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eG Food Blog: nikkib (2011)


nikkib
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Thanks for this great tour, Nikki. Several years ago Calvin Trillin wrote a terrific piece for the New Yorker about eating at the hawker centers that made me desperate to go. Now even more. I love having some visuals! But where is the fish head soup? My most vivid memory of the Trillin article was his description of the fish head, I believe with teeth, sticking nose-up in the pond of soup!

Rest assured that fish heads will be making an appearance! Glad you are enjoying it!

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Wow, a 25 dish dinner? How many partook?

There were 6 of us all in all Hassouni - we didn't manage to finish everything but put in a valiant effort!

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Ai-yaaaaaa !

I love it that the sour plum powder is rendered in Chinese characters as exactly that; yet the English on the bag is "sweet prune powder".

Assam pedas - is pedas "veggies" ? Apart from the tamarind, was the bulk anything more than bhindi & tomato ?

Do you know what base the mulligatawny used - I mean beef or something else ? I have an idea in my head that beef is (British-)authentic but thinking about it now, I'm not sure where from.

Our version was veggie Blether but i have seen beef versions in the past

I dont know what Pedas means i'm afraid - i don't think it is vegetables as i havent seen the word before, it had sliced peppers and halved onions in it as well as the okra and tomatoes.

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Up next on our mammoth tasting was a great prawn sambal - prawns stifried with chilli and vegetables, the prawns were delicious, sweet and smaller than most i have seen here and all the better for it

Then we had a pork dish - i'm afraid i cant find any notes on this - maybe someone can help me out? It was essentially pork ribs in a sweetish sauce - it was ok but didnt set the world on fore or anything

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Some chinese vegetarian dishes follwed next - mock pork stirfry and a bean curd wrapped dish filled with pulses and vegetables that was pretty good.

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Nasi Goreng was very nice - lacking the hit of chilli i was hoping for but the rice was cooked beautifully

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Then Laksa Goreng - a Malay dish which is a fried version of laksa with noodles, crispy tofu, prawns, boiled egg and limes - a hit!

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Hassouni - your chilli crab request was next, a couple of big juicy crab served with sweet rice bread rolls for mopping up the sauce with. Sri Lankan Crabs were used here, the meat was so sweet and beautifully cooked (this was the only pictured i managed to take of the crab before we all piled in) HOWEVER.. i didnt get any major sense of spice or chilli which i was hoping for - a s a chilli freak that would have made all the difference but still it was a great crab and i shall be ordering chilli crab again soon

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Kang Kong - a local green vegetable stirfried with soy and sambal added some much needed vegetables to the meal

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And last of the main courses - the outstanding dish of the night described only as belimbing ( a sour fruit) This was a sour pork stew - simply divine, despite being at the end of the tasting i could have finished the bowl off (am hoping to track down the recipe which i will post at some point as this was really WOW)

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Off to work, tonight i will finish the sweets from this meal and post up yesterdays fish congee and fish head curry....

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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One of my mother's childhood dreams was to have a Singapore Sling in Singapore. When I took her to Singapore, I had planned to go to the Raffles Hotel and treat her to one. Once she learned the price, however, she balked at going (especially since she's a cheap drunk and she wouldn't have had more than one or two sips) so she instead settled for a free mango sling at an expensive hotel's New Year's Day brunch buffet. :laugh:

Fortunately, on our second trip to Singapore together, she was able to have her first (and last) Singapore Sling. Sure it was on Singapore Airlines, but they probably use the same mix as Raffles does!

About some landlord's not renting to Chinese, other than the wok hei smell, a lot of Chinese food is kind of stinky. My siblings and I used to call salted fish "stinky fish" when we were kids, and there are all those preserved vegetables that are quite pungent and which have a lingering smell. When we make stinky fish now, we usually heat the oil, then carry the pan outside and put the fish in the pan then. Or during summer, we do the whole thing in a pan on the barbecue.

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One more question, have you ever had the fancier version of woo kok? The woo kok is shaped like a basket and it's filled with some kind of stir fry (maybe something like chicken and cashews?). I don't normally like woo kok, but it wasn't so bad in that form (my sister's childhood pen pal took my mother and me to Spring Court and we had it there). It was pretty neat to look at, I thought.

