Best of Zichar Techniques with Restaurant Quality Ingredients!

HEAR:
Click here to listen/ download the podcast of this week’s tasty episode!

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This week, our Makan Kaki Cheng Hsin Yao (owner of Picnic Food Park, creator of Omakase Burger, Seizan Uni Ramen & Supergreek grain bowls) recommends the king of comfort food – zichar! And when he wants his zichar fix, he heads to an unlikely place – mainly because from the exterior, it looks like a proper air-conditioned Chinese Banqueting Restaurant, and not the space that usually occupies a kopitiam. But trust him, therein lies the beauty of the food at Gim Tim Restaurant – you get the best of zichar cooking techniques with restaurant quality ingredients in one tasty, happy marriage!

Gim Tim has been an Ang Mo Kio stalwart of Hokkien & Cantonese cuisine since 1975, so no wonder Hsin Yao says their food is tremendous – good wok hei, good flavours without relying too much on sauces, plus the quality of their meat & seafood is really fresh and excellent.

Hsin Yao is a big believer in the classics, so despite the other tempting banquet dishes like Buddha Jumps Over the Wall and Fish Maw soup, he recommends you try his favourite sweet and sour pork. Yes, it’s a ubiquitous dish found on most zichar menus, but it’s extremely difficult to find well-executed versions. That’s why Hsin Yao appreciates Gim Tim’s -tender, juicy sweet and sour pork that just bursts with moisture & flavour.

Also delicious is their Crispy Chicken coated in Sotong (squid) Paste, which is similar to har cheong gai (prawn paste chicken, but a little more unusual). When you bite into the chicken, the crispy skin crackles appealingly and you get a strong umami taste from the sotong paste. So for deceptively simple dishes done right, do give Gim Tim Restaurant a go. Besides their  fancy Chinese banquet-style dishes, their classic zichar dishes also will hit the spot!

TASTE:
Gim Tim Restaurant
157 Ang Mo Kio Ave 4, #01-546, S(560157)
Open Daily: 11.30am – 2.30pm; 6 – 10.30pm
Tel: +65 64597766

What Gin Goes with Peranakan Food?

Greetings Makan Kakis! Back with more yumminess is our Foodie Friend, award-winning cookbook author Shermay Lee of Shermay’s Singapore Fine Food. It’s been a while, so here are 2 main things to catch up on:

Shermay’s wildly popular The New Mrs Lee Cookbook Vol.1 & 2 (first published in 2003) have finally been reprinted and you can purchase this pair of instant classics now at most good bookstore, Amazon, Redmart and shermay.com (for autographed copies). These cookbooks are her updated take on her Grandmother’s (Mrs Lee Chin Koon) original recipes from Mrs Lee’s Cookbook, pain-stakingly taste-tested and broken down into easy-to-follow steps for the modern cook.

She’s teamed up with buffet restaurant The Line at Shangri-La Hotel for a sedap Peranakan collaboration called Grandma’s Kitchen. Basically, she’s taken over their entire Asian section and filled it with a mouth-watering array of classic Nyonya dishes created from her Grandma’s recipes. Best of all, your Grandma dines for free in a limited-time promotion – use the code below when booking! By the way, the rest of the buffet is also at your disposal, from the cold seafood station, to cold cuts, pasta, carving station, Laksa station, desserts, free-flow coffee, local drinks and teh tarik (from a dispenser!), with Shermay’s Peranakan dishes taking centrestage. $80++ is great value for all that! Also, you can go home after seeing & tasting to recreate the makan with their complimentary recipe cards!

HEAR:

  • Click here to listen/ download podcast of Part 1 – Shermay has reprinted her award-winning cookbooks, The New Mrs Lee’s Cookbook Vol 1 & 2!
  • Click here to listen/ download podcast of Part 2 – Shermay’s collab with Shangri-La’s The Line for Grandma’s Kitchen Peranakan Buffet!
  • Click here to listen/ download podcast of this week’s distinctly Singaporean gin distillery!

SEE:
Are you a gin lover? This cocktail du jour is enjoying a spell in the spotlight and understandably so. It’s a refreshing tipple with so many possibilities. This week, Shermay recommends her favourite gin which also happens to be proudly made in Singapore. It’s well-crafted in small batches, with a nod to Asian flavours.


