurants here offer.

I love creating fried rice cos of the endless possible combinations of ingredients I can use. But Easy Fried Rice is one of the quickest versions, with minimal preparation and cleaning up. The ingredients are readily available and can even be be bought months in advance. This isn't my favorite recipe for fried rice, but it's my recipe for times like when I really need a quick meal or when I don't have fresh ingredients to cook other dishes. I guess this is also a good recipe for college students or people living on their own.

Here's the recipe for Easy Fried Rice. For 4 people, you need:

6 rice bowls of cold cooked rice*
4 eggs
chopped spring onion (optional)
2 rice bowls of mixed frozen vegetables (carrot, corn, peas)
170 gms of luncheon meat or Spam
chopped garlic (optional)
salt
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
oil

1. Place the frozen veggies in a pot. Add a pinch of salt, and fill the pot with just enough water to cover the veggies. Once they start boiling, turn off the fire. Drain the veggies.

2. Crack the eggs into a bowl. Add the chopped spring onions and soy sauce, and beat all the ingredients up till they are evenly mixed.

2. Heat one teaspoon of oil in a wok.

3. Saute the garlic lightly till fragrant. Add the chopped luncheon meat and fry till it's lightly browned. Remove from the wok.

4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil, and pour in the egg mixture. Let the eggs cook till about 70% set (some of the egg mixture should still be runny), and lightly scramble them up.

5. Add the rice and toss vigorously with the eggs, using your spatula to flatten and break up the rice clumps along the way.

6. Add the meat and veggies. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons of soy sauce all over. Toss to mix evenly.

7. Taste a spoonful of the fried rice. If it's too bland, add some more soy sauce and mix again. Serve hot.

*It's best to use rice that has been refrigerated overnight. The rice grains won't stick to one another. It's really tough frying clumpy rice!

** I prefer to use jasmine Thai rice, the long-grained type, as it is less sticky and more fragrant.

*** The garlic and spring onions are optional if you don't have fresh ingredients, but they really add a lovely aroma to the dish.


Cheers!


Sunday, October 10, 2004

 

Pastamania

The aroma of tomato, basil, oregano, garlic, onions, pepperoni, and cheese wafted down the corridor and triggered furious rumbles in my empty tummy. Pasta! Pizza! I walked closer and saw a Pastamania outlet full of customers. Ok, that's it. I set my mind on Pastamania for dinner. Alas, the quality of the food miserably failed to live up to the wonderful aroma it produced. I haven't had such lousy pasta in a long time.



This was my second visit to
Pastamania. I had a good impression of it after my first visit to the Funan Centre outlet. The service was friendly and efficient, prices were reasonable, and the food was served about 3 minutes after ordering. And the pasta I had was tasty, not awesome like those served in Italian restaurants, but good enough for a quick and casual and cheap lunch.

But my experience at the HarborFront outlet was dismal. Disappointment 1: the garlic bread, which had been prepared in advance, was cold and dry.



Chicken lasagne. S$9.30. Uninspiring mess. Never mind, I thought. It might taste better than it looks.



Disappointment 2: The lasagne was a blob of sticky, uneven mess of pasta, cheese and meat sauce. The flat noodles were evenly cooked; too soft in the middle and hard near the edges. There was too much cheese, making the dish overly salty and gooey. The lasagne was drowned in way too much tomato sauce. This dish was obviously not a labor of love.



Tuna and pea pasta. S$5.90. This was a new dish from the promotional menu.

Disappointment 3: The linguine was overcooked when it should have been al dente. The tomato-based sauce lacked depth of flavor; it was also very thin in consistency. Obviously, the cook used canned tuna, which typically has a sour tang, and forgot to balance out the acidity of the tomato sauce. Result? A sauce that is too salty and sour. I've tasted much better tuna pasta elsewhere.

Working through the tuna pasta, I noticed that the sauce was very oily. I started to shake the sauce off the noodles.



Look at this pool of oil. Whoever responsible for this must have dumped the entire can of tuna in oil into the tomato sauce. Couldn't he/she have drained some of the oil off first?

All in, a disappointing experience. Appearances, and smells, can be deceptive. I sure hope this is an isolated incident for Pastamania. The servers could not be faulted on their service; they were quick and efficient even though it was a busy night. But having to cope with a large crowd is no excuse for a slide in the standard of the food. You can be sure I'll be staying away from the Pastamania outlet at Harborfront from now.

cheers!


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

 

Recipe: Stir-fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts

Tonight's dinner special: Stir-fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts.



