Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Jenny's Laksa : Nyonya laksa, cooked with love

I first came across this stall when a friend posted it on Facebook. He went to try and liked it enough to recommend it. They are located in the coffee shop that is directly opposite Teck Ghee Court Market along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, the same market that I used to visit with my late Grandpa. We used to go there for breakfast and for our usual coffee sessions then shopping at the wet market on a regular basis. I have not been going there that often ever since his passing about 4 years ago. This food centre and the market have always been bringing back a lot of fond memories. 

This stall started in October 2016 by a 28 years old next generation hawker using a recipe for Nyonya laksa that has been passed down from his grandmother to his mother. He even named this stall after his 63 years old mother. He started cooking at the tender age of 15 and eventually learned how to cook the laksa at 21 years old. This stall is a family business, he is doing the cooking, his mother is helping to prepare the ingredients and his elder sister is taking the orders as well as serving it. They usually sold about 60 to 80 bowls on weekdays and 140 to 170 bowls on weekends. And, to maintain the consistency of its standard, he is doing it by eating a bowl of his laksa each day. 

The taste is lighter though not as rich but it is flavorful enough. Coconut milk is added to actually make a difference, it is one of the main ingredients for a more authentic flavor. It tasted different as compared to the other laksa that is using condensed milk, a usual and cheaper alternative.  Everything is prepared from scratch including their rempah, which is also known as spice paste, and the sambal. It starts from the grinding, blending then followed by cooking all the ingredients and no MSG is added during this process. 

There are only 2 choices available and that is, with cockles or with shredded chicken, serving with other ingredients like quail eggs, tau pok and slices of fishcake. They run out of bean sprouts when I was there after 1 pm on a Sunday. Each bowl is reasonably priced at $3.50. 

They also do catering, their laksa set costs $45 for 10 pax and you have to order at least 3 days in advance. As for the coming Chinese New Year, they are providing their laksa base at $28.80 for 10 pax and the laksa set is at $48.80 for 10 pax, too. Delivery charges are applicable from $8 to $15 depending on the location and it is free if you order for 30 pax and above. The closing date for ordering is 22 January 2017, before 23:59 hrs. For more details, please visit their stall or check out the contact number on their Facebook page. 

It is heartening to see a family comes together to put in their efforts for a common interest. Though their laksa tasted quite simple but they cooked it with love and serve it with their hearts.

Block 338 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 SINGAPORE 560338
Operating Hours: 7.30 am to 3.00 pm (Daily)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Beng Hiang Restaurant : Traditional Hokkien Dishes

This famous Hokkien restaurant was founded in 1978 and it has since to be one of the best Hokkien restaurants in Singapore. They used to be at Amoy Street before moving to Jurong East, next to JCube and directly opposite the Jurong East MRT station. 

This was my first visit. As they were 3 of us, we decided to go with their signature dishes like Spiced Sausage & Fried Prawns Balls ($8),  Steamed Bread with Braised Brisket (Kong Bak Pau) ($16), Traditional Hokkien Noodles ($8) and Fried Oysters with Egg (Oyster Omelette) ($12). We wanted to order more but the elderly Uncle that was taking orders stopped us from doing us. He said, "Wor, so many dishes, need to dabao already!" He said, "I'd suggest you take out the Fried Mee Sua, too much for just 3 people. Trust Uncle, ok?" And, we agreed.

Spiced Sausage & Fried Prawns Balls ($8) came first. It consists of a half portion of ngor hiang and the other half portion of prawn rolls. It actually tasted like the Hokkien spiced meat rolls that my late Grandpa would usually handmade for the Chinese New Year using an heirloom recipe. I would prefer the prawn rolls to the ngor hiang a little more though both were equally tasty.

Fried Oysters with Egg (Oyster Omelette) ($12). This was the best amongst all the dishes that we ordered. This is one of their star dishes and almost every table ordered it. The oysters were fresh and juicy and it was served together with the super crispy egg omelette which we enjoyed, to the extent that we actually prefer it to the oysters. 

We ordered the smallest portion of Traditional Hokkien Noodles ($8). It is something that my last Grandpa would have enjoy, it was perfectly braised in the dark sauce to a delightful softness with ingredients such as veggie, sliced pork and prawns then garnished with dried shallots to serve. It was homely and comforting. 

