Homemade Water Dumplings (水餃)!

By , January 26, 2010 7:38 pm

It’s important to clarify what sort of water dumplings you mean when you make a casual reference to them. There are the slippery and soft skin variety, usually sold as shrimp dumplings in foodcourts with the skin usually bought off the shelf. Then there are the chewy skin variety which is more like a  gyoza in texture (except that it’s boiled), and the skin is usually handmade.

I tried this recipe a coupla times and am proud to have one that I can (finally!) share. So for dumpling lovers, here goes :

Dumpling skin :
300gm plain flour
150ml cold water
Dash of vegetable oil (to coat doughball)

1. Sieve flour.
2. Pour a quarter of the water into the flour and mix ((I put my hand in a plastic bag to mix the flour so I don’t get flour under my nails any dirt from under my nails into the flour) 
3. Repeat until water and dough forms a firm and elasticky feeling ball (when you press it gently, it shd ‘rebound’)
3. Put the doughball into a plastic bag coated with vegetable oil. Leave for 20mins.

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Dumpling Filling :
300gm minced pork
2 diced water chestnut
100gm diced cabbage
2 stalks of chinese parsley (optional)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp water 
1 tbsp cornflour
Dash of pepper 

1. Mix the above well (Don’t worry about it being too salty – the flour based skin negates it)
2. Fridge for 15mins if the meat feels too soft to handle (optional)
3. Roll into equal sized balls so the dumplings all turn out same sized (optional).

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4. Dust work area with flour.
5. Pull out a small ball of dough from the big ball and flatten with a roller.

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6. Put filling in center of dumpling and press down the sides.
7. Use scissors to cut off excess flour and to make a nice semi circle. (optional)

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8. Sprinke flour on the plate and between each dumpling. Be generous with the flour or they will stick and break when you try to get them off the plate into the pot.
9. Bring half a pot of water to boil and dump dumplings inside (Sorry -couldn’t resist that)
10. They are ready when they float. Remove and place on a plate.

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Ta da!! If you aren’t eating it immediately, sprinkle some sesame oil on them so they don’t stick together. I used a cube of chicken stock to a litre of water to boil some vegetables to accompany the dumplings – made a very filling meal 🙂

The wonder about homemade anything, is that you can put whatever you want inside it. I don’t recommend shrimps tho, cos they make the dumpling a tad hard to chew – but that’s totally your call. You can also opt to use vegetables like leek, chives, spring onion, celery to go with your meat and even use chicken as your main meat. Feel free to go crazy!

Have fun!

Baa… Baa.. Black Sheep

By , January 21, 2010 9:32 pm

We’ve not been visiting new haunts much – more convenient to fall back on tried and tested places for meals because they offer good food and less unpleasant surprises. So the impetus to try out this new cafe was thanks to our friends who smsed this : “French tonight – 7pm at 35 Mayo Street.”

I’m not very clear about the distinctions between French and Italian foods. My basic knowledge – French food uses more cream/butter, and dishes like foie gras and duck confit come to mind; Italian food uses more olive oil/tomatoes and pizzas and pastas come to mind.  But a good excuse reason as to why I’m clueless may be because many restaurants in Singapore do not serve purely one type of cuisine. I find foie gras in many places that isn’t French per se, and duck confit right alongside pastas in others. It’s very likely driven by the Singaporean’s need for variety and more variety – think food courts.

Anyway, a note about the parking – very tough. Less grief to just park at Sim Lim Tower opposite and walk. The name of the place is “The Black Sheep Cafe“. It can seat less than 20pax, and is designed for function. Like the menu which has only 3 starters, 3 mains and 2 desserts. I was initially surprised at the lack of variety, but afterward glad cos we all very quickly made up our minds!

Pistachio crusted Brie

Pistachio Crusted Baked Brie Cheese ($11) was our first starter – it looked like fried fish until we tasted it. Yummy!!! This is a must try if you go! A totally different experience from the normal cold cut cheeses – this soft warm brie($11) with a lightly crusted exterior of bits of pistachios went perfectly with these triangular biscuity toasts :

Crispy Triangular Toast

Can’t go wrong with cheese and toast esp when the cheese is this yummy. I wasn’t a fan of the fruit compote that was served with the cheese – there were some onion and some chili in the fruit. A little try-hard (I thought) for ‘new age fusion cuisine’, but the more adventurous may like it. Oh, the toast wasn’t even for the cheese. It was for Dan’s starter :

Pan Seared Foie Gras

Pan Seared Foie Gras ($22) with fruit compotes and toast. He said it was pretty good and cooked just right.

Caesar Salad with Garlic Prawns

This Caesar Salad with Garlic Prawns ($11) was tossed with a light homemade dressing. I like it because the greens are fresh and the dressing not overdone.

