Tag Archives: Dinner

Poulét

A French casual dining restaurant, Poulét’s been around for quite awhile, probably a year or so, and has several outlets across the island. Dishing up typically classical French dishes in a contemporary bistro, it really seems as if Poulét brought a little of Paris to Singapore. Yet despite my love for European and French food, I haven’t visited them till recently. After my long stay in France I wasn’t sure Poulét would come close to anything I’ve had there.

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French Onion Soup (S$5.80++)

Lightly sweetened, this is one of the better French Onion soups I’ve had thus far. It’s definitely more savoury than sweet, though not savoury enough. The French Onion soups I tasted in France were all extremely savoury, with a rich beef stock and topping of melted gruyere. The Singaporean counterparts though seem to all be really really sweet. Poulét serves a decent soup; but nothing more.

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Sauté Wild Mushrooms (S$7.80++)

As usual the wonderfully oozy egg is the center of attention. Especially in this case where the liquid yolk is encased in such a solid and smooth white exterior. The shrooms themselves were simple and plain, nothing outstanding.

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Escargot de Bourgogne (S$8.00++)

Poulét’s escargot’s are slighlty different from the usual escargots, due to the addition of tomato puree. Salty parmesan, fragrant garlic and herbs, rounded off with slightly tart tomato puree – a wonderful composition of flavours. Just a little more seasoning and c’est bien. It’s not the best I’ve had, but it comes close.

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Half Poulét Roti(S$15.80++)

“Poulét” meaning chicken, it isn’t surprising for roasted chicken to be crux of their menu; or one of their better dishes. Tender and succulent, the chicken is roasted to perfection, with the skin being slightly sweet. The Chardonnay sauce is a surprisingly delicious addition, balancing out the drier chicken bits. I don’t usually like cream sauce, but I thought this is pretty yummy. My only request would be to have more spinach.

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Oxtail de Bourguignon (S$15.80++)

The server described this to be one of their bestsellers. Sadly it was an utter disappointment. While they nailed the tenderness of the meat, the sauce was executed horribly. It was bland, diluted, and lacked the richness that defines a bourguignon. Besides the tender meat the entire dish fell flat.

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Banana Bread Pudding (S$6.80++)

We originally ordered the Panna Cotta, just to find out it’s no longer on their menu. But wait, they serve Creme Brulee which is also not on the menu. Hmm I don’t really understand how that works. Anyhow we ended up with this Banana Bread Pudding which wasn’t all too bad. The bread pudding itself was a tad too custardy. The ice cream was not too impressive either. However the banana addition was surprisingly pleasant. The banana bits weren’t overwhelming, and was just enough to add a tinge of ‘banana’.

I’m still not convinced that Singapore can make wonderfully delicious, affordable tasting French food comparable to any roadside bistro in France. Still Poulét, with its hits and misses, does have its fair share of nice dishes. For affordable escargots and roasted chicken, I’d definitely return to Poulét.

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Sauté-pan VS Frypan: Artichokes Casserole with Peas and Prawns

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I am not joking when I say I spent hours tugging at my hair trying to think of the perfect dish that will showcase the qualities of the Tefal pans we received.

Yes you read that right; it’s a plural. Pan-s.

At the conclusion of the cooking workshop, we were given 2 pans from the Tefal Comfort Touch pans series, namely their Comfort Touch Sauté-pan and Comfort Touch Frypan. The fact that they are 2 distinct pans, with 2 distinct forms, makes it kind of obvious that the pans are functionally different. So what should I cook in each pan to best showcase its properties?

I know for a fact that sautéing and pan frying are 2 very different cooking techniques. Sautéing is essentially a method of cooking food, that uses a small amount of oil or fat in a shallow pan over relatively high heat. It refers to tossing smaller cut pieces of food while cooking, in order to facilitate fast cooking while simultaneously giving the food a nice browned exterior. On the other hand, pan frying refers to cooking larger pieces of food quickly, flipping it on both sides.

After consulting my best friend (her name’s Google by the way) I realised that both pans are better suited for different kinds of dishes. And thus I came to the conclusion that 3 very different recipes should do the trick! First off: the sauté-pan.

While I had many fancy ideas running through my head after our meal at ONAKA, I realised that as home cooks, we don’t always have the luxury of making stocks, pre-roasting ingredients, nor spending time gathering spoonfuls of ingredients from various corners of the kitchen. I’m just a student, and I get really annoyed when I have to make dishes that calls for many different spices and ingredients in minute quantities. That’s kind of the reason why I almost never make curries. Now think about those mothers who have to attend to flit between attending to the stove and their screeching kids. Sometimes all we need are one-pan dishes that are simple and utterly delicious.

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When sautéing, the contact between the food and the pan is brief, thus whether it’s meat or vegetables it’s important that the food be naturally tender. With that in mind, I decided on a Artichokes and Peas with Prawn Casserole.

