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Adobo Manok – Filipino Chicken Adobo

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The blog’s moving really slowly these days. In fact, I’d not blogged about anything for almost 2 weeks. Been kinda busy lately with quite a couple of things. First is of course to help Vonne and her family with their major move from Singapore to UK. That spanned over quite a number of days and it has been massive on many accounts. First is the number of things we’d needed to pack, which took us quite a while. Wouldn’t have been possible without the help of her good friends Linda and Cecilia. It is really through times when we are in need, that we see true friends indeed. Couldn’t have said it better. Then there is of course the emotional dimension of it. The initial stages were overwhelming with stress and anxiety if we could finish packing in time before the movers came and if there was enough cargo space to fit everything. And when everything’s finally loaded up onto the trucks, the feeling of the inevitable parting begins to hit hard. As the day draws nearer to the eventual departure, the sense of loss sets in. In fact, she and her family are leaving for UK today. I won’t be sending them off, for the sadness would have been too overwhelming. I’m not good at holding back emotions, and emotions it would seem too painful to bear. Its better off that way. But I’m going to miss Vonne and her family so much. Her lovely children Emily, Jasmine, James, Anabel and of course cute and chubby little Daniel. I pray that she and DQ would be blessed with a fresh start in UK. It would indeed be challenging for both of them. But there is also a promise of new opportunities and possibly new adventures for both of them and their family. It is not goodbye forever of course as we would definitely still be in touch. We’ll see her when we see her.

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Kueh Bingka Buah Sukun – Baked Breadfruit Cake

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Breadfruit is one of those things which I have been curious about for the longest time. It grows in the tropics but yet remains highly elusive in Singapore. For one, no one sells it in the markets, so it really takes quite a bit of looking around to find a tree. Yes there are a few trees around on our island but they remain in the “rare” category. I have encountered two trees so far, one near my place and other near a friend’s place in the east. Despite its wide distribution range from the Polynesian and Oceania Islands all the way to Kerala on the southern end of continental India, breadfruit doesn’t seem to have been widely incorporated into local cuisines very much. It remains much in the “exotic” category, far from being a staple for most. So it got me very curious as to what it tastes like, how it should be prepared and what it could be used to cook.
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Con Nghêu Hấp – Vietnamese Clams in Lemongrass Broth

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Con Nghêu Hấp is another Vietnamese dish which I’d gotten to know from dining at Luong Phuong with Syebvonne and the rest. It is essentially clams which had been briefly cooked in a lemongrass broth. The Thais have a very similar version called Hoi Tom Takrai หอยต้มตะไคร้ but whichever versions you chose to cook, it is incredibly easy to prepare and yet so tasty at the same time!
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帝苑餅店 FINE FOODS @ The Royal Garden, Hong Kong

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We‘’d tried quite a number of patisseries in Hong Kong over the last couple of years, from those who herald from France like La Maison du Chocolat, Pierre Herme and Jean Paul Hevin, to the local names like Petite Amanda. Some were reasonably good, like Passion by Dubois but some like Paul Lafayet seem to have fallen short of something. There is a lot of room for improvement and reflection, vis-a-vis the patisserie standards of its neighbours Taiwan and Japan. Yet we remain very hopeful as the pastry scene in Hong Kong is growing increasingly exciting yet at the same time. On our most recent trip, we made a point to visit a highly raved patisserie which we’d yet to try. They have been the Number 1 choice under the “desserts” category on a local Hong Kong food guide chart for quite sometime now. Is it as good as what’s been said?
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Đá Me Đậu Phộng – Vietnamese Iced Tamarind with Roasted Peanuts

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Unlike Thai cuisine, I got to know Vietnamese food fairly late. I didn’t have my first pho or bahn mi until only a couple of years back. It may seem strange but Vietnamese cuisine to me is strangely familiar and yet very alien at the same time. I love the liberal use of greens and herbs in their soups and dishes, as well as the subtle spiciness in their food. A good bowl of pho bo makes a really satisfying lunch and me a very happy man. But that is only because I always make sure there is a glass of da me dau phong on standby at the side, and sometimes two! Dau me dau phong is Vietnamese for “Iced Tamarind and Roasted Peanuts”. It is so addictive and an absolute must order for me in a Vietnamese food joint. And it is so incredibly easy to make at home!

