Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Taiwanese Porridge

So I went to Shin Yeh for the Taiwanese sweet potato porridge but I was not done. I had to go to another famous place for porridge the next night and we ended up at Xiao Li Zi.

This stretch of shop houses is famous for their porridge. We had wanted to go to the next shop but was closed for renovation. So we ended up here and the food was good too. The shop is two storey and the food is all located on the ground floor. Some tables on the ground floor too. And during dinner time, it gets crowded. We had to wait for some folks to vacate their table before we started ordering.

The front is where the food display is.

Rows and rows of food displayed. You pick up a tray and point at what you want and they put it on a dish for you.

A cooking station to blanch the vegetables

Some of the food are kept on warmers. Like this cabbage with pork balls - the pork balls are called shi zhi tou or translated “lion head”. Called that because the pork balls are shaped into round balls resembling the lion’s head.

Bai cai with beancurd skin.

And what was (to me at least) the most delicious dish of the night - duck blood! I believe they no longer allow blood to be sold in Singapore so this dish is a must have for me. And they cook it with sian chye (salted mustard green). It is absolutely delicious!

And the other dish that was nice was the pork trotter. Braised till the meat is tender.

We also had steamed fish which was ok - nothing fantastic.

And chai po nearing - pickled turnip omelette. Nice but a far cry from Shin Yeh.

And the xiao yu hua shen which is also not as nice as the Shin Yeh.

Overall, it was a nice meal and an inexpensive one. My hosts told me the meal cost TWD1,200 which is around SGD50 for three persons. Certainly cheaper than in Singapore. And there were a lot more dishes we did not try. Ready to head back to Taipei - save for another day. But for that night, I became the vampire!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Shin Yeh Taiwanese Cuisine

Taiwan… One of my favourite cities for good food. And throughout my years of traveling to Taipei, I have always made a point to visit local restaurant Shin Yeh.

In the late 90s when I was frequenting Taipei almost every month, I was a regular at Shin Yeh Restaurant. And I have my favourite dishes there to. Previously they had an old establishment nearby the Grand Hyatt Hotel which has since been closed down. Nowadays, they have more “upmarket” locations and this time around, we visited the outlet at the Mitsukoshi Department Store. The long corridor into the restaurant.

In the old days, I was such a regular guest that the Manager of the restaurant Ms Hsu would have me a table even without reservations. And she would know my food preferences too. Starting off with the chai po nerng (pickled turnip fried egg), xiao yu hua shen (fried silver fish with peanuts), zhu kan (pan fried liver), ay chai (stir fry vegetables) and of course the sweet potato porridge.

This time around, it was just us two so I could not offer much. First up, chai po nerng. Pan fried to perfection… What I like about how they do it at Shin Yeh is they have perfected the pan fry for this dish. The egg is thick and fluffy and the pickled turnip sweet as opposed to the salty kind we get here in Singapore. See the nice brown texture of the omelette.

And now for the inside - fluffy egg with nice chunks of chai po.

And the dish both Gina and I love, pig’s liver. They do it just nice - still juicy and succulent. Many restaurants overcook this dish. But dang… high cholesterol.

This next dish is rather peculiar - they call it ay chai. Honestly, I don’t know what to call it in English except that this is a local vegetables that for the longest time was fed to ducks. Then they took it and made it into a stir fry with garlic and it is very refreshing. Texture is almost like spinach.

Another favourite of mine is also the chicken roll - they call it jee zhuen which is chicken roll. The taste is almost like char siew but wrapped in beancurd skin and then deep fried. Sounds yummy right? It is… trust me.

Nice chunky pieces of chicken meat rolled in with some vegetables. When I first tasted this dish, I thought it was char siew inside only to notice the name of the dish says - chicken roll.

And what is sweet potato porridge without fried silver fish and peanuts - they call it xiao yu hua shen which literally means small fish peanuts.

And by this time, I was so hungry I totally forgot to take a picture of the sweet potato porridge. But it was a meal I have been pining for a long time. Craving satisfied!

And at the end, you get free dessert - mua chee. Shin Yeh also has a branch in Singapore located in Liang Court. It has been awhile since I have been there. So I think I shall make it there soon to make a comparison.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Bavarian Delight - Pork Knuckle!

When you visit Germany, beer and pork knuckles come to mind. So when I visited the northern city of Hamburg, that was what I went in search for.

We stayed at the Grand Elysee hotel near the lake. Just about 15 minutes walk to the city centre where there are plenty of eateries. We found Franziskaner at the corner of Colonnaden near the city centre.