In a nutshell, I sautéed aromatic vegetables, before adding in the peas, sautéed prawns, artichokes, shredded turkey breast and finally a little chicken stock. Over medium heat with the lid off, I allowed the dish to simmer and reduce for about 15 minutes, tested it for seasonings, then dished it up straight in the pan. We ate it with a loaf of sourdough bread to soak up the juicy goodness.

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Prepared and dished out in a mere 30 minutes, I was delighted with how this dish turned out! I was a little apprehensive at the start cause I have never cooked with artichokes before given how it’s so hard to come by in Singapore. But I recently got my hands on this jar of marinated artichokes and so I thought, why not? Simple, savoury and hearty, the pan was wiped clean within 10 minutes. It’s definitely a keeper.

Artichokes and Peas with Prawn Casserole (serves 2)

1 jar of marinated artichokes
200g of de-frosted shelled peas
1 slice of turkey breast, cut into thin strips/cubes
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 splash of white wine
100 ml of chicken stock
3 tablespoons coconut milk
12 prawns, shelled

1. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a pre-heated sauté-pan, then add the sliced garlic and sauté till it is lightly browned. Add in the prawns, season and sauté them for a couple of minutes until they change color. Remove and reserve.

2. In the same pan add 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and fry the turkey and onion for 2-3 minutes. Add the artichokes and peas and sauté for another minute.

3. Add the wine and allow the alcohol to evaporate before adding the stock and coconut milk. Lower the heat to medium-low, and cook lids-off for 10-15 minutes depending on how wet you’d like your casserole.

4. Check for seasonings. If it turns out too dry for your preference, stir in a little stock or water. Serve with slices of sourdough bread.

VARIATIONS
Fresher spin – squeeze one lime into the casserole

Vegetarian – use some vegetable stock instead. Replace the prawns with slices of tomatoes/carrots/other root vegetables, or omit the prawns and stir in some shredded buffalo mozzarella cheese before serving.

No coconut milk – replace with evaporated milk or cream, or omit entirely for a clearer soup and simmer it 5-10 minutes longer.

If you liked this recipe, please vote for me here!

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Victor’s Kitchen

It’s taken me 4 visits to decide that I’m finally ready do write a review on Victor’s Kitchen. Dim sum and custard bun lovers will definitely have heard of VK, raved to have the best custard buns in Singapore. So it’s after this morning’s dim sum brunch, when I finally tried VK’s custard buns, that I decided I’m ready to write a proper review.

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Chicken and Sausage in Glutinous Rice ($4+)

VK’s glutinous rice is the kind that I like: soft on the inside, but with a crisp and slightly charred exterior that provides a wonderful textural contrast and prevents it from being jelak and mushy.

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Century Egg and Lean Pork Porridge

Their porridge is a slightly watery version of the porridge we had at Royal China. Simple and light on the palate.

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Scallop, Sausage Carrot Cake with XO Sauce($4+)

I’ve loved VK’s carrot cake since I first tried it. Unlike the usual fried ones, steaming the carrot cake – and in a saucer too – is unique, innovative and utterly delicious. VK is rather generous with their use of scallops and I get shreds of it in every mouthful. The light soy sauce complements the delicate carrot cake. My friends said that their XO sauce is to die for, and would order additional sauce at a price of $0.50 per saucer. I like mine simple (:

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Queen Size Siew Mai ($3.50+) at the front and King Prawn Dumplings ($5.00+) at the back

What I like about their siew mai is the lean and chunky pork used. Compared to the typical minced pork, I prefer siew mai made with the chunky pork that gives the dumplings more texture. However VK’s siew mai are a tad too salty, and eating a few left me parched.

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The same applies to the har gaos. Big prawns, generous fillings, but too salty. The skin is also slightly thicker than preferred.

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Prawn and Spinach Dumplings

The same crunchy prawns is featured here, with generous amounts of spinach. Unfortunately adding too much salt seems to be the overarching trend here. The skin was also too thick, and I ended up digging out the fillings.

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Golden Egg Yolk Lava Bun ($4+)

And here they are. The famed custard buns. I ordered one portion to begin with cause I was afraid no one but me would eat them.

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My very first bun was a little disappointing. I took care to eat them hot, the moment they were placed down in fact. However the skin of the bun was lukewarm and dense. It wasn’t thick, but it lacked the fluffiness good bun skins have. And the custard didn’t flow, even after I made such a huge tear and peered deep and hard in. The custard was too little for this bun, so when torn into half only one half had custard. The other was an empty yellow cave.

