Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Mellben Seafood
Blk 211, Lorong 8 Toa Payoh
Tel: 6353-3120

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Since the tail end of last year, the monthly makankakis meeting has been a regular feature on my calender. The first one was at Sha Tin Kitchen where I shared the table with the skinny epicurean, DSD, ninjahellokitty and Umami. It is always good fun to share the table with fellow foodies and friends to share food and animated conversation.

The last makankaki’s outing was at the 2 month old branch outlet of the original Mellben in Ang Mo Kio. Mellbe n has its own sort of cult following from crab lovers, and now that I’ve tasted the glorious soup I’m hooked and am now a follower. Most of the other dishes that led to the crab finale were ok but were more like tummy and time fillers, building up the anticipation to the hot bubby claypots of rich milky roe-enriched robust soup.

Confession: I’ve been there twice in the span of four days.

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Greedyboy who had to cancel on me for the Mellben Makan outing insisted that he missed out and had to have it, and shaving tasted the crabilious soup, I put up little resistance to the second outing. On my second date with Mellben, I sampled other dishes on the menu including the other house crab signature, Shimmering Sand Crab, which is deep fried crab that is tossed in a lemakish sauce that is perfumed with curry leaves and other aromatics and topped with shimmering sand bits of fried crushed oats. Between the two crab dishes, my vote is still with the crab bee hoon soup, less frills and more focused on the crab essence.

Having eaten here with a crowd of 60 and a group of four, I can testify that Mellben has a good system of quality control, where on both occasions, their crowd pulling dish of crab bee hoon was stellar.

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*see more photos here and here

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

In Praise of Eggs

I’ve gone a little eggy. On Monday I bought a tray of regular chicken eggs, eight salted duck eggs and a dozen preserved duck eggs or what are also known as century eggs. Today is Thursday and I need to go shopping for more. Short of a heart attack diet, I have averaging a consumption of 4 eggs a day, excluding egg traces that might be found in confectionary, cakes and spreads. Other than consuming runny egg yolks with my own homemade chilli-spiked tomato sauce and scrambled eggs, I’ve learnt to utilise the other types of eggs a little more.

The century egg that might seem vile and strange to the uninitiated can be a little unnerving. In addition to that, the free publicity that it had received on it, was not at all positive as seen on Fear Factor, and I personally have been stared down at tables with the worst response being “Are you really going to eat that? You know they use horse pee in the preparation right?” honestly, I don’t know if they use horse pee, but it did put me off those black eggs for a good 6 months of so. Nonetheless, they are still delicious and they are a Chinese delicacy. They might smell funny to some, but the yolk is rich and creamy and the resulting preserved egg white turns into a springy jelly-like substance. Yes, it might be stinky, but durian is also stinky and last I checked so is a long list of cheeses and they are all still considered delicious. During the course of the week I’ve also taken a page from Xi Yan, in using the century egg in its preparation of its house signature salivating chicken, and it really does help in keeping the mouth flames at bay.

The salted egg is also something that I’ve learnt to cook with. Before this week I had only known how to use it through boiling, peeling and eating the yolk as it is with tofu and rice, but this week I’ve added another step, sautéing! This additional step actually enhances the fragrance of the yolk, a very useful kitchen tip.

Now since I had acquired new found knowledge about salted duck yolks, what should I do with it? I had a few ideas but that got derailed when I could not say no to my rare chance of scoring fresh crayfish from my fishmonger. All I needed was to find a way to tie the two ingredients together and here’s a dinner dish that I came up with: Spaghetti with salted eggs and crayfish

Spaghetti with salted eggs and crayfish
Serves 4

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8 salted duck eggs
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
4 crayfish, cleaned and halved
300 g dried spaghetti
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
200 g Chinese flowering cabbage (choy sum / cai sin), washed and trimmed
Salt to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Gently lower duck eggs and boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Strain eggs and whilst still hot, halve eggs and scoop yolks unto a bowl. Discard egg whites and shell. Mash yolks with a fork and set aside.
2. Pre-heat grill to 180°C. Mix 1½ tablespoon yolk with butter and spread over crayfish meat. Grill for 8—10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to the boil. When it comes to a rolling boil, add pasta and cook as directed until al dente, then drain.
4. When the pasta is 2 minutes from being ready, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Add egg yolks and sauté for 1 minute. Add flowering cabbage and sauté for another minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Remove saucepan from heat, add pasta and toss well. Divide equally into 4 individual bowls, top each bowl with 2 halves of crayfish and serve.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Millenia Walk, #01-109
9 Raffles Boulevard
Tel: 6338-7113

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Scandinavian food is gravalax, meatballs, Absolut Vodka, smorgasbord and Macus Samuelsson. When I think about places to get Scandinavian food, which is something I rarely crave, is Ikea and this little place called Akavit that I went to once and never went back. The only other Scandinavian restaurant that I can think of was skol, which used to be above wheelock, but that tragically did not quite take off. Well, here’s a new Scandinavian restaurant in town: Aböf.

