Sunday, July 31, 2005

#17 IMBB: Green Tea-Smoked Salmon

When a-la cuisine announced the theme for this month’s IMBB was announced, I had earl grey or jasmine tea infused truffles in mind, after eating this delicious food gift of earl grey truffles that a friend gave me two weeks ago. Unfortunately, I got lazy and never got down to going down to the shop to get some good quality chocolate. Instead, I managed to get my hands on a rather pretty fillet of salmon, so I decided to swing from sweet to savoury and to smoke some salmon for this month’s Tea-Themed-IMBB.

Green Tea-Smoked Salmon

500g salmon fillet (with skin)
2 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp finely grated ginger
½ tsp packed brown sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
1 ½ tsp five-spice powder

Smoking ingredients:

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¼ cup green tea leaves
¼ cup white rice
2 tbsp packed brown sugar


Rub salmon fillet with salt, ginger, and granulated sugar

Place on plate and cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.

With hands, lightly rub off extra salt and ginger from fillet; discarding any accumulated juices from the plate.

In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, soy sauce and five-spice powder, spread on top of salmon.

Place a piece of foil, about the size of salmon, on a round write rack that fits inside wok.

Poke several holes in foil; place salmon on foil.


Line wok with foil and place smoking ingredients with 1 tablespoons water on foil. Cover and heat over high heat until smoking.

Add salmon, cover with lid and wrap a wet dish towel around the edge to prevent smoke form escaping.

Smoke for about 15 minutes or until fish begins to flake when tested with fork.

Remove and let cool.

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Green Tea-Smoked Salmon

* Incidentally, when I watching the telly today, there was this brief clip about tea. So here’s an interesting tea-related piece of information that I found out today. According to the clip, the Chinese people only fill their tea cups to the 70% mark because the rest of the 30% of the cup is filled up by the company that you are with.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

When you are desperate and are looking for something under 30.

Ok. What I meant was, When you are desperately hungry and need to eat something in 30 minutes.

As far as possible, I’ve steered clear from fast food. In addition to that, since I have watched Supersize Me, I have developed an allergy to fast food, simply because I have grotesque images of my liver failing on me. I still however still indulge in the occasional frites, simply because sometimes, nothing beats having something greasy, crunch and tasty. Why do we eat fast food anyway? Why does fast food have to be junk food anyway? At the end of the day, most of us don’t reproduce restaurant type food on an everyday basis, but closer to something Rachael Ray style: keep it simple, keep it delicious and keep it fast. This is a quick and easy dish that I tried making this week, and it tasted like body-temple food, cleansing and refreshing.

Fresh Tofu Salad


300g silken tofu
1 medium tomato, finely diced
1 Japanese cucumber, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely sliced sping onion
1 teaspoon white miso paste
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon water

garnish: nori and I teaspoon of roasted sesame seeds


Drain tofu and slice in halfway lengths. Cut into ½ cm thick pieces and lay on a serving plate.

In a small bowl gently combine tomato, cucumber and spring onion. Place over tofu.

In a small bowl combine miso paste, sesame oil, vinegar, sugar and water. Spoon over the tofu. Top with nori and sesame seeds.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Breaking up is hard to do …

Saint Pierre
3 Magazine Road
#01-01 Central Mall
Singapore 059570
Tel: (65) 6438 0887
(not open on Sundays and Saturday for lunch)

Foie Gras Classique

My love affair with this restaurant is hardly a secret, and I would have recommended this restaurant to anyone in a heartbeat. I’ve loved Saint Pierre for a long time and my previous experiences as a diner there has always left me thoroughly satisfied, wanting more and dreaming of my return visit. However, sometimes there comes a time in a relationship where you know you have to go let go, move on and go your separate ways for a while or longer.

Dinner was disappointing. The company was fantastic, but the dinner was just about par, which is rather disappointing for this award-winning restaurant. There was a few moments of “mmmm, this is nice”, but there were also moments of “ermm.. what is this?!”

