to eat to drink to bake to cook to live

Author: oinkcafe (page 2 of 28)

Finally rolling out of the cave

It has been awhile since I made my presence felt in World Wide Web. It has been crazy for the past two months. Since September, I have (work) projects to be completed by early November. Once those are completed, I helped a friend with a photoshoot for a week (which was very fun and tiring at the same time). Oh did I mention that the cookbook that I helped to do recipe testing was launched? Quickly go buy the book, my picture is in there too!

And to top it off, I signed up for an online course. Yes, sometimes I do wonder what is wrong with my brain. Anyway, I finally got my schedule sort of settled. Hopefully I can share with you all some of the deliciousness that I have been doing and eating before Christmas madness starts! So stay tune!

p/s: On a different note, my wonderful foodie pals Juji Chews and The Food Pornographer wrote some great articles about food blogging, ethics and sponsorship which I think are worth a read. My view is short and simple. There is nothing wrong with sponsorship as long as I don’t abuse the opportunity. Most importantly, I must be able to write what I want and standby what I have written.

I cooked my first plate of Pad Thai

When it comes to Thai food, I always rely on bottled pastes (McCormick used to make the best Thai green curry paste) and Nakhon Kitchen which is opposite my house. It has never crossed my mind to cook Thai food at home.

As the queue at Nakhon Kitchen gets ridiculously long (at all times), I decided it is time I learn more about Thai cuisine. I started with the simple and basic Pad Thai. Pad Thai is essentially a quick stir-fry rice noodles dish. When I was in university, I would buy those Pad Thai mix from the supermarket. I remembered the sauce was thick, dark and sticky. The finished product was a heavily sauced noodles.

A good Pad Thai should embody spiceness (chilli powder), sourness (tamarind), sweetness (palm sugar) and saltiness (fish sauce). The end result is a flavourful, substantial plate of noodles. I also did my research on Pad Thai, and realised everyone has their own version for the sauce, preparation of the noodles and so on. The first time I cooked Pad Thai, I felt it was lacking acidity. I made some adjustments and was quite happy with my second attempt. I am glad that Pad Thai has made it into my small repertoire of dishes that I know how to cook.

Pad Thai
(Adapted from David Thompson’s Thai Street Food)

Serves 2

1)      100g dried thin rice noodles (rice sticks)
2)      4 shallots, coarsely chopped with a pinch of salt
3)      2 eggs, cracked and whisked
4)      3 tablespoons vegetable oil or peanut oil
5)      ½ teaspoon chye poh, rinsed and dried (salted radish)
6)      100g firm beancurd, cut into small squares (I like to use Unicurd tau kwa that is specifically for tahu goreng)
7)      10 shelled prawns (optional; if you want to keep the dish vegetarian, omit them)
8)      A handful Chinese chives or ku chye (around 4 stalks), cut into 1” length
9)      A small handful cashew nuts, roasted, and coarsely chopped
10)   1 lime, cut into wedges (optional)
11)   Chilli powder (optional)

1)      2 tablespoons brown sugar
2)      2 tablespoons tamarind water*
3)      1 tablespoon fish sauce (if you want to keep the dish vegetarian, use soya sauce)
4)      Dash of white vinegar
5)      1-2 tablespoons of water

-        In a large bowl, soak the dried rice noodles in cold water for about 15 minutes or until they have soften (make sure the noodles are completely covered in water).
-        While the noodles are soaking, you can start to prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, tamarind water, vinegar, fish sauce (or soya sauce) and 1-2 tablespoons of water. Mix until the sugar has dissolved and taste. The sauce should be balanced. If need to, adjust the flavour accordingly – sweetness (sugar), saltiness (fish sauce/ soya sauce), and sourness (vinegar or tamarind water). Set aside.
-        Once the noodles starts to soften, bring a pot of water to boil.
-        Drain the noodles and add them in the pot of boiling water for less than a minute. The noodles should have firmness, and not mushy. Once cooked, drain the noodles and set aside. This will help to prevent the noodles from clumping when being stir-fried.
-        Place a wok over a medium heat. Add in the oil and let it heat up. Once the oil is heated, add in the shallots and fry them until they soften, coloured and develop fragrance. Once the shallots are soften, add in the prawns (if using).
-        Once the prawns are added, pour in the eggs. Like cooking an omelette, tilt the wok and using a spatula, push the egg inwards so that the egg that is seated inside will be moved and get cooked.
-        While the egg is still runny, increase the heat to medium-high, and add in the drained noodles. Fry for about 30 seconds and at the same time, break the eggs using the spatula. Add in the sauce, and fry the noodles to ensure the sauce is evenly distributed.
-        Once the sauce is absorbed by the noodles (it should take less than a minute), add in the beancurd, chye poh and ¾ of the cashew nuts, and continue to fry the noodles until it is almost dry. At that stage, add in the Chinese chye and fry for a few seconds.
-        To serve, divide the Pad Thai into 2 plates and garnish with the remainder cashew nuts, roasted chilli powder and lime wedges.