Brass Lion Gin Distillery was set up by Ms Jamie Koh, someone Shermay calls a hardworking, single-minded capable gin crafter with big dreams. It’s been a long path getting to that place of fruition and as a fellow food crafter & small producer, Shermay finds affinity her neighbour, whose gin distillery is just two blocks from her office. Both are extremely hands-on in their businesses, from hand labelling their products, to overseeing production and flavour profiles. Their products are the embodiment of everything they do.

So real quick, what is gin? It’s basically the distillation of botanicals with a neutral grain spirit and as long as juniper makes up the pre-dominant flavour, it can be referred to as a gin. From there, gin crafters can get creative with other flavours and aromatic ingredients. And Jamie K. goes to town, making her gins pop with flavours that are recognisable to the Singaporean palate. Shermay believes this is what sets Brass Lion Gin Distillery apart from others.


There is their signature Singapore Dry Gin, created from 22 botanicals that give expression to our local herbs and spices. So besides juniper berries and coriander seed, Jamie went on a trip to Tekka Market to source for more herbs and spices, like torch ginger flower and lemongrass which were all blended by a master crafter, resulting in a gorgeous gin that really tells an aromatic story of Singapore. Ingredients from our very own wet market? That definitely makes for a gin that is quintessentially Singaporean!

Shermay’s absolute favourite from Brass Lion is one that speaks to her Peranakan heritage. Featuring blue pea flower and lavender, this fragrant and pretty gin starts off as a deep, rich indigo colour. Add a squeeze of kalamansi lime and it morphs into a gorgeous lilac shade – magic! But this is not just a gin that looks good, it tastes good too. Shermay says there’s nothing like a Singapore-made blue pea flower gin to go with the Peranakan food she cooks. During Chinese New Year, these are what she served to her family and they loved it.

For those who prefer  something more assertive, try their Pahit Pink Gin (pahit = bitter in Malay). This gin has a Negroni-esque flavour profile in that it has a pleasant bitterness. Certainly a more acquired taste, this interesting orangey-red gin is served by Shermay with a twist of orange or lemon zest.

If you want to get your hands and thirsty tastebuds on Brass Lion gins, Shermay suggests making a day out of visiting the distillery for a full experience. For $45, a tour will procure you a welcome drink, an introduction to the history of Brass Lion Distillery, a visit to their copper still, how gin is made and to finish off, a flight of gins to taste! This gorgeous old conservation building also houses a retail space, R&D lab, herb garden, tasting rooms and an upstairs bar where bespoke, customised Gin & Tonics are made for you.

If you want to take your gin experience to another level, you could also enroll in Brass Lion’s Gin School, a masterclass in choosing botanicals, gin distilling, and the creation of your very own gin to take home. This is a great Sunday afternoon to spend with an intimate group of friends, or even for corporate events.

Brass Lion gins are proudly made in Singapore – distilled in Pasir Panjang! So Westies, take note – there are some really awesome places to discover if you know where to look!

TASTE:
Brass Lion Distillery
40 Alexandra Terrace, S(119933)
Tasting room hours: 5pm – midnight (Tues – Fri); 2pm – midnight (Sat); 2 – 7pm (Sun)
Tel: +65 69540602

WHICH WANTAN MEE DO YOU PREFER?

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Click here to listen/ download podcast of this week’s double recommendation of wantan mee spiciness!

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Hello Makan Kakis! If you love Wantan Noodles as much as our Foodie Friend Xin Hui Helder-Eng, then you might already  be familiar with Eng’s Noodles House, of amazing springy noodles, crispy lard & fiery chilli fame. In particular, everybody talks about the extra-spicy chilli sauce that can make you cry and bring you to your knees! Of late though, there’s been some debate over the appearance of TWO Eng’s wantan mee restaurants along the same stretch of Tanjong Katong Road. Are they the same as the original noodles the late chef-owner Mr Ng Ba Eng gave us? Why are there two shops with almost the same name opposite each other? And which one is better?  Xin Hui did a little digging to find out…

Eng’s Wantan Noodle (original location)

In a nutshell, the original stall at number 287 started by the late Mr Ng was handed down to his children to continue the family’s culinary legacy, but there was also an investment with a larger commercial food company. The partnership didn’t work out and the food company retained the original chef and many of the staff, whilst the children left to start their own shop just across the road, using their father’s recipe.

