Sunday, January 18, 2009
One question I get asked all the time is, "What's your favourite restaurant in Singapore?"
An easy question like that should not be hard to answer especially since it's a question that I'm familiar with. However, everytime I get asked that, I fumble, I hestitate, I ponder. And I do mean every. single. time.
Thing is, I do not have a sole all-time favourite restaurant. At least not yet. Or maybe I'm just fickle. It really depends on what I'm craving for and whether that food meets my expectations at that point in time. For me, an easier question would be , "Where can you find the best damn chocolate cake?". Yes, be dish-specific, and I might have a faster answer.
The definition of good food varies for all. I always insist that what I like might not be what you like. That doesn't stop me from raving about a certain place though. When I like a restaurant/eatery/coffeeshop stall, etc, I rave about it like no tomorrow. Sometimes I think it verges on being irritatingly over-enthusiastic. So far none of my friends have complained about it, they are just amused at how excited I get when I talk about my favourite food places.
My most recent rave is Big D's Grill. The food was so remarkable that I could have died there and then and felt that I have lived life. Okay, I'm being over-dramatic there. Pardon my exaggeration but that was honestly how I felt.
The food was immensely enjoyable. I had wanted to go there for the longest time. I've heard alot about Chef Damian D'Silva and his old restaurant Soul Kitchen. His name's rather lengendary. I have never been to Soul Kitchen but I thought why not try Big D's Grill especially since it's so near where I live?
Currently located at Bedok South Road (note: it's moving to Holland Drive soon, in Feb), Big D's Grill is neatly tucked insie a wide spacious coffeeshop at Block 18. I decided to bring my family there last week because my cousin from Malaysia was visiting and had requested for some good Western food. I had put off going to Big D's for the longest time so I thought what better time than now. This way, my cousin could satisfy his fix and I could finally see what the fuss was all about.
The fuss turned out to be legit. I would say that we ate enough of the menu to give a fair judgement. The four of us (mum, sis, my cousin and myself) had five main courses. Yes we do have healthy appetites and we're certainly not ashamed of it.
Perhaps I should start with the photos, then you can savour the dishes with me (in your mind of course. ha). I hope you've had your dinner (or lunch, or breakfast - depends on what time it is when you read this!) lest you get sudden hunger pangs.
I had to do my research before checking out Big D's. Several local food blogs have mentioned the anchovy pasta and I knew I had to try it. After a forkful, I realised what had gotten them so excited. Very close to your typical aglio olio, this pasta borrows a very savoury sea salt-like flavour from the anchovies. My mother commented that it was a tad too salty for her. That I understood, because she prefers bland food (she puts so little salt when she cooks!). Cousin and I liked it so we lapped it up happily. I appreciated the spicy kick that came from the chopped chillies.
Kurobuta pork loin
Cousin loves meat so we had to get the kurobuta pork loin. His verdict? "This is real good!"
Please do check out the glistening piece of heaven:
The pork was all that we could ask for - juicy, moist, tender with none of that 'porky smell', as my cousin had noted. I liked that the centre was just slightly pink. The fats gave it a sufficient omph. It kinda melts in your mouth. Cliched, but true.
The mash and vegetables that came with it were great as well. A stellar dish.
The crabmeat linguine was perfect in every single aspect. The pasta was cooked just right and the sauce was sweet, tangy and spicy. I don't think I've ever had crabmeat linguine this good. The best part? The generous shreds of crabmeat. The photo says it all. Now go try it yourself.
Bang bang chicken
Other than the usual Western grill and pasta dishes, Big D's serves Asian specialities depending on when you visit. That day, Chef Damian recommended the Bang bang chicken, and the sambal buah keluak. We couldn't choose which one so we ordered both.
The bang bang chicken is a Sumatran dish. It tasted very much like an up-graded version of satay chicken. The sauce was thick and spicy. My family and I noticed that alot of Chef Damian's dishes leaned on the spicy side. Which was fine with us because we love our chilli.