Steamed Bread with Braised Brisket (Kong Bak Pau) ($16) is a signature Hokkien dish, it is a must-order here. The pork belly was braised to perfection and is flavorful. It was perfectly complemented by the softness of the steamed buns when sandwiched it in between. 

We were also served complimentary Red Bean Soup to end the meal. 

It was a pleasant meal. The only regret that i have is not getting to know this place much earlier so as to bring my dearest late Grandpa here for a meal. Their prices are quite affordable and only service charge is applicable and not the GST. 

Block 135 Jurong Gateway Road #02-337 SINGAPORE 600135
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm / 6.00 pm to 9.30 pm (Daily)

Friday, January 13, 2017

[JAPAN] Izuei Honten : a 260 years Unagi specialty restaurant

It is exciting to dine in a 260 years old restaurant that is specialized in Unagi since mid-Edo period till now and it has been highly recommended for Unagi lovers. The location is just a stone's throw away from the Ueno Okachimachi train station, across the street from Ueno Park's Shinobazu Pond. The 7-storey building is quite prominent even from far.

They are still using the traditional methods of cooking eels that have been passed down for generations. Please ask for an English menu if you have difficulties in ordering, it has pictures of the set meals with its prices clearly stated and simple descriptions. The staff is mostly women in yukata, a casual summer kimono, evidently trained in their manners and serving procedures to bring forth the best hospitality experience.

The condiments like extra unagi sauce, sansho pepper, and soy sauce are available on the table.

ordered a Himeijyu, literally means 'Princess Box' which consists of a two-tiered bowl, the top layer is filled with various veggies and seafood as an appetizer and the bottom layer is 2 pieces of freshly grilled unagi on top of Japanese steamed rice glazed with their special homemade sauce and a dish of Kounomono, Japanese pickles. The traditional accompaniment to unagi is usually a small bowl of kimosui, eel liver soup.

The set is priced at ¥3,780. Everything was freshly made, handcrafted and nicely presented, it actually tasted as good as it looks. The unagi was charred-grilled to perfection with a hint of smokiness and a soft texture.

I also ordered a Tonojyu, which means 'Prince Box'.

It consists of 2 layers of unagi and rice, a layer on top of another layer and it also served along with kimosui and Kounomono at ¥6480. The perfectly crisp skin was infused with an aromatic flavor of the charcoal smoke but still soft and light within.

This is probably the best that I have ever eaten, it is utterly delicious though slightly steep in prices but definitely worth the experience.

2 Chome-12-22 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo-to 110-0005 JAPAN
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 10.00 pm (Daily)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Don . 档 : Western-Japanese Fusion Donburi in Coffee Shop

It has only started on 19 December 2016, it is a hawker stall in a coffee shop serving Western-Japanese fusion Donburi. As it stated on their Facebook page that they "aim to bring you the best in Western-Japanese fusion Donburi through the finest selection of meats and fine-dining cooking method". They are serving 6 different types of Donburi: Wagyu Beef Don ($12.90), Salted Egg Tempura Don ($9.90), Mentaiko Salmon Don ($9.90), "Sio Bak" Don ($8.90), "Dak Gang Jeong" Don ($7.90) and Garlic Parmesan Chicken Don ($7.90). There are also side dishes like Blooming Onion ($5.00), Dragon Fries ($6.00), Dak Gang Jeong ($6.00), Buttermilk Crispy Wings ($6.00) and Over-baked Blue Ginger Wings ($6.00) to go with dips like Truffle Aioli ($0.50), Wasabi Mayo ($0.50) and Japanese Curry ($0.50). Miso Soup is also available at $2.00. 

I decided to go with the Wagyu Beef Don and when I could not decide on the other item to order, I asked for the recommendation. I was told that their 3 best sellers are Wagyu Beef Don, Salted Egg Tempura Don, and Mentaiko Salmon Don. The handsome chap that was taking my order said, "It actually depends on the type of texture that you want". I went with the Salted Egg Tempura Don. And, he asked, "Do you want to go with Miso Soup, it is only at $1.00 when you order a Don?". I decided to get just a bowl. I paid a total of $23.80. I asked, "Would you serve it to me?" as I overheard he was asking the customer in front of me for the table number. I did not take notice of the "Self-service" signage displayed near the right corner of their stall. That chap did not point it out but agreed to send it to our table. This is a part of good service. Both orders were served at the same time in about 10 minutes by the same chap, he said, "I will bring the Miso Soup over later as it's not hot enough". He brought it over in a couple of minutes together with the receipt which I was not given earlier.

