Category Archives: Rumbling ramblings

Instragram is killing my blog…

Instagram is killing my blog.

The whole reason why I started my blog was so I could jot down all the amazing food I’ve eaten and the wonderful places I’ve experienced. I find myself going back to reference my blog to walk down memory lane, and also to look up my recipes that I haven’t made for a while, but keeping up to date is falling by the wayside. I even thought that my love of all of your gorgeous photography would inspire me to use my camera more, and, you know what ? The iPhone takes pretty decent photos (albeit not so great in dim lighting), without the hassle of having to pack another thing in my already-heavy handbag. Just snap and post. Easy.

The other reason I’ve been so slack is that our Mac, which is probably 6 years old, made navigating around the Mac s-u-p-e-r  s-l-o-w, and it finally died which gave me a good reason to rush out and buy a new one – so now I have no excuses !

I have recently felt, though, that there is something missing in my life, and I am going to admit it now – it’s that little thrill of accomplishment that I get when I hit the “publish” button. I know, some people climb mountains, conquer their fears, try new things. Cut me some slack here, whilst blogging certainly isn’t as mentally or physically challenging, it’s something that I find myself smiling every time I am writing – it honestly gives me joy, and that’s good enough reason for me.

I know some of you also have had challenges in keeping up with blogging – any other suggestions you have or experienced that can help to maintain this renewed vigour that I’ve found ?

ps – and if you are on instagram, let’s connect ! @carolynmfchan

 

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A Simple Snack

Sometimes the simplest things are often the best

I’d run out of the night before’s roast beef to make beef fajitas, and with just a single wrap and a few slices of Monterey Jack cheese, I decided to go simple.

I think the ratio of cheese to wrap was possibly swaying towards the cheese, and it made a molten mess as it melted and oozed out the edges and into the frying in the pan.

The cheese, which I think has a wonderful texture suited to fajitas, but not too much taste when in the fajita, somehow becomes very intensely…cheesy…for want of a better word, when it fries. It also gets all crispy, giving each mouthful an extra satisfying crunch.

Any suggestions on why the change in flavour is so great ? Or am I just late to the game in realising everything does indeed taste better when fried ?

 


Pasar Bella

Giant paella being cooked

Hurrah for Pasar Bella ! It’s been open for a few months now, and we finally went yesterday to our utter delight. Finally Singapore has a selection of good food purveyors, offering beautiful cuts of meat, deliciously smelly cheeses, organic vegetables, fresh seafood and yummy bites – all under one airconditioned roof.

Despite the fact that most of the produce is imported – it still gives me the same feeling as a true farmers market where everything is sourced locally. Or one of the European markets like the Mercato Central in Florence where you have the similar stall after stall of everything good to eat.

Bone-in Rib-eye Steak

We found James’ Butchery & Co where we bought a ridiculously large bone-in rib-eye steak. And after chatting with James, ended up buying lamb chops, thick rib-eye and striploin steaks, beef brisket, and osso bucco with the intent of going back next time to try the pork and chicken that he has to offer. Amazing. James also gave us advice on how long to finish the bone-in rib-eye in the oven, after searing well on the stove first (15-20 minutes for medium rare).

The Cheese Ark is a dark cavernous room where four obviously cheese-loving women will tell you anything and everything about the cheese they offer. We bought cheeses that we’ve never even heard about and enjoyed them last night after dinner.

Vibrant green and purple kale

Of course every market needs to have organic produce and at the Organic Grocer I was delighted to finally find the elusive-in-Singapore, kale ! That’s been pan-fried and served with the steak last night, been added to a soup today, and currently baking in the oven to make kale chips. Yes, I’ve been waiting eagerly for a long time to get my hands on this delicious leafy vegetable.

The AMAZING roast pork belly at Roast & Host

By this stage we had our hands literally full and we will happily make the trek to Turf City again, but an honourable mention needs to go out to Roast & Host by Keith and Kin. We’d worked up quite an appetite after all that shopping and we followed our nose to Roast & Host. Ribbons of crispy crackling greeted us. It was so popular that they couldn’t cook the pork quickly enough for demand and we had to wait a while before we went back and were rewarded with the most awesome roast pork.

Happy happy happy is all I can say – well done and THANK YOU to the organisers of Pasar Bella !

Pasar Bella
PasarBella @ The Grandstand Bukit Timah Singapore
200 Turf Club Road Singapore 287994
Tel: +65 6887 0077

Open daily from 9.30am – 7.00pm


Penang Feasting

Apom balik – Crispy Indian pancakes

My mother is from Penang, and although we migrated to Sydney when I was just four years old, my family still has strong roots there. Over the years though, my visits have tapered off and the Penang I know has become a memory – rapid urbanisation has fundamentally changed the city so much I don’t recognise it any more. The city has fortunately been declared UNESCO protected so the the city has been cleaned up, but the traffic is still congested, which makes getting around to the best places to eat that little bit more difficult.

Penang has long been lauded as having the best food in Malaysia – particular hawker food. It’s hard to explain why – the best I can give (based on a thoughtful discussion with a fellow Penang-ite in Singapore) is that each hawker is his/her own artist in the way they prepare and cook their dishes, achieving a distinct character, so much so that a certain dish does not taste the same if it’s been cooked by the owners son even when all other variables are constant.

