Tuesday, August 29, 2006

taipei bound . part I . shilin night market

I was supposed to write this entry as soon as I got back. As usual, I got lazy and then the flogger's dinner came along and so this got pushed back. No worries now though, cos I'm going to share the EXPERIENCE I had in Taiwan (finally!).

Got back around 2 weeks ago. Before I left, we were warned about typhoons and rallies but none of that happened while we were there. Thank God for that! During the planning stages of this trip, my 3 gal pals (Xin, Pei and Lan) and I sat down to discuss what we were going to be doing there and I think food pretty much dominated the conversations we had. We'd talk about "oh! I wanna buy shoes" and then it would eventually lead on to "oh! I want to eat that!!" and then we never got back to our initial topic.

So as it turned out, we did eat quite a bit but if you were actually present during our conversations, you'd understand why we thought it wasn't enough at the end. During my flight there, I actually took my handy notebook to write down a list of things that I HAD to try and I was determined to tick them off one by one until my last day in Taipei. To think I could actually derive satisfaction from 'ticking'.

As we were on a budget airline, we practically had to starve our way to Taipei, save for a couple of Famous Amos cookies onboard. We were so hungry that whilst on the bus to the hotel, we spotted some pushcart selling corndogs and immediately got excited. Imagine 4 girls looking out of the bus window and salivating at the same time! So after dropping our bags off at the hotel, we headed for Shilin Night Market for our "feast" but not before we detoured for some of those corndogs we were eyeing. That became my first "meal" in Taipei. I never imagined that I would be eating such a non-Taiwan thing, not to mention it being the first thing I ate. My thoughts were more along the lines of Oyster Mee Sua or Oyster Omelettes but what the heck! I was hungry!!

The bread was a bit thick but tasted so good with the tomato sauce covering it. Looks yum doesn't it?

Getting to Shilin Night Market officially marked the start of the "eating spree". It's a good thing that there were 4 of us so we could just order a couple of things and try a bit of everything. You could say it was stupid to be going to a night market on a Saturday but I was so excited when I saw the long queues. Going by the "long queue good food" concept, I was hoping that the crowd will be a good guide although I technically didn't need it cos one of my pals on the trip is Taiwanese...

I loved Shilin. I think it's probably the most famous Night Markets in Taipei. The good thing was that all the food was housed under one roof, save for one very famous Smelly Beancurd stall. Shilin is so huge that we had to return a second time on our last night but we were luckier the second time round cos my friend's aunty brought us around to all the best stalls in the market. It was a great experience for me cos most of these street snacks are not available in Singapore. Singapore doesn't even have the variety of street snacks that Taiwan has. I would say that because Taiwan food is uncommon in Singapore, a lot of people are unfamiliar with the flavours and are not able to get used to the food. I thought it was quite interesting to give all these a try anyways. Some of the memorable ones are mentioned below.

If you've tried the crispy chicken that's served at the popular Shihlin Street Snacks in Singapore or Malaysia, you would probably need to know that it doesn't even come close to the real thing in Taipei. Although the chilli powder they use tastes more or less the same, the meat is much juicier, tastier and bigger! Moreover, they don't chop the meat up so the batter never seperates from the meat. Biting it in its whole form somehow just made it taste better. This Hao Da stall is so popular that I only got to eat it on my second visit. On the first night, the queue actually stretched so far that we gave up.

In terms of food experiences, there were many "first times" during the trip. For starters, I have never tried the notoriously stinky Smelly Beancurd (臭豆腐). I managed to try the Smelly Beancurd accompanied with Cold Noodles at a famous stall in Shilin. Although it had a musky taste at the end, the beancurd was nicely fried and went well with the preserved vegetables. The Cold Noodles were also very tasty with its peanut sauce. Looks quite harmless but it was actually quite spicy. Pei loved this so much that everytime we talked about this stall, her face will let out this big smile.

Another first for me was to try bishop's nose. Yes, that is chicken backside. I have never tried it and never even once thought of it. That was until Xin kept raving about how good it tasted and it sure was. It was marinated in this teriyaki sauce and then barbequed 'til it was a little charred. I expected the texture to be like fat but it came out tasting like chicken thigh. Definitely one of the best things I ate on the trip. I regret sharing that skewer with the rest. Urgh!!

I also tried this famous snack called Coffin Cakes (棺材板). Queer name isn't it? This popular snack actually comes from Tainan. Basically, it's just thick toast with the insides all dug out. The bread is deep fried and then stuffed with creamy stuff like chicken or pork. It's then covered with the top of the bread that was cut out. Thus the name Coffin Cakes! I loved my bread fried and it was really yummy. Super glad that I didn't give this a miss.

I am amazed at the variety of desserts that the Taiwanese have come up with. They have lots of variety of ice desserts such as cotton ice, layered ice. Also tried a dessert called Ai Yu Bing (愛玉冰) which consists of lemon jelly and pearls. Good thing I went in the summer. They've also got all types of milk drinks, juices and so on. I just wished I had more time and more space to try everything!