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My second bun was the exact opposite of the first. Pillowy bun with an extremely hot and flowy custard. The custard was everything I was looking for: extremely hot, a slightly sandy texture from the salted egg yolks, and a perfect harmony between savoury and sweet. I can see why people claim that it’s the best custard bun ever. However I didn’t like how oily it was. The oil was clearly separated from the custard, and visible specks of oil were floating on the golden custard, even soaking the bun skin. One of the buns from our second orders had a thick layer of oil above the custard which was quite a put off. I would much rather go to Bao Today for a custard bun with an equally good, less oily, and consistent custard. Nevertheless I don’t disagree that VK does make pretty mean custard buns. They’re definitely one of the best.

What VK’s excessively salty steamed dumplings lack, their custard bun and radish cake definitely make up for. It’s by no means the best dim sum restaurant I’ve been to, but it’s definitely joined the upper ranks. It’s worth a visit so do give it a try and leave me your take on their dim sum. Meanwhile I’ll leave you to drool over the melty flowy lava goodness of custard buns.

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Victor’s Kitchen
91 Bencoolen Street
Sunshine Plaza Singapore
#01-21
9838 2851

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JE Crab Specialist

I tell you who doesn’t like chilli crabs. Me. The mention of it sends shivers down my spine, with images of starchy, sweet, boring ol’ chilli crabs flashing across my eyes. I don’t know when the benchmark for good crabs became the chilli crab, but it has ruined what it meant to sell a good crab. A good crab is not simply one that is draped in a ubiquitous sweet sauce, where all people end up judging is the quality of the sauce, and the amount of meat the crab has.

When my dad said he wanted to treat some visitors from Japan to wonderful crab dinner, I grimaced.

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Located below a HDB block at Tampines, JE Crab Specialist is essentially a zi char stall that has an added wow factor of selling ‘artisan’ crabs. Dungeness crabs, alaskan king crabs, sri lankan crabs, snow crabs, oh you name it.

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Live Canadian Oysters ($10+ each)

These were pre-ordered by my dad when calling to make the reservation.

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Yes they are actually that huge. 12 huge oysters, and only 4 at the table take oysters, which wouldn’t have been a problem if they were fresh and delicious. Unfortunately according to those who ate, they weren’t. More accurately they were inconsistent. Some pieces were fresh, sweet and succulent, while others were spat out with disgust. At $10 each they were definitely not worth it.

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Fish Maw Soup ($30+ for the large portion)

Tasting mediocre, the massive amounts of starch causing little lumps here and there were unimpressive and a total turn off.

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Prawn Paste Chicken ($12+ for the medium portion)

More commonly known as har cheong gai, the chicken wings were surprisingly nice. It wasn’t overly oily, and the crisp chicken skin screamed decadence while the meat remained moist and tender.

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Fried Baby Squid ($12+ for the medium portion)

These were delicious and well executed. A favourite of the night. I couldn’t stop popping one after another into my mouth!

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Fried Cereal Prawns ($20+ for the medium portion)

What I liked was that the prawns were really big and fresh. The cereal was extremely tasty too. My only quabble would be that it was a tad too oily and shelling them were an utter chore.

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Baby Cabbage sautéed with garlic ($16+ for the large portion)

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Spinach poached in stock ($16+ for the large portion)

Ordering plain garlic/sautéed vegetables is never a wise choice because they are always overpriced. However JE Crab Specialist surprised me when they dished out 2 of the best sautéed vegetables I’ve had in both Chinese zi char restaurants and top notch restaurants. It’s a simple dish, but they nailed it where many failed.

Next came the star dishes of the meal. When reservations were made, we were pre-allocated 2 crabs for a table of 9 which were a dungeness crab and the sri lankan crab. If you have a specific crab of your preference, it would be good to let them know over the phone. Our guests later highlighted that they loved alaskan king crabs, so we ordered a third crab. Prices are charged according to the weight and type of crab ordered regardless of your chosen preparation/cooking method. I was a little annoyed when ordering because the lady boss suggested the chilli crab preparation for every crab! Stubborn me stood firm and insisted we would have no chilli crabs that night, and the lady boss became really unhelpful after that. Technically different preparation methods would suit different kinds of crabs as it would highlight its unique characteristics, for example the sweetness of its flesh, the size, or the meatiness. However every preparation method we suggested was all “very nice very nice, ok ah” for every single crab apparently.

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Sri Lankan Crab: prepared in a claypot and served with bee hoon ($80+ for about 1.5kg)

Every component of this dish was well prepared and absolutely delicious. The bee hoon was served separately and that prevented it from being too soggy from steeping in the soup. The soup was delicious, with the flavoursome crab stock coming through, followed by a lingering fragrance of Chinese wine (hua tiao jiu I believe). The crab itself was very meaty, fresh and sweet. Most importantly it was big enough for almost everyone to have 2 servings.