*To obtain tamarind water, you will need 2 tablespoons of tamarind pulp and 2 tablespoons of warm water. This should yield around 3 tablespoons of tamarind water. Before mixing the tamarind pulp in the water, rinse the pulp to remove any surface yeast. Once rinsed, mix the tamarind pulp with the water and let it soak for a few minutes. Once the pulp is soften, using a spoon, smash the pulp so that it dissolves in the water. Pass the mixture through a sift, and using the same spoon, squeeze out as much juice as possible. Don’t be terribly worried if the tamarind water is rather thick, you can easily dilute it with water. Any leftover tamarind water can be kept in an airtight container and place in the fridge for 2 days.

A welcome surprise: Penang Delights

Ang Mo Kio was my childhood playground. Papa Ng used to own a men’s garment factory in Ang Mo Kio. When I was a kid, I spent most of my time at the factory, doing menial tasks like trimming the thread from the shirt’s sleeves, folding and packing them into boxes. My primary and secondary schools were in Ang Mo Kio too. Back then, the A&W near the library was my favourite place (hello coney dog). Since Papa Ng closed down his factory, there was little or no reason for me to go back to Ang Mo Kio.

Recently, I needed some craft material for a friend’s birthday present which prompted me to Elsie Departmental Store in Ang Mo Kio. Elsie Departmental Store has been around for as long as I can remember. It has faithfully supplied me with material for my primary and secondary school projects. Stepping into Elsie, you will be welcomed by sights of pom pom tissue cover, framed cross stitch work and a table full of women(and sometimes men) crocheting and knitting. This place is old school and grouchy friendly (the owners’ faces look stern but they are very nice). My last trip there, the owner even offered me a banana and gave me an extra lucky draw ticket.

After my errands at Elsie, I went over to the nearby coffeeshop (S11). I wanted to eat my favourite yong tau foo but the stall seems to have moved. I was walking round and round, searching for possible lunch. I settled on this inconspicuous stall – Penang Delights. They served two things – prawn noodles and lor mee. I opt for a bowl of prawn bee hoon noodles soup (S$3.50).

The first impression of this bowl of soupy goodness was the richness of the broth. It was brownish orange and I could detect a “prawny” smell. I dived right in and have a sip of the soup. It was what I had predicted – rich, flavourful and comforting. Though I was lament that the stall owner gave me so little soup, if he had given me more, I doubt I would be able to finish it. The second thing that got my nod of approval was the prawns. The prawns were neither puny nor sliced into half. They were left whole. The stall owner was also very thoughtful. He had peeled the shell of the prawns, leaving the head and tail intact. This also means I got to suckle on the prawn heads (hello cholesterol) and extract more “prawny” juice. And I do not have to get my hands dirty.

Thanks to Penang Delights, I can see myself returning to Ang Mo Kio (and of course, saying hi to all the lovely uncles and aunties at Elsie).

Elsie Departmental Store
Blk 709, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8, #01-2607
Open hours: 10.30am to 8.30pm (daily)Penang Delights
Blk 711, Ang Mo Kio Avenue, S11 Food Centre, #01-08

oink’s guide to … Copenhagen! Let’s be a tourist and tour a museum and a castle (part two)

After my visit to the National Museum of Denmark, I made a 10-minute walk to the Christiansborg Palace. When I was at the palace ground, the whole place looked secluded. There were no tourists walking around. I know there were people at the palace as there were quite a few cars parking nearby. It took me a while and found the gift shop which was also the ticketing booth. Once again, armed with my Copenhagen card, I need not pay for the entrance fee.

