Sunday, April 29, 2007
Dim sum, to me, has always been nothing more than a term used to refer to small portions of high cholesterol, prawn-laden parcels/packages/treasures.
Very much a Hong Kong thing, it didn't really appeal much to me, until recently. Perhaps I've been just plain ignorant but I found it hard to be excited over tiny dumplings and buns. I guess I was missing out on a lot.
Whether is it because my family's lack of interest in dim sum, or just blatant narrow-mindedness on my part, it doesn't matter. It really doesn't make a difference now because I am crazy about dim sum. Or at least with a certain dim sum place that I discovered last month when a couple of my friends from SMU introduced me to it.
No no, it's not that I've never popped a har gao (prawn dumplings) or siew mai (steamed minced pork dumplings) into my mouth. I have! I've eaten at Yum Cha, Din Tai Fung etc... but like I said, the level of appreciation stopped there - the savouring it at face value. Really not sure how to explain, but yea, I think I didn't quite get the whole dim sum thing.
Anyway, back to what I've been meaning to rave about. Yes yes, this tiny cosy outfit can be found in Sunshine Plaza along Bencoolen Street. Victor's Kitchen is its name and seriously, you cannot let the exterior fool you. You can't! That's unless you only like eating food in nice posh air conditioned places. But you know what? Even if you do, you got to at least try out the dim sum from this place at least once or do a take-away.
What's so incredibly special about Victor's Kitchen? It's not just the reasonable prices, it's the quality and freshness. I hear the sceptics rising from their chairs, ready to question me, but hold on, hold on a second. At least let the photos speak for themselves:
That's the fresh succulent prawn from the har gao. It's amazingly tender and delicious. You know how important the freshness of the prawns are. When you eat har gao, it's only the thin translucent skin that covers the crusteacean and if it stinks or lacks freshness (the prawns), it's very obvious and the entire experience will go down the drain.
Prior to my visit to Victor's Kitchen, I did a Google search about it on the internet to have a sense of what to order. I found Chubby Hubby's post on Victor's Kitchen and ordered almost everything he recommended, including the Oyster Sauce Char Siu Bao; which I absolutely adored!
Chunks of scrumptious char siu awaited me with each bite and it was definitely much nicer than most char siu buns I've tried. The fluffy pillow of goodness put not just a grin on my face but a twinkle in my eye. No, I'm not exaggerating; you can ask the friends who came with me! hahaaa
That's not all... what's to come is even better:
Custard buns. Filled with egg custard that had corn bits and salted egg yolk, this was one sweet bun that I will not forget. I think it was my first time eating such a bun and I really got to say this: the custard takes the bun hands down. Part jelly-like, and part creamy, the sweet filling tasted good even with the salted egg in it. Very intriguing and fantastic bun. Yummy to the very last crumb.
Being a chee cheong fun fan, I had to try their You Tiao Chee Cheong Fun (rice flour rolls stuffed with fried dough fritters):
There's just something about the silky white 'skin' that appeals to me. This one is made on the spot and has a certain elasticity that enchants as much as it satisfies the tastebuds. Love the sauce they served it with, and the you tiao was still very crispy and superb:
Don't you just love the different textures and flavours of Chinese cuisine?
Here's the glutinous rice wrapped with lotus leaf:
There's chicken, salted egg, Chinese sausage and ginger in it. Sticky rice is my kind of thing and it's always fun using the chopsticks to pick out chunks of rice. That's because I am not blessed with fantastic chopsticks skills and have to contend with using it only when really necessary. I know, I should master the proper way.
Well with glutinous rice it's so much more easier. Who's the genius who thought of wrapping the rice in lotus leaf? It does make a difference in the taste of the rice. I totally devoured this one with chilli sauce and the sauce from the chee cheong fun.
I've been there only twice but it's now already in my mental list of places to recommend others. Trust me, my friends have heard me raving about the place and I do hope they go there and try it! And you my friend :) if you're reading this, go give it a try.
The owner's actually from Hong Kong I heard and it's really authentic - in terms of cooking style et al.
And remember, don't be fooled by the humble tables and shaky stools. After all, it's the quality of the food that counts, no?
Sunshine Plaza, #01-21
91 Bencoolen St,
Open Tues to Sun, 10am-9pm.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
When it comes to popcorn, there are 5 separate camps:
Those who like their popcorn salty, and those who like them sweet. Then there are those who prefer microwaved popcorn and then some like popping their own corn in a pot over the stove. And not forgetting those who simply buy them at the cinema snack counter.
