Monthly Archives: April 2012

Beef Bourguignon

In the mood for comfort food, I made beef bourguignon the other day – a wonderfully rich stew of beef braised in red wine, with garlic, mushrooms, potatoes and pearl onions. This bistro favourite is adapted from Delia Smith.

Ingredients serves 4-6

  1. 250g streaky bacon, cut into lardons
  2. 1 kg chuck steak, cut into 2″ squares
  3. 1 medium onion, sliced
  4. 1 heaped tbl plain flour
  5. 425ml red Burgundy
  6. 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  7. 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  8. 1 bay leaf
  9. 3 large potatoes, quartered
  10. 100g mushrooms quartered
  11. 350g shallots, whole, peeled
  12. Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Fry the lardons over high heat in a large, heavy-based casserole dish. Remove bacon and set aside
  2. Brown the chuck steak in batches in the rendered bacon fat. Remove from pan as they brown
  3. Add the onion to the pan and fry for a few minutes
  4. Add the flour to the onions and stir well
  5. Add the beef back to the pot, along with the Burgundy, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and bring to boil
  6. Reduce heat to a slow simmer, cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours, until beef is tender
  7. Add the bacon, potatoes, mushrooms, shallots to the pan, season to taste and simmer for a further hour
  8. Serve with steamed green beans

Bo.lan, Bangkok, Thailand

The refreshing ginger and lemongrass drink served as you are seated at Bo.lan

Living in Singapore, I am fortunate to be in close proximity to beautifully places like Thailand and Vietnam and Bali, and a few weekends ago,  D and decided on a Bangkok weekend away.

I won’t rave on about Bangkok (you can read me doing this from a previous visit/post) but this time, D and I set out to veer away from our favourite restaurants/eating places, and one evening we ended up at Bo.lan.

Puffed rice caramelised with brown sugar, lemongrass and chilli

Tucked away in the back streets of Sukhumvit Soi 26, this gorgeous restaurant is the creation of Duangporn Songvisava (bo) and Dylan Jones who have come together to serve Thai cuisine, with clear Western influences from their experiences studying and cooking in Australia and London. Don’t expect fusion – this is traditional food at its best, but elevated in refinement. Expect to see on their set menu amuse-bouches, palate cleansers and petit fours.

Thai whiskey, pandan shooter and sour plum pre-dinner drink and snack from the Bo.lan Balance tasting menu

We selected the Bo.Lan Balance tasting menu. As you are seated you are served a snack of puffed brown rice, caramelised in brown sugar, chilli and lemongrass. This was followed by a pre-dinner drink and snack – a martini glass with Thai whisky, a small glass of unsweetened pandan leaf drink and a sour plum, to be dipped in seal salt and chilli flakes garnishing the plate – recommended to be tasted in that order. Apart from getting you very quickly drunk, the combination of alcohol, sweet, sour, salt and heat brings your tastebuds alive.

Incredible amuse-bouche

The amuse-bouche arrived next. First was a dry-style chicken curry that came on a basket that was made of crisped curry – similar to a parmesan crisp, second was a noodle salad with prawns and flossed shrimp, a rice cracker with classic Thai-style salad on top, a slice of grilled pork neck on cucumber with a chilli salad and then a spoonful of another salad with pomelo, kaffir lime skin, toasted coconut and a fermented shrimp dressing. I was amazed at how the delicately and intricately constructed core flavours of Thai cuisine was represented through those five bite-sized morsels.

Grilled river prawn salad

The next four courses arrived in typical Thai-style – one soup, curry, salad, stir-fry. We each had our own soup – I chose a clear broth to balance out the remaining heat in my mouth from the amuse-bouche, a grilled river prawn salad, a green curry with salted beef ribs and a fried mackerel dish. We struggled to find enough room on the table for all this food, and to be honest, in our stomachs – there was a lot of food, the heaviness of these dishes combined with the amount of food had the effect that none really stood out – although I do remember enjoying all of them.

Chilled black glutinous rice with coconut cream, fresh mangoes and coconut

By this stage we were slowly moving into food-coma territory. Fortunately the next dish was a refreshing palate cleanser – fried banana bites with a lychee, sea coconut and mango iced drink, followed by dessert of black glutinous rice with coconut cream and fresh coconut, and then the petit fours, a work of art combining a collection of dried fruits and Thai desserts and meringue. All gratefully light following the main courses.

Bo.lan is certainly an experience. It gave us such an appreciation of the classic flavours of Thai cuisine, from the old Siam period, outside of the standard Pad Thai noodles and Thai green curries. The only downside is the sheer amount of food, which I think distracts you from just how good it is. But definitely a place to try for unique Thai food.

Bo.lan
42 Soi Pichai Ronnarong, Sukhumvit Soi 26
Klong Toey
Bangkok 10110
Thailand
Tel: +66 02 260 2962


Tung Lok Classics @ Chinese Swimming Club

The insanely good suckling pig served on doughy pancakes with sweet sauce and cucumber

Going to Chinese restaurants is, to me, still a bit of a treat. Perhaps it’s because growing up I always ate in Chinese restaurants with my family, so going without my parents feels like a really “grown up” thing to do – even though I am now older than my parents when they migrated to Sydney !