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@ Hassouni, I really enjoyed the Kang Kong, i am a big fan of green veggies in general but these were very tasty indeed - as for the chilli crab, absolutely eaten with the hands! I had one of the parts with the smaller legs as opposed to the claw as we had a couple of people who had never eaten crab before on the tour and i couldnt deny anyone that first taste! The small legs snapped open really easily so no need for crackers/picks etc anyway. I was an absolute state by the time i finished but thats half teh fun of it isnt it?!

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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@Prasantrin - i am looking forward to taking my parents to Raffles when they visit, i know they will enjoy it - it is indeed the same pre mix they use on singapore air ( i recognised the containers from my flight - not that i took advantage of the on board drinks too much :wink: ) I have not seen thae fanceir version of the woo kok but will look out for it, i actually really like it - i can't stand the really slimy tofu, i prefer it chewier so this is a happy discovery - incidentally the fist time i had rojak and the lady told me it had woo kok in it i thought she said pork which had me disecting the rojak very carefully to try and discover it without much luck! My "Singlish" is improving slowly but surely now though!

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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One last note on the food tour, we went to the area of Joo Chiat which is maybe a bit off the normal beaten tourist path but is highly HIGHly worth a visit. Chew Joo Chiat was at one point one of the top 10 richest men in Sand donated the land necessary to have a paved road put in to assist in trade abck at the beginning of the last century. As a result of his generosity and the area bears his name even now. The area is filled with stunning Peranaken shop houeses and is a conservation area dating back to the 1920's and 30's and is definitely worth a wander. My food tour was arranged through the Betel Box Hostel ( i found it through a recommendation on lonely planet) and i can vouch for how amazing it was. The guide, Tony Tan took us on a comprehensive tour of the local area - including the HDB's where around 85% or so of Singaporeans live which was really interesting, his knowledge is quite literally second to none and i really feel so much more informed and aware than before - it was $80 incredibly well spent and i will definitely arrange to do it again when i have friends visit. If you do make the journey over here look him up.

Edited by nikkib (log)

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Can you tell us a bit about the 4 angled bean? I've never seen anything like it at all and am curious to know what it's like - Is it similar to something like a green bean in taste or even texture? The dish you showed was a 4 angled bean and chilli salad so was it served cold or were they stir-fried with the chilli?

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Also known as kacang botol or winged beans. The salad is served cold but the beans were lightly stiffened first along with the sambal belachan (fermented ground shrimp) this was then served with a good dose of fresh lime and fresh chilli. They were really crunchy and had a pronounced taste that held it's own amongst the other ingredients - if you look in the photos I took in the supermarket there is an image of them there.

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Roti Babi or more literally bread pig is essentially a french toast type dish stuffed with miced pork is another popular Perankanen dish

Now that sounds delicious! And please track down that recipe for belimbing.


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First of the sweets was this little coconut coated tapioca kuih. From what i gathered Kuih/keuh is essentially a generic word for sweets found everywhere from china, indonesia, malaysia etc and they can vary in preparation, ingredients etc hugely so forgive me if i make any errors on these... These were filled with a liquid and we were instructed to pop the whole thing in our mouth so as not to dribble! They were incredibly sweet but pretty good. Next we had these little pinapple tarts - essentially just a really buttery pastry filled with a condensed pineapple and sugar jam

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This dessert platter followed

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You have the multi coloured Angku which is a tortoise shell shaped nyonya delicacy which is made with glutinous rice flour wrapped with varying fillings depending on the outer colour - ours included red bean, green bean and peanut fillings amongst others. Angku is commonly used for Chinese prayers and served during baby full moon parties and at chinese new year as well. The green pancakes are Kuih dadar a rolled crepe flavored with pandan juice and filled with grated coconut steeped in gula melaka or Malaysian palm sugar. Pandan leaf is the core ingredient of kuih dadar. The green exterior of kuih dadar is made of batter colored with natural pandan juice extracted from pandan leaves (and i suspect a healthy dose of food colouring!) These were nicknamed drug cakes by our guide as they were so addictive !!

The middle multi coloured kuih are kuih lapis (i didnt try those so cant tell you much more about them sorry)

Then you have the dumpling looking ones that are actually filled with taro, peanut, chilli and dried shrimp which were well, odd to say the least. I think the pyramid shaped ones were kuih Koci - made with glutinous rice and peanut paste

Finally a pink tapioca pudding served with palm sugar and coconut milk/oil on the side for added flavour (again sorry no photos..)