Let me explain,

Nosh: We had the degustation menu (summer 2005)

maison joulie salmon roe scented potato blinis with wasabi tobiko, organic lime scented crème fraiche and new harvest oscetra caviar

Any form of caviar is rather good on its own. The wasabi tobiko was interestingly balanced with the lime scented crème fraiche, but the blini was a little dry and hard, and it seemed like it was sitting around for a while rather than cooked a-la-minute.

nicolas potel japanese tomatoes crusted with fleur de sel served with gazpacho granite

Kudos to using quality ingredients, and to preserving the integrity of the various elements, resulting in a fresh summer dish.

live red claw crayfish poached in chardonnay scented court bouillon

This was well executed, the crayfish wasn’t overcooked, and the sauce was rich but not too heavy, topped of with some flavoured oils, it was simply presented and good to eat.

nicolas potel warm salad of escargot petit gris with dentelle bread, caramelized garlic and carpaccio of organic mushroom with asparagus shaving

Creative, innovative, and wonderful balance of flavours, this is my pick for the best dish of the night. The vegetables brought freshness and crunch against the deeper flavoured escargots. The salad dressing was fantastic; very modern-Asian tasting with a hint of soy sauce and something that I can’t quite decipher.

dashi poached lobster with roasted foie gras terrine, avocado puree, green cabbage effeuillee with lobster coral vinaigrette and iced green crab soup

The terrine was wonderful, but the iced green crab soup was a little too rich and had a bitterness that was rather sharp and made it difficult to swallow. Alternatively, you could pour the soup over your terrine and eat it together. The green cabbage was too bitter on its own, but with the terrine it isn’t too bad and it helps balance the smooth, rich creamy foie gras.

classic pan-fried foie gras with caramelised green apples and old port sauce

The signature and the plat de la resistance that was heavily anticipated fell flat. The foie gras was OVERCOOKED.

maison joulie white miso marinated cod with tomato confit, mango, slow braised organic onions, wild thyme, caramelized giant garlic and nasu in shiraz dressing

Scene at the table:


Waiter (arrives with plates): This is the miso cod, enjoy

Us: Thank you.

H (picks up fork, pushes the tomato confit and mango off the cod, cuts a piece of cod and puts it in his mouth, chews, drops his fork): This is bad.

N (eats cod): Yes. This is bad.

Overcooked, the cod had no more firmness and crumbled. All its natural juices were gone that it hardly tasted like cod, it tasted like a flaky fish.

rosemary scented chargrilled lamb saddle with etorki and piquillos infused fork mashed ratte potatoes, green bean flageolet and piperade dressing

This was slightly redeeming after two rather disgraceful courses, the lamb was cooked to a nice medium rare, good but not “wow”.

domaien de durban whole lemon confit filled with citrus flavoured soufflé served cold

I’m not big on sweet, so I didn’t quite take to this, although if you like lemon tarts, you would like this.

grandma stroobant flourless belgian chocolate cake with acacia tree honey tuile, tahitian vanilla ice-cream and caramelized apricot sauce

This was comfort food, a wonderful moist, chocolate-ly cake that wasn’t too sweet, with the crispy and sweeter tuile, creamy and colder vanilla ice cream and the sweeter and slightly tart apricot, would leave you saying, “mmmmm…”


The menu is seasonal and always sounds interesting, but the main stay-ers on the menu are the foie gras classique, the duck confit, rack of lamb and the miso cod. Chef Emmanuel is innovative and creative with flavours, and the menu can sound rather intimidating to the uninitiated, but that’s the beauty of the food at the restaurant - the layering and the balancing of flavours. The flavours and the menu is still captivating and the plates that are presented are still simple and elegant, but the cooking is occasionally careless, which is a real let down for such a reputable restaurant. Dry overdone fish is terrible, and the quintessential foie gras being overcooked is toeing the line of unacceptability.

Pay: S$90+++ for the degustation, additional S$65 for wine accompaniment, S$12 for classique foie gras, and S$10 for cheese plate.

A-la-carte will set you back about S$80-S$100 for 3 courses.

Service: Very efficient with the water and bread, with small inconsistencies. Some waiters will serve us ladies first, but some would just serve whoever they were closest to first.

On the flipside, an unfortunate incident happened when we were there. When we do go out to restaurants to celebrate events, I the family/resident concierge will usually tell someone in the restaurant to prepare something as a surprise and the restaurants are usually more than happy to help you celebrate and to partake of your joy. The last time we celebrated something here, they made a lovely dessert platter for us. I forgot to tell them on the phone this time, so I arrived at the restaurant a little earlier just to talk to the waiter to inform them of what we were celebrating and they said that they could arrange something, and so he said, maybe a welcome drink or something, which I thought that was wonderful and good until I little shell-shocked when I found an additional S$70 on my bill.

There are two issues I’m in contention with. Firstly, if you had every intention of putting something on my bill, there is something ethically wrong about picking out the most expensive item and putting it on my bill without much consultation. Secondly, as a wait staff, I don’t think they offered a good explanation for miscommunication and worse still, offered no apologies, and a very feeble attempt at trying to appease the situation, it left a rather bad taste in my mouth.

