Monthly Archives: September 2012

Menya Musashi @ Raffles City

Menya Musashi – one of the most popular ramen chains in Japan – has recently hit our sunny shores, opening up at Raffles City.

As with most new things in Singapore, there’s a ridiculously long queue to get a seat, but we were lucky enough to get a seat for lunch one Saturday and ordered from the limited menu, which I always love because it makes me think if they are that popular with so few items, then they’re going to be really very good.

How you select your ramen (Subway sandwich style):

1) soup or dipping sauce (tsukemen) ?

2) white, red or black ? (white = white miso, red miso, explained to me as “spicy”, black = with garlic)

3) 1/2/3 servings of noodles ?

4) type of pork – standard or chashu

I absolutely love tsukemen, which is traditionally cold noodles with a rich dipping sauce – eaten during the steaming hot summers in Japan. At Menya Musashi, the noodles (which are wonderfully chewy) are hot, as is the dipping sauce, but in airconditioning, it’s all good.

The stock for the standard ramen is miso-based, yet has the thickness that I associate with the much richer tonkotsubased soups. Tonkotsu is pork based, where pork hocks are stewed for hours on end, giving a stock rich in flavour and thick consistency from the bones (including the gelatinous marrow). Menya Musashi’s stock was understandably much lighter in flavour than a tonkotsu-based one. I have tried the white, red and black, though, and while I expect a milder flavour from the white miso stock, the red and black were to me, just different coloured. I didn’t taste any spice in the red, and only a mild flavour of garlic in the black. (Perhaps it’s because one of our favourite ramen joints in Singapore is Nansuttei which has pretty full-on fragrant garlic oil).

I’m hoping that that eagerness to try the new kid on the block will die down. Then again, I just saw a billboard for Ramen Champion, a place where you can try several different types of ramen, so Menya has more competition than Ippudo or Nansuttei

Menya Musashi Ramen
252 North Bridge Road
#01-16 Raffles City Shopping Centre
Tel: 6336 6500

Open: Mon-Sun 11.30am – 9.30pm


Garlic and brocolli pasta

In the middle of one of my twice annual detoxes, I was in the mood for a simple pasta dish. I’ve found some really good organic brown rice pastas and also buckwheat pastas, which are detox-friendly, as well as having the added bonus of being gluten-free.

This dish is so quick and simple – perfect weekday dinner or double the quantity and you can have the leftovers as a pasta salad for lunch the next day.

Ingredients for one serving – adjust accordingly for more

  1. 3/4 cup dry spiral organic brown rice pasta
  2. 1/2 cup broccoli florets – no stems
  3. 2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (I love garlic so feel free to use less)
  4. good squeeze of lemon
  5. salt and pepper

Method

  1. Cook pasta according to packet directions in salted water
  2. When pasta is almost cooked, add the broccoli for a 30 seconds and drain – save about half a cup of the pasta water
  3. Sautée the garlic in a hot pan with some oil till soft
  4. Add the drained pasta and broccoli and toss in the garlic and oil – add a few spoons of the pasta water to help loosen the pasta up. The starchy water will help to give the pasta a nice silky texture
  5. Squeeze the lemon juice, and add salt and pepper to taste
  6. Serve hot for dinner
  7. If you want to keep the leftovers for lunch the next day, add a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and pop into the fridge for a yummy pasta salad

Crystal Jade Golden Palace @ Paragon

Crispy Peking duck skin pancakes

My mum was visiting us in Singapore recently and it coincided with my parents 45th anniversary. With dad not being able to come because of his work schedule (boooo), we took mum out to celebrate at Crystal Jade Golden Palace.

We’d been here several times before and always loved it but for some reason it was this time I seemed to really notice just how good this place is.

Perhaps it was because we ordered our usual favourite dishes – Peking duck and roast pork – and that simply gives the opportunity to compare. I’m not saying other places we’ve been to were at all bad, just that Crystal Jade was really very very good.

The Peking duck was presented to us whole before it was taken to a side table for the skin to be deftly sliced off in impressively uniform rectangles, then served to us in delicate, thin handmade floury crepes, with a slice of spring onion and cucumber and a smear (that doesn’t sound too appetising but I really can’t think of a better description) of hoisin sauce. I’ve raved about how much I love this dish before and this evening it just seemed so wonderfully delicious and light I wished they never ran out – I could have just carried on eating them all night.

