Affordable, Quality Cantonese Seafood Collagen Soup by MasterChef SG Alumnus

Greetings, Makan Kakis!

This week, Masterchef Singapore Season 1 Alumnus Sharon Gonzago joins us with an exciting new update on her post-competition journey – she has a new F&B venture in the heart of the CBD! By the way, if you’re also a talented cook & are feeling inspired, why not register for Season 4? Auditions are now open. Details here!

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Since being featured in MasterChef SG, Sharon Gonzago has been keeping very busy with culinary projects here in Singapore and in Bali, the most recent of which is Soup Cup – her new “Modern Seafood Soup Kiosk” at the basement of Hong Leong Building. She’s always wanted to do affordable food that doesn’t stint on quality and so far, she’s been able to do this at Soup Cup. Everything is made from fresh ingredients and her seafood is delivered fresh every morning.

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The modern concept comes from the self-order touch screen stations, where you can build your own soup cups. Start off with your choice of fish – batang, black grouper or red snapper, which can be paired with secret-marinade minced pork. You can also choose from an extensive list of add-ons including Japanese scallops, Korean clams, squid, prawns, romaine lettuce and fried beancurd rolls. Fancy a staple to make it a complete meal? There’s also furikake rice, thick beehoon or Japanese konjac noodles.

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At Sharon’s recommendation, I tried the signature soup cup, which includes a whole selection of sustainably-sourced seafood, which is great value-for-money at $13 for fresh Japanese scallops, Korean clams, two large prawns, squid, fish slices, minced pork, tofu and romaine lettuce.

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The star of the large portion was, of course, the Cantonese-style collagen soup made from boiling chicken, pork and tee poh (dried flat fish) for 8 hours daily. It was meaty and rich without being cloying and delicately flavoured, umami coming from the tee poh. The side of rice came wrapped like a little hamburger. Japanese condiment Furikake with seasonings, spices, sesame seeds and seaweed added extra flavour to the hot rice.

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I really enjoyed adding the rice into the fish soup in my second order, the Piccolo soup cup, a petite portion of batang fish soup in a large to-go coffee cup, perfect for a light lunch or snack. Bonus: this month of November, each Piccolo order comes with two free deep fried beancurd rolls for dipping! Don’t forget to dip liberally in Sharon’s spicy, zingy chilli sauce that adds a mouth-wateringly bright, acidic tang to cut through the richness of the bowl.

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So if you work in the area, or fancy a hot bowl of quality seafood comfort with no MSG or extra oil added, do check out Soup Cup at Hong Leong Building, conveniently located near the MRT staion and a little walk from Lau Pa Sat. There, you’ll find Sharon when she’s not busy setting up the next outlet, soon to open at White Sands!

TASTE:
SOUP CUP
Hong Leong Building, 16 Raffles Quay, B1-26, Singapore 048581
Open Mon – Fri: 9am – 3.30pm

Fresh, Flavourful Fish Soup & Delicious Duck Porridge Too!

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Click to listen/ download podcast of this week’s bowls of old school comfort!

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This week, our Makan Kaki, Judge of the forthcoming third season of Masterchef Singapore, as well as co-owner & chef of Rempapa, Damian D’Silva returns with another excellent recommendation. In his line of work, he confesses to indulging in a lot of naughty food, that’s why once in a while, he craves a healthier option to feel cleansed and virtuous. For him, the perfect choice is Teochew-style fish porridge. One of his favourite stalls to visit is Ng Soon Kee Fish & Duck Porridge at Geylang East Food Centre. 

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Run by a very friendly old couple who told me that they’ve been in the business for more than 60 years, Ng Soon Kee is extremely popular with residents of the area and when I arrived at 2.30pm (they open at noon) for a taste of the porridge Chef Damian was raving about, the queue was already 10 people deep and 3 more customers joined the line behind me. Thankfully, I waited less than 20 minutes and was amply rewarded with a large $5 bowl of fish porridge (as well as duck porridge, which Chef Damian also enjoys when he’s feeling more indulgent).

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Sambal-smothered Fried Chicken Inspired by Film Legend P. Ramlee!

What do legendary actor P. Ramlee & fried chicken have in common? They are the passions of one man – Mr Haswandi Hashim – converging deliciously at his stall in Jalan Besar. After my Makan Kaki Chef Bjorn Shen, judge of MasterChef Singapore and Middle-Eastern restaurant Artichoke proclaimed it “the most amazing ayam goreng in Singapore” earlier in February this year, I hurried down to confirm this and was not disappointed. A few things have changed since February and on my last visit, I finally met the man behind Chef Bjorn’s favourite fried chicken. Turns out, this ayam goreng comes with rice and sambals as colourful as the story behind it.