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Laksa Lemak

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I practically grew up eating laksa lemak, amidst other local delights and I’m quite sure there are well many others like me. The laksa which I remembered first eating was not any of those “branded” names along Katong . In fact, I had my first “Katong laksa” when I was much older in my 20s, and it is not even at Katong but the now defunct Jackson Kopitiam in Macpherson area. The very first bowl of laksa I had when I was really young was from an unassuming looking neighbourhood stall near my old place. This was way before the times when people were aware of Hepatitis B and way before it became fashionable to buy coconut milk in terapaks off supermarket shelves. In other words, it was the time when cockles were really large, fresh and bloody, and one could almost be certain that fresh coconut milk was used to ensure all the “lemak” awesomeness! This is the type of laksa which I grew up eating. How about you?

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Mango and Passionfruit Yoghurt Pudding

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Summer is definitely in full swing now with the heat. Nothing better to beat the heat wave with a refreshing and cooling dessert. Couple of years back, I’d made renowned Japanese patissier Hidemi Sugino’s “Tartlette au Mangue at Fruit de la Passion” which he named “Tahiti タヒチ” and the flavours remain vivid in my mind. Mango and passionfruit are a match made in heaven afterall. It inspired me to create a chilled dessert which marries these two delicious tropical fruits, my Mango and Passionfruit Yoghurt Pudding.
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Rendang Ayam – Chicken Rendang

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I don’t know about you guys, but from where I live, no one could resist a good rendang. Thick slabs of meat which had been stewed in a rich and spicy coconut-based sauce over a prolonged period of time is simply to die for. Rendang is the pride and joy of Indonesian cuisine from the Minangkabau people in Sumatra but owing to trade routes and migration patterns, it spread to other parts of Asia, most notably Malaysia and Singapore where it is widely enjoyed and savoured. It has become much of a staple in Malay cuisine, served at festivity gatherings and wedding feasts. Just like many dishes from Malay cuisine, rendang has also found its way onto the dining tables of the Peranakan community. Ask any Baba if rendang is part of the standard laok embok embok, or what is commonly known as Peranakan cuisine, and one would immediately be met with a deep frown as if one has suggested the unthinkable. But ask further if he and his family enjoys rendang and cook it often, that stern look would quickly mellow and dissolve into a sheepish smile. The ingredient of choice for rendang is beef, which is stewed over hours at length until the meat becomes so tender that its fibres could easily be pulled apart with the slightly nudge with the fork. Otherwise, mutton is also good or in this case, chicken! And that is precisely what I cooked this time, Rendang Ayam!
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Patisserie Sadaharu AOKI paris @ Bellavita, Taipei 2014

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Whenever we are in Taipei, we’d always make it a point to drop by Sadaharu Aoki’s dessert salons in either Bellavita or Hotel Regent Taipei, and sometimes both! There are always something new or seasonal, like a surprise that awaits us to uncover! Last year, we had Sensuelle, a Hotel Regent Taipei exclusive and our visit to Patisserie Sadaharu AOKI paris earlier this year was no exception. There were two new creations that were just waiting for us to sample!
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苦瓜鱼骨汤 Bitter Gourd and Fish Bone Soup

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Gosh its that time of the year again. Hot hot hot!!! The heat wave is beyond bearable and seriously no joke. I was just standing by the partially shaded window taking some photos with natural daylight and it already got me sweating like a pig! Multiple showers seem futile, only to be sweating within the next hour or two or so. Air-conditioning seems to be the only solace now, but even then my more-than-15-yo aircon unit is getting a bit cranky. Hope it lasts me through the season… *keeping fingers crossed*

With the heat, appetite seems to be “subdued” somewhat. Everything runs on a “tak kuasa” mode. Desperate times calls for desperate measures.  Time to whip up a few dishes which can spruce up things a bit. The first that comes to mind is a simple 苦瓜鱼骨汤 Bittergourd and Fish Bone Soup.  This is something which my family cooked from time to time, especially when my mum was still around. She made sure that we ate “in sync” with the weather. I don’t know about you guys but I love bittergourd!There is a an old Chinese, “吃得苦中苦,方为人上人”… or so they say! And I love the natural richness of the soup teased out from all the goodness from the fish bones. It looks opaque and milky but within any addition of evaporated milk unlike the cheat versions out there!