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Naturally the next morning i was not hungry but ordered a Kopi Peng (iced coffee) on my way to work and mid afternoon had some fish congee. A rice based porridge almost - i added rousong (pork floss made from reducing pork and sweet soy sauce and then dried in a number of ways)Also some tofu or Koo Wok and pickles and spring onions - delicious and cleansing!

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Of course by dinner time some 10 hours later or so i was STARVING so made a trip to the Banana Apollo Leaf which is reknowned for its fish head curry. Pictured is the small portion at $18 which could easily serve 3 people ( i should note i made very little impact on it!) Now Banana leaf Apollo is an Indian restaurant where they make it spicer than teh chinese version. The head of a fish (google says red snapper but mine certainly was not red snapper)is stewed in a curry base with a few vegetables such as Okra and then is served with rice and accompniments - someone will have to help out on this, one was, i believe potato based but i wouldnt like to say for sure...The sauce is quite a thin gravy with definite tamarind flavours but it is hotter and not as sour as the assam pedas from the night before. The dish apparently originated in Singapore with an Indian chef trying to make his food more "Chindian" to appeal to the large Chinese population who consider fish (and shark) heads a delicacy. This was great - i have eaten this before and it is a lot less scary than it sounds. There is a huge amount of meat on the fish head and there are relatively few bones - i heartily recommend tryng this on a trip to singapore...

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I didnt even try to eat this with my hands (which i am getting better at) as it is just too soupy (not to mention hot) but suire enough i was the only one using a fork and spoon :sad: I will master this art before i leave singapore if its the last thing i do damn it!!!

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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I admit it - breakfast this morning was a can of redbull and 3 large espressos in quick succession and a banana (worst eG foodblog breakfast ever?!) At lunch i managed to pop out and went for another classic Hawker dish - Rojak, a traditional Indonesian fruit/root vegetable salad with pineapple, bean sprouts, jicama, cucumber and woo kok crispy tofu in a chilli, belacan, lime, tamarind and palm sugar and toped with crushed peanuts.

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This was at the Maxwell Court food centre - one of the most central and well known hawker centres - queues for more popular dishes and stalls can be up to one hour at lunch time (Anthony Bourdain for example raves about a Hainanese chicken stall here)

Edited by nikkib (log)

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Dinner was another Indian meal - a southern Indian Thali at Anjappar restaurant in Farrer park - chapatti, papad, white rice, 3 types of vegetables, sambar, kara kuzhambu (not sure what cocolcasia is - jenni/Percyn?) rassam and curd. I dont really bother with much of the rice -rather using the chapatti to scoop up the thicker vegetables and then using the papad dipped in the sambar. Very tasty indeed and at $7 not bad value at all!

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"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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The hindi name for colocasia is arbi. I've tried to look this up before to work out exactly which colocasia arbi is as there are many, but it gets confusing as I have seen at least two very subtly different things called arbi in markets. I think they are sometimes called taro in English. Here is a wiki page on it.

And btw naughty naughty for not eating your rice! In a South Indian meal that is the main point! Still, if you have not mastered sloppy dishes with hands you will get less enjoyment. Next time though, try eating sambar mixed up with rice accompanied by some veggie dishes. Then eat rasam and rice. And finish with curd mashed up into the rice, with a bit of pickle and pappad mixed in as you like. I often leave my chapati, no please for it in a Southie meal if you ask me!

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So i think i have another 24 hours to go before i finish to factor in my working hours and inability to post then, will do my best to get some good food in before this time tomorrow!

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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At lunch i managed to pop out and went for another classic Hawker dish - Rojak, a traditional Indonesian fruit/root vegetable salad with pineapple, bean sprouts, jicama, cucumber and woo kok crispy tofu in a chilli, belacan, lime, tamarind and palm sugar and toped with crushed peanuts.

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Ahh thank you! Rojak was one of the dishes I fondly remember. I need to acquire some belacan in order to replicate it.

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Agree with Jenni. I think cocolcasia is a type of Taro leaf.

Great blog Nikki and sad that it will end soon :sad:

Oh, I wasn't even thinking of the leaf but the tuber-y thing (i am not sure which dish it was in so I cannot use visual clues)! Leaf is used too though so either way it is the same thing.

Sent from my HTC Wildfire S A510e using Tapatalk

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