Aböf, if I’m not mistaken, is owned by the same people behind the popular chichi Royal Copenhagen coffeehouse. Likewise, it it both a restaurant and a tea lounge. The food is (thankfully!) not Scandinavian fusion, but rather Scandinavian and Asian with no real cross overs, so the menu lists traditional Scandinavian soup of meatballs and dumplings in a rich broth next to lemongrass chicken soup and tom yum soup, and this format is consistent throughout the rest of the menu.

Lunch started with a pleasant “welcome to our restaurant!” gesture of serving us hot bread rolls that I felt demonstrated a deep sense of sincerity. Since we came here to sample Scandinavian cuisine, we skipped over most of the Asian dishes such as a tonkatsu sandwich but made an exception for their linguine tarako, which was unfortunately very disappointing because the linguine had not bite left in it and the sauce was too bland.

As for Scandinavian dishes that were offered, they were delightful. We started with the traditional soup of meatballs, which deceptively looked less delicious than it was presenting simple and rich flavours. That was closely followed by Scandinavian pink shrimp salad, which was light and refreshing. Pink shrimps are a lot smaller and have a more subtle and delicate than the shrimp/prawns that we are used to consuming from our markets, but they were worked well as the highlight in the salad.

Following that we skipped the open face sandwiches and proceeded with their recommended main courses of meatballs with fried onion and potatoes and gravy and Scandinavian roast pork with crackling skin red braised cabbage, baked apple, pitted prunes and potatoes with special gravy. Although I’m rather sure that they used the same sauce on both their star dishes, I enjoyed them both. It is after all hard to go wrong with meatballs and pork crackling that was crisp and airy, and the sweeter elements tied it together and gave it slightly more fullness.

We also skipped dessert and headed to somewhere else, but they have a selection of cakes to choose from. The best way to get an introduction to the baked goods offered here might be through their daily tea sets, and I probably would do just that when I find the time for a lazy afternoon.

* To see the whole set click here .


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Brown Sugar: It is sweet but ...

Brown Sugar Cafe Bistro
277 River Valley Road
Stardus Clubhouse, #01-04
Tel: 6333-6612

For Sunday Brunch, there are a few good things and a few not so good things happening at this relatively new bistro Brown Sugar. The unfortunate thing about it is that it is the not-so-good things that I think might either kill it or make it a run of the mill bistro with no real clear identity.

The chef or rather the architect behind the menu is Yuan Oeij, a man who is relatively new but familiar to the culinary scene. Having worked in some famed kitchens, Yuen has been working as a chef for hire cooking for private parties, which I image are still possible with a private room at the Brown Sugar premise. He, however (and this I find rather odd), does not really cook in Brown Sugar but does more floor management, as spotted on Sunday in his white polo and jeans greeting and chatting with his friends and select guests.

The best thing about this place was its reasonably priced menu. On weekdays they offer competitively priced set lunches $23 for two courses and $27 for three. And even if you ordered a la carte like we did, the food that we ordered were nothing too extraordinary but well presented and good value for money.

With regards to food, there are a few good things going on. Most of the items that we ordered were from the abridged version of the a la carte section of the menu. Starters of lobster bisque with prawn ravioli and grilled squid salad, orange and Mediterranean vinaigrette were delicious, the former being robust and yet light and the latter had a great refreshing quality. Main course choices consisted of pasta options and ‘burger’ options, and we sampled the latter, choosing the ribeye sandwich with caramelised onions, roasted aioli and yam chips and the signature portobello mushroom burger, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, arugula and fries, both of which were very down-to-earth and hearty.

We ordered one item from their brunch menu and this is where, food-wise, it goes pear-shaped. Two eggs, scrambled, with sausage and hash brown, and this was rather disappointing. The scrambled eggs were far over-cooked and looked and was too dry and was probably closer to something that you might find in a McDonald’s styrofoam box that has been sitting around for too long. The secondary elements on that plate were ok, but nothing to rave about.