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Pâtisserie Sadaharu AOKI paris @ Midtown Tokyo 2014

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Strangely whenever we are in Tokyo, we never really thought much about visiting Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki Paris unlike the others be it local like Hidemi Sugino or Hideki Kawamura, or the “imports” like Pierre Herme and Jean Paul Hevin. I think it is because we were already sampled quite a few of his creations during our trips to Taipei where he has two dessert salons, in Bellavita and Regent Taipei.  However, perhaps due to the quality of the local ingredients used or the level of sophistication his local pastry team is imbued with, friends who tried his cakes from Paris, Taipei and Tokyo told me that one could quite literally make out a difference in the “quality” of the creations between these places. Unlike the macarons and other petit gateau pour sec which are all flown in from France, the entremets and petit gateaus we see in the local stores are made in situ. Tokyo turned out to be their favorite, whose standards of pastry surpasses even those from the 6th arrondissement flagship store in Paris supposedly. That got me very curious and we knew we had to try it to believe it!
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築地井上中華そば Tsukiji Inoue Chuka Ramen

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One of the places we always make it a point to visit  whenever we are in Tokyo is Tsukiji Market located at the south-eastern corner of the metropolis not too far away from Ginza. Unlike other tourist sites, Tsukiji is worth visiting over and over again from time to time. It boasts to have the freshest seafood one would be able to find anywhere and it garners the best produce from all over Japan which changes with the seasons. There is always so much to see, smell, taste and of course buy. Despite our numerous trips to Tsukiji, we’d never gotten to try much of the stuff from the cooked food stalls there. Yes we’d done the “touristic thing” and ate kaisendon at some of the small sushi delis which can be found all over the place, but we’d never gotten round to try much of the other stuff there. So for our most recent trip, we’d made it a point to have a bowl the local ramen, and have a taste of what the locals eat. One name that comes to mind would naturally be 井上中華そば Inoue Chukka Ramen.
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On the Trail of the Phoenix – Ikan Pari Kuah Lada

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Ikan Pari Kuah Lada is a typical dish for everyday meals in a Peranakan household in Melaka and Singapore. It is essentially stingray cooked in a peppery sauce. The piquant flavours carried through the liberal use of white peppercorns and tamarind (asam jawa) makes the sauce (kuah) an excellent drizzling onto some piping hot steamed rice. Being spicy and tart at the same time makes it really moreish for more helpings of rice!
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Roti Jala – Fishnet Crepe

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Roti Jala is much of an icon in Malay and Straits cuisine. Though it is said to have originated from Johor, its popularity stretches northwards to practically all states along the Peninsula. While they are largely found at Indian Muslim foodstalls in most place, there are extremely popular amongst the local Malay community in Penang. “Roti” means bread in Malay as well as the Indian languages, while “Jala” means “fishing net”, these fishnet crepes are otherwise also known as “Roti Renda” which some have translated to become “lacy pancakes”.
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On the Trail of the Phoenix – Sambal Buah Kuini

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It is mango season again and we see an assortment of mangoes from all over. From the honey and rainbow mangoes from Thailand, to the Benishaan and Alphonsoes from India, each visit to the local supermarket often involves getting hit by heavily perfumed wafts of heady aroma they exude. Each variety has its own distinct fragrance, devised by its own unique concoction of volatile chemicals which contribute to a sometimes intoxicating brew making them distinguishable from one another. However, many cultivars nowadays are grown for certain attributes like being less fibrous and longer shelf life in place of others like flavour and aroma! As a result some varieties like the Tommy Atkins which do not taste and smell very much are still in cultivation and widely sold, though hardly anyone buys them as far as I know! As far as I’m concerned, I still prefer very much my Harumanis, buah binjai and buah kuini when they are in season!

