Thursday, June 30, 2005

The secret i rather keep

Usually when I discover a fabulous new eating spot, I won’t be able to stop talking about it. I would also probably encourage every foodie I know to go try this place that I discovered. However, when I discovered Hachi, I was tempted to keep silent about this gem I found. I wanted it to be my secret because this place only sits 14 people! So from the goodness of my heart, I’m letting this cat out of the bag.

Unpretentious is probably a conservative description of this place. The deco looks like it has not been changes or updated since the 1970s and I would personally testify to it since the first chair I was sitting on was broken, that being said, I think the outdated furniture adds to the charm of the place. The room has got an interesting buzz, I felt like a tourist in my own country - sitting at the bar counter, with the tv in front of me that only showed Japanese programmes, surrounded by people who drank sake and spoke foreign language, a whole shelf of half finished bottles of sake with Japanese surnames on them, and Chef Wantanbe who served us but spoke little to us.

There is no menu here. Just take your seat at the bar and enjoy the culinary journey that you will embark on. You can however ask what is fresh or what they have available and tell them what you might not want to eat. If you waive your right to choose, then just sit and eat, and when you had enough, tell the chef behind the bar, “stop!” I survived nine courses, after which my stomach just went on strike and didn’t allow me to eat anymore. After the dinner, the chef chatted with us for a little while telling us that there wasn’t much sashimi today because he didn’t have much fresh supplies. So I’ll be back to have a large sashimi course the next time.

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Nosh: The food is outstanding. These are the nine courses that I had.

When this arrived we all looked at the saucer it was served in and looked at one another. I had no idea what it was! The seaweed was very thinly sliced and served in a vinegrette of sorts. It was a great palate opener.

Macaroni and Tuna Salad
Nothing too fancy or special, just macaroni and tuna with Japanese mayonnaise.

Sea Cucumber
Served in an orange cup, chef W came over and told us to squeeze the orange tops on top of the sea cucumber. I gather it was some sort of sea cucumber cheviche. I’ve only had braised sea cucumber, so it was really interesting eating the sea cucumber this way, which was very very chewy.

Oh Yum! Sashimi! He served us clams and octopus sashimi. I usually avoid octopus sashimi because it is a little too chewy, but this one that I had was the most tender piece of octopus sashimi I have ever had in my life!

Chicken Stew
The chicken stew was nice and warm. Very comforting but it didn’t quite taste Japanese in anyway. It was nonetheless delicious with the sprinkling of herbs at the end.

I don’t know what fish we were served, but the meat was sweet and it was complemented with the pickled and stewed condiments and for a little extra kick, chili paid.

Very simple and elegant vegetable braised in a gentle dashi stock that was served to us cold.

This was my favourite dish. The wonderfully marbled piece of beef that was seared on the hot grill and then sliced and served with some seasoned grated daikon radish, fresh sharp garlic sliced and spring onions. It was sooo good.

This is probably the dish that did me in for the night. The warmed udon came with a raw egg which you just mix in and then slurp away. This was wonderful and comforting and a great way to finish off. (A little like the E-foo noodles that we get at the end of the 10 course Chinese dinner)

Pay: About S$80 per person for about 7-8 courses and a beer/sake.

Rave: It is a real dining experience. It is fun and you will be assured of good fresh food.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Cookbook Meme!

My first meme! I have to confess, my cookbooks are NEVER in order or NEVER so neat, so these are my books posing. I'm normally quite a mess, so after colin tagged me, I figured that this meme was enough motivation for me to hunt and gather my cookbooks from all the different corners of the house, and to put them in some sort of an order.

1. Total number of cookbooks I've owned

Currently, 35, excluded the ones I will be inheriting from my mother.

2. Last cookbook I bought:

Moro by Sam and Sam Clark – I borrowed it from the library and I decided that I had to have this book.

Desserts, and Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

3. Last food book I read:

Bouchon and I’m still trying to finish Larousse Gastronomique

4. Five cookbooks that mean a lot to me:

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The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver – because I was on the couch watching him cook and I decided that it wasn’t too difficult. I then invited friends over for dinner and never stopped cooking since then.

Larousse Gastronomique – It was hand carried home as a gift from the UK by my brother, who insisted that every foodie had to had a copy of this. ( I was so touched, because despite the fact it weighed close to 5 bricks but it didn’t stop him from hand carrying it in his hand luggage home for me. I didn’t have the heart to tell him when it went on sale.)