The Ruins

As I was early for the tour, I decided to take a quick look at The Ruins. The Ruins is located underneath the Christiansborg Palace and it comprises of the ruins from the Absalon’s Castle and the Copenhagen Castle (which were the first and second castle that were built before Christianborg Palace). The truth is it is rather difficult to be excited by a pile of rocks. Unless you are an avid fan of archaeology and Danish history, chances are you’ll be like me going “it is a lot of rocks here”. At the end of The Ruins exhibit, there is a video which illustrates the history of Christiansborg Palace. The poor Christiansborg Palace was burnt down twice! This makes a total of five castles being built on the same ground.

Suddenly I feel I am in an episode of CSI

I walked back to the gift shop and enquired about the meeting point for the tour (which was right in front of the shop). There were lockers beside the gift shop, and I decided to park my heavy coat there. Before I embark on the tour, it is mandatory to wear shoes gloves. Yes it is not a pretty sight but hey I ain’t doing this alone.

Minutes after wearing my (blue) shoes gloves, my guide, Brigitte arrived. The English speaking tour covers the Royal Reception Rooms and the Great Hall with the Queen’s tapestries. Brigitte first gave the group a brief history of the palace. The current (and third) Christiansborg Palace was built to be the permanent residence for the Royal Family. After the second fire, the Royal Family moved to the Amalienborg Palace and since then the reigning king decided to stay there and not move into the Christiansborg Palace. Today the palace houses the Danish parliament and the Supreme Court.

King’s Stairways

Alexander’s room

Our group went on the King’s Stairway which gives us access to the Royal Reception Rooms. Each room has its own purpose and it is decorated with beautiful artwork both on the wall and ceilings. One of my favourite rooms is the Alexander Room (Alexandersalen) where royal banquets are held. In the middle of the room sits a long table that can accommodate up to 50 guests. Brigitte went on to tell us that when there is a dinner, the staff will prepare the food in the nearby smaller rooms. All the food is prepped and cooked before reaching the palace as there is no cooking facility. Guess there won’t be any piping hot soup.

The Great Hall

Yngre Glyksborgere

We continued our tour and made our way to the Great Hall where the Queen’s tapestries reside. The Great Hall is the largest of the Royal Reception Rooms. To celebrate Queen Margrethe’s 50th birthday, artist Bjørn Nørgaard created 17 tapestries which illustrate the history of Denmark. These tapestries are hung on the walls of the Great Hall. There are quite a few hidden messages in the tapestries and on the walls where they are hung. One of my favourites is Yngre Glyksborgere  which features the 1900 Denmark and the major events happened during that time. Some of the well-known events and personalities that are featured on the tapestries include the sinking of the Titanic, the release of Donald Duck comic in Denmark, the Beatles, and Hitler and World War II. The border of the tapestries is made up of famous icons of the science and technology, and political fields such as Albert Einstein, Gandhi, John F. Kennedy and so on. I am amazed how Nørgaard managed to squeeze all these in a tapestry and yet make it a piece of interesting and vibrant art piece.

Brigitte went over the rope barrier and showed us the back of the tapestries where ropes were sewed onto the borders. In the case of fire, staff will just need to pull the ropes and the tapestries will be released and rolled up and ready to be taken away. I thought that is a good idea considering the history of Christiansborg Palace. Brigitte continues to share with us the little nuggets of interesting facts about each room, art pieces and the Royal Family. After our 60 minutes of tour, she left us to explore the palace on our own.

I quite enjoy the tour as the pace is just right and Brigitte is great, offering titbits of fact, making history interesting. So if you are planning a trip to Copenhagen, try to make it to Christiansborg Palace.

Christiansborg Palace
Prins Jørgens Gård 1, 1218 København K
Opening hours: 10.00 am – 5.00 pm (Tue-Sun)
A combination ticket (which gives you access to the Royal Reception Rooms, Royal Stables and the Ruins) – DKK100/ US$18/S$22.50
The Royal Reception Rooms ticket – DKK80/ US$14/S$18
The daily tour to the Royal Reception Rooms is free. The Danish tour starts at 11.00 am and the English tour starts at 3.00 pm. Each tour is estimated to be an hour.

oink’s guide to … Copenhagen! Let’s be a tourist and tour a museum and a castle (part one)

When travelling to another country, I used to try my darnedest to pretend to be one of the locals, and not wanting to be one of those tourists who look lost and helpless. As the years go by, I learn to relax and figure out that it is okay to look lost and helpless, and experience the joy of exploring a country unfamiliar and unknown to me.

Being a proud a tourist in Europe, one of the must-do on my list is to tour a castle (and after that I went on to tour a few more). I have chosen a tour of the Christiansborg Palace which is located in Copenhagen city. The Palace has only one English tour per day and it is conducted at 3pm. So before I embark on my tour, I drop by the National Museum of Denmark which is next to the Palace.

