Saturday, December 22, 2007

Da Mario

Da Mario Pizzeria
60 Robertson Quay #01-10
The Quayside
Tel: 6235-7623
Closed on Mondays

Here’s a great Italian place that has been under the radar. Based on its appearance, you wouldn’t expect too much from this place (and that’s if you notice it at all) but this hole in the wall rustic Italian place is a discovery.

Kudos to Mario, the chef plugs in his ipod and works in a tight space with his cooks. The handmade pizzas that they make are slight different from what is served in Singapore. Not thick crusted but not exactly paper thin either, it is slightly puffy but thin enough to have a good crisp and topped with cheese, Mario’s homemade sauce and your choice combinations. We went with the Rustica with was Italian sausage and mushrooms and it was good.

And the pastas, homemade goodness and portions that will make sure you are well fed. His creation such as the today’s special of crab cappelini that was delicate and yet powerfully featured the sweetness of the crab.

Pizzas and pastas aside, the proof of the restaurant is really in its salad. The chef’s salad of fresh tomatoes, crisp salad greens, simply sautéed mushrooms and creamy mozzarella and drizzled with balsamic vinegar, so simple so fresh and so good. The calamari that we split was also fabulous, ethereal light batter that coated the squid rings it was a great way to start eating.

There is much to love here the smallness of the place that creates comfort and the personality, the passion and the warmth that all comes through in the food.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Cooking Laksa

I wonder who created laksa?

Maybe the origins was something like mole, where someone just used whatever ingredients that they had at hand and surprise, something beautiful was created. I don’t know. And how did all the different permutations come about?

Laksa, in this case laksa lemak, is a great dish. It is rich and comforting for the soul and it is a magic carpet ride of hot, spicy, fragrant and creamy sensations. For some reason I’ve never thought about making laksa from scratch. It does seem like quite a tedious task and since I work close to a pretty good laksa stall, it really doesn’t make sense. But since a Singaporean friend who has sense migrated was visiting for lunch I thought it was a perfect opportunity to try my hand at this.

You could make laksa for one, but if you are going to use all that elbow grease to pound all your ingredients rather than throwing it in a food processor (as I did, my excuse was that I woke up late and my guest were arriving so I couldn’t let them starve), you might as well get some people to help to make tonnes of it and they can enjoy the fruits of their labour at the same time. Once you get that pounding out of the way, everything else is rather simple. All you need to do is to fry the paste, add liquids and simmer.


100 g cooking oil
150 g dried shrimp, soaked till soft and drain
400 ml coconut milk
1.5 litres chicken stock
Sugar to taste
Salt to taste
20 g tofu puffs, cut into strips or cubes
400 g thick rice noodles, blanched
Laksa leaves, washed and chopped

Laksa Paste
1 stalk lemon grass, white portion only sliced
100 g blue ginger/galangal, peeled and sliced
20 g candlenuts, roughly chopped
200 g shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
15 g chilli paste
20 g belachan
1 Tbsp ground coriander seeds
1 Tbsp ground turmeric

16 prawns, shelled and boiled
30 g bean sprouts, blanched
Hard boiled eggs, halved


1. Prepare laksa paste. Grind all ingredients except turmeric and coriander seeds in a blender until a fine paste then add turmeric and ground coriander seeds.

2. Heat oil in a large heavy based pot. Fry laksa paste for about 5 minutes, add dried shrimp and fry for another 3 minutes. Add coconut milk and stock. Bring to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and sugar to taste.

3. Strain stock and reserve dried shrimp. Grind dried shrimp in a food processor and stir into the stock for a thicker consistency. Add tofu puffs and simmer for another 5 minutes.

4. Arrange condiments and noodles in a serving bowl and ladle over hot gravy and sprinkle with laksa leaves as desired.

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