Tuesday, November 29, 2005

One Man's Bee Hoon Craving led me to Pu Tien

Pu Tien Restaurant
127-129 Kitchener Road
Singapore 208514
Tel: 62956358

The first time I sampled this simple but scrumptious plate of Fried Hing Wa Bee Hoon, I was came here as a captive eater. After a couple of Friday-after-work-drinks, we were hungry for some grub and so we made our way to the car in search of some dinner. On our way to the car, we had tossed around a few suggestions: burgers at Carl’s juniors, crabs or as our designated driver suggested, this memorable bee hoon that he had at a restaurant at Kitchener Road. We all piled into a pretty small car, and while I sat at the back seat, with my body contorted and my face almost pressed up against the window, we threw up a few more suggestions, only to be shot down by our friend who was behind the wheel, “No! We are eating bee hoon!” As the captive passengers of the car, we were basically held captive and powerless in deciding on our dinner destination, so while we drove to this Bee Hoon promise land, we continued to murmur in the car about our various other possible destinations and warning of the repercussions if this bee hoon was going to taste terrible.

Fried Hing Wa Bee Hoon

For all that hype, the bee hoon was not as mind blowing as I thought it would have been. Nonetheless, it was still good, very lightly fried with condiments such as peanuts and seaweed. The food here is home style rather than the fancy delicate Cantonese restaurant cuisine, but executed rather well. In my two visit to Pu Tien, there have been a mix of hits and misses with the food, here’s the account of what I have tried from the menu.

The Fried Hing Wa Bee Hoon is a must have, since it was the Bee Hoon nazi that brought us here in the first place. The drunken cockles are absolutely wonderful, fresh, cleaned and marinated with a sweetish garlic sauce; you’ll risk hepatitis for this dish. The other dish that we had on our return visit was steamed prawns in Bamboo Shoot. The prawns were fat and juicy and the broth naturally sweetened and flavoured by the prawn juices. A few other hits on the menu were self-made bean curd (sic), which was soft, silky and had its own delicate flavour; deep fried chicken with garlic that was crisp, juicy and topped with crispy garlic chips and curry leaves; and the deep fried squirrel fish with gravy. The squirrel fish is a little like sweet and sour fish, but better, and the dish is named after the form the firm takes after being deep fried, rather than having any real affinity to the squirrel family. Having tasted those dishes, I can safely say that most things on the menu are alright, if you remember that they are serving restaurant home styled food, but stay away from the kai lan fried bean curd skin, which tasted terribly floury and insipid.

The best part, dinner here would not set you back too much. A budget of $15 a person would feed you adequately.

* Can someone tell me more about Hing Wa cuisine other than the fact that it is from a minority dialect group in Pu Tien, Fuijian?

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 20, 2005

“All we need is just a little patience”

As most of our Hawker centres are tragically begin replaced by cleaner and more uniformed white floored food courts, I hope Hong Lim Market & Food Centre and our remaining “old school” hawker/food centres will remain and never ever torn down and have another ultra modern glassy multi-story building with a white floored food court at the basement. Hong Lim Market and Food Centre is quite a treasure trove of good food – char kway teow, prawn mee, bak chor mee, hor fun, etc – all you need is a little patience and preferably a cool afternoon, with a breeze.

Outram Park Fried Kway Teow
Blk 531 A Upper Cross St.,
#02-18 Hong Lim Market & Food

Our lunch was had a char kway teow agenda, we were headed for the famous and relatively cheap Outram Park Fried Kway Teow. The wait is about 20-30 minutes, so get a table, place your order and then order nibbles from the other stalls to fill up the time in between. The char kway teow is worth the wait, the kway teow is silky and soft, the sauce is garlicky and sweet and the hum (cockles) that it comes with and super fresh. When you think about it, char kway teow is pretty much a poor man’s food, much like the pomodoro in Italy. With the pomodoro, they bulk it up with bread and the easily accessible produces like tomatoes, and for us, we add a cheap meat, the seahum. Nonetheless, our forefathers have all found a way to make food tasty, and this dish and numerous plates still consumed everyday.

