Sunday, March 30, 2008
Now that I've been to Taiwan, I look at the country differently - I have more affection for its culture, and many various facets, everything from the way they communicate to how their food is flavoured.
One thing's for certain - I miss Taiwan. I miss the cool weather, the mountains, the hospitable people and of course the food. Yes, especially the food.
So you can only imagine my delight whenever I pass by a restaurant that claims to be selling Taiwanese food. Some are obviously bucking the trend while others are really authentic. At least now, I can't be fooled because I've eaten the real deal :)
Last weekend, after Easter mass on Sunday, my sis and I were searching for a new place to eat. We were pretty ravished since it was about 8pm+ when we reached town. We were craving for something Indian but we were at Liang Seah St so I guess that was quite a stretch. Nevertheless, we decided to walk further down the street in search of something delicious.
We didn't have to walk far before we came across this restaurant with the prominent 来来 (Lai Lai) logo. Translated to English, it means come, come. I was very much tickled by the image of a concussed cow/bull as well. I kept calling it 'dead beef'.
Anyway as soon as I saw it was an eatery selling 台湾小吃 (Taiwanese food), I knew I had to go in. It's been a long time since I last ate Taiwan food.
Sis and I didn't take long to figure out what to eat. The obvious choice was the beef noodles ($6.80). I wanted something different so I had the braised pork rice ($5.20). Both were really good. So good that I regret not bringing my camera to take photos. But it's okay, I went there again this week with my colleagues and this time, I brought my camera!
Here's a shot of the lovely beef noodles:
The broth was really good. Sis thinks it was even better than the one we had at a roadside beef noodle stall in Taiwan. Perhaps it was. I didn't protest. The beef itself was tender to the bite. Trust me, it's that good - we cleared the bowl well and good.
I don't have a photo of the braised pork rice but you should try it if you're a fan of those fatty bits of pork. The sauce was also really yummy. I love nuts and totally appreciated it being served with the rice. Oh, one more thing - if you love chilli, you have to try the dried chilli concoction that's placed in a small jar on every table. They mix the chillies with fried shallots that's super crisp. Quite addictive actually. I did finish up a fair amount.
The second time I went there with my colleagues as mentioned above, I had the Taiwan vermicelli ($5.90):
You can choose the type of meat you want - fried fish fillet, pork meat balls or shredded chicken. I chose the meat balls. I really like this vermicelli. It's kind of different from the normal mee sua we have here. Check it out:
Slightly thicker in width, this vermicelli has a better bite. Brings back lots of memories :)
My other colleague had two side dishes, the beef tendon, and a smoked egg.
I didn't try them so I can't comment! But she said it was good. The egg looks yummy too. I'm currently into hardboiled eggs with soft centres. Liquid yolk is always delicious.
Here's how the interior looks like. You'll get a glimpse of the 'dead beef'. haha.
Can you see the logo? I like it alot, it's quite distinctive. Love this place as well. Will be back again soon. I want to try the rest of their menu!
I still have more photos from my Taiwan trip that I haven't posted! I will definitely be putting up more soon. A great chance to reminisce and let all of you appreciate its beauty!
Lai Lai Family Restaurant
No. 20 Liang Seah Street
Open daily 11:30am to 3am
Monday, March 24, 2008
Now that I've started work this year, I realise that I treasure my weekends alot more.
As a student, it didn't really matter if it was a Wednesday or a Saturday. There were days where I didn't have lectures and tutorials and these days felt like Saturdays. Students, I'm sure you know what I mean.
It's been three months since I started working and now I find that I have less time to cook and bake. I'm usually too tired to cook when I come home on a weekday. Unless I'm really craving for something - I won't bother.
Instead, my weekends are now my official 'sacred' cooking days.
During the week, I will be taking note of which recipes to try, tagging promising ones in anticipation of the weekend and come Saturday, these recipes will surface and I will start cookin'!
If I don't have a recipe, I will look around my kitchen to see what I can play with.
Recently, I was at Mustafa Centre and I bought a packet of pita bread. Don't ask me why pita. I have a thing for pitas, and the ones I saw looked really good. They were huge and inviting and I just grabbed a packet without thinking.
Come Saturday morning; I woke up and walked into the kitchen, wondering what to have for breakfast and I saw the bag of pita bread.
Then I remembered reading about pita chips and how it's so darn easy to make them. So I decided to give it a shot. And you know what? It's easy. You can make pita chips with both eyes closed. I'm serious!
Okay so you know a pita bread has a hollow middle right? So you separate one side from the other. Now you take both sides, brush them with olive oil and sprinkle some herbs. You can use oregano, thyme, basil, cayenne pepper etc... Whatever you fancy.
