Category Archives: Seafood

Pan-fried sea bream with fresh tomatoes and cauliflower mash

I hate low carb. I hate the fact that they have taken the joy out of enjoying warm crusty bread rolls fresh from the oven. And biting into perfectly al dente pasta. And loving the fact that the rice absorbs all the flavours of curries on your plate. And creamy, fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes filling my mouth. I wish they would tell us that starchy carbs are not the enemy. But enemy they are. And as we get older, we have found that we need to watch what we eat, just that little bit more.

One of our favourite fish dishes (apart from my salmon, corn and herb salad) is pan-fried fillet of fish with fresh tomatoes on mashed potatoes. I tried something today which, surely does not replace potato mash, but manages to have the same consistency – sort of fooling my brain – with the mild taste of cauliflower, which we luckily happen to love.

The mash of course is not the hero of the dish.  The hero is pan-fried fillet of fish (tonight we had sea bream) with a fresh tomatoes, flash fried in butter, and poured over the fish almost like a dressing, or sauce.  You can, of course, go nuts with potatoes instead of cauliflower – just don’t tell me about it. (I’m even being cheeky and categorising this under “healthy”)

Ingredients (for two)

  1. 2 fillets firm white fish fillets – snapper, bream whatever you have access to
  2. handful cherry tomatoes, chopped
  3. 1 tbs butter plus a nob extra for the mash
  4. half a small head of cauliflower
  5. salt and pepper

Method

  1. Start the mash first.  Cut the cauliflower into pieces and cook till very soft.  You can either boil or microwave – I boiled mine but I’d imagine microwaving it might make for a dryer, firmer mash
  2. While the cauliflower is cooking, season the fish fillets with salt and pepper, and pan fry in some olive oil until crispy on the outside and still tender inside.  Depending on the thickness of the fillets, this usually takes about 3-4 minutes on each side of a hot pan
  3. Once the cauliflower is soft, mash or use a stick blender and whizz till creamy.  Add butter, salt and pepper to taste.  You could even add in grated cheese or cream for a richer flavour
  4. Take the fish out of the pan and in the same pan, melt the tablespoon of butter until frothy and toss the tomatoes in for 30 seconds until they release their juices and mix with the butter to make a silky sauce
  5. Serve the fish with the mash, topped with the buttery tomato mix
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Oooh…Kinki…@ Customs House

Snapper carpaccio with truffle oil 

Having a drink at Oyster Bar on a Monday night, a friend and I decided to try our luck at Kinki without a reservation.

It’s at Customs House with entry via an elevator at street level. A hostess greeted us, asking us if we had a reservation and then escorted us up to the second floor where another waiter asked if we had a reservation.  A bit of overkill ?  Perhaps, but then Kinki isn’t the sort of establishment that is understated, starting from the crazy Japanese graffiti on the floor and walls as you enter, to the grand view of Marina Bay Sands as you walk to your table.

We had prime position at the counter, and the friendly chefs recommended what was a stunning dish – thinly sliced snapper carpaccio with ponzu sauce and drizzled with truffle oil.  He actually asked “do you like truffle oil” – is there anyone that doesn’t ??? 🙂

The snapper came sliced so thin you could see the glass plate it was served on.  Wonderfully fragranced with the truffle oil, the fish was sweet and delicious.

As for the rest of the meal…I have to say that they do try hard in terms of presentation, but for the price that you are paying, I have come to expect a much higher standard.

Sashimi plate – kingfish, sea urchin, salmon, swordfish and tuna

We started with a selection of sashimi – what sort of fish we left to the chef, which usually means you get the best of what they have that day. There was kingfish, uni (sea urchin), salmon, swordfish and tuna (which was hidden behind the shiso leaf) and whilst the uni, salmon and kingfish were freshly firm and sweet, the swordfish and tuna, which I expect to taste rich and almost creamy, had a disappointingly watery texture.

Perhaps then the dish we had after was poorly ordered but we ordered a dragon roll and a spicy tuna roll, and I almost felt like I could have ordered the same thing from a sushi chain like Sushi Tei.  Nothing special at all about it, and the rolls were very loosely rolled so everything fell as you tried to navigate it from plate to mouth.

The place is buzzy and fun, and the chefs behind the counter are all friendly and chatty but I got a feeling that this place lacked authenticity – perhaps I am more accustomed to Japanese sushi chefs who are almost sombre when they are preparing their food – their concentration is so great.  Add that with the sashimi dish, I am glad I finally went, but think it will be a once off for me.