The National Museum of Denmark is one of my favourite museums that I visited in Copenhagen. The museum itself houses a variety of exhibits from around the world and of course a good part of it focused on Danish history. I particularly like three of their main exhibits – The Danish Prehistory, Stories of Denmark and The Children’s Museum.

One of the most interesting and puzzling exhibits at the Danish Prehistory section is the Haraldskaer Mermaid. When I first saw the bones of the mermaid, my brain was going “mermaids are real”. But after reading the guide, I realised this piece was created by an artist called Mille Rude. It is rare that a museum would display a fictional piece especially in the prehistorical section. Yet at the same time, it makes understanding history a bit more fun.

Stories of Denmark chronicles the history of Denmark from 1660 to 2000. It features the everyday life of the Danish, and how the nation progressed through different periods of time. I particularly like to see the kitchenware that was used in the early years – how bowls and pots were first crafted with wood then later created with copper. And you know the workmanship of the kitchenware is excellent as it is still on display after few hundred years. It also makes you wonder how they cook without a Kitchenaid or a food processor. I can only imagine the work the Danish put in to prepare a meal.

As you move along, you start to see how the lives of Danish have progressed and improved with technology – the electric stove, refrigerator, radio, television and so on. And the pots! They are so beautifully designed that I really want to steal one and bring it home. Of course, the Stories of Denmark is not just about pots and pans. It also captures the political environment. As you roam, you will see propaganda posters, Hilter figurines, war-related materials.

My favourite part of the museum is definitely the Children’s Museum. I am a big kid at heart and I love toys. I can spend all day at the Children’s Museum. On display are these boxes of building tools – they are like Lego. The pieces look so intricate and I think it will keep kids entertain for hours. Oh and the museum also has these miniature enamel cookware and reminds me of masak-masak. There are so many toys that I want to play.

Like any typical tourist, I ended my day at the museum at the gift shop. And it was a pretty good gift shop. There were replicas of some of the toys that I seen at the museum. And I managed to buy a few gifts for my friends. I left the museum pretty happy.

National Museum of Denmark
Ny Vestergade 10, Copenhagen
Opening hours: 10.00 am – 5.00 pm (Tue-Sun)
Admission is free.

It’s Honey Boo Boo Day!

I am a huge fan of Alana Thompson aka Honey Boo Boo Child. For those who are unfamiliar with Alana, she is a 7-year old girl who lives in McIntyre, Georgia and loves to participate in beauty pageants. She was first featured in TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras. And she was such a hit that TLC decided to do a spin-off called Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Child which features Alana’s everyday life and her family.

When I first watched snippets of this show, I was actually pretty annoyed by this family. They were so loud. And I just gave up watching. With the encouragement from friends (you can tell my standard for friends is pretty low), I persevere and I fall in love with this show. A little disclaimer here – not everyone will like the show. I have friends who are amazed such families exist. For me, the reason why I like the show is that Alana and her family look genuine. Their conversations, actions may seem weird but they sound and look real. Most importantly, there is no ridiculous drama in this family. They just cry, laugh, talk, smile and fart (I truly believe this is the first time I used the word “fart” in my blog).

A couple of months back, my friends and I organised a “Honey Boo Boo Day”. We were going to cook some food and do a Honey Boo Boo marathon. Since I would be bringing my dish over to my friend’s house and we were doing lunch, I needed something that was quick to cook, easy to assemble and portable without fuss and spill. I finally settled on Ottolenghi’s soba noodles with eggplant and mango (of course, nothing makes me happier than a visit to my mango man. He sells really good, dirt cheap mangoes at Tekka market. His honey mango is only S$1 each).

Before I served this dish to my friends, I must do a trial-run – to test and adjust the flavour, and get myself familiarise with the recipe. The flavour of this dish is unbelievably amazing. The first taste, it reminds me of yusheng – it is tangy, sweet and slightly spicy. It is so refreshing that when I reach the bottom of the mixing bowl (it is so good that I cannot be bothered to plate it), I can feel my stomach weeping.

Soba noodles with eggplant and mango
(Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty)
You can make this dish two hours in advance. If you are bringing this to a friend’s house (like me), add ¾ of the dressing into the noodles. Once you have reached your friend’s place, and when you are about to serve the dish, add in the rest of the dressing. The noodles might stick together when resting in the fridge so the dressing helps to loosen them.