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Soup of the day was Prawn Bisque with Garlic Bread – not the best I’ve had cos I prefer my bisques creamier. But it wasn’t bad plus their garlic bread, nicely buttered, toasted and served hot saved the day.

Duck Confit  with Apple Roesti

Another must try is this Duck Confit with Apple Roesti($21) – crispy skin and juicy succulent duck meat underneath. Dan actually liked the fruit with it and thought that the apple roesti went well with the meat. I thought the duck was awesome!

The Black Sheep Shank

The Black Sheep Shank ($21), is lamb shank braised in red wine and herbs. The oh so soft meat was falling off the bones, and according to those who had it (Me no fan of lamb), tasted very flavorful *thumbs up*.

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 The Fillet Mignon was under Special of the Day ($34). Served a nice medium and accompanied with greens, it felt like a very healthy choice (if you’ve no hangups about red meats that is).

Flourless Chocolate Tart w/ Vanilla Ice Cream and Kahlau Souffle

Finally to the desserts – both were so light you’ll forget you had dessert the moment it’s down your throat. The Flourless Chocolate Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream($8) wasn’t quite what I’d expect from a tart.This looks more like a cupcake. The Kahlua Souffle was interesting but I’m not a big fan of souffles cos they taste so eggy (yes, even with the kahlua). BUT, I appreciate how light they were and still rate it a good finish to the meal 🙂

I’d recommend this place only for smallish groups because with only 2 people preparing the food, it can be quite a wait…. But like everything else, it’s all a matter of perspective because time between dishes fly by if there is good conversation and much laughter…

Except for fish which nobody felt like having, every other item on the menu is above. I’m all for streamlining the menu if it means that everything that is served up doesn’t disappoint 🙂

Steak Week!

By , January 12, 2010 1:26 pm

I had wanted to do 3 different posts this week relating to steak but just the thought of going on about steaks the entire week felt like too much. Think I’ll just put them all in one post – in increasing order of prices…

This is the most economical new place we found, giving Astons across the street a run for their money. It’s at Chomp Chomp (round the corner from NTUC), called Ministry of Steak – has rather bare decor but it’s air conditioned 🙂

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The first time we went, Dan ordered the porterhouse steak(400gm), which is a Tbone with strip loin on one side and tenderloin on the other. The sides were served separately (nothing to shout about) and Dan said it tasted decent for its price($28.50) cos the porterhouse is usually the biggest and most expensive on the menu. After this steak, he ordered another to go – a wagyu steak. I forgot to take a picture of it but the takeaway was the winner. It wasn’t big (180gms), but it was nicely marbled (ie: more fatty). Where prices of wagyu can easily go up to $100 per steak, this costs $29. Good deal!! Plus we chose ‘better’ sides – tasty butter rice and salad.

I just Have to include a picture of what I ordered cos it was very yummy – nuggets! That was my last bout of craving which lasted about 2weeks. Couldn’t face another steak then cos we were having so much of it. It isn’t tough to serve up good nuggets – just be sure it’s served hot and crispy 🙂

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The second place, is the Chicago’s SteakHouse at Holland Village. I already had Vietnamese for lunch next door, and was accompanying Dan. Nearly gagged just watching him eat cos he ordered the fillet mignon (certified Angus beef), along with a dozen oysters, a full salad, a side of foi gras and 4 champagnes. Still feel like gagging thinking about it but it was Christmas day and I couldn’t bring myself to stop him from killing himself by overeating…. hurhur

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The tenderloin was artfully presented on an elongated plate, with sides of vegetables and potatoes. It was perfectly cooked to the medium rare that Dan requested for (as u can see). The small bite I had was fantastic – it had the chargrilled taste I like, was juicy and all in all, a very good cut of meat. Cost : 48 for a 400gm cut and 28 for a 250gm

I also liked that this outlet (they have another at Grange Rd) is small and cosy with friendly service. My only gripe is that the entire place smokes up if someone orders the flaming filet mignon while you’re there.

Alright, to the finale for this entry – Morton’s at The Oriental. Excellent, excellent service! Eating there is very much a treat (Dan’s bday in this case) and I suppose it’s the same for others cos we heard 6 birthday songs while we were there. Your server pushes a cart filled with fresh cuts of meat and vegetables to explain the menu before handing you the menu. I wonder how often they practised in front of the mirror before they do it for the customers!

Going straight to the main course – the double cut fillet mignon. I would’ve been happy with a single cut, but the single costs $79 and the double $89…. My inner kiasu refused to allow me to order the single.