Of course living in Singapore I have ready access to a multitude of great Chinese restaurants, and one of our regular restaurants is Tung Lok Classics at the Chinese Swimming Club on Amber Road.

It serves a lot of your standard Chinese dishes, and they also serve a delicious range of Chinese herbal soups. I love that the soup comes out in a huge earthenware pot where they ladle out individual soup bowls. The tradition of cooking soup in the claypot somehow makes it feel almost fortifying.

Paper-wrapped chicken baked in rock salt

We’ve tried some of their more unusual dishes like paper-wrapped chicken cooked in rock salt, and while it was tender and delicately flavoured from the rock salt, we couldn’t quite put our finger on why it wasn’t a firm favourite. I couldn’t work out the flavours that were with the chicken in the bag.

Peking duck – slices of crispy duck skin in thin pancakes with shallot and cucumber

Our favourites: Peking Duck – whole (or half but why eat in halves ??) duck that has been seasoned with five spices and then roasted and hung in special ovens so the fat renders, leaving the skin super thin and crispy. At the table, skilled staff then cut away the skin, and this is served in pancakes with a sweet hoisin sauce, cucumbers and spring onions for a fresh zing. The meat that is left on the duck is then removed and you can have it fried with thick noodles or rice.

The other favourite is suckling pig. Similar to the Peking duck, the skin on the pig is roasted till crisp, and this is served with a slightly sweet doughy slice of pancake and sweet sauce. The combination of the salt and sweet, crunchy and soft textures is just pure bliss.

Any recommendations for great Chinese food in Singapore? I’m definitely keen to expand my repertoire, and until I get to try those, Tung Lok Classics remains one of our go-to’s for our Chinese food-fix. I’m also keen to check out their dim sum menu during the day.

Tung Lok Classics 
Chinese Swimming Club
#03-00
21 Amber Road
Singapore 439870
Tel: +65 6345 0111

Opening Hours:
Mondays to Saturdays
Lunch: 11.30am – 3.00pm
Dinner: 6.00pm -10.30pm

Sundays & PH
Lunch: 10.00am – 3.00pm
Dinner: 6.00pm -10.30pm


My Mum’s Penang Loh Bak

My mum’s Penang loh-bak – Chinese five spice pork rolls

It’s actually my granddad’s recipe, which my grandmother used to cook with my mother, but this was the first time I had ever made these delicious strips of pork, marinated in Chinese five-spices, rolled in beancurd skin and then deep fried. Served with sliced fresh cucumber and chilli sauce these tasty, crispy morsels are totally more-ish.

Loh bak is a very traditional Penang Nonya dish and as with most of these types of dishes, the actual cooking is minimal – it’s all in the preparation.

As with a lot of traditional Nonya recipes, my mum cooks like my grandmother – everything is to taste, and I was so enjoying spending time with her in the kitchen that we both forgot to even try to guesstimate the quantity of the ingredients. Ah well, it just gives me more reason to do this again with her in the future and make sure this recipe is recorded for posterity.



Katong Laksa

Why has it taken me so long to finally eat at, and have my visiting parents introduce me to Katong laksa ??

Apparently there are several stalls who claim to be “the original Katong laksa”.  The one my parents found was tucked away in the basement of Roxy Square in a small coffee shop. There are other stalls selling food but I honestly could not tell you what they were after having my first bowl of laksa.

Katong laksa serves Peranakan-style laksa, so the noodles are cut short which means you only need to eat it with a spoon. Great for people like me who don’t have the best chopstick skills and usually end up wearing half my soup from the noodles slipping back into the broth with a splash. And doubly great because it guarantees that every mouthful is a true combination of all those amazing flavours.

The broth is what makes it so special. It’s a complex broth of coconut milk, stock, homemade chilli paste. The coconut milk is made from squeezing freshly grated coconut, which keeps the broth from being too rich and cloying. Each spoonful packs a creamy, spicy punch, yet the flavour still manages to be delicate at the same time and you’re not left with an overwhelming thirst from overseasoning.

In the broth is a combination of the noodles, fresh prawns, cockles, fish cake and the bowl is topped with fresh curry leaves and a smear of extra chilli paste for those who want a bit more spice.

This has got to be one of the best comfort foods Singapore has to offer.

Thanks mum and dad for the introduction !

Roxy Laksa
48 East Coast Lagoon Food Village
Tel: 9630 2321

Mon-Fri: 10.30am to 9pm
Weekends and PH: 8.30am to 9pm


Hoorah – I’ve found the best dim sum in Singapore!

Roasted belly pork

I have been on an ongoing quest to find the best dim sum in Singapore since I arrived here five years ago. And for sure, there are plenty that I haven’t visited, but I don’t think I need to look much farther than Lei Garden on Orchard Road.