Salmon pasta

A deliciously creamy pasta that is freshened by a good squeeze of lemon.

Ingredients: (for two)

  1. 1 onion, diced
  2. 1 glass of white wine
  3. 200g hot smoked salmon, flaked (you can also use normal smoked salmon)
  4. 150g dried pasta – I like to use spaghetti
  5. 200ml cream
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
  7. Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus extra to serve
  8. Handful fresh dill, chopped – other herbs that would work if you can’t get fresh dill would be chervil or flat leaf parsley and you can also use dried dill if your supermarket is like mine and always seems to have the fresh herbs you don’t need that night

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the pack
  2. While the pasta is cooking, sweat the onions until translucent
  3. Turn the heat to high, add the white wine and cook for 3-4 minutes to cook off the alchohol
  4. Add the cream and cook on medium heat for another few minutes until thickened
  5. Season to taste – remember that the salmon will add salt
  6. Add the salmon
  7. Add the lemon juice and herbs
  8. Add the cooked pasta (should be juust al dente as it will continue to cook a little in the sauce).  Reserve some of the salted water that you cooked the pasta in and you can add that to thin out the cream sauce to make it silky and coat the pasta.
  9. Serve with lemon wedges and a sprinkle of chopped fresh dill

Gong Xi Fa Cai !

Yu sang – prosperity salad

Happy Lunar New Year !  This post is dedicated to the star of our Chinese new year dinner – yu sang, or prosperity salad, which we started our dinner with at the Red House at Robertson Quay.

Yu sang (also called lo hei in Cantonese) is essentially a raw fish – usually salmon or mackerel – mixed in a salad of shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments.  As with most special Chinese dishes, the dish is named after the key ingredient – in this case, fish – which, when pronounced, has another meaning – abundance.  So the serving of yu sang during Chinese new year is to wish everyone an abundance of prosperity, vigour, health…all the good things to start a new year with.

Steamed razor clams with garlic and glass noodles

The salad ingredients are presented and as the server proceeds to add ingredients such as the fish, the crackers and the sauces, they say auspicious wishes as each ingredient is added, typically related to the specific ingredient being added. For example, the sweet sauce they add is meant to wish all at the table sweetness and harmony in their lives, the oil that is added wishes a smooth year ahead, and the fish wishes abundance.

All the diners at the table then stand up and on cue, proceed to toss the shredded ingredients into the air with chopsticks while saying their own wishes for the year out loud. It is believed that the height of the toss reflects the height of the diner’s growth in fortunes, thus diners are expected to toss enthusiastically.

It’s such a fun way to celebrate the lunar new year.  And it helps that the salad is delicious !

Braised tofu topped with seaweed and mushrooms

Red House is quite unique in it’s interior design – it felt as if we had walked in to a restaurant that was housed in a large warehouse and that had started to fit it with the usual Chinese restaurant design – lanterns, wooden tables and chairs etc, but had only completed the fish tanks and the private rooms.  The main dining area felt almost unfinished with industrial steel fans on the ceiling.  The acoustics of the place are not great for the large tables they have in there, meaning you have to really shout and also making hearing your friends/family difficult.  The food is not bad – I think there is a pretty decent standard for seafood restaurants and the dishes they prepared were good, but no greater than any other Chinese seafood restaurant available around Singapore.

Lobster noodles

We ate the set menu on offer, which consisted of stir-fried asparagus, steamed razor clams with garlic and glass noodles, steamed prawns, chilli crab, braised home-made tofu topped with seaweed and mushrooms and lobster noodles.  All good.  Although nothing that stood out.

The benefit of eating at Robertson Quay is all of the bars that have popped up around that area, where you can take a slow stroll by the river to get to.  If you’re lucky like we were last night, there will be a lovely cool breeze, making it even more pleasant.

All in all a wonderful way to herald in the lunar new year.  Gong xi fa cai everyone !

Red House at The Quayside
#01-13/ 14 The Quayside
60 Robertson Quay
Tel: +65 6735 7666


Smiths Authentic British Fish and Chips

 

Haddock and chips

Last Wednesday I went to visit a friend in Joo Chiat and we decided to head down to Tanjong Katong Road for some fish and chips.  It’s in his locale so he often goes there for a lazy Sunday lunch.