So along with all the good stuff I've mentioned, also managed to try their Braised Meat Rice (魯肉飯) which Mum kept nagging at me to try before I left. It's her favourite so I guess I did her a great favour by buying those pre-packed spices to cook at home so she could eat her fill. A lot of Taiwanese food is starch-based especially their thickened soups which is sold all over the place. In fact, one of my biggest disappointments was a starchy dish; Oyster Omelette (蚵仔煎). It was very very starchy and there was this sauce that was poured all over that I couldn't really taste anything else. The sauce tasted kinda weird anyway so it was quite yucks. Apparently, this is just a gimmick. I wished they just stuck to the original though.

So that's it for my Shilin adventure. I had to break up the post cos it'd be too long a read to include everything. Anyways, I'll continue with Part II next time around.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

food bloggers @ sage

Sage, The Restaurant
11 Unity Street #02 -12

Robertson Walk
Tel: 65 6333 8726
Website: http://www.sagerestaurants.com.sg/

I guess if you're an avid food blog reader, you would have found out by now that the floggers met for dinner! Before I go into the "food" section of this post, I'd first like to thank Colin for putting this whole thing together. A job well done!

I'd have to admit that initially I didn't know to expect. It was like it I knew these people (through their blogs) yet in real life, I didn't. However, as it turned out, converations flowed freely through the night. I'm always talking about food with my friends to the extent that I have to tell myself to shut up once in a while. However, I didn't feel this way at all during the dinner because we all had one thing in common; Food. We were sharing our dining experiences, whipping out our cameras (imagine more than 10 people snapping away at their food all at the same time), sharing our "pains" of food blogging such as times when we ran out of adjectives to describe the food we were writing about. Conversations pretty much revolved around everything about food. So you know Singlish is not the language of Singaporeans. It's FOOD! This get-together made me realise some things and reinforced some beliefs I had. Here's a couple:

1. Food is one universal thing that brings people together
2. I'm not the only one who loves my food but knows nuts about appreciating wine with it
3. I'm not the only one who doesn't really fancy chocolate much
4. I don't take the longest when it comes to taking pics of my food (the one who took the longest of course, took beautiful pictures. You'd be able to see them here.)

5. I must turn my macro function on when I'm taking pics. I keep forgetting that!!
6. People actually know about my blog!!

I think Colin made an excellent choice with choosing Sage. I loved the cosy and small environment. I like how it's untouched although I'm not so sure how it'd be like after all the rave reviews it will receive after our dinner. The service was good; the host was hospitable. The food was great and I was in perfect company. So yes, now to the food. I liked the menu that was planned for the evening although there was a hiccup somewhere in the middle. There were one or two stars which I thought deserved a whole lot of credit. A rundown of the evening's menu..

fricassee of burgundy escargot with lentil du puy and field musrooms, poached egg and italian parsley foam
I liked this dish quite a bit. At least, it gave me a good idea of how the food was going to be like for the evening. First impressions always count right? This dish reminded me of Anthony Bourdain's visit to El Bulli where he tried carrot foam. Chef Jusman was quite generous with the amount of escargots and I loved the poached egg that was in it.

chestnut mousseline with oxtail consomme and truffle oil
It got even better when this course came. For a couple seconds, fellow bloggers around me were wondering whether we should eat this in layers or just mesh everything up together and drink it out the cup. So we then found out from the waiter that it's up to us although it's best when all the layers are mixed. The bottom layer was shredded oxtail I believe, followed by the chestnut mousseline which was so creamy and smooth. After that was the oxtail consomme topped with truffle oil on the foam. It's good that I at least managed to try the chestnut before I mixed everything together cos that was my favourite part of this dish. I don't think this is on the regular menu but if you manage to see it, you'd have to give it a try.

baked fillet of sea bass topped with tiger prawn mousse, braised fennel and a lemon-basil emulsion
This was the hiccup that I was talking about. I think most of the rest felt the same way. Somehow, the sea bass had an odd texture; tougher than usual. I remember my sea bass flaking off in other restaurants when I ordered them but somehow the sea bass that day tasted like snowfish. I couldn't taste much of the tiger prawn mousse either. I liked the braised fennel though.

US corn fed beef shortribs braised in red wine topped with slices of foie gras and bone marrow, glazed root vegetables and a mousseline of butternut pumpkin
This tops everything we had that evening. The beef shortribs was so tender and paired so well with the foie gras. I loved the creamy and sweet pumpkin too although I learnt that night that eating too much of it will turn me yellow. 2 thumbs up! There's really nothing I didn't like about this course except that I wished I had more.

fromage blanc panna cotta topped with candied strawberries, champagne jelly and a strawberry sorbet
The final course was a sweet ending to the wonderful food that was served that evening. Although the texture of the panna cotta is a bit firmer than what I'm normally used to, it was nonetheless good. I especially liked the champagne jelly with the strawberries. The sorbet was smooth and not too sweet or sour. Definitely the kind of dessert that I would have usually ordered.

