Tuesday, September 30, 2008

F1 weekend cookout.

The past weekend has really been an exciting and 'quick' one. Quick... geddit??

Anyways, D and I decided to stay in on Sunday to catch all the F1 action. The plan was initially to just order pizza in so that our eyes would be glued to the goggle box but a quick shop around the Holland V. area got us into the kitchen again. We bought sausages from The Butcher at Chip Bee Gardens for a simple pasta. They really have a good selection of sausages there. We decided on the Mexican Jalepeno Sausages on one of the staff's recommendation since we wanted something with a lot of spices in it.

After we got home, we headed straight to prepping for our 2 dishes. D for his sausage pasta and my Tomato Crisp. I must say that I was really proud of his efforts. D has always been my companion at the dining table and I'm really glad that he's taken to spending time in the kitchen recently. The pasta dish is really easy and mighty quick to whip up. Have a go at it!

Aglio Olio with Bell Peppers & Mexican Jalepeno Sausages (serves 4)

300g dried pasta; spaghetti or linguine
1 medium sized red pepper, diced
1 medium sized yellow pepper, diced
3 Mexican jalepeno sausages; skinned
4 cloves garlic, chopped
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
chopped parsley for garnish
  • Boil the dried pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to the time stated on the package of the pasta. i.e. If it has a '7' stated on the packaging, cook the pasta for approximately 7 minutes. The pasta should be al dente.
  • In a separate pan, heat up some olive oil and saute the meat from the sausages, breaking them up into pieces. Remove from the heat when it is about 90% cooked.
  • In the same pan used for frying up the meat, heat up some additional olive oil and saute the chopped garlic until it turns slightly golden brown. Add the diced red and yellow bell peppers and saute until it turns slightly soft. Be careful not to burn them.
  • Add in the pre-cooked sausage meat and saute for around 1 minute.
  • Remove pasta from the boiling water and throw straight into the saute pan to toss with the meat and peppers. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Remove pasta from the heat and sprinkle chopped parsley on pasta before serving.

I also contributed to dinner by baking a Tomato Crisp, a dish I learnt from watching Chef at Home on the Asian Food Channel. I love that programme because Michael Smith's recipes are casual and easy to follow although I do find his way of talking a little unnatural. I wish I had a well stocked kitchen like his though. This dish is somewhat like a cooked bruschetta. It's super duper delicious and I'm sure it'd be a family hit just as it was in mine.

Tomato Crisp (serves 4)

1 box mixed red and yellow plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes; halved
1/2 large white onion; diced
7 - 8 cloves garlic; chopped
1/2 loaf crusty bread; torn into pieces
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
parmesan cheese; shaved
  • Pre-heat oven at approximately 220℃.
  • In a baking dish, combine the tomatoes, onions and garlic. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and ensure that the tomatoes are all coated with the olive oil.
  • Tear the crusty bread into pieces and place them on top of the tomatoes. Try to get each piece of bread to have the crust only on one side so that you can a mixture of the crust and bread when eating it.
  • Drizzle more olive oil on top of the bread. This is to make sure that the bread will brown and crisp nicely in the oven.
  • Shave a generous amount of parmesan cheese using a vegetable peeler and lay on top of the bread covering all areas.
  • Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes. The cheese should brown, bread turn crispy, onions and tomatoes soft and well-cooked.
Hope everyone had fun watching the race last night. I sure did. I never knew that an F1 race would be so exciting to watch; full of ups and downs. Alonso drove a fantastic race and I think his win was really deserving. Unfortunately, since neither Massa nor Hamilton won the race, D and I won't be expecting to have our celebratory sushi lunch soon. Bugger.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hong Kong Char Siew

I always look forward to the 'Taste' section on The Sunday Times. I personally find that there's always something interesting to read about. Lately, D & I have been looking out for their recipes. Tan Hsueh Yun, who also writes the food column for Urban, wrote about her own experiment with Char Siew about 3 weeks back. D kept pestering me to give this recipe a try since it looked pretty simple, plus the fact that he's a char siew lover.