Wagyu Beef Don consists of 54 degrees sous vide Wagyu beef with donburi sauce and served with 72 degrees onsen egg and japonica rice. 

Apparently, i did not like it as much. The texture of the beef was slightly tough and too chewy to my liking. Those sliced beef seemed to be overcooked based on its color.

And, I felt Miso Soup with only wakame and silky tofu is not quite worth the $2.00 and not even at $1.00 when order as a set. It did not have much of the miso flavor, a little too light and diluted. I understand the reasonably high costs involved in running a hawker stall but I still think that they might want to consider to give it as compliment together with an order of Donburi. 

The Salted Egg Tempura Don consists of tiger prawns and assorted vegetables fried in tempura butter then sprinkled with their special salted egg yolk mix and also served with 72 degrees sous vide egg and japonica rice. 

It might not be disappointing if they just named it Tempura Don as I could not taste much of the salted egg flavor from their supposedly special salted egg yolk mix. Those tempura pieces were lightly battered and deep-fried well to get that desired crispiness, it was nicely done actually. 

Though the overall taste was far from 'Oishi' but the stall is only less than a month old, they still need time to fine-tune as well as to make the improvement. I would just give it another go but not too soon.

DON . 档
30 Foch Road #01-02 Fusion Food Dynasty Coffee Shop SINGAPORE 209276
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 9.30 pm (Daily)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Garden Street Kway Chap : it used to be better

It was started at the already demolished Blanco Court decades ago before moving to the current location. This is another stall in this food centre that has a constant long queue though not as long as Ah Seng Duck Rice and Seng Kee Mushroom Minced Meat Noodle. It started by the father but it has handed over to the son now and this is good as they are still going to be around for a while. 

When ordering, you just need to inform it is for how many people and also whether you want a bigger bowl of flat rice noodles is also known as Kway. And, if you do not want or want a particular item to be included then you will have to mention it when ordering. The basic set that includes braised pork, big intestine, small intestine, tau pok and braised egg with a small bowl of flat rice noodles is only $4

The flat rice noodles were good though not exceptionally outstanding but it is smooth and soft serving in the tasty braising sauce. All the braised items tasted just average though passable, I remember it used to be better when the father was still taking charge of the stall. Now, something is just missing there. Perhaps should give it a more time and it should get better in time to come. The chili sauce has a mild spiciness and it served well as a dipping sauce.

49A Serangoon Garden Way #01-21 Serangoon Garden Food Centre SINGAPORE 555945
Operating Hours: 8.00 to 3.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

[JAPAN] Shin Udon Tokyo : the best handmade udon that I have ever had

Udon Shin is a restaurant specializing in Udon, a kind of thick wheat-flour noodle of Japanese cuisine. They have been consistently ranked amongst the best udon restaurants in Tokyo since their opening in April 2011. It is located in an alleyway a stone's throw from Shinjuku station, about 5 minutes walk to its location, which is in a hidden alleyway of South West Shinjuku area. There are only 6 counter seats and 2 tables in there, only a total of 10 customers are to be served at the same time. This is a local's favorite and there is always a long queue, the waiting time can be quite long but it is worth the while. While waiting outside, the service staff was handing out the menu and started to take the orders. 

They specialize in handmade udon that is made fresh in-house with a strong emphasis on the quality as well as the freshness and so, the noodles are never made in advance. The handmade noodles are cut and boiled fresh only upon the order is made. They even adjusted the boiling time of the noodles by taking into the consideration of the temperature and humidity of the weather. 

Their menu has simple descriptions in English so it is easy to order. The price range is in between ¥1,000 to ¥1300 per dish on their menu. The prices are quite reasonable. 

There is a selection of Zaru Udon, Kake Udon, and Bukkake Udon. Zaru Udon is boiled and served cold on the plate by itself and the dipping sauce that has a richer flavor is served separately from it, its texture is springier. This is supposedly the best way to enjoy the delightful texture of the noodle. Next is Kake Udon, it is boiled and served in a lighter taste hot broth with, its texture is smoother as compared to the Kake Udon. The Bukkake Udon is boiled then served with a little broth, it is the middle of Zaru Udon and Kake Udon. After the selection of Udon, you could also choose your choice of toppings like tempura, beef or grated radish. 

