Category Archives: Asian

Royal China @ Raffles Hotel



Apparently part of the Royal China restaurants in London means that this is, I think, the only restaurant in Singapore that does crispy aromatic duck pancakes. I’m happy to be wrong so please let me know if you know otherwise. The good thing about Royal China being at the beautiful Raffles Hotel, means a duck that has been braised in aromatic spices like star anise and cinnamon and Szechuan peppercorns, then roasted till crispy crispiness, entirely shredded and eaten in a soft, thin, flour pancake, with hoisin sauce, sliced shallots and cucumber for freshness (unlike Peking duck where just the skin of a roasted duck is served in the pancakes) (which is also delicious but crispy aromatic duck is just super yum), is just a ten minute walk from my flat – yay!

We went this Chinese New Year to celebrate with friends and we also treated ourselves to lobster noodles, a Cantonese special – noodles are meant to represent longevity (but can be eaten and enjoyed any time) and lobster, well, it’s lobster 🙂 Braised noodles topped with lobster, shallots and ginger is just such a winning dish.

It’s an odd restaurant set up-wise. High ceilings make it feel like it’s a huge restaurant but there actually aren’t a lot of seats/tables available so best to book as it gets full quickly especially for dim sum on weekends.

Royal China
#03-09 Raffles Hotel Arcade

OPENING HOURS:
Mon – Sat: 12:00 – 15:00
Sun & PH: 11:00 – 15:00
Mon – Sun: 18:00 – 22:30

Tel: 6338 3363


San Choy Bau

I love san choy bau – the crisp lettuce balances out the rich pork and vegetable mix in one handy (albeit a bit messy) “cup”. It’s one of those dishes where I am sure you can substitute chicken for pork, and also add in any vegetables you have on hand, but I found water chestnuts at my grocery store and that inspired me to cook this dish – it adds another dimension to the dish with a nice crunch.

Ingredients – 6 portions as a starter or enough for 2 hungry people for lunch

  1. Iceberg lettuce – whole
  2. 1 large onion – diced
  3. 200g pork mince
  4. 100g baby corn – sliced about 1/2cm thick
  5. 50g water chestnuts – peeled and diced into small pieces
  6. 50g mushrooms – any sort, I used swiss brown
  7. 3 tbls oyster sauce
  8. 1 tbl light soya sauce

Method

  1. With the core of the lettuce facing down, bang the head of lettuce, on the core – this will make it easier to remove the leaves whole
  2. Remove any wilted outer leaves and carefully remove the inside leaves, trying to keep them as whole as possible
  3. Place in a bowl of iced water to keep them crisp
  4. Over low heat, sweat the onions until soft
  5. Increase the heat to high and brown the mince
  6. Add in the vegetables and cook for 3 minutes until vegetables are cooked through
  7. Add in the oyster and light soya sauce and stir to combine
  8. You can trim the lettuce so it makes a nice neat “cup” to hold the stir fried mixture
  9. Spoon mix into lettuce cups and enjoy hot !

Marinated tofu salad with ginger, soy and mirin dressing

My husband calls tofu “a non-food”. His explanation: that “it doesn’t taste of anything”. Which is actually quite true. My take on tofu is because it has no strong taste, it can (and does) absorb flavours really well, so marinating tofu gives you the protein-packed goodness of it, with all the wonderful flavours of your marinade.

This is an asian-inspired salad that is light from the dressing, yet filling and nutritious. Marinating the tofu does take time but once it’s ready you can put this salad together very quickly.

Ingredients makes 2 servings 

  1. 2 squares firm tofu
  2. Edamame – squeeze out the edamame from their pods – I buy frozen edamame still in the pod from my supermarket, they’re super easy to use – just take the amount you want, cover with hot water for a few minutes and they’re ready !
  3. Mixed salad greens
  4. 1/2 small Japanese cucumber, sliced
  5. handful cherry tomatoes, halved
  6. 1/2 avocado
  7. 3 tbls raw pine nuts, toasted
  8. Dressing:
  9. 1/2 thumb-sized piece of ginger – peel off the outer skin and grate finely
  10. 8 tbls mirin
  11. 8 tbls rice vinegar
  12. 6 tbls neutral flavoured oil – I used rapeseed
  13. 2-3 tbls soya sauce
  14. 2 tsp sesame oil

Method

  1. Mix all the dressing ingredients together and pour 3/4 of it into a ziplock bag
  2. Pop the tofu in the bag with the dressing and let marinate for at least a few hours, preferably overnight
  3. When ready, heat up your skillet on high heat and fry the tofu
  4. While the tofu is cooking prepare the rest of the salad
  5. Dress the salad lightly with the remaining salad dressing
  6. Pile salad on to a salad bowl/plate and top with sliced tofu

 


Bario Ramen @ Bugis+

So I’ve been slowly working my way through the six “Ramen Champions” at Bugis+. Second on the list (after Aoyama) was Bario Ramen from Tokyo, which serves Jiro style ramen. The Guardian UK recently listed Jiro in its “50 best things to eat in the world” list. “Ramen of the man, by the man, for the man.”