With much regret:

Dear Saint Pierre,

I'm sorry, things have changed. You have changed. It is you, not (maybe) me.


Monday, July 25, 2005


60 Greenleaf Road
Tel: 6467-5413

The restaurant was fairly crowded when we got there, hence we couldn’t sit where the main tables were but were tucked in a small connecting room which only sat 3 tables. The simple, unpretentious and slightly country feel that you get when you step into the restaurant will put you at ease. The empty wine bottles and the holes in the walls all added to the charm and the friendly character of the restaurant.

Nosh: The menu is has a range of hot and cold anti pasti, pizzas, pastas and main courses. We decided to sample the main courses and instead of having a serving of bruchetta and whatnots, we decided to split a fire-wood pizza between us.

The portions are fairly large and generous, such that I think I would have split a main with someone, as I struggled to finish half of what was on my plate. I had the cololette alla Bolognese which is oven baked pork with a Bolognese sauce. However, I think I was a little disappointed, it sounded more interesting than it tasted. It was a stack of 3(!) pork chops with Bolognese sauce in between, in other words, it was like lasagna but pork chops instead of pasta sheets. The other dishes that we had included caciatora which is chicken in vegetable stew, vitello al fungi porcini which is a rack of veal with a cream sauce with porcini mushrooms, a penne with scallops and a occhio di blue which is a pizza with egg. The chicken stew tasted like spring, the vegetable broth that it was stewed it made it tender and the flavours light. The show stopped was the rack of veal - tender with the rich porcini infused cream, wonderful, but almost impossible to finish by yourself.

No desserts because I had to doggy bag half of my lunch home.

Pay: S$30 – S$45 for 3 courses per person.

Service: Efficient, and nothing much for me to gripe about.

Hua Ting

Hua Ting
442 Orchard Road
2nd Level Orchard Hotel
Tel: 67347766

Perhaps it is my greed, but Sunday lunches are one of my favourite things. Sometimes we jump into a car with no plan in mind and either end up at our usual Sunday lunch eating places or sometimes we plan way in advance and have a reservation waiting for us. This week’s spot was marked out by my brother, and he was spot on this time with Hua Ting. The restaurant came highly recommended by our food-loving friends and his colleague who mentioned that this was his favourite Chinese restaurant in Singapore, and so to Hua Ting we would go.

Dim Sum from left to right starting from the top row: chee cheong fun with scallop, steamed crystal prawn dumplings, steamed siew mai with crab roe, steamed carrot cake with conpoy, baked chicken and mango tart, deep fried scallop pastry with onion and garlic, steamed glutinous rice with chicken wrapped in lotus leaf and steamed xiao long bao with fresh crab meat and roe.

Nosh: We had a selection of Dim Sum and a few dishes from the menu. From the Dim Sum menu we had chee cheong fun with scallop, steamed crystal prawn dumplings, steamed siew mai with crab roe, steamed carrot cake with conpoy, baked chicken and mango tart, deep fried scallop pastry with onion and garlic, steamed glutinous rice with chicken wrapped in lotus leaf and steamed xiao long bao with fresh crab meat and roe. The dim sum was presented simply but once you bite into these little morsels, the simplicity changes to sophistication. What was exceptional was the deep fried scallop pastry with onion and garlic - the light and flaky pastry enveloped a scallop, which was laced with a strong garlic sauce that was pleasant and not over powering.

From the regular menu, we ordered the braised minced chicken stuffed with goose liver paté topped with fresh crab meat. The stuffed goose liver was cooked to perfection, not over cooked at all; still moist and juicy, it provided a stronger flavour against the milder chicken and crab. Along with that, we ordered stewed meepok with beef brisket and tendon in brown sauce and a serving of chrysanthemum pomegranate rice with four treasures.

Shark’s fins and all the other expensive items like peking duck are on offer as well, but we had none. The table next to us ordered the peking duck and I was thoroughly impressed with the duck that was presented, it was so uniformly browned and was looking so delicious that I wanted to sneak a piece while they were carving it next behind us.

Pay: For all that we had, it was S$130 before whatever credit card discounts they might offer you. Steering clear from the shark’s fins which are S$50 for an individual, everything else is pretty reasonable for the portions that they serve.

The service is excellent. They are terribly efficient, such that we thought we were having a ten course lunch instead of dim sum with the constant plate changing. In addition to that, the service staff was excellent in taking away an order that was misunderstood without any argument.