Franziskaner is a bavarian style restaurant and as one would expect, serves good beer and a hearty meal too.

The restaurant is a quaint rustic place with wooden tables and chairs. It was a Sunday night and it was packed… mostly with Chinese tourists!

The menu is one that we would expect - containing many pork dishes. So what comes to mind? The crispy pork knuckle of course!

But wait! The Chinese tourists orders all of the remaining 22 pork knuckles there was in the house… What a disappointment! No pork knuckles!!! The bartender told us that we were about half an hour too late - they beat us to it. So we had to re-examine the menu again.

Boris, the bartender was kind enough to offer a recommendation - try the lumberjack steak. Although mentioned as a steak, Boris explained that it is actually pork. So lumberjack steak it was!

And while we were waiting for the main meal, I ordered a German Rose sparkling wine. Rather nice for a starter - I don't drink beer you see...

This is Boris serving lager to my friends that night.

Then came the lumberjack steak - after about 30 minutes. Long wait and we were famished! 4 of us all orders the same.

A big piece of pork steak I must say. Served with caramelized onions, fried potatoes and long beans. Fork tender but a tad too salty for me.

And to down that pork steak, I ordered the Riesling - perfect for such a heavy meal. Slightly sweet on the palette and cuts through the greasiness of the steak.

The four of us all eating the lumberjack steak.

We were not satisfied that we could not have the crispy pork knuckle so after a week of meetings, we went back Friday night - second try for me! And we were lucky. The restaurant was less crowded this time around. Surprise surprise for a Friday night!

BUt why do I care? I just wanted my pork knuckle. And this time, I will not be denied! Look! Pork knuckle in the rotisserie!

So pork knuckle it was for me. Fried and then grilled to perfection!

Nice and crispy on the outside but still moist and tender on the inside. All one needs is a knife to cut the knuckle into half and then slowly pick the meat off the bone.

Another colleague of mine had the sirloin steak which he told me was also really good. A nicely done piece of steak as I was told. Served with onion rings and fried potatoes.

So happy that I was able to taste the Bavarian pork knuckle on this trip. And on both occasions, had an enjoyable evening. Thanks much to Boris! Pay him a visit and if he is there, tell him Eddie said hi!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Bang Na Delight - Dessert in Thailand

I was in Bangkok recently and a good friend of mine took me to a seafood restaurant in Bang Na - a city/town nearby the airport.

To be honest, I loved the food so much I totally forgot to take pictures of what we ate during lunch. But I can tell you the crab meat was truly amazing! The seafood soup reminds me of the "kimchi" seafood soup except that they use a little more tomato paste and lots of chili. Great stuff the seafood soup - with pieces of young coconut kelp. But I digress…

After our meal, we were leaving when we came across a seldom seen dessert set up just outside the seafood restaurant. Coconut based dessert is common in BKK but this is the first time I am eating it. They call it Kenom Toei - toei means small saucer in Thai.
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The dessert is steamed in small saucers and made from coconut milk and palm sugar - that gives the bottom layer its brown color. Seen here is the palm sugar based used to make the first layer.
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The dessert comes in two layers - the bottom half is sweet while the top half is salty. The bottom kettle houses the first mixture which contains the palm sugar and the top kettle is filled with salted coconut milk.
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When the water boiled, the ladies pours the first mixture into the saucers. Filling half the saucer.
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Then she lets the saucer steam for about 5 minutes.
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When the timer rings, it is time to pour the second mixture and then steam again for another 5 minutes.
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Then it is time and they have to remove the tray of dessert and allow it to cool for about one minutes.
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The lady takes the saucers out by hand and presents them on a tray.
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The dessert is eaten warm. Cut it into half and you can see the two layers of the dessert. Bottom half sweet and top half salty. The bottom half is gel like. Goes pretty well I must say.
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And when we were finished, we had another one packet for take away.
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I carried the packet all the way back to Singapore and I must say that the Kenom Toei tasted better chilled! I was told by the lady that the saucers are older vintage saucers that are hard to find. She even had a tourist offer to buy her whole set - saucer, kettle, steamers and all. Its not in the hardware, its in the recipe. Try it the next time you go to Bangkok - if you can find it.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Indonesian Food in Batam - Sedap & Shiok!

So how different is the food here from what we can get back home in Singapore. Actually, we were really not expecting much but I must say that we were pleasantly surprised by what we had at the Montigo Resort & Spa in Batam.