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日向夏柑の寒天ゼリー Hyuganatsu Kanten Jelly

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“Summer” is here again and for a tropical country like Singapore who knows no seasons, it is usually marked by unbearable heat waves, and hopefully late afternoon thunderstorms which help to dispel the heat for more tolerable nights, only to wake up to repeat this “daily cycle” all over again. While I loathe the heat, I love “summer” for several reasons and one of which is the coming of seasonal fruits we get only during this time of the year. Stone fruits take centre stage but not forgetting our lovely tropical mangoes and soon-to-come durians as well. One of my favorites is 日向夏柑 Hyuganatsu, a citrus from Miyazaki, Japan much loved for its refreshing sweet and sourish flavour combination. Amongst all the varieties of Japanese citrus available throughout the year from an assortment of different cultivars of Mikan to Yuzu, Kiyomi, Dekopon, Satsuma etc… Hyuganatsu is one which is particularly enjoyed to “welcome” the hot season, as the name of this citrus 夏 “natsu” literally means “summer” in Japanese. The Japanese love it and often present boxes of hyuganatsu as omiyage or gifts to friends, family and business associates whenever the fruits are in season. Though good to be eaten on its own, Hyuganatsu can also be used to make a variety of desserts, including the popular 日向夏柑の寒天ゼリー Hyuganatsu Kanten Jelly, which is so easy to make but incredibly enjoyable.

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Kueh Bingka Ubi Kayu (II) … with Thermomix Recipe

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Kueh Bingka Ubi Kayu seems to be a favorite amongst many of my friends and family.  Even my neighbour bakes it and we’d been exchanging our kueh bingka ubi kayu amongst other kuehs! Yes I’d blogged a recipe from Rohani Jelani just last year and it worked really well. After some discussion with fellow baking kakis and friends, I’d modified the recipe and settled with something which I think works really well.  For my most recent kueh bingka ubi kayu, I’d used Thermomix to aid in the process and it most certainly helped to save lots of time and elbow grease. Thus in addition to the conventional recipe, I’d also included on specially for Thermomix users. Hopefully this would inspire me to develop more recipes with this convenient kitchen tool in future.
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Mikimoto Lounge @ Ginza, Tokyo

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Speak of Japanese pearls and one would immediately think of Mikimoto, whose propelled the technology of pearl culture in Japan more than 120 years ago, that eventually propelled to become the multi-million dollar business empire we know today. Mikimoto pearls are still much sort after and highly regarded in the industry for their quality. We told ourselves that we must make it a point to visit the Mikimoto Ginza 2 building when we visit Tokyo. But it is not the pearls that we are after. Not the real ones at least, but instead the plated desserts at the Mikimoto Lounge located within!
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비빔밥 Bibimbap Korean Mixed Vegetable Rice

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Just like Samgyetang, Bibimbap is one of the signature must-try dishes which is extremely popular for anyone venturing into Korean cuisine. While the former draws attention through the use of ginseng which is known for its medicinal properties as well as mythical qualities it is said to have, bibimbap attracts the crowd by its dramatic display of colours and appeal. With an assortment of stir fried and fresh vegetables being spread around a bowl of rice, the multitude of components in contrasting hues make it all the more appetising. When carefully chosen, bibimbap can be a really healthy and well-balanced one-bowl meal which is not only highly played on the visuals, but the nutritional values as well.
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갈비탕 Galbitang Korean Beef Short Ribs Soup

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After a weekend of pigging out at Tontkatsu @ Maison in Mandarin Gallery, something simple and light on the palate would probably be more forgiving on my tummy. Korean soups seem to serve well as one pot meals sometimes and there are various forms to make, from jjigaes, to jeongols to tangs. Of the three, “tangs” are the lightest and simplest to prepare for me. 갈비탕 Galbitang, a beef short ribs soup, together with my favorite bibimbap seem to be a good way to start a week!
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華姐清湯腩 Sister Wah Beef Brisket @ Hong Kong