Why I would go back: The food is fantastic, and there is still the shark’s fins cartilage soup that I would like to try, the image of that peking duck that is etched in my mind and the scallop pastry that still lingers on my tongue.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Singaporean F-loggers Lunch

The S-floggers Luncheon was fantastic. A few simple ingredients made it so – Thanks to Mag from Mag’s Wine Kitchen for hosting us and her kitchen for banging out delicious tucker from her tiny kitchen, the fantastic champagne from Veuve Clicquot, the wonderful gifts from BATS Singapore, Indoguna who gave us 2 bottle of wine (which I brought home and will bring to the next floggers meeting if they don’t get consumed by me on a depressing day) and the wonderful floggers who took an extra long lunch at the risk of getting fired. I had a fantabulous time! I had butterflies in my stomach when I was walking along circular road looking for the restaurant, but once I eased into my seat and started yapping with these familiar strangers, everything felt right. I guess birds of a feather 'flog' together. I took some pictures, but I think I’ll direct you to Chubby Hubby’s post who we more or less declared as out designated photographer.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Kitchen Experiments: Braised Fusion Mushrooms with Herbs

When in mood for a manic mushroom day, this is fabulous with a steamy bowl of white rice, or I think it would be a fabulous hors d’oeuvre in pastry cups.

Braised Fusion Mushrooms with Herbs
Serves 2-4 as a main

50g dried Chinese black mushrooms
50g dried morel mushrooms
900g button mushrooms
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon five or black pepper
4 tablespoons shaoxing wine
4 teaspoons light soy saue
2 teaspoons sugar
50ml double cream

Garnish:chopped chives and spring onions


Soak dried Chinese and morel mushrooms in two separate bowls of warm water for 20 minutes. Then drain the Chinese mushrooms and squeeze out the excess liquid. Strain this mushroom liquid and reserve. Remove and discard the mushroom stems and cut the caps in half. Rinse the morel mushrooms, to remove any sand. Slice the button mushrooms.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan over a high heat until it is moderately hot. Add the olive oil and immediately add the garlic and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Then add the salt and pepper and all the mushrooms with the mushroom liquid and stir-fry them for 2 minutes. Add the rice wine or sherry, soy sauce and sugar and continue stir-frying for 5 minutes or until the mushroom liquid has been reabsorbed by the mushrooms or evaporated. Give the mushrooms a few stirs, turn onto a warm platter, sprinkle with chives and spring onions and serve at once.

Source: Ken Hom Travels with a Hot Wok

Monday, July 18, 2005

Grilling for Vegans

A friend invited us over to her place for a BBQ and asked me if I could make something extra for our vegetarian friend who was joining us. So, seeing how it was going to be a BBQ I decided to keep with the theme of grilling and made these grilled tofu steaks.

Grilled Tofu Steak
Serves 4 as in appetizer

250g firm tofu, cut into about 2cm thick
4 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger root
4 spring onions, sliced at an angle

Place the tofu on a clean tea towel, cover with another clean tea towel and place 2 chopping boards on top to press lightly. Leave at least for 30 minutes.

Combine the sake, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and salt to taste in a bowl, then add tofu. Scatter over the spring onions and marinate for 45 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove the tofu from the marinade, shaking off the spring onions and reserving the excess marinade.

Heat a griddle until smoking and lightly oil it. Place the tofu on the griddle and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Plate up the tofu, spoon over the reserved marinade and serve.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Loving Stews

When I have to cook for many, the best thing I find is to cook a stew or something that I can put in the pot and walk away. The other beautiful thing about stews is the way they make your house smell. The way the smell seeps from your kitchen and permeates your house, the first whiff you get when you walk through the front door is an amuse bouche in itself. Stewing also often uses cheap cuts of meats which mean that it is economical and often these cuts have more flavour and if you stew it long enough they fall of the bone and melt in your mouth. The other thing I love about stews is that it is great for the lazy gourmet: you can make a huge pot and keep the rest of it for some other day and the flavour gets better and better. Stews, we love you.

Braised East-West Oxtail Stew
Serves 4-6

1.5kg oxtail
2 tablespoons groundnut oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely slices shallots
2 tablespoons coarsely shopped garlic
750g tinned tomatoes
250 ml homemade chicken stock
3 tablespoons shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons finely chopped orange zest
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground five-pepper mixture or black pepper
Sprigs of fresh coriander to garnish


In a large pan, cook the oxtail in boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove and drain well.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan until it is hot. Add the groundnut oil and slowly brown the oxtail on all sides. Remove the oxtail with a slotted spoon and pour off and discard the excess fat. Now add the olive oil, onions, shallots and garlic and stir fry the mixture for about 3 minutes. Then add the tomatoes, stock, the rice wines, orange zest, hoisin, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover tightly and cook for 3 hours, or until the oxtail pieces are tender.