Tai Wah Pork Noodles
(Opposite Outram Park Fried Kway Teow)

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Other than the char kway teow, I made a beeline for the queue for the Tai Wah Pork Noodles stall, which is located opposite the bustling Outram Park Fried Kway Teow. The downside is that you have to stand in line for this award winning bowl of noodles. It can get rather hot, so what you can do (as I did), order a packet of sugar cane juice (or soya milk/chin chow) from the nearby stalls, and sip away to keep cool while standing in line. I watched the dance between the two stallholders: one takes the orders and assist the cook by keeping watch on the ingredients and topping them up when necessary. The other focuses the cooking with his all his moves - with a quick flick of his wrist, he adds the vinegar, chilli, sesame oil and lard – together they form a pretty well oiled noodle stall. The noodles were yummy. I think the secret of their success is in the vinegar, it was tart with a slight mellowness and the dumplings that came with it had a good skin-filling proportion.

The downside of these two stall is the wait, but if you have a little time, patience and a love for food, why not?

“All we need is just a little patience”
- Patience, Guns and Roses

Labels: ,

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sun with Moon

Sun with Moon
Japanese Dining and Café
501 Orchard Road,
Tel: 6733-6636

I’ve been meaning to meet a friend here for lunch, because she has marked Sun and Moon as her new favourite lunch spot, but we have never been able to get our schedules to match, and hence our lunch appointment has been postponed indefinitely. I still haven’t met her for our bento lunch, but I decided to pop down to satisfy a sashimi craving and to check out what the rave was about.

Aburi Sushi 7 Mori

Nosh: The food quality in terms of freshness is high. Taking its lead form Suntory, Sashimi here is extremely fresh, no rubbery tasting squid and no suspicious smelling fish. The aesthetics of the dish was simple and elegant, served on a bed of shaved ice that for practical reasons, helped to keep the sashimi platter cold.

The menu is extensive and you will probably be at a lost at what to order because of the endless choices and interesting items on the menu. We were absolutely lost at what to order and so we decided to play it safe and to ease the decision making process by trying what the reviews have recommended as the house specialities. For starters, we had the Aburi Sushi 7 Mori, which is the half broiled. I lean towards the purist school of Japanese food, but this half broiled sushi was rather interesting. The 7 pieces of sushi were rather interesting, we started with a semi-broiled toro and followed with swordfish, snapper, salmon belly, yellowtail, scallop and foie gras, the sushi was delectable but rather expensive. I might have rather had everything in their essence, but the broiling did bring out the fatty flavour of the fish a little more.

As Sun with Moon prides itself as being one of the only or few places that serves up kamameshi (rice pots), we decided that we could not have dinner here without having tasted its house speciality. The flavour of the rice is very subtle. The rice is seasoned with soy sauce and other probable ingredients such as mirin and sake. Along with that, the rice is peppered with edamame beans, and came topped with “your topping of choice”, ours for that night was kani and karasumi (snow crab and mullet roe with chef’s sauce). The rice comes in a traditional looking pot and a timer, to ensure that your rice is well marinated and hot, so much so that the eating of the kamameshi is almost like a ritual or rite of passage as there are these rules for you to follow. When we were permitted to eat, we lifted the lid and scooped the rice out and inhaled the smells and savoured the rice.

To end it on a sweet note, we shared a small piece of the soy cheesecake, which was presented with a paper crane in a birdcage and more importantly, the cake was not too sweet, not too rich and had some density.

The food here is good and fresh, but it is a little pricey, however that does not seem to be much of a factor for most people, as we were there on a Thursday night and the restaurant was full.

Pay: We paid S$110 for our dinner, but if you did without the expensive items and simply ordered the regular items such as tempura, sushi and dons, expect to spend about $30-$40 a person for dinner. Wallet-friendly bento sets are available for lunch.

Service: Average, they kept topping up our tea, but they forgot our sashimi order.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 14, 2005

Chef Diego's Oso Ristorante

Oso Ristorante
27 Tanjong Pagar Road
Singapore 088450
Tel: 6327-8378
Website: www.oso.sg


A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting one half of the dynamic duo behind Oso Ristorante, Chef Diego Chiarini. After globetrotting and honing his skills in France and heading the renown kitchens of Carpaccio, Paris and Bice, Tokyo, this ex-Senso chef ventured out with his friend and current Maitre’D Stephane Colleoni and established this exquisite Italian Ristorante Oso, which translates as “try” and has been thriving since September 2004.

I requested for Chef Diego to put together a chef’s menu for our dinner which he was more than happy to oblige. Keeping with the main characteristic of Italian cooking – to use excellent basic ingredients, cooking simply and to bring out the original goodness – Chef Diego explained over the phone that his menu would be dependent on what was fresh and available that day and what we fancied. However, seeing how we were celebrating a birthday, he would prepare a tiramisu cake for our celebration.