I never used to be a popcorn person. When it came to movies, it was always chips or chocolate. Popcorn wasn't a common occurence in my life. Even now, it makes an entrance only once in a while. But lately, I've been having imaginative thoughts about popcorn. You know, popcorn is so versatile, there's caramel popcorn, chocolate popcorn, cheese, etc. Heck I won't be surprised if there's a black pepper popcorn flavour! Hey that's an idea. I might just try it out later. :p
Anyway, this post is about one easy peasy way of making some yummy popcorn that tastes oh so good! Was at Borders the other day, flipping through recipe books as usual and I came across this simple popcorn flavour recipe. It's so simple you can do it in your sleep. So listen carefully! Erm, read carefully I mean.. haha
Sooo.. all you need is caster sugar, ground cinnamon and cocoa powder! Mix together 3 tbsp caster sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp cocoa powder. That's your flavour.
How do you end up with cocoa cinn popcorn then? Simple. Get a pot, measure about 3 tsp of oil (olive, canola, sunflower works fine), place one or two kernels of corn and turn the heat to low. You don't want to get the oil too hot too quickly. So you wait by the stove (don't worry it won't take long. haha get a stool if you're tired) and wait till you hear the kernels pop! This is a signal that the oil is ready. Now, throw in 75g of corn (those hard dried kernels... NTUC sells them cheap! $1 for about 400g only!) and let the poppin' begin!
Pop! Pop! Pop!
Wait till the popping stops. Now, throw in your cocoa cinn flavour mixture, and start mixing in. Be quick because the sugar will caramelise really quick and you want your popped corn to be evenly coated with the cocoa cinn flavour.
Once you've mixed it in, set aside to cool and store in an air-tight container.
Ta-dah! It's easy ain't it? I love popping corn in a pot. Am simply not a big fan of microwaved popcorn. Anyway for microwave popcorn, they turn out toooo salty and tooo buttery! You know what's really good? Naked popcorn. Yes you read it correctly. I can take popcorn plain. Hey, it's yum! I love the crunch. :)
I've made this cocoa cinn popcorn twice already and was happy with the results. Just ask my sis and bro. They cleared it up so quick that I found an empty bottle on my desk when I came home :p Well that just gives me reason to make more.
Popcorn is really fun! I'm thinking of parmesan cheese with sea salt! Hmmm.. how about lemon pepper or even paprika! Yes, I do love salty popcorn too. Actually I kinda prefer it salty. But as usual, I'm not innately fussy so if you give me whichever, I'll still taste it.
Gosh, I'm really crazy about Cedele Depot's cakes right now. Been eating alot of it lately! But I haven't been patient enough to snap photos before shoving my fork into it. You know what, in my next post, I'll describe the cakes without pictures - that will seriously put my writing to a test! Hope you people don't doze off. haha....
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
What do you eat when you're hungry in the afternoon?
Eat something light a la crackers and tea or do you go for something heavier?
I'm always curious to know what others have for tea. What's the big deal you ask? Hmmm, I guess I'm quite a fan of the whole concept of English High Tea. Think scones with good tea or coffee. What I do know is, that I am not in England; though I desperately wish I was. Most locals usually settle for warm pandan accented eighty-cents waffles from those simple Chinese bakeries, have kaya toasts with half-boiled eggs with a liberal amount of dark soya sauce and pepper or they have 'pau' (buns), and heck, some go full on and get carrot cake.
Singapore is so food-friendly that it's hard not to want to eat anything and everything at first sight. Perhaps that's why the habit of an official 'tea' time is not so rampant. Most of the time, we just put this and that in our mouth whenever we feel like it, eradicating the need for a sit-down tea session. At least this is what I've observed.
Usually when my friends want to meet up with me mid-day, it never starts with "Let's meet for tea!". Instead, (no prizes for guessing) the choice word here is, yes, expectantly, "coffee". Is it because of our culture? Do Singaporeans drink more coffee than tea? I doubt so. I do know a fair number of people who love their tea, down to the very last diluted drop.
Whether is it coffee or tea, I think the afternoon snack time is kinda celebrated in a simple way here. Okay, not always. Those who prefer some posh nosh usually go for high teas at hotels and restaurants. haha i'm not so privileged to go for these that often but when I do, I savour each nibble with patience and suddenly, I'm like "whoa, this canape looks so delicate" and I would be wondering how they put it together - and it's always a guess-what-ingredient moment.