Serves 6

1)      120ml or ½ cup rice vinegar
2)      1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
3)      3 tablespoon granulated sugar
4)      ½ teaspoon kosher salt (table salt is fine)
5)      2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
6)      1 fresh red chilli, deseed and finely chopped (if you and your friends love spice, leave the seeds in the chilli)
7)      Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

-        In a small saucepan, add in the rice vinegar, sugar and salt, and place it over a low heat. Using a spoon, gently stir the vinegar until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Once dissolved, remove the saucepan from the heat.
-        Pour the vinegar mix into a bowl (or the container that you might use if you are transporting this dish to a friend’s house), and add in the sesame seed oil, garlic and chopped red chilli.
-        Once the mix is cooled*, add in the lime zest and juice. If you add in the zest while the mix is warm, the heat will discolour it. Set aside.

Soba noodles with eggplant and mango
1)      2 small eggplants or 1 large eggplant, cut into ¾” dice
2)      1 large ripe mango, cut into ¾” dice (I used honey mango; the mango should be prepped last when you are about to assemble and mix the noodles. If you cut the mango too early, it might oxidise and turn brown)
3)      270g of dried soba noodles (the only reason why I used 270g of soba noodles is because mine came in 3 bundles of 90g. You can use less noodles but no more than 270g)
4)      A small bunch of coriander, chopped (set aside some for garnish)
5)      ½ red onion, very thinly sliced (if you want, you can use a mandolin. I was lazy and didn’t want to clean up so I just cut the onion very slowly and you should be able to achieve thin slices)
6)      2 tablespoon vegetable oil
7)      A tray of ice cubes
8)      Salt

-        Preheat the oven to 200oC. Place the diced eggplant on a baking tray, add in the vegetable oil, mix well and make sure they are coated with the oil. Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until they turned golden brown.
-        Once the eggplant is baked, place them in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt and leave them to drain.
-        In a medium-sized saucepan, fill it with water (enough to cook the noodles) and place it over a medium heat. Once the water starts to boil, add in a generous pinch of salt and the noodles. Cook the noodles as per instructed on the pack. Mine takes about 6-8 minutes. The cooked noodles should be soft yet with a bite.
-        While the noodles are cooking, remove the eggplant from the colander and place them in a large mixing bowl**. Using the same colander (there is no need for washing up), fill it with a tray of ice cubes. Set aside.
-        Once the noodles are cooked, drain (don’t use the colander, just drain from the saucepan) and rinse it with cold water. Drain again but this time, using the colander that is filled with ice. Mix the ice cubes and noodles – this is to prevent the noodles from sticking and stop further cooking. Set aside.
-        Once the noodles and eggplant are ready, you can slice and dice the mango.
-        To assemble, in the mixing  bowl (with the eggplant), add in a tablespoon of the dressing, follow by the mango (the vinegar and lime juice will prevent the oxidisation of the mango). Add in the rest of the ingredients – soba noodles (make sure to drain off any excess water), onion, coriander and the dressing (remember if this is to be served later, reserve some of the dressing). You can use two forks or like Mama June (Alana’s mother) who believes hands are the best utensil, mix it with your (clean) hands.
-        To finish, garnish with more coriander.
-        If you are bringing this dish to a party, just pour in the rest of the dressing, mix and garnish.

*While the vinegar mix is cooling, you can crack on the rest of the dish.
**I am an advocate of use-less-bowl. However I will not recommend assembling or mixing this dish in the container or serving platter that you are going to use. You need a big bowl or room for you to mix all the ingredients and dressing together. And trust me, this will be less messy too.

Instant noodles love

Instant noodles have played a huge part in my life. One of my favourites was Indo-Mie’s mi goreng. It was my go-to snack when I was studying late in the night. It was quick, easy and satisfying. When I was in university, I would buy a carton of the mi goreng from the Oriental shop and this would last me for months. Though I do cook from scratch, it always good to know you have “instant” food in the house especially when you were trapped, and trying to finish up a thesis.

With all the scary stories and health concerns regarding instant noodles, I have definitely cut down my consumption. However the recent horrid haze that Singapore experienced motivates me to eliminate instant noodles. In the month of June, Singapore was badly affected by Indonesia’s forest fire. The pollutant standard index was at its highest of 401. It was considered a health hazard to be outdoor and I was stuck in the house for a few days. The cause of the fire was to clear land for palm trees. Over the years, there has been a great demand for palm oil. A lot of things we used and consumed contained palm oil. Palm oil can be used to make a bar of soap to the seasoning oil found in instant noodles. As a step to reduce the demand for palm oil, I made the heart-breaking decision of not eating my favourite Mi Sedaap’s mi goreng (and any instant noodles).