ENG’S Char Siew Wantan Mee (opened by children)

And as foodies, it’s our job to keep up a lively discussion – which one do you support? The bloodline or the original chef? Which one do we prefer? Obviously, opinions are pretty much divided as to which version of Eng’s wantan mee is better, because our taste is so subjective.

Xin Hui knows which she prefers but very diplomatically says that while she orders more from the original at number 287 (now renamed Eng’s Wantan Noodle), she does think they’ve nailed it with the noodles across the road (named ENG’S Char Siew Wantan Mee). They’ve also their menu to included many other dishes and the space is air-conditioned, with nicer tables and chairs, all of which do play a part in your decision. However, both shops serve up the signature chilli sauce that remains as tongue-searingly spectacular as ever.

People also now identify the restaurants by the colour of their plates – Green for the original and white for the new. So which to choose? Green or white? Weighing the pros and cons, there’s really only one answer – TRY BOTH! After all, they’re both so closely located. Taste both and let us know what you think!

TASTE:
ENG’s Wantan Noodle (original location/ Green plates)
287 Tanjong Katong Road, S(437036 )
Open Daily: 11 am – 9 pm
Tel: +65 86882727

ENG’s Char Siew Wantan Mee (new, operated by next gen/ White plates)
248 Tanjong Katong Road, S(437036 )
Open Daily: 10.30 am – 8.45 pm
Tel: +65 87986088

 

Char Kway Teow Worth Waking Up at 6am For!

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Click here to listen/ download podcast of this wokalicious episode!

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Char Kway Teow remains one of the most popular local dishes for us Makan Kakis, so get ready for a real treat today. Our Foodie Friend Shawn Kishore of The Salted Plum returns with his recommendation, a place he calls one of his all-time breakfast places.

“Char Kway Teow for breakfast?” We hear you say. The answer is YES and you’ll understand once you get a taste of this Michelin Bib Gourmand awardee’s specialty.

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Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee has consistently been making “Best Of” lists for years and rightly so. Shawn says it’s the really high quality dark soya sauce they use that lends the entire fried noodle dish a pleasant sweetness that balances perfectly with the other savoury flavours and the powerful aroma of lard. Kissed with char and smokiness, the wok hei is amazing too.

Most mornings, you’ll find Shawn at the Hong Lim Food Centre stall at 6.30am tucking in to his special order of Char Kway Teow, with $2 of extra see hum (cockles, which he claims have a brininess and texture that cuts through all the richness) and extra chilli for a fiery kick that offsets the savory-sweetness delectably.

Judging from the snaking queues, Shawn’s not the only one who’s there for a super-early morning indulgence. The trick is to get there before 6.45am to avoid the legendary wait. Though this is one Char Kway Teow worth queuing for!

TASTE:
Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee
Hong Lim Market & Food Centre
531A Upper Cross St, #02-17, S(051531)
Open: Mon – Sat 6am – 3.30pm (Closed Sundays & public holidays)

OH MY OMAKASE!

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Click here to listen/ download podcast of this week’s oishii episode!

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Greetings Gluttons! Brace your bellies because this week, we bring you a multi-course experience that’s filling, affordable and absolutely delicious. Add an affable, entertaining Japanese chef and you have a wonderful, leisurely night out! Our Makan Kaki Wendy Foo of Ryan’s Grocery recommends a place she loves and has been visiting for years, especially on date night with he husband. Matsuo Restaurant has an excellent omakase experience which you must try. Here’s a sample of what Chef Hiroyuki Matsuo might serve you and rest assured everything will be super-fresh and beautifully prepared.

Pickles, Radish & Garlic
Appetizer of marinated salmon roe, tamago egg & eel, seaweed with wasabi and deep fried silver fish
Dried baby sardine & puffer fish
sashimi platter

Salad
Grilled Thornyhead Fish
Fish sperm
Grilled Wagyu Beef
Sushi Platter
Chef Hiroyuki Matsuo

You have the added bonus of the very entertaining chef-owner, who has been in Singapore for decades and speaks fluent Singlish and Hokkien! Wendy says chatting with him is always a pleasure  and definitely adds to the whole dining experience. He’s also very obliging – happy to serve more of what you require, like sashimi, for instance!

By the way, Matsuo doesn’t just offer Omakase, you can also order off their ala carte menu and do consider returning for their wonderful, amply portioned Chirashi Don & Sushi Set Lunches going for $20 & under!