Cuisine Unplugged by Emmanuel Stroobant – The first and only professional chef that I worked with in the kitchen who was kind enough to take me on short notice for a short period of time where he tried to teach me a thing or two about cooking.

The French Laundry by Thomas Keller – It is like my self-help book for cooking. Every time I read the book, I’m amazed at how Thomas Keller’s mind works and it always makes me want to cook better.

Malaysian Hawker Favourites from the Periplus Mini Cookbook Series – With recipes like Hor Fun, Char Kway Teow and Hokkien Mee, it was instrumental in creating some dinners that reminded us of Singapore while we were living away from home and dinners that I made for my friends who were foreign to our fabulous food.

5. Which 5 people would you like to see fill this out in their blog?

J the blogger of the beautiful Kuidaore
Nicole, because of our endless conversations about food.
Julia from Aroma Cookery

Sunday, June 26, 2005

IMBB #16 - Finding Comfort in Eggs

Sweet Soy Infused Quail’s Eggs

I was a little bummed that I might be missing out on the IMBB action for this month since my kitchen is under going renovation and looks like a total mess. My auntie however was gracious enough to give me full access to her kitchen since she thought I might have been suffering some sort of withdrawal symptoms having to go cold turkey for nearly a month without a kitchen. So with the courtesy of her hospitality, I decided to make comfort grub to soothe my soul for the eggy IMBB. I usually serve them as appetizers. The last time i did so, the people at the table mistook them for olives, but were later plesantly surprised! I find the eggs very comforting to eat, and especially since you can just grab them with your hands and pop them in your mouth .... Mmmmmm... mm.


Quail’s Eggs

2 liters cold water
1 cup shao hsing wine
1 cup dark soy
1/3 cup ligh soy
2/3 cup yellow rock sugar
6 cloves of garlic
10 ginger shards
3 green shallot stems, cut in half crossways
4 medium ‘braised dried Chinese mushrooms’
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 whole star anise
1 small piece cassia bark or 2 cinnamon quills
1 medium piece dried orange peel


Boil quails eggs to hard boiled, and peel off shells.

Meanwhile, place all stock ingredients into a stock pot and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes to allow flavours to infuse.
Place boiled quail’s eggs into stock and allow the stock to permeate the eggs for at least 12 hours.
Fish out the eggs from the stock and eat!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Kick Back and Relax at Bather's

Bather’s Café and Restaurant
41 Sunset Way #01-02/03
Clementi Arcade
Tel: 64631767

Dinner at Bathers was a great no fuss night out. When we arrived and stepped through the front door and gave them our name for our reservation, we were led into the next room which was already humming with human activity. The cozy lit room was invited and very homely that will put you at ease in an instant. The server quickly appeared and gave us menus and asked if we would like iced or warm water which I thought was thoroughly considerate. Nothing stuffy about the restaurant, on the first page of the menu, you are introduced to the chef – Kelvin Cheong or more affectionately known as Kel to his regulars and this place as it seems has its regular followings. Judging from the diners in the table next to me who were more than happy allow Kel his free hand in serving whatever he wanted to them, I was feeling confident of a good meal. Service is prompt, the place is small and they run it efficiently with your water consistently being topped up, but our server seemed relatively knew and had to make constant shuttles to and fro from the kitchen with our numerous questions about the menu. Despite that, it is a great place to just kick back for dinner with a few friends and a few bottles of wine because as with the Australian bistro inspired food menu, it follows the common BYO practice in Australia.


Nosh: An eclectic mix of items are on the menu, for appetizers, soups, escargots, Portobello mushrooms, soft shell crabs and others are on offer. For main courses, lamb, cod, sea bass, chicken, tenderloins and fish and meat specials or if that doesn’t fancy you, there is also a selection of comforting pasta that you can have. The fish special for the day was salmon, but what really surprised me was that the meat special was a wagyu tenderloin dish that seemed a little out of place in the restaurant since it seemed a little out of the price range of everything else. Desserts are simple, apple crumble, brownies, ice creams are various choices for you to end off your meal.

From the appetizers, we had the Portobello mushroom which was served on a bed of salad with a wonderful balsamic vinaigrette, the escargots which seemed to have a hint of cheese in the herbed butter which was moped up with our complimentary serving of garlic bread and potato salad and the tofu with gooseliver mousse. The tofu with gooseliver mousse left me feeling a little puzzled. It was served with some diced up mango and hoisin sauce, but I didn’t really taste a hint gooseliver in anything, in addition to that, since the tofu and the mousse were both a little soft in texture, it was a little hard to distinguish which was which although it tasted interesting together with the sauce.