Before the sambal buah keluak came, I have to admit that I was rather sceptical (as I usually am when eating buah keluak outside home). My friends know how much I love my Dad's buah keluak and those who have tried it (including my best friend Dot, whom my Dad always reminds me to invite whenever he cooks a batch) also agree that it's one of the best. So yes, I am bias towards my Dad's buah keluak.
But as it turns out, the one Chef Damian served was a bit different. In a good way.
Sambal buah keluak
Served with white rice and some raw onions by the side, this dish came only with the buah keluak sauce. It was also not a messy affair as I had anticipated. The flesh had been dug out and cooked with sambal and some other ingredients (we guessed it was coconut).
I know what it looks like. That black mess might not look appetising to you. But trust me on this, it's worth a try. Even if you usually hate buah keluak. His version was mildly sweet and had a very nutty taste. It was so tasty that I couldn't stop eating it with the rice.
Chef Damian came by to check on us and he suggested a sinful combination, "try eating the buah keluak with the anchovy pasta. it's sinful but really good."
So I did.
And I was glad I did.
It was good.
Really really good.
Then as the sauce diminished, I grew sadder.
I wish it didn't have to end. The sambal buah keluak had exceeded my expectations. I wouldn't say it was better than my Dad's. Don't make me compare! It's a different version and as it turns out, I quite like this version too. I might bring Dad here one day to try.
So the buah keluak was so good that I could not bare to waste the remnants.
What I did later might be disgusting to some, or plain uncouth. Whatever it is, I thought that it didn't matter. At least we weren't in some fine dining restaurant! Hey, I do know my limits.
I eventually did it. I licked the plate dry of its buah keluak sauce.
A friend who saw the photo commented that he found the lick marks disconcerting. Do you find it disconcerting? :)
I said that it is probably one of the highest compliments a chef can ever get.
Okay, I might as well do a poll here. Plate lickers, please leave a comment if you totally get where I am coming from. For those who think otherwise, please leave a comment as well. I want to know the general census on plate licking in public.
Last but not least, the bonet. Now, this was another winner. This sealed the deal. Chef Damian said it's a classic Italian dessert that's only found in Italy.
The best way to descibe it? A cross between a silky pudding and a smooth mousse. He had used bittersweet chocolate. That made the world of a difference I think. Now I understand why everyone else is crazy about Chef Damian's bonet.
Big D's Grill, you've won my vote. I'll be back to try the rest of your menu. Even though you'll be relocating to Holland Drive, I will make that trip down just so I can have another fantastic, plate-lickingly delicious meal.
Big D's Grill
Blk 18 Bedok South Road
Daily 11.30am-9.30pm, except on Thursdays: 5.30-9.30pm
*Latest update (21 Jan) - Big D's Grill has moved to Holland Drive. They are closed at the moment and will open on Wednesday, 4 February at their new location:
Block 46, Holland Drive, #01-359
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Having a chocolatier as a friend can never be a bad thing. Especially if you love chocolates more than diamonds or cars. Hmm, okay that is quite a stretch, but you get my drift.
Those familiar with our local trove of online homemade eats might know who this chocolatier is. His chocolate business of sorts was once known as Julius Truffles. Helmed by a young undergrad by the name of Julius Chen, this humble endeavour of his has blossomed into something very promising.
A recent conversation with him revealed a change in direction. Julius Truffles is now known as 'byJULIUS chocolate indeed'. He's done a whole revamp and I'm sure the new creations will be just as popular as his famed truffles (which are great by the way).
Julius was kind enough to let me try a box of his new chocolate creations:
The gold box yielded four different pralines, all of different colours and shapes.
From what I gather, the four pralines are as follows (from front to back):
1. Hazelnut milk chocolate ganache praline
2. White chocolate infused with grand marniar ganache praline
3. 73% dark chocolate ganache praline with gold foil
4. Raspberry framboise brandy liquer pink truffle
Naturally, as a fan of dark chocolate, I took to the third one like bees to honey. Dark is always good. The other one I like has also got to be the most pleasantly surprising one - the pink truffle.