The chef’s menu was such: the first course would consist of cold cuts, second would either be pasta or risotto, main course and then dessert.

We started off with an amuse bouche of poached salmon mousse with orange. Following which we had a platter of bread, where the foccacia was extremely fluffy and the bread sticks were good and savoury, which kept us occupied until the our cold cut course came. While we chatted, sipped our Chianti and watched Chef Diego work his meat slicer in his uber cool cold kitchen, where he works his magic with his homemade cured meats and houses his cheese. For cold cuts, we were served a plate of paper thin Bresaola (air-cured beef, or commonly known as beef prosciutto) with grapefruit, rocket and parsley oil. The bresaola as I have discovered is not as fatty as the prosciutto, due to its defatting process that it undergoes, but it produces the same depth in terms of richness and saltiness.

For our pasta course, we had squid ink pasta with a spicy tomato sauce and prawns. The delicate taste squid ink pasta was brought out by the slightly spicy but not overpowering tomato sauce, however, although it tasted good, it was nothing spectacular.

The main course was the show stopper. Chef Diego informed us that he has received a fresh Barramundi earlier in the day, and hence he proceeded to roast the whole fish for our main course. The fish was cooked to perfection. The sweet was suckling sweet and the black olives added the salty contrast that intermittently brought to live the freshness and sweetness the fish.

To finish off, we had the classic Tiramisu, but instead of having four portions, they had prepared a tiramisu cake instead for the birthday boy at our table. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the waiters did not break into song, however it would have been a rather memorable sight, if they did break into Happy Birthday in Italian. The Tiramisu was fantastic, rich from the mascarpone, but light enough for you to stomach at the end of your meal. Sweets has never been big with me, so I packed the rest of the tiramisu and ordered an additional cheese plate, which a few Italian numbers - a knob of Parmigiano-Reggiano, young gorgonzola, Taleggio, a truffle infused cheese and a goats and sheep’s cheese which names I cannot remember.
The service was outstanding. Attentive, sensitive, helpful and funny, the service staff helped to enhance the experience by putting their guest at ease, creating an exceptional dining experience.

On top of the service and the food, what draws me to this place is the personality of Chef Diego. Having experienced success in his culinary careers, Chef Diego actively “pays it forward” through pro-bono cooking for charities, and is featured in Hot Chefs, Hip Cuisine, where royalties from the book sale is donated to UNICEF. So I’ll probably be back here soon.

Pay: The Chef’s menu was $78 +++ a person.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 07, 2005

My Short lived Hairy Crab Season

I was 7 when I had my first taste of crabs. I had a pincer of a flower crab. A few hours later I broke out in hives and never touched a flower crab again. Thankfully, mud crabs, snow crabs, Alaskan crabs and my recent venture with Hairy crabs have not left me with red patchy blotches on my skin.

The hairy crab starts 10 days after the Mooncake festival. Starting from September through most of autumn, the gourmands come out with their mean crab scissors and crab meat pickers looking for the pregnant female hairy crab and the sweet fleshed male. I had my first “snip and pick” at my first hairy crab at Lei Garden during a dim sum lunch last week. Having shared the crab with a few others, the rich lava like roe only whet my appetite for more of those little crustaceans and so agreed to sign up for a special culinary class on authentic Shanghainese cuisine at the Raffles Culinary Academy by Chef Calvin Soh – Combination of Shanghai Cold Platter(Drunken Chicken, Herbal Tea Egg and Marinated “Fen Pi”), Steamed Shanghai Hairy Crab, Herbal Shanghai Hairy Crab and Tong Tsui (Double Boiled Hashima with Chinese Angelica and Red Date) roe enriched Shanghainese Hairy Crab – featuring the Shanghainese Hairy Crab.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Although the hairy crab season only ends in December, after that culinary lesson and dinner, my hairy crab hunting season has been abruptly cut short. On the 5th November, 2005, after a grueling 1 ½ hours of snipping legs and pincers, I devoured two whole hairy crabs by myself – a steamed Shanghai Hairy Crab and an Herbal Shanghai Hairy Crab. I was so clumpy with the scissors and the crab eating apparatus, such that as they announced, “ok, finish up your first crab because the second one is on its way”, I had only finished picking the meat from ¾ of my crab and I had to snip of the plates onto the second plate of crab. The meat was sweet and the roe was rich, but it took too much from me, I’m retiring from this hairy crab season.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Eating for a Cause!