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For folks who are familiar with beef noodles in Hong Kong, 華姐 and 九記 should immediately come to mind. Unlike their Taiwanese counterparts whose recipes originated from largely Szechuan and Zhejiang cuisine to become what is uniquely “Taiwanese Beef Noodles” as we know today, Beef Brisket Noodles in Hong Kong can be traced back to its ancestry in traditional Cantonese cuisine. Flavours wise, the two varieties couldn’t be more different. While Taiwanese Beef Noodles swear to be rich and robust in flavours through the liberal use of spices and condiments, the Cantonese rendition opts to occupy the other end of the spectrum where simplicity and clarity are the key notes highly played. But as most foodies would know, the simpler the dish may seem, the harder it is to get it right but I think 華姐清湯腩 Sister Wah Beef Brisket definitely nailed it. (more…)


I Light Marina Bay 2014 – A Photolog

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A quick photo log of a past event… I am always slow. Anyway, I Light Marina Bay is a light festival which takes place once every 2 years. If I’m not wrong, this is the 3rd time it is being hosted at the Marina Bay Waterfront, stretching from The Float @ Marina Bay just next to Marina Square, all the way through MBS to the other side where One Marina Boulevard is. It was a last minute decision to visit the event and I went without knowing what to expect really. No tripods, no prime lenses… just have to make the best out of it. So here is a quick photo log of what I’d taken…Enjoy :)
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배추김치 Baechu-kimchi – Korean Cabbage Kimchi

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If every country has their own “national dish”, Kimchi must surely be Korea’s. This spicy pickled Napa cabbage is so immensely popular, it is almost synonymously linked to Korean food culture. Its versatility deems it not only good to be eaten on its own, but also cooked in a large variety of ways from soups like kimchi jijae or kimchiguk, to kimchi fried rice (kimchi bokkeumbap) as well as flavouring the base of hotpots like dubu kimchi jeongol. Its versatility also means that it is eaten is in practically every Korean meal, be it casual street food on the go where one would find kimchi pancakes (kimchijeon), to very formal royal meals like the Susarang. Even if it is not eaten on its own, the paste for making kimchi is used as a dipping sauce, from hotpots to live octopuses!

In Korea, kimchi comes in a large variety of forms. From the spicy version which evokes the liberal use of chilli pepper powder to the non-spicy and thus milder versions like the “water kimchi“. A large variety of ingredients are also used for pickling from white radish to cucumber but by far, the most popular and thus most common form of kimchi is made from Napa cabbage which the Koreans call baechu, giving rise 배추김치 Baechu-kimchi, that is Korean Cabbage Kimchi.

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삼계탕 Samgyetang – Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup

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For many of us, 大長今 Daejanggeum was an important starting point and stepping stone into the world of Korean cuisine. It created a wave of sensation all over Asia and subsequently the whole world. Together with the rich cultural and historical context it provides, Daejanggeum brought Korean cuisine onto the international platform, allowing folks all over to get to know more about Korean food like kimchi and bimbimbap. It also brought the world into Korean cuisine, getting people curious and inquisitive to try “Hansik” (Korean food) for the very first time. Despite being highly dramatised, it was quite an eye-opener even for those who claim to already know “Hansik“. It was most certainly so for me. Several things intrigue me even till today, like the use of honey with dried fruits and nuts in cuisine, something relatively unheard of in the south. Until Daejanggeum came along that is.

The show also popularised the Korean cuisine all over the world, with Korean restaurants springing up in Singapore in quick successions following the show. Now we even have a “Korean food street” in Singapore, in the Tanjong Pagar area which is dotted with many Korean restaurants. Korean supermarkets also became in increasingly common sight with various chains operating in Singapore making it really convenient for those wanna try preparing Korean cuisine at home.

For me, Korean cuisine presents a world of extremes. It could be something as plain as a bowl of clear soup with beansprouts and tofu, yet at the same time, it could be something with far more “wow!” factor like swallowing live octopuses dipped in kimchi sauce or feasting on the unthinkably bizarre and exotic. This seeming clash dietary habits bewilder many but is perpetual not only in the culinary cultures in Korea and many others around the world.
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