Skim off any fat, garnish with coriander sprigs.

Savouring Saigon: Skewers

94 Thai van Lung street
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: +84-8488224798

I never expected myself to dine at a Mediterranean restaurant during my visit to HCMC. The plan was to dine French and Vietnamese and nothing else. However, due to unforeseen circumstances such as – the restaurant we were looking for didn’t seem to be there anymore, it was raining and we were hungry led us into this restaurant. I’m glad we were victims of those circumstances because after we were seated and browsing through the menu, it seemed that we had landed ourselves into a mouthwatering dinner.

Skewers Gyros

Nosh: The menu is extensive. In fact, from the framed write ups on the wall said it was the single most extensive Mediterranean menu in HCMC.

For appetizers there is a choice of mezze and dips that you can enjoy with warm pita bread, from which we wanted to have some hummus but we elected for a warm minestrone soup and the baked goats cheese tart. My goat’s cheese tart kept me silent for most part of the dinner because I was too busy eating and enjoying the creamy warm slighty pungent cheese against the crispy tart shell and the slightly sourish sun dried tomatoes. After which, I eagerly awaited my main course.

For main courses, we ordered the skewer gyros, which was ½ chicken and ½ beef in warm toasty pita pockets and their saucy partners and a side of couscous. The Moroccan spiced seabass was served on a bed of lightly seasoned spaghetti. The sea bass was baked to perfection, wonderfully seasoned and succulent; the gyros were tender but a little too salty.

Pay: 450,000 VND for 2 courses and drinks for two of us.
*estimated conversion: S$45, $ 27 USD

Why I would go back: To try the other items on the menu.

Savouring Saigon: Saigon Saigon Bar

Saigon Saigon Bar
Caravelle Hotel
19 Lam Son Square, District 1
Level 7
Ho Chi Minh City
VietnamTel: + 84-88234 999

This is probably the bar with the best view in the city. The open air bar offers an opportunity for you to sip your cocktail and to take in the view of the city. From here, you can witness the old and the new of the city, the newer skyscrapers bearing the various MNCs names and the older, shorter buildings of history. The live band is nothing much and the comparative expensive drinks that are priced in USD are nothing to shout about, but the ambience and the view makes up for it. Instead of having the cocktails, we had the sorbets they had on the menu. Seeing how we were in a bar, they didn’t just have sorbets, but sorbets with a little alcoholic and so this is what we ordered - twist lemon sorbet with gin and orange sorbet with grand mariner. It was a wonderful frozen nightcap just before we set off on our walk home and curled up and retired for the day.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Savouring Saigon: Pho24

LeThanh Ton, D1
Ho Chi Minh

(Numerous outlets in HCMC in district one)

When I think of Vietnamese food I think of spring rolls and pho. My first Vietnamese culinary experience was slurping a bowl of pho and so for me, a trip to Vietnam without eating a hot bowl of pho is incomplete. Eating from the street stalls is probably one of the items on the top ten must do things in most travel guides, and indeed one should. To mingle with the locals, to have no fuss food and to soak in the atmosphere and the life on the streets. I love having breakfast on the streets, a steaming bowl of pho and a drip-coffee always reminds me that sometimes life isn’t so complicated, and there are simple things to be savoured.

I was a little apprehensive about eating this place since it was a noodle bar of sorts and I usually never like noodle bar food, because I feel it becomes too focused on efficiency that the noodles usually taste a little too mass produced and lacking in any sort of personal touch. However, I was assured that it was pretty good and I was in agreement since the prospect of having some air-condition instead of the searing heat seemed like a good oasis.

Nosh: Rice noodles with either beef balls, beef flank, tripe and beef slices. To that you can also add additional beef, tripe, etc … and also an egg. I had the beef flank with tripe and an egg, which comes raw and you add it in yourself.

The soup was terribly gratifying. It had so much depth and nothing like some of the msg-laden ones that you sometimes get on the streets. (Tested by K, who is ultra-sensitive to msg, who will suffer the Chinese restaurant syndrome if the msg level is too high). To borrow from the wine jargon, the broth was full bodied with gentle and subtle flavours that will ensure you’ll keep slurping. The secret of the soup is that it is made out of 24 ingredients and hence the name – pho 24. Ah … I wonder what those 24 are.

