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Category: Food Festival

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.

Delicious weekend: Savour 2013 (part two)

On the second trip to Savour, we got the dinner tickets and the weather was slightly improved. The most important was Biona, Collin and I were joined by more friends – Clariss and Kat. This can only mean more deliciousness in our bellies.

Like the first trip, we started off with the Gourmet Village. It was there where we met the charmer of the year – Chef Bart de Pooter of De Pastorale. He was trying to persuade us to give his dishes a try, telling us he had flown in specially for the event. Biona couldn’t say no to the chef and tried his wild salmon served with mountain vegetables and ginger mayonnaise. The wild salmon, which we suspect was cooked via sous-vide (where food is sealed in airtight plastic bag and gently cooked in a water bath over a low temperature) was moist and tender yet the fish maintained its firmness.

I went onto getting Arbutus’ deconstructed slow cooked 1824 beef “cottage pie” with hot smoked potato. 1824 beef is an award winning beef brand from the Australian Agricultural Company – the cattles are raised both grass-fed and grain-fed thus making their meat tender and flavourful. And the meat was melting in my mouth. The potato was a really light mousse that complemented the beef. And let’s not forget about the gravy – I had to maintain my lady-like manner and stop myself from licking the cup.

Biona and Collin were off to support Chef Sam Leong and came back with two dishes of the day – cold wagyu la mian with a hot and sour broth, and braised baby abalone with chicken glutinous rice. Though I did not have a taste of the abalone, the glutinous rice was jammed packed with flavour – it was sticky and the minced chicken was beautifully cooked. However the winner for us was the cold wagyu la mian. The cold la mian was thin yet maintained a bite. Though the broth looked plain, it was refreshing with a tiny kick at the end.

As the Gourmet Village is getting crowded, I walked aimlessly, thinking what I should get next. In the end I settled for Gattopardo’s risone cooked with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow. This was my surprise of the day. The dish itself looked ordinary and brown but every component was well-cooked. I especially liked the little nuggets of octopus –it was like digging for treasure – when you get bits of it, it was delightful and delicious.

We ended our walk around Gourmet Village with a visit to Bo’s Innovation. I chose one of their signature dishes – molecular “xiao long bao” and Biona got the Bo’s chicken rice. The “xiao long bao” came in the form of a small yellow ball but do not underestimate its power. It encapsulated this thick, rich broth which had a hint of vinegar. This dish was made much more enjoyable for me as the broth was not porky (people who know me, knows how much I “love” pork). The tiny red strip of ginger didn’t do much for me as I could barely taste it. We also bumped into our biggest disappointment of the night – Bo’s chicken rice which was made with yellow chicken stock and topped with abalone jelly. The flavour of the abalone jelly was rather mild, bordering to tasteless. The rice was a tad too al-dente and overloaded with chicken stock – the flavour was so strong that it almost felt like eating cheap chicken stock. After the high from the “xiao long bao”, we were quite bumped about the chicken rice.

Once we were done with the Gourmet Village, we walked over to the Gourmet Market. We couldn’t resist stopping by Windowsill Pies especially when Clariss and Kat haven’t try their pies. They both got the banana almond brittle and salted caramel chocolate pies. Both fared so much better compared to the lime, vodka, coconut pie. To go with our pie, we got free cups of Nespresso’s coffee and Gryphon’s tea.

After our pies, we took another break at our favourite beer vendor – Tuckshop.sg. Though there was no free beer, they were having a 1-for-1 deal which Biona and Collin took. And I settled for a Kopparberg pear cider. While we were having our drink, a handsome dude came over and offered us some healthy expired black bean tortilla chips. And we would never reject free food. Though the chips were a few days off, they were perfectly fine (the guy even came to check on us to see if we were alright).

Savour 2013 was a wonderful experience for me especially when it was shared with friends. This event was a great opportunity to try out food from Michelin Star restaurant without paying the high price, and in casual wear. At the same time, it was a chance for me to road-test some of the local restaurants that I have been dying to try and knowing I can go ahead and book a table with no fear. If you are a foodie, I would say give Savour a shot (but do get the pre-event ticket) and remember to wear your eating pants.