We only had two nights and three days and we were not going to town. All we wanted to do on this trip was to relax in the villa and enjoy each others' company. So we wanted to eat in and we were told that there were only two restaurants - Tadd's which is an all-day dining restaurant and Pantai Seafood Restaurant which only operates during dinner time.

So immediately after check in, we headed out to Tadd's for lunch. They have a rather extensive menu - from local cuisine to the western fare like fish and chip etc. We decided to go local. While we waited for our order, they served us bread with a local fruit condiment. The concoction was very refreshing and goes well with the soft bread. Consisting of kiwi fruit, pineapple and dragon fruit, the condiment was a perfect compliment to the bread.
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I ordered the soto ayam. Instead of the longtong (ketupat) that comes with the soto ayam, I opted for bee hoon (vermicelli) instead. Accompanying the bowl of soto ayam are two pieces of the bergedil (potato burger). The soto ayam is made from chicken broth rich from the spices like turmeric, blue ginger and lemongrass. What's different from the Singapore version is the fact they add cabbage into the broth and hard boiled egg. They also add ground cashew nuts prior to serving.
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While i had the soto ayam, Gina ordered the mee goreng - fried noodle and a side dish of satay (they call it sate in Indonesia). And all main meals come with the keropok. Gina said the mee goreng was nice but a tad too spicy for her. I thought it was ok. My soto ayam was what I had expected - bee hoon with shredded chicken and cabbage in a rich chicken broth.
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Over lunch, we were told the restaurant has a signature dish - Ayam Panggang Berempah. Since we were going to have a BBQ seafood dinner in the villa the next night, we chose to skip Pantai Seafood Restaurant and headed back to Tadd's instead. So it was Ayam Panggang Berempah for me.
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Served in a wooden plate, the dish consisted of half a spring chicken, string beans, samba chili and rice. The chicken was marinaded in local spices - I could taste turmeric and a few other ginger spices and some coconut milk. Well grilled - chicken was still moist on the inside. The strong beans was cooked in a coconut milk recipe - couldn't quite get it but it was sure delicious. The sambal was a killer - had to ask for one more serving of the sambal.
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Gina ordered the Curry Udang (prawns) which was something different from what we are used to. We typically have sambal prawns and not curry prawns but this version was well done. Prawns were still crunchy to the bite and the curry was a nice compliment with the rice.
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Overall we were happy with our meals at Tadd's. Can't comment on Pantai as we did not have dinner there at all. Breakfast was also nicely done in the morning. In our first morning breakfast, they had a full buffet spread including local favorites like nasi lemak, prata, egg station where you can order your eggs done several ways etc. For me, it was all local - prata for me…
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What I liked about the prata here compared to the SIN version is the amount of egg one gets in the prata. Done such that the whole prata fluffs up… great tasting prata with chicken curry. Gina had her normal omelet and pastries.

What we were looking forward was for the dinner at the villa - the in-villa BBQ dinner. One has to choose the menu from a few sets available. The crew came to set up the BBQ pit at the balcony area, just beside the pool.
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The fire was started…
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And the table set.
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While we waited for the food, the crew showed us the sauces available to us - peanut sauce, mustard, kecap manis with chili, sambal, tomato ketchup, chili sauce and mint sauce.
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And while we waited for the food, we snacked on the cracker emping belinjo. Can be eaten by itself but best with the sambal.
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And what is a nice dinner without wine? Tuscan wine is great for such dinners - and that night, we had the Le Volte.
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First up was the salad with a vinaigrette followed by tempeh - a kind of fermented bean. Grilled to perfection and when eaten with green chili, shiok!
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The grilled vegetables were done just right - still juicy and crunchy to the bite. I like the green peppers especially.
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The first meats were the seafood - scallops, fish (red snapper), prawns and squids. The best part were the scallops. The squid was not so good though - a little chewy to the bite.
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Then came the BBQ chicken. This was done well with the chicken being marinaded with the traditional Indonesian marinade. Nicely charred in the right places and still juicy on the inside.
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All I can say is that we could not finish all the food. Way too much food for two people to eat and especially when you are taking your time to eat and enjoying the wine at the same time.

The breakfast the next day was a much simpler affair - a set menu instead of a buffet we had the previous day. Gina had the American breakfast consisting of pastry, bread roll, two eggs done any style and fruits. I had the local set and in this case was the ayam soto with bee hoon and roti jon.
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The roti jon was rather special - scrambled eggs with sambal ikan bilis on top of a french loaf. Spicy and delicious.
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Overall, I thought the food was pretty good. Expensive by local standards but affordable considering this is resort pricing. Thumbs up from me. Go visit my other blog on the sunset at the resort.