Yea, that makes me out to be quite the greenhorn eh? I'm not afraid to admit that I'm always learning. It's this curiousity that perhaps pushes me to step out of boundaries and venture into new challenges.. Now now, that's why I bake bread even when I know I would probably suck at it because of the lack of experience. Hey, we all start somewhere don't we? :p
Seriously, if there's anything you take out of reading my humble food blog, let it be this: if you want to succeed, you've got to set your mind on it, pursue it wholeheartedly and let the outcome speak for itself. Don't ever let the fear of failure stop you in your tracks. It's all about the pursuit, not the end. So what if your cake doesn't rise or you have cookies as hard as a rock? That just calls for another try. Trust me, I've had my fair share of burnt cakes, hard bread and alot of other indescribable messes. When that happens, I persevere even harder. I think one should live life this way as well.
How about you imagine it this way... Here are some canapes:
Don't you think it looks gorgeous? Let me tell you, it tastes better than it looks. The smoked salmon dissolves in your mouth, and the sliced baguette? It's crisp and tasty.
Now now, how about you take a look at something sweet:
These cakes might be small but they pack a punch. They look like pieces of art and the moment they entered my mouth, I was like "Mmmmm...." It was that good.
Yes yes... I think canapes sometimes make for better yum than an entire full blown meal. I'm sure I don't have to explain why. So many different tastes for different palettes and it's all about the quality not the quantity anyway.
So, what has canapes - good looking and delicious tasting canapes have anything to do with what I've been talking about?
Let me put it this way. What you've seen are only a fraction of what the chefs have produced in the kitchen. I don't suppose you think that this was it? Those of you cooks out there would know what I'm talking about. Back in the kitchen, where the customer doesn't see what happens, well, it's chaos (most of the time, if not all). There's a mad rush to produce the dishes in record time. After all, everyone knows that it's not very fun to serve a cranky hungry patron.
So as I was saying, all these canapes look damn good. But hello... that's not reality.
You don't see what goes on! There are some that have been poorly assembled, and there are those which just suck - either the person did it wrongly, miss out an ingredient or worse (gasp!) dropped it on the floor. hahaa
My point being - just because you see something looking so pretty doesn't mean it took little effort. And sometimes it just takes longer for something to be that beautiful. I don't know about you, but this is the same way I see life.
I've had my fair share of ups and downs, highs and lows but I've always managed to pull through, simply because of my outlook. If you ask me, I'll just tell you I will never give up. I'm not a person who will throw in the towel because it's tough. I challenge the process. I am a passionate person and you need drive to ensure your passions are put across ideally.
The same thing goes for baking and cooking. I am admirable of chefs who've made it big but I also know that it came with a huge amount of effort and dedication.
Remember my online bakery dream and all? Been seriously thinking about it with one of my very close friend. She and I are determined to provide you dear readers of mine with something a little quirky, personal and original. Let me put it this way, you'll know it's us when you see it. Haha. I'm not saying anything more. It's all in the works.
Meanwhile, thank you for all your support and I'll let you know when my bake sale starts.. which ahem, is soon..
Here's an entire tier of canapes and yummy treats for your eyes:
Oh, in case you were wondering, this high tea was provided by The Fullerton for an event at the National Museum. My cousin was performing and we (Krys and I) went there to support him. :0)
Monday, April 23, 2007
Some people are proud to label themselves carnivores, some herbivores and then there are those who worship all things that swim in the ocean.
Now if you ask me which category I belong in, I will have a hard time choosing. I eat anything and everything. Okay maybe not everything. I don't fancy eating tarantulas (heard that they sell them whole in the Philippines) or scorpions.
Perhaps I'm just someone with a sweet tooth. Pile onto my desk lots of chocolates, pastries and cake and I'll be grinning from ear to ear.
But again, I cannot live on sugar alone - it's really not that great an idea. Yes I can have dessert for main course but hey we all must eat in moderation.
Whatever it is, it's always fascinating when I enter a market, supermarket, food court, restaurant, kitchen, eatery, cafe... etc..
Why fascinating? That's because I see the entity that food creates. It's an epitome of a human culture/tradition/language. It's nothing new - this passion I have for food. I'm naturally inquisitive and love to explore.
So when Dad wanted to go to the wet market the other day to buy fish, I enthusiastically jumped off my swivel chair and ran after him asking him to take me along. We rode to Geylang Serai Temporary Market and I had a whale of a time going from stall to stall checking out the fresh seafood and stuff.