And I think it absolutely delivers on that promise.

The first thing you notice from Jiro-style ramen that differentiates it from other ramen is the noodle. It’s thick and chewy. Piled on top is a mountain of bean sprouts. And the chasu is also not the traditional round thin slices. It’s chunky and meaty slices of tender pork belly. And the tonkotsu stock is rich and flavoursome.

There’s a lot in to the bowl to eat, and Bario offers an almost ridiculous choice to double your noodles.

It’s a go-to favourite of my hubby’s for all the reasons above. For me, the first slurp/spoonful was delicious, but by the third or fourth, I was pretty much done. Perhaps the richness of the stock, or the stodginess of the noodle – it lived up to its infamous resistance to digestion.

And so I continue my quest to try all six chefs’ ramen and make my decision as who would be my ramen champion. Stay tuned for more…and the final verdict.


Carolyn’s Fried Rice

Leftovers. A brilliant way of ensuring you get the most out of everything you have, reducing waste. And I love how many cuisines have developed recipes specifically to use up leftover carbohydrates. For Western cuisines it’s day-old bread – think English bread and butter pudding, Italian panzanella, French toast.

With rice being the staple carbohydrate in Asia, the main dish for using leftover rice is simply frying it with whatever else you have on hand. The basics are you need to add some protein and some vegetables. You can keep it super simple or jazz it up – it’s completely flexible. My recipe below is just an example of what I made last night with some leftover belly pork from a roast I made over the weekend.

A few notes:

You almost can’t make fried rice with freshly cooked rice. There’s something about the way the grains separate to take in all the flavours in the pan rather than going stodgy. I actually spread my rice out on a plate and leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight to really dry out the rice. I’ve also tried the healthier option with brown rice, and it’s an individual taste thing, but I think fried rice just works better with white rice because the rice absorbs the flavours better.

You can also just use soya sauce rather than the mix I used below, although the combination of the three sauces, I think, adds a bit more of a complex flavour to the dish, and I think the fish sauce adds an additional hint of umami to the dish.

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups cooked leftover rice – see note above about drying it out
  2. 1/2 cup leftover roasted pork belly – you can substitute this with any leftover meat or even sausage
  3. 2 eggs – I like my fried rice eggy
  4. 1/3 cup frozen peas
  5. 1 tbl oyster sauce
  6. 1 tbl fish sauce
  7. 1-2 tbl soya sauce

Method

  1. Drizzle a small amount of oil over the cold rice and use your fingers to really separate the grains
  2. Heat your frying pan to high, and fry the meat so that the fat renders
  3. Push the meat to one side of the pan, crack your eggs on the other, and kind of scramble them
  4. When the eggs are about half done, add the rice to the pan over the eggs and mix everything together so the eggs almost coat the rice
  5. Add the peas and mix again
  6. Add the sauce (you can add more or less to taste) and fry till everything is mixed and fragrant
  7. Enjoy !

Vietnamese fresh rice rolls

Sorry for the hiatus – it’s been a crazy time at both work and play, I realise I still haven’t written any posts on our UK/Spain trip or had the time to even read my favourite foodie blogs (you know who you are). Things are thankfully winding down as the year draws to a close so I really need to dedicate some time to catch up.

A quick post on a GENIUS idea for making Vietnamese rice rolls. I love these – the herbs keep the rolls so light and add a fresh punch of flavour to each bite.

The genius idea is from Gordon Ramsay. I’ve made these rolls before and meticulously had plates and bowls lined up so that I could individually add each ingredient before rolling them up. It a fiddly affair and always ended up taking a really long time and making a mess, which meant that I made them less than I would have liked to.

Ramsay’s tip was to make a huge bowl of noodle salad with all the ingredients, so it’s just a matter of taking a small handful of the noodle salad, placing that in the rice roll and rolling it up. Simple. Why hadn’t I thought or realised this before ??

This recipe is very adaptable – add more or less of anything to your taste.