This is one of my fav chicken dishes. It's relatively easy to prepare, yet it's good enough to be served in restaurants. Here's what I did:

Ingredients:

2 kgs boneless chicken leg
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp sesame oil
cooking oil (about 2 rice bowls)
2 small green peppers
1 large yellow onion
pinch of salt
1 packet of salted cashew nuts
2 tbsp Lee Kum Kee hoisin sauce**

Method:

1. Remove the skin from the deboned chicken legs. Cut chicken into small, bite-sized pieces.

2. Mix chicken with sugar, soy sauce, cornstarch, and sesame oil. Leave to marinate for at least one hour.*

3. Heat up cooking oil in a wok. The amount of oil has to be enough to cover all the chicken pieces.

4. When the oil starts to smoke, scald the chicken in the hot oil, turning occasionally to make sure the chicken pieces are evenly cooked.

5. Don't overcook the chicken. When they are done, remove from the wok. Drain to remove the excess oil and meat juice.

6. Remove the oil from the wok, leaving about just one tablespoon of oil. Stir-fry the green pepper and onion, with a pinch of salt, for 2 minutes. Remove and set aside.

7. Return the cooked chicken to the wok. Add the hoisin sauce, and toss to mix evenly. Add the peppers and onion, and toss again. Before turning off the fire, add the cashew nuts. Quickly toss to mix evenly.

8. Serve with plain rice.

* If using fresh chicken, you just have to marinate the meat for at least an hour. But with frozen chicken, it's best to marinate it for longer time to tenderize the meat. I used frozen chicken this time, so I left it to marinate overnight in the fridge.

** Hoisin sauce is thick and sweet. If you prefer a more savory taste, substitute it with oyster sauce.

Cheers!


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

 

As Singaporean As Chicken Rice



If you visit Singapore, you must try Hainanese chicken rice. This modest yet delectable dish is so popular among visitors and locals that it's become our unofficial national dish. And it's a true-blue local culinary invention too, born on these very shores.

Its appearance is deceptively nondescript. Served on a plate, a mound of rice is topped with boiled chicken and some slices of raw cucumber. On the side is a bowl of clear chicken soup and a dish of reddish-orange chili sauce.

But its unique fragrance hints of greatness ahead. You won't be disappointed. You see, fragrant Thai rice is cooked in chicken stock, whole garlic cloves, ginger slices, and pandan leaves. All these ingredients give the rice a wonderful flavor and delicate fragrance. A whole, fresh chicken is cooked in boiling water. This step is not easy as you need to cook the chicken for just the right amount of time. The cooked chicken is immediately dunked into cool water to prevent overcooking and firm up the meat. After being cooled and drained, sesame oil and soy sauce is brushed all over to flavor the chicken before it is chopped into slices. The special chili sauce is a must-have when eating chicken rice. In fact, it's another local invention concocted just for chicken rice.

As only fresh chicken is used, locals here had been going without our favorite dish for a few weeks due to the ban on fresh poultry imports. (Singapore gets its supply of fresh poultry and eggs from Malaysia. Due to the bird flu virus outbreak in Kelantan, Malaysia, these imports were banned for more than a month. The ban was partially lifted last Thursday.) So on Saturday, R. and I, together with other fellow citizens, showed our support for the comeback of our national dish.



Chicken rice (large). S$3.00. Regular size available for S$2.00.

Although chicken rice is sold in almost every foodcourt and hawker center here, not every stall does a good version. This version we had at Tiong Bahru Market Food Centre (Temporary) didn't disappoint. The rice was very fragrant, not too oily, and had just the right amount of salt. The chicken was also perfect. I liked the fact that it was thoroughly cooked, yet it was very tender and moist (even though I was given the breast meat). Some stallholders slightly undercook the chicken to maintain the tenderness of the flesh, but that results in pink juices flowing from pinkish chicken meat. Yuck!



Top: Dark soy sauce. Bottom: Garlic ginger chili sauce.

Whoa! This stall's chili sauce is potent! Just a dip delivers a big, spicy kick. This sauce is a complex mix of red chilies, garlic, ginger, chicken stock, salt, sugar and lime juice. Very aromatic, and goes extremely well with the plain chicken meat.



Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre (Temporary)

This was where we had dinner, from a stall, named Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice. The Hainanese are an ethnic Chinese group that speak the dialect Hainanese. Their ancestors came to S'pore from Hainan, China. But if you go to Hainan, you won't find chicken rice there. This is a Singapore dish, invented by the Hainanese immigrants. It's now popular even among people of other ethnic groups in S'pore. It's priced from S$2.00 to $18.00, found in humble food centres to 5-star hotels. How amazing, that this simple arrangement of rice, chicken, cucumber, chili sauce and soup has transcended the boundaries of race, language, and social class. As for me, the wonderful aroma of chicken rice never fails to invoke a sense of warmth, and of course, never fails to make my mouth water.

Cheers!


Saturday, October 02, 2004

 

Killiney Road

Last weekend, R. and I went to attend a workshop near Killiney Road. This place is an estimated 5-min walk from the bustle and noise of Orchard Road, yet its rows of quaint, old, conservation shophouses are a marked contrast to the surrounding tall, modern office buildings and apartments.