Malaysians in general are quite obsessive about eating the best food and will often drive for an hour to get to “the best [insert food here]” – chicken rice, crab, fried noodles – you name it. Some have become so famous that there are often lengthy queues, which, in the blistering Penang heat, is something even I am not willing to do.

Penang curry noodles

When we were recently in Penang, we stayed close to a massive hawker centre called Supertanker. It’s a bewildering, bustling, noisy, crowded, mass of hungry people in for a quick bite – this I guess is the Malaysian equivalent of a fast food court. It’s quite difficult to explain the whole experience. There are maybe 200 tables and on the perimeter of the area are tiny little food stalls that usually sell just one or two types of dishes – fish soup, Penang char kuay teow, congee, drinks etc. You queue and order your food, pay the hawker, gesture in the direction of where you are sitting, and somehow your dish manages to find you just a few minutes later. They seem to have an amazing capacity to remember who ordered what.

The pace that these hawkers prepare the food is astounding. They are literally human machines – when you’re only charging the equivalent of US$1 for a bowl of noodles, turnover is critical, and these hawkers work hard and fast to feed the masses.

It’s open air but with plenty of fans and I was so happy to enjoy a few of my old favourite that I haven’t had for possibly over ten years. It’s amazing how smells and sounds and tastes can bring back fond memories.

Two dishes I am thrilled to have eaten: curry noodles and “apom balik”. The curry noodles are a Malaysian speciality. I guess the most easy way to describe it is as a laksa, but here, they somehow manage to extract the flavour of the coconut but with none of the thick creamy consistency of some laksas I’ve had outside of Malaysia. The broth is rich yet almost white in colour and the dish comes with a generous spoon of chilli sambal, tofu, squid, fresh cockles and most importantly, cubes of pig’s blood. Now I know that might sound horrifying to many of you, but I just love the squidgy, squeaky, springy texture of these and you can’t get this easily at all outside of Malaysia. It adds a richness to the entire dish that I just love.

The second dish is probably much more palatable – it’s called apom balik, and Indian speciality, essentially a pancake batter that’s cooked in a mini-wok, so that the edges are thin and crispy and crepe-like, with a small “bump” of lightly cooked spongy batter in the middle. Sometimes they are filled with a mixture of sugar and crushed peanuts which are also delicious but I think the simplicity of the plain ones appeal to me (perhaps because I can justify eating more?).

With my gran passing away I’m not sure I will have as many opportunities to sample the amazing food in Penang. But I can take the wonderful memories of the food with me and they come attached with the even more wonderful memories of enjoying it with her.


RIP Sebastian 1998 – 2011

Sebastian doing his best E.T. impression

This may seem a little out of place on this blog, but my cat/friend/companion of 13 years, Sebastian passed away two nights ago and I wanted to say goodbye to someone who always kept me company whenever I cooked.

He was the kitten of an abandoned cat and I recall one day a little black kitten with a perfectly symmetrical white patch down from his mouth to under his belly and four white paws came to visit me in my office. My grandmother once commented that it looked like he had just stepped on snow.

Never having owned an animal before, this was completely new territory for me, beginning with naming him. He actually started his first week living with me being called HUDSON (Hey You Don’t S@#! On Nothin’) but after a week that changed to Sebastian Morpheus Chan. Sebastian, because I liked the name, Morpheus because he used to sleep a LOT (and often in places we would have difficulty finding him), and Chan because, well, that’s my surname.

He was a playful and cheeky kitten, and as he grew up he became more aloof, as most cats do. A lot of my friends have met Sebastian, but often only because he would appear at the end of the evening, seemingly out of nowhere, in search for some supper and a whisker scratch. Which meant that the choices he made to sit/lie/sleep near – or on – D and I, were all that much more special.

He had such strangely endearing habits, like coming to bed with us and after settling down on all fours sphinx-like, almost throwing himself upside down and really tucking his head under our chins. Made us uncomfortable as hell, but feeling him so relaxed and happy meant that he won the battle of who’s the-most-comfortable each night. And then for about 3 months earlier this year he took to coming to sleep next to me, with his head on my pillow. D didn’t believe me till one night he came upstairs to find us both asleep, nose-to-nose. For those of you who are allergic, this is probably already making your eyes itch and water, but again, with Sebastian, that sort of affection coming from him was a real treat and oh-so-special.

He was also the only cat I’ve met that you can feel stretch. As in, when he woke up, you could put your hands under his front paws, lift him up, and stretch him. And you could feel him stretching every part of himself, right down to him spreading his little “toes” apart. D appropriately calls it the “transformer stretch”. His paws (and the top of his head) were always my favourite.

He begrudgingly accepted it when we bought him a sister five years back, and while they have never been BFFs, I caught him calmly walking up to her while she was sleeping, and, completely unprovoked, gives her a right hard spank on the head. Llllet’s get ready to ruuummble !!

He was my handsome boy. And I miss him dearly. RIP Lambchop. I know you’re still watching over me while I cook.