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Dungeness Crab: steamed with egg whites ($75+ for about 1.3kg)

This is my kinda crab. Simply steaming with hua tiao jiu and egg whites brought the natural sweetness of the crab into the limelight. Similar to the Sri Lankan Crab, this crab was very meaty and sweet. The steamed egg whites kept the whole dish light and pleasant.

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Alaskan King Crab: fried with black pepper ($420+; $168/kg)

Carrying that hefty price tag, my expectations of this crab was set real high. The dish superceded my expectations. Weighing over 2kg, this crab was really big. As meaty and sweet as the previous crab dishes what stood out for this was the delicious black pepper sauce that accompanied it. Most black pepper crabs are simply spicy and peppery, but JE Crab Specialist’s managed to balance the fine line between savoury and sweet. It is the best black pepper sauce I’ve tried thus far. If you do make a trip here, any crab prepared with black pepper sauce is a must. Out of the three crabs, this was the easiest to shell and thus the best for kids to eat. It was extremely meaty around all the leg sections, and all we had to do was stick a chopstick, push lightly and the flesh would emerge from the other end of the shell.

On hindsight we should have gotten the Sri Lankan Crab to be prepared in the black pepper sauce and the Alaskan King Crab to be steamed. That would allow the quality of the Alaskan King Crab to come through, and thus justify the steep price.

After this meal I can safely conclude that I love crabs. I just don’t like chilli crabs. As a zi char stall specialising in seafood and crabs, JE Crab Specialist definitely outshines most of the other crab restaurants I’ve tried in terms of the quality of the sauces, the meatiness and sweetness of the crabs, and most importantly the variety of seafood and crabs offered.

Take note though that you’d have to bring lots of wet tissues along. It’s surprising they do not offer bowls of lemon and water for you to rinse your hands in, and they charge you for every single wet towel. “Take take take! Here got a lot for you to use!” said the lady boss. Our wet tissue bill amounted to $7.20+.

JE Crab Specialist @ Tampines
Block 107 Tampines Street 11
#01-361
S(521107)
6782 1942

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Pontini

Nestled at a quiet corner in Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Pontini is considered a fine dining restaurant in Singapore that serves authentic and rustic Italian cuisine. My first visit to Pontini was half a decade or so ago, back when I got my first taste of Italian and European cuisine. I left with a good impression of it then, but I’ve heard that their standards have declined since. So I was secretly glad that a new chef, Domenico Piras, had taken over the reins at Pontini and brought with him a new menu. That gave me an excuse to visit them once again with my parents.

Lightly dimmed and tinged orange, the restaurant emanates a very homely and warm feeling. I especially liked that the waiting staff were friendly, polite, and treated me with equal respect as to other customers. You know how some would give you a condescending look just because they think you’re a kid and don’t have the financial ability to afford their food? Hurmph. Oh and I have to apologise in advance, cause it slipped my mind to jot down the names and prices of the dishes we ordered!

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Complimentary bread: focaccia

This was no doubt one of the nicest focaccia I’ve eaten with regards to complimentary breads. The bread was extremely soft, fluffy, hot, and what I liked most was that the herbs really shone in the bread. It tasted wonderfully delish of rosemary. The staff were very attentive and quick to refill the bread, which as a bonus always came hot. Perhaps what is most impressive was that they served the breads with a variety of dips – olive tapenade dip, tomato salsa and olive balsamic emulsion – alongside the usual french butter.

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Pontini Pizza – with parma ham, mushroom, artichokes

Their pizza was as good as I remembered. Crisp crusts with a thin yet firm base, the pizza dough was a winner in itself. The combinations of ingredients were wonderful, with the saltiness of the ham standing in stark contrast to the earthy button mushrooms. I love how I could actually taste the smokiness of the wood-fired pizza.

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This scallop dish was one of the entrées we had that evening. Perfectly seared and accompanied by an olive tapenade, tomato salsa and fried basil, it was a wonderfully composed dish. The sweet, plump and succulent scallops were very much the star of the dish, and rightfully so.

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I still haven’t changed my mind about foie gras so I opted out from tasting this, but my parents and sisters loved it. Nicely seared and crisp on the outside, and Pontini made a good apple compote to go with it they said.

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When it comes to carpaccio, the one I’ve tasted at Waterfall Cafe easily tops the list. I must say that Pontini’s salmon carpaccio has superceded my expectations. The marinade was refreshing and delectable without overwhelming the natural sweetness of the salmon, and I love the addition of the shrimp roes.

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A classic you can almost never go wrong with, the success of this dish really falls back to the quality of ingredients used. It seems that quality is the one thing Pontini would not skimp on. The rock melon was huge and extremely sweet, and the parma ham was very fresh. What stood out was that Pontini’s rendition was elevated with the addition of some fig compote, which gave the dish a mellow and earthy dimension. Together with this unique presentation, this definitely outshines many of its competitors.