Next, heat up your oven. I don't know how high the temperature should be but I just set mine at 180 degrees celcius. Then you place your pita onto a pan (preferably cast iron) and you bake it in the oven until it's brown and crisp.
Do note that pita breads tend to be thin so don't let it sit in the oven for too long lest you get charcoal! Flip it over once to ensure both sides are browned. All this takes only minutes so be sure to check on your pita occasionally.
After it's brown and crisp, just break it into pieces and viola, you have pita chips:
It's quite a no-brainer snack to make. And it's way healthier than stuffing your face with a bag of potato chips!
And ahhh it's perfect with salsa....
Oh, don't forget to keep your chips in a ziplock bag to ensure they stay crisp!
If you don't like herbs, then just bake it plain, it'll still come out nice.
I'm actually amazed at how yummy these chips are. Time to experiment with different seasonings!
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The Italian dinner I had tonight was beyond fantastic.
It might sound like pure exaggeration but trust me, it's not. Ask my satisfied tummy, it'll agree with me.
To be honest, I've read about the restaurant on some food blogs two weeks ago and even wrote down its address, with the intention of dining there some day.
That quick scribble in my notebook was forgotten, until yesterday when my friend Alvin sms-ed me saying that he's now working at a restaurant that he thinks I will come to love. He mentioned that it was Italian and located at MacPherson. Then I remembered Finalmente Gastronomia, because there were very few restaurants along MacPherson road. So I asked if it was indeed Finalmente and guess what?
It was! I was thoroughly amused because if not for Alvin, I probably wouldn't have dropped by for dinner today. Okay, among my group of friends, Alvin and another friend Evan are two food-lovers whom I'm pretty close to and we love to meet up for coffee, good food and the works. So naturally Alvin wanted Evan and I to try the food and that was what we did, just a few hours ago. Pretty spontaneous we are. Haha. Oh and I brought Felix (my younger bro) along as well.
So enough bantering, here comes the food.
Oh and I forgot to bring my camera so I had to make do with my 2 megapixel Sony Ericsson phone camera so I hope you don't mind the blurry, pixellated photos! I promise to take better ones with my proper camera the next time I dine at Finalmente (yes I'm so going to be a regular there).
Finalmente is definitely one of my current favourite restaurant! Read on and you'll know why.
The owner of Finalmente's Italian and has been living in Singapore for more than 10 years. Did I mention that he can speak some Teochew as well? He was there just now and was really warm and friendly. And in case you're wondering, no, Alvin didn't serve us today... haha... he joined us for dinner since he wasn't working today.
We reached about 8:30pm and were really hungry so we quickly ordered some food.
First up was the Caprese:
It's actually fresh Italian mozzarella with Roma tomatoes, drizzled with basil pesto ($13). Now, I'm a huge fan of basil pesto and I was happy that it tasted good. I had a great time coating the mozzarella and tomatoes with pesto before chomping them down. The mozzarella was a delight. Fresh and with bite, it's one of my favourite cheeses. They gave some foccacia as well and it was perfect for mopping up the pesto remnants.
Next up was the roast beef:
Served with mushrooms, rocket salad, shaved parmesan and crispy focaccia ($15), the beef was gorgeous. I won't really call it roast beef though. It's slighly raw in the centre, something like beef carpaccio. Ooo, but we liked it. The shaved parmesan added a tinge of savoury flavour too. All 4 of us loved this dish.
You can see the pink flesh. I guess it's also personal perference. I don't like my meats too well done so this was perfect.
Next up was the pizza!
Okay, I've heard lots about their pizzas and I'm glad to say I wasn't disappointed. Their pizzas rocked. The owner told us that he loves pizzas and wouldn't mind eating them everyday for the rest of his life. And now I understood why. With pizzas like Finalmente's, that's so good, you'd want to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner! No kidding!
You should try some for yourself lest you think I'm just being crazy. One bite and you'll be wishing you could have a life-time supply of their pizzas. The Italian chef there is one helluva cook! He's mighty talented and you can really taste the labour of love. We had the Finalmente Spicy: Tomatoes, mozzarella, eggplant, zucchini, peppers ($20).
The size was just right and the toppings were delish. We had no complaints. The crust was perfect! Oh boy, I just cannot get enough of Italian thin-crust pizzas. These are the real deal. I've also heard that their 5 cheeses pizza's really good, but we didn't order it because it might be too heavy, since we're ordering other heavy mains.
Just one word of caution - the Finalmente Spicy leans toward the spicy side because of the hot chillies they add. So please don't torture yourself if you cannot take spices.