Pay: 50,000 – 60,000 VND for a hearty broth and a drink.
*estimated conversion: S$ 5-6, $3 USD.

Why I would come back: The B-R-O-T-H!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Calling all Singaporean Food Bloggers!

Chubby hubby, Gwenda and myself are trying to organize a little get together over a lunch where we can eat like pigs without apologies for our greediness or for any form of bad table manners. The details at the moment are tentative as we are currently trying to look for a location and to fix a date. It would be great to meet everyone, so if you are interested in getting together for lunch with everyone else including us, email me so we can give you the details and figure out the basic logistics in terms of getting a reservation, etc … Come and eat with us!

Saivouring Saigon: Quan an ngon

138 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia
Quan Mot, TP. Ho Chi Minh
Tel: +84-8257179

lotus rhizome with shrimp and pork

The walk to the restaurant made magnified my hunger and so when K announced that, we have arrived, I was a tad horrified that there was a rather long queue of about 15-20 people. I tried to take comfort from the fact that if there was a queue, it must have been pretty good. Thankfully, since there were only 2 of us, they managed to squeeze us in somewhere and we had a share a table meant for 4 with 2 other people. I was rather astonished when I stepped in and realized how huge this place was, it sits at least 100-120 people but still has the problem every restaurant wants, the long queues to eat there. (reminded me a little of crystal jade here).

The restaurant has a relaxed ambience and offers a rather unique dining experience. As you dine alfresco, you dine beside the open kitchen, which line the perimeters of the restaurant. Every cooking station has its own task, dessert, drinks, pho, bun, BBQ skewers, etc … The open kitchen gives the restaurant a nice buzz, and the communal dining that we were subjected gives the place some rustic, friendly charm.

Our server was a really funny and helpful man as well. I was really grateful that he spoke enough English to explain some items and also to make recommendations. I can still recall his reaction when I said I wanted to eel and he made a face and recommended something that he liked instead. So, if you are this restaurant, look out for this man.

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Open Kitchen

Nosh: Vietnamese daily foods. The menu is broken up into a few sections, appetizers, pho – the noodle soups, rice soups, rice dishes, bun – vermicelli dishes, meats, seafood and desserts, with about 10 choice on each page, so the selection is quite wide.

For appetizers, we had goi ngo sen ton thit – lotus rhizome with shrimp and pork and banh hoi chao tom cuoa banh trang – bounded shrimp hash fried on sugar cane. The lotus salad was really wonderful. The fresh vegetables and the simple dressing that is both bright and light, makes it such a refreshing dish to eat. The bounded shrimp dish was fun to eat, you have to assemble your own spring roll with the vegetables, the rice paper, the vermicelli and shrimp that is laid before you. I love eating with my hands, it is something that is sensual and so raw about it that makes me feel very human.

Following that, since I had a pho from off the streets for breakfast, I decided to have the bun thit nuong cha gio – vermicelli with grilled pork and spring rolls. I was thoroughly satisfied with my bun which had pieces of grilled pieces of sweet tasting pork with had some fat, and the crispy spring roll against the neutral tasting vermicelli which was quickly coated with the sweet and slightly tangy sauce that came with it.

Pay: We paid 99,000 (VND) for all that we had, inclusive of drinks. The portions are small which suits me, but if you are a relatively bigger eater, you might have two bowls of noodles or maybe more appetizers, but it shouldn’t set your back more than 80,000 VND a person.

*estimated conversions: 1,000 VND = S$1, $0.60 USD

Why I would come back: I like the ambience and the energy of the place, and would go back just to be served by that really amusing waiter again.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Savouring Saigon: Fanny Ice Cream

29-31 Ton That Thiep (D1)
Tel: +84-8211633

Coming back to this place brings back memories of my first trip to Ho Chi Minh. When I came here 2 years ago, I had the address of this ice cream place dog-ear-marked in the lonely planet guide that I had purchased off the streets. I’m a lover of ice cream and so was my traveling partner, which is incidentally the same friend that I came to see here in Ho Chi Minh, and so we agreed that by hook or by crook, we had to locate Fanny Ice Cream to satisfy our ice cream dreams.

The search for Fanny Ice Cream however seemed more difficult than we imagined. Armed with a map and our rented motor (K riding and I navigating at the back), we attempted to look for this place 3 times on different days. Each failed attempt filled us simultaneously with disappointment, frustration and increasing resolution to find this damn ice cream parlour. When we FINALLY found it, we were on the brink of squealing with delight! “ICE CREAM, HERE WE COME!” The ice cream was worth the search. Perhaps at that time it was the search that made the ice cream taste so good, that we came back the following day to sample more flavours.