You see, I couldn't resist sniping one or two shortly after I got the chocolates. I didn't know what each praline contained or what it was supposed to be. I only found out about the different flavours after checking the website.
So I bit into the pink truffle not knowing what it was supposed to be. I had no idea it was filled with brandy liquer. I did spill some onto the floor (what a waste!) but it was a wonderful surprise. My dearest sister also told me that her favourite one was this pink one. Apparently, she likes the liquer centre.
I do commend Julius for constantly trying to reinvent and repackage and even rebrand his products. That's the sign of a true and savvy entrepreneur. Hopefully he'll have his own retail shop in the near future. I won't be surprised when it happens.
For more information on 'byJULIUS chocolate indeed', check out his website.
To order his chocolates, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Most kitchen phobes subscribe to the common notion that delicious food are hard to make. I do insist that it is but a common misconception. It is a pity though, how some let their fear of kitchen disasters come between their love of good food.
Has there been an occasion where you crave a good tiramisu or lasagne and harboured intentions of actually making it but got freaked out by the long list of ingredients and 18-step method? Or how about a time when a cookbook's tantalising photos nearly convinced you to pick up your skillet and apron? You went to the supermarket to get those ingredients but gave up halfway because a quick meal at a fast food joint just seems so much more convenient.
Here's the truth - most of us amateurs (me included) will have to overcome our kitchen fright one way or another. When I first started this blog four years ago, I hadn't the slightest clue how much cooking and baking was going to change my life. But it did. It made me fall in love with food and it made me happy. I still think of myself as a novice, and I'm sure you will know by now how much a fan I am of fuss-free recipes. Recipes that are straightforward, with simple steps and basic ingredients - these are the building blocks crucial to anyone who desires to overcome their fear in the kitchen and cook more confidently.
Do you know what I do? Every time I spot a do-able recipe, or a recipe that I think won't make me want to tear my hair out, I take note of it - I either copy it, type it out or tear it out (if it's in some old magazine). I keep these recipes in a folder. When I feel like making something especially when I'm strapped for time, I take out this folder. This is my folder of great tasting quick fixes.
Recently, my folder had a new addition. It was an easy fool-proof everyone-can-do-it (yes even with your eyes closed) recipe that I knew I had to share. It yields about 16 golf ball sized peanut butter and chocolate chip rice krispies balls. The recipe was from last year's Oprah Christmas issue. The ingredients are simple and the end result - simply addictive. They are also perfect as gifts for friends.
The magic lies with the combination of peanut butter and chocolate. Boy are these some happy crunchy balls. Guaranteed to brighten up someone's day. The best thing yet? It takes just minutes to make. Go ahead, try it and tell me that the kitchen isn't all that scary after all. This is only the beginning. :)
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Rice Krispies Balls
from Oprah Magazine
2 (1.4 ounce) chocolate-covered toffee candy bars
2 cups Rice Krispies
½ cup chunky peanut butter
16 regular-size marshmallows
¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1. Leaving candy bars in wrappers, use a rolling pin to pound and crush bars into small pieces. Place Rice Krispies in a large bowl and set aside.
2. Place peanut butter in a medium-size microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high until hot, about 45 seconds. Add marshmallows and microwave on high until softened, bout 30 seconds. (Alternatively, place peanut butter and marshmallows in a heavy saucepan. Stir over low heat until melted, 2 to 3 minutes.)
3. Working quickly, stir to combine mixture with Rice Krispies. Stir until evenly coated. Add crushed candy bars and chocolate chips. Stir until combined. Coat your hands with oil and shape mixture into spheres the size of golf balls, making 16 treats. Pack into decorative tins or arrange on wax-paper lined wrappers and tie ends with ribbons. The balls will keep up to one week at room temperature. Makes 16 balls.