I ordered Kake Udon with tempura set (¥1300) that consists of an assortment of shrimp with vegetable tempura. Even though the orders were placed while waiting in line but the preparation work would only start until we were seated then the kitchen started to roll out the dough for the noodles and cooking it. It took about 10 minutes before the tempura assortment was served. It consists of 2 pieces of shrimp and assorted vegetables. They were lightly battered then freshly deep-fried to ensure its freshness as well as the crispiness and not too greasy as well. 

The warm udon noodles were served in a dried bonito-based broth that was quite appetizing and I ended up slurping every drop of it. The texture of the udon is firm and soft with its tensile strength still intact.

I also ordered Bukkake Udon serving with a special soft-boiled tempura egg and cooked pork fillet (¥1200). The noodles were springy and cooked perfectly. I started by breaking the tempura egg gently and letting the egg yolk flow out before mixing it with the noodles. The balance of the flavors was superb. Those slices of pork fille were quite tender. 

I have had many good meals during this trip but these stood out. It is just so amazing that how something so simple can actually taste so good. Highly recommended. 

151-0053, Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi, 2-20-16, JAPAN
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 10.00 pm (Mon to Thu & Sun) / 11.00 am to 11.00 pm (Fri & Sat)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Twenty Grammes : amidst the heartland

This cafe nestled in the heartland of Ang Mo Kio, near to Cheng San Food Centre and a stone's throw from Ang Mo Kio MRT station. They are currently at 2 locations, their main outlet at North Bridge Road and this outlet that opened in October 2015. They are famous for their waffles and handmade ice-cream, and this particular outlet is also known for its exclusive Yuan Yang Waffle ($15) which consists half of Charcoal waffle and other half is Belgian classic waffle with soft-serve ice-cream and hazelnut sauce.

The Charcoal waffle itself is priced at $8.50 and it is at $12.00 if with a single scoop of ice-cream. I opted to have it with the Seasalt Caramel ice-cream that is also served with their signature salted egg sauce. Subsequently, an additional scoop of ice-cream is at $3.00 each if I remember correctly.

I also ordered an Iced Cafe Latte ($6.00) to go with it and it was served in a couple of minutes upon seated down and waited for another 5 minutes more for the waffle to be served. The Iced Cafe Latte had a mild coffee flavor with just enough of milk taste to balance up the bitterness in the coffee and to give it the desired sweetness. 

Even though the Charcoal waffle though tasted just normal but it was fluffy and slightly crispy on the outer layer. The salted caramel ice-cream was rather creamy with a slight hint of saltiness which balanced up the level of sweetness. 

The salted egg sauce did not have much of the salted egg flavor and it also did not enhance the overall flavor as much. Or, maybe, it just did not go well with the salted caramel flavor.

Block 529 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 #01-2353 SINGAPORE 560529
Operating Hours: 12.00 pm to 10.00 pm (Sun to Thu) / 12.00 pm to 1.00 am (Fri & Sat)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Quan Jia Fu 全佳福 Nasi Lemak : a 歌台 (Ge Tai) Singer & his Nasi Lemak

This stall is serving Nasi Lemak and it has been the talk of the town as one of the owners is a relatively popular 歌台 (ge tai) singer, Cheng Ze (承泽). He was one of those singers that participated in the 歌台星力量 that was aired on Channel 8 in 2015. 

Their Nasi Lemak is served on those old-school enamelware plates which you do not get to see it often these days and there is even an old milo tin hung on the ceiling that you only see in those old-fashioned provision shops in the past. One of his partners who is in-charge of all the cooking used to be a cook in a famous Nasi Lemak in Boon Lay. I opted to go with the fried chicken wing, curry vegetable, fried egg and otah for $4.40. 

The deep-fried fried chicken wing was still slightly crispy even after left it for a while. The curry vegetable that mainly consists of cabbage was cooked just right, it has the desired softness that I enjoyed. The fried egg was done right too, its egg yolk was not overcooked. The otah was just average.

The coconut-flavored rice was light and fluffy in its texture. The sambal chili did not taste as spicy as expected to be. It did not taste as good as the one served with the Nasi Lemak by Damien D'Silva at his now-defunct eatery at Timbre+. His sambal chili was amongst the best and the spiciest that I had had. 

It is good to see the amount of effort they have put in to run the stall and this is likely to go far. 

505 Beach Road #B1-45 Golden Mile Food Centre SINGAPORE 199583
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 6.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)