We asked for the second course of the Peking duck – where the duck meat from the whole duck is cooked with noodles – to use rice noodles instead of the usual flour noodles, and again, this was just spectacular. Served with a drizzle of vinegar to cut through the richness of the duck, this was another dish where I would go back to the restaurant and just order this one dish.

Perfect three layer Chinese roast pork

Of course there had to be space for the roast pork. Similar to other restaurants, it comes as a square of three layer pork (crispy skin, thin layer of tender fat and meat) and they must have really selected the best quality pork where the fat was nicely layered so it left the meat juicy and tasty, while maintaining that all-important crispy skin. Dipped into the hot mustard that was dotted on the plate each mouthful was a delight of porky goodness.

Just go prepared with some warm clothes – it’s so cold there the restaurant offers patrons blankets !

Crystal Jade Golden Palace
290 Orchard Road
#05-22 The Paragon
Tel: 6734 6866

Open:
Mon-Fri 11.30a, – 3.00pm, 6.00pm – 11.00pm
Sat:  11.00am – 3.00pm, 6.00pm – 11.00pm
Sun and public holidays:  10.30am – 3.00pm, 6.00pm – 11.00pm


Chicken and sweet corn soup

I was four years old when my family migrated to Australia, and back in those days the Sydney Asian food scene was nothing like it is today. Think generic Chinese – lemon chicken, honey prawns, beef in black bean sauce – all of them distant relatives of anything remotely authentic in any part of Asia.

We are now enjoying the  distinctly different Asian cuisines, not only by country, but even by regions within each. How different is the spicy food of Szechuan to the more commonly known Cantonese dishes of Hong Kong ? The difference in the more sugary Thai food vs the light herby freshness of Vietnamese ?

But, I digress.

While I was growing up, one of the treats my parents would indulge me with whenever we went out for dinner, would be a bowl of chicken and sweet corn soup. I’d roasted a chicken on the weekend and had leftover breast meat, which I thought I’d use to make my favourite “tacky” Chinese soup.

There’s nothing authentic about this soup, but the combination of salty and sweet, and the thick, comforting texture takes me back to simpler days when I was just a kid having my dinner treat in a restaurant with my family.

Ingredients enough to make 6 rice bowls of soup

  1. leftover chicken meat – about 1 single breast worth
  2. 1L chicken stock
  3. 1 tin creamed corn
  4. 1 tbl cornstarch
  5. 1 egg
  6. white pepper

Method

  1. Dice the chicken meat and add to a pot withthe chicken stock and bring to boil
  2. Add the creamed corn
  3. Mix the cornstarch with some water and slowly stir into the soup
  4. Bring to the boil, lightly beat the egg and slowly pour from a height so that you get ribbons of egg through the soup
  5. Serve hot with white pepper

La Maison Fatien

Delicious charcuterie plate at La Maison Fatien

Tucked away in Duxton road is La Maison Fatien. Serving French bistro classics like French onion soup and steak frites, the restaurant is cosy enough for an intimate dinner for two in the nooks and crannies (it’s in a renovated shophouse) with rooms that would also make it perfect for a group dinner. On our first visit, while we enjoyed the food, it seemed every part of the experience that night had its ups and downs.

The French onion soup was thin in consistency – usually the soup is thickened by cooking flour into the onions before the stock is added. Oddly, this made a difference to my enjoyment of the soup, despite it’s deliciously robust flavour.

The selection of cold meats on their charcuterie plate was also delicious. I get excited when a charcuterie plate offers me something I cannot find myself and this board had three of these – all tender and tasty – it was just a shame that the waiter could not actually tell me what each one was…

The steak for my main which I asked for medium rare came out a little too red even for me, although my experience with the French is that in general, they prefer their steak less cooked than most other nationalities. I’ll have to remember this the next time and order my steak medium.  The fries were excellent – hand cut, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and full of potatoe-y flavour rather than just deep-fried bland potatoes.