Disclaimer: Even armed with a good cam, the lighting did not allow my pictures to do the food any justice :

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It was a slightly overcooked medium maybe because I agreed to the butterfly cut (which means they slice the fillet in half before they cook it). Dan the connoisieur of steaks, politely declined the butterfly offer and his was the perfect medium.

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We also ordered the lobster tail which was oh so divine!!! The lobster was just right in every aspect – taste, texture, freshness. I could go on, but Surf and turf (lobster and steak) is one of my favourite combos. Lurve it!!

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They also have an excellent molten chocolate cake to end the meal – this was a birthday complimentary special. You can hardly go wrong with good vanilla ice cream and chocolate cake. I’d recommend sharing this if you’re there – the molten center is extremely rich!

For 3 drinks, an appetiser, 2 double cuts, a lobster tail and one side (it was enough for 3 ppl), the damage was close to $500(explains why it’s a special occasion sorta place). But you happily sign the bill cos the topnotch food and service feels deserving 🙂

Prawn Noodles on Palawan Beach

By , January 8, 2010 10:31 am

I was talking about craving prawn noodles the last post. To be more accurate, I meant prawn skinny beehoon since I dont like the regular thick yellow noodles that is synonymous with prawn noodles. This craving began when we were on Sentosa one of the Dec weekends – it was dinnertime but I didn’t have much of an appetite, so we trodded to the foodcourt(Koufu) on Palawan Beach to see if anything would catch my eye.

Spying on what’s on other people’s tables is a great way to get ‘inspiration’ for your meal. No prizes for guessing that’s what caught my eye – a bowl of prawn skinny beehoon.

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It does look pretty good, doesn’t it? They are very generous with the fishcake slices, the beehoon is extremely smooth (yes, like noodles, skinny beehoon has got different textures and tastes), and most importantly, the stock was very tasty – so much so I didn’t mind them not having chilli padi (my staple with soups). The big prawns were deshelled around the body, not overcooked, and really fresh and sweet. Made me very happy 😀

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The meaty sides were Dan’s picks – good choices I must say! This dumpling soup didn’t impress me when it was served, cos they looked like factory made thawed frozen dumplings, but chomping down on one proved me wrong. It was soft to the bite, not overly seasoned plus the crunch of little water chestnut bits added to its appeal. *Thumbs up*

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I was also doubtful when Dan ordered the “Homemade meatballs” – didn’t look appealing on their signboard. But once it was served up, I was singing a different tune – it’s fried to a crisp on the outside and really juicy on the inside.

I think their secret to a soft meat ball is the proportion of meat to fat. It’s probably not as healthy as one would make it at home, but it sure tastes yummy!

This shoutout is for f you’re on Sentosa and feel like having hawker fare vs the many restaurants dotted around the island.

Macpherson Minced Meat Noodles!

By , January 6, 2010 12:45 pm

We staked out 3 steak places (extremely lame choice of words sorry) during the last week of 2009. I’m still recovering from beef overload and am reluctant to blog about them as yet. Next week could be steak week so let’s go with the other hawker fares I enjoy for now 🙂

This Macpherson stall was an accidental find cos I was actually craving prawn noodles. We deliberately drove to this famous store along Tai Thong Cres, off Macpherson Rd called River South (Hoe Nam) Prawn Noodles. Unfortunately, they don’t serve skinny beehoon because I dont like thick yellow noodles and as I’ve discovered, most authentic prawn noodle stores only serve that. Anyhow, we were gonna head off feeling a little letdown but saw this coffeeshop with happy and satisfied faces over black bowls of delicious looking noodles. What better ‘advertisement’, right?

So we sat down and ordered what everybody else had on their tables – Yellowtail fishcake and a bowl of noodles.

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This must be some specialty cos it was on almost every table. A man opposite us sat down and ordered only this. Mid afternoon snack I suppose. It was very springy to the bite and tasted extremely fresh. My only gripe : it was served cold. Tasted much better after I warmed it in my side bowl of soup.

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This bowl of noodle was absolutely yummy! It is more saucy than I’m used to but that wasn’t offputting. The texture of the noodles suited my tastebuds – not too hard or soft. I guess food is a very personal thing in that everybody has their own preferences. Dan ordered his with vinegar and no chilli. I ordered mine without vinegar and extra chilli. We both finished our big bowl of noodles (which is a rarity for me). Not the healthiest choice because I could taste the unmistakable (and irreplaceable) taste of lard which made my lunch more enjoyable… But most yummy foods aren’t, right? 

We went back again for this and I tried the soup version cos the little soup I had last was so tasty. It was a tad gooey maybe because yellow skinny noodles in soup become that way? Anyway, I’d go with kway teow/mee tai mak/beehoon if I order the soup again next time but I’m sure there’s definitely going to be one!