The main courses looked impressive, the tenderloin was probably the best dish at our table. The steamed cooked stuffed sole fillets and the grilled sea bass with root vegetables and Asian sauce weren’t bad, but nothing much to shout about and I would have preferred a lighter sauces with the fish dishes as they seemed a little too robust for the gentle fishes.

Dessert was simple, we shared an apple crumble and a scoop of cappuccino ice cream, which was simple and nothing too complex.

All in all, the food is slightly above average, and I think I would stick to the meat mains the next time I’m here.

Pay: S$40 a person for 3 courses.

Raves: A great BYO place is hard to find in Singapore and since chef Kel can knock out rather tasty tucker, it is worth coming here to kick back in this cozy room.

Gripes: Our appetizers came in a series and hence we were watching each other eat which was terrible timing on the part of the kitchen. However, I’m wondering if they timed it in that manner because they expected us to share our appetizers since they always placed the appetizers in the center of the table and they seemed rather surprised when I said I’m not sharing my appetizer as a cue for them to place it in front of me.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Friends Cooking for Me ... featuring Mervyn.

As a birthday treat, a really good friend of mine said her boyfriend and her would like to host a dinner for me. It was not only sweet and really gracious of them, but it was also a wonderful suggestion since my kitchen is under-going renovation and it currently looks like a war-zone rather than a kitchen. It was wonderful change from all the takeout that I have been eating in solitude with the television as my only companion over the past few days. Their dinner treat was also extended to other guest that I wanted to have over for dinner, so I had my usual bunch of eating buddies at my dinner table, and Mervyn who will usually be at the table with us was behind the stove instead. Mervyn has been experimenting and cooking quite a fair bit, but somehow i never quite got round to eating his food because the last time they gave me an invite for dinner, I had a hen night party to attend, so i was really excited about this dinner. This is the dinner that they put together.

The dinner consisted of four courses:

We started with an appetizer of scallops wrapped in bacon with asparagus with a balsamic vinegar sauce and a drizzle of porcini mushroom oil.

Following which we had a chicken miso mee sua with porcini mushrooms. I’m not sure if this dish was intentional since we were celebrating birthdays but the I loved the gentle broth that he made.

When they asked me if I had any request, I said I would like to have fish, and so for the main course we had a sesame tuna tataki with a mango, avocado and tomato salsa with a mandarin and ginger sauce.

The dinner was then concluded with a chocolate sponge served with caramelized bananas and lemoncello flavoured mascarpone.

To the two wonderful people who slaved over the stove for us, it was an evening, thanks for hosting!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Jade - Truely Precious

Jade Restaurant
The Fullerton Hotel
1 Fullerton Square
Singapore 049178
Tel: 6877 8188

After my last dinner outing to Club Chinois, I have been aching to try the other modern Chinese restaurants under the Tung Lok and it was the Jade I sought. Knowing that it was under the pilotage of Sam Leong, I knew I was in good hands for the night. I’m no real connoisseur of Cantonese food where the food draws most of its inspiration from, to tell you if he follows closely to the principles of Cantonese food, but I can tell you it is good, and I really like the interplay of flavours.

I dined like a frugal gourmet in this restaurant avoiding the lavish and opulent section of shark’s fins, abalone and other Chinese delicacies and still had a wonderful dinner prepared with finesse.

tofu mousse with black sesame dressing

Nosh: Modern Cantonese or Fusion Chinese. Tasting menus are available at both lunch and dinner, but I invented my own with some assistance from the service staff.

Instead of giving you a saucer with peanuts that you can spin around on the lazy susan, we were served an amuse bouche of deep fried wanton skin with peanuts and black vinegar. This was really good, crispy skin, tart vinegar, and creamy peanuts, it certainly woke my taste buds up.

Following which as an appetizer we had the wasabi prawns with mango. I have had this at another really fabulous Cantonese restaurant, but our prawns there was smothered in wasabi aioli which I thought was great, but the balance here was wonderful, there was enough wasabi aioli for it to be a flavour factor, but yet not strong enough to take away the natural flavours and texture of the prawn and the sweet mango.

For the meats we had a serving of crispy chicken with traditional soy sauce and grilled lamb chops. The crispy chicken was cooked with finesse with the paper crisp skin and the lamb was grilled till a nice tender medium, it was good food, but nothing too extra ordinary.