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Mr Haswandi and his wife Nur Hafizah Ahmad launched La Porpo just two years ago with little fanfare, but have quickly gained a still-growing fan base. As a massive fan of film legend P. Ramlee, Mr Haswandi decided to name his stall after a catchphrase from his idol’s 1972 movie Laksamana Do Re Mi.

“It was a hilarious comedy and there’s one part where P. Ramlee was sitting on a flying carpet when he said ‘la porpo’, which sounded Spanish to me,” he explained. “La porpo is a phrase used often between me and my childhood friends. We all watched the same movie, so that’s our connection and appreciation of P. Ramlee. To us, it means something friendly, warm, creative.”

Like a secret password or magic code within his social circle, it brings together their shared love for movies and makan that Mr Haswandi hopes will extend to his customers. “I want them to come and get crazy about our flavours,” he said with a smile.

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That’s why he even named his F&B company Rasa Loca (an amalgamation of Malay and Spanish words that means crazy taste) and one of his spicy chilli pastes Sambal Loca. Mr Haswandi is also pleased he has his son’s seal of approval for a greeting he often uses (almost like the stall’s tagline) and can be seen in signage on the storefront, “Yo… What’s good?”

So what is good at La Porpo? Hands down, their ayam goreng or fried chicken, of course. Mr Haswandi’s recipe, “legendary in the family since my grandparents’ time”, has been passed down orally through generations. Combined with Nur Hafizah’s own family recipe, husband and wife have created the ultimate fried chicken, after much trial and error. Theirs is a fundamental fried chicken recipe versatile enough to use in many dishes like their best-selling Kelantan-style nasi kerabu, ayam penyet and ayam geprek. All started off with the same fried chicken foundation, but the difference is in the sambals.

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Nourishing, palate-cleansing Teochew fish porridge

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After weeks of excessive eating, my stomach was protesting. I have to admit I was ready to throw in the fork, spoon and chopsticks. Imagine the relief to hear from my Makan Kaki, Chef Heman Tan of Moonbow at Dempsey, who suggested I reset my body with something pristine and nourishing. As a chef of Modern European cuisine, this stall in Bukit Timah Food Centre is his first stop when he’s in need of a respite from the rich foods he usually whips up in his restaurant. So in times of overindulgence, pay penance at Quan Xiang Fish Porridge with a bowl of their palate-cleansing Teochew-style signature.

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Under the stall’s name, a menu board with the words “lao zi hao” (老字号) printed in large Chinese characters greets you. Roughly translated to “renowned old brand or established enterprise”, both are true for Quan Xiang, a proudly Teochew family business that had its beginnings in 1966 as a roadside pushcart. Stall owner Mr Loh Chee Song told me that his father first began selling his signature fish porridge at the now-defunct Beauty World Market, until frequent fires encouraged the move to their current location in Bukit Timah Food Centre in 1976.

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The business, along with their closely-guarded family recipe, was passed down to Mr Loh in 1999 and for over two decades, he has been perfecting his father’s legacy. When it comes to traditional Teochew-style fish porridge, the emphasis is on retaining the fresh taste of fish, without any overt seasonings or extra ingredients to sully its purity. Unlike other types of Asian fish soup or porridge, no tofu, tomato, seaweed or lard is added. It needs to be very clean and unadulterated, so as to let the main ingredient shine. In Quan Xiang’s case, they use either batang (Spanish mackerel) or the less common wild red garoupa. The freshest they can find.

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Ice vs Spice – Gelato Maker loves this Curry Rice!

MomolatoChefSharonTayHRHi Makan Kakis,

Please meet our new Foodie Friend, investment-banker-turned-award-winning-gelato-chef & founder of Momolato (cafe & gelato brand) Sharon Tay!

Momolato is short for “more and more gelato” and believe me, Sharon has dreamt up an extensive menu of unique and delicious gelato & sorbets that are eco-friendly and halal, with keto, vegan, dairy-free and no-sugar added options.

This week, get to know more about the brand, the cafe and the lady boss behind Momolato (she supplies lots of others places in Singapore too!) – do have a listen to our podcasts!

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Gelato Chef Sharon Tay absolutely adores curry rice, specifically the classic Hainanese type, which features rice & a choice of accompanying dishes, all drenched in a bath of Chinese-style curry gravy. Her hands-down favourite has got to be Tiong Bahru stalwart, Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice, a stall that has a 75-year history and a painstaking curry recipe that allegedly takes 3 days to create.  Operating out of its humble Seng Poh Road coffeeshop, Loo’s continues to delight hungry diners looking for the home-cooked comforts coupled with their signature curry.

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Chef Sharon describes said curry as “creamy” and “aromatic” and indeed, when Denise popped by to do a quick takeaway, the intensity of flavour was distinct, even after sitting wrapped in takeaway wax paper for a good 30 minutes. What it lacked in temperature heat, the curry gravy more than made up for its kick and taste. It had soaked into the rice and dishes, imbuing everything with a delicious spiciness that was rich, yet not cloying.