Smiths claims to serve authentically British fish and chips.  Not having grown up in Britain, I had to rely on my friends who delightedly exclaimed how it reminded them of their childhood, and for me, it brought back memories of the places around Sydney (like Watsons Bay) that used to sell fresh fish, battered and fried on order, and then wrapped up in newspaper to be eaten in one of the nearby parks overlooking the harbour.

Sean, the owner, used to be the head chef at the Singapore Cricket Club, so I guess has been around the British clientele long enough to know that there is a need for authentic British fish and chips.  And when I say proper, I mean serving cod, haddock, and even scampi, cooked to order and served with thick cut chips and wrapped in butchers paper, where you take them to your table to add salt, tomato sauce, HP sauce and the all important malt vinegar generously on your fish and chips.

It’s where there is a completely separate menu that is equally as long as the fish selection, that covers side orders, like mushy peas, curry sauce, gravy (for the fries), picked onions, pickled eggs and pickled gherkins.  Perfect for cutting through the grease (although the onions were a tad tricky to cut with the plastic cutlery they give you – slippery little suckers).

I ordered the haddock and chips and quickly unwrapped my serving as soon as I got to the table.  The chips would be soggy from the vinegar I would soon add, but the fish needs to stay crispy.  And crispy it was !  And the sweet taste of the haddock was not lost in the batter and oil.

You can even enjoy British beer like Boddingtons or a bottle of wine with your fish and chips.

I am thinking that it might soon be a regular for us on a lazy Sunday afternoon as well.

Smiths authentic British fish and chips
230 Tanjong Katong Road, Singapore
Tel: +65 6345 9855

Opening Hours
Tue–Sun: 12pm – 11pm
(Closed on Mon)


Australia Day lunch from the Sydney Fish Markets

Cooked large king prawns

Such a famous name, such a fantastic array of fresh seafood, so disappointingly “grotty” – the only word I can think of to describe the place.

I do love walking around the Sydney Fish markets, looking at the amazing selection of fresh seafood, but I’d highly recommend taking away and eating it in the comfort of your own home, or taking to a picnic somewhere more scenic (of which there are plenty of options in Sydney).

Sydney Rock and Pacific oysters

Australia Day in Sydney was last Wednesday and I went with my dad to pick up lunch before I flew back to Singapore.

We kept the selection simple – fresh cooked large king prawns, a dozen Sydney Rock oysters and another of Pacific oysters, tuna and salmon sashimi, with some fresh damper rolls, lots of lemons and salad ingredients to make a fresh salad of avocado, roma tomatoes and cucumber on a bed of mixed leaves, dressed simply with a good squeeze of lemon juice and drizzled with olive oil.

Our deliciously simple salad

Nothing to cook (Pete did make his own seafood sauce of mayonnaise, tomato sauce, lemon juice and salt and pepper), just simply plated up and served with a nice cold bottle of prosecco for us to enjoy the sweet sweet flavours of the sea in front of us. Happy Australia Day !


Salmon, corn and herb salad

This is a terrific salad that we used to make regularly in Sydney when we had a balcony – our flat in Singapore doesn’t have an outdoor area which means the flat smells of cooked fish afterwards – not such a bad thing, we just have to make sure the fish is as fresh as possible.

So when we find fresh salmon available in the supermarket, this firm favourite appears on our dinner table.  It could easily be served as a starter or even as lunch.

Simple, fresh ingredients all work completely harmoniously in this dish.  I would say go with the flow – use whatever herbs you have in your fridge, substitute lemons for the limes – but we’ve tried that (usually because we forgot to pick up one of the ingredients or the supermarket didn’t have it) and it just doesn’t seem to work as well.  I’m more than happy to stand corrected though, so send me your alternatives if you have tried and prefer it.

Ingredients for 2 servings

  • 200 – 250g fresh salmon fillets
  • 1 cup each of fresh coriander, mint and basil
  • 2 corn cobs
  • juice of 1 -2 large limes to taste
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Lightly brush corn cobs with oil and place onto a hot  griddle/frying pan/BBQ.  Be careful the kernels may pop.  Turn them around periodically so that the entire cob is cooked.  Let cool a little to handle and cut the kernels off the corn.  Set aside.
  2. Brush salmon fillets with oil, season with salt and pepper and cook, depending on thickness a few minutes on each side.  You don’t want to overcook salmon and it should still be a bit pink inside.  Set aside to cool for a few minutes then flake.
  3. Add the corn kernels and the salmon to the herb mixture.  Dress with olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat everything.
  4. Pile onto plates and serve with extra lime wedges.