The grilled cod fish with the egg white sauce was really good. The light egg white drops were like clouds against the heavier ingredient of the two. The contrast in taste and textures made it close to a match-make in heaven.

The gentle homemade tofu with spinach and enoki mushrooms made up the greens for the night. Sitting on a platform of crunchy asparagus the soft tofu and other flavourful elements gave plain simple tofu a touch of elegance.

To fill our tummies, we had the wok fried mee sua which is a house specialty and meepok braised in xo sauce. The meepok that I had was simple but luxurious in its sauce.

For dessert we had the tofu mousse with black sesame dressing. It was pretty to look at and great to eat. Not to sweet and the ying yang flavours worked together well.

Pay: S$100 for what I had, but tasting menus for lunch are priced at S$38+++ and S$48+++, for dinner they are S$68+++ and S$88+++. If you are thinking of going on a shark’s fins and abalone diet, then I think you would definitely need to set aside a more.

Adore: The view. The green view that you get is great and the service is efficient and nothing like what you would get a normal Chinese restaurant.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The New Butcher in Town

The Butcher
44 Jalan Merah Saga, #01-50

Although it was only weeks ago that I declared that I would not and cannot eat another sausage, this relatively new butcher was a good enough excuse for an exception. The sausage flavours were so enticing and sounded delicious that I not only bagged one or two but five different sausages home. Talking to the guy behind the counter, he said that the sausages were made on the premises and there will be more delectable delights coming our way.

These are the sausages that I had:

From left to right: Sweet Chili and Mango
Lamb and Tandoori Yoghurt
Herb and Garlic
Steak and Onion
Lamb, Honey, Mint and Rosemary

My favourite was the lamb and tandoori yoghurt but the sweet chili and mango was a little odd tasting. Nonetheless, this butcher is a welcomed innovative sausage producer.

This Aussie-centric butcher also carries meats so if you are looking for a nice cut or a rack of lamb, or a juicy piece of steak to put on the barbeque and are around the region. You can order meats from the website, but if you are around the area you can pop in and look at the other fine food products.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

I dreamt of Paris and made coq au vin

I made this a while back but never quite got around to blogging about it. I made it after a night where my ever active mind didn’t let me sleep and was racing with greedy and envy from the conversation I had with Nicole when she asked if I wanted any food gifts from Paris. So while she was eating her way through Paris, I was determined to cook up a piece of Paris in my own little kitchen and decided to try my hand at a classic bistro coq au vin.

Coq au vin
Serves 4-6

300g eschalots
180g pancetta, rind removed, cut into 2cm long strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
250 button mushrooms
1 large chicken, cut into 10 pieces
2 tablespoons plain flour
¼ cup brandy
1 bottle of rich red wine (such as cabernet sauvignon or shiraz)
1 bouquet garni
crusty bread to serve


Pour freshly boiled water over the eschalots, as this will make them easier to peel, then remove skins.

Fry the pancetta in the olive oil in a large casserole or a heavy-based pan with a lid over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until some of the pork fat has run into the oil in the pan and the pancetta is beginning to crisp. Add the peeled eschalots to the pan. Fry for 2-3 minutes until the eschalots and pancetta have a little colour, then set aside in a bowl.

In a separate fry pan, melt butter over low and medium heat. Add mushrooms to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic and fry for a further minute until mushrooms have softened. Set aside in the same bowl.

Toss the chicken in the flour – the easiest way is to place the flour and chicken in a freezer bag, toss everything around until well coated. Return the casserole to medium heat and brown the chicken. You will need to do this is batches, setting the chicken aside once they are golden brown.

Share out any excess flour from the freezer bag into the casserole and scrap the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Pour in the brandy and ignite carefully with a long match (stand back! I just let the alcohol cook off as I didn’t want to risk losing my eyebrows knowing what a clumsy person I can be). Stirring as you go, pour in the whole bottle of wine and turn the heat up to high to bring the liquid to a boil.

Return everything to the pan, tuck the bouquet garni into the casserole and give everything a stir. When it begins to boil, cover with a lid, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for an hour or so until chicken is tender. Season with pepper and salt, place a piece of chicken, vegetables and sauce in each bowl and serve with crusty bread.

Monday, June 06, 2005

More on the wedding: The Car took the Cake!

Introducing the car,

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Introducing the cake,

The Story ...

This wedding was more hands on some of us. My dear friend C, whom I more commonly refer to as my baker friend, really got hands on with some heavy duty baking when she agreed to bake the wedding cake for our newly and happily wedded couple.