Besides the delicious food that we had that evening, there were a lot of other surprises. First, we were each given a box of Straits Chai Tea courtesy of
Gryphon Tea Company. Apparently, this tea was specially blended for the IMF meeting is still currently not available in the market.

I also brought home a Kasumi utility knife and a Masahiro sashimi knife, of which the latter was a prize from a lucky draw. Both were sponsored courtesy of Razorsharp. I could have seriously scared people if I opened up the 2 boxes in public. So yes, I'll try to make full use of them both in the kitchen but thanks to Aun and Razorsharp for making all these goodies possible. I just wished that I could have that fondue set that was provided by BATS Singapore. That fondue set would have been perfect for a themed party. I should get one of those soon...

There were also some truffles courtesy of Julius Truffles and there was also this nice chocolate cake cos it was Colin's birthday!! Thanks also to Ivan and See Wah for providing the wines and the limoncello although the limoncello proved too strong an alcohol for me.

So that was it. I thoroughly enjoyed myself; the company and the food. Can't wait for our get-together again next year.

P/S: I forgot to mention that it would be a long entry at the beginning but if you're reading this right now, congratulations!! You've made it to the end.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

new additions.

There are 2 additions to my cook book shelf this week. Considering that I don't usually buy much of them, 2 is quite A LOT! But still... hopefully I'd be able to try something, make it yummy and delicious then feed it to my "book givers" someday.

To Ling. Thanks so much!! If I open an Italian restaurant someday, you'll be in my list of people to thank. That is IF I do open one...

To Chum. Thanks for the kind thoughts. I must say that the book's quite an interesting read. Even my mum enjoyed reading it and kept sharing with me her "foodie" stories from way back in her time.

I feel kinda inspired to write a cookbook although frankly, I don't know what's going to go in there. Maybe I'll document my mum's cooking recipes or maybe I should do a food guidebook although that's been done. Hmm...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

the new marketplace.

Chippy British Take Away
#B1-58, Raffles City Shopping Centre

The Fruity Juice Co.
#B1-57, Raffles City Shopping Centre

There's been quite a couple of write ups on the refurbishments done in the basement of Raffles City. Now known as The Raffles Marketplace, there are quite a number of food additions such as Kuriya Japanese, Din Tai Fung and the new Aerin's set up by the people at Whitebait and Kale. I think 8 Days did a whole article on the new basement in its recent issue.

Anyways, I've been frequenting the place quite a lot since I work close by. In the many times that I was there, I realised that the only stall that had people crowding around was Chippy. I know that Chippy has been around for some time at Far East Plaza but since when was it THAT popular?? It's not surprising though cos knowing how most Singaporeans react to novelty. There's just been too many cases where Singaporeans can rush for something but yet leave it high and dry suddenly thus forcing store owners to close down. If you look at the Bubble Tea craze and the Roti Boy craze, you'll understand what I mean.

So.. The novelty at Chippy is of course, their fried Mars bars. Apparently, fried Mars bars originated in Scotland and was chanced upon by 2 girls in Lancaster who eventually decided to start this in Singapore. I've also heard a bit about how good their cheese sausage is so I decided to try it a couple of days ago (I gave up my favourite Octopus Wow Tako for this!).

The food served at Chippy is seriously not for the faint-hearted. Just looking at the frying that was going on behind the counter was almost about to make my cholestrol levels go up and arteries clog. Frankly speaking, the cheese sausage was quite good. The skin of the sausage was mildly crunchy from the deep-frying. As I bit into it, there was cheese oozing out. It was juicy although I'm not sure if that was just oil from the frying. I hated the mash potatoes and the gravy though cos it felt like I was eating instant mash that came from powder. I felt so guilty eating the cheese sausage but felt a little better after seeing the lady next to me dig into her fried Mars bars with ice cream after finishing off the sausage and mash!!

I had to have something a little healthier to wash all the calories down so I picked up a bottle of Pineapple and Strawberries fruit juice from The Fruity Juice Co. Also set up by 2 ladies, it sells 100% freshly squeezed fruit juices. I really loved what I had cos it was so pure and refreshing. There was even Pineapple pulp (or fibre) at the bottom of the bottle. On top of that, I love its labels! Very pretty...

In general, the food offerings are quite different from what you can get at the other shopping centres. There are really quite a number of interesting eats such as Baguette & Little Fingers. For those who haven't been to The Raffles Marketplace, I recommend that you check it out real soon.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

gems from japan.

I found a gem in my kitchen. It's another one of those things that you can only find in Japan. Bro brought it back on the way home and D, without permission, decided to swipe it from my kitchen. It tastes pretty much like the green tea kit kat I was mentioning in an earlier entry, just that it's in a different form. Unlike the regular 'stingy-with-chocolate' pocky we have in Singapore, there was a generous amount of green tea chocolate coated on the biscuit. That's probably why it says 'mousse' on the box huh...

There's actually another black sesame pocky lying around in the kitchen. I should probably have that soon. Except that D isn't around to try it this time. Yes, I've lost my eating kaki to Hong Kong for 3 months. During this time, he will be enjoying his roast goose & wanton mee without me. Shucks. I wish I was there too.