Our gastronomic trip to Japan – second stop Kyoto…

First course at Kikunoi

After a precisely 2 hour 20 minute shinkansen train ride from Tokyo (all trains in Japan are super punctual with a margin for error of only 1 minute), we arrived in picturesque Kyoto.  Having only ten days in Japan we decided to focus our trip on two cities, and we picked Kyoto because it seemed to be the polar opposite to Tokyo in terms of modern vs traditional.

We had arrived just as the sun was beginning to set – around 5pm so we decided to take a walk to Gion by the Kamo River. The weather was really showing off Kyoto in all its glory – we actually only had one day of rain in the entire ten days (the rest of our time in both Tokyo and Kyoto the sky was a brilliant shade of azure, with a slightly chilly wind – our absolute dream weather). The willow trees lining the banks of the river along with the cool late afternoon breeze certainly set the scene for a very romantic city.

Although we had a map, we thought we’d just walk in the general direction of the main street in Gion and just see where that took us. We ended up finding ourselves at the gorgeous Shirakawa canal where we could admire the restaurants by the canal, with their shopfronts on Shijo Ave.

Takuma restaurant from the inside, facing the canal

As a consequence of the legacy of taxes in Kyoto, that used to be based upon street frontage, houses were built with narrow facades only five to six meters wide, but extend up to twenty meters in from the street, and it took us a while to find the restaurant we had chosen from the canal view.

Sashimi with whipped soya sauce with duck liver pate

A few false entries into neighbouring restaurants later, we found Takuma – a kaiseki restaurant which basically consisted of one long counter. Kaiseki ryori is a traditional multi-course dinner that is a Kyoto specialty and type of art form that balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food.  The idea is that only fresh seasonal and preferably local ingredients are used and are prepared in ways that aim to enhance their flavor.

Grilled shishamo

Dishes included a range of bite-sized appetisers (sushi, tofu, omelette) fresh sashimi with whipped soya sauce and fresh wasabi, a fresh and light fish broth, grilled shishamo, a seasonal vegetable hotpot, a rich sliced beef sukiyaki, peanut and mushroom rice and dessert.

Fresh fruit dessert plate with passionfruit icecream fruit compote and date cake

There was a bit of a language barrier as the chef tried to explain what he was serving, I hope our photos provide a good indication of the presentation, I can only vouch for the wonderful flavours of each dish.

Takuma
Hyakumanben kosaten seihokukado, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8225.
Tel: +8175 781 3486

For dinner that night we treated ourselves to dinner at the recently awarded three Michelin-starred Kikunoi.  Yoshihiro Murata is the third-generation chef-owner and his restaurant is situated near Maruyama Park in the heart of Gion.  Once you enter the gardens around the restaurant, you are transported into another world.  You begin your journey with your own private room (be warned you need to be comfortable sitting on the floor for a few hours at low tables, so if you are not very flexible or have knee injuries like D, it might detract from your enjoyment of the evening.  And you don’t want to rush this dinner) where your 8 courses are served.

Each course is a feast for the eyes as well as the palette.  Food is served in simple tableware, and I read that chef Murata is involved in preserving Kyoto’s traditional crafts and is a champion of struggling shokunin (craftspeople), both young and old.  He works directly with artisans when ordering his tableware, to ensure they complement the restaurant and of course, the food.

First course at Kikunoi

The menu changes monthly.  We were served the menu for the month of frost (November) and we started with some chilled sake as an aperitif while the first course was served.  Presented to us intriguingly wrapped in paper held together by a leaf clip, which, once opened, revealed an assortment of autumnal appetisers.  We ate our way around poached anglerfish liver, mibuna (Kyoto arugula) and shumeki mushrooms, karasumi (dried mullet roe), chestnut and arrowhead root chips, duck liver pate with white poppy seeds, maple leaf-shaped cuttlefish coated with egg yolk and sea urchin, pine needle-shaped tea noodles, sake glazed gingko nuts and an edible konbu basket.