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It’s really hard for me not to gravitate towards any dish that has the words “seafood” and “stew” in it. Naturally this bouillabaisse shouted out to me from the mains menu. Served piping hot in that pot, the stew was warming, hearty, homely and comforting in every sense. It’s the kind of soup that you’d want to drink on a cold day, sitting around the fireplace with your family.

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I can’t really remember what this dish was all about, but it was a decent fish dish. My family loves fish, so as long as it is a change from the usual baked cod with mashed potatoes or purées we’d generally love it. What was interesting was the ratatouille it was served with. It really brings out that rustic Italian authenticity the restaurant boasts.

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Dad, the carb guy, likes the pasta. It was pretty well executed, but given the numerous wonderful pasta dishes I’ve eaten, there’s nothing much worth mentioning about this.

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Who ever said simple isn’t outstanding? This simple seared tuna steak with a lightly dressed salad was arguably the best main that we had that night. It was the juiciest tuna steak I’ve ever had in a contemporary european restaurant, and I must confess to loving every bite of it.

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We were much too full then to have any more space for dessert. So dad decided to order himself just one dessert for everyone to taste. A pretty decent moist and earthy carrot cake, with a wonderful sorbet and mango gelee accompanying it. It was more cake than carrot though, and I’d like to see more carrots in it to bring out the essence of a carrot cake.

We left with a wonderful impression of Pontini that night. Definitely not amongst the top players like Garibaldi, Otto or Oso, but Pontini has its charms and we’ll definitely be back for more.

Pontini
392 Havelock Road
Level 2 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel
6233 1133

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Bao Today (包今天)

I’m a true blue dimsum and bao girl. So the headboard of Bao Today (包今天) couldn’t have been less of a blinking beacon to me. And unless you were born in the 21st Century, the pun of the name surely can’t have slipped pass you. It isn’t the first time I’ve bought something from Bao Today, but it’s the first time I’ve actually sit in their restaurant to order. Previous few times were all takeaways from their counter at Vivocity’s Food Republic, which were all pretty good they piqued my interest in the restaurant.

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They offer a much more extensive dining menu at their Marina Square restaurant which includes (of course) all-day dimsum, rice dishes, noodle dishes and beverages. While I didn’t order any noodles or rice cause my focus was on the dimsum, some items did seem rather interesting. Their claypot porridge and bamboo rice are but two of the few.

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My friends ordered this XO Sauce Think Think Noodles. 3 orders in fact. When I asked them why they would pay to eat instant noodles in dark soy sauce, which they can easily cook up at home under $5, they all said it’s a Hong Kong Cafe thing. And that most importantly it’s nice. I’ve never fancied them though so I can’t really comment on how delish they are.

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Seeing the pace my friends were ungraciously slurping up the noodles I believe Bao Today’s rendition must have been pretty good, or at least passable. What I liked was the presentation which made the dish look nice and appetizing, a cut up from the usual mishmash of its competitors.

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Of course the highlight of the meal weren’t the noodles, but these pretty babies. Oh my baby luscious Steamed Creamy Custard Baos. Before I go on about how they actually taste, let the pictures speak first.

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Absolute food porn.

I can’t claim to be a professional on custard buns cause I’ve not had much experience with them, but Bao Today’s custard bao is definitely one of the better ones I’ve tasted. Firstly they have the flowy-custard-wow factor which is absolutely essential. If it ain’t flowing, it ain’t custard buns. The buns arrived steaming hot, and the buns were extremely soft. The green tinge is not simply for show and you can actually taste a slight pandan fragrance biting into the bun. The custard itself was nothing short of amazing. It was burning hot, not oily at all, and most importantly it nailed the balance of salty and sweet. Unlike most commercial custard buns, which are more of the sweet custard, Bao Today’s custard buns were both salty and sweet at the same time. With its pandan bun and delish custard, this is one custard bun that definitely stands out from the crowd for good.

They say that Victor’s Kitchen has the best custard buns ever, so I guess with all the custz bun love now I’ll go check that out soon!

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Ming Ha Gok in Cantonese, these were really nice. Hot, crispy, and they were very generous with the prawn fillings.

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The Fried Radish Cake was well executed too. It had a really crispy exterior, with a slightly charred taste that helped prevent it from getting super jelak. The radish cake was very soft and really hot too.

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I can’t remember the names of this dish, but it was some scallop and prawn dumpling thing. I must say Bao Today uses really good ingredients. The scallops were real sweet and the wonderfully huge prawns were plump and fresh. The skin wasn’t too thick so it was quite good on the whole.

We also ordered their Shanghai Xiao Longbao. Sadly it was the worst xiao longbao I’ve ever eaten. The minced meat did not hold together when encased by the skin, so it felt like I was eating some random scattered minced meat. It was too fatty and it lacked the nice dumpling texture.