However this does not mean I stop having “instant” food at home. I stockpile noodles and chicken stock in my freezer (suddenly I feel like a doomsday prepper). I particularly like Sakura’s la-mian which is fresh noodles and when cooked has a chewy texture. I have no shame in saying I am a fan of instant stock. There are really good quality packet stocks available in the supermarkets. It is a time and perhaps a money saver too.

To make this noodle soup better than any instant noodles, I pimp it up. I not just whacked in flavour into the soup, I added some shredded poached chicken and blanched asparagus, topped with coriander and fresh chillies. Paying homage to my favourite ramen stall, Marutama, I throw in a slice of lemon, giving the soup a kick of acid and balance.

Chicken-flavoured instant noodle soup
You do not need to use the list of ingredients that I have below. You can use whatever you can find in your fridge and pantry, adding your favourite food, making this noodle soup your own.

Serve 1

1)      90g fresh noodles (you can use la-mian, kway teow. If you only have dried noodles, you will need around 50g)
2)      100-125g skinless chicken breast
3)      ¼ cup of chopped asparagus (you can also use any of your favourite leafy vegetables)
4)      250ml (or 1 cup) of chicken stock
5)      1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (Hua Tiao)
6)      1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional)
7)      ½ teaspoon sesame seed oil
8)      Sliced fresh chillies (optional)
9)      A small handful of roughly chopped coriander (optional)
10)   1 lemon wedge
11)   Salt
12)   Water

-        Fill up half of a small saucepan with water and add in a pinch of salt and place it over a medium heat. Once the water starts to boil, standby a slotted spoon and add in the chopped asparagus. The asparagus only need to be blanched for a few seconds. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate and set aside (there is no need to switch off the stove)
-        Using the same saucepan, add in the chicken breast and poach it for 5-8 minutes (depending on how thick the chicken breast is). You can also take out the chicken breast and cut into half to check if it is cooked. Once the chicken breast is cooked, remove it with a slotted spoon and place it on the same plate as the asparagus and let it cool. Set aside.
-        Remove the poaching liquid from the saucepan. Fill up half of a small saucepan with water and add in a pinch of salt and place it over a medium heat. Once the water starts to boil, add in the noodles and cook per instructed. I usually use fresh la-mian which takes about 3 minutes to cook. If you are using dried noodles, you might want to soak it in cold water for 10-15 minutes, and quickly blanch it in hot water for 1-2 minutes or until it is almost cooked. It is important not to overcook the noodles as they will be reheated later in the chicken broth. Once the noodles are cooked (it should still has a bite), drain it using a colander. Once the water is drained off, add in the sesame seed oil into the noodle and stir it around with a pair of chopsticks or a fork. The oil not just imparts fragrance but also prevents the noodles from sticking. Set aside.
-        Using the same saucepan (see this is a one pot chicken noodles soup too!), place it over a medium heat, add in the chicken broth. Once the broth starts to boil, add in the Chinese cooking wine and soy sauce (if using). At this stage, you can taste and adjust. If the broth is slightly salty, it is ok. You will notice that all the ingredients we have prepped earlier have barely any seasonings. They are purposely blanched to absorb and pair with a savoury broth. If you find it really salty, add in some water to dilute the broth. Once you are happy with the broth, you can off the heat.
-        Before assembling the chicken noodles soup, shred the cooked chicken breast with your hands or with a fork. You might also need to cut it into bite-sized pieces.
-        To assemble, pour the broth into the serving bowl. Add the noodles into the bowl, follow by the shredded chicken, asparagus, coriander, sliced chillies (if using) and a wedge of lemon.
-        I could have cooked everything in a pot but I chose to cook every ingredient separately as I think it produces a cleaner tasting (and looking) chicken noodles soup. If you really want to cook everything in a pot, the one thing I would suggest is to cook the noodles separately. This is especially important if you are cooking fresh noodles. The excess flour from the noodles might cloud the chicken broth and add a floury bitter taste.