Sashimi of red sea bream and prawns

bluefin tuna sashimi with soy-marinaded egg yolk sauce

The next course was sashimi of red sea bream and prawns, followed by young bluefin tuna sashimi with a soy-marinated egg yolk sauce.  Hamo (conga eel) was next, served in an light mitsuba herb infused fish broth where you are encouraged to “refresh” the broth with just a few drops of sudachi lime. This was followed by salt-grilled roe-bearing ayu with potatoes,  then a salad of persimmon, daikon radish, carrot, chrysanthemum petals and mutsuba herb with vinegared mackerel, ginko leaf-shaped ginger and yuzu.  Next course was a simmered Densuke anago eel with poached turnip and baby field greens.  Final dish was Matsutake mushroom rice with turnip soup and seven-spice powder, picked raddish and kombu seaweed.

Grilled roe-bearing ayu

Grilled roe bearing ayu

The evening ended with Hojicha (roasted green tea) ice-cream with a chestnut rum-raisin fig cake.

The food was exquisite.  The flavours and textures all complemented each other perfectly and the experience unique and utterly enjoyable.  We only wished that the food wasn’t served quite as quickly at the start so that we could leisurely savour and enjoy each course.

We left full, content and happy, and enjoyed our stroll back to our hotel through Gion.

Kikunoi (main restaurant)
459 Shimokawara-cho, Yasakatoriimae-sagaru, Shimokawara-dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Tel: +81-75 561-0015 (reservations highly recommended as there are only ten private rooms)
Lunch: 12:00pm to 2:00pm (last entry)
Dinner: 5:00pm to 8:00pm (last entry)

kamaage udon at Honke Orawiya

The next day we lunched at Honke Orawiya, the oldest Japanese noodle shop in Kyoto, that has been around since 1465.  In a quiet street just south of the Imperial Palace, they hand make udon and soba noodles and I tried both – the kamaage udon where the udon is served in a communal hot-pot with hot water, and accompanied by a hot dipping sauce of dashi and soy sauce, and zaru soba where the cooked soba is served chilled and accompanied by a cold dipping sauce.  Both were delicious and it’s no wonder Owariya has served emperors and shoguns as well as the monks of many of the temples of Kyoto.  The shop started by selling soba confectioneries, which they still also sell.

Honke Owariya
322 Kurumayacho, Nijo-Sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075-231-3446
Hours: 11:00 – 19:00
Closed Wednesdays

We had decided earlier on that our final dinner in Kyoto was going to be teppanyaki.  We had walked past a steak house in the heart of Gion – Yoshida Steak House – that weirdly displayed the papers of the cow that they had bought (and we assumed would be serving in the restaurant).  Right down to the name of the cow (Matsuka)…and its noseprint.  It seemed to be the only teppanyaki restaurant that at least said it served food on the teppan – although we probably walked past many, just that we didn’t recognise the Japanese signage.

We were a little apprehensive when we entered the restaurant and there was just two other people in there, but we also didn’t realise that it was a public holiday that day (we should have realised this when we found the Imperial Palace closed for the day).  Our worries were completely unfounded and this turned out to be another mindblowing meal.

Omi wagyu steak

The menu is limited – basically your choices were grade A5 Omi wagyu steak – in three sizes.  The only other choice you had was your sides.  I ordered the 100g steak, D the 150g.

Omi wagyu cows come from the neighbouring Shiga prefecture, and rank amongst the top three types of wagyu – the other two being the famous Kobe wagyu and Matsuzaka.

Omi wagyu steak

We were shown our steaks before they were cooked, and I have never seen wagyu so beautifully marbled.  Unlike the tacky teppanyaki restaurants in the West, the chefs in Japan do not “perform” by throwing food around and at you (which I admit also requires skill).  The chef came and showed us our steaks, asked how we would like them done, then proceeded to almost solemnly cook the vegetables and the steak before presenting it to us, bowing and then disappearing.  This was serious stuff.  We only got a smile out of him at the end of the meal when we chatted with him about the meat he served.  We even got a copy of Matsuka’s papers !

Yoshida Steak House
1F, Minami Grand Kaikan 2-5-19 Higashi Shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0083
Tel:06-6212-0054
Hours:  Mon~Sat 17:00~24:30(L.O.23:00), Holidays 17:00~23:30(L.O.22:00)

We dined in Kyoto based on recommendations from research, but also we took a few chances, and maybe we just got lucky, but I truly think that it’s the Japanese obsession with perfection in everything they do, especially food, that led us to leave Kyoto with the fondest memories of absolutely amazing food.