The service there is sketchy – they have a French maitre D who is excellent but the rest of the staff seemed intent on filling our wine glasses each time we had a sip, and managing to do it with such a lack of smiling that they looked downright annoyed to be working.

With new restaurants still cropping up all over Singapore, and with always-great French alternatives like Bistrot du Sommelier and Brasserie Gavroche, it would take a “sorry we are already fully booked” from these two for me to go back t0 Ma Maison Fatien. But at least I would go back !

La Maison Fatien
76 Duxton Road
Singapore
Tel: 6220 3822

Open:
Mon-Fri
12.00 – 2.30pm
6.30 – 10.30pm
Sat 6.00pm – 10.30pm
Closed Sundays


Dark orange marmalade

Scraping the bottom of the jar to get out the last of my marmalade, I decided this weekend to make my own. (I think subliminally I have also been reading a lot of jam recipes, presumably to preserve the last of the summer fruits in the Northern hemisphere). I used Delia Smith’s recipe for traditional Seville orange marmalade with a few brave changes – using 50% brown and 50% white sugar and also a whole lot less sugar than her recipe calls for, which was still a terrifying large amount.

I’d seen/read/heard that the worse thing that can happen to jam is that it doesn’t set, so I also added some extra peel from some oranges I ate, and while I think the sugar part worked out just fine, the extra peel added so much pectin to my mix that the consistency was too firm. The brown sugar makes a dark marmalade with a strong molasses flavour – perhaps that’s why I could get away with using less – but I think maybe 50/50 was too strong and next time I’ll try 25% brown 75% white.

The good thing is that making your own jam is straightforward and fun enough to want to try it again, and guess what friends and family will be getting as gifts soon?

Ingredients

  1. 900g oranges – Seville would be perfect for their intensely sharp flavour but I made it with naval and that turned out fine
  2. 1 lemon
  3. 500g soft brown sugar
  4. 500g white sugar

You will also need:

  1. A large, heavy-based saucepan
  2. Cheesecloth
  3. 6 x 350g jam jars

Method

  1. Add the juice of the oranges and lemon to 2.25l water
  2. Scrape out the insides of the cut fruit and add the pips, the pith and everything else into the centre of the cheesecloth. Leave nothing behind – the pith and pips contain all the precious pectin that will help the jam to set
  3. Cut the remaining peel into thin strips and add to the juice and water. Don’t worry about the excess pith on the rind, it will boil off
  4. Tie up the cheesecloth tightly and pop that into the pot
  5. Bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered, for 2 hours
  6. In the meantime chill some saucers in the fridge
  7. Once the peel is soft, remove the cheesecloth bag and allow to cool. Make sure the peel is soft enough so you can rub it to nothing between your fingers and before you add the sugar. Adding sugar arrests the softening of the peel and you don’t want tough rind in your marmalade
  8. Add the sugar to the pan and stir gently over low heat to ensure all the crystals have dissolved
  9. Once the bag is cool enough to squeeze, turn the heat to high and squeeze the contents in the cheesecloth bag. You can do this with two saucers if it’s still too hot. This part is messy, sticky and intensely satisfying as you watch the almost jelly-like goo that contains the pectin ooze out
  10. Stir into the mixture
  11. Once the mixture comes to a rapid, rolling boil, start timing. 15 minutes to start. After 15 minutes spoon a little of the marmalade on to one of the cold saucers from the fridge, and let it cool back in the fridge. Once it has cooled, you can see if your marmalade has ‘set’ by pushing the mixture with your little finger: if it has a really crinkly skin, it is set. If not, continue to boil the marmalade and give it the same test at about 10-minute intervals until it does set.
  12. After that remove the pan from the heat (if there’s a lot of scum, most of it can be dispersed by stirring in half a teaspoon of butter, and the rest can be spooned off)
  13. Leave the marmalade to settle for 20 minutes. This will allow any floating rind to settle
  14. In the meantime, the jars should be sterilised – washed, dried and heated in a moderate oven for 5 minutes
  15. Pour the marmalade, with the aid of a funnel or a ladle, into the jars, cover with waxed discs and seal while still hot
  16. Label when cold and store in a dry, cool, dark place