World Street Food Congress 2013

I am buried in work (and I am slowly crawling back up). All the last-minute projects made me lose the motivation to go to the World Street Food Congress which happened from 31 May to 9 June. However I saw a lot of sad pictures where there was hardly anyone visiting the stalls. I felt bad and guilty for the vendors especially the ones who flew all the way to Singapore. To show my support and hoping that these overseas vendors will return, I went with my fellow tam chiak (translate: greedy) friend, Kat.

Time to put some yummy in my tummy

We went on a Friday evening. When we reached the venue, it was almost deserted. We did a tour of all the food stalls and target the ones we wanted to try. Some were really outstanding while others were pretty ordinary.

La Guerrerense’s seafood tostada

The first stall that I visited was the famed La Guerrerense from Mexico. I ordered the seafood tostada with a mild sauce (S$10). While I was waiting for Sabina, the owner to fix up the tostada, she was also busy chatting with customers. And she would suddenly stop whatever she was doing, whipped out her handphone and take a snapshot with her customers. She was so adorable! And her seafood tostada was one of my favourites for that evening. The base of the tostada was lathered with some sort of crab paste and Sabina would stack chunks of prawns, squids and top with a big slate of avocado. You got to choose the spice level for the sauce and I opted for mild. When I bit into the tostada, you get the crunch from tostada, the seafood was fresh and everything was well-balanced.

Kat and I shared a soft shell crab burger (S$10) from Eurotrash Food Cart. It was pretty ordinary and I did wish the crab was more crispy. Once we were done with the first round of food, we were off to get more food. I went off to The Swamp Shack and got us shrimps and grits and smothered chicken. Kat went to get a porchetta sandwich from The People’s Pig and chicken 65 from Abhishek.

The shrimps and grits (S$10) was pretty decent. The shrimps had a cornmeal crust which was seasoned with chilli as they were quite spicy. I actually quite enjoyed the grits, it was buttery and well-seasoned. The smothered chicken (S$9) faired a lot better. Fried chicken, mash and gravy – how not to love? Though the chicken got a bit soggy from the gravy, it was quite a generous portion. The mash potatoes and the gravy stole my heart – it was smooth and buttery, and I love butter.

I didn’t have a taste of Kat’s porchetta sandwich (S$9) but she said it was quite nice as it had fats (I think you can tell we are not fans of low-fat food). The chicken 65 (S$3.50) was surprisingly delicious too. At this stage, we were stuffed. We each got a drink and sat in the indoor dining area and enjoyed the breeze.

Love a good taco

After a while, I craved for the tortilla chips and guacamole that I spotted earlier. Unfortunately they were sold out. So I got the fish and beef tacos from Tacombi. The first bite brought me back to the Maxwell Street Market in Chicago. I could taste the masa harina in the tortilla, and the fish and beef were beautifully fried. What surprised me was the pickled cabbage. I was never a fan of purple cabbage but they were skilfully prepped that you do not taste the rawness in the cabbage and not too acidic too. A wonderful end for me.

Despite all the delicious food that I have ate at the World Street Food Congress, there were a lot of problems too. And I will not go into details as I know how difficult it is to organise such events (this one took two years to plan). But one thing I do hope that the organisers look into is the price point. I be honest here, the food I chose to eat are mostly from the North America. I purposely skipped the stalls from Vietnam, Indonesia, China and so on. Yes it may sound silly as I might miss out on some great cuisines. But I just can’t do it. As someone who travelled around Asia quite often, I know the cost of food and they were not exactly out of reach. So I will not pay S$8 for a small bowl of mee siam.

I do know there is logistic and business cost involved. But to a consumer, these are factors that we do not consider. We just think it is street food and it is supposed to cheap. Especially in Singapore, where we have hawker stalls, we are spoilt. To pay S$8-S$10 for a small portion of food, it was a bit hard to swallow. That said, if World Street Food Congress is to return next year, I will still continue to support the event.

The day I ate fried chicken at 10am

I love my fried food. I do not think I can go a week without eating anything fried. It does not need to be fast food. When I ordered yong tau foo, I would definitely pick out fried beancurd skin. And I also think people who eat fried chicken and not eat its skin, are throwing insult to fried food. What’s wrong with you people?

That said, it is not a habit or routine that I have fried chicken at 10am. No matter what terrible morning I have, it does not warrant fried food in the morning. I still believe breakfast should be substantial but not greasy.