Out of the many dim sum dishes we ordered, their Har Gao/Steamed Prawn Dumplings deserve a special mention. Each dumpling had a really huge, plump and sweet prawn. The dumpling skin was also not overly thick, and together it was a superb dish.

However all the steamed dim sum dishes have to be eaten steaming hot, because all the skins of the dumplings started to stick to the wax paper at the bottom of the bamboo steamer after awhile. I got extremely annoyed trying to separate the dumplings from the wax paper, and eventually I gave up and scraped up the encased dishes to eat. Bao Today will definitely have to improve the quality of their dumpling skins.

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That being said, Bao Today’s dim sum was on the whole extremely well made, and I enjoyed this meal tremendously. I’d definitely return for more of those wonderful prawn dumplings, steamed buns (like the oh-so-awesome sesame bun and sesame chicken bun), and of course my favourite custard buns.

Bao Today
6 Raffles Boulevard
#02-234-236 Marina Square
6336 2237

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Birthday Saga Part 2: Mumzie’s 5-course and 4-course meals

Mumzie’s birthday was in early November, but just so unfortunately it coincided with the first day of the Lunar month. To some of us stricter Buddhists it means we gotta go vegetarian. Vegan vegetarian, with additional stuff we can’t eat like garlic, spring onions and ginger. That meant that she’d miss out on a lotta delicious foods on her actual birthday! To make it up to her, I decided to cook a non-vegetarian meal a few days before her actual birthday so she could enjoy a lil! And so the menu goes:

1. Lemon jelly and sauteed barley with prosciutto
2. Crispy pork floss rolls topped with tomato salsa
3. Steamed fish with fresh and fried garlic in flavoured sauce
4. Wolfberry and chrysanthemum jelly with chilled almond cream and ginger-tea cooked ginkgo nuts
5. Ginger honey cake with chai spiced yogurt

Lemon Jelly and Sauteed Barley with Prosciutto

The first 3 dishes are actually adapted from Sam Leong’s cookbook “Sensations”. I was originally going to make some other contemporary European kinda dishes I always cook, but then I saw his recipes and got so excited by the look of them! Finally, a man who seemed to nail the delicate art of Chinese haute cuisine! Take note I’m referring to his recipes and cuisine alone. I personally don’t like him and his haughty arrogant tv persona. Oh but that aside, the recipe wasn’t that bad. Sisters loved the lemon jelly and the prosciutto, but they couldn’t appreciate the sauteed barley. I guess that’s mostly my bad cause it wasn’t soft enough. I’d make this dish again but change the prosciutto and use something a little less neutral in flavour. Maybe a salmon carpaccio.

Crispy Pork Floss Rolls topped with Tomato Salsa

These were actually real good! The combination of the pork floss and diced chicken inside the rolls gave it a really nice savoury sweet balance, and the salsa was a wonderful textural contrast to the crispy spring rolls. The rolls ain’t looking pretty here though, cause once again anal me didn’t want to deep fry the spring rolls (have I mentioned how much I hate fried stuff?) so I baked them. Not a gorgeous sight, but hey everyone loved it. That’s what counts in the end (:

Steamed Fish with Fresh and Fried Garlic in Flavoured Sauce

Another fave of the night! Simple, elegant and absolutely delish.

Wolfberry and Chrysanthemum Jelly with Chilled Almond Cream and Ginger-Tea-Cooked Ginkgo Nuts

I cooked the ginkgos in a ginger-honey tea that I made, but I couldn’t really taste it in the ginkgo. Wonder if it’s cause of the ginkgos, or if infusions just don’t work that way with ginkgos hmmm. I got a lil’ lazy here though cause there was just so many things to prepare, so the almond cream was store bought.

Ginger Honey Cake with Chai-Spiced Yogurt

This, was my favourite. My mum and I loved ginger, so I was looking for an intensely ginger flavour. Recipes I found seemed more sweet than spicy though, so I upped the amounts of grounded ginger called for, and added freshly grated ones! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Brought it to school the next day and everyone loved it! Success!!

I was going to cook a one-dish vegetarian meal on her actual birthday, but then I got ambitious. I thought “nah heck it I might as well go all out and give my mama a wonderful unforgettable vegetarian birthday meal!” So here goes!

1. Vegetarian soy fish and cucumber salad with sweet vinegar dressing
2. Maple roasted shiitake mushrooms with mash
3. Grilled portobellos with romanesco sauce
4. Thai pumpkin curry with raw cauliflower ‘rice’

Vegetarian Soy Fish and Cucumber Salad with Sweet Vinegar Dressing

Everything was ok for this dish, except that the cucumbers were cut way too thick. Hmm I think I need those kinda cut veges press machine things.