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Fresh out of the fryer, Chef Sharon cannot resist Loo’s famous pork chop, which is “amazing” and “crispy”. Coated with Khong Guan biscuits that have been pulverised to a fine powder then seasoned and fried, the pork chop boasts a golden-crunchy crumb crust and tender meat, enhanced by the classic sweet & sour Hainanese tomato sauce. Denise, however preferred to enjoy the porkchop sans tomato sauce, to really bump up the pure curry flavour from the gravy slathered all over the dish.

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In true “point-point” rice style, lots of other dishes are on offer at Loo’s, presented in metal containers you can choose from. Denise got there near closing time, but managed to snag some braised cabbage with glass vermicelli, a whole squid and a fried egg which was squirted with sticky-sweet dark soy sauce (hence the deep brown colour of the sauce above).

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All-in-all, Loo’s is really one of the best in Singapore, serving up consistently good curry rice and dishes since 1946 – seven decades of experience is testament to the quality of their food! Hainanese Curry Rice really is one of those quintessential “Ugly-Delicious” dishes – it’s pretty much a brown gloopy mess, but with the very special curry holding everything together, it just tastes wonderful. Hearty, satisfying and comforting!

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TASTE:
LOO’S HAINANESE CURRY RICE
71 Seng Poh Rd, #01-49, S(160071)
Open Fri – Wed: 8am – 2.45pm (closed Thurs)
Tel: +65 62253762

Chef Damian D’Silva Loves Fish with this Teochew Porridge

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Click to listen/ download podcast of this week’s swimmingly superb porridge episode!

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Masterchef Singapore Judge Chef Damian D’Silva loves porridge. Specifically Teochew-style porridge – the plain, watery rice kind served steaming hot with a whole array of cooked dishes. Despite his solidly Eurasian-Peranakan roots, his heart & stomach begin and end with porridge. So much so that he says that would be his last meal because there’s just something so soul satisfying about it.

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Back at Gar Lok Eating House for Econ Rice

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Third time’s a charm with a return to Gar Lok Eating House, a place we’ve visited twice before! Our Makan Kaki Lyn Lee of Awfully Chocolate & Sinpopo brand (check out their gorgeous Lunar New Year hampers, cookies and cakes here!) had such a fascinating time the first time she went for her father-in-law’s favourite Hakka Beef Balls, she had to return to check out the other goodies on offer, including their hand-made Hakka Yong Tau Foo and this week’s recommendation, excellent Economical Rice!

De Ji Shen Cai Fan, serving up hot plates of white rice with a tasty selection of meat, seafood and vegetable dishes, is one of the three stalls occupying the small but charming old school coffeeshop (but is of no relation to the other two Hakka stalls run by the same family). The day Lyn visited, she noticed that even though it was lunchtime, many of the dishes had already been snapped up. What was left on display, in large metal pans, were twelve to thirteen dishes and behind them, already plated, were what she assumed were single leftovers from what had already sold-out – tofu, fish, ngoh hiang and veggies. Definitely more a breakfast place, be sure to get there early to guarantee first dibs on the best variety of dishes!

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Orchard Road Secret: Nasi Padang with Killer Sambal Belacan!

Say you’re starving but you still want variety – something quick, tasty and wallet-friendly. Say those hunger pangs hit hard whilst you’re in the Orchard Road area. Nasi Padang might not be the most obvious choice to fulfill those criteria – unless your Makan Kakis Farah & Claudinho de Morais (behind Brazilian home business Claudinho’s Kitchen) recommend you try one of their favourite hidden gems, tucked away in a quiet fourth-floor corner of Far East Plaza.

Mansor D’Cafe is a mini makan place that can barely fit more than 12 diners (thanks, safe distancing!) in its compact premises. But what it lacks in space, it makes up in masses of flavour and choices. There, classic Malay lunch plates are served cafeteria-style (just get in line and point at what you want) by a charming couple, Mr Amin Mansor and his wife Jamilah Md. Daud.

“Our Nasi Padang is Singapore style! You really cannot find this in other places. All home recipes,” said Mr Amin, affectionately calling Madam Jamilah the “chief chef” and main pillar of their restaurant. Home and heart were never far from his lips when Mr Amin spoke. Respectfully named for Mr Amin’s father, they’ve been keeping Mansor D’Cafe in the family for more than fifteen years at Far East Plaza.

The whole Mansor D’Cafe experience – from the kampung spirit, through which customers were warmly welcomed and treated as more than friends, to the delicious home-spun recipes using fresh ingredients and celebrating local flavours – was like a home-coming.

Click below for all the sedap details:

Continue reading “Orchard Road Secret: Nasi Padang with Killer Sambal Belacan!”