Macpherson Minced Meat Noodles is at the junction of Tai Thong Cres and Pheng Geck Ave – just off the old Jackson place on Macpherson Road.

An Italian treat :)

By , January 4, 2010 1:47 pm

It’s the first entry of the year! I’ve got sooooooo many food pics from the usual overeating that happens end/beginning of any year. The difficulty was in deciding which to blog about first cos you know, everything about any new year seems symbolical. If I blog about economical food, it’s like that would be the tone of the year… Or if I start with the most extravagant meal we’ve had last year, it’s almost like the year will be extravagant too. It’s probably just me overthinking tho.

Anyhow, my conclusion is to start the year with an entry on a very nice Italian restaurant that isn’t way over the chart price wise, has great service, warm ambience and fantastic food. Yes, that’s how I’d like the year to be – nonlacking, warm and when it comes to what’s important, a fantastic lot 🙂

I’ve been to this restaurant countless times, but have only managed to get good pictures in the dim lighting after getting the Canon S90. It really is the most fantasic low light cam I’ve used (Nope, this isn’t an advertorial). 

First entries get special attention and research : There are 5 sections to a traditional Italian meal : Appetizer(Antipasti) which could be local cold cuts/regional specialties, First course (Primo) which is usually a pasta, Second Course(Secondo) which is usually a meat, Side Dishes(Contorni) which could be a vegetable or salad to go with your Secondo and finally the sweet ending, Dessert (Dolce). Quite a bit to have but then Italian meals are known to go on for hours 🙂 This is to pre-empt you the feast coming up 🙂

Okie – let’s get started with the appetizers :

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The Insalata Caprese (ie: Caprese salad, which also means salad of Capri where it originated) is a combination of the simplest ingredients : soft mozzarella cheese, tomato and basil drizzled over with olive oil. There’s something magical about having it all in a mouthful. Something about the texture and taste. I like this cow’s milk mozarella cos it is slightly chewy, almost bland until you discover the light aftertaste of cheese. The ground nut in pesto sauce by the side (the greenish bit) adds a different tone to this very simple but great tasting starter. Fyi, a salad is sometimes ordered in place of a Secondo cos it really is quite abit of food to have.

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The Calamari was a favourite with everyone – juicy squid coated with an extremely light batter, sprinkled over with salt, pepper and some herbs. It is already good by itself, but the sauce accompanying it clinched the title of best calamari I’ve had – it’s an almost salsa-ish tangy tomato sauce, quite unlike any other I’ve tasted.

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This would be the First Course (there is a starter size and main size for carbs). We ordered raviolis because they do it so well. I’ve left out the not so outstanding spaghetti vongole and we didn’t order the squid ink pasta this time, which is good too!
On the left is a beef ravioli with blue cheese sauce : I can’t have alot of it cos it’s very rich tasting, but the few I had were oh so good. What stands out, other than that the beef filling inside the pasta is soft and moist, is that the blue cheese isn’t overpoweringly strong. Almost like a good fondue over your ravioli. This is a must order!
On the right, is a spinach ravioli with a tomato base. We had expected spinach inside the pasta but the spinach was mixed into the pasta giving it the interesting green colour, and it came with a cheese filling. I liked that the sauce, light and tangy, complemented the pasta very well. 

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We also ordered the Mushroom(Porcini) Risotto and this was so good I ordered another cos there wasn’t enough after sharing! As risottos go, it probably isn’t the best (best for me being the one at Valentino’s in Bukit Timah) but they did it especially well that night. A little on the wet side but absolutely bursting with the flavour of mushrooms and a rich broth.

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Dan really loves his steak and would have it every meal if I wasn’t nagging the voice of reason, so of course steak was the meat of choice. We ordered steaks with a different sauce for variety’s sake. On the left is steak in blue cheese – they do do their blue cheese excellently! On the right is steak in a chocolate sauce – it is a small square of good quality dark chocolate left to melt over the steak after its cooked. It’s not what you’d expect to go with steak, but this non sweet chocolate aftertaste goes interestingly well with the steak.

I’m ashamed to admit that after all the above food, I was sated and complacent and so forgot to get a picture of dessert : Dessert was Panna cotta with a caramel sauce instead of the berry sauce that most restaurants prefer (I hear some Italians rate it better than those back home!) We also had an Affogato – fragrant and bitter expresso poured over home made sweet vanilla gelato (contrasting tastes are often winners).

Disclaimer : This meal was shared by a family of 5 adults and a child. We didn’t finish it ALL ourselves ok?

If you’re fan of Italian food, this really is a must-go restaurant (imho). The wall of awards as you walk into the restaurant is testament to its quality if not my words.

Pasta Brava is at 11 Craig Road, Tanjong Pagar. I would make reservations for dinner cos they can get quite crowded : 62277550

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