If pizzas just aren't your cup of tea, then you HAVE to try their homemade pasta.
We tried the black tagliatelle:
I'm sure you would know how much of a squid ink pasta fan I am! So I was very excited when the owner told me that they have it on their menu, only a bit different. You know how squid ink pasta's always served with black ink sauce, together with your normal pasta? Well the Finalmente way of doing it is by putting the ink into the pasta instead.
The result is one heck of a tasty and yummy pasta. The homemade pasta really tastes homemade and I like that it has bite. Marvellous. I was so amazed!
And of course, you should try their tiramisu. They assemble it on the spot, once you place your order. They not only use sponge fingers, but amaretti biscuits as well.
We loved the strawberry sauce that same with it!
All in all, this cosy and quaint outfit is a pleasing get-away. It really brings home the point that good food isn't only found in your stiff fine dining places. You don't have to travel all the way to dempsey or pay a bomb just to have a good meal.
Finalmente Gastronomia is a perfect example of how good food need not be so unaccessible and overpriced. One reason why I like this place and the food, is the rustic feel. I'm a sucker for anything homely and rustic. And as the owner said - he really wants this place to reflect authentic Italian eateries where people come to have real home-cooked food made with love, something that will make people want to come back for more. It's more like a place for regulars, a place you can come to without dressing up and yet feel comfortable. The prices are quite reasonable too. There's no service charge or GST.
The place feels personal. I like it because of its simplicity and solid food. I do have to go back again soon. I want to try every single dish on their menu! It does help that this place isn't too far from where I live :)
Finalmente Gastronomia might be tucked away in a far-flung nook but it's one place that's worth at least one visit. Oh, and in case you are wondering, Finalmente means finally. So Finalmente Gastronomia simply translates to "Finally, good food!".
Amen to that, I say!
Took two panoramic shots with my simple phone camera. I put one on top of the other. It'll give you a better idea of what I mean by simple yet homely.
I think I have fallen in love with this lovely hole-in-the-wall restaurant.
Alvin, I'm so glad you're working there! hahaha.
As for you, my dear reader, do pay Finalmente a visit some day and treat yourself to a delicious, authentic, warm Italian meal. You won't regret it, I promise.
443 Macpherson Road (Between Hotel Windsor & Mazda Showroom)
Open 11:30am to 10pm
Sunday, March 16, 2008
As a person who truly loves food, I find it hard to stick to the typical meal plan that has been dictated over the years. You know what I mean - our mandatory 3 meals.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.
I find it hard to believe that the majority of us follow the same set arrangement. Aren't our bodies all made differently? Some take longer to digest their food while others get hungry very easily. I'm sure there have been times in between meals where you've felt your tummy growling, making funny noises as if screaming for food? I know I have.
That's why we have snacks.
And thank God for snacks.
When planned well, snacks shouldn't be that much of a vice, causing unnecesary worry of weight piling. Who says all snacks are unhealthy? As long as you have the smarts to choose the right snacks, you're pretty safe.
Snacking sometimes bring guilt. Come on, you don't have to be embarrassed. I used to feel bad too. You're not the only one. Eating between meals is considered greedy and normally reflects ill tolerance. But hey, some people aren't cut out for the cookie-cutter 3 meal plan!
So what snacks should you eat? Well there's no need to restrict yourself as long as you eat in moderation. If you decide to have a packet of chips, that's fine, but stop at a couple. There's no need for you to finish that huge packet. Drink water in between and you'll feel full soon enough. We tend to sometimes mistake thirst for hunger. If you're not sure, just gulp down some water. You can never have enough of this wonder liquid.
If you're looking for healthy snacks, you probably want to avoid fried stuff. You can really do without the extra oil. Baked is good, and that's the way I went with this snack I'm about to introduce.
Baked chick peas with a hint of spice. It's really easy to make. I came across this brillian idea in a women's magazine some time ago. You can choose to get a can of ready cooked chickpeas (or Garbanzo beans as it is sometimes called) or boil some. After it's cooked, place it on a flat pan and bake it in the oven until crisp/dry. Careful not to burn it. Once it's done, drizzle with olive oil and season it with your desired spice. I used a curry-like spice powder I bought from Mustapha the other day.
Trust me, these chickpeas are really good. Not only do they taste good, they are high in fibre and vitamins.
Go on, snack on some, you don't have to feel bad!
Snacking is not a sin and it can be healthy especially home-made ones!
I'm always searching for healthy snacks and I have more to share with you so stay tuned...
In the mean time, take care and eat well!
