The cze char scene in Singapore just gets better and better, and one of the best is Ming Kee Live Seafood. Our friend Lester and his wife Chane are two of our long-time favourite eating buddies, this dinner was on them and they gave us a really good treat. Starting with a basket of very more-ish deep fried fish skin. Then plump la-la clams in a garlicky soy sauce which husband was totally in love with. Also a whole river fish and some delicious coffee ribs.
The highlight though, was their crab beehoon. For me, this dish is all about the beehoon and in this aspect, Ming Kee exceeded my expectations. There wasn't much noodles but every strand was 100% clean, sweet, crab flavour. One of the crab was a female, its roe gave the noodles even more oomph. I definitely prefer this version to the one at Sin Huat, which had always striked me as a tad too sweet and occasionally blowzy with its heightened seafood umami-ness; nothing wrong with that, but I definitely prefer Ming Kee's minimalist rendition.
The following day was one of meeting with ex-colleagues and their families at a dim-sum lunch at Imperial Treasures Nan Bei, Takashimaya Shopping Centre. My friend really likes their special pork-belly char siew and I could see why. The meat, self-basting fatty melting deliciousness in itself, was coated in a gorgeous sweet-savoury glaze that turned it into meat bonbons, terribly addictive.
Knowing husband's fondness for fiery Sichuan cuisine, Andrew and a bunch of close makan friends organised a no-holds-barred dinner at Ba Yu Ren Jia restaurant near Bugis. It started off innocuously enough with an appetite-stimulating salad of liangpi (greenbean noodles), century eggs and shredded cucumbers dressed in sesame oil, vinegar and chilli oil.
Saliva chicken was snapped up quickly. Done right, it is supposed to be so delicious that the drooling reflex goes into overdrive, hence its name. The chicken itself was juicy and nicely muscular with a good ratio of springy skin, picking up lots of of the delicious yet mysterious sauce. A quick succession of dishes came out, all very tasty, and some rather spicy, but nothing I couldn't handle.
Until I ate a few strands of the vermicelli noodles from this platter of braised eel and my taste buds went into seizure. The noodles had absorbed all the heat from the little peppercorns, the dried peppers and the inflammatory chilli oil. This dish was way too hot to handle, and we had to resort to eating sugar to counter the spiciness. Till today I am not sure if this is the norm in Sichuan, or were the cooks trying to play a joke on us. But would I eat it again? Absolutely!
Delicious desserts of red bean paste pancakes and fried mochi balls
ended the meal on a calmer note. What a ride. Thank you my dear friends!
The Singapore weather was cool and occasionally rainy the week we visited. As usual we were spoiled rotten by friends who made time to meet and host us for lots of delicious meals.
Actually, on our own we didn't fare too badly either. Within 1 hour of our plane landing we were rubbing shoulders with pyjama-wearing aunties at the Bendemeer Rd Market Food Centre and eating our favourite "chye tow kuay", only SGD2 for a generous portion of garlicky, eggy, sweet-savoury wok-fried turnip dough. Before long husband was hungry again and we sat down to a large spread of more local delights.
Dinner on our first night was at Old Mother Hen, an old haunt for bacchanalian excesses and font of claypot wisdom. The food was quite stunning, it felt like we were at a "best-of" relay. Stir-fried fallopian tubes was a novelty for most people, especially our V who couldn't seem to get enough of it.
Still, the most memorable dish had to be a shark's head steamed in Cantonese style. The head was mostly cartilage, the gelatine tamed to a silky texture akin to tofu. Flavour came from an elegant garlic-infused master soy sauce. The chef's urgings to finish the fish quickly, lest it gets cold and turns rubbery and fishy, were quite redundant, even the bones were not spared.
Fried pork trotters, nothing to look at but the skin was crispy and the meat and fats tender and melting.
What is a meal here without their famous claypot rice? We demolished two large pots. They don't skimp on the quality of the ingredients, the salted fish and liver sausages were particularly fine touches. We staggered home with huge silly grins on our faces.
The following day I was running back and forth between two banks for my parents who came down from KL. We finally finished at 2.30 p.m. which was too late for a good Japanese meal so we settled for Din Tai Fung at Paragon. The dumplings were delicious but my father commented that the dumplings are now quite tiny. V loved their mochi-stuffed red dates.
Not pictured (because I suck at getting my white balance right) but dinner that night was cooked by my good friend Ivan. Authentic hungarian sausages and massive slabs of air-dried dry-aged USDA Angus beef with pan-fried foie gras and a killer potato salad almost did me in, thankfully dessert was relatively light, only two types of real Sarawak pineapples which I loved.
Speaking of friends, the Lims have got to be one of the most unassuming and generous people I know. A so-called 'simple dinner at home' was so bountiful I had to wave the white flag midway through the meal. Lots of meat and a deep bowl of soup. "Top de top" though, as my French friends would say, goes to the really humble dish of bean sprouts stir-fried with salted fish. Everyone, including myself, knows how to cook this, but their Indonesian cook Noor has a particularly deft touch that turned this into a masterpiece, getting each element right (crunchy sprouts, perfectly fried fish etc etc) and harmonising them just-so.
A green carpet over a fried fish. What is this my friend?
Florence said, it is my new creation. Fried fish, topped with sambal, then fried minced pork followed by freshly chopped spring onion greens. Flavour explosion? Absolutely.
There will be more in the next post, but before we finish, here is some snacks to think about. Breadtalk may rule the roost in Singapore, but I reckon Bread Society is a worthy new competitor. Update: Reader Yun Huei informed me that Bread Society is part of
Breadtalk. I'd say that this is a welcome new concept. Bread is very
fashionable in Japan right now, if even 10% of this perfectionist
streak filters through to Singapore it would raise the bar
The pedigree is very fine, at least what I can see from their tall posters of cute Jap-TV chefs, and their Japanese style breads very good from a random sample of three items. Granted, one item was not that random, I saw a tray of the mont-blanc tarts being assembled, they obligingly finished one for me upon request. It is basically chestnut paste piled on flakey pastry base but embedded inside is a little chestnut-like cookie with a fine chocolate shell. Yuzu flecks lightened the pared-down French classic making this a relatively guilt-free treat. The pizza-esque thing on the left is a remake of Floss, amped up with spicy floss and grilled eggplants, it was so delicious I gobbled it up in about five bites, all the while telling husband how good it was.