Now now, it's not that I've never seen a wet market before! Just that it's been too long since I've accompanied my parents to a typical marketing trip. Nowadays when I have to buy groceries, I go to the supermarket. I got to admit that it's different somehow. The experience is not the same as you going down the wet and smelly isles at the wet market, prodding and checking out the fishes, getting down and dirty.
Okay, it wasn't really dirty, but just not as squeaky clean as NTUC, Cold Storage or Carrefour.
I know I know. I hear a resounding "DUH!"
My point really, is to give my side of this part of the island where I really like. Given a choice, I would love to shop at wet markets, period. Oh well but you know, there's a chance that I might be ripped off (seeing how I don't really speak any dialect and my mandarin is borderline... oh and I can't speak Malay!) due to my pathetic language skills. My English might be good but gosh, if only I'm as talented as Daniel Tammet, an autistic savant who can master a new language in a week.
Anyway, here are some snapshots I took. I have alot but am having some troubles posting alot of photos on Blogger so bear with me.
Here are some live cockles:
They were pretty big all right and very much alive.
Here's some shellfish. I can't remeber the name though! But they look so much like snails...
And some black gold! These are the Indonesian black nuts used in Ayam Buah Keluak. Like I've mentioned before, it's really an acquired taste.
Dad said that these calamari were really fresh and that I should always buy them only if they are of this colour and freshness:
I like calamari and seeing them in this form was hmmm interesting? Not as if I've not seen them before. But I think more often than not, when I meet them, they are already on my table, sliced and fried, ready to be dipped into tartar sauce :)
OH now, the highlight of that market trip had more to do with rice and chicken than with fish. Haha, I mentioned to Dad about some Nasi Briyani place that was quite well known at this market but he wanted to bring me to his favourite and boy was I glad he did!
First of all, the rice. Yummm... it was deliciously light and fluffed up so nice. Loved the big pot:
Hehe, this lady knows what she's doing. For their Nasi Briyani, the rice goes over the chicken not vice versa. Here's how it looks like close up:
There's also a bowl of assam curry gravy. It was nice but there was a tad too much assam, making it too sourish. Other than that, the chicken was good and the portion generous. Tearing easily, the flesh was tasty and tender.
In case you're wondering, it costs just $3 and here's a snapshot of the stall:
They have mutton briyani too. I love this market. There's this nasi padang stall that I dig too. But more about that another time.
And I know I haven't been updating regularly! Have been trying to figure out why my photos don't get uploaded. If you know why, drop me an email? Thanks!
I've so much to post.... stay tuned now my patient readers :)
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
My exams are officially over! Well they ended last Saturday and yes the holidays are here! Which means, you'll be reading more about my escapades in the kitchen. There are so many recipes that I've bookmarked and cannot wait to try. Banana bread is one of them! But that's for another time.
Today's going to be all about oats. Yea, I was feeling kinda bored the other day and decided to come up with my own oatmeal bar.
Okay, honestly, it was night time and my hands were itching to bake something so I rummaged through my baking 'supplies' and came up with a super healthy bar. Well, at least I tried my best to make it healthy!
It did turn out healthy. Or at least that's what I like to think. Seriously, I 'dumped' in whatever healthy stuff I could find: wheatgerm, wholemeal plain flour, etc. I didn't have nuts or sesame seeds (these would have been really good) so I happily threw in some poppy seeds.
The outcome wasn't so bad. I ended up with a really yummy nutritious bar that wasn't too sweet. The texture was interesting though - it wasn't crispy or crumbly. It had bite and it was nice to have with coffee or tea.
Love the raisins because it gave the bar some sweetness but wasn't too overpowering. As for the poppy seeds... well they made my bar special. The recipe is below but do note that it was a trial and error thing so it might not be perfect. Feel free to substitute ingredients wherever!
For all those still studying hard for your exams, here's a virtual piece of oatmeal bar for you:
Study hard! And eat more oats :0) it's good brain food. hahaha
Cheryl’s Oatmeal Bars
3 and ¼ cup rolled oats
½ cup wholemeal plain flour
¼ all purpose flour
¼ cup toasted wheat germ
¼ cup almond meal
1 cup raisins
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup poppy seeds
½ cup orange juice
1. Melt butter, add in sugar and eggs. Mix well.
2. Add raisins, poppy seeds and flours, wheatgerm and almond meal
3. Pour the orange juice into the mixture and stir thoroughly
4. Add in oats and mix well.
Bake at 180 degree celcius for about 30 to 35 minutes.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Lately, I've had plenty of cravings. One moment I would be hankering for hot chocolate, and the next minute, I feel like eating custard buns.