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Desserts never fail to put a spark in my eye. It's easy to get me all excited. My friends know that very well. They are rather amused whenever they see my face light up when we're making dinner plans or simply discussing about that new cake or dessert place that I've discovered.
I'm surprised by one thing though. As much as I love desserts, I cannot stand things that are too sweet. What do I mean? You know it's too sweet when you don't taste the chocolate in a supposedly chocolate cake, and when your lemon tart taste more like sugar tart.
Sweet things charm me, as long as it's not too much. I prefer for it to be complementary. Take for example pineapple tarts. I love pineapple tarts but I like them slightly tart and not too sweet. I've tried some that have so much sugar that I can't really taste the pineapple.
That's probably why I've never been an ardent fan of candy floss/cotton candy. Cute they may be but I avoid them most of the time. To me, it's no different from eating pure sugar. I have a mental image of me with my entire fist in a jar of sugar. Not very nice indeed.
Perhaps I'm not a kid anymore? I realise that I have a higher tolerance for bitter stuff these days. I have my espresso sans sugar, I eat pure cocoa nibs without ever flinching.
But don't worry, I don't go to the extreme - think brownies without a single grain of sugar. Hmm that sounds bitter already :)
So what am I driving at? Is sweet all that bad? I say not. I'm now convinced that a little sweetness can be quite appealing. Especially when it comes to floss.... not just any candy floss mind you. This floss:
Yea floss with threads so fine you can't call them candy floss anymore.
And they don't quite feel like cotton too.
Some people thought them so magical that they named it fairy floss.
It is somewhat like that Chinese thread-like sweet snack also known as dragon beard.
Fairy floss is however, much lighter than dragon beard. More delicate, more wispy. It disappears fast too. It's easy to be so caught up with the subtle lightness that you might just finish the whole pack before you know it.
I was lucky enough to be given a pack by my lovely boss and I'm slowly savouring it. My brother and sister loves it. They've been asking me for it. I ration some to them everyday :D
Apparently you can find it at Jone's the Grocer up on Dempsey Road. Just look out for Pariya Pashmak Persian Fairy Floss. The one I tried was vanilla flavoured. I read that there's chocolate and pistachio too. How exciting. I might have to get more, once this stash disappears.
I was curious as to how fairy floss was made and I googled it. Didn't get a definite answer but it might be made using icing sugar instead of sugar crystals - thus the lighter mouthfeel?
These are great for decorating desserts as well.
Don't they look so much like threads? Sugary threads of vanilla delight...
and ethereal at the same time.
Monday, March 10, 2008
I have had a craving for pies every since I caught that Tim Burton movie.
You should know which one I'm talking about.
Yes, the one with the super talented Johnny Depp.
Sweeney Todd, Mrs. Lovett and her meat pies.
Not just any meat pies mind you. Human meat pies.
But rest assured, my craving stops at meat pies, no further than that. NO further than chicken, beef or even mutton. I'm no cannibal and besides who in the world sells human meat pies these days?
If you're short on meat, heck, use potatoes or peas! Okay, I'm just saying. It probably won't taste any better than meat for sure. Okay enough about pie fillings. Let's get down to the real deal.
Solid meat pies. Where are they?
My dearest sis and I were really glad when Nora, the lovely lady who owns a certain famous pink cafe (come on, you know which one! I don't need to say it!) made us some meat pies.
And it's true when I say I've been craving for meat pies. I seldom eat pies, and it's not because I don't want to but rather, good ones are hard to come by, especially in Singapore. Okay maybe sweet dessert pies are more common. But meat pies, real good meat pies are a dime in a dozen.
Anyway Nora's pies are homely and really yummy. It was really sweet of her to bake me pies. I love chatting with her. Our conversations are far from boring and even though she's more senior (around my mum's age I think. not that it matters!). She's really youthful and it helps that we share a common interest - baking! I should learn how to bake these pies of hers.
Here's one of her chicken pies:
Yep, delibrately ate half so I could show you the insides! See, all chicken! No suspicious filling whatsoever *winks*
When it comes to pies, sometimes beef is better. I like chicken but I think it's partly the thick chunks of beef that always get to me. I like my meat and beef just feels more hearty and solid. Or maybe it's just a personal preference. That's why I always prefer beef stew to chicken stew!
So here's an inside look at the beef one:
Yummy ain't it?
There's also something that's downright rustic about these pies that make me like them so much. They're not over-the-top and yet they're not too delicate. Think home-made pies that your grannie or mum would make.
The crust is really good too. I like the shortcrust kind. I never understood pies that use puff pastry. Hmmm.. again, it's my personal preference.
Now my sis is bugging me to go hunt for all the places that sell really good and homely pies.
I shall perhaps make that my next quest.