Ingredients makes about 12 rolls 

  1. 12 round rice paper sheets
  2. 50g dried rice vermicelli noodles, soaked in hot water until soft, then drained
  3. 50g raw prawns, cooked in a small amount of water – reserve the cooking liquid
  4. large red chilli, seeds removed, finely sliced
  5. large handful shredded iceberg lettuce
  6. large handful coriander leaves, chopped
  7. handful mint leaves, chopped
  8. handful of basil leaves (Thai basil if you can find it) chopped
  9. 1 – 2 tbls fish sauce
  10. splash sesame oil
  11. juice of small lime
  12. 100g bean sprouts

For the sauce:

  1. 4 tbls hoisin sauce
  2. few teaspoons of the reserved cooking liquid from the prawns
  3. 1/2 small red chilli, seeds removed, finely sliced
  4. 1 tsp peanuts, lightly toasted and crushed

Method

  1. Mix the noodles, prawns, lettuce, chilli and herbs together
  2. Mix the fish sauce, sesame oil and lime juice and dress the noodle salad
  3. Dip the round rice paper sheets in a bowl of hot water for a few seconds until you feel it soften
  4. Add a small handful of the noodle salad along with some bean sprouts lengthwise and roll – the rice paper will continue to soften and become “sticky” which makes it easier
  5. Set aside on a plate – don’t keep them too close together or you run the risk of the rice paper sticking to each other and tearing

For the dipping sauce:

  1. Mix the hoisin, prawn cooking liquid and chilli together, top with the crushed peanuts

Aoyama Ramen @ Bugis+

Want to be spoiled for choice when it comes to ramen ? Then head over to Ramen Champion on the fourth floor of Bugis+ (formerly Illuma) on Victoria Street, where famous ramen chains from Japan battle it out under one roof for your tastebuds.

Each has a unique strength – one has the best flavoured egg, the other the best flavoured tonkotsu (pork bone) stock etc.

Rather than inducing a ramen-coma, D and I plan to make many regular visits, working our way through the various chefs/restaurants, to decide who is our ramen champion !!

First visit we went to Aoyama Ramen, where chef Hideaki Aoyama is famous for his flavoured egg. We chose it specifically because they also grilled their slices of chasu (thinly sliced pork belly), thinking it would add a lovely smoky intensity to the flavour.

I ordered the tsukamen, where the noodles are cold and served on a plate with the sliced chasu, egg and nori, accompanied with a rich dipping broth.

The noodles had a wonderful chewiness about it and the stock was rich enough to coat each strand of noodle that was dipped, without being too cloying. The pork slices were delicious too – tender enough to melt in your mouth with that additional sear from being grilled. The famous egg ? Nothing to write home about – a little too soft boiled for my liking (but that could just be a personal preference).

One down, five to go !

Aoyama Ramen
Ramen Champion
201 Victoria Street
#04-10 Bugis+
Tel: 62381011

Open daily 11.30am – 10.30pm


Blue Ginger

Assam fish head curry

My family’s roots are Peranakan, and I am always in search of good nonya food – Straits-Chinese food heavily influenced by Malay cuisine and their wonderful spices.

Blue Ginger has been around in Singapore for many years – I vaguely recall eating there years ago when I was in my mid-20s but in those days, drinking was far more important to me than food. It’s not that alcohol has become less important, it’s just that these days food is of equal (dare I say if not more) importance.

We went recently with my visiting mum, who is ever-wanting yet one of the fiercest critics of Peranakan restaurants, and it passed with flying colours on all counts.

They have a simple menu with classic Nonya dishes, like fish-head curry (in either a rich coconut or more sour tamarind base), Ngo Heong – homemade rolls of minced pork and prawns seasoned with five-spices, wrapped and deep-fried and beef rendang – braised beef in rich coconut milk spiced with ginger, lemongrass and lime leaves till tender

Deep fried eggplant with a fresh chilli paste and sweet soya sauce

There were two standout dishes we had – assam (tamarind) fish head curry and the sambal terong goreng – deep-fried eggplant.

The fish head curry came in a complex broth that was a perfect balance of sweet and sour, with the red snapper steamed to perfect tenderness. Give me just that and a large bowl of rice, and I would be a happy girl.

But a girl’s also got to eat her vegetables, and although not the healthiest dish, the eggplant slices were flash fried so almost crispy on the outside but still juicy and moist inside, and smothered in a luminous fresh chilli paste and sweet soya sauce.

Spicy ? Hell, yeah ! But that’s what it’s all about.

It’s a small restaurant, and not surprisingly, very popular, so if you want to go, either for lunch or dinner, I’d strongly recommend booking ahead.

Blue Ginger
97 Tanjong Pagar Road
Singapore
Tel: +65 6222 3928

Open 7 days
Lunch : 12.00pm to 2.30pm
Dinner : 6.30pm to 10.30pm


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


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