UNIFEM Singapore’s
“Not A Minute More” initiative
on November 28th 2005 at The Executives’ Club will be featuring a 8 course dégustation by 6 of Singapore's excellent chefs.

From Top Left to Right: Chef Pang Kok Keong (Canelé, Les Amis Group), Chef Leonard Oh (The Moomba), Chef Milind Sovani (Rang Mahal), Chef Diego Chiarini (Oso Ristorante), Chef Julien Bompard (Saint Julien) and Chef Thomas Chai (Jade, Tung Lok Group)

The Menu:

Chef Jack Wong, Indochine Group
Cocktails: Belvedere Vodka

Terrine of 5 Chinese Spices Infused Foie Gras with Cinnamon Glazed Green Apple Compote & Crispy Skin of Peking Duck
Chef Thomas Chai, Jade Fullerton, Tung Lok Group
Wine Accompaniment by Ninth Vine: Genders Chardonnay 2003
Lobster Bisque "Tradition" with Aioli & Brandy
Chef Julien Bompard, St. Julien
Grande Champagne Cognac Accompaniment: Hennessy Private Reserve 1865
Mustard and Chilly Infused Chicken Glazed in Tandoor with Avocado, Pinenut and Kidneybeans Chat
Chef Milind Sovani, Rang Mahal
Wine Accompaniment by Culina: Brown Brothers Merlot 2003

Sorbet Exotique with Coconut & Passionfruit
Chef Pang Kok Keong, Canelé, Les Amis Group

Waygu Shortrib on Braised Daikon with Japanese Hot Mustard
Chef Leonard Oh, The Moomba
Wine Accompaniment by The Moomba Wineshop: 2001 Redstone Shiraz-Cabernet

Home Made Ravioli Pasta Filled with Parmigiano Cheese Fondue Served with Winter Black Truffle Sauce
Chef Diego Chiarini, Oso Ristoronte
Wine Accompaniment by J&D Burleigh: 1999 Azelia Barolo

Violet Meringue & Violet Macaron with Violet Cream, Cassis Gelee & Strawberry Coulis
Chef Pang Kok Keong, Canelé, Les Amis Group
Dessert Wine Accompaniment by Vinum: 2002 Oremus Furmint Late Harvest

Coffee & Tea
Petit Fours
Rose Macaron
Raspberry Pate de Fruit Enrobed in Dark Chocolate
Dark Chocolate with Pumpkin Seed & Fleur de Sel Petit
Chestnut Cake Pear
William Liquor Bonbons
Chef Pang Kok Keong, Canelé Les Amis Group

Price: S$350 a person


Funds raised for this dinner will go directly to The UN Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence Against Women. Started in 1997, the Trust Fund supports innovative programmes to address violence against women. In 2004, the Trust Fund made 17 grants; some to protect women in conflict/war situation, to educate young men in non-violent behaviour, reintegrate survivors of gender based violence back to society, assist women living with HIV/AIDS and many more. For more specific information on projects supported by UNIFEM Singapore please log on to: www.unifemsingapore.org.sg/projects.htm

For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 6238-6761 or email contact@unifemsingapore.org.sg

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Rooting for This Potato

With my current affection for sweet potatoes, I do not think I would have a problem adapting to the war time sweet potato diet that our grandparents lived on during the World War II. The sweet potato is probably an underdog vegetable. It is often overlooked even though its natural sweetness makes it palatable and enjoyable to eat, and it provides a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A and antioxidants. So I’m rooting for this root vegetable!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Miso, Orange and Sesame
Serves 4

6 small sweet potatoes
1 cup orange juice
1cup water
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp light miso
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 garlic clove, halved
1 tbsp grown sugar
1 tbsp sesame seeds


Preheat the oven to 225°C. Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and bake until tender, 30-40 minutes. While they are baking, make the sauce. in a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the orange juice, water, ginger, miso, soy sauce, garlic and brown sugar. Cook until the sauce reduces and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, which will take about 15 minutes, set aside.

When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to touch, slice them in half lengthwise and lay them face down on a sheet pan. Spoon the sauce over the flesh of the potatoes, sprinkle with the sesame seeds, and broil until the sesame seeds are toasted.

* Recipe Source: Tyler Florence, Real Kitchen

Labels: , ,