MasterChef Singapore’s Raj Recommends Beef Pho

MASTERCHEF RAJ
photo credit: Mediacorp

Hello Makan Kakis,

How quickly we’ve crossed the Top Ten threshold for MasterChef Singapore Season 3 and if you’ve been following all the competitive culinary action, you’ll know who just got eliminated.

This week’s guest and Foodie Friend is 58-year-old Raj Shagaran Mahalingam, a creative events producer and groovy grandpa whose colourful personality is matched only by his colourful cooking creations! He certainly spiced up the MasterChef kitchen with his antics and after making it into the Top 9, he’s here to share his experience of the competition and recommend some of his favourite eats in Singapore.

So do read on for where he goes for Vietnamese Beef Noodles (Pho), download/ listen to our lively podcast interview and watch him in action in these clips.

WATCH:

HEAR:

  • Click to listen/ download podcast – Part 1 of interview with Raj (he shares about rising after his literal fall in the kitchen that cost him a place in the Top 8, his “alien” encounter with runaway mud crabs & how joining the competition has changed his approach to cooking).
  • Click to listen/ download podcast – Part 2 of interview with Raj (he reveals his favourite judge – is it Audra, Damian or Bjorn? Why he doesn’t mind if you call him a cockroach – in fact his new brand launch celebrates it! Also, who he’d invite to his fantasy dinner party and what food he’d serve).
  • Click to listen/ download podcast of Raj’s souper beef pho recommendation!

SEE:

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For his first makan recommendation, Raj came prepared. He highly recommends Saigon Food Street (located in a large, far-flung canteen in Jurong West) for that Vietnamese classic, Pho. Choose from noodles with beef slices, beef balls or chicken. Raj always goes for the sliced beef noodles. For $6, you’ll be served a large bowl with a decent amount of beef – you get 4-5 slices, along with a hearty portion of smooth, flat rice noodles. The pho is smooth and surprisingly al dente, not mushy or too soft.

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But for Raj, the beef broth is the star of the dish. Simmered for a long time, he says it’s flavourful and quite simply, excellent. I agree with Raj – the soup was savoury and tasty. While it appeared quite clear and light, it turned out to be a lot more robust than it looked.

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The beef slices had cooked to a blushing pink in the hot broth. Stir it up and the soup gets cloudy with rich, beefy goodness, the many translucent slices of onion adding natural sweetness. Raj also loves the generous portions of herbs and veggies that garnish the pho, which gives each mouthful a lovely, fresh crunch. Adorning your bowl, you’ll find heaps of onion, beansprouts, spring onion, coriander and what I thought tasted a lot like laksa leaf.

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At my visit to Saigon Food Street, I ordered additional beef balls to go with my sliced beef pho (total: $8.50). The beefy spheres were hefty and golf-ball sized. While probably not handmade, they added a smoky, almost sausage-like taste and texture to the mix. They were juicy, heavily seasoned in contrast to the clean, unadorned beef slices and dotted with black pepper on the inside.

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Extra condiments like fish sauce, Sriracha chilli sauce, limes and red chilli padi are available for adjusting your meal to your taste, but in Raj’s opinion, you don’t need to!

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Ever the hot-head though, I helped myself to extra chilli sauce and chilli padi in fish sauce for extra heat! Speaking of extras, I ordered a few other dishes off the menu for a taste test.

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Always a crowd-pleaser, how can you say no to a crispy, deep-fried plate of spring rolls ($5)? Hot out of the fryer, 3 sizable rolls sat in a basket, golden-brown & enticing. They were indeed super crispy, their outer webbed wrap giving extra crunch on the outside & inside, a tasty, juicy filling awaited.

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Stuffed full of a pork, vermicelli, black fungus, carrot and whole prawn, these spring rolls were dangerously addictive.IMG_5986

Though good enough on their own, you can also slather on the accompanying sweet chilli dipping sauce. Surprisingly, the sauce wasn’t too syrupy – it was nicely balanced with a gentle heat & sweetness that enhanced the deeply savoury snack.

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For a really fresh and healthier treat, the white cabbage chicken salad ($5) was a massive mountain of veg & protein which made for a filling main, or starter to share. The cool, crunchy cabbage will provide a lovely contrast to your steaming bowls of pho!

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Sweet, sour & refreshing, the salad was fragrant with herbs, spicy with red chilli and full of raw & crispy onion. The bite-sized chunks of poached, skin-on chicken weren’t particularly seasoned, but the dressing more than made up for the lack of flavour. A little sweeter than I like, I zooshed the dish with lashings of umami fish sauce & extra squeezes of lime.

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Go as Raj recommends, for the yummy beef pho, but stay for the other goodies. All in all, you’ll get great-tasting, affordable Vietnamese fare at Saigon Food Street. Raj says try it. You’ll love it!  IMG_5912

TASTE:
SAIGON FOOD STREET
9 Jurong West Ave 5, Stall #18, S(649486)
Open Daily: 8am – 9.45pm
Tel: +65 9794 3631

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