Bring on the recommendations I say :D
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Those of you who are aware of the Chinese Zodiac and the lunar calendar would know that this year is the year of the rat.
Yes, that's right, the same rodent whose celebrity status shot up last year as kids and adults alike lapped up the delicious animation Ratatouille as if it was the best stew ever.
And it so happens that I am a rat. Yes siree. I'm one of those...
those pesky creatures who raid your garbage cans, and of course, I love cheese. But I'm smart enough not to fall for those silly mouse-traps.
Ah-ha, so now you know, I'm actually a rat blogger.
Hey, don't give me that look of disbelief. If a rat can be a chef and run his own French restaurant, why can't I have a blog of my own?
Aren't you so biased! So what if Remy's now a Hollywood superstar. Heck, I can have what he's having. He's just lucky!
Okay, so maybe I'm going cuckoo. Or maybe I'm just so fascinated by these rat pastries:
Yep, aren't they super cute? They're also edible. Which is a pity. I just want to keep them forever. My fellow rat cookie friends.
By the way, I wasn't kidding when I said I am a rat. It's just that hmmm I don't have whiskers, I don't have a tail and unlike your typical neighourhood rat, I'm not small... no no no... I'm tall, quite tall. All 1.7m of it. So maybe if I'm a rat, I'll probably represent my town in rat basketball. Hmmm.... and I'll be the most popular rat because I can reach that top cupboard - ya ya, I know where you all hide your goodies. All those delicious chocolate chip cookies, Tim Tams, jelly beans and Pringles... Don't you pretend!
Ha, I see that, I see you rolling your eyes! Okay, maybe I can never be a real rat. But it's okay. I think I'm glad I'm human. But it won't hurt to be a cute rat, not unlike this cute little cookie:
Let's give him a name shall we? Hmmm... Mr. Cat.
Haha. that'll be really funny. No, that's not funny. That's lame.
How about Mr. Snook. Yes that fits better.
So about Mr. Snook - you see... some baker (from a stall at Old Airport Road I think!) was feeling creative and decided to create Mr. Snook and his merry friends. Then my neighbour (she lives next block) was so sweet and she bought a box of them rat friends and gave it to us.
My mum used to babysit her grandson Timmy.
Ah Timmy's one adorable child. Very creative and very smart. He's now 8. He likes to draw as well. And so when we were busy eating up Mr. Snook's friends, Timmy decided to draw a portrait.
And here it is:
A portrait of Mr. Snook. Okay, it doesn't look much. But hey it's pretty accurate. Wait till you put Mr. Snook next to his 2D likeness:
Not bad eh? Okay perhaps the nose could have been pointier. But hey, it's pretty good!
Haha... and I was that much amused. So amused that I had to take photos.
I wish I had the time and patience to make cute goodies like these.
Maybe I should try it out. When I have time. Oh by the way these rats were stuffed with pineapple paste. Yep, they were rat versions of your typical pineapple tarts.
In case you were also wondering.... yes, Mr. Snook and his friends are dead. They went to pastry heaven.
Timmy ate them all....
hahaha... okay I lied. Not all... But he did eat Mr. Snook.
Oh well, at least I have this blog post to remember him by....
R.I.P Mr. Snook.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
I love colours. I'm a colourful person. I think colours make the world go round. I heard that dogs don't have colour vision, that their world is black and white.
I cannot imagine living in my world in black and white. There won't be enough omph! Haha... or perhaps it's just my need for vibrancy.
I know my previous post was also about colour, or the lack thereof? Well black's also a colour ain't it? Black's good but hey, colours rock my world as well. So likewise, I'm attracted to colourful foods. Think fuschia pink dragon fruit, deep orange mangoes, golden kiwis... The list continues on.
One of my 'obsessions' is food hunting - nothing you don't already know. I can spend hours at the supermarket scouring every shelf for new and exciting foods and ingredients.
Bob's Red Mill is one of my favourite brands and I love checking out their nutritious and healthy offerings. I like their 10-grain hot cereal, it's really packed with good stuff.
Lately I've been eating their Veggie Soup Mix. It's perfect for days when you have nothing edible at home or are just too lazy to cook.
All you do is to put some in a pot with water, give it a boil and ta-dah - a nutritious delightful soup. Okay it's not really your typical soup. It's more like a grains and lentils soup. These colourful 'beads-like' bits look simple but hey, they pack a punch:
Maybe I am a health freak or maybe I just like to know that I am feeding my body well. But then again, I do like to indulge in my desserts. Which reminds me, I have a great lemon poppy seed cake recipe to share with you all. I'll post it up soon. Till then!