About two-thirds of these shophouses are now occupied by restaurants and eateries, the most famous one being
Killiney Kopitiam ("ko-pi" means "coffee", and "tiam" means "shop" in Hokkien). Customers, most of them die-hard regulars, flock to this unassuming coffeeshop for its famed kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs and traditional kopitiam coffee. Kaya toast is an all-time favorite Singapore breakfast food, but it's so popular that we also have it during tea-time or as a snack. More on Killiney Kopitiam later.

Before the workshop, we needed to grab lunch. There was a huge choice, ranging from local fare like chicken rice and minced meat noodles, to international cuisine like Italian food and Vietnamese noodles. With growling tummies, we settled on this cheery-looking cafe called OA Bakery & Cafe. There was a sizable crowd inside. Since it seemed popular, the food couldn't be too bad, right? When in doubt, just follow the crowd.

To our pleasant surprise, the prices were very reasonable. Look at this picture, all this for only S$5.00! In fact, all the set meals here are priced at S$5.00 (prices not inclusive of 5% taxes).


Breaded chicken cutlet with Japanese curry. S$5.00 This set includes rice, miso soup and dessert.



Close-up of the generous cutlet, fried crisp to golden-brown perfection. What I liked was that it isn't too greasy, unlike some others which I've tried elsewhere. The fresh shredded cabbage, with slivers of carrot and two slices of tomato beneath, is smothered with a deliciously tangy sauce (I think it's largely made up of Thousand Island dressing).



The curry is mild, hardly spicy at all. Good news for those who are averse to spicy stuff. Gravy comes with some carrot chunks.



A generous serving of rice, sprinkled with black sesame seeds. On the right are two slices of watermelon, the dessert of the day, a refreshing ending to the fried and spicy food. (Btw, I don't understand why some eateries pass fresh fruit off as dessert. Shouldn't dessert be some kind of sweet pastry, or ice cream?)



The miso soup that is chock-ful of tofu and seaweed. I like their version; it's tasty without being overly salty.
As for R., his dish didn't look exciting when it arrived. I thought I had the better deal with the huge Japanese set meal.



Taiwanese beef noodles in soup. S$5.00 Topped with chunks of braised beef, a braised hard-boiled egg, stewed Chinese pickles and baby bok choy. It also comes with a dessert.



Halfway through my meal, I asked R. if I could try his unexciting dish. Boy was I wrong. It was awesome! The beef broth was absolutely rich and flavorful, and the beef chunks so tender, they nearly melted in my mouth! Mmm...what a great choice. Lucky for him I'm not a beef fan, otherwise...

I would definitely return to OA Bakery and Cafe again if I'm in the vicinity. The prices for this standard of quality and presentation is absolutely unbeatable in Orchard Road area. Looking at the packed cafe, it seems that I'm not the only one who has discovered this little gem of an eatery.



Btw, we noticed this at the side of our table: whole dried red chillies in a canister. Couldn't figure out what they were for. Certainly not for decor or consumption. We gave up and asked the waitress. You wanna know the answer too? Heheh, it's at the end of this blog.

After the workshop, R. suggested going for Killiney Kopitiam's famed kaya toast. I wasn't very hungry, but then, how could one go to Killiney Road and leave without paying Killiney Kopitiam a visit?



Clockwise from top left: kopi (coffee with condensed milk), kopi-c (coffee with evaporated milk), two soft-boiled eggs, two slices of toast with kaya and butter. Forgot how much the individual items cost, but R., who paid for the treat, said the bill was less than S$4.50.



Here, the bread is still manually grilled over an open fire, as it has been for 50 years. You can see the grill marks on the bread. The kaya here is also made fresh daily. I like their version; it's really fresh and aromatic. Nothing beats fresh, homemade kaya. Kaya is made with eggs, coconut milk and pandan leaves. These ingredients combine to produce a wonderfully thick and fragrant jam. Take two slices of toast, smother with kaya, and slap on a slice of cold butter. Best eaten warm with traditional kopitiam-style coffee.



Another local breakfast favorite. Singaporeans like their breakfast eggs soft and runny. Add soy sauce and/or pepper to taste, break the yolks slightly, and slurp down the contents of the bowl. Eating eggs this way is supposed to help women increase the size of their breasts mammary glands, but don't quote me on that!!

So if you come to Singapore, do have a go at our local breakfasts. Of course, Killiney Kopitiam isn't the only coffeeshop that offers kaya toast, but few coffee shops make their own version and grill their toast over a fire. There is another famous kaya toast specialty franchise; I'll cover that in a later blog when I get a chance to eat there.

OA Bakery and Cafe
71 Killiney Road

Killiney Kopitiam
67 Killiney Road

For those who've been wondering about the dried chillies (or did you scroll down without reading the rest of the blog, you cheat?), they're there to keep flies away. What a cool and useful tip!

cheers!


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