The cake was the cutest thing at the wedding reception! Rather than going for the conventional tiered cake, she decided to go with something simpler that would reflect the couples’ personality. My cousin who is absolutely in love with her little green pajero mini, insisted that it had to be part of their wedding car entourage so that it could join in the festivities and witness their wedding. Bearing in mind the tiny engine capacity, it was more like a turtle on our expressways against the green landrover that they had as their wedding car. It was slowly apparent to us that this mini pajero that was quite a pain to drive as it crawled the streets, was forcibly going to be a integral to this wedding. Hence, on top of the wedding cake sat the pajero mini, not a lego or plastic husband and wife figures, but a car, their car, and I think it was really cute.

Hurrah for my baker friend! Hurrah Hurrah! Email me if you want to contact her for her wonderful baking services!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

I went to Hanabi and Ate Till i Nearly Popped!

Hanabi Japanese Restaurant
559 Bukit Timah Road
#01-03, King's Arcade
Tel: 6465 5525

It is times like this that makes me feel like a glutton. We stormed into Hanabi, sat, ate and conquered (or maybe the restaurant conquered us). I usually don’t really like buffets, because people are always getting up and sitting down that it is rather disruptive if you are trying to have a conversation, sometimes the food you are chomping looks suspect and you end up eating way too much. Hanabi offers a buffet and a la carte, and the buffet is an a la carte buffet, where you order from a menu, so in my own rationalization, this doesn’t seem as bad. The food was pretty decent as well, everything that was suppose to be fresh was fresh and things that were suppose to be served hot were, the restaurant was fully packed and the waiters and waitresses almost looked harassed by the constant request for the green tea and water refills, but I had a good night out.

Nosh: We started off with sashimi and we polished off 2 servings in a matter of minutes, I love sashimi, and the sashimi was fresh and so I decided that I think I would just eat sashimi for the rest of the night. My sashimi plan then got derailed when I started picking at the other plates and I decided that I was going to have to eat more than I wanted to – tempura, handrolls, miso soup, zaru soba, sukiyaki, tonkastu, shisamo, grilled mackerel, chawamushi ... I ate them all. The food here is the basic Japanese staples that we are used to and they do it pretty well with a decent quality standard.

Pay: S$26 +++ for lunch and S$30 +++ for dinner. Reduced prices for children are available.

Rave: It is good value for money and I think because the restaurant is drawing a regular crowd, it keeps their food fresh.

Disappointed: We made a reservation for 8 and they wanted to put us at the sushi bar, if it was 2 of us, that would be ok, but it makes little sense to put 8 at the sushi bar, no?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Kitchen Experiments - Coconut Fish Stew

Our newly wed friends were holding a dinner in their new home and so I decided to bring a dish for their dinner. I remembered I had a whole pack of coconut milk still sitting in their fridge and so I decided to try out this really quick and easy coconut fish stew. It is more or less like a thai green curry and it was really quite and easy to make. The only real labour in the whole dish was the pounding the spice paste, so if you aren’t in the mood for any real work, you can throw it all into the blender.

Instead of using choy sum, I used okra instead because I couldn’t find any choy sum in the supermarket and I like okra. Only after serving the dish I realized I was one of the few at the table that ate it, and so people kept picking them out and giving them to me, well, more okra for me them, it is their loss.

Serves 4

1 tbs peanut oil
680ml coconut milk
1 cup chicken stock
¼ cup fish sauce
2 tbs brown sugar
600g white fish fillets, cut into 3 cm cubes
1 bunch choy sum (I substituted with okra)
juice of 1-2 lemons
coriander leaves, to garnish

Spice Paste
1 lemongrass stem, roughly chopped
4cm piece ginger, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 long green chili, roughly chopped
2 tsp chopped fresh coriander root
1 tsp ground cumin


To make the spice paste, place all ingredients in a food processor and process till smooth. (I used a pestle and mortar because I feel it brings out the flavours of the ingredients better)

Heat the peanut oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the spice paste and cook for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce and sugar, then stir to combine.

Cook for about 5 minutes until the sugar is melted and the flavours are blended.

Add the fish and choy sum (or your veg) until the fish is just cooked through and the choy sum is just tender (about 2-3 minutes). Add enough lemon juice to blance the sweet and salty flavour to taste and garnish with coriander leaves.

To make it a one dish meal, you can add in some rice vermicelli or serve with some white rice.

*recipe taken from Delicious, April 2005