The other not so good things that are happening here is the disorganisation or the non-responsive nature of the service staff. Once we were seated and had our orders taken, no one came to take drink orders or to bring water to the table for at least 20 minutes. The second incident of almost feeling ignored was when we asked if they had a dinner a la carte menu, after which we waited, eventually paid for the bill and realised that they were not going to bring it to us.

If you excuse the service, the food is dependable. To me, its not bad but it needs to find its own voice because currently it almost like a long lost twin to the Marmalade Pantry in terms of the clean modern deco and its casual but elegant menu items.

* See the whole set of photos here

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tribute to Grandfather Han

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Two days ago I received a telephone call informing me that my cousin’s grandfather suffered a massive heart attack and passed on shortly after. The good news, he died a happy man. On the night before he passed on, he two things that he loved, he cooked and he was with his family. I’ve just realised that I don’t know his name, as I have always know him as the Han’s Gong Gong who is Hainanese and used to work as a chef and who always cooked chicken rice for their family reunion dinners.

My connection with him is a little strange. I’m not his grandchild, although he has known of my existence since I was a child since I was constantly hanging out with his grandchildren. I also spent half a day with him and his wife in the kitchen of their flat. After several months or sporadic request for his recipes, I finally got him to agree to teach me how to make chicken rice. Very unfortunately, I disappointed the man when I forgot about our first meeting. After which my cousins, uncle and aunty repeatedly made me feel guilty in relaying this message: he was really disappointed and he bought a lot of food because he thought you were coming. With the heavy burden of guilt, I made sure I did not miss the next meeting.

I was greeted with a warm smile and a sincere “hello!” at the door. He invited me into his kitchen and went about his cooking. Moving about at a slower speed as age has caught up, he nonetheless talked energetically about his approach to his chicken rice and his method to preserving the juiciness of the chicken. He never said much, he was a generally a man of few words, but for that morning, he chatted wittily with me about his cooking and food and the various dishes he was cooking for lunch that day because they were the favourites of his respective grandchildren. For that day in his flat, we shared a moment and connected over food and the love for cooking for people.

Here’s a tribute to the man I know as the Han’s Gong Gong or Grandfather Han, he was great cook but above that he was a man with big heart that was well loved and would be missed.

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*photos by Hongde.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Seafood Paradise Restaurant

The Seafood Paradise Restaurant
91 Defu Lane
10 Swee Hin Building
Tel: 6487-2429

I think I just discovered another weekend hideout for Singaporeans. Located deep in Defu industrial park is this 200+ seater restaurant called Seafood Paradise…the seafood phenomenon. The older sibling of Taste Paradise, this place has found success with its live seafood and its signature creamy butter crab, which sauce is best mopped up with deep fried man tous… in other words, it got Singaporeans excited about their rendition of bread and butter.

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Creamy butter crab

This was my first visit to Seafood Paradise and it was introduced by my cousins. My brother on the other hand had been there with my cousins, and his first reaction upon his return visit was, “it was a lot crummier the last time we came here!” In fact, even the menus have had an upgrade from a laminated piece of paper to a proper full colour print menu.

There is an air-conditioned section of the restaurant, but most dine in the alfresco area under the stars along a wall lined with palmed trees. The waiting time for a table will be brisk, an estimate of 15 minutes, but once you are seated, brace yourself to wait for your food. We were prepared for a half hour wait, which the waitress confirmed with us when asked, but the actual wait was closer to 45 minutes, so be prepared to wait. During this time, you should either engage in conversations about politics, weather or whatever that will keep you occupied or you visit live fishes, frogs, crabs, prawns and lobster that are in the tank on death row. To have a good indication of when your food is coming, observe the tables next to you—especially if they had placed their orders before yours, once they have been served, your table should be served in the next 10 or so minutes.

As for the food, it was good value for money, but if you asked me about the whole experience, I don’t think the food was worth all that waiting and the anticipation skewed my judgment. The crab signature dishes such of creamy butter crab was too rich and sweet for me, but it comes with a sprinkling of deep fried crab roe that is wonderful to enjoy with the fried man tou, but I couldn’t stomach a lot of it without feeling je-lat. The crab in superior broth was good. Served with vermicelli, which does a doubly good job in absorbing flavours and giving royal appearance as if it were covered with shark’s fins. The broth was tasty and was initially met with glee but was a little overpowering after five spoonfuls. My favourite dish of that meal was its homemade beancurd in mini wok and pork floss, was soft and silky smooth and heightened by the pork floss on it. The other dishes that we had were ok, but nothing to write home about. All in all, it was ok, I might come back, but I will first have to figure out how to beat the crowd.