Delicious weekend: Savour 2013 (part one)

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Savour 2013 not just for a day but for two days. My friends Biona and Collin invited me to join them at Savour, and I am happy to report that my belly was very happy.

On the first day, it was a blazing hot Saturday afternoon (I was sunburnt). Despite the heat, there was a steady stream of crowd. Savour 2013 is divided into two main sections – the Gourmet Village and the Gourmet Market. You are better off getting the ticket early as there is quite a bit of price difference (compared to getting it at the door). The tickets that we have received allowed us to have access to the two main sections (the Savour Pass allows you to gain access to the Gourmet Market only). Armed with our Savour dollars (which you will need to change to purchase food or products), we walked around the Gourmet Village, deciding what we wanted to eat.

My first stop was at Gunther and I ordered their signature cold angel hair pasta with truffle and Oscietra caviar (S$18). This was one of my favourite dishes that I tasted at Savour. The pasta was a much needed relief from the scorching heat – it was cold yet tender. The truffle was fragrant but not overpowering, and the caviar was briny and firm. Everyone at the table loved this dish and we were happily “burping truffle”.

Biona went off to Pollen Street Social and brought back the slow cooked Angus ox cheek (S$14) which was braised in Burgundy and served with horseradish and potato puree, roasted carrot and topped with bone marrow crumb. I am a fan of Jason Atherton. I have dined in both Pollen and Esquina, and have yet to be disappointed. And this dish was delicious. The savoury ox cheek just melted in my mouth.  Though I could not taste the horseradish, the puree was smooth and creamy. The bone marrow crumb was a surprise – it was crispy and salty – giving the dish the much needed “crunch”.

The next dish that I got was L’Atelier De Joël Robuchon’s La Caille – free-range quail with mashed potatoes (S$18). I got this dish because I want to try Robuchon’s famous mashed potatoes. It was pure happiness. Unlike most puree or mashed potatoes I have tasted, it was not really buttery but the texture was velvety and it literally just disappeared when I popped it into my mouth. It did not need any jus or sauce, I can eat a bucket of the mashed potatoes. The quail was perfectly cooked but it was the mashed potatoes that stole my heart.

The prettiest plate of the day was Mirazur’s quinoa risotto, served with bacon, fried Jerusalem artichoke skin and parsley sponge (S$12). It was a beautiful garden on a plate. We almost couldn’t bear to eat this dish. The quinoa was beautifully cooked and seasoned. I was a big fan of the parsley sponge – it was salty and pungent.

After our little feast at the Gourmet Village, we went off to the Gourmet Market where more deliciousness awaits us (and we really needed the air-conditioning). At the market, it was further sub-divided to wine, baking, lifestyle and gourmet. At both lifestyle and gourmet sections, it featured some of our local restaurants like Oso, Balzac. We also each got a cup of free beer (thanks Tuckshop.sg) and we couldn’t resist bagging Cirio tomato sauce and Barilla pasta that were on sales.

At the baking section, Biona and I found our favourite pie shop – Windowsill Pies. We tried their lime with vodka jelly and coconut cream pie which was a new flavour and made its debut at Savour. To go with our pie, the generous owner gave us a sample of Gryphon Tea Company’s Gold Muscato white tea which we love. As for the pie, unfortunately it was not a hit with us. The lime flavour reminded us of cordial and we couldn’t taste much of the vodka. That said Windowsill Pies still have other awesome pies which everyone should try.

After we were done with the pie, we went to the Jasons pop-up store. There were tomatoes, potatoes, jams, chutney and juice for all to sample. Almost half the store was dedicated to cheese. And guess who went around sampling all the cheeses? One of our favourites was Beemester’s classic cheese which was aged for 18 months. Originated from Netherlands, the cheese had a marmite-umami quality, making me wanting more.

We finally ended our day by sharing one dozen of Pacific oysters among the three of us. The guy who shucked our oysters was not very skilled. But the fresh, sweet, briny oysters just made us smile and ended our day beautifully.

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