TASTE:
Matsuo Restaurant
1 Goldhill Plaza #01-17 S(308899)
Open Daily: Mon – Sat 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM & 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM; Sun 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Tel: 63562603

Fried Carrot Cake (菜头粿)

HEAR:
Click here to listen/ download podcast of this week’s cripsy, eggy episode!

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Hello Makan Kakis! Gayatri Restaurant’s Director S. Mahenthiran is back this week to recommend a fried carrot cake that is very special to him. Contrary to its name, in South-east Asia, this savoury dish isn’t made from carrots, but from from cubes of jiggly radish cake (rice flour and fresh grated radish or daikon are combined then steamed). Granted, this local hawker dish can be found round every corner in Singapore, but Mahen says this one really stands out.

Head on over to famous food institution Chomp Chomp in Serangoon Garden (so much good stuff there!) and you’ll find Ang Mo Kio 409 Fried Carrot Cake frying up their signature dish.

get the yin yang (black & white carrot cake) for $5

At just between $3 – $5, the dish is affordable and perfectly balanced, with just the right combination of shrimp (both dried and fresh), egg, chye poh (salted preserved turnip), rice flour & radish. Of course the carrot cake is available in the Black (with dark, sweet soy sauce) or White (without the dark sauce) versions. For Mahen, he gravitates towards the white carrot cake  because it’s got an irresistible crispiness – just the way he likes it. The taste is so good it doesn’t actually need condiments, but if you want a kick of heat, their chilli can be quite spicy!

TASTE:
Ang Mo Kio 409 Fried Carrot Cake (Now known as Chomp Chomp Fried Oyster)
Chomp Chomp Food Centre
#01-24, 20 Kensington Park Rd, S(557269)
Open: Tues – Sun 4pm – 11:30pm (Closed Mon)

BONUS!

Going by their name change, we decided to try their oyster omelette (orh jian with added starch) and it was very tasty.


It had enough wok hei, lovely charred crisp bits and a generous amount of plump, juicy oysters of a good size. Worth a try too! Especially with lashing of their vinegary chilli sauce.

Alternative Asian-Style Roasts for Christmas

‘Tis the season for roasted turkeys, glazed hams and other festive eats. But why not embrace the flavours of Asia instead and celebrate with Cantonese-style roasted meats?

After hearing about this place from my Gold 905 Makan Kaki Chef Lim Yew Aun of The Cicheti Group, I hurried over to Keong Saik Road for some season’s eatings in the form of char siew (barbequed pork) and siew yoke (crispy pork belly), with some roasted duck thrown in for good measure. One bite and I knew I was going to have myself a tasty, er, merry little Christmas, thanks to Foong Kee Coffee Shop.


With chef-owner Derrick Wong Wai Chiew

TASTE: Foong Kee Traditional Charcoal Roasted is located at
Foong Kee Coffee Shop, 6 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089114.
It’s open Mondays to Saturdays, 11am – 8pm. They close on Sundays and public holidays.

Peranakan Herb Rice Salad Packs a Punch!

Babas and Nyonyas, stop me if you know this one: What do you get when you cross a herb salad with rice? Any true-blue Peranakan will tell you the answer is nasi ulam. The combination of aromatic Asian herbs, rice and, sometimes, seafood, is what makes nasi ulam such a wonderful, cool dish for our Southeast Asian climate.

Found all over southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and here in Singapore, recipes for nasi ulam differ from location to location, family to family, but this Peranakan version was recommended to me by KF Seetoh, the founder of renowned food guide Makansutra.

Chendol Melaka at Soy Eu Tua Coffeeshop along Upper East Coast Road is run by the irrepressible Daisy Tan and her husband Colin Yam. Once the regional director of a shipping firm, this self-confessed “200 per cent” bibik is now wholly dedicated to preserving her Peranakan culture through her culinary delights, like delicious chendol, kueh-kueh and her signature dish, nasi ulam.

With Nyonya Daisy Tan & her husband Colin Yam

TASTE: Chendol Melaka is located at Soy Eu Tua Coffeeshop, 15 Upper East Coast Road, Singapore 455207.
It’s open 10am-5pm (Tuesdays to Fridays) and 9am-5pm (Saturdays and Sundays). Closed Mondays.
To “reserve” your nasi ulam, call Colin Yam at 9777 6471.