Ironically, on this trip, while I was wandering around the city shopping, I stumbled onto Fanny Ice Cream. I nearly let out a scream when I saw it, but I quickly suppressed my yelp. So I made a mental note of how I got here and made sure that K and I returned there for ice cream, for old time’s sake, for us to reminisce about our last trip there. Here’s my reasons why you should come to Fanny Ice Cream if you are in town …

Nosh: Rich creamy ice creams flavours such as – ginger, cinnamon, coconut, chocolate, mocha, coffee, vanilla, mancha, young rice, rum and raisin, dark chocolate, mint, nougat ginger, caramel and baileys, strawberry and peanut are just about all the flavours on the list. In addition to that, there is a wide choice of fruit sorbets are also available such as – orange, lime, banana, pineapple, watermelon, passionfruit, custard apple, durian, lychee, raspberry, strawberry and mango.

I like my ice cream naked and unadulterated - that is without any toppings or syrups, but I might be the minority. So for the other type of ice cream eaters, there are very interesting sundaes to choose from. The only thing that I might have ventured to try would have been the tartufo or the frozen soufflé (which I now regret not ordering), but other than that, there are wonderful ice cream combinations or sorbet combinations that they put together. I just had 2 scoops – coffee and ginger which came with a sweet wafer, a slice of pineapple and a cute little Vietnamese hat.

My trip back here has confirmed that it wasn’t the tiresome and frustrating treasure hunt journey that we took here that made it delicious, but that the ice cream IS delicious!

Pay: 8,000 – 1,200 VND per scoop of ice cream.
Estimated conversion: S$0.80 – S$1.20, $0.50 - $0.75 USD

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Savouring Saigon: La Fourchette

La Fourchette
9 Ngo Duc Ke Street (D1)
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: +84-88298143

My pre-travel-food-research pointed me to La Fourchette, which I decided that I had to try after reading noodlepie’s entry who declared that the food rarely disappoints and also some other internet source that indicated that it was a place worth a visit. La Fourchette was relatively easy to find as it lies in a rather central location of the city and I managed to navigate myself to the restaurant without by then, my really ill-and-at-home-recovering eating partner. I guess I was either overcome by greed or selfishness that I pressed on with my eating despite having to eat alone. I don’t mind eating alone, but I just think good food needs good company, it is like good food without good wine or perhaps like fantastically prepared food that was not properly salted – something was missing. My lunch for one was delicious, but lacking in social company. I must have looked rather odd in the restaurant that was filled with quick speaking French people, and the other singleton diners in the restaurant were male and were well equipped with a magazine in hand to occupy themselves, hence I, the petite Asian girl must have had tourist written all over me.

Looking touristy or not, this place is lovely. You might almost forget that you are in the heart of Ho Chi Minh but rather somewhere in France. The gingham tablecloths, the French speaking people, the chalk board with announcing the plat du jour and the French owner to go along with it, it is somewhat of a French affair if you are here. It is a small and cozy retreat from the bustle of the streets and it fills up rather quickly as they only have 10 table and they serve up pretty good food.

Nosh: Another great bistro on the streets of Ho Chi Minh that serves up appetizers such as escargots, patés, seafood soup, French onion soup, salad nicóse and salad with smoked duck and liver are just to mention a few excluding what is on the chalkboard for the day. The main courses are typically French with tripe, steak tartare, duck confit, and other beef, duck and veal selections.

I decided to try to gizzard and duck liver salad which was featured on the plat du jour chalkboard and for the main course, I had the veal fillet with cepes and crème. The salad was a little disappointing as although it came with a generous amount of gizzard and liver, it was overcooked. So while I ate my oily salad of liver and gizzard, I enviously eyed the next table’s fisherman soup that was the other item that was featured on the chalkboard. The weal fillet with cepes and crème served with perfectly deep golden frites and over boiled sweet peas on the other hand was wonderful, but maybe too rich and heavy for lunch, such that I was a little overwhelmed after I was about halfway through my plate. The crème made the sauce rich and soothing, but it was too heavy for me, or perhaps my palate is used to the lighter more fusion-type French food that we have in Singapore.

While my plate was only half polished, I sat there contemplating the prospects of dessert. I was dying to have a cheese platter to finish off the meal, but my stomach just won’t have it and won’t give. So I can’t give you an insight to the desserts on the menu, maybe next time when I’m back, I’ll come back to finish up my unfinished business.