D was right. The recipe was easy and most importantly, it tasted great. If you're looking for the local version of char siew that is loaded with red colouring, this ain't it. What you get here is the Hong Kong version of char siew which is sweeter and without any of that artificial colouring.


500g pork shoulder butt (also known as 五花肉) or pork neck


1 tsp salt

3 Tbs sugar

1 Tbs canola or vegetable oil

1 Tbs hoisin sauce

1 Tbs zhu hou sauce

3 Tbs light soy sauce

1 Tbs meiguilu jiu or shaoxing wine

1 Tbs grated ginger
125g maltose or honey

2 medium-sized shallots, finely chopped


2 Tbs maltose or honey
  • Cut the pieces of shoulder butt or neck into pieces of approx. 4 inches in length, 2 inches in width. Let your butcher know that you're buying it for char siew and they should know how to cut it for you. Rinse under running water, pat dry and leave to drain whilst making the marinade.
  • Combine all ingredients for the marinade into a microwaveable bowl and place in the microwave on high for around 20 seconds or until maltose is soft before whisking to combine. The maltose would be difficult to whisk together if it wasn't left in the microwave long enough. 20 seconds should be sufficient if you're using honey.
  • Place the pieces of pork in a container, pour the marinade over ensuring that it coats the pork. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight for better results.
  • Preheat the oven to 230 deg C at least 30 minutes before cooking. Meanwhile, arrange for a metal rack to be placed on a tray for placing of the pork. Line the baking tray with parchment paper or aluminium foil to collect the liquid as a lot of it will be removed from the meat during the roasting process.
  • Remove pork from marinade, pat lightly to remove excess marinade with paper towels and arrange the pieces on the rack.
  • Place the pork in the oven after the oven is pre-heated. Roast the pork for 15 minutes at a time on each side. Remove from oven. Turn the pork, brush with maltose or honey and return to the over for 3 minutes. After which, turn the meat again, glaze and roast for 2 more minutes.
  • Remove from oven, leave the pork to rest for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.

Both cuts of meat are great for char siew. However, if you like something more fatty and a texture that's more chewy, go for the pork neck. Since the shoulder is a leaner cut, take care not to overlook it lest the meat turns out dry.

The recipe initially called for a mou see cheong which the writer eventually substituted with crushed salted soy beans. A quick check with my colleague from HK led me to use zhu hou sauce which is less salty. You should be able to find this in Chinatown.

You should be able to get meiguilu jiu, a kind of liquor flavoured with rose, from your neighbourhood supermarket. Look out for the Double Dog brand.

I suggest using maltose in the marinade but honey for the glaze. Maltose has a much milder taste and wouldn't make the marinade overly sweet. If you'd still like to use honey for the marinade since it's so much easier to handle than the stiff sticky substance, you could consider cutting back a little on the amount. Using honey as the glaze gives it a much better flavour at the end. You don't have to stick to the 2 Tbs. I basically just applied sufficiently over the meat so that it can caramelise nicely in the heat.

I used one of those cookers where a direct heat is applied on the meat during roasting. I only cooked it for about 10 to 12 minutes on each side since it cooks much faster. The results were great. Adjust your cooking time according to your cooking method.

Give this recipe a try and you'll be hooked like me. I made this 3 times last week.

The original recipe is available here if you need it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

australian eats . what I miss most

Whiteapple Café
Shop 11, Regent's Place Shopping Mall

501 George Street (Next to Town Hall Station)

Sydney, NSW

I've had so many enjoyable eats during my trip to Australia this time that I'm not even sure where I should start. Anyhow I decided to go with what I miss the most; green tea cappuccino.