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*See the whole set here.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

A House of Friends, Family, Food & A Dog

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI have interesting friends. Actually, in this case they are family. This is one example: about 14 months ago, I was named a godmother of a dog and so today I am a proud godmother of this cocker spaniel called Simba.

Being a godmother to a dog bears certain responsibilities, such as attending its first birthday party and singing a birthday song to it. Me, along group of close knit friends gathered at Simba’s home last November to celebrate Simba’s birthday, complete with party hats, cake and all and this was the account as recorded by its proud owners:

“Everyone said it was a crazy idea but were drawn to the (dog birthday) party with keen interest. Simba was blessed with a bombardment of wonderful gifts. From a 'punching bag' toy, newspaper roll, brownies to yummy snacks from her uncles and aunties (Thank you everyone). She may not know that it was her birthday but probably knew it was her lucky day as the presents and delicious snacks flowed in like champagne on a pyramid of glasses.

Her dinner started with lamb balls as appetizers, main course was a delicious chicken pie and dinner was finished off with a slice of her birthday cake. We felt her tummy after she consumed all that, it was as hard as rock. I’m not looking forward to her disposals this morning though.

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Her birthday song was the funniest thing of the night. Everyone started singing the first two lines loudly but slowly as people realised they were singing to a dog, less and less voices could be heard. That was then I realised that everyone who came really actually came as they loved us and our peculiar interests. As a normal person would think a birthday party for a dog is a weird idea. Therefore, our conclusion is that firstly, our friends love and care for us a lot to do silly things for us. (Cross-reference to wearing green on our wedding day). Secondly, people will find any reason to gather for a good time. Thirdly, I do believe that everyone has a place for this wonderful dog in their hearts (ok maybe not all).

All in all, it was a good time for catching up for everyone. It was a fantastic time for a dog brought into this world approximately one year ago. I wonder who would be looking forward to next year more, the humans or the human-like dog?”

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But I really detract. What I really wanted to blog about is this Sukiyaki dinner that we had in this same house, but only this time we were celebrating our friend K’s birthday (human). It was a small intimate gathering of six of us around a square table and a hot pot in the centre, although ideally the table should be round. Nonetheless, it was a great evening of celebrating friendship, a dear friend, and of course some wonderful thin slices of tenderloin beef and kurabuta pork collar.

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Our Sukiyaki evening, started off with rather “authentic” ingredients such as fresh eggs, cabbage, an assortment of mushrooms, tofu and thinly sliced meats, but as the brown savoury liquid started bubbling, the idea of sukiyaki slowly being distorted by when various foreign items such pork balls, frozen wontons and instant noodles were discreetly and not-so-discreetly slipped into the pot. Also note that even though there were only six of us, we had to have three different types of noodles in the pot because we could not agree. Noodle and sukiyaki puritan battles aside, nothing beat good food than having charming company and to share it with… and that I’m pleased to say happens frequently under this roof, with or without excuses such as a dog’s birthday.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Colbar & Hope

9A Whitchurch Road
Wessex Estate

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I usually leave Colbar with a sense of hope. There is something very calming about this place and how unaffected it has remained by the pressure of the fast pasce and constant need to change and modernise. It almost demonstrates how life can be simpler and the pleasures of it. At Colbar, well-behaved and trained dogs roam around freely and children swing from a tire hung from a tree.

Do what you like here. The table next to us finished their lunch then proceeded to sip glasses of iced tea over a game of Uno, while seated at the entrance was a old man engrossed in his book and nursing his cold beer. I brought my own magazine to flip through, but if you forget your own reading material and have an itch to read, you can use the Colbar library, which is located on the left from the ordering counter. It works on a trust system: you can even take the book home, just return it or bring another to replace it when you come back.

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With regards to food, as its name Colbar (short for Colonial Bar), its menu is eclectic and large—consisting 104 dishes. It features the versatility of the colonial Hainanese cooks who were able to whip up invented local version western food, hearty British dishes and other Asian dishes. Hand-cut chips accompany the selection of chicken chops, pork chops, pork cutlets, steaks and various versions of deep-fried fish, which not only scream retro but also comfort and familiarity. And if western isn’t really for you, there are a handful of Chinese dishes available on the menu. The curry chicken that has been blogged about by CH is also good, spicy but not chilli hot, so it is suitable for adult non-chilli eaters and children! The food is really down-to-earth but to be honest, I don’t really come here for the food; I come here for a sense of hope and a reminder to take the time to savour the simple pleasures in life.

*See the whole set of pictures here