Pay: 25,000 – 35,000 VND for 3 courses and a drink.
Estimated conversion: S$25 – S$35, $15-$20 USD

Why I would come back: The intimate French ambience and food is good enough reason.

Savouring Saigon: Augustin Restaurant

Augustin Restaurant
10 Nguyen Thiep (D1)
Ho Chi Minh
Tel: +84-8292941

My lovely host K, wanted to try out this place because the last time she had some French customers over, they left her the name card of the restaurant and these parting words, “it is good, very authentic”. So to Augustin we went!

Seabass tartare with olives

Nosh: Bistro food. The menu is relatively extensive, which always delights me because I get an element of choice, but that would also mean that I would usually take more than 5 minutes surveying the menu and pondering about my choice. Although the menu consists of the classic bistro type of food such as salads and heartwarming soups, there were interesting and rather innovative items such as the seabass tartare. From this selection, we selected the French onion soup and the seabass tartare with olives. The soup was heartwarming and with the melted cheese pulled the soup together and gave it good depth. The seabass tartare makes a great summer dish – fresh and bright flavours on the plate. I would recommend you trying the seabass when you are here.

For main courses there was a selection of various duck breast dishes, fish, chicken and steaks. I was surprised that they had steak tartare on the menu and as tempted as I was to have that for my main course, I decided to stay with something a little safer for my first night in Saigon. Dishes are simple comfort bistro food such as grilled chicken with thyme and interesting elements such as beef pot au feu. I was adamant on having duck and so I had the duck break with ginger and spice caramel and K has the sole with mango and tomatoes. The duck was a little overcooked and the sauce was thick and sweet, more caramel-ly which seemed to mute over the spice and ginger taste that I was promised, but nonetheless, it was a good combination. The sole with mango another summer-on-a-plate dish - gentle, bright and light flavours.

Desserts such as crème brulee, cheese platters and fresh cut fruits are available, but we had to skip off early as my dear friend was feeling too ill participate in anymore eating activities.

Pay: 30,000 – 35,000 (VND) for 3 courses with drinks.
Estimated Conversion: S$30- S$35, $20 - $22 USD

Why I would go back: The ambience is warm and quaint and the staff was attentive and friendly. The good food at reasonably prices makes this place wonderful for a nice evening out.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Savouring Saigon

Over the weekend, I slipped away to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) to visit a friend, and our mission for that weekend was simple – to eat, and to eat our hearts out. It was a pity that my dear friend was a little ill and down with a serious bout of food poisoning while I was there. That however did little in derailing me from my mission which remained the same, to eat, while hers, with much regret had to alter to food voyeurism.

There is plenty to eat – local delights litter the street in the form of street vendors, but if you think you don’t have an iron stomach, there is now a growing chain of Pho cafés. The French presence is still there in the form of the bistros, cafés, patisseries, and if you feel the need to splurge, there are also fine restaurants for you to dine in. I didn’t make it to the fine restaurants because I felt I wanted to exploit the fact that the city has numerous reasonably priced bistros, and I wanted to enjoy the places that my wonderful host wanted bring me to.

Coming up will be my report on savouring Saigon. These are the spots that I have nibbled and will submit my scribblings on:

Augustine Restaurant
La Fourcette
Quan An Ngon
Fanny Ice Cream
Pho 24
Saigon Saigon Bar
Au Parc

Friday, July 01, 2005


My Global Obsession

When Sam from becks and posh came up with this brillant meme, I knew immediately in my head what I was going to write up on – the item that I obsess most about in the kitchen, KNIVES!

I grew up with the kitchen mantra of buy a good set of knives and you will never regret it. No surprise then when I lived on my own, the first item that I bought for the kitchen was a chef’s knife. My mother started me on a set of Henkels, which served me good and well, but I decided that I wanted to try the something Japanese, something Global. What first drew me to the knives was how they looked, they looked so sleek and mean and I decided that I had to get one. I fished for an excuse and decided, well I need an Asian vegetable knife and so I bought a Global Asian Vegetable knife. It was love at first slice! So sharp, so good to handle, so beautiful. My love for the knife soon became an obsession, I could not only had one, I wanted ALL. Unfortunately the closest to all is the 5 piece set that I bought. I still want them all, but my mother already shoots me dirty looks when I wander off the the knife section at the departmental stalls and hence I shall have to lie low now, or do my shopping online. The next one I wish to acquire is the sashimi knife - that looks like a real lean, mean fish slicing machine. I WANT THAT NOW. Pleease?

Brillant meme! Sam, I hope you find something you liked!