Yesterday, I had a really strong craving, not wait, I wouldn't classify it as a craving. It was more like a desire. A deep, dark desire. A desire so strong I couldn't ignore. So I didn't ignore it.
I made sure I satisfied it.
By baking. Yes, I know, I haven't been baking since I got so busy with school. But hey hey, the holidays are nearing. They're just around the corner actually. I'm really looking forward to it because I really miss the smells and the excitement of baking.
So anyway, what the hell did I bake? Easy ain't it? It's so easy that I don't know why I even bothered asking in the first place. Haha. My dear readers, you know me so well so you shall try answering it. Just remember it is:
Okay I can sense your mild irritation. Pardon me, I just feel restless! Here's a clue, it really has got to do with the first photo up there. Man, don't you just wish you could lick the screen and taste it? I know I do.
Whatever it is, I can't keep it a secret for long:
Gosh you should have seen my face yesterday when I was baking them brownies. No wait, it first started when I got some Barry-Callebaut Carma 47% chocolate couverture from a friend:
My eyes widened with the possibilities.
The possibilities of what wondrous things that can come out of this 2kg block of 'gold'. It was like a giant chocolate block. I imagined myself as an oompas-loompas, grinning from ear to ear, almost breaking in song (but heh I don't think i sing too well)!
Naturally, I thought I'd make some brownies since it's been ages since I baked some. Besides, I had a deep dark desire for some homemade ones. Warm, fresh from the oven brownies - nothing beats that.
I went to search for a kickass brownie recipe that would do the Swiss chocolate justice and I found a yummy-sounding brownie recipe in Martha Stewart's Holiday Cookie Magazine. Double Chocolate Brownie it said. Sounds good to me! So I got down to preparing my chocolate, melting it with butter and unsweetened cocoa powder:
Don't you just love the gloss? It makes me wanna squeal out loud and lick the entire bowl.
Anyway I added more chocolate than required so do bear in mind that you could do that as well... just make sure you balance out the other ingredients. The adapted recipe is below, in case you happen to have a similar deep dark desire :)
Here's the brownie batter in the pan waiting to be turned into dark luscious brownies:
Here's how it looks after baking:
I love the crackling. It looks like earth. Like soil that's dried out. Brownies look handsome with crackles :p
Ahhh..... I tell you, nothing beats the smell of freshly baked brownies. The house was filled with a chocolatey aroma that simply made my day. I missed it so much!
After cutting it into squares, I couldn't resist popping one into my mouth. The verdict?
It was dark all right, and deep. You're probably wondering how a brownie can be deep? When I say deep, I mean depth - how the bitterness measures out with the sweetness. I dig dark chocolate and I don't like something that's too sweet so I appreciate a deep brownie. Or rather, I try to get a brownie to be as deep as I like.
Mum loved it and Sis thought it was the best brownie I've made:
I can see why she said that. These brownies have a more dense cakey texture. It's not exactly fudgey (I don't really like those kinds.... well it depends!) but it's not too dry either. One can taste the rich taste of the chocolate and the sugar doesn't overpower it.
This is how brownies should be. No, I should say this is how I like my brownies :)
I was a very happy person yesterday. So happy that I bought Mocha Almond Chip ice cream to eat my brownies with....
Brownies. What would I do without them?
These pretty dark things made my day and I think I'm slowly slipping back into Ms. Baker mode! Hurray! Now will the holidays please hurry up - I have loads of recipes to conquer!
Deep Dark Chocolate Brownies
adapted from Martha Stewart's Double Chocolate Brownie recipe
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter
7 and a half ounces (200 grams) good-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed firm)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat your oven to 180 degree celcius. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper.
2. Put butter, chocolate, and cocoa powder in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until completely melted. Let cool slightly.
3. Mix your flour, baking powder, and salt well and aside.
4. Using an electric mixer (or a handwhisk if you prefer), mix sugar, egg, and vanilla well until pale, about 4 mintues. Add chocolate mixture; mix until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until well combined.
5. Pour brownie batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a skewer, when inserted in the brownie, comes out clean.
6. Let cool in pan for about 15 minutes then lift out to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.