Maple Roasted Assorted Mushrooms with Mash

I was kinda worried about this one and wondered if it would work, but surprisingly the match was simply perfect and everyone loved the dish!

Grilled Portobellos with Romanesco Sauce

And I’m totally not exaggerating when I say they dig this sauce. Even I did. Just between you and me, I shoved a lot of it down my throat while I was making it xD oh and cause I don’t own a food processor, I had to combine everything using the mortar and pestle. Old style, but I think the chunky texture definitely worked to my advantage. It tasted real great with this simple grilled portobello.

Thai Pumpkin Curry with Raw Cauliflower ‘rice’

Thinking everyone might be sorta full by now I decided on replacing the rice staple with raw cauliflower. I was glad I did that cause everyone was pretty much filled by then! Ohmy ohmy but this dish…absolutely heavenly. The first time anyone in my family had ever attempted curry, and from scratch too, and it was a total success!! The right amount of heat, the right amount of tastiness, mmmm loved it. My fave of the night!

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These 2 menus feature dishes I never regret making, and I’d definitely definitely keep in my “Frequent!” list.

Lemon Jelly and Sauteed Barley with Prosciutto (serves 4)
Adapted from Sam Leong’s recipe Beef Carpaccio with Sauteed Barley in Yuzu Jelly, from his book Sensation

1 packet of prosciutto, about 6 slices
45g barley
1 tablespoon cooking oil
20g carrot, peeled and diced
10g cilantro stems, diced
10g celery, diced
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon chicken stock
1/4 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 1 teaspoon water

Lemon jelly
1 cup chicken stock
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 tablespoons powdered gelatin, bloomed in the lemon juice

1. Prepare this dish one day ahead.

2. Prepare the barley y bringing a small pot of water to the boil. When the water is boiling, add he barley and cook for 20 minutes or until the barley is tender.

3. Heat the oil in a wok and add the cooked, tender barley together with the carrot coriander and celery. Stir-fry the mixture lightly, then add salt and chicken stock. Stir-fry again to mix the seasoning well, then add the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce. Remove the mixture from heat then transfer to a small container and refrigerate overnight.

4. Meanwhile, place all the ingredients for the lemon jelly in a pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring until the gelatine melts. Remove the pot from the heat and leave to cool slightly before refrigerating overnight to set the jelly. Cut the jelly into smaller cubes before serving.

5. To serve, spoon the chilled barley mixture into a serving plate, topped with a slice of rolled prosciutto, and lemon jelly cubes. Serve immediately.

Crispy Pork Floss Rolls topped with Tomato Salsa (serves 4)
Adapted from Sam Leong’s recipe Crispy Chicken Floss Roll coated with Seasame seeds and topped with Tomato Salsa, from his book Sensation

Some cooking oil to brush the surface of the rolls
1/4 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoons minced shallot
45g shiitake mushroos, caps wiped and minced
100g minced chicken
1/4 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 1 teaspoon water
100g pork floss
4 sheets of wafer paper/rice paper

Seasoning
1/2 teaspoons yellow bean paste
1/2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoons ground white pepper
1 teaspoon chinese cooking wine (hu tiao)
4 tablespoons chicken stock

Salsa
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 mango, peeled and diced
Olive oil
Salt

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok and stir-fry the minced garlic and shallot until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry lightly, then add the minced chicken and seasoning ingredients. Stir to mix well and bring the mixture to the boil. Stir in the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce, then remove it from the heat. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, then toss with pork floss and refrigerate it for about 30 minutes.

2. Remove the chicken mixture from the refrigerator and divide it into 4 equal portions. Spoon 1 portion of the mixture in a row on a sheet of wafer paper and roll it up like a spring roll. Repeat to make 4 rolls.

3. Heat the oil for deep-frying in a wok. Dip the rolls into the beaten egg yolk, then roll them in sesame seeds to coat them. Deep-fry the rolls for about 1 minute, or until golden brown and crisp. Remove and drain well

4. Prepare the salsa. Toss the tomatoes and mango with olive oil, then sprinkle the salt over.

5. Cut each roll into 3 rounds and top with salsa. Serve immediately.

Steamed Fish with Fresh and Fried Garlic in Flavoured Sauce (serves 4)
Adapted from Sam Leong’s recipe Steamed Australian Lobster with Fresh and Fried Garlic in Flavoured Sauce, from his book Sensation

800g snapper fish (or any other fish)
2 tablespoons olive oil
160g garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
Chopped chives

Sauce
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 clove ginger, peeled and sliced
1 scallion, cut into short lengths
2 sprigs coriander leaves
100ml chicken stock
4 teaspoons light soy sauce
10g rock sugar
1/4 teaspoons dark soy sauce

1. Prepare the sauce. Heat the oil in a wok and saute the ginger and scallions until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients for the sauce and bring to the boil. Remove the sauce from the heat and set aside.