Dim Sum @ Victoria Peak

Quail’s egg and pig’s trotters stewed with black vinegar and ginger 

Orchard Central is a really odd shopping centre. In a city where shopping is a heritage and a true pastime, you would think that whoever is going to develop a shopping centre on prime location at Orchard Road, would be in tune with the psychology of shopping – make it easy for shoppers to spend. Mind you, Ion just down the road is also a similarly horrendous labyrinth of shops and that’s always packed, but perhaps it’s the type of stores they have there (for example, flagship stores of high-end brands) that draws the crowds.

Char siew pork steamed rice rolls

Anyway, I digress. On the difficult-to-get-to-if-you-don’t-know-that-the-lifts-to-level-11-are-only-on-some-of-the-floors (phew!) is Victoria Peak, presumably named after the famous mountain of the same name in Hong Kong.

Steamed BBQ pork buns

Recommended by a friend, we went today and we were impressed that at not only the range of the food available was, but also the quality. Restaurants that serve dim sum here in Singapore usually also have a la carte items available, and the actual dim sum menu is fairly limited. Victoria Peak is no different, but the range of dishes available on their dim sum menu was broader than the usual three types of dumplings, one rice roll and steamed BBQ pork buns.  Having said that, this is  dim sum, after all, so we did order the three types of dumplings, two types of rice rolls (ooh!) and the steamed BBQ pork buns 🙂  We also ordered some specialities like quail’s eggs and pig’s trotters stewed in black vinegar, soy and ginger, and fried salmon skin, which I have only ever had at one other dim sum.  The overall quality of the food was excellent.

Attentive waiters, an impressive selection of fine wines, should you fancy it (maybe at dinner time rather than with dim sum), completed the circle of good. Just remember how you got there or you might struggle to get out on to street level again.

Victoria Peak
Level 11, 181 Orchard Road
Orchard Central
Tel: +65 6238 7666

Opening Hours
Mon–Sat:11.30am–3pm, 6pm–10.30pm
Sun & PH:11am–3pm, 6pm–10.30pm

For the love of butter

Reflets de France beurre de baratte a la fleur de sel de guerande

Butter is a staple in our household (we subscribe to the mantra that everything tastes better with butter). We once spent a small fortune on a slab of fresh churned French butter from Burrough Markets and it was worth every pound. Eating it unadulterated on duchy original biscuits really brought out the flavour of the butter.

It’s hard to find good butter in Singapore. From our local supermarket we get Australian, New Zealand and Danish butter. Good, but not great. We do get Normandy butter – President, but even that does not evoke the memory of the flavour and creaminess of the butter we had from Burrough Markets. We go to Carrefour every now and then and the last time we went we treated ourselves to some of their Reflets de France beurre de baratte a la fleur de sel de guerande. Pricey, but finally, worth every dollar spent. Again, unadulterated spread on a baguette, the butter, flavoured with French salt (fleur de sel) brought such a big smile to my face.

Reflets de France (translation to “reflections of france”) is one of Carrefour’s private labels, launched ten years ago, and is one of the top 30 brands sold in France.

Beurre de baratte is churned (either with a wooden paddle or by machine – in this butter it is commercially churned by machine) rather than centrifugally made. Centrifusion is more efficient at getting rid of the whey, making it less “soggy” and prevents the butter from going rancid as quickly. Churning, however, is meant to produce a more sumptuous texture.

Silky smooth, with crystals of the salt giving the knife resistance, this butter makes having simple bread and butter a pleasure to eat.

I would even go back to buy the unsalted butter for baking.

Absolutely brilliant stuff.  So happy.


It’s been a long time…

…since I wrote anything – but I want to capture all the smells and tastes of the food I am fortunate enough to experience, from the top-end Japanese to the best vegetarian beehoon (with the crispy fried bits).

It’s been crazy at work these past few months and I for one will be glad to see the end of 2009, but I digest (typo and keeping it)…it’s the silly season so let’s get out there and eat, drink and be merry !

First stop – Tippling Club this Saturday for D’s birthday dinner, with Kelly and Joe. Wonder which extreme it will sway to, bitterly disappointing or exquisite?


It’s been a long time…

…since I wrote anything – but I want to capture all the smells and tastes of the food I am fortunate enough to experience, from the top-end Japanese to the best vegetarian beehoon (with the crispy fried bits).

It’s been crazy at work these past few months and I for one will be glad to see the end of 2009, but I digest (typo and keeping it)…it’s the silly season so let’s get out there and eat, drink and be merry !

First stop – Tippling Club this Saturday for D’s birthday dinner, with Kelly and Joe. Wonder which extreme it will sway to, bitterly disappointing or exquisite?


Pigs can fly

I’m not the most decisive person in the world. Sure, I like a lot of things, like a fabulous pair of shoes, a good laugh and great friends. But if there’s one thing I can be sure of that I love (apart from Danny, of course), it’s food. And that means everything about it. Buying it, watching it grow, cooking it, and especially, eating it.

And so begins my journal of food. It’s nothing too deep, I just want to take you through my experiences of food, through my eyes (and belly)…