My friend, Biona told me that the Philippines fast-food chain, Jollibee was voted to have the best fried chicken in Singapore. I have eaten at Jollibee years ago in Manila. I do not have much recollection of their fried chicken. Of course, a revisit is necessary. However Jollibee is notorious for its long queue. Apparently people queued two hours to get their food. In anticipation of the long queue, Biona and I met up at 10am and predicted that when we reached the front of the queue, it would be lunch time.

We reached Jollibee, we were shocked. There was NO queue. Well, there were a few people in front of us. I was clearly unprepared to have fried chicken at 10am. We made our way to the counter and got ourselves a bucket of 6 pieces of chicken, gravy and drinks. We did not get any sides as they did not look appealing to us.

In case you wondered, no, we did not finish all the 6 pieces of chicken. We only got the bucket because I want it. It is my dream to have fried chicken out from the bucket (yah I am not very ambitious). The last time I had that was when I was a kid at either my siblings or my birthday party. I mean seriously, fried chicken tastes the best out from the bucket.

We had to wait awhile to get our fried chicken – I guessed they did not expect fried food was in demand that early of the day. When our bucket finally arrived at our table, the chicken was piping hot. Unlike most fast food chains, the bucket contained all the dark meat and parts that I like – we got wings and drumsticks. When it comes to fried chicken, I much prefer the dark meat (the drumsticks and thigh) which are juicier and flavourful (and I think fried chicken breast is a joke). As the chicken was really hot, we started with the wings which cooled much faster. The meat itself was fresh and juicy. Biona commented that Jollibee used fresh chicken meat (instead of frozen ones) which contributed to the moisture in the meat. The seasoning or the batter for the chicken is rather subtle. To me, it was bordering to the bland side. I like fried chicken to be heavily seasoned. Chicken meat is quite mild in taste hence it can take on strong flavours. For every fried chicken order, you will be given a small tub of gravy which Biona loved and I hated. It was MSG-lardered and tasted like salty, watery brown sauce.

I do not mind dining at Jollibee again. The service is pretty good and the food is fresh from the fryer. However if I have to queue two hours for the food, I rather go to my favourite Popeyes and get my cravings sorted.

Jollibee Singapore
6th floor, Lucky Plaza
Open hours: 9.00am to 9.00pm (daily)

Happy birthday me! Smashing fun at The Cajun Kings

(Before y’all start to wish me happy birthday, the birthday is in November so yes this post is really, really late.)
Located in the centre of private estates, The Cajun Kings serves up rich, flavourful Creole-styled seafood in a playful manner. The menu is pretty extensive. Beside seafood, there are mouth-watering appetisers that help to appease the belly while you wait for your main course.

Sweet potato fries

The Kings wings

Among my group of four, we ordered the sweet potato fries, gumbo and the Kings wings. The sweet potato fries were piping hot when they reached our table. The fries were crisp on the outside and soft in the inside. Another delicious starter we ordered was the Kings wings. They tasted clean (this mean that they did not recycle their oil), well-cooked and were seasoned properly


I was very much looking forward to the gumbo. Gumbo is a southern Louisiana dish that is similar to a stew and it comes in different varieties. Some people add rice, while others will throw in beans. Tucking into this dish is always fun – you never know what you’re going to get. You get a bit of vegetables in the first spoon, and perhaps a small piece of sausage in another. The Cajun Kings’ version was aromatic and choke full of ingredients. I could easily wallop that bowl of gumbo all by myself.

Before the star dishes arrived at our table, we were each given a bib and a wooden mallet to prep for the mess to come. We have ordered a Dungeness crab in garlic butter sauce and red sea prawns cooked in the Kings’ mix (mild). The staff came and plonked two big plastic bags in the middle of the table. We opened up the bags and started going at them with our hands. And yes it was a hell of a mess.

The Dungeness crab was not overcooked and was rather sweet. The surprise was neither the garlic nor the butter overpowered the mild flavoured crab meat. We also had a fun time smashing the crab into pieces. Bits of shell flew across the table, the sauce dripping from our fingers. We had a much easier time eating the prawn. The Kings’ mix that we ordered was mild and you would get the pungent Cajun spice with a hint of heat at the end. I was happily sucking up the prawn heads which contained all the juices and spice. The prawn meat was firm and before eating, I would recommend dipping it in the cooking sauce.

Dinner at the Cajun Kings is not exactly cheap. But I can assure you that you will have a lot of fun playing with your food. And the best part, they are quite delicious too.

The Cajun Kings
15-1 Jalan Riang
Opening hours: 4.30pm – 10.00pm (Tue – Sun)
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