2. Prepare the fish. Remove its scale and rinse it. Place it on a steaming plate.

3. Heat the oil in a wok and fry half the garlic until crisp and golden brown. Set the garlic aside.

4. Combine the remaining minced garlic with salt, sugar, sesame oil and cornstarch. Sprinkle the mixture over the prepared fish and steam for about 10 minutes, or until the fish is cooked.

5. Sprinkle the deep-fried garlic over the fish and drizzle the sauce over. Serve the fish hot, garnished with chopped chives.

Wolfberry and Chrysanthemum Jelly (makes about 10 cubes)

500ml chrysanthemum tea
2 3/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
Handful wolfberries

1. Sprinkle the gelatin over a few tablespoons of room temperature chrysanthemum tea and let it bloom for a minute or two.

2. Pour the bloomed gelatin back with the remaining chrysanthemum tea and heat it over a double-boiler, stirring till the gelatin has melted, without bringing the tea to a boil.

3. Pour it into molds/containers then refrigerate it for a few hours to set. If set in a container, cut it into cubes before serving.

Ginger Honey Cake with Chai-Spiced Yogurt (makes about 20 cubes)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons grounded ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
3/8 cups olive oil
1 1/2 cups honey
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cups milk
10g ginger, grated

Chai-Spiced Yogurt
1 cup of nonfat greek yogurt
3 teaspoons of a mixture of nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and ginger (I forgot my proportions!)
2 tablespoons of honey

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Sieve the dry ingredients; mix the wet ingredients.

3. Fold the liquids into the dry ingredients till combined. Fold in the grated ginger.

4. Pour the batter into a well-greased rectangular pan and bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 150C and bake for 10-15 minutes or when the cake is done. Do the toothpick test. Let the cake rest for 5 minutes, then remove it from the pan and cool completely before serving.

5. Mix the ingredients for the spiced yogurt together till combined, then drop a dollop on each slice of cake before serving!

Vegetarian Soy Fish and Cucumber Salad with Sweet Vinegar Dressing (serves 6 as appetizers)

1 Japanese cucumber
1 teaspoon salt
12 slices of vegetarian soy fish
1 teaspoon olive oil
3cm old ginger, shredded and soaked in ice water

Sweet Vinegar Dressing
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoon soy sauce

1. Prepare the dressing by mixing all the ingredients with your fingers till dissolved.

2. Rub the skin of the Japanese cucumber with salt to smoothen the skin, then rinse it with water and slice thinly.

3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat and pan fry the soy fish.

4. Drain the shredded ginger. Combine the cucumbers and dressing, then top it with 2 slices of soy fish and the ginger to serve.

Maple Roasted Assorted Mushrooms with Mash (serves 4)

2 pounds shiitake mushrooms
1 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
2 big pinches of paprika

1. Preheat the oven to 200C.

2. Toss all the ingredients together, spread it on a baking sheet and roast all till the mushrooms are tender. Took me about 20 minutes I think.

Grilled Portobellos with Romanesco Sauce(serves 6)

6 big portobello mushrooms

Romanesco Sauce (makes more than required)
2 large red bell peppers
150g lightly roasted hazelnuts
1 clove garlic, peeped
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons paprika
4-6 tablespoons olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 225C. Cook the peppers for an hour, rotating it every 20 minutes. Pop it into a bowl, cover and allow it to steam and cool.

2. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, removed the seeds and blakcened skin.

3. Transfer the pepper flesh to a food processor with everything but the oil. Whizz for a minute or until a smoothish puree is obtained. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and combine. Do a taste test and adjust for seasonings, adding a little more vinegar or paprika if needed.

4. Grill the portobello mushrooms, then top each with a few tablespoons of romanesco sauce to serve.

Thai Pumpkin Curry with Raw Cauliflower ‘rice’ (serves 6)

1/2 small pumpkin or 1 squash, cubed
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1-2 medium carrots, cut into thick slices
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons grated orange rind

Curry Sauce
3-4 cloves garlic
1-2 fresh red chillies
1 can coconut milk
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 lime, juiced
1 medium orange, juiced
1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 tablespoon rice/apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon groun coriander seeds
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/3 red onion, sliced

1 cauliflower

1. Make the curry sauce by placing all sauce ingredients together in a food processor or blender. Process it well and set aside.

2. Place the pumpkin, carrots and sweet potatoes together with the curry sauce in a wok over medium-high heat. Stir it well.

3. When the curry begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium. Let it simmer 6-8 minutes until the vegetables have softened, stirring occasionally.

4. Meanwhile, wash the cauliflower and grate it till it resembles rice. Put it in the colander and dry it well before dividing it into 6 bowls.

5. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate. Simmer for 2 more minutes, then check for seasoning.

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