Prawn rice rolls 

The quality of the food there is exceptional. With dim sum, there always has been a few things which showcase the true skill of the chef. One is the dumpling skin/rice rolls. These are made by hand – I’ve watched chefs do this and the speed in which they roll out individual dumpling skins (and if you think that they can serve up to 700 of just one type of dumpling in one seating) is a delight to watch. So to be fair, anything they can produce like that is amazing, but we are spoiled creatures of choice, so thick, doughy dumplings are indicative of a lack of true skill. The rice rolls at Lei Garden are thin and smooth and so slippery you could almost swallow each mouthful without chewing.

In fact, everything they do with flour – be it rice or wheat, is light and airy and just makes you want to order more (which is exactly what we did).

Their char siu buns were fluffy pillows of soft, steamed buns filled with sweet barbequed pork. And they really select the best pork – their roast pork is probably the best I’ve had in Singapore. The belly pork has the fat thinly and evenly layered and the skin is divinely crisp.

Pan-fried radish cake

Their radish cake – finely shredded radish and rice flour, cut into squares and pan-fried was not oily, but crispy on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth soft inside.

I’d suggest making a reservation because it was full by midday on a Saturday and it’s not a huge restaurant. The quest is never over, but for now, I’m absolutely thrilled that I can get the same quality of dim sum that I have missed so much from Sydney.

Lei Garden Orchard
#03-00 Orchard Shopping Centre
321 Orchard Road
Singapore
Tel: 6734 3988

Open for lunch: 11.30am – 3.00pm
Dinner: 6pm – 11.00pm


Chocolate pots with toasted marshmallow

I had no idea what a s’more was until I read this gorgeous post from Kay at Pure Complex. A quick search online told me that it was a traditional American campfire snack of chocolate with toasted marshmallow, sandwiched between two graham crackers.

There was something appealing about the combination of textures and flavours, and the pictures were too damn cute for me not to want to try it.

My recipe below pretty closely follows the recipe and recommendations from Raspberri Cupcakes to make espresso cup-sized rich, creamy chocolate pot de crèmes with a fluffy meringue topping that has been toasted, served with digestive biscuits. You really don’t need any more than this size, and it’s a really lovely end to dinner.

Before I was let loose with my blowtorch

Ingredients makes 6 espresso cup-sized desserts

  1. 100g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70% cocoa)
  2. 150ml pouring cream
  3. 1 tbsp freshly brewed coffee
  4. 2 egg yolks
  5. 25g caster sugar
  6. pinch salt

For the marshmallow fluff:

  1. 2 egg whites
  2. pinch of salt
  3. 80g sugar

Digestive biscuits to serve

Method

  1. Heat chocolate, cream and coffee in a saucepan on low heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth
  2. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a separate heatproof bowl placed over simmering water for 5 minutes or until thick and pale
  3. Slowly pour the chocolate and egg/sugar mixture and whisk on high for 5 minutes or until mixture is thick and cool
  4. Pour into serving cups and chill in the fridge for at least two hours
  5. To make the marshmallow:
  6. Making sure your bowl is clean and dry, whisk together the egg whites and salt until foamy and at least doubled in size
  7. S-l-o-w-l-y incorporate the sugar, continually beating after each addition, to make sure the sugar has dissolved and you get stiff glossy peaks
  8. I have made meringue so many times and the only time I can control it, especially in such small cups, is to pipe it over the chocolate, but if you are feeling a bit on the wild side, go nuts doing this freehand
  9. Using a blowtorch, carefully toast the marshmallow and enjoy that comforting smell
  10. Serve with digestive biscuits either cut to shapes/soldiers or crumbled over the top

Casa Tartufo

Tajarin – Piedmont-style thin egg noodles with fresh winter black truffles

Any restaurant that features truffles is a winner in my eyes, and we had a chance to sample some of Casa Tartufo’s signature dishes during Restaurant Week. As you walk into the restaurant, you are enveloped by the scent of truffles – always a good thing.

We started with their burrata with a truffle heart, imported from Puglia. Burrata is becoming increasingly popular in Singapore. And to be honest, all the burrata I’ve had tastes incredible whether it is imported or made on-premise (for example at Osteria Mozza). But this is the first I have had with a truffle heart. So when you cut open the burrata, what oozes out the centre is a thick cream of buffalo mozarella and flecks of black truffle. Impossibly good, but a large starter, so I’d recommend it to share, just so you have enough space to fit in more of the food on offer.

Main course was a tajarin – Piedmont style thin Egg-noodles with truffles. Fresh pasta with truffles is fast becoming one of my all-time favourite dishes. If the pasta is done right (which this one was), it acts as a wonderful canvas that can be vividly coloured with the simple addition of truffles. In this case, slices of fresh winter black truffles. This dish differs from the usual pasta with parmesan cheese and truffles in that it came in a broth base. Very different, but universally loved at our table.

Truffle ice-cream with hazelnuts and chocolate

To end the meal we were served truffle ice-cream. Vanilla ice-cream infused with truffles (trust me, it works) on a bed of hazelnuts and chocolate, dusted with crushed cookies. Delightful way to end the evening and tantalising enough for us to want to try to the rest of the menu soon.

Casa Tartufo
Forum Shopping Mall, #01-17
583 Orchard Rd, Singapore 23884
Tel: +65 68364647

Open every day
Lunch: 11.30am to 2.30pm
Dinner: 6.00pm to 10.00pm