2 days after I returned home, I was scurrying around for a replacement. OChaCha, a green tea themed café at Raffles City Shopping Centre was my first stop. It was already different right from the beginning. For starters, they served a green latte instead of cappuccino which meant that there was more milk. Moreover, they served me a watered down version, skimping on the most vital green tea powder. I left disappointed.

The next day, I found myself at Starbucks ordering a green tea latte. This fared much better than what I had tasted the day before but still wasn't as good as what I've tasted in Sydney. Firstly, it was the larger amount of milk that diluted the taste of the green tea. Secondly, Starbucks uses sugar syrup as a sweetener whereas the green tea cappuccino I had in Sydney was nicely flavoured with honey.

Whiteapple Café is set up with a healthy concept in mind by 2 Koreans. On its menu, one would find mostly green tea products. Besides the delicious green tea cappuccino, there are other green tea beverages on the board although I can't really recall what they are. If you're having a green tea beverage, don't forget to order the pistachio finger to go along as they are great complements. Apparently, the pistachio fingers are brought in daily from a famous Italian café nearby.

They also serve a soft serve yoghurt which is similar to what you can get at Yoguru or Frolick here. I always find the ones here too sweet but Whiteapple's green tea yoghurt is really light and much smoother and finer in texture than the versions here.

I miss the intensity of the green tea powder in the steamed milk, the smoothness and warmth of the green tea cappuccino and the chill of the cold Sydney winter. For now though, I guess I'll have to do with my Starbucks no fat green tea latte with an extra scoop of green tea powder.

Monday, September 08, 2008

tasting @ 2am : dessert bar

2am : dessert bar
21A Lorong Liput

Holland Village

Tel: 65 6291 9727

Website: http://www.2amdessertbar.com/

Time really flies.

About a year ago, I won a lucky draw prize at the food bloggers' dinner; a dessert tasting session for 2 at a newly opened dessert bar. Almost a year later, I'm sitting at the bar counter of 2am Dessert Bar looking at chef owner, Janice and her colleagues at work, carefully creating each plate of dessert and making them into pieces of art.

We started with the Cheese Avalanche, a dessert that's served in a way to display a different texture from the usual cheesecake. It was served together with fruit & nut biscotti, rockmelon and if I remember correctly, a sauce made of dates. I've been staying off cheesecakes for a while now because I always find them too heavy after a meal. This dessert on the other hand, was light, not too sweet and in fact, had a little salty taste which I liked very much. I personally found that eating the cheese with the crispy biscotti and the date sauce was the best way to enjoy it because it provided a really nice texture in the mouth. The 2 pieces of rockmelon didn't do much for me though. In fact, I thought it might have been better if it was replaced by a fruit that had a bit of sourness to it.

The 2nd dessert was Chocolate, a warm chocolate tart served with a blood orange sorbet and salted caramel. I liked this dessert a whole lot although I'm not the greatest fan of chocolate. The bitterness from the nice warm tart went really nicely with the sweetness and the slight sourness from the sorbet. My favourite part though, was the salted caramel. Salted caramel is becoming rather popular as more and more people use it in their desserts. The salted caramel ice cream at Tom's Palette is delicious and worth a try for those who haven't. Back to 2am. Both desserts I really enjoyed and I realised that a lot of attention must have been put in to make sure that there was texture and balanced flavours in each course.

Janice and her team have done really well with this place. The decor is modern and chic, yet at the same time cosy. Those who like to sit and rest comfortably, there are reclining couches to sit on. Those who like to watch the people at work behind the busy counter, a seat at the bar counter would be perfect. If you like it quieter, come in before 10pm as the crowds start to stream in after. The feel totally changes from 10pm. It's somewhat like a transformation from a dessert café to a bar if you know what I mean so I guess Janice definitely got the name of her place right.

I think Singapore needs more places like 2am dessert bar. Not exactly the same thing of course, but something else that marks a spot in our competitive local F & B industry. For now though, I'm hoping that 2am sticks around for a really